Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bouncing Around Puget Sound

As we pulled into Port Madison yesterday the memories of past trips to this bay flooded in.  A mere six nautical miles from Shilshole and Ballard, Port Madison is the perfect short hop destination on the water. My first visit here was back in 2002, I think, when I was taking sailing lessons with the Washington Yacht Club at the UW. I remember being in a little battered sailboat following some other club boats across the sound at night.  We rafted up here in Port Madison and started drinking.  Late in the night I was rousted out of bunk to a conference with the club skippers.  Chris Peragine, our instructor laid out a chart and demanded that I identify our location, the depth of water, the state of the tide, and the scope of the anchor rode.  "Come on, man.  It's 2:30 in the morning and we've all
been drinking.  We're fine."

And that was the point.  Even at 2:30 in the morning, while drinking, if you are at anchor you should be able to recite the state of the tide and other details.  The wind could come up, an anchor could break loose, all sorts of things could happen and you'd better know what's what so as to keep the boat and crew safe.  I consulted the tide tables and the chart, did a few calculations, and made my report.  "Thanks, you can go back to bed now."

I visited Port Madison many times after that and had many nice little raft up parties here.  Now I've returned on our big boat, our house in fact. We've come full circle.

I knew we had reciprocal moorage available here with the Port Madison Yacht Club so we crept into the narrow bay, dodging all the mooring balls and boats.  We found the PMYC floats and headed around the back side to look for the reciprocal dock.  Nosing into the crowded assembly of floats, I spotted what I thought was the marked space for guests.  It was full. Well, not totally full. There was about 15 feet of open space on the end.  So that's where we docked the boat, 15 ft of the bow, with 27 feet sticking out behind.  Not bad for free moorage. 

Last weekend we helped out with the Washington Yacht Club Snooze and Cruise event.  Traveler carried a bunch of gear (stoves, grills, awnings, pots, pans and supplies) and had a novice crew of 7 guests aboard.  Here are some photos of the crew.

While we were not the fastest boat out of the gate, I think we were the most fun boat.  Everyone on the boat got to take the wheel and we sailed almost all the way out to Blake Island.  I believe the club had 60 people attend with about ten boats of various sizes.  On Sunday we returned.  Our route took us through the locks and five sets of bascule bridges that had to open for us.  After we unloaded gear and crew I felt sad to part from our sweet guests.  They lingered then finally left us alone at the dock. 

A couple of days later Connie and I left the boat in reciprocal moorage at Kingston while we delivered the truck back to Olympia where it will spend the summer under the care of Connie's son, Ezrah.  We met with Rick and Ada of the charter business Mystic Journeys on their Islander Freeport 41, Clara June.  Over chili we signed a purchase and sale contract and discussed details on how Connie and I were to take over their successful chartering business. We'll come back to Olympia in August and start that transition.  So it looks like we've got a nice little business to keep us busy for a while in the oncoming years.  Almost all the business is in June, July, August so we'll still have time throughout the year for other adventures.  We are psyched!

Meanwhile, here we are in Port Madison, a great place to layover between guests. We've got Julie aboard right now.

Just met a man on the dock here at PMYC who invited us to come back later today because they are having a race.  So it looks like we'll be running across to Shilshole to pick up Dineen and will bring her back here for the race!  Maybe we can be the committee boat. Folks are very friendly here.

Then on Friday we bring Connie's daughter, Tesla aboard.  What we do is nose into the pick-up/drop-off dock at Shilshole and do the crew swap. Let us know if you want to come aboard sometime soon!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Six Pack / OUPV Captains Training

We are drinking champagne this afternoon because I've just now completed my week long training class to get my US Coast Guard captain's license.  It was a tough week, lots of paying attention and studying in the evenings, but it's an (almost) done deal.  Just gotta wait for the drug screen ( should be clean ) and the feds to come back with the OK that I'm not in bed with the Russians or something.

