Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A new Post!

We have been slow with the Updates and Postings.  Guess that is a Sin when it comes to Proper Blogging...  well, with winter approaching  Kristi and I have been enjoying our last few days 'Out Here'.  Mostly hanging around Roche Harbor to take work calls and eat Doughnuts.

But I have also been putting a bit of effort into the Arduino based engine controller and smart regulator for our Kubota DC generator.  Have the initial hardware design completed and have been playing with a few firmware things like Watchdog timers and I2C communication   Those with a passing (or even active) interest can see more here:  http://smartdcgenerator.blogspot.com/

Today we just finished perhaps our last Coffee and Doughnuts for the year and are killing a little time at the Roche Harbor dock.  Will take a work-work call in about 20 minutes, then move back out and anchor before another one at 1:00.  We called Friday Harbor this morning to see about dockage for the winter, no issues.  Though that Sail Boat in OUR SPOT looks to be there for the winter.  Oh Well, we were told we could just tie up right behind them!

Well, another summer down.  Next year we will be heading north, but likely not too far.  Gulf Islands and Sunshine Coast are what we have been talking about.  This winter we need to get the life raft serviced, and of course catch up on our health tasks.   And speaking of health, we just might have found a way to cut our health care insurance costs by 66% - you guessed it:  LEAVE THE COUNTRY!  Have a lead on an insurance plan that will provide EXACTLY THE SAME coverage we have now, at 1/3 the cost - with the condition that we are in the USA no more than 180 days / year.  Ah, love our system.  Pay us to get out of the USA!   (Sorry, will put my Soap Box back now)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Did It!

I'm feeling fairly proud of myself today.  I made my first real 'landing'!

One of my goals this summer was to become more proficient at close-quarter maneuvering, but to be honest, NO practice was done this summer.

We have anchored in the harbor at Roche Harbor for the past several days.  On Monday, when we took the boat to the dock to go have breakfast and mail Al's ballot, I was at the helm while the anchor was pulled, as normal.  When Al came back into the cabin, he asked if I just wanted to take it all the way to the dock.  No, not this time.

So today, when we again went to the dock, this time for cheeseburgers and to mail MY ballot, I had been thinking about taking Viking Star to the dock.  Al asked again, and this time I did not say no.

SEVERAL years ago, on the Columbia River, on a lonely long dock with no other boats (or people) around to observe, I had opportunity to do several touch-and-go's..  But this time, though admittedly in the off-season, we were still in a harbor with boats and people around.  Okay, there was ONE boat at the end of the dock that I was approaching.

And as Al says, if no-one yells, and no-one gets hurt, it was a successful landing.  Yay!  Success!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hints on connecting and debugging your ICOM M802 to a computer

Am still stepping through the SSB installation in Viking Star.  One of the things I have found out is Simple Directions DO NOT EXIST!  I also found out that the cable / DIN connecting that came with my Pactor modem was in poor condition and ended up bridging Vbat to the Trans pin.  Will, this blew a $0.23 FET IC inside the Pactor – as a result the whole digital HF communication aspect of this instalation is on hold until I get up enough stuff to make a Mouser.com order.    But till then, here are a few ‘hints’ I dug out when connecting the Computer to the SSB.

First off, why would one want to do this?  A couple of reasons:  Using Sailmail or similar product to send/receive Emails via SSB.  Another common reason is to allow for some level of automation when receiving weather FAX’s over HF.  How to do all this is another topic, for now I want to focus on a very small part of the overall system:  Connecting your Computer to the ICOM-M802 via RS-232 serial cable.

There are actually a couple of ways to let a computer control the ICOM:  Directly from the computer via an RS-232 cable, or indirectly through a Pactor modem, assuming you have one.  I chose to directly connect for three reasons:

  1. Our navigation computer has LOTS of serial ports. (By choice! - see Hardware for a Navigation computer).
  2. Some programs  (ala Ham Radio Integrator) cannot communicate through a Pactor modem.
  3. My Pactor modem is not one of the fancy ones with a second serial port – so it would not happen anyway.

OK, enough.  Here are some hints:

  • The serial cable only needs to carry TX and RX, plus GND.  Note that the ICOM instruction manual is a little confusing (err, more like wrong - they have RX and TX backwards) on this.  You only need a standard 9-pin serial connector – pins 2,3 and 5.  And more to the point, there is no need to bring forward things like DTR (Pin 4), DSR (6), etc.  So don't worry about them.  Just bring down 2,3 and 5 and get on with life.

