Friday, December 31, 2010

Slaving away in the engine room

We haven’t done it for a couple of years now but for several years we spent the September long weekend on the Churchill River with our good friends Doug and Joanne.  Doug always referred to his role as “slaving away in the engine room” and the phrase has stuck in our vocabulary.

With all due respect to Doug, the engine room duties on a 16 foot Lund were relatively benign.  Occasionally he had to pull twice on the starting cord or maybe pump the primer bulb a few extra times after we switched tanks.  But he did a fine job and he did it with style as the picture above attests.  He’s already volunteered for engine room duty on Gray Hawk but I’m not sure he knows what he’s getting into.

In the last two days I’ve changed the fluids in both propulsion engines.  The genset in the middle of the picture above is still untouched but it’s next on my hit list.  I waited to do the fluid changes until some parts arrived from the east coast.  If you look closely in the picture you can see an engine oil filter sticking out on the port engine (the one on the right in the picture).  Somebody has changed the original canister and element filter to a spin-on type on both engines.  When they did that they mounted the filter on the starboard side in such a manner that it was rubbing against a raw water cooling hose.  That and some other leakage around the raw water lines made me think that I should just change all the raw water hoses so I was waiting for those parts to arrive before I tore into the engines.

When we attended the working boat show in November I got introduced to AWAB hose clamps.  They are obscenely expensive but I think they are actually a significantly better clamp than the regular old gear clamp.  They are certainly much heavier construction and the fact that the inner surface is completely smooth seems to me to make sense that they would clamp more evenly and securely.  And it’s only money, right?  So now every one of those hoses that is exposed to raw water has a clamp on it that costs in the neighbourhood of 4 bux per.  (I found a cheaper source than West Marine who want $5.94 per)

During the coolant change I discovered that the zincs on the oil coolers and the raw water cooler were pretty well completely consumed.  For those of you who don’t know, salt water boating depends in large part on zinc smelting.  I hope there is a good worldwide supply of zinc, there must be because it is relatively cheap.  There must be literally hundreds of thousands of tonnes of zinc lying on the ocean floor, if not more than that. 

The reason zinc is so important is something called the noble hierarchy of metals.  It’s a subject for a week long seminar which I am in no way qualified to teach but the five minute explanation follows.  When you immerse different metals in salt water they behave like a giant battery.  I don’t really understand what goes on inside a lead acid battery either but in layman terms electricity causes the lead to go into solution.  When it comes back out of solution it releases electrical energy which you can then use to start your car.  Similarly on a boat differences in electrical potential can cause your hull fittings to go into solution in the ocean.  This is bad.  Particularly so if its an important fitting like your prop shaft or your rudder or some underwater through hull that decides to dissolve.  And this is not some abstract problem.  There are abundant stories of hoses falling off the sides of hulls after the through hull dissolved because the owner did something stupid.

The metal part that gets dissolved is called the anode.  Some metals are much more susceptible to being dissolved.  Those metals are termed “less noble”.  Conversely some metals are much less likely to be harmed and they are termed “more noble”.  Zinc happens to be way down on the nobility pecking order. 

The reason zinc is so important on the boat is that galvanic nobility is like the schoolyard pecking order.  The biggest, toughest kid picks on the next toughest kid and so on down to you cowering in the corner waiting to be picked last for soccer.  Zinc is the kid in the corner and as long as the zinc is around all the other metals have somebody to pick on so they don’t get dissolved.  Which is why it is imperative that a boat in salt water have lots of zinc hanging on it.  

If you look back to the photos from the haulout you might be able to see the big zinc plates hanging underwater on the port side and on the transom.  In theory all of those plates are bonded with a low resistance path to all metal on the boat.  That means wires from every through hull to a common bonding strip as well as wires from the rudder shafts, prop shafts, engine blocks, etc etc.  In practice wires have resistance so nothing is perfect and you should have extra zinc wherever any metal touches salt water which is why the pencil zincs are located directly in the oil coolers and heat exchangers.  If you don’t have adequate protection in a heat exchanger for example the copper coils can get pinholes which would let salt water into the oil.  That would be really bad so we won’t go there.

Last night I phoned Gray Hawk’s two immediate previous owners.  George, the immediately preceding owner, is coming for a visit today but I think the owner prior to him will be more of a mechanical resource.  We must have talked for an hour last night and I’m not a phone talkative kind of guy.  He did a lot of work on the boat and he still is completely in love with it.  He has a 53 Defever now but he told me he would still prefer to have this one if his wife would let him.  Evidently she likes to entertain large crowds and I can see where more than about 6 people onboard Gray Hawk would get crowded fast.

Yesterday I ordered a second deck box from Costco.  We ordered the first one about a week ago and were absolutely delighted with it when it arrived.  They didn’t have one in the store so we weren’t 100% sure what we were getting but it is perfect for our intended use.  Originally we thought we would put it across the back of the aft deck but we like it so much that now that we think we want one on each side of the aft deck.  We’ve got so much in transit now that I’ve pretty well completely lost track of what is coming and from where. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

$%^&* Software

Paypal cut me off this morning.  It shouldn’t have come as any surprise but it was seriously annoying nevertheless.  You pretty well can’t use anything except Paypal to pay for ebay purchases so losing access to a Paypal account when you have ebay merchandise to pay for is a huge problem.  That’s how I found out that they had cut me off.  I went to pay some poor slob in Florida for $18 worth of electrical bits that I had bought from him and there it was “your account is temporarily suspended”.

Normally I can go months or maybe even a whole year without ever using my Paypal account so the fact that I have run over $5000 through it in the last two weeks absolutely should have raised the flags.  It’s the way they do it though that pisses me off.  No warning, no phone call, no inquiring email.  Nothing at all until I logged on and couldn’t use my account.

Then of course I had to start the dance through all their stupid webforms to try to get the account reinstated.  One of the options for reinstatement was for them to mail something to me.  Now there’s a phenomenally great idea in an electronic age.  Nowhere – absolutely nowhere – was there an option to phone some live human being and get it sorted out.  Nor was there any option to send an explanatory email.  And surprisingly enough their stupid webforms didn’t have a radio box to check that said “we have spent a shitload of money provisioning a new boat over the last two weeks which is why this account is displaying unusual behaviour.”  One of the automated emails that their droids sent out when I filled out one of the stupid forms said that it could take 3 to 5 business days to get it sorted out.  I kind of lost it at that point.

By then the automated system had sent me a case number and I had been around all the various forms enough times to pretty well know my way.  So I bombarded them with faxes and filled in all the comments (limited to 65 characters) with explanations about why it didn’t need to take 5 days and how I was a good customer and this wasn’t my fault.  I don’t know if any of that helped or not but some human being phoned me after supper to say they had it sorted out.  No apology mind you.  Just “your account is reactivated ….. bye.”  Thank you very much ASSHOLE.

You should be able to tell from the header but I will stress it again.  Absolutely DO NOT click on this one if you are in any way likely to be offended by repeated and persistent profanity.  On the other hand if fuck is a part of your daily vocabulary then you just might find this one ****ing hilarious.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Just lookin’ at boats

I could spend days walking the docks looking at boats.  Tonight I took my camera and captured some of my favorites on B-dock, our current home.

