Sunday, December 22, 2013

Where to start…

Have been thinking for the past few days exactly how to start this Blog post.   I thought about reminding folks that Kristi and I tend to think we had only one ‘plan’ for this lifestyle (Go down the Columbia River and turn Right).  We have found making plans with any time horizon outside a couple of weeks pointless, there are just too many external variables – Weather, Boat condition, Family,  that ‘Hey, did you hear about this xxx going on over on YYY island’ opportunities.  All conspire to make Planning rather a futile effort (unless one is of the type that loves to make plans, and live by them till death.)

Our one and only 'Plan.
But we do have ‘intentions’.  Our current set of intentions centers around dividing up BC and SE Alaska into 5 chunks, then focusing on one chunk each summer.  Last summer we did Sunshine Coast and the Gulf Islands.

So, I thought about talking about how we integrate the ‘P’ word into our lives.

I also though about how I have observed that a typical cruising blogger tends to be around for a short time.  The other day we met up with some folks whose path we cross every once in a while ‘out there’.  They have been doing this for going on 17 years now.  They do not blog.  Yet, almost without exception the cruising blogs we have followed (Toast Floats, Third Day, s/v Sereina to name a few), all seem to enter this life with a bang, and for some reason get distracted a few years later (Getting pregnant, Kids entering teen-age stage and needing a social anchor outside Mom and Dad, deciding they really were too bored with life and going back to work).  But for whatever reason, there does seem to be a trend with cruisers – who blog - to expire after 3-5 years.

Maynard and Ellen at their 60th last summer.
Where to start . . .  in the end I guess it is just best to come out and say what’s up.   Kristi and I will be moving to Minnesota next month to help with her folks.  This has come about rather quickly (a little over a week) and really goes to show the power of not using the ‘P’ word!  Kristi will be flying directly from Portland back to Minnesota just after New Year.  To a small town which is actually 2 towns over from Walnut Grove, you know – Little House on the Prairie??  I will return to Friday Harbor to find a place we can store Viking Star for a year, then join her.

We have put a time limit on this of a year (++ or --), and after that our INTENTIONS are to return to this life.  But until then, well, this Blog is about Cruising, and as such will likely cut down on the posts.  (ala, will stop the monthly Cost to Cruise posts).  But if you are really interested in what we are doing, check back every once and a while.  We will put up something just to let folks know we are here, and when we do find our way back to the water, will resume more active posting.

Closing words?  Well, overall I think of all the quotes I have collected over the years, this one consistently rises to be the one with the most truth –

     "The whole idea is freedom.    Go simple,  Go cheap,  Go now."   -  Lyn Pardee.

And yes, for folks reading this who have not yet started – Go Now!  There are ALWAYS reasons not to, and we have come across more than one whose reason is they just got too old.  So, if you are looking to go – go now.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Programs

We are having fun visiting friends and family in the Portland area.  Many of the grandkids are in school now, and over the past two days, we have attended three programs or assemblies.

The first was Madalyn, shy first-grader at  Rosedale Elementary.

We were early, so I took a couple of photos to check light levels.

Kindergarteners sit on the floor while the first graders perform.  Madalyn is top row center.

Miss Madalyn

A high school group came and performed to show the kids what they can aspire to.  Then the high schoolers joined the elementary kids for a crowd sing-a-long.  Madalyn got to sit next to one of the girls!

That evening, Emrie's preschool performed at Glencoe High School.  The crowd last year overfilled the room, so they got to use the auditorium this year.  The kids were a bit nervous about the stage, but it was a good performance.

Emrie is excited to get the show on the road!

Brothers Troy and Ryker -- they are happier than they look.

Ranger, with Grammie Shel and Papa Ron also.

Emrie sings LOUD!

"These are grandma's glasses..."

I was waiting until today, and Troy's Winter Assembly, to post pictures.  Then I was a bit disappointed to find out that Troy's school does not allow photos during school performances.  Good thing I got a shot or two of him at Emrie's program.

