Sunday, April 29, 2012

A matter of perception.

It would be a major embarrassment if the guy who bought Nomad thinks of me in the same way I think of the previous owner of Kintala. I know he had to deal with a contaminated water tank that I simply never got squared away, but for the most part we tried to do good work on the little boat that taught us so much. Kintala wasn't so favored.

It isn't that we got much done this weekend. We bent on the main and screecher sails. Deb claims we did it to nudge Kintala into thinking of herself as a functioning sail boat again. Really though, getting the sails out of the boat means more room in the work area for tools and parts; and we got the battens out of the main cabin as well. Straightening up the inside of the boat led to some more determined cleaning, which led to pulling all the stuff out of a couple of the cabinets, which led to finding a couple of stray bits of wood. One turned out to be a missing fiddle in the salon; another a part long missing off a lower storage door. I just can't get my head around breaking a part off the boat and just tossing it in the bottom of a cabinet somewhere.

So I wasn't completely useless in the boat work department this weekend. A couple of little items got put right, there are sails on the boat, the engine got poked a bit to see if the heat exchanger needed work or not, (not, as it turned out - a bit of a surprise there) and the inside of the boat got a bit of cleaning done. It is good, sometimes, just to do things that you can see when done. Kintala isn't any closer to being a running boat after this weekend, but somehow she looks like she is, and so somehow I feel like she is. Perception is a strange thing sometimes.

Friends Joel and Emily made real progress on their boat. We had a bit of a contest going, could I get my drive train together before their new standing rigging was built up and the mast standing once again. Joel and Kacey labored until 0330 this morning assembling a new furler and this afternoon I helped step the mast. I don't begrudge Joel the game though; the work he has put into their boat easily equals the efforts demanded by our Tartan. Besides, once he gets the rigging squared away I'll have another boat from which to bum rides.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pile 'O Parts

With a few hours to play at the marina and drive-train work suspended until the V-drive returns, smaller jobs have moved to the fore. Thus another pile of useless parts has made its way off the boat. We paid for these useless parts of course, though at the time I thought we were paying for a working autopilot system.

Ages ago my Gramps (origin of my Gypsy blood and a true rogue) taught me that a fool and his money should be parted, and if you can get some of it so much the better. Unfortunately I turned out to be the fool in this transaction. A fact which I'm sure irritates Gramps to no end should his dearly departed soul be in a place to observe what goes on in these parts. On the other hand the riff-raff who sold Kintala ended up with nothing more than a chunk of my money while I ended up with a Pile 'O Parts that may, one day, actually be a world trotting sailboat. So maybe Gramps will be okay with it in the end.

Truth be told, I am pretty pleased to have this junk off the boat. The motor was shorted, the rudder feedback pot was shot, the control wiring harness was trashed, and the system is long out of production making locating replacement parts impossible. It is also no surprise that the install itself was sloppy; wires run every which way, chain loose - pretty typical boat maintenance quality. With the trash cleared out our plan is to install a CapeHorn Self-Steering System before taking on big water. Though the airplane driver in me likes the idea of a full-on autopilot system that can navigate a series of pre-planned way points, the sailor in me warms to the thought of a self-steering system that works with the wind and needs no electrical power. (Any user / owner input from anyone who has experience with the CapeHorn system will be warmly welcomed.)

Other small jobs in the queue include red L.E.D. flood lights for the cockpit and poking around the engine cooling loop a bit more looking for zincs and restrictions in the exchanger tubes. A dodger kit rests in the living room, (I am looking at it as I write this) the next big project in the works.

And so it goes...

Sunday, April 22, 2012


No, not on Kintala. She remains our weekend cabin, firmly attached to the dock. Additional information this week made it clear that the V-drive will have to be returned to the factory for the mounting studs to be, well, mounted. Since I have abandoned any thoughts of the Tartan being anything other than a project straight from Dante's Eighth and Ninth circle of the Marine Industry (fraud and treachery), yet another delay is just part of the punishment.

However the cabin does sit in the middle of a marina full of actual sailing boats. A lot of those are leaving the dock for their maiden voyage of the season. Deb and I managed to snag a ride on three of those this weekend. First was a sweet little Catalina whose new owners were taking her out for the first time. Relatively new to sailing they asked Deb and I along to help out. (Not sure when we became old hands who know what we are doing - but it is fun that some people think of us that way.)

 Later we went out with a friend on his new-to-him Hunter; along with his girl friend and her two kids. Once again we were along to aid in figuring out the ropes. A couple of times back and forth across the lake on an easy reach was about the perfect break-in run. Each of the kids took a turn at the helm and did a great job. Two new sailors in the works; thank you very much!

As grand as those two maiden trips were, the cake was taken this morning by Friend Thor. He has a new F-33 Tri sitting in his slip that exudes pure speed. Grey Hound has the lines of a thoroughbred to fit the name. Joel, Emily and Kacey rounded out the crew and the six of us headed out on a romp that touched 14 knots on several occasions. All of us were wearing huge smiles when we got back to the pier. When it comes to out-running the wind there is a new Sheriff afloat in lake Carlyle.

I kind of like this sailing stuff...maybe someday I'll buy a boat.

Monday, April 16, 2012

My apologies

I owe an apology to Walter Machine and particularly to Don C. their chief mechanical guru. First thing this morning Don sent me an email to inform me that:

a) The vast majority of installations with their V-drive do not require additional mounts - the bell housing to tranny attachment works just fine:

b) He has no idea why Tartan decided to add the mounts: and

c) They will be glad to add the studs for us if I decide to put the additional mount brackets back on.

So I am debating; brackets / no brackets. Our bell housing has an obvious repair that suggests the V-drive might be a bit much. On the other hand, after-market spooged repairs spook me a little and I wonder if the additional mounts that far aft of the engine might not be doing more harm than good.  We have a PSS drip free seal on the shaft where they claim that engine movement will have no impact - something else to consider.  (My guess is that seal wasn't used on the original install and a leaking packing might have been part of the reason for the additional mounts in the first place.)  I can't get the drive off until next weekend at the earliest anyway, so I have time to mull it over.

In any case Walter Machine has offered to do us a solid, and I appreciate it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


After several months of slogging through various dark corners of the marine industry we finally gathered up all of the parts needed to try and reassemble the drive train in the Tartan. The tranny, all new and shiny, bell housing fixed, painted and bolted up, the custom-machined drive coupling gleaming like a big, fat jewel of steel, and the V-drive - after uncounted discussions with Walter Machine trying to convince them that their drive actually was mounted in a Tartan 42 with a Westerbeke engine and a Hurth transmission - dressed in dark blue paint and ready for service. Finally...progress!!!

Ahh...hold on there Ace.

The V-drive we pulled from the boat and sent to Walter Machine had 4 studs sticking out of the heavy end. The drive we got from Walter Machine? No studs. No holes. In fact one of the places where there should be holes sports the data plate. (Yes; I should have noticed it sooner. I plead being up to my belt buckle in alligators for missing this little detail.)

So I spent the weekend bolting it all together anyway and hung it on the back of the engine. My plan is to align the prop shaft / engine assembly so I can lay out exactly where me needs to locate the non-existent studs, then figure on installing them myself. For I know what Walter Machine's story is going to be. There were no studs in the units they manufactured. Studs, big beefy brackets, and two extra engine mounts, are a spooged together service bulletin fix for Tartan's hanging so much "stuff" that far off the back of the engine in the first place. "Stuff" which proved too much weight for the cast aluminum bell housing. How "spooged" is this fix? The extra engine mounts are hung up-side-down, supposedly working in tension and not compression. I'm not thinking that is such a good way to use mounts, so part of my efforts are going to be trying a redo on the brackets so the mounts can sit down-side-down. It is best to think of it as just another part of what has become the project of my life.

