Friday, July 31, 2015

Subtle shoves

Yesterday's first look at the impeller gave rise to the thought of just leaving it alone. It looked new. Even as good as Oak Harbor has been to us we have been in this place for far too many weeks. The boat is in the water. The summer is rushing by. There are other tasks that need finished before we can go. Why waste a day doing something that doesn't need done? But changing the impeller is routine maintenance, this one was at least a couple of years old, and the cover was already off. So I grabbed it with the recommended pliers and pulled, which is when I discovered it was stuck. After rejecting the first thought of just letting it be, I pulled the pump out, set it on the bench, and let it soak in PB Blaster over night. (Not the whole pump, just where the impeller goes on the shaft.)
This morning Deb scrounged up the recommended JABSCO impeller puller which only managed to rip the rubber blade assembly off of its bronze insert. After some very esoteric attempts at making the puller work, then disassembling the pump from the wrong end backwards (I'm not sure how else to describe it) with the aid of a 12 ton press, the offending impeller insert was finally freed from the exposed shaft with the adroit ministrations of a disk grinder. None of this falls under the heading of “routine maintenance” and the disassembled parts now cover my work bench.

The 5320-0011 guts with which we are becoming all to familiar
Along the way I also discovered that the seals were dry and cracking and the wear plate is badly worn. As it the cover plate. We are looking for a parts kit to rebuild the pump, though it may be that getting a new one will be the better choice. The price is a bit scary though, so we will see.

The odd thing is I almost just let it be, and am not entirely sure why I didn't. The pump was working fine. The Beast, ever since the heat exchanger overhaul, runs at a content 178 degrees and spits plenty of water. There was no evidence that the pump was leaking and no compelling reason to do anything with it, particularly with the other tasks that are still hanging. But a subtle shove had me tripping over the impeller, and the rest unfolded like it was scripted. Had the impeller not been frozen I would never have noticed the other, impending, failures. It is hard to say how before they would have happened, but this time around we hope to be in the water for nearly three years without a major maintenance stop. We hope to be in some places where a pump failure could be a very big deal indeed. There is very little chance it would have gone that long, and a reasonable chance that it would have failed in one of those places. I don't know why I got tangled up with this pump, but I'm glad I did.

Maybe its left over from my aviation days. The best mechanics I worked with always wanted to know the “why” of a failure. Why did this wheel bearing fail inspection while the other nine passed? Why this crack in this place? What is that noise, that odd color, that strange odor? Needing to understand was a habit, nearly an obsession. They didn't miss much and I always felt comfortable flying the airplanes they maintained.

It appears to be a good habit to practice around boats as well.

The impeller was stuck. It isn't a particularly good design and looks susceptible to just such a failure. As it turns out (long story) the impeller puller would never work as advertised on this particular unit. If the impeller gets jammed, there is no getting it free short of taking the pump apart wrong way backwards. But I understand the “why” of it now, and learned that the pump was deep into its service life.  When we leave here that will not be the case.

I'll take that kind of shove any day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Days off?

The solar panel install is off to a slow start with much of yesterday's efforts going into picking out parts and suppliers. Most of that burden falls on Deb with her decades of parts buying and selling experience. I was busy enough talking things over with her and then helping to secure the forestay on a friend's boat that I barely laid a hand on Kintala. So today, needing to accomplish something to feel like progress is still being made, Deb took to starting a sewing project and I turned my attention to the WesterBeast.

Like most gear heads I have changed more than my share of engine belts. Some are easy and some are less so. The Beast, no surprise here, falls into the “less so” bracket. There has always been some wonk surrounding the alternator belt. The Beast's manual shows a list of standard and optional alternators, a list that does not include the Balmar 75 that is actually jammed into the little space available. Part of that jamming included cutting away part of the engine box next to the fridge to make room for the slotted bracket used for setting the belt tension. Every time I have changed that belt it was clear that, someday, whatever it was that was wonked up in there would have to be unwonked. Today was “someday”.

Looking over the top of the alternator at the cutout in the fiberglass for the bracket
Exorcising the wonk included doing a better job of cutting the engine box so that the bracket really did fit in there. The alternator was on and off more than a few times while things were fit, cut, lined up, tweaked, twisted, tightened, loosened, cussed at, and bled over. A life-long mechanic, I don't really enjoy doing mechanical work anymore. I would much rather play with wood, finish decks, or paint interior bits. And I really don't enjoy figuring out ways to patch up the hack-jobs someone else left behind. It is bad enough when I have to patch up my own.

But one must do what one must do so, with much ado, I beat the alternator belt into submission. It is a little tighter than I like. The spare / next belt will be just a little bit longer. At least it shouldn't leave black marks on the case any more.

The water pump belt, on the other hand, is still missing in action. It turns out all of the spares we had on board were spares for the generator that disappeared long ago. As were the impeller spares. Its a bit embarrassing to admit that I allowed us to go wandering around so ill equipped, but there you have it. We got away with it and will not be taunting King Neptune in like manor when we depart this time.

The old impeller looks, looked, almost brand new. Unfortunately it is jammed solid on its shaft and now looks much less new after attempts to pry it loose failed. Come the morrow we will be looking for the special tool it takes to extract a reluctant impeller, and hopefully some reassembly will be accomplished since the whole pump assembly is currently sitting on the work bench. But the Beast may have additional ugly surprises to spring, so no promises on the amount of progress to be made. There is oil and filters yet to be replaced so the Beast may be out of commission until next week, just when the solar panel support bits are due to arrive.

My weekend off already feels like a long time ago.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ahead of the crest

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of Kintala leaving Boulder Marina. It was also my 60th birthday. So it seemed like there should be something special to say about the day, some profundity, some wisdom. But...I got 'nutten.

That isn't to say it wasn't a good day. I got birthday calls from Daughters Three and various grand kids, which will always make my day. Also, I really did take a full day off from working on the boat. Not a tool was touched. Not a screw turned. We had a nice Mexican Dinner with a small group of friends and family then returned to our floating tiny house. I think it safe to say I had a day much, much better than many people in the world ever have. Sixty years in and the biggest mystery in my life is why am I one of the luckiest of people? Lets face it, I am white, male, and living in the early dying stages of the most powerful empire the planet has ever known. Cracks are showing in the foundation and the next generation is going to know a completely different America, and a completely different world, than the one I have lived in. But I am riding the most exhilarating part of a monster wave before the crest breaks and washing machines the world. Most lottery winners don't have it that good.

So today started the push to get done and get gone once again. With tape measure in hand we started looking at mounting one additional solar panel. A job which, almost immediately, morphed into a major rebuild of the Bimini frame and cover. I get to rebuild the frame. Deb gets to make a new Bimini though I'm hoping to scam a little pilot-in-command time on the Sailrite machine. I'm guessing a minimum of two weeks before this job gets done. That puts us gone in the middle of August, plenty of time to do a little Chesapeake Bay exploring before the weather urges us south.

And then, who knows? Just stay ahead of the crest.

Friday, July 24, 2015

173 steps to paradise

If it was a choice between full time living on a boat on the hard or living in a well-constructed cardboard box under a bridge I would, of course, choose the boat. But it would be a close call. If the choice was between the boat and a “tiny house” located halfway up a pretty mountain, the tiny house would win hands down. Living in a boat on the hard is hard living that gets old fast. Kintala was in the stands for 70 nights, plus one night in the sling. The good news is that we were visiting family and friends in PA, IN, and MO for 36 of those days. I'm not sure what little sanity I have left to work with would have made it the whole 70 days otherwise.

Like most cruisers, while we are living hard on the hard we are also working hard on the boat. That many “hards” all lined up and added together are enough to suck all the fun out of a day. But at the moment Kintala is stern-to and secure between the pilings. It is an easy step from dock to deck, which is 173 steps from where bottom of the ladder touched the ground less than 24 hours ago. That doesn't seem like a long enough walk to get to paradise, but there is enough of a breeze to move the boat gently from slack to tight on her lines and we can hear the ducks splashing down just a few feet away. Light dancing with the water reflects on the Bimini and cabin tops and there are no cars crunching by throwing a cloud of dust into the cockpit. The 9,000-pound lead keel is now a heat sink bathed in cool water rather than a radiator slow roasting the boat. Pleasing as those physical changes might be, though, the most important change touches the heart.

We are not on land anymore. There is no physical barrier between Kintala's hull and Mother Ocean. We are free to move about the planet at our discretion.

It doesn't even matter that we will not be moving about the planet for a couple of weeks yet. There is a new solar panel to install and Deb has many magic canvas ideas waiting to flow off her sewing machine to make our lives easier. There is engine maintenance to do and one deck repair to finish. All of which could be done swinging off the anchor if we so choose.

I think we will sleep well tonight.

Full tilt boogie

Monday morning Deb and I discussed a work schedule that would work with a tentative August 16 splash day. Within a hour of that discussion we were informed that Kintala needs to be back in the water as quickly as feasible. Not really ASAP, but close. The reasons have to do with being on the hard, some Maryland state regulations, and $10,000 fines. I'm not sure I understand it all but Ken, marina owner and trusted friend, wants it that way. And that is really all we needed to know to initiate the mad scramble.

Monday late morning we started painting the bottom. Midway through, the temperature was in the mid 90's.  With the paint nearly setting up in the pans, a relentless pace was the only option.  By evening it was done though we were totally knackered.  I nearly fell asleep in the shower.

Tuesday, first thing, we went looking for parts. Then we unloaded the lazarette so I could spend the rest of the day under the cockpit replacing the scupper hoses. Tight space, terrible access even with parts of the cockpit taken apart, hot temps, and enough sharp bits to draw blood. When that was done we re-assembled the cockpit and reloaded the lazarette, taking some time to discard stuff that has been living in there for a couple of years now.  Stuff we have never used. Lines mostly, some of which came with the boat already well past their prime. I'm not sure why, but it seems a near universal sailor's trait to shudder at the thought of throwing away a line. We even debated throwing away a rock-climbing rope – which is about totally useless on a boat – because, well, it was a line. (Long boring story as to how it got on the boat in the first place.)

Then we scrounged up enough hardware to bed the anchor chain lock plate back on the fore deck. Deb is not fond of tight, small places; which is a good description of any sailboat's anchor locker. But she climbed in there anyway, so that job got done. With that finished I hoisted 200 feet of rode, 125 feet of chain, and our 65-pound Mantus back on board. It was evening by the time the anchor was locked into its normal place on the bow.  Totally knackered times two, and I might have faded for a minute or two while the cool water flowed over my neck and shoulders.  

Today (Wednesday) Deb spent the day getting the interior ready to float again. It is hard to explain to those whose homes never move just how different is life is on the water than is life on the land. Nothing can really be left just laying about, things can't be stacked too high, and cabinets need arranged so stuff doesn't come spilling out at the slightest provocation. Disciplines that are routine on the water, quickly go by the wayside when on the hard. We have been out of the water for nearly 70 days and in full project mode. One might say our living space was pretty much out of control.

I spent the day waxing the hull. Though the boat shows a few battle scars from full time cruising, she looks pretty good all shiny up top and painted on the bottom. Fitting the wind vane steering rudder with new bungees, and then re-installing same, finished off the day. 

Deb, in addition to working as hard as I am, is also nursing a damaged foot. (That seems to happen a lot on boats.)  Knackered times three I may be, but my full tilt boogie has been easier than hers.  I kept the shower water cold enough to prevent falling asleep.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to go into the lift at 1400. The prop still needs painted and the bottom paint finished. We need to take enough stuff off the boat to spend a night sleeping…somewhere. Sleeping on a boat in the slings is strictly forbidden.  That seems a bit silly to me. Sleeping on a boat in a sling can't possibly be any more hazardous than sleeping on one over a weekend, anchored out where the power boats and jet skies play.  I'm pretty sure some drunk can't run me down in the lift... unless he is in his car.  In which case the car would likely cushion our fall and all would be well with the world.  But rules is rules.

Friday morning at 0900 Kintala gets wet once again.  I expect to be in zombie land, not sure where I am or what I am doing, but getting it done nonetheless.  Once safely tied into a slip we may take the rest of the day off.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chock full of tales

The port side salon rebuild is in the bag moving the bow repair to the head of the line. There are actually several individual items needing a look: bow cleats, anchor roller, anchor chain lock, and the starboard side line chock. The chock garnered the most concern since it appeared to have been damaged in the storm we rode out off Fox Town. Such a thing doesn't come loose unless something is squished, crushed, stripped, or otherwise rendered not up to factory spec. Kintala's bow chocks are very far forward, just inches behind the bow peak. Access to the underside is anything but pleasant.
Any serious repair to that area would rank as a first class pain in the patute.

The chocks are held down by two 5/16 inch screws that go through a plate and into the deck right at the hull / deck joint. The aft one was loose and came out with just a bit of twisting and pulling. It was too easy for what should have been a damaged fastener. It came free with some kind of dried sealant (4200 maybe) all the way down the threads.  That generally indicates that the threads were never in any kind of a nut or insert; not what I expected to see.

The front screw offered a bit more resistance, expected since it appeared to be the only one actually threaded into something. However, when it came free it too had dried sealant all the way from head to tail. With my mechanic's sense in full puzzle mode further investigation ensued. There was some serious wonk going on with Kintala's starboard bow. It seemed likely that marine industry human wanker wonk was lurking just out of sight.

And so it turned out to be.

Close examination showed that the starboard side chock was 3/8s of an inch narrower than the port side. Though close, the two parts were obviously not a match. Worse, the mounting holes on the port side chock, port side hull, and starboard side hull, are on 6 and  ½ inch centers. The odd ball starboard side chock has 6 and 5/8 inch centers. In other words it doesn't fit.

It is close though, only 1/8 inch off. It was far enough off to keep the screws from lining up with the inserts bedded in the hull. But it was close enough to allow the “installer” to slightly oversize the holes in the deck plate and fiberglass, then drive short screws into place coated with sealant. With the bonding of the additional sealant under the block itself, there was no way to tell that the chock was not actually attached to the bow in any way. It was, quite literally, just stuck on there and held in alignment with a couple of pins masquerading as 5/16s mounting screws.

The sealant, as it turned out, was pretty good stuff. Under normal docking and anchoring loads it held fine. It even handled the storms in Oriental and Charleston, though in both places it shared the load with other chocks and lines. Since those storms we have taken to running the anchor snubbing lines off just one side of the bow. Kintala seems to ride to her anchor better that way, particularly when the wind and waves pick up.

So in Fox Town the starboard chock was on its own. With a Mantus 65 hung off one end, a 23,000 pound Tartan hung off the other, and 50 knot winds driving green water over the fore deck, the sealant holding the aft screw had met its match. Fortunately for us the pitching loads were trying to drive the front screw through the deck rather than pulling it out. The next morning we sailed serenely away unaware of just how lucky we had been.

The best repair for the wonk will be finding the correct part to put on the bow. Since these chocks seem to come in sets of two we will probably end up changing both. This also leads me to believe that the wanker who installed the wonk did so because he just happened to have a chock lying around that was close enough. Why buy a new part when you can put an old part on the boat, and then charge the owner for new? Win – win, right? The boat gets a part.  The installer makes a few extra pennies.

And what does it matter if the thing isn't actually attached.

No one will ever know.


Friday, July 17, 2015

The Friday Life

I remember it well, even now several years later. Sunday afternoon I would feel the weight beginning to descend on my shoulders, the muscles tightening. By Sunday night the restlessness would set in. I would sometimes be sick to my stomach. My sleep was disturbed. I had to go back to work early Monday morning.

I worked through my requisite 50 hours, just waiting out the time till we left for the boat on Friday. Good friends waited there, and Kintala waited with her warm, inviting salon and my familiar galley. The second the clock clicked over to 5:00 I was out the door. I was a happy camper.

Now on this side of the equation, I watch the workers around me. I see it in their faces, that distant look, the tightened shoulders, the firm set to their mouths. I feel for them. I remember the dream feeling so far away.

But now we're here. I'm so glad to be part of the Friday Life. Every day is the same sigh of relief. Every day is full of anticipation. Every day has time to enjoy the sunrise and the sunset and the odd cloud formations and the ripples in the water. Yesterday we had a visit from some long-time blog followers. Steve and Jan from Chestertown motored over in their Heritage East to spend some time celebrating the Friday Life with us and our friends David and Nancy. On Thursday. I was feeling incredibly blessed to have taken the leap of faith and gone cruising.

Won't you come join us?

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Living easy, living large

For a couple of retired people living easy and large on a sailing yacht, we have occasional days that spin completely out of control. All in a good way, of course. Yesterday was such a day.

It started simply enough with finishing up the inverter install being the only thing on the menu. Before that really got started Deb accepted an invitation to crew in the Wednesday night race, with a 1730 departure-from-the-dock time. No problem. Even I couldn't stretch finishing up the install to take up a whole day. And it didn't.
What took up the whole day was discovering that one of the parts we bought for that finish wasn't in the box they sent us. A different, though similar, part had been put in the box at the factory. As a result the really important part, a 200 amp ANL fuse, didn't fit in the part that came out of the box, which was supposed to be an ANL fuse holder...but wasn't.


After spinning of wheels searching for some traction to get the job going again, the best option seemed to be making the run to Annapolis to get the right part that should have been in the box in the first place. So off we went. It is a bit of a hike from here to Annapolis so, since we were there already and to save Deb the trouble of having to drive back a second time, some provisioning shopping was in order. Such shopping included a visit to the beer store. In order? Indeed. (It is amazing how difficult a job just finding beer can be depending on the liquor laws from state to state.)

Which is the excuse for not getting started on the inverter install until 1400 in the afternoon. It went as expected. Undo much of what had been already done, do some of it over, than redo the do-over until the bits fit the parts and the inverter hummed a happy tune of turning DC into AC. (No panties in wads please, I'm talking electricity.)

The last screw went into place at EXACTLY 1730. A quick change of work clothes to crew clothes and a dash to the dock. Let the sailing begin.

Begin it did, and it was grand.

Though Deb and I are not of the racing clan in the sailing world, Derek (he of power boat tour fame) is an amicable Captain with a long history of racing these waters. The fleet was of a good size, the course well laid out, and the winds hovered in the mid 20s for the entire evening. We had rails in the water, laid in close to other racers, passed a few, got passed by a few, and played tag with a car-carrier-ship at one of the marks. They race around shipping lanes in these parts and everyone seems to get along just fine while doing so.

