Travel 2020-2021

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The Sea Chest

The sea chest sounds so nautical and “yo-heave-ho,” but it isn’t. It’s also called a water box and 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 to be 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.

And.

Broke the sketchy, rusty fitting.

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, 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.

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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.)

So. 

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.

But.

Here’s the kicker

The port tank is empty.  EMPTY.

Ah.

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.

Interior Work: Galley and Portlights

CA bought a magnetic knife holder to put with her refinished cutting board. 

Getting the backing plate away from the magnet is not fun. You have to commit to pulling them apart without wavering in the least. If you hesitate, that piece of steel will take chunks out of your finger-tips.

She started measuring and stopped to laugh for a while.

“I almost asked for the level,” she said. “Why would I use the carpenter’s level in here? We still have a ¾ tank of fuel. Nothing is level.”

A couple of pencil dots and some drilling after that and she’s got a place for the knives.

She made me put the big magnet bar onto the backing plate. It does jump out of your hands, that’s for sure. 

Next up?

The Beckson port lights have rubber gaskets. We think the original gaskets might have dated from the 80’s. They leaked.

We tried to replace them and did a terrible job. We didn’t really read the instructions carefully enough.

This time, CA read the instructions to me several times to make sure I totally understood what was going to happen.

See https://www.beckson.com/installgasket.html for the details.

She called out two important points about this process.

First, Step 3, "Find a polycarbonate (rigid plastic) or hardwood headed mallet.” We did not do this before. It turns out, this is critical. Forcing it in with your fingers doesn’t work well. Eventually, you get them in, but, they’re not quite right and you have to crush them flat to get them not to leak.

Also, Step 8 has two parts, and they are out of order.

Step 8(a) should be “CLEAN AND DRY THE SCREEN OR BACKUP RING…” Do this after you finish the top two corners but before you try the bottom two corners.

Step 8(b) should be "So, continue around the window body…” Do this after you put the screen in.

We used a heat gun to warm them up before putting them in. That seems to work out well, also.

We think we may have done the first two correctly. Ten more to go.

Something in the entertainment system has stopped working. It appears that I no longer have power to the Fusion stereo. Circuit breaker appears OK; power is available at the panel. I have a little connection strip that’s almost — but not quite — inaccessible under the stereo. I need to pull that out and see if something’s come loose or corroded and leading to a faulty connection. 

West River Sailing Club

This is a set of chores we take on with joy. 

This is the WRSC dock.

A long, long string of wood and plumbing and electrical. 

The idea is to rip out pieces each year.

Since becoming members, I’ve helped with a fair amount of dock building (except for last year, when we were in Nevada.)

It’s strenuous, but satisfying work. A couple of hammers, couple of very long pry bars, some pressure-treated wood, a pound of galvanized nails and some caulk to seal the tops of the stringers under the decking itself. 

We use nails (not screws) because this all has to come out in ten years. Also. Some maintenance jobs (i.e. electrical work under the decking) requires pulling up planks once in a while. 

Fitting the plans around the pilings means “bring a saw.” Something I’ll remember to do in the spring.

A few members (I think) have worked on every inch over their tenure. Maybe someday, I’ll be one of the folks that’s put a nail in every board.

Faucet and Propane Regulator

Plumbing — water, sewer, propane — is all pretty simple. Until it leaks. Then it’s a right pain in the ass. Leaks can be difficult to diagnose. It’s not always a good idea to tighten things down harder. Sometimes over-tightening breaks something else.

Neither CA  nor I grew up with propane. Not a grill. Not a camp in the woods. Nothing. We didn’t even know what the injected smell was supposed to smell like.

Years ago, our propane line — from tank to regulator — failed. And drained the tank. That’s not supposed to happen, but the tank was old and there didn’t seem to be a proper Excess Flow Valve. We had no clue until the cooker didn’t work.

We had a crazy amount of help from a random sailor in St. Mary’s, Georgia. 

The solenoid failed a year and some later. I had a boatyard guy replace it.

I’ve been terrified of the propane system. We’ve had a few times when the gas simply would not flow. Generally, it was cold. And maybe turning the gas on too quickly tripped the EFV. Or maybe. The regulator was ancient.

Either way, I didn’t want to touch it.

I bought a new regulator. And then the old one started working again. So. The replacement sat in a drawer.

Last weekend, the old one didn’t work. I got some yellow teflon tape, and replaced the regulator. It was easier than I thought it would be. There are only two fittings, and they turned nicely.

Turn the gas on, note the pressure. Turn the gas off. Come back in three minutes. Same pressure? System is good. Loss of pressure? You have a leak.

The picture sort-of shows the new regulator on the left. One of the tanks on the top. And on the bottom? A gallon iced-tea jug we use for things like oil changes or bilge water. Just a jug. In between the propane cans. 

Faucet

The old galley sink faucet dripped. And in the right combination of faucet position and spigot position, it leaked all over the counter-top. CA suggested we get a new core for the mixer. It was a conventional Delta-brand faucet. Easy to do. 

Until I stripped out the hex nut holding the handle on. Then it suddenly became impossible to do.

Rather than simply replace the core, we’re going to replace the whole thing. 

This is the replacement: a “Classic” 13900LF-SS, It needs a hair over 2 ½″ of space.

On the right, you can see a sprayer. CA insisted. The new-fangled sprayers hanging from the spigots are fun, but, complicated. This is simpler.

This only has two connections. But it leaked.

And leaked.

And leaked.

Here’s me, watching it leak.

I spent — I don’t know — two hours fussing around with one thing.

One thing. 

The hot-water connection. 

It leaked.

And leaked.

And leaked.

I had to research Qest/Quicktite and Zurn fittings for Polybutyl (PB) pipe. We’re talking a nut wrapped around a grip-ring and a cone. The leak was not from the connection to the faucet via a nice ½” brass fitting. The leak was inside the nut, where it ran down the PB pipe. 

The solution? 

Trim about ½″ off the end of the PB pipe. Push on the grip-ring and the cone over the new, clean, pipe.

Much nicer.

I realized it would be nicer because I couldn’t move the cone once I pushed it on. It had dropped off the pipe before. But cutting away that last  ½″ changed everything.

The nut threaded on easier, too.  Not sure why, but I think it was snugging up against the brass fitting more cleanly.

Turn on the pump and apply pressure. (Again. This has to be the 12th time today.)

No Leaks.

So. That’s two good deeds: propane and water.

We can live much more comfortably with working cooking gas and water.

Next: Hawsepipe.

The Built-In Cutting Board

CA likes having countertop she can use directly. A loose cutting board on a moving boat is a liability.

The Whitby has a nice cutting board built in the top of the refrigerator.

This has consequences. Mostly it means having any ingredients that need chopping out of the fridge before you start meal prep. Otherwise, you have to move *everything* because you forgot the cherry tomatoes.

(We don’t use this as a fridge, but the rule still applies: have *everything* ready.)

For the past ten years, CA hasn’t liked the condition of the cutting board. It had a finish that was peeling in places. 

Peeling. 

It was icky.

We read about using food-grade mineral oil as a treatment for wooden cutting boards. This meant stripping the old surface, which seemed like a job-and-a-half.

Since it was pouring outside. (And cold.) CA decided to sand the old surface and (finally) put on a proper finish.

She started with the sanding block and a random piece of sandpaper. After her shoulder started to hurt, she was ready to talk about power tools.

This can be a big step. Tools are noisy and dangerous. A sanding block is quiet and safe.

I showed her how to put paper into the sander. After a few tentative sweeps (“It’s gouging the wood, and it’s not a perfect finish”), she understood the progress of grits. And then tore into the job. Cackling with glee. Seriously cackling. It’s fun to sand a small, well-made plank that’s firmly attached to the boat. The sander has a dust-bag so there isn’t volumes of sawdust everywhere. There’s immediate joy seeing the changes in the wood.

