Money Matters

Today I looked at our bank accounts.

A few days ago, we spent over 3000 on doing a new dodger, bimini and adding some stuff like grab rails, and mounts for the solar panels above the bimini (instead of THROUGH it like the previous set up).

Our poor, little checking account takes a pretty good hit every month from the marina bill. Next month it will be boat insurance, and also our storage locker. December, car insurance. We get a really good deal on the storage locker though. We pay a year in advance and get a month free. So, next year, we should be good until December or even January!

Today, my first Social Security check made it into the bank, just a few days after my military retirement check. A whopping “boat buck”, plus a little bit. We think of a “Boat Buck” as an amount that, should something break, we’re going to end up spending about $1000 on it (whether up front or for parts, labor, time, extra parts, trips to the store for MORE parts, etc).

Other than me working in the marina, this is our first real income in forever. Five years nearly. The marina wasn’t much. Maybe a few hundred bucks a month at most. Ice Cream and Beer money usually.

(Our income now consists of my military retirement pay, plus SS, not a LOT, but good enough.)

In December, JoAnne can apply for Social Security. That should give us enough to live on month to month. We still have out little “nest egg”, sitting there, drawing interest too!

When we retired, we hoped to go for five years, without working, from funds from our house. And, we have, or close enough anyway, along with multiple cross-country trips, massive medical bills and insurance costs for the boat and car. I took the marina job because it was 1) something to do, 2) I can do it with my eyes closed, 3) It’s not difficult, 4) it’s fun, 5) my commute was 3 minutes walk to the office/docks from my boat.

Everyone who is interested in becoming a cruiser asks “How can I survive? What can I do? How can I make money?” They also ask numerous questions of us about how we do things, how we make money, how can we live without a television (very well, thank you) and they insist on knowing about bathrooms….

A lot of people work their way up and down the coast, or around the world, taking on odd jobs and various other ways. Some folks, they just have it made with lots of cash in the bank, drawing interest from a previous life of proper investing or rental incomes. We don’t have those things.

And lots of people take the “easy way” out, by creating visual/video appealing Youtube sites and monetizing them. More power to them, but, I don’t click on them. I read a rare few blogs myself, but I don’t watch monetized sites, or click on the stuff. I HATE, utterly DETEST Ads. (I’ll explain why in a moment.)

People who have the artistic ability to create informational videos abound, but not all of them are very good at it. Some get lucky and actually make money. Most do not. And the amount of work it takes to shoot video, edit it and put it all together in a viewable format is more than I want to deal with sitting at my lap top. I do enough of that writing and reading. I honestly don’t want a desk job on my boat.

Then there’s the thing with “Internet ads”. Most sites, Youtube included, can be monetized, so that ads show. My issue with ads is simple. Almost every one has to “pay” to access the Internet. We are paying for “bandwidth” (another concept I find ridiculous, having worked in IT for years) and find themselves throttled (slowed down) after so many gigs of data pass through. Because… why?

So Internet providers can pull more money from retired people, and young people alike. There’s NO need to throttle a service. Ever. Limit the incoming stream to x-amount all the time, so they can watch a movie or whatever, BUT, don’t limit it at the end of the month under the implied rule “were’re trying to make it fair for others to get data too!”

That’s BS. Back to ads. Ads use bandwidth too. If you’re watching television or listening to radio, that is a FREE service, paid for by ads. The Internet is a PAID service, paid by you. Why do *I* have to pay for an ADVERTISER to feed me data, using MY data stream? They should be paying ME to view ads. Give me free data every time to feed me a BS ad, and I’ll still ignore your ad.

I don’t personally find it polite for people to stick ads on everything, and therefore this is one of the reasons I avoid video blogs 99% of the time. I’d rather read a book or read a blog. (This text-only entry is about 2-3 kilobytes of data).

Most people wait until they are old, like me, to retire and move on into retirement spending their savings. Younger folks, I’ve found work their way around the planet on boats. They spend time in a place, find they have some particular asset that makes them “wanted” in a particular market, such as bar tending or working in a marina (something I can do, the marina thing, not bar tending).

Others do odd jobs, cut hair, they do wood work, sell hand made items like jewelry and wooden carvings.

If you’re on a boat, there are monthly fees on things, regardless of what you do or don’t do. You have to pay for fuel, propane, gasoline, water, bottom cleaning, top cleaning. Even if you do most of the jobs yourself, you still need to eat, keep warm, get cool, buy products, spend energy many times even moving your boat.

Most of us today, in modern times, do NOT give up our engines no matter for the old days when there were men and boats to pull you into the water ways. Those times and people aren’t here. I can’t sail out of my slip easily due to the weight and size of the vessel, so I require fuel and an engine. Otherwise, I have to get some local friends in dinks to pull me out, or use lines to warp out of the area and into the ICW. Not fun, and not cost effective.

At WORST, I could call SeaTow and ask them to come and move me out to the water way, but I’d not do that. So, we all pay for energy somehow.

How do we make money? We have a retirement income. But, I’m looking at an alternative. Above I mentioned something about “bottom cleaning”. Our boat gets full of wild life on the bottom after a few weeks and it costs me anywhere from 100 bucks a month to 175 bucks every quarter to clean the boat. I have to call a dive service to do so. They aren’t cheap. And they are pretty much the only “game in town” around here.

They claim to give “discounts” for those who do monthly service, but…. the math goes like this:

$110 * 12 = $1320 monthly
$132 * 6 = $792 bi-monthly
$175 * 4 = $700 quarterly

Typically, I call them every three months. They do a “one time cleaning fee” or 175 so for 700 bucks per year, someone comes and cleans my boat, checks my zincs and so forth. They will not give me a quarterly contract, because “You don’t use your boat enough”. Hmmmm

So, I don’t see a SAVINGS by going with monthly, I see more outlay for cleaning if I went to monthly. And I am not sure about someone having the nerve to tell me “You don’t use your boat ENOUGH” to qualify for a quarterly thing?

This brings me finally, to my actual point – if you’ve stayed with me long enough here, and I hope you have, I will be diving my own boat for cleaning from now on. The cost of the equipment is LESS than the “quarterly fee” I’ve been spending.

I have the skills, time and ability to dive the boat myself. Except, I don’t have all the equipment other than my snorkeling gear I need. Today, I hit the “buy” button on a few extra items I need. A surface air supply (compressor and tank), fifty feet of air hose, first stage regulator, a diving hood (to keep critters out of my ears) and an inline oil/water separator for the air supply.

I will eventually need a full wet suit (for diving in the cooler waters here in North Carolina) as well as a battery to power the compressor for diving. I figure I can stick the gear in my dink, row over to someone’s boat, tie off, kill the AC on the dock/boat and dive the bottom, or do my own any time it’s not terrible weather, or too cold (I’m not diving cold waters or weather, I’m getting too old for that stuff now).

But, in five dives, I will have paid myself back for the gear. Anything after that is simply money in the bank. And I don’t have to do other’s boats. But, I don’t have to pay for mine any more either.

I’ll spend time practicing on my own ship when we get further south in a month or so, in clearer water.

If you’re a cruiser reading this, how do YOU make money? Comment and let us know what you do, and think!

Time to go catch a fish for bait for crabs!

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s/v Adventure: 7 Oct 2019

Found and replaced some missing nuts and washers this morning on the engine. One set on one of the engine mounts had “rattled” off apparently, down inside the pan. Had to hunt with a flashlight and reach into the deep, dark recesses beneath the engine to retrieve them.

Had purchased a couple of sets of spares yesterday, and wound up using one of the new nuts. Found the other, can’t reach it at the moment, my arms don’t fit down there.

Tested the transmission levels today, started engine, brought her up to operating temperature, put the engine in gear and stressed it forward and backward… pushing water very well.

Shut down engine, and tested levels, and they are right.

I believe I’m losing transmission fluid through the oil cooler assembly at higher operating temperatures under pressure. It’s not a LOT at a shot, but it’s enough that after many hours, I need to add fluid.

I think I will end up having to replace the cooler (a double cooler set up).

Hopefully, we’re going to get our provisions together in a couple of days, take care of some things in the area like our storage locker, and a tire giving me fits, and then do a test run of the engine.

Might just come back, drop our temporary crew member off at the docks and kick off and keep going if we have everything ready for the trip by the time the weather is good enough to do an engine test run.

Watermaker:

Just ran the water maker. Last time was a nearly empty tank (a couple gallons left in it) on 28 September 2019. Filled the tank in about 5 minutes under three hours.

Today, we started the maker at 1350 hours local. The machine ran for 1 hour and 40 minutes and the tank “popped”, letting us know water was full. The tank makes a noise when it is full, I assume one of the sides bulging out slightly. JoAnne also observed noise at the air pressure relief behind her seat, and the over flow began flowing into the bilge.

So… 21gal/hr * 1.66666 hours = 34.99986 gallons of water

It took us 9 days to use 35 gallons of water from our tanks. That’s pretty average for us, when not taking showers on board (which is extremely rare for us to do). The calculation is for the amount of water produced per hour (nominal 21gph) and the time is the number of hours in decimal format for how long it actually took to fill the tank. So, 1 hour, 40 minutes is roughly 1.66666 hours. Multiplying those numbers gives me the quantity of water produced over the time period.

(At some point, I’ll calculate the exact amounts of water, gasoline, wattage used and probably soup up the solar panels a bit along with the generator! Actually, the solar isn’t used for the process, but, I like being able to keep the batteries charged using them, and I know the DC side uses almost 10 amps. So, that was almost 20 Amp hours!)

High pressure side ran at just under 700 psi

Low pressure side at 8 psi, and went up to 20 psi as the process continued.

A check of the filters shows they need to be pulled out and cleaned. I’ll use those a couple more times (after I clean them tomorrow and do a system flush with fresh water) and then when we arrive in clear water, I’ll swap the filters out for new ones. Not sure how long they can be used for before you are supposed to change them.

We did keep popping a breaker for the lift pump for some reason. But after I started up the high pressure pump it stopped. I assume the lift motor was working a bit too hard.

Electrical:

Today I ran the engine, mentioned above, and used the bow thrusters to check them, pushed bow out a bit. Noticed that the battery charger has kicked in, I assume due to the use of the thrusters. Also, as a result of the low pressure pump doing it’s thing. It draws about 10 amps while running.

The fridge draws five pretty constantly.

We also run several DC fans on warm days like today, so the power draw adds up. The system is currently charging at about 80% and it’s not “ready” yet, like normal.

I did check the batteries a couple of days ago, added water to them, and checked a few random cells for charge (they were good).

I also have replaced a double pole, double throw toggle on the battery meter, which I thought was broken, showing low readings on the meter. When I tested the output on my digital meter, it read normal (at 13.5vdc) so I assumed the wires or switch bad. Replaced several connectors, cleaned some connections and replaced the switch and things were fine.

Last night, I noted the meter was reading low again, and yet with a digitial meter, it was reading fine.

Checking things a few minutes ago, I noted the power system is charging, and the meter reading is normal, showing a charge on-going. The secondary (old) Xantrex meter still in the circuit is also showing 13.70 vdc, which means the system is charging.

Not sure yet if we have a flaky connection back in the battery bay or what yet. I’ll find it eventually though.

I’ll double check the voltages on the batteries, and probably test all the cells before we decide to do a shake down next week. Shake down will likely be next weekend or just before or after the weekend (to avoid the fishing vessels and the guys who don’t know how to drive their boats).

My Life as a “Captain”

Sea Captain is a rough, tough name.  Because, Sea Captains are rough and tough.  I suppose, I’m rough sometimes, and usually pretty tough.  But, I’m no “Sea Captain”.  I’ve lived aboard Adventure for over four years.  To be honest, I’m not really even a “Captain” or licensed ship’s master (though that might change in the coming months).  I am the “Master of this Ship” though.  We (the ship and I) have an agreement now.  I maintain her, and she’s stopping hitting me in the head, tripping me and doing bad things.  She still throws things around sometimes in little tantrums though.

I’m actually “certified” through the America Sailing Association on several levels; things that most people, with a little common sense, can do, study and get “certified”.  Almost anyone can take classes and pass the tests, and a lot of people do so, sometimes without common sense.  Some people never bother.  They have money, they buy a boat, pretend to be a “Captain” and wake smaller vessels, marinas, fuel docks, can’t figure out which way to go when coming head on, make bad decisions sometimes endangering others and so on.  Perhaps those are the folks that spend their money on someone else to do the varnishing?  I don’t know….

But, people around the marina, the Coast Guard, the marina patrol all call me “Cap” or “Captain”.  JoAnne calls me “Captain” occasionally, though rarely.

Being a Sea Captain is a rough, tough thing.  Not for any reasons you might imagine though.  When I started this blog, oh so many years ago, it was to document things we did, places we’ve visited and one thing I promised myself and my readers was to keep it “Real” — tell it like it is.  Because there are so many wonderful blogs and video blogs out there that tell it like it ain’t.

Not that they LIE.  But, they don’t tell the WHOLE truth all the time.  Don’t get me wrong, they show the great parts of living aboard a boat, the awesome places they visit, the beauty of the world, the cool people, and great friends they make.  These are all good things.

Leaving out the bad days, nights of anchor dragging, stormy seas, crappy boat performance, the jerks you meet out there (along with all the great people) is a kind of “lie by omission” to me.  Perhaps in our blog due to our actual LACK of travel sometimes, it gets boring or repetitive.  I get that. But, it is what it is.  Being a boat “Captain” isn’t an easy job even when you’re actually being a captain and sailing the boat.  On the other hand, it’s great fun.

Adventure is a wonderful, beautifully designed, boat made from fiberglass and she contains a massive amount of wood both above and below.  A lot of teak. She was designed, we believe, by William Garden, built in a Taiwanese shipyard in Taipei, Taiwan.

Her full keel is a dead weight displacement at 19,000 lbs.  Her total weight/displacement puts her as a 16 ton ship.  Her rig is that of a ketch, two masts, main and mizzen.  She has four sails, a working jib, a 150% Genoa, main and mizzen sail, all of them are roller furled sails (main and mizzen in-mast).

She has three solid anchors.  Two CQRs, one at 60lbs and one at 45lbs, 150′ nylon rode and 280′ of 3/8th BB chain on the 45 pounder.  The smallest anchor is a 19 lb danforth used as a kedging or stern anchor (rarely used).  No, I won’t get into the “anchor argument”.  It is what it is, and we have what we have, and I’m not switching anchors because some know-it-alls on the Internet, sitting at their arm chairs tell me “CQRs Suck”.  Mostly, they don’t suck, mostly every anchor ever invented has pros and cons.  At least it’s not a giant rock with a hole cut in it to tie a line too like the Greeks used, right?

Adventure is a well found Pirate Ship that any wannabe Pirate would be both proud to sail or live upon.  She handles well, even in crappy weather and big seas.  It’s just that the Captain of this boat is more difficult to handle… the seas that is. I’m still looking for a place to mount the cannons though.  No cannon deck….

I can sail her, alone if need be and JoAnne can sail her too, but has problems with the sheets sometimes.  I think that is more a perception thing than a physical thing.  This boat is significantly larger than most of the boats we’ve sailed (Except a 42′ Jeanneau called “Wombat” in the BVIs a few years ago) so it can be daunting to stand on the deck or cockpit moving at 7 knots under all sail with a short handed crew of two.

I’ve gotten sea sick at least twice.  The First Mate, JoAnne, she’s a tough cookie too.  Fought and beat back Cancer twice.  Broke her back once.  Has given birth to six children.  Broke a leg once.  Multiple stomach surgeries.  Has put up with my shit for 42+ years now, so she’s a very tough First Mate, and I love her dearly.  But, she too, gets sea sick.

So much of my “being a Captain” of a boat is spent cleaning, sanding, varnishing, repairing things, building new things from parts, varnishing, installing systems (new water maker!) and did I mention “varnishing”?  Also trying to make things easier for us.

Of late, I’ve spent a couple of weeks working on sanding and varnishing.  That’s a tough job in the heat and humidity of North Carolina.  Installing the water maker wasn’t a piece of cake either.  I had to remove a large, 30 gallon water tank and replace that with the water maker system.  I think it was a good trade off though, since we rarely used that tank.  It was our reserve water, really, and we rarely did more than flush that tank out every couple of months to add new water.

On the bright side, we can now make water using a generator.

