Great Ambition

"It's a rough life, but someone's got to live it!"

Eleven years and still going!

This is the continuing story of our new life as River Rats on the Columbia River aboard our Trimaran Transporter houseboat we named Great Ambition.

If you want to see how we got here (and hints on how you can do it too) see Great Ambition, the beginning.

Click here to go to the archive of our eleventh year.

Click on this link to see the latest!

Click here to see a map of our travels!

Click here to see what happens when we have a flood!

Why I write this blog.

If you like my backgrounds click here.

I got tired of the spring-driven bathroom fan timer switches that keep failing after a year, so I designed an electronic switch to replace it. You can buy electronic timers, but they require 120VAC to work, and this fan is 12V run off my house wide solar power system. The minium time is 2 minutes, the max time is 23 minutes, all adjustable by the knob. To trigger it, you hit the blue-lit button. At that time the blue LED will go out and the fan will start. That way it's always on so you can find it in the dark. When time is up, the fan will go off and the LED will light again.

This is actually an earlier version that used a different switch, but basically it's the same. I had to rebuild it once because I had to make modifications that eventually destroyed the circuit board.

It uses a standard LM555 timer chip in a mono-stable multivibrator configuration to drive a high power N-channel MOSFET, the same one I use for the watermaker pump switch. That way I only need to keep one kind of spare MOSFET on the boat. It works really well and it should last the rest of the boats life.

A nice shot of a seagull on top of our "speed bump" or no-wake bouy.

A neighbor took off from the marina so I caught a photo of him.

The sunrise has dropped back to the big tree across the channel. Last time it was there was back in April 20.

The smoke from the wildfires in Canada is really clogging up the sky. In case you can't tell, that's the Moon.

The sun rising the next day. Notice that I caught a Swallow in the disk of the sun in flight.

An hour later the sun is a little brighter, but I'm shooting this without a filter, which you normally can't do without burning up the camera.

A nice yacht with a nice name. Wet Dream is also the name of a comical song by Kip Addotta. "I was driving a rented Stingray in downtown Atlantis, and it was overheating. So I pulled into a Shell station, they said I'd blown a seal. I told him, 'Fix the damn thing and leave my private life out of it, OK pal?'"

Sunrise the next day yields a little brighter sun. You can see all the Swallows patrolling the sky for bugs to eat for breakfast.

Our 7AM waterskier came by and I was ready this time. She's really carving up the glass!

I love the thermostat I setup in the living room, so I came up with a way to do the same thing in the back room. I built a circuit in a perforated hobby box I got from It contains a high power AC solid state switch, a cooling fan and a 5 volt power supply to activate the switch whenever the Honeywell thermostat commands it to.

The thermostat is a standard 5-2 day Honeywell programmable thermostat. When the thermostat notes that it's time to turn on the heat, it flips a relay which is connected to the hobby box and that turns on the high power switch that turns on power to the internal fan and a space heater plugged into it. That way the temperature is remotely sensed from a draft free location on the wall instead of right on the heater. This will make the temperature more stable in the back room, mirroring what I have in the living room. That way the whole house will be warm in the day and cool enough to sleep at night.

Sunrise.The fog is starting to really come up in the morning.

Sunrise. The sun is really moving south now. Only a few weeks till Equinox, and it has a long way to go.

A neighbor came by on her Aqua Bike. A pretty cool unit, but pricey!

Several years ago my wife April creasted a joke graphic about me getting new speakers in our yacht, Arecales for Christmas. Kind of cute. You'll notice that the map shows Caterpillar Island including Vancouver Lake and the confluence with the Willamette.

The Moon just before sunup.


A ship heading out to sea named after my wife, April.

The moon the next day.


I had to make a short video to show how my new bathroom fan timer works. The blue LED is a great nightlight. It runs all the time that the fan isn't running, but it only consumes 1mA of current from my 500AH battery array so I think it will be fine. Push the lighted button to start the fan, adjust the timer knob as needed. If you need more time, push it again and it resets and starts again. When time is up, the light comes back on. Easy to find in the dark and unlike the mechanical spring wound timers, it should last forever.


The moon. It's soon to be new.

Our 7AM waterskier came by in the sunrise light. Beautiful!

Scapoose Oregon commemorates September 11th with a huge flag flown from a ladder truck.

Our Rocket Pump failed, again. The hand operated pump that we use for our drinking water is ubiquitous in boats, but has issues, like leaky pump lever seals, leaky diaphragm which reduces pumping effcieny over time, etc. I bought a new one as a spare, but I also bought one of these Chinese made electric pumps meant for pumping from a 5 gallon water jug. It's meant to fit over the neck of a standard water jug, but I built a stanchion from 1 1/2" PVC pipe fittings and it works really well!

We've seen this guy do a lot of taxiing, but he's never taken flight.

Sunrise. I don't have to get up as early to catch these as I had to in the early summer.

A nice shot of our neighbors through the fog.

The fog was a little thicker the next day.

A fisherman cruising by in the sunrise. Beautiful!

A comparison: Sunrise back in March 21st, the Spring Equinox.

And sunrise exactly 6 months later on the Autumn Equinox. It's hard to see because there were no leaves in the spring and there are now, and they are obsuring the sun, but it seems that the sun is rising in about the same place, as it should be.

Sunrise. Today I got my first of (hopefully) many Social Security checks! Auto-deposit of course! It's a good day!


A Bald Eagle catches a fish right off the front deck.

Our neighbors.


Our 7AM waterskier came by and I was ready.

And she came by again the next day!

A boat with an interesting name.

I did a favor for a neighbor. We did a double side-tow to get this sailboat into Jeff's slip from Happy Rock marina. Side tow is much better than pulling from the bow, and double side tow gives you ultimate control, kind of like driving a bulldozer.

A pair of Bald Eagles savoring a dead fish on the beach across from us.

I noticed a funny cloud formation and took some video. It turned out to be a funnel cloud! I posted it on YouTube and emailed the link to KPTV Channel 12. A few hours later, KGW, Channel 8 asked permission to use it.

That night KPTV Channel 12 and KGW Channel 8 both ran the story on their evening broadcast. Around 1AM, I got a message from KOIN Channel 6 asking for permission to use it, and I agreed right away (I keep my phone near my bed at night) so I assume they also ran the story. So I appeared on 3 different TV stations with this video. Pretty good huh?


Classic wooden boat.

Google Maps finally caught us at Sigler's Cove in Oregon.

A slightly tighter shot. Notice that just below the RADAR radome shadow on the roof are two dark spots. Those are holes I cut in the roof where there had been a leak from the RADAR cable. I pulled out the wet insulation and then put a pair of fans over the holes to blow hot dry air through the roof while the weather was in the 90s by day and 70s overnight. After a week of doing that, I replaced the insulation with new dry blown in insulation and glassed it over, then recoated the roof with Henry's Tropicool. Now all is well!

A nice boat with a nice name.

The Moon and Saturn. It's not a coincidence that they are close to each other, they are close to each other once a month because they share the same orbital eliptic, just like all the planets in the Solar System.


A cool little sailboat.

To be continued...

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