Saturday, July 31, 2010

July 30, 2010.

Somebody asked me for a better picture of the material I’m using to make the frame for the windows in our dodger. It’s called “h” channel and we bought it in 8 foot lengths and cut them to size. The slot of the h comes in various widths. We bought the ¼ inch slot to accept our glass. When we install the assembled frames into the dodger we’ll glue and screw through the flange around the perimeter of the window.

This week at work was a little, read that as very little bit more pleasant as the temperatures finally started to ebb a bit. 88° beats the hell outta 98°anyday.

Late last week we had a guy call and beg us to get his boat going as he wanted to entertain business associates over the weekend, so “Bob” and I ran down there to have a little look see. It turned out that there was a little hole rotted through the exhaust system just before the mixing elbow.

This part of the exhaust is a cast 90° turn that lives between the turbo and the mixing elbow. We called the guy to report our findings and to tell him that the part is at least a week away. He responded with…please, please, please…I’ve got to be able to use the boat this weekend, is there anything you can do.

“Bob” finally succumbed to the pressure and told the guy that even though its against his better judgment we could probably jury rig it well enough that he could putt-putt around the river with his associates. BUT, and theres a big but, whatever happens don’t run it up high enough that the turbo charger spools up. At the time we didn’t realize that the guy and his buddies worked at Idiots R Us.

So the weekend has passed, the parts been ordered and the captain calls us on the phone. He thinks his turbo charger has shit the bed. When asked “why, what happened?” he responds with “Well, it was all going fine so on the way home I opened her up a bit and all of a sudden there black smoke coming from the engine room. It seemed to start when the turbo kicked in”

The turbo is fine but he blew the temporary repair all to hell and the hot exhaust gasses decided to take the newly opened shortcut as they were leaving the engine. So instead of going through the exhaust system the exhaust forced its way through the hole and into the engine room. The captain says he backed off it but the hole was open and he made the command decision to keep on driving the boat all the way back to the slip. The problem with that decision is that now everything in the entire engine room was coated with a fine patina of sooty black exhaust residue.

As a result Pablo and I spent almost 6 hours a piece scraping, vacuuming, spraying and wiping EVERY surface in the engine room. Every little stinking nook and cranny in the entire engine room. Both engines, the floor, the ceiling, the hot water heater, the generator, the batteries….everything. We had to clean our way in, do the ceiling and then work our way down and back out. I wore one of those head to toe tyvek suits and by the end of the day I could have passed for an anal swab at an elephant clinic.

We used a shop vac, some special high dollar soot gathering sponges (which sucked), Spray Nine, 409, Greased Lightning, Simple Green and 9 rolls of paper towels.

And joy upon joy, when I got home I found out that we’re having refrigeration issues……Crap.

Monday, July 26, 2010

July 25, 2010.

We spent the weekend working on the hard dodger. On Saturday we spent some time sanding the seam overlaps on the fiberglass covering. The outside is ready to have the fairing compound applied while the inside is ready for final paint.

It was at this point that we decided to cut the holes for the windows. While I held each piece of glass in its assigned spot Christy traced the outline onto the dodger. Then I used the circular saw when possible and the jigsaw when necessary to cut the panels out. After a bit of sanding, Christy mixed up a small amount of resin and painted it
on the exposed edges of the openings in an effort to seal the wood.

While we waited for the resin to dry we set about whittling up a few frames for the windows. After a little trial and error about exactly what tools and techniques we should be using things started to come together for us. By the time we went home on Saturday afternoon we had the 2 largest windows mocked up and resting in place. We got home just in time to head out for a bite with the crew of the Fine Lion, Kim & Steve.

On Sunday I headed out early while Christy did boat chores before heading over to a nearby pool. I refined my manufacturing technique and was pleased to find that I could fabricate and fit an entire frame in less than an hour a piece.

All the windows now have frames. All of the openings are sized correctly so I wrapped the windows up and put them away until we’re ready for final assembly on the boat.