I can now take out six passengers for hire on our boat, or any other uninspected boat for that matter, and get paid for doing so.  It's tough at my age to get thrust back into a learning environment where I have to be perky at 08:00 each morning and sustain my attention until late afternoon.  Skip and Jan at Flagship Maritime run a great class here on the Tacoma working waterfront.  Without them, I'd be struggling to absorb and regurgitate all that information and then amass all that paperwork to send into the Coast Guard to be considered for a captain's license.

Anyhow, happy times for myself and fellow students Scott Tobiason and Steve Neidhardt. There we are with our certificates and gull poop.  While we were toasting, a gull flew overhead and shat on us for luck.

Tomorrow we leave Tacoma and sail Traveler to Blake Island, a half day north of here.  Then on Thursday we'll negotiate the Ballard Locks and a series of draw bridges to make our way to the UW docks where we'll be participating in the Washington Yacht Club's twice a year sailing and drinking fest called Snooze and Cruise.

Saturday morning We'll take on eight passengers at the UW docks and take them all the way out into Puget Sound to Blake Island where we'll have a big steak/salmon feast and a bonfire.  The crew will camp there on the Island then the next day after a pancake breakfast we'll all sail back to the UW.  This is an event I've attended in the past and I've always been a passenger.  This time I'll be Captain of my own ship.  It's the completion of a big circle for me and a time to pay it backward, so to speak.

River otters at the dock
For those of you in the Seattle area, Traveler will be near there over the next two weeks or so and we'd love to have you out on the boat.  So please get in touch and we can rendezvous on the water, say Kingston, or Bainbridge Island, or Shilshole Bay.

In the meantime, congratulate me please, and Connie too for helping me through this tough learning week.  I'm a captain now, don't even think of messing with me. :)
Traveler at Foss Harbor Marina

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Change is in the Air

In the morning we cast off our lines from E Dock here at Swantown in Olympia, Washington.  There are some changes in the making for Scott, Connie, and Traveler.  

Unplug the AC cord! Call the marina office and ask them to come read the meter and prepare our final bill, or, better yet, our refund for the last week of this month, then  cast off the spring lines! Connie and our neighbor Sam will walk the boat back while I turn the wheel to starboard.  She won't back to starboard so we hand-push her out.  

Catching an outgoing tide, we'll slide down Budd Inlet and take the turn down Dana Passage. By mid morning the current will be kicking up there and we'll see a strong rip tide.  We'll ride it east to Johnson Point and instead of continuing on to Nisqually Reach we'll turn up Drayson Passage and go around the north side of Anderson Island, shaving some time off our trip to Tacoma.  By noon we should be at the Tacoma Narrows where the current can exceed 4 knots if you let it.  I'm thinking we'll get an assist of maybe 3 knots to spit us around the corner at Point Defiance and on into Commencement Bay and Foss Marina, arriving at slack tide.

We've got a side tie at Foss Harbor Marina reserved, should get there early enough to get our gate keys at the office and plug in for the night.   Friday we'll secure the boat and take transit back to Olympia to pick up the truck and stay for a little of the Art's Walk celebration and the Luminary Procession that night.  Saturday we'll be back in Olympia for the Procession of the Species and Connie will be playing at the Blind Pig Spirits Distillery (at the Market on 222 Capitol Way) from 4:00 til 6:00.

Luminary Procession, Friday 9:30 PM
Procession of the Species
Saturday 4:30

Back in Tacoma, at 08:00 Monday morning I'll join my two friends Don Kneeland and Scott Tobiason at Flagship Maritime for the 56-hour OUPV (Six-Pack) course.  I'm getting my skipper license!

After seven days of taxing my simple brain we'll leave Tacoma and head north again, this time with a registered captain aboard...Me!  I guess we'll lay over at Blake Island for a night before getting an early start to make our way through the locks and under all the low bridges in the ship canal in Seattle, arriving at the UW docks Thursday afternoon so we can participate in the Washington Yacht Club Snooze and Cruise prep night.  We'll be anchored somewhere nearby for a couple of nights then that weekend take aboard a passel of UW students and staff and ferry them out to Blake Island for the night.

