Friday, July 29, 2011

July 27, 2011.

Let’s say that you and a buddy decide to spend some time touring the east coast in a 27 foot Catalina. Simple day sails, gunkholing your way through the Chesapeake. You finally make your way to Annapolis and its pretty hot outside. You take a slip, tie up for the night and head off to one of the towns many watering holes. Sounds like a fine way to spend a summer evening.

After a few beers and a meal you and your buddy head back to the boat. It’s after dark and something just doesn’t seem right with the boat. You hop onboard and step below into shin deep water. Oh f@#k. Fortunately, the captain was aware of one of the golden rules of boating; the water should NEVER be shin deep inside the boat.

Water was coming in somewhere but they couldn’t figure out where. They checked all the usual suspects but nothing jumped out at them. The difficulty in finding the leak was compounded by the fact that every thru hull fitting was under water. Shit. It’s not that big of a boat, where the hell was the water coming from?

The bilge pump was running, but fighting a losing battle. One guy got the boat started and backed out of the slip while the other guy grabbed a bucket and started bailing. There is no more powerful bilge pump in the world than a scared sailor with a 5 gallon bucket.

In spite of this near disaster the Gods were really smiling down on these two. They got back from their night on the town just before the starter went under. They headed off in the dark into an unfamiliar port towards the first travel lift they saw. It was our travel lift and by dumb luck our service manager had stopped in late to take care of something. They flagged him down, he phoned one of the yard crew who lives nearby and the Catalina was soon safely hanging in the slings.

The culprit turned out to be a nasty crack a couple of inches below the waterline on the starboard side.
The crack is beneath the starboard side settee. There is no thru hull there so they never bothered to look there for the leak. In the dark I doubt they would have found it anyway. The cause of the crack is up for speculation. There were no real scrape marks as if they had glanced off something. It was almost as if something had impacted them directly from the side but well below the waterline. According to them they were tied up in a slip between 2 other boats so I can’t imagine how that might have happened. Dud torpedo perhaps or maybe an aggresive helmet wearing rogue manatee, I dunno.

Or it could be a bullshit story and they were out drinking and boating and bounced themselves off something in the dark. Who knows, it’s a mystery either way.
The hole is fixed and they have some new bottom paint and they’re back out continuing the adventure…..

Saturday, July 23, 2011

July 22, 2011.

Evidently Satan left the door open because it’s hot as hell here. I know that everything is relative. It’s not like we’re in full battle dress doing a thankless job in some shithole in the Middle East.
But God damn, it’s hot but at least theres no breeze.

We have air conditioning, but use it sparingly. We’ve only run it lately when we get home in the evening and shut it down just as we turn in for the night. This evening when we fired it up the room temperature was 100°.
I didn't even know the thermostat went out 3 numerals.

Boats generally aren’t the most efficient of air conditioned dwellings. Our AC unit will knock the humidity out of the air pretty quickly but the temperature drops oh so slowly. But once the humidity’s gone, it does start to feel pretty good pretty quickly. Tucker even enjoys the rare evening below in more temperate surroundings.

Christy is at that juncture of a woman’s life when she could burst into flames at any moment. Working outside, with a heat gun in her hand, combined with the weather this week has been challenging at best. I pretty much bob and weave and try to stay out of the way.

Christy and her boss Maggie have their backs to the wall. They have a 1957, 60 foot wooden Chris Craft that has to be refinished by the first week in August.
Unfortunately, last week Maggie fell on a section of decrepit dock and broke 2 ribs. That left Christy in the sun with her heat gun and scraper by herself for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. She worked long days and made good progress but Maggie had to get back to it, in order to have a chance at making the deadline. Whoever says women aren’t tough hasn’t met these two.

Things at my job are still going nicely. I drag my tools around the boatyard on a small wagon like the Radio Flyers of old. It probably weighs better than 200 pounds with my tools, goos, screws and miscellaneous crap onboard.

I had to do some work at a small marina about 3 blocks away. All the company trucks were out on the road so I walked the 3 blocks pulling my little wagon behind me.
(not my actual cart, just an appropriate visual aid)

All my shit is pretty much balanced on the wagon so I have to walk on the street rather than use the bumpy sidewalks. Kinda like Dennis the Menace runs away to fix boat crap. It’s a little bizarre as I stand in the driveway punching in the security code to gain entrance at the giant rolling gate while the guy behind me in cue is sitting there in his Benz drumming his fingers on the wheel. That’s right buddy, I see your impatience. You better hope that it’s not your boat I come for. Then I’ll really show you some slow.

Oooh, its getting cooler in here, where’s my socks.

Friday, July 22, 2011

July 20, 2011.

Unfortunately, there has been a bit of a crime spree here in Annapolis this year. About a month ago there was a rash of television thefts. Someone was breaking into boats with TVs and ripping them off the walls and escaping. We’ve got no TV so we’re safe but still….

The bizarre thing was that several boat owners were able to pinpoint the thefts as happening during the daytime. One of the marinas that was hardest hit has a security gate that requires you to be buzzed in, so somebody was being pretty brazen. The thefts stopped when a guy was caught in another area marina with a pair of TVs that didn’t belong to him.

A couple of guys were installing TVs in a pair of new boats when they decided to break for lunch. While they were gone the thief climbed onto the boats and ripped the TVs off the bulkhead before they were even wired in. He just waltzed in like he owned the place, snatched the TVs and attempted to drive away with them in one of the marinas golf carts. Fortunately, somebody stopped him and it was “game over”. Until this weekend….

Somebody slimed their way through the marina adjacent to my work place and stole the shore power cords from 14 boats. These things are 50 feet long and they weigh quite a bit. They’re an unwieldy pain in the ass, but somebody dedicated enough time to steal 14 of them.

The sick thing about all of this is that the thieves left all of the adapters and pigtails behind. The cords can cost up to $650 a piece. The adapters are also expensive as hell and even though they are much lighter and easier to handle they were all left behind. That probably means that who ever took the power cords is going to scrap them for the copper within.

What a waste, scraping a $650 power cord for the $40 worth of copper. Hopefully, the thief will use his ill gotten gains, get all drunked up and step in front of a truck….

October can’t come soon enough.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

July 16, 2011.

The last 7 days have been a roller coaster of a week.

Bess and Bill stopped in for an evening of dominoes and some fine coconut rum sippin’.
It’s been several months since we’ve dusted off the dominoes, so it was a lot of fun, >>>>KoKoMo, Christy kicked ass. Then on Sunday we finally met Greg & Lynn of S/V Paperbird. They’ve just become the owners of a sister ship to our Veranda. They bought the boat in Texas and had it shipped to their home waters here in Annapolis. We arranged to get together so they could see what changes we’ve made to make the Veranda more livable.

After 2 hours on our boat they took us out for lunch and then we headed over and spent a couple of hours exploring their “new to them” Pearson 422. They’ve got 2 years to chip away at their list of repairs and upgrades as they prepare to cast off and head south. It was great to meet them and we look forward to seeing them on the water.

The Savages are back from Maine so we got to spend some time hanging around with them. So the roller coaster definitely had some highs……and then there was the Achilles.

The Achilles is a big SeaRay type powerboat. It turns out that even if you’re going really, really fast you still need enough water for the boat to float. The math works out that if you draw 3 feet of water then you need to be in MORE than 3 feet of water to properly operate the vessel. So the rule of thumb is that the water depth has to be greater than the vessels draft. Surprisingly enough this presents a challenge to more boaters than you’d expect.

When a sailboat bumps the bottom they find the bottom with their keel. Generally, its no harm no foul, they sit there until they “unbump” themselves and continue on their merry way. Power vessels generally find the bottom with their delicate moving bits like the propeller or rudder. This usually results in job security for people in the marine repair industry.

I was tasked with removing both of “Achilles” propeller shafts as they were pretty twisted after an unfortunate combination of a lack of math skills and a short attention span by the helmsman. The cramped conditions made removal a nightmare and Oh Look! they're v-drives. It literally took me 2 full minutes to step down from the deck and worm my way into position behind either engine. It took me about 15 hours of ass busting work to finally get both shafts out. The majority of that time was on the starboard shaft which I ended up having to cut out.

When I got home from work last Thursday Christy told me that since the Savages had gone sailing for a long weekend and she had the use of their minivan and that she wanted to drive up to Ithaca, NY to see Ashlee, the youngest girlchild. I didn’t realize that Ithaca was in my plans for the weekend and it turned out that it wasn’t. Since Christy had Friday off she wanted to leave early on Friday. Since I was working on Friday, that left me with a different kind of formula to cipher. Bill’s working until Friday evening + Christy being on the road early Friday = Bill’s not invited….Fine. Chick thing.

So Tucker and I puttered around the boat on Saturday. At least I got to watch the US Womens National Team play Japan in the Woman’s World Cup final on Sunday……Crap. Talk about your rollercoaster.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July 11, 2011.

