Thursday, February 6, 2020

Switched to Renewable Diesel!

For many years I have been running blends of biodiesel on Aeolus, for all the environmental, as well as mechanical, reasons. For a while it was available at the fuel dock in Friday Harbor but they didn't sell enough to keep it. Those big trawlers come in and get 500 gallons and they weren't getting biodiesel because they were concerned about their hoses and such. I've written on this blog before about biodiesel, and how it is better for our engines. When I run a high percentage of it, I love that the exhaust smells pleasant instead of nasty, and I know my engine is able to smoothly operate.

However, biodiesel has become hard to acquire here in Western Washington. The stations that sell it have dwindled and I've had to use numerous 5 gallon fuel cans to transport it to Aeolus.

Well, since we have moved to Olympia, WA I've joined the South Sound Sailing Society and attended a recent meeting. At this meeting the speaker was Peter Wilcox of the Inside Passage Decarbonization Project,  who did a wonderful job of giving us an overview of his organization and various ways we can aid in the effort to reduce our carbon footprint as boaters on the Salish Sea. Even for those of us sailors, we know the winds here, especially in summer, often mean hours of motoring, so fuel is a prime candidate for reducing carbon.

Among several good ideas, I got most excited about a new diesel that is not new, but new to me as a sailor here in the Salish Sea. The new fuel is renewable diesel and it is close cousin of biodiesel but with some significant differences. For one thing, renewable diesel is chemically interchangeable with fossil diesel! Every atom in renewable diesel is found in fossil diesel. It is just hydrocarbons. But it is made from the same feed stock as biodiesel, fats and oils and such. Unlike biodiesel, the process for renewable diesel injects hydrogen, creating the hydrocarbons, and unlike fossil diesel, it does not contain the impurities and sulphur and soot that fossil diesel does. Renewable has a much higher cetane number, which is like an octane rating for diesel. It burns more completely, and thus with more energy, than either fossil or biodiesel.
Clear, Odorless, Clean, Higher Cetane...Awesome!

But wait, it gets even better: The darn stuff is clear and odorless! That's right, it's as clear as a glass of water and doesn't smell. My wife is delighted at the thought of our boat not having the "diesel smell" anymore. So the bottom line for me, is that it is better for my diesel, is a direct replacement for fossil diesel, and is way better for the environment and the Salish Sea. It's a win in all directions. There are issues with the sourcing of fats and oils, and scaling this to national levels presents challenges, but small scale for now it is golden.

I'll add that it is being used widely in fleets of diesel trucks in CA where it is mandated by law. These big trucking companies have testimonials about how great it is in their engines, causing no problems with hoses or such.

The current challenge here in WA is that it cannot be purchased in WA! Bummer. But you can do like me and get a fuel card at Carson Fuels in PDX and get it there. I went down with six 5 gallon cans and got a load last week, and will be going back soon to finish filling my 70 gallon tank.

Sure would be great if more of us here in the Salish Sea would take the challenge issued by Peter and the Inside Passage Decarbonization Project and among other things, switch to renewable diesel.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Update on fuel tank cleaning and hatch installation

Back in 2016 I dug into my fuel tank to address the unknowns of tank sludge and address clogging filters. The massive 70 gallon tank on a Gulf 32 is aluminum and encased in a fiberglass shell to hold it in place. As I detailed in my post on 1/16 about the project, I had to cut access hatches into each of the three compartments because the tank comes with no access whatsoever. Also, that fiberglass shell held leaking diesel for many, many years as the bottom of the tank was Swiss cheese I discovered.
View of the hatch most forward, with the top plate and bolts removed. 

Fast forward three years and I needed to redo the bedding used on the hatch closest to the bow because the Permatex blue product I had used that claimed to be fuel resistant, wasn't. Also, I was never really satisfied by the security of that hatch as the tank aluminum is quite thin and though the holes were tapped and threaded, the aluminum is too thin and weak to hold the screws securely and keep them from turning. This resulted in screws that would not fasten as securely as I would like and a sealant that was disappointing.

For this round, I took everything off and was happy to see that the tank still looks pristine. Spotless. NO sign of anything, including water. I cleaned everything off with a scraper and acetone, and decided to use West System GFlex to epoxy the heads of the bolts into place permanently. I love GFlex for how versatile and resilient it is. Some of the screw holes were so loose that I had to use tape to hold them in place until the epoxy hardened.

