November 17, 2009

fireside chats

What's good enough for FDR is good enough for Alizé. This was the debut sail for the new fireplace. Things went well, in that the only thing that burned down were the cedar logs we picked up at 7-11. In the future i will find a cooler source for my fuel. Maybe driftwood, maybe dura-logs, maybe old shoes.

October 21, 2009

How to install a Dickinson Marine Heater - an easy guide.

Are you planning to install a Dickinson marine heater? My marine fireplace has kept my sailboat cabin warm on many stormy nights and added a bit of old world charm in the process. However, putting a source of fire on a boat can be a bit intimidating . . .so, I put up these installation directions to show how to do it safely. In this post, I'm installing the Dickinson newport solid fuel heater (i burned driftwood as I sailed north to Alaska) but the instructions I give and the accessory parts are similar to the other versions of Dickinson marine heater (the Dickinson marine diesel heater and Dickinson marine propane heater).

I initially wrote this post in 2009, but I continue to update the post so all the links are accurate. The good news is that 10 years after the install, I still had no leaks in the cabin. 

install dickinson marine fireplace
freshly installed Dickinson marine fireplace in my Newport 30 sailboat

The Dickinson marine fireplace installation

Steve and I mounted the heater unit on the starboard teak bulkhead in the main cabin with a sheet of stainless steel behind it - the stainless sheet acts as a heat guard to protect surrounding wood. This 3 inch stainless steel flue pipe fits over the stove top. I think, all told, I used 3 of these 22 inch sections of flue pipe, in order to connect my heater with the cabin ceiling. I hack-sawed them to the right length, then you can fold and squeeze one end into the reciprocal end of the other.

All the flue pipe and other fittings mentioned in this post are Dickinson brand. You may be able to get away with buying 3 or 5 inch stainless pipe from a metal shop and save some cash in that regard.

You want to run the 3 inch flue pipe up to the ceiling of your cabin in a way that allows at least 4 feet of exposed stove pipe. This serves to get the most heat out of the pipe and also to prevent the pipe from being too hot when it runs through your deck. To achieve this, I  used the 45 degree stainless steel elbows to curve the pipe to the exact spot I wanted the pipe to exit the roof. As seen in the above picture.

install dickinson marine fireplace
5 inch hole drilled through balsa core deck

To install the 3 inch flue pipe through my fiberglass deck, we first drilled out a 5 inch hole with a 5 inch circular drill piece. This gives an inch of space surrounding the flue pipe - which serves as a heat break, it keeps the hot pipe from touching your boat deck. Next we epoxied over the exposed balsa core of the fiberglass deck - to seal against rain that might sneak in (i live in Seattle..).

install dickinson marine heater
teak winch mount sanded to lay flush on deck

Then I ran the flue pipe through the deck using a 3 inch deck fitting with dress ring. This is a critical piece. There's a rubber gasket that comes with this deck fitting that also helps keep out rain. Here's the link to the deck fitting. It comes with circular steel plates to flush it up clean with the deck and ceiling surface.

 A teak winch pad was installed on the exterior of the boat, to keep the chimney top at level. There's a curve of my boat deck, so the teak winch pad counters out that slope. You can use the same 5 inch circular drill bit to take out the circle in the middle of the teak winch pad. I then sanded the teak pad until the curve was flush with my deck, thus keeping the chimney top level.

install dickinson marine heater
we drilled in holes, then coated base with 4200 marine sealant
You can find teak pads at West Marine. We ordered this one and saved a bit of cash.


Then I popped on this medieval looking clover leaf smoke cap, that keeps out the back-draft. I found this at a used boat shop.

install dickinson marine heater
clover leaf smoke cap fit on a teak winch mount

Dickinson Marine Heater

It's now 2019 and I have nothing but cozy fires to report. The only downside is you need to keep well stocked with small pieces (6-8 inch) of wood or wood pellets, or my favorite - chunks of duralog. Any type of compressed fuel log, is nice because you can just use a big screwdriver to break off baseball size chunks. This means not having to wield a hatchet in the rain while you're standing in your fiberglass cockpit at 10 pm (I've been there...)

