Friday, July 22, 2016

Sailboat woes; Keeping the Critters out of the AC System. Corrosion and other fun stuff!

I'm sitting here doing what I do, working on a sailboat. Writing Code, Debugging data, and the Air conditioner shuts down. Now this is the end of July, South Florida in the Keys and it is HOT! Damn HOT! I immediately look up the code on the Unit and it says it overheated due to low freshwater volume. Damn It! I was going to clean that freshwater filter someday. Well, in this heat, probably once a week wouldn't hurt, it has been a month. Not a good thing.

When I open up up the strainer, it is full of creatures. Man, I wish I had the forethought to take a picture. Barnacles, shells, muscles worms, you name it, it was a party of the slimiest kind. The strainer is a simple device, it sits between the freshwater pump and the through hull valve where fresh sea water comes into the pump. 
Seawater Strainer (New and clean)

To clean the strainer, you shut off the pump, close the through hull seacock or valve in layman's terms (if you don't, you flood the boat because this is all under waterline) then you unscrew the container off the bottom and remove the screen. It is all full of nasties so be careful not to cut yourself, I use a knife to scrape out the barnacles and muscles. Cuts from these take forever to heal and can get infected. 

When everything is clean and put back together, you open the seacock to allow water in, start the AC pump and then open a small bleeder valve to assist the pump in priming. This is where it all went wrong today. 

As I opened the bleeder valve, it snapped off. SHIT! I knew it was in bad shape from the last time I cleaned. It was leaking ever so slightly and was corroded. I was going to order a new one... someday! damned procrastination, it turns daily routine into emergencies. Well, now I have to tear the damn thing apart and head on down to West Marine. 
The header with the broken valve. The header splits the water between the fore and aft Air Conditioner units. 

The Pump (upper left) and Strainer (bottom left).

So as what seems more usual than not, West Marine says they don't have the part. This is the story of my life, It is MacGyver time. I buy a brass Tee, a couple brass nipples, a brass ball valve and at $50, I think I can make this work. The original valve if you can see, was just a tee valve with a 1/4" nipple and a small line running to the bilge. I now have a gigantic valve with 1/2 opening and if this somehow accidentally gets opened, the boat will fill and sink. I tink I need to place a 1/2 inch plug in that opening. Just in case. I did remove the handle so it can't get bumped open. 

Here is the final product!

Now that it is all put back together, I open the Seacock, Start the pump, crack open the valve and immediately the pump primes and I am golden. The Marine Air Conditioner comes online and maybe in an hour the inside temperature will drop back in the 70's from the mid 90's it is at right now. 

Chock up another sea adventure to the MacGyver mind. 

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Lost at sea, fighting the Kraken, Brandishing my Saber with the Caribbean Pirates!

OK, none of the above, but I have been awful lazy when it comes to writing. Soooooo...... How long has it been? Seems last time I posted, I had just cleaned a nasty refrigerator and Freezer. Well, A lot has happened since then. Here we are in July, I just flipped the double nickel and we are in the process of selling our house. Commitment! 

How about I do a quick summary, catch you up, then I can write about the important topics in greater detail later.

The Move
So after the incident where monsters grew in the fridge, we had a pretty peaceful existence. Sailing wasn’t every day like we hoped, I do have to earn the Cold Hard Cash. The really cool thing is we started meeting friends and I have to say, the Cruising community is just plain awesome! Everyone is fun, friendly and treats you well. Nothing like the office where they are after something. Bonus points for the Cruising lifestyle! Mark and Jennifer, the two that befriended us first are awesome, Friends for life I am sure. Then there is Dick and Pat, No not the Nixon’s,  Wonderful people with whom we spent a lot of time.

The Christening
We Christened the Boat. I’ll save the name for the actual story but it really defines who we are and what Karla and I believe. Yes, it’s a cliff-hanger!

