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.

 

April through May 2019

When we came back to the marina, we were happy to see our boat.  We both missed Adventure very much.  Had the bottom cleaned by the local divers, and found out there was a LOT of hard growth on the bottom, where she tends to settle in at low tide.

Adventure from SHVM docks (Image by Nancy)

We cleaned up the boat and emptied all the extra crap because we had to make room for two crew members who had planned to go with us towards the Bahamas for a couple of weeks.  In the end, that didn’t work out, as they had other things happening in their lives which precluded them from going along.  But, the four of us took Adventure out and put up the sails the second we left the marina and put her through a pretty good shake down cruise for the day.

Unfortunately, we hit the mud, which slowed us, and the wind blew me into the neighbors boat.  Small scratch, but’s it’s going to cost a bit to fix.

Adventure performed extremely well, and we wound up doing a bit of a “show boat” past the marina under nearly full sail (minus mizzen), and got a video and pictures.  I’ll try to post those.

Adventure entering ICW from Cape Fear River Near American Fish (Image by Jen)

Adventure, Sails dropped, under engine power (Image by Nancy)

Adventure Flyby (Video by Nancy)

On Monday the 6th of May we’d planned to leave.  We both woke up to zero winds and looking at the various weather apps decided not to go.  Some of our friends argued with us about it, but we’ve had enough of making a decision, being talked out of it and/or second guessing ourselves.  We stood our ground.

On Tuesday though, we knew it was light in the morning and would pick up, so we were going to head out.  About 45 minutes prior to departure, I had all lines off but two to make it easy on the deck crew (our friends) and started smelling something “wrong”.

Going below, the transmission was shooting transmission fluid out the side.  I thought the seal had gone bad.  I spent several days trouble shooting and cleaning the pans out below the engine.

Finally, on Friday, I verified 100% the problem.  The shifter lever was the culprit.  Inside is an O ring that was probably worn.  Yesterday, Saturday 11 May, I tore into the thing.  It was easier than I expected, but it took me quite a few hours of research and downloading the manuals and trying to find any sort of instructions on disassembly.  I was unsuccessful at finding any videos.

The hardest part was keeping hold of a tiny ball bearing and screw that threatened to shoot out of the housing and down into the bilge.  I put a powerful magnet there to catch things, which saved me having to hunt for the ball bearing when it actually shot out and stuck to the magnet!

I pulled the guts out and looked and sure enough, the O ring was worn badly, and cracked.  When I tried to remove it, it broke in two.  I took the stuff to Napa who had the right parts.  $1.47 later, I had a new O ring and one spare.  I expect I should never have to do that again, but at least an O ring doesn’t weight much.

After reassembly, everything seems to be running well, no more leaks.  I’ll check the levels today and probably have to add a little bit to the transmission.  As they say, it’s best to run between the lines and have less than more.

With a bit of luck and weather planning we can still get out of here for a couple of weeks for some kind of adventure.

Sometime in June, JoAnne needs to go in to see a doctor, get a chemo port flush.  So, we’ll also have blood work done as well and pass that data on to her oncologist back in Colorado.

Today is Mother’s Day.  I took JoAnne breakfast and coffee in bed.  Of course, I do that almost every day anyway, but I got to tell her Happy Mother’s Day that way.

Today, there are storms coming through in a few moments.  Look like they will last an hour or so at most, and blow off.  More stuff is coming from behind, but will be hours and hours before it’s arrival.

The waves and winds do not look too good for tomorrow to go outside.  We’ll keep our eyes open for a weather window though.

Hurricane Florence

Back in September, we had to deal with two life threatening conditions.

The first was a possible Category 4 hurricane (Florence) headed straight for us.

The second was JoAnne’s CA-125 numbers rising.  The CA-125 is a particular cancer antigen they use to determine if there are ovarian tumors growing in her body.  The previous June we noted the numbers had begun to increase.  I think it was late August or early September we had another test performed (it’s a blood test).  The numbers were trending upward.

When we start prepping for the hurricane I doubled-checked our insurance, then removed sails, stowed things, removed important-to-us items, stored things in a storage locker on shore, packed the car and prepared to run.  The night before or the morning of our departure JoAnne received a message from the doctors telling her she needed to come back to Colorado and begin chemo within a few weeks.  Sooner if possible.

We had a PET scan done here in the North Carolina area, and it was determined she indeed had two areas of concern.  One, the one that frightened us the most was a nodule on her left lung on the upper lobe.  The second was a small area that lit up the PET scan, between liver and kidneys.  The lump on her lung was about 1 cm in size.  Significant in that it seemed to be growing rapidly.

