Category Archives: maintenance

Bosun’s chair

Falling off my mast isn’t my preferred way to “go”. Having said that, enjoying my hobby probably isn’t the worst way to check out; I’m more concerned it might be a bit premature and somewhat unplanned.
I’ve been to the top of my mast many times, and a few other boats too. I currently need to replace my anchoring light and windex so I need a safe way to get up there in the spring.
My boat came with a MastMate loop-strap ladder and I’ve tried using, it was a most unsatisfying experience. There are two issues that make it a less than ideal solution on my boat. Firstly, my in-mast furler makes it impossible to use track slides. (The solution offered by MastMate necessitates taking down the main….) this leaves the ladder swaying loosely from the mast making it difficult and dangerous to climb.
Secondly, I didn’t have a spare main halyard so I couldn’t get to the very top of the mast as the jib/spinnaker halyards sheave box is about three feet from mast-top. (I have since run a spinnaker halyard as a spare/safety line.)
My main is an in-mast furler and I am aware of the possibility of the mainsail getting fouled in the mast. Going up to sort out issues would completely rule out dousing the mainsail to use the main halyard. This pretty much rules out the Mastmate for me.
This brings me back to the good old bosun’s chair. Always on the lookout for ways to leverage my investment in my walking-foot sewing machine, I came across an old chair that was moldy, stank of fuel with rotting stitching, but otherwise, not bad. I decided to knock-off the stinky old chair.
I’ve gone up masts on everything from a plank of wood to a super-fancy brand new padded chair and I can say I definitely prefer something with pockets, straps, and hooks. Preferably something that has a space for tools, ropes and of course a camera! (that’s my foot atop Esneca

I patterned the old chair, took notes on the stitching sequence and placed an order for straps and hardware from JT’s Outdoor Fabrics in Barrie. I already had the blue nylon from making a bag for my folding bicycle (the material for the bag and bosun’s chair was $15 from Fabricland!). It took a bit longer to stitch the chair together than I anticipated, making me appreciate the value of mass-produced goods.

I used this project as an excuse to make a leaf that fits into my dining table so that the sewing machine sits flush with the table. This will make larger projects, like the new bimini and dodger I plan on sewing this winter, easier. My sewing machine is a generic knock-off of the old walking-foot Singer/Brother. It is the same base machine that Sailrite uses, cheaper but doesn’t come with a case or telephone support.

 

 

Crispy, Hard and Smoking. pt.2

Launching a boat is a process couched in optimism. The annual ritual of unwrapping, polishing, swapping fluids and slapping on bottom paint leads to a triumphal splash that marks the beginning of another sailing season.

This year I was somewhat organized but left starting the motor until the last minute. I wasn’t too concerned as my Yanmar 3GM30 has always fired up easily. This year, it was already in the water when it finally started…. but I’m getting ahead of the story.
Tortuga was already sitting by the crane when I arrived an hour ahead of my scheduled launch time. Uli was unusually efficient that morning and the crew were itching to launch. So much for a leisurely pre-splash inspection. I grabbed a pail of lake water and scrambled onboard to start the motor while the slings were being fitted. It seemed that the battery was weak as the cranking rpm was low and the motor wasn’t catching. Strange… Complicating the starting process was the crane’s diesel motor was idling six feet from my head. I think roaring is a more apt description as I couldn’t hear the engine cranking and was relying on the tachometer to see if the engine was actually turning over. This really threw me as the batteries should be, and were, fully charged by the solar panels. This was confirmed by the voltage showing. I’ve never started the engine deaf, relying solely on the tach, so I wasn’t sure how fast it usually spins on startup.

Rather than delay the launch any longer, I gave the go-ahead to splash. I figured this would give me time to charge the batteries and figure out what was going on. I set the charge controller to equalize to get a deep charge. I let it sit for an hour. I finally got the engine to start and immediately there was a smoke coming from the engine! A quick shutdown and inspection revealed that the alt was seized?! Now I’m completely confused as the alt was fine at haulout and recently rebuilt! The boat is dry and the water fresh so corrosion shouldn’t be a factor. I loosened the belt and then loosened the alternator pivot bolt – this freed up the alt.

In a flash, all my confusion vanished and all the sensory feedback made sense. The alt mounting arms have 1.5mm of play on the engine mount, I must have tightened up the alt and that warped the housing enough to pinch the rotor. Luckily releasing the pressure released the pinch and no real damage was done.

I shimmed the gap with a washer (will have to get the proper diameter) and replaced the belt with a new Gates AX 37 TRI-POWER, keeping the old lightly toasted belt as a backup.
I hope I haven’t over-stressed the poor starter motor, I am actually surprised and impressed that I was able to start with a seized alt, not something that I want to repeat.

 

Lessons learned

  • I should have started the engine at least the day before in the quiet of the yard. Being in a rush and feeling pressured to meet the yard schedule isn’t the best path to clear thinking.
  • I should have stopped cranking and inspected the engine, although catching a seized alt is hard to notice, stopping and thinking might have led to my remembering that in the fall I adjusted the belts and must have tightened the alt mount with more vigor than previously.
  • I should trust what I know. I knew the batteries were charged, I could see the voltage was high and the starter battery cable was warm to the touch. This should have registered in my brain that the cranking loads were high and something was amiss.

 

Bildge float switches

My Hunter 340 came (to me) with a Rule bilge pump, it is the kind that automatically fires every 7 minutes. If there is no resistance on the pump, indicating no water to pump out, it shuts down. So far this season (May – September) the pump has fired 70,000 times according to the counter at the Nav station.

While I appreciate the security of a pump that is always checking, I can’t imagine it is doing anything but slowly, unnecessarily wearing the pump out. It also makes a racket that I’ve gotten used to. Given I’ve got solar panels I don’t worry about the battery drain either, but that could be an issue for some owners.

My bilge is dry, the only moisture coming from the fridge drain or the odd bit of rain water from accidentally left open ports. If there is a bit of water in the bilge, the pump makes a splashing-gurgling noise that echoes in the empty chamber – it is a good indicator that I need to sponge the bilge dry!

A friend stayed on the boat and remarked that my boat sounds like Star Wars, full of strange mechanical noises in the night, startling him awake as he drifted to sleep. The bilge pump whirrs, the fridge breathes like Darth Vader and the old water pump would hammer for half a second every half an hour or so. The pump is gone, the fridge stays so this leaves me wondering about the whirr in the bilge.

Hinged

Quick web research reveals that the floating hinged (ball bearing or a tube of mercury) types (Rule, Seasense, Seaflo ) are generally only good for a couple of years at best. These also tend to foul on debris.  Given my bilge access is beneath the dining table, there is a frequent stream of cheerios, crumbs and craft bits like string, paper and beads falling into the finger holes in floor/hatch, I would like something that can’t be easily fouled.

Current Sense

I looked into the electronic current sensor types, the most popular brand being the Water Witch. The drawback seems to be that the sensors stop reading if the water is contaminated oil or grease. The sensors use the conductivity of bilge water to pass current between two electronic probes, if oily, the sensors don’t receive the current.

Also, Water Witch seems to have hit and miss user reviews despite their claims that they are used on US and Canadian coast guard vessels.

Finally, there are physical switches in enclosures. The leader of this segment appears to be Ultra Saftey Systems,  Aqualarm appears to be a cheaper knock-off of Ultra.
the benefit of these is they should not foul from debris and are less prone to firing from boat motion.
ultra-sr

Screen Time

We’ve been lucky, we have screens for our major hatches and companionway, so bugs haven’t been a big issue on our travels to date. We were plagued by black flies on the trip up the Rideau Canal to Ottawa, but that was mostly on open water and was actually an entertaining introduction to bug killing for the girls.
We were, however, missing screens for our aft birth and bathroom portlights, two rooms that would benefit from having the portlights open more often than not.I scavenged a couple of square screen frames from a condemned boat and decided to see if I could make them fit the Lewmar (New) Standard ports. Luckily the metal removed from one dimension was just enough to lengthen the other side. I used the method that the screens were originally made with, that is crimping in a piece of aluminum with a punch. I made the joints out of some aluminum scraps.

