Monday, July 29, 2013

Political correctness run amuck

I was just doing some housecleaning and realized that I had never posted this.  I should have.  LiveWriter lets me write local copies and then post them to the web at a later date but evidently this time I never got around to publishing what I had written.  I can date it to sometime in late August 2012 because of the reference to Hurricane Isaac.  Enjoy.

This morning I believe I was witness to a situation where political correctness trumped passenger safety.

Sitting on the tarmac in Baltimore our flight attendant, AKA porkchop, could barely wobble his way down the aisle. He literally had to do a kind of sidepass shuffle because his lardass simply wouldn’t fit between the seats. Once airborne he was bouncing off the passengers as he bobbled down the length of the plane. The only time he looked remotely steady was when he had the drink cart to hang onto.  And talk about slow - slower than the second coming of Christ is the best description I can think of.

Fortunately I was seated in an exit row so in an emergency I could look out for myself. Anyone who had to depend on lardo for assistance would simply be screwed. Its is astonishing to me that while American Air insists on asking me if I am "ready, willing and able to assist other passengers" when I sit in the exit row they are at the same time apparently prepared to trust our cabin assistance to someone who may be ready and willing but isn’t even remotely  "able" to assist us. This is either an out of control union or political correctness run amuck.  Either way it is clearly dangerous and ought to be criminal.

Lest anybody suggest that I'm simply prejudiced against fat people and claim that our safety really was never impacted, consider this:  About halfway through the flight we hit some turbulence as we bumped into the remnants of Isaac (more about that in a minute).  On came the seatbelt signs with a DING as is customary in those situations but - big butt - Mr. Porkchop didn’t bother making a waddle through the cabin to ensure that everybody had in fact done up their seatbelts. I suspect there’s actually an FAA requirement for him to do that but in this case his personal discomfort outweighed our safety needs. Small example I know but how many more were there that I didn’t notice?  The thing about safety procedures is that you only need them when you need them and by the time you need them its too late. 

When I wasn’t watching porkchop's antics with morbid fascination I was engrossed in the cloud show out my window. Flying from Baltimore to Chicago this morning we were coming into the leading edge of the blown out remnants of Isaac. Initially we had a pretty clear view of the ground, then some high thin cirrus or stratus type clouds appeared at around 30,000 feet with some scattered cumulous at about 15,000 and finally the ground was completely obscured and then opened up again as we got closer to Chicago. I was worried last night that we might not get into or out of Chicago due to Isaac but he appears to be largely played out now.

Not such a bad day

Its a cliche but that doesn’t make it any less true.  The only good that comes out of a funeral is the reunions that happen as a result.  So it was on Saturday when we buried father’s ashes.  In the morning RJ and Michael arrived from Medicine Hat.  Marlan is somewhere in Montana pushing a combine crew so we didn’t expect him but we weren’t sure that any of the boys would arrive so that made their appearance all the more special.

When we drove into the Wesley Church parking lot there was a white MCI sitting on the north end of the lot.  Marilyn said “I think that’s Papa Bus”.  I said “No way, how would they even know about this?”  But sure enough, it really was Papa Bus complete with Mark and Donna.  After that it didn’t really matter what happened – it was clearly going to be a good day and it was.  We finished it up with a BBQ supper at Dyer Straits and yesterday morning we had breakfast with Mark and Donna before they headed home to Brandon. 

Then I made a quick trip into Regina to get a bolt for my ongoing repair saga on the Onan.  I’m generally pleased with my Onan gensets – it would be hard for them to ever be worse than the effing Kubota that we lived with in the early bus years.  For the most part the Onans work but they’re 30 year old pieces of cast iron that we use sporadically so its not surprising that they occasionally have “issues”.   If you haven’t been paying close attention you may not remember that we have been fortunate enough to end up with virtually identical gensets on the bus and the boat.  The only difference between them is that the one on the boat has a water jacket while the bus version is air cooled.  Otherwise the engines, control systems and generator heads are identical.

On Sunday morning the issue I was dealing with was a leaky fuel filter.  For some reason I thought I had seen fuel leaking from the lip of the filter where it seals to the housing.  Its an old style filter with a bolt through the top of the housing into the filter so I first tried tightening the bolt but that made the leak worse.  Eventually I discovered a tiny hairline crack in the bottom of the filter.  Thanks to a moron at Cummins Mid-Canada (the Onan dealer in Regina) it took a long time to get a filter but on Friday I finally picked up a pair of new filters and they looked like the right ones.  However when I tried to install the new filter it turned out that, while the filter was correctly sized, the bolt hole in the centre was not the same as what I had on my engine.  Closer examination revealed that the mad Ukrainian who built this genset likely just grabbed what he had for a filter off the shelf and found a conveniently sized bolt.  The hole in the filter housing was clearly sized for a much larger bolt than what he had used so, while I had the correct filter for my engine, I couldn’t attach it.  Fortunately Rona had a fine thread 7/16 bolt in the right length to attach the filter so I got that project wrapped up and we headed out of the city. 

