ICW: Southport, NC

Wrightsville Beach: We left out of Wrightsville Beach on a bright, sunny morning with temperatures in the 50s and a light breeze blowing.  We were headed for Southport are of North Carolina.  We’d spoken to several marinas because we wanted to be on a dock with wifi access for a couple of days before heading on to Charleston.

The trip out of the anchorage to the ICW was uneventful.  Engine was running well, systems all functional.  We came down the Cape Fear River from Snow’s Cut, making very good time, the current was with us, and the tide was leaving so we were making 5 to 6.5 knots most of the time.  A catamaran named Necessity, a delivery crew en route to Florida.  We had a short conversation VHF and bid one another adieu.

They were moving along at a decent clip and managed to get to Southport long before us, got fuel and were passing us heading for the ocean when we rounded into the channel.  The skipper hollered over saying, “We’re going outside, Fair Winds!”  I waved back and headed into the channel.

The current coming out grabbed the front of the bow and shoved us to starboard, a lot harder than I would have expected.  Our speed dropped from 5.5 knots to 2 suddenly.  I gave the engine some throttle and brought the bow back around.  A weird vibration started that I’d not heard before.  Once I got into the channel I backed down the throttle again and the engine settled.

I tapped the button for the bow thrusters and found them no longer working… again.  Similar issue as I had a few weeks ago.  Just didn’t fire up for some reason.  Still isn’t today and am not sure why.  I suspect the controller though at this point, but it’s possible the works up in the front of the boat has some issue.

Now, I’m sure I can get into the dock though, with no issues, so I call the marina, notify them I’m a couple miles out and have the bridge in sight.  I advise I will need a dock hand to assist with the tie off because I don’t want JoAnne trying to get off the boat in this current.  “No problem, I’ll be there” says the dockmaster.

We come in and I line up and “land” gently next to the dock and hold her steady while JoAnne hands off the two lines he’s asked for and once he has one secured, I jump off and grab the stern line.  After moving the lines where he wants us to sit for our visit, I finish tying it all off.  A/C Power is connected and we’re all good.

Nothing out of the ordinary and no problems.

So I think.

Engine Issues: Of course, the weather was good for two days and we’re staying three nights.  No problem.  Then the weather reports start coming in about rain, thunderstorms and high winds off shore.  We’re supposed to leave on Sunday morning but the weather was going to be crappy, and we don’t want to deal with it going off shore or sitting in a new anchorage for a few days and decide to extend our stay here on the docks.

It rained cats and dogs, and assorted other critters for almost a full 24 hours.  I watched thundershowers roll through on the radar to our south, missing us by about 20 miles… but slamming the anchorage are where we’d have been.  Ok, good call on that I guess.

Today is Wednesday, 7 December 2016 – Pearl Harbor Day – and we were supposed to pull out this morning.  That didn’t happen.

Now, this IS a sail boat, and in general, you like to use the SAILS to move the boat, and the truth is I CAN do that.  But short tacking down the ICW to get back out to the ocean isn’t precisely my idea of “smooth sailing” or fun, especially not sailing it alone.  With JoAnne’s back injury last year, she’s not going to be shifting rapidly to move lines or for that matter, drive much.  If we had an extra crew or two aboard to assist, it would probably be easy enough to do with a bit of practice with a new crew.  But, this is a pretty large boat — a ship really — a heavy, slow, ponderous, if you will, “beast” that does what she wishes sometimes when you don’t wish it, and usually when least expected.

Thus, being a sailboat with an auxiliary engine means… well, we want the engine functional at all times.  When you don’t need it, but especially when you do.

So last evening (late afternoon actually), as is my usual course of action before heading out the next day, I started doing system and engine checks hoping to leave this morning.  Bow thrusters, still not working and not sure why.  Fuse is good… but I can do without bow thrusters and really need the engine working.  I check the engine oil, coolant levels, belts, look for anything out of the ordinary like leaks and strange things that weren’t there before.  Added a bit of oil (as we have a constant drip under the engine which appears to be a gasket that the mechanic said was notorious for leaking anyway) and looked at coolant.  I checked the alternator belt and something caught my eye.

A tiny crack.  There is a a bracket that is mounted to the starboard side of the engine, through which a bolt holding the alternator runs, and there are two places it runs.  This piece was “half ass” welded to the bigger piece.  After examining it carefully, this appears to have been a makeshift repair at some point in the past, and not an actual factory job.  Anyway, this piece broke.  So, the alternator is holding on by one side and not the other.  The crack is fresh.  The steel shattered.

I let the marina know who got me in touch with Snyder Marine, down the street.  Jason, the technician was here in 15 minutes or so.  He looked over the engine and said something about the oil leak and then removed the bracket.  We looked closely and sure enough, the bracket had a flaw in it, and quite possibly was already “rebuilt” once or re-welded.  There had been an old crack at the weld, and there was rust there.  The rest of the crack extended from the old, weakened spot and the vibration I’d heard coming in at the entrance to the channel was quite likely the alternator breaking right at the point I put extra pressure on the engine.  We started the engine.

Jason, then found another problem.  Our exhaust manifold is leaking, a gasket has failed there as well.  So, he’s working on getting us the right parts and will, with luck have us under way sometime in the next day or so.  The oil leak is coming from the air intake area, and a second one elsewhere.  I’ll get the details later when he returns.

The Tech is trying to get a new part for us, and had to come in this morning to locate the serial number.  I never found it, but he finally did.  Back of the engine, in a difficult location to see.  Figures.  Wrote it down though in the log book!

We have had some pretty sun sets here, and have seen some beautiful boats.  Here are a few of those images.

Majestic Dream on the dock

Majestic Dream

Down the docks from us is a Vagabond 47, pictured above.  Skip and Louise are the owners, and like us, are headed south.  They are due to pull out today at noon and head off shore for Charleston, SC.  They are supposed to drop us a note saying they arrived safely.  A boat just like this one was in Norfolk with us last year.  Apparently, I’ve either deleted the pictures or put them “someplace safe” and forgotten where I put them.

Sunset at the South Harbour Village Marina across the ICW

Different Sunset, Different Day, ICW North Carolina

Amateur Radio: Side note on Ham Radio.  Got in contact with my old friend Rick Hendricks, KE0GB from Colorado Springs and we’ve been chatting a bit about trying to make radio contact, which so far hasn’t happened.  The bands haven’t really been opened to Colorado Springs lately.  We’ve tried packet, and psk31 digital modes but nothing yet.  Have to get the right conditions.

I’ve also tried getting Winlink2000 (RMSExpress) working under Linux, and though it “sort of works” it doesn’t work well, or properly.  I just don’t have the time to fiddle with Linux and figure out why things aren’t working right, but I’m sure it’s because it’s a windows program running under WINE.  I’d be better off drinking wine and washing our windows I suppose rather than wrack my brain on operating systems. /shrug

Departure: We’re planning our departure here as soon as the engine is repaired again and we’re talking about making the trip to Little River and anchor.  It’s a short day trip, 35 miles perhaps with the in/out of the channels and then go on the next day for Charleston.  At this point, I’m strongly considering, with a good window, to make for Florida and spend the 2-3 days sailing day and night.

JoAnne doesn’t seem to be ready to spend time standing a watch though, but if she can stand a 2-4 hour watch, just making sure we’re not getting run down and mostly on course, not over running shoals or getting whale-whacked mostly in the day time, I can handle an all-night watch and nap through it for a few days.  I’ve done this sort of thing in the military where I got very little sleep for days on end.  But, I’m getting older now.

One more temporary crew member to assist me with watches would be best.  But, we can do this. We’ll debate it more as we go.

Until later…

Fair Winds!

Edit:  Just received a call from Jason about the part.  Apparently this particular piece is obsolete.  They are going to have to make one for me.  Oh… goodie.  I will wait and see I guess how it looks.

Edit, Bow Thrusters: Having a beautiful, sunny afternoon here on the dock, I did some rearranging in the fore cabin, added beer and soda to the fridge making a little room.  I removed some boxes that were no longer holding things and I tore apart the navigation pod (which was no mean feat, not having the proper tools – they have special security screws, but fortunately I happened to have a couple of those special bits and found the right one.  I’ll be replacing the screws with something I can put in and out easier next time!)