In two laps of a 2.5 mile course we probably tacked more times than we did during the entire last trip to the Islands. Of course tacking a Person 303 is a fair bit easier than tacking Kintala with her full cutter rig flying, but it was still a pretty good workout. After a few, we had the routine down, giving every appearance of being a well-oiled racing machine.

The only down side to the evening was that the vigorous heeling scattered everything we had brought on throughout the interior. Oops. No damage. No foul. But we haven't done anything like that for too many months.

It was nearly 2200 before we climbed the ladder onto Kintala's deck, making for a very long day. One that veered from the frustration of the wrong part in the right box, to the sublime of tacking side-by-side another boat in 20+ knots worth of wind,  a car-carrier as the backdrop.

I guess we are living easy and living large well on a sailing yacht after all.

Six inches of mayhem

A couple of weeks ago I installed a propane sniffer under the stove. Then I punched a 2 ½ inch hole in the wall in the galley to mount the alarm / control panel. The sensor is exactly 57 inches from that panel. It took roughly 14 feet of cable to go from the sensor, forward into the area under the sink, across and down into the bilge, aft through the bilge and up into the engine compartment, more up across the front of the engine compartment, into the storage area under the companionway ladder, and to the back of the the control panel. But I only had to drill two holes.

Fortunately the harness that came with the unit was 25 feet long. All that was left to do was power up the unit from the USB power plug mounted just inches away. The day was getting on at that point and I am determined not to hurt myself this summer by working endless 10 and 12 hour days with too much heat and not enough drink. (Truth to tell it isn't clear that I ever recovered from last summer in FL. Those kinds of long days are simply not something I can do right now.) So the plan was to finish the propane sniffer install the next day.

The next day dawned sunny and not too hot, perfect for starting the minor repair at the keel joint. (Apparently an old Tartan will smile just like a Catalina.) There was some additional sanding to do below the water line and around the keel, so a couple of days went by. There was every intention of wiring up the sniffer after that, but somehow the LED lights intervened, which morphed into the cabin mod, which led to wiring the LEDs into both sides of the salon, and also got us started on adding the inverter we have been carrying around for the better part of a year.

We took a day off to go help some new friends on their 38 foot Leopard. There was a minor crack in the edge of the aft arch. An easy fix but Tom had no experience slinging glass. His career was spent slinging the things one slings when accumulating more than 1700 jumps as a special forces guy. His wife was special forces as well, also a JAG. I pried as many stories out of them as I could but, like most combat vets, they were reluctant to talk much about where they had been and what they had seen. Still, I got some insight into HALO jumps, something that I would have loved to have tried had I ever had the chance. And I count it an honor to have such people as friends. Anyway...

The next day they sailed off to places north and we went back to work on Kintala. The last of the sniffer install waited a bit more as other work was also half done. That other half work was supposed to get done this morning, with the sniffer install being completed in the afternoon. Alas, that got waylaid by the need to defrost the fridge and thus discovering the teak grids at the bottom of the fridge were accumulating a certain...well...ambiance. Chasing away said ambiance required the efforts of the the pressure washer. With the grates smelling sweet and the pressure washer still all powered up and everything, it seemed a good idea to blast the accumulated dirt off the deck and out of the cockpit. By the time that was done, enough of the day was gone that the inverter would have to wait. But it wasn't really happy hour yet either. Two wires on the sniffer seemed the perfect filler job to finish out the day.

One would think, by now, I would know better.

Doing that job took dikes, crimper, soldering iron, heat gun, drill motor, 7/8 inch wood bore (to counter bore the fuse holder since it was too short for the wall thickness) ½ inch drill for the holder itself, round files, heat shrink, assorted screwdrivers, butt splices, zip ties, and a volt meter. (Kintala has no wire color code in her. The only way to know if a wire is hot is to check it with a meter...or just grab hold. If you dance, it's hot.) The little screw for hooking the power wire in the control box was so tight I nearly broke the thing trying to get it loose. (Thank you, factory twit.)  Afterwards was the normal clean up of wood dust, wire strippings, zip tie ends, and general mayhem.

Two wires.

About six inches long.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

For the best

It is no secret that I am a skeptic of all things woo, but that doesn't mean I am impervious to the strange goings-on in the cosmos. For months Deb and I talked about rebuilding the port-side pilot berth into something more usable. As is common with such musings, the mind's eye comes up with a vague sort of vision of what the area will look like after it's done. In that vision are the types of materials one imagines would be right for the job.

For many of us living on the edge of society, how much money will be needed to make the vision a reality is an integral part of any such discussions. (It is a part of such discussions for most of those living in the middle of society as well, which says something about the society.) When the LED light project morphed into the interior rebuild, it was time to come up with the materials.