Scott and students back in the day teaching sailing at the UW

When I learned to sail at the UW I participated in plenty of Snooze and Cruise events.  It's a great experience for folks new to sailing.  A bunch of boats ferry, I don't know, 50 or so people from the UW to Blake Island.  We take over most of the dock space and the student crowd goes ashore and pitches tents in a group camping area.  There is a huge group dinner, a campfire, and the party goes on and on.  Us older boaters retreat to our vessels and get a good night's sleep.  There is a big pancake breakfast in the morning then we all sail back on Sunday.

After Snooze and Cruise we'll find a place to park the boat for a night and make our way by train back to Olympia to meet with a couple who runs a sailboat charter business out of a marina downtown.  Our plan is to take over their business and start chartering Traveler out of Olympia each summer.  Yes, we are going back to work.... this time in the charter business!   This is a huge change for us and one we are very excited about. More details will follow once we get things sorted out.

Along with this change we'll be thinking about selling Connie's rental and buying a little house for ourselves in Olympia.  We have other chartering ideas in the hopper that might, just might, include more opportunities in warmer climates.

In the meantime, we're trying to stay calm and take everything one day at a time.  Our plans are still to cruise the beautiful Pacific Northwest this summer May to August so any of you in the area who want to join us are welcome to jump aboard. Traveler has never seen this part of the world as we purchased her in San Diego so we're excited about gunk holing the Salish Sea in the boat that is our home.  Keep in mind that we'll be in the Seattle area, Vashon, Bainbridge, Kingston... for two weeks in May and want to get all our friends out for cruising or dinner or both.

Ain't life grand?  Ain't life strange?

sv and cb

Friday, April 7, 2017

Steering Pedestal Rebuild.. and Razor Clams

A year ago in the Sea of Cortez we were concerned about a strange squeaking sound in our pedestal steering.  We turned the wheel.  We listened.  We sprayed lubricant.  Is it the rudder bearing?  Or is it the steering gear? 

In the crossing from Cabo to Hawaii the autopilot did most of the steering so we didn't notice the stiffness in the wheel but as soon as we started hand steering into Radio Bay I knew something was not right.

I sprayed some lubricant where the shaft exits the pedestal just in front of the steering wheel and the difficult turning of the wheel eased somewhat.  We worried about it on the crossing from Hawaii to Alaska. In Ketchikan not only was the steering very stiff but the autopilot switch malfunctioned.  We were not able to switch from helm mode to auto mode.  That meant that we could not point the boat in the direction we wanted to go and just engage the autopilot.  We had to engage the autopilot and then watch the boat do a 180 degree turn and a crazy dance, get its preferred heading, then allow us to slowly correct until we were pointing in the right direction.  This worked fine except in narrow channels (almost the entire inland passage).  So there was no end to steering concerns on our long but beautiful trip south from Alaska to Olympia.

Now in Olympia, last month I sent the autopilot to Alpha Marine and 200 dollars later we could "point and shoot" our course.  Two weeks ago I decided to finally tackle the stiff steering issue.  

Doing a little web research, I determined that I probably have a Yacht Specialties wheel, pedestal, and quadrant on Traveler.  Yacht Specialties is no longer in business.  Edison Marine is the big marine steering systems provider now.  While they stock some common parts they could not help me with my unit.  They did give me a nice quote for replacing the old system:  $2800.00!

1)      #336-5-211S – Classic pedestal with 1” straight wheel shaft - $1,575.00
2)      #77201 – Chain & wire kit with connecting hardware - $357.00
3)      #776AL-6AL – Crossed wire idler - $401.0
4)      #816ST-45 – Engine control - $409.00
5)      #646-4 HEX – Aluminum pedestal mounting bolts Qty. 4 @ $17.00 each -$68.00
I decided that it was worth my time to try to fix it myself so I set about disassembling the steering system.  ....Boring Warning!!!  The rest of this blog entry contains little of interest to normal people.  And there are lots of pictures of the same thing... over and over.  You might just want to skip down to the music video and enjoy that. 

