Sunday, July 28, 2013

Light Spirit

We DID meet up with our friends Dave and Sandra at Glenthorne Passage last Tuesday!

Light Spirit, snuggled up to Viking Star in Glenthorne Passage
We met Dave and Sandra last spring at Prevost Harbor in the San Juan Islands, and ran into them once more at Sucia.  Their dog Max was obviously aging, and we were sad to learn he did not make it through last winter.  This year, when we spent some time in Vancouver BC in May, they invited us to their home, where we met their new puppy Jake.

Jake is now five months old.  Though we consider ourselves to be more 'cat people', even Al said that Jake is the first dog that has made him think we would like to HAVE a dog.  Of course, the biggest deterrent for that ever truly happening was watching Dave row Jake to shore four times a day.

We so enjoyed our time together in Glenthorne Passage that when we moved on to Montague Harbor, both boats went and rafted up there for another two days.  The men did some brainstorming and problem-solving -- Light Spirit had an engine issue, and Viking Star had a blip with the watermaker we had fired up after more than a year out of service.  The women discussed and traded books.  We had quiet times on our own boats, and we shared dinners, drinks, and games in the evenings.

We enjoyed Jake!  And he enjoyed Viking Star -- gnawing on cleats, 'magically' nearly swallowing a length of rope with which we had tried to replace the rope toy he had lost, losing a baby tooth, running the side decks and up to the bow for a better vantage, and just the occasional bark at birds and seals.

Jake's bed was brought along to Viking Star in the evenings and had its own special spot, but his favorite place was at the foot of his people. 
A wonderful family!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Watermaker Update!

The past few days we have been running Viking Star's home-built watermaker (follow the whole story via this label link: ).  Have put about 160 gallons into the tank and have a few more thoughts.

Do we still think we need it?

First off, we once again got into the conversation with a fellow boater about the 'need' for a watermaker.  This fellow has done a bit of cruising here in the BC area, and commented they never had issues finding water - even all the way up to Alaska.  It is something we have heard before, and yet we fired up our watermaker after leaving Ganges.   Why??

Well - see I think this is again a situation where you need to consider the cruising lifestyle of who is giving you an answer.  As with our questions about the South Sound, where we got 'it was great' or 'there is nothing down there',  I think it really depends on if the person we were asking liked to anchor out (it was great), or liked to go into full service Marinas (there is nothing down there).

And to the same end I am beginning to think the 'Yes, we use our Watermaker all the time' vs. the 'We never had any problem finding water' might fall into the same camp.

I have no question that water is available anywhere in the world, it really comes to a question of access and cost.  For our experience cruising in the South Sound last year, there was easy access to water at many of the public docks. And as such we did not use the Watermaker at all last year.  This year we had planned to take on water in Friday Harbor (which we did), with the next stop at Ganges where we again knew water was available on the public dock.  But in the end we did not take water at Ganges.    Oh, we tried - as we came to the dock a space opened up just our size, and while Kristi was prepping the boat for a Starboard side tie we got within 5 minutes when someone else planted themselves right in the middle of the open space.  So we went around and dropped Anchor (not in a great spot, but I was going to stay on the boat).   During the next three hours I watched boats come and go, and AT NO TIME was there a space large enough for us to get in.  It is Summer - and you see,  though water was available, but not accessible.  

Of course, we could have taken a slip in the local marina - that would have solved our access issue.  (At a cost of over $60 for the night).  We could have hung around for a few more hours, maybe into the evening, or we could do what we ended up doing:  Move on and run the watermaker.

So, in this example:  had we been the type to often pull into marinas, our access to water would be simple.  And I suspect that will be true elsewhere as we work more north.  But even this perhaps only in selected areas (Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, Ganges, Nanaimo being the ones here we know of).  More likely, as water is a scarce commodity on many of these islands, even if we did pull into a marina many of them would not be able to let us take on 200 gallons.  Example: The upscale marina at Poets Cove limits you to 10 gallons / day, and the marina at Montague Harbor's water is undrinkable (they barge in water from Victoria for the local restaurant).  So, even the approach of Marina-to-Marina does not guarantee availability of water.  I have no doubt that if we wanted, we could find a marina with water every 10 days.  But even that brings up a point: when you also consider these places where water is available can easily be out of our way (we motored about 2 hours into and from Ganges primarily to secure water) - it does become one more thing to plan around.

Alright, back to that overriding question:  do you NEED a watermaker:  Well, for us - answered here in the RAIN FOREST of the Pacific Northwest - all I can say is:   We have already found it highly desirable; unless we wanted to purchase a night at the marina  or perhaps the fuel dock would have sold us water, like in Deep Cove - at $15/20 for a tank.    But for US at least, when you consider we are not interested in rationing our water (we use about 20 gallons / day between everything:  Showers, dishes, cooking, clothes washing, etc.),  and the time it takes to get into places like Ganges (which we would not go to this time of the year for any reason other than water),  I for one am glad we have our watermaker and expect to put many hours on it this summer.