A life that has seen a bunch of projects. I have done million dollar repairs on airplanes, rebuilt wrecks back into flying machines, remodeled houses, resurrected dead motorcycles; there was always some understanding of what was going to be involved. None, until now, ever exploded in my face as has this boat. So bad has Kintala become that I have given up looking for an "end date." My life is flying during the week so I can buy the stuff I need to work on the boat on the weekend. When will it be done? When will I do something else with my life besides work and then work on a boat? When will we take to big water or even get this thing back out on the lake? Not a clue.  In fact don't even ask me to think about it. What's next is the studs, the mounts, the cooling system, the shaft seal, oil leaks, the...the...the. If I can get Kintala to the Fourth of July Raft Up under her own power I will take that as a major victory. (I give it about a 50/50 chance.) Then it will be the dodger, the wind vane, the solar panels, the...the...the.

When we started The Retirement Project I never suspected it would grow into a cautionary tale, but it has.  Many people are fascinated by our plan to live on a boat and explore at our whim.  Many wonder if they shouldn't try to do it as well. If they ask, I tell them all the same thing.

If one has been smitten by the idea of living lighter, being less of a burden to our little planet; if one chafes in equal amounts at the demands of corporate overlords and the harassment of bureaucratic busy-bodies; if one has been on the open ocean in the dark watches of the night and the heart desires nothing more than to be there again; if the wind and the sea and the caress of Mother Ocean tug at the very soul; if one finds modern Western culture to be incessantly childish and a crushing bore, and if one thinks of a good day as being equal parts sweat dripping off one's nose and blood flowing from skinned knuckles; then by all means find a boat, a willing partner, and take the shot.

If not, buy some clubs, take up golf, and never go near a sailboat at any time for any reason lest one be lost to the songs of Peisinoe.

You will thank me later.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

500 steps

That could be a rough guess at how long the path between Kintala and big water, or between Kintala and lake water for that matter, but it isn't. Five hundred steps is about the round trip walk from the boat to the marina's big trash bin, and back to the boat.

I call it my victory lap. Whenever I walk it carrying a load of removed, rejected, or replaced bits and pieces it feels like I am winning the battle of the boat.

Today I walked it with the last of the old water line. There is water on the boat, the pressure system works better than it ever has, and after a bit of a struggle there are no leaks on the pressure side...which brings me to a question.

Can anyone think of a reason that someone would take brand new barbed fittings for assembling the plumbing on an expensive, 42 foot sailboat, cut the barber part of the fitting off, and stick them in the main pressure manifold? Anyone?

I can't either, but that's what I found while tracing down various pressure leaks. (The cut-off fittings are in the trash bin with nearly 150 feet of crusty, stiff, oil soaked old hose.) I shouldn't be surprised by anything I find in boats anymore, but cut-off fittings? Are you serious?

The victory lap did come a few hours later than originally planned. Good friend Kacey insisted that we go sailing with him. He was unrelenting and so, after 2 or 3 seconds, we gave in. Four hours on the lake, occasionally running a rail under the water, hot coffee complementing the sun on a cool morning; this, friends and neighbors, is where everyone is trying to be (even if they haven't figured it out yet).  Or, as Kacey puts it, "I wonder what the rich people are doing this morning?"

We earned our victory lap this weekend.

Friday, April 6, 2012

It's definitely not aviation

I'm sure you're all tired of hearing things from an aviation perspective but, let's face it, between Tim and I we have approaching a century of aviation experience so it's a bit hard to disassociate ourselves from that outlook.  As we've mentioned before (ad nauseum), the marine industry is so fraught with unprofessional conduct that is so contradictory to the professional conduct in aviation, that we are still, even after 5 years of doing this, constantly shocked by some of the work we see.  I ran across a post that sums it up much better than I could ever possibly hope to - it's a post that is a follow-up to a post entitled "Are refits worth it?" which I commented on before.  The original post drew 48 comments and is still drawing more, so clearly this is an issue that most of us on the consumer end of the marine industry suffer from. In this new follow-up post John tells the story of a couple who purchased a new boat hoping to eliminate the refit troubles from their cruising dream. Unfortunately, they discovered that they had as many, if not more, problems than their refit counterparts.  It's an interesting read.  Please comment on their site if you've had similar difficulties.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

This just in...