In any case, the controller is what I thought was “acting up” – or more accurately, not acting at all.  I was still getting power at the device because if you press the power button, a tiny beep-beep-beep sound would happen, with the beeps being about 8 seconds apart.  That’s not normal.  Normal operation when you press the button is a fast beeping sound, and you have about 10 seconds to press the button a second time.  The device then sends a Morse code lettter (R) for “received” I guess.   When you turn it off it usually sends “SK” – with is di di dit da di dah – again Morse code for “End of transmission”.

Anyway, inside is a circuit board with a handful of parts, all surface mount chip technology, a couple of transistors and a microprocessor.  I cleaned the circuit board with alcohol because there was a bit of some kind of mold or something.  I assume it might be conductive.  Also cleaned the connectors, a large, four-pin, specially keyed connector so you can’t plug it back in incorrectly.

That fixed the issue.  The controller fires right up now, and the bow thrusters are fully functional again! Yay!

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Willoboughy Bay – Elizabeth River, Virginia

We spent the night of 30 October 2016 in a little river called the Poquoson River. Last year on the 17th of October, we were up that same area, but in a different creek. The next morning we had prepared to wait out some chilly weather and some stonger winds when the marina I’d planned to go to for some assistance on the rigging finally called back with the words, “IF you can get here TONIGHT (it was a Sunday), then we can look at your boat tomorrow.”

Against my better judgement, we pulled anchor and made for that marina. We didn’t really have a choice (we did, but we were led to believe if we didn’t hurry we were going to be delayed) and we did it anyway.

Yesterday, we looked at the weather and headed down the bay. It was nice, cool, but nice. Crossed into the Elizabeth River and made it a short hop to Willoboughy Bay, just past the bridge Tunnel on the Elizbeth River. We anchored out last night, and today was supposed to bring winds. And about 2-3 AM this morning, the weather reports came to fruition.

A Nor’easter like last year, slammed the Bay. Listening to weather reports there were 4-5 foot waves, and gusts at 30 knots from the NE all today. The warnings are in place until this evening. Several sailboats, including one traveling with us, wisely remained on anchor this morning. In checking my GPS settings, it appears we’ve not moved at all, no dragging last night or today.

Thankfully, the winds have somewhat simmered down and the waves have stopped slapping us. We’re still rocking and rolling a bit, but I have the mizzen sail out a bit to help point us into the wind. Works pretty well. Winds are currently out of the NNE at about 15. Gusts are about 19 now, instead of the almost 30 knots they were earlier this morning.

Our companion boat, “Acadia” with Marcia and Jon were ready to head for a staging at Hospital Point this afternoon. I pointed out that though I haven’t been there, it appears unprotected from the north and in the river, so besides currents there are wakes from passing vessels. Everyone opted to stay put here. Since this is the first time for all of us to traverse this area, we all felt it prudent to wait a little longer. We’re all “novices” at something. I’m not a sailor novice any more, but I’m a “cruiser novice” and I’m still pretty timid about driving this monster. She’s got a full keel, doesn’t turn rapidly unless we’re moving quickly. The rudder and keel combination just doesn’t bite quickly at slower speeds.

Our next destination is somewhere around the Gillerton Bridge and/or the locks. Or something. I’m unclear at this point on what our decision was yesterday because mostly it was the ladies looking over the charts and telling us where to go… which is typical I suppose. 🙂 Honestly, that’s not the case, it’s a joke; we all know where we’re headed, we’re just not SURE where our destination will be due to the large number of cruisers passing through.

We tried the Atlantic Yacht Basin south in the channel near (past) the locks and they “couldn’t guarantee” anything for us, except they MIGHT have docks with no water or power… of course they cost the same as those with water and power…. ok. I guess we will play it by ear at this point.

While a nicer day might have more boats headed south with us, I think that’s ok. I also think I really need the “practice” in busy areas. I was white knuckling it through the river at the bridge tunnel before I figured out everyone wanted to go fast, faster than me and I mostly let them, except for the barge whom I cleared almost 2 miles in front of him and he was only doing about 4.5 knots anyway. I was going faster.

One sailboater was coming from my starboard side while I was traveling a channel under power (now I’m a power boat, and he’s obviously a sail boat perhaps under power, perhaps not, so I gave him benefit of doubt) on a crossing path. Cool. But he maintained course and speed. According to the rules he was wrong on two counts. Yes, he was a sailboat, I was under power. But a sailboat approaching from a “behind position” which he was doing, gives way to the motorboat – and I was in a channel (shallow I might add, and we were in an area where had I gone out, I could have gone aground with my draft). However, I gave way as a “power boat” because he did not appear to be doing anything and I couldn’t go any faster. Going slower was rather difficult too in the location based on the winds on the nose as it would have slowed me significantly. Which it did.

