Tin Hat Project Update – Assembling the New Pilothouse
Well, it’s been scheduled, the day is almost here, and so long as there aren’t any unanticipated problems or bad weather, the Tin Hat will be lifted onto the David B next Tuesday, December 6th! We don’t have an exact time yet, but first thing in the morning, we’ll be driving the David B to Colony Wharf in Bellingham where the new pilothouse will waiting on a trailer and a crane will be ready to lift the house on to the boat.
If you’re interested in watching,we’d love for you to come on down. If you do, park on Roeder Ave in the block between F street and C street or on C street by Hana Teriyaki and walk in since there is a lot of construction going on around Colony Wharf. It’s pretty obvious where to go because there’s really only one big crane in the area. Feel free to email me if you need directions.
As the off-season moves along, I’m getting really excited for our upcoming cruises this summer. I can’t wait to see people on the boat relaxing in the saloon or watching whales outside under covered decks. It’s going to be amazing! Be sure to send Sarah an email or give her a call at 877-670-7863 if you are interested in any of our Alaska, Inside Passage, or San Juan Islands trips this summer or beyond. 2017 is going to be the best year ever!
Dalls porpoises riding on the David B’s Bow
Something I look forward to every year when we are running trips on the David B are the occasional visits by Dalls porpoises. These mid-sized sea mammals that looks deceptively like baby killer whales love to surf bow wakes. We often see them in the Inside Passage and Alaska. Usually they are foraging for fish, but sometimes, they turn their attention to the David B. It begins with seeing their characteristic rooter-tail splashing a ways off, and with surprising speed, they soon rush up alongside of the boat, and then they begin jockeying for the prime spot just in front of the boat’s stem. It’s a thrill to watch their speed and their agility.
Here’s a little complication of a few of the amazing experiences we’ve had with surfing Dalls porpoises.
Tin Hat Update – Welding, Windows and More
This week saw lots of progress on the Tin Hat Project. We stopped in at Fluid Fabrication to see how things were taking shape. They’d begun assembling the framework for the front of the pilothouse. It was the first time we got to see the curving lines of the new house for real. We’re not sure exactly how long it will take them to finish welding, but my feeling is soon. Maybe just a couple more weeks until we can bring the boat over and have the house put on.
While the welders have been busy, Jeffrey, Tim, and Greg have continued on all of their projects. Jeffrey’s work on the refrigeration system is shaping up nicely, and Tim’s been steadily preparing the boat so we can quickly and efficiently install all the systems in the new pilothouse. Greg’s been turning out windows and doors all week. Our good friends Pete and Jackie graciously loaned us the use of their garage to set up a varnish shop, and with the help of their daughter Naomi, I got started on the bright work. I also put together a little video for you to enjoy…
The ice mountain is well disposed toward you
There’s often a cold breeze blowing off the glacier when we arrive to admire it’s icy blue front. Wind that can make July feel like January. It plays games with my seasonal clock. I remember one time while watching Dawes glacier, a guest told me he was going to go river rafting in a week when he got home. I gave him a quizzical look. It took me a moment to remember that it was July, and the rest of the North America was enjoying water slides and shaved ice, not icebergs sliding into sea water.
Visiting a tidewater glacier in Alaska is pilgrimage. You go observe something bigger than yourself in nature. It’s something you need do. For us, getting to the glacier is part of the journey. It’s more than just checking it off as a bucket-list item. On the David B, we are tuned into the rhythm of the glacier and the ebb and flow of the tide as it carries discarded icebergs up and down the fjord. We watch the glacier’s ever-changing snout and it’s mood. We’re aware that the glacier sometimes makes us work hard for our visit by packing the fjord densely with ice shed from its towering face. Sometimes its bergs are enormous – big like a building. Sometimes they are small – like a basketball. Some are white, some are blue, some have dirt and rocks riding along. Some have seals nursing their young. Some are clear and difficult to see. (We call those sneakers.)