NeatBoats-12 Right at the end of B-dock is a genuine motorsailer.  I can’t tell who built it but I love the salty lines.  It might actually be a trawler conversion although if it is it has been well executed.  If you look close you can see the flopper stoppers or passive stabilizer gear.  The “fish” are stowed on the foredeck on this one.  If you zoom in close you can see triangular shiny things on the deck.  The upright frames on the side of the boat lower toward the water and the fish hang from the end of them.  As the boat rolls the fish resist being ripped through the water thereby providing stabilization.  I’d love to have them on Gray Hawk.  If you have ever watched “The Perfect Storm” it was a stabilizer fish that was flying around while George Cluney was out on the boom cutting the cable.

We have active fin stabilizers but passive stabilizers work at anchor and they don’t require hydraulics or gyros or anything other than physics.  I’ve read that if you have active fins (like we do) then there is still a good reason to add passive stabilizers but if you have passive stabilizers then there really is no reason to add the actives.  The advantage of ours of course is that we flip a switch and they start working.  As long as that continues to be the case we won’t likely consider adding anything.

NeatBoats-14 There’s a lot of boats tied up here and some of them aren’t very well looked after.  The green fuzz and brightwork that isn’t so bright anymore is a dead giveaway on this one.  The senior broker at Elliott Bay told us while we were buying Gray Hawk that when the recession hit some of the boat owners who got hurt just ignored their boats for the first year.  When the moorage bill came due for the second year and they hadn’t used the boat for the whole prior year then most of them got serious about selling their boat.  In this case evidently they ignored it for another year.

NeatBoats-11 This Hinckley is listed with the same guys that sold us our Defever.  It could be yours for slightly less than half a million dollars.  I love the lines – it reminds me of a sailing hull with the mast taken off – but it must have a very different underwater profile because the listing information says it cruises at 30 knots.


This is about a 46 foot Nordhavn.  Nordy owners are pretty well guaranteed bragging rights on the dock.  They are more or less universally acknowledged as the ultimate bluewater cruisers.  If you look closely you can see the passive stabilizers on this one but it will no doubt also have active stabilizers.  Several of these boats have done circumnavigations.  If you have about a million and a half lying around I’m sure they would be happy to build you one, in fact I’ve heard that they are pretty negotiable right now.  There are several Nordys tied up here, another one about 53 feet on our dock and a couple of longer ones over closer to the harbourmaster.

NeatBoats-16 NeatBoats-17

On the left is a neat little Nordic Tug – gotta love their lines but we were onboard one last winter and weren’t at all impressed with the interior layout.  Not that they are anywhere within shouting distance of our price point anyway.  (on edit: OK, I’m wrong and I’m willing to admit it when I am.  Reader Conrad from snowy Calgary says this is in fact a Lord Nelson Victory tug – thank you for setting me straight and I still like it’s salty lines). Right next to it there’s a good example of a tupperware bulgeboat.  I have no idea who built this particular monstrosity but there’s plenty more like it where it came from.  There’s one across the fairway behind us that is damn near taller than it is long.  I can’t imagine what it would be like in bad weather but I doubt it ever gets more than an hour away from the dock anyway.  Cocktail cruisers.

NeatBoats-08 I think the bilge pumps run non-stop on this one.  Absolutely ever time I’ve walked by it there has been water running out of it.  And there’s another stream the same size running out of the bow on the other side.  If those pumps ever stop working all we’ll see is the top of its stupid flybridge.  With a little oil slick surrounding it likely.  When we were buying insurance the broker said that the biggest risk we are insuring against is the environmental cleanup cost if our boat contaminates the marina.  I hope these guys have good insurance.

NeatBoats-06 This boat – Maximo – won the best in show award for the marina’s Christmas lighting contest.  It was custom built by Leclerq here in Seattle. Its moored at the end of B-dock and its owned by Steve and Kim Oberto, one of the current generation owners of Oberto Sausage Company.  You’ve probably seen (or eaten) their beef jerky.  Shortly after we arrived this time Marilyn wandered down to the end of the dock to admire their lights.  One thing led to another.  First they lent us a travel book about voyaging to Alaska and then they invited us to their family Christmas party.  

Its hard to get a sense of how big this boat is.  Its registered as 65 feet but when I paced it off I thought it was longer than that.  Maybe without the swim grid it would be close to 65 feet but there’s no way it would fit in a 65 foot slip.  To get a sense of scale note the two standard poodles barking down at me from the foredeck.  It is a serious bluewater cruiser with a single screw roughly 5 feet in diameter.

Steve and Kim spend each summer in Alaska and they bring home enough frozen cryopacked seafood to put on one hell of a Christmas spread for their family.  We weren’t the only strays at the party but there weren’t many other non-family members so we felt pretty special to have been invited.  I told Steve afterward that it was depressing eating his food because I used to think I was a pretty good cook myself.  He had prepared all the seafood on Maximo.  It was easily the best I have ever tasted and I’ve eaten a lot of seafood over the years.  In addition to the seafood they had 10 oz filet mignon for everyone so we all came home literally stuffed.

NeatBoats-19 CQR

The project for this afternoon was to install our very shiny new stainless steel CQR and I must say it looks pretty sharp.  We had a major struggle to get all the chain out of the locker because I don’t think it had been out for a long time.  The chain just piles up in a storage locker directly under the windlass.  Of course as it comes in it makes a high pile which subsequently tips over but that isn’t the worst of it.  Over time if it isn’t used the pile tends to turn over from the pitching action of the boat.  The bow gets alternately buried and tossed by big waves and the locker is in the extreme front of the bow.  To top it off our windlass hadn’t been used for so long that it was more or less frozen up but we got it going.  We got all the chain strung out along the dock, checked all the shackles and then bent the new anchor on.   I also checked carefully to make sure that the end of the chain is well secured in anticipation of a visit from Doug.

I haven’t decided where we will stow the old Bruce but I’m really happy to have this heavier CQR.  From what I can tell there’s not a whole lot of technology in anchoring.  You put a big weight on the end of a lot of chain and it will tend to hold you.  There is however a new generation of anchors that are just starting to appear.  There’s a Manson on the Jeanneau tied up beside us and a Rocna on the 53 Nordhavn. 

Both of those anchors are new generation technology and they certainly appear to be an improvement over the CQRs, Deltas, Danforths and Bruces/Claws that have been around for years but time will tell how well they perform.  For now I think I’ll look for either a heavier Bruce or maybe a Danforth for our third anchor.  We’ve got about 400 feet of combined chain and rope for a spare anchor rode already.  I’d like to have a second anchor mounted in the bow ready to deploy immediately.  And we’ll probably add another 100 feet or so of chain to our primary rode (so that when it turns over in the locker we have even more of a muddle to sort out).

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dock carts and sick cats

Having wasted a lot of my life wandering around marinas looking at boats I have always been envious of the yotties and their dock carts.  Its a silly thing I know but I can’t help it.  They just looked so happily nautical trotting down the docks pulling their little white dock carts.  Well now we have a whole gatehouse full of them for our own use.  And we’ve been making good use of them almost every day.  Seattle merchants may think it’s a Christmas bulge but it’s really just us provisioning Gray Hawk.  Ebay has done well off us too.  I hope Van and Paul don’t get tired of receiving UPS shipments before all the stuff gets here.

