Monthly Archives: September 2013

Haulout 2013, Day Eighteen

We’re behind schedule.  Today is Day 18 and we’re trying to launch on Day 22, which is the day we lose the condo.
If I were trying to be positive, I would start with what has been accomplished in the last five days.  Soo… the port engine is almost completely hooked up!  The raw water thru-hull, strainer, vented loop have all been installed.   The battery, switch, and cables have all been installed.  The fuel hose and filter have been installed.  
I know that sounds like one day of work, but it isn’t.  Along the way, lots of things have been changed.  I’m trying hard not to let the place look like it was put together by a double-jointed 8-year-old.  It’s hard.
All the port engine still needs is an exhaust system.  The new exhaust ports have been installed, but the surge chambers are still being fabricated.  I’m reluctant to put exhaust hose on the engine until it has been aligned to the shaft.
Oh, the shafts!  When we left off on Day 13 the propeller shafts had been put back in to figure out rough engine placement, and we determined that we needed some shims to raise the engines an inch before we could make a final decision.  We should have just used wood shims, but instead we lost a couple days while steel shims were fabricated.  
When we finally got the shafts to the prop shop, they said we can’t use the new coupling flanges that came with the engines because they don’t fit the old shafts, new shafts they have in stock won’t fit our propellers, and our old flanges won’t fit the new transmissions.  Ugh.  The most expedient solution is to fabricate new coupling flanges for the old shafts.  That’s fine, but it takes time.  
Otherwise, the patched thru-hulls need to be faired and painted.  The props need to be adjusted, reinstalled, and painted.  A new thru-hull needs to be installed for the generator.  Oh, and all that stuff that we did for the port engine still needs to be done on the starboard side.
So tired.

When Your Home is Also a Vehicle

One of the realities of a haul-out is the mess—inside and out—that comes from dismantling things and emptying storage areas and bringing in parts and tools for the work that needs to be done. Also there’s the dirt that comes in from the boat-yard itself, which is an alarming mix of paint dust, dangerous chemical residues, salt, and dirt. Even if they let us live aboard while the boat is in the yard, I would not want to.

I normally think of our home as being a cozy, self-contained, orderly kind of place—even if everything isn’t in its place, everything has a place and a purpose. If we have not achieved the simplicity we idealized in our youth, we’ve come awfully close. And one of the things that makes life simple is that we travel in our home. Everything we need for a fulfilling life fits in or on our 48 x 26-foot vessel. The line between “house” and “boat” is indistinguishably thin. Because the engines aren’t separate from the living space, the current project makes the boat uninhabitable and her crew vagabonds.

I peek in every now and then to see the progress, but to be truthful, I feel a little overwhelmed when I climb up the ladder to the transom and step inside. I take a deep breath and tell myself that all this detritus will be re-stowed or removed, the boat-yard dust will be scrubbed away, our boat will go back in the water, a faster, more reliable version of her former self, and our home will go back to containing the organized chaos that is our life aboard. Though I know that this is just a temporary state, at the moment, I wish I had a pair of ruby slippers so I could just go home.


Haulout 2013, Day Thirteen

The crane came this morning and by noon we had both engines and the generator in the boat.  Not installed, mind you, but at least sitting inside the boat.  
New Generator 
The engines are a tight, tight fit.  This was mostly expected, but it looks alot different on paper.  I also forgot to account for the size of the flexible couplings.  They're optional, and I think we're going to opt not to use them.  We’re making some shims to raise the engines an inch before finalizing decisions about engine placement, flexible couplings, and shaft length.
We have decided to use the thru-hull in the back of the engine spaces, and fill in the one in front.  This is opposite from our plan on Day 11 and if we’d had the right thru-hulls then, we might have regretted it.  There's just no room at the front of the engine for the seacock or the strainer.  We're also going to need a smaller bilge pump, which probably means a second bigger pump somewhere else.  
Tight Fit 
We haven’t fitted the secondary alternators yet.  That should be interesting.  There’s a shelf that might have to go.
New Engine 
I hope everyone got to see some of the America’s Cup, or at least was aware it was going on.  It really was amazing.  With 72-foot foiling catamarans going 40 knots, it’s a lot like watching NASCAR.  And not just the boats are incredible, but also the racing itself.  At one point New Zealand was leading 8-1 and only need one more win to take the Cup.  USA rallied and won 8 races in a row to keep it.  It’s good stuff, and it’s all on YouTube.