Additional Dickinson units

You can find product spec. info and pricing for additional heater models and all the accessory parts I talk about below at the Dickinson Marine store on Amazon. Certain high quality boating stores may also carry these parts. I found everything I needed at Fisheries Supply in Seattle. Now, I'm based in San Diego and we have Marine Exchange down in Shelter Island area. If you don't have a store like that where you live, then online is probably the way to go. 

Good luck with the install and stay warm!

still keeping the cabin warm 10 years later

My dock mate just dropped off a pile of dense, chopped up burl wood. We burned these while out on anchor on a chilly evening in Mariner's Cove. You can see this dense fuel burning in the picture.

The heater still works fine. The pretty painting of a Spanish galleon on the ceramic tile has faded. But aside from that, the structure remains un-compromised.

My girlfriend and I spent the evening drinking wine and reading books on old trading ships. 

No complaints...

October 16, 2009

Huge Day for the Captains Log

that is shala in the upper left corner out sailing last summer, she is featured in the Underway section of "Latitude and Attitudes", which is the creme de la creme of the 'pirate/Jimmy Buffet' genre of sailing publications, so ya know...

my boat is finally on the express trains to complete stardom

very exciting

September 6, 2009

humback whale in Barkley Sound

We had a couple of nice encounters with humpback whales and Orcas in and around Barkley Sound.

None of these moments were captured on film.
This tiny clip is all we had.

Unless Newman has more footage? to me.

good wind in the West Entrance of the Straight of Juan de Fuca

I would never speak poorly of my crew, they are the lifeblood of each successful voyage in the Alizé. But, if I could change one component of the crew's behavior - it would be the amount of drinks they spill.

It is one thing to get your sea legs, but it is another thing to get your sea hands - this takes weeks.

taking out the dingy

I don't know much about comedy, but for my money, nothing is funnier than 2 guys in a little boat - especially when Kitson is wearing his Miami beach outfit.

Thank goodness Captain has his own private kayak.


the good news is that this mechanical autohelm works, the bad news is the amount of duct tape I used to get it to work -

shipwrecks in Barkley Sound

Navigating the Broken Islands was a challenge. There are many partially submerged rocks and neither my paper charts nor chartplotter had high resolution data of the area.

So, Newman and I had to be on point as we set headings and tack lines. The numerous shipwrecks served as ominous canaries in the sentinel coalmine, there but for the grace of canary warning, red flag god goes I.

rock fish and red tide

this spot was hot with rock fish - and Kitson cleaned up. However, Barkley Sound was also being visited with a viscous red tide. The water was the color of Guatemalan coffee - no shellfish harvesting, and no visibility for spearfishing.

just plain nice

kayaking back to the boat after exploring land is one of the high highs of boat ownership -

effingham island in the Broken Group Islands

We made it to the Broken Group Islands - and tucked into Effingham inlet for the night. This spot is just as gorgeous as it is remote. We put on our land exploration outfits and hiked across the island. We quickly got into a Lord of the Flies routine. I can't remember, but I think I won the machete and baseball bat fight.

bamfield in Barkley Sound

Bamfield is a remote town on the West Coast of Vancouver, no streets - just a waterway. What they lack in essential services like diesel, they make up for with eccentric oddities - like this cat house.

Out of desperation I hitched ride in an Australian's truck up into a logging road - so that we could siphon diesel out of his tractor's fuel tank with a garden hose.

That kept our operation moving forward.

getting searched

i have a terrible track record with border crossing. this trip was no different. Before i had a boat, I would always get searched at airports, now that I cross borders in a small boat, the boat gets the intensive inspection. These searches are always futile, since I carry no contraband. But they are always nerve-wracking. The Canadian authorities spent 30 minutes digging into all the remote holes in my boat. All they found were potatoes. Apparently potato smuggling is currently frowned upon.


We don't have much royalty in the US.

Okay, we have the Kennedy's - but theyre 'dropping like flies. So, upon arriving in a British protectorate, I demanded that the Alizé be berthed as close as possible to the Parliamentary Building in Victoria. I then said, "Where does the Queen have tea when visiting?" The harbormaster replied, "At the Empress Hotel" I said, "Fine, well how close can we get to that as well?"

