Friday, January 25, 2013

Just Us, Through the Years

I WAS going to call this post 'Then and Now' but I haven't been able to get a NOW photo that I like.  So you'll just have to check back regularly to see when the next one pops up on future posts!

I have spent quite a bit of time scrolling through the past in pictures this last few months.  I had an idea for Christmas gifts for the grandkids, but that kind of fell by the way as very time-consuming.  Not ruling it out, but perhaps a one-at-a-time thing for birthdays, maybe?

And then, of course, I did the 2012 'Year in Review' post.

But for this idea, I wanted to go WAY BACK!  The idea was to show both Viking Star and Us, then and now.  Viking Star has gone through a lot of changes too, but those changes often involve a LOT of mess, and that just doesn't photograph well, in my opinion.  (I MAY get used to the idea and do this anyway in a later post.)

But for now, let's focus on Just Us.

You may notice the definite Water / Boat / Travel theme for the whole of our life together!  I'll remind you of 'The First Date That Wasn't a Date' where we met for coffee and ended up talking for three hours about our hopes for the future -- and Al shared his dream of living on a boat, and I shared mine to travel, and mentioned the San Juan Islands specifically.

Here's our journey, so far ...

This is a test!  Just over a year from the time we met, this is May 2000, and our first trip to the San Juan Islands, chartering a sailboat with friends we have newly met.  Though we have dated for almost a year at this point, this is our first trip 'away together'..  Will I get seasick?  Can I tolerate sharing a small place with Al?  How long can I go without a shower?  (It was 4 days.)

A month later, Al proudly took possession of Viking Star.  He says, since he had the boat BEFORE we committed to marriage, I knew what I was getting into.  But I maintain that I had no idea the depth of the obsession!

I THINK this is my 39th birthday, obviously aboard the Portland Spirit, a dinner cruise ship.

Our Wedding Day, 5-5-2002, Cinco de Mayo.  I don't think we have ever gone to a Mexican restaurant for our anniversary.  Good thing we like Italian, like Olive Garden, where we went for dinner that night, all dressed up, and someone sent us champagne!

Aboard the Maid of the Mist at Niagra Falls, on our honeymoon!

In 2004, a dream trip -- a MONTH in Europe!  A week in the Netherlands,  two in northern Italy,  a few sites in Belgium and Germany, a drive across Switerland, and a drive across France to finish with 3 days in Paris!

2005, another dream fulfilled  -- Hawaii!  We are celebrating Christine's 16th birthday  -- you can see her shadow too as she takes this.

2008, New Year's Eve.  Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco -- one of our favorite cities!

May 5, 2009 -- Nope!  No seven-year- itch for us!!!

A unique portrait -- the Fourth of July, 2010 at Portland's Waterfront Blues Fest  -- a charcoal drawing of us listening to the music from the back deck of Viking Star.

A somber portrait -- we visit Washington DC in March  2011.  Al has business, but we stay a few days more to be tourists.  It's a GREAT city to visit!  And like  most people, we were very moved by the Vietnam War Memorial.

July 2011.  Beginning our first whole day in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, entering the Puget Sound,  where we have been ever since.  (Or at least Viking Star has.  We've had several visits back to Portland, ourselves.)

Living on 30A . . .

How many remember the show Green Acres?  Among the standing story lines was the need to shuffle plugs between the very limited outlets.  Want to iron?  Need to unplug the coffee pot.  Want coffee?  Need to unplug the Refrigerator.

Anyone who lives aboard a boat knows the same drill, and if you are trying to heat using a single 30A shore power cord, even more fun.   Let's look at Viking Star's AC load while 'At Dock'.

  • 1A - Refrigerator
  • 1A - Freezer
  • 14A - Water Heater
  • 8A Block Heater
  • 10A Main Cabin Space Heater
  • 10A Aft Cabin Space Heater
  • 5A Coffee Pot
  • 12A Washer / Dryer
  • 2A  Battery Charger
For  a total of:  63A's!    And if we throw in ironing, or hair dryers....  Compounding this is the fact that a 30A shore power plug is not designed to carry a constant 30A, you really need to limit it to 24A maximum continuous load.  (which is one of the reasons you can see SO many burned out shore power connectors - a primary cause of boat fires).

So, how do we do it?   Add a 2nd shore power line?  (Lots of folks do).  Upgrade to 50A service  or even 50A/220v service?  Again, lots of boats do.   Just live with it and unplug the space heaters when we want hot water, or turn off the hot water heater when we want coffee?   Again . . . .

But on Viking Star we do none of the above.  We have a single 30A shore power cord and do very little of the Shuffle (mostly, just make sure the aft cabin space heater is off when doing laundry).  You may be asking: "Wow, how do you get 63A of service from a single 30A shore power cord.  Must be Magic".   No, no magic.  But the answer is actually very simple:  

    >  We cheat  <

A key here is that not all devices run all the time.  The block heater is on only 25% of the time, the water heater on and off throughout the day.  Coffee pot in the morning,  washer/dryer in the afternoon.  Another key is noting  two of the 'biggest' loads are the water and block heater.  And with that last bit of info is where the Cheat comes:  We run the Water heater and block Heater off of our backup inverter powering them when needed via the massive batteries we have.  And then over the day the other  inverter/charger (the one connected to shore power)  will replenish the batteries. 

Top level summary, click for larger view
Or download .PDF file using this link: PDF File of Viking Star Summary

Above is a block level diagram of Viking Star's electrical system.  Of key note here is the two inverters/chargers, each servicing 4 AC breakers.  By turning off the AC input to Inverter #1 we let it power the water heater and block heater via the batteries.  And by leaving the AC power turned on for the Inverter #2 it will use its 'power share' capabilities to recharge the batteries when less than 25A is being drawn by things like Space Heaters, Coffee Pots, Washer/Dryers, etc.

It is premised on having two inverters, but we have two anyway as they are rather critical for the boat's operation and hence we carry a spare.

In practice this has worked very well for two years now.  A downside is lower overall efficiency having to go through the AC --> DC --> Battery --> DC --> AC conversion cycles for the Water heater and Block Heater, but then that does provide a nice heat source for the lazarette where the inverters are located.

And here, my friend, is how on Viking Star we pack 63A of stuff into a 30A bag...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Happy Birthday to Al

When we moved onto the boat, we kind of migrated away from exchanging gifts on special occasions -- you know -- 'we live on a boat now, we do NOT need more STUFF!  Now, we try to share an experience to mark those special dates, like shrimping on our 10th Anniversary, or hauling the boat on my birthday, or buying gifts for the grandchildren for Christmas.  Often, we will go out for a meal.

Today for Al's birthday, it was more difficult than usual to go out for a meal.  We had heard that Ernie's had really good breakfast, so this morning at 9AM we headed to the airport.  But as soon as we turned the corner, we knew they weren't open.  Seems they are only open on weekdays, and even then they don't open until 10 AM!

So we decided to drive across the island to Roche Harbor.  But the sign at the Lime Kiln Cafe said they were closed to refinish their floors!  The sign invited us to go to McMillan's just across the way, so we did.  They serve the same food as the Lime Kiln, except for the donuts.  No donuts.

Maybe it's a good thing that I stretched the 'rule' and got Al a gift.  It arrived last week, a box from Amazon, and Al has been shaking the box and speculating ever since.  He promised NOT to look at his Amazon account, and I believe he didn't.  Surprises really ARE  more delicious than not, don't you think?

We boat dwellers don't possess gift wrap, so today Al got out his trusty pocket knife and neatly cut the tape sealing the box.  Inside he found this:

The cookbook from Master Chef, the show we enjoyed watching last summer.  Al even had to leave Joemma State Park one night when we couldn't get the TV signal that would allow us to watch it.  And on another occasion when we lost the signal DURING the show, he rigged the anchor line so that our orientation changed, and we could finish watching the show.

