Saturday, December 30, 2006

Boat Blues

This vacation has definitely not gone off as planned. Kris and I landed in Houston Wednesday night and as soon as we touched down I started working on the boat. The plan was to get it fixed up enough so that we could make the overnight trip down to Port Aransas.

Things started off really well. I swapped out the original battery bank for a new one with 520 amp hours on one bank and a dedicated starting battery in the other. This was a big improvement over the original set up that had two 200 amp hour banks for a total of 400 with out a dedicated starting battery. I wired up two 6 volt golf cart batteries in series and paralleled the two sets for the total house bank and then used a batt selector switch for the cranking batt. So far so good.

Next, I had to pry up the old inspection port on the water tank. This thing was giving me all kinds of hell. Corrosion had almost welded the lit on the tank. Eventually, I rigged a crescent wrench giving me the leverage I needed. Unfortunately, it opened kind of violently throng my thumb into an old hose clamp rolling my thumbnail half way off and taking off a bit of a chunk. Oh well, at least I can say there is a piece of me in this boat. Never the less, we got the tank sanitized, flushed, and filled. This just left the proplock problem.

Sarns proplock went out of business years ago. I didn’t have much luck for finding the parts I needed, but sure enough the previous owner had stocked up on the brake pads I needed to get the system working again. After figuring out how to pull the brake system and caliper off the transmission I swapped out the pads and we were ready to roll for our sail to Port A. Then came the weather.

Being a good sport Kris decided we should give it a try. At least she humored me when I decided we should give it a try. We mostly motored our way down to Galveston, TX before throwing in the towel. The rain and weather just weren’t working for us at all. Kris was pretty miserable and although I would have stuck it out for sheer stubbornness I think she made the right call when we turned around at ~ 1:30. We had a decent sail back in and I was really looking forward to a beer after tying up the boat when I noticed a bunch of nasty looking water being pumped overboard. I confirmed with Kris that she hadn’t touched anything and that’s when I realized it was the automatic bilge pump. We were taking on water.

After a quick inspection I found the packing gland a.k.a. stuffing box was letting in water at a steady trickle. By trickle I mean an unbroken stream of water coming in from the connection between the prop shaft and the bearing that goes outside to the prop. I tightened down the hose clamps to no avail and will have to wait until tomorrow morning when Home Depot opens to get the wrench I need to try and tighten the packing nut in hopes of a relatively easy fix. Hopefully this will compress the packing material enough to stem the tide. If not, Kris and I will have the boat hauled asap. Guess I can get a jump on that first round of repairs. Now all I have to do is convince myself that the boat isn’t going to sink and that the automatic bilge pump will continue to keep up with the leak. Might be a long night.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Here are two inspiring Seniors. One of them is my Mom. Who would have guessed?

So I'll start with the non family member. Robin Knox-Johnston was born in 1939 and he has almost made it from the UK to Freemantle, Australia. He entered into the Velux 5 singlehanded ocean race this year and has had more than his share of setbacks, but he is doing it none the less. He is also the first man to sail around the world non stop. There was a cool story about the fruitcake he opened the first time he sailed round the Horn. Looks like he will get a chance to enjoy another one this time round. Cool story: For more info you might want to check out the book A Voyage for Madmen.

I was both lucky and cursed by having the type of parents who actually instilled the belief that I could do anything I wanted. I attribute any success I've had to the example they set for me both professionally and personally. I guess anyone can get bit by the sailing bug and at any time, including my Mom. She decided to short cut the learning curve just like I did and is going straight to an offshore sailing school. Check them out here: Good work Mom. I know you're going to love it. Merry Christmas Everyone!

Friday, December 22, 2006

So its been almost two weeks since I spent some real time on the boat. Sorry for the lag in updates. Unfortunately, I still have to work in order to fund this whole thing and my final quarter this year didn’t go quite as well as planned. Oh well, help has come from a few unexpected directions. My parents, being the great people that they are, decided to get me the Raymarine ST60 Instrument Pack I’d been looking at. Considering all of the instruments on the boat are shot this was definitely priority number one. Thanks Mom and Dad. Love you guys.

In relation to the rest of the projects I’d posted a while back I’ll fill you in on where I sit.

1. I did spend about 3 hours with the previous owner, J.D. It was very helpful and he did a good job of bringing me up to speed on some of the quirks of the boat. Things like turning on the sailing instruments to activate the switch in the head that turns on the forward bilge pump. No, not the one for the shower sump, but the forward bilge pump. Huh, I may need to think about redoing some of the wiring on the boat. Overall, that time with J.D. was well worth the trip.

2. The Barient Winches. Amazingly, these old winches are extremely well made and the craftsmanship on the internal bearings made them intricately beautiful. It took almost two whole days to tear them down to the component pieces, soak them in kerosene, scrub the degraded grease off, re-grease, and reassemble. The final result was nothing short of a brand new winch. I am excited to get them out sailing and see how they do now under load. We may be putting off those self tailing new fangled plastic winches after all.

3. Well, our epirb is an old one. I’ll probably need to pick up a new 406, but this one should work for coastal sailing until we really cast off. I found some good people up at Shoreline Marine in Houston who is ordering a replacement battery for us. It’ll be ready to pick up before we head off to Port A for new years.

4. The Givens Life Raft. This has turned into one huge pain in the ass. So I did post the video last time of me inflating the raft on the hard. This was a pretty cool experience actually as no one around the Marina had seen one inflated before. The bad news is that no one in TX services this type of raft. So I had to open it up and pull the flares and CO2 so that I could safely ship it to RI to the manufacturer. This thing is heavy. I finally got it off the boat, inflated, repacked and shipped to RI. Well, FedEx decided to sit on the package for a week before putting it on the truck. Givens got the raft just in time to shut down for the holiday. I won’t see that thing back until Feb. On the positive side, the raft worked perfectly. For not having been inspected or repacked in over a decade I was amazed at how good it looked. Even though the customer service from Givens has been lacking, I am hoping they can certify the raft and put it back into service. This will keep me from having to buy a new one. The shot to the right shows what is in the standard survival gear. Water, seasick pills, mechanical patches for the raft, a pump with attachment hose, plastic bladder for water catching, fishing net, flares, flashlight (still just barely worked), and a pack of heavily corodded energizer batteries.

5. The Roller Furler: Now this is an interesting story. So the furler on the boat is an antique. I new that going into this, but this particular furler has been made by FaMet Marine for 30 years. It took me almost two days to track down the current owner and he is sending me a few spares for the unit. The cool thing is it does have an internal halyard so there can be no wrap in a blow, there are no bearings to maintain or rust on the unit, and the drum is heavy enough to reef in a blow. Get this, the owner is going cruising and is willing to sell the company for ~20k. If I could squeeze 5 – 7 K per year out of it that could fund the trip almost indefinitely. It’s funny how things seem to work when you make a decision to try something. I am waiting on more info from the owner to see what the financials look like. And yeah, I got the line replaced as well. Sure does make all the other running rigging look old.

6. Jack lines were already on the boat! In digging through all the spares I found the type of nylon I would have purchased myself. One less thing I’ll need to buy.

7. Cowl vent – 100 bucks at westmarine.

8. Dingy never made it off the davits. With winter on us and the occasional freeze in TX I didn’t want to drop the outboard in the water and pump the block full of water. I think I may wait until spring to tackle this one.

9. Lifejackets are expensive. At least the one I want is. ~ 250 for a CO2 charged vest with internal harness and tether. Regardless, I’ll have to pick this up before we head off to port A.

10. We are up to snuff for a USCG inspection. At least I think we are. I picked up lots of goodies including air horns and flares. I am thinking of having the power squadron come by for a voluntary inspection. This way I can be sure.

