Friday, December 30, 2016

Come Together (Right Now)

When it became apparent that the refit was going to drag on to the point that we wouldn't get back to Myrtle Beach this year, Dawn and I looked for someone here in Charleston to install the electronics we bought in Annapolis to replace those zapped in the lightning storm in August. I asked the boatyard manager for recommendations and without hesitation he said "Call Jeff at Tidal Marine Electronics. He's the best in the area. Good luck getting ahold of him, though - he doesn't really return calls."

Much to my surprise, I got ahold of Jeff the very next day - and he was out at the boat the day after that. He took a look at our current electronics and the boxes in the v-berth containing their replacements and cables and networking equipment, and pronounced it a fairly easy 4-day job. In my excitement over having found someone apparently competent to install the electronics, I forgot to ask Jeff just how soon he could start.

That was in early-mid November. Since then I've been calling Jeff on a weekly basis at least, and until recently never got through to him, and never got a call back. The boatyard manager was certainly right about the communication; I hoped he was equally right about the competency. About half the time I called Tidal Marine I got voicemail, and the other half I got a very nice young lady named Emily (I think she's Jeff's wife), who always regretfully informed me that Jeff wasn't around but she'd ask him to call me back. When I left the message that we needed the electronics installed by Jan 1st, she was eager to reassure me that the job would be complete by then - but there was another big job that needed to be finished before they got to us.

Finally, around Dec 15th or so, Emily said Jeff was there & had been wanting to talk to me, and suddenly he was on the phone saying they were almost ready to start on our boat and would in fact be onboard the very next day. Indeed, the next time I was on the boat I saw a few access covers and pieces of equipment dislodged, which led me to believe that Jeff had been onboard and the installation was imminent. But then, nothing. The boatyard reinstalled the chainplates and stern iron, restepped the mast, and launched the boat, but nothing further was done with the electronics. I began to despair that our southward sail would be further delayed.

I needn't have worried; Jeff was just finishing up his last project and had every intention of getting me done by Jan 1st. This Tuesday, while I was off flying and Dawn was on Windbird, Jeff and his assistant Steve got on the boat and attacked the project head-on, working afternoons and evenings for 4 days straight. Today they finished the entire installation, minus autopilot commissioning which is awaiting one part that will arrive Tuesday. Dawn texted me pics of the new electronics and later took me on a Facetime tour of the installation, and it looks absolutely wonderful. We have a Garmin 7607 chartplotter at the helm, a new Garmin 18xHD radar on the mast (Dawn and I installed that), two GNX-20s and a GMI-20 for sailing instruments, Gwind wireless masthead transducer (we also installed that), Airmar triducer (depth/speed/water temp), GHP Reactor Autopilot, Vesper XB-8000 AIS transponder & Nmea gateway, and an ASUS Transformer tablet for planning, weather gathering, and as a backup chartplotter. It's all networked and integrated with new NMEA 2000, and should work together. I'm really excited to get familiar with the system and use it on our next hop south to Fernadina Beach, FL.


Ahem, about that.... The stem iron still isn't on the boat; the mast is still being held up by two halyards in place of the forestay. The machine shop has apparently had a heck of a time getting this fairly complex part to fit properly, but they think they have it now; if so, it'll be installed Tuesday. Then Dawn and I can put all the running rigging back on and rebend the sails, among many other last-minute projects that'll likely take the better part of a week. But at least the electronics won't be holding us up!

Monday, December 26, 2016

An Almost-Cruising Christmas

I was off flying while Windbird was splashed but got done with my 3-day trip in Atlanta on the morning of the 24th and, after missing one flight that went out full, landed in Charleston at 3pm. This gave me 24 hours at home for Christmas - which was intentional on my part. Nearly all airlines build pilot schedules based on one's seniority in their position. With three years of seniority at my airline, I would be somewhat senior in some smaller aircraft at less popular bases, but on the Boeing 757/767 in Atlanta I'm about a quarter from the bottom of the First Officer list. That virtually guarantees that I'll work Christmas, New Years, and every other major holiday that more senior pilots will bid off. So my December bidding strategy was to snipe one trip that got done early on Dec 24th and another that reported late on the 25th.

