What's in her name?

What's in her name (Salish Aire)?

from her new home the Salish Sea

Aire as in a melody of song.

Salish + Aire = The melody of the Salish Sea.

Salish Sea:
In the late 1700's Captain George Vancouver wandered around the waters of what are now known as British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. He did the usual 1700's explorer thing and put names he chose on everything he saw. The names stuck and are recognized and used to this day.

New lines were added to Captain Vancouver's charts in 1872 (after a near war with Great Britain over a pig) which made waters on one side of the line Canadian and those on the other side of the line American.

It wasn't until 1988 (officiated in 2009) that someone finally realized that fish and various critters, (to say nothing of the water itself) were never involved in the boundary treaties and really ignored them completely. (This is best illustrated by the problems that Homeland Security has with Canadian Canada Geese and American Canadian Geese - it seems they refuse to carry passports and have been known to poop on the head of any border patrol person who tries to challenge their right to cross the border when and where they choose!) In reality the waters from Olympia to the well up the East side of Vancouver Island are pretty much one ecosystem.

The Coast Salish are the indigenous peoples who live in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state along the Salish Sea and share a common linguistic and cultural origin. The Salish Sea is named in honor of the earliest recorded peoples who plied her waters and learned to live in harmony with her.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Preparing for Spring and Summer Cruising

March 28, 2018

We now have a some dates and a plan for our Spring cruising.  Since the number of herring boats has not been what it was in the past our slip in front of the Totem Inn serendipitously remained available for our use until the end of April.  We have promised to vacate by April 31st but will likely leave on or before our current payment period ends on April  20th.  We still have a number of sights we want to see in the northern part of SE Alaska so we plan to cruise the protected waters until we meet up with Dale and Glenda Findlay on Nordhavn 43 “Serenity” in Hoonah for a May 20th departure for Prince William Sound  on the Western edge of  the Gulf of Alaska.

We enjoyed our visit with our grandson Etienne and his mother Elise for the past 5 days.  Sadly the weather only partly cooperated but they were able to enjoy an overnight trip with us to Goddard Hot Springs and to see whales in the distance and to appreciate the mountains that surround Sitka.

Etienne and Norman spent a night ashore in Tom Young Cabin at Goddard Hot Springs

Etienne enjoyed a teenager sized burger at The Bay-view Pub

Prior to their arrival we had been diving and per our usual routine checked the bottom of the boat on our way to the surface. Much to our surprise and chagrin we noticed that the rubber liner of ourstrut mounted cutlass bearing for our wing engine propeller shaft was partially protruding out of the front of the assembly.  A cutlass bearing is a water lubricated bearing with an outer shell of bronze and an inner rubber liner that supports and maintains the alignment of propeller shafts. The bearing was still intact enough so that the prop shaft did not vibrate and cause any damage but it was clear it needed to be replaced as soon as possible.  

The black rubber bearing liner was protruding from the front of the bearing strut.

We have never replaced a cutlass bearing before so we did our internet research and asked lots of questions around town. We did find a shop that normally carried the bearing we needed but his stock was depleted. He did assure us that he could likely have one in within 3 days. We also learned that for $400 we could order a device for removing the bearing without removing the prop shaft, only the propeller itself.  Since we will likely only use the tool one time we decided to make one rather than buy the professionally created device. 

The home built bearing removal tool.

Finally we had all of our parts and tools in hand and the tides looked like they would cooperate so we put the boat on the Sitka tidal grid.  Tidal grids are fairly common in British Columbia and Alaska where 14 ft tides are common.  A set of beams is set on the beach next to a dock or bulkhead where boats can be tied securely so they don’t topple as the water drains out from under them and leaves them high and dry on the beams on the beach.  Tidal grids are effective, simple and inexpensive (in Sitka $10/day + power at $5/day compared to the hundreds of dollars charged for a haul out in a sling.
On the tidal grid for one of the three low tide cycles the job took us.

 The down side is that “tide and time wait for no man” so the time you have to access the bottom of the boat is limited.  SE Alaska has a diurnal tidal cycle with two highs and two lows each day.  Usually on set of highs and lows is less extreme than the second.  We had hoped that the tool would be uber effective  and the bearing would pop right out and the new one back in and within a single low tide cycle we would get the job completed.  The folding prop came off fairly easily with the puller set we have on-board but it went downhill from there.  

Clarice cleaning the folding prop.

