2021-07-26

The Power Project: Rewiring a Catalina 22 for DC and AC

Five years ago, we created the control panel for our Catalina 22, Fantasia. We needed to add another control to the panel for the bilge pump and re-do much of how the wires are run, so are taking this opportunity to show how we put it together. This is mounted on the shelf above the table of the 1985 and before Catalina 22s. (This scheme won't work on later Catalina 22s that don't have a shelf.)

Panel before bilge pump switch added. Ignore the hanging wires which were still being worked on when this shot was taken.

DO NOT DO ELECTRICAL WIRING IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. YOU CAN CAUSE SERIOUS, POSSIBLY FATAL, DAMAGE TO YOU OR YOUR BOAT, OR POSSIBLY BURN DOWN THE ENTIRE MARINA BECAUSE OF YOUR MISTAKES.

Note that I am not a professional boat installer. You are entirely responsible for determining if this is safe. I am merely describing what I did, not telling you to do the same. If you do manage to burn down your marina, you are entirely responsible, not me!

Foam board template

We started by creating a template out of foam board. Note that the panel is not rectangular, but is instead a trapezoid higher on the right side, about 8" on the left and 9" on the right. We acquired a 1/4"x10"x4' teak board, of which about two linear feet are used here for the front panel and the rest for side panels. A friend with a complete woodworking shop cut the board for us and holes for us, but we used a Dremel tool and a Dremel Shaper & Router Table 231 for the bilge pump switch and constructing our AC panel. The finished edges didn't look quite as good, but the holes are concealed by the edges of the various controls, so it didn't matter.

Panel after addition of bilge pump cutout.

Stuff on a boat is dictated by two sets of standards bodies and their publications: US Coast Guard 33 CFR Part 183 - Boats and Associated Equipment, and American Boat and Yachts Council (ABYC). The specific standards that relate to electrical systems are 33 CFR Subpart I - Electrical Systems and E-11 AC & DC Electrical Systems on Boats. Unfortunately, the E-11 standard is not public, and the price will cause some sticker shock (currently $195). For that reason, I work off the 2008 version which I managed to lay my hands on and assume that not that much changed since then.

The panel itself:

  • Teak board 1/4"x10"x4' @ $15.95 a linear foot.
  • Oak 1"x2"x4' board for U frame.

The various components that are installed in the panel are:

  • Standard Horizon Eclipse DSC GX1000S White VHF (came with the boat, but a similar one can be bought for around $155), held in place with a Standard Horizon Flush Mount Kit STD-MMB-84 ($13.91).
  • Blue Sea Systems M-Series Mini Selector - 6007200 ($33.07)
  • Sea-Dog Line Battery Test Rocker Switch LED 425020-1 ($40.95)
  • West Marine Electrical Panel DC 6 Circuit 8932 ($54.99)
  • West Marine Electrical Panel DC 4 Circuit + 2 12v Power Outlets 8931 ($64.99)
  • Sea-Dog Line USB Power Socket 426502-1 ($18.74)
  • Blue Sea System Bilge Pump Switch 8263 Contura ($39.88)

For the back panel, we needed:

  • Sea-Dog Line Bus Bar Screw Terminal 10x #8 426711-1 ($9.97)
  • Two of Blue Sea Systems Fuse Block 5037 ($27.89 each)
  • 16 AWG marine wire in various colors
  • 10 AWG marine wire to go to the batteries
  • Split Loom
  • Wiring Connectors
  • Stainless steel screws
  • Brass bolts, nuts, hinges, and screws

At the batteries:

  • Two Interstate 24M-AGM-A batteries ($219.95 each)
  • Two Blue Sea System Battery Terminal Mount Fuse Block 5023 ($19.12 each)
  • Blue Sea Systems m-ACR automatic charging relay 7601 ($70.77)

The West Marine four switch panel has outlets for two 12V outlets. I removed and replaced one of the two outlets with the Sea-Dog USB ports. This has an incorporated 12V to 5V step-down transformer and is an easy swap. This allows charging cell-phones and such while at sea. As a note, the West Marine panels are OEMed by Blue Sea Systems, which now sells similar models in grey instead of black and already have the USB ports.

The panel mounted on a frame made of the oak board formed in the shape of a U. These were glued together with wood glue and pocket screws and sized exactly to the opening. This frame was routed out with a Dremel tool at various points to make room for screw heads and some of the controls. This was screwed into the shelf teak panel with stainless steel screws. Holes were drilled from the back side and brass bolts were inserted. This holds the top of the teak panel and held in place with knurled nuts. The bottom has brass hinges, also held in place with brass bolts and knurled nuts. This makes access to the back of the panel very nice, as the top knurled nuts are removed and the entire panel hinges down. On the back of the shelf, some thin backing board was fixed to which the connector blocks, fuse blocks, and negative bus bar are all affixed with stainless steel screws.

