Sunday, September 03, 2017

Big doings on the hard

It's been three or so years since Pelican's last haul out and for that reason as well as some major projects I've been putting off I toddled off to Nichols Yacht Yard in Mamaroneck, NY. 

In my humble opinion, they are the best yard in the area.  Dennis, the manager, is the most customer centric manager I've seen anywhere - always a smile.  And very easy to talk to.  A font of information.  Arturo, who runs the lift, Robbie who runs the yard, and all the other crew take care of vessels as if they own them.  If I have one gripe about the yard it's the shower nozzle.  It's one with a needle spray and it hurts my head.   

Downtown Mamaroneck is a short walk away.  The Mamaroneck Diner on Post Road has good food served quickly and is generally not crowded.  Mamaroneck Avenue has loads of restaurants from the inexpensive to the wildly so.  Guess which ones I went to.  Also on Post Road is Brewer's Yacht Supply and Hardware Store which has probably everything you'll need for your projects, although it can be expensive.  The people who help there are knowledgeable and really do help.  Good for an hour or so browsing.

Here are the projects I wanted to complete:

  • Close deck drain holes at or below the waterline as they had been redirected to the cove strip area of the boat a week or so before.  That's four 1-1/2" holes to fill.
  • Replace the stuffing box. I think 40 years of service is enough for one.
  • Move the head overboard from an inaccessible area to a new spot below a recently cut hatch in the head sole.  That's another hole to fill and a new one to make.
  • Paint the bottom
  • Add ring nuts to the rudder as an emergency steering system.
  • Close over the port water tank with plywood.  My friend, Leigh, did that.  He's a wizard with wood.  I, on the other hand, know how to make splinters.
  • Replace man overboard pole with a better, more modern solution.
Holes ground out to 10x thickness

The biggest job, by far, is the fiberglass work filling the holes.  A good angle grinder and the sanding cloth wheels makes quick work of grinding off the mushrooms of the through hulls and widening the holes for patching.

This work isn't hard, really, or even interesting.  It's just a lot of it.  First, grind out the head of the through hull.  Then remove the hose/valve from the inside.  Put a piece of Gorilla tape over the hole on the inside of the hull.  This prevents several tons of fiberglass dust from getting all over the boat. 

Next, dish out the hole from the center - about 10 times the thickness of the hull.  But no less than 6" or so.  I use epoxy and biaxial cloth from Raka Industries.  They have epoxies for all purposes but I use their medium thickness, medium hardener which give decent working times in warm weather.  Also, they mix simply with a 2:1 resin to hardener ratio.  You don't need pumps or anything.

Cut the fiberglass in circles starting with one the full diameter of the dish and concentrically smaller by about 1" in diameter.  I usually start with about 6 or 8 circles.  For really thick hull areas you'll need more.

Here's a tip.  You may want to try to use squares.  Don't.  They will peel off from the corners and fall off.  It will make you angry.  Make the circles. 

When working on overhead or downward facing areas, use some colloidal silica to thicken the epoxy.  Otherwise your patches will fall off.  You don't need much - you're not making a putty. 

After mixing thoroughly with the silica, apply epoxy to the cleaned ground out area and to the largest circle.  Apply the circle and use a epoxy roller to roll out the bubbles and make sure the cloth is saturated.  Continue to apply the circles in decreasing diameter until you've got them all in.

At this point, the hole is repaired once set up.  Six layers of biaxial cloth is stronger than any other part of your hull.   At this point, I just add more circles to build up the thickness.

Finally grind smooth-ish and fair with epoxy and fairing compound.    It may take a couple of coats to get it right.

Easy peasy, right?  It just takes time and patience.  It will take two or three days because you have to wait for the epoxy to set each time before grinding or sanding.

In the meantime, leave it alone.  The urge to touch it is great.  At least it is for me.  I should have taken more pictures but sadly, I didn't.

