Monday, June 25, 2012

With apologies...

to the power boaters among us.

British friends would rightly call me a "Petrol Head". I drive a 350Z and ride a ZX-14. The only sport I follow with any regularity is Moto GP, where the men are crazy, the bikes are loud, and together they can do better than 200 mph down the front straight. I'll stop channel surfing to watch the drag races; 8 cylinders - 8,000 HP - thunder and smoke and 1/4 mile runs of about 4 seconds. At the office my coffee cup reads "I LOVE THE SMELL OF JET FUEL IN THE MORNING".

Yet power boats leave me cold.

Not so much the cabin cruiser / expedition crowd. If I had me half-a-gazillion dollars to feed the fuel tanks I could see the wheel house of a well-founded Trawler or modest Mega-Yacht (excuse the contradiction in terms) as a fun place to spend a few years. Unlimited electrical power for toys and tools, AC and heat, full sized fridge to provide an endless supply of cold ones...what's not to like about that kind of living? Particularly when (assuming I last so long) wrestling with countless lines, sheets, and halyards gets to be increasingly difficult with arthritic hands and flagging muscles.

As Deb mentioned we tried a new place to toss the hook last weekend; a place with a boat ramp just around the jetty. As such we had a ring side seat to a constant parade of pontoon boats, wave runners (or jet skis - not sure what the proper nomenclature is for those noisy little buggers and their funny looking rooster tails), and big, honking loud racy looking hulls that cannoned off down the lake with just itty bitty slices of their sterns actually touching the water.

Petrol Head though I may normally be, speed and rush junkie that I normally am, the high zoot, full honk, power boat world doesn't hold any appeal. Deb thinks I see it as a clash with the environment (small "e") and maybe she has a point. The sky is the sky, climbing up through it very far and making any distance across it before running out of go-juice just takes power and speed; the more the better. Roads are manmade and blasting around a corner of one, knee-just-brushing-the-ground, feeling for that little bit of slip that says the back tire is about to give way...what else would a good twisty road be for?

But I don't go off-road; can't see myself ripping through a quiet meadow or jumping a dune far from the lights of human kind. Somehow that seems...improper...disrespectful even; an act that defies rather than celebrates. Moving through the water under sail whispers of a dance with lake and wind. Power boaters strike me as being in a fight. (Mind you, I don't mind a good fight when the cause is just or the opponent worthy; but a quiet little lake on a Sunday morning seems a rather passive combatant.)

It’s just me of course. I fully grant the power boater the right to go high zooting and full honking whenever the credit card can take the hit, and where ever there are no "NO WAKE" markers.

But I think I'll avoid coving out near boat ramps whenever I can.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

First Raft Up

Friends of ours from the marina are first-season sailors in their '78 Hunter 30, and seeing how so many people at this marina were so helpful in getting us to the point where we are now, it has seemed appropriate for us to help them get their sea legs so to speak. Besides, we just like their company. This weekend they'd asked if we would mind coving out together so they could have their first raft-up experience. We sailed s-l-o-w-l-y over to the cove by the beach across the lake so their kids could dinghy over to the beach to swim, and ended up having a good dinner complete with entertainment watching the power boat antics as they loaded their noisy craft on their trailers at the boat ramp, the wind kind enough to keep the bugs away and turn us 180° at just the right time to enjoy the sunset from the hammock in the bow. This morning after a good breakfast of eggs, sausage, muffins, yogurt and granola, we swam some more, pushed the dinghy (yes, pushed as in Tim and I swam behind the dinghy with our fins on - twin propulsion) over to the beach so the kids could play and after being clobbered on the shoulder by a large fish jumping out of the water (no kidding I wish I had the video), we headed back over to the boats.

 We had a pretty challenging time getting out of the cove under sail as the wind was right on our nose and we have a lot of places here we just can't sail through. Lake Carlyle is like a minefield of obstacles that you have to navigate around, so it's a pretty good training ground. Islands submerged 2 feet under the water, old fuel silos, house foundations, trees, farm name it we have it. If you can sail here I'm convinced you can sail anywhere. But sail we did until the wind totally died. We had a wonderful weekend with good friend and it just doesn't get much better than that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Engine gremlins

"You see that?"

We were flogging ye old jet on day 2 of a planned 3 day, east bound at 38,000 feet. My partner in crime was looking at the #2 engine running temperature (called ITT), and oil temperature and pressure. Though still well within limits and not changing, all 3 were noticeably different than they had been the flight before, with the ITT and oil temp. up, oil pressure down. The temperature on the departure runway had been near 100 and the air temperature during climb had been 15 degrees above standard all the way through 25,000 feet - slightly elevated engine temperatures would not be a surprise.

But at 38,000 feet the outside air temperature had fallen back to standard, checklists had been run, we were "on the step", and there was no good explanation for what we were seeing on the gages . 

"Yeah, I do."

In the back three VIPs were heading to a high power meeting over acquisitions; or something - they don't usually tell me much of what they are up to and the truth is - I don't really care. Getting them on the ground safely is the main concern, a distant second is getting them on the ground where they want to be. But even if the offending engine required a shut-down (and there was no indication such was impending) by the time the jet drifted down out of 38,000 feet the destination would be just off the nose anyway.

I know the movies suggest that an airplane with an engine out makes a sreaming, scary plumet to the ground with the crew scrambling to save the day and passengers crying and praying in the back.  In reality the first thing we do if we decide an engine needs shut down is get out a check list and calmly read it through.  Then we tell Air Traffic Control what we need and start down.  A 1000 foot / minute descent out of 38,000 feet will take the obvious 38 minutes and cover about 300 nm.  And, if we do it right, the passengers will not know anything is amiss until we turn around (its a small jet) and tell them so.

The elevated ITT suggested a minor leak of hot, compressed air from a fitting or something, maybe out of the bleed air valve itself. I have seen this failure mode a couple of dozen times during my years of turbine flying. It was something we would have to look at and fix before leaving on day 3, but it is normally a pretty minor repair. The oil temperature and pressure were a puzzle, directly related to each other but not normally a factor in a bleed leak. Yes, a bleed leak may dump hot air into the cowling, but the cowling around a running jet engine is ususally a pretty warm place anyway. Oil coolers have a stream of air flowing through them sourced directly from the outside where, at that moment, the temperature was some 40 degrees below zero.

I don't like being puzzled at 38,000 feet doing nearly 500 mph over the ground. It looked like Kintala's engine gremlins, having been banished from the boat, had followed me to the airport. Dropping the #2 engine cowling, after the passengers were on their way and out of sight, exposed the gremlin's handy work. Plastic spiral wrap hung from wires like long strings of hardened pizza cheese and there was a scorch mark on the inboard lip of the cowl. A quick engine run uncovered a failed bleed line that, in addition to the other damage,was flooding the oil cooler with a blast of air directly out of the burner section of the engine. We were putting A LOT of hot air in the cowling.

I hadn't seen that happen before.

Day 3 didn't happen. The VIP passengers were left to their own devices but eventually got back to home base, beating us by many hours. The first attempt at getting the correct part failed. (Sound familiar?) The second box air shipped across the country held the right one. A night flight west across one time zone and a 2 hour drive to the lake had me boarding Kintala just after midnight.

We are going to cove out tonight, the second time Kintala has been off the dock since her engine went back in service.

I hope I lost the gremlins back in Pittsburgh. They can follow someone else around for a while.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I was doing my daily Google Reader perusal and it occurred to me how grateful I am for all the blogs out there that have helped us so much in our preparation to go cruising. I've gleaned so much info from them, been encouraged to keep going when the V-drive going got rough, been entertained, and in some small way included in the cruiser community even though we're not official cruisers yet. The one thing I've never been is ridiculed by any of them. My comments and questions (loads of them) have generated thoughtful, encouraging responses in every case.  If you're thinking about The Dream, please visit these cruisers who have been so helpful to us and let them know we sent you. These are just a few of the ones I follow, but have been the most influential.