It seems like we are all over the place. In March we went on a huge vacation from Marathon Florida all the way to Cape Coral Florida! Ha! I bet you never met someone who vacationed away from the beach. In April alone we had two weddings both one week apart. We headed to Utah, that’s where much of the family is at and visited, went to Weddings, Spent time with My dad and then dragged his poor tired but back to live a few weeks on a sailboat!

Burning Down the Boat (Almost)
Well, we get Dad down to the keys and fire up the aft (rear) AC unit and boom, breakers blow. Try again and they seem to stay on, right up until we realize the 30 Amp shoreline is smoking and we burnt it up. So we clean it up, off to West Marine (I should own stock in these guys, I spend a fair share of cash there) for a second 30 Amp shoreline to have enough power to run the boat.

Putting the house up for sale
Maryland! We have lived there 22 years. Good god, has it really been that long? The house we are in is 16 years old, well, maybe 13 because it burnt up in 2003. Hmmm, a pattern? Anyway, we are putting it on the market. There are many reasons but the main reason is we just do not need a land anchor that is sucking our funds dry. That’s a pretty good reason don’t you think?

Getting the house ready
Selling a house is…….. well, it sucks! I have sold one and am selling the second. The first was a pain in the butt, this second, It may have been easier to tell them I’ll pay someone to buy it. Basically, that is what I am doing.

Burning down the Boat (Almost), Redux
Laying in bed, well in the aft bedroom chilaxin, as the grandkid says, I smell smoke. Lots of smoke. So I start looking around and the 30 Amp shore service is literally on fire. I have a lot to say here, so this story lives for another message.

Well, that’s my post here for the day, Lets justs say, boat life is NEVER dull!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Who goes there? What Scurvy Varmint scurry to the back of thee fridge.

A Very interesting return to the boat last night. First things first, we are now permanently on the boat. No more in-between land. Can I get a Halleluiah and an Amen!

There is always something to learn on a boat and I've got to get better at capturing mishaps or as we shall call them Captain Scooterisms, on video and image. After a grueling 2 day slog from Maryland to Marathon, we walked into the boat and the first thing I did was power up the boat. As I was flipping on switches I thought, wow, that's strange, the fridge and freezer are off. Then it hit me, the FRIDGE AND FREEZER ARE OFF!!!

I ran to the freezer and opened it up and was hit with a wave of gasses and odors that would make any CSI forensic Scientist puke. The gray sludge that was once hamburger was bulging out of its package, the chicken rolled its single green eye at me and grinned a zombie grin and when I opened the fridge I swear something orange and slimy scurried to to back of the fridge, it turns out carrots melt and come to life after two weeks of dark warm humid brewing.

Now, I am 99.999% sure the Fridge and Freezer were on when We left two weeks ago, I double and Tripple checked, so it appears I am getting old because I have no explanation.

We immediately remove all the nasty ooze and I proceed to scrubbing the freezer with a solution of Clorox, dish soap and water. Score! The freezer has a drain so this will be a breeze. Rinse with lots of water, dry, done. After I get the freezer spotless I bend over to open the fridge and as I do gallons of soapy, scummy, stinky water rush out of the fridge and onto the floor and into the bilge. Guess where the freezer drains. Yep!

I see the fridge has a drain but it isn't draining, what's a drain for if it doesn't drain? And so I proceed to mop the floor of slime and sponge out the fridge and after an hour or so we are clorox fresh and I am baffled as to why the fridge isn't draining the rest off the water out. I get most with a sponge. Oh well, it's 1:00 am, time to sleep.

The next morning, with a fresh mind, I google "Beneteau 423 Fridge won't drain" and find his really nice article from accompanied by the attached picture. Oh look, a switch that says fridge drain. I run into my galley and right there in plain sight someone snuck in during the night and installed a brand new fridge drain. I am such a lucky guy! I pressed the button and guess what happened....

Yep, the fridge drained the remaining 1 tbls of water, the other gallon, well, let's hope the bilge pump took care of that.