We enjoyed cheering for our favorite, Christine Ha.  She is to have her own cookbook published, but it was not released in time for Al's birthday.  Instead we have the summary of the season, which is almost better.  Here is Christine:

I think we will both enjoy reading this book and trying recipes.

Oh, and I sang a song to Al:

Happy Birthday to You,
You are 52.
We live in a boat,
And I love you!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another Day in Paradise

The change of scenery has worked.  Even HOUSEwork is delightful in such a house as this!  A little dusting, gaze out the window, a load of laundry, take a peek out the window, run the dishwasher -- and take another look out the window.

Even a trip to the dentist has its own delights.  We see swans aswimming on a pond, but there was too much traffic on a narrow roadway to stop and take a photo.  Maybe before the week is out.  Another chance tomorrow as we plan to breakfast at Ernie's in honor of Al's birthday.

More boat traffic

Taking advantage of the oven.  Lasagna and garlic bread last night.
And tonight, baking with a 'new' cookbook -- the internet!  I made these:  

I made them double chocolate -- chocolate cake mix and chocolate chips.  We were surprised how light they turned out!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Change of Scenery

Yesterday we arrived at a friend's house to begin a week of house- and pet-sitting!

We have been looking forward to this change of scenery, because we knew the scenery would be wonderful!  It is also a change of pace away from the hustle and bustle of town living, even though Friday Harbor is at it's LEAST bustling in January, perhaps.

Afternoon sunshine on the Straight of Juan de Fuca

Sunset last night

Sunrise this morning

They Olympic Mountains peeking over the fog, and a ship turning up Haro Straight

Our charges, Bailey and Shadow, sharing a pillow.  Both are becoming a bit elderly and require daily medication

The ship will soon be out of sight from the frosty deck

Al has a phone call for work soon.  Then we will head in to town for some more groceries.  When you are eating fresh foods, they sure disappear quickly!  And I realized last night -- we have an OVEN for a week!  Though stretching that diet again, I MUST have my favorite meal of all -- lasagna and garlic bread!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012 in Pictures

Beginning Sunday morning, January 1, 2012 and through sunset on Monday evening, December 31, 2012, we took 4562 photographs!

In trying to condense them into 'a few' for a blog post I think I did pretty good on my first edit, which yielded 36 in my folder.  Still too many.  So I tried again.  I aimed for just one photo for each  month, I really did!  But still could only get it down to 19.   The main focus is People, Places, or Milestones.  Tried to cut out all the 'scenery' - but one made the cut anyway.   And even though there are more than enough for at least one photo a month, a couple of months are not represented.  Oh well.

Here we go.

January 1:  His brother Ryker called this Ranger's 'bathtism', and I LOVE this picture!  You can see Ryker's whole-hearted participation with his parents, and Rangers chosen godparents.  And little Ranger is looking out calmly, as if saying 'Look what's happening, to ME!'

January 1:  The first time (and only time, so far) that I have seen my son in his Navy uniform.
He wore dress blues as he became Ranger's godfather.

March 2:  We 'stumble across' the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis returning to its home port, Bremerton WA, just outside of Seattle.  Micah will be assigned to a carrier once he completes his training in 2013.

March 3:  Viking Star's hour meter turns over a thousand!

March 19:  Milo has surgery, overnight with IV's, and an oxygen meter that makes his toe glow!

May 6:  We manage to 'corkscrew' the anchor shaft at the end of our Great Shrimping  Adventure of 2012.

May 10:  Best Bud Brian comes for a visit

May 18:  We receive our uniforms for volunteering at Washington State Parks.

May 23:  Solar panels are installed on Viking Star.  We won't run our generator again until September!

June 1:  We pass below the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to begin our summer in the South Sound.

July 13:   Casey,  Richard, and  kids Madalyn, Evan and Milo.  We explored Hope and McMicken Islands together.