First trip to the Pacific Ocean

Sailing in and around Seattle is good stuff, but there is so much to explore, you forget about the giant ocean around the corner. This summer trip served to remedy that wrong.

I put together a crack crew and headed up the West coast of Vancouver Island. It was a skeleton crack crew, in that there was only 2 dudes. One guy -Newman, was the detail oriented tactician with much offshore experience and then there was Kitson - an old homie who had no boat experience, but tons of good vibes.

Together, we rode the Pacific swells like native sons.

Here the crack crew is seen feasting on fresh harvest. We ate a lot of seafood on the trip: dungeness crab, salmon and rockfish. And when we weren't eating that, we ate cheese and British gin.

August 2, 2009

minutes after a summer rain

crazy from the heat

There are a few items of interest in this movie.

One: everyone is crazy from the heat, and by crazy, I mean giddy. You cannot tell from this video, but Seattle was 103 degrees when we went out for a sail. That is a heat record that will not be broken soon. Seattlites don't know what to do with themselves when we get over 90 let alone 100. Nobody has air conditioning, so no one can sleep. The whole town wilted.

Two: Although I dropped the sails so that we would drift aimlessly while we swam, a steady northerly kept the boat moving at 1 knot. That is why you can see a slight look of panic as Ryan and Steve attempt to remove themselves from the 50 degree waters of Puget Sound.

June 5, 2009

going aloft

I have begun the daunting task of replacing all of the standing rigging on Alizé II. This means many journeys to the top of of the mast to pull cotter pins and clevis pins and tension turnbuckles and check for weeping pits in my swages.

May 29, 2009

meticulously sliced cheese

a good day at sea can bring out previously hidden attributes -
for example, the ability to produce the perfect slice of cheddar

May 28, 2009

wing on wing

As you sail into the protected side of Bainbridge Island, you pass under Agate Bridge. The bridge sits 61 feet above the water while my mast extends 48 feet above the water - so there's no problem with clearance. We took it 'wing on wing', which means the foresail sits on the opposite side of the boat from the mainsail. The boat takes on the appearance of a bird with outstretched wings.

galley mate

It is a fact of maritime law, the least experienced crew member assumes the role of galley wench. Some people struggle with this role, they become embittered and ultimately reject their duties. This is less than desirable for the rest of the crew.
But Danielle Frandina took to her job in the galley with style and grace. Every bit the Italian, she turned out many delicious dishes and enjoyed herself in the process.

For Seattle boaters looking to learn about the travel distances from Seattle to nearby marinas, please follow this link. This post includes simple and helpful info on local Seattle boating.

a trip to Nirvana

Last weekend, we ran into Pat and Marsha Freeny while docked up in Poulsbo. Kevin Freeny's parents were happily cruising their gorgeous boat, aptly named Nirvana. Pat invited my crew over for a tour of Nirvana.

They say 'god can move mountains, but you better bring a shovel'. I don't think this is too far from the mark.

'Nirvana' awaits the deserved, but you better bring a paddle.

May 7, 2009

Gray whale flukes in Useless Bay

The Gray whales migrate from Mexico to Alaska every year. But they always stop by Whidbey Island for a few months to feed on ghost shrimp. Apparently, our ghost shrimp is 'to die for'.

poise and hygiene at Sea

Keeping up with hygiene is critical at Sea. The huge yellow catamaran docked behind us is called 'Bananas". It is for sale, contact Port Townsend Boat Haven for details.

apres docking

It has been observed that, upon pulling into a marina after a long day at Sea, the crew tends to enjoy staying on the boat a bit longer before exploring a new port. This moment seems especially conducive to conversation.

May 5, 2009


It is important to uphold a touch of class and poise while out at sea for a few days, I think Elizabeth embodies that sentiment.

wooden ships

Port Townsend is a bastion of wooden ships. Anywhere you dock in PT Marina, Boat Haven, you'll be tying up next to a gorgeous wooden ship.


Josh is a kiwi. He wears that like a badge of honor. Like all great Kiwis - he is a wonderful conversationalist, he travels the world aggressively and he knows his ways around a boat. Hands down - he is top notch crew.


Port Townsend is a gem. Sirens is the best reason to arrive in Port Townsend. Rain or shine, they have a great view.

Race to the Straights

This past weekend, Alize' II entered her first race, or snuck into her first race as an unregistered boat. This provided our crew ample opportunity to watch as every other boat in the race passed us on our way to Port Townsend.
There are many reasons why we were so easily bested. One of those reasons is because we don't have a spinnaker. The Spinnaker is the colorful light sail used to head downwind faster than those boats without spinnakers. I can't quite afford one right now, but i will be getting one anyway.

April 28, 2009

Sailing with a couple of serious homeboys like Micah and Freeny is an absolute pleasure.
I met Freeny in Ashland, Oregon. He showed up at my girlfriend's house with a pint of Ben and Jerry's and a Harvey Keitel movie called, 'Smoke'. Then the next week he showed up with 'The Secret of Roan Innish' and then the next week with 'Roadside Prophets' another obscure one starring one of the Beastie Boys. But that was a long time ago, even before his John Sayle's phase.
Micah, I met in a geology class at Southern Oregon University. He had an afro comb in his hair and had a near perfect memory for scientific minutae. I think he still does - but the afro comb is long gone.

This was the first time 'AlizeII' has dropped her sails and moored up with another boat out in the middle of the Sound. In most respects it was a success. Although, a power boat whizzed by and created rolling swells that rocked our boats back and forth in a non-synchronized manner. This violently smashed our spreaders and sidestays together, repeatedly. We had to quickly untie boats and push off. This ended our party lickety-split. And when the dust settled, I was stuck with the shedding dog on my boat. It wasn't my dog.

My old friend Ryan Kitson said he had a friend who was visiting Seattle and she'd never been on a sailboat.

The Rice sisters, Dan and R. Kelly

I know what you're thinking. It's too early in the season for R.Kelly. Well, i beg to differ.
The person tucked into the sarcophagus is Courtney Rice. She managed to have a great time, despite the intense bedding she prefers to sail with.

March 28, 2009

no sleep in Coupeville

The four of us slept well till about 2 am. Then the seas picked up. The exposed Coupeville wharf provided scant protection from the rolling, gusting Western seas. Our home began to pitch and roll. At this point, everyone stopped sleeping and began listening to a cacophony of scraping, banging, rolling sounds from the pitching, rolling vessel.

gale runs through the home port

one minute, the sun was shining, I was listening to Buju Banton and applying liquid electrical tape to my exposed circuitry - the next minute, this monster gale rode into town - and ripped the old blue tarps off the old derelict vessels at olde shilshole marina.

March 27, 2009

calm day on the Straights of Juan de Fuca

We began our voyage south in sunny skies, cold air and a total lack of wind. this provides time to tend to all the things that broke or worked their way loose in the heavy winds.

Somewhere in the middle of the Straights (can't tell you for certain because I was sleeping in the v-berth) a california sea lion swam under the boat only to be consumed by a transient Orca a few hours later.

The Gray whales are also beginning to arrive in Saratoga Passage. They stop here on their 5,000 mile migration from Baja to the Arctic circle. They catch their breath and feed on the ghost shrimp found in our bottom sediment. A few hundred of them like the place so much, they decide to stay year round. They tell the others to send a postcard from the Arctic - they're going to sit this one out.

anchor line fouled on a shipwreck

so, on the charts there is written, in small font, the letters 'Wk'. This is written in the exact place where we dropped anchor for the week. Turns out - that means - wreck, as in shipwreck. So, after 4 days of my boat drifting in the tides, pivoting on anchor, my anchor rode became entangled with a large piece of wreckage. When we tried to pull anchor on Saturday, it soon became clear that we were screwed.

