Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A little film goes a long way

It had been a year since I'd taken the Leica M3 out to Redfish Island, so I loaded it with Kodak Portra 160 and packed it in the boat. I was so excited about shooting film this time last year, but I haven't really kept up with it.

The pros: I love the challenge of shooting without a meter, and I really enjoy the anticipation of waiting to see what I've captured.


The cons: I hate having to finish an entire roll, in this case 36 exposures, before I can develop it. I think I took about 10 actual shots, the rest of the day I was just burning film. Since I don't use film for work, it could be months before I'd take a full 36 shots.

Dirty pirates

I was very happy that I'm getting to where I can judge the light without a meter. Some of the shots were just a bit underexposed due to the fact that I had the lens wide open at f2 and the fastest shutter speed on the M3 is 1/1000. I knew that would happen, but nothing was unusable.

Dropping anchor

While it's been fun, I'm really thinking I might put the M3 and Summicron DR back on eBay to fund the purchase of an X-Pro1 or an NEX-7.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend 2012

Maybe it was a cliche move, maybe it's now tradition, but we this Memorial Day weekend we did the exact same thing we did last year. We sailed to Redfish Island, had a picnic and then sailed home.

Memorial Day weekend

The only difference was that this year there was much less anxiety over whether or not the Seahorse would get us home. We also thought hard about spending the night on the hook, but I still hadn't fixed the anchor light and we had the dogs with us.

Anchored at Redfish Island

The dogs did very well on the boat. They spent most of the time sleeping on the cockpit floor. However, they won't pee on the boat, and we don't have a dinghy to take them ashore at Redfish. The alternative would have been swimming them to shore for bathroom breaks, which didn't sound too appealing to me. We decided to sail home into the sunset (because that's what legendary people do, they sail into sunsets) and spend our first night on the hook another time.

Shark bait

Hoisting sails and pulling up anchors wore me out, so Sunday we slept late and lounged around the pool all day. Our friends hosted a shrimp boil - there was lots of food and beer for everyone.

Monday it was back to work. I was up the mast before it got hot and managed to change the steaming light and install the windex, but the screw on the anchor light had rusted beyond removal. I have to go back up next weekend with a dremel tool to finish the job.

Changing the anchor light

Climbing the mast is exhausting. I reach around the mast and use the main halyard to pull myself up, then squeeze the mast with my legs while I take a new grip on the halyard and go for another pull. By the time I get to the top, my arms are shaking. Makes me think it might be worth the cost of installing folding steps on the mast or an electric windlass to haul me up. So many opportunities to sink money into a boat.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My boat loves to surprise me

After being away from the marina for two weeks, I was excited to spend a little time on the boat this weekend. I guess the Seahorse really missed me because she had several surprises for us.

Surprise #1


It was a mullet!

You have no idea how excited we were to find a sun-dried, rotting mullet in the cockpit. The birds had pecked it apart, and there was quite the assortment of scales, organs and worms clogging up the cockpit drains. If you like the smell of catfish stink bait, you'll love the aroma of sun-roasted mullet guts.

Surprise #2

Upon entering the boat, there was no power -- no lights, no bilge pump -- no DC power whatsoever.

I began investigating and found that the wires to the battery charger had been spliced to pre-existing wires instead of run directly to the breaker. The butt connectors, which were probably only rated for 12 volts in the first place, had turned an odd color green and somehow corroded through the shrink wrap insulators. I cut off the wires, dug out some connector rings, and ran the charger wires to the correct breaker on the fuse panel. Actually I shocked myself, went and turned off the shore power, then came back and ran the charger to the correct breaker on the fuse panel.

Thankfully the lights on the charger lit back up and within a few minutes we had power again.

Surprise #3

The head and v-berth were full of water. The fluorescent light fixture over the sink in the head was full of water. Had I thought to turn the power back off before unscrewing it to drain the water, I might have saved it, but I heard sizzling the second I tilted it to dump the water and knew it was done.

All I can figure is that the rain must have been coming down sideways and leaked in the opening port despite my addition of rain louvers to try and stop that issue. We mopped up the mess and set the v-berth cushions in the cockpit with the mullet to dry.

Despite all the cleaning and emergency repairs, I still managed to get the new spacer on the alternator, which made the Kubota much happier. The drive belt no longer rubs on the freshwater hose or the oil filter flange. At this point I am very confident in the motor. Sure, it took two years to get it sorted, but now it's running great.

Unfortunately, I don't have as much confidence in the stuffing box. It wasn't dripping at all when we left for vacation, but I got paranoid it was heating up too much when I was testing it yesterday, so I loosened it a little, and now it's dripping just as bad as it was when I started. Of course, we were only able to get one wrap of stuffing in it, so maybe now that it has packed down a bit I need to add a second wrap.