Here we go.  The compass came off easily. 

The compass base was not so easy.  one of the four slot headed screws would not budge.  PB Blaster didn't help.  Three days later after trying everything in the book I took great pleasure cutting the top off the stainless steel screw with my dremmel tool.

That night Connie had a gig at Cascadia Grill in Olympia.  Michael Olson joined her on percussion. I drank wine.
Mambo Italiano performed by Cool Breeze and Zen

The next day:  Compass base off, I used a vice grip to remove the stripped screw.  The next four screws came out after swimming in a little PB Blaster overnight. 

I figured out how to remove the throttle and shift controls and the second layer of the pedestal "layer cake" came off.   Don't lose those little parts! I set the stainless pedestal guard aside and disassembled the useless steering brake system. Now I can see the gear and steering shaft. 

After staring at this assembly and prodding and poking about I  could not figure out how to pull the shaft.  I called Hans at Osprey Marine and he dropped by the next day.  Where you'd expect a set screw was a flat pin pressed into the shaft.  No way to get THAT out!  Hans's advice, "Drill it out!"  

I took his advice and carefully drilled out the plug using a bit slightly smaller than the hole. Soon I had the gear moving on the shaft.  Next I needed to remove the chain. 

After clearing out the aft lazarette, I lowered myself down there behind the quadrant and removed the eye bolt holding one of the steering cables to the quadrant.  Back up top, I lifted the chain and held it up above the gear with a couple of stiff wires.  Turning the wheel, I was pleased that the steering was still very stiff.  That told me the problem was indeed in the pedestal and not in the rudder bearings.  Better a pedestal repair than a haul out to replace rudder bearings.
You can see the old Delrin bushing trying to escape

I found myself wide awake that night wondering just how I was going to pull that shaft out of the pedestal unit.  After a few hours of tossing and turning I mapped it out in my mind how I could do it with cheap parts from the hardware store.  Then I slept like a baby.  The next day I bought a 12 inch long 2 inch diameter pipe, a section of threaded pipe the same thread size as the wheel stem,  a couple of bolts and a big washer.   Follow the sequence.....

After putting this together I danced with glee as the shaft slowly moved aft as I tightened the nut.  Soon the shaft was out showing me just how saturated the two old Delrin bushings were.  

I carried the assembly to Capital Machine and we had a great time drawing things on paper and thinking about how to fashion some UHMW plastic sleeve bushings and re-drill a new set screw.  I left it there with those good folks to do their magic.


The next day we had a visit from our friend Don who brought us fresh razor clams from the coast.
How to cook them up?  Now that's a project I can get into.

Dredge in flour
  Dip in an egg/milk mixture

Press with lightly seasoned breading
Fry up quick and hot in coconut oil

Back to the other project....
Nice new UHMW plastic bushings

A few days and 200 dollars later I had everything ready to assemble.  After placing the two new bushings, I pushed in the shaft, threading it through the gear.  When I went to insert the key that keeps the gear from turning on the shaft it didn't have enough room to slide in. 
With a grinder, I shortened the key a quarter inch and got it fitted. 
After dropping the set screw through the pedestal and retrieving it from the bilge I tightened that up and tried turning the wheel.  There was too much friction.  The tolerance was too close.
Collar with the set screw hole is just a bit too tight on the gray bushing.

Removing the shaft and parts, I used a grinder to take a smidgen off the rear bushing.  On reassembly, the wheel turned effortlessly.   Connie and I had removed some of the ceiling boards from the cabin and they were taking up room in the cockpit making it a little crowded for me to work.  As the rain was dumping down, I had to keep everything in the boat. Now that it was time to re-attach the steering cable I had to clear out the rear lazarette AND the starboard cockpit locker and stack all that junk in the cockpit.  It's getting crowded in here.

