June 5-13, 2017: Sometimes you’re the windshield, and sometimes you’re the bug

And I’m proud to say that over the last eight days, we have most assuredly been the windshield.  We have been kicking some serious butt on the exterior of the boat:  hull, boot stripe, caprail, and bottom.

First we dealt with removing the existing finish from the caprail.  Since all of the junk I washed off and the harsh-ish chemicals would be coursing down the hull, we wanted to get that out of the way first. I scrubbed all of the Semco off of the caprail and bowsprit using boat soap and a 3M green scrub pad.  (As an aside, whoever invented those deserves a medal; they are the handiest, most versatile thing.)  Anyway, then I cleaned and brightened the caprail and bowsprit using Starbrite Teak Cleaner and Starbrite Teak Brightener.  Once the caprail and bowsprit dried, I sanded them using 220 grit sandpaper and my brand new 5 inch random orbital sander.  Christmas came early on Kestrel for the First Mate, and I looooove my new sander.  I’m trying to figure out how to paint flames on it.

We gave the caprail a rest and moved on to cleaning the hull of all of the grime and crud that it attracts.  We applied FSR to the entire hull using a wide chip brush, and it did a great job of cutting through the grunge.  It also got any rust that had accumulated in screw heads.

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Grime along the boot stripe on the right, FSR on the left (before being rinsed off).

Now that the hull was squeaky clean, the Captain began applying Finesse-It to the hull with the buffer.  Finesse-It is a polish, so it’s less aggressive than compound; having just compounded a few years ago, we didn’t want to put the gel coat through that level of grinding again.  However, the surface started looking cloudy as the Finesse-It was applied.  The yard guys that specialize in hull work came to our rescue and recommended 3M Marine Restorer and Wax due to the oxidation on the hull.  It worked great! It cut through the chalkiness and left a nice, shiny hull behind.  I am not normally a fan of “all in one” products, but this one did what it said it would.

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The buffer hasn’t gotten any lighter, unfortunately.

I began hand waxing behind the Captain as he buffed; I was using my favorite Collinite Fleetwax Paste.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea because it’s a paste wax and time-consuming to apply, but I believe the protection that it offers cannot be beaten.   The plan is to put three coats on the hull.  That will happen over the next couple of weeks, depending on weather and the status of other projects.

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I know I get excited about weird stuff, but would you look at that reflection? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about!

I applied one maintenance coat of Cetol Marine Gloss to the handrails, eyebrows, and cockpit combings.  They are looking fine, although someday soon I’d love to strip the cockpit combings and refinish those.  In the meantime, however, those areas needed refreshing and protection.

The Captain put bottom paint over the barrier coat that he had previously applied to some gouges and dings in the bottom.  He also painted the rudder and the middle “spine” of the keel.  His plan is to have multiple coats of bottom paint on the areas of the bottom that take the most abuse.

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Barrier coat-ed patches to the left, bottom coat-ed patches to the right.  The dings aren’t that big, but each patch gets larger and larger . . .

While the Captain was painting, over three days I applied three successive coats of Cetol Marine Natural Teak to the caprail and bowsprit.  I am so in love with how it looks!

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Here’s a comparison of the Cetol on the bowsprit against the bare teak of the starboard caprail. The color is rich and deep and lets the grain of the wood show through, which I love.

The Captain helped by applying the Cetol under the rubrail, and between the two of us, we can get the entire caprail and bowsprit done in about 2.5 hours.  We have some rainy weather coming, so we are going to let the Cetol cure until that’s done; then I will apply two coats of gloss over the tint.

I’ve also been stripping and refinishing removable teak items such as the helm seat, hatch boards, and swim ladder steps.  They are all in different stages but will have three coats of tint and three coats of gloss once everything is said and done.

Today we began painting the boot stripe.  We had previously sanded it, and today we taped off and applied our first coat of paint.  We will apply three coats total over three days.

The Captain spliced eyes in our new main halyard, topping lift, and lazy jack lines.  We replaced the halyard for a number of reasons including age and how slippery it was.  The topping lift and lazy jack lines were ancient and stiff and had seen better days.  I’ll be excited to get those new lines installed.

Our (okay, really my) new Dickinson Mediterranean stove was delivered, and I am absolutely giddy with excitement.  We have it stored in the yard’s garage now as we can’t install it until we get back into the water.  Getting the old stove out and putting the new stove in is best done at ground level.  I got to see it when we inspected it on delivery, and it looks so awesome.  I just can’t wait to have a stove that heats reliably and consistently.  I don’t mean to insult my existing stove, but hey, just calling it like I see it.  Between the stove and the random orbital sander, I am living high on the hog.

We have some rainy days coming up, so I see a lot of waxing in our future.  That’s a great rainy day project because it can easily be started and stopped.  There’s also rigging inspection, installing the new running rigging, and lubing blocks.

Island Packet reports that one item should be done by the end of this week, and the other one should be done next week.  We’ll see.

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Posted in Boat Work, NC

May 23-June 4, 2017: And the work just keeps on coming

Week four (two thousand and four?) on the hard, and the jobs are slowly getting whittled away.  We’re down from four pages to two pages, but unfortunately the things that are left are either really massive, really complicated, really time-consuming, really backbreaking, or some combination of the above.

The last couple of weeks has felt like two steps forward, one step back, but we’re bouncing back (and even with that math, we’re still a step ahead).  Our FoodSaver vacuum sealer went belly-up in the middle of packaging a party-sized Stouffer’s lasagna for the freezer, so we had to replace it.  We use the vacuum sealer not just for food but also for medications, supplies, and boat parts, and it is not an optional piece of equipment for us.  Shortly thereafter, the Captain’s Fein oscillating tool died.  He uses it for tons of jobs around the boat, so we replaced it as well.  Amazon came to the rescue for both items.

We had quite a bit of trouble disassembling the windlass for servicing.  We ended up having to use yard mechanics (or, more accurately, mechanics and their specialized tools) to convince some of the parts to finally separate.  The Captain reports that the windlass hadn’t been recently serviced, if it had ever been serviced, and it showed.  We cleaned all of the parts, and the Captain removed rust from the windlass motor and repainted it.  We ended up having to order some replacement parts from Imtra, so the windlass servicing has been on hold while we wait for those parts to arrive.  Imtra was great to work with and was super helpful.

Our new prop, shaft, and stuffing box are here and ready to be installed.  We have been waiting for the skeg and stern tube to be fabricated by Island Packet, and they told us it would take two weeks.  Then we found out last week that Island Packet had to order a special tube from another state, so the turnaround grew by another two weeks.  Sigh. It wouldn’t be a big deal except that all of these projects impact each other and therefore have an order.  This threw off our whole game plan, and the Captain, as Project Manager, is tearing his hair out trying to reorder the projects.

Job one was to start doing the projects that we were going to do after the drive train repairs; there is no sense waiting on those.  We’re hoping to get back in the water ASAP after the drive train installations are completed.  The Captain repaired small cracks and dings in the hull and deck with gel coat and/or epoxy.  We sanded the gel coat repairs with 220, 400, 600, 800, 1000, and 1200 grit sandpaper, and they look great.

The Captain also rebuilt the area under our dolphin striker with epoxy.  This area takes abuse from our mooring lines and needed some TLC.  Now it’s stronger than new.

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I finally finished polishing all of the exterior stainless, a job that I horribly underestimated.  Never again will I think that it can be done in a day! I went through an entire bottle of Collinite Metal Polish and at least half a bottle of Spotless Stainless.

We need to repaint our boot stripe, which is the stripe of paint that divides the bottom paint from the gel coat; it is positioned a few inches above the waterline.  There were at least two coats of paint on our existing boot stripe, and the top one was starting to flake.  So the Captain used the random orbital sander to sand the boot stripe down with 180 and 220 grit sandpaper.  We finished it with hand sanding, and now it’s ready for repainting once we finish some other tasks.

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The Captain started off sanding the boot stripe with the (new) Fein tool but soon went to the random orbital sander.  We’ve both got such work-roughened hands that the fingerprint reader on our phone won’t reliably recognize us.  I believe that is the very definition of “first world problems.”

While still crippled from sanding the boot stripe the day before, the Captain undertook the horrible job of sanding areas on the hull bottom.  There are two types of antifouling paint used on boat bottoms, ablative and hard.  Ablative is very soft and is made to slough off along with any attached growth; hard is just that—really hard with additives that make the paint “taste” nasty to growth, thus preventing it.  We have the hard paint, and it is very resistant to sanding.  The Captain had to wear a Tyvek suit while sanding in the 90-something degree heat and while holding the random orbital sander at shoulder height, pressing hard to remove the paint.  Talk about torture.

I’ve started teakapalooza.  I detached the swim ladder from the boat; it is made of stainless steel tubing with teak steps.  I removed the teak steps and stripped the ancient Cetol from them using Citristrip.  I am in the process of refinishing them with three coats of Cetol Marine Natural Teak and two coats of Cetol Marine Gloss.  I’ve also started the same process with our three hatch boards.

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Here I am painting Citristrip onto our ladder steps to strip off a hundred years’ worth of built-up Cetol.

After much discussion of pros and cons, we have decided to change our finishing technique on the caprail.  For years we have been using Semco, but we have both been pretty disappointed in its longevity and durability.  We decided to go back to Cetol, so I scrubbed all of the Semco off of the caprail with Simple Green and 3M green scrub pads.  I will begin finishing the caprail with Cetol once we do some polishing and waxing of the hull.  I found my cheapie knee pads in storage, and that made my day of scrubbing a lot better.

I was thrilled to see that we only had six small spots on the handrails and four small spots on the eyebrows that need some Cetol touch ups.  That’s pretty amazing given how much abuse that wood takes, how many things are tied or strapped to the handrail, and how many times something like the boathook (or my knees and ankles) has banged against them.

We lubricated all of our through-hulls with Mare Lube and Boeshield T-9.  Keeping the action smooth and fluid makes them easier to operate and also may prevent them from leaking or freezing.  Definitely a plus since they are all beneath the waterline.

We replaced our existing Kyocera 135 solar panel with a Kyocera 150 solar panel that we ordered from Northern Arizona Wind and Sun (great company, by the way—excellent customer service and technical support).  The solar panel is mounted on a frame that is mounted on our davits.  Because the boat is 30 feet in the air, we decided to play it safe and pay the yard to help us get the old panel down and the new panel up rather than try to wrestle them down and up two tall ladders.  That had disaster written all over it.

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Driving the man-lift over to Kestrel to begin lowering the old solar panel.

Yard staff used a man lift to quickly and easily get us up to the panel to remove it.  Once the old panel was down, the Captain mounted the new panel on the existing frame and then bench tested the new panel to make sure that it was working properly.  We then used the man lift again to get the new panel up and installed.

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The Captain attaching the new solar panel, with frame, to our davits while on the man-lift.

We did take one day off on Memorial Day.  We went to Jacksonville to go shopping at big stores like Lowes and Home Depot.  We also had Mexican food and got an entire dozen donuts at Krispy Kreme, many of which we ate in the car on the way back.  Screw the doctor, we earned it.

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This is our Haul Survival Kit.  We consume copious quantities of all, sometimes with relish and sometimes with desperation.

Posted in Boat Work, NC

May 13-22, 2017: Hotter than the Devil’s armpit

Many of our projects, particularly the larger ones, require long stretches of rain-free weather.  We were lucky enough to have one of those this past nine days.  That meant really putting the pedal to the metal and working very long days.  Our routine was to work until 7 or 8 PM, grab some dinner, take a shower, and collapse.  Our biggest battle was with the heat, which wasn’t doing us any favors.

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Mid 90’s outside, 101 degrees in the cockpit, and 95 degrees below.  But hey, it was DOWN from 104 earlier! Yay, I guess.

One of the most important jobs on this haul was rebedding chain plates.  The mast on our boat is keel stepped, meaning that the mast travels through deck, through the cabin, and down into the keel, where it is secured.  There are eight thick metal wires that go from the mast to the deck called shrouds; these provide stability for the mast and allow the mast to be positioned correctly.  The shrouds are anchored to metal tangs that are fiberglassed into the boat’s hull.  Those tangs are called chain plates.  The chain plate comes out through the deck along our teak caprail, and it’s critically important to make sure that no water can get to that chain plate and make it rust.  A failed chain plate can cause the entire rig to collapse and is a very, very, very expensive fix.  It goes without saying that losing the mast while we’re on the water means no sailing, and it could also hole the boat.  Bad day.

So the Captain undertook the backbreaking work of going to each chain plate and picking out the caulk that surrounds the chain plate in its teak well and then inspecting the chain plate to make sure it had not rusted at all.  This is some seriously fiddly work involving picking tools as small as dental picks.  All of the old caulking must be removed so that the new caulking will adhere properly, and of course it means being hunched over in various contorted positions that I euphemistically call “boat yoga.”

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The existing caulk has been picked out, and the chain plate is ready to be rebedded.

But the upside is that the inspection showed no signs of rust, and the chain plates have been successfully rebedded with Silpruf.  We purchased new cotter pins for all of the shroud turnbuckles and cotter pins.  Knowing that the chain plates looked good was a huge relief for both of us.

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After:  newly bedded and looking good.

Our other huge, multi-day job was addressing our rub rail.  Our teak caprail runs around the perimeter of the boat, and on its outside edge is a one-inch wide stainless steel metal strip called a rubrail.  It protects the teak from things that could, well, rub against it.  The rubrail is comprised of nine sections, all screwed on in about one-foot intervals.

We removed all ten thousand screws and took down the rubrail.  I spent days scraping and scrubbing 28 years’ worth of rust, caulk, epoxy, sealant, Cetol, varnish, Semco, and goodness knows what else off of the metal and then polished it all up.

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You can’t hear them mocking me, but they were.  “Gee, the sun has been shining on us all day.  Hope you have gloves on, because we are insanely hot! Oh, do those gloves make your hands sweaty? What a shame.”

While I did that, the Captain went around the caprail and dealt with any less-than-perfect teak that was exposed when we took off the rubrail.

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You can see the darker stripe along the teak caprail; this is where the rubrail was mounted.

He sanded, applied two coats of MAS penetrating epoxy, and then one coat of West Systems Six10 thickened epoxy to the teak that is covered by the rub rail.  He sanded down the epoxy once it had cured, and then we reattached the rubrail.  Once the rubrail was reattached, it was caulked with LifeCaulk where it doesn’t sit flush against the teak.

The caprail is now at a point where I can refinish the teak, but that is a job for another day.

In between the huge jobs, we knocked off a bunch of other projects.  I have been polishing all of the stainless on the exterior of the boat, which is taking an astoundingly long time.  I thought it would take about a day; clearly I was high.  There is still more to go, but I’m in the home stretch.

We lowered the anchor and all of our chain rode to the ground and repainted the chain marks in 25 foot intervals.  Since we anchor out so often, the paint had really taken a beating since the last time we painted.  We changed our color scheme to make it easier to identify how many feet of chain have flown by when we’re dropping anchor:  25’ is red, 50’ is white, 75’ is blue, 100’ is yellow, 125’ is red, 150’ is white, 175’ is blue, 200’ is yellow, 225’ is red, 250’ is white, and the end is orange.

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We emptied our water tank and inspected it for crystals.  We have an aluminum water tank, and if chlorine is in our water, it reacts with the metal tank and creates crystals that clog up our hoses and filters (as well as doing damage to the tank itself).  For that reason, we pre-filter all water that comes into the boat using two filters.  But you never know, so we drained the tank so that we could clean out any crystals.  To our delight, there were none of note to be found, so we refilled the water tank and called that one good.

We recently purchased a wifi booster called The Wirie but had not yet installed it.  There are a number of “marine” wifi boosters out there, but what drew us to The Wirie was the fact that it is easily taken down and put up.  We don’t want to leave it up all the time as we don’t have access to internet all that often; but when we do, we need the booster.  Also, in the future it is upgradeable to allow for insertion of a SIM card so that the unit can be used as essentially a cellular booster as well.

So the Captain attached a DC cigarette plug onto The Wirie’s power cable, and now we can just plug it into the binnacle in the cockpit.  When we put it up, we just attach it to our antenna mast on the stern.  We’ve been using it here in the yard and see a noticeable increase in speed.

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The Wirie is the red box with the attached white antenna.  We had one spot left on our Scanstrut antenna pole, so it works out great.  The white power wire simply runs into the cockpit, where it is plugged into the binnacle.

We also changed out the AC power outlet for our main shore power cable. We are switching to a newer type of power cable called the SmartPlug.  The traditional power cable that plugs into a boat doesn’t sit very tightly and involves twisting and screwing the cable on.  The SmartPlug doesn’t use the twist and screw model and instead locks securely into the outlet.  It is much safer, in our opinion, and certainly is easier.  So the Captain removed the old-style power outlet in the cockpit and replaced it with the new SmartPlug outlet.  We plugged in our new SmartPlug cord, and so far it’s working flawlessly.

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The metal arms on each side of the plug lock into the outlet, and the outlet’s metal cover locks into the plug.  Sweet.

When we took off the rubrail, we removed the dinghy engine from its mount on the stern rail and gave it some TLC.  We rinsed it internally with Salt Away, gave it a fresh water bath, and liberally coated the engine components with CRC 6-56, a lubricant and protectant.  Deaton’s was kind enough to let us store the outboard in their garage, so it’s protected while we’re doing work.

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Flushing the dinghy outboard with Salt Away.

In the evenings we continue to work on indoor projects.  The Captain whipped markings on our new mooring lines so that we quickly know where to cleat them on the bow cleats.  I have been sewing some small projects:  sewing buckles onto our sail ties (I hate trying to tie them while the wind snatches them away and I am holding onto the deck for dear life); making a Phifertex bag for our preventer lines; making a leak-proof Shelter Rite bag for a pump we use for oils; and sewing our new registration sticker into the dinghy chaps.

Getting the sewing machine off of the boat involved quite a bit of planning.  The Sailrite LSZ-1 could easily be used as a spare anchor and must weigh north of 50 pounds.  There was no way either of us could carry it down the ladder.  So I suggested putting it in our bosun’s chair, which is used to hold people hoisted up the mast to do work.  The Captain secured the machine in the chair and then lowered it down to me using a spare dockline.  Success! But needless to say, I won’t be putting it back on the boat until we’re in the water and can just walk it down the dock.

We had a Groco hull strainer installed over our engine raw water intake through hull.  While we assiduously try to avoid grass in the water, it’s amazing how much of it still creeps into the boat via the raw water intake.  Cleaning it out of the engine strainer is no big deal, but twice we’ve had packed wads in the raw water hose that we had to pick out, which is a huge job.  By installing the exterior strainer, we’re hoping to cut down on the grass intake.  The strainer has a hinge and can be swung open so that we can clean out any growth.

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We’ll be painting the hull black this time, so the strainer was painted once it was installed.  The silver pin slides out, and the strainer “lid” opens down to allow for cleaning.

In progress right now is the disassembly of our Lofrans Tigres windlass, which is the powered winch that is mounted on the bowsprit and is used to raise the anchor rode and anchor.  We noticed a small oil leak from it on this last journey, so we purchased a rebuild kit.  The windlass is disassembled, and the Captain is cleaning the various parts now before reassembly.

Phew.  In between these jobs we’ve been handling our various health appointments and seeing friends.  I’m not going to lie; it’s been a brutal week, but we’ve accomplished a lot.  Now it’s raining (oh darn!), so we get some enforced time away from the sun.  Many of our drive train parts have come in, and we’re waiting on Island Packet to fabricate the skeg and stern tube.

Upcoming projects will be replacing our existing solar panel with a new one, replacing our hatches with new ones, and a variety of other exciting upgrades.  We’re psyched!

 

Posted in Boat Work, NC

May 8-12, 2017: Working hard on the hard

Monday morning, we had the boat hauled out of the water and put on jack stands.

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If I drove the lift, I’d be so tempted to just gun it . . .

When it came out, the hull was covered in a soft brown mud/algae mixture with some feathery growth and tiny barnacles mixed in.  We were amazed that the hull was in that good of a condition as we hadn’t had it dived on and cleaned since January.  We figured it would look like a carpet.

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Ewww.  And yes, it smelled.

When the boat yard hauls the boat, they power wash the hull.  Once that was done, things were looking a lot less gross.

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Blue hull starting to peek through the muck.

We removed the tiny barnacles with scrapers and then sanded the last of the dirt off of the bottom with tough scrubby pads called Doodlebugs.  That is backbreaking work, and I’m glad that part is over.  We then gave the hull a good wash, which it hadn’t had in recent memory.  It definitely needs polishing with Finesse-It and a few coats of wax, but that will come later in the haul.

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Set up and ready to work.

Island Packets have a small locker in the cockpit that they call a cooler.  It has a drain and a hose that leads overboard, and that through hull is below the waterline.  We can sometimes hear water gurgling up into that hose when the starboard side is heeled. We removed that through hull, replaced the hose, installed a valve on the hose, and then reinstalled the whole system.  This way when we are underway, we can close that valve, and water cannot come into the boat from that through hull.

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The cockpit cooler is above and to the left, and the starboard hull is to the right where the through hull with new valve exits.  We single-handedly keep the sealant industry in business. 

The Captain replaced the bilge pump and has saved the old one to rebuild as a spare.  This was a sweaty, contortionist job but a necessary one.  He also cleaned the VHF radio microphone connection and the SSBI radio connection and installed copper ground wire in the lazarette for the SSB.

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Soldering the ring terminal onto the copper ground wire.

Our galley sink is a dual sink setup (which I hate, by the way—both sides are too small to do anything).  One of the drains had developed a leak.

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See the funky corrosion on the underside of the drain in the foreground?

The drains and metal pipes are attached to a hose that runs vertically but is freestanding, and we think that engine vibration acting on the unsecured hose simply shook one of the drains loose.  Plumber’s putty is no match for a Yanmar diesel!  We removed the drains and pipes and cleaned them up using CLR.  A trip to Lowe’s in New Bern netted some new gaskets and nuts (and a trip to a take out Chinese place—hey, the Chef is tired).  The Captain reassembled and reinstalled the entire system, this time using Life Seal silicone instead of plumber’s putty.

We lowered the dinghy from the davits to some sawhorses.  I scrubbed the dinghy until it shined.  This was made easier by an anti-growth product I put on the aluminum bottom in January called Shark Hide.  It inhibits the growth of all of the nasty stuff, is easy to apply, and seems to really last.  Call me a believer.  Some kind of oily residue got on the pontoons when we were in Charleston, but it was no match for Simple Green.

The big job, one way past our pay grade, is work on our drive train.  We knew that the cutlass bearing and shaft seal needed to be replaced, and due to Island Packet design, this meant that the entire propeller shaft had to be removed.  As is the norm for all boat projects, this led to a cascading series of work and purchases that were not on our list . . . but are now.

Long story short, the stern tube (which holds the cutlass bearing through which the shaft runs) is too pitted and scarred to be trusted, so it needs to be replaced.  The shaft itself is in a similar condition, so it needs to be replaced.

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Stern tube on the top, shaft on the bottom.  The worst part on the shaft is where the PSS shaft seal was located.  No way we’re putting those back on the boat!

We decided to switch from a PSS shaft seal to a traditional stuffing box so that we can work on it in the future without having to have the boat on the hard.

As part of the shaft removal, the propelled had to come off.  This is where having a professional look at boat systems is worth its weight in gold.  A prior owner had installed a Max Prop, which is a very expensive and fancy prop that has feathering blades.  Whoever installed the prop hadn’t put it on correctly, and it was so tight on the shaft that it crushed the prop nut.  It was also woefully underpitched; pitch essentially measures how far forward the boat will move with each turn of the propeller.  This explains why we would run the engine at pretty high RPMs and not get good boat speed.  The Max Prop was due for reconditioning (to the tune of the $1500+ *cough* *gasp*), and we decided to go with a good old three fixed blade prop.  We’ll keep the Max Prop if we ever want to reinstall it, but we’d rather depend on something less technically finicky.

As the mechanics were working on the shaft, they noticed that our skeg is in pretty rough shape.  The skeg is a piece of stainless steel that connects the keel to the bottom of the rudder post.  It doesn’t hold the rudder up, but it does act to protect the shaft and prop by blocking things from hitting them from below.  The skeg was removed, and once beadblasted it was revealed to have serious deterioration of the welds that hold its various components together.

So on the tab for replacement is the skeg, the shaft and coupling, the stern tube, the cutlass bearing, the stuffing box, and the propeller.  We’ll end up with a whole new drive train, which goes a long way towards peace of mind when we’re in Fiji.  Or Norway.  Or Cocos Keeling.  Who knows?

During rainy weather and in the evenings, we have been working on “inside” projects.  The Captain epoxied some wood strips into the lazarette and painted them with bilge paint.  He then mounted some line hangers on them so that we can neatly store our dock lines when they are not in use.

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We did some work on our Lewmar self-tailing winches.  Lines should wind around the winch, come up across the silver feeder arm, run through the crown (the grippy black channel), and then run off the winch.  On some of our winches, the feeder arm placement did not let the line run freely to a nearby cleat.  We pivoted the feeder arm on those winches, and now the lines have the maximum “bite” within the crown and run freely to a cleat.

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We have two mooring lines, one for each side of the boat.  The lines run from a bow cleat, through the mooring pennant, and back to the same side’s bow cleat.  We have ridden out some gales and named storms on a mooring and wanted a secondary mooring line for security.  In the past, we’ve used one of our spring lines, but we didn’t want them to wear prematurely.  So we purchased 45 feet of ¾” Samson double braid, and the Captain (who is also the Rigger) spliced in an eye with incorporated Chafe Pro.  This line will run from a bow cleat, through the mooring pennant, and up to the other bow cleat as a secondary mooring line.

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While his rigging hat was on, the Captain also whipped some marks in our mainsail halyard to show when the mainsail was fully raised or had one or two reefs.  He whipped marks in the reef lines as well.

I put my nerd power to work making a giant Excel spreadsheet of all of our emergency gear including item type, location, brand, model, identifier, expiration date, and number.  So far it covers:

  • Fire (alarms, extinguishers, blanket, fire port)
  • Visual (flares, strobes, flashlights and spotlights)
  • Sound (airhorns, bells, whistles)
  • Man overboard (buoys, slings, lights, throw lines)
  • PFDs (three types of PFDs, tethers, jackline)
  • Electronics (EPIRB, personal locator beacons, personal AIS, satellite phone, InReach, radios)
  • Dinghy (oars, boarding ladder, fire extinguisher, lights)
  • Ditch bag

As I listed each item, I inspected them.  Our red handheld SOLAS flares and orange smoke flares expire in June and July 2017, so it’s time to restock those.  Sigh.

We’ve been doing a reasonable job managing our day-to-day life; we lack only refrigeration.  I have been making meals that don’t require fresh ingredients; thank you enchiladas and Mexican casserole! Fortunately our friends M&N have a local property and graciously allowed us to store our frozen foods there until we’re back in the water.  This gave me a chance to defrost the freezer and clean it and the refrigerator.  For daily use we have two coolers filled with drinks and lunch foods like cheese and deli meat; I get ice each morning from The Piglet (the mini Piggly Wiggly here in town).

We have fresh water, but since the water that goes through our galley drain simply runs down the side of the boat into a puddle underneath us, I am trying to minimize dish washing.  That means paper plates and bowls, reusing utensils whenever possible, and making large meals that can be microwaved rather than dirtying up pots every night.  I hate how much trash I’m making, but it’s how it has to be until we’re back in the water.

We have one head with a shower and one washer/dryer on site, so no complaints there.  We are right in the front of the yard, so our wifi access is pretty good.  My car started up on the first try after being in storage for five months, and although the air conditioning decided to stop working a couple of days ago, it is running as well as can be expected for an 11-year old vehicle with 169,000+ hard miles.

So that’s it for our first four days’ steady work on the hard.  That knocks off about 1/20th of the items on our list.  Today will be rainy, so we’ll be working inside again.

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Ten steps up, ten steps down.  All day.  Usually carrying something heavy.  Who needs a stairmaster?

Posted in Boat Work, NC

April 30-May 7, 2017: First week in the boat yard

The first week in the boatyard has been all about preparing to work.  We’ve been going over our list of projects and strategizing their order of completion.  We plan on being hauled tomorrow, and we will be on the hard for at least a couple of weeks.  Because we won’t have water or refrigeration during that time, I have been trying to cook up all of the food in the fridge and freezer.

Job one was clearing as much of the boat as we could so that we’d have room to work.  We rented a small 5’x5’ storage unit for the month so that we could easily segregate the items that would be put back on the boat.  We took everything moveable off the deck, emptied out the lazarette, and put all of those items in storage.  We then emptied out the aft cabin, which had become our moveable storage unit a/k/a garage a/k/a dump zone.  One change that we’re making is taking the cushions off of the aft cabin bed permanently; with those gone, we gain space and stability for the things that will remain.

Then we went through the boat, area by area, and removed everything that didn’t need to come back.  It’s easy to clutter up such a small boat, and the added weight doesn’t do us any favors.  We went through every drawer, cabinet, and storage locker, culled what wasn’t needed, and inventoried the rest.  That was a long but very satisfying process.

Job two was gathering the supplies and parts we’ll need for the long list of jobs we have planned.  We had some supplies in storage, but we ended up making a number of orders from Amazon and Defender.  We also restocked our supply of fresh water filters from Freshwater Systems and coir bricks for the head from Airhead.  One of the best things about being at a marina for a long time is the easy ability to get mail and packages, and we’re taking advantage of that.

Job three was making appointments for both of us at the doctor, the dentist, and the optometrist.  Since we store our car here in Oriental while we’re gone, this is the easiest place to attend to all of these needs.

And finally, interspersed with all of this were wonderful visits with friends.  It’s been a great week.

Posted in Boat Work, NC

April 28-30, 2017: Offshore from Charleston to Oriental, NC

This passage couldn’t have been a clearer example of an important principle we’ve learned in cruising:  plan well, and you will be well.

The Captain and I had been agonizing over weather forecasts before we even got to Charleston, trying to predict when would be the best time to leave Charleston depending on the route.  We managed to finagle extended marina reservations at Charleston City Marina to give ourselves some wiggle room if we had to stay longer than planned due to weather.  We spent hours researching and creating multiple routes, both offshore (Charleston to Southport, NC; Charleston to Carolina Beach, NC; and Charleston to Beaufort, NC) and via the ICW, both wholly or in part.  When it looked like we had a green light to go for a three day/two night offshore passage, I obsessively prepared meals and pre-sliced cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and bread for snacks if the weather was rough.

On April 28, we left the Charleston City Marina megadock at about 10:45 AM in order to take advantage of slack tide.  We exited Charleston Harbor and started northeast.  We stayed about 25-30 miles offshore for most of the trip.  It was great not seeing any land at all.

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The winds were light and variable for essentially the entire journey, and we motorsailed with a reefed main and staysail.  The swells were hitting us on the starboard beam or quarter and were surprisingly steep, up to 8 feet at times; fortunately the period was long, so we rode the swells rather than smashing through them. It’s amazing how a couple of days of that will wear out your quads and abdomen even when mostly what we’re doing is sitting.

While we were underway, we ended up putting three jerry jugs of diesel (15 gallons) in the tank using our jiggle siphon.  The siphon is self-priming once shaken, and the odds of spilling any fuel are virtually eliminated.  We had plenty of fuel in the tank, but a partially empty tank tends to slosh in large waves.  As fuel sloshes around, impurities are stirred up, and those can clog the fuel filter; a clogged fuel filter can lead to engine shutdown.  So, it’s easier to simply keep the fuel tank full.

We kept to the watch schedule that works best for us.  Generally the Captain helms for long stretches during the day; he enjoys it and doesn’t get as bored as I do.  In the afternoon we switch to three hour watches, and at 8:00 PM we reduce that to two hour watches.  The off-watch person sleeps in the sea berth that we rig below in the salon.  We put up a lee cloth along one salon settee and then stuff a bunch of pillows on the settee.  It’s amazingly comfortable to sleep in, and it feels very secure even in rolly seas.  By the second night out, it was a little slice of heaven.

We reached Beaufort Inlet at first light on April 30 (the third day) and left the ocean for the final leg to Oriental, which had to be reached via the ICW.  We were so glad that we had gone offshore to this point; for over a day we had been hearing Coast Guard warnings about severe shoaling in NC inlets and areas along the ICW that we had heard had been recently dredged.  Whoops! Glad we hadn’t counted on that.

The stint along the ICW between Beaufort and Oriental was easy; there are no restricted opening bridges or major shoaling areas.  We did laugh because the only serious wind we had in 50 hours was in the last hour of the trip in the Neuse River, where it was blowing 20 knots.  It would have been some great sailing, but at that point, we were pretty wiped out.  We docked at Deatons Yacht Service, our home away from home for the next month or so.

This passage was 50 ¾ hours for 237.6 nm.

I thought it was interesting to compare our stats from this trip to those from our trip north last year.  Yes, excessively anal, but comforting to this nerd.

TRIP SOUTH 2017:                                                TRIP NORTH 2016:

nautical miles: 1840                                              nautical miles:  1703

total nights: 109                                                    total nights:  163

nights at marina: 19%                                         nights at marina:  10%

nights on mooring: 49%                                      nights on mooring:  30%

nights at anchor: 25%                                          nights at anchor:  59%

nights offshore: 7%                                              nights offshore: 1%

states visited: 4 (NC, SC, GA, FL)                 states visited:7 (NC, VA, MD, DE, NJ, NY, RI)

diesel used: 241 gallons                                      diesel used: 219 gallons

oil changes:  3                                                       oil changes:  2

10 lb propane tank fills:  2                                 10 lb propane tank fills:  3

generator run:  6 ¼ hours                                  generator run:  41 1/3 hours

gallons of water:  173 + one fill at dock           gallons of water:  287 + 5 fills at docks

Conclusions? We have gotten more comfortable with going offshore, which lets us travel farther faster.  We’ve gotten better at water management; we certainly weren’t profligates before, but we are misers now.  When we went south via the ICW, we were unfamiliar with the territory and ended up staying in marinas that we skipped on the way north.  Down south, the combination of sun and constant wind kept up easily with our power needs, whereas up north, we had many cloudy and still days that necessitated use of our generator.

So we keep learning and honing our skills for the next adventure.  For now, though, we will be working on Kestrel for a month or so in the boat yard.

Posted in NC, Offshore, SC

April 20-26, 2017: Charleston, SC

We were planning to make Charleston a relatively short stop, but predicted bad weather forced us to stay put.  Gee, rats! We ended up staying a week at the Charleston City Marina on the Megadock.  This is the closest thing to a vacation that we’ve gotten in a long, long time, and we took advantage of it.  After this, it’s back to Oriental for a month-long haul and all of the associated work.

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Here we are, nestled under Athena’s massive bowsprit.

But as always, before play: work.  We refueled, cleaned and recharged the composting head, and gave the boat a detailed wash down, which she richly deserved.  The Captain ordered and installed some cockpit mounts for the iPad and for the Garmin InReach.  I did many loads of laundry over several nights, which was made easier by the close proximity of the marina laundry room.

We hear over and over here that you don’t tour Charleston, you eat Charleston.  Anyone who’s known us for five minutes knows that we are all about a good meal, so we’ve been in heaven.  We started our “vacation” by eating breakfast at our favorite breakfast joint, Hominy Grill.  The Captain always has the Charleston Nasty Biscuit, which he describes thus:  a perfectly battered and fried chicken breast served on a fluffy Southern biscuit and drenched in delectable white sausage gravy, topped with a sprinkling of white cheddar cheese.  He says, “It is true perfection.” I get the omelette and home fries, both of which are fresh and wonderful.

Over the next few days, we had a terrific lunch at A1 Super China Buffet (Chinese place, check!), which is over in the West Marine shopping center.  We walked along the West Ashley Greenway through town, which was a great respite from the traffic and heat.

We then embarked on a two-night barbeque spree.  While I am a vegetarian, the Captain is a meatatarian, and he does love him some barbeque.  First we went to Rodney Scott’s, which specializes in whole hog barbeque.  They serve up some mean sides, including potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and awesome hush puppies.  But what sealed the deal was the banana pudding.  Oh my god, the banana pudding.  We both gave Rodney Scott’s two thumbs up.

The next night was Lewis Barbeque, which specializes in Texas beef barbeque as well as pulled pork and a homemade sausage called—I kid you not—“hot guts.”  Sounds gross but the Captain said it was awesome.  Lewis was clearly insanely popular and was very crowded on a Tuesday of all nights.

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This is a place that takes beef very, very seriously.

The Captain believes that brisket paves the path to enlightenment, and three quarters of a pound of Lewis brisket did nothing to dissuade him.  I give the green chili corn pudding, giant scoop of guacamole and chips, and soft sopapillas enthusiastic kudos.

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Brisket, hot guts, onions, pickled onions, pickles, white bread, and sauce served on a piece of paper.  What more could a man want?

At this point we had to stop the meal madness, mainly because it was time to leave.  We did manage to walk down King Street and Meeting Street to see the many antique and fashion shops and to visit the Charleston Maritime Center.  We were hoping to visit Fort Sumter, but bad weather nixed that for this trip.

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It wasn’t ALL food.  Just mostly.

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Our plan is to leave tomorrow for a two-day offshore passage to Oriental, NC.  It should be an adventure as we’ve only done overnight offshore passages to this point.  Once we get back to Oriental, it’s time to do some work on Kestrel to spruce her up.

Posted in Marinas, SC