Bob and Marilyn's Weblog
January 2016
Saturday night we had a wonderful visit with Kim and Steve.  They are members of Seattle Yacht Club - VIP members judging by the treatment we got while eating with them.  We pulled up to Queen City Yacht Club after we got splashed but they were having a "predicted log race" which is kind of like watching paint dry only on a boat.  We could have stayed on their reciprocal dock because those locations are first come first serve but we were nice so we moved across the bay to SYC.  When I phoned Kim she insisted that they had already paid for the meal stubs so we had to be their guests.  Not that being their guests is ever a hardship - they are the most gracious hosts we know.

Sunday morning we untied at first light, went out through the locks without incident and turned north.  By mid afternoon we were tied up again at Everett Yacht Club.

Jan 25
Heading North - Anacortes
Marilyn calls these gatherings "board meetings".  We see a lot of them on the water.  Usually they just involve one species but this one was integrated.  

We can see them a couple of miles away.  Logs without birds are actually a big problem when there's any little bit of wave on the water.  Sometimes we don't see them until we're right on top of them (and sometimes we miss them altogether and they go bumpity bump down the side of the boat ... or worse) but when there's birds sitting on them its hard to miss them.
In the middle of the picture to the right you can see two red markers roughly lined up, one over the other (click on the photo and they'll be easier to see).  Those are the range markers for the Swinomish Channel.  One marker is lower and closer - the other is higher and farther away.  The theory is that you line the two markers up in order to stay in a straight line and more importantly a straight line in the dredged channel.

The channel starts on the east side of Skagit Bay.  The markers are on the west side - the distant marker is roughly a mile from the entrance to the channel.  When you exit from the channel and turn north into La Conner you are close to 3 miles from the farthest marker.  As you can see, they're pretty hard to see even at the close end.  And its pretty important to see them because you have to stay in the dredged channel and its only about 50 feet wide.

The last time we went down this range the wind was blowing up a storm out of the south - enough that I had to keep us crabbed at least 30 degrees in order to track a straight line down the range. The entire length of the channel has been dredged in the last 4 years so its not nearly as much of a challenge as it used to be but there is still a pretty tight spot by Goat Island.  We saw under 10 feet today on roughly a 6 foot tide so we wouldn't make it on a zero tide (we draw over 4-1/2 feet).  Because of the way they establish their chart datum, the Americans occasionally get minus tides which would be flat out of the question for us.
The current through La Conner is very unpredictable.  The current tables just say to consult local knowledge.  This is the fuel dock where they put up a board showing which direction the current is flowing at the time.  Often its not easy to tell which direction it is flowing but its important to know.  If you try to dock with the current things can get exciting - its important to pull up to the dock facing into the current.  Among other things that means that the boat will be moving much slower relative to the dock which is important because the key to successful docking is to get the boat and the dock moving at the same speed.
Somedays I can't resist the urge to take a picture of the pretty boats.  Somedays ....

I'm not quite sure what happened here.  A pregnant tin can?  Its maybe not the ugliest boat on the water but its easily the worst one I saw that day.
This was our view to the west most of the day.  It was so pretty that it looked fake.  
This morning we got an early start from Everett and headed north toward Anacortes.  We ran the (mildly) perilous Swinomish Channel without incident and tied up in Cap Sante marina late in the afternoon.  We're going to spend a couple of nights here because it feels like we've been pushing hard for several days.  

We've got some liveaboard friends who are spending the winter in Friday Harbor so we'll check in there in a couple of days but we expect to be back in Sidney by the weekend.  Then we've got a few loose ends to tie up in Cow Bay before we start the big trip north to Alaska.
We're back in the water.  Its been a busy week and we're pretty pleased with ourselves.  Four years ago Platypus charged us something north of $8,000 for work that was no better than what we did this time.  This time, all in, we've got less than $3,000 spent.  Arguably I think we might have a better job than what we got 4 years ago.  The kids at the boat yard told us - unprompted - what a good job they thought we had done.  "Better than lots of our contractors" was one of their comments which makes me wonder about the quality of the contractors but also made us feel pretty good.  