On the way out of Regina we finally found a truck wash.  They’re getting increasingly difficult to find, likely because of environmental crap around dealing with their waste water.  The back of the bus was a snotty mess from all the coolant and diesel fuel that we have leaked out over the last year but now it looks good again.  Its also now possible to work on the engine or genset without getting completely filthy.  That almost immediately became important.

We had planned to stop at the Arm River rest area which is on #2 highway just north of Bethune but when we got there the gate was locked.  I suppose its not worth the RM’s time to maintain it but we’ll miss the place – we’ve eaten lunch there several times and overnighted there on occasion.  We ended up parked on the street in Liberty for lunch and then discovered that, while the generator would run with its new filter installed, it wouldn’t make any power.  Oh joy.

When we got to Manitou Regional Park I annoyed the neighbours with genset noise while I tried to troubleshoot my no power situation.  It was actually making power but with wild voltage fluctuations – pegging my needles in both directions on both legs.  It took me a while to figure out which generator end we have – there’s two completely different technologies used on these old girls – but finally I concluded that we have a YD series end and I found a troubleshooting manual for that head.  From there it was pretty obvious that the problem was somehow related to a voltage regulating board that sits on top of the genset.  Its well hidden but I managed to get to it without having to remove the generator from the bus.  As a side note I was very pleased to discover that we have the brushless technology which means no need to mess with replacing brushes or cleaning slip rings.  Not that I had wasted a bunch of time worrying about it anyway but now I am completely absolved of any need to worry in the future.


If you look closely at the photo above there’s two little blue adjustable pots in the lower left.  One of them adjusts the output voltage and the other damps fluctuations in that output voltage.  So I was all set to try adjusting the damper pot although it didn’t really make any sense that it would have suddenly changed.  The voltage has always fluctuated on this generator but yesterday the fluctuations were so wild that the auto transfer switch wouldn’t switch over to generator power.  The transfer switch has some circuitry that waits for the generator output to stabilize before it transfers power and evidently that circuitry never concluded that our power output had stabilized, which it clearly hadn’t.

Anyway, I had Marilyn primed to watch the output needles inside the bus & I was going to at least try adjusting the damper pot.  I had little enthusiasm for my prospects of success but I reasoned that I had nothing anyway so it was hard to see how I could make things worse.  As I was reaching in to adjust the pot over the running genset I happened to notice a very tiny spark on the board.  “That can’t be good” thinks I.  So I watched it for a while and sure enough there was a fairly regularly timed very tiny spark down near the lower right hand corner of the photo.  There’s a couple of what I think likely are wire wound resistors down there and one of them appeared to be a little loose on the board. 

Much later, after I had removed the board, I figured out that the solder trace on the back of the board was actually broken below that loose resistor and had broken loose from the board as well.  That may have been a result of my mad Ukrainian buddy only putting 3 of the 4 mounting screws in the board since the broken solder was very close to the missing screw.  I don’t think this generator vibrates any worse than any other genset but it does vibrate and a circuit board with a corner loose sitting directly on top of the genset is going to jump around a bit too.  Sure enough, when I re-soldered that trace and put everything back together we once again had a working genset (FYI I did find a screw to replace the missing one).  The voltage still fluctuates like it always has but at least now its stable enough for the transfer switch to cut in.  I think I should probably replace the board and there is an aftermarket version available but on the other hand its working so maybe I should leave it the hell alone.  That’s certainly the cheapest option – at least in the short term.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Did you notice that?

There’s been a very subtle change to the name of this weblog which corresponds to a very large change in our life.  The furball is no longer travelling with us. 

It wasn’t an easy decision and it was a long time coming.  Without going into extensive detail it needs to be said that, loveable though he is, George II has some toilet habits that were troublesome.  I had heard that there were cats who were less than fastidious about their bathroom routines but had never experienced it until G-II came along.  Marilyn’s only cat experience was George the first and he was the most incredibly clean cat you could ever hope to meet.  I can’t recall him ever having a litter box incident even when he was really sick at the end of his life.  G-II not so much.

Last weekend we attended my Agro Class Reunion at Lac Pelletier south of Swift Current.  There’s a group of us from the Class of ‘79 who have been getting together more or less ever since graduation.  I can’t remember the exact details but I think we got together for our 5 year and 10 year anniversaries and then just got in the habit of meeting every summer on the 3rd weekend in July.  Over the years there’s been a more or less regular crew of about 10 couples who attend plus another 3 or 4 couples who occasionally attend. 

One of my classmates was there with her husband for the first evening.  They had something else on that weekend so they came for a visit but weren’t staying for the whole weekend.  Kate needed to change or use the washroom or for some other reason was alone in the bus.  Marilyn walked in on her after she had been missing for a while and found her playing with George.  We had already agreed that if someone expressed an interest in adopting the furball then we would (reluctantly) let him go.  We had both individually come to that point several times over the previous two years but we had never been simultaneously in agreement that he needed to find a new home.  This time – for a combination of unpleasant reasons – we were both ready to see him move on so when Kate said she’d like to adopt him that was all it took.  George moved to Elbow that night.

