Here’s this week’s cruising schedule aboard Catalyst, from Petersburg to Wrangell:
Sunday, August 24 – Petersburg to Ideal Cove: Kayak paddle in Ideal Cove (overcast with showers)
Monday, August 25 – Ideal Cove to Scenery Cove: Visit Le Conte Glacier, full height calving, skiff and hike Baird Glacier (rain)
Tuesday, August 26 – Scenery Cove to Portage Bay: shore walk at Cape Fanshaw, fishing group in Portage Bay (rain)
Wednesday, August 27 – Portage Bay to Roosevelt Harbor: transit Wrangell Narrows, explore Roosevelt Harbor in skiff and on foot (rain)
Thursday, August 28 – Roosevelt Harbor to Canoe Pass: kayak Canoe Pass, transit Zimovia Strait, (some sun and some rain, otters)
Friday, August 29 – Canoe Pass to Berg Bay: visit Anan Bear Observatory, bears are fluffy, paddle Berg Bay/Aaron Creek, slide show
Saturday, August 30 – Berg Bay to Wrangell: last run, pack and prepare to return to what passes for civilization (but isn’t)
Here’s the crew:
And here’re the passengers:
A major highlight of this week was visiting the La Conte Glacier. I hadn’t seen it from a boat before, though I did see it from a float plane once. It’s a very neat tidewater glacier – hard to get to because of a sand bar terminal moraine, which is shallow and keeps out the cruise ships. After that, we went back through Wrangle Narrows to explore some new places, like Canoe Pass and Anan Creek:
We hiked up Anan Creek to a “Wildlife Viewing Site,” which has a bear observatory for people to watch bears feeding in the salmon run without getting rained on (and without feeding the bears). We didn’t see any bears at the observatory, but on the way back a black bear crossed our path. We sat and watched it for about ten minutes before it ran up in to the forest:
We arrived in Wrangle on Saturday to drop off passengers, then headed to Meyers Chuck with just the crew and Bill’s wife and daughter. Coming into Meyers Chuck at night was a little tricky, since it has a very narrow entrance. Luckily, it was one of the clearest nights we’ve had on the trip and we made it in safely. We shut down the engine and watched the stars for hours.
On the subject of cruise ships
I know that there is a lot of hatred for cruise ships (and that I sometimes do the hating), but I do have some other thoughts on them.
I think cruise ships are an efficient way for lot of people to see some amazing sights and relax. They get people to see Alaska (and other places) who would never otherwise get somewhere so remote, and offer a fun vacation. They also are a way to give trees and glaciers an economic value, since people will pay a lot of money to go see (or walk on) “wilderness.”
On the other hand, the get-rich-quick boom-town gold-fever is in the blood of many Alaskans. The process used by cruise ships to transform a town just the next big thing following the gold rush, the clear cuts, and the salmon canneries. It may be a natural thing just like the fishing booms, the timber cuts, and the gold rush. I think the best thing that can be done is to research, document, publish and advertise the changes and relate them with other booms and the impact they made on towns, the environment, the local economies, etc, to try to get the positives out of the cruise ship industry. It is a little icky how some of the towns have turned whole neighborhoods into Disneyland diamond strip malls, but Alaskans have been making a profit off the latest boom for more than a hundred years.
Now, I’ve never actually been on a cruise ship, but someday hope to. If I go on an Alaskan cruise, I want to sign up for the bus trip to the Museum of Alaskan Booms. For me, though, the attraction of a cruise is in the boat itself. Ideally, we’d leave Seattle, motor out about a quarter of a mile, and then drop anchor. I would drink in the casino, hear live music, and play shuffle board. Then at the end of the week, we’d motor back to Pier 66 with a lifetime of memories.
Business as usual
The engine’s oil pressure has been gradually decreasing over the last few weeks, so I started up the auxiliary oil pump to maintain the pressure until we got to Petersburg. Once we were tied up, I changed the oil and filters, flushed the system, and sucked out the residual oil in the base. None of this changed the oil pressure, so on Monday I took all the doors off the crank pit and ran the oil pump to see if any single bearing had way more oil coming out than the others. I found that number six had oil coming out from under the rod foot, and it had bits of babbitt under it in the crank pit.
Oil from under the rod foot might mean that there isn’t enough oil getting to the wrist pin, and babbitt in the crank pit could mean at least two things: that the bearing is going bad and throwing off little pieces of broken babbitt, or that the last mechanic to work on the bearings was lazy and didn’t clean all the pieces of babbitt out of the crank pit. A little leaking oil and babbitt in the crank pit doesn’t tell me much except where to start looking for problems, so I “bumped” number six to see if the rod bearing was out of alignment. It had a little extra clearance – not too bad, but I took out a shim and bumped it again. This time it was within the specifications. I did the temperature test (checking to see if the bearings are heating up, which indicates a problem) at one, five, and 20 minutes, and it’s okay. We’re not losing the oil pressure out of the rod bearings. We’ll take a close look at the main bearings during the winter when we have more time to take the engine apart.
