Friday, January 31, 2014

Bedding Hardware

As anyone that has owned a boat probably knows, mounting (or re-mounting) hardware on the exterior of a boat isn't as simple as just screwing it into the hull.  In many cases there will be some stress placed on whatever you intend to mount, so drilling all the way through the hull and putting a backing plate on the hardware is required to distribute the load across the fiberglass.  And, of course, holes invite water leaks. Even in simple or more cosmetic hardware, simply screwing into the hull results in a hole that can cause problems if water enters...and you are on a boat so chances are water will enter.  For a boat like mine that is "cored" (the fiberglass structure is strengthened while keeping weight down by placing a lightweight substance like cork or foam between two layers of fiberglass), water getting into the fiberglass laminate can result in expensive repairs.

To prevent water from entering the hull, you "bed" the hardware.  All this really means is that you put some form of sealant on the hardware around the hole so water hopefully won't get in.  This sealant can take many forms and different options may be used depending on what you are attaching to the hull (one obvious difference would be items above or below the waterline).

During our survey, there were a few items noted that needed to be re-bed.  A couple handrails were found to be loose and the moisture meter detected some slight moisture around one of the stantion bases.  All of this is above the waterline so I did a bit of research on what would be good to use and figure I could do this without an experts oversight.  People mention 4000 and 5200 (a couple adhesive sealants from 3M designed specifically for marine use), as well as various forms of silicone or silicone-like substances.  The important things seem to be that the material be resistant to UV (imagine sit out in the sun), be flexible, and able to tolerate the marine environment (water, salt, etc.).

After doing some reading, I decided to give butyl tape a try.  It sounded fairly easy to work with, adheres well, can be removed without damage, and lasts a long time.  The down side appears to be that you are supposed to compress it fairly slowly, so it takes some time and patience to mount each piece. Since this will be my first attempt at rebedding hardware, easy to work with had me sold. And, of course, there are good butyl tapes and bad ones.  I found someone that sells what is supposed to be good butyl tape and his web site has great instructions on how to use it so I decided to order some.  You can check out the web site below:
(if you want the Bed-it butyl tape, you can order it at the end of page 3)

A lifetime supply of butyl tape?

For my first re-bedding attempt I decided to fix a pair of...hmm...can't really call them pushpit rails can I?...handrails on the back sugar scoop stairs and swim platform.  These were noted as loose on the survey, are obviously loose, and may be the source of some water I'm finding in the engine room bilges. No huge structure or disassembly of the interior to contend with so they seem like a good first place to try.

I remove and clean the starboard side rail and around the mounting holes.  I take about an inch worth of the tape and roll it into a relatively thin rope shape and put it around the bolts on the rail like it shows to do in the above web site.  Reinsert the bolts into the mounting holes, apply the backing washers and snug up the nuts.  As advertised, the butyl tape slowly squishes.  I spend the next several hours, while working on other projects, periodically (every half hour or so) going down into the transom to tighten the nuts just a little bit more.  The web site said this could take days and not to rush it and I didn't think I did, but the rail seemed to be tightened down as far as I think they should be after just 4 or 5 tightening attempts.  Even though I didn't put a particularly big band of the stuff on (somewhere between 1/4 and 1/8 inch diameter was used) a large percentage of it did ooze out from under the rail's mounting flange. Using my fingernail to sever the connection between the oozed butyl and what was still under the flange, I carefully removed the excess.  And as advertised, this stuff is least sticks to my hands, itself, the railing, and the gel coat of the boat.

After the first tightening, it is just starting to squish out.
Fully bedded, still need to clean up a bit.

I would like to tell you that the port side railing went just as easily, but when I went to remove the nuts, I found one of the bolts had been snapped off and there was no bolt or washer.  So, in true boat project fashion, I find another issue while fixing one (actually...guess I should be happy I only found one more project...seems I usually find two or three).  Guess I'll see if I can find a welder or machine shop that can put a new bolt on the railing for me.  I put some tape over the holes where the broken railing was, put the broken railing in the trunk of my car so I can take it to a welder and it won't get scratched up in the meantime.

As for the bedding, it was pretty easy and if this stuff really doesn't harden or loose it's stickiness, I have high hopes that it will be a good solution for a long time.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Living on land there are tons of options for television in your home.  Most of them you have to pay for (Cable, Satellite).  Moving aboard a boat changes those options a least if you don't have infinite funds and/or don't plan on staying put.  Sure, there are tracking satellite dishes or you can get satellite or cable at a marina (one guy at the marina has one of these), but if you are like me and don't want to spend a lot of any money on television, then you will be looking for other options.

Many networks and popular shows can be found on the internet. I'm a fan of the Daily Show and you can see the show (admittedly a day after it airs) on their web site. Of course there are a few that either don't stream all their shows or want you to pay to see them. And, of course, there can be problems with unreliable or slow internet assuming you can find it at all (this could be the subject of a post itself...and for me recently was). So, if you can't live without your favorite television shows, you might have a problem cruising unless you can find an alternate way to get your fix.

Fortunately in most metropolitan areas, there are a number of "over the air" broadcasts of the major networks available and with the digital sub-channel system, there are a number of sub-channels available on each channel. Unfortunately, I seem to be in a fringe area of the Jacksonville broadcast area and getting reception is a bit of a challenge.

Now I didn't think I would miss Television all that much, and the truth is that for the most part I don't.  But I used to turn on the news in the morning as background noise when I was getting ready and this is actually the part I miss.  Even as slanted and poorly investigated most "news" stories are these days, it still did apparently give me a bit of an idea of what is going on.  Ok, maybe it is just to get the day's weather that I find useful.  In any case, I do find access to local news is occasionally worthwhile.

