Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Miramontes Family Visit, Memorial Day Weekend 2015

Daughter Casey and her family visited us in the south sound three years ago.  The kids have grown a LOT since then.  We revisited the same stops, McMicken and Hope Islands.  Both are Washington State Parks and have lots of opportunity for exercise and sealife encounters.

But first, of course, everyone gets a turn to 'drive the boat'!  All three kids needed a pillow to sit on, and still could barely see where we were going.

Milo will be 5 in three months

Evan is twice as old as the last time he was in this area.

Madalyn is very good at interpreting what she sees on the chart plotter and steering accordingly.  She also checked out every hat on the hooks.  I think this was her favorite.

We dubbed this 'The Dinosaur' the last time we were all together here.

Obligatory rock throwing

Casey is interested in the crabs

This is the first time we find Hermit Crabs!  They are TEENY!



Casey and Richard having fun

Richard heads off on a hike with the kids.

Back on the boat, the kids occupy themselves with a game that includes ringing the bell as softly as they can,

'driving the boat'

and then running inside to take off their lifejackets and putting them back on as fast as they can, called 'putting on the Gumby Suits', after Al had brought up one of our survival suits and zipping Madalyn into it.

It is sure fun to have visitors like this.  

But now Grammie and Papa need a few days of rest and relaxation.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Improving DC Generator Efficiency - selecting the alternator

Representative alternator RPM vs. Efficiency graph
We use our DC generator a lot**, 200+ hours a year.  As such, any improvement in efficiency will be well rewarded. For common alternators it is perhaps a little known fact that they are most effective towards the bottom of their RPM range.  That may not be the highest output, but it is the most efficient.   Look at the graph on the right - peak efficiency (55%) occurs just as the alternator is starting to provide output at around 1500RPMs with perhaps 60A.  A long ways away from max output (110A / 6000+ RPMS), but by that point efficiency has dropped to around 42%

Last winter I changed out the 130A Leece Neville alternator (2700 series) on our Kubota DC generator ( LINK ) for a 200A very large frame (4800 series) one.  I also adjusted the drive pulley ratio from 2.5:1 down to 1:1.  Over the past couple of weeks I have been doing trial runs.

By using EGT as a proxy for engine load at a given RPM (very reasonable for Diesel engines BTW) I was able to adjust the parameters in the integrated DC generator controller ( LINK ),  slowly increasing output of the alternator until I arrived at an equivalent load on the Kubota motor.

As a baseline using the 130A alternator I recorded the following:
  •    Alt:          135A using 2.5:1 drive ratio
  •    RPM:     2,550
  •    EGT:         943f
  •    Output: 1,610W
  •    Efficiency:  39%

(Using the Kubota spec sheet value of 5.6HP continuous at 2600 RPMs and 746W/HP gives me an assumed 4,178W output from the Kubota engine.   Comparing the 1,610W delivered by the alternator gets a calculated 'efficiency' of 39%)

Swapping out the larger Alternator and changing the drive ratio, I adjusted the controller parameters to reflect the new configuration.  I then  increased loading until the EGT was back up in the 940f range, indicating the engine loading / HP being produced is the same now as when driving the 130A alternator.   I now get:
  •    Alt:            200A using 1:1 drive ratio
  •    RPM:        2,580
  •    EGT:          944f
  •    Output:   1,920W
  •    Efficiency:   46%

Results of the slow-turning alternator?   A 7% increase in overall system efficiency, and a 19% increase in alternator output.  Or said another way: a 19% reduction in run time while consuming 7% less fuel to boot! 

Well worth the change out.  Next I might try to use one of the Desno "Hairpin" Alternators and see what more I can gain out of that.

** Running the Generator a lot:   Well, 200 hours a year might not seem like much, esp to those who need to run their AC generator every day.  I suspect this is a function of the DC concept of our boat, and that while running our generator it is working at peak efficiency and peak load, not running under a very light load.

And a final comment:  Yes this now has a 200A alternator, but it is in no way able to deliver 200A; at least not without damaging the engine.   The web is full of stories of these small Kubota engines being overloaded and destroyed due to overloading.  At 1,920W I was delivering 140A while operating a very large 35lb alternator at its most efficient point.  Be aware - most setups I have seen should not be trying to output more than 120A max..  (And I may back off to 900f as an EGT target)

Arg - Improvements!

