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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Coolest Toy Ever!

So, my wife's dad was young at heart right up to the day he passed. Just to show you what I mean,  Ldad bought two of the sets in this video, oh,  back probably 25 years ago. He set it up every Christmas. He absolutely loved this thing. He laughed just to watch it go andto see other's getting a kick out of watching it. It’s hypnotic! 

I don't recall where he said he got it bt it was quite a bargain. I think he said he got them for about $5 each; a steal! I don’t know what happened to the other set but after he passed away we got this one. It has been in a box on a shelf out in the garage. We found it among out Christmas things so, what with a nearly 3 year old coming here soon, we wanted to be decorated for Christmas to the hilt.  

Out it came. Down in the bottom of the box was a hand drawn diagram for how to put it together. Turned out to be my handwriting.  I put it together and changed the old AA battery. I started right up. Now its our turn to watch and get a kick out of other's enjoyment. Evie is gonna love this! Thanks, Gramp!

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Few New Items For the Boat

From time to time we make Amazon purchases. Usually I see something I want and save it to my cart waiting for enough items to be added so that I can take advantage of the free shipping. It's been suggested I should just go ahead and get Amazon Prime but I figure, how does paying a fee for Prime make the shipping free? Hmmmmm...

So, once the cart has enough items in it I go ahead and push the buy button and the purchases come to me. 

Recently, I got a small shipment of items that will all go to the boat on my next visit. All stuff  I've thought about that ought to be aboard but thatI just haven't got around to buying. 

First item is a teak through-hull plug. Huh? Yeah, its a funny looking thing that could, in certain emergencies aboard, save the boat and you. Shaped like an ice cream cone, in the event of a through-hull  or other valve or hose failure, this simple device can be shoved into the breach to 
Teak through-hull plug
staunch the flow of water into the boat. It's a good idea to know where it is and can be accessed quickly in the event of an emergency. Like any number of items aboard, an emergency is not the time to have to start thinking about where you put it. Mine will go into the cockpit cabinet adjacent to the engine hatches. There are three through-hull valves down there along with lots of hoses. So, there it will go, just in case.

wash bottle
The second item in the box delivered the other day was a small wash bottle. Another odd device but I have a great use for it. My battery bank, especially my house batteries, are in cramped space that makes checking the fluid levels difficult and adding fluids even more difficult. Distilled water needs to go into those little holes in the top of the batteries, but holding a gallon bottle of distilled waer over those holes and trying to get water into them without making a mess is hard. I saw this wash bottle and thought...problem solved! I can squeeze the bottle gently and get just the right amount of water into those tight spots. 

Having spent my life not protecting my hearing has left me somewhat deaf, especially in my right ear. Many years ago, as a teenager, my grandfather took me to the gun range as he routinely did with my dad and I whenever we came to visit. On this occasion he handed me a .45 handgun and gave me a few instructions for firing it. I held it close to my right ear intending to lower the weapon slowly towards the target before pulling off a round. Unfortunately, the hair trigger went off right next to my head.  I felt the hair on the side of my head flip up as the bullet went past it. I put that gun down and that was it for my day. In fact, I think it may have been the last time I ever fired one of my grandfather's guns. He just laughed his head off at me but I felt I came a little too close to losing
Safety Ear Muffs

All these years later I have purchased headphones to use when operating loud equipment in our yard or shop and I use them religiously. But aboard the boat with its two noisy diesel engines, I had nothing. Well, now I do. These should do the trick and though I am seldom in the engine room when they are running, they are still a good idea when anywhere near them. I'll store these in that cockpit cabinet. 

Item #4 in the shipment was a couple of Satco brand Rough Use, Shatter-proof 100 wattlight bulbs. These bulbs running 24/7 during the cold months add just a bit of heat to the engines. I have a single bulb hanging between the engines. They hold up well when the engines are running despite the heavy vibrations and each bulb lasts about 2 seasons before burning out. I finally needed some new ones and they topped off my Amazon order to get the free

They are shatter-proof as well so if they do break you don't have a mess in your bilge to try and clean up. I've found them in local hardware stores as well so they aren't a rarity. They are pretty reasonably priced too. 

