Thursday, May 31, 2012

Today's Photos

Our anchor brought up a couple of hitchhikers this morning!

These pictures are especially for granddaughter Madalyn, who is a fan of Sponge Bob Square Pants, and loves 'crabbies'

The Space Needle has been painted Galaxy Orange for it's 50th Anniversary

There used to be a pony ride outside the Ben Franklin store in Windom MN.
Gig Harbor WA has a Chris Craft!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nice Neighborhood!

We motored for exactly 8 hours today.  It's been a LONG time since we have done that.  We are kind of tired.

Before I join Al on the back deck for a sundowner before dinner I wanted to share some photos of our neighborhood tonight.  Bainbridge Island is kind of an upper crust type of place, and this little bay might just be the cream of the crop.

Nearly ideal, IF I was house shopping. Pretty gingerbread trim, huge porch, matching 2-story 3-car garage with apartment over, matching old Mercedes on the driveway, gazebo on a pier.  Yeah, I think that about covers it!

And as I write, an eagle cries! The ravens are pestering him.  You know, we have seen SO many eagles this spring -- hardly a day goes by where we don't see or at least hear one.

Tomorrow, we continue our march to the South Sound.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Solar output when the Sun doesn't shine

(And while underway)

Yesterday we left Sucia  under Cloudy Skies.  It gave me a little opportunity to log our new Solar Panels output under conditions that were not a Sunny May Day.  We had two deviations:  1) Cloudy Skies, and 2) an interaction between the Solar controller and the main motor alternator.

Here is a chart that shows in Blue the average out of our panels over the past three full-sun days, while the Red shows a portion of yesterdays output.

From approx 8:00am to 11:00am I logged the production while under Cloudy Skies (it was raining).  The 11:35 data point is while we were underway with the mains alternator putting 150A into the batteries.   Note the dramatically reduced output from the Solar panels, even though over the next hour the skies fully cleared.  At 12:40 we stopped (idled) while awaiting a tug and tow to pass before us in  a  VTS traffic lane and you can see the Solar output popped up to 396w – Right in line with the average for full sun production.  Then when we got underway again Solar output dropped to 27W (about 2 amps) while the mains alternator was putting 101A into the batteries.

This VERY LIMTED sample set indicates two things to me:
1) Solar output is reduced to about 1/2 while under cloudy (rain) skies.
2) There is an interaction between the controller and the mains alternator – with the Solar controller in effect shutting down when we are underway.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Yesterday seemed just a perfect day.  Clear skies brought out the shorts and tank top, and the deck chair in the sun for me, and in the shade for Al.  It was even warm enough to make me a little sticky!  My legs now have a golden touch, and my face and arms are a little rosy.

Word on the dock was:  Where is the wind they were calling for?!

Mother Nature just delayed a little, and many boats in nearly every bay on Sucia Island were dancing in the wind from 1 to 4 AM.

Viking Star, secure on the dock, was rolling a bit, and the fenders were squeaking, making for a restless night for us.  Only after coffee and a shower did Al wander down the dock and come back with the story of carnage in the anchorage last night.  Several boats had drug anchor, tangled, and/or bumped into each other.  One even snagged a mooring buoy and ended up cutting free their anchor.

After Ranger Steve arrived, we heard MORE stories of similar experiences in Echo Bay and Shallow Bay both, only each of these bays had a boat on the rocks!

I walked over to Fossil Bay near noon to meet Al while he worked on a project.  Here is a small boat, on Wiggins Reef, towards Ewing Cove.

Al was coming back with the truck already, so he turned around to show me his project, AND the BIG boat on the rocks in Shallow Bay.  A very anxious time for an older couple, and a very dramatic photo!

Sunny Sucia Days

After my 'Lonely' post, I decided that if I wanted more time with my husband, I should just BE with him more.  Two SUNNY days made it easy!  We took a 3-4 mile hike, clipping weeds and branches on the way.  And yesterday the ranger gave us a couple of projects that involved driving a park truck to the other side of the island.

That's a strange bouquet Al has picked!  It's a tent caterpillar infestation, and he clips the creepy crawlies....

And takes them to the water's edge, fastening them with a stone, for the tide to dispatch with.

The Oyster Hunter taking a lunch break.

The view south from Johnson Point, Snoring Bay in the foreground, Orcas Island and Turtleback Mt  across the channel.

The view east from Johnson Point, Matia Island with Mt. Baker and the Cascades beyond.

