Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Putting a round compass in a square hole

Round to Square Ritchie Compass Adapter

Last season I could still read my compass enough to set a bearing. This year, it wasn't floating or readable. I guess 28 years is a long time to expect a compass to keep working when it's been sitting in the sun and rain the entire time.

As I started looking for a replacement, I found out that Ritchie hadn't even made a square base compass since 1988. Unfortunately, my binnacle had a big square hole in it. A little plywood solved that issue.

The new compass is a smaller, cheaper model, but much more readable. Hopefully it will last at least another 25 years.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Working on the little things

It was a great weekend on the sailboat. We left for Redfish Island Saturday morning. There wasn't much wind. We were slowly bobbing along at 1.5 - 2 knots, but the weather was so great that nobody cared. After a couple hours, we gave up on the wind and motored the rest of the way across the bay. My little Phasor Kubota ran perfectly.

The anchorage at Redfish was full of the usual suspects. We saw lots of bikinis on deck as everyone was trying to soak up the first warm, sunny weekend of the year, but my eyesight wasn't good enough to tell if they were good bikinis or bad bikinis. We had a cigarette boat cruise by asking to borrow some pliers with three ladies aboard who definitely fell into the bad bikini category.

There was a little wind by the time we started back toward Kemah. In fact, we didn't even have to start the motor. My friend Matt pulled out the whisker pole and had us running downwind wing on wing most of the way home.

Wing on wing

Saturday night was a feast of steaks grilled on the Tina Marie as everyone celebrated a great day on the bay and the return of the sun.

Sunday started early with breakfast in the galley.

The only thing I ever cook on the boat

The pancakes were good, but I'm giving up on the percolated coffee. I finally found a replacement perk knob to fit my pot, but it leaked everywhere once the coffee started percolating. Plus, the alcohol burner takes forever to boil water. I've decided I'm just getting a small electric coffee maker and living without coffee when we don't have shore power.


I had planned to work all day Saturday, but the weather was just too nice. We took another trip to Redfish aboard the Tina Marie.

Enjoying the bay

But when we got back, I got down to business. Now that all my systems on the Starwind are working, I've been focusing on the smaller details.

I added rain louvers to the Beckson opening ports in the head. My ports aren't self draining, so I have a terrible time with the windowsills holding water, then when I open the ports, it dumps inside. The louvers replace the screens on the inside of the opening ports, and I went ahead and siliconed them into place. This should hopefully solve my water-dumping problem and allow me to leave them open for some ventilation during the week.

Beckson rain louvre

I also got the mirrored acrylic pieces I'd cut last week installed into the medicine cabinet. For the first time since I bought the boat almost three years ago, the cabinet has doors. It's also the first time we've had a mirror on the boat. The downside is that I can no longer ignore how crazy my hair gets after sailing.

Mirrored acrylic

I then pulled apart and masked off the galley to repaint the countertop. Rustoleum makes a anti-microbial, water resistant countertop paint. It was only $20 for the can, so I figured I'd try it out. Nothing could possibly make my ragged, cream-colored counter covered in rust rings look any worse. I chose the color "storm," which was sort of a dark gray. The paint was nice to work with and rolled on very easily. The only downside is that it takes a full three days to dry. I can't wait to see how it looks next weekend when I get all the tape up and put everything back together.

This week I should have new light fixtures showing up, and I've already picked up a new Ritchie compass for the binnacle. Once I get the fixed ports replaced and my bottom painted, the Starwind should be looking like a pretty respectable little vessel.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Cutting acrylic

Now that all the functional systems on the boat seem to be working well, I'm finally moving on to the jobs that I've put off for the past couple of years. One of the big ones is cutting new acrylic for the fixed port lights. However, before I invested in some very large sheets of acrylic, I decided to start small and ordered a cheap 12" x 12" sheet of mirrored acrylic to make new sliding doors for the medicine cabinet.

I was very wary of working with plexiglass because everyone on the internet was talking about how it had a tendency to crack or shatter. Thankfully I didn't find that to be the case. Since I was working with 1/8" acrylic, I used a straight edge to score it, then easily snapped it. No problems at all. I then took the leftover pieces and practiced drilling it. No problems there either. Yes, you have to clean up your edges with some fine grit sandpaper, but it was actually much easier to work with than I expected.

Small victory, but it makes me feel better after the Seagull debacle last weekend.