The final item ordered was a Micro Dry/Wet Vacuum by Shop Vac. This little wonder came highly recommended by my mechanic. I saw it in action recently when he was aboard. He loved it. It has good suction despite its 'Micro' size. 

So I had to order one. What with very limited storage aboard the boat, something that must always be taken into consideration when bringing anything new aboard, this little device seems like a no brainer. 

It holds one gallon of liquid and is 1 hp. It comes with a couple of attachments, hanging hardware, a six foot cord and everything you need to get started. And, its by Shop Vac, a quality product. They run about $40.

So, there you have it. A few little somethings for the boat. Nothing spectacular but all with specific and necessary purposes. The Amazon cart already has some more items in it...waiting. They probably won't get ordered until next spring though as they are all items I'll need to prep the boat for cruising season. I can't wait!!!

Snow? In November?

Taken on November 3, 2017
Well, yea, it does happen on occasion. But snow in early November is pretty rare here in B'ham. So a lot of us were taken by surprise when we, first noticed a few flakes falling on our way out the door from the Bellingham Sail and Power Squadron Dinner Meeting on Thursday night at the yacht club, and then awoke to a pretty substantial amount of snow on the ground Friday morning.

Amounts varied throughout the region but up on our hilltop we gazed amazed at nearly 5 inches sitting on our deck railings.

It didn't stick around on the street very long so my wife was able to drive down the hill to work. It was just enough to look beautiful on the trees, shrubery and lawns. Perfect day to sit in the front window reading, occasionally gaze out the window and sigh.

Our Oil-filled Radiant Heater does the job!
I haven't been to the marina to check on the Key of Sea yet but friends who had been to their boats all recommended staying away until things warmed up a bit as the docks were covered with 3-4 inches of snow on top of ice. So, pretty slippery and not worth risking a fall or worse, falling in!

I'll head down tomorrow sometime during the day to check on things. I want to make sure the heat is up high enough. I already turned it on but purposely kept it low as it never gets this cold this early in the season. Fortunately, I have already turned on the 100 watt light bulb I hang between the engines and the electric oil-filled radiant heater. I still have some things needing done though before I feel really winterized.

The dinghy outboard  and the generator both need to come home and the kayaks are still outside the boat. They either need to be dragged into the salon  or deflated and hauled home to inside storage.  I need to pour a bit of anti-freeze down the drains and sump pump and open the cabinet doors to allow warmer air to flow through them. Aside from that, I think we are in pretty good shape for the winter. Not that that isn't enough to do and that needs doing pretty soon before damage sets in. Guess I ought to stop writing and get busy!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall 2017 Boat Projects Completed!

Final push tonight to finish up the fall boat projects aboard the Key of Sea. Also, pay day for my mechanic.

Tonight he installed the new Y-valve, the last thing needed doing. The old valve was cracked when he removed it. The new one is considerably better built and he mounted it to the bulkhead. The old one just sat, unmounted , on the floor of the utility tunnel. Everytime it was turned it probably added to its demise.

The Y-valve controls the directional flow of the waste tank contents. Turn it one way and waste can be pumped out using a Marina’s pumping system. Turn it the other way and waste is pumped overboard through the macerator pump directly into the sea. This can only be done in certain places in Canadian waters. In the US the valve must be zip tied in the marina pump out position.
Failure to do this is subject to a hefty fine from the Coast Guard.

Here's a series of photos of the valve mounted to the bulkhead, much easier to get at than its old location. Also, notice all the new white hoses running around. The macerator pump is in the foreground and just behind the sky blue cylinder is the waste tank. Above the new valve is a grey box with a red switch. This is the macerator pump switch. A circuit breaker on the DC panel below the main helm must be on before this switch can be activated. This prevents the pump from accidently running when thee is no liquid in the line. The pump would burn up if that happened.

