Thank God for Small Favors

Bringing Cari, a KK42,from Bodega Bay CA to Gig Harbor, WA Part II

Cari docked in her slip (second boat from right). the finger is on the starboard side, with a sailboat on the port side.

 

After that first 24 hours, winds and seas became more southerly and lessened in strength. So, the rolling slowly subsided over the next four days until we rounded the corner for the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

We have about 15 hours left to Gig Harbor, but this would be our last night out. It did cause a little excitement for me.

On Dauntless, I understand my Raymarine E-80 radar very well. Since the first day, back in March 2013, when I turn on the engine, I also turn on:

  1. Radar,
  2. Navigation lights,
  3. VHF radio,
  4. AIS transponder,
  5. Horn,
  6. Auto pilot,

I’ve just found it best practice to always have all equipment powered and running when underway, day or night. This precludes forgetting to turn on Navigation Lights when it gets dark and most importantly, allows me to always see what the radar sees in good visibility and even more critical, to investigate items it’s not seeing (no returns), but are obvious enough looking out the pilot house windows that there is an object I certainly want to avoid.

When that happens, I just re-adjust the radar’s gain and filter, so that it shows me what it should for the current sea state.

This allows me to have total confidence at night and in poor visibility situations. Obviously, on a different boat, with a different radar, that is not the case.

So far on this trip, I found the radar somewhat typical, in that it seemed to work pretty well, but at times, it either showed too much sea clutter or not enough.  Something to keep in mind.

Thus, that last night, being off the ocean and now in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, there was other traffic, navigation markers, etc. to deal with.

As we passed as few miles off of Port Angeles at Oh-Dark-Thirty, I saw a white light ahead, seemingly very close. I checked the chart, there should be nothing ahead for three miles, more than 30 minutes away. But there was a note about log booms in the Port Angeles harbor. We were near the harbor entrance, could this light denote a log boom?

Looking at the radar, I saw nothing, but as I said, I did not trust this particular radar that much to rely on it. That left my eyes and brain. As we know, our eyes and brain coupled with a vivid imagination, can do wonders at night. In particular, almost everything looks closer.

My brain was telling me that this flashing white light was close, almost too close. 

Being responsible for someone else’ boat, made me even more cautious than usual. I decided that caution was called for and turned the boat 90° to the north. At worst, I’d waste a little time, but at best I would avoid imminent disaster.

After turning and heading north for 5 minutes, as I watched the light (that I had turned to avoid), its bearing had hardly changed.  Umm, that meant that this light was not close at all but far way. Confirming what the radar had been telling me all along. I felt a bit embarrassed, but there were no witnesses and I felt good that I had chosen the safer choice, even if I wasted some time.

The rest of the morning was uneventful. Our ETA to Gig Harbor was about 13:00 and we decided that I would pilot the boat into the harbor and dock her, since I had a few dockings under my belt.

I decided that this was not the moment to recount the story of my first docking in Poland, where after docked, my friend said to me, “It’s a rub rail, not a crash rail”.

I was a bit nervous, never having seen the slip before and knowing it would be very narrow, at the almost end of the channel, leaving one with few options in case of a missed approach.

As you can see from the attached pictures, one from land looking at Cari in her slip, with a sailboat on her port side, the finger pier being on the right or starboard side and the overhead google shot, it is a narrow fairway.

Overhead Google view of Gig Harbor and I have put pin over the spot we would dock in

In spite of my nervousness, I decided I just had to dock as if it was Dauntless. I stayed to the right as we entered the fairway, trying to give myself as much room as possible for the left turn into the slip. I knew there was a sailboat docked on the left, with the narrow finger on the right.

With the Kadey Krogen’s high bow rise blocking the near forward view, I knew I had to trust my instincts. As I turned sharply left, I put her in neutral to reduce our forward speed of 3 knots. Seems fast, but steerage below two knots becomes problematic. The KK will turn very sharply, with a single screw and even without bow thruster. At full left rudder the bow pulpit was swinging over the finger. I knew to let it go well over the dock, in spite of appearances. Finally, with about 10 feet to spare forward to the dock, I put her in reverse and gave her a shot of power to kill our forward momentum. This also adds a kick to the stern to the right. The KK42 has a left-handed prop, so the stern is always trying to walk to the starboard, whether going forward or reverse.

