Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Boatyard Bums

The neverending saga of the chainplates continues. They've been off the boat for a good three weeks and the machine shop(s) haven't duplicated one. It took several days for the boatyard to get them to a shop; eight days later the boatyard inquired (at my insistence) and discovered they had been misplaced and the shop hadn't even looked at them. A week later they concluded that the curved portion of the stem iron was beyond their capabilities - and so they didn't do anything. It took several more days for the boatyard to retrieve them and send them to another shop. They were supposed to have an estimate yesterday; now we're hoping for tomorrow. The cost estimate is almost irrelevant at this point, of course; with the boat torn apart for over a month and most everything else done, we just need the damn things done.

Despite the frustration of delays and ever-increasing costs, I'm starting to take a perverse liking to life as a boatyard bum. We have our routine of showing up 8-9am and leaving at 4am to get Piper his beach run. Every day I have a list of things to get done, and I usually get about 70% of the list done - though the last few days I've been unusually productive (or just unusually realistic in my goal-setting). We've come to know many of the boatyard workers and contractors, and they've all come to know us as the couple with the cute dog that keeps watch from the high prow of the green and white Tayana. We've picked up a lot of new skills and a good deal of advice from those who've been there and done that. We watch boats come and go and get worked on, and we've met many of their owners including several couples doing exactly what we're doing. One young Canadian couple, Dan and Isabella, showed up with a new Jeanneau 41 on a trailer to commission; they're currently transforming it from a production boat into a sleek cruising machine and then will be headed the same places as us. We took a nice field trip to their boat on the docks a few days ago and will likely do a happy hour aboard one of these days. It's nice just to see a boat in its intended environment instead of on jackstands high above a dusty yard!

Ideally, we'd be headed south to Florida just after the New Year. At this point that's pretty ambitious considering that work on the lightning-struck electronics hasn't even begun (other than what I've installed myself). We've put together a list of everything that needs to be done before we head down the coast, and it's a daunting one. We've essentially done everything we need to do on the boat in the yard and are just waiting for the chainplates right now, so we're launching into doing everything on that list that can be done on the hard. Not everything can be; for example, we want a diesel mechanic to go through the Yanmar thoroughly but there's little point doing so until the boat is in the water and the engine can be run. But annual servicing on the outboard can be done right now, as can shopping for and stowing a full compliment of systems spares. 

We did get a pretty major reminder that we're doing the right thing with this refit today. The riggers finished disassembling the staysail furler and discovered that the forestay had several broken strands near the mast-end, making it dramatically weaker. That's an area that's very seldom seen, just like the chainplates below deck level. It's unlikely we would have noticed it before it failed. Other things we're doing, like bead-blasting & repainting corroded areas of the mast, weld-reinforcing crack-prone corners of the spreaders, and replacing the gooseneck fitting are all being done in the hopes that this rig will be able to last another decade of cruising usage. Oh - on that note, I got a call from Doyle today that our new mainsail is done! It shipped today and we should have it by Friday.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Move to Windbird and Daily Projects

Our lease in the St Paul apartment ended October 31st, so I spent time organizing our belongings again (boat, storage, and donation items) and had Sam help me clean as much as possible during his last five days in the apartment with Piper and me. I moved out Friday night prior to Halloween and spent the weekend with my family.

Here lies our belongings in a 5x10 storage unit in MN.  We have our bikes stashed in my brother's garage and some holiday decorations in his basement (all in ND). 
The morning of the 31st, Piper and I set out for Indianapolis where we needed to pick up Sam around 9 PM. It was a twelve hour drive that took us fourteen hours and then we lost an hour for the time zone. I arrived late so met Sam at the hotel. 

Our second day of travel. Piper did well in the car, not usually his favorite thing, but by the third day, he was relaxing in the back seat

During the next travel day, we planned to stop at a few Bourbon distilleries in Kentucky. We first stopped at Four Roses. We watched a film on their history and got a glance at their facility since they were under construction, which was doubling over the next year. Here we learned why the trees, barns, and fences were all painted black. During prohibition, people illegally made moonshine; however, the distilling process gives off a chemical that turns the trees black, so all people painted their trees, barns, and fences black so the authorities couldn't tell who was illegally making alcohol. 

