Thursday, January 27, 2011

So it’s an OK view ………..

…………… but great????  I don’t think so and definitely not “grand”.  Despite what the town fathers may have thought, the view from Grand View, Idaho is OK or maybe good at best. 

One of the coolest things about this Growsafe gig is the places I get to see.  There’s absolutely no reason to go to Grand View, Idaho unless you are somehow connected to Simplot’s land and cattle operation here.  You might go to Mountain Home which is just up the road if you were connected to the air force base just outside that town.  That’s exactly what I did in fact the first morning I tried to get from my motel in Mountain Home to the Simplot feedlot at the aforementioned Grand View.  The turnoff isn’t particularly well marked and at 7:00 in the dark it might as well not have been marked at all.  So I ended up at the checkpoint to enter the airbase.  A nice young man in desert fatigues with a khaki balaclava found it hard to believe that I had managed to miss the turnoff but he stopped traffic in the lane to the left of me so that I could turn around and head back the way I came.  He assured me that I “couldn’t miss the turnoff” and I pointed out that in fact I already had missed the turnoff but the second time was a charm and I eventually ended up at the feedlot.

That turned into a minor adventure too because the office staff hadn’t showed up yet.  The doors were all open so I could just wander in but I didn’t feel like I should go poking around looking for the stairs to the basement where my contact had told me to find him.  I tried phoning but the grand features of Grand View don’t include cellular coverage.  The switchboard phone looked way too complicated for me to use to call my guy so I finally started snooping around until I found the stairs and soon after that found my guy.

Simplot has capacity for 150,000 head at this lot but only 65,000 on feed right now.  That’s a lot of feed and a lot of shit.  They must pay the feed truck drivers by the load, judging by the way they drive.  The first day I was here I saw one of the trucks being dragged back into the shop with a seriously destroyed front end hung high by a 2 or 3 yard loader.  Apparently two of the trucks had a spectacular collision a few days ago that sounded like one of the local AFB jets breaking the sound barrier.   They do that regularly but most days its been too cloudy to see much of them.  (that’s the jets that make noise daily – the truck drivers fortunately don’t tend to run into each other very often although I’ve been warned to leave my truck well out of the feed alleys)

I’ve had a little difficulty on this project to get everybody to keep their eye on the ball.  It seems like nobody has a clear idea of what the overall project consists of and nobody seems to be responsible for the entire project.  As a consequence things aren’t that well planned and we spend a lot of time waiting for somebody to do something that they should have known yesterday that they would need to do today.  Tonight I’m feeling pretty cocky that I have tomorrow planned out with Simplot staff lined up to do what I need done but I have every confidence that they are capable of wiping the grin off my face by noon if they want to.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My apologies for the La Conner post

The video link didn’t work and I repeated myself.  I fixed the repetition but I’m damned if I can figure out how to get the embedded video to work.  So my workaround is to post the video here:

No guarantees this is going to work either but you’ll never know unless you happen to be online at exactly the right time cuz if it doesn’t work I’ll delete this post immediately.

Apparently that did work – no idea why it didn’t work before.  If you have the volume turned on the excitement early in the clip occurred when Marilyn thought maybe George wanted to go ondeck.  He’s actually turned into quite the little adventurer when we are tied up but so far hasn’t ventured outside while we’re underway.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Movin’ on

We’ve been getting around a lot the last few days. I have a project in Idaho that I will be leaving for on Tuesday so we have been getting as much water time before that as possible.  On Wednesday we left Sidney in what looked like marginal conditions but with a good forecast and headed up Satellite Channel toward Cowichan Bay. 

We’ve been dreaming about surprising Jim & Judy by parking in their bay and phoning them for a long time now.  I think the surprise was complete.  When we arrived in the bay Marilyn phoned and told Judy “there’s a lot of snow on your roof this morning isn’t there?”  There was a bit of a pause and then Judy came back with “could you repeat that.”  Apparently Jim had just stopped watching the naval exercise that was happening in front of us and had noticed another boat entering the bay when the phone rang but of course neither of them had any reason to think it was us.

That day we tied up at the government wharf in Cow Bay for a visit with Jim & Judy.  Somewhere during that visit they mentioned that there were some new docks in Cow Bay and that there might be moorage available.  It took a while to track down the proprietor – he told me on the phone “I’m not very reliable” – but when we finally connected he did have space.  Not only did he have space available but it was at a significant discount to what we are paying in Sidney – about 2/3 of what we are paying now. 

We had never considered Sidney to be a long term arrangement.  Back in November I paid them for 3 months, mainly because that is what they wanted, but we always intended to look around once we got over here.  Neither of us expected to make a moving decision this soon but Cow Bay seems like the ideal arrangement for us.  It’s a working marina – there’s probably just as many if not more fishing boats tied up there now as there are pleasure boats.  It’s a neat community with lots of funky little shops and a great atmosphere.  From a boating standpoint it’s a well sheltered bay with protection from pretty well every direction.  Its also really close for visiting with Jim & Judy.  The only possible downside is that it is even farther from the mainland but we’re both thinking now that we’ll spend a lot of our first year in the islands around Vancouver Island so being close to the mainland maybe isn’t as important as we initially thought.

Yesterday (Friday) we chugged our way back up to Cow Bay, had lunch on the boat with Jim & Judy and then went up through Sansum Narrows and down into Maple Bay.  They enjoyed seeing all the familiar places that they know on the Island from the water side and we were just having fun sharing our boat with them and seeing new places.  I tracked down our unreliable marina proprietor and signed the moorage agreement.  Then I gave him a cheque for five months rent that was significantly less than what I paid Van Isle for three months.  Last night we left Gray Hawk tied up at Cow Bay and spent the night in Cobble Hill with Jim and Judy. 

We’ve had a very busy week.  On Thursday we rode the transit bus into Victoria and found the “Ship’s Registry” branch of Transport Canada.  That’s an incredible waste of manpower but at least they were pleasant to deal with.  What they are doing should take minutes and be completed online.  Instead it will take weeks if not months and be done entirely manually.  But like I said, they were very pleasant about it.  We’ll be back at least once and likely twice so I’ll have to remember to look through their dog eared volumes  that are piled on shelves by the door to see if I can find mention of Bethiah Jewitt.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Boat project day

Tomorrow we’ll cross Haro Strait to Sidney, weather permitting.  I could publish this today on the excellent Verizon signal that we have here but we’re planning to surprise Marilyn’s sister Judy & her husband with our arrival.  Good surprise / bad surprise – I dunno – but it won’t be much of a surprise if she reads this nonsense and figures out that we are enroute already so that’s why we have imposed radio silence for the past few days.

Yesterday we left Anacortes following Maximo.  The pilots talk about IFR which as far as I can tell means “I follow the railroad” or maybe “I follow roads”.  Our version of that was IFM (I follow Maximo) and it worked well although I must boast a bit.  The night before we left I plotted out what I thought our likely course would be and I pinned it except for the last leg of about 5 miles.  I had the last leg nailed too but our leaders didn’t think we’d like the lumpy seas on the north side of Spieden and Stuart Islands so they changed course to take us the slightly longer route around the south side of both islands. 

It was a little rough getting into Prevost Harbor but nothing serious.  We let Kim and Steve go in ahead of us and waited until they were safely inside before we came in.  They tied up at the end of the pier leaving just nicely enough room behind them for Gray Hawk but that meant I had to spin her beside Maximo in fairly skinny water and then back in sideways to our berth.  Chuck and I had a long talk about docking after we arrived at Anacortes and that was a huge help.  All his time with Gray Hawk was sans bow thruster so I have a huge advantage if I can just learn how to use it.  Yesterday I managed to push her upwind toward the dock for about 50 feet and everything went smoothly.  I’m sure I’ve got some dock-wrecks ahead of me but yesterday was a major confidence builder.

The Oberto’s dogs know this place well so they went flying by us as soon as we were docked, headed for the trails on the island.  The rest of us followed them, albeit at a much slower pace and set about gathering firewood for a roaring fire.  When that had burned down to red embers we laid steaks directly on the coals and minutes later were eating them along with the foil wrapped spuds that had spent a much longer time beside the fire.

Today was a slow day.  I actually managed to sleep in until around 8:00 ship time and then set into checking items off my to-do list.  Chuck gave me some 1-1/2” fire hose so that was top of the list.  It makes wonderful chafe guard but it’s a genuine PITA to get it on the ropes.  It wouldn’t be bad if you were just putting on a foot or so but Chuck said 4 feet was better so that was what I was dealing with. 

