We Move Aboard
08 August 2020 | Aboard Wings
William Ennis | Hot and windy
Conni had scoured the Internet for recommendations for a restaurant dinner, and found Villa Ixora, on the sea side of the Tepua Bay barely outside of downtown Uturoa. When we arrived, there were a few vehicles, but when we departed, it was full! And we know why: superb meals, excellent service, lovely surroundings. What a nice break in our routine.
The setting was lovely and understated. Our server spoke superb English, thankfully, and was vivacious and entertaining. They serve one of the best Mai-Tais that we've ever enjoyed, too. Duck for Conni, and New Zealand steak for me were the main courses and each was exquisitely prepared. Conni had read that the business was opened by a French couple, the husband formally trained as a chef. We certainly believe it. If you're in search of a fine meal, this is closer and more highly rated than Opoa. Conni's thought that after a cocktail and half a bottle of wine, it was unsafe to drive from south of Faaroa Bay, dodging chickens the entire way.
Conni continued to prepare the boat for our move onto her, and worked on the varnishing project, while I worked on the small display box and its wiring that holds the old autopilot controller and the new "shows lots of stuff" B&G Triton display. We need to be able to easily remove the box since there are locations where theft is an issue, as well as the removal requirement at season's end. I purchased a special watertight through-bulkhead fitting for that purpose. It connects to a NMEA2000 cable from the Triton, then to a NMEA2000 drop cable on the outside, providing just the kind of connection that we were seeking. My largest bit was 7/16", so the 1/2" fitting required some hand-filing to fit, but it was quickly done.
Due to poor planning on my part, I did not have a properly sized grommet for the old SeaTalk1 cable that connects the old autopilot controller to the remaining and abbreviated SeaTalk network, and also transits the box back. I'll have to tape over the opening and bring a better grommet next time.
I also cleaned the depth transducer hole of old caulk, a job early accomplished by the same burr grinder that I've used before. With Conni's help, I also drilled the hole for the anti-rotation bolt for the new depth transducer. The guy who cut the fairing block did such a great job that there's little for the caulk to fill, so when I drilled the hold, using the fairing block as a drill guide, the bit went cleanly through the hull and into the upper part of the fairing block. Both pieces of fairing block are used to maintain the transducer in its vertical position. Unfortunately, the old bolt hole didn't get filled, so we're out of luck for this weekend unless I can find a way to complete that job. Damn.
Conni and I busied around the bungalow in preparation for departure. In a single load, we had moved to the boat, then another trip to complete provisioning for a few weeks, anyway. We're officially boat people!
Conni and I both pushed hard to move from "project mode" with nothing but equipment and tools everywhere to a livable boat with places to sleep and cook. We've got a bed and the galley is mostly clear. The fridge is on, thank heavens, and most things are working as they should. We checked the damned propane a few days ago and that system is also working. Our AC outlets are tripping breakers in the yard, and I can't reset the breakers myself, so I'll have to work on them on Monday. I have no immediate ideas about what the problem might be. All I can think of doing is disconnecting the AC power at each outlet and seeing what happens. There are 5 on port and another 5 on starboard, so it's not a huge number, but sheesh!
I completed the display box (it holds the new Triton display and the old autopilot controller) and finally got everything connected. Unfortunately, the autopilot didn't power up, so perhaps it's gone, a complete surprise and unpredicted. If it doesn't spontaneously spring to life, we're simply going have to hand steer this season. The larger question is what our plan will be for next year without an autopilot, and we haven't decided: new autopilot? new or rebuilt controller?
This is our first night aboard. Conni's got music on and we split a beer, baguette, some great Camembert, and olives. That woman can make a party anywhere with almost anything.
More as we can.
07 August 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui for the last time
William Ennis | Hot, some rain
We're moving to the boat tomorrow, and with any luck at all, it will be our last week in the yard. We expect to splash at week's end. Three weeks of very hard work...enough!
Yesterday, we finally collected all of our new electronics and got them connected to the network, Our depth finder is not functioning since its name is not on our chart plotter's list of possible sources. We have a service note in to B&G, of course.
Everything else worked well. The new electronic compass/GPS was immediately on-line, as were the radar and chart plotter. Our surprise was how well the AIS functioned, a third party device on a B&G network. It functioned better than it previously did, with its new NMEA2000 connection, and it delivered good positions on tens of local vessels, including all of the other information that they transmit on the AIS signal. I suppose that the higher bit-rate of the new network accounts for some of that, as well as a generally more robust network.
As a side note to that robustness comment, we are trying to incorporate our old autopilot into our new system. As I was removing the old SeaTalk1 network wiring, I noticed that the shield/ground wire leading to the old autopilot was black with corrosion, unusable. Replacing and re-stringing the wire cost us a new hours, since we had to continue to snip wire until it was shiny, but it was necessary. NMEA2000 connections are sealed and no wires are exposed, so I expect much enhanced performance and endurance.
The E22158 Raymarine translator device that converts SeaTalk1 into NMEA2000 is installed and my homemade cables seem to be working. When I powered it, it showed a light code pattern that I didn't understand, so I powered it off quickly. A reassuring email response from Raymarine told me that the code meant, "healthy", so I'll continue that experiment.
I downloaded all of the updates for our new gear and at some point will install them. It's always a hazardous exercise since a mistake in their programming our our primitive facilities could lead to instrument failure. I'll probably wait until season's end to proceed and if the updates fail, I'll cart them home.
There is a space under the cockpit that Conni has christened the "Man Cave" since I spend so much time in it. She's convinced that I have lounge chair and big screen TV, but the reality is far from that. Regardless, it's fairly protected space and the only space large enough for our electronics and such to be mounted: I've used it for years for that purpose, in fact. Since I'm removing so much old wiring, cutting cable ties to release wires, the place is simply festooned with hanging wires. Of course I've got to crawl in there today and get things re-attached, and this does provide an opportunity for simplification of the various wiring runs. I'll spend some time in there today.
Conni made dinner reservations for us a top-rated restaurant tonight. It's our first meal out since arriving and we move to the boat tomorrow. it's much more primitive living since a boat hull out of the water is hot and the showers at the yard are primitive by any standards. Still, it'll only be for a week, we hope, and we've done it before. I'm unsure of the quality of communications we'll have there and we'll have no transportation, so blogs might be few and far between. I have a few photos of new things to post but photos of places and things that I've posted in the past are uninteresting and the work we've done on cabling is simply not worth the effort.
Conni is working on everything. She's got the inside as livable as she can make it. In the hot sun, she's scraped old varnish in preparation for re-varnishing. She always lends a hand, and more importantly, her brain, on other tasks. In almost every case where I say that I've done something, she's been there in one way or the other, helping pull wire or providing her analysis. It's been a team effort.
With luck, I can write again about our move tomorrow. Wish us luck.
More Tasks Completed
05 August 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Still h-a-H
Blog 5 Aug 2020
More Tasks Completed
16 43.41'S:151 27.54'W
Again, I awakened us early and we were on the job by 0930...early for us, anyway.
I had some wiring goobers to repair. We're using, and I'm learning about, NMEA2000 networks, a powered network that's the standard these days. With all the features that they offer, both the cables and the connecting collars are fairly large. When pulling cable through small openings, I have been clipping the connecting collars and ends and installing a fitting with this mouthful of a name: field installable connector. The five small wires in each NMEA2000 (commonly abbreviated N2K) must be attached to a small device and a cable gland attached to make the entire fitting watertight. It's a great idea, the execution is good, but since the fitting is very small, getting those five wires to bend and fit into tiny locking terminals with only 3/16-inch of exposed wiring. It's simply tedious and sometimes frustrating, but not difficult. In my haste, I had mixed two wires and needed to open the fitting and change the connections. That was my second experience with the system.
Today, I installed the next-to-last piece of new equipment, a highly accurate GPS and electronic compass, without which many of the fancy features of our radar would not work. The GPS uses the US, Japanese, and Russian systems now in operation, so coverage is supposed to be extraordinary. Starts and stops, nothing exciting, but after a few hours I had the new "mushroom" (GPS antennae look like mushrooms and are so called) mounted. This task also required that I remove the male end of a N2K cable in order to push it through a small hole drilled in the hull, but it was my third try and it was a bit smoother.
Tomorrow, we'll connect all of the new electronics and determine if they all work as advertised. We know that the chart plotter and radar work. We know that our multifunction jack-of-all-trades device, the Triton, works, but we haven't tested the new GPS or depth transducer. We certainly haven't tried everything together, either.
As I have mentioned previously, our old autopilot still works well, but it uses a now-obsolete network called SeaTalk 1. I think that I have the parts that I need to try and connect that old system to our new network. The manufacturer of the old system, Raymarine, sold us a "translator" that is supposed to pass through and translate the "sentences" between each network to the other network. The autopilot will continue to work on the SeaTalk 1 network but this translator will allow appropriate data to be sent to the autopilot, as well as commands and location coordinates from our new chart plotter. The autopilot will operate by itself even without the communication with our new network, so even if this doesn't work, all is not lost. If I have the time tomorrow, I'll try to get that working, or at least give it a chance I've had to fabricate some cables, so we hope that it was done correctly.
Yesterday's brainstorm of using cardboard to wrap around the depth sounder fairing block and tracing the 3-D shape on the cardboard provided great results! I gave the fairing block with its cutting line marked in tape to the yard worker and he spent about 20 minutes cutting the block. It's as good a fit as we could have hoped, so I can begin the installation of that final new device.
The fairing block for the depth sounder is a 10-inch long block of plastic that could cause some steering problems should it spin and become perpendicular to our course. To prevent that, an "anti-rotation bolt" is installed in the forward section of the block. Of course, the hole for the old block doesn't align with the new one, so I've got to fill the old hole and drill a new one. The repair of the old hole, as I've said, must be a "tack" shape, with a large section of epoxy resin on the outside to prevent the thin cylinder of epoxy from being dislodged by pressure or some such. I was reading on-line about that repair and think that I might mange it if I can find the tools. We'll see tomorrow.
Lastly, we're planning on moving onto the boat on Friday, so blogs and such will definitely be reduced. We'll have no vehicle and will have intermittent access to Internet, to say nothing of cold showers and hotter sleeping! Living on the boat is the reason that we came here, but living on a boat in a boat yard is hot and dirty. We think that another week might allow us to complete everything and launch.
Wish us luck!
Finally, some substantial progress
04 August 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Hot as hell
Yesterday, we spent several hours fabricating a new adapter plate for matching the new radar bolts to the bolt holes in the existing platform on our mast. There were also some stress fractures around every hole in the adapter, as well as 12 years of environmental damage. We had read that the "Starboard" acrylic that we used for the new adapter needed some thermal expansion space, so we drilled oversized holes. In addition to removing the expansion problem, it made feeding through bolts much easier, a significant advantage when one is hanging in the air.
We also removed the radar and old adapter plate, a task in itself. I started up the mast a bit too late, so it was blazing hot by the time I reached my working perch. Removing the radar bolts was straightforward, but handling the radome itself without dropping it was nerve-wracking! It's large and fairly heavy with the older technology's parts, primarily a magnetron. I was able to move it to a Blue Box for lowering and the radome was followed by the adapter plate. Done!
I completed some other network wiring, and Conni and I spent a few hours fitting a new instrument into the enclosure that I had designed and had fabricated. That sounds like a poor design job, but I had used, as I always do, metric measurements in the design: I think in tens better than 1/16s. When I presented the scaled drawing to the fabricator, he just shook his head and returned it to me, saying that none of their machines could handle metric. Damn! I simply returned to my drafting software and selected "English" measurements, but that put some slightly different measurements on the new drawing. They weren't obvious but they caught us when we inserted the instruments and required some filing to make things fit. It was SO hot that we departed a bit early!
As the "bringer of coffee", I was awake earlier than usual today and after becoming caffeinated, we hustled through our morning rituals and arrived at the boat at 0900. Since I was the climber, and it was so terribly hot later in the day, it was in my better interest to get my mast work done as early as possible.
There were, as there always are, many details to complete prior to ascending, but I was up the mast at the radar platform by 1000. Conni handles the deck end of things and acts as my safety officer. We communicate with small radios with voice-operated microphones, saving a lot of frustrating missed communications on both sides. With my new ascending system, I can ascend a halyard to the radar platform in about 3 minutes without much difficulty. As soon as I leave the deck, Conni begins to load the haul line system with the next round of parts and tools.
First up to me was the new adapter plate, tools, and hardware, and with the oversized holes it installed easily. The new radar arrived next in the Blue Box, although we had taken the time to rig some duct tape around its circumference, in which we had created a small loop, and we used a cord in that loop as a safety for the radome. I had also had to fabricate some spacer pieces of acrylic to clear the bolt heads in the adapter plate, and they worked as they were designed to work. The safety system provided a lot of comfort that even if I "butterfingered" the radome, it wouldn't be destroyed on impact with the deck. In a bit less than an hour, I was on my way down the mast! Hurray!
After a bit of a breather and some water, I connected the new chart plotter to the helm station I had installed, and connected the difficult-to-install radar cable for a test. Interestingly, the radar uses Ethernet 100Base-T cable, so it's fairly small and carries a lot of data. At any rate, we fired up the Zeus chart plotter and radar and we had an image! Everything worked! We get good images out to 32 nautical miles, well past Bora Bora, Huahine, and Taha'a, our neighboring islands in this group. The rotation rate of the scanner is a function of the distance viewed: at close distances, less than a nautical mile, the scanner rotates at 60RPM! The positions of vessels moving toward us at speed will be updated quickly and provide some opportunity of collision avoidance. We're very pleased with the performance so far. We also installed the chart chip and were pleasantly surprised at the extra data that it provides. A 12-years newer chart plotter can process and display a lot more data.
Installing our depth sounder is the next task in line, and we've made arrangements to have the fairing block cut to match the hull contour, but I've got to provide a cutting line for the worker assigned the task. We don't want just a straight line on our curved hull. I tried a tactic that I've used before, taking measurements every centimeter, but suddenly thought of simply tracing the 3-dimensional curve on a piece of cardboard, and I tried it. Shoot, it seemed to work very well and I was able to trace both the low and high sides of the fairing block. The hull curves fore-to-aft and side-to-side, of course, so there is a side of the fairing block that must be higher than the other since it reaches a part of the hull that curves away upward. I'll give the newly-marked fairing block to the yard worker tomorrow.
Tomorrow, we start on the last component for which we've done no work: the electronic compass/GPS. Our radar/chart plotter system can track moving vessels and provide collision potential information using a system named "MARPA": Mini-Automatic Radar Plotting Aid", a detuned version of military technology. MARPA is a maritime radar feature for target tracking and collision avoidance. Targets must be manually selected, but are then tracked automatically, including range, bearing, target speed, target direction (course), CPA (closest point of approach), and TCPA (time of closest point of approach), safe or dangerous indication, and proximity alarm. It's really quite extraordinary and has been enhanced through the years, so this version is much more sophisticated than what we had used on our old system. We can also overlay the radar image on a nautical chart, a hugely simplifying process. Radar images can be very difficult to interpret, but having that radar image overlaid on a chart virtually eliminates the problem with identifying targets and background. Our new radar also uses the Doppler Effect, so radar images of vessels moving toward us are colored red, while those moving away are green: pretty clever.
We're making progress, albeit slowly. We plan on moving aboard the boat at week's end, so it'll be a huge change to have cold showers and no air conditioned sleeping. Yikes!
Some Progress in the Heat
02 August 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Hot as hell
We both needed some R&R today, so we slept in a bit and reached the boat at 1030 hours. My friends, it was HOT today and not a breath of wind.
As an aside, many years ago, my grandfather, my father's father, taught me about many interesting ideas about mechanics. He had been at it since the first internal combustion engines, so knew them from the ground-up. There are many stories, but he taught me that a solenoid was a simple device: a coil of wire, an electrical connection from a power source, usually switched, and a set of contacts. Close a switch, current goes through the coil of wire, converting it into an electromagnet. That magnet causes (in various ways) a pair of contacts to close: one uses a small current controlled by the switch, to control a much larger current that is controlled by the set of contacts. He told me that if the solenoid ever stopped working, the "lowest hanging fruit" was to hit the solenoid with a hammer! Often, that jolt would free the stuck mechanism and allow it to work.
As I mentioned, the windlass, the electric motor and system that pulls the anchor and chain into the boat, had stopped working. A quarter hour with a multimeter convinced me that the problem was in the solenoid, and remembering my grandfather's lesson, I gave it a few jolts with a rubber mallet. Voila! I went to the deck and gave the foot switch a few pushes, and we were back in action. Pop, thanks.
I've modified my mast climbing rig from the system that I used while traveling on glaciers to something a bit more reasonable for mast climbing. I've rigged the system to use both feet/legs, and not just one. Traveling on a glacier with both feet confined would have been counterproductive, but the same system here worked well: faster and less exhausting. I've also changed my descent method to a rappel, or a quick, controlled descent, rather than using my ascending system in reverse. Although it's a bit nerve wracking to launch off the spreaders with no backup, it's better. Armed with those two modifications, I ascended this morning and fairly quickly had the radome disconnected from the adapter plate and loaded into a blue box for lowering to deck. I followed that with the adapter plate that I'll replace.
Back in the cockpit, I found my jig saw, started our generator, and sawed out the shape of the new adapter plate from a new piece of "Starboard", a marine-grade acrylic, 1/2-inch thick. I made a terrible mess, but was able to use our little shop vacuum to clean, and thankfully, the vacuum still worked. My decision not to do the work off the boat was the ecologically better decision, but it still made a mess aboard.