We both miss him a lot.  Particularly when we come back to the bus and he isn’t there to greet us it is hard.  And early in the morning when he doesn’t come to wake us up we notice his absence.  Right now Marilyn is in town & I’m missing him because despite all his many faults, he was good company when one of us was away from the bus or the boat. 

At the same time we are relieved not to have him here.  Our lifestyle isn’t well suited to having a pet of any description.  A cat was a better choice than a dog but cats don’t like change and there is a lot of change in our lives.  There’s a lot more space for a cat on the boat and it seemed like he enjoyed the additional freedom but that was also where some of his more disturbing toilet behaviour appeared.  Now that he’s gone we can notice the smell of cat piss occasionally when we enter the bus so that tells us that our guests have been smelling that for the past 7 years. 

Marilyn has received a couple of emails from George’s new mom which indicate that he’s doing just fine – probably better than we are.  He’s living on a farm but he is a house cat with a couple of other house cat buddies and evidently he has made new friends quickly.  That’s not a big surprise – he lived with Marilyn’s girlfriend for about a month last winter and quickly made friends with her kitten.  We’re going to let a decent amount of time pass and then go visit him, probably sometime in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reunion weekend & more bus repairs

Anytime you let an antique piece of equipment sit for 7 months and then run it 200 miles you’re likely asking for trouble.  That was certainly our experience this weekend although it wasn’t particularly bad trouble, just pain in the ass kind of trouble.

We left Buchanan Thursday afternoon headed for Regina.  That night we parked on the street behind the Comfort Inn on the east side of town.  FYI that’s a great stealth parking location that a lot of truck drivers use on a regular basis.  I think its actually posted No Parking but the locations of the signs are ambiguous and nobody seems to worry about overnight parking.  We’ve stayed there a couple of times.  The Husky parking lot is a nearby alternative but its so damn noisy that we try to avoid it.  Walmart is just across Victoria Ave to the south but their parking lot is a nightmare in a car – taking the bus in there would be driving suicide.

When we got to Regina the ass end of the bus was sopping wet – again – STILL.  I was alternately pissed off and frustrated because it appeared that all my effort earlier in the week had been for naught.  I was surprised to discover that when I tried tightening the clamps on the vertical hoses they appeared to be relatively loose.  I’m not sure what was going on there – it was almost like the clamps had stretched out a bit.  Whatever the reason – perhaps it was as simple as that I hadn’t tightened them enough initially – I was able to tighten all the clamps some and the ones on the vertical hoses I tightened significantly.  I also had the feeling that there was some diesel in the mix but there was so much coolant splashing around that it was impossible to be sure there was also diesel present and flat out of the question to figure out where the potentially present diesel might be coming from.

By the time we got to Lac Pelletier Regional Park for my Class of ‘79 reunion however there was no doubt that I was losing diesel fuel somewhere.  By that point the coolant leaks were clearly completely under control but the engine was still wet.  We could smell the diesel fuel every time we stopped and the micro-truck had an oily rustproof coating.  Great – another problem.

A diesel fuel leak should be easy to isolate and this was no big deal.  It was obviously a pressure leak on the “front” of the engine and likely somewhere near the top of the engine.  There were really only two potential hoses it could be coming from.  It could also have been a fitting on either end of either of those two hoses but that was easy to rule out.  I just washed both hoses down with BrakeKleen and then started the engine.  When I revved the engine it was immediately obvious where the fuel leak was.  Fixing it was another matter entirely.  And it still isn’t fixed.

It is however patched and the patch held from Lac Pelletier all the way to Saskatoon.  The engine was still dry when we arrived in Saskatoon and we’re on a tight enough schedule this week that I’m just going to cross my fingers and leave it alone until we get to Regina tomorrow night.  Once we’re there I’ll tear it apart and figure out how to get the hard to get at ends out of their fittings.  I don’t want to touch it here in case it turns into a multi-day ordeal.


That flash of bright yellow in the top centre is Rescue Tape wrapped around the fuel line and secured with small hose clamps.  Its definitely not a “fix” but it appears to be an adequate patch.  I have located a supplier for teflon hose with stainless steel exterior braid and I have figured out what kind of fittings I need for the ends of the hoses.  The big challenge is going to be getting the old hoses out of the fittings on the block.  In the picture above you can see that the hose disappears into the front of the engine but what you can’t see is that it executes a sharp bend down and finishes up directly behind the little short length of 1-1/4” hose that I just finished replacing.  I think if I cut out that short hose again that will give me enough room to remove the fuel line.  I will take one shot at getting the fuel line out without removing the coolant hose but I’m thinking that’s a forlorn hope so I’ll likely be (again) dealing with coolant as well as fuel hoses.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bus maintenance

Monday, July 15, 2013

It doesn’t matter which end of the road we’re at, our life depends on a big old chunk of cast iron that is more than 30 years old.  In this case its an sloberring 8V-92; on the boat its a pair of British Fords. Either way they only keep running thanks to regular preventative maintenance.

Yesterday we woke up in Canmore and arrived in Buchanan just before 6:00.  I got the water turned on – no leaks.  We plugged in and the power worked.  We hooked up the TV and it worked.  So we had supper.  Marilyn kept telling me that I should relax but I couldn’t resist turning the key.  Fortunately the big Jimmy fired on the first turn.  It died immediately but it started right up again and the second time it stayed running so I let it build air for a while.  When I was wandering around listening for air leaks I noticed that one dual was really soft so I dragged out the air compressor that I bought last summer for painting and aired up that tire.  This morning I discovered an inside dual that was really soft as well. Neither of those are really surprising after they have sat over the winter but obviously I’ll have to keep an eye on them.

Last fall I followed Don Thompson’s invaluable advice regarding heavy equipment – “always park them with the noisy end facing out”.  So this morning I fired up the bus and turned it around.  While I was doing that it seemed like the clutch felt “funny”.  I’m not sure what I was feeling – perhaps just rust in the linkage – but I put the ass end up on blocks and serviced the clutch.  It needed the freeplay adjusted anyway.  I got lucky – the adjusting nut was at the bottom of the flywheel when I pulled the inspection plate so I didn’t need to do any screwing around to get it in the right place. 

Next job is grease.  I’ve always believed that it is important to grease your own equipment.  Not so much because putting grease on correctly is important – a trained monkey could likely do it – but because while you are injecting grease you just naturally take a good look at all the moving bits.  Assuming that all goes well then I have a 2 inch coolant crossover hose to change.  Its been puking coolant for a long time now – not much but enough to make a hell of a mess of the back of the bus and the front of the towed. 

(much later – Wednesday night)

Oh my gawd – what a day this has been.  Three trips to Yorkton in one day and maybe we’re ready for the road.  The morning started innocuously enough.  I got a lot of work done yesterday, including the grease job that I referred to but in the course of that we had a little runaway and the bus ran over my grease gun.  There was no other damage and it could have been a lot worse so I counted myself lucky to only lose a grease gun.  Unfortunately though that was my only lever type gun.  My backup is a pistol grip and I don’t like them because you can’t get enough pressure when you run into a sticky zerk, which I did on the front end.  The fitting on the back of the power steering cylinder absolutely refused to take grease from the pistol grip gun.  I took the zerk out, flushed it with weasel piss, injected more grease and even tried quite a bit of heat but no go.  So that was the prime reason for my first trip to Yorkton – to replace the grease gun so that I could try a little higher pressure to finish up my front end greasing.  The local Co-op only had pistol grip guns so that wasn’t any help.


As soon as I got back from the first trip to Yorkton I started tearing into the coolant hoses that have needed replacing since last fall.  Actually I changed them last fall but the new hoses were slightly too large and they still leaked.  The manual calls for 2-1/8” hoses but that particular size appears to be impossible to buy.  Prevost & Detroit both say to buy the hose locally but that size just isn’t available (which may explain why they say to buy it locally – perhaps its not available to them either).  Knowing that 2-3/8” leaked and that 2-1/8 wasn’t available I let the guy at Detroit convince me that I would be able to stretch 2” hose over the fittings.  It took about 5 minutes this morning to convince myself that hell would freeze over before I got those 2” hoses stretched into place so that necessitated the second trip to Yorkton for 2-1/4” hose.  In the photo above the offending hose is the one with 3 hose clamps on it.  I’d have put 4 clamps on but there wasn’t room.

Before I started changing the hoses I noticed another hose that was desperately in need of changing.  It hadn’t started to leak but I really don’t know why.  I’ve never seen a hose look so sad – it was like the whole outside cover had blown up into a balloon but despite that it wasn’t actually leaking.  Anyway, on the first trip to Yorkton I had bought a short piece of 1-1/4” hose to change that one out.  I knew it was going to be a bear to change but I didn’t realize just how bad it was going to be until I got back from the second trip to Yorkton.  It took maybe 10 minutes, probably less to get the two pieces of 2-1/4 hose set in place and then I tackled the short piece of 1-1/4” hose.  Its the short horizontal hose pretty well dead centre in the photo below.  Getting it out was a snap – it was in such bad shape that I could likely have just pulled it out but I cut it lengthwise and it was out in a few minutes.  Getting the fitting out of the thermostat housing was another matter. 


The fitting needed a 1-3/8” wrench but the largest one I had was 1-1/4”.  I thought there was a slim chance I might snag one at the hardware in Canora but really that was a faint hope because its such a sad excuse for a hardware store.  Sure enough the biggest open end wrench they had was 3/4” so there I was, third trip to Yorkton in one day.  When I got back from that trip it was still no cake walk getting the damn fitting out but I succeeded and more importantly got it back in with the new hose in place. 

