Friday, December 05, 2008

Kudos to a Business that Cares

Let me tell you a story of how a business should be run.

Last September on a surprisingly cold, windy, and rainy day, I was in Northport, NY rafted up with my good friends Laura and Cory. We had had a lovely evening before with Herb and Gina and Bobbie and Warren aboard Laura and Cory's boat.

The next morning, as I said, turned out to be rainy and cold. Laura and Cory had to get back to Stamford so when they were going to weigh anchor I had no choice but to do the same.

Unlike their Kady-Krogen, I had to be outside for this little trip back and so reached for my favorite foul weather gear, a Gill O2 jacket. As I was standing out in the rain I noticed I was getting wet. Inside. Like totally soaked. I thought maybe it was just the dampness, but no, it wasn't. I was wet.

This is not the behavior one expects from foul weather gear, so that week I figured I'd call Gill and see what's up. Of course, my expectations were low as the jacket was five or six years old, but it had been taken care of, so I thought, "What the hey..."

After getting the phone number for customer service, I called and talked to Becky - she was as nice as nice can be and suggested that sometimes the waterproofing wears out and I should try that first, and then let her know how it went. Really, she wanted to know.

Off I went to a sporting goods store and picked up some waterproofing stuff. Two bottles of waterproofing stuff as the jacket was considerably larger than a couple of pairs of shoes.

Back at the ranch I started in on the jacket and noticed that a panel in the back below the shoulders was all broken up and I could see the liner through it. That was obviously the source of water inside the jacket.

Soon afterwards, I called Gill again and spoke once more with Becky. She indicated I should send it in and they'd have a look at it and either repair it or replace it if they thought it was a manufacturing defect. It turns out Gill has a lifetime guarantee. I did not know that.

I wrapped the jacket up, put it in a box, and fired it off to Gill at the address she provided. Inside I placed a letter describing the whole sad story. I figured I'd never see the jacket again and it would be deemed my problem.

A few weeks later while staring into the blue it occured to me that I should give Becky a call. Being the man of action I am, I waited until the next day and then called her. "Oh, yes!", she said, "We've just sent out a replacement jacket to you - actually we don't make the one you sent anymore and so the new one is an upgrade. You should have it, umm, let me see here, by Wednesday." Then she added that the panel had delaminated - it might have been the end of the roll or something and I had not done anything wrong.

I was stunned into near silence. No I wasn't - I was just yanking your chain. I reserve stunned silence for other things. I thanked her profusely, and she seemed genuinely pleased to have been able to help. I hope that was the case.

But she was wrong: The jacket came Tuesday. And it's so nice that all the people on my dock want to steal it. Hard to do with me in it, I might add.

So there you have it - I had to get this out because if you're looking for foulies, and you don't know whose to buy, go with Gill. If they can stand behind their product like that it's got to be good.

There's my feel good story for the year. Let's see Oprah beat that! Ahahahaha!

See ya on the water!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

There Is Never Enough Space!

I'm going out on a limb here and stating a truism: There is never enough stowage in a boat. No matter how much space you think you have, you'll fill it and want more (I think it's the reason people purchase bigger boats - they can have more stuff aboard).

In Pelican, there are three usable cabin sole openings. The forward one in the v-berth cabin is large enough to stow some wine and get to the knot meter for maintenance. There's one in the main cabin just above the keel and deeper area where I've put the holding tank and a third that gives access to the Walter V-Drive.

However, sticking my head in the opening in the main cabin I can see there is enough volume below the cabin sole to store, literally, tons of stuff. But it's not accessible. The main space aft of the mast on top of the keel is 18" tall, 20" wide or so, and 5 feet long - to either side are stowage areas following the hull, going the whole length of the cabin, way up into the v-berth. But sadly, no access.

Well, that's changing. I wanted better access to those volumes and to upgrade the latches on the floorboards so that they meet the Saftey Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) specifications. So, with help from my good friend Leigh we set about cutting the openings out from the cabin sole. One great tool we used is a new one from Dremel - called the Multi-max. It vibrates and you can get a small saw blade that allows you to cut the corners square. The basic kit comes with one.

After cutting out the openings, we cleaned up the edges and framed out the openings with 2x3 Douglas fir. That's the same type of wood used by Pearson to frame out the cabin. Since it's really very dry there, fir is perfectly fine. If it were wet all the time, I'd probably use oak or even better, ipe, a really hard, dense wood that is supposed to be a sustainable wood. It's very hard to work with, so think twice before starting a big project. But it will last forever in almost all environments.

Anyway, once the things were framed out, Leigh took the cut out sole board home and framed them in oak - which is what Pearson did. They didn't use teak.

When I got them back, I took the time to fit them properly. Leigh had made them exactly the same size as the hole so I just removed 1/32" on each side with an electric plane and hey! Presto! Perfect fit.

Now, for me, comes the hard part. I'm great with plumbing, electrics, electronics, welding, machining with all sorts of materials. But put a piece of wood in front of me and you can be sure it will end up as toothpicks or scrap. That's just the way it is. Wood and I just don't get along.

As it turns out, Leigh, sometime in the past, had made patterns for mortising the latches - we had used them to lock down floorboards on some boats participating in the Newport-Bermuda race. SOLAS, as I mentioned, requires all openings have positive latches and these are the strongest and easiest to use. Anyway, there are two patterns; one for the square opening you see at the sole level and the other for the mechanism below. In addition, I have to drill a hole below that for the rod to stick out from. The latches are available at Marine Parts Depot (see link on sidebar) at half the price anywhere else and unlike the ABI ones (very expensive) these have stainless steel bolts - The ABI ones have or had bronze or brass ones which were too easy to snap.