The next project which was to move the head overboard discharge to an accessible position was done.  I struggled with what to replace the seacock with for months - Bronze or Marelon. Back and forth.  Finally, I decided on Marelon.  I had good luck with it on my Ranger 30 20 years ago and it's only gotten better.  So that's what I used.  With help from a friend I measured and gooped and installed and hey, presto!  Now I can reach it.  I had already cut a hatch in the head sole to try to access the old one  (with no luck), so now it's right there.

How to replace a stuffing box:  first you must worry about it for a few years.  This is important because it makes you plan the job.  In theory, it's easy.  Disconnect the shaft and slide back, unclamp old stuffing box and hose, slip new one on, reconnect the shaft and Bob's your uncle. 

One of my least favorite jobs is disconnecting the shaft and removing the coupling.  In most boats, the coupling is a friction fit which in the intervening years has become a rusted fit.  Because the 424 has a V-drive and because the engineers at Walter really thought things out and made the coupling a clamp fit with the coupling itself self-aligning as long as the drive was in the correct place disconnecting it would be easy peasy.  And it really was, excepting, of course the location and the need to work upside down and backwards.

One of the disturbing things I found was that all 8 bolts on the coupling were loose - barely more than hand tight.  A friend of mine had the same issue except his eventually sheared as more and more bolts fell out.  Something to put on the checklist, I guess.

The new stuffing box came with hose and clamps from  Buck-Algonquin, who also make seacocks.  I've used their stuffing boxes before and they're well made as well as decently priced.  The bronze parts of the boxes almost never fail.  The rubber hose, as heavy duty as it is, is the weak part and it's the thing that needs replacement every 40 years or so.  (Really, more often.  Whenever you do any shaft work it should be replaced.)   So although I thought it would be two days to do that job, in reality it was less than one.

So that's three jobs down.

Rudder rings installed
The next job was easy - rudder rings.  You may very well ask what they are and what they're for.  This is old school.  Really old school.  There are three basic modes of failure to rudders and steering systems.  The first, of course, is the cable and drive.  The cables, chains, pins, sheaves, axles, and so forth that get the rotating motion from the binnacle to the rudder post can fail in many, many interesting ways.  The result, of course, is no steering or stuck steering.  Releasing the cables from the quadrant will allow steering with the emergency tiller (like anyone wants to do that for more than a few minutes). 

The next point of failure is the shaft.  In some vessels, the shaft is hollow and can corrode nearly all the way through, usually in the gland that seals the shaft and prevents seawater from entering through the shaft bearings.  At that point, of course, the emergency tiller is useless because it's no longer connected to the rudder.

The third point of failure has to do with the construction of rudders.  Typically, they are foam filled fiberglass shells with the rudder post running vertically towards the front, with tangs welded to the rudder post spreading out towards the rear of the rudder.  These tangs are what really transmit the torque from the rudder post throughout the rudder.  Sadly, the weld that holds them to the rudder post is susceptible to corrosion if constantly wet and when they break, the rudder post turns but the rudder doesn't.  In theory, they don't get wet.  In practice, many times they do shortly after the rudder is constructed.

So, to deal with these types of failures, often the top aft side of the rudder has either a hole or two eye nuts connected through the rudder to attach lines to.  The lines run up the side of the hull to winches or whatever and they, acting in unison, allow the rudder to be moved from side to side.   People who have used them say they're really hard to use but having no steerage at all is far worse.

The next job was painting.  It's not rocket science.  But it does take patience and the ability to roll paint on in thin coats.  Also, wars have broken out about what kind of bottom paint to use.  I use Petit Hydrocoat because paint and I are not on friendly terms and it washes off with water.  Also, it's relatively inexpensive and it dries quickly on a nice day.  Recoat time can be 2 hours allowing complete painting in one day.

I used to use Super Shipbottom, a paint made in Florida by a man and his wife that worked so well because it was 60% copper and had no talc in it.  Talc is the carrier for the bright colors in bottom paint but serves no other useful purpose so his paint was not great at colors - they all had a purplish tinge.  But,  boy did it work.

If you have any desire to make your own bottom paint, Super Shipbottom is for sale.  The company, I mean.