Somewhere along the way I noticed that the main hot feed from the alternator to the electrical panel was in really bad shape.  So I changed that out and when I opened the electrical panel the door fell off in my hands – again.  I replaced the hinge on it three years ago in BC.  This time I tried something different.  Rather than fight with a rivet gun to put on a new hinge I used nylon zip ties to create a hinge using the old rivet holes.  I know for sure it was a lot easier than the battle I went through last time when I changed the hinge the “right” way.  Since that fix only lasted three years my boogie zip-tie hinge doesn’t have to last long to beat it.

Tomorrow morning I’ll put the front end up again and give the steering ram a few shots with the lever action gun.  I’m hoping that the combination of higher pressure and a little judicious application of propane will get grease flowing.  Maybe I’ll check the battery water too but maybe that will wait. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Briefly passing through the Bay

On Thursday we made a leisurely departure from Pender Harbour and then rode the ebb tide south to Nanaimo in order to arrive at Dodd Narrows at slack.  The Strait was a little riled up but the forecast was for the winds to die down over the morning and that was exactly what happened.  By noon we were getting in behind Winchelsea Islands and once we got through Dodd it’s so sheltered that the wind was largely irrelevant anyway.  We were back in our slip in time for supper and then we had drinks on the dock and ended up entertaining guests until well after dark.

Yesterday we started packing the boat up.  There’s some things that have to wait until the last minute but not everything is in that category and we’ve done this so many times now its really not that hard.  We also made a quick shopping run and bought a large plastic tarp.  Then I cut the tarp in half and sewed each half into a long skinny tube which we subsequently pulled over the kayaks for UV protection.  I also tore apart one of the fake teak deck boxes that we installed in Seattle immediately after we bought the boat.  At the time I knew we should be coating them with some kind of finish but we just had so many things to do that we never got around to doing anything with the boxes.  They have stood up remarkably well despite being unfinished wood, so much so that we have decided they are worth putting some work into rather than just replacing them.  So we’re going to take one of them back to the prairies in pieces where I will coat it with West System and then varnish it.  Assuming that turns out as I expect it will we will take the other one apart and do it too, perhaps the next time we go back to SK.  Its hard to plan to do that kind of finishing out here because generally it rains every other bloody day but in Buchanan I can take the pieces indoors and just get them done.

We’ll actually be glad to be away from the boat now.  Coming home from Desolation Sound every hour brought us closer to the south Georgia Strait summer boating mayhem.  The radio got progressively busier and the boat traffic picked up every hour.  We had supper with some long time liveaboards last night and they agreed that one of the main reasons people like going up into the Broughton Islands (north of Vancouver Island) is because not many people go there.  We can duplicate that isolation by boating further south when all the rest of the other idiots are tied up at the dock.  By the time we get back out here – whenever that turns out to be – everyone else will have gone home and we will once again have the water to ourselves. 

Dodd Narrows on Thursday was a perfect example of what we detest about boating in crowded waters.  There is a convention among the commercial boats out here that they issue a “Securite” announcement before they go through restricted passes.  There’s three classes of announcements that you can make on Channel 16, each progressively more serious.  The least urgent is a “Securite” announcement which you might make if you find a large deadhead in a narrow channel – the point of the announcement is to inform other boaters about a potential hazard to navigation.  The second category is a “Pan Pan” announcement which indicates some level of disability on the part of your vessel but no immediate threat to life.  The most urgent announcement of course is “Mayday” which indicates immediate threat to the lives aboard the vessel.

The ferries routinely make a “Securite” announcement before they go through Active Pass because there is a hard dogleg in the middle of the pass which makes it impossible to see what is ahead of you.  The tugs do it for Dodd Narrows because when they are towing a log boom it can take up the whole pass.  Unfortunately the toyboat owners have copied the practice and many of them think that they need to issue a Securite announcement before they enter Dodd Narrows and further seem to believe that there is only room for one vessel in the pass at any particular time.  Both notions are patently bullshit but that doesn’t stop the fools from gabbing ad nauseum on the radio prior to and during their passage through the Narrows.  There was over 30 vessels that went through Dodd in the 30 minutes between the time we passed Duke Point at Nanaimo and when we arrived at Dodd Narrows.  There may have been more – some of those transiting the Narrows may not have broadcast their intentions – but I heard at least that many announcements.  There were periods of 2 or 3 minutes at a stretch where Channel 16 was completely unavailable because some new idiot was squawking about his intentions to go through the pass or asking if the pass was open or complaining because somebody had cut in front of him. 

Channel 16 is referred to as the “International Hailing and Distress Frequency” so every one of those idiots who clutters up the airwaves with a needless announcement risks either walking on or at least delaying a real broadcast from someone who actually needs to use the channel.  When we got close to the Narrows there was a transmission from a dive boat who said he was putting divers in the water on the west side of the channel.  He came back again in a few minutes and repeated the announcement with a bit of hesitation before again saying that he was on the west side.  I was approaching from the northwest on the south shore so that I could see through the entire pass prior to entering it and was planning to hug the west side of the pass as I went through.  So hearing that there was going to be a dive boat in my path was useful information.  Except that when I got close to the pass and surveyed it through the binoculars it turned out that the dive boat was actually on the east shore.  IDIOTS ALL OF THEM.  And I won’t miss them for 5 seconds.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thank you Ezra

…….. this is too good not to share.

