• Nature,  Pictures,  Questions,  Weather

    Lightning Strikes Again (and again)

    Lightening on CN TowerThis past couple of weeks have brought us some absolutely spectacular lightning shows. Lightning with a thunder accompaniment always brings thoughts of safety (and fear) to mind. In a previous post about lightning safety, I managed to ease my mind by convincing myself that the higher masts around us would protect us from a strike. However, the truth of the matter is, if lightning would have struck our sailboat, there is no telling where it would have ended up. Our mast was deck stepped (the bottom of the mast sits on top of the deck, instead of going right through to the keel), which means that any lightning strike coming down the mast would have had to jump somewhere to continue its downward path. This is how holes get blown in the bottom of boats. Add the fact that the mast was practically sitting directly over our heads when we were laying in the v-berth and, well … you get the picture.

    So now we are in a big metal boat; a big, highly conductive surface directly connected to ground (water), with a nice high metal canopy framework begging for a lightning strike. So am I really any safer?

    I asked around the marina, and for the most part, people did not think that the metal boat would be safer – but then I came upon another boater who lives on a steel sailboat. He’s got the full deal going for him – a nice high metal mast and a highly conductive steel surface connected directly to ground. What he suggested is that we are actually safer in our steel shells because (in theory) the lightning strike should take the path of least resistance and flow easily and directly through the hull and into the lake. He likened it to a Faraday Cage.

    Here is a quote from Wikipedia:

    Cars and aircraft. When lightning strikes an aircraft or a car the electric currents induced on it are forced to travel on the outer skin of the vehicle’s body. If you were in a car, and the car were struck by lightning, it is not in fact the rubber tires that would save your life. If the lightning can jump from the ground to the sky, then it can jump from the ground to your car. What actually happens, is by being enclosed by the car’s cabin, the lightning travels around you, through the conductive frame of the car. This is because the car forms a Faraday Cage.

    This is talking about cars and aircraft, but from what I can tell should also apply to boats. Anyone out there want to confirm this for me? Any modern day Franklin’s or Faraday’s want to experiment with this?  (Go fly a kite!)

    Lightening to CN Tower2(Lightning Hitting CN Tower photo’s taken by Mathias Roussea on June 5th, 2008.)

  • Weather,  Winter

    Winter Snow Storm

    Whew – we just got whacked again! On Friday we bundled up the family and headed off to my mother-in-laws home somewhat south of Ottawa. We arrived just as the snow started. It finally stopped snowing early this morning (Sunday.) Then the work began.

    The first picture is of the snowplow stuck in the driveway.  He to be towed out. That’s our car buried in a drift to the left of his truck.

    The second picture is The Boy playing on top of the cars in the driveway. Cool, eh?

    Again – I have to say it … where is that global warming everyone keeps carrying on about?

    Snow Storm 1

    Snow Storm 2

  • Weather,  Winter

    Goodbye Blue Sky

    After a couple of months of slowly sliding into a quasi winter-like condition, good old man winter stepped into his office this week with the resounding orchestral boom of thunder and strobing, pulsating flashes of lightening. The rest of the office staff: icy roads, windshield wipers that leave salt stained streaks and snow spilling over the top of boots everywhere, came brown-nosing along for the ride. A blurring whirlwind of activity culminating in frozen ear tips, cracked lips and cheeks stinging from the bite of ice pellets. Winter is here. Ta-daaa.

    I grew up in great plains of central Canada. An area where the only thing stopping the wind was the occasional scraggly line of trees called, funny enough, a wind break and where we were taught that hills and mountains were bad because they block the view. Those flatlands experienced regular and spectacular winter snow storms; storms of fury that would dump 3 or 4 feet at a time accompanied by -30 or -40 degree temperature’s. The winds, back then, often took on pentecostal personalities of their own, groaning and howling with rousing power, shaking the house through the night. As a kid I put up with the manic whispers in the storm, knowing that the more tongues I heard spoken, the more likely there would be no school the next morning. Those were normal winter storms – the kind that everyone would talk about until the next one came along. I don’t, however, remember hearing the sound of thunder or seeing flashes of daylight in the middle of those whirling, churning blizzards. That’s the part that gets me. Winters here in southern Ontario are easy compared to back home. However, throw a good boomer into the mix and the freak factor begins to play with my mind, rivaling the haunting voices found in the middle of a good old prairie blizzard.