Holes were drilled and routed with a Dremel tool into the bottom of the shelf. This allowed all wires to be hidden from view in the cabin by routing them beneath the shelf. These holes were protected with cable glands, although on some later holes we 3D printed rubber bushings to keep wires from getting cut on the edges.

DC Wiring Diagram. This is a system wiring diagram that shows both physical layout and electrical connections. Components below the horizontal dashed line are on the front panel. Components in the upper right are on the back panel. Components in the upper left and in rectangular boxes are elsewhere on the boat.

Following the ABYC standard, DC negative wires on a boat should be yellow or black (TABLE XIII - WIRING COLOR CODE). However yellow is preferable for DC negative to differentiate them from the hot wires in an AC system which are black. Some DC components (such as the VHF radio) came with black negative wires. For those, I wrap the ends of the black wire in yellow electrical tape to make it clear that they are DC negative wires and not AC hot wires.

The ABYC standard says that a fuse or breaker must be within 7" of the battery (E-11, 11.10.1.1.1) unless the wires are in a conduit. The Blue Sea Systems Fuse Block 5037 mounts directly on the battery terminal and provides that fuse. I figure more fuses are better, so this layout has some that are redundant. For example the West Marine panels have a 15 amp circuit breakers built in, but I still have a smaller fuse behind it. I have all LED lights on the boat, so there should not be much current draw at all, so if any fuse blows it probably means something really bad happened, by which I mean a short circuit.

Wiring for the bilge pump
Wiring for the AC panel
Wiring for VHF
Wiring to mast
Wiring to VHF Antenna
Wiring to cabin lights
Wiring to fan
Wiring to chart plotter
Wiring to cabin lights

2021-06-29

Marine Vexillology: Flags on U.S. Pleasure Boats

Vexillology is the study of flags. There are different rules for different countries. These rules have been established over hundreds of years. This post distills vexillology as it applies to U.S. pleasure boats (and mainly sail boats).

Some terminology: vessels wear flags, people fly flags. Flags have two dimensions, called the fly (width) and the hoist (height). The hoist is also the point closest to the flagpole, and the fly the point furthest away from the flagpole.

What Flags Can I Fly?

  1. U.S. Ensign

    The U.S. Ensign

    The U.S. Ensign, commonly called the U.S. Flag, has the highest precedence. It is placed in the most important location on the boat. The design of the ensign is laid out in Title 4 of the U.S. Code Chapter 1.

    Most U.S. Ensigns have the wrong proportions, because the hoist to fly 10:19 ratio in the code causes the flags to wear out faster than a more commonly available 2:3 or 3:5 ratio. Finding 10:19 ratio U.S. Ensigns is difficult. This calculator will give you the correct other dimensions, if one is specified.

    The size of the ensign is based on the size of the boat, with the fly sized at one inch per foot LOA (length overall) of the boat, rounded up to the next commercially available size. Thus a Catalina 22 should have an ensign with a 22" fly, and 24" fly ensigns are available (although not with a 10:19 ratio—opportunity for someone). Other flags on the boat should be 1/2" for each foot of the tallest mast over the water line (30' to 15" for the Catalina 22), or 5/8" per foot LOA for power boats. A flag pole should generally be at least twice the hoist of the ensign.

  2. U.S. Yacht Ensign

    The U.S. Yacht Ensign is worn interchangeable with the U.S. Ensign while sailing in U.S. waters. One or the other should be worn, but not both. It has no meaning outside of U.S. national waters, so if traveling internationally must be replaced by the U.S. Ensign.

    U.S. Yacht Ensign

    The U.S. Yacht ensign originally meant that the vessel was traveling from U.S. port to U.S. port and did not need to clear customs. Carrying goods that required U.S. customs while wearing this flag was considered smuggling. Since pleasure yachts typically did not have goods to declare, they also started wearing this flag. The flag has a 2:3 ratio.

  3. State Flag

    The State Flag is optional, but if worn, it has lower precedence than the U.S. Ensign. Some states, such as Washington, have codes on wearing flags on vessels.

    Washington State Flag

    The Washington State flag has a 5:8 ratio, but other states may have other ratios.

  4. Courtesy Ensign

    When visiting another country, the civil ensign of the other country is displayed, generally on the starboard spreader. The civil ensign may not be the same as the national ensign of a country.

    The Canadian Civil Ensign
  5. Yacht Club Burgee

    A yacht club burgee can be worn at a bow staff, but is generally flown from the starboard spreader on a sail boat. If the state flag is worn on the spreader, it can be flown below the state flag or moved to the port spreader. It generally has the form of a pennant.

    Edmonds Yacht Club Burgee
  6. Organizational Ensign

    Organizational ensigns are from groups such as the United States Power Squadrons or Coast Guard Auxiliary.

