This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Smoked Salmon

      It's been a while since I last used my smoker to smoke up some salmon. But I recently found a great deal on some commercially caught salmon from the local Lummi indian tribe. A local fish market had some pink salmon on sale for just a buck and a half a pound. It was already cleaned, filleted and cut up into chunk sizes perfect for smoking. It had already been frozen as well which is my preference for fish I want to smoke.
      So, after a recent run over to their shop to pick up about 20 pounds of fish, I brought it home and put it in our freezer waiting for a time when I could do the deed. Yesterday was the day.
     I knew I wanted to back off the saltiness of the brine I use so I looked for a new recipe. This one is a 4 to 1 brown sugar to kosher salt ratio and includes some fresh garlic. I mixed the combination into a bowl adding the minced garlic as I stirred it together. Then laying each piece of thawed out fish skin side down in the bottom of a plastic tub, I poured in enough of the brine mix to cover the filets. Another layer, skin side up this time, went in on top of the brine mix. And so it went until all the brine mix and filets were in the tub and covered with the mix.
      A placed a lid over the tub and placed it into the fridge out in the garage which has the space to hold the tub. It sits in there for about 6 hours. When it comes out there is a lot of liquid which has come out of the fish as it absorbs the salt and sugar flavors.
     Next, rinse off the brine mix by washing the filets under the fawcett. Then, lay out the filets on the racks which will go into the smoker. Let the fish sit out to air dry for up to 4 hours. Then they are ready to head into the smoker.
     Preparing the smoker means to clean it and all the parts that go into it carefully. Mine is an old electric model made by Masterbuilt. Interesting story as to how I came to own this smoker. I think I told it in a pervious blog entry.  Anyway, I am careful to keep the elctrical parts away from the cleaning process. Once done, I place a cup of wood chips in the pan. I use a variety of wood types--apple, hickory, cherry, there are lots to chose from and they all impart their own special flavors to the fish. My favorite is alder which is the traditional wood around here.
      I slide the racks of fish into the smoker and the bottom rack which has a pan of water and the pan with the wood chips. The wood shavings pan sits on top of the electric element and slowly begins tosmoke.  Some say you should soak the chips before putting them into the smoker but I don't think it really makes any difference.
     How long to keep the fish in the smoker depends on your personal taste in the donenessof the filets. Some like them more and others less cooked. Whatever your choice, set the smoker at about 225 to 250 degrees and keep an eye on it.
Generally, about 2-4 hours will get it done. Practice will let you know what works best for your particular taste.
     In the end, pull the racks and set them on a counter to cool. When cool, they are best sealed in air tight Seal-A-Meal type plastic. They will last much longer when you put the filets back in the freezer. 
      When serving the filets I like to set them out which crackers, cream cheese, capers and minced red onion. But it is fabulous just on top of a cracker by itself. Enjoy!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Sea Strainer...More to Follow

This is what the strainer look like new.
I spent about three hours on the Key of Sea this morning attempting to remove the little stainless steel pin that holds the base of the bronze bolt holding down one side of the lid of the strainer. After attempting several ways to remove the pin I elected to remove the entire sea strainer and take it down to Tri-County Diesel. I asked them to remove the pin and replace it with the new pin and bolt I had already purchased.

The strainer in the Key of Sea is made of several main parts. The very top is the lid (see one in the lower right of this article) Two wing nuts hold it in place. Just below it is the portion where two hoses are attached on either side bringing in water from the outside of the boat and the output hose sending the water towards the engine. Below that is a plastic cylinder which when operating is full of sea water. Inside it is a stainless steel basket which filters sea weed and other debris from the sea water. Finally, there is the base which holds the enitr assembly together with four long bolts. The lid and the top and bottom parts whee the plastic cylinder seat all have gaskets. The lid gasket is most important to keep an eye on as the lid is removed for inspection of the strainer basket quite often and then retightened. It is a good idea to keep a spare for each sea strainer on hand should the lid spring a leak.

After talking it over with the Tri-County folks I ordered all new gaskets so I could rebuild the strainer. When I'm done I will have replaced all three of the gaskets.

I also noticed that the ground wire was loose on the strainer so I will sand that connector and where it connects to the strainer and reattach it as I reassemble the strainer.

Parts of the strainer including the strainer basket,
the bronze bolt, pin and gaskets.
The parts will come in in a couple of days and then I should be able to re-install the unit.