The tool I had made of 3/8 steel plate bent without moving the old bearing.  We kept trying until we were cold within our dry suits  with the water up to our waists so we gave up and went to bed at about 11 PM. We slept poorly as we had to keep checking the lines as the boat moved up and then back down next to the pier.  On the next low cycle we were able to finally remove the original bearing by cutting at it with a hack saw, beating it with a chisel, and using the puller tool.  We literally were ready to give up and wait a week or two when it decided to pop out a bit with a final “hail Mary” tightening down on the puller nuts followed by a heavy whack with a brass hammer.  We had kept the new bearing in the freezer overnight hoping that it would contract a bit (there is no dry ice or liquid nitrogen available in Sitka) which seemed to help until it warmed up with about ½ of the bearing still sticking out of the strut and the tide rapidly rising. 

New bearing partially installed when the tide rose too high to continue.
This is about the water level where we would start and end our work cycle.

Even in our SCUBA dry suits we were very cold by the end of the tide cycles.

I spent the high tide cycle rebuilding the tool so it was better suited for installing (rather than removing) the bearing.  The rebuild included doubling the 3/8 in steel on one end and using ¼ inch stainless for the other end.  At the next low tide (which wasn’t low enough to even drop below the bottom of the keel) we finally were able to get the new bearing in place by tightening the (now grade 8) bolts until the stainless was flexed and then hitting it with the brass hammer.  The prop was replaced and we exited the waist deep water about 11:30 PM.  The next high tide lifted us free about 4:30 AM and we headed back to our berth before we were stuck on the grid for another 24 hours as the next high would not have been high enough to lift us free.  In the end we decided we hope this bearing lasts another 22 years and if it doesn’t the next time we’ll spring for the $400 tool.

April 6, 2018

Final preparations continue for our spring cruising.  We have changed the oil in the wing engine and generator as planned.  We also got concerned about our generator seeming to run at the maximum allowable temperature.  After taking the heat exchanger apart and some other troubleshooting I finally gave our friend from Northern Lights a call before I changed the thermostat and coolant temperature sensor.  Bob was patient as usual and understood my troubleshooting but told me before I went any further to make sure and look for corrosion in the connections between the generator and the control panel as a known symptom of poor connections with this particular machine in a high reading on the temperature gauge and a low reading on the oil pressure gauge. Sure enough I pulled apart the connection he referred me to and it was tied in the not-recommended position (so it was more likely to get moisture in it) and found classic signs of corrosion. Cleaning the connection seems to have fixed the overheating  problem which was not really a problem at all. We did end up with fresh coolant as part of our spring preparations as a result.

Corrosion in a connector was the basis of our false temperature readings.  Thank you Lugger Bob!!

Our preparations also included buying immersion suits after we were reminded in a Coast Guard Auxiliary class we took that we had always planned to get them before our first outing significantly off shore.  (In the case of being in the 50 degree F water they can keep a user alive for 10 hours rather than the normal 1 hour.) It's always interesting to spend $650 buying something you pray you never get to use.

Trying on the immersion suits in the local marine store before purchasing them.

Clarice spent about a week waxing the hull to what she considers an acceptable shine.  The good news is it goes much faster now after she has worked on it for several years.  The bad news is that the positions and arm work she does leads to significant joint pain for a few days.

Clarice ended up with belly bruises from leaning over the edge of the dock but she got the boat done "her way".

In the ongoing saga of the Hurricane furnace we believe that maybe, just perhaps, finally, the gremlins have been exorcised from it. It ran almost continuously for the past 2 months since we installed a new control board and only asked for a nozzle cleaning yesterday (after shutting itself down correctly when the flame wouldn’t light rather than dripping diesel all over the engine room).  Good news is it has kept us warm through our Alaskan winter when we didn’t have enough shore amperage to keep the electric heat on all of the time.  The bad news is it isn’t the most efficient furnace in the world as a lot of heat goes out the exhaust pipe resulting in a lot of diesel burned while we sat at the dock.

We are now going through final stocking of consumable items and long term purchases we have been putting off such as immersion suits in case the worst happens and we get dunked into the Gulf of Alaska for an extended time. Today a store in town had a produce sale and Clarice bought everything she thought she could store successfully (the sale was such a big deal that there was a line up at the door when she arrived at 6 AM – and the produce manager reported that even though they had planned ahead that the spoilage on the barge ride from Seattle had reduced the inventory noticeably).  We loaded 8 gallons of motor oil that costs $20/gallon here when my records show that I paid $13/gallon at Costco in Everett before we left. We checked fuel prices and will go ahead and top off here in Sitka before we leave as a price check of other ports all showed that diesel costs more per gallon elsewhere.  We will get a chance to stop at Costco and Fred Meyer at some point in Juneau and that should finish our provisioning.