The Port A trip should be a good first shakeout. I am a little worried that the batteries are shot and I may replace the whole lot before we head off. Once back, our Razorback neighbors gave the name of a guy who did some good work for them at substantially less than that Seabrook Shipyard. I am excited to have the boat hauled again and get some things like the rudder, macerator, bottom paint, wind, depth, and speed instruments installed. I think I’ve let that same Razorback talk me into getting a nice boot stripe painted on the boat. I am starting to look at this a little more like one of my house rehab projects. Pride of ownership in large part comes from an attractive boat. Secondly, if and when the day comes to re-enter the “real world” I’ll need to sell her. All the cosmetics won’t do a thing to hurt those prospects either.

Merry Christmas Everyone! Have a safe and happy holiday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Givens Life Raft Inflation

This is a Givens 6 man bouy life raft that was manufactured in 1990. It has sat on the deck of my boat in its canister for the last 10 years without an inspection. I had to inflate it and pull out the flares to ship it back to the manufacturer for servicing.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Another good thread on sailnet about age, experience, and the dream

I am glad to see this thread. I am on the cusp at 30, but still seem to be one of the younger generation pursuing this dream. I think that this may be a growing contingent of the sailing community and may be a big reflection on the differing viewpoints the younger generation has than the boomers. Specifically, we kids are waiting longer to marry, have kids, and no one is delusional enough to think that our companies are going to look out for us. Urban communities are not as tight nit as they used to be and families tend to be more scattered. I think all of the above has allowed some us to begin questioning earlier what it is we really want out of life. The younger generation seems to be more willing to buck the status quo and go a different way. Personally, I am excited to see it and meet others who are choosing this path earlier. With the advent of groups like ASA and BoatUS sailing isn't the exclusive "old boys club" it used to be. Now if we can just save up the moula flipping burgers to afford that Raymarine ST 60 instrument pack we'll see you in Tahiti!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Getting back to the boat next week.

I am looking forward to getting back on the boat. I’ve been traveling seemingly nonstop with the holidays combined and last minute software demos here at the end of the year. Unfortunately, I may not have as strong as a finish to this year as I had first hoped for which could make it difficult to implement some of the projects I wanted to do at the first haul out. Oh well, I am getting used to the idea of keeping things more and more simple. The fewer outdated systems I need to upgrade the quicker I can go and the longer I can stay.

I’ve been rereading Hal Roth’s How to Sail Around the World and just like the first time have not been diligent about keeping a pad of paper handy to jot down notes of things to check on the boat. Regardless, I love this book as it really gives a multitude of things to look for from the perspective of a no frills cruising boat. With wireless on the boat I am going to spend next week working from Houston. This will give me a chance to take on some of the projects I listed earlier on in the blog like getting the life raft inspected, updating the EPIRB battery, rigging some jacklines, servicing the winches, and running my dingy. So far I haven’t even had the dingy off the davits. I sure hope that outboard works! I am going to try to add a new worksheet to the project and cruising costs spreadsheet on the website. This one will track basic statistics like length of various lines, fuel filter part numbers and replacement gaskets, serial numbers from various electronics. Hopefully this will not only act as a service guide to the equipment for future repairs, but help me make educated purchases while I plan from New Mexico.

As I flew to Oakland this morning for a meeting I landed next to a guy on the plane who was a broker for J-Boats. Good guy and he just confirmed that everyone in Houston, Texas involved in the boating world knows this boat I bought or at least a rumor of it. J.D. Sellers, the former owner, was the Harbor Master at Waterford Marina. This guy seems to be infamous. I am looking forward to having a beer with him on Romance and working through all the various systems and really getting a handle on the systems he installed. If I can find a decent drafting program, god forbid I have to do it by hand, I’ll mock up a hull map showing each system component. One map each for plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and most important all through hulls regardless of purpose. Time to start putting this old girl together!