Friday, February 27, 2015

Not Looking Forward to Today

This evening I'm heading back to Colorado.  This is a good thing.  The goal is to do the last few touch-ups to the house and get it on the market, then pack up the car and bring the wife and "kids" back to the boat.  I should be psyched, but I'm not.

Don't get me wrong, I am really happy about the goals for the trip and finally taking that next step to be full time cruisers, but the immediate day's events are not happy-making. I'll be leaving the somewhat warmer temperatures I finally found in Florida and flying to Denver, where the forecast is for temperatures in the 20's and snow.  While the temperatures are far from what I'm used to these days, I think flying is what I'm dreading the most.

Long gone are the glory days of flying, where it was a treat to take an airplane to a destination.  These days, flying seems to entail sub-human treatment.  Getting to the airport hours early for the government mandated colonoscopy, being packed into a metal tube with no amenities (I'm waiting for the day that they charge extra for seats, seatbelts, and make the toilets coin-operated), and taken to your destination by pilots (or at least the first officer) that probably makes about what that guy at McDonalds makes for asking if you want fries with that.  I wonder if I'll have more PIC (pilot in command) time than those up in the front of the plane.

MadTV was pretty close on the subject.

Just checking in online for Delta seemed foreboding of the experience I expect to have.  It first gives me the option to change my seating assignment.  On both segments of the flight I'm stuck in the middle seat so I take a look.  In the first hour-long segment, the only seats available are some sort of premium seat.  For a mere $19 I could get one more inch of legroom.  The second segment was even worse, there was only one other seat available, it was also a middle seat, and for that one inch of legroom they wanted $69.  This business model of "we will make you suffer until you pay us a lot more" really needs to stop.

Oh, and then after checking in they wanted to know how much they could pay me in flight vouchers if they needed to bump me from the flight.  Unfortunately there was no "screw you, I'm never planning to take your abusive airline again" option.  If they were willing to refund the ticket price in cash, I may just go rent a car and drive back to Colorado.

I really wish I still had my plane, it is the only way to fly these days.  Cruising along at the leisurely pace of 5 knots on the boat is far more appealing.

As for the snow...I guess I'm just not looking forward to it.  Snow is all pretty when you have nothing better to do except curl up next to a fire and sip cocoa. But anymore I feel about like the guy in The Diary of A Snow Shoveler toward the stuff.

In any case, stories of boat projects will probably be a bit sparse in the coming weeks, but I'll try to find some interesting stuff to post about.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Birds With One Stone

Remember all the stories about the salon window replacement?  Well, there was one part of the story that I didn't really cover since I wasn't sure what I was going to do.  That missing part of the story is the "window treatments"...or what us guys call them...curtains or shades.

When I bought the boat, the windows in the salon that didn't have opening ports embedded in them had these things called Peek-a-Boo shades.  The shades are two pieces of clear plastic with white translucent stripes on them.  The two plastic pieces are setup so you can slide them across one another so the stripes either align and you can see out between them or block the clear stripe of the other plastic sheet creating a translucent white covering.

The Peek-a-Boo shade effect

They seem like a good idea and worked well to add privacy when you are in a marina and don't want to look out of the boat...or have others look in.  But when you do want to look out, it is a bit like looking out through prison bars.  Now you might be thinking that I could just temporarily re-install them until I found something better, but here is the catch.  The shades are held in place by about 20 little Velcro disks that stick directly to the Plexiglass.  I just couldn't bring myself to stick a bunch of Velcro discs on my pretty, clear, new windows.

I have been thinking about creating external covers for the windows using Phifertex mesh or maybe even Sunbrella material, but that is a longer term project.  In the meantime, it would be nice to have something covering the two big salon windows.

Another thing I wanted to do was to create some insulating panels to put in the windows to help keep the heat down in the summer.  In this case, I want something opaque that will prevent light...and heat...transfer as much as is practical.  I used to have this silver foil-like sun shade for one of my cars and it did a great job on those hot summer days.  I've seen other boats use this material to block out their windows, so I figured I could at least get some of them for now.

Unfortunately, my salon window openings are around 5 feet wide...a bit longer than any of those automotive shades.  Fortunately, I was able to find a roll of that silver covered bubble-wrap like material in a roll at one of the local big box hardware stores.  And at $16, the 16 inch by 25 foot roll was cheaper than buying two of the automotive car shades.  If I want, I could even get some strips of cloth and sew a nice band around the edges to make a custom fit shade that would fit snugly into the window opening.

The solar shade material and paper for the template.

So, I made a template using some of my left over masking paper (unfortunately I had already thrown away the templates I used for creating the window blackout or they would have been perfect).  I cut out two shades from the roll of silver bubble-wrap and trimmed them to fit.

The new solar shade for the salon windows

Now I have something that should be great when the sun is beating down on the boat, and at least for now provides basic window coverings while I am at the marina.  Always nice when one simple project solves two different problems on a boat.  Maybe sometime when I can find the supplies I'll even create that finished edge for them.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just Say NO To Silicone

The previous owner of my boat seemed to have a love affair with that clear household silicone and used it a great many places on the boat.  You know those salon windows that leaked...yep, it was there.  It also covered the seams on just about every other port or hatch on the boat.  Well guess what...they all leaked.

GE Advantage Silicone Sealant-CLEAR Silicone Sealant
This is NOT for boats!

Yesterday I noticed some water was leaking in over in the galley near the salon windows that I had rebed.  I know those don't leak so I started looking for possible culprits.  Around one of the mounts for the handholds that reside above the window I noticed some deteriorating silicone sealant and, yep, that appears to be the leak.  I removed the hand-hold, slowly removed all the silicone from the hull and the hardware, and bed it properly with butyl tape. I need to wait for the next rain but I'll bet that will take care of the leak.

Today I noticed that one of the two hatches I had yet to rebed, the small forward facing one in the forward port stateroom had started to leak.  So I went about the labor intensive process of rebedding that hatch.  Normally these hatches are not that hard to rebed, you remove the screws, take a putty knife to sever any sealant that is still holding on, then clean up the frame and opening and reinstall with new sealant.  The reason why it was so labor intensive was due to the fact I had to remove all the silicone first.

You see, this household silicone is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.  You might think it does some good, but in fact it does not and it makes more problems down the road.  Very little sticks to silicone and silicone can actually interrupt the normal curing process for other sealants.  Paint and gel coat won't stick to areas that have silicone on them without cleaning every last molecule of silicone off of the surface.  A more proper bedding compound for the hatches, such as 3M 4000 UV, won't work unless the silicone is completely removed.

So, I spent a couple hours picking off little bits of silicone and cleaning the surfaces thoroughly with acetone.  Once I finally got all of the silicone removed, rebedding the hatch was pretty easy.  Apply the new sealant, press the hatch in place, and secure with the screws (the screws are really only there to hold the hatch in place while the sealant cures).  Now, if all the other hatches are any indication of my success, this hatch should no longer leak.

My public service announcement here is...if you own a boat, or ever think you might own a boat, do yourself a favor and properly rebed your hardware.  Doing it right doesn't take much more time than doing it wrong. Doing it right will save you a ton of time in the long run since you won't have to re-do the repair in a few months and won't have to clean up the mess you made with the silicone.  Please leave the household silicone at the hardware store...or your land-based home.  And as I mentioned on my Facebook page yesterday...if you do use this stuff on your boat, please don't ever sell that boat to me.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Windlass Control

An anchor windlass is a very handy device.  Now that I have my new oversized Mantus anchor as my primary, it is even more important to have it help deploy and haul up the anchor. Unfortunately, for as long as I've owned the boat, there have been a couple issues with the windlass,

The first issue is that there is only a single control for the windlass.  It is a hand-held controller that lives in the windlass locker and is wired to the windlass via a coiled cord.  While the controller allows you to watch the anchor locker and anchor being deployed, the cord does not reach to the helm, so any attempt to anchor while single-handing the boat is not an option.

The second issue is that the up function would only intermittently work.  Usually after not using the system for a while, the windlass would run just fine when deploying the anchor but would fail run in the reverse wouldn't bring the anchor back aboard the boat.  Since it is fairly easy to deploy without the windlass and hauling the anchor up manually can be a real chore, the up function is the more important of the two. The coil cord on the controller is deteriorating and I suspect this may be part of the issue...but regardless it needs to be replaced.

The last issue I have with the windlass is that it will only operate when the starboard engine is running. I understand that the windlass can quickly run down a battery if an engine (and it's alternator) isn't running to provide extra energy. This "feature" was probably added to prevent charter captains from killing the boat's house battery with the windlass, but it also limits when the windlass can be used.  If you are running on only the port engine or if both engines have died, the windlass is inoperative.  And if both engines suddenly quit while near rocks, I want to be able to deploy the anchor quickly and easily.

In trying to figure out what to do about these issues, I researched adding a windlass control switch at the helm.  This would require running a three wire cable from the windlass control box (located in the cabinet under the galley sink) and out to the helm where I would have to mount and wire in a switch.  I also looked for a replacement coil cord for the controller, but was unable to find a proper 3-conductor coiled wire. The only option I found was an entire hand-held coiled controller that was over $150 (U.S.).

Then while searching for these things, I found a simple wireless remote controller on Amazon.  This controller is specifically designed for winches and windlasses.  The unit consists of a small control box and two remote controls.  The best part was that it was under $40 (U.S.).  This device could resolve both the coiled cord issue as well as allowing me to run the windlass from the helm.  So, even though it sounded too good to be true, I ordered one.

Everything in the package...nope, no instructions

The remote came today and so I just had to install it and see if it would work. Installing the control box was pretty straight forward even though the device came with no instructions.  There is a power (red) and ground (black) wire to provide power to the switch and the remote receiving radio.  There are also two other wires (white and yellow) that provide voltage only when the remote button is pressed.  And a small green antenna wire is also part of the mix. Hooking it up to the windlass control box only required a secondary ground so the radio would always have power.

Unfortunately the windlass control wiring on my boat did not match the boat's wiring schematics. I had to rewire the existing windlass control so it would match the schematics and allow me to install the controller box. The other disturbing issue with the wiring was that the control wires were not fused and a short could have easily caused other issues like fire.  I rewired the controller to match the schematics and added an inline fuse to protect the circuit. While I fixed the wiring, I also setup an option to bypass the oil pressure switch that was used to prevent the windlass from operating unless the engine was running. Now by swapping one wire on the terminal block pictured below, I can switch between the original functionality and the "always let it work" option.

New wireless controller at the upper right

After getting everything wired up, I gave it a try.  Other than having the two switched inputs reversed (so up was making the windlass go down and visa-versa), it worked well.  I switched the two inputs and now I have a windlass that can be operated from just about anywhere on the boat.  The only problems I've found thus far are that there is a small lag between pushing the button and when the windlass starts and one of the controllers had a near dead battery. Compared to the couple hundred dollars I could have spent, I think this modification is a win.

Friday, February 20, 2015

More LED Goodness

Back when I did the florescent to LED conversion of the guest berth light, one of the features I added to that light was the ability to switch it to a secondary color (blue).  The concept behind having a second monochromatic color was to try and help preserve night adaptation of the eyes during night operations.  Normally red is used in these cases, but my experience in aviation has proved to me that red and I don't get along that well and that any monochromatic light can work fairly well in this regard.

The big problem I had with the concept of creating lighting for night operations on the boat was the fact that the existing lights in the salon area didn't lend themselves well to this idea.  The overhead fixtures are small round lights and getting multiple colors into them wasn't really practical without spending a lot of money on specialized fixtures.  But on our recent overnight trip, I realized I had another option that might work.  The boat has courtesy lights under the stairs and one under the salon door that may be able to light up the cabin enough for safety without the need for the overhead lights.  Honestly, I had almost forgotten about these lights because most of them never worked and I didn't find them particularly useful with the original incandescent bulbs.  But converting them to blue LEDs might just make them useful,,,and a nice accent light for other times.

I originally thought about getting replacement LED bulbs for the fixtures, but then I remembered I had all of that left-over LED strip lighting I could use. It wouldn't cost me a thing, other than some time and a few small bits of wire, to convert the lights using the strips.   So out came the screwdriver, the soldering iron, and the spool of LEDs.

It was a fairly simple process to convert the lights.  I removed the bulb, and then bent and cleaned the contacts so I could easily solder to them.  I then figured out the size of strip that would fit around the inside diameter of the fixture (a 6 led segment fit about 80% of the way around the fixture), cut it to length and soldered an inch long piece of wire to the positive and negative contacts on the strip. After removing the protective paper from the adhesive, I applied the strip and soldered the wires to the contacts in the fixture.  Using a permanent marker, I marked the terminal on the back of the fixture that was attached to the positive side of the strip so I would know how to reconnect the fixture (incandescent bulbs don't care which way the power flows, but LEDs do).  And then all I had to do was reinstall each fixture.

Now I have nice, working, blue accent lighting in the boat.  And the lights produce enough light to keep you from tripping around the boat in the dark and should help with night adaptation of the eye.

These light strips continue to be a nice, low cost way of converting lights to LED.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Every Cruiser's Favorite Subject

Ok, maybe not favorite subject...but one that seems to be blogged about on a semi-regular basis. Actually, it is probably the bane of most cruisers existences.  Yes, I'm talking about the loo...the porcelain throne...the potty...the john...the porcelain god...the marine head.  During my last trip, the head decided that it didn't want to empty.  Of course, this happened while I was not on watch and was trying to get a little sleep...and anything that results in interrupting my sleep gets promoted pretty high on my repair list.

So, today I did a little research based on the symptoms and found that some people had the exact same problem.  The problem was that when you tried to pump the toilet dry, the pump was hard to push and the bowl didn't drain.  At the time it seemed to me that maybe a line was blocked...but having just replaced the lines, this seemed strange.  What I found was that the lever that switches from wet to dry was reported to be the culprit.  I go down and fiddle with the switch and, if I held it all the way to the right it would work.  I'm starting to see why Jabsco has such a bad reputation with manual pump heads.

The crappy (excuse the pun) Jabsco Pump

I already had a gasket kit for the pump (a set of gaskets that cost about half the price of a whole new head, mind you), so I decided I would rebuild it and see if that wouldn't make it happy.  I've never done this and there isn't much information on the procedure, all I found was the "exploded parts view" for guidance.

The rectangular gasket with corroded brass weights.

I started by removing the pump handle and seal cap.  I then removed the 6 screws that hold on the top of the pump.  Inside that I found several parts that were included in the kit.  There was a rectangular gasket that had brass weights on it, a spring, and the O ring that seals around the wet/dry lever.  I remove the lever and replace the O ring, swap out the spring, and install the rectangular gasket.  I re-install the cover using a relatively standard tightening pattern for items with gaskets.

The upper assembly with the switch lever and spring

I then remove the lower pump housing from the toilet base.  There I found the other rectangular gasket that has a big rubber flap.  I replace that  and carefully tighten the screws so the gasket seals properly.  Adjacent to this gasket is the housing for the joker valve, and I replace it next.  Whoever named this thing the joker valve has an obvious sense of humor as the joker is clearly whomever has to replace the thing.

The last item was to replace the O ring on the pump piston.  I replace it and lubricate the piston with silicone grease before re-installing it in the pump assembly.  With everything reassembled, I test the pump.  It again seems to work, but about one in every 10 pumps or so it fails to pull any water out of the bowl.  Geesh.  On the bright side, at least I didn't have to disconnect any hoses,

While doing research, I found that there is a kit you can buy from Raritan that allows you to reuse the Jabsco porcelain bowl but replaces the whole pump assembly and base with theirs.  Raritan seems to have a much better reputation, so next time one of these pumps gives me troubles I think I will go that route.  I've had enough of these temperamental Jabsco heads and their overpriced gasket set.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What a Difference a Day Makes

With the trip postponed for a day, it gave me extra time to clean up the boat and make it ready to go. Something I could use. I spent much of the day trying to better organize the boat, doing some last minute shopping, and watching the weather. I went out in search of some more storage containers and, since I expected the overnight to be cold, some better gloves.  I found some containers, but cold weather clothing doesn't seem to be an option in Georgia...even though it has been getting cool there.

Saturday evening I realized I hadn't tried starting my grumpy engine all day and so gave it a try. This time I couldn't get the engine started at all. This was getting more than a little annoying. Then I realized that, while I inspected the fuel filters early on in the troubleshooting process, when I went to replace them I was interrupted and...squirrel!...forgot to replace the secondary engine mounted filter. Of course, it was getting late and I figured my neighbors wouldn't like hearing me cranking the engine all night so I didn't get to test this theory until the morning of the day I wanted to leave.

I pulled the filter early the next morning. It still looked like it was in good condition with no dark color or appearance of being clogged.  I installed the new filter anyway and gave the engine a try. Even though it was cold, it fired up about as fast as it ever did. Whew. My best guess is that the air that was introduced by the leak I fixed earlier had probably resulted in the premature clogging of this secondary filter by all the fun stuff that can grow in diesel fuel.  At some point I should see what I can do to flush the fuel lines and "polish" my fuel. In any case, problem solved and it looked like I was finally ready to go.

The engine culprit

I called my friends Dieter and Britton (yep, the same ones that helped me retrieve my ring) who graciously offered to help me move the boat to let them know we were good to go. They made the trek back up to Brunswick to meet me at the boat. They also brought another passenger along for the ride, Anatoli is their Anatolean Shepard puppy that would be going with us. This would be his first long trip in a boat, so it should be interesting. We will see if he will use the grass mat and tray provided if the need arises (something we still need to train our dogs to use as well).

According to the forecasts the weather that caused me to postpone the trip was supposed to be calming in the afternoon and that would make for a somewhat more comfortable overnight coastal passage. The small craft advisory was to end at 3 PM, right about the time I wanted to depart for the overnight sail down to St. Augustine. Once we were in St. Augustine we would take the ICW to the Marina at Hammock Beach.

Trying to convince Anatoli to use "the pad"

After my friends arrived, we checked the weather. The forecast had been updated and now the small craft advisory extended until 10 PM. Shoot. Seas were forecast to be 3 to 4 foot on a 5 to 6 second period with winds from the northeast at 18 to 25 knots. The one advantage was that the waves were also out of the northeast so we would be traveling with them and this would make a ride more comfortable than if we were running against them. We cast off from my slip and made our way over to the refueling dock to top off and pay my final bill.

We sat at the fueling dock for a little while, debating the weather.  Using the marina's WiFi we were able to look at what several of the reporting buoys were saying.  It didn't look as bad as the recent forecast and was more in line with the original forecast.  Finally around 4:30 pm or so we decided it wouldn't hurt to go out and see what conditions were like.  Worst case, we could always turn around and come back.

A bit bouncy leaving Brunswick

We made the long trek from the marina to the Brunswick inlet.  It was about 6 PM when we passed the mouth of the inlet and were in the Atlantic.  The winds were out of the east at 16 knots and the seas were out of the northeast at 2 foot with a 4 second period.  Not too bad at all, actually pretty good conditions for us to sail south.  So, once we make our way out of the channel, we prepared to raise the sails and head south.

Since it was getting dark at that point, my new deck light really came in handy when working at the front of the boat.  I went forward with Dieter to raise the main and give a second demonstration of the reefing system while Britton was at the helm.  Between the waves and the dark, we had a fun time getting the main raised.  With the lazy-jack system on my boat you have to be careful when raising a sail with full battens or they will snag on the jack lines. As a batten gets near one of the lines, you have to make sure the sail luffs and is centered in the lines and then quickly raise the sail past the jack line before a gust of wind blows the batten into the lines. We finally got the sail raised to the first reef point, shut down the motors, unfurled the genoa to it's first reef point, and headed south.

At this point I found out that Britton wasn't feeling well. Since they own a sailboat and intended to go cruising, I never thought to ask but it seems she can get seasick. I always keep some Bonine on board and offered it to her. She declined and said she had been taking something and hoped the feeling would pass. Dieter and I also made the usual suggestions to get into the fresh air and to try to look out on the horizon. If I had known, I probably would not have suggested an overnight passage (particularly around a new moon) as it can get pretty dark and I've heard that can make seasickness worse. I asked if we should head back, but she wanted to press on.

It was actually a very nice sail for us (well, except Britton). We were making 7 to 8 knots directly on course that evening an until about 1 AM. The boat motion wasn't that bad, so I decided to forego the chili I had made and instead opted to make some fish tacos (chopping involved). Well, actually it was more of a burrito or wrap since I don't keep multiple sizes of tortillas on board and I find the large tortillas to be pretty versatile. They were a hit with Dieter.

We had originally planned on 3 hour watches overnight. Dieter said he was feeling good, so he opted to take the first shift and I went to bed around 10pm.  A couple hours later Dieter woke me up.  Apparently the head wouldn't flush.  What is it with the head problems ever since Stingray Point replaced the black water lines. I couldn't get it to flush either, it was acting like the line was blocked.  I tried both the holding tank and direct overboard options and no joy. Fortunately it was only liquid, so I pumped it out of the bowl and into a bucket with one of my handy squeeze bulb siphon pumps and declared that head off limits for the rest of the trip.

Dieter said he was still feeling good, I think he was having a lot of fun, so he kept watch and I went back to try to sleep for a couple more hours. Dieter came down and got me again after he spotted some strange lights on the horizon and wanted a second set of eyes to take a look. We were south of Jacksonville and there was something that almost looked like a oil platform in the distance. And just to the left of that was a single green light and further to the left was a single red light. If we were facing the shore I'd almost think it was two marker lights at a funny angle and a hotel on the beach...but we were not. The red and green could be nav lights, and the spacing would indicate it could be a VERY large ship heading straight for us...but the lights were backwards and without any other lighting in between, it seemed rather unlikely (big ships seem to always have some other deck lighting on). We altered course to pass port to port just in case. Then the red light turned into a green light. We adjusted our course back to our original thinking maybe it was a really large boat or three passing in front of us. As we approached, we were able to finally figure it out.  The mass of white lights was actually a boat, you just couldn't make out any nav lights on it due to how well lit up the entire boat was. The other lights were barges that were being towed by the boat. We think that the one light that turned from red to green was one of the barges that would occasionally surf down a wave and turn so you would see the port nav light instead of the starboard one. This was one set of lights you'll probably never see on a boating test, and was an interesting case to see in real life...and a little confusing to sort out when you are a bit groggy at night.

At this point I think it was sometime around 2 or 3 AM. Dieter was finally starting to get tired so I took the watch and he headed to his bunk. Outside it was getting warmer. The winds were also dying down a bit and our speed had slowed to around 4 knots. That was actually a good thing as had we had maintained 7 knots or more, even after leaving Brunswick late, we would have made it to St. Augustine well before sunrise.

The remaining portion of my night watch was uneventful. The wind and seas continued to calm. At one point I was in the galley getting myself something to drink and I saw a light out on the horizon through my new salon window. I pop my head back outside and realize it was a very thin sliver of the moon in the distance. The tint of the new windows made it look a bit more red, but outside it was more orange. It was nice to see though, as it indicated the sun would indeed be rising soon. With all the light pollution in a city, I don't even think you would have been able to see it. As the wind continued to die down and shift to the south, we dropped to around 3 knots and I decided to shake out the reef in the genoa to see if we could get to St. Augustine by 7 AM.

Another sunrise over the Atlantic.

As the sun arose, I went in to the galley to make some coffee.  Dieter woke up and came out in time to see the sunrise.  Britton remained curled up on the salon settee with Anatoli (I was feeling pretty sorry for her, while I've never been that susceptible to seasickness, it had to suck).  Since we were getting closer to the St. Augustine inlet, I decided I would quickly make breakfast before we had to go in.  No one else was interested (except Anatoli), so I made myself a breakfast sandwich and had it while we prepared to lower the sails (and Anatoli got some scraps of ham as well).  We had sailed all the way from Brunswick to St Augustine without the engines....only running the generator a couple times to top of the batteries and run the cabin heaters.

St. Augustine

We made our way through the inlet and only had to wait for a few minutes for the 8:30 opening at the Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine.  Britton an Anatoli emerged from the cabin and were greated with sun and warmer temperatures, something I think both of them (particularly Anatoli) liked.  We continued our trek down the ICW, past the Crescent Beach bridge and around the many reported shoals and marker changes, and arrived in Palm Coast just after noon.

Waiting on the Bridge of Lions

As we were approaching Palm Coast, the winds started picking up and by the time we got there, I think it was gusting up to 30 knots.  This ought to make for a fun docking experience...fortunately I have more confidence and ability than I did the first time I was here.  I was assigned a slip so I would be backing the boat into the wind when I was entering the slip and that made it a bit easier.  I was able to get the boat into the slip and Dieter onto the finger pier and we could then use the dock lines to settle her into position.  It actually looked like I knew what I was doing.