    The U.S. Power Squadrons Ensign.
  7. Private Signal

    A private signal is a flag that identifies a person on board. It generally has a swallow tail.

    Examples of Private Signals
  8. Other Flags

    There are other flags that are worn on occasion. The quarantine flag on entering a new country, regatta flags, man overboard flag, owner absent flag, etc.

Where Do I Fly Them?

There are six places that you can fly a flag (shown below in descending order of precedence). The rules that apply on land, where the U.S. Ensign is placed physically higher than other flags, do not apply to marine vessels. Flags should be placed at the place of highest precedence to which they are entitled to be worn. For example, a burgee or private signal is never flown at the stern. On the other hand, if a courtesy flag is worn on the starboard spreader, the burgee could be moved to the port spreader.

  1. Gaff

    The gaff is the pole that comes off the mast on gaff rigged boats. Unless you have some very unusual rigging, this doesn't apply to most sloops or power boats. However, to simulate this location, a flag may also be worn no more than 2/3rd of the way up the back stay on a sail boat.

    Flag at the Gaff.
    (Modified from a photo by Susan Davis CC BY-SA 3.0)
  2. Flagstaff on Stern

    This is a pole attached to the stern of the boat. It can be centered, or offset, usually to the starboard, if necessary.

    The Schooner Zodiac with U.S. Ensign Worn on Stern
    The Schooner Zodiac with U.S. Ensign Worn on Stern
  3. Bow Staff

    This is a pole attached the the bow of the boat. On most sail boats this would interfere with the foresails, so this mostly applies to power boats.

    Flag on Bow Staff

  4. Starboard Yardarm or Spreader

    If there is more than one spreader on a side, then it is flown from the lowest one. There may be more than one halyard on the spreader, in which case the outermost one has higher precedence.

  5. Port Yardarm or Spreader

  6. Masthead

    The truck of the mast is the top (technically the ball at the top of the mast). If there are more than one mast, it is flown from the forward mast. On many sailing vessels, wearing a flag here interferes with sails, antennas, and anchor lights, but a pig stick can be used when at anchor.

When and How Are Flags Flown?

The U.S. Ensign or U.S. Yacht Ensign is typically raised at 8 a.m. or when the boat is first boarded. It is lowered at sunset. If other flags are raised or lowered at the same time, the U.S Ensign is raised first and lowered last. The U.S. Ensign should be raised quickly and lowered ceremoniously. If you are leaving a vessel, and do not expect to return before sunset, then the Ensign should be lowered before you leave.

State flags and courtesy flags are generally raised and lowered at the same time as the U.S. ensign. Yacht club burgees are generally worn day and night. Personal signals may also be worn day and night, however, they should not be worn when the person is not on board.

Additional Reference

If you are starting out, a good place to start is this page from the U.S. Power Squadron. They also offer a 37 page booklet ($15 including shipping) that is the definitive reference on flags on boats.

2021-06-13

Origo 3000 Alcohol Stove

Dometic Origo 3000 Alcohol Stove

We purchased a Dometic Origo 3000 alcohol stove from someone on Craigslist. This stove is a drop-in replacement for the Kenyon 126 stove that came with the boat. We had decided to buy this stove a couple of years ago, but never quite got around to it. When we went in to buy one, we discovered it had been discontinued, and there really wasn't anything else on the market to replace it. The story is that California discontinued selling denatured alcohol on January 1, 2019, so Dometic discontinued the entire line of alcohol stoves. These can be found used, but are increasingly difficult to find.

You might be thinking propane, but propane needs special storage on a boat to keep it from blowing up because it is heavier than air. Many propane tanks have leaked, filling the bilge with propane gas, then a spark blows up the entire boat. Alcohol is much safer.

The stove fits neatly on the pull-out galley on the 1969-1985 Catalina 22s. The one-burner version is necessary to fit later Catalina 22s that have a galley.

2021-06-06

LED Lights in the V-Berth

We are doing more stuff recommended by the Stingy Sailor. On his site, he had a project to install LED strip lights in the V-Berth. I ordered the parts. The dimmer switch literally came on the slow boat from China, so took almost a month to arrive.

It was an easy install. Just wired in to the cabin lights circuit and stuck up the LED lights. One 16' roll of the lights only leaves a few inches left when covering the entire V-Berth edge. The only issue that we had was because of the construction of our boat, the little trough on the starboard side was not as accessible as the port side, so the lights were a little more exposed. This is a cheap and easy upgrade and makes the dark forward part of the cabin much nicer.