...the re-manufactured drive coupling rests inside the worked-over bell housing, with both mounted firmly (and apparently squarely) on the V-drive! How about them apples?
This isn't to say we are in deep water yet. Fittings must be located to plumb the V-drive into the cooling system, said cooling system which is now mostly disassembled for the water heater mod. In addition all of these various bits and pieces have to be bolted back together. A big sigh of relief will echo out of the boat when the bell housing / V-drive is hanging on the back of the tranny. That end of the bell housing doesn't show any evidence of being damaged, but it is a pretty close fit, so...

...once that is on all that remains is to align the engine / tranny / bell housing / V-drive (all sitting on 6 brand new engine mounts) with the prop shaft, install the starter, hook up wires and tubes and hoses and such, take a deep breath, hit the starter button...

...and fix all the things that pop up.

It could be worse. I was supposed to do a photo flight Tuesday morning, piloting the camera ship to take some areal pictures of the world's only remaining Monosport; a 1920's once upon a time air-race dominator. A friend put more than a year into rebuilding the thing from a box of parts. A fast taxi a few days ago uncovered a serious design fluke with the landing gear. Rework led up to a first flight a day or so later - which was cut short by falling oil pressure and a few other niggles. Come Tuesday morning and we may have discovered why there is only one of these things left in the world. Just minutes after take-off the builder / test pilot experienced a case of aileron reversal that (fortunately) he was able to fly though to get back on the ground. (I have more than a little experience with antique airplanes and have flown though some evil handling characteristics of my own, which is why I now fly the camera ship. We don't build 'em like we used to, and there are lots of good reasons why.)

A year plus of solid work to resurrect an airplane that, as it turns out, is best left in the hangar.

At least Kintala still floats.

(Aileron reversal - for those who are curious - is when a pilot moves the flight controls expecting the airplane to roll one way, and it rolls the other way instead. It is a nasty gremlin that lurks in the dark reaches of aerodynamics. Mention it at a gathering of aviators or aeronautical engineers and a heated debate well surly break out as to the cause, though the cause matters not to the pilot in such straights. All he knows is that the airplane is trying very hard to commit suicide and there are scant seconds available to dissuade it from doing so.)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I declare

I'm sure there is a rule somewhere in the Captain's book of "Stuff you can get away with" that says said Captain has a certain latitude in making declarations. (As in, "The chart says there is enough depth", or, "The anchor feels set to me.) So I am going to say that the galley is done, (though there is a light bar left to install.) The plumbing is done as well, (though I have two tank lines to replace and we have yet to check it for leaks while under pressure). I also pulled about 30 feet of old and unused gas line that ran from near the stove, under the sink, though the bilge and under the cabinet where (I assume) an LP gas heater used to reside. And please don't ask why I left it in there so long as I have no good answer.

On the "nearly done" list is the engine to water heater system. The .1 SBU manifold is assembled with all of the proper fittings. The old one, not a surprise, was a hack job - hoses clamped onto pipe threads rather than barbed fittings. The lines are run to and from the water heater itself. The only open question is how to plumb the engine loop side without getting tangled up in the belts. Though I have complained about it I know now why the previous dock-side owner never hooked it up. Access for belt maintenance is going to be a bear; the price to be paid for hot showers on the hook.

Finishing the engine drive train repair now looms large as the next thing on the list. One would think that a 40 year mechanic would be more comfortable with the bolts, nuts, grinding, fitting, torquing and assembling kind of work required for the drive train than the cutting, sanding, finishing, installing kind of work we have been doing to the interior. The truth is I am looking at the drive train with a bit of trepidation - there is a long way to go and a lot that can still go wrong. It is pretty easy to shape wood and Corian to what is needed and make it work. Bell housings, couplings, V-drives and transmissions are not nearly so pliable.

But it is next on the list and stands between us and getting off the dock. Let the wrenches fly.