Some Other Notes:
We have been operating in a rather high Algae area.  So much so that the 20u primary filter clogs up after 2-3 hours of run time!   The 1st time this happened, the system went out of normal operating range (vacuum on the pre-filters, and high pressure on the RO membranes) causing the single drive belt to squeal in complaint.   I changed the filter and all is well, but a few  notes from that experience:

  1. The Automation of the Generator is working so very very well, but there is NO automation of the watermaker.  That would be a major project, mostly around physically controlling the valves and such.  I am however going to look into monitoring critical pressures in the pre-filter and the high pressure pump, sounding warnings when they get a bit out of range and shutting things down when they turn critical.
  2. Until then, I need to shorten my check-in time while the Watermaker is running, check it every 10-15-20 minutes MAX.
  3. The high pressure pop-off did pop-off like it should have, but its capacity to release both the pressure the the flow from the CAT high pressure pump was not sufficient.  So, it in effect had no value.  Plus it did not reseated itself and continued to leak.  I have removed it for now, and will reconsider a replacement once I do some more research.
  4. I am not sure why the high pressure side went up when the pre-filters clogged, but one idea is a small bit of lint might have freed itself from the Oil filter element, passed downstream to partly restricted the pressure adjusting needle valve.  I am thinking this because I also had one of the three positions in the CAT pump drop out, resulting in a massive pulsation on the output.   After R&Ring the pump and inspecting  it, I seem to have cleared the issue - am wondering if some lint also got into one of the piston's valves, rendering that piston useless.  
  5. In any case I swapped the order of the Oil filter and the 5u filter, placing the 5u last.
  6. I had a stainless fitting split on me on the High Pressure hose.  Likely due to my ham-handed over tightening.  But I am SOO glad I have a pool of spares, just installed the spare hose and we are good to go.  Will get the original repaired / replaced this fall.

And on the primary 20u filters that get clogged up with Algae, I just clean them.   They get covered with about 1/4" of green 'slime' that I gently brush off in a pail of water, then I tie a string around them and dump them overboard for a few days floating around where lots of hungry guys get busy cleaning up the rest of the Green from the filters.  After that a few days in the Sun to 'bleach them out' and they are ready to go again.   

And this is why I selected the String type filters for the 20u, they are a lot more tough and able to stand this cleaning cycle.  I use the pleated accordion type filters to the 5u, as there is more surface area and they will last longer before requiring replacement.  (Not sure how well they will clean, mostly because anything in them would not be the soft green algae).

Or.....  maybe I should be saving this 'harvested' algae - drying it and selling as a health supplement!  Hum. . . . .

And one last thought -- I changed the order of the plumbing to run the seawater 1st through the Kubota's heat exchanger before sending it to the Watermaker system.  This was to raise the water temperature a little and improve the efficiency of the RO membranes.   I figure I am getting perhaps a 4-5 degree F raise doing this. However, someone asked a question about safety: what happens if the heat exchanger on the Kubota starts leaking and starts dumping antifreeze into the water before it gets sent to the watermaker.   

I think that is a great question...

So, I am going to be looking into coolant for the Kubota that does not involve the green antifreeze.  Maybe just plain water, or the Pink RV stuff?  Not really sure right now - I am more concerned about the mixed metals in the Kubota engine (steel and Aluminum) than freezing at low temperatures, and need to consider how to prevent excessive corrosion inside the Kubota...     Does anyone have some ideas on this???


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kristi's Big Adventure!

Sadly no pictures to go with this story -- I was too BUSY!

We left Winter Cove yesterday morning, bound for Ganges.  We needed provisions, and to fill our water tank.  We arrived with not a lot of time to spare for Al's appointment, and the public dock was FULL.  We dropped anchor amid some boats on buoys, one owner questioning our position, but he was satisfied when Al said we were only staying an hour or so and he wouldn't be leaving the boat.

In anticipation of being able to fill our water tank, we had done two loads of laundry on the way to Ganges, and our gauge now said we had none.  But now we couldn't get to the dock to get water.  Hmmm.  We had planned to flush and clean the watermaker in another week or so, once we went north of Nanaimo, but I guess we could move that up.  Well, we HAVE to move that up.

So the next problem to solve is:  how to get groceries without Al leaving the boat.

That was solved by me taking my first solo adventure with the dinghy!  I was a bit nervous -- OK, quite a bit nervous.  Ganges is a busy harbor, with boats of all sizes coming and going, and float planes adding to the mix. I put my wallet and shopping bags in my backpack and Al came with me to the dinghy to review operations of the engine.  I have not operated it since last summer!  And never without Al right there with me.