Haulout 2013, Day Twelve

Ugh.  I predicted a lag was coming, and it was a doozy.  Five days now.  
No crane today, ostensibly due to weather.  Of course it hardly rained at all.  But I try not to get upset about this kind of thing.  We have a rule on Take Two: “don’t push a bad situation”.  That applies equally to iffy navigational situations, dinner plans gone awry, and heavy objects suspended above the boat.  It’s better to be patient and let things happen in their own time.
I’m still optimistic about the week.  All the parts are in hand except the ones we’ll have fabricated.  I bet we'll be ready to splash with days to spare.
I’d seen a few ants on the boat over the last few days.  Mostly around the galley sink.  I didn’t think a whole lot about it at first.  We’ve seen little ants from time to time, and I figured they lived aboard somewhere and were just taking advantage of Tanya not being around.  Then I realized they weren’t our ants, they were boatyard ants.  They were climbing up the block, up the hull, into the sink thru-hull, up the sink drain, into the sink, and onto the counter.  I don’t know exactly what they were after, but they were very busy.  I figured I’d better intervene, so this morning I sprayed the blocks and thru-hull on the outside, and set out bait stations inside.  By this afternoon the ant activity was seriously diminished.  I wonder what’s going on in the unattended boats nearby.

Haulout 2013, Day Eleven

It was a slow day.  We realized early on that Take Two’s hull was over 1.5 inches thick and the 2.5” thru-hulls we had weren’t going to work.  It looked like we were going to have to buy the extra long ones and cut them down.  Of course, West Marine had nothing in stock.  So we had to postpone a day while new thru-hulls are shipped in, which probably means doing the thru-hulls after the engines are put in the boat.  
We did make some design decisions.  Placement of the generator thru-hull has been very challenging.  How to minimize the hose run, from the maximum depth, with the fewest elbows, and use a strainer that is easy to clean?  I think this design is going to fit the bill.
It eliminates any plumbing between the ball valve and the strainer, particularly any bends where something would be likely to get stuck.  It seems more likely that anything that gets sucked up (like little fishes) could swim or fall out when the suction stops.  And the whole thing fits nicely down in the bilge, saving valuable space.
We also made some progress on the engine exhaust design.  Our exhaust ports are very close to the waterline and there is the potential that waves could fill the exhaust system and flood the engine.  Not wanting to rely solely on a rubber flapper to keep the water out, and also wanting to reduce “sneezing” from the exhaust, we’re prototyping a surge chamber to go just inboard of the exhaust ports.
Surge Chamber Prototype 
It rained all afternoon, so not much else got done.  I did finish running the new engine wire harnesses.

Haulout 2013, Days Nine and Ten

While the boat is out of the water we’ve rented a condo on the beach to be our base of operations.  Tanya travels with the kids during the week and the condo is little more to me than a place to crash.  But weekends are different and we play hard.  After a week in Atlanta, the kids were ready for some salt water.
Our normal beach spot has a nice surf break for the older kids and a gentle grade where Rachel can play, but we couldn’t find any places to rent that had good surfing conditions.  The beach at our condo is good for only one thing… getting pounded by waves.
We’ve joined a sailing center here in Ft Pierce.  Our membership gives us unlimited access to the center’s Hobie cats, Lasers, 420s, Flying Scots, Optis, wind surfers, SUPs, and kayaks.  The three older kids are enrolled in weekend classes for learning to sail and race Optimist prams, while Tanya and I take the younger kids sailing in a bigger boat.
The new week will mean a new phase of the repower project.  It’s out with the old, and in with the new.  I’ve already installed the new engine panels and begun running the new wiring harnesses.  I think by Day Twelve we should be putting the new engines in the boat.