  • Configuring the ICOM M802.  Refering to the users guide - Section 12 (SET MODE), page 48 in my copy.  You want to verify / change the following settings:

                      REMOTE IF  = NMEA (the ICOM communicates using NMEA sentences!)
                      REMOTE ID = 08
                      REMOTE MOD = ACC  (Most Pactor modems use the round ACC plug)
                      AUTO TUNE = ON
                      ICOM TUNER = Pick the one you are using

Those last three are really general settings and not needed to communicate with the computer.  But as long as you are in there!

  • Configure your serial port Port Settings (Control Panel / System / Device Manager / COM _ _):

                 Bits per second:  4800
                 Data Bits: 8
                 Parity:      None
                 Stop Bits: 1
                 Flow Control:  None

That is it!  Install the program of your choice and all will be well - - - unless it is not.  If things do NOT work you need to debug a little.  Here is where I had a bit of a struggle – trying to learn the system, debugging it, and using ‘complex’ control programs all at the same time.  One thing that was VERY helpful was being able to send and receive a simple test commands to  the radio and look for its reply - without a complex control program.

Under Windows go to Start / All Programs /  Accessories / Communication  and click on:  Hyper Terminal.  This will bring up the simple serial communication window.

  • Type ‘ICOM M802’ in the Name Window, and press OK.
  • On the next screen, change the last pull-down ‘Connect using’ to the serial port your radio is wired to.  In my case COM4 is the one.  Press OK
  • This next screen is the Port Settings – it should agree with what you did above.  Press OK.
  • Still a bit more to do.  Select File/Properties.  Choose the Settings Tab and click on the ASCII Setup.. button.  Check the ‘Send Line Ends with Line Feeds’  and the ‘Echo typed characters locally’ boxes.  
  • Press OK’s until you are back at the main com window.  
  • Type the following simple NMEA sentence:  $PICOA,90,08,REMOTE*7D and hit Enter.

If all is well, the radio will respond with something like $PICOA,08,90,REMOTE,OFF*42   It might end a little different, like , ON*50 - but never mind, the key here is:  Did you send a command to the radio, and did it reply.

And there you go.  If this simple test works your communication path between the computer and the ICOM-M802 works.  If the above does not work, double check the above steps.  But at least here is a simple test environment!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's in YOUR Beauty Basket?

This post is totally not boat related.  AND it's talking about cosmetics.  Well, that should weed out the audience for this post!

Every now and then I pick up one of those gossip magazines.  You know, just to keep up on fashion trends (I can't stand 'booties') and who's with who THIS week.  And did you see Jen's ring!?!  It looks like a doorknob!

Anyway, with the gossip comes LOTS of ads.  And I guess they worked, because I wanted to see what all this hype about 'BB Cream' was all about.  One product that does 4-8 things has to be convenient, right?  [Well, maybe this COULD be boat related....Al says anything on the boat must have more than one purpose.]

It took three drug stores to finally find one.  It was the Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector B.B. Cream, in Light/Medium.  It is 2.5 ounces, on sale for $9.99. I did find one by Loreal also, but it was a tiny tube, for over $12, and being an economical girl, Garnier won.

I should tell you that for the past 7 years or so (?), I have used Arbonne skin care products, exclusively.  Technically, I am a consultant, but I don't pursue the sales, just give out samples now and then.  But being a consultant allows me to buy the products at a discount, and I will admit, they are QUITE expensive.  That's what all those orange items are about.  In fact, that's what Al calls it -- 'your orange'.  By the way, their night cream is fabulous!!!

So, back to the Garnier product.  I give it a thumbs up.  It is a bit thick going on, and Al notes 'your face is all shiny' before it absorbs, but it does moisturize all day.  There is enough color that I can put this on when I have a 'just hanging around the boat' day, and feel good.  And if I do want to add a bit of my mineral make-up on top of it, I just feather on a minimal amount to glam it up a little.  SPF 15.

