Friday, July 31, 2015

Finally A Little Progress on the Bimini

I guess I've been making progress all along, but with most of it in the planning stages, sometimes it just doesn't feel like real progress.  I reworked the design of the top a bit to give it a more pleasing curve along the front edge.  It also allowed me to clean up the model a bit, and I could better get measurements off of the 3D model (so I might have a chance of getting the compound curves where it attaches to the arch right).

New front curve, otherwise mostly the same.

Wednesday afternoon we were finally able to get some supplies to the yard that were needed to start the build.  These supplies included 4 sheets of 4 foot by 8 foot plywood, 8 foot long 2 by 4's, and a bundle of 8 foot long 1 inch by 3 inch wood strips. Right about now you might be wondering whether I'm building a fiberglass top or a small shed because it certainly feels a bit like the latter to me.  But all the wood is to create the "mold" that I will need in order to create the top with the aforementioned curves.

Actually, not all of it is for the mold itself.  The 2x4's and two sheets of the plywood were so I could build an 8 foot square table so I would have a flat place to construct the mold.  The small chunks (crushed...almost) of granite that cover the yard don't really make for a good or level work surface, so before I can start on that, I need a place to work.  This project is starting to feel like I am building a house by first going to out in the forest to cut trees for timber and mine ore for making nails.

So, Thursday morning I started by setting up the 12 foot square portable canopy that we purchased on sale at K-Mart while we were in Hampton.  Shade is desperately needed in a boatyard in July after all. Then I began putting together the table.  This is not as simple as it might sound due to the sad state of the lumber available at the big box hardware stores.  It took a while digging through the plywood at Lowes to find the two flattest pieces they had.  And they were by no means flat.  When we laid the worst of the two on the floor at Lowes and stood on one end, the other end would lift up off the ground about 5 inches.  The 2x4's were a little better but not much.  So we got the best we could and hoped we could attach everything together so the result was a mostly-flat table.  The result isn't perfect, but should be good enough for what we need.  Oh, and my cordless drill battery died about 3/4 of the way through, so I still have a few bits to attach to really complete the table.

How one might normally draw an arc.

But, the table was in good enough shape for the next task.  The hard top has a curve from side to side and so I need to construct curved stringers so I can attach the foam board to it to get the desired curve before I apply the fiberglass.  Thanks to the 3D model, we were able to determine the radius of the curve that we would need (since the arch sits at an angle, you can't just measure it).  I needed to create an arc with a 38 foot, 6 and 3/4 inch radius. Of course, I don't have a drawing compass quite large enough to draw an arc that size, so I improvised.  I took one of the boatyards straight boat stands and tied a piece of 40 foot line to its center post with a bowline.  I then placed the stand about 35 feet from the edge of the table top and parallel with the seam between the two sheets of plywood that made up the top.  I measured from the center of the stand post along the string out the 38' 6 3/4" and made a mark on the table.  I then made a mark 6" back from that and drew a line perpendicular to the table seam at that distance.  Then I took the plywood for making the stringers, ripped them into 6 inch strips and lined them up with the line on my table.  Using the drawing, I marked where the center and end points of the arc should be on the stringer board and table and then lined up the board on the perpendicular line I created on my table. I then wrapped the line around a pencil so the tip of the pencil was at one of those marks when the line was pulled tight.  I confirmed that if I moved the pencil and kept the line tight, it would intersect the marks.  Viola, a crude 38+ foot long compass.  I was able to draw the arc, paying particular attention to keeping the pencil as vertical as possible (ok, I ended up drawing several arcs and had to go back and darken small sections of line confirming the correct locations).

My 38+ foot long version of a drafting compass

Out came the jigsaw and I cut the arc, leaving just a little excess.  I then used a sander to finish off the edge of the stringer.  Since my stringer needs to be 12 foot long and the plywood is only 8 foot, it is not a complete stringer and I will have to create a duplicate of my incomplete stringer, flip it so it is the mirror image, and attach the two together to create a complete stringer. We took the cut plywood to the boat to check our work, and the arc appears to be pretty close to perfect (best we can tell holding it up in what should be its correct position if it were holding the top on at the boat).  So, tomorrow I should be able to construct the rest of the stringer pieces.  In this heat, I'm not sure how far I will get, but I am very glad I have the canopy and a fan.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Salt Ponds Marina

I know it has been a while since I was at the marina, but I haven't found a lot of extra time for blog posts while working on the boat.  But, before it becomes too distant of a memory, I thought I would do a little review of our last marina stop, Salt Ponds Marina Resort in Hampton Virginia. I know I am always looking for information on a variety of places, so hopefully this will help someone else.

Aerial view of the marina (from marina web site)

Our time at Salt Ponds was nice.  I got a chance to spend some time with my family and see some of the local sights, and we even got a little work on the boat done.  The marina itself is interesting.  I guess the best phrase I have to describe it is that it has a lot of potential.  The staff is friendly and helpful, and most of the people there are super nice.  You can tell the marina was once a very nice facility, but it seems a bit weathered and run down (the exception is the pool, which seems to attract a crowd and most of the maintenance attention).  I guess that explains the price, which is very affordable for the area.  My understanding is that it has undergone an ownership change recently and there is evidence that things are starting to get more attention so I hope improvements continue.

Entrance into the marina is via a dredged channel.  At the time we were there they were in the process of dredging the channel so we saw depths when we arrived as low as 4ft (while trying to pass a boat coming out the channel) and were in the 8ft range by the time we left. My understanding is that they need to dredge the channel every couple of years, so you probably want to verify depths and access if you have a deeper draft boat. It may have been the result of the dredging operation, but we found that our air conditioner sea strainer (desperately needed in the 100F+ heat index days) needed to be cleaned every week or two and contained a fair amount of growth and mud. We also found it necessary to back-flush the entire system to flush out what the strainer didn't catch.

The docks themselves are nice since they are floating docks. Their construction is a butcher-block-like design and some of the wood is decaying so there are some soft spots (nothing dangerous, just small spots thus far).  They have rubber rub-rails along most of the docks and I didn't find anything protruding, so they are certainly good dockage for a short or long term stay.  The marina lies along a channel and has a long boardwalk with 18 piers, labeled A through R, for slips and T-heads at the end of each so they can support a variety of sized boats.  I know they have 30A electrical service, and I think 50 may have been available, but check with them regarding power requirements before you go. Power is sometimes metered and sometimes flat-rate, I think it depends on whether the meter on the power pedestal is working or not. The walk from end to end of the marina boardwalk is about a mile long.

Rover at the dock in the distance.

I guess this is a good time to bring up the bath houses.  There are 3 along the stretch of boardwalk (the web site states 4, but I don't recall seeing the 4th), which is good since it would be a long walk from the end piers to the office when you needed a bathroom. The bathrooms are where you can best date the age of the marina...or at least their last make-over.  The sinks in the main bath house are molded "green pearl" plastic sinks that are cracking and weathered and give a distinctive 70's feel. The walls of the stalls are rusting, and there is a general need for caulking and updating.  Two showers are available.  The remote bath house at the far end (near piers N through R..the one closest to us) was a bit more utilitarian with white wall mount sinks and one piece plastic shower stalls and the same rusting metal stall dividers.  The showers each had a three hook bar, which is good when you need a place to hang your towel and clothes.  The flooring in this bath house is soft in spots so one toilet rocked a bit, and the floor outside the shower was of questionable stability.  The remote bath house had a pay washer and dryer in each of the men's and women's sides.  At a minimum, the bath house needed a good cleaning, some floor repair, and caulking to prevent continued water damage to the floors. The remote bath house could also use a No Smoking sign that was obeyed (Virginia, presumably because it is a tobacco growing state, seems to have a high number of smokers). The boaters seem a bit rough on the facilities...possibly because they feel "why bother" given their current state.

The boardwalk. About half of the walk to the office for us.

The main office and pool area is a bit of a hike, around 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the outlying docks. Many of the regular tenants have golf carts to make the trek.  This is also the location of the main parking lot and can be quite a hike to your car if you have one.  There is a small parking lot near the higher letter docks, but there seems to be a fight for control of it between the marina and the gated housing development. The office has some supplies, t-shirts, ice cream, and drinks.  They usually have coffee available in the morning as well. While I did not use it, the pool seems to be a good size for the facility and a very nice area for lounging at the marina. I'm told that the pool and a common area that is part of the office can be "signed out" for an evening if you want to have a party or gathering.  This is a particularly nice feature if you would like to do some entertaining not on your boat.

Salt Ponds has fast internet access, but the fast only seems to exist at the office and common area. There are wireless repeaters that attempt to spread the signal down the docks, but like many marinas, they don't seem to work very well.  We were on the T-head of dock Q and the closest WiFi router could be connected to but didn't seem to have any internet access except on very rare occasion. Using a long-range WiFi antenna, I was able to connect to repeaters down the dock and closer to the office and could get marginally usable internet there. I usually had to play a game of "which router is working today" in order to get access from the boat.

On the marina grounds there is a restaurant and Tiki bar.  The bar even has it's own pool.  Food at the restaurant the one time we tried it was decent, especially for being so convenient.  Groceries or other supplies not found in the office are not as convenient.  There are a couple small convenience type stores a long walk or medium bike ride away near Buckroe beach.  Going further, there is a Farm Fresh supermarket in Phoebus (the one we went to when anchored at Ft. Monroe), and a Sav-a-lot about equal distance away. The neighborhood along the beach consists mostly of nicer vacation/rental type accommodations, and become more modest as you move away from the shore.  There is a small beach across the street from the marina (beaches behind the beach houses are private) and the public Buckroe beach is a moderate walk or short bike ride away.

Overall, the marina is worth a stop if you are looking for a marina to hang out at for a while in the southern Chesapeake.  It is an aging "resort" but has some nice amenities at a reasonable price.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Almost Sank The Boat

Ok, not really...but we did let a bit more seawater in than we wanted to.  But let me back up a bit...

Today is the day we are supposed to launch the boat.  Finally, we could be off of "the hard" (what us sailors call it when a boat is intentionally put on land...where it obviously isn't supposed to be) where the boat sits in the air, acting as a solar oven while surrounded by trees that block even the slightest of breeze.

Where Rover started the day.

But first, we needed to touch up a bit more bottom paint.  When a boat is put on the hard, it is sitting in the air on blocks or stands.  When the bottom paint is as thick as it is on our boat (yes, at some point we need to do a full strip and repaint...but I'd like to get another year or two out of it first), the blocking can actually stick to chips of the paint and pull them off of the hull. This may also have something to do with the original surface prep, but in any case, it seems to happen.

So, early this morning the Travelift operator showed up to pick the boat up off the blocks so we could touch up those areas.  Hanging in the Travelift slings, we cleaned and touched up areas under the blocks and bottom of the keel. Now, the Petit Hydrocoat paint we are using typically wants 12 hours or more to dry, but we were scheduled to go in between two and hopefully it will dry enough in time. Thus far I've liked the Petit Hydrocoat paint, the boat has remained pretty clean and there are no noxious fumes from the paint.  The only negative I've found so far is that it takes a while to dry, and getting the yard to give me enough time to allow the paint to dry while off the blocks (they prefer hanging in the Travelift slings to re-blocking a catamaran it seems) is near impossible.

With the paint applied and drying, we headed out to breakfast.  Since the boat was swinging in the lift, we figured we should probably limit any time on board to only absolutely necessary...and going out for breakfast seemed like a good option.  After breakfast and taking the dogs for a walk at a nearby park, we returned to the boat.

We decided to apply some wax to the hull at the waterline (we started waxing the whole hull a day or two ago, but ran out of time after one side of one hull), since it is easier to do on land than floating in a dinghy.  We hand applied wax to the bottom 8 inches or so of bare fiberglass.  By the time we were done, it was almost time to go back into the water.

We quickly went around the boat, removed the tarps we had put up to help shade us from the sun, and set up dock lines and fenders so we could be moved out of the haul-out slip and over to the slip we will call home while I work on the hard top.  The lift operator arrived while we were getting the tarps put away, so we felt a bit rushed.  This turned out to be a bad thing.

The boat made its slow roll from the yard to the haul out pit.  The boat was slowly lowered into the water and as soon as I was allowed, I hopped on board and started inspecting the through hulls to make sure none were leaking.  I started with the starboard engine room as there were two down there and the access is through the hatch in the sugar scoop.  They looked good when closed, so I opened them up and there were no leaks.

Then I went inside.  As soon as I got through the door I could hear running water.  Oh crap.  I quickly followed the sound to the starboard holding tank cabinet and I knew what the problem was.  I opened the cabinet door and found the valve in the half-opened position that I left it in when I installed it. In our hurry to get the boat going, I forgot to go through and check each of the through hulls. Since we had two through hulls that were not connected to hoses yet, we basically had two big potential holes in the bottom of the boat.  I quickly shut off the valve and the leak was stopped, but not until about three buckets full of water made its way into the bilge.  Good thing it didn't take too long to find.

Fortunately, after shutting off the valve, no other leaks were found. I burped the prop shaft seals to remove the air and allow water to cool the seals and then it was time to start the engines.  The engines fired right up.  We made our way out of the haul-out pit and over to the narrow fairway leading to the slip. It was a tight fit but we made it into the slip without incident and are finally back in the water.

Rover at the end of the day.  Much better.

In the slip there was even a nice evening breeze so we were able to open up the boat.  It is soooooo nice to be back on the water and not stuck in the hot, dusty, breeze-less boatyard.  So, maybe tomorrow I'll go back to the yard and set up my work area for the top...or maybe I'll take a day off.

Note: The last two posts were a day or so behind due to internet access issues...yes, in the marina/yard. Seems marinas are difficult places to implement WiFi with all the boats that have repeaters blasting away at full power.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Almost Ready To Splash

Whew.  Yeah, that is about the best word to describe the last few days for both my wife and I.  But the good news is that, barring any unforeseen issues (ahem...yeah, we are talking about a boat) we should be back in the water tomorrow.

After pulling the cutlass bearing sleeve the other day, I needed to wait for the yard shop to open up so we could press out the old bearing and press in the new one. I have to admit, I do like the fact that the bearing holder unbolts from the boat and slides can be pulled out.  Being able to take the sleeve holding the bearing to the shop and use a press to pop out the old bearing makes that a breeze.

Old cutlass bearing removed and new in the holder.

Once the old bearing was pressed out, I cleaned up and inspected the holder.  The previous bearing wasn't the phenolic sleeve bearing that is called out for in the manual but was a bronze sleeved bearing. There was some corrosion in the holder, but thankfully it was still in pretty good shape.  We pressed in the new phenolic sleeve bearing and I headed back to the boat. I then used a drill to create a dimple in the bearing for the set screw and then installed the set screws with some Locktite.  The assembly was now ready to install.

Installation of the bearing holder was surprisingly easy.  I thought, given how difficult it was to extract, putting it back in would be similar. But, after cleaning the holder as well as the shaft log where it resides, it slid into place with only minimal resistance.  There was a fair amount of debate on the use of any sealant during the install, but I decided to put a small amount on the back of the flange just as it was when I removed it. I also used a rubber mallet to make sure the holder was seated properly along the bottom edge since there was a possibility that using the bolt alone to seat the holder (or some combination of it and the sealant) might cause a slight mis-alignment. At least theoretically this could have contributed to the encountered wear, so the mallet seemed like an easy solution to a problem that might or might not have existed.

Propeller installation was very straight forward.  I cleaned all the metal contact surfaces to ensure that the prop zinc takes the corrosion before the bronze propeller or stainless steel shaft does.  I'm actually a bit surprised about all the bronze and stainless touching as I would think that would lead to dissimilar metal issues.  A stainless steel prop shaft, stainless steel key, bronze prop, stainless steel locking washer, bronze prop nut, and a stainless steel screw that holds on the zinc. I guess that zinc must work well.

Everything back together.

With the through hulls, cutlass bearing, and propeller installed, there were only two tasks left.  First, I needed to reconnect all the hoses to the through hulls.  It had been several days since the sealant was applied so everything should be about as cured as it was ever going to be.  I ended up buying two boxes of AWAB stainless steel hose clamps to replace a bunch of the cheaper, rusting, hose clamps that were removed.  I like these clamps because they are high-quality stainless, seem to be well constructed, and are designed so they don't cut into hoses like standard clamps do.  Unfortunately the down side is they are a bit pricey compared to standard hose clamps...but I think well worth the difference. I also needed to replace one hose as the new valve required the hose to be about an inch longer. So, other than a couple of the black water hoses (a system we still need to investigate a couple issues with...thanks to the last boatyard), the "plumbing" should be back in working order.

The last task is to touch up the bottom paint.  Pulling through hulls out required the hull be cleaned around the through hull location on the hull so the sealant will do what it is supposed to do (unlike what was done with the air conditioner through hulls).  This results in the need to repaint around the areas. Of course, the smallest amount of bottom paint you can get is a quart, and after using about a half-pint to touch up the areas, we ended up touching up the keels and the waterline since they can usually use a little help. Interesting thing about bottom paint is that it apparently fades in the water.  I bought the same paint as I applied last year and the new paint was noticeably darker than what was currently on the hull.  Oh well, I guess the fish won't mind and I'm not going to spend another $400 or more in paint plus a few extra days in the yard to repaint the whole thing when most of the bottom paint is in good shape and was working well.

So, I think we are ready.  Hopefully come tomorrow, we will be back in the water.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Removing The Cutlass Bearing - or - I Need To Work On My Planning

I don't recall if I mentioned this already (boy my memory is failing lately), and with the slow internet here I'm having a hard time checking the older bear with me if any of this is repetitive...

After finally getting the through hulls reinstalled on the boat (I still need to connect hoses...but wanted to let the sealant have plenty of time to cure), the next task was one we discovered after hauling the boat out.  Yep, you haul the boat for one project and seem to find a few more that need to be done.  This next task is to replace the cutlass bearing on the starboard engine.

For those who are not familiar with such things, a boat with an inboard engine and no sail drives has a long shaft that extends from the drive shaft of the engine downward at an angle through the hull and on to the propeller in order to make the boat move under power.  In addition to a good seal to keep the water out, this long shaft needs a little support so it doesn't go flailing around from the forces generated by the propeller and end up cutting the back end off the boat.  This job of holding the shaft in place is performed by the cutlass bearing.  The bearing is a nitrile rubber sleeve type with a hard outer shell and is found near the propeller end of the shaft. The combination of this bearing and the coupling on the engine keep the shaft spinning along a constant axis.

The cutlass bearing is in the sleeve where the shaft enters the boat.

Naturally, as with many things found on a boat, these items wear over time.  When we hauled the boat, we checked the shaft by wiggling the propeller up and down to see if there was any movement. We heard the clunk of the shaft moving, which indicates it was or soon will be time for the bearing to be replaced.  Since we already had the boat out of the water, now seemed like the right time to change the bearing.  While it is theoretically possible on a Leopard to replace this bearing with the boat in the water, it should be far easier to do as we sit on land.

In order to replace the bearing, we first have to remove the propeller.  Given the importance of a propeller remaining attached and all the forces involved in it pushing the boat along through the water, it is usually well attached to the shaft and requires a special device to aid in its removal. A propeller puller (gee, how did they come up with that name) helps pry the propeller from the shaft much in the same way a gear puller removes gears that are pressed onto a shaft by grabbing the forward facing hub of the propeller and then clamping against the aft end of the shaft to squeeze it off.  The reason why I'm telling you about this is...well...because I don't have one.  If you carried every possible tool needed to work on a boat with you, I'm betting that your boat would not remain afloat. So some things, particularly more rarely used tools or ones you are not likely to need while underway, have to be assumed that you can find at the average boat repair yard.

This is where my planning comes into question. I'm sure the boat yard where I am hauled has one or more of these handy tools since they work on boats every day and several they are working on are sans propellers.  But, with the push to get all our through hulls installed, I lost track of time and didn't think about this critical tool until well after 5 PM on a Friday.  Just a little too late to see if I can borrow least until the shop re-opens on Monday. The same Monday when I had hoped to march into the shop with the bearing sleeve and new bearing in hand to have them press out the old one and install the new one. Not knowing how difficult it might be to remove the prop or the bearing sleeve, I really wanted a portion of the weekend to work on it.

So, Saturday morning we started looking for a prop puller.  Went by the marina office and got the official story that the shop guys wouldn't be back until Monday and the receptionist doesn't know where...or is.  Checked several nearby marinas and boat yards to see if they had one to borrow or rent, but had no luck. I considered the option of trying to make one, but with the forces involved and the chance of damaging an expensive bronze propeller, decided that would not be the best idea. Went to several auto parts stores to see if they had something that would work (some auto parts and hardware stores around here carry marine stuff) and even looked at a couple of gear pullers. I was worried, given the forces that are reportedly involved in extracting the average prop, that the small hooks of the gear puller might put too much force on a small point on the propeller hub and be able to damage the soft bronze.

