Category Archives: RV-Travel

Posts related to our active involvement in RVing.

202307_01-31 – Summer Days

Blog Post for July 2023.

This post consists of 18 photos with captions.  It covers some additional electrical work in the barn, along with setting up shelving in the store room, moving stuff from the garage to the barn, fixing the screen doors on the house doorwalls, and hanging out with family.

 

Our youngest grand-daughter (SRF) with her dad sitting on the hearth of our fireplace.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Our middle grand-daughter (MEF3, right) and daughter (MEF2, left) at our house.  Bruce’s mom was MEF.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Bruce snaps a self-portrait with the approval tag for the rough electrical inspection on the barn.  No changes were needed.  It’s just a yellow piece of cardstock, but it was a big deal for him and a significant milestone for the barn project.

 

Linear LED light fixtures installed in the barn shop.  Light switch in the white outlet box between the door and the subpanel.  Bruce worked out the lumen calculations for a detailed work area ahead of time and these fixtures appear to produce sufficient light intensity with a daylight white (5000K) color temperature.  As shown, they are installed in every other joist space—three in some and two in others (alternately)—which distributes the light nicely and protects them from physical damage.  More fixtures could be added in the unused spaces if needed in the future.  Note that the underside of the storeroom floor is the visible ceiling in the shop, and is painted white along with the joists and all of the walls.  It’s a well-lit space.  Note also that there is no insulation between the shop and the storeroom above.  By design, the electric heater in the shop should also provide enough heat to the storeroom to keep it above freezing in the winter.  If needed, Bruce will cut in a couple of floor vents to allow air to circulate, and possibly add a fan to one of them to draw cold air down from the storeroom to the shop.  Winter 2023-24 will be a test to see what else, if anything, is needed.

 

It did take very long after the rough electrical inspection to complete the work needed for the final inspection.  Again, no corrections were needed, and the work was approved.  Here is the final electrical inspection approval tag (left) along with the rough electrical inspection approval tag (right).  This was a major milestone for the barn project, and the culmination of a lot of work that included planning, specifying, purchasing, and installing many different components.

 

Although we did not yet have our Certification of Occupancy (CoO), we needed to start getting some things out of the garage.  The Ford F-150 has been an excellent vehicle for us, providing excellent passenger comfort, great performance and fuel economy, and a lot of very versatile utility, including hauling things, towing our trailer, and being equipped to tow behind our bus.

 

There was still a lot of stuff in the garage, but a space was starting to appear where we could get Linda’s car inside.  Much of what is visible in this image, including the plastic shelving units, will get moved to the barn, some in the storeroom, some in the shop, and some in the RV bays (but not too much).  Some of it will also end up in the shed.

 

Our youngest grand-daughter shares a bench with a couple of book-reading statues at the local public library.

 

The local public library as a great children’s room that includes this reproduction tree truck and with child-sized hollow.  Our youngest grand-daughter seems to fit in this space just right.

 

 

By this point in July 2023, we still had a lot of work to do to get the shop and storeroom in the barn set up to use efficiently.  The heavy-duty Kobalt metal shelving is set up on the front and rear walls of the storeroom.  The shorter east and west walls will get some of the full-height plastic shelving units from the garage.  The table in the center of the room is temporary, and will be replaced with shorter (3-shelf) plastic shelving units and capped with a sheet of plywood or other suitable counter-top surface.

 

It might not look impressive, but we could not ever recall getting two vehicles in this garage since we bought the house 10 years ago.

 

This little device might not look like much, but it is an important part.  It’s the combination roller / height-adjuster for the screen doors on our house doorwalls.  The doorwalls (and Windows) are Renewal by Andersen, and I could NOT find these adjusters at any of the local big box / hardware stores.  We found this one in the garage, left behind by the previous owners.  With the part number in hand, I was able to order additional ones.  We have five (5) doorwalls, each screen requires two of these devices, and most of them were broken or just plain worn out, and needed to be replaced.

 

Plastic shelving units in place along the east wall of the storeroom in the barn.  And yes, we are putting things on them because we have to.  But everything in this storeroom will be reorganized once all of the storage units are in place.  Really, it will.  Promise.

 

The west wall of the barn storeroom, with plastic shelving units in place.  A unit with parts bins will eventually occupy the space by the door.

 

The barn shop looking east from the west wall.  The band saw (left) and drill press (far end) are positioned in front of the two windows where wall storage isn’t possible.  Both of these will eventually be mounted in/on custom designed/built workbench/storage units.

 

The National Electrical Code requires a clear space in front of load centers and other electrical equipment that require access for facility operation and maintenance.  Minimum depth, width, and height of this space is specified.  Bruce has taped out this area on the floor for the main load center, but will eventually mark it permanently with paint or more durable tape.

 

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.  The sub-panel in the barn shop gets the same “no go” floor treatment as the main load center.  It might seem silly, but we will be moving a LOT of stuff around, and it’s just too easy to forget that we can not store anything in these spaces.

 

And last, but not least, for this month, work begins on replacing the roller / height-adjusters on the doorwall screen doors.

 

 

202306_01-30 – Summer Solstice

Blog Post for June 2023

This post consists of 23 photos with captions.  It continues the wiring of the barn, but also includes some family, friends, and home photos, including a new refrigerator for the house.  The term “conduit” refers to Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit.  All photos by Bruce unless otherwise attributed (Linda).

 

The east wall of the barn (RV trailer bay).  Main Load center (electrical distribution panel) right-center.  Large horizontal conduit carries the 100A feeder cable to the sub-panel for the shop/storeroom.  The mounting board for this large diameter conduit conceals a smaller diameter horizontal run for the utility receptacles, one of which is visible left-center (left side of the 6×6 post) along with its conduit drop. On the right side of the 6×6 post is the 120/240VAC / 50A RV receptacle for the travel trailer and the conduit that carries the wires from the load center running along the top edge of the bottom girt.  Conduit also runs vertically out of the top of the load center and up to the roof trusses, but is difficult to see in this photo.

 

The left/west side of the staircase to the storeroom above the shop.  An outlet box opening with a pair of duplex 120VAC/20A receptacles is visible in the staircase sheathing.  A matching outlet box and receptacles are installed on the other right/east sidewall of the staircase.  The wires for these receptacles come in from a T-body above the shop door.  The two RV bays are really one continuous space, except for the staircase, so this was the only practical way to get power to the center-middle part of the barn.

 

The outlet box and thermostat for the electric shop heater.  The heater and Tstat are 2-pole, 240VAC devices.  This photo shows a WAGO snap connector suitable for the 10AWG wire used to supply the heater.

 

The thermostat for the shop heater installed in its outlet box at a little over 4’ above the floor, and conveniently close to the shop sub-panel.

 

Bruce straddles the 14’ step-ladder so he can sit and work comfortably on the outlet boxes / receptacles for the LED linear light fixtures for the front center part of the barn.  The white disc behind him is one of the four VELOX Sun Tunnel’s in the barn ( three in the RV bays and one for the storeroom).

 

A short galvanized steel “nipple” (threaded on both ends) and threaded PVC conduit adapters.  There use will be more obvious (?) in the next three photos.  Bruce had to drill holes through horizontal girts to get wires to the four outdoor flood lights on the front of the barn.  (A girt is a 2×4 installed “on the flat” for lateral structure and steel siding attachment).  These nipples and fittings attached to the light fixtures, sealed the hole, and protected the wires.

 

Bruce is working on one of the access/mounting holes for one of the four exterior flood lights on the front of the barn.  The lights are being installed at the 12’ level up from the floor, in part because there were girts at that level which made the installation more convenient than putting them higher up.  It was also high enough to provide good coverage at ground level for the entry door and both RV bay rollup doors.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Shown here are the two exterior (weatherproof) outlet boxes between the large bay doors and above the entry door.  The flood light fixtures will attach to these outlet boxes.  Both boxes and the fixtures are white, to blend in with the white siding on the barn.

 

One of the nipples with the conduit adapter installed in the girt just to the west of the east RV bay door.  The chain at the left edge of the frame is the operator for the rollup door.  These doors can be motorized later, if we wish, but they are easy enough to operate manually.

 

Our youngest grand-daughter having a conversation with her “grandma N” (our close friends and travel companions).  (Photo by Linda)

 

A Pileated woodpecker visits our larger woodpecker feeder.  We know they are in the area as we often hear them “drumming” but they are rarely seen, and only very briefly when they are.  Linda was lucky to get this photo.

 

A view to the rear of the large/west RV (bus) bay in the barn.  Tools and materials are lined up down the center to make space for the 14’ step-ladder around the edges so Bruce could install and wire the lights (which are on in this photo).  Stairs up to the storeroom are partially visible along the right edge of the image.

 

This PEX cold water line and shut-off valve T’s off of a main run in the basement of the house and up to a coupling (the white thing that is partially visible in the floor board) for a water line to the refrigerator.

 

This photo shows the water line coupling pulled down out of the hole in the floor board.  The translucent line going up through the floor board is the water line to the old refrigerator.  The fridge is being replaced, and this line needed replacing too.

 

One of the 10 or so area/downlight fixtures installed around the top frame members of the barn side walls in the RV bays.  They are outdoor rated, 2-part fixtures, with the LEDs and driver module in the removeable cover, while the base plate has openings for wire glands, mounting screws, and a ground screw.  Towards the lower right of the base is a small horizontal green “thing”.  It’s a bubble level, which made it easier to get each base installed parallel to the floor.  Because these are over 15’ from the floor, out of reach of anyone (except someone named “Bruce” working on the roof of the bus) Bruce used NM-2 (non-metallic 2-conductor + ground) shielded cable (generically referred to as “ROMEX”) instead of running conduit.  He ran pieces of cable between adjacent units, securing it to the top frame members with cable stapes, and used weather tight strain-relief glands at the entry points into the units.  There is a rubber seal between the two pieces of the unit, making the unit weathertight when properly installed.  WAGO wire connectors were used to tie the NM-2 wires and the fixture wires together, placing all of the fixtures in parallel on the circuit.  The lights for the east and west bays are on separate circuits and are switched using their respective SD (switch duty rated) circuit breakers in the main load center.

 

The inside of the front wall of the barn on the east side of the entry door.  The outlet box at the top has two single-pole, single-throw (on-off) switches.  The one nearest the door is for the four outside floodlights on the front of the barn.  The other switch is for the interior center lights.  These lights illuminate the open area between the entry door and the staircase to the storeroom, as well as the stairs and landing, and the floor on either side of the staircase.  This ensures safe/lighted entrance to the barn, the storeroom, and the shop door under the staircase landing.  Also shown is an outlet box with duplex receptacle towards the bottom of the frame.

 

This is still the old refrigerator in the house kitchen, but Bruce has installed a new/clean translucent water line and replaced the old duplex electrical receptacle with a new, single one.  We had not used the automatic ice-maker in this fridge since we bought the house and the water line was shut-off at this point.

 

We bought the new refrigerator from Big George’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  This is our old refrigerator being loaded into their truck.

 

Our new refrigerator being unloaded from the delivery truck.  The Big George’s crew did a great job of removing the old refrigerator and installing the new one.

 

Our new refrigerator takes center stage in our kitchen.  Linda studies the directions for getting the interior ready to use while Bella (Paula and Nan’s dog) chills out on the floor.  (We took care of Bella while they went on a family vacation.)  Although not obvious from this photo, the new refrigerator is wider than our old one.  As part of the preparation for getting it installed, we had to move the wall cabinet over the desk ~8” to the left.  We also had to move the desk, but that was easy.  Up to this point, all of our appliances have been white, but we had to go with something else in order to get the model/features we wanted.  In time the other major appliances might get replaced/upgraded to stainless steel, but the fact that everything doesn’t match does not bother us.

 

The new refrigerator is a French door model with two pull out drawers.  The lower/larger drawer is the freezer, and has a sliding tray inside it.  The upper drawer can be a fridge or a freezer.  We decided to use it as a fridge as we do not typically stock a lot of frozen items.

 

The sub-panel in the barn shop with the cover on and the labels in place.

 

Another look at the barn storeroom showing the ceiling lights with the interconnecting wiring nicely secured and dressed.  Entry door is at the left.  Some of the Kobalt (Lowes) heavy-duty shelving across the rear wall.

 

202305_01-31 – The Merry Month of May

This post consists of 21 photos with captions.  It is mostly about the installation of the barn electrical system, with a few family photos thrown into the mix.  The term “conduit” refers to Schedule 40 PVC Electrical Conduit.  Photos by Bruce, unless otherwise indicated.

 

Barn shop looking south towards door.  Shop sub-panel center left.  Laser Level (bottom left) being used to align PVC electrical conduit vertically and horizontally.

Some of the conduit components used in the wiring of the barn; shown are elbows/sweeps, outlet boxes, and conduit bodies.

Cabella (who is not our cat but hangs around our house) checks out the entry to our Airstream travel trailer while it is parked in front of our house.  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the south wall of the shop in the barn early in the process of installing the conduit.

 

The barn shop looking SE with a bit more conduit installed.  Note the electric heater mounted between the ceiling joists.

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the storeroom above the shop in the barn as seen from the door in the SW corner looking NE.  The vertical conduit at the right edge of the image comes up from the shop sub-panel to an outlet box for a 120V/20A duplex receptacle (not visible), then to an outlet box for a light switch (also not visible), and then to an outlet box on the ceiling where the wiring for the ceiling mounted LED lights ties in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The program cover for the A2 (Ann Arbor) STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) end-of-year 3rd and 4th Grade Vocal Music Concert. In addition to singing, the concert involved a lot of recorder playing. Our middle grand-daughter attends this school. (Photo by Linda)

 

The 4th grade vocal group for the A2 STEAM Vocal Music Concert.  Our middle grand-daughter is front/left in the photo (highly patterned dress).  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce working at ceiling height (16’) in the barn using the 14’ step-ladder.  He is probably working on the wiring, as there is no other reason to be at ceiling height in the NW corner of the barn, but it’s not obvious what he is actually doing.  This photo is mostly to show the ladder. (Photo by Linda)

 

Bruce holding some conduit components in position to show how they will fit.  Conduit will run horizontally to the upper T-body and then down through the double 45-degree elbows into the outlet box.  The horizontal conduit will pass behind the 6”x6” posts, penetrating the vertical 2”x4” spacer blocks located there (that space the horizontal girts).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the E wall of the smaller (east) RV (trailer) bay.  The large conduit near the top of the image will carry the large (100 A) cables from the main electrical distribution panel (out of the frame to the right) to the south wall of the shop (out of frame to the left), and then across the wall to the entry point into the shop, just above the shop sub-panel.  The outlet box (center/left) is a special metal RV outlet box with a 120/240V / 50A RV shore power receptacle.  The conduit that supplies this outlet box will run along the top of the lower (horizontal) girt before sweeping up and into the box as shown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the SE corner of the barn showing the main electrical distribution panel.  The large conduit for the feeder cable to the shop/storeroom sub-panel comes out of the left side of the panel at the top.  The smaller conduit for the 50A RV receptacle comes out of the bottom left of the panel and sweeps down to the horizontal girt before running aft.  In-between these two conduit runs will be another one to supply the utility receptacles for this bay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce needed to bring the conduit and wires for the RV outlet boxes into one of the sides but the RV outlet boxes did they not have pre-punched holes for this fitment.  In this photo, the box for the west (bus) RV bay is clamped to the drill press table and a step drill is being used to drill the correct size hole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce maneuvers around the top of the 14’ step-ladder near the 14’ rollup door for the west (bus) RV bay.  He is installing conduit along the faces of the bottom cord of a roof truss to get power from the electrical distribution panel on the east wall (to the left in the photo) to the front and the west sides of the barn (to the right in the photo).  (Photo by Linda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our friend and fellow busnut, Marty, agreed to help Bruce run the wires through the conduit, much of which proved to be a 2-person job.  Here he is using the 7’/14’ Little Giant step/extension ladder in full extension mode to work at ceiling height directly above the main electrical distribution panel on the east wall (SE corner) of the barn.  The roll-up door for the east RV bay is visible.  The clear opening is the same as the west RV bay; 14′ high x 12′ wide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bruce (left) and Marty (right) pulling wires through conduit on the west wall of the barn. The vertical piece of conduit in-between them runs down the wall and then sweeps towards the rear of the barn (to the right) to carry the wires for the west (bus) 50A RV receptacle.  (Photo by Linda)

 

Linda’s sister (Sr. Marilyn, on the left) came up to visit and joined Linda for a walk at one of the Metroparks with our daughter (on the right). (Photo by Linda)

 

The main electrical distribution panel for the barn showing all of the wires terminated to appropriate circuit breakers.  The two large wires at the top are the 240VAC service entrance cables from the meter, which is on the outside of the wall behind the panel.  The large, light grey cable entering the center bottom of the panel is the service entrance cable from the meter.  There is also a large bare aluminum neutral wire terminated to the neutral bus just to the right of the red wire (not as easily seen in this photo).  The black and red wires are “live” (energized) at all times as an external disconnect was not required by the electrical code revision currently in use in our county and so the builder’s electrician did not install one.  Had I been paying closer attention when the electrician was on site, I would have asked for this external disconnect as an added cost feature.  The red and black wires feed a 200 A main circuit breaker that serves as the “main disconnecting means” for the entire barn.  When the panel cover is off, as shown here, this main breaker is usually open so that nothing else in the panel is energized and work can be safely performed.  The exception to the rule is when Bruce needs to perform diagnostics by taking voltage and/or current measurements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main electrical distribution panel with the cover installed and the door open, showing the circuit breaker labels along the left and right edges.  The device at the lower right of the image (the left edge is just barely visible) is the Type 2 Whole House surge protector.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although most of the power to the west (bus) RV bay is fed overhead near the front of the barn, it made more sense for this outlet box to be fed from the east (trailer) utility receptacles circuit.  Although probably hard to see, an “outside corner conduit body” is used at the top/left to bring the conduit around the corner.  As will all of the conduit bodies, this one has a removable/gasketed plate which allows wires to be fed around the sharp 90 degree corner. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The conduit for the east (trailer) RV bay utility receptacles runs across the south wall of the shop over to the east wall of the west (bus) RV bay (see previous photo).  Above the door to the shop, a T-body allows wires to branch off to the space under the storeroom stairs before continuing on to the west bay.  The wires under the stairs will feed under stair lights and utility receptacles on either side of the staircase.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

202304(16-30) – More barn work; painting, conduit, and wires, oh my!

