Friday, March 2, 2018

The first alligator of spring!

A few days back, a couple and their young child came down the dock, talking loudly (at least the youngest and most enthusiastic of the party) about "the alligator". Well, I hadn't seen one since I was a little fellow: one of my earliest memories (along with falling asleep to the sound of water under a sailboat) is a bunch of baby alligators under the bridge I stood upon in Florida. This one looked to be about 5' long (ok, 1.5 meters) and hung around for a few hours.

And this cute little 9" turtle likes to beg for treats when I hang out with my neighbor Clark on his boat...

Dad came to visit and stayed a couple nights.
He claims he very much enjoyed the boat... but he also said the same about my company, so I don't know...
Actually, very nice having him visit! I worried a bit about getting him onto and off the boat, but no problem.
And, after he left, I drove up to DC to visit my brother Peter and his family. Good fun... but I can only stand a city so long and left at about 3am, my favorite time drive the streets of our capitol. Maybe they will come visit me once there is a bit more space on board...

We've been trying to get a price on replacing the masts with aluminum, but can't get anyone to respond. I finally (after a couple weeks) got a reply today: about $25k.*gulp*
Also tried to get the name of the owner of a derelict boat here, the mast from which would fit mine nicely, but the harbor master will not tell me as that might lose him the rent of the yard space. *grumble*.
So.... I can try to find used masts, repair the wood ones, or some combination of these. Tomorrow I'll get going on preparation for the wood mast repairs. I'm actually relived: finally HAVING the numbers for the aluminum masts allows me to decide on my path and tomorrow I'll be striding down it with a lighter mind.

Speaking of repairs.. As a child, I read that black locust is a wonderful wood for boat building and a friend recommended it for the repair of my mast step and other decay after my previous blog post. The place he found is a four hour drive from here, but a local place in New Bern also has some and will deliver it tomorrow. Even better, the supplier is this really cool family mill and one fellow there has lots of experience building wood masts! Thanks for getting me going on this, John!

Cynthia arrives Monday and I plan on having the masts ready for us to work on. Tomorrow I'll complete peeling the fiberglass off the main mast and preparing for repair. I hope, hope, hope that we will be able to perform the repairs, seal the wood, and reinstall the masts before we need to leave about ten days later. When/if it rains, we will work on the interior.... and, speaking of that...

The moisture and scent of the interior is far better now that I bought a dehumidifier and fan and ripped out some decayed bits of floor, etc. My plan is to dry out and repair the floor, install new black locust joists, and install some pine plywood (well sealed with epoxy). Finally, I'll install some thin teak and holly to match the existing floor... eventually...probably... although it is very low on my priorities: first comes sailing and safety, close behind (or intertwined) comes comfort, then come various functional improvements, and (far later) comes beauty.... although I'll go for beauty if is also practical.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

One step forward, two steps back...

Life goes on with the usual ups and downs.

On the down side...

The engine coolant is leaking out somewhere: I'm betting on a defective radiator cap, but this is low on my list.

I've found the beam that the mizzen mast sits upon... and that the steering is bolted to... is seriously rotten and must be replaced. I'll need to rip up the sole (floor) in the aft stateroom, dig it out, and build anew. Probably, the best idea is to install something (oak? Mahogany? Teak?) soaked in epoxy to reduce decay rates as that area is permanently moist. *grumble*.

The main mast is warped... and (when I peel off the fiberglass sheathing it) wet enough to splash when I hit it with a hammer. I may need to replace it entirely... I'll chat with a couple experts next week.

The hard-top cockpit cover is a poor plan, intended only for living in the marina. I'll need to reinforce it before heading to sea. The parts are on on their way...

My ears ring and my head aches: sinus trouble from mold? And I have so much stuff on board there is hardly room to move, let alone clean.

On the up side...

The giant solar panels Cynthia and I installed work very nicely: even on this cloudy day they produce enough to chill the fridge...and sometimes enough to run a light or two: essentially I am running a deficit, but slowly. This pleases me as this is the usual state during ANY sort of cloudiness, much less this darkness. I estimate they are giving 80 watts out of their rated 530 watts.

I sanded and recoated the counter: glassy and smooth.

I had the yard pull both masts so I could work on them. I spent several hours contemplating, labeling, preparing, etc so that the time it took was far less than the yard master had expected. Always nice to make things efficient.... and save some $$$.

The replacement of the exhaust line proceeds as planned. The support for the new exhaust water lock seems good and, being far lower than previously, should be far less likely to allow water back into the engine.
The new chromed bronze exhaust through-hull came from eBay (got it for $108 instead of the normal $240 retail) and will replace the wrong fittings (plastic through-hull and a stainless shutoff). The new exhaust line fits as I planned and will constrict the engine exhaust far less then the old maze of plumbing: five elbows reduced to a single sweeping loop! Satisfying! 

(No, I don't have the final fitting installed as I have been waiting for rainy days, optimally when someone like my dad is visiting to lend a hand (I pick him up about 3pm tomorrow. I also did not take a photo of the final installation of the exhaust line: all connections now sport two clamps!)

The insulation & fiberglass I installed in the pantry(?) went OK... and I hope it will remain adhered to the hull and am sure it will reduce condensation and mold.

Digging out decay from the mizzen mast and fitting new pieces of wood posed a challenge, but an enjoyable one.

I've glued some douglas fir into the mizzen (aft) mast yesterday to replace the rotten stuff I removed... and I think it went OK. I'll find out when the rain stops and I can unwrap it and sand it smooth.

Finally, I can smell a big pot of chili I'm simmering on the stove. Mmmmmm...

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A taste of the arctic in Michigan

I'm rather ashamed to admit it, but, what with one thing and another, we hadn't seen Lake Michigan since winter came. That changed Saturday when we took Lucy for a walk... and what we found made us stop and exclaim in amazement: ice packs that look like the arctic, right in our town! An open space of shallow water perhaps a foot deep and ten feet wide separates shore from the first apparent dune, in actuality a pile of ice heaped up by the lake storms, sprinkled with brown windblown sand. Farther out are more ice ridges, separated by dark ice easily thick enough to hold a person walking. After the dunes of ice end comes the huge expanse of pack ice, low white rubble that extends to the horizon.... where a dark line shows open water. 

Cynthia told me that ice fishermen often venture out on the ice and sometimes must be rescued when changing wind opens leads and strands them in the open.

Of course, this just makes the fake palm tree near us even more silly.... in a way that makes me smile at the delightful incongruity rather than scowl.

And, speaking of cold and things that make us smile, we just got the sweater that Lisa made for Lucy... 

Very nice sweater and it fits perfectly and look very cute.... although I kind of prefer Lucy in what I call the "tribble cut" she wears in the winter (shaggy, long, silky fur) and nothing else... I've always preferred simplicity and being able to scratch her back.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Freezing in North Carolina

Here we are, back in Grand Haven, looking back on our trip to work on the boat. I wanted to write this Friday, but had an extensive sinus remodel (on purpose this time, unlike October in St John) and spent mid-day unconscious and the afternoon and evening in a drug-induced stupor. Much better now, thanks.

In the meantime, the gray gray gray Grand Haven we left has been replaced with sunny skies and beautiful sunrises and sunsets. So nice! Perhaps the region made a new year's resolution to be less depressed... or depressing. Note: this does not mean the snow is gone: these giant piles will probably be here until spring.

But back to North Carolina: we had planned to drive down, fix up the boat for a few days, then sail to St John and fly back to MI. Well, they say that if you want to make God laugh, make plans. First thing, Cynthia came down with the flu as we drove south... meaning that she was unavailable to help on the boat and that I would probably be on the disabled list partway through out ten-day ocean passage: NOT good. Then the materials and inspections we wanted to get were delayed. Next, the forecast said that, if we left when we needed to, we would be sailing right into that nasty storm, Grayson, with high winds and cold temperatures... and in a boat that I, at least, had come to doubt. I had scheduled a rigger to make sure of the strength of our masts and stays, but he would not come out in the snow and cold and the mechanic was willing to maybe consider checking my engine before D-day. Then we found out more: by departure day a skim of ice had formed
and the local experts told us it would strip off our paint and gel coat within a couple hundred yards.... 

What could we do? When everything says "don't go", only a stubborn fool would still go (AND we were told that the marina was too shallow for us to escape except in special conditions occurring once every couple months!). In complete defeat and frustration we decided to rent a hotel for the cold snap and spend our evenings in a hot tub, our days working on the boat. Then I got a note on Facebook saying someone named Byph wanted to be my friend, but I already told that story that (HERE). 

The ice grew thicker by the day:
The locals told us they had never seen such ice and claimed we had brought it with us from Michigan: after four or five days I could actually walk around the boat without a sign of any cracking... allowing me to finally get a good look at her hull.
but I held onto a line just in case the ice broke as I understand it is next to impossible to pull yourself out otherwise.
And check out the flaky appearance of the ice! Beautiful!

The rigger climbed the masts and found four rotten spots on the mizzen mast (the smaller mast), so I need to replace it or pull and repair it. Good thing I'm a carpenter! He graded the main mast as being mostly sound, but I found a rotten spot when I climbed it, so we will pull and repair both of them. *sigh*. 

The mechanic came over and he and his assistant spent a good deal of time fixing leaks, changing oil and coolant, replacing filters that had probably not been changed in four or five years, and pulling apart hand-tightened, no-thread-sealant plumbing and putting it back right. They also pointed out an installation defect of the sort that often leads to engine destruction and suggested that I might have them fix it or do it myself, so that is on my list for the next trip.

Once the ice melted off the boat, Cynthia and I replaced the four little solar panels (maybe 250 watts) with two far larger and more efficient ones (530watts total), ones that not only will max out our power quickly and give us enough on bad days, but are installed in such a way that they strengthen the roof instead of warping it. Fun and satisfying. 

I think, however, that Cynthia is getting tired of this: after all, she only got to see Dorado after I had owned her for a year and had everything working to my satisfaction... and SHE wants to go sailing, catching mahi mahi, hunting lionfish, and having adventures... and sitting sick and cold on a messy, unfinished, uninsulated boat does not appeal, especially when she is so short on vacation time and works so many hours. 

That is why I fly back alone on Feb 1 and will work to get that boat ready: I have a huge list, starting with pulling and repairing the masts, insulating the aft stateroom ceiling and pantry, and dealing with the exhaust air lock. I am raring at the bit, ready and eager to get to work on these jobs I've never tackled before....but I sure hope the boat will not be so cold this time.

A final note: on our drive back to MI, we got bad news: the crew removing our sweet old boat from the beach snapped off the keel, so we had an hour to get what we want off of her... and we are not in the area and phones don't work. *sigh*. Oh, well. Bye, bye, Dorado. Sad: we had a lot of stuff still aboard that I could have removed in October, but had no place to store. Ah, well: we have the memories and the stuff is replaceable.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Replacing sink and counter in new boat

When one gets a new home, one always makes alterations to make things fit right. Cynthia and I have replaced the high-color-temperature LED lighting with something a lot less blue and more red: now and then we turn on a couple old lights just to remind ourselves how delightfully soothing and glare-free the new ones are. I showed Cynthia how to do some plumbing and electrical work
and we replaced the wimpy, air-sucking water pump with a new one located far lower in the boat, one that gives good pressure and decent volume. I created a new seal around the ancient door of the refrigerator using spray foam (later trimmed neatly)
and believe it has made a big difference and also added some insulation on the freezer compartment so that the freezer can be cold without freezing everything in the fridge. And we replaced the kitchen sink and faucet with far far better.