Here is where a friend and fellow Leopard owner I met in Georgia saved the day.  He had offered to provide some tips on this whole process, and when I called to talk with him he said he uses a gear puller.  When I mentioned I had looked at some and was concerned about the hook size, he indicated he never had a problem and would send me some information on the model he had.  A few minutes later he called me back and, not only did he figure out the model, he found that the local AutoZone had one in their free tool loaner program and had reserved it for me.  He also explained that if you don't use too much force at one time and just take it slow (a 1/4 turn of the clamp at a time and maybe tapping it gently with a rubber mallet), the prop should work its way off with no damage.

Gear (propeller) puller from AutoZone

I also heard, with the forces involved, that it was recommended to thread a nut on the end of the shaft to prevent the propeller from flying off once it released its hold on the shaft.  My friend said he never had that problem with his technique, but I figured I would play it safe and get a nut anyway (I couldn't just use the prop nut because the puller didn't have a long enough reach to work around the big prop nut). So, when we went to the store to pick up the puller, I also asked if they had this large metric nut in stock.  Of course they did not.  As it turns out, neither did the other auto parts or hardware stores that were in town (I guess a M20x1.5 nut is pretty rare, the closest we found was an M20x2.5 [bigger threads] at Tractor Supply).  So much for playing it safe.

So, about 8 hours after the odyssey to find the puller started, I was headed back to the boat with something that "should work".  I carefully placed the puller around the prop with the three arms going between the three blades of the prop, centered everything, and tightened the screw up snug so the puller was attached but not yet "working".  I then tightened the puller a quarter turn with my wrench. I went to get my rubber mallet (naturally I left it a little out of arms reach...what was that about my planning again?) and when I returned it looked like the propeller had moved.  I checked and sure enough the puller was loose and so was the prop. I removed the puller (being careful not to let any of the arms ding the prop), then slid the prop off while making sure I didn't drop the prop key (a small stainless steel bar that fits in a slot in the shaft and the prop to keep them oriented).  Yeah, about 8 hours to find the tool, and about a half hour to actually remove the prop...with most of that time spent bending the locking washer back out flat so I could remove the prop nut.

It was finally time to remove the cutlass bearing sleeve containing the cutlass bearing. The sleeve is just a stainless steel cylinder that contains the bearing with a teardrop shaped flange welded to it.  At the top of the teardrop is a single large bolt that holds it in place.  The theory is you remove the bolt and slide the sleeve out.  Yep, that's the theory.  I don't know if the factory originally did this or if it was a prior owner, but the sleeve is glued in place along the flange with some sort of sealant.  So the actual process is:

  • Cut the sealant and paint between the flange with a utility knife as best you can without damaging the fiberglass.
  • Remove the bolt.
  • Use a flexible putty knife to try to cut through the sealant between the hull and the flange of the sleeve.
  • Use a sharp, stiff blade scraper/putty knife or painters tool and a mallet to gently cut through the sealant and pry it away from the hull.
  • Curse and question the lineage of those who designed this part of the boat or at least used sealant on it.
  • Continue to try to work the sleeve out of its resting place.
  • Attempt to spin the sleeve around by the flange to convince the last bits of sealant to finally let go.
  • Use screwdrivers or pry bars (with wood backing against the hull) to get a bit more leverage and continue trying to persuade the sleeve to come out of the hull.
  • Stick a dowel or screwdriver through the bolt hole in the flange of the sleeve when it is spun sideways to get more leverage as you work the sleeve back and forth and slowly extract it from the hull.
  • Once the thing is finally out, have a earned it.

Everything removed.

Ok, so it wasn't quite that bad.  Honestly the actual working time for the removal of the prop and cutlass bearing sleeve was a couple hours.  The vast majority of the time on this project thus far has been spent researching how to do it and finding the needed tools (prop puller) to do it. And a special thanks to my friends Fred and Lee as well as the other Leopard owners on the LeopardCat forum for all the help and advice!

From left to right: The prop zinc, nut and lock washer, key,
propeller, sleeve retaining bolt, cutlass bearing in sleeve.
All freshly rinsed from a little downpour.

Now that the bearing is off of the shaft, I can see that the reason for the cutlass bearing wear is that the shaft...or the bearing holder sleeve...seems to be misaligned. The bearing is worn at the top on the aft edge and the bottom on the forward edge of the bearing.  So, I guess I'll have to research how I can resolve that while I wait for Monday so I can get the yard to use their press to remove the old cutlass bearing and insert the new one.

Friday, July 17, 2015

It Always Takes Longer

When we were learning to sail, one of my instructors once said "if you want to know how long it takes to sail there, take how long it takes to walk and add a day."  I don't know if he came up with that or if it came from somewhere else, but it gives you a good idea that travel by sailboat is fairly slow.  Now I just need a way to better gauge how long a boat project takes.  Take how long it takes to do a project on land and double it?  Or add a month? or ???  Of course, I never could gauge projects well on land either (a long weekend bath retile project using stone tiles took us over 2 months to complete).

Yesterday we spent a fairly long day rebedding the through hulls. I don't think we were done until after 9 PM.  We started off by going to each through hull location and dry fitting the parts to make sure everything fit as it was supposed to and to determine orientation of the parts. It is also a good time to figure out the assembly process for each through hull.  You would think that you would use the same process each time, but within the confines of a boat, it doesn't work out that way. With the narrow spaces in a boat hull you need to figure out which parts you can pre-assemble and which need to be done in place. You even need to see if you can get wrenches or other tools to the locations where they are needed and that you have the room to swing them. Oh, and don't forget how you are going to apply the sealant to each of those parts as you assemble them...caulk guns aren't exactly low-profile tools either.

What the 1.5 inch through hull looks like from the outside.

One problem area I found and didn't really have a way around was the nut that screws on to the through hull. The nut itself is relatively thin so it doesn't take up a lot of assembly space. Unfortunately this also means there isn't much surface area to get a wrench around it.  Add in the fact that boat hulls are usually curved and you are trying to tighten this nut on the concave side, and it can be a real bear to get the wrench to turn the nut.

The 1.5 inch through hull from inside.
Note the general lack of space around it.

Another major issue is simply dimensional space.  As an example, all the 1.5 inch through hulls in the boat are in narrow spaces and require an elbow just after they penetrate the hull so the valve and hoses will run along the wall of the hull. Of course the ball valve handle sticks out far enough that you cannot thread it onto the elbow without hitting the nearby hull, even with the handle removed. So, you need to attach the valve to the elbow first.  Then you run into the problem that the combination of the elbow and the valve sticking off one side of it takes more swing room to thread on than you have available.  So, how do you attach all of this together and still be able to tighten that thin through hull retaining nut while not spinning all of the sealant out of the fittings and causing a leak?  Heh, heh, heh...guess I'll find out if my approach worked when we put the boat back in the water.

The air conditioner through hulls installed.

If all of this rambling doesn't make sense, just take a good look at the pictures and the various parts and think of how you would assemble all of them together. It took us about as long to dry fit the things as it did to rebed them. Rebedding consisted of using sealant on all the threads as well as a generous bead around the mushroom head of each through hull. Assembly is a combination of NPS and NPT threads, so orientation of parts can be fun.  NPS threads will just turn until the pieces bottom out, but will always leak without some sort of sealant.  NPT threads can be tightened so they won't leak, but then you don't get much of a choice of which direction handles or hose barbs point. A good sealant seems critical when you can't tighten pieces enough due to the needed orientation.  Since the through hulls on this boat are not the ideal proper seacocks with through bolts, I decided to go with 4200 as it is both an adhesive and a sealant but not as permanent as 5200. It appears to be what the original builder used so hopefully it will work well to both hold things in position and seal them.

The air conditioner through hulls from inside.
Remember the far one is at the limit of my reach.

The through hull replacement project has certainly taken a little longer than I expected, but we now have 12 new assemblies and are waiting on the sealant to cure.  Of course, at under double the amount of time, I'm still doing better than that tile project on the time estimate versus reality front.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

It Worked.

You know, sometimes I even surprise myself.  This through hull replacement turned fix the cored hull seems to have turned out as good as I could have hoped.  In my last post I talked about how two through hulls were not put in properly on the boat and the negligence could have allowed water to soak into the core and cause delamination (a very serious structural problem on cored composite boats). As it turned out, there were actually three through-hulls that were apparently installed by the same people, but in one of the cases they got lucky and didn't drill through cored fiberglass.  The only evidence all three were done by the same folks were they were all related to the AC system (or generator to power them) and that they failed to remove the old bottom paint before installing any of the three the through hulls.  Ablative bottom paint isn't the best surface to try and create a seal against..since it ablates after all.

To fix the prior installation issues, I spent a lot of time with a small screwdriver, a Dremel tool, and even a hex wrench to remove any wet core material I found and create a void between the fiberglass skin layers. I could then fill the void with epoxy to seal the remaining core and create a better mounting surface for the through hull. Before adding the epoxy my wife and I, for good measure, packed the holes with silica gel (a desiccant) to pull out any possible residual moisture in the core.
We let that sit for a day or two as we worked on cleaning up the other through hull holes and located parts for another unexpected project.

Yesterday we continued work on these two through hull holes. We started by removing the tape and silica gel we had packed into the holes.  Did I mention that the location of these two through hulls is in one of the least accessible parts of the boat, directly underneath the stairs that lead from the salon to the starboard hull.  The only access is via a cabinet door under the desk and that door leads to a chase that runs aft under the stairs.  And these holes are located just about a full arms length from that cabinet door.  Add in the air conditioner lines, raw water pumps, and other hoses and wires that are run through this space, and working in it can be...well...a challenge.

View from the access location.
The short black posts are the wrapped PVC pipe
in the holes in the hull.

Using my Dremel tool, I drilled several holes through the inner skin of the hull and into the area where I had removed the balsa core material so I could inject epoxy into the voids.  I then took some plastic (trash bag actually) and wrapped two small pieces of PVC and inserted them into the the two holes.  These would create a mold for the hole I want to remain and allow me to inject epoxy into the voids without it all spilling through the holes and ending up on the ground.

I mixed up some West System G-flex thickened epoxy, placed it in a syringe, and began injecting the stuff into the holes.  I started at the bottom injection hole and would squirt epoxy in until I saw it come out the next two holes above it.  I then took some cellophane tape and covered over the lower hole and started injecting from the next holes up in order to try and prevent any air from being trapped inside the repair. Oh, and to see the holes, I needed to use an inspection mirror attached to a flexible shaft that I could wrap around whatever was convenient or have my wife hold and position to get a look at my work. It took about two full West System epoxy syringes worth of epoxy, and I have no idea how many colorful metaphors, to fill the area around each hole.

The holes sealed and ready for replacement through hulls.

The epoxy takes between 7 and 10 hours to cure, so I couldn't see the results of all the work until this morning.  When I got up this morning, I was a little concerned how easy it would be to remove the PVC "molds".  Luckily, they slid right out and exposed a very nice cylindrical hole lined with epoxy. The results look very nice and I'm sure this will keep the core sealed and provide a good structure for re-mounting the through hull. Hopefully we can get some of those re-installed tomorrow.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Do It Right

Ok, I'll admit, I'm a bit of a perfectionist.  Always have been.  Guess I've always believed in the tired phrase of "you can do it right, or you can do it over".  Unfortunately much of the work that has been done on my boat prior to my stewardship didn't follow along those lines.  Some of it might have been prior owners not knowing the right way to do things (and I know I certainly don't...but that is what the internet is for these days), but a lot of it seems to be the work of marine "professionals".

This through hull replacement project has turned into another case of discovering things done wrong.  When you have a composite cored hull, it is important to keep water from being able to get to the core. When water penetrates, it can cause the core material to separate from the fiberglass skins, and that significantly weakens the structure. As I previously mentioned, some people with Leopards have reported that they have found through hulls where the core was not properly sealed.  So, needless to say, I was a bit worried about this project, despite the pre-purchase survey finding no indications of moisture around the fittings.

Well, the good news is that all the factory through hulls are in solid fiberglass, no core material visible.  Unfortunately, it appears that a couple of my through hulls were not done at the factory.  The two through hulls that feed raw water to cool the air conditioners were not installed properly.  The holes were drilled through the cored hull, and no measures were taken, other than the bedding sealant used, to seal off the core.  In addition, they didn't even bother to remove the bottom paint from the area before the through hulls were installed.  It was a ticking time bomb.

Fortunately, we seem to have caught it in time. The sealant that managed to stick to the through hulls and the small amounts of exposed gel coat that weren't covered in bottom paint had just started to fail, and there was only a very small amount of moisture in the cores right at the holes.

The proper way to put a hole through a cored hull is to drill a hole larger than the one you need, fill it with epoxy fiberglass, and then drill the smaller size hole you need in the new fiberglass.  This results in a solid fiberglass sleeve that not only seals the core material from any potential water leaks, but also provides a surface with higher compression resistance for the clamping of the through hull.  Since I already have a hole and drilling a larger hole isn't really an option at this point, the repair technique I will be using consists of digging out some of the core material around the hole (this will also get rid of any wet core material) and then filling the created gap with a thickened epoxy to create the solid sleeve and seal off the remaining core.

Cleaned up holes packed with silica gel.

Most of yesterday was spent cleaning off the old bottom paint that was found underneath the through hull (how does pressure washing take this stuff off and yet a scraper and sandpaper have such a tough time with it) and digging out the old core material to about the diameter of the through hull head (3/4" deep or more).  It took quite a while to chip out the balsa with a Dremel tool, screwdriver, and hex wrench (think bent piece of wire).

Once I had the groove cut out and could see good balsa all the way around the holes, I decided I really wanted to make sure that all the moisture was gone.  I started with a heat gun, but wasn't making any real progress...and I didn't want to sit there for a day or more waving the heat gun back and forth across the holes.  Then I remembered I had a bunch of extra silica gel from making those desiccant packs for my tool storage containers.  We took some tape and sealed over the bottom of the holes, then filled the holes up with silica gel, working it into the areas where I removed the core and taped off the top to prevent atmospheric moisture from interfering with the gel.  Hopefully, leaving this stuff in there until we are ready to fill it with epoxy will extract any latent moisture.

We were lucky.  The poor practices of the original installer were caught before any significant damage was done.  If it weren't for the need to replace a couple through hulls and the decision to replace them all, we might not have found this issue until much more extensive and costly delamination repairs would be required.  And getting things done right is how we ended up in a boatyard doing work ourselves in the first place...well that and the cost of getting things done by "professionals".  Now is my chance to do it over and do it right.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

She Won't Float Now

Nope, if you drop Rover in the water right now, she would probably sink rather quickly. Ok, so being a cored composite construction catamaran, she probably won't become submerged (since I don't have a big lead weight in my keels, she would only sink to the point that the natural buoyancy of the plastic, balsa, and wood she is made of) but she would take on some water pretty quickly. After all, I don't think the painters tape that is currently covering the 11 holes in the boat are likely to stop sea water.

Yep, yesterday and the day before we made 11 holes below the waterline in the boat.  Ok, you caught me again, we actually removed 11 old through hulls and ball valves, so technically we opened up 11 existing holes. There is only one through hull that remains, and it is an obviously much newer one than the rest, so we decided it still should have plenty of life left in it.

The two removed from two days ago

Why did we remove them? Well, some of them didn't look in the best of condition, and I had heard several reports of people having problems with electrolysis weakening the original valves or through hulls in much shorter time frames than one would expect of quality valves under normal conditions. There were also reports that some boats had through-hull holes that were not properly sealed and would allow water penetration into the balsa core. The final straw was that I managed to break the handle off one of the old valves trying to open it on our trip north, rendering it permanently closed. Since I didn't want a valve coming off in my hand (as the handle already did) and I don't want any delamination problems with the hull, we decided to pull and replace all the old through hulls.

Now, to the uninitiated or those unfamiliar with boat maintenance, replacing one of these things might not sound all that difficult.  Remove the attached hose, unscrew the valve, remove the through hull nut, and remove the through hull itself with assembly being exactly the opposite, adding in a little sealant along the way. But, in reality, one thing will almost always prevent this easy sounding process: corrosion.. Since 1999, or whenever some of these parts were previously replaced, corrosion has been doing its best to convert these collection of parts into one giant, seized together piece. The chances of me getting one to come apart...well...I'm probably far better off expecting that lottery ticket I bought will hit the jackpot.

The only real way to remove these things is to cut off the head of the through hull (this is the part that is clamping it to the hull from the outside) and then coax the remaining bit out of the hole. I find a lot of swearing helps coax it out...preferably in multiple languages if you know them.

The head of a through hull before we started work on it

Cutting the head off can be done using a hole saw and a wooden bung. You pound the bung into the through hull from the outside, carefully center your hole saw guide bit in the middle of the bung, and drill a hole the size of the through hull until the head pops off. Or that is the hole saw process I've been told. I don't have hole saws nor enough bungs to sacrifice 11 of them to the cause, so I took an alternate approach. I grind the heads off with an angle grinder that I do have.

This sounds difficult and potentially dangerous to a fiberglass boat hull, but if you go slowly and keep control of the grinder, it isn't that bad. Using the curve of the grinding wheel, you simply grind away a cup or tapered shape at the center of the through hull.

Ground down through hull head about ready to come off.

You will reach a point where you will begin to see the head separate.  Underneath that separation line is actually sealant (the through hulls are designed with a taper to hold a bead of help keeps them water tight and all of that).so you aren't grinding into your hull.  Once you get that line to appear (at least in regular intervals) around the through hull, you can stop grinding and use a screwdriver to break any remaining thin layers of metal and then pop the head off.  I use a utility knife to score the bottom paint around the through hull in an attempt to prevent the head of the through hull from taking off too much of the adjacent bottom paint.

Carefully popping the head off without damaging the hull.

At this point, providing the previous installer didn't use something as stupid strong as 3M 5200, you can probably twist the valve assembly and work it free.  If it was stuck with 5200...well..I'm not exactly sure what you would do besides curse a lot more.  You might need to go invest in those hole saws at this point because my understanding is that 5200 is very in fiberglass and gel coat will come off with it.

Looking at the cut through hulls, I'm not sure if I had a problem with zinc being leached out of the bronze (I think the theory was that the "bad" through hulls had a high zinc content and electrolysis was leaching the zinc out of the bronze). There were certainly some surface areas that were more copper colored than bronze, but internally they seemed properly colored to me.  I did notice a couple different colors of bronze (in the picture below), but neither were decidedly copper looking to my untrained eye, so I'm guessing those are just different bronze formulations.  If you happen to have any knowledge on this, please leave me a comment below.

Different colors of bronze or a zinc problem, what do you think?

One problem I did find was that the two through hulls for the air conditioners did not have the core properly sealed, and only the sealant was preventing water from entering the balsa core.  So, before I re-install them, I will need to cut out a bit of the balsa and seal it with epoxy to guarantee no future water penetration. I haven't inspected all the holes yet, but thus far the other ones on the starboard hull all seem to be in solid fiberglass with no exposed core.

All except the two largest valves.  4 different manufacturers.

So, here you have it....a picture of most of yesterday's work.  Wonder if I can find a metal recycling company nearby and recoup a little bit of the money involved in this project.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Landlocked Again

Three days, it seems both a very long and very short time frame right now...we left Salt Ponds Marina in Hampton, VA for Severn Yachting Center, the boatyard we selected to do our through-hull work and hopefully build my new hard top bimini.  We originally wanted to leave on Monday, but the yard couldn't haul us until Tuesday so we spent the extra day at Salt Ponds and then departed on Tuesday.

When we set up the Tuesday arrival, the girl at the desk really wanted to pin us down to an arrival time.  I told her that I would need to check the weather and, as a sailboat, probably couldn't give her a reasonably firm time until the evening before or morning we were to leave.  She insisted she needed some time to put in the book, so my wife said 1 PM and I reiterated this was just a wild guess at the time. Well, as you might expect, when I checked the weather (specifically the winds) and the expected time of departure I determined that 1 PM was optimistic and 3 PM was more likely.  I called the yard in the morning as we departed (they were already closed for the evening when I determined this) and was told they wouldn't be able to haul me until the following day but, after the receptionist checked with someone else at the yard, called us back and said they would put me on a T-head for the night.  Seems reasonable so we continued on.

Without time pressures (we now only had to get there before they closed at 5 PM or so), we were able to sail most of the way.  A warm day for sure, but reasonable winds most of the day kept us moving along. It wasn't until our speed dropped below 3 knots and we were going to need to make a turn directly into the wind that we pressed the engines into service once again.  We dropped the sails and motored our way up the Severn river, arriving at the marina about 4 PM.

