Saturday, April 30, 2016

Asking too much?

People who repair and modify flying machines fall into two broad categories known as “airframe” and “powerplant” mechanics. Those are the two licenses one must earn to legally add an entry to an aircraft's maintenance log books, entries that are required when ever there is work performed and, yes, there is one logbook for the “airframe” and as many “engine” logs as there are engines installed. Often there is a “propeller” log as well, and there was (when I left that world) a growing reliance on an “avionics” log.

Those who are airframe mechanics are very often, just by the nature of the work, sheet metal experts. Cutting, riveting, drilling holes, adding equipment, fixing fatigue failures and addressing corrosion issues all being a routine part of the mechanic's work day. Every single one of them that I ever knew carried a six inch rule that was marked in 1/100s of an inch. In their tool box was a 12 inch rule also marked in 1/100s of an inch. Nearly everything we did was measured to the 1/100th, particularly rivet edge distances and spacing. It was precision work and one rarely, if ever, just “punched a hole”. Mine are now among the tools traveling around in my boat mechanic's golf cart.

They have yet to be put to use.

And so it came to pass that my job assignment for that last couple of weeks has included replacing parts on a brand new 31' cruising, tug style, power boat that had a “lift incident” before it was ever commissioned. Damage included the equipment mast on top of the boat, a steel tube contraption supporting RADAR, GPS, lights, and horn that can be folded down to the deck to get under a bridge. (Or for towing. This thing is sitting on a trailer.) There are big fiberglass cuffs mounted to the top of the cabin sides and around the front of the boat called an “eyebrow” that need replaced. The VHF antenna was shattered, there are scuffs and dents on the rub rail, various bits were ripped out of their supporting fiberglass while hand rails along the top of the boat were bent into new and unusable shapes. All of the headliner and some of the interior side panels had to be removed to reach the various bolts and fasteners attaching bent parts to the boat.

When we are all done the boat will have to still be “new”. It can't sport the dings, scrapes, mars, and marks accumulated when people move around the inside of anything. New owners pay for the privileged of leaving those initial scars. Cardboard gets laid on the teak floor, covers rest over the seats and counters, set no tools down on an unprotected surface, do no damage. Which, of course, is not entirely possible, but we do the best we can.

This Tug's interior, like Kintala's, is mostly wood that has been sanded and oiled, not painted or varnished. It is pretty, and damned tender. One can hardly touch it without leaving a mark, let alone slip another piece of wood over it while removing interior parts. Even sweat will stain this stuff and, given that we are working in the Florida Sunshine on a boat sitting out in a storage yard, there is a lot of sweat readily available for staining. I will never, ever, buy another boat where the interior isn't finished in some way to be a bit more durable. Trying to work this Tug without leaving a trail of evidence behind is an endless exercise in frustration, and is adding hours of labor to the bill.

"So what", you might be wondering, "has any of this to do with measuring sticks calibrated to 1/100th of an inch?

Well, I have discovered an interesting thing while drilling new parts to go on where the factory-installed new parts were just removed. Apparently boat builders don't own ANY kind of measuring device. Just “punching a hole” is the way they roll. As a result a row of holes for a hand rail will not end up centered in the fiberglass molded into the top of the cabin, but will angle across it. The hole at one end fouling the inboard edge, the hole at the other bored through the outboard edge. The rail is not aligned with the center axis of the boat on the outside. Worse, on the inside, the bolts get tangled up with the edges of things like interior panels. The builder didn't notice or care because, at the factory, the rails went on before the interior went in. And no one (but me apparently) notices that the rails are not mounted square on the boat.

But it sure matters to the person trying to change the rail without trashing nice looking wood bits. This particular goof changed the 5 minute job of removing three nuts and then installing three nuts into a 45 minute exercise in switching wrenches, getting a half-flat turn, climbing back outside the boat to tap the bolt in a little deeper, and climbing back inside to get another half-flat turn. There are, keep in mind, gobs of sealer involved since these are outside-to-inside bolts; sealer that can't be allowed to touch any part of the interior. Hands, tools, and clothing to be checked and cleaned as necessary on each trip to the cabin top and back, just to be sure. Leaving a big smudge of 5200 on the seat at the table would be a major faux pas.

And that is the easy, port side, install. How the starboard side will go on is a mystery yet to be solved.