It took WEEKS of looking in many stores to finally find a Maybelline Dream Fresh BB 8-in-1 Beauty Balm Skin Perfector in the Light/Medium Sheer Tint.  They were always sold  out.  Apparently, there are a LOT of pale-faced women in the Pacific Northwest!  I finally found ONE at the Rite-Aid in Anacortes, and I gave it a go.  SPF 30.  I'd say it was 'okay'.  It was a lot thinner, so a little more difficult controlling application, but it did blend easily.  Less shine, but my skin felt 'thirsty' by the end of the day.  Overall, a 'meh'.

I have seen a TV ad for an Oil of Olay product they are calling a 'CC' cream.  I found one product that MAY have been it, but nowhere did it say CC Cream.  It also was $25.  It stayed on the shelf.  Maybe I'll look again when I can be sure that's the product they are calling their CC Cream.

Anyway, there's my basket (my color items are in the silver bag to the left) and my two cents on a couple of new products.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Solar Panels on the Boat - Modeling and Performance

One of the challenges I had while deciding about installing solar panels on Viking Star was getting an idea of what to expect.  Asking around got a WIDE range of answers, from: “All I need”, to “Charges the batteries by 11am!”, to “Will not work at all in the rainy PNW”, to even “What a monumental waste of money solar is”.   Needless to say - no consensus.  More troubling was, without exception, none of the "inputs" were based on  ACTUAL data.   Even those who claimed ‘All I need’ were not able to tell me what their needs were – rendering their input useless to me.

I just could not go down a path blind.  I needed SOME idea on what to expect.  And so the old engineer in me emerged.  Solar system output is really a factor of four things:

  1. Expected solar radiation from the sun  (time of year, location, and cloud cover)
  2. Size and efficiency of panels and system
  3. Orientation of panels relative to the Sun
  4. Placement of the panels relative to obstructions (shading)

(BTW, the following is the Long Path I took.  To see a shortcut, skip to the end of this blog post!)

Solar Radiation:  I located a local shore-based installation who had been tracking their results and who would send me their actual energy produced data.  Using this I was able to extract the solar radiation per month in this location covering not only seasonal variations (Summer vs.Winter), but also average cloud cover over a year period.

Size and Efficiency of panels and System:  This is easy.  Viking Star has two 240w panels  so a 480w system.  Completing the system is the MPPT controller I selected which has a conversion efficiency of 95%. Need to throw in some additional losses for the wiring voltage drop.

Orientation relative to the Sun:  Here is a point where installations on a boat differ greatly from shore-based ones.  While most shore installations are pointed due south and tilted towards the Sun (often at a compromise angle between peak output for summer vs. winter) panels of a boat are often placed flat.  (or some very small angle). Mounting flat is easiest.  While using a more complex mounting system and being able to point the panels towards the Sun can give significant output gains  – it also requires adjustments throughout the day as the Sun moves and as the boat swings around anchor.  (Shore-based installations do not need to deal with this swinging - hence they often just use fixed tilt mounts pointing due south)  I chose to mount Viking Star’s panels flat for two reasons: The panels are rather large - a tiltable mounting system would have to be very robust to securely handle them.  Plus I am just lazy.  I do not see myself climbing out several times a day ‘repositioning’ the panels as we swing around the anchor…

How much do we lose by mounting flat?  That depends on the time of year, as well as the latitude of the boat.   The actual formula is:

   Loss% = 1 - SIN(90 – Latitude + Solar Declination + Panel Tilt)  

(Yes, those Celestial navigation skills come into play!).   Putting this all together we get  for 48 North:

Sun Declination (Degrees)
Solar Elevation Angle (at 48N)
Loss due to 
Flat Panels

During peak cruising months (April – September) the loss is relatively small  – 10-20%.  But this quickly increases as we get into winter where 60-70% of the potential output is ’lost’ due to mounting the panels flat. Combined with the much shorter days means during the winter we can expect little output from the solar system. Happily those are also the months we tend to be in port with shore power readily available.

