Tuesday, December 2, 2014


The old tank muffler
Old exhaust seen in back ground

The new exhaust attached to the engine.
When we bought Nadejda we knew she was a project boat. We have made list upon list of project that need done sometimes categorized from urgent to want, always a victory when we can check one off. There were other times when something that I either was unaware of or had chosen to ignore could no longer be overlooked and must be dealt with; this summer the exhaust system was that project. 

I had been uneasy about the exhaust since we bought the boat but never looked too deep into it, scared of what I might find. With my suspicion all was not well I took the precaution to protect the engine; leaving the exhaust drain open to drain condensation before it could enter the engine. When I rebuilt the head I  noticed a couple cylinders had evidence of water intrusion but hoped by taking the said precaution I could protect the engine and postpone the inevitable.

The new flex joint installed.
This summer it was time to cut into the exhaust for a closer inspection; if it came down to it I would rather find out problems while safely tied to the dock then while crossing some bar when a failure could be life threatening. What I found confirmed my fears and pushed the exhaust project up the list from "probably need attention" to "urgent" status. Knowing I wanted to do away with the double wall construction in the engine room and the tank/muffler in the pilot house I designed  a system utilizing 4" schedule 40 pipe. The parts were ordered online, the fitting from Amazon Prime and  the 6' section of pipe from a steel yard in Seattle. I set to work measuring and cutting then fitting and welding. The last piece was a 4" Vernatone muffler which was placed in the horizontal section of exhaust after the water injection.
The Vernatone muffler installed.

With all the work done it was time to fire up the engine and see what happened. As the engine came to life I could not believe the difference; it sounded like a new engine. The noise level in the pilot house was reduced by 25% and the exhaust note was so quiet you could not tell we were running a Detroit, and that is saying a lot!

For those interested in more details please keep reading,

The new exhaust as seen under the pilot house bench.
I feel I should give a brief description of the original exhaust as it was very atypical and deserves some explanation. The boat originally had a dry stack and was modified at the time the pilot house was added. From the engine the exhaust flowed through double wall tubing cooled by the raw water to a large steel tank in which the exhaust was mixed with the raw water and then travelled horizontally out the side of the boat  This tank was a mystery until earlier this summer when I cut it open to inspect it. Inside the exhaust from engine travelled vertically to within a couple of inches from the top (causing a tremendous amount of noise as it created a great deal of vibration in the end of the tank). Half way down the tank the raw water was injected and the exhaust outlet exited the side of the tank with a downward facing elbow inside the tank so that the exhaust gases were forced through the water before exiting.

The capped end on the tee.
The new exhaust is constructed entirely out of 316L stainless steel, it is all single wall and insulated with exhaust wrap where dry. The exhaust follows the same path as the original but the "muffler" tank is gone and in its place the exhaust makes a u bend and then tees into a horizontal pipe that extends both directions. One end is the outlet while the other is capped and acts as both a expansion chamber and a anti-backflow device. The raw water is injected just above this tee and cools the remainder of the exhaust that flows through the Vernatone wet muffler and out the side of the boat. The new exhaust is much quieter and the exhaust no longer condensates, draining water back into the engine this is due to the exhaust allowing air flow after the engine is shut down. The engine also starts and runs better than it did with the old exhaust

One more small victory!

Following are some pictures of the fabrication process:

Hole plasma cut in tube for tee.
Test fitting parts prior to welding.
Grinding a bevel on pipe.
Bevel Complete
Grinding the TIG torch tungsten.
Tungsten ready for welding.
Installing the tungsten in the torch.
Cap ready to be welded.
Tack welding the cap in place before welding.
Welding on the cap.
Cap weld completed.
Welding on one of the elbows.
Some of the miscellaneous pieces.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

So Where Are We Now?

What a crazy, busy summer we have had! While we had good intentions to keep up with both the blog and our short videos this past summer, our seasonal jobs and the addition of Rule #20 (Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today. learned: plans change, work while the sun shines!) to our “Family Code” just got in the way. Then of course once we neared the time of departure all focus was put into making sure all was in order & stowed. I'm not a writer in the since of the idea that I can just sit down type it out and hit post. It takes me hours... it shouldn't, but it does and unfortunately I rarely have hours to spare. That's the nature of having a large family along with living on a project boat, that never ending list to check off. In essence along with my excuses I wanted let you know I am sorry I haven't kept up.