On the subject of the fabled Sitka Herring Roe Sac fishery where historically tens of thousands of tons of fish are taken in a very short time to satisfy the Japanese market for herring eggs; it was a bust.  About ¼ of the planned harvest was caught.  The circus that means spring in Sitka with boats and planes everywhere tracking and capturing the huge schools of fish really didn’t materialize as the 40-some boats with herring permits chose to do a cooperative fishery of uncooperative fish.  All of the income from the fish was shared after expenses were paid to the boat owners who actually fished (you could stay tied up in Seattle and still collect your share). The hope is that the fishes internal guide of  when to come to shore and reproduce didn’t match the fisherfolk’s calendars and they will still make lots of little herrings.  The fear is that the resource has been over-fished and the last great herring run in Alaska may be going the way of the other historic runs that no longer exists.  And an even greater fear is that with no little fish around that the bigger fish and whales will stay away as well. In a town where 99% of the citizenry is associated with fishing in some way or another, this is a really big deal.

One day we noticed Ida Lee was riding low in the water.
 Her captain told us it was a good thing as his holds were filled with black cod (AKA sable fish)

The fish caught in about 3600 ft of water (over 1/2 mile of line just to get the string
of hooks to the bottom) await processing.

The cannery "slime line" where the fish heads and entrails are removed in preparation for freezing for shipment.

On another wildlife note the eagles certainly have been keeping us entertained.  The Sitka Raptor Center takes in injured raptors and those that can be released are let go in the spring.  Watching them release 7 eagles (some needed surgery, others just left the nest too soon) was impressive.  After spending months in the indoor flight room and then being carried hooded to the launch meadow, I assumed they would at least take a few seconds to get their bearings before taking off but they were off within a second or so of being let loose and into the air where they acted like they had never been away from the wild. 

Raptor Center volunteers and donors were given the honor of releasing the eagles.

The handler removes the hood.....
....the eagles quickly take wing....

.....and they are off to the wild.

We have also had quite the influx of eagles outside of our window on Sitka Channel.  I thought there were a lot when I had 15 in a single camera shot but the locals told me that any less than 100 in sight at one time was no big deal.  A few days later there must have been fish guts or herring in the water as we did see TNTC (Too Numerous To Count) eagles everywhere at once.

I caught 15 eagles in one photo frame.

Clarice has finally gotten bread making in the propane oven down to her satisfaction.  She is making both sourdough and wheat breads and having them come out nicely browned. note: I (Clarice) have managed to keep the sourdough starter thriving (donated by a person at church), which is good since I couldn’t seem to make my own starter flourish.

Yummy wheat bread

One loaf of sourdough just from the oven and another ready to bake.

Finally as we waited to get some final mail delivered to us here in Sitka we took the opportunity to join a kayak class in the local middle-school pool.  The experience was great for us as we have never been properly shown, nor had a chance to practice, exiting the kayaks under water or re-entering them in deep water.

The two local women who made the class available demonstrate a self rescue.

I (Clarice) decided to add a bit to this entry.

After months spent trying to memorize a bunch of nonsensical ( to me) data, I managed to pass the test and now have my General Ham Radio license. I don’t need it to download weather faxes, etc, but can now communicate with people around the world on bands that actually work. The Technician license didn’t really offer me much in the way of bands to use for the way we use our marine High frequency radio. Since getting a license doesn’t mean you have a clue how to use the radio, Norman’s work is cut out for him as he attempts to teach me how to use the it.

We have totally enjoyed Sitka over the winter. We’ve been told it was a mild winter, which we were fine with – not too cold, not too wet and plenty of sunny, beautiful days. There was always lots to do to allow us to get off the boat if we chose to. The local Shark Ham Klub and St Peter’s Church have been so welcoming. Everyone we’ve met have been so kind. We’ll miss the people that make Sitka such a wonderful place. Many people have asked when we’ll be coming back and have assumed we’d be here next winter. As Norman says… “better to be missed when you leave than to have people wanting you to leave”.

As much as we’ve enjoyed our stay, I think we are both excited to get back to cruising again and will spend the summer exploring Alaska before we decided to head south to further adventures.

The crocuses are out in Sitka - its time to move on.