New Post on the Gyrfalcon Blog

We have sold our house and moved onto a boat. Check it out at:

http://www.gyrfalcon88.wordpress.com

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Easter weekend on the Guillemot

Poor Guillemot. We have been spending so much time and effort on the Gyrfalcon (Big G) that  we have neglected the Little G. It has been a very busy Spring and we have not had a chance to get out on the water.

However, Easter weekend was forecast as absolutely gorgeous here in the Pacific NorthWest, and the realtor was planning an Open House in our house on Sunday for which we were not supposed to be around, so all in all it seemed like a great weekend to spend on the water.

We left early Saturday morning with enough food for two days and no particular destination. We cruised west across the Sound to the north end of Bainbridge Island and through Agate Passage.

Easter Trip: From the locks (001) through Agate Pass (004-006), along the Western side of Bainnbridge Island to the fish empoindment (009)

Easter Trip: From the locks (001) through Agate Pass (004-006), along the western side of Bainbridge Island to the fish impoundment (016)

It was a great weekend for migrating seabirds. We saw many loons – both Common and Pacific Loons

Common Loon

Common Loon

Pacific Loon

Pacific Loon

 

along with large numbers of Long-tailed ducks. They must be staging prior to migration, since we normally don’t see near the numbers that were around on Saturday. We also saw numerous Surf Scoters

Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

high numbers of White-winged Scoters

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

and a single Harlequin duck around the fish impoundments on the south side of Bainbridge.   The Buffleheads were chasing each other – breeding season is about to begin!

Buffleheads in action

Buffleheads in action

All three species of cormorants (Double-crested, Pelagic and Brant’s) were also about.

Brandt's Cormorant

Brandt’s Cormorant

After cruising under the Bremerton bridges, up Washington Pass into Oyster and Ostrich Bays, we ended the day anchored in Port Orchard – one of our favorite overnight spots.

 Easter trip: From the fish impoundment (001) , through Washington Passage (002-003) to Ostrich (005) and Oyster Bay (006).

Easter trip: From the fish impoundment (001) , through Washington Passage (006-008) to Ostrich (012) and Oyster Bay (018).

Easter Trip: Ostrich Bay (000) to Port Orchard (000).

Easter Trip: Ostrich Bay (018) to anchorage in Port Orchard (001).

In the morning, we awoke to the sounds of Reveille wafting across the bay from the Navy base in Bremerton. We had breakfast and pulled our anchor and started on a leisurely trip home. Before we set out, I had done the routine pre-check, and noticed that the fan belt on the engine was a little loose, and made a note to tighten it when we got back to dock. (This last sentence is what we call foreshadowing in the Blogosphere).

About an hour later, as we were cruising back up the west side of Bainbridge, the inverter that powers the computer we use for navigation began to beep. It has sometimes done that if we plugged in too many devices, so I unplugged it for a few minutes to let it cool off. When I plugged it in again, it immediately started to beep again.  Damn, the inverter had burned out.  There is a second inverter in the galley. I ran an extension cord from the second inverter to the computer, but after a couple of minutes, it began to beep as well. It didn’t seem possible that both inverters had failed on the same day… I was stymied. Then I happened to glance at the voltmeter. It was hovering around 9.3 volts. Normally, the alternator keeps it around 13.5 volts, and anything less than 10 volts means that things don’t run very well. That explained why the inverters weren’t working.

We disconnected the computer, and used the chart on the radar/chart plotter (which draws less power than the computer/inverter combination),  only when we were concerned about being in a tight or shallow passage.

We started to watch the voltmeter carefully. The voltage stayed around 9 volts – it would go up to 9.4 and then drop to 8.8 and then back up. I guessed that the belt had gotten really loose and was slipping intermittently, so that we were never getting a full charge, but enough to keep going.

As all this was happening, we got a call from our friends John and Ellyn in Maryland. We turned off the engine to hear them, and drifted about 50 yards offshore of the Kitsap Peninsula, south of Brownsville.

Easter trip: drifting at a seemingly random location off the Kitsap Peninsula (00)

Easter trip: drifting at a seemingly random location off the Kitsap Peninsula (005)

After we had talked for a few minutes, we saw a guy come down to the shore, get in a rowboat and head out in our direction. We told John and Ellyn that someone seemed to be rowing out to the boat and that we would talk to them later.

