Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The List.

The projects continue on the S/V Robin. We are still trying to get rid of a fuel odor. It clears out relatively quickly when we open the hatches and get the fans going, but after the boat has been closed up overnight it seems to be right back where we started.
I've joined a Sabre Sailboat owners group on Yahoo! (yahoo! :)) and am learning quite a bit from the experienced owners. I have also had the benefit of a lot of advice from boat owners around the work place so I am not falling short of knowledge around here. One important lesson I am learning is that there are places on a small boat where it is extremely challenging to fit into, reach into, reach around into and reach over and around while fitting into. Moreover, once you've successfully reached over and around whilst fitting into a place, it is fully expected that the 'just the right tool' is just out of reach of your other hand, which was likely holding you into this small place anyway. I will begin my search for a mechanically inclined tree monkey shortly but for now I'll have to make do with short-duration cramp-inducing contortions to reach into dark places without actually seeing around the corner to what lies beyond. Kind of like Geocaching in a way (grin).

So far we've repaired or at least worked on:
The bilge and its pump and floorboards and wiring. Completed
The Air Conditioner and the shore power cords. Completed
The Steering wheel (a plastic retaining nut, really?) Completed ... a replacement nut with the "Edson" logo was (gulp) $52.00 ... I bought a generic stainless steel nut and washer for $1.14 .. somehow that made sense.
The fresh water tank, it's lines and foot operated pump (yes, we were then very thankful for an operating bilge pump). The tank was empty for a long time so we filled it up with a strong bleach-and-water solution only to find it leaking vigourously back out due to a broken diaphragm on the foreward (sink) foot pump. One stroke of the foot pump sent a lot of water onto the floor and (as we mentioned before) the bilge pump did its thing. A new pump is in my hands, but of course the mounting bolt don't line up (same make and model .. just a 30 year newer version). Project is 80% completed.
Three running lights (green, blue, and white ... all different size bulbs and not all having both wires). Project 66% completed
The Ice Chest (yes, there's no mention of a refrigerator here) ... you could fill it up with ice, but there was no working way to drain the water. A new manual pump is installed and the lines unplugged and it all works fine now. Completed
Rerouted the air conditioner's condensation drip line so that it does not run water past wood at any point. This will help prevent any wood from getting saturated anywhere on the floor.
Replaced a lot of dock lines with new (and I must add attractive blue-on-white) ones. :)
Got some inside lights fixed, but still need a couple of bulbs and maybe one new fixture over the sink.
Got the VHF radio running. It was working OK except there is a frayed cord on the microphone causing sporadic 'tones' when you keyed up to talk. This might still need to be replaced.
In spite of advice not to, we did start working on polishing some of the rust spots of the steel outside .. it's been raining ever since....
Rigged up a tarp to cover the sail boom and the bimini cover. Both were in rough shape and leaking so this will keep more water out of the sail folds and off the important people sitting out on the back enjoying their pain killers.
Oh, the toilet (ermmm ... umm .. I mean 'head') wasn't pumping water...at all. After a series of investigative efforst involving the aformentioned reaching into dark places, I figured out that the water inlet on the outside of the boat was nearly completely clogged. I did some dismantling and after a little bit of grunting and pounding with a rather large screwdriver I broke through the little barnacle-buddies and restored a good flow of outside water into the cabin. Yes, the bilge pump again ...

Now, just so you know, here's a bit of the list we lovingly call "todo" .. you know, like Dorothy's little dog???
The engine needs an oil change. I learned that you can't drain the oil out you have to get a pump and suck it out. That's cool :)
The engine needs to have a thing fixed where when you pull the fuel shut-off to turn it off, you can un-pull that shut-off from the same place instead of having to climb downstairs and do it manually. This should be an easy fix, but will require scrounging up just the right kind of part, maybe at a bicycle shop.
There's some woodwork downstairs that needs an innovative repair. It'll likely involve clamps and glue and cutting some new pieces to reinforce things and all kinds of fun. Likely to be a one-day-turns-in-to-four-days affair. I'm gonna need a day off :)
Someday, someone's going to have to go to the top of the mast and see what's up with that wind-direction pointer (windex). Thankfully, the lights work up there.
We are likely going to have to rebuild the pump in the head. While it now works, it's been a while I guess and it gets confused about pumping water into and out of the toilet bowl. Maybe after some practice it'llbe happy again, and it's usable for now so we will wait on this one.
Then there's the painting, polishing, and cleaning that will come when the other projects either get done or become frustrating enough to want to take a break from.
Robin is considering learning to sew on sailcloth and canvas. There's a future in that if we have a portable sewing machine that can do the work and we are out there somewhere that has a need for that kind of work.

