Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mid December, 2008.

Here it is, a month since my last post. I'd love to say I've been super busy doing all the projects I slated for the winter, but confess, I cannot. The biggest project completed so far is the replacement of the 36" wheel with a 48" wheel from a consignment shop in Washington, Second Wave. Also, I've put on the bronze manufacturer's plate from Bristol Bronze.

I heartily recommend both businesses - Second Wave because they were friendly, competent, and responsive. The owner of Bristol Bronze, Roger, will talk as long as you care to about bronze, alloys, corrosion resistance, almost any metalurgy, and the proper application of metals. He's a wealth of knowledge and very entertaining. Plan to spend an hour on the phone.

The boat is covered - the story of the $500 Fairclough cover is legend here at the marina, and if anyone cares, I'll relate it, but suffice it to say, if you're looking for something, check out the ads in Soundings Magazine. Sometimes you find the most incredible deals.

The cover is easy to put on - Herb and I put the frame up in three hours even though we'd never seen it before. It takes longer than that for his on a similar boat (Passport 40). The frame came directly from Fairclough for $1260, and is constructed out of 1" galvanized conduit with special castings for connecting the rafters. It took me about three hours to put the cover on by myself. So, next year, it shouldn't take more than about 5 hours to put up. Not bad, and it pays for itself in two years (it's over $1000 to shrinkwrap my boat! Can you believe that?).

I'm off to England next week to see my sister and brother-in-law and to go narrowboating with a newly found friend. It should be interesting.

Although the winter solstice is just now coming up, meaning winter's just starting, I am already looking forward to the spring. I thought I'd get a lot more done under the cover, but I have to say, I'd rather be off the boat than on - living in institutional green lighting is not conducive to great bouts of joy. The upside, of course, is that the boat is pretty much toasty warm and very comfortable even in 20 degree weather. I have to admit to wearing socks to bed, though, because my feet are near the chain locker which is vented. But it all works out.

Living aboard is turning out to be really pleasant. I can imagine there are those who think it odd, but I do have running water, a stove, a refrigerator and so forth so it's not like I'm camping out. Oh, yes, I have a TV and DVD player which are incredible time wasters.

But really, it's winter. There's time to waste.

We've had a couple of snowstorms here, mostly remnants of the big storms in the mid-west that left so many people without power. We're expecting another big one this weekend, but should be all cleared out by Monday. Good weather for my flight on Wednesday.

I've decided to start practicing my guitar again because it's pretty clear I'm not going to get any meaningful work done on the boat. It's nice to pull it out at dock parties and do a couple of numbers. Get's 'em going every time!

When I come back from England, the days will be growing longer! I can't help but be excited about that. Sure, there's January and February, but I'm hoping (foolishly) that we'll have warm ones and I'll be about taking the cover off early March. That's only 70 days away or so.

It's nice being at a dock, I must say. Very nice. Also, very expensive. But not as expensive as owning a house, that's for sure.

One of the downsides to living aboard is that every day you see new projects you want to do - of course, they're all do-able. All it takes is money. Here's my short list for this year:

  1. Change my halyards to be internal giving me a spare jib and main halyard on the mainmast and a spare mizzen halyard or mizzen staysail halyard on the mizzen.
  2. Install all the hardware for reefing on both booms, moving the sail raising and lowering controls to the masts.
  3. Install a new Garhauer traveler for the main. They have a really nice one for the 424. This is sort of a gimme - it's not strictly necessary.
  4. Install the new deck fill fittings I purchased from Marine Parts Depot
  5. New sails from Somerset Sails.
  6. Move all the in-hull navigation lights to the pulpits and fill in the holes created. This is important for offshore sailing and for the longevity of the lights. I'm also replacing all the bulbs with LEDs from Dr. LED.
  7. Build new holding tank and install related equipment. Get rid of ElectroSan.
  8. Replace failing solar panel and install additional ones on the seahoods of the two companionways.
  9. Repair gelcoat on main deck.

That covers it for this year. They're all big jobs and they're not necessarily in order.

In the beginning of January, I will have finished all my paperwork for my Master's license. I've been down to the Coast Guard station in New York City and started all my stuff. I'm a pee in a cup away - that's the required drug test that I let expire. Silly me.

My friend Cory may be getting more delivery jobs and I'd like to go with him - it's an opportunity to go boating and get paid for it. I like that. And I'll get some really good offshore experience.

I guess winter is a time for reflection. Mostly because it's too damn cold to sit around outside. Still, I manage trips to the marina office to shoot the breeze with Rick and have some coffee. He's really good about that. Always a fresh pot. What could be better?

I expect to pick up a more modern digital camera this weekend so that it's not such a big deal carrying it around. My current one is 3 megapixels, and I'm looking for a 7mp one. Two years ago, that would have been $1000. Now it's less than $200.

If this post seems to be all over the map, well, that's because it is. I could go out in the cockpit and measure for my mizzen, but, well, it's hard to get myself together to do it. I'm looking forward to my little vacation. Very exciting.

If any of you are going to be on the Coventry Canal, I'll see you on the water! Otherwise, stay warm (or cool if you're in a hot place), have an extraordinary holiday season. Think about this: we'll all be out on the water real soon!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Kudos, New Stuff, and Where You Can Get Deals

I know I haven't finished the saga of the 2007 vacation, leaving all who care biting their nails to the quick. I will complete the trilogy without a doubt. Before that happens I have some stuff to pass along.

I've moved Pelican from the City Island Yacht Club to its winter slip at Avalon at Stamford Harbor Marina. During a visit by my sister and brother-in-law from England for a family reunion, I got a call from my friend Herb. I'd been looking for a winter slip and the prices for the marinas I know of were totally off the wall.

Herb indicated he'd been talking to one of the people at Harbor House who'd heard about Avalon and their unbelievable rate of $850.00 for the winter plus $300 for electricity (or $50 per month). Contrast that to Harbor House at $50/foot plus $10 per day for electricity - on a 42 foot boat, or Yacht Haven at $60/ft plus metered electricity.

I was leaning towards Yacht Haven because they metered the electricity - if I use $300 per month, fine, I'll pay for it, but if I don't, why should I? That's just stupid. And Harbor House has meters, they're just incapable of reading them.

Anyway, I met with the managers of Avalon, Jacqui and Rick, who are the nicest people you could imagine. Jacqui actually runs the marina and Rick manages the Sailing Specialties brokerage in Stamford. They live aboard their own boat.

So, of course, I signed the contract - $1200 for the winter in water with electricity! Very nice.

Jacqui and Rick have the right idea about marinas and charges. Kudos to them!

Now on to some really good sites:

First, a lot of my deck hardware like fills and so forth are aluminum with plastic caps. They look terrible, and the caps are pretty well destroyed from UV exposure. I decided to look into replacing them. I found Marine Parts Depot who supply a large assortment of really nice stainless steel hardware. They're currently having a sale and here's the coupon number to use if you are going to purchase anything: MPD002. I don't know for how long it's good for, but it's for an additional 15% off already incredible prices.

I ordered deck hold downs ($19 each), two mast steps ($18 each), and four deck fills ($17 each). They're beautiful and perhaps 20% the cost from anywhere else.

I mounted the mast steps on the mizzen so I could reach the sail head without stepping on the winches. The deck hold downs are for the cabin sole openings - I plan on going offshore and it's a SOLAS requirement. More on that in another entry.

I've joined the Pearson 424 mailing list, and from them I got the information for a company (actually one man) who makes silicon bronze manufacturer's plates for Pearsons as well as the funky hinges they had custom cast. The company is Bristol Bronze and Roger is a font of information - especially where it comes to using bronze fittings. I suspect that if you needed custom fittings, he'd be the go-to guy for them. I ordered both the plaque and the hinges. What the hell, it's only money!

Pelican's wheel is too small to sit comfortably and steer her. It's 36" diameter and with the dodger, I can't see where I'm going. More to the point I like sitting either on the windward or leeward combing to steer - I wanted a bigger wheel so I could reach it from there. There's more than enough room in the cockpit to put one in, and when I met the owner of hull #1, I saw he had a 48" wheel. Edson wants something like $900 for one. It's still cheaper than modifying the dodger, but it's a lot of money for a shoestring operation.