I also tracked down the electrical gremlin that was preventing us from using our fridge on the inverter.  Steve and I had talked that one through around the campfire last night so I was pretty sure I knew where to start looking and it didn’t take long to find the problem.  The 110 volt electrical system on the boat is wired a little differently than what we have on the bus.  I need to understand the implications of changing it before I tear into that project but I think the bus system is better.  It’s really hard to find anybody who actually understands electricity and even harder to find someone who understands boat electrical systems and their electrolysis implications.  I think Steve has a pretty good handle on that so I’ll be picking his brain tonight.  The bus is wired in “pass through” mode which means that the power from the shore pedestal comes to the inverter first and then “passes through” the inverter on it’s way to the rest of the bus systems.  The boat is not wired that way & I don’t see any reason why it couldn’t be.

Right now I’m procrastinating doing battery maintenance because I flat out hate doing it.  I’ll get to it sometime soon.  Shortly after we bought the bus we went to a rally in Rickreall, OR.  At the rally I talked to Dick Wright (WRICO) about my battery maintenance attitudes and he said “if you’re not going to do battery maintenance religiously then buy AGMs (absorbed glass matt batteries) and forget about them.”  That’s exactly what I did and almost 8 years later now they’re still going strong.  Everybody I have talked to about the batteries on Gray Hawk tells me that I’m silly to think about changing out the flooded cell Trojans that are in her now but I think there might be four new 8D AGMs in her future.  They’re really bloody expensive batteries though so the thought of doing that is giving me a bit of pause.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to La Conner

In November when we left La Conner after buying Gray Hawk we could hardly contain our excitement knowing that the next time we were in town we’d be on Gray Hawk. We cheated that just a little when we drove through La Conner on our way to pick up Chuck but today we got to go under the bridge that we departed over in November.

The Swinomish Channel is challenging. There’s mud flats on either side of both the north and south ends. At the south end the channel had been silting in and needs to be dredged so it has some really skinny spots. I’d have turned around if it wasn’t for Chuck’s encouragement. We missed the high tide but we weren’t anywhere near low tide either and I still saw 3 feet on the depth sounder briefly at one point. Typically we ran in under 8 feet of water as we entered the channel.

Once we got closer to town things got easier and we had arrived at a time of relatively slack current so we didn’t have that to deal with. The currents through the channel are so difficult to predict that most charting software simply omits them or says “contact locals for information”. The fuel dock had a movable arrow posted to show the direction of the current and it happened to be pointing our way as we went past but I don’t think there was much movement in either direction.

About halfway through town I recognized the familiar shape of Maximo, Steve and Kim Oberto’s Leclerq side tied to the public wharf. I checked with Chuck and he said it was OK to toot the horn so I gave them three quick blasts but Kim had already spotted us and they were slipping their mooring ropes. They floated out behind us as we continued through town and then passed us in the channel just north of La Conner. I checked with them on the FM radio and told them that I would just follow along in the hole they left in the water. With an 8 foot draft I figured following them was as good a navigatory strategy as I was likely to come up with. About 3/4 of an hour later we pulled into Cap Sante Boat Haven in Anacortes.

Maximo is riding a little high by the stern right now. She holds 5000 gallons of diesel fuel with a lot of that in the lazarette but right now apparently she’s pretty well empty.

Chuck's wife Gail was waiting on our pier in Anacortes to catch our lines and then we all reconvened in Maximo's huge salon where the two other couples regaled us with tales of Alaska. Kim fed us seafood appies - a LOT of seafood appies - made from crab and salmon they bring back from Alaska. It was a very good day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The long way home

This will be a several part narrative, posted after we arrive in Sidney for reasons which will be revealed later.

Yesterday afternoon we drove up to Anacortes to pick up Chuck Speith, the 3rd prior owner of Gray Hawk.  He had agreed to travel with us from Seattle to Anacortes and even offered to catch the bus down to Seattle.  We thought the least we could do was pick him up.  We had a great visit with him and his wife Gail (and dogs), finished up the visit with supper and then drove back to down to Seattle.  We were up late into the night while I got the rental car returned and we both did the last minute prep for our early morning departure.

This morning I was up at 4:00 local (6:00 AM ship time) but decided that was just silly so I went back to bed until 8:00 ship time.  Then I whipped up breakfast and Marilyn did all her last minute departure routines.  We rounded the breakwater at 7:32, exactly two minutes after I had planned to.  The winds were calm and we had more sunshine than we had expected but somewhere on the east side of Widbey Island we ran into snow for a while.  There was a dirty grey cloud to the northeast of us most of the morning and at times it looked like we were about to run into fog.  Gray Hawk performed flawlessly, chewing along at 7 to 8 knots most of the way.  Occasionally one of us would miss a floating log and Gray Hawk would chew it up making a heavy underwater thunk in the process but we had no major issues for the whole trip.

We arrived at the south end of the Swinomish Channel around 2 in the afternoon.  I’d have turned back when the depth sounder briefly flashed 3 feet and stayed resolutely stuck at less than 8 feet for over a half a mile.  The incessant warning beep was on everybody’s nerves but I didn’t want to turn it off because I had already dialed it down from 40 feet to 20 feet to 15 feet to 8 feet.  It seemed like we should have some no-go level and 8 feet just seemed like the right number for a boat that drafts over 4 feet.  I seriously need to figure out what we draft under the transducer because we never dragged bottom but I know that if Chuck hadn’t been at my elbow the whole way I’d have turned back.  He kept saying “You’re OK – keep going” and so I did.

We dodged around a sailboat in the channel just south of the bridge and finally motored into La Conner at a dead slow RPM. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Adult education and heavy duty maintenance

Yesterday we went out for most of the day with Captain Linda Lewis and it was $400 well spent.  She had taken the time on the phone to understand what we needed to learn and she was prepared.  She was a wonderful contrast to the doofus we had been trying to work with previously.  In addition to the considerable on the water time she brought information about other resources that we need to be aware of. 

I continue to be amazed by the wealth of information that is available for free online.  It doesn’t matter what your interest there appears to be somebody out there who is willing to provide the information more or less for free if you are willing to invest a little time to find it.  Linda told us about SailFlow which is a weather page focused on wind direction and speed.  This morning I did some Googling around and quickly came up with a tide page.  On Linda’s advice we have already purchased Ports and Passages 2011.  That gives us the tide and current tables for the Northwest but the ProTide website gives a graphic confirmation of the tabular information. 

We’re still not ready to strike out for Victoria but we are learning fast.  The weather today is good for just staying tied up to the dock anyway – gray and soggy – I think that’s Seattle’s motto.  Our fridge install hasn’t progressed any further but it sounds like it might move along today.  I have also engaged a guy to replace the engine mounts on both engines.  Chuck (three owners previous to us) thinks I’m nuts for doing that but engine mounts on a boat are pretty important pieces of equipment and not all that expensive in the grand scheme of things.  If your engine mounts aren’t in good shape then vibration can take out the transmission or the shaft bearings and those are big ones to fix. 

(later – much later)

The fridge is in and the shafts are aligned.  I was in the middle of my morning updates when one of the brokers tracked me down in the harbourmaster’s office.  I feel it’s important to stay in touch with the locals, particularly those locals who have fresh coffee and doughnuts every morning.  The message from Paul was that I should get my ass home because Marilyn was looking for me.  It turned out the reason she was looking for me was because Pat of Pat’s Marine Engines had sent two of his guys over to change our motor mounts. 

Pat is a borderline dwarf which makes access to our engine room pretty simple for him.  The Kiwi that he sent this morning wasn’t as tall as me but he was close.  It must have been a challenge for him.  In the picture below about all you can see of him is his boots sticking up against the port fuel tank.  Look close – you can see them – size 11 Kodiaks is my guess.  He’s lying head down in the bilge outboard of the port engine installing the front mount.  He had to balance the bolts in that position while his partner got one hand in on top of the mount to put the nuts on.  Better them than me. 


Meanwhile upstairs Joey the Carpenter had arrived with the pieces of our new fridge enclosure.  He and Dan the Helper built the enclosure in place out of prefinished pieces that they had prepared at home.  They did a pretty good job.  Its not perfect but we didn’t pay them enough for it to be perfect and it looks really good. 

The parquet teak looks a little rough where the old fridges sat but we’ll be able to get it cleaned up over time.  The biggest bonus of the new fridge is that there is room for many beers and many Cokes.  To celebrate the many beers part we had neighbour Marcus over for a beer tonight.