I also removed number five and six’s valves, cleaned them, and swapped them. Since I joined the Catalyst, I’ve taken out all of its exhaust valves and most of its intake valves out for cleaning. I’ve also replaced two of the exhaust valves with spares. Overloading is harder on the valves than any other part of the engine, since overloading makes a lot of heat and soot. First you see pitting, then carbon starts creeping up the guide, and eventually ruins the stem. It’s really important to clean the valves regularly – every year if you’re running the engine a lot.
While we’re on the subject, here’s another maintenance item that many heavy duty owners and mechanics forget. I noticed a lot of gunk in the camshaft bearing cups when we were looking at the rod bearing. All heavy-duty owners should clean out these cups frequently enough that oil actually flows to the bearing. Atlas-Imperial owners should also clean out the tops of the latches, too. This is an easy task to put off, since the first time it’s done it’s messy. After that first time, though, the job will be a lot easier if you keep up with the maintenance. It’s a pretty easy job –hose the cups out with solvent and fill them with fresh oil. Doing this save you some expensive repairs in the long run.
The MAK is gone!
The next stage of construction at Lake Union Park is starting soon, so all the old maritime junk is getting scrapped – including the old MAK that I helped deliver back in the ’90s.
The art of discarding
Boats, like all things, someday need to be thrown away. However, since all the owner’s energy is focused on keeping the boat floating and running, little thought is put into how to eventually get rid of it. This usually leads to a problem: how does one throw away a boat?
The value of things and boats is a weird idea that requires shared opinions and is constantly influenced by enumerable factors. It’s not pleasant to prepare for the worst case scenario, but planning for a variety of possible situations might give you the same piece of mind that fire drills and man-overboard drills do.
A few years ago, I gave my brother a car. My brother, in some respects, is not very good at planning ahead. Since he knew nothing about car ownership, I had to teach him all the rules that they do not show in the commercials. First, licensing, then insurance, then how to drive it, then how to clean it and check fluids.
Next, I showed my brother what to do with the car when he’s done with it. I guided him through many steps and actually practiced each disposal scenario. We backed out at the last minute, just to drill on what he might have to do. Here were our scenarios, each dependent on the condition of the car (we called each person, so they took our word) and prioritized:
1) Car looks good and runs – advertise on Craig’s List to find a buyer – $1,800
2) Car looks good and runs, but there’s no time to find a buyer – cross the street to the Armenians and take their best offer, probably about $50
3) Car looks bad but runs, no takers – the junk yard will offer $35
4) Car looks good wont run, no takers – the junk yard will pick it up will offer $10
5) Car is a total piece of junk – a guy will take it away for $75
I reminded my brother in all cases to accept or pay cash, and immediately send the bill of sale to the licensing department, to make sure that he’s really rid of the car.
This exercise showed that the most likely worst case scenario was to pay $75 to dispose of the car. A similar list of scenarios for even a small boat can have a huge worst-case payout. In order to get rid of it, you need insurance or at least savings and planning. Boats take a lot of work, and there needs to be more emphasis on the art of discarding when that work gets to be too much. I am a planner, which is sometimes hard to notice due to some overlaying personality traits. Seeing through to the end is easy for me and I am surprised when others can’t see huge potential, trends or catastrophes.
If you’re planning to buy a boat, please do some drills on discarding it – for everyone’s sake. Remember that it’s always harder than you think. Here’s how you should do it: first, try to sell you boat. Next, try to give it away. Then, try to pay someone to take it away. Do each drill with the boat in a different theoretical condition – and don’t let your dreams of how the boat will be after you’re done fixing it up interfere with the drill. Make up a couple of bad scenarios and see how hard or how easy it is to get rid of it in each. Sometimes, the only way to get rid of a boat is to pay someone else to break it up for you.
Without planning and drills, owners can get delusional about what the boat is worth and might even think it is worth the same as what was paid for it. This reality check can also help guide maintenance and repair priorities. It might also encourage owners to get rid of boats before they become more of a liability – or someone else’s mess to clean up. There are government-funded programs out there just to get rid of derelict boats (like Washington State’s Department of Natural Resources’ Derelict Vessel Removal Program), and they keep pretty busy. Breaking up your own boat when it’s beyond hope is a neighborly thing to do.
By the way, the car in our anecdote was actually a very nice 1977 BMW 530I. It looked good and it ran, so the Armenians got the car for $50 minutes before my brother moved to New York.