The total trip was 110.5 NM and took us 19 hours and 44 minutes.  That gives an average speed for the entire trip of 5.6 knots including time messing with the sails and waiting on bridges.  The highest speed recorded by the OpenCPN log while sailing was 7.96 knots and the low was 2.61.  I'd guess our sailing average was somewhere around 5.6 knots as well.  Not too shabby.

And the best part.  After getting the boat squared away, I was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals instead of the t-shirt under a sweat shirt, long pants and socks I was in all of yesterday in Georgia.  What a difference a day and a few degrees of latitude make.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Everybody Talks About the Weather...

...but no one ever does anything about it.  That quote from Charles Dudley Warner seems quite appropriate for a sailor.  I am certainly not the first sailor to have to wait on better weather to travel, it seems that is a very regular occurrence.  Funny, since I had the same issues when flying.  Now if were someone that could do something about it.

My original plan was to depart Brunswick on Saturday afternoon, do an overnight sail to the St. Augustine inlet, and then travel down the ICW to Palm Coast.  But the forecasts for Saturday night through Sunday morning are calling for some pretty rough seas.

The Sunday Windfinder forecast for St. Augustine buoy

Wave height at 6 foot on a 5 second period is not what I'd call a fun thing to do during the night, so I've decided to postpone the trip for a day.  Things are supposed to calm down on Sunday afternoon in time for our sail, so that is the current plan.  Of course, the idea that "plans for cruisers are written in the sand at low tide" also seems appropriate, so we will see what happens when the forecasts are updated in the morning.

I regularly consult Windfinder, as well as NOAA and Weather Underground (and sometimes the ADDS Aviation Weather site) for weather forecasts and information.  What weather sources do you use?

In the meantime I've been continuing to clean and organize the boat.  Or at least I'm trying to organize it.  I have to admit my organizing skills aren't the best and, as a result, a lot more stuff is laying around the boat than safely tucked away in an appropriate storage place.  But I'm working on it.  I've acquired a few more plastic storage containers to try and get some things under control.  Meanwhile, the rear berth in the boat still looks as bad as the garage in my land-based home was.

I did try starting the starboard engine this morning to see if my cleanup of the glow plug connections made any difference.  Unfortunately, it did not.  I've tested the glow plug circuit to verify battery voltage was available when the preheat button was pushed and that the plugs indicated proper resistance, so the search will continue after I get the boat moved.  The engine starts and runs fine if the engine is at least slightly warm, so it shouldn't pose any problems for the trip.

I also made some chili this evening that I thought might sound good for a meal while on a cool evening passage. I start with the basic recipe from The Boat Galley, and then added some additional vegetables to create a reasonably well rounded, one bowl meal.  If seas are reasonably calm, I may decide to make something more elaborate, but it is nice to have an easy to make meal when the boat is bouncing around.

Sorry about slowing down on the posts lately, but I figured I would spare you some of the details of cleaning up from "project mode".  If you need more detail, you can go clean your garage and then your bathroom and that ought to demonstrate the skills I've been using the most the past couple days. And to really get the right effect, you need to store everything in one cabinet in your kitchen or under your sofa.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Making Home Become Transportation

Spent most of the last two days making the boat both livable and ready to become transportation once again.  Ticking off a bunch of little things on the list.

The wild temperature swings in Georgia have taken a toll on the boat interior.  Since two layers of fiberglass and a layer of balsa don't make the best insulation, every time the temperature goes from the 60's to the 40's, condensation starts to develop.  And since my port hull doesn't have anything except fans to keep air moving, keeping it dry is near impossible.  The result of all the condensation, of course, is mold.  Being in project mode for the past three months, stuff gets tracked into the boat too.  So, a fair amount of yesterday was spent with sponges and cleaners (usually vinegar and water), cleaning the walls, floors, and ceilings.

And then there is the Wester-beast.  Since the starting issue only occurs when the engine has been sitting for 12 hours or more, each fix attempt results in a long wait to test it out.  After doing all I could to make sure fuel wasn't an issue, its behavior changed a bit this morning.  Still hard to start, but now there seems to be evidence fuel is making it to the engine.  Once you wake it up for the first time of the day, starting it again a few hours later goes smoothly.  So, I decided to check the glow plugs today (the next item on the troubleshooting list).  Using the procedure outlined in the manual, I disconnected each plug and then tested the resistance.  Each one showed the 1.1~1.2 Ohms of resistance they are supposed to have.  I did note some corrosion on the connections, so I cleaned the terminals up before reassembly...maybe this will help.  Guess I'll find out tomorrow.

Maybe the cause of my motor issues?

While I was down in the engine room, I also replaced the engine zincs.  I think I got to them just in time as they were looking pretty well worn.

Another item on the list was to restitch a portion of the soft bimini top that had come unraveled during the trip down to Brunswick (the flapping piece of Sunbrella material was starting to get on my nerves by the end of the trip).  I didn't want to take the whole bimini down, so I decided to hand-sew this two foot section while it was in place.

Good enough to hold it for now...I hope.

Since my next stop doesn't have free laundry, I also wanted to take advantage of the large capacity machines while I was here.  So, in addition to normal laundry that I'll be doing over the next couple days, I also took some of the larger bedding items over to wash.  While doing the laundry, I was thinking about my recent post on laundry and machines (we are still debating if having one of these small Panda units would be worth the storage space required).

And the reason I didn't get this posted last night like I had hoped was because I was invited to dinner by some friends I made while here at Brunswick Landing.  They made some very yummy Indian food and we had a nice the point that time got away from us and I didn't get back to the boat until well past "cruisers midnight",  They even gave me a plate of leftovers to take along...

Mmm....Homemade Indian.

Thanks for the invite, conversation, and Indian food Chris and Liz! I'll need to get some of those recipes from you.  And if I ever get this boat cleaned up and ready for guests, we'll have to do this again when I can host the gathering.

Now I'd better get back to work cleaning and organizing the boat so I can head south.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Return of the Beast

Spent more time looking at the stubborn starboard Westerbeke engine today. While it was starting a bit better, it is still a long way from right.  So I crawled back down into the engine room with my trusty flashlight, inspection mirror, paper towels, and a wrench.