Strainer lid with gasket.
As I suspected, the pin will have to be drilled out since it was too corroded to be able to remove. The pin is a curious little thing. About 1-inch long, it has a slit slit the length of it. Squeezing it with a small needle-nose plier should compress it enough to slide it into the holes on either side of the strainer. As it is slid in the bolt must be inserted into its path so the pin slides through the hole in the base of the bolt. Then the pin is squeezed again and slid the rest of the way into place. Removing the compression caused by the pliers allows the pin to expand enough to be immoveable.  Sounds easy enough except when corrosion has taken a toll and no amount of compression on the pin would allow it to move.

I figured, well, drill it out. Hmmm...not me. I could just visualize so many problems with doing that myself including having to purchase an entirely new sea strainer.

 For a few dollars I'd let a pro do the drilling. More to come...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sea Strainer Issue Solved...Temporarily!

We were half way through our August 2017 cruise to some south Salish Sea destinations. All had gone so smoothly. Real smoothly!

At the half way point I had decided to inspect the fluids in the engine room of the boat. We were in the Poulsbo marina right at the foot of the town. The oil, coolant, battery water and the sea strainers all needed checking. Pulling the starboard strainer's lid off I noticed it had very little caught in the cylindrical stainless steel basket inside. There seldom ever is. Afew tidbits of Eel Grass and some other goo. Nothing to worry about at all. Still, I had it open so I cleaned it out.

Reinserting the basket and replacing the lid, I tightened up the two wing nuts that held the lid tighly to the lower part of the strainer. As I twisted it a bit with my pliers to make sure it was seated tightly I felt the bolt give way. It had seperated at its base from the stainless steel rod that held it to the strainer. It was not something that can be fixed nor is it something that can bebroken and still run that engine. I later learned that those two wing nuts are meant to be tightened by hand only. Not with a wrench!

Without that bolt in place and tightened down there would be no sea water running through the starboard engine to help keep it cool. Plus, sea water would fill the bilge and we would eventually have a sinking problem.

What to do? Our friend and boating mentor, Mike McEvoy was one of our boating buddies on this trip and I asked him to take a look at the problem. He had two suggestions.

1. Send Leslie to the chandlery in town to try and find a replacement part. We handed her the broken bolt and off she went.

2. Mike suggested perhaps trying to tighten the liddown with either zip ties or some stainless steel wire he had. He crawled into the engine bay and ran some wire under the stainless steel rod that usually held the bolt in place and up through the hole in the lid the bolt usually ran through. Cinching it down tight and giving the wire a good twist, things were looking good. He also ran a couple of heavy duty zip ties through the same holes and cinched those as tight as possible.It looked good but we needed to start the engine and run it to make sure the strainer wouldn't leak under load.

I started the engine and we waited...and waited. No problems. I reved the engine up a few more RPMs and waited...and waited. Still no issues. Finally, I brought the engine up to about 2000 RPMs, the fastest I would probably need to run it on the return trip home. We waited and watched. Still no problems. Apparently the system doesn't operate under much pressure if any at all. It held with no leaking at all.

By this time Leslie had returned from the chandlery with the replacement parts. $20 got us the new bolt and stainless rod. We decided if the temporary fix held it would be better to wait to do the permanent fix in our home port where we could get our mechanic to fix it if we coldn't ourselves.

We kept an eye on the the sea strainer as we left town in the morning to see how it went underway.
As we traveled along, I checked every 45 minutes by opening the engine hatch and looking for any leaking. Nothing! After a few hours of this I began relying on the engine temp gauge instead and checking the engine compartment at the end of the day for any noticable leakage. Nothing. The bilge was as dry as it always is.

So, now we are home and tomorrow morning I will head down to the boat to replace the wire and zip ties with the new bolt. I think I have the task figured out as I have given it a lot of thought. We'll see.
More to follow!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

New Raw Water Pumps & Infrared Thermometer

Three boat bucks* later our raw water pumps have been replaced after they began to show serious signs of corrosion and leaking salt water into the engine room. Not serious nor was it something that had to be done at the risk of a sinking boat or even an emminent breakdown, but better to do it now than to be hours or days away from home and have one or both them fail. Had they failed it could have created a more catastrophic engine failure due to over heating or salt water accessing parts of the engines it is not meant to get to. So, we had them replaced. It required replacing the coolant as well which isn't cheap.
Impeller for the pump
Impeller housing with worn impeller
Raw water pump on the right with the
round cover housing the impeller
We took the pumps off and had the mechanic look inside them to see if it would be at all cost effective to replace certain parts and slap them back on but in the end the labor and parts combined to make it more cost effective and practical in the long run to just get new ones. At $600 a piece it was no small job though the actual installation was fairly inexpensive. Add to that new coolant and you have one pricey repair. Fortunately, the new pumps came with new impellers so that saved us about $75 and our mechanic was able to locate new pumps from a source in the midwest for $100 cheaper each saving another chunk of change. The impeller helps move the salt water (raw sea water) through the engine to keep it operating cooler. They should be replaced annually.