The work will keep on as time permits. Our job schedules are now officially 'interfering' with what we want to be about :) Isn't that great?

Hatches, Light Bulbs and Bilge; Oh My!

We thought we'd done a pretty good survey of all the items we would need to look at on the boat. There is even a relatively ordered list of things we'd like top get done; separated into three categories: "necessary for safety", "necessary for comfort", and 'oh, that'll be nice when it's done". We thought we had some priorities in place and we're trying hard to learn where to go for parts and expertise. Soon we will have to have the boat 'hauled out' and set up 'on the hard' for a while while we learn about cleaning and repainting the bottom of the hull. This is a tough one as the paint that goes on the bottom of a boat has to be made from material that will not only resist the attack of salt water, but also actively inhibit things that like to attach to boats, grow and create offspring that like to also attach to boats and grow... and.. well, you get it. Boats with barnacles sail slower than clean ones, and we're all about speed, you know.
The special paints usually involve things called 'biocides' which kill things like algaes and small, predatory single-celled sea monsters and the like. A common 'biocide' is copper which is blended into the paint and causes a normal can of paint to a) be pretty heavy and b) cost 5 to 15 times as much as regular house paint. Now, what we don't know is if we can cover the whole bottom with one gallon, but we're sure hoping so :) but I digress, hauling out will happen later in the summer or early fall, maybe even at the end of the hurricane season as the boat is pretty safe where she is docked right now.

So far we have learned what we already knew. That a 30 year old boat will take some work to get it into shape. We are currently working to try to rid the cabin of the smell of diesel, which we did not notice when we toured her but is apparently a product of a fuel spill as the mechanic was replacing the fuel pump. Sadly the clean smell of the boat was one of thing we really liked about her in the first place and the smell of fuel will be a sore spot until we get it cleaned out. We are trying various cleaners and deodorizers until we stumble upon just the right thing. We will get it, it just will be a while coming since fuel has apparently saturated wood somewhere. ugh.
On the advice of a neighboring sailor, we set out to work on some projects in the order: "inside then outside and from the the bottom up". So, starting from the lowest point on the inside we tackled cleaning the bilge and replacing the pump with a new one.
Now; here's the way things work when one begins to do a boat-project ... you start out to put in a new bilge pump, but you decide that "gee, it's awfully hot in here. I wonder what it would take to get the air-conditioner fired up?" so you start puzzling out the air conditioner which you were told worked but apparently doesn't want to at this particular moment. Then you remember that the previous owner said that you have to plug the shore power electrical connection into a different receptacle on the outside of the boat as the air conditioner is on its own circuit but when you unhook the power cord from receptacle 'a' and connect it receptacle 'b' the air conditioner still won't run and as a matter of fact you get a "Reverse Polarity" warning on the circuit breaker panel. So next you have to pull out your meter, disassemble the shore-powe receptacles and verify that the wiring is OK, only to find out that is is indeed wired the same and there's no way that the polarity should be reversed so you puzle over it for the better part of an afternoon before deciding that maybe if you plugged in BOTH shore powers at the same time it's either start a fire or get the air conditioner to work and you find out that it does work but you just didn't know the rules yet. OK, now ... there was this bilge pump thing... So, back to that. Now you have to mop out and lcean the bilge area and yank the old pump out but before you do you need to determine where the wayter seems to be coming from that seemingly just started to leak into the cabin area from nowhere... It's a small trickle, but nonetheless it would be a big problem to find out you suddenly developed leak into the boat right after you remove the pump that can keep you from sinking if the leak gets bigger. So.. climbing around all through the engine compartment, Robin spies the source of the influx of water. It's coming from a small, clear hose whigh is connceted to (you'll never guess...) the air conditioner. We reason that this is by design, al airconditioners give off condensation and punching a hole through the hull of the boat really doesn't make sense so it is logically routed to the bilge to get pumped overboard every so often while the thing is running. Makes sense now, well, sort of...
So we disconnect the old pump (you remember, the reason we started this?) and I clipped off the old wires and connected the new pump for a trial run. Well, then we decidied that the old pump wasn;t exactly in the lowest part of the bilge and went to relocate it, only to have to cut the wires and re-rout them underneath a diffent area of the floor and re-connect them. It ran fine and the only real issue we ran into was that it didn't fit. The hose connection was a different diameter and was way too small for the boat's exisitng hose. So .. off we went to get a new pump with a different sized fitting. We bought the next-size-up pump with the next-size-up discharge nozzle (thanks, West Marine, for taking the pump back without the original box which I had confidently tossed out while fixing the air conditioner) and I wired the new pump into place. It didn't fit either ... this time the discharge nozzle was a bit too BIG to fit into the tube. So I sat down and enjoyed the air conmditioner for a few minutes trying to cope with all the good thoughts running through my head at the moment.
The hose is very strong, about 1 1/8 inch in diameter and has a stainless steel coil running through the inside. You could likely stand on it and not inhibit the water flow.
I eventually got the hose freed up a bit, took some of the coiling out and used a heat gun to soften it enough to make a good fit at the pump.
All the while Robin and I were also cleaning out the grungy stiff which the bottom of a boat can somehow manage to collect over the years, but at the end of it all the bilge was clean, the pump is running and the air conditoner works. A 1 hour project that only took two days :)
Now, how many sailors does it take to change a light bulb? Now that's another story.

