Showing posts from 2016

Hakai Cruise

The heavy lifting is done -- painting, varnishing, upgrades to the galley, storage, a new wood-burning heating stove, a rain fly for the cockpit, bronze tiller pilot stanchion, anchor chain deck plate, and a hundred minor tweaks.

Ripple is a demanding mistress, greedy for every attention you might lavish upon her.  But the dividends are commensurately great, and the privilege of her company is endlessly rewarding.

These last few days before departure are a blissful alloy of satisfaction and anticipation.  I wish I had gotten the topsides repainted, I wish I were a better varnisher, but for all that, Ripple is a well-found vessel in excellent condition, and she is ready for the trip.

We will depart Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, bound for Port Townsend, Bedwell Harbour, Nanaimo, Jedediah Island, and a rendezvous with Terry Noreault in Powell River before pushing north towards the Hakai Preservation Area.

Checklists for Cruising

In preparation for this summer's cruise, I finally got my checklists together, printed, and laminated.

Drive-by (Video) Shooting

I was out on Lake Washington this past week, enjoying some unseasonably warm sunshine and Jason of cruised up and chatted me up about Ripple.  He had been shooting a video of a large yacht, asked if he could take some shots of Ripple. I was happy to agree.  The result is this video.  Jason got one detail wrong... my trip to Alaska was not alone, but rather with 5 crew, one at a time.

Thank you, Jason, for a very nice video hommage!

Installing a Wood Burning Stove: Part III

With the deck iron in place, it is time to work out the details of setting the stove in place and fitting the flue pipes.  The enclosure from the original kerosene heater is lined in asbestos and requires some modification to make it more effective. Basically, the floor of the enclosure needed to be raised and leveled, and the space below converted to a short term fuel storage spot.  A simple carpentry effort made short work of that.

I've re-used the asbestos sheets that lined the space.  Asbestos is very dangerous as dust, but as long as it is stable, it presents no health hazard.  Reusing it involved making a few cuts (dust), but also keeps the material out of the landfill,  so the tradeoff seems reasonable to me.

The alternative to asbestos is to create a heat shield which is comprised of sheet metal (typically copper or stainless steel) offset from combustible surfaces by an air barrier (1 inch is the standard recommendation).  In designing mine, I educed that air space to 1/…

Installing a Wood Burning Stove: Part II

Cutting a hole in a perfectly good house top is daunting business, but it has to be done.  Fitting a deck iron (which is bronze) is less daunting, but a lot of work.  The deck iron wants to be level and the house top is not, so it is necessary to make a donut that supports the deck iron and levels it.

Taking the angle is simple enough.  Cutting the angle in a 9 inch square block of hardwood 3 inches thick requires multiple angled cuts on the table saw, and finishing with a hand saw.  The only hardwood I had that was thick enough was a slab of walnut.  Walnut is suboptimal for nautical uses (it is not particularly rot resistant), but painted well and properly maintained, it will do the job nicely.

The interior of the donut need not be cut precisely -- it just need to accept the bronze deck iron without leaving excessive space around the walls of the casting.  I wasted the interior of the donut with a drill bit, and then chucked a drum sander in the drill press and ground out the sloped…

Installing a Wood Burning Stove: Part I

Many of my 88 days on the Inside Passage found me layered up in wool and foulies, but with one exception, being cold just wasn't a problem. What was a problem was keeping the cabin dry. Humans respire about a quart of water while sleeping, and Ripple has rudimentary rain protection in the cockpit, so inevitably a good deal of water comes into the cockpit via wet gear and crew.

Testimony regarding the virtues of wood burning stoves in boats is widespread, and the appeal of a cozy fire on a blustery day is self evident. Finding a suitable unit for Ripple rose to the top of my upgrade program. It is a complicated proposition.

Having  made the decision to go with a wood-burner, one still has a potentially vast array of options. My own were severely constrained by space availability. The Force 10 kerosene burner was designed into the boat, leaving the choice of reworking cabinet work or finding a stove to fit within the 12" by 13" by 16" space.

The stove I most coveted …

Pulling Teeth (gear teeth)

June 15

Monday is the Day that Mathias leaves, heading back to New York, then on to Europe to continue his post-discharge walk-about year. The problems with Ripple have distracted from the passing of the torch from my oldest son to my closest friend, but the three of us will have a couple of hours together in any case.