Completed with bolts held firmly by Gflex epoxy and LeakLock sealant
I did this yesterday and when I came back today I found everything nicely cured and solid. Before installing the plate I applied an even coat of Leak Lock, which I have found to be the best cheapest sealant that is truly impervious to the diesel and biodiesel and such. This time, with the bolts nicely epoxied into place, I was able to tighten everything down nice and snug. Tight enough to push a small bead of the sealant out along the edges. For what it is worth, I used 1/4 stainless bolts with a lock washer and nut.


Delighted to have done this project and feel better about it being solid now.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Trip to Jarrell Cove from new home port in Olympia with South Sound Sailing Society

Since moving Aeolus down to her new home in Olympia we have been busy with life and work and not going out, which is a shame but understandable given the incredible and lengthy time aboard this past summer. On a recent trip to the Optometrist she told me about the South Sound Sailing Society and we joined them on a trip to Jarrell Cove this weekend as our first overnight get away from our new slip at Swantown. The club has both racing and cruising folks, and organizes a number of cruises over the course of the year.
Calm seas going and coming were welcome. This is in Case Inlet. 


We left Swantown after a lazy Saturday morning, and didn't depart until 10:30 or so. Would have left later but the current in Dana Passage was turning to flood around 12:30 and we didn't want to make the trip any longer than it already was. The wind was calm, and there was ground level fog and mist throughout the day. Flat grey world.

Aeolus, of course, is well suited to these conditions since I can steer from inside the warmth of the nicely heated cabin. The trip from Oly at 5-6 knots takes about 3 hours or so, depending on currents. You have to go around Harstene the long way since the State engineers built the bridge to Harstene with a clearance of only 31 feet!!! Don't know the laws really well but had assumed it was illegal to impede the navigation of waterways. Because of this obstruction, you have to go the long way around which adds no small amount of distance. I don't have an exact number but it is certainly an hour or so.

It felt so deeply good to be on Aeolus, watching the landscape slide by unchanging in the grey. We had quite a sighting of harbor seals and sea lions in Case Inlet. Nice to see the megafauna down south here. Must be plenty of fish for the sea lions to hang around. As always, we leave screens behind and passengers typically alternate between napping and reading while we are underway. Much needed.

Monday, September 16, 2019

A 600 mile summer-30 days to and from Desolation Sound

I think I've waited a long time to write about the trip this summer because it has been overwhelming to consider. I'm still not up to the task. In bare facts I took Aeolus from Friday Harbor up to Desolation Sound in one week. Through the Gulf Islands and then up along the Van Isle shore and then across at Comox bar. Part of my family flew in on Kenmore Air to join me at Refuge Cove and we had a great week poking up into the Discovery Islands and swimming at Newton Lake. One week later our younger son flew in and we had a week in Desolation Sound at our favorite haunts.
View from Rendezvous Island lodge docks. Center of the Universe. 

I can't give a location by location review of where we went, but let me say that throughout the northern parts of this trip we can verify that the Humpback whales have come back in force. We've cruised the Desolation Sound area almost every year for nearly 20 years, and never seen so many Humpbacks as we are now. We saw them nearly every day in all areas of the passageways.

My younger son stayed with me for most of  our journey back south, and it was symbolically significant. When we left Refuge Cove after dropping off the fliers, we began our trip south to cover the entire length of the Salish Sea. For we were not stopping in Friday Harbor, but moving Aeolus to her new home in Olympia. That, my friends, felt significant.

Our crossing of the Straits of Georgia was rather epic as the winds were SE 20-25 and we had a rip roaring sail under reefs all the way to the Comox Bar. You head down as far to Texada as you have the patience to do, and then have a close reach across. Waves were 2-4 feet and we were once again the only boat in sight on that major crossing. Aeolus is a sturdy vessel, a sturdy vessel indeed.

600 miles and never a mechanical failure of any kind. Prrrrr goes the engine.

An incredible adventure, filled with too many stories to tell. Swimming, jumping off high rocks, whales, deep time.