2021-06-01

Outboard Motor Stand

We built a stand for our old outboard. We used the plans linked from the Stingy Sailor web site by D. Hayes Jr., with some modifications. The motor we wanted to put on the stand is a long shaft Johnson Sailmaster, so the uprights on the plans were too short and we needed to make them longer. We also wanted to be able to get a trash can under to motor on the stand for testing, as an outboard motor flusher doesn't work with the design of the Johnson motor. Otherwise the plans worked well.

We used scrap lumber that we had lying around. We just had to buy four casters at $6.29 a piece and a box of 2.5" deck screws at $10.25, and sixteen 5/16x1" lag screws at $0.31 each for a total of $40.37 plus tax. It took about five hours, but we aren't really fast at this kind of stuff and more experienced carpenters could probably do it in less than half the time.

Read the plans carefully, as it isn't clear from the parts list that some of the angled cuts need to be on the 4" side of the 2x4 and some need to be on the 2" side. We did that wrong on a couple of pieces and had to re-cut. It was obvious in retrospect, but at the time it was a "doh!" moment.

Most of the work was done with miter saw, but there is one piece that we needed an 8° angle on a 24" rip cut, so used the table saw. All of this work could also have been done using just a saber saw, or even a jig saw, although it would have been slower. Other than that, it just needed an electric drill, and used a socket wrench to put on the castors. This is not precision carpentry, so junk wood and bad tolerances are allowed.

2021-05-24

Engine Cut Off Switch (ECOS) Requirement

As of April 1st, 2021, a new law went into effect regarding Engine Cut Off Switch (ECOS) on boats. So what is an ECOS? It is that lanyard that probably came with your outboard if it was made any time recently. It attaches to the helms-person and the motor. In general, it looks something like this:

They also make electronic ones that you attach to you or your PFD that will kill the motor if you fall in the water or get separated from the boat, but all the ones I saw were pretty expensive and really designed for bigger boats where the crew might not notice that someone went overboard.

Here is how the actual law reads:

SEC. 8316. ENGINE CUT-OFF SWITCHES; USE REQUIREMENT.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 4312 of title 46, United States Code, is amended—
 (1) by redesignating subsections (b), (c), and (d) as subsections (c), (d), and (e), respectively;
     and
 (2) by inserting after subsection (a) the following:
  ``(b) USE REQUIREMENT.—
   ``(1) IN GENERAL.—An individual operating a covered recreational vessel shall use an engine
         cut-off switch link while operating on plane or above displacement speed.
   ``(2) EXCEPTIONS.—The requirement under paragraph (1) shall not apply if—
    ``(A) the main helm of the covered vessel is installed within an enclosed cabin; or
    ``(B) the vessel does not have an engine cut-off switch and is not required to have one under
        subsection (a).’’.
 (b) CIVIL PENALTY.—Section 4311 of title 46, United States Code, is amended by—
  (1) redesignating subsections (c), (d), (e), (f), and (g) as subsections (d), (e), (f), (g),
      and (h), respectively; and
  (2) inserting after subsection (b) the following:
   ``(c) A person violating section 4312(b) of this title is liable to the United States Government
       for a civil penalty of not more than—
    ``(1) $100 for the first offense;
    ``(2) $250 for the second offense; and
    ``(3) $500 for any subsequent offense.’’.
 (c) EFFECTIVE DATE.—The amendments made in subsections (a) and (b) shall take effect 90 days after
     the date of the enactment of this section, unless the Commandant, prior to the date that is 90
     days after the date of the enactment of this section, determines that the use requirement
     enacted in subsection (a) would not promote recreational boating safety.

I'm not a lawyer but after parsing through a bunch of the law and various other sites on this, here is my understanding of what this means for our Catalina 22. It doesn't apply to boats 26 feet or longer or if the helm is enclosed in a cabin. That doesn't rule out the Catalina 22. The critical passage in there for the Catalina 22 is "while operating on plane or above displacement speed". In general, sailboats just don't get on plane (okay, some of those America's Cup ones do, but we aren't talking about low-flying wind-powered airplanes). It also doesn't apply if your boat or motor didn't come with an ECOS (ours did). Here is what the Coast Guard FAQ says about being "on plane": "Sailing vessels are generally not capable of getting 'on plane' because of their displacement hull, whereas a ski boat, bass boat or runabout can usually achieve planing with little effort."

What does "or above displacement speed" mean? Well, the displacement speed provided by this formula:

The LWL is the Length at Water Line in feet. On a 1985 Catalina 22, the LWL is 19'4" or 19.33 feet, so the displacement speed is 5.93 knots. So this rule could apply if we are under motor moving faster than 5.93 knots, which theoretically could happen if we are moving at full speed with a tide in our favor. If your boat has a ECOS (which are required on all new boats and motors) and you are under motor moving faster than 5.93 knots (for a Catalina 22), you should have that ECOS attached to both you and the switch. This is pretty infrequent, so just make sure you have the cord nearby.

The more likely place that a sailor will run into trouble with the rule is on their dinghy. Some dinghies definitely can get on plane, and that's where you can get into trouble for not having a ECOS.

In general, besides the rules, just don't be stupid about it. Use one where a kill switch makes sense. Your chances of getting stopped by the Coast Guard are low. The most likely place you will run into trouble is if you fall into the water and your boat smashes into something else or comes around and runs you over. Then they will likely fine you on top of your other problems. These rules are there to codify common sense, which some boaters just don't seem to have.

2021-05-22

Lazerette Gas Springs

After the 400th time the lazerette lids have fallen on us, we decided to get the kit that the Stingy Sailor sells for adding gas springs to the lazerettes for the Catalina 22. These make it so you need to keep the lazerettes down rather than trying to keep them up. They are a little on the expensive side for what they are, but the kit works with all the parts, and there are reasonably good instructions.

It took maybe two hours to install. Just some advice: although the instructions say to start on the port lazerette, I would start on the starboard side. You use the port lazerette more often so if you make any mistakes it should be on the lazerette you use less frequently. When you place the bracket inside the lazerette, place it back as far as it will go into the corner. At least that is what worked on our 1985 Catalina 22. We had to re-drill the holes to move it back further when it wouldn't close. Also, we subtracted 1/4" (10.25" instead of 10.5") to the distance from the back wall for the location of the top bracket from what was in the instructions when we did the second lazerette.

We get a smile each time we open the lazerettes now as they aren't falling as we get the gas tank out and other stuff.

With the springs, it is important that your latches for holding the lazerette shut are secure while under sail. You don't want the lazerettes popping open at the wrong moment (such as if you turtle the boat), as they now default to open rather than defaulting to shut.

2021-04-16

Settling in to the New Marina

We got our boat in the water again. Launching was a breeze since the Edmonds Marina doesn't have a boat ramp. Instead they do all their launches with a sling. You pull up in your trailer, disconnect all of the tie downs and in a few minutes you are in the water. From there, we tied up and raised the mast. All for $22 (the off-season price), billed to your marina monthly bill. Here is the video of the launch.

This is so much easier than doing a trailer launch. Then an hour or so to get the mast raised and then a short motor over to our slip.

2021-04-01

What Happened Between 2017 and 2021

It's been quite a while since our last post...but there are reasons!

We finished the 2017 season, and pulled out. We launched again for the 2018 season. Then after a few sails, Greg and Sandi spent a month traveling around Europe. Germany, Italy, Greece, Italy again, and back through another part of Germany.

After we got back, we went out to go for a sail. As we were getting ready, Greg grabbed the lifeline to pull the boat into the dock, and instead of coming in, the boat tipped. WTF? And then we figured out what happened: the keel cable had snapped during the most recent wind storm. You know, that thing we kept saying we needed to replace. Fortunately, we were docked above sand and the 550 pound keel rather than continuing unabated, smashed down into the sand. We were incredibly lucky, because if the water were any deeper, the keel likely would have continued and probably sunk the boat as it smashed into all kinds of fiberglass. The lake water level was lower at that point, too, which saved us.

So we had a friend with scuba gear come out and thread the new keel cable that we'd had sitting on our shelf up through the volcano and back onto the winch and attach it to the keel. Back in operation! Well, no. Because, it turns out that 550 pounds of cast iron in free fall has a tremendous amount of force, and it bent the keel locking pin (part 15 in the drawing). This means that we ran into problems with raising and lowering the keel. We did manage to get the keel up, but with difficulty and could not lock it with the pin. We pulled the boat out shortly thereafter for the season. 2019 came and went with no repairs and no sailing due to a large home renovation project.

2020 came, and with it came the pandemic. We scheduled to get the boat down to CSR Marine to get the repairs done, but the trailer lights didn't work. It took us a while to debug that our ground wire had snapped. We finally got that fixed and the boat to CSR, but by the time they finished, the 2020 season was done. It was kind of too bad, because sailing is one of the few things you can do during a pandemic, and there were many days where we said, "it really would be nice to go sailing."

CSR Marine is expensive, but we felt that they did good work. They actually came in under their initial bid. They took off the keel. They cut out the old locking pin (15) and fiberglassed in a new locking strap (16). Since they had the keel off, we got a lot of other keel maintenance done. We replaced all the keel raising hardware, a new keel winch (1), tube around the volcano (5), the brass turning ball (7), the pivot the keel goes through (13), the pivot pin (14), installed the centering kit so the keel no longer thunks. The pin put a big gouge in the side of the keel, so the keel was ground down to the metal and refinished with a better profile. New bottom paint. Added a zinc to the keel, which it never had before. And had them wax the hull. All this work cost more than what we initially paid for the boat, but we kind of feel we got a new boat out of it. The only parts in the picture above that didn't get replaced were 8 (the volcano itself), 9 (the keel eye bolt which looked fine), 11 (the keel, which got refinished), and 12 (the keel shoe casting, which looked fine).

Also, around this time, our hosts providing our dock on Lake Washington sold their house and moved to Arizona. (Thank you for those years there, John and Barbara!) So we got on the waiting list to get a slip at the Port of Edmonds Marina 25 minutes from our house. In March 2021, we got a call from the marina that they had a slip for us. We signed the paperwork and as of April 1st, we had a slip. We weren't quite ready to get a boat into it but the slip was waiting for us.

What we learned: Don't put off replacing the keel cable. It is possibly the weakest link in the entire Catalina 22 design.

2017-06-24

Fantasia in for the Season

We put Fantasia in for the season. We got off to a late start this year, due a long, cold, wet rainy season, and to the Captain being in Belize doing archaeology for a few weeks. Getting her launched is becoming routine, although it still takes way too long.

After launching, Fantasia got motored to the dock and tied up. It takes a while to get all the lines adjusted right, and we seem to be short a snubber.

2016-08-13

Trip to Blake Island

Sail track for Blake Island trip.

Since buying Fantasia, our Catalina 22, in the summer of 2014, we've spent the majority of our sailing time in the northern part of Lake Washington, close to moorage with the safety and comfort of protected waters. Since we didn't have a functional steaming light, we never stayed out beyond dusk and just focused on having fun close to home and learning how to take care of our boat and operate safely around other craft. This season, many of the upgrades we chose to work on were those that would enable us to be on the water after dark, whether sailing, steaming or anchored, and to begin visiting other nearby locations in Puget Sound.

We went out on our first overnight trip on Fantasia. We chose a relatively close location, Blake Island, as our first destination. There were many firsts on this trip; our first time through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (a.k.a. Ballard Locks), our first sail in Puget Sound, our first overnight stay at a State Park marina, and our first overnight stay on the boat. It was a chance to really test all our new electrical upgrades, both AC and DC. The chart plotter enabled us to accurately determine where we were in relation to shipping and ferry lanes.

We headed out on Saturday morning, pulling away from the dock about 9:40 AM. headed towards the locks under motor. We wanted to get to the locks as early as possible, as we'd heard many stories about how busy the locks get on a nice day and the long the wait to get through them. Although we had been as far as Lake Union twice before, this was our first time continuing beyond it.

Along the way, there are seven bridges that we need to pass under, but given our mast height, we only are concerned about the Fremont Bridge. The clearances on all of the other bridges at the center are well beyond our masthead at 29.1 feet (plus our VHF antenna) above water level. However, the Fremont Bridge, at only 30' is a concern for a Catalina 22 with antenna and anchor light. The water level in the lakes varies up to two feet throughout the summer boating season, so we can pass under this bridge when water levels are exceptionally low. We passed under slowly, but the very tip of our (flexible) VHF whip antenna brushed the bottom of the bridge in one spot. At higher water level, we could not have made it. Due to this low clearance, the Fremont Bridge opens on average of 35 times per day making it one of the most frequently opened bridges in the United States. On the way back, we decided it was better to have the bridge opened for us.

The Fremont and George Washington Memorial bridges after
we motored past them on the way to the locks.

Bridges from East to West. Refer to NOAA chart 18447 for more information on bridge heights and other information.

Montlake Bridge
University Bridge
Ship Canal (I-5) Bridge (fixed)
George Washington Memorial (Aurora) Bridge (fixed)
Fremont Bridge
Ballard Bridge
Burlington Northern RR Bridge

We arrived at the Ballard Locks at 11:40am, behind a half dozen or so other boats jockeying for position to get into the currently loading large lock. There are two continuously operating locks, one large and one small. We decided to get in line for the small lock, which had just closed with a full load of boats heading out, rather than hope to get a spot in the currently loading large lock. We tied up to the waiting area on the north side. The small lock turned out to be the better choice, especially for a first time through the locks.

Tied up waiting to go through the small
lock.

With fewer boats to load, tie, untie and unload, the small lock cycles through much quicker than the large lock. In the small lock, the tie down points are on floats that move with the boats and the water level, so tying up and managing lines is much easier in the small lock. Going through the large lock, you must have two 50' lines with eyes and must play out or take in the lines as the water level changes, whereas with the small lock, 25' lines will suffice, and they do not have to be managed while the water level changes.

We had to wait about 35 minutes for one full cycle of the locks in each direction. While waiting for the lock, we were entertained by jumping salmon, which had recently exited the fish ladder, and a very mischievous seal who had also decided it would be fun to travel through the locks along with the boats. Finally it was our turn to load.  It took about 15 minutes to get through the lock, including getting tied up and cycling the lock. Kudos to the locks staff; they gave friendly direction throughout the process making it a relatively stress free experience.