This is the first pattern - the fitting must start at least 2" from the edge of the board so I've marked the pattern at 2" from the inside edge of the opening. I can line it up and center it and then clamp it. Using a router and a 1/2" pattern bit slowly adjust it until the depth is correct - the cut in the wood is about 3/32" but I took the time to compare it to the fitting's thickness so it would lay flush. You'll notice that the pattern has boards on it - there's a reason for that and once the bit is cutting to the proper depth, merely changing the pattern will make the depth cut for the mechanism perfect.

You'll notice on this board there is an old mortise - this is from the pull ring. Fortunately, the pull ring hardware fits exactly within the footprint of the new latch and is exactly in the right place. Remember, the latch you purchase will have a rather large variability for the distance from the edge so if you need to move it one way or the other you can shorten the arm or make the latch on the frame wider - there is really about an inch of play. Finally, I squared the corners with a sharp 1/2" wood chisel. Take your time and do this right and it will make installation look totally professional.

The second pattern is lined up with the first pattern's corners - notice the little triangles cut out at the corners of the pattern hole. These are exactly the corners of the first pattern and allow you to look down and see the mortise that exists. The inner hole, the one you'll route out, is not aligned on any edge - it actually is short of the edge enough so that the screws in the latch will bite wood. This is very important.

You can see the whole mortise now with the 1-1/2" hole drilled for the mechanism and shaft. This bit of routing creates lots and lots of sawdust. Don't do it in the boat. Really, you'll be cleaning up sawdust for years. Just cutting the openings took me almost a week to get all the nooks and crannies clean. What a mess!

My friend Bob Muldoon made me some aluminum angle fittings for the latches to lock to - they are simply 3" long sections of 90 degree angle with three holes drilled in one arm for attaching to the frame below the sole. Dead simple. I installed them so that they were even with the top of the frame and the sole would sit just on top of them. Then I adjusted the arm on the latch to be just next to the arm of the angle that protrudes into the opening.

There are many ways to hold down the sole openings - on other boats, I used pins on one side that slid into sockets and only one latch on the opposite side. On Pelican, I used two latches because it's just easier and there is less likelyhood for splitting the cabin sole where they go. For the price of the latches, it just made sense - it also gives me two handholds for the piece.

So, then, here is an example of a finished sole opening. This particular one on the port side will allow access to one end of the watermaker - just aft of where you see the toe of my foot is another new access panel that gives me access to the refrigerator compressor and where the actual water maker pump and plumbing will be.

As I write this it's snowing the first real snowstorm of the season. It's hard to imagine that! Ok, not hard - all I have to do is go outside. But here in Pelican I'm warm and toasty. There are a tremendous number of winter projects and I'm excited about each one!

All to soon this downtime will be over and it will be sailing season again! I can't wait for that either! If I don't see you on the docks, I'll see you on the water in spring! Happy Holidays! Happy and healthy and good boating New Year!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Another Season Passes

I'm back from my delivery of an Outer Reef 65 to Palm Beach. It was eventful and boring in equal measures. We had three systems including gales offshore pass on the trip down and had to spend more time in the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) than we wanted to.

The ICW is suffering from a lack of funding. It's supposed to be dredged to a depth of 14 feet but in many cases it's less than half of that and with wind from the north or north west tends to empty towards sounds like the Albemarle or Pungo River, Neuse River, or Pamlico Sound. Moreover, in the larger bodies of water it gets uncomfortably rough.

Anyway, inside a big powerboat (expedition trawler) with stablilizers it's warm, comfortable and level. There's pitch, of course, but no roll.

I can't stress this enough: There are logs in the ICW that float below or just at the surface of the water. While navigating it, you MUST keep an active watch. Some boaters will report the deadheads as securité anouncements on the VHF, but more often it's up to you. Actually, it's always up to you.

One sad thing about the ICW is that where there are no speed limits, large powerboat wakes are destroying the banks. This is bad because the eroded materials end up in the ICW and because the undermined trees end up as deadheads that can be hit. In vessels with protected rudders and propellers they are just noisy. In boats where that's not the case they're a disaster lurking.

What was really nice was going with someone who has experience on the ICW. Cory has been up and down it 30 something times and knows all the cool little places. I plan on stopping at all of them and more on my adventure.

Many people get Beaufort, NC and Beaufort, SC mixed up. The North Carolina one is bo fort and the South Carolina one is beu fort. Easy way to remember this is 'o' comes before 'u' so the bo fort (Beaufort, NC) is above the South Carolina one. The members of the local populace gets very irritated when you mix them up.

Beaufort, NC is a sailor's town. Sure, powerboats stop there but unlike most other marine towns, they don't hold much sway. Beaufort is a jumping off point for the Bahamas, Bermuda, and all places south. It's below Cape Hatteras so you can avoid unpleasantries there. True, there are still two more capes (Lookout and Fear) which have similar histories of shipwrecks but are not, for some reason, avoided as assidously.

I met a fellow 424 owner, John Stevenson, and we had a nice afternoon together and he joined us for dinner at a very tasty restaurant just up the road from the town marina. I think it's on Queen Street, and it's not called a restaurant but a market. It's a little pricy, but not bad. And the food is excellent. John has been all over the Atlantic with his 424 and is extremely knowledgeable. It was a stroke of great luck to hook up with him. He's off to the Bahamas now.

There's a little bar on Middle Lane, too, where if she's reading this (highly doubtful), I'd like to thank the lady who popped in and danced with me for one dance and then left. Very much like a drive-by dance.

We had to stay in Beaufort for a day and a half while we had propeller work done. Remember the deadhead thing? Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement. All I can say is I'm glad I wasn't at the helm when we hit.

Here's something else. Generally when you hit something with a prop the prop bends. It's the nature of the material. What you don't expect is a brittle failure. Check out the pictures of the prop that was the most seriously damaged. The props are supposedly bronze. Bronze is an alloy of copper, tin, and zinc (as well as other metals). Unfortunately, tin is more expensive than zinc so many foundries use more zinc than is best for the application.