And being a sailboater, I gave way anyway to avoid a collison. Now, I’m sure there are some out there that might argue that I should have given way as I was motoring, and I’ll point out now, you weren’t there. I was. He was approaching from the rear (off the starboard quarter) at a pretty good clip and COULD have passed easily behind me, but CHOSE to pass me and cut in front of my bow. I honesty would never have tried that with anyone, or any boat unless traveling at a significant speed faster than the boat being approached and even then would have passed him father forward, changed course to parallel the other boat or passed behind.

Am I complaining? Not at all. Pointing out what we saw. The boat behind us thought we should have kept going instead of coming almost to a dead stop. I didn’t want to risk a collision (which was becoming rapidly apparent at that point). I will point out that the other boat was sailing with two sails up on a starboard tack, and we were driving into 24 knot winds at the time. I couldn’t have sailed there to save my life due to the depth challenges in that area. Oh well.

Today it is chilly. In the mid 50s. I ran the generator for a couple of hours to ensure charging of the batteries, and shut it down a bit ago, leaving the solar panels working and the refigeration turned on to chill things back down.

I’m about to go sit at the table and go over the charts carefully, so I know the charts, the course, what I can expect and where the bridges are located. We already know there are two railroad bridges we should be able to traverse easily. We’ll need tides/times tomorrow, and to know the exact bridges/lock, times for those and approximately how quickly we will get there and can traverse the area, and finally where to stop tomorrow night.

We all have our own ideas, and as long as those ideas somewhat jive and don’t put anyone in danger, a handfull of Noobs should be able to accomplish what thousands of others have done routinely. (That’s the best part about books, and knowledge from others, you aren’t doing it FIRST, just the first time for you.)

Engine:  The engine in this boat is a Perkins 4-108.  Nice engine.  Leaks though.  Found it’s dripping oil (finally).  Can’t find the location though.  Had the alternator bolt loosen yet again.  Tightened it up.  Checked new belt, it’s fine.  Added a little over a pint of oil this morning.  Need to watch this thing carefully from here on out.

My friend Jeff Ryan (@K0RM –  Former ARRL section Manager) in Colorado has a mechanic/boater friend down range from here.  Gave me his name, over in Washington, NC I think he said.  Supposed to send me information to contact him.  He’s a master mechanic, and a boater, lives aboard.  Probably understands what we’re going through too.  I’ll give him a call passing through just to say hi if nothing else from Jeff.   Either way, babying the engine will likely turn into a full time job for me.  It’s another reason I chose to remain at anchor today instead of pushing the limits through waves I didn’t want to deal with (and currents, and wind, all of which were in opposition this morning).

Man, I’m learning some of this the hard way (by reading about it, then experiencing it first hand) lol

I will add to this, or edit it later. Right now, I only have a hot spot to access the Internet and have to turn it on and off as necessary to prevent wasting the data. I can’t type this on my telephone, the tablet or hand write it to the Internet.. so that’s the way it is for now. LOL

Hurricane Matthew

Against the odds, against the forecasts, and against the models a massive hurricane has formed in the Caribbean Sea.

This morning when I checked it had been upgraded to a Category 5.  It is sitting in the southern Caribbean Sea, south of Jamaica and appears to have taken a slight left turn, and will probably, quite suddenly swing northward on a collision course with Jamaica, the across Cuba, and onward into the Bahamas.

The conditions were really NOT all that conducive for forming such a massive hurricane which is why I said “against predictions” above.  But, predictions, humans and computers programmed by humans are fallible.

Right now, the various models show the path taking a plunge to the north, through MOST of the Bahamas and on up the coast.  Since yesterday evening, that has changed slightly and models are showing it moving north and then pushing eastward.

I’ve been watching some fronts moving across the states which might prove to save the day.  If the timing is right, and I say IF, the two fronts should converge around Tuesday and push the hurricane east ward.  Unfortunately, there is also a pretty big High sitting off the coast and that might cause some problems.

I’m not a meteorologist but I’ve studied it enough over the past 40 years to have a bit of knowledge on the subject.  JoAnne and I storm chased and spotted for the NWS in Colorado for about 20 years.  So we have a bit of background in mesoscale events.  This is not meso.  This is massive.  Synoptic observations and data are easy to get these days, but I’m again, no expert in reading it all.

My “take” on this hurricane is that it WILL blow out over the Atlantic after reaching the Bahamas.  It will weaken after hitting Jamaica because going over land reduces it’s power.  It will build a bit, but hit Cuba further weakening it.  By the time it hits Bahamas I think it Cat 3 or even a Cat 2 is all it will be.  With LUCK and timing, the fronts should be above it and pushing outward to the East.

The Earth’s rotation as it travels north will also cause it to spin out away from the US.  And prevailing westerlies.

At this point, I HOPE I am right.  And I hope that the folks in Bahamas, Cuba and Jamaica all fare better than a category 5 will give them….

In other news, we’ve had rain, rain, rain for the past week.  Either in Richmond where we visited a couple of days for my eye check up, and all the way here to the boat.  Lots of rain.  We had super high water a couple of days ago, washing over C Dock and some of the others.  We’re on a floating dock, so the only issue we had was a dinghy full of water because SOMEONE forgot to pull the plug when he hoisted it onto the davits.  Fortunately a kind neighbor noted something amiss and went over in his dinghy and pulled the plug for me.  Normally, I remember to pull it, but for some reason I just spaced it.  THAT is the kind of thing that sinks boats.  Not remembering the little things.  Live and learn.

Windows still leak somewhat, here and there.  I think I have discovered one of the major leaks though.  I believe at this point water from rain is coming in through the traveler area in front of the cockpit.  I can’t pull out the stuff due to the building of the boat.  I think I can seal it though.  As to the windows, I don’t have the right gasket material and not too sure where to get it. So, I thought I’d do an experiment.  I cleaned out the old, dried up gasket from one of the portlights and used RTV in the place where a gasket should be.  I let it cure and sure enough, it works.  Not the best thing, not permanent, but it DOES work in a pinch.  So…. I’ll keep a few tubes of that stuff around for emergencies.

Front area cleaned up, and I can walk in there, I can access the anchor locker if needed, I can move stuff out of the forward head easily now and we can use that bathroom if necessary too.  Hung our walking sticks, and some other long items up front from bungie cords.  Tools accessible now.  Front name plates are varnished, the red paint is on them, and at some point I can paint in the name of the boat on the forward plates…. maybe it will quit raining for a few days this century….

Plans now include a trip to a military commissary for paper products (TP, paper towels, plastic trash bags to store things) and of course “boat alcohol”.  LOL.  Cheaper, no taxes, but it’s a long drive.  While we still have our car.

Our friend Kurt has promised to store our car for this winter/spring coming up until we come back this way.  So we have that going for us.

I have a radio modification to perform on one of my rigs before we bug out.  And I’d like to install the vhf/uhf rig some where in the boat where I can get power to it easily and get an antenna up on top somewhere.  Might put that off awhile.

Eyes were pronounced “awesome” by the Doctor.  I am 20:25 unaided by glasses, but do require reading glasses for up close.  Can’t focus that close now.  I can free dive soon if I want, or use a mask.  So I’m good again, and I can SEE.  Wow.  Just wow.

Basically, all the BIG jobs are done.  Just the little stuff.  And waiting out hurricanes.  I recall at this time last year, we were sitting in Galesville, Maryland awaiting Hurricane Joaquine which was making a bee line up the coast…. and was very similar to this one, except it started further north, went west, and then turned suddenly out to sea and never threatened the coast at all.  Almost exactly a year ago today….interesting isn’t it?

Fair winds.  Catch you on the next update.

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Why that title?  Because I did things yesterday, today and will do some tomorrow.

Yesterday we had some issues with wifi.  The antenna attached to the Bullit broke.  Snapped right off inside the connector, necessitating me to dig out the soldering equipment to do repairs.  When it went down, I was well in the middle of running cables over from the radio to the external antenna on the boat.

Basically, we have a “random length” wire, that comes from the tuner over to the insulated backstay (one of the wires holding the main mast up).  I had to dig through a lot of junk to find some wire to run through the bulkhead to get the antenna connected.  In the mean time, the wifi stopped working and the wife was asking about it, or complaining really, because she was trying to play a game and kept getting disconnected.

So, stopped working the HF radio stuff, repaired the wifi antenna and got that back up and running.

In the middle of all of this, I got a message on my phone.  We can’t get calls, no coverage, so we’re connected to the wifi…. which wasn’t working.  Therefore, the second the wifi came back, the message came through.  They stated I had a large box awaiting me at the office.  Turned out to be the new C-Head composting toilet.  Collected that.  More on that later.

Once I got the HF rigged up, I realized I’d lost my control cable somewhere.  The control cable goes between the tuner and the HF rig to switch bands and is an absolute necessity on a random antenna like we’re using.  I remembered that when I was in Colorado Springs in the winter, I’d looked for the missing cable inside the trailer and storage we still have (my kids are keeping that stuff).  When I didn’t find the cable, I had purchased the DIN connectors and placed them into my electronic gear I carried back and forth all the time.

Fortunately, along with some wiring I needed to complete the HF installation, I happened to locate some 5 conductor spare wire that I was able to use to build the control cable.  So, today, the HF radio is working, and Wifi is back online.

This morning I opened up the new box of stuff, the C-Head Toilet.

It appears that this installation is going to be easy.  The toilet will not only fit, it will sit perfectly in the aft head.  I went through all the instructions, directions, parts, parts list and read everything.  The hardest part will be the removal of the old toilet, the plumbing, etc.

So, yesterday I did the HF.  Today, I examined all the parts of the toilet, tomorrow, I’ll probably start the installation in the head.

 

Cruising Skills

In the five years we’ve been preparing to sell the house and get out cruising we’ve had to learn a LOT of things.  We’ve bought books and read web sites of knowledgeable people, asked questions and performed “hands on, on-the-job” training for many different things.

A while back I created a list of skills that occurred to me as I was trying to decide where to go in my “learning curve” next.  The list is a couple of pages long with several dozen skills listed.  Many things we know “in real life” can translate.  As an example I have traveled to many countries and as a military member had personnel for whom I was responsible on various trips through foreign ports.  We generally (as a team chief) would check in at terminals and customs with the passports for our team members and make sure things went (relatively smoothly); this equates to a skipper checking into and out of a port for example.  Not exactly the same thing with a boat as a traveling crew, but similar enough.

The funny part is that the list of skills required to run a boat on a daily basis is as varied as one can imagine.  In fact when we started down this path the thought didn’t occur to us as first how many things we’d have to know and understand.

From some of my reading I figured out that some folks don’t know enough when they start, but learn as they go.  Others prepare before leaving.  Some never get off the dock because they are still preparing themselves or fitting out their boats; some for years it appears.

In our case we have enough “life skills” that we can equate to something on the boat to at least give us a leg up.

As life goes on the wise become wiser as they realize they don’t have every skill they need to do something, and KNOW they don’t KNOW.

As another example looking at the list there is a category called “Electrical” or “Electrics” for a vessel.  Various people call the electrical “stuff” on a boat by various names.  As an electronics technician for nearly forty years, it’s all the same to me.  Ohms and Watts laws, resistance, current, voltage, soldering, crimping, inductance, capacitance, analog and digital are the same ashore or afloat.  The one thing thrown in that isn’t there ashore is salt water, salt air and dampness.  Those are separate issues with which to contend.  So, I suspect I’m more thoroughly prepared than most for electrical issues.  My list looks like this, and remember these are just a few things that came to mind:

Electrical Skills

  • Lighting
  • Navigation lights
  • Anchor lights
  • Cabin lighting
  • Wiring
  • Power calculations
  • Power panel wiring
  • Solar Power
  • Wind generator
  • Alternator (engine)
  • Inverters
  • Radio systems (VHF, HF)
  • Antennas and the connections to the radios
  • Antenna couplers (tuning units)
  • Stereo systems and speakers
  • Computers
  • Windlass
  • Miscellaneous electrical systems

When you begin to break down the systems on a vessel into smaller units like the above you start to realize that everything isn’t as simple as it seems at first.  In the past few years I read a lot of information on various forums about radios (I’m an expert in that field by the way, more so than any other area probably) and realized that there is so much misinformation out there about many things.  And the numbers of opinions vary to the point of being so wrong and incorrect it’s amazing that some folks are able to “get by” let alone “survive”.  (I’m not just talking about electrical systems here either).