Lessons learned

Monday, January 25, 2016

I'm Popeye the Sailor Man, I smell like a garbage can.

The saga of the stuck sail continues. It was a decent nights sleep, there wasn't much wind to speak of and we were in a nice little harbor. I woke up around seven hoping the Sailmaker would come early and early to an islander is 10:30 AM. I needed coffee, I hadn't showered in a couple days and I was grouchy.

So Sam and I spent several hours trying to fix the stuck sail ourselves. Unfortunately I was being to gentle, I wasn't sure how much I could stress the sail before I caused irreversible damage, I guess there is really no such thing.  When the Sail guy finally showed, I was frazzled, We had 50 miles to make today, there was literally no wind and I had a bad sail.

What we ended up doing, after several failed attempts to run the guy up the mast in his Bosuns chair (A chair used to hoist someone up the mast to do work), was we used the travelers pulley, a line run to an eyelet just above the Clew of the sail and the forward 48 Lewmar Wench. Then we attached the outhaul line to the 54 Lewmar wench and cranked them both as we beat on the sail. Crazy as it sounds, it popped the sail out. We then lowered the sail to inspect and it turns out that a Baton had come out of it's pocket and when unfurling the sail, wedged in the mast and fouled everything up. In the extraction process we created 3 small tears in the sail close to the head and was told the repairs are fast and would cost around $60 if we dropped off the sail. Sounds like a deal as I also need some Tell Tails installed. We removed all the Batons and reloaded the sail in the mast and set sail. Well, after $260 of education. You see, I wasn't sure how to access the Mainsail to drop it, How to reload the sail into the Mast and how to inspect the Halyard for the Mainsail. All of these the fine gentleman at Calypso Canvas and Sail in Key largo.

Once we were making way the going was slow so we motor sailed ( added engine to augment the sails) and we able to use very little engine and fuel and get 6.5 knots. This speed would put us into Marathon long after dark, but we would make Marathon.

We had 6-8 knot winds ENE and we we were sailing a Broad Reach over Starboard and then the wind completely died. I thought oh hell, pulled in the main sheet and kicked up the engine. I thought well, we can make 7 knots with diesel, it isn't sailing but it is getting us to Marathon. And as quickly as the wind died, we had suddenly had 15 knots ESE and increasing so I let out the main sheet and ran it like a wing and kicked the engine back. Before I knew it we were making 8 knots and having a blast. I tried to run out the genoa but the main was stealing all its air, I was wasting to much time tuning sails and not paying attention so I hauled it back in. As the sun started down towards the horizon we got a spectacular show.

Absolutely Amazing and all I could think is this is why I wanted to sail. If there is a heaven, I found it. The views were so spectacular that we just kept taking pictures, over and over and never wanted this moment to end.

We made it into Marathon at 6:30 PM. It was dark and and we anchored without the luxury of light next to a few other boats parked in the wave shadow of Marathon Key. The wind is now howling to 25 knots, the waves in open sea are getting huge and we are in for a bumpy night. But first Dinner!

A couple of New York Steaks will fix a tired crew.

Oh. And I got a nice hot well deserved shower!

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

The weather is here, I wish you were beautiful. Day 4?

So I've lost track of time. Maybe it is day five. Lets see.

  1. Motored Pompano to Biscayne Bay
  2. Sailed for the first time on Arielle
  3. Holed Up, Nasty rain and miserable, entire day on the boat just reading and whatever. .
  4. Holed Up, Nasty winds and Miserable. although I did get my "Sympathy for the Devil" burger at Burgers and beer. 
  5. Sailed Biscayne bay to Key Largo. 
OK, Day 5! She, Need to change that.... Someday.

Left Biscayne and the winds were a brisk 18-20 knots and we needed to pump out. The forward head was so full that it was pressurizing and back flowing into the bowl. It was a lovely site, I will spare you the image and not put up a picture. We motored around the Venetian Causeway to Sunset Harbor Marina and when we got to the harbor I was faced with the daunting task of motoring a sailboat into a channel that was decent sized but million dollar plus boats on both sides and brutal winds across the beam (The Side of the boat) blowing me into the Million Dollar boats. OK, I can handle this. 