This post contains some narrative but consists mostly of 17 photos with captions.  ]

SUNDAY 16 April

I finally started painting inside the barn today.  Priming actually, but first I finished masking off areas of the concrete floor where I would be painting, using a combination of red rosin paper and masking tape.  Before starting on the interior of the staircase, however, I removed the handrail leading up to the storeroom, removed all of the hardware, and set it across a pair of sawhorses in the driveway.  There was rain in the forecast, but initially the weather was okay, with a high temperature forecast of 74 degrees F.

I rubbed down the handrail with 0000 steel wool, and then opened a container of Kills2 primer that I had left from this past fall.  I gave it a good stir, and used a tapered trim brush to apply it the bottom and sides.  I then moved inside and did all of the “cutting in” in preparation for eventually using rollers for the large surface areas.  I used up the remaining Kills2, and opened the new 5-gallon pail.

These pails have a 3” (approx.) screw off cap, and I have screw on spouts that replace them to allow pouring the contents without removing the entire large snap on cover.  Not that it’s easy—these pails are heavy when full—but it is much less messy than removing the large lid and then trying to pour the contents.  I transferred a small amount of the primer into the old, smaller (~ 3 gallon) pail, and set about the work.

The rain did eventually come, and I had to move the handrail and sawhorses inside along the west shop wall.  As mentioned yesterday, Linda and I had already placed red rosin paper ~3’ wide, along the base of the two large walls that are inside the barn but form two of the exterior walls of the shop/storeroom in the NE corner of the building.

MONDAY 17 April

As forecast, a cold front came through yesterday, with high, gusty winds, and the temperature started falling noticeably by mid-afternoon.  The overnight low dropped below freezing, and we awoke this morning to snow.  In anticipation of this, I had moved all of the primer and paint into the shop portion of the barn yesterday, as it is well insulated and had warmed up nicely with the very warm weather of recent days.  The forecast was for three nights below freezing, but not by much, with highs above freezing, so I figured the paint should be okay.  Overnight lows in the 30’s were forecast again for four nights starting this coming Saturday, but from tomorrow on the weather should be amenable to the work I need to get done in the barn.

Given the weather forecast, today was a good day to work on blog posts, including the processing of photos.  I shot over 1,500 frames on our 15-night/16-day Panama Canal cruise, around 500 of them just on the day we did the transit of the Canal.  It takes a lot of time to go through that many images, select the ones I want to use (that support the narrative or tell a story in their own right), and post-process them.  It also takes a lot of time to craft the narrative, especially more than a month after the events.

TUESDAY 18 & WEDNESDAY 19 April

A view of the East (small RV) bay with equipment and supplies.  The wall behind the step-ladder and the walls of the staircase have been painted and primed.  Not yet done, and saved for later, is painting all of the staircase trim in a contrasting color, probably a green to match the lower exterior siding,

 

 

 

I managed to complete all of the cutting-in except for the a few spots high up at the exterior barn walls, as I need the 14’ stepladder to reach these, and I need someone to help me move it.  Linda was working on accounting for the bakery, and did not need to be interrupted.  The handrail dried, so I was able to turn in right-side-up and finish the first coat of primer.

 

 

 

 

 

This is another view of the painted walls and staircase as seen from the SW corner the West (large RV) bay looking NE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mammatus clouds as seen from our center driveway looking N over part of the garage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THURSDAY 20 – SUNDAY 30 April

The box adapter has been installed in the upper left corner of the main panel.  The inside of the outer portion is smooth to accept the conduit tube.  The inner portion is threaded, and retained by a conduit lock-nut.  Note that in any photos of the main panel with the cover removed, the main breaker/disconnect is OPEN, so the bus bars are NOT energized.  The very large black and red cables at the top, however, are energized but the terminating lugs have safety covers.  Still, this is no place to get careless.  I am always extremely mindful of the location of these “live” terminals.

 

 

During this time period we installed the 2” Sch 40 PVC conduit from the main panel to the sub-panel in the shop, and ran the feeder wires.  It might not sound like much, but it was our first attempt at installing the conduit.  It was  a lot of work, and we took out time to figure things out as we went.  Here are some highlights of that work in photos with captions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting from the post at the right of the frame, we installed a 1×6 board horizontally to the 2×6 boards that are on the flat just underneath the windows.  The 2×6 boards support the vertical framing for the windows and extend back for two more posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is almost the same photo as the previous one, except that some of the 2” Sch 40 PVC conduit has been mounted to the 1×6 boards and tied into the main panel box adapter.  There is a gap in the conduit about mid-run.  An expansion coupling will eventually be installed there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This panoramic image is 1024×334 pixels.  Clicking on the image might allow you to see it full size.

A 90-degree bend (elbow, sweep) has been used to turn the 2” Sch 40 PVC conduit up onto the wall of the shop and terminate it in a 2” PVC LL conduit body at the correct distance from the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the left is an expansion joint and on the right is an LB conduit body with a short piece of 2” conduit coming out of the back connection.  Two expansion joints were used for this run, one in the middle of the tube from the main panel to the shop wall and the other in the middle of the tube on the shop wall.  The stub in the LB conduit body will go through a hole in the wall and connect to another LB conduit body just above the top of the sub-panel in the shop.

The LB conduit body positioned in the hole through the wall of the shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another 2” PVC LB conduit body inside the shop above the sub-panel.  Light is coming through the connection on the back of the LB.  A short piece of 2” conduit connects the LB body to a box adapter in the top of the sub-panel.  The box adapter is secured from inside the sub-panel with a conduit lock-nut.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time out for a cat photo!  On this particular day, Cabela decided to visit the barn while we were working and hang out on the bed cover of the F-150.  She was exploring at this point, but spent most of her time lying down and sleeping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We fed a “fish tape” from the LL conduit body back into the main panel, being careful of the “live” terminals at the top of the enclosure.  We had already unwound and straightened the stranded copper feeder conductors—three #4 AWG (red, black, white) and one #6 AWG (green)—and laid them out in the driveway parallel to one another.  We attached all four wires to the end of the fish tape.  Linda pulled them into the 2” Sch 40 PVC conduit while I fed them in from the main panel.  Not shown is that when the wires emerged in the LL conduit body, we: 1) disconnected them from the fish tape, 2) fed the tape from the LB conduit body on the outside of the shop wall back to the LL conduit body, 3) reattached the wires to the end of the fish tape, 4) pulled the wires through the 2” conduit to the LB conduit body while guiding them in from the LL conduit body, and 5) detached them from the fish tape when they emerged form the LB conduit body.  This sequence of events would get repeated quite a few times before all of the wires were installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The feeder cables terminated in the shop sub-panel, from left to right: Equipment Grounding Conductor (EGC, Green), L1 (Black), L2 (Red), and Neutral (White).  All of the conductors have black insulation except for the EGC.  The L2 and Neutral conductors are color coded with tape near the lug connector ends.  Note that there is NO connection between the equipment grounding bus and the neutral bus in the sub-panel.  Neutral and Ground can only be bonded at one place in the system, and that is at the first disconnect, which in our barn is the main panel.  Note also that there is no main circuit breaker in the sub-panel.  The L1 and L2 feeder circuit conductors are protected by a 100 Amp, double-pole circuit breaker in the main panel.  This circuit breaker also serves as the disconnect for the sub-panel in the even that it needs to be opened and worked on.  Until we have final approval of the electrical installation, this circuit breaker has a lock-out device on it to prevent it from being accidentally closed and energizing the sub-panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The feeder cables have been cut to the required length to be terminated in the main panel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The L2 (Red) and L1 (Black) shop feeder conductors have been “landed” on a double-pole, 50 Amp circuit breaker (3rd and 4th from the bottom in the lower right of the panel).  The Neutral (White) feeder conductor has been terminated at the bottom of the neutral bus bar on the right side of the panel, approximate mid-way between the top and bottom of the enclosure.  The EGC (Green) has also been terminated in the ground bus, but is under other wires and not really visible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The shop sub-panel with its cover reinstalled.

 

 

 

As of April 29th, the conduit and conductors for the shop feeder circuit were installed and I could finally move ahead with the rest of the conduit and wiring.  I decided that the best/easiest thing to do next was the shop and storeroom as I could do most of the work by myself standing on the floor or a short ladder.

 

 

 

 

 

202304(01-15) – Barn Project and General Update

In addition to the narrative, this post contains 17 photos with captions.  ]

MONDAY 3 – TUESDAY 4 April

The conduit trench that runs form the new utility pole along the inside curve of the driveway to the meter box at the SE corner of the barn.  Various tools are out as I get ready to move some dirt around to better fill-in the trench.

With all of the rain that came in March I finally had a day to continuing working on the trench for the conduit carrying the large electrical conductors from the pole to the barn meter box.  The soil was damp, so it was easy to dig but heavy to move.  I placed some of our surplus stacking landscape blocks in the trench every 5 feet of so to help retain the soil that I moved into the trench from either side.

The green bags in the following photo are 40 lb. topsoil, but I had been advised against using them as fill as it just washes downhill.  At some point I will probably get out the garden tiller and try to work this soil into the clay, but I would really like to wait until Phil can get back here and correct some of the grading.

 

 

I have managed to shovel/scrape most of the soil (clay dirt, really) from along the sides of the upper end of the trench into the cut, leaving it mounded up somewhat as it will eventually settle.

The stackable landscaping blocks are visible in the trench.  I used them as partial fill and to stop erosion of the newly place soil in the trench.

WEDNESDAY 05 – WEDNESDAY 12 April

The converted coach and the travel trailer in the barn.  We put them inside because the weather forecast included the possibility of large/damaging hail.  “Technically, they should not be in there as we do have the occupancy certificate yet (I need to finish the wiring first), but any fine we might get would be miniscule compared to the damage that large hail could do to either/both of our RVs.  We did get pea-sized hail, along with lots of rain and wind, but south of us there was ping-pong ball sized hail that destroyed fields of crops and badly damaged vehicles.  Note the standing water just off the right edge of the driveway at the SE corner of the barn.  I am waiting for our grading and excavating guy to squeeze us into his incredibly busy schedule and take care of the drainage.

Linda (Ama) was away from the house from mid-day on the 5th until late evening on the 12th.  She was providing live-in child care for our two younger grand-daughters while their mommy and daddy took a 1-week adult vacation to Iceland.  I drove down on the 5th to help get the 10-year-old to her rock-climbing class and then back home for dinner, before returning home myself.  I went down again on Saturday the 8th in time for dinner and stayed the night.  What fun that was!  Finally, I drove down on Wednesday the 12th to pick the 10-year-old up from school, take her to her rock-climbing class, and then get the two of us to the Ann Arbor area Buddy’s Pizza to meet up with Ama and the 4-year-old for dinner.  When I wasn’t doing those errands, I was home working on the barn, and other things.  I will get to those momentarily, but first, some highlight photos of the Ann Arbor events.

Sadie (L) and Madeline (R) with their aunt Meghan (C) at the butterfly exhibit at Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, Michigan on Friday, April 7.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

PXL_20230407_145529564_307x408(L)…  A lovely photo of a beautiful butterfly.  (Photo by Linda.)

A lovely photo of a beautiful butterfly.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday morning means ice skating lessons.  “Mads” (with her arms and one leg extended) seems to be doing pretty well.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter weekend was upon us so on Saturday afternoon the girls decorated ceramic eggs.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Easter Sunday, aunt Meghan came over and the girls decorated actual eggs.  The Easter Bunny showed up while the girls were not looking, and the eggs got hidden in the back yard.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here I am with the crew after a successful egg hunt.  Note that one or two eggs disappeared between the time the Easter Bunny hid them and the girls went looking for them.  A squirrel was spotted from the house carrying at least one of them away.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Easter bounty on full display.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apa (me) and “Mads” discussing something in the her recently acquired book on the history of Algebra.  She’s 10-1/2 years old.  (Photo by Linda.)

The main “other thing” of particular note, was that the basement zone of our hot-water baseboard heating system quit working.  Our system has three zones, and the other two were working normally, so that strongly suggested that the zone valve had failed.

 

 

 

The hot-water baseboard heating system originally had 5 zones, each controlled by one of the zone valves shown in this photo.  The basement zone valve is on the far right.  The next two are for the main part of the house and the bedrooms.  The last two originally served a zone for the breezeway (now our library) and the water-heater, which is just out of the photo to the left.  The library zone was decommissioned when we had the new natural gas furnace installed in early 2016.  The water heater zone was also decommissioned at that time as the Bosch furnace controls the hot-water tank/function directly.

The zone valves are a Honeywell Home V8043F1036/U Motorized Valve.  It has a 24VAC 50/60 Hz motor with an integral end switch and the 1/4-turn brass valve has 3/4″ sweat fittings assembly.  The motor-actuator engages a small shaft that protrudes from the valve.  There is also a lever on the motor actuator that is supposed to allow the valve to be opened manually and secured in that position, but the lever would not budge.  Either the motor or the valve had seized, but I wasn’t sure which one.

 

 

This is the motor-actuator portion of the spare assembly removed from the valve body.

Well … it so happened that I had a complete spare zone valve on the shelves in the furnace room.  It was still in a box with directions, albeit the box was a bit tattered and the directions were in pretty rough shape.

The valve assembly came with the house, and had probably been there for many years before that.  Fortunately, it was fairly obvious that the motor-actuator could be separated from the valve by removing two small screws.

I shut of the furnace (“boiler”) and then shut off the power to the entire system, which is both 120VAC and 24VAC.  I took a photo of how the wires were currently connected to the existing motor-actuator and then carefully removed them from the terminal screws.  I removed the retaining screws from the existing unit and slid it off, with some difficulty.  I was able to turn the valve shaft easily, but I could still not move the manual lever on the motor unit.  Problem isolated.

I separated the motor-actuator on the “new” zone valve from the valve body, checked that I move it by hand (I could) and attached it to the existing valve body.  I was able to open it manually, so I reconnected the wires, turned the power back on, and then turned the furnace on.  I then turned the basement thermostat on and went away to do other things, one of which was to see if I could purchase replacement valve assemblies to keep on hand.  As it turned out, I was able to order two spare valve units on Amazon.

The reason for the wait was that this particular Bosch unit has an outside temperature sensor, which results in a strange system behavior during the spring.  At this time of year the sub-surface temperature of the earth around the house is still cool and thus the basement tends to be cool as well (most of it is not very well insulated).  But because the temperature outside is above some limit, the furnace refuses to operate any of the space heating zones.  It still makes hot water; it just won’t heat the house.  That’s not a problem upstairs where it tends to be warmed and we also have a forced-air heat pump, but for a period of time each spring the basement just ends up colder than I would like.  Worst case, I have been known to close the doors to my office and run a small fan-heater.

Another important “other thing” was that I finally had a chance to talk to the neighbor (Rebecca) across the street about Cabela (the cat).  Cabela is a lovely female cat that belongs to Dave and Rebecca (and their kids) but Cabela is afraid of their dog, Kenai, and will not go in their yard when the dog is outside, which is most of the day and evening.  (Cabela was actually hanging around our house all winter, and it was then that we learned she belonged to the neighbors).  As a result, Cabela spends most of her time around our house and in our yard, but (supposedly) goes home at night where she is fed and has shelter on their back deck.

Cabela does not come in our house and we are not adopting her.  She is not ours, and we have no plans to get any more pets unless/until we are no longer doing any extended traveling.  The main reason for the conversation was to make sure they were aware that Cabela was hanging out at our place, and that both we and they were OK with the situation.  I also let her know that I give Cabela some food (dry kibble) in the morning and wanted to make sure that was OK with them.  It was a very friendly chat, and yes, they had seen her over there, and no, it was not a problem.  If anything, they did not want us to feel like we had to take care of her.  I assured her that we did not, and since we were now kitty-less, we enjoyed being able to interact with her, without really being responsible for her.

Back on the barn project, the major tasks facing me were the wiring, and then the relocating of “things” (many things) from the garage to the barn shop and storeroom.  A “minor” task was that I wanted to paint the two exterior walls of the shop/storeroom that are inside the barn, but this had to be finished before I could run some of the conduit.  (I hope that makes sense.  The shop and storeroom are a 2-story enclosed space in the right rear corner of the barn.  The east and north walls are part of the shell of the barn.  The other two walls (south and west) are inside the barn.  All four walls are insulated with closed-cell foam.  There is also closed cell foam above the ceiling of the storeroom, and rigid foam under the portion of the concrete floor that constitutes the floor of the shop.)

I have been moving and staging tools and materials in the barn shop in advance of the painting and wiring work, and decided I needed to move all of it somewhere else as I will be doing a lot of wiring in the shop.  The storeroom was the obvious (?) place to move much of it, even if only temporarily.

This photo is out of sequence, but has the critical information about the heavy-duty shelving units.  With packaging they were more like 160 lbs. each.  I had to open each box and carry most of the parts up to the storeroom individually.

With that in mind, I checked around at Lowes and The Home Depot and decide to get two metal shelving units for the barn storeroom.  I bought two KOBALT, 4-shelf, black, units, each 77”W x 72”H x 24”D; 152 lbs. each including the box.  An associate at Lowes helped me load them into the F-150, but I had to unload them by myself.

 

 

 

 

As shown in this photo, I originally placed them against the south wall of the storeroom.  I eventually relocated them to the north wall.

The instructions indicated an assembly time of 20 minutes (not including the unpacking).  Yeah, right.  I had to unpack them and carry them up to the storeroom in pieces.  Unloading, unpacking, and transporting the pieces to the storeroom took about hour for each shelving unit (I did them one at a time).  My assembly time for the first unit was over two hours.  The second unit went a bit faster, but not that much.

A view of the staircase to the storeroom above the shop as I prepare the area to finish priming and painting the walls.  Note the red rosin paper on the floor to protect the concrete from errant paint.

A combination of illness, weather, trying to process photos and write blog posts about our Panama Canal cruise, and unexpected home projects had temporarily delayed getting work done on the barn, but by mid-April the pieces were finally falling into place.