Installing things is a “Captain” thing to do, otherwise, you pay someone else to do it.  That’s not fun….  If a Captain has a crew who is capable of doing a particular job, the Captain will delegate the authority to accomplish the task.  The First Mate can’t do most mechanical things well, if at all.  She just doesn’t really see mechanical things in a way that she can fix or repair them.  But, she’s a wonderful cook – and I will even call her a “Chef” though she refuses to accept that title (without professional training).  Sometimes, amateurs are better than professionals anyway, and no matter what she thinks, she a Chef in MY mind.  She’s also the “Provisioner” and pretty much in charge of the inside of the ship, except the engine. And other mechanical things.  And anything broken.  HA!

She can do a little electrical stuff, because she’s an Amateur Radio Operator, but I prefer to do that stuff because, it’s what I did for my whole life.

Thus, I do the mechanical work, electrical work, plumbing when required, I paint, I sand, I varnish, I do sewing, of sails and canvas, I do marlingspike work (ropes, lines, replacing old lines with new).  I do dock work, deck work, I remove fittings, I replace fittings, I fix fittings… Soon, I shall even become the boat diver and clean the bottom of the boat myself. (That’s another thing that bugs me…. as the wild life here grows quickly, and the local guy doesn’t have a lot of competition so charges a lot for a single boat cleaning job).

Again, the cost of maintaining a boat is significantly more than a house.  Of course, you sometimes spend a lot of money on new windows, doors, appliances, and so on in a house, but you don’t have the salt air tearing it all apart internally most of the time like a boat.  Your house, unless you live in California or Japan, doesn’t move at all.  Ours moves constantly, so wear and tear on everything from dock lines to antichaffing stuff.

Our “window replacement” was the bimini and dodger as of two days ago.  It wasn’t a cheap thing, but it’s pretty.  It isn’t glass, but Esenglas.  Not shingles for a roof, but a canvas covering.  The cost was about the same as I would have ended up paying for a new garage door or several windows in a house.

But, it is nice. The solar panels are better mounted, we have new grab rails and I’m happy with it.  But I didn’t do it.  Perhaps the next time, I can do it myself.

Over the four plus years aboard Adventure, we spent two of them cruising and taking off for Colorado for cancer treatments and two compression fractures in JoAnne’s back.  So, over the course of time, we spent about 9 months off the and the rest on it.  A full year of that was cruising around the Chesapeake Bay, and down from New York to here in North Carolina.

We don’t have as much distance under the keel as some do.  We haven’t visited all the cool places some have.  Times though, are a changin’, so it is said.  I’m going to order my surface air supply systems and a few things like a regulator in a few days.  The Varnishing is nearly complete (for now, more will take place under way).  Water maker installed.  JoAnne is making lists of things for provisions.  We’ve considered staying a couple extra weeks (based on weather, and the Steed Bonnet race) and that’s up in the air at the moment as well.

Truthfully, there’s nothing now, not even hurricanes harrying the area to prevent us from setting sail in a day or two other than extra food.  This weekend I’ll go through my lockers one last time, hit the storage unit, repair a tire on our car, remove crap from the dock box and do final tests, and a short day sail to check on things.  Jay Beard has volunteered to go along for the shake down.

In the next two weeks, we have parts coming in, and strapping down of things to accomplish, grocery stores to visit, rum to replenish and perhaps… a day or two off to rest up before the departure.

As you can see, the “Life of a Captain” isn’t all “Partying”.  It’s more like being a Slave to a ship that rarely moves from the docks, but demands a significant amount of attention each and every day.

Move, though, we will.  To the South.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.  Out there.  That a-way.

Then I can be a Tough and Rough Sea Captain again.

Maybe.

If I don’t get sea sick.

I’ve got to head this boat south pretty soon
New album’s old and I’m fresh out of tunes
But I know that I’ll get ’em, I know that they’ll come
Through the people and places and Caldwood’s Rum

  (Manana, by Jimmy Buffett)

Note:  Most of blog entries on the windsoftime.us site (also see this link if for some reason the domain is down https://thewindsoftime.wordpress.com) are pretty boring, talking about the things I do on the boat, to the boat and in the boat.  But, Adventure is a ship, worthy of so much more than sitting idle at the docks like she does.  Soon, we will make her Happy Again.

Bimini and Dodger, More Varnish and Sanding

Bimini:

Just prior to Hurricane Florence last year, I made an error on leaving my solar panels and bimini in place.  Well, sort of an error.  I knew that the windage would be high and the bimini was mounted under the solar panels, and the posts holding the solar up went THROUGH the bimini.  I also realized how damaged and aged the bimini was.

Leaving it up was a recipe for disaster if things got bad.  Taking it down was a recipe for disaster because of age.

I left it up.  We “lost a solar panel” off the top.  The wind ripped it loose and dropped it, fortunately, on the deck of the boat where it remained until I returned after the hurricane in October last year.  I easily repaired the small amount of damage and observed the bimini wasn’t in great shape, but survive.  It had a couple of small tears in it.

This time, as Dorian approached, I removed EVERYTHING from the deck.  We pulled Adventure into the marina, deep inside up near the containment bulkhead and positioned her inside a shallow slip at high tide, so we settled into the mud when the King Tide fell off.

Dorian hit with a whisper of winds (40 knots perhaps on shore here), the eye wall missing us by a good 30-35 miles.  Adventure came through fine.  The bimini however, as well as the dodger have seen better days.  So, I never reinstalled it.

About a month ago, I ran into a canvas guy, David from “Custom Canvas” out of New Bern.  He gave us a quote for lowering the bimini, creating a new bimini and dodger (no enclosure this time) and adding a few extra pieces.