Percival Landing
Wonderful place to visit
(Just not as long as before)
This year Kristi and I are heading to the South Sound, anyplace below the Tacoma Narrows.  We visited this area once before and enjoyed it.  One of our 'anchor stops' was in Olympia at Percival Landing.  Smack center in Downtown, we had easy access to groceries, the capital, coffee shops, repair facilities, restaurants, open air markets -- all that a small city provided.  During our last time there we would come in and stay 3-4 days at a stretch enjoying the local shops.

Well - while googling up to see if perhaps there was a major boating event at Percival Landing this holiday weekend (We are planning on picking up a boat load of Grand Kids and parents for the weekend) I noted that the city of Olympia has made some improvements to Percival Landing - adding power and water to the docks.  Perhaps nice, but not needed for us.  And of course, with that came a price increase.  A 3x price increase.   There is one section of docks without the power/water access, it too has an 80% price increase.

OK, here it is:   I am not sure why cities with local access docks feel it is necessary to compete with larger marinas for transient moorage, providing power and water and setting their rates at 'market' value, or perhaps a bit under.  Swantown is just around the corner - lots of space, power, water, great destination for clubs and such who need those resources.

And here is my point:  I am sure that in the end the folks at Olympia will look at the overall picture and find their 'Percival Landings' revenue has increased some - but perhaps what will not be noted is the community impact.  I know in our case, we likely will spend the same amount for moorage at Olympia now - but given the 2-3x price increase, stay a much shorter time.  66% less coffee shops, less visiting the Capital, less meals out.  66% less spending in the community.  We will get in, provision, and get out.

Yes, we are one boat, and no I do not know their overall usage demographics.  But for communities out there with public access docks I have a question:  "When making these types of plans, how much do you consider the access to the community?  How much do you consider the need to replicate dockage already provided by private (or semi-private) marinas?  What is the balance between optimizing revenue for the dock itself vs. encouraging access to the community?"

I had been looking forward to repeating our time in the South Sound, but to be honest:  Cutting our time wandering around Olympia by 66% will greatly impact that - too bad.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Park Hosting, Week 2

More Blake Island moments:

This is a rare photo, which may not be apparent, so I will tell you why.  We have lot of pictures of Viking Star, and we have lots of pictures now of the USS John C. Stennis, aircraft carrier.  But this is the ONLY photo we have where you can see both at once.  That morning, the Stennis carried my son home from an extended underway.

Mr. Hissy and his mate gazing toward Seattle in the morning sunshine.  

The best 'eagles in flight' photo I've gotten so far...

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day

I am a mother, stepmother, grandmother.  My two daughters are mothers themselves.  I often do not get to spend time WITH my children on Mother's Day.  But I do get phone calls and messages.

I've been thinking about this year's Mother's Day for quite a while now.  It is one of 'those' firsts -- the first Mother's Day since my Mom died.

I am very grateful to my niece April for taking this picture on Mother's Day last May.  It was a rare day.  Since I grew up and moved to the Pacific Northwest, I didn't get to spend Mother's Days WITH my Mom.  I was one of those many making a phone call, often waiting for an open line, since Mother's Day logs the most phone calls of the year.

This year, my call won't go through the normal channels.

Many tears are still being shed at the loss of my dear Mom, and many at the thought of this first Mother's Day without her here, and at the thought that I am so grateful for the one we got to spend together last year.

As a tribute to her, I want to share with you the words my niece Chelsey spoke at Mom's funeral. Chelsey has a way with words, and these were very memorable, as were those she spoke for Dad's funeral, just four weeks before Mom's.  Chelsey shared her stories electronically with us, and added them in a Shutterfly photograph book she put together.  But I never read the words again until I was preparing this blog post.  With Chelsey's permission, I share them with  you here:

“I remember when we were nose-to-nose,” I can still hear Grandma saying those words to me years ago. 

Like all of her grandkids, it didn’t take long for me to grow to be nose-to-nose with Grandma. I remember the days when each Grandkid took a turn standing back-to-back or nose-to-nose with her. It was a right of passage to grow past Grandma in height and she would be the first one to show her congratulations with a prideful smile. 
Standing just over five feet tall, I called her my “little Grandma” during my toddler years. As I reflect back to the title of “little Grandma” that I gave her, I smile at how it fits her in so many ways. She was a little lady who did the little things, liked the little things, and will be remembered for the little things. 