We've met some new neighbors at the docks and are learning a lot from them as we sit and chat and pass each other coming and going to the boats. To one side of us is a venerable 38 foot sailboat on its way from Canada to South America. She is the "Contour" of some note as having circumnavigated the globe a few times. The owner is new to this boat and his plans ran into a snag when the outboard motor on his dinghy seized up. Not having a dinghy is bad news when sailing off shore. On the other side is "Wild Mathilda", a 44 footer also preparing for a late spring run from Florida to Nova Scotia. He is finishing up preparatory projects and will be leaving this week if the weather allows.
Both of these crews are amazing to visit with and learn from. I can't begin to tell you how I am looking forward to meeting more sailors like them and becoming one myself. I hope that they are indicative of most of the sailing community as they have been sociable, friendly and extremely helpful. Robin and I have learned a lot already and it is just the tip of the iceberg. So thanks to you Jerome and Clayton and Bruce and Carol. It has been an honor and pleasure to meet you and spend time with you. I am glad we got to share a meal and a drink and play some cards and chat about the boats and the world.
Safe journeys, fair winds and God's speed to you in your travels.

Webcam is up.

Our new RV park has limited Wi-Fi connectivity (it kicks you off after a while) but it looks like I can get the Webcam going for a while each day. I'll point it out different windows from time to time.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Movin' on up ...


After much ado, setting up the funds transfer and filling out paperwork, we said goodbye to the previous owners and the S/V Robin came into our hands. Thus began the first adventure in our sailing 'careers' that was not on a boat owned by someone else. From here on out we will be 100% responsible for every light bulb and oil change that S/V Robin will need as well as investing a considerable amount of "TLC" to bring her back to a fit and fine shape. We knew (well, pretty much) what we were getting in to, but that does not in any way preclude the possibilities for learning a million new things beginning with this sail-away trip. Owning a home or car in no way prepares you for a boat save the basic mechanical, electrical, plumbing and other skills you acquire living with stuff that breaks or wears out. Boats are ... weird ...