I found one at Second Wave Marine Consignment and am currently awaiting it's arrival. They are nice, knowledgeable, and helpful. Also, the cost with shipping is less than 1/2 a new one - and wheels that aren't bent or broken don't wear out.

Finally, for today anyway, my friend Laura gave me a copy of her friend's book, "Offshore Sailing" by Bill Seifert. I know he's gotten Laura's boat ready for the Newport- Bermuda races and Marion-Bermuda races, and I agree with just about everything he has to say (anyone who agrees that silicone sealant has no business on a boat is a-ok in my book).

Highly recommended.

I'm hunkered down for the winter where I'll install all the goodies I've purchased. Including my extraordinary deal for a Fairclough cover. Amazing. More on that later.

Since it is that time of year I won't see you on the water, but I will see you in the bar, no doubt!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hadley Harbor and The Sucking Muck of Death

When last we left our intrepid travelers, they had just arrived in Hadley Harbor, about a mile and a half southwest of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. It consists of a small harbor surrounded by Naushon Island to the southwest, Nonamessett Island to the east, and Bull Island to the north.

There are people who live on both Naushon Island and Nonamessett Island and there is a something like a commercial dock on Naushon.

We arrived around 11am before the crowds and as I mentioned got moorings. Laura and Cory immediately set to go fishing and I kyacking. I circumnavigated Bull Island and went nearly out to the channel to Woods Hole.

On the way back, I was going down a channel to explore and I noticed two signs - "Cable Area - Do Not Anchor" and right smack in line with the two signs was, guess what?, a great big powerboat with it's anchor down. "Nice", I thought to myself. I wish I could be so oblivious.

It was a beautiful day! Incredible blue skies. Puffy white clouds. Colors so sharp and crisp. Like being in a different world.

Soon we all returned to our boats and decided to go clamming. The tide was ebbing and we left in the dinghy through the cut between Naushon Island and Uncatena Island towards a beach we knew of.

Cory decided to stop where we saw some shells indicating there may be clams. When we got out of the dinghy we sank up to our calves in mud. Very carefully we waded ashore, but in the meantime I had had to remove my sandals because they were getting sucked off in the mud. Just so you know, I hate mud. I really hate sinking in mud. Keep that in mind.

Anyway, I left my sandals in the dinghy and when I got ashore, I found that walking was difficult on shells barefooted. Cory and Laura went farther on to another beach and since they had already started looking for clams, I decided to go back and bring the dinghy around to them.

Mistake #1. Recovering the dinghy alone. If you're with people, they should know where you are - and what you're doing. Duh.

Mistake #2. When you're walking in snow, walk in someone else's footsteps. When you're walking in mud do not do that. Of course, that's what I did. Halfway to the dinghy I was up to my crotch in mud and every time I tried to get one leg out, the other would just sink farther. This caused great consternation because when your legs can't shift your balance is affected.

Now, I was crotch deep in mud, and worried about falling over because putting my hands out would not stop me as they would just stick in the mud, too. Even though the water was only about six inches deep, I was getting concerned about this - well, more than concerned. It would be a less than spectacular ending to a great vacation - this drowning in muck.

You're probably wondering how I got out. Well, sir, I didn't.

Just kidding. Here's how you get out of that amount of mud: very carefully. The key is to get one leg out by moving it slightly right and left and fore and back. Point toes down, and slowly draw that leg out. Move it to where no one stepped. Be careful because if you fall, getting up will be difficult. The biggest thing is: Don't Panic.

Eventually, I got out and got to the dinghy where I used its buoyancy to get the heck out.

So, I brought the dinghy around to where Laura and Cory were and washed off all the mud. Here the seabed was sand and it was much easier to get around. Off to the west was Buzzards Bay. It was stupifyingly beautiful. You just had to look there slack-jawed.

As it turns out, we couldn't find any clams. Apparently, someone had looked there and decided it wasn't a good spot. But Cory found mussels and oysters! Woohoo! We love them! So we picked a bucket full of both of them - leaving the small ones and the very large ones. Not that there was a dearth of either. But I never knew where to find them and now I do! What a lesson!

After a while we headed back to the boats where I volunteered to host the party, as I had a grill. So I set up, and we had a blast! Melted butter, grilled oysters, and steamed mussels. Then I made a mussels marinara with spaghetti. We ate like kings and queens and went through three bottles of wine! It was terrific. And messy. Very messy. But great fun. I learned how to get oysters open.

Man, that is living!

The next day, we hopped fooled around in Hadley and then headed for Onset, MA, only about an hour away. There was no wind. We had arranged for a slip at the Point Providence Yacht Club which is a great stopping point for anyone. They are very friendly, fairly priced, and they have Friday night fish fry dinners for like $15.00. Drinks are 2 or 3 bucks at the club bar. Man, oh man, we ate like there was no tomorrow.

But for lunch we had steamed mussels left over from Hadley Harbor - Cory towed them behind in a mesh bag. So, I guess I'll have to get one of those.

Cory and Laura's friends were going to meet us for the weekend, this being Friday, and sail around and meet people in Sandwich. Laura knows people everywhere. Amazing. I decided to ride my bike to the store to get some supplies. There is an easy way to get there and a hard, dangerous way. Guess which way I took. The way back was much less frightening.

Saturday morning, Laura's friends showed up and we left for New Bedford. As we were leaving the harbor I found out my autopilot wasn't working as whenever I put it on "Auto" the boat would go in circles. Not terribly helpful. So I had to hand steer downwind all the way in light winds.

When I finally got there 6 hours later and rafted up with Cassiopeia, I had only two things on my mind - peeing and eating in that order. Laura and crew went to tour the harbor and I had a bit of a nap. I was awakened by talking right near the boat - too near. I popped my head out and I met the owner of hull #1 of the 424s! We talked for a bit and then he was on his way. He had never met anyone with a hull number close to his. Mine's number 8.

We later had dinner aboard Cassiopeia, and while the guys watched "Borat" and drank, the women went to bed. They were the smart ones.

Next morning: Off to town for breakfast at a little hole in the wall that made really good food. I had eggs and linguica, pronounced linguisa. It's Portuguese sausage that tastes like Slim-Jim. Good. Mmmm.

After breakfast, we left to go through the Cape Cod Canal to Sandwich where we were meeting Laura's friends for a barbecue and no small amount of drinking. More on Sandwich in the next vacation installment.

Winter is coming and Pelican is safely ensconced in her winter slip at Avalon Marina, in Stamford, CT. What a lovely place! The managers are boaters and amazingly friendly people. They are the best! I may stay here in the summer so I can finish Pelican's upgrades. More on that later, too.

The potable water pump failed the other day and I replaced it with a Jabsco VSD pump. It's quiet, and varies it's speed according to the demand. It's really great and it's worth every penny. Here it is from Defender:|51|299222|121271|316442&id=121735 If you have to get a new pump, this is the puppy. If you've already have pressure tank, then just get a regular pump. But if you've been haunted by a cycling diaphragm pump, this is a good replacement.

Sadly, I probably won't be on the water for a while - so I'll see you on the dock!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Plug

I know you're all breathlessly awaiting the next vacation installment, but in the meantime I've been working on the boat doing various projects.

Power usage has always been a bugaboo for me. Since I live aboard and aboard in the summer is on a mooring, I'd prefer not to have to run a generator or the engine every night. So until I got some new lighting, I was being very cautious with my use of internal lighting.

The Pearson 424 has a number of standard overhead round lights, as well as some classic vintage '70's lights made out of what looks like small Clorox® bottles. They have Edison fittings (like you have with screw-in incandescent bulbs at home) and they draw about an amp and a half each. The overhead lights only a little bit less.

So to have a cheery interior you're looking at a current draw of nearly 10 amps! That is more than the autopilot, instruments, and radar all together draw!

I've mentioned Sailor Solutions before. They have lots of neat and useful stuff for boats that you can't find elsewhere. But their big product is their Sensibulb™ , a LED light engineered to provide very nearly identical light as an incandescent at much lower temperature and 1/10th or so the current draw - which means I can light the whole boat up like a Christmas tree for just about the same current draw as one of the old bulbs.

I now wallow in light. Read for hours. I love it. You can check out what I did with the normal white LEDs on Inertia on a previous post. As pleasant as that was, this is doubly so.

The only downside is the cost: They are about $40.00 each. However, if you take into account they're rated at 10,000 hours and the wear and tear on your generator or engine they save will be paid back. Also: you don't have to purchase new bulbs every couple of years.