It’s not like we’ve been buying big stuff, just a lot of stuff.  The majority of it has been things like a crock pot (8.98 at Lowes – how the hell can they do that??), electric kettle, bedding, socks, toothpaste, soup and cereal – the list goes on.  And every time we pull into the parking lot one of us gets to go get a dock cart and then we wheel the whole works down Bravo dock and load it onboard.  Individually they don’t amount to a whole lot of weight but over time it has to add up.  I’ve got some bigger items coming off ebay – things like a SS anchor, some spare dock bumpers, new dock lines, brackets for the dock bumpers and a foam mattress to extend the bed.

Yesterday we filled the fresh water tanks for the first time (which of course required a white water hose – $18.99 at Evergreen RV plus another 15 or so bux in brass fittings from Lowes).  We hold a lot of fresh water – over 400 gallons – so that little project added about 2 tons to our draft. 

I’m slowly starting to get a handle on the systems.  There isn’t a whole lot of maintenance that I absolutely need to do before we leave for Sidney but there’s enough nevertheless.  At a minimum I want to do an oil and coolant change.  Yesterday I ordered a couple of coolant hoses from American Diesel, somewhere on the east coast.  Those will replace a hose that has rubbed thin where it was placed too close to an oil filter.  I also finally figured out where the coolant leak in the bilge was coming from and it turned out to be innocuous.  There’s a petcock on the top of the water jacket to bleed air out of the system.  Somebody had left it slightly open.

Then I bought 3 special SS hose clamps at West Marine ($5.94 each for 1” clamps).  Fortunately I have found a better source for the balance of the stainless hose clamps as I start putting together a bit of a spares stock.  Things like hose clamps, hoses, battery terminals, stranded wire, cable ends, oil, coolant, filters – the sort of stuff that you would run to the hardware store for if you were at home.  I’m thinking that if a water intake hose springs a leak 15 miles offshore I’d like to be able to mend it on the spot.  Even an imperfect patch seems preferable to waiting until I can get to the hardware store in that circumstance.

Jorgito is pretty well acclimatized to the boat now but he was a very sick kitty just 2 days ago.  He didn’t eat or drink the whole travel day or the following day.  We started out squirting water into him with the turkey baster but quickly moved to more aggressive treatments.  Marilyn found some “cat electrolyte” at a Pet Smart store.  (translation: plain ordinary electrolyte packaged in a small plastic bottle with a picture of a cat and an outrageous price on it).  We also picked up some baby liquid ibuprofen at Walmart and squirted a bit of that into him. 

The electrolytes made a miraculous improvement.  Within a couple of hours after the first dose he was starting to hold his head up and look around.  After the 2nd dose he started moving around on his own and by yesterday he was back to normal.  While I was inspecting hoses in the engine room he managed to get in with me and immediately dived under the genset.  About an hour later I had the door open again and he came ripping down the spiral staircase, through the door and across the engine room headed for the genset again.  That time I was too quick for him and got him turned before he made it to the Onan so he whirled around, scrabbled his little claws on the aluminum floorboards and went flying out again.

This morning I was up pretty early.  There is quite a bit of freighter movement past our marina coming and going from the port of Seattle.  George watched the lights of one leaving in the dark this morning.  He has figured the windows out and spends a lot of time looking at the big world outside but he’s still wimpy about going outside. 

The biggest challenge right now is to find places close by that have the sometimes obscure things that we need.  Finding foam to extend the bed for example turned into a major ordeal which I finally resolved by ordering it off Walmart’s online site.  Diesel antifreeze has turned into another challenge.  Yesterday I traipsed into several NAPA stores and endured the stupid looks from the idiot kids behind the counter when I asked for heavy duty diesel coolant.  I wouldn’t mind it so much if they just said “sorry, we don’t got none”.  When they look at me like I’m the fool and try to tell me that “everybody” uses whatever stupid brand of coolant they have on their shelf then I don’t always respond well.  I did manage to find Delo 400 in single weight and thanks to Google I have a NAPA truck store located for our travels today.  Another one that got some strange looks was when I asked for De-ox paste.  I’m sure I could walk into one of the chandleries and they would happily sell me whatever overpriced snake oil the yotties use but I’m fundamentally a cheap SOB and this isn’t rocket science.  Christopher Columbus got here by following the setting sun and we don’t plan to go anywhere near as far as he did.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A bad cat day

Jorgito was already feeling a little punk when we loaded him in his cat cage at 0-dark:30 this morning.  We set the alarm for 4:00 bus time which was 3:00 Calgary time.  By 4:30 we had the bus parked for the rest of the winter with the micro-truck snuggled in beside it.  We haven’t shut the bus down like that for over 3 years now so it felt pretty weird.  It got a lot weirder before the morning was over.

We breezed through the Horizon check-in – nobody there but us and the two agents.  And we weren’t long at US Homeless Insecurity either.  There was a bit of a lineup when we arrived and there were only two agents on but at 6:00 a bunch more agents arrived and things moved pretty quickly.  The guy we got was actually jovial, inquiring about how the cat was travelling and generally waving us through.  Then we hit the Canadian version of TSA – I can’t remember what the acronym is but they all say Bowjewer – Good Morning as you walk up to them and there’s about 400 of the useless tits in the Calgary airport alone.  All wearing blue latex gloves too.

So we took off our shoes and unpacked our computers and emptied our pockets and waited patiently.  Pretty soon some nitwit appeared and asked us why Jorgito wasn’t mentioned on our boarding passes.  Huh?  Since we have never flown with any animal before what did we know?  For a while it looked like they were going to make us retrieve our checked luggage and pack our goodies back to Horizon’s check in so that we could start over from scratch.  There was a lot of bustling around and talking on walkie talkies and making of phone calls.  Eventually one of the nitwits approached us and told us that one of us would indeed have to return to Horizon check-in but that the other one could stay at “security” with all our stuff.  Ridiculous as it sounds we felt grateful for that concession. 

So off I went on the great quest for a felt pen scribble on our boarding passes.  And that’s exactly what I got after I went backwards through security pre-screening, US Immigration (where you turn in your declaration card), US Customs (where you answer all the silly questions), US customs pre-screening, the 2nd US customs pre-screening and finally back to Horizon’s counter.  At which point the Horizon agent was genuinely baffled as to what I was talking about.  She was no dummy however.  If “security” wanted something written on my boarding pass then she was more than up to the challenge.  She whipped out her Sharpie, scribbled “Cat Incabin” and I was on my way back through US customs pre-screening #1, US customs pre-screening #2, US Customs bitchy-broad who was holding my passport, “security” pre-screening and finally back to the actual security lineup.  Then I got a full body scan which I managed to thoroughly confuse by virtue of having about 47 dollars in mixed currency in my right hand pocket.  Good thing it wasn’t in my underwear. 

I was more than a little rattled by that point but I honestly don’t think a soul looked at my boarding pass after the nice lady at Horizon scribbled on it.  After all that the flight was pretty un-noteworthy.