After Dawn picked me up from the airport we went straight to the boatyard so I could take a look at Windbird in the water. Dawn had cleaned her decks and cabintop, moved the dinghy to the davits, and also re-erected the bimini and dodger in my absence; she almost looks normal now although her stem iron still has to be installed and the headstay reattached (two halyards are taking its place for the moment). We spent some time talking to Jon and Sarah, a younger couple that is about to launch their older C&C 30 and head south to Florida & the Bahamas. It's an interesting boat - Jon replaced the original Atomic 4 gasoline engine with an electric motor out of a forklift. The boat has somewhat limited battery capacity (and it can only be replenished by solar or shore power), meaning they'll primarily use the engine for docking or entering inlets. I love sailing, but I'm not certain I'd have the patience to cruise almost engineless!

While we were aboard Windbird, Dan and Isabelle on Epiic came back at sundown from a daysail in Charleston harbor. On their last daysail, with a sailing instructor aboard, they got distracted while chatting with the instructor and accidentally hit a massive navigation buoy almost square-on and caused some fiberglass damage to their bow! Their anchor took the brunt of it or the damage would have undoubtedly been worse; nevertheless they had to get hauled back out for repairs. They were splashed again the same day as Windbird and were happy to take Epiic back out for a much less eventful daysail! After docking their boat, they came over to Windbird for happy hour with me, Dawn and Piper. Being in the water and having the canvas up, our cockpit already feels much homier.

When we got back to the apartment around 8pm, Dawn made hors d'oeuvres and we opened our presents to each other, which is her family's Christmas tradition (my family waits 'till Christmas morning, but who wants to wait!). Dawn got me a pretty sweet Guy Harvey cruiser hat, a rashguard for snorkeling, and two books on stargazing. I got her Phillips wireless over-the-ear headphones and a big cushy yoga mat. Piper got treats and a new stuffed toy!

We were quite lazy on Christmas morning; I was originally planning to go to the boatyard to do some work but we never made it. It was absolutely gorgeous outside: 74 and sunny. After Dawn dropped me off at the airport she took Piper for a 3-mile walk on the beach and she said it was like the 4th of July near our place, but still quiet down on the south end of Isle of Palms (which is where she took the below photo).

I had one leg yesterday to Guatemala City, Guatemala, which is where I am at the moment. I'll be in Denver tonight, get done late tomorrow, and will stay overnight in Atlanta where I have a doctor appointment on the morning of the 28th. I hope to get back to Charleston later that day to help Dawn move our stuff back to the boat...we only have the apartment through the 31st, and I have a four-day trip the 29th-1st (including 26 hrs in St. Martin over NYE!). After the 1st I've already dropped all my work trips for January... meaning we can finally get busy rerigging the boat and getting ready to head south ASAP!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Launched at Last

When Dawn and I got back to the boatyard after landing in Charleston on Tuesday afternoon, we were pleased to find that the chainplates were back in the boat, however the stem and stern iron was still not installed and the mast still had significant assembly required before it was ready to go back up. So the hope that the rig would be ready to go up Tuesday afternoon proved to be inordinately optimistic - pretty much as expected. We only spent maybe two hours at the boatyard on Tuesday, most of it spent unpacking and stowing all the Amazon/Defender/Jamestown Distributors treasures that arrived in our absence.

When we arrived at the boatyard Wednesday, one of the workers was just finishing up installing our new Garmin triducer (it required a slightly larger hole than the old airmar depth transducer). I set about riveting the gooseneck assembly base to the mast, having finally procured the correct size of blind rivets (1/4" x 5/8") from Fastenal. Unfortunately our rivet gun broke on the first rivet! They're stainless steel and a real bear to "pop." So we borrowed the boatyard's heavy-duty riveter to do the other seven. Meanwhile, workers installed the stern iron and prepared to install the stem iron. The riggers arrived and started reassembling the mast at a rapid clip. Dawn and I worked inside the cabin reassembling trim that was covering the aft chainplates (the cabinets disassembled to access the forward and mid chainplates will require a carpenter to reassemble, and he's not able to do it until after Jan 1st). Suddenly, there was a whole bevy of problems: the riggers discovered that the mid chainplates had been drilled too small for the pins that secure the upper shroud turnbuckles; the stem iron had been bent too shallowly for the bow rake; one of the welded spreaders had redeveloped a crack. It sounded to me like our slow trawler would never again sport a rig to harness the wind.