We cast off from the previous owners' dock space after some struggle figuring out how they had tied it up to begin with. It seemed as though it had been secured for some time and the pilings and lines that held her in place were not too fond of the idea that we were leaving. We wrestled with a few lines that were seemingly glued in place and were finally clear of the dock and the pilings and on our way; our first concern being a visible sand bar that would make for an even more interesting story had we run solidly aground less than 2 minutes after taking possession of our first boat. The motor and transmission worked like clockwork (you know; the kind of clockwork in Indiana Jones and National Treasure??) and we pensively headed out looking for deeper waters. This was a Monday afternoon and there were very few other boaters around which was fine with us.

Thankfully, with Robin at the helm, we motored safely clear of the shallow water and headed out toward the first maker depicting the deeper water of the Intra-Coastal Waterway (ICW) channel. But the journey was to begin with intrigue anyway... within 5 minutes we encountered our first future project when all the gagues failed at once. Suddenly we had no indication of fuel, oil pressure, engine temparature or RPM and battery charge. It happened all at once and I sent a quick text to find out if this was something we should panic over or if the gagues were just playing finicky. I was informed that they had supposedly been fixed by the mechanic and that they were just behaving badly due to some mysterious electrical problem. OK .. item number 1 for the to-do list. I will leave the mechanic alone for now as I am not too terribly sure he did such a great job. There's a story of a high-pressure diesel fuel pump in here too, but we'll save that for later. The motor was running great and the batteries were charging and the exhaust was spitting water properly so we decided to continue toward the new 'home' location at Cooley's Landing Marina in Fort Lauderdale. This was 'back-to-basics' boating and it was OK as long as we didn't see any signs of overheating. I climbed below and kept a close eye on the motor for any trouble for a while but my confidence that it was simply a ground-wire or some such problem brought me back up after a short while to enjoy the ride and help navigate.

The planned route was to go right up the ICW past the Fort Lauderdale cruise ship terminal (Port Everglades) and into the New River which basically runs right through downtown Fort Lauderdale. The distance was 20.4 Nautical Miles and at an average speed of 5 Knots it should take 4 hours but I planned an extra hour in there for fighting currents and winds and to get drawbridges to open up for us. The one thing we did not plan on was rush hour on the freeways ... I think I knew about it; but didn't plan on it very well ... you see, drawbridges will pretty much open up for tall vessels on request as you make your way along the waterways. Sometimes you have to wait for traffic or pedestrians to clear the bridges, and perhaps you'll wait while more than one boat gather at the bridge to go through simultaneously. That is .. except during rush-hour traffic when they either open on a set schedule (twice an hour) or not at all. We knew that the bridges in downtown Fort Lauderdale did not open at all between 7:30 and 9:00 A.M. or 4:30 and 6:00 P.M. to provide for heavy commuter traffic on the bridges. We planned on arriving a those bridges after 6:00 P.M. so we wouldn't be delayed. What did delay us were the other bridges along the way that switched into their afternoon 'twice-an-hour' mode.

Now, let's say one bridge opens on the hour and on the half-hour so we arrive about 10 minutes early and have to just wait around. OK, I'm good with that one. The issue is that the next bridge up the ICW opens at 15 and 45 minnutes past the hour, and try as we night we can't quite make it there in time from the previous bridge so we get stuck waiting 25 minutes at each of 3 or 4 bridges along the way, just not quite quick enough to get to the next bridge in time.

Actually that only happened twice, but it still slowed our overall progress by quite a few minutes although we did get to practice figure '8's and visit with bridgemasters by radio.

Since we had started off about an hour and a half later than we'd planned it looked like the additional delays might cause us to end up finding our new docki n the dark, and that was not an appetizing proposition for our first sail. All in all we did fine though, and the longer days of late spring alloowed us daylight all the way.

