Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rigging step 1: Get some rope

300ft of 5/16" yacht braid

I've been on the watch for a deal on some 5/16" line to rig my spinnaker for almost a year now. Last week I ran across eBay seller columbiabasinknot. (You can see their ebay store here:  http://stores.ebay.com/Columbia-Basin-Knot-Company-LLC

They had 100 ft hanks of 5/16" yacht braid, 2,200 lb breaking strength, for $24.99 shipped. That is a ridiculous price. The cheapest comparable yacht braid at West Marine is $0.63 per foot.

I couldn't resist the deal and ordered 200 ft on Friday, then ordered another 100 ft just in case. I had my fingers crossed it wouldn't be crap. It showed up last night, and it seems to be really decent line. It feels tougher than the last line I bought from eBay at almost twice the price.

The only downside is that the only color options were white or brown. They did have 1/2" line with colored tracers, but that was a bit heavy for the size of my boat.

We'll see how this line holds up in the sun. If it does well, I'll definitely be ordering more.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sailing with Otto

I spent most of the weekend dealing with the house. The two weeks of non-stop rain had left my yard knee high, which made mowing it an excessively slow process. I had to haul a bunch of furniture around. The thousands of ants that I poisoned in the yard all decided to make one last pilgrimage up through the plumbing and into my shower to die.

By Saturday evening I was exhausted, but I'm sure my neighbors and my homeowners association are much happier with me. Sunday started slow, and I was really planning to just rest and do a little more cleaning, but I couldn't resist the call of the Seahorse.

Her autopilot had arrived two weeks ago, and I still hadn't gotten a chance to install it, so Saturday afternoon I headed to Kemah.

The Simrad WP32 was actually very easy to install on the pedestal. It took about 20 minutes. However, I could not decide exactly where or how to install the wiring.

Simrad WP32 Wheelpilot

Do I want to put a 12v plug on it and just have it plug in when I want it on? Do I drill a hole in the binnacle and run the wiring to the fuse panel? Do I bother installing the Simrad instrument interface box when I don't have any compatible instruments? Do I want a switch in the cockpit to turn it on and off? If so, where? So many options!

Since the unit was used, and I wanted to verify it worked before I made any of these decisions. I jumpered it to the power on the back of the ignition switch with a couple alligator clips and took it for a spin.

Otto held course like a champ, but seemed very loud. I think I'm going to open him up next weekend just to make sure the belt is ok and that nothing is binding inside.

Another project for next weekend is the addition of self-tailing winches in the cockpit. Aren't these guys beautiful?


These winches are one of the very few "new" parts I've ever purchased for the boat. I'm still arguing with myself over the cost, but hopefully they'll be worth it. I've got to coerce a friend into helping me install them this weekend since I think someone will have to hold the bolts from the top while I squeeze into the far recesses of the boat to tighten the nuts.

A rope seller on eBay was also having a huge sale on yacht braid last week, so I ordered 300 ft of 5/16" line for about $75 to rig my spinnaker. That's an unheard of price for yacht braid, so I'm crossing my fingers that the rope isn't complete crap.

Setting the spinnaker was on my list of 2011 New Years Resolutions, and it never happened. Hopefully this year it will.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A tiny victory with the whisker pole repair

Both my whisker pole and my spinnaker pole did nothing but sit on the deck of the Seahorse for more than two years before I needed them. Who knows how many years they were sitting on the deck before that.

It wasn't until this spring when we running downwind on the way back from Redfish Island that one of my friends grabbed the whisker pole and attempted to use it. That's when we discovered that the jaws were locked shut, and the little black buttons that pop out to set the length were permanently popped in.

In other words, the whisker pole was a long, useless aluminum tube cluttering up my deck.

My friend lashed the whisker pole to the lifelines and used the spinnaker pole instead -- but not until using quite a bit of WD-40 and a hammer on the jaws to get them open.

Wing on wing

It's been months since that trip, and the whisker pole stayed lashed to the lifelines until last weekend when I decided I better do something with it.

It didn't take much to get the jaws working again, but daily soaking with copious amounts of PB Blaster did not phase the black buttons. I poked them. I pried them. I hammered them. I jiggled them. I poked them again. They didn't budge.

I finally drilled out the rivets holding the two pieces of the pole together and slid them apart. Below you can see the black buttons, one taller than the other, but neither tall enough to even make contact with the outer pole, much less stick through their intended holes.

Whisker pole repair

More PB Blaster and a large flathead finally worked them loose, but it took many repetitions of pressing them in and then prying them back out before they were moving freely.

However, they're now popping in and out as intended. I just have to rivet the cap back on, and the whisker pole is ready for service.

Whisker pole repair

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Anybody seen this bracket?