Normally, this isn't a problem. However, in a marine environment what do you put on your shafts to protect them from electrolysis? Yes, that's right, zinc. What happens when the zincs are all used up due to stray currents in a marina or a poor bonding system? You got it - the propellers become the zincs resulting in the loss of zinc from them - you can tell because they become pink. Check it out - especially at the hub. Those pink splotches are from the zinc being sacrificed.

What this means is that the metal won't fail in a ductile manner (bend before breaking) but in a more precipitous brittle manner. It's very important, therefore, to make sure you keep up with your zincs. Propellers are expensive. Zincs are not.

What is most incredible about 24hr sailing is nighttime at sea. I've mentioned it before on another entry, but each time I go out on the foredeck and look up I'm amazed. Totally amazed. You can look out and think it's cloudy but it's not - it's the Milky Way! There are so many stars to be seen that you can't pick out many of the well known constellations! There's almost no space between all the stars! I could lay out on deck all night long and watch except for the cold spray. When farther than 20 miles from land and therefore out of shoreside light pollution range it is more than worthwhile to stare at the sky. Highly recommended.

Finally, my friend Cory gave me a PowerSurvivor 35 revers osmosis water maker originally sold by Recovery Engineering who was purchased by PUR and finally by Katadyn. I'll be rebuilding and installing it this winter.

Sadly, the season is coming to an end. Yesterday there was a flurry of activity at the marina - people taking their sails off the boat, winterizing their engines, and performing all sorts of end-of-season tasks. I'm hoping for another good weekend to sail and then I'll cover the boat. Usually, I wait for horrible weather to do that. Maybe this year, too...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Way Down in Virginny Town

Well, here I am aboard a 65' Outer Reef on a delivery to Florida. My friends Cory and Kevin are involved in this thing (Cory's the Captain, Kevin and I are the crew). This is an expedition trawler. Quite a lovely boat, actually.

We're tied up at a really nice marina, the Atlantic Yacht Basin, just south of the lock in the ICW south of Norfolk, Va.

We left a couple of days ago and a series of lows came across the mid-Atlantic states making the outside really, really uncomfortable with spray over the pilothouse and 8-10 foot waves. Sure, the boat has stabilizers, but there's a limit. Also, since we're running someone else's boat, we came inside at Cape May and up the Delaware to the C & D Canal, and down the Chesapeake. We're running 24 hours a day when outside on 3 hours on watch, 6 off.

Although this is a paid position it's still fun. Let's face it, you can crew on an old, beat to crap sailboat or a modern motor yacht and I'm telling you that unless you're a glutton for punishment, you'll go for the motor yacht. Heat, A/C, long showers (because of a water maker), full galley, stabilizers so the boat doesn't roll (it still pitches and yaws), and some very nice living arrangements makes the trip quite nice even if it's not my very own boat.

On the ICW we only run dawn to dusk. You can run at night but it's not really recommended. It's very nervous making and with a 2.5 million dollar yacht at your command and you'd better think twice before taking the risk.

There are a bunch of lows marching across the US as is normal for this time of year so every day we have to decide daily whether to go outside or not. For the next couple of days we'll be inside bypassing Cape Hatteras and if possible we'll leave from Beaufort, NC to go outside. More on that later in another blog.

So after a rough night outside the coast of New Jersey and a moderately tense night down the Chesapeake, we're here.

Getting from Mile Marker 1 in Norfolk to Old Bridge which should take 45 minutes took almost 4 hours today. Jeez, what a pain. We had 30 boats or so trying to get through bridges that only open on the hour or a lock that fills and empties at the speed of the boaters involved. It was nice to see some professionalism in the boaters (and some not). Only one boat ran aground and only one person ended up in the water - trying to get his inflatable out from under his self steering gear.

Tomorrow we'll be heading to Beaufort, NC, as I mentioned. The ICW can be very beautiful so I'm looking forward to the trip.

Will write more when I can - I hope to see you on the water!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Can't Believe Summer's Gone Again

Wow! The summer slipped by so quickly! Driving through the woods in the Hudson Highlands the sun was setting behind me and the leaves were swirling down from the trees, sparkling, beautiful and nostalgic, blowing like moments past. (I give credit to my friend Tracy for the last phrase - much better than my own.)

Ursa Minor - Laura and Cory's boatNormally I'd've written a great deal about my vacation but this year it was on my friends' Laura and Cory Kadey-Krogen 54 they purchased in Ft. Lauderdale. We took Ursa Minor from there to Cat Cay in the Bahamas, across to Great Harbor and into the Gulf Stream to Savanah, Ga. Up the ICW to Great Bridge, Va racing Hannah - a storm that was hyped and then wasn't. Across the Gulf Stream we powered through feeder bands for Gustav - some of the squalls were 50kts and blinding downpours.

On the ICW it was basically a delivery. Long days - mostly because we were outrunning Hannah, as I mentioned.

Pier at Cat CayHigh points of the trip: Cat Cay, diving around Great Harbor for lobster and conch, and free wine in Beaufort. Also: Taking a shower in the runoff from the pilot house roof in a squall. Really, really nice. I learned how to clean lobster, couldn't follow cleaning conch (and actually, for the $3.00, it's much better getting it done by locals). It seems that there's an inverse relationship between ease of capture and ease of cleaning of creatures in the Caribbean...

Dolphin in the bow waveThat's not to say there aren't beautiful places on the Intracoastal. There are - there are cypress swamps and freshwater creeks and large marshes piled high with oysters and mussels (which as you may remember, I love). There are also dolphins in the ICW - they love to play in the bow wave. I tried to take pictures, but it's not easy. Mostly what I got is underwater blurs.

When I was in Ft. Lauderdale (a place I have an extremely low opinion of, incidentally, Travis McGee not withstanding) I purchased an inexpensive underwater camera and case - good to 139 feet, which I probably won't ever free dive to. I got some excellent pictures of sea turtles at Great Harbor. I'm told it's really odd as most of them have been eaten.

Cory and me with lobstersCory caught a load of lobster and taught me how to clean them for eating - basically, for the Caribbean lobsters that have no big claws, you only eat the tail. So, although kind of gross, you rip the tail off with a twist, break off a piece of the antenna, insert it into the now detached tails' rectum a little bit, twist it to get the intestine caught, and pull it out. Then you save the tail and toss the rest away. Later on, when you eat them, though, it's worth it. They're good - more flavorful than Maine lobsters.

Laura and Cory relaxing after a day of divingThere was a great deal of activity for the two or three days in the Bahamas. We wanted to stay longer but there were four storms either forming or coming across - Gustav, Hannah, Ike and an unnamed one forming near Africa. So we had to leave. Too bad - but I'm definitely going back. It's hot there, but nothing as oppressive as Florida. The people are great, too!

I just finished a project I wanted to take care of since I purchased Pelican - namely, getting the bilge pumps working and wired properly - they were wired to a breaker not fed directly from the battery and there was no way to run them manually. There are two, a Rule 1500 gph with a low in the bilge switch, and a Rule 2000 gph with a switch about a foot above the bottom.

The upper float switch didn't work although the lower did the job quite nicely. While rebuilding a workboat for my employer I saw some very nice bilge pump switches - Auto, Off, and Manual with a light that indicates the pump should be running. I decided to mount them at the nav station where they were out of the way but accessible. The West Marine switches have their own 20amp breaker. You can also get them with a fuse holder - everything else is the same.

After measuring and cutting the holes, I pulled and disconnected the wiring from the bilge pumps - this is an excellent time to test everything. I tested that each pump ran by providing power directly to them and that both switches worked with a multimeter. It turned out that the upper float switch connectors had corroded but the switch was ok. I ran new marine 14 gauge wire, one three conductor wire for each pump and switch so they could be run independently.

After rewiring the pumps and their float switches, I wired the the panel switches and while everything was out I tested they worked as planned - the diagram that came with the panel switches wasn't too clear and moreover, the top and the bottom of the switch was reversed in the diagram. When you make connections that are going to be exposed to water, make sure you use the heat shrink ones - and shrink them. I used them for all the pump and switch connections and then wrapped the whole mess with that rubber tape that only sticks to itself.

Switches wiredSwitches mountedFinally, after checking the panel switches were all wired correctly and worked as expected and so forth, I mounted them and hey! presto! properly wired bilge pumps. Incidentally, the power comes from the buss bar connected directly to battery bank 1, the big three 4D AGM battery bank. That's why the panel switches have their own breakers.

Well, that's it for now. I'm leaving for a boat delivery to Florida and when I return I suppose I'll have to put the cover on again. Darn! The season was just too short!

Upcoming projects for the winter will be refurbishing and installing a watermaker and finishing the plumbing for the holding tank - wiring the macerator pump and testing all that. There are others I hope to get to, including learning celestial navigation. Also, my opinion of the XM weather thing for the Raymarine C80 display. I installed that this summer and am not terribly impressed. But I'm prattling on.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Right Tool

Ok, although you haven't been hearing about this, my rudder post packing gland, very similar to a main shaft stuffing box, has been leaking. I'm not surprised as it looks as if it hasn't been adjusted in the thirty years since it was installed.

I was going to repack it but there was still a great deal of adjustment left. But here's the thing: the tools you can purchase at marine stores are absolutely worthless. They bend and warp and don't have any use aboard a boat. But the right tool is available - and it's from one of my favorite tool companies, Rigid.

You never want to use pump pliers or pipe wrenches on a stuffing gland. The last thing you want to do is chew up the relatively soft bronze fittings. Once you do, you'll never be able to use a real proper wrench again without removing whatever shaft you're dealing with.

So, I've been struggling with this dilemma until I found these wrenches. They are perfect! Boy, oh boy, the job was done in just a few minutes rather than the hours struggling I've done so far trying to move the nuts.

So, the first job is to loosen the locking nut - with this wrench adjusted properly, it was a couple of taps on the handle with the hammer and presto! All loose. Then I removed the actual packing nut and held it up above the whole fitting. Next, I ran the nut down the threads as far as I could and back a couple of times to clean the threads. When doing this, don't rush. Go a little way, then back off - there should be water coming through the packing material that helps wash away the salt and corrosion.

Finally, I schmeared lithium grease all over the threads and re-ran the locking nut back down. Then I put some grease on top of the packing itself and ran the packing nut down to a little over hand tight so that no water was coming out. Remember, the rudder shaft doesn't really need a lot of lubrication as it doesn't spin. The main shaft has a little different adjusting procedure.

The last thing to do is to snug the lock nut up against the packing nut and Bob's your uncle. It will take you way longer to read this than do. Repacking only changes this in that you have to remove all the packing letting in a considerable amount of water (not a dangerous amount, though) and replace with whatever kind you like - I like the graphite impregnated stuff.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Rendezvous and Various Adventures

There is a Pearson 424 owner's organization - Of course I belong to it - that has such a tremendous wealth of information and opinion from people who have sailed the 424 all over the world. All of us have had similarly different experiences (that's not double-speak - your right hand is like your left hand only different, if you get my drift) and have come up with some pretty spectacular solutions.

For this trip Paul and Jo from Canada who are new 424 owners came along. They're really nice people and it was an extraordinary pleasure to have them along. Both are experienced sailors and this will be telling a little later on.

The really neat thing about all this is that even though the solutions are different, they're all quite valid and totally satisfactory. It is in these solutions the owner's personality become apparent. There really is, it seems, more than one way to skin a cat.

This weekend (July 26-27 2008) was a rendezvous for the 424 owners. Rodd and Thatcher who keep their boats there suggested Three Mile Harbor, NY (just west of Montauk, the end of the South Fork of Long Island). The harbor is quite large with a mud bottom. More on that later. Six of us showed up and we rafted together.

