Friday, August 29, 2014

... out where we belong ...

The Dow Corning 795 box showed up today. The box itself was too short for the tubes, so someone had punched four holes in the end for the nozzles to hang out an inch or so. Honest, I wouldn't think to make something like that up even if I was trying. The good news is the tubes managed to make the trip without being damaged and leaking 795 all over someone else's something. So we had sealer to near finish two projects today. (And we will not be buying anything from showerdoordirect.com again.)

The project completely finished was bedding the aft cabin's port port. (Couldn't resist.) Deb removed it weeks (and weeks) ago. But she couldn't do the glass work needed with the kids living with us; not everyone loves the smell of resin in the morning. Then other things came up. Then we used up all the 795 on board doing Bear projects. But today was the day. That port was covered up for so long that we both got used to how dark it was in the back cabin. Now we can get used to how bright it is again.

Ed note: This was my first solo fiberglass repair job rebuilding the completely rotted out opening. I'm pretty proud of it!

Traveler sans sheaves before final assembly.
The port was one leak that we had back there. The main sheet traveler was the other. I pulled it off yesterday and tossed the rotted 1/4 X 1&1/4 X 50 untreated teak some yahoo installed when they moved the traveler from the coach roof to just aft of the companionway. Then we went shopping for parts. At a place called Seafarer Marine it cost us 3 whole dollars to have a custom piece of star board cut, and it took them about 3 whole minutes to hand it to us. In addition they have a whole store full of all kinds of do-dads, tools, and good prices on things like solvent and resin. I think I found a new favorite place.


No more rotten teak spacer under the track.
Before you say it, yes, the non-skid needs painting. It's on the list.
But we came up empty on new sheaves for the traveler. West Marine had 3 of the 8 we needed, but the price seemed a bit high, and what good is three out of eight? Then we got prices from Rig Rite who is the sole distributor of the now defunct Nicro-Fico traveler line and West Marine looked like a bargain. The total suggested price for the 8 plastic wheels that fit is somewhere north of $400. Yeah, like that's going to happen. I'll gnaw new ones out of old skateboard wheels before I'll take that beating. For $400 I'd expect pieces made of solid bronze and polished so bright they would be seen by astronauts.  But the rail is bedded tight and pretty on a new slice of star board, so the biggest part of that project is done.

I think I'm going to take tomorrow off. Someone said something about it being a holiday weekend, good enough excuse for me.

I was sitting in the cockpit this evening watching the parade of boats go by on the New River. Ever wonder why it is that the bigger the boat, the smaller the swimwear adorning the young ladies riding the bow? I guess they used up all the money putting gas in the thing, though someone once told me the smaller the bikini the more the cost. I suspect that is true on several levels.

There was a bit of a breeze leaching some of the day's heat out of the air. Ducks splashed into the water around the boat and a line of big winged cranes coasted down the opposite shore. Once in a while we see a manatee around, but I do miss visits from dolphins. I am a bit jealous of cruising friends we know who are hanging out on a hook somewhere, exploring different places and not near as near land as is Kintala. But all in all, as tired as I am of this dock and the endless work list yet to go, I know the places to be that are worse than here are far, far, more numerous than the places to be that are better than here.

Getting a couple of projects done or near done reminds me that we are, in spite of how it feels some days, making progress toward getting back out where we belong.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

I loves me some Honda


Being dock dwellers, we haven't talked much about the Honda EU2000i companion model generator that we have lately. Today Tim was working on rebuilding the traveler up at the picnic shelter (more on that later), and needed a power source for some 110 tools. We dug out the Honda from under its cover and...it didn't start. Color me shocked because we've never had it start in anything more than one pull before. In Honda's defense, the generator has been sitting on the back of the boat now for over two months unused, with fuel and salt air mixing together.

Since my sewing project for the day was put on hold due to missing materials and my port rebedding still awaits the missing Dow Corning 795 being shipped to me, I got on the internet and did a little research. It turns out that these generators have a low-level oil alert cutoff switch that involves a float in the oil tank, and that float tends to stick if the generator sits for some time. When we were on the mooring field or at anchor, we were getting rocked around enough and using the generator enough that it didn't matter, but sitting here in relatively calm waters for two months did it in.

In keeping with the KISS principle I did the easiest thing first though and cleaned and gapped the plug (it was pretty dirty but still usable). It hadn't been done for awhile so it wasn't wasted work but it didn't produce the start. I dug out a piece of twisted safety wire that we keep in the workshop for just this kind of prodding and poking and carefully threaded it into the tank. A little fishing around and a couple pulls and the generator started right up.

I loves me some Honda.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

All part of the deal

Deb and I picked up some kind of bug within hours of each other. Or maybe its something in the air, allergies or the stuff they are spraying across the river since the wind has shifted from that direction. It is like a bad cold or mild flu and, unfortunately, came to visit at the same time as getting the big hole in our foredeck closed seemed like a good idea, what with a tropical storm fixing to turn into a hurricane churning around out by the islands and all. It may just be a newbie thing, but being in this neck of the woods at this time of the year has made keeping an eye on the NOAA two and five day tropical forecasts my newest hobby. So far so good, the sea and wind gods have seen fit to take it easy on the Atlantic, apparently focusing instead in kicking the snot out of the Pacific this year.

Framing for the structural foam which you can see oozing out the left side.

So we have been pressing on with projects as best as we can, collapsing at night with the day's energy account severely overdrawn. Deb has been adding to the cruising kitty by doing canvas work for nearby boats. I have been depleting it at about the same rate getting materials for filling the void in the deck. It must be admitted that slinging glass in a FL summer, while enjoying alternating visits from a fever and the shakes, is a new experience for me. One I can't say I'm enjoying much, but today saw the deck closed for the last time. All that remains is the non-skid repair, something I put in the "cosmetic" category. No less important, just less pressing.

Foam core in place.

In the end the smaller voids ended up being filled with a combination of stuffed glass mat in one corner, two part structural foam in the other two corners. The main core repair was done with a high density foam mat that looks a bit like a chess board, overlaid with bi-axial glass, filled as required, with the original deck glassed back in place. So yes Mr. Sailboat expert, I fear this bit of Kintala's foredeck has at least four different kinds of core material. If the bow ever twists off and falls to the bottom of the sea I'll be sure to put it in the blog. It must be said though, that part of the deck is now as hard as sin. No more sinking feeling when going forward and, no matter what, much better than it was.

Deck glassed back in place but pre-grinding. You can see why we need to replace the non-skid. It's old and in bad shape.

Two other boats in the marina are undergoing similar repairs, the one next door being done by my new friend Dennis (of slinging glass at The Bear fame) at the same time I am attending to Kintala. We have been helping each other along figuring out the best way to approach two similar, but still different, repairs. His problem was forward of the mast and the core is plywood, not end grain like Kintala. Making an assault on the ugly from the side was impossible. His only approach was to cut away the deck until finding solid core. Once the underlying repair was completed, piecing the top deck bits back together and making it all fit right would have taken days. Instead he is just going to glass over the new core making, in essence, a new top layer to the deck composite. I, on the other hand, could dig the rotted core out from between the layers of glass, stuff it full one way or the other, and put the original top deck back in place. Two different ways, both getting the job done. He put the final layer of filler in his repair today, grinding, gel coat and non-skid tomorrow. I stitched the seam in my deck plug with glass today, filled and ground the repair. Gel coat and non-skid tomorrow as well. It is kind of fun having the repairs going on at the same time, the cold beer we share at the end of the day in Kintala's cockpit feels well earned.
Post-grinding and waiting for the non-skid

There are several more big projects to go. Sometimes I get a bit discouraged. Deb and I used to talk about what we were going to do with the boat next, where we were going to go, what we might see when we got there. Now we talk about what we are going to do to the boat next and how much it is going to cost. We wonder if we are ever going to get off this dock, and how that might be managed. Another friend from this year's cruise has thrown in the towel, the boat up for sale. Breakdowns, stranded in the Islands for months, bad weather, nights of being afraid, and a relentless loneliness not being the kind of life desired.

The seam for the anchor locker is going to be glassed in as well.
It's glassed below but not above deck so water went into the core.

