Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Thinking Time

There’s a great deal happening on board Eagle Too right now. But you wouldn’t know it if you stopped by. At the moment, most of the work is taking place in my head. I’m using this gray and dreary time to think about some major projects. I think, and then do some research, and then sketch some ideas, and then think some more. I imagine the parts we’ll need, the order in which things will have to happen, the tools that will be required. Sometimes I drive to West Marine and wander the aisles in contemplation, looking for solutions or verifying some of my assumptions. Then, after a cup of coffee, I start again. Before I know it, Rhonda is home and it’s time to start dinner and have a cocktail and the day draws to a close. Sometimes I’ve made great progress. Sometimes I’ve followed a circular path and ended up where I started. But in either case, it was primarily neurons that got exercised. The only actual work I’ve done has been disassembling large parts of the boat’s interior, and then putting it all back together before Rhonda gets home.  But I consider it all time well spent. Because the purpose is to prevent wasting time and money and make sure we don’t screw something up as we make some major changes to our boat.


Hard At Work

For starters, we need more battery capacity. Our boat’s house bank is a single 4D battery, which is much too small for cruising. And 4D batteries aren’t truly deep cycle, they’re actually commercial truck batteries, not designed for long deep discharges.  I like the advantages of 6 volt golf cart batteries, but where to put them? And how many is enough? Six sounds right. That would give us over 600 amp hours, with a working range of just over 200 amp hours—enough to keep the lights on and refer running for at least two, possibly three days. But our current battery sits forward of the mast, and with 100 feet of chain in the anchor locker, the dinghy on the foredeck, and a full water tank, we already sit 2° down by the bow. Even if we could find room, adding another 300 lbs of batteries would have us plowing a furrow through the ocean. Putting the weight aft will let us double the amount of chain we can carry and still sit level in the water. But can I get six batteries in the stern lazarettes (lockers)? I order six battery boxes, and then start sliding things around like this:

PuzzleTrying every possible combination of how to store things in the lockers until I figure out a way to make it work.  But I then have to measure and size the new battery cables. And finding a path for the cables means hours of fishing through the boat’s inner recesses. Which would have been much harder without this absolutely awesome tool:

RemoteCameraIt’s a remote inspection camera that lets me see live color video of anyplace I can poke the flexible stalk into. If there’s a boat owner in your life that likes to tackle his/her own projects, they’ll love you for getting them one of these. It’s saved me hours of time. If you want one, you can find it here:

Harbor Freight Remote Inspection Camera

Once I’ve figured out the length and route, I find an app that lets me calculate voltage drops for the new cable runs. I think with 4/0 cables, it could work.

Then there’s the additional multi-function display we just bought to install at our chart table.

MFDIt will fit perfectly in that vacant upper right corner, and having a backup for something we’ll be relying on to get us safely from point to point seems like a good idea. (I did take a celestial navigation course once, thinking that that would be our backup. Let’s just say life’s too short to do sight reductions now that GPS is here.)  But networking two chartplotters together so they can share radar, sonar and chart data requires understanding Raynet, which is Raymarine’s proprietary implementation of Ethernet, as well as how to build a Seatalk NG backbone. Off to the Web I go again to download and study the relevant manuals.

And don’t even get me started on AIS. One of Rhonda’s greatest fears is getting run down by a freighter in the dead of night. Installing an Automatic Identification System transceiver will make sure we’ll show up clearly on the chartplotter of any tug or tanker plying the seas. But with a dedicated GPS antenna and the need to splice into the VHF radio and tie to the Seatalk backbone, it’s more reading, head scratching, and where exactly did I put that soldering gun anyway…

Then there’s the whole issue of getting power to all the new gear. We’re out of breakers on the panel, and need to add an additional subpanel. Better brush up a bit on the ABYC wiring guidelines. What’s this? DC ground wires are now required to be yellow instead of black? Sigh…

I’m trying to make the most of this Time for Thinking. Particularly since the weather continues to be too cold and blustery to do any actual sailing. But our gear list is getting close to being finalized, and Defender’s annual blowout sale is right around the corner.

Then it will become the Time for Doing…

Boat Gardening

Rhonda loves to grow things. We broke ground for her first garden in Poulsbo, Washington in 1981, and if memory serves me I believe she’s had a patch of ground under cultivation every year since. One of the hardest things she had to do in order to embrace a Life On The Hook™ was to give up her favorite hobby, at least until the day arrives when we’re forced to swallow the hook and once again become dirt dwellers. I probably don’t tell her enough how much I appreciate her willingness to do that in order for us to take this crazy leap.