But solutions appeared just as quickly. The boatyard manager called the machine shop that has fashioned the chainplates and stem iron, and within 30 minutes two machinists appeared, drill in hand to drill out the appropriate holes (I was skeptical about using a handheld drill on stainless steel, but they did a really nice job). They left with the stem iron to be rebent at the machine shop. And the boatyard manager said he would drive the cracked spreader to and from the welder's (90 minutes each way) that very night, and it would be painted in the morning. Rerigging and launching was still possible on Thursday, he said. Nearly three months of delays fueled my skepticism. In any case I would be gone Thursday, beginning a three-day trip that ends on New Years Eve day. No worries, he said; they could launch without me.

And so it was via a series of photos texted to me by Dawn, Dan and Isabelle, and the boatyard manager that I followed today's progress. The stem iron was not completed in time, but no matter; the spinnaker halyard made a suitable temporary headstay. The spreader was rewelded and repainted, and the rig went up in mid-afternoon. Shortly thereafter the Travellift lifted Windbird from the jacks that have supported her since October 3rd and lowered her into the Wando River. When I turned my phone on after landing in Seattle, I nearly jumped for joy at the sight of Windbird afloat and tied up to the boatyard's docks.


So now we are waiting for the stem iron to be reinstalled, for the rig to be tuned, for the cabinets to be put back in, and above all for Tidal Marine Electronics to replace all our lightning-fried instruments & gizmos. Rerig the boat, finish a few miscellaneous projects, move the remainder of our stuff from our beach apartment to the boat, do some reprovisioning, and we can head south to Florida. That kinda sounds like a lot, but it's really not compared to what we've already done. Right now I'm just thrilled to be back in the water.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Family Ties

Dawn and I have been visiting family in Minnesota & South Dakota since last Wednesday & it's been just a bit chillier than SC. A few days ago we woke up in Brookings SD to -28* F temps, plus about 20 mph wind. Brutal. But it's been really nice visiting with family over the course of our Christmas celebrations, as we don't anticipate making it back until springtime.

Backing it up a bit since it's been a week since I've posted...last Tuesday we spent a full day at the boat doing last minute projects that needed done before raising the mast, plus installing the engine room insulation. It looks nice.


Wednesday we dropped Piper off at DogVacay and then headed to the airport. The flight to Atlanta was open but the connecting flight to MSP had filled up so we went through Indianapolis. We got there a bit later taking three flights but got to sit together in Delta Comfort Plus the whole way. We stopped off at our old apartment to pick up a package and at our storage unit to grab our winter things before heading up to my folks for the night. Several of my siblings were there & I got to hold my 5-week-old niece Haven for the first time. Precious.


Thursday we were on the road to Dawn's parents in Rosholt, SD. Along the way I called the boatyard and was happy to find out that most of the chainplates were done and installation had begun. Also on Thursday, Atlantic Boat ACR got on the boat and repaired our air conditioning by replacing the control panel, and Tidal Marine Electronics began the process of installing the new instruments, chartplotter and autopilot. Whew!

After stopping by the in-laws to pick up some mail, we headed out to Watertown to apply for our South Dakota drivers licenses and then in Sisseton we transferred titles and obtained SD registration for our Xterra and motorcycles. I must say, South Dakota bureaucracy is shockingly efficient and pleasant.

We spent all of Friday hunkered down indoors as the South Dakota deep freeze began in earnest and snow began falling to boot. Dawn's brothers, sister-in-law, and nephew Jordan were all there so we did lots of visiting, baking, watching college football, and setting up Asus tablets with CM93 charts and OpenCPN plugins and all the sailing apps one might need. Ok, only I did that last one. I also called the boatyard and got an update.

Saturday we headed down to Brookings SD where we had rooms booked at the Hampton Inn and tickets for that night's concert by Home Free. A few years ago my family began a Christmas tradition where in lieu of gifts we all get together for a concert, play, or comedy show (ok, the nieces & nephews still get presents!) and this year Dawn's family decided to follow suit. I wasn't really expecting to enjoy a Christmas concert by an acapella quartet but knew Dawn and her mom were really excited, so I kept an open mind and actually ended up enjoying the show. The guys from Home Free are obviously talented & are good, funny entertainers as well. Their all-vocal repertoire turns out to include EDM genres like house and dubstep. I'm not even kidding. Many South Dakotan minds were blown.


