Monday, August 23, 2010


We are in the yard for the day, getting a few things put right that weren't quite. The echo charger (probable blown fuse), the radar/chart alignment on the plotter, a once-over on the engine. Today is mostly about figuring out what we need, they'll order everything up and we'll come back when it all comes in to do the actual work.

Had an absolutely wonderful sail up here from South Beach yesterday - up the city front and across the gate to Raccoon Straits, then a downwind run to the yard in Richmond. Aaaah.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

We made it!

Day 8 - 8/18

When I got up at 6:00 this morning, we could see San Francisco. We may be there even earlier than noon, although distances over the water can be quite deceiving. This has been an incredible experience, and I'm so glad I did it (at one point we were thinking I might fly or drive down with the cats and meet up with the boat in SF). I've learned a great deal about cooking underway (everything is a potential cause of injury, even the door to the microwave), and about provisioning (I waaay over-provisioned - we're going to be eating this stuff for weeks, but I guess it's better to err in that direction than not to have enough). Once we get tied up at South Beach, we'll wash the incredibly filthy boat*, and go out for one last dinner. Mitch flies out tomorrow, and while Richard is going to spend a few days in the Bay Area, this will be his last night on the boat. This was such a daunting passage before we did it – now I feel much more confident about our ability to get the boat to Cabo and beyond. Things can (and will) go wrong, but we can deal.

*We tied up at South Beach at about 10:00 AM, made breakfast, did not wash the boat (that'll happen tomorrow) and are either taking naps, exploring SF or writing this blog post.

Seattle to SF - part 6

Point Arena

Day 7 – 8/17

I was feeling all motivated this morning, so I made apricot scones. Everyone was happy to see those. All the guys are getting sort of sleep deprived – the only time we're all up is around meals, and at this point that's not even completely reliable. We're definitely in the home stretch now – rounded Cape Mendocino this morning. I've been up and down this section of the coast by car at least 30 times, but have never seen it from the water. The weather has been beautiful – not exactly shorts and t-shirts, but at least we're no longer doing our Michelin Man imitations, bundled up in foulies and as many layers of fleece as we can fit under them. We actually had enough wind to sail for a little while this afternoon, which was nice. We'd all have felt a little silly bringing a sailboat all this way and not sailing at all. Dinner was black bean chili that I'd made and frozen before we left, cornbread, and for dessert, an apple crisp and vanilla ice cream. We should be in San Francisco sometime around noon tomorrow.

Apple Crisp

3-4 apples (Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala are all good)
Sugar (how much is going to depend on how tart your apples are)

1 c Flour
½ c. Brown Sugar
¼ lb Butter

Combine the flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut the butter into this mixture with a pastry cutter or two knives, or rub the butter in with you fingers until it looks like pebbles.

Put the apples into an 8x8 pan (I actually put them in so that they're mostly lying flat – you can fit more apples in the pan that way than you can if you just dump them in), and sprinkle the topping on top. Don't compress the topping – it's supposed to be crumbly, not like a piecrust. Be sure to leave at least ½” of headroom in the pan for the juices that will bubble up. If you can't do that, put the pan in a larger baking dish to catch spills before putting it in the oven – trust me, you do not want to have to scour burnt on melted sugar off the bottom of your oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the smell is driving you mad.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or crème anglaise.

You can also make this with dried apples if you soak them to reconstitute first and add a little water (~ ¼ c) to the baking dish.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Seattle to SF - Part 5

Day 6 – 8/16

We're really bombing along now – the seas are almost completely flat. The difference between these conditions and our first few days out would be hard to exaggerate. I've figured out a reliable way to make coffee without having to stand there and tend it for the entire time it drips: Put coffee pot in two quart (tall, narrow) saucepan, put a silicone pot holder in the sink, and set the saucepan on that. The saucepan stops the coffee pot tipping over, and the potholder stops the pan from sliding around. In case something goes wrong anyhow (nothing has so far, knock wood), all of the mess is contained in the sink. We're probably going through about three pots a day, so it's nice to have a way to do that without having to babysit it the whole time. Everyone foraged for breakfast (granola, HB eggs, etc.), meat loaf and broccoli for dinner.