I understand completely, but still can't envision Deb and I living any other way. Just the thought of having to get a regular job, going to an office, needing a car, meeting someone else's schedule, all the while just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under me yet again by some change in Board or Management politics, gives me a headache. Living and cruising on a boat on a fixed or very modest income is often a hard way to live. Anyone who suggest otherwise simply hasn't done it. But grinding out the hours needed to get to a paycheck isn't always a walk in the park either.

Everything gets easier if one can throw large chunks of money at whatever problems arise, and that is true on land or on the water. For Deb and I, and it seems for many we have met "out here", it was a choice to make a go of a different kind of living, one where big chunks of money are not likely to be part of the equation. For others "out here" big chunks of money were never going to be part of the equation, and living on the water offered a chance to live better than living modest on land.

The cruising mags seem geared to those retiring well and going cruising. Good for those who pull it off. For the rest of us though, going cruising means living modest. And living modest sometimes means that problems take a little more effort to climb over.

All part of the deal.

Just a reminder why wer're doing this...

Friday, August 22, 2014

Time flies.

This morning started out with the discovery that there was no power at any of the 110v outlets anywhere in the boat. Not a big surprise since, on Kintala, they are all wired to a single circuit breaker. We also have two GFCI outlets in the system, one in the head, one in the galley. I always thought that more than one such outlet in any circuit was kind of silly. I still sort of think so. But the original marine surveyor wrote up that we needed to have two, so we have two. Inevitably when one pops its little cork, the other one does as well. This time the one in the galley had the red LED light glowing, something we haven't seen before. Best guess, almost confirmed with a bit of internet research, it that it indicates the outlet itself is bad and needs replaced. Both Deb and I are a bit touchy about electrical things, lots of water, and fire on the boat. A new one seemed like a good idea.

The deck repair has slowed a bit, mostly to let it dry. Each day it gets opened to the FL sun and heat, which is probably not as effective as one might think due to the FL humidity. Every little bit helps though, particularly since the bad core stretches a bit further than would be ideal, sneaking uncomfortably close to the port side bow cleat and reaching right to the anchor locker insert and pump out deck fitting. So cleat and fitting were removed to see what's what. The locker is fiberglassed into the bow, so it stayed.

The core under both appeared to be solid so the cleat went back on. That was not the fate of the old pump out fitting, which has been a bit of a trial since the first time Kintala went to the pump out at Boulder. It has some kind of odd-ball thread cut in it. We have never found a connection to the pump out station suction hose that would screw into the threads of the fitting on our deck. Pumping out has always meant trying to press one of the rubber nozzle things into the deck fitting with enough force to keep nasties from spewing out at the holder. Deb has spent days uncounted trying to find a clip-on connection with the proper thread, all without success. Which is saying something. When Deb can't find a part it is a pretty good bet that the part will never, ever, be found.

Ah, but we had the thing out and the boat is in Ft. Lauderdale, surrounded by marine stores, and with access to a car. We were headed out to get a new GFCI and run a few errands anyway. What say we just mosey on over to some store that has "Marine" or "Sailor" in its name, get the right thing, get the right thing to fit in the thing, and get the other right thing to get the first thing to connect to the ship's plumbing? Then put it all together and make pumping out a matter of twist, clip, flop, and flip? (Twist the connector in, clip the fitting on, flop back out of the way, flip the switch.)

So we did, and it only cost $145.

The next time I'm watching the hoses pulse, listening to the pump thump,(particularly if I'm kneeling on a rocking deck on a mooring field somewhere) and I'm not, literally, leaning over a shit hole and hoping all goes as planned, that $145 is going to be a bargain. I almost can't wait to try it ... almost.

So tonight finds us with 110 power once again, (charging this old computer as I type) a new pump out fitting, and a newly-put-to-bed cleat. Tomorrow I'm going to start stuffing glass into all the right places.

It is hard to believe that August is almost gone. There is a deck to finish, a traveler that needs a new bed, a port still waiting to go back in, a furler to install on the staysail forestay, a mod to add an auto pilot to the wind vane to figure out, acres of teak that need treated, and a Bimini that needs re-sized and a new cover. I'm helping a friend with a bit of work on other boats now and again (in exchange for boat fixing stuff) and it didn't take long for people around here to find out that Deb is a guru with a Sailright machine. So she has a couple of jobs to do as well. (Normally we don't do outside work except to lend a hand, but after our budget beating, turning down a chance to grow a little extra green or trade for some free parts, isn't in the cards.)

