Wednesday, May 18, 2016

If it was easy .... Part II

Yet another sunset ...
I gave myself a twinge the other day when I posted yet another beautiful sunset picture on Facebook. It felt like I was committing a lie of omission. I really was enjoying the sunset, however, I don’t want to leave the impression that everything in my boat life is peachy keen either. Eventually, I’d like this blog to be a rather honest portrayal of one man’s escape into the life he wanted. By keeping it honest, I think that I can show that anyone can find their passion and escape from the mundane existence that has them bogged down. To stay in that spirit, I will add some details to my boat report about the condition of Emma and the work to be done. The following will occasionally sound like a bitch session, but that is not my intention. I hope to illustrate that while l have learned to pause and soak up the occasion sunset, there is still a lot of work to be done. I intend to show that by force of will, doing my own work as much as is feasible, and by being too stubborn to quit, that a fairly humble man can create the life he dreams of. Further, my current goal is to get the boat ready, to be able to wander. This is not an end point, a destination, rather this goal is the point of departure for another set of goals; the wandering itself.

I am bogged down right now with the electrics of the boat. All I really need is running lights and a radio to sail her from Miami to Fort Pierce. To accomplish that, however, I had to replace the battery bank. And because of the unpredictability of my previous schedule, I had purchased new batteries a month ago, but just got them to the boat. Once there, I realized the ‘kitbash’ nature of the wiring on the boat. There is Romex house wire in a couple places; which is really bad on a boat. Worse yet, the majority of the wiring is old school quad phone station wire, probably pulled out of a dumpster and repurposed. Anything more than a small light bulb at the end of such thin wire is a fire hazard. I am just rewiring now what I have to in order to move the boat, and will end up taking all the wiring out and redoing it from scratch.

Two of the three solar panels aboard are from a Miami company with a less-than-stellar reputation for either selling good panels or standing behind them; according to my Googling anyway. Occasionally, their panels are grounded differently than everyone else’s. Yet I have three panels all wired together. None of which was connected to the charge controller or battery bank. Further, the panels are wired together in what looks like a great mess of gooey, old school electricians tape. I have yet to tackle that. I don’t know if this wiring mess was working at one time or was slapped together and then abandoned without ever being tested.

There is a VHF radio onboard, but no antenna on the masthead. If anyone has pressed the transmit button on the mic without the antenna, the radio is probably blown. I have a handheld radio that will suffice, but really wanted the stronger reach of a full size radio. I may attach an antenna to the stern pulpit to see if it will work.  Cheap enough redundancy again.

The rig is OK to get to Fort Pierce, but I will replace it rather than trust it any further than that. In the photos, Emma obviously had a wooden boomkin and bowsprit. However, they are not the original, but a home constructed replacement. I was going to replace them with the stainless steel versions anyway. The bowsprit is fairly loose right now. The bobstay is chain which is not as stable as cable. The whisker stays are also loose, and I hope that they will tighten before the turnbuckles bottom out. The forestay needs tightening but will have to be balanced with the backstay to keep the mast plum.  The stainless steel chainplates are rust stained on the outside. I dread seeing the inside but will replace them during the refit. Various hardware at attachment points for the the stays on the bowsprit and the boomkin are not appropriately sized. Luckily, most of them are too big, but occasionally that is causing some scarring on the hull.  

The running rigging has been baking in the sun for some time. I hope it will get me to Fort Pierce. This will all be tested a little more before I leave. I haven’t raised all the sails to get a look at them yet. At that time, I can evaluate the halyards and sheets.

The depthsounder that is so elegantly installed in the companionway will not likely work. The transponder is unceremoniously glued inside the hull with a great blob of what is likely 3M 5200.
When Alex and I painstakingly installed an inside-the-hull transducer on his W42, complete with the oil filled PVC pipe, the hull was too thick to get a signal through. I can hang the transducer off the stern as we did on Eleanor, but the readings of depth right behind the boat are far less valuable than a reading right under the boat, for obvious reasons.

Nevertheless, I am super happy with the composting head that I installed. And I have cooked aboard on my single burner swing stove. There is lots of work ahead, but, hell, life is good. A bad day on the boat still beats a good day at the office.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Epilogue: Whatever is going on with you, take time to pause and really enjoy a sunset when you catch a good one. Then get back at it, and make your life your own.

Reflecting on Swiss Time

Hiking with the kids and Presley.

Long before I found the boat, long before I found the Florida job, my brother and his family invited me to visit them in Switzerland. It was great fun to hang out with them and hike around the Alps. Of course, going from sea level to hiking at 6000 feet can almost kill a crusty old truck driver. Besides hiking, we went to a water park in the Italian part of Switzerland, went to a park with rope bridges and various swinging things on a trail through the trees, went to a concert, and I ate more cheese and chocolate in a week than I had in the previous couple years. Thanks, DT’s!!