Tonight we're back on Lake Union, at Seattle Yacht Club's reciprocal dock this time.
Jan 22
Back in the Water
It doesn't take long - the lift pulls over the boat, they link the straps under the keel and next thing you know, the boat is in the air.  He said we weigh around 46,000 pounds.
There were 3 spots under the keel where the boat was resting on the blocks that we couldn't get to with the bottom paint. So as soon as they lifted Gray Hawk we daubed a bit of paint on the missed spots.

This is also a really good shot of the port side stabilizer fin.
The next step is for the Travelift to straddle the ramp prior to lowering us back into the water.  

Once Gray Hawk was back floating I got onboard and Marilyn took the rental car over to the yacht club. I went slow so that she would be sure to arrive ahead of me but I needn't have worried because she got there long before I did.

Note the skinny boot stripe and the brown stained "moustache".

No more moustache and a wider darker boot stripe - a much improved shade of red on the boot stripe too.
It seems like a long time since I wrote anything.  Since it hasn't actually been that long I think its just that we've been really busy for the past couple of days.  

We untied at Shilshole on Saturday morning after a brief incident with the bow thruster.  I like to think that I can handle the boat without the thruster but its damn nice to have.  With twin props I can pretty much put the back end of the boat wherever I want it but the pointy end sometimes has a mind of its own.  We have less windage than a lot of boats we see but we still get bossed around by the wind. With the thruster and the twin screws I can walk the boat straight sideways in all the but the strongest of crosswinds.  So I always check the thruster as part of my pre-departure checklist.  And on Saturday morning it stubbornly refused to do anything.  It turned out to be a bit of corrosion in a sealed connector down in the (perpetually damp) bow next to the thruster but I didn't figure that out until later in the day.  We were pinned to the dock by the wind when we left Shilshole so I missed the thruster but I got us away, got us through the locks and got us re-docked at Queen City Yacht Club on Lake Union.

Jan 19
We've Been Really Busy Lately
Queen City is at the south end of Portage Bay, between Lake Union and Lake Washington.  Its a kind of pretty location albeit a bit noisy by virtue of being next thing to underneath the freeway.  The photo above is from early Monday morning as we crept out on first light to make our haulout time at Canal Boat Yard.

Canal Boat yard was recommended by S3 Maritime who are the contractors that we hired to do the periodic service on the Naiad stabilizers.  You can sort of see the stabilizer fins in the photo below.  They're the big blue flaps that stick out amidships.  Each of them rides on a 3" stainless steel shaft that sticks out through the hull.  Of course there's bearings that the shaft runs through and there are some seals on the outside to keep the ocean away from the bearings.  I consider it pretty important to do what the manufacturer advises since salt water and bearings seems like a bad combination.  Any failure of the seals or bearings would result in a little or a lot of water inside the boat and our goal is to keep the water on the outside.
I haven't done a very good job of documenting the haulout.  We've been pretty focussed on just getting it done.  We're experiencing typical Pacific North Wet weather.  Yesterday (Monday) we got on the blocks by 10:00.  The Naiad kid showed up and I helped him a bit but mostly just stayed out of his way.  He left for lunch, came back and was all wrapped up by 3:00.  It was still a pretty decent day so we scurried around and by 4:00 were ready to start putting bottom paint on the starboard side.  We got that done before dark and then hurried back at first light this morning to do the port side.  The forecast was the shits for today but we didn't actually get rain until close to 2:00.  By then we had most of the port side coated.  There's still some touchup to do around the bow thruster (that's it right near the bow, about 10" below the waterline), around the tunnels where the shafts come out and around some of the transducers.  But all of those locations are sheltered from direct rainfall so, if we absolutely have to, we could paint them in the rain.  

