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.
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