Monday, December 26, 2011

The Top 10 Best Things About Winter in a Marina

This morning I woke up to find a very heavy frost coating everything in the marina.  It was so thick I almost thought it had snowed.  It was incredibly beautiful, the sort of sparkly, twinkly beauty that my two granddaughters love to have stuck to every single thing they wear / touch / play with,  but it was unfortunately one of those things that you just can't catch the beauty of with the lens of a camera. This is what the dock box looked like:

I can't say as I'm exactly looking forward to the next two and a half months, but I can say that I've managed to find quite a few good things about the cold weather, and in the spirit of a few other blogs that I frequent, I'll add my own "Top 10" list - The top ten best things about winter in a marina.

  1. The ice and frost are incredibly beautiful on a sunny morning.
  2. There is much more wildlife in the marina to enjoy.  The Great Blue Herons are much more approachable, letting you get within a few feet before they utter that horrific prehistoric screech and take off.  The mink are not so approachable which I'm pretty sure is a good thing.
  3. The hot shower in the bath house is almost as good as sex.
  4. Sex is better in a pile of warm quilts :)
  5. It's cool enough to do a lot of baking in the boat.
  6. The inside of the boat is really cozy with the smell of cinnamon bread wafting out of the oven.
  7. There's no rush to get up and get to the list of activities so we almost always get 8 glorious hours of sleep.
  8. The Boat Chore List is not quite as pressing.
  9. You get pretty close to the few other crazy people staying through the winter.
  10. Let's face it - Hot Buttered Rum tastes much better when it's miserably cold outside.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Deb and I gave ourselves a Christmas present - we came out to the boat. In the last couple of days there has been Christmas dinner; the family gathered to enjoy watching the little ones open gifts; Grandpa T built Lego castles and Match Box car garages, we took walks in the sunshine, and the two littlest ones took turns falling asleep at my shoulder. I'm sure families all over the world had a Christmas at least as good as ours, but none had one better.

This morning the girls all needed to be with other parts of their families for Christmas day. Deb and I were invited - and sent a plate of cookies in our stead. I enjoy big family gatherings. In fact we will probably be at another one next week with a trip back east. This Christmas morning though, we decided we wanted to be at home. And for us that means Kintala.

As expected the marina is void of other humans. The gulls keep watch on the docks while the occasional line of geese wings by overhead. They are getting a late start south this year. Understandable, it is nearly 50 degrees today.  I spent a good hour or more just sitting in the cockpit watching the gulls and enjoying the motion of the boat in the west wind. Were Kintala serviceable we might have headed out for a sail today. Then again this is looking to be a pretty perfect day just as it is.

This evening I'll lift a Hot Buttered Rum in the hopes that your Christmas day, where ever it finds you, has been as good as ours.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Recipe

There's a new recipe posted over on my Cruising Comforts site for Maple Pumpkin Muffins.  Great Christmas morning breakfast!

There's also a terrific recipe for Hot Buttered Rum Mix at the bottom of the same post.  Mmmmmmmm

Monday, December 19, 2011

Almost winter

Hard to believe that winter doesn't actually start for a couple of days yet. We have seen a skim of ice on the water around the boat. The parking lot is full of boats on the hard while most of those left floating are gathered together in a "bubbler raft". Deb and I arrived at the lake Sunday morning for breakfast...there were 8 of us. By afternoon there were four; Deb, Emily, Joel and myself. Actually the temperatures for the last couple of days give no hint of winter's impending arrival; it was 50 degrees at the lake yesterday, more of the same today.

Joel has been rebuilding the engine on his boat, got it running the other day, and decided it needed a break in cruise just as the sun went down. So off we went for a little putt; his newly refurbished engine purring like a content little kitten; the lake all to ourselves. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon the week before Christmas.

With the holidays nigh it is hard to tell when we will make it back to Kintala. By the time we do it is likely winter will be in full swing. Out in the shop at home the v-drive awaits final decisions and assembly, the hatches are back and being assembled, and a new seat / storage area for the nav station is under consideration. One thing I have learned from my few years as a sailor; winter projects are a good thing - helping the time go by until spring - getting and keeping the boat in good shape. With so much to get done this year I'll not begrudge the cold. In fact I kind of like it. Much as I enjoy the folks at the marina, there is something unique and special about winter, and the few souls who hang around here when the snow flies and the lake freezes solid. I like them. I like being one of them.

Almost winter.

Couldn't have said it better

A cruising friend of mine sent this to me because he knows how well Tim and I work together.  

I couldn't have said it better so I'm passing it along.  Thanks to Kyra at S/V Nyon.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Just not right

As a non-sailor, when you think of sailboats, you immediately think of pristeen aquamarine water, blue skies with puffy white clouds, and swaying palm trees.  THIS is not what comes to mind: 

The only cool thing about the ice is the zinging sound it  makes when it cracks as you step off the boat or walk on the dock.  But since we can't go anywhere anyway we're doing our best to enjoy the beauty (and to stay warm).  Here's Kintala's winter home.  She's the one with the white covers.

In the meantime we spend copius hours watching the
antics of the seagulls as they skitter along on the ice...

and pray for Spring.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday morning

If you believe the propaganda machine most of the human population spends Sunday mornings sitting in the church of their choice to get the week's marching orders, via a Divine messenger, directly from god his own self. This, some like to boast, is particularly true in the US of A which, we are told, is a Christan Nation. None of this is remotely true of course.

Most people, even the ones sitting in church, don't take marching orders very well. (Though some do, and are an endless source of trouble for the rest of us.) Most of us are not even sitting in church, let alone a Christan one. Accepted reports suggest that, at most, less than half of America's population is sitting in a pew this morning. More detailed examinations suggest that number is far less than half, perhaps even less than a quarter. So for once I am a member of the majority. This Sunday morning, like most, finds me sitting on the boat. If there is a god out there somewhere who wants to tell me something, he (or she) knows where to find me. Any yet...

To climb out the companionway this morning was to be greeted by air that was cold, almost brittle in its clarity, with barely a breath of wind. A skim of ice has invaded the marina over the last couple of cold nights. The gulls are finding places to stand on the water. In some places the ice is even thick enough to support the pair of mink that call this tiny harbor home. What little wind there is tugs at the top of the masts, moving the boats ever so slightly. Just enough actually, to make little zinging noises as the ice gives way. The human congregation in this place numbers exactly eight. Five of us who live (and work on) our boats virtually every weekend with the hope of one day casting off the dock lines for a long voyage. One spends most Sundays here. The final two are office manager and live-on-sight marina manager.

Like nearly ever Sunday morning we gather for the community breakfast - eggs, sausage, turkey bacon, juice, Deb's home made coffee cake, and lots (and lots) of coffee. It all happens without a boss, without an order given, no lists, no programs, we make do with what has been brought. I am useless in a kitchen while cooking is taking place, but clean up is a well practiced routine that is my offering for the morning. After a last sip of coffee we drift off to various projects for the day. Tonight the congregation will number even less, 3, perhaps 4, those of us who don't need to be to work until Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning, who will spend one extra night snuggled against the cold in a v-berth, happy to be where we are.

Far better than a church, it is what community, and good living, was always meant to be.

I love it around here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Nightmare in drive train land

Yesterday was a bad day for progress on Kintala's drive train. Mr. Joyce of Westerbeke did find an engineering drawing for the coupler and is mailing it to us. This is good news. A visit to a local machine shop suggested that the cost of getting the coupler made may end up in the area of slightly outrageous but not murderously stratospheric. News on the bell housing was not nearly so promising. Mr. Joyce could provide us with a part number, but... Regret I do not find that casting being available any more.