Now what’s important – thank you Ezra – is the ratio between whatever number you see above and in excess of 1,500 megawatts of installed wind turbine capacity in Ontario.  So take the number in the widget and divide it by 1500 – whatever you end up with is how (in)efficiently wind power is being generated in Ontario right now.  Actually whatever fraction you end up with will be unduly generous to the green power geniuses because the installed capacity is greater than 1500 megawatts but who’s gonna quibble about a few billion dollars between friends?

Utilization is an important little detail that the greenies often forget to mention when they tell you how much windy energy costs.  So on top of the already grossly expensive infrastructure you need to factor in the cost of it only operating at 5, 10 or 15% capacity.  You do the math – after all you’re paying for it.

A couple more for Michael

Yesterday we got a fairly early start from the Copeland Islands and 50 miles later arrived in Pender Harbour around 2:00.  We like it here.  Its not remote the way Desolation Sound is remote but its not civilization the way Vancouver is civilized either.  We’re anchored in Gerrans Bay which is kind of the poor man’s bay in Pender Harbour.   There’s several bays to choose from here and we’ve anchored in three of them now. 

The first time we came here we anchored in Garden Bay which we have subsequently learned is notorious for its poor holding characteristics.  We dragged our shiny CQR all around that bay in the middle of the night and moved onto the dock the next day.  That may have had as much to do with the poor holding characteristics of the CQR as it did with the poor holding characteristics of the bay bottom. 

The next time we were here we anchored in Hospital Bay which is the next bay to the west of Garden Bay.  As I recall the holding was pretty good in there but it was relatively deep.  We were back here again, maybe last summer, and that time we anchored where we are now, in Gerrans Bay.  This is a little rougher area of town without quite as many million dollar mansions around the shoreline but I think its the best anchorage we’ve found anywhere yet.  The bottom is really heavy mud so when you get the anchor stuck into it you’re really and truly stuck.  And its not too deep so we don’t have to put out miles of chain.  Despite that some fool came and dropped his anchor maybe 50 feet off our bow last night.  This morning I could have spit onto his transom but to his credit he did dinghy over last night and apologize for being too close. 


That’s one of the permanently moored derelicts in this bay – the Pacific Challenge tug.  Built in the late 1950’s and originally launched as the Jacqueline W she has had a long career as a deepwater tug.  Its sad to see her end that life as a derelict in this bay but I guess that’s inevitable for most boats.  Either they go to the breakers, go down or end up being an eyesore.  At 60 plus years old though its not hard to see that this one was a real beauty at one time.


This one on the other hand, has little to recommend it.  I’m not sure why it stays afloat but there it is, guarding the mouth of the bay.  Perhaps its like the one in Cow Bay that the Coast Guard responded to, thinking that because it was awash it must be sinking only to discover that it was so full of expanding foam that it literally couldn’t sink.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

All tied up

We’re in a tiny little bay on an unnamed island in Copeland Island Marine Park.  We got up very early – over strenuous protests from my crew who has gone back to bed to recover from her early morning travails.  I wanted to catch the high tide for the exit from Roscoe Bay and that meant either 5:00 AM or 4:30 PM local time.  The problem with the afternoon departure was that we had never been to this spot where we are now tied up.  So we didn’t know what to expect and we didn’t even know if it would be open or if we would be able to fit ourselves in assuming no one else was here.  So we set an early alarm and were crossing the shallow bits at 5:45 boat time this morning.


Then we had a pleasant 2 hour trip south to the Copeland Islands.  When we arrived we scouted out a couple of potential spots and finally settled on this tiny little indent on the west side of an unnamed island.  We anchored close to high tide and since then I’ve been nervously watching the water disappear from underneath us.  We now look perilously close to the rocks behind us but I think we’re actually OK.  As the tide goes out we also look alarmingly close to the bottom of the ocean.  In order to ensure that we’re OK I built me an extremely accurate depth measuring device. (EADMD).  Some of you might mistake it for a random plumbing fitting tied onto the end of a short piece of line but you’d be wrong – it is so much more than that.


According to my EADMD we have roughly 8 feet at the transom and we are now approaching the low for the next three days.  We need about 4.5 feet at the bow and a little less at the transom so that should give us 4 feet clear under the keel.  I guess that’s OK.  The tradeoff would be to move into deeper water which would make me feel more secure but that would allow less anchor scope which would make me feel less secure.  The problem is that the effect of anchoring scope is not immediately obvious whereas water depth changes by the minute and shows immediately on the depth sounder.  We’ve got about 225 feet of chain out in about 12 feet of water.  Add in the roughly 8 feet from the waterline to the foredeck for a total of 20 feet and that 225 feet translates into better than 10:1 scope.  7:1 is considered conservative and lots of times we’re on 5:1 or less so we should be OK.  The problem is that at high tide that 20 feet turns into 30 feet or even a little more and that in turn drops the scope to maybe 7:1.  We’re relatively exposed to the NW winds here so I’d like to have as much scope as possible.  The theory of anchor scope is that you want as much length as possible so you are lifting the anchor as little as possible.  You want to pull, not lift, on the anchor.

