Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Memorial Day to Olympia

Around 1400 on Thursday we headed over to the public dock just below Old Town Tacoma.  We arranged to pick up my younger daughter there after school but discovered that facility is out of service – all of the docks aren’t in the water and the gangway to the pier is retracted.  There’s a nice, new, public dock just to the West of the Old Town dock and we had that all to ourselves.  It’s in front of the Silver Cloud Inn.  It was low tide and a lady on shore, pretty alarmed, shouted “how deep is it there?”  Scamper’s depth sounder showed 17’. 

From Ruston Way, through the Narrows, and down to Eagle Island we had no wind but a fair current.  Under power, we were making just under six knots through the water but our speed over the ground, according to the GPS, was never under eight knots – sometimes up to 11 knots.  We made Eagle Island in less than two hours!

Eagle Island is a marine park and a really beautiful place.  We managed to get a buoy on the West side of the island.  Being a holiday weekend there was a lot of traffic in Balch Passage so there was plenty of wake into the anchorage but it was still a very pleasant evening.  We went for a walk around Eagle Island and then had a spaghetti feed.

We dropped the buoy just after 1000 on Friday and had a pretty uneventful trip until we got to Budd Inlet, just in view of the capitol.  The exhaust note changed, got louder, and stopped burbling, so I shut down the engine.  Plenty of steam came out when I opened the cockpit hatch so it was obvious that raw water wasn’t getting circulated – the engine had started to overheat and the water-lift muffler had gone dry.

Suspecting debris in the strainer I climbed down into the cockpit locker and checked the screen.  Pretty clean.  I opened the through-hull and water flowed freely out of the now open strainer body (it is below the waterline).

I un-furled the genoa and was able to get about a half-knot of control while I did more troubleshooting.

I removed the companionway stairs and discovered the pulley for the raw water pump, along with the belt, laying in the bilge.  The center hole in the pulley, where it mounts on the shaft, was very distorted – I suspect from a too-tight belt.

After a bit of thinking on the problem I decided to re-plumb the cooling system back to raw water only.  I’ve never liked the fresh water system – some of the hose clamps were rusty and required replacement, the zinc was totally gone when I first looked at the boat.  Things like that made me suspect it wasn’t a really good installation.

Amazingly, it only took about 10 minutes to get the system temporarily converted back to raw water cooling.  I fired up the engine and we motored the rest of the way, about two miles, to Swantown Marina.

Swantown is a very nice marina but it is a pretty good walk to shore-side facilities.  There’s a great Italian restaurant and an Anthony’s in the “Market”, about two miles away.  There’s a Safeway about three miles away.  All in all it was a nice stay but it was very crowded with several clubs staying for the holiday weekend.

There was really no hope of finding a replacement pulley in Olympia, especially on a holiday weekend so, on Saturday, I took a cab to West Marine.  I bought a LOT of extra parts so I could make the raw water cooling conversion a bit more permanent for the ride home.  I also incorporated a garden-hose flush connection so I can at least get the salt water out of the engine until I sort out the fresh-water-cooling problem.

My other daughter drove down on Saturday night, we had dinner, and everyone but my younger daughter and me left by car on Sunday morning.  We departed Olympia in Scamper shortly after.  We had the current going with us and were able to get from Olympia to Tacoma in under four hours with no further engine problems.

West Marine was great.  I bought almost $100 in parts in Olympia, only used about $20 worth of them, and the Tacoma store gave me a refund on the parts I didn’t need with no questions asked.   I used that money to buy another cabin fan.  It was hot this weekend.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005


I'm using a Treo 600 (GPRS, not WiFi) and get reasonable coverage from Olympia to most of the San Juans and into the more populated areas of Canada. I get weather radar from AccuWeather.com and NOAA gives me text weather and NDBC buoy data. There are several online directories of Puget Sound marine facilities such as marinas, gas, parts, etc. and I also have a pretty good collection of frequently used facilities in the address book.

Surprisingly I've encountered several marinas that only take same-day slip reservations over VHF, not cell phone. I called Point Hudson (Port Townsend), asked for a slip, they said yes they had one but I'd have to call back on the VHF. Proves I'm nearby I guess.

