Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trip to the Toy Store

With the impending visit by Erika this weekend, and online orders delivered to store, I needed to get down to the toy store (West Marine in Fort Lauderdale - if you've never been there, then take an hour to browse around some time.)

 In my online Order was the new Air Conditioning Unit for Eximius, Marine Air 10,000 BTU Reverse Cycle and the Garmin Instrument Kit.

 Now that probably doesn't mean much if you're not into sailing, but in South Florida, AC is a must (at least for a Brit In USA!) and knowing the wind speed and angle is pretty important. Moving towards our goal of cruising on Eximius for a month or so next year, we need to get AC up and running. This is my biggest DIY project on the boat so far.

The other part of the online order is an instrument kit.  We have the low tech wind indicators on the boat, little flags (tell tales) on the shrouds that point away from the wind, and a Windex (wind vane) at the mast head that shows us which way the apparent wind is flowing all the way up there and telltales on the Sails to show how the air is flowing over the sails.

So why spend the money on the electronic version of the wind indicator? Like most sailors, I feel the wind and look at the tell tales on the shrouds and on the sails and adjust the sails to match the conditions, but having a display show where the apparent wind is coming from and how strong, that helps stay aware of changes in the wind. If it's dropping off, then should I let more sail out, or if it's rising, should I reef (yes!) and is it changing direction? Keeping track of the wind changes helps anticipate changes we need to make to stay safe and to get the most out of our sails. So the instrument is great tool.

Included in the kit are:

  •  The wind transducer. That's the bit that goes up on top of the mast and collects the data on wind speed and direction. 
  • The wireless server interface (WSI) that allows me to have the transducer on the mast without having to run another wire down the inside of the mast. 
  • GND 10 box that allows the WSI to talk to our boat's network. 
Oh! We don't have a network! The Kit includes the start up network that allows everything to talk to each other and to show the data on the display at the wheel. Very cool.

But there's more! The kit includes a Water Speed, Depth and Temperature Transducer that connects to the network. So now the Instrument at the wheel will be able to display the wind direction and speed, our speed through the water, the current depth and the current water temperature. I just have to install it all. This is where I give thanks to the 25 years of Navy experience in electronics! Argggggh!

West Marine has a new boat owners program where we can get an extra % discount, so I took advantage of that by getting a few more things for future projects.

  • A sheet of Starboard - making an additional step on the back of the boat to make it easier to get on and off the boat from the water or dinghy and making a new Instrument panel at the Wheel so the new instruments are easily seen by the person at the helm.
  • 100' of new Anchor Chain
  • Hand rails for each side of the cabin dodger - give us and guests something to grab hold of as we get on the boat and into the cockpit without having to grab the canvas.
  • Safety Jack lines - they will be set on either side of the deck so that I can attach my harness in order to keep safe as I work on deck while off shore.
  • Cleaner and water proofing for the boat canvas - it's really not nice when it rains and the rain comes through the cockpit canvas and drips on as while at the wheel.
  • Bit and pieces for the AC install, hoses, shut off valves (sea cocks), strainers, etc. 
My boat projects list has grown quite a bit, but that's part of the fun of owning a boat. And I have to admit, when you install the system yourself, you know a lot more about it than when you pay someone to install it for you!

I'm getting to know a lot about this boat!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Poop Story

Sometimes you have to smile and just go with the flow!

 Plan was to head out to Lake Sylvia this weekend, the day after we completed the sale of our Catalina 250 and handed her over to the new owners on Friday Night. Several other members of the HISC (Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club) were planning to meet up on the lake.

Of course, it's Florida, and Summer, So we had threatening storms scheduled for the whole weekend. But anyone living down here knows, we just have to wait 5 minutes and it will change.

On Saturday morning, after a quick trip to the store for important supplies, like a few bottles of wine, some Jack Daniels (Honey - my favorite) and we headed down to Fort Lauderdale where we keep Eximius behind Shawn & Alan's home.

I took with me a few 'project' items, some engine repairs to complete, and Peggy had packed food for the weekend and we had the usual extra clothes, all of the boat manuals (we keep them at home for evening reading).

It didn't take long to get the boat prepped for casting off. It was high tide around 10am, so timing was on the ball. As Peggy stowed stuff below, after connecting up the GPS (we removed it when alongside), I opened all of the valves: Galley sink drain, Engine Raw Water supply, Head water supply and Head sink drain. Turned on the Nav instruments and the GPS & Radar, Vented the Engine compartment, Checked transmission was in neutral and started the engine.