Anchoring was a bit of an adventure because the bay is too narrow to swing more than about 90 degrees.  That’s no problem once we get the shore tie line in place. (because at that point we don’t swing at all)  However once we got the anchor set the wind was trying to swing us 180 degrees to where we needed to put the shore tie line and it was blowing pretty good.  If we got past about 90 or 100 degrees we were going to end up on a reef.  I had to swing the boat against the anchor a couple of times before we got everything lined up for a quick dinghy run to shore.  We got a single line in place and then used the dinghy like a pusher tug to get sort of lined up and start getting the line tight.  Then we got a 2nd line ashore and ran it back to the boat.  Its much easier to leave if the shore line just loops around something on shore and comes back to the boat.  That way we don’t have to launch and retrieve the dinghy to bring in the shore tie.  Once we got one line looped back to the boat we still weren’t happy with our location so we ran a second line ashore and back to the boat.  Now we’re firmly planted in a 3 point stance between the anchor on a long scope and two widely spread shore tie lines.

Once we’ve sat here for half a day I’ll be a lot more confident about going ashore or taking the kayaks to explore the islands.  Marilyn spotted this area on the way north and thought it looked like a great spot to explore in the kayaks.  So far everything we have seen makes me think she was right. 


After we went through a complete tide cycle we got some confidence in our location and took off in the kayaks to circumnavigate this little island that we’re anchored next to.  Its a long way around under pedal power but we made it home again.


My solar installation has been doing a great job now that we get to see the sun for more than a couple of hours per week. 


That’s the Trimetric state of charge meter showing 15.3 amps going into the batteries but what it doesn’t show is that we have a pretty heavy fixed load on the inverter all the time.  When the sun shines we make solar power but we also use a lot more power for refrigeration.  Our deep freeze isn’t hyper-efficient so it runs a lot of the time as well as the apartment sized fridge.  Not to mention computers, TVs, radios, etc.


That’s the charge controller at roughly the same time I took the picture of the Trimetric so somewhere we’re burning up roughly 16 amps at 12 volts out of the 31.8 amps total that the panels were producing at that moment.  I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the controller but when I’m in the engine room and think about it I sometimes check it.  I’ve never seen it over 40 amps but it gets close some times.  We’ve got 690 nominal watts of solar – 35 amps at 12 volts is 420 watts – 40 amps would be 480 watts.  And I guess its really at 13.2 or 13.5 volts when we’re charging so the numbers are a little higher.  So that’s roughly 70% of theoretical capacity.  I think that’s pretty damn good – probably better than I expected by quite a bit.

On a typical day now we don’t start the generator until its time to make dinner.  We’ll make breakfast, many many cups of coffee and at least one pot of tea in the morning.  Then we’ll run the genset long enough to make dinner – maybe 1/2 an hour and usually about the same amount of time late in the afternoon to make supper.  Its 8:00 now and the batteries are still at 96%.  They’ll be in the mid 80’s by morning after we watch a movie for a couple of hours this evening.  In the past we would have had to run the generator a minimum of 3 hours per day and often longer to get to the end of the day with that much charge left. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Backing up

I didn’t mention one of my major activities while we were anchored in False Creek with Mike & Diane but, unpleasant as it was, it nevertheless bears reporting.  Those of you who are fortunate enough not to have to deal with marine sanitation may wish to skip this rather messy story. 

First off I don’t know why the hell we can’t just call it a shitter or a bathroom.  Somewhere in the murky depths of history some fool decided to call a boat’s kitchen a galley and the bathroom a head.  I don’t claim to know why but I have succumbed to tradition and will refer to the crapper as the head.

The first morning in False Creek the head in the master stateroom failed to flush.  It didn’t overflow but it would have if I had kept on pumping.  The way our heads work is they have a bowl just like your home crapper but underneath that bowl there is an adapter housing for a macerator pump.  So in theory the crap falls directly into the macerator and gets pumped to the holding tank.  The complication is that we don’t have a water tank above the toilet like you do in the house.  And we don’t use pressurized fresh water like an RV does either.  Incorporated into the macerator pump is a totally separate impeller which draws seawater into the bowl and that is what accomplishes the flush.  The problem with that arrangement is that when the outflow gets plugged the inflow continues whenever you try to pump out.  The solution is to reach under the counter and shut off the inlet water so its not an insurmountable problem, just an annoying one.  And of course when the water level in the bowl is slowly rising you keep thinking that any minute now it will clear the plug and the level will start dropping, as it usually does.


