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

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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.

 

Cape Fear: Fresh Water issues

Just a really quick update here.

I started the water pump and found the water was flowing from the front of the boat. It had to be coming from hoses going to the front head.

Our front head is… a closet.  While it functions perfectly, it has a brand new Jabsco pump toilet and everything except MOST of the electricity works up there, the important stuff like water, toilet and bilge pump wiring functions.

This means I have removed a LOT of bulky items from the “closet”.  Coats, my wet suit, canes (JoAnne and both have used them for walking in the past, and I keep them around “just in case”, lol.  Three times breaking my right ankle taught me the hard way), there is a big bag of “dirt” used for the composting toilet sitting in there, some tools, and stacks of TP in the bags as well as paper towels, tarp and we store the unused heaters in there as well.

After I removed everything I crawled into the bathroom upside down and looked into the “undersink” area and immediately found the problem.

This is a Chinese built production vessel.  The Chinese are pretty good at building things, stealing designs and making knock offs, and pretty good at plumbing.  This boat is built with copper pipes, fore to aft plumbing the sinks and fresh water.  Fortunately, it doesn’t get exposed to sea water.  The water tanks are plumbed with plastic hoses, plastic connectors and various adapters connecting everything together.  Some of it is haphazardly thrown together appearing as afterthoughts”.

The copper pipes going to the sink are held in place by a pressure fitting, with a rubber washer that presses the pipe into place as you tighten the nut.  The apparent constant pounding on the front of the boat in the waves yesterday forced the pipe from it’s connection, which in turn released the pressure at the front of the boat, telling the pump to engage and it complied by forcing all the fresh water in the main tank out, into the under-sink area, down into the bilge, and the bilge pump simply did it’s job keeping sloshing water out of the bilge and outside the boat where it actually belongs.

The repair was simple.  Remove the washer and nut and the metal washer, inspect everything, clean the connection and put it all back together, retorque the nut into place with the washer (I’d have put in a new one, but this was was not worn and appears to have been recently replaced since just before we bought the boat).  The other side, I re-tightened.  Turned on the pump and viola! Water pressure again. I really need to look at a foot pump though. haha  Took about two hours of work removing things and repairs, and another week putting it all back together (all that stuff has to go somewhere!)

So, other than losing 60 gallons of fresh water through a failed plumbing connection and about 8 pounds of water from our bodies through other means best left undescribed, I’ll say we’re “none the worse for wear”.  JoAnne is a bit dehydrated today which isn’t good for her.  I’m “over” that for now, but am still constantly hungry dispite a half price burger and full priced pint of beer yesterday evening…. I’ll get some more food in me and look at the wiring up front.

We’re going to stay here at least once more week.  Need to wait on our new credit card, I want to do some digging through things we have and see if we can’t eliminate a few things.  Lighten the load so to speak.

We haven’t made a decision to stick with it, but we have been receiving a lot of encouragement from friends who’ve been through (and are actually going through now) similar issues.

I have learned that we’re both more “fair weather sailors” than we are old salts or hardcore-round-the-Horn people.  I have ALWAYS known that the ocean demands respect, and I do. But, when it comes to rotten weather predictions by using the collected data I feel like I should have known better than to go out yesterday.  JoAnne did.  And I went back to bed for two hours, dozed off and awakened thinking I was going to “call it a day” before we went out.

But, I didn’t do that.  I’ve ALWAYS trusted by instincts and the few times I didn’t turned out badly for me.

That kind of mistake, taken in small doses is usually just dumb.  Downright dangerous though, when combined with the Sea, Weather and second guessing oneself.

Unlike the giant ships that disappear at sea, we came home.

No matter what we do from here on out, I’ll not venture down a coast in the wrong conditions again.

 

Fair Winds, Friends!

 

Rick

Perkins 4-108 Issues, LED Lighting

A few days ago we discovered a broken bracket holding the alternator.  It was not something I was going to ignore, and certainly wasn’t going offshore with it broken like I found it.