I knew what I had to do, and I knew it was the last thing I wanted to do on a cold Winter morning - but anyway, I put on 6mm of neoprine and un-fouled the line, then we were on our way.

crossing Deception Pass at slack tide

When George Vancouver was exploring these waters in the 18th century, he thought this narrow, dramatic pass was the Northwest Passage that would lead back to New York City. This proved to be a deception, and thus the name. Now, it is famous for the 7 knots of current generated in between high and low tides. For sailors, it is absolutely critical to pass under this bridge at slack tide, because of the hydraulics that generate when the tides are running. We nailed this perfectly, to the minute at 3:04 P.M. Even at slackwater, there are some intimidating swirls and lumps in the water.

building seas and the failed boom vang

Wednesday brought a freshening breeze from the Southwest. To reduce weather helm and stress on the rigging, we set to work on the storm jib and reefed main. Even with reduced sail we still had our hands full. Upon finding we were damn near bottoming out on the muddy banks of Skagit Bay, we threw a quick jibe in - without sheeting in the Main - and just as I feared the force of the shifted boom ripped up some machinery. We were grateful it was the boom vang that failed instead of the Main sheet block.
- In this shot you can see the metal cleat that ripped down the middle under the force of the wind and then underneath that the canvas strap vang that Heather creatively jury-rigged in a matter of minutes.

St Paddys Day in Coupeville

Coupeville is nestled on the shores of Penn Cove. It is one of those picture perfect seaside towns. I am sure in the summer it is tainted by their tourists, but in the Winter - it is real nice. The town is known for their mussels and their shameful legacy of trapping Orcas and sending them to Sea World and Orlando. But that was a long time ago, now they are know for Toby's Tavern and this wild dude who lives on a permanently anchored boat in Penn Cove - We had the Coupeville Wharf all to ourselves.

Running downwind towards the San Juan Islands

It was that time of the year, the annual Northwest Developmental Biology Conference at Friday Harbor Labs on San Juan Island. Just like last year's sail, we were escorted North to the Islands by a low pressure system that gusted up to 28-30 knots out of the South. The first day's wind took us from Seattle to Coupleville in 6 hours, this is pretty good time for a sailboat. We decided on the inside passage, along the eastern shore of Whidbey Island, as a way to avoid the 5 foot swells in the Straight of Juan de Fuca.

Jim was quickly crippled from residual flu symptoms and reluctantly resigned himself to a high alpine sleeping bag, leaving our token Swede, Sarah Malmquist, at the helm. Heather took these great pictures, leaving me free to walk around pontificating about god knows what.

February 22, 2009

no orcas

Saturday brought top notch February sailing conditions - damn near mid 50's - this is warm, not warm enough to bring my olive oil back to a liquid state - but you know, it was comfortable. The day was notable for its absence of killer whales. K and L pods had been spotted at Port Madison the day previous. So, my orca researcher friend came out with us and we waited patiently in Port Madison and anyway, nothing - just nice wind and sun - so, you know, no complaints.

February 16, 2009


last winter on the boat was tougher, more grim, than i expected - i vowed not to repeat it.

so this winter i have done two things different

i set up some house sitting gigs between december and april to give me some respite from puget sound

and, in mid january, in the nadir of the seattle winter - i spent a week on the Caribbean sea.

this does not mean that my will is broken or that the dream is over -

this just means i am refueling - that is all.

a sunny yet cold and blustery day in February

President's Day brought sunshine. It also brought the promise of 48 degree temperature. This is pretty good for February. But the presidents also brought wind, lots of it - white caps and damn big rolling waves that lifted the bow up like a lap dog then dropped that bow down like a hot potato. The boat didn't seem to mind, although, we were momentarily concerned. But then we raised the main sail, ran downwind and the sea seemed to calm for us. All in all - a fine day on the water. Afterward, we crowded in the cabin, smoked cigarettes and got to know our new crew member, Andre. Andre is from Poland. He is very soft spoken so it is hard to be certain, but from what Micah and I can gather: he is living in exile from Poland after dodging a draft, he moved onto his girlfriend's boat last year and, unfortunately, his girlfriend has abandoned him and her boat so that she can work on an oil rig in Texas. Andre seems detached from everything. During small craft advisory conditions, he arrived at my boat, ready to sail, wearing dress pants, loafers and a button down collared shirt. I told him he absolutely had to go find something more to wear. When he returned a few minutes later he had added this tweed sport coat to the mix. It goes without saying, I was a little jealous.