Seattle to SF - Part 4

8/16 – Day 5

[Long and fairly boring post about our boat's electrical system]

Page down a couple of times to skip excruciating detail and get back to cruising and food...

...and the electrical problems continue. At about 5:00 this morning, I was woken up by the sound of the engine RPMs falling sharply and then starting to race. Everyone came bolting out of their berths to try and figure out what was going on. It was Art's watch when the problem started – the tachometer RPMs had suddenly gone way down, and to get them up into a normal range (2200) on the meter he'd opened the throttle. The RPMs on the tac looked right at this point, but the engine was clearly turning faster than that, as our speed through the water was ~8 knots, when normally it would be somewhere around six. Since we had adjusted the clamp on the throttle cable yesterday, our initial thought was that maybe it had worked itself loose and was allowing the cable to slip, but that didn't really jibe with how the engine was sounding. For some reason, I thought to check the voltage on the engine battery -- yikes, 5 volts. That's not good (it should be slightly north of 12 volts). Obviously it wasn't getting a charge. However, we'd been motoring steadily since noon the previous day, so what on earth had sucked the charge out of it? Maybe the cockpit panel? That would explain why the tachometer had dropped – it wasn't that the engine was running more slowly, it was just that the tachometer didn't have enough poop (i.e. voltage, for you technical types) to push the needle over to the actual RPMs on the engine. But shouldn't the alternator be charging both the engine and house batteries? One would think so, but it was fairly evident that for some reason, it was not. We know for sure that the battery charger we use for shore power charges up the engine battery – if it didn't we'd have never gotten off the dock at Newport the previous day. So went go to fire up the genset, which can also power that charger, but, duh, it starts off of the same dead battery as the engine. Luckily, our electrical system is set up with two places to parallel the house batteries with the start battery, so we flipped one of those switches and got the genset and smart charger going with the house batteries. However, running the genset for the remainder of the trip was, in addition to making it insanely noisy down below when the main is running and only somewhat less bothersome when we're sailing, was going to have us going through diesel like Grant through Richmond, and so would have been pretty suboptimal.

Remember how a couple of days ago we “lost” our inverter? That was probably the first sign of this problem. The regulator can only send power to the start battery (via an echo charger, we're assuming – one of the upshots of this experience is that even after owning this boat for 11 years, we don't really know enough about our electrical system) if the house bank is over a certain voltage. However, it appears that when we switched from gel cells to AGMs about a year ago, we set the regulator too low, which meant a) we were taking a lot longer than we needed to to charge the house bank from the alternator, and b) we were never reaching the threshold where the echo charger kicks in to charge the start battery. When we had the inverter problem, we hadn't run the genset for a couple of days, so the start battery wasn't getting charged. We think the inverter (integral to the charger) saw the low voltage on the start battery when we turned it on, and started trying to up the voltage on the house batteries so that they would reach the threshold needed to charge the start batteries, or something like that. Obviously, you're not supposed to let your 12 volt starting battery get down to 5 volts. Hopefully, it wasn't that low for very long and will be able to hold a charge going forward.

Today, the lights on the regulator were back working again, presumably because by using the charger powered by the genset we'd gotten the house voltage high enough to charge the start battery. At least that's the theory. Not wanting to start fooling around with the voltage settings on the regulator at sea, we're just leaving the engine and start batteries in parallel any time we have the engine on – that way both banks charge at the same time. That's the theory, anyway, with much thanks to our crew Mitch, who knows enough about this stuff to both make an educated guess as to what the problem was and to figure out a way around it. That was just a wee bit too much in the excitement department before 9:00 AM. However, the cheese grits with bacon we had afterwards for a late breakfast were pretty awesome.

