Sunday, July 31, 2016

ABI Hinge Repair

We have at least thirty pairs of these ABI hinges on our boat and over the years some have gotten corroded. I try to keep them clean and lubricated, but recently the pins broke on two of them. I searched and searched online for replacements, but couldn't find them.

I asked the good women at WWS if they knew where to find them and a Hallberg Rassy owner said they could be found on the HR site. They looked really close, but after waiting three weeks for an answer regarding size, cost, and shipping (and never getting an answer), we decided to just repair them.

We knew we had to push out and replace the broken pins, so first we drilled a pilot hole in the back end of the hinge,
and then we drilled out a hole the size of the pin itself.

Next we heated the hinge over our propane stove,
and hammered out the broken pin.

Now we just have to find a replacement for the pins. It shouldn't be too difficult to find something at Home Depot that will work. The hinges were closed on both ends so we'll also need to put a dab of epoxy or sealant in the end of each hinge to keep the pins from working out, but so far we are pleased with the hinge repair.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Westerbeke Exploded

It looks like a Westerbeke engine exploded inside our boat. However, it must have been a very tidy explosion. The starboard quarter berth is covered with clean, freshly painted parts just waiting for the block to come home from the machine shop.

There's been a little snag there though. (Isn't there always?!) The pistons, rings, gaskets, and bearings we ordered from Westerbeke, even though the website indicated they were in stock, apparently weren't. So we wait.
Malcolm has been cleaning and painting all the little parts. He made a cardboard spray booth in the cockpit. The paint will have plenty of time to cure because the parts won't arrive for maybe two more weeks.

It hasn't been all work though. The other day the Captain went on a day sail with our buddy boat Epilogue. Epilogue sailed by, hailed us, and Malcolm jumped in the dinghy and hopped on board for a guided tour up the St. Lucie River.
We met Epilogue back at the Key Biscayne Yacht Club and again at Lake Sylvia, and ended up sailing to Stuart with them. They suggested we stay at Sunset Bay Marina, which has turned out good for us, so, "Thank you, Epilogue."

While the Captain has been cleaning and painting parts, I've been trying to build up some varnish on all the exterior wood. The handrails have five coats now and are looking pretty good.

But these Dorade boxes are vexing me. The teak they are made of is flat grain and it's just very difficult to get that filled. They have six coats and are starting to look pretty good, but there are still low spots.
The secret to nice varnish work isn't really how many coats you put on, but how well you prepare the wood initially, and how well you sand it between coats. We start out using Scotch Brite pads instead of sandpaper for the first three coats. Then we switch to 150 sandpaper and the Scotch Brite pads. The final sanding should look like frosted glass with no shiny spots. Shiny spots indicate a low spot which needs more varnish to fill it.

It takes at least an hour and a half to sand one of these boxes, and ten minutes to put on the varnish. Just like all paint work, the final result is entirely dependant on the prep work.
By the time you flow on the seventh coat of varnish, you are SICK of sanding and so glad it's finally done. The only perk I've discovered from all this sanding is that I have no more Bingo Wings.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Location Map July 22nd - August 22nd

Thistle is on the move again! We moved about 1500' from where we used to be. The excitement was almost too much!

When we first arrived here at Sunset Bay Marina they suggested we take mooring #61, #62, or #63. We took #61, and quickly realized it was very far from the dinghy dock. So when we signed up for another month, we asked for a closer spot and got mooring #47.

It's closer to the fuel dock, the dinghy dock, the bridges, and all the other boats, so now we feel like we're really part of the neighborhood.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bicycling in Stuart, Florida

Remember those carefree days of riding your bike when you were a kid? The sense of freedom, the wind in your hair? Well, we've been doing a lot of biking lately. The marina has eight bicycles available and we have certainly been taking advantage of them. 

We have ridden them the short distance to the Publix almost every other day. Using the baskets and our backpacks we can carry enough groceries for a couple of days. We have also made the longer trip to West Marine and Home Depot.