Along our trip we saw multi-million dollar homes and yachts, high-rise apartment complexes, all kinds of birds and boats and people sitting at waterside restaurants that were more than happy to send us a wave. We saw the drawbridges open for us, followed another sailboat for a while and went through a drawbridge at the same time as a huge tugboat pulling hundreds of feet of floating lipeline along behind him came through the other way. We saw a few clouds and lots of sun, a few breezes but lots of calm, warm air. We saw monstrous cargo vessels and the huge cranes that load them working away as we passed by. It was hot out and we appreciated the breezes when we could get them. We both slathered on the sunscreen and kept our wide-brimmed hats on to prevent a burn and we tried to keep hydrated in afternoon sun on what was turning out to be the hottest day of the year so far.

We followed our markers, kept a keen eye on the charts and handheld GPS and along the way added the additional fuel we'd brought with us. Then, 5 hours and 20 minutes later we pulled in to our slip (dock #6) at our new marina. The engine cooled down beneath us as Robin and I toasted or first trip aboard our first sailboat.

Gagues or not, diesel smell or not, this is our boat now; our project and our practice platform to learn how to pilot and maintain a salt-water sailing vessel and we will try to keep that in mind as me move forward from here. There is alot to think about and there will be a lot to do. We bought her 'as-is' and we're happy with that decision. I'll start a project list in the morning :)

and so it begins ...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Run, don't Walk.

5/10/2009 ...
I wanted to reflect on how, in the effort to slow life down a little, it has accelerated as our search for a 'routine' continues.
We moved to the new RV Park some weeks ago and for the most part it has worked out quite well. We've enjoyed watching the boats, including many very large and expensive yachts, motoring up and down the canals and the river within our view. The famous "Jungle Queen" tour boat makes it's U-Turn right at the end of our dock thrice a day and we get a kick out of people watching and knowing what's happening on the tour ("Hello Mr. Johnson!"). The campsite itself is nice, albeit not too level and prone to collecting large puddles of water right around where we have to park the car. The staff has been very cordialand we've only run onto one sticking point ... one that will cause us to need to move. That'd be money ...
We've decided that we would like to stay 'north' for the summer season. Primarily it is for the hurricane possibility. Fort Lauderdale, inland that is, enjoys a reputation as a 'hurricane hole' for boaters who come up the New River. We've looked at several docks and settled in on a couple of possibilities. The very best of our world would be to stay camped at our current location (Yacht Haven Marina and RV Park) and put the boat right out our back window but it seems we are unable to come to an agreement with the park staff on how that might work. Our RV is parked right along side an empty dock, but apparently that dock is only for 'large' yachts and at 28 feet our boat would be put over at "G" dock. We would enjoy a special discounted rate for dockage as we are residents and it all sounds good; except that the water at "G" dock is only 4 feet deep at high tide and we need 4 feet 8 inches or we'll be touching the dirt. So, we asked if there was any way we could bring the boat to the 'big-boys' docks and even though it is the slow season, and even thought there are only a handful of RVs parked here, they don't want us to bring the boat over, and if we could we would have to pay the premium rate per-foot with a minimum of 30 feet charged. Sigh ...
We approached the subject on three occasions and cannot reach an agreement so we will be moving on... The boat will go to a city Marina on the New River and we will move to a much newer and better equipped RV park for a little less money. It'll all work out for the best, and the access to I-95 is even better than it is here so our commute time to work will be knocked off a bit. Still... I liked the idea that we might look at our boat from the RV's window, but it was not to be. Maybe we will try again in a couple of months and see if they are any hungrier for business.

We've been waiting for a funds transfer so that we can actually pay for the sailboat, and it appears to have been just the breather we needed to get our ducks in order to receive her. We needed to talk about finding a good dock space and that meant calling and visiting several places all over the area. We needed to line up insurance and figure out what we need to dock and protect the boat through the summer months. Oh, and we need to do some study on the waterways as well.
Everything appears to be in order and we will pick her up and sail her to the new dock on Monday the 11th. We've done some shopping and have fresh charts and will be packing a picnic lunch. Should be fun!

On a personal note I've been through a few 'tests' lately and all is well. It's not been fun but well worth the peace of mind to find out that the blood is still red and the systems still work like they were designed. We will now happily wait until the time to do it all again rolls around. Oh the joys of aging gracefully :)

Yahoo! Things are spinning by rather quickly, but we're on a good tack.