Sunday, July 31, 2016

Hanging out

So there I was, lying butt deep in an anchor locker with only my legs below the knee out on the v-berth. Scattered around were the various tools of the spark chaser's trade; side cutters, wire strippers, crimping tool, drills, screwdrivers, splices and connectors. Hanging from under the foredeck was the freshly installed windlass motor, a task that took days longer than anticipated. Unanticipated was the need to hack away part of the under-deck to make the motor drive fit, the need to fill multiple holes left over from the old windless, and the need to repair other holes just left over from who knows when for who knows why. That work required suiting up in the full tyvek rig, hood, gloves, mask, glasses; then grinding fiberglass, laying new glass, filling, smoothing, rough sanding (it is the inside of an anchor locker after all) and painting. Stuff normally found in the glass slinging manual, not the spark chaser's guide to happiness.

With the windlass motor finally hanging in place, the tyvek suit could be laid aside. Making sense of the typically amateurish wiring diagram that is the marine industry's idea of information, and getting the wiring straight became the next task. Required in that wiring mass was a 5 amp fuse to protect the control circuit. (The motor / windlass itself runs on a 150 amp circuit carried by #2 wire; stuff that is about ½ inch in diameter. Fun to work with lying in a tiny anchor locker and working over your head.)

And, right then, the strangest thought crosses my mind, “Why is the fuse holder and its wiring black?”

Every fuse I have ever installed goes in the hot side of a DC circuit. The hot side is red, red wire, red rubber boots on the connection Black is ground. (Or yellow if one is working on a boat.) Fuse holders and the wiring should be red.

Stupid thing to think about stuffed in an anchor locker wiring up a windlass. Then I thought, “Well, if one doesn't know that a fuse is in the hot side of the circuit, regardless of what color it is, one probably shouldn't be in an anchor locker wiring up a windlass in the first place.”

Two stupid thoughts in less than a minute. Not even close to a record for me, but I'm going to claim that the heat may play a part in sparking such fruitless musing. By 0900 temps in the areas we are working hover in the mid 90s. Stuffed in small holes or working on a boat in the sun will see triple digits for most of the working day. It is enough to fuzz up anyone's thinking.

I puzzled over such silliness for a few more moments, then got back to chasing sparks. There are a lot of things needing wired in this boat. There are 1200 amp hours of house batteries, two start batteries, dual shore power plugs, a 4000 watt inverter / charging system, bow thruster, water heater, five pumps, two entertainment systems (one audio, one TV), two engine harnesses, lights (salon, v-berth, cockpit, helm, navigation, head, spot, and underwater), trim tabs, autopilot, and navigation systems. (I still call them “avionics”, which amuses Boss New.) There is a big cooling fan in the locker holding the inverter so said inverter doesn't cook itself to death turning DC into AC, a few connections to make the stove work, and the head uses electricity to flush.

There is no real good idea how long this is going to take. Wiring up a new boat with new stuff is one thing, and I am sure it chews up months of the build time. Wiring up an old boat with new stuff is another thing. For various reasons, wiring runs for the old stuff will not work for the new stuff, assuming they exist at all. Bow thruster, inverter / charger, and underwater lights are new systems never before seen on this boat. Getting all of this wire to where it needs to go often means installing new conduit runs, some of which need to be glassed in place. Don't dump the tyvek suit just yet. (For the initiated...bow thruster and inverter will require roughly 140 feet of 4/0 wire be run somewhere. Yee Haw!) All things considered, my guess is wiring up an old boat like this takes about half again as long as it would take in a new boat.

All listed out like that it gets a bit overwhelming. (One of the reasons I don't like lists.) But each day is just another day's work. It is the kind of work that (usually) makes a day go by at a good pace. I rarely find myself wondering if the day is ever going to end though, sometimes, looking back on a day that is just ending it feels like it went on forever. The heat again.

It would be a lot more fun to write about anchoring in the Islands or exploring parts of the Keys we haven't seen yet. But that isn't what we are doing right now, Deb is turning Kintala into a very well-founded boat.