We spent the rest of the afternoon scraping and polishing the shafts and the props.  Everything underwater gets sealife (barnacles and mussels) growing on it.    The purpose of the bottom paint is to kill those little critters and our paint job from 4 years ago was still in surprisingly good shape.  We both forgot to bring a camera or even our phones when they lifted Gray Hawk.  We didn't get back onboard until after she had been washed so we don't have any pictures of her as she came out of the water but she was remarkably clean.  I think we were pushing the window for what most people would consider a normal haulout interval at 4 years.  In tropical climates some people haul every year because the growth is so much faster.  In the PNW three years is pretty common with some people hauling every other year.  I'm sure there's people that go longer than 3 years as well and probably some that totally neglect any out of the water maintenance activity.  I was bothered by the fact that we didn't get the boat out of the water last summer but we appear to have got away with it.

Our zincs were all in relatively good shape - the one on the bow thruster is a perpetual PITA but even it had a few remnants remaining.  You want zincs to be consumed - their purpose is to be sacrificial and thereby protect the rest of the underwater metal.  But you don't want to discover that any particular zinc is totally gone because that means you waited too long to check it.  

4 years ago we put a coat of black bottom paint on first and then covered it with a coat of blue.  The boat still looked blue when it came out of the water and even after washing looked predominately blue.  It had some streaks and splotches of black where the pressure washer cut through the blue layer but the primary visual effect was of a blue bottom so our bottom paint was still in really good condition.  

We're putting the same brand of paint back on - Sea Hawk Sharkskin.  It better be good because they're awfully damn proud of it.  Fisheries Supply says its worth $262 Yankee bucks in their store and they are selling it to me on my account at $196 per gallon.  I met the Sea Hawk rep at the boatyard and told him how much we like his paint and how bloody expensive it is in Canuck bux.  He said they are trying to get it registered in Canada but Transport Canada is stonewalling them.  Having spent much of my life butting heads with the bureaucrats at Transport Canada I completely understand his frustration.
Not much drama today and even less peril.The wind blew hard all day yesterday and most of the night.  At 3:00 AM I didn't think there was a chance in hell we'd be going anywhere this morning but by 7 or 8 the wind was dying down and at 9:30 there was hardly any wind evident in the marina.  It was still a little lumpy outside the breakwater because those big rollers take a long time to die down but by 11:00 it was pretty nice cruising. 

Sometime after we ate dinner the port engine started stumbling and running rough.  At first I thought it was the air compressor on the flybridge.  It routinely alarms me when it runs because we don't so much hear it as feel the vibration of it running.  But it pretty quickly was apparent that the port engine was losing RPMs.  Fortunately we have a very good fuel filtration setup and it paid off today.

I've read about situations where you get slammed around one day and have fuel problems the day after.  Evidently that is what happened to us.  The pounding we took on Monday must have shaken something loose or just agitated whatever was lying on the bottom of the tank.  Once we got underway today that "stuff" got sucked into the filter and eventually plugged it.  The filter wasn't completely plugged but it was getting bad enough to restrict fuel flow to the engine which is what was making it run rough.

Fortunately we have dual Racor filters ahead of the engine filters.  The fuel from the tank first goes through a 3-way selector valve and then to one of two large Racor filters.  There's even a vacuum gauge on the 3-way valve to indicate how plugged the filter is becoming.  When I checked that gauge it was showing around 20 inches of vacuum on the port side and around 2 inches on the starboard side.  After I flipped the port side lever to the reserve filter it dropped back to less than 2 inches.  I think atmospheric pressure is 24 inches so 20 inches of vacuum would mean the filter was almost completely blocked.  Tomorrow I'll need to pop a new filter in to replace the plugged one.  Right now that big yellow lever in the photo is pointing to the rear filter - the front one is the plugged one.  
Jan 13
Slaving Away in the Engine Room
Other than that little bit of excitement it was a pretty uneventful cruise.  We arrived at Shilshole Marina around 3:30, got tied up in H11, I ordered a car and we're waiting for the Enterprise driver to come pick us up.  