There will be more shots from Christmas Eve, I am sure.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Dickinson meets her match

A while ago we figured out how to keep the main cabin under 80f while the Dickinson stove was on -  let it get into the 30's outside.   Well, this morning I will say the Oh So Nice Dickinson has met her match.  This morning it is 20f outside (that is -7c for the rest of the world), and the wind is blowing a sustained 20kt. (I think the wind has as much or more effect as the actual temperature)

With the stove in Pedal to the Metal mode -  turned Full Up, and the Dampener set, Max Mode for the stove - the main cabin could only make it to 60f this morning.  Will tell you, quite a few of the folks up and down the dock would be very happy to see 60f, but for us:  We just poured a couple cups of instant coffee (Awk, HAVE to get to the store and purchase some more real coffee beans today)  using already steaming water from the tea-pot on top of the stove, and then turned on the Hurricane.  In about 15-20 mins will be right up where we like it.  And when the sun come up, all will be fine...

Side note:  Just checked:  Right now in Alaska:  Friday Harbor is 7 degrees colder than Fairbanks Alaska (Fairbanks is at 27f), and 15 degrees colder than Sitka (they are at 35f).  Hum.  Maybe we should be spending winter up there!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Its all a balancing act...

Two days ago I posted how the COLD was coming this way, and we decided to light the Dickinson.  Which we have been oh so enjoying.   Now, for some of the Down Side.   Running these stoves can at times be likened to an art, again I will say:  Our system is 50 years old, the newer design of burner - and the addition of a barometric damper - would go a ways to help stabilize things.   For us, it is Old old-school.  An example - we had sustained winds yesterday of around 25kts, and to adjust I had the dampener closed and the stove way up.   The results was the cabin was a nice and warm, and typical, 80f.  Having the stove any different would have caused it to 'burn low', with a great risk of sooting.  (It is the fine line we walk, Burn Hot, or Burn Low with soot).

Well, after a few hours outside in the cold running some errands we were so looking forward to returning to our toasty warm boat, and toasty it was:

Yup.  130f!   Wow, talk about Toast!  Well, the wind had died down to a reasonable 10kts,  and between the stove being set on Full On, and all the Solar Heat we receive due to our nice Trawler Windows, it was a bit over the top..

So, adjusted the stove, opened the doors, and retreated to the forward and aft cabins for a while.    But it was nice and warm!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Cost to Cruise - November 2013

Our 2nd month in port, and we can see what impact being In Port has on our expenditures:

Groceries took a big bite this month mostly because we have been eating the boat down, which we have just about done. (Notice how comparatively low October was).  Perhaps the two batches of visitors added a little (though to be honest, the little ones do not really eat THAT much).

Transportation includes Kristi's trip back to Minnesota for her parents.  Maintenance includes pre-purchasing a couple of gallons of bottom paint for next years haul out, plus parts for the generator.  (A project this winter - need to rebuild the Army Surplus Kubota engine).

Next month we can expect more travel and dining out as we travel to Portland for the Holidays.  And looking forward into next year we will be changing (again) our Health Plan to one under the AHA system, as well as rolling off the costs of Kristi's eyes last spring.

A year and a bit on Solar Panels - Last post perhaps??

During these long winter days, with little to do  (err, ok - there is a LOT to do, but at times I find little motivation) I at times over-nerd, and just become all giddy over data.   Well, today I am posting yet another graph documenting our Solar panel output.  And this time we have a complete year in it, plus much of the core cruising months of another year:

Our two 245w panels delivered an average of 135Ah/day over the period of April 1st to September 30th.  And as you can see, from May through August we mostly pulled in over 150Ah/day.

The TriStar also reports out Wh/day results, and here is the same time period - showing Wh vs. Ah as above:

Same as above, but plotting reported Wh/day output

So there you go.  Data.

Note I also plotted the 'modeled' or predicted line on the Ah chart.  I am very happy with how close the actual performance tracked to what was predicted, as before laying out the $$ for our solar panels, I really wanted to get an idea what I could expect.  Unfortunately, asking fellow boaters did not really give useful information.  "All I need", "Charged my batteries by 10:30am", and other non-specific responses really do not help.   But for me, I can now answer "Around 135Ah/day average from May through September.  Over 150Ah/day during the peak of the summer".  And with the good modeling tools out there, you can rather accurately predict output for your situation.