Late Friday afternoon we got a call from a guy on a mooring in the harbor. He couldn’t start his boat and had diagnosed it as a bad starter. I drove the company’s skiff out and towed him in to our dock.

The boat is a 1970 Cheoy Lee and is as beautiful a boat as I’ve ever seen.
The guys is a single hander and has restored this 41 year old boat to pristine condition. Or so it seemed. Now I know where that expression “Beauty is only skin deep” applies. Its about boats.

Topsides and inside, the boat is perfect. The electrical system was a disaster. Right away I found a really crappy connection at the starter. I fixed it and was pretty surprised when the boat still didn’t start. Next I checked voltage at the starter and it was only 10.1 volts while there was 12.6 at the battery. Crap. Corrosion or a loose connection.

All of his battery connections were deplorable and then there was the battery switch.
It was the original bakelite
switch probably installed by Thomas Alva Edison himself. It was over 40 years old and spun with virtually zero friction. When I pulled the switch off the bulkhead 3 of the 8 wires (all on one post) pulled out of their ring connectors.

I installed new terminal ends on everything and installed a positive buss bar. Once there was a new switch in place that actually went *clunk* when you turned it, the boat fired right up.
It was amazing how beautiful this boat was while the electrical system was a complete shambles.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July 6, 2011.

Today at work was one of those special days where everything goes right. Every boat had the potential for disaster but somehow everything went right.

The last boat of the day needed a new hand held control for the windlass. The old one had rotted away and of course the wiring harnesses were different so it had to be replaced as well.

The minor issue. The old switch only had 3 wires. One for *up*, one for *down* and one for power, simple. The new harness had 8 wires of which I had to use 5. The issue was that all this great stuff came without a schematic. Sure, there was a diagram complete with color coding but nothing else. It actually listed all the wires by color but didn’t break it down into what each wire actually was designed to do. It was like somebody had hit *send* before finishing the diagram. Phone calls to the manufacturer didn’t help so it came down to intuition, dumb luck and a smattering of skill. Intuitively I knew that dumb luck was my greatest skill so it all worked out without me frying anything.

The boat before that was a 28 foot speed boat with dual inboard V-8 gasoline engines. The woman reported that she was blasting along (because that’s what powerboaters do) when the port engine “stopped”. She didn’t say that it sputtered and died, she said it “stopped”. Gas engines aren’t in my area of expertise but her description of the problem had me thinking electrical, so I opted to drive to the boat and give it a shot. Actually, I had no choice, the boss sent me.

After schlepping all my crap down to her boat I opened up the engine enclosure and was immediately awestruck. The manufacturers of this jewel of a speedboat had actually stuffed 2 huge V-8 engines into a hole the size of a hamster’s ass. There wasn’t room in there for anything let alone me. Worse yet, there were several greasy palm prints on the smooth fiberglass surfaces. Somebody had been here before me and failed…..Crap.

I’m kneeling in front of this useless iron monster and I can’t see or touch at least half of the electrical system and its components. I said to myself “Jesus, where’s the coil, I can’t even see it”. I dunno why but for whatever reason, all of a sudden the coil was very important to me. So I ran my hand down the wire from the distributor in search of the coil. And the back of my hand brushed something….a broken wire. Holy shit, I found the problem 9 seconds after I opened the engine compartment. I couldn’t see it and could only get some of my fingers from one hand on it but I found it. Talk about divine intervention.

It took me an hour and a half to replace this one short section of wire. I never saw it, could barely touch it but God damn, I found it. Once the new wire was in place the engine fired right up and purred like a hamster with 2 giant V-8’s crammed in his ass. Right about now I’m pretty much invincible.

But the day didn’t start out that way. I had to remove an old PSS dripless shaft seal and replace it with a new one. Kinda cramped position but simple enough, no problemo, right?

Of course this entailed taking the shaft coupling off the shaft. Predictably it was a pain in the ass since its been on there since the Eisenhower administration. Oh look, I can’t pull the shaft back far enough so the propeller also has to come off. Its like 200° in my tiny little tomb and I’m here dealing with the “snowball effect”.

The couplings off, the props gone the shaft is out of the way and after 2 hose clamps and the old seal will be out. Do you notice anything odd, unusual or even sadistic about this particular hose clamp?
Once I had defeated it and removed it from the boat I showed it to all the other mechanics and none of them spotted the true evil in this little stainless bastard. Don’t bullshit me, you didn’t notice either…..its f@#king backwards. The tail of the hose clamp is always on the same side as the screwhead. This one sticks out on the other side. While this trait is unremarkable what it really means is that when you go “lefty loosey” on the little piece of shit its actually getting tighter. You have to go “righty tighty” to get the thing to loosen up.

Try figuring that out while upside down without being able to see it. I was happy just to be able to get the screwdriver into the slot. I could actually feel a vein bulging in my head.

The worse thing about it was that the schlub that put this together umpteen years ago was probably laughing when he did it.

Normal is on the left while fiendish is on the right….

Monday, July 4, 2011

July 4, 2011.

First off, Happy Fourth of July to everyone.

Yesterday we attended a house warming barbecue given by one of my coworkers. During the course of the afternoon I ended up playing volleyball for a few hours. I used to play one night a week for a few years but somehow I forgot about the passage of time. Once I did the math it turns out that I haven’t struck a volleyball in 27 years, give or take. Somewhere in that 27 years I was evidently afflicted with a case of early onset “old”. I’m almost better now but this morning I was pretty damn sore. One of my shoulders still isn’t talking to me.

Enough about me. Do you notice anything different about this guy’s transom? No? How about the hailing port?
Imagine the good captains discomfort when it was pointed out that he has traveled thousands of miles over a period of 2 years with a misspelled hailing port. San Fransico? Talk about walking around with your fly open. Needless to say, after a quick phone call one of the local sign companies came to his rescue.

Since we’re sitting here for a few months Christy has hung a small strawberry plant from the boom vang. Today she was able to harvest her first 2 berries.
Christy has also been able to keep her boat borne shoe collection to under 40 pairs. Barely.
I was betting that it was over 50 pairs but I admit it “I was wrong”.

To some people it may look as if I am a master procrastinator. It’s just that my overview of things is different. Some people see that their bow thruster isn’t working and they say “Oh, I’ll have to get that fixed”. I figure most people don’t even have a bow thruster so we can just put that repair to the back of the list. I don’t know how but somehow we finally arrived at that section of the list.

During last years Annapolis Sailboat Show I cornered one of the Vetus bow thruster guys. I explained our bow thrusters symptoms and he laid out the cure.

Our bow thruster only worked in one direction so we haven’t used it in about 2 years. Neither one of us could ever remember which way it worked so it was always safer not to touch it at all rather than to risk compounding a problem. We just got used to not having it and never really missed it.

The Vetus guy was certain that only one side of the main solenoid was making an electrical connection. “Take it apart, clean up the contacts and you’ll be good to go”. Sounds simple so today, after 8 months of considering it I moved everything out of the way and got started. Almost immediately simple got thrown out the window. There was an unmentioned issue, SPRINGS. He never said nothing about no SPRINGS. In the middle of my gentle disassembly, Sproing!, damned springs were shooting everywhere. Oh look, the tiny washers that used to live on top of the springs were now in orbit in the lower ionosphere. Or were they under the springs, or both, I dunno. First time I saw em’ they were banging off the wall. Shit.

Well, it was apart. The contacts didn’t really look too bad to me but I cleaned em’ up and went about figuring how to put it all back together. With a delicate mixture of ingenuity and cursing I got it all back together correctly, I think.

I sat and starred at the thruster while Christy went up to the helm to give it a whirl. And it works….in one direction. Still. You gotta be kidding me. Shit.

I should have taken the Vetus guys picture so I would be sure to murder the right guy this year at the boat show. Crap. Then I set about taking apart every electrical connection in an effort to find the problem. And there it was, a bullshit little push me pull you connector was broken off at its solder connection. The wire was still connected to the connector and holding the connector in place. It was just that it was no longer attached. After a little cleaning, some new solder and we’re now back in the bi-directional bow thrusting business….

Friday, July 1, 2011

June 30, 2011.

We all live in a world that is so much more technological than the one most of us grew up in. Although sometimes I think people can get a little carried away.

We got a phone call at work from a woman whose head wasn’t flushing properly. She wanted to bring the boat in the next day for some immediate attention. Because of limited dock space she was told to call the following morning and she would be told what time they could bring their boat into the yard.

In an effort to facilitate timely repairs there was an email waiting for our service manager the next morning. The emails attachment was a video of their toilet not flushing as it ought to. Are they kidding me? Thank God Al Gore invented the internet otherwise we would have had to wait until the boat actually arrived before getting to see the toilet not working.

I suggested that we should go out and video a toilet that worked properly. I thought that we could send it to her in an email and tell her that it was the latest “service pack”. All she had to do was print it out, wad it up and flush it down her own toilet. Once the “download” was complete things would be back to normal for her. Unless her head is a Vista machine, then she’s pretty well f@#ked.