Monday, December 29, 2014

Getting ready to head west


And not a minute too soon, judging by the thermometer.  Ours showed minus 35 this morning.  At that point its not material whether its minus 35 C or F.

A year ago now we were holed up in Victoria, both of us sick.  We went there for Christmas and to watch The Hobbit, Part II.  I don’t think we did much in January but we got real busy at the end of January.  That’s when we left for Seattle, followed by Vancouver and then Alaska. 

When we arrived back on the prairies we were both happy to be away from the boat but now we’re both pretty homesick for the ocean.  I brought the bow roller and anchor home with me, hung them up in the garage and more or less forgot about them.  “I’ve got lots 0f time – we’re not going back to the boat for at least 6 months” Well, that was 6 months ago and I’ve been scrambling to get that project wrapped up so I can start on the other project we brought back with us.  The lathe got a good workout again today when I used it to ream out some more holes on the new bracket as well as the pivot sleeve.  I think that project is complete which means I can start on the deck box.

We bought 2 looks-like-teak deck storage boxes when we bought Gray Hawk.  I brought one of them back with us a year ago so that I could epoxy coat and varnish it.  I brought the second one back this year but of course it sat forgotten in the little house until we dragged it over here about a week ago now.  In addition to the bow roller bracket and deck box I also brought out old stainless CQR anchor back.  My plan is to add an some steel and some weight to the point in the hope that will help it engage the bottom.  As it is its really just an ornament – I need to either make it useful as an anchor or find someone else who wants to own it because – in its current state – it just takes up space.

So I’ve got a lot of projects to wrap up before we head west again.  And the departure date is fast approaching.  Weather permitting we hope to leave on Jan 15.  We’ll take a more leisurely trip than we usually do so that we can visit some friends near Edmonton but we’ll be back on the boat 4 or 5 days after we leave Buchanan and maybe sooner.  We’ve done that trip in 2 days when the weather through the mountains cooperates.

We wouldn’t mind seeing The Hobbit, Part III sometime but we’re not as focused on that as we were on the first two in the series.  I expect we’ll find it in a remainder bin at WallyWorld and watch it at home.  It will make more sense in sequence after the first two anyway.  We won’t be dashing out to watch the stupid movie that makes fun of Kim Ill Ding Dong.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie that mocks the little clown but I doubt that movie is worth the price of a WallyMart DVD, let alone theatre pricing. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nanny state run amok


If there’s any small “L” liberals out there who have stumbled into reading this you may want to move on. Reading this – and taking it to the polling booth – would be good for all of us but I’m not holding my breath.

Yesterday our neighbour stopped for a visit.  In the course of the visit he happened to mention that he had to get a set of winter tires installed.  Of course that sent me off on my standard rant about how stupid the whole winter tire marketing scam really is.  I’ll spare you the details except to say that we went through all this when we stopped using winter tires 30+ years ago.  All season tires work just fine and – if you want to get all enviro-friendly – 4 all season tires have a much lower environmental footprint than 8 tires swapped out twice annually.  Its nothing more nor less than a marketing scam on the part of tire manufacturers and governments are complicit in the scam.

Once I ran down on my first rant, Keith set me off again by telling me that winter tires were mandatory in BC.  I of course assured him that we have been driving out there for years and it simply wasn’t true.  After he left though I went online to check his claim and, sure enough, the idiot lawmakers in Victoria introduced a new law, effective October 2014 – winter tires are now mandatory for effectively every bloody inch of highway in BC.  They claim the requirement is limited to highways that cross a mountain but when you look at the coverage map its the whole bloody province.  So of course I had to first apologize to Keith and then I phoned my favourite tire shop in Preeceville.

Boycotting BC simply isn’t an option for us – at least not while Gray Hawk is moored on Vancouver Island.  I phoned a buddy in BC and unloaded on him about his idiot lawmakers.  He in turn assured me that nobody was paying a lot of attention to the law but I don’t believe that lack of attention will extend to out of province visitors.  I can easily imagine a checkstop at the Golden scale that simply watches for SK and AB license plates and then checks tires.  At $150 or $200 a pop for the tickets that could be a good revenue generator to help cure the provincial budget deficit.  Worse, the sons of bitches could tell me to turn around and go back to Calgary to buy new tires.

And before any of you try to tell me about the so-called advantages of winter tires let me assure you that I believe there is some measurable advantage to winter tires.  Just like the there’s a measurable advantage to 4WD, tire chains, studded tires, vehicle weights and any number of other DISCRETIONARY steps that I may take to make winter travel safer.  Of course the single most important step that any of us can take to make winter travel safer is to simply stay home when the roads are not fit for travel.  If a situation exists where the difference between winter and all season tires will be the difference between life and death then the drivers involved should have stayed home or the highway should have been closed.  Legislation can never make us completely safe.  As long as there’s idiots on the road my life is in greater danger from idiots than it is from whatever I choose to run for tires.  Chain up laws are no different – if the pass is so bad that trucks need chains to get over the top THEN PARK THE BLOODY TRUCK AND WAIT IT OUT. 