On the Road Again

The kids and I have just completed the first of our haul-out road trips this year. It’s starting to feel like an annual tradition: the homeless wanderers enjoying the hospitality and generosity of friends and family.

First stop: Atlanta, Georgia, where Jay’s brother, Jeff, and his wife, Robin, live with their two boys, William and Cash, and their dog, Gidget. William, who is just a little older than Sam, had treatments for cancer when he was four, but to see him now, running around on the soccer field, happy and healthy, is simply amazing, an answer to all of our prayers. He and Sam enjoyed being roomies by night and fellow soldiers by day. A pine-cone war of epic proportions was waged in the back yard, and light-saber sword fights and nerf-gun battles raged indoors. We climbed Stone Mountain with all the kids one afternoon, and later, the big boys skate-boarded down the steep driveway, inspiring the cousins, no doubt, to acts of bravery and foolishness for years to come. As the grand finale, Uncle Jeff turned an ordinary watermelon into a cool smoothie with nothing more than a drill and bent coat hanger.




We then drove up to north Georgia to spend a few days with my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ivan and drove to Chickamauga see my cousin Heidi and her two boys, also home-schooled. They live on a small farm, and Sarah got to ride Beauty, Heidi’s horse, something she loves to do any chance she gets. We also spent a day driving in the mountains, hiking in Fort Mountain State Park and picking apples in an orchard in Ellijay. We had cinnamon apples on homemade waffles the next morning (yum!) and apple crisp for dessert one night.




We enjoyed the end of the week at our good friends Steve and Ellen’s house in Mableton, to the west of Atlanta. Jay and I have known them since we were first married, and always enjoy their company. Our kids love their four boys and all the kids disappeared into their cavernous basement for hours to play Legos, Ping-Pong and air hockey. Ellen and I enjoyed catching up, lamenting that we see each other so seldom, but celebrating a friendship that exists outside of time and despite distance.

Our last stop before heading back to Florida was the Georgia Aquarium, the world’s largest aquarium, and home to whale sharks and beluga whales. The kids had a great time, as they have a real appreciation for sea creatures. I always feel a little sad in zoos and aquariums—I love to see rare animals, especially ones I am unlikely to see in their natural habitats, but hate to see them enclosed, or worse, put on display in shows to entertain humans. I know they have a place in conservation and education—people will not fight to save that which they do not love, but my freedom-loving self feels sympathy for any animal in a cage, no matter how large and comfortable.

Jay, having flown up for the day to surprise Aaron for his early-birthday outing, helped me drive back to Ft. Pierce, cutting at least two hours off of what was, on the way up, a twelve-hour day. As much as I love road trips with the kids, 8-10 hours in a car with multiple stops at restaurants and gas stations and public bathrooms, stretches my patience and endurance. I won’t be ranging that far from home again on my own for a long while.

Haulout 2013, Day Eight

I took a break from the boat and made a day trip up to Atlanta to meet Tanya and the kids at the Georgia Aquarium.  Tanya didn’t tell the kids I was coming, so it was fun to surprise them.  We enjoyed the aquarium, then we all drove back to Ft Pierce.
Whale Shark 
On the boat, the engine rooms received a second coat of paint.  They could probably use a third, but I think we’re going to call two good enough.  Cleaning and painting these engine rooms is no fun and we’re losing Paul’s dedication to the work.  We also want to give it a couple days to let the paint harden up before putting the engines in and the clock is ticking.

