30 November 2010

Operation "Team Giddyup to Bahrain" - complete

Winter vagabonding trip #2 is complete.We're back (and we're shivering).

We had a crazy, fun trip to Bahrain over the last few weeks. We visited with a friend, were adopted by his family, spent a chunk of time exploring kite boarding and all of the other water pursuits his friend is able to enjoy on a weekly basis (very nice lifestyle), ate too much good food and did some interesting tourist stuff. Posts with photos and video forthcoming.

The weather (75F) and the water (75F) were turning "cold" for the locals but we basked in the relative warmth and sunshine while storm after storm hit BC and WA.

Three Good Show Awards deserve mentioning: Our friends who were watching over our boat deserve a Good Show Award for turning on our heater and keeping an eye on our lovely girl while we were gone, our friends who let us use some of their buddy passes deserve a Good Show Award for making the trip possible at all, and finally our host deserves a Good Show Award for hosting us while his parents were also visiting making for a pack of seven people running around the house and piling into the single car.

26 November 2010

American Thanksgiving with a French-Canadian twist


American Thanksgiving with a French-Canadian twist
Originally uploaded by Livia

I'll have to tell you how hard it was to get fresh cranberries for this meal when I write up the most recent trip report in a few days. In the meantime...

From left to right, top to bottom: Meat (pork) pie, pommes frites (french fries), coleslaw from online KFC (PFK) recipe, deep fried turkey, gravy and fresh cranberry sauce.

Delicieux!

23 November 2010

Winning the lottery

Can you afford to go cruising?

This is perhaps my favorite explanation of how a couple was able to afford to go cruising. Rob & Dee aboard Ventana say:

The truth at last...we won the lottery. When we departed to go cruising Rob was only 42 years old and Dee a bit older. Most of our family and friends could not believe we could afford to retire. No matter how politely they phrased it eventually most asked how we could afford such a lifestyle. Usually we mumbled something about investing wisely in the stock market but the truth is we can afford to cruise because we won the lottery. Until now we have not talked about it but our win was bigger than the New York State Powerball prize.

To really understand why I like their lottery winning explanation, click here and scroll down a paragraph or two to read the rest. It's worth a peek.

18 November 2010

Inconsistent Dirtbags

One of the great things about Carol and I is that after years of independent evolution prior to meeting we had come to a similar place in our financial thinking. We both had the big house and had the new car and realized that wasn’t really what we wanted. In fact, we both had big empty houses because both of us, consciously or not, were putting our money where our priorities were – experiences not things. Even though we both love shiny new tech toys (and own some), for the most part we prioritized plane tickets for climbing trips in Mallorca over new phones. I had a big, beautiful, hardwood floored, passive solar house…with a folding picnic table in the dining room that I “planned” to replace with a nice dining set. Each month, rather than buying the dining set, I bought plane tickets, evenings out, great meals, gear (stuff) that I used in outdoor pursuits, wine.

I think our vagabonding life is an expression of putting our money where our own personal values are. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making an anti-stuff statement. I’m making a pro-happiness statement. As anyone who has known me long enough can attest, my personal motto is “you are in charge of your own happiness”. If stuff made me happy, I would own it. Sometimes stuff does make me happy, like my clothing cubes, or my Nook. Stuff is neither good or bad (how silly to have to say that, right?).

What brought all of this up for me? A few things together:
  • Our own realization that we spent 4 times more on fine wine during our recent road trip than lodging. I started calling us “inconsistent dirtbags”. Given a limited income, we would prefer to sleep on someone’s floor and then have money for great lattes and a round of ballpark dogs and beers for our hosts and ourselves.
  • A number of posts on different blogs or forums that felt anti-wealthy to me. As if people who are wealthy boaters are lesser boaters or as if the people judging them would somehow turn down wealth if offered to them. I know, I know, forums are stupid places to form opinions.
  • Have you seen SV Totem’s post about taking charge of their own happiness? They felt their family was becoming too embedded in “stuff” and moved them onto a boat and crossed the S Pacific. They will be featured in the upcoming movie “American Dream”. The trailer they linked to is very interesting. I plan to see the film.