I think the most difficult time I had was finding a spot at the dinghy dock!  (Busy harbor, you know!)  But I wedged the dinghy in between two boats and killed the engine.  Then I pulled myself along the length of a neighbor boat, pushing with my paddle, trying to make more space.  I was going nowhere.  So I took my line and climbed into the neighbor boat and yanked, then climbed into the NEXT boat and yanked some more.  Then I climbed up onto the dock.

But my dinghy was probably three feet from the dock still -- further than I wanted to throw my lifejacket, since I would want it when I returned with grocery bags and may have to crawl over more boats again to get to mine.  So I carried my jacket with me.

I was a bit shaky with nerves, and discombobulated.  So I forgot about going to the liquor store to check the wines, darn!  I was just set on getting groceries.  I had even forgotten about finding an ATM and getting more cash, but luckily I had enough to cover what I expected to spend.  There was NOT an ATM at the grocery store, and I didn't feel like pushing a cart to the bank, or carrying three bags of groceries around town, so I returned to the boat without TWO errands completed.

There was another couple looking for a tie spot when I got done loading the dinghy.  She said, 'We'll take your spot if you're leaving!'  I warned her that it was my very first solo adventure, so they stayed well back.  I wasn't TOO embarrassed by my exit.

It took three bounces off the swim step, but I finally grabbed it and got secured to Viking Star.  Mission Accomplished!  We have groceries!  But I forgot onions.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Lots to Share

HEY!  We have more than 50,000 page loads!

On Sunday, we visited Wild Thyme, again.  We were spending more than $20 a day there.  Now the coffee and food was really YUMMY, but our budget can't continue indefinitely, so three days was the limit.  After visiting St. Christopher's for an inter-denominational service, we motored 'around the corner' to Winter Cove.

Cute church!  I was going to take an outside photos also, but forgot.  It reminds me, just a bit, of the small church I grew up in -- there were about 8 pews on each side.  We were told that typical attendance is about 7, but I counted 22 this Sunday.  That's the sun shining through the cross.
Sunday evening sunset

At first I was upset that 'that dinghy is ruining the shot'....but he didn't after all.  It was a man out by himself, who paused and drifted, to enjoy the sight before him.  I've decided it was the best shot of the night!

There were a lot of boats in Winter Cove.  And as I was checking facebook that evening, I told Al 'We should email Light Spirit -- they said they were going to be in this area about now.'  The next morning, guess who snuck up to us as they were leaving the cove?!  We made arrangements to meet up later the next day in Glenthorne Passage.

But first there was another reunion planned!  The boats we travelled up the Columbia and Snake Rivers with in Fall 2009 were passing through the Gulf Islands on their way to Desolation Sound, and they planned to stop in Winter Cove after clearing Customs.  'Maxine' with the Hamiltons showed up first, and 'Brigadoon' with the Critchlows followed about an hour and a half behind.  It was great to catch up!  (I think both couples will appreciate that I not post the photos I took of them.  Serves me right for only one shot of each of them, catching them unaware, with not very flattering results.)

After dinner, we retired to the deck to sip Fireball as the full moon rose:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Having a 'Wild Thyme'!

Regular readers know that one of our favorite things to do is visit coffee shops.  'Wild Thyme' at Lyall Harbour on Saturna Island, BC is one of the most original we have come across.  The coffee is excellent!  We also approve of the Peach-Coconut muffins, and the salami/havarti sandwiches.  (The gluten free cookies, not so much.  But even the Grumpy Cat disapproved of them.)

A double-decker bus!

Chloe is an excellent barista.  They are looking for more employees, but you must fit a height restriction!  Their ceiling is only 5' 7"

This sign at the stairway to the upper level had me singing along

Comfy cushions, but the heater is not needed today!

All the BEST coffee shops have a take-one-leave-one bookshelf!

Sunny day, upper level, above the kitchen -- the fan helps, but much too hot for comfort today
We have visited the bus twice already, and we like the area so much we are staying another day.  We found the Anglican Church (St. Christopher's), where there will be a non-denominational service tomorrow morning.  (The bus is on the way!)  AND the island library is in the basement of the church.  We stopped in on our way to the General Store.

Saturna Island has only 300 residents, and perhaps fewer than that during the winter.  But everyone we have come across has been very friendly!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Casey and Kids Visit

I am behind on my blogging again!

Daughter Casey and kids came to visit us in LaConner, WA.  I believe a good time was had by all!

Is that Papa Al?  Where they ended up was a surprise for the kids!

Top to bottom, oldest to youngest, Madalyn, Evan, and Milo

The antique store had these old toys outside, every ride a quarter.  We had to limit it to one ride a day.


Riding Rudy

'Driving' the salmon wheel

We were disappointed to find the 'fish dock' was missing from the waterfront.  But we found it, under the Rainbow bridge.  We hope they will find a useful place for it again!