In the small lock, waiting for it to cycle.

We motored the remaining way out of the ship canal. By 12:40 we were away from land and out in beautiful Puget Sound. There is a lot more space on Puget Sound than Lake Washington, so although there are many boats around, they aren't likely to be passing nearly as closely, or nearly as frequently as the do on the lake. There is a lot of room to maneuver, and most of the boaters take advantage of that fact.

One of the most surprising things about being out on Puget Sound was how little we were impacted by wake. In the confines of Lake Washington, on any nice boating day, the surface of the lake gets worked up into a frenzy from all of the power boats and jet skis. This is not the case in Puget Sound. The wakes are few, mainly generated by the occasional ferry or container ship passing and those provided mainly a gentle rolling lift and fall.

Using our new chart plotter, we determined our desired heading and raised sail. The wind was blowing from the North-Northeast, perfect for a run South towards Blake Island. Winds were very light, but thankfully the current was with us. We ran southwards wing and wing for a while, then decided to furl the Genoa and raise the asymmetrical spinnaker.  As we made our way south, the Seattle skyline came into view. Ferries bustled back and forth, moving cars and people from the mainland to Bainbridge Island or Bremerton and back. Container ships came and went, as did various tugboats. Three cruise ships could be seen on the Seattle waterfront, preparing to head for Alaska. The winds were light, and we only traveled between two and four knots.

Blake Island to the port, gennaker flying, ferry ahead.

While sailing, we had the VHF radio working for the first time with the new wiring and antenna. We listened in as three separate boats called the Coast Guard for help. One had run out of fuel in Puget Sound somewhere. Two others were also disabled, near Anacortes  and Camino Island. We hope to never need that kind of help.

We arrived at Blake Island simultaneously with two other sailboats at about 4:30 PM. We all dropped sail and jockeyed to get into the dredged passage to the docks, having to make way for the Argosy Good Times II to come out. We got in first and found that they had 30' of dock space left...just enough for one Catalina 22. The boats behind us had to settle for mooring buoys that surround the island, which actually would have been problematic for us since we do not have a dinghy. There is a couple that acts as volunteers running the harbor, helping to tie up, and giving the rundown on how things work.

Moorage at Blake Island is $0.70 a foot, plus $6 for shore power, per day. You pay at a pay station on shore. There are bathrooms with running water. Hot showers are available for $0.50 for three minutes by getting tokens from a machine at the ranger station. The ranger station also has a store that is open for three hours a day for essentials such as sodas and snacks. We checked on the Tillicum Village evening performance, but it was full. (More on this in a bit.) After thinking on it a bit, we decided to see the show on Sunday and leave in the afternoon.

Seattle from Blake Island,
the entrance to the moorage in the foreground.

Blake Island is a 475 acre state park, and the only access is by boat. There are tour boats from Bremerton and Seattle that come out for the Tillicum Village performances, that can also be used as a ferry. Otherwise, the only way to the island is by private boat. It is wooded, with hiking trails. There are three areas to camp on the island. Raccoons abound, and they are aggressive about getting into food. No food must be left accessible on deck or in unprotected areas. If you are moored away from the dock, beware that the raccoons can swim and still get to any unprotected food. There are also deer on the island, but they are not nearly as aggressive.

We settled in for the evening, putting a new 8'x10' tarp over the boom for shade, as well as the pop-top curtain. The curtain (which is actually made of vinyl) encloses the cabin with the pop-top up, giving more head room when docked, as well as gives a zipper opening instead of needing to put in the crib boards when closed up. It also gives shelf space next to the mast below the pop-top, but inside the pop-top that allows repositioning some of the stuff that is not needed.We hooked up to shore power, using our AC wiring. This allowed us to recharge the batteries consumed by the interior lights, recharging devices, VHF, and chart plotter.

Blake Island trail.

We made reservations for the Sunday performance at Tillicum Village, then went for a short walk across the North of the island. There are well tended wide trails, under a Douglass fir canopy. You can see Mount Baker to the North, Seattle to the Northeast, the Olympics to the West. Mount Rainier is to the East of the island. After the walk, we sat in the cabin and played cards until bed time. Taylor decided to sleep in the cockpit, which she later regretted, since it got cold. The wind kicked up during the night, but was still by morning.

During the night, the tide had fallen. Two small power boats that had tied up to the shore were left high and dry on the beach. They eventually were pushed back into the water. We were reminded to keep in mind the tides for future trips, which we do not worry about in the lake.

Fantasia tied up to the left, the family in the center, and note
boats to the right.
The same boat the next morning.