Connie got into the starboard cockpit locker and I got in the lazarette.  She held the cable to the turning pulley while I attached it to the steering quadrant. What seemed like hours later, I had everything stowed back in its place and was able to test the steering.  Yes, the rudder turns.  Yes the shifter shifts. Yes the throttle makes the engine go zoom.  

But wait.  Something looks wrong.  
I forgot to put on the stainless pedestal guard.

I'm much faster with the disassembly the second time around.  Soon I had everything back in place.  Yes, the rudder turns. Yes the shifter shifts. Yes the throttle makes the engine go zoom. 

The last little bit was to replace the wooden cocktail table.  Finished!   Now we need a little sunshine, a cold beer, and a light lunch of razor clams in the cockpit of the worthy vessel Traveler.

Thanks for staying with me on this one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Good Times at Cabo Pulmo Eco Palapa

Casabuena Bed and Breakfast in La Paz
February 8 we arrived by boat to LaPaz after motoring/sailing 300 miles from Guaymas.  Back in June 2010 when all this Mexico boating adventure started, Connie and I (and four friends) rented an old Morgan 41 for ten days out of LaPaz. After that trip we all unwound at a Bed and Breakfast named Casabuena.  Remembering that place, we walked over there and talked to Milton and SuSu who set us up with a nice room at a very good rate.  Connie and I went back to the boat, packed up
our gear, and grabbed a taxi to take our SIX bags of luggage to the hotel.

Oh the extravagance of a shower,  the luxury of standing upright, arms outstretched, the indulgence of walking around the block, the treat of a big soft bed, the lavishness of a lawn chair in the sun. We slept like babies.

Connie's Maraichi band: three violins, two trumpets, a guitar, and a bass.

After repacking our six bags of luggage down to four bags we hired a taxi to the bus terminal on the Malec√≥n. When we checked in with Ecobaja Tours, the company that runs vans back and forth from LaPaz to Los Cabos International Airport, we were told that the van had broken down and we'd been rerouted onto the Aguila Bus, a cheaper option but a longer ride.  I changed some more dollars for pesos and we boarded the bus heading south.  Instead of charging right down Hwy 1 to the airport, the bus traveled down the west side of Baja on Hwy 19.  South of Todos Santos we saw whales breaching just offshore of the road, incredible!

The Aguila stopped in Cabo San Lucas then continued on to San Jose del Cabo where we piled into a van sent by Ecobaja Tours that whisked us to the airport where our goal was not to get on a plane but instead, to rent a car at Ace Rent-a-Car for $5 USD a day.  The rental price on cars is extremely cheap at the Cabo airport but the catch is that the optional insurance is five times the price of the car.  I hate all insurance companies (and most banks) so it gives me great pleasure to just refuse the insurance offer on rental cars.  If I wreck it, I'll pay for it.  To me, buying extra insurance is like placing a bet that I will drive recklessly and crash the car.  So off we went in our fancy Seat Toledo (not available in the US), up the highway back toward where we started in the morning.  This time we took the turn on Camino Cabo Este, the East Cape road.

A few miles east of La Ribera the road turned to gravel (Ha ha, the car rental contract said I was not to drive off the pavement) and soon arrived at Cabo Pulmo Eco Palapa.  This place is on a narrow tract of land that runs from the road down to the beach.  Near the beach is a cluster of buildings of all shapes and sizes surrounded by palms and flowering bushes. Bill White runs the place and has been the owner for about ten years. He showed us around the property touring the big Papagallo palapa, the Eagle's Nest and Sunset rooms, and the four cabanas which are actually tent trailers set up with views of the beach.

Outside our little tent trailer cabana "Blanca" at Cabo Pulmo Eco Palapa
We selected the Blanca cabana and settled in, stashing our refrigerator items in the communal kitchen.  Our cabana was on the slight knoll that looked down on a wide beach; facing the rising sun over the sea.  Over our one week stay at Eco Palapa we often visited the beach and always had it to ourselves north and south as far as the eye could see. And, it just so happened to be a full moon during our visit. Nice.

