Archive for the ‘Maintenance’ Category

Boat Makeover

June 9, 2016

A few weeks ago while staying on the boat I poked my head out of the galley to see a woman standing on the dock next to our shore power pedestal. She stared hard at our hull.

I climbed into the cockpit wondering if she was a SailNetter or former USCG Auxiliary boating safety student. Both have approached me in the past. I welcome former students or those I meet online in my role as one of several SailNet forum moderators. But on this day I was somewhat sensitive about Halcyon’s present condition this late into the beginning of the sailing season.

“Hi,” I said and joined her on the dock.

It turned out that she recognized Halcyon from when it was kept in Annapolis, its former home port. Eastport Yacht Club to be precise. Changing the home port on the transom from Annapolis to Rock Hall is very far down on our To Do list and we kept the name Halcyon as it wasn’t offensive or silly. The original name was Sea Hag. I would have chanced my remaining lung (another story) to rename the boat before buying a boat named Sea Hag.

Standing on the dock I looked sheepishly at the dirty hull, the blue showing through the non-skid sections that needed to be painted, the tape covering the spot where the mast should be, the boom lashed to the deck, the dodger and bimini tubing laying in the cockpit and thought “This is why my dad moved out of the suburbs.” I wondered if the woman saw me as the neighbor that rarely cut her lawn or had paint peeling off the house shutters while everyone else on the block kept manicured lawns and rose gardens that won prizes. To a stranger I’m sure it appeared as if John and I weren’t keeping up with the Joneses. So to speak. Did she look at our boat and remember a time when Halcyon was regularly waxed and the teak varnished and not peeling down to bare wood as it is now? Did she think we were not worthy caretakers of this boat?


Next to us (not in its slip at the time) is a nice Lippincott 30, hull #2 named Sea Chase 2. In the slip on the other side of Sea Chase 2 is a lovingly kept Catalina 387. The prize of the dock (in my eyes) is a Bob Perry-designed Tayana 38 restored by the owner who works at the marina and lives aboard. The brightwork gleams. The cowl vents appear to strain down bay as if sniffing the Atlantic salt water past Norfolk and yearning for the open ocean. It looks ready to sail out of the slip and continue around the world, which the owner was preparing to do until a new girlfriend came along. Not around the world entirely but back to his homeland of New Zealand (which might as well be around the world).

Never mind that I was putting pressure on myself for no reason. It clearly looked like the boat was being repaired. Over the winter the marina removed the mast so that we could get the standing rigging inspected and replaced. We added a new dusk to dawn anchor light (the previous owners chose not to have an anchor light at all), fixed the steaming light and the deck light. We bought a new windex to replace the one bent by a bird. The old Shakespeare radio antenna was replaced with a recommended Metz antenna and new RG-8X coax cable run. John replaced all the electrical wires and changed to LED bulbs. He removed a gross nest of abandoned wire and rotted sponges from previous owner projects.

Once the mast is reunited with the boat all the wire will neatly enter the deck through two low-profile fittings. I cleaned Rock Hall out of sponges and cable ties so the wires inside the mast will (should) be silent with no clanging heard from inside the cabin. We bought new halyards that will actually fit the sheaves. Hopefully John won’t have as hard a time raising the mainsail as he had been having.

Over the winter we planned to have my nephew’s newly trained welder friend repair our bent bow rail. Instead, the welder friend fell in love and fell off our radar. Every now and then I ask my nephew how the relationship is going so that I can get the rail repaired. Darn those 20-something hormones.

As of today the mast is due to be stepped by the end of the week. Halcyon will be whole again. Next week the new canvas (bimini, dodger, sail cover) will be installed. With luck and no wind for the next two days (can’t put the mast on if it is too windy), we should be ready for a shakedown sail next weekend. Fluff has already packed her bag for the short sail across the bay to meet fellow Blue Marsh Sailing sailors at Baltimore Yacht Club for the weekend.

God help the winds if they don’t calm down enough for the mast to be stepped so Fluff can start her sailing season.


And We’re Off!

March 31, 2012

It has been a rough week but in the end…our new Beta Marine engine. Sea trials are next week. I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. John gets his gauges. As an instrumentation guy, he’d put a gauge on me if I stood still long enough. Now to make the rest of the boat look as good!

New Addition…

March 11, 2012

Halcyon’s new Beta Marine diesel.

Beta Marine

2012 Here We Come! But Are We Ready?

March 4, 2012

Boating season is almost here and John and I have yet to start on our winter project list. The sails are still folded and have not been cleaned, the anchor hatch cover is still propped up against the garage wall and has not yet been reinforced like I intended, the reefing line has not been replaced… Ah well. Why should this year be any different?

Although the temperature is still chilly and I’m not about to abandon my socks yet, I know that the boating season is just around the corner because the West Marine and Defender catalogues have arrived. The internet is convenient, but nothing beats a chilly, rainy March day curled up with a glass of wine, my Post-its, highlighters, and a boating supply catalogue. Without the background noise of my laptop’s fan or the distraction of the internet, I can mark items in yellow for my Wish List, pink for Must Buys, green for More Research and blue for What the Heck?

My first item of business in the newest catalogue is to see what’s new in the world of VHF handheld radios. Blue tooth? Done. GPS? Done. Integrated FRS? Done a long time ago. What will be the new gimmick this year? Next are life jackets (formerly called PFDs by the U.S. Coast Guard until they realized that the acronym just wasn’t catching on with the boating public). It’s hard to beat the inflatable vests. Perhaps this year I may try one of those pouches. I’m skeptical so maybe it’s time for me to investigate why they are popular and what use they would really be in a MOB situation.

