Saturday, August 29, 2009

Water meter update

It works! We now know - to the gallon - how much water we have in our tanks.
Water meter prepped for install.

This is the midships H2O engineering compartment. AKA under the table. We have a watermaker but haven't yet needed to use it.
The water meter is installed on the pressure side of the water pump. I put it between the water pump and the accumulator.
The small dial on the right side of the meter indicates hundredths of a gallon. The wire is connected to the LCD display.
You can mount the LCD readout anywhere you want. I figured the galley was as good a place as any and wouldn't require any crazy cable fishing. A previous owner had moved the propane system to the deck box on the bow and put in a new solenoid switch in the head. The solenoid switch that was still in the galley was disconnected. I am going to have a labeled placard made for the water meter LCD readout to replace this, but until then I just cut a hole in the aluminum solenoid plate with a Dremel and mounted it there.
Installed and ready. It's hard to make out in the picture, but just below the readout display is a gray button that resets the counter to zero. The LCD unit is powered by a lithium battery that the manufacturer claims will last 5-10 years.
I topped off with water and then waited to see what the meter would read when each tank ran dry from normal use. I did this several times and the meter provided consistent readings of 112 gallons.
Forward tank = 53 gallons
Aft tank = 59 gallons

So whenever we fill up with water I hit the button to zero out the meter and we always know how much water we've used from our tanks.
The watermaker would of course mess this reading up if we didn't run it long enough to top off the tanks, but thus far we haven't been able to take a long enough trip to need it.

How to write a message in a bottle

Ewing Island is a small uninhabited island on Sucia's north side. We took the dinghy over to do some exploring. There are no trails on the island and rather than bushwhack we just climbed our way around on the rocks.

This little cove is on the north side of Ewing island.
Amongst the driftwood I noticed a message in a bottle. How cool is that?
It says, "If you pick up this bottle please e-mail me at"
Signed, "Brian 2002.12.20" Brian also included a little drawing of a pig.
Well I was pretty excited, and emailing Brian was just about the first thing we did when we got back to an internets connection. I was hoping the email address would still work considering 7 years had passed. The email bounced. Rejected. No longer a valid hotmail address. I Googled the email address. I Googled Brian Louves. My Magnum PI skills bore no fruit and I had no luck finding the guy.
So if you're going to send a message in a bottle, please focus on contact information rather than small farm animal drawings.

You're going to pick that up?

You see people do some interesting things on their boat sometimes. Everybody is at a different spot on the boat learning curve. Nicole and I aren't too far up it ourselves. But some people just seem to lack common sense. According to the guide book there are 4 buoys in Ewing cove. When we came in we only saw 3 buoys and what appeared to be someone's crab pot marker. After driving by the crab pot marker in the dinghy we saw that it was an out of order park buoy.

This would seem to indicate some sort of problem with the equipment.

Fortunately, there is a second buoy to add further clarification.

In this picture you can see the park buoy about three feet underwater.

The marker buoys were tied to the mooring buoy with some half rotted quarter inch polypropylene line.
This couple rolls up ans spends litterally 10 minutes examining the buoys. I couldn't believe it so I discretely snapped a couple pictures off the stern.

They tied up to it anyway. At this point the picture was going to be for the insurance claim I would surely be filing since an ebb current was going to push them right into us.
Fortunately the word "danger" must have worried them a little bit too. Eventually they took off before I could dispense some friendly advice.

Sucia Island

I'd heard about Sucia and it's stunning landscape for years--it's somewhere that I'd always wanted to go, even before we had a boat. Sucia was named by Spanish explorers, those same guys who named virtually all the San Juan Islands (save for Vendovi, but they actually named that after one of their Fijian prisoners, so I guess we can add that to their list too). The name means "dirty water," but thanks to the magic of GPS and modern charts, we found the water to be just fine.

Sucia is not just one island but a group of islands in the shape of a giant hand print (the right hand). In fact, two of the islands are actually named North Finger and South Finger. From Patos, we came around the "palm" and past the southernmost "pinky" before heading north to pick up a mooring buoy in Ewing Cove (the thumb). There are lots of beautiful and secure spots to anchor or grab a buoy on Sucia, which makes it one of the most popular spots in the San Juans. Echo Bay, Fox Cove, Shallow Bay and Snoring Bay have mud bottoms where you can anchoring virtually anywhere you want, and with nearly 50 mooring buoys, anyone who wants a spot here can have one.

Ewing Cove is one of the quieter spots on Sucia, which suited us perfectly. It's tucked in between Ewing Island to the north and the Cluster Islands to the south and is framed by a lovely little beach at the head of the cove. The horseshoe-shaped trail running around the east side of the main island is one of the most spectacular in the San Juans. We followed it from "our" beach, through the forest and out onto the sandstone cliff overlooking Echo Bay. At the head of Echo Bay, the trail turns inland and follows a dirt service road all the way around to the far southern point. Although the guide book said the elevation gain is "negligible," I must beg to differ. But it was a great hike--about 6 miles round trip--that readied us for afternoon drinks in the cockpit. Is there anything better than sitting in the sun with a good book, your honey and a cold drink? Maybe, but at the time we certainly couldn't think of anywhere else we'd rather be.