And I hang out in anchor lockers.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


When I was learning how to fly, the one concept that my flight instructor impressed on me, probably more than any other, was situational awareness. Wikipedia has a pretty interesting definition of it:

Situational awareness or situation awareness (SA) is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event.

In flying, the concept is applied regarding the temptation to fixate on a single point. When you're landing, you tend to get fixated on the numbers at the end of the runway instead of keeping the entire runway environment in your field of concentration, making it possible to literally not see a plane you're about to crash into. When you're in the air, it's easy to fixate on the instruments, ignoring the approaching weather or traffic. To be situationally aware is to stay alive.

Situational awareness is one of those acquired skills that transferred well to sailing. When you're sailing, it's easy to fixate on the interior of the cockpit - the instruments, the sail trim, the tangle of sheets, the conversations on the radio. Fixating on this small area can lead you to interfere dangerously in traffic flow or, like flying, to miss the signs of approaching weather. It can also lead you to miss a sign that something is wrong.

The cutter rig down stay with the broken strand
Not too long after we got to Snead Island Boat Works, I was in the chain locker at the foot of the V-berth doing a little research on an upcoming project. It's pretty dark in the chain locker so I was using  my flashlight. I was aiming the light toward the forward most part of the bow, but in the process something just caught the edge of my peripheral vision. A small thing, a tiny strand of the wire in the cutter rig downstay had worked loose. Not a huge issue, but the downstay needed replaced and the consequences of missing it would have been highly unpleasant.

On a boat, especially a sailboat, situational awareness is paramount. Always being aware of the condition of the rig, ever looking for weak points in the sail stitching, checking for missing cotter keys, looking for the first signs of approaching weather, listening for irregularities in sounds, all play into your safety and, as a result, your enjoyment of the lifestyle. While we have scheduled inspections on Kintala (Tim walks the deck before every sail - preflight, if you will), it's that constant situational awareness that will catch most things before they become big things.

Situational awareness is a learned skill, a practiced art. It involves relaxing, because the more tense you are the less situationally aware you are. It involves not being preoccupied with meaningless chatter like your Facebook feed. If you're thinking about something else, that missing nut won't catch your attention. So the next time you have that niggling feeling that you missed something, you probably did. Retrace your steps and try to figure it out. You just might save yourself a disaster later.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Odds and Ends

Just a few odds and ends photos and videos from the past 10 days while the kids were here.

Boys love lizards

Boys also love crabs and anything else that creeps or crawls

The Osprey babies that were born just before we arrived aren't babies anymore

We've seen some amazing skies recently. This one was from the Siesta Key drum circle 7-17-16

The sun was at my back and was reflecting off the clouds and aiming down at the opposite horizon

Sunset at the drum circle

Everyone had fun at the drum circle. Even the littlest who insisted on putting sand on the drum head and watching it bounce
when she hit it

Mama and Papa got to take a short stroll while the kids napped in the van with me

With all the heat and sunshine, napping is the order of the day

Playing Peek-a-boo under Grampy T's table

Waiting for the engine to pick up the train at the train museum in Parrish, FL

Waiting for the train ride to start

Random sunset at the marina. The view from the cockpit of our boat.

Monday, July 25, 2016

O530 in the morning...

A walk in the park at Emerson Point
There are only two reasons to be up at 0530 in the morning, weather and departures. Kintala is still tied securely to a dock making it generally unnecessary to get up because of weather. But Daughter Eldest and Family have a long drive ahead of them and wanted to get off before the morning rush hour. Final bags and trip snacks were secured in place and, after a last round of hugs, sleepy little ones were as well. The van's engine hummed to life, interior lights were switched on so the last waves good-bye could be shared, and off they went into the darkness.

Departures are a part of life. Some are easier than others. This was on of the “others”.

It has been two years since Daughter Eldest and Family had been with us on the boat, two years since the summer in Ft. Lauderdale and The Bear. Two years is a long time in the life of little ones, but the boys quickly remembered the rules of boat living. Still, four pairs of adult eyes kept a sharp eye out as they came and went. Kintala was a new experience for Grand Daughter Youngest and, like grand kids before her, climbing the companion way stars to the very top was her new favorite thing. Even though four pairs of adult eyes were trying to keep her in sight as well, at least twice she made it without anyone noticing she was in full climbing mode. A good way to get four adult heats beating quickly.

Seven on Kintala is a full ship load. (Somehow the younger a person is, the more room they take up on a boat.) At night the v-berth and salon were full of the sleeping. For most of the week there was one less during the day, Grampy T being at work. In the evenings there was coloring and book reading and story telling. Rambunctiousness of all kinds would break out without warning. The weekends were for drum circles, train rides, visits to the beach, and Grampy T's best birthday party...ever.

Kintala is a much quieter boat this morning. Another work week will start in a couple of hours, the routine falling quickly back into place.

Departures are a part of life. Some are easier than others.

This was one of the “others”.

Friday, July 15, 2016

1000 days, a thousand ways

Today is the 1000th day since we left to go cruising. A few weeks ago I told Tim this landmark was coming up and that he should come up with a post about it. His "OK" was unenthusiastic, but I'm giving him some slack in the writing department these days since it's taking all his energy to deal with the intensity of that star around which we'll circle most of the way while here at Snead Island Boat Works. I told him I'd let him slide and I would do the post.

Leaving Oak Harbor October 19, 2013
I've been thinking a lot about those 1000 days in the past week. A landmark, certainly, but I felt no epiphany to mark it. The reality of it is that I can tell you in a thousand ways why going cruising has been the best thing that's happened to us because every one of those 1000 days has been a gift. We've had challenging days that taught us much, peaceful days on brilliant turquoise waters in the Abacos, days of gatherings with new cruising friends, days of weather that humbled us, stunningly perfect days of sailing, days filled with laughter and, recently, too many days filled with grief. But even the recent span of grief from our loss of three family members in nine months has left us realizing how glad we are that we did this. While we still had the time. Because none of us is promised a thousand days, and we cherish every one we've had.

Oriental, NC sunset while waiting for engine parts Nov 2013

The moon rising on our first overnight offshore run

West End Bahamas on our first trip there Feb 2014

Working with the grandsons on the Floating Bear disaster June 2014
Return trip to the Bahamas March 2015
Watching an eclipse from the comfort of our V-berth September 2015

Road trip for Tim's dad's funeral October 2015
Sunset on the day my brother died February 2016
Storms that humbled us
Beaches that amazed us
Skies that took our breath away
Anchorages that were perfect

We've had friends to accompany us
We've seen odd things...
Funny things...
Sad things...

Scary things...
Beautiful things...
We've had things break...

Written  a book...

And wouldn't trade it for anything.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


The filling of the cruising kitty is going well, and the boat project list has more items checked off than not, but summer has been hard on Worker Man. Snead Island is a great place to work: New Boss is fair, considerate, and hard-working himself, the owners and the rest of the employees helpful and easy to work with, and Tim's desire to produce quality workmanship expected. But the Florida sunshine - the emblem of this state - is his biggest enemy. Working down inside small, un-airconditioned boats that are sitting in the brutal rays takes its toll on his 61-year-old body.

On the other hand, the summer has been pretty good to me. Being in charge of The List has afforded me the opportunity to learn a phenomenal amount about Kintala. Most of my projects so far have been inside the air-conditioned boat so, other than the outside portion of the port rebuild project, I have had the benefit of cool working environs. Not having the benefit of a highly experienced mechanic at my beck and call 24/7 has forced me to research, learn, troubleshoot, and push through problems on my own with only the brief conversations after Worker Man returns for the day and before he collapses on the settee directly under the A/C vent. Checking off list items has gone a long way toward improving my confidence as a mechanic.

Until yesterday.

Early in the summer I decided to tackle first those items that would make maintenance on Kintala easier. The easier it is to change the oil or fuel filters, the more frequently it will get done. Installing the remote oil filter system was of the highest priority. Adding en electric fuel boost pump to bleed the engine after changing filters was next. I did my research, spoke to our friend Stephen who also owns a Tartan 42 (which is a very nice one for sale by the way), and spent time looking at various pumps. When Stephen sent a photo to me of the pump in his install, I realized all of a sudden that I remembered seeing one already installed in the boat. It was mounted on top of the fuel tank, hidden under the settee base, all the plumbing there, but the wiring was set up with ends to attach to an external battery when you needed it. Yes, we should have realized a long time ago what it was for but, you know, the out of site out of mind thing.

