Sunday, January 27, 2013

Wintertime in the cold

 Since it is winter up here in the great cold northwest, I've been working on trying to make my boat warmer.  I started out long ago with my tea kettle stove, which looked like this:
 It is a tea kettle, as you can see, but with a piece of a coffee mug attached to the side and then computer fans attached to that.  The fans push air in and burn the wood that is inside the "combustion chamber" tea kettle and then it spits out the spout.  It spat fire out the spout, in fact, and that was very exciting when testing it out in the backyard of the house...
 But it was very hot for use in the boat.  I could get a nice cherry red off of the stovepipe and the tea kettle pretty much every time I used it, and it would burn up all the wood in about 2 minutes.  It was an intense and terse bit of magic.  Dangerous as well.
 The next modification was to cut a hole in the bottom of this and then put a propane burner inside the tea kettle.  I thought this would be more controllable and still warm, but in fact it didn't produce any heat at all, so I eventually took the whole stove and pipe system out completely.  I went up to Alaska without the stove, and survived.  I figured all would be well with the world without a heating system, I would just have to get a bit tougher and wear more clothes. 

Then I took the boat south, and in the great warm waters of the tropics I lost all of my tolerance for cold air.  As a consequence, when I returned this past autumn to the dreary sunless world that I live in today, I found an icy chill creeping up my spine and into my blood.  Jack Frost had his pruners out and was savagely attacking, so I got an old Dickenson stove and put it on the boat. 
 The stove is designed, as I have found through reading the manual, for "decoration" and not for heat, so I wasn't able to get the boat super roasty toasty (as I wanted) and there was another problem, that it was used and, in fact, badly misused, and broken.  It had holes in the sides and back, and a small firebox, and....  I thought, maybe I should make one if I want it just right. 
So I did.
I went to Z recycling one day and got a piece of square tube steel, 6" x 8" x 12", with the 12 being the tube direction.  I was looking for a slightly bigger tube part, but at this place you look around and find the most suitable scrap piece and live with it.  I also got some plate and the total was about 8 bucks, so that was nice.  Then I went to my dad's place and used his nice wire-feed welder to weld the plate to the back (sealing one end of the box) and then cut and weld a tube to the top and one to the bottom.  The top tube is the exhaust, a 3" stovepipe flue made of stainless steel that I found for the Dickenson stove a few months back.  The bottom tube is the stuff you can find at a hardware store for water or gas or something, and it was only 2", but I added a surprise.  Attached to the bottom tube is a few computer fans, to give this stove some high pressure oxygen and get it glowing with joy.  I had the hinges before the project, and then made the door out of the steel plate and a bit of stove sealing fabric, and it seals tightly.  The only thing this stove lacks is a window to see the flames.  I might add that later on.

So for the last few days I've been testing this out, and it has warmed the boat up to 75 degrees today, on a 43 degree outside rainy day.  I put the thermometer down low, so it is actually about 90 degrees up near the ceiling, and maybe 50 down at the bottom, so I have to figure out a better mixing fan, but I'm working on that. 
Just before I got all the heat working, I went on a small cruise over to Lummi Island for an overnight.  It was cold and clear and nearly windless, but pretty, and I was freezing cold the whole time.  I need more heat, more blankets and more clothes.  Hopefully the next cruise will be warmer.  Here are some shots from over on the island...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A trip To Christmasifornia

 After much kicking and screaming and prodding from a few people, I am resuming the blog.  Nobody is reading it anymore, because of the hiatus, but I will describe a trip I just went on with my brother Abe, and his girl, Katrina.
The theme from this trip was history, and the watching of time pass.  A freeway is a good place to contemplate the passage of time, where seconds are ticked off by the incoming lanes, and the road noise buzzing in your stomach helps you let go of your reality, and just watch. 
We also began reading a book out loud (difficult at the best of times, but made harder in a loud car); "The Starship and the Canoe".  It is about Freeman Dyson and his son George Dyson, and since George live in Bellingham, and Freeman designed spacecraft, I found it most interesting.  Orion, the most famous of Freeman's designs, was something I had heard about before, and the namesake's constellation was shining brightly down on us when we were in Joshua Tree (see the above picture).
We descended on Rachel's place like a horde of Khans, and I got to visit Henry (whom I had seen as a very small bundle when I sailed through three years ago) and to meet Nora, who is a small bundle of joy. We crowded inside Rachel and Sam's small house and ate all their food, all the while trying to figure out a geometry problem and getting each other sick.  On Christmas Day we squeezed around the table, and had a delicious mexican style dinner.  Something about Mexican food makes it very scalable.  You can eat Mexican food alone and it feels just fine, or have a party of hundreds eating tacos.  It works just fine.  Other foods are not so versatile, for instance, Spaghetti.  Eating Spaghetti alone is a crime.  Or should be.  It just aint right.   Pasta is intended for company, and maybe for the mafia.  Jelly beans are a solitary food, on the other hand, and when eaten in public they disappear far to quickly.
So we ate, and drank and made merry.  And did math problems.  What a lovely nerdy family.
After Christmas, Abe, Katrina and I set off for a slow trip down the Big Sur coast.  We've gone down it many a time, but it always seems to invite us back again.  We stopped at a few places on route to observe birds and wildlife, including a wonderful stop at Moss Landing, in Monterey Bay.  The reason (I think) that Monterey Bay has such life there is that there is a very deep  crack in the ocean floor in the bay, basically the Continental shelf comes in and nearly touches the heart of the bay.  Since its deep, there are amazing waters full of Whales, Shearwaters (I have seen them there) and all sorts of deep sea things, but near the shore.  This crack comes directly for Moss Landing, but luckily it stopped just barely short of the beach.  Behind the breakers there are tons of migratory birds dipping their bills in the muds in search of goodies. Haven't you looked in the mud for treasures?
There are also Sea Otters.  I found one that was very busy on the beach, and I walked right up to it without alarm.  It was busy scratching something, either on its butt, or on the front side corresponding.  I had heard about the voracious sexual appetite of Sea Otters, so I thought this one might be having a private good time, but I couldn't tell which side of the legs was up or down.  They are very flexible, and the tail seems to come from the very back of them.  Anyways, this one was occupied, so I got a few pictures...