They provide a warm, soft, yellow light that is nearly indistinguishable from normal lighting. The Sensibulb™ plugs into a normal halogen bulb socket. Sailor's Solutions provides socket adapters for all types of sockets at a reasonable price (although the Edison ones are becoming rare). They also provide full light fixtures with dimmers (yes! they can be dimmed!)

If you're thinking of updating your interior lighting, these are the bulbs. I can't recommend them enough. You'll be happy as a clam bathing in your low current light!

See you on the water!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Point Judith to Hadley Harbor

On the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal is a small marina, marked on the chart as a harbor of refuge, in Sandwich MA, called appropriately enough, 'The Sandwich Marina'. This little hole is all there is for protection from the Cape Cod Sound - which, I'm told, can be very nasty indeed.

It's not very big, but right nearby is a great seafood store and a pretty good seafood restaurant. They're called 'Sam's Seafood Store' and 'Joe's Seafood Restaurant'.

"But, " you may think to yourself, "how did you get there? When last we heard you were at Point Judith!"

Ah, that is the story you are about to be told.

After I arrived in Point Judith, I set about kyacking about the place. In my travels, I met a lobsterman and while he pulled traps we talked of this and that. He has about 120 traps in the harbor of refuge and works them manually. This day, however, his traps were empty because someone else had emptied them! I would have been pissed off, but he seemed merely miffed. Said it wasn't the first time and probably wouldn't be the last. He also told me there was going to be a lunar eclipse the next morning around 5:10.

About 9:30pm Cassiopeia sailed in and tied up to me. We had a drink under a beautiful moon to celebrate the vacation, and then went to bed. I awoke at 4:30 and thought, "I'll just get a bit more sleep - then see the eclipse." And so I did - get more sleep, not waking until 7:00. Ah well, it is vacation after all.

We left on the tide for Cuttyhunk that morning and with the wind too light to sail, we motored on over. There are two entrances, one on the west opening to Buzzards Bay, and one on the east opening onto the Vineyard Sound. If you have a choice, take the Buzzards Bay one - the eastern passage is very short, but very narrow and I'm told, tricky.

We anchored in the inside harbor that evening (Tuesday) where it wasn't at all crowded. We took the dinghy out to the east side of the island and Cory and I went swimming and snorkeling. It was beautiful! Spectacular. While we're swimming about, we saw some large fish we couldn't identify.

As I'm swimming about, a fisherman in a kyack paddles by - realize we're out in a surf zone probably a half mile off shore. I struck up a conversation with him and asked what kind of fish they were, and found they were black (or ocean) bass and tautog. The thing about this little adventure is the appearance out of nowhere of the fisherman with the answer to the question weighing most heavily on your mind. Talk about synchronicity.

Laura and Cory had caught a bluefish on the way out and which we had that for dinner. And a ratatouille Laura made with their home-grown vegetables. Maybe it was the long day, the fresh sea air, or the food was just really good, but we were totally satisfied.

On Wednesday morning, Laura and Cory went fishing and I kyacked into town. I figured I'd have a walk around the island and see what I could see. Cuttyhunk is a little jewel of an island with a little market, and one hill. There's also a Bed and Breakfast on the mid-east side of the island. Since there's only 5 roads that all meet near the dock, it's very hard to get lost. There are a few tourist like shops, but generally, not too much.

What is interesting is that there are no cars on the island; the main method of transportation is ATV and gas powered golf carts or 4 wheeler carts. It's very cool. On the southwest side of the island is a clam/oyster farm. They supply the seafood place on the dock.

I got some stuff at the market and headed back to the boat. Laura and Cory came back shortly thereafter. After a quick lunch and the most interesting discussion of the construction of sandwiches (Laura's a kind of 'fling-it-together' sandwich maker, and Cory isn't), we all headed off to see if we could spear some of the fish we saw Tuesday.

Well, no luck. On the way back Cory decided to look for clams. I don't know why. But we found them near the anchorage! We found a bunch! So we had steamed clams before dinner! They were great - so sweet. You can't believe the difference between just harvested clams and store or restaurant bought.

Anyway, Cory had installed a flat-screen TV and digital antenna so we watched the news and had a bunch of wine to drink. Also, Port and Chocolate.

It turns out that the bed and breakfast on Cuttyhunk is called "The Fisherman's Club" and nothing would do but that we go have breakfast there before heading off to Hadley Harbor. The walk is about a mile from the dinghy dock. It has a huge yard with a volley ball net and spectacular views of Martha's Vineyard, the Vineyard sound and a small island called 'No Man's Land' - apparently a practice target island for many years. The breakfast was delicious and the staff comely.

It is a beautiful B&B that really was a fisherman's club.

Waddling back to the boats, we readied for our exodus and left. After getting back to Buzzards Bay, I decided there was some wind, dammit, so I'm going to sail. At this point the autopilot was sort of working. It was only working on certain headings and I happened to be on one of them. So up went all the sails and Cassiopeia in the form of Cory was kind enough to take a bunch of pictures. (See nice one on left....)

There wasn't a bunch of wind but it was very nice to sail. Although Pelican motors very well, it sails better. It's taken some getting used to - it isn't like my previous boats; the best I can do is compare it to driving. My former boats, Inertia and Wind Hawk were like sports cars. Their handling was quick and precise. In the case of Wind Hawk, you could almost say 'twitchy'. Pelican handles like a Cadillac. It will go where you want it to but it will do it in it's own time. It's a very different feeling for me, but I'm getting used to it.

After a couple of hours, the wind died and the current turned foul so using the iron genny we proceeded to Hadley Harbor - it's about a mile south of Woods Hole and it is surrounded by lovely little islands. There are free moorings there on a first-come first-serve basis.

We were lucky enough to get moorings.

Next time: Hadley Harbor and Death in the Muck

It's still sailing season, so I'll see you on the water!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vacation Starts

Two Concordia Yawls at 'The Gulf'Here I am anchored at Point Judith Harbor of Refuge. It is my third pleasant and unhurried day of cruising. Tonight, Laura and Cory will tie up and tomorrow we'll be heading to Cuttyhunk in the Elizabeth Island chain.

If Cape Cod is an arm, then the Elizabeth Islands are the armpit hair. I use that imagery just so you know where it is. They start at Woods Hole (where the eponymous oceanographic institute is) and continue down past Tarpaulin Cove on Naushon Island and Cuttyhuck Island where Cuttyhunk is, ending at Gosnold Island. The island chain separates Buzzards Bay from the Vineyard Sound.

Pelican has performed impeccably - all the instruments are doing exactly what they're supposed to do, although the autopilot went sort of nuts around Noank/Mystic last night. All of a sudden it couldn't figure out a magnetic course. Pretty strange, but once I left there it was ok.

I left Saturday around noon from City Island and because it was beastly hot and humid with no wind, I motored for 6 hours and dropped anchor behind Charles Island, outside of Milford Connecticut. As uncomfortable as the day was, the night was very cool with just enough breeze. Lovely sleeping weather. In fact, so far, that's been the case every night.

All this lovelyness cannot go untainted, however, and the payback comes in the form of biting flies. They attack a boat somewhere around Middle Ground (Stratford Shoals) which is between Bridgeport CT and Port Jefferson, Long Island. I thought it might be just me because during the day before my shower I can be, um, ripe. But my friend Sylvia experienced them and so are Laura and Cory - we've never seen them so bad.

Yesterday between Milford and Noank I must have killed a couple of hundred of them - they just kept coming! And biting. Somehow they know where your ankles are and that's what they go for. It turns out I have an old cap that covers the binnacle compass that is the perfect weapon. It kills without schmearing. And most of what would get schmeared would be my blood. In any case, the cockpit floor was so littered with dead flies that I had to rinse it down. Twice under way and once again when I got to Noank. Yuck.

Today, Monday, it was better because there was some breeze so they tended to stay put. Makes the easy targets. I only had to kill a dozen or so and I was good. They are just awful!

I haven't experienced flies like this since the horrible trip from Norfolk on a fly infested boat (they had laid their eggs in the sail cover, and literally covered the boat). We solved the problem by jettisoning the sail cover, dragging the mainsail behind us for a few miles, and covering ourselves in diesel fuel. But that's another story.