Marine heads also incorporate the option of pumping directly overboard or to the holding tank.  They do that by means of a 3-way or “Y” valve that sits directly after the outlet of the macerator.  From that “Y” valve one leg goes directly overboard and one goes to the holding tank.  So my first reaction was to try to pump the contents of the bowl overboard.  No go.  The combination of not being able to pump in either direction led me down the wrong troubleshooting path and caused me to focus on the pump.  It seemed logical that if I couldn’t pump anywhere then I was dealing with a defective pump rather than a plugged line.  Even after I figured out that the line to the holding tank was in fact plugged I still had a residual thought that there must also be something wrong with the pump. 

After a long and unpleasant day of troubleshooting it transpired that both lines were in fact plugged and there was nothing whatsoever wrong with the original pump.  Of course by that time I had replaced the pump, and in fact the entire toilet assembly (with no change in the ability to pump out.)  In the process I learned a lot more about marine sanitation than I ever cared to know.  It turns out that there is a reaction between piss and seawater that hastens the formation of some kind of calcium salt inside the hoses.  Both my overboard and holding tank hoses were in fact full of these salts.  The salts are porous enough that they will pass small volumes of liquid but of course eventually get jammed up with solids.  They are also porous enough that a toilet snake can pass cleanly through them and no mater how many times you pull it in an out they will remain stubbornly in place.  Of course Mike and I only learned this after the snake that I had onboard broke and we made a trip to Home Depot to replace it.

The solution is acid.  If you catch it early enough plain old white vinegar is a strong enough acid to keep the lines clean.  Going forward a regular (monthly) dose of vinegar will be on our maintenance schedule.  In emergency situations such as I was facing muriatic acid is required.  Fortunately I had some onboard.  I now have more in stock and the next time I get to a hardware store I will likely add a couple more bottles to my inventory.  Its really miraculous how quickly it cleans up the lines but it did take quite a bit of acid to clean the line to the holding tank because its close to 30 feet long.  That much sulphuric acid in the tank of course also caused a steady release of sulphur dioxide over the course of the next few days.

We’re roughly a week past the initial incident and I think we have the problem in hand now.  In the process I learned a lot and we got a new crapper in the master head.  I guess its not all bad.  The new crapper is a bit bigger – perhaps more comfortable although that seems a foolish consideration.   

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Captain Vancouver was wrong

Maybe the old boy had a touch of scurvy or maybe it was too many nights at sea with just the cabin boy to keep him company.  Whatever the reason when he named this area Desolation Sound he was way off the mark.

We didn’t make it this far north last summer and we had hoped to get further north this summer.  Nonetheless this is a pretty special area and I expect its better cruising grounds than 95% of boaters ever get to experience. 


That’s the view off the bow last night and no, its not upside down but its really hard to tell which way is up.  We got our Jed Clampett special tent set up last night and had breakfast under it this morning.  The sun comes up through that little entrance that is visible in the photo but this morning the tide is out and there are rocks sticking up in the channel.  Nobody will be coming or going until the tide comes back up again.

So far we haven’t had to run the noisemaker.  The solar hasn’t started to recharge the batteries yet (at 9:30 boat time, 8:30 local) but it is already reducing the discharge rate and should flip over to charge shortly.  We’ve got a moderately heavy load on the inverter – fridge, freezer, coffee maker, a couple of computer bricks and the cell phone booster which is letting us both be online despite the relatively remote nature of this spot.  I heard another genset running earlier this morning but I think with a modicum of power management during the day we can likely leave ours silent all day.  We’ll eventually have to run it if we want hot water but there’s a lot of clear blue sky up there this morning which should turn into 40+ amps of silent charging by noon. 

I changed the impellers on both engines at the dock in Powell River but I should have left them until we got here or maybe even until next summer.  I can’t find any record of changing them since I did them at the dock in Seattle right after we bought the boat and they looked just fine when I took them out.  I had been imagining that the cooling water flow in the exhaust was diminishing so I thought I should change them.  Some authorities say that you should change impellers every year so three years seemed like a long time but based on the condition of these I won’t worry so much in the future.  On an inboard engine with wet exhaust the impellers are extremely important.  Not only do they provide cooling to the engine through a heat exchanger which accomplishes the same function as the radiator in your car, they also cool the exhaust.  On a marinized engine with wet exhaust there is an exhaust riser that replaces the exhaust manifold.  At the highest point of that riser the water coming from the heat exchanger is injected into the hot exhaust gas stream.  That cools the exhaust and then the exhaust gasses and the cooling water flow to the transom and escape back into the ocean.  If you lose cooling water you not only risk overheating the engine but more importantly you risk lighting the boat on fire or at the very least melting something from the hot exhaust gasses flowing where they weren’t intended to flow.

To change the impellers I stupidly picked a hot evening after a long day’s run which left the engine room feeling like a very hot steam bath.  It took four sessions to get the impellers out and the new ones installed because I kept feeling like I was going to melt down there.

The big project for today is to install heat sensors on the exhaust risers.  Once that is done I’ll have some assurance that the impellers are doing their job of cooling the exhaust which may give me enough comfort to run the impellers a little longer. 

IMG_5743Looking to the west, deeper into this little bay.  I don’t care what the old Captain said, its not Desolate, its just pretty.