Monday, December 24, 2007

The Family is in for Christmas.







I woke up early this morning with the chance to take my brother out for a sail. He also provided some extra crew while I read up underway to figure out how to finish the Raymarine autopilot commissioning. I learned something new today also. If you push the ignition button on a diesel engine and they don't start, they are pretty easy to hotwire. I think my starter solenoid is going bad, but a jump from the battery post across the ignition circuit did the trick tog get the engine humming again. Thanks Julie! Your book, Boat Owners Mechanical and Electrical Guide, saved the day today. Luckily, my mom was standing at the Kemah Boardwalk on our way back in and snapped a few shots of us under way.






Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas Everyone!

I think we are going to go for it. The boat is cleaned up and most of the loose ends have been taken care of. Jason flies in the morning of the 27th and we should be ready to head for South Padre. I am almost giddy with excitement. I am going to restow the cabin today make room for Jason to get his gear stowed. I need to pick up a few more things like a 4 in. cowl vent, new life jackets for guests, and get provisions the day before we go. I’ve been checking the weather conditions every day for the past week and it’s looking like rain right now, but hopefully we’ll catch a break. For sea conditions I use http://www.nws.noaa.gov/. You can click on the region you want a forecast for. I also check the conditions at the blue buoys at http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/maps/WestGulf.shtml. There are three blue marks approximately on the line from Houston to South Padre. These guys give you the wind speed, direction, and wave height and period. Good stuff to know before setting out.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hope you are all having a safe and happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

It's alive!

I got the autopilot back from Raymarine today and all is well. Fearfully, I plugged in one component at a time starting with nothing more than giving the unit power. After it was all plugged in it beeped happily and I started the dockside comissioning process. All is well. I can even describe what a reliefe it is to have that project in and on time to go to Padre. I also tore out the old battery box, fiberglassed in new supports, and will add the tie down mounts tomorrow. The boat is getting a good compound waxing this week and should be ready to go by the 28th.

Good news on the flotilla. I've got at least one other boat with 4 crew going down. It will still just be Jason and I on my boat, but this gives us all some added security. Not to mention they are fun people. During the rest of the week I need to buy a fishing rod and license, replumb the replaced exhaust thru hull, add the battery tie downs, swap the 110 jib for the 150 geneoa, replace the mainsheet, fill diesel and water tanks, provision, sea trial the autopilot, and if I am really aggressive maybe I'll install a new macerator pump and the radar. To do lists on boats are never ending.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting back on track.

I finished up my autopilot! Almost. I finally get everything mechanically installed exactly the way I wanted it, ran all the electrical per the manufacturer specs, and plugged it in. Snap! The breaker threw. What do you do when that happens? Try it again. Snap! Ok, something is wrong. So, I checked all the connections to every piece of the autopilot and found one wire that was not connected terribly well and replaced the whole run of wire with brand new stuff. I then reconnected power and, POP! I didn’t know what the sound was, but at least the breaker didn’t blow. So, I start digging around again and sure enough, I blew the 30 Amp fuse on the autopilot course computer. That’s the brain of the whole deal. I blew a couple more of them both out of frustration and in an attempt to troubleshoot the install. Fortunately I got Raymarine on the phone the next day and they informed me that the only problem I had was with a bad piece of equipment, not my install job. So, $130 bucks and a day later it is sitting on their workbench in RI confirming the computer was faulty. I should get the replacement back Monday to commission and test the new unit. Keep your fingers crossed. Maybe say a prayer.

I also tore into my battery box problem and if it will stop raining think I can knock it out in a day or two. Nothing major, but I need to fiberglass in a few reinforcements to carry the extra weight of my Trojan T-145 golf cart batteries. These little dudes are heavy, but I love them because they give me lots and lots of juice.

I may have recruited another boat to sail down to Padre with me as well. I was absorbing a rum and coke last night and ran into a group of people I met when I first moved to Kemah. We laughed hard for a few hours, mostly at my expense regaling them with tails of my boat projects. Next thing I know we’ve got volunteers to sail down for New Years with us. Now, this may be one of those late night great ideas that never really materialize under the light of the next day, but I am hoping it does. It would be fun and a bit safer to make the trip with some friends. We had 50+ mph gusts of wind last night. I hope we get better conditions for the Padre trip.

I'll leave you with a quote I pulled from another sailors blog. You can check out his page by clicking on the title to this blog entry above.

“To me a voyage is essentially an act of will and a testing of the human spirit. If a sailor doesn’t learn anything more important from the sea than how to reef a sail, the voyage wasn’t worth making. One of the pleasures in setting out on a voyage is not knowing where the sea will lead. On a voyage a sailor is at risk. On a voyage a sailor knows he is truly alive. A voyage is not an escape from life; it is a reach for life.” - Webb Chiles

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Slow going.

I’ve ordered the charts and am halfway done with my autopilot installation. My buddy Jason is flying in on the 27th and we are setting sale on the 28th for South Padre Island. There is a slew of work to be done and I’ll never get to it all as every project takes three times longer than I imagine it will. I think I’ve been fighting with my autopilot for almost three months now. Some of that is me just finding other small projects to work on. I can’t leave on this trip unless I have my autopilot in and my battery box rebuilt. Considering I have three weeks that shouldn’t be too much by any means.

The votes are in and Jargo is by far the front runner. The more I think about that name the more I like it. I’ve also never heard of another vessel named Jargo and Google searches turned up almost nothing on the name except for a bad German movie.

I need help. I still haven’t found a developer for the SOS website who has really sold me on their ideas or ability to do what I want. If you know anyone who is really good at both graphic design and the back end database coding please refer me to them. I am starting to feel the pinch of time. It’s less than a year before I need to be ready to sail. I’ve hit the financial goal I set for taking the trip, now I just need to make this old boat seaworthy.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Vote!

I suppose I got in the mood for a vote after the most recent democrat debate. I still am not sold on the name Romance for my boat. A single guy sailing a boat named Romance seems a little presumptuous. So, I've been racking my brain coming up with a few ideas. They are on the survey to the left of this post. Let me know which one you like best.

Sundowner: A person who makes his home anywhere the sun sets. I kind of liked this since I am looking at traveling west or following the sun around the world.

Jargo: My great grandfather was Christopher Columbus (Lum) Winters. Talk about a nautical name. Anyway, there is a great story about Lum riding his horse, Jargo, across a river to save a woman and her child from a flood.

Orion: Does anyone else look up at the night sky in the cooler months for this constellation? I don't know why exactly, but seeing him up there is like having an old friend around.

Pitchfork: I've got a great article framed in my office that features my parents when they were chasing a dream of theirs. The title reads, "A dream named Pitchfork". The Pitchfork was a ranch in OK they started for kids.

Sandra Mae: Well, that's my mom. Hi mom.

Romance: Current boat name. Saves the cost of relettering and re-registering the boat. And, there really isn't anything that isn't romantic about this whole scheme.

Rocinante: The noble steed of one Don Quixote. Read it if you haven't. It was also the name given to the truck John Steinbeck took around America in Travels with Charlie. Charlie was his dog. I've got one of those too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bayou life is pretty good.

Sunday Nov. 11th:
I woke up this morning with my boat nosed into the bank of the river. There are beautiful tree lined banks on both sides and the gentle flow of the river keep my stern lines tight. This is a beautiful place. I’d never really considered rivers a part of the cruising ground in TX, but this has changed my view towards the local cruising opportunities. On top of that, the TASS club had a showing of about 18 boats and probably 60 people. They deep fried turkeys and had an amazing Thanksgiving feast. There were guitars and campfires until late in the evening.

Now, as beautiful as the setting is this morning, getting here wasn’t so easy. The sail across the ship channel was idyllic. There was 15 knots out of the south that kept me moving at a steady 6.5 kts. All went really well until I started up the Double Bayou channel. The old Famet headsail furler caught the recently installed spinnaker halyard and wrapped itself up pretty tight. Not too major, but it took some time to get everything unwound and to free the halyard. Moving up the channel, the water went from 8 feet to 3 feet instantly. Yep, I was aground yet again. I spent a half an hour trying to work myself off without success. With the sun just dipping below the horizon I caved in and made a call to TowBoatUS. I love those guys. Amazingly, I floated free of the ground just a few minutes after I placed the call. I was using the prop wash off the rudder to turn the boat and suddenly she went in a full 360. I was floating and able to plow through a bit more mud back into the channel. Save the trip TowBoat. I thought all was well until I got boarded by the authorities about an hour later. Texas parks and wildlife hit almost every boat in the fleet. Since I was the last they certainly weren’t going to let me get by. They brought the patrol boat alongside and put a man aboard to check my vessel documentation. Luckily, I just got it all back about a month ago. No fines this time. I even got a tip, I don’t have to register my dink. If I’ll just put the same number on it as I have on the boat plus -1 it becomes a legal ships boat.