Today started out as a sailing day, but the wind got lighter and lighter and Pelican just does not do well upwind in light air. You can imagine. So I motored for about three hours to this idyllic spot. Point Judith.

It's quiet, pretty, and the sound of the waves against the breakwater is just like you'd imagine. Normally in an anchorage it's quiet - the lapping of the water on the hull, noises from nearby woods or homes or cars, but here, because it's not seen as a 'destination', it's very pleasant. And so far, empty. I really like it here.

If we get going tomorrow, it's to Cuttyhunk. I hope we can sail. I hate motoring my vacation away....

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Beautiful Solution

I'm all about simplicity. I have a low tolerance for frustration. And I am easily surprised by engineering decisions that are obviously bad.

That said, boating offers some spectacularly horrendous examples of what I call 'That Should Work' solutions - usually taken as an expedient fix with the idea that it'll get taken care of correctly later. But when a boat is built with these 'Gotchas' I am truly amazed.

Here's a case in point - Pelican has three water tanks, one each 50 gallons under the port and starboard settees in the main cabin and one 60 gallon tank under the v-berth. So far, so good. But the vents are not overboard - that's also a pretty good idea except in this case when the port tank vents into a hidden space, the starboard into a hanging locker, and I haven't found the vent for the bow tank yet.

Rerouting the vent is no problem - I've rerouted them to the bilge which is not the best idea but is better than venting into your clothes or somewhere else. I may change them to vent into the forward cabin's sink, which is the best solution. But that was a stupid engineering/builder decision.

The next issue is one of inappropriate engineering. When you're venting into hidden spaces, you need to know how much water is in the tank to prevent an overflow. So someone - Either Pearson or a previous owner decided to put a clear plastic deckplate into the tanks so they could ostensibly clean the tank and see how much water was in it during filling. Sounds like an idea, right? Except those plates are designed around keeping water out of something, not in.

More to the point, to get to it you have to remove all the cushions and slide the berth extension out. How about not needing to do that each time you fill the tank, eh?

If you inadvertently fill the tank above the top but not enough to spill out the vent some three feet above the tank, you put approximately 1.3 psi on the tank, and that results on a total force of about 16 pounds over a 4" diameter inspection plate. That is enough to make it leak. And that doesn't take into effect the dynamic loading of water splashing about.

Ok, you say, you've lowered the vent. That should help, but the fill is 1.5" and the vent 5/8", so you could have a standing column that can essentially pressurize the tank to some 3psi including the dynamic loading of the force of the water - so even with the vent there will be leaking around the plate.

So what's the solution? This is great. Brewer's Post Road Marina's maintenance manager turned me onto this product that will work on any tank that doesn't involve explosive liquids like gasoline. SeaBuilt makes real, honest inspection plates out of stainless steel or aluminum.

They consist of a split back plate held together with a rubber gasket, a separate gasket for the top, and of course, a plate that's bolted on.

Installation is as simple as simple can be. If you don't have a hole in the tank, cut one or drill it with a hole saw, drill the 3/8" holes in the pattern of the top plate, fold the internal ring at the gasket and insert it into the hole, push 1/2 up through the holes you drilled and place the top gasket over the bolts to hold the thing up. Then you unfold the bottom plate, do the same with those bolts. Finally put the plate on with the supplied washers and nuts (they even supply an extra set to replace the ones your going to drop in the bilge), snug them down and you're done.

If you're handy with power tools, it'll take you about an hour. If you're not, maybe an hour and a half. It's that easy and you will have an real inspection plate that can take the same or more pressure than the tank it's in. Highly recommended.

Next: Installing instruments, frustration associated with that and living out of the water, and the good people at Raymarine.

My cruise starts next weekend, and I'll be seeing you on the water!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Alarums in the Night, and Other Projects

The new boat's been a whirlwind of work. Work's been a whirlwind of work. Selling my house and moving to the boat has been, well, a whirlwind of work. At least that's my excuse for not writing more sooner.

Where to start? I've moved to the boat. And closed on my house so I have money, which of course, will be put partially into the boat. I can't think of anything as satisfying as spending money on the boat. Especially big ticket items that I had already budgeted for. I know there's the whole boat-budget dichotomy, perhaps an oxymoron.

In any case, the current projects are installing the autopilot, chart plotter and instruments. But there's a roundabout story how that's all coming about.

Last weekend I decided to go sailing. I left City Island to meet friends in Cold Spring Harbor - a lovely anchorage that is only exposed directly to the north. Clean and quiet it is the site of the former Louis Comfort Tiffany artist colony/estate. I got to be the mother ship with my friend Lou and guests rafting up.

It was really cool to drop the big 60 lb anchor with the chain and just stick there. Anchoring on the north shore of Long Island is almost universally easy. Pretty much any anchor will hold. But letting go of all that chain! It's a special sound. A manly sound for a manly boat! Arrggh, matey!

Ok, the evening progressed more or less as you might expect with much food, G&T's, wine and good company. It was a murderously hot day, and we spent a good deal of it in the water. The evening cooled down very nicely. Just the way I like it.

Anyway, the next morning the wind was up so taking one of Lou's crew, Andy, we sailed off back to City Island. As is always the case on the Sound, about 10am the wind died. So I started the engine and Andy and I motored back. Just at the southern tip of City Island (within site of my mooring), the engine died. No wind, no engine. No current, thankfully, but we weren't going anywhere.

Just at the point of deciding to get towed in, a small 3-5 knot breeze came up and we were off! Slowly at first, and then more slowly. Two hours later we were almost to the mooring when the wind changed direction requiring some fast thinking by the launch operator. Let's just say my judgment is better now.

Now, when the engine stalled, I drained and cleaned the Racor fuel bowl. But after that no fuel would come in. That's a problem. What could it be? The fuel was old, and the goop that had been in the fuel could have been the culprit. That means 65 gallons of contaminated fuel to get rid of. Or, the tank, despite showing 3/4 full on the meter, could be empty. Lou lent me 5 gallons of fuel and after spilling a fair portion of it, at least 4 got into the tank, but still no joy.

That means the tank is full of junk and I have a big problem. Well, a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth, I found a yard that will, 1. haul me, and 2. let me dispose of the fuel. Kudos to them. A smack in the teeth to the yards I contacted that would only haul on the condition I let them work on my boat. You yards know who you are. Shame on you.

So Laura's husband, Cory, popped down Monday to help me rig a gerry can to the engine so I could get somewhere - most notably to the yard, and allow me to charge the batteries. Living on the mooring is fraught with issues, eh?

We started at the racor and worked our way back to the fuel tank to see where the line was plugged. Someone had installed a lift pump in the racor suction so that you could dispense with bleeding the engine when you change the racor. Well, a pump with no inlet filter is asking for trouble, especially where fuel with stuff in it is concerned. And that was the culprit. The pump was jammed.

This brings up another issue. If, for some reason you start wiring with a particular color wire, get enough to do the whole job. This pump had a purple wire connected to it. Fine. Run it all the way to the power source. Somewhere in a conduit, it changed color to red, and then went to the engine control panel. How stupid is that? Fortunately I've dug around in the wiring enough to notice there was extra wires on the panel. This was one of them.

Anyway, problem solved. Engine runs. All is good with the world. In the meantime, I ordered a Honda EU2000i generator from Wise Sales who were very nice, competitive and shipped that day - I got the generator Thursday after ordering it Tuesday. Marvelous! Even though I didn't need it, I had to try it out.

First, it comes without oil, as you'd expect. The oil fill is the most ridiculous design possible. You have to lay the generator on its side to fill the oil. It takes .4 quart. Can you measure .4 quarts? I thought not. The way you know it's full is to stand it up and see if it runs out the fill. When it stops running out, it's perfect.

What does that mean? It means you're going to get oil all over the place. Why not use a funnel? Because the fill is not vertical - it's nearly horizontal. Not the best design.

Remember I mentioned most of Lou's fuel got into the fuel tank? Well, if you haven't bought a fuel can recently, you can't without device that prevents it from leaking or spilling when the can is tilted. All fine and good except it's quite possibly the worst design I could imagine -you have to hook the filler on the device to be filled and press down on it to open the valve. This virtually guarantees you'll spill the fuel. In an effort to save the environment, the designers have made sure you're going to spill. It's the stupidest thing I've seen all week. A smack in the teeth to whoever thought it would be a good idea.