Combining this loss table with the observed Solar Radiation derived from the shore based installation's production data,  I came up with the following modeled output for our system:

(480w system)
Normalized (100W system)

And here you can see the actual results so far:

We have been tracking ahead of the predicted performance, but then this summer was one for the records books (literally).  Side note:  Those BIG dips to 50 or below the 1st month are the result of not attaching the remote voltage sensor to the MPPT controller.  See more here: http://mvvikingstar.blogspot.com/2012/06/controller-alternator-interaction.html

An easier way (the Shortcut)

If you too want to model output of solar panels you can follow the steps above (and I can send you .xls files with all the formulas, though you will need to locate someone near your cruising grounds that has reliable data from which you can start the assessment).   OR, you can just go to this site (which of course I found AFTER going through all the above - and I do wish they would stop changing the URL!!!):

It not only has a large database of solar radiation throughout the world, but will also do the tilt (orientation) adjustments for you!  Start by entering approximately where you want to model.  Then on the the map click the specific solar data location you are interested in.  Click on the "Go To System Information" arrow on the right hand side and you can enter your system size as well as tilt angle.  A few notes:

  • PVWatts will not work for systems under 1,000w in size.  A workaround for this is to multiply your expected system size by 10 and enter that .  For example: Viking Star’s 480w system is entered as 4.8 kW (4,800 watts)  in the program.  
  • Leave Module Type: at Standard
  • And Array Type: at Fixed.
  • System Losses (%):  Leave it at the default 14%, or click on the details if you want to get a little more refined.
  • Set Tilt and Azimuth =  0 if the panels are flat or leave it with the default values for a good approximation if you plan to tilt the panels. You can get better results by changing the mounting to 1-axis or 2-axis tracking (depending on your mounting system - and desire to reposition things throughout the day), but I did not play with those.
  • Press the "Go To PVWatts Results" button on the right to get predicted results throughout the year.
  • Looking at the AC Energy (kWh) column, divide these numbers by 4 to back out the 10x we did in step one and make a rough conversion into Ah per day. (for a 12v system.  If you have a 24v system, divide by 8 for a ruff idea of 24v AH's)

  • This web page predicts 162Ah / day expected output from Viking Star's system in June.  A bit more than the 153Ah I modeled, but our actuals aboard Viking Star seem to be running ahead of modeled results.

    The final issue is shading.  Here you need to get creative and try to minimize it.  The MPPT controller, combined with built-in bypass diodes in the panels will help a LOT with shading, but still shading will reduce output dramatically   During the peak summer months I noticed about a 30Ah reduction per day if we were docked pointing North as opposed to South, this I expect was due to the shadow from our mast when docked pointing north.  Just one more ‘consideration’ when pulling into dock now. . .

    BTW:  There is a good argument for using a separate a MPPT controller for each panel installed on a boat, to help work around this partial shading situation.  Given that MPPT controllers are becoming more and more common, and the prices are dropping, doing so would be a good consideration for future installations.  But if you do use a single controller, like on Viking Star, make sure to wire the panels in SERIES to maximize output during partially shaded conditions.  And note this is a dramatic departure from what was recommended a few years ago (Parallel).  It is due to both the usage of the MPPT controller and increased presence of zoning / internal bypass diodes on modern large panels.  If connected parallel - a shaded panel will drop out entry  while if a modern panel is connected in series the partly shaded panel will lose the shaded segments, but the unshaded segments will continue to contribute (due to internal panel zoning and by-pass diodes).

    Overall we are happy with the system.  It accomplished it's key goal: reduction of generator time.  It is only this last month we needed to start using the Generator, and that was just for covering the drying cycle during laundry.  Though as expected -  as we are heading into the latter part of October we are finding we need to put time on the generator, varying from day to day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

LIV Wines

It took a lot of talking to myself, a lot of coffee, a lot of ibuprofen, and a gorgeous sunrise to convince me to go back for more grape-picking today.  BUT, I AM a farmer's daughter, and the crop must be brought in!

The two-mile walk warmed me up well.  I even had to stop and remove my overcoat and stow it in my backpack.  I arrived only 15 minutes late, and several people came after me, so I didn't feel too bad.

I didn't bring my camera today because it was forecast to begin raining at noon.  It did hold off for over an hour past that, beginning just as the lunch break was called.  I had also brought a hooded raincoat, so I donned that and stayed until the very end today!

Row-mate Irene said she would give me a ride back to the Islander where the boat and Al awaited, so I didn't need to take vineyard owner Brent away from his pressing work -- ha ha, PRESSING work -- crushing the freshly picked grapes.  But before I left, he offered some wine for my time!  I took a bottle each of the two estate wines, and we had the Madeleine Angevine with dinner tonight.  I approve heartily!

Thank you Brent, staff, and friends.

Go to the website: http://www.lopezislandvineyards.com/index.html and you can perhaps order some for yourself (it cannot be shipped everywhere).  I will have to try to get some of the vintage I helped pick, next year!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How Cool Is That?!

