Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Step up Mate

Refinishing the Cabin Steps - at last!

I'm not a lover of Varnish in any form, but I detest ruggly varnish finish - would much rather have bare wood.

So far, I have sanded and varnished the bathroom cabinet door below the sink, and the cabinet behind the shower seat, they get wet when we shower, no real choice there.

After completing an Engine Oil Change this weekend, I finally accepted that the cabin steps are in the 'Ruggly' category, dark, nasty looking varnish. Time to refinish them - they do get wet when we trapse wet footed into the cabin or if it rains when the dodger screen is not in place. So varnish it is.

Step 1. Sand down the old grotty varnish. I spent nearly 2 hours sanding with 60, 80 and 220 grit, that got the upper step set looking pretty good. Another couple of hours and the lower step was sanded.

Step 2. The old Documentation plaque, it does not meet Coast Guard Documentation standards as it's just, a poorly, engraved piece of plywood screwed to the lower step unit.

Solution: Remove the old plaque and carve the Documentation number directly into the wood of the lower stair unit.

I used my cardboard stencil set to mark out the numbers and then a Dremel  routing bit to carve out the numbers (prefixed with 'NO.' ). Once routed out, I used a Permanent Marker pen to color in the carved characters.

Step 3. Re-varnish the steps.

Result: Not to shabby
The top steps look so much better.
None Skid patches are from Lowes' Hardware, one patch does two steps.

I cleaned the hardware before refitting, even the screws and nuts came out pretty good.

The finish is Satin, water based varnish which is supposed to be unaffected by water of common household chemicals.

The lower steps, including the CG doc number look so much better!

I'll take another pic when they are on the boat, she should be happy. Might not happen today as it's pouring outside, and it's a half hour drive to the boat. But they are in the passenger back of the truck and I have a plastic sheet to cover them just in case it's still raining.

This whole job took about 5 hours, most of it spent engraving the numbers. It only took a few minutes to apply a coat of varnish and follow that, when dry, with a light sanding before the next coat. Four coats in all.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Making better use of our Fridge

The Fridge/Freezer on Eximius works well, but it's a pain having to dive down into the top loader in order to get anything out that's not on the top shelf, especially if it's a nice cold drink!

Solution: Bottle Bags!
Simple tube bags that will stand up on the bottom of the fridge and be easily accessible and hold 3 or 4 bottles of water, G2 and possibly beer and wine!

Finished Product - it has 2 bottle of G2 inside.


11" by 24" Phifertex®  panels
4 1/4" Circle of Phifertex®

8" strip of Webbing

 Step 1: Turn a seam the full width of one end of the panels and stitch the seam.

Step 2: Fold the Webbing in half and the panel in half along it's length - the Panel is folded so that the seam is on the outside (it will be turned inside out later)
Sew about 1" of the webbing on each side of the panel and complete the sewing of the panel the full length from top to bottom.

Step 3: Starting at the bottom of the tube, turn it inside out. That will result in the 'handle' being on the inside of the tube. This takes a bit of fiddling to get the tube folded on itself, but only takes a few minutes.

Step 4: Cut tabs into the edges of the tube base circle from the outside to just inside the blue line (1/2" on mine)

Make a cut about every 3/4" around the circumference. These slits will allow for easy sewing of the base into the end of the tube.

Step 6: Position the base on the inside of the tube and sew each 'tab' around the rim of the tube until all tabs are sewn.

That's it! I made three of them in less than an hour

These turned out really well. I'll take some pics of them on the boat to show how they work.

See you on the water.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Preparing to Cook on the Boat

I enjoy cooking, but I don't claim to be very good at it, but I am working to get better.

We're planning on a 3+ week trip to the Abacos in March/April 2019 and I'll be doing most of the cooking on the boat, that includes baking - I really enjoy baking on the boat.

So, in preparation, I bake at home with an eye to doing the same thing on the boat where there's not as much space, nor as many resources as in our home kitchen - eg. I have a nice KitchenAid Stand mixer at home, on the boat I have a bowl and spatula! And there's not much room for additional cooking/baking equipment.

