Wednesday, November 18, 2009

One Boater's Trash

Old-school roller skates? Check.
Romance novels? Check.
Perfectly good pants emblazoned with tiny teacups? Check.

Nope, this isn’t my Christmas wish list. These are just some of the tempting items sitting on Shilshole Marina’s free shelf today. The gallon-sized Ziploc filled with 27 tubes of Zipfizz came back to the boat with me (the pink lemonade flavor isn’t all that bad, save for the mildly funky aftertaste… still waiting for my energy boost, however).

The free shelf is always strewn with a variety of unique items, and poking through the clutter is a great way to kill time when you show up a few minutes early to transfer over your laundry. You’d really be amazed at the turn-over rate on wicker baskets, wrought-iron dog beds, computer monitors circa 1992, rusty muffin tins (with crud in the corners) and other trash… er, treasure. Here today, gone tomorrow. Everyone knows that boaters like a deal. And you can’t do much better than free.

Our fair share of flotsam and jetsam has washed up on the free shelf—old clothes, extra galley items, raingear (no roller skates or romance novels, though)—since it’s much easier to plop something on the shelf than to drive down to Goodwill. So I don’t feel bad when I take an armload of magazines… or Zipfizz. Give and take, right?

Now that I’ve advertised the teacup pants to the world, I’d better go grab them before someone else does…

Hmmm… This might become a recurring post: What’s on the free shelf today? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunshiny Birthday

After the rain and wind and generally stormy weather we've had around here the last few days, it was such a nice treat to wake up to sunshine on my birthday. Well, I actually woke up while it was still dark, but you know what I mean.

I remember it snowed on my birthday once when I was a kid, which I thought was completely rad, but the grown-up Nicole is pretty stoked for sun. There are some scary black clouds on the horizon, which I'm sure means that we're in for another rainy Seattle night, but I'll enjoy my birthday sunshine while it lasts!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Diesel Class, Anyone?

There was a key moment this summer that convinced us we needed to sign up for the next marine diesel engine class we could find.

We'd made fantastic time traveling north from Kingston to Port Townsend and arrived before the posted check-in time (so we didn't actually need to leave at O-dark thirty after all). Our reserved port-side tie slip was still occupied, but the starboard-side space was open, and since the two guys in "our slip" were warming up the engine and preparing to get underway, we decided to squat next door. It wasn't 5 minutes before they were on their way and we could shimmy over to the proper slip, easy cheesy.

Or not.

Aaron pressed the ignition button and... cue the crickets... silence. Uh, this probably isn't good. And this is when we knew we needed more than that one-day "introduction to diesel engines" class. To be fair, Aaron knows a lot about our engine--and even I know that it's a Yanmar 30 (no, I didn't just get up and look). He changes the oil and filters and does regular maintenance, but when it came to diagnosing why our starter wasn't working, we were both at a loss.

There were worse places for this malfunction to happen, like, say, up in the San Juans where a broken starter might mean running aground or smashing into a rock. And I feel extremely fortunate that Sea Marine, a full-service boat yard, was within sight of our slip. While I got my coffee fix at the espresso stand in the Sea Marine office (how cool is that?), one of the mechanics walked down to the boat with Aaron. By the time I made it back, foamy cappuccino in hand, they had the engine exposed and the mechanic was poking and prodding it with various tools. And as often happens in situations like these, when the mechanic pressed the button, it fired right up. Good and bad, I suppose. We apparently needed to rebuild the starter, but he got it working again, and he thought it should be fine for the rest of our trip. If it did act up again, he showed Aaron how to start the engine by passing a screwdriver over something-or-other, which assuaged my fears of getting bashed to bits on the rocks. This awesome mechanic spent probably 30 minutes with us and, get this, refused to charge us! We were so grateful! Small town customer service is amazing. Thanks, Sea Marine!

The bottom line? We got ourselves on the waiting list for the Seattle Maritime Academy's next marine diesel engine class. The class needs a minimum of 10 students, so if you've ever wondered what the big, shiny, heavy thing on your boat is, take the class with us! Classes start in January 2010.

Seattle Maritime Academy (in Ballard)
(206) 782-2647 or (800) 906-7829

T-Th 6:30-8:30 p.m., beginning 01/12/10 (11 weeks) -- $300
A course in marine diesel engines for the small boat owner that includes theory, operation, troubleshooting and repair. The student will learn fundamental operating procedures for marine diesel engines. Instructional format combines classroom lectures with applied training in diesel engine labs. Course requires a minimum of 10 students.

We're also taking the Basic Electricity for Small Boats class, since electricity is magic (and since Aaron hooked up our 12v head with speaker wire).

MW 6:00-9:00 p.m., beginning 01/11/10 (8 weeks) -- $250
An electrical class designed for the recreational boater and for the small boat owner, that will take the mystery out of how electrical systems work. Topics to be covered will include batteries, alternators, solar and wind generators and related charging systems. Small A/C generator and power inverter systems will be investigated. Methods for determining load requirements; wire sizing and wiring techniques will be discussed. Electrical system troubleshooting, meter reading and hands-on training will be offered to the small boat owner. Course requires a minimum of 10 students.

C'mon. Sign up. You know you need to. It'll be fun!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thunder Boomers

A serious low pressure system rolled through Seattle last night bringing 50+ mph winds, lightning, rain, hail and, oh yeah, really, really loud thunder. Growing up, I heard that if you count the seconds between a flash of lighting and the boom of the thunder you can tell approximately how far away the storm is. Well, I don't know if that's a Weather Channel-approved method or not, but I counted 0.002 seconds between one of the lighting flashes and the insanely loud & scary thunder crack that followed. Eek! I never thought too much about getting struck by lightning until I moved aboard a sailboat with a metal mast that's 8" from my pillow (can anyone say "lighting rod"?). At least we're not the tallest boat in the marina. :) I'm sure folks in Florida are used to this kind of storm, but it's rare around here (and actually pretty fun).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Matia Island

Ah, Matia Island. Our stop on this small island in the Strait of Georgia last August was both unplanned and unexpected. We thought about adding Matia to our route plan, but with only two mooring buoys, a short dock and a narrow, rocky cove not suitable for anchoring (by most, anyway), we decided to skip it. But from our mooring buoy on Sucia, Aaron pulled out the binoculars and could just barely make out Rolfe Cove on the horizon. Was a boat leaving? Yes! Should we go for it? Yes! Move out!

We high-tailed it (read: cruised at 6 knots) over to Matia, snagged one of the two buoys, settled in and took the dingy to shore where a huge rock wall and old growth forest awaited us. Amazing! We hiked the loop trail, which passes through one of the only old-growth forests left in the San Juans (most of the other islands were opened to logging and homesteading), by huge glacial erratics and stone walls and out onto cliffs overlooking the islands. In 1892, a Civil War veteran named Elvin Smith built a small cabin on the island and spent 30 years living alone there. Although people referred to him as “the hermit of Matia,” every week he’d row his boat 2 miles to Orcas Island and hike into town to visit with the locals and buy supplies. One day in 1921, his boat laden with provisions, he and a friend mysteriously disappeared. Some say you can still make out the footprint of his cabin, but we combed the area and didn’t see a darn thing.

We spent two fabulous days on Matia, rowing the dinghy around and exploring the trails and coastline. The rippled sandstone formations, the impressive rock walls and the quiet forest trails were something we won’t soon forget (and fortunately we took lots of pictures!).