There are several things I learned this weekend. First, how to kedge an anchor. Second, a Fortress anchor is worth its weight in gold (big surprise to me). Third, you can move a raft-up en masse with the help of hand held radios. Fourth, my outboard motor works like a champ and drives the 10.5 foot Achilles dinghy really well. Fifth, boats that are the same aren't.

Remember the mud? Well as you put more boats on a raft-up, you need more anchors. We started with two and as Saturday wore on we had two or three more boats arrive. As the anchors were mostly on the other side of the raft up, I volunteered to set one of mine. Since my main anchors are a 45 lb CQR and a 70 lb Bruce I wasn't interested in taking one of them out in the dinghy. I happen to have a Fortress 23 and that seemed a good choice as it only weighs about, well, 23 lbs.

First, if you're going to kedge by yourself (there were others there, but this was an excellent opportunity to try on my own because there were others there) and even if you've got help, first flake the anchor rode out - I flaked the chain on one side of the deck and the nylon rode on the other. Figure out how much you might need and add a few more feet. Make sure the lines are not overrunning each other. This sounds obvious, but a knot in the rode will make your life very difficult. Put the anchor where you can reach it safely from the dinghy. Obviously, a 23 lb anchor is pretty easy to carry, for me, anyway.

Bring the dinghy to the anchor and put the anchor gently into the bottom so that you don't puncture the dinghy. Holing the dinghy is considered bad form. I found using reverse so I could watch the rode paying out to be the best way. It may be difficult running astern if there are big seas, so be prepared to go forward and watch you don't tangle the rode with the engine. Once far enough out (you decide), drop the anchor and chain part of the rode like you'd normally do it from the bow, drifting back towards the boat as you do.

Once the anchor is down, go back to the boat and pull the rode in to set the anchor. It turns out that the Fortress/Danforth type of anchor sets pretty easily in mud. The plow type anchors don't. Bruces do.

Anyway, after that little drill, the wind came up and we started to drift. The two plow anchors skipped along the bottom and finally my Fortress really dug in. We had 150,000lbs + of boat holding on my anchor in 15kts wind!

My brilliant idea was to start the engines of the two outboard boats on the raft-up and idle or whatever to a new anchor point and drop all three major anchors (I decided to use the Bruce), drift back to set them and call it a day. So that's what we did using hand held radios to coordinate the port and starboard boats for directional control. I'm sure it was quite a sight to see the six boats motoring about the harbor all tied together. I wouldn't recommend this for rough water. Of course, if it were rough, we wouldn't raft up.

I have never used the motor on my dinghy. Moreover, I've never actually used the dinghy for anything but washing the boat in the water. If you want an inflatable dinghy and you don't want a RIB, then make sure that the dinghy you get has an inflatable floor and keel. Highly recommended because it makes the dinghy more maneuverable and it tows much better than the flat bottom ones. Oh, and it can plane.

My 8hp Nissan 2 cycle outboard is more than sufficient for my dinghy and now that I figured out how to get it into the dinghy without undue strain and gnashing of teeth, I'll use it more. Knowing I was going to have to use it, I made an engine harness for it. I use the mizzen boom an mizzen sheet as a lifting device to lower it over the side to the dinghy's transom. Very easy. No drama. Works like a champ. The same in reverse to remove.

I really got a lot of experience on things you'd never normally have to do and that made the weekend worthwhile even if the people hadn't been absolutely spectacular!

On the way back we rounded Orient Point into a serious thunderstorm - winds gusting to 38 kts steady at 30-35. Well, sir, we were puttering along before this with the jib, staysail, and mizzen and when the wind went to 25 kts or so we rolled in half the jib. Then as it built, we rolled it all the way in. Call me chicken, but at that point I had the engine running at an idle. The lee shore wasn't so far away. Anyway, the staysail and the mizzen powered us through at 7+ kts (hitting 8+ at times) on a close reach and there was no drama! The boat was heeled about 10-15 degrees and that was that. Easy to steer and easy to deal with. I was pleasantly surprised and really thankful that Paul and Jo were there.

Now I know what the boat can take and I know what I have to do to keep all the stuff where it belongs in a seaway. It turns out that the normal elbow catches don't do the job. If there's any weight at all behind the door/drawer the catches will let go. Moreover, I think that the catches where you have to put your finger inside a hole to unlatch is pretty much asking for a broken finger at some time. So the search is on for a solution - external, positive, easy to use. I don't really want to use barrel bolts because too much fancy stuff has to be done to make it work, like blocking the barrel up to the height of the drawer face. But as a last resort, I'll do it.

Recently I added a cockpit shower. Here are the pictures of the external and internal set up. I picked the place to put it because that's where the dockside water fitting is and there's little or no structural stress and it's easy to work behind that face of the cockpit. I chose the fitting because it has a sealing door. One thing I don't like that much is that where the hose goes in is a potential leakage point when using the shower, but I left the hose long enough that I can be pretty far away when using it. You'd not use it in a stormy seaway anyhow.

There's nothing better than a cockpit shower for keeping salt out of the boat. A very worthwhile project and it took me about 2 hours to install. True, I've done it before, but still, it's a really easy project.

Well, more later. See you on the water!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Love My Boat and a Rant

Of course, everyone loves their boat. They may say otherwise but they still mention it with pride. Certainly I was that way. But the other day I was sailing to Northport in a convoy of friends. The winds were light and I set the staysail. As my friends Herb and Gina passed by, they took some pictures.

Ignore the fact that I'm hanging on like an old man. I had just lifted an 8D battery out of a box and my back was killing me.

But the point here is that when I saw this picture my heart jumped! That big ol' tub of a boat at the dock is really pretty under sail!

Since this picture was taken, I've put the Pelican logo on the bow and hope soon to have the new main sail and spinnaker with the same logos. It may be too much, but I don't think so.