I have been excited for this new experience for quite some time.  Last year when we visited Lopez Island, we tasted some Lopez Island wines, and purchased a bottle.  I checked out their website and learned that they welcome volunteers to help with their harvest.  Unfortunately, timing did not work out for us to help last Fall.

But THIS Fall, while we were laying low in Blind Bay, I received an email saying they would be harvesting the Madeleine Angevine grapes Wednesday and Thursday (today and tomorrow).  Hey, the weather was supposed to calm down -- do you want to go to Lopez?

So even though my alarm was set for 6 AM,  I was awake at 5.  Big breakfast and a 2 mile walk, and we arrived at the vineyard!

It was 44 degrees this morning.  I have a t-shirt, poly-fleece jacket,  lined windbreaker, and my wool hat.

Actually, the Tasting Room is now in the Village.

A nice archway, and a nice dog -- Jesse.

One of the coolest things of all -- I am picking grapes at the Lopez Island Vineyard when I hear and eagle cry.  I look up, and see two fly over.  How cool is that?

We are doing a 'first pass' today, where we will only pick the premium fruit.  Tomorrow we will glean the rest.

My, what a lovely bunch of Madeleine Angevine!  They nearly GLOW in the sun!

 I last until 4 o'clock.  That is a seven-hour day, for my first day of 'work' in over three years!  And, I will be walking another 2 miles back to the boat.

On the way to the vineyard, we passed THIS sign.  I had to take pictures for my daughter Casey, who LOVES kiwi fruit.

Also on the way home, I passed Neil's Mall.  This is probably the biggest 'give-and-take' in the San Juan Islands (but not your typical mall!)

And, Lopez seems to be just 'hopping' with bunnies!  I finally got a picture of one.  Not all are Peter Cottontail types. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Well, we entered the San Juan Islands and made a bee-line for Blind Bay on Shaw Island, to tuck into a corner and hope predicted winds would just blow over us.  It worked!  We were snug and comfortable.

We worked on re-learning how to do nothing.  For Al, that was reviewing playing with the SSB and researching out energy usage over the past year, especially on his mind since we filled our tanks in Oak Harbor.

For me, doing 'nothing' included scrubbing the shower, doing a thorough vacuuming, and cleaning the iron stovetop with steel wool, and then oiling it.  Oh, and I read two and a half books.

Today, we moved to Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island.  The winds were a bit more than predicted, and the waves were about three feet tall.  That's nothing when we are heading straight into them, but when you have to turn broadside to enter a very narrow passage, it can get a bit tricky.

The broom and mop fell over. 'The Girls' were frightened from their perch.  Several books fell from my shelf.  And Lindsay's picture jumped from it's place.  Felix was tucked into the curve of the settee, so he was quite comfortable.

We took a spot in the marina, hooked up the power cord, and walked up to the office to take care of business.  We stepped over to the bar and had a burger for me, fish and chips for Al, a couple of drinks, and  observed a large boat break loose from it's anchorage and resort staff rushing down the docks and out in two boats to capture it.  We at first were afraid that two people we saw going out in a dinghy had somehow fallen in the water, but a local was present who recognized the boat and said that wasn't the case.

We decided to walk in to the village and had fun recalling our visit here in August 2011.  Many places were closed today (the fudge shop, the wine tasting room, the bakery) but we had coffee at Isabel's, and spent some time at the library.

We returned to the boat just as the sun set.  Fisherman Bay is NOT sheltered from the southwest winds.  The waves occasionally break onto the dock.  Our wind speed gauge says we got to 40 knots!

The docks are wet -- walk carefully.  And as I write, it is dark.  There is not much lighting on the docks, so we are IN for the night.

We REALLY like Lopez Village, but our visit here now reinforces that our decision to winter at Friday Harbor is the right one.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

"This is KF7HMU - Maritime Mobile. . . . ."

Being at anchor and on the boat for three days while this fall's 1st storm passes through gave me some time to do things.  One of the long-time projects was to complete our SSB installation   Mostly this was mounting and connecting the antenna tuner, and this afternoon I completed that.
I also made my 1st radio contact!  The 14300 net was being 'kept warm' with an informal net host.  When he asked for any traffic that wished to check in, I did so!  Was a little rough as he faded in and out, him being in North Dakota and all, but when a station from Atlanta stepped into relay things went well!

This is my 1st time using an MF/HF radio, and am still learning.  But did make contact!  Still need to connect the Pactor and other refinements ala adding a ton of Ferrite Cores.  And I need to dig-out the SWR meter to see how the antenna / ground system is working.  Though we have not really needed the SSB to date, I expect when we begin moving north it will become more and more useful   Not only for HAM talks, but receiving weather Faxes, and even short Emails to keep in touch.

There is more to do.  Finishing the installation (Pactor), debugging and optimizing.  Plus a whole lot of learning around frequencies, usages, and hops..  Both HAM and proper marine SSB chanels.   But for today I got on the air and got a "5 and 7" from ND!  So, that is not too bad.  I guess.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Update to Viking Star's energy use per year

A year and three quarters ago I was bored.  So bored that I sat down to look at our energy usage vs. the 'average' American:  http://mvvikingstar.blogspot.com/2011/01/viking-star-average-energy-usage.html

Guess what.  I am a bit bored again - after a summer of running around we have just not gotten into the swing of 'Not Doing Things' lifestyle.  So today, among others, I sat down to look again at our 'household' energy use for the past 12 months.  In total we consumed  (well, purchased):
  • 775 gallons of Diesel      (107.3 MBTUs)
  •   10 gallons of Gasoline     (1.2 MBTUs)
  •   15 gallons of Propane       (1.4 MBTUs) 
  •   88 KWH of Electricity      (0.3 MBTUs)

As before this is only direct energy consumption.  Fuel used for Mass Transit, as well as energy used to grow and ship that potato is not reflected.   We did use around an extra 6 MBTUs of gasoline in the rental cars.  So, that puts us at 116 Million BTUs. for the past 12 months.

This is a noticeable increase over the 86 MBTUs used in 2010, but we should note this time we are underway much more.  Plus we spend a much larger time away from the docks than before - in 2012 we used 200+ gallons more of diesel, and less than 1/8th the electricity.  (More moving, less dock sitting..)

So, how does this new '116 MBTUs' compare to the national average?  Still well under the household average of 140 MBTUs in my prior post, and today I found this new cool chart.

Using the last line (Yearly KWh usage) and converting it into BTUs we get a US Consumption of 336 MBTUs per person.   Or 672M BTUs for 2 people.  So, this means we are using perhaps a 5th of  a typical US residen?  After all, we live in a very small 'house'.  If we add in say 50 gallons of gas for our auto trips and bus, that only adds another 6 MBTUs,

Could we do better?

Installing the Solar Panels will help some, though perhaps the larger benefit is not having to listen to the generator during the summer.

We already Go Slow with the last fuel fill showing us burning around 1.4GPH.  With 300 hours on the main over the last year, perhaps we could try to 'stay put' more in the future.  (Lets see, 300 hours in a car at say an average of 35 MPH throughout the year comes to 10,000 miles.  OK, so our 'car' is a bit larger, heck some might even call it a Boat!)

Last winter's records show a bit over 200 gallons of diesel went to heating Viking Star.  Given the very small space involved that is a lot and is reflected in both the All or None approach of the Dickinson stove, as well as the poor insulation of Viking Star herself   This coming winter we will try different approaches to heating (the Hurricane taking some of the load, as well as additional ways to utilize electricity when it is available).  Not too sure about the insulation, as to be honest - air exchanges in such a small space are important.  But who knows maybe next year.  And for this year we got a fresh roll of Blue Masking tape!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Viking Star Refueling Kit

It is that time of year again, time to fill up the tanks!  Carrying 500 gallons of fuel gives us a lot of flexibility in when to fuel and typically we look for a dip in prices throughout the year.  This year though we had to miss the biggest dip as I wanted the tanks drawn down during the Haul Out.   So we pushed it off a bit, and in the end were able to get for perhaps $0.40 off of the summer peak price.  Even so, when taking on almost 400 gallons of fuel - some preparation and supplies are needed.

Spud wrench to pull the fuel caps, oil absorb pads to contain the spittle while fueling.  Kristi monitors the fuel tank guages, we typically fill up to 90% of capacity (though this year we topped them off in preparation for the winter heating season).  A good Scotch, and appropriate glass for after, Log Book to record it all, and then The Bill...

We took on 386.566 gallons this time (really, they measure this stuff to the 1,000th of a gallon now?).  An amount that surely will impact our Cost to Cruise.  However, this will cover us for the winter and into Spring.  In a future post I will do a breakdown of fuel usage Motoring, Electricity, Heating and update our comparison to the national average for Energy Consumption.  As well as recalculate the GPH burn rate for the main motor (The last figure of 0.88GPH seems great, but is to be honest a bit unbelievable)

And finally adding nearly 4,000lbs of weight to the boat always help her settle in and give a better ride during less than 'glossy' water.  Something Kristi, Felix and even I always enjoy and just in time for this weekend's storm fronts that will FINALLY make it into the area.  Goodbye Summer.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Highlights of the Past Few Days

1.  A Seattle sunrise

2. Meeting Dick and Anja Bielenberg in Eagle Harbor, Bainbridge Island.  We were their guests at their MTOA Friday night event.

3. Dinner with daughter Lindsay on Saturday night.  Since we chose the Cheesecake Factory, of course we had to have cheesecake!

4.  Seeing this ocean floor map in a shop window on the way back to the ferry dock.

See that little fish shaped hook to the SE of Sucia Island?  That's what we hooked with our anchor last May.  see  http://mvvikingstar.blogspot.com/2012/05/assessing-damage.html
5.  Going through Agate Pass, and crossing another passage off our list.

6. SEEING ORCAS!  I wish, again, that I had a better camera.  This is the best photo, and you can JUST tell that is an orca fin.....

7.  It was a gorgeous day on the Puget Sound.  AAaaahhhhh, glossy water!  Life is but a dream!

The same sailboat, and another, now looking westward toward the Olympics

8.  And another beautiful sunset from Jetty Island at Everett.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Well, I've begun my mantra again.

I don't like bumpy water.

We left Quartermaster Harbor on Tuesday and went to Blake Island, despite a marine forecast calling for 15-20 knot winds and 3-4 foot waves.  I would perhaps have liked to stay another night, since they were supposed to diminish later Wednesday, but it turns out that was the best time to go.

We got to CRUNCH through the leaves on the trail on Blake Island!  Al noted how that is quite a rare occurrence here in the Pacific Northwest.

This morning, two boats left the harbor at Blake early, because they had heard the winds were going to build again throughout the day.  Yes, they are STILL blowing --

It's only just over an hour from Blake Island to Eagle Harbor on Bainbridge Island.  The waves are bigger than they were off the east side of Vashon the other day, when I said that it kinda wasn't very fun.  Those were only 2-4 feet with scattered whitecaps.  These are a solid 4 feet, with MANY whitecaps, and a few sneaky 5-footers.  Add in some ferry wake, and it's quite a ride for a girl who doesn't like bumpy water and has been spoiled on the South Sound all summer.

But, Felix remained calm.

I warned Al that if Felix got jumpy, I was likely to also.

Al:   Maybe I should put some more beans in his butt.  (Felix has a mini beanbag butt to help him maintain his seat.)

Me:  That's just it!!! He has beans!  I don't!

Al:  I could always add a seatbelt for you.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cost to Cruise – September 2012

September came, and it has gone.  During that time we hauled Viking Star for maintenance, and made yet another unplanned trip down to Portland.  Looking at the categories maintenance was obviously up, what with the haul out and having access in Portland to my favorite marine surplus stores!

September 2012

Haul out is also reflected in Transportation, as we rented a car for the time. And another car rental for a trip back to Portland.

Personal – well, I guess I can blame that on the haul-out as well.  This is what happens when one hauls the boat out on YOUR WIFE’S BIRTHDAY!  I am applying bottom paint while Kristi has the car, credit cards,  and access to malls.

As we head back to Friday harbor for the winter we will expect a fuel bill next month which will give me another data point to calculate main engine fuel usage.  (last round put us a 0.88GPH).

As expected, solar output is down due to the yearly migration of the Sun south for the winter.  Even so, average daily output of 115Ah was above predicted modeling!  And we did have to use the generator this month – for about 1/3 of the laundry runs - to cover the drying cycle.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eagle Island to Vashon Island

To answer a question posed in a recent post, where we wondered if the swing's seat would float at high tide:

Getting close with an hour to go...

...and YUP!

Eagle Island's Eagle

Last night's sunset, our last in South Sound

This morning's moonset

Tacoma and Mt. Ranier in the distance, with the ferry Chetzemoka crossing to Vashon Island.