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Cruising in the Sea of Cortez
Cruising, marketing, lollygadding around. No hurry to get anywhere.
Anchoring in Agua Verde
Who: Gary & Phyllis Stratton
Port: Vancouver BC Canada
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Over 50 • Cruising Mexico • 

02/08/2011, La Paz

We spent a glorious month up in the frozen north of Canada, and arrived back in Escondido, to a battery bank that said 10.5!! EEks, Now I know very little about batteries, but even to me that sounds pretty horrible. Considering that we have 4 large solar panels as well as a wind generator, I must admit that I was puzzled, but batteries aren't my strong suit so I didn't pay too much attention when we were leaving for the north. But according to Gary, we, and I repeat he did say WE, left the engine room light on, (obviously my favorite place to hang out!) which caused a drain, because he had turned off most of the solar stuff so that it didn't overcharge the batteries while we were gone. Well, that wasn't a big success, but Gary was hoping that he could do a revival, and get them back up.

Well, on the trip down from Escondido to La Paz, we found that altho we could charge them, they wouldn't hold a charge, Since we didn't have any wind at all and had to motor, that wasn't a big problem, just go to bed when the sun comes down, at this time of the year that is around 7ish, so we got lots of sleep.

We are now the recipients of 4 new golf cart batteries, only 4 out of our 8 house batteries had to be replaced, they were the oldest, and Lopez Marine gave us a great price on them, so as soon as all this thing Gary calls "equalizing" is finished, we should have lots of power to run the microwave again.

What is "equalizing"?? Who knows, it has been explained to me a bunch of times, but to me it means,-- only running on one set of batteries, and conserving electricity!!

Until next time, Keep the shiny side up!

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In hot water about no hot water
Gary Stratton

The Sea of Cortes in summer is hot, sometimes between 100 and 110 F during the day. The water temperature climbs up into the low 90's. Since the fresh water in the tanks of Apolima matches the temperature of the sea water, showering with water at ambient sea water temperature is pleasant from about June to early October. The rest of the year I get complaints about the ice water coming out of the shower head.

As a good conscientious husband I listen to my wife and tell her I will arrange for her to have pleasantly warm showers. When I put my mind to solving this problem I found that there are a number of options open to us.

Run the engine so that the engine coolant will heat the water in the HW tank via the heat exchanger coil installed in the tank. Unfortunately the idiot who last replaced the hot water heater bought one without a heat exchanger coil. The only way to have hot water on Apolima is to have 120VAC. It works fine when we are plugged into the marina but we are rarely resting at a dock.

The easiest option we now have when away from the dock is to run the engine to produce 12 volts, to charge the batteries, to run the inverter, to heat the water. The downside is that this results in increased wear and tear on the engine and electrical system, noise and needless fuel consumption. Needless to say it is an expensive way to provide a warm shower.
Of course we can replace the hot water heater with one that has a heat exchanger coil so that water is heated every time the engine is run. Free heat, so to speak, as long as the engine is running for other purposes. The $600 + initial cost plus installation seems to be a serious downside to us retired on pensions. And the present heater is not broken yet.

The sun shines in Baja Sur just about every day of the year so lack of heat is not usually a problem so I designed a solar solution. Beautiful; yes, I'll Go Green. Simple. A coil of hose in a shallow box with a Plexiglas top is warmed by the sun. The warm water in the hose is circulated by a small pump to the hot water heater and the cooler water back up to the coil in the sun.

David on the catamaran 'Puddy Tat' pointed out that there was free heat available from the refrigeration system. EUREKA. Currently our refrigeration system is cooled by salt water pumped through a heat exchanger. If I cooled it by circulating the water in the hot water heater instead of salt water I would be able to make hot water for showers as well as eliminate salt water corrosion of the refrigeration heat exchanger.

I choose the last option. It required some hoses and valves and some plumbing changes. Now we have hot water every day when we run the refrigeration. It works.

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Fun exercises for boaters
Gary Stratton

This is just another post that illustrates the opportunities for healthy exercise to be found while on a boat. A good example for

There are, of course, many different types of exercise like;
Running and jogging to give the heart, lungs and legs a good workout
Swimming and rowing gives the body a soft workout without shock loads on the feet and knees.
Yoga and Tai Chee
and muscle building exercises in a gym lifting weights.