Anyway, the key to a long lasting bottom paint job is make sure the paint on the hull is in good condition even if it no longer works, remove all loose paint, wash the bottom with soap and water and rinse well.  Put new paint on with short nap rollers (1/4" or 3/16") in thin coats.  Put at least two coats on the entire hull.  On high wear areas, like leading edges and waterline down about a foot, put three or more coats.  Done this way a good paint job should last three years without too much cleaning.

The last job was physically easy.  Get rid of my man overboard pole and replace it with an SOS Dan Buoy.  This is a weighted bag you toss towards the man overboard and it self-inflates like a life vest.  It has straps that the poor bastard can hang onto for extra floatation and a light that turns itself on.  The owner can recharge it with a kit and it doesn't take up all the space of the pole.  Highly recommended.  Sadly, as a single hander, I have no one to throw it to me but I live in hope of a mate. 

That's about it for this haul out.  The next chapter is installing and configuring my AIS and replacing the VHF antenna and wire on the main mast.

See you on the water!

Monday, August 21, 2017

The New Adventure Begins

I know it's been a while since I posted (like 7 years!  Yikes!)  but in the interval I started a marine service business, made lots of friends and hardly ever took Pelican out.

That's about to change.

There's a new adventure afoot and it's causing me to work on Pelican on projects that have been piling up for the last years as I worked on everyone else's boat.

One was replacing the port water tank that leaked since I purchased Pelican and caused me to only use the bow and starboard tanks for a mere 110 gallons of water.  Now I'm back to the full 160 gallons.

First, I had to uncover the old tank - the leak was somewhere near the bottom so there was still a few gallons of water in it.  With the cover plate removed water was out in short order with a wet-vac.

That was the easy part.

Next I had to cut the tank out.  That was the hard part.  Also messy.  When I say messy I really mean disasterous.   First with the top open I could see the construction and figure out where the main cuts could go.  Interestingly, if I do the starboard tank I know that all I have to cut is the tabbing but that I figured out too late here.

Also, I figured out that not all vacuums are the same.  I was using the Home Depot vacuum that fits on a 5 gallon pail to catch the dust except for this:  the filter does not catch fiberglass dust.  As I was cutting I looked over to see it blowing the stuff out the back into the v-berth.  That was annoying.

Cutting fiberglass is always difficult but there's a great blade from Rigid - it's a metal cut 4.5" cutoff blade with diamond edges.  It's amazing and makes quick work of it.  It also makes a terrific mess.

All in all, it took about 3 hours to remove the tank in pieces. 

Then it took another three or four hours to clean the boat.  It's amazing how much dust I made. 

It should be noted that I wore a professional mask while working with the fiberglass.  Highly recommended.  In fact, do not work without one.

Finally I laid the bladder tank in the void.  It fits beautifully.  It's a 200L (52 gal.) tank from Plastimo.  It differs from others in that the interior bladder is replaceable - the outer cover is where the strength comes from.

As an aside, it turns out their life rafts are built the same way - replaceable bladders in cordura bags.

Finally, all hooked up and filled.  One of the nice things about the bladder is that there's no vent.  It's not needed.

I'm really happy - let's see how it lasts.  I have a spare, just in case.  Both of them together were less expensive than one of Vetus' tanks.  So there's that.

Another project I've wanted to do since I purchased Pelican was to redirect the deck drains directly out the hull instead of below the waterline with no seacocks.  A stupid and dangerous design especially since two of the hoses had never been replaced (since 1978) because they were hard to get at.

At haul out (future post) the through hulls will be removed and glassed over.

My life raft has been recertified by the lovely people at LRSE in Tiverton RI. They let me watch it being inflated (from an air system, not the cylinder.  That's because you only get three cylinder inflations before you have to replace the raft).  

Here's the raft unpacked from the case and unfolded.

This is the raft inflated until the relief valves lift (how you know it's completely inflated to the proper pressure).
 Finally, this is removing all the equipment for inspection and replacement where required.

LRSE personnel talked me through the opening, what's in the raft, what will be replaced and generally were very helpful.  It turns out the expired food (high protein and calorie cookies, really) not only were still good, but tasty as well. 