So the search is on for a Westerbeke P/N 020943 bell housing lying around on a dusty shelf or in a wrecked hulk in a salvage yard somewhere. Such a find would be a wonderful thing but I get the feeling the odds are about like those of hitting the lottery and ending up sailing away in a brand new 40' catamaran.

"Get a new one fabricated," you say? We asked the machine shop about that as well. Murderously stratospheric doesn't even come close to describing the price quoted. It would easily cost more than the new v-drive unit itself, and may be more than the v-drive and tranny costs combined! And the fact is I understand the price. Rent time on a CNC machine, hire an operator expert enough to reverse engineer a part like a bell housing, and then have him spin out a nice shinny new one? That's pretty much the highest tech stuff on the planet.

So I went to bed last night in a serious funk. Maybe being at the boat with bed being the v-berth shook something free, maybe my 40 years of fixing broken stuff was rattling around in my subconscious, maybe I'm just getting tired of this whole debacle and decided enough was enough; but somewhere in the dark reaches of the night a thought logged into my mental message board waiting for me to check it in the morning.

Just what, EXACTLY, is wrong with the bell housing? So I got myself out of bed and sat down with the bell housing for a long look-see. After all, the bell housing went out still attached to the old v-drive several weeks ago, covered in grime and surrounded by mangled bits of material. Amid all the other carnage the housing was just another chewed up bit. Walter machine insisted the part was trash; Westerbeke suggested the part was trashed based on the pictures, as did some other people with admitted expertice. But how bad is this thing, really?

Well, the surface material is chewed to snot around the inner mounting bore. It looks bad. It looks really bad. But so what? The area damaged carries no operating load nor is it a seal or bearing surface. What if it didn't look bad. What if I dress it out, clean it up, check it carefully for real damage like cracks, and if I find none slap a little fresh paint on it and call it a day?

Since this project started I have been told by experts that the boat couldn't have been put together this way at the factory; (it was) that someone modified the boat in the field and that lead to the failure; (no and no again) that there was no engineering information available; (its in the mail) and that various assemblies were damaged beyond repair. Maybe. The tranny was surly trashed and the v-drive was a collection of shredded parts; each could have been overhauled but the cost would have exceeded a new unit. But the bell housing? Maybe its time to take my own opinion about this project over that of the experts?

If I can't find one at a reasonable price, this one is going to get some TJ TLC and go back in the boat.

Last night the drive train nightmare raged unchecked. This morning the solution, and the end, may well be in sight. Next week we will see; but I'm starting to get the feeling that the boat is almost back under control, that the Retirement Project is close to being back on the track.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Warm Tootsies

It appears that Old Man Winter has decided to pay us a visit after all and Thursday night the best we could do on the thermostat after running the heater all night was 62.  Not bad, but still a little chilly on the feet after a few hours of the lake water temperature seeping through the fiberglass.  Friday morning we took a trip to the local hardware store and bought us some temporary dorade plugs to stop the rush of wind into the salon through the very effective vents (can't afford the real ones right now and they were missing from the boat when we bought it - go figure...) and then began installing our new foam winter flooring.  I recently saw a post on Sailing Simplicity on staying warm in the winter where she detailed in video the process of putting those 2 x 2 foam interlocking panels on the floor of their boat to help insulate it against the New England cold and  I decided that was a pretty smart idea so I made a trip to Lowe's to purchase some. We spent the cold morning cutting and fitting around the table mount and the various shapes of the cabin and were rewarded with not only a very comfortable floor for stocking feet, but about 6° increase on the thermostat over the afternoon and evening.  We did run short for the galley floor and the aft cabin so I'll be heading back to Lowe's this week for another package.  I admit it's not the most appealing color, but it is winter gray so I guess it's appropriate.  In the Spring we'll be able to pick it up and store it under the mattress in the aft cabin.  For any of you staying on your boat in the cold, this is worth the few pennies it cost us. This project definitely gets 5 stars.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Little Christine

I'm thinking of changing Kintala's name to Little Christine - after the 1958 Plymouth Fury made famous in the Steven King novel. It isn't that I think Kintala is possessed and out to get even for some horrible event in her past, (hence the "Little"). But I am beginning to wonder if some bald-headed-middle-aged-white-guy might have bounced her off a pier or something and she has mistaken me for him.

The aft cabin door is a little warped so it wouldn't quite close and latch, something I only noticed as it has gotten colder and we try to keep the living in area of the boat a little warmer. So I tweaked the door on the hinges just a jiggle, pulled it shut from inside the main cabin and is good, fits just like a door should.

But now it wouldn't open like a door should; in fact it would not open at all, is not good. It wasn't jammed in the frame. The latch wouldn't turn. So I grabbed me a screwdriver to take the latch out, glad there actually was a screwdriver in the main cabin. Most of the tools are in the aft cabin. In fact all the tools are in the aft cabin save for one or two screwdrivers. Is good. Only to discover that said latch comes out from the other side of the door, is not good. Said door which is the only door into the aft cabin, is not good times two. No use trying to climb through the hatches even if there were hatches and not screwed and sealed down pieces of plywood over where hatches used to be. Not even my smallest grand kid could fit through those holes; hatches or no. Is so not good.

There is a panel in the starboard lazarette. Maybe it opens to the back of the pantry? New plan.  Out to cold cockpit. Open lazarette. Remove mounds of stuff stuffed into lazarette. Pull panel. Take out all the food. Remove shelves. Climb through. Is good?

New plan works right up to "pull panel." The panel, which has a hand hole in it and gives every indication of being able to be removed, actually can't be removed from the lazarette side. It could come out into the aft cabin IF I could get through the door, which, if I could, would mean I didn't need to remove the panel. Is not good.

But wait! New new plan. Into lazarette, feet first, OVER water heater, lay on back, around 'fridge wiring, wiggle, over compressor, tight fit, let out breath, legs through lower access panel into aft cabin, limbo, butt and hips into aft cabin, take breath? Is so good! IN, without having to bust down door then add broken door to fix-it list.

Discover that door is simply locked. (Is good none of the grand kids managed to close door during one of their many visits. That would be instant crisis in Mom land.)

Unlock door, is good?

Is not good; still wouldn't open but at least deck monkey on proper side to disassemble latch. Latch out. Door open. Problem? Latch plate in door frame needs recessed.

Okay, will be good, after breakfast.

All this happen before deck monkey even brush teeth this morning.

I think I heard Kintala chuckle.

Little witch.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Staying above the water

It is most probably, kind of, almost a sure thing... Deb order the V-drive. Added to the cost of the tranny, engine mounts, and damper plate; it will take most of a year's worth of paychecks to fill the hole in our credit card. Given that there are still some big buck items that we feel need to be on the boat before she takes to blue water, (auto-helm and dodger at least, even if we must fore go solar panels, wind generator and water maker) it is likely Kintala will be a lake boat for a while yet; Deb and I lake sailors.

The good news (I think!) is that as I get older years seem to go by quicker. 2013, 2012, by 2015 they will have blured together into "that time we spent getting Kintala ready to sail". This winter will go by slow. All winters do; particularly since we have taken to sailboats. (The first winter with Nomad felt like it would never end. All we wanted to do was get back out on the lake in our little pocket cruiser.) There will be work to do though, and that always helps the weeks go by. In fact, I'm not sure I can have Kintala ready by the time spring rolls around. Tranny, V-drive, engine mounts, shaft alighnment, couplings; its not like I am an expert (Yet!) at any of this stuff. I tend to plod away, kind of one-bolt-at-a-time, trying to make as few mistakes as I can manage.

(Deb came across some pictures of a georgeous Tartan 42 that has storage cabenits and shelves in the aft cabin where we have a rather useless quarter berth. Plodding though some serious wood work this winter anyone?)