16 November 2010

Heaving

...but not in the exciting harlequin romance bosom kind of way.

Last night we saw gusts up to 48 knots, at our dock. Those familiar with Victoria will know that Ogden Point is the big cruise ship area at the mouth of Victoria Harbor. To the right is a 3 hour track of the winds at Ogden Point. Sustained averages in the high 30s low 40s and three hours of guests at around 50 knots.

The wind was also westerly which is the worst direction for the inner harbor. Westerly winds blow right up inside the harbor with little break.

Everyone was out on the dock moving fenders and lines for unattended boats and assisting each other. We are in one of the more exposed slips and several boats loaned us mega fenders and helped us shove them between us and the dock. At the next marina one boat had its furled sail come unfurled and over the course of an hour flogged itself to shreds. Carol had been getting ready to grab a few people and go over to help secure it when the real gusts started and we began heaving on the dock.

At several points the entire dock was bucking wildly while we lurched around on it trying to put fenders between it and our boat, also lurching wildly and which had its toerail over the dock itself as if our poor boat were trying to crawl up on top of it. Imagine standing on the dock by your boat while the dock is surging up and down a few feet and your boat is bucking wildly the same amount, but not in rhythm with each other. You are trying to slip fenders in without having your hands crushed between the two and without falling off the dock (which would also involve some crushing).
Not fun. A good story. An interesting memory. But definitely part of "the suck".

And, unlike other westerly blows, this went on for hours.

AND just before the storm we had turned on some chill music, made some pasta and opened a bottle of our yummy Sonoma wine (Chateau St Jean Cinq Cepage). AND we broke one of our remaining two stemless wine glasses.

Am I whining yet?

15 November 2010

Volvo MD2030D Heat Exchanger - oopsie

You know what a boater doesn’t like to hear – their bilge pump going off. The bilge pump, non-boaters, takes water that has somehow worked its way inside the boat and pumps it out of the boat. This water could be something relatively innocuous like interior humidity condensing and dripping into the bilge until it reaches a level that triggers the pump. Or it could be something of moderate concern like a leaking point in the deck of the boat. Or it could be something of major concern like a hole in the boat.

When we go away from the boat for a few weeks the bilge dries out, completely, even if it is raining. This tells us that we don’t have any deck leaks (or none big enough to get any real water) and the only water we get is condensation. Our condensation water doesn’t accumulate in enough quantity to cause the bilge pump to go off.

So, imagine our distress when our bilge pump went off twice in a very short period of time, while we were under sail, in a narrow channel near Tofino. We had been revving the engine a bit while exiting a harbor to check our speed instruments (how fast we are going in the water vs. how fast we are going over ground). We put up the sails and started sailing in relatively light air. The bilge pump went off. I check under our floor panels and saw a tiny trickle of water coming from the back of the boat. We figure that jostling the boat around caused pockets of still water to run into the bilge. I open the engine compartment – looks fine.

But, not long later, it went again. I check the bilge and engine and see a puddle of watery orange liquid under the engine. Our coolant…very diluted with water.

heatexchangerCarol takes the watch and I start grabbing books off the shelves, looking at my diesel engine repair notes, troubleshooting by putting my hands on various parts of the cooling system to see if there is a cold spot (blockage or failed sensor/valve). Carol calls our mechanic who says that the most likely problem is a pinhole leak in our heat exchanger which means that we have saltwater in our engine. Not good for its longevity.

We switch places. Carol goes down and begins exercising his navigation skills and I go up and exercise my short tacks in heavy wind skills because, of course, the wind has built up considerably. This is a good thing actually because it means that we know we can make way under sail and won’t end up drifting into land. It also means several hours of tacking every 5 minutes so we can make our way to Tofino. We ran the engine for the last few minutes as we entered the tricky back channel to the anchorage and dropped anchor.