TideTool comes in handy for trip planning but I rarely use it if I'm near a tide book. I also have an app called Colorize that lets me change all the colors to shades of dim red for nightime use.

I'm also able to do all my email from the Treo and I have Mobile TS that lets me into a Terminal Server connection at work if they need support.

I have MMPlayer and a 1gb memory card and keep several full-length movies on the Treo in addition to lots of music. This, of course, isn't a replacement for the on-board DVD player and stereo system but I *can* lay in my bunk and watch a movie if the kids are watching something I'm not interested in.

You *can* do all of this with a laptop. I have an old laptop, mounted at the nav station, running SeaClear with a GPS PCMCIA card (reception is fine without an external antenna). I have a Sierra wireless card the lets the laptop get on the Internet through a GPRS (cellular) connection and that works fine too but I rarely use it outside of work.

We did connect to a couple of WiFi networks last year in Roche Harbor and in Victoria. I have little use for general computing outside of work so it was mostly for my wife and 17 year old daughter.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More Maintenance

The grease cup on the rudder post turned to to a ball of rust so I replaced it with a zerk and forced a bunch of grease in.  This required climbing into the cockpit locker and then crawling aft about four feet into the transom area.  There are a lot of things in there such as the bilge blower, the steering mechanism, and the cockpit-drain seacocks that all need a bit of maintenance.  Too bad they are so hard to get at.

Sunday was really windy and I wanted to go out and try the storm jib with the third reef tucked into the main.  Didn’t really have the time.  I drained the water tanks into the bilge (55 gallons take a LONG time to drain) and refilled them.  I also topped off the fuel tank.  Getting ready for our trip this weekend to Olympia.

We were thinking of stopping at Longbranch or Eagle Island on the way to Olympia but one of my neighbours in the marina said there are three yacht clubs converging there over the weekend.  He’s going down Wednesday to be sure to get a spot.  Longbranch will probably be full by Thursday night.  Have to find another spot to stop.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


I am so pleased with Scamper’s performance.  She has so many ways to control sail shape that the end result is a thing of beauty.  The sails are flat, smooth, and round.  The slot is perfect.  Even in 7 knots of wind the speed through the water seems exhilarating.  My frame of reference is a bit skewed though.  My last boat was a 6,000 pound, 22’ catboat.

Owning a boat like Scamper has been a dream of mine for many years.  Having a boat like this is just about the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve known that I wanted a mid-size performance-cruiser for a long time and I really don’t know why I fooled around with powerboats and smaller sailboats for so long.  I’ve heard the adage that smaller boats give more fun and that’s true to some extent.  The things that Scamper offers, and and the challenge of mastering some of the aspects of this boat, are satisfying beyond mere fun.

LED Bulbs

Sailor’s Solutions has some LED replacement bulbs for less than half the price of those available at West Marine.  These bulbs have 19 LEDs in them but the bulbs from West Marine (they’re Davis brand, I think) have only 6.  This makes the Sailor’s Solutions bulbs quite a bit brighter but they still only use a reported 0.175 amps.  (The conventional bulbs they replace use from 3/4 to 1 amp.)

I bought a couple of these to try.  They arrived yesterday so last night I went out to the boat, rigged the TopClimber, and put the new bulbs in my spreader lights.  Very nice.  The ammeter doesn’t move when I turn them on and they seem at least as bright as the old conventional bulbs.  This is great for me since I like to leave the spreader lights on, in addition to the masthead light, when I anchor in a busy anchorage.  This is really a great use of the technology and I’m hoping someone will soon get bulbs like these approved for use in navigation lights.  They could save a considerable amount of power on a long passage.

Sailor’s Solutions is a great organisation, by the way.  They have items that are not generally available anywhere else, some things I didn’t even know existed.

The weather was pretty good for an evening sail after I got down from the spreaders so I went out for a couple of hours.  My wife thinks it’s somehow odd or wrong that I enjoy singlehanding a 34 footer but winches and roller furling make it a pretty easy job.  Heavier air is a bit harder since the boat’s really set up for a racing crew as far as reefing goes.  It usually requires a couple of trips between the cabin-top winches and the mast to get the reef tucked in all snug.