Rum and Cokes in the sunshine after our 6 mile hike.

In the morning, we did some serious dinghy explorations. Aaron actually fell in here while dinking around with the dink. Ha!

Bright purple and orange seastars were everywhere.

Before falling in... Note the dry pants.

Can you see me? I decided to lounge in the sun while Aaron climbed around the Cluster Islands.

Bella Star in Ewing Cove

Aaron made a holster for a bottle of wine, so we could lower it over the side to chill for dinner. Yum!
This is a knot of my own design that would baffle Brian Toss and probably never be duplicated.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Patos Island

Instead of staying two nights at Stuart Island (we felt that we'd been there, done that), we decided to move north. We hadn't planned to stop at Patos Island, the northernmost of the San Juan Islands, because the small cove only has room for about 4 boats, and we just knew that it would be full (it's summer, after all). We left Stuart Island early, around 6, and motored north toward Patos. As we got closer, we noticed a power boat heading southeast from Canada in what looked like a straight path to Patos. Argh! Aaron swears he saw them speed up, as it was obvious by then that we were both heading to the same spot. Given that our 30hp motor just couldn't compete with a power behemoth like that, we resigned to doing a drive by--we at least wanted to see the lighthouse.

On the way to Patos Island. Ahh, August in the Northwest...

As we pulled into Active Cove, we saw it--one open spot. But we also saw that dang power boat, who had arrived just a minute before us, headed right for it. Oh well, right? No! They were just casing the joint! Lucky for us, they did a quick spin around the cove and then took off (probably had to check in with customs or something). The spot was ours! Score.

No matter that it was rainy, we Gore-texed up and went exploring. The northern San Juan Islands--Patos, Sucia and Matia--are absolutely stunning. With their dramatic sandstone cliffs, old growth forests and remote location, these three islands were by far our favorites. We walked a short trail through the forest and then out onto a bluff to view the lighthouse. We met a couple of ladies out there who had volunteered to clean up the trail, remove blackberry bushes and do a little maintenance on the building--and to promote the lighthouse's 101st birthday. Yes, they were planning a party.

Gotta love Gore-tex!

We hiked the loop trail, got our pants soaking wet and retired back to the warmth of the boat (all hail the diesel heater) to read and nap. It rained pretty much all day, but we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset--and a break in the rain. Yay! The next morning, we got some amazing pictures of the lighthouse as the sun rose over the island.

Our diesel heater kept us toasty and cozy--just like a little fireplace.

Approaching the lighthouse via the paved trail that served to carry goods to the lighthouse keeper and his family.

Patos Island Lighthouse
Aaron posing by the one of the awesome sandstone formations

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stuart Island

Our first non-marina stop landed us in Prevost Harbor on the northern side of Stuart Island. Unlike most of the other islands we visited, Stuart Island actually has a small population of residents. There's a 5-mile (round trip) hike out to Turn Point Lighthouse that takes you from wooded trails to gravel roads, where you pass a schoolhouse that dates to the 1800s. In fact, our real estate agent actually attended school on the island as a boy! Small world...

Original Stuart Island schoolhouse that now serves as the library.

Turn Point Lighthouse as viewed from a really steep cliff.

Lighthouse-keepers quarters. In the barn, we read about the fascinating history of the lighthouse keeper and his family.
At the lighthouse...

Bella Star lying in Prevost Harbor

San Juan Islands (part 1)

So it's taken us longer to post stories and pictures from our two week trip to the San Juan Islands than we would have liked, but as they say, better late than never!

We spent a fabulous and relaxing two weeks cruising up to the San Juans Islands, an archipelago between Washington and British Columbia, and back. We made a clockwise loop, stopping at Kingston, Port Townsend, Friday Harbor, Stuart Island, Patos Island, Sucia Island, Matia Island, Anacortes, La Conner, Coupeville and Everett.

It was our longest cruise to date, and although we thought we'd enjoy ourselves, "enjoy" doesn't even come close to explaining how fabulous it was. Being away from our jobs, the internet (eek!), traffic and the day-to-day grind that you don't realize is there until you remove it was truly refreshing. Certainly the San Juans are busy with other folks trying to get away from it all too, but many times it was just me and Aaron and the boat. We spent hours reading in the cockpit, lounging on the foredeck, hiking the trails, exploring deserted islands with our dinghy and just generally relaxing.

We have a number of funny stories that we'll post later; be sure to watch for "Up Close with Poo" and "Mugged in Coupeville."

In the meantime, we'll follow with posts about some of our favorite spots...