How did we not notice this charging issue in the year plus since we adjusted the regulator? Easy. We usually run the genset at least once or twice a day to charge the batteries, make hot water, etc. when we're at anchor. We'd also usually run the charger, not because we particularly needed to, but because diesel engines like to run under load. That was apparently plenty to keep the engine battery topped off. We'd also only have the cockpit panel live overnight, to run the anchor light. When we were at the dock, we had shore power running the charger, which also charges both battery banks. A extended period with a lot of things running off the cockpit panel and pretty minimal genset use was, we think, the only set of circumstances in which this could happen, and pretty well describes the last couple of days. I'm just glad it happened now – if we hadn't had Mitch aboard, it would have taken us a really long time to figure out what was going on, so that's the silver lining to this whole thing.

[/Long and fairly boring post about our boat's electrical system]

This afternoon, we had a dolphin show – for about 10 minutes, 4 of them were playing in our bow wave, crisscrossing under the boat amidships and just generally having fun with each other and our boat. I'd never thought of Arione as a piece of playground equipment, but they sure did. It was really cool. I tried to get a picture, but without going into video mode on the camera (which I didn't think at the time of doing) it was impossible to time a shot for when they were visible. If we get another show, I'll try shooting video and capturing stills from that.

We're expecting to be back in the Bay Area later this week (Wednesday, with any luck), and Art has already set it up with KKMI for Ron Romaine (who originally designed and installed most of our electrical system) to go through all things electrical and put it all to rights. Whew.

Meatloaf, fried potatoes and broccoli were dinner. Everything except the meatloaf (which we all agreed to save the leftovers of for sandwiches tomorrow ) got finished off.

Fried potatoes

1 can of whole small potatoes (you could obviously use new potatoes that you'd peeled and boiled, but the canned ones are good, and last almost indefinitely)
Butter for frying them
Smoked paprika
Garlic granules (obviously fresh would be fine here too)

Drain the potatoes, sprinkle salt, pepper and garlic granules on them and toss them around. I do this right in the can to save a dish that will need washing later.
Heat the butter in a frying pan on high heat until it's almost smoking.
Dump in the seasoned potatoes and turn the heat down to medium.
You'll want to disturb them as little as possible. You want them nice and crusty, and if you move them around too much, they disintegrate and turn into hash browns, which are good, but presumably not what you're going for here.
When they look good and crusty (maybe 20 minutes total), sprinkle them with smoked paprika. I use maybe 1/2 a teaspoon per can.
Put a lid on the pot and turn off the heat. They will hold for a good 20 minutes.
Just before serving, flip them around with a spatula to more or less evenly distribute the paprika.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seattle to SF - Part 3


8/15 (this is where I began to forget to keep track of nautical miles)

Had hash browns, sausage and cantaloupe for breakfast. Went to the little marina store – no eggs, but milk, beer and wine. Topped up our fuel and water tanks,– and left Newport at noon. It's totally calm (and foggy) today – much more pleasant, and also an opportunity to learn how to set up the automatic fog signal on our new hailer. Made an orzo, feta and spinach salad for lunch – it would have been better with the pine nuts I forgot to buy (or was unable to find - I'm pretty sure I'm going to find some musty old bag of pignoli months from now, stashed somewhere inaccessible), but was pretty good anyway. Later in the afternoon, the waves started kicking up again, but either it wasn't as bad, or I'm getting used to it. Either way, it's an improvement. Dinner was baked ziti with shrimp and goat cheese. Looking back on that menu, today was rather pasta-riffic – I've kind of gotten off my original meal plan a bit, but no one appears to mind.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Seattle to SF - Part deux

8/13–14: 235 nautical miles

Boy howdy did conditions change alter we rounded Cape Flattery. Seas kept building throughout the day, and by afternoon we had about a 7' swell from the northwest with 2-4' wind waves out of the south on top of that. This was, needless to say, miserable. Doing anything down below in these conditions was really difficult – and I have the bruises to prove it – at least on deck you can see what's coming. However, no one got seasick, and we saw a couple of humpback whales, which was really cool – we've seen greys before, but not humpbacks. However, after we stopped the engine to check the oil, belts etc., the inverter went berserk when we tried to start it up again. A bit of troubleshooting suggested that the problem is with the alternator regulator – all of the status LEDs were blank – and at least one should always be blinking (actually, we were wrong about that - see next post, it blinks when it's got current. If it doesn't have that, it can go completely dark. Who knew?). We'll have to get that checked out when we get to SF. In the meantime, we're going to have to run the genset any time we need more AC than our Radio Shack pocket inverter can provide. I broke out the pressure cooker and made a pork roast with apples. It came out really well. I have a feeling the pressure cooker is going to be very useful going forward – if for no other reason than that it's a pot with a lid that locks on.

Pork Roast with Apples

1 2-3 lb pork loin
2 large shallots, chopped fine (~ ½ of a cup)
1 ½ c. dried apples (you can also use fresh – up the quantity a bit and reduce the wine by about half)
1 T dried tarragon
1 ½ c. white wine
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté the shallots in olive oil in the bottom of the pressure cooker until soft and slightly brown. Set aside. Brown the pork on all sides. Pick the pork up, put the apples, shallots and tarragon on the bottom of the pan, and put the pork on top of them. Add the wine. Close the pressure cooker and bring it up to the low pressure setting. Adjust the heat to maintain it there, and cook for 40 minutes. Let the pressure cooker cool off of its own accord. Check the meat – it should be at or above (hopefully not too much above) 160°. Put the meat on a carving bord and tent it with foil while you puree the apples and shallots with a hand blender (or in a regular blender). Slice the pork. Spoon a pool of the resulting sauce on each plate and put the pork on it.

After a night of Mr Toad's wild ride in the forepeak, during which Art and I both got to experience weightlessness a few times, I started to prepare breakfast on day 3, only to find that a can of milk has spilled on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Everything on that shelf had to be taken out and cleaned. At least it wasn't the top shelf, I said to myself at the time. About an hour later, after taking everything out of the bottom of the fridge and wiping fridge and contents off, I had the eggs for breakfast all beaten and ready to go when the boat rolled and the bowl tipped and eight eggs spilled all over the counter and into the refrigerator through the edges of the lid. So now all of the shelves, including the one I just cleaned, were covered in oozing beaten egg slime. I was about ready to cry – in addition to being a huge mess of the morning, I lost 8 eggs – hopefully we'll be able to get more at our next stop (actually, the 8 eggs turned out to be no big deal, as I realized we have a lot of things other than eggs to eat for breakfast, so I'm mostly using them to bake). The second try at making scrambled eggs was actually successful – cooking while underway in fairly heavy seas is definitely a learning process. Conditions continued to deteriorate, and we decided to go into Newport, Oregon for some rest and showers – we have a shower aboard, but it was so rough it would have been a difficult proposition indeed to use it.

Tied up in Newport, took showers, and headed over to the Rogue brewery for some dinner (quite good). Unlike many harbors on the west coast, Newport has a practically no bar, and they are constantly dredging what bar they do have, so it was a pretty easy place to go in. The marina was still as a millpond, and we all got a good night's sleep.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Seattle to SF - Part 1

Richard Bard
Mitch Brown
Jaye Eldridge
Art Stiers

8/12 Day 1 – 120 nautical miles
We left Seattle at about 10:00AM in pea soup fog. Winds were light, but the fog ended up lifting and we had a very nice trip up to Cape Flattery, motoring almost the entire way. Had tortellini with pesto and peas for dinner, tabbouleh and black bean and corn salad for lunch. The guys worked out a watch schedule – 4 on , 4 off from 6:00 AM – midnight, 2 on 2 off from midnight to 6:00 AM. I'm doing all the cooking (and cleanup) so don't have a formal watch, although I'm on deck much of the time during daylight if I'm not working on something else (e.g. cooking, dishes, this blog, trying to remember where the hell I put the [insert name of missing ingredient here] for dinner tonight). Rounded Cape Flattery at about 5 AM.

Black Bean and Corn Salad

1 can black beans
1 can corn
½ red onion
1 small jar of roasted red peppers (or even pimientos)
Sherry vinegar
Rice vinegar
Olive oil
Lime juice
Salt and Pepper
Chopped cilantro if you have it, parsley flakes if you don't

Throw the first 4 ingredients in a tupperware container and season to taste with the remaining ingredients. This is best made at least a few hours, and preferably a day, in advance.