When I got on the boat this evening the old odd non-descript smell had disappeared. So, I guess we did need to replace those old toilet hoses!
New Y-valve replaced 10/23/2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sea Strainer and Other Projects

sea strainer parts
Aboard the Key of Sea for the first time in a month. Taking on a couple of projects thanks to my stalwart mechanic, Jared. He’ll be replacing coolant hoses he discovered had pin holes in them, repairing some minor oil leaks, replacing the intake hose for head and output hose for the bilge system, both of which were very worn AND, drum roll please.....replacing all the hoses on the head, the macerator and the hand pump on the head. Woo-Hoo! Hope to be finished up this weekend.

The sea strainer project is about done and ready to install when I find out the nuts pulling the top and bottom of the strainer are missing. Need new nuts! Then, ready to reattach the unit to the bulkhead we find out the piece of plywood (can't tell you how much crappy plywood is used in these old Bayliners) the unit is attached to is rotten. A piece of starboard is purchased and voila, the job is done.

Interesting! No mechanic ever aboard our boat has ever caught this problem and yet there it is, plain as day. Pin holes at regular intervals along both our coolant hoses complete with tiny drips of coolant coming from each tiny hole. Not enough to cause any damage or even noticeable
new hoses being installed
when checking coolant levels over time. Just enough to make a mess over time that no mechanic has ever picked up on until my new mechanic.

Jared has himself squeezed into a hole about 24 x 36 inches and down in the utility tunnel where he is changing out hoses. A place I might have got into 25 years ago but certainly not now. Amazing!
My new mechanic Jared had to squeeze himself into a hole about 24 x 36 inches, hatch under the main helm,  and down into the utility tunnel where he changed out the damaged  hoses and the waste system hoses. He was crawling into place I might have got into 25 years ago but certainly not now. Amazing!

new toilet parts

 I am hoping the completion of these projects aboard the Key of Sea, aside from the mechanical improvements, will clear up an odd smell that has persisted on our boat since we have owned it. It isn’t, excuse the language, a sewage issue but rather, I suspect, a combination of odors that seem to permeate the boat whenever we come aboard. It seems to improve after we’ve aired it out a bit but ......
I am told by my mechanic that his experience is that smells are always evident on every boat and this is just our boat’s particular smell. But ... having said that he believes the replacement of all these hoses should alleviate much of the smell! From Jared’s mouth to the sea god’s ear!
The Key of Sea saga, my mechanic is installing new hoses to the head when he comes across the “Y” valve. He removes the old hoses running in and out of it and on close inspection sees it is cracked and if it had been used one more time it may well have broken completely. Not something you want
Y valve
to have happen out on the water.
Oh, what is a “Y” valve you ask. Well, even if you didn’t I’ll tell you. It opens and closes off the direction waste from your waste tank goes. When in Canada there are times when the waste tank is full and needs to be emptied. The problem is that many places
In Canada are out of the way enough that your only real option is to pump out overboard. I know, I don’t like it either but there literally are no other options in places that out of the way. So, you turn that valve and turn on the macerator pump and all the waste in your tank is ground and pumped overboard. Once you re-enter the U.S. though, that valve MUST be tied off. If a Coast Guard inspection set so the waste can only go into the waste holding tank. If found otherwise, you 
are in for a big fine.
No Y valve was to be found the day we needed it. We'd have to wait until Monday to pick one up. The good news is that when the new one gets installed it will be placed further to the stern of the utility tunnel so that when I need to use it I won'thaveto crawl 6 feet back into the tunnel trying to avoid damaging a depth sounder transducer and the macerator pump which used tolie between me and the valve. Now it will not only be attached to the deck but will also be easily accesible. YES! 

It seems like you do one thing and find another thing needing doing or that ought to be done since you’ve got this or that apart. So, why not install drain valves on both the Key of Sea’s engines to facilitate draining the coolant easier and faster in the future. It’s a simple, easy, quick install and an inexpensive part that will wind up saving you money down the road. So...each engine received its very own, brand spanking new ball valve with one purpose only. Not a new gadget or domewachit that we can proudly show off when guests come aboard. These devices will remain hidden away from view (especially the one on the starboard engine) and only get used the next time we replace the coolant. 
So, there you have it folks. A boat buck or so later our boat smells better and and operates more efficiently. 

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...