As I reflect on the 23 years I knew my Grandma, one thing I have realized is that she did so many “little things.” As an oldest child, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a teacher, a 4-H leader and a neighbor, Grandma was used to doing the “little things” that needed to be done.  

For as long as I can remember, at every family gathering, we would arrive at her home and find Grandma scurrying around her kitchen, making sure to finish all of the “little things” that needed to be finished before a meal could be served. And of course, she always made sure to be at the sink washing the dishes once we were done eating, even when some of these tasks became more difficult with her health in later years. 

When I was younger, I remember helping my Grandma and my Mom freeze sweet corn each year. Grandma was always responsible for picking the little strands of silks off of the sweet corn. Anyone who has done this task knows that it takes a lot of patience. However, Grandma always did this task with diligence and without a complaint. We missed her this year since that task became my job. 

Of course, not all of the “little things” she did were limited to helping her family. Grandma made a difference in the lives of many through her years of service to the Western Community Action “Economy Store” in Storden. I remember her morning routine when I would visit her during weekdays. We would walk to the little post office in Storden and check her mail. Then we would walk to the old school in Storden and unlock the store. Sometimes she would let me shop there through what seemed like a treasure trove of toys and dress-up clothes. 

Little did I know, that her involvement with this store meant coordinating many volunteers to work there and provide furniture, clothing, and toys to hundreds of families in need. Despite her impact, Grandma would have simply shrugged her shoulders, smiled and said it was the least she could do. She thrived on helping people and doing the little things that made such a big difference. 

Grandma looked out for the little things too with the various pets and especially cats that she cared for over the years. Each of her cats would be spoiled with love. She even made sure to leave food outside for the stray cats in Storden. Grandma also always had several bird feeders out and she always impressed us with her knowledge of each kind of bird. In her days on the dairy farm, she looked out for and cared for the little creatures too, feeding the chickens and the baby calves. 

She also took care of the little things of the land, as of course those who knew her, knew that she had a love for vegetable gardening and flowering gardening. 

I admired the relationship that Grandma and Grandpa shared. One “little thing” she did that moved me was when she made sure to bring Grandpa a little Hershey’s kiss for his Trick or Treat when Grandpa was in the hospital last Halloween. 

One thing I also learned about my Grandma was that she liked the “little things.” However, this didn’t mean that she only liked those things a little. She found great pleasure from the simple things in her life and those things never stopped bringing her joy. 

She loved the little town of Storden, the little Amo Methodist Church in the country, her little red house, and the little dairy farm just outside of town. Grandpa never needed to worry about taking her out for a fancy dinner, because Grandma would be more than happy to have a Hardees roast beef or the daily special at the Shady Drive Inn. 

Of course she loved all of her little grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Even once they were no longer little and didn’t stand nose-to-nose with Grandma, she loved hearing about everything they were up to. She took advantage of any opportunity to share her most recent picture of a grandchild or great grandchild—I have heard that the hair dresser, doctor, waitress at the Drive Inn, nurses at the Good Samaritan Home, and anyone else Grandma frequently ran into, knows how much pride she had for her family. 

It was the “little things” that made her laugh too. From something cute her grandkids would say, to teasing her cats with a toy or treat, it didn’t take much to make Grandma chuckle. 

She was a special little lady. It will be the little things about her, that we will remember most. Her Grandchildren will treasure the little things she made them such as clothing for dolls, knitted sweaters, baby blankets and pillow quilts. We all remember her little beanie baby collection and even the beanie baby bears she made for each Grandchild. The little letters and gifts Grandma sent to her Grandkids while they were living states or countries away from her and the letters she sent to some of her Grandkids while they were at 4-H camp are another little thing we will all treasure.

Christmas and Thanksgiving won’t be the same without her delicious rolls that no one can make quite like her. The grandchildren would sometimes even fight over the last roll. And, every time we have Kool Aid it will bring back the memory of drinking it at Grandma’s house. 

We will treasure the little things she taught us too. From piano duets, to knitting and crocheting, she passed a little piece of herself down to her Grandkids. 