Zero to Cruising

S/V Third Day

Zach Aboard


Windborne in Puget Sound

Toast Floats

Dream Catcher (yes they have weasels on board)

Lattitude 43

Del Viento

S/V Just a Minute (crew Rudy)

Ceilydh Sets Sail

Attainable Adventure Cruising (S/V Morgan's Cloud)


Three at Sea

If you're a cruiser already, never underestimate how much your experience means to those of us in the planning stages. As you already know, it's an overwhelming thing to try and sometimes we lose all hope of succeeding and your kind words keep us on track.  So keep them coming, and Thanks!

Sunday, June 17, 2012


Somehow it seems like I should be celebrating Kintala's return to operational status with more vigor or enthusiasm...or something. Don't get me wrong; getting the boat running in time for Deb's birthday is hugely satisfying, particularly since making the 4th looked unlikely just a few days ago. Puttering quietly between the rows of docked boats on the way to the lake (very quietly, actually very very quietly compared to chewing up a V-drive) seemed anticlimactic; just another boat heading out for an easy weekend tucked away in Coles Creek.

The more I think about it though, the more it seems fitting. Sure we changed a V-drive and transmission, fixed a bell housing, installed new engine mounts (six - thank you very much) and did some serious coolant system plumbing. But I have been fixing things for 40 years and lots of those things were broken far worse than Kintala. It just shouldn't have taken that long or generated that much drama. Looking back I'm a bit embarrassed that it did.

And yet...for a while there The Dream was at serious risk. It is no secret that a lot of people are sailing in turbulent waters these days. Deb and I have seen our share of the storm's buffeting and it would be hard to imagine a worse time for big, expensive bits of boat to come a cropper. In the world of $$ the bad ju-ju of buying high and selling low (think "House") is matched by having expenses explode out of control just as income plummets (think "Boat" and "Jobs"). I have an unparallelled knack for such timing, which is why I am a sailor / pilot / mechanic and stay as far away from the business world as possible! Though the Retirement Project is back on track, it is at least a year behind schedule. Knowing full well that the years passed far outnumber the years left to go, that is no small hit to take. So maybe a little bit of drama was fitting after all?

In any case months of seemingly endless work and countless frustrations are behind us. Certainly more lurk in the future, but hopefully none that will bring us that close to the brink again. For now I am just glad it is done, as well as being deeply touched by the constant words of encouragement that came from so many who are a part of my little corner of the sailing world.

Though it was a perfect weekend in most ways, I fear my sailing moe-joe has lagged far behind my mechanic moe-joe. Kintala's sail plan, and my mastery of same, is still a work in progress. Me, of-flogging-a-tired-Pearson-around-Long Island-in-the-wake-of-a-hurricane experience, was badly out of step in handling the big screecher when the winds picked up. Kintala may be pleased to have a wrench that can make her propeller turn properly again, but she was clearly unimpressed with my line handling skills. The Boat and I may be back on speaking terms (me just swearing at her doesn't count), but you can't say we are friends again, not yet. occurs to me that, in the months since we were towed to the pier and started the V-drive disaster repair, we also installed a new floor under a new head with new poop lines and pump; suffered through the hatch debacle; replaced most of the water lines; built and installed a new nav seat; changed a bunch of lighting; fabricated and installed a back splash / counter / spice rack in the galley, plumbed the water heater, and did countless other little jobs now forgotten in the haze. No wonder I feel like a man recovering form some kind of fever! 

New Recipes

There's a bunch of new recipes over on the Cruising Comforts Page so take a look when you get a chance!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

I turned 56 this week and it occurred to me for the very brief few minutes that I actually thought about it, that I'm older than my boat and I have about as many systems failures as it does. So I decided to go a little easy on her.  Must have helped, because we celebrated this weekend with an absolutely perfect sail. We took off mid-afternoon with very little fanfare since most of The Assembled hadn't manage to assemble at the clubhouse yet. A good thing, this, as I still fully expected something to break (see The Other Shoe post...) and wanted to spare us the grief of hopeful onlookers. But nothing did. We motored quietly and smoothly out of the marina, put up our reacher and mainsail, and proceeded on a beautiful beam reach down the lake toward the dam in 8kts of wind, as forecasted. The reacher is perfect for that kind of wind. Unfortunately it's not so perfect for 21 apparent, which is what the wind quickly built to. We rolled a good bit of it in and had a wonderful romp down the lake at 20° to the dam, post haste. We sailed back towards Coles Creek, our destination for the night, at which point the beam reach wind became on-the-nose wind. It took us as long to get into Coles Creek at 8 tacks than it took to sail all the way to the dam and back. We were determined to sail onto the anchor, though, a skill we practice every chance we get. Determination paid off and and hour and a half later we dropped the hook, backed down on it and pronounced us home, 251 days after the day we'd left there last. We had a refreshing swim in the cool water, a great dinner of steak fajitas, a beautiful sunset and a fabulous night's sleep in the breeze through the hatch.

A typical Cole's Creek sunset

After breakfast of bacon and eggs we headed back so Tim could make a flight Sunday. This time we put up the staysail on the cutter rig, sailed off the anchor, and with the small staysail and the main we were still doing 5.5kts. It was a spectacular weekend and a memorable birthday.

Monday, June 11, 2012

245 Days 15 hours and 45 minutes

We just finished our drive train project.

I had to put that on its own line so I could look at it, savor it, smile, and yet I can't stop myself from looking over my shoulder waiting for the next shoe to drop, because on this boat there's always been a next shoe. But for now, 245 days 15 hours and 45 minutes later, we are finished. The engine is purring on its new engine mounts so quietly that you can actually have a conversation over it in the salon. The tranny is shifting into gear so smoothly that for a moment I thought it hadn't gone into gear at all as I had only heard a small "click", not the "clunk" followed by the lurch that used to signal a change in gear. The V-drive is not clunking, pounding, grinding, or squeeling.

Oh, and I forgot, Kintala has her name proudly displayed on her stern sides. 

Not to say there weren't a few tense moments last night. As Tim posted yesterday, when we put the engine in gear the shaft was moving a bit in concentric circles. The general consensus is that the shaft is slightly bent and the dripless seal with its bellows is allowing movement that a 40-year aviation mechanic (aka Tim) deems unacceptable, but the resident mechanic here says will be fine until we can get the boat to Chicago and change the shaft, dripless seal and cutlass bearing. Since We.Know.Not in most things marine, we have to trust his judgement and hope that the tranny and V-drive will survive minimal usage between now and then. In the mean time, we plod on. Tim will change the engine oil next week and we'll begin to move forward and backward in the 2 slips here till we're sure we can go, and then it's on to Coles Creek.  Yayyyyyyy!

Sunday, June 10, 2012


The exhaust repair hasn't gone quite as planned. The new part ordered, paid for and delivered, isn't the right part. In fact is doesn't even fit in the bilge. But the desire to get this boat / V-drive / retirement project back on track is nearly an obsession, so I took Saturday to slap a repair on the old one. Normally I would be deeply disappointed to discover my repair wasn't perfect, or at least better than the original. The side that was leaking that I fixed actually did turn out pretty close to perfect. Unfortunately the other side that someone else had fixed, that I re-fixed using fiberglass rather than plumbers putty, wasn't. Ergo exhaust can still has small water leak.


But not rats enough to stop progress. Next step? Run engine. With a little stroking here and a few gentle words spoken there Kintala started making engine noises and spitting water into the lake; something that last happened 245 days ago! There were a few minor coolant leaks to track down and repair, but I must say our old engine seems happy in her bed of new mounts.

Next? Shut down engine, engage transmission, turn over whole drive train with starter looking for water leaking into the boat, (bad) and the shaft spinning true, (good). No "bad" but...not sure of the good. As the shaft turned there was clearly some eccentric movement right at the collar for the drip less seal. Not much, but enough to catch this aircraft mechanic's eye. In my world power shafts spin upwards of 20,000 rpm and we measure "true" in .001s of an inch. A shaft spinning out of true enough to see with the naked eye means instant, utterly catastrophic failure with nearly unimaginable energies engaged in an orgy of self destruction. I'd like to say I was a little disappointed but in reality I was close to despair. If this is as bad as I think it might be we are in deep and murky waters. A badly bent shaft or trashed cutlass bearing, or both, will be very difficult to handle here in Carlyle. Just getting the boat out of the water is a huge, and very expensive, undertaking; one we have planned to do just once when we get ready to leave. If Kintala needs such work she may well be just a project boat; floating at this dock for the next year or more; the drive shaft / bearing repair added to the list of things we take care of after we ship her out of here and get near big water.