Bill checked the weather and wind for us and found that over the next couple of days the north wind was lying down so we drove south down the rough road to the village of Cabo Pulmo and the dive center where we made arrangements for the next day's dive. Then we drove further down the not-paved (Ha!) road to Los Arbolitos (little trees) where there is a nice beach for swimming and snorkeling.  It's a managed area with showers and palm woven shade umbrellas.  The snorkeling was good, lots of colorful fish.  What a relaxing place!

Day two we showed up at the dive center early and did a refresher course in the pool.  I think the instructor was disappointed in our skills, especially mine. It had been about three years since I got my diving certification and I was pretty rusty.  We then got together with three other people, suited up, and walked to the beach were they were putting in the boat.  On the way out to the La Cantil dive site we spotted a juvenile humpback whale breaching.  We switched off the engine and watched the youngster flipping out of the water.  Soon, the mother arrived looking huge in the water next to our little boat.

On the count of three the six divers flipped over backwards into the water and we descended to about 35 feet for a view of the coral reef structure and glimpse of a sea turtle.  The reefs at Cabo Pulmo are quite extensive, running in a north-south direction.  We swam south alongside and above the reef for the one-tank dive.  I had problems controlling my buoyancy sometimes drifting up then drifting down.  The instructor had to stay close and occasionally grab me.  I know I was pissing him off and was trying my best but all that was accomplishing was me using up my air too fast.  Connie did much better but did have a couple of non-neutral buoyancy moments like me.  45 minutes later we surfaced.
Papagallo at Eco Palapa

As we waited around to board the boat I got a good leg cramp that I was able to stretch out.  We flopped into the boat and everyone chatted excitedly about the dive.  Our instructor gave me a little lecture and we zoomed down the coast to find another site more protected from the wind by the cape at Los Frailes.  Connie and I have anchored many times in Los Frailes and often wondered how we could dive around the corner at Cabo Pulmo.  We didn't know there was a nice reef there just south of the anchorage.  I realized that my fun factor was waning so I stayed up top while Connie went down with the rest of the team.  I actually fell asleep lying on the dive boat bench in the sun.  It was quite nice. And you know, that's what's nice about being in charge of your own life.  Like they say in Southpark, "I do what I want."

After everyone surfaced we sped back five miles to the launch, huddling together as the wind on wet suits chilled us.  We hopped into the water at the beach while the crew floated a wheeled cradle out to the panga dive boat.  The driver ran the boat up onto the floating cradle and our dive master strapped it in place.  Then they ran a stout rope from the cradle to a four wheel drive truck and hauled it up the beach.  They removed the rope and backed the truck to the boat tying the two together with a long metal tongue so they could haul the rig back to the dive center.  I love how creative they are in Mexico getting boats in and out of the water without a boat launch.

For the remainder of our week at Cabo Pulmo we took a day trip to Los Barilles, did more snorkeling at Los Arbolitos, took a drive up to the hot springs near Santiago, and did more beach walking.  It was a wonderful, relaxing week in the sun and, aside from the dive trip, the costs were minimal.  Bill, at Eco Palapa was a fountain of knowledge and was able to direct us in our activities.

I rinsed the dust off the rental car and we returned it to Ace where they found no damage and sent us on our way.  Connie bought some Havana Club in the duty free store at the airport, we boarded the plane then flew to L.A. where customs was a breeze.  We spent a fortune on sandwiches while waiting for the Alaska Air flight to SeaTac, hoping our checked bags were making the connection along with us.  Now we are back home, house sitting for friends and enjoying the lush green that is Olympia, Washington.

At the hot springs

Note on the status of Traveler:
She was not happy that we ran off to Mexico without her so she pitched a little fit.  When we arrived the shore side charger had switched off, the refrigerator ran down the batteries, the bilge pump was running, and the MPPT solar charger ... wasn't.  You gotta love a boat!