Archive for April, 2010

Championing the Unappreciated

April 25, 2010

Last Monday after I submitted our scaled back work order that only instructs the boatyard to perform the basic spring commissioning to the systems and fix the keel, it REALLY sank in that everything else will be added to our To Do list. As soon as I clicked Send and sent the work order on its way, I immediately went to BoatUS and upgraded our towing package to “unlimited.” We now have free towing from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean if we need it. Sorry, Honey. It’s not that I don’t have 100% confidence in John’s engine maintenance skills but we both have to be at work on Monday mornings.

After I left John off at the airport for his flight to Indiana with the diesel engine manual tucked into his laptop backpack, I thought about getting home and sinking into my comfy chair with a snack and a glass of wine and learning everything I could about Halcyon’s…head. For landlubbers that means the toilet. It may be the least glamorous job on the boat. I know that this may mean that all eyes turn toward me when a guest, forgetting that they aren’t at home with the benefit of a public sewer, stops up the system and creates a problem that even Febreze can’t hide.

Marine heads are usually part of a closed system with the waste going into a holding tank. Unless a boat owner invests in a compost system or one that treats the waste before discharging overboard, in US inland waters there are, thankfully, rules against the discharge from boats of untreated waste and heavy fines if caught discharging even unintentionally. This means, in part, making sure hoses are not dry-rotted and replacing them if I need to, checking for leaks and making sure that the holding tank is free of odors as much as possible. At least, that’s what I know to do before my research fills in the details.

There is no “unlimited marine plumbing repair” package offered by BoatUS and since John hasn’t said a peep about the head, I decided to step up to the plate and take it under my wing, make it my own, champion the unappreciated.

I want a cape. Bright red, please.


Doing It Ourselves Will Make Us Stronger

April 18, 2010

Here it is mid-April and I still have to send our commissioning list to the marina. The list, largely based on the survey we had done before we purchased Halcyon, shrinks and grows as my comfort level rises and falls.

I bought the Venture knowing it was going to be a project boat. One of the few times (maybe the only time?) John has said no to me was when I asked him if he wanted another project boat when we started our boat search. I mentioned the potential savings in the initial cost. It was a very emphatic NO.

We bought the Catalina knowing that there would be ongoing projects but that we could also continue sailing in comfort. We have three major fixes at the top of the list: the well-known “Catalina smile,” a leak (trickle, really) that only occurs at full throttle, and a bent bobstay turnbuckle. When discussing the leak with the boat yard manager he said that it sounded like the engine vibration causes the prop shaft to vibrate and should be addressed first.

There’s a sort of safety net for Catalina owners in the form of the Catalina 30 Yahoo group, the International Catalina 30 Owner’s Association and the Chesapeake Catalina Yacht Club to which we belong. Catalina owners are more than willing to share experiences, advice, and even a few have driven to help perfect strangers make repairs.

So, what to put on the commissioning form? We want to start poking around and learning more about the engine, a Universal Atomic Diesel 5411. The more I think about it, the more I convince myself that John’s six years of engine room experience on Coast Guard cutters should somehow translate to at least trying to work on an 11 horsepower engine. The owner’s association’s website has more than enough information from other owners who repaired their own bobstay.

That leaves the smile. Based on the immense amount of information available, we’ll hand this one over to professionals.

Finally (for now), the steaming light needs a replacement bulb. That means sending John up the mast with his still-in-the-original-wrapper boson’s chair. Unless I somehow manage to drop him 45 feet onto the deck, doing it ourselves will make us stronger…as long as it doesn’t maim us.

Introducing Halcyon

April 17, 2010

In October 2009 John and I purchased a 1980 Catalina 30 tall rig sailboat. Halcyon is our second sailboat. Our first was a 1972 Venture 2-22 on which we learned how to sail and perform simple maintenance such as fiberglass repair, hull painting and installing a masthead antenna. I taught myself fiberglass repair and learned that I need more patience and probably should leave it to professionals. But I know that in a pinch I can do it and at least I now know what is involved from a hands-on perspective. I learned not to wax at dusk. There are still bits of dried wax on the hull that I could not get off. I learned that while it looks fantastic, a solid mahogany rudder is a pain to take on and off in rolling seas. On the other hand, John has an electrical background and did an excellent job on the marine wiring, making sure that we wouldn’t burst into flames at an inopportune time. Like there is ever a good time.

When we decided to take the plunge and buy a larger boat I researched sailboats for two years, narrowing our choices to three boat manufacturers before choosing Catalina. The Catalina provided more headroom (we’re both tall), more cabin space for its length and an extremely strong owner’s association to tap into for advice. I spoke to several people who had sold their Catalina for other boats and regretted it. The Catalina is a lot of boat for the price, which was also important given the economy. The ability to ask questions of Catalina owners was priceless as we were able to pinpoint known issues and decide whether we wanted to take them on and could afford to have them fixed. Our broker told us that after a few years most Catalina 30 owners trade up to a larger Catalina and I find myself already eying a Catalina 445…but I’m sure his point was that we should get a fairly decent resale price if we are diligent with maintenance and upkeep.

Our primary cruising ground with Halcyon is the Chesapeake Bay. Halcyon’s home port is Rock Hall, MD located on the Eastern Shore. Because we bought the boat so late in the season we only had two trips on her: a perfect sail from Annapolis where we bought her up to Rock Hall and one day sail out of Rock Hall with air so light the Bay looked like glass. We have a few major fixes to complete and then we have a full season of sailing planned.