The forward part of the L-bracket was shattered.  One side (aft) was still holding solidly, and the bolt was going through the two pieces.  However, a broken alternator bracket would cause vibration (which it did when it broke) and eventually would have torn the belt to shreds.

Therefore I called for a mechanic because I haven’t any way to do welds, and it’s one of the skills I don’t have (but I certainly am going to look into learning it now).  I am sure that I could have accomplished all the work the mechanic is doing, and if there’s ever a “next time” I’ll do it.  I’m am not the worlds best mechanic, and honestly, I don’t like getting dirty inside engines.  And since we’re on a dock, and I’m already paying for it… might as well have a professional look things over anyway.  I’m glad I did because I’d never have seen the exhaust leak before it killed us.

Technician came out rapidly (he was on-site), removed the bracket, did some testing and we discovered with our faces in the engine that the manifold was blowing a lot of exhaust out into the engine compartment.  Well, that opens into the bilge and cabin.  Long story short, that needed repairs so we didn’t… umm…. DIE.

He did attempt a repair, put new gaskets in and had the welds accomplished.  There was an extra bracket installed which was causing some of the problems with being misaligned!

But other issues ensued as well.  We noted some oil leaks (but had a hard time finding them exactly, finally he found them and one, the least one, is on the timing cover.  The major one is the valve cover area, and the gasket (after looking at it) is pretty old and ate up.  It’s either original, or it’s pretty old.

On Friday last he said “It will probably be Monday before I can come back”.  We said “OK” and then went and rented a car from Enterprise on their weekend special (10 bucks a day for Friday through Monday morning, giving us almost four full days for 38 bucks).  And Jason called and came back on Saturday to repair things because… he got the parts in sooner. Haha.

Ok, now we’d paid through Wednesday and had to extend a few days.  Today is Tuesday.  We used the car, turned it in yesterday.  Made a trip to Wilmington to find a Radio Shack and some parts I needed for electrical project I was doing.  (I found one, and 45 BUCKS later, I had my little project boxes, toggle switches and a fan for our bathroom and the composting toilet, which I’ll do at a later time when I have all those parts…).

So, it’s raining like hell yesterday after dropping the car, so we duck inside the Dead End Saloon up at the top of the hill to wait out the rain and we run into Jason who is running back and forth from the boat to the truck for tools.

Not good news.

  1. The valve cover DOES need a new gasket, badly.
  2. The timing system isn’t as bad.
  3. The mixing elbow from the exhaust is pretty bad, but we don’t know yet how bad.
  4. The injectors are spitting fuel through (which is what causes the white smoke on startup).
  5. The manifold attachments are missing a couple of nuts, but worse, even after new gaskets and sealing, it’s not good.  The thing has overheated and is slightly warped.

Bottom line, has to be retooled to make it flush again.  The valve cover needs removal and gasket replaced.  The timing area (a bunch of gears connected to the crankshaft) leaks oil and SHOULD be replaced but that’s a pretty big job.  The mixing elbow, once removed is trashed inside. Pieces of it are missing.  Causing back pressure.

So, we need a new one.  I told Jason to go ahead with the work.  We’re going to wind up doing a “monthly rate” here at the marina now I guess.  Only way to save a bit of money now. This is likely going to run about 3000 dollars for the amount of work.  /sigh

Anyway, we should have rebuilt injectors, new gasket on the valve cover, and a new mixing elbow, a replaced bracket on the alternator (and it is now PROPERLY aligned, which it wasn’t, which has been causing most of our issues with belts and vibration in the past).  Right now the engine valve-rocker cover is off and everything is covered with cloths.  Elbow is off.  Injectors are gone.  Fuel is all shut off.  We’re stuck on the dock for a few more days.

I spent today working on our lighting.  I don’t like the incandescent lamps (good for reading, bad for the batteries) and the LED lamps I’ve used don’t give us quite enough light for the interior when it is pretty dark outside.

