Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Independence Crab Cakes

As I am preparing for this summer's cruise - waxing, varnishing, painting... I started thinking of crab, lots of crab, then of crab cakes.  I love fresh crab and after a good crab feed, the next day I love to make crab cakes.  All these boat chores had me hungry and thinking of fresh, hot, succulent, sweet and spicy, crab cakes.  Not ordinary crab cakes, but the crab cakes I made one summer that were absolutely delicious.  The more I waxed, varnished, and painted, the hunger for crab cakes got stronger and stronger.  I couldn't stand it no more.  After finishing my boat chores for the day, I went to the store, got some crab, and revisited my log book to remember that summer's day over 16 years ago and the wonderful crab cakes we enjoyed.

August 2, 1995  3093.9
Boardwalk at Sullivan Bay Marina in 1995
After a leisurely morning we left Claydon Bay to fish the “Halibut Spot” in Grappler Sound.  No halibut, but we did manage to catch a couple of mid size “bombers.”  Then we were off to Sullivan Bay.  Not a bad place, a decent store and some interesting facilities.  We tried salmon fishing from the dingy – no luck.  We saw a boat hit rocks – that was interesting.  After a beautiful noon, it is now raining in the evening.  In fact, low clouds and light rain – no wind.  We took showers – no time limit – and cooked up the crab.  I made crab/fish cakes  they sure tasted good.  People are catching salmon.  We’ll try salmon fishing tomorrow.

Prior to that summer in 1995, I had the fortune to spend some time on the New England coast for business.  After work I would venture out to local small eateries - lobster pounds and ocean side cafes - enjoying fresh seafood.  While lobster is good, crab is sweeter and more delicate tasting; I fell in love with crab cakes.  I set about trying to understand what made New England crab cakes so delicious.  I asked - whenever I could - to learn more about crab cake seasonings, ingredients, and recipes..  That summer in 1995 while cruising in beautiful British Columbia waters, I believe I made the perfect crab cakes.  I incorporated a lot of the New England flavors that I learned about, but added some of my own twists.  The recipe that follows was entered into the MV Independence log that summer and continues to provide my family and friends with great tasting crab cakes. It's got good spice flavor but doesn't overpower the sweet and delicate crab taste, its got lots of crab - not too much stuffing, and some good crunch.  These crab cakes always get rave reviews - but of course they've got lots of crab.

It's a new summer with new journeys and time for crab. Enjoy.

Independence Crab Cakes
When you got plenty of crab try these crab cakes.  If you don’t have crab you can substitute a good quality white meat bottom fish.  Believe it or not, fish cakes are pretty good too. If you're using fish, lightly poach fish in fresh seawater first.

1 lb. fresh picked crab meat
¼ cup mayonnaise
½ small yellow onion, diced fine
½ T garlic powder
1 T lemon juice
1 t Old Bay seasoning
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
¾ cup Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs
1 egg
Salt and black pepper to taste
¼ t of Tabasco sauce
2 T olive oil
2 T butter

In a bowl mix crab, mayonnaise, onion, garlic powder, lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and ¼ cup of bread crumbs.  Add egg, salt & pepper, dash or two of Tabasco sauce, and mix well.  Form patties about 3-4 inches across and about ½ inch or so thick.  Dredge patties through remaining ½ cup of bread crumbs.  Lay patties out on a plate or metal pan.  Cover and chill or set aside for 30 minutes or so to let the flavors develop.

Heat a heavy skillet with equal portions of butter and olive oil and pan fry patties until lightly browned on each side.  Serve with a curry-mayonnaise dip (mix curry powder with mayonnaise to your liking).
Nice Dungeness crabs aboard the MV Independence

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Replacing the Packing

Several friends have asked me about replacing the shaft packing, so here's a quick post about it.  It's not hard to do and I figure it is important that you know how in case of an emergency.  I replace the packing each time I haul out whether it needs it or not.  I have replaced the packing on the MV Independence every time I've hauled out for the last 20 years except for once when I had a boatyard do it - and they did it wrong.

