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2009 Week 35 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Juneau to Petersburg, stopping at Wood Spit, North Dawes, Fords Terror, Sheldon Cove, West Brother, and Scenery Cove along the way.

We got underway on Sunday and it was just a little bumpy, so we pulled in to Snettisham bay for dinner, then continued on our way toward Endicott Arm. Night running is so fun – the boat sounds and feels different. No one was awake and luckily the wind calmed way down.

Bill and I were enjoying the beautiful night and remarking on every calm night running memory from working boat years – then almost at the same time we both realized that we were in iceberg country. We started staring at the radar and flashing the spotlight around; it seemed like they were all around us. Our depth perception was really screwy because we would spot one with the light and it would seem to be right on us, yet it would take a long time to reach us. It was nerve-wracking, but we made it through just fine.

We also overheard an amusing exchange on channel 16: one of those damn cruise ships hailed “the fishing vessel in Stevens Passage with the bright fishing lights: please extinguish while we pass.” A few minutes later, this groggy old fisherman’s voice came back really slow “Okay, so you’re drivin’ a whole city past me and you want me to put out my two 500-watt bulbs? Go [expletive] yourself.” Ha ha.

The next day, we changed our plan a little and went to North Dawes, which was great because we got to spend more time at the glacier. Then we took a short paddle, mostly for instructional purposes. Debby would only paddle every once in a while, and I held firm my orders to follow the pace of the front paddler, even if they don’t paddle. We just meandered around for a while, and it was really nice.

Our last stop before Petersburg was Scenery Cove, a very scenic cove near Baird Glacier. Every week, we anchor here and skiff to the tide flats below the glacier to hike up to the ice (and sometimes onto the ice). The tide flats and glacier make an amazing sight: it’s like a moonscape. The few trees that sprout and the rock piles left by the glacier get wiped out regularly by giant floods when ice dams break – or so I’ve been told. Well, after this week I am a firm believer of the ice dam theory.

On the way into a huge bay called Thomas Bay, the captain noticed the sea water temperature drop from 44˚ to 29˚. He figured that the gauge was busted and didn’t think much about it. At the same time, I was in the engine room checking gauges and watched the product gauge on the watermaker spike past the upper limit of our element’s capacity, so I turned down the pressure. I’m always adjusting the pressure so I don’t really think about it, and I always want to make more water with less pressure so I’m thinking this is just fine. These were just hints that something had changed.

So, we dropped the anchor, used the skiff to run everyone out for the glacier hike. The captain noticed more current than normal – another hint, but it still didn’t register as anything really unusual.

We have a carefully plotted course on the skiff’s GPS for getting into Baird Glacier, a course with little margin for deviation. The tide flats have many sandbars and big rocks and the drop-off point is about a mile up the fast moving right-side river. The skiff operator needs to run fairly quick to overcome the current and follow the GPS course exactly to make the landing.

This trip, we followed the procedure like usual – until we came to an awful halt on a sandbar. The guests all grabbed onto each other and the boat, and I really worried that we removed the lower end of our outboard motor (we didn’t).

Only then did all the hints add up: the cold water, the current, even the high product flow from the watermaker.

The captain and I exchanged a look that we have never had to use before. It was the “oh my god, is the outboard okay, are we the right spot, holy crap, would the chef be able to save us, can you believe something let go up on beard glacier, I knew something was different” look.

This is all we talked about while we were in Petersburg, and we learned that three-and-a-half days before we got there, there was a huge flood, which created a ten-foot standing wave as the contents of a lake formed somewhere up on Baird Glacier spilled out into Thomas bay. It was enough water to make the entire tidal seawater bay completely fresh and cold.

I wish I could have seen it when it let go, but I’m really glad I wasn’t there when it did.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for trip #17:

hours underway: 39
hours on main: 40.8
hours on the generator: 34
hours on the water maker: 27
miles traveled: 208
gallons of fuel used: 211
gallons of water made: 810
gallons of gas used: 8
gallons of propane: 7
gallons of lube oil: 6

And here’s a fun recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:

Mini Pecan Pies

1 1/2 stick butter
2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Mix together and press into a 9″ x 13″ baking pan

2 cups pecans
1 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp cream
Mix together and spread over the base. Bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes; cool and cut into squares.