 

202303(13-31) – Back Home & Back to Work

[  This post contains narrative along with 11 photos with captions.  ]

SUNDAY 12 March

We got back to our house on Sunday the 12th, but not without some minor issues.  Our daughter picked us up from DTW and drove us back to her house where we left our F-150 while we were away.  As soon as I turned the ignition switch ‘on’ I got a message on the info screen indicating that there was an electrical problem.  The engine started normally, but the battery icon remained on.  Linda Googled the issue and found information that indicated we might have an alternator failure along with some vague information about how far we might be able to drive before all of the electrical stuff stopped working.  We started for home anyway, but only a mile into the trip, decided it was an unwise decision, and returned to our daughter’s house.  She let us borrow her car to get home, and we transferred our suitcases to her vehicle, with the promise to return it in next couple of days.

When we got home we brought our suitcases into the house, but didn’t do much else.  I was still obviously ill, so we each took CoVID-19 tests.  Mine was positive, which was not a surprise given my symptoms, but Linda’s was negative, which was a relief.  Forthwith, all of my interactions with people outside the house included a face mask.  Paul and Nancy also eventually tested positive.

MONDAY 13 March

I returned to our daughter’s house the next day with my tools and multi-meter and tried again to resolve the issue, but the fault had not cleared on its own.  Okay then, something was definitely wrong.  I checked the voltage level on the battery, which was still okay, but decided to replace it and see if that was the problem.  The battery was original to the vehicle, which we bought in May 2019 (and was built some months prior to that), so the battery was approaching 4-years old, if not there already.  I drove to Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor, only 10 minutes from our daughter’s house, and got the correct replacement battery.  It was easy enough to do the swap, but it didn’t fix the problem.  Still, it never hurts to have a new battery.  I returned the old one for the core charge credit, and made an appointment to bring the car in the next day, figuring (hoping) it could at least make it that far.  I was not in the humor to have it towed.

TUESDAY 14 March

Linda drove our daughter’s car and I drove Linda’s Honda HR-V back to our daughter’s house.  I then drove the F-150 to Varsity Ford and Linda followed me in her car to pick me up and take us home.  I figured it might be several days before they could get to it, but I got a call back a couple of hours.  The service writer indicated that the alternator was okay, but an electrical cable had failed and needed to be replaced.  I approved the work, of course.  I got another call mid-afternoon that the repair was finished and I could pick up the truck.  Rather than wait until the next day, Linda drove us back down, I paid the bill, and we were on our way back home yet again.

WEDNESDAY 15 – SUNDAY 19 March

Given my positive CoVID-19 test, I didn’t do much else the rest of the week other than work at my desk.  My big accomplishment was the final preparation of the application for the electrical permit for wiring the barn.  By the 19th I finally tested negative and was free to move about (Lowes and Home Depot) and get back to work on the barn.

MONDAY 20 – THURSDAY 23 March

Here I am on the front porch with Cabela.  She is not our cat, but has effectively been abandoned by her owners across the street.  She craves human attention, and we feed her in the morning to make sure she is getting at least some food without having to hunt.

Today was a big day for me and the barn project; I went to the Livingston County Building Department and submitted my application for an electrical permit for wiring of the barn.  The application was processed and the permit issued while I was there, which was very convenient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our 2020 Airstream Flying Cloud 27 FBT travel trailer back home and parked in our guest site.

We had been thinking about replacing the kitchen refrigerator and when it started making occasional noises we were motivated to start looking in earnest.  This particular LG at Costco was larger than we wanted/needed but our visit there gave us a good idea of what sizes and features were available and at what price.

Tuesday the 21st was also a big day for us as we drove to Woodland Airstream in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to retrieve our 2020 Flying Cloud travel trailer, something we were originally scheduled to do last week.  The trailer had been there since October 22 for a long list of minor repair and maintenance issues, and one big repair issue (the ridge that had developed across the kitchen floor from side-to-side).

We had a pleasant drive over.  The trailer looked great, with no indication that there had ever been a problem, and we were pleased with the work.  We settled our bill (the ridge was a massive job done under warranty) and hooked up the trailer to the F-150.  The drive home was equally pleasant and uneventful, and it was nice to finally have our travel trailer back on our property.

 

 

FRIDAY 24 – MONDAY 27 March

We would a nice little vegan restaurant (Bombay Food Junkies) not far from our hotel for dinner on Friday evening.

Billie Teneau, a long-time family friend in St. Louis, Missouri had passed away back in late February.  She was in her late 90’s and was a bicyclist and successful Senior Olympian.  Her memorial service was this Saturday at the St. Louis Ethical Society.

We drove down on Friday and stayed in a hotel that was conveniently located relative to the Society as well as my sister and niece, and Linda’s sister.  We drove home on Monday.

 

 

 

 

 

My sister (Patty) and her grandson (Logan) doing some coloring at Mellow Mushroom while we wait for our food.

My mother was a life-long member of the Society, her parents having been members when she was born, and my father joined when they married.  My sister and I were also born into the Society and grew up there.  When I moved away from home to go to college I never again lived anywhere that had a Society.  Once we had children our Sunday morning ritual became tent camping.

 

My niece (Amanda, right) with her daughter, Lilly (left) while we wait for our food at the Mellow Mushroom.

The service was well-attended and very nice.  There were people there that that I knew, or knew of, but many more that I did not.  Billie, and her late husband Richard (Dick), had varied interests, each with its own associated circles of colleagues and friends, but I knew them mainly as two of my parents’ best friends over most of their adult lives.

My sister (Patty) and her daughter (Amanda) attended the service as well.  After the service, we went to a Mellow Mushroom restaurant convenient to where Amanda and her family live.  We visited with Linda’s sister (Sister Marilyn) on Sunday and returned home on Monday.

TUESDAY 28 – FRIDAY 31 March

The grand-daughters at a branch of the Ann Arbor Library.  The 10-year-old (Mads) in the small chair and the 4-year-old (Sadie) in the big chair.

Linda was busy the rest of this week babysitting the Ann Arbor grand-daughters and doing accounting work for the bakery.  In her absence, I turned my attention to the barn.  I continued trying to fill in the trench for the conduit from the utility pole to the barn, and started purchasing Sch 40 PVC conduit and various fittings that I would need to wire the barn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadie on the rope climbing structure at the nearby elementary school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This part of the conduit trench is also not completely filled it yet, and collects water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Checking out availability and prices of conduit bodies at the big box stores.  Running individual conductors in conduit is not going to be less expensive than running NM-B (Romex) cable, but it will definitely be better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like plumping parts, electrical devices and fittings have code names and one of the things I had to learn was the proper names for various conduit fittings.  The ones that seemed to give me trouble were the LB, LL, and LR conduit bodies, but I finally figured it out.  Hold the conduit body with the cover facing me and the end connection pointing up.  If the other connection comes out the back, it’s an LB (L shape, Back connection).  If the other connection is on the left, it’s an LL (L shape, Left connection) but if the other connection is on the Right, it’s an LR (L shape, Right connection).

20230311-12 – Miami, FL (USA) and home

SATURDAY 11 March – Arrival in Miami and Disembarkation

This post consists of some narrative and 18 photos with captions.  ]

As our cruise was slowly drawing to a close, it would be an understatement to say that we had a great time.  We were grateful that Nancy and Paul invited us along on this adventure, as it was not even on our event horizon.  Had we decided at some point in the future to do this on our own, it would still have been a great trip, but getting to do it with close friends in one of the two “owner’s suites” of the NCL Joy HAVEN, was a unique (and probably once-in-a lifetime) experience for us.  And it was a very special experience, indeed.  Now where’s that lottery ticket?

We were up early to get ready to disembark and watch the ship come into the Port-of-Miami.  The Haven staff had laid out a breakfast buffet in the Haven’s Horizon Lounge, so we made use of that first.  The Lounge was mostly devoid of guests at this early hour, so following are photos of areas of the HAVEN that I have not previously posted.

 

The sign for the HAVEN Library, in the hall just outside the main entrance doors.  (We actually had a “back way” into the library as the emergency exit opened into the hallway right at the entrance door to our suite.)  The Library is on the middle (18th) of the three HAVEN decks.

A partial view of the HAVEN Library from near the main entrance doors, looking forward to port.  Our suite is just on the other side of the wall/bookcase at the left of the photo.

The hallway leading to the HAVEN Horizon Lounge.  The Lounge is all the way forward on the lower (17th) of the three HAVEN decks.  The center portion of the Lounge, however, has its ceiling at the top of deck 18.  All of the staterooms are on decks 17 and 18.  The Horizon Lounge, concierge desk, pool, and bar are on deck 17.  Deck 18 includes the Library and the Restaurant.  Deck 19 is indoor/outdoor lounging space.

The entire NCL Joy is an attractive and well-maintained ship, but even the signage in the HAVEN had a special, understated elegance.  (This photo also contains a selfie image of the photographer.)

The other members of our little “gang” having a bite of breakfast in the HAVEN Horizon Lounge while I roam around taking photographs.

The buffet area of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge.  We were there quite early (this photo was date/time stamped at 7:03 AM.)

The port side of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge.  The front portion of our suite, including the balcony, is above this ceiling but we never heard any noise from below when we were there.

A wider view of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge from mid-ship front looking to port.  The forward port corner of the library is visible in the upper left.  The front portion of our suite, including the balcony, is behind the upper wall with the slanted lighting.  To the right in the photo are the large forward-facing windows in the center of the Lounge which span both decks (17 and 18).

A view of the HAVEN Horizon Lounge and Library looking aft/starboard from slightly to port.  The forward wall of the Library is also all windows, so from there you can see all the way forward through the large center Lounge windows.  The wall with the lighting running at various angles is the other owner’s suite.

The HAVEN swimming pool and hot tub area.  The area is open all the way to the ceiling of deck 19.  The ceiling is retractable, but we never saw it opened during our cruise.  The opening on deck 19 has lounge chairs all the way around.  There is also access to the outside portion of deck 19 that is part of the HAVEN.

 

We arrived at the Port of Miami around 7 AM.  Our departure from Los Angeles was in late afternoon light under heavy mist and rain, so we didn’t really see any of the California coast.  With our approach to Miami, however, it was still dark and the sky was clear.  From our first sighting of lights along the shore, it took several hours to actually get to the cruise ship terminal.  While we might prefer national parks as places to visit and explore, there was no denying that the Miami skyline, lit up in the dark, is an impressive, urban sight.

 

 

Coming into the Port-of-Miami under the cover of darkness.  The cruise ship terminals are straight ahead.  (Click for a higher resolution image on appropriate devices.)

Heading towards the cruise ship terminals with the Miami skyline in the background; container dockyard on the left, superyachts docked on the right.  (Click for a higher resolution image on appropriate devices.)

The Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas at its Miami terminal on the left.  The Harmony of the Seas is even bigger than the NCL Joy.

As we come alongside the RC Harmony of the Seas, the NCL cruise ship terminal comes into view on the left.

The NCL terminal is very modern.  This photo shows one of the two enclosed gang planks.  They are similar to the jetways used at airports.  The whole structure moves parallel to the edge of the dock on rails and the opening for the ship can be adjusted (up and down) to match the boarding deck.

A final selfie of the “fab 4” by the maître de station of the HAVEN Restaurant.

 

As soon as we began disembarkation things got busy and we did not take any more photos until we reached the Orlando area.  The Norwegian Cruise Line terminal is a large, modern facility designed to make embarkation and disembarkation smooth and relatively easy.  We elected to take our own luggage with us and had priority disembarkation as a result.  (We each had an individual carry-on size rolling suitcase and each couple had a larger rolling suitcase that we checked when flying.)  We cleared in through US Customs quickly and found our way to the taxi / ride-share area where we booked a larger Uber to get the four of us and our six suitcases to the car rental area at Miami International Airport where we had reserved a car with Enterprise Car Rental for the next leg of our journey.

The rental car area was a new/large terminal in itself, and picking up our rental car was a relatively smooth, painless process.  We upgraded the size of vehicle at the counter for a small extra charge.  We also verified that we could use the toll roads.  The toll road system uses “toll-by-plate” and the tolls would be billed to Enterprise and passed along to us.  We were on our way by 9 AM and headed north on the Florida’s Turnpike towards Orland.  Our first destination was the boarding facility near Walt Disney World to retrieve Nancy and Paul’s mini-Goldendoodle, Bella, who was boarded there for the duration of the cruise.  (It was an amazingly nice boarding facility with a great staff, so Bella was in good hands while her servants were away on holiday.  She even had her own private “suite” with access to an outside area.  Sometimes “a dog’s life” is a pretty good life.  )

 

 

Nancy and Paul’s lot/pad at Mount Olive Shores North (MOSN) with their American Eagle motorhome.

 

Bella, Paul and Nancy’s mini-Goldendoodle, at the MOSN dog park.

With Bella in hand, we headed southwest on I-4 towards Lakeland, a route with which we were all too familiar.  Traffic on I-4 was as bad as usual, but eventually loosened up.  Soon enough, we were exiting for Polk City.  We arrived at Mount Olive Shores North (MOSN), where Paul and Nancy have a lot with a pad for their Class A American Eagle motorhome, a short time later.

 

 

Even through I wasn’t feeling well, we decided to go to Ford’s Garage in Lakeland for dinner.  Bella was with us, so needed their outside seating as dogs are allowed there.  We abandoned that idea shortly we arrived as the wait was going to be at least an hour.  We considered other dinner options, but ultimately decided to return to MOSN and pickup some pizzas in Polk City on the way.   We had a flight booked for the next morning from Tampa International Airport to Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW), and spent the night in Paul and Nancy’s motorhome.

 

SUNDAY 12 March – Closing the Loop

We were up early in order to be ready to go and skipped breakfast.  We said our “farewells until next time,” and “thanks yous,” “and left MOSN around 8 AM for the approximately 1-hour drive to Tampa International Airport.  This early on a Sunday morning the traffic wasn’t too bad, and returning the rental care was quick and easy.  Our flight home on DELTA Airlines was schedule to depart at noon, so we found some seats near our gate, got some coffee and bagels/muffins, and doodled on our iPads will we waited.

Our incoming flight was delayed so we waited a bit longer, but it was no big deal for us.  A couple sitting nearby was a bit anxious, however, and we struck up a conversation.  They were headed to Amsterdam (Netherlands) via a connecting flight out of Detroit Metro Airport.  Their window to get off of our flight onto their next one was already uncomfortably small, but I think we made it out of Tampa International Airport in time for them to make the connection in Detroit.

Our daughter was tracking our flight, and drove to DTW to pick us up and take us back to her house, where we left our F-150 while we were gone.  Back at her house, we transferred all of our luggage into our truck, ready to return to our house.  The truck started just fine, but displayed a warning message about the charging system, and the battery light stayed on.  Linda Googled the message and found that it was likely that our battery was not charging and our range might be limited a 20- to 30-minute drive.  Knowing that, we thought we might make it home, and started on our way.  We didn’t get very far, however, before deciding that this was not a good idea, especially later on a Sunday afternoon, whereupon we turned around and returned to our daughter’s house.  She was happy to let us borrow her car to get home and we promised to return it in a day or so.  It was not the conclusion to our epic adventure that we envisioned, and the problem was resolved over the next few days, but that’s another story for another post.

20230309-12 – Georgetown, Cayman Islands & a sea day

THURSDAY 09 March – Georgetown, Cayman Islands

This post consists of some narrative and 12 photos with captions.  ]

Our approach to Georgetown, Cayman Islands at first light.  (This image is 1920×862 pixels.  Clicking on the image might allow it to be viewed at full resolution on a device with sufficient resolution.)

Center frame; the tender dock and Port of Entry station at the heart of Georgetown, Cayman Islands as sunrise approaches.

 

Our penultimate port of call was Georgetown, Cayman Islands.  The port lacks a deep-water marina, so cruise ships “anchor out” and the guests “tender in.”  There are quite a few things to do on the island, and there were numerous shore excursions from which to choose.  This was not our first visit to Georgetown, however, and we were content to just go ashore and stroll around for a bit.  As port towns go it’s not very interesting.  Most of the things to see and do are elsewhere on the island(s).

 

Cloud figures; a horse plays with a hippopotamus on its back.

One of the tenders (shuttle boats) tied up alongside the NCL Joy.  Cruise ships are BIG; tender boats are small.

The NCL Joy is joined by the Carnival Glory cruise ship in the harbor.

Welcome to the Cayman Islands:  Nancy, Linda, and Paul.

Welcome to the Cayman Islands; Bruce, Nancy, and Paul.

 

The Cayman Islands in general, and Georgetown in particular, is known for its (offshore) banking industry.  We were here as part of our 2nd Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise in 2013, so we knew the town itself is relatively small, without too much high-rise architecture, and is very walkable, but without very much to see and do.  It seemed unchanged to us since our last visit.  The two most novel things about our time here were:  1) an actual police officer directing traffic, and;  2) the number of cruise ships in the harbor; four at one time (as best I recall).  The Joy departed at 5 PM for the final leg of our journey.

 

The Cayman Islands Parliament building and part of the plaza that it faces.  A lot of the buildings in Georgetown are white or light colored, so Paul is wearing his favorite tie-die shirt to add a splash of color.

When in Georgetown there isn’t any doubt as to its history and affiliation with England.  Even they way they post “NO PARKING” signs is very polite.

The Celebrity APEX cruise ship (left) has joined the NCL Joy (right) and Carnival Glory (center) in the Georgetown anchorage.  There’s a 4th cruise ship anchored here as well, but not visible in this photo.

 

In larger ports that can handle multiple cruise ships simultaneously, it’s a bit mind-boggling how many people they can disgorge into a waiting community.  Equally amazing, are the number of businesses (and people) that are in place at each port to service, and indeed depend on, these large number of visitors.  Cruise ships have their purpose, however, and we had thoroughly enjoyed our time on the NCL Joy and the places it stopped.  Perhaps someday we will return to some of these locations on our own, as well as others that our cruise skipped, and stay long enough to get a better sense of what they are really like.  But if not, at least we have experienced them, however briefly, and been keenly aware that we were in places that were very different from where we have spent most of our lives.

 

The NCL Joy puts its port side bow thruster to work to spin the ship 180 degrees around its mid-point.  Not shown (not visible from our port-side suite baloney) is that the starboard side stern thruster is also being used.

The Celebrity APEX has already completed it’s 180 degree turn and is headed out to sea as our ship completes its turn to do the same.

 

FRIDAY 10 March – At Sea

We sailed all evening on the 9th, all day on the 10th, and into the early morning of the 11th.  We had our last dinner meal aboard in the Haven restaurant on the 10th.  After dinner, we gave gratuities to the key crew who had made our trip extra special, namely:  Isidro (our Butler), Harold (our Stateroom Attendant), Patrick (the head Haven concierge), and Melody (the Assistant Concierge in charge of the Haven restaurant).  These gratuities were in addition to the ones that all guests pre-pay and are (presumably) divided up (in some equitable way) between the entire crew (except for the butlers and the Haven concierges, as we understood it).  These four people, however, had made our time onboard memorable in the best possible way.

Over the course of the day, I developed an irritated throat that got worse with time and eventually moved to my sinuses.  Not the way I wanted to end the cruise, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it except for symptomatic treatments, until we got ashore in Miami, Florida and back to Paul and Nancy’s place at MOSN in Polk City, Florida.

20230307-08 – Cartagena, Columbia & a sea day

TUESDAY 07 March – Cartagena, Columbia

This post has some narrative along with 22 photos with captions.  ]

After finishing our daytime transit of the Panama Canal on March 6th, we were at sea for the rest of the evening and overnight into March 7th, arriving at the cruise ship dock in the harbor at Cartagena, Columbia around 10 AM.

Our first full view of the harbor area of Cartagena, Columbia in the early morning haze.  We are already past the entrance in the breakwater into the outer harbor but have some ways to go before enter the inner harbor and get to the port/dock.

Linda takes in the upscale water-front area of Cartagena as the NCL Joy prepares to enter the inner  harbor.

The Holland America Zandam at the cruise ship dock.  We are pulling on the other side of the dock.  The Zandam is a big ship, but is dwarfed by the Joy.

Cartagena is a major shipping port.  This container facility is just one of many that we passed on the way into the dock.

 

The Zandam, a Holland America cruise ship, was already there when we arrived.  Cartagena is Columbia’s main Caribbean port.  It is mostly commercial, but the Columbian Navy has a base here, and there are marinas for pleasure craft and sightseeing boats.  We were amazed, however, at the number of containers stacked up in the shipyard and the number of gantry cranes that were in use moving them around.  Outside of the commercial and cruise ship docks, however, the city around the harbor is very modern and (we were told) has become a safe, inviting place for tourists.

 

This photo provides another view of the container shipyard adjacent to the cruise dock/port area, very close to a lot of commercial and residential buildings.  We counted at least 21 of the blue gantry cranes in this shipyard, and it seemed at times that most of them were busy moving containers around.  There was also a constant flow of tractors coming in to drop off or pick up containers.  (Photo by Linda.)

On our bus ride to the Old City, we saw lots of juxtapositions of old and new.  The old stone work in the foreground is 16th century.  The high-rise buildings in the background are late 20th to earl 21st century.

This photo was typical of the Cartagena streets that our excursion bus took to get to the Old City.  While the look and feel of the place was different from what have experienced for most of our lives, it was also fascinating.

 

Like Antiqua, Guatemala the Spanish presence in Cartagena dates back to the very beginning of the 16th century.  The Walled Old Town by the sea is still intact, and is another UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The four of us booked a shore excursion that involved a bus ride from the dock to the Old City, a walking tour of the Old City, and then a 1-hour boat ride around the harbor.  As part of the harbor cruise, we got a close-up look at the Caribbean fleet of the Columbian Navy base, which includes two small submarines and a 3-masted sailing vessel named Gloria (presumably for training cadets).  While on our cruise, we watched the Holland America Zandam back out from the dock, turn around and head for the ocean.

 

The entrance to the Old (walled) City.  This photo only provides a glimpse into the tourist crowd that awaited us inside the walls.

Many of the streets in the Old City were like the one pictured here, running straight for short distances before turning in a different direction.

Linda and Nancy enjoying a funny moment.  (They do this a lot.)  Paul is focused on something else.

The inside of the Cathedral in the Old City with its massive, carved altar.

A closer view of the altar with someone praying in the foreground.

There was a lot of variety in the architecture of the buildings in the Old City so it’s not really possible to say what was “typical.”  This style, however, was in the mix.

Cartagena was the seat of the Spanish Inquisition in the Americas, and it was administered from this building, now a museum dedicated to this part of Columbia’s history.

The Caribbean fleet of the Columbian Navy is based Cartagena, and moored in plain sight.

The Holland America Zandam backing out of its berth at the cruise terminal.  The NCL Joy is behind it, and difference in size is obvious.

A selfie on the little harbor cruise ship.  It appears that we were satisfied with the experience.  (Photo by Linda.)

It appears that Nancy and Paul also enjoyed the harbor cruise.  (Photo by Linda.)

A pair of Macaws at the zoo/shops that make up the entrance the cruise terminal.

Another pair of Macaws at the zoo/shops terminal entrance area.

The same pair of Macaws as the previous photo.  Such beautiful birds.

 

Following our harbor cruise, we were bused back to the cruise terminal, which we entered by walking through a small outdoor zoo and then past some gift shops.  Although farther north than Panama City, the climate, even at this time of year, was more tropical – warm and humid – and the birds reflected that.  We were always aware that we were getting a superficial “tourist eye’s view” of Cartagena, but nonetheless enjoyed our brief time in Cartagena, Columbia and felt like this was another port-of-call where an overnight stop might have allowed a closer, more relaxed acquaintance with the place and its people and culture.

The Norwegian Joy left Cartagena at 6 PM and headed for our next port, sailing all evening, all the following day, and overnight into March 9th.

 

WEDNESDAY 08 March – At Sea

We spent the entire day sailing NNW in the western Caribbean Sea, out of sight of land.  The weather was pleasant with blue skies and water and white, puffy clouds.  The only photo I’ve included shows the monitor in our suite.  Our present location is approximately half way to our destination of Georgetown, Cayman Islands.  The right end of the upper information banner shows that we have sailed 3,767.1 NM (nautical miles) from our starting point at the Port of Los Angeles.  We sailed overnight before finally sighting land around sunrise.

 

The monitor in our suite showing our current location, heading, and speed, along with other information, including our total distance sailed since departing the dock at the Port of Los Angeles.

 

While we enjoy seeing land from the ship, and getting off the ship at ports to explore, we also enjoyed our days at sea.  Far from being boring, sea days provided a chance to relax and explore/enjoy the many amenities the ship had to offer.  While cruise ships can take you to amazing places there is no doubt that the ships themselves (and especially the staff) are part of the experience.

20230306 PCC 9of12 – Transiting the Panama Canal

MONDAY 06 March – 51 miles between oceans on a ship

[  NOTE:  Most of this post consists of 36 photos with captions.  This is being posted more than 3 months after the fact – some of the details might be inaccurate and some of the photos might be out of sequence.  ]

Going through (transiting) the Panama Canal was the main reason for going on this cruise, and the experience did not disappoint.  The American Society of Civil Engineers considers it one of the seven wonders of the modern world.  (We have no seen all of the wonders of the world, ancient or modern, so we will take their word for it.)

 

The NCL Joy moving into the queue for entrance to the southern end of the Panama Canal.

The ocean in the vicinity of Panama City and the entrance to the Panama Canal was crowded with ships waiting to make the transit.  Ships can book a date/time to start the transit, but it is much more expensive than just waiting in line.  Ships with non-perishable cargo and less critical delivery timelines choose to wait their turn and get the lower price.  The fee for the NCL Joy to transit the Canal was approximately $750,000 USD.  The pricing structure for the Canal is very complicated.  (Photo by Linda)

The NCL Joy left the dock at 5 AM to be in position for the 8 AM scheduled start of our transit.  It was dawn by the time we were moving towards the entrance of the Canal and were opposite our starting point.  Part of the Panama City skyline forms the background of this photo, taken by Linda.

Starting into the marked channel that leads to the Panama Canal.  Our ship was docked in the harbor on the other side of the small hills to starboard (right).

The Norwegian Joy left the dock in Panama City at 5 AM and we were up to see it off.  We spent the entire transit in our front-facing 18th deck stateroom; usually on the balcony.  We even took our meals in our room, one of the few times we took advantage of this perquisite.

The Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas) ahead.  Channel markers to the left and right of the ship are visible.  The hill on the right had the radio towers/antennas used to communicate with the ships using the Panama Canal.

Approaching the Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas).  This bridge is considered the (unofficial?) southern terminus of the Panama Canal.  Note the crowd of guests gathered on the foredeck of our ship.  This area is normally only open to crew, whose quarters are located foreship near this level.

The Bridge of the Americas to port (left) of the ship just after our balcony passed under it.  We are now (officially?) in the Panama Canal, but still some way from the first set of locks.

Large commercial/cargo docks to starboard (right).

More commercial/cargo docks to port (left).

 

Ships transiting the Canal are queued up in the ocean and then proceed along a well-marked channel when cleared in.  The Bridge of the Americas is considered the southern terminus of the Canal and the Puente Atlántico (Atlantic Bridge) at Colon is considered the northern terminus.  Passing under either of these bridges is a cause for celebration on cruise ships.  And so, it was for us too; we finally opened our bottle of “welcome on board” champagne and toasted the moment.

The original 2-flight Miraflores Locks are to starboard (right).  The newer (2016) 3-flight Panamax class Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks are to port (left).  We used the newer locks as the NCL Joy is too large for the original ones.  Both sets of locks are still referred to as the Miraflores Locks.

The NCL Joy lined up to enter the Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks.  The tug boat is positioned to block the Joy from going in yet, and to render maneuvering assistance if/when needed.  (Photo by Linda)

The double lock gates are sliding open so our ship can move from the first to the second/middle basin.  The NCL Joy is just over 1,000 feet long; too big for the older/original locks at either end of the Canal, but much smaller than the maximum 1,400-foot length the new locks can accommodate.  A third phase of lock building is in the planning stages with locks that will accommodate even bigger ships.  (Photo by Linda)

As our ship entered the Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks, we could see other ships to starboard (right) using the original Miraflores Locks.

The structure center-right in the photo is the sliding lock gate that will close behind the ship once it is fully in the lock basin.  The green surface on top is a road that allows Canal staff to get from one side to the other (when the gate is closed, obviously).  All of the new locks use these massive sliding gates.  The original locks using swinging gates.

The “Cocoli control tower” for the Miraflores West Locks.  We had one more basin after the one we are currently in.  Each of the basins is an “elevator) that works like a bathtub.  When filled with water any boat(s) in the basin are raised in elevation.  When the water is drained, they are lowered.  When the water level is the same on both sides of a gate, it can be opened or closed, allowing ships to enter or leave the basin.

Exiting the last basin of the Miraflores West (Cocoli) Locks northbound.  Miraflores Lake can be seen ahead to starboard (right).  Because of the geology of this part of the Canal Zone, the original southern lock system consists of two flights in the Miraflores Locks and then a single flight in the Pedro Miguel Lock.  The body of water in-between is named Lake Miraflores.  The new West (Cocoli) Locks achieve the change in elevation in a 3-flight (staircase) lock system.  The two channels reunite just north of the Pedro Miguel Lock.

 

There is a lot of information available online and in books about the Panama Canal.  It’s a long, complicated story, and not a happy one in most regards.  I was glad I had taken the time to read about this before being here (Panama Fever, by Matthew Parker).  The engineering is amazing, and the location is beautiful, but it has a context and only became a reality at enormous cost in money, lives, and political relations with the countries of Central and South America.

 

The Miraflores Locks Visitor Center and Control Room just left of center in the photo.

A smaller ship exiting the Miraflores Locks.

 

Regardless of which way you go through the Canal, the trip begins and ends with locks, three at each end, with Gatun Lake in-between.  The average sea level of the Pacific Ocean end of the Canal is only 20 cm higher than the average sea level on the Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) end.  Because this difference is so small, the original “vision” for the Canal was a sea level transit with perhaps one lock.  However, the tidal range on the Pacific Ocean end is 20 feet whereas on the Atlantic Ocean end it is 3 feet.  Thus, locks were going to be needed at each end just to account for this difference.  The fact that the Canal also had to cross the Continental Divide, ultimately meant that ships would have to change elevation by even more than the difference in sea levels, and the locks would have to accommodate this difference in elevation.

Gatun Lake is the largest man-made lake in the world, and was formed by damming the Rio Chagres.  The Rio Chagres was a raging river that would rise 20 feet during floods.  It had to be “tamed” (controlled) if the Panama Canal was ever to become a reality.  There are three locks at each end to accomplish the 85 ft change in elevation from sea level to the level of Gatun Lake.  New locks were built at each end, alongside the original ones, to accommodate larger ships and were opened in 2016.  Just north of the southern locks (Miraflores /  Lake Miraflores / Pedro Miguel are the old ones and Miraflores West (Cocoli) are the new ones.  I think Lake Gatun “officially” begins at the northern end of the Miraflores Locks complex.

Heading north from the Miraflores Locks area we came to the Culebra Cut.  Generally considered the most difficult part of building the Canal, it is a massively excavated passage through the Continental Divide.  The Canal was taken up 85 feet and through this area as it offered the best chance of actually getting through the divide.

The official length of the Panama Canal is 51 miles, which doesn’t seem like much, but it took the NCL Joy about 9 hours to make the trip, including the locks at each end.  As we sailed under the Atlantic Bridge we (officially) entered the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean) and continued on to our next port, sailing all night to get there by sunrise.

Following are the bulk of the photos from the transit:

 

The Centennial Bridge at the Culebra Cut.  (Photo by Linda)

Paul, Linda, and Nancy with champagne glasses ready to toast our passage through the Culebra Cut.  (Linda is holding my glass while I take this photo.)  The “cut” was dug through the Continental Divide, and was the most difficult part of the Canal to create.

The sides of the “cut” are terraced to prevent erosion, which was a huge problem during the excavation of this passage through the Continental Divide.  (Photo by Linda)

Panama is a beautiful place with lush flora.

Panama is also a place with a long and troubled history.  This compound to starboard (right) is where Manuel Noriega was held before being extradited to the USA for trial.  (Photo by Linda)

At this point, we are through the Culebra Cut and passing the town of Gatun on the right.  This town within the Canal Zone is the base of operations for much of the Canal maintenance.  Note the massive barge crane at the center-right edge of the photo.  This crane, named Titan (nicknamed Herman the German), is able to lift the older swinging lock gates for repair and maintenance.  A part of the history of the construction and operation of that Canal, Titan was built by Nazi for servicing U-Boats (submarines) during WW II.  At maximum height, the top of the boom is 374 feet above the water.  Like everything else connected with the Canal, it is massive.  (Photo by Linda)

We are passing a southbound cargo ship (tanker?) on Lake Gatun.  (Passing was always portside-to-portside.)  Most of the Panama Canal consists of Lake Gatun.  The lake was formed by a dam on the Rio Chagres near the northern end, and is still the largest man-made lake in the world.

Another view of Lake Gatun.  Channel markers are visible to port (left).  It was a generally lovely day for the transit with a mix of blue skies and clouds.  It was warm, but not uncomfortable on the deck (which always had a breeze from the movement of the ship) and we could go back into the stateroom if/when needed.

The clouds have filled in somewhat as we approach the northern end of the Canal and the end of the transit.

Approaching the new (2016 Panamax class) Gatun East Locks at the northern end of the Panama Canal.  The cargo ship that entered the Canal ahead of us this morning is in the locks.   The original Gatun Locks are off to the port (left) side out of the frame.

A small crowd of guests remains at the bow platform of the NCL Joy as we approached the Gatun East Locks and prepared to be lowered down to the level of the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).  (Photo by Linda)

We are now close enough to the Gatun East Locks that a tug boat has taken up position on the port side of the bow to help guide the NCL Joy into the first basin.  (In a Q&A with the Captain of the NCL Joy, he was quite blunt about not needing the assistance of tug boats when maneuvering the Joy at docks, or elsewhere, and found their presence more bothersome than helpful.  I think he felt the same way about harbor pilots.)

As we entered the first basin of the Gatun East Locks, the ponds used as part of the system for emptying and filling the lock basins were visible on the port (left) side of the ship.  These ponds conserve some of the massive amount of water needed to operate the locks, where all of the water to fill the locks flows by gravity.

The water level in the first (Lake Gatun) basin has been lowered and the water lever in the second basin raised so that both basins are at the same water level, allowing the sliding gate to be opened so the NCL Joy can move to the second basin.

As the last lock gate opens, the NCL Joy has finally completed its journey from the Pacific Ocean, up and over (through) the continental divide, and back down to the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).  It was quite a trip and we certainly had “the best seats in the house.”  (Photo by Linda)

As the NCL Joy exits the last basin at the current level of the Caribbean Sea, Paul points out the Puente Atlántico (Atlantic Bridge) and the Caribbean Sea beyond.

Passing under the Puerto Atlantic (Atlantic Bridge) and into the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic Ocean).

 

It was around 5 PM local time as we passed under the Atlantic Bridge, marking our transit time at 9 hours.  From here, the ship headed north (N) and then northeast (NE) for a short way  before turning East East North (EEN) on a fairly direct course for Cartagena, Columbia where we were scheduled to enter the harbor around sunrise.

 

As we pass through the breakwater that protects the harbor at Canal terminus at Colon, Panama we sailed into the Caribbean Sea and points east.

 

20230305 PCC 8 of12 – Panama City, Panama; Gateway to South America

[ This post contains 12 photos with captions. ]

SUNDAY 05 March – Panama City, Balboa, and the Panama Canal Zone

 

A photo from last night of the other cruise ship next to the NCL Joy just after leaving the dock.  It will head around to the right (west) and position itself in the queue to enter the Panama Canal tomorrow morning.  (Photo by Linda.)

The other cruise ship heading towards the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal just before 8 AM for the beginning of its scheduled transit of the Canal.  The ship left the dock next to us last evening to queue up in Panama Bay for its transit this morning.  A lot of ships move through the Canal every 24 hours, and it’s imperative that ships with reservations arrive at the first lock (at either end) exactly on time.