I was afraid the dealy would do nasty things to my head, my outlook on the world, and my general sunny disposition.  But one of the things that drew me to sailboat living was shedding a bunch of needs, living a little more intune with the world, and not being so burried under schedules and expectations; including a schedule to get on the water and the expectation of being on our way by some certain date. We are going to get there; "there" being just a little further away than we had thought at first.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cruising Comforts

If you check out the tabs above, you'll see a new tab titled Cruising Comforts.  Since I cook so much on the boat, I've been asked a good many times about the food I prepare, how I do it, and the recipes for it.  I was initially going to do a page only for recipes, but I decided to start a new blog for all things related to cruising comforts and to link to it on that tab.  I've only started it today so there's only one post, but keep your eye on it as there will be many recipes and cooking tips there as well as other tips to help you bring the comforts of home to cruising.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Which way are we going?

Sailors know that it is possible, indeed usual, to have the bow pointing in one direction with the boat going in a slightly different direction.  Given the state of the wind, point of sail, tides, and characteristics of a particular hull, it is even possible to be pointed the way one wants to go while blissfully unaware that the track over the ground is almost the exact opposite direction. 

The V-Drive man says he can build us up a brandy new unit and ship it our way.  After hours of painstaking research he found a part number for the Westerbeke custom fabricated coupling that will allow a Hurth transmission to be joined to his Walter V-drive.  He seems pretty pleased with his discovery and I am thankful for any hint that there is a way out of this drive train nightmare.  There is only one tiny little problem...

Westerbeke never heard of it.

In the mean time the powder coat people have figured out a way to finish up the hatch frames.  And it will only cost me $200 more to have them fix their mistake than they were going to charge me to do the job in the first place.  Even better, they can have the painted (not powder coated) hatches in my hands in a couple of weeks...which is the exact same amount of time I was originally quoted.  (Though it actually took them almost a month to screw them up.)  I gave the "go ahead".  A couple of grand for a tranny, another couple of grand for a v-drive, the cost of engine mounts and a mystery coupling yet to go; what's another couple of hundred bucks between friends?  At least I'll have something that I can actually put back on the boat.

This is what passes for progress in Kintala's world.

And yet...

I had to leave the marina early last weekend to spend a few days flogging the jet.  It was a good few days, some rain, a few low visibility approaches (one during a night landing - always a good time), even a little ice to knock off the boots.  The day after I got home family arrived for the holiday, kids and grand kids fill the house and a good time is being had by all.  But I woke up this morning and thought to myself, "Man it has been a while since I've been home."

For all of the problems when I think of home I am thinking of the boat.  That seems like a good thing.  Still, its going to be a long, cold interval until spring arrives and we find out if we are making any real headway in the direction of living aboard; or if Kintala is going in the wrong direction.

Friday, November 18, 2011



Not too bad for an itty bitty boat oven, no?  This weekend we're having a yacht club Thanksgiving get-together and it was a good day to stop and bake a pie and enjoy having the boat smell like cinnamon and nutmeg and bubbly apple yummy-ness.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dare I say progress?

Another work weekend on Kintala.  Every weekend is another work weekend on Kintala, so that isn't a surprise.  What is a bit of a surprise is how well it went, and how good I feel about how well it went.  For, truth be told, if I honestly thought that these last few weeks are the best that "living aboard" has to offer, I would be planning my escape back to the land of the sane and solvent.

The tranny is actually hanging off the back of the engine, installed.  All of the mount brackets are wire brushed, sanded, cleaned and painted with Ford red "ceramic enamel".  (Not sure what "ceramic enamel" is, actually.  But it sounds hard and looks good.  Sadly, 80 grit and a rattle can, and the brackets look tons better than my powder coated hatch frames.)  All of the exterior teak is scrubbed and has one last coat of winter protection.  Some plumbing has been replaced.  (I didn't like what I did the first time so I did it a second time.  You do that too, right?)  Both Kintala's and a friend's boat's holding tanks are empty.  We helped move a couple of boats to their winter slips.  Deb did a bunch of work in the clubhouse, getting ready for next weekend's before Thanksgiving Thanksgiving dinner here at the marina.  (She thought it would be nice to get the "hard core" few together for a Thanksgiving dinner, figuring most people would be busy with the holidays coming up.  So far 40 people have signed on, nearly half the club membership.)

Lastly, some trim that goes around the still missing aft hatches has been sanded and refinished.  While loading a fresh square of 220 on the palm sander and humming quietly to myself I was struck by just how much I had enjoyed this weekend.  I'm not much on mysticism; the limits of my spirits-uality is what proof is being poured into my glass.  But I got to thinking that there would be only two differences between heaven, (if there actually be such a place not filled with religious fanatics) and this day.  The first would be that every day in heaven would be as good as this day.  And the second would be that everyone would get the chance to enjoy their life as much as I am enjoying mine.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Useless Settee Meat

If you haven't read Tim's previous post, read that first so you can get the whole picture.  He spent the weekend thrashing on Kintala, I spent the weekend wrapped up in a heavy wool blanket on the port settee with chills, a pounding sinus headache, and a streppy-feeling throat, sipping on copious amounts of lemon and honey tea.  It was every bit of effort I could muster to make it the 4 feet into the head to deal with the copious amounts of lemon and honey tea.  I did manage to grab the camera on the way to and from the settee and try to take a couple pics of the whole process, so I guess I wasn't completely useless.

Not even one crumb of rubber left here...
Wanna take a guess as to whether these are the original engine mounts????

Brand new mounts courtesy of Torreson Marine and their ultra-efficient shipping department.
Lots of rubber here...

The aft starboard mount was pretty accessible

Not so much on the port side...

The forward port side was infinitely more challenging.

It took an impact hammer for the forward starboard mount.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A massive thrashing

Many, many moons ago my second job in aviation was as a mechanic in Beech's experimental hangar.  One of the crew had been at Beech since WWII, starting as a teenager building control surfaces for fighter planes; Kato.  I don't know if that was a first or last name - it was the only name anyone ever used - it was what his I.D. badge said - and one wag insisted that he had seen one of his paychecks and it was made out to "Kato" as well.  Anyway, he was the best sheet metal mechanic and aircraft systems man I have ever seen.  (You couldn't get him to touch an engine - Kato figured engine work was for grease monkeys.)  We were working on an air conditioning system in a King Air, pulling a vacuum on it to see if it was leaking.  The pressure wasn't falling fast enough for me; I wanted to start taking things apart to find the leaks.

"Son," intoned Kato from his seat by the service cart, "you gotta look at the good side 'till your sure you can't do that no more."  Kato knew that pulling vacuum on a new system could take a while as the water vapor was pulled from hundreds of feet of tubing that had been open to the humid, mid-western summer air.  He was teaching me not to jump to the worst conclusion until there was no other choice.

I put a major thrashing on Kintala this weekend.  (A pleasant change from having her put one on me.)  After a little less than two days her engine is sitting snug on 4 brand new engine mounts.  A job that turned out much harder than it sounds.  Over the years I picked up a lot of tricks when it comes to fixing things. This last weekend I was down to my last one for disassembling corroded parts.  The forward starboard mount was frozen solid in the engine case, one false move could easily lead to a cracked case and a near terminal injury for both bank account and cruising plans.  I ended up splitting the bottom (and utterly frozen) nut off the stud with an air chisel, then taking to the top nut with a 3/8s impact driver, jack-screwing the stud the wrong way (up instead of down) just enough to break it loose.  Then I hammered it down and jack-screwed it back up a few more times; and finally worked it out of the engine.  Heat and lots of penetrating oil were included in the recipe, and all of this accomplished in the few inches available with the engine hanging from a chain-fall supported by the boom, the boat rolling in wind guests to 20+ knots.  (Air tools and portable compressor supplied by Schmidty - who I'm going to write in for President of these United States; though he is way too smart to take the job.)

