Bum Oven

March 2017

The igniter in the oven had long since stopped working, so I have had to use a long tipped butane lighter to get the oven lit for the past couple of weeks. One day everything worked fine, the next the flame went out as soon as I stopped depressing the thermostat knob. Uh Oh. Trying to be an optimist, I tried it again the next day with the same result.

I purchased my Seaward Princess three burner stove and oven in the fall of 2014 to replace the old forced alcohol stove that came with Rubigale.  Shortly after, I realized that the oven wouldn’t stay lit for long after I started it. I discovered through trial and error (mostly staring at the burner with a flashlight after I lit it and sniffing for propane) that leaving it open for 15 or 20 seconds after lighting it seemed to solve that problem.

I called the dealer Sure Marine about it, and found that this was apparently now a known problem with the Princess (these are very popular stoves for RVs and boats), but to fix it, I’d have to bring the stove in. Given the hefty bill I had paid to get it installed and the tight fit, I decided that holding the door open for 15 seconds wasn’t a terrible hardship and I’d deal with it.

A few months later I found that two of the three burners on the stove wouldn’t light right away using the ignitor, so again I switched to using the butane lighter. I had been on many boats where the ignition didn’t work, so I thought this a normal stove failure after awhile like many grills. One day while tinkering with the stove I discovered that if you take the ignition switch knob off, there’s a AA battery in there! I replaced that, and that pop pop pop sound and spark was on amphetamines compared with what I had become used to.

The two burners still didn’t light right away, and through experimentation I learned that if  I didn’t have a pot on those burners, they would light with the switch. If I waited long enough with a pot on there, it usually involved a big WHOMPH sound and a little scream from me. Maybe the smell of singed hair once. A friend with the same stove said his lights better with a pot on it – so you might need to experiment if this is happening with yours.

The next problem was that the oven no longer lit with the ignition switch. Since I was used to being disappointed with the automatic ignitors, and had the butane lighter right there, I just started using that. I did consult the dealer and it was suggested that I clean out the jet which sounded like a long and involved process so I continued to use the lighter for several months.

Last weekend I was craving biscuits.  The oven worked the day before, but on this day each time I stopped holding the thermostat knob down, the burner went off.  Trying to be optimistic, I decided to just let the oven think about it, and I would try again the following day. Not surprisingly, there was no difference the second day. I called Sure Marine and later received a very detailed email from them with photos of the internal organs of my stove/oven. I understood very little of what I read…I am a veterinarian, not an electrician. So, I did the only thing I could think of and procrastinated.

Eventually the craving for baked goods won out and I disassembled the top of the stove and stared at a lot of copper wires and matched up some of the photos the dealer had sent. I got out the voltmeter. I had no idea what to do. The instructions were not meant for the novice. I wasn’t sure what to attach the voltmeter to, or exactly which thing corresponded to the description in the instructions.

Stove Top Off

I started with the electromagnet which seemed to be the easiest fix. I had no idea how this system worked, and I had the solenoid on thinking I would need to test voltage with it on. As I started to loosen the nut holding in the magnet, I heard the hiss of gas and smelled propane. Solenoid OFF!!!!

Electromagnets for the oven, right, and burner, left

Not a stellar start, but had two hours before the dealer closed and so I put on my grown up pants and continued. I still didn’t actually know what I was supposed to test with the voltmeter, so I moved on. I extracted the electromagnet and took it to the dealer and asked them to test it. SHAZAM!! It was bad.

Graham at Sure Marine was kind enough to show me what was happening. A couple in the store came up close behind me and asked if they could watch. It was a riveting demonstration. Graham hooked a wire with a thermocoupler at one end and the connector on the other to the top of the magnet (the red end of the wire below). Using a butane torch, he heated the thermocoupler while pushing in the spring on the bottom of the magnet. On mine, the spring unsprung. On the new one, it stayed compressed.

The Offender – Bad Electromagnet

I am a visual learner, and I now understood much more of what was happening. Of course if the flame comes out, you don’t want propane flowing. If the sensor isn’t kept hot (and he demonstrated this by removing the flames for just 2 or 3 seconds), the spring unsprings. The heat sends electricity to the magnet. So if I had flame (I did) and it was heating the sensor (it was), and the thermocoupler worked (didn’t know), and it still unsprung, the electromagnet was bad. His test took my thermocoupler out of the equation which was wonderful news because the access to this would require un-mounting the stove and disassembling a side panel.

