Sunday, December 9, 2018

replacing the bobstay

Firstly, the bobstay is the chain or cable that leads down from the tip of the bowsprit to near the waterline of the boat and counteracts the upward forces from the forestay. These forces can be HUGE.

Almost every time I approached my boat in Wayfarerer's Cove, my eye fell on the lower bobstay fitting and I would often wonder if it was sound...but the fellow I had survey my rigging did not say anything about it, so I tried to ignore it. Also, I HAD looked at both exterior and interior of the fitting and saw no issues....although someone had completely hidden the interior with a plaster of fiberglass.

Three or four days into our passage from NC to FL, while puttering and inspecting (I've heard lots of tales of major problems that sneak up on people.... and previously DID find the bilges nearly full on a different boat (not one of mine) due to a leak and a shut-off bilge pump and have heard of losing engines and of near-abandonments caused by same) I found some issues with the bilges. The main concern was the bilge pump running frequently, so I cleaned the bilges, cleaned the pump, and made sure everything worked well....but fretted over the constant trickle of water. 

I tracked the trickle through the bilges, opening various hatches in the sole (floor) until I reached the bow, dug down through storage and anchor chains to get to see hidden things....and found a rather rapid trickle (maybe a cup every five minutes....maybe faster) coming from the lower bobstay fitting....well, from under that mass of glass someone had packed in there. I pumped out the little pond there, groped around, and found rotten wood and mud and water in a void I could feel but not see. I guess that plunging through waves had washed away enough mud to let water flow more freely than in the marina.

Among the many things I applaud Cynthia for, staying calm and analytical under threats ranks high. She simply asked about my strategy for the leak and I told her plan A, B, and C (I LIKE backup plans!) and she seemed fine. We packed bedding foam ripped from a mattress into the hole as tightly as possible, then installed a scrap of wood as a brace to keep everything as tight as possible. This reduced the leak by perhaps half and we planned to live with this (and frequent bilgewater inspections) until we reached Vero Beach, our planned destination.... but were prepared to change our plans as needed.

I also tracked another trickle to the stern of the boat..... and found it coming in from a loose packing nut around the rudder post. I guess the boat had sat long enough that being active opened up a leak, but a minute tightening it with the channel lock wrench dropped the flow to nothing.

SO! Once in Vero Beach City Marina we shifted everything heavy to the stern of the boat, lifting the bobstay fitting and stopping the leak. I intended to clean the fitting, replace the bolts, and install new backing.First step: chip off the fiberglass sticking plaster and remove the nuts, bolts, backing plate, fitting, and the rotten wood that had acted as reinforcement since the boat was built. 

The corrosion had left the stainless backing plate looking like lace, so that went into the trash.
I dropped the bolts into my green phosphoric acid to clean them and, with the rust gone, they looked as though rats had been chewing them, so... into the trash! The bobstay fitting, cleaned and treated with acid looked nice and clean...
but heavily pitted and not to be trusted. I had to find one for sale or get one made at the local machine shop. Nothing could be salvaged from the assembly.

A  search online found a place in Maine, Spartan, that specializes in bronze castings and the strength of their larger bobstay fitting, 25,000lbs, fits my boat reasonably (perhaps I'l do the math in another post). I ordered it and got to work on replacing the rotten wood reinforcement... with a far stronger and harder thickness of epoxy-reinforced fiberglass. 

Methodology? Wire brush and clean and dry the region to be repaired. Soak a bunch of triaxial glass cloth with resin, roll it into a nice tight roll, place it where the wood was, place waxed paper over it, then a piece of wood, and brace the whole assembly to squash it into a flat-topped low-resin, high-glass hunk about 1.5" thick. This will NEVER decay.

Once the fitting arrived I drilled holes through the glass (NOT easy: that stuff is VERY hard) and bolted the fitting loosely into place through a nice bed of UV-resistant caulking, gave it a couple days for the caulk to cure, then tightened bolts,
reinstalled the bobstay, reconnected the forestay and jib, and tightened and adjusted all the other stays. 

Of course, life often gives us little extras to deal with: while installing the bobstay I dropped the rod that braces the middle ("dolphin striker") and it disappeared into the murky water with a mocking "plop!". I dove for it, but found darkness and soft mud, so quit looking and dropped a marker for tomorrow, then went off to rest until my ear equalized and I stopped losing lunch....repeatedly. Happily, I got connected to a diver who took under five minutes the next morning to find the little mark in the mud where the rod was buried and recover it, so now all is well.

And the boat can sail again!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Bending chainplates

One thing keeps leading to another. In this case, I noticed that quite a few clevis pins (the large pins on the stays) were too long. This allows other bits of metal to shift and spread and makes things weak. So.... I purchased a bunch of new pins from my favorite source (about $5 each instead of the local price of around $20 to $25 each) and went around loosening the stays, replacing the incorrect pins with the right ones, and tightening things back up... and then I came to the foremost starboard stay.

Well, I managed to pull the old pin, but installing the new one just wasn't in the cards: even though the pin fit every hole, it would not fit through all of them. It turned out that this was caused by misalignment of the holes due to the strap being deformed due to uneven forces due to the chainplate not being aligned with the stay!

So.... what to do? Pull the chainplates off the boat and take them to a person who could bend them? Get a BIG crescent wrench and bend them? Make up something out of steel, perhaps a piece of square tubing with a slot in the end? After chatting with my friend David about possibilities, I pulled out some bolts and hardwood I had aboard and made up a tool, although I was not optimistic.

I bolted it onto the starboard chainplate and gave a light tug.... and the steel bent easily.
 WELL! I bent it a bit more to align with the stay, unbolted it, and installed the stay with the new, shorter clevis pin. BEAUTIFUL!

OK, the matching port stay was also wrong, so I bent it, too. And the pin refused to go in. I checked and it seemed that it was drilled just a few hundredths of an inch smaller than required for a 1/2" pin: perhaps they had used a 12mm pin? Anyway, I borrowed a 1/2" bit from David and all is now installed, aligned, and repaired.

Most satisfactory.

Next time: bobstay fitting?
Sail cover?
Or maybe the refrigerator. Or perhaps the aft hatch.
NEVER a shortage of subjects to repair!

Saturday, November 24, 2018

We made it to Florida on speaking terms and without sinking!

Busy, busy, busy!
I dropped Cynthia off at the Melbourne airport this morning and miss her terribly. Our shakedown cruise was quite successful on just about all counts:

Getting dinghy? Check.
Getting good advice and tools from friends? Check! (Thanks, Nate! is GREAT!)

Getting out of marina? Check! (Although we had to wait nearly a week to be ready and to have the right conditions.... and had to pull out in rain and wind and cold. We were SO grateful to have an enclosed cockpit!)
Sailing to ICW (Intracoastal Waterway... some say Intercoastal) and anchoring for the night? Check. (We had some nasty weather when sailing out and really harsh winds during the night, but the anchor held and, even with the wind removing 2' of water in the night, still has a few inches of water under our keel in the morning)

Sailing and motoring down the ICW? Check.

Stop in at an unfamiliar marina and get advice, fuel, and a replacement inverter? Check.

Continue south and into the open ocean before sunset? YES!

Sail and motor south in the open ocean, 30 to 50 miles from shore for five days? Yep... and saw wonderful porpoises, phosphorescence, shooting stars, sunrises, and sunsets. 

Handle minor and major issues well? Yes, we did. The rather major rivulets of salt water running into the bilges were tracked down and handled pro tem, with further repairs to be done in the next week. The inverter I turned into a smoking piece of garbage was replaced. Before departing on our voyage, Cynthia talked me into pulling the handrails from the top of the cabin, stripping and refinishing them, and bolting them down in a really nice bed of good caulking that should stop those leaks for a decade....I hope.

Dawdle offshore in FL overnight while waiting for morning light to make harbor entry safe? Yes, although listening to the coast guard warnings about small craft warnings and notices about an overturned catamaran made it a long night. 

Enter the ICW at Fort Pierce and ride the current up the ICW to Vero Beach? Call the bridge operator to raise a drawbridge for us? Did that! Even ate tasty omelette Cynthia cooked as we motored along.
Note: there are two entrances we can use to get to Vero Beach and next time we will use the one that allows us to SAIL most of the way on the ICW: so much nicer than motoring!

We did NOT catch any fish on hook and line. Our only catch was accidental: we found this stiff flying fish on deck one morning.

And we have already made new friends in the marina (Vero Beach City Marina) and seen my friends Georgia and David from St John (the reason we came here) and met lots of their delightful friends who live around here. Great folks!

Current plan is to keep the boat here, rafted up with Bob and Robin's boat (the marina tells you you WILL raft up if they have limited space), until January. 
I'll stay aboard for a few weeks and make repairs and do some sailing, then visit Cynthia in MI, then take the boat south-east to the Virgin Islands, meeting Cynthia there about January 22. (Yes, I could use company sailing the boat down, but CAN do it alone.). My mom will probably visit for a week and go watch the Geminid meteor shower on a night sail.... and be the second family member to see this boat.

And last night a crane landed on our mooring buoy...

Thursday, November 8, 2018

IT'S ALIVE!!! (the boat rises from the slab and goes sailing)

Courage, I've heard, is not the lack of fear, but acting despite fear. If true, today I displayed courage. After ten months pouring time, money, and heart into the boat, today  (with my neighbor Paul) I took it out for a sail.

So, what did I fear?
1) Hitting other boats in the narrow marina: this boat does NOT turn easily. This is good in the open, bad in tight spaces.
2) running aground (this place is SO shallow that I can not get out most of the time... I think. This really scares me.)
3) problems with the boat... sails, masts, booms, etc, Etc, ETC! Nothing showed up this time.
4) unexpected issues. Two turned up: the steering locks in an unexpected way (so I was stuck heading toward a shoal, but figured it out in time) and the modifications done by prior owners cause the main sheet to ALWAYS wrap (tangle) on the winch. Both are easily solvable... I think.

So, my neighbor, Paul, volunteered to help out and we had a great shakedown sail in rather heavy wind (30 mph plus gusts)!

I'm satisfied and elated and exhausted.... and looking forward to sailing south with Cynthia in a few days or so.

Sunday, October 21, 2018


One of the coolest things I found this September on Cape Cod this summer were loads of the largest starfish I've ever seen there. As I walked the beach in the gray dawn one morning I found one,
then a few more....
and ten paces farther found many many more.
A couple hours later I went down to take better pictures and  found nothing but gull footprints: they had EATEN them ALL!

So... largest starfish I've ever seen in this area. Behavior I've never seen (crawling en-mass to the intertidal zone) in a single hundred feet of beach. Gulls eating them!
And this repeated several days in a row and I have no idea how many days before or after that..

Life is full of wonderful mysteries!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Still not ready to set sail, but nearly there. Life HAS been busy!

Can it really be three months, a quarter of a year, since my last post? Good grief!

Well... things got dramatic in MI, so, after a week at the Brule River Camp in June (our first visit there, black locust trees in bloom everywhere, Cynthia's first fly fishing, loads of fun),

 I spent a couple weeks (I had planned to spend on the NC boat) helping Cynthia move.... although I felt rather underutilized.

Then off to Cape Cod. Our family had managed to buy a replacement boat from another cousin's family, so had a boat in the water for me, my two brothers, and all the assorted friends, family, etc. Not all went smoothly: at one point we anchored and everyone went ashore while I tried to replace the kinked hoses of the self-bailing cockpit.. Well, there was a “snap!” and I held the hose in my hand, along with the old bit of plywood that had reinforced the hull, watching a little cheerful fountain of water enter the boat. I stuck my finger in the hole (a temporary measure, obviously) and thought of solutions, none of which seemed especially viable. After a bit, my brother Paul returned and we discussed it and he suggested inserting some sponge. I immediately ripped a piece free with my teeth, rolled it as tight as possible, and shoved it in. This worked very well until I did proper repairs a few days later with brother Peter and Angela. Mostly things worked pretty well and Cynthia enjoyed her eventual visit...and so did Lucy, although L was not so happy about the whole flying thing.
And, of course, there were walks on the beach in darkness through phosphorescent water while the deep exhalations on curious seals broke the silence, sailing adventures into the open ocean where we saw my first ocean sunfish,
loads of sunrises

(especially good with company!),
and so much more.

I took another trip (a long weekend) to MI, stopping for a few hours to visit my friend Tom and his house full of dogs, including this little foster fellow, Sancho:
Cynthia and I packed as much into the time as possible, even getting in a great final sail on the hobie and harvesting wild pawpaws and improving the house.

Back on Cape Cod, we saw huge numbers of baby alewives stranded upon the beach in their efforts to avoid being eaten by mackerel.
I've never seen this before: we could even see the schools of mackerel glinting in the crashing waves, sometimes watching them flopping briefly on the shore.

Kent, “Our boat guy”, suggested we get a trailer hitch on the car so we can move the boat ourselves. THIS turned out to be a comedy of frustrations worthy of a Carol Burnett sketch: I ordered a hitch, then decided to have Uhaul do it, then they called to say they had to cancel as they did not have the hitch... but they agreed they could install mine. Then they found they could not drill the hard steel bumper frame and I had to have Ziggy's install it. Then the receiver(?) was wrong, so I ordered one... and that got back ordered. When it arrived it would not quite fit and I had to grind out some steel. Same for the trailer we bought with the boat: I went through a LOT to get it working, to diagnose the problem, remove the old bearings and races, and install new bearings.

Very satisfying to arrive at the far end with the jobs accomplished and more knowledge under my belt, however. And when we pulled the boat out of the water without a single issue? Wonderful!

The boat in NC came through Florence just fine, although a little more wind might have spelled disaster: some marinas were destroyed, but this one is well sheltered. The hurricane came through almost exactly a year after I lost Dorado to Irma: when I saw Florence home in on my current boat I wondered if it was a message to quit owning boats.

When I arrived there a few weeks ago I installed an air conditioner in the companionway, climbing over it awkwardly....but it sure made a difference: I tend to run hot and could not work past 8 or 9 until things started to cool off this last week after hurricane Michael. Every day I make good progress, every day my list seems to grow longer, every day I find myself kicking myself for buying this boat. *sigh*. I DO have all three sails installed and am nearly ready to sail. I've replaced the sole (floor) in a couple places and have rewired some lights with much better wire. On the other hand I find things like minor decay in the cockpit sole (floor), a battery died in Hurricane Florence, the hatch covers are decaying, and some blocks for the mizzen sheets need replacing.

Now I'm off to visit Cynthia! And, of course, she is sick... Who was it that described life as “one damn thing after another.” I concur.

Still, I try to get out for yoga with the guys five days a week, go sailing with my friend Lee whenever he wants a crewman, have a social drink with the fellows at the 4pm end-of-day chat... and always try to walk out with a cup of coffee and watch the sunrise at the marina entrance,

Enjoy the moments as they pass.

And I bet this boat will be a lot of fun to sail... I look forward to lots of sunrises and sunsets.