On the point, we found this plaque

And this replica monument.  
Click on the pictures to read them full-size.  The original monument was placed in 1892 by Reginald Thomson, United States Mineral Monument No. 1.

Another plaque showing Lat and Long, referencing the Willamette Meridian

If you read the first plaque, this is the original U S M M carved into the sandstone next to the monument

And this is the 'large gray snag' used as a bearing  tree, to mark the spot of the monument

Friday, May 25, 2012

Solar results - How is it working?

In short - VERY WELL!

Today was a nice sunny May Day, with little if any clouds.  After the day was done (or, after the Sun got so low there was little output from the Solar Panels) they had covered ALL OUR ELECTRICAL NEEDS FOR THE PAST 24 HOURS!!!

I am impressed.  Yesterday after running the generator, and a little of the panels, we had fully charged batteries. This morning the Link-10 battery monitor reported we had used -82Ah over the night.  As of 5:30pm this evening we had replaced those 82Ah, put in another 44Ah, AND provided all the power consumed during the day!

Though I have not been able to connect a computer to the controller and enable the built-in data logging, I did keep records throughout the day using my clamp-on Amp meter.  Here are the results:

We peaked at 388 Watts (or 29.5 Amps at the time), this is from panels rated at 480W of capacity - do remember the panels are laying flat, not directed at the Sun.  Over the day I tried to remember my Calculus, failing that I used the trapezoidal method for calculating the number of Amp / Hours produced from the above curve:  247Ah.

So there you are.  Real Data.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, 480 watts of panels orated largely flat provided 247Ah of power over a nice sunny May Day.  I should add, my predicted output (the one I based ROI's on)  for May is 149Ah - however remember that predicted monthly average would include days 'when the Sun Does Not Shine'.

But on a Nice Sunny May Day, 247Ah is ALL of our Energy needs - Who knows, maybe we should try heating the Water using this abundance of electricity!

I am happy.

UPDATE: May 26th provided 256Ah throughout the day.

UPDATE #2:   May 27th had a high cloud cover (Maybe 10%??) through most of the day.  Still 245Ah were produced.

We will be motoring for the next few days and I will not be able to manually log produced data.  But once I get stuff moved from one bunk of the V-Berth to the other I can get into my 'Electronics' stash and pull out a spare USB<--> RS-232 converter I will enable the data logging in the TriStar controller.  Till then will just enjoy the abundance of Amps (we heated our Shower Water this morning using the Electric water heater!)

Fishing Heron

Yesterday afternoon, after a beach walk and gathering a pocketful of sea glass, I turned around to spy this guy fishing for his supper.  I hot-footed it back to the boat for the camera, and then spent probably half an hour watching and taking pictures.

Diving among diamonds on the water


This hosting thing is having a bit of an unexpected effect on me.  And I think I can only best describe it as being lonely.

I do say that I think Al is having a blast with the hosting responsibilities.  He loves to greet people and boats, cruise the campsites, sweep out the restrooms, and be an all-around handy guy!

But I am missing my companion.  Yes, I also go out and speak with fellow boaters, grab a line, answer questions, hand out matches, and pet dogs.

But lately I feel like I don't have anyone to TALK to.  Again, there is no-one who really KNOWS me here but Al, and he has been quite busy away from me this past week.  This man who I can have a conversation with, without even saying a word.  Who can come back to the boat after his last rounds and 'hear' my misery and asks immediately 'Are you okay?'

Oh, I think it is so important to do things like volunteering and giving back to the community we enjoy so much.  But I look forward to only four more days this time, and getting my husband back.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

We have Solar!

Yesterday we picked up two 240w solar panels and the controller. Had the mounting hardware and wire all ready, so it was a relatively easy task of bolting on the panels last night and finishing hooking up the wire this afternoon. Early results: Impressive. We have 480w of solar panels, and right off the bat it was dumping 25.5A into the batteries. At the then 13.95v that comes to 355w delivered! Remember, this is May - and these panels are not oriented for optimal production - instead they are laying flat.

I still need to connect a computer to the controller so we can set up the data-logging capability. But once have that done will be able to log (and report) in great detail the energy production of these two panels up here in the PNW!

Kristi was busy taking photos,
These things are BIG - 65" x 38"

Everyone on the dock was lending a hand.

Here they are, all in place

Amps increased as we got closer to Noon!

Details of the system:
    2x  REC-240 Solar Panels @ $394 ea = $788
    Morningstar 45 MPPT controller         @ $425
    Mounting Hardware and Wire:             @ $619
   Total System Cost:                               $1,832
   Less 30% Fed Credit                              $550
   Final Cost                                            $1,282

As always, the Small Stuff adds up. Hardware and Wire being a significant cost. But the big ticket items are the panels.