Just to add to the fun yesterday - pretty much right in the middle of this exercise - a broker showed up to show the boat to prospective buyers! So there I am, tools carefully placed so as not to be touching any new surface, shirt sweat soaked, bits and parts scattered everywhere, smiling and happy at having the chance to work on such a pretty, well constructed, and first class boat. (You didn't know that acting is a required skill for anyone working in retail maintenance?)

Now I have to admit that “just punching a hole” can be liberating. Chuck up a bit, pick a spot somewhere in the general vicinity, pull the trigger and set fiberglass dust to flying. No messing around measuring things and leaving pencil marks, lining stuff up with other stuff or worrying about straight lines. Just make a hole.

Close enough is good enough.

On the other hand...list price for this Tug is $288,000. One would think, for that kind of money, they could afford a couple of measuring sticks. Not necessarily ones marked in 1/100th, but hitting it within a inch or so shouldn't be too much to ask.

Should it?

Friday, April 29, 2016

Air conditioner install

(Ed note: several readers requested more details on the installation of the a/c window unit after my previous post.)
If you've been following this blog for awhile, you know that we elected to remove the inboard air conditioning system before we left to go cruising because it occupied the entire largest closet on the boat. We needed the space for clothes, books, electronics, my Sailrite, and our vacuum. Alas, we never dreamed that we would spend so much time on the dock in the summer, where breeze rarely flows through the hatches the way it does at anchor. Three months at Cooley's Landing in Ft. Lauderdale would have been an impossibility without air. Same thing here in Southwest Florida.

When we were in Ft. Lauderdale, we bought a Shinco portable a/c that actually worked really well. The only problem with it was that it was huge and took up the entire nav station where it had to reside in order for the exhaust hose to reach the port. Since we were going to be on the dock here for eight months, I wanted to have the interior of the boat as clean and free of clutter as possible. Clutter bugs me anytime, but particularly when I'm chin deep in boat projects. After some discussion, Tim and I decided to look into the possibility of a window unit set on deck

We had tried a window unit once before, but never really got it set up in any way that it was efficient. After multiple trips to Lowe's and Home Depot with a measuring tape, pencil, and paper, I figured that we might just be able to fit the 12,000 btu window unit on the side deck with enough room to run some insulated ductwork to the ports. It was going to be tight, but it looked doable.

I had originally hoped to place the unit facing the ports, but the insulated duct is huge and unwieldy so I ended up having to turn it sideways. I removed the insulation for the first 6" or so and then taped the silver outside layer directly to the air conditioner with Gorilla tape, one duct  surrounding the outflow area of the grill and leading to one port, and another duct taped around the inflow area of the front grill and leading to another port at the other end of the salon, directly over my galley stove. Getting the tape goo off in the fall will require lots of Prism, but there really wasn't any other way to seal it. The two-duct approach works well because then the heat from cooking goes straight into the a/c and returns nice and cold. Genius.

The end result is at about my limit for trailer-parkishness, but it's on the side of our boat that faces the aluminum sided boat shed, so no one has to look at it but me. I did manage to get it done in one day in spite of the duct from hell, and the smile of relief on Tim's face when he came down the companionway after working in the heat all day was worth the effort.

I would love to have an inboard a/c again, but we just don't have the space anywhere on the boat. In addition, we sometimes need the a/c while on the hard doing bottom work, a time when inboard a/c doesn't help, so for now, this solution is what works the best. As they always say, everything on a boat is a compromise.

The port over my galley stove is the hot air return

This duct goes from the outflow portion of the grill to the port over Tim's settee.

The longer duct goes from the galley port over my stove to the intake grill on the a/c

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Power of Can't

(This post is dedicated to Catherine, Mary, Kali, Edie, and Sophia, my girl-child grandkids)

After nearly three years of 24/7 companionship with my captain, I've found myself struggling with the long days of being without his company while he's off being Worker Man. I'm so used to being able to catch him for some quick feedback on a project I'm working on, or having the extra pair of hands in a particularly difficult reassembly of some boat bit, that I've found myself floundering occasionally over a particularly difficult problem. So it was today, as I stood there looking at the unbelievably heavy and unwieldy box containing our new air conditioner sitting in the back of New Boss' borrowed SUV. It wasn't really all that heavy at 72 pounds, not at least for a former gym nut used to lifting 90 on the weight machines. But let me tell you, 90 pounds on a nice, well-maintained gym machine is a lot easier to lift than 72 pounds of unbalanced air conditioner contained in a perfectly square cardboard box the exact length of my arms. Hmmmm.

Out came our nifty 150# max capacity hand cart that we used to haul groceries and beer in while cruising. This got the box from the back of the truck to the steps we climb to get on the boat. Hmmm.

Not wanting to send our newly acquired air conditioner to join the assortment of tools, hardware, and sunglasses in the water dockside, my first thought was, "I can't do this without risking the air conditioner or my back." Help was in order. I returned New Boss' truck and went to searching for Tim, figuring since it was break time he might be able to give me a quick hand before returning to work. His golf cart was parked in sight, but no Tim anywhere. Hmmm. "I guess I can't get it done today."

I headed back to the boat in hopes of corralling a dock mate but, alas, no fellow dock mates were to be found. "I can't" whispered through my subconscious again. I was frustrated, because it was supposed to be near 90° this afternoon and the one goal I had for the day was to have the A/C up and running before Worker Man came home from his long day working outside in the heat. Hmmm.

I was standing on deck looking down angrily at the offending object on the finger pier, one hand on hip, one hand holding onto the spare halyard we have tied to the stanchion to balance myself. Duh. Spare halyard. The one we use to lift the 75 pound dinghy. Duh.

I gathered up our ratcheting straps, bound the box with them, threaded the spare halyard through them and into a bowline and, with the help of our mast winch and my favorite winch handle, had the air conditioner on deck and positioned port side in about 3 minutes flat. In fact, it turned out to be the easiest part of the install, as cutting, fitting, and fastening the monstrosity of insulated flex duct really kicked my butt for the next four hours.

I try not to belabor the issue of the gender gap, especially on this blog where we try hard to leave politics aside, but the air conditioner incident brought forward in my thoughts all the very many, very recent times I've heard my female compatriots utter the words, "I can't."  I can't go cruising because I'll never learn to sail. I can't get my captain's license because I'm not smart enough. I can't fix my water pump because I don't know how. I can't leave this job I hate because I don't have enough money. I can't, I can't, I can't. Those two simple words are the some of the most powerful words in the world. They belittle their speaker. They strike hope from the spirit. They cut dreams down at the knees.

I'm the first one to acknowledge I have a leg up because I was born to a creative mother, an engineer father who taught me well, two older motor head brothers, and I've had the unspeakable fortune to be with an encouraging and supportive partner for 44 years. But the reality is, you can. So next time you hear the words "I can't" in your mind, stop and regroup. Find help if you need it, seek encouragement if you can find it, but keep moving and change your "I can't" to "I can." I promise you that the success of accomplishment will be the sweetest victory you've ever experienced.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Do You Remember?

Pascagoula Run's empty slip
This morning, coffee in hand, I headed down the dock two slips to our friends Joel and Emily's boat Pascagoula Run to crew for Joel as he made the first 22 mile run of his cruising adventure. It was sunny and warm, the sky azure, punctuated with cotton puffs and Osprey. The water was a deep navy blue with light ripples dancing across the surface, beckoning.

Tim wistfully looking on
Joel, his dad and I cast off the lines as a wistful Tim looked on from the dock before heading off for his day as Worker Man. Fenders were stowed and lines coiled. Tracking was started, routes up and running, and Pascagoula Run's bow was pointed out the ever-so-narrow exit from the boatyard's basin.

Bow pointed out the exit of the boatyard
Two opening bridges later, we entered Sarasota Bay, a smallish piece of sailable water in the ICW, a rare treat. Electing to roll out just the headsail for the short run down the bay, Pascagoula Run tracked right down the rhumb line at a respectable 4.7 knots, close hauled. Rolling up the sails 4 miles later to pass under the Ringling bridge, the engine back online, we turned eastward and picked up a mooring ball at Marina Jack's. Within minutes the dolphins showed up to lend their seal of approval.

It was a good day. It was good to be reminded of how far we've come these last few years, to remember our first opening bridge with our halting radio communications, to remember our nervous nailbiting as we approached our first fixed bridge and refused to see how our mast could actually fit beneath it, to remember the first time we picked up a mooring, complete with audience. It was good to see how completely this life has become ours, and to realize again that this is life at its best - full, rich, zesty, not without risk, and deeply poetic. Thanks Joel and Emily and Happy Sailing.