That means no coving out, no sailing, nothing but working during the week to buy parts I need to work during the weekends. That wasn't really part of the "project" though, if I'm honest, worse things have happened to better people than I.

Then again....

...I have seen much stranger things in the marine world that are apparently considered "normal" and run for hundreds of hours and thousands of miles - as is. A small parade of friends who have been around boats a lot longer than yours truly peered into the dark area of the bilge while I motored her over. Some where aghast, some shrugged allowing as it would need fixed "sooner or later", and some wondered what I was worried about. So I'm going to let it set for tonight. We went sailing with Joel and Emily last night; a perfect mid-night run; one-tack-to-the-dam, one-tack-home. Then we had ice-cream. Then we got just a couple of hours sleep and started today...which turned into a trial. I'm feeling beat down, beat up, beat on, and just plain beat.

Tomorrow I'll go after it again.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Next Thing

With the drive train assembled, all the fluid levels topped, bolts and mounts double checked for torque, and a general once over completed, there seemed to be daylight at the end of the v-drive failure tunnel.  First insert key, power up engine electrical system, and look for smoke.  (A "smoke check" is a brute force way of checking the wiring, but it is effective.) Friend Joel manned the key while I poked around looking for wispies.  No flames but the ignition warning isn't working.  Usually the boat bleats out a complaint if the key is on but the engine isn't running.  I'm not sure what is wrong but it didn't seem a major problem so I just made a note.

I figured the next step wold be turn the engine over with the starter; see what happens.  Then, if all that happens is the normal stuff that happens, start motor, check again, engage drive.  Knowing Kintala as I do, it seemed unlikely it would be that easy.

It wasn't.

As soon as the starter engaged water started to leak onto the top of the exhaust mixer - a small, hat-box looking thing that acts like a muffler on a car except is uses lake water to quiet the engine din.  I had noticed water on top of that box before and always suspected a problem; but it appeared to be a minor problem that was lost in the forest of bigger problems.  And though the mixer box wasn't directly involved in the drive train repair it appears that I disturbed something while being thrashed down in the bilge.  What was a small leak is now a major river of water even with the engine just turning on the starter.  Fire up said engine and it would become a 50 hp water pump flooding the bilge.

And so was discovered the next problem.  Mixer box will need repaired or replaced before engine can be run, which must happen before drive train can be engaged and shaft alignment checked.  It took all of about 10 minutes to get it out of the boat so, as far as Kintala problems go, this looks to be in the minor leagues.  But it is yet another thing that has to be addressed before we can leave the dock.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Home again

Last weekend was spent with Deb, Daughter Eldest, and family while awaiting the arrival of New Grand Baby Youngest.  New Grand Baby Youngest decided to take a few extra days before making his debut so Grampy-T had to bail; spending another couple of days flogging the jet to places hither and yon.  Such flogging landing yours truly in KC for Thur night where, at 0141 this morning I was chirped awake with the news New Grand Baby Youngest had decided to join us; making his entrance at 3:12.

So it is that this evening found me at Kintala for the first time in a couple of weeks.  I know this boat was clean and orderly when I left her, but spiders are industrious little creatures.  Webs and stains from countless eight-legged meals had the boat looking like a derelict.  I scrubbed off some of the offending stains before night fall (and first call at the club house) brought a halt to my efforts.  My plan is to hide in the boat come morning and avoid all temptations to go sailing.  That way I can get a little more clean up work done and then spend a full day beating on, or being beat by, the drive train repair.  The Fourth of July draws neigh, Grand Baby Youngest may usurp yet another weekend (much to my delight), and sailing on other people's boats will not get this one away from the dock.