May 29, 2016

Potable Water in Southeast Alaska...

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so sometimes we repost to our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, add additional detail, and/or just cause more confusion, I sometimes add some additional {information and links} to the original forum post, below.

Link to original forum post [14-Jan-2016]

Re: Water quality British Columbia and SE Alaska

Originally Posted by redhead View Post
We're planning our trip north and of course are trying to talk to as many people as we can find who have gone before. Recently I met a woman who has made the trip from Puget Sound/Salish Sea to SE Alaska twice before. She was very firm in that we should not attempt the trip unless and until we have a water maker on board. Her experience has been that the further north you go the more the water has been acidified by the evergreen trees (is it tannic acid, I can't remember what she said) making the water brown and pretty nasty tasting.

Now we have been planning on a water maker, but it hasn't been on the top of the list as the water quality here in WA and as far north as Pender Harbour, BC has been wonderful. Do I have to think water maker sooner rather than later?

I've tried researching this but can't find any mention of it either way. Do any of you have experience? (I'm betting the answer is Yes).

Thanks as usual.
Hi Redhead,

It sounds like a great trip you have planned. [We live on our boat in SE Alaska and cruise through BC, Canada often.]

Without more information from your friend, I have to assume they were obtaining untreated [not to be confused with unfiltered...] rain-catchment water or, perhaps directly from streams and the like. Or they had one or two bad experiences with rusty pipes somewhere, or have contaminated tanks onboard?

I've been living and boating in Alaska since the mid 1980s and have yet to experience non-potable [or undesirable] water anywhere across the entire southern coast. [Seward to Ketchikan... And please do not read any defensive tone in my statement... I'm very objective- except when I'm being subjective...]

You can gain a better understanding to answer your own question about whether you need a watermaker- not based upon available water quality- but instead by genuinely reflecting on how long you can [or are willing to] go [really; repeatable- not theoretically] between water fills. How often do you want to be forced to make port [which are often days away- not including wx delays- from your anchoring location...]

Don't forget to include fuel considerations when mapping your calls to port. Your heater will likely be running much of the time, and don't plan on doing much sailing in the summer season...

e.g., If we could not go longer than, say, 5-7 days between water [or fuel...] fills, we would be planning our routing in SE Alaska based upon ports-of-call possibly missing some of the remote places we may want to visit and spend time in... Or we could use rain catchment on our boat, or go ashore [plenty of fresh water everywhere up here...] and filtering that on its way to our tanks. [I did that for many years... I like the Katadyn Base Camp filter and Platypus bladders for such needs (because I'm inherently lazy...) and still carry one for back-up on the boat, and for our extended remote shore excursions...]

We have several bog posts on this and related topic with lots of consumption data if you are interested [...or just can't sleep...] [e.g., Here is one on water, fuel, and anchor chain consumption... There are other related posts as well, and our titles are typically self explanatory...]

Our current boat, which we brought up to SE Alaska from Seattle in 2014 is the first with a water maker. It is wonderful to have, and we run it every week or so to fill our tanks. But, one is not required for cruising these waters- if you have adequate tankage for your needs between water [and fuel...] stops.

Except for keeping a slip on Wrangell Is, Alaska, for home port, we typically anchor out 6-10 months of the year. The water maker facilitates that extended independence [and we carry 220 US gallons of water in our tanks...]

All the small towns in Alaska have treated water, and in our experience, it is always very potable... That said, regardless of the water source, we filter all of the water we drink using a .5µ silver halide filter at the galley sink just to protect us from anything that makes its way into, or has spawned in our tanks- which are also sanitized routinely... [i.e., 2+ times/year]
From our Cleaning, Treating, Corrosion & Odor Control sidebar, for sanitizing our potable water system we use Neutra Sul HP41N Professional Grade Oxidizer [for cleaning/sanitizing potable water tanks and plumbing- similar to 7% hydrogen peroxide]
One consideration not often mentioned is the hose used to put water in our tanks... [We cannot do anything about their pipes...]

