Saturday, March 25, 2017

New Truck

I bought a truck!  Its not new, I guess, but new to me.  Its a 1997 Dodge Dakota SLT.  I saw it on Craigslist, and since my dad has very nearly the same truck, I figured I should go have a look.  I was looking for a truck that I could sleep in the back of, with a canopy, and with 4 wheel drive, so if I wanted to take it down to Baja and drive through the sand, I would make it.  This one ran me $2700.  I've run it through a few tests, including the chicken test:

This chicken kicked the tires and looked up at me with a beady eye and clucked that it was ok.

The Car has 193,000 miles on it, but runs well and has good compression.  The CARFAX came out just fine as well.  There are a few projects I've worked on with it so far.  I cleaned the outside, then the inside, then the bed and the canopy, and I took off a large steel rack that was for hauling lumber and reducing the fuel economy.  The fuel economy is not good.  It has one of those little reader computers that tells you how much fuel you are guzzling and going up a hill I was able to make it read 5 mpg at one point.  I'm not through a full tank yet (though it shouldn't take long) but I expect an average of 14 or less.  I was hoping for 20.  Still, I won't be driving it too much.
 My plan is to have a camping site in the back, so I stole my mom's small red mattress that she keeps for visitors and then built some plywood boxes to sit on the sides to store things in.  I've still got to replace those gas struts that keep the side windows up and make it a bit more homey in the back, but I am off to a good start.  I slept the night in the back and found that it was very loud with rain drops splattering on the fiberglass.  I'll just have to go to places where it doesn't rain much.  Its also cold, so I'll have to go to places where it is warm outside.
 I'm a fan of the colors and the tires and the cleanliness (or the lack of rust), but the stereo has a ghost in it and there is an annoying thing with the driver seat and the driver side rear view mirror is cracked so it looks like looking through binoculars that are wonky, and takes some getting used to.  Annoying, but not deal breakers.  There was a big dent in the port quarter and I bumped it out and it looks quite nice now, you can't really tell it was ever there in this photo:
 My latest thing is to build up an electrical system for the back, so I got some lights and wired them in, and then made a mess of the back to take a picture, so ignore the boots and mess, but look only at the lights.  I think in the future I'll try to put a battery in the back and a solar panel on the roof.  Currently it runs off the engine battery, but I'd prefer to have it isolated.
 I've also not put hinges on the boxes yet, since I can't decide where to put them, but I'll get that done sometime, and since I'm planning on going on a road trip very soon, I'll give you a report on how everything turns out.  Its been a while since I last had a car, so I am excited, but also worried about how long it will last and how much it will cost.  I guess I'll find that out too.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trawler! And fishing.