Not having a separate battery nor any desire to purchase one, I spent the day Monday running new wiring from the house bank to the engine compartment where I mounted a switch, then from there to the pump. As with all things boat project, it took the whole day, although I confess that an hour and a half of that was fashioning a wooden switch box to house the switch I happened on in the used box at the parts dept here on site. If you've been following this blog for a while then you know that Tim and I are both pretty anal when it comes to detail so the box had to be right.

The engine compartment showing the remote oil filter install and the new switch box for the bleed pump on the back wall.

The fuel filter housing with the bleed banjo fitting on top
Tuesday, new filters in hand, I began to learn the ins and outs of changing fuel filters on a Westerbeke 50. I had never done it before and, in fact, had usually found some place else to be when Tim did it because it is a very unpleasant job that involves bleeding of the human sort in addition to bleeding of the fuel sort. We had no spare diesel to fill the filter housings with, but everything I was reading on the topic of the electric fuel pump indicated that the pump would fill those housings given enough time. I changed the filters, turned on the pump, bled the filter fittings, let the pump run, bled them again, pump run..well you get the idea. 15 minutes later I started the engine. It started right up. Big smile on my face for the 10 seconds it ran until it stopped. Rats-n-frackin'.

Off to the maintenance manual and various Westerbeke forums. The general concensus was that I still had not removed all the air and had sucked it into the high pressure side of the system where it air locked the injector pump. It takes shockingly little air to stop a diesel engine, it turns out. Since I had cranked over the engine, I was now blessed with the learning experience of the Westerbeke 8-point bleeding procedure. An hour later and I was still not getting fuel to the injector B-nuts and the starter was getting warm from cycling the engine. "Uncle!"  Wiki says that the term "cry uncle" is from Roman times when children who were being pressed by a bully would have to say "Uncle" to be freed. How truly appropriate, as I can think of no better bullies than the designers of the Westerbeke 50.

When Worker Man returned to Kintala, I retraced my progress, showing him how far I had succeeded in obtaining fuel dribbles along the bleeding path. He loosened one B-nut that I had been unable to reach on the high pressure side of the injector pump. cranked the now cool engine, got fuel there. Then he bled two of the injector line B-nuts and the engine started.

I've learned a ton so far this summer, but perhaps the greatest lesson I learned through this project is that some times you quit just on the verge of success. I stopped because I was worried about damaging the engine and starter from too much cranking (probably smart), but had I taken some time to read some more, to think it through and continued bleeding the next day, I would most likely have gotten the job done without help. Don't get me wrong - getting help when you're unsure is a very good thing, and it's great when it's there to benefit from, but I'm sure there's going to be times when I just have to keep at it and not give up. At least when the Westerbeast is involved.

The oil pressure sender connection is, of
course, right by the dipstick so it can be
bumped into every time you check the oil...
And just so The Beast could show me who's boss...when the engine finally cranked to life there was no oil pressure on the gage. We immediately shut down the engine and closed things up for the night. This morning I started troubleshooting and discovered that the wire from the oil pressure sender to the gage was both loose and damaged. I cut it clean, installed a new connector, lock washer and nut, started the engine and was rewarded with oil pressure in the green. So take that you big bully.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


With Daughter Youngest and Grand Daughter still in Siesta Key, the crew of Kintala deemed it okay to rent one of those motorized four wheel coaches for a couple of more days. It even seemed reasonable to tempt the fates and join them in Siesta Key...on the Fourth of July weekend. Such a visit is the social antithesis of our current mode of living, dwelling on a boat as the near lone residents in a boatyard, occasional bike rides into a non-tourist town, with most of our off time spent hiding from the heat in our modest – but still air conditioned – salon.

