Saturday, July 30, 2011

'Electrical Banana Is Bound To Be The Very Next Phase'

Five points to me for being able to use an obscure psychedelic era lyric from a Scottish singer as a title. The boat is somewhat banana shaped and we are definitely on a electrical phase so the title works. The photo above is what currently lies all over the salon floor of Ceol Mor- ripped out wiring.

With the major repairs finished, its time to move on to the woefully scattered wiring system. I use the term "system" very loosely because what we are actually confronted with might technically be wiring, but so far as Mark can tell there was no system in place. Wires were routed not to prevent loss of voltage or to protect from chafe or anything sensible like that, but to enable the boat yard workers to get to lunch quickly and to knock off work on Friday by 2pm.

I suppose its not entirely fair to castigate Ceol Mor alone for truthfully, any boat would have failed to meet Mark's specifications of what constitutes a "properly wired boat". See, Mark is not just an engineer (Boffin cred +1). He is an electrical engineer (Boffin cred +2). Not only an electrical engineer, but sub seaelectrical engineer (Boffin cred +3). He takes to schematics and transmission line equations like the proverbial duck to water. I tease him to bits about his OCD like precision but truthfully its really kind of great to see him in his element.

After he ripped out the old wiring, he spent a couple of days planning his attack. Above you see his first schematic for the new wiring at the rear of the boat. Each of the dashed subgroups will be getting its own schematic and each individual item a further schematic. Every wire will be properly sized, numbered and documented and all of this information will be handily recorded in the ships log which will make fault finding and wiring in new equipment as straight forward as possible.

I told Mark he should do a schematic of the wiring that came on the boat as a "before" point of reference. He replied that I must be joking because did I realize that not only was there no order to the wiring or the way in which equipment was added and wired in but the time it would take to do this would be a big, big waste of time. I told him that I would rework his present schematic to accurately illustrate what our starting point was. He didn't think I could do it, but I have. Seems he's not the only smarty pants in the family. Go me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

People in your neighborhood- Kemah Hardware

If you happen to be in the Kemah/Seabrook area of Texas and you just happen to be doing repair work on your boat, we highly recommend you stop by Kemah Hardware and Supply. This is not your shiny, sterile, overpriced West Marine populated by sales folk in matching shirts, name tags and insincere smiles. This is a real, old fashioned, locally owned, mom and pop hardware store- an endangered species.
They carry every solvent, epoxy system, stainless shackles and thimbles that West Marine carries, but at a much lower price point. Plus they carry teak lumber and stainless drawer pulls, knobs, etc. so you can build your own custom piece of cabinetry instead of making do with a mass produced item that might nor might not fit. You can still buy nails and screws by weight, weighed out on an honest to goodness scale, unlike at say Home Depot. If you happen to be in need of a trough for your horse, they have those too. Need crabbing supplies? They have everything you need but the chicken necks. Need a tiki style beach umbrella? Yup, they have it. Don't have a boat? Not to worry, they sell a kit and the wood so you can build your own.

You should get yourself to Kemah Hardware and have Larry ring you up (all good hardware stores need a Larry on staff). There won't be any piped in muzak, no endless stream of uniformed smile-a-trons asking you continually if you are finding everything ok, no overpriced geegaws, no digital readouts, UPC scanners or anything of the like. What you will find is a colorful cast of local characters, the supplies you need, and a staff who will help if you need them but will otherwise leave you the heck alone. Everything we think is fantastic in a retail establishment. Yup, we love this place.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Girl Returns

Maura returned from Indiana after having a marvelous time with her grandparents. She hung out with family, sang in church with her grandfather accompaning her on piano, went to summer camp for horseback riding, swimming and fun, attended the County fair, cooked, ran through cornfields, read books, daydreamed, saw yet more family and had just an idyllic summer vacation. We missed her terribly, but are so happy she had such an amazing time.

Maura arrived back in town just in time for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. We are huge Harry fans but not so fond of theaters. The last time we were in a movie theater was for the last installment of HP.  Since the series is now finished, I think we are safe from seeing anything in the theaters until the Hobbit comes out.

Kitty was delighted to have Maura back at home. When Maura goes into her room and closes the door, Kitty stands at the door pounding on it shouting "MA!", her way of saying Maura. She does not want to let Maura out of her sight. Its fairly adorable to see what a fan Maura has in Kitty.

The progress on the boat has stepped up thanks to Maura being home. Kitty is such a Maura fan and Maura is such a fan of  earning money that we have a perfect recipe for getting tasks completed. We can pay Maura to play with Kitty while we work near by. Our output has increased significantly. Maura is just happy because she can play Just Dance on the Wii, her little sister can dance along and Maura earns some cash. Or she can color with the wee one and get paid. Its a pretty sweet deal, wonder if I could find a gig like that?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chapter 1 In Which We Are Reminded That We Don't Know What We Don't Know Until We Know It.

We took off on our first overnight trip this weekend. We knew that it would be a bit like camping as the interior of the boat is stripped down, the galley facilities are limited to only a microwave and an ice box but we'd still get the opportunity to work on sailing the boat a bit and have the chance to see what equipment on the boat would make a big difference in our quality of life.