Sunday dawned sunny, breezy, and stupid cold. We weren't sure how the roads were going to be and our rental car had Texas plates and tires that might've as well been racing slicks in the snow, so we headed east early. Even the back roads turned out to be just fine and 3 hours 45 mins later we arrived early at Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo, MN. My family's Christmas outing this year was a performance of "A Gone Fishin' Christmas," a two-act comedy play. Pretty funny if a little over-the-top silly in parts. Afterwards we had an early dinner at Dehn's Country Manor, a supper club that's been popular in the area for ages. Both of my Grandmas were with us and they both used to go to Dehn's back in the 50s through 70s. I think the same waitresses were working there back then!


Yesterday was another lazy day at home, though my brother Jon and his girlfriend Heather stopped by early and stayed the whole day. Later my sister Rachel came with her toddler Emory, and then my brother Josiah and his wife Nessa showed up with Haven & Oaklyn. I worked on my mom's non-profit organization's website & we planned Mom & Dad's visit to Windbird in the Exumas in late March. It turns out my brother Steve is also going to be in Florida in early Feb, and he's going to try to do the crossing to Bimini and Nassau with us. Steve is a keen sailor (he and I used to own a 21' Santana together) so I really hope that works out.


Last night Mom, Dad, Dawn and I travelled down to my sister Sarah's for dinner & to see the house that she and new hubby Scott just bought. Scott's daughter Emelia is a bit older than Sarah's kids Justice & Ariella, but not too old to play, which along with their giant poodle Chai and new Chihuahua puppy Essie (and Scott's older daughter Kayla) makes for a VERY busy household! For those keeping score, I have five siblings (3 brothers, two sisters), the three youngest of which are married and have 7 kids/stepkids. I'm the oldest, & our house growing up was just as loud & chaotic as Sarah's is now if not moreso. My parents are absolute saints as far as I'm concerned - they deserve a late-winter escape to go pet some swimming piggies in paradise!

Yesterday I called the boatyard and got confirmation that the chainplates and stem iron are mostly back in  the boat and the mast may be ready to go up as soon as this afternoon. We'll see. Dawn and I were up at 3am to catch the 6:25am flight to Detroit...all the flights to Atlanta filled up (surprise, surprise). We should be back to Charleston around noon and will be at the boatyard this afternoon. I am so looking forward to seeing Windbird's new rig go up, and to getting her back in the water where she belongs. I go to work on Thursday and have very few breaks until the New Year, so we'll see when we actually get her launched. But the end of the beginning is finally in sight; we can now look forward to turning our bow southward and leaving winter well astern.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Lazy Saturday, Busy Sunday

In an effort to avoid boatyard burnout, Dawn and I have been taking Sundays off (other than last Sunday, when I was in London). One Sunday we visited Fort Sumter, another we toured the USS Yorktown and USS Laffey at Patriots Point. This weekend, we switched things around and took Saturday off instead. Dawn woke up feeling under the weather, and a cold front had blown through and lowered overnight temps below freezing, making both varnishing and my deck project impractical. So we just vegged out for much of the day; in the afternoon I made a visit to the boat to inventory my supplies for the deck project and then stopped at West Marine to buy some 2-part epoxy. That night we got together with Canadians Dan and Isabelle in downtown Charleston. We had pre-dinner drinks at the Griffon Pub and then had dinner at historic McCrady's Tavern. It was a really nice time getting to know a cruising couple our age - a rarity.

Sunday was considerably warmer and we were able to get work done. Dawn had sanded the cockpit caprail on Friday afternoon so she was able to tack and varnish it. We were fortunate that the morning dew earlier in the week didn't ruin the entire finish, and decided that given the current forecast and the shortness of the days right now we'd wait to apply more layers until further south. So, I took off the masking tape today. The caprail looks great. The companionway hatch looks a little off, though - I don't think we sufficiently sanded down to bare wood before we started applying Rapid Clear. I think the lessons here are #1) stay on top of varnishing so you don't have to start over and go back to bare wood and #2) if you do start over, put a lot of time into getting the prep exactly right. The varnishing itself is pretty easy, so long as the weather cooperates.


Meanwhile I started on my deck project. Everywhere there was a popped bung, I pulled the screw and countersunk the 3/8" hole in the teak just a little deeper. There's not a ton of meat left on the teak, so I had to be careful that I didn't drill through to the underlying deck. There were a few places that the teak was too thin, or the screw had snapped off, and in those holes I didn't replace the screw. For most of the holes, though, I mixed up a batch of West System epoxy with fast-cure hardener, which I injected into the screw holes using a syringe. Then I screwed in a new screw, squirted a little epoxy on top, brushed epoxy into a 3/8" teak bung, and tapped it into the hole. This went much more smoothly with Dawn helping me - initially, she was down below organizing in the aft cabin and I simply didn't have enough hands. By now it was fairly warm - around 60° - and the first batch of epoxy "kicked" in only 15 or 20 minutes. With Dawn's help I was able to finish the deck using the second batch. It was really a pretty easy project, I don't know why I procrastinated on it. With the age of our deck, replacing popped bungs will be an ongoing project. There are actually a number of partially-exposed screw heads right now, but they have a layer of epoxy on top and are likely sealing just fine for now, so I left them alone.

Just as we were wrapping up the deck project, Dan and Isabelle came up from the docks for a short tour of our entirely torn-apart boat. Afterwards we moved the party down to their Jeanneau 41 for sundowners and a few hours of chatting. It was nice just being out on the water, for a change. Right now I'm starting to think of boats as expensive, compact stilt houses with dusty yards that one accesses with a tall ladder!

Today Dawn stayed at the house but got a bunch of sewing done, including new fender covers for all our fenders. I went to the boat and finished up the deck project, took the masking tape off of the cockpit combing and companionway, did some reorganization of maintenance supplies, and a couple other small projects. It was a fairly unproductive day but we really don't have much left that we can do before the boat is back together. Just as I was leaving, our order from Jamestown Distributors came. That gave me another potential project as the shipment included an engine insulation & soundproofing kit, but installing that will really be a two person job, so it'll have to wait until tomorrow.


Friday, December 9, 2016

Let the Sun Shine

It was another late start at the boatyard today as Dawn and I spent time making calls, doing paperwork, and working on our Global Entry applications this morning. We've been meaning to apply for a while, as we've typically gone abroad together several times per year for the last ten years, plus I'm now flying internationally for work as well. But now it makes even more sense as having Global Entry will smooth our application for the CBP's Small Vessel Reporting System (SVRS), formerly Local Boater Option, which allows you to clear into the US & territories with only a phone call (sometimes...sometimes they still want to see you face-to-face). I figure that'll be useful next year going between the DR, Puerto Rico, USVI and BVI. We're waiting to actually submit our applications until we have our South Dakota drivers licenses, which we'll be getting next week on our Christmas visit home.

Once we got to the boatyard we got busy right away. Today's main project was replacing our lightning-fried Trace C12 solar controller with a new Victron 75/15 MPPT solar controller. It's mounted in the electrical cabinet, which is a somewhat strange place for it as it involves long wire runs forward from the solar/davit arch and back to the battery bank under the aft berth. My eventual plan is to move the solar controller(s) to under the aft berth and install a charge monitor that'll track both wind and solar charging, but I'll wait to do that until we buy new solar panels next spring. Our 2-panel array is currently only about 170 watts; there's room on the davits for about 300W of new, more efficient Sunpower panels, and I plan on adding 200W in flexible panels to our bimini as well. Those will be subject to shading from the boom/sail so I plan to use small MPPT controllers for each half and a single larger controller for the stern arch array. As you can see, it'll be a pretty major change to the system that will nearly triple our solar production, and will involve some pretty complex setup. Until then, I'm keeping it simple by installing the Victron 75/15 right where the Trace was. It only took an hour or so to remove the Trace, mount the Victron, and reroute, strip and insert the battery and PV cables. It was a sunny day, so we turned off shore power and the wind and solar easily kept up with our scant on-the-hard loads (refrig is off, that's the big consumer). 


This morning I called Atlantic Boat ACR and left a message inquiring about having them replace our lightning-fried air conditioning control panel. To my great surprise, they called back within about 30 minutes, had me text them a few photos, came up with a potential solution right there, and two hours later had one of their technicians on our boat to confirm our current installation. Thus far in my boat ownership experience I've found such responsiveness among marine service providers to be extremely rare...normally, getting anything done is like pulling teeth. Hopefully this continues to be the exception.

This afternoon Dawn sanded the cockpit caprail and companionway hatch; it appears that we narrowly avoided moisture-borne disaster yesterday and will be able to continue varnishing without completely sanding the whole thing back down to bare wood. We'll see whether we get the next coat of varnish on tomorrow; it largely depends on how quickly it warms up from a very chilly overnight. We don't want to wait so long that there's no afternoon sun left to dry the varnish, which was our problem last time.

While Dawn sanded, I replaced the raw water strainer under the V-berth. This is the intake for the washdown pump and the forward head, and the strainer was a bit on the small side so I replaced it with a more robust unit. In doing so I noticed that most of the hose clamps in that area were old and several were badly corroded, so I replaced them all with Skandvik Marine ABA clamps. I got a 48-piece cruiser kit from Defender a few weeks ago and have since been replacing clamps every time I see degraded ones in safety-critical spots (which, it turns out, is most everywhere there are hose clamps in the first place!). I'm already nearly out of several popular sizes and will be reordering a bunch before we take off. They're pretty expensive for clamps, but this is one place it's stupid to be cheap. It doesn't take very long at all for salt air, heat and vibration to turn cheap hose clamps into rusty, brittle timebombs. I like saltwater but have a rather profound interest in keeping it outside of my boat!

After our $1100 order with Jamestown Distributors yesterday, we dropped $550 with Amazon tonight. Frighteningly easy to do, but zero impulse purchases; it was all stuff we knew we needed and had been researching and considering for a while. Several more items on the "before heading south" list have been checked off. The nice thing is that because I've continued working full-time and we're living relatively cheaply, we've been able to pay for most of the boat stuff out-of-pocket without dipping into our refit fund. That's good because the boatyard will be taking a BIG chunk of it when this boat is finally done!

Not entirely sure what we'll be doing tomorrow - probably early stops at West Marine and Ace Hardware. Not quite sure if I'll work on our teak deck or not. I'm really trying to psych myself up for it but it may be too cold for the epoxy to kick. I'll have to read up on it tonight, it's been ages since I've worked with the stuff.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

See and Be Seen

We started the day with shopping at West Marine and Radio Shack, which open at 9am, so we got to the boatyard a bit late but still got most everything on our list done and left earlier than usual. Actually, we didn't get another coat of varnish on...when we arrived, it appeared that the cockpit caprail varnish might be ruined because it collected dew last night before the varnish cured. Basically, we just sanded and varnished too late in the day yesterday so it never dried. But the varnish was actually still wet, and we were able to get rid of the milkiness by wiping it down. It dried to a normal color this afternoon, albeit not very glossy. I'm hoping we can salvage it with another few coats of varnish, it'd be a shame if all that work was for nothing.

I had a few minor electrical projects today but my main project was installing the VHF antenna splitter and AIS transponder. We had already installed the AIS' dedicated GPS antenna on the radar arch and ran its cable most of the way forward; I extended that to the nav station. The splitter I mounted inside the electrical compartment, while I mounted the transponder inside the shelf alongside the nav station. I installed a terminal block just above the splitter; the terminal block receives power from the VHF radio circuit breaker and now powers the VHF radio, antenna splitter, and AIS. I powered everything up and was able to verify that the AIS unit is working correctly, though of course it can't receive or transmit properly until the mast is in place and the VHF antenna is hooked back up. The Vesper has quite a few auxiliary features, like an anchor alarm, or being a NMEA2k wifi multiplexer, but its main role as an AIS transponder is an important one in my estimation, particularly on a shorthanded boat at night. It's a pretty big safety boon to be able to see commercial traffic, where they're headed, and what their callsign is so that any evasive action can be coordinated over the radio.

The other thing we got done today was sealing up a hole in the bottom of the propane locker that the propane hose (and now, the AIS GPS antenna cable) pass through. The previous sealant had come loose and anyways we had to dislodge it to run the cable; propane being heavier than air, the opening was a safety hazard (plus a potential source of water ingress into the cabin) so we sealed it up well.

After Piper's beach time I took a nap today, then put in a big $1100 order with Jamestown Distributors that should pretty well take care of the supplies and spares we needed before heading south. After dinner we watched The Revenant on Dawn's computer. Tomorrow I'm planning to install a solar controller to replace the one that got fried by lightning, and perhaps start work on replacing popped teak deck bungs.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cleanup on Aisle Three

My three-day work trip to London went well. I spent four hours in the British Museum, had a few pints and dinner with the captain and other FO, read Chris Parker's Marine Weather Manual and Stephen Pavlidis' Exumas Guide, and still got a little online shopping in. I have a pretty good order going at Jamestown Distributors, though I'll hold off on closing out until I'm sure I have all the spares and supplies we need to order. My commuter flight back to Charleston was delayed on Monday night, so I didn't get back to Isle of Palms until after midnight. It was a slow start yesterday and we didn't get a ton done - we mainly just installed our new Wirie Pro wifi/xG booster/antenna/router. There's a good spot for it on the port side of the solar arch that will accommodate larger solar panels later on, we just had to move a solar-powered secondary anchor light to the starboard side. I spent some time routing the power cable up the arch, making it as inconspicuous as possible, and made a good waterproof splice with the existing power cable.