At the end of each summer here we have had the goal to take off to warmer waters, yet failed. The first year we didn't earn as much money as we hoped to make a trip south so we stayed for our first very wet winter. Not having the boat fully insulated & the confinement from numerous days of continuous downpours made for a winter we'd rather not repeat. Last year we didn't even untie lines from the dock as the night before departure it was discovered that the head of the engine needed rebuilt. Darn! So, flexible as we are... we stayed another winter. This is where Rule #20 was added – we'd kept telling ourselves that when we left Alaska and got to... we would fix and work on... Well, that wasn't happening! This past summer I cut out all activities for the kids except music lessons to keep ourselves from running everywhere which gave us the time to put into the boat. We even tried to think of anything that might go out on us right before pushing off that could keep us from leaving and fix that too. It did feel really good to mark off projects that had been on the list for years.

Katie fell and broke her wrist while roller blading right before Peter's last day. With a weather window opening up I was able to reschedule her appointment for a cast enabling us to leave right after and still be within it. It felt unreal when we were actually leaving, untying the lines and backing out of our stall. As we motor-sailed down Nichols Passage we all reveled in the fact we were moving again. The second night while in Queen Charlotte Sound we started to climb waves for for almost a full minute before falling off the other side. You could hear the hydraulic steering ram straining, we weren't making any headway and the Inside Passage sounded like a good idea. Funny thing was both passage weather before we left & XM weather were telling us there were 2 footers out there – bummer we couldn't see them. Once in protected waters we realized that we needed to backtrack up to Prince Rupert to check in, we were pretty sure the seas wouldn't allow us to cross over to Port Hardy. After checking in and looking at GRIB files the outlook of pushing farther south was looking dim with storm after storm piling up. There was however a small window to cross East Dixon and go back to Alaska.

So where are we now? Well... Ketchikan, where we discovered that many in town were awfully glad we failed.... again.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

... and just disappear

It has been almost three months, three long months since a family plucked from an angry ocean became the catalyst in confirming that not only is the American public lacking knowledge of who we are and why we are, but that they are vocal and vehement in their ignorance.  Thankfully for us they are easily distracted and quickly move on to the next distraction to catch their fancy.
It has been almost three months of contemplating why we publicly share our lives and the lives of our children and to what end. Would it be better to chose anonymity in the light of ramped ignorance or continue sharing for the few who do follow? After all we bring little if any morsels to the table of the cruising world; we do not have thousands of miles beneath our keel nor do we have years of experience to share from, our faces do not bear the cracked and leather look of the those who have; there are so many that do and deserve an audience, but we are not them. 
In the beginning we wrote for those we left; family, friends, neighbors, but with the passing of time so does interest and we found we no longer blog solely for those but for new friends that we have met along the way. With much contemplation came much reflection and as I strolled through my old posts of our lives afloat I realized that maybe just maybe I have been blogging this whole time for myself. I sat in wonder of so much that would have been lost in the fog of time if not for blogging; good times and bad, how the children have grown, the progress we have made on the boat and the many, many friends we met along the way.
Truthfully, we have struggled with continuing to put ourselves out there or whether we should simply fold up our social media tent and silently steal away. In the end selfishness won over obscurity and I will continue to blog, not for those that ignorantly believe safety lies in the American dream, nor so much for our fellow cruisers looking for the “how to's”; as there are so many better and more informative blogs out there, but so that when I am old I can remember the time spent sailing and living in the wonder of it all.
Thanks to all those that have been following us... you motivate us even more to keep blogging!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Sad Bit of Luck