 My mom and her husband just bought a new Trawler, or to be more specific, half of one. It is easier to purchase and insure and pay for the moorage on only half a boat, so when a whole one came on the market, they found a partner and sawed it in half.
Or rather, they bought it together, and sawed the time they can use it in half.  Still, how often do you use a boat?  All the time?  Of course not.  Not even half the time, so this will work out great, I am sure.
It is a Fu Hwa 34.  I don't know much about them, but I am learning, and impressed by the build and design.
I got to go out on it for a test run yesterday, and it looks, feels, and smells great.  You can tell a lot from a boat by the smell, believe me.  In a boat with a fair amount of wood in it (and this one has that) your nose is one of the best instruments of investigation.  I sniffed around all over, through the engine room (which is quite commodious for a 34 ft boat) and was very pleased with the results.  We left the dock gently, for this boat has both bow and stern thrusters, and we headed out into the Straight of Georgia (we were leaving from Blaine, WA).  The main engine is a 6 cylinder Perkins Diesel, generating about 120 hp at max throttle, but when set to a humming easy pace it pushes the boat along at about 6.5 knots and everything is quiet and smooth.  Hardly any wake comes out from behind the boat at this speed, and from the flybridge it is almost like you are floating along on a magic carpet.  It also helps that the windows in the enclosed flybridge are huge and when it is sunny you feel quite tropical.
 I'm impressed with this boat because of how large it is, and how much usable space there is.  Many boats, I find, are built to have lots of sundeck space.  Places where in the ads you can put bikinis and young people ready to jump into the water.  In the Northwest, that design is troubled, because it is seldom or never that you have those amenities to grace your bow with.  Instead you have fog and rain, and the trouble with both of those, they are cold.  And wet.  So it is best to have a very big heater inboard (or three) and to have lots of covered areas (and enclosed) to heat.  This boat is exactly of that mindset.  There is a bow, which is large enough to lounge on if you have to take some promotional photography, but most of the boat is cabin. And there is a covered area near the stern for being outside but not dripped on.
 Another feature I like is a place to store your toys.  On the Uncruise boats we have a deck with a crane to store the dinghies and kayaks, and I believe that is the best way.  This boat also has a crane and the dinghy sits up on the top deck in a designated spot.  All that is wanting is a few kayaks on an easy-to-launch-and-retrieve system.  That is to come.
 As you can see the flybridge is comfortable and steering is easy.  There is Radar and a nice chartplotter, as well as a very capable autopilot.
 Here is a look at the inside, and there is a V-berth in the front with enough room for 4 if you squeezed or 2 if you wanted, and the bed on the right side (which is starboard) pulls out to be a double and the left side table also becomes a double.  So you could cram a bunch of people in if you needed.  I think 5 would be comfortable and 10 is possible aboard.  Well, 20 is possible if you really tried, but 10 could be fun on a sunny day with little wind.  In the event of not sunny and the possibility of cold, this cabin is heated by a Red Dot engine heater (which is the same idea as what you run in a car, it takes heat from the engine) that pumps out the Joules, and also a Webasto Diesel forced air heater (which is like a furnace in a house) and also by a few electric heaters that take electricity from the batteries (if you are under way) or from shore power if you are plugged in.  I am stunned that the electric heaters will work while at sea, but they do.  In addition, there is a Propane stove that would also heat the cabin if someone were cooking.  This leads to a very warm inside space, if you want it.  You can also turn the heaters off and open the doors and windows and freeze.
 The final thing I like is the outdoor covered area, on the back.  It is a place to stand outside and freeze if everyone else wants the heaters to be run and you are a masochist.  But not enough of a masochist to want to stand in the rain.  Everyone has their limits, right?  It has an outdoor shower out there, so if you don't have any limits and it is sunny, you can pour water over your head to make yourself more miserable.  Walkways around the sides and front and back allow you to walk laps around the perimeter to get exercise.  The ladder goes up to the top deck and the flybridge.
  In terms of square footage, this boat has about 5 times the area of Altair, but is only about 7 ft longer, or about the same length if you count the bowsprit and Lafawnda.
More info about the boat can be had here:

That is a link to the broker, and for this exact boat, not just the model.  Hopefully it will stay live for a while.
As we motored along, I noticed there were some Long Tailed Ducks here and there on the water.  I took a few pictures but they were shy.

Another thing I've been up to was going over to eastern Washington to go fishing with my dad.  We went to a small lake in Moses Coulee, where the gigantic floods from Lake Mazama (a glacial lake at the end of the last ice age) carved out alternate pathways for the Columbia River.  This one is now empty, but the high walls and flat bottom is awesome terrain.  
 Its a fly fishing only lake and you can't have a motor boat, so my dad is very much at home there in his little cedar strip boat.
 I didn't fish very much.  In fact, I spent most of my time walking around looking for birds and animals.  I found a Virgina Rail, but didn't get a good picture of it, and got this shot of a Red-wing Blackbird in the evening with low light using my long lens.  In fact, it was handheld, at an effective 900 mm, and with a shutter speed of 1/40 of a second.  I am really impressed with my image stabilization on that lens.  Also the bird held still for me.
 There were also Marmots about.  I tried to sneak up on them to get a closer look, but they had their beady eyes ready and watched me carefully.  I might not look like a red-tailed hawk, but I was behaving like a predator, and they slipped deftly into little caves under the rocks and vanished.  I never heard these ones whistle, so maybe I am mistaken in their species.  If all else fails, I guess I can call them Varmits and then I don't have to be right.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Return to Bellingham