Of course we will remember the little things she had. Her little Shirley temple doll was special and it was always a privilege to play with it with her in her room. And her little box of fancy silverware that she brought out for special gatherings. Her little walking stick that she always joked that she needed to find a parking spot for before she sat down and her little purse. It proved to be a challenge to find a purse that had just the right length of straps to carry with her cane, but April was successful at finding one after be given the purse criteria by Grandpa and then spending many hours of shopping to find one a few Christmases ago. 

Of course, not everything about Grandma was little. She had more than a little collection of books. In fact she had shelves and shelves, piles upon piles and bags upon bags of books. You could never leave her house without at least a bag full of reading material to take home. Her love for reading is another trait she passed down to many of her Grandchildren. 

She had big stories too. Stories that she told often of a tornado that hit her childhood farm, of the National 4-H Conservation trip that she won, of her first day at Blue Earth Public School, of her first day of work as a secretary for the Frost REA the Monday after she graduated high school, of where she was on VE day, and of her first time meeting Maynard at a bowling gathering with friends. She also told stories of her time living in Washington State. She always said that someone told her that if she worked in Washington for a year, she would never want to leave, so she made sure to only stay there for 10 months. 

Most of all, she was a little lady with a big heart. She took great pride in being the first generation of a three-generation 4-H family. Grandma couldn’t be a better example of someone who has pledged her head for clearer thinking, her heart for greater loyalty, her health for better living, and her hands for larger service. 

My “little Grandma” has a special place in my heart and the hearts of those she knew. She has made me realize how important it is to do the little things and enjoy the little things. She spent her whole life caring for the things God created for her, and I take great comfort in knowing that heaven gained such a special caretaker. 

Needlework that hung on the fridge

Friday, May 8, 2015

Micah Returns!

I've been keeping my eyes 'up the Sound' for a couple of days now.  I knew they were headed home.

I know they like to go through the passage at high tide, so I was watching carefully last night around sunset.  And this morning, the next high tide.  I thought I could hear a low rumble, and looked upsound and thought I could see a tower.  So I got my binoculars, and sure enough -- there was a big flat area with that tower.

I quickly went below and told Al 'It's coming!'  We got dressed and I grabbed the camera and headed ashore.

The first sighting!

Making the starboard turn

Another starboard turn, into Rich Passage

When she rounded the point and was out of sight, we returned to the boat to prepare this post.  I sent Micah a text letting him know we had been watching.  And he replied!  He had been in a hangar bay for a short time of the arrival.  We HAD waved, just in case, but he was on the starboard side.  PERHAPS at the time of the last photo.

I am thankful I was able to see my son come home!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Park Hosting

From Poulsbo we went directly to Blake Island State Park, where we will spend two weeks being volunteer hosts.  It is one of our favorite places in all of Puget Sound.


Approaching Blake Island, across the sparkling water, with Mt. Rainier peeking out from his blanket.

Yes.  An eagle, in what I call 'the eagle tree'.

With the moon rising above that same eagle.

These two greet the morning sun with a duet.

There is a nesting pair of killdeer.  Part of our hosting duties include ensuring that visitors to the park mind the warning tape.  Mid-week, we have 'boatloads' of school children on field trips.

Saturday night there was even a Prom.  Their boat arrives at sunset.

A watchful totem.

Viking Star can peek across to Seattle, at high tide.

After the parade, we move to the east side of the island to watch the near-full moon rise. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cascadia Sail-In, Poulsbo WA

The last weekend in April we attended the Cascadia Sailing Association's gathering at Poulsbo WA. There was plenty of good food, drink, and socializing.  There were four educational presentations by members, with lots of information and photographs.

Though the focus was on cruising the northern waters, and this year we are going to the south Sound, we do plan to eventually go north, and it's nice to hear from others' experience.

Now.  You may wonder at the 'Coffee Shops' label for this post.  Fellow blogger Hira suggested some time ago that I should post reviews of shops we had visited.  So here is the first we have LOVED in quite some time.

Hot Shots Java Coffeehouse in Poulsbo is wonderful!  Though the gentleman barista produced the prettiest latte, the flavor was consistently excellent on each of our three visits, with other baristas brewing on other days.

There were food offerings available, though MOST customers appear to stop at Sluys Bakery, just across the street, first and bring their pastries to the coffeehouse.  It wasn't a problem.  So that's what we did too.

