Sunday, August 18, 2013

In High Cotton

We fired up the engine. This might seem like a non-momentous occasion until you realize that it has been over a year since it was last started. The fuel lines have been disconnected for a year as Mark began working on the big project marked "plumbing". The plumbing punch list includes not only replacing all of what you would normally consider plumbing- i.e. water lines, toilet lines, etc. but also the fuel lines which feed the engine and generator. It has been an enormous job. You don't realize how big a 42 foot boat is until you decide to totally redo the plumbing lines...or the electrical wiring.

As Mark finished hooking up the fuel lines after his massive over haul of the fuel filtration system, having just finished the seawater lines to the engine and generator, our fingers were crossed. The generator seawater impeller was replaced (more on this later), the engine flushed and the engine was primed using the new fuel pump. It was now or never.

Mark went up to the cockpit, turned the key fired up the very first time. Only sailors who have previously dealt with a cantankerous old diesel engine (are there any other kind of engines?) will understand, but it turned over the first time. The exhaust was not overly smoky, the engine was not belchy, the vibration was noticeably lessened and the exhaust water was sputtering out of the stern as we had hoped. WINNING!!!

Marine diesel repair sounds so simple in the abstract but in reality, every tiny repair or modification is a giant pain in the butt. The simple sounding task of replacing the generator seawater impeller was made incredibly time consuming by just trying to find the right impeller. Our first attempt at ordering one online ended up in us having the absolute wrong one. Turns out we need an Oberdorfer impeller which as far as I can tell is made by one person who lives alone somewhere in the Alps and the parts are delivered to the post only once a month when the snows clear enough to allow the pack goats through. Also, Karl the impeller maker is getting pretty sick of making these so his production is dependent on whether he feels like it or not. So we ordered the right make and the right size, it was the bore diameter which was wrong. We managed to score one on our second attempt and you can bet that we are having Karl whip up another to carry as a spare.

Our dock neighbor Hugh stopped by. Hugh is sort of the Dock Daddy genius, experienced sailor and talented engineer of our dock. His boat, which he designed and had  custom built by Tashing is hands down the most perfect and beautiful vehicle for cruising I have ever seen. To say his boat is well thought out and absolutely beautiful would be a gross understatement. I do not covet many things, but his boat is the one thing I would give a kidney for. I say this so you understand how over the moon and chuffed Mark was when Hugh exclaimed that the fuel filtration Mark designed was the most functional, elegant, tidy and practical installation he had ever seen. What took 3 separate filters to do on Hugh's boat, Mark managed to do with only 2 and to retain every bit as much functionality as the 3 filter system Good on ya Mark. I told ya it was something to be proud of.

So now its time to take a moment to sit back and toast the work done on the engine. I say a moment because well, the generator is generating some consternation and difficulties of its own. Of course. Enough so that its going to get a post of its very own. Like I have said before- boats are really stupid.

 I have been anxiously awaiting 2 things to happen. One for late summer to get here so I could grab a photo of the local cotton crop ( I love cotton ) and 2. For something to go so well that I could use the phrase "In high cotton". I was worried these 2 requirements would not align, but this week they did.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Damned If You Do...

...damned if you don't. What is it about the internet that makes everyone an expert? Seriously, I'd like to know because I currently have plenty of internet and yet I am pretty certain I am an expert at...nothing.

Commander of the Internet Yacht Club watching...always watching....

Here's a comment left on my last post by Anonymous "Nice work, but do you guys ever actually sail your boat?"It might have been just an innocuous comment but it could just as easily have been meant to be snarky. Then. I got an email which basically accused me of wasting bandwidth on blogging the refit and could we just go sailing already. *sigh*

 At first I got annoyed because well, I am suffering a serious case of itchy feet and am ready to go NOW and I really do not need someone who is not even willing to sign their name pointing out what I already know- this refit is taking forever. Do these people even realize what we are preparing to do and with whom? Then I wondered if I really cared. I do a bit because it seems that 30 years of internet has spawned more expert sailors than thousands of years of sailing managed to do.

I was going to let it go and then one of my favorite sailing bloggers Pat, from Bumfuzzle posted about his quick trip down the coast to Mazatlan to join his family. As I read about what a craptacular trip he was having, I felt nothing but empathy for him. His trip was full of suck but he was bravely soldiering on, after having purchased a boat site unseen and subscribing to the " GO NOW!" philosophy. It bit him in the butt but fortunately, he is okay, the family is okay and the boat is still floating so as far as a score from me, he gets a win. The thing that really stuck in my craw about Pat's posting was the number of well,- pretty rude and unsympathetic comments. One in particular was pretty darned close to being of the "Neener neener I told you so" variety. Talk about kicking someone when they are down. Sheesh.

This isn't a case of thinking "our method is superior", its more a case of thinking "boats are really stupid and at some point you are going to want to take her out open up the seacocks and sink her no matter what you do". I think whether you ascribe to the Go NOW! philosophy or the Black Box Theory has everything to do with your past experiences and innate personality.

At anchor on our last sail, a year ago. The whole point of this was to determine what had to be corrected before leaving. Sitting in Mark's lap, reason number 1 we are so carefully going through a thorough refit.

The Bumfuzzles have been pretty forthright in documenting their sailing life and how they decided to sail around the world. Pat was a trader, a job that requires a heck of a lot of skill, luck, resourcefulness and a stomach for gambling. He seems to be more of the GO NOW! school and hey, it worked to get him all the way around once and I am sure it will serve him well, he will figure out the best course of action to take with his stupid boat and the Bums will be fine. That's what works for them and I am 100% behind them cheering them on.

We are more of the Black Box school. I grew up on a horse farm where there were literally 100 ways to kill yourself on a daily basis. I did some pretty audacious, dangerous stuff (which I will not recount because my Mom reads this and no need to scare the pants off of her after the fact ;) )but I did develop a pretty healthy respect for gravity, the laws of physics and the possible dangers of not heeding their risks. I am a risk taker, but a cautious one with a solid self preservation streak.

Reason number 2 for a meticulous refit, at our rainy night anchorage, same shake down.

One of Mark's first jobs was a safety inspector on rigs in the North sea. When he tells me of the time he caught some weather while on a FPSO ship in the west of Shetland (which is essentially a tanker and MUCH larger than our little boat) and watched as the waves battered dents into the heavy steel bow of the ship, I understand why he is as meticulous as he is. When he tells me of the time he was on the rig Brent Charlie in the North Atlantic which had a 4 foot steel I beam 70 feet above the sea  twisted and warped like a piece of plastic by a wave, I put aside my desire to hurry it up and say "take your time to do it right". Our boat is small. And plastic. You take your time Mark, you take your time.

Not my photo, If you think I would be snapping pics in conditions such as this we obviously have not met. Brent Charlie, where Mark really, really learned to respect the power of wind and waves.
It's all about preferences and past experiences. Our past experience makes us prefer to meticulously go through every single system. We prefer not to take our boat offshore, with kids and 30 year old hoses with suspect clamps that may or may not be in good shape. We prefer not to have a questionable electrical system. We prefer to take the time to install a fuel system which greatly reduces the likelihood of us losing the engine due to water ingress. We prefer to make sure every hose, electrical run, sea cock, through hull and bit of rigging is solid, intact and organized in such a way that when we do have a problem, we can address it as quickly as possible. Does our total and complete refit guarantee that we will never have a spate of bud luck? Not at all, but it does mean we will at least know that we have done everything we can in preparation and hopefully we have put enough into the Black Box to have a good outcome. So do we ever sail it? Soon enough, soon enough.

So that is what I find so highly amusing about internet sailors and their criticism. I would not be surprised to find that the very same people who are tsk tsking the Bums for not doing a refit before moving aboard are the same folks who like to say we aren't sailing enough and should go now. Which is it? Go now or prepare the boat meticulously? I don't think there is a right answer there is only the right answer for each person and really, everyone is doing the best the can and trying to make the best decisions for themselves.

I get it, I really do. I write and post a blog about the refit and the boat so people feel entitled to criticize. I also understand that a year of refit posts is BORING. That's the reason I don't post more frequently (no one wants to see post after post of each layer of varnish) and the biggest reason I haven't upgraded to a dedicated web site. Until we are on the move, its just not necessary. I just really wish the Internet Yacht Club would perhaps be a bit less quick to tell people what to do. I get complaints that I am not sailing enough and posting photos of Ceol Mor under sail. Pat from Bumfuzzle posts a true and accurate account of his really sucky sail, even managing to grab some stunning photos while in the midst of a poop storm of suckage and he gets admonished for not spending time with a very boring and time consuming refit before hand or even better, being told that the answer to his problems is to just throw money at it until it goes away. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Internet Yacht Club, I am beginning to suspect you have a serious case of bipolar disorder.

So what are appropriate comments on a sailing blog? If you have have a tip as to how to solve a problem, that is appreciated. If you have something that worked for you in a similar situation, also appreciated. If you want to commiserate, or offer condolences when things go badly or just to offer encouragement then your comments are not just appreciated, but GREATLY appreciated. Have nothing to say other than to offer an opinion that XYZ is wrong and we are boring, silly, not salty enough, too salty or whatever? Save it for happy hour at the Internet Yacht Club.

A little over a year to go and then I promise more sailing photos than you could want. Ten bucks says after a couple of months of photos of a boat which is on the move, I get an email saying we should do more maintenance the minute we have a failure. You know, what? I'll put 20 on that bet...

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go order yet more parts and spend a little time sending my fellow boat peeps who are in the midst of a painstaking refit, or a really crap sailing trip or  in the yard dealing with an unexpected and expensive repair or at the broker's dock getting their boat ready for sale a little good boat mojo.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Inch By Inch...

...the refit keeps moving on. We lost a full week due to Mark having to be out of town but hey, they pay him for these little jaunts so we try to take it all in stride. We like the refit to keep moving forward but a paycheck is necessary for this to happen right now so a week behind schedule? Schedules are for airlines and even they aren't capable of sticking to one. Keep on keeping on...

We've reached a point where we can start whipping the engine compartment into shape. It, like every other hidden bit of the boat was a mass of poorly routed hoses and random add ons taking up twice as much space as necessary. Since Ceol Mor is an aft cockpit boat, we do not have the luxury of a big engine compartment so making this area as tidy as we can is a priority. We have an old faithful Perkins which should out live all of us but in order to make that happen, we have to be able to tweak and coax her into chugging along with early and often maintenance. Having the engine be as accessible as possible will be appreciated the first time we have to do some engine trouble shooting and repair at sea. Notice I did not say 'if', I said 'when'. It's inevitable so it makes sense to plan ahead.

So the old hoses which ran every which way, were unsupported and had mismatched hose and bar sizes have been replaced, rerouted, clamped, checked and organized. The old filter installation which compounded the clutter due to having separate sea water and fuel filters for the engine and generator have been replaced by a single seawater filter and manifold which supplies both the engine and generator.A dual fuel filter and manifold has been installed to supply the engine and generator. Mark designed and built the fuel filter assembly which includes valves for fuel polishing and online filter replacement and selection. Everything is labeled to identify valve function and position for various operating modes (no guessing!).We have installed new sound insulation through out the compartment.

If we ever do have to repower, it will seem like a piece of cake after all of this!

Kitty loves nothing more than helping with the boat. She is our quality control inspector.