These are all exercises of choice. Boats at times dictate mandatory exercises you get when something breaks or plugs up and you must remedy the problem.

Murphy's law and the nature of boats usually mean that one must crawl into a very tight place to reach the item in need of repair or adjustment. Then when in an awkward position, the arms reaching as far as they can, try to loosen, tighten or adjust the item with a tool that is difficult to use at the proper angle. Naturally, according to Murphy's Law, if a screw nut or tool falls,90% of the time it will fall overboard, in the bilge or under an inaccessible spot.

This type of operation rewards you with the mode of exercise that selects all those muscles that are underused in normal life. You know this because when you wake up the next morning you can tell exactly which muscles have been underused.

My recent experience with one of these episodes started out with my wife calling my attention to a small water leak behind the toilet in the head. I suggested that we leave it alone for a while to see if it would stop on its own. You never know.

When she disagreed with my theory the next thing I know I had spent 2 hours with my stomach leaning on the toilet taking apart the 3-way valve and re-assembling it and it still leaked. In this round I ended up removing the 3-way valve, then disassembling the toilet, carefully reassembling it taking care that the seals were in their assigned positions and pronouncing it fixed. I could see no reason for it to do anything but behave like new.

I sometimes forget that Murphy has a great sense of humour and a devious mind so when someone boasts like I did he naturally wants to bring me down a peg. It just so happened that it was time for my morning bowel movement so I sat down to demonstrate my prowess as 'Mister Fixit'. You guessed it, the toilet wouldn't evacuate the bowl at all. To shorten the story, it ended up that the little bit of calcified urine in the outlet hose had broken loose during my ministrations and when I flushed the toilet these calcified bits failed to pass through the small opening in the heavily calcified outlet hose downstream of the vented loop. What a mess.

The people who had built my boat had taken a great deal of care to hide such odious things as sewage hoses from sight which normally is a good thing. However when one wishes to remove said hoses for cleaning or replacement it would be much easier if the were out in plain sight. This usually means that the hose is awkward to reach and maneuver. Then being good craftsmen they made the holes through the bulkheads barely large enough for the hose to go trough. And finally they installed sticky ribbed wire wound rubber hose that stiffens with age. I do not have 5 foot arms like 'Plastic Man' or the strength to reach and remove hose while lying on my side squashed between the engine and bulkhead. I just barely had the strength to lever myself upright from this position. Luckily I had lost my love handles I had put on while in Canada or I'd still be there.

Currently I have given up on removing the hose and am using muriatic acid to dissolve the calcium blocking it. If this doesn't work I have a backup plan to bypass the old hose by installing a new white hose through the engine room in plain view.

The positive side of this experience is that this seven decade old body is now in better better shape with all those unused muscles hardened up. See, boating has a way of improving our health even if some of the exercises are not so pleasant at the time.

Gary Stratton

PS. The old hose is now bypassed by a shiny new white hose installed with the looped vent completely in the engine room where it is accessible and has a constant drop to the outlet. The old hose, although well hidden, had a 2 foot section that was level or slightly uphill which caused effluent to gather creating a blockage.

The only task remaining is to drain the spent acid out of the old hose and seal the ends so my wife's keen nose won't detect it.

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Struggling with the Evils of Marine Toilets –
Gary Stratton

Part 2

Coping with marine toilet chemistry. One of the unavoidable facts is that when urine and sea water mix, a type of calcium deposit is precipitated out to coat the interior surfaces of toilets and associated hoses. This deposit gradually builds up to shrink the inside diameter of hoses until you begin to notice the toilet is flushing slower and with difficulty. Eventually if no corrective action is taken preemptively, at some point it will stop flushing altogether. Of course this usually happens when something other than just liquid is to be flushed away.

'Someone' has to fix the toilet. My wife tells me this is definitely a 'Blue' job. Definitely not my favourite job! The workings of the toilet and especially the outlet hose will be found to have been reduced in capacity. Where the 1 ½ inch ID hose seemed to be overly large the deposits have only left enough room to fit a pencil. Obviously something has to be done. What are your options?