Ok, breakfast is cooking at the campfire. Hope everyone is having a great weekend.

Nov. 14th: TASS is made up of an amazing group of people. Like all boaters they tend to watch out for one another, but this is more like a close knit family. This group has seen each other through both the good and bad in their lives and collectively raised each others children. I joined up and am happy to have done so. They take a lot of great trips. Let’s see what’s next.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Things are brewing.....


And no, it’s not my GI tract. I am doing a little river navigation this weekend with a group called TASS. I won’t tell you what that stands for. We are heading across the bay to a place called Double Bayou. I’ve had good luck on bayous so far so I hope this one holds true. Like my fellow Show Me Stater, Mark Twain, I’ll be navigating a few miles up a river. Remember, deep water is on the outside of the turns. Once to the spot, I’ll nose the boat into the bank and tie the stern up to some trees. This should make some good pictures. I am sure four letter words will be plentiful as well as the water gets really shallow. Especially with the low winter tides we’ve been having.

On another note, a good friend of mine is quitting his post doc to get a real job with a petro company. We are looking at taking a few days off in late December early January for a trip. Not sure if we’ll make Brownsville or Port A, but it should be fun. In lazy blog fashion, I’ll share the email I just sent him. Let’s see what he has to say back.


I am thinking of two trips depending on how well the boat holds together, we hold together, and weather. First, we do a two day offshore sail down to Port Aransas. A small little coastal town that might have something going on for new years. This would let us take our time coming back up the intercoastal waterway if the weather is bad. Alternatively, we could go all out for Brownsville, TX which is at best a 48 - 60 hour sail or two to three days at sea. It is also next door to Mexico so jail is a real possibility. The second would be real offshore stuff. Hard part here would be getting back home for work if the winds were not in our favor, but we can always watch the weather forecast and make that call at the time. Hummm.......Time to start repairing things again.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Harvest Moon – DNF

DNF = did not finish. That was our official standing in the Harvest Moon Regatta this year. Regardless, we had a great time and I believe made the right decision to call in quit, cut the motor on, and make it to harbor in time for the party. Our crew was mostly inexperienced and we went into the race with one objective, to have a good time. By those standards we were definitely a winner. I also got the experience of my first offshore, overnight passage.

I am working on putting all the pictures and video clips together into one short film I’ll upload when it is ready. Until then, here are my two favorite pictures from the trip. These were taken only a few minutes apart. One is the sun getting low in the sky and is almost eclipsed by a cloud of smoke from some fire burning in the distance. The sun set our course for the last few hours of the day. As that big ball of orange fire set ahead of us the Harvest Moon began to rise behind us. It started out the same color as the sun, but faded to a brilliant white as it climbed higher off the horizon. It was a pretty magical time of day.

Getting back to my own boat, progress has been a little slow. I still haven’t seemed to muster the motivation to finish the autopilot installation and my new radar has turned into a great footrest under the dinette. There has been a lurking fear in the back of my mind about the trip. For some reason I am really having a hard time seeing myself go through with it. Oddly enough though, I’ve made good strides towards getting the site sailing4sos.com going. I am meeting with the same designer that does www.projectbluesphere.com on Tuesday. Alex gave him a really good reference and I am excited to learn how to get things going on the site. I still really need help with the design aspect of the site and a logo I can use on the site, for press releases, and potential merchandise through cafepress.com. Please let me know if you can help with this aspect of the trip. I need a cool logo.

Speaking of design, I am trying to figure out how to make the interior of the boat more comfortable and a bit more mine. I need to repaint the ceiling and get rid of the wood grain formica that covers too many of the walls. Now if I could just pick a color I think I could dig into this project. I also need to redo the cushions and the mattress as my back is starting to hurt and I think it is how I am sleeping.

Personally, life is pretty interesting these days. I’ve really started dating again which has given me some good new stories. Turns out hobbits are real and they walk among us. I went on a blind date and an honest to god hobbit walked through the door. Fortunately, a few other prospects are looking more promising. Too soon to tell. Less than one year to go. I am moving things up and resetting the counter. Nov. 1st is the date.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Potential Logo

Ok, so this is a free logo designer I found on the web. I've contacted an old friend from TCU who does this for a living and can pretty this up, but it's a start. Give me some feedback!


logos


logo maker logo creator


logos

SOS…….SOS Children’s Village that is.


It’s really easy to get caught up in our own problems from financial hardships to failing relationships. Last week I forged a partnership with one of the most amazing groups of people I’ve ever had the privilege of calling my friends. They toil effortlessly for the greater good of children who can’t help themselves.

I know that I will get very bored if I don’t have something to work for on my circumnavigation other than the physical sailing and exploring. I also been feeling the need to start giving back having been very self focused for the past several years. I’ve found corporate success relatively easy, made some money, but the effort seems hollow. It’s time to put some effort into helping others.

I started searching for a multi-national nonprofit that I could join forces with to drive revenue and raise awareness for. The search turned of a long list of respected organization from the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to the Red Cross. However, there was only one that really pulled at me. SOS Children’s Villages.

I sent one email to the USA office of SOS and within 24 hours received an overwhelmingly positive response back from them. SOS has operations across the globe and they’ve truly opened their doors to me adding a much needed philanthropic dimension to my plan. The general plan is to sail from Houston ESE around to the south coast of Haiti and the Dominican Republic stopping at the SOS Villages there. I’ll be documenting the visits with pictures, film, and blog. SOS has invited me to stay for several days at each facility allowing me to get to know their individual characters and a chance to bring to life the story of one of the children or the many staff who make the villages possible.

From Haiti I’ll head to Jamaica, Columbia, Panama, and finally Tahiti visiting SOS sites in each country along the way. I don’t know much about public relations or how to use the media to my advantage, but SOS have put their resources in place to take care of press releases and getting the story out. Once I actually sail, they will be using their site as a platform to help track my progress and as a board to post my feeble attempts at telling their stories.

This past Monday morning was spent with the staff of SOS Children’s Village of Florida. I met the kind of people who can easily restore your faith in humanity. I want to tell their story in detail, but think the SOS stories deserve a page of their own either on this blog or on my other home page. To do this effort justice I am looking at a total redesign of the site that will include a donations page for SOS along with blog, photo gallery, and position tracking all in one place. If anyone is good with web development or knows someone who is that works at reasonable rates please point me in their direction.

Check out my new partner! http://www.sos-usa.org/

Monday, October 08, 2007

It’s been a surreal two weeks…

When I was a senior at TCU in Fort Worth, TX there was a pretty tight nit group of graduate students in the Geology department. One or two of which I’ve stayed friends with over the past 10 years. The weekend before last I went up to a reunion they were holding at TCU. I think with one exception they were all married with children. It was great to visit with them and the weekend has really set my mind to thinking. It’s hard not to question ones actions when you see the look on friends and family members faces when I tell them what I am up to.

There is no doubt that the risk that scares me most about the trip is the difficulty of forming and holding onto a relationship. Let’s face it, convincing a sane and supportive female to jump on board a boat with a guy who she has known less that a year is a difficult proposition at best.

Seeing how happy some of my old friends where certainly argues a good case for the four bedroom house with a two car garage and 2.5 kids. I think I am even more afraid though of giving my life to a company whose values and goals are not inline with my own. It seems there are almost as many of my friends who are still asking themselves what they want to be when they grow up. I think I am somewhere in the middle. At least I know who I want to be, the what I want to be will fall into place if I start taking care of myself and doing the things inline with the who part of the question.


Now on to a much dirtier topic of conversation. Do you know what happens to the holding tank on a boat if you pump it one too many times without pumping it out first? I bet you can guess. C’mon, think about it. Yep, it has an overpressure valve that lets the over pressured solid/fluid mix inside weep out a little bit. I don’t care who you are or what head deodorizer you use, it stinks. So, I’ve spend the late afternoon and evening hosing out my forward bilge and wiping everything down with Clorox Clean Up. I am really hoping it does the trick. For those who remember reading about the shower sump debacle, it’s baaaack. Damn thing won’t start pumping water unless you give it a sharp rap with a heavy object. So much for West Marine brand systems. Damn thing’s got to be pulled out and replaced. Oh well, low priority. Until the next cruise that is.

Otherwise, slow but steady progress. I’ve ordered new main, mizzen, mizzen staysail, and flag halyards. To that order I added my new 406 megahertz EPIRB, Furuno 1623 radar, and Sampson line splicing kit. Now if I can only finish the autopilot installation!

Much love to the friends and family who’ve supported me in this trip. You are a rare bunch and I am lucky to have you. Anyone notice the counter up in the top left?

Lee

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Getting ready for the Harvest Moon Regatta!

I don’t know if I’ll sail as a part of the race or not, but I am going to take advantage of the full moon and do a shake out sail offshore. It’s about time. I still haven’t had Romance outside the Galveston Bay jetties so this isn’t a small undertaking for me. I’ve got a short list put together of things I need to accomplish on the boat before I could even meet the Category 3 offshore racing requirements. Not to mention it’s just stupid for a novice sailor to go offshore without some of these things. A few of these have been on other lists, but things like fixing the transmission took priority. I am really excited to be back on track and getting my boat ready for offshore cruising.

Must Do:

1. Purchase and install an offshore life raft. Practical Sailor just did a big spread on life rafts. I may take their advice and buy the budget recommendation. Avon makes a good raft that is relatively budget conscious as well. I need to pull the trigger and get this piece of gear mounted on my deck.
2. Buy an EPIRB! I can’t believe I’ve left this off the must do list for so long.
3. Replace the old Furuno 1621 Radar with a newer 1623. My old unit has crapped out and as with all my old electronics I have realized they are not worth repairing. To do this right I just need suck it up and buy new gear. The 1623 is a direct upgrade to my old unit so should be an easy install. It draws low power and has a 16NM range which should be plenty for me.
4. Finish the autopilot install. I don’t know why I’ve let this drag on, but it’s time to wrap it up.
5. Boil out the heat exchanger on the old Westerbeke 4-108. She still overheats above 2000 rpm.

Nice to do:

1. Buy a Garmin GPS chartplotter. I haven’t decided between the old 492 or one of the 550 models. One is discontinued and the other just had a major recall. Probably the newer one since Garmin does have great customer service if it has a problem.
2. Replace the mainsheet, main halyard, move the current main halyard to the spinnaker halyard.
3. Replace all running rigging on davits, mizzen mast, and spinnaker pole.
4. Get my Garmin handheld back to Garmin for repair.
5. Install lifeline netting on the deck to keep me and the pup onboard while underway.
6. Pull the windless and get it sand blasted and powder coated.
7. Do a top and bottom oil change on the 15 hp Johnson outboard.
8. Get the Main and Mizzen over to Cameron for repair, renewal, or replacement.
9. Secure the second CQR to the anchor chain and road with new stainless fittings.
10. Win the lottery to pay for all of this.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Labor Day: Part One

So I should note here that I was motoring to both check the engine, and because Red Fish was dead into the wind. Yes, I could have beat my way out there, but the concert only lated an hour and I wanted to hear a little of it anyway.



The noise from the power boats was deafening. I stayed way out on the perimeter of the anchorage until almost everyone was gone before I moved into the lee of the island.



This wraps up day one. More to come as I get them uploaded. I am thinking about buying a software package called Pinnacle for video editing. Does anyone have any experience with it? I'd like to be able to cut these together and get the whole story put into one video instead of five or six shorts. Hope everyone had a great weekend. I know I am not ready to go back to work.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

A typical chain of events.

Romance did leave the slip last weekend. I finished up the major clean up and repaired the engine kill cable, but figured it was more important to get the boat out of the slip than spend more time on the autopilot installation. I was a little concerned right off the bat because the engine was running a little hot. Nothing major, but around 190 – 195 when she should hold at 180. Georgia and I made it out to Galveston Bay and after feeling sure the transmission was working well decided to hoist the main sail for a quick run under sail.

This is the first time I’ve ever had romance out single handed and it was an interesting challenge. I got the main up, but had a batten get hung on the outside of one of the lazy jacks so it looked terrible. While I was fighting with this, Georgia let me know she didn’t quite have her sea legs yet. She was walking around very carefully concerned that the place she was about to put her paw might move out from under her. Nothing she won’t get used to.

After fooling around on the water for a half hour or so I headed back to the slip. Everything was going pretty well until I heard my bilge pump go off just as I was pulling into my slip. Any time that goes off it means the boat has taken on some water. Once every once in a long while is ok, but the damn thing went off again about 3 minutes later which meant I was taking on water and rapidly.

I crawled down below to find the leak and was shocked to find water pouring out of my hot water heater. My first reaction was to turn off the boats water pressure pump and luckily that stopped the flow of water. I mulled it over awhile and concluded it had to be one of two things. First, the over pressure valve on the hot water heater could have gone bad as they are known to wear out easily. This would have been the easy fix. The second option was that the over heating of my engine was in fact boiling the fresh water in the hot water heater tripping the correctly functioning over pressure valve. The raw water that cools the engine runs through the hot water heater so that you don’t have to use electricity to heat the water while you are under way. To test it all out all I did was let everything cool off and turn the pressure pump back on. Sure enough it held water so I had an engine problem.

Yesterday I had the mechanic out from Y.E.S. to walk me through the diesel servicing procedure for my engine, a Westerbeke 4-108. Having a professional walk me through the procedure probably saved me many days of fumbling around the engine lost on my own. He also gave me tons of insight into trouble shooting and general maintenance tips. His first suggestion was to replace the coolant reservoir cap and see if it helped. Five dollars later from O'Reilly auto parts I got the new cap on the engine held her temp almost exactly at 180. This made me really happy. Just to be sure all was well I pulled off the engine cover and to my dismay found coolant being blown all over the engine. The mist was so fine I could actually taste the sweetness and realize how this stuff kills so many pets who find open bottles lying around. Anyway, I shut down the engine and luckily it’s nothing more than a hose that needs cleaning up and refit to the engine. A 20 minute job. Having the new 7 lb cap on the coolant reservoir increased the pressure of the closed system and forced the hose to blow. Better to find out now rather than later.
Overall, I am ecstatic with the progress. The boat is literally ready to go sailing at the drop of a hat. I know how to maintain most of the systems and believe I can keep this boat running. I do still need to learn about the refrigeration systems, but that is for another day. Today, I am going to write up the servicing procedure so I’ll have the reference for next time and may head out to anchor somewhere by Galveston or Red Fish. There is a big party called the Red Fish Raft Up on Sunday and it sounds like a good time to me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What’s that noise?

Something very unusual disturbed the peace and solitude that has existed in slip 1334 in Waterford Harbor Marina. A rumbling growl shook wind and water this morning sending fish to the deep and ducks flying in panic. My heart beat began to race and I realized that it was quickening in perfect unison with the throttle lever I was gently easing forward in my right palm. After five long months of languishing under the Texas sun, roasting in the juices of the Houston humidity, the heart of Romance, and my own, roared to life after too long a silence.

I’ve had a difficult time wiping the smile that runs from ear to ear off of my face. For the first time I realize why some moments with boats deserve nothing less than a bottle of champagne. Unfortunately, my refrigerator has only a few cans of Coors Light, so despite the early hour, I’ve cracked a can and am reveling in the moment. My boat is no longer a floating condo, but once again the sailing vessel that can carry my dreams and I across the oceans.

There is much to do this weekend to undo the five months of slumber. Romance has months of dust and grime built up on her hull that will be washed away with soap and water. The drive arm of the autopilot still needs the rudder indicator arm, control head, compass, and computer installed. The wooden panels that make up the cockpit lockers have been removed to make room for both men and hardware and will need to be fiber glassed back into the hold. Some how in the past five month the kill cable for the engine has come undone and must be reattached otherwise killing the diesel will require a trip below decks while on the water. With luck, with projects partially finished or in full, Romance will go sailing this weekend.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I've got a GEAR!

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I've been gone for seven days for work, but good things are happening. Before I left I got the linear drive arm installed for the autopilot and primary anchor and chain replaced on the boat. Today the guys from Y.E.S. are here reinstalling my transmission. If all goes well I might even be able to take this boat out for a spin this weekend. I am still not getting my hopes up until I am pulling out of the slip.

On another note, I went sailing in San Diego this past weekend. What was supposed to be a relaxing trip to Isla Contadora in Mexico really put me to the test more than I was expecting. We pulled out of SD harbor Saturday morning for an overnight sail to Isla Contador about 18 miles from the dock. The sail down was excellent, but once we dropped anchor we realized there was no oven, no fuel for the range, no grate for the BBQ grill, and no matches to light it anyway. So dinner suddenly turned into a difficult proposition. After much debate I pulled out a trusty emergency signal flare, lit it, and used the flare to light the little bbq grill. I pulled the grate off the range top in the kitchen and delicately began grilling our pork tenderloin. We had no plates, no silverware, no pots, and no pans so wine from our three plastic cups and eating uncut pork tenderloin off a plastic fork was as good as it got.