Deep time in wilderness. It is going home.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Sunny trip to Spencer Spit

The internal tides had indicated it was time to cast aside the shore lines and set sail, and so we did. On a whim, and no more, we were already away from Friday Harbor when we decided to head to Spencer Spit on Lopez. It is a fine little place to be. We don't head there often because there is really nothing in the way of hiking or exploring but if you are happy to stick to one beautiful beach area then you can do no better.
A state of mind more than a place

We had a lovely time weaving among the Wasp Islands and arrived at Spencer before long. Doing the passage between Frost Island and Spencer Spit is always a delight, and is about the narrowest place we pass through. You always have plenty of depth, so long as you stay 5-10 feet of the Frost Island side, and being that close to poky rocks keeps you on edge. We tucked into the south side to avoid the north winds and had a few boats for company.

The day was spent exploring the beaches and doing beach yoga. Owen ran a fast mile and otherwise contentedly explored his elaborate internal worlds while Amy and I did the same. I managed to get some boat projects done to confirm the saying that cruising can be defined as boat maintenance in exotic locations.
Approaching the tiny gap between rocks and sand. 

A deeply restful night of 10 hours of sleep, and away we flew home the next day. A word here on sleep. Far, far too many adolescents are getting insufficient sleep these days due to having screens. One of the greatest gifts of the boat is that we sleep so deeply and well. It does wonders for our health and moods and for the development of our sons. It's how we should always live. Even at home we get good sleep, and insist the boys do too, but the boat takes it to another level. No need to get up to do the laundry or run an errand! Hooray for boat sleep.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Moving by the forecast, not the calendar: A middle Salish Sea tour

My son and his friend joined me for a splendid tour of the central Salish Sea this week. We left Friday Harbor on a pleasant afternoon and went up to Roche Harbor for the night. We needed to go to the Sidney Customs dock because our guest does not have a Nexus card.
What perfection 

Staying in Roche is always fine, though not quite the wilderness experience we enjoy. You can anchor all over but be careful to avoid the traffic lanes and expect to be bothered by fisherman going 25 knots all morning and evening.

After clearing customs, we went to Russell Island and enjoyed a great visit. The winds were all Southerly, and the north side anchorage is well protected in anything less than gales. My only grief about Russell is how badly overgrown it is with invasive plants that the Canadian Gulf Islands National Park people haven't gotten around to addressing yet. Lots of English Ivy, Holly and others.

We then scootled over to Winter Cove and enjoyed frisbee on the lawn and the drama of Boat Passage. The day was cloudy and rainy so it limited our enjoyment somewhat. We decided to journey on to Tumbo Island instead that same day, because the forecast was for next day to be the only nice day of the week.
Why do people stay at home? 

We had Tumbo to ourselves. Cabbage to ourselves. Great sadness that the rope swing on Tumbo has been broken. I believe someone like me may just have to replace it soon!

After a lovely evening, and a morning of hiking all over and making awesome beach sculptures, we headed over Boundary Pass to Jones Island for the night, to avoid the predicted Friday high winds. Boundary pass is usually benign, but not a place to be in winds over 25 knots against current.

Jones always delights. The boys went feral and at times we played some great frisbee.

Sunlight dazzling shoreside pines sway gently smells of summer.
Thank you Goldsworthy! 

Servicing your Oberdorfer 202M15

My Oberdorfer pump had started to drip seawater and I knew it was time to service the unit. There are several good resources for doing this, easily found with a google search, so I won't go into much detail here. Suffice to say if you have one of these they are easily serviceable for a fraction of the cost of a new unit. Watch yours, and when it starts to drip water, one of the two seals, the water seal, has begun to fade.

You can purchase all the parts you need at your favorite marine supply store. For those of us around Western Washington, Fisheries Supply is a reliable and locally owned resource. I needed to purchase the repair kit, as well as a new shaft. When you pull the pump off the engine, and remove the shaft, you need to look to see if it is scored and grooved. My pump had a very slightly grooved shaft, and I decided to replace it with a new one. They cost about $55 her in 2019. In the repair kit you get the two seals, and the carbon bushing, along with a new impeller and the O-ring.

Getting the old bushing out and the new one is easily done with a good size C clamp held vertically in a table vise. Use a socket of the right size, only slight smaller than the diameter of the bushing, and press it out using the C clamp. The new one goes in nicely using a washer as a barrier between the clamp and bushing.

The two seals go in easily, and evidently must be placed in so the lettering on their side faces internal to the pump, though I'm not sure why.

There is more to this, but like I said, do a google search and you'll find plenty. This is just a note to those who have these pumps that they need servicing and are easy to do.