In the morning, we ate breakfast on the boat, and went for a short walk on the East side of the island. There are wonderful views of Seattle and Mount Rainier. We made the boat ready to head home. We paid for another day of moorage (but not power), as check out time is 1 PM, and the Tillicum Village performance concluded about 2 PM.

Tillicum Village is a Native American long house where they cook salmon using traditional techniques around open fires. Meals are from a buffet, with shared tables. After lunch, there was Native American dancing performance on stage. Greg had seen the performance here many years ago, but it has changed since then. The performance now combines live dancing with AV going on a large screen behind the performers. This requires fewer people, but it worked. In 2009, Argosy  acquired the rights to Tillicum Village, so were no longer just providing the transportation to the island. It is a little on the expensive side for what they provide, but it is worth seeing once, especially if you have visitors from outside the Pacific Northwest. The food was good.

U.S.S. John C. Stennis near Bainbridge Island
headed to Bremerton.
This won't fit in my bath tub.

After the performance, we headed out. Winds were still light, but a hair stronger than the day before. The winds were still coming from the North, so we had to tack to get back toward the locks. We had to dodge a few ferries cutting between Seattle and Bremerton, and a few cruise ships were in the distance headed off to Alaska. But then Sandi said, "That's an aircraft carrier headed our way." Sandi had been in the Navy for 10 years, so knew an aircraft carrier when she saw one even from a long way off. Sure enough, coming South was a Nimitz class carrier, headed toward its home port in Bremerton.

The U.S.S. John C. Stennis (CVN 74), a 103,300 ton, nuclear powered supercarrier, was quite a sight as it steamed past us to the West. When you look at at a carrier like this on profile, especially from the stern, it does not look like the thing should be able to float. The tower, perched far out on one side makes it look like it should simply tip over. At one point, we had the aircraft carrier passing to our West, three cruise ships passing us from the East, headed north, and two ferries passing between Seattle and Bainbridge Island.

In the small lock headed in.
Stern view of the Stennis.

We dropped sail and made our way back through the locks without incident. As we approached the Fremont Bridge, we decided that we really need to have the bridge raised and gave the long-short signal with our air horn. The bridge attendant had us wait for a while, before raising the bridge. A terrific sense of power sets in as we mess up all the driver's commutes! We motored home and arrived just after sunset, using our new LED navigation lights for the first time. Waves in the lake were actually pretty heavy, as we had water splashing over our bow.

Raising the Fremont Bridge.

It was about as perfect a weekend as we could have hoped for, and the perfect trial for getting out of the lake and venturing forth. For next season, we will have to plan a more extensive trip in the San Juans.

2016-07-26

Cruising to the Schooner Zodiac

We have been working as crew on the Schooner Zodiac, a tall ship with a home port in Bellingham, Washington. For a week, it has been in Seattle at Lake Union, going out for day sails and charters. On Tuesday, we were due to staff the deck tours from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We decided we would take Fantasia down to Zodiac and take some of the crew for a sail on a smaller boat after our shift was done.

We headed out under motor, going through the Montlake Cut, under the Montlake, University, and Ship Canal bridges. We tied up next to Zodiac and headed over to the 160' schooner.

After our shift was done, we took a couple of the Zodiac crew for a short sail on Lake Union. The winds were light to non-existant at the start, but then picked up for a nice sail. We dropped the Zodiac crew, then motored back to our dock.

Sail track for the day.

2016-07-19

Sail Tracks Using Garmin Chart Plotter

We went out for an evening sail with a co-worker of Sandi's. After getting under sail, we turned on our new Garmin 54dv chart plotter, which we got on sale online at West Marine. The wind was blowing East across the lake, allowing us to run both up and down the lake. We briefly chased another Catalina 22, sail number 15705, down the lake, but could not catch it.

The Garmin chart plotter recorded the track of where we went. We topped out at about 5 knots toward the end of the sail.

July 19th, 2016 Sail Track

We also tried out the transducer, a sonar emitter that came with the plotter. Greg had made a temporary frame to try it out of a 2x4 and hung over the transom of the boat. This was very cool to watch the lake bottom as we traveled.

We also got the chart plotter talking to the Standard Horizon VHF radio as a test. The VHF radio is able to retrieve the latitude and longitude from the chart plotter and broadcast that to other marine traffic using DSC (Digital Selective Calling). It is also able to retrieve that same information from other marine traffic and show them on the chart plotter. The combination of the chart plotter and the VHF is a safety issue; if the panic button on the VHF is pressed, it not only broadcasts a mayday with the MMSI of the vessel in trouble, but also the location of where the vessel is.

To get the sail track as an image, the track is downloaded onto a mini-SD card. That card is brought home and read into the Garmin Basecamp program. Basecamp then transfers the track to Google Earth. That map is then copied and pasted into Windows Paint, where it can be saved as a jpeg. That image is then uploaded here.