This might be one of my last Solar postings, as I am not sure there really is much more that can be said.  I will continue to include Solar output in our monthly 'Costs' posts, but other than that - am about done in terms of being able to give additional value with further posts.  If you have stumbled across this and want to see more about our experience and system, here are a few links:

See All posts tagged with Solar:
Some details about our installation:
Model / predict YOUR solar output:

Solar on a boat?  As mentioned in some prior postings, our usage greatly influences our outcome; mainly that we are away from the dock 8+ months out of a year and hence produce 100% of our own electricity - which is very expensive.  For us, we continue to be very happy with our investments.  They are well on track to cross the ROI point some time next year, and until then we enjoy the oh-so-quiet hours of reduced generator run time they provide. 

In closing, a few quick thoughts on purchasing Solar panels for a boat:
The Twins on Viking Star
  • Best value in terms of $/watt will be the LARGE panels used on houses - hopefully you can fit them.
  • Shipping of panels can be very expensive, try looking at a local installer and see if they will add you on to a larger shipment they are making.
  • Use an MPPT controller, they are well worth the extra $
  • There is some value in installing a separate MPPT controller on each panel, esp with regards to shading.  Depending on controller costs you might look into this.
  • Look into Solar credits or tax savings, both at the Fed level and the local state level.  Many times Boats will qualify for these.

OK, I do hope this series of posts are helpful to someone considering Solar on their boat.  Feel free to contact me if  have any specific questions, and I will try to answer best as I can.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Weather Outlook brings Joy!

While in port for the winter we can watch some TV shows via Internet, as long as we are willing to put up with the all-to-common Max Headroom effect.  We have found that local TV stations tend to live-stream their local news so we can keep in touch with CHECK-news, as well as Seattle and Portland.

Well, the news has been FULL of the approaching Cold Front.  Perhaps nothing real big, but it is coming.  Here is what NOAA says we can look to here in Friday Harbor:

It's a gonna be cold out there!

One of the questions we often get is 'How do you stay warm'?   And of course, cold weather brings forward those questions even more.  While in port, the answer is:   We use the Hurricane hydronic heater to warm things up in the morning, then a couple of small electric heaters can carry the rest of the day and  usually into the evening.  Well, with this cold weather coming we get to use another option.

Our beloved (and at times hated) Dickinson Diesel Stove -
All fired up and bring with it the Chery Warm! 

Yes, Yes, Yes!   We get to light the Stove!   Oh, the Joy!   So Warm, So Dry, so very very cherry nice!    (But at a couple of gals of Diesel a day, and the soot, well, not all is pure joy).  And when the cabin gets up to 80f, we get to open the doors a bit to let in even more fresh outside air!

Yesterday I cleaned the stove out well (and then emptied the vacuum cleaner).  This morning I lit her up.  Give a couple of hours to get on her legs and we will be oh so toasty warm and dry, esp during the real cold days.  And just in time:  Kristi has been working on a nice Cold of her own - it arrived in full force this morning.  So she is tucked warm and snug in bed, and no way I am allowed to take a photo of the Sultani!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Miramontes Visit

ALL of the grandchildren came to visit us in November!  The Tovey/Marsh group came for Veteran's Day weekend.  And the Miramontes contingent arrived on Thanksgiving!

The past three days have been spent partaking of the community Thanksgiving meal, riding ferries, watching movies, and coughing and wiping noses.  And this time Papa can't blame the kids (who he calls walking petri dishes).  Grammie's cough started the day before they arrived.

One of our favorite activities to do is to ride the inter-island ferry, Evergreen State, through the heart of the San Juans and back to Friday Harbor.  It's free.  We get to see the ferry docks at all four of the major islands.  We get to observe wildlife.  We get to do puzzles.  It is a LOT larger than Viking Star, or the hotel room, so the kids can run their sillies out.  And they can go outside, or stay warm and dry inside.  AND the three kids have the attention of three adults, in this case.

While waiting for Evergreen State to round the corner to Friday Harbor, we visit the local aquarium.