This was my first time driving down the coast since I had sailed down it, so I was excited to see again the places I had passed by.  There is this lighthouse I recalled from the trip down Big Sur, which was the beacon of hope leading towards San Simeon.  I remembered that when I passed that lighthouse the big following swells dropped from 10 ft to nearly nothing, and the winds began to come from the land.  It was peaceful, but as I got to San Simeon the winds turned way up, and I had to fight to get into the anchorage.
 The purpose of the trip was to all rendezvous in Morro bay, and for me, to surf a little while I was there.  I surfed twice and got solidly frozen both times, but wasn't like surfing in Hawaii.  There was a big storm out at sea and the surf was very large later on, with impressive curling breakers crashing over the jetty. 
 Morro Bay has a great big rock sitting in the sand on the beach, a monument to a past volcano, and the geology of the area is fantastic.  Montana de Oro State park is full of golden colored rocks, which might have resulted in the name.  The layers of rock are tilted and skew by the might of Atlas, tectonically twisted by the nearby San Andreas fault.  There are places we hiked over where a whole ridge was turned in one direction, and then the next was another.  I've spent some time with a pick and shovel, but I am unable to move mountains like Mr St. Andrew.  We then traced the San Andreas southbound after Morro Bay to visit Joshua Tree, and on route I got my first glimpse of Elijiah, the nephew from my eldest brother, Jeremy.  He is walking around!  I have missed so much. 
We passed through Los Angeles, holding our breaths and attempting to keep our feet lifted in the foreign territory of concrete and bustle.  Every time I go through a city I am stunned again and again of how many people there are, and how much gasoline each one of them burns.  We were burning the gas up quickly ourselves, as we climbed up into the desert.

At night in some places it is very dark, and you can't go anywhere without a light, but out in Joshua Tree the stars allow you to see just fine, and when the moon comes out it might as well be the sun.  I found that starlight was very acceptable for seeing things while out on the water as well.  Moonlight on the water causes reflections and you lose your night vision, so you can't see things in the water, but starlight is a soft glow from the heavens to show you the way.  There are few places on land where you can get away from the lights enough to let your eyes open up like that, so I think people aren't used to using starlight, but I like it.
We only stayed in Joshua tree for a night, by poaching a camp site, and then drove across the park and headed for the lowlands.  There was a cold wind blowing from the north and it was nearly unbearable to be out in it for long.  
We drove to the Salton Sea.  At -224 ft, it was the lowest I had ever been.  The air was much warmer and felt great, because of the high pressure and extra oxygen.  At the shore of the Salton Sea there is large expanses of white soil, salted by the phosphates from fertilizers, and from the salts of the incoming waters.  The beaches are covered in small shells and barnacles, and as the water levels have dropped recently, they are expansive.  There are lots of birds that stop through on their migrations, and we sought them out.
We camped out in a canyon just north of the sea, called Painted Canyon, and built a fire.  I had another night of wonderful stargazing conditions, and I took a slightly out of focus shot of the tent and the fire and us sitting around it, with Jupiter in the background.  It was a beautiful place to camp, and I think I'd like to go back there again someday. 
The next day we got up and drove further up the canyon and then hiked up as far as we could until we were lost in the myriad of twisting side canyons.  There were some wonderful pathways, all carved by the San Andreas and the rushing flash floodwaters when the rains come. 

Here are some shots from the canyons:


 After that, we did another dip down to the Salton Sea to look for birds.  The lowlands there reminded me of the skagit valley and the view north towards Lummi Island.  It was like summertime; warm but not hot.  The waters gave the air a pleasant feel.  I felt right at home. 
 For the return trip, it was a full look into Katrina's family, and a lot of driving, but then we made it. 
Here are more shots from the trip: