Siphon gas from a 1991 Ford E150

Its been a little wet here in California lately. Generally that’s a good thing. We can sure use the water. But it did present a bit of a problem for my new tow vehicle, or at least I thought it might have. Here’s the situation I ran into last week after some torrential rain.

My 1991 Ford E150 has been running great since I had it tuned up. But I’ve been wanting to check the gas mileage, and since its not my daily driver, it has taken awhile to run the gas out of the van. Finally, last weekend, I had it down to half a tank, and my plan was to fill it up this week to see how many gallons it took. Well, on Monday it had rained a good deal, and that delayed a lot of my weekend plans. Including filling up the van.

On Wednesday when I went out to start the van the gauge read totally full. Like, completely full. Since I had yet to put gas in it I figured it must have gotten water in the tank. Like, half a tank of water… not good. I drove it to the gas station, and tried to fill it up just to make sure it wasn’t just the gauge that was broken. Nope, totally full. Again, not good. So now I figured that the only thing to do was to remove some of the gas to see what I was dealing with.

Here’s how I siphoned gas out of the Ford E150. I took a fuel transfer pump from Harbor Freight, and put the intake hose down the mouth of the fuel filler neck. This was pretty easy as the red hose on the pump is fairly stiff, but still relatively thin. I tried a bigger gauge, but I couldn’t get it past the anti siphon device about 2 feet into the neck. The internet says that there is a ball valve there that has a very small hole. But the red hose went in just fine. I pumped some gas out, but that was going to take forever. If I had a longer hose of the same gauge, I would have used that, but since I didn’t, I snaked some ¼ inch hose that you use for a garden irrigation system down the hole. That hose goes very nicely into the air filler adapter on the fuel transfer pump, and you can use the pump to start a siphon. The ¼ inch hose then siphons the gas into a 5 gallon jerry can. It should flow out at about the rate of 3 beers consumed per gallon of gas siphoned… slow as hell.

Well, I tested the gas with some water finding paste, and nothing. I guess the gas is fine. The gauge then showed that some gas had been removed, but the next day it showed full again. So either I have gas gremlins leaving me free gas, or something is fouled up.

No matter. We try to sail on Saturday to start the 2017 season!

Sailing with Pebble Time and Ventoo

I love my Pebble Time watch. That whole transition we all did where we went from wearing watches to having pocket watches again was dumb. I always feel better when I can look down at my wrist and catch the time. Just at a glance. No muss, no fuss. The Time’s “color” e-ink screen is perfect for that. Its always on. Its also really easy to see in direct sunlight. Or indoors. Or when its dark. Suffice it to say, its a good watch.

What I’ve always thought it would be really good for is being the speedometer on the boat. The club tends to have boats that either have no instruments, or non-functioning instruments. In order to figure out how fast we’re going, we’re always having to pull our our phones and fire up Saildroid. That’s fine, but there are some drawbacks.

  1. I don’t always like to get my phone out on the boat. Sometimes its wet out there. I mean, its a boat right? My phone (even if it is water resistant) is not waterproof. Plus, I probably need that sucker to get home, so I need it to work.
  1. Phone screens are less than awesome. They suck power, meaning the phone needs to be plugged in if its going to be on for a long time. They’re also hard to read in direct sunlight or with polarized sunglasses at particular angles. Again, not ideal.

We had tried integration between a smartwatch and the phone before. We tried iRegatta years ago, and found the experience somewhat wanting.

Last week, we tried out Ventoo (formerly Pebble Bike). I’d used Pebble Bike with my ebike before, but since their name change, I realized that they had added a knots feature. So now we can set the display to tell us knots! How cool is that?

How did it work? It worked pretty well. The only real downside is that it relies upon your phone. So if your phone sucks like my MotoG3 does, then you’re going to have some problems. For instance, Ventoo tracks and saves the GPS track as a .gpx file, perfect for putting into OpenCPN later when you get home. Unfortunately, the track quit about 3 tacks before we actually ended the day. I don’t think that was the software though, I think it was my POS phone. More testing will be required.


I also like that you can manipulate all the relevant display information without futzing with the phone. You can even start the program, start the GPS, pause the GPS, and such on the watch. You can view the track on the watch, but it doesn’t have a map behind it so there are limits to how useful that is. We liked that feature because you could see the angles you were making on tacks upwind.

Ventoo didn’t have as many features as iRegatta in terms of sailing, so its not as good for racing. But as a simple speed display and gps tracker, it worked pretty well. Ventoo and the Pebble Time made a good combination that kept my phone safe, made the display visible, and would be weather proof if needed. You can swim with the Time. Verdict? I’ll use the setup again next time. And the price was right!

Harbor Freight Solar Panel Review

Years ago when we bought ShortSail we needed a solar system. The boat was going to be parked on a mooring without any kind of shore power to keep the batteries up. Not that it mattered a whole lot though, ShortSail had its AC system ripped out years ago leaving just the DC system around the boat. So even if we’d have had shore power, there was nothing to hook it up to. So DC charging and solar it was going to have to be.

You kids today with your solar might not remember just how expensive those panels, charge controllers, and other equipment used to be. The price has come down a lot since 2012. #ThanksObama I guess. At the time we ended up buying a 45 watt kit from Harbor Freight. I don’t know if we ever reviewed it, so I’ll take a moment to do that now.

Review of the Harbor Freight 45watt Solar Kit: It produces electricity. That’s about the only good thing I have to say for it. Oh, and in 2012 it was pretty inexpensive for a whole system. It came with three long thin panels rated at 15w a piece, a charge controller, and some other garbage light bulbs and stuff that I don’t think anyone has ever used. When you plugged the three panels together and plugged them into the charge controller, it would read a voltage. When we used to come down to the boat the batteries would be charged, the radios would work, and the lights came on. So that was good.

Panels on Short Sail... Must have been hot.

Panels on Short Sail… Must have been hot.

I guess the charge controller that comes with the Harbor Freight kit is actually pretty terrible. At night, it doesn’t stop the batteries from trying to power up the panels. I didn’t even know such a thing was possible until years later when I was looking at possible wind power. All this thing did was allow voltage to pass through. So during the day, when the panels were in the sun light they charged the battery. The panels had higher voltages than the battery so the electrons flowed panel -> battery. But at night, when the panels were shaded by the Earth, the electrons flowed out of the battery and into the panels. Not ideal for what we were using them for. You can buy a diode to put in line with the battery that will stop the back flow, but I never did it. I’ve got 100 of them sitting in my electrical box though if you want some. Just let me know.

A better charge controller is sold at Harbor Freight that is compatible with the system. It gives you a green light for charged, a yellow light for charging, and a red light for open circuit. We used that one for years. Again, the battery was always charged, so we didn’t think much of it.

After we divested ourselves of ShortSail we took the panels home and mounted them on the roof of the house. We purchased a better charge controller that told the current that the panels were producing. When I first mounted them in April of last year the (now) 4 panels that I had would produce close to 3 amps of current. This year, they produce 2 amps of current. If we do the math, that’s like what, 20 watts? Not so good. The panels did sit in a salt water environment for years, and then have been on my roof for another year, but 20 watts out of a nominal 60 isn’t very good.

Panels on the Roof

Panels on the Roof

Time for some new panels.

Back on the Water for an August Rescue

Oh July was a bummer. July 4th got ruined by Jim’s engine falling apart. Then our next sail with Keri got ruined by unexpected work dragging on, and on, and on… so August. We’re into August already! Where does the summer go? Every year I have these grand ambitions to do this and that. Normally I accomplish very little. I hope that’s the nature of the human experience because, otherwise, I’m way behind the curve. But there was still a chance for an August Rescue!

But Lindsay, Henry, and I did get to take Exodus out on Mission Bay the other day. What a gorgeous time after spending a hot July in east county. 95 at home, but closer to 78 with a nice steady warm breeze out of the west. By the time we finished up the sail, the breeze may have really been a bit too strong.

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Nothing major. Just drove the boat down to the water, stepped the mast, launched, and sailed. We went out on a nice long reach to the south side of Fiesta Island before turning around and heading back.

On the way back in we noticed a laser stuck on the rocks over by the mobile home park. So we sailed over to check it out. When we got there, there were two brothers on the boat, and it was clear that they were being over powered by the wind. The older of the two was in the water trying to swim the boat up wind. I don’t know if you’ve ever swam a boat before, but its not a lot of fun. We offered to give them a tow, and they accepted. Turned out they were boy scouts who fell in love with sailing at camp this year. Their grandpa bought them a used laser. Good stuff. When we turned them loose they were heading back to the shore without difficulty. So that was a good rescue. Pay it forward people!

So I got to do my good turn on Tuesday.

Jim was reading at the bay waiting on us to pick some stuff up when we got back. So he helped me put the boat away. It goes a lot faster with two people.

I moved the trolling motor battery to the cockpit again. The boat seemed to tow better on the way home than it did on the way down with the extra tongue weight. I think we’re just overloading the back shocks on the Pacifica. Hmm… maybe buy that old E150 that’s always on Craigslist for a song? I don’t know… maybe…


Henry and Lindsay

Next month we’re going to try and head down for a long weekend (read: not Labor Day) to Squaw Lake. We’ll see if I actually make it happen.

At least this week we were able to rescue August.

4 Stroke Small 800 Watt Generator

I found the small generator I was looking for on sale at Amazon the other day. So I thought I’d fire it up and give it a shot before I went out on our next trip. Everything went really well. The generator is quiet. 56db on economy mode from about 3 feet, and only 70db right next to it under heavy load. Very pleased with it. Its an off brand small 800 watt generator. Here is the link to the exact model. This one is from Dirty Hand Tools, but for another $100 you seem to be able to get the identical machine in orange from Earthquake Tools or something. Check it out.

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I’m really excited about the possibilities that this small 800 watt generator gives me. It’ll fit in the cargo quarter berth, or in the cabin without issue. It’ll tie nicely up on the bow, and allow me to charge the house bank with the 10 amp charger. Or I can use it to charge the trolling motor battery. Or both! So this gives us the ability to really gunkhole down at Squaw Lake at the end of the summer.

Along with the 2 amps or so I get from the 50 watt solar panel on a sunny day, this should be plenty of power. Once I’m able to switch the motor from the 2.5hp 2 stroke to the 6hp 4 stroke I’ll really be in business. One fuel to carry (along with some spare oil).

Anyway, this small 800 watt generator is the bees knees. Its smaller than the one from Harbor Freight. Its quieter than the one from Harbor Freight. Its a 4 stroke as well. Now, was it 3 times as expensive? Yep. But its like 10 times as good.

There is an old saying about buying boots. The poor man buys a new pair of boots every year. A rich man buys one pair of boots every ten years, even though his boots are three times as much. After 10 years who’s ahead?

We’ll find out after I test this genny on the water.

What Worked: Potter 19 Shakedown Cruise

As promised a discussion of what worked, and what didn’t, on our recent shakedown cruise on my Potter 19 Exodus. Several of these items are Potter 19 Modifications that I have made and have enjoyed.


The Cleaned Up Cockpit – Jim helped me recently install a new hatch on the port side cockpit to create a locker where the quarter berth used to be. That worked great. Stored forward in the space is the food and cooking tools (stove and what not). Then, behind the hatch I keep the gas, oil, and other miscellaneous things I might need. Buried in the back of the space is the dingy which I never use because I can beach the boat. But its been nice to get the gas can out of the cockpit when under way.

The Solar – The solar panel continues to kick butt. 50 watts attached to the rail is great when sailing. Its out of the way, but is also securely attached. I can’t use it if the cockpit is full, but if its just a couple of people, its wonderful.

The Computer – Using Navigatrix is wonderful on this old laptop. I’ve really gotten my money’s worth out of this Vaio. It went all over Europe with Lindsay and I five years ago, and is still going strong as my navigation station and TV. In fact, we got to watch a little bit of the America’s Cup race while we were at anchor.

Sailing – We purposefully tried to get the boat to heel over. It firmed up nicely at about 12 degrees. It always makes me nervous when sailing with my son (and my expensive stuff!) that I don’t know what the reserve stability is on the Potter 19. I don’t have a feel for it. Guess I should take it sailing more. Woe is me huh?

Anchoring – We’ve anchored the Potter 19 a few times. This time worked as well as those. We weren’t in Glorietta Bay as long as I’d hoped, but it was pretty windy, and the anchor held well in the mud. I’d trust it in the more sheltered waters in Mission Bay’s anchorage.

Trailer Light Bar – For towing, the lights built into the trailer seem awfully low. They’re hard to see. So I wanted a set that was up higher. I made a bar that they can sit on, and that can be strapped to the boat. For lights, I used a set of portable lights from Harbor Freight. They’re not the greatest in the world, but they shouldn’t rust out, and they’re quite visible.

Its under construction here… Like a Geocities Page from the 90s

The Shanty Spring Open

Just a quick post. We’re still here. Still having fun. Its just been a busy few months. San Diego actually had some rain too. Anytime we get rain, you really want to stay out of the water. Imagine the filth of 6 months rolling into your nice little man made cesspool. If you can do that, you can imagine Mission Bay.

Anyway, its been nice lately, and Lindsay and I finally got to take the Potter 19 out. Grandma and Grandpa watched the youngin’ so Linds could finally relax a bit. I think she had a nice day on the water.

It was a relatively windy day, with a steady breeze out of the west. Perfect for sailing under the main alone. According to OpenCPN we were cruising along at a nice leisurely 2.5 to 3 knots. Not too shabby really for the Potter.

Just a nice long run along the outside of Fiesta Island.

Looking at the chart, I’m a little surprised we didn’t scrape bottom a couple of times.

A beautiful day, and a chance to test the gear. Everything went pretty well.

Unless you’re a jetskier. If you’re a jetskier, get off the dang ramp when you’ve got the boat on. The ramp is not a place to work on your boat! Come on! It’ll be a long year otherwise 🙂

More to come on this set up later!

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