    I still bury my head under the covers. I still squeeze my eyes tight till stars appear; twisted up in a cocoon of covers pretending I can’t hear the howls of the wind clamoring at the door. But now, like then, I still can’t quite escape the slight unease of repressed fear that grips my gut…

    Is spring almost here?

    Goodbye blue sky

  • Baby On Board,  Boat Life,  Weather

    New Blogging Platform and Theme

    Well now … as you can see I’ve finally migrated my blog over from Blogger to WordPress. What a job it was! They don’t make it easy for a non-techie – that is for sure! If people are interested in how I did it – just leave a comment and I’ll do up a post on it. I also purchased a new theme for this blog – Shifter. Shifter is amazing. It allows me to set the format and look of my blog just by turning features on or off. No programming – no ‘geek squad’ stuff, just on or off. That – I can do! Anyway, I urge anyone who is looking for a quality WordPress Theme to check out Shifter – it is the most versitile theme I’ve found to date.

    SmokingLakeBoat News

    Yes – we survived the storm! I left off my last post early in the morning after a night of watching the storm and hoping that everything would hold together. In the morning light, I went out back to where the most of my frame is to discover that I had a few rips and that the whole plastic canopy had shifted position and no longer sat tight against the frame. So, I hopped into the car (big mistake) and headed off into the blizzard and drifts to get some shrink tape from my supplier. He lives about 10 mins away, but the trip took half an hour. I was plowing drifts the whole way and going down his street I was literally floating on top the snow most of the time. I made it back without mishap and plastered tape over all the rips and stretched areas. I also reinforced most of the corners and anywhere where the plastic was touching boat to prevent chafing. The short version is – we survived.

    Now we are dealing with a cold snap. Last night it went down to -16 C which is cold for this time of year. The ice is growing thicker, but the bubbler is keeping it at bay. This morning the lake was smoking – at least that is what it looked like, as the heat left the open water. It won’t be long if this cold lasts and we will be walking on water again.

    Having the baby on board has been wonderful. We’ve really settled into a nice rhythm with her. A and I are learning again how versatile babies are – basically, they are happy if you are happy. The boy lived in a house until he was 8 months old although he does not remember it at all. This child will not know anything but the boat – at least for the next couple of years anyway. What a life she will have! Not many kids can say they live on the water – I think it’s pretty cool – I hope they do too.

    Finally, I’ve resurrected my business website (with that new Shifter Theme – I just couldn’t help myself.) So that has also been sucking up my time. Check it out at neighboursappliance.com – let me know what you think.

  • Weather,  Winter

    Massive Winter Storm

    Well, the first big one of the season is here! Here is what is listed in the Environment Canada Weather Warning:

    A crippling Major winter storm with heavy snow and blowing snow as well as some ice pellets is moving in right on schedule this morning.

    The main snow event has moved into southwestern Ontario now and will rapidly expand and envelop all regions east to Ottawa this morning. Copious amounts of snow as well as strong winds causing blowing snow are expected. The snow will be mixed at times with ice pellets and freezing rain along and south of a line from grand through the greater Toronto area to Kingston and then along the St Lawrence river Valley to Cornwall.

    Widespread snowfall accumulations of 20 to 30 cm are expected in most areas by this evening. Some local amounts of 40 to 50 cm or more are quite likely in a few areas..Especially from the west end of Lake Ontario and eastwards into far eastern Ontario. Snowfall rates of 2 to 4 cm an hour are expected with low to nil visibility in sustained bursts of heavy snow likely.

    Significant blowing snow is expected to accompany the heavy snow due to strong northeast winds gusting to 70 km/h whipping up the freshly fallen snow and causing whiteout conditions.

    This is a dangerous winter storm.

    This time, so far, they are bang on. I’ve been up half the night watching this thing come. The lowest point of the low pressure is still not here, in fact it is a good 300 kms away yet. I don’t really care about the snow these days, especially since someone else has to shovel the driveway, but it is the winds that have been here all night that are the concern. I’ve seen gusts up to 70 kms per hour several times and I’m not sure how many of those the plastic wrap can take. Already it has shifted some and the 2×3’s are flexing with every heavy wind gust. I suppose I should go up on deck and tie everything down just in case the wrap blows apart.

    Normally, because this is basically a flat bottomed boat, it is very stable. However, walking from one end to the other is a real adventure right now – we are rockn’ and rolln’ almost like on the Alberg. I’m surprised we are not feeling sick yet. Plus, this boat does not have the hand holds that the Alberg had, so you just hang onto whatever you can grab.

    If you are curious to see the current wind and weather conditions, here is a link to an on-line weather station about 2 kms away.

    PCYC Weather

  • Weather,  Winter

    Winter is Here? Where is that Global Warming?

    This week the ice arrived. One day the boat was floating peacefully in lovely Lake Ontario, the next morning she was frozen into the ice – each move of the boat grinding and groaning against the ice.

    So…global warming…where, oh where are you? It would seem to me that if humans had affected (or effected) the world so much and that the global temps are approx. 2 degrees higher than what they should be, then we should be experiencing longer falls, shorter winters, hotter summers, etc. Yet here we are, frozen into Lake Ontario in early December. What’s up with that?!? Maybe we need more SUV’s.

    To live here in Toronto (Mississauga really) on a boat in the winter we must find some way of keeping the boat moving freely while surrounded by ice. What we use is called a bubbler. A bubbler is really just a big powerful underwater fan. The bubbler is dropped down into the water and constantly moves the water past the hull of the boat preventing the ice from forming. There are two schools of thought regarding the proper use of a bubbler. One keeps the bubbler relatively shallow and blowing the water basically horizontally down the length of the boat. Others use the bubbler to bring up warmer water from deeper down toward the surface which in turn keeps the ice from forming around the boat. Compared to the surface, the water close to the bottom is usually 3 or 4 degrees warmer. (I think it is called a winter inversion.) I subscribe to this second theory. My bubbler is about 15 or 16 feet down and is bringing up water at about a 45 degree angle toward the hull of the boat. I will concentrate the force of the bubbler toward the stern of the boat to keep the outdrives clear of ice to prevent damage to them. We will see how this works and adjust the bubbler as necessary.

  • River Queen,  Shrink Wrap,  Weather,  Winter

    River Queen is wrapped

    I’m up in the middle of the night again because the wind in blowing so hard that I am worried that all my hard work in shrink wrapping the boat is going to blow away! Of course, there is nothing I can do to prevent it – being up is not helping a bit. But up I am and am anxiously going out on deck every once in a while to check and make sure everything is still OK. So far the wrap and frame are holding.

    I finally got the engines winterized on Friday night. I hired some help for this as I was unsure how to go about doing it myself. Now that I’ve seen it done – for next year, I will be fine to do it myself.

    On Saturday, the wind finally died down for a couple of hours in the afternoon and we got the boat shrink wrapped. We got it done just in time as we had our first major snowfall Saturday night – about 10 inches or so. Then most of the day Sunday, we had freezing rain. Hmmm, makes one want to go south for the winter…

    The wrapping went quite well and the result is – well, not pretty, but functional. I still have to finish the door and install it and also fix a couple of holes that I melted into it while shrinking. All in all though, I am pleased with how it went up and am very happy to finally have it done! I should get the door and repairs done this week and then bring on the winter!

    Now for the Alberg. She comes out today … then I get to build the frame and shrink another boat. Oh the joy.

    UPDATE: Done! The Alberg is out of the water and in its stand in the shed no less. That means that I don’t have to shrink wrap it – just throw a tarp over it. How great is that?! I also winterized the Atomic Bomb, the toilet and the water system. Once the Alberg was done – I finished the door for the houseboat and tightened up the plastic so that it cannot flap so much in the wind.

    It was very windy today – getting the Alberg to the mast step dock and then to the travel lift was a real adventure. I was singlehanding as A. was somewhat preoccupied with the wee lass. Heavy winds mean heavy on the throttle and staying aware of where the bow is, ’cause if you don’t pay constant attention you are going sideways in a flash and there’s no room to recover if something goes wrong. I banged the pulpit a bit getting into the mast step slip but other than that it went well.

    So, that’s it – for now! Both boats are winterized, wrapped (or in the shed) and ready for the next 6 months. Now I can relax a bit … for a day or two anyway.

    I’ll post a picture or two tomorrow.