When we arrived in Seattle it was an absolutely gorgeous day.  Clear blue sky.  Not a breath of a breeze so the ocean was like a mirror.  We made a quick stop at Target on the way to Elliott Bay to pick up a pizza for dinner and then went on a major grocery and provisioning run after dinner.  I got my Verizon wireless dongle reactivated so that I could get online.  The two boxes of stuff that I shipped from Airdrie on Tuesday arrived this afternoon while we were out shopping so we are truly settled now.  (the place is in a hell of a mess but at least we have the necessities for housekeeping)  We’ll spend the next few days getting to know our new home before we start into any major work. 

Jorgito however is not so sanguine about his day.  He started in a funk because he had to go to the vet yesterday.  A complete waste of time and money as usual but you have to play the game.  Horizon insisted on having a “letter from his vet stating that all his shots were current within the last 3 months”.  He’s the healthiest cat you could hope to meet and he is well vetted but no vet with half a brain would ever write that letter unless he had poked or drugged the cat within the last 3 months.  Marilyn couldn’t get an appointment for the little vermin until yesterday and of course the vet found something that he could sell her by way of a needle or a pill so Georgie was already feeling rough when Marilyn stuffed him into his cat cage in the middle of the night.  And then things went right downhill from there.

Nobody at any point gave a damn about his papers or the famous vet-letter.  George however clearly disliked all the strange smells and big noises.  By the time we got to the boat he was so pissed off that when he came out of his cat cage he promptly turned around and went back in.  And he’d still be there if I hadn’t dragged him out by the scruff of his neck.  But he let us know in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t pleased with the new accommodations.  Right now he’s curled up sleeping on the master bed but if one of us goes in there and tries to pat him he lets out the most blood curdling yowls.  He’s clearly not a happy camper but he’ll just have to cope with it.  I’ve tried to point out to him that his options are adjust or go overboard but I don’t think he listens.

Marilyn just pointed out that George has had a really bad week, not just a couple of bad days.  When we went back to Saskatchewan we put him in storage so he was just getting over that ordeal when he had to go to the vet and then it’s been all downhill from there.  As far as he’s concerned anyway.

For us on the other hand it’s been a pretty wonderful day.  It’s a tremendous relief to be back onboard with all our gear.  We’ve had a frantic month since we were last here and we are both looking forward to kicking back a bit over Christmas.  We’ve got no shortage of things to do while we’re here but the first and most important is to relax.  I’ve got some beer in the fridge, Marilyn has three magnums of wine and tomorrow I’ll track down some scotch.  Then we’ll truly be settled.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Don’t play this one if you’re easily offended

As we get ready to brave US Homeless Insecurity again tomorrow I can’t resist posting this.

There’s a pithy message buried in a lot of off-colour humour.  There’s no images, it’s just a song so turn the volume up and enjoy but don’t say you weren’t warned.  Nick Russel publishes a weblog here and I remember to read it occasionally.  He usually reserves stuff like this for his Bad Nick weblog but he must have been bored today. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Oh dear it’s been a long time

I’m sorry –we’ve been on the move a lot and I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had posted.

Where to start …………

We waited out the blizzard in Lethbridge – does it ever NOT blow in that gawdforsaken hole? By then it was too late to go to Billings and also make my Nexus appointment in Calgary so we moved up to the Sunridge Mall parking lot on the NE end of Calgary.  Some time ago now I submitted a Nexus application.  Nexus is a cross border clearance card that is purported to make the crossing effortless.  They finally got around to accepting my application and then I had to make an appointment 2 months out to meet with a US customs officer in Calgary.  I’ll come back to that story sometime in the future but suffice it to say for now that US customs and immigration is clearly out of control.

There are a variety of versions of the Benjamin Franklin quote but Wikipedia claims that “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety” is likely the earliest version of it.  I have some dear friends who are Americans.  Any of you who are reading this should take the time to understand that quote, consider what elements of it made your nation great and then consider what you can do to re-establish your former greatness.  I can assure you that what your government is doing now is providing neither security nor freedom and it is daily diminishing a once great nation.

After I got done with US Customs we moved from Calgary up into central Alberta where I did a project for Growsafe at the University of Alberta’s Kinsella Ranch.  It was too damn cold to be doing what I was doing but we survived. 

Right now we’re back in Airdrie where our friends Al and Camiel have bought a new acreage with a much larger bus parking area.  They don’t have 30 amp power here but then again they didn’t have 30 amp power at the last place until I installed it.  I think I will install a 50 amp service this time.  But not in this weather.

We spent the last two days making a flying trip to Billings to pick up the Exploder.  Along the way we had another great visit with Skip and Maria in Helena.  I love that Great Dane – I tried to kidnap her for a boat dog but it’s hard to be inconspicuous with a beast that size.

Tomorrow morning we are leaving early to meet Marlan for breakfast in Strathmore.  He’s working a night shift driving a truck in that area.  Then we’ll head over to Regina to spend a couple of days with father before going to Buchanan to pick up some boat supplies.  Monday morning we’ll be in Saskatoon for some meetings and by the end of next week we hope to be back on the left coast.  We’ll have to watch for a weather window to get through Roger’s Pass and over the Coquihalla but if we can catch a break on those two obstacles then we’ll only be a short ferry ride away from Gray Hawk. 

For those of you who voted in the Name-That-Boat poll, thank you.  But I think we’re going to go with tradition and leave the name alone.  If anybody is interested, Baylurker came in dead last.  Bethia Jewitt and Vamonos ran neck and neck but Vamonos came out slightly ahead.  Somehow though it seems cruel to change a 30 year old lady’s name so we may just leave the name alone.  We’ve got plenty of higher priorities including the fact that the State of Washington wants 10% sales tax on the purchase if we don’t get the boat out of Washington in the early new year. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Car vs bus = car loses

We tried to wait out the stormy weather in the Pacific Northwest and it looked like we had succeeded on Monday so we set out to return our rental car and head east across Snoqualmie and whatever other passes lay between us and Montana. It was a pretty decent day when we left La Conner but by the time we hit I-5 there was snow on the road and it kept falling as we headed south toward Seattle. 

We got the car returned and we southbound again in fairly heavy traffic, probably at the tail end of the morning rush hour.  We were in the 2nd lane out from the right in four lanes of traffic.  I became aware of a car coming up on the left and watched as he all of a sudden went out of control.  I assume he was probably yapping on a cell phone, made a fast move on the wheel and then things went bad for him.  At first I thought he would smack us right under the ticket window but then he got crosswise headed toward the shoulder.  I couldn’t go anywhere so I kept looking ahead and checking him occasionally as he drifted broadside down the highway.  Eventually he got going broadside with his nose pointed back at us.  By that time he was likely about even with the middle of the bus and I noticed at that point that he was steering into the skid – funny the things you focus on in those situations.  I looked ahead and then checked the mirror in time to see him arrive in the side of the bus.

There was an explosion of red plastic as he hit and it was a pretty hard hit.  Hard enough to knock a corning ware casserole off the counter onto the hardwood where it shattered into a million shards of glass.  As he hit I could see another vehicle bearing down on his passenger side and then I had to stay focused on getting us safely over to the shoulder and stopped.