Thermocoupler in the Oven

I was ecstatic! I did ask about the voltmeter test, and I would have needed to be an octopus to do this by myself for the oven. I happily paid $18 for my electromagnet and rushed home to put everything back together. I did a few test runs and the oven worked fine. The insides received a good scrub and everything was reassembled.

This was a great visual lesson for me and thanks to Sure Marine for their assistance!

Make a New Plan Stan


Tartan Crew

A few years ago (about 8 now) I charted a 35’ Tartan for a week in April and took 5 girlfriends to the San Juan Islands. It would be my first time crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca without a flotilla of boats, and I was nervous. I was going to be responsible for 5 good friends and a boat for a week and I had only been sailing for 3 years. I handled this unease by meticulous planning. By meticulous, I mean I had a 9 page printed sail plan with two alternate destinations for each night depending on the weather, enlargements of entrances and anchorages, tides, currents, sunset and sunrise times. Some may consider that overboard, and admittedly I do now, but I wanted contingencies and I wasn’t taking any chances.

We left on a spring tide and rode the ebb north at a screaming pace. The goal was to get from Shilshole to Stuart Island on the first day. About half way across the Strait of Juan de Fuca (PUCA), a strong west wind started to blow and building waves on our beam started to make the skipper and crew a little green-faced. It also slowed us down and it was clear that an alternate destination was needed. One of my alternates for that day was MacKaye Harbor on the south end of Lopez Island, and we made a bee-line for it, anxious to get out of the wind and chop.

Micah Rescues the Boat Hook

Micah Rescues the Boat Hook

We tried to set an anchor several times, but only managed to harvest kelp. We were running out of daylight, tired, and seasick, so we decided to grab a mooring ball despite knowing that they were all private. We would beg forgiveness tomorrow and offer a fee.

Because of the spring tide, we were at a higher high tide that day. We approached the mooring ball, and grabbed it with a boat hook, but the ball was at the top of it’s available chain, and there was nothing left to pull. Both Megan and Micah grabbed the boat hook, but because of the wind I couldn’t keep the boat stopped, so rather than pulling the ring to us, the ring pulled the boat hook to it. That wasn’t on the sail plan.

We needed that hook and we also didn’t want to pay for it. We tried a couple of passes to pick it up, but the wind was still building and we weren’t able to grab it. Our brilliant spur of the moment plan was to put Micah in the dinghy and life-sling her around the mooring ball until she got close enough to retrieve it.

After getting both Micah and the boat hook back on board, seasickness, hunger and lethargy won and we finally landed on a private, seagull excrement encrusted, floating dock for the night. We decided we would gladly take whatever admonishment that was handed out when we were caught, and would plead for mercy. It was still pretty windy and rolly within the harbor, but we managed a nice dinner, had some libations, and celebrated two birthdays and a relatively successful first day. We also scooted away undetected the following morning, rested, and grateful.

Safe on the Dock, Mackaye Harbor, Lopez Island Photo Credit Rebecca Sherwood

Safe on the Dock, Mackaye Harbor, Lopez Island
Photo Credit Rebecca Sherwood

The plan for day 2 had been Patos Island, so we headed that direction. In San Juan Channel a bald eagle dove just a few feet in front of us and snatched up his dinner. It was amazing to see but our steerage suffered a bit from eagle watching. We made it Patos with about an hour of sunlight to spare, but both mooring balls were taken. The guide book said that the anchoring wasn’t great, but we tried anyway.  We can concur with the reported results. It was only day 2 and we had to make an alternate choice again. Since we didn’t have much light, Sucia Island was the best option, but it wasn’t in my 9 page sail plan! As someone else took the helm, I studied the chart and the cruising guide. We chose a mooring ball in Ewing Bay on the northeast side. It worked out, quite well.

Mimosas in Ewing Bay, Sucia Island

Mimosas in Ewing Bay, Sucia Island

More good food and drink was had, and the following day we enjoyed mimosas under the morning sun – it just couldn’t get any better. After a short hike on Sucia Island, we headed to Matia Island which WAS in the plan. We played in Boundary Pass for awhile, then arrived in time for dinghy diversions and a silent moment at sunset.

Only once more did we have to detour from the master plan and that’s when we decided that, despite our planning, the entrance to Fisherman’s Bay with 6′ of draft just wasn’t in our comfort zone so we anchored outside of Friday Harbor.

Ultimately, I am glad I made that crazy sail plan even though we only followed it half the time. Just the act of putting it together made me more familiar with my cruising ground, and I had become faster at deciphering  the chart and tide tables. Each evening I would listen to the weather and pull out the chart and discuss with the crew which anchorages appeared safe under different weather conditions.  Being flexible is one of the most important skills of being a good sailor, and for some of us, takes a lot of practice.

Sunset in the San Juans Photo Credit Rebecca Sherwood

Sunset in the San Juans
Photo Credit Rebecca Sherwood


Blundering Around the Bilge

The sound of the filter screen hitting the water inside the bilge was barely audible.  What came from my mouth a half second later was clearly audible.  This was about to go from a minor project to a major project. Par for the course.

I live on a 43 year old Challenger 32 sailboat, Rubigale.  There is one big bilge in the center, mostly obscured from view by the diesel tank, and quite deep. I have been able to see the tops of the keel bolts on occasion, but I’ve never seen the bilge dry, nor do I ever expect to.  I would delight to see it scrubbed clean of oil and dry as a bone, but I doubt that’s in the realm of possibility.  A girl can dream.

No maintenance records were available when I purchased Rubigale over two years ago and the engine hour meter for the Perkins 4-108 had stopped at some time in the unknown past at almost 4000 hours.   I knew when I finally found someone to service the engine that the impeller should be replaced as well and naively went to a marine store with my type of engine and was handed an impeller. I could have done the replacement myself, but some cabinet disassembly is required so I waited for the engine inspection to save some work.

Things never go that smoothly and it wasn’t the correct impeller by a long shot.  Meanwhile, after taking the water pump plate off, a pint or so of sea water spilled into the bilge.  This was not fresh sea water, but the kind that smells of long dead sea creatures decomposing and creating a miasma of a magnitude that was surprising. Meanwhile, the inspection was completed, a list of parts made, and the spill rags and roll under the engine and in the bilge were changed.

The smell from the seawater lingered heavily and had to be dealt with.  I flipped the bilge pump to manual for a minute, then had the bright idea of pouring in a couple or three buckets of fresh water with a dash of bilge cleaner. It wasn’t necessarily a bad idea, but I should have paid more attention to the water level before pouring more in. The pump came on automatically and continued to run. After getting out my flashlight and peering into the deep dark hole I could see the water level wasn’t changing. I ran outside and found no water coming out.  Insert expletives here.

Seemed Like a Good Idea

Seemed Like a Good Idea

To get to the pump and the strainer I have to remove my dining table, pole that holds it, and the floor it sits on.  That done, I checked the hose clamp to the pump, which was still in place.  The strainer looked black so I decided to clean that. But try as I might I could not get it to budge and eventually needed to remove it with a strap wrench. The filter was indeed fouled with oil and cat hair and I scrubbed it with a brush it until it shone silver again.  I was having a little trouble getting the top screwed back on, and the filter wasn’t seated just right.  I pulled it out, bobbled it and watched it fall into the dark deep bilge under three buckets of water.

Strainer Screen

Strainer Screen

I called a nearby marine store to see if they had the part I needed and was told they did.  I rushed there on my lunch hour and bought the whole $30 strainer and housing, though I later learned that I could have just purchased the replacement screen separately for about $12.

WIth everything put back together, I turned the manual switch, and no water filled the strainer.  From the little I knew about plumbing, I figured that either the hose was blocked or had a hole, or the pump was bad.  I once saw a raw water intake hose cleared by blowing a fierce breath in to the hose, so I was emboldened. I detached the hose from the strainer and gave a healthy puff, creating a huge burp in the bilge water. If you were wondering, yes, it was gross as it sounds. Disheartened, I replaced the hose and clamp after scrubbing my face and brushing my teeth. It was time to move to the pump, right after work, which meant putting the floor and table back again.

New In-line Strainer

New In-line Strainer

I took up the table and floor for the fifth time in the last few days, sprawled across the top of the diesel tank and shown a light on the pump. I had done a little research the day before because I knew it didn’t look like the bilge pumps I had seen in the stores, or the water pump I had installed. I wasn’t actually expecting to find it. It was belt driven, sat in a higher, dryer section of the boat and looked practically medieval to me, or perhaps a steam punk prop. Research and a call to a friend told me this was probably a diaphragm pump and I found a few online that looked similar, so I had narrowed down my choices.  I was on the search for a model, or if I couldn’t find the pump, a rebuild kit.

 The Basics of My Diaphragm Pump

The Basics of My Diaphragm Pump

The label on the motor had long since deteriorated and I couldn’t make out one word on it.  Much of the pump was hidden under the diesel tank intake line, but I eventually found a metal label near the base.  Much of the label was gone and the serial number was illegible, but most of the model number was there and was enough for a search. I found that it was an old Jabsco 6680J which was now the 36680 series and readily available. It looked exactly like my pump, just 40 years younger, and the specs matched what I could read on the old label for GPM and amperage. Replacement parts were also readily available.

Last Identifying Marks

Last Identifying Marks from Old Bilge Pump

The question now was whether to buy the rebuild kit or get a new one. The rebuild was at best $115, compared to $350 or more for a new pump. I had friends that could help me do the rebuild, found instructions online, and it would be a good learning experience. A year ago I might have done that, but it seems as though Rubi has hit the magic boat age where things are falling apart at the same time-diesel heater pump, fresh water pump, accumulator, fresh water hoses, etc, so my gut told me to get the new pump and use the old one to learn on some day in my retirement.

My New Jabsco 36680 Pump

My New Jabsco 36680 Pump

The new pump arrived, the table and floor came up again, and a throw pillow was laid on the diesel tank. I find it frustrating and at the same time hilarious that screws of every type and size were used everywhere on this boat, often on the same item.  I have learned to prepare for all types before contorting myself into an uncomfortable position. Only two of the four legs of this pump were attached- one with a Phillips head, one with a square drive (P.O.s loved square drives), one had rusted off and left a flathead behind, and one just had nothing. I removed the pump and also a variety of screws attached to nothing in particular.

I had replaced my fresh water pump not long ago, so thought this should be straight forward. No. Both the old and the new pumps had two black wires coming out of one opening with no discernible differentiation. This baffled me. I had been expecting a red and a white wire like the water pump. I looked at the diagram…no explanation. L

This is the Phone a Friend part of the story, and I left a hectic message in TinySpeak that may have sounded like this: “I am trying to put the bilge pump in, and I have the fancy butt connectors with the stuff you squirt in there to protect it (Dielectric Silicone Compound), but there is a brown wire and a black wire coming from the boat, and the pump has two black wires coming from the same hole with no identifying marks on either wire, and nothing on the diagram to tell me what goes where and this is nothing like the water pump!” Insert foot stamp here.

J called me back within 10 minutes, and the explanation took less than 2 minutes because he speaks Tiny. “That is a series pump, hook it up this way, and it spins this way, hook it up that way, it spins that way. You have a diaphragm pump with a piston and valves, and it doesn’t matter which way it spins. Just don’t put the male connector on the brown wire”.

“I can do that!” I thought. And did.

The physical attachments to the boat took awhile because it was a tight space, and I needed to remove more random, useless screws. Fortunately the legs of the pump pivoted so I could get around some obstacles. Once the hoses were attached, everything worked like a dream, a dream of getting smelly dead sea creatures back into their natural burial place, and to finally moving on to the engine service that had started this whole mess to begin with.

The happy ending to this was that I could now see the filter screen that I had dropped. It was definitely out of my reach, so I taped a fork to a pole and was able to fish it out, clean it up, and have a perfectly good spare strainer on standby.

As seen in Three Sheets Northwest


Review of the Bad Elf GPS Pro Bluetooth GPS Reciever

Bad Elf GPS Pro

Bad Elf GPS Pro

I love paper charts- the look, the feel, marking where I’ve been, practicing dead reckoning, all of it. I was planning my Gulf Islands and Princess Louisa trip which was already requiring the San Juan Islands, Gulf Islands and Desolation Sound chart books, as well as the 3311 chart set for the Sunshine Coast. To also purchase large scale charts for all the nooks and crannies I wanted to visit would have cost hundreds more dollars. I have a handheld Garmin GPS, but last year in Canada I found I preferred the Navionics US and Canada App which was easier to read and operate on my phone or iPad than the Garmin, and in some instances was more accurate.  I knew I would be in locations with no cell reception, so the accuracy of the Navionics would be lower, and buying a fancy chart plotter was out of the question. My solution was the Bad Elf GPS Pro which is a satellite GPS receiver that will Bluetooth to other devices and allow me to turn my iPhone, iPad or iPod into chart plotters.

Bad Elf App Map and Display

Bad Elf App Map and Display

Bad Elf has several different versions of the GPS with different features and capabilities. The Pro model cost me $149.99 through Amazon and it provides latitude, longitude, altitude, speed, time, a downloadable track and can be paired with up to 5 devices at a time.  There are higher grade models provide that barometric pressure readings and more precise location services for surveying applications. There is no monthly subscription fee. I paired it with my iPad for a bigger picture display, but also my phone for when the sun made the iPad hard to see or I needed to enlarge something quickly without moving from behind the wheel to reach the iPad. They can be used for aviation, vehicle navigation, biking, hiking, geocaching, cycling – pretty much anything you can imagine where you might use a GPS.  You can use the simple map that comes with the app, or use other apps such as Navionics, Google Maps, etc.  The accuracy is reported to be as good as 8 ft, although mine usually read about 15 ft. It’s also water resistant, although not waterproof.  Mine took a little spray and a few sprinkles, but it’s not meant to be submerged.  A small zip lock bag would take care of any worries in the rain.

At the moment they are only compatible with iOS devices.  The website says you can use them on some of the apps that Android supports, but you still need an iOS device to do your initial set up or to download your trips.  The website lists an incredible number of apps that it is compatible with for various activities.  There are 18 marine based apps (you should check first if you are considering a purchase), including one for an anchor alarm that I hope to try out soon.

Bluetooth Display

Bluetooth Display

I’ve had no problems bluetoothing to my iPhone, iPad or iPod (I plan to try one of the compatible hiking/walking apps), and I’ve been very happy with the battery life.  I’ve been able to use it through three full cruising days without recharging, and it recharges very quickly – I’m estimating about an hour. A 12V adapter comes in the box, so I could leave it charging the entire time I’m traveling, but I like being able to scroll through and look at my latidtude/longitude, heading, time, etc.  If I were going to leave it charging, I would probably want it mounted to a window in case that affects satellite tracking.

Position Display

Position Display

You are able to change how you want the latitude and longitude to be displayed, and I breezed through this part during the setup which was a mistake. When I was trying to mark my position on the paper chart, I discovered that I had gone with the digital format which completely confused me.  It took me a few tries and an internet search to figure out I needed to go into the app on my phone to change how lat/long were displayed.

App Display Screen

App Display Screen

Being able to download and share your tracks is a nice feature and it will record up to 100 hours of trip data before you have to download the trips onto one of your devices.  Once you’ve turned the Bad Elf on and paired it to your device, simply press and hold the GPS button until it says GPS LOGGER STARTED. If you repeat this process yo have an option to record a POI (point of interest) or to turn off the logger.  Once you are finished with your trip, go to the Bad Elf app on your device and it will tell you how many trips are available for you to download.  Once they are downloaded on your device they will be cleared from the Bad Elf to free up more trip memory. There will then be another bar on the App telling you how many trips have been downloaded to your iPhone or iPad. Tap this tab to view and name the trips – there will be a default name like “Monday Morning Walk” so you will want to keep up on the renaming.  As you can see from the photo, I had to rename 18 trips at once. With the Navionics app you can view the trip either as as standard map or as a satellite image.

Standard Display

Standard Display of a Saved Track

Satellite Display

Satellite Display (Before Renaming) of Saved Track











Once this is done you can share the trips as a GPX file, KML file, Twitter, Facebook or via email.  I emailed a trip to myself to see what it would look like, and it actually gives you all of the trip data as well as a screenshot and the two file versions.

Email Sharing

Email Sharing

What could they do better?  The compass only reads in true, not magnetic.  It took a little research to figure out why it wasn’t agreeing with my autopilot or the compass on my binnacle.  I would prefer to be able to switch it over to magnetic, although technically I’m able to navigate in true with my charts and a little math.  However I think for most things I would want it for, magnetic would be my preference. For those people with a proper navigation station, being able to view it on the actual Mac so that those below could see as well as those above would be a convenient addition. Apparently the high end survey model is able to display on Mac or PC with a USB cable.  All of the versions I searched were splash resistant, but not water resistant.  This isn’t a deal breaker since it’s small enough to put into the tiniest of dry bags, but would be a great feature. Lastly, adding functionality for Android users would be a nice touch as well.

In general I was very happy with the Bad Elf GPS Pro for this trip and I’m looking forward to trying it out with SafeAnchor and the Navionics Hike and Bike apps in the near future.

Strait of Georgia

Strait of Georgia

Crossing Strait of Georgia

Strait of Georgia (Navionics)


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