Monday, March 18, 2019

Finally a warm weekend! And Orcas near Orcas...

We knew we were getting out this weekend and lucked out that the frigid weather finally turned to something at or above normal. For us, this means we had highs this weekend of the 60's and not in the 40's. All the difference in the world.
Spring Passage and Presidents Channel are beautiful and prone to rough seas

To mix it up we went to Sucia Island, which we avoid altogether in anything other than the off season, as it attracts hordes of people from nearby Bellingham and environs. We found Fossil Bay plenty busy, with the dock full and a few balls taken, but still room to anchor. The holding is good in Fossil Bay in mud.

We had a smooth trip from Friday Harbor and it's about 3 hours at about 6 knots. While we cruised along the northern shoreline of Orcas island, I became aware of what looked like wind surfers in the distance. After a moment, I realized they were Orcas! A whole pod of Orcas! There were young and old, and evidently, they were the transient Orcas and not the resident J, K, L pods. The transients feast on pinnipeds, and are doing just fine these days. We snapped a few long distance pictures, which do not convey the joy of it all.
See those dorsal fins near the left side of the photo? 

Get outside! Just go! Go! Go!

Friday, February 22, 2019

Finally a good solution to a stinky head

Like most, I suppose I have struggled more with the smell of the head on my boat more than I would ever wish to do. We deodorize our holding tank with an additive, so that's not what I'm talking about. I'm referring to the ever present slight smell of urine and dead saltwater organisms. Don't get me wrong, we keep a CLEAN head.

For years, I have kept one of those simple pop up air fresheners in the head, to diminish the odor and make it more pleasant. Having been aboard a small marina worth of other boats, I can say for certain that this is a ubiquitous problem.

So my new happy solution? You may have noticed, gentlemen, recently, that all our public urinals now use these little textured plastic looking things that you pee onto. I was noticing that now all these public urinals have a more pleasant, albeit chemical, smell. Because my brain is old and filled with cobwebs, I didn't immediately see the application to Aeolus. But then I did.

I got online and found just what I was looking for.
Now you may think I'm crazy, but I attached a bit of electrical cable to one of these and placed into the bowl of my head. My wife was dubious. I said, "Give it a chance honey". Well it has been a good six months now, and I'll be damned if our head doesn't ALWAYS smell just dandy! Even when I am doing my business, it smells fine, and the lack of air circulation in the head doesn't make it smell gross. If you need to do something that is incompatible with having this thing in your bowl, it is easy to remove and place in the sink. It will have been washed over by saltwater after the prior use, so it is clean of urine.

You are either thinking I am crazy, and a fool, or wondering why you hadn't already thought of this. I'll take a 100:1 ratio of these reader reactions and still be happy I wrote about it.

A winter island untrammeled

My wife and I were without the boys for a week, so we took the chance to get away for a few days on our space ship. This February around the Salish Sea has been colder and snowier than normal. Record snow in fact. We had well over 20" at our house. And it has remained at or below freezing at night, so even the snow that fell many days ago is still lingering in shady places. Normal highs for this time in February are 51 and we have been lucky to have a day at 40.

With no prospect of warmth, we still got away for all the usual and multitudinous reasons.

Stuart Island was a bit of a war zone. The heavy snow has dropped trees and branches over all the trails and roads. We walked out to the lighthouse on one day, and the San Juan County Road is impassable to cars over much of the length. There are quite a few trees down between Reid Harbor and the old school, and a few other places. There are a small handful of year round residents on that side of Stuart, the non-airport side, and we saw one young couple drive by on their way to the west side in their unregistered and barely functional island truck. They must have cleared trees over in that stretch of road.

Anyway, the walk is always wondrous. Everywhere we went, we were the first foot steps in the snow. Feels so good down deep in our bones to walk for miles on a quiet trail or dirt road. Once at the lighthouse, it was blowing 15-20 NE and the wind chill was quiet unfriendly. We hunkered in the lee of the outermost building and watched a small group of California Sea Lions trolled the waters right at the point. It was ebbing, and they would more or less hand out among the kelp for a while, before drifting around the corner, only to approach again. We assumed they were feeding.

The next day we hiked to another of our favorite view spots, and there were large snowfields near the top.

We sat together, that sloping hillside and me, until only the hillside remained. Amy did yoga.

We were the only boat in Reid Harbor. Once again, this was a 3 day weekend, and there are many hundreds of boats in Roche Harbor, Friday Harbor, Deer Harbor and Bellingham nearby. Reid Harbor will have 100 boats in it on a typical summer weekend. Why no one heads out in winter will always amaze and delight me.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Big Wind, 988.5mb, and Cozy Jones

Few would agree or understand why we would go sailing when the forecast was for the biggest windstorm in Seattle in 11 years. Calls for 65mph winds, and such. Well, those folks do not know or understand my family. Or the Salish Sea. Or Aeolus. Or good ground tackle.

We went up and out this weekend and had a deeply restorative trip to Jones Island. With the ferocious forecast for SE and SW winds, we knew we would be fine in the north cove. There is really no amount of wind that threatens you in the north cove if it blows from the SE or SW. A few waves wrap around, but nothing much, and the island is high enough to only allow eddies and swirling gusts to spin you around a bit.
Calm water and wilderness all around

The holding at Jones is in good mud, and with a modern anchor in the Mantus or Rocna style, with good chain rode, and knowledge of how to set and manage your anchoring, you just have no reason not to go.

We went, and had the place to ourselves as usual. When we arrived on Saturday afternoon it was calm and lovely. We had time to take our usual walk around the West Side and enjoyed it enormously. The island has many moods, all of them good. This trip she was in her wet and wild mood, which engenders thoughts of adventure.

All was calm right up until bedtime. The forecast called for sudden winds at 1am, with the strongest winds at 4am. Up to 65 knots in the Straits, and diminishing to 45 in the San Juans. Just before turning out the lights, the pressure had dropped to 988.5 mb, which is the lowest pressure I have ever seen while aboard Aeolus. Sure enough, I was woken at 1:05 am by a sudden gust that stirred everything to life. I laid awake for some time to see what it would be, and found it benign. Going back to sleep, I was awake again at 4am, no joke, with new gusts. Again, it was all sound and fury, but signified nothing in our cozy anchorage. By the time we all woke up for good about 9am, it was all calm, and there were blue skies.
The storm is gone and it is a calm ride back to Friday Harbor

We had a lovely calm trip back down San Juan Channel to Friday Harbor. And again, that trip of less than 24 hours on the boat felt like many days, and the spice of adventure washed clean the cobwebs of normalcy and patterns.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Wow, the new icebox is seriously amazing!

The two bags of ice AFTER a weekend. 
 This weekend was another real test of the new icebox since I did the major retrofit with better insulation. We loaded it up with a two bags worth of food that needed refrigeration but had grown warm on the two ferries and car ride in between Bainbridge and Friday Harbor. We bought the two blocks of ice on Saturday morning, loaded it all up and took off to Jones as described below.

We had sausages and yoghurt and all the normal stuff. When we got back to our slip in Friday Harbor at around 1pm on Sunday, and emptied the icebox of food. When we got down to the bottom to retrieve the ice, we were amazed to see it was completely unmelted. Like, brand new. The photos below are from AFTER the overnight trip.

Adding two inches of polyiso all around and an inch of pink foam up top has really done an incredible job of it. Wish I hadn't waited so long.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A wonderful get away

We escaped the news and the trauma and busy-ness of our semi-rural Bainbridge Island lives to the more wild and refreshing respite of Jones Island State Park this weekend. Old friend. We went up Friday night as we like to do, and had deep, deep boat sleep through Saturday morning.

I was excited to use our new icebox for the first real trip and to also use the new Racor 500 for the first outing.
A carpet of color. Perfect. 

Amy and the boys were off to Cafe Demeter in Friday Harbor for the num num run after we managed to rise after 9am, and I got the boat ready. We didn't leave until after 11, and the day was gorgeous. Forecast was for rain and SE winds that night so we headed to the north side of Jones.

We were the only boat at the island. Once again. On what turned out to be a beautiful weekend, people stayed away by the millions. We no sooner had anchored than we were ashore and walking around the West side. Every few moments we would stop and just take it in the stunning views, and enjoy the stillness. The embracing of all things. The intricate poetic detail of nature.
Owen on the edge of the world

The boys spent some time chasing each other among the slopes that rise steeply up from the water. Owen's only real chance is patience, since he has the misfortune to have an older brother who runs sprints and the 5K in state qualifying times. But Owen does have patience, and eventually the tortoise caught the hare. They've been doing that since Owen could run, and this is their last year of living together under the same roof as Elliott is a senior. Getting all choked up about that.

When we returned to the dinghy Elliott had decided to once again swim back to Aeolus. He has this tradition now. It was 48 degree air and probably 46 degree water. He stripped down, plunged in, and did it. Some Wimhoff. It was about 100 meters to the boat. Dude is tough.

It poured rain, hard, all night. Some light winds. But we were snug as bugs. On Sunday morning the rain stopped and we had another beautiful day. We played frisbee, and enjoyed the fall colors of the island.
Toward eternity

I walked for some time in rapture at the beauty of the trees. So profoundly beautiful.

Thank you Aeolus, for another magical family trip.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Vastly improved icebox!

The insulation is done and it is glassed. Ready to be painted. 
Finally got around to adding some serious insulation to what we have long called our warming box. The original icebox on the Gulf has paltry insulation and is in a shared space with the engine. A couple blocks of ice might last a day. It's cavernous, but useless. Thanks Don Casey for suggestions of how to do this.

So I added layer after layer of high quality polyiso insulation, in half- inch thicknesses, staggered and interlocking. I added these layers 3-4 deep on all side and the bottom, and added 2 inch pink foam to the top. I also sealed off the so called "day access" hatch as it was just another source of air leakage and absolutely impossible to use anyway.

Sealed the whole thing in fiberglass, used epoxy primekote over it all, and today put the coat of bilge note on it for a nice clean and cleanable white icebox.

On a trial run I added two blocks of ice, and the trip was for 4 days, and damn if that ice wasn't still there at the end. This is a game changer for our ability to store stuff. We gave up probably 25% of the ice box volume, but gained a true icebox. I've left out a lot of detail, but let me know and I can share more about how I did it.

Added an inch of pink insulation to the lid and glassed it all over.  This is before I  painted it. 

A view into the now painted box. The shelves still install and  the drain still drains.