Here's an example of something I could easily cook on the boat.

The loaf is No Knead - 3 ingredient bread.

The Quiche are prepared using one bowl - I'll have to work on making the dough for the pie base.

The bread cooked at 450ºF and the Quiche at 350ºF both could be cooked in our tiny oven on the boat.

Here's my recipe, developed after baking dozens of loaves and at least a dozen quiche - at home.

The Bread

  • 1.75 Cups of warm water (Graduated Cup measure, Instant kitchen Thermometer. 
  • 2.25 tsps of Yeast ( I keep it in a Jar in the fridge, at home and on the boat)
  • 3 Cups of KAF All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt.
  • Store the water and yeast in my bread mixing bowl (It's a big red plastic bowl with snap on lid)
  • Let them proof for 10 minutes, bubbles will form on the surface.
  • Add the 3 Cups of Flour
  • Stir it all up with the handle of a spatula (because it's easier to clean the handle), doesn't take much stiring, perhaps a minute, just enough to make sure there's no dry flour in the mix. The result will be really sticky and soggy!
  • Cover the bowl and let it rise for about an hour - check it often, if it's in a warm area, it may double in size, cooler and it may take longer, but 90mins is the most I have let this dough rise.
  • Meanwhile spray a bread pan (9.5" x 4.5") with oil (pam)
  • Once it has doubled in size (or after 90mins) prepare a clean surface.
  • On the boat, this is on one of my Starboard sink covers. I have it clean and ready to go, then spray a mist of oil (pam) on the surface and on my Dough shovel (that's what I call it)
  • Pour the risen dough onto the surface and use the shovel to turn the dough onto itself 2 or 3 times, basically I'm trying to make a really soggy log about the length of the bread pan.
  • Now use the shovel to scoop the dough into the prepared bread pan.
  • Preheat the oven! It takes about 20 minutes for my oven on the boat to come up to 450ºF 
  • By the time the oven is up to temperature, the dough should have risen to the top of the bread pan. (some times, the dough rises quicker in the pan, I can normally tell if that's going to happen because the 1st rise was less than an hour! In that case, I'll heat up the oven before I transfer the dough to the bread pan)
  • With the Dough risen the 2nd time and the Oven up to 450ºF it's time to put the pan in the oven. 
  • I set my timer (my phone's alarm clock) for 30 minutes, after which I use the Thermometer to test the bread temp, I'm looking for 200ºF in the middle of the loaf.
  • As soon as it gets up to temperature, typically 30 to 40 minutes, turn the loaf out to cool.
  • On the boat I turn it out onto the cleaned surface then onto a small wire rack.
  • Let the bread cool completely, then I keep it in a 1/3 food container, but it has to be cool first, or the container will get condensation on the inside, that reduces the life of the loaf.
The entire loaf prep takes about 15 minutes to collect and mix everything, 60 mins to let it rise and 20 mins for the oven to heat up and finally 30 minutes to bake. Just over 2 hours with only about 15 minutes of actually doing something other that watching the bake plus the time to let it cool

The Quiche
  • 2 Pie Frozen Pie Crusts (I've yet to try making them)
  • 6 Extra Large Eggs (or 7 Large Eggs)
  • 2/3 Cup of Egg whites (out of a box)
  • 1/2 Cup of Half n Half (or Cream, your choice)
  • 8 oz of grated cheese
  • 1/4tsps ground black pepper
  • 1/8tsps sea salt
  • 1 Pack of Prosciutto thin sliced
  • Preheat oven to 350ºF (I try to make the quiche before I put the bread in the oven, saves propane, and the oven is quick to get up to 450ºF after the quiche is cooked, ready for the bread to bake)
  • Lay the thin slices of Prosciutto to cover the still frozen pie crust (takes about 3 slices)
  • Mix the Eggs, Egg Whites, Cream in a bowl.
  • Sprinkle 4oz of the cheese into each pie crust to just about cover the Prosciutto.
  • Pour half of the egg mixture over the cheese in each pie, it should come to within about 1/4" from the top of the pie crust edge.
  • Salt and Pepper each pie to taste (well, I guess you won't figure that out until the 2nd time you make these.)
  • With the oven up to temperature, slide the pies into the oven they barely fit into my oven at the same time.
  • Bake for 35mins
  • Test for 190ºF and then pull them out.
  • Ready to serve hot or let them cool for later with a salad. 
Time to make the quiche is about 5 minutes of prep, 30mins of baking and a few minutes to keep the hungry crew away from them until they are cool enough to eat.

Hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

See you on the water.

At home, doubling the Ingredients for 2 loaves. (boat oven too small)

Friday, February 8, 2019

Dink Cover

New Cover for our Dinghy

When we purchased our New Mercury Marine 8' Dinghy at the Miami Boat Show a few years ago, the Mercury Dealer (in New York) sent us a plasticized canvas cover. To be blunt, it was a POS, but it did serve to keep the dinghy out of the UV when inverted on our foredeck, which is where we keep it all of the time when it's out of the water!

Over the New Year's Eve Cruise with our sailing club (Here's a link HISC),  the cover disintegrated! It literally tore to shreds. Time for a new cover.

I had some Sunbrella available, not the same color as the rest of the boat canvas, but neither is our Helm cover! So we started the project.

Step 1 was to make a template, I use Dura Skim from Sailrite for the more complex canvas tasks, but this was comparatively simple (Ha!) so I used Builders Tyvek wrap (purchased a 3' x 100' roll last year). Because the dink is pretty symmetrical along the keel, I only made a template of one side.

There parts to the template. Stbd Side, Stbd Cone and  Transom, I cut the Side and Cone pieces, inverted them and cut the Port side and cone from those, then cut the Transom piece.

After joining the two large pieces with a Counter Seam, next the Cones were added to the back end.
At that point I took the canvas to the boat and did a trial fit, marking out the transom piece connection and the lower hem all the way around the dinghy.

Back home, attached the Transom piece too the cones and back of the main pieces with a Mock French Seam.

Finally, trimmed the bottom edge to the marked line with a 2" seam allowance and then machine sewed the hem with a 6' piece of 1/4" Shock cord inside the hem, secured at the front centerline and the aft end where the hem included the Cones.

Back to the boat and here's the result. Fits like a glove, the shock cord nicely pulls the lower edge beneath the Dinghy's rub rail to keep the cover secure. It's time to make a new securing line to hold the covered dink to the deck, the old lines are getting tacky.

It looks a bit Baggy in this photo, but the dink has not been inflated since Dec 31st. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Pre New Years Eve Cruise

This year's New Year's Eve Cruise is at Lake Boca

Because of the tide times, we decided to spend the night at Lake Sylvia after an easy motor from the Dock.

The following morning, we left the lake early, it was low tide and we nudged the bottom despite hugging the East side of the canal. As we headed out of the lake, there was a Forty something sailboat listing heavily, they had an 8' draft and were way to close to the canal center line even at high tide. They acknowledged that they had about a 5 hour wait. Hope they got off easily without any damage.

We motored up the ICW, making all of the bridges, we did cut it too close to the inside bend before the Hillsboro Inlet Bridge and came to a smooth, sandy bottom, stop. It was a none event, we had turned towards the deeper part and easily motored off. Gotta pay attention

Diversion was already at Lake Boca when we arrived, not many other boats, so we had the pic of anchoring spots. We backed down hard knowing the weather might kickup over the weekend.

As the afternoon wore on, more of the club boats arrived and we prepared for the Champagne Party that evening aboard Into the Blue and Chesshire.

We took a dish of appetizers made at the last minute from what we had onboard. Cocktail sticks, Cheese, Grapes, Slice of Ham on  a piece of Cucumber. Worked out great, they disappeared.

We took a dink ride over to the park and Peggy practiced her Dinghy exit plan - success, her workouts are having a very positive effect, we even went for a 20 minute walk to the bridge and around the park. We also dumped our trash. There's Water at the park if we had water containers to fill.

Sunday We had the chance to chat with Halabaloo and some friends of  Jeff Miskin's but everyone else abandoned the lake by Sunday afternoon. By Monday we were one of the few boats left on the lake despite it being New Year's Eve and the promise of a great fireworks display close to the lake.

So we left the lake Monday morning and took the inside route back to the slip. We were home with time to prep dinner of Crab Cakes (Thanks Shawn!)

A fun weekend, even if we didn't get to sail. But I'd rather be on the boat under motor than mowing the lawn!

Looking forward to getting out there, hope to see you on the water.

Next Club trip is the Chili Cookoff on Feb 9th.

Meanwhile, we're still prepping for our trip to the Abacos in March/April.
Shopping list includes:
  • AIS Transponder (replacing our AIS recever)
  • New Fishing Gear: Rod, Gaff, Lures, Fillet Knife.
  • New Cabin lighting to replace those that have failed in the past few months. (Galley lamp, Reading lamp, Aft Berth lamp).
  • Holding tank Beckson access plate (I know, never want to use it but need to clean the tank)
  • Add rail tubes Port and Stbd sides for Fuel & Water tanks.
  • Purchase 4 x 6 Gallon Water tanks
  • Make Covers for new Water tanks and remaining Fuel Tanks.
  • Top up Propane tanks (1 is already full)
  • Clear up the Tool storage area to enable Non-perishable food storage.
  • Gearbox Oil Change
  • Clean out Water tanks & replace all water filters (3 on the boat 1 on the boat refill assembly)
  • A few other things that might get done - crack the list above first.
Sailing - It's fun even when it's just time preparing.

See you on the water.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Upgrading the Mainsheet Block System

Yes, we're still making improvements to Eximius and this one is a long time coming.

The Mainsheet (the line that controls the position of the Boom) runs through a total of 9 Sheaves (the pulleys inside a block) and 7 of those are original to the boat, so they are going on 31 years old. I have cleaned and lubricated those blocks many times, but it really does not make much difference.
Normally, the crew will 'play' with the Mainsheet and the Traveler to keep the sail shaped appropriately with changes in the wind.

To explain how bad the blocks work: In order to ease the boom from the centerline, even when the sail is full of wind pressure, we have to ease the Mainsheet by pulling on one of the lines in the Mainsheet block system and then letting it go so that the boom moves and takes up the slack. In order to move the boom back towards the centerline we have to use a winch! Consequently, we often position the Mainsheet and let it be, even if we need to move the sheet unless it's a significant sailing status change like from Close Hauled to a Beam Reach..

This means that we don't get the best speed from the boat! We updated the Traveler a while ago and that does give us a decent amount of change but it does not encourage correcting mainsail twist, and hence boat speed.

Scouring the Internet for replacement blocks, with a preference for Garhauer equipment, matching the new Traveler and new Deck Organizers, I was dismayed at the pricing, it looked like we would have to pay around $650 for the set of blocks, Dang! and we're watching the pennies as we had to buy a new truck earlier this month.

Peggy asked what kind of blocks were sold by Catalina Direct for the C34, hadn't thought of that! A quick review of the CD site and I found they had a C34 Mk1 Mainsheet Block Kit for $266.
Image from Catalina Direct

The kit comprises

  • 3 Single Blocks with Shackles
  • 1 Single Block with Shackle & Becket
  • 1 Fiddle Block with attached Single Block with a shackle on the Fiddle Block
When I called Catalina Direct, they confirmed the blocks were Garhauer Blocks - awesome!

I didn't need the 3rd Single Block as I had replaced the block at the base of the mast already.

The cost bottom line was $246.70 for the kit and shipping after the discount for not needing the 3rd Single Block. The new block kit is on it's way and should arrive by late next week.

Peggy is pleased because we have been discussing sail trim a lot recently and it would make a huge difference if she could adjust the Mainsheet, and this kit should enable that.

I'm hoping that the end of the sheet, which attaches to the becket in the middle block on the Boom, will easily transfer to the new becket, else I'll have to re-splice that eye. The rest of the Mainsheet should just thread through the new blocks.

Here's a pic of the completed installation. 

I didn't need to make a new eye on the end of the Mainsheet, it fit the becket on the upper middle block just fine.