Checking the charts near the shallow spot

Dad's turn at the tiller
First opening bridge
A floating billboard

Look Ma! No engine!

No way is this going to fit...

Are you SURE it's going to fit?

One happy boat on the mooring
One happy captain on his boat.

The Anatomy of a Jabsco Raw Water Pump

The sexy part of living on a boat in the tropics it is not, but a raw water pump is one of those essentials of living on a boat if you actually want it to move under power. Without it, the Westerbeast would balk posthaste. Its temp gage would peg in the red warning zone within minutes and the ever-thumping cylinders would screech to a rapid halt. As long as it hums along, not much attention is paid to it other than its annual impeller change.

Fed up with its lowly station on Kintala, our water pump recently decided to morph into something more glorious like, say, a fountain. It spewed endless amounts of hot seawater in lovely arcs all around the engine compartment, picking (of course) the absolute worst time to do so, the few days approaching the deadline of Worker Man's arrival at his new job in The Boatyard. We nursed it along, checking the temp and verifying the bilge pump's capacity to rid the bilge of the seawater accumulating as we limped into The Boatyard. Not an auspicious arrival of The Boatyard's new Worker Man.

Worker Man has been hard at it, battling both temps and broken boats, and the water pump was high on the list of repairs needed to move the boat, so this past week it was the job to tackle.

Day 1: First step was to check on possible warranty. We had replaced this Jabsco raw water pump in August before we left Oak Harbor Marina and one day later replaced it again due to receiving a bad unit out of the box. The original pump we pulled off had been on the boat at least as long as we had owned the boat at that time: 4 years. The warranty pump to replace the bad-from-the-box unit lasted a whopping 8 months. I can't say as I'm overly impressed with Jabsco at the moment. They would not warranty this unit saying that too many people overtighten the belt and cause the seals to fail.

Day 2: Next step was to remove and disassemble the pump. Thanks to a new set of flex-head wrenches that I bought to replace my favorite set that ended up in Tim's Worker Man tools, the job was a pretty straightforward one. Unfortunately, further disassembly required waiting on Tim to bring the puller set home with him to get the pulley off.

Day 3: I actually made some progress today with a full disassembly of the pump. The minor rebuild kit I ordered included the impeller, o-ring, gasket and new water seal, all of the parts it appeared I would need from the parts breakdown and failure symptoms. Unfortunately, on disassembly it appeared that I also needed a new inner bearing seal. Back to Google, and another day waiting.

Day 4: My project was interrupted by the arrival of several friends. Socializing and helping with other people's boat projects commenced. My raw water pump pouted on the work bench.

Day 5-8: See Day 4

Day 9: Parts arrived, pump was reassembled and installed, but running the engine and looking for leaks at the same time exceeds my mechanical and acrobatic limits so I had to wait for Tim to get home from work. After a few corrections of hose routing, the pump was pumping water out of the side of the boat instead of inside the engine compartment. Oh, and I still have a dry bilge, the very best part.

Lessons learned:

Jabsco pumps suck.

Sharing tools that are in two different locations sucks.

Having a significant other who lets you share tools is wonderful.

Having a significant other who lets you go buy new tools to replace the ones he heisted is even better.

Every boat project takes a minimum of three times your estimated time to complete.

Friday, April 22, 2016

What can I say

There are family and friends who follow our modest little blog. They like to know where we are, what we are doing, what we might be doing next. There are (rumored) to be some others who check in on us once in a while, people who are dreaming about joining us “out here”. As a result we have made many new friends and manage to stay in touch with other members of the tribe. And, in return, we have tried to be as open and honest as we can about life as a full-time, live-aboard, cruiser. Living this way is our choice, it isn't a common choice, and it isn't anything like the magazines, boat shows, and advertisements suggest.

Sometimes it is a bit hard to come up with something even mildly interesting to say about this life, like now. Today is Friday of my third week of refilling the “cruising kitty”, an endeavor somewhat common among the “budget cruiser” members of the tribe. We count ourselves pretty lucky to have landed a gig were we can live on the boat, where work, shopping, laundry, and other necessities are near enough that bikes will do, where the work is interesting, and we have the chance to get Kintala some tender loving care as well.

But interesting?