She used 80-grit, 150-grit, and a final pass with 220-grit to create a super-smooth surface. I was lobbying for running out to get some 400 grit. She was having none of it. Four coats of mineral oil later, she’s got a new place to cook.

(I’m hoping for cinnamon buns.)

Me?

I measured the offset between sink and backsplash. 3″. This tells me which of the Delta faucets I can wedge into the available space. (The answer is “almost anything your little heart desires, as long as it’s stainless.” I think the 13900-LF-SS is the faucet for this job.)




Up next? Replace the propane regulator so we can actually cook again. This is terrifying. Propane. Boom.

Also, the electric spark on the Force 10 isn’t sparking. I’ve replaced the spark module and the push-button. It’s unlikely to be the electrical connection on the knobs (all three failed at once??) It’s slightly more likely to be the spark unit on one of the burners shorting out. I say this because the burners had not been dismantled to be cleaned in years. I had to pry one of them apart because some spilled food had sort of welded it together.

The final potential failure is a nick in the wire somewhere causing a short via the metal frame. This is a right pain to diagnose.

For now, I’ll enjoy the new cutting board.

Leaks and the Wrong Goo

There are two important classes of chemicals. Goos and Lubes. Goo to make things stop. Lubes to make them go.

They each have specialized purposes. It helps if you know what you’re doing. And in some cases, you learn as you go. This is one of those lessons learned.

The chainplates — slabs of steel that anchor the wire rope holding the rigging upright — pass through the deck. When we replaced the chain plates, we had to fill the openings in the deck. With a goo.

But which goo? 

Originally, the boat was assembled with a fiber pounded into the slots and a gooey sealant over the top. What was the fiber? Wool? Oakum? The glass fibers used for insulation? The glass fibers for fiberglass? No clue. I only know there was a puff of stuff that came out with each chain plate.

I tried to use goo-in-a-tube to reseal the opening around the new plates. The gaps were too huge. They all leaked like crazy.

Someone told me Butyl Tape is the preferred goo for this job. Stretchy. Tenacious. Essentially indestructible except by UV exposure. 

Closely related is “putty tape”. It’s not as stretchy.

It appears, I bought the cheaper "putty tape."

CA ordered proper butyl tape. It’s super-stretchy. Super-flexible.

Since the weather’s warm, and winter’s coming on, she’s redoing all the feet of all the chainplates with the new, fancy butyl tape. This will, we hope, reduce water intrusion. We’d love to be sailing today. But the warm weather is perfect for these kinds of jobs that involve goos that need to set correctly.

We’re also paying Zimmerman Marine to properly rebed our hatches.

Here’s view of the deck after the decorative wood-work was removed.

Top-left of the image is a hex-nut on the latch.

The corner has a bit of a gap.

There’s an aluminum rod from about top-center to top-right. That’s what holds the hatch open to let in air when it’s warm and sunny and you’re bobbing at anchor.

The gap is where our skills and abilities end. We’re hoping the boatyard folks can find any other voids in there and make sure they’re properly sealed up to eliminate water intrusion. I’m sure they have the experience to use the right goo.

It turns out that we have other leaks. We’re not sure, because it’s so hard to observe, but the hawsepipe behind the windlass may be leaking. We think it’s not bedded properly. We think we can do this ourselves. 

It was cold — we fixed things

Two weeks ago, I broke the catch of Red Ranger’s bar.

Thus lead much swearing. And this clamp-and-webbing catch.

The clamp holds the webbing. The webbing holds the bar. 

It’s a shabby necessity. A “jury rig."

There are two choices. Replace the “ball and socket catch” (or “stud and socket”) with a new one. 

Or. 

Find something else to hold it closed.

Enter the Perko cupboard bolt.

We put one on the bar.

And other on the cabinet aft of the bar which would also — sometimes — fail to remain closed in rough weather on starboard tack.

(When heeled over to port, stuff would sometimes pop out of the cabinet.)

Previously, we’d used a lot of different things to hold the cabinet shut. The best was a giant rubber-coated “gear tie.” Holds well, easy to undo. Ugly in the context of teak furniture.

These catches are really nice. But. Visible. This is “finish carpentry.” The Scariest Thing On A Boat. 

Scariest.

Meanwhile, I talked CA into making a cover for the windlass.

A brutal undertaking because the thing is irregular in the extreme.

And.

There’s no easy way to hold it down.

The base had a few snaps, but they rusted away (mostly.) It’s not easily drilling into the teak base right at deck level.

We think (maybe) we can drill tiny holes and force the snaps in with a screwdriver. It’s awkward, and we’re not sure what’s best. 

We do know that we don’t want anything near there to catch does or anchor lines or chain. The fittings need to be FLAT.

I did this, too, but this is easy. The software (mostly) upgrades itself. 

A few devices need some hand-holding up upgrade. But. I think I’ve got a solid procedure.


Next weekend?

I broke the set screw holding the handle on. That means I can’t replace the mixing valve inside. The valve that I replaced ten years ago. The one that’s dripping. 10¢ set screw breaks and I have to but in an new $100 fixture.

I think it was a Delta Classic 100. The base is 10″×2″, which (I think) really limits what can go in there. I think there are a few Delta Classic and Foundations models that will fit in the narrow space available.

The newer models seem to require 2½″ for a one-hole installation. I don’t think there’s 2½″ between sink and backsplash. I’ll be studying the catalog and taking a lot of measurements. I really want the 100-DST. But.  2½″.

Home Handicrafts — Seizings

CA cleaned. And cleaned. And cleaned.

It rained much of the weekend.

I managed to drill out four screws and remove one of the mast steps to make it easier to put on a sensible sail cover. There’s more to report here in the long run. For now, let me say it was one hour per screw. 

Also. Cheap bits break. The titanium nitride (TiN) bits with a 135° tip rock. Even through a ½” of stainless steel. Eventually.

We use a snubber line on our chain. It runs from a bow cleat down to the chain, letting us ease the chain until it hangs loose and this rode takes the strain on cleat and chock instead of directly on the windlass.

We’ve been using this line for — well — since we started anchoring.

The big steel hook fits nicely over our ⅜” BBB chain. The eye is woven directly to the hook, with not shackle.

The rusty loop used to have a galvanized thimble inside it. The thimble rusted away because it was connected to a stainless shackle at the base of the bobstay, and constantly in contact with stainless steel and saltwater.  

After the thimble failed, we moved it up onto the deck. It’s easier to monitor, since it’s not down under the water handling the chain. The picture doesn’t show this, but the line is smaller line than our ⅝” anchor rode. When it was time to replace, I looked for something bigger.

The two hand-woven splices (while messy) have held up well over the years. But. All the messy splices eventually come to an end. 

This is the new snubber. The old hook now has a shackle so I don’t have to cut the line to get it off. And the loop at the other end is big enough for any cleat on the boat.

It’s ⅝″ line, to match the anchor rode. The loops are not spliced in, they’re seized. This is much simpler to do, and it appears that seizing can take a fair amount of strain before breaking.

Looking at the Findley’s Rope-Works collection of knots (page 17) has an illustration of a loop with three seizings to be sure it always holds.

I’ll add a second set of seizings, I think. They’re quick to do, and easy to inspect for wear. Findley suggests using “racked” turns closer to the eye. This leads to a “flat” seizing, distinct from the round seizings I’ve done already. Should be fun.

https://ropeworks.biz/reader/seizing.pdf

BTW. I like Findley’s approach slightly better than Brion Toss’ approach. Toss starts with an eye and wraps up and then back. Findley starts in the middle and both the initial turns and the riding turns work in the same direction. And with Findley’s method, I don’t have a weave a tiny eye into the twine.

The big win here is that woven splices are limited to three-strand line. A seizing, however, can be done in either twist or braided line. Rather than learn to splice double braid, I can put in multiple seizings. And replace them as soon as they look sketchy.

(Looking at the picture, I may add a thimble, also.)


© Steven Lott 2020