Panama City was the only port where we stayed overnight; in this case for two nights, before transiting the Panama Canal.  This meant that passengers had a chance to go ashore last night and take in the life of the city after sunset.  It also meant that passengers (and some crew) had a full day today to explore the area, either on a shore excursion or on their own without fear of not getting back to the ship on time.

 

The road leading out of the port/dock area and onto the causeway to the mainland.  (Photo by Linda.)

Paul and Nancy arranged a private tour of Panama City while we signed up for one of the shorter ship-arranged shore excursions.  Our excursion was aboard a motorcoach with an excellent tour guide and focused mostly on the southeastern end of the Canal Zone in Balboa, now a NW suburb of Panama City.  (The Panama Canal runs from Panama City northwest to Colón at the other end.)  We had read about the history and operation of the Canal in the book Panama Fever (by Matthew Parker) before arriving here, and the history/technology of the Canal was what interested us most about the area.  The following, however, is excerpted from the Wikipedia entry “Panama Canal Zone”:

 

 

 

The Panama Canal Zone … was an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the Isthmus of Panama, that existed from 1903 to 1979. It was located within the territory of Panama, consisting of the Panama Canal and an area generally extending five miles (8 km) on each side of the centerline, but excluding Panama City and Colón.  Its capital was Balboa.

The Panama Canal Zone was created on November 18, 1903 from the territory of Panama; established with the signing of the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty, which allowed for the construction of the Panama Canal within the territory by the United States. The zone existed until October 1, 1979, when it was incorporated back into Panama.

In 1904, the Isthmian Canal Convention was proclaimed. In it, the Republic of Panama granted to the United States in perpetuity the use, occupation, and control of a zone of land and land underwater for the construction, maintenance, operation, sanitation, and protection of the canal. From 1903 to 1979, the territory was controlled by the United States, which had purchased the land from its private and public owners, built the canal and financed its construction. The Canal Zone was abolished in 1979, as a term of the Torrijos–Carter Treaties two years earlier; the canal itself was later under joint U.S.–Panamanian control until it was fully turned over to Panama in 1999.

 

(Photo by Linda.)  The Biomuseo (Bio-Museum) building.  From the Wikipedia entry “Biomuseo”:  “The Biomuseo is a museum focused on the natural history of Panama, whose isthmus was formed very recently in geologic time, with major impact on the ecology of the Western Hemisphere.  Located on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama, it was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. This is Gehry’s first design for Latin America. The design was conceived in 1999 and the museum opened on 2 October 2014.  The Biomuseo highlights Panama’s natural and cultural history, emphasizing the role of humans in the XXI century. Its galleries tell the story of how the rise of the isthmus of Panama changed the world.” …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although no longer under direct US control or military protection, the “Canal Zone” still exists as a highly secured area.  This is one of many entrance gates.  The lettering on the arch reads “CANAL DE PANAMA”.  (Photo by Linda.)

While the long-term goal is to have the Canal operated and maintained by Panamanians, it remains the case today that many of the people operating the canal are US citizens who are also training Panamanians to take over those roles.

 

Much of our shore-excursion focused on the infrastructure that was built to house the administration, construction, and health care facilities as well as the housing needed by the canal employees, and U.S. military bases and personnel.  These facilities remain in use today, some still attached to canal operations while others are being converted into private or other public uses such as housing, schools, and health care facilities.

One of the many housing areas in Balboa original built to house the thousands of U.S. workers who oversaw the building and operation of the Canal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main administration building of the Panama Canal Company, still in use for its original purpose today by the Panama Canal Authority, part of the Government of Panama.  The operation of the Canal is a large, technically complex endeavor, and generates a significant portion of the revenues that flow into the Government of Panama.  (Photo by Linda.)

A view of the Miraflores Locks from the Visitor Center observation building, looking back towards the Pacific Ocean.  Between the road and the lock basin are the train tracks for the “mules” that control the movement of the ships through these locks.  The Miraflores locks are the original ones but are still in use for all but the newest/largest ships, which do not fit the length, width, or draft limitations.  The new locks, which accommodate much larger ships, are out of sight to right in this photo.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the control buildings for the Miraflores Locks.  The gates are closed, separating the basin on the left at a low-water level, from the basin on the right at a high-water level.  Water flows in and out of these basins by gravity.  The gates are only swung open when the water level on both sides is exactly the same.  This is conceptually the same technology that was used hundreds of years ago in Great Britain to create the canal system there; although the scale is much larger here.  The newer locks (opened in 2016) do not use swinging gates.  They use sliding doors (like pocket doors) instead.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were there!  (Photo by Linda.  Not photoshopped, promise.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.S. Embassy.  The Torrijos–Carter Treaties treaty that returned sovereignty of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama as well as primary responsibility for its defense, nevertheless also preserved that right of the USA to intervene militarily if the Canal and its neutral operation (open to ships of all nations) should be threatened at any time in the future.  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of Panama City from the balcony of our stateroom.  The Joy remained at the dock until early the next morning, when it departed to queue up for the transit.

 

20230304 PCC 7of 12 – At sea & Panama City, Panama (Day 1)

[ This post has 25 photos with captions. ]

 

SATURDAY 04 March – Enroute to, and arrival at, Panama City, Panama

Again, our original itinerary had us stopping in Puerto Caldera (Puntarenas), Costa Rica but the revised itinerary skipped this stop and went directly to Panama City, Panama.  We would have liked to stop in Costa Rica, but recalled that shortly before NCL changed the itinerary in early October 2022, the US State Department had issued a travel advisory against visiting the country.  We don’t know if this was the reason for the change, but it seemed to be more than coincidental.  Something similar might have been true for Nicaragua, but we did not recall any advisories regarding travel there.  It was possible that the other changes in the itinerary might have been a domino effect from the loss of the Costa Rica stop, but we were never informed of the reasons for the changes.  And  it’s worth noting that these kinds of changes are always part of the booking contract; the cruise lines do not guarantee their itineraries.

 

We were at sea for most of the day, however, and made good use of the time.  This was the only day that the NCL Joy was doing “behind the scenes” tours of the ship.  We knew ahead of time that this experience would be very limited, and signed up for the tour (they treat it as a “shore excursion”) as soon as possible after we got on the ship in the Port of Los Angeles.  It turned out that they only offered the tour on this day while we were at sea, and only offered two groups, both of which were limited in the number of participants.  Here are some images of parts of the ship where I was allowed to take photos or there was something interesting to see.

A view of the main kitchen under the Manhattan dining room at the aft of the ship.

The Linda/Nan culinary team enjoying their tour of the NCL Joy main kitchen facilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the laundry facility.  The machines to the right are used to press certain clothing items, such as officers’ uniforms.

Another view of the pressing portion of the laundry facility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the washing machines in the laundry facility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This machine irons napkins.  The napkins shown here (with the blue banding) are unique to the buffet dining area.  The laundry facility handles approximately 6,000 of these napkins every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This machine irons and folds bedding.  The operator hangs the sheet and then the arms spread apart and feed it into the rollers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folder sheets coming off of the machine in the previous photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our behind-the-scenes tour of the NCL Joy included a visit to the bridge.  Shown here is the helm/navigation station in the center (side-to-side).  The bridge covers the entire width of the ship at the forward end of Deck 14, and extend beyond the sides of the ship on both the port and starboard sides.  All of the bridge officers have their living quarters immediately aft of the bridge.  We also got to visit the engine control room (but not the engine room, for safety reasons).  I found all aspects of the ships operation to be fascinating, but the control room and bridge caught my interest in particular.

A view towards the port side wing station of the bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The port side wing station looking aft.  The ship can be driven from this location, which is used when docking using the port side of the ship.  The pilot has a clear view of the port side of the ship, for and aft, as well as down through a glass portion of the floor.

There are a lot of controls at the port side wing station, and yet it had a beautiful, clean layout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The view looking aft from the port side wing station of the bridge.

 

We were never south of the equator on this cruise, so that experience is still somewhere in our future.  While I did not make note of our most southern latitude, it had to occur somewhere between the southern tip of Isla Jicaron (7.2 deg N) and the southern edge of the peninsula southwest of Panama City that forms the western edge of the Gulf of Panama (also 7.2 deg N).

 

Prior to this, our furthest south latitude was around 16 deg N when we visited Roatán, Honduras on our second Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise on the MSC Poetia in March 2013.

 

 

An example of the map that was constantly available as part of the ship/route information on the monitors in our stateroom.  The NCL Joy’s location is the yellow arrow with the red circle, center bottom of the screen, heading north into Panama Bay.  Panama City is the orange area ahead of (N) and slightly to the left (NNW) of the ship.  The Pacific Ocean terminus of the Panama Canal is at Panama City (Balboa) and runs NW to it’s Atlantic Ocean (Caribbean Sea) terminus at Colon.  Gatun Lake is a major portion of the Canal.

This larger view of the area shows the location of our ship relative to both North and South America.  The ship’s track is shown from (just before) Acapulco, Mexico to Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, and then to Panama City, Panama.  Our next port of call after transiting the Panama Canal will be Cartagena, Columbia, so it’s clear that our farthest south latitude was achieved as we rounded the peninsula to the southwest of Panama City.

I included this photo to give a better sense of our location relative to the equatorial portion of South America as well as the relative closeness of Africa.

Linda contemplates our arrival in Panama City.  The coast of Panama is faintly visible on the horizon.

Panama City sits on the northeast side of the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal.  It is the capital of Panama, and has a modern, impressive skyline facing the ocean.  It is sometimes compared to the Miami (USA) shoreline, and has become a jewel of, and gateway to, South America.  And yes, it is considered to be in South America, the official dividing line between North and South America being the Panama Canal (which runs from SE to NW when going from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea).

As we came into Panama Bay and approached Panama City, we saw more and more ships “anchored out”.  The number was impressive.  We eventually learned to many (most?) of them were waiting to transit the Panama Canal.  Ships transiting the Canal are able to make a reservation or can anchor in the harbors on either end and wait for an opening.  The wait can be as much as three (3) weeks, but is less expensive than a reserved entry time.

Coming into the cruise ship dock and terminal area.  This area is at the end of a long, man-made causeway, so Panama City proper is not really accessible by foot and requires some form of transportation to get into town.  A major improvement project was underway while we were there, but was not an issue.  A smaller cruise ship was already at the dock.  The ship in the distance has just exited the Panama Canal.

Panama City had lots to offer, however, and was the only port where we stayed overnight; in this case for two nights.  We are not “night life” people, and did not leave the ship this evening, but other passengers went ashore to explore and take in the life of the city after sunset.

 

 

 

The next day, Paul and Nancy arranged a private tour of Panama City while we signed up for a ship-arranged shore excursion, which I cover in the next post.  In the meantime, here are a few more photos from today:

A view of the Panama City skyline as Paul and I observe the docking process from our stateroom balcony.  (Photo by Linda.)

We were scheduled to arrive at the dock in Panama City around dinner time, so we opted to have dinner in our stateroom, allowing us to conveniently watch the whole process.  Panama City is visible through the doorwalls and the location map is showing on the monitor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A better view of our meal.  Salud!  (Photo by Linda.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A composite image of 10 photos of the Panama City harbor skyline and the causeway that leads out to the cruise ship terminal and dock.  The water on the other side of the causeway leads (to the right) to the beginning of the Panama Canal.

The Centennial Bridge, visible in this photo, is usually taken as the official Pacific Ocean terminus of the Panama Canal.  (Photo by Linda.)

The Panama City skyline at night, as the other cruise ship leaves the dock to position itself in the Bay for its scheduled transit of the Panama Canal.

 

202303(02-03) PCC 6of12 – Puerto Quetzal & Antigua, Guatemala & a sea day

[ There are 23 photos in this post.  Most of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

THURSDAY 02 March – Puerto Quetzal & Antigua, Guatemala

Arriving at the dock in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala under the cover of darkness.  It was a tricky entrance, but the captain handled it like he was parking a small car in an empty parking lot.

One of the active volcanos we passed on the motorcoach ride from Puerto Quetzal to Antigua, Guatemala.  (Photo by Linda)

Antigua, Guatemala.  Our motorcoach was parked on this street, over the rise in the road, along with many others.  In the background, Volcán de Aqua towers over the city and was visible from most places.

We arrived at Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala around 7 AM.  Guatemala has a relatively short Pacific coast, and Puerto Quetzal is the only port of any size.  It is primarily an industrial port, but more than willing to welcome and accommodate cruise ships.

 

There was nothing of interest for tourists in the immediate port area, but that was OK.  We had signed up for a shore excursion to Antigua Guatemala, a 2-hour bus ride from sea level to 1545 m (5069 ft).  A relatively small old city nestled high up in the mountains, it is surrounded by volcanoes, some of which are still active.  To the south, Volcán de Aqua, dominates the skyline at 3,766 m (12,356 ft).  One of the volcanoes was “smoking” as we drove past.

 

 

A small slice of the Mayan history portion of the Jade Museum in Antigua, Guatemala.  Those of us walking the city on our own gathered here first to use the restrooms and learn a bit about history of the area and city.

Antigua was Guatemala’s colonial capital from ~ 1543 to 1773 when it was severely damaged by an earthquake and the Capital was moved to present day Guatemala City.  Many of the buildings were restored, however, and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site renowned for its Spanish Colonial architecture.

 

We did not do a guided tour, but merely wandered around the city soaking in the sites.  We also learned that there are still many people in Guatemala with Mayan ancestry, and 31 dialects of the Mayan language are still spoken here.  This corroborated what we had learned some years ago on our visit to the Mayan ruins at Tulum in the Yucatan peninsula.  We were definitely in a place that was different from any place we had ever been before, and we enjoyed our walk through history.

 

A street seller of hats crosses the central plaza in front of the main government building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main government building on the north side of the central plaza.

Proof that we were here.  The two of us in front of the government building.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This cathedral fronts the central plaza on the east side.

The central isle leading to the altar of the cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The entrance arch to the main cathedral complex.

On north side of the entrance arch looking back to the south.  Note how Volcán de Aqua to the south towers over the city of Antigua.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The front façade of the cathedral.  I believe the building to the left is the monastery.

As we walked the streets of Antigua, Guatemala, we often saw openings like this that appeared to lead into very inviting courtyards.  Some of them were hotels, some were retail spaces, and some appeared to be private residences.  The street-facing parts of most buildings had a very old and minimally maintained appearance, but we suspected that once away from public view, the interiors were much nicer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had to get a picture of this, as it was not something I’ve ever seen in the USA.  This van has Argentina plates and the wording under the window, “De Argentina Hasta Alaska” makes it clear what journey the owners are on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view down a less crowded street somewhat away from the center of the city.  Many buildings here were rebuilt/restored after he devastating earthquake of 1773, but not all of them.  There were several abandoned/decaying churches, like this on (on the right) throughout the city, but many others were still in use.

A view down another street, again away from the center of the city.  The closer we were to the center of the city the more the streets were choked with vehicles.  Most of the streets and avenues, however, where “Una Via” (one way), which they needed to be as there was usually only enough space for one vehicle to get through.

The remains of this church were not far from where our motorcoach was parked.  I believe it was one of the buildings damaged in the 1773 earthquake, and never rebuilt.

I am interested in motorcoaches, of course, but the main reason for this photo was to capture the shear number of these conveyances that had descended on Antigua the day we were there.  On the other side of the plaza there are ~10 motorcoaches on each side of the dead-end street.  (They all backed in.)  The street on our side of the plaza had a similar number of motorcoaches in the same arrangement.  40 motorcoaches times an average of 50 passengers each is ~2,000 people.  It sounds like a lot, but there were many, many more people than that on the streets of Antigua while we were there.

Because some of the shore excursions were of very long duration (over 8 hours) the NCL Joy did not leave Puerto Quetzal until after sunset.  Although tugboats were at the ready, the captain backed the ship out, reversing how he had brought it in early this morning in the dark.  Some very impressive maneuvering, indeed. (The Joy is over 1,000 feet long and (~130) feet wide.)

Since our stateroom faced forward (towards the bow) we were treated to a spectacular view of the commercial shipyard lit up and working.  The number of containers being handled here would only be exceeded by what we later saw in Cartagena, Columbia.  But that will have to wait for a few more days.

 

FRIDAY 03 March– At Sea

After leaving Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, we continued cruising along the Pacific Ocean coasts of Nicaragua and then Costa Rica.  Land is just barely visible in the haze towards the left side of the photo, but I do not know how far south we were by this point.

Our original itinerary had us in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua today but the revised itinerary turned it into another day at sea.  We were disappointed that Nicaragua was removed from the itinerary, but glad to have had the chance to visit Antigua, Guatemala.  Plus, our sea days were quite comfortable aboard the Joy.  It was during this leg of the trip that we saw occasional large pods of dolphins, flying fish, and a large number of sea turtles, singly or in small groups, float past the ship.  These were highlight experiences for us, but difficult to capture in photos.  We spent many hours of rapt attention focused on the water ahead of the ship, looking for the telltale signs of ocean life.

Dolphins off the port bow coming towards the ship!  Make that, a LOT of dolphins.

The ship had stumbled upon a superpod of dolphins and we had a front row seat to the show.  Some quick research revealed that dolphins usually live in family groups of 10 to 12 individuals, but sometimes these units gather in superpods.  Our best guess was that there were at least a couple of hundred individuals in this group.  We assumed they were hunting and had found a large school of fish, but we had no idea what kind.

2023(0228-0301) PCC 5of12 – Acapulco, Mexico & at sea

[ There are 8 photos in this post.  Much of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

TUESDAY 28 February – Acapulco, Mexico

We arrived in the harbor at Acapulco, Mexico in the pre-dawn hours and proceeded to moor at the cruise ship dock under the first vestiges of the rising sun.  This is a composite image of 10 photos showing a 180-degree view from our stateroom balcony.  The image is actually 1920×418, so might be viewable at that resolution if clicked and displayed on an appropriate device.