About the time we started thinking about hitting the sack I went to turn the battery selector to 1 so that we had number 2 in reserve to start the batter in the morning. Unfortunately, batter number two was completely dead and had no longer been taking a charge while at the dock. This meant running off one batter. About this same time we realized we were only ten feet from another boat in the anchorage which meant we were dragging anchor. So we fired up the Yanmar to charge batteries and relocate to a better holding spot. Thinking the hard part was passed us we hit the sack only to wake up every hour on the hour to check our holding.

At the 5:00 a.m. anchor check I realized that our anchor light was no longer on. I immediately went to start the engine and sure enough, that one little light completely killed batter number 1. We were at anchor in Mexico with no engine. This scared me a little. After working out our plan we sailed out the anchor and had a great beat back into San Diego Harbor. We were going to sail the boat right into the slip, but after dropping the main I realized the jib didn't have enough power to allow us to tack if needed. We called off the attempt and just before we reset the mainsail and struck the jib seatow drove by us. I kind of believe in signs sometimes and this isn't one I could pass on. No batter meant no VHF to hail Seatow so I just waived my arm and he came right over and towed us into our slip.

Overall it was a huge pain in the ass of a sailing trip, but for all the problems we encountered there wasn't a single one we couldn't handle. I'll never take out another charter boat without gong through it with a fine tooth comb. Lesson learned. Hopefully I'll be sailing Romance again by the end of the week and won't have to rely on charters and other peoples boats.

P.S. if you are having boat work done in the Kemah area don't trust any shop except YES. Click the blog title "I've got a GEAR" above to go to thier web page.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I've got a shiney anchor! a.k.a. Hot Dip Galvanizing

Bernard Moitessier, a famous French singlehanded sailor, recently reminded me that crusiers need to look for a few things when the refit a boat. Those are, in order of priority, effectiveness, reliability, and inexpensive. Cheap, that's what it's all about and cheap is a relative term in the boating world.

I had a half dozen people tell me that people don't hot dip galvanize anchors. I asked on every sailing forum I could find and no one had a reason why not. So I bucked the trend and took my 300 feet of 3/8 BBB anchor chain and three anchors to KT Galvanizing in Katy, TX and the results are outstanding. The big anchor alone would have cost over $800 to replace and all three combines would have pushed $1800. The chain new runs around $1000 + shipping on top of that. I was able to Hot Dip the whole lot for $200. That may be the best deal I've found yet on boat hardware.

Today is the first weekend I've had on the boat in a long time. I am digging into the autopilot installation today and tomorrow. With luck it will go smoothly and I can try and track down the signal error on the Radar unit. If all else fails, I just clean out the anchor locker and call it a weekend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A cruise of a different kind.


So I did something I've wanted to do since I was a kid this past weekend. When I left Albuquerque I knew I'd be coming back every other weekend for almost three months and I'd need transportation. So I left my old motorcycle there. Well, now that school is out I decided to ride the old girl from Albuquerque to Houston. That was one hell of a trip.

I left on Friday afternoon thinking I'd take three days, but as soon as I dropped down in elevation about 1000 feet the bike started running really bad. Angrily, I turned the bike around and headed back for Albuquerque. The whole time I am running through possible solutions and wondering what could be wrong. What really surprised me was that the bike started purring again as soon as I got back into the mountains. That was the last clue I needed.

I've torn into the carbs on this old bike enough to know them inside out. There are four carbs and four pilot screws that controlled the fuel flow in the cylinders for combustion. It was set way to lean so once I opened the screws allowing more fuel in she ran great. In fact she outlasted me by a long shot.

I forgot sunscreen the first day and have some pretty good blisters on my right arm, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Riding through the high desert of eastern New Mexico and the Texas plains was a great way to spend the weekend. I also learned that there is a big difference between hitting hard shell and soft shell bugs at 80 mph. One feels like rain and the other hurts like hell.

Anyways, the bike and I made it back and boat projects await. I got the anchors and chain back from being hot dip galvanized and they look great. That saved me over $2000 in replacement cost and only cost $200. I am going to try and get my autopilot installed this weekend. My trans is en route to Kemah and I have tentatively scheduled the install on the 20th. My radar isn't working for some reason so I may need to fix/replace it. My goal is to take a couple of days off over Labor Day and go sailing in my own boat. Won't that be nice for a change?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Schools out for summer!


Twenty-five months ago I made some major changes in my life. Within a two week time span I started a new job with Thermo, moved to Albuquerque from St. Louis, started Univ. of New Mexico’s Exec. M.B.A. program, and moved in with my girlfriend whom I’d been seeing long distance for a year. Seriously, what was I thinking?

I feel like I am now closing a significant chapter in my life. I am sitting in the Albuquerque airport having just attended my very last class for the MBA program. Taking stock today, I live on a boat in Kemah, TX, I broke up with the girl I moved to Albuquerque for four months ago, and now I’ve completed the MBA that has been a constant thread running through all of the changes I’ve made in the past few years tying them together and providing the backdrop to my life.

My head really, really hurts this morning. One of my group members invited the entire class over for a blow out to celebrate. There was much over indulgence. I think saying goodbye to those people and spending a day with Kris, the ex, this weekend has set my mind to spinning and I’ve got a bit of melancholy that has settled over the occasion. This weekend brought up some old questions concerning my relationship with Kris. They are unanswerable and I probably shouldn’t even indulge them, but I can’t help but wonder if things would have worked out the same if I hadn’t taken so much on? If I hadn’t ended it so close to the end of the MBA program would the time that has been freed up allow us to reconnect like we had before I moved to Albuquerque?

I do want to try and understand how and what happened more so that I don’t repeat the mistakes I’ve made in my next relationship. A lot of people have asked me about the sailing trip since the break up. Most have wondered if it is still on. I should be pretty clear about this. I don’t want to do this trip single handed. The idea of traveling the world by sailboat seems tailor made for a couple. However, if I don’t find someone by the time I am ready to go, I am still going. It means setting the boat up a little different, but all can be done safely. And who knows who I might meet along the way.

I am probably in the worst physical condition of my life coming off the MBA. The time to do the extra work had to com from somewhere and it seems to have come at the expense of personal health and personal relationship. I am going to spend the next several months trying to rebuild both areas including going to the gym and starting to spend time with family and friends.

I suppose I’ve kept myself so busy with work and school I still haven’t really thought about how I’ve landed where I am. It’s time to put the focus on being who I want to be instead of just being a busy person.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

New Goals

I’ve gotten some good work done on the boat over the past few weeks, but I’ve still only scratched the surface. The other thing that dawned on me is that I’ve only had the boat out of the slip once since I moved aboard. That’s unacceptable. Granted the one time I had it out my transmission went bad, so it has been a little difficult to do much of anything. Regardless, I’ve got to start sailing again and soon if I have any chance of making a circumnavigation. I’ve never single handed Romance and I’ve got to learn. Does that strike anyone else as an odd thing to say, “Single Handed Romance”?

My transmission should be shipping back to me next week for reinstallation. This means I’ll be mobile again right after I finish my last class for school the weekend of the 27th. I’ve got three trips in mind.

First, I need to do some single handing in the Bay to get used to Romance again. I’ll need to get the autopilot installed, a GPS mounted at the helm, and learn to service and bleed the diesel. I’ll use the weekends to anchor out at Red Fish Island and break the boat in as much as I can while still within 10 miles of Clear Lake.
Second, I want to use Labor Day and maybe one other three day weekend to sail down to Port Aransas. It is about a 24 hour sail and will give me my first glimpse of sailing Romance off shore. I still don’t know how she’ll handle larger water. For this I need to make sure I’ve got my EPIRB purchased and I’d like to get my Life Raft replaced. There are several oil rigs out there so a course in Radar wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Finally, I am going to Mexico. Well, almost. It’s a 50 hour sail from Galveston to South Padre Island where my Marina has a sister facility. I figure if I can take a full week off that will give me nine days to make the trip down and back leaving 3 or four days for preparations or repairs as needed in South Padre. This trip will be the first multi day passage I’ll have made. It’s the closest thing to a shake out sail I may get before the real thing.
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I need goals to drive myself. Motivation comes in waves and I want to start planning now so I can take advantage of the next one. School is almost done and I can concentrate my weekends of fixing up and sailing the boat. It is starting to feel a bit more real just thinking about sailing the boat again instead of treating her like a floating condo.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Clean Diesel Fuel and Movies

I had some guys over to the boat today with a big centrifuge to suck out the fuel and clean it up. I also installed a 4 in inspection port to try and get a better feel for the state of this 30 year old steel tank. Lots of exterior rust, but she seems pretty solid after all. Where I cut the port the tank is a little over 1/16 in thick. I won't bother replacing it until it really does spring a leak.

