Friday, July 10, 2020

Expired Flares? Here's What to Do

Expired flares.
Most boaters know they need flares for their boat, so they buy them. 

Did you know most flares expire in 3 1/2 years? We had about a dozen expired flares, most expired about 10 years prior. We bought newer flares and kept the old ones in case we burned through our current flares in an emergency.

But if we ever did need them for an emergency, would they light? We weren't sure. Nor were we sure we knew how to light one if the need arose.

Ken, Stacey, T, and Harold kindly invited us to their toasty 4th of July beachside campfire.
We decided we'd kill two birds with one stone, finding out how to light our flares and seeing if 10-year-old expired flares were viable. What better time to set off pyrotechnics than the 4th of July? What better place than over a relatively deserted beach, and over the Columbia River? 

We checked in with the few fellow boaters around the area. When they checked their flares, found they also possessed a bunch of expired ones, too. Theirs were only a few years out of date, versus our vintage variety pack.
Wayne explaining how to right expired flares.

The only concern? If they blew anyone's fingers off, we were a ways from medical careWayne pulled on his reading glasses before it got dark and read the fine print on firing flares and explained how to set the flares off. Like most boys, Wayne and Ken were far more eager to fire the flare guns and pull the cord than us gals were.

They were more comfortable playing with fire than me (I watched rather than joined my brother's minor pyromania play and I'm a lifelong non-smoker who still can't light a Bic cigarette lighter). They led the way, with Ken dancing with his; lit flares. Photos and videos of Ken's tripping the light fantastic are not included because we consider each other friends and I'd like to keep it that way.

Ken's aerial flares fired off from his gun without a hitch.

Out of our twelve flares, a mix of hand-helds and gun-fired aerials, nine failed, and only three were not duds and fired. 

In the interest of experience, I attempted to light some flares off. 

I felt jumpy, and the exploding fireworks from another nearby beachside group didn't help. After all, if you're jittery in the first place and not sure you know what you're doing, it's startling to hear a BANG! as you are about to or just pulled the beaded string off a flare in your hand. I also didn't quite expect the recoil! The flare jerked my hand back about an inch or so after yanking the beaded pull of my one successfully fired handheld flare.
Expired flares, blowing their wad on the beach at Sauvie Island.
After lots of flare-fire and dancing with handhelds, Mike still had a dozen spare expired flares. He stood them up like candles, planted them in the beach in sets of four, then lit each off after the prior set burned down.

We doused our spent flares in water and disposed of them. In doing some additional research, I found out they are potentially damaging to the water supply, and harmful for wildlife.  The best way to dispose of them would've been to check with the local police department, who probably would've suggested we take them to the hazardous waste site.
Flare images pilfered from

If money was no object, I would rather use an electronic flare, but they're not cheap. They run about three times the cost of traditional flares, assuming you need to purchase handhelds, aerials, and a gun for the aerials.
Image for electric flare from Sirius Signal pilfered from their website,
The only electronic flare that passes all the latest Coast Guard requirements is Sirius Signal. No worries about lighting them off or expirations, only making sure the battery is still viable.

The ROI would be about and long as the age of our expired flares. 

Meanwhile, all our flares aboard are current and I now know how to set them off, should I ever need to.

Location Location
We're anchored off Sauvie Island, Portland Oregon area N45 47.455 W122 47.201.
Moon over Sauvie Island, 4th of July 2020.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

USA's 244th Birthday: Fireworks Flashback & 2021 Call to Action

Two Moments of 2019 Nostalgia

There will be no official fireworks exploding across the skies to celebrate our country's 244th birthday.  The video is from 2019, St. Helen's small-town fireworks show. Be forewarned: if you don't like bagpipes, listen with the sound off. If you love bagpipes, by all means, crank up the volume!

Our nation is more divided than I can recall in my lifetime, this struck me as a worthwhile time to consider our origins and where we want to go.

Our Beginnings

National American Indian Memorial - Wikipedia
The USA's only true non-immigrants.
Image from
Before there was "the United States" our vast land was inhabited by Native Americans. Then Europeans arrived,* virtually wiping out the native populations with no resistance to their diseases. Territorial wars further dwindled their populations. 

*While Christopher Columbus visited Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in 1493, in 1513 Ponce de Leon was the first known European to reach the present-day United States mainland -- Florida's Atlantic coast.

Not Very Free -- Convicts, Slaves & Servants

Eventually, by mass exportation of the most bodies, Great Britain became the sovereign power of what we now consider the thirteen colonies who began the United States. Most did not come of their own free will.
Of the 585,800 immigrants to the thirteen colonies during the years 1700-1775, about 52,200 were convicts and prisoners (9 percent of the total). During these same years, slaves by far constituted the largest group of immigrants (278,400; 47%), followed by people arriving with their freedom (151,600; 26%) and indentured servants (96,600; 18%).... Almost three quarters of all the people arriving in the American colonies during this time period did so without their freedom. -- Anthony Vaver, author of Anthony Vaver, author of Early American Criminals and Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America
We could pretend we are not responsible, that we were not yet the United States—except it took 89 years and a bloody civil war for the US to abolish slavery in 1865. Societally, 155 years later, we still have a long way to go.

American Revolution Was Really a Trade War
File:Boston Tea Party w.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
The Boston Tea Party

The three big events that led up to the American Revolution were
  1. Boston Massacre of 1770, when 5 colonists died after being shot by soldiers breaking up a mob that gathered over a trivial personal dispute that escalated. 
  2. 1772 burning of British customs schooner, HMS Gaspee.
  3. 1773 when colonists destroyed British imported Indian tea because they were irate the untaxed tea was getting an unfair trade advantage. In retaliation, Brittain stripped the colony's right to self-rule.
In 1775, the British attempt to disarm the Massachusetts militia in Concord led to open combat and the war officially began.

Our National Birthday's Based on a Premature Event
Benjamin Franklin signing the US Declaration of Independence.
We celebrate the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, July 4, 1776. The actual war wasn't considered over until 7 years later, in 1783. 

Our Contributions

Saving Lives

Of these top 10 advances in medical history, America played a pivotal role in 6:

  1. William T. G. Morton: anesthesia during surgery
  2. Ramond Daman Damadian medical imaging: MRI
  3. Dr Joseph Murray and Dr David Hume organ transplants
  4. ativiral vaccines
  5. Dr. William B. Coley immunotherapy
  6. AI's role in medical diagnosis and treatment

This chart shows assessed contributions to the World Health Organization for 2020.
USA was the biggest contributor to the World Health Organization. Will we continue to be?

Key Role in Ending Nazism

Remembering D-Day 75 years later > Schriever Air Force Base ...
D-Day, the WW2 invasion of Normandy, France.
image from Schriever Air Force Base
While we presume the USA deserves primary credit for decisively ending WW2, that may not be true. However, there is wide agreement internationally the USA did play a pivotal role in ending WW2.

Today we have a president who is unwilling to criticize white supremacists as they are one of his core voting constituencies.

Immigration: A New Place to Call Home

Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York | Pikrepo
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New York.
The USA's track record varies on whether or welcome mat is out, and to whom, but historically, we are known as a nation of immigrants. Fortune or freedom compelled many to come to the place where they through the streets were "paved with gold." My Jewish grandparents and great-grandparents came to the USA through Ellis Island, from Poland, Russia, and Hungary for freedom and in the hopes of a better life between WW1 and WW2.
Mexico–United States barrier - Wikipedia
US-Mexico border wall.
Today, to the tune of $11 billion and counting, we are building the most expensive wall in the world between ourselves and Mexico. Times change. Maybe the wall will protect more Mexicans from death from America's gross mishandling of coronavirus, which has hit Latinos in the USA much harder.

A Call to Action

George Floyd protest by the White House (5/30/20) | Protesto… | Flickr
George Floyd protest by the White House
Freedom is Still Elusive for People of Color
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
George Floyd's death at the foot of a police officer sparked a call for racial equity that is still reverberating. Today, Blacks suffer from racial profiling, compromised healthcare, and economic inequality—lives filled with violence, compromised and untimely death, and generational poverty. 

What changes are you making to help our country live up to our Declaration of Independence preamble?

If nothing else . . . 

Vote Generic 2016 America - Free vector graphic on Pixabay
image credit: Pixabay

My hope for 2021 4th of July is for a more unified United States, one where we focus more on what unites rather than divides us.

grayscale photography, people, hands, friendship, unit, together ...
 I wish you a safe and satisfying celebration,
and a 2021 Independence Day we are more proud of than this years.
image credit:

Location Location
We are anchored off Sauvie Island (N45 47.433 W122 47.197).
Shaver tug off Sauvie Island, doing their part for the 4th of July festivities.
Last year we went to St. Helens to watch the fireworks. This year, as with most places, the fireworks display in St. Helen was canceled in fear of spreading COVID-19. 

We will test out our expired flares in a safe place tonight. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Why We Don't Navigate the Columbia at Night

These logs weren't ashore Sauvie Island's shore last year. Getting hit by them in a boat would hurt!
For scale: check out these spikes!
We dodged this submerged log nearly the length of our boat, coming into Sauvie Island a few days ago.
Location Location
Dawn off Sauvie Island, looking across the river at the Washington shore by Bachelor slough.
Sauvie Island, a bit West of Portland, Oregon, and about 90 miles inland of Astoria. N45 47.444 W122 47.195.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Hidden Trailhead: How to Find the Best Little Waterfall in Columbia County

Beaver Creek Falls, about a 40-minute drive from St. Helens, Oregon.
St. Helens Marina is a sweet and affordable spot to moor while waiting for warmer, drier, less windy weather. The town of St. Helens offers everything we need, mostly within walking distance, plus it's close to our favorite beach on the river when beach-worthy weather lures there. Traditionally, that's mostly the 5th of July, other than a few teaser days here and there.
Map and directions to St.Helens, Oregon to Beaver Falls, Clatskanie.
Meanwhile, besides boat work, my freelance writing and editing work and chores, we're busy. Nonetheless, even in cooler weather, we like to get off our duffs and walk. Charming as St. Helens is, the area is a bit shy on worthwhile hiking trails. Beaver Falls was the closest well-rated trail we could find.
All Trails is one of my go-to sources in trying to find a good hiking trail. Click here for their link to the Beaver Falls trail.
Other than a wide turnout area on the road, there's nothing to mark the trailhead for Beaver Falls. There were enough cars there for us to figure we were at the spot.
Even once parked, it's easy to miss the trail to Beaver Falls. No sign, but this is it.
Beaver Falls was not just a short drive away, it was also a short walk—a good thing given we often get a late start.
Foxglove bloomed profusely at the edge of the parking area.
That June day, there wasn't a whole lot of wildflowers in bloom, but the blooming foxgloves are among my favorites. Native American Indians used foxglove to treat heart conditions—carefully—as can foxgloves can also be toxic.
This Beaver Falls sign seemed to help.
AllTrials mentioned there was an issue with litter at Beaver Falls. It looked to us that there was an effort to clean up. On our walk, I saw only a few pieces of litter.
Recently cut, this stump sap reminded me of tears. Maybe in their own way, they are.
We came across a substantial tree hacked, obviously felled by an ax.
Tree stump section stepping stones across Beaver Creek to get to the falls.
The stepping stones across Beaver Creek were mostly stable (just two were wobbly), and looked like they were the reason the tree was cut.
More picturesque view of Beaver Falls after crossing over Beaver Creek.
Ferns and other flora loved this damp, slightly misty spot.
The fellow about to walk behind the falls gives you a better sense of scale.
The trail makes its way behind the falls, for those interested in a different falls view.
Cool view from behind the falls.
I took the trail behind the falls to look out from under them. If you do, take your time, the trail is slippery!
Slick clay-mud behind Beaver Creek Falls.
On our drive back to Highway 30, we noticed a smaller set of falls off the side of the road.
No idea what these Beaver Creek falls are called. They're not the main event, but they're pleasant.
The area just beyond the falls is an idyllic-looking spot.
This is up-creek from the little Beaver Creek waterfall.
Beaver Creek would be an excellent stop to beat the heat on a blistering hot summer day. 

Much as we enjoyed Beaver Falls, we realize how spoiled we are with Portland Oregon's and SW Washington State's fantastic options: Lucia and Mouton FallsForest Park, the West Hills, and quick access to the Gorge (though many options are still closed due to COVID-19) and the Mt. St. Helens area.

Location Location
This ~50-foot snag is why we don't sail at night on the Columbia River.
The sun is shining for one more day, so we're on the hook off Sauvie Island N45 47.453 W 122 47.193 getting in our dose of vitamin D while we can. Saturday's forecast is soggy, so we'll hightail back to St. Helens Marina for that.  A week or so before, most of the trails at Sauvie were more like creeks, something to walk through rather than on.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Leaky Tikis: Rain Inside Our Boat . . Subsides!

We are no strangers to getting rain-soaked aboard our boat.
This is me on our first sailboat in 2012, in route to Port Townsend, Washington.
Shhhhh. Dribble.Dribble.Dribble, SLOSH.

It's pouring out today—again. Summer in the Pacific Northwest. We're no longer under covered moorage, our big boat umbrella.
A few days ago. It's raining more today, but this pot is dry.
A few days ago, rivulets of rain worked their way onto our bed. We'd already decided past leaks gave our mattress a mildewy order that wouldn't fully go away even after all the leaks were stopped. 
We're at the dock plugged into power. We could use an electric heater to dry our bed.
We ordered a new mattress, determined we'd find a way to keep the new mattress dry. 
Wayne plays water leak source detective inside our boat.
Wayne caulked the window where he believed the water entered. He's also figuring a brow over that window would redirect the water that runs off our upper deck away from the window.
While there's a longer-term solution planned, this plastic window covering is keeping our bed dry.
Or maybe the caulking is. WHatever. It's relatively subtle, but effective.
Here's what's not happening inside our boat: drip, drip, drip.  All the water is outside our boat—at last! The credit goes to a lot of hard work on Wayne's part.
This is a leak source. Fixing it will require a portion of decking to be removed, the fiberglass underneath it leveled, then the decking put back into place, resealing between each plank and refinishing.
It's on our to-do list.
There's still a pot inside our stateroom to catch drips. Even though it's rained the last couple of days, the pot is dry. We're not sure why, but we're grateful. 
New mattress! This gets a head start on minimized condensation with an aeration layer that separates
the vinyl mattress case bottom from its wooden base.
We picked up our new mattress. I kept it in my car until we had a dry period to move the mattress onto our boat.
Our mattress frame, all cleaned and ready for its new mattress.
I thoroughly cleaned the area—bed frame, walls, overhang, with clove oil and water.
Clove oil and water mixed work well on mildew.
I love the scent of clove oil. Wayne doesn't.
Sure the new mattress would work, we said goodbye to our faithful former mattress. The leaks weren't the mattress' fault.
Alas, poor mattress. It served us well. We're sorry the smell made us bid it farewell.
Onto the next items on our list. Meanwhile, it's nice to be in a place where we can make our boat more comfortable. 

Update from Our Friend Chris of S/V Scintilla (& Us)
Dana and Wayne,

Congratulations on slowing the leaks!  It is a boat so it is only temporary.  
Yes, Chris is indeed correct. We have slowed our leaks but also determined after some heavy rain we needed some additional "band-aid" (short-term work-arounds) and some longer-term things to try. They all deal with how the boat pools and drains water from the other decks and what to do about it.
I have 40 years of experience in the PNW with this problem and just in case you did not know I wanted to share some tips.

  1. You can buy tributyltin in the liquid form (used to be able to get it from Rodda).  Add it to paint it is an anti-mildew agent and paint the bottom of your berth before you put down the mattress.
  2. Put tea tree oil in a spray bottle if you don’t like the smell of cloves.  It is also an anti-fungus agent.

    I'm pretty sure Wayne won't like the scent of this any better than clove oil, but you never know!
  3. If you ever go to replace your windows use acrylic.  You can take your old windows to TAP Plastics and they will cut you a new piece to exact size.  Very reasonably priced too.

    We will likely do this in the next year, along with changing the angle of our window frames so they don't pool water "in."
  4. Bed your new ports in either Dow Corning 795 or Stikaflex 295 UV WITH the primer. The Dow is cheaper and may last longer but must be super cleaned off if you ever have to re-bed.  The issue is what will stick to acrylic long term.  Also, you can use butyl or old-style windshield mastic (they use urethane now).  Butyl does have a tendency to come off on your shorts if you rub against it.  I have also used synthetic butyl, but I would go Dow first.

Location Location
Long, hot marina showers and Toni Doggett's wry artwork are some of the marina pleasures.

For the remainder of the month, we're in St. Helens Marina, unless the sunshine tempts us to anchor off our favorite river beach.

Yesterday and today were warm and sunny. Tomorrow is supposed to be as well. Until the rains return on Saturday, we are "on the hook."

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Black Lives Matter: Small Town Not Small-Minded

Black Lives Matter: St. Helens Oregon Unity March.
We found out about St. Helens' Black Lives Matter (BLM) Unity March only a few hours before the march began. Chris, a fellow marina live-aboard, told us about it. He grew up in St. Helens and was flummoxed. "The only time I recall there being any kind of a demonstration was when I was attending middle-school and we protested the green weiners the cafeteria served." Chris appears to be in his 60s. 

Chris said the march was pulled together in 48 hours after a BLM initially was planned at a school and the Facebook page about the event got messages to expect a rain of bullets.
#BLM support: St. Helens Oregon sidewalks on the Unity March day.
The rescheduled event, held Thursday, June 4, 2020, tapped the local police for support at the outset in a desire to keep the protest peaceful. The police agreed to participate in the event themselves to keep the event safe and not would not object to a gathering that was beyond the sanctioned size for Covid-19. Locals also told me the police scoured the march route the day before, removing rocks that might look tempting to throw if the crowd or protesters to the crowd got unruly.
Many St. Helens locals found ways to show their support: with signs, clothing, posters . . .
While most protesters donned masks when social distancing was impossible,
overall masks are rare in St. Helens, one of the earliest counties to get the okay for the next opening
phase from Covid-19. Phase 2 reopening began here Friday, March 5th, 2020.
I'd been looking for ways to share my outrage over the police brutality that cut short George Floyd's life, and the persistent pattern of systemic racism that's held back so much of the black  American community since its inception. Add to that my disgust with a President willing to use smoke, flash grenades, and chemical spray to clear protestors in order for him to stage a photo op.

I wanted to find some way to take action, and not stand silently by, to show my support for black rights and the need for substantive change.

At the same time, I can't deny feeling fearful, with news reports noting marches elsewhere experienced tear gas, rubber bullets, arrests, attacks from white supremacists, fires, looting . . . 
A riot is the language of the unheard.—Martin Luther King Jr.
While I've found the folks in St. Helens to be friendly, its timber roots and heavily agriculturally-based economy trended conservative, with strong gun ownership advocacy. In the 2016 Presidential election, Trump garnered a 12-point lead over Hillary Clinton in Columbia county. With a 90.3% white and only .6% African American population, would there be a faction intent in preventing a successful and peaceful march? Would white supremacists feel "unheard" enough to riot?
The tattoo shop on 2nd Street in St. Helens spread their
BLM support in the form of chalk art and bubbles.
A local woman hanging outside a tattoo parlor where BLM sidewalk art flourished, told me she was told she was called "an uneducated wanker" by another local because she supported the Unity March. She blowing bubbles for peace. "It's hard for anyone to be angry when there are bubbles," she said. I agreed. When someone else from the tattoo shop offered me a wand, I joined in the bubble-blowing.
More supportive chalk sideway saying from the St. Helens tattoo parlor.
Before long, trucks with American flags and marchers made their way down the street to the steps of the Columbia County courthouse. One of my favorite signs personified what I felt watching the good-hearted St. Helens crowd gather:
Small town. Not small minded.
The march organizers were already positioned on the courthouse steps, ready with speakers.
One of the speakers was an articulate 17-year-old St. Helens African American-Native American. She shared how upsetting it was to be told as early the 5th grade by fellow schoolmates she wasn't welcome at a table because of the color of her skin. Much as that's wrong, and hurt, I hope that is the worst she even has to contend with because of the color of her skin.
Police keep an eye on the protest from the rooftops as a local African American teen
inspires the crowd with her speech.
Then another woman of color unknown to the organizers asked if she could speak. She was given the dais. As she announced "I am African American," cheers rang out. When she added, "I am a conservative, and proud of our president," the crowd of 400 or so BLM supporters stood respectfully silent. There were no boos, no jeers.
The Unity march crowd continued to swell, I'd estimate there were 400 participants—impressive
for a town with a population of less than 13,000.
As Wayne and I wandered down to the waterfront where we the rally organizer said there was a supporting art installation, we saw a group of six white men pass in the opposite direction. All carried what appeared to be assault weapons. Two walked up to the police station, tapping on the door. The police did not open the door. The men wandered off.

Nervously, Wayne and I walked to the waterfront where it appeared to be a site for more speeches, rather than an art installation. We made our way back to our boat.

Some St. Helens businesses concerned about damage from riots, boarded.
This image was photographed by Jeremy C Ruark / The Chronicle
The next day, I scoured the internet looking to see if there were any reports of violence. There was nothing; only the announcements earlier that the event was going to happen, and an updated photo in the Chronicle with a note the story would be covered in their July 10th issue. 

I wandered downtown to see if there were any signs of damage. There were none. I talked with Patricia, the shopowner of Treasures, Trinkets and Threads

"I left when I saw the local SWAT in their orange flak vests show up with pizza," Patricia said. "I figured it was safe."

I wanded into Molly's Market, boards removed, and open for business. "No damage," Molly confirmed with a smile, "Everything went well."
Why do we believe that gatherings lead to violence? Because we don't hear about them when there is none. 
My take-away? Hope. 
 If a small, conservative town can gather 400 people to stand up and declare Black Lives Matter, perhaps we are finally on the cusp of a change for good.
I write this post two days after St. Helens Unity march. Earlier today we hiked out to Beaver Creek Falls, where I saw luxurious ferns growing from roots in a rock face. This is how change happens, I thought to myself. Change starts slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, but when it takes hold, the transformation is a testament to the power of life.
For the remainder of the month of June, I will donate 10% of my editing business proceeds
to the N.A.A.C.P. If you'd like to donate directly to a good cause,
here is a link to their website:
Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people. 
—Martin Luther King Jr. 
Time, talent, or treasure: How will you help with this change?

Location Location

Viewing a breathtaking crimson sunset from our boat at St. Helens Marina.
This June, when not on the hook, this is where we'll be.
We've booked a slip N45 52.012 W122 47.822 for this June at St. Helens Marina, though on warm sunny days we'll still anchor out off Sauvie Island, where we plan on spending the majority of the summer.