It was time for me to start experimenting with the fairing compound and its application. I’ve used the West System Epoxy System enough that I’m comfortable with it. The fairing compound is new to me though. I consulted with a few self proclaimed experts with answers coming from every point of the compass. The official directions are semi vague and use phrases like “Do not use in areas subject to high heat”. What exactly does “high heat” mean? The engine room? The top of my dodger under the broiling Caribbean sun? The actual surface of the sun? They also use terms like “peanut butter consistency”. Which peanut butter, Skippy or Sears? How about giving me something radical like MEASUREMENTS….. On the bright side, I figured that if they could be so random with their instructions, it must not be too difficult. So I mixed up a batch of Skippy and smeared it as evenly as I could across a small section of the dodger. Tomorrow after its dry I’ll whack it with the sander and see how it goes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

July 23, 2010.

Things have been moving along here. The weather is still hot as hell and Christy is still making peoples brightwork look fabulous while I’m still doing the boat repair thing.

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been doing some major upgrades to the wiring on a cruising boat that’s being readied for a circumnavigation. The boats 20 years old but in good shape with the wiring suffering from decades of multiple owners piggy backing all sorts of wiring onto existing circuits.

The biggest part of the upgrade was changing out the worn out lead acid batteries for some brand spankin’ new AGM’s.
Along with the new 1000 amp house bank and 8D starting battery was the installation of a second alternator to keep the amps flowing.

The boat already has a 90 amp alternator cranking out the amps but in addition to that I was charged with adding a second, 185 amp alternator. The new alternator is huge, weighs a ton and demanded a staunch installation.

So now at peak charging the system can put out 275 amps. The run from the engine room to the batteries is kinda’ lengthy so it forced me to use 4/0 wire. This stuff is as thick as my big toe, very heavy and not very pliable. Working with it was a challenge but things went well and the boat now makes just a tad less power than most nuclear submarines. They can now hit “vaporize” rather than “puree” on their blender.

In keeping with my reputation I did manage to shock the heck outta myself. The ironic part of that was that I was putting safety dividers into an electrical panel to keep the 110 side away from the 12 volt side. The dividers are to keep the next guy from being inadvertently zapped while farting around in the panel. I just happened to be the dolt that got the jolt while installing these fabulous safety devices. So while there was no incredibly beautiful yet somewhat frightening shower of sparks there was a bit of electrical hijinks. On the bright side though, I think I may be developing an immunity to electrocution.

My other biggy for the past week was the replacement of the head bolts in the Entec generator on a catamaran. It’s a small, high revving generator with 4 bolts keeping the head from launching into orbit.

One of the 4 bolts had broken and needed to be replaced. As they say in the real estate game…..location, location, location. The gen set was under the berth in the forward part of the port hull. It was easy to get to and actually comfortable to work on. The same job in most other
boats would have been a nightmare but here it was a dream. I just sat on the edge of the bunk with the genny between my knees with my tools at arms length. Broken boat crap nirvana.

I got the broken head bolt out with the help of a torch to burn away the Loc-tite holding the broken threads in place. Then for shits and grins the owner had me replace a second bolt as well. Another liberal application of heat and the second bolt was out as well. I was obviously on a roll and the afternoon flew by as I put everything back together before heading home to the Veranda.

This evening I had to help replace the batteries in a cruising catamaran. While I lugged the old batteries away “Bob” made all the connections on the new system. Once he was done we had to reprogram the external regulators on both engines to recognize the new batteries size and type. After that was done I ran through the Link 1000 battery monitor and reset the parameters to match the new batteries.

The Link monitor was mounted above the navigation station so it was at arms length while I ran through the setup review for the owner. This is where the reminder of just how hot it is here cropped up. While I was talking to the captain there was this annoying drip, drip, drip sound. It was then that I realized that it was a near constant stream of sweat pouring off the elbow of my outstretched arm onto a pile of papers on the nav station. I thought I might have gotten away without anyone noticing until I was done prepping the owner and “Bob” handed me a hand rag…..oh well, sweat happens.

Friday, July 16, 2010

July 16, 2010.

Usually when I’m at work, I’m alone. There may be others on the boat but that’s the nature of working on boats, space is limited and you’ve got your own little piece of the boat. I can be in the engine room, up the mast or under the helm station, others may be around but it’s me and my project.

Today while working in the engine room of a large power yacht there was a bit of a commotion above me on the main deck. I just had to poke my head up and see what was going on. Mistake, mine.

That was where I was sucked from my uncomfortable, solitary spot in the engine room into the black hole of a co worker’s clusterfuck. This co worker who I’ll call Dullard was tasked with removing and replacing the ship’s refrigerator/ freezer with a new unit.