Knowing that the antenna (a small amplified set of "rabbit ears") that the prior owner had wouldn't pick up a channel and knowing I wasn't going to go to the trouble of putting one up on the mast, I picked up an interesting option when we were shopping at Costco just before I left.  I figured for the small cost, it was worth giving a try.  The antenna I am using is not a regular type of antenna but is an amplified thin flat panel called the FlatWave.

The results have been pretty good.  Where the original antenna would maybe pick up one channel on a good day if you oriented it perfectly, the Flat Wave mounted in the salon back window usually picks up at least three of the six primary channels and their associated sub-channels when using the amplifier (and the amplifier uses USB power so can be run from an AC or DC transformer or even a TV with a USB jack).  Good enough to find some news in the morning or to have it playing in the background while I write this.

So, if you are looking for a simple amplified antenna that doesn't require much space (or running cables and a climb up the mast) you might want to give this one a try.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Improving Internet Connectivity

Before moving aboard I knew we were going to need at least some internet access (I have a blog after all).  And with all the free WiFi access points around and the fact that I know several cruisers that regularly get internet access through WiFi, it seemed like a no-brainer to get a device to pick up distant WiFi signals.  After a little research, I decided on The Wirie AP.

Image from
Working in the computer industry I could have easily built something similar to this device, but since it was developed by a fellow cruiser and I believe it has one component that is superior to the other retail options on the market (the antenna), I decided it was worth a bit of a premium price.

The marina I am staying at has WiFi so this wasn't a high priority project.  But the access seemed a bit unstable so I decided to temporarily setup the Wirie to see if it would improve signal reliability.  I had it sitting on the settee and plugged in using a transformer and it helped quite a bit so I decided this weekend that I should go ahead and get it installed.

I wanted to tie it into the 12v "spare" circuit that otherwise only seems to run the cigarette lighter power socket on the panel.  Of course, where that circuit actually goes is a bit of a mystery.  The copy of the boat manual has basic wiring layouts and a schematic of the power distribution panel.  Unfortunately, the manual was printed from a digital copy and the image of the panel is rather pixelated and you can't actually read most of the labels.  So I had to turn off all the 12v circuits on the boat except the spare and take my multi-tester down into the engine room to see where, or if, it runs down there.  After several trips climbing down into the engine room, I was able to find the circuit.  Now I know where to run the power wire that is the only connection that the Wirie AP needs to operate.

Power panel with wiring complete

I decided that while not optimal for reception, that I would mount the box on the vertical pole that is part of the davit system and supports the arch.  This would keep it a bit out of the weather, make it easy to access if needed, and the wiring run shouldn't be very difficult.  I started opening up access panels to run the wire.  That lead to the discovery of several wasp nests inside the arch.  They looked empty so I knocked them down with a screwdriver.  Well, guess what, they weren't empty.  Six to eight wasps started crawling around on the deck of the boat around where the nest had landed.  Fortunately I had some wasp spray from when I dispatched another wasp trying to build a nest on the arch, and soon the deck of the boat looked like a wasp massacre.  Not sure why wasps seem to like that arch so much, but I've removed at least 4 nests and can only imagine there might be one or two more hiding in there somewhere.  Sorry, no pictures...I was more concerned with getting rid of these uninvited guests at the time.

I drilled a 3/8 inch hole in the bottom of the arch so I could feed the wire into the boat.  Since the hole is on the underside of the arch, I decided not to seal it (just like the rear nav light wiring that is next to it).  I ran the wiring along the same path as the nav light over to the distribution panel.  I added a 2 amp inline fuse, that I picked up from Sailors Exchange the day before, to the positive lead.  I then crimped on the appropriate connectors and attached the two wires to their respective locations on the panel.  I powered up the unit and it was alive.

Installed and operational

As I'm writing this, the Wirie is picking up 24 different wifi signals in the area.  Most are secured, but there are 9 that are not. And I know that at least one of them is a couple miles away and not in direct line of sight. In comparison, the WiFi adapter in my laptop, that I had always thought had pretty good reception (better than my tablet or phone anyway), only picks up 7 of which 4 are unsecured and my phone only picks up 4.  I'd say that should increase the ability to find internet on the boat and keep me connected.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Creaking Dock Lines

While I've spent some time on boats, I've never lived on one parked at a marina for a couple months straight (our boat has been tied up in this marina since December) so I was not aware of how much dock lines can creak and groan.  But the other night the winds were up a bit and our boat was regularly tugging at her dock lines.  And each time a line pulled taut, it would creak or groan.  This is not something that is conducive to sleep, especially when one of the cleats  is attached to your bedroom.  The sound travels through the line and straight into the boat.

So, after a rather sleepless night, I decided to do a little investigating since I'm sure I'm not the first person to experience this.  Sure enough I found a number of discussions on the subject and various remedies.  The cause is apparently friction and can normally occur in a few key ways.  Rubbing against the boat seems the most obvious, especially if you have lines running through hawse pipes (holes in a boat designed for anchor and dock lines to pass through the hull to a cleat or storage).  They can also rub a bit against the cleat itself and lines can also creak due to internal friction.  None of these are good as the friction causes wear.