We departed on Wednesday morning, with no particular destination.  She called her brother, Paul, down in Tampa Bay area and asked if we could visit for a time during the hurricane and he was more than happy to see us.  So, we headed east and south along the pre-staged hurricane evacuation routes;  there was no turning back once we got out of town.  We had to leave.

We basically had said good bye to our home, Adventure, unsure if we would ever see her intact again.  We figured insurance would help us replace her, or something similar if it came down to that.  But, we have no allusions about such things.  Insurance companies are notorious for NOT paying out on such claim, even with full replacement insurance like we have.  (Note that after being hit in Cobbs Marina by a power boater, while we were docked, we no longer carry just liability insurance.)

The trip south was uneventful.  We arrived. visited with Paul and Cathy, and waited with bated breath as we watched the weather applications on our computers and tablets.  The forecast Cat 4 never happened.  Florence did, however hit at a category 1 and destroyed several marinas to the north of our marina.  We lost a few pieces of the marina (and there is still some damage to this day).  Our own boat suffered minor damage (I could not easily remove the bimini as it has solar panels over the top of it, and I didn’t have enough time.

I had double and triple lined the boat to the pilings and dock, extra fenders and strapped the dock box down to the dock.  It didn’t move and was fine.  Adventure exploded a fender or two, stretched some lines and we got a couple tears in the old bimini.  Minor damage considering some people lost their boats north of us.

We tried to come back… but, roads were out, blocked, bridges were washed out, floods were everywhere and getting back to the marina would have proved problematic with a lack of fuel in the area.

So, onward to Colorado it was.  We saw her doctors, and set up appointments and a chemo schedule.  Finally, we heard people were getting back to Southport, and we had a three week down time before chemo began.  We hightailed it back to Adventure to clean up, repair the damage we could and prep the boat for the long winter of being away from her.

We simply left the boat in “hurricane prep” mode, and I dumped water tanks, and ensure nothing would freeze inside (the weather here rarely gets to freezing and when it does, doesn’t stay low enough for long enough to freeze the water).  With the boat cleaned and ready for winter, we secured her once more and drove the 2000 miles back to Colorado for the fifth trip since June (For anyone keeping track, that’s 10,000 miles in three months, not counting the side trips, and the hop down to Florida, which was roughly another 1600 added in there.)

JoAnne began the chemo in November.  Her chemo would be different this time.  On “Day One” she’d have all the medicines to prevent nausea, plus two chemicals to fight cancer, one was carboplatium and the other gemzar (and I don’t know if I am spelling the two correctly, I’ll fix that later).  Then on “Day Eight”, a dose of gemzar only.

Unfortunately, things began to go wrong.  She had a tooth infection, and wound up having an extraction, and going on antibiotics, thus preventing the Day 8 chemo session.  Instead three weeks later, the session and count down began again.

Day one of the second chemo session went well.  Her blood counts however, did not do well.  Again the day eight session was cancelled.

Each “session” was three weeks apart.  By this time it had been several weeks.  Session three was supposed to go as a Day One chemo infusion, then Day eight would be gemzar followed by Neulasta.  (Neulasta is a chemical they give to kick your bone marrow into high gear to produce white blood cells, and because they were so low, she really needed to get that shot).

Unfortunately, her numbers were so bad, her platelet count was extremely low, red and white cells very low, that it was dangerous for her to be out in public even.  So, they gave her the Neulasta shot, which is actually administered by a tiny robot module stuck to her arm.  It is loaded, armed and placed, then sticks a person with a small needle, to inject the drug 27 hours after the chemo is completed.  So, we have to monitor the device for beeps, lights and infusion.  When it is completed it was my job to remove the robot.

Her blood cell numbers began to look better, but her platelet count continued to spiral downward and would not recover.  We were very concerned.

Platelets, for those who are not well versed in medicine are required for clotting your blood.  So a small cut can bleed profusely, and a larger would could become fatal in moments.  You need to get the platelets back up to a normal number.

We watched the numbers, as she had tests weekly now, so another drive to the hospital, 45 miles round trip sometimes twice per week, we were at the hospital.

On Session Number Four, things start to appear normal.  We went in and her infusion went well.  She did not receive her Neulasta shot yet, as they wished to do the Day Eight Gemzar infusion.  She did get red blood cells.  We did that eight days later, on a Wednesday.  On Thursday we went in for blood work and she wound up receiving platelets as those numbers were still extremely low.  They gave her two units and then checked.  Then gave her two more.