When I got out to survey the damage I couldn’t believe how little there really was.  We’ve got a mangled piece of stainless steel on the back wheelwell trim but that’s really the only visible damage.  He must have hit the driver’s corner of his front bumper squarely on the end of the tag axle.  That punched out the chrome hubcap on the tag as well as the plastic site gauge on the oil bath cap.  That was all I could see for damage at the time and 3 days later that’s still all I know of.

I didn’t want to chance walking across the interstate to get back to the scene of the crime and I also didn’t want to sit on the side of the busy highway because we almost certainly would have been hit again.  But my alternatives weren’t great either.  I could leave the scene but that didn’t seem wise.  There was an onramp from the weigh scale just ahead of me so I elected to pull ahead to the onramp and then illegally back up the ramp.  I had to wait a while for a break in the truck traffic across the scale but when I got my chance that is what I did.  One truck waited on the scale for maybe an extra minute to hold up the traffic behind him and we were back in the scale parking lot. 

Johnny G-Man the scale operator was not impressed.  I could see him come storming out of his little cage so I waited for him to come up beside the bus.  He proceeded to read me the riot act about how what I had done was an automatic $550 fine and yadyadayada.  When he finally ran down I apologized but pointed out that I didn’t really have any good options.  He may not have realized that we had been hit.  He muttered something about how we should have pulled to the side of the interstate but I didn’t let that lie unchallenged and then he told me to wait where I was until the trooper arrived.  Since that had been my plan all along I didn’t argue.

When the trooper arrived, after driving the wrong way up the same ramp with his lights off he seemed genuinely puzzled as to why I was apologizing for doing what I had done.  He did his report as best he could.  His computer didn’t have any province codes for Canada other than BC so our addresses showed up on the report as Buchanan, BC.  Canada Post should have fun with that if they ever try to mail us anything.  Since our damage was so insignificant I didn’t sweat it.

The trooper said that both of the other drivers were charged but we were just innocent bystanders.  That seemed a little harsh for the poor sap who plowed into the side of the jackass that started the whole mess but I didn’t argue with him.  The car that hit us would no doubt have been a total loss.  There was at least $2000 of plastic flew off it when it hit us and then it got seriously damaged.  I estimate our damage at maybe $200 total.

We found a nearby campground in Everett and pulled in there while we figured out what to do next.  When I checked the weather the passes appeared to have gone completely to hell again.  I-90 was back to chainup in a couple of locations.  Apparently I am 52 years old, although I find that hard to believe.  In those 52 years I have never hung chains on a vehicle and I don’t see any reason to learn now.  I carry chains in the micro-truck just to keep us legal but of course we forgot to take them out when we left the truck in Billings. 

Eventually we decided that we would head north rather than east.  We crossed the border back into Canada at Sumas around noon on Tuesday and then headed east along Highway #3.  That’s not a great way to get across the rockies but it appeared to be a warmer route than going up through Banff.  It also dumped us out in Alberta right at our Holiday Trails campground in Lethbridge which is where we are now, plugged into 50 amp service waiting for the bus to thaw out again.  There’s a howling blizzard blowing outside as the chinook wind blows into Alberta but its not all that cold anymore.  We had intended to rent a car and go to Billings today but the road conditions sound like it will be best to postpone that plan. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Famous quotes

I am fond of quoting Ratty’s wisdom on the merits of messing about in boats.  Its pretty surprising therefore that I completely failed to notice the framed quotation below while we were looking at Gray Hawk.  Today when we came onboard I almost immediately noticed it hanging below the chronograph and barometer on the aft wall of the salon.

IMG_3808 We had no intention of coming back to the boat.  On Thursday when we said goodbye we fully expected to be on the road east today.  The weather forced us to change our plans.  There’s been wicked snow in the PNW and the Cascade passes have been hard hit.  We reluctantly moved our departure back.  Reluctantly because we both have a heavy schedule on the prairies and every day we delay makes our time there more hectic.

Having decided we were going to stay out here at least until Monday we were actually looking forward to a down weekend in the bus.  However when we got home last night we had no water.  That wasn’t a huge problem because our tank wasn’t empty but it wasn’t full either.  I had planned to fill both tanks before we left here but hadn’t got around to doing it.  Then the broker phoned last night to say that all the title documents were registered and that we could pick them up at his office if we were back in town.  We had also received confirmation of our insurance which was the last step necessary for the marina to issue us our parking passes and gate access codes.

So we decided to have a leisurely morning and drive in to pick up the papers.  That didn’t quite work out either because this morning the camp manager came around to say that they might not get their water back on at all for some time.  After hearing that we decided that if we were going to be at home in the bus with no water we might as well be on the boat where we could have showers and start to get settled in.

Over the years that we have been RVing we have often used Walmart parking lots for overnight stops.  Some people really abuse Walmart’s corporate hospitality but for us it is always an overnight stop or maybe an overnight and leisurely morning departure.  We don’t put down the jacks, get out the barbeque and set up lawn chairs under the awning on their parking lot.  Unfortunately a few people do, hard as it is to imagine why they would want to.  Anyway, we have parked for free at Camp Wallymart many times over the last 15 or so years but today we paid at least some of our debt.

We needed a variety of boat supplies, everything from tools to kitchen utensils.  We didn’t buy everything today but we put a big hole in it.  Then we stopped at West Marine and picked up the two most expensive tubes of caulking compound I have ever bought – 40 bucks for the pair of them and they weren’t particularly big.  They say a boat is a hole in the water which you pour money into and today we dumped several boat bucks into our new hole in the water.

There’s a couple of leaks on Gray Hawk but I think we got one of them today.  The previous owner did a wonderful job of varnishing all the brightwork this summer (brightwork is boat talk for wood on the outside of the boat).  But he didn’t recaulk the front windows.  I can only assume it was an oversight – he has a new boat in his life after all.  Today we got a weather break – the sun shone all morning and it didn’t rain at all.  We were seriously outside the temperature window for the expensive caulk but we put it on anyway.  When we get back in January we’ll know whether it worked or not. 

The brokers bought us a bottle of champagne so tonight we are toasting our new boat with champagne.  This has been almost a life long dream for me.  I can remember dreaming it while we were still living in Shellbrook and I was 14 when we left there.  For Marilyn it was a case of supporting my dream and then eventually adopting it as her own.  As Ratty said “there’s nothing so absolutely worth doing as simply messing about in boats”. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Too late to back out now

What a whirlwind of activity the past week has been.  A week ago today we went to Seattle to look at Gray Hawk for the first time.  The Yachtworld listing this morning shows “sale pending” but I’m not sure what is pending about this sale because the documents will likely be registered this afternoon, Monday at the latest.  We’re actually scrambling to get insurance in place before the sale closes.  We ran into a hiccup on that front yesterday but hope that is behind us this morning.

For those of you who haven’t voted on the name change, what are you waiting for?   The poll is here.  I won’t divulge the results so far for fear of influencing the outcome but I will say that it is a dead heat so every vote counts.  Thank you RJ for the helpful suggestions that we won’t be following.  We particularly liked “Two Geriatrics and a Cat”.  It might be a little hard to rattle off on the VHF but it would provide the Coast Guard with a detailed list of what they were looking for.