The quick fix seems to be to wet the lines and that helps lubricate the fibers and help prevent the friction and the noise. I went out with a jug of water and soaked each of the lines and they immediately quieted down.  Of course this is not a permanent solution unless it rains a which case you likely won't be getting the noise anyway.  There are various chafe guard options from ones you can buy to making your own out of old rubber hose and similar materials.  This should work if your lines are rubbing on the boat, but I don't know how it would work for noise at the cleat and I'm pretty sure it won't work for the internal noise.

Many of the dock lines I have came with the boat and are rather old and I have no idea the last time they were washed ( need to wash dock lines regularly to remove dried salt that causes excess wear).  Because of this they are also fairly stiff to handle and use.  I had heard one recommendation to soften lines by soaking them in a bucket of water with some fabric softener.  Since the water worked for quieting down the lines, I decided it was time to give the fabric softener idea a try.

I grabbed some cheap fabric softener at the store and started soaking some spare lines I had in a mixture that was fairly heavy on the fabric softener.  I let them soak for a couple hours and then pulled them out to dry a little.  I then swapped out the lines with ones in use and gave them a soak as well.  The last couple days I haven't had any more creaking, so hopefully that will help for a little while.  In the end I probably need to get some new dock lines as most of the ones I have are rather old and some are not in the best of shape...maybe I can find ones that are better about creaking...who knows (if you do...please share).  And for those following along that are still in the earlier stages, hopefully this info will help spare you a sleepless night at a dock.

Of course, the ideal solution is to not be tied to a dock so long...but while all the work is being done, I will unfortunately be tied up a bit longer.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Fire in the Sky

While I have been spending a lot of time working on the boat, I do occasionally get off the boat and go do something fun.  When I found out that there was a rocket launch at the Kennedy Space Center last night, I decided to try and see if I could see it.  A couple of my neighbors in the marina got tickets and went down to see the launch, but unfortunately I didn't have enough time to make that trip down to the center.  So, instead I tried to find a place where I could at least see the launch from a distance.

I ended up driving down the coast on A1A a bit and found a place to pull off at the beach and watch for the launch.  It has been cold in Florida and this evening was no exception.  It's not Colorado cold, but the wind and humidity can certainly chill you I actually think I'm glad I didn't go down to the center and sit on the bleachers. Guess I should have brought some of the winter clothes from home after all...but this is Florida and how many long sleeve shirts and jackets could I possibly need.

The launch window was 40 minutes long starting at 9:05pm.  As I stood there in the cold wind waiting for the launch, a couple other cars pulled into the pullout and waited for a bit for the launch.  After 20 minutes or so, both had given up and left.  I was debating the same while trying to get some information on my cell phone to see if the launch had been scrubbed.  Just as I was about to leave, one of the people that was there came back and said the launch was on and should happen any minute (I guess he lives a couple minutes away and went home and checked the desktop site to see what was up...thanks to whoever you are for letting me know).

So, sure enough, suddenly an orange glow appeared to the south heading for the sky.  From our location you couldn't hear the engines or anything, but other than a few wisps of clouds, it was clear and made for a nice show.  You can see the orange streak head up, make it's turn and finally disappear out of sight.  And one more man-made satellite is now orbiting the earth.

Now, I know better than to think that I could get a decent picture of the launch.  Even with a good camera set to the highest ISO setting I had no tripod, I needed to zoom in, the target was moving, and it was cold enough my hands were getting a bit numb so shaking was pretty much guaranteed...but I had to try, right?  So, here is one of the better shots.

Yes, it is a bit shaky...the rocket wasn't flying erratically.  Still, not too bad given it was about a 4 second exposure.

Definitely going to have to go to a launch up close at some point.  I've heard that there are places where you can get a great view from a boat...wouldn't that be cool.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Dow Corning 4

When I was packing up tools and supplies at home, one of the things I thought might be useful was a tube of DC-4.  I originally bought it when was doing maintenance on my airplane as it was an FAA and manufacturer approved grease used for a variety of things...including, of all things, lubricating oil filter gaskets.  It is sold in a rather large tube...and usually one is a lifetime supply for most people so after 7 years of airplane ownership the tube I had was still 99% full. Its primary purpose is actually a dielectric grease (not electrically conductive and helps impede corrosion in electrical connections)...which I thought might come in handy on a boat.

So, today as I started chasing down a couple intermittent power issues, I go a chance to use a little more of it.  I have never seen the exterior cockpit lights (the arch and step lights) work.  I checked the light sockets and no power was there.  I checked at the switch in the cockpit and no power there either.  I went into the engine room since I know there is a large power distribution panel there.  Of course, the manual I had that numbered the circuits for the arch and cockpit didn't match the panel so it became a bit of a guessing game. I removed, checked the fuses, and reinserted the fuse holders and went back to check the lights.  Suddenly they worked.  So, it appears connection corrosion was the issue.  I've also had intermittent power in the port forward berth and port head, so I figured it was time for some general maintenance of the panel.

I removed each fuse holder, removed the fuse from it, checked the fuse, lightly coated the fuse ends in DC-4, and reinserted the fuse.  I then used a Scotch Bright pad to clean up  the terminals on the fuse holder, gave them a coat of DC-4, and reinserted them in the panel.  After doing this to the 20 or so fuse holders, I climbed out of the engine room and went and checked all the DC circuits on the boat.  Everything worked spare a couple bulbs that might be burned out.  I'll go and check them...and likely install them using DC-4 as well.

Hopefully the protection added by using DC-4 will put an end to these intermittent power least for a good long while.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Friends I Haven't Met Yet

This is a term I've seen a couple other cruising blogs use and I think it is very appropriate. Via this blog I've met a number of people online that either are out cruising or share the dream to go cruising. We've traded emails or had discussions via the blog and have been a source of inspiration for chasing this dream. In a few cases I've even been able to meet them "in real life".

This weekend I was able to meet a couple that are working toward the goal of going cruising. They reached out to me after recognizing the location of the holiday picture posting (It was St. Augustine, Florida). As it turns out, they live only a few minutes away from the Hammock Beach marina where I am currently located.  After a few emails we were able to setup a chance to check out each others boats.

The couple, Dieter and Britton, are in the process of restoring a 1968 Newporter 40 Ketch.  And when I say restoring...well...maybe a more appropriate term would be rebuilding.  They are taking on a project that simply has me in awe.  I can tell they truly love the boat and have no doubt it will be gorgeous when finished.  Take a wander over to their blog and have a look:

After the boat tours, we went into St. Augustine and had dinner at the Conch House.  Dinner and conversation were great and it was a well needed break from "the list" of repairs.  Definitely improving the fun to work ratio of the recent week.  Like so many I've met so far in this adventure, they are great people. The cruising community definitely seems to attract my kind of people.

And to Dieter and Britton, we will have to do that again...and next time dinner is my treat.

If you have ever wanted to learn to scuba dive and run into them during your travels, they are certified scuba instructors and I'm sure you would have a blast learning from them.

I should have some pictures to go with this post. You would think by now I would remember to take them, but alas my mind seems to fail me.  So, sorry, no pictures again.  I promise I'll try to do better...if I can remember.  Of all the things I've lost, I do miss my mind the most. ;-)

P.S. If you have ever thought of saying hi, I'd love to hear from you.  In addition to posting comments to the blog (which are always appreciated), you can send me e-mail by using "ThisRatSailed" followed by the at symbol, and the server "".

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Let There Be Light

One of the problems I've had with the lights in the main salon is that they are often intermittent.  You would turn on the switch and see which lights would come on.  In a circuit of 3, usually one or two would fail to light.  Sometimes tapping on it would make it light up and sometimes not.  When you are talking about 12 volt, 10 watt bulbs, losing even one turns a dimly lit salon into an almost unlit salon.

When I tried to remove one of the bulbs, the end fell off. Well, I guess that might explain why it wasn't working.  Swapped in a working bulb and that resolved the problem.  The next fixture was more of a puzzle.  The bulb looked OK and I tested it with an ohm meter and it said it was OK.  I checked the socket and it read 12v (ok, actually 13.6 since the battery charger was on).  Yet when I replaced the bulb, no light.  Remove the bulb and double check the continuity of the bulb and the voltage and it all seems OK.  Hmmm.

I decide to remove the fixture from the ceiling and what I find is rather interesting.  The bulb holder socket was pop-riveted to a spade lug and the wire is attached to that.  The rivet has loosened and the spade lug just spins around it.  That would explain why I could read voltage but there wasn't enough amperage to light the bulb.  My guess is that the heat of the bulb slowly causes the plastic to shrink or deform and that results in the loose connection.  Guess the designer didn't think that old incandescent bulbs generate heat.

I try using some pliers to tighten the rivet but it doesn't really help. I end up soldering the rivet to the spade to make a better connection. That does the trick.  I repeat this procedure with the 5 other lights that are causing the issue and now all the lights work when I turn them on.

While I had the soldering iron out, I decided to give another project a try.  The LED replacement bulbs that fit these fixtures can be ordered for about $15 (US) plus shipping or can be found for about $45 each at the local West Marine.  The problem is that I wanted to see if LED's would improve lighting a bit before I go buy a bunch of them or even replacement LED fixtures.  As it happens, I have the core of a decorative LED house bulb that failed due to a power supply issue.  The core had 4 strips of 4 LEDs and I had previously determined each strip operated at 12 volts.  So, I removed one of the strips from the core and soldiered it to one of the broken bulbs.

Viola, a home-made festoon LED bulb.  The bulbs seem to produce about 30% more light and now that I know how to fix the existing fixtures I think I will keep the existing fixtures and spring for the LED bulbs.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Thoughts on the First Two Weeks

I know more than a couple of people that follow my blog are dreaming, thinking, or preparing to go cruising themselves.  In fact one of them sent me a private message asking how I was doing and was wondering what my thoughts were thus far.

Honestly, I've been so busy trying to get things done that I didn't even realize I hadn't posted since Monday. Apparently I'm not alone...even ZTC's Mike S. took a little bit of a break.  Before starting the charter biz, they used to post daily...and that is unbelievably impressive to me at this point.

This week started with replacing a binding transmission control cable on the port side (the control is on starboard, so this is a long cable that runs all the way across the boat).  Then there has been a musty smell coming from the forward berth AC unit (and with lows in the 30's here in Florida, the reverse-cycle heat is definitely needed) and that started an interesting exploration into the cause.  I'll write more on all of that later.

In general, thoughts and emotions have run the gamut.  It is certainly exciting to be embarking on this new adventure.  I've had some fun working on the boat and resolving problems like the fresh water manifold and some interesting failure modes with the lights (sorry, still haven't written that up yet).  I've learned a lot about diesel engine maintenance with more to come next week when the fuel injector pump and heat exchangers return for installation.

There has also been a lot of frustration with problems I was unaware of until I started really digging into things.  While I didn't expect the survey to catch everything, there are clearly some items that should have been obvious to the surveyor that were not caught. In fact, with the surprises, I've only managed to tackle a few items from the original list.  A few people have mentioned that I might eventually throw out the list and I can see why they said that. I'm definitely learning that I don't know squat about owning a big boat.

I am glad I am staying at a marina right now.  The facility is nice, clean, and reasonably priced for a catamaran on a monthly stay.  They have a swimming pool and hot tub, free coffee, a nice large screen TV in the lobby, wireless internet access (that seems to work most of the time), a free pump-out station, and are in a nice protected area.

The best part are the people.  Very friendly and helpful.  One person, Rupert, that has been living aboard over 15 years hires himself out as a boat handyman and has been helping me with a variety of tasks including the engine maintenance and control cable replacement.  If you intend to do something like this, I highly recommend finding someone like Rupert to help get you started and I'd bet there is someone like this at most marinas. I've also been invited to dinner and go see movies with others in the marina. Boat people are a pretty good group of folks.

The hardest part for me right now, though, is being away from my wife and dogs. With a few curves that were thrown at us, they are back in Colorado working to wrap things up there. Daily phone and video calls help, but it would be much better to have them aboard.  I miss them and can't wait until they join me aboard (although I will probably head back to Colorado once or twice to help out there before that happens).

So, that is how the first couple weeks of living aboard have gone.  Not cruising yet, but making progress towards the goal.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Servicing Diesel Engines

As I mentioned in a previous post, I'm having some work done on the engines.  Specifically I am having an injector pump replaced and I'm having the heat exchangers cleaned.  It was also recommended that I perform a basic service on all the engines so I had a known baseline where I can start tracking regular maintenance.  Now I'm fairly handy and know my way around automotive gasoline engines, a diesel on a boat is a new thing for me and I don't want to screw something up. So, while the coolers and injector pump are off getting worked on, I had a guy at the local marina (who has lived onboard for over 15 years and regularly does maintenance for people at the marina) come help me with the service.

Typically, this maintenance includes changing the oil and filter, changing the fuel filters, checking the raw water strainer, changing the impeller, checking or changing the engine zincs, and adjusting or replacing the fan belts.  My Leopard 38 is powered by two Westerbeke 42 B Four engines and I also have a Northern Lights Generator (Lugger Engine) that will need service.  Yep, Not one, not two, but three diesel engines that need service.  This is one of the downsides of a catamaran, they have at least twice the number of engines to service than the typical mono-hull.

Sourcing Parts

When I bought the boat, it came with a number of spare parts including zincs, impellers, oil and fuel filters. The two items I knew I would need and did not have were fan belts and oil.

For the fan belts, you can't exactly walk into your local Advance or Auto Zone and ask for one.  It usually falls apart right about the time they ask you what make of car it is for. "It is actually for a boat"...employee just stares blankly at you. I had found some specifications on the internet for the size of the belt and tried to get one based on that.  Naturally, that resulted in a belt that was too small.  I finally broke down and took one of the belts in and they were able to figure out the size (the part number is 15420 - the 420 is the important part as that is the size so the 15 in the Auto Zone number could be something else at another store).  The next problem is that each engine takes two belts.  As it turns out there was a total of one belt of that size in the three nearby auto parts stores.  I'm glad the belts on the engines are in good shape as that only leaves me with a single spare for the engines.  I haven't even looked for the belt for the generator yet.

For the oil, a few people suggested using Rotella.  So off to the store I go looking for it.  Well, as it turns out, Rotella is the "model" name for Shell's diesel engine oil and there are several variants (T, T1, T5, and T6) that range from a standard single weight mineral oil to a multi-viscosity full synthetic. Since I could only find the 10w30 that was mentioned in the Westerbeke manual in the semi-synthetic, that was the one I picked up.  3 gallons of the stuff was pretty expensive.  Of course, when I showed that to the guy that was helping me, he highly suggested using the standard Rotella T oil and that he's been running 15w40 in his Westerbeke engine for a long time and it will be what I will most likely find when I'm in the islands.  So, the good news is I can use cheaper oil, the bad news is I had to go back to the store to switch it.

Northern Lights Generator

We start with the generator as it is the easiest to access, just under the transom hatch.  The engine has a hose at the bottom of the oil pan to help drain the oil, but I don't have a fitting for it, so we decide to use an oil changing pump that came with the boat to extract the oil through the dipstick opening.  It was a somewhat slow process, but we did get the oil extracted without a mess.  The oil filter change is just like a car...with the usual mess from the fact it is mounted sideways and holds oil.  The oil absorbent pads (they absorb oils and fuels but not water) are a definite necessity for this task.

The fuel filter for this motor is a canister type that looks just like an oil filter and is replaced in about the same manner (including the oil absorbent pad to catch the spilled diesel).  I guess I should also mention that we shut off the fuel supply lines since I didn't want any more diesel filling up the engine room bilges.

Since the heat exchangers are off being serviced, I assume new zincs will come back with them so we don't have to worry about that at this time.  (Note: later I spoke with the guy working on the heat exchangers and he indicated that, due to the design, the zincs are not mounted there.  Guess we will have to go back and look at the generator engine again to see where the elusive zinc is located.) The fan belt seems to be in good shape, so we just check the tension on it and move on.

Removal of the impeller was interesting.  While it slips on and off the shaft reasonably easy, there is a pretty tight tolerance between the shaft and the collar on the impeller so it has to be removed without twisting it on the shaft or it will just jam.  Two flat screwdrivers at opposite sides of the impeller seem to do the trick...eventually.  Installing the impeller is pretty straight forward, but there is one trick I hadn't thought of.  Since the impeller will be dry, they usually come with some lubricant that helps to install them as well as keep them wet until the cooling water makes it to the point where it can prevent excessive friction.  Without this, the dry rubber impeller rubbing against the metal housing would likely destroy the new impeller before the water can get there and keep things lubricated.  Installation is pretty straight forward, you figure out which way it spins and twist it in that direction as you push it into place making sure that the pin lines up with the slot in the shaft.