My mechanic asked if I owned an infrared laser thermometer? No! Well, he suggested, you should get one and he proceeded to show me where I should periodically take temperature readings on the engines to make sure they were operating at optimal temperatures, about 160 degrees + or -. So I ordered one from Amazon and it arrived yesterday. It is rated as one of the top 10 thermometers of its type (#2 in the review). So, the next time the engines are running I will be taking their temperature and keepng a running record of the engine temps over time. Luckily I just point and shoot. No rectal probing!
 It would seem that I carry so much electronic gear on the boat that it is crazy! I am forever hauling the gear home with me after cruises so that it doesn't sit unattended on the boat. 

*1 boat buck=$1,000 (Yikes!)

Monday, June 26, 2017

New Comm Headsets Change Our Lives

Cruising out in the Gulf Islands of Bristish Columbia, we noticed friends of ours using headsets to communicate with each other while anchoring and docking. We inquired, they let us try them on and we were immendiately sold on them.

As soon as we arrived home and coincidentally right around Father's Day, I ordered a pair of these headsets.

They arrived just in time for our next cruise, a short jaunt south to Chuckanut Bay. We tried them right off while exiting our slip, a task that can be a bit tricky due to the location. We'd never done it better or with less stress.

We used them again while anchoring, hauling up the anchor at the end of the day and finally, while entering our slip upon our return to port.

What are these amazing devices that have changed our lives? They are stereo headphones with a microphone built in and a bluetooth connection. The Sena Model SHP10s fit snuggly around your neck and over each ear. We were able to speak in quiet tones that helped cut down on the tenseness our voices usually have in these sometimes stressful situations. No stress, no raised voices, no hollering or yelling. The lack of all this made these manuevers work so much better. So much so that we didn't mind the $300 price tag for the pair (Amazon).

The signal was clear as a bell, no delay as is the case with the cheap walkie talkies with headsets on the VOX setting we've used in the past. The Senas have no delay, no static. Simply amazing. The downside, if you depend on your walkie talkies to communicate at all, is that the Senas only have about a 1,000 yard range. But that is more than enough for our onboard needs.

They charge quickly on a USB plug and are very easy to activate. They get my highest rating for boat gear.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Garden Thoughts

It's been a very long time since I spoke of my back yard garden, mostly because I've been so preoccupied by the needs of our boat. But recently I have taken notice of the garden again, especially the area I call Evie's Secret Garden. I built this area of the garden especially for my grandchildren, should I have any. With Evie's arrival and now being the ripe old age of 2, I thought it might be a good time to take back that special space from the weeds and blackberries that have invaded it.

It is bounded on one side that blocks your view from most of the rest of the yard, by a 7 foot tall English privet hedge I planted with her in mind. You enter the space through an arbor which stands between two hazlenut trees. Inside the garden area are two raised beds, borders with a variety of flowers, blueberries, and fruit trees including three apple varieties and an Italian Plum.

My first task was to weed the two raised beds which had primarily been taken over by dandylions. They were doing very well, many growing as tall as two feet! Out they went.

In their place Evie and I have planted carrots, Walla Walla onions, snap peas, and lettuces of all types. The carrots were seeds and they are beginning to pop up making a nice row of carrot tops. All else was planted from starts I purchased at the store.

Evie was particularly taken with the lettuces which I showed her could be eaten if a piece was carefully torn off. She thought that was pretty cool. We got a photo from her mum and dad the next week showing Evie eating her very first salad at home. I'd like to think I had a little something to do with her enjoyment of her first green salad.

I found, through a source on Facebook, that the use of white vinegar on weeds is deadly. Good news for me since I just won't use Round Up any more due to it's being so poisonous. Certainly not something I want Evie exposed to. So I plan to go out with a sprayer and attack the weeds that are in gravel areas adjacent to the raised beeds and see what effect it has on those pests. I'll get back to you on that.

Meantime, we have about completed preparations for departure on our first cruise of the summer, this one to Canadian waters. So I'll be away a while. You didn't think I could write without mentioning something about the boat, did you?


