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.