NOTE: its a few days since I wrote this but we haven't had any decent internet access in the interim.  Not much has happened other than moving to a different marina where we have reciprocal (ie: free) moorage.  Tomorrow we move to the haulout yard.  No doubt that will prompt another post.
Maybe its something to do with haulouts. The last time we did a haulout (Port Angeles in 2013) we got the ever living shit kicked out of us crossing Juan de Fuca. Today we’re recovering from another shit kicking – this time rounding Point Wilson. 
We left Port Angeles yesterday morning on rolling swells. By mid morning it was almost flat and then around noon it got a little rough. Marilyn made lunch and by the time we started eating it was getting snotty but still nothing that the stabilizers weren’t handling. We were coming across the north end of Sequim Bay with a strong southerly wind so I expected that the waves would let up at bit as we approached the head of the Olympic Peninsula at Point Wilson. I was worried about the long fetch coming up Puget Sound but I expected some shelter as we got into Port Townsend and figured we could handle a bit of a beating rounding the point. I was in no way prepared for what we actually experienced. 
I’ve read about the rip tide at Point Wilson but it is supposed to be a feature of the ebb tide and we were approaching it almost exactly at slack. In fact the boat was speeding up a bit which made me think we were actually on the early flood. Whatever the stage of the tide, the rip obviously didn’t care. One minute we were rolling a bit but more or less under control – the next we were plunging head first into confused waves that seemed to be coming 90 degrees to the actual wind direction. There was a big fishboat approaching the point at the same time as we were and we had a bit of confusion about who was going to go first but I managed to get behind him because he was clearly travelling slightly faster than we were. That got me a little further off shore which was contrary to what the guide books recommended for the rip but it was somewhat better conditions, which is probably why the fishboat was out there to begin with.  
It was still hell on water and we got a serious pounding for about an hour. We probably had worse conditions for a longer period three years ago but this time was special in its own right. Several times we plowed the bow completely under water which is a pretty impressive sight. Our bow is close to 8 feet above the water line and while it enters fine it flares widely. It is the kind of bow that starts easily into a wave but normally recovers quickly as the flare increases. It takes a lot of effort to drive it under the water but several times I saw green water over the whole width of the bow which then flowed back and up over the windscreen. It’s a sight that I don’t recommend. Marilyn stayed stationary on the couch (successfully) focussing on not puking. The dishes and cabin contents were not nearly as stationary. Remarkably the only casualties were two dinner plates which leaped to their death out of an open cupboard door. 
Even after we got fully into Port Townsend bay the wind and waves kept us firmly in their grip, pounding us right until we finally got behind the breakwater at the marina. I always have trouble finding the opening to the breakwater and it is in pretty shallow water so I was really worried about it yesterday. I tried scoping the beach with the glasses but it was just too rough to see anything and trying to look through the binoculars was threatening to make me sick. As it turned out I had a guide to follow in but we had to stand off and get shit kicked for a few more interminable minutes.  
There was a Seatow boat with a big cruiser side tied standing off from the marina when we rounded the point into the bay. I heard him trying to raise the fishboat ahead of us but the fisherman ignored the call (or more likely didn’t have his radio on – fishboats follow different rules). When we got a little closer I finally called the Seatow guy reasoning that, much as we wanted to get into shelter, his need was likely greater than ours. I think he was really happy to hear from me – I know he was in fact – and we agreed to stand off while he made his entrance. That let me watch his exact track and gauge our approach to get behind the breakwater with the least risk of grounding. Its pretty alarming when the surf is breaking on the rocks off the breakwater on one side and crashing into the beach on the other side. It sure felt good to push the power up as we got into the calm water behind the breakwater.  
Once behind the breakwater we let ourselves get blown up against an open T-head where some watching fishermen grabbed our lines and got us tied up. Then my very seasick crew stumbled ashore and found us more permanent moorage further into the marina. After a few hours walking around on shore and supper at a little fish and chips joint she was much improved. This morning she is enjoying a major sleep in because we aren’t going anywhere today. The wind is still howling up Puget Sound but it is forecast to drop this afternoon.  