I'm now more confident I can refit all my ports for only $100 instead of spending $600 for new kits from Beckson.

Current project for this weekend include adding louvres to the opening ports to keep the rain out and painting the old rust-stained counter in the galley.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

First sail of 2012

I've been neglecting the photography the past few weeks to get the boat back in working order. I was shooting for work, but it was super boring photos of meetings, so my apologies for the utter lack of beauty.

Three weeks ago the diver got the new propeller on the Starwind, but due to the definitive end of the drought in Houston and non-stop rain the past two weekends, it wasn't until this weekend that we got a chance to try it out. In meantime, I got a few repairs finished.

There was boring stuff like replacing a stripped header bolt in the heat exchanger and putting on a new radiator cap. Then there was more exciting stuff like installing the depth sounder I got for my birthday and finally having a control panel with all matching gauges and all WORKING gauges. Yes, it took two years, but all the gauges finally work.

Working gauges

The fuel gauge had been the hold-out. It refused to show anything but full or empty depending on how hard it was jiggled. I finally pulled the new sending unit back out of the fuel tank and tested it. It had been bad straight out of the box. I bought another one and immediately the fuel gauge worked. Remarkably, West Marine still let me return the dead sender despite the fact that I had already cut it and that it was soaked in diesel. Props to them.

My VHF radio had gone mysteriously quiet back around Thanksgiving. I got around to checking that as well. It seemed people down the dock could hear me transmitting, but I couldn't hear anything or anyone. Since my antenna was ok, and my speaker was ok, all that was left was a bad receiver circuit. The radio, which was bought in June of 2011, also went back to West Marine. It comes with a 36-month warranty, but they weren't as happy to replace it. Apparently the procedure is to send them off somewhere for testing and repair, but since I spend a ridiculous amount of money in there every weekend, they decided to replace it in store with the new model as long as I bought the $13 platinum protection warranty on the new one, which gives you the bonus of having it replaced in store no questions asked. Fair enough. As soon as I plugged in the new radio, it crackled back to life with chatter.

I figured it was also time to freshen up the undated fire extinguishers that came with the boat. I had serious doubts as to what might come out of them if one pulled the pin and squeezed the trigger. I like to give my passengers a real cruise line experience, which means at least one engine fire and power outtage per trip, so I figured better safe than sorry on the extinguishers.

Sadly, there was one thing I couldn't fix. The antique British Seagull Century Longshaft outboard that I had wanted to put on the back of the boat as backup has passed away. I spent several hours with it Thursday on this high-tech outboard stand I crafted in my garage.

High-tech motor stand

I got the top-end working great, but after trucking it down to Kemah and putting on the boat, I finally kicked it into gear only to hear the most god-awful squealing sound you can imagine. It was sort of like nails on a chalkboard mixed with crying babies and a dying rabbit. It was not good. It also started oozing gear oil out of all its crevices as it screamed in pain, so I quickly shut it off and pulled it up onto the boat to stop any kind of environmental disaster. Unfortunately, that caused the carburetor to dump fuel oil all over my cockpit, which immediately stained the white deck black. My boat is now permanent cow pattern. I might as well mount some horns on the bow.

I gifted the Seagull to a friend, who took it apart this week to discover the bottom end was so messed up that it wasn't even worth fixing. Goodbye, Seagull. Thanks for staining my deck, wasting most of my Thursday and causing a nauseating gas-fumed ride to Kemah on Friday.

Despite the fact that the weather was still bad Sunday morning, we decided to make a quick run out to get the sails up once before the thunderstorms rolled back in. The boat felt very fast with the new prop and clean hull -- fast for a sailboat, anyway. The motor ran strong and cool. We pulled 4.5 knots with just the mainsail. Nothing broke. It was a good morning.

First sail of 2012

Since we'd stayed two nights at the marina, we had to bring the dogs. They usually enjoy the boat because there's no backyard to stick them in when they're bad. However, they seemed to have mixed feeling about being aboard as soon as we hit the big waves just past the boardwalk. Both of them crumpled into the floor of the cockpit and didn't move again until we were back in Clear Lake. As soon as we docked, Dixie Belle jumped onto the dock and refused to get back on the boat for the next hour.


Also, at some point Saturday night after a couple pints of Guiness, someone might have painted little Tex green with food coloring. Sunday morning he looked as moldy as anything else on the boat.