Last night was not reefing weather, however, and it was wonderful.  Started out with about 7–10 knots and dropped to dead calm just after sundown.  That’s PNW summer weather.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Heavy Air

Friday afternoon was sunny but the wind was up.  My family was envisioning a relaxing, quiet, spring sail but that was not to be.  It was certainly a success but there was not much relaxing.

I was pretty happy I got to try out my storm jib.  I picked up a storm jib for a 24’ boat on eBay for cheap.  It was very small but clearly well made.  I was looking for something tiny to fly on the babystay in really heavy weather.  Something that would move the center-of-effort way inboard.

The babystay attaches to the deck on a track which allows the stay to bend the middle part of the mast.  The horizontal distance from the mast to the stay is only about four feet.  The stay is about 17 feet long.  Pretty odd geometry from which to fly a jib.

The jib I got off of eBay has an extremely high tack – like any good storm jib should.  It really sets pretty good and tacks through that narrow slot with no problems.  The main needs to be down at least to the second reef for the two sails to have any semblance of balance but that’s the idea anyway.  I’ve set the sails this way in the slip, with no wind, and it kind of looks like a fractional rig on a 22’ boat.

We sailed a bit with just the main, with one reef in the main and just a bit of the genoa unfurled, and with one reef in the main and the storm jib.  On an old IOR-type boat like the C&C the main is a pretty high-aspect proposition but sailing with just the main was pretty reasonable.  The wind was holding 20 knots and gusting to 25 (I can know now thanks to going up the mast two weeks ago). 

In really heavy weather with big waves I think the extra power from a slot is necessary.  That’s where the little, odd storm jib works pretty well.  It was like sailing a real boat upwind.  There was room for a bit of slop in the relative angle to the wind, nothing flogged about, and there was plenty of power.  Now I need to get out in a real gale off a lee shore and see how it really works!

Up The Mast

Saturday afternoon was pretty nice so I hauled out the TopClimber and all the relevant gear and went up the mast.  I made it all the way up on the first try, stopping at the spreaders for a new pair of boots, stopping at all relevant rigging terminations for appropriate service.  I got to the top, serviced the wind-speed sensor, lubed and otherwise serviced everything up there, and lubed the entire mainsail track on the way down.  I spent a total of nearly three hours aloft.  It really does take a lot more time than you think.

I'm very sore!  I work out a bit but, aside from the muscles used for actually going up, there's a lot of twisting, holding yourself out to the end of the spreaders, gripping at weird angles, etc.  Nothing but more of the same could adequately prepare a body for this.  I'm not sure I could have made two trips in the same day if it was necessary to get parts or something like that.

The TopClimber is a pretty good success.  It obviously would  have been easier to have someone else winch my considerable bulk to the top - someone else doing the work, so to speak, but now I know I can do it on my own when necessary.  I used a third ascender (in addition to the TopClimber's two) on a separate halyard connected to a regular deck-harness as a safety backup.  It all felt pretty stable and secure but it was very slow both up and down. 

If I didn't stop at the spreaders it would have probably taken at least 20 minutes up and a similar amount of time down.  This is really not something you'd want to do alone at sea with just the auto-pilot in control  There are too many things that could happen that you would need to get to quicker than 20 minutes.  Too, any kind of rig, that far aloft (50ft) is going to be a very wild ride with even the slightest boat motion.  I could easily feel motion, transmitted through the docklines, from someone walking down the dock.

Based on this very limited experience, my observation is that the static climbing line works better near the mast.  The ATN site recommends you lead the bottom of the static line to the rail so you have room to dangle and spin.  I did this and it worked okay but when I got higher I still ended up near the mast.  It turned out to be pretty easy and confidence-inspiring to be able to straddle the mast with my feet and knees.  The mast being nearby is also pretty easy to hold on to.

The next time I go up I need to remember to make the static line bar tight.  It does say this in the ATN directions but I under-estimated this and had to deal with a little slack below the lower ascender.  A tighter static line would probably make it all go faster as well.

The next time I go up I also need to remember to bring my camera.