Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cost to Cruise - November - and a bit of Soap box

Wow, talk about Budget Busters.  If you follow some of the other Cost to Cruise summaries (like 3rd Day's) you will notice one thing in common:  They are largely located Down South.  Why do I point this out?  Medical costs.  This month is a bust, a BIG BUST, and it is due to medical costs.  Dentist and Eye exams make up the vast majority of it as the physicals Kristi and I had have not worked through the insurance companies yet - be ready for December.

When someone asks 'What does it cost to go Cruising?' the first thought is largely the Boat, then Fuel, then perhaps food, etc.  However, when one is semi-retired and not on one of those $800/mo 'medical plans' that companies have 'traditionally' funded for their employees, Healthcare comes into play.  For Kristi and I, this is definitely true this month.  (and, I have not included the cost for my Appendicitis last spring:  we are still paying that off).

This last couple of years there has been a lot of political talk about Healthcare and this blog is perhaps not the place to dig into it.  But I will point out:  Those folks who are cruising down south will in no way see the costs Kristi and I will while remaining in the USA.  And in the end, perhaps that is the Single Largest Variable to 'What does it cost to go Cruising?'.  Staying in the USA.

$        1,267 
$            378
$            184
$              73 
$               66 
$                393 
$        1,195 
$            (15)
$                 9 
$            554
$                -   
$                349 
$            190
$               -   
$            136
$            558
$             968 
$                370 
$            633
$            619
$            428
$            807
$             887 
$                675 
Dining Out/Entertainment:
$            244
$            275
$            390
$            414
$             307 
$                326 
$            299
$            297
$            161
$            118
$             117 
$                198 
Insurance + Medical:
$            314
$            314
$            314
$        1,142 
$         3,383 
$            1,093
$               -   
$              24 
$                 8 
$              15 

$                  12 
$            140
$            166
$            138
$            302
$               51 
$                159 
$               -   
$               -   
$                 5 
$              25 
$               10 
$                    8 
$ 4,282
$ 2,058
$ 1,773
$ 4,007
$  5,788 
$    3,582 


Main Motor:
Generator / Water Maker:
Hurricane Heater:
Friday Harbor Elec - KW/h:

Some notes:  Moorage reflects November+deposit.  Our revised approach to Communication is starting to show its savings.  Groceries continues to reflect the wide verity of Wine shops around here, even a Vineyard who will happily bus to and back from their yearly celebration at the vineyard.  We are zeroing in on the best approach and balance between all the methods of heating air and water.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Getting back into projects..

Like the summer before, this summer when we started cruising I just stopped doing projects on the boat.  Just was done.  Well, not totally.  This summer I did install the aft head, and completed the water maker, and put on a coat of Cetol.  And then there was the haul out.

OK, guess I did do projects over the summer…

I have been back at it this past week as well.  Started connecting up the baseboard radiators in the aft cabin – in preparation for completing the final ‘loop’ into the Hurricane hydronic heater.  Figure I am about half the way done with this project.

I pulled the heat exchanger off the Kubota and ordered some thick brass strips.  They should be in this week and I will solder them to the too-thin flanges and then remount the exchanger.  While I am at it, I will re-route things to pre-heat the sea water before it enters into the Water Maker.  Will be interesting to see how this affects the produced output when we fire it up again next Spring.

Today I installed this odd gizmo we picked up at a RV World a while ago.  Idea it to ‘flush out’ the holding tank after we pump it out.  Am hoping it will work as we seem to be building up a layer of sludge on the bottom of the tank that we cannot just suck out.  Will give this guy a try the next time we move over to the pump out.

Also today I did some clever wiring with  a couple of diodes and a relay to automatically turn on the fuel boost pump whenever the main motor or the Hurricane heater it running.   Ah, Automation.

Am waiting to locate some Butyl rubber for re-bedding one of the aft port lights which leaks during heavy rains.  Wouldn’t you know it, this is perhaps one of the very few things I did not pack aboard Viking Star when we left.  Gave it away instead.

Wow, with all these projects, better take a break.  Do not want to wear myself out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Best Laid Plans...

It was a good morning!

It was 6 AM when we BOTH awoke, rather than the 4 AM of yesterday.  And Al got up and brewed a pot of coffee.  When it finished, I filled the thermos, and we tucked back into bed with our books.