I have aways carried special potable water hoses which we only use for potable water [typically white in color, and BPA free.] And we always use those hoses whenever we are obtaining water from a hose bib, let it run a while before diverting to the tanks, drain them completely when finished, and sanitize them whenever the tanks are sanitized.

The point is we never use a hose already laying on the dock for potable water- to do so is to invite easily avoidable trouble. [Cut open any used garden hose and/or Google microbial slime... And no, I'm not a germaphobe, but I do have enough of an understanding about microbes and therefore attempt to avoid easily preventable maladies...]

Many prudent travels [RVers/boaters/etc.] who rely on remote water sources also use inline filters on the outlet end of their hose when filling their tanks.

I hope you enjoy your trip, drink lots of delicious water [and whatever else you find delicious...] Rest assured you can make this trip without a water maker- again assuming you have adequate tankage for your consumption levels...

All you really have to do is balance how long you can go between water [and fuel] fills with how often you want to make port; then decide...

I have to say, however, now that we have a water maker, we wouldn't go without... It seems balancing convenience and comfort against additional technical complication and expense is a slippery slope for us...



May 22, 2016

Air Conditioning? [Living on a boat in hot weather... Updated Jun-2019]

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so sometimes we repost to our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, add additional detail, and/or just cause more confusion, I sometimes add some additional {information and links} to the original forum post, below.

Related Posts:

Link to original forum post [28-Dec-2015]

Re: Novice air conditioning question

Originally Posted by pwilletts View Post
it seems we cannot live w/o air conditioning...I see that a lot of boats have it but not many have a genset to run it offshore.. would prefer not to use the Honda solution...what type of electrical set up will power AC w/o a genset..I assume it involves a big alternator/ big inverter and isolated switching??

From your phrasing, I'm assuming shore power is not regularly available to you in your current boating lifestyle. Therefore I suspect you would need a generator if you don't want to prematurely wear out your primary engine charging batteries. [Unless you are motoring most of the time anyway...]

But I say this based upon how our boat is set up- which I'll share here for perspective on a thoroughly tested and proven setup:

The previous owners used our boat in the tropics for 15 years and therefore installed 3 independently controlled and regulated air conditioners [A/C: 9k BTU fore cabin, 18k BTU pilothouse, and 18k BTU in the master cabin. All are raw fresh water cooled using a single pump and plumbing circuit.]

Since the A/C units each have a dedicated circuit breaker and thermostat, we can run 1, 2, or all 3 as needed. [Note: when at the dock in winter we use them for heat since our current hydro electric power rates are cheaper than putting hours on our generator or Esbar diesel heater...]

Using shore power, running all 3 A/C units requires a 50 amp [or two properly paralleled 30AMP services] 115VAC [split 230VAC feed] to handle the A/C load as well as the normal boat loads [water heater, battery charger, etc.] A 6.5kw generator would also handle them and the boat, but we have a 10kw generator instead. [We were told it cost the same as the 6.5 at the time the previous owner's installed it...]

Back to your question: Could we run one of these A/C units at a time from our 2800 Watt 115VAC/125A 12VDC inverter charger? Yes. [On paper anyway- I have never had the need to attempt it...] Our 900 AH 12VDC house bank would likely handle it for a few hours. However, the energy/time required to recharge the batteries outweighs the benefits for me. Therefore we choose to run the generator when away from shore power when A/C is needed, and let it take care of other needs during that run period. [Charge batts, etc.]

Even though the need for A/C is rare where we currently cruise [55N-61N] occasionally we do exercising the units on those hot days when the pilothouse [AKA solarium] starts climbing through the mid-90s °F due to the sun. [Even with all hatches open and fans running- including a hatch exhaust fan...]

Running the A/C is also great for quickly drying out [dehumidifying] the boat when needed... [We use our dehumidifier to dry the boat as needed when A/C is not really necessary...]

I don't mind running our generator as it is very quiet and surprisingly fuel efficient. [Fisher-Panda running a 3 cyl Kubota diesel.] Yes, we can hear the low hum of the generator in the pilot house, but the blower from the AC on high drowns that out.

And outside our split exhaust arrangement makes it difficult to tell if it is running when we are outside unless one wanders over to the exhaust area and lean over to hear it blowing bubbles...

Any neighbors would never know it was running... but neighbors are rare for us... We have had kayakers approach and not realize they were approaching the running gen exhaust until they were within ~10 feet of the boat...

I hope this helps provide some prospective from another vessel's point of view.



May 12, 2016

Lightning and Sailboats...

We occasionally participate in various boating forums. [See our Some Forums We Read sidebar for links...]

Some of those topics may be relevant here, so once in a while we will repost on our blog for reference.

The following may be one of those cases. To accommodate our non-boating blog readers, sometimes we add some {additional information and links} to the original forum post, below.

Link to my original post [12-Feb-2016]

Sailboat Lightning Strike Caught On Camera

The post Sailboat Lightning Strike Caught On Camera appeared first on gCaptain.

By Alex Bering on Feb 11, 2016 06:13 am
Terrible day for this sailboat moored off of Kassandra in Northern, Greece. Might want to give a once over of the electronics after a direct hit like that. At least the boat owner is laid over in a beautiful place if she needs repair.
This image has been resized. Click this bar to view the full image. The original image is sized %1%2.

Timing is everything...

A good reminder to keep spare [and all] electronics secured in a Faraday cage...


Bill on Denali Rose

Re: Sailboat Lightning Strike Caught On Camera

Originally Posted by BobFord View Post
Interesting event- Lightning strikes have always been a concern for me.

Can somebody who has knowledge on the subject, comment on my statement.

" My cat. is all aluminium, am I in a " Faraday Cage " ? "
Hi Bob,

I've been collecting some lightning resources over time, but am certainly not an expert. The answer to your question is complex- and not favorable. But, statistics [and physics...] demonstrate that you are better off in your metal sailboat than we are in our fiberglass one... However- according to insurance claim statistics- we are better off in our monohull than you are in your catamaran... And all of us increase our chances of being struck 5 to 10 fold while at anchor... Are you sensing a pattern here?... [All this gleaned from the references, below...]

Here are a couple of resources that relate to your question: The first is this well written article in Ocean Navigator [by the owner of an aluminum sailboat that was struck...] and the second is Marine Lightning Protection Inc. [the company founded by the professor referenced in the above article...]

As a general reference regarding lightning and [fiberglass?] sailboats, attached is a publication from the University of Florida entitled Lightning and Sailboats.

In case this is helpful, and may none of us ever find out first-hand how well protected from lightning we, our vessels, and electronics are...

Additional Resources:


Bill on Denali Rose
Attached Files
File Type: pdfLightening on Sailbosts.pdf (438.8 KB, 139 views)

May 5, 2016

Mosquitos and other delightful creatures...

This post has now been added to our Stuff We Have and Use [and Do...] sidebar...
Please see that version of this post as it will be updated over time...


Alaskans are often acknowledged as experts at dealing with things that bite; bears, killer whales, fish, some tourists, mosquitos, biting flies, gnats [AKA midges, no-see-ums, etc.]

You get the idea... And with some bites there comes a low probability of survival...

Thankfully bug bites don't [usually] fall into that category [though they might drive you to a state of considering self-harm...]

It is said that if you think you are too small to make a difference,  you have never been to bed with a mosquito!

This post is all about what we have found to be very effective dealing with mosquitos and gnats while on the boat and/or in the field.
What attracts them to us in the first place? 
Mainly heat, carbon dioxide, movement, certain scents and odors, and, believe it or not; old tires... 
Therefore, all this is moot if you can discipline yourself to stand very still in an ice cold shower and hold your breath...
Baring that approach, strategies we have used with success over the years include the usual:
  • Physical barriers to prevent contact with the bugs 
    • Mosquito/no-see-um netting
    • Specialized clothing
      • Netting 
      • Dense weave fabric
      • Repellent
  • Repellents [Chemical barriers]
    • Chemicals you wear on or close to your body
      • Repellents
    • Chemicals in the air around you
      • Mosquito coils, area sprays, etc.
  • Population control [Traps, insecticide, gene splicing...] 
    • e.g., Mosquito eaters [At our home in Fairbanks. Very effective, but not a consideration on the boat... Must deploy early in bug season to reduce breeding population...]
    • Trap made from an old tire...
    • The boat is not conducive to the use of insecticide either, both for safety and since we are always changing locations [i.e., finding new populations of bugs...]
    • Gene splicing- Should we kill all the mosquitos?  [Hell yes!]
Thankfully, now that we have relocated from the interior of the state [where, at a distance, it is often difficult to discern mosquitos from bald eagles...] to Southeast Alaska, where we have far smaller and less frequent populations of biting insects to deal with. [But it only takes one bug to ruin a night's sleep...]

We try not to use chemicals on our skin or clothing for all the usual reasons including we are sensitive to the odors and suffer breathing difficulties because of them. 

Also, many of these chemicals in liquid or spray form can damage many plastics including the windows on our dodger, hand held radios, screens on electronic devices [permanent finger prints on your smartphone anyone?], etc. 

Additionally it can stain fiberglass and dull our brightwork [varnished wood...] Despite all of this, we still carry 100% DEET repellents in our emergency kits. [Emergency like our ditch bags if we had to abandon ship and go to shore to camp...]
Regarding DEET in our ditch bag: we double vacuum bag it as a leak could damage other items in the bag...    
We saw this recently when we had our life raft repacked; the sunscreen had leaked and greased a lot of items in the survival bag, rendering them unusable...
Another trick with DEET is to put it on your clothes; not your skin. There are even absorbent mesh outerwear made for soaking in DEET and putting on loosely over your clothes... 
Another reason we stay away from strong scents like mosquito repellents- especially while on or near land [like when kayaking]- is bears [black and grizzly] are curious about them... 

We kayak and hike quite a bit. Even most islands- small and large- have bear populations... [Bears are excellent swimmers- documented as easily going 40 miles in one session...]

We figure having DEET in our ditch bag is the lesser of the evils if we ever had to spend days with the bugs [and bears...] waiting for help... 

For the same reasons, repellent techniques that create smoke aren't desirable to us either. [e.g., campfires, mosquito coils, etc.]
Common, damn it! What do you use then? [You ask...]
We use a combination of appropriate physical barriers [made of no-see-um netting which is a much finer mesh than typical mosquito netting...] and airborne repellents that don't interfere with our requirement for air...


Specifically we have found the small, butane powered [but flameless] Thermacel Mosquito Repellents to be stupendous. They are for outdoor use, and do emit an odor, which is only detectable if you are very close to the unit. Otherwise, it is not detectable and does not interfere with our respiration...

I see Thermacel now makes lanterns now for those of you boating/camping where it gets dark during bug season...
Whatever you do, please remember this stuff is not for us to breathe; only the bugs...
Camping on land in the height of biting bug season, we have successfully set two or three of these units around us in a circle and had zero bugs infiltrate that zone. This in conditions where you otherwise would quickly loose weight both through blood loss and the coordinated efforts of thousands of flying insects trying to carry you off to wherever they have their picnics...

These units are relatively cheap to purchase and operate. [We figure it costs us about 55¢ per hour for the consumables to operate one, and one is all we usually need while on the boat in proximity to these pests...]
If this sounds expensive to you: Ask yourself what you would be willing to pay per hour next time you are deluged with bugs. [We will gladly rent you some of our Thermacell units at that price!]

Physical barriers:

Window and hatches have no-see-um netting in place. [As do our tents for shore excursions.]

For situations requiring personal wear [on land...] we use these compact, extremely well made Canadian Bug Shirts. These are absolutely the best. [They make child sizes and pants too...]

You can see through the face net well since it is tightly stretched. [It looks like a space suit from a distance...] And these are usable for survival situations on land because the face portion unzips allowing nutrients to be consumed orally... [Hint: Wear a baseball cap or full brim sun/rain hat underneath for maximum comfort...] 
We have camped in very buggy situations with no breeze where, while wearing our Bug Shirts, we had to walk rapidly to create an artificial breeze to keep the bugs from our face region to enable us to spoon food into our faces in between opening and closing the face shield... all while speed walking...Try that with a head net...
Here is a brief third party review of the Bug Shirt. 
Almost as effective [but at least they are more expensive...] is the ExOfficio line of bug repellent clothing. These work well from our experience, and are good for several dozen washings before their effectiveness starts to wane...

If you go that route, you will still need a good head net.

Yes, a cheap head net over a baseball cap [or better yet; full brim hat] will work, but you won't be able to see well through it, nor drink or eat without also inviting many bugs to do the same... on your face...

The idea with a head net is to pick a design that keeps the netting away from your skin because the bugs can still bite through the net...

Old school approach:

In my days as a wildlife biologist in Northern Minnesota, we used Shaklee Basic H on our skin and hair to keep the mosquitos and biting flies off of us. 
I believe the deer flies that ran constant laps around our heads all day had portable drill motors with them because even new denim jeans were no deterrent. And they would land on your head and dig down through our hair to find the scalp... It felt like an 1/8inch drill bit when they struck! And when you smacked them, if it wasn't a welt raising perfect strike, they flew away to recoup and strike again...
We used the Basic H when trapping and radio collaring animals as the scent from mosquito repellents would reveal the trap locations to the animals and foil our efforts...  

It worked great, and had the added advantage of making it easy to clean up by at the end of the day... [we were pre-soaped...] The trick was to wipe just a few drops on your hands, arms, legs [it kept the ticks off too- we also duct taped our pant cuffs shut tight...] and other exposed skin. But do not try and rub it in because the hair on our arms would make it start lathering... On hot sweaty days we didn't put it on our foreheads so it wouldn't run into our eyes when we worked up a sweat.  

I haven't used it since then [3+ decades...] and have no idea if the product offered today works as well [Shaklee changed the name to Basic H2 from Basic H; did they change the formulation too?] But I wanted to mention it as one of the few things that worked really well against biting flies [and mosquitos...]

What is our usual routine when the bugs visit us at anchor?

Our typical day at anchor finds us with nets on any open hatches, and a single Thermacel going near the cockpit by the outside opening to the dodger and bimini. Not close enough to fill the area with fumes, but near enough the opening to keep the bugs from entering... 

Our dodger/bimini also has side windows and screens so we can totally enclose the cockpit area if we want, obviating the need for a Thermacel... 

This frees one up to accompany anyone wishing to recline [work...] on the foredeck.
Many times we have watched swarms of biting bugs slowly work their way toward our anchored boat- often in Prince William Sound- as the evening breeze dies down and allows them forward progress... It looks like faint smoke from an unseen campfire. This happens even when we are 100s of yards from shore. I'm guessing they sense the 'heat bloom' from the inboard engine- especially when we just anchored- and other sources like the stove, oven, and heater on cooler days... 
Therefore, our ditch bags include liquid DEET repellent and our Bug Shirts, which we also take along on our kayak expeditions and forays ashore...

With just a Thermacel onboard, you really can find tranquility at anchor.

When bugs make their way into the boat, and if we are feeling sporting, we use electric paddles... ZZZap!

We hope this is helpful for any of you planning a visit, and for those worried about the recent Zika virus outbreak [among many other diseases these bugs are vectors for...]
Have you found and personally used something even better? Please share by leaving us a comment!