Jan 12
Shit Kicking Part II
That is a HIGH bow. Its hard to imagine driving it completely underwater but we did that, not once but several times yesterday.
We got untied late Saturday morning and moved in pea soup fog to the Sidney North Saanich reciprocal dock.  Yesterday we left SNSYC at the first hint of daylight and felt our way out past Van Isle Marina, through the crab pot maze.  By the time we got outside Van Isle the sun was getting up and we had an uneventful trip across Juan de Fuca to Port Angeles.  Uneventful is our constant goal on travel days.  

The dock at Port Angeles is pretty quiet this time of year and particularly so on a Sunday afternoon but there was a fat kid showed up to do something late in the day.  He was able to give me the wifi code and we've been here often enough to know our way around so we didn't really need anything else.  We're right about here on the guest dock, just inside the entrance to the marina

They've got a locked gate that needs a pass key but we didn't plan on going out for groceries anyway so that didn't matter.  Today we'll get moved to Port Townsend and we'll likely spend a couple of nights there but that's a pretty busy marina so someone will be there to let us in. 

Jan 11
Back in the US of A
Mount Baker was clearly visible most of the way across
The fat kid showed up just at dusk while I was out taking pictures
When George the idiot cat still travelled with us, whenever we arrived somewhere new and got set up or anchored, Marilyn used to turn to him and say “Well, we’re home George”. Well, we’re home. Two days of marathon driving across most of three provinces on incredibly good roads for any time of the year, let alone the first week of January, and we arrived back at the boat just after 7:00 last night.  
I always worry about getting all the systems started up again – water, sewer, heat, electrical, engines, genset, inverter, etc. etc. So far everything has come back up reasonably quickly. The Webasto furnace can be a little balky after sitting for so long but I remembered some of what I did to it last winter so it came online relatively quickly and a good thing too that it did. It was right around freezing when we arrived – the thermostat was reading 38 when I finally got the furnace to light. It takes a long time before that little furnace burns enough diesel to warm all the dead weight of the boat. We let it cool off every night but there’s a heat sink effect once all the wood, fibreglass, fuel and water are warmed up so the boat never really completely cools off to ambient temperature and conversely, when they’re cold it takes a long time before you can feel any heat.  
Today I’ll do some battery maintenance before I run an equalize cycle on the charger. We depend heavily on battery power when we are anchored so our batteries need to be in good condition all the time, not to mention how important it is that they start the engines whenever we want to go somewhere.. Lead acid batteries benefit from a regular agitation of the electrolyte through what is effectively a period of overcharging. My charger will take the nominal 12 volt bank up to around 17 volts and hold it there for about 8 hours during which time the batteries will gas off heavily and in so doing mix up their electrolyte. Before I do that I need to make sure that each cell is right full of water and they need to be fully charged to start with.  The boat has been disconnected from shore power for the last eight months so I need to let the batteries get fully charged before I do anything else.
We always disconnect the boat completely from the power supply before we leave because there are a lot of bad things that can happen to unattended boats that are left plugged in. The obvious risk is fire – the most common loss for recreational boats is an electrical fire started by a bad dock connection. The other big risk is from leaving the boat bonded through the power pedestal to all the other boats that are connected to the marina power. Electrolysis is a huge issue for boats. We keep our boat well zinced to protect it but some of our neighbours are less conscientious. When we’re connected to the power supply our zincs can be protecting two or three vessels on either side of us. That means that my zincs which might easily last us 12 or 18 months or more could be completely consumed in 2 or 3 months which is really not good when we’re gone for 6 or 8 months. By simply unplugging we remove that risk.  
Until we put on the solar panels unplugging wasn’t an option because we need the batteries fully charged to keep the bilge pumps running. Our bilge is pretty dry. I once asked Chuck (previous owner of Gray Hawk) how dry our bilge should be. “Dusty” was the reply. We don’t have quite that dry a boat but we don’t leak much. I’ve seen boats where the bilge pumps run every few minutes. I’d be surprised if ours run once a month. But we still need the batteries charged all the time, just in case. So unplugging wasn’t an option until we got the solar panels. When we got back onboard the charge monitor was showing 100% charged so it appears the solar panels have done their job but I still want the charger to run for at least 24 hours before I start messing with an equalization cycle.  
Probably about Wednesday I will start the main engines and the genset. If everything goes well we might move over to the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club reciprocal dock on the weekend. We want to get to Seattle as soon as possible to do a quick haulout but I need to be sure all the systems are working before we head out into the middle of Juan de Fuca strait. 