It was also good to finally be able to take a deep breath and evaluate what was going on in my life. Nine hours each way in a plane will help you do that. When I came to Florida I had a new-to-me boat in Miami, a storage unit and a seasonal job hauling sod in Fort Pierce, where I wanted to eventually keep the boat. It all seemed to fit together so well.  

Crewing on Alex’s W42 down the East Coast last spring, we ended up at the Riverside Marina in Fort Pierce. Ironically, I had picked out that very marina on the web. My original plan with the Michigan boat was to sail out and down the coast to spend a few months in the Bahamas, and then backtrack to Florida and Riverside Marina(!) to find a job and do some boatwork. Riverside Marina is where I hope to keep Emma, my Westsail 32; as soon as I can get her there.

So, I’ve been here since mid February, hip deep in ‘sod season’ and running so hard that I’ve only seen my boat a few times. I bought new batteries, an inflatable dinghy and an outboard engine. The batteries finally made it to Emma - just two weekends ago. Hopefully, they haven’t completely self discharged. Twice I drove more than two hours to Miami just to pay for my mooring ball and peak at the boat from the bayfront.

Truthfully, I always have a Plan B. And even though the sod company might have kept me on, I had been keeping track of employment opportunities in Fort Pierce, and in Miami where the boat still lies. When I found a trucking gig that was 7 days on and 7 off, I simply had to take the opportunity.  Staying true to my boat project occasionally means making tough decisions. I was working for a good little company, but I never intended to get pulled into a six days a week schedule. There was no malice and I have no hard feelings but, just the same, it is an unforgivable sin that I haven’t been able to work on my boat.  

I started the new gig last Monday.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Long Awaited Boat Report

The long awaited boat report:
[Click on Pictures for bigger image]

It’s sod season in Florida and I’ve been really busy at work. Of course, that means I haven’t had as much time to work on Emma as I’d like. This morning, I’m nursing a sore shoulder and decided to write the “Long Awaited Boat Report” rather than go to Miami for the day and wrestle four 60 pound batteries onto the boat and down below.

I bought Emma, sight unseen, from Michigan. The Westsail 32 was exactly the boat that I wanted. I’d been looking at all types of heavy displacement, full keel boats, but what I really wanted was a Westsail. I found Emma on the Miami Craigslist, through the Westsail group on Facebook. That story is here.   For $6000, I was really just buying the hull. Having worked on Eleanor, a Westsail 42, I knew the quality of construction and the seakindliness of the Westsails. Anything else that was in good working order, beyond the ‘bulletproof’ hull, was gravy.

I admit to having the rose-colored glasses of a dreamer. The interior was a little rougher than I had dreamed up, but there are no heartaches. There is nothing that some sweat equity won’t fix.  Two previous owners back had painted the interior a stange green color. I imagine he found a good deal on some paint that happened to be green. It’s not bad, it’s just not for me. The most recent previous owner was painting some of the interior panels white. White panels with dark-stained trim is a classic Herreshoff interior and looks good on an old school boat like Emma.

Original Floor
The original planked floor is just below the companionway steps. The rest of the interior floor has been replaced with plywood. It’s in good shape, and is stained, but I would like more and easier access to the bilges. I’ll work on that.  
Looking Aft

The interior layout is the standard Westsail 32 layout. Down the companionway, the navigation station is to starboard with a U-shaped galley to port. A very interesting galvanized plumbing sculpture now occupies the counter. I think they must have been using a pail as a sink and needed the height to accommodate. There is no stove, but a good space for installing a good gimbaled stove/oven. I can’t wait to smell fresh baked bread aboard.

Forward of the galley and nav station is a dinette to port and two berths to starboard. The bottom bunk slides out to a full single. Above that is a pilot berth. I need to find or construct a dinette table. The dinette also becomes a double berth when folded down.  There are no cushions, so I’ll be hunting up foam to shape and upholster.

Next going forward is the head where I have installed a composting head to port as discussed here. Across from the head is a nice built in cabinet to starboard. With a little clean up and stain, all the woodwork is going to be great!

The Westsail is a large boat. On most boats, the V berth is crammed into the bow and sleeps two, one on each side with their feet converging in the small space toward the anchor locker.  Emma is large enough that the V berth has a double bunk to port with a single to starboard.  And more woodwork.
V Berth

The batteries were basically killed by neglect. The four batteries, three different types, were dead enough that I bought new batteries. As mentioned above, I bought four 6V 225 Ah golf cart batteries for my battery bank. The wiring needs some attention as well. There is some Romex house wire to tear out and the battery switch and breaker panel need to be properly used.