July 27:  Crabbing with Chris

August 9:  Christine has shoulder surgery.  Michael shares sympathy, since he's also had shoulder surgery

August 25:  Chuck and Betty come visit for a few days, and we enjoy Blake Island and Bremerton.  Chuck was the photographer of this one.
Sept 6:  Kristi and Viking Star at the Washington State Capitol , Olympia.
Taken for a friend's school project to show where her friends live.

September 24:  Michael comes to help with the haulout

October 6:  We meet Lindsay in Seattle for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
She attended a doula class for two weekends

November 24:  Thanksgiving weekend -- SO much nicer than 2011!

December 24:  Jolly elves

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Progress: Arduino based Alternator Regulator and Engine Controller

Just a small post.  Some might remember I had planned on automating our DC generator with a remote control as well as a better / smarter alternator regulator.

Tonight I completed a major step towards that goal and have completed the hardware assemble:

See more at:

Over the next months I will be playing with the software and integration with out Kubota DC generator.

UPDATE  1/13/2013 - Powered on the CPU, burned the boot-loader, and downloaded a simple test program!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Peek inside the Magnum

Kristi asked 'Why did you need to do that?'  She was referring to why was the cover off of our new Magnum inverter.   Though I am sure he had in her mind words like "Boys" and "Nerd", the truth is the installation manual had instructed me to take off the cover in order to modify the inverter's bonding option.  On Viking Star we have a shore-power isolation transformer, and hence all safety-ground to neutral bonding is handled in the breaker panel - and needs to be disabled permanently in things like inverters.

Plus it gave me a chance to do some snooping around inside. . . . .

On 1st blush comparing this to the failed Prosine ( the Magnum is such a simpler design.  And a fundamentally different one:  While the Prosine looked to use in effect two DC-DC converts, the Magnum still uses a large transformer to provide the basics for voltage change. It also has proper crimped connectors on the wiring, and even comes with a moisture barrier Conformal coating on the PCBs!

One 'nerd note', I spotted this interesting approach for measuring DC current:

Note the small wire paralleled with the large one?
Obviously a way to pre-scale the amps being measured by the blue coil, but I wondered how they maintained precision of current flow between the large and the small wire?  Then I noticed the Magnum only has a 20% accuracy rating on current draw. . . .

Other then that, things look OK   Took a day to install it, and it is working well so far.  I did notice the configuration options are vastly reduced vs. the Prosine using the 'normal' remote.  And even if one 'upgrades' to the more advanced remote with additional options there is still less then the prosine had (ala ability to place it into a fixed volt / current limited mode).  But Oh Well, not sure that is really needed anyway.  To their defense  will say it looks like the remotes can integrate things like a proper battery monitor and auto generator start/stop modules.  Nice, but I do wonder why they have a standard and advanced remote that appears to only have a firmware change and an extra $75 cost.  Darn Marketeers. . .

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Throwing You a Bone

It's been a while for a post!

It's been difficult for me (Kristi) to feel that anything of interest to you has been happening since everything we've been doing is just a replay of the LAST winter we spent in Friday Harbor -- watching ferries, visiting the animal shelter, going to church, coffee shops, doctors and dentists.  Even our holiday visit back home was much the same, except the grandkids are bigger!

So, it's been hard for me to come up with much.  So here's a bone.  I call it a photography fail, but it's kind of interesting, shot at sunset from Parks  Bay on Shaw Island in the San Juans last April.  The light level and movement of the boat cause a blurred effect.

Maybe, since we have now been living aboard and cruising for more than a year, which means our first complete calendar year, I can do an 'A Year in Pictures' post.  I'll work on that.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012's Last Sunset

Also want to share the view from the Anacortes ferry landing when we arrived to await the 6 PM sailing to Friday Harbor:

And half an hour later it's washing in pink.

When Cruisers Go 'Home' for the Holidays

Though we tell our kids 'You don't need to get us anything for Christmas.  We don't want any more stuff!' -- look what happens when we 'stock up' and 'fill in the spares list'!

Poor car!  We could just hear it going 'Oof!'