On all boats there's a "packing gland" or "stuffing box" where the shaft comes through the hull and into the boat.  There's a great deal of variety on stuffing box designs.  Some have a single large nut, some like the MV Independence have a collar with with two nuts.  Typically flax packing is a square cross-sectioned rope impregnated with greased flax.  The flax packing is wrapped around the propeller shaft and squeezed tight to prevent water from leaking in.

The Independence uses 1/4" flax packing.  There's two types of flax packing - plain and Teflon.  I try to use Teflon flax packing.  It costs a bit more because of the Teflon and supposedly it reduces some wear and tear.  When you remove your old packing you can determine the size.  It is important to use the right size - too big and it will not fit, and too small it will leak.

I've heard of some folks replacing the packing while the boat is in the water, but I don't want to risk it.  I prefer to replace the packing while the boat is out of the water ensuring that you can take your time and do the job right.  For me the job takes about an hour or so.  It's tight cramped work accessing the stuffing box but if you have the tools and the time the job is not too bad.

Here's the steps to replacing the shaft packing:
The stuffing box of the MV Independence
  1. Clean the shaft just beyond the collar of any dirt, and smear with just a bit of water proof grease.
  2. Undo the stuffing box nut or nuts - there's two on the Independence and slide the packing collar well up the shaft giving you room to work and remove the old packing.
  3. Remove the old packing with an old dental pic or a packing removal tool.  Make sure you have removed all the old packing.  I make sure all old packing has been removed by ensuring I hear a metal scratching sound at the end of the stuffing box.
  4. Cut your new packing with a very sharp knife to exactly make a ring around your shaft.  There should not be a gap of anything more than 1-2 mm of distance from the ends as it is wrapped around the shaft.  I typically cut four lengths of packing and ensure they are all the same length. Tip: I always cut one extra ring of packing and keep it ready by the stuffing box in case of an emergency.  You can always add a wrap of packing later if needed.
  5. Make sure the shaft is clean of any dirt.
  6. Smear some packing grease on the flax packing and wrap a single ring around the shaft.  Using a screwdriver gently push the packing into the stuffing box making sure not to twist the packing.  Make a mental note of where the two ends of the packing meet.  You do not want to simply wrap the full length of packing corkscrew style around your shaft.  It will be uneven and wear rapidly and leak.
  7. Repeat step #6 above but make sure to not have the gap on subsequent rings of the packing line up.  I generally rotate the packing to ensure the gap on each subsequent ring is rotated a quarter distance from the previous ring.
  8. Once all your packing rings are wrapped around the shaft, gently slide the collar down and lightly tap it with a rubber hammer down on the newly replaced packing.  Then start to tighten the screws down on the packing.  I try to ensure an even tightening by one turn on the port nut followed by one turn on the starboard nut and I count each turn until there's some resistance, but not too tight.  Note the number of turns in your log book.
Make sure to tell the boat lift operator that you have replaced the packing.  They will permit you to board the boat just after it gets in the water and before they slide the slings off to see if it is leaking too badly.  If it is leaking more than a drip every 2-3 seconds then gently tighten each nut until the drip slows to one drip or less every 4-5 seconds.  Signal to them it is okay and you are off.  Again, note the number of turns in your log book. 

Once you start the engine and put it in gear continue to monitor the stuffing box for leaks and drips.  Adjust the nut or nuts to tighten to stop any drips.  Note the number of bolt turns in your log book.  This will tell you how well your packing is wearing.  Old wisdom is that a drip every so often is okay.  The dripping water will "cool" the stuffing box.  I don't fully agree.  I have my packing tight so that it does not drip, but at the same time not so tight that it gets hot or even warm.  Occasionally while running I check the stuffing box for drips, tighten as needed and touch it.  The stuffing box on the Independence is cool to the touch and does not drip more than once every 30 seconds to a minute.  About after every 15-20 hours of running I give the stuffing box a check and adjust if necessary.