And we have made the really long, hot slog to the machine shop and the auto parts store. And you know what? It's NOT AT ALL like those carefree, bike-riding days of my childhood; I feel like I'm about to die most of the time. 

First of all it's really hot. "Feels like 109°" hot. Consequently, we are on the verge of heatstroke and dripping with sweat when we arrive at our destination.
And there are no bike lanes on US 1, so you have to ride on the sidewalk. In fact the cars whiz by only 2 feet away from you even when you are on the sidewalk.

And there's a little problem with the power poles here. They are huge concrete things RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE of the sidewalk, so each one requires a careful swerve towards the street to get around it. Sometimes the cars honk at you. I guess they think you're going to leap right out in front of them. They're scared, I'm scared, it's bad.

Then there's the intersection at Palm City Road where, I SWEAR, the cars don't even see us! I can't tell you how many times we've had to stop for them even when we are in the crosswalk. If I get mowed down by a car here in Stuart, that's where it will happen.

And of course there's all the usual hassles: cars pulling into the crosswalk and blocking our path, cars looking left and never seeing us crossing on their right, cars turning into a parking lot a hair's breath in front of us.

Even with all these problems, we'll keep riding the bikes because it's better than walking and it's all we've got. And here's the good difference between riding bikes as kids and riding bikes as wobbly, scared, old people: when we get home we get to have a cocktail!

Nautical But Nice

In our numerous bicycle trips up and down US 1 we have seen this shop and wondered what was inside. Yesterday we stopped and we were surprised. The store looks like it could sell old, used marine stuff, but in fact sells crafty, new, beachy-themed items. I LOVED it, but I don't think the Captain was all that thrilled. However, he did enjoy the air conditioning, so I was able to peruse the whole store.
They have table decor for virtually ever ocean theme you can imagine: sea stars, coral, mermaids, sea horses, anchors, crabs, shells, fish, and turtles.
They also sell shells, artwork, signs, clothing, and pillows. There were some old items, and a few really weird things like little dried alligators too.
And here's what actually drew us in: this Great White Shark hanging outside. It was cool, but I  hope it's the only Great White Shark I ever see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Fox, The Goose, and The Bag of Beans

Sometimes the challenges of cruising remind me of the ancient puzzle about the Fox, The Goose, and The Bag of Beans. Like that old puzzle, our challenges frequently involve moving things with limited resources. And often we must resort to logic, simple tools, and plenty of physical exertion.

Moving the generator from its motor mounts to the machine shop has been our most recent puzzle.

To make it lighter and easier to handle, first we removed the injection pump and head, the cooling system, and the generator assembly all the way to the flywheel. Using scraps of wood we levered the block off the motor mounts and into the aft cabin.
First step accomplished: We got the goose across the river.

Next we drug the engine through the galley and into the main cabin under a hatch and created a bridle with which to lift it. Again using the halyard we lifted it out through the hatch and set it on the side deck.
Second step accomplished: We went back and got the bag of beans.

At this point we called the machine shop to verify our morning pickup appointment.
Third step accomplished: We exchanged the bag of beans for the goose, went back across the river, and called it a day. All we had to do was keep the fox from eating the goose during the night, or in our case keep the engine from falling in the water.

This morning we got up bright and early and motored our boat to the fuel dock where we removed the generator's oil pan and fetched a dock cart. We then transfered the engine into the cart using the halyard. We wrapped the engine in a plastic bag and cushioned it with cardboard so we wouldn't mess up the dock cart.
Fourth step accomplished: We took the fox back across the river and left it with the beans.

Finally around 11:00 we rolled the dock cart up to the parking lot and lifted the engine into the delivery truck.
Final step accomplished: we went back across the river to get the goose.

 Tasks that would be so simple back home - on a dock, with a car, knowing our way around - are so difficult when cruising. Maybe these kinds of challenges help keep us young, because not only are they physically challenging, and mentally challenging, but sometimes they're entertaining as well.
Stay tuned next week when we repeat this puzzle in reverse to get the engine back aboard.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Westerbeke Generator Compression

Our Westerbeke generator woes have gone from bad to worse. Thank goodness for our good buddy Larry, drag racer, cruiser, and all around MacGyver. We bounced a bunch of ideas around this morning and he helped us confirm the Captain's suspicions that low compression might be the problem.