Sometimes working on the boat makes me feel a bit like a forensic scientist or an archaeologist. I try to decipher what's there and then dig through boxes and boxes of old parts that may or may not have ever been on the boat the start with, trying to find a match.

Mystery bracket

I know the boom had a bracket on it where the boom vang is supposed to attach. I know it was flat and had three holes on each side. I just don't know where to find it. I've been digging through boxes in my garage and spare bedroom for days hoping to come across it. Meanwhile, I found a somewhat similar bracket on rigrite.com but it still doesn't look like quite the same footprint.

Worst case scenario, I drill a new hole in the boom and stick a boom bail on it. I would just rather not buy new hardware if I can avoid it.

Meanwhile the cockpit table is creeping along at a snail's pace.

First coat of varnish finished

I finally have the first coat of varnish on it. Only seven more coats to go. Since I can only do one coat every 24 hours, and I have to put a coat on each side, that's 14 more days of varnishing. Slowest project EVER.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Enough with the urine already!

When I opened up the boat Friday afternoon, I really hoped that the vent I'd installed a couple weeks ago would be making a difference in regard to the moldy smell.

I had big plans for the weekend. The Simrad WP32 Wheel Pilot had arrived, and I had hoped to get it installed.

New Simrad Wheel Pilot

(As you can see, Dixie Belle was also very excited although somewhat skeptical about letting a robot steer the boat. I blame her distrust of robots on the Roomba.)

Unfortunately, the moldy smell was still there -- along with the unmistakable stench of urine.

It was back. I've already gone through this twice this year trying to track down whatever was leaking in my holding tank system. I had double clamped everything. Why, oh why, was I having to pump urine out of the bilge again?

Dry rot. It turns out it wasn't the holding tank or the pump-out hose connections leaking at all. It was the hose right off the toilet. When people weren't pumping it dry, the waste was sitting and slowly seeping out of that hose.

I spent another six hours of my life cleaning, bleaching, pulling and replacing hoses, and cleaning again. I think the smell is gone. I think the waste system is now sealed and working again. I pumped some seawater through it, and nothing leaked while I was there, but I was too exhausted with the entire thing to actually use it and risk more urine next weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Rowing in the rain

It's flooding down in Texas. I think the telephone lines are still working, though.

The daily monsoons have been hitting for the past week and a half, and we've still got 30% chance of rain every day this week. If it was just rain it wouldn't be so bad, but I was pretty sure I was going to be struck by lightning trying to get from the bathhouse to the boat in the marina this weekend. We all joked about it over beers later once things cleared off, but two guy were actually killed by lightning at a soccer game downtown this weekend. Scary stuff when you think about sitting out on the water with a giant pole sticking up in the air.

Since the rain has kept me indoors I've been working off projects. I was digging through the boat stairs last weekend looking for extra dock lines when I came across a boom vang. I was certain I'd seen a vang somewhere in my piles of boat junk, I just didn't know it was a vang at the time. Then when I realized what it was, I couldn't find it again. Well, it is now found, and I spent about an hour scrubbing rust off of the blocks and freeing up the sheaves.

Boom vang

I was going to hook it up this weekend, but while the fitting on the mast is there, I can't find the fitting for the boom. It had a metal plate with three screws on each side, but West Marine only had the U-shaped single bolt boom bails. I'm going to keep digging through boxes and see if the old boom attachment and swage ball will present itself before I resort to drilling a new hole and just sticking a boom bail on there.

My cockpit table project is also slowly progressing. I finished cutting and drilling the binnacle mounting brackets, did much more sanding, and I started staining. I used the Mahogany stain that I had leftover from the inside of the boat. What I did not realize is that the very blonde poplar would turn extremely dark. The Red Oak is now the lighter colored wood while the poplar strips are dark. This is the opposite of what I had envisioned, and while it doesn't look bad, it definitely doesn't look like teak and holly. I'm trying to decide if I'm ok with it or if I want to sand it off and start over. Being inherently lazy, I'm probably ok with it, but if I decide to do my cabin sole I'm definitely not using the dark stain.

Butcher block cockpit table with stain

Meanwhile I'm anxiously waiting the arrival of a Simrad WP42 wheelpilot and a pair of very old but very good shape Lewmar 30 self tailing winches. I get the feeling there may be quite a bit of single-handing in my future, so I might as well make the sailing as easy as possible.

I've decided the Aries Wind Vane is just too much for my little boat, so it's headed to eBay this week.

In other marina news, my friend Ray bought his first dinghy, and he went all out with a brand new one from West Marine. You know you're excited when you don't mind standing there in a downpour, assembling and pumping up your new dinghy, then paddling it across the marina in the rain.

Rowing in the rain

I was very happy to assist by supervising from underneath my umbrella.

Once it stopped raining we carted the outboard down to his boat and mounted it. It was my first time to use a modern 4-cycle outboard. I'm used to very old, very loud 2-cycle motors. This new Mercury 20 hp was so beautifully quiet! I was amazed. And let me tell you, we could only run it at 1/4 throttle because of the break-in process, but even at 1/4 throttle it was still planing the dinghy with four of us joyriding. I was very impressed. I think I may even have dinghy envy.

Brand new dinghy

As the inflatable raft that came with my boat pretty much sank back on July 4th, a dinghy is on my wishlist, but I'm going to have to go with something much smaller and lighter -- and definitely cheaper.

Hopefully I'll be on the water this weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Butcher block takes a lot of sanding

I've been thinking about replacing the floor of the boat with teak and holly. However, since teak and holly is so expensive I began wondering if I could somewhat replicate the look using other hardwoods. The most readily available hard woods at the local hardware stores seem to be red oak and poplin. I decided to grab a couple sheets of each and see what kind of results I could get putting together a cockpit table.

Butcher block cockpit table

One problem I ran into was that unless I remove all the safety mechanisms from my table saw, I can't rip anything smaller than 1". Since the holly stripe in teak and holly floors is usually only 1/4" wide, I don't think I can get quite the same look.

Bonding the wood was easy enough. Once I had the pieces ripped and cut to length, I used wood glue and clamps to put them together. I did my best to keep all the boards lined up, but it took over an hour of sanding with a random orbital sander and 60 grit paper to get this relatively small section smooth and free of all glue residue. I still need to fine sand it before I start finishing.

If this was going to be a cutting board or counter top I'd either use walnut oil, mineral oil, or a non-toxic salad bowl finish to protect it. However, this will be out in the elements 24/7/365, and needs some serious UV protection. I'll probably give it a light stain, and then seven or eight coats of either West Marine Five Star Premium Varnish or Rust-oleum Marine Coating Spar Varnish.

I haven't tried either one of those varnishes yet, but I did use Minwax Helmsman Spar Urethane on the boat before. The interior still looks great, but it blistered and disintegrated off the exterior brightwork in less than six months. Very disappointing.

Now I just have to figure out what hardware to use to make the table flip up and down.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Independence Day

Having the 4th of July falling on a Wednesday combined with our 9/80 office schedule brought me a full 5 days off in return for one vacation day. It was quite nice, and it all started with boat bargains.

I followed up a craigslist ad and came across this and this.

Aries self steering wind vane

Shipmate propane stove

The top photo is an Aries Self-Steering Wind Vane. Below that is a Shipmate propane oven.

I got absolutely great deals on both, but in retrospect, perhaps my eyes got too big for my boat. After measuring my galley, I would have to completely replace the current counter tops and cut out some fiberglass to make the oven fit. That would also sacrifice all of the storage in the galley -- not to mention the fact that it's way too hot to be heating up a boat with an oven in Houston until probably around October.

As for the Aries Wind Vane, it's in beautiful shape, but it weighs about 50 pounds. Having another 50 pounds hanging off my transom when it's already squatting so far into the water under power is probably not smart. I'm also going to lose my swim ladder and easy access on and off the boat -- not to mention the fact that it would cover up my beautiful Seahorse.


Of course, I don't have to make a decision now. The wind vane is missing the servo rudder, and the oven needs a new thermostat. It might be a while before either one is operating and ready to go in the boat.

I started working on the oven, but after opening the thermostat housing, I'm completely stumped at how it goes back together.

Shipmate Robert Shaw switch back thermostat

That spring, that lever, and that stopper exploded out of it when I broke the seal, and I can't seem to find a diagram anywhere online regarding how they fit together. I'm going to have to start tracking down old appliance repair guys.

I did get a little bit of work done on the boat. I finally installed the vent.

Step 1
New vent: step 1

Step 2
New vent: step 2

Step 3
New vent: step 3

I'll let you know if she smells any less moldy when I open her up next weekend.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Added another switch to the panel

It rained most of the weekend. It was a nice break from the heat, but the thunderstorms weren't conducive to sailing. However, I did get a waterproof toggle switch wired into the control panel for the depth finder. We can now keep it on while sailing or flip it on in the middle of the night to check the depth without waking up everyone in the entire anchorage with buzzers and alarms.

West Marine charged me $25 for that "water resistant" toggle switch. Considering a normal toggle switch is about 50 cents at Radio Shack, this one better last forever. I also hope that's the last switch or gauge I need to add because I'm out of space.

Our neighbor's motor boat, the Tina Marie, was back from the hard after getting her bottom painted and the starboard transmission rebuilt. We hitched a ride between storms Saturday afternoon to see how she ran, but she lost cooling on the starboard engine about the time another storm hit, so we slowly  limped back to the marina in the rain. It was an adventure.

Hopefully we'll be anchored out for fireworks Wednesday night.