During our approach, we tried calling them on the radio several times (they indicated they always monitor it during business hours) and finally had to call the on a cell phone to get a hold of them. They confirmed that we would be on the first face dock as we approached, and they would send someone down to help with lines and guide us. Here was where we were given another surprise.  The T-head was a fixed dock and had large pilings in the water about 28 ft off the face of the dock and spaced about 25 foot apart (remember, my boat is 38 foot long and over 21 foot wide).  There were crab pot buoys scattered about and some white PVC pipes stuck in random locations around the dock too. To complicate matters further, that headwind we had coming in had picked up and was blowing straight across the face of the T-head.

T-head left, piling right, pipe and crab pots behind.

Best we could tell, the employees on the dock were trying to tell us to pull into the dock directly over one of the crab pot buoys and one of the PVC pipes. Not wanting to wrap a propeller around the line holding the crab pot to the buoy and not knowing if I could run over the plastic pipe or if it marked something to be avoided, I tried contacting the marina on the radio to discuss the situation. But the marina employees didn't have a handheld radio (or a cell phone) with them.  They tried shouting from the dock, but sitting at the helm all I can really hear is...wait for it...the rumble of the engines.  I decided my best approach was to go past the dock, across the mouth of one of their fairways, and back in between the dock and the pilings. After my wife got a couple extra fenders and lines out and ready, I was able to maneuver the boat sideways into the fairway channel and back into the dock. With a little help from the dock we got the boat tied up and safe for the night.

While walking the boat sideways into the fairway I noticed that a motor boat on the T-head across from us was a boat we saw at Salt Ponds.  They were on their boat and gave us a thumbs up while I was maneuvering onto the dock, and since we had recognized the boat, we decided we should go over and say hi. Tim and Debbie were a nice couple and, like us, have two dogs on board as well.  We chatted for a bit before heading back to the boat.

Did I mention that when I checked my email just before we departed Salt Ponds I was contacted by someone we met at our going away party in Colorado?  They were in town for just a day or so and wanted to see if we could connect before they hopped on a plane back to Colorado. While we were introducing ourselves to Tim and Debbie, they stopped by and were greeted by our dogs. Unfortunately, they left before we could get back to our boat.  Sorry Jim and Judy, hopefully we can get together when our paths cross next.

Driving through the forest

The next day we hauled the boat.  The marina didn't want to haul it until high tide, so it was scheduled at 1 PM. I didn't understand why, since my boat only draws 3' 7", they wanted to wait until high tide. They said it had something to do with the width of the boat and the lifts straps and it was easier at high tide.  So, a little before 1 PM we made our way over to the haul-out slip and Rover once again took flight.

While they were pulling the boat, I reiterated that the boat has sacrificial keels and it cannot just be blocked on its keels.  This seemed like a surprise to them and they questioned how they were going to block it.  The yard manager told me how the ABYC "standard way of blocking" was to set a boat on its keels and then use stands to keep it from tipping over.  That may be great for the average monohull where most of the weight and structure are related to the keel, but a number of catamarans, including mine, have sacrificial keels and are not designed to take the full weight of the boat. He ended up calling someone at Leopard and was told that some weight could be placed on the keels, but it definitely should not take the whole weight.  We eventually devised a blocking option using both the keels and blocks at the adjacent bulkheads to support the boat.  This should meet the needs of the boat according to the guy at Leopard...hope he was right.

Blocked, with tarps up for shade.

By the time we got the boat blocked, it was already after 4 PM, so it didn't look like we would get any work done that day.  It was also very hot.  You don't know how nice a breeze on a boat feels until you are sitting on your boat, over a bunch of crushed granite, with trees around you blocking the breeze. In order to survive the next few days, we ended up buying a new centerpiece for our salon table...a 12000 BTU portable air conditioner. If you are living on a boat on the hard during the summer, I think one of these is pretty much a necessity to prevent your boat from becoming an experiment as a large scale solar oven.

Yesterday we were finally able to start working...almost.  After finding where we had stored all the brass through hulls and valves and other bits we had purchased last year, we went through and verified that we had all the parts we needed.  Unfortunately we found that the 1" Marelon fittings would not thread into the valves.  The 3/4" and 1 1/2" ones worked fine, but that left us with 5 elbow fittings that would not work.  With the boatyard's help we called around and ended up talking with the manufacturer.  Unfortunately, the manufacturer could only really give us excuses.  "The fitting is NPS threaded and not NPT, and the valve we have is NPT" was one of the excuses.  When we told him that it didn't thread onto two different NPS threaded fittings we had here either, his only suggestion was that we buy one of their valves and it would work.  I already have a very expensive bronze valve, so I'm not going to replace it with their expensive plastic one.  Thanks Forespar...with your customer service I don't think I'll be buying any more of your products if I can at all avoid it.

Two Through-hulls out.

We never did find a replacement part and will have to see if the current ones will work.  After all the running around, we only ended up removing two of the through hulls so far.  So today we will continue to remove more through hulls as well as see if we can get some replacement parts ordered from the marina.

Sunday, July 5, 2015


The last few days I've been going back and forth on several design options for my hard top bimini replacement. I didn't realize that there would be this many decisions to be made for such a simple sounding project.  It's not rocket science, just a mostly flat fiberglass panel.

I've been in touch with a couple of friends who have Leopard 38's with hard tops to get pictures and design ideas.  One had a tubular aluminum frame, and plastic panels were laid on top to create the bimini.  The other was a molded fiberglass top that only utilized metal for a few struts at the front of top to hold it above the cabin roof (it may actually be one of the $15K tops built in Florida).  They are both nice tops and served their purpose, but the decision on which direction to go was an easy one there.  I'm no welder, so the more I can do out of fiberglass the better.  I guess I'm no expert at fiberglass either, but at least I've done small fiberglass projects with some success.

The next part of the design was how I wanted the top to cover the cockpit.  The soft top comes straight forward from the arch and then curves down as it gets to the helm, and I don't particularly like that.  All of the winches, except for the dinghy/traveler one, are also out in the weather, and it would be nice to have access to them from a dry location while sailing in rainy weather. So it made sense to try to create a 3-D model of the cockpit and see how various top configurations might look.

The top with an example 230 watt solar panel 

I downloaded a program called SketchUp and began working on creating a model of our cockpit. I wasn't looking for a detailed replica of our cockpit, just a rough approximation except for a few critical areas like the dimension and curve of the arch and cabin top as well as the location of the two sheet winches.  It took me a while to fight with learn to use the program but I finally gave up got the model close enough to be useful. Angled and curved surfaces were a pain to model.

I tried a variety of different ideas.  Should I embed the solar panels into the top thereby reducing the amount of materials I may need and allowing for better cooling of the panels?  Do I want to integrate a water collection system into the top? How far can I extend the top and brace it while allowing sufficient clearance for the winch handles? Can I integrate wiring chases into the design for the solar and cockpit lighting?  Can I integrate storage into the top?

The side profile of the top...I think it looks decent.

So far, I've decided that the best approach I can take is one of relative simplicity.  I'm adapting simple designs that I know have worked for other people, adjusting only to simplify the build and as needed to fit the boat.  I've had a difficult time finding solid engineering data so I'm leaning on the existing working designs as well as the advice of a couple of aerospace engineers I've met here at the marina (yep, I did in fact ask a couple of rocket scientists). The pictures you see in this post are what I have come up with.