Iceberg sizes have official names too. Most of the ice we see in Endicott Arm or Tracy Arm are growlers, less than 1 meter above the water and and less than 5 meters long. We also see lots bergie bits that are up to 4 meters above the water and and 14 meters long. The small and medium
icebergs, which range in size from 15 meters high to 45 meters high are often floating at the entrance to the fjords. The large and very large icebergs, which top out at over 75 meters high are rare.
Picking our way though the ice is always a challenge, and depending on the mood of the glacier, it can make for a long day. When we travel to a tidewater glacier, we always have two hopes. The first one is that the ice in the fjord will be light and the work of getting there will be easy. The second hope is that when we arrive, the glacier will awaken, and as Captain Tyeen said to John Muir in 1880, when they first saw Dawes Glacier, “The ice mountain is well disposed toward you. He is firing his big guns to welcome you.”
This past year we had several good visits to Dawes glacier, the ice was light and the glacier did fire its “big guns,” but one day stood out. It was a cool day with a strong wind coming off the glacier. Travel was relatively easy. Jeffrey piloted the David B to about 400 meters from Dawes’s formidable blue-white front. The feeling is always the same for me. I feel really small when I’m face to face with Dawes, which towers like a wide-angle skyscraper. At 400 meters, the wind, as if laughing at our smallness, pushed us back away from icy Dawes. We were the only boat there. Jeffrey re-positioned the David B several times, and each time we faced the glacier again. Our reward came with patience, hot coffee, mittens, and hats. The glacier became well disposed toward us and began to “fire it’s big guns”.
It started with a cracking and a rushing sound. Ice sloughed off the center-right side dumping a cascade of bergie bits and growlers. It continued and dumped some more, then something big broke, and more bergie bits and maybe even a small or medium iceberg was cast away from Dawes. The sounds and the sight made my heart beat quickly with excitement. Soon the waves arrived with a long low gentle role. We moved in sync with the nearby growlers and bergie bits.
When the show began to slow up, Jeffrey moved us into the wind one more time. It was time to go. The ice mountain was good to us, other boats were approaching, and a hot bowl of chili and sweet cast-iron-baked cornbread with melting butter was waiting in the galley.
Tin Hat Update – Mast, Stairs, and Coolers
There’s been a lot of progress on the Tin Hat Project in the last couple of weeks. We ended our 2016 cruising season on October 9th, and starting on October 10th with the help of some friends and family, we began removing everything from the David B to prepare for the new pilothouse.
We also welcomed back employees Greg K. who worked for us on the original rebuild project 12-years ago, and Tim A. who’s worked with us off and on for ten years as both a kayak guide and a jack-of-all-trades.
One of our first big projects was to remove the mast. It took a day or so of preparation before we
took the boat to Seaview North Boatyard. The weather was perfect. We pulled into the bay where we are usually hauled out of the water, but instead of having the TraveLift pick us up, they brought out a large crane came. The crew then set up some rigging and in less than half an hour, the mast was lifted out of the boat and onto ground. Later we removed all the hardware and bucked up the mast. Back in 2006 when we placed on the boat we followed an ancient tradition of placing coins under a new mast. The lore is that if the boat ever goes under and the crew lost, the crew will have money to pay the ferryman to cross the River Styx. After the mast was removed, Jeffrey carefully picked up the coins and stowed them away until the new mast is installed. We’ll be sure to add a 2017 coin to commemorate the year of the new mast.
Back the boat, Greg has been making the new Grand Staircase that leads to the cabins, and Tim’s been removing structures from the boat, like the skylight, navigation station, and pilothouse trim. He’s also been helping Jeffrey lay the ground work for the new systems.
The new custom fridge and freezer, which Eli S. began work on in the spring, moved out of the shop and onto the boat.
While we’ve been busy on the boat and in the shop, the actual Tin Hat has been in construction. Sean and Nigel from Fluid Fabrication, in Bellingham have been working hard welding the structure.
There’s been a lot going and we’ve been thankful for all the help we’ve had so far. The first few days were filled with lots of mundane things, like carting load after load of David B stuff up the dock and into the storage locker. Thank you to Carol and Steve W., Dan K., Craig T. Jack M. and Eli S. for helping to make that workload much lighter!
PS- Here’s a video of removing the David B’s mast: