Friday, January 29, 2016

Mast pulpits and propane aboard Oceanus

Our Dickinson propane fireplace warms the boat up nicely on cold Northwet winter days.
Few things make living aboard a boat in the Northwet more comfortable than a fireplace and a good galley stove and oven, especially in the winter. And few things make a trip to the mast safer than mast pulpits. On my boat the two are related.

The oven is large enough for Virginia to make three loaves of her great wheat bread.
The old stove that came with Oceanus ran on propane and looked dangerous. It was not hooked up. When we moved it sawdust and chunks of rust came out of every opening. The oven door had no window and, worse, no way to lock it closed.

Another troubling thing was there was no evidence on Oceanus of a proper propane locker: one that was air tight except for the vent over the side as required by the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) and every good marine surveyor.

The propane locker for Oceanus is a deck box.
My solution was to buy a deck box for Oceanus to use as a propane locker. I chose a Trident Marine L-P Gas 20-pound Dual Chest Locker, (part number 1502-0020). Generally I'm happy with it after I upgraded the regulator. Why they put a cheap, single-stage regulator on an item that cost one whole boat buck... well, it kinda ticks me off. The only other thing we did was put a backing plate on the latch. Those are the bad parts. Otherwise, the box is well made and stout, no oil-canning when I stand on top of it.
The propane deckbox has room for smaller propane cylinders, windlass handle and other odds and ends in addition to the two 20-pound tanks.

I located it a little in front of the mast and bolted it through the deck at each corner using 3/8-inch bolts with big fender washers. I used UHMW plastic shims about an inch thick and slightly tapered to lift it off the crown of the deck. I then used a large hole saw to cut a hole in the bottom and a smaller one to cut a hole through the deck for a plastic through hull. The through hull was big enough that I could fit two hoses -- one for the new Dickenson Newport fire place, the other for the new Dickenson Mediterranean stove and oven -- and a 14-2 wire for the solenoid.

Here's how the propane box and the mast pulpits relate. I bolted one leg of my mast pulpits to the port and starboard sides of the deck box with good backing timbers and fender washers. The mast pulpits each have four legs, so that saved me eight holes in my deck.

Mast pulpits (granny bars) are harder to find than you would expect.
I feel lucky to have these mast pulpits (granny bars). We spent a lot of time looking for mast pulpits for Oceanus. I could find nothing on-line. We regularly checked places like Minnie's and Columbia Marine Exchange for used ones. We even contacted a couple of stainless steel fabricators, but none of them wanted the job.

Then, as I helped a dockmate with a project aboard his boat, I spotted eight stainless steel flanges bolted to his deck. I asked him what they were. "Oh, those go to some mast pulpits that were just too big for the boat," he said. "I took them off because they were always in the way."

He was right, they were too big for his 33-foot boat, but they are perfect for my 43-foot boat. It must be something like, "when the student is ready, the teacher shall appear." When you look long enough and are desperate enough, you will find what you are looking for.

When my dockmate retrieved them from his garage and brought them to the boat I couldn't believe my good luck: they were the most beautiful mast pulpits I ever saw. They had a gentle arc, four feet and a teak pin rail with four belaying pins on each pulpit. The pin rail looks nice and is handy. The mast pulpits also provide a great place to secure the eight polyethylene jerry jugs we carry aboard for fuel and water.

The deck box makes putting on the mains'l cover easy.
The mast pulpits and deck box make working around the mast easier and much more secure. The deck box is a great place to sit and admire the view or to stand on to reach the top of the mains'l when putting on its cover.

Back to propane. Once the deck box was in place with a way into the boat for the hoses and wires the rest was pretty easy. I got some help from my local RV place to tee off the line after the regulator so I could run a hose for both appliances. The tee must be made in the box because ABYC allows no connections inside the boat except to the appliance. Then it was just a matter of running the hoses for the fireplace and the galley stove and connecting the electronic shut off to power the solenoid in the box.

Everything worked well on the first try, except the flow seemed anemic. After looking at the cheap regulator that came with the deck box and comparing it with the ones at the RV place, I figured it must be under sized. Another $35 into the project for a two-stage regulator was chump change. The bigger regulator did the trick.

I can't remember the name and can't find the documentation for it. I remember it's made in Canada.
After doing all you can do to keep propane only where it should be, you still need a bilge sniffer. This warns you if propane is leaking into your bilge and pooling there waiting to blow you and your boat to kingdom come. We found this nice unit that's made in Canada.

A hand-held sniffer is essential.
We also bought a portable combustible gas sniffer to check all connections. Soap suds just doesn't cut it.