The NCL Joy slowly nudges up to the dock at the cruise ship terminal.  The building with the open doors facing the water was eventually filled with motorcoaches waiting to take cruise ship guests on numerous shore excursions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view from the inside end of our front balcony.  You might be able to see through the glass at the right down into the Haven front lounge on deck 17 below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of Acapulco looking forward from our stateroom balcony.

We arrived in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico and docked at the cruise ship area.  We had not arranged a shore excursion here, opting instead to disembark and wander around on our own.  As a general rule, we would never wander very far on our own as the ship will not wait for us if we are late getting back.  With ship-organized shore excursions, however, you are guaranteed that the ship will not leave without you (as long as you don’t separate yourself from the excursion guide/group).

We disembarked from the Joy and strolled along the sidewalk between the main road and the shore towards the up-scale end of town across the harbor.

Looking back towards the NCL Joy from the promenade along the shore leading away from the cruise ship terminal.  You don’t really understand the size of these large cruise ships until they next to something that provides a sense of scale.

Acapulco was noticeably larger than Cabo San Lucas but we confined our walking to the area NE of the dock.  Once the hangout of Hollywood elites (a long time ago), the “party” had since shifted to Cabo.  There is still a lot of money and nice housing here, but we did not see those areas up close, and what we did see did not entice us to return.  We got the impression that Puerto Vallarta would have been more interesting, and were disappointed that it had been removed as a port-of-call from the itinerary.

A view of the Acapulco harbor as the NCL Joy heads back out to sea.  (This is a composite of 10 photos and might be viewable at 1920×294 if clicked on an appropriate device.)  We arrived this morning in the dark but departed around 5 PM.

 

WEDNESDAY 01 March – At Sea

One of the TV channels on the ship provided continuous information about the ship’s position, heading, and speed, as well as weather information.  We often had this on when we were in the stateroom, with the sound muted.  Even though the Joy was consistently doing 20 to 22 knots, the distance down Mexico’s Pacific Ocean coast is considerable.  One of the things we did not anticipate was that we rarely had clear skies at night.  I never discovered the actual reason for this, but my presumption was the warmer and somewhat more humid air the farther south we traveled.

Our last look back at Acapulco, Mexico  from the port side of our stateroom balcony as the NCL Joy leaves the harbor and heads out into the Pacific Ocean.

202302(26-27) PCC 4of12 – Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico

[ There are 12 photos in this post.  Much of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

SUNDAY 26 February – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

A pleasant morning on the balcony heading towards Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  In this view looking towards the center of the ship, the bulkhead at the far end of the balcony is the port side wall of the open space above the center of the Haven front lounge on deck 17.

We arrived in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur (BCS) state, Mexico around 11 AM.  Cabo does not have a cruise ship dock, so we anchored out and took tenders to the NCL dock in the commercial/tourist marina area.

 

This was not the first time we had set foot in Mexico, having spent the 2014-15 snowbird season in Quartzsite, Arizona, and visiting Los Algodones in northern Baja California (on the California USA border).  It was also not the furthest south we had been, at ~N22.87o.

 

In the morning hours heading into the Cabo area, we finally saw whales!  Humpback whales, specifically.  Always an amazing sight, we never tire of seeing these magnificent mammals of the sea.

 

As part of our second Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise on the MCS Poetia in March 2013, we visited Playa del Carmen (N20.63o) and Tulum (N20.215o) in Yucatan state, Mexico (Yucatan peninsula), and Roatán, Honduras (N16.264o).  When I retired in 2012, we also got near the southern tip of the island of Hawaii (the big island) (we got to ~N19.058o).  (The farthest west we have been, to date, was the island of Oahu, Hawaii, ~ W158o)

More of our stateroom balcony looking to the port side of the ship.  It curves around and continues down the port side past the master bedroom/bathroom suite.  The first portion is accessible as part of this main/front deck.  A small portion farther aft is only accessible from the master suite.

With land now clearly in sight, Linda contemplates our journey to the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula and Cabo San Lucas.

Four photos were used to create this composite image of the main cruise terminal tender dock area in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.  (You might be able to see it full size on an appropriate device by clicking on it.)  The harbor was deep enough for the NCL Joy, but there are no cruise ship docks.  Small boats (tenders) are used to transport guests and crew to/from shore.  This was our first port-of-call after leaving the Port of Los Angeles, and we were glad to see that crew members were allowed shore call, depending on their ship duties at the time we were there.

Another view of the main marina area, a bit further on around to the right from the previous composite image.  There were some big private yachts here, in addition to lots of more normal sized, but still very nice, pleasure boats.  There were also a lot of condo / timeshare developments here, and the port area was lined with shops and restaurants (of course).  Cabo has a reputation as a party town and can be noisy around the harbor until late into the night (according to some Youtube channels I follow).  We left around dinner time, so were not bothered by any of that.

Our ship, the Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL) Joy.  (You might be able to see it full size on an appropriate device by clicking on it.)  As this is the port side, our stateroom is visible at the very front (bow/left) on the first enclosed deck down from the top.

These rocks are WSW of the port/marina portion of Cabo San Lucas.  El Arco (The Arch rock) is visible.  Our sightseeing boat got a bit closer, but the area was crowded with lots of smaller personal boats.

I noticed that many of the motorcoaches being used to bus cruise ship quests to their various venues had this unusual mechanism on their steer tires.  It appeared to be a tire inflation device designed to allow the wheel/tire to turn, but I have no idea if that was actually the case.

We had booked a shore excursion and made our way to the rendezvous point.  The excursion started with a boat trip around the harbor that included a view of El Arco (The Arch rock).  Back at the dock, our group was then escorted to a waiting motorcoach.

 

We visited a glass factory with a glass blowing demonstration.  The factory makes various objects, both functional and decorative, out of recycled glass and has been in operation for quite a long time.  From the glass factory, we visited a viewpoint on a headland across the harbor from the main port area, and had some light refreshments.  Our tour guide, bus driver, and the people operating the boat were all very gracious and spoke English well enough that we could understand them without difficulty.

The glass-blowing demonstration in progress.  We are sitting in the back/top row of a set of wooden bleachers.  The small parking lot was crowded with motorcoaches when we arrived, and was still crowded when we left.  There was another cruise ship in the harbor at the same time as us, and this is a popular shore excursion destination.

While the glass factory was interesting, and the viewpoint was nice, our general impression of Cabo was that we did not need to return anytime soon.

 

It has a reputation as a party town, with restaurants, bars, and timeshares crowded into and around the port/marina area.  The harbor is often crowed with boats and loud music can be heard late into the night.  At least that’s the impression I have gotten from Youtube videos.  All of this was congruent with our first-hand experience of the place.  Our stateroom in the Joy really did provide a “haven” from all of that.  The ship departed at 7 PM and continued south, so whatever partying might have occurred after dark, we were none-the-wiser.

 

MONDAY 27 February – At Sea

The final product of the glass-blowing demonstration; a turtle with a sombrero and bottle of tequila.

In early October, 2022 NCL changed the original itinerary for this cruise.  We were supposed to be in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico today, but spent the entire day at sea instead and overnight into the 28th.  This part of the cruise took us across the mouth of the Sea of Cortez and then along the Pacific Ocean coast of the mainland of Mexico.

 

The roof leading from the workshop/demonstration area to the showroom / retail market area.  The roof is a famous feature of this facility, and one of the reasons tourists visit this business.

Besides dining, on “at sea” days we took in the shows in the main theater and checked out The Social, a small venue with comedians and other entertainment.

 

We had almost all of our meals with Paul and Nancy, but on many of our “at sea” days, they had dinner in one of the specialty restaurants.  We did not make use of the specialty dining during the cruise and dined at the Haven restaurant or in the Garden Café (buffet style) on these occasions.  We found the buffet quite acceptable, and enjoyed the variety of things that were available, including vegan options.

A view of the harbor at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico looking southwest towards the main port/marina area from restaurant / event venue on a headland on the northeast side of the bay.

 

202302(24-25) PCC 3of12 – The Norwegian Joy:  Embarkation, Departure, and the Ship

[ There are 25 photos in this post.  Some of the text is in the form of captions. ]

 

FRIDAY 24 February – Embarkation and Departure

The rainy weather moved into the Long Beach area overnight but our Uber was able to pick us up under the canopy in front of the Staybridge Hotel near the Long Beach airport and drop us off at the Port of Los Angeles (also in Long Beach) under similar cover.  We had an embarkation window of 11:30 to noon, and arrived just ahead of that time.  We had received text messages yesterday changing our terminal, and had the Uber driver take us to the new location.  Upon arrival at the terminal, we were a bit perplexed, as our ship was nowhere in sight.  The terminal was also not what Nancy and Paul expected, based on previous experience with NCL, and not what we had been told to expect with respect to the Haven (ship within a ship) “experience” on the Joy.

Everything seemed “makeshift” and that, indeed, turned out to be the case.  The Joy was at a different dock, but the high winds of the last few days had damaged the tents that had been set up to serve as the welcoming and processing center, so those operations had to be moved last minute to our present terminal.  A separate waiting area had been created for guests in the Haven, but it wasn’t a comfortable lounge and we waited for quite a while before being escorted on a long walk to an area with several dozen motorcoaches were waiting to shuttle us to the ship.  It turned out that NCL had been scrambling since yesterday to hire as many of these motorcoaches as they could find in the area.

At dinner in the Haven Restaurant (photo by Paul or Nancy).

Once our bus was full, we were then driven to where the ship was actually docked, and went through the actual embarkation process, which was not especially well organized.

We had been told we would have separate, priority access to the ship and be taken directly the Haven in time to have a relaxing lunch, but that didn’t happen, as the process of getting from the terminal onto the ship was quite lengthy, the Port of Los Angeles staff did not appear to know what they were doing, and some of the PoLA security people were actually a bit rude.

Linda, Nancy, and Paul in our stateroom.

We eventually made it to our room, however, as did all of our luggage.  Our bottle of champagne was there waiting for us, even though the ice had melted by now, but we were not in a festive enough mode to enjoy anyway, and decided to save it for some other occasion.  While not the embarkation we expected, in the end, we were all in our stateroom in the Haven with all of our luggage, and were able to relax before going to dinner.

Bruce, Nancy, and Paul in our stateroom.

The ship was scheduled to depart at 4 PM and actually pulled out closer to 5 PM under heavy mist.  Once out of the port, the Pacific Ocean had big swell, but the Joy handled it well.

The ship can accommodate up to 5,000 guests, but there we not that many on board this particular cruise.  We had dinner in the Haven restaurant, a place we would visit frequently during the cruise and be one of the highlights of the ship for us.

Back in our suite, which was certainly the main highlight of the ship for us, we unpacked our luggage and set up our bedroom and on-suite bathroom.  We also met our butler, Isidro, and our stateroom attendant, Harold.  It was immediately obvious that we would be treated to a very high level of service on this cruise.  As something we were not accustomed to, it that took us a few days to become comfortable with this.  We eventually did, but we never took it for granted.

The following photos are a fairly complete tour of our stateroom:

The common area (living/dining) portion of our stateroom and one of the three doorwalls to our forward port side balcony as seen from the entry hallway.

Our stateroom entry hallway.  On the right (in this photo) from the entry door are a toilet room, a closet, and the door to our bedroom.

Our stateroom common area.  The “fireplace” did not produce heat, but did make a pleasant, low intensity light.

Our stateroom common area viewed from the bar.  The sofa was comfortable, and could convert into a bed, although we did not need to use it in that configuration.

The master bedroom, with the entrance to the master bathroom suite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A partial view of the master bathroom (vanity and toilet alcove).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A partial view of the master bathroom (tube, shower, and dressing mirror).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bedroom as viewed from the murphy bed, which is currently folded into the wall, looking towards the door from the hallway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bedroom as viewed from the murphy bed, which is currently folded into the wall, looking towards the desk and closet/storage area.  The on-suite bathroom is in the space behind the TV, entered from the hallway on the right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view of the murphy bed and entry door in our bedroom.  The bed is folded into the wall, making a sofa available.  We had our stateroom attendant (Harold) fold the bed out and leave it that way for the duration of the cruise.

A partial view of our on-suite bathroom (shower stall and part of the toilet).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving the Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach, California, as seen from the common area of our stateroom looking out across our forward port side balcony.  It was cold, windy, and rainy, with limited visibility, but we were finally on our way.

 

SATURDAY 25 February – At Sea

Our first morning in our stateroom enjoying Nespresso in our NCL provided robes.  Good friends in a good place.

We were at sea all night on the 24th, all day on the 25th, and overnight into the 26th headed south along the California coast and then along the Pacific coast of Baja California and Baja California Sur (south), Mexico.

The sea eventually settled down a bit, but the coast was often shrouded in haze and/or clouds.  We were also far enough off shore that we couldn’t see land most of the time anyway.  (My presumption was that we were probably in international waters so the ship could operate the onboard casino.)  We took this time to familiarize ourselves with the ship, starting with the Haven.

The Pacific Ocean and the west coast of Baja California, Mexico, as seen from the balcony of our forward /  port side stateroom.  This was some of the best/clearest weather we had on our cruise down the coast.

The Haven is NCLs “ship within a ship” concept.  On the Joy, it occupies the front portion of Decks 17, 18, and 19, the front part of 19 being an open roof deck area.

The upper / aft deck of the NCL Joy had a 9-hole miniature golf course.  We played a round (and came back another day with Paul and Nancy for another one).

Deck 17 has a lounge with large windows across the entire front of the ship with a small buffet area that was stocked for a light breakfast or afternoon snack.  Just aft of the lounge were staterooms (all with outside balconies).  In the center was a small swimming pool, hot tub, and lounge chairs.  The area above this was open all the way to a retractable glass ceiling above Deck 19.  (We never saw the roof retracted.)  The aft portion of Deck 17 was a small lounge, small bar, and the concierge desk.  Behind the bar and concierge disk were the service elevators, which the concierge staff used to get us to the theater and to/from the embarkation deck.

The upper / aft portion of the ship also features a 2-level race track with electric formula style cars.  This is the pit area.  Cars are allowed to race head-to-head.  We did not try this activity, but it was interesting to watch people racing.

The forward portion of Deck 18 consisted of the two “Owner’s Suites” (2-bedroom staterooms), one on the port side (that was ours) and one on the starboard side.  In-between the two owner’s suites are the high ceiling of the front-center portion of the main lounge, with a library aft of it.

The remaining length of the port side, and about half of the starboard side, were staterooms, again all of them with outside balconies.  The aft portion of Deck 18 was the Haven restaurant (starboard side) and kitchen (center portion).

Every stateroom in the Haven had butler service, and one of the perks of staying here is that you can have your meals (from the Haven restaurant) in your room.  One of favorite perks of being in the Haven was that our butler brought coffee and breakfast baked goods every morning around 6:30 AM.

By sunrise, we had traveled far enough south to get to beautiful, clear weather and calmer seas.  Since we would be at sea all day, we took the opportunity to familiarize ourselves with the ship.  We were also able to see the Baja California, Mexico coast at times.

A portion of the outdoor lounging, walking, entertainment, and water activities area of the ship as seen from the aft potion looking forward.

This is a composite image of part of the Pacific Ocean coastline of the Baja California peninsula of Mexico.  Land is visible just at the horizon, along with some clouds, but probably too small to see in this photo.  The photo file is larger, and this image can be clicked to see it at a larger size on a device with a larger screen.

The outdoor lounging, walking, entertainment, and water activities area of the ship looking aft from the walkway above the large outdoor video screen.

Above the Haven (at the front of the ship) is the Star Wars laser tag area.  It has two entrances, fore and aft, for two competing teams to enter and battle it out.  Linda and I had just entered the aft portal as the venue was not in use.  We did not do this activity, and never saw or heard anyone else using it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This display shows the layout of the entire Star Wars laser tag venue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linda and Nancy at the wine tasting.

Shipboard activities also opened up.  Linda, Nancy and I (Bruce) booked a wine tasting while Paul booked a Single Malt Scotch tasting.  The wine tasting was run by the wine director (head sommelier?) for the ship and featured red wines.  It was unusual, but very well done, in that we tasted the wines in the reverse order from what is normally done, working from the sweetest to the driest, and pairing food items with each wine that were both appropriate and inappropriate.  This approach allowed us to actually experience and start to understand why each type of wine is usually paired with certain foods.

202302(22-23) PCC 2of12 – Home to LA on DELTA

[ There are no photos for this post. ]

 

WEDNESDAY 22 & THURSDAY 23 February – Air Travel

Although we had done a lot of preparation, today was finally the first day of a big adventure that we had not planned on doing.  That is to say, Nancy (of Paul and Nancy) had booked one of the 2-bedroom Haven suites on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Joy for a 15-night, 16-day cruise from Los Angeles, California to Miami, Florida by way of the Panama Canal.  They invited us to come along, and it did not take long for us to accept the invitation.  We had to pay the “added passenger” fees that covered food, entertainment, and gratuities, as well as any shore excursions or specialty dining we wanted to do, but that was still an unbelievable bargain for us.

We left early in the morning and drove to our daughter’s house.  We left our F-150 there and she drove us to the airport.  Our flight’s departure was a little delayed, which was not a problem for us, but did get us out of the Detroit, Michigan area just ahead of a brewing winter storm.  The flight was uneventful, but a major storm was affecting much of California, and we arrived in Los Angeles to very strong winds.  Heavy rain was causing flooding in Ventura County, just north of LA, prompting evacuation orders, and higher elevations all over the state were getting large quantities of snow.  All of this precipitation was easing or erasing serious drought conditions that had developed, in some places, over the last 20 years.  It was serious weather situation for much of the state, but it was still nice to be in So-Cal at this time of year.

This was a trip of firsts for us, starting with ordering an Uber to get us to the Staybridge Suites in Long Beach where we were sharing a 2-bedroom suite with Paul and Nancy.  Their flight from Orlando, Florida had arrived during the morning, and they were already checked into the room by the time we arrived.  Embarkation for the cruise was on Friday the 24th, but we had all flown in on the 22nd just to make sure we (and our luggage) were there before boarding the ship.  That gave us two nights to relax and adjust to the change in time zone.  We had pizza and salad delivered for dinner on Wednesday, and used the restaurant in the Holiday Inn next door for dinner on Thursday.

On the 23rd, Paul and I walked to the nearest CVS, about a mile from the hotel, to pick up some water and other last-minute sundries.  When we got back from our quest, we could tell that Linda and Nan had been up to something.  Neither of them is very good at keeping secrets, so we quickly learned that they had booked us on yet another cruise, this one on the MSC Magnifica.  It would depart from Genoa, Italy on January 5, 2025 and return there 116 days later (May 1, I think), having circumnavigated the globe, with much of that time in the Southern hemisphere.  It’s a long trip, with a price attached, but they booked it because the price was incredibly reasonable for what was on offer.  But more on that at some point in the future.  As of this moment it is not a certainty that we will actually go on this journey, but our deposits have been paid (they are refundable).

 

202302(20-21) PCC 1of12 – Preparing for a 15-night Cruise on the NCL Joy

[ Note:  This is the first of 12 posts covering a 15-night/16-day cruise from Los Angeles, California to Miami, Florida via the Panama Canal.  There are no photos for this post.  These posts were delayed due to work on the barn project and the time required to select and process photos.  Regular posts covering the barn project, travel, and general topics will resume after these 12 posts have been published. ]

 

20-21 February — Pre-Trip Preparations

As mentioned in my previous general post, Linda started packing for our upcoming Panama Canal cruise on the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) Joy (with our friends and RV travel buddies, Nancy and Paul), several days before our flight to Los Angeles, and I shifted my attention away from the barn project towards travel preparations shortly thereafter.  We made our final packing decisions for the trip on the morning of the 21st and, just after lunch, checked-in for our flight to Los Angeles the next day on DELTA Airlines.

I spent that afternoon finalizing blog posts for December 2022, our holiday trip to Disney World and Universal Studios, and the electric utility work that took place in January 2023.  I had all of those posts uploaded by 4:30 PM and was done with blog posts until after our cruise.

As also mentioned in my previous general post, I bought a new digital camera, settling on a Sony a6400 (APS-C) with a 16-50 mm E-mount zoom lens as the best compromise of size, weight, performance (specs), and price.  The cruise would be its first big test.

 

20230220 – Accessory Building Project Update

[ This post is mostly photos with captions. ]

MONDAY 20 February

The barn as seen from the southeast.  The trench with the conduit for the service conductors still needs to be completely filled in.  The green(ish) bags along the edge of the driveway are top soil.

Although we were still involved in final packing decisions for our cruise, it was a reasonably nice day, weather-wise, so I took a few more photos of the new barn doors and the daytime light levels in the barn with the doors closed.  We zoomed with Paul and Nancy at 5:30 PM, to compare notes and see if there was anything any of us had forgotten to pack for our upcoming cruise.

 

The inside front half of the barn, with the doors closed, as seen from the landing at the top of the stairs to the storeroom.  The 12,000 Lumen ceiling light and the light over the entry door are both turned on. The bottom seals on the roll-up doors are slightly off the concrete to allow them to relax and expand.

 

The large/west RV bay as seen from near its roll-up door.  All of the doors are closed.  The 12,000 Lumen ceiling light and the light over the entry door are both turned on.

 

The small/east RV bay as seen from near the entry door.  All of the doors are closed.  The 12,000 Lumen ceiling light and the light over the entry door are both turned on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Barrina 2’ integrated LED strip light under the stairs is turned on.  In general, the light levels were adequate with this minimal amount of lighting supplementing the daylight coming in through the windows and sun tunnels.  With RVs in the two bays, however, additional lighting will be needed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

202302(16-18) – Accessory Building Project Update

[ This post is mostly photos with captions. ]

THURSDAY 16 February

This is how the roll-up doors were packed for shipping.  They were made in Missouri and shipped to West Virginia by mistake.  Dan (from Everlast Doors & More) chose to drive to West Virginia to get them, rather than delay the installation by some unknown number of additional weeks.

It was a BIG DAY today.  Dan, from Everlast Doors & More, showed up with the two large roll-up doors for the barn!  Chuck (the builder) arrived shortly thereafter to help Dan with the installation by operating the Pettibone Telehandler.  The telehandler was used to unload the crates from Dan’s trailer and then to lift each door into position while Dan secured the mounts on each end from a ladder.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the doors has been removed from the trailer by the telehandler and is being moved into the large/west RV bay.

 

One of the roll-up doors positioned in the large/west RV bay, ready to be uncrated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chain drive box for a roll-up door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The main ring gear on one end of a roll-up door tube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A shaft support and tensioner on the opposite end of the roller tube from the ring gear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A chain drive box mounted on the ring gear end of the roller tube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other roll-up door being lifted into place.  It is supported by a small section of the original shipping crate to allow the telehandler forks to get under it, and is strapped down to hold it in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The small/east RV bay roll-up door (on the left in this photo) is installed.  The large/west RV bay roll-up door is being lifted into position with the telehandler.  The telehandler weighs 28,000 pounds, so Chuck (the builder/operator) kept it off of the poured concrete at all times.

 

Dan is securing one end of the large/west RV bay roll-up door to the vertical steel support and bracket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIDAY 17 February

The weather forecast for today was for cold temperatures and light icing.  I texted Dan early and suggested that he not finish the doors today.  He appreciated that, and said he would be out around noon tomorrow to continue the installation.

 

SATURDAY 18 February

Dan works on the chain drive end of the small/east RV bay roll-up door.

Good to his word, Dan was back around noon and put in a long afternoon finishing the installation of the two big roll-up doors.  He did not like the weather-stripping that came with the doors, and wanted to come back late next week with a different product and finish up.  He would also finish installing the lag screws for the side channels at that time.  (As it turned out, the weather stripping did not get installed until mid-late March, but that’s for another/later post.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dan checks the small/east RV bay roll-up door for proper operation.

 

The large/west RV bay roll-up door in the closed position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The barn finally has all of its doors and is now closed in and can be secured.

 

20230215 – Accessory Building Project Update

WEDNESDAY 15 February

The Hyperlite light fixture is the small gray object top center in the photo.

The Motor Cities Electric Utilities crew was here today to replace the utility pole in the SE corner of our property, but that work was not directly related to the barn project, and I covered it in a general post for February 01 – 21.

The other thing that happened today was I bought an appliance cord (pigtail) and wired up the Hyperlite outdoor LED fixture that I recently bought on Amazon.  This is a 40W, 5,200 Lumen, 5000K integrated LED light fixture.  I mounted it above the entry door inside the barn so I could test its intensity and beam spread.  Besides possible use on the outside of the barn, I was planning to use these fixtures for interior lighting along the outside edges of the RV bays.  They come in 60W and 100W versions, but I will use more of the lower wattage / lower lumen units for better, more even coverage.

 

The Hyperlite light fixture has two parts with a hinge design that allows them to be separated for installation.  This is the base unit of the light fixture mounted to a framing member above the entry door.  The WAGO lever-nut connectors have been installed on the pigtail power cord.  It has the weathertight seal that goes between the two parts.  The lamp head is adjustable from 0 (straight down) to 90 degrees (straight out) and contains the electronic module and wires for connecting to the incoming power.  The base unit has five (5) access holes with weathertight plugs for getting power into and out of the box.  It has provision for mounting screws in the back and a built-in bubble level to aid in the installation.  It’s listed on Amazon as a commercial unit, and the construction appears to merit that description.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lamp head has been set onto the hinge pins of the base and the wires connected via the WAGO lever-nuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I finally got a chance to test the 12,000 Lumen light fixture at night.  It made a LOT of light!

 

One of the Barrina 2’ LED strip lights lit up the area under the stairs quite nicely.

In addition to the 12,000 Lumen ceiling light fixture, and the light over the entry door, I bought two Barrina 2’ LED strip lights from Amazon to test.  These are 20W, 2,500 Lumen, 5000K integrated LED fixtures that I plan to use for the ceiling lighting in the shop and storeroom.  (They also have a 4’, 40W, 5,000 Lumen version.)  For testing purposes , however, I mounted one of these under the stairs/landing, where it will likely remain.  They came with plug-in power cords, so I used one to plug the fixture into an extension cord with multiple receptacles.  They also come with pigtail cables for direct wiring (via an outlet box) and 4’ connector cables, that allow them to be connected end-to-end, only requiring one power feed to an entire string of fixtures.

 

The is the large/west RV bay at night.  With nothing in the bay, the 12,000 Lumen ceiling fixture by the entry door lights up the entire space surprisingly well.  The two strip lights under the stairs are also on, and the Hyperlite light over the entry door is probably also on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This photo was taken from the right/east RV bay door.  The main light source is the Hyperlite fixture on the wall above the entry door.  The light under the stairs is from one of the Barrina 2’ LED strip lights.

 

202302(07-10) – Accessory Building Project Update

Winter was still with us, and seemed unable to make up its mind as to whether it would hang around for a while or depart the Great Lakes Region earlier than usual.  Although we finally had electrical power to the barn, which was a huge deal, the big roll-up doors were not yet available for installation, which meant the building was not yet truly weather tight.

 

TUESDAY 07

As I mentioned in the regular post for February 01 – 21, we picked up the 14’ Werner 2-sided step ladder from Lowe’s a few days ago.

The new 14’ stepladder and 12,000 Lumen light fixture.  The light fixture is being powered from an extension cord plugged into the one duplex receptacle that was installed by the electrician as part of the service entrance. The bottom cords of the roof trusses are 16′ above the floor.

As I mentioned in the regular post for February 01 – 21, we picked up the 14’ Werner 2-sided step ladder from Lowe’s a few days ago.  I managed to get the new ladder opened and raised into position by myself, but going forward I plan to always have someone help me put it up, take it down, and move it around, unless I can find a wheel kit for it.  Otherwise, it’s really too much ladder for one person to handle safely.  I used it to hang a 120-Watt, 12,000 Lumen, 5000K integrated LED flat panel light fixture that I bought a few weeks ago at Rural King.  I had already attached the plug cord that came with it, and wanted to test the beam pattern and brightness when it was suspended just below ceiling height (about 15’6”).

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY 08

The dually tire tracks leading into the drainage ditch.

When the snow had melted, I discovered that one of the utility trucks had driven into the ditch along the road where the new pole was stored, and driven back out right over the end of the culvert under the driveway, partially crushing it.  Ugh.  I took photos and e-mailed a couple to the case manager who had been assigned to our project and asked what, if anything, DTE might be able to do about this.  Other than not ever getting advanced notification when crews would be here working, this was the only damage that had occurred to our property during the whole project.  And the culvert wasn’t crushed shut, so it could still drain, but this damage should not have occurred.

The dually tire tracks in the drainage ditch clearly headed up and over the end of the culvert into the gravel driveway.

Sometime after that, but still in the first two weeks of the month, I got another customer satisfaction survey from DTE.  This one acknowledged that the project to replace the pole/transformer and get power to the barn had been completed, and asked for feedback.  So, I provided it.  Well, once again, I got a call from a customer service representative.  In fact, it was they same women I had chatted with the first time.  My complaint by that point was that the case manager had not replied to my e-mail, even though the last communication I got from her said to contact her if there were any remaining issues.  She said she would escalate that and check on the other pole that was sitting in our yard.

The top center of this photo is the east end of the culvert under the driveway.  A little bit of the metal is visible, but the top was squashed down and it is mostly covered and filled with mud.

 

FRIDAY 10

The builder’s Pettibone Telehandler on site, waiting to help install the two large roll-up doors.

Although it took some doing, the builder (Chuck) managed to get his Pettibone Telehandler relocated from a jobsite in Washtenaw Country to our driveway in front of the barn.  This machine weighs about 28,000 pounds and has to be moved by a tractor on a flatbed equipment trailer.  Chuck has a guy he uses for this work, and today was they day they were able to get it arranged.  The telehandler will be needed to install the two larger roll-up doors, which are now in the possession of Everlast Doors & More, the local company through which they were ordered, and who will install them (with Chuck’s assistance).

 

202302(01-21) – General Update (not the barn project)

WEDNESDAY 01 February — TUESDAY 21 February

Although this post is not (primarily) about the barn project, I did spend a lot of time during this period working on the electrical plan and researching devices, particularly lighting fixtures.  Happenings specific to the barn project will be covered in separate posts following this one.

 

WEDNESDAY 01

 I decided to buy a new digital camera for our upcoming Panama Canal cruise on the NCL Joy with our friends (and RV travel buddies) Nancy and Paul.  I wanted something small and light but good quality.  My birthday was just a few days away, so that was my additional “justification” for buying it (not that I really needed one).  After weighing various factors, including cost, I settled on a Sony a6400 with a 16-50 mm E-mount zoom lens.  I placed the order with B & H Photo Video, which has been my go-to place for photography equipment for a while now.

This will be my third Sony digital camera, and I have been very satisfied with the first two; a DSLR-a100 and a DSLR-a99.  ABIR, the DSLR-a100 was Sony’s entry into the digital camera space in 2006, having absorbed the Konica-Minolta A-mount system and lenses.  I have a fairly complete Minolta 9000 35mm film camera kit, and the fact that I could use my existing lenses with this new Sony camera was a big decision factor.  The only limitation was the 10 Mp APS-C sensor.  Besides the inherent resolution, this also meant my lenses produced more magnification than on a full-frame 35mm body.

I used the a100 a lot and eventually bought the DSLA-a99.  This was Sony’s highest end body at the time, with a full-frame (36mmx24mm) 24 Mp sensor, but maintaining the A-mount system.  Both of these bodies are true SLR designs, with flip-up mirrors.  The a99 is large and heavy, especially with the additional bottom-mount battery pack (like the motor drive attachments of old), but I like the way it feels in my hands.

 

FRIDAY 03

The new camera arrived today.  The a6400 has an APS-C sensor (25.1mm x 16.7mm) with the same 3:2 aspect ratio as a full-frame 35 mm sensor (36mm x 24mm), so it presents an image format with which I am familiar and comfortable.  That said, it is definitely small and light weight.  Significantly, it has a 24 Mp sensor, so the same resolution as my a99!   Also, the 16-50mm zoom lens provides the same field of view as a 24mm-75mm zoom lens on a full frame sensor camera.  This is similar to the range I have on my Sony/Zeiss 24mm-70mm zoom lens, which I use with the Sony a99 most of the time.  The kit lens is not of that quality, of course, but I am looking forward to the images I get from the new combination.  I still like my Sony a99, and I absolutely love my Sony/Zeiss 24mm-70mm zoom lens, but the combination is heavy, and I felt it was too much camera to take on this particular cruise.

The big tradeoff, of course, was the E-mount system for the lenses.  But it’s not like I had a choice within the Sony product line as Sony had officially abandoned the A-mount system sometime after I purchased the.  (The did bring out an a99-ii with a 42 Mp sensor, with a year of when I bought the a99, but the price was just too steep for a hobbyist.  Still, in retrospect I wish I had bought it.)  The other major difference (besides price) was that the a6400 is a “mirrorless” camera; the viewfinder, like the rear screen, is just a small monitor.  Again, this has it’s good and bad points, and the web, including Youtube, is cluttered with articles and videos that get into all of this.

 

SATURDAY 04

My birthday was on Saturday and the 14’ Werner Twin (2-sided) step ladder that I order from Lowe’s on December 3rd finally arrived at the store, so Linda and I went to pick it up in the F-150.  In order to carry it home, I had to move and re-secure the three large Rubbermaid tubs that collectively hold about 300 pounds of sand to add weight to the drive axle during the winter.  I needed to create a space in the center of the truck bed to allow the narrower top end of the ladder to sit in the bed (vertically) all to way to the front wall behind the cab.  Even then, with the tailgate down, the lower half of the ladder hung out way past the end of the lowered tailgate.  We took additional ratchet straps and large rubber bungee cords to lock it in place, and tied red plastic flags on the protruding end for the short trip home.  The ladder was strapped closed along with two packing boards.  As delivered, it weighed 86 pounds, and the combination of size and weight was quite a handful for the two of us.  But I have a lot of wiring to do in the barn, some of it 16 or more feet above the floor.  I did not want to do that with an extension ladder, and the only one we have is the Little Giant aluminum convertible unit that can be configured as a 14’ extension ladder.

 

SUNDAY 05

We had the family over for brunch to celebrate my birthday.  It’s always lovely when the entire immediate family is able to gather.

 

WEDNESDAY 15 February

The Motor City Electric Utilities boom truck in the SE corner of our yard.  The new utility pole (on the right) is already in the ground.

 

The wires have been moved to the new utility pole and the old pole has been “topped” in preparation for removal.

It turned out that the crew from Motor Cities Electric Utilities showed up this morning to replace the pole in the SE corner of our property.  In fact, it was same crew that was here in January to work on the pole for the house/barn and then started to work on this other pole before deciding to leave.  This pole replacement was NOT part of the barn project, however, but a regular maintenance item intended to replace an old pole with a new/taller one, with the added benefit of helping raise the lines across our driveway a bit higher.  (The new pole for the barn is also taller than the old one, and also helped raise the wires across our driveway and where they cross the street to the SW corner of our property.)

 

 

 

While they were working, I got a call back from the C/S person at DTE.  She had checked on this pole, and found out it was not a DTE work order, and had (probably) been initiated by either AT&T or Comcast (those would be the other two choices).  I thanked her for checking into this and getting back to me, and let her know that a contracted crew was here doing the work.  What surprised me about this was that I was under the impression that the utility easement was granted to DTE Energy, that the utility poles belonged to them, and that all other users “leased” access on the poles from DTE.  But then, the gas line that was run through our subdivision in 2013 is owned and operated by Consumers Power, and it was installed in the same utility easement, so perhaps I don’t correctly understand the arrangement(s) between these various companies viz-a-viz the rights to use the easement.

 

The old utility pole being lifted out of the ground by the crane on the boom truck.

 

As I thought about all of this, I remembered that back in October, but sometime after I had initiated the work with DTE, someone was walking down the street checking all of the utility poles.  I presumed he was working for DTE, but perhaps he was there on behalf of all of the utilities that use these poles.

