Travel 2020-2021


Getting to Done

For me, my day job things are rarely “finished” and “done.”

There are a lot of folks who can go home knowing they filled all the orders, dropped of all the shipments, closed all the tickets, and got things completely done. All the way done — for the day. Tomorrow there will be more, but those things are for tomorrow.

As a writer and a software developer, I often struggle with the tradeoff of “Good Enough.”

Intellectual property — books and software — aren’t ever really “done." There’s always more to revise and expand. But. There’s a publication date and a marketing campaign. So. At some point, I have to stop fussing and call it done. Or “done for now.” Or “good enough.”

The grand list of boat jobs — as a whole — is never done. There’s a long list of things to do and it rarely shrinks.


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Each job on the list is finite. 

The task may be very large — for example, rebuild the water tanks — but it’s still finite. There’s a definition of done. Once the tanks hold water and the berth is reset for guests, we’re done. Close the job. Move on to the next job.

The done part of this sailing life is highly satisfying.

A few months ago, CA decluttered the lazarette to remove old lines we weren’t using; lines filled with mildew. She also chucked out one of the two tiny danforth anchors for the dinghy. 

(We have no idea why there were two. Any why Danforths? Mushrooms make more sense for an inflatable.)

And she got rid of the tiny fender we didn’t know what to do with. 

Decluttered. Done. Everything else in the locker has a defined purpose on the boat. And we’d used it over the years, meaning it wasn’t some kind of “maybe we might need that” spare. 

We have our checklists of jobs. The cold, snowy days of February are for planning the work, buying parts and tools, and dreaming of sailing. 

Water Tanks, Part II

The reciprocating saw (known to us as “Maxx Damnage”) let me make four long cuts in the space of a few hours. 

Sadly, once we’re past the easy part, the new cuts involve less accessible places. And a less destructive saw.

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The DeWalt reciprocating saw is good, but still doesn’t have the tight clearance the Fein Multimaster FMM250Q does.

I’ve got one of the semi-circular blades and I’m learning how to cut along the line over and over again until the blade finally pokes through the metal. It’s important to let the saw do the work and not force it.

The tank seems like it’s 10-gauge aluminum. The ABYC standard is 0.090″ to 0.125″. I haven’t measured, because it doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is that is’s slow going.

Today I made two 21” cuts to clean up the opening.

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The process is loud. I mean “hearing protection required” loud.

After all, the aluminum is a vast resonating surface, connected to the hull of the boat, which is an even more vast resonant structure.

I spent time laying down, reaching into the tank. I don’t think I can reach up under the top all the way to the front of the tank. The tool is heavy and it’s a long reach. 

I’ve ordered some of the larger size (4″) semi-circular blades for the Fein tool. These are described as suitable for thicker, non-ferrous material. If they work, I’m going to use them to slice away as much of the lid as I can. Consistent with not dropping the saw. This means parts of the top may remain in place because they're nearly inaccessible.

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I looked at using the reciprocating saw from underneath, but the blade would collide with the fiberglass structure above the tank and that would be very, very bad for saw control and blade life.

Two more cuts with the Fein tool and we can start looking at fitting cardboard mockups in there to see how much tankage we can assemble through the 21″×21″ hole.


If the new blades are dramatically better, I may try to remove more of the top of the tank.

Worst case is two plastic replacement tanks. One little pointy one forward and one big chonker that’s about the size of the hole, but slides aft a few inches, leaving a little gap right at the forward edge of the opening. The forward tank would be (almost) entirely hidden, but the aft tank would be visible and accessible.

The triangular space forward of the opening is awkward and small. I suspect it’s on the order of 6-8 gallons. From the leading edge of the opening after, there’s at least 50 gallons of space. But. Dropping tanks in to fill that space is a real puzzlement. I think I can fill it with some 3-D bits and pieces of tankage and plumbing. I’ll be drawing sketches while I wait for another weekend.

(If you check back to Water Tank Replacement, you’ll see a volume estimate based on partial measurements. My current predictions are still based on still-incomplete measurements. The plan evolves.)

The Water Tanks

See Water Tank Replacement for some back story.