Even so, when Al mentioned "getting 'good' coffee",  I am like a dog who hears the jingle of it's leash....Let's get going!  Shower!  Get dressed!  Don't bother with make-up!  Never mind that I've already consumed my share of a pot that I didn't even have to produce this morning.

Pull the garbage bag.  Gather up the recycling.  Where are those magazines we are done reading?  We are set for another walk about town.

Though we have decided that the best coffee shop in town is The Bean, the coffee there yesterday was just mediocre.  The person who told us that the best coffee on the island is at the Cask and Schooner Tender was right!  This is a little take-away, off the kitchen for the Cask and Schooner Restaurant.  There is no seating, BUT they feature Stumptown Coffee, from Portland, OR, and they bake their own pastries.

Today, we didn't recognize the barista, so we worried a little until that first sip.  But.....YUM!  The Tender's ranking with us is safe.

We walk up the street, and pass a tasting room for the San Juan Winery, which is out of town a few miles.  They are having a barrel tasting today, and have a shuttle running for the afternoon.  We, being car-less, look at each other, and agree 'It would be nice to see a bit more of the island.....'

We show up at the appointed time, only to find that the sign has changed in the meantime, and the shuttle will not be back for another half hour.  Three errands later, we are picked up, and we recognize the driver as the man we spoke with at Rock Island Internet a few weeks ago.  We spend over an hour sipping and tasting, then move to the warehouse, where we sample three developing wines from their barrels.   The winemaker himself serves us and answers questions.

Across the road and down the way, we can see Mona in her pasture.  She is the resident camel, and has a sheep to keep her company. We had read about Mona in the tasting room, and learned that a wine produced by San Juan Winery was named for her.  Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me.  See a picture and read more here:

So, for a day where we planned to get some work done, we ended up having lots of fun!  As for the work?  There's always tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011


There is a park at the top of the main dock, and a plaque that says it is Fairweather Park, named for a man whose last name was Fairweather.  But I call it 'Popeye's Park'.

There are some painted cedar posts, somewhat like Totems.

But the reason I call it Popeye's Park is because of the statue of Popeye, the resident harbor seal.

When I first saw this statue, I was upset, because only ONE of the eyes had a pearly inset.  I thought perhaps it had been vandalized.  It was only after we came in for the winter that we discovered that Popeye is a local celebrity, a real live seal that regularly visits the fuel dock and seafood store on the main dock here in Friday Harbor.  See a previous blog post for a video of Popeye (and that sunrise is worth another look too!)

We have often seen a mama seal and a pup inside the breakwater, suspecting it was Popeye, but unable to get a good enough look to see the cloudy eye to confirm.  We asked at the fish dock and were told that Popeye DOES continue to visit the dock, regularly.

Well, today was the day we got to meet her!  The Pacific Northwest is at it's most gorgeous on a sunny holiday weekend, the day after a big storm, and we went out for breakfast and some Black Friday shopping (in Friday Harbor?  Absolutely no stress!), and on our way back to the boat, we saw that she was there, right in front of the fish store!

Waiting patiently for breakfast, she turned toward us when we called her name.  This close, we can CLEARLY see the clouded eye.

The fish store employee brings it out, and Popeye immediately consumes the first fillet.  The second she takes and dives.  We assume she took it to her pup?

She returns to the surface, and floats lazily, seeming to nap, just a bit.  She seems quite content.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Friday Harbor

Remembering a stormy September weekend in Echo Bay on Sucia Island, I am thankful today for being on the breakwater in Friday Harbor.

There's Viking Star, on the left.  Our wind gauge registered steady winds of 35-45 this afternoon, with peak gusts to 60.  We are still not SURE whether this reads Knots per hour, or Miles per hour.  We are rather sure it is knots, which converts to 69.1 MPH.

Winds like that can make some big waves, even in a harbor.  The waves were big enough to kick one of the attached dock fenders or bumpers OVER the bull rail onto the dock.  We walked up to the community Thanksgiving dinner at the height of the winds, and we were grateful for the barrier doing it's job -- stopping the waves coming across.  (This photo was taken when we returned after dinner.)

We cannot praise the dinner enough!  Supported by local businesses, civic organizations, and private citizens, the meal was every bit as tasty as served at any Grandma's house!  There was a real fire burning in the fireplace, below a decorated mantle, service with a smile, and even the decaf coffee was yummy!  Two friendly couples across the table, Barbara and Joe, and Richard and Kathy, made conversation delightful.