Jan 4
Back Onboard Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk looks pretty sad after 8 months alone
The worst green guck is on the flybridge
... and our resident dock idiot is still feeding the flying rats
We're busy wrapping up loose ends.  Today we finished the last of the painting.  I never really expected that we would be done before we left so that was a very nice surprise.  Marilyn has a few touchups that she is still doing tonight but the worst of it is behind us.  When we get back next summer we can start directly into ripping up the old carpet.  Our plan is to lay ceramic tile in the kitchen, laundry and bathroom with laminate through the rest of the upstairs.  No doubt we will be busy outside until late in the fall but by next Christmas maybe we'll have a liveable house again.

Today I started seriously packing the truck.  We don't have a bunch of stuff to take to the coast - nothing compared to what we intend to bring back with us - but it takes time nonetheless.  As soon as we arrive home we set out a box to put "stuff" in that needs to go to the boat.  We've been home for a long time so that single box had grown to several boxes which are now all in the back of the truck.  We leave a complete set of clothing and most of our cosmetics on the boat so packing our personal effects is pretty simple.  This time we are going to completely empty the fridge and freezer so that we can leave them unplugged which will mean a little more food travelling with us than is normal.  We'll get an early start Saturday morning, stop in Medicine Hat to see the boys and - if the weather co-operates - sleep on the boat Sunday night.  So far the forecast looks good and if it doesn't hold we just won't go.

A couple of weeks ago MBNA bank phoned me to see if I was buying a bunch of crap from the Apple store with their credit card.  Of course I wasn't - I hate the whole fruit thing.  So that meant that they had to cancel my card and issue a new one.  They would have sent one by UPS but I hate UPS so I told them to send it by Canada Post.  I was beginning to regret that decision but it finally showed up this morning.  That could have been a deal breaker for the Saturday departure but with that card back in my pocket we're ready to travel.  
Jan 1
New Years Day
That's "Iron Man" curling at the Buchanan rink tonight.  2 man teams - they curl 6 ends with the leads throwing 3 rocks and the skips throwing 2 so it goes pretty fast.  They have 14 rinks lined up for a New Years weekend bonspiel which started tonight with wings and a cash bar.  They put new windows in the viewing area this fall and just finished installing the cameras so spectators can second guess the skips even when they're at the far end of the rink.  This is a very active little village and we are definitely going to miss it while we are gone.  Tonight everyone was asking when we were planning to leave so, in addition to our webcams, I'm sure the house and yard will have lots of eyeballs on them as soon as we do leave.   We debated for a long time whether it made sense to install some security cameras and finally decided that it probably did.  There's been a few break-ins around town lately - at least with the cameras we'll have some pictures to help the cops find the bastards. 

Tomorrow morning is the New Year's brunch at the community centre.  Then we'll get serious about putting the last of the "stuff" in the truck.