We had lunch between the Four Roses and Wild Turkey distilleries. Once at Wild Turkey, we were too late for their tour but paid to have a tasting. The tour guide was young and was knowledgeable about the distillery but seemed more interested in talking about drinking the whiskey than anything else. We were glad we just did the tasting. Then we took back roads to Woodford. 

I loved the Kentucky countryside. We drove this road between the Wild Turkey distillery and Woodford Reserve distillery

At Woodford Reserve, we waited for their 3:30 tour so we took Piper out for a short walk around the property. We took him down to the river where he enjoyed running through the murky water. Then we got on a bus to drive down to the original, and still operating, buildings on the property. I believe the only reason for the bus was to make it accessible to all tourists; we could have easily walked up and down the hill. Our tour guide was amazing and sure did love her job!

Woodford is one of five companies in the entire world who still distill from copper pot stills!

Here at Woodford, the tasting was whiskey and truffles. Can I say 'amazing!' I have a new found appreciation for the "Woodford on the Rocks" that Sam enjoys on our Delta flights when we travel for fun. 

Continuing on with the drive. By day three we made it all the way to Charleston. We rented a one-bedroom vacation rental just a block from the ocean in Isle of Palms, about 12 miles from the boatyard. We plan to spend around 4-7 hours each day at the boatyard, depending upon our to do lists, and then spend the rest of sunlight walking the beach with Piper. 

This is Piper's first trip to the ocean. We didn't know how much he would enjoy it and looks forward to going each night. 

I took video of him during this first walk. He just went crazy. He has so much energy, we barely tire him out. 

Each morning we make breakfast and lunch to eat at the boat. Sam and I have worked on mounting our new RADAR dome on the mast along with running the new cables. We've unpacked our 'boat' belongings, or what we can because a few projects down below are being done by the professionals. Each night, Sam comes up with a list of topics we try to complete during the next day. 

Here's a glimpse of our list from today. Of course other items get added as the day progresses. 

We bring Piper to the boatyard daily. On the first day, while we moved our belongings on board, we left him tied up on the ground. He barked at everyone who passed. He had to either say 'hi' to everyone or let them know he was around. The next day, we carried him up the ladder because we were doing some things inside the boat. He loved standing up top and watching everyone below. He barely said a peep except when he had to go to the bathroom. So now we bring him every day. He is slowly warming up to the people who work in the yard, and they enjoy seeing him every day. 

For a good part of the day he'll take naps either in the sun or the shade. 

We have our, now two-bedroom, apartment through November 22nd and hope the boat will be done by then or at least the end of the month. We'll keep you updated in how things go. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Back to Work

Over the weekend I flew a 4-day trip with layovers in Raleigh-Durham, Richmond VA, and Orange County, CA. Meanwhile Dawn drove her Jetta all the way to North Dakota, where she gave it to her brother, and then stayed at a friend's place in Minneapolis for a couple nights. And Piper stayed at a DogVacay in Charleston, and seemed to have lots of fun going on walks and playing with resident dog "Duke." I got back here late on Sunday night and drove to the boatyard to spend the night on Windbird. It was pretty cold and rainy out, and I arrived to find that the boatyard had been quite busy on Windbird on Thursday and Friday - it was a mess on board! For starters, the cabinets behind the settees had been disassembled and the chainplates removed. The aft cabin berth was torn apart so technicians could repack the rudder stock bearing, and the mattress was piled in the salon. I cleared off one settee and tried to sleep, and was soon shivering. I went and dug a few more blankets out of the piles of boxes in the aft head, and set up a ceramic heater on the salon table, and was able to get a few hours of sleep. Can't wait until this boat is back together and everything can be put in its place. New chainplates are being made at a local machine shop right now, so it won't be long.

I picked Dawn up at CHS just after noon and we went out to eat, spent a little time piddling around on the boat, and then it was time to pick up Piper from DogVacay and check into our apartment for the next nine days. It's in the same complex as earlier this month, but the 1BR apartment we rented before wasn't available so the landlord rented us a slightly larger 2BR for the same price. We really like the location on Isle of Palms, and Piper loves his nightly runs on the beach even more than we do. When Windbird is back in the water we plan to move her to Charleston Harbor Marina until we're ready to head south after the New Year; that's in Mount Pleasant, not too far away from here and nice & close to West Marine, Ace Hardware, and Lowe's.