Westerbeke Engines

The Westerbeke engines are a bit more complicated.  They are larger and take up much of the space in the narrow hulls of a catamaran, which makes it fun to work on.  On the starboard side we have a engine room with enough space to stand up.  The port side is under the berth, so it is a bit more cramped but there is access both via the transom and from a hatch under the bunk.

This time we start by draining the oil since it takes a while to drain cold, thick oil.  While it is draining, we replace the fuel filters...plural.  Yes, each engine has two fuel filters.  There is a primary Racor filter that is mounted on a bulkhead and a secondary small cartridge filter mounted on the engine itself.  The small secondary filter is a 10 micron cartridge and for the primary I have a choice of 30 micron, 10 micron, or 2 micron filters.  We decide to install the 2 micron filters as that will effectively keep the smaller one clean and the larger Racor is much easier to replace if we ever had a clogged filter occur during operation.

We replace the oil filter and again check the tension and condition of the belts.  Just as the case with the generator, the heat exchangers are not installed there is no way to check or replace the zincs at this time.

The impellers ended up being an interesting puzzle.  As with much of this service, I have been using the spares that were left behind by the previous owner and then would go out and get new spares.  We get the old impeller out of the starboard engine without problem, but the replacement impeller just woldn't seem to go in.  After much struggling, we ended up removing the pump so we could better see why the impeller wouldn't fit.  We come to find that, while the spares (different than the ones for the generator) look virtually identical to the impeller we removed, the center shaft of the spare was thicker and could not be pushed into the slot on the shaft.  Fortunately, the old impeller's pin was threaded and could be removed and one of the spares also had a thread so we swapped out the pin and viola, it now fit just fine.  Unfortunately the other two impellers I had on hand had pins that were press fit, so I couldn't repeat this trick for the other engine.  Will need to go find another impeller that will fit.  So, if you have a Westerbeke...or ever get particular attention to the impeller...apparently only the genuine Westerbeke ones fit the Westerbeke pump.

At this point, I am waiting for the parts to come back so we can finish assembling the engines, add the oil, bleed the fuel system, and get everything running again. It will be nice to see the engines running again...hopefully without the fuel leak or temperature issue.  And this definitely was a learning experience.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lest you think it is all work here...

Just a quick note tonight.  This is the view from my back patio on Friday evening...where it was a comfortable 74 degrees.  It's not all repair work here.

Not a bad evening sitting on the back of the boat sharing a beer with a new friend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Marine Grade...or not.

One of the many projects I had to do when I arrived was to replace a 110 volt receptacle that seemed to have something jammed into the grounds so a 3 prong plug wouldn't fit in the socket.  When I went to remove the outlet I took off the cover and found that the plug was pretty rusted.  Obviously this was not an outdoor outlet, much less one designed specifically for marine applications.  In fact, after I removed the mounting screw, the socket was still so rusty it would not come out of the hole that was cut where it was mounted.  I guess this boat didn't typically have a plug in this location as this was obviously not a "factory installed option".

Using some vice grips and a little persuasion, I was able to finally get the outlet pieces.  This is what was left:

While I was glad to see that the plug was installed using marine grade wire instead of household wire, the connections were made as one would do in a house outlet, the wire was twisted around the terminal screw and clamped in place.  I've read up on this and know that the wire should have had properly crimped on ring or spade terminals designed to handle the movement that can occur on a boat.

So, I cut the ends of the wire, added the proper terminals and heat-shrunk (is that a word) the ends, cut the mounting hole a bit bigger to accept a GFCI plug, and assembled everything back together.  I think it looks pretty good and is now a bit safer than the rusty thing that was there before. Hopefully it is a more "marine grade" installation.

I will be the first to admit that I don't know a lot about how things should be done on a boat.  The one thing I have going for me is that I know this is true and will seek out the knowledge necessary before taking on any boat project.  For your safety, if you aren't quite sure how something should be done on a boat (they have different requirements than houses) please do a little research.  The life, and boat, you save may be your own.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Tale of Many Leaks

Leaks are never a good thing on a boat.  Over the past few days, I've certainly discovered my share of them.  Thanks to a recent rain, I found three portholes and two hatches that leak in heavy rains.  Ironically, the two that the surveyor mentioned might leak...stayed perfectly dry.  At this point I'm pretty sure at least two need to be rebed, the others I hope just have something on the gasket and if I open, clean, and reseal them that will resolve the issue.  Guess I'll find out the next time it rains.

Remember that red stuff in the bilge that I thought might be transmission fluid?  Well, it was actually diesel (either my sense of smell is going or this was the least diesel smelling diesel I've ever encountered). During my survey, the surveyor noted diesel in the bilge but did not see any leaks so he thought it may have just been a filter change that had gone bad.  Well, no such luck.  After having someone that knows more about diesels than I do come check things out, they found the injection pump is leaking.  In fact, 3 of the 4 pistons in the pump leak.  So that will be sent off to be rebuilt as it is certainly above my current skill level.

I also discovered that our fresh water system has a leak.  Under the sink on the Leopard 38 is a rat maze of plumbing for the fresh water system.  At the end of this is an interesting plastic manifold that directs output from the pumps to the accumulator tank, a bleed valve, and the two main cold water lines.  One of the cold water lines had a drip.  What's worse is that it appears that someone tried wrapping some black, sticky stuff around the fitting to seal the leak.  Of course, that didn't work.  The one thing that bothers me about this is that the surveyor didn't pick up on this as it seems a pretty obvious "quick temporary fix".