How time flies when your having fun.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Focus

It may be that nothing will focus a sailor's attention more than chopping a giant hole in the deck of his or her boat.  Even when the hole is about as far above the water line as it is possible to be, cranking up the saw and slicing through the fiberglass that carries the load of the fore deck and separates one from the elements seems a drastic kind of thing.

With The Floating Bear floating peacefully on her mooring ball in Dinner Key, and a day or two of not doing much of anything at all, it is time to turn some attention to Kintala and her own project list. At the top of that list is the soft spot not far aft of her bow, favoring the port side, and encroaching on the cleat.  It has been there since we bought the boat and reminded me of a task that needed done every time I went forward to attend to dropping or pulling the hook.  Time to take a deep breath and crank up  the cutter.

Hammer taps outlined the area of ugly needing to be uncovered, though thought was given to the finished product.  The soft spot spans two sections of non-skid across a band of gel-coat.  The call was to make the cut inside one section of non-skid and assault some of the bad core, as it were, from the side. I like the idea of chopping in such a way as to save the top piece for later, glassing it back down on the new core to complete the repair.  This requires not butchering it up when slicing it out and easing it off of the core.

By the way, assaulting the bad core from the side is not in the books anywhere, at least not in any of the sailboat repair books I could find.  According to the sailboat experts solid, un-compromised core has to be exposed in order to do a good repair.  Since I have long lost faith in sailboat experts, some of this is getting made up as we go.

Anyway, tape lines laid down, the saw went to work.  The trick is to cut deep enough to free the top layer but not deep enough to cut the bottom layer of the composite deck.  (Or, in this case, deep enough to cut through the interior and open the V-berth to the sky.)  It isn't nearly as hard to do as it sounds. There is a clear difference in feel when the blade slices through hard fiberglass into mushy wood. Once the cut was complete the task was to ease the top layer off without breaking it into several useless pieces.


The trick to that is to use a multitude of prying tools; screwdrivers, putty knives, picks, hacksaw blades, whatever works to separate the glass from the wood.  Throw in a ton of patience.  When something starts to crack, stop and take a different approach.  It took more than an hour of being careful, but the top layer of deck came away as clean as could  have been hoped.

The ugly lay underneath, exactly as expected.  Water actually ran along the putty knives, screwdrivers and, eventually, vacuum cleaner attachment, as the work went on.  Rotten wood covered a good bit of the fore deck before it was over.  Eventually most of the evil core was gone and a DA sander went to work, smoothing out the top of the bottom layer of composite and the bottom of the top layer.  So long as the sun was baking the repair it was left exposed to dry out.  It gets covered at night in case of rain, but for the next day or two it will be left opened to dry.

That will give me time to plan the sideways attack on the bad core.  There are several options. Latest and greatest would be to fill the undercut deck with structural foam.  I worked with the stuff years ago while building experimental radar jamming drones to be launched from Nuke attack B-52's whose purpose was to give the Ruskies too many radar hits to shoot at.  Once mixed it swells up like the Blob of horror picture shows then dries sin hard. But it isn't cheap and getting it in the right place at the right time can be a challenge.

Old school would be to make this part of the fore deck a solid laminate using glass mat and resin, stuffing the voids using any tools that work.  Middle school would be to mix up some resin and thicken it with silicon to fill the voids.  The concern with both of these is, given the angles and areas involved, getting a solid fill. I'll have to think on this one a bit.

All in all though, the focus is back on Kintala and getting her ready to  go cruising again.  And that is a good kind of focus.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Anchoring and Liberty

Deb thinks I should put a warning label on this one, so ... if your skin is particularly thin this morning you might want to come back later.

Rumor has it that the State of Florida, listening to the demands of McMansion owners, is contemplating a ban on all overnight anchoring of all boats in all of its waters. There is no telling if such a ban will ever make it into law and, if so, when. There is also no telling if any such law will survive the inevitable legal challenges. In any case, as a member of the cruising community at which the law is specifically aimed, a few thoughts come to mind.