Siesta Key on the Fourth of July weekend is 10,000 cars trying to fit into 8,000 parking places. It is hoards of pale skinned visitors laid out on the beach like so many lobsters at a bar-b-cue, slow roasting in the near tropical sun. It is also adorable little kids splashing around in the shallow surf, enthralled by an ocean many of them are seeing for the first time. It is families having fun and people taking a break from their work-a-day lives. It is THE BEACH, that mythical place of bikinis and brews, a touch of heaven that can often be pretty close to the mecca all the vacation advertising makes it out to be.

One of my favorite parts of this beach is the Drum circle, the every-Sunday celebration of the Sun Going Down. It is a good thing to celebrate in that the Belenus (as the sun is known as in Celtic mythology) is, in these parts, a bit of an overbearing god. Oh, he brings light and life, makes the plants grow lush, warms the sea to temperatures that sea life and swimmers find agreeable, all that good stuff. But he gets a bit enthusiastic about it all during the summer, lashing anyone who has reason to dare direct exposure with a heat and humidity that will make a long day of work seem nothing short of day of punishment. Watching him settle behind the horizon for a few hours break is a relief.

Besides, it is as good an excuse as any for a bunch of people to gather around and pound some drums, for people young and not so young to laugh and dance in the sand, for people to enjoy being people without anyone getting hurt or offended. It is a big beach with lots of room, so anyone who finds the whole thing a bit too primal or ancient can find their own place to watch the sun set, worshiping (or not) any kind of god they like in the process.

It is, after all, part of what the Fourth of July is supposed to celebrate, the birth of a nation where choice and individual liberty rule.

And then this jack-ass and some friends showed up.

It was easy to ignore the wanker from my place in the midst of the assembled. He was, after all, trying to shout down 30 or 40 drummers using a little, battery powered, megaphone; clearly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. And though I, given my general lack of faith in all things requiring faith, would certainly qualify as hell-fodder for this guy's god, demographics suggest most of the people surrounding me would self-identify as Christians of one sect or another. (Well, maybe not the guy wearing the gorilla mask and pounding out – with a good amount of talent I might add – a riff probably never heard in any cathedral.) It isn't clear to me what the wanker with the megaphone thought he was accomplishing. Most of the people around him likely shared, at least in some part, a belief in his religion. Exactly who was he trying to impress?

Unfortunately, just a few yards from the drums, at least on that guy's side of the circle, his megaphone was enough. His doctrine was judgmental and hate filled, his rhetoric arrogant and insulting. Police mounted on horses had to force their way in to break up confrontations since, it appeared, some of the celebrants' doctrine surrounding primal sun-god celebrations include kicking a wanker's ass. I'm not sure that's what the megaphone preacher wanted, but it is likely he went back to his church all proud of being persecuted. (According to Christian mythology such persecution will garner him some extra credit when he gets to heaven. Which is one of the many reasons I prefer ancient Celtic mythology, or pretty much any kind of mythology that is openly recognized as mythology, to modern Christian mythology.)

My first thought was that ignoring him or, better yet, laughing at him, would be the best response, that anything even remotely indicating that he was being taken seriously would only make his affliction worse. But then I got to thinking. In today's world, maybe that isn't the case anymore.

How many steps is it between this guy and any of the young white guys who have made the news by shooting people in a church or opening fire in a theater? How many steps is it between this guy and any religious fundamentalist who takes to violence? He worships a god he believes is going to torture, forever and ever in the most barbaric and sadistic way imaginable, most of the people on the planet for the sin of not worshiping in the approved manor. (A doctrine many Muslims share with many Christians.) How bad could it be to shoot a few of them to maybe “save” some of the others? This is a mind already twisted, how much more twist will it take to make him actually dangerous?

And, mind you, this guy could have legally been carrying a concealed weapon. This is, after all, Florida. Had he been carrying such a weapon, “standing his ground” would be more than enough of an excuse for a twisted mind to open fire. Something I suspect, given the speed at which they moved in, the police had in mind as well.

How can you not take such a person as seriously deranged and, potentially, seriously dangerous? Maybe kicking his ass, stripping him naked to make sure his isn't armed, and then throwing him, his megaphone, his signs, and his buddies into the surf to cool off, is the seriously right thing to do these days?

Thus is celebrated the Fourth of July in America, 2016.