There was nothing wrong with the old unit and upon closer inspection I found it to be as clean as a new one and in perfect working condition. It was literally showroom spotless. It was a large upright unit just a little smaller than one used in a house. The captain’s wife wanted a new one, it’s her galley, so she’s getting one that she picked out. This left Dullard with the job of removing a pristine, working fridge and plugging in a new one.

The hitch in this simple plan was that the old unit didn’t fit out the entryway of the boat. The doors and some framing needed to be removed from the fridge so it could be squeezed out of the boat. This is where the noise that had drawn me from the bilge came in. Rather than use a screwdriver and carefully disassemble the front of the fridge, Dullard decided to use a large hammer and chisel. Mistake, his. By the time I came up and saw the fridge it looked as if it had been used as a hood ornament on a demolition derby car. He took a perfect fridge that would have served some other boater for years to come and completely destroyed it.

As I processed the scene before me I asked Dullard a question, “Have you measured the new fridge to make sure that you can get it into the boat?” This was definitely my favorite part of the day. It was awesome to watch him receive and process my question. It was met with a little cock of his head so that I could tell immediately it had never occurred to him. Then there was the classic clouding of the eyes as he realized he might have just beat the shit outta the only fridge that was ever gonna fit in here….

He scurried away to his truck to measure the new fridge while I finished up in the engine room. I was just about done when he came and confirmed my fears. The only way it was going to fit was with some heavy duty disassembly which would void the warrantee on the new unit. Dullard called the ships owner and was told to “go for it” as the owner wanted his admiral to be happy. Of course, I don’t think Dullard told him the old fridge was already scrap, so we got lucky.

I listened patiently as Dullard outlined his plan for getting the new unit aboard. Then I told him “No”. Dullard is older than I am with more seniority in the company so I have this natural compulsion to defer to him but I had to draw the line somewhere. The new fridge was in its box, mounted atop a pallet and he wanted to manhandle the whole shebang into the cockpit. The box had to lift off the fridge and the ceiling was only 2 feet over our heads, not to mention that we’d have all this extra crap in the confines of the cockpit. Of course, he could cut the box away in the cockpit but there was no chance I would let Dullard near the new fridge with a box knife.

So I put my foot down and we humped the naked fridge onto the swim platform and up into the cockpit. Once there we removed the doors and trim plates with a screwdriver rather than the tried and true method of the hammer and chisel.

Once stripped the fridge fit nicely into the boat. The project then became mine as Dullard had adopted a supervisory role. I don’t mind as it’s a lot easier to do it myself than it is to watch him “Cro-Magnon” his way through it. I reassembled the fridge and prepared to wire it into the system.

The old fridge lived in a blind hole so in order to pull it out the wiring had to have a 4 foot service loop to enable the fridge to be pulled out while still plugged in. So when the old fridge was pulled out there were basically 3 choices as to where to cut the wires. You could be an idiot and cut the wires as far back into the recess as possible, you could cut them right at the back of the fridge you were planning to destroy or you could be wishy washy and incapable of making a decision and cut them in the middle.

So, where would you guess that Dullard cut the wires? That’s right, the idiot cut them as far back as he could, practically flush with the bulkhead. Predictably the wires on the new fridge were only a foot long so I had to go get the wires from the old fridge and piece them together. The icing on the cake for me was when I realized that Dullard had never shut the power to the fridge off, before cutting the wires. That’s right, Sparky’s in the house.

At this point Dullard thought it might be better if he left. As he left I waved goodbye. He dutifully returned my wave. I was really just checking to see if he actually had opposable thumbs. I’m always surprised when I see him walking upright.

The fridge is in, the captain’s beer is cold, the admiral is happy and tomorrow is another day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

July 11, 2010.

We’ve been fiberglassing a bit more. It’s a long slow process because we can only do sections at a time. Then it has to dry overnight before we can do a bit more. Couple that with the fact that I’ve been working some OT, and progress is a bit slow. The windows are ready so I’ll pick them up in the morning and the “h” channel arrived yesterday. So once the glasswork is done we should be all set to finish the dodger. Once that’s completed I’ll start the hard bimini. It’s a little simpler so it should go faster. I’m hopping to install the whole shebang by the middle of August.