We are in Florida at the moment. Have been for a few months actually. Most of our time here has been spent on a dock or a mooring ball. Both cost a lot of money for a modest return. Dinner Key is our favorite place to stay in Fl, and the customer service is excellent. But we pay for a mooring that is completely exposed to Biscayne Bay. There are days, weeks, where being there is barely tenable. Even when the Bay itself is not beating up the place, the wakes from power boaters blasting full song down the channel only to chop the throttles right at the "NO WAKE" sign, will send the unprepared in the mooring field flying. It is a long ride to the dingy dock. The bathrooms are modest and there is no real lounge where one might sit and get some work done on the internet.

Currently we are on a dock, a hideously expensive dock where customer service ranges from spotty to downright surly. The office is usually unattended, internet access is horrible, and we are constantly at risk from the antics of power boaters using the launch ramps. Again there is no real lounge, just a few chairs and a card table scattered around the laundry room.

Anchoring off is the free market alternative to putting up with these bandits. Isn't Florida one of those Big Red states where such ideas are worshiped? In fact, isn't this whole place supposed to be one of those "god wants us to keep Big Brother Government off our backs" places? Demanding that government keep free-spirited cruisers from dropping a hook in public waters to avoid being raped by a scruples-lacking money grubber, isn't that an affront to the Big Red God?  Some of the disciples were fishermen. Surely they anchored out once in a while to avoid paying some lowlife carpetbagger for access to a dock that was falling apart and lacked any place to park their asses.

The hypocrisy seems blatant, though one of the realizations that have come with more than a handful of decades of life, is that hypocrites are blind to their own hypocrisy. Somehow having my modest (though pretty – if I do say so myself) sailboat in their view of the water is an assault to their freedom even though, when I leave, the water will be undisturbed. But me having their hideous cubes of wretched excess and monuments to egomania blocking my view of the shoreline, marred by their assault on the land and the environment, is perfectly okay. My home they want banned, though no cruiser is making a similar demand about their homes.

Their home vs mine suggests that cruisers, in nothing but the most general of terms, are far better human beings than are those complaining about us. If it comes to standing before the Big Red God, I'll state my case and take my chances on having lived my life as I have, as opposed to how they have lived theirs.

Of course the hypocrisy goes much deeper. The "small government, personal liberty" claim is nothing but an empty slogan. Those who mouth it are in the service of big money. Small government can't stop big money from doing whatever it wants to get bigger, and that includes stomping on any civil right that impinges on the bottom line or, in this case, perceived property value. Personal liberty isn't even a consideration. But here is the thing ...

Liberty is not the right to self-absorbed narcissism. Liberty is the chance to live in a society where the value and aspirations of each individual are cherished and supported by every other member of that community. Liberty is found where universal civil rights are protected by the full weight of a first world society. Liberty is every individual being rewarded for his or her contribution to a better life for themselves and others, where no one gets rich off the labor of another. Liberty exists where no one is allowed to coerce another in any way for any thing, and is only found where the full resources of a society are focused on protecting me from you, and you from me.

Liberty is not an individual thing. It is a gift offered to each individual of an enlightened and powerful community.

Liberty is too difficult, too complicated, and too fragile an accomplishment for any single person to manage alone. Liberty is the reward for a community working together to build a better life for themselves, their kids, and their grand kids.

Americans have come to hate anything that even hints at a community.  Our political system has devolved into an endless, 3-way battle between the party of "All I care about is getting mine" vs the party of "All I care about is getting yours" vs the party of "All I care about is getting everybody's". America's budget is based on the belief that it will be at war with nearly everyone, nearly all the time. Working with anyone to accomplish anything that benefits a larger community is demonized as socialism.  We can't even build roads anymore, or fix bridges.

Which is why liberty is being lost in the United States of America.

The proposed anchoring law in Florida is as good an example as any.

NOTE:  My friend Robert has issues with this post.  They are based on a much deeper understanding of Florida politics than is mine and, perhaps, a fundamentally different world view.  If he gives me permission I will cut and paste his comments here.  Until then please go to the comments section and read what he has to say.  It will a be good use of a few minutes of your  day!