Mostly I got it done by taking one deliberate step after another, looking at the good side and not facing the worst until it actually happened.  Which it never did.  It was a close call though.  A slip of an air chisel or a hammer blow falling in the wrong place?  Had it been the forward port mount that was frozen there would have been no choice but to pull the engine out of the boat for access.  (Another major setback though not as bad as punching a hole through the case.) 

Instead, what I had feared would be at least a two-weekend-endless-thrash (that had several opportunities to turn into a total disaster) turned out to be a two day job-now-out-of-the-way.  I'm also going to keep reminding myself to look at the good side until I'm sure I can't do that no more.  The mounts are done.  There is no reason to think installing the tranny will be anything but routine.  We haven't decided what to do with the V-drive yet, replace or overhaul.  Either one will have to wait a while until we pry a spot open in the budget, but there is no reason to assume that will prove impossible either.  The big question is still the coupler - and for now I'm going to assume we will figure that one out as well.  We are still walking right along the edge of the cliff here, but it does no good to keep looking over to see how far the fall.

p.s.  If I ever hit the lottery I'm still going to buy me a NEW boat.  I know they come from the factory screwed up; but at least the screwed up parts won't be frozen together by 30 years of corrosion.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Riding the waves...

Not ocean waves, not for a while.  Not even lake waves, that will be a while yet as well.  No, I mean emotional waves which, I must tell you, is a novelty to me.  But this V-drive thing is getting to be quite a ride.  Yesterday I was convinced we were completely sunk.  Walter machine just didn't have any good news and about had me convinced that getting Kintala underway again was going to require nothing short of mechanical magic.  The tech there is convinced that our boat isn't factory and that there is simply no good way to put the parts back together again.  And neither the Tartan factory nor S & S (who designed the Tartan 42) seems to know just what engine / tranny / V-drive combination was originally installed.  (I'm still baffled as to how that can be.  Does the factory just have the assembly line go pull what ever bits happen to be laying around on a shelf somewhere and stick them in a boat?  I admit I used to build go-carts that way, but really?)  The yard that did the inspections has been less than encouraging as well; "You can't expect us to look into the future, can you?" (Well, YES, actually! Why else would I pay you to inspect something?) All that the broker seems to know for sure is that the boat should float. (I'm starting to suspect more lawyers and nasty letters are in my future.)
I was about as discouraged as I have been since we started The Retirement Project.  Retire?  I was starting to think we would be lucky to avoid bankruptcy.

But this morning Deb went into full Internet Sleuth mode and soon turned up pictures of at least three other Tartan 42 drive trains.  Two are very similar to ours and one is down right identical.  Clearly Kintala is factory after all. 

Even though they didn't have the exact information I needed, the email from S & S included the following; (I sent them these pictures.  Ours in the one on the left before I started ripping things apart.)

The two V drives you sent look identical with the exception of the mounting. It looks like they added some hefty mounts on yours, probably for vibration reasons. It also looks like the attachment is simply handled through the small bell housing between V drive and gearbox. I can’t imagine what the big deal is with Walter that they can’t assist you. Perhaps they had a bunch of these blow up. In any event I would probably try to put it back together as it was (obviously with gearbox and V drive rebuilt) and you will undoubtedly get many years of continued use out of it.

Sorry we couldn’t be more help.

Best Regards,
Bruce Johnson
President and Chief Designer
Sparkman & Stephens

I decided that Mr. Johnson has it right.  If its factory that means it worked once upon a time, is working for other people right now, and I can surly make it work again.

Tranny, V-drive, coupler, mounts...

Put the boat back together. 

Make it go. 


So in the morning we will head out to the lake and I will start changing engine mounts...  Getting it all done will still be a massive amount of work and cost a hand full of SBUs.  It probably can't be finished much before spring.  But there is no reason to think that it isn't going to get done.  And that has me feeling much better now.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

It's the little things

In light of all the recent difficulties we've encountered with the boat, one of our friends-that-we-haven't-met-yet (aka a fellow cruiser whose blog we follow religiously) said, "Stay the course. In a year the past will be well in the past. It'll be worth it, I swear."  It was a perfectly timed comment for me because if I have one prominent character flaw it's that I tend to be overwhelmed by things in the present and forget the end goal.  You would think I would learn this lesson since I've had it presented to me often enough over the years.  I remember while I was getting my pilot's license I was having difficulty with "plunking" the plane down on the numbers at the end of the runway instead of smoothly gliding across the numbers and softly touching down.  My instructor (who also happens to be my ever-so-patient husband) pointed out that I was focusing on the numbers to the elimination of the rest of the runway environment.  He noted that I should possibly see what I could do to keep the whole runway environment in my field of concentration and pointed out that this would allow me to settle onto the runway with a modicum of grace.

This train of thought caused me to take a break in my internet search  for new engine mounts for the Westerbeke 50 and to go sit with Tim in the cockpit for a while enjoying the last of the colorful fall leaves and the seagulls' antics while diving for the little silver jumping fish all over the marina.  I was thinking about  how when I reflect on my 55 years, all of the things that I think fondly of are the little things.  Everyone has the big events - birthdays, marriages, anniversaries, job changes, moves, illnesses, deaths, but it occurred to me that it's the little things that define a life, the accumulation of all the little choices and experiences that fill out the framework of who we are.  Pictures popped into my mind - of me and Tim's Gramps standing at the kitchen counter peeling apples for an apple pie, his favorite...of the kids running and jumping in the piles of oak tree leaves on a perfect fall day much like this one...of my mom singing Amazing Grace while she was folding laundry...of all three of our kids plus spouses sitting around a table after dinner with us laughing till our sides hurt about some ridiculous thing that had happened to one of us...of hundreds of white pelicans soaring over Nomad in a perfect line...of laying in the V-berth on this very boat, rocking gently and hearing the halyards way in the background making better music than any wind chime.

So while our dream may be just a tiny bit tarnished at the moment, and obstacles seem to be piling up in front of us, I'm going to be sure to take some time to enjoy the little things because in a year it will all be in the past and I'm sure it will be worth it.

Parade of failure

We went for a long sail yesterday with Jeff and Co. on Gail Force.  It was a romping good sail until late in the afternoon when Jeff was forced to fire up his engine to bring us home.  Speaking of engines...

Deb did a lot of research this weekend piecing together parts of Kintala's history and trying to figure out how we ended up where we are in spite of our best efforts; badly broken boat, falling behind schedule, and struggling to figure out how to pay for it all.  She got a lot more done this weekend than did I, though I did manage to unbolt the mount plate from the old tranny and bolt on the new one.

"There," I thought to myself with the last bolt snugged up, "the tranny is ready to least we are making a little progress."

Not so fast, Buckwheat.  Something went bad somewhere that started this whole cascade of shattered metal bits, and Deb pointed me to the right place based on something she had read on failed V-drives...engine mounts.

The moment she said it all the pieces fell into place.  And, since there are a lot of big parts already removed, I could get a pretty good look at the starboard side forward engine mount - which is totally and completely hammered.  You know how old, really old, really old and used up rubber gets, brittle like cheap plastic, chunks breaking off with black dust spread around here and there?  It would be nice if the engine mounts on Kintala looked that good.

Here is what my survey says about engine mounts:  "...the engine mounts are in good condition securely attached to the longitudinal stringers..."  Just to add insult to injury, here is the comment from the mechanical inspection: "V-drive fluid/oil - Level, Color,  Smell - ACCEPTABLE, Signs of debris, NONE"

Here is where we stand.  The engine mounts are toast; installing a new tranny and V-drive would be a complete waste of time and $$.  New mounts go in first.  Next will be a new damper plate, since the tranny warranty is void without one.  Then (Buckwheat) the tranny can go on.  The V-drive goes in last and all I have to do then is figure out how to line all this stuff up so the shaft runs true.

Moral of the story?  The next time you get a survey or mechanical inspection done on a boat make sure someone looks at the engine mounts.  Better yet, do it yourself.  If they don't look freaking perfect get a big, big chunk knocked off the going-in price or walk away and don't look back.  Your bank account will thank you.

My gift to charge.

p.s.  To be fair an item on the the mechanical inspection "repair" list included replacing the engine mounts.  When I asked why, given that the survey explicitly stated that they were in good condition, I was told the adjustment studs were corroded and it would difficult to alien the shaft next time that was needed.  That same list included repairing the engine pre-heat system which, in fact, works perfectly.  The mechanic doing the inspection didn't know how to use it.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Road Trip

Fedex came today carrying a long tube and a heavy box filled with charts and guide books.  You see we happened on a terrific deal on most of the charts and guides we needed for our trip from Chicago to Nova Scotia via the St. Lawrence.  A friend of a friend just finished the trip and was looking to offload the materials in preparation for loading up on Caribbean charts for his trip farther South. It carries with it a bit of the excitement of The Road Trips that we used to take in the car when we were younger.  Stacks of maps to look at and plan from, the trip unknown and full of promise.  In spite of the fact that we don't have a working engine at the moment or a transmission to power with that engine, it somehow makes me feel just a little better to have these stacks of books on my kitchen counter and piles of charts on the kitchen table.   The charts aren't new, exhibiting some markings on them from their previous owner, and somehow I feel connected to them as a result.  Brand spanking new charts would mock me I think, their blank margins and possible routes waiting for the pencil, but these charts smell a little of the ocean and teak and diesel and salt, and the slightly stained and dog-eared edges do yield a bit of promise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And the beat...

...goes on.

A puzzled V-drive guru called today.  It appears that the drive coupling flange isn't actually one of theirs, the moment it is a complete unknown as to how this particular V-drive got mated to this particular tranny, when, and by whom.  Why the drive was so badly trashed is partly explained though.  It seems the mystery tranny coupling provides a good bit of the support for the drive gears.  When the bolts in that coupling started to fail the drive gears started to move, grinding against the case as they rotated around.  (No clue as to why the bolts started to fail.) 

Since boats are not required to have maintenance log books it would not appear there is any way to know who did the modification, or why.  Eventually we will figure out some way to make it work, though no word yet on this unit being fixed.  We may still be required to pry loose a SBU or two for new.  All of which brought up an entirely new train of thought.

If the $$ flowing into Kintala were water she would plummet to the bottom faster than the Titanic.  So it amazes me how many seaworthy boats are out there, cruising on a modest budget.  And it is no wonder shore side dwellers think all sailors must be rich, or at least were rich when they got into sailboats.  Its kind of like an old boss of mine used to say, "I know there are millions of dollars in aviation, I put them there." 

I know the feeling...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Slogging against the tide...

"Your hatches are done but didn't turn out too well." 

My first thought was, "Well, then they aren't done yet, are they?"

When one is powder coating cast aluminum, one must be careful to pre-bake the part to prevent out-gassing.  (Something I thought I knew and verified with a 10 minute search on the Internet.)  One would think an outfit calling itself "Performance Coatings" and claiming to be experts in powder coating would know it as well.

Apparently one would be wrong.  As a result, one ends up with hatch frames that look like they have been painted with non-skid; really ugly gloss-black non-skid.  Honestly, I have done better paint work drunk, outside in the wind, with a rattle-can.

The sad fact is I'm not even too surprised. This entire experience of buying Kintala and trying to get her seaworthy has been a parade of incompetence. A welder who couldn't weld, a surveyor who didn't, a mechanic who missed a disintegrating drive, a rigging inspector who couldn't tell a good rope from bad, why would I expect to find a painter who could paint?  There have been exceptions; UK-Halsey, Cameron Marine, the folks who made the mattress for the V-berth.  I certainly hope the V-drive people join that short list, but truth to tell I'm not holding my breath.  I fear the tranny / V-drive repair is many, many moons from being completed.

I would admit to much of this being my fault if I was trying to get things done on the cheap, going with the lowest bidder, haggling everyone over a penny here and a dollar there.  But we haven't done it that way.  Instead we have tried to find those with the proper credentials, the right capabilities, and good reputations; hoping to get what we pay for.  It is an approach bred of spending thousands of hours miles above the ground going ridiculous speeds - spending an entire working lifetime betting my life on the expertise of others.  Countless others have made that same bet on my abilities, and do so every time the cabin door is closed on my airplane.

It is an approach not working very well in the sailing world, but we have no choice but to keep trying.

Just like the painter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Random thoughts...

We did get to go sailing; Thor and Ulli taking us out on their Tri for a really nice sail in light winds.  (Six knots in five worth of wind, not bad!)  Both Deb and I spent time at the helm, a few King Pelicans coasted by to show off their flying skills, and we floated back into the marina just as the wind died away altogether.  It was fun.  (Deb left her camera on Kintala and was disappointed to have missed some great shots.)

News of Kintala's busted innards spread through the marina family and virtually everyone stopped by to offer words of encouragement.  Many also shared words of disparagement based on their own encounters with marine surveyors, mechanics, and boatyards.  (Even Schmitty our resident mechanic - who also offered guidance and advice whenever asked and loaned tools without question when the one I needed was back at the house.  Thanks!  It would have been an impossible week without the help.)

For the record let me say that I suspect there are more boat mechanics out there like Schmitty than like the hack who "inspected" Kintala.  Mind you, I can't PROVE that, but I do suspect...

After a week living on the boat, even if it was a week of unrelenting mechanical effort, it was hard to pack up and head back to the city.  It helped to remember that work resumes in the morning, and work is what I trade for SBUs.

As much as I do enjoy my work, and as good as it will be to get back in the sky for a spell, this week also reminded me that not having to work is better than the best job there is.  Just why is it that people who make a million or two (or eleven) in exchange for a years worth of effort hang around for a second year?  Take the money and run (or sail), that would be my advice.  Before I call it a night I'm going to lift a glass to all of you who have already managed to point your bow offshore and go.

A big bonfire is a thing of beauty on a cool fall night.  A pile of pallets makes for big bonfires.  While the fire burned some of the assembled assembled in the club house and gathered around the big screen TV... apparently there was some kind of game going on that involved a St. Louis team.  Not sure what they were all cheering about...

Finding and fixing all the leaks in the pressure side of a water system modification can take longer than installing the mod in the first place.  (A chunk of hose and a couple of worm clamps?  Really?)

Finishing a home project takes at least two trips to the parts store; finishing a boat project takes at least three.

Experience tells me putting parts back on is about 3 X harder than pulling them off.  It is likely to be a long, cold winter.

For all of the effort and progress this week, I'm still feeling a bit ambivalent about Kintala. Right now it isn't clear if she IS The Retirement Project or just slowing our progress to being where we want to be. No choice for now but to keep throwing parts at this thing and see what works out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

What did you do...

...on your fall vacation?  On Monday we pulled the V-drive.  On Tuesday we pulled the transmission.  On Wednesday we pulled the head then fabricated and installed a new piece of floor.  On Thursday we installed the pump (hardest part of the job) and ran new waste hose.  On Friday we built up and installed a way to use water drained from the sink to flush the loo (saving boat water AND keeping lake water out of the holding tank), and plumbed in a deck wash line while we were at it.  Then we put the inside of the boat back together so it looks like a boat again, not a work shop.  (Getting the pressure side of this new system to stop leaking was the second hardest part of the job.)

All week the weather was Mid Western Fall Ugly - high winds, gray skies, rain and drizzle, blustery with constantly falling temperatures.  At first, still recovering from jaw work (i.e. taking lots of drugs), with Kintala rocking and bucking at her dock lines, shoulder deep in the bilge or shoehorned into the head, there were times when I wasn't sure just which way was "UP".  But by the end of the week I didn't even notice.  This weekend?  Supposed to be two days of Mid Western Autumn Perfect - clear, cool and with just enough wind.  Maybe someone will have pity on us and take us sailing?  I could use a break from vacation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting a Head

From day one we knew that Kintala was going to need a new Throne in the Head.  Green fuzz was growing out of seals, the base was water damaged and deteriorating (and storing stink), and we couldn't keep the water level down in the bowl.  Weeks ago a new Lavac system landed in our garage and went to the top of the work list; only to be bumped by leaking hatches that ended up at overhaul, then bumped again by the trashed V-drive, that also ended up in overhaul (we hope), then bumped a third time by the demise of our transmission.  Today though, with nothing but a big hole in the bilge where the V-drive and tranny used to reside and no pressing deeds to be done in the engine compartment (fingers crossed), swapping out the head finally got started.

 Bye Bye old head

Hello beautiful new Lavac Popular Manual Head

Not finished, not yet.  In a lot of ways the work is really a two person job stuffed into a one person space.  So mostly what got done today was getting the old unit and associated hoses removed and the new base built.  Originally that base was going to be 1/2" Starboard, but the more we looked at it the less comfortable we were with the idea of it carrying the expected loads in the expected environment.  As it turns out Schmitty had ordered a Corian piece to use as a bow seat on Alcestis; a piece that turned out to be a serious case of overkill in both size and weight.  Our Starboard was perfect for his use, his Corian perfect for ours, and so a deal was struck.

Kintala may not have a V-drive.  She may not have a tranny.  Her hatches are still covered in plywood and duct tape.  Take a seat on the Throne though, and your little fanny will be supported by the finest, one-inch thick, custom cut and fitted piece of Corian that has ever found its way into a head.

When we finally do get to go, we intend to go in style!

Monday, October 17, 2011

V-Drive Blues

Not so much a case of the blues, maybe a case of the flu, or even pneumonia?  A few weeks ago when the new engine noise showed up I said something about it sounding like the V-drive, maybe the transmission, but probably the drive.  Silly me.  It is both.

The racket we heard as Kintala drifted to a stop in the marina last weekend was the V-drive disintegrating into a housing full of chewed up parts and 90 wt gear oil gravy steeped in metal shards.  No big surprise there, though it has been a long time since I have pulled such a blowed-up bit out of a machine.  When the drive went it took the output flange of the transmission with it.  That flange is part of the shaft, which is apparently as deep into the transmission as one can delve.  So the transmission is toast.  We just ordered a replacement for a few pennies less than two SBUs.  (SBU = Standard Boat Unit = $1000.)  The V-drive folks say they may be able to overhaul their unit, so Deb is out shipping it.  I'm guessing they will open the box, snort and laugh and poke each other, and then we will buy a new V-drive to go with our new tranny.  Total for getting Kintala under power once again?  If it comes out any less than 4 SBUs it will be a surprise.

Today has been a day full of learning new things; how to take a V-drive out of a Tartan, that I need a special wrench to get the lower port mount bolt of the transmission loose (I believe I have just such a home...transmission removal to be completed at a later date.) and, if you move the prop drive shaft just 1/2 inch forward once it is free from the V-drive, lake water will will spew into the bilge at an astounding rate and startle the snot out of an aircraft mechanic.  (The shaft is now securely fixed in place so it can't move again!)

When we bought this boat I tried as best as I know how to avoid just such a development, spending SBUs on inspections and repairs done by reputable people and organizations.  This one though, is really getting me close to being an unhappy camper.  One look was all it took to know that this V-drive has been making shinies for a long, long time.  When it started making noise it wasn't telling me it was getting ready to fail.  No, it was telling me that it had failed a long time ago and was about to implode.  Since I have no history with this boat I missed the memo.  But the son-of-a-wanna-be-wrench-bending-bozo who changed the gear oil the last time, and probably the time before that, and maybe the time before that, should have gotten it highlighted and in bold print.  And tell me, just what does a mechanic do during a $600 mechanical inspection, count the sockets in his tool drawer?  Polish screwdrivers?  Juggle spanner wrenches?  If only I had known then what I know now I would have paid him an extra half a SBU to take a dribble of V-drive, tranny and engine oil, rub it between his finger and thumb, and hold it up to the sunlight.  I fear though that even if he had, and as a result had driven a quarter inch shard of tortured metal into his skin, he would have completely missed the relevance of the blood flowing down his finger and called the drive good to go. 

Since it would be impossible not to be discouraged at getting burned by so-called experts, I'm just going to go ahead and be discouraged.  One never knows how things will end up but the thought is that this is going to delay our departure some.  What was a "to-do" list has exploded into a major work order.  Getting it all done and then paying for it is going to take considerable effort - and maybe a little more time than originally hoped.

So I'm not going to waste any effort trying to keep a stiff upper lip, look at the good side, think positive, or any other such idiotic make-nice chatter.  I'm just going to accept discouragement as part of the deal, grab a rag, and get back to work.

p.s.  The tranny came out today.  For the mechanics among you...getting to the problem bolt required; a) pull the starter, b) pull the shifter arm off the shaft, c) remove 4 nuts and pull the shifter housing, d) pull the bottom two shifter housing studs out of the tranny case.  (There isn't near enough room in there for a stud puller, which was okay since I didn't have one at hand.  Two nuts locked together did the trick.)  Then a 9/16 crow's foot on a long extension was just enough leverage to break the bolt loose without harming the engine case; which was the real concern since the tranny is trashed anyway.

p.p.s.  I promise to be in a better mood when stuff starts going back on the boat that actually works.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Boat Bum

We spent some time on the lake this weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) with Friend Jeff and Gail Force; and it was good time too. (There were a bunch of other friends on the boat over the two days as well; Bill, Ann, Joel, Sharon, Mark, Thor and Ulli.)  Winds ranged from 12 to 20 knots with gusts touching 30 once in a while. The lake lumped up with nice little rollers and white caps, we tossed spray off the bow and down the deck, and generally romped around the lake with other die-hard boats bashing upwind and then flying back down. (Gail Force clocked 8+ on the gps for extended runs off the wind - reminding us of why someone thought up the idea of a sailboat in the first place!)

While on one of those fliers with Deb and I standing in the companionway enjoying the ride, she allowed as this was really all she wanted... to be a boat bum.

"Good news," I replied. "We are burning through cash like we have some, Kintala is broken down and tied to a pier, she has bits and parts scattered everywhere waiting to get fixed, with plywood in her ports and dock line knots taking permanent shape.  Pretty soon winter will arrive and we will be down in her salon huddled around a space heater trying to stay warm (with the bath house a cold walk away in the middle of the night), and we are begging rides from friends to get out on the water. If we are not boat bums yet we are getting mighty close."

Once upon a time I was a respectable man...

Actually that's one of those descriptions that is pretty close to true without being very accurate, and we both got a chuckle out of it.  Kintala is on the injured reserved list at the moment, but that isn't terminal.  We are bumming boat rides but there is nothing particularly new about that - I'm always bumming boat rides.  And one of these days I suspect people will be once again bumming rides off of Kintala. 

With the flying schedule slow this week we are going to take an extra few days and concentrate on actually working.  I hope to pull the v-drive come morning and get it shipped off for overhaul.  The hatches should be back from paint next week along with new glass.  Building them up for install will start soon.  The new head is on the boat.  (Still in the box but on the boat!)  I spent most of today putting another coat of teak oil on all the deck wood, getting it ready for the harsh winds of winter.  (More jaw work done last week is slowing me down this weekend.  I'm good for sitting on a boat working sheets or standing at the helm.  Upside down, elbows deep in the bilge?  Not so much yet.)