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Weekend Aboard The Key of Sea

     Last weekend we headed off to spend a weekend aboard the Key of Sea. We had no plans to take her out beyond the break water. Just a quiet time aboard and a chance to do some much needed cleaning, We brought the pressure washer down and a dock cart full of provisions for a planned Friday night dock tail party with a few of our boating buddies.
A dock cart at Squalicum Marina
     Leslie had to spend part of the day at school so I was left alone knowing I had to get the pressure washing done. My trusty Craftsman pressure washer is about 10 years old now and I use it to pressure wash my boat and the decks at home once a year. Then it gets put away in the back of the barn until the next year. Year after year I pull it out, fuel it up and pull start it. Every year, after a few pulls it kicks right over. I don't know why I got so lucky with this machine. I went through two Craftsman riding mowers in 10 years which literally fell apart, before I finally broke down and bought a John Deere which has given me no trouble at all in the past 5 years I've owned it.
My Craftsman power washer
     With the power washer roaring to life and having switched out the nozzle on the wand to use the one with the least amount of pressure, I headed for the fly bridge up top where I began cleaning the deck and other fiberglass parts of the boat. It easily eliminated the green mold and other crud off leaving the appearance of a fairly clean boat. Of course, I knew it was far from clean but at least the first and worst layers were slowly washing away. I worked my way down the sides and bow and stern until I was knocking down the seaweed growth off the waterline.
      Much of the rest of the initial washing was handled by the boat brush. This long handled brush gets dipped into a bucket of soapy water. I have two different kinds of this liquid soap. One is pink and other orange. If I want to wash off the wax from previous years I use the orange one. It is harsher. If I'd like to save the current wax and only wash the salt off, I use the pink. The first wash of the year needs that harsher stuff. So a few ounces of it in the bottom of the bucket filled with cold water, I dip the brush and start in scrubbing. 
     Now the boat was beginning to take on the look of  a clean boat. But there was still a long way to go and it wasn't going to happen this weekend--WAXING!
    The options here are many and everyone has an opinion on which wax product to use and what to use before and after. Depending on the overall condition of your boat, this process can take many steps. My boat is older and the finish hasn't always been maintained with the best care. 
    There are so many products on the market and as many opinions on which is the best as there are boaters it would seem. My choice was based on a bit of the product I was given by local boat yard, SeaView North which is where my boat goes when it needs work on the bottom, repainting, etc. I used a bit of the 3M Marine Cleaner & Wax and was astonished at the ease of use and finish quality the product produced on the boat. The down side is that it is expensive.
     SeaView North is my boatyard of choice when I pull the boat every couple of years. They have excellent workers and often have deals that help lower the price of pulling it out or on a paint package. Anyway, I've been impressed by their work so I keep going back.
SeaView North's TravelLift 
     The process of taking a big boat out of the water is unnerving but interesting to watch. SeaView has two TravelLifts that literally lift or "haul out" the boat and set it on "the hard" which is the term for setting the boat on the ground. It doesn't actually ever
Boat on blocks
touch the ground. It is set up on blocks.

     This next weekend will be the date to begin the waxing project provided the weather cooperates which is any one's guess this time of year.

King-sized bed on a Bayliner 32
    In the meantime, last weekend we managed to pull off a great dock tail party with probably 15-20 people stopping by. We had a great spread of appies and plenty to drink. Everyone wanted to sit out in the sunshine which worked pretty well until the sun got lower in the sky and forced us inside. The party was done by around 9 and after cleaning up we headed off to bed.
Master Stateroom's lockers & sink
    Bed on the Key of Sea is a king-sized bed, not a commonly found item on most boats of any size but certainly not in ones in the length of our boat. It is a remarkable use of space not found on any other boat our size that I am aware of. The trade off is its location and the feeling of claustrophobia it gives some folks. The Master's Stateroom, as it is called, is located beneath the salon. A three step ladder leads down to the stateroom where there is enough space to stand and dress. Clothing lockers and drawers are located next to the bed along with a sink and locker behind a large mirror where we keep personal items. To get into the bed you have to bend over and sort of crawl in. I actually roll over into m corner of the space since Leslie likes to sleep next to the exit. I love the coziness of my little corner.
     You can sit up at the head end of the bed quite easily and read. Two port lights can be opened just above your head for fresh air and their is a large window to the stern end of the room that slides open for even more fresh air. The bed space is the opposite form of the salon above so your knees have less space and your feet only about 18-24 inches. Quite cozy. Too cozy for some folks. We have friends who chose not to purchase the 32 Bayliner due to the claustrophobic feeling they got when down below.
Web Locker
     We've added 2-inches of memory foam to our bed which has made it very comfortable indeed.
     The rest of our weekend was comfy, cozy. Naps, a walk down to the Web Locker for breakfast, reading and puttering. 
     Sunday afternoon we decided to head home. So, after cleaning up one last time and loading up the dock cart, we headed up the ramp to load the car. A shower at home and back in our own bed felt great. We finished the weekend with the newest episodes of Call The Midwife and Home Fires before heading off to bed.