For years now, I’ve read everything I can get my hands on that talks about a life afloat. Books, blogs, articles—I wanted to understand and prepare for our future adventures. I read a lot about how hard it can be to find fresh produce in some places, such as the Bahamas (where there isn’t an abundance of farmland to grow vegetables) and how it’s common to suffer from severe cravings for fresh greens. I guess a couple of months of coleslaw and three bean salads has made for some pretty despondent cruisers.  But an article I came across described a way some deal with the greens deficiency and address the need to bite into something crunchy—methods for growing fresh sprouts onboard. That’s the ticket, I thought. It’s not a garden, but at least she’ll be able to grow something.

With most of our gear now having found homes onboard, Rhonda finally had time to do some experiments. She bought a little sprouting kit, and well, let me show you. First she added some water to the sprout mix. In a day or so, it looked like this:

sprouts1After about three days, she had a little patch of greenery growing:

sprouts2After five days, she washed the sprouts to remove the seed husks:

sprouts3And ended up with a nice sized bunch of fresh sprouts:


They’re probably best suited for using in wraps or as a salad garnish rather than trying to make a dish out of them. But who knows, with a little raspberry vinaigrette and some chopped pecans, maybe they could stand on their own…


So the first crop was a success, and is now chilling in the refer, while the second crop is well on its way, the result of boat-friendly gardening that will give us a little variety in our diet once we shove off. Most importantly, while she couldn’t play in dirt, Rhonda had some growing green things to fuss over and mist and talk to everyday like gardeners do when she got home (mostly words of praise and encouragement, because what would be the point of asking some sprouts how their day was, after all. That would just be crazy!) 🙂


That Which Sustains Us

While Rhonda cooked breakfast, I tidied up the boat on the morning after an evening spent entertaining friends onboard. In the process, I stopped to contemplate this amusing tableau:

CaptainFuelI was going to call this scene (and post) Boat Fuel. But I realized that that was inaccurate. Eagle Too runs on wind, electricity, diesel fuel and propane. Eagle Too’s captain, however, requires a different form of fuel to operate. It takes large amounts of strong black coffee, along with adequate supplies of cold beer and single malt Scotch (served neat) to make this sailor go.

So what keeps the Admiral’s motor running? A wine of the white variety that many (most?) have never heard of:

FavoriteWineEven local wine shop employees give me blank looks when I ask for it. Oh, and a regular supply of Almond Roca latte’s, carefully handcrafted with love:

LattesEssential? Of course not. But they’re definitely decorative sprinkles that enhance our enjoyment of life aboard.

Consider it just part of getting to know us better. Cheers!

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Rhonda has been blessed with a beautiful head of hair. As someone who has been follicly challenged for years, I am envious of her thick and luxuriant mane.

RhondaHairOne advantage I have over her though is that I can get my cranial fuzz clean with a washcloth, a drop of shampoo, and two tablespoons of warm water. Rhonda, however, needs several gallons delivered at fire hose pressure to thoroughly rinse the soap from deep within her tresses. So while I’ve managed quite well showering onboard Eagle Too, Rhonda has been a somewhat less happy camper. She felt she just couldn’t get her hair clean. And you know what they say—when mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy. Something had to be done.

Now she could have tried the solution she implemented the last time we did a sailing charter in the islands. Knowing she was going to be on water restriction for 10 days, she adapted her hair to the environment. She cut most of it off.

Hair7It worked. But I was not impressed. Oh sure, it was cute and all, but it wasn’t the woman I’ve been married to for over 30 years. I missed her hair. So after we returned, she grew it back. Slowly. Over a period of several years. Because it’s hair, so it takes its sweet time.

Now at some point in the future, that might once again become the right solution. But for now, since we’re really living Life On The Pier rather than Life On The Hook™, we have ready access to plenty of water (well, at least when they’re not turning it off because there’s another damn cold front coming with temps in the 20’s, as in Waiting For Global Warming).

No, as Tim Taylor once said, the solution to this problem is more power. Our existing freshwater pump, the one that was installed in the boat at the factory, only provides two gallons a minute of flow—not enough to maintain the pressure Rhonda needed to get a good deep rinse. I had already noticed that the pump diaphragm was dribbling a bit, causing it to briefly cycle on and off every 45 seconds or so. Rather than fix it, we went with an upgrade instead, in an attempt to solve two problems at once. Our current pump was from ShurFlo, and I stuck with that brand to ensure the fewest possible surprises when swapping out the old pump. But we bought the four GPM pump in the hope that it would give Rhonda the pressure she needed to get the soap out.