Today we hope to make it to the Pacific Marine Expo.  It will have a whole new meaning for us.  At one point I thought I would be attending to look for suppliers for equipment upgrades or repairs.  However every item I thought we would need has turned out to be already onboard.  The boat is incredibly well equipped and the mechanicals are in excellent condition.  I’m going to have the injectors tested and likely will end up having them rebuilt but so far that is the only major problem we have found and even that one is pretty minor.  We’ve also got some rainwater leaks around windows to caulk but that is pretty well a given on a boat of this size and age.


Last night we said goodbye to the boat for an undetermined length of time.  If the forecast storm allows us to we will be heading east in the morning to pick up the trucklet in Billings.  If the forecast turns out to be accurate then we might still spend the weekend here but we will be in recovery mode and won’t likely go back to the boat.  It’s been a very hectic seven days.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buying a boat continued

We’re getting to know downtown Seattle pretty well.  Yesterday we left La Conner just late enough to miss most of rush hour – that’s how well we know the place, we know when rush hour starts and finishes.  We met Don Fairchild at the Costco south of Qwest Centre and took him out to look at Gray Hawk.  For those of you who don’t recognize the name, Don is one of the foremost authorities on 2-stroke Detroits in North America.  In that capacity he sees mostly marine installations and since I knew he was going to be in Seattle anyway I asked him if he would have a look at Gray Hawk’s engine room with me.

I don’t think either the marine survey or Don & my mechanical survey turned up anything that we didn’t know already.  The boat is 30 years old so it’s no virgin.  It’s got old systems and some of them need some work.  The marine survey confirmed what we already suspected, namely that the boat is in excellent condition notwithstanding its age. 

The trip over and back to Seaview Marina was our first experience at sea on this size of a vessel.  Both of us and the boat handled it well.  The Naiad stabilizers are simply amazing.  The sea conditions weren’t bad when we left the dock but by the time we got home they were getting pretty snotty.  The stabilizers performed as advertised.  Without them engaged we were rolling through 30 or 40 degrees.  When we engaged the Naiads there would be a moment of hesitation while the gyro got orientated and then the boat would literally snap back to under a 10 degree roll.  You could easily feel the fins take control.

Jerry-the-surveyor did his woodpecker routine over the entire hull and pronounced it sound.  For those of you who don’t know, marine surveyors spend a lot of their time going tap-tap-tap with a small hammer over the entire hull, the interior scantlings and the interior woodwork looking for voids or rot.  I had expected to see at least some underwater fibreglass blisters because they are ubiquitous on hulls of this age but there absolutely were none.  He found a small amount of active interior rot and evidence of some previous  window leakage.  We already knew about the window leakage and I had assumed there must be at least some rot that we weren’t aware of so we really didn’t learn a lot from that. 

Jerry-the-surveyor had a few comments about the engines but the visit yesterday with Don was much more informative.  Lehman 120s (which is what we have for power) are dead reliable workhorses.  I’ve seen lifespans between total rebuild as high as 25,000 hours quoted and 12-15,000 hours seems to be a normal expectation.  That means that at 4200 hours on ours we shouldn’t have to budget any in-frames in the near future.  There are some unique maintenance requirements though, including a requirement to change the oil in the injection pump sump every 50 hours.  I doubt these have ever been changed which may explain why they are fairly hard starters now.  It sounds like even with regular pump oil changes the injection pumps would be due for a rebuild by now so that will be an early priority.

The other thing that the sea trial and haulout confirmed is just how massively built these boats really are.  I have heard many people say that their Defever will take way more than they can stand and I’m sure that will be true for us as well.  The picture above shows my Blackberry leaning against the fibreglass cutout saved from when the bowthruster was installed.  Seeing the boat hanging in the slings at haulout it was clear that there is just about as much boat underwater as there is above water.  Our captain for the trip remarked on how well the boat handled but also commented that it behaved like a deep draft vessel.  On his own boat he is accustomed to scooting the bow sideways with his bow thruster.  On ours he noted that it was much slower to respond to the bow thruster because of its deep keel but particularly because of its deep forefoot.

The next step is to get insurance in place and take possession.  Yesterday we made arrangements to have the boat hauled so that we can do some work on it in January.  There’s nothing major that needs to be done but there are some zincs that need changing, some coolant hoses that have deteriorated, I’d like to change the raw water impellers and I may pull the injection pumps and have them rebuilt.  It’s a machine so it’s going to need service.  My goal is always to do that as maintenance rather than as repairs.  Some days I’m more successful than others.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

We need help

OK – not that kind of help.

It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat but SWMBO says that we are going to change it anyway.  The options are as follows:

Baylurker Bayliner makes a spectacularly bad line of “value priced” multi-purpose boats.  As Malibu-snobs we have learned to look down our nose at Bayliners and I have dubbed them Baylurkers or worse.  The name however has some appeal for a go-slow boat that will spend it’s life lurking in bays.
Vamonos Spanish – from the verb “ir” which means “to go”.  Vamonos is the plural present tense of ir.  Grammatically the correct usage would be “nos vamonos” or “we go” but “vamonos” said alone means “let’s go”.
Bethia Jewitt In our family tree the entry for the birth of one of the children of my G.G.Grandfathers reads “Born on board Bethia Jewitt of Saint John, N.B., Thomas Waters Com., at anchor between the north and middle Chincha Islands on the coast of Peru.”  That phrase has always stuck in my mind so it seems appropriate to name our boat for the historical boat.
Something else Feel free to suggest something in the comment section but before Doug suggests it, HMS WTF III is out of the question.

I’ve signed up for some online polling software just in honour of the occasion.  I don’t know how many times it will let you vote – I hope only once.  And we might as well make it clear up front that while we will likely go with the results of the poll we will retain the right to come up with something completely different.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey.


We were sitting in the brokers’ office yesterday afternoon, in the process of writing up the offer.  They had already told us that the owner was living aboard his new 65 footer but we thought they said that boat was on Lake Union.  There was only the two of us, our broker and his wife who is also the secretary and the senior broker in the office. 

The door to the office opened and someone walked in carrying a small duffel bag.  He opened the conversation by saying something to the effect of “maybe I should drop the price on that thing again.”  I happened to be looking directly at the senior broker and I could tell he wanted this guy to go away and go away RIGHT NOW.

Wanting a customer who walks through the door unannounced to leave isn’t unheard of.  We had a couple like that.  One of them in particular everyone would head for the shop so that whoever was the last man standing at the counter would have to deal with the nonsense that was certain to come out of his mouth.  Another was so miserable (and so sickly) that I had standing orders that if he dropped in the yard with a heart attack nobody was to call 9-11 until we were absolutely certain he was dead. 

So it wasn’t impossible that this unannounced stranger was just a pain in the ass customer that the brokers would rather not see but it somehow didn’t seem like that was the case.  He looked around the office, saw that we were there and that the brokers were obviously busy and continued by saying “I’ll just have my shower and come back.”

After he left the brokers tried to pretend that nothing had happened but one of them said something and I asked if that had been the current owner of “our” Defever.  “Yep”.  “I guess we should lower our offer in that case.”

So it wasn’t a complete surprise about an hour later when we learned that he had accepted our offer.

We’ve been doing a lot of reading about big boats.  Some of what we read appears to be extremely useful.

When docking a boat the trick is to get the dock and the boat moving at the same speed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A very very good day

We left the bus around 9:30 this morning.  I had a minor meltdown before we left because effing Messysloth hadn’t printed the maps I asked it to last night.  I carefully selected 5 different map views in Microslop Streets and Trips and sent each of them to print.  I should have looked at them last night.  Instead of the carefully selected views that I was expecting what I found this morning was five copies of line by line directions from La Conner to the Seattle waterfront.

With that annoyance behind us we headed into Seattle and were fortunate enough to miss the morning rush hour.  We must have been right on the tail end of it.  We did have one minor miscue -

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-- just a little to the west of where the “B” is on the map there’s a fairly confusing maze of ramps and we inadvertently ended up in some underground parking cave that is guarded by an overly officious toothless person.  He rather rudely turned us back.  I said something to Marilyn about how he could have been a little more understanding because what we had done likely happened at least 100 times daily and sure enough, before we got turned around, another woman had arrived by making the exact same navigatory error that we had.

Once we got clear of Mr. Official we proceeded to Elliott Bay Marina which is represented by all the boats lined up at “A” above.  We spent around an hour on “Gray Hawk”, the 2nd of the two 43 foot Defevers that we came out here to look at.  She’s moored almost exactly where the “A” on the map is located.  We always said that eventually we would go onboard a boat that would just scream out “this is  the one” and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened this morning.  The engine room was perfect, everything tagged and neat.  The boat was clean.  There’s some really good electronics on it including a side scanning sonar which is a forward looking depth finder that sweeps from side to side to paint a wide picture of the ocean floor.  It has factory installed active “Naiad” stabilizers.  The current owner has moved on to a 65 foot boat but his meticulous care is evident.  The foredecks have been replaced with fibreglass and the portholes don’t leak on this one.  They could stand being replaced but there is no water damage in the master stateroom. 

I could go on but the point is that mechanically the boat appears to be very sound.  It doesn’t have all the liveaboard toys that some of the others on our short list do – things like washer, dryer, dishwasher.  But it was priced at a point where we could afford to add those things if we decide we need them.

The boat was listed at $115,000 when we first saw it online.  Compared to other Defevers we had looked at we thought that was a very reasonable price.  Then about a month ago the listing changed to $99,500 and we were actually worried that it might get sold before we got out to look at it.  Today the broker was dropping broad hints that the owner would look at lower offers so we made an offer substantially below the current asking price.  I guess we should have gone lower because the owner accepted our offer while we were having a wonderful lunch on the waterfront.

The standard boat buying procedure is seriously loaded against the seller.  You have to feel sorry for the poor sap.  Having agreed today to a price substantially below his asking price (and in this case way south of what he thought the boat was worth as little as a month ago) he now has to suffer further negotiation after what is called a survey.  The survey amounts to an independent appraisal and our offer was accepted contingent on both a mechanical and marine survey being acceptable to us.  So that means that we will now hire both a marine and a mechanical surveyor who will go over the boat looking for reasons to further reduce the price.  At the end of the survey if the buyer isn’t willing to remedy any defects that the surveyor uncovers we have the right to back out of the deal or renegotiate the price.  Like I said – the system is loaded against the seller.  We do have to pay for the survey and to have the boat hauled to do the survey so the process isn’t completely lopsided.

We registered for the Pacific Marine Expo last week.  It will be a lot more fun now that we are likely to actually be boat owners by the time we attend the show.  Stay tuned – the fun has only barely started.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Going where we aren’t wanted

When we were wandering around the Wyoming range looking for Jensen’s ranch we eventually headed up a trail and found ourselves looking at an R-CALF gate sign.  It turns out that Jim is an R-CALF director but of course at O-Dark 30 I didn’t know that and I instantly had visions of this  lonely lost Canuck wandering uninvited into an R-CALF yard and getting told where to go and how fast to get there.  Or worse.  It might have turned into “whatever happened to Bob?”

I never met Jim but I’m sure he’s a decent well-intentioned guy.  R-CALF on the other hand has been a major trade irritant and sometime embarrassment to USDA.  During the BSE nonsense R-CALF was able to convince some old half asleep judge in Montana to pass repeated injunctions to prevent Canadian cattle from entering the US, in complete defiance of the science-based measures that USDA and Ag Canada had agreed to.  That’s all behind us now because once the US started looking to see if they had any BSE in their herd not surprisingly it turned out that they did.  It would have been pretty bloody surprising if it had turned out any other way since we have had a North American cattle industry since the cowboys started chasing cattle and Indians across the range. 

We left Jim’s ranch around 4:00 on Monday.  We had intended to stay until Tuesday morning but one of the ranch hands suggested that we should bug out early because the weather was about to go to hell.  The forecast didn’t actually look that bad but he said it was going to get really windy and we didn’t want to stay around to see if he was right or not. 

We got to Cody that night and got a fairly early start out of Cody on Wednesday morning.  About half an hour out of Billings I noticed a truck behind me flashing his lights at me.  That’s never good.  As I started to slow down he passed me and pulled in ahead of us.  Before we got out his wife ran back to tell us we had a flat tire on the trucklet.  If only it had been so simple. 

Once again we discovered a busted front axle complete with the same sick looking mess dragging underneath the front of the truck.  Almost exactly one year after our incident in Oregon we had exactly the same failure, on the other side of the truck.  I have no idea what is causing the problem.  We pulled the truck for 4 years with no problem but this past year has been a nightmare.  Both sides of the front end were rebuilt within the last year so there is no excuse for a bearing failure this soon but that is exactly what happened.  The shop that we towed it to in Billings has suggested that perhaps the alignment is not being correctly set up for towing.  That is possible I guess but it still doesn’t explain why we were able to tow with no problems for the first 4 years.  Whatever the cause we left the truck in Billings and came on to Seattle without it.

Along the way we had a great visit with Skip and Maria in Helena.  Skip and I got to know each other through a bus-related online forum and we had met briefly a few years ago.  On Tuesday night we parked in their yard and had a great visit with the two of them, one of their daughters and two grand-daughters.  They also have a serious amount of livestock, most of which we met.  George hasn’t quite recovered from the smell of strange cats and dogs on my clothing.  I tried to trade him for a better cat but Skip wanted too much difference so we are still stuck with him.

Yesterday we made it to exit 106 on I-90 in Washington.  We spent the night in a Love’s truck stop and then came on into Seattle this morning.  We parked on a Wallyworld lot and tracked down a rental car.  It turned out that Enterprise had an office about a mile from where we were parked so we walked over and picked up the car.  Then we got moved up to our Thousand Trails campground at La Conner and settled into the exact same spot we were in last winter.

Of course when we were this close to the boats we couldn’t resist trying to look at one.  Neither of us really thought that anybody would be open on Remembrance Day but we drove into Anacortes anyway.  We have two 43 foot Defevers lined up out here that are the main purpose of this trip.  We have a “short-list” with roughly 40 boats on it that we would look at but of those boats only about 25 are in the Pacific Northwest.  Of those about half are Defevers in various lengths.  We think the 43 foot Defever is the shortest boat that I can stand up in.  Much as we’d both like the extra space in something a little longer we think that in the long term we will appreciate not paying moorage for the longer boat and not having to maintain a longer boat.