On another note, a couple of the sailing blogs I follow both recently published some really cool movies. I've included them below. I need to get a video camera and some editing software.




Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Progress, decisions, and cash

I’ve really dug into the boat projects over the past few days. I think it has something to do with not wanting to do the readings for my last semester of the MBA program or my expense reports for work. Apparently I am extremely productive when I am procrastinating.

In the past for our five days I’ve started sanding down the bright work on the boat, cleaned some of the grime off the engine and checked the freshwater impeller, topped up the battery bank with distilled water, pulled all 300 feet of chain w/ 3 anchors off the boat to prep for hot dip galvanizing, replaced and rewired my DVD player, and scheduled guys to check prices for both the replacement or repair of the Westerbeke 4108 and fuel tank.

I am still scared that I’ll get out somewhere remote and the rusty old iron fuel tank will spring a leak sending all my fuel to the bilge. That and with 8700 hours I am terrified my engine will give up the ghost. I still don’t think I can afford to rebuild or replace the 4108, at least not in the states anyways. I may be able to do it where the labor is much cheaper in Latin America. However, there is a lot of sludge built up in the fuel tank that has to come out. A good internal cleaning may well put a hole in it if it has rusted as thin as I think it might have. The guys are coming at 12:00 tomorrow to take a look and help me figure out the best way to go to ensure I have a good, clean fuel supply without breaking the bank.

My transmission should be coming back in another week or two. I am hoping now that I can complete some of the projects I’ve started in time to enjoy the boat over the Labor Day weekend. If I can learn to fully service the engine and get my autopilot installed by then I think the old girl will be ready to have a little bit of fun. I think we both need it.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Over analyzing

I’ve been known to beat dead horses. There are many times when I’ve thought myself right out of a project instead of leaping in and wrestling a solution out of it. While I was working to find a transmission I pretty much lost all motivation to work on other projects thinking it might be the death of this venture. However, I’ve come almost full circle with nothing but a piece of old sand paper. It seems that jumping into the deepend is the only way sometimes.

I was standing on the dock with one of my neighbors looking at the “potential” of my boat. Next thing I know we are talking about the various merits of varnish and cetol for the teak wood work on the boat known as bright work. Romance has multicolored wood at the moment. Parts are grey where the natural wood has weathered and parts are brown where the old finish is still hanging on to the wood. Overall, the result looks like the boat has been abandoned and is a real eye sore. Anyway, next thing I know I have an old piece of sandpaper I found in my tool kit and I am seeing how hard it is to remove the old varnish. To my surprise it came right off and the wood underneath was beautiful.

Once I realized that project might not be too bad I took the same said piece of sand paper over to my old anchor that is covered in rust. Who knew it would come right of with 120 grit paper. Tomorrow I am buying an orbital sander and going to town on my woodwork and anchors. I’ll varnish the wood and paint the anchor for maximum effect. This old boat might even start to look pretty again.

Happy 4th everyone. Hope no one lost a finger this year. Or toe, Dad?

Lee

Friday, June 29, 2007

Getting a little better....

So there is some light at the end of all this. I got a call yesterday from the guys at Federal Marine. They will be able to rebuild a transmission with the same specs as my old one by cannibalizing three other trans and ordering a few parts. The trans alone will run around 4K, but it sure beats total repower at 18K.

I took last night and got my old grill fired up for the first time and did some cooking on the boat. After buying a $140 propane tank I was a little upset when the grill wouldn't work at first. After cutting a few bolts and cleaning it all real well I got some great chicken out of the deal.

I am recently back from a family reunion, and from what I can tell they may be the only people who look at these pages. Anyways, the one constant piece of feedback I got was more posts. So I've been trying to keep them coming more often even if they are a little shorter. I thought people might like an idea of what this place looks like so I'll try to upload a video. Let me know if it works.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No love from Romance.

Ok, so I’ve been on the phone with parts shops way too long today. It’s generally not good news all around. The gear on my boat was a very rare one. It was 17 inches long and dropped 2.5 inches from the engine spindle to the output flange. No modern day gear has the same specs. (I need the PL model)

To make some of the newer models fit I may have to completely remove the engine and rebuild the engine mounts. A mechanic I trust told me that if I am going that far already I should seriously consider a total repower. I know he is right, but that would run around 18K before it was all said and done. That’s just more than I have to outfit this boat. I am really kicking myself for not having the engine inspected before I bought her. It is definitely true that if anyone really understood how much boats cost they would never own one.

To add insult to injury my AC hasn’t been cooling the boat off like it used to. I started digging around to see how difficult it would be to try and recharge the coolant in the system. I started poking around and realized I have no idea what I am doing. I need to call a technician, but will hold off until I get the engine problems sorted out. That or keep poking around until something clicks and I have an idea of how to proceed. Having this boat ready to go cruising is suddenly seeming a long, long way off.

If anyone has a line on a good rebuilt or rebuildable Paragon P25L let me know. It would save a world of hurt in Kemah.

Lee

Monday, June 25, 2007

On buying a boat.

If you are buying a used boat, spend the few extra hundred bucks to get the engine inspected. Especially if you are looking at a 30 year old sailboat.

I got a call from Jim at Federal Marine outside of Chicago today. The first thing he told me was I didn’t have a transmission. When they opened up the case, what used to be parts and gears had essentially dissolved away with salt water corrosion. There was nothing left to be rebuilt.

Apparently, J.D., the previous owner had never checked the transmission oil because it would take several years for a gear to degrade to this state. This is something that could have been easily prevented by a new oil cooler, but was simply overlooked or ignored for too long. I now have to make a choice about having the guys a Federal build me a new gear out of a Paragon case they have or find a new/rebuilt gear that will match the old Westerbeke 4-108.

What has me really scared is wondering how much other deferred maintanence is going to catch up with me during this refit. A rebuild of the old gear would have run about $2,000. A new one is more likely to run around $4,000. I may go ahead and get the engine surveyed now while I am working on the mechanical side of things. I don’t want to spend 4K on a new gear only to have to replace the whole engine later. If there are other problems lurking I want to know about them sooner rather than later.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Racing, Showers, and Transmissions.

It's been two really good back to back weekends. One of the local yacht clubs holds rum races several times throughout the summer and there happened to be one last weekend and yesterday. A rum race is a chance to bring new racers out on performance sailboats and introduce them to the world of racing in a low key environment. Equal emphasis is placed on the consumption of rum and winning the race which creates some interesting results. I spend yesterday working on the foredeck of a J-109 learning how to both work with and avoid the mass of line needed to fly all sails including the great big asymmetrical spinnaker. The great thing is I've learned enough yesterday to feel confident in flying my own asymmetrical on Romance.

I finally solved the great shower problem and once I run to Target and pick up a curtain I'll be able to shower on the boat instead of running to the top of the dock. It's a small thing, but living aboard does require a few creature comforts. I had to snap a 10 foot boat hook in half and use it to fish the shower sump hose past my water tanks, but that system is probably better than any other on the boat. Now I have to figure out where I want to dig in next. I am thinking I'll pull my main sail and mizzen sail down to take to Cameron Sails for renewing or replacement. My transmission is still sitting on the floor in a shop outside Chicago so I won't be going anywhere for awhile. Might be a good time to get my starter rebuilt as well. It's been having a few problems.

I am out to CA and NM for work and class. Four more classes and I'll have the EMBA done and will double the time I can spend both working for money and working on the boat. I can't tell you how excited I am for that.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Simple projects turned complicated

I’ve been slowly plugging away at boat projects. For $140 I replaced the 6lb propane take on the back of the boat that feeds an old Force 10 BBQ grille. I was tempted to replace it with a newer model one of my neighbors were letting go of, but on further inspection, the Force 10 was very heavy duty and in great shape other than a little surface rust. I cleaned it up and will be cooking steaks tonight. I also pulled the “Captains Chair” out of the cockpit. Having that chair out of there made the boat much more comfortable. While I understand the comfort aspect, aesthetically, it just didn’t belong on a sailboat. I used a new product for the first time as well. West Marine makes a 2 part epoxy that comes as a green roll with the activator on the inside of the main substrate. I mixed it up like play-do, filled the holes left by the chair and 10 minutes later it was hard enough to be sanded. Building momentum off each of these I though I would try something a little more challenging. Little did I know.

Romance has a small shower in the head, but it hasn’t been functional since I’ve owned the boat. I started poking and prodding to figure out where the problem was and found multiple breaks in the negative sump pump wire and float switch. I tracked all the bad wire down using a test lamp and replaced the bad sections. Once I got it all put back together, still no shower love. Using the same test lamp I figured out that the pump itself was shot. I figured this would make life easy and I would just pick up one of the new self contained units and drop it in. Easy, right? No. So I dropped the $100 at West and started connecting up the new unit once I drilled out the intake valve on the sump. Reconnected everything again and the pump took off, but no water was moving. This confused me.

I started running down all the plumbing connections and couldn’t believe that the previous owner had used regular green garden hose in the system. Oddly enough, the garden hose had been tied into the cockpit scupper and let to one of the yellow t-valves like you would find at home depot. This then came off to the shower sump and one other mystery line. For the life of me I looked and looked and couldn’t figure out where the other hose ran. Oh well. I’ll make it work regardless, or so I though.

Realizing the whole hose needed to be replaced I ran back to West for more hose. After buying the required amount I returned and believing the hose run to be an easy one I removed the old hose. Huge mistake. First, one I had the old one out I realized why the pump wasn’t working. There was a check valve in the line to prevent the cockpit water from draining into the shower sump. It’s been so long since it had been used it was completely frozen. Oh well, that could have made it a five minute fix, but his is much better.

By pulling the old hose out I removed any possibility of getting the new hose to lie in the same spot. I should have tied the new one to the old and pulled them both through together. So now, I’ve got 20 feet of shower sump hose run, but it’s 5 feet too short and I can’t get access to the area of the bilge to run it where I need. So much for a simple project. Hopefully I’ll be showing on my boat before the next week is over.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Good, the Bad, and the down right Ugly!

The Good: I’ve made good on the promise I made to myself of getting more involved locally and trying to meet some people who race in the area. Last week I went out on a J80 in the Galveston Bay and had an incredible day on the water. These boats really are fast and a lot of fun to sail. We had an almost perfect day. This was a check out sail of sorts to see if I could actually sail or not. I’ve been invited back so I guess that means I pass. Hopefully, I actually am in town some Wed. or Sat. soon for the evening races.

The Bad: This one blows my mind and is severely damaging my wallet as well. I pulled Romance out of her slip to get the dingy off the davits so I could motor around the lake. (In case you are wondering the top three entrants for the naming contest are Blava, Reality, and The Duck) Everything was going fine until I headed back into the slip. The wind was up so I was moving a little faster than normal to keep some control of that big full keel. As I lined up on the slip and came about a quarter of the way in I throttled down, threw her in neutral, then reverse, throttled back up and no luck. I don’t slow down a bit.

I made a pretty good jump from the boat to the dock to try and get in front of her to slow her down, but that was pretty futile. The only thing that really saved me, the boat, and the dock from a major collision was the fact that I keep a small floating barge in the front of the slip to make it easier to clean the hull. The barge took the full brunt of the boat and forced Romance to slow down preventing me from ever touching the wooded dock itself. Thank God.

So what’s the point of this story? Well, my transmission went out. No more neutral and no more reverse. Obviously this isn’t a good thing for close quarters maneuvering. I started making calls to see who could help me out and the only mechanic who wasn’t booked four weeks out was Blue Water Ships Stores here in Kemah. They sent some one out and little did I know the mechanic was actually their refrigeration guy. Something he let slip at the end of the day. Well, he went to work pulling the trans out, but never before have I seen someone who more closely resembled the old adage, “A bull in a china shop”. In an attempt to pull the gear out he somehow managed to kick/break off a thru hull valve. For those not familiar with these it resulted in a hole in my boat about the size of a quarter that was rapidly letting water in. Sinking would be the correct term.

So the fridge guy started hammering a rag into the hole and letting me know all was well. He then took to slashing the plumbing for my raw water wash down pump in an effort to restart my air conditioner since the thru hull he broke was the water feed for the AC. Now I have a broken thru hull and plumbing to redo. Even more amazingly, he started blaming the broken valve on electrolysis. It certainly wasn’t something he felt he was liable for.

After contemplating the day’s events I called Blue Water and told them not to bother coming back and not to expect a payment for me for the work done as the damage Romance received was far in excess of the 4 hours work by his mechanic/fridge guy.

Thankfully I found a really good shop through my boat broker who stepped in and took charge of the situation. Y.E.S. assessed the situation and asked when I was leaving town again. Fortunately I had to be back in NM for class so while I was out they arranged a tow boat to come pull my disabled Romance (no transmission remember) over to the shipyard, hauled her, repaired the thru hull, and put her back in my slip in a days work. They’ve also picked up the gear and have shipped her to a specialist in my type of gear and will reinstall when she returns. So I am back on track, but I am guessing this will set me back a total of around 4k before it is all said and done. And that is if they can rebuild my gear. A new one will be 4K all by itself.


The UGLY: Heads. Oh god have I learned to head the heads on boats. There is another thru hull on a boat that pumps in salt water to flush the head. Turns out over time if the hoses are not carefully flushed with vinegar then extreme deposits of calcium can build up clogging the hoses. I had a mother of a clog. I guess the previous owners never flushed the system with vinegar. The 1.5 inch hose was blocked down to .5 in and the calcium had become dislodged completely blocking all water flow. Several feet of pipe had to be replaced, but not before much of the waste water had been allowed by a technician to run into the bilges. It’s all back together, but not only have I flushed the toilet, but the whole of the bilges have been well flushed to boot.

Ok, that’s enough boat love for today.

Lee

The Good, the Bad, and the down right Ugly!

The Good: I’ve made good on the promise I made to myself of getting more involved locally and trying to meet some people who race in the area. Last week I went out on a J80 in the Galveston Bay and had an incredible day on the water. These boats really are fast and a lot of fun to sail. We had an almost perfect day. This was a check out sail of sorts to see if I could actually sail or not. I’ve been invited back so I guess that means I pass. Hopefully, I actually am in town some Wed. or Sat. soon for the evening races.

The Bad: This one blows my mind and is severely damaging my wallet as well. I pulled Romance out of her slip to get the dingy off the davits so I could motor around the lake. (In case you are wondering the top three entrants for the naming contest are Blava, Reality, and The Duck) Everything was going fine until I headed back into the slip. The wind was up so I was moving a little faster than normal to keep some control of that big full keel. As I lined up on the slip and came about a quarter of the way in I throttled down, threw her in neutral, then reverse, throttled back up and no luck. I don’t slow down a bit.

I made a pretty good jump from the boat to the dock to try and get in front of her to slow her down, but that was pretty futile. The only thing that really saved me, the boat, and the dock from a major collision was the fact that I keep a small floating barge in the front of the slip to make it easier to clean the hull. The barge took the full brunt of the boat and forced Romance to slow down preventing me from ever touching the wooded dock itself. Thank God.

So what’s the point of this story? Well, my transmission went out. No more neutral and no more reverse. Obviously this isn’t a good thing for close quarters maneuvering. I started making calls to see who could help me out and the only mechanic who wasn’t booked four weeks out was Blue Water Ships Stores here in Kemah. They sent some one out and little did I know the mechanic was actually their refrigeration guy. Something he let slip at the end of the day. Well, he went to work pulling the trans out, but never before have I seen someone who more closely resembled the old adage, “A bull in a china shop”. In an attempt to pull the gear out he somehow managed to kick/break off a thru hull valve. For those not familiar with these it resulted in a hole in my boat about the size of a quarter that was rapidly letting water in. Sinking would be the correct term.

So the fridge guy started hammering a rag into the hole and letting me know all was well. He then took to slashing the plumbing for my raw water wash down pump in an effort to restart my air conditioner since the thru hull he broke was the water feed for the AC. Now I have a broken thru hull and plumbing to redo. Even more amazingly, he started blaming the broken valve on electrolysis. It certainly wasn’t something he felt he was liable for.

After contemplating the day’s events I called Blue Water and told them not to bother coming back and not to expect a payment for me for the work done as the damage Romance received was far in excess of the 4 hours work by his mechanic/fridge guy.

Thankfully I found a really good shop through my boat broker who stepped in and took charge of the situation. Y.E.S. assessed the situation and asked when I was leaving town again. Fortunately I had to be back in NM for class so while I was out they arranged a tow boat to come pull my disabled Romance (no transmission remember) over to the shipyard, hauled her, repaired the thru hull, and put her back in my slip in a days work. They’ve also picked up the gear and have shipped her to a specialist in my type of gear and will reinstall when she returns. So I am back on track, but I am guessing this will set me back a total of around 4k before it is all said and done. And that is if they can rebuild my gear. A new one will be 4K all by itself.


The UGLY: Heads. Oh god have I learned to head the heads on boats. There is another thru hull on a boat that pumps in salt water to flush the head. Turns out over time if the hoses are not carefully flushed with vinegar then extreme deposits of calcium can build up clogging the hoses. I had a mother of a clog. I guess the previous owners never flushed the system with vinegar. The 1.5 inch hose was blocked down to .5 in and the calcium had become dislodged completely blocking all water flow. Several feet of pipe had to be replaced, but not before much of the waste water had been allowed by a technician to run into the bilges. It’s all back together, but not only have I flushed the toilet, but the whole of the bilges have been well flushed to boot.

Ok, that’s enough boat love for today.

Lee

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To the Pacific!

Ok, so I cheated a little and flew to San Diego first, but I still accomplished a milestone. I’ve been wanting to take Romance out for several weeks now that I have moved to Texas and I just haven’t slipped the lines for some reason. There really is no other excuse other than I have thought about it for too long and let fear of single handing get the upper hand. I decided to do something about that.

I had to come to San Diego on a business trip and found myself pretty well caught up by 4:30 in the afternoon. I ran down to Marina Sailing of Southern California (www.marinasailing.com) and rented a little Hunger 290 called BeesNees. I didn’t know if Marina Sailing had rules about singlehanding or not so when they asked how many life jackets I needed I quickly replied that two should be sufficient. No lie there as two were absolutely more than sufficient.

After a quick walk through I started prepping the boat for a quick run to the line of demarcation where the Bay ends and the Pacific begins. The wind was blowing 15 – 20 and I felt the pang of fear come back as I started considering how to maneuver out of the slip without taking out the boat next to me. The only relief I get from these thoughts are to think the solution right through them. Once I had the girl ready I loosed the port stern line, released the starboard bow line, released the port bow line, and managed to keep her still long enough to crawl aboard and get her out into open water without incident. That’s when the real fun began.

Did I say I had never singlehanded a boat before? Not even a little one. With no crew and no autopilot I wasn’t just real sure how to keep that full batten main head to wind while I was hoisting the halyard. Sure enough, it took several pauses to realign the boat and get the main up, but I did it. Turning for the Coronado Islands of Mexico she heeled over and started close reaching at 4.5 knots. After getting the feel under main alone I tied the helm to hold her and went forward to bring out the jib which quickly brought her up to 7.3 knots and buried the port rail in the water.

Fortunately the main had a reef already tied into it otherwise I would have stuck to main alone, but regardless, this was a great sail. Tacking singlehanded is a bit more difficult, but certainly nothing a determined person can’t accomplish. It was also exactly the confidence boost I was looking for before taking Romance out singlehanded or even with a less experienced short handed crew. I’ve got to admit as well, it was nice to be back in deep, clear blue water.

Fair winds, following seas, and clear blue water.

Lee

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Settling In

Every now and then you land somewhere new, pause to take a look around and say, “Yeah, this is it”. I spent the week in Kemah settling into my new office and new home, Romance. Many times I’ve moved and told myself I’d make an effort to get more involved in the community and get to know the people I was living around. It never seemed to happen for one reason or another. I was dedicated to doing the same thing with this move and amazingly, the community seems to be pulling me into it more than I’ve gone out looking for them.

The first part of the week was pretty slow even through I have a million things I wanted to get done to the boat. As the week moved on I seemed to pick up steam tackling jobs like removing the old autopilot, installing new Lewmar 40 self tailing winches, replacing the genoa sheets, taking my primary 150% genoa to Cameron Sails, and generally cleaning the place up. At the end of Thursday I ran into the harbor restaurant for a burger and ran into a really cool local couple. I was a little freaked out as the guy looks like the identical twin of my buddy Jeremy in Dallas. They both have the same oversized head and are brilliant when it comes to military history. They were good folks I am hoping to stay in touch with.

The same night I met a Brit who lives locally and was throwing a “black tie optional” St. Georges Party tonight (sat). Long story short, I’ve pulled out my best suit and will be heading up the ramp this evening to meet all kinds of locals out to live up St. Georges. Turns out St. Georges is the British equivalent of the Irish’s St. Patty’s Day. This gave me a great way to meet the locals at what should be a pretty cool event. They even hooked me up with a skipper who is looking for crew on the Sat. and Wed. J109 racing circuit.

Friday, as I am finishing up the winch job, one of my neighbors pulled back into their slip after a week long cruise. Next thing I know I am sitting back in the same bar as the night before having drinks and talking boat projects. I was definitely sorry to see the Razorbacks move off the pier, but turns out I’ve still got some really cool neighbors. These are the kind of people it’s fun to grab a beer with and they have been filling me in on all the local hotspots. I’ve got to get the dink in the water as it looks like that’s the safest way to bar hop around Kemah considering the police force is really, really bored.

Things are coming together in a good way.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Big Changes, Few Words

I’ve been pretty tongue tied lately and haven’t been able to blog. That certainly doesn’t mean things haven’t been happening. I broke up with my girlfriend of 3.5 years three weeks ago tomorrow.

She was and is an amazing woman that I deeply loved, but I knew that if I hadn’t committed myself to the relationship in that amount of time, I wasn’t going to. It may well be that I let myself get spread too thin to dedicate myself to making the relationship work. For some reason I quit talking to her about what was wrong and let things lay to the point that, looking at the relationship from a distance, it made more since to me to go separate directions than to continue trying together.

I’ve been using a large stick to beat back the urge to drink, smoke, and rebound may way back to normalcy. Lots of positives have come out of the past few weeks and I want to keep up the trend. The major change is that I now live aboard Romance! That’s right, considering I had moved from St. Louis, MO into my lady’s house I didn’t really have a place to live. I couldn’t even consider moving back into an apartment after living in great houses for the past six years. Too depressing. That combined with the urge to step up the refit of Romance made the plan pretty clear. Move aboard the boat. So that is exactly what I did. This has presented a few problems.

Of no small matter is the fact I cover the west coast of these United States as a sales rep for Thermo Fisher. I’ve got a new boss that looks very promising, but I sure hope they don’t have a problem with my new commute. In reality, I’ve got better access to most west coast cities from Houston than I did from Albuquerque, NM. To make sure my working conditions are conducive to selling, I’ve rented a 300 sqft office space on the water in the Marina next door. This will let me get some separation from living and working quarters while providing a real office from which I can stay on top of my business. Plus it is only a five minute walk from the boat.

The second trick I’ll need to pull off is graduating from my Executive MBA program in New Mexico while living in Texas. I am currently 32,000 feet above ground on a flight from Houston Hobby to Albuquerque for class this weekend. One more biweekly commute for the calendar, but what the hell. It won’t cut into my work schedule any more than it already did and I’ve been racking up the Southwest Rapid Rewards vouchers so I shouldn’t even be out of pocket for the next couple of months.

For those of you who really know me, you probably are wondering what I’ve done with Georgia, my dog. Well, she is safe and sound on the boat with me. We’ve been slowly learning the ways around the boat like getting up the dock step, down the companionway stairs, and with a little help from yours truly back up the companionway stairs. She has really taken to it extremely well. Seeing her paws slip on the nonskid will force me to raise new and more course nonskid up on the project to do list. It will be much more safe for her and me.

I’ve also stepped up the refit in a big way. This week I finally lowered my gigantic dingy off its davits and into the water. She needed a cleaning in a big way, but actually looks pretty damn good after a scrub. The 15 hp Mercury probably hasn’t been started in a couple years and the fact the spark plugs were corroded and crumbling had me a little worried. Amazingly, she fired right up on the fourth pull. I’ll have to replace some of the electrical lines as they are pretty shot, but once I get a battery in and the running lights up, I think she will serve me well.

The next big step hurt the cruising kitty. I used Froogle (this google product is worthy of its own blog) to find the best deal possible on both a set of Lewmare 40ST Chrome winches and Raymarine Autopilot with the S3 Corepack, ST6002 Control Head, and Type 2 short linear drive arm. This is oversized and can easily handle a boat up to 33,000 lbs. Romance is only 23,000. I shelled out about $5,500 for the lot, but should be getting 2,900 back for the Maxprop that didn’t fit and a nice little tax return for 2,900 so by my math I am ahead $500 bucks. (yeah, I know that doesn’t really add up)

In addition to working on the boat on my off class weekends I really want to make an effort to get involved in the sailing clubs around Kemah. I’ve written a few times about the benefits of racing to learn how to sail a cruising boat more effectively. I’ve had a few invites in the past, but living in New Mexico really prevented me from accepting any of them. If you are in the Clear Lake area and need green racing crew, shoot me an email. I’d love to get involved and race as often as possible. Anyone know if there are Wed. night races?


Fair winds, following seas, and new beginnings.

Lee

P.S. I am holding a competition to name the dingy. I am looking for funny, smart, and creative so send me all ideas. Not sure yet what the winner will win, but never you mind. Just keep those ideas rolling.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Givens Continued....In the trash can it goes!

So I called again this morning to Givens and had a return call in a few minutes from both Frank and Lori Perrino. Needless to say, they were very unhappy that I was generating negative publicity for them that might negatively impact their business. They had received the tests from my raft and while it may be possible to perform several repairs bringing it back into working order they were of the opinion they no longer desired my patronage as a customer. I explained that the feeling was mutual at this stage and requested they dispose of the raft.

Interestingly, the second half of the conversation turned decidedly more positive. I reiterated that I was aware of the age of the raft and the fact that it my no longer be serviceable. Knowing that, if the raft couldn’t be salvaged, I would need a new raft we discussed purchasing a one when I first contacted Givens.

Frank stated that there were really two options in terms of high quality rafts: Givens & Switlik. Frank said that in order to show there was good faith on their end they would be willing to sell me a replacement raft at dealer cost.

An interesting offer and decidedly unexpected considering the start of the call. I am not sure I’ll take them up on it and will probably wait for next month’s practical sailor where they are doing a new set of raft testing. At least this is finally resolved. I don’t think the folks at Givens are bad people by any means, but I do think they are a little overwhelmed.

Monday, March 19, 2007

CONFLICTED!!!

I am just back from a 10 day trip to Prague, Czech Republic and Bratislava, Slovakia. The trip was a part of the Executive MBA I am pursing and I went into the trip with few expectations except to drink some good beer with my classmates. What happened was something totally different.

Communism fell in the country of Czechoslovakia in 1989 with the student led Velvet Revolution. Since then, the countries have experienced extreme growth, but it has been driven by the youth of the countries. Seemingly, the generation that had come to adulthood under the communist rule was not well prepared for a free market economy. Today that means that the average age of a CEO is around 35. There is a real shortage of highly educated people to continue the growth they have seen so far.

As a part of the trip we were introduced to a tight network of people ranging from two U.S. Ambassadors, the CEO of Sky Europe, the author of the Slovakian Tax Reform (a flat tax of 19%), and Jan Bubenik who founded Bubenik Partners recruiting firm and was a key leader of the student group who led the velvet revolution. The experience has me conflicted for several reasons.

Going sailing was a chance for me to reevaluate where I am and what it is I want to accomplish with the time I have. Trudging up the corporate ladder has lost most of its appeal since I started working after graduate school. I simply don’t have the patience to put in 20 years to make it up the ladder to a management role where I could actually have some impact. As a result, I started looking at traveling and fulfilling a personal dream of seeing the world. All of it. Sailing eventually became the logical way to fulfill that dream on a budget. Now enter the Prague network. What if I could move right into a management level position while simultaneously garnering some international experience? Not to mention the economy is rife with entrepreneurial opportunities. From what I have seen so far, I don’t think I could continue to pursue a corporate career in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean all those aspirations are gone. Now that I’ve found a path to continue the pursuit of those aspirations what does that mean relative to the personal goals of traveling the world?

Is it possible to break a circumnavigation up over a lifetime? Say I go for it as planned in 2008, but head east to the Med instead of south to Panama. Work in Prague for a few years and see what happens? The Croatian coast is supposed to be beautiful with over 1000 islands in its cruising grounds. Not to mention easy access to the Suez and down to the Indian Ocean. I feel like an author who’s come to a cross roads in the story he is telling. How do I want this story to read? What should be the title of my next chapter?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

BM Boat Works & Givens

Boot Stripe $900Bottom Job w/ antifoulant $1482Blister Repair $382Boat Lettering removal $100ST 60 Instrument Installation $400Repair of old and install of new through hulls $250Gelcoat Repair for old instrument housing $350Y-valve for macerator plumbing $50Restuff packing gland $75New Zinks on prop shaft, shaft nut, and others $20Misc. Parts $200Yard fees for haul out $400Mizzen chain plate repair $150rudder glass repair $100

Total: $4959

I'd do it again in a heart beat. 5K is no small figure, but the work looks very good and it would have taken me much longer to get the same result. All of these projects had to be done and done right. If you need work done in the Clear Lake area give Ben a call.

I sent this to Lori, the V.P. at Givens on the 1st. Guess what. No response.


Hi Lori,

It's been two and a half weeks since my last request for an update and still nothing. I am really just looking for some idea of when I might see my raft again. Can you tell me what place it is in line? Has it undergone a pressure test yet? I have an offshore trip scheduled for March 30th and really need that raft back by then. Alternatively, can you send me a loaner until your services team gets through processing mine?

Lee

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Long time no blog....

Ok, ok, I know it's been awhile. I won't bore you with why I am so busy as I know everyone is busy and it's no excuse. Anyway, where was I? Romance is looking better and already back in her slip. Ben Miller of BM boat works was kind enough to shoot a few pictures of the repairs as they were happening with Romance. Below you can see that we stripped off the dragon’s tail and big red heart. It just didn't really fit with us. I'll be painting the stern a nice white next time I am in Kemah. Below that is the rudder repair. There were some pretty deep cracks in the top edge so Ben sanded it down and reglassed the whole top edge. Should make her water tight and much stronger to boot. Next is the patch of the old through hulls. for some reason the previous owner had the speed and depth indicator mounted at the stern of the boat. Now I don't know much but I do know, especially after running around at Offats, that I'd rather know how deep the water is in front of me than under me. That way at least I have a shot at slowing down or stopping. Next comes the shiny new paint job. Please note my only complaint was that we didn't strictly measure the prop aperture before I shelled out 3K to PYI for that Max-prop. So, I fixed up the old proplock and we'll just have to live with a little bit of drag. But, speaking of PYI, let's talk about vendors for a minute.

Since the email exchange below I still have not heard a single word from Givens. I've also just noticed that they did not take part in Practical Sailors life raft test this year. For some reason they were just too busy to provide the raft to PS. Makes you wonder doesn't it? Maybe I should send them another reminder email that two more weeks have gone by and I still haven't been updated.

On the other hand, two huge gold stars to PYI who distributes the Max-prop and to Katadyn Water Makers. PYI has been excellent through out the past haul out. Even thought the prop didn't fit they were exceptionally customer focused and said not to worry, that they would provide a full refund and all I'll be out is the shipping. Good people over there. As for Katadyn, they purchased the company that made the PUR Power Survivor 35. They still make it in a manual form for ditch bags and the like, but no more power version. However, upon one single email they provided me with the now out of copy owner’s manual that had been produced by PUR. They even pointed me towards the part numbers for the service kit I will most likely need to get her running again. Now that's good customer service.







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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Givens Continued....

Did I overstep my bounds or am I being unreasonable in expecting at least some sort of feedback after 7 weeks? I'd think at a minimum some sort of timeframe would be in order. But then again maybe I am just too demanding of a customer.


Lee: your raft is in for testing and I agree since this is life saving equipment we DO NOT RUSH TESTING.I would think you would appreciate that. There are other rafts in for serviceahead of yours and yours went in proper order. I cannot ruch the servicng procedure and conveyed this to you every time you called and I did call you and spent alot of time with you on the phone explaining how to ship the raft and answering your questions. After you decided to send it , You told me there was no rush. I will discuss the status with my staff and be touch as soon as possible.
Best Regards,
Ms. Lori Perrino
Vice-President
Givens Marine Survival Co.,Inc.

Givens Marine Survival: Customer Service

I am getting really annoyed with Givens. I've sent them the link below and let them know my experience with their company is being documented through this blog. Let's see if this makes any difference at all. I'll copy their response in if and when I get one.


Hi Lori,

I am sorry to say that I am frustrated with the lack of information that has come my way since I sent you my life raft. The only updates that have been provided over the past 7 weeks are in response to my direct inquiry. Not only that, the only content provided in those updates are that my raft is still in the shop for testing and that you believed there to be no rush. I've been updating a published web log with my experience outfitting my boat for cruising departure and Givens is not ranking high on the list. For a manufacturer of a piece of equipment so critical to the safety of sea going vessels I am surprised at the lack of customer service and it forces me to question the viability and safety of your product.

It is in my interest, and hopefully yours, that we can conclude this transaction to the satisfaction of both parties. I can assure you that I will happily act as a positive reference based on the outcome of our interaction. I look forward to more detailed information about the status of my raft.

Lee Winters

http://leewinters.blogspot.com/2007/01/things-are-about-to-get-expensive.html
http://leewinters.blogspot.com/2006/12/givens-life-raft-inflation.html