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.