Horrible lighting for this one, but that's Madalyn, wearing the stocking cap her Mama made for Grammie!

Mr. Milo works on a puzzle.

Evan too!

And Baby stayed behind.  Grammie and Papa are to babysit for two weeks, then bring him back for Christmas.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A fun little project - red & white undercounter LEDs

'6 little LEDs, sitting all in a row!'
(OK, only 4 are visable, but they continue on for 6 total..)

Here is a fun project I did a while ago, putting up a string of inexpensive LEDs as under-the-counter lighting.  Lots and lots of LEDs are out there, these are the ones I picked up a couply of winters ago when I was back in Portland:

They cost $1.85, come in Red, White, Warm White, Green, Yellow.. What is curious is I can find ones CLOSE to this on Ebay for around $1 each, but they do not have the connectors on them - just hard wire pig-tails.

And is is the connectors that make this kind of a fun project.

See, I mixed red and white LEDs - added a two position switch and now we can selected between the Warm White glow, or eye saving Red night light! I stewed for a while trying to figure out how to make a clean and tidy installation, without a bunch of 'extra' wires running around.  (ala, one for White, one for Red, and one for return, plus lots of splices and connectors..).  Notice in the top photo how all the LEDs are daisy-chained, one right after another?  If all I had was one color that would be straightforward - wire up an on/off switch and link them one after another.  But in fact, these LED blocks alternator between White and Red.  And I was able to do with with the existing wires, by using a little electrical magic.

Starting with a DPDT - Center Off switch wired as a 'reversing' switch I am able to get either 12v normal polarity sent down the wires, or 12v reversed polarity, depending on which way the switch is toggled.  Right for White, Left (port) for Red.  Center for power-off.  LEDs being Diodes will either light up when presented with correct polarity, or will not when presented with reverse polarity. By reversing the Red and Black wire on the Female connector of each LED block as 12v is sent down the wire the polarity is 'swapped over' at each LED block.. So what was normal polarity at the 1st block becomes reverse polarity at the next.  And if the 1st block had reverse polarity presented to it, it would swap this over the normal polarity to the block after it. This is how I can 'selected' either Red or White with one set of wires.

Details.  Step one: mark your LED blocks.  They all look the same when unpowered, I turned them over and wrote WW or Red on them with a Sharpe.  Then need to reverse the wiring on the end of each LED block.  Take a look here, the LED on the top has been modified, the one on the bottom not.:

Can you see the difference?
Top one has been modified, bottom is stock.

How about now?
Notice how the holes in the connectors have swapped sides?

Here is a close up.
The top connector has been 'turned around'

To do this we simply need to release the clips holding the wires into the connectors, pull them out and then reinsert them back into the opposite holes.  To release, look on the side of the female connector with the metal showing. There is a VERY small clip that can CAREFULLY be pressed down.  Then GENTLY pull the wire out.

Using a knife tip to gently press down on the clip.

Here both wires have been freed.

After freeing both wires, inspect the clips to make sure it is not too deformed.  We want it to 'spring back' into place holding the wire in the connector.  Once ready, press the wires back into the connector, swapping Red and Black.  And that is it!  Now as power is sent down through this LED block it will reverse the polarity before sending it on to the next block.

Install a string of your modified LED blocks, alternating White and Red blocks to get good light distribution.  Finally wire the DPDT-CO (Center Off) switch as a reversing switch:

Connect the LEDs to where it says 'track' in the above drawing.

I snipped off the unused Female connector from the last LED block and used it to wire from the switch and the 1st LED in the chain, ala:
Snipped unused pigtail
off of last LED in chain
Then used it from the Switch to the 1st LED.

And there you have it.  Red and White LEDs counter lights with a two position - center-off -  switch to select which set to light up.  All with nice and tidy wiring.