The fellow rowed alongside and said, “Hi. I’m an occasional follower of your blog.  I have admired the Guillemot for several years.  I saw you sail by yesterday, and when I saw you today, I thought I’d come out.”  His name was John S., and he had actually called the broker to ask how tall the cabin of the Guillemot was – he is 6 foot 2 inches, and most boats are too short for him. We invited him aboard, and gave him a tour.  The roof of the Guillemot is 6 feet, so he had to stoop, but he said almost all boats are too short for him. But we all agreed that the Guillemot was a perfect little boat for the Sound. He said he would have to see if he could convince his wife that he really needed a boat.

What are the odds that we would pick a random spot to cut our engines and drift to answer a phone call, and that spot would be directly in front of the house of a blog follower who was interested in possibly buying the boat? It really is a small world.

The Guillemot has one annoying intermittent problem. Sometimes, when she has been running for a while, she will not start immediately. She has always started, but it can take a few minutes before the engine will crank. It drives Nancy crazy. I have replaced the starter switch, and the solenoid and the starter motor and tightened all the connections. She will behave fine for months, and then become erratic. (In the interest of full disclosure and continued matrimonial harmony, I must point out that the “She” referred to in the previous sentence is the Guillemot and not Nancy).  I have become frustrated, because I have replaced almost every electrical component in the starting system, but have not been able to identify the problem.

Of course, today the engine refused to start.  While Nancy freaked, I explained that it always starts, and went through my set of witchcraft procedures that seem to help somewhat. I moved the throttle back and forth a number of times. I know there is some sort of electrical switch in the throttle controller that prevents the engine from starting when it is in gear, and perhaps the contacts had gotten corroded or funky over the years. I tapped on the solenoid – since sometimes they can stick, even though I had it replaced a year ago. Also I cursed – not that cursing was aimed at any particular component, but it made me feel better.

After about five minutes, of course it started. In the meantime, Nan had dropped the anchor in case it would not start and we started to drift (she of little faith). The windlass draws a tremendous amount of current, and in our current poor voltage condition, the windlass ran really slow. Anyway, after the engine started, we pulled the anchor back up and continued on our way.

Now we were really paying attention to the voltmeter. As long as we cruised about 6 knots, the voltmeter stayed around nine, and the engine was not running hot either – the same fan belt runs the water pump, so we didn’t feel that we had an immediate emergency situation on our hands – as long as we kept the engine on, we didn’t need any electricity to run the diesel, so we decided to limp home.

We got home without any further disasters. After we had docked, I opened the engine compartment expecting to find a very loose fan belt. What I actually saw was that the alternator was hanging loose on the end of its bracket. The bolt which attaches the alternator bracket to the engine block was lying on the floor. The alternator itself was still connected to the fan belt, but there was no tension at all in the belt.  As near as I can figure it, as the boat rolled, the alternator would move to one side and grab the belt so that it would occasionally produce electricity (and run the water pump). That’s the only reason I can think of that explains the occasional charging and the fact that the engine never got hot.

The bolt had a major burr on the end, which I though must have happened as the bolt worked itself loose, so I could not repair it that day.

We talked about the intermittent starting problem, and I told Nancy that I wanted to take one more shot at removing the throttle control to see if I could figure out the electrical connections. I had tried to remove the controller several times, but had not been successful.   I told her that if I was not successful this time, I would swallow my pride and would hire someone to fix the problem.  For whatever reason, this time I saw a bolt that I had not noticed before that held the throttle controller in place, so I was able to remove the unit.

It turns out that there is a small relay switch on the top of the unit which is depressed when the unit is in neutral (and which prevents the engine from starting if the unit is in gear. I felt like I was on the right track. I would much rather replace a switch than buy a whole new throttle controller. When I got home, I went on the internet and discovered that there was a dealer for the brand of controllers very near us. I went there the next day. They didn’t have the switch, and told me that the manufacturer didn’t make them but used stock switches. They suggested I try Radio Shack or an electrical company.

After I left without a replacement switch, I went to the diesel dealer to get a new bolt. The parts man took one look at the bolt and said, “Wow you really broke that one off didn’t you.” What I though was a rough end was really the broken end. Which meant that the rest of the bolt was stuck in the block.  And that I would have to remove the water pump to get to the broken bolt.

I spent the afternoon removing the water pump so that I could get access to the bolt end. There was always a chance that there was enough of the bolt sticking out from the block that I could grab it with a pair of vice grips and screw it out. If not, I would need an easy out/bolt extractor to remove the bolt. I’ll let you guess how much bolt was proud of the block – almost none – there was nothing to grab. I was afraid that if I tried to use an easy out myself, I would screw things up and damage the block, so I decided to get professional help for that procedure.

I had to leave town the next day. While I was on my trip, I took my switch to a Radio Shack. The clerk went through all the switch drawers and couldn’t find anything remotely like my switch, so he called the Old Guy from in back. He asked the OG if he had ever seen anything like this switch before, and the OG replied, “Sure. But not in about 30 years.”

The next day I called the manufacturer, and talked to their controller expert. I told him I was having trouble locating the switch, and he said, “We don’t carry them anymore, and I doubt you’ll find one.”

He did offer to check and call me back. Which he did. He did not have any switches, but he did produce a part number on the off chance that one of their dealers still had one around. He suggested that I try an industrial electrical supplier.

When I got back to town, I went to the local marine electrical supplier for one last attempt.  The counter man said they would have to go to their antique parts collection. I said, “Yeah it was new in 1990.” He said, “Oh, our antique parts are from the 1950’s!” In any case, he went off and came back in 10 minutes with a new switch – for all of $6.50. I told him he had made my day.

I went back to the boat, installed the new switch and replaced the controller. I couldn’t test it, since the engine was disassembled still, but everything seemed to move correctly on the controller, and I got all the cables back in their proper places. I’m not one hundred percent certain that this will solve the problem, but it is the only electrical component in the system that I have not replaced. If it still doesn’t work, then the problem is most likely an intermittent faulty ground connection – something that is devilishly difficult to trace. We will keep our fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, the bolt remained in the block. I arranged with Lake Union Boat Repair (who are working on the Gyrfalcon) to send one of their guys over to remove the offending bolt. The mechanic went at it with his left handed drill bit, and within 2 minutes the bolt came out- he didn’t even need to use the extractor.

I spent several hours replacing the water pump and the alternator bolts. Then came the moment (or moments) of truth.  I put the controller in neutral – and she fired right up. No leaks from the replaced water pump, and the alternator is charging perfectly. The Guillemot is back in business. Time will tell if the switch replacement will solve the starting problem….

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New Post on the Gyrfalcon Site

Most of our recent activity (and the most recent posts have all concerned the Gyrfalcon (or Big G) as we like to call her. As a matter of fact, there is a new post on renovations there now. But even though Little G (the Guillemot) is not getting much blogging activity, she is still our boat, and the only one that leaves the dock. We are still using her as the weather permits. We spent last Saturday night in Andrews Bay in Lake Washington. We left the dock after a full day on the Big G, and arrived after dock. During the trip over, I learned that there several new, nearly invisible, buoys around the 520 bridge – put there as part of the construction project. Fortunately, I found them just before they found me. We were the only boat in the bay. We had a great dinner, and came back the next morning, because for once Nancy had to catch a plane on Sunday afternoon.

Our next trip on Little G will be taking some folks birdwatching in Puget Sound over Christmas week – we gave a guided trip as an auction item at last years CYA Auction. After that we will join the other wooden boats on Lake Union for the annual News Year Eve party on the Virginia V.

So there’s still some life in the old girl yet. Stay tuned to both sites

 

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New Post on Gyrfalcon blog

Nancy has written a post on the Gyrfalcon blog on some of the early history of our boat. Check it out at www.gyrfalcon88.wordpress.com. While your’e there you can subscribe (button on right) and you will be notified whenever there is a new Gyrfalcon post

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An Administrative Note

As of today, we have two boat blogs – this one for the Guillemot and a new one for the Gyrfalcon.

The Gyrfalcon blog is located at Gyrfalcon88.wordpress.com. You can click the link (MV Gyrfalcon) on the right to get there

This is confusing. For a while I will post about the Gyrfalcon on both sites, but will eventually move to 2 separate posts – one for the Guillemot and one for the Gyr.

If you want to keep up with the Gyrfalcon, you should subscribe to that blog as well.

Thanks

Peter

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The End of Life as We Know It; The Begining of a Crazy New Chapter

Gentle Readers.

After a lengthy absence on my part, welcome back to the Guillemot Blog.

Life as we know it has just taken a radical turn. Read on to learn about our latest adventures. But be forewarned, what follows is not for the faint of heart.

As you may remember from the last blog, we have been thinking about our living arrangements. We love our house in Queen Anne, but don’t think that it is an ideal retirement home. It is too big, and has lots of steps (23 just to get to the front door). So we wanted to downsize. We thought we would like to stay in Seattle at least part of the year, and we wanted to be close to the water (that boating thing just won’t let us go).

First, we looked at a boat house that had some potential to be turned into living space, but the more we investigated it, the more it appeared that the potential existed mostly in the current owner’s mind. We even made him an offer for the structure just as the ramshackle boat house it currently is, but in his eyes, the potential was worth a lot more than we could see. So after a month of intense discussions, we moved on.

But the bug had bitten us and would not let us go. We had asked our financial planner to send us information on potential condos/lofts that were near the water in Seattle, but they were all near the water at best (and sometimes you had to stand on a stool in the bathroom to actually see the water).  So next we thought about houseboats. Seattle has a number of houseboats (think Sleepless in Seattle), but by city code they are all fairly small, they can only be kept in a small number of approved spots, and the nicer of them cost well over a million dollars – probably not a good bet for a retirement house.

So then we thought, “Well what about living on a boat?” This was the fatal moment. Now would be a good time to stop if you can. We couldn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, we love the Guillemot, and are out on the water almost every weekend. But she is only 30 feet long, and we would probably kill each other if we tried to live on her for long – there is no room to escape one another. Over the last year, we had talked about what we would change on the Guillemot if we could. About all we could come up with was a few more feet in length, so that we would have a place to sit and read. Other than that she is perfect – easy to handle, economical to run, and almost no bright work – so that we are out boating, rather than varnishing.

Many of our friends have larger boats – in the 40 to 50 foot range. Sure they were longer, but we still didn’t see that we could live on any of them for any length of time.

And that is when we made a gigantic leap. “What”, we said to ourselves, “about a really big boat?” We had looked at the Creole, a 75 foot yacht for sale at Fisherman’s Terminal last year. We went on line and she was not officially on the market, but she hadn’t been sold. We talked to the agent, and there was an offer out on her, but it depended on a large real-estate transaction happening in October. So we got the agent’s permission to go on her decks, and looked her over. She was a classic fantail yacht (see Rick Etsell’s webpage on fantails:  http://classicyacht.org/fantails ). She had been neglected by the current owner, and needed a lot of love, like all of these grand old ladies. We didn’t think that she was worth anywhere near the asking price, and the agent didn’t think the owner would be interested in much less, since he had a “deal” on the table, so we decided that she was not in our future, but we realized that there were always one or two fantails that came on the market in any year. We thought we could wait until the right boat came along.

The next week, we had some folks out on the boat on Saturday. After we dropped them off, we decided to spend the night off Bainbridge Island on the Guillemot,  and  as we were headed for the locks , we saw another fantail sitting on the ship canal right under the Ballard Bridge (right across the canal from Fisherman’s Terminal where the Creole was). We cruise by that dock almost every week and we had never seen her before.

Triton – several years ago

Her name was Triton. We went on line and found that she was 88 feet long, that she was built in 1941 for the Coast and Geodesic  Service (the agency that eventually became NOAA), and that she spent the first 25 years of her life doing survey work in Alaska.She was built as ASV (Alaska Survey Vessel) 80 and was named the Patton during her time with the C&GS

MV Patton in Alaska

She was decommissioned in the 60s’ and  since then had several owners as a private yacht. And she was priced for less than the Creole. While we were anchored in Port Madison at the north end of Bainbridge Island, I called the broker, who told me that she was a Project Boat, but if that didn’t scare us, he would be happy to show her to us the next day.

We got up the next morning and motored back to Seattle. After we put the Guillemot in her slip (and promised that we were not abandoning her), we went and looked at the Triton.

Where to begin? This ship was built like the proverbial brick shithouse. Her hull was double planked fir – for a total thickness of 8 inches (most wooden ships are 1-2 inches thick.

Port light – showing the 8 inch thick hull

At some point after she left government service, one of her owners had extended the main salon to about 25 feet in length. The windows in the main salon were more or less ceiling to deck.

 

View into extended salon – note the large windows

The Officers’ quarters in the aft of the  boat had been converted to the Master Stateroom. There was a California King bed in the stateroom. The coolest thing was that the original lockers, desk and cabinetry were still there as well.

Original cabinetry in Master Stateroom. Mahogany with leaded glass

 

 

Original Captain’s desk in Master Stateroom

The stateroom was significantly larger than our current bedroom.  There was also a safe below the deck. Sadly, the combination has been lost. Who knows what treasures might be inside?

The galley had a Viking propane stove with 4 burners, a griddle , a grill, and 2 ovens (one convection).

Viking Stove and Microwave in galley

There were 3 more staterooms in the bow, 2 with double beds and one with a double and 2 singles. There was a head with a shower in the master stateroom, another head with a shower for the forward staterooms, and a separate day head and shower on the main deck. One of the coolest areas was the Wheel House. It was huge with fairly modern electronics, a chart table, a large walnut table, and great seating around the table.

View of Wheelhouse, looking toward the bow

View of Wheelhouse, looking aft. Notice the walnut table

The Engine Room is the biggest I have ever seen on a private vessel. The original diesel engines were replaced with twin Caterpillar 3306s,  with around 3,300 hours on them (mere babies for these workhorses).

The Engine Room, with one of the 2 caterpillar diesels

On the right hand side of the photo of the engine room, you can see one of the two generators – the older one which now serves as a backup.

 

OK. So we thought we could probably live on this boat. We made an offer. There were negotiations. We went on a sea trial in Lake Washington. She handled well. It was amazing – we were going 10 knots or so, but she was so big that we didn’t seem to be moving at all.  We had a hull survey and an engine survey. It was pretty incredible to see 124 tons on wooden boat come out in a dry dock.

Triton in dry dock for her hull survey

 

Three of the four cutlass bearings on the propeller shafts were shot. There were more negotiations.  The current owner was having some problems accepting the fact that in her current state, she was not worth what he paid for her in 2003. After a bit more back and forth, we agreed on a price.

View down the port deck, looking aft. The roof over the deck has multiple leaks

Like all of these old beauties, she needs work.  She has been neglected for the last few years, and it shows. There has been a lot of leakage through the decks and the mail cabin roof, so there is a lot of mildew and moisture in the lower decks. Most of the systems need some work, and some (like the water maker) don’t work at all. But the price was reasonable, and even after we put in the money to bring her back, it should still be less expensive than a houseboat on Lake Union, or a waterfront condo. Anyway, that is the way we have decided to look at it –this is going to be our home, and you can’t get much more waterfront than this!

It seems like every old boat comes with a Guy. In this case, the Guy was Ben Harry, who owns the Lake Union Boat Repair, where the boat is currently moored. Ben has been working on this boat on and off since he was 18 years old, and he is 62 now. He loves the boat and wants to bring it back. His vision is to make her functional and bring her into the 21st century. We like Ben. This is good since we are placing our future and our monies in his hands.

At some point last week, Ben decided that we were going to buy the boat, so he started destruction – before we actually owned her. A big part of starting was that he wanted to fix the leaks and he wanted to get a shrink-wrap over the foredeck roof before the rains started, and he had another big job coming into the yard in early September. So the boys were ripping up the roof, and we were thinking, “OK, so we don’t own this boat yet, what happens if..”

Over the last 2 weeks, we have thought about a new name. Triton just doesn’t seem to suit us. He was the Son of Poseidon, known for his trident and twisted conch. But we kept thinking about the Triton missiles. And besides, we like to name our boats after birds. We went through: Murre, Alcid, Pacific Loon (a great name, which certainly described us on several levels, but I was afraid I would have trouble on, the radio: “This is the Pacific Loon, over”), Gavia (the species for the loons), Shearwater, Storm Petrel,  Kittiwake, Peregrine  (one of the first nights when we went over to check on the boat, we saw a Peregrine falcon flash overhead, harassing the local gulls). After much consideration, we have decided: the boat will be named Gyrfalcon. The Gyr is the largest of the falcons and lives in the far north – nesting in Alaska, where the boat spent much of her early life. We saw a Gyr  this year in Denali National Park – only the second time that I have seen one.

We hope to charter the boat some in the next few years, in order to help us with some of the renovation costs. The company is called TFI Charters, LLC. TFI stands for Totally F**king  Insane, which we feel acurately describes our current state of mind.

We have begun a Great Adventure.

We will keep you posted.

Peter in front of the wheelhouse, admiring our new anchor chains (and wondering what on earth we have gotten ourselves into!)

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The Short Flight (and subsequent demise) of the Albatross

For the past year or so, we have been talking about where we want to live after we retire. We have pretty much agreed that we want to keep a house in Seattle, but that the current mansion on the hill will be too large then, and we will need to downsize.

We made up a wish list that included a couple of bedrooms, water-view, somewhere along the shipping canal so that we could see the activity, probably in Ballard or Freemont (the two communities in Seattle at the “funky” end of the canal (as opposed to Lake Union, which is definitely more upmarket). We were talking about a condo, and probably thought we would have to rent additional space nearby to put the woodworking shop and the excess belongings that Nancy would want to dispose of, while I wouldn’t be able to pull the plug on.

This is all a few years down the road, so all we have done is started to look at real-estate websites. Several weeks ago, I was taking the Guillemot to Camp Jensen to have her topside painted (This will turn out to a boating story after all!) and I noticed a really cute little houseboat on Lake Union that I hadn’t seen before.

I mentioned it to Nan, and the discussions became more complicated. We had toured a number of houseboats last year at an open house, and pretty much decided we did not want to live on a house boat. After all, we already owned one wooden vessel that required constant upkeep. In addition many of the older houseboats float on large, old logs – which after half a century or more are becoming soft and waterlogged, or they were on pontoons made from plastic 55 gallon drums. It didn’t seem like a smart move at the time.

But, times change. The houseboat I saw was newer, and was built on a steel barge. In addition, since we first looked at houseboats, we had come up with the plan to rent space for a shop/storage. So we added “houseboat” as an option to the possibilities for the retirement home. It certainly would be a waterfront property!

Nancy went on-line and did her magic (I believe there is a new term for intelligent internet searching named after her: noogling) and came up with a very intriguing possibility.

There was a boathouse for sale in Ballard, about 2 blocks from where we keep the Guillemot. It was huge: 60 x 30 feet and currently houses a 52 foot wooden cruiser that the current owner has restored. The boathouse was built by Boeing to house one of their speed boats, so it is massively over engineered: basically it is a post and beam barn on top of pontoon floats. The floats are railroad tanker cars that have been welded together along the 60 foot sides. It is in rough shape (the siding is beat up and there are numerous dings and other signs of neglect), but oh, the bones are great. It currently has 8 foot wide decks along both of the long sides, and one of the short ends (the other is open so the boat can get out—think of a big U). One of the long sides has been framed out as a basic apartment (60 feet long, 8 feet wide, while the other long side is an open workshop)  It is big enough that we could put a 20×30 living space on the first floor at one end. In addition, it is solid enough that we could build additional living space on the upper portion and end up with an incredible houseboat/boathouse located one minute from the locks. It also had 100 amp electrical service, which is almost unheard of in a houseboat. The thought was that I could put a shop along the other long leg.

It had been on the market for a while, and the price had recently dropped – the current owner was finished with the PT boat restoration and was ready to move on. He had made up some plans for possible renovations into a houseboat. Although the plans were very cool, I guess no one could look at his ugly duckling and see the swan within.

Until we came along. This could be perfect: A boat house for the Guillemot. A houseboat for us (a potentially huge houseboat). Waterfront property. In Ballard, our favorite spot on the canal. Walking distance to restaurants. A shop for me. Storage space. Of course there was a downside. It’s not easy to find moorage for a 60 foot boathouse. What if we dropped a lot of money into this project and then the marina got sold or gentrified and we were cast adrift, like the Flying Dutchman (in Nancy’s case) or the Wandering Jew, in mine?

But we were smitten. We realized that we were also out of our minds, but it felt right. We made a bid and after a round or two of negotiations, it was accepted. The boathouse was actually a Documented Vessel, which means that it registered with the Coast Guard. We arranged to change the name of the boathouse at closing to The Albatross. It seemed fitting, considering that we were about to hang a 60 x 30 barn around our necks. We arranged for an inspection, and were headed for closing.

Warning: This is a story about real-estate (even though it is waterborne real estate). It cannot end well. Stop reading now if you can’t handle the soul-wrenching events that must surely be lurking below.

Having ascertained that we were indeed out of our minds, we were excited. Nan had already started drawing up plans for the conversion (always an architect’s daughter), and we were thinking about what needed to be done first to make it a decent boathouse/shop for the first few years until we renovated and moved in.

Right after we looked at the Albatross, I went to India on business, so all of the offers and negotiations were handled either by Nancy or on-line. We were 3 days from closing and all that was left was to meet with owner of the dock, to make sure that he was on-board with us.

One concern that I had was about electricity. Although the boathouse had a heavy circuit with a massive cord, it wasn’t connected to the dock.  The previous owner had a small extension cord (draped in the water – scary) that plugged into a regular outlet – not very nautical, nor safe, nor anywhere near the power that we had in mind. There were several large marine outlets for 100 amp circuits on the dock, but all of them were already in use by large commercial vessels.

My other goal was to try to figure out if the marina/dock owner was going to want us around for the long haul – whether he would be ok with our renovation plans, etc.

The meeting was short and to the point. I asked about electricity and pointed out that although there was a heavy duty cord on the boathouse, there was only a small extension cord currently in use. Scott, the owner told me that the current owner has never hooked up the heavy electricity. I asked if we could arrange to have a box put in so we could get the full electrical hookup. Then I said, “Let me tell you our plans. We are planning to use this as a boathouse/hobbyist workshop for the next several years, and then probably convert it a houseboat and become liveaboards.”

“We don’t allow liveaboards,” says Scott. “No one told me that.”

“Oh,” says Peter. “Well thanks for coming down to meet me.”

Real Estate. How quickly one can plummet from the highest peaks to the lowest abyss. The Albatross had effectively sunk before we ever took ownership.

I called Kevin, the real estate agent and told him that, sadly, the deal was off – if we didn’t have a place to moor the Albatross and convert it to a houseboat, we really couldn’t justify the purchase. It was a little odd that Scott told me that he didn’t allow liveaboards, since it was pretty clear to us from visiting the dock, that about half the people there are liveaboards. There are funny rules in Seattle about the number of houseboats allowed on Lake Union and the canals. I think that perhaps you can liveaboard if you don’t say that you are living on your boat. That way the owner doesn’t officially know that you are living aboard, so if the City comes calling, he can plead ignorance. We didn’t feel comfortable with that particular approach, since we were planning on dropping a significant amount of money into this project, and wanted as much assurance as we could get before we started.

Kevin said there were a couple of other possible moorages that he would check out for us (no deal, no commission). One was at the Lake Union Drydock. That was different than what we originally had in mind, but it got us excited again. The view of downtown Seattle would be fantastic from there, resale value for the completed houseboat/boathouse would be excellent in that location, and they might even have a connected sewer line – something lacking at the Ballard location.

Kevin said that the man in charge of moorage was out of town, but he would talk to him as soon as he returned and get back to us.

Up; down; up; down. What a rollercoaster ride. We picked ourselves up and got excited again about the new possibilities: we could kayak to Ivars, etc etc.

Kevin called the next day (I did mention this was a story about real estate, right). He had talked to the manager at the Lake Union Dry Dock, and they were not going to take any more boathouses. The city had been after them about boathouses – whether they were boats or barges, and the rules that applied to each. Officially, only boat houses that were on Lake Union before 1970 could be there (grandfathered in). There were lawsuits involved. Some of the boathouses got around the law by claiming they were boat repair shops, but that was a bit iffy, and the manager didn’t want to take a chance.

So let me see if I have this straight: At the one dock (in Ballard) we were out because we wanted to be a houseboat, while at the other dock (3 miles away on Lake Union), we were not wanted because we were a boathouse. Interesting.

We decided that the Albatross was now officially dead. But a houseboat (one on a steel barge that comes with a secure moorage) is still high on the list of possibilities in the next couple of years. We have plenty of time, and no doubt something will come along that will work out. The Albatross was just not meant to be. Sad, but so it goes.

As I type this, I just got an email from the current owner of the Albatross. He has an appointment with the owner of another marina in Ballard, who may be willing to give us moorage. Maybe that carcass is not completely dead. More later.

 

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