We’re still not ready to spend thousands of dollars on chartplotters and radar so I skip those sections other than a brief glance to be able to speak about what’s new in my boating classes.

One problem with perusing the catalogues is that the To Do list gets longer. I think of lines that should be replaced, blocks that might be tired, and should we change the anchor rode?

I guess it doesn’t matter. Nothing on the list seems to be getting done anyway.

A Quick Fix, Often Overlooked

July 28, 2011

John smelled something bad. Just a little something but enough to make him change into his work shorts. He bought these shorts for a couple of dollars on a trip to Vietnam and they seem to be indestructible. He puts them on to get down to series maintenance work like Superman stepping into the phone booth. Once the shorts come on he completely focuses on the job at hand.

Since buying Halcyon our concern has been with the engine and its problems. It seems to be running well these days (knock on wood). On this day John decided to pay some attention to the port side, which houses the holding tank. Good thing he did because he discovered a small leak where the sanitation hose (through which the pump out nozzle sucks the sewage) meets the tank.

While John readied his tools I went to the marina office to tell them our problem and to see if they had spares in stock if we needed to replace the hose. Doug, the office manager, assured me that it was a common sanitation hose and they had them in stock. He stopped me before I left his office and said that an often overlooked maintenance item is the holding tank vent hose and since we were in there anyway, we should look at it. The pump out hose sometimes forces waste up into the vent hose or critters get into it and build nests, he said. Both will eventually block the hose and create pressure build up within the tank, causing things to explode and go really, really bad. FanTAStic.

By the time I returned to the boat, John, Troubleshooter Extraordinaire, had already removed the vent hose from the holding tank and had figured out that it might be the problem. He traced the hose to where it exited the boat: under a stanchion. The stanchion had a small-diameter hole that let out the air.

With me keeping an eye on the hole, John forced water through the hose from below. At first only a trickle of water came through. Eventually a little more water with more pressure behind it shot through until finally what looked like grass clogged up the hole. We removed the debris and forced more water through until it was clear and water exited the hole in the stanchion with considerable pressure.

Doug was correct. The clogged vent allowed pressure to build up in the tank each time someone used the head. The weak spot was where the pump out hose met the tank and it began to balloon at the hose clamp just enough to leak. Eventually it would have completely come undone from the tank and we would have had a bigger problem.

Clearing the vent also took care of another problem. A few weeks ago we noticed that the handle on the head was no longer drawing in raw water when we pumped the waste out of the bowl. Also, the head sink drained extremely slowly. By chance, I noticed that pumping the handle drew the water out of the sink and into the bowl. It wasn’t using raw water. These were both on our list of things to look at but after John cleared the vent the head returned to normal and the sink drained as it should.

Superman prevented a sh*# storm.

Plans A, B, C, and D

July 5, 2010

John contemplating a new engine.

John and I took the week off before the 4th of July weekend. During one of the snow storms that kept me home last winter I spent enjoyable hours researching, planning and plotting on the chart towns on the Bay to visit during the week. I began with an overly aggressive series of sails that included a different town each night. By spring I came to my senses and narrowed it down to two or three towns to visit within the week ending at our home marina in Rock Hall, MD for the fireworks on the 3rd. On the drive down to the boat we once again changed our plans and decided to play it by ear by starting out exploring the bottom of the Patapsco River as we are planning our sail club’s bridge to bridge race in the fall.

We drove down to Rock Hall on Monday evening because the weekend was just too hot and there was no wind. Tuesday morning we did our pre-underway preparations which included checking the oil. All was well. We planned to sail south from our marina at the entrance to Swan Creek to green can 1 where we would turn west and head off for adventure. Normally we turn at green can 3 but a few weeks ago our slip neighbor, who draws less than our 5’3”, touched bottom after turning.

We left the slip at high tide. The wind seemed perfect to get us there (wherever there was) fast and the sky was cloudless. I was at the helm while John released the lines. It was windy and as soon as the bow cleared the slip the wind grabbed hold of it and I had a little bit of a struggle getting us in the right direction but we made it out with no damage to our boat, the pilings or anyone else’s boat. Once into the fairway everything sounded good and Halcyon smoothly glided out of the marina. As soon as I cleared the fuel dock and turned into the channel the engine started sounding off. I started losing headway into the channel, wind waves crashed into the bow adding to the drama. A few minutes later after belching out thick grey smoke the engine stopped. During that few minutes John ran down to the engine compartment and pulled out the dipstick on which he discovered runny grey oil. We drifted (quickly in that wind) towards the docks outside of the marina, set the anchor with about 20 feet to spare before crashing into the docks and called Boat US.

Before Halcyon was launched this season I upgraded our towing package to “unlimited” not realizing that our first tow would be from right outside our marina! In about 45 minutes the tow boat arrived from Baltimore, took us in a side two and guided us back into our slip. The tow boat operator was professional and gave clear instructions for tying the lines and weighing the anchor while both boats were tied together. Because of the narrow fairway to our slip trying to get back in under sail was out of the question. We are not that experienced nor are we prepared to buy any of the Island Packets and other 40 foot plus boats we pass on our way to our slip.

Once tied in our slip we made arrangements to have the engine looked at by the marina. We weren’t sailing any time soon. Later that afternoon the mechanic drained the oil. That evening John researched new engines. On Wednesday the mechanic added new oil and started the engine with the seacock closed just long enough to see if the engine would turn over. The engine started so he didn’t think it would need either a total rebuild or that we would have to buy a new engine. He told us that it could be anything but that he thought the gasket blew causing the raw water to mix with the oil so he would start there.   Since he couldn’t get to the gasket until after the holiday we re-grouped and worked out Plan D (another post).

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.