Fun project!  And here are a couple of  Live Action photos:


OK, Nerd time:  In fact there is a slight problem with wiring up LEDs like this.  At least the really low cost ones.  The problem is though LEDs are a class of Diodes, they do not have very high reverse voltage properties.  Often in the 6v range (vs say 100V or more for a normal 'Diode'.)   Applying 12v to one of these stresses them.  So, why am I doing the approach above?   Well, I am kind of walking a line here.  With 3 LEDS in each block, that 6v becomes  3 x 6v, or 18v.  And we are OK.  PROVIDING the leakage current in each LED is matched (possible), or some external balancing resistors were designed in (not a chance).  So, even though there is a potential to 'stress' them when they are in reverse polarity, the risk is perhaps low.  And after all they cost under a couple of bucks each.

But, I did have one fail after almost 2 years of use.  Not sure if having it reverse biased at times contributed to that or not, after all these are cheap units, so who knows.   

I am happy with this approach, I like the cleanness of the wiring, and I am willing to take the 'engineering risk'.  But if you are looking to do this with devices other than what I have sourced, you might want to re-look at them and see if the situation is better or worse.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thank You, Richard!

One thing most power boaters don't have to worry about is climbing a mast.  Now, Viking Star DOES have a mast, but not nearly like even small sailboats.

This past week, during calm but very cold weather, our dock mate Richard climbed the mast of his sailboat, Sarita.  He needed to replace his windex.  No, not Windex, the window cleaner.  But something like this:  Birds had broken the one he had, and these devices are very useful to sailboaters.

While Richard was up there, he took the time to take a few photos!  And he sent this one over the other day.  We have not seen Viking Star from this perspective before.  We are the third boat up, and we can see that we are the smallest kid on the block!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Sultan

I just wanted to share a couple of pictures with you to illustrate why one of the nicknames I have for Al is The Sultan.  The man LOVES pillows!  He believes you can never have too many!  And no matter how many I buy, he uses them ALL!

I would prefer he leave two -- just two -- on the other end of the bench, just for visual balance as much as anything.  But he would pile higher and deeper, if there were more.

When I grew up, I was only allowed ONE pillow.  That was enough.  But now I am blessed to have TWO pillows that are 'mine'.
Until I get out of bed.  Then The Sultan enlarges his 'nest'.

Good thing I love this man!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Happier Visit

After a tough two weeks in Minnesota and arriving back in Friday Harbor late on a Friday evening, the next morning I was back on the ferry to Anacortes--but this time for a happier occurrence.  Daughter Lindsay and her four kids were coming for a visit!

We had offered previously, that if they would just GET here, we would take care of all the further expense of visiting.  And Lindsay finally found a time that would work.  The travel takes nearly all day each way, so at least 3 days were needed to make it worthwhile.  The kids had Veteran's Day off from school.  Unfortunately, that was the only weekend son-in-law Robby had to go elk hunting, so Lindsay packed and wrangled the four kids all by herself.  We appreciate Robby's mom allowing the use of her vehicle, which is more economical and reliable, for the trip!

I think we all had a great time, and the visit went way too fast!

Aboard Yakima, bound for Friday Harbor!

The big boys loved to be on the the front of the boat!  The rest of us?  Not as much.

Emrie LOVED Popeye!  She would hug her in this pose as often as we went by.  We wished the kids could have met the real Popeye face-to-face, but they will have to look for her another time.

On Sunday we rode 'the little ferry' Evergreen State around on her inter-island route, so everyone could see some of our favorite spots in the San Juans.  And Papa came along too!

Approaching the Shaw Island ferry dock.  

Lindsay helping Ranger, age 2, with a puzzle.

Emrie, age 4, took the camera for a few shots -- this is her self-portrait.

Age 9, Troy's pose for his sister.

She captured Grammie and Ranger having a snuggle.

Ryker, age 6, at the Whale Museum, in front of the skeleton of L-112, Sooke.

For just a moment, the kids were sitting still.

The view of the Port of Friday Harbor from a window at the Whale Museum.

The hotel had a swimming pool!

Papa Ron and Grammie Shel have a pool, so the kids have had practice at this.

Ryker, and Troy in the background.  The lighting at the pool was very dim, so it was hard to get a good shot of Troy, who is an independant swimmer and stayed further away from Grammie, who was sticking closer to the littler ones.

A gorgeous sunrise on their last morning.