We’ve started taking steps. This involves radical destruction.

First, get the anchor we’ve never used up and out of the bilge under the V-berth.

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We didn’t even know we had this anchor until we’d owned the boat for about a year and found it there. 

You can see the pile of chain that went with it. The chain is still useful, and the 150’ of anchor rode is useful. But the Danforth wasn’t really helpful.


It took me close to 30 minutes to wrestle it up out of there. So that’s gone.

At the top of of the picture, there’s the V-berth and you can just see the exposed top of the tank.

Here’s the top of the tank. 

Making the first cut involved a careful review. 

“This is permanent. No going back,” I said.

“We can’t use the tank,” CA replied. “It’s always been leaking.”

“Right. The space has always been wasted. This isn’t something we’ll ever regret and wish we hadn’t removed the cover.” 

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CA is holding the first of piece of the tank top.

The Dewalt 20V reciprocating saw (“Sawzall”) really really works. 

The little battery-powered device did all the damage I wanted it to do.

It’s a little touchy getting a cut started. It’s not a jig saw with a skinny blade you can poke down through a hole you started with a drill. You either drill a hole the width of the blade, or, you start horizontally until you’ve cut a slot and can rotate the saw up to perpendicular.  

Once it starts cutting, it goes through the metal quickly and cleanly. Even with the battery, it doesn’t weigh very much, and is pretty nimble.


You can see the curved edges on the piece we removed. I still can’t steer the damn thing. If I apply the least sideways pressure, the blade bends and turns.  It’s not a jig saw, so there’s no easy way to turn back.

I’ve ordered a 5-pack of blades to make sure I can get through this.

I’ll also being using the Fein MultiMaster, which has some plunge-cut blades for the hard-to-reach corners.

Once the cover is gone, I estimate we’ve got about 60 gallons of space under the V-berth. 

The hard part is designing replacement tanks that can fit through the 21″×21″ hole to fill a triangle that’s about 50″ long and 48″ wide at the base. We’ve got a stack of old cardboard Amazon boxes and tape standing by for the design work.

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These cold weekends are good for doing this kind of messy, sweaty work.

The mallard families

CA has a shiny, new Canon EOS.


The ducks living in the marina.

We’re checking on Red Ranger every other weekend (more-or-less.)

We top off the battery water. Make sure nothing’s leaking or broken or falling apart. Adjust the dock lines. Sigh a lot. Talk about trips we want to take.


There’s a Great Blue Heron at Herrington Harbour. We’re told its name is George.


It’s not clear, but the creek has a thin skin of ice.


This is the last big job of the season. For the next few months it’s watching and waiting.

The checklist involves a number of jobs, some of which we already did by accident.

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  1. Drain the water tanks. The forward tank has been empty (and dry) for years. The port tank leaked all the water, and the starboard tank was run dry a few weeks ago. So there’s that.
  2. Pump out the holding tank. Herrington Harbour did a nice job. The float sensor seems broken, so that needs to be replaced. (It still shows the tank as full.)
  3. Strike the sails. (Sadly, we didn’t get to try out the new main and mizzen. Next year.)
  4. Run anti-freeze through the raw water systems. This means the forward head and the engine. The forward head pump seems to be jammed, and needs to be rebuilt. The engine? Perfection.

We also brought the headsail sheets to the apartment for washing.

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CA found some advice that we should (1) soak them in the tub for an hour, then (2) pull them into daisy chains, (3) bag them in a pillow-case, and (4) wash.

They’re heavy: 3 to 5 pounds each sheet.

We have a front-loading machine, so the pillow case to avoid tying up the central pillar of a top-loader is a non-issue.

I tried one sheet without a pre-soak, and we’re not happy. We’ll report on the washing to see what seems to work best.

The Lehman engine cold-start device is the best. Mr. Lehman sprang to life in the cold without a complaint. Ran flawlessly for a few minutes until the pink -50° antifreeze was gone from the bucket we use to inject it into the cooling system.

And that left the final step on the checklist.

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Remove the key and tag it. No Raw Water. Engine cannot be run without resetting the sea chest valve.


Water Tank Replacement

The v-berth tank always leaked. The port side saloon tank now leaks.


The solution seems to involve custom tanks by Dura-Weld.  See

Under the saloon floor we have two choices:

Option 1: Follow the Joie de Vivre plan and tear out the old tanks in their entirety. This gains about 4½″ vertically (by 35″ by 72″) which doesn’t seem like much until you consider the tank is only 12″ tall; this is 37.5% gain in volume.

Option 2: Sacrifice some volume and install four new tanks inside the legacy tanks. This involves less destruction and less reconstruction. It sacrifices volume, but lets us drop four tanks through the available hole in the cabin sole, strap them in, connect up tubes and have water.

Under the v-berth, we have similar choices. The tricky part about the v-berth is the tanks are not fiberglass with an aluminum lid. They’re 100% aluminum over some supporting structure. The aluminum could be sitting in a fiberglass shell, or could be sitting on wooden stringers.

I think I want to assemble 5 mini-tanks inside the available volume. Four are wedges, jammed into the fore and aft corners. The remaining one sits over the center ∨ at the aft (deep) end.

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The access panel under the v-berth is 21″×21″. The space is 50″ long and expands from 12″ by the anchor locker to 54″ by the forward head.

I think a handful of tanks that are less than 21″×21″ can be dropped into the space and plumbed together with a common filler, common vents and common drains. This will create a system of tanks less than the original volume, but made of of nice, clean, new materials.

I think I can strap each tank to a plywood base and screw the base to the aluminum, minimizing the destruction.

What’s the original volume? 

Yes, that’s calculus. 42¾ gallons. (The formula assumes the 54″×17″ triangle shape is consistent from front to back. I can’t measure the front triangle, but it appears congruent with a 12″ base.)

Five tanks of 4, 4, 6, 6, and 18 gallons gets to 38 gallons of water. It’s better than what we have now, which is an estimated 42¾ gallons of air.

Next Steps? 

Cut the old aluminum lid off the old tank. I think this involves the following:

  1. Drill holes into the aluminum tank lid under the v-berth access hole. Use the reciprocating saw (the Dewalt version of a Sawzall) to cut away the tank lid. This will be larger than the original (tiny) access panel on top of the tank, and make some room to work.
  2. Slice all the rivets around the outside of the lid. I don’t know if I can reach all of them. This may involve some advanced yoga to get the saw all the way in there. The Dewalt has four blade position alternatives, and this may key to slicing off the rivets. 
  3. Cut the lid into pieces and pull them out through the hole. This involves carefully checking clearance to be sure I don’t accidentally saw through something important, like the v-berth itself.
  4. See what access we have under the floor to the aft section of the tank. I theorize that there’s an awkward space that — perhaps — can be cut away to allow putting in really handy drains from the aft ends of the three tanks that fill the aft end of the void. A drain that’s at the lowest point (with no pickup) would be handy for priming the water pump.

Once we have access, we can start to make more concrete plans.

  1. Measure. Measure. Measure. The size of the forward cabin door and the size of the companionway hatch may constrain the tank sizes. (Scott and Jeanie got a 21″×16″ tank into the saloon, which suggests this may not be a constraint.)
  2. Redo all my concept sketches with correct measurements.
  3. Get some CAD software and draw the plans for all five tanks. Maybe will do what I need.
  4. Make cardboard mockups and dry-run the installation to see if this will work.
  5. Update the CAD drawings.
  6. Order tanks.
  7. Order plumbing parts CA wants to replace the filler and vent lines, too. Why not?

Then we can see if I can assemble it all.

I want to do the v-berth first because there’s nothing at stake there. It’s a complete win if this works out.

While the saloon is simpler geometrically, I think it involves a more complex path of destruction to get the old tank lids out.

The Sea Chest

The sea chest sounds so nautical and “yo-heave-ho,” but it isn’t. It’s also called a water box; it’s the manifold where sea water comes in for the various systems that use it. Once upon a time, we had air conditioners, a fridge, and two heads that flushed with sea water, plus, of course raw water for the engine. And. Bonus. A fancy deck wash down system that pulled sea chest water.

Now we have the engine, the forward head, and the wash down. CA likes things simple.

The system is below the water line and requires double hose clamps, with annual inspection and no tolerance for rust. CA has a socket driver with the hose-clamp socket on it. She likes to check things carefully. And independently from my casual, shrugging acceptance of rusty things.

CA didn’t like the vent line. It’s about 10′ of heavy-duty ⅝″ hose that snakes up to the tippy-top of the wet locker to allow air into (and out of) the sea chest.  The hose clamps were rusty and the hose was sketchy-looking. It has been mashed out of shape around a too-small hose barb.

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She shut off the water. Cleaned the strainer. And then took a utility knife down into the bilge to cut away the old hose.


Broke the sketchy, rusty fitting.

Clean off.

That lead a big “Oh, crap, what did I do?” question.

The visions of doom arise when you break something like that.

Followed by my response.

“You broke that which could not be broken.”

After dodging the utility knife she was still holding, I had to thank her profusely for breaking something that was probably only a few years from catastrophic failure. 

The picture may not reveal the essence of the problem. The original fitting was a reducer and a pipe nipple threaded into a ½” elbow. Not a hose barb.


Here it is in it’s shiny goodness. The picture’s awkward. But.

The bottom left is the top of the sea chest. A sheet of ¼” polycarbonate. Working from left to right, at the edge of the photo is a thick black hose that’s input.

Below it is a hard-to-see elbow that’s solid.

To the right, the blue circle, is the top of a valve that lets to the copper circle cap. This is where we put in antifreeze to winterize the raw water system.  

Then the new copper fitting for the vent hose.

Down below the new fitting is an old, greenish elbow that’s rock solid. Maybe next year.

At the very bottom is a loop of hose that needs to be shortened. I’m a fan of leaving some slack, that hose is way too long.

The weather was almost nice enough to try out the new sails. The tide, however, was uncooperative.

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We’re not sure we could get past he sea wall out into the Bay.

That Explains The Bilge Water

We have a bilge pump counter. Over the last few weeks we’ve been severely worried about the counter being non-zero.

Non-zero bilge pump counter is a sure sign of a leak.

When we return to the boat and the counter is more than one, it's a sign of a fairly serious problem. The counter is a score for seriousness on a scale of 1 to anything over 3. A worrisome problem. Leaks are notoriously hard to find in the complicated plastic structure of a boat.

The main hatches drip. The hawsepipe (where the anchor chain goes below deck) drips. This doesn’t explain the bilge pump.

We had the hatches rebedded to reduce the dripping. We’ve larded some goo around the base of the hawsepipe escutcheon. 

The rain on Wednesday 11/11 was epic. 24 hours of non-stop rain. Non. Stop. The newly rebedded hatches leaked. We found the leak by complaining to the folks who rebedded them. They sent a guy over. He noted the gaskets were old. 

At first he told us to replace them. After he left, CA checked the work order for the hatch work. They was supposed to redo the gaskets when they rebedded the hatches. About the time CA was ready to lecture them on the work-order, the company owner called (apparently, they also checked the work order) and the gaskets will be redone as soon as it dries out some more. 

Here’s what we saw.

Above my finger is a big wad of goo that holds the lens in. We never took a knife and cut away the overflow. The goo is sitting on a mottled gray aluminum frame. 

There’s a line of black behind my finger. That’s the gasket.

There’s a thin line of white. Daylight.

Then there's the light gray lower part of the aluminum frame. A line of new, white bedding compound and finally, the interior teak frame. The black at the bottom is the rest of the boat, cast into shadow by the flash.

About that thin line of daylight. I put the gasket in about 10 years ago. It’s now hard as a rock and no longer fills the space. We (seriously) did not think to check this when it started dripping. (Perhaps we didn’t need to rebed the hatches, and we only needed gaskets. Lesson learned on diagnosis.)

But these are drips. Not enough water to trigger the bilge pump. They’re minor annoyances. When the float switch is high enough to start the pump, it’s gallons of water down there.

Some History

We cleaned the port side water tank earlier this summer. Then we filled it. 