For more tips on staying safe with propane here's 10 tips from the good folks at Attainable Adventure Cruising.

On previous boats we had an alcohol stove and a kerosene stove. Virginia was not a fan of either of those fuels. If we were not planning to sail south we might have considered a diesel stove. We are well aware of the potential for explosion from propane, but if you like to cook on board, propane is the best option.

Weather Window Update

We are still waiting for a weather window to open so we can head south. Here are some photos of waves crashing on the rocks in front of a friend's house in Depoe Bay, Ore., this week. Maybe next week....
This wave hit the base of a 40-foot cliff and shot about 80 feet into the air.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Waiting for a window south

Virginia checks our position on her iPad during one of our weekly shake-down sails.
Finally, after more than three years of hard work, Oceanus is ready for sea. The problem is it's now winter. This time of year weather windows that will allow us to sail south from our home port of Newport, Ore., are few and far between.

During December, storm after storm with gale-force winds and waves 15 to 20 feet pummeled the Oregon coast. For a few days in mid December the waves reached 40 feet and sent mounds of sea foam filling beach parking lots and the yards of beach homes. It looked like dirty snow, prompting locals to joke about the sea providing a white Christmas on the Oregon coast.

Newport also got a record amount of rain in December, more than 19 inches.

We started keeping a log. Virginia's periodic entries are telling:
"Dec. 3, 2015 - Still here."
"Dec. 9 - Haven't left yet, too many storms."
"Dec 18 - Still here. Crew getting restless."
"Dec. 24 - Christmas eve in Newport, Ore., was supposed to be Mexico or Newport, Calif. I see a mutiny soon if we don't leave."

We are not discouraged, however. Last winter, as we continued to work on the boat, we watched and there were several times the seas were relatively calm and the wind out of the north or west. We are hoping for three or four days of good sailing weather to get us to California.

Every morning we check looking for a few days of good sailing conditions. We're hoping for seas below 10 feet with a fairly long period, say 15 seconds. It happens this time of year, just not very often. We got our hopes up for three days around Jan. 31. The forecast called for seas of around six feet and east winds. But winds turned into a gale out of the east with the thermometer dropping into the 20s at night. No thanks!

Of all the miles we plan to travel on our two-year sabbatical, the first 400 miles along the Oregon and northern California coast are the most scary to me. Many experienced world cruisers have had their hat handed to them along this stretch of the West Coast.

Oceanus and us are still largely untested in the ocean as well, so we try to go sailing at least once a week. With each day sail we discover something new about the boat, a better lead on the genoa sheet or something else we need to tweak.

We are also getting better at answering the question "Haven't you left yet?" or "When are you leaving?" This is particularly galling to Virginia.

"The next person who asks me that I'm going to poke in the eye," she fumed on more than one occasion.

Of course the people who have experience cruising never ask. "Schedules will kill you," said our friend Ted, who cruised in Mexico for two years and made several trips from there to Oregon.
Our friend Paul joins us for a sail. He is a great guy and a very experienced captain.
They also council patience. "You're already cruising," said Paul, another of our experienced voyaging friends. "You're living the life. Enjoy it."

And we do, I keep working on boat projects and Virginia helps with boat maintenance. She also started knitting a sweater for our daughter-in-law. Most of all we enjoy just being together.

In November we sold our small pickup. Not having a vehicle makes getting mail and groceries more difficult, but it also gets us out walking more. No vehicle also means no car insurance payments or vehicle tax bills.
Our "fake Christmas" on the weekend before Christmas at our daughter's new home. All kids and grand kids minus two who couldn't make it.
The week before Christmas we hitched a ride with friends going to the Seattle area so we could visit our kids and grandkids for a few days. We had a great time. We enjoyed the train ride back too, and the bus from the Willamette valley to get back to Newport wasn't bad either. But it did turn what would have been a five-hour drive into a full day adventure. It made us appreciate how easy we had it.
Our 97-cent Nativity scene aboard Oceanus.
Christmas on the boat was fun and peaceful. We did our favorite holiday things: watching the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" and listening to corny old renditions of Christmas carols. We didn't worry about pleasing anyone but ourselves. That sounds selfish, especially during Christmas, but it was liberating and eye opening. Virginia missed going to stores to shop -- she did most of it online. I felt I escaped the commercial side of the holiday and focused just on what was meaningful and fun to me. It was one of my favorite Christmas's ever.

Winter on the Oregon coast, while it has its own beauty, is not what we signed up for. We both dream of sunshine and diving off the boat into warm clear water. We figure we have enough money for two years if we stick to a budget. The clock is now ticking, so we watch and wait for a weather window to sail south.