This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Fresh Water Pump Issues

So, my 5 year old fresh water pump went out during our recent cruise in Canada. 5 years old! The one
Old 12 volt pump
before that lasted over 20 years! No fresh water out of the taps or shower for the last two days of the trip. As we were in marinas that didn’t cause much hardship. I figured I’d install the replacement pump I had aboard when we got home.
24 volt pump I can't use
Today I am down at the boat doing just that. I get the old one out of the tight spot it lives in down in the utility tunnel squeezed between the waste tank, hot water heater and isolation transformer. I’m balancing on my head with my glasses slipping up so I can’t focus on the job. I finally get the new pump ready to go in, wire it up, flip on the switch to make sure it worked before connecting the water supply and....nothing. I rewired it to make sure I connected it correctly and...nothing. Upon closer inspection I spotted the problem. The new unit operates on 24 volts, not 12 which is what I need. A quick call to Fisheries Supply and the correct model is on its way and I am on my way to the post office to mail the other one back to them.
So, for a few days, there will be a hole in the floor of the salon waiting for the new pump. Geeez!
The pump's location
Now you would think when you call and order a new water pump for a boat that the sales rep, who works for a boating store, would have the sense to ask if you need a pump for a 12 or 24 volt system. In fact, the pump I removed was labeled that it worked on a 12-24 volt system. Of course, the person doing the ordering, me, might also have the good sense to ask that they send me a 12 volt version. Ah, well, live and learn.
Hatch to get at the pump
Follow up to my earlier posting regarding the fresh water pump. I’m driving to Seattle tomorrow to pick up the new one and drop off the other one.
Hopefully, by Saturday the new pump will be up and running! Then, on to the
next project.

The photo to the left shows a close up of the utility tunnel below the main helm. The black spots are roughly where the old pump lived. The photo to the right shows the hatch below the main helm that I had to reach down into to get at the pump and wire up and plumb the new one.

I called Fisheries Supply this afternoon and asked for the new pump to be set aside at Will Call. I will make a quick trip down to their store tomorrow, drop off the 24 volt model I can't use and pick up the 12 volt model I will install on Saturday. 

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dining Out in the Ham!

Bellingham has always, in my humble opinion, struggled with great places to eat. Admittedly, it is no Seattle or Portland, but you'd think something of really high quality could make a go of it here in the City of Subdued Excitement! And there have been some notable and gallant tries in the past. What seems to generally happen though is that someone opens a place, there is lots of enthusiastic support for it and then, suddenly, something happens and they are closed.

Sometimes, I think it is just poor management. Running a successful restaurant is a labor of love requiring many hours of work outside operating hours and just as hard work during operating hours. Along with that must be a chef who doesn't scrimp on quality or standards and brings innovative ideas to the dining room. Too, often I have seen restaurants go down as a result of the original chef being let go after a few months or a couple of years and a cook allowed to take over, running the place into the ground because they didn't know what the hell they're doing and or don't care.

There are some amazing venues in town that are currently empty but would make great restaurant locations if someone with a dream and some funding could get it off the ground.

Take the top of the Bellingham Tower, the tallest building in town, where at least a couple of restauants have opened in the past but closed after only a couple of years. They were very nice places and hugely popular but for what ever reason folded.

Another spot that has never been a restaurant but is a perfect spot for a diner is the old stationary store on the corner of Champion and Unity Streets behind the Mount Baker Theater.  Its the right shape, has windows across the front, is long and narrow just as a traditional diner should be.

So, where does one go for an outstanding dinner experience in B'ham? Well, sorry to say I can't really recommend a place right now. Oh, there are good pizza places galore. Lots of very good breweries. Sandwich shops and we do have some outstanding breakfast places. But an outstanding white table cloth dinner place. Can't think of one.

We have an Anthony's, a surf and turf chain based here in the northwest. Nope. Sadly, with all the waterfront space we have, and with the amount of fresh seafood, salmon, halibut, prawns and crab coming into our harbor, there just isn't a top flight seafood restaurant.

So here are my top choices right now in no particular order and what they do best.

1. Home Skillet--the best breakfast place in town, period. Amazing food. Their only downside is their size and because of it the management have elected to be kind of pushy when it comes to lingering over your meal. That is off putting to us. BUT, the food! OMG! Try the Tater Tot Hash or the Big Green Mess and well, anything on the menu. You can't go wromg.