The existing sink was a two-basin thing: wonderful if large enough, but silly if you can not even set a dish flat in either basin... and this one definitely fell into the silly category. And the faucet was a low thing, so low we could not even wash a decent frying pan.
So, step one: buy the sink and faucet
(both paid for as a Christmas gift to us and the boat: thanks, Mom!). Step two is to pull the sink out...
and any decay....
and frozen soaking wet styrofoam insulation.
Step three: re-insulate the fridge, gluing and sealing the new stuff in place layer by layer with insulating foam.
Fourth, shape a layer of plywood and glued it into place. Fifth, cut for the sink and glue it in.
Sixth: shape the top layer of plywood countertop perfectly to align with the edges of the undermount sink and glue it into place with lots of thickened epoxy and weight it down until the glue sets.
Seventh: seal the countertop with lots of epoxy.
Eighth (and I forgot to get a pic of this!): install the faucet at the back left corner and connect the plumbing. Finally (also without photographs), figure out how to make a better drain connection and make it (and, if I have done this wrong, I'll just go back to the old drain layout).

This new sink gives us more counter space and more usable sink space and we can wash our largest pots and even a five-gallon bucket or Lucy! Very satisfying: this boat gets better and better.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Surviving the storm

Hello from the warmth of the coastal North Carolina! Hello from the land where the Gulf Stream passes very close to shore and makes winter a temperate delight.... generally. However, this impressive storm, Grayson, brought us ice coated trees,
inches of blowing powder snow, days of low temperatures in the single digits (Fahrenheit, not Celsius!), ice inside our boat, and the entire marina locked in ice. I've only seen ONE bikini being worn on this trip, outside a house next door..

After the first night, while warming up in the marina clubhouse and checking email, I noticed a Facebook friend request from someone named “Byph”. Odd name... how would one pronounce that? “Biff”? Could it be my neighbor/friend from Coral Bay? It turned out that it WAS, and that he had just posted something about being in Oriental, NC...right near us! Turns out he has washed ashore here and is renting a home only a half-hour from my boat's marina and he invited us to stay in his spare room for the duration of this unprecedented cold snap. What an unexpected delight and bit of good fortune to run into him... and at just the perfect time! Cynthia definitely likes having a house, kitchen, and warmth right now!

The other folks we've run into are also delightful: Asa, our local marina mechanic and electrical master, a fount of knowledge and wisdom, who has so generously lent me tools
and even allowed me to keep the boom I built in his shop while the glue cures in this frigid weather. Tom, the marina owner. Ken and Sharon, a couple who keep getting delayed on their trip to the Bahamas. Maureen, with her happy dog. And too many others to mention. I LIKE good neighborly folks.

Of course, there are “issues”. Mainly, this involves items on the boat that are a BIT more... involved... than one might have hoped, or things like a deep-draft boat in a shallow marina in a shallow bay (apparently we CAN NOT leave unless we get the right winds for a few days), or this ridiculous weather!
I had hoped to be out past the Gulf Stream by now, halfway to St John, catching fish, being bored, watching bright stars... but the boat issues, the water depth, and the storm would each individually have stopped us... and we have all three. And soon we must return to MI, tired and cold and frustrated rather than warmed and restored by topical sunshine, back to gray skies, no sunshine, and deeper cold. We are “camping out”, working on the boat... and we are NOT happy campers.

On the bright side, we enjoy the beauty of sunshine on the ice-covered trees,
we actually see sunshine every single day, we ran into Byph and are making new friends, and we DID find fallen pecans on the ground a couple days ago! Very cool! I LOVE foraging! Fun is always available!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A new boat name?

The boat's current name is "Keeling Time". This feels too.... silly and frivolous. Besides, I am about seizing the day rather than wasting it. I'd like to have a name that expresses more a sense of refuge, freedom, adventure... 

Any thoughts? First thing I thought of was "Albatross", despite miasma created by the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner".