Back on the Boat
17 November 2011 | St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
I've been back on board for 8 days and still haven't updated the blog. It's hard to get back in the habit of writing. It's also a bit hard because this off-season of repairs has proved to be pretty challenging.
When I left the boat they had just finished the sea trials on the new engine (after 5 tries). While I was gone they moved Bud down to the south dock, because a section of this boatyard is being refitted to be used by Customs and Border Patrol as a training facility. Originally, they had Bud at the far end of this long dock and he had to use all 125 feet of our shore cable to reach the dock power outlet. One day he lost power and found that the fixture on the side of the boat was fried! Oh no, this is more than we can take on the power problems. The good news is that a company here, Polaris that specializes in stray current and boat electrical systems, was called in. We found:
1. Our inlet fixture was 50 Amp (we always adapted down to 30 because we didn't want to carry a huge and heavy 50 Amp cord) but the boat was actually wired for 30 Amps. The inlet was replaced with a new 30 Amp receptacle.
2. The failure was probably due to too much power draw (two air conditioners running) over too long a power cord. The adapter was repaired (no longer needed and actually the repair put two 30 Amp ends on it so it became a foot long power cord, we're keeping it for spare parts) and the boat was moved closer to the power (happily other boats had left opening up a space).
3. There was current coming in on the neutral line of the shore power and we didn't have a galvanic isolator. Bud installed one.
4. All of the installations on board that I did were fine (I talked to the guy yesterday and he said we did a good job with it, yeah!) but there were some deficiencies in the bonding system and we needed to add a brush to the prop shaft to tie that in to the bonding system. I had wondered about that when I read up on boat electrical and bonding systems, it may have been that the old Borg-Warner velvet drive transmission was internally bonded, but the new transmission is not. Bud installed the prop brushes and we are working on connecting other things that should be tied into the bonding system.
So, our electrical problems should be over, but we haven't seen the state of the new zincs installed. Bud had the boat hauled once while I was gone, and the zincs put on at the time of the sea trial were corroded to the point of almost falling off. I'm not sure how many days elapsed between installing new zincs again and the installation of the galvanic isolator. In the interim he had another zinc that he hooked to the prop shaft in the engine room with a long wire and just dumped over board. This is an old cruising trick and hopefully spared the shaft zinc. I know we won't rest easy until we're in clear water where we can regularly check the zincs and determine that they are no longer eroding too quickly.
If that weren't enough, our outboard engine wouldn't run when Bud tried to put the dinghy back in service. This was not due to its saltwater bath last spring, but rather to some bad gas. Bud had it serviced and they cleaned a lot of rust out of the carburetor.
Next he had problems with the bilge pump. When we had the engine replaced we paid to have the engine room cleaned. We thought that would include the bilge that is under the front of the engine room. We found out that would have been a separate work order. So the bilge was oily. Not only that, but when they did the modifications of the stringers for the new transmission, a lot of bits fell in the bilge. Those should have been cleaned up, but weren't. The result was that the bilge pump started to stick on. Bud had to clean the bilge himself and replace the switch. Then the pump started to run every half hour or so. Since the float switch and hose opening are 3 feet below the pump, Bud reasoned that the check valve that keeps the water from running back out the hose below the pump was faulty. He replaced that. That mostly cured the problem. However, certain days the pump was still running, and he could see water dripping into the front of the bilge but couldn't find where it was coming from.
I came back to the boat Monday night (about midnight). We had decided to go to a gathering of cruisers (Seven Seas Cruising Club Melbourne GAM) that Friday. We had looked for the leak through the week, but not found it. Thursday night the bilge pump ran every half hour. We got up at 5 AM to drive down to the GAM, but Bud didn't think we should leave the boat. I started to investigate again. There was a puddle of water at the base of the mast. I tasted it; it was not salt water. It hadn't rained, so we must have a leak in our fresh water system. We shut the tanks off and went to the GAM. When we came back on Sunday the areas that had been damp were dry. Further investigation found a slow leak in the foot pump in the forward head. They still sell rebuild kits for these pumps and our local West Marine had one. Unfortunately, they come with no instructions or drawings so it took two attempts to get the unit back together correctly. But we did it, and our leak is gone!
The list of things to do before we take off is down to one page. We may actually get out and cruise again before long! But there is one other problem. Three nights ago Fuzzy suddenly became restless. He normally wants to go to bed by 8 in the evening and sleeps until at least 7 in the morning. Monday night he wouldn't stay in the bed with us at all. He wandered around the boat and finally lay down in the galley. After the second night of this (almost worse) we took him to the vet. We don't have the results from the blood work back, but the probable diagnosis is a kind of doggy dementia. The only treatment is to put him on drugs. Right now we're trying Valium, with not great results. If that doesn't work he'll probably be on Prozac. If that doesn't work I don't know what we'll do! Last night I got him to sleep a bit (after taking Valium) by holding him still up next to me until he finally fell asleep.
So, that is where things stand. Bud and I are both exhausted. On the bright side, I've seen dolphins playing and feeding in the river here, there are flamingos in the pond by our doctors' office and Bud is finally catching fish! This is a 24-inch red drum he caught the other morning. About a half-hour after he caught this he caught a 22-inch flounder. Last evening he caught a 23-inch red drum. So our freezer is filling with fillets. Also, he finally figured out how to throw his cast net (after watching a video on You-Tube, no less). Sunday afternoon Gary came over and took Bud out in our dinghy and he got about 30 little mullet in one cast.