The last project tackled here at the marina was to redirect the deck drains out the side of the hull.  In my effort to minimize holes in the boat below the waterline I decided to remove the deck drains - they are 1.5" just below or at the waterline and did not have seacocks.   Worse, two of them still had original hoses on them because they're too hard to access.  So, nearly 40 year old hoses.

They had to go.  I have no pictures but let's say two were easy, one was harder, and the last was nearly impossible.  But job done and at haulout, holes will be plugged.

Well, that's about it for now.  In another day or so Pelican is off to be hauled out and work finished for the major projects.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Chester, the Walled Roman City

I've often said that in the U.S. a three hundred year old building is a museum; in England it's new construction.  My sister lives in a 300 year old farm house (updated of course).  Chester spans nearly two millenia starting as a Roman fort around 79 ad.  For a thorough history check this article on Wikipedia:

That all said, Chester is a tremendously photogenic city.  The walls that surround the city provide a great vantage point for photos and allows you to access all parts of the city without plying the streets which can be crowded with shoppers.  Chester is, above all, a marketplace.  As cynical as that may sound, it's been that way for centuries. The main streets have two levels of shops.

I'd like to be able to provide some iconic photo that would identify Chester unambiguously but I don't think it's possible so I'll just splatter some up here with explanations and see what happens.  Where I have it, I'll provide the plaque associated with the thing I photographed. As it is, the photos are mostly tagged with lat and lon info so if you download one, your photo viewing software may be able to place the photo on Google Maps. Fun and a magnificent time waster.

The following pictures are semi-random photos - they are in order of a walk around the wall and then some others in the city.  I had originally purchased a tablet to write and update this blog but I realized very quickly, even with a new keyboard app loaded (hacker's keyboard) it was painful to write and manage the HTML in a manner I wanted to do it.  So now that I'm home I can post these entries.

New Gate from wall
Looking along the wall towards Newgate
new gate explanation  board
Explanation board for Newgate
Newgate from the north wall

Newgate looking out from the city

Looking along River Dee towards Handbridge

Handbridge showing weir

Handbridge from the downstream side

A view of Chester Castle

A better view of Chester Castle. You can't get a real feel of the massiveness it projects, though.

Almost everything you want to know about Chester Castle

A view along the wall to the Chester Racecourse. This is the oldest horse racing circuit in England

Water Tower

And it's history

Another view of the water tower

Looking from the wall towards the narrow boat canal and basin

Northgate Locks

Narrowboat canal that runs along the north wall

King Charles Tower

History of King Charles Tower

Another view of King Charles Tower

Looking along the wall with the Chester Cathedral on the right

Eastgate Clock, the second most photographed clock in the world - Big Ben being the first.

Backside of Chester Cathedral
Eastgate Clock from Eastgate Street

Another closeup of the Eastgate Clock
View down one of the market streets and also proof that there are sunny days in England


Chester Town Hall
Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs Explanation

Chester Town Hall in the snow

Another market street in the snow

The area where Water Street meets Eastgate Street and Northgate Street.  You can see the two level shops, on the street level and on a walkway above the street level shops.  This area is called 'The Cross' but you can't see the monument in this photo.

Eastgate Clock in the snow, art picture.

Chester Cathedral view during a flurry

Well, that's about it for Chester.  Clearly the pictures were taken on multiple days.  You can wander around (and I have) every day for a long time and still find something new to see. 

Highly recommended: Albion Pub it's very near Newgate and the Roman Gardens. - good food, reasonably priced, and the sign states they don't want large parties, noisy kids, drunks, and racetrack patrons. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

My First Day in England and Moel Famau

Jubilee Tower, Moel Famau, Wales
Jubilee Tower
Well, my flight to England was uneventful, just as I like it. The flight to Amsterdam was on an Airbus A330 which was so quiet I didn't need my sound cancelling headphones. I was really amazed. Also it was fairly short, as these things go being just about 7 hours. 