But once oiled (and cleaned up after), and fueled (and cleaned up after), it runs like a top! It's quiet, and man, oh man, it charges the batteries, runs the AC loads except the water heater, and what fun! I'm ticked pink. But with electricity. It's the generator of choice for cruisers without shipboard mounted diesel generators.

I still want a wind generator... But that's next year.

Today's project is to put LEDs on the 12v power panel so you can see at a glance what's on. When my panel was made 30 years ago, LEDs were very expensive. Now from Plasma LEDs you can get a whole bag of them for $50.00. Panel before LED installation
Working on adding leds
Panel with LEDs lit
They're simple to put in - drill a hole with a #3 drill, stick the LED in the hole from the back and using silicone or crazy glue stick the LED to the panel back. Connect the red wire to the LOAD side of the breaker or switch and the black wire to a ground, and hey! presto! a circuit monitor light. Cheap, easy, and quick. Pictures to follow on an edit as I'm still waiting for the silicone to set.

A final note on the results - perhaps you don't need the brightest LEDs available. At night they light up the aft cabin pretty well, especially if you have four or more circuits on....

This is one of the very few uses for silicone sealant on board a boat. Using it as a sealant virtually guarantees a leak and worst, also guarantees that the next adhesive you use to fix the problem won't adhere without some serious work. It's bad mojo all the way around. The only other use I can think of is to put a dab on cotter pins on the standing rigging so you don't have to bend them around in circles and they are easy to remove. But that's it.

Monday is the haul out, and the start of the new instrumentation.

The last week of August is the start of my cruise, and I will definitely see you on the water!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

How A Simple Job Becomes Three Days of Torture

A simple job: Install a Xantrex Freedom 20 inverter/charger and Link 2000 monitor. Stated in a sentence of a few words. A couple of hours, done deal, right? Maybe a day.

"But wait," you say, "Nothing takes a few hours on a boat." And you'd be right.

First, one must have a vision of what one wants to do. So here's the vision:

  • Take the 2 - 4D batteries and the 8D and make them one bank.
  • Add a Group 29 battery as the starter/emergency bank
  • Install the Xantrex Freedom 20 inverter/charger
  • Install the Xantrex Link 2000 monitor/remote control (for the inverter)

The first issue was to figure out the current wiring. Because the battery switch decidedly did not turn off power to the boat it became a priority to fix that. The next was to figure out the best way of wiring the batteries so that the banks were appropriate and measure for the new battery. Finally, because the old battery charger was seen as a 120 AC load off the panel rather than being in the circuit from the shore power, remove the wiring and insert the inverter/charger in its place.

The nice thing about the Xantrex Freedom 20 is that when shore power is applied it acts like a charger with all sorts of fancy functions. When off shore power, it can provide power to all the 120vac outlets through the inverter. It has automatic switchover, so you never have to worry. But it is also controllable in the event you don't want to charge your batteries or run the inverter. It also has an echo charger for the second battery bank.

The Link 2000 is the remote control for the Freedom 20, and it does all sorts of monitoring for two battery banks.

Jack Rabbit Marine provides a kit with all the stuff you need to do the job except incidentals like wire and connectors. Fortunately, there's Bridge Marine on City Island who supply pretty much everything at really good prices. Like Defenders and West Marine used to be. Moreover, they're nice and knowledgeable.

By Friday evening, I figured out where everything was going to go, how I was going to route wires and cables, and had cut a hole in the panel above the nav station to install the Link 2000. I also had removed the old Datamarine log meter that was non-functional. Unfortunately, that leaves a 4" hole in the panel. I'll deal with that later.

One of the problems of a 30 year old boat is that over the years people add stuff. And to put it delicately, they are not always so careful about how they do it. Wires are strapped to other wires or run in the easiest manner even if it doesn't make sense particularly. We all do it - how often have you said after completing a job, "Ah, I'll straighten that all up later. It's cocktail hour." Somehow, later never comes. I was/am determined not to fall in that trap too far.

Saturday I spent removing old cables that weren't needed, for example the 120 VAC line to the battery charger, the two separate sets of cables from the original 4D batteries (one each positive and negative), and one ground cable of the two to the engine. Fortunately, some could be re-routed to be used again for something else. Also, I found that the newer battery (the 8D ) was wired directly to the 'Common' of the battery switch meaning 12v power could never be turned off.

After a trip to Bridge Marine and some $200 later, with 25 feet each of red and black 1/0 cable (big wire), a mess of crimp on ends, and a few other little items, I was ready to install the new starter battery and run its cables over to the hanging locker that doubles as a wiring closet (or is it the other way around?) I also removed the battery charger so I could install the Freedom 2000 in its place.

What's amazing is the new gear is lighter than the old and does much more! Pretty cool. And there are lights on it. What could be better? Maybe some knobs. They don't really have to do anything, but should go all the way to 11. But I digress.

By Saturday evening, the following had been accomplished:
  • Mounted buss bars for ground, battery bank 1 positive, and ships switched positive
  • Mounted the Link 2000
  • Rewired battery bank 1 so that the positive to positive to buss bar and negative to negative to ground buss bar from opposite batteries
  • Added the former battery bank 2 8D battery to battery bank 1
  • Added and ran wires from the new starting battery (now bank 2) to the wiring closet
I'd say that half the time spent was tracing and removing old, unnecessary wires. Nothing is worse in boat electrics than pawing through unused wires from equipment that no longer exists to find a connection. Ok, rebuilding a head is worse, but you get my point. A serious waste of time.

Since I was running my portable refrigerator, I had to keep at least one battery hooked up, or if none, only for a short time. It is important to keep the wine and cheese at the appropriate temperature...

Sunday was spent wiring the Link 2000 monitor/remote control into the system. It sounds simple in that there's only like 8 wires, but I had to mount a terminal block behind the electrical panel, run the extension cable to the shunt, and then two wires back across the boat to the third battery. All very easy, all very time consuming.

The final task was to replace the 120VAC line from the deck socket to the Freedom 20, and thence from there to the AC main breaker in the power panel. Remember, the Freedom inverter/charger auto switches the ship's AC from inverter to shore and back.

I was going to provide the before and after wiring diagram, but it's too big a pain. Why would you want to know the wrong way to do it? Here is the final wiring. A final note - the current gel batteries were old, in two cases, from the mid '90's. So I replaced them with three 4D AGM batteries. It turns out that the solar panel controller was never providing the proper voltage for charging, so during the day it was running the 'fridge, but never adding to the power available.

With the new batteries I have 600 amp hours to fool with. Just so you know, an 8D battery weighs 160 lbs. A 4D battery a mere 120 lbs. I found out I could still lift and carry them! But still, I rigged up a block and tackle to get them off the boat at the end of the main boom. No sense doing something stupid...

Now I can get out - and I'll see you on the water.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's Happening!

Or, I did it!

To be more specific, I bought Pelicano (pronounced Pel-lee-can-o or just as it looks like), the first Pearson 424 I saw. She's hull number 8, built in Rhode Island in 1978. I think I am the fourth owner. She will be renamed Pelican. She's the good ship Pelican!

What attracted me to this particular vessel was that she had new standing rigging, her bottom had been reinforced with up to 7 layers of fiberglass and then barrier coated, and the interior is in great condition. Also, she has a layout that's more open - the galley isn't 'U' shaped. That's good and bad.

What attracted me to the 424 is that it's a proven cruiser with a good layout. It's a ketch with very usable sail sizes. And having already pressed the rail to the water, she's strong as hell!

Finally, she's not painted or Imron'd or Awlgripped. All the 424's I've seen have horrible cracking and crazing vertically up the topsides where the paint and the gelcoat haven't expanded and contracted at the same rate. This results in the gelcoat being pulled away from the substrate. It's visible on many older boats. And it's ugly, and very, very hard to fix. Read that as a total repaint. Nope, not interested.

But mostly because she has a number of very interesting projects - including sail and running rigging upgrades, new instruments, autopilot installation, hydronic heating system installation, a super-duper entertainment system, and high power 12v system upgrade (that's the portion before the circuit breaker panel). Also, simple maintenance that you'd expect in a 30 year old boat.

I plan to talk about all these projects in what can quite possibly be nauseating detail. But this has been my dream, sort of. Many self-help books on these subjects, I feel, miss critical details. The first of which is why a project should be done and what thought should go into it before you cut holes in your boat.