After some further advice by phone, very kind offers of help from fellow boaters via the SSB who offered to drive us places and suggested possible fixes, we found (via some internet searching) that the black cuff (you can see it hanging loose with two blue round hose claps dangling from it - below left) which directs sea water through the tubes sometimes comes unseated allowing salt water to go on the outside of the heat exchanger, adding volume to the coolant, which then comes out of the pressure release tube. PLUS, this salt-water coolant is now circulating in your engine. Some engines are designed to be cooled internally by saltwater, but most modern engines are not and the salt water can seriously damage the engine if allowed to sit. The biggest problem is when people don’t know salt water has entered their engine and don’t flush it and their engine corrodes internally. The only thing holding the cuff in its seat are the two hose clamps.

IMG_4993  IMG_4994

For the non boaters, who know something about cars, the heat exchanger is your radiator except that the coolant is cooled by sea water pumped through the heat exchanger rather than air pumped over the radiator. That sea water is supposed to stay inside of these long skinny tubes while the coolant bathes around them in the larger radiator tank.

As you can see below the sea water causes a build up inside the heat exchanger (our build up is actually very mild, our engine is relatively young, and was easily flushed out). Eventually corrosion causes pinhole leaks (or larger cracks) in one or more tubes. Depending on the manufacturer they will tell you what percentage of tubes you have to have for the engine to work effectively. If one or two tubes crack you can often have a welder plug those tubes which means the heat exchanger doesn’t cool the coolant as well, but stops sea water from entering your coolant through the cracked tubes and thus entering your engine. This build up is also a problem for circulation and that is why you flush and clean your heat exchanger.

 IMG_4995 IMG_4996

Why did ours fail? The hose clamps were loose and when we revved the engine we wiggled them further loose. Why didn’t we tighten the hose clamps? Somehow the existence of a thick layer of Volvo paint over them caused me to ignore their presence, as simple as that. Simple and stupid. I’ve checked the hose clamps on every other inch of our boat and yet two of the easiest to check I didn’t check because they were covered in paint. Oy.

We flushed the engine, ran it and tested the new installation. Flushed it again…and flushed it again. Many engine hours later, everything is running smoothly.

In the midst of the crisis, with the knowledge that the most common problem is a leak in the core (it is the most likely thing, our experience not withstanding), we bought a heat exchanger insert for an exorbitant sum so now we are also the proud owners of an expensive spare part.

Welcome to boating :)

((This occurred in August 2010))

13 November 2010

Overripe Dreamer

A bit of a "duh" moment for me tonight as I asked Carol whether because we were going the "slow and sustainable" route, were we losing some of the romanticism of sailing off into the sunset. Did spending another year here mean that we were past the peak of excitement, on the down slope of thrill, and that by the time we headed South it would be somehow less exciting because we eased into it rather than leaped?

Carol said "that's why I don't spend a lot of time reading blogs. I don't want to live it...before I live it. If there is something to be learned great, or some pretty pictures as motivation, great, but otherwise I want to live it as our dream, not theirs."

And...duh. I realized that I was still reading blogs as if I were a dreamer needing motivation as I plugged away at a job and prepared our boat. I'm done dreaming in the sense of preparing. I'm ready to do.

So, I'm off reading a million blogs. Cold turkey except for people that I know (in person or online). Still writing :)

12 November 2010

What I (think I) know about chain

I've been reading about chain. Here is what I have been learning:

  • High test chain is a bit of a misnomer but I'll use it as it is commonly used in the US to mean G40 or G43 chain. You can read a good description of the grading system used in the US here.
  • High test chain used to have longer links and thus pile in your chain locker awkwardly and not be as windlass friendly. I think this is why Mahina's Offshore Cruising Companion suggests against it. Acco's high test chain is currently only .75mm longer than its BBB chain.
  • American high test chain manufacturers use a less stringent formula to determine working load from breaking load. Breaking load is tested. Working load is calculated. Most companies around the world taking the breaking strength and divide by 4 for the working load. High test manufacturers use a division of 3. If you want to compare apples to apples, use your own calculation. Find out the breaking strength of both, and divide them both by 3 or by 4...whatever.
  •  If you compare apples to apples, high test is still stronger than BBB chain at the working load level (which is the safe level to compute from). High test will be about 25% stronger. 
  • Companies (and more often re-sellers) that claim that the high test has a working load that is twice as strong as BBB are comparing apples to oranges. The rated working load is twice that of BBB...but they are also calculating the working load differently.
  • There is no reliable way to figure out how much load your boat will put on your chain in various wind/wave/current conditions. People disagree about which factors to include and how much to weight them.
  • Deciding on a good size for your boat can be difficult if you are, like us, interested in knowing WHY a certain size is recommended. Most of the charts that tell you what size chain to use don't tell you how they estimate those forces and they often use very different conditions for their recommendations. For example, Rocna's chart (you need to first see what Rocna anchor size they recommend and then use that in the chain size chart) uses 50 knots of wind and West Marine's chart uses "up to 30 knots".
  • A good online thread about some of these latter issues is this one.

We have 120' of 5/16" G4 high test chain spliced to several hundred feet of rope.

Our current plan is to add 180' more chain and to use this new 180' as our primary road with the current rode in the anchor locker available to extend the primary (so we have 300' of chain easily available) or to deploy with a second anchor. We also have about 20' of 3/8" BBB chain spliced to a bunch of rope which we will keep for a secondary anchor/kedge. And finally, we also already have a bunch of rope which we were using for the stern anchor kedge and are thinking of getting rid of once we buy the new chain. We can only fit so much crud on a 35' boat after all.

11 November 2010

Hold Fast

You must see this homespun documentary.

If you are a non-boater who likes documentaries you should see this. If you are a sailor, you should see it. And, plus, it's a free movie night, right?


Hold Fast from Moxie Marlinspike on Vimeo.

The film is 1 hour and 15 min long so grab a glass of wine some evening soon and start streaming. It's starts off with some odd black screen moments but give it time. The ultimate in budget cruising.

And don't' forget to see Deep Water another time.

10 November 2010

Road Trip: Thank you Rothko

Rothko is the name that I gave my 2004 Honda Element when I bought it. Rothko was the first new car I had purchased and was a reward to myself for completing grad school and getting my first career* job. The Element became technically our car when Carol and I got together but really became our car when we sold his truck and became a one car family.

IMG_5335

In Colorado we spent a fair amount of time traveling, camping** and climbing with this car and in a way this road trip was a last hurrah in a vehicle that has a lot of fond memories for both of us.  We’ll be putting her up for sale at the end of March***…our last land possession really.

*I’ve worked since my early teens but this was the first job I had trained for and wanted to pursue as a career.
**the seats fold into a queen-ish sized bed.
***Want an Element?

09 November 2010

Road Trip: World Series & Odds’n’ends

Thanks to our most excellent friends Heather & Ryan, we attended Game 1 of the World Series in San Francisco. We hadn’t planned to visit the city by car because we will be there by boat next year, but good friends, WS tix, and a crash pad were enough to tempt us.

The ballpark overlooks the bay which gives is a wonderful view and also allows boats to ‘tailgate’.
IMG_0284IMG_0272

At the Stadium – Carol with his World Series hat (and pin):
IMG_0274IMG_0287 

Garlic fries and the after-party:
IMG_0277IMG_0294 

After the game, we headed into Sonoma valley for one olive oil tasting (which ended up being a wine tasting as well because they make wine too) and one very, very delicious reserve tasting at Chateau St Jean. We ♥ Chateau St Jean. Yum, yum, yum. Oh my, I may leave Carol for the Cinq Cepage.

The road trip ended with us booking North fast up I-5, stopping in Eugene for a microbrew taster and spending a relaxing day hanging out with my family before taking the ferry to our floating home.

Another thing I haven’t mentioned yet was the large number of drive-thru coffee stands we visited. In addition to my fixation with Americana, I love the drive-thru coffee stand culture. This may surprise people who are not from the West Coast as drive-thru coffees in most other places mean Starbucks or something that looks like the Golden Arches. Originally a big Seattle area phenomena, coffee shacks are something I came of age enjoying and I love the way they have become similar to the gas stations on Route 66 – small, decorated, embedded in their neighborhood but catering to the traveler. Love them.
IMG_5293IMG_5321

08 November 2010

Road Trip: The Pacific Ocean

IMG_5292

The views of the coastline are the reason to drive the Hwy 101/1. Going during a big storm was a great choice. It meant cooler camping and hiking temperatures but also awe inspiring, thundering waves for the first 3 days of the trip. The noise, the spray, the sight of the waves reaching the highway…fantastic.

 IMG_5290
 IMG_5323
IMG_5328

You can tell when we started reaching California, can’t you?
IMG_5390
IMG_5418

06 November 2010

Quote: Relationships and cruising

"Wherever your relationship is heading, it will get you there faster."

This quote is second hand from a forum, where the poster thought they heard it in reference to tandem bicycling.

05 November 2010

Road Trip: Americana

I’m a bit fixated on weird pieces of Americana. You know, things like the biggest ball of twine. Carol, being a very good sport generally, let me stop at all kinds of whacky places on Hwy 101 and even got into the spirit of things.

 

A slideshow:

04 November 2010

Road Trip: Sand Dunes

We spent about half a day in the Oregon Dunes State Park doing two hikes.
 IMG_5363

At one point we took a wrong turn and had our Honda Element on an actual ATV section. Oopsie. And Carol drew me another massive sand heart because he is the best husband in the entire world.
IMG_5382IMG_5378
It was still very windy at that point and the wind blowing sand in plumes off the peaks of the dunes was quite cool.
IMG_5371

Most importantly in the fun factor, Carol convinced me to roll down a dune. First, you have to find a good steep section. Then you zip up your jacket, don your hood, zip your pockets, lay down and start rolling.
IMG_5348IMG_5349
IMG_5350IMG_5351
IMG_5352IMG_5353

My turn:
 IMG_5356IMG_5357
 IMG_5358IMG_5359

Carol then repeated the feat into a Star Wars like hole.
IMG_5365IMG_5366
IMG_5368IMG_5369

03 November 2010

Road Trip: Rain forest

Rather than working chronologically through the trip I’m dividing our logbook entry into a few sections. Section #1 is the rainforest. O Canada:
IMG_5280

Hwy 101 in Washington State goes out along the West coast of the peninsula. I’m embarrassed to say that as a Seattle native I had never been in the Olympic National Forest so we stopped in at the Hoh Rainforest (by the way, there is free camping along a river outside the park at Hoh Oxbow just a few miles past Hoh Rainforest). It was quite different than the Tofino, BC area rainforest. Perhaps because of the season. Fall at least was lush but less green and more golden.
IMG_5284

I also enjoyed a close up view of a completely decayed nurse log. The wee trees that sprouted on a massive fallen tree are now massive trees themselves. The fallen log is gone but the root systems show where it was.
IMG_5287

Beautiful. With that peaceful feeling of footfalls deadened by moss, drips falling from trees and a rich earthy smell.
IMG_5288

02 November 2010

US Citizens Voting Abroad

In most cases, US citizens living abroad can vote absentee in both federal and state elections (the last state you resided in prior to leaving the country). 

Follow the prompts here for more information on what to do in your particular state.

If you are getting ready to cruise it is a good idea to get registered for absentee voting prior to leaving. You can register absentee with a Federal Post Card Application. That way if there are any problems, you'll know about them. Even if you won't have a mailing address while traveling, being registered as absentee allows you to go online and print a paper ballot, at least for the federal elections. In some cases (El Paso County, CO for example) you can even vote absentee online.

I voted via mail in ballot a few weeks ago but I'll be voting online when possible now that I know I can.

01 November 2010

Winter trip #1: Road trip

Our plan is to spend 3 months out of 6 traveling this winter. Some of that will be cruising by boat and some traveling by land and by air. For our first winter trip we decided to take advantage of our last "land possession" - our car - and take a road trip down Highway 101.

The green line is the road trip. You can click for a larger scale view:


View SV Estrellita 5.10b in a larger map


We went. We're back. We had a fabulous time.

Warning: Non-sailing content for a few days.