The leaking fitting with the black stuff pulled back

Since this appears to be a fairly standard plumbing repair, I dove right in to fix this one.  Step one, remove the black gooey stuff.  It appears to be some sort of rubbery tape-like substance.  This might be the inferior grade butyl tape I heard about when researching how to bed hardware on a boat.  In any case, it doesn't stop a drip in the pressure system.

The leak appears to be where some PEX tubing is connected to the plastic manifold with a brass barbed fitting and a clamp. The interesting thing is that just above this connection is another PEX pipe that is connected with the press to fit fittings.  There also looks like there might be a little crack in the plastic where the brass fitting is threaded.  Since the whole manifold is held to the wall with a couple plastic clips, I try to pull the manifold out to get a better look.  Big mistake.  The grey PVC is much thinner than the PVC I'm used to and at 14 years old, it was very brittle...and snapped.  So, now I get to recreate this manifold.  Oh, guess I should mention that this boat, built in South Africa, is made with metric parts and that includes pipe and hose diameters.  

The old manifold, broken

So, off to the hardware store I go.  Of course, US hardware stores typically only carry US/imperial size items...and this makes sizing some of the parts interesting.  Fortunately, most of the fittings are of the type that we can merge metric tubes with imperial connectors (just crank the hose clamp a bit tighter, right).  After the requisite 4 trips to the hardware store (why do all plumbing jobs require a minimum of 4 trips to the store?), over the course of two days (mental note: stop starting projects after noon so I have time to get back to the store before they close), I finally have all the right sized parts to complete the project.  After spending a couple hours cutting PVC, cleaning and assembling the manifold, this is the result.

You will note I went with the easy press on connectors for both PEX lines, so I can easily disconnect if I ever have to, instead of the barbed fitting that was there and was the one leaking.  Due to the size differences in the fittings, the new manifold doesn't quite snap into the old holder on the lower end, so I drill a couple holes in the old clamp and turn it into a zip tie holder so I can "belt it in".

Other than having to re-seat one of the PEX pipes in the connector, the installation went well and now is leak free.  I have running water again.

Installed and Leak Free

Oh, and one last leak...a propane leak.  When we took possession of the boat and opened the propane locker, it had the smell of propane.  Sure enough, when I checked the weight of the bottles, I found both were empty.  Since the propane system was checked during the survey, the bottle was apparently left on and all the contents slowly leaked out from a leak between the bottle and the electric shut off valve. Sure am glad this boat has a propane locker and the propane didn't just empty into the bottom of the bilge.

I went and got the bottles filled and proceeded to test the connections with some soapy water.  Sure enough, found bubbles at a fitting just before the regulator and also at the tank connection fitting.  After retrieving some pipe joint compound (liquid not tape) I was able to resolve the issue with the regulator fitting.  The tank connection fitting was easier to resolve.  The prior owner added one of those propane tank gauges (I assume to serve as an adapter from the older style propane fitting that requires a wrench to the one that can be hand tightened) so I simply removed it.  Now the system seals.

So, that is how I spent several days working on leaks and why I wasn't posting on the blog as regularly as I would like.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why is it Raining in my Bedroom

It's not fun to wake up in the middle of the night to a water drop hitting your forehead, but that happened to me.  The hatch directly over the bunk seems like a cool can look out and see the stars at night and on warm days you can get fresh air in the boat.  But it apparently comes with a downside.

Now you might be thinking the hatch is leaking...but it wasn't raining and hasn't for at least a day.  The key is that it was cold outside. Yeah, cold.  Not Colorado cold, but pretty cold by Florida standards...I think the low was somewhere in the upper 30's (Fahrenheit).  It makes perfect sense now that I think about it, but at 2am who is thinking.  Add in the fact that we've not spent time on boats in colder climates, and I just never thought of it as a possibility, until now.

Yes, if you put a person in a small plastic cocoon and then drop the temperature on the outside of that cocoon, the water in your breath condenses on the inner surface.  Since the hatch is the thin spot in the cocoon and has nice sharp bends, the condensation forms and flows to the low point and...splat...right on the forehead.

So, for those that haven't experienced this phenomenon, this is your public service announcement.  You can create rain indoors on a boat in the middle of the night.

Monday evening the temperature is supposed to drop again, this time the prediction is down to 29...that seems pretty darn cold for Florida.  I guess I need to keep the heat up (above the dew point) and keep air moving so I don't have rain...or ice...coming from the hatch.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Start of "The List"

I'm sure that everyone that owns a boat has "The List"...the items that need to be fixed on their boat.  And from what I understand, the list is never really complete as items are often added as fast (or faster) than they are removed.  From the survey on our boat, we have a moderate sized list.