Continue reading Screen Time

It’s the little things

I’m a big believer in details, perhaps it’s my training as a goldsmith or a pixel perfect developer, but if there’s a speck or a design flaw it will bug me. Having a white boat is a lesson in finding serenity, I swear there is someone out there laughing at all the scrubbing boat owners do.

Having a brand new high-pressure water pump with a faulty shut-off sensor (the backstory) gave me the perfect opportunity to fashion a wash-down pump. A bit of hose, a few clips and away we go!

With 40 psi and 17 liters/min the cleaning possibilities are endless!

Fridge

The fridge door/lid always made a screech when opened and the gas strut was very stiff. I found a bunch of gas struts on the sale table at Princess Auto for $4 each and they seem to be close to the right size. I only noticed when I removed the old one that there is a manufacture’s sticker and model number.

fridge_strutI only noticed the brackets were not in the same plane when I put on the new strut.  I relocated the brackets to get the door to shut, but also the bottom bracket needed to come over by 3/4″ to line up.
The bottom bush was drilled out to fit on the existing stainless post and luckily the top fitting works!

UPDATE: Fall 2017

The cheapo strut didn’t last the season so I splurged on a new strut (It was only $13 !) I choose one from  Amazon based on the weight of the lid. Here are the specs:

  • Load : 170N ( 17Kg)
  • Hole Diameter : 4mm / 0.16″
  • Rod Size : 172 x 6mm / 6.8″ x 0.24″
  • Hole Distance : 408mm / 16″
  • Total Size : 430 x 15mm / 17″ x 0.6″ (L*D)

After a full summer of cruising here are my thoughts.

  • The piston rod is a bit on the thin side but it doesn’t bend, in the future I might get one thicker but I don’t think it really matters.
  • the ends have plastic caps like automotive ends, they do snap onto the stainless mounts and only fell off once or twice if I really impacted the strut. It did come ball-end mounting hardware, but I thought I would try it and it seems to work. I could drill out the plastic caps and fit the circlips if falling off was an issue.
  • the struts lift is stronger than either of the two, it takes some effort to close and I had to put on two latches to keep it closed (which is how it came from the factory in the first place.

Bruised boat, bruised ego

starboard_hull_damageLast summer I was merrily heading into Toronto’s inner harbour through the Eastern Gap*. I was busy lounging behind the wheel and talking with friends when one casually said “we are headed straight for a big green thing”.  That big green thing being the big steel buoy making the inner entrance to the Eastern Gap. I turned the boat to port and the wake pushed the buoy away from the a boat,  only to have the buoy swing back back with a vengeance and smack the hull just below the rub rail on starboard. Ouch.
The impact shattered the gel-coat and the underlying layers of fibreglass. It didn’t look too bad and I left it for the season as it is well above the waterline close to the forward sling marks.

What king of sailor sails straight into a big green buoy that he knows is there… ugh.

Repair #1
20160504_163350_repair_complete
Finished repair.

Peeling back the layers of crushed gel-coat and fiberglass mat, I discovered the damage was much more extensive than it appeared. There was considerable de-lamination between the many layers however the lowest layers were just bruised, not cracked. The damage also extended in a much larger radius then the gel-coat damage itself, presumably from the fibreglass flexing in.
I couldn’t access the damage from the interior unless I did a massive cabin disassembly, so rather than cut a hole , I decided to grind down and re-glass from the outside, leaving the bottom most layer intact.

After applying a few layers of mat and resin I levelled the patch with a sander and enlarged the grind. You can see the wound get bigger in the photos. Complicating the repair job was an unusually cold spring. I used a heat gun to warm the hull first and then gently warm the repair at several intervals to ensure the resin kicked.

Continue reading Bruised boat, bruised ego

A tale of three pumps

Shurflo_20881. SHURFlo 2088-422

  • 3.5 GPM open flow, 45 PSI Demand Switch
  • Self priming up to 12 feet
  • Can run dry without damage
  • One way check valve prevents reverse flow

The first pump died after 15 seasons. It sounded like a jack-hammer but was a reliable crew member on our boat,  sort of like Relic on The Beachcombers. Part of my bedtime ritual was turning the breaker off so as not to be awoken but sporadic bursts of pump.

This pump was made in the USA in 1999 and judging by the date, I’d say it was the original freshwater pump.  It started weeping at the end of last (2014) season and I ignored it. At the end of this season, shortly after finishing out trip to the 1000 Islands, it quit (almost exactly like the fridge did last year). Upon inspection the inner sealed-bearing failed and flooded the electric motor. Rust-brown water trickled out of the motor case, it was done.

Continue reading A tale of three pumps

the blue seat.

Trouble shooting the Johnson 9.9
Nice blue seat…

Our dinghy is a hand-me-down inflatable. It’s a bit too big, crowding the dinghy dock and it’s showing it’s age, but the price was right and it has served us well for the last 5 years.

The dinghy came with a bright blue seat, the kind Canadian Tire sells for fishing boats. Because the drain plug doesn’t drain, the seat is often an island in a floating sea of rainwater, a refuge from water, sand and slime.

The blue seat is awkward height for an adult to sit on. It’s only a few inches off the floor, but it is the perfect for height and size for the girls. They sit side by side because, well it’s the only seat on the boat.

The blue seat kept them low, stationary and safe. It was unbeknownst to me their spot. I only discovered the last aspect when I casually mentioned to the girls that we will have a new dinghy next season and was met with cries of  “you can’t get rid of the blue seat, our seat”!

Continue reading the blue seat.

Inverter repair – xantrex xpower 1000

cooked mosfet
cooked mosfets

This summer I fried the old Xantrex xpower 1000 inverter. I can’t remember if it was the blender the did it….  This is a 2007 square wave inverter and I think the “digital” speed controller on the blender did a number on the inverter as well as frying the blender. I should upgrade to a pure sign wave to keep my electronics safe. but it will be nice to have a backup inverter to the older Xantrex onboard.

Continue reading Inverter repair – xantrex xpower 1000

Crispy, Hard and Smoking.

IMG_0331We had just left Kingston Marina and were motoring east past the scenic Kingston waterfront to begin the trip back to Toronto.  I headed down into the boat for some reason (stereo? chart? sunglasses?) when I heard a very faint high-pitched whine for a couple of seconds. I dismissed the noise but immediately began to smell something burning.

As every sailor soon learns,  ignore unusual sounds, smells, or vibrations on a boat at your peril. If the noise didn’t trigger a response in me,  the smell certainly got me busy.

I lifted the step and peeked into the engine compartment and didn’t see anything amiss – no flames, no billowing smoke. I took a second look and realized that the alternator wasn’t turning but the belt wasn’t broken.  Alt seizure? I immediately shut the engine down to take stock of what was happening. It turns out the belt was toast, literally.  It was crisp,  hard and smoking. It was so worn out that it wouldn’t turn or flex.

I think the noise was the alt spinning down.

I did a quick replacement as we slowly drifted towards the rocky shore,  past a few sailing dinghy’s and stand up paddlers.  I  put on a Genuine Yanmar 25132-003700 (old part no# 128670-77350). We were back up running in 5 min, I think Rufus was impressed.

Continue reading Crispy, Hard and Smoking.