2. Fat Pie Pizza--in Fairhaven (south side of town) has amazing views up on the top floor on a nice day and their pizza is pretty darn good.

3. Our Diner--Another great breakfast joint out north of town on the Guide Meridian road. Try the Hashbrown sandwich. Amazing and you probably only need the half order.

4. Nikki's Bella Marina--Okay, so alot of folks don't care for this place. It has nice views down onto Squalicum Marina, but I truly believe they make THEE best fish and chips in town. You get two huge fish portions and all the steak fries you can eat and the fish is battered and fried perfectly.

5. Bellingham Cider Company--This hard to find place may, just may be my current favorite place for dinner. Very good food including the vegan selections and the cider is getting better all the time.

6. Camber--This coffe shop in the heart of downtown B'ham, was recently named to have the best coffee in Washington. That is saying something around this part of the country. But they also serve up some nice food as well.

7. Twin Sisters Brewing Company--They've only been open about a year but this is alreay a hot spot for beer lovers and they make some good offerings for lunch and dinner as well. It's just a fun place to go and hangout.

8. La Gloria Mexican Food--It isn't the best Mexican food I have ever had, hey, I'm from California, I know from Mexican food. BUT, it comes the closest to my California roots as anyplace in town. It even has a decent market attached to it where you can get fresh tortillas and some anazing carnitas (also available in the restaurant).

Well, that about does it for now. I'll do some more thinking and will certainly continue looking for and trying new places as they open or I discover them.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Windy Days Road Trip

Our cruise into the San Juans set for earlier this week had to be cancelled due to windy conditions on the water. 10-20 knot winds make leaving our slip or entering another problematic. Rather than risk it, we decided to cancel the trip and stay on dry land, not an easy or attractive alternative considering the work involved in planning the cruise.

Nevertheless, yesterday we got out of the house early and headed south down Chuckanut Drive, a scenic two-lane drive tucked into the cliffs overlooking our coastline. This drive includes narrow turns, deep second growth forests and stunning overlooks out onto the bays and coves below.

Eventually, the twists and turns popped us out onto the Skagit Flats and we pulled over at the little crossroads seetlement at Chuckanut Drive and Bow Hill Road. This is the turn off to head into the tiny settlement of Edison, Washington, but before making the turn there was a lot to check out at the crossroads.

Also near this corner of deliciousness is the Samish Bay Cheese Company, well known at locaal farmer's markets. They make a variety of fresh and aged cheeses and many other products. Its worth a stop in to taste a few of their offerings. Buy a chunk of cheese and hold onto it for when you get to our next stop.

Heading down the road into the little settlement of Edison is quite an odd experince. How did its contents wind up here? An art gallery and several great places to eat! The town has been here since the Civil War, sitting on the edge of the sloughs leading out into Padilla Bay. 
We had breakfast at the old Edison Cafe  where we enjoyed an omelet, crispy browns and rye bread and a bowl of vanilla yogurt and house made granola. Two cups of Fidalgo Bay coffee served up by a very friendly staff made the experience very pleasant.

A bit further into the town we stoped in to the don't miss Breadfarm bakery for some of their delicious baked goods. Their bread and sweet and savory items are well known at farmers markets all over the sound. We picked out a loaf of their multi-grain and a cinnamon snails.

Sadly, two of our favorite spots wer closed and didn't open until later in the morning. We had hoped to breakfast at Tweets and stop in to Slough Foods and pick up some of the famous Salumi sausage made by Mario Batali's father in Seattle. Slough Foods is one of the few places where you can buy Salumi other than at the restaurant in Seattle. It is pricey stuff but worth the treat and isn't so bad when sliced very thin and squeezed between slices of fresh Breadfarm bread. Alas, Slough Foods was not open and so we had to move on to our next stop for the day--La Conner.

This quaint community sits along the Swinomish Channel, a salt water channel cut near Anacrotes at the north end and leading out into Skagit Bay and either towards the stunning Deception Pass or south down the inside of of Whidbey Island.

La Conner is a sweet town of onnly a few hundred residents but contains plenty to do and see. Museums, a brewery, plenty of shops, galleries and great restaurants.