An underside view of the top.  A couple minor drawing glitches.

The plan is that most of the top will consist of a foam cored fiberglass panel.  I'll use either 3/4" or 1" foam that will then have two layers of 12 oz biaxial cloth glassed on each side.  I may add a third layer to the bottom side for added rigidity as a deck surface.  The best information I have indicates the panel alone should be more than enough to support the weight of people and gear.

The handhold edge, bolt rope and rear tab detail.

U shaped channels will be created that run from front to back on the underside of the top to provide for wire chases as well as add a little additional rigidity across the length of the structure.  At the front and around the window cutout at the helm seat, a foam doubler may be added for additional rigidity in those areas,  Around the edges I'll create a rounded surface to act as a hand hold and to provide a bolt rope slot for attaching fabric dodgers.  The rear tab for mounting the top to the arch will be solid fiberglass around all mounting locations. In all locations where there will be penetrations, holes will be over-drilled and filled to seal the core.

So, what do you think?  I know some of you out there have some experience with what have I missed?  I think I'm going cross-eyed staring at this drawing on the computer screen.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bridges, Tunnels and Yards

Finding a boatyard that can haul a 21+ foot wide catamaran, is reasonably priced, and allows you to do your own work in the Chesapeake is more difficult than I had anticipated.  Maybe, after my previous experiences, I'm now a bit pickier about yards.  Of course, my need for both a short haul-out and time in the water while I work on the hardtop (don't want to be living on the hard while building the top) has played a role too.  In any case, the hunt for a yard has been interesting.

We were able to locate three yards that, at least on paper or via phone conversations, seemed to fit the bill.  So, the last couple days we ended up making short road trips to see these yards and meet the people before we decide.  And this segues into the other subject of this post.

Most people, at least that don't live around here, might agree that a bridge and a tunnel are mutually exclusive things.  One, the bridge, usually spans a gap or crosses over something like a river, gorge, or canyon. On the other hand a tunnel usually burrows it's way underground.  These seem like two mutually exclusive tasks...but not here in Hampton Roads.  Here they have highway structures called "bridge-tunnels" that are a combination of the two.

One of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel segments.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-TunnelHampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, and Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel all allow motorists in the area to cross the big rivers and the bays of the Chesapeake watershed.  They are bridges that cross over the water until they reach a shipping channel, then like a gopher, burrow beneath the channel so big boats (and us smaller sailboats) can pass overhead.  The 23 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is actually a combination of several trestles, two tunnels, and one span of bridge that goes over a channel.  And we used two of these to check out a boatyard in Cape Charles, saving us a very long land-only-based drive to the peninsula

The trip was productive and we were able to put the three "finalist" boatyards in order of preference. So, if we are able to get something setup with our first choice today, we should have a place to go to get work done next week.  Keeping my fingers crossed.

And here were a couple funny signs we found during the trip (previously posted on my Facebook page)...

Nonsense you say?

Do lots of people want to live here?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Playing Tourist in Virginia

So, most of last week I got to forget about the boat projects and be a tourist with my wife and parents during their visit.  Of course a boat won't just let you forget about it, so there were a couple things I had to deal with on the boat as well.

My parents made it to Hampton Virginia shortly after I got the galley faucet installed on Saturday.  It was late in the evening, so we didn't really do much until the next day except try to figure out what to do.  The next day we decided to take a trip to see Yorktown.

It is an interesting small town, but it's claim to fame is the battlefield.  This is the location of the last major land battle of the American Revolutionary war.  Continental army and French forces laid siege to the British, eventually forcing the surrender of Cornwallis.

The battlefield, only the sound of tourists today.

Some examples of the artillery used here.

The Moore House, where the surrender was negotiated.

The room where the surrender was negotiated...they think.

The next morning I ended up doing the oil change I had planned to do before my parents know...when I was working on the galley.  Fortunately, oil changes aren't terribly difficult on the boat so it didn't take too long.  Then we did a little shopping and local sightseeing including another visit to Fort Monroe.  We even tried stopping by the local Bass Pro shop one more time but decided that fishing off the boat just wasn't in the cards for this week.

Old downtown Hampton, VA.

On Tuesday, with recently serviced engines and nice weather, I took my parents sailing on the Chesapeake.  This is the first time they have ever gone sailing with us and the first time they have been on our catamaran.  It was a nice morning to be out on the water with reasonably calm seas and winds in the 15 knot range.  We sailed south on a close hauled course until we reached the shipping channel coming out of Norfolk, then turned away to parallel the channel.  My parents got to see a couple large container ships as they were heading out to sea.  Then we turned back toward the marina.  In an interesting twist, we were once again beating to windward on a course 180 degrees from our previous course.  As it turned out, this was a nice thing as it gave us a nice cooling breeze on the boat.  A breeze we didn't realize we needed until we made it back to the marina and felt how hot it was.  This week would continue the trend of "unusually hot" weather for the region.

I think I (in combination with the hot weather that week) wore my parents out as they opted to go rest at their hotel after our late lunch.  With the free evening we attended a pot-luck gathering that we were invited to at the marina that evening.  Here is another one of those moments where it is nice to have something on board that you can put together in a hurry...of course we did not.  Given how hot it was, I decided it would be refreshing to make a tropical "coleslaw" so we made a quick trip to the store for a few ingredients (the "coleslaw" includes cabbage, pineapple, cranberries, walnuts, and carrots). We had a nice evening talking with the other folks that were staying at the marina.

The following day we continued our tour of the region's historical impact by visiting the recreation of the Jamestown colony.  This is a bit of a tourist trap, but it was interesting to see the museum as well as the recreations of the ships that were used to bring the colonists over (our boat doesn't seem like such a small craft to cross the ocean after all). I also found a live demonstration of a matchlock musket to be interesting.

Jamestown settlement replica.  Tourists are the only thing they trap today.
Tobacco has played a role in Virginia for a long time.
Replica Indian settlement...the replica Indian doesn't seem authentic.

The ship Godspeed (full size working replica).

Each day we seemed to have some work to do on the boat, so our "tourist" time didn't seem to start until after 11 AM or so.  This somewhat restricted what we could do in a given day, and in the case of Jamestown, we ended up making a second trip up to see the original settlement site where they are currently undergoing an archaeology dig to try and better figure out what the original settlement was like (yes, the touristy replica Jamestown is not on the actual historic site but is nearby).

The original Jamestown fort site.

The fort from outside the wall.

The Jamestown Church site.

One of the dig sites, you can see a fireplace/oven on the right.

It was unseasonably warm for the entire week, not cooling off until the day after my parents left.  But I think we all had a pretty good time.  It was nice to get a chance to finally show my parents the boat and take them out for a sail as well as get away from the boat and go be a tourist. It reminds me that I need to work more on the balance between fixing the boat and having fun...lately I've been too focused on getting a few major work items done in anticipation of future adventures and have been neglecting the "living in the moment" part of this lifestyle.  Sometimes it is hard to change habits that have been ingrained in your psyche for 40+ years.