Peggy was still busy below, so I cast off all lines except the midships line to the dock. Quick glance around to make sure all was well on board, and I cast of the last line. Put Eximius in gear and we gracefully left the dock heading out of the channel.

The thunder clouds were gathering, but we only had to wait those 5 minutes. We smoothly exited the canal and turned onto the North branch of the New River, outbound and ready to call the 1st bridge on our route to the Intracoastal.

Peggy mentioned that the head was filling up! Hmm. Not that long since I replaced the valves in the head, perhaps one had stuck open and the water from the head supply was filling the head. Not to worry, I'll close the valve for now and check it out later. Oh Ohhh! you know that's going to bite me later on!

 We navigate through the 11 Avenue Swing Bridge and headed on down the North Fork, the head was still filling up. Peggy took the helm while I went below to make sure the head pump was being operated correctly, looked ok. I turned off the head's raw water supply, back out to the cockpit and I took the helm as we moved on towards the next bridge.

We quickly and uneventfully passed though each of the bridges, I'm guessing the bridge tenders are getting used to our calls requesting the next bridge opening. And we now know about the outflows by Andrews Avenue Bridge and we keep an eye out so that we don't caught out.

After clearing the last bridge, we headed down the New River and north of Sandbar Park, early in the day, and the threat of storms, so no boats on the sandbar today. With Bahia Mar in sight, we headed past the last marker before turning south to hug the East wall of the channel into Lake Sylvia.

High Tide, no risk of going aground, but we keep an eye out for those tell tale ripples where the shallows wait the newby sailors in the area (that was us a couple of weeks ago). We turned across the lake and, now over to the south west side of the lake,

We picked an anchoring spot between to pretty large power boats (multi story). I let out about 60' of chain rode and Peggy backed down hard to check that the anchor had dug in, we were good!

Now to go look at the head. I came to the conclusion that the problem was the Deck Pump Out cover. I had purchased a new cover and tried to install it the last trip out, but the old one was sealed in hard, I didn't realize it, but during my efforts to remove the old pump out cover, I had made a hole it it. During the week, the heavy rains had flooded the deck, that's normal, but because of the hole in the cover, that water had filled the holding tank to capacity, it was completely full and the Joker valve in the head could not hold back all that poop! Ok, very dilute Poop, but Poop all the same!

Having a full holding tank meant we could not use the head! Think about that just for a few seconds! We drink at least 4 bottles of water a day each, plus coffee, wine, Jack & Lemonade, you get the picture. Our solution was to store our waste in water bottles and plan to visit a pump out station on Sunday Morning before returning to the slip.

Peggy shut off the engine and that's when I realized the pressure water pump was running continuously! It should only run when a faucet is opened, but they were all shut! What the heck! I turned on a faucet and nothing came out! Oh! the water tank is empty! No problem we have a spare 25 gallon tank, that will be plenty for the weekend. Turning the center tank supply off and the aft tank supply on, I open a faucet in the head and nothing comes out! The hot faucet is fine (water's not hot) but cold water is dry. What the heck. Then I hear the bilge pump kick in for a few seconds, water is flowing into the bilge .. .this is not good. Opening up the head cupboard, I can see water pouring UP the back wall of the cabinet (thank goodness it's fiberglass) but cannot see where it's coming from. Pulling the top cabin step off so that I can get access to the engine area but no sight of flow there.

After several minutes of looking and feeling around, I discover the fresh water supply hose to the head faucet is disconnected and with the pump running water is just flowing under pressure into the bilge. An easy fix. loosen the hose clamp, put the hose back on the faucet pipe and reclamp it. By the time I had located the leak, we used up about 20 gallons of the 25 gallong aft tank. Now we had a head we could not use and only 5 gallons of fresh water.

These things happen, not much we can do about it but conserve, that would deal with both issues.

As it has been every trip to the boat so far, I have a list of projects to do onboard, so I then spent the next two hours replacing the engine temperature sensors and the fuel level sensor in the fuel tank. Almost an anti climax, but not with out a few well chosen superlatives. I was able to remove the remnants of the Pump Out waste cap and replace it with a nice shiny new one purchased from Catalina Direct. That should stop future flooding of the holding tank.

Finally, time to relax. By this time, 4 boats were at anchor just off our starboard side, two of them from the HISC. Dale Kern from Shoal Mate paddled his canoe over to us and we discussed the things that sailors talk about, including the state of the Poop. Peggy & I were ready for dinner, Chicken & Stir fry, Wine and Jack on the rocks, all the while listening to WLRN our favorite radio station.

After a fitful night between storms, we were up by 8am and planning to find a pump out. Joyce (Spruce Goose) replied to a facebook post that there was a pumpout at 15th street just to the north of 17th Street Causeway bridge. So after breakfast we headed that way. But that pump out was broken - at a Marina! So we turned around and headed back towards the New River, I was sure there were a few on the banks of the river.

 We found a pump out station on the south bank of the river just east of 3rd Avenue Bridge. We pulled over and tied up to the dockside. Peggy did a great job and fortunately was not looking when I nearly fell overboard - One hand for the boat!

This was our first pump out, and I had no clue about the technique nor the fittings. It turned out that the fitting to connect the hose to our pump out point was missing from the shore pump out station. I called the phone number on the PU station, but had to leave a message, not a surprise, it's Sunday! And then a couple of city employees came along and helped out. They were great, they had the missing fitting, and we were pumping the poop out in minutes. Meanwhile they were explaining how Fort Lauderdale was so Boater Friendly.

They did the city proud. Thanks guys. I'll have to add a pump out fitting to my next shopping list a West Marine. After saying thanks to the guys, we pushed off and headed to the first bridge, then quickly passed the others and were back in the channel to our dock. Peggy took the helm and brought us along side. We quickly turned the boat, swinging her stern around while I held the bow at the dock.

Peggy commented that it was not the best weekend, and noted that on Saturday night I was sat on the side of the boat looking almost wistfully at the other HISC members partying while I was in 'come down' mode from a hard days work. But we got out on the boat, we learnt more about how the boat works and we managed with little water and no poop.

I'll take that.


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The boat is Eximius, but Peggy is Special

I mean that in a good way.
This past weekend, we had planned to be on the boat in Lake Sylvia for the Blue Moon. The weather wasn't looking that great and there was quite a risk of rain over the weekend, I would have understood if Peggy had begged out, but she didn't.

Friday I finished work early, and I was home by 5pm. Peggy was sat on the couch and in front of her was a pile of stuff we needed to take down to the boat for the weekend. Not just some of it, ALL of IT!
Our clothes, bedding, Food, Drinks, Boat manuals (we bring them home to read between movies) everything! All I had to do was load them into the car.

We knew that the bridges on the New River would not open during rush hour between 4:30pm and 6pm, and Sunset was around 8pm, so we planned to leave the slip by 7pm which should give us plenty of time to get to the lake before dark.

We did. Here's some pics.
Pier 66 - at least it's blue.
And the blue moon:

We were anchored on the outside edge of the lake, and I had set the anchor alarm to 75' with 50' of rode out. I know, if the boat swings 180 degrees, that's pretty close. So I woke up several times overnight to check to see if the alarm meant we were dragging. Swinging a lot, but not dragging.

Breakfast of eggs, fried turkey breast (an acquired taste) tomatoes and cuisants, creme cheese and, that oh so important, Steaming Coffee.

Then we headed out of the lake to the Ocean. As we approached 17th Street Causeway bridge at high tide, I was not sure we could get through without an opening. The bridge tenders tend to ignore us as we classify as a 'little' boat despite we need 55' of air to pass under a bridge. As luck had it, the Spirit of Lauderdale was passing us as we crept up to the bridge fenders to read the tide boards. Spirit is much taller and has to have an opening no matter what the tide, so we just poodled along behind her and called the bridge asking he keeps it open while we passed. Sweet.

The ocean was a bit lumpy, not big lumps, but plenty of them. We flew the reefed main and about 60% of the jib and headed out to the 3 mile limit. We quickly had 6+ knots through the water and nearly 8 knots on the GPS, so I guess we were inside the boundary of the Gulf Stream. It was a great sail.

After a pump out, we headed back to the shore, wind had turned up a bit, probably around 18-20knots. The boat handled it well, but Peggy didn't, but she handled not handling it very well. If we had some fishing gear we could have caught something with all the chum she put out. Peggy amazes me sometimes. After 30 minutes of being left alone to recover and a bottle of G2 she was just fine and once we turned south to head back to the port, into wind with the engine running, she took the helm while I pulled the sails down.

Now at low tide, we had clearance under the 17th street bridge, We headed up past Sandbar Park and then east towards Bahia Mar for the southerly entrance to Lake Sylvia. That's when we found how skinny it gets in the lake at low tide. We're 5'7" draft and we found a spot with only 5'3" of water!

After two hours of waiting for the tide to come back in and float us off the bottom, we finally headed into the lake and to anchor. We deserved the nice dinner and some wine. A great day.

Sunday we headed back to the slip leaving the lake at high tide (we won't ground there again!). Now the tide is ebbing out as we head in past the bridges. That's ideal, if we have to stop while a bridge opens or to let some outbound boat pass, it's easy for us to slip into neutral and keep steerage as the boat comes to a stop. Peggy has that process down now. Sure makes for a less stressful end of the day trip back to the slip.

Back at the slip we did some boat project work. I needed to test the engine temperature instrumentation, it has not worked since we have owned the boat (can you believe that it's over 2 months already!). The good news is that I was able to figure that it's the temperature sensors, not the gauge or the wiring. That's an easy repair. Also able to test the fuel gauge system (there's a manual gauge installed right now, and I have to crawl into the aft berth with a flash light and mirror to read the gauge). Turns out the gauge and wiring for the fuel level works fine, I just have to purchase a new fuel level sender.

We had a snack on the boat while we were getting everything ready to head home. Out west the rain clouds were building, quickly! So we moved into high gear and carried the remnants of the weekend trip back to the car. It started to rain as we drove home.

It really was a great weekend on the boat. And it all started with Peggy getting everything ready last Friday.

Thanks Honey!

Nav station due for an update

The old VHF, Stereo, DVD player mounted on the aft partition of the Nav Station has legacy holes all over.
Over the past 28 years, a variety of electronics have been mounted and removed and we have added to that.

I removed the DVD player, we'll be getting a 12v Flat Screen TV with built in DVD player later. Our new VHF cutout is a different template to the previous one that I removed weeks ago.

So I need to replace the forward facing and the side partitions.

Behind those partitions are a myriad of electrical wires: Power to the nav station electronics, Antenna cables, speaker cable, legacy SSB receiver cables, and some cable that go nowhere and do nothing. I hope to be able to neaten up all of the electrical wiring in that area, install the new VHF into the partition at the back of the Nav Table, also the new Stereo, and add a 3rd speaker for the stereo.

First step in replacing them was to measure for the new aft partition.

Next the side partition.

Both of these are custom to Eximius, not sure when they were originally installed, but there was obviously something mounted below the shelf in the side partition.

While at it this weekend, I installed a VHF / AM/FM antenna splitter. Basically reducing the amount of wire beneath the shelf. Again, years of additions/removals have left a hodgepodge of wiring, so I'm cleaning up all of the connections during the reconstruction.


That went well! It took less than 15 minutes to put the new partitions in place and to secure the Stereo and the VHF, including the Mic holder. Looks good. The pic I took on the boat over the weekend was at night and, it sucks, so I'll take another this evening. The stereo has a remote and a connection to our phones & tablet. Very cool playing our tunes.

Caps Off

We know the boat is 28 years old, and have no intention of spending a fortune trying to restore it to original condition. Being able to sail the boat and enjoy letting her take us to new places is where we should be spending our boat bucks.

Eximius has two water fill points, One diesel fuel fill point and One Waste Pump out point, all on the deck. In preparation for taking her for a pump out after our trip from Stuart to Fort Lauderdale, I tried to open the Waste Pump out cover, was not going to happen! As I tried to turn the cap, it started to break apart, almost as if it were sealed in place.  The other caps are degrading after years in the Florida Sun. So, time to replace them. While at it, I'm going to replace the Engine Control Panel Cover as it's so opaque that it's almost impossible to read the gauges behind the plastic cover.

Here's what I got for my boat bucks today.

Black cover - Waste pump out, they could have made it brown ;)

Blue covers - Water fill points

Red Cover - Fuel fill.

Clear plastic engine control panel cover.

So, how did it go? Good, but not great!

The fuel cover would just not fit. Not sure if the existing cover is original or not, but it'll have to stay for now.
The water fill covers fit great.
The Waste pump out cover will probably fit, but the old one is glued in place! Dang, it's broken in several pieces, but firmly glued. So I'll have to take a chisel with me to forcefully remove it. You know it's going to be odoriferous! Yuk.

Sadly, the plastic engine control panel did not fit either, so I have to return that and the fuel filler cap. Looks like a trip to Lowe's and purchase a piece of plastic that I can cut to match the old piece. Just another job.

Hope to get the cover done over the weekend.