Last night we went out to eat with Mark and Judy's New Hampshire friends Alan and Helaine, who are visiting Charleston this week, and their RVing friends temporarily based here, Jim and Marilyn. Alan and Helaine are longtime sailors and racers who own a J40 that they've cruised in Maine, the Caribbean, and all points in between. Judy has mentioned them many times in her blog and it was nice to put a face with the name; we had a good time talking with them. It's funny how Windbird seems to have come with a built-in fan club and network of supporters!

We had a good morning of boatwork today, getting items steadily checked off our daily list, but a few of these led to a bit of a wild goose chase this afternoon. One was lubing the prop shaft pillow block bearing under the engine. The zerk fitting to attach a grease gun is on top of it, only a few inches below the engine oil pan, and is terribly uncomfortable to access...I basically had to slide toward the bilge head-first, squeezing my torso into the narrow slot behind the engine and ahead of the fuel hoses, aux pump, engine battery, etc. And then I had to reach under the engine with one hand grasping the grease coupling and trying to slide it over the zerk fitting. There just wasn't enough room below the drain pan, even with a flexible hose mounted on my grease gun. Dawn had to basically drag me back up to the land of the living. This afternoon we checked a hardware store, Walmart, Autozone, Lowe's, and finally another Ace Hardware store for a lower-profile coupling before the hardware store attendant had the bright idea of attaching a 1/8" NPT 90-degree brass elbow between the flex hose and the grease coupling. Duh, why didn't I think of that? Boat ownership has given me a brand new appreciation for hardware stores and the practical-minded folks who work at them.

The other goose-chase involved finding replacement LEDs for our incandescent cabin lighting. I've had it in the back of my mind to switch everything over to LED for a while now; there's a lot of power savings to be had, which means the solar and windgen can do a bigger percentage of our power generation. The masthead tricolor and anchor light were already LED and we switched the mast steaming light last week - I still need to check the deck-level nav lights. Today I took a good look at our two Alpenglow lights in the salon; they're both the older CFL style but still relatively efficient at 9 watts per light. Alpenglow will actually convert them to their modern LED style for $93 each but this only saves 3 watts in high mode. We still may do it because it also gives you a more efficient low setting as well as ultra-efficient red night lighting. I love having red lighting at night for while on passage. We have two dome lights in the galley and one over the nav station, all with two incandescent G4 bulbs; the nav station light and one galley light each have red cellophane over one of their bulbs, giving a night mode. And then in the aft cabin we have one light with two G4s and one light with a single GE 1004 bayonet-style bulb. So part of our afternoon was spent finding suitable LED replacements for all these. We found good warm white G4s, of which we needed six, but they won't fit under the cellophane for the two night lights; it makes sense to just get red LEDs for those. I hunted those down online along with a GE 1004 replacement once we got home.

We got some good news today. Work was supposed to begin on the skeg but the technician and then the boatyard manager went over it with a phenolic hammer and couldn't find any evidence whatsoever of delamination or water intrusion. He thinks that the surveyor that did the bottom survey (which was done separately from the main survey we attended) was unfamiliar with the skeg's construction and mistook the areas that have framework underneath for dead spots. He was a powerboat guy, so it's possible. Anyways they suggested we leave it alone and look for dead spots or blistering next time we haul, and we agreed. So that'll save us a bit of money, which certainly goes against the overall trend of this refit.

Have another good full worklist for tomorrow; off to bed with me. My next "break" to go make some money in the cloud mines is Nov 22-25, when I have a 48-hour London layover that includes Thanksgiving. Dawn will be coming with on that one, so we're trying to finish up our project list by this weekend. I suspect Windbird will be back together and ready to splash the week after Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trump Card

Throughout this amazingly unhinged election cycle I've had the thought in the back of my head that if my fellow Americans proved dumb enough to elect a certain cheeto-faced stark raving lunatic to the highest office in the land, having a boat to bug out for saner shores would be a good "trump card." Well. they did...and we do! Almost. Some assembly required, or rather reassembly. But work is finally proceeding at a steadyish clip. This week one crew sanded and painted Windbird's bottom, and another went to work removing the stem iron and chainplates. The stem iron actually proved to be remarkably easy to remove, but the chainplates are going to require more interior surgery than I expected. The cabinets behind the settees will have to be partially disassembled. A carpenter came by the boat today to look at it and declared it perfectly doable - it just takes money and time, like anything else. So that'll be going on the next couple days. And then the machine shop will make new chainplates, and then the yard will put them back in, and then the riggers can see about getting the stick back up. I'll consider us lucky if the bottom's wet by December 1st.

That said, we've made a decision that'll make the timing a bit less critical. We're going to give up the idea of going back up to Myrtle Beach this year, and get the electronics work done down in Charleston instead. The boatyard manager recommended a company that he said is really good, I met with the owner today, and he said it's a fairly small job and they have time to do it. So it'll be done concurrently with the other work, and if it's not done by the time we're back in the water they can finish up at a local marina. I tried calling Lightkeeper's Marina to give up our slip today but wasn't able to reach the dockmaster; I'll try again tomorrow. I also have to let our original electronics guy know we won't be coming his way anymore.

The three of us are going separate ways for a few days. I traded my work schedule around, so tomorrow I head to Atlanta to fly a 4-day trip that gets back late on Sunday (that'll have me off until the 22nd). Dawn is driving her Jetta all the way to North Dakota, where she'll be giving it to her brother. And Piper is headed to a local DogVacay, which he always loves. This one is nearby so he'll get to continue his daily beach time. He sure does love running his little heart out and jumping through the waves. Still hasn't quite figured out not to drink the saltwater, though. We're likely going to rent another apartment in this complex when I come back, as the boat isn't really in any condition to live in just now. One more transitional period in a season full of them....

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Dawn, Piper and I made it down to Charleston way back on Wednesday, but I haven't posted simply because I've been too exhausted every night. We've been working on the boat, and every night is taken up planning the subsequent day.

Monday night I got done with a trip around 5pm and then flew to to Indianapolis, where I met Dawn and Piper after a very long day from Dawn's parents in Rosholt, SD. On Tuesday we had a leisurely day exploring the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, visiting the Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve Distilleries. We were originally planning on spending the night in Lexington but ended up changing it to Knoxville to make it a shorter Wednesday to Charleston. We had decided that living on the hard here with a dog was going to be too hard, and so had rented a fairly cheap dog-friendly vacation rental in Isle of Palms. I think that was a good call - in our first four nights here, we've had Piper down on the beach all four nights and he's really enjoyed it. After 4pm the beach is a leash-free zone so he can run to his heart's content, playing with a bunch of other dogs whose owners have brought them down and getting his first tastes of saltwater. It's a good introduction to his new life, I think - well that and being perched high on Windbird's decks while Dawn and I go about our boatyard business. Bringing him up and down the ladder hasn't turned out to be too much of a hassle, and he seems to enjoy soaking up the sun on the teak.

Dawn and I have been hard at work on the boat for three days. We've moved all our boxes from home aboard but couldn't unpack many of them due to ongoing projects. I have the troublesome fuel system completely rebuilt, and it seems to be delivering a steady stream of clean diesel to the bleed screw but I guess I won't know if it's really right until we get the boat into the water and I can start the engine. Dawn scraped all the barnacles off the bottom and prop in preparation for a new coat of bottom paint once the water intrusion into the skeg has been addressed. We installed the new Tides Track on the now-detached mast. I made some LED lighting upgrades. We have the new masthead transducer installed and a new radar mount bracket designed - will have to find a machine shop to make it on Monday. I drilled a new hole in the mast for the radar power and data lines today, we'll be running the wires through the mast tomorrow. I cleaned the bilge and we both completely sanded the companionway hatch & surrounds today in preparation for a repair and fresh varnish in the next couple of days. The boatyard finally got the rig down last week and will be hopefully tearing out the chainplates this week along with a couple other projects. They're saying everything should be done by Nov 15th but I have my doubts. We're considering staying in Charleston until we head south but that would entail finding somebody new to work on the post-lightning electronics repairs. We have all the components we ordered at the Annapolis Sailboat Show and I have a good idea of what our new system will look like, but I'm loathe to install it myself give that insurance is paying for a professional install job. I'm all too aware that everything I do myself entails a steep learning curve, and usually several things done over. Still, I always learn from the things I do wrong. I think the trick is to find someone knowledgeable to work on the boat while allowing you to gain from their knowledge.

Amidst all the bustle and filth of the boatyard, I'm trying hard to imagine Windbird swinging peacefully at anchor in the Bahamas. That's the goal for this season. Wish us luck - we may need it.

Ok - off to bed. Yay for our hour extra sleep tonight.