 

The AT&T terminal box (gray) and the Xfinity broadband cable (orange) relocated (temporarily?) to the new pole.  I have no idea whether DTE communicated with AT&T about this, but it was suggested to me that I would like have to submit a request to have this dealt with and “pester” them until it is taken care of.  For that matter, I suspect that the Motor Cities Electric Utilities crew closed out their job on the secondary pole, but I don’t know who with, and whether or not they notified Comcast/Xfinity, as our broadband cable comes from this secondary pole, and it looks to me like they should (need to) come tidy it up as well.  So, I don’t know much, but I do know this, the crews that dealt with the poles and the power lines, made it clear that they are not allowed to do anything with the phone and broadband cables, other than move them out of their way and re-secure them as best they can.

SUNDAY 19

No barn work today.  Linda had already been packing for our upcoming cruise, and it was time for me to get serious about doing the same thing.

 

TUESDAY 21

 

We made our final packing decisions for our trip this morning and, just after lunch, checked-in online for our flight to Los Angeles tomorrow.  I spent the afternoon finalizing blog posts for December 2022, our trip to Disney World and Universal Studios over the holidays, and the electric utility work that took place in January 2023.  I had all of those uploaded by 4:30 PM and was done with blog posts until after our cruise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special Blog Post for 20230131 – Accessory Building Project Update

There are no photos for this post. ]

TUESDAY 31 January

Looking back on the last two (2) weeks, it had been an amusing, confusing, slightly sad, but exciting and gratifying time.  The electrical service work for the barn (with upgraded power for the house) was done.  The crews had all been very professional and had done the work well.  But they were also friendly and helpful, as they put up with my presence, questions, and photography with good humor.

The only question that remained, power wise, was when a crew would show up to change out the pole in the SE corner of our yard.  This pole does not have a transformer on it, but it does have the tap for our Comcast/Xfinity broadband cable to the house.  It supports the electric distribution wires that run E-W down our side of the street, along with the AT&T and Comcast cables.  These lines also T-off and go across the street to a pole in our neighbor’s yard to supply services to their house.  It does not have a transformer on it, but it looked to me like the T would make installing a new pole tricky.  I guess I will find out just how it’s done when someone shows up and does it, assuming I am at home when the work happens.  Never once have we been contacted in advance to let us know that a crew was scheduled to be onsite.

…..

Special Blog Post for 20230130 – Accessory Building Project Update

This post has 9 photos. ]

MONDAY 30 January

Expect the unexpected, right?  For me, that’s inline with the idea that “things happen beyond our control, but how we deal with them is up to us.”  After a week of somewhat strange communications, but no additional work, a crew from Rauhorn showed up today.  Rauhorn is another DTE contractor.  I think they do both overhead and underground work, and were prepared for both, but the remaining work was mostly underground.

The small excavator was used to “hang” the large spool of 3-conductor, 3/0 AWG service conductor cable so it could unwind easily as it was fed into the 2” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit through the bottom of the meter enclosure.  The conduit is visible coming out of the bottom of the meter enclosure and into the ground.

 

I was already familiar with Rauhorn as they did some of the work on the power upgrade for our neighbor’s house across the street back in mid-November.  When they were finished doing that work, I asked the crew chief if he had a few minutes to came over and look at what I was planning to do, conduit-wise.  He did, and gave me some very useful suggestions as to how to do it to make it easier on whatever underground crew eventually showed up to install the electrical cable to the barn.

The trench from the open end of the conduit towards the pedestal with the service conductors already pulled through.  The open end of the conduit is at least 24” below grade, but they did not trench that deep all the way to the base of the pedestal.  There is no conduit from this point to the pedestal, as the cables they installed are rated for direct burial.  That also means it does not matter if dirt or water gets into the conduit.  The conduit was optional, but it saved me the cost of having DTE (or a contractor) dig the whole trench, allowed me to route the cable away from some trees, and will provide external protect in the event that someone ever decides to dig in this area.

 

 

This crew was here “to complete the installation of power to the barn,” but were surprised to find that major pieces of the work they planned to do had already been completed, specifically the pedestal and the 350 kcmil service drop conductors.  (I was not surprised that they were surprised.)  But they were fine with the situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trench for the barn service conductors to the base of the pedestal.  The top cover of the pedestal has been removed to allow access to the junction blocks.

 

 

I explained about the advice I got from one of their guys before trenching in the 2” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit, and pointed out the stake that marked the location of the free end near the new pole.  With the small excavator (12” bucket), they came prepared to dig a trench, but only had to use it to unearth that end of the conduit (and hang the large cable spool).  They dug up to the base of the pedestal by hand as there were live conductors buried there.

 

 

 

The 3-conductor, 3/0 AWG service conductor cable being fed into the 2” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit through the bottom of the meter enclosure.

They were glad to have the 7/16” rope already through the conduit and used it to pull the 3/0 AWG, 3-conductor underground service conductor (USG) cable from the meter enclosure up to the pedestal.  To does this, they suspended a large spool of the USC cable off of the excavator bucket so that it could unwind horizontally.  The free end of the cable was attached to the rope in the meter enclosure in such a way that it would not pull loose.  One guy helped guide/feed the cable into the conduit attached to the bottom of the meter can, while two guys pulled it through the conduit from the other end by hand with the rope.  They stopped with enough cable still at the meter enclosure to make the connections to the meter lugs.

 

 

The barn service conductors through the conduit and up through the pedestal.  They were then trimmed to the length needed to fit into the junction blocks.  At this point, the crew was dealing with live (energized) un-fused wires.  They knew what they were doing, and had the right personal protective equipment, but this was still not work for the faint of heart.

On the other end, they opened the top pedestal cover and routed the cable from the barn up through the bottom and out the top.  They cut each wire to length to fit into the large junction blocks that were already there.  As they were working, I noticed that one of the hot conductors that had been terminated by the previous crew had about an inch of exposed conductor below the insulated junction block.  That was a major oversight that could have led to a short or an energized pedestal cover (the covers are made of metal).  Rather than try to cut the live exposed metal strands shorter, one of the guys removed the conductor from the junction block, wrapped electrical tape around it up past where the wire insulation ended, reinserted it, and tightened it.  He was wearing proper personal protection equipment, (PPE), and clearly knew what he was doing, but all of this was on a live, unfused wire.

 

 

The barn service conductors enter the meter enclosure from the large conduit on the left and are attached to the meter socket lugs at the top.  (Meter enclosures/sockets have been built this way for a long time, going back to when almost all utility conductors ran overhead and entered the meter enclosure from the top.)  The black, red, and bare/aluminum conductors attached to the bottom meter lugs are the service entrance conductors.  They are enclosed in a sheath as they exit the meter enclosure at the lower right and go through a hole in the side of the barn, where they are then routed up into the bottom of the main load center and connected to the main breaker (first disconnecting means) at the top of the enclosure.  Because this is a sheathed cable assembly, it is not required to be in conduit.  Although I would have preferred that it was, this work was done by the electrician, under permit, and inspected/approved by the County.  As such, it was not appropriate for me to change it (and would have been a bit of work to do so).

 

 

ep was to install a meter, at which point we finally had power to the barn!  I closed the main circuit breaker (which serves as the main disconnect for the barn) and then closed the circuit breaker for the Siemens FirstSurge surge protection device.  Two green lights indicated that I had power to both buses of the panel.  (I later checked the GFCI receptacle the electrician had installed way back when, and confirmed that I had 120 VAC and the GFCI feature worked.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trench with the barn service conductors bending into the bottom of the pedestal. This photo shows that the wires, which are direct -burial, are not buried very deep at this point.

 

 

 

The final step was to put the upper cover back on the pedestal and secure it, and use the excavator to push dirt back into the trench and up to the base of the pedestal.  One of the crew members said they would transmit the meter number to DTE.

 

 

 

 

 

Almost done.  They meter was seated in the socket and, just like that, we had power to the barn!  It was obviously nice to finally have power to the barn, but the five (calendar) days it took to do this work were fascinating for me to watch and document.  I learned a lot from the various crews, who were all (mostly) good sports about me being around with a camera and asking lots of questions.

As the trench by the pedestal was being filled back in, I took this photo to show that the bottom cover of the pedestal does not extend very far below grade, and the wires going to barn bend almost immediately as they leave the pedestal towards the conduit.  The same is true for the service conductors going to the house.  Any digging within a 5’ radius of this pedestal would risk contact with these conductors.  They are all insulated, of course, but still …

 

I e-mailed the DTE case manger and the planning consultant (with a couple of photos) to let them know the work had been completed and I had power to the barn.  As far as I knew, I was now done dealing with DTE other than to get the account number for the new meter and pay the bill each month.

 

 

The meter enclosure cover installed and secured.

Although I was not going to pull an electrical permit until mid-March, and probably not start wiring the barn until early April, it was time to work on the electrical plan in earnest.  As soon as we returned from our travels I would need to be ready to start buying electrical materials and devices and staging them in the barn.  Of course, I needed the big roll-up doors in order to do that.

Special Blog Post for 202301(24-29) – Accessory Building Project Update

There are 3 photos in this post. ]

TUESDAY 24 January – SUNDAY 29 January

When the Motor City Electric Utilities crew finished their work on Monday the 23rd, the project was well on its way to completion, but not quite finished as we still did not have power to the barn.  During the week, I got an e-mail from our DTE planning consultant with contact information for the “case manager” who would schedule the work, and letting me know that I would now be dealing with her from now on.  I e-mailed her and introduced myself, and cc:d the planning consultant.  I included photos, and let them know the work was almost completed, and that all that remained to be down was to pull the underground service conductors from the barn meter enclosure to the pedestal, terminate them at both ends, and install the meter.  Once again, the reply that I received was basically “what?”

By this point, and after discussion with some friends, I had come to the conclusion that my customer satisfaction survey reply, and subsequent conversation with a customer service representative, appeared to have triggered a response from DTE.  While I was glad that the work was getting done, I was saddened that the people responsible for planning and scheduling the job, and with whom I had worked closely, appeared to be unaware that the work was taking place.  Indeed, the planning consultant indicated that he had only just released the work orders for scheduling.  And that was not right; it’s never right to bypass people.  Go through the reporting chain to the people responsible and make a higher priority of the work, sure, but do not go around them.

Sometime during this week, the builder also got word that the roll-up doors would not be available by the end of the month and he was trying to pin down a delivery date.  At this point, it almost didn’t matter.  We would be traveling from late February to early March, and I would not be starting the wiring until we got back.  In fact, I had to do some painting even before the electrical work, which I couldn’t do until the temperatures were warmer and would stay that way overnight.  Also, I had no interest in doing electrical work in the cold and neither did Marty, who offered to come down and help.

The main load center for the barn with the Siemens FirstSurge device mounted externally, lower right and connected to a 2-pole, 20 Amp circuit break, lower right in the enclosure.  This was the only wiring I intended to do on the barn before apply for an electrical permit in mid-June, but I wanted this device in place before the electrical service was energized.

I did, however, manage to accomplish two small things in the barn this week.  A while back I bought a Siemens FirstSurge Type 2 “whole house” surge protective device (SPD) and wanted to install it in the main service panel for the barn before utility power was connected to it.  Type SPDs get installed after (downstream of) the main disconnecting means, which in this case is the 200 Amp main breaker in the Siemens load center.

The unit is large at approximately 3” x 6” by 2” deep.  It is a sealed unit, with four wires coming out a female threaded stud.  I had intended to mount it directly to one of the knockouts on the load center, using a male threaded adapter from inside the enclosure, but I ultimately decided against that approach.

As shown in the photo, I ended up mounting it with four screws to one of the horizontal skags that the enclosure (and the siding) is attached to, and connecting it to the enclosure using a 12” piece of liquid-tight flexible non-metallic conduit.  The two hot leads from the device were wired to a 2-pole, 20 Amp circuit breaker, installed in the lowest two positions in the right circuit break bank.  (The neutral and equipment grounding conductors were terminated in the usual way.)

Type 2 SPDs are also available in circuit breaker form, which is the most convenient way to add one to an existing panel.  However, I really liked the more robust specifications of the FirstSurge device.

The sub-panel on the south wall of the shop just east of the door.  This is a lug-style panel (no main circuit breaker) that will be fed from a 100 Amp 2-pole circuit breaker in the main load center through fairly large feeder cables.  Although both the bus and the travel trailer have 240V/50A (120V/100A) electrical systems, most of the power used in the barn will be used in the shop.

 

 

The other thing I accomplished in the barn was hanging the sub-panel in the shop.  No wiring was involved; just deciding exactly where I wanted to place the enclosure.  I wanted it to be convenient to the door, but comfortable, as I will be using many of the circuit breakers as switches.  But I also had to make sure the location was compliant with the NEC.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last, but not least, I continued to read the 2023 NEC Handbook and started working again on the electrical plan for the barn, as well as researching light fixtures and other devices for the project.

As an aside, The Motor Cities Electric Utilities crew on the 23rd, reattached the riser conduit for the AT&T cable and terminal box to the new pole as best they could.  They stapled the cable to the pole about a foot above the terminal box, as that was as much slack as they had to work with.  If you look closely you can see the wire goes directly (through air) from there to the junction block on the main cable.  It should be stapled all the way up the pole, but that will require a longer wire.  I was told that it would be up to AT&T to remedy this, ditto for Comcast if it involves their cables, but that I might have to call these companies myself and be “persistent” in getting them to come out and do something about it.  Ugh.  I just don’t see why I should have to deal with that situation.  Presumably DTE reports to Comcast & AT&T that they have replaced this pole and additional work needs to be done.

Special Blog Post for 20230123 – Accessory Building Project Update

There are 19 photos in this post. ]

MONDAY 23 January

Digging to find the underground service conductors and the AT&T cable from the house.  The wooden stake with the red tip, behind the crew member, is where our DTE planning consultant thought the ground pedestal should (might) be located.  The stake to the right, with the orange top, marks the location of the free end of the 2” Schedule 40 PVC electrical conduit that Marty and I installed back on November 22nd.  A comparison with the three (3) previous special blog posts makes in clear that we had snow yesterday.  Still, the crew said the ground was not frozen and was easy to dig.  They extended their digging from the old pole to the new one, as new wires would be run in that area.

I

 

did not expect work to be done on Sunday, and none was.  I also did not know when a crew would be out next to continue the project, but I did not have to wait long to find out.  Around 9:30 AM, a three-person crew showed up from Motor City Electric Utilities, a DTE contractor.  They arrived with a crane/auger truck and a bucket truck, but they also had a trailer with a small excavator (back-hoe) with a 12” bucket.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This photo is from the south facing north.  The new pole is on the left.  The existing underground service conductors from the house are clearly visible running up the old pole on the right.  The AT&T cable is also visible at the right/lower end of the small PVC conduit lying on the ground.

The insulated disconnect pole is hanging from the neutral distribution line after being used to disconnect power from the house.  The crew member in the bucket is dis-mounting the Comcast cable from the old pole, using the bucket to lift it up, and mounting it to the new pole.

 

The first thing then did was start hand digging (with a shovel, obviously) by the old pole, looking for the underground service conductors from the house.  The AT&T line to our house (no longer in service) also runs underground, along the same/parallel path as the power lines. (The service conductors for the house run underground from the meter, at the SW corner of the garage, to the old pole and then up to the transformer.  I presumed these were one continuous run, but splices were eventually found underground at the base of the old pole.)

 

 

 

 

The lower/AT&T cable being moved up and anchored to the new pole.

The next thing they did was open the disconnect switch so they could work safely around the conductors from the transformer secondary taps to the house.  But first they worked on disconnecting the AT&T and Comcast cables from the old utility pole, raising them up, and securing them to the new pole.  As part of this work, they had to route the existing AT&T cable down the new pole as best they could.  (The Comcast/Xfinity cable comes to our house from a different pole in the SE corner of our yard.)

 

 

This crew used the hoist on the end of their crane truck to support and lift the broadband and phone cables.  The latching hook is the orange thing visible near the center of the photo.

 

At this point, the existing house underground service conductors were disconnected from the new transformer and the old pole, and cut off about 4’ above where they exited the ground.  The AT&T cable was also disconnected from the old pole, but not cut.  (Note that our Comcast/Xfinity cable comes to our house from a different pole in the SE corner of our property.)  With everything disconnected from the old pole, the crane truck was then used to pull it out of the ground then lay it down.  It was then lifted and put on a pair of racks on the crane truck to be taken away.  The hole left by the old pole was partially filled in, but was reused to install the new ground pedestal (junction box).

 

 

The crane truck is used to pull the old pole out of the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bottom section of the old pole is loaded onto carrying racks on the crane truck.

 

 

The crew had decided early on that they were going to install the new ground pedestal (junction box) in the hole left by the old pole.  At this point, they dug up the underground service conductors from the house for a few feet back from the pedestal location.  A new cable assembly, consisting of three (3) 350 kcmil conductors, was then routed down the new pole to provide the service drop to the pedestal.  (At 350 thousand circular mils, these are big multi-strand conductors.)

 

 

The 3-conductor, 350 kcmil cable that will run from the rack to the pedestal.

 

At the upper end, the three wires were joined to the secondary transformer wires at the rack.  The bottom end was left loose initially.  The support post for the pedestal was then set into the ground and the conductors from the pole and the house positioned so the bottom pedestal cover could be attached.  The two sets of wires were then spliced together using very large, insulated terminal blocks for the hots and an uninsulated junction block for the neutrals.  The upper cover was put in place and secured, and all areas that were still excavated were filled back in.

 

 

 

Two of the crew set the support post for the pedestal, part of which is lying on the ground to the right.  The large 3-conductor 350 kcmil cable has not been cut to its final length, positioned underground, and secured to the new pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The underground service conductors from the house have been routed up into the bottom have of the pedestal and the crew is working to free the AT&T cable so they can move it out of the way and relocate it to the new pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This X-shaped cable stripper was the biggest wire stripper I have ever seen.  The house service conductors were 3/0 AWG, smaller than the 350 kcmil conductors the ran down the new pole, but still big.  (The 350 kcmil conductors will supply power to both the house and the barn.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The junction blocks used to connect the cables together are visible in the center of the photo.  The orange thing is the handle of a large T-style hex wrench.  The junction blocks for the hot conductors are insulated, the one for the neutral is not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A closer view of the junction blocks in the pedestal as the upper cover is put in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 350 kcmil conductors are positioned underground and the first piece of protective PVC cover is secured to the pole.