Installing it meant tearing into this:

Pump1But I’ve had six weeks now to say “Hmmm, I wonder how that comes apart,” and have practiced disassembling most everything I may eventually want to open up to work on equipment. I don’t want to be surprised by some broken piece of gear deep within the bowels of the boat late at night on a passage somewhere and not have a clue how to get to it. So while I saved the job until I had a whole day to work on it (in case of any unknown unknowns arising) it only took a few minutes to get to the pump, tucked outboard of the water heater:

Pump2Sticking with the original brand pump paid off, for while the ShurFlo was a few dollars more than several other brands, the in and out connections were in exactly the same location as the existing pump. It’s a good day whenever you can finish a boat job and not have to make a panicked run to West Marine to buy fittings and connections and hoses and clamps that you didn’t know you needed to do a job when you started!

Pump3So how did it measure up? The first shower Rhonda took after I installed the new pump, I heard squeals of joy coming from the head (or bathroom, if you’re the non-nautical type). It turned our barely adequate shower into one with the power to get the job done. Rhonda is now a happy camper. And like it says at the top, a happy wife makes for a happy life…

Restoring The Soundtrack Of Our Lives

Boats and music go hand in hand. Whether it’s Buffett tunes, classic rock or island reggae (or lite jazz on lazy Sunday mornings), while out on the boat we have almost always had something playing quietly in the background to provide color and frame the mood. But since moving aboard Eagle Too, we have been experiencing a severe tune deficiency. While we have an adequate marine stereo onboard (a circa 1997 JVC AM/FM/CD unit that was probably installed at the factory when the boat was born—currently on the short list of things to upgrade), we really couldn’t coax many tunes out of it. You see, it had one of those really crappy wire dipole antennas, like the kind you taped to the wall of your college dorm room, that someone (Hunter Marine? The previous owner?) had wadded up in a ball and shoved into the back of the electrical panel.


Piece of Crap Antenna

Ninety-nine channels of static was about the best it could deliver, particularly when the battery charger was doing its job. We had a work around—the iHeartRadio app on my phone and a portable Bluetooth speaker has met our basic music needs for six weeks now. But you just can’t beat the convenience of flipping on the Stereo breaker and having tunes throughout the boat. So I did some research, learned a few things, and fixed the problem. This is for all you geeks out there that might be interested in trying something similar.

First thing I learned is that FM radio is broadcast in the TV spectrum. All those stations on the FM dial live between TV channels 6 and 7 (I probably knew that once since I’m a lifelong geek, but it’s a fact lost to the mists of time). That means that any TV antenna will also do an excellent job of pulling in FM radio. Now it just so happens that when we did our initial refit on Eagle Too after purchasing her, we put a little Frisbee-like TV antenna at the top of the mast since we knew we’d be living onboard for some time and didn’t want to give up all the comforts of 21st century life.So how to get the FM signal out of the antenna became my mission. And wouldn’t you know, they just happen to make a little device that does just that. But for $40 (with shipping), I thought there had to be a better (as in cheaper) way.

A brief search on eBay turned up exactly what I needed ($8.99 and free shipping!). An item that the car stereo technician at BestBuy assured me absolutely did not exist, for whatever that’s worth. It’s an adapter that has a TV-style F connector on one end, and a car stereo Motorola connector on the other.

TV FM Adapter

With this little jewel in hand, all I needed was a standard TV splitter, which costs about three bucks, and I could pipe steaming hot FM signal straight from the top of the mast directly to the radio.

Being the little bit obsessive type of guy I am, I of course turned it into a day long project, piping TV signal to several different places around the boat. But I’m retired now and do have the time to obsess afterall.


If you’re totally into all things geek, I actually used a DC-6 tap instead of a splitter to pipe the FM stream to the stereo, because this left me more signal to then pass to the TV and DVR. (Yes, I said DVR. A 12 volt, boat-friendly DVR. But that’s a subject for another post).

I’m very pleased to say that flipping on the Stereo breaker now fills the cockpit and cabin with the latest Taylor Swift tune (since it seems to play constantly on every station) rather than the previous crackly hiss. Easy, cheap and effective. If only every boat project followed a similar course!

This Looks Good…

The weather radar says rain for the rest of the day. Looks like a great time to dive into the new book that arrived this afternoon (just ordered it day before yesterday—love me some Amazon Prime!).


At first glance, it looks pretty good. I predict some fun culinary adventures in the near future. We’ll let you know what we think!