We packed up, loaded up and headed out towards Galveston. We still really dislike the way the lines are set up on the boat and will be making some changes soon( if we ever get our Dyneema rigging). We reefed for a threatening storm but it missed us and gave us nothing but a momentary cool down. The sail to Galveston was blessedly uneventful except for the fact that it was ridiculously hot. Stupid hot. We kept Kitty in the shade, hydrated and cooled her off by misting her with fresh water.

When we reached our chosen anchorage of Baffin Pt. we got to learn a few things about anchoring. Namely, that we really don't know jack about anchoring because we've always been tied to the dock. After about an hour of a hands on learning experience with wind, currents, mud only about a foot under the keel, and a length of rode dtermined to take all the paint off the keel, we came to the conclusion that this anchorage sucked. It all was a bit much for us on our first go so we opted to head towards Offat's Bayou which was a little more protected although it is a tricky entrance and would add another couple of hours to our trip.

We found a little spot just off the channel well before the cut to Offat's ( which is tricky with thin water, commercial traffic and a winding route through obstructions) tucked up behind a marina. We managed to get the hook set and decided that it was time to pay some serious attention to a secondary anchor as we really needed a stern anchor here. We also noted that not bringing a snubber was really dumb and an anchor riding sail would be a welcome addition. Once we were secure, it was time to make dinner because we were all very, very hungry.

Our galley is currently not in working order but we do have a generator, an inverter and a microwave so Mark instructed me to bring along some micro friendly supplies for this outing. I was pretty sure that a microwave on a boat is great when you are plugged into shore power but maybe no so much on the hook. Mark assured me that our generator could handle it so I planned according to his wishes. I threw together a little Tikka Masala, micro Jasmine rice and popped it into the micro. It was at this time that the generator decided to quit. The micro is fine, just not so good at running without power. Dinner consisted of cold rice, Pirate's Booty, cherries and ginger cookies. We did have cold beer aboard so it wasn't that bad (St. Arnold's Elissa- very tasty)We then prepared to spend a sleepless night because neither Mark nor I trusted the anchor or our abilities. It ended up being fine but we still had no sleep. Kitty slept as she always does, for about 4 hours before waking up, having a snack and going back down.

The next morning, with the generator out we had to make an emergency run back to Kemah because while I can do without food and I can do without sleep, going without a coffee is a hardship I am not prepared to undertake. I remained cheerful despite the heat, despite the anchoring follies and despite the lack of sleep but I know my limitations and another day of no coffee and I would no longer be capable of cheerfulness. So we packed up, hoisted the anchor (and put an anchor wash down on the priority list) and began the slog back to Kemah.

Real sailors do not motor sail. We are not real sailors apparently. With such heavy commercial traffic, light winds and shallow water around us we opted to motor sail back home. I really do prefer it with the engine off but you do what you have to do. It was stupid hot, we had no sleep, no food and no coffee but on our trip back we saw pod after pod of dolphins. At one point a dolphin came within 6 feet of the cockpit and gave me the once over. They never fail to delight me.

We made it home safely, tied her up and went off to lay like slugs in the glorious air conditioning. It was a great trip. Not so much for being a perfect, idyllic trip, but for all the myriad little things that went wrong that we now know we need to address and most importantly, because I know without question this is what I want to do. I was hot. I was tired. I was hungry. Despite it all, I was happy as can be and can not wait to do it again but next time, you'd better believe we will have the coffee issue resolved. Priorities and all...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Turn and Face the Strange...

I was chatting with a cruiser friend recently. She asked when we were going to be leaving to start doing some local overnight trips. I replied that we would be leaving this Friday, if we did not get divorced before then. She chuckled and said that pre-departure bickering happens to just about everyone and I thought, why don’t they tell you about that before? In honor of this and the myriad other dirty little secrets we have learned and will learn in the future I’m making a new tag for the blog” Stuff no one tells you”.

I don’t even remember what we were bickering about. Probably something like the wind velocity of a fully laden African swallow or something equally notable.. The ‘what’ is not important, it’s the ‘why’. We are in transition and lets face it, change is tough, for everyone. We’ve spent so much time and effort into getting the boat seaworthy that now that we are just about to the “Be nice” stage of the refit (be nice to have refrigeration, be nice to have xyz, etc) and are now concentrating on sailing and living on the boat it feels a little chaotic. We’ve gotten into refit routine and groove and now its time to shake it all up again and it’s a little bit stressful but its also kind of the whole point of the past 2 years and a necessary step to the next phase.

So we are off on a short sail tomorrow. We plan on staying on the hook in an anchorage some where around here. After that the plan is to take Ceol Mor out of the bathtub that is Galveston Bay and just let her have a little taste of the sea. Just a wee bit, then we will do something else the next night. We might go to another anchorage or we might decide that staying on the hook without XYZ really sucks and we need to add that item PRONTO and either way its ok. We’re going to roll with it and be open to completely changing our plans if that seems like the thing to do.

So here we go, here comes lots of new experiences and challenges. Here comes change and I’m gonna try my darnedest to face it with humor and grace and remember that time will change me, and that is a god thing.