Anyway I've had this picture since Memorial Day and it still tickles me every time I see it.

Life on the docks during the warm season is pretty interesting. There is or could be a party every evening. There is definitely a gathering every evening as we each see what happened to the other that day. It's really pretty nice. After dusk, when the no-see-ums come out and start being annoying generally we'll all disappear into our boats.

Since the mast pulpit installation I've finished the basic holding tank set up (there is a little more to finish for being at sea) and started the SCADTech Tank Level Monitor installation. Also, I've purchased tubing for replacing the water tank vents and suction lines. They're all old Tygon tubing that's degrading at an alarming rate and they have no reinforcement. There is always something to do. But summer is for sailing and I'm having a really hard time getting myself together to work on the boat.

Fuel prices are out of this world, as everyone knows. I get one or two 5 gallon cans filled each week depending on what I've done over the weekend. I don't like doing that because the fuel tax for marine fuel goes to the Wallop-Bureau act spends the money on things all us boaters need or want. However, the marinas here are charging 6+ dollars per gallon, clearly more than necessary. Especially when marinas up the Hudson River are charging just a little more than the price at a gas station.

I've probably ranted about this before, but if you're in a business that depends on discretionary dollars, you'd better not charge so much that your customers leave. Last year used boats were selling pretty well; not so much the new sub-million dollar boats. At this point, however, the market for used boats isn't moving and there is a glut. People are leaving boating because it just isn't worth it.

True, there are some die-hards. But more and more, anchorages are full and transient moorings empty. Permanent moorings are full in yacht clubs and marina slips are empty. There is a trend here. This time, because I don't expect fuel costs to go down significantly, the trend will not reverse easily. This has been coming. In the northeast, you can very easily pay $3.50 per foot per night for dockage plus $5 or $10 per night for electricity! I don't know about you, but if I go to a hotel for $140 for a night, I don't expect to pay extra for electricity. So, if there's someplace ashore I really want to go, I'll drive there or dinghy in.

There's also another disturbing trend I read about recently in a Boat US magazine. Outdoor activity participation has decreased almost 50% since the 1980's! National parks attendance is down by that much over the almost three decades. Child obesity is almost at an epidemic. Heck, adult obesity is an epidemic. It seems no one wants to go outdoors. When did that start? Think about it - mid to late 80's - video games. Online services. 24 hour television.

Is it any surprise, then, that our disregard for the natural world is increasing? That we can't get a government together that actually cares more about the future of our country and world than big oil and the military-industrial complex?

In a recent Scientific American, Japan is researching the technology of bringing power from space to earth via laser or microwave. We're setting up a missile defense system that's doomed to failure. Northern Europe countries are setting up wind generators at sea. We're suing companies that want to do it because 'it will spoil the view' (this applies to the wind generator farm proposed for the Nantucket Sound - a barely navigable stretch of water for boats with a draft over 10 feet). We, in New York, have to petition the government to not allow the Broadwater project in the Long Island Sound - an LNG station in the middle of the Sound (see and ).

Europeans stress conservation and have for decades. They have some extremely nifty cars that get 40 miles per gallon. What do we want to do? Drill offshore in environmentally sensitive areas. Drill in places that won't produce oil for 15-20 years! Last evening on National Public Radio's (NPR) Morning Edition there was a piece "Big Oil's Alternative Energy Ads Scrutinized". Even though the big oil companies are getting huge profits, they are spending tiny amounts (relatively) on research for alternative energy.

Well, if you're an oil company, you want to sell oil.

And if you're an oil man president and vice president, you want to sell oil.

It's really, really clear that we, you and I, are witnessing the last days of America. Every great civilization has followed a clear path of violent rise to power, golden era of prosperity, and either violent fall or a just fading away to a lower status.

Is there anything we can do? There sure is. We can get off our fat lazy asses and get back on track with education, outdoor activities, energy conservation and stop our collective whining. We are or have become a nation lead by fear, not bravery. We think of ourselves and not others. We want to be taken care of rather than taking care of ourselves. We can aspire to greatness, not wealth. We can use diplomacy instead of force. And more than anything, we can learn to laugh at ourselves again.

Sorry about the rant. I usually don't do that here because sailing isn't political. I don't care who you are, when you're at sea you have only one thing to do: stay afloat. Democrats and Republicans and Independents all drown the same way.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mast Rails and Their Installation

When I was young, say, last year or so, I never had a use for mast rails. I could prance about the deck with nary a worry in the worst of the worst weather. I was, for all practical purposes, the mountain goat of deckdom. I'm sure you'll believe that.

My efforts since purchasing Pelican (nee Pelicano) have been to make her an ocean going vessel that I can single hand.

Towards that end, I decided that since I couldn't run all my sail control lines to the cockpit, that I'd keep them at the mast. These lines include the main and jib halyards and the main reefing lines. It doesn't make sense to have to run back and forth from the cockpit to manage sails, especially if you're trying to get it down quickly.

I know you'll say, "Hey, wait! Didn't you move all your lines aft to the cabin roof on Inertia? I mean, you went to such trouble!" You'd be correct - the difference was that Inertia had a clear route for all the lines that wouldn't result in me tripping every time I went forward. Pelican's layout is not the same and since I can't run that many lines, I won't - actually, the only three will be the staysail sheet, the boom vang, and the main sheet. Everything else is at the mast.

Now doing all this work at the mast could be easy-peasy if the weather's nice. If it isn't, not only will I be hanging on for dear life, I'll be trying to get something done. Tada! Here enter's the mast pulpits (or mast rails, or sissy bars depending on your proclivites).

Mast pulpits are sturdy bars that give you a place to lean when working on the sail handling gear. They should wrap around you so that pitching won't fling you from your perch and they should be sturdy enough and well enough attached that you can hook your tether to them or to their base, in my case.