Most of my life right now is easily summed up with three words, “I fix boats.” When I get done fixing boats, I go on to fix other boats. Once in a while I don't fix a boat so much as modify it a little. Upgrade a thing-a-ma-bob here, replace a do-hickey there. Sometimes the owner wants the old thing-a-ma-bob or do-hickey removed gracefully, without much butchering, so it can be listed on Ebay and help pay for the new thing-a-ma-bob or do-hickey. Seems a bit odd to me, given the shop rates. I'm pretty sure the extra time it takes to carefully unstring an entire wiring harness to release various connectors without them being damaged, will pretty rapidly chew up the profits of an Ebay sale. But hey, as the saying goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

Actually, that is the unofficial saying of those of us out in the yard. The official saying of those in the front office is, “Whatever the Customer wants, we will do our best to provide.” And really, in an off-hand kind of way I feel the same. For, the thing is, I fix boats. The work is the work, my only goal to do it as professionally as possible. Which means get it done right while getting it done efficiently. (If one only cares about getting it done right, one is likely enjoying a hobby and not trying to make a living. A cool thing, but not really a “pro”. If one only cares about getting it done efficiently, one is likely a huckster. A not so cool a thing, and certainly not a “pro”.) So, if the job is to spend a couple of extra hours carefully removing something, carefully removing the something is what I'll do.

Sometimes, when I'm not fixing a boat, I am doing the most routine of routine maintenance on a boat; changing oil, filters, light bulbs, or impellers. The kind of thing that, for the most part, those in my part of the cruising tribe do themselves without much thought. Certainly without much thought of paying someone else to do it for them.

So maybe my filling-the-cruising-kitty life isn't that much different than my cruising life. As a cruiser I spent most of my time fixing A boat, while occasionally helping out with some other boat. Now I spent most of my time fixing other boats.

While occasionally doing a little work on this boat.

Either way...

I fix boats.

Some of the boats being worked on in my day

Our friends Robert and Rhonda leaving for Rio Dulce

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The history of cruising friends

We've said it on this blog many times - the best thing about cruising, hands down, is the people you meet. Relationships are made quickly, run deep, and last a very long time.

Long before we even bought Kintala, I was sitting in the cockpit of our first boat, Nomad, enjoying the afternoon. I heard some sails tacking behind me, on the other side of the rock breakwater that separated the marina from the channel. No engine running. I was awed that someone would even consider sailing onto the dock. Entering Boulder marina required a trip down the channel, a 180° turn around the end of the breakwater, and then to enter this particular sailboat's slip, required three 90° turns - one to the right, one to the left, and another one to the right into the slip.

The little yellow sailboat rounded the breakwater and I was able to make out the captain - a young man who clearly was completely in control, relaxed, and one with his boat (which I later found out was his parent's boat). There was very little wind that day (and even less inside the breakwater), but he nursed every whisper to bring the boat down the length of piers and through the three turns, after which he calmly stepped off the boat and flipped the dockline around the cleat. My hero. As a brand new sailor with two ASA courses under my belt, I hollered across the fairway and said, "I aspire to do that some day." He laughed.

Joel (l) and Eric (r)
A few months later I subbed for Tim as crew for some club races at one of the other marinas on the lake. We had signed up to crew when they were shorthanded, but that particular Saturday Tim was very sick and couldn't go. I had no idea what to expect, and was completely surprised when I stepped up to the Viper 640 sailboat to find this same young man was the jib handler on the boat. I'll spare you the agony that a 53 year old body experiences when pushed by a very fast boat and two young men whose combined ages were less than mine, but suffice it to say that I was again impressed by his skill.

As the years went on at the marina, we began to become friends. He eventually brought with him our now close friend Kacey and, later, a beautiful new wife, Emily. We developed a deep relationship with the kids we came to call The Three Musketeers, and it was one of the harder things about going cruising, that of leaving them behind.

My favorite photo of Em
Kacey (l) Joel (r)

So it was with a big smile this morning that I greeted the truck carrying their boat into our boatyard, where it would be launched for their voyage into cruising. Unlike us, who made the decision to cruise late in life, Joel had dreamed of sailing his boat to new places, and experiencing new things, for almost as long as he could remember. The opportunity presented itself and he grabbed it. Emily will join the adventure at the end of her school year.

For the last few years they have labored endlessly to ready Pascagoula Run for cruising. They replaced windows, replaced the headliner, added a bimini and dodger, beefed up the ground tackle, added a windlass, bought a dinghy. Emily sanded, painted, polished, completely rebuilt the counter in the galley and added the countless small touches that an artist does to make a boat a home. Ready or not (and they're never ready), Monday the boat was loaded on the truck and off she went.

It's a bit of closing a circle for me, this watching someone else realize a dream. It also makes me realize that, should we ever have to quit cruising, it will be these images that stay in my mind: the smiling faces of friends, the easy laughter at sundowners, the gleam of accomplishment in someone's eyes, the look of concern on a fellow cruiser's face as they help someone through a difficult moment. It's a permanent piece of my history now, that history of cruising friends, and one I'm abundantly pleased to call my own.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Play me a tune

Imagine being in a special kind of orchestra, one were you are never sure just what instrument you will be playing that evening, which piece of music will be performed, or which of several conductors will be waving the baton. It has to be that way because the patrons who pay for the orchestra are the ones who provide the instruments, dropping off whichever ones they want to hear that day. Some days a whole bunch of oboes are left at the door, with an oddball scattering of flutes and bells. On other days everyone wants to hear trumpets and french horns.

The music to be played is picked independently of the instruments provided. Some days see reggae played with a tuba, Mozart on a banjo, or a waltz on a bass drum. Multiple conductors are required because the concert hall covers several acres of land, and some instruments can only be played in certain places, and by certain musicians.

Yet, somehow, it all works out. The instruments come and go, the patrons keep arriving, and the music gets played. Of course the action behind the stage isn't anywhere near that simple.

I'm not sure, but it wouldn't surprise me if, occasionally, I'm being a bit of a pain to Boss New, one of the Conductors. He is a busy man who can bet that, two or three times a week, I am going to be underfoot trying to make sure I understand just exactly what kind of tune I'm supposed to be playing. A good example is the bilge pump rewiring job that kept me busy for part of Friday, to be finished Monday morning.

The general consensus of the Board of Conductors was that this would be a short piece of work; done that day and on its way. the end of the day I had to admit that the piece was still incomplete. And I wasn't sure how that would go over, coming from the “new guy” who is supposed to be able to play multiple instruments in nearly any condition. They did, after all, hire me to play the music, not ask questions about it.

It would have been easy to bring the piece to an end, coming up with a coda. Jump into the hot wiring here, tap into the float switch there, pick up a ground somewhere else. Done and Dusted. But there are no wiring diagrams for boats, no “score” if you will. A fact that still astounds me. Hell, even the new control system being installed didn't come with a wiring diagram, just a list of “hook this wire to this, that wire to that, the the other wire to the other thing.” Electrical install for the tone deaf. Considering that the list is English translated from Chinese, the whole thing comes across as a bit off-key.

If one plucks a note by, say, jumping into the hot wiring here, there is no telling just where “here” really is in a electrical sense. Is it a clean run to the battery positive? Is there a minor cord of a fuse sulking in there somewhere? Will the bilge pump still pick up the rhythm if the ship's main battery switch is resting? Will some unusual combination of notes short some other system straight to ground, causing all sorts of smoke and consternation, screeching strings and tumbling timpani?

It isn't hard to figure these things out, but it does take time. Oh, and did I mention that, sometimes, the instruments provided were built by gorillas and tuned by the tone deaf?

On this particular boat there is a switch located on the main electrical panel labeled “Bilge Warning”. It doesn't actually turn on a bilge warning system, it just arms the bilge pump to run if water rises high enough in the bilge to close the float switch. And the bilge pump it arms is not the one mounted in the bilge, it is the one mounted in the lazarette back in the cockpit. The “system” makes use of the original float switch that powered the original pump. (More on that in a moment.) There is no “warning” involved at all. (Why the bilge pump would ever be left UN-armed while a boat is it the water is a mystery. And if the boat is on the hard, who cares that the pump is armed? The boat is going to flood with dirt?)

Facing anyone going down the companionway is another switch labeled “Emergency Bilge”. Flipping this switch starts the pump that is actually mounted in the bilge (the one once powered through the float switch) and, moments later, does set off an alarm. This, I guess, in case you forgot that, moments ago, there was reason to turn on the EMERGENCY Bilge system in the first place. Boss New called it a “crash pump”, which is a good description. But, again, who needs a horn to remind them that they just crashed into something and are taking on water?

(I am finding it endlessly entertaining, the utterly weird places various switches end up in boats, and what some of those switches do. I swear, someday, I'm going to find a “GAS” switch mounted in the head, maybe under the toilet paper roll, that turns on the light in the engine compartment.)

It was painfully obvious that the bilge system on this boat had already suffered a fair amount of abuse, tuning it up to make acceptable music taking more than a tweak here and a strum there. Indeed, even a half tune would be a huge improvement. We are installing a true bilge pump AUTO-OFF-ON system, complete with a counter (that records how often the bilge pump has come on since the last time the system was cleared) and an honest-to-goodness warning system that lets the crew know there is enough water in the bilge to turn on the pump. If nothing else, at least the bilge pump will actually be wired, somehow, to a switch labeled “Bilge Pump”. But a half-tuned instrument will still play a sour note, one the patron might well notice. (Particularly if it leads to him wading around ankle deep in sour notes.)

Anyway, Boss New who, I'm sure, wanted to hear that the piece was done come quitting time, allowed that Monday morning would be okay so long as we hit all the proper notes.

Which is not a bad place to play some music.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Annnnnnnd....That's a Wrap

(Ed note: sorry for the heavily maintenance-oriented and long post. Life right now is pretty much about boat maintenance so if you're not into it, my apologies. It is unfortunately a huge part of owning a boat.)
As I mentioned in the previous post, we've been making an effort to achieve the holy grail of cruisers - the Dry Bilge. In Kintala, that's a particularly big challenge. Water comes down the inside of the keel-stepped mast when it rains, after having been given access through the sheaves at the top. Both the 40 and the 20 gallon water tanks vent into the bilge if you fill them to the point that you can actually tell they're full - by hearing the water rising in the fill tube. For some reason the 79 gallon tank doesn't vent into the bilge. Go figure. The fridge drains into the bilge - not a huge amount of water except for when I defrost it. The anchor windlass has a hole that the chain goes down that pours water into the chain locker which then goes into the bilge. Then there's the leaking rudder stuffing box and the spewing raw water pump, both of which added their contribution to the water level. This summer gives me a good chance to try to pair them down, one by one. The mast will always run water when it rains and nothing can be done about that. The water tank issue is difficult because there's no way to tell if the tanks are full until you hear the water gurgling in the fill tube. So over the next few weeks I'll be tackling the ones that can be fixed.

The one thing that you learn quickly about boat projects when you buy a boat is that no project is a project unto its own. They are all intertwined, all tangled up, and no matter how hard you try to tackle just one thing, you will without any doubt end up dealing with three or four other projects before you check it off your list. Part of our Dry Bilge Project was getting the fridge to drain into the shower sump box. The other day I temporarily routed it into our existing box, but it was our intention to change our box out to one of the newer, sealed plastic boxes that most boats use today. Over the past few weeks there's been a lot of discussion about where to put it, from where to power it, where to pump the water out, and access for cleaning. It had to be below the level of the fridge drain so that the fridge water would drain in there, and since one of the projects on my list is to replace the bilge pump with a new, fancy low-profile one, it gave us an opportunity to move our old bilge pump to a secondary position for a backup. Our old arrangement had the shower sump and bilge pump sharing a thru hull at a T fitting. I wanted that thru hull to be dedicated to both bilge pumps, and the shower sump to go elsewhere. (Are you feeling like musical chairs yet??) After a lot of thought I decided to use the old air conditioner thru hull for the sump box. I also decided to remove our old sump box and place the new one in its spot but much lower, leaving room to install a modified old sump box above it that would provide room for another case of beer when traveling to the Bahamas (score!).

The old sump box removed from its spot in the bilge
Our old sump box was fiberglass, huge, and had no sealed top. The floorboard hatch was the only top for it and it didn't seal well. Inevitably, the sump box would fill with nasty, soapy shower water and begin to smell. Funky smells in a smallish living space are not welcome. I tried various ways of cleaning it, but it still eventually won. It was also a ridiculous waste of space since it only accumulated about 4" of water before the pump kicked on, leaving more than a cubic foot of box unused. On a boat, a cubic foot of storage is gold.

Looking down into the old sump box. The visible block was where the
old switch was mounted that activated the pump under the galley sink.

First up in the project steps was to route the drain line to the old air conditioning thru hull. When we pulled the old a/c out, we routed a hose from the intake thru hull directly to the outflow thru hull so that in the even that the thru hull lever was accidentally opened, the water would drain right out of the boat. I needed to remove that hose, plug the intake thru hull, and install the new drain hose for the sump box. I loosened the hose clamp from the elbow fitting on the intake thru hull and when I pulled on the hose to remove it, the elbow fitting broke in half. Just fell off. It was completely corroded and had we still been using our air conditioner, we could have easily flooded the boat. Check  your thru hulls people, especially any bronze or (heaven help you) brass fittings on them. That thru hull will have to be replaced the next time the boat is out of the water but for now, since there's half a corroded fitting stuck in it, we have epoxied it closed.

Once the drain hose was routed, I needed a mounting option. Digging through our scrap wood box I came up with enough old teak pieces from various jobs to fashion a set of mounting blocks that would level an angled surface into a flat surface for the sump box. Since my only saw is a sabre saw, it took most of a day to cut, sand, glue and screw the mounting blocks. I then coated them with a coat of fiberglass so they wouldn't rot in the bilge, and then glassed them in place. By the way, if  you think the mixing ratio sounds a bit hot, trust your instincts and adjust it. Glad I did because even 1/3 less hardener and my cup was still too hot to touch.  It was a new resin for me that I'd never worked with so I was thinking I should trust the tech specs...wrong.

It's hard to tell in this pic, but the top of the box is about 10-1/2" down
leaving lots of room for a modified storage box above it.

While I was waiting for the glass to bake off, I removed the old sump pump and inline filter from under the galley sink and ran the new wire to the bilge. With the old pump removed, I added a splice fitting in its place in the hose so that the new bilge pump will have a hose to drain from. By the time I got that finished, the glass on my mounting blocks was hard and I was able to fasten down the box. Because of the position of the box in the bilge, I had to drill a hole in the other end of it and install another plastic thru hull to attach the fridge drain. The head sink and shower hoses and the outflow drain hose all attach on the forward end. The fridge drain on the aft end. With the hoses all attached and the box mounted on the new blocks, all that was left was the wiring. A couple of waterproof heat-shrink butt splices later we now have a fancy schmancy, new, sealed, funky-odor-free sump box. Score again!

Tomorrow I'll cut the old sump box in half and put a new bottom on it to use as the storage box above the sump box. I was going to do that today, but I decided that one should have a tested, functioning shower sump before destroying the old one that could be reinstalled if need be. You know, the old burning bridges thing...

And now, as a reward for any of you who actually stayed with me to the end of this post, here's another amazing pic I found I had forgotten on my camera card of the storm we went through in Blackburn Bay a couple weeks ago on the way up here. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Emerson Point Preserve Photo Essay

Today was Weekend Day 2. I determined that this, Tim's first weekend after his first week back to work, was going to be a do-nothing weekend. Yesterday I took the bike to the laundry to wash work clothes while he caught up on reading, but the rest of the day was spent being lazy. This morning we dug out the bikes and headed over to explore the Emerson Point Preserve, located just a half mile from our dock.

The park is an incredibly beautiful, incredibly well-maintained piece of land. There are biking and hiking trails all through the park, a very interesting Indian mound historical site, ponds with tons of wildlife, several beaches, and a dinghy dock for the boats in the anchorage. I can't imagine a better place to have a half mile from us and I suspect we'll spend a lot of time there over the summer. Here's some photos for your enjoyment this afternoon.

The stairs to the Indian mound

An interesting timeline of the area

Everywhere there are amazing live oak trees draped with the Spanish moss

Palms were added many years after the Indians lived here. There are also many
lemon trees in the woods here whose ancestors are trees planted by the people
who farmed the area after the Indians left

The anchorage right off the park

Not sure, but we thought this might be one of the strangler fig trees wrapped around another tree of indeterminate type

Everywhere you go there are inviting paths to ride or hike on.

Tried to talk this little guy into accompanying us back to the boat to keep the ant population at bay, but he declined.

There is a small, but nice beach at the West end of the park.

An honorable attempt at restoring lost bees. Unfortunately, there were only a couple
taking advantage of the free accomodations.