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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Some New Camera Gear

Battery grip
I've wanted one of these battery grips for quite a while as well as the WU-1b wi-fi accessory and a dual battery charger, all  pictured here. The battery grip adds a bit more heft to the camera which I actually like. The camera body is a bit small for my hands so this helps a lot. It also houses two batteries expanding the battery capability significantly. 

The dual battery charger is pretty much self explanatory. It replaces my original single battery charger since with the twin battery grip device, I need to be able to get both batteries charged at the same time.

WU-1b wi-fi device
The WU-1b is a little wi-fi device that allows me to send photos from the camera directly to my ipad for processing, Its pretty slick. I had decided not to buy one at first because I'd read some reviews that didn't think it functioned very well. I found it at a good sale price so I decided to give it a shot. I've been very impressed. It does exactly what it is supposed to do and does it consistently. 
dual battery charger

All on Amazon, I got free shipping and have been very pleased with the purchases. My next camera purchase will be a lens that allows me to take macro photos.They are kind of expensive so I may opt for some macro rings instead to see if they are any good. And one day, I'd like a nice long lens for taking good photos of distant objects. If we make any plans for a safari to Africa, I will most definately insist we take one of these along with us. 

Boat Maintanance Time

Get out the boat bucks (1 boat buck = $1,000)! Take a deep breath and steady yourself. As we head towards the boating season and before you really dare take your boat out of the marina, it is time to either hire someone to do some basic annual maintenance or do it yourself.

The DIY approach will save you hundreds of dollars, possibly even a boat buck or two. BUT! This approach is also a bit dangerous since you are relying on your own abilities in the engine room to do the work properly, not to mention getting into the often cramped space inside the hatch.

Boats are generally designed for passenger comfort and too often the engine space is somewhat of an after thought. As long as the engine can fit in the allowed space, the boat builder is happy. I've even seen boats built in such a way that there is literally no way to pull the engine out of the boat in the event that it becomes necessary, and inevitably it will. These boats were literally built around the engine. To remove it you have to cut open the top of the boat adding thousands to the project cost, not to mention the lost time in the water.

This spring my boat, the Key of Sea, has the typical need to replace the engine oil and filters, fuel filters, transmission oil, raw water impellers and the possible added project of replacing the raw water pumps. Current approximate estimate to have all this work done by a professional mechanic--$2,700. I'm getting a second opinion on the work by a mechanic of another boat buddy of mine. I'm also thinking about options such as replacing one of the pumps this spring and the other one next spring. The pumps are $700 each not including the labor.

I am also looking at what work I might want to take on myself. I think I can handle the raw water impellers and the fuel filter replacement. Engine oil is a bit bigger deal. Some parts are a little too far out of the way for me to reach. Hmmmmm

All of this AND other projects I want to get on such as repairing the leaky dinghy, replacing some rotting wood on a seat bench on the fly bridge and then there is the cleaning of the boat; pressure washing it, washing, waxing all needs to be done.

We want to take her out on a shake down cruise at the end of March to Anacortes with our Power Squadron buddies. But, no way unless we can get some of this done ahead of the event.

Meanwhile, the weather isn't really cooperating as it is still very cold (it even snowed today and is scheduled to again a couple more times over the next several days. I can't handle the cold weather when having to be a contortionist for hours at a time. Come on spring!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Introducing the Newest Member of the Family!

Breakfast out with Gammy and I
My god, I can't believe I've barely mentioned this up to now but, sure enough, as I scrolled down the list of my posts, I noticed only one post on my now two year old grand daughter. I suppose that is because I have done all my bragging about her on Facebook AND because for quite sometime, I haven't posted on my blog at all.

Any way, excuses aside, on Febraury 11th 2015, our daughter and son-in-law delivered a beautiful little girl they named Evelyn Elise Abbott. We call her Evie as in Eve with an extra e on the end--Eve-ee!

We knew she was on the way of course though we had no idea whether she would be a girl or boy. We are certainly thrilled.

When Nick, my son-in-law, called minutes after Evie was born, I told him I would be right there. Right there was the hospital in Ballard and it was an hour and a half from our house. Still, as soon as the call ended I was in the car to drive down and about an hour and half later, Evie was in my arms. Where was grandma? At a music conference on the other side of the state. She wasn't able to meet our girl until a day later when I could pick her up and bring her to the house.
Aboard the boat last summer

It has been an amazing experience this past two years. I never knew what being a grand parent would be like. In short, it is an indescribable experience. I can try to describe it (I won't) but anyone who is not a grand parent can't possibly understand the experience or the overwhelming love.

A very recent photo
We have watched as Evie has learned to crawl, to make her first steps, her first words, really most of her milestones to date. What is coolest recentlly has been the incredible increase in her vocabulary, specifically calling Leslie and I Gampy and Gammy. She recognizes us and has attached a name to us. Again, words can not describe the feelings when you hear that the first time. Or, when she come in the door to our house, spots us and runs to our arms.

We just celebrated her second birthday and her second Christmas both of which she was thrilled with. The Christmas story this year is worthy of a posting all by itself.

In short, she is the star of the show, our heart beat, our love and adored by all who meet her. She is adorable (of course we think so, but she really is) and really smart. Oh, yeah, she's coming to visit next week for a couple of days. Can't wait!

Crossing the Canadian Border

This summer Leslie and I will spend time on the Key of Sea cruising through the Canadian Gulf Islands just north of the U.S. border. We've done this tice before but always with a group of other boaters in what is known as buddy boating. It's a great way to get more comfortabe with the ins and outs of boating in general and boating further a field, building confidence along the way.

Last summer we left the Key of Sea home and drove up to Port Mc Neill on Vancouver Island and boarded some friend's boat for a cruise through the Broughton Islands. We didn't gain much in personal confidence but were witness to our friend's confident ways aboard their boat.

Though we have no plans to venture as far as the Broughtons this summer, going it alone for the first time so far from home will surely be a mixed experience. We have a better idea of how o prepare to go, where we might want to go, how to plan and what to do when entering some of the more popular anchorages.

Speaking of anchorages, we have yet to anchor anywhere in Canada. Despite cruising there twice now, our cruising buddies have always invited us to 'raft up' to their much larger boat and hang out with them, often sharing dinner and using their dinghy when exploring an anchorage or going ashore. So, to a great degree, we've been the victims of parents who spoiled us and now we don't know how to confidently anchor on our own.

Typical stern tie to shore
So, we plan to take the Key of Sea out on several shake down cruises closer to home and give ourselves some anchoring opportunites, It'll also give us the opportunity to lower our dinghy and gain some confidence using it to get ourselves where we need to go, whether just going ashore, exploring an anchorage or even stern tying.

Our stern tie reel. Practical & cheap

That final option of stern tying is a practice commonly used in Canada when anchorages become crowded and your boat's swing at anchor needs to be controlled. After dropping your anchor, you back down the boat towards the shoreline and tie off the stern of the boat to a spot on shore. This technique keeps your boat from swinging on the single anchor point usually used effectively providing much more room in the bay or cove for other boats to anchor. Often times you can identify these stern tie spots on shore in the form of a metal ring attached to a large rock or some other marking ashore indicating an appropriate spot to tie up. While tying to a tree on shore is tempting, unless it is dead, it is not acceptable as the line rubbing againat the bark can cause permanent damage over time. Another concern is making sure you have enough line to rech the shore and back. It is generally recommended to have 300 to 600 feet of yellow polypropylene line stored in a reel of some type. Yellow and polypropylene because it floats and makes it more visable of other boaters. We keep our line in a garden hose reel like the one above. It keeps the line out of the way when not in use and the top of the reel makes a nice table for drinks. We keep it between the two chairs in our cockpit so we can gaze out at the world, read and enjoy our coffee in the morning or a more powerful beverage at the end of the day.

As we are most comfortable tying up for the night in a marina, I am sure our plans will include a lot of these stops.heading north we have had great experiences such harbors as Sidney, Gorge Harbor, Montague Bay, Nanaimo, Ganges, Maple Bay, Chemainus, Telegraph Harbor, and Pirates Cove, just to name a few. Many of these spots have marinas with power and water, shopping and restaurants which, for the small cost of the moorage, gives you most of the comforts of home. It's also a place where you can do laundry, dispose of trash and recycling and get some wi-fi time.

Typical sewage layout
In case you missed it, I didn't mention emptying the waste tank, that holding tank for the toilet. In U.S. marinas you pull up to a dock with a special vacuum device that empties this tank. However, in our experience, most Canadian marinas either have no pumps at all or they are out of order. So the rule of thumb is that you are allowed to pump this waste overboard. I know, awful thought, There are rules for where this can be done. The marina or a bay or cove are NOT places where this is allowable. Open water locations such as a strait or open passage is acceptable. Most boats up this way have what is called a macerator pump
Typical Y-valve
and a "Y" valve plumbed into the waste tank. Once you cross the border into Canada, this Y-valve and macerator pump can be used. In the U.S. however, if boarded by the Coast Guard or other law enforcement, you must have the Y-valve in the off position and tied close. In Canada, with the valve open, a simple flip of a switch will turn the pump on and empty that tank in a matter of a couple of minutes out the side of the boat.

    There are a few other legal concerns before heading north and crossing the border. We've taken care of these things already including having a NEXUS card which allows you to simply call in your intentions to cross the border either way. This "trusted traveler" document is better than a passport in our case. We needn't make an out of the way stop to clear customs.We simply call a ohone number as we cross the border and let them know out intentions. They give us a number that we will use whenever it is asked for (we've never been asked for it except when crossing back to the U.S.)

DTOPS sticker minus the asigned number
Another odd butnecessay document is the DTOPS sticker. This Customs and Border Protection sticker must be in possession of any boat or aircraft crossing the border. I guess you'd call it a sort of tax that helps pay for inspections of vehicles entering or leaving Canada or the U.S. On a boat the sticker must be attached to a spot nearest to the entrance of the boat. We post ours on a window on the starboard side of the boat right around the corner from the entrance to the main salon. At any rate, it is easily visable to any law enforcement officer who may want to see it abd it needs to be visible. At only $27.50 this year (2017) it is far from a burden when the costs of owning a boat are usually given in terms of 'boat bucks' )one boat buck is tanslated as $1,000).

So, we are in the talking phase of our planning right now, while my mechanic is looking over the boat to see what needs to be done before we head anywhere. That will certainly include replacing the fuel filters, the oil and filters and the engine coolant. Now, times that by two! This has to be done on both engines in the engine room. The penalty for not doing it wil be a much bigger bill when something goes haywire on one or both of the engines while in the middle of who knows where. Not really worth it to ignore basic maintenance.

As our plans move along, I'll post more about our destination plans. However, one of the really cool things about cruising, like road trips, plans can change when you hear about some not to be missed anchorage during a conversation with another boater. So, who knows. The best laid plans!
The Key of Sea on the dock on Sucia Island