The projects fall into three categories:

  1. Safety. These directly affect the safety of running the boat.
  2. Ease of Handling. These affect how hard it is to manage the boat. Normally, they don't affect safety, but make the whole enterprise more convenient.
  3. Creature Comfort. People can live anywhere. In boxes if they have to. But this is my home and office, so I should be able to have some of the finer things in life, at least.

Naturally, they overlap. Convenient sail handling helps with safety when the wind pipes up. Warm belowdecks helps with creature comfort and therefore safety. You get the idea.

Before anything happens, the first project is the upgrade to the high power portion of the 12v electrical system.

During the survey, we found that the battery switch doesn't turn off the batteries. Also, since the boat has 2 - 4D batteries and 1 - 8D, the surveyor recommended I wire the batteries all together as the house bank and add a Group 31 battery as the spare starting battery. You may recall this is what I did to Inertia.

This entails the replacement of the 30 year old battery charger, installing some buss bars and a new Xantrex charger/inverter with a Link 2000 monitoring system.

I purchased this system from Jack Rabbit Marine who have good prices. However, since I last did business with them they have changed their modus operandi. They only provide phone service from 1 pm until 5 pm Eastern time. They accept questions via e-mail at Their excuse for this is that most people order via the internet and use email, and that they are a small operation. In my humble opinion, the thing that really made them outstanding was that they were available by phone during normal working hours.

Even more annoying is that without telling you, the potential buyer, they will ship any order over $500 as Fed-Ex direct signature required. What does that mean? It means that someone has to be at the address when Fed-Ex arrives and they have to sign right there - Fed-Ex can't go to the neighbor's. They can't accept a note with your signature. Someone has to be at the address when they show up. If you happen to work and leave the house before Fed-Ex gets themselves going and get home after they've gone home, you're screwed.

So now, I have to drive 2o miles out of my way to pick it up. For a few minutes more, I could have saved them the effort and just picked it up at their place. Highly annoying.

They are, because of this, off my 'A' list for suppliers.

I've mentioned Sailors Solutions before - they've engineered an LED light that's more natural in color and is dimmable. Since the largest electrical load in Pelican seems to be the lighting, I'll be replacing them soon.

I've already replaced two of the 30 year old fawcets, and added a filtration system so I can drink out of the water tanks. It just removes the 'plasticy' taste.

My Raymarine ST-60+ instrument set has arrived, along with the C80 display and ST-6002 linear drive autopilot. I can't wait to get that going! The autopilot will make my life ever so much easier.

The Lewmar 48 three speed winches need servicing, so that's a priority, too. As I start one project, of course two more pop up. It's the nature of boating, and especially a 30 year old boat.

There's just so much to do, and that includes selling and moving out of my townhouse!

And I still want to go sailing! Waaa! See you on the water!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Inertia Goes Away

It finally happened. Inertia was finally picked up and shipped to her new owner in Wisconsin. It took all day to pack her up - removing the boom and vang, getting all her equipment down and packed, and finally loading on the trailer took another day.

There are any number of boat shippers, and all of them will promise the world. Delivery, however, seems to be a problem. Joe, Inertia's new owner, had to cancel a contract with one shipper and get another because the first was a no-show. So, she shipped out a couple of weeks late.

One of the really, really, important things about shipping a boat is you or your agent should be there when the boat is dismantled (mast taken apart, tall things removed, etc.) and when it's loaded on the trailer.

I dismantled and packed Inertia. Normally, the former owner won't do that so it may end up being you, the yard, or your agent. If you are capable of doing the work, make every effort to be there to supervise or do it. Expect it to take at the very least one full day for dismantling the rigging and packing the boat and another for putting on the trailer to ship.

The hardest part is dismantling the mast. Our yard charges $350.00 to do it. They remove all the rigging and label it. You can also wrap the mast with bubble wrap, lay the rigging against that, and wrap again. I pulled all the halyards all the way up to the masthead and coiled them at the bottom of the mast. I also removed the spreaders and wrapped them, placing them in the quarter berth.

On shipping day, everyone was unsure if the truck would make it, but it did, albeit an hour late. Stan, the driver, was great! Full of sailing stories, very helpful and knowledgeable. Working with him made the day go quickly. My friend Leigh helped as well because, foolishly, I left my tools at home so had to give him an emergency call because I needed to remove the sissybars in front of the mast. Apparently, there is a 13' 6" height limit for non-permitted over-the-road travel. Inertia without the sissybar came out to 13' 4". Good as gold!

Getting her ready was bittersweet, as I'm sure you can imagine. She looked as good as any of the new boats coming in on trailers. Well, I think Joe and Kathy and their children will enjoy her for a lot of years to come.

On the upside, however, last Friday was the sea trial and survey for Pelicano, the 424 I'm looking to buy. As lovely a boat as she is, there are hundreds of projects that I need to do to make her mine.

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Adventure Begins

I find myself apologizing once again for the time that has passed since last I wrote- but in my defense, as weak as it might be, I've put a binder on another boat, packed Inertia for shipping, gone for training in Covington, KY and Oldsmar, FL for a week each, sold my house, and a million other things (including, of course, the odd party).

I was hoping to have some photos of Inertia being loaded for shipment, but, alas, the shipper has, apparently, not been able to make his target.... Inertia was supposed to be in Wisconsin by today, Memorial Day 2007. I'm wondering if she will get there by Labor Day. Still, Inertia's all packed to go.

Cory, Ray, and LeighThis brings me to a point that never ceases to amaze, amuse, and cheer me. As a boater I know that my friends stand by to help with anything - as I do for them. That is almost a truism. However, the kindness, interest, and helpfulness of strangers continually surprises me! Also, the curiosity of people. If there is anything going on in a boatyard, no matter how trivial or how esoteric, boaters will stop by, help, kibitz, question, offer opinions, and generally mess about.

A Mast PackedCase in point is wrapping Inertia's mast for shipping. My friend Leigh had offered to help - making the job simpler and much faster. As we were working people stopped by to watch for a few minutes - but halfway into the job, Ray, an American born Aussie, stopped by to ask about a rigger (he was looking at a Prout Catamaran), and stayed to help finish the job. Then Cory showed up and we all went to lunch! What could have been an onerous job turned out to be a lovely morning of camaraderie and light work. And a pretty good lunch!

The new boat I'm in contract for is a 1978 Pearson 424 that has been lovingly maintained and upgraded. Although the installed equipment is pretty standard, the engine is new and has about 500 hours on it, and the hull has been stripped of gelcoat below the waterline and had fiberglass reinforcing installed to fix the spots where the hull is known to 'oil can' and then barrier coated. The standing rigging has been all replaced, and the cabinetry has all been re-done.

Nevertheless, there are a bazillion projects on my list to do, including new instruments and an autopilot that's independent of the Monitor windvane.

The sea trial is on June 1, so there will be some new things to report! It's exciting!

My friend Lou has just purchased a 35 foot Freedom. It's a well built and extremely easy to sail boat with a self tending jib and a huge main raised with an electric winch. It seems to be a solidly made boat, with a great deal of thought going into the layout and equipment. I hope to get some more time on her to really sail her hard!

More later. If all goes well I should have the 424 by mid June! I'm so excited! Then I hope to see you all on the water!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Inertia Sold and That Damn Keel Joint

It's been some time. So much to do - and so little time. Life proceeds apace. I'm working very hard towards a life more dedicated to sailing and boating and writing or failing that, bottom painting. I've cleaned out all the crap in my house (or a large portion of it) and Inertia, and put both up for sale.

Happily and sadly, Inertia has been sold. It means that I can buy the Pierson 424 I've been lusting after. Why the 424? It's reasonably priced, pretty well put together and has a good reputation for cruising. Since a plan is forming to sail ultimately to Scandinavia and take a couple of years to do it, a boat that is comfortable and strong is just what the doctor ordered. Oh, and it has to be less than $90,000. Much less.

In the meantime, I've waxed and painted Inertia so that she looks very nearly pristine. She will be transported to Wisconsin to her new owner. I feel as if I'm letting my child go. Or a really good friend. I will take pictures of her departure and share them when it happens. It should be interesting.