The airport at Amsterdam is quite nice and clean. On my way to Kennedy my glasses had fallen apart so I went about the whole process of getting on and off the plane in a sort of Mr. Magooish squint. At Amsterdam there was a sunglass store who not only fixed them but would not take an Euro for it. Interestingly, McDonalds at the airport does not have the hash browns we've come to expect.

Anyway, after a 4 hour layover, I caught my flight to Manchester Airport which was only an hour.  I like Manchester Airport.  It's not so crowded or impersonal.

My sister and Dave picked me up and we toddled off to Chester for lunch followed by a nap followed by dinner followed by a nice night's sleep.

Sunday morning started out gray and if not exactly foreboding, not a day you'd like to be out mucking about in. However, as the morning wore on the sun peeked out and we decided  to go for a walk at Moel Famau in North Wales. It's the tallest mountain in the Clwydian Range.  Its name means Mother Mountain.

Moel Famau trail map
Moel Famau trail map
There are several trails up the mountain and many of them connect to other parks in the range.  It is in what the English call an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. They are not kidding. From the valley you start in near Loggerheads to the summit topped by Jubilee Tower is a constantly shifting view of deciduous and pine forest topped by grasslands. You should  be able to click  on the picture of the trail map and zoom into see the actual trails.

View from Jubilee Tower looking towards Liverpool
View from Jubilee Tower looking towards Liverpool

The walk we picked was about a 5.5km one with a rise
of 280 meters. It took almost exactly what the guide said it would or 2.5 hours. As we arrived it started to get cloudy and cooler which actually made the day more pleasant because it was, at times, a hard climb. Especially at the last bit.

 It was cool and breezy at the top so we only stayed a little while.  Still, it was surprising  to me just how many people were out and managed the climb including the tiniest of tots to some fairly elderly people. It isn't the hardest of climbs but is challenging enough that I  wouldn't have expected so many people to make it to the top.

The Jubilee Tower was built in 1810 to commemorate the golden jubilee of George III. Thomas Harrison of Chester designed it as an Egyptian styled obelisk to be built in three stages. The tower was never completed and in 1862 a strong storm blew it down. It was partially removed for safety reasons and the sturdy base is all that remains.

The trip down was far easier than the one up, I must say.  The trip home was short and followed by wine and cheese. Brilliant!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A New Start for the New Year

Psssssssssssshhhht!  Screeeeeech! Kaa-chunk! HMMMMMMMMMMM!

Well, it's a new year.  2013 to be exact and I'm resurrecting the sailing life.   Not that I haven't been living it - I have, or to be perfectly truthful, not too much sailing but building a marine service business here in Stamford, CT.

More about that:  Here's how to build a business very quickly:

  • Find something you like to do
  • Approach people who need that thing done
  • Show up on time
  • Do what you say you'll do and maybe a little more
  • Charge a reasonable price - which is not necessarily what the market will bear
  • Communicate with your customers 

Sounds simple, huh?  You'd be surprised.  Anyway, I like working on boats and that's what I do now, at least until wanderlust takes over again and I have to leave.

You might wonder why I haven't been posting at all.  To be honest, I had nothing to say, and might still have nothing to say but I'm hoping that's not the case.

Innisfail at Solomons Island, MD
In the intervening two years I've done some very cool things and been a captain on a TowBoat U.S. as well as several deliveries including a 91 ft Trumpy and a lovely 42' custom picnic boat.  More about those when or if the mood strikes.

Also during the last couple of years my sister and I have met our four half brothers and their family.  That's been pretty wonderful and has really opened our eyes to the whole other family thing.  Very nice.

Soon I'm heading to the UK for an extended stay where I'll be hiking in Wales and Scotland and perhaps Ireland.  So, the real reason for resurrecting this blog is to record those travels as well even though there's no sailing involved.

Finally, there are projects I want to do on Pelican that are fairly simple but will enhance her usefulness and will be fairly inexpensive.  Since I plan to go cruising again, I need to bring her back to cruise readiness.

With that said I'm off to a New Years celebration!

See you on the water.