The steel was lowered at one visit.  Another visit resulted in several more measurements, some grab rails and the bows over the top of the bimini top on which to mount the solar panels.

David was here a few days ago, installed the bimini, and subsequently, I installed the solar panels in a preliminary location – which, might move slightly back soon.  I am not sure I like them exactly where they are, and I want extra room for the boom to swing by the top of the bimini.  I’ll work that out later.

Dodger:

He is returning today, to bring the dodger, which for the uninitiated is the part that covers the front of the cockpit, and “dodges” the spray and waves that can wash over the front of the boat at times.  We had the top of the dodger lowered as well, so that I can now re-learn climbing in and out of the companionway getting whacked in the head.  But, the point was to allow JoAnne to actually see over the TOP of the dodger now.

Before, when driving the boat, she could never get a clear view in front of the boat.  She had to duck down and look through the dodger window, or stand on her tiptoes to see above it, while leaning over to see past a sail.  Not fun for her, I assure you.

We dropped it down about 5-6 inches and had her stand behind the wheel.  When she was happy with the height, we stopped cutting.  I’m concerned I’ll have a few knots on my head, climbing in and out in the next few days once installed, but eventually, like Pavlov’s Dogs, I’ll learn.

Sand and Varnish:

Over the course of the past months, I’ve spent roughly 30 hours sanding wood, washing it, and varnishing.  I have about 90% of the teak done – on the top of the boat.  I haven’t touched the rub rails, or the plaques on the boat topsides yet.  And I haven’t done any varnishing to the aft deck (the whole aft of the boat is a raised, teak platform which covers a large storage compartment, containing our propane tanks and extra “stuff” we don’t want to leave on the deck, like pumps, parts for the emergency tiller, etc)

That deck will likely take a third of a quart of varnish alone for a single coat.  I’ll likely finish that first coat today or tomorrow.  After it hardens, I’ll be hitting the wood all the way around the top of the boat, once over, a complete boat wash, taping and varnishing the second coat.  I plan, if time and weather permits, to get some of the deck paint done and to fix a couple of leaks so the outside of the boat should be ready in less than two weeks.

Given the heat of the day, and humidity, I’ve tried to apply varnish in the right time of day, temps and humidity, but I’m here to tell you, this is an impossible task unless the boat is moved inside a building in a controlled environment.  So… it’s called “going with the flow” (of varnish, which flows off things, down tape, drips everywhere and is constantly being cleaned up).

After all that work, the boat looks amazing though, and in the end, it makes JoAnne smile at how pretty the boat is.  I makes my muscles ache when I see it….. But, I still like the varnished wood.

I plan to get about five coats on if I can, with fine sanding in between, and then do “touch up” coats after a few months to keep it looking nice.  It’s less work to do that, than to let it get down to bare wood.

Someone asked me the other day about sanding the boat and then varnishing it, then sanding again.  They have an all-Clorox-Boat, so I explained that it is supposed to take down the bubbles or ‘nibs’, and raised rough spots, and give the next coat something on which to cling.  They were impressed I knew so much about varnish (HAHAHA, little do they know, I just had to look it up to explain it to them!)

Side Note: Our friend Jason has also been sanding and sanding and vanishing and washing and sanding and varnishing as well.  I believe he completed his last coat last night.  The boat rails look amazing.

Storage Locker and Provisions: 

We have a storage locker.  I pay for it a year in advance.  It’s due in November I think, so I’ll be going over to write them a check for another yet, and going through my locker to pull out a few things and bring to the boat, as well as remove a few more things from the boat we won’t need.  I want ‘parts’ that I can use to repair things, even if makeshift if necessary, and I want heavy things off the boat I can’t use while under way (certain electrical tools).  We have little A/C power available except for the generator during cruising, and I’ll reserve that for the water maker most of the time, but will bring my battery drill, a saw and my small electronic tools, and the engine tools.

Also I have a sail in storage I need to bring back, and we need our water, diesel and gas cans back on the boat.  Need a way to carry extra water if we can’t make it or catch rainwater, diesel because I HATE docking at fuel docks and gas for the genny.

In a few days we will need to being picking up food to provision the boat.  We’re going to get a month’s worth of things, mostly long term storage items like canned foods, along with perhaps a week (whatever JoAnne decides can work for us) of fresh items and we will refill things as we go down the coast this time, instead of having six months worth of stuff on the boat this time.  Before we hope to Bahamas we’ll do a big food, beer and soda run (yes, we drink soda!) and stock up on things that are expensive in the Islands.  (Toilet paper, paper towels, etc)

We don’t use many paper towels (instead we buy cheap white cloths from the hardware store and reuse them) and tend to use the marina heads when we stop in them instead of the boat, but offshore… well, anyway….

JoAnne had her medical check up on the 9th of September.  We’ll have to work something out for one in December, and I think we’ll be calling back to her doctors here in NC to get advice on that subject when we get closer to the time.

My last obstacle is the Borg-Warner Velvet Drive Transmission.  Over the past couple of years, it’s given me fits.  Seemingly it stops “working” and then “works”.  We have determined that its simply a lack of transmission fluid, but where it is going, we’re unsure.  It’s not in the bilge, and I don’t think it is mixed in with the few drops of oil in the catch pan under the engine.

Someone suggested it is going out under pressure in the heat exchanger perhaps, once the engine reaches temperature.  I tend to agree since I’m not finding leaks anywhere else.  If so, then the solution will be to remove and replace the heat exchanger that is connected to the transmission.  I’ve identified the unit, and the hoses, but am not sure it there is a way to “test” for leaks at this point.  Meantime, I need to keep extra transmission fluid on the boat.

I’m sure I’ve missed something. I usually do.  But, that’s ok, I’ll figure it out when I come to it.

In the mean time, I rarely if ever do this, but I want to remind folks that I’ve written some books and I’d love it if some of you would take the time to read and review the books on Amazon.  I’ll drop the links at the bottom of this page.  One book is a couple of years old, and is about “Survival and Communications” and is a primer for people who don’t know much about radios and radio communications.  Call it a “Prepper Book” if you like.  It’s in Digital Format ONLY and I won’t be doing it in hard copy because it’s simply too expensive.  And if you’re a Prepper, then you know you’re NOT going to grab 200 of your favorite books and stuff them in your bug out bag.  You need to KNOW the information, knowledge is power. Don’t carry a book, carry your brain around with the information inside.

The other book is a SF Adventure/Thriller, “Aftermath’s Children” set in the not-too-distant future, and you can read the description online at Amazon.  That book is in both digital and hard copy formats.  You can find all three versions of the books at the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Rick-Donaldson/e/B00Q514LD0

I invite you to buy it, read it, review it and if you get the hard copy, and we pass by, I’ll sign it for you.  The second book in the series is being completed soon.   Please, drop me a line at Adventure.Rick.JoAnne@gmail.com or r.daledonaldson@gmail.com if you buy a copy!  Thanks!!!

 

SeaWater Pro – Makin’ Water

Making fresh water from sea or brackish water is turning out to be kind of fun.

Our water tank is getting low, so I fired up the water maker. This is only the third time we’ve run it for a good length of time, and figured it was time to make sure things work well.

We’re on Shore Power at the moment because we’re in the marina. Tide has hit high tide at about 8:15 this morning, and flowing out now. I was trying to get this done at high tide to prevent pulling in mud or silt from the floor of the ICW. The water is brackish.

So about 9:25 we fired up the rig, I adjusted things so it is creating water and running at 21 gpm. The contaminate level is at 110 most of the time so far.

We’re running it for slightly less than three hours today to fill the tank and to ensure no problems are found.

No leaks. No problems thus far. It’s been going for just under two hours. Should take three to fill the tank to capacity.

The ICW is flowing out right now at around 2.5 knots of current and I really wanted flowing water going past us. Helps eliminate standing muddy water and stuff floating near by the intake. Keeping a constant flow of water is a good thing.

Checking the strainer shows the incoming water is clear, nothing of note in it, no critters I can see and no debris or dirt.

The main filters are clear, with a small amount of “dirt” showing in the first filter (20 micro filter).

My only issue is that I don’t know the quantity of water in the tank. We normally fill with a hose or using water cans, and when we reach ‘full’ the tank will make a popping sound. I don’t think that is going to happen this time.

I suspect I might have to install a gauge of some sort or a see-through tube to the tank to let me know my levels. I’ll ponder that another time. I know though, when we hit “full” the vent will begin to vent the extra water into the bilge so that will be my indicator for the time being.

My friend Kevin, when I told him about the installation walked over to the garden hose by his boat and picked it up saying, “I have a water maker too”. Kevin has been sailing his whole life, and I know he probably understands the difficulties of getting fresh water in some places. Others know that throwing money at a problem offers a temporary solution, like just purchasing the water.

I prefer self-sufficiency over total dependence on others. Sure, I still have to have electricity, and to get it I have to run a generator. But a gallon of gas will run the generator for ten hours or so, producing 210 gallons of water if I ran it the whole time.

Gas (here) is about 2.89 a gallon. Water is free.

In the islands, gas is more, and the water isn’t free. Unless you catch it from the rain. Which we can also do. Right now, gas is about 1.20 dollars a liter in the Bahamas (roughly). Water is running from 6-7 dollars a day to as much as $20 to fill your tank. Since the hurricane went through, I don’t know what they are charging at the moment.

Options….. we all want options.

A gallon of gas in Bahamas is about $4.80 so, still slightly cheaper to produce the water using the generator than to purchase it and haul it back back forth in the dink to me. Less work too. I HATE pulling into marinas and running the engine constantly. So… to me, it’s a convenience thing.

As I’m typing this, we’re right at two solid hours of running the system. The noise isn’t too bad and the unit is under the settee. I open it up for air (motor can get warm) so it’s a little louder that I like, but tolerable.

We should have produced 42 gallons of water at this point, and my vents aren’t yet venting water, so that’s good. The bilge doesn’t have any water in it at the moment either. So that’s good too. Contaminants are at 117 ppm. Still good.

Just as a refresher here, pure sea water should produce fresh water, at about 200 ppm. Less than pure salt water will produce water at lesser numbers. (We have seen it from 65 – 120). I think the difference is whether the tide is rising or falling.

If rising, then mostly we will see fresh river water coming back into the ICW from the Cape Fear. As it rolls out again, it will be more saline from having mixed with the incoming sea water from the tide.

If we ran clean water through (that might be high contaminates) it should run much less than the 85 number above. The FDA says about 600 ppm is ok for human consumption. A chart is provided below.

What is the acceptable TDS level of drinking water?

By the way, our drinking water goes through a Seagull Carbon Filtration system at our galley sink. Most of the time the water coming out of the regular faucet is fine, has no smells and tastes ok. We use the filter system for the fresh water, just in case.

Our tanks (now singular) are treated about about every three months with enough bleach to sterilize the tank internally and the hoses. In general, I’ll open the tank faucet to allow water flow, run the hose into the input (on the deck) and run it for awhile to ensure flushing the tank. Then add the chlorine, and flush again in a couple of days. I usually flush most of that water through the bilge to keep it clean as well after a couple of days. Most of the chlorine is dissipated by then.

The water maker needs to have the system flushed every few days as well with fresh water, which is also run through a carbon filter to remove chlorine (and typically, I just connect a garden hose straight from the shore power pedestal to clean the filters and the Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter.

At exactly 3 hours in (I knew the tank was almost empty) the system started blowing water into the bilge, indicating the tanks are full. I brought the system pressure down and turned off the main pump motor, allow the lift pump to continue for a few months, then powered it down. Now, I have the garden hose attached to the carbon input filter, and am flushing the RO out.

So, there you have it. Our first solid, real production of water from the ICW with our new water maker, filling the tanks, tasting, drinking it and using it. I’ll let you know if it kills me. HA!

The water, by the way, coming through the system is clear, sweet and has no smells or odd tastes. I consider this a success.

Canvas, Bimini, Monthly update

A few days ago, I ran into a man who does canvas work.  He also bends and cuts the steel. Had a chat with him about things, and decided to make some changes.

We’ve not been terribly happy with my “makeshift” solar panel mounts because they were made partially of aluminum, on stainless steel (not a good combo in a salt air atmosphere, but it was what I had at the time).  Also, the ancient bimini wasn’t in the best spot, and I ended up putting holes in it first with a soldering iron (to melt the threads together) and washers and screws through it, to hold the solar panels above the bimini.

Another thing that has bugged me since day one on the boat was the fact the main boom was so high up.  In looking at other vessels of my type, with similar in-mast furling, I noted most are lower than mine (significantly) and I can’t find a reason for the boom to be so high other than missing the bimini.

As it turns out, the height on the steel was close to 7.5 above the sole of the cockpit.  About 2.5 feet above my head.  Also, mounting the panels there put them in danger of the boom sweeping them off, so sailing on  run was something I was extremely cautious of doing, ever.  An unexpected Jibe would have ripped the panels off, perhaps the bimini and bent the steel.

After consulting with JoAnne, and Dave (the man who runs Custom Canvas, out of New Bern) we decided to go ahead and hire him to assist.

The changes will be as follows:

  1. Lower the boom (in a good way! ha ha) several inches, actually almost 18″ to be exact.
  2. Lower the bimini top to a few inches over MY head (I’m 5’9″).
  3. Rebuild the dodger and bimini
  4. Add stiffeners to the dodger, bimini
  5. Add grab rails to the bimini which will double as a holder for two new bows over the top
  6. The bows will give me a mounting point 2-3″ above the bimini (no more holes in bimini)
  7. The dodger will cover the hatch correctly
  8. Bimini will have a window (had one before but was unusable due to age)
  9. Stiffener will be at Mizzen mast
  10. Dodger will cover the lower part of the cockpit, with an Esenglas panel to cover the upper part to bimini

Lowering the boom will give me a bit better sail shape than I was able to get.  However, I will have to definitely add a preventer and consider using the topping lift to prevent a sideways SMACK across the bimini.

Solar panels can be moved around now more forward or back as needed.  My alternate/backup small panel will remain movable from side to side of the ship hanging from the mizzen rig to keep it on the sun-side most of the time.

We’ll finally have some new canvas on the boat.

Over the past few months, I’ve done little things here and there. JoAnne and I have gone through most of the “Junk” we have and pulled some off the boat and placed in storage, and pulled things from storage and put on the boat.  We still have “too much stuff”.  We get to do a very good going-through of the boat in the next couple of weeks to empty anything we simply don’t need or can’t use, place in storage and ensure we absolutely have parts we CAN use on the boat for repairs and emergencies.  I am down to one tool bag (and a small one for small tools for electronics stuff).

JoAnne has pared down the other things like cooking utensils and so on.

But we have shade and a water-maker.  I want to have the forward cabin usable for a guest or two – though we don’t foresee that any time soon.

Other items:

Someone went by and it appears they have punctured the dingy (one of the tubes).  Why?  Not sure, but it’s kind of impolite to do such things.  And expensive.  So, one of the things I had to do was locate the repair kit for this dink (I have a couple of repair kits, one for rubber dinks and one for the hypalon dink we currently own) and I’ll need to hoist the boat, soapy-water-the-hell out of it to find the hole and clean and repair it.

Transmission is an on-going pain in the rump.  Borg-Warner, Velvet Drive.  Moving the boat before Hurricane Dorian, I discovered (too late) that the transmission wasn’t quite right and I think the fluid has gone where ever it goes, again.  Had a devil of a time trying to get the boat into the slip, ended up pulling in forward, and not backing like I wanted to do.  Going to dig into that tomorrow morning and see if it’s simply a fluid issue.  Friend Kevin says his does exactly the same thing; leave it sit without running for a few weeks and you have to re-add fluid.

This one didn’t USED to do this.  But it does now.  /sigh

Today is Friday the 13th of September 2019.  I get my first “Social Security Check” next month on the 9th of October.  (I thought it would start this month, but they apparently don’t think they should, so whatever).  When that check starts, we will have our “income” doubled. haha  JoAnne gets to apply for February.

Where are we going?

We don’t know honestly.  Marsh Harbor was on our “sail to” list, but due to a Cat 5 Dorian – not now.  We aren’t setting plans, destinations or schedules.

We’re going to provision for a month and a week or so of perishables.

Our plans are to go somewhere, cruise like we were before, head south(ish) and head for some islands somewhere.  We do have places like BVI, USVI, Turks and Caicos in our sights.  Whether we get there or not, remains to be seen.

The challenge has been thrown to us to go.  So, we meet the challenge!

Let the Winds of Time blow over our heads

SeaPro Reverse Osmosis Watermaker

Well over a year ago I was doing research on water makers – reverse osmosis water makers specifically.

I wanted a modular system, and had found one, but the price was about 5-6 thousand dollars.

I also researched building my own, and found I didn’t really have the time and money to slap-dash something together, only to find parts wouldn’t fit and I couldn’t make it work.

Then, one day I came across SeaWaterPro and decided to contact them.  My first contact was with Mindy at SeaWater Pro.

I asked her a lot of questions in both email and messenger.  Eventually, I was convinced for the cost of the system (1/3 the cost of the RainMan system at the time) I’d go with it for a test.

The system was modular, and I could build it into the boat in a piecemeal fashion, because as everyone knows, boats are limited on storage space, especially cruising vessels like our own.

As luck would have it, I purchased the kit over a year ago, and things began to happen.  Engine issues, hurricane Florence and JoAnne was diagnosed with a return of cancer.  In September last year we prepped the boat for Florence, and headed for Florida, storing the water-maker and most of our important things, expecting that Florence would make landfall as a Category four, here in Cape Fear Region.

She didn’t.  Fortunately. (Read more here: Hurricane Florence)

In the end, we returned to Colorado, then back here to the ship to prep for winter, as we’d spend it there.  Time got away from us.  Six months in Colorado in the winter time, staying with my wonderful son, Nick.  I know we probably stressed him out though we tried very hard to stay out of his hair the whole time.

Eventually, in April we returned.

I started devising ways to install the watermaker in the boat.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I ended up making the decision to remove the 30 gallon stainless steel tank sitting under the settee, and replace it with the watermaker.  The system would JUST fit in there.

Video of device in operation.

In fact, I could with relative ease, plumb the hoses and tubes I needed for input, output, overboard discharge, and electrical wiring under the seat.

Throughout it all, I kept in contact with Mike, the designer of the system, and he responded rapidly with both answers to my questions, and advice on various issues I had.  Being an engineer myself in another life, it wasn’t difficult to understand the system, how it worked, but some things were rather vague for me – because I wasn’t familiar with the system yet.

Installation took me about two weeks, along with another delay of several days due to heat in the boat (the temperatures and humidity got to me).

When I finally plumbed everything I did I pressure test and it leak like a sieve.   This was not the system’s fault, but mine. I had forgotten to use teflon tape on all the junctions and found I’d only applied it on some of the junctions.  Disassembly was easy because I installed it so I could remove various parts, especially the pre-filters, for changing and cleaning.

Mike actually ended up shipping me some new parts due to the length of time from when I had originally ordered the system to present.  He upgraded several items at no cost to me, which I sincerely appreciated.

A 1 hp electric motor and high pressure pump instead of his original design went into the boat.

I had to go buy a few extra feet of plastic hose to route the output, and I had to change a few fittings to get the right hoses in the right places.

In the end, I fit all the parts except the lift pump, and strainer under the settee.  The lift pump and strainer are in the forward compartment under the Vee Berth, right next to the intake through hull.  The saline overboard discharge also runs forward to an existing through hull above the water line.

There were no holes cut into the boat to do the job. I spent about 10 hours doing the install from scratch.

The second test was done under generator power.  I wanted to run the machine off the generator, as I will do on anchor.  I need to do a longer test to determine exactly how much gas it takes to fill my 60 gallon tank, but that is for another day.

I fired up the lift pump, let the system fill with water, checked for discharge water, and then fired up the pressure pump.  Next you turn a pin valve to increase the pressure.  At about 475-500 PSI the RO filter because to produce water.

The first bit (roughly an hour’s worth of run) must be run off to ensure the preservatives are removed from the RO filter.  The device is adjusted to be a steady 21gpm (on my system) and when that part was finished, I began running fresh water to a bucket, and checking the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter.  It showed a consistent 78-88 reading.  Checking with Mike once more, I found that because we are in the ICW and brackish water, we will run that low.

Pure sea water should run around 200 ppm, and FDA standards state that anything under 650 ppm is safe to drink.

When finished, I ran fresh water (from the outside faucet) through the (provided) carbon filter system to 1) remove chlorine, and 2) to flush the RO filter to prevent bacterial growth.

I have run the system twice in the past two weeks with very good results, as well as having plumbed the fresh water directly to another, already existing host to the 60 gallon tank down in the bilge.

I will include pictures later – probably tomorrow, as I’m just too tired to figure out where I put them all right now and upload them!

Over all, I give this system a 4.6 out of 5 stars….

Customer Service: 5.0

Documentation: 4.5

Equipment: 5.0

Functionality: 5.0

Difficulty of Assembly: 3.5

 

Documentation is mostly images, and probably works for most people, but the images do not necessarily show the exact parts in MY kit.

As to difficulty of assembly, the system is NOT hard to put together and make function.  The hard part is really based on your particular needs, space availability and your own technical ability.  While *I* can assemble nearly anything, including radio systems from scratch, and many mechanical items and devices, I also can read schematics and engineering documents.  Not everyone has these abilities, or would have to work harder to accomplish the same thing I did.  It might take longer.

But, Mike and Mindy have provided EXCEPTIONAL Customer service, responding instantly in some cases to emails, and in enough detail to help me figure out my immediate problems.

My final email to Mike was “Ok, it’s all installed and working.  Any further advice to give?”

Mike responded with, “Yes, take your boat to the Bahamas !! “

Now that Dorian has gone through here, and I’m back in my regular slip, it’s time to run the machine again, make some water and do a few more tests, but at this point, I’m extremely happy with the system.