There was a nice flow of traffic, with plenty of seating, at various-sized tables.  We saw single people, and groups (one time 3 tables pushed together for a dozen or so people, who politely re-set them when they were finished).

They are definitely on the way to continuing their winning streak!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Caribbean Cruising

No post in April?!?!?!?!?  What happened?  We were out of the country having too much fun!

We have cruised numerous times with our friends Rick and Christie, both on Viking Star and on charter sailing trips.  (They also generously host us when we go to the Portland area for the holidays.) The four of us, along with three more people who have previously cruised with Rick and Christie and have worked for the same insurance company, all met up at Road Town on Tortola, the British Virgin Islands!

Al and I arrived on St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands, a day ahead and enjoyed exploring.  We checked out a vendors market, had lunch at an Italian cafe, purchased sunscreen, and took a 3-hour nap.  We watched some TV, and then slept all night!  The next morning, this was the view from the dining room of the hotel.  Just beyond the red roofs is the ferry dock we depart from in the afternoon.

It is dark when we arrive at The Moorings at Road Town, Tortola, British Virgin Islands.  Seeing that Captain Rick is in a skipper's meeting, we find dinner on our own.  The whole group meets at the boat, cabins are assigned, provisions are stowed, and eventually we all settle in for our first night on the boat.

Next morning, we are cleared and on our way!  Rick is at the helm, and Al has a new role -- deckhand!

First stop is The Indians for some snorkeling.  I am the only one of the group who has NEVER been snorkeling before.  I am a little hesitant when doing something new, so I am grateful that Patty stayed with me and encouraged me the whole time.  It took a while to work up to it, but I WAS able to relax and enjoy the view, seeing a school of fish pass below me.

We then moved on to catch a mooring buoy at The Bight, Norman Island.  Fine dining for the trip was provided by Woody, but Rick and Christie also did some cooking.  Well after dark, we took the dinghy to Willie T's, a barge bar in the bay for painkillers and dancing!  And the first time running into the couple who had been in the custom's line behind us.  We were the last two couples to clear, so we'd had quite a while to chat and become acquainted.

Woody had read about Norman Island and learned that the Pirate Blackbeard had used it as a lookout! The majority of the group hiked to the crest.

Christie-C, Rick, Kristi-K, Woody, Amy
After our adventure, we head out for a bit of sailing.  By the time we get to Cooper Island, a few in the company were turning green (not me or Al -- it hasn't happened to us, yet) and were glad to get off the boat for conch fritters and more painkillers.

Cooper Island
Day Three, the wind is up, and so are the waves, 4-6 feet and a bit choppy.  But we sail north into the Atlantic Ocean a bit, heeling and tossing, which has me hanging on like a crazed monkey before returning to the tiny island of Marina Cay.  Woody tells me he thinks that's funny since we live on a boat.  I answer, 'It's NOT a sailboat!'

There is a bar atop the island, with a singer.  A group from California accost us and force us to join their conga line before we escape and enjoy this view.

Marina Cay
Day Four, we cover a bit of the 'ground' we did the previous day, but veer more east to the Virgin Gorda Sound, and Leverick Bay.  Groceries, shopping, more conch fritters, fries, painkillers etc.

I call these 'The Painted Ladies of Virgin Gorda'
The next day we have, in MY opinion, the best day of sailing -- peaceful and calm and with the wind. And we stop at Cane Garden Bay on Tortola.  Paradise.  We stay for two days.

Finally a photo that shows the color and clarity of the water!

Taxi tour, Sage Mt.

Cane Garden Bay, from the taxi
From Cane Garden Bay we sail west past Jost Van Dyke and White Bay, then turn south until Rick - who has been watching the clouds darken behind us - cuts the engine and we motor around the corner of Tortola to Soper's Hole.  And we have the heaviest rain of the trip, but we are at a mooring buoy.

The next morning we sail as long as we can, around to the south side of Tortola and back around to Road Town, back to The Moorings.  The boat is checked in quickly and we are shuttled to the ferry dock for the fast ride to St. Thomas, and the villa for rest and relaxation .

The view below the deck

We had the upper room for two nights.  The rest of the group stayed another three.

We bid a fond farewell