As mentioned in a prior post one can source these for around $1/watt - however you will need to add in shipping. Expect $250-300 for shipping a panel or two - it is the size that counts. I contacted a local solar company: They were more than happy to add two additional panels to a large order they were placing, and gave me a fair price on the Morningstar controller as well. I figure I paid about the same as mail ordering these, plus I got to support a local business!

One hint: When you order panels, make sure to also order jumper wires. There are a few different 'connectors' used on Solar panels and you need to make sure you get the correct ones on your pigtails.

With the 30% federal tax credit, and the rather high cost of generating energy using our small Kubota generator, I figure we will get an ROI in about a year and a half. Will know more after we get some actual data to look at.

But for now, I am very happy! (Plus, I am surprised how well the panels blend into Viking Star. Walking around, they really are not that offensive in their looks)

The view from afar

To see more about these, including performance - click on the Solar label on the right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

South Beach Diet, One Year Later

Last May, after we got medical insurance, Al went in for a physical.  His doctor gave him a goal that required him to lose more than 50 pounds.  He recommended the South Beach Diet, so we bought the paperback, began reading, and studied the sample menus.

We decided that when I returned from a trip to Minnesota for a family reunion and sendoff of my sister and her husband to Germany for three years, we would dive into the diet.

During that week I was gone, Al had a surprise removal of his appendix, and he had a head start on the weight loss.

The weight began to fall off, quickly!  I forget exactly when we hit our lows, but it was only 2 or 3 months after beginning.

Well, it's been a year now, and how are we doing?

I am a pound or two above my lowest weight, and manage to stay within a three-pound range, seemingly whatever I eat, and have stayed in Size 8 jeans.  When I began, I had 'hoped' to lose 10 pounds, and one pant size.  Well, it was 2 pant sizes, and I have bumped up from a 30-pound loss to hold at 27-29 pounds less than my high.

Though Al lost more weight, faster, he has also gained back a little more than me.  He is also down 2 pant sizes, and has been able to stay in that size.  December was tough for him.  We were in town, with so many food delights to indulge in, AND the holidays, AND visiting family.  Depending on how the waves are rolling (it's hard to get a reliable scale reading on a boat), he is 6-10 pounds over his lowest reading.

We are presently docked on a rather remote island, and still the indulgences seem to find us.  We brought nuts to munch on and our 'two-week supply' is nearly gone after a week.  A few beers found their way to the boat from our pirate friends.  And today, an apple/berry pie arrived!

Al is presently on a boat trip to Orcas Island to pick up the solar panels.  He has a short list for the grocery store -- eggs, salad, and broccoli.  See?  We are TRYING to be good.  And we are HOPING to take a long hike some day during our time here at Sucia.  We have not yet been to Ewing Cove, which is the furthest point from where we are, maybe as much as 6-8 miles round trip.

Sights today:

These two and their entourage came to the boat this morning.  Are these the two leaders we saw two weeks ago?

Reposting the photo from two weeks ago for comparison...

On a short stroll this morning, this plant life caught my eye:


TINY starflowers....

Most have six petals,

But occasionally only five.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What Do Park Hosts Do?

We are learning.

Al worked very hard yesterday, pulling ivy and sweeping restrooms.  I took a walk with Mark and Lauresa, picking up litter and moving branches off the path.  Then I took some time to soak up some sunshine and develop some tan lines.

We finished up with some fun!  The International Yacht Club asked us to judge their costume contest.  We thought all these pirates were a bit too clean and sweet-smelling, but they were all having a good time!

Though he brought his parrot on a leash, we chose the second man from the left because his t-shirt said 'The beatings will continue until morale improves' and he even brought a big stick to make sure! (Disguised as a crutch)

The ladies were a tougher decision, but the one with the most 'bling' won.  You can't see it very well here, but the lady at the center had a very sparkly belt.

There's always time to watch what's going on around you.  There were four eagles soaring over the boat yesterday afternoon.

Today, several parties were scared off by the weather forecast.  As the day progressed, we came to see that  they had all left during the worst weather of the day!  That's okay, more island for the rest of us.

It appears someone has been working on a labyrinth

Sweet Peas on the beach

Sedums in bloom

Sedums close up

The creepy crawlers gave me the 'creepy crawlies'!