Replace toilet and hose with new.

Remove the buildup in the toilet by taking it apart and scraping it out and reassembling it.

Remove the buildup in the hose by swinging it violently against something solid like a cement driveway or driving over it with a car.

However you do it, it is a messy procedure. Is there anything to be done to prevent this buildup from occurring? There are a few things that can be done but nothing is perfect, everything is a compromise.

Take away the salt water away and no buildup. Use fresh water for flushing. This is best done by dedicating a fresh water tank exclusively to toilet flushing. However this may leave too little fresh water capacity for domestic use. Some boats have attempted to use fresh water from the pressurized water system trough a solenoid valve. This is not recommended as it may be possible to contaminate the fresh water supply.

Add an acid to the flushing water to react with the buildup and dissolve it. Some use vinegar and others go for the stronger muriatic acid, which should be used with caution. The procedure to use acid is to empty the bowl then pour in about a liter of acid, pump it into the toilet, leave it sit for 30 minutes or so, then pump just enough water through to move the acid up the hose and repeat until the acid has been exposed to its entire length. This method cannot be guaranteed to keep the system completely free of deposits but greatly extend the time between complete overhauls.

Marine toilets are a necessary evil so other than a cedar bucket which was advocated by Francis Herreshoff we are stuck with them. It is best to pamper them lest they take out their spite out on us.

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Struggling with the Evils of Marine Toilets
Gary Stratton

Part 1
Marine toilets are a necessary evil. They may be necessary but I hate them. I actually enjoy maintaining our 46 foot Durbeck cutter APOLIMA. Finding, solving and fixing problems gives me a feeling of accomplishment and pride in her. But marine toilets are the worst contraptions to work on. I think Murphy is in full swing where toilets are concerned.

One of my earliest memories about the ugliness of working on toilets in a boat was about 32 years ago. We had recently launched our new Maple Leaf 48 and were sailing down the Fraser River headed for a weekend in the Gulf Islands with my wife and our four children and a couple of guests. My daughter came up and mentioned that she couldn't get the forward toilet to flush.

On investigating, it was true, this Expensive 'high quality' toilet was indeed plugged and of course it had to have a bowel movement involved. The boat was running downstream in the Fraser River with the tide and current and against a breeze which was building so she was pitching a bit. I started to take things apart to find the blockage and got further into this stinky mess until finally I had the output hose off and found that it was clogged solid with bacon grease and peas.

By this time I was feeling decidedly seasick what with the wild pitching of the boat, the smell and me with my head down reaching into almost inaccessible access spaces. When I mentioned the cause of the problem to my wife, she said that she had read where it was beneficial to pour a little oil into the toilet occasionally to lubricate the workings. During breakfast, faced with a good bit of bacon grease in the frying pan and some left over cooked peas she had decided that the head pump needed lubricating. Enough said.

Perhaps Francis Herreschoff had it right -- a Cedar Bucket.

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Cruisers come to the Rescue
Gary Stratton
12/07/2010, Puerto Escondido, Mx

The established cruisers are a close knit community. If anyone is in trouble and needs help the cruisers rush to their aid. People who come from the city where they don't greet passers-bye or know their neighbors will jump in their dinghy to go and assist a fellow boater. Boating brings people back to their natural human affinity of kindness and concern of others welfare.

I remember when we were anchored in 'The Waiting Room' at Puerto Escondido, BCS. The call went out on the VHF that a sailboat had broken loose from her mooring and was drifting towards the rocks. Within a few minutes 8 or 10 dinghies were streaking to the rescue. Lines were grabbed and attached to the drifting vessel and a chorus of screaming outboards strained to stop her drift to the rocks. When I inserted my dinghy near the vessels stern to push it away from danger it was only a few feet from contact. With the combined effort of all the drift of the sailboat towards harm was arrested and she slowly began to move up wind.

Ray, one of the resident boaters, suggested we move it onto a good mooring buoy in the inner harbor where it would be safe until the owners returned. I climbed aboard to steer the sailboat while the rest provided propulsion. The boat was moved into the harbor and attached securely to a mooring. In 5 minutes the fleet of rescue craft were back to where they were before the call for help had gone out.

Happy Cruising
Gary Stratton

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