We got lucky – the brokerage office was open.  Actually it seemed like a lot of businesses down here were open today.  We had a good look at “Koala” despite not having taken along a flashlight or icepick.  Both of those are important tools for boat shoppers.  The flashlight for obvious reasons – there are a lot of dark corners onboard.  The icepick is important to check for rotten wood.  Today I was able to identify rot without the icepick.  Defevers are known to have problems with leaky portholes and this one was no exception.  The three portholes that you can see at the extreme aft of the photo above have leaked into the master stateroom.  It wouldn’t be a big task to fix the leaks.  The rot would take a bit more work.   This particular boat has obviously been neglected but the price clearly reflects that.

Tomorrow we go to look at a stabilized 43 foot that appears in the photos to be very well maintained.  Pictures can lie as we discovered when we went out to Vancouver earlier this fall.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The middle of nowhere

We waited out the weather in Buchanan.  It seemed like the snow was never going to leave, and it didn’t, but at least the roads got mostly cleared off.  We finally left about 9:30 on Tuesday morning.  We had planned a much earlier departure.

On Monday afternoon I got the truck pulled in behind the bus and hooked up.  We tidied up the yard and tried to leave everything so that the village can get on with mowing the grass because that is what we expect to be happening before we get back there.  We were up early Tuesday morning planning to be in Regina by mid-morning but it didn’t work out that way.  When I turned the key we got a distant “RRR” from the back of the bus and nothing more. 

It was my own fault – I’ve known for some time now that the batteries were on their last legs.  We bought the bus close to 7 years ago and the batteries weren’t new then so they really didn’t owe us anything.  We also really didn’t need the headache of dealing with them on Tuesday.  Two and a half hours later, with the assistance of battery blankets, battery charger, block heater and proheat we just barely got started.  Then I was afraid to shut it off, and with good reason.  When I finally did shut it off in the early afternoon in Regina it just barely started again so I knew it was time to do something.  I had visions of shutting it off at the customs shack and then not getting it started. 

We got to Swift Current about 5 minutes before 5:00 and pulled into the Cat dealer.  I figured that would be the most expensive place to buy batteries but that they would also likely have a pair of 8-Ds on the shelf.  They didn’t.  But the guy at the counter was super helpful and he immediately phoned some little auto parts shop in town.  They had a pair of batteries for about 1/3 of what I thought they would cost so he told them that we would be right over and they stayed open waiting for us. 

We didn’t bother trying to install the batteries Tuesday night because we were already late for supper with Al and Gail.  Al fed us very well when we finally arrived – thank you again Al – and then on Wednesday morning he and I stuffed the new batteries into the compartment on the frenchy-bus.  It sounded much happier when I turned the key that morning and even better when it started right up as we were leaving US Customs.  They were training a new girl so she had to come onboard and snoop through our fridge for salad supplies for their supper that night. 

After stocking up the customs fridge we headed straight south through Billings, Montana and Cody, Wyoming to here.

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Its pretty lonesome country.  We arrived about 9:00 and then wandered around in the dark looking for the place.  Nobody seems to have heard about putting their name or address on their mailbox and even the mailboxes are few and far between.  We finally ended up on a dead end trail that stopped at the gate of an Encana pumping facility.  As we were unhooking the night watchman showed up but he didn’t have a clue about who lived where.  He did very helpfully send us off in completely the wrong direction because he thought there were some ranches that way.  After about a half hour search in the little truck we stumbled on an unmarked lane, headed up it for about half a mile and then finally came to a sign for the ranch we were looking for.  Even then the sign was ambiguous enough that I kept on driving for another couple of miles just to make sure it was the right place.  Its a lot easier doing those reconnaissance trips in the micro-truck.  Along the way we had to dodge dozens of sleeping Angus cows because this is all open range country.  Fortunately they are big on Texas gates – some of them are a little narrow but evidently the ones we crossed were strong enough to carry a bus.

Once we found the yard then we had to find the bus again and get it moved to the ranch yard.  The owner is in Pennsylvania and his cell phone was dying when I talked to his wife late in the afternoon so we didn’t bother trying to phone them.  As it turned out there is actually a ranch hand living in the yard (with his border collie puppy named Stetson) but he didn’t hear us drive into the yard, drive around looking for a level spot, drive out, return with the bus and park the bus.  Stetson barked a couple of times but he’s a puppy so apparently Kevin didn’t pay any attention to him.  He’s a really cute puppy and a real cuddle bug too.  Once he figured out that we were friends he has been a regular guest.  He and George had words so now they just look at each other through the window.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Buying boat stuff

We don’t have a boat yet but we’re starting to accumulate stuff for it.  When we unpacked the cube van Marilyn sorted out a set of Silver Birch dishes for eventual use on the boat and we also set aside whatever other kitchen wares we came across that seemed like they might be useful.  We’ve been watching ebay for silverware but so far haven’t pulled the trigger on a set.  The set we use now came from Quartzsite so maybe we’ll find another set there this year.

For some time now I’ve been looking for a set of radio headsets.  I wish we had bought them years ago because they would have made backing into tight spots a lot easier over the years.  At some point we’re going to have to communicate while docking and headsets sound like the class way to go.  The alternative seems to be a lot of yelling and waving of arms which doesn’t look good at the best of times and is particularly declassé onboard a fancy boat.  But most headset systems are bloody expensive and some of them are right out of this world expensive.  Then I stumbled onto a cruisers’ forum and got a whole bunch of good information off it, including a link to Cruising Solutions which is where I found the headsets.  We had to wait until we could get our mail forwarded and then we had to wait some more until we remembered to buy some 9 volt batteries but Marilyn came home with a pair of them today.  And they work pretty damn good.  They’re not perfect but they were only 70 bucks after all.  And no radio solution is going to be perfectly clear.  The inverter on the frenchy-bus throws a lot of static so the bus isn’t the best test but even on the bus they are more than useable. 

The cruisers’ forum also pointed me to something called OpenCPN which is an open source chart plotter. 

I’m more than a little skeptical about open source software.  I got talked into using the open source alternative to Microsloth Office a few years ago and it caused me no end of grief.  In fairness to that suite, if anyone else is inclined to use it, you could likely do reasonably well with it as long as you never had to collaborate with anybody using Microsoft Office.  As it was, going back and forth from Open Office to Microsoft Office, eventually my spreadsheet files got to the point where they were unusable in either software. 

OpenCPN appears to be a lot better software.  Of course my knowledge of chart plotter software is pretty limited so maybe its pure crap and I just don’t know it.  But in the meanwhile I’m having a lot of fun playing with it.  The US government supplies excellent charts for their entire coastline free of charge.  That is not the case in Canada.  In fact the charts are so expensive from the gummit of Canada that it may actually be cheaper to buy chart plotter software in order to get the charts.  Some of the US charts overlap Canada so for the time being I’m making do with them.  Since we don’t have a boat there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of urgency on acquiring a complete set of charts.