I looked at all of the fuel system I could see and didn't find any leaks.  I checked every fitting I could get a wrench on and they were all tight.  I ran paper towels over the lines and found no leaks. Since the engine runs fine once it gets running, I've ruled out airflow (which I think would cause black smoke) and compression (since it does run fine once it is running) so that only leaves fuel issues.  But I'm stumped.

Of course, during my inspection, I found that one of the coolant hoses was chafing on a couple of the engine bolts.  So I did find something to fix.  This hose is molded to fit the engine a specific way and appears to be installed correctly, so I don't know if this is just bad design or what. In any case, bolts rubbing through a coolant hose is bad, so I needed to do something about it.

I was able to get a piece of scrap reinforced hose and so I cut a couple patches to act as chafe protection for the hose.  I used some high temp RTV to glue them onto the hose and temporarily secured them with zip ties to allow the RTV to set up.  Please note, if you ever try this, you must remove the zip ties...I've seen them cut through metal aircraft engine mounts so I have no doubt that they would make quick work of a rubber hose if left in place.  Hopefully the added reinforced rubber will give this hose some added lifetime.

So, still no joy on the engine starting issue, but at least I may have prevented, or at least significantly slowed down, another potential problem.  One of these days I'll hopefully solve this little Wester-Beast problem.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Rebooting Windows

Yeah, the title of this post is from my previous life as a software engineer. No idea how many times I rebooted Microsoft Windows...however it was a LOT. But, in this case I'm not talking about computers. Yep, I'm talking about my salon window project. Today was a gorgeous day in Brunswick, and it was very tempting to take a day off from working on the boat. But, I'm trying to make the boat ready to move south so I had to bite the bullet and keep pushing on the projects.

The salon windows have been curing for over 7 days, so it was time to remove the clamps and blocks that were holding them in position and apply the remainder of the sealant to finish this project.
After breakfast I once again masked off the area around the windows in an attempt to try and keep the black goo from getting all over the gel coat. Between all the masking and the paper towels, I'm starting to wonder if there isn't a joke about how many trees you have to kill to install a plastic window.

After masking everything, it was time to see if the window holds without the clamps. I slowly removed the screws and fender washers, watching the nearby edge of the window for movement. The windows didn't budge as the screws were removed, so I now have proof that they not only don't leak (courtesy of the rain a few days ago), but seem to be adhered in place.  Yay!

Some of the project supplies and tools

I noticed there were a few places where I could not see sealant squeezing out of the back edge of the glass where the screws and blocks were, so I started by cutting the nozzle on the first tube of sealant rather small and trying to inject it into the voids. I then used my bent putty knife to push it around and pack it in behind the glass. Trying to work sticky goo into a 3/8 inch gap and around a corner is...lets just say it tries your patience. I then used the smaller nozzle tubes to fill in the back of the remaining gap between the window and the opening.

The better part of the tooled sealant bead

Finally, I cut the tip to a larger bead and filled in the remaining gap. Someone who does this for a living could probably make it look nice right out of the caulk gun...but I am not that person. I ended up using my scrap from the flexible cutting board that I used on the anchor locker repair to "tool" the sealant edge. This produced a reasonably nice looking joint.

Windows all installed.

But only to a point. The sealant started curing a bit and by the time I got all the way around the window, the joint didn't look as good. The stuff takes up to 21 days to fully cure, but apparently will start getting tacky in under 15 minutes. Oh well. I'll have to live with Bill's 20-foot rule....if it looks good at 20 feet away, it is good enough. Removing the masking and the film that protected the glass was equally challenging as it was starting to skin over. If you ever try this, try to have an assistant or two available so you can do these steps fairly quickly.

I can see outside again.

In the end, I only needed 13 tubes of sealant for both windows. I guess those that needed more didn't do the second ring of foam 5/8" from the edge of the glass and probably also used the 1/2" foam so the window was flush with the opening instead of recessed like the original installation.

So, all the sealant is applied and one more big project is ticked off the list. Good thing since I want to be headed south in a week.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Needle in a Haystack

A few posts back, I told you how my wedding ring decided to go for a swim while I was working on the anchor locker repair. Watching the ring disappear into the water under my boat and not being able to immediately do anything about it was a very bad feeling. I called The Dive Guys in Brunswick, a local dive outfit that does work at the marina to see if he could look for it, but the response I got from them was a rather terse no. Having worn this ring for over 22 years of my life, I was not about to give up.

After checking with a couple other local leads that didn't pan out, in a bit of desperation I contacted some friends I had made during my stay at Hammock Beach. I knew that Dieter and Britton were divers (their blog is Diving Into Cruising) and I hoped they would know someone that could help. They replied that they knew someone that has the gear and can do this sort of recovery. Unfortunately, after over a week of trying to get a hold of that person, they were unsuccessful. They volunteered to come up and take a look themselves.

Dive flag raised in the rigging

Knowing that Brunswick Landing Marina doesn't have a lot of water flow, just the shifting tide, I could only imagine how much silt was below my boat. I figured a visual search would not stand a chance. I offered to help them purchase an underwater metal detector in exchange for them coming up to help search with it. Since they had thought about getting a detector in the past, we decided that getting the detector would be the best possible chance of finding this needle in the haystack that is the muck under my boat. So, a Garrett Sea Hunter Mark II underwater metal detector was ordered.

Today, they came up with the metal detector to try and find my ring.  As is my usual luck, the water under the boat looked cloudier than it had the entire past two weeks.  It was also it's usual 55 degrees Fahrenheit. I wish I could wave my hand and make the water clear and 85 degrees...but if I had that kind of power I could probably just make my ring jump back onto my finger.  I felt bad about my friends diving in those conditions, but they wanted to give it a try and I did want my ring back.

What is a project with out a few supervisors.

We dropped a weight on a line with a glow stick attached where I had dropped the ring to mark the center of the search area.  They lowered another similar weight down at the side of the boat to help aid in orientation when down in the muck.  As Dieter was getting suited up for the dive, a couple of The Dive Guys (the first people I called) happened to wander by and gave us a rather sarcastic "good luck" as they headed over to do some work on another boat at the dock.

I think the cold water was a bit of a shock as Dieter entered, and it took him a second to get used to it. He initially went down to take a quick look around and came back up and confirmed that the bottom was very soft and visibility was not at all good.  Not good news.  We gave him the metal detector and he went back down.  I stood and the end of the finger pier and watched the bubbles rise as he searched. It seemed like a long time, but in reality it was between 15 and 20 minutes when Dieter came back up.

Dieter following the target line

He reported that the metal detector wasn't working well and handed it back to us.  He said it was constantly going off on everything below the boat.  He then said he was going to take one last quick look but it was Britton's turn to give it a try.  He started to make his way back to the line at the center of the search area and then came back.  Apparently the water was getting just too cold to continue.

At this point, Dieter confessed.  He found the ring!  He just wanted Britton to experience the cold water and was trying to coax her in. I think she was relieved that, while she wanted to play with the new toy, she really didn't want to go into the cold water. He said that the metal detector made a distinctly different sound when it found gold and once he found the area with the detector, he ran his fingers through the muck and came up with the ring.  So, the metal detector did make the difference.

Yes, that's my ring on Dieters pinky

While Dieter went to take a well deserved hot shower, Britton and I rinsed the gear and cleaned up. I guess The Dive Guys stopped by the truck while Dieter and Britton were loading up their gear.  I wonder what the Dive Guys thought when they found out the ring was so quickly found.  After the gear was loaded, we all went for a walk downtown for lunch and to celebrate the success.

Cleaning up the gear

I can't thank my friends at Diving Into Cruising enough for rescuing my ring. If you ever lose something precious overboard, know where it went down, and are in the northern Florida area, you might want to check with them. They also do dive instruction, so if you have ever thought about becoming a certified diver, I bet they would be fun instructors to work with...although you might want to watch out for practical jokes from Dieter...or maybe that is just a warning for Britton. ;-)

P.S.  If you liked my new Facebook page, you already knew the ring was found.  Hope it didn't spoil the story.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Fiddling With Social Media

A blog is obviously a form of social media. When I started the blog I did it mostly as a means to explain this crazy idea of sailing away to my relatives and to augment my own memory.  But, since that time it has taken on a bit of a life of it's own. I've met a lot of nice people, made virtual friends with more, and it has become a good place to share ideas and experiences about the act of becoming a cruiser.  So part of today was spent looking with ways to enhance the blog and related social media.

I've had a personal Facebook account for some time, originally created when I needed one for a job. I've ocassionally put up links to my blogs there, but it has been a limited thing. Today I decided to create a Facebook page for This Rat Sailed.

I also signed up for an account with If This Then That. This is a service that allows you to create rules to cross post things between various social media outlets.  If it works, this post should automatically show up on the Facebook page. While I am going to try to keep up the near daily blog posts, I'm also going to make an effort to periodically add to the Facebook page as well.  Guess we will see how it goes.

Something else I've been mentally wrestling with for some time regarding the blog is if I should include advertisements.  One side of me feels like this would be "selling out", but the truth is that I spend a fair amount of time writing on the blog (I think the average amount of time I spend on a post is at least a couple hours).  So (just as TV uses advertisements to keep the lights on) if I can manage to get paid enough for a rare cup of coffee to offset the late nights writing, it seemed worth investigating.

I signed up for Google AdSense since it is integrated with blogger. Right now my account is "pending" so I don't know exactly how any of this will work.  Over the next few days or weeks, you may see me playing with the configuration. I'm going to try and make it as unobtrusive as possible and hopefully I'll get some ability to control what is being advertised.  Only time will tell.

I also looked into the idea of becoming an Amazon affiliate.  This would give me the option of showing products and services that I like, trust, and use.  A preferred option to somewhat random ads on my blog. Unfortunately, it seems Colorado (I am still technically a resident there) has a screwy law that keeps Amazon from offering their associate program in Colorado and a few other states.  So much for the better of the options.

So, bear with me as I play around with this stuff.  Hope you like the Facebook page.  Let me know if you find any of the ads annoying or problematic.  And, if you want to help keep me caffeinated and find an interesting ad, give it a click.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Anchors Aweigh

No, I'm not heading away just yet. But I am getting a step closer as I checked the anchor roller repair off the list today. Where I last left off with the story, I had just completed the fiberglass layup and was letting it cure before continuing work. With the weather issues, it has taken several days to complete this project.

After the fiberglass had cured for several days (long enough I hope it had bonded as well as it was ever going to), it was time to cut the excess fiberglass off to create the finished edge of the opening. Using the vibrating multi-tool I picked up at Harbor Freight a while ago, I trimmed the edge down even with the existing structure. I then sanded it to even everything out and make it look like it should.

Edge all trimmed, note how thick it is now.

Next, I needed to re-drill the mounting holes. In all but one case, part of the old hole was left behind so it was a simple matter to punch through the new layers of fiberglass (using a wood backing block helped to prevent splintering). Once those holes were in place, I temporarily mounted the roller so I could mark the location for the one new hole. After it was marked, that hole was drilled.

Originally, the anchor roller was mounted with simple fender washers to back up the bolts against the fiberglass. A better option, and one that may have prevented the failure of the fiberglass around the bolts in the first place, would have been a proper backing plate. So I decided I would do the right thing and I had a stainless steel backing plate made at a local machine shop.

Old backing versus new...which one do you think is better?

With new holes and a new backing plate, I decided it would be a good idea to test fit everything before I painted the new fiberglass. When fitting the backing plate, I noticed that a couple drips of epoxy were preventing the plate from sitting flush. I grabbed my Dremel tool, put on a small drum sanding bit, and removed the drips. The plate now sat flat. Of course, this was the point where my ring decided to go for a swim. Note to self: I need to make sure I remove jewelry, no matter how minor the project.

I had purchased some bilge paint to coat the new fiberglass in the anchor roller locker, but I guess I should have read the label better. Checking the label, it said it wasn't for use with epoxy without special primers and at the temperatures I would be working in, it said it would take two or three days to dry between coats.  I decided I would return the paint and use gel coat instead. It should provide good protection and won't have the same drying issues...or so I thought.

Proof the gel coat was mixed well.

I'm not sure what happened, but a couple small spots on the first coat of gel coat didn't cure properly. Even though I used finishing gel coat with wax, a few of the spots acted like the wax didn't work. What is it with waxed gel coat not always curing properly. I guess, in the future, I should just use laminating gel coat and plan to use poly vinyl alcohol (PVA) to seal the surface for the final cure. I ended up applying more gel coat to the problem spots and that did the trick.

Everything coated and ready to mount the roller.

After letting the gel coat cure, I used some sandpaper to clean out a few drips from the mounting holes and I was finally ready to bolt everything back together.  Once more into the dinghy (so I could work from below the locker) and with Bill's help I was able to get the roller mounted and the anchor back on the end of it's chain.

The Mantus back home where it belongs.

Everything seems very solid now, no movement of the roller bail at all even when I put all my weight on it. Between the added thickness of fiberglass and the new backing plate, I think the mount is significantly improved.  Hopefully it will keep the Mantus anchor secure for a long, long time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Grumpy Engine

I noticed on my trip down to Brunswick that my starboard engine was having some difficulty waking up in the morning. It would take an unusually long time to get it to start. Once it fired, it would seem to run fine and subsequent starts during the same day would be just fine, but that first start of the morning usually took 3 or more attempts to bring it to life. So, the past several weeks I've been looking into the issue as time permits.

The Westerbeke 42b Four Motor

My boat came with two 42 horsepower Westerbeke (or as my friends at the Retirement Project call them, Wester-Beast) motors. They have around 5000 hours on them, so I don't expect them to to be the youthful engines they once were, but the starboard engine should start easier than it does.

Diesel engines are relatively simple systems. When running, they have one less ingredient than their gasoline combustion engine counterparts. The engine compresses air in the combustion chamber. Then, when fuel is injected into the cylinder containing the compressed air, it spontaneously combusts producing power. No separate ignition system (spark) is required. Just fuel, air, and pressure. The closest thing to an ignition system a diesel engine has are a set of glow plugs. These are used to help warm up the cylinders to aid in cold engine starts. So, presuming that there is nothing screwed up in the timing of events (once it starts it does run just fine), the only real issues should be in the supply of air and fuel to the engine.

Combustion graphic from the University of Toronto

One time when I was trying to get it to start I noticed no signs of combustion. I would crank the engine, but no smoke or anything from the exhaust. I stepped away to think about it (ok, to curse at the engine), then came back and tried once again.  It fired up just like a new engine as if there was no problem at all. This got me thinking that I might have a fuel leak and air was getting trapped in the fuel line. Once the air was purged, the engine would fire.

So, I crawled into the engine compartment and looked for leaks. Sure enough, I found one very small fuel weep at a fuel line return fitting. Could this be causing air to be trapped in the fuel line? I tightened up the fitting and tried starting the engine again. This time the engine would not start at all. By sealing the leak, I trapped air in the line and it could no longer bleed out of the leak. I went back down, loosened the fitting again, and got the engine to start. I then re-tightened the fitting to stop the leak.

Feeling pretty good that I might have resolved the issue, I let the engine sit for a couple days to see if the problem was gone. Unfortunately, when I next tried starting the engine, the problem still existed. It might have been a bit easier than before, but if so it was not by much. Since then I've replaced the fuel filters and verified the fuel pump was working, but I am running out of things to try.

Guess I'm starting to see why they call it a Wester-Beast.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Laundry Day

Shorts wearing weather yesterday changed to cold and rainy this morning.  So, while my new windows are getting their water leak test, I decided I should probably get some laundry done.  Right now, laundry is pretty easy.  The marina I am at has free laundry facilities, so it is just a matter of lugging the laundry over to the clubhouse, finding an empty machine, and letting it do its thing. But my goal isn't to live at marinas, for it gets rather expensive, so I will need to find another option.

One option is to pack up laundry, toss it into the dinghy, and motor to shore in search of a laundromat.  While this would be workable, laundromats can get rather expensive.  And the expense isn't just the $3+/load, it is also the amount of time taken to babysit machines at the local laundromat.  Undoubtedly, we will have to do this for some things like big, bulky, bedding items.  But for normal day-to-day laundry, I'd really like another option.

Some nicer boats have washing machines installed.  These are often interesting devices that include both a washer and dryer in a single unit.  Unfortunately, these units can consume a fair amount of water (10 to 20 gal/load or so) as well as electricity (most are 110 volt units running 10~15 amps).  Even if we could justify the water and power usage, we don't really have space for one of these units unless we converted one of the berths to a laundry room as they are about the size of an apartment washing machine.  Not really an option.

 Bonus Package Panda Small Mini Portable Compact Washer Washing Machine 5.5lbs Capacity

Taking another step down, there are small, portable washing machines.  These can range from something about 2/3 the size of a small apartment washing machine down to an appliance not much larger than a food processor or large blender.  The size and weight not only determine the amount they can wash, but usually the features available.  Some have multiple levels and cycles and can spin dry, the other end of the spectrum are ones that just agitate.  Power requirements vary, but some of these are getting to the level that a solar system and inverter may be able to support the occasional load of laundry.

Then there are manual options.  There are manual crank washing machines.  Some use a 5 gallon bucket and a plunger (hopefully not one they have been using to unplug their toilets), or hand washing in a sink.  More labor intensive, but no power requirements beyond manual labor.

 Honestly, I have no idea what the best option is for living on a boat.  Energy and water are always an issue, but there is something to be said for convenience.  So, if you are a cruiser, what do you do?  If you are thinking about cruising, what do you think you may want to do when you need to wash a few things?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Always Be Prepared

While that may be the motto of the Boy Scouts, it also should be the motto of most boaters.  All sorts of things can happen and it is good to be prepared   Of course the preparation I want to talk about today isn't quite as serious in nature as some you might face aboard a boat out in the ocean.

You see, yesterday a sign appeared at the marina.  There will be a Superbowl party starting at 5 PM today.  As is usual for this sort of thing, it is a "bring your own" affair.  In this case, Brunswick Landing Marina was supplying spiral sliced ham and each guest was supposed to bring a side and your own beverages.

Needing to throw something together last minute to take to a party or gathering is something you will likely need to do from time to time.  Having things on board to do this is pretty much a necessity unless you want to be the anti-social hermit type.  In the past I've managed in these cases, but I've been quite busy with the boat and this time it caught me unprepared.

Now I could have just not gone to the party...but I could really use a break from the boat work.  Fortunately I still have a car and so I went to the store and bought the Winn Dixie bucket-o-potato-salad after applying gel coat to the anchor locker repair.  So, I'm heading to the party with my store bought side...and the irony is I don't really even follow American football.

One of these days I'll figure out something to keep on the boat for these parties that isn't mostly junk food.