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

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.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Easter With Evie

Easter morning with Evie was anything but a sure thing. She had been feeling sick for several days, throwing up, not eating and a general malaise.

We drove down to Seattle anyway because, well, we just miss opportunities to go see her and her mommy and daddy.

After stopping at a couple of boating stores, we headed over to the house about 3:00. Evie and her parents were all taking naps so we let ourselves in and sat, quietly waiting for them to stir.

Evie is always slow to wake up. She needs some quiet time to shake off sleep. She's also been a little shy around us when we first arrive the last few times. I always wonder what she must think happens to us when we go away and then reappear every few weeks.

Her mom and dad decided to go out to dinner that night so we took care of Evie. By the time they left, Evie was fine and waved bye to them happily. We had a great time playing before it was bedtime. She went down easily, being very tired.

But in the middle of the night she began to cry. We figured her mom and dad would come down and take care of her, but as time went on no one came downstairs. We finally went into her room when we heard her say, Clean UP! We gathered her up to find her covered in vomit and very unhappy. We comforted her and got her into new jammies. I stripped her bed and remade it. We had also gone upstairs and knocked on mom and dad's door to wake them. Turns out the baby monitor had pooped out and they didn't hear all the commotion downstairs. They got Evie settled down only to have her throw up again. It was a long night for all of us.

Easter Sunday, dad had gone off to play the organ at church. I'm sure he was in no mood for the gig but he had to go. The rest of us were able to sleep in a bit late. Evie woke up a bit more out of it than usual but soon snapped out of it and seemed more herself.

When dad got home we handed Evie her Easter basket with a puzzle, some Peeps and a Cadbury egg.

Mom went out to hide the decorated Easter eggs in the back garden. Evie had a ball finding the eggs and then hid them herself and fund most of them before looking interest and going in the house. Mom and dad prepared a delicious Sunday roast, a tradition in their home and in most British homes--roast beef, gravy, Yorkshire puddings and parsnips. Yum!

We decided to stay the night again in case Evie needed to stay home the next day, normally a school day. As it turned out she was feeling pretty good though still not eating much. So we said our good byes and waved as she and her mom drove off to school.

We headed home stopping off at a favorite breakfast spot before heading home. Beth's Cafe has been open since 1954, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, and it looks like it. It is truly a "joint" in the old style use of the word. Famous for their 12-egg omelettes and all you can eat hash browns, this is a place you have to try when out on Aurora (old Hiway 99) Avenue.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

From My Window

I live on a mountain, really a hill, in northwest Washington state. A hill that looks out towards the Cascade Mountains and Mount Baker.

As I sit writing these entires, I sit at my desk overlooking tall fir trees swaying in the spring breeze. The quiet street below is lined with lovely flowering plum trees covered withpink blossoms dancing in the wind like pink popcorn popping as they dance trying to hold onto their blossoms for a few more fleeting days each spring. Then there are the fluffy dark clouds scudding by bringing the threat of rain and, all too often, the reality of rain so common here. There are the promising blue openings that tease us with a bit of sunshine only to disappear when more clouds glide into view.

Other days the clouds sink in amongst the trees like puffy bits of fluffy cotton balls, clinging for dear life and painting a stunning view I never get tired of.

There is nothing quite so beautiful and or as eerie sounding as the wind blowing through pine trees. You know what I mean if you've ever heard that distinctive sound that makes the hair on tha back of my neck stand up, especially on the darkest night or when the full moon peeks from behind a cloud or between the branches.

Not everyone is happy living up
here in the northwest. Too, rainy, too, cloudy, too, cold too much of the time. But this place became home as soon as I laid eyes on it some 20 years ago. No other place has the same peaceful, fulfilling calming effect on my soul. I have traveled to six continents and explored many countries on most of those unique, far off places. Many of them have had a deep and emotional impact on me as I explored them and met their people. Then there is your home town. I spent my growing up years in central California. They say you are always drawn back to home. That there is no place like home.

But here is home for me and no other place has the same draw for me. When I leave it, I am always glad when I return, can't wait to return. In fact, I have no deep interest in traveling to other places that take me far from here, as I felt most of my life.

Now, it is my quiet home on the hill and the comfort of my Key of Sea sitting in the harbor to the west, that give me the most satisfaction. For those who can't wait to head off to warmer climates, Florida or Arizona, winter birding in the warm southern sunshine, I say, go. But here on my hill I see and feel the seasons. The smells, the sights and sounds of each--fall, with its colorful foliage and crisp evening air, the snow fall in winter, the riot of color from spring flowers and the short, stunningly brilliant summers.

Oh, ummm, excuse me, but the view outside my window is calling me. Bellingham.....   

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tree Down!

So, after 20+ years of watching this fir tree grow from a 15 foot baby to a 50 foot giant and watching as the root system spread across the ground, I finally had to call in a tree guy. He showed up and recommended that I let him feather the tree. That entailed having one of his guys climb the tree and remove enough of the branches to allow it to more easily withstand the windy conditions we get up here on the hill several times a winter.

I hoped that the feathering would do the trick but two years later the roots running across the ground were pulling up further above the ground and was getting more nervous about what could potentially happen if we left the tree alone much longer.

I called several tree experts in to take a look and give us a bid on taking it down. All seemed to agree that removing it would be a good idea. Their bids to remove it varied wildly.

This fir tree towers above our home, the hot tub and has spread out to crowd out a beautiful dogwood. So, I was not much concerned with its demise. Leslie, on the other hand, has the philosophy that we should leave everythng alone. After a discussion though she has begun to defer more to my thoughts on this so this time it was easier to convince her the fir needed to be removed.

We got bids from three outfits here in town. The bids varied from $1,000 to $1,700. In this case I wanted the roots crawling across the ground removed and the stump ground so we could plant new grass. Stump ginding adds several hundred
dollars to the price of the job so, in the past, we have left the trunks. In the other cases the trunks were out of the way and didn't make a difference aesthetically. This stump would.

This morning, the crew showed up and made fast work of the tree. It's kind of sad when you think about how long it took for that tree to grow and the beautiy it added to our yard. But, if it had fallen it would have cost far more to repair the house, which is where it most certainly would have landed.

The branches went first as the tree climber ascended to the top. These were hustled off by the crew to a grinder parked out in the driveway. This kind of work doesn't even attract any gawkers around here. So many nasty, dirty cottonwoods have been taken down in the neighborhood as well as other species due to rot and or the danger of falling, that no one pays much attention.

The tree was down and carted away in about an hour leaving only the stump and roots to be grinded up. The chipper and sounds of chain saws ended and the take down team drove off to the next job.

Sometime later in the afternoon, a single guy drove up in his truck towing the stump grinder, a pretty massive device that looked out of some medieval torture chamber.

The goal was to grind out all the roots running along the ground and to grind the main stump down about 18". We'd come along after a few weeks and fill in the holes with new top soil and reseed with a new lawn.

The biggest issue aestetically is the gapping hole the absence of the tree leaves for the neighbors to peek in on us in the hot tub. So we plan to plant a tree or two later on. But these must not be of a species that grows anywhere near the height of that fir. We thought of a couple of dogwoods similar in height to the ones we already have in the yard but ones of differing colors. That'll be a ways off. Maybe in a year or two when the lawn is well established and the stump has settled down. Anyway, the project is done. Happy day!