Hope the above helps.  If you have questions, let me know.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Haul Out

In the slings on the way out
Nothing I believe, makes a boat owner more nervous than hauling out your boat.  Its just not natural to see your boat being lifted out of the water and being placed on blocks.  Boats are meant to be in the water.  However, that being said every 2-3 years a haul out is required if you're a responsible boat owner.  I know of too many boaters who don't regularly haul out, but complain of fuel costs and maintenance issues.

This haul out was a quick one.  Hauled out on Monday, June 20 at 1 PM and was back in the water on June 23 at 4:30 PM.  The primary reason for this haul out was to paint the bottom, buff and wax the hull, re-finish the teak rub rails, re-finish the teak swim step, put new zincs on, and put new shaft packing in.  All these items were successfully accomplished.  I refuse to paint the bottom anymore because of the toxic materials, sanding, and the effort.  If I don't paint the bottom, I can focus on the top sides.  I also figure that I am supporting a local business and putting money back into the boating community.

On & Off works great
When I closely examined the hull out of the water I was aghast.  There were no significant problems, but oh my did it look bad.  There was oxidation, hull stains, dirt, mold, and algae all on the hull giving it a brown-gray and mottled look.  Oh my how was this to come off so I could make it look clean?  I remember from years past about a product called "On And Off."  Of course this stuff is toxic - water, hydrocholric acid, and phosphoric acid.  Ooof this is potent stuff.  As I continued to read the directions it said, "Be sure to use rubber gloves and protective gear."  Duh!  As I poured the stuff into the bucket I could smell the acids and dipping the scouring pad into the liquid it was warm as there was a chemical reaction going on.  In one hand I had the "On And Off" and in the other I had a rag with fresh water rinse and wipe the hull and stop the chemical reaction.  All I can say is, "Wow, this stuff really works."  In a matter of seconds, the discoloration and stains were gone - the hull went from dirty gray to brilliant white.  Unfortunately applying the stuff made you gag because of the acid fumes.  Once the hull was cleaned we buffed it with a power tool and good quality cleaner wax.  We finished it with a coat of hand rubbed high quality wax.

On the ways, nearly done
Another tip I learned was forget the ladder, rent scaffolding on wheels.  Using a scaffold that's about 6' long you can cover a lot of ground very quickly without the tedium of going up and down a ladder.  If you're really bold, you can get a partner to roll you along to your next spot.

We finished late Wednesday and had Thursday just to wrap up any missed items.  I paid the bills - one to the boatyard for the bottom paint, and one to the Port of Olympia for the lift and yard fee.  The Port folks raised the Independence and the boatyard folks painted the missed spots because of the blocks, a few minutes to dry, and we were off to be re-launched.  They put me in the water and I checked to see if there were any leaks because of the new packing job - there were none - and I was away.  Time 4:30 PM exactly.

There was a very brisk wind of 15 knots blowing from the WSW with gusts to 20 or so knots.  We moved nimbly through the water and I was amazed at how responsive the Independence was to the wheel.  Amazing what a clean bottom will do.  Going from the boatyard to our slip was a short 20 minute journey across Budd Inlet.  Getting into our home slip was a bit of a challenge because of the brisk winds but with the help of a neighbor we got in just fine.  Another haul out completed.  However, I still have a lot more work to do before I go cruising.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Short Trip to Hope Island

It's the first nice weekend of the year so we thought we'd make a short trip to Hope Island.  This has been the coldest spring on record and its supposed to be nice and warm. Being that it's going to be the first trip of the year... I thoroughly checked the engine - oil, coolant, raw water strainer, heat exchangers, and more.  I found a bit of caked salt build-up in the main aft heat exchanger.  Not sure where or why this salt build-up occurs.  It's big enough to almost clog the raw water flow into the heat exchanger.  After checking the engine I had to get the dinghy back on to the MV Independence.  This required filling the pontoons, checking for leaks and putting it on the swim step dinghy chocks.  This all checked out okay.  However when I laid down on the dock I glimpsed the Independence rudder covered with barnacles and mussels.  Ugh.  That means if I can see growth, there's more that I cannot see.  I know from experience that there's probably basketball sized "balls" of mussels growing off of the engine intake and other through-hulls.  So I don my dive gear and go clean up the growth.  It's not as bad as I thought on the rudder, prop, and skeg, but it's worse than I thought on the through-hulls - huge basketball sized "balls" of mussels growing on the through-hulls.  They come off easily with little effort.  I think, good I dove to clean this growth off no use giving mussels a free ride at my fuel expense.  I also scraped what I could off of the rudder, skeg, and prop.  I now think we're ready to go.  I wanted to leave at about 11 AM, but now it is after 3 PM and I'm beat.