So, back to the interesting stuff. Every sailboat with external ballast will have a crack that forms around the hull to keel joint. Famous for this is Ericsons and Beneteaus. It's not a structural problem or even a design one. It's really only a aesthetic problem. But anytime you use a filler to fix it, next year at haulout there it is again!

Don't mistake this for an ever-widening crack. That indicates the either a failure of bolts or hull form. My repair won't fix that. And losing your keel while sailing is very bad. End of the world (for you) bad.

So when I got Inertia, I decided to fix the crack once and for all - remember a fiberglass hull, no matter how strong, flexes. And because it does, any joint between it and something else will also flex, especially a heavily loaded one like the hull to keel joint. Hence, the crack.

You'd think off the bat that the manufacturer should use something like 3M 5200 and slather it on all over the keel before bolting it on. At first blush, it sounds good. But if you ever have to remove the keel (like after a really hard grounding), you're screwed. Really, thoroughly screwed. So it's not a good idea. Even using any other adhesive isn't good. There is a school of thought that says sealing the joint will promote chloride stress corrosion ( stainless steel under stress immersed in warm, oxygen depleted water ). True, all those could exist except that 'warm' in this case is relative - it's a worry in steam generators for power plants, or pressurized water nuclear plants. A little out of the range of temperatures you or I are likely to sail in.

So the solution I came up with is to make a flexible seal all around - using my favorite adhesive/sealant - 3M 5200. I'd be lost without it! Popular belief is that it's impossible to remove. It isn't. It's difficult, but not as difficult as silicone. More to the point, silicone will virtually guarantee that whatever you're trying to seal will leak and will leak forever. Think of capillary action. But more on that later.

The first thing to do if you're going to fix this clean up both the joint and the surrounding area, about an inch to each side of the joint. Clean it down to the fiberglass or gelcoat. Make sure it's all dry and clean.

Next, run a piece of blue painter's masking tape about 1/2" to 1" parallel to and on either side of the joint. Get a pack of inexpensive sqeegees. Evercoat makes a three pack. They're flexible and cheap. Good thing, because they're one use.

Finally, with a caulking tube of 3M 5200 or 4200 in the color of your choice (I use black), put a bead all along one side of the joint in the keel. Don't be afraid to use more than you need. With the sqeegee spread the 5200 evenly and smoothly from front to back. The bead should be spread evenly between the tape filling to the thickness of the tape.

Make sure it's over 50 degrees F. 5200 behaves very poorly below that. You'll have about 15 minutes before it skims over, so work it quickly. Unless you're racing and are particular about the surface smoothness, don't worry too much. Pretty smooth is smooth enough.

Before the 5200 sets, pull the tape away carefully. Now do the other side. And resist the urge to touch it to see if it's dry. It isn't. If your joint was cleaned deeply do this in layers. Put a bead in, wait until it sets ( four or more hours ), and put another bead. If you make it too thick all at once it will a; run and b; bubble as it sets creating something like a foam. It's still watertight, but I don't like it.

That's it. Wait 24 hours, and paint away! The joint will flex with the boat and next year when you haul, it'll still be tight. It isn't forever. It will eventually start to pull away. But after 6 years in the water, Inertia's needed only some minor repair (that's what the pictures are from).

Silicone in boats. Silicone has really one use in a boat and that's tacking wires or hoses to some structure. I use it to tack the wires going up the mast to the mast so they don't rattle. I also use it to tack wires that run along a stringer so I don't have to drill through it. Finally, I use it to hold cotter pins to the fitting they're in. Just a dab at the end and you don't have to bend them all the way open - just spread them a little and put a dab between the legs.

Why not on a port? Because although it bonds tightly, it is not very UV resistant and will eventually pull away a little bit from the glass making a capillary action pump - more water will leak than it did before it was put on. I hate seeing a boat with layers of silicone around the ports. It stops the leak, but makes it worse so the owner puts more on, which works for a bit, and then it gets bad again. And so on and so on.

Use it with head or kitchen fittings if you must, but not outside.

The new boat promises so many more projects! I can't wait. And I can't wait for this summer - this year, maybe I'll be the mama boat!

See you all on the water!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Master's Course and Various Endorsements

Since the Coast Guard requirements for the Master's license are exactly the same as those for the OUPV (Six Pack) license, and the Master's is a tonnage (25, 50 or 100) that allows you to captain a boat up to that tonnage in either inland or near coastal waters up to the maximum passengers it is rated for (based on your experience), I figured I'd just go ahead and take the course.

So I did.

Once again Captain Keith Jackson gave the course at the Nyack Boat Club, just north of the Tappan Zee bridge. He made a stultifying course entertaining!

The first day was looking up stuff in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Apparently it's a skill the Coast Guard wants you to have. If you have a question about boats, ships, tugs, or anything marine, and someone somewhere cared, it's in the CFR. It describes everything. What's on the Certificate of Inspection (inspected vessels) and why. Load lines, Plimsoll marks, loading marks, fire and safety, lighting, you name it. It is, apparently, horribly expensive to have your vessel inspected, too, because of all the requirements. That's why the Six Pack - for uninspected passenger vessels.

That said, though, the CFR is not, and I repeat this, not, written for the faint of heart. It is at times very difficult to wade through. But that's lawyers for you.

Anyway, in addition, I took the towing endorsement (so I can, in theory, run a towing vessel) and the sailing endorsement (meaning, in theory I know how to sail). Interestingly enough, the test for the towing endorsement didn't contain any questions about towing. That was sort of amusing.

The first day, Friday, was from 9:00 am to 9:30 pm because of the towing endorsment class. Sunday, too, was long because of the sailing endorsement.

Of course, the weekend was very pleasant - too pleasant to stay indoors.

Now, all I have to do is get my logs together, a physical and urine test, and I'm off to the Coast Guard office at the Battery (New York City) for swearing in (at), and Bob's your uncle!

I can't wait!

See you on the water!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

de re Cogito

Amazingly, this post is not about boating.

Before I start, I'm so pleased to find out someone somewhere has actually gotten some useful information from this blog. Even to the point of contacting me (in what I have to assume is a state of partial disbelief). Thanks! I sure hope I've helped more than one person, but it's a start! It's so cool!

One of the most amazing things about getting older is that wisdom really does increase! Clearly, the ability to use that wisdom is limited on one end by youth and the other by senility (or death). So now that I'm in that narrow band of life where my thoughts are actually meaningful, I will share some with you now.

The first thought that forms a foundation for almost all that follows is this: Original thought is very rare, indeed. Almost anything you can think about, any opinion you can form, and situation you can imagine, has been already thought about, formed, or imagined already. Who can be accused of original thinking? Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, and Einstein are examples. Why not Darwin? Because he had contemporaries who had similar ideas - he just published first.

That said, perhaps something I have to present will be, if not original, original to you.

I was having dinner with two of my very close friends the other evening in a nice Cajun restaurant in New York City (9th Ave and 48th Street) when we started to discuss politics. One friend, Don, indicated that finally, the country is swinging more towards the Democrats and that we'll see more liberalism in the coming years. All would be well again.

I agreed, certainly because it's obvious, but posited that even though Bush will be out of office, there will be left on the law books 'hooks' as a result of the War Powers Act that allowed the current administration to wiretap without a warrant (illegally in my view), start the Department of Homeland Security, and incarcerate people who may be terrorists, but who also may not be , without proof or legal status, and the various other procedures put in place using the umbrella of the aforementioned act.

What will these 'hooks' mean to us? Sadly, it will mean that some politician, political action committee (PAC), subversive group or lawyer will use a hook to further their own cause to the detriment of 'the people'.

Not originally, I will predict a horrible economic downturn (or failure) when the true cost of the war in Iraq is known and the current administration is out of office. The 2008 elections almost guarantee a short term for Democrats in that they will have the helm when the economy does collapse.

America is tottering on the point of no longer belonging to Americans. The national debt has almost risen to an amount such that our taxes pay the debt service and little else. It is not too far in the future that that will be the case.

Other nations, such as China, are investing huge amounts in the United States. They are providing the loans to cover our costs (think of China as the MasterCard of the United States Government).

In the meantime, although I'm not opposed to a centralized intelligence and policing agency, the Department of Homeland Security has been given responsibility and power that is only a short step to the kind of power the SS had in World War II Germany. If that sounds alarmist, it should. The DHS can arrest and hold people, including American citizens without warrant or cause, without legal counsel and without limit. So far, that power has not been abused too much, but that's a policy thing, I suspect.