The hardest lesson I learned in the last five years wasn’t how to set an anchor properly, tack, gybe or dock a vessel.  It was learning NOT to listen to others in some instances (many in fact).  I’ve also learned from others by asking questions.  But when one asks a perfectly honest and normal “newb” question and gets twelve different opinions, most of which aren’t even right to begin with, or gets yelled at for asking “stupid questions without looking it up” before you get out of the starting gate, it’s a turn off.

Thus, learning technical material without the aid of teachers is just one thing that makes becoming a cruiser that much more difficult.   From now on, if I want someone’s opinion, I’ll hire a professional not stick my nose into some of the forums.  (There are a couple I like, the people are nice and they aren’t trying to beat you over the head with the ONLY RIGHT way to do something…..)

When talking about electrical connections in a marine environment one has to take into account the quality of the connection and the fact that salt water causes corrosion.  I was once “admonished” that I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to connections.  I pretty much let it go and ignored the insult, since I DO know what I am talking about.

In electrical work you have two types of connections, especially when we’re talking about power delivery systems.  That is, batteries and the connections at them.  You have an “electrical connection” and you have a “mechanical connection”.  The mechanical connection is what MAKES the electrical connection work, and keep working.  Basically if you make a good, solid connection, say a crimp, you will ensure that current flows.  But sometimes those mechanical (crimped) connections in a marine environment will get corrosion.  Corrosion causes resistance thereby reducing the electrical connections effectiveness.  Resistance causes voltage drops, voltage drops across bad connections cause higher current level, heat and  drains batteries more quickly, sometimes to dangerously.  Regardless of how well the mechanical connection will hold down in the battery locker when a vessel is bouncing up and down over time, the resistance is going to increase with the corrosion.  You can crimp that connect as nicely as you like and let a couple of drops of salt water in and in time, it will fail at the crimp.

The “admonishment” came when I suggested soldering the lug to the wire either in addition to, or in lieu of the crimp.  I’m a “solder it” guy.  Went through the old NASA high reliability soldering training (among other types of training for making reliable connections) and learned that my stuff was good enough to go to the moon, into outer space, let alone a marine environment.  So getting chewed out by someone on a forum for disagreeing with HIS method of doing something irks me, and really makes me wonder how some of these people get by.

Now, certainly, I don’t CARE if some guy does things HIS way, on HIS boat; I’m going to do them MY way on MY boat and I’m going to teach the way I learned that something is reliable to others if they ask; people have to make the decision not to be bloody sheep somewhere along the way.  Think for yourselves.

I guess it comes down to opinions versus facts.  I use facts to base my opinions.  Many just form an opinion on whatever they want to imagine and many just “don’t like the way you think”.  Others might use their experience (no matter how much or how little of it they have) to form an opinion. Perhaps they have had good experience doing something a certain way and it hasn’t failed on them.  Good for them.  Not good for me. If it isn’t common sense and meets scientifically sound principles, I’m not buying it.  (Global warming is a very good example of something that DOES NOT MEET scientific principles.  Just because a scientist SAYS SO doesn’t make it SO. )  Perhaps I should have listened when we were first learning to sale when our instruction said “I neither offer, nor accept advice from other sailors”.  I didn’t get it then, but I “get it” now.

This isn’t to say I can’t learn from others and won’t give up trying.  But learning from Internet Sailors who frequent forums isn’t necessarily the way to go when learning!  On the other hand, some forums have some smart people.  They have experience.  They have traveled.  They DO things.  Those people are almost never online either.Why not?  They are… well, traveling and doing things.  They aren’t posting in forums.  They have blogs, they spend time writing up the misery they have in repairing the head, or getting stuck in the engine room upside down while cleaning fuel filters out or getting the air out of the fuel line.  They talk about the problems and how they solved them, rather than opining how “You shouldn’t do this or that, you should spend as much money on the problem as you can and move on…” (which is really all I get from the vast majority of the forums out there).

