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6/15/2016

Eight places in the San Juans where you can dent your pride and check your ego

        Someone famous once wrote, "I only worry near shore because that is where the shallow water is."  Ok, I don't remember exactly what I read but you get the idea.

        In the San Juan's we are pretty much always near shore (it's not that big an area) so should we worry all the time?  No! we should pay attention using our heads and our tools.

      All the rocks, reefs and shallows are marked on charts, the especially egregious places have buoys, signs, sticks and posts out in the water.   Of course with storms, high tides, poor maintenance, things go missing, so we are back to paying attention and using the old noggin.

       Once not too long ago we were motoring in flat mirror perfect water at about 7 knots in twenty feet of depth.  Up ahead I saw a disturbance (some itty bitty  ripples) I glanced at my chart plotter and saw nothing alarming, nevertheless as we neared the ripples I braked and prepared to go full astern.

         While watching the depth gauge,  suddenly -- there it was -- the depth dropped to six and then four -- and we came to a halt. (no we didn't hit) I stopped, turned and went around the shallow spot.

on watch in the San Juans
on watch

Here is a list of potentially problem spots where you could easily relax your vigilance and get hurt.


read more - click here

6/13/2016

LED lights and old boats - lumens - color - watts ?

Light Emitting diode - LED
led light
I found this image of a single led, but in my real life they are so small I can barely see them let alone identify the little parts.  I'm guessing that this is an early version.   Manufacturers of lights assemble many led's into one array.

     Led  light pitfalls!
I am straying into boating topics and away from Sailing the San Juan's type posts because so much of what we do is prepare for what we do.

       Last summer we were stranded at Jones Island with dead batteries.  see dead battery pain in the ### trip A number of reasons contributed to our predicament, but mostly I simply used up all my available juice.  Led's, everyone knows are the new answer to hungry power consuming home lights and are mandated by the rule makers to be incorporated into our lives.  It makes perfect sense to use them in our boats where power is limited to what's stored in your battery.

      Led lights for boats are mostly modifications of rv and automobile lights because our systems are 12 volts like cars.  New fixtures designed specifically to use led bulbs are coming out every day but who wants to switch out expensive fixtures for even more expensive fixtures.

     The answer for some of us is to simply switch bulbs, and that is when my problems began.

     I went online and a few days later my  expensive led bulbs showed up.


  1. my first problem - the new led bulb was an irritatingly bright bluish white that made my wife's skin look alien.
    • solution - order another bulb and pay attention to color, cool white, warm white, kelvin etc. Now I know that around 2700 color is pleasing and 6500 is not. (16 boat bucks wasted)
  2. next problem - brightness or lumens of 25-75 add to ambience under a counter or stair, but won't light up the table or cooking area
    • solution - buy bulbs with over 200 lumens (I think this would be about 2 watts) and make sure they are close to area to be lit up.
  3. final problem - replacement bulbs are primarily configured for tail light and turn signal applications and not area lighting.  Some led's are arranged on a cylinder, some on a card, and all the little buggers seem to be directional, some with a narrow beam.
    • solution - none in my case except buy new fixtures, with the correct bulb included.
  4. final, final issue - automobile fixtures use the  steel body for a ground, but boats being mostly fiberglass use fixtures with two wires, and sometimes bulbs with a ground terminal (not the brass base) so you must be sure to look at the bulb base terminals and match properly.
      My boat has four different types/styles of interior lighting fixtures, after a generous amount of research I have come to the conclusion that there is simply not a suitable led bulb replacement made for some of them.  Without changing fixtures, I will have to put up with what's out there.

       The good news is, I have lots of company, prices are coming down and new products are invented almost daily.

BTW, I just installed a new 120 lb 4d house battery rated at a whopping1645 amps and I am looking forward to hanging at Jones Island July 5-6 this year. I hope to see you there, I'll be the one doing nothing.







6/08/2016

Wind Versus Current and Predicting Conditions in the San Juan's

      Fortunately we don't have much bad weather or rough water during the summer, but things kick up a little when the wind blows  against the current.

           The current changes direction every six hours, so with a steady wind, conditions on the water may change from smooth to stacked waves and back to smooth making crossing straits or rounding the tip of points very uncomfortable.  Some of the currents slam into each other making things worse at the lee side of islands.

           When the weatherman says a "north wind" he means the wind is coming from the north and blowing south.  Not confusing ! - but when when they say a "north current" they mean the current is flowing north - (opposites attract waves) Simple to understand?

Take a moment and click on this link to view current Rosario Strait conditions as forecast  by Noaa
click here to see Rosario Strait forecast  (this is the same handy dandy link on left side of page) The forecast predicts weather and waves and has a handy radar view, plus you can change the target area simply by clicking on the map.

           So! - a north wind and a north current are not good if they are at the same time and place, ditto for south wind and south current, east against east, west against west.  When making plans, check the current and wind direction, remembering at slack water there may be no waves, and then as the current speeds up, the waves stack up.  And then six hours or less later when the current reaches slack again, the waves go back down.

            In the San Juan's, currents flow around islands and land points, and winds blow willy nilly around land masses.  This means you may find localized rough conditions where waves are stacking due to north versus north , south versus south etc.  The good news is that many times these rough spots can be avoided simply by giving extra clearance when rounding points.  The straits and passes though may require you to time your passage to avoid opposing forces.  (north versus north, south versus south.)

          The southeast tip of Lopez Island at Point Colville and Davidson rock is a good example where conditions often are atrocious and to be avoided.

          Remember you can always turn around or wait an hour or two if you are overwhelmed.  Simply changing course a little may ease the ride.  Don't let your schedule or itinerary dictate your decisions.
Coast Guard boat battling big waves
If your boat doesn't look like this one you should probably be somewhere else.
This winter  picture was taken at Depoe Bay Oregon - not the San Juans.
We watched them practice maneuvers for an hour, sometimes rolling nearly  sixty degrees.