But you know, I really am looking forward to being a boat bum some day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Luck, first cousin to The Magic

We had more than our share of The Magic this weekend, so we really had no claim on a streak of luck. But it worked out that way anyway.

Yesterday's big do at the marina was a wedding. Dennis, (he of mast climbing fame and owner of the marina) traded "I do's" with Petra, charmer from Germany and Sister of good friend Ulli (she of Trimaran fame and one time Commodore of the Yacht Club). Ulli's husband Thor is the incoming Commodore - so it was very much a family affair. Part of the celebration was an evening "Wedding Regatta." Some 18 sailboats headed out following Dennis' Desperado, complete with a Newlywed sign flying off her stern. The weather was prefect, the sail was perfect, and a horizon of full sails crossing a setting sun is a sight fit for a wedding.

Kintala was among the fleet of course, but we didn't make the turn for home, ducking into Coles Creek instead. A peaceful night after a long, busy day was just the ticket. This morning we sailed off the hook a bit early since Daughter-who-is-the-youngest was due to visit, bringing granddaughter-who-is-also-the-youngest, for their first sail on the new boat. Ghosting out onto the lake in zephyrs we were greeted by hundreds of King pelicans, hundreds more cormorants, and still hundreds more gulls. It was an amazing sight and we were quite content to drift slowly among them. But time was running out to meet Daughter youngest so we were forced to fire up the motor.

There is a smell that every mechanic has burned into his or her alarm system - that of hot metal being tortured to destruction. I caught just a whiff, but it was enough to set my internal klaxon to blaring. The V-drive was actually being pretty quiet, but I eased back on the throttle and waited to see if we would make it to the dock.

Almost. Entering the marina I dropped the boat into neutral to make the first of two 180 degree turns. That was all the life left in the V-drive. Selecting forward provoked ugly thrashing, clunking noises from below - and that was pretty much that. A call out to friend Bill of Paradise, informing him that we were drifting helpless in a marina full of boats was all it took. Within minutes Schmidty was pulling alongside in "Alcestis" to tug us home, Joel and Gary on board to help. At the dock a half-dozen stood buy to ease a wounded Kintala safely onto her pier - and that was pretty much that.

We could not have coughed the V-drive at a more opportune moment. Instead of being a disaster it was a non-event. The Magic and a wedding, the pelicans and a big dose of luck, all in the same weekend. No one can ask much better than that. Still, in spite of my best efforts it must be admitted that Kintala really is a project boat now; tied to her pier basically immobile, hatches missing, head about to be removed, (and not a moment too soon) sailing season likely over...for the next few weeks and maybe months she belongs to mechanics, not sailors.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Magic

Magic is that thing that happens when something pretty amazing happens but no one is really sure why or how it happens. A collection of circumstances, none of them particularly spectacular alone, flow together with some inner state of mind and somehow, everything in the entire freaking universe fits together just like it should.


Daughter-who-lives-with-us has a friend visiting from Cape Cod, yet every bed in our little house has some one's name on it. So Deb and I allowed as we would offer her our sleeping place and head to the lake a day early. (Pretty slick, yes?) Once at the lake we decided to cove out for the night, something we have not done near enough of this season. Leaving the pier it seemed like a good idea. A couple of hundred yards from the inlet, mmm...not so good. Hoards of corps bug enveloped Kintala and her crew like some sort of Biblical plague. The starboard side of the hull was literally coated from water line to toe rail. We were motor sailing behind the jib, which itself drew a liberal coating of these nasty little creatures. They squished under hand with every grab on anything, flew into our faces, got tangled in Deb's hair and my beard (the only hair I have) and made hideous splotches of goo everywhere they died. As soon as the anchor sank into the mud we abandoned topside, retreating in the face of overwhelming numbers to the screened-in protection of below. Pretty much the opposite of magic.

Fed, showered and snug in the V-berth, the corps bugs faded from memory, and the magic started to fill the boat. Though all of her hatches are missing and the holes filled with plywood, and though there was nary a hint of a breeze, somehow Kintala shed the warmth of the day like a white beach on a clear night. Temps in our berth were perfect for cozying up under the quilt. It was still and quiet and I slept like a dead man; the best night's sleep I have enjoyed for countless weeks.

If there was a more perfect place on this little planet than Coles creek come this morning, I can't imagine where it could be. Apparently there was more magic than could fit in the boat so it flowed out to fill the cove. Fish jumped, birds circled, and the wind started to build from the ESE; a perfect direction for sailing off the hook. So we did.

That same wind must have blown some unused magic out on the lake proper. Over the next 7 hours or so Kintala romped under perfect winds of 10 to 20 knots, yet the waves on the lake never built to anything more than cat's paws. Hard on the wind, beam reach, broad reach, run - from Coles Creek to the dam to Tradewinds, back to near the dam, back to the cove, to the inlet for our marina, then to and fro across the width of the lake one more time just for the shear joy of it all. Kintala covered more than 30 miles today, every inch some of the best sailing we have ever known.

We are back on the pier now. Deb is working on a sail project for a friend, dinner is in the oven, I am fumbling around this keyboard; pretty much an average day when we are on Kintala. But the glow from the magic still fills the boat.

By tomorrow even the glow will fade, leaving only the memory of a perfect day. But that is the way of magic. It is a rare thing and no ones knows the recipe for making it. We all get a bit of it now and again, though sometimes I suspect it goes by unappreciated - a missed opportunity if you will. And it seems to me there is just enough of it going around to keep all of us from going stark raving mad. However it works, the touch of it swept over our little piece of the world today. Maybe it is headed your way tomorrow?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A little lift

Good friends and long time riding buddies showed up this morning to see our new boat. They went out with us once, many a moon ago, on Nomad, and later on Juno. After a tour of our new digs we very gingerly (the V-drive still making ugly noises) motored out onto a placid and mostly empty lake. The main sail was pretty soaked from dew since we hadn't put the cover on after yesterday's drift, and though the deck monkey (that would be me) wasn't very optimistic, we figured we could at least hang the sail out to dry. We rolled the jib out as well, mostly for the hell of it.

Turned out there was just enough breeze to have Kintala gliding gently across the wavelets. It didn't matter that we were only making a knot or two; we weren't really going anywhere anyway. An hour or so later we were about out of lake and going just fast enough to ease through a tack. Gliding slowly the other way Deb handed a fantastic lunch of Chef salads up from below. We munched and laughed and drank a couple of cold ones...

I'm feeling a bit constrained by our little lake and the items being added to the "to-do" list are getting frustrating. But you know what? No King anywhere on our little planet had as nice a meal as we did today - gliding through placid waters like we were powered by pure magic, spending a day with good friends, in the cool of early fall...even the corps bugs couldn't put a dent in the day.

Kintala has plywood in place of hatches, her new head still sits in my garage. She sports no solar panels, no wind generators, lacks a dingy and a dodger, the auto-helm won't, and her drive chain has a seriously weak link. Sometimes the big water I want to live and sail on seems far, far away. Getting there is taking pretty much all of my best efforts and sometimes I wonder if it will be enough.

Somehow days like today help a little, and salt water seems just about in reach after all.

Falling Footwear

I am learning to loves me some Kintala. She is a pretty boat, a good sailing boat, and has a lot of potential as a live aboard cruiser. She settled onto our dock as the focal point of the effort to downsize our stash of "stuff" and spend part of our lives living with a little more adventure, a little more freedom, than is considered normal in our society. Be that as it may, somewhere deep in my mechanic's soul was the feeling that this big Tartan was hiding something, that, though we have found and fixed a lot of unexpected issues (which was not unexpected) there lurked a shoe that had yet to drop. Kintala may have finally given up her secret.

Saturday we motored out into the lake to act as the Committee Boat for a lake-wide series of races. We sat tethered to an anchor for hours while a fleet of boats romped around us in solid winds blowing 10 - 15 knots. Good for the racers, a bit of a trial for us since we haven't actually been sailing in weeks. Sunday we were determined to sail. But Mother Earth wasn't paying any attention to our determinations; there wasn't a breath of wind. With her jib poled out Kintal drifted in slow circles managing nothing more than collecting another layer of corps bugs. (I sure hope corps bugs don't live in salt water.) Eventually we gave up, put the sails away, fired up the motor to head in, and put the boat in gear.


The sound of falling footwear.

That faint noise we noticed a couple of weeks ago, the one we thought was coming from the engine? V-drive, or maybe transmission, but probably V-drive, and no longer faint. We gently powered back to the marina with me secretly wondering if we would end up calling for a tow. Once home I changed the fluid because we all know that changing the fluid will fix thrashed gears and quiet ugly noises. The stuff that drooled out of the bottom of the V-drive case was full of "shinies", those tiny bits of shaved off metal that mechanics love to see come out of customer's vehicles, (it means a solid couple of days of work and maybe a big commission on parts) and hate to see come out of their own vehicles for the exact same reasons.

I don't know how much such drives cost to overhaul or repair, or how hard they are to get out of a boat. I don't know how much life is left in the drive. Sometimes big chunks of metal grind themselves to death rather slowly, parts that will surely need replaced still having some life left in them. The search is on for expert advise and a plan of action. I fear though, winter is going to include a long, cold foray into the world of overhauling expensive boat bits.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Any excuse...

The clouds below were packed close together and looked like they might be bumpy, so I switched on the "SEAT BELT" sign and slowed ye old jet down a tad. Once in the overcast the ride was as expected, not bad but not comfortable. Approach gave us a vector so we turned, popped out of one cloud and were RADOME to a dark looking CU about 2 seconds away. "This one might hurt," was the opinion from my new co-captain. WHAM! Yep. In the back coffee and cold drinks were airborne, bodies hit seat belts and heads hit the headliner. The V-ist of the VIPs aboard, a Senior VP no less, caught a flying elbow from his seatmate and got cut below his left eye.

When a Senior VP gets off a corporate jet coffee stained and dripping blood, you can be pretty sure some corporate pilot somewhere is not having a good day...even if the VIP is a really good guy and there really isn't very much blood.

Two days later we flew them home and hit some more bumps, but none as righteous. The group dismounted with smiles and jokes, and all was okay in my little aviation world. We head out again in the morning.

After that kind of week I was looking for any excuse to take Kintala off the dock and do some sailing. Alas, there was nary a hint of breeze the whole weekend. Boats took to the lake of course, but none of them claimed to have found any wind. Winter draws nigh, the work list awaits; I sighed a sigh of resignation and opened up the tool box. By the time we left the marina 4 hatches were removed, holes were covered and rain proofed, the new topping lift was installed, (one trip up the mast) Deb did some modifications in her galley, and I even coped a nap. While talking to a friend about our progress I had an epiphany; there are only two things standing between us and the ocean.

1) Get Kintala ready.
2) Sell the house.

That's kind of cool.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Counting My Blessings

(Warning: this is a rant and if you're easily offended you may want to skip it.  Ed)

If you read this blog regularly you'll recall that last weekend was a work weekend.  (OK stop laughing, I know every weekend is a work weekend...)  My designated project for the day was to replace the hinge on the hatch aft of the helm station, replace the gasket, and to mount a storage box underneath it for our handheld VHF and whatever snacks the watch person might like to have kept dry on a wet night.  As a way of explanation, this hatch used to house a remote VHF on a bracket that was destroyed because the previous owner didn't ever bother to replace the broken hinge so water was pretty much continuously pouring down on the VHF, ergo its demise.

The work went well, thanks to a couple ideas offered by marina regulars on how best to remove the now completely corroded-in broken hinge pin, (Note to self: must have a good vise mounted somewhere in the boat before we leave) and I was in the middle of mounting the plastic box under the hatch when a guy saunters past, stops briefly, shakes his head, and directs the following comment in the general direction of Tim who was working on the hatch over the salon a few feet away, "I would never let my wife handle a power tool like that." before sauntering on down the dock.  At the wise old age of 55 I try very hard to keep my feminist opinions to myself, especially in the confines of the marina where we have many good friends.  To my credit, I bit my tongue and let Tim rifle off a comment to him which clearly didn't penetrate his very firmly established views about women, but I very much wanted to tell him that I thought it was a miracle that his wife let an a**hole like him be her husband.

I'm a reasonably competent person with tools of all sorts, and the work on Kintala is largely shared by both me and Tim.  I credit this almost completely to the fact that I have somehow managed to snag the most encouraging, supportive, respectful partner that exists on the planet, and one that manages to ignore my rantings and ravings about people like this particular dock-walker.  I originally wasn't even going to say anything about this particular incident, but 2 days later I read a post by Kathleen over at SailVicarious where she was asking for help in creating a seminar for couples in which the man wanted to sail off into the sunset and the woman was reluctant due to fear, and it aggravated me to the point where I just had to say something.

The fact is, if you're a man who wants to go cruising and your wife is reluctant to go because she's never been encouraged in your relationship to expand her knowledge base and skills, never had the opportunity to handle the power tools, never allowed to voice her opinion, then in my eyes it's just too late to drag her along into what will almost always end up being a challenging situation.

Our 40 years together have been a partnership.  We do tend to fall into Pink and Blue roles on the boat sometimes, conceding to the inevitably gender-biased upbringing in our society and what skills we've become proficient at, but when the projects to be done are all Blue, I pick up a wrench and a [gasp] power tool, and dig in.  It's not to say I don't fall prey to certain fears about cruising - I believe we all do at some point, but my incredibly supportive and encouraging husband has made it possible for me to be not only looking forward to our departure, but eagerly anticipating it, and for that I daily count my blessings. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Backing up... the only way to go forward. Those who have been around any kind of maintenance for a while are probably nodding and smiling, humming some version of the song, "Been there, done that, have the T-shirt." After several weekends spent chasing leaks in various hatches, rebedding the two big ones and polishing the tops of the two little ones, they still nagged. Polishing made them look better but also highlighted the fact that the protective coating on the aluminum frames has long since disappeared. Big areas of the big hatches are noticeably corroded and the plexi badly crazed, the plexi in one of the small ones is cracked. Time to regroup and rethink this project.

A shop near our home will clean and powder coat all eight frame pieces for a couple of hundred bucks. The only debate is what color they will be when finished. My choice would be fire-engine red (matching the interiors of the dorads). For the most part sailboats are about as visually stimulating as a chunk of drift wood; faded or off-white hulls with a muted "trim" stripe, white sails, dull grey metal work, brown wood, a near invisible dull aluminum mast sticking up in the air. One could draw a picture of a marina full of sailboats and use only half of the crayons in the basic box of 8. But I suspect the graphic design expert (and reigning Admiral) of our little navy will have a different (and admittedly better) artistic vision. We are pricing new plexi as well.

So at the top of the to-do list for this weekend is pulling the cabin hatches, disassembly, and dropping them off at the painters. Since they will be gone for a couple of weeks the gaping holes will be plugged with plywood and RTV. Kintala will look like a project boat after all...but she will still be able to take to the lake should the fall winds fill in. In a year or so (?) I will be sitting at the helm out in the middle of big salt water and know the hatches are both as stout and as protected from the environment as they can be, and will chalk that one up as a job done right. (Though they probably won't be fire-engine red.)