Normally, I would have the person on the lines, put a line on the first cleat possible, then tie off at the midships cleat on the boat. Then use that with full left rudder and forward gear to push the stern against the dock finger. But in this case, it wasn’t needed. The surge of reverse, put the stern again the finger, stopped our forward way and the boat was perfectly parallel to the dock as it came to a stop, with the bow 6 feet from the forward dock.  We hadn’t touched the sailboat to the left, only a few feet away and we hadn’t bounced off the finger.

I was a bit astonished. As it was by far one of my best dockings ever.

Thank God for small favors.

I could finally relax for the first time in the days and weeks leading up to this trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology Can’t Replace Your Sense of Smell

I know I haven’t written very much, because not much has happened being somewhat stationary for the last two years and unlike the Discovery Channel, I can’t make drama out of nothing.

My amp meter showing a +4 amp draw

During the last dozen years, I’ve seen more and more cruisers adding a video surveillance system to their boats. Being able to see the engine room at all times from the pilot house, certainly looks attractive, but I feel it can provide a false sense of security.

My brother will be on Dauntless for the summer. Last week, we took Dauntless out to show him some of our favorite fishing sites. In getting ready for his arrival, we did a real spring cleaning. Dauntless has never been a smelly boat. In large part because the second owner replaced all the non-copper hoses on the boat’s sanitation system and engine. That makes a big difference.

But a Wrangell winter is an incubator for mold and mildew. We run an Invation Dehumidifier all winter, on high at night, it would warm the salon to high 60’s and lower the humidity to mid-30%. During the day, we run it on low. I plumbed it into our gallery sink drain, so I never have to empty the water container.

So Dauntless smells pretty sweet, even before the spring cleaning.

Thus a few days later, after my brother’s arrival, the boat was permeated by a new odor.

And no, I did not think it was my brother! Because it was clear that it was coming from the engine room. My first thought was that during the spring cleaning the previous week, we had even cleaned and organized the lazzerette. Because of a loose drain hose, there was a large container in the lazzerette that was full of water, maybe 20+ gallons of smelly water. To heavy to lift out, I decided to just empty it and it would run into the engine room and be pumped out. I then hosed down the lazzerette and really didn’t smell any thing foul anymore.

But now a week later, I was wondering if that smelly water, had found a space to fester. Also, the previous week, we had anchored in a place that while hauling the anchor, a significant amount of seaweed and kelp was on the chain. We pulled most of it all as the chain come up but didn’t wash the chain.

So, I wondered if the odor was being caused by organic material.

Between the stanky lazzerette water and the chain locker, I thought it was possible this was the cause. I ran all the chain out in about 15 feet of water int eh harbor. We also took soap and bucket and scrubbed the bilge and chain locker. While all the chain was out, I decided to also put a small plastic basket on the bottom, that once crushed by 500 pounds of chains, would still provide a few inches of clearance keeping the chain locker drain clear of line and chain. In 8 years of Dauntless life, our chain locker has never had a strong odor and wanted to keep it that way.

Half a day later, all done, the engine room did smell better, but the malorious odor was still noticeable.

We’d be going out the next day. Maybe the engine room just needed an airing out?

That next evening, while on the hook, the odor was back, as bad as ever.

The odor had a strange aspect to it, almost organic, like something dead, but also a bit like plastic.

This same evening, the first one away from the dock and shore power, I noticed a 5 to 10 amp draw that was unaccountable. I turned everything off, finally even going to the extreme of turning off the boat computer, something I never do while away from the dock, as it is provides my primary navigation, GPS and AIS.

With the boat dead quiet, nothing on, the current draw was now almost 8 amps, 96 watts. This meant that someplace on this boat, I had the equivalent of a 100-watt bulb burning and that produces a significant amount of heat. It should be noticeable.

Ah ha. I had it. I must be one of the house bank batteries. They were 5 years old and already shot. 90% of the house bank was powered by my one LiFePO4 battery of 200 amp-hours, while the three old lead acid batteries were providing about 30 amp-hours in total. So, it made sense to me that one of the batteries was bad, shorted out and pulling power from the good batteries.

This was confirmed when I checked the current draw with a clamp on amp meter and sure enough, I could see 6 amps coming out of the house bank.

With much anticipation, I was sure I found the problem. I got my IR temperature gun, opened up the two battery compartments and expected to see the problem.

First battery, the only one on the port side, sharing the box with the Li battery was 84°, that seemed ok, since the Li battery was warm as it was doing most of the work. OK, then it must be one of the batteries in the starboard box.

Opened the starboard battery box with even greater anticipation, both batteries were cool, only 74° and the current running thru each battery was less than one amp.