Wes arrived fairly early in the morning. We arranged to meet him on the town-side of the ferry that connects Ketchikan with the airport, which is across the channel.  Bar Harbor Marina is perhaps a half mile from the ferry dock, so Mathias and I walked up to meet him.

We got back to the boat, fixed some breakfast, and the three of us reminisced about previous trips we've shared, a rich collection of the best experiences of my role as a parent.

The highlight of the year for many years in our family was an expedition of some sort that involved both of my sons and any of my friends who had the time and inclination to go.  Wes was on most of them.  We undertook many d…

The End of the Beginning of the Voyage

June 13 - 14, 2015

John and Derek arrive at the boat in the early evening, and after introductions, we review the symptoms. Is the propeller OK?, Derek asked.  I assure him it has to be... my images are ambiguous*, but the evidence is unequivocal: no THUNK! no vibration!

We run the engine so Derek can hear it for himself, and engage the gearbox... forward, reverse, no bad noises, no untoward vibration. Diminished thrust is the primary symptom.

The prospect of pulling the engine out, removing the gearbox, rebuilding it at his shop, and re-installing it is straightforward to Derek. It is the smallest diesel that Derek has ever worked on (because it is basically the smallest diesel engine... period). The big unknown is whether parts will be available for an engine out of production for more than a decade. For myself, I am simply grateful to be in the hands of a good mechanic who is as comfortable at rebuilding the diesel engines of 56 foot purse seiners as working on my little lawn-trac…

The Network Effect

June 13, 2015

Well, this is awkward.  Two days before a scheduled crew change, I have a serious mechanical problem on the boat, with no clue how difficult it will be to fix it. There isn't going to be any problem getting Mathias back to Ketchikan by the 15th, but Wes is scheduled to arrive that same day, and who knows what will happen?

The previous evening I had managed to get off a few texts by standing on deck and holding my phone as high as I could reach. I thought about sticking it a pelican box and hoisting it up a halyard, but there was no real urgency.

We left the mooring ball in Alava Bay at 0415, trying to make use of as much of the flood tide as we could to help push us up to Ketchikan. Before we could avail ourselves of that flood, we had to get past it, as it was not only flooding towards Ketchikan, but up Behm and into Alava Bay. So, it was slow going for a bit at 2 knots. An hour later we were out in Revillagigedo Channel, headed towards our destination, and with th…

Self-Deception Passage

June 12, 2015

We left our anchorage at Manzanita Bay at the late hour of 0815.  We had planned on a leisurely exploration of Rudyerd Fjord with no particular destination in mind.  Three full days remained to us before Mathias's flight out of Ketchikan, and we would not have to push very hard to get there. The barometer was at its highest point of the trip, and broken cloud coverage promised a partly sunny day for our tour of Rudyerd Fjord.

It became immediately evident that the thrust available from the engine and drivetrain were less than half of normal. Full throttle resulted in between 2 and 2.5 knots. Alarming. But the engine was running smoothly throughout its operating range. No parasitic oscillation, no strange sounds. If anything, it was smoother than normal. Puzzling. You can't hit a log or a rock with a propeller turning at 2500 RPM and not know it, right? We hadn't.  No signs of problems had emerged on the previous day. We had motored for 14.5 hours without app…

Marguerite Bay to Manzanita Bay

June 11, 2015

Ketchikan is located on a narrow channel at the southwest corner of Revillagigedo Island.  The Behm Canal circles the Island from about 9 o'clock to 6 o'clock. You can count on rain -- the driest month in Ketchikan is wetter than the wettest month in Seattle. But the waters are well protected, and we expected a gentle, if rainy, circumnavigation of the island.

The payoff for motoring quietly through the rain is Misty Fjords National Monument. Several large fjords indent the eastern shore of the rugged mainland, storied for their ghostly grandeur. As Mathias's departure date neared, we looked forward to spending a day or two exploring the fjords before heading back to Ketchikan for a crew change.