Earlier that morning she had noticed a small blemish on her face.  It had gotten larger.  Then we noticed numerous small, red dots, resembling measles on her arms and legs.  We showed the nurses who then became very concerned.

At five PM, when we should have been out the door on the way home, her doctor ordered her admitted to the hospital.  She was “Neutropenic“.  This is a condition that results in low blood cell counts.  Her platelets were practically missing, and a hematologist was called in.

She was put on bed confinement because if she fell or was bruised in any way, should could hemorrhage.  The lack of white cells may have resulted in sepsis and could have killed her.  She was in danger.

Four days in the hospital later, they had given her some drug to prevent her body from killing off the blood cells they were giving her.  Apparently, her “Super Power” is killing foreign matter inside her own body.  Except cancer.  Her immune system was killing off the platelets they were giving her.  They had to give her red cells and platelets once they stopped the body from killing it off.

In a couple of days she was feeling better, color had returned, the spots were gone and she was ready to go home.

The Gemzar was the culprit.  They stopped giving that to her altogether, and stuck with the carboplatium.

Session Five and Session Six went without a hitch, other than lowered blood cell counts, and receiving the Neulasta shot on time 27 hours after each chemo session.

Three weeks to the day after the last chemo, like our regular clock-work schedule, we visited the hospital for a blood draw.  Fourty minutes later, we were in the PET scan area.  The numbers were back in 20 minutes.  All great.  Everything back to normal.  Except her red blood cells.  We think she is a bit anemic from all of the chemicals and she’s working to fix this with diet, supplements, and so on.  Tomorrow, on Friday, we’d get the PET scan results.

On Friday… we saw the doctor himself.  He was stern.  He didn’t smile.

Then he said, “Well, the PET scan results came back.  We see absolutely no sign of the cancer.  The nodule on your lung is just gone.  The other area isn’t light up.  We DID see some cells around your lung, but, they are not lighting up as if they are cancer.  It looks very good.”

JoAnne and I high-fived.

Wednesday the following week we were packed and were headed out.  First stop was going to be Omaha area, to visit our son Jeremy, who had moved up there and was working.  The car was completely packed and we sneaked out to avoid waking Nick, who had graciously allowed us to stay there for the whole medical adventure.

We left the key inside, went out the garage, secured the door with the electronic system and got in the car.

I put the key in and …. absolutely nothing happened. The car was dead.

We went ahead and got some assistance from the guys, and jumped the car.  Left jumpers on for 20 minutes, and the car started right up.

We drove to Nebraska without killing the car once.  That night we stayed with friends, and the car was fine.  Started up a couple of different times.  Next day we left for Missouri, pass through all the flooded areas, but no car problems.  Checking the car that night when we arrived in Richmond, MO, I found the battery voltages were not at a normal 13.8 after running all day.

I assumed the battery had a bad cell.  I went to Walmart because, as it turns out, some engineer is sitting there getting kickbacks on battery changes in the Dodge Journey.  The battery is NOT under the hood.  It’s not in the trunk.  It’s NOT in the back seat.  It’s under the left, front fender, kind of inside the engine compartment, but to get it, you must remove the wheel, the shroud covering the inside of the fender and then reach WAY up inside to unbolt the battery holder and cables!

Ok… 4.5 hours later at Walmart, the next issue happened.  All of the mechanics except one young kid, had walked off the job leaving my car sitting on the lift, tire off, and battery not looked at.  I, needless to say, complained.

At the end of it all, I personally reinstalled the wheel, taught the kid how to drop his lift, and made sure to Quality Control check his battery installation (because, he didn’t tighten the cables, and didn’t install the bracket to hold the battery down… which might have turn the car into a dangerous missile…..)

I went in to pay for the battery, and the lady at the counter apologized and said “No charge today, Sir, have a good day”.  Just like that.  Free battery?

Cool.

Unfortunately, nothing in life is free.

On Wednesday two days ago, we left Asheville, NC en route for Southport North Carolina, about a six hour drive, give or take.

Everything went very well, except the construction, the crazy drivers and accidents scattered across the region.  JoAnne routed us down and off some of the freeways to avoid accidents.  Somewhere around 501 near Myrtle Beach and a couple of miles before the turn to highway 17, the car began making horrible noises.

Then a “battery light” came on.

Uh oh….

I pulled into a random parking lot.  I grabbed my multimeter which I am going to start carrying around on my belt like a TRUE Nerd from now on, and measured the out put of the alternator.