Our world is doomed as long as we have lawmakers who think they can legislate us into safety cocoons. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014


I’ve been building boat parts for the last week. 


The bottom piece with the rounded end is the teak bow pulpit, visible in the photo below.  The angle irons are new fabrication and the existing bow roller bracket is visible in the drawing and the photo.


I drew the area using Sketchup before we left the boat in July.  The final rendition is this one where I have scrubbed out the teak bow pulpit to leave only the stainless steel assembly which I need to now build. 


Some of you may have experience fabricating in stainless.  Its challenging.  Stainless is not that hard to cut, if you cut it the first time.  The problem is that it does something called “work hardening” which means that if your saw or drill misses even one opportunity to cut then the material becomes so hard that nothing will touch it.  A good example is my experience cutting 2 little tabs out of 2” x 3/16 bar yesterday.  On the first cut my reciprocating Dewalt cut through the bar with one blade.  On the second piece I clearly didn’t put enough pressure on the saw because I scrubbed the teeth off three blades before I finished the identical cut that had cost me one blade the first time.

My drill press turns out to be not even close to adequate for drilling stainless.  In order to keep it cutting you have to put serious pressure on the drill and my press simply doesn’t have enough rigidity and torque to handle the necessary forces.  Fortunately I was able to figure out how to do the drilling in the lathe.  Before I figured that out I spent a whole morning drilling one pilot hole in the press.  In the course of that fiasco I broke probably 6 or 8 bits.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work for a total of 14 holes in the entire project.  To make matters worse, most of those holes are 1/2” diameter but I broke all those bits on a 1/4” or possibly smaller pilot hole. 

I had to partially disassemble the lathe, removing the back plate and the guard but with those items out of the way I was able to clamp the parts to the cross slide and from there it was dead simple.  All morning to drill one pilot hole in the press versus roughly a day of drilling to do all the finished holes in the lathe.  Then I ran myself out of MIG wire welding everything together.  I almost got done before I ran out so it won’t take much to finish up and we were already planning to go to Saskatoon on Boxing Day. 


1/2” bit emerging through 2 x 2 x 1/4” 304 SS.

(The guard and backplate are still in place in this picture – I had to remove them in order to drill the holes closer to the centre of the long angle irons)

This project arose because our windlass won’t bring the anchor completely aboard.  If you look at that first photo above with the anchor chain leading straight down from the bow roller you can imagine what happens at the point when the anchor stock reaches the bow roller.  At that instant there is roughly 100 pounds of anchor hanging 2-1/2 feet below the bow roller with the chain bent at 90 degrees over the roller.  There’s no way in hell any reasonably sized windlass is going to pull the stock at that point because the entire weight of the anchor has to swing up and out.

The theory of my modification is that the roller and the entire bracket that houses the roller will pivot at the critical moment.  By the time the anchor stock “emerges” it will have travelled through the pivoting bracket which will give the windlass roughly 7 inches of leverage to lift the anchor.  That should be more than adequate.  Currently I go forward and give the anchor a little tug with the boat hook while Marilyn works the windlass button.  It only takes a momentary lift to get the anchor past the sticking point so I don’t think it will take much help to get it home with only the windlass.  There are times when its not entirely convenient to climb out in the pulpit and lift the anchor, not to mention the challenge that single handing creates.  I’ve lifted the anchor alone but I actually can’t remember how I did it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Learning new skills

Today I finished building a #2 Morse taper.  Which may not seem like all that great an achievement or it may seem like a major accomplishment, depending on your perspective. 

It turns out that tapers are a common means of attaching tooling to lathes or milling machines and there are a few common standards in use for what is essentially a piece of steel turned to a slightly conical shape.  The old boy that invented the Morse taper – presumably Mr. Morse – evidently was shooting for 5/8 of an inch per foot but his tooling wasn’t perfect.  So depending on the size of the taper – they’re numbered 1,2,3,4, etc – the taper ranges within 1000’s of an inch either side of 5/8” per foot.  All of which means jack shit when you actually cut one of the things.

Initially I tried setting the compound at 5/8” per foot, reasoning that for the accuracy I was likely to achieve, 5/8” per foot was close enough.  Officially a #2 Morse taper is .5994 inches per foot (0.625 would be an exact 5/8” per foot) so the old boy was way off on his spec for #2.  But like I said, that’s all pretty well moot when you get right down to cutting the taper.  When I set the compound at 5/8” per foot I neglected to take into account the fact that the compound should be set for exactly half of the total taper so when I set it at 5/16” for 6 inches I was setting it at twice the angle I should have been using.  That became immediately apparent when I tried my first effort in the tailstock – it was way loose at the tail. 

Next I tried narrowing the angle by eye which got me closer but there wasn’t a hope in hell that I was going to randomly arrive at exactly the right setting.  Time for Youtube and Google. 