The main reason that I am moving onto the boat in Florida is so I can start working on, or at least coordinating work on, the boat. From the survey, here is a list of some of the higher priority items that I will need to address:

  • Service engines.
  • Rebed stantions.
  • Replace running rigging for reefing systems.
  • Mount loose bilge pump automatic switch.
  • Chase down issue with intermittent power to port forward cabin lights.
  • Deal with some wood rot around the refrigerator (suspect plumbing hole in box allowing condensation-need to seal).
  • Replace leaking exhaust mixing elbow on generator.
  • Clean/sanitize fresh water system.
  • Replace 110v socket that doesn't work (can't insert plug into socket).
  • Upgrade anchor.
  • Fix windlass.
  • Repair, or more likely replace, the dinghy.
As you can see, they weren't all that serious of items, more general maintenance. After taking possession of the boat and moving it, we found some additional items that needed to take precedence:
  • Engine running warm, check/clean/replace heat exchanger.
  • Propane appears to be leaking out of fittings in propane locker. Investigate and repair
  • Engine and transmission controls are excessively stiff, need to replace.
So those were the items I was expecting when I arrived at the boat.  Since I still have my full time job, I needed to start work so I unloaded my car and took the stuff I brought to the boat.  I quickly stowed stuff and fired up the computer so I could start working at my job.

Well, after being there a few hours, some ripples in the marina caused the boat to rock and the bilge alarm went off.  I quickly run around the boat inspecting bilges to find out where the issue is.  What I find is some red liquid in the bilge of the starboard engine compartment.  Sigh...guess I have another item to add to the list.  I also need to quickly pump some of the liquid out so the bilge doesn't trigger again...discharging this red liquid into the marina. I confirm a few more times that the levels in the engine compartment are not rising and with Pete's help, find someone to come take a look tomorrow.  Red liquid usually indicates transmission fluid, which doesn't sound good.  

After work I unpack some stuff, and being completely exhausted from the marathon drive, make the bed and go to sleep.  That is how the first day living aboard went.  So far I have no propane system and the refrigerator is off so I could dry out the rotting cabinet.  It feels a bit more like camping on a boat...or a cramped hotel room with a long walk to the bathroom.  Hopefully tomorrow will go better.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hello Florida

Sorry for taking longer to get back to posting about the trip and the first days living aboard.  I'm working on multiple posts now, but wanted to start with some pictures and notes on the trip from Denver to Palm Coast, Florida.

Since I had pretty mixed feelings about leaving, I didn't end up getting away from Denver until after 11am.  As previously mentioned I drove to Boonville, Missouri where I spent the first night.  According to Google maps, that is 709 miles.

Watching the mountains I've lived near my entire life disappear in the rear view mirror.

Crossing the Colorado border.  I think they planted those pine trees there just so people don't get too discouraged about the lack of color leaving Colorful Colorado.

By the time the sun set, the landscape in Kansas hadn't changed any.  The only entertainment on the drive were the interesting roadside signs.  Seems there were a lot of religious folks and a lot of "gentlemen's clubs" in the bible least according to the signs along the highways.

It was well past dark by the time Kansas turned into Missouri under the wheels of my trusty Toyota.  My wife, playing trip support from back home, had me booked into a hotel once I determined where I was going to stop for the night.  I rolled into the parking lot of the hotel around 10:30pm

The next leg on the second day, from Boonville Missouri toMcDonough Georgia, was 730 miles.  I got an earlier start, leaving the hotel around 8am. It took a lot longer the second day to travel that extra 21 miles as I again arrived at the hotel pretty late, after 9pm.  I think the reason is that it appears that the residents of Tennessee are big demolition derby fans and apparently like to reenact them on the highways on Sunday.  I was in five different traffic jams in that state (the only state where I was in traffic going under 10 mph the entire trip) and all of them were due to multi-car accidents.

Look, someone added trees and shrubs to the landscape in the dark last night.  With the overcast and the leaf-less trees, it felt a bit like I was driving into some sort of cheezy horror was a dark and stormy night...or at least a gloomy morning...

Of course, not having to squint into the sun was a good thing.  After turning south later in the day the gloominess gave way to a little more greenery.

The goal was to make it past Atlanta so I wouldn't have to deal with rush hour traffic since day three would be a Monday.  Thanks to my wife we located me a hotel just on the outskirts of the Atlanta area.

This final leg from Georgia to where the boat is located in Palm Coast Florida was 383 miles.

I had, maybe foolishly, hoped that I could do the drive in two days, but getting a late start and all the traffic issues the day prior ended that hope early.  So, I needed to get an early start so I could complete the trip.  The sunrise was very pretty...but it is very hard to take a low light picture while driving a car using a cell phone.

Welcome to Florida.

And one last picture taken in north-central Florida about an hour and a half from my final destination.  It is interesting to see how much the landscape has changed from one end of this trip to the other.

It was an interesting, and very exhausting, trip.  Hopefully next time I make this trip I will have more time to explore the areas I passed through.  You don't get much of an idea of an area while zipping across it at interstate highway speeds.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Boy, so much has happened this past year...and for that fact, the past 5 days.  I packed up some stuff (and forgot a bunch of other stuff), drove 1820 miles in my little Toyota Celica, moved aboard our boat, started working my current job from the boat, and started getting settled in to this new life.  Finding more to add to the list of projects I need to start working on to turn it from a boat into our home, but I have started a couple of them. Met a lot of nice people and I even made to the St. Augustine Beach new years celebration (that, in true cruising fashion, celebrates the new year at 8:30pm). With all that has happened this week, I was pretty exhausted and crashed before midnight.  I did awaken at midnight when some local fireworks were set off (the un-insulated hull of a boat doesn't dampen the sound...was a bit like the inside of a drum when the loud ones went off).

I need to get into a better groove for these posts as I have so much to write about...but need to tend to some more urgent issues so I will just wish you a happy new year and leave you with a little video of last nights fireworks finale.

That was only the very end...the whole show was quite a bit longer.  They put on a pretty good show. Thanks again Pete (coolest boat broker in the world), for inviting me along.

Happy New Year!  May 2014 be all you can dream it can be.