When I flew out of Cabo San Lucas, the plane took a path that put us right over the Baja peninsula, so I got to see all of the islands of the Sea of Cortez out my window as we went.  First off, here is a picture of the harbor of La Paz.  As you might see from the picture, there is a big sand bar that extends off the end of the sandy spit (called El Mogote) and it is shallow and you have to go way up around to the end of it to get in and out of the harbor.  A very close look will show sailboats anchored out in the bay.  That is where I anchor when I am there.
A little further north brings me to Isla Esperitu Santu, which has a number of small bays all over it that are great fun to play around in.  If you see a lake-looking thing in the upper side, that turns into a salt flat when it hasn't rained in a long time, but shortly before taking this picture it had rained, so it was a lake.  The place where we go snorkel with sea lions is the furthest left rocks.
And this picture is the islands to the north of Esperitu Santu.  Isla San Francisco is the one with a hook in it, on the right side, and that is the one where I get my sea salt from,  then the big one is Isla San Jose, which has a wonderful lagoon on its right side filled with cool birds and fish, and in the middle and bottom is the Baja and there is a cove and point (Punta Evaristo) and the town of San Evaristo, which is one of my favorite places to go.  That has a super fun long hike that I've forgotten how to get to, but I will find again sometime, which leads to a spring far up in the hills and there is a pond with fish in it and palm trees.  a forgotten paradise.  To the left of Isla San Jose there are two islands, the small one (isla San Diego) I visited on my trip north last year (the blog post with the Red-Tailed Hawk picture flying looking down at the camera).
So after a full day of flying and airports I got in to Bellingham.  This place makes me feel at home, of course, and in being here I've gone on a few walks in Whatcom Falls Park, to see the ducks:
And the Goldeneyes!

Abe's Treehouse is coming along nicely, nearly a year after first construction, I went up to take a look inside.  Its a bit cold, since it doesn't have a heater yet, but quite well sealed and that makes it warm up quickly when you're inside.  He also put fantastic insulation all around it.  The paint is delightful, I think I really like red and wood together.  
 There is a tricky staircase to get up, but it is just unfinished.  Once the railing is put on, it will feel safer.
 And a crocodile has taken up residence in the doghouse.
 Then I got involved in a bigger project.  Abe is of the opinion that he needs to fill his property with small buildings.  He built the wonderful treehouse (still building it I guess) and discovered it was a lot of work and time and effort and also the materials were fairly expensive.  So he found this wonderful little shed for sale and pounced.  It was however, not easy to move, and so we commenced a grandiose operation to get it to Arcadia.  First step involved getting the equipment, which was a big dump truck to tow, and a trailer to put it on.  Then the night before the operation, the seller loaded it onto the trailer.  They used fork-lifts to lift it up...
 And then Abe drove the trailer under it and they set it down.  Simple!  Except that we had to do it twice because it was important to get the shed turned in the right orientation when aboard the trailer, but they couldn't access all sides initially, so we put it on the trailer, moved it 20 ft, then set it down, then shifted 90 degrees and did it again.  In the end it was on, and the next task was to tie it down.  
 This shed is much bigger than the trailer, and 14 ft wide and 14 ft tall, so it needed to be tied down strongly.  Abe's first inclination was to tie it over the metal roof, but he shied away from that, so as not to damage it, and we came upon the idea of using the roof peak beam to tie it, we would just drill a hole and put a big lag bolt in and then tighten.  Unfortunately, there are three beam ends on each side of the roof, two of them are decorative and not structural (the ones we chose to use) and the one that is structural is way up high, so we had to try and try again until we got to the structural one and then used chain tensioners to secure it down.  At this point, it had been a long and trying day and Abe dropped me off, but he went back later on and added more lines over the roof just to be sure.  Late night...
And after a late night, what better way to follow it, than with an early morning!  We all assembled at 5 am to get the wagon train going.  Here is the before group shot....  We had a pilot car in the front with a pole showing the height of the load, with two people in it to manage driving and communication, then the truck and tow with Abe and Dad in the cab and myself in the back of the truck standing up with a long pole to fend off electrical and communication wires, and then a chase car with two in it to follow and alert other traffic.  Everyone had radios, except mine didn't work very well, so I ended up calling Abe and having my phone in my breast pocket on speakerphone the whole time to keep the lines of communication running.  We went about 10 mph or less the whole time and there were a lot of wires to keep my eyes on, and about 7 or 10 that I had to actually move over the top so they didn't catch, but it was quite easy to do and no persons were electrocuted in the making of this project.  
 So, after a long and winding road, we arrived in Abe's driveway, which has lots of trees and hard corners to go around them.  We navigated the trees, and got to a resting point.
 But the idea of driving the truck onto the grass and then backing it up to where the shed would go was a bit too good to be true.  The truck bogged down pretty quick, so we had to find another way...
 Finding another way in the Lloyd family involves ropes, usually.  And in this case, we had to turn the whole shebang around, but there isn't room!  So we disconnected the trailer, used lines and force to turn the trailer (dragging the tongue around) and then got the truck un-stuck and did a long process of backing and turning and disconnecting and turning to do a 180.  During this time, it began to rain.  The rain was feeling a bit lonesome, I think, and probably cold, so it tried to snuggle up with me, down my neck, and I got quite cold by the end of the process.
 Once we had the trailer in the correct position, we then backed it onto the grass (or mud, as it was now) using makeshift wood road, and then we set about lowering the house to the ground.  A mighty task!
 Since it was raining so much, I didn't get a ton of pictures of the rest of this, but I tried...  We jacked up the trailer, set down these ramps, put rollers under the shed, braced the shed from the sides so it couldn't fall over (we hoped) and put tension lines in the front to pull it, and the back to keep it from overshooting.  It was a complex affair, with lots of shouting out, "ready on the bow!" or "Tension coming off the stern!"  I began the boat terminology because I felt that was the most applicable, as it was under way.  There were lots of scary moments where it would get to high tension, then slip all at once, and so, jerk by jerk, the shed moved to the back of the trailer, then tipped over to the ramps, then began a terrifying trip down the ramps to splash into the soil below.  Once in the soil, we began to operate with "oars", where we used the beams to lever the sides.  They would lift, then "row" and the tension on the front would take the shed forward a few inches.  A marvelous form of teamwork!
I set the camera in a dry spot as it began to rain a lot and set it up to take a time-lapse video, and here is the process of offloading the shed, but sped up a whole lot:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Altair Departure

 I've set Altair up in her summer camp again.  She is sitting happily in San Blas, Nayarit, where she was 5 years ago.  I think she remembers.  I got a fantastic deal on the haul out, and it will be less than I spent in San Carlos last year, and I like the location better as well, since it is closer to the places I like to go to (Surfing in Punta Mita and Isla Isabel).  On my way up to San Blas I happened upon a breaching humpback whale, and it was leaping and splashing around, and since I had my motor on, I wasn't concerned about getting hit, so I allowed myself to get quite close (it was heading towards me and I just didn't alter course).  It came fairly near and breached about 100 yards away, which was close enough to get a nice photo.  I'll miss these guys, they were singing under the sea for a lot of the nights down in Bandaras Bay and I hope to see them soon when I get up to Alaska.
The Haul-Out was fairly straightforward, with a big travel-lift and simple stands.  This is a concrete yard, so I have a good grip on the earth to keep Altair upright.  There are a lot of bugs here, so I hid from them, and in the fall I will have my work cut out for me to do some things before going back in the water.  I'd like to patch the hole in the bottom of the dinghy that lets water in, and re-paint the bottom (or maybe not, I haven't decided) and of course, set up all the lines and sails again.  I hope to do a trip out to Isla Isabel in the early fall when the water is super clear.

 So I left Altair and then took the bus up to Mazatlan and then took the Baja Ferries boat over to La Paz, where I'll be for a few days before flying out to Bellingham.  Here is a picture of one of the ferries:

It was an overnight trip, and pretty easy, except I probably should have got a cabin, since it was hard to sleep.  They have seats and movies that play loudly and the seats aren't very easy to sleep in, so I went to the floor, which wasn't very comfy.  All in all, I got about 3 hours of sleep broken up in 10 minute increments.  So I'll be taking some rest today and the next before flying back.  
I awoke at 5 without being able to sleep again, as the boat was making a turn up Cerralvo Channel, and I went out on deck to look around.  There was a big thunderstorm outside and I took a few pictures of the lightning!  It was great, taken from such a big boat where I didn't fear getting struck.  I like lightning when I'm not in Altair.  

 So that's all for now, I'll be in La Paz for a few days and hopefully I'll take my camera out some and do another farewell to mexico post.