We are already saying it is likely that we will spend NEXT winter here too.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What I Learned Last Summer, by Kristi Thomason

I have been thinking on this subject for quite a while.  Certainly, it's too late for that stereotypical back-to-school essay.  But when I consider that my 'summer' only recently ended, I think this can be timely, after all.

'Summer' was 'Cruising'.  Happily moving from island to island, anchoring out, floating on a mooring buoy, and occasionally tieing to a dock.

'Winter' began for us on November 1, when we came in to Friday Harbor and signed a 'lease' for a spot on the breakwater.  We intend to stay here through January, with only, perhaps, a few day trips now and then.  So far, our biggest excursion was to the pump out.

Perhaps the first lesson is how thankful I am for the education offered by the US Power Squadron.  I myself have taken boating classes to the level of Advanced Piloting, and additionally, Cruise Planning, and Weather.  Al has taken EVERY class offered, which gives him the title of Senior Navigator, and has TAUGHT boating classes to the highest level of Navigation.  Ten years of association with this organization, and using what we learned there while boating on the Columbia River, has honed Al's boat-handling skills, increasing my confidence in him as a Captain, and allowed me to be a competent mate.

Book smarts are one thing.  Practical experience is another.  I finally learned to operate the dinghy myself this summer.  And I need more practice at the helm of Viking Star.  I do pretty well in open waters, but I am happy to give control to Al for close quarters or questionable situations.  I re-learned how to read a tide and current table.  I can keep an eye on the weather, and 'read' the water better.  Tides and currents can be tricky up here.

Perhaps the biggest lessons, though, were in emotional aspects.

My idea of 'home' has changed.  When we had a house, and all the kids were nearby, home was 'back home' in Minnesota, where my parents and my brothers still live.  Now that we no longer have a house, and we are 'away', home is the Portland/Hillsboro/Vancouver area--all the way out to and including Forest Grove, where all of our kids, our numerous grandchildren, and many of our best friends live.  It is where we will go when we go Home for the Holidays.

I really miss not being available to babysit grandchildren.  And now that my children are adults and the 'parenting' role is over, I miss spending time with my daughters as friends.  My son is across the country himself, which makes bookstore visits and Taco Bell runs impossible.  Skype video chats help a little bit, but our internet connections have not been the best, and busy lives can make getting an 'appointment' to visit that way difficult.

But, when I began thinking about this post, the first thing that popped into my head when I asked myself what I had learned last summer was:  It has proved to me how much I REALLY love Al.  You have to really enjoy spending time with each other if you are living together on a boat, even on the good days.  But a really crummy weekend at the end of September taught me that I would never willingly tolerate such conditions for anyone else.  I learned quite awhile ago, and on numerous times, that I do not like 'bumpy' water (anything over say, 4-foot waves).  But this weekend I speak of, it would not quit.  Two DAYS of rocking and rolling.  And I think Al also recognized the depth of my feeling for him, because he said, 'The fact that you didn't put yourself on a bus at the end of it says a lot!'

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Health Maintenance

We planned to do this, and it has been keeping us busy!

Al and I have both had dental cleanings and appointments for further work to be done.  I have actually had a taste of that already!  Dr. Michele Reynolds is very gentle and concerned for your comfort.  She uses a laser whenever possible, and one of my teeth allowed that.  No shot, and no pain!  Wow, the advances that have been made since my last dental visit -- 6 years ago!

Al and I both had medical visits too, mainly to be able to refill our medications.  Yesterday we had to fast until 10 AM for blood work.  That was made more difficult by two facts:  we were awake at 4 AM, and we could not have even coffee!

Al had an eye exam on Tuesday, and we ordered up some reading glasses for him.  The doctor is a graduate of Pacific University College of Optometry, so he and I conversed a bit.  Dr. Chris T. White is in his Friday Harbor office two days a week, and his Eastsound, Orcas Island office two days a week.  He flies his plane from place to place, and both of his offices are 'on the runway'!  My appointment is next Tuesday.

We continue to meet interesting people.  The other day we met Art and Rae at the shed on the dock.  It is the station for sharing information, books, discarded items that still may be useful to someone.  We were perusing a stack of magazines, and they were checking the bulletin board. We hope they will visit the boat soon and share more about their trips on the Inside Passage.

Today was a brilliant sunny day, but the dock was frosty even after 1:00, if it was still in the shade.  We met a naturalist who works the summer whale watching excursions and had a fine conversation with him in which he shared opinions on restaurants,  and recommendations for the Farmer's Market and Whale museum.

Since it was sunny, we decided to go to the library after stopping for pastries at the Farmer's Market, and we read magazines and newspapers next to the fireplace.

Well we won't have to eat seagull after all!  There is a turkey dinner at the high school tomorrow afternoon.  And a community dinner at the Grange Hall on Thanksgiving Day.  We look forward to both.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Frost on the Dinghy

It was a clear night last night, so it got pretty cold.  Al says that when he was up at 4 AM, the temperature in the main cabin was 64.  Considering we often have to open doors and windows to keep it below 80, we knew it was COLD last night.  (A down comforter has kept us snuggly in bed at even lower temperatures.)

My facebook status this morning says 'No clouds for this morning's sunrise.  Still beautiful, but without those obstacles, it is less interesting......kind of like life.'  And I truly believe that.  It is the obstacles in life that reflect the glow of the light at your center.

The above photo DOES have some clouds.  This is facing more northerly, showing a dock and cozy cabin on Brown Island, and the mist rising from the waters.

In fact a few minutes later, here comes Sealth around the bend:

That's Brown Island again, the trees on the right.  The dark band of land behind Sealth is Shaw Island, and the taller band behind it on the left is Orcas Island. Three islands in one picture!  The sun has just peeked over the horizon, and instantly the cabin temperature rises.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kubota DC Generator & DIY Watermaker - Parts List

OK, Here it is.  Mostly complete parts list for the home-built Kubota DC generator  and DIY watermaker.

(note:  These are LONG posts, if you got here via the 'water maker' label sorting method, make sure to click on the 'older posts' at the end of this one to see the rest of the series)

Part #
Sourced From

  Kubota Diesel
EB 300
Not sure about part number.  Might be EA 300?
  Heat Exchanger
Have had issues with bolting flange being too thin, warping and leaking.
  Hot Exhaust
¾” galvanized steel piping
Local hardware store
Had MPT nipple welded to old exhaust flange
  Hot Exhaust Blanket
Local Supplier
Makes it nice and safe!
  Water Lift Muffler
Local surplus shop

  Cold Exhaust Hosing
Local Surplus shop

  Drive Spindle
This is 1-7/16” x 3.5”
Other sizes:
  19501-8451-2 1-1/2" x 3.5" PTO shaft
14972-8451-2 1-3/16" x 2.17" PTO shaft
14943-8441-3 46mm x 90mm PTO shaft
  Alternator Drive Pulley 7.75”
Pulley and bushing
  Water  pumps drive pulley – 3.35”
Pulley and bushing
Alternator Drive Belts
(Qty 2x)
Local Auto supplier
I like Gates Green Strip
Water Pump drive belt
Local Auto supplier

Ebay, Craigslist, and other local surplus sources
Local welder
I cut the part on my table saw, he welded them up.
  Isolator Mounts
Another home-built had selected these.  I suspect they may OK for just a Gen, but adding the CAT pump they might be too light.  Will watch them for damage.

UPDATE:  One has failed.  So, yes.  These are too small for this design.


  Raw Water Pump
Jabsco 1673- series

  Pulley – 4.45”

  Pillow Block

  Jack Shaft


  Keyway stock



Leece Neville 130A LARGE FRAME alternator (for better cooling).
Higher Amp alternator will stall Kubota, stick with 130A max.
  External Regulator brush plate
A038100265S, 39-5204 or 100265
Leece Neville
Used to convert to allow using external regulator
  External Regulator
Xantrax (Ebay)
Am thinking  to make custom regulator  with finer control of AMPs out.  Allow for both WM and Alt to operate at same time.
Upper tensioning Arm

Local ‘truck’ junk yard
Just ask around, they had a pile and said take one!
Any local supplier


 CAT Pump
CAT 311
Find of the Life!
 CAT Clutch
CAT 34962
This one hurt, to pay MORE for the Clutch then the pump!
HP relief valve
Make sure to route the ‘exhaust’ to a safe place – will make a mess if she blows!
  R/O Membranes
Rich has lots of options on how to purchase parts, and at good prices.  Look around for your best mix.
  R/O Pressure Vessels
WOW these things went up in the past 8 years!  RO membranes came down though. . . .
  SS HP fittings and hoses
Many -
Premier Rubber (Portland OR)
These small parts add up!
Plastic LP Fittings and hoses
Many -
Home depot

Flow Meter –Raw Water
0-5 GPM
VFB-86-SS would work here, but it is $77
Flow Meter – Produced Water
Used 6-60 GPH  range meter, SS Parts
Feed water Pressure Gauge
-30/+60PSI  - this one is VERY LARGE, I actually purchased another smaller one but do not recall the source.
HP  Pressure Gauge
There are many options here.  I actually reused mine from a salvaged unit.
HP Needle  Valve
Took a long time to find this for under $200
  UV Sterilizer
Search for “Reverse Osmosis UV Ultra Violet Sterilizer Ultraviolet”
Commonly used in aquariums.  Make sure to get Stainless Steel or other suitable materials.


  Sea Strainer


Standard 10”
Purchased at Closeout sale
Total for 3x.  Can source anywhere, I like the clear housings. has for $17 each!
  20u Filter Element

Purchased at Closeout sale
I used Spiral Wound for 20u element, thinking it is a bit more robust.
    5u Filter Element

Purchased at Closeout sale
I used pleated filter for 5u as it has more surface area.
  Hydrocarbon Filter Element
BilgeKleen part number
Was about the only place I could locate the element.  JUST PURCHASE the element and put into standard housing, not the Kit. 
Active Charcoal Filter
Purchased at closeout sale
Standard 10” housing with activated charcoal element.  Used in back flush line from house water system.
3-way Bronze valves
WM# 185506
Conbraco / Apollo valves

‘Bronze’ nipples
WM# 10202414
These are just now becoming available.  MAKE SURE TO USE BRONZE not BRASS!
‘Bronze’ Check valve
WM# 308619

Many other parts and hoses

Local marine and home building suppliers
Use Bronze and underwater rated hoses for anything important!  Plastic can be used for LP side of sea water (after needle valve)


Sodium Metabisulfite sterilant FOOD GRADE

Use to ‘pickle’ the water maker.

Use to lubricate membrane seals when interesting into housing
Salinity  Meter
Search for ‘TDS Meter’
Again, often  used in Aquariums

Adding it all up, the grand total comes to:  $4,884.50

I have to say, it is always a BAD THING to add up actual costs, I would have guessed around $3000, but it is what it is.  And one needs to remember, this is total.  Including all those Small Parts that seem to always slip away!  Things like exhaust hose, prefilters, sea strainer, etc.  It does NOT include my 100's of of hours spent sourcing parts and assembling.  But it also does include some nice extras like the UV light, hot exhaust wrap,  and hydrocarbon (oil) pre-filter.

Some places got away from me due to time.  Towards the end I needed to just Get It Done.  Lots of the small Bronze parts were purchased retail.  Same for the HP SS fittings and hoses.  The Heat Exchanger, and that darned clutch!  Overall, I might have been able to shave off $500 or so, and if I had worked a bit more on membrane housing alternatives (I had salvaged end caps from a scrapped water-maker, was looking for suitable piping to make the housings with) maybe another $400-500!  Still, even this would have have added up close to $4000.  As it is, we are at $5000 and perhaps 4-5 YEARS of aggressive EBay searching!

Alternative?  Cruise RO Water and Power's smallest system (20 GPH) retails for $4200.  If I had combined that with the Honda 2000i generator we would have had a total solution for about the same $5000.  Use the Honda to recharge batteries, Honda and/or main motor (via the inverter) to run the RO maker.  But at half the RO capacity.

Their 30GPH unit with a cost of $5050 gets us close to the same output level.  It  will still run on a single Honda 2000i (as well  I assume our 2000W Prosine inverter).  Puts the solution cost around $6,000 (though to be honest, we already have a Honda generator - carried as a backup to the backups. . . )

The 40GPH has the same capacity is my home built one, costs $5350 - but it will not run from one Honda unit. Though it likely would from two. (total solution would run around $7100)

Now, I am not picking on Cruise RO - in fact I think they have perhaps the simplest systems and best prices around.  If one is going to purchase pre-built, I think you would not go wrong making sure they are on the short list.  AND if you are assembling a Home Built - they will sell you the parts as well at rather competitive prices.

Given what we have, I am not unhappy.  And a big benefit is large capacity and running using our diesel fuel (which we carry a LOT of) vs. Gasoline.  But, looking at it all:  Some Solar panels, the 30GPH Cruise RO water maker, and a backup Honda 2000i is not a bad system and well worth thinking about.

NOTE:  NOVEMBER 2, 2012 - Make sure to read this entry concerning the pre filter housings!