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

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...

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.

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.....