Adelaide playing with the Irish Band

The low sun shown through the large windows warming the room as the local Irish band  played a few feet away. Before me lay a culinary wonder inaptly called a Stuffed Sriracha Blue Cheeseburger sided with peppered fries and barbeque sauce. Adelaide was playing her fiddle with the band; she had joined them only a few weeks prior and was thoroughly enjoying the experience of playing in a group. My mind wandered to all the happy times I had spent in one of these stuffed leather chairs gazing out these windows at the harbor watching the fishing fleet come and go. The memories could not shake me from my sadness, for this was to be my last Stuffed Sriracha Blue Cheeseburger, my last Guinness at an Irish Pub in Ketchikan. The building had been sold and Willie was being evicted, the new owner wanted to replace O'Brien's Pub and Eatery with another coffee shop. Gazing at the faces of those gathered it was apparent that I was not the only one here paying my last respects to one of Ketchikan's finest gathering spots. It left me wondering if I would ever darken these doors again.
Katie and Anna
So many memories this past year are tied up in this little place. Date nights when Peter and I would come to share our dreams of the future and talk of the far away places we longed to visit. Other times we'd walk in stressed from a problem that needed discussed & walk out with the solutions written on a napkin. The afternoon we took Elaine out for her birthday & Willie put on the music from Riverdance for her to dance to and everyone clapped when she finished. Or the evening we kidnapped my friend Cammy and brought her here with us. The time spent with the Bowi Band from Seattle who graciously spent time playing for the kids and including them in the show. We always left happy, thankful to have a place to spend an evening together... except today.

At least we got a glass!
Last week found us preparing for or participating in some of the many activities surrounding St. Patrick's Day... surrounding O'Briens Pub. Two years prior Willie had decided that Ketchikan needed a St. Patty's Day parade, when filling out the paper work for the parade he'd hoped that a few folks would show up and put down fifty in the blank marked "number of participants". When the day arrived he was taken back by the turnout; hundreds had shown up to help him celebrate the Irish holiday. I think one of the police officers summed it up best when he turned to Willie and said with a chuckle, "I think there is a few more than fifty people here." The parade was to start downtown and travel past the pub a few blocks to a local grocery store, but nobody made it past the pub; the parade was over where it had begun in the heart of one Willie O'Brien, he had poured his heart into this day and he had been rewarded in kind. The band played, the sun shone, and the people were happy. Yet all of that feels so distant now!

Willie with Adelaide and Molly
Staring at the cars passing out front my mind had so many unanswered questions: would there even be a St. Patty's Day parade next year? What would really be the point of having one with no Irish Pub to end at? Why did the new owner honestly think we needed another same old same old when he had a successful business already in place he could have just renewed a lease with? Where were Peter and I going to go now for dates? The Irish band had finished and Adelaide was putting away her violin; it was time to go. Adelaide and I hugged Willie and thanked him for all the good times and made our way to the door. Looking back as we left I knew that I would probably never sit in one of my favorite chairs again, even if the new restaurant was to keep them.

Good bye O'Brien's Pub and Eatery 2012-2014


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Tea Time Tradition

I am terrible about collecting what is not necessary (or useful) on our boat, most especially since we've been in one location for about 2 years. Vintage kitchen items, colorful fabric, and old teacups & saucers that I will sneak past Peter to stash in odd corners. We've begun the exodus of all the superfluous stuff now so that we'll have the summer to work on the boat in preparation of leaving this fall. While I can let kitchen items go back to the thrift store and try to use as much of the extra fabric in projects before giving it away... the tea cups, well those hold a memory to strong to give up.

My Stash!

Today would have been Peter's Grandma's 99th birthday. An adventurous woman who began married life in a remodeled chicken coop, later lived summers in Southeast Alaska on a small cabin cruiser with Grandpa & their 5 kids and once bought a house with a hazelnut orchard while Grandpa was out sailing the Pacific. (She also bought the property, on which they gave us a part to build the house, again while grandpa was out on the ocean.)

The path to Grandpa & Grandma's house

She had a china hutch that not only had sets of china tea service but many individual ones that she would let us pick from to have tea with her. The sets she collected to give her granddaughters, even I received one.
Grandpa pushing little Annika on the porch swing
Once we moved onto the property, beginning to build the house it wasn't long before a path was worn between our places. Grandma was always available to sit and have a cup a tea. We both loved fabric, old quilts, vintage books, canning & preserving, baking and all those other homesteading related activities. Grandpa usually kept the kiddos busy reading them stories, looking at his photo album, pushing them out on the swing he'd hung on the porch or watching steam train documentaries. The hours spent with them rich, now beyond price since Grandma is no longer here.
So all the tea cups I've gathered from the thrift shops will stay for now, to be used or given to others we may meet to create special times and memories.