We had put in about 5 hours and both of us felt that it was a sufficiently productive day to end it there. Tomorrow, I've got to complete the new adapter plate, then ascend the mast ONE LAST TIME! Of course, I've got to finesse replacing the adapter plate, connecting it to the radar platform, connect the radar cable to the radar, and bolt the new radome to the new adapter plate, all while balancing on a 6-inch-wide metal bar, 25-feet off the ground. A fall to the deck by that new radome would spell its demise. If we manage to complete this task, it will be the first (of many, we hope) that we've been able to check off the list.
Wish us luck.
Saturday morning update
01 August 2020 | Pension Tiare Nui
William Ennis | Overcast, but very hot
Yes, it's been slow. The more discouraging problem for us is that we have failed to complete a single task, since each completion leads to a roadblock of some kind. It's the nature of boat work in a foreign country, I know, but it's still a problem.
I've been chipping away at the network installation. I've finally completed connecting the basic network to power, so we can test our electronics: the Triton display works and the Zeus chart plotter works. The GPS/Compass is rail-mounted and I've yet to work on that. The AIS is now connected to power but I've not tested that. Perhaps I can do that today, although I know that the AIS works, I've not tested the NMEA2000 connection. I don't think that I did a great job in purchasing the NMEA2000 cables that I need, but the main problem was having no idea that we'd be installing a new network and these instruments this season, so we did no prior planning or measuring for the installation. I mean, who decided to install an entire set of new electronics without a bit of prior planning, and doing it in a foreign country where there's no way to buy anything that was forgotten? Conni and Bill.
The Raymarine-system depth sounder has been removed but we need to get the fairing block cut to the correct angle. Fortunately, we have both pieces of the recently removed one to use as a template. The anti-rotation bolt hole of the old unit needs to be filled and I'm going to hire it done. A 3/8-inch diameter hole cannot be simply filled with epoxy! The repair needs to look like a rivet, with large ends on inside and outside to prevent that narrow epoxy plug from being dislodged by water pressure. Once the old hole is filled, the new one drilled, and the fairing block sized, we can install the new sonar and have a task completed. The wiring inside the boat is ready for connection.
Then there's the radar... Pull the old cable up or down? From my position on the radar platform at the first spreaders, I've been completely unable to pull the cable from the mast. Unfortunately, in order to help pulling the cable upward, we pushed the cable remaining in the boat into the mast in preparation for removing out the top, but then when I was unable to move it, we couldn't remove the cable from the mast! Oh, NO! We worked for 6 hours yesterday, on our hands and knees because of the location of the exit hole in the mast, and finally got the cable free. It was a two-person operation, with Conni doing the brain work of finessing the location of the cable end. I spent my hours on hands and knees using a right-angle drill and burr grinder to remove enough aluminum from the mast exit hole so that we could remove that damned radar cable. We felt completely successful at day's end and all we had done was remove about 2-feet of radar cable from inside the mast!
I'd like to thank our sailing friend, John Baker, for recommending a small endoscope which has proven itself several times on this and several other tasks. It's a small, perhaps 1/4-inch-diameter camera at the end of a 15-foot flexible cable, that sends good color images via BlueTooth to my iPad. The camera has dimmable LEDs circling it so lighting is not a problem, although interpreting the images certainly is. The device allows seeing in places that would be impossible to view in any other way. Amazon, $25: what's not to like? Thanks, John.
Conni has dedicated her time to getting projects done when I need help and that has reduced her independent work, but she's still managed to scrap the teak cap rail in preparation for varnishing. It's more hands-and-knees work in the sun, so my thanks to her.
Evening Report: Our #1 project today was the radar, of course. I hoisted Conni to the radar platform where she cut the old radar cable and connected it to the new one so that, by pulling the old cable, we could simultaneously pull in the new. I worked on puling the connected cables through from below. We found an old photo on our site of the open end of the mast base, taken at the Alameda boat yard where we rebuilt the mast, so we knew how the cables were arranged. Conni, the Queen of Connecting Cables, flawlessly attached the new and old radar cables together and we were able to pull both inside the boat in no time. Hurray! Within an hour, we had the new cable pulled up into the binnacle where it can attach to our new chart plotter. I worked a few hours on wiring, and we departed the boat early.
Usually, we return to the bungalow by turning left out of the yard, but today, Conni turned right and drove us around the island. What a relief to take a break! Raiatea is such a gorgeous island and each part has it own charm and beauty. The west side is much less populated than the east, and it very interesting to see. Imagine, we did something other than work or be in the bungalow.
Tomorrow, I harness my climbing skills again and ascend to the radar platform where I'll remove the old radome, remove the adapter plate, fabricate a new plate, then re-ascend to install both the plate and radome. It'll be a busy day, but it will be satisfying.
Weather permitting and no insurmountable problems, talk to you tomorrow.