What this whole thing comes down to is my own list of “skills” I have compiled.  My skills are more important to me than to anyone else.  And no one’s skills are more IMPORTANT THAN MINE.  I need my skills to get by.  I can use others’ if they are part of the crew.  If not, they are useless to me.  Everything on my list I can ‘check off’ as something I have learned about ON MY OWN now.  I either knew or had the skills already when I started down this road or I have taken the time to purchase a text book and study it.  Granted I’m a bit slow on diesel mechanics (but I have enough information to train myself and all that I need is the “hand-on” or “on-the-job” training to make use of the knowledge).

I can’t say I am an “accomplished” sailor.  I’m not. I’m a novice. I’ll remain a novice until I am not a novice.  I don’t know when that will be, I don’t know what will cause it to happen.  But when it does, I will know it.  But the day is fast approaching when I’ll be leaving Colorado for good… and every single, last skill I’ve collected has gotten me there and will get me through the next part of the journey.

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Just for the heck of it… here’s a partial list, in no particular order and with no connected explanation. This is not an all-inclusive list, nor in any particular order, but it’s what I’ve learned I need to know thus far.  I’m sure I don’t know it all.  Your lists may vary.  It’s not something you SHOULD do.  This is what I have learned and am still learning:

Cruising “Skills”

Keeping log books

  • Shopping lists
  • Preventive Maintenance lists
  • To DO Maintenance lists
  • Daily chores
  • Inspections of engine, plumbing, riggings (standing and running) etc
  • Tracking what has been done and what hasn’t

Electrical Skills

  • Lighting
  • Navigation lights
  • Anchor lights
  • Cabin lighting
  • Wiring
  • Power calculations
  • Power panel wiring
  • Solar Power
  • Wind generator
  • Alternator (engine)
  • Inverters
  • Radio systems (VHF, HF)
  • Antennas and the connections to the radios
  • Antenna couplers (tuning units)
  • Stereo systems and speakers
  • Computers
  • Windlass
  • Miscellaneous electrical systems

Mechanical skills

  • Diesel engine
  • fuel
  • fuel lines
  • air cleaners
  • water pumps
  • oil/oil changes
  • two-stroke engines
  • gas engine mechanics

Plumbing

  • Fresh water pumps
  • Salt water pumps
  • Head

Fishing

  • fishing
  • fish
  • lobster
  • crab
  • other food

Overall general seamanship skills

  • Anchoring skills
  • Weather patterns
  • weather forecasting
  • heavy weather sailing skills
  • Sailing
  • Safety
  • Marlingspike
  • Rigging skills
  • Rigging repair
  • Voyage planning
  • Celestial Navigation
  • Sextant use
  • GPS Navigation
  • Dead reckoning
  • Chart reading skills
  • Plotting courses
  • Plotting fixes
  • Knot log
  • Bearings
  • Navigation
  • Lead line/depth finding

Emergency repairs

  • stopping leaks
  • repairing hull
  • rigging
  • sails
  • anchor and rode
  • preparing for storms in anchorage and during a passage

Foreign Travel Skills

  • Clearing in and out
  • Dealing with foreign offices
  • Keeping records
  • Weapons aboard (or not)

Shipboard Management

  • Galley
  • Plumbing
  • Fuel
  • Safety
  • Security
  • Water supply/collection
  • Propane

Communications

  • email (Pactor)
  • weather faxes (Fax programs)
  • Ham Radio
  • Marine SSB
  • VHF
  • How to call for help
  • When NOT to call for help

Business and Bureaucracy (and things to have/keep on vessel)

  • USCG documentation
  • business/boat cards
  • ham radio QSL cards
  • ship’s papers
  • passports
  • legal documents
  • birth certificates
  • marriage certificate
  • boat insurance certificate
  • International shot records
  • radio licenses
  • extra passport photos
  • ship’s stamp
  • medical prescriptions (if required)
  • Banking/cash/credit cards
  • telephones
  • bills
  • deposits
  • mail
  • taxes

Safety

  • Rules of the road
  • Avoiding collisions
  • Reading buoys/signs
  • Flare guns/flares
  • Deck safety (harnesses, PFDs, Jack lines etc)
  • Personal self defense (and not getting into positions of requiring said self defense)

Leaving boat/miscellaneous

  • rowing/oars
  • sculling
  • dinghy sailing
  • kedging/setting second anchors