We set up the bumpers, Spring lines and mooring lines and I headed in as if I knew what I was doing. As luck would have it, I pulled straight in and had no issues at all. Fear is a relentless bitch. I think I dies a million dollars pulling in. The good news, I had lots of time to play with maneuvering the boat while the crew (Sam and Karla) set up everything and I was able to hold the boat in a single spot by basically performing standing turns every time the wind blew me sideways. It was really kinda awesome. With heads pumped out and fresh water filled back up. We we headed to Key largo. 

As we motored out the channel, sam put on the NOAA weather and there were loads of warnings telling us to stop and don't go there. Small craft advisories, Wave warnings, wind warnings and through it all, we found the seas perfect for a sail. We raised the main and the genoa and we were off with a broad read making about 8 knots. I was happy and the crew was freezing. It was a blustery 45 degrees. Yes folks, that is right, I came to florida to get warm and the temp was freezing cold. The good news was Sam and I spent the previous night laying way points from Miami all the way to Marathon and once we found the first way point, I hit auto pilot and let the machinery do the work, or so we thought. 

Autopilot, what a concept. We set course and off we went. In the wrong direction. We missed the first way point and the boat thought that it was prudent to go back and make certain we passed through it. In the process the sales lifted (Lost wind) and we sat dead in the water. So we deleted the waypoint and kicked in the autopilot again, All was good. Making Way!

Somewhere just north of key largo we lost wind and was sailing at about 4 knots. I had this brain fart to haul in the main sail and just sail on the Genoa so Sam and I pulled it in and we gained nothing, in fact we dropped to 3.5 knots. My theory... if you can call it that.... was that the main was stealing air from the genoa so lets remove the thief and sail on one sail. In this inexperienced sailors mind, that made sense. So back out goes the Main and when it was 3/4 unfurled, Jam. We tried to hack it back in, nothing, Back out, Nothing. The Baton (A thick rod used to help the sail remain a little stiff, was jammed in a fold of the sail. This is a big problem with these types of sails and the reason I don't like them but they are typically easy to use and when they work, they work great. Mine just wasn't working great. I think from reading and just common sense, We really need to put Tension on the leach (Outer edge of the sail) when we furl it back into the mast. Well, it's late, I am tired and it has been a long day.
Sunset in Key Largo Bay


May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Drink up me 'earties, yo ho. Day Four, Holed Up in a Harbor

Well, the rain day is here. We ended up moving Arielle (Temp Name) to a different location. We are having a hard time figuring out how much rode (Anchor Line, Damn sailing terms) we let out. When the rain and winds started we were swinging way close to a sea wall and I really wasn't comfortable with this knowing that we had 25+ knot winds coming. So we relocated into the harbor 30 yards then just held down the fort. It literally pure all day like someone up above had their water break. It wasn't fun. Around 5PM it started to let up and I was able to catch a rather cool picture of Miami under weather siege.

The waved died down and the winds stopped, it was almost eerie. Especially knowing what was coming tonight and tomorrow.

We learned a few things again. Sailboats leak. I have more maintenance to do. A couple windows need some maintenance on the seals. No big deal but certainly supports the "boats are a hole in the ocean where all your money goes" theory. 

Oh, we haven't talked about dinghy issues. Good god, people are annoying. If you own a dinghy, you are satan, I have figured that one out. But that is probably another story. For now I am tired, I need some sleep and I see tomorrow possibly being a very long day. Good news? Sunday is looking like an awesome sail day! 

Night all! 

Yo Ho Yo Ho a Sailors life for me, Drink up me 'earties, yo ho. Day Two, First Sail!