The good news is, barring any more surprises, we're ready to sail Memorial Day weekend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I finally tried out my spinnaker

Maybe it wasn't actually on the boat, but I did pull it out of the bag for a photoshoot.


Mary was showing off her new bikini body, and the blue and white chute made the perfect nautical-themed backdrop.


I've relied heavily on the Voigtlander 50mm f1.1 and the Voigtlander 28mm f2 on the M8 for portrait work, but while I was in Florida last week the Nikon 35mm f1.8 showed up. I bought it mainly for video work, but I think I may start using the D7000 for more portraits.

As for the spinnaker, Netflix is sending me "Basic Spinnaker Sailing" on DVD, so maybe I'll be using it on the boat before too long.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

This explains so much ...

After posting a photo of my rubbing alternator belt and the broken alternator bolt on the Beta Marine forum, someone pointed out that I was missing a spacer at the bottom of my alternator. A few calls at lunch to the Beta Marine distributor at lunch verified that it was a standard Kubota part. A quick call to the Kubota dealer verified that they had four in stock.

The stupid spacer!

This stupid spacer has been the cause of all my headaches. In fact, I think I remember seeing one of these rolling around the garage at some point, but I didn't know what it was or where it went, so I think I threw it in with all the bolts and pieces I crated up with the old Kubota block I sold.

Hopefully this is a $5 miracle fix. Unfortunately we have to wait until after the trip to Florida to find out.

No free rides

After several weekends of winds topping 30 knots, the desire to sail overcame my worry regarding the small craft advisories on the bay. Saturday afternoon we climbed aboard the Seahorse and headed out on a three hour tour.

It was the first time we'd had the boat out since the bottom job, and the very first thing I noticed is that if I throttle the engine up to 3000 rpm, which had previously been the sweet spot, the boat squats backward and buries half the transom underwater. This initially had me worried, but the Kubota seems to run fine with the exhaust underwater, and as soon as I throttle down to about 2200 rpm the stern raises back up. The smooth bottom, the extra horsepower from the Kubota, and the new propeller have the Starwind attempting to break hull speed, which sends her nose up onto a bow wave and makes the rear squat. I imagine about six months of barnacle and oyster growth will settle her down a bit. Either that or I just need to put a 200 pound anchor on the bow.

It was windy in the marina, but once we hit the bay, it was REALLY windy. We watched numerous boats motor past the boardwalk, hit the chop, then turn around and head back for the lake. However, we slowly made our way out past the second marker and turned into the wind.

It was decided that we'd run up the storm jib and then see whether or not we needed the main. We did not. We weren't heeled too far over, and we were bouncing along at a steady 5.5 knots and surging up to 6 knots and above during the gusts. It was a fun run. Unfortunately, tacking didn't go so well. With just the head sail up, the wind would pull the nose too far around. I don't think we ever ended up on the course I had intended. Then again, we had no actual destination, so it didn't matter too much.

I'd say the afternoon of sailing was a success. Nothing broke. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

BUT, there are no free rides.

I opened the engine compartment and did an inspection Sunday afternoon just to make sure everything was ok. The first thing I noticed was that the alternator was missing a bolt.

Belt rubbing issues

This is the second time the engine vibrations have caused the bottom alternator bolt to shear in half. I think the problem lies in the fact that the bolt hole in the alternator is larger than the bolt hole in the engine. I guess I'm either going to have to find a bushing for the alternator or drill out the engine. Either way, I've got to do something to stop the worry that I might suddenly lose my belt along with my cooling system, etc.

Then I went to take a look at the stuffing box and found two of the four bolts that hold my propshaft to the transmission had vibrated loose and fallen out into the bilge. The bolts and lock washer were right there, but the nuts had disappeared into the abyss.

The stuffing box itself was dripping at a constant rate of once per second. That's not enough to sink a boat with a working bilge pump, but I had no idea when it was last serviced, so I figured it was better to be safe than sorry.

Stuffing box

I made a run to West Marine for new nuts and teflon packing. Only upon my return did I realize I didn't own any wrenches large enough to fit around the stuffing box. After that it was off to Home Depot for some very large pipe wrenches.

Approximately an hour later and with the assistance of a marina neighbor who actually knew which way the stuffing box was supposed to turn, I had the old stuffing out, and the new stuffing in. The drip had been eradicated.

All in all, it wasn't THAT expensive of a weekend. The stuffing, nuts and wrenches were only about $40. However, I am guilty of ignoring the broken Y-valve in the waste system.

Mylar Y-valve

When you flush the toilet, this Y-valve either directs the waste overboard or into the holding tank. Well, it was stuck in the overboard position. After some fierce coercion in an attempt to open the holding tank, it now has no handle. And the price for this simple valve? $70.

Since we're leaving on vacation, and I really wanted to make it a weekend without spending $100 at West Marine, the Y-valve got put on the future to-do list.