11/28/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
If I had been quicker with my camera I would have had a picture of a beautiful double rainbow, one of the brightest I've seen, to put here. It formed as the sun was getting ready to set. I hope it was an omen. Instead, what you see is our bilge, where we again spent a good deal of our day. To get this picture I stuck the camera under the transmission of the engine. The bilge is bout 2 feet long at the bottom, less than a foot wide and about 3 feet deep. It has three bilge pump hoses in it and one of the hoses is on a small plate with the switch attached next to it. You can just see a piece of the white housing way in the bottom. That's the switch Bud replaced while I was in Texarkana.
Yesterday, we got to replace it again! The automatic bilge pump came on and wouldn't shut off. Bud stuck a pole down there and tapped the float switch to see if there was something hanging it up and that didn't work, so we very carefully, and with much contortion for both of us, pulled it back out after pulling the fuse so the pump would shut off. Once it was up, but still wired in, Bud took it off its base. It's a float, but is enclosed so we couldn't see what was going on with it until we removed it from the plate; the bottom is open. The float was sticking. There was some gunk on it, and that can cause it to stick, but Bud had spent hours trying to clean the bilge, so that was very discouraging. We put the fuse back in and the pump didn't come back on. We flipped the float up and down and it worked, but it didn't seem to move freely enough. Bud noticed that the part with the wires and switch was warm. That didn't seem right, but it was barely warm, so I didn't think it was significant. After it had been sitting hooked up, but with the float down for a few minutes I picked it up again and it was quite warm. I kept picking it up and feeling it and trying to figure out what was going on. Then, while I was handling it, I noticed water coming out. I showed Bud. We pulled the fuse again. The device was cracked and full of water. We think it heated up enough to distort the plastic just enough so it had a sticky spot. Our theory is that a wake hit us, sloshed the little bit of water in the bilge and lifted the float, which then stuck at the sticky spot.
So off to West Marine we went. We bought another one just like the bad one, because the one before had worked for about 2 years, and on inspection still seemed to be functional. We'll take the defective one back to the marine store where we bought it, but they're not open on Sunday, and we wanted our automatic bilge pump functioning again.
The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to reinstall it. Hooking it up and attaching it to the plate took about 20 minutes. Getting it back down in the bilge among the other hoses, sitting flat on the bottom and secure enough to stay in place, took two hours. Two hours of contortions over and under the engine.
But it's in, and we're almost certain the issue was a defective switch and not some other issue with the boat. We don't know if it works, yet. We tested it before we replaced it, and we tried the manual switch for that pump and all was OK, but the pump hasn't come on since we put the switch back in the bilge (it hasn't had reason to) so we can't be sure all is OK.
At one time yesterday I thought, "I would want to give up and go home if I had any other home to go to!" But then there was the rainbow.
11/27/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
To wrap up a few things I've left hanging:
First, my brother asked for a photo of the new arch. This picture of our stern shows the new arch with the dinghy on the davits. When we travel the dinghy will be pulled up tighter and tied forward to keep it as still as we can. For open water crossings we'll still put the dinghy up on the foredeck. You can see our new propane tank, too. That's strapped to the stern pulpit and the wind generator mounting post and is quite secure. Just in front of that is one of the folding bikes. Those are staying in the car in St. Augustine. Since we're at anchor most of the time in the Bahamas, we can't easily get the bikes ashore, so we've decided not to take them this season.
Fuzzy is doing pretty well on Prozac. Bud is advocating that I should also be taking it, and I admit, some days it's tempting. Fuzzy's appetite isn't great, but he's eating enough to stay healthy and we think his appetite will recover. The generic Prozac is only $4 for 30 tablets and he is only taking a half tablet a day, so far. Target will give us all 6 refills on the prescription, so we should have enough for the season.
I lucked out on the fresh water pump. The local supplier had it listed at around $450. I went on line and found it for a bit over $300, so we ordered it. Once I placed the order it came up on backorder, so I cancelled that. Looking around on line I found the base assembly available for a bit over $200. I tried to order that but the ordering program on that site wouldn't accept the zip code as a valid code for St. Augustine. I sent them an email. Then I decided to look up the part number on line and found it from Defender Industries for $149. I placed the order there; so even with expedited shipping it was about $165. Now that might seem like a lot to you non-boaters, but compared to the $450 we first looked at, and as boat repairs go, that's a great price. Bud was able to get all four of the base screws out of the mount (he thought he would have to grind them off and re-drill) so the new base will screw right in where the old base was. I clipped, tinned and crimped quick connect ends on the wires, so when we install the new pump those can be connected and sealed with heat shrink and we should be good to go. We found a big pin in our hardware that plugged the water line, so we are able to use the foot pumps in our water system. No hot water, but at least you can wash your hands and brush your teeth.
Oh, and the pies are great. I'm having my usual after Thanksgiving breakfast of pumpkin pie and whipped cream.
We hope to leave here by the middle of the week. It all depends on when the pump base ships. We'll be staying on the ICW down to Lake Worth again, so won't have to worry too much about the weather until we look for a window to cross.
11/25/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
OK, that's sarcasm. Some of you might be wondering why we're still in St. Augustine. The boat finally passed its sea trial two months ago. I've been back for two and a half weeks. So what's going on?
Well, it seems we just can't get ahead. At the end of this post is the list of the things done to the boat, and the things we've done to the boat this season. Every time we think we're finally at the end of the list, something else happens. Today two more things got added to the to-do list.
First, the aft head door handle started to malfunction. Bud took it to our local marine store (a great store) and they could sell us a replacement lock set for about $100 or parts for ours for much less. He opted for parts; they won't be here until the middle of next week...so departure is delayed again. Meanwhile, since the knob still worked in one direction, Bud reinstalled it until the parts came in. He tested it to make sure the knob worked and then closed the door of the head, and the knob no longer worked. At about this point Gary came down to join in the fun. The head was closed and we couldn't get at the lockset because the screws were on the inside. I managed to knock out the screen in the port in the shower stall, reach in with a coat hanger taped to our boat hook and grab the latch on the engine access door and pull that open. I then had to crawl over the engine and into the shower and head. The photo shows the engine area with the open access door on the other side. Once there I removed the screws and the back plate of the lockset, which accomplished nothing, except that I was now stuck in the head! Bud and I had both tried to open the latch with knives, but lucky for us, Gary is expert at this and soon he got it open using a skinny jack knife blade and a butter knife. I then completely removed the lockset from the door.
That wasn't our main problem, however. From the time we've had the boat we've had trouble with our fresh water pressure pump running when no faucets are on. Lately this has gotten much worse (of course). So while Bud was ordering the door hardware kit he also bought a rebuild kit for the pump. The valves and diaphragm could be accessed from the top, but there are two "pulsation dampeners" that need to be accessed from the bottom. We pulled the pump part way out, took the motor off, and turned it over. We didn't have to cut any of the wires to do this, but it did mean we had to do the work kneeling on the floor. The back plate of the pump has 12 screws in it. 11 came out OK, even the three that were slathered with epoxy once we chipped the epoxy off of them. (The presence of epoxy all over one side of the back plate should have been a warning.) I was working on the disassembly but had Bud try that screw. An hour later he had it out. We then had to buy a replacement screw for the screw he had all but destroyed in removing. I continued with the rebuild. When I put it back together the screw that wouldn't come out was now stripped. It was one of nine in that part, though, and the directions said not to over tighten, so I continued. I got the pump back together and Bud reinstalled it. We had also discovered that the rubber feet were corroded, so had them on order, but three of the four feet were functional, so we could put it back in service. Bud hooked the hoses back on, opened the valve to the water tank and turned on the pump. It sounded great and it pumped water very well. But then I saw water coming out from the base, no, streaming out from the base. Bud shut everything down and pulled it out far enough to access the base and tightened the screws. Reinstalled, valves, switches, try again. Water runs out again. Pulled it all the way out (cut wires etc.) and took it back apart. Either the stripped screw was essential (likely) or the epoxy was because the base leaks (possible, less likely).
Anyway after working all day, we have no lock on our aft head door and no water. And so it goes...
Work performed by others:
New engine, transmission and exhaust
Reinforce floor under house battery bank
Move front navigation light out of the way of the Rocna
Repair lower bearing on rudder
New rod rigging
Shorten jib furler
New arch with davits to raise dinghy
Spartight to replace wedges where mast enters deck
Wash and repair main and jib
Repair SSB (we removed both SSB and antenna tuner and sent for service)
Work we've done:
Install new Racor filter
Trade in recalled Rocna on new one
Add 12V line to aft cabin with receptacle for hand held GPS (to use as anchor alarm)
Install WIFI antenna and wireless hub
Purchase IPad and wireless GPS and set up IPad as back-up chart
Move solar panels to arch and wire to single controller
Install tank monitor for forward holding tank
Install galvanic isolator
Install bonding brushes to prop
Replace generator raw water hose from seacock to strainer
Replace zincs in generator heat exchanger
Repair floor in aft shower (epoxy small break)
Make cockpit awning
Make small cover for base of mast
Replace light fixture over dinette with LED fixture
Rebuild both toilets
Rebuild foot pump in forward head
Replace jib sheets
Replace jib furling line
Line opening on jib furler to prevent chafe
Replace bilge pump switch
Replace bilge hose check valve
Buy and install tank and adapters to run rail mount grill on 20 lb. propane tank
Clean out deck and locker drain hose
Splice eye around shackle on anchor snubber to hold new hook
11/24/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center, St. Augustine , FL
This is our first Thanksgiving together on the boat. Last year I was in Detroit with Jamie and poor Bud was alone with Fuzzy in Charleston. We are having a nice, quiet day. This morning, after stowing all the provisions we had purchased the day before so I had room to work, I made pumpkin pies. I made two of them because three 15 oz. cans of pumpkin make two nice full pies. Lately Bud has been buying piecrust when he wanted pie, but he knows I don't like those, so for Thanksgiving I made the crusts. It wasn't bad in the tiny galley. The only difficulty is that only one pie will fit in the oven at a time, and a pumpkin pie takes about an hour to bake. The pies got finished around 3 PM.
Once the last pie was in the oven, Bud started on the main meal. The menu was crab stuffed flounder, filet of beef, green beans almandine and parsleyed red potatoes. He had all the prep work done by the time the pie came out of the oven. We just left the oven on for the fish. While Bud finished, I decided to take a bike ride to work up an appetite. There's really only room for one in the galley, anyway.
I rode around old St. Augustine. I really like this town with its narrow old streets. There are a real variety of neighborhoods and a great mix of houses in the neighborhoods. Our marina is on the edge of Lincolnville. This was a settlement of free blacks before the civil war. A lot of slaves came through here on their way out of slavery. Lincolnville has some bigger nice homes, some tiny nice homes and some run down homes. On the other edge of Lincolnville, where a salt marsh splits it from the rest of the old town, is an estate with a huge mansion and another beautiful old home. The gate to the mansion has the name Lion's View. I don't know if that refers to just the big stone house or to the whole estate. Once you cross the salt marsh, which further in appears to be dredged and is called the lake, you get into the old residential section. That has many big old homes that range from very nice to mansions. I cut through there (past what I think is billed as the oldest home in the US) and cross King Street to the tourist Old St. Augustine. That is a mix of old houses and old commercial buildings that is now 90% shops and restaurants. Going back away from the water you come to Flagler College. This has to be one of the prettiest small colleges around. The buildings are mostly Spanish style and there are courtyards and fountains throughout. There are some nice neighborhoods around the college, again with a mix of houses. Coming back across King Street you're in Lincolnville again, and back to the marina (maybe a mile south of King Street). That's the route I took today and the whole ride was only about 35 minutes.
I got back to the boat in time to help Bud get the food served and to take this picture of our Thanksgiving feast. Everything Bud made turned out good. I don't know about the pie because we are saving that for later.
Bud is now out fishing. He was going through withdrawal because with all the work we've been doing to provision the boat to leave he hadn't fished in three days. Today is the new moon. This morning there was a very high tide, this afternoon very low. The tide is running back in now, so it should be a good time to fish.
I hope your Thanksgiving was as nice as ours.
11/17/2011, 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.
09/27/2011, St. Augustine Marine Center
I'm in Detroit now and posting this on our iPad so it will be short and there is no picture. Monday turned out to be quite the day. We got up at 6 am. We moved the boat to the haul out slip at around 8, as soon as the tide was slack enough to chance moving the boat with so little thrust from the prop. We were pulled without incident and Danny pulled and adjusted the prop again. The boat was then put back in the water for the fourth sea trial! I was assured that I would be back from the sea trial in plenty of time to get ready and get to the airport. I told them I needed to be back no later than noon. Bob, from Yanmar, came aboard, as well as Dave, the electrician, who was trying to find the source of the current leak.
We went out the San Sabastian River once more to the Intracoastal Waterway and headed away from St. Augustine. This time the boat moved well and we got up to the engine rpm we were supposed to reach under full throttle. Bob had Bud back the engine down to a slower speed. Suddenly Dave, who was poking around the engine with his meter, called out, "Hey, there's a leak here!" Bob went down to investigate. "Shut the engine down", he ordered. So Bud shut it down. After we drifted for a minute Bud had me go get the anchor ready to drop, in case we started to drift too far out of the channel.
I went down below and found a hose clamp and piece of rubber tube for Bob. It seems that a clamp had gotten bent either at the factory or during the installation and the water pump pulley was rubbing on the engine coolant hose and wore a pin hole in it. While Bob worked on a temporary repair I went back up on deck. Bud asked me to get the staysail ready to set. There was a tiny breeze and it was turning the boat in the channel. When the boat drifted around enough I pulled out the sail and Bud tried to sail it although we were hardly moving.
Soon Bob had a patch improvised and we started the engine back up. The patch held so we started back at just over idle speed. After a bit I took the staysail back in as it was doing more harm than good. We were now returning against the tide, we were going just a bit over 2 knots. The plan was to take the boat back to the middle floating dock, have Danny come back aboard, drain the coolant, take off the hose, cut it and put a tube in to repair it, reinstall it, refill the coolant and take the boat back out to finish the sea trial. It was already going on 11. Having no faith that we'd get that done by 12:30, which was my real deadline for showering to leave for the airport no later than 1:45, I decided to finish packing and take all my stuff ashore. I would skip the next sea trial and if Bud and the boat didn't make it back by 1:45, someone would have to take me to the airport in Orlando.
The repair was done by 11:45 and Bud, Bob and Danny took off. I sat and waited. At 12:30 I was just getting up to take my shower when I saw them coming back. I went and helped them tie off in the slip. The sea trial was done! Everything went fine. I hurried off to shower. Dave and Mark, another guy from the marina, came on board to continue the search for the current leak. Bud, Fuzzy and I left for the airport at 1:45. I arrived in Detroit at about 11 pm. The current leak seems to have been caused by a dead short in one of our solar panel regulators. Hopefully all is well back at the boat as I start the next chapter.