Haulout 2013, Day Seven

The generator room has received its third and final coat of paint.  When the crane comes next week, we’ll be able to put the generator straight into the boat.
Generator Room Painted 
Unfortunately, it will be far from ready to run.  Even though we had a generator in the same spot before, almost everything is being replaced.  
New fuel lines will be run — a supply and return hose for each of the port and starboard tanks.  That’s 200 feet of fuel hose.  The old ones are kind of sketchy looking and there are some tees that I want to get rid of.
The supply hoses will run to a new fuel transfer system with selection valves for three inlet ports (the third port being a loose hose for drawing from a jug).  Next is a Racor turbine fuel filter and water separator.  Then comes an electric fuel pump that runs on a twist-the-knob timer, or when the generator is in the “glow” phase of its start sequence.  After the pump are valves to send the fuel through the generator for normal operation, or bypass the generator for fuel transfer/polishing.  Finally, there will be three outlet ports – one for return hoses to each side of the boat, and one for a jug.
We built the first version of this arrangement for the old generator, and it saved our bacon on a couple occasions.  Think of the applications:  you run out of fuel and need to run your generator from a jug;  you have some fuel of questionable quality in a jug and you want to run it through a Racor before putting it in your tank;  you have more fuel in one tank than another and want to balance it out;  you have bad fuel in one tank and need to clean it;  you want to just run a portion of your fuel through a filter just on general principle, even if it goes back to the same tank;  you need some fuel from your tanks for cleaning, sharing, topping up filters, etc.
New raw water hose will be run.  The old generator had 35 feet of 1” hose from thru-hull to raw water pump.  That’s a lot of hose, and it needed an electric lift pump to help it out.  I think we’re going to move the thru-hull to reduce the hose run to 20 feet, but it really can’t get any closer.  The generator is in the bridgedeck out over the water.  We’re still undecided about the size of the hose, or whether a lift pump will be needed.  We’d like to get rid of it.  
New exhaust will be designed.  We used to shoot our wet exhaust out the front of our bridgedeck, but Ben said that was unladylike.  It was also kind of splashy and leaves a rust stain around the exhaust port.  Instead, the new generator will use a gas/water separator and both will be separately routed down through the bridgedeck.  The gas will be invisible of course, and without the gas pushing it, the water will be much more discreet.  The exhaust port in the front will be closed up.
The start battery will move from inside the salon into the generator room.  We’re adopting the same theory as I described for the engines yesterday.  The cross-charger that the generator start battery currently uses will go away, and instead will be charged by the generator’s alternator.  All three start batteries will have switches that allow them to be combined to compensate for a bad battery or alternator.
Of all this work, only installing the thru-hull and closing up the old exhaust port are on the list to do while we’re in the yard.  The rest can wait if it has to.
Engine Room First Coat 
Both engine rooms are now cleaned out and have a first coat of paint.  It feels like the project is hitting a lull.  Tomorrow, both engine rooms will get a second coat of paint and that’s probably it until Day 11.    

Haulout 2013, Day Six

The new engines arrived.  We got them unloaded from the truck and put them under the boat until we’re ready for them.
The engines are Beta 38’s and the generator is a Beta 9kW.  Made to order in England, shipped to the distributor in North Carolina, and then shipped to me.  The Beta is best known for being a marinized Kubota engine, which is a very common engine for tractors and such.  A sailboat seems to me like a perfect application for a tractor engine.
Thirty-eight horsepower is the most we can practically use.  We’d need bigger props to handle more power.  While still probably underpowered by modern standards, we’re constrained for space for both the engine and the prop, so we’re just going to be happy with 38.  We should be able to get hull speed, which is all we really want.
New Engine 
The 9kW generator is more than I was really looking for.  Our old one was a 12kW and it was way overkill.  I was thinking 6kW would be about the right size.  I'd save on weight and fuel and would be able to give it a “healthy” load.  Beta’s machine met my requirements and they gave me a deal on it since I was buying engines too.  They also said that the problems associated with underloading diesel engines don’t apply to the newer, cleaner designs.
New Generator 
The Beta Marine distributor in NC has been great to work with.  They’ve spent literally hours on the phone with me, plus dozens of emails with photos and drawings going back and forth.  The Volvo dealers I called rarely called me back, and knew very little about the product.  Call me crazy, but I like to know what I’m buying, and I was having a hard time getting comfortable with the idea of another pair of Volvos.  When I called Phasor about their generators, the sales guy was downright rude when I asked some technical questions.
For the progress report, the generator room got two coats of paint today.  I spent much of the day rearranging and tidying up the port engine room, then it got another thorough cleaning, probably the last before it gets painted.  Tomorrow we’ll do the same for starboard, and possibly both will get a first coat.  I’d guess we’re looking at Monday to put the new engines in the boat.