Grandma playing the piano with Addy watching

The following poem I wrote in 2002 while living in their small travel trailer while we framed & dried in the house on the acreage they gave us.

Tea Time at Grandma's

Tea time at Grandma's
what a special treat!
Each of us young ones
finding some little sweet.

The kettle is singing,
once we walk through the door.
Grandma is preparing
to seat us all four.

With delicate tea cups
and a tea pot to match,
She serves fragrant tea, and chocolates
from her own cupboard stash.

We talk of their old times,
our future, their past,
Each memory a story,
and stories will last.

From gardens and herbs,
and birds with their seed,
We talk through the subjects
with growing speed.

There's plenty to say
as we all gather 'round,
Until in the den
we hear an odd sound.

Which child is it,
that found Grandpa's toys?
The one in the dress
or the curious boy?

Next to the piano
we each choose a song,
Grandma to play
with the harmonicas strong.

Both children are sleepy,
time to head for the farm,
Daddy with one child,
the other Grandpa's arms.

How grateful we are
for these sweet hours shared,
Tea time at Grandma's
with grandparents who've cared.

Grandma, Katie, Addy, Grandpa, Annika, Caleb

If you were to ask us if we had any regrets about leaving land to live on a boat we would tell you we have one: Grandpa. He still lives in the house across from the one we sold where children no longer run down to see him. Poor financial choices on our part made it so that selling was our only option out. Maybe if we'd saved from the beginning, never taking out a mortgage, after he was gone we might have sold to fulfil the dream to sail, but not before... no, definitely not before!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Burns Night Supper

Welcome to Burns Night

As the sun heads south for the winter and Ketchikan is left in relative darkness. The community awakens from the summer madness to entertain themselves with a myriad of events and productions. It is really quite amazing what a small town nestled on a rock in the middle of nowhere can put together to stave off the winter blues. There are a variety of concerts, parties, fashion shows, and every holiday that is a holiday or not gets some recognition as a means to celebrate.

Playing Scotland the Brave
I am a lover of poetry and have a collection of several old books from which I like to read. Unfortunately I am of the persuasion that poetry should be enjoyable; Robby Burns most often used a strong Scottish brogue in his works that I found hard to follow, so I didn't spend much time on perusing his poetry. One gem I did find was this bit of prose he wrote on the Bible leaf of a young lady at church one Sunday. He thought she was taking to heart to much of the fire and brimstone qualities of the sermon:
 Far maid, you need not take the hint,
      Nor idle text pursue;
   'Twas guilty sinners that he meant,
      Not angles such as you.

Adelaide fiddling

So when my girls' highland dancing teacher told me that they would be performing at the local Burns night supper and that I and Molly should come, I wasn't too excited...  well I should have been! It turned out to be one of the highlights of this winter and will be a fond memory for years to come.

The Highland Fling

Highland Pirate?

It was an evening of music and laughter, dancing and food. Adelaide played her fiddle with the Celtic band and all of the girls danced the highland fling. There were the pipers (I did discover that bag pipes were meant for the outdoors and hearing loss can occur when listened to them indoors) and the sword dance. The haggis was presented with much ado and the accompanying meal was fabulous. While I was a bit hesitant to try haggis I put on a brave face for the kids and dug in, and will never turn down the offer of haggis again; it was great! As the meal was coming to an end the poetry began and when it is recited with the proper accent and by a man in a kilt it takes on a life of it's own and though I could not understand everything that was said I enjoyed it immensely!

On the cab ride back to the boat Molly turned to me and said, "You know I think we should celebrate Burns night where ever we go." For something that I had no interest in a week before I couldn't think of a better thing to do in the years to come no matter where on earth the day finds us.

Bringing out the haggis

So, mark your calendar for January 25! If you are anywhere near us be sure to swing by as we recite Address to a Haggis before digging in!