Everyone knows diesel engines need three things to run: fuel, air, and compression. We've verified that we have fuel, even if the timing might be a bit off. We have the intake totally unobstructed, so we know we have air. We have a strong battery and a willing starter, but crank as we may, the engine won't start.

So we squirted a little oil in each cylinder to help create a better seal, and a little ether in the intake and turned it over. Darn if the engine didn't almost start! It sounded so good we did it several times, but, Alas, it never started. Afterwards we hand cranked it a few times and it was harder to crank over manually.

We had a two cylinder 1960s vintage Albin engine in one of our previous boats. It had a crank to start it in case the battery was dead. The Captain remembers how he couldn't turn it over without releasing the compression release. And now we realize this Westerbeke turns over way too easy. It's got to be a compression issue.

So we started taking parts off in preparation for taking the block to the machine shop. The quarter berths are loaded with parts, and the floor was strewn with tools for a couple of hours. Hopefully they will find only minor age related issues and we can get this project done sometime soon. We're keeping our fingers crossed.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Westerbeke Generator Problems

After a problem with the first machine shop (seriously, who BREAKS a heat exchanger trying to PRY it off?) we got our head back. They did a good job at a reasonable cost, replaced four valves, and even repaired the damaged heat exchanger.
The Captain thinks he has an inguinal hernia so I got to help a lot, including torqueing down the head. It required 60 ft/lbs and it wasn't easy, but I did it. 
After we got it all back together we tried to start the engine, but it wouldn't start. We got out the manual and followed the directions for checking the injection pump timing. From what we could tell, we needed to increase the thickness of the shim, so I made a gasket/shim and we added it to the existing shim, but still the engine wouldn't start.

In fact, when we added the shim the timing seemed to retard rather than advance. See that silver pointer in the photo below? It's supposed to be over there at 17° BTDC. If you increase the thickness of the injection pump shim, it should advance the timing, but when we increased the shim thickness, the pointer got CLOSER to TCD. We are stymied. Can anyone offer advice?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Still Floating

We're keeping our fingers crossed that the transom holds. We put the motor on today for the first time since the repair and motored slowly to the dinghy dock. It was so nice not to have to paddle in this heat.

Thoughts on the Endless Summer

I'm pretty sure a lot of sailors have the dream of going cruising and enjoying an "endless summer" as they hop from one tropical island to the next. They envision carefree days lazing around the boat, swimming in the ocean, snorkeling, drinking sundowners in the cockpit, and working on their tans.

Since we left California in October of 2014 we have been between 9 and 25 degrees of latitude. We have visited Mexico, Central America, Panama, Colombia, many of the Caribbean Islands, and now Florida. For twenty months we have lived in this endless summer and we can tell you this: it's not so dreamy after all.

The relentless tropical sun scorches not only us, but our boat, our dinghy, and our sails. We can barely walk on the teak decks. Our dinghy started falling apart after less than two years. Our refrigeration systems runs for hours trying to keep the boxes cool. Our clothes are saturated with sweat the minute we put them on. We slather ourselves with sunscreen yet get browner all the time. We try to protect our upholstery from the sweat and sunscreen with beach towels, but it still gets dirty, sticky and mildewed. Our laundry is an embarrassment because of the cheesey-mildewy aroma. Our clothes have become faded and permanently stained with sweat and salt. I've had heat rash behind my knees for months now.

To save our skin from damage we try to stay in the shade wherever we go. We cross the street to get to the shady side. We wear wide brimmed hats or carry umbrellas. On the rare occasions when we go to the beach, we crawl under the shrubbery to avoid the sun. While the tourists frolic in the blazing sun, we try to stay still and out of the sun.