The Pearson 424 Owner's group got together to order a mess of these things - One member spent considerable time measuring and making pricing requests and finding Railmakers, Inc. to make 16 pairs for a deep discount. Dave at Railmakers was very helpful and patient, too.

Anyway, a month or so later, the rails arrived and I waited for a nice weekend to install them. Here's how that went and lessons learned.

When you get these things, you have to figure out where they're going. We measured for a certain location that most people wanted. In my case, because I have a staysail, I didn't want it banging on the rails all the time so I moved mine aft and outboard so that the feet still fit the contours of the deck. They must also clear all the lines that may be near, and they must be comfortable to lean against and work the various controls on the mast.

In this case, I measured the front and rear legs for the port side mast pulpit from all sorts of fixed points, such as the mast, a hatch edge, the shrouds and wrote them down - 4 or 5 measurements for each of the two legs. I then took those and placed the starboard pulpit in the identical place. With a Sharpie, I marked one hole for each footpad. There is a lesson to be learned here: Use some kind of tape to hold the things in place while you mark. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

The next step was to drill placement holes - I knew I'd have to remove the outside overhead panels to mount these things, but I still needed to know where to clear away interference inside. So I drilled one hole in each leg in the most limiting direction - inboard for the inboard legs, outboard for the outboard, forward for the forwardmost... and you get the rest. Actually, when marking them I chose the hole. Then I took a picture. You can see that the inboard legs fall right next to the trim for the overhead. That means some work for the chisel. Note the little whitish lines - those are the long bolts I used for location.

Railmakers, Inc. provided backing plates with the rails - very nice ones, I might add. I needed to clear enough room in those strips to put the plates. With the rails in place and being held with the locator bolts, I used the trusty Sharpie once again to mark the rest of the holes. Then I removed the rails and drilled them babies out.

The next step usually is to take a bent nail and scrape out the inner core. I went one better - I took a 1" hole saw and sawed the inner liner and core out. This gave me a great big place to fill with epoxy for strength and compression resistance. Each hole got taped over with duct tape. Make sure the duct tape is well bonded. Also make sure you don't cut the outer skin. Once drilled, the core pops out with a little persuasion from a screwdriver (like making wood plugs).

Now comes one of the hard parts. Here's what I learned. You need to use a syringe to fill the holes from the top. The West System has them pretty cheaply. You will be tempted to use 5 minute epoxy. Resist the temptation. 5 minute epoxy doesn't give you enough time to mix, put in syringe, squirt in hole, clean up mess, and self-level. Trust me on this. There are two ways of proceeding - one, use regular epoxy, West System or whatever and get that whole mess going.

Or, for a bit more money, Devcon makes self mixing injectors for 30 second, 5 minute and 30 minute mixes. They're about $4.00 a pop, but buying even the smallest amount of the West Epoxy with pumps and mixers and blah, blah, blah will cost you more and then you'll have to store the stuff until the cans get rusty and leaky and you throw the whole mess out. Ok, so, I purchased about 6 of the 30 minute injectors - each one will do one and a half of the holes or so.

Remember how I knew not to use 5 minute epoxy? Yup, the other holes. The 30 minute stuff is also much stronger, being a 2500 lb mix. Since I have other repairs, I'd probably get the West stuff if I had to do it over. I'm older, wiser, and stickier... If you look closely at the adjoining picture you'll see the three wrinkly areas on the tape patch - that's from the heat of the epoxy curing. You'll need to go around the holes several times as they self level. Also, keep checking below that the epoxy isn't leaking out all over your whatever.

When you're done with this part, take a break. The epoxy is supposed to cure in 30 minutes. Wait. Wait a little longer. It gets harder as time goes by. In fact, unless you're like me with almost zero patience, put your stuff away, have a cocktail, go have dinner. Tomorrow's another day.

Ok, epoxy's cured. Remove the tape. You're ready to drill holes. Here's what I did: I drilled one hole from the top through where they were before. Don't drill them all - just one per leg. Place the rail and run a bolt through, put on a backing plate and tighten it down so the holes remaining line up with the spots of light you'll see through the epoxy. It's easier to drill into the light then the other way, and the bit will find the hole in the feet, at least close enough so that you can remove the rail and drill down from the top. Trust me, this is the best way to do it because if you do it the other way, I guarantee the bolts won't line up with the backing plates.

Dude and dudettes! You are ready to mount the rails! Ok, here's the next hard part. You can do it yourself. If you stand on the table you can work the screwdriver outside and a socket wrench inside. But it's easier with help. So offer a mate a beer and give him/her the screwdriver and go to town.

I used 4200 UV as the bedding material. I like it alot because it's really sticky (but not as bad as 5200) and it doesn't turn chalky from the sun. Slather that stuff on, making sure you get a good seal around all the holes. Carefully place the rail in place and start running the bolts through. With your assistant outside, run the nuts up until the goop starts oozing out or until the plates are almost all the way down. Don't tighten them tight. Now's a good time to quit for the day.

4200 UV takes 24 hours to cure properly. Wait. Really. And for God's sake, don't try to clean up the excess unless it's dripping down the sides of the cabin top! Let it cure. Tomorrow, you'll be taking a knife or razor and slicing the excess clean away. Really. Don't get impatient. Wait. Replace the overhead you removed, clean up the boat, and you're on your way!

When you're done (tomorrow) you'll have a lovely set of pulpits installed that will keep your ass in place when you most need your ass in place. Your friends that call them the pejorative 'sissy bars' isn't someone who's been out in a blow wrestling with lines and sails and so happy they have a secure place to park themselves to get the job done.

See you on the water real soon now!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Sailing Season Is Here Again!

The cover is off! The cover is off! The cover is OFF! Man, is that a great feeling or what? Sure, the boat's a mess and needs cleaning in the worst way, but real live sunlight is coming in all over! Man, oh, man.

Today it's cold and drizzling, which is ok because we need the rain and it is April, after all. I figure I'll stay nice and warm in the boat, catch up on my reading and writing, and nap and so forth.

While I'm drinking my first cup of joe, the bilge pump came on. That's ok - it does that once in a while because the rudder packing gland leaks. I'm working on that. But worse, in a couple of minutes it comes on again. And a couple of minutes later. And so on.

Well, this needs investigation so I looked into the bilge and I see water running into it at a pretty decent rate. Ok, everything out of the lazerette so I can see if the rudder packing has gotten worse. Nope. Check the dock side water fitting that I put in last weekend (see below), and nothing's leaking there either. Investigate the bilge some more and see the water is coming down the side - not the center as I'd expect from the rudder post.

Well, it turns out the hot water heater is right near there. I opened up the locker and hey! voila! water is spraying out of the cold water line to the heater. Turns out whoever plumbed the original tube in just loosely put on the hose clamp - enough not to leak at pressure of the water pump but not the shoreside water pressure. Not only that, but they put the hose on a pipe nipple as opposed to a hose barb. No worries - I loosened the clamp, slid the hose up another two inches, tightened the clamp, and added a second behind it. Problem solved. And boat is still floating.

Now, about the shore-side water fitting. I love them! It saves filling and managing the tanks when living aboard. Moreover, you always get clean water at a regulated pressure so no worries about running out of water when all soapy... and the piping will provide the cold water side of the cockpit shower.

I did this once on Inertia (and in the process flooded the battery charger by not tightening all the fittings before applying water pressure...oops) and was happy with the whole installation. This time, however, because I may plumb it so I can fill the tanks with water, I added a filter inline. The water comes through the regulator via a standard hose, goes through the filter and connects to the cold water side of the water heater. It's all done with flexible plastic tubing and fittings that are easily and inexpensively acquired at Home Depot. Since it's good enough for a house, it's good enough for a boat.

One of the great tools for doing this job is the Rigid Flexible Tubing Cutter - it's like a pruning shear except with one very large blade. The plumbing fittings require square cut ends to work properly - this tool holds the tubing square before cutting. The blades (very sharp) are replaceable. It's cheap and totally worth it for cutting any kind of plastic tubing. Highly recommended.

My new mast pulpits have just arrived - hopefully this weekend I'll be putting them on. Expect a full report!

I hope to get out on the water the weekend of May 9 - maybe I'll see you there!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

One of the First Signs of Spring

I don't know about you but my nav station collects stuff. By season's end, the inside contains little bits and pieces of things that have long ago been replaced, fixed, or otherwise rendered unto Neptune. It seems that the natural place to put things that you don't know what to do with is the nav station surface. So much so that before you can go for the first sail of the season something must be done or face charts, bulbs, little bits of wire, tape, Eldridge's (last year's), the screwdriver you use when you're too lazy to find a proper tool and whatever else hides in the corners ends up on the cabin sole or in the bilge.

So last weekend while installing my radio/CD player I had to clean it up. The first thing I found is that I have a bunch more spare parts than I knew. The other thing is that there's lots of room there for, well, navigating. Who knew? So, for the first few weeks of this season I'll have a ship-shape nav station while it waits to accrete this year's detritus.

My point here is that it's another spring and the beginning of a new season. There was a lull in work on the boat because it was cold and dark and unfriendly and frankly, all I really wanted to do aboard was sleep. I felt bad because I hadn't gotten anything done.

But in the last few weeks I've installed the new VHF with DSC calling and locating, new self-tailing winches (purchased as a celebration of a new job), and the stereo mentioned before. I'll finish up the holding tank plumbing now and will be setting sail late April for the season's first cruise. I can't wait!

Because of travel plans, I won't get the cover off until April 20 or so. But then, watch out! The weather keeps getting nicer and nicer. I sure do hope work doesn't get in the way of fun this year!

So, installing winches. Here goes. It is my feeling that you can't have enough of the things. Moreover, the standard placement of the winches Pelican meant that you have to go into autopilot to adjust the sails. This is a terrible way to singlehand, especially if the autopilot fails. I know since I've done it.

I recently came into a little bit of money and purchased two Andersen 46STs to use as primaries near the wheel (which I replaced with a 48" wheel). The first thing to consider is the actual placement. In Pelican's case, the mizzen stays and main backstays are right where you'd put a winch in a perfect world. Since it's not, I took a winch out of the box and put a winch handle in it and placed it where I could spin the handle without hitting my hand or anything else. I placed them outboard as far as I could on the coaming. I marked the circle where the base would be.

Next, I looked under the coaming to see if there was anything I wouldn't like to drill into, like electrical or fuel lines. This is a sometimes overlooked step that results in all sorts of grief. I've said it before: Good judgment comes from experience; experience from bad judgment.

Anyway, the winches come with a template, but since you have to take the top off to mount them, I just took it off, lined up the base with the circle I drew earlier, and with a marker marked the five mounting holes.

Since the mounting bolts are 5/16" I drilled all the holes to 7/16", taped the bottom and filled with liquid epoxy. After that set (well, a little longer because the neighbor came over and offered some wine so that pretty well finished that day's work) , I re-drilled the holes to 5/16".

Next I put 3M 4200UV around each hole and put the winches in place. With the help of my aforementioned wine producing neighbor, I crawled in the locker and he held the bolt head while I cranked from below.

Now as you see the picture from below, you'll notice I used fender washers instead of a full backing plate. When drilling through the coaming, I noticed the core was solid mahogany rather than plywood. It was 3/4" thick, as well. Since winch loading is sideways and not straight up I'm not worried. The original winches had no more than a regular washer and a lock washer and they've stood up for 30 years.

Because of the stays, I'll have to put a turning block on the port side to clear all the interference and to avoid the forward winches. I'll do this when the cover comes off later this month.

Soon, we'll be seeing each other on the water! I, for one, can't wait!