Built In Cabinet
The sails are in decent shape. Good enough to get me to Fort Pierce. I’d really like to make a set of tan bark sails for her.   Emma is a cutter, so she has two headsails and a main. The effect is to spread the sail area over more, and smaller, sails which makes for easier handling. Still the genoa is a really big sail!  I’ve always been a hank on guy, but might have to consider roller furling to safely handle that big sail.
Nav Station

The standing rigging was done recently and has mechanical fittings rather than swage. It appears to be in good shape. The chainplates are stained a bit with rust. I'll take them off to inspect and will probably replace them. The running rigging is OK, but will be replaced during the refit. With the mast down, I will thoroughly inspect all the fittings. Further, using the "Things That Break" section of Bud Taplin's Repair Manual, I'll carefully inspect the bowsprit and boomkin fittings.

Further, Emma has no engine. The good news is that there is no old engine to take out before I can install a new one. Repowering is one of the main projects to accomplish while she is out of the water.

Toward Bowsprit
Above deck, she is a big, beautiful, old school lady. A bowsprit graces her bow and a cute little boomkin on the stern. These have been replaced and modified. I will purchase the stainless steel versions available from the Worldcruiser Yacht Company.
Toward Boomkin

Lastly, there is at least six months worth of growth on her bottom. I’m hiring a professional scuba boat cleaner to do the first hull cleaning.  Once I get the electrical system straight enough to have running lights and a radio, and get the bottom cleaned, I’ll move her to Riverside Marina[][] here in Fort Pierce. Hopefully, I’ll have her there in early May or sooner.  

Monday, March 7, 2016

Going to Hell in a Bucket, baby.

I’ve still got a couple stories to tell, but skipping ahead to today, I wanted to show that some progress is being made. There were two projects I wanted to make some headway on today; the electrical system and the composting toilet. As always there were some trials and tribulations before I could get to work, but that is one of the stories that will remain untold for now.

Humble Jumble
The electrical system is a mess. Its already better, but nowhere near the capacity to power anything. There is an awful lot of Romex wire in the mix which would be fine if this were a cabin but is no good on a boat. There are four batteries onboard in three different types.

Wiring together different types or even different ages of the same type is not a good idea. Further, all of the lights and other electronics were wired direct to the battery rather than through a fuse panel. And, par for this course, these were wired to lugs on different batteries in the bank. I’ve disconnected all the wiring and jumper cables. Most likely, I will buy a couple cheap deep cycle batteries to get by on until I really begin rewiring the whole boat. All I really need, at this moment, is enough battery power to have running lights for 48 hours and the occasional use of the VHF radio. On a plus note, the solar panels appear to be sending out power; its just not going anywhere.

The real progress was made installing the composting toilet. This will also be a temporary installation to get me to my eventual home marina where the real work will begin. For now, I need to be legal to travel these water. The boat was advertised as having a composting toilet. This was partially true. There was a home built set up for composting aboard the boat. However, it was missing the bucket and a urine diverter. I don’t know exactly how the owner, two owners back, was using the composter he designed and built, but it wasn’t all there anymore.

The Old Bucket Cabinet

I’ve been reading about composting toilets for a while and was going to put in a commercially built unit. Besides looking nicer, it was all there and instructions were be included. I bought a C-Head composting toilet and am super happy I did. Many of you know, I have a Bachelors Degree in Packaging. I was totally impressed with the well thought out packaging design when my toilet arrived. This is a small company still buying cardboard shipping boxes at Home Depot, but the care and forethought that was put into just boxing the toilet up to ship to me was incredible. Moreover, the directions are very detailed with many installation options.

Eewh, don't look in there.
My first task was to disassemble what I had. I had purchased 12v Portable Drill Driver/Impact Driver kit from Milwaukee and am really happy with the tools. Alex had bought the kit when we were working on Eleanor last spring. It seemed to do well. Back to the bucket cabinet, yes, the stir stick was still in there. Peat moss dust was everywhere. The open bucket design had its drawbacks. But I tore it down and cleaned it up. The toilet seat itself was just sitting over the hole with a lid that wasn’t even attached.

Using what wood I had, temporary install.
My C-Head went together well with an ease based on good, thorough directions. I fit it in place, marked where I wanted the brackets, drilled a couple holes for the hold-downs and in mere moments, it was installed. I had to use whatever scrap wood that was on the boat. Now I’m legal too.

The C-Head separates #1 & #2, which prevents the worst of the smells. The peat moss dessicates the solid 'product' which can either be further composted or disposed of. The liquid product is stored in cheap, ubiquitous gallon jugs or can be plumbed to a holding tank for pumpout when available. There is basically no plumbing and no need for a holding tank.
Agitation Crank handle in place
The Teak C-Head
Step One
Step Two
Ready for Action, everybody sits.
The agitator bucket loaded with peat moss