And then there's the sand and the salt. Don't even get me started on that. We avoid sand like the plague, but we love to swim and snorkel, so keeping salt water from sneaking below is a constant battle. (Except here in Stuart; you couldn't pay me to get in this water.)

Life on a cruising sailboat is rarely carefree because there is so much maintenance just to keep the sun and ocean from destroying the boat. A fair amount of time every day is devoted to fighting corrosion, sanding varnish, scraping the bottom, polishing the stainless, and removing saltwater. When we see cruisers having a sundowner I'm pretty sure they're drowning their sorrows, not celebrating the endless summer.

Don't get me wrong, we have enjoyed our cruising immensely. We've been to some gorgeous places, seen lots of beautiful scenery, had many exhilarating sails, done some amazing things, met some incredible people, and enjoyed every sunrise and sunset along the way, but we've got to get out of this heat.

I'm sure there are some cruisers who feel differently. Certainly if we had air conditioning we'd feel differently. Or if we left our boat and went home for the summer we'd think it wasn't so bad. But we live aboard 24/7/365, so we're here for the long haul. And after almost two years of this endless summer, we are ready for something different.

We'd like to see the change of the seasons. We'd like to sleep under a blanket. We'd like to walk to the store and not be drenched in sweat when we arrive. We'd like to sit on our settees and not worry about the sweat that's dripping down our backs and saturating the fabric. We'd like to, oh, I don't know, maybe just feel a little COOL now and then.

To that end, Thistle will be heading North soon. It will take a while, but we might actually be wearing long sleeves and seeing the leaves change colors later this year. And we can hardly wait.

Monday, July 4, 2016

It Floats!

The dinghy floats again. We paddled it in to the dinghy dock early this morning, rode the bikes to Publix, and it was still floating when we got back. So far, so good.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Zodiac Repair Part 3

We are down to the home stretch on our dinghy repair. This morning we primed the outside of the transom and glued the bottom onto it. We used the skewers again to hold the adhesive apart until we were ready to press it down. It was really hard to get the bottom in exactly the same place it was before; I can't imagine how it could be done without the skewers.

After pressing it together, we hammered it down firmly.

The last piece to attach is the inside flap of the bottom. Again, primer (Hypalon adhesive) was applied to the wood, then PVC adhesive was applied to both surfaces.

And finally, the last piece was glued down about noon, so we can use the dinghy again on Monday at noon. We plan to only row it for the first week because the adhesives take a week to fully cure, then if everything looks good we will use the outboard motor. We'll post an evaluation of our repairs in about a week.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Zodiac Repair Part 2

We motored over to the fuel dock at 8:00am this morning, and after getting the dinghy carcass onto the dock, socializing with other boaters, dry-fitting the transom, re-reading all the instructions, and spilling glue on the cockpit floor, we finally got the first coat of glue on at 10:20. Argh.....
The whole glue thing is very confusing yet exacting. Our pontoons are PVC, so we have to use the PVC glue on them, but it won't stick to wood or rubber so we have to "prime" those items first with the Hypalon glue. However, the two glues will stick to each other.

Add to all this the fact that you have to mix the glue at a 25:1 ratio, which is very hard to measure, and the curing agent bottle is SO tiny; it is just very difficult. About now I'm thinking buying a new dinghy mught have been a better option, but in for a penny, in for a pound, so on we go.
Above you see the transom brackets after priming with the Hypalon adhesive, and applying the PVC adhesive. 

Below you see the pontoons after applying the PVC adhesive. Notice that we carefully masked the pontoons so we wouldn't get the adhesive everywhere. Also notice the skewers taped into place to keep the parts from touching before we got it aligned.

At that point I failed to take any more photos, but we basically slipped the transom assembly into place and pulled the skewers out when it was properly positioned. Then we pushed the surfaces firmly together and used a rope as a clamp to hold it tightly together.

At this point we were ready to set the dinghy aside for a while so the Captain pedaled to West Marine for more glue, and I did laundry. We will glue the bottom onto to the transom tomorrow.