Monday, September 26, 2011

They call me the fireman

Cooking devices don't get much simpler than the Origo non-pressurized alcohol stove. You pour the denatured alcohol into the cans and light it on fire. The fire is contained in a recessed metal pan with a grill on top. Seems safe enough, right?

Fire hazard

I only stay at the boat once a week, so the problem I have with my stove is that if I fill up the canisters with alcohol, it evaporates away before I get the chance to use it again. That loss of alcohol means it costs me $15 each time I want to use the stove UNLESS, I pour in JUST ENOUGH alcohol to get my meal cooked and my coffee boiled, so that none goes to waste.

Being a frugal sailor isn't always being a safe sailor. I slightly underestimated the amount of alcohol I needed Saturday morning, and the burner under my coffee quit just before it started percolating. I thought, "no biggie, the coffee will be a little late," and moved it over the other burner once I had finished flipping pancakes. However, after I moved it, that burner also started petering out.

I now had one supposedly dead canister and one barely lit canister. I thought, I'll just add a bit more alcohol to the dead one (because only a FOOL would pour more fuel into the lit one), and light it back up to finish the coffee.

I'd been pouring for a second or two when there was a sudden flash. There were flames all over the galley counters. I stepped back and realized there were flames shooting out of the alcohol container in my hand. I promptly threw it out of the hatch and heard a loud sizzle as it hit the water. The plastic dish rack was also aflame and melting quickly, so I grabbed it and tossed it overboard as well. I then doused the remaining flames burning on the surface of the countertop with water.

The worst of the damage was a dozen little burned spots on the new upholstery beside the galley and having the entire front half of my hair singed. The lessons learned were:
a) Don't be cheap with the alcohol when filling the stove.
b) If a burner goes out while making coffee, just deal with not having coffee and try again tomorrow.

Never ever pour denatured alcohol into a hot origo stove, and always have water or a fire extinguisher on-hand in the galley!

Tropical Storm Lee

Hurricane season is almost over. We have one month left, but I think Tropical Storm Lee, which came through Saturday, Sept. 3, was the worst storm that the Texas Gulf Coast is going to get this year.

I was at the marina when Lee arrived with the strange red sky that only shows up with hurricane weather.

Red Skies

The live-aboards at the marina weren't worried. Most of those tough old sailors have ridden out far worse.

The Sailor

The rain started at dusk. Thankfully the horribly ugly fiberglass work I did on my air conditioner box proved to be waterproof. The wind shook me awake during the wee hours of the morning. The boat was shaking hard. I suddenly realized why I needed to replace the yacht braid I was using for dock lines with something that has more stretch.

Once I got used to the shaking and jerking, it was back to sleep. In the morning I found this.

Marina del Sol beach

The north wind had pushed all the water out into the bay and dropped the tide by over five feet during the night. We suddenly had a beach at the entrance of the marina. The crab traps in Clear Lake were sitting half exposed with their tethered white floats lying on top of them.

I pulled one up to find this guy. The storm didn't save him from somebody's boiling pot.


As I walked along the newly formed beach, so many things were exposed. There were chunks of a fiberglass hull and a few seat cushions buried in the sand. Of course, there was a ton of fishing line, hooks, lures and bobbers tangled among rocks and weeds.

Tangled lines

I found another crab hunkered down in a half-buried bucket waiting for the tide to return.

Hunkered Down

I know that in some places the tides change more than this every day and leave boats that were floating sitting high and dry. However, here in Texas where I've never seen it change more than a foot or two, this was an interesting experience. I never realized the wind could have that much effect on the water depth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

RIP desktop

I knew the time was growing near. That's the entire reason I bought the Dell XPS laptop a few months ago. However, this weekend my desktop finally gave up the ghost. I can revive it for an hour or so before it starts perpetually rebooting itself, but then it suddenly can't detect any hard drives. I finally migrated iTunes and all my working photo files to the notebook last night. I can't decide if I'm going to disassemble and part out the tower or if I should spend the time and money to Frankenstein it back to life again. Thankfully I was prepared for this scenario, so the only sad part about losing the machine is that I was using it as a media box and BD player in the bedroom. Guess I'll just have to watch Blu-Rays in the living room.