We’re also juggling a bit of a social calendar, because I’m such a social butterfly. Actually, its more like people want to see Christy and I’m allowed to tag along. Inamorata is back in the Chesapeake so we got to spend an afternoon and share a meal with Jeff & Tessa. Then Freedom passed through Annapolis on their way to New England so we supped with them as well. We haven’t seen Jim & Deb in about 2 years so it was good to catch up with them.

Last but not least was the arrival of the Tall Oaks Yacht Club cruisers to the Chesapeake. When we still lived in Jersey we were members of the TOYC. Every year they take a 2 week group cruise. Usually its north to Long Island Sound and out to Block Island. This year it was south to the Chesapeake. It was great to see the group from Forked River and we were lucky to be able to spend 2 evenings in their company.

On the Veranda Christy is still turning out fabulous culinary experiences.
But I think she might have finally gone around the bend a bit. Yesterday we received a huge box packed with dehydrated foodstuffs. She swears these things will come back to life once they’re rehydrated. They’re supposed to retain a lot more of the vitamins and taste and such that the canning process robs from other vegetables. We’ll see. There’s even dehydrated diced tomatoes. I dunno but I can’t really see these little hard lumps of crap coming back to life resembling anything like a diced tomato. Like I said, we’ll see. If they do resurrect themselves into something resembling food they will save us a ton of space and weight when it comes time to provision for the islands this fall.

Christy is in her element in the galley and I think the pressure is getting to her. Her recipe binder recently morphed from one binder into another. Man, she’s got a shit load of recipes.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 5, 2010.

I hope everybody had a safe and fun filled Fourth of July. I’ve got to admit that being from New Jersey fireworks in general were always a bit mystical for me. They can’t be bought or sold there so when I was a kid they always seemed so “illegal”. Once you leave the Garden State and head south you can pretty much buy them anywhere. My favorite stand that we’ve encountered so far was located right inside a liquor store. Nothing says fun like alcohol and explosives. It always amazes me at just how many fireworks related injuries there are every year. Did you read about the genius in New York who blew off his entire freaking arm? I’m sure this Einstein will make the papers again in a few years when he accidently rips his penis off while masturbating with his brand spankin’ new prosthetic arm. You’re welcome for the visual.

Anyway, we spent the holiday fiberglassing, before heading back to the boat for doggie haircuts, dinner and some fireworks.

Friday, July 2, 2010

July 2, 2010.

Hey look, its July. The ridiculous heat has finally broken here. We had a decent sized cold front push through bringing gobs of relief. The front ran all the way from Oklahoma up through Maine but if you look closely the only remaining bit of warm front was right over us in the Chesapeake. But it did finally get pushed south and it’s been pleasant here.

The steel trawler that’s been taking up so much of my time is finally done. If you go back a few entries you can see a picture of it when it was all white. I think the addition of the blue and red paint, are a huge improvement. The most interesting thing about this boat is that when all the work was completed the owner realized that he couldn’t pay for it. The guy had a list of over 30 things he wanted done, he got an estimate, he dropped a big deposit, the work is done and now he’s standing there “palms up” saying it was more than he expected. WTF? To say “Bob” is a little perturbed is an understatement. The guys wife is being a huge bitch about it. I have a feeling that the captain didn’t discuss finances with the admiral before he went on a little nautical spending spree and now he’s trying to backpedal his way outta the doghouse.

Christy and I have been spending our extra time working on the hard dodger. We glassed in some extra bits of wood to add some rigidity to the structure because so much of it gets cut away when we add the windows. We also made templates of all the windows we’ll be needing.

Speaking of which, the windows. The glass is cheap enough with the largest piece we’ll need running around 50 bucks. Mounting it in the dodger has presented us with a bunch of different options. I found one place; that if we send them the templates; they will manufacture our window complete with a fabulous one piece frame, ready to be plopped into place. Unfortunately, this pre-framed piece of loveliness would cost us close to $400 for our one largest window. Considering that we’ll need 10 windows….lets just say that he priced himself out of our ballpark. After some internet searching I was able to find some extruded aluminum channel and with a bit of work I think I can whip out 10 lovely windows for less than $75 a piece. So like Lewis & Clark, I think we’ll head in that direction…..