There is also a Perko switch in the engine room electrical distribution panel. This allows me to switch from the start battery to house bank to start the engine. I’ve never used it. And when I did switch it, the draw remained the same.

Stumped again.

There is also a similar Perko switch in the salon distribution panel. It allows me to switch the house bank source from the house bank to the start battery (a relic of the old system, which had no start battery, but used the house bank to start the engine).

Stumped yet again.

Back to the engine room distribution panel.

Using my trusty amp meter again, I noticed a 5 amp draw that ran to an isolator, then a 100-amp fuse. This isolator is not to be confused with the two 120-volt isolators I have on each of the 120 circuits. This was on the 12-volt system and frankly, I was unclear what its purpose was.

Returning back to Wrangell the next day, I was egger to call my friend and electrical genius and Kadey Krogen guru, Dave Arnold in Fort Pierce. He’d help me figure it out.

And he did.

I knew my start battery and house bank batteries were separated and sort of knew they were charged separately, but not was well as I had thought.

David asked me if I had checked the current in the negative start battery cable. I hadn’t. He explained to me that the 12v isolator was how I charged by start battery. In simple terms, it lets a small amount of power go to the start battery as needed, but won’t pull power from the start battery, no matter the state of charge of the house bank.

My 12 volt Engine Room Distribution cabinet

My start battery, installed by David in fact, was now 8 years old. It had to be the culprit. Simply put, it had an internal short and was draining the house bank at 5 to 8 amps continuously.

As I opened the battery box cover for the start battery, the heat and bad smell hit me. The battery top was 154°F. I disconnected it; we pulled it out and put it on the dock. Two hours later it was still 100 degrees.

Video surveillance wouldn’t have smelled that until it went up in flames.

 

 

 

 

 

The Polar Bear Club

Hardy souls waiting to go for a dip.

I’m not in it, at least not in the Wrangell, Alaska version. Even NYC has a version, with people going in the water at Coney Island on the first of the year.

Now the Wrangell version is for these hardy enough to brave the cold waters (50°F) of Zimovia Strait on the first of the new year. This winter has been extremely wet, but not very cold, with temperatures staying above freezing except for just of couple of dry days in the high 20°s. Every other day we’ve had clouds and rain. Contrast that with last year, where by this time, we’d had few feet of snow since before Thanksgiving until now and had weeks of below freezing temperatures.

Our Marina on a rare sunny day

I do have my Polar Bear certificate for being in Resolute, Northwest Territories, Canada, but I just had to be there, not do anything special.

While on T-3, I did have the opportunity to jump into the Arctic Ocean, in the six-foot diameter hole we had melted thru the sea ice to collect zooplankton samples for the summer. But the idea of jumping into water that was 28°F, even then, in the years when I was young, brave and knew everything, was unappealing to me.

I pictured myself going into shock, not being able to drag myself out of our four-foot-deep ice hole, while my bumbling colleagues came up with a way to drag me out as I died of hypothermia.

Being on the Arctic ice pack in the middle of summer was fascinating. During the summer, with 24 ours of daylight for five months, the sun did produce significant melting of the top layers of ice.

Now, a little lesson on the Arctic ice pack. The ice pack was (until recently) only about 4 to 6 feet think, absent pressure ridges, (areas where the ice has been pushed into little hills by wind and current).  Currently, the ice pack has thinned to just 3 to 4 feet. Thus, much larger areas are opening up during the summer melt.

The ice pack grows from underneath, fresh water freezing in the 28° water. Thus, the ice pack is all fresh water and was the source of our drinking water. We melted ice most of the year, but for two months of the high summer, we would pump fresh water from the numerous lakes that formed on top of the ice.  These melt ponds would be a beautiful blue in color. On the other hand, when we would come upon leads (a break in the ice pack) in the ice, the water would be as black as the blackest night. I found them actually scary, I would not get within a few feet of them. Terrified would be more like it. Even after all these years, nothing has made me feel that primordial fear like those black, black leads.

The Arctic Ocean doesn’t get very much snowfall, it’s simply too dry. So, all the ice growth comes from below. While all the ice melt or sublimation (solid, ice, becoming gas, water vapor, without turning to liquid first. Sublimation is how most of the ice disappears. Therefore, the ice pack is always growing from underneath 10 months of the year and losing ice from above throughout the year, but especially in high summer, June and July.

If you would like to know more and be up on Arctic  Sea Ice News & Analysis, check out this link, which I look at every months as I dream of cruising from Alaska to Europe one day:

http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenew

For a longer look at Wrangell’s New Year’s dunking, check out, (no translation needed):