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2009 Week 34 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Juneau, stopping at Scenery Cove, Sandborn Canal, West Brother, Twin Meadows, Fords Terror, and Taku Harbor along the way.

We headed out of Petersburg into some nasty weather, but it wasn’t bad enough to keep us from hiking up to Baird Glacier. We fought the weather Monday, too, and hid in Sandborn Canal instead of going into Donkey Bay. Sandborn was exciting for me because it’s been a while since I was there last.

I took Dan and Lou fishing while the others went for a hike and we all caught a few salmon, but Dan also caught a starry flounder. The funny part with the flounder is that it ran and actually freed itself right in front of Lou and ended up crawling right up his leg. This caused a lot of screaming that quickly turned to laughter.

The weather laid down that night and our visit to the Brothers Islands was great. We had a bonfire on the beach and Dan passed around a few nice cigars.

Then we headed up near the glacier and got to watch a huge piece fall off. We were able to take the Catalyst up to a quarter mile from the glacier, closer than we normally go. The ice in the water wasn’t too bad, but we were all amazed to see the ice move in around us as we watched the glacier. This made getting out slow going, but what a show!

Next on the schedule was Fords Terror. I talked it up for a few days and got everyone excited or nervous about the crazy current. Little did I know that this week was in fact one of the most extreme tides ever. We couldn’t even get in with the kayaks, but we did have a nice tour of the bay and took the skiff in through the Terror.

Engineer’s Log

Friday on our way out of Fords, a loud thump got everyone’s attention. Bill and I ran around trying to find out what happened. When I noticed water running out from underneath the air compressor, my first thought was that we hit something but the watermaker is right above the air compressor sits. It had a blown pressure vessel and was leaking. I secured every thing and by-passed the broken filter and started it up again. Now I’m wondering if the blown pressure vessel is re-buildable.

On Saturday morning, I started things up and then thought I smelled a burning belt, but it was really faint. Now, I always wash the deck after pulling the anchor in, but on this day I decided to check the Engine Room first and oh crap, it was full of smoke! I tracked it down quickly and found that the belts for the seawater pump had burned up. I went through this a few years ago, so I advised the captain to drop the hook again so I could replace the sea water pump. He agreed, and I got down to work.

Under the deck plate right next to the pump is another one, all ready to go: pipes at the right angles and everything. I did have to install the pulley from old one, but we were underway again within an hour. I took the pump that burned up and gathered up the spare parts and the rebuild kit, and put ite back together with new bearings. After it was all done, I put it under the deck plate; it’s now the spare for next time we burn the pump out.

And here’s the numbers for trip #16:

Hours underway: 41
Hours on main: 43.6
Hours on the generator: 36.3
Hours on the water maker: 14.3
Miles traveled: 219
Gallons of fuel used: 177
Gallons of water made: 820
Gallons of gas used: 8
Gallons of propane: 5
Gallons of lube oil: 6

And finally, another great recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:

Spicy Limestone Inlet Starry Flounder Inari

starry flounder from Limestone Inlet
½ cup tahini
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
2 tbsp Tapatio hot sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
Cooked sushi rice, seasoned with rice vinegar
Inari (deep-fried tofu pockets)

Combine tahini, sesame oil, Sriracha sauce, Tapatio, and soy sauce in small bowl. Lightly poach the flounder in water, then mash it up and add the spicy sauce mixture.

Fill Inari pocket half-full with flounder and top with rice. Yuuuuuum!

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2009 Week 31 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Craig to Petersburg, stopping at Port Mayoral, Squam, Whale Cove, Dry Pass, Labouchere Bay, and Kah Sheets Bay along the way.

In Craig, we took our one last chance for a wifi signal and a greasy breakfast, then went to pick up our cargo. The document of lading listed an extended family, including three boys excited to catch fish.

On the second day, we spent a few hours outside of Noise Island and watched an amazing sight: it was a very sunny day and the fog was rolling down the hills at 30 knots to then dissipate at the bottom. Watching this and a variety of coastal birds holing up in caves and holes in the jagged rock walls, while riding a long mellow NE swell, made my day.

By Day Three, it was getting to be just like Groundhog Day: have coffee, start the main, and pull chain; but once we sped up, the engine room filled with smoke!! A quick look around showed that the throw-out bearing was hot hot hot. So I called the captain to request a slowdown, and then adjusted the shifting cylinder to center the throw-out bearing. The Catalyst‘s throw-out bearing is solid brass, rather than poured babbitt within a big iron collar, so it can take getting heated up occasionally.

We also went back to The Hole In the Ground by El Capitan Pass, and this time got a great tour.

Then that afternoon, when we were waiting for our kayakers to come back, we decided it was finally time to fix the radar. This is a practical joke I’ve been playing since I was fifteen, and you have to build up to it by mentioning how the radar’s acting wonky for a few days. This one kid on the trip was really interested and kept saying he’d help, so when we were waiting for the kayakers, I told him it was time to fix it. I put together an aluminum foil suit for him, complete with a salad bowl hat and an aluminum foil flag.

He got more and more skeptical, but I kept reassuring him that this was what we had to do to fix the radar. After he was all suited up, we put him ashore with a radio and his flag and had him run back and forth along the beach, and wave the flag, and climb up onto driftwood, and really tested the radar a lot. Of course, we didn’t actually have the radar on for the test, but he did a great job anyway, and we made sure to tell him so.

radar test on the MV Catalyst

Sure enough, the next day when we turned the radar back on, it worked just fine.

Engineer’s Log

Here’s the numbers for the 13th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 41
hours on main: 36.5
hours on the generator: 41:15
hours on the water maker: 21:10
miles traveled: 226
gallons of fuel used: 174
gallons of water made: 1270
gallons of gas used: 10.6
gallons of propane about: 7
gallons of lube oil: 3

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:
Lemon Mousse

1 1/3 cups sugar
1 Tbs lemon zest
2/3 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup butter

Heat while stirring
Remove from heat
Whisk 5 eggs into the warm mixture
Whip 1 cup cream, fold into the curd with Alaskan blueberries, salmon berries, and thimble berries. Top with toasted coconut.

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2009 Week 30 in Review

This week’s cruise aboard the MV Catalyst was from Petersburg to Craig, stopping at Labouchere Bay, Devilfish Bay, Spanberg Island, Anguilla Island, Port Real Marina, and Trocadero Bay.

On Sunday I hung onto the cell phone reception until the very last minute while leaving Petersburg. I have a much harder time leaving Seattle these days: I try to get a lot of projects going simultaneously, but shipping out mean that I more or less drop everything except what I manage by phone.

We headed south through the Wrangell Narrows and then toward the Pacific. This is a Craig trip, heading down the outside of Prince of Wales Island we should see lots of coastal animals and forests that have been tortured by the relentless wind and rain.

We stopped in Labouchere Bay, then on the way to Devilfish Bay we took the skiff in to Hole in the Wall. It’s a narrow entrance from Clarence Strait that goes to a small round bay on the chart. It really looks odd and like a hole in the wall. Kinda like Mats Mats Bay in Washington.

Then, we pulled into El Capitan Pass and visited what the captain called the “Hole in The Ground.” It’s a cave with an opening about 300 feet above the water – we had to climb 366 steps almost straight up to get there from the beach. The Forest Service maintains the trail, and they also installed a gate about 200 feet in. You can only go further back with a guide from the Forest Service. We’ll make a reservation for a guide next week on our way back. The cave was really neat; I can’t wait to take the tour.

Hole in the Ground cave

We continued on to Spanberg Island, and then on the way to Anguilla Island, we stopped at Eagle Island for some great tide-pooling. Millions of tiny critters were running around in the tide pools:

Then we stayed a night at Port Real Marina and then at Trocadero Bay, and finally on to Craig.

Engineer’s Log

The Catalyst, like any boat that is actually required to perform regularly, has many little work-arounds to fix common problems. Here’s a few accessories we’ve picked up. First, the tennis ball.

tennis balls

The engine causes the boat to vibrate in different places and at varying rates, all depending on the number of revolutions per minute the engine is running. Even though heavy-duties vibrate much less than modern high-speed diesels, they still have areas that rattle around. At 365 rpm, the wheelhouse doors become the position of the boat vibration wave anti-node; when the door is latched a few inches in the open position, it rattles on the hook. This calls for what we call Catalyst ingenuity: a tennis ball on a lanyard. The ball gets wedged between the door and the jam to stop the rattle. Also, when the door is opened from inside the wheelhouse by an unsuspecting visitor the ball bonks them on the head, an endless source of entertainment.

Another accessory is the playing cards in the fuel system. The engine has many parts that make up the fuel delivery system: the cam on the cam shaft, the cam follower roller, the adjusting screw, the bell-crank, the adjustable push-rod, the rocker, the button, the fuel valve rocking lever, the stem and seat, the injector holes, and four pins. Washington Iron Works had a difficult time making all the parts the same and it’s even more difficult to make them all wear exactly the same, so there’s a lot of little tiny differences to each part. We’re still able to set all the fuel adjustments to get very even exhaust temperatures between the cylinders, but any time the engine is sped up or slowed down, the temperatures are uneven again.

To compensate for this, we set the adjusting screws to full speed, and then when the engine is slowed the engineer inserts playing cards under the adjusting screw temporally to even out the cylinder’s load on each. The Catalyst‘s engine at low idle (190 RPM) with the air-compressor unloaded gets cards as follows: #1 cylinder takes three cards , #2 doesn’t need any, #3 takes two, #4 takes three cards, #5 takes four cards, and #6 takes five cards.

card adjustments to the Catalyst's Washington Iron Works diesel engine

There’s a ton of other accessories on the Catalyst that I’ll try to mention as the summer wears on.

Anyway, here’s the numbers for the 12th trip of the 2009 season:

hours underway: 41:05
hours on main: 43
hours on the generator: 44:35
hours on the water maker: 10:20
miles traveled: 231
gallons of fuel used: 169
gallons of water made: 620
gallons of gas used: 8.8
gallons of propane: 4.5
gallons of lube oil: 5

And finally, here’s a tasty recipe from the Catalyst‘s galley:
Twice-Baked Goat Cheese Soufflés

2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 ¼ cups hot milk
pinch cayenne pepper
squeeze of lemon juice
salt and ground black pepper
3 ½ oz semi-hard goat cheese crumbles
2 eggs, separated
melted butter for brushing
3 table spoons dried bread crumbs
3 table spoons ground hazelnuts
2 egg whites
spinach leaves
halved cherry tomatoes
toasted walnuts

1. Melt two tablespoons of butter and stir in three tablespoons of flour. Cook to a roux for a minute then gradually whisk in one and a quarter cups hot milk to make a thick white sauce.
2. Simmer for a minute, then season with a pinch of cayenne pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in three and a half ounces of semi-hard crumbled goat cheese until it melts. Cool slightly, then beat in two egg yolks.
3. Brush the inside of six ramekins with melted butter and coat them with bread crumbs and minced hazelnuts. Shake out any excess.
4. Heat oven to 375 degrees and prepare a bain marie (roasting pan half-filled with boiling water.
5. Whisk four egg whites to the soft peak stage and carefully fold them into the main mixture.
6. Fill each ramekin and place in the bain marie and bake for 12-15 minutes until risen and golden brown. Serve
7. to serve twice baked, allow to cool, then chill. Run a knife round the inside of each ramekin and turn out each soufflé onto a baking tray.
8. Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes
9. serve on a dressed salad.

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