Our favorite place on our most recent trips has been the discovery of Anelia's Kitchen and Stage. The name hides that fact that it is actually an amazing Polish restaurant. Run by a young couple the options are just head on the table delicious. On our recent visit we shared the Polish Platter, an assortment of the fabulous options on the menu.

Take a walk down the main street of La Conner andtry to pick the place you want to dine. Several places are righ along the waterfront and offer al fresco dining. Stroll along the waterfront walk for stunning views of the channel, boats tied up along the docks and plenty of wild life watching.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Generator Working, BIG Engine Project Almost Done

It has been an unexpectedly expensive off season so far. The Honda generator went into the shop and came out ready to go for another season. Both engines are receiving expensive makeovers with some of their cooling parts.

Project #1--The Honda generator went into the shop as described in the previous entry. Hardware Sales turned it around quickly and it is home in the garage ready to go. I purchased a gallon of that expensive synthetic fuel to run through it in the off season.

What was the generator's problem? The same one that seems to afflict all small engines. The tiny injector that sends fuel to the cylinder (as I understand it) gets gummed up with impurities in the fuel and makes it difficult or impossible to start. My Honda 2 hp outboard has this same issue from time to time. I switched to better fuel but the problem remains. So, Hardware Sales says to drain the gas out of the device and run some of the synthetic fuel through the lines. It is a more stable fuel during long down times. So, hopefully, problem solved.

Project #2--As described previously, my twin Hino diesels turned out to be in need of some repairs and replacement parts.

My mechanic asked me if my manicoolers and exhaust risers had ever been inspected? I had to admit that as far as I knew, they never had. He suggested he open them up and take a look. I readily agreed. When he opened up the risers he discovered they were so corroded that the intakes were in seriously bad shape. He declared them DOA so we began looking into where and how to go about replacing them.

New ones were just not to be had which meant having new ones fabricated. Yikes! That's gonna cost ya'! We found a firm down in Texas, formerly from Tacoma, that knew exactly what we needed and they agreed to make them. I'd heard ceramic coating them would also add to their lifetime so I had that done, too. Once the finished new stainless steel risers were built, they were shipped to a firm in Auburn, Washington to receive their coating of ceramic. They arrived  on my doorstep a couple of weeks ago ready to install.

However, my mechanic also found the manicoolers to be in questionable condition and recommended they be boiled out and pressure tested. That was done by Whatcom Radiator. The test came back that they had some leakage that needed to be repaired. They explained that if they were not repaired the engines would probably suffer a catastrophic failure within the coming year. Double Yikes! Yes, please fix it!

Those repairs were made and a couple of days ago, they called to say they were ready. About $400 was much better news than the tens of thousands I would have paid had I ignored my mechanic's advice.

So, this weekend, my mechanic will dive into the engine room and put things back together. Approximately $4, 000 later my cooling system will be like new. I am told I should see increased speed as a result and engines running at cooler temps. This I look forward to.

In the meantime, several other, more cosmetic projects will haveto be postponed until next season since so much had to unexpectedly be spent on the engine project. So, no new furniture for the flybridge this summer. My water and waste system monitors will have to wait too. Oh, well!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Took my Honda generator down to Hardware Sales small engine repair shop yesterday. They advertised a tune-up special and since I have not been able to get the generator to start I thought maybe they could clean up the carb and do any other maintenance it might need. It has VERY low hours on it so I really wantto keep it ingood shape. I use it aboard the boat as a way to top off the batterieswhen we are not on shore power for more than a few days. Itis a marine model meaning it hasa shore power cable plug built into it. So I simply plug in the sore power cable into the generator and the other endinto the side of the boat and crank up the generator. I keep the generator up on the cockpit roof so it is out in the open. No exhaust issues that way. The Honda is often described as the option most boaters go towhen they have no genset, don't want to spend the thousands ir would take to install one and and want the capablity of a generator. Many complain that a portabe generator is a CO hazard but claim the Honda, when properly vented, is less of a hazard. I don't know. I just know our Honda has been great without any sign of a hazardous situation. We do have CO detectors aboard. The Honda is also much quieter than most portable generators on the market so it is less likely to set off complaint from neighbor boaters.