A few months back I bought three rolls of LED strip lights that work on 12VDC (I had bought a tube of them at the hardware store before that, and discovered they were set up for 120VAC and it wasn’t an adaptor, but rather they use resisters and diodes to drop the voltages down to what LEDs can use, a couple of volts each).  Anyway, I can use the tube lights on the dock, when we have AC power only.  I couldn’t modify them safely to work with DC.  Instead I bought the strip lights and put them in my little project box.

I needed toggle switches and a way to mount them. I considered three or four methods including little project boxes, but Radio Shack is the only place to pick those up (unless I order them online from someone like Jameco, Digikey or someone similar).  I haven’t been anywhere that I could really order things, long enough lately to do it, so… RS it was.

So, I collected parts as I could.  A while back I saw someone else’s work with LED lights and liked their stuff.  It was Acadia, Jon and Marcia’s boat.  He had used little boxes like I wanted to do, and had mounted them using sticky tape (all of the parts are very light).

Today I put everything together and installed strips of LED tape on both sides, under the area where the grab rails run along the length of the ship.  So the settee area is now well lit when you turn on both sides.  I doubled up the starboard side for JoAnne because she sits on the “couch” a lot and reads there.  She has extra light for book reading now.  She loved it.

Starboard Side Lit up

Port side lit up

Another shot of the port side, the mess is the tools, looks like we need to dust again. lol

The next few images show the parts, and some of the tools I used to do the job.  The boxes are simply mounted with “doubled-sided-sticky tape” (the 3M stuff) and I tied the wiring to the existing lamps because honestly, I don’t feel like ripping out the wood that is between the overhead/deck above and the lamps.  There’s a hand full of wiring running inside there and if I take it all out, I’ll be rewiring the entire boat in no time – and I don’t have the time to start that project right now. haha Eventually, but not now.  I want to be able to sit there and read, look at charts at the table and even do soldering (like I did today with my makeshift light you see in the background, which doubles as an emergency anchor light).

The wire has sufficient current carrying capability for very short runs.  I wouldn’t use it for something other than LED lights.  It’s really meant for speaker wires, but it’s 16 gauge and can handle about 3 amps of current.  These lights pull about 500 milliamps (1/2 amp) on either side.  So a total of perhaps a bit under 2 Amps.

Close up of the LED tape strip, and the internal part of the switch box.  The wires are soldered internally and there’s a feed that is attached at the existing lamps using crimp connectors.

Used tywraps as strain relief inside to prevent accidentally pulling the wires from the box.  Since it’s inside of a box I used a bit of electrical tape to insulate the soldered connection.  It is inside a box which no one will see (except here in a picture) so I wasn’t looking for elegant or neat, just “good” and besides, I don’t have any shrink tubing or I’d have used that instead (old electrical wiring habits die hard sometimes).

The finished box.  Double sided sticky tape goes on that side, the whole thing gets “stuck” to the overhead (under the grab rails on the bulkhead) and hopefully will hold for a few years.  I cleaned the surface with acetone before sticking things in place. It’s painted with a flat white paint, so cleaned right up and the LED tape is also “3M” tape so it ought to hold a long time.

LED light strip in “action” – and yes, I noted the damage to the wood in the picture.  Apparently there was a leak there once.  It’s been patched somewhat and I probably should pull that all down and put up new wood or repatch it at least (which means I’ll be pulling new wires in as well to the electrical, therefore, that isn’t happening right now either. haha)

Starboard side, double strips front and back.  Port side only has one strip.

Sometime in the next few days if I get a chance, I’ll do the same thing with the galley area, because it’s in the walk-through to the aft cabin and very dark.  There are four lamps, two under the grab rail area, one behind above the engine, and one on the over head.  None of them provide enough light for the galley, or working in the galley, so that’s going to change soon.

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.