The major challenge for traveling these waters is the dearth of easy anchorages.  The shores of the fjords are steep-to: that is, they drop steeply into deep water, affording few opportunities for safe anchoring. Fifteen fathom are the rule around here, and such anc…

Meyer's Chuck and The Bully

June 9-10, 2015

Berg Bay to Meyer's Chuck was a sunny, quiet trip through Blakely Passage and south southwest across Ernest Sound. We looked hard for bears along the shore, as they are known to frequent the shores along the Cleveland Peninsula. No luck. The barometer had been high all the previous day, though it started to slide as the day wore on. I think Clarence saw us coming

Meyer's Chuck is a small community of cabins strategically located on the Cleveland Peninsula at the corner of Ernest Sound and Clarence Strait. Coming north from Ketchikan, it is the first opportunity to get off Clarence, and going south, it is where you stay before you face The Bully.

Meyer's Chuck is a good place to await your fate or lick your wounds, depending on which way you're going. It is has a free municipal dock (rumor has it that this would change after the summer of 2015, and that the few free docks remaining in Alaska would be required to charge fees). Neither fuel nor provisions…

Rain, Rain, Go Away

June 7-8, 2015

We departed from Scenery Cove in Thomas Bay at 0530 in a steady rain that lasted for 36 hours without interruption, reminding us how fortunate we had been the whole trip so far. This was the first of several intervals on the trip that would expose Ripple's weakest cruising characteristic: it was nigh unto impossible to stay dry in a persistent rain.

The cabin is small, and condensation from our bodies alone is an issue. Anything made of cotton absorbs the moisture. The sleeping bags absorb the moisture. Everything in the cabin feels clammy to the touch.

We stayed another night in Petersburg, as much to plug in and dry out as anything else. We arrived back at the marina before noon and paid the extra $5 for shore power so we could plug the tiny ceramic heater in and run it all day. It helped.

I would happily have reprised our pizza dinner, but it was Sunday and it was closed! The hardware store on the main drag was open, though, and we bought a couple varieties of …

Thomas Bay

June 6, 2015
Cold Pizza for breakfast, and it tasted good! We had a short trip planned for the day to Thomas Bay, the first glacial inlet north of Petersburg. The more famous glaciers are further north towards Juneau... Tracey Arm and others.  At this point we were calculating our available time pretty closely, and felt we couldn't risk going any further north. Hanging glaciers (glaciers that reach the water's edge) are more dramatic, but calve continually and present navigational risks, especially to single-screw vessels, and I was chary about risking damage to Ripple's propeller.  Hanging irony is a risk, too, you know.
Thomas Bay is a lovely place, though, and one particular corner of it is named Scenery Cove, and for good reason. Tight, intimate, and really spectacular, the Douglas guide is diffident about its value as an overnight anchorage. It has swinging room for but one vessel at anchor. We were that vessel on this day.

Anchoring was a bit tricky -- there is a sh…

Chastened, We Hastened....

June 5, 2015

Ripple is a go-boat. Even empty, her accommodations below are tight. Loaded as she was, there isn't much lounging space below decks: a day at anchor is penance, purgatory. Even as we reviewed our mistakes, we re-assessed our plan, and reluctantly pruned them.

We had wanted to transit the Keku strait, one of the least travelled passages of the Inside Passage, and take Frederick Sound all the way across the top of Kupreanof Island, and south through the Wrangell Narrows. Later I would be told that staying in Rocky Passage (the crux move in Keku strait), one could still hear wolves baying at night.  But we revised out plan and elected to go up through the Wrangell narrows to Petersburg, dip our toe into a glacial inlet (Thomas Bay), and turn back south. The total would put us under 400 nMiles, and each day we charted our progress and re-assessed our options.

This particular day was overcast, but the seas were calm as we worked our way north through Kasheverof Passage to…

Humble Pie

June 4, 2015

The education of a skipper is a long process that proceeds in increments of imprudent behavior. String enough of them together, survive, and eventually you achieve some semblance of competence. I should live so long.

This day was one of those days, among the most memorable of the trip, and indeed, of all my days aboard Ripple. I made three important mistakes, born of complacency and inexperience.

Mistake number (1) was to not take the weather forecast seriously enough.  We had listened several times on the day before, and there were reports of gale winds coming in off the Gulf of Alaska. Listening to the weather channels on VHF is tricky business. If you don't know the landmarks in the report (some we did, others not), then it is hard to form a picture of what is happening, and if you don't know the waters, and how they fit together it is harder still. Inexplicably, that morning we didn't listen to the weather report at all, in spite of having heard about imp…