Today, much of our afternoon was spent sorting payment envelopes by camping, moorage, and permit holders, recording payments and counting money.  We do feel that we saved the ranger several hours at this task, as it took Al and I both working together a couple of hours to get through the collection, from many areas of Sucia, and also Patos and James Islands.

Friday, May 18, 2012

On Duty

After a week of showing our friend Brian around the San Juan Islands, and moving every day, we are now set to stay in one spot through Memorial Day.

We are now on duty as brand new Washington State Park Volunteer Marine Hosts!

The website says Sucia has hosts, but Ranger Steve has been here for six years, and says he has NOT had hosts....until now.  This is a test, and we hope we pass.

I believe Al is having a ball!  He loves chatting with people, and there has been plenty of opportunity for that today.  The International Yacht Club is here, bringing lots of friendly Canadians.  A large group of Boy Scouts arrived this evening.  Former Scout Al will be showing the boys where to work on their service project tomorrow morning, removing English ivy.  And it is the final weekend of the shrimp season.

Sadly, the afternoon brought tragedy.  A small shrimp boat overturned just off Little Sucia and all three boaters were tossed into the water.  Even though former firemen from our dock took a surgeon out in their fast dinghy to help, and our own Ranger Steve was on scene and helped perform CPR, one man lost his life.  A Coast Guard helicopter and boats were there to help the two survivors.  Other boats were near too.  Our shrimping friends Mark and Lauresa who rescued US two weeks ago recovered some debris and tossed one of their sleeping bags to a hypothermic man.

Our prayers go out to all:  the man who lost his life and his family, the two survivors who lived through this harrowing experience, the first responders who worked so hard but were unable to save one, all those nearby listening on the radio and knowing there was nothing they could do.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Buddies at British Camp

Brian brought us Chives and Thyme, so Viking Star now has an herb garden!

Last night we anchored in Gerrison Bay.  It was the first time using the 'new' 75lbs CQR anchor.  (Actually, one of the 'spare' anchors Al dug out of the lazarette).  Even I could FEEL it set!  (We also anchored in Deer Harbor a few hours this afternoon to visit our friend Peter Fromm's Gallery.  Again, stopped the boat with a jerk-- NOT going anywhere with this one!)

So here 'the boys' are, loaded into the dinghy for a trip to shore.  Part of my plan to avoid testosterone poisoning this week is to spend SOME time alone, so I happily stayed behind on Viking Star while Brian and Al explored British Camp.

I do admit, I kind of kept an eye out for them, saw them walking around from building to building.  Then I saw them taking a load off.  Thank you zoom, for this shot of two old buddies on a park bench!

The water is so calm.  Here is the view of British Camp from Viking Star.  Young Hill is in the background.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Going Solar

When we publish May's Cost to Cruise it will be a budget buster for sure as we will have two rather large costs:  300 or so gallons of fuel and now two large solar panels with an associated MPPT controller to include.

Yes, Viking Star is going Green!

As mentioned in a prior post(here http://looking-at-solar-again ) I have been watching the costs of Solar panels drop like a rock the past few years.  And they hit rock bottom late last year -  bringing the ROI on a system to under 2 years. (Side note:  Panels are now commonly available for under a $1/watt!!!)

Yesterday we placed an order through a local solar installer (Rainshadow Solar) for two REC-240 panels and a Morningstar 45 MPPT controller.  They should be in in a couple of weeks.  As Rainshadow let me 'piggy back' onto another (much larger) order we will not have to pay special shipping for these two panels.  Just pull Viking Star up to Deer Harbor dock and they will toss them aboard!

Am a bit excited about these as modeling indicates we will be able to get a very large % of our electricity use from these two panels, maybe even 100% at their peak - but more likely 60-70% of daily needs.  And that will be fine.   Combining these panels with motoring every few days we should be rolling in the Amps!.

And even better, the MorningStar controller has data logging capability - so I will be able to record (and publish) the ACTUAL output over a long period of time.  Ah, REAL DATA - Not just the 'It does all I need', or 'Batteries are full by 11am', or 'I have no idea' type answers I have gotten from asking around.

Solar, combined with a promise of the shift out of the cold/wet weather pattern this summer should = very little generator time.  Bring it on!

Friday, May 11, 2012


Here are photos from my 'walk to the restroom' that turned into a pleasant hour alone on the beach.  I think I finally achieved a state of calm on Sucia.


Goose couple silhouette

Sea gull couple

I was the only person on the beach

God uses the ocean to artfully arrange

Snails in the sunset


Turtleback Mt on the left, Waldron Island on the right

Sweetpeas at sunset

Mushroom Rock, Fox Cove