A happy monkey-boy

And another

No Hands!

Friday, July 12, 2013

That's NOT What Right Looks Like!

While in Minnesota, my brother-in-law Mike taught us a new phrase, which is the message for a series of public service advertisements playing on Armed Forces Television.  'That's NOT what right looks like!'

And today, when we came across this sight, guess what Al said?

Yes, there were people on board.  They did not seem to be particularly distressed, but did not seem at all anxious for our attention.  We were surprised the number of boats travelling by who did not slow to minimize their wakes for these poor people.

In the Swinomish Channel, you definitely do not want to get on the wrong side of the channel markers!

Side note:  They clearly had things under control.  We made contact with them and no assistance was needed, (nor possible at the time).  They had the boat well anchored to prevent it drifting further in - awaiting the higher-high tide late that night.  Sure enough, when we passed by the next day they were gone.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Love, Honor, and Cherish

On July 5, 1953, Maynard Ernest Johnson and Ellen Marie Johnson (yes, that was her maiden name too) took the vows to begin their marriage.

And 60 years later, many family and friends came together to mirror that love.  Here are some scenes from the celebration, by photographers Amy Dahlhoff and Chelsey Johnson.

The happy couple

The original wedding party is still complete!  Arlon Johnson was Best Man, and Millie Horsman was Maid of Honor (her husband Neil is also seated)

The memory table
Cake for everyone!
Mom and Dad
Gary and wife Julie
(Royce died at birth)
(Gwen died in 2008)
Kristi and husband Al Thomason
Dean and wife Elizabeth
Amy and husband Mike Dahlhoff
With all the grandkids who were able to be there:
Chelsey and April Johnson, Megan Dahlhoff, Melissa Aiello, Amber Stowe,  and Adam, Ethan, Aaron, Austin, and Jacob, who are all Johnsons
All of my nephews gathered to sing 'The Wedding Song' for their grandparents and guests

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cost to Cruise - June 2013

Soooo late:  Kristi and I have been back in Minnesota for her folks 60th anniversary, and we just are getting back into the Boating Life.  And wow, I know 'back at the farm' it is a small town, but without exception we got the "Oh, you are the Boat people".   Famous in Storden!

OK, to the costs.  June was a bit of a mix, a bit of Canada, and a mix of us spending several days in Friday harbor were we not only went to the favorite haunting grounds, but also stocked up A LOT on things we could not find in Canada:  Van Camp Pork'N'Beans, Ground Sausage, Wine under $10 that was actually drinkable, Scotts Single Ply TP (and I still worry that 3x 12-packs might be cutting it thin, Kristi gives me the eye..)  Kristi had a final follow up for her eye's (they are looking great, both says the Doc and I).  We picked up a steel propane tank to replace one of our 'You are carrying a bomb' composite LiteCylinder tanks (will replace the other once we empty it), and we turned on the Verizon MiFi (a bit of double billing for a few weeks between Verizon and Telus).  So, without any more build up (err, excuses), there is June:

Solar is up on its legs with 162Ah/day (we did not purchase any shore power while parking the boat during our trip back to Minnesota), and with that the 18 hours on the Generator is a bit surprising.   I chalk it up to that  oh-so-easy start button now on the dash.  It just to easy to flip it when doing Laundry and then let the generator continue to run topping off the batteries it a slow idle...   As justification: I know the batteries are SO much happier getting a FULL charge as opposed to the cruiser typical 80% topping off...

In the end June was not too bad.  But hold onto your hats for July: we topped off the fuel tanks before heading back to Canada.  And as you can see, we put a lot of miles on the main engine in June...

Monday, July 8, 2013

Me and Micah

It was fun to spend two days with Micah before we headed to MN for MORE family fun!  It was great to just have time to sit and TALK.  He's really very interesting.

Translation of Micah's t-shirt:  'Ferrous' Wheel.  Yes, he had to explain it to me. (But I knew it had something to do with iron)

Monday, July 1, 2013

Microship Launch

Finally, here are photos from the Microship launch we participated in last Wednesday.  This is a project of Steven Roberts, and you can read more about him and his projects at

We were running late, so we missed the very beginning of this journey.  But we intercepted the parade near Market Place.  Even though it was mid-week, I think it was very wise to avoid Spring Street!

Curiosity was generated the whole way!  This tough guy had his Harley jacket on.  

Steve walked backwards the whole way, steering with the handle, and applying brakes with muscle.

Down the hill and past the Hungry Clam, we can see the water now!

Down the main dock and to the crane!

'Wings' folded down, wheels retracted, sling and guidelines attached....

... and UP she goes!

Al is ready to intercept.

She floats!

And Al takes her away to a low dock where the mast can be stepped.

Iwo Jima was mentioned during this process

Look at that grin!

She REALLY looks like a microship next to Elwha.

Around the breakwater

And to her new home!