We pull out of the slip and I'm glad I gave the prop and rudder a good cleaning because I remember I need the steerage to get out of my slip.  I have to make a 180 degree turn.  But it's not that easy to just turn I have to do some "jogging" to get out.  Wind and current will affect my out of the slip "jogging."  There's a slight breeze out of the N about 10 knots or less.  The tide is ebbing and it is a big tide - over a 17' drop between high and low.  There's a minus 2.2 tide today.  The stand (moment between low and high tide) for Olympia is at about 2:15 PM.  It's going to be a whopper of an incoming tide. 

As we get out of West Bay Marina, there's a lot of boats out in the Olympia Harbor.  Everybody is enjoying the first nice weather of the year.  We cruise slowly out as I watch the engine temperature come up.  I check the bilge to see if there are any leaks - I don't see any from my cleaning of the salt from the heat exchanger.  The engine temp rises to its normal mark and I increase the throttle to 1,800 rpm - cruising speed.  We're doing 6+ knots going out of Budd Inlet.  Once past the Olympia Shoal I make for Hunter Point about 6 nm away, due true N.  I can tell we're fighting the incoming flood since we're doing just barely over 6 knots.  Once we get close to Hunter Point we start to ride the incoming flood going to Totten Inlet.  We pass the Squaxin Shoal buoy and we're doing over 9 knots and the Squaxin buoy is almost under water from the current.  I can tell I'm drifting or "crabbing" to the west as I turn to go up Squaxin Passage to where I want to anchor.  When I get in Squaxin Passage with Hope Is directly to the W, I slow to an idle about 750 rpm and notice we're still doing over 5 knots going N.  I turn into the current to find my anchoring spot in about 20' of water about 50' from shore.  I drop the hook and let the current take us as I drop the chain rode.  The anchor sets quickly with a jolt.  I let out about another 10' of chain making the rode about 60' out.  A 3:1 rode should be satisfactory with settled weather.  There's two other sailboats anchored nearby.  I enjoy this spot because if you anchor in the right spot you get a bit of a feel of wilderness - you won't see any houses except for Hunter Pt.

I drop the dinghy to take the dogs to the beach.  I row furiously and still lose ground ending up much farther down the beach to the N than I wanted.  I let the dogs off and then pull the dinghy by its painter along the beach to a point were I can ride the current back to the Independence.  The dogs enjoy the beach, romping about and barking.  Nothing like "terra firma" for dogs.  It's a short beach visit.  The strong flood current catches the dinghy and I miss the Independence by about 20'.  I feel like I'm on a river.  Fortunately I am able to row against the current to tie up to the stern but I am exhausted.  I finally sit down to relax after a full day of activities and enjoy my first cold beer.  Almost immediately from all the day's events I find that I am exhausted and quickly take a short pre-dinner nap. 
View S towards Hunter Pt from anchorage

The cruise to Hope Island took just over an hour.  The evening is warm and enjoyable.  It's what boating is all about.  We enjoy the evening with a drink, a light dinner, and listening to the radio until it just starts to turn dark.

I wake early the next morning to a gorgeous clear morning.  There's thunder heads far to the south.  The morning is muggy.  We enjoy a relaxing morning with another beach visit and taking some time to read a book with a cup of coffee in hand - nothing finer.  We take off to return back home about noon.  We slowly cruise back to our home port slip by 2:00 PM.  I pour myself a shot of spirits after getting everything stowed away and take a quick break to enjoy what was a great quick get away weekend.