Back to my story. Hardwares Sales saidthey would also fill the generator with synthetic fuel because it was more stable when the generator was not used for long periods of time like over the winter. The issue is that regular gas sittingin the unit tends to gum up those tiny injectors that inject the fuel into the cylinder making it difficult or impossible to start the engine when you need it. That forces you to take apart the carberator and clean it before the unit can be used again.The cost is usually arounf $80-100 for this service. I have been having to do this with my Honda dinghy outboard nearly every year and now my generator. Hardware Sales solution is to use synthetic fuel except whenever you are actually going to use the units. Then run regular fuel sans ethanol. Then as the use comes to an end each season, dump the fuel and run synthetic fuel through the system ridding it of regular fuel and leaving synthetic fuel in the lines. That way the engine is ready for non-use during the winter months. I don't know if this is a good idea but I am willling to give it a shot. The downside? A galllon of the sunthetic fuel runs $20 and I haven't found a less expensive source. So it is pricey but, as the Hardware Sales guy put it, you can pay $20 for the fuel or pay him $80-100 every year to fix the resulting problem. Well, when you put it that way....

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Repair, Clean Up and Hold the Line

We’ve been considering the purchase of a new dinghy now for a few years and keep putting it off for reasons of the cost or because we were able to extend the old dinghy’s life with a stop gap repair. The problem has been that ever since a Canada cruise several years ago when I went fishing in the dinghy, little pin holes from fish flopping around on the inflatable deck developed. Repairs at the time seemed to work but in the last couple of years either the repaired leaks and or new ones have developed so that the floor doesn’t stay inflated for more than a week or so. That’s not good if you suddenly need to abandon ship.

It was my wife who thought up the idea to just replace the floor. The outer tubes are rock solid so maybe that was a possibility. Contacting Mercury HQ I found out that there is a replacement floor available for about $450, a far cry from the cost of a new dinghy. And as every penny counts I decided to go ahead and order the part through the local Mercury dealer—Cap Santa Marine in Anacortes. More about this in a future blog as it will be about a week before the part arrives. So, the hope is that this, though another stop gap remedy, will hold off the need for a new dinghy another few years. Cross your fingers!

I have been frustrated for a long time with having to haul our heavy gas powered pressure washer down to the boat every time I need to do a heavy cleaning. In an ad the other day Harbor Freight listed their 1750 psi electric pressure washer on sale for 20% off, only $80. I took advantage
of that and the new washer is assembled and fits perfectly in our dock locker between uses. It’ll get pulled
out for its first use very soon.

Finally, we have had a problem with a canvas repair done by a local canvas shop for some time. When they replaced the windows a few years ago after sun and time had cracked them, the repair worked fine for a season or so, then suddenly the canvas shrunk so that it no longer stretched far enough to allow the snaps to meet between the boat and canvas. This allowed the canvas to flap around bouncing off the cap rail rubbing it raw in places. My fix was to purchase snap extenders which add  an inch or so to the canvas allowing it to be secured to the boat. It’s quieter in windy conditions and causes less wear and tear on the cap rails and canvas. As for that canvas shop? I found another shop which works cheaper and faster AND their quality is much better too. Interested? Try Northwest Tarp & Canvas on Holly Street.

The Key of Sea, meanwhile, made a fine show of herself on our first cruise of the season--the Shakedown Cruise to the Cap Sante Marina about 15 nm south of Bellingham. We left the harbor on Thursday, 12 April and aside from a rain squall part way there, we had a very quiet cruise.

I can't say the same for day 2. Friday dawned with gale force winds gusting to 45 MPH. It was a stay in dayand except for brief visits to other boats who had made the journey the day before and a docktail gathering around 5:30, we did just that.

Day 3 was calmer but the rains came. Still several more boats showed up and by 5:30 we were all heading down to the party barges for a dinner of BBQ pork loin and plenty of pot luck dishes.

Day 4 was time to head for home. Happily the day dawned calm and partly sunny. We went out to breakfast at Dad's Diner down on Commercial, a popular breakfast/lunch joint, with some dear friends of ours. Then headed back to the boat for our pre-departure check and farewells to neighbors. The cruise home was as smooth as Thursday's cruise south. Docking went great and we were home and in the shower by a little after noon.

Next cruise? Possibly to Blaine for the SeaSkills Rendezvous or else to points west later in the summer. We have cruises planned for the south sound and to the Gulf Islands of Canada this year.

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!