The astute will notice that there is a twist in the sheet (black & white rope) at the additional block on top of the Mainsheet fiddle (click on the image to zoom in) That's because that extra block is from the old setup and is too big! The kit was sent without the extra block because they were out of stock for that item, it's slightly smaller than the old block and it will not be on a swivel.
A nice feature of the new blocks: The shackle pins are threaded into the shackle and have a securing ring though a hole drilled through the threaded portion of the pin. I much prefer this setup to one where the pin is secured only by the ring. Nice job Garhauer!

The difference in friction between the old setup and the new, with the passing through 9 blocks and 1 rope clutch, is staggering! I can now ease the Mainsheet by opening the clutch and then applying a few ounces of pressure on the boom (which would be done by the wind on the sail).

We have a working Mainsheet! WoooHoo! Of course, we're not sailing for at least another week!

But we'll see you on the water!


Update: Tuesday 11/20/2018

Great news! The additional block for the Fiddle arrives today, so we should be able to install it prior to our sail up to Lake Worth on Friday.

Not only handsome, but it looks really well made and the sheave almost floats on it's bearings.
This, non-swiveling, block should also eliminate the twist in the last part of the mainsheet, an added benefit.

Not sure if we're going to make it to Lake Worth this weekend, bummer! But we'll go down to the boat and install the new block, that will finish off the new Mainsheet Block System.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Getting Rid of the Rain Water

Keel Stepped Mast = Occasional Rain Water in the Bilge

In a recent edition of the Mainsheet Magazine for Catalina Owners, Seth Martin had written a great article about building and installing a Bilge pump system to cope with those small amounts of water that end up in the bilge, basically what would be left over if the Automatic Bilge Pump ran, perhaps a Gallon or two over a number of rainy days.

Currently, we manually hand pump out the rain water and then soak up what the pump cannot get with a few diapers and finally dry the bilge with a few paper towels. I did purchase a battery operated fluid transfer pump from Amazon, but when it arrived it was marked up as an Olive Oil Transfer pump. It might work for Olive oil, but it sucks (pun intended) at pumping water!

Just to show what we're talking about.

Here's a pic of the #3 Bilge area (#1 is in front of the mast,#2 is immediately behind the mast and has the Bilge Float Switch sitting in the bottom, and this one is #3 which has the Bilge pump attached to the bottom

The water is after a few days of rain. We pumped this out by hand and then dried it up with a couple of diapers (our Grand Daughter no longer needs them 😀

It's about 3/4" and there's a similar depth in each of the other bilge areas.

There are commercial products on the market, but when I have the chance of another DIY project, that causes me to get excited. Seth's system is brilliant.

Basically the System consists of a small water pump, a digital timer to control it, some tubing and pickups all fed to a manifold connected to the Pump inlet, the Pump outlet fed to an overboard drain.

Eximius has 4 Bilge areas each connected by limber holes or tubes, so each needs a pump out.

So, first thing was to investigate the pumps available. I elected to purchase this SeaFlo Type 21 12v Diaphragm Pump on Amazon.

It arrived early :)

A quick connection to a 12v power supply to check that it ran and all is great.

It has an Automatic Pressure sensing switch but i it can be bypassed.


Then I spent a while picking out a timer. I found this 12v Digital Timer with on/off control.

Found this one, again on Amazon.

  • Rated Voltage: 12V DC; Contact Capacity: 16A
  • Full Time Range: 1Min-168 Hours; Programmable: 17 times/week or day
  • Internal battery: 1.2V/40mA (rechargeable batteries)
  • Power failure memory: 60 days; Operate Temperature: -10 to +40 C
  • Dimensions: 60x60x32mm; Net weight: 80g


Next, I needed to find a way to hold the Drainage Pickups that have to be installed in each of the Bilge Spaces. I could not find anything ready made, but was able to make them using an Electrical Installation Box from ACE hardware,

I figured I could cut them to create brackets that would hold the pickups in place but also allow for future sponge replacements.

A few minutes with a Back Saw and then clean up the edges with a Stanley knife and they are ready to go

The slot in the lower edge will allow me to push the Pickup tube in place with the Sponge below the bracket.

$0.79 x 2

In the pic, There are 4 Red & Black left over drip assemblies from a Harbor Freight Garden Drip System, I knew they would come in handy one day. All I had to do to make them suitable to act as Pickups was to cut off the barb on the Red End.

The Sponge pieces are about 1 1/4" Square with a hole pushed through with a Screw Driver.

The Black Plastic 3/16" Tees are also left over from the Drip system.

On the Left is a completed pickup, that will connect to the Pump input manifold (that will be made from Tubing)

This shows a Completed Drain Pickup with the Tube in the Bracket Slot ready to connect to the Pump Input Manifold.

Plan is to Glue the Bracket to the side of the bilge with just enough room beneath it to be able to slide the Tube & Sponge out so that I can replace the Sponges in the future.

I'll probably use 3M 4000 to secure the bracket in place.

So far so good.

Here's what the Pickup looks like from underneath.

I did a test using two of the pickups connected to the Pump via a 30' long piece of 3/16" tubing. They were placed in a small tub (Butter Spread Tub) with about 2" of water in it.

Then I ran the pump connected to my 12v power supply. It drained the Tub in less than a minute, and the Tub was basically dry, certainly dry enough to evaporate naturally.

Seth's project seems to be very suitable. He installed his in a Catalina 25, The bilge areas on our Catalina 34 already have quite a bit of equipment in them: Bilge Pump Control Float, Bilge Pump, Bilge Pump Hoses, 2nd Bilge Pump Hose, and finally Keel Bolts.

So my pickups are quite a bit smaller than those that Seth made for his boat.

The Boat's Main Bilge Pump has 1.5" tubing running from the Pump to the Overboard Discharge at the rear of the boat, that's about 25' of hose! When the pump stops because the water level is too low, the water in the hose floods back into the bilge. New Nearly Dry Bilge System will pump that water out.

However, I'm concerned that the hose from the Pump to the new Overboard Discharge vent will also be able to flood back into the bilge when the pump turns off at the end of it's 'Pump On' period. To prevent that, I'm going to install a One Way Water Non Return Valve in the discharge tubing near to the Outlet of the Pump.

With that installed, when the pump turns off, any water in the discharge hose will simply stay there, although, if the pump runs when the bilge is empty, then it will blow any water that is in the discharge hose out of the overboard discharge vent.

After several experiments, I came up with this solution.

The Pickups will be larger than originally prepared as per the pics above. The Pump will be attached to a Starboard Plate with 4 Stainless Steel Thumb screws (ACE Hardware) and the suction side will be from the middle of the two forward and the two aft pickups.

The Output of the pump will be attached to a new Vent that will be installed below the existing Aft Fresh Water Tank Vent that exits into the Cockpit beneath the Auto Pilot Control head. I'll add a non-return valve just upstream of the Pump output line to prevent water in the line from flowing back into the Bilge via the new Dry Bilge Pump.

The wiring of the Pump is pretty straight forward.

The Timer switch will have a 2amp fuse to the Bilge Pump Circuit before the Circuit Breaker - that way, if the timer fails and blows the fuse, it would not blow the bilge pump power supply - Bilge Pump is essential circuit

-ve from the Timer Switch Power Supply to Ground

-ve from the timer Switch to Ground.

So if the Timer or the Pump blow the fuse, the Circuit breaker that provides power to the Main Automatic Bilge Pump will remain live.

Ok, installation complete.

Final install was slightly different from the above as the blue pickup holders were not necessary. The pickups and sponges stay in place without any additional support.
The system has been running for two weeks and our bilge is DRY!

I have programmed the timer to turn the pump on for 1 minute every 2 hours during the day and 3 hours during the night. So far it's working perfectly, the bilge is totally dry. Time to clean the bilge and make it look pretty.

Of course, this is November, dry season here in South Florida, but we tend to have rain every couple of weeks, it rained yesterday and again today. I'll keep a watch on the bilge pump counter and on the state of the bilge itself. 

So far, I'm really pleased with the way it's working. Having a totally dry bilge is a big deal! 

See you on the water.