Finally, think about this: If you want to control a populace the best way to do so is to 1. keep them ignorant, and 2. limit their access to information.

So far, the Bush administration has gone to great lengths to push "No Child Left Behind", which is an idiotic idea to begin with because it puts social needs before educational needs, and puts a drag on educational funds that the Federal Government is not making up (as promised). So schools are between a rock and a hard spot.

There is also no societal appreciation for education. Parents relinquish their responsibility to the schools but not the authority. The net result is that students are not getting an education, and even worse, they are not learning to think critically.

Second, 'the media' is typically owned by mega-corporations who value profit over information. If you want to find out what is happening in the world, listen to the BBC or NPR or PBS. If you want to find out what's become of Anna Nicole Smith's baby, watch the major news outlets. You cannot get a good picture of what's happening with any of the all news stations (MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News) because they all have an agenda. Often one beyond making money.

Incidentally, the Bush administration has been driving Congress to reduce public funds for National Public Radio and Public Broadcasting.

At the beginning of television, news was considered a non-profit public service. Now it's a profit center just like any of the various shows. So the only news that is shown is the news that titillates. One minute of a judge taking a bribe, five minutes of Brittany Spears' bizarre behavior. The biggest news of the last week was bad pet food. Not the hundreds or thousands of people murdered in the Darfur conflict.

So, an ignorant and arrogant administration, lack of education, lack of information and a lack of critical thinking heralds the beginning of the end of the Republic. When the population is credulous and tractable it is ripe for control. And that's where we're heading.

Well, this is my annual rant, I suppose. The season is starting and I have to get the boat ready. This weekend is my Masters License course (with towing and sailing endorsements). Yah! I'll report on that.

In the meantime, I'll see you on the water!

Monday, March 12, 2007

March is Already Better Than February

February was a month that could have been done without here in the Northeast. It was cold, dark, and depressing. The only thing that made it bearable was the two weekends of work at the yacht club. It was nice to help out, and great to see all the people that I hadn't seen since Fall.

But yesterday, Sunday, the 11th, it was beautiful - in the 50's and sunny and just right for easing into the whole start of the boating season.

Since Inertia is currently for sale, I didn't do many of the projects that I wanted to if I were going to keep her. But one that really needed doing was replacing the fuel injectors.

What made me think it was needed? Well, for one, the engine ran rough at idle and wasn't capable of going over about 2200 rpm at full throttle, even unloaded (just so you know, it's not advised to run the engine at full speed unloaded so if you're going to try this, make it quick). There was no smoke to speak of, but it ran rough. Nothing had changed so there was no reason to think the fuel pump or filters were contributing to this problem. The engine did start ok. Also, the engine has approximately 2200 hours on it (almost 20 years of 100 hours per year).

The least expensive thing to do other than changing fuel filters (done already) is to rebuild or replace the injectors. The cost of rebuilding is about $45.00 each, and if you insist in purchasing them from the Westerbeke/Universal dealership expect to pay $185 each for new ones.

Universal diesel engines since about 1977 are all Kubota. The hard part is figuring out which model as Universal kindly ground off all Kubota part numbers and stamped their own. Not terribly helpful. I found that my 25XMP is really a Kubota D-950 and could order parts that way from the distributor. Brand new injectors from Kubota are $59.00 each. So rebuilding is hardly worth it. Make sure you also purchase new copper gaskets for the injectors, too. They're $.70 each from Kubota. $10.00 each from Westerbeke/Universal.

Based on all that, I decided that it wouldn't hurt to replace them and it very possibly could help!

The first nice day (yesterday) was perfect for the job. Diesels are intrinsically simple engines - the most complicated part is the high pressure fuel pump with the injectors coming in second. They are pretty forgiving about fuel with the one exception of dirt and air entrained in it. You can even have some water in the fuel!

That said, first I had to disconnect the three small lines from the pump to the injectors and remove the return fuel rail. Easier said than done. I've found that the way to do this is to remove the front connections first, then the second and finally the third - each give room for the next.

A word about these fuel lines. They're steel and the compression fittings are moderately delicate - you don't need too much force to make a good seal so you don't need too much to undo them. Don't force them. If they seem to be stuck, take a minute and make sure you're turning them in the right direction. It also helps to have what are called 'gas line' wrenches that look like box-end wrenches with a slot cut in the box to go around a gas line (like on cars). Fortunately they work on diesel fuel lines, too!

Other fittings may try to loosen, too. the line is connected to a check valve at the high pressure fuel pump, so hold that fitting to make sure it doesn't turn as you're loosening the fuel line fitting. When you've got the fittings off, cover the open holes with tape or a clean rag to keep debris from falling in. Move the fuel lines out of the way - I loosened the two brackets that hold them neatly in order to do that and then rotated them away from both the pump and injectors.

You'll have to undo the nuts that hold the return fuel rail to the injectors and disconnect that hoses to the rail. If your rail isn't solid, then just disconnect the hoses. Remove the rail. Since these are the old injectors, don't worry about dirt too much.

The injectors come out just like a sparkplug, but with a bigger wrench. They, too, are not cranked down tight. If they're stuck, a couple of light taps on the wrench handle with a hammer will break the seal. I do that because I'm not interested in banging my knuckles hard on the cable brackets and intake manifold. If you have the right size deep well socket, then you're way ahead of the game.

Remove the injectors one at a time and make sure the copper seating gasket is also removed! You should have a clean hole into the cylinder from that point. Make sure the seating surface at the bottom is clean and the threads are also clean. The new injectors come with plastic caps - remove the bottom one and leave the top one on until you're ready to re-attach the fuel lines. Drop the copper gasket into the injector hole and make sure it's flat at the bottom. Then screw in the injector. It should go in pretty easily, like a sparkplug.

When all three are done, remove the plastic caps, replace the return fuel rail and the nuts that hold it in place. There is an aluminum gasket under the rail - make sure it's on and you've put the rail on correctly. It should be smooth on top and grooved underneath. Tighten the nuts that hold the rail on - they should be snug, so don't force them. Remember, everything on the fuel system is snug, not tight. I'd be really surprised if you'd put more than 10 or 15 foot-pounds on any of the fittings. Reconnect the return and bleed lines.

Now, you can replace the fuel lines. Make sure before you do that the check valves on the fuel pump are snug, then replace the fuel lines on the injectors. These compression fittings are delicate - don't force them. They seal with very little pressure, and if you over torque them you will be purchasing new ones. Once again, snug is the key. I'd say 10 foot-pounds or less. Don't force them. I can't stress this enough. If it leaks when you're starting the engine, tighten them a little more. It's better to do that then to have them ruined.

Finally, when all is back together, turn the ignition on so the electric fuel pump runs and purge the system. Then you can start the engine - it will crank over a little longer than normal because the fuel lines from the high pressure pump to the injectors will have to fill. If there are no leaks, the engine will start within about 20 seconds or so. If it doesn't, check for leaks. Leaks in the high pressure lines will prevent the injector from providing fuel to the cylinder.

If the engine starts and runs roughly, wait a minute (unless it's really rough) for all the injector lines to fill. Remember, a diesel uses very little fuel - the line consists of minutes of fuel in volume. If it smooths out, you're good. While it's running, check for leaks. You may see some smoke - especially if you've gotten fuel on the engine head (I'd be surprised if you didn't). It will clear. Make sure there are no leaks around the high pressure pump or the injectors - it will be obvious.

If you see a leak, stop the engine and tighten the thing that's leaking. Try again. If you've tightened it more than once, you've probably ruined the fitting. That's bad, and you'll have to take that section apart and evaluate the problem.

That's really all there is to it. It took me an hour and a half to do the job, and that's because it took me an hour to get all the fuel lines out of the way. The injectors pictured here are the old ones - expect to see some carbon on the end, but you should see the little pin that comes through and there shouldn't be a huge build up of carbon on it.

Injectors are pretty forgiving, but they do wear out. If you've noticed a decided loss of power or heavy smoking from your diesel, this might be a way to get it back and stop the smoking. It's cheaper than a rebuild!

When I was done, the engine idled smoothly, started easily, and was once again able to go to its max rpm! I'm a happy guy!

It's getting warm, and I can't wait to see you on the water!