11.5 volts DC.  Hmm… that’s not normal.  Should be 14.6vdc or so.  Yeah, alternator is NOT charging.  Also some ‘grindy’ noise was coming from the engine.  I listened carefully, and decided it was either an idler wheel, or the tensioner, along with probably the alternator failing.

With the battery at under optium voltage, and after discovering that it would cost 200 bucks just to tow the car around the corner, and have it “diagnosed” (not fixed, just tested), I thanked the lady I’d spoken too and said, “We’re going to try to make it to the marina.  It’s only 52 miles….”

We killed all the power inside, anything charging inside was removed, radio killed, and I illegally ignored my turn signals and avoided stepping on the brakes.

This battery was brand new, and free.  I was going to drive it into the dirt.

And we did.

We arrived a few moments after 5 PM, an hour later than we thought.  At the corner of Fish Factory road and Long Beach Road, I again broke the law.  The light was red.  But, the car was freaking out.  Weird lights on the dash were coming on.  Beeps and buzzes from the dashboard I’d never heard before met our ears.  I made an illegal left turn against a red traffic light.  Of course, there were no cars, and no traffic as the bridge is still closed…. I then, for the third time that day, broke the law.

I went 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

The car died as I backed into an open space in the lot.

The last bit of momentum took us to the curb.  The car died.  We were home.

That evening I came down, checked the boat, batteries and put the bed together.

Next morning I called the place that had worked on the car last June on the alternator (see, wasn’t the FIRST time we’d had issues). They have the car now, it was towed there yesterday afternoon at 2pm.

He called me three times this morning.

Diagnosis:

  1. Alternator shot, but under a lifetime warranty.
  2. Tensioner wheel is failing, bearings coming out

A new alternator is on order and will be installed Monday morning, along with a new tension wheel and mechanism (probably the spring).

Should have the car back by sometime Monday afternoon.  The cost will likely be 300 bucks, give or take a bit.

(That’s all labor, and perhaps a bit for the parts).

I will NOT be surprised if the brand new battery isn’t shot too.  We’ll find out soon enough.

 


Today is Friday, 5 April 2019.

Nothing in life is set in stone.  Not even those “Death and Taxes” people talk about.  You might avoid both if you’re smart, careful and even, at times, courageous.

One thing in life is certain though… if you don’t try, you can not do.  JoAnne is a tough chick.  She’s a lucky lady and she’s extremely courageous. She is my super hero.  Used to be my Dad was my “hero”.  But, after 40+ years with her, I’ve seen her face death with a smile and overcome it.  I’ve seen her pick up a margarita a few hours after chemo and say “Why not have a little fun? I deserve a margarita!”

I’ve watched her cry quietly over this awful disease. Not for herself but for, the perhaps “missed chances” at things.

I watched her face light up when she holds our newest grandchild, Lincoln, and hug the other grands, and the great-grand daughter.

I have spend sleepless nights myself worrying about her, caring for her, getting her things, bringing her coffee in bed in the mornings and just being there to hold her when she wants me to.

Life changes, but you can either accept things as they are, or you can make your own plans and make your wishes come true.

Cruising life isn’t always about pretty anchorages, great sailing days, and seeing dolphins.  Yes, those things happen.  But, so many other bloggers and video bloggers show you all the “good stuff”.  No one shows you, or tells you how much work it is to get ready for a hurricane, hoping it misses you by a long distance, and how much worry it causes you when you can’t be there to “protect your ship”.

We live our lives now around this boat and each other.  It’s not always positive.  Broken cars, engines, plumbing, leaks, hard rains, strong winds and sometimes broken facilities where you’re visiting, poor service at places (See Walmart above, there’s way more to that story than I actually told you) and even things like “uncontrolled dogs” that some cruisers bring ashore all work to dissuade a person from continuing.

We’ve been LUCKY on a lot of issues.  We’ve also probably paid out a LOT more money than we had to at times.

But, I don’t think either of us would trade this life for a sedate house on a hill in Colorado again.

The best thing?  Coming “Home” to “Welcome Home” messages from our dock friends.  Our extended family.

And to that end, this little thing goes out to Kevin, Debi, Jay, Tina, Pam and Charles – a few of that extended B Dock family.  Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and looking after our boat, worry for us, staying in touch, checking my batteries in the boat (Jay), and watching over Adventure during the hurricane (Debi and Kevin).  We can’t thank you guys enough.  (By the way, I’m probably gonna need a ride to the place to pick up my car Monday… anyone? LOL)

This weekend and week coming up, I will be getting the boat ready for an extended trip.  At this point, we have Abacos and Marsh Harbor in our sights.  JoAnne, more than anyone in the world right now, deserves a break, an island, an island drink, a beach and a vacation.

I’m going to give it to her.

 

 

December 7th, 2018

Today is also Pearl Harbor Day.  I suppose it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  At least here.

I’ve posted on other blogs, facebook, and our FB groups, but not here.

So, here’s December’s post.

Tonight, we go see our Granddaughter, Cassie, in a play, Death of a Salesman (I think).  High School rendition, so should be interesting.

JoAnne has been through two chemotherapy sessions.  A portion of each of those two were cancelled due, mainly, to low blood cell counts.  The first session was about six hours long. The second part of that session was supposed to last an hour, and was a week after the first infusion.  Unfortunately, she was suffering suddenly from a tooth ache, which turned also into an infection… likely due to lowered white blood cell numbers.

The second session last week on a Thursday went well.  But her blood work on this Wednesday (5 December) showed her white, red blood cells and the building blocks for those things (along with other chemicals I’m not as familiar with) were at a very low level.  Thus, they cancelled the second infusion (which should have been yesterday).

They want to give her a drug, called Newlasta, which will help to regenerate white blood cells, but it takes 14 days to function, and they need to give it after the second infusion.  So, that’s become a problem.  Now, she gets one more blood draw in a week or so (next Thursday), and then a doctor’s visit on the following Monday at which time we will be asking some questions, and hopefully there will be a “new plan” to get this accomplished correctly.

The next infusion will be after the doctor’s visit.  The GOOD news in all this, is the CA-125 blood test (Cancer Antigen test) is showing a drastic reduction in count.  It went from just over 70 to 50.  Her last tests over the course of time have been, June 2017 the CA-125 was 21, and a year later, this past June was 50.  This caused concern with us and the doctors.  In August it shot up to the mid-60s, and therefore the PET scan was ordered.

The PET scan showed not one, but TWO areas of concern.  An area somewhere between her liver and kidneys and a node on her left lung.

The next CA-125 tests were 68 and then 71 in September and October respectively.  (I might be off on the dates, exactly, but you get the gist of it).

In between all of this (September to Present), we’ve made three trips across country, back and forth, ran from a hurricane, visited Florida and came back to Colorado, where the chemo has commenced.

Two sessions are through, with some complications, but still plugging along.  We’re still very much alive, and still “Adventuring” when we can.

20 December should be our “half way point” on Chemo.  Meaning she is starting the third session.  Whether or not we get some stuff tacked on at the end, we’re not sure yet, but we’re going to be checking on that when the doctor’s visit comes to pass.  That will, if things go well, give us 3 more sessions or nine more weeks with chemo in those nine weeks, healing and doctor’s visits, blood work and dozens of miles on the car back and forth to the hospitals.

In the mean time, we miss our ship, Adventure, very much and find ourselves wishing for the house to rock us to sleep at night.  Instead, we have cold, snow on occasion, next door neighbors who can be loud (in the middle of the night for some reason….) hundreds of people everywhere, and us trying to avoid germs. HA!

Tonight, as I mentioned, we’re going to a HS play, where we will likely be exposed to a lot of germs again, because people always cough, sneeze and aren’t the cleanest of creatures.  JoAnne will bring a mask just in case, but hopefully won’t have to use it.  Not, that we honest believe that a mask is going to actually STOP germs from getting into your system anyway.  Doesn’t seem to help at hospitals where there are super bugs…

In the mean time, she’s been crocheting, reading and helping run the various Sailing and Cruising forums she is Admin on, and I’ve been re-learning Morse Code (I’m very rusty at it), and have built two radios to work on Ham Radio frequencies (20 and 40 meters) but haven’t an antenna to connect, and I’ve also been writing a complete role play game campaign for “Stars Without Number” ( a role playing game, set in the milled of the year 3200, in space for some friends in the Southport area).  All of this to “keep busy”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have room, nor the time, to grab my charts and sit down and work out courses for the Bahamas and beyond, but I figure it’s likely better to do that just before we go.  At this point, we’ve decided that if we can get back in late March, we will plan a trip down to Bahamas for the Spring, and head back before Hurricane Season hits… and we have a couple of friends who want to go along, who are both sailors.  It will help immensely to get us all there safely, and through that big hurdle of “several days of sailing”, so we can head home on our own when the time comes.

Last thing, I’m personally working on is my Celestial Navigation again.  I really want to grasp that stuff.  I think I’ve mostly got it, but now, I really need to practice it.

That is all for now, friends.  Until next time, Fair Winds!