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!

 

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