This morning we arrived much earlier and were fairly productive today. We finished the annual and semi-annual servicing of our Yamaha Enduro 15 outboard; it and the dinghy should be good to go for our Bahamas cruise, I just need to make up a dinghy tool kit (to bring along on extended dinghy explorations) and get some extra 2-stroke oil. We dried out the settee cushions that got soaked this weekend when rain leaked through the holes where the chainplates used to be (the yard put plastic over the holes, but it wasn't a great seal). We fine-sanded the cockpit caprail & companionway hatch, and brushed on the 3rd coat of Epifanes varnish. I messed around with our Wirie Pro's settings for a while - for some reason it's not detecting the boatyard's wifi (neither is Dan & Isabelle's Wirie, so it's not just us). I started the installation of our VHF splitter and Vesper AIS transponder, then changed my mind about where it should go, started over, and got sidetracked (again!) into the rats nest in our electrical panel. I really want to clean it up but can't really do much until our autopilot is replaced. Oh, speaking of which, I finally got ahold of Tidal Marine Electronics; they couldn't give me a start date but said we're in line and they should definitely be done by January 1st. That would be great but with all the other delays we've had, color me a bit skeptical.

Our other task for today was one I've been procrastinating on because it was pretty messy and nasty. A while ago, presumably while we were sailing to Charleston, a bunch of West System resin spilled in the compartment above the engine room. It was in a bag, in a can with a metering pump on it, and was back where I couldn't really see it, so I had no idea the can tipped over and was slowly oozing resin onto the floor of the compartment...which is also the ceiling of the engine room. There are several holes for cables to pass through, and eventually the resin oozed down through them and then saturated the foam/foil engine room insulation attached to the ceiling. Some then drizzed onto and around the engine. I didn't discover this until a week or two ago, when I cleaned out the compartment above the engine. What a sticky mess. Today Dawn and I removed all the insulation fasteners and then tore down the sticky resin-saturated insulation and threw it away. I then vacuumed around the engine room and scrubbed off the resin. Disgusting. We measured the areas we need to get new insulation for, and will look for it at West Marine tomorrow along with a few other things. I also need to stop at Radio Shack to get a terminal block that will make for a cleaner install of the VHF splitter and AIS box, and an OS-238 terminal for the VHF antenna coax from the mast...the riggers cut off the old one when they were removing the mast. I have a few other small electrical projects on the back burner as well, so tomorrow will be quite electric. The nice weather is supposed to continue for another few days so we should be able to get on the fourth coat of varnish as well.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Productive Friday

Wrapping up a rather productive week of boatwork, I had a pretty ambitious list put together and got most of it done (plus a few extras not on the list). We got the first coat of varnish on the cockpit caprail as well as the companionway hatch (which we sanded and coated with five coats of Epifanes Rapid Clear several weeks ago before rainy weather and boatyard worker traffic intervened). Dawn will get a second coat on tomorrow after I fly to Atlanta; then it's supposed to rain on Sunday and Monday so we won't get on subsequent coats till later next week. After that I spent time clearing unused cabling out from behind the nav station, electrical panel, and port settee. In some cases I left lengths of wires to be used as pilot lines through inaccessible passages, but overall the rats nest is quite a bit more manageable now and will be even better once the new NMEA2k network is in and all the old NMEA0183 stuff is ripped out.

I mounted the dedicated GPS antenna for our Vesper AIS transponder on our davit/solar arch, and fished its cable down through the arch, through the propane locker, down behind the aft bulkhead, under our bed, and under the aft cabin cabinets. This took a while but ended up being fairly painless. We recently removed a cockpit spotlight from the arch; its power cable will be used for our WiriePro wifi antenna/booster/router when it arrives next week, but in the meantime we were able to use it to get two pilot lines down through the arch. One pilot line pulled the power cable back through and the other ran the GPS cable. From there it was pretty easy, just a lot of snipping zipties and fastening new ones. I'll finish installing the Vesper next week, but this was the most labor-intensive task.