My final and successful effort involved a dial gauge and an existing taper thus:


That’s my tailstock drill chuck in the headstock chuck with its #2 Morse taper extending.  Setting the compound was simply a matter of setting the runout on the taper to zero.  I say “simply” but it took a bit of fiddling, although not as much as I expected. With the compound thus set it was pretty straightforward. 

20141214_130702 After all that effort, this is the end result – not much to look at is it?  My initial goal was to build a spring loaded tailstock centre which would be very useful for starting taps in the lathe.  My taper ended up eating up too much of my stock to continue with my original design but the taper will come in handy at some point.  Next time I’m at a farm auction where they’re giving away broken tools I’ll be looking for a 1/2” (or larger) dead electric drill that I can cannibalize the chuck off of.  In the interim I learned a lot.

UPS Ripoff_1


If you zoom in on the image you will see that it is a UPS invoice charging me $34.41 in order to collect a total of $3.23 GST.  (for those of you that argue that the total GST is actually $4.71 when you include the GST on the usurious collection fees I say “PHOOEEY to you”).  This happens occasionally and it is the reason that I avoid using UPS as a delivery option for online purchases.  I actively avoid using suppliers that only offer UPS as a delivery option.  Occasionally though it is unavoidable, as it was in this situation.  Usually what happens is that the driver arrives and then holds my parcel hostage until I pay the blackmail.  This time for some reason the parcel slipped under their radar and I received it followed by this invoice.  Today I mailed a cheque for $8.23 accompanied by a letter outlining my concerns with their attempted blackmail.  I arrived at the sum of $8.23 by totalling the legitimate $3.23 GST and a more reasonable $5 service charge to collect that $3.23.  The reality is that this is simply an electronic transaction for UPS.  Banks generally charge fractions of a dollar for electronic transactions so I think my $5 allowance was more than generous.  I also sent the whole mess to CBC’s GoPublic.  I don’t suppose that will go anywhere but a quick search will confirm that I’m not the only one dealing with and detesting UPS’s attitude on this matter.


Other than minor skirmishes with UPS and learning to use my lathe this has been a pretty quiet week.  Marilyn has been completely occupied with recruiting her replacement at the village office.  She is extremely motivated in that regard because I have made it clear that I absolutely will go to the coast in the middle of January, with or without her.  After the Regina adventure she takes my threats seriously.  More importantly we have a commitment to deliver a lecture to our yacht club at the end of January.  Our topic is “Cruising Off-Season in BC and Alaska – What were we thinking?” 

Most of our fellow club members never untie their boats between the end of September and the middle of May so our winter cruising habits are a great source of entertainment.  Our experience however has been that there are great advantages to winter cruising.  At the risk of spoiling some of those advantages by encouraging others to clutter up the docks and marine parks, we agreed to do the lecture last spring before we came back to the prairies.  Now that the date is looming it is also providing a convenient deadline by which time the village absolutely needs to have a replacement for Marilyn in place.  If it wasn’t for that hard date I suspect we would be sticking around here for at least another month and likely right through to spring.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Not much happened this week

It went by quickly but when I look behind me I don’t see that I accomplished a hell of a lot.  Mind you, I lost three days out of the middle going to a time waster conference in Calgary so that only leaves 4 days and I’ve been sick the last 2 of those. 

Several years ago now the Canadian Consulting Agrologists Association (CCAA) put on a few really good PD seminars in Banff and then in Calgary.  Then the CCAA merged with some high falutin’ management consulting outfit from eastern Canada and they haven’t put on a decent conference since.  The one last week was really bad – there was hardly anyone there and the content sucked.  The only real reason left to attend the thing is for networking opportunities and if there’s no one there then there isn’t much opportunity to network.  So I won’t be going to the one next fall, assuming they actually try to hold one again.


SWMBO is alternating between answering the phone and collecting water bills for the village and making sanding dust in the house.  We’re nearly ready to paint the ceilings but we may postpone that until spring so that we can have the windows open.  We’re going to use oil based paint for the ceilings – it will likely stink pretty bad if the house is closed up when we do it.

I’d been postponing changing the plugs and coils in the Lincoln because I had heard so much bad about the job.  Apparently the plugs often strip out the heads and when they don’t do that they actually break off in the head.  They’re in the bottom of a really deep recess so I can imagine how they could be a problem.  They also have super long threads on the plugs which could help them get stuck in the heads.  I had all the parts before the Calgary fiasco but decided to put the project off until I got home just in case it went south on me.  As it turned out it wasn’t really a problem at all.  I blew the recesses out with compressed air and then pissed a bunch of my favorite weasel piss (3-in-one) in all the holes.  After that had sat for a couple of hours each plug came out easily.  It took a lot of torque to break most of them free but once they were free they spun out by hand.  Then I put a copious amount of never seize on the threads on the new plugs and carefully started them back in.  The whole project probably took 3 hours but that was only because I was being super careful and it included changing the headlamps as well.