Thursday, August 4, 2016

Windbird Workweek

I was intending to post every night this week about individual boat projects but that didn't happen. The nights went late and we got up early each morning to beat the heat, which didn't leave much time for blogging. Dawn flew home today as she could only find puppy care for 4 days, and I'll head home tomorrow since I have a five-day trip starting Saturday afternoon. We'll be back to Myrtle Beach on August 22nd-25th and will resume boat projects then and maybe even get off the dock for a night or two.

During my last trip for work, I made up a list of projects to be accomplished this week. It was ambitious & I knew it; I figured aiming high would motivate me to get as much as possible accomplished. It turns out I'd need that motivation, because it was insanely hot: multiple days of 95+ in blazing sunshine. John Schwab, Windbird's broker, was on vacation and offered Dawn and I the use of his condo in the marina, but we ended up sleeping on the boat all six nights. The nights were cool enough to make it comfortable with the on-board 12V fans plus a borrowed box fan. As for the days, well, we adjusted pretty quickly after I moved kinda slowly the first few days.

As expected, we didn't get everything done that I wanted to get done, but we did do a lot:

Move Aboard

Dawn's car was still full of boxes from our house, full of my tools and books and other stuff we thought we'd want on the boat. I did this on Saturday after I got in and spent two hours on the phone to Mark Handley, Windbird's current owner, talking systems and maintenance. It took a while to organize and find homes for everything, and then we received five boxes of goodies from the Handleys that their friends had mistakenly removed from the boat in April. It all made a circuitous journey to a local storage unit, over to Charlotte, up to Cape Cod, and back down to Little River. Most of it was charts, guidebooks, and reference material, plus Snuba gear (think scuba with a hose from a compressor that stays on the boat - useful for scraping the bottom or clearing a fouled prop), rubber-bottom dishes, and a sextant. I'm told another box is headed this way. Fortunately Windbird has a lot of storage space so we still have room to move our clothes, galleyware, additional books, and personal items aboard in November - plus pack the food and spares needed for extended cruising.


This one sounds simple enough but took the longest of all the jobs: we started Tuesday night and didn't finish until Thursday afternoon. Windbird came with a lot of equipment, spare parts, cleaning supplies, varnishing & painting supplies, various chemicals, etc. It was too stultifying to catalogue everything at once so we broke the boat into thirds which made it more manageable (although we could have saved ourselves a few trips to West Marine & Home Depot if we had done it all straightaway). The current admiral, Judy, had done a nice job of mapping and listing all the various storage compartments, which made it easy to list our inventory in a searchable Excel spreadsheet totaling some 20 pages - so far.

Fix Leaky Aft Head: 

see last post.

Flush & Fill Freshwater Tanks:

This was supposed to be my first project but I arrived at the boat to find that sometime in the recent past, the freshwater pump assembly had fallen clean off the engine room wall and it now gushed water into the bilge when I turned it on!

I waited a few days until I bought a good cordless drill (see below), thought about how to go about it in the meantime, bought a few 1x4s and stainless steel fasteners, and then tackled the project Wednesday morning. It wasn't a hard project persay, it was just in an inconvenient location in the engine room that required awkward maneuvering, and I ended up tweaking my back a bit. But with a working freshwater pump we were able to drain both tanks (150 gal total), remove the top access panels, scrub as much as the baffles would allow, spray a hose around to reach the rest, partially fill the tanks, drain them again, and then refill. The water now smells much better and tastes good too through the Seagull filter system.

The story doesn't quite end there: the "off" side of the circuit breaker for the freshwater system was sticking, and then Dawn accidentally broke it trying to turn it off. So I'll have to manually disconnect the system before I leave the boat tomorrow and then try to find a vintage white Stolz circuit breaker.

Buy Tools

I swear, it seemed like half our time was taken up making runs to Home Depot, Harbor Freight, and West Marine. I have a pretty good set of automotive tools but am lacking in compact power tools and specialized boat tools, as well as any sort of organization system. I had a workbench at home and kept my tools on and under that, and so I never bought a good toolbox. I brought a fishing tackle box and a cloth Army toolkit from the Pacer, which were actually just the right size to fit my plumbing and electrical tools respectively. I ended up buying a really nice, heavy-duty cloth Husky tool bag from Home Depot; it's small enough to lug around the boat without bashing into everything, but has a bajillion pockets to nicely organize my general tools.

Other things I needed were an angle grinder (purchased at Harbor Freight), a wet/dry shop vac (got a very compact bucket-top system at Home Depot), and above all a good portable battery-powered drill. Our cordless drill at home was always pretty crappy and finally died in the last year. My corded drill is a hardcore drywall machine that's complete overkill for any job requiring finesse. I ended up selecting a Milwaukee M18 (18v) driver-drill and impact driver set with two lithium batteries and a charger. I've heard great things about the M18 system, and am so far really impressed. The tools are light and powerful, battery life seems very good, and the batteries charge in like 20 minutes. Next on the wishlist: a multitool. A Fein would be nice but it's quite expensive, and now that I have the M18 system I might as well go with the Milwaukee version.

Commission Dinghy

We purchased Windbird with "Little Bird," the Handley's West Marine RIB dinghy, and "Ethel," their Yamaha Enduro 2-stroke 15hp outboard (named in honor of Judy's centenarian Aunt in hopes of similar longevity). The outboard was rebuilt in Florida last year but hadn't been run since February, so I feared it would need some coaxing to get going. Well, first we had to get it off Windbird, and there was a padlock preventing us from doing so! We couldn't find the key aboard, John didn't know where it was, and the Handleys thought they might have it but weren't sure (going by Judy's blog, it seems the search put her in a divesting mood!). In the end Dawn just cut the lock off with a bolt cutters and we bought a replacement padlock. We then used the dinghy davits to lower the dinghy - whoops, plug's out, back up she goes! Plug in, back down, and then used the very handy outboard crane to swing and lower the outboard oh-so-carefully onto Little Bird's stern. Three pumps on the fuel bulb, a little choke, and Ethel roared to life on the third pull! She ran a bit rough at first but after warmup a couple of "hole shots" demonstrating that famous 2-stroke torque got her running smoothly. Last night we took the dink to dinner at the Officer's Club on the other side of the harbor (though we easily could have walked in five minutes) and took a short cruise on the Intracoastal Waterway afterwards.

Replace EPIRB

Actually dismounting the old one and putting our new ACR GlobalFix V4 in its place took five minutes; it took longer to register the new one on the NOAA website (particularly to find Windbird's MMSI number). EPIRBs (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons) have come wayyy down in price in the last few years: this one was $399 from Defender, and it's a pretty nice one with integrated GPS and a user-replaceable 10-year battery. Just replacing the expired battery on the old one would have cost as much. 

Get Estimate for Dodger/Bimini Canvas Replacement

We really like the Dodger/Bimini/Enclosure on Windbird but UV has taken its toll on the fabric (actually moreso on the thread which has had to be restitched multiple times, taking a toll on the fabric). So from the start we were planning on having a replacement made. There's a local canvas guy who comes highly recommended (he also did some work for Mark & Judy, which they thought was good); he came out to look at the enclosure Thursday, and if his estimate isn't outrageous we'll likely go with him. But there are also canvas shops in Georgetown and Southport that are worth checking into; for them we took a series of photos and measurements of the existing enclosure.

Remove Sails and Get Inspected/Repaired 

The sails on Windbird date to before the Handleys' circumnavigation; they have a lot of miles on them, but seemed salvageable during the survey. Tuesday morning, we got up very early to take advantage of a still morning and unbend the sails. This was a bit intimidating as I'd never done so on such a big boat with big, heavy sails, but it actually went quite smoothly. We had all the sails off, folded and bagged within a couple hours and then took a field trip up to the North Sails loft in Carolina Beach. We also brought two spare sails that had been living in Windbird's vberth, a mainsail and a staysail.

Today Rodney Allison of North Sails emailed to report that the mainsail is "dead on arrival" due to severe UV degradation, but the staysail and genoa are both repairable and in reasonable condition. Better yet, both sails that were in storage are quite good. So I think our plan is to have repairs made to both staysail and genoa, then use the spare staysail and keep the current staysail as a spare, and use the spare mainsail for the time being and have a new mainsail made before we go cruising. That's not cheap but will greatly improve Windbird's upwind capability.

In addition, we're looking at replacing the stackpack since we're getting new canvas for the enclosure and its zipper seam is currently torn; but we may choose to hold off and just get this one repaired, since Rodney thought it was saveable and we're otherwise going to be laying out a lot of extra money for a mainsail. 

Clean Teak Deck

As I've written before, Windbird's teak deck has been cared for but is nonetheless quite old and there's a good chance we'll eventually have to replace it. Thus, it behooves us to exercise great care in our handling of it. If you want an aged teak deck to look beautifully new, it just takes a whole lot of elbow grease, lots of sanding pads, and a good chunk of wood off the top. Not an option for us. I don't mind the silvered look, but six months of sitting had turned Windbird's decks dirtily ugly. So we attacked that Thursday morning with two soft-bristle brushes and a mild mix of cold water and Dawn detergent. Apparently plain old seawater is even better for cleaning but the dirty brackish water of Colquina Harbor is definately NOT suited to cleaning! We were careful to use plenty of water, brush with the grain, and make multiple light passes instead of brushing heavily, and the results were pretty spectacular at the time. After drying out, the deck is still a lot nicer than it was but is nevertheless mottled in spots. We'll try another cleaning next time we're at the boat, and then look at using a mild commercial teak cleaner.

Wash & Wax Hull

Windbird's topsides were last painted in 2009, in Thailand, using Awlgrip. This requires the use of specialized cleaning (AwlWash) and waxing (AwlCare) products. We bought West Marine's last bottle of Awlcare yesterday before finding it today in Windbird's aft head. I drove Dawn to the airport this afternoon, met the local canvas guy at Windbird afterwards, and then chilled out in the cockpit drinking a beer and taking a short nap while waiting for the heat to die down a touch. Then I spent two hours rinsing, washing, and drying the topsides, reaching from the dock where feasible and working from the dinghy at the bow, stern, and non-dock side. After a long hot day (7:30am-8:30pm) of cleaning inside and out, I was happy to be done even though I didn't get to the waxing. Windbird already looks a lot better, but I'll try to get a coat of AwlCare on her in the morning.

Service Engine

I was fully intending to change engine & transmission oil & filter, drain the Racor housing and replace primary & secondary fuel filters, change "fan" belts (there's no fan, they run pumps & alternators), top off the starting battery with distilled water, &etc, but didn't get around to it partially because I hadn't found the spare filters yet. I found out tonight that there aren't any on the boat (the folks who unpacked the Handley's stuff when they had to go to MA requisitioned the filters for their Island Packet, which is in the slip next door), so I'll run to West Marine in the morning after the boat waxing and what I don't get done before I fly out, I'll do when I arrive next time. 

 There were several other small projects planned & unplanned along the way, but that's pretty well the gist of it. Besides the engine the uncompleted items include cleaning stainless steel & bronze on deck, diagramming systems, cleaning electrical systems, replacing a raw water strainer for the washdown pump, lubing a zerk fitting on the pillow block, and servicing the windlass. We'll get to those next time - hopefully some of them while tucked away in a quiet anchorage off the dock.

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