Then we switched to the starboard tank. We’ve been using that water for the last month or so. CA washed the entire deck this weekend using water from the starboard tank. (Winter is coming, might as well drain the tank doing something useful.)


After deck washing, as expected, the starboard tank finally ran dry. 

When it did, we switched to port. Which is clean. And waiting for us.


Here’s the kicker

The port tank is empty.  EMPTY.


That explains the bilge pump counter.

The port tank was sort-of-fine until we washed it. Now it’s not fine. It leaked the entire 100 gallons into the bilge.

There are a few choices open to us. All messy.

  1. Try to find and plug the leak. The tank is at least 72″ long, 29″ wide, and 11″ tall. Most of the edges are inaccessible. The forward 36" of the tank is all that’s visible. Access to the interior is worse: the inspection ports are too small to do much. 
  2. Replace the port tank with a new state-of-the-art plastic tank.

Also. The V-berth tank has always leaked. We’ve never used it. It’s probably time to tackle it, also. We want a “bow-shaped” tank. I’ll need to take some measurements up there, too.

Scott and Jeanie on Joie de Vivre replaced both under-the-floor tanks with a combination of new tanks giving them more water than the original setup.

I’m thinking of something less clever. The port tank is close to 120 gallons. If I’m willing to give up 20-30% of it, I think I can (relatively easily) drop four custom-made 28-ish gallon tanks into the space under the floor.

(The space under the old tanks needs to be cleaned and painted; then supports and straps are required. It isn’t trivial. The original tanks were assembled with the hull, making them a right pain to replace.) 

The cabin sole opening is 34″ × 23″. The space inside the tank is closer to 35″ wide and 72″ long. This is 4 tanks, each about 34″ × 17.5″. Individually, they fit through the opening. Collectively, they mostly fill the space. It leaves a 4” gap between the forward pair and the aft pair.  (It’s all about 11″ deep if you want to check the cubic inch to gallon measurements.)

I think I can (easily) build a four-way filler manifold that lays across the tops of all four tanks. A four-way vent manifold, similarly, will be needed. The four-way pickup manifold at the bottoms of all four tanks would be a wonderful thing. 

I think some of the manufacturers will add an inspection port. What’s important is figuring out where the opening under the settee will be and trying to get two aft-most tank inspection ports somewhere near this spot. The two forward tanks are easy, since they’re entirely visible.

Scott reports that there’s space outboard of the original tanks that’s accessible. I think he used used 9″ tall tanks to make best use of the space. But they have to be slid in carefully and supported over the curve of the bilge. Utterly inaccessible under the settee. Not simple to install.

Next steps?

Maybe put some water in the tank to observe the leak? Not sure this really helps. It’s essentially impossible to plug unless we’re super lucky.

Still one more test might be good. Maybe we had the valves set wrong and pumped all the water out of BOTH port and starboard tanks. There’s a tiny chance that (a) the starboard tank doesn’t leak, and (b) the bilge pump running was pure coincidence. (If so, there’s an epic leak somewhere else. A leak that didn’t trigger the bilge pump during the 24 hours of rain on the 11th. This seems unlikely.)

After Thanksgiving, I need to get the DeWalt reciprocating saw (to go with my other DeWalt tools) and start cutting. It’s messy and loud, but — it appears — it’s got to be done. Then I can measure carefully and determine what tanks (and fittings) to buy. Then I can try to build and epoxy in some support framing. (This can be tricky to bond to the interior of the hull when it’s cold.)

That will make for a fun winter project.

The Best Wife Ever

CA made me this today. The top picture is the new “wife” used to carry the SAE wrenches. The bottom is the old wife.

Notice the following:

  1. No Holes. (The bottom picture shows one hole on the flap. The other side was hilariously holy.)
  2. Labels for the pockets. Embroidered.
  3. The right number of pockets (to include the new 11/16 wrench.)
  4. The offset angle for the flap means it doesn’t stick out funny on one side, but rolls into a tidy cylinder. 

And yes, I have some duplicate wrenches. 

The metric wrenches didn’t need a new wife. No holes. Correct flap. Labels aren’t needed, since they’re simply 8mm to 16mm. 

The. Best. Wife. Ever.

© Steven Lott 2020