During the day we got our new Frigidaire 900W/0.9 cu ft microwave from; it replaces the old White-Westinghouse that the lightning fried. The new one is slightly smaller. I tried it using our inverter and it works fine...though our power monitor recorded a battery-draining 110 amp draw! Won't use that off of shore power too often, but it's nice to have for reheating underway or avoiding heating up the cabin in the tropics by using the stove. More excitingly, we also got our new Doyle mainsail today! Can't wait to see it and even more to sail with it. Just need a mast to put it on, at this point!


This afternoon we lowered our Yamaha Enduro 15 outboard to the ground using the crane, and I did most of the required annual and semi-annual maintenance. It's in really good shape; two years ago Mark and Judy had it professionally refurbished, and it still looks like new. I wasn't able to pull the spark plugs though; my deep socket set only goes up to 19mm and the spark plug appears to be 20mm or possibly 13/16". Good to find that out here!


We finished up at 5pm, a bit later than usual, and headed home to get Piper his beach run, albeit in the dark. He didn't care, he still ran his little heart out. Lately he and I have been playing fetch in the water with his favorite floatie stick; I've been coaxing him to chase it further and further out, and he's becoming quite the salty swimmer dog. He's even managed to accidentally doggie-surf a few breakers! We stayed on terra firma tonight, though, as it was likely too dark for him to see the stick in the water.

Dawn and I were originally supposed to go out tonight in downtown Charleston with Canadian cruisers Dan and Isabelle, but they had to cancel when she had to unexpectedly fly back to Canada today. We'll reschedule for another week. Instead Dawn and I decided to stay a little closer to home this week, and had dinner at Poe's Tavern in nearby Sullivan's Island. Cool place with great food.

Tomorrow I head to Atlanta around 11am; I'm working the 7:10pm flight to London-Heathrow. I have a 29 hour overnight there and get back late Monday. Dawn will be varnishing Saturday, taking Sunday off, and then doing a whole lot of shopping on Monday (West Marine, Lowes, Autozone, the local Yamaha dealer, etc). Meanwhile I'll do some remote shopping in London on and Amazon while planning out our next week of boat work.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

On the Move

Windbird was moved today for the third time since coming out of the water. The boatyard needed the space to put new plastic sides on their painting shed, but it's for the best - it was pretty cold in the shadow of the shed and we could use the sun as we're about to apply several coats of varnish to the cockpit caprail. The other big news today was that we finally got the machine shop's estimate to fabricate new chainplates and stem iron. The dollar amount is about what I expected, but the timeline to complete the job is a lot longer than we expected: a full two weeks. Add on probably another week of work after we get them back, and we'll be lucky if the boat is in the water by Christmas.


With that in mind, we went ahead and just rented our beach condo for the full month of December; it's about the same cost as two weeks rental anyways. We'll be back in MN & SD with our families from the 14th to the 20th, and then I'll be working the 22nd through the end of the month with only the morning of the 25th back in Charleston. So really, unless the boat is ready to launch on the 21st, it probably won't happen until after the New Year. Florida and the Bahamas seem very far away right now but all we can do is keep plugging away at our "before going south" list. There's actually a fair amount that can be done out of the water. A lot of it consists of ordering spares, supplies and provisions, and we've started doing that in addition to all the big and little projects in & around the boat. Tomorrow I'll be doing the annual service on the outboard, replacing degraded soundproofing in the engine room, and running wiring for our new AIS transponder. This afternoon we taped off and sanded the companionway hatch and cockpit caprail, and Dawn will get the first coat of Epifanes clear varnish on tomorrow morning and a second on Saturday before the weather turns rainy on Sunday.

I actually picked up a three-day London trip for Saturday to bring my December schedule back up to full-time (I had dropped two overnight trips). With the yard not doing anything on the boat for two weeks I can spare the time, and we could use some extra cash to pay for the ever-spiraling refit. And I can order stuff from Defender whilst belly-up to the bar at a local pub just as easily as I can from home (probably more easily, considering the slow wifi here). I don't commute to Atlanta until Saturday afternoon, so Dawn and I are having another Friday Night Date in downtown Charleston tomorrow night. Dan and Isabella from s/v Epic (the Jeanneau 41) will be joining us, should be fun.