Weather, it can be such a bitch. We knew there was a front coming and that it might mess with our plans. But we didn't know it was going to span from Toronto to Cuba. Now that is a storm. 
Winter Storm Jonas in January 2016

If we set out for Key Largo from Biscayne bay we would maybe have a chance to make it, However, we have no guaranteed safe Harbor and not knowing the area, this is a Risk. Top that off with if we fail to Make Key Largo, we have Friday to sail the rest of the way. Surveying our options we decided that it was best not to make a run to Key Largo, Risk not finding a solid Anchorage and Wind up holing up in some corner harbor hoping we could Hold. The forecast is for Friday the 22nd to have strong winds, Rain and thundershowers. Winds would be out of the south and we would be fighting 8' seas, head winds and the Gulf Stream while trying to make sail all the way to Key largo.  If something went wrong in the plan we would face a full force gail with predicted seas of 12-18 feet, steady 30-40 knot winds, and up to 50 knot gusts. I think we will stay put in our little corner.
Grib Chart for Saturday January 23rd 2016

But for now, lets not make it a loss, Lets get that first sail in and shake out the sheets! Thursday we had 13-17 knot winds out of the east, A perfect sail day to give the sails a test, or should I say, Test the Sailors. Heading out of Port of Miami up Fishers channel we anticipated the journey ahead. If you have ever taken a cruise out of Miami this channel is the same one you would take in the Cruise Ship.  In the channel, the waves were pretty harsh.
Leaving Port of Miami up Fisher Channel

I was motoring at about 6 knots and heading straight into the wind and waves. Several times we put the bow under the sea and into neptune world. Heading out the Ladies decided to go under and do a few things, that.... might have been their undoing. As we were rocking and rolling and having a good old time bashing through the waves, they started to turn a little green. Coming up on deck, I don't think they ever fully recovered until we were motoring back in to port. But enough of that, We put sails up!

After what seemed like the longest motoring up a channel, we turned the bow into the wind and started to unfurl the main when we realized all the running rigging was stuffed into shopping backs for stowage. Noe, we had not even prepared. We didn't review the lines, what was what and I call that  a Captains mistake because I should have reviewed with the crew. Well, We live and learn. After a few false starts and some experimentation, we had the main up and took in one reef. (Refine is shortening the sail in strong winds) We didn't have to but we wanted to take time and learn.
Miami from a mile or so out to sea

What did we learn. First is that a Furling main doesn't fit into a track along the Foot (bottom edge) and that it acts more like a Jib that a standard Battened Main Sail.  Next we learned the we need to keep tension on the inhale line while we are out hauling the Sail. The in-haul line is used to pull in the sail, the outhaul, to pull it out, Not keeping tension on both seems to bunch up the sail. Good to know.

OK, now we have a sail up and it is flapping like mad and literally has no shape. As I surveyed the sail I realized the Clew was not pulled tight to the boom. The Clew, if you remember from an earlier post, is the bottom corner of the sail where the outhaul line attaches.

To pull in the Clew and tighten the leach of the sail, we locked down the in-haul line and started cranking down the outhaul line. This worked magic and the clue was now pulled in tight and the leach was looking better. However we still had way to much shape to the sail and it was rubbing on the Shroud and Spreader so we then used the wench and pulled down the Boom Vang and wallah, a perfect sail shape.  

Having the sail set I turned her north on a starboard beam reach (Wind coming over the beam from the right side) and off we went. A few minor adjustments to the main sheet angle, we set it at about 45 degrees) we sailed several miles north. By now the girls were looking a little more green, recovery was;t going to happen in rough seas and we were getting hit by intermittent 4-5 foot swells. Not a miserable hight but for someone not feeling well, that is probably no fun. So we came about in what I would call a remarkably smooth transition and sailed back into port. I call the day a success! Nothing Broken, many lessons learned and and we had fun. One important lesson, when the sea is a rocking' Stay above deck. 

Captain Scooter, I got the helm!

May the winds always fill your sails and the sun and moon light your passage.