That same day we heard the wood working shop here at the marina was closing down.  When we arrived and the yard didn't have anywhere to put our boat, we took a slip next to Hugh and his wife. Within a couple of days neighbors became friends. You guessed it. During the winter, Hugh went cruising. In the summer, he ran the wood shop. But the time has come for them to make a final move south. He, like all good craftsmen, had a collection of stuff from other projects that didn't need to go along. We were welcome to go through it and see if we could find the material we needed for out interior build. And at a very attractive price.

Visions of the completed project were quickly abandoned.  We would make do with whatever we could find.

At its most basic, the job required two shelves. One would replace the deck under the berth with something more attractive than rough-hewn plywood. A second would be mounted about 2/3 the way up to the cabin top, just deep enough to hold electronics. Two fiddles were needed as well. One to replace the rather massive looking rail that lurked at the edge of the berth to keep people from falling out of bed. It was so thick and beefy that it seemed to fill that side of the cabin all of its own. A second fiddle was needed to keep the electronics from spilling off the top shelf and cascading across the cabin. It would be visually attractive if both were less massive than the original, but still matched. Then there was the odd bit of this and that to trim it in and make it look like it belonged there.

As Deb worked her way through the pile, setting first this aside and then that, I was more than a little skeptical. Though my vision of the completed job was never very detailed, none of the stuff she had in the pile looked right to me.

One would think, by now, I would know better.

She found a teak and holly bit of plywood that would make the lower shelf. A piece of left-over marine grade plywood would make a light colored top shelf. She picked out two long pieces of spindle rail to serve as matching fiddles. Admittedly they were lighter – both in mass and color – than that overbearing lower berth rail. But somehow, leaned up against the wall, all I could think of was an old lady's house. There was a very classy looking wood handle that would make lifting the lower shelf out to access the storage space underneath easy. I was pretty sure that would be okay.  In any case, with the price and the fact the stuff was already in the place where the work was being done, I would just have to do the best I could and live with the aesthetics.

The project came together like magic. Within a day the bottom shelf was cut and rough fit. Two days later the top shelf fit in at an angle completely un-imagined at first, but one that works perfectly for what we need. The two parallel fiddles / spindle rails change the whole cabin interior into something special while almost hiding their functionality. End trim cut from the old berth fiddle, now used on the top shelf and matching that of the lower shelf, complete the illusion. All built from fire-sale stuff left over from who knows how many other projects, sitting around for who knows how many years. Yet it was perfect. It was like the cosmos was deliberately compensating for my modest woodworking skills while still steering us toward the look and functionality that best fit Kintala's interior needs.

Chain plate access on the port side, always a sore spot with me, is now a matter of removing a dozen screws and lifting out a panel. The two compartments under the bottom shelf are easier to open. The whole thing is so much better than a mattress no one ever used, piled high with stuff, filling up space.

Since the whole project got started as "a little light project" it wouldn't be finished until there really were new lights mounted somewhere in the area.  We had, in fact, taped some lights up here and there on that very first day, before any bits of wood went flying .  Nothing looked right.  The decision of exactly where the lights should go was put aside.  Sometimes it happens that the sub-conscience chews on a problem while the conscience mind measures. trims, cuts, and brushes on clear coat; a bit of internal woo, if you will.

Kintala now boasts a strip of lights, port and starboard, embedded in the trim that covers the mounting hardware for the staysail sheet tracks.  In this case the woo (and our little hand router) worked wonders.

There is, of course, no serious woo involved with a wood shop closing down and selling off some old stock at a good price. There is no woo to us being here when that happened since we do, after all, have to be someplace.  And the internal woo that came up with a good idea isn't really that wooish. It happens to people all the time.

Still, it never hurts to be grateful when things work out for the best.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Hydrocoat 2-year update

If you haven't already seen it, the Hydrocoat 2-year update is now up on the Hydrocoat tab.

Hydrocoat Review

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Power boat tour

A different view than on Kintala
We have been on the hard for more than 50 days. Work on Kintala is progressing just fine and we certainly hope to have her back in the water way before 50 more days pass. Still, watching a boat pull away from the dock for an evening or weekend sail will spark a moment's jealousy. So when Derek, son of the marina owner, invited us on an evening boat ride to see the race fleet last Wednesday we jumped at the chance to get off the land for a bit.

The family has two boats floating in slips here. One is an abandoned sailboat that they ended up with and did a ton of work to. It is a beautiful little cabin boat now, one that would make any owner proud.

The other is a Boston Whaler center console power boat. This one also came needing a ton of work. Since they were at it anyway,  a new 6 cylinder Mercury (4.3 liter?) was shoehorned in place. This current boat replaced a slightly larger version of the Boston Whaler the family once owned. Derick's story was that that boat had also enjoyed a major engine upgrade. An upgrade which put a little more raw power into the hull than the hull was really built to handle. Eventually it was sold to another person who understood that, when it comes to internal combustion used to make something go fast, there is no such thing as too much horsepower.

There is much to be said for working on one's own boat in a yard where the owner and his crew routinely do such things.
Anyway...Derek has a choice of sail or power. Since the Whaler had not been out much yet this year, he elected to give it a chance to breathe a little. My rides on powerboats have been few. Back on Carlyle there was one ride on a jet ski, one ride on a pontoon boat, and one on a little blue open bowed boat of indeterminate power. That's it. I told Derek I had never really been on a powerboat before, which might not have been entirely true. But it was close.

We motored down the creek at a sedate “NO WAKE” pace. I even took the helm for a minute or two while Derek searched for the key to unlock the cover over the navigation boxes. These being his home waters there was no real need for the GPS. Since the boat was powered up anyway it seemed a good idea to warm up the electronics as well. Once on the Bay he turned to port, instantly putting us in waters we have seen but never sailed. Up ahead was the Frances Scott Key bridge. Just beyond it lay a marker that notes the point where, on the night of September 12 – 14, 1812 the HMS Tonnant, with Francis Scott Key aboard to negotiate a prisoner exchange, sat during the siege of Fort McHenry. Later Key wrote the poem “Defence of Fort M'Henry” describing his experience of that battle. A poem that became the National Anthem of these United States. It was a pretty cool tour near the Fourth of July Holiday.
Fort McHenry

Just south of the Bridge is the tiny spit of a man-made island, Fort Carroll. It was never really finished and, it seems, was never much of a Fort. In 1958 an attorney bought it with the idea of building a casino. Those plans never worked out and now the Island is overgrown with trees, home to uncounted birds, and still surrounded by a wall. It is a sure bet the adventuresome still visit the place. I know I would have, had I grown up anywhere around here and had access to a boat.  The closest we got was a slow motor around the place while Derek told stories of it being a stash point for an enterprising marina thief a few years ago.

Tour over, Derek turned the bow back toward White Rocks and gave the Merc free reign. We flew across the water at nearly 40 mph. Which was okay...sort of. Well, actually, it wasn't my favorite part of the ride. There is something about a power boat going fast, pounding against the waves, that strikes me as a protest. A motorcycle going fast flows along the road. An airplane going fast, down low, is pure magic. The Z-car at full song well, sang.

A power boat going fast is just a beating, a bit like a motocross bike. (Which is why I never spent much time in the dirt.) Still, to each his own, and we certainly enjoyed our evening on the water, a good look at the sailboat fleet, and one of the more interesting historical tours we have taken in a while. And I have certainly been on a power boat now.

Thanks Derek.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

It started as a little light project

One of the big differences between older sailboats and newer sailboats is that the new ones are much brighter inside. Our Tartan is a bit cave like. She isn't as dim and shadow encrusted as other older boats I have been on, but there is no mistaking our interior for something light and bright and airy. There is a pretty cool and hi-tech fix for chasing away darkness, LED strip lights. Since adding some interior wattage is on the list and as it is raining in these parts yet again, an inside job was just the ticket for both keeping busy and getting us that much closer to going back in the water.

Hi-tech LED lights are pretty easy things to add. Use the sticky on the magic rope of light to mount it where it needs to be, then run a couple of wires. It is that “running a couple of wires” bit that can be make the job less easy. It turned out getting to where the wiring needed to go to chase the shadows away from the port side of the cabin above the pilot berth, meant getting behind the overhead panel. That involved taking out five trim strips, two panels, (not including the overhead) one shelf, one 110V electrical box, the wood trim box built to hold that box, the cover panel over for the chain plate, and two of the mount strips for that panel. None of that was obvious when the first screw was removed to take off the single panel that looked like it would get the job done.

I used to think that aviation had a lock on the world's sadists when it came to designing interiors. I was wrong!

Another difference between older and newer boats in interior space and storage. For a 42 foot boat Kintala comes up short on both. A big interior space waster is that pilot berth on the port side. That is one of the five – count 'em, five! – berths that came with the boat. Throw in the starboard side settee and the fact that two of the berths will hold two, and Kintala came from the factory equipped to sleep eight. She also came with a single head.

Eight people.

One head.

That morning traffic jam would make any commuter in any large city feel like they had the road to themselves. The accumulated morning breath of those huddled outside the head door waiting their turn would, all by itself, peel the finish off the walls. Additional odoriferous contributions by those waiting their turn at the facility are too horrible to even contemplate. The marine interior designer for this boat was a sadist on multiple levels, setting a new low for depravity.

Even I am not crazy enough to invite 7 other people to overnight in 400 square feet of living space with a single head. Long ago, the starboard side quarter berth in the aft cabin went away to make room for work shop / storage area. In addition, the pilot berth in the cabin was modified to make room for a storage area under it, one that fits rolls of fabric Deb uses to create things that makes our life aboard that much easier. 

Pilot Berth Stage 1. Upper shelf construction to commence shortly
Even with that mod, the berth quickly became a landing zone for things tossed, the mattress piled higher and deeper with stuff that just couldn't find a home anywhere else. Thus the port side of our cabin is an OCD nightmare, prone to spilling things across the salon when the boat heels, and a dark little cave all of its own. We have long been planning a serious modification to that area, making it a real and secure storage place, as well as making room for a tidy charging station for lap tops, phones, iPads, etc.   

Adding the LED wiring had that area of the interior shedding parts like a dog shaking off water. The remodeling was on this summer's list anyway. And I didn't want to take it apart twice. So the light project quickly morphed into a major interior modification.

Some day, I swear, this boat will be ready to go cruising.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Kindle version of How NOT to Buy a Cruising Boat is live!

(Ed Note: Sorry for the technical nature of this post. Ignore if you have no interest in how Kindle books come to your screen.)
If you ever thought you might want to write a book and then turn it into a Kindle prepared for a bit of a nightmare. we originally did the book, I uploaded the file to the Kindle converter that Amazon offers and the results were, well - how do I say this diplomatically - less than satisfactory. I was sort of surprised since uploading my previous children's book to Kindle went so well. I contacted a friend of ours who had recently published a novel in the same Kindle platform to ask about his experience. He indicated that he had very little trouble. His book was a straight novel with very little formatting other than chapter titles and paragraphs, but our book was full of tables, lists, graphics, and footnotes, and those were causing a world of formatting issues since Kindle doesn't support tables.

I posted in forums, asking what others were doing and began to experiment with the various programs they suggested. The results went from less than satisfactory to just downright bad. I would get it looking good in one version of Kindle and it would look terrible in another. Frustration ensued, and, all the while, comments were pouring in from our Facebook pages asking when the Kindle version would be available.

One forum member suggested that the only way to solve the issue was to strip the original document of all formatting, save it as text, and begin the arduous task of formatting it in HTML code, a process that I'm all too familiar with due to my last marketing job.

You see, Kindle books are not like paper books in many more ways than you think. They have no page structure and no page numbering. The book is one continuous document with the exception of page breaks at the head of each chapter which force the Kindle reader to a clean, next screen. They also don't recognize the carriage return that you use to end a paragraph when you're writing a typical Word document, so each paragraph must be enclosed in a <p> tag. All the bold, all the italics, all the footnotes, all the chapter headings and subheadings are lost into one giant jumble of text and need to be enclosed in tags. All of the websites mentioned in the paper copy would need linked to their web pages in the Kindle copy. There were a lot of links in the manuscript. One hundred and thirty-eight pages of our print book would take a substantial amount of time to code. I had the skills, but with the boat on the hard and projects begging for attention, I was less than enthused.

One forum member said that he had good luck with a program called KindleWriter2, a program designed to input the code quickly through the use of a toolbar with all of the codes Kindle accepts (and they don't accept very many). I went to the site and saw that they had a 30-day free trial so I downloaded it. In short order I had my text imported and most of the formatting done. There were a few wrinkles, for sure, most of them involving the Table of Contents which becomes linkable in the Kindle, but an email to the author resolved those quickly. It took a week from the day of download to the day of publish, but a good bit of that time was fixing errors in my original manuscript that had been missed, and in converting tables to lists, and in sizing graphics. I also took time to fix the original paper manuscript errors and to send them in for revision, something you can do with Amazon since they print on demand as the book is ordered.

The Kindle version went live this morning and I am one happy camper. So, if you're thinking about selling everything and buying a cruising boat and sailing off into the wild blue yonder, we'd love to see you buy the book. If you already bought the paper version and would like the Kindle one as well, you can get one at a greatly reduced price through the Book Match program on Amazon. Whichever version you buy, the dollars will be well spent, I promise you, and may save you a ton of money and heartache down the road. If you like the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon because the reviews help our sales and we're trying very hard not to have to park the boat and go back to work. We'd also love to hear your comments here on the blog after you've read the book. Just go easy on us - we're very tired writers.

So now, if it's OK with everyone, I'm going to take a little writing break before I start on the next children's book. And while I'm reading on my Kindle, I think I'll be a lot slower to criticize an author for spelling or grammar errors because I know the nightmare they went through.

(Ed Note: In the continuing saga, it seems Amazon somehow unlinked the Kindle version to the print version so the Kindle version only comes up in the search if you specifically choose the Kindle Store in the dropdown menu. They are in the process of fixing it.)