Friday, November 30, 2007

New Water Heater

There are few pleasures as nice as a hot rinse after a long day in the salt and sun just before slipping between clean sheets. That is why Jan and I treasure the hot water heater.

One of the lines on the long list of to-do's was fix leak at the water heater. One good look at the area showed that the spigot was too rusted to ever be fixable. Indeed the whole water heater was so rusty I do not see how it could even hold water. A dig through the pile of the old manuals suggested that it was a Raritan 6 gallon heater with water exchange. I ordered a new one from Blue Water.

First mate Philllip Emanuael has just arrived in the USA and volunteered to help with the chores. What a wonderful coincidence! Phillip was able to do more work in 2 hours than I could have done in 3 days. Also because he know what to get we only spent 20 minutes at Padre Island Supply. I would have worriedly wandered about for hours.

I am just starting to believe that all of the tasks will get done, and we will be ready for an on-time departure after Dec. 7, 2007.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Heavy Construction

Yacht maintenance is a symphony of problem solving. The tasks are endless variations on themes (like scales in music)--screwing, drilling, caulking, etc. The tools are 'simple machines' (like notes)--incline plane, lever, screw, etc. Occasionally mechanical advantage or electrical amplification helps, but always there is twisting, bending, and reaching into confined spaces (just as a composer is confined to 13 notes in an octave). However, the results of these simple tasks repetitively applied can be amazing.

Today I finished the most difficult project I have ever tried on the White Pepper. I finished putting on the bow rollers.

The anchoring problem is certainly the key to success in our planned adventure. I studied Art Heinz' book about anchoring intensely. I chose to go with relatively light tackle and shallow depth, but dual anchors for a 'Bahamian moor'. The problem is at the 'point of the spear'.
She is a racer at heart with a moderate bow but plenty of reserve buoyancy to handle a good chop. These wonderful concepts do not leave much room for two heavy anchors and the tackle it takes to recover them.

One solution would have been to take the boat to Houston. There skilled craftsmen could have fashioned a new bowsprit out of stainless steel rods. There was just not enough time or money left for this option.

Instead I purchased a Royal Lofran manual windless, 2 rodes (100' chain + 150' rope) and chain hawsers from Blue Water Marine. Off the Internet I bought two bow rollers from Windline Marine. One was a BMR-3 for the 45 pound claw (i.e. generic Bruce). I put this one on the starboard side. The other a URL-1 for the 45 pound Rocna (a plow style anchor). It went on port. Also purchased were two anchor tensioners and a very stout chain stopper.

The problem was putting all of this on a sharply tapered bow and in an anchor locker designed for weekend sailing. Alan Dinn helped with constructing a divider to separate the two rodes in the locker. I re enforced the lid to the anchor well and bolted on the windless to it without too much difficulty. The problem was the rollers! They had to go over the 1 1/2" toe rail, not foul the stem or the chauks, and still give enough room to hang the anchors without banging into the hull. The solution seems efficient, albeit not elegant. It has elements of a freshman's high school shop project. Charlie at Flour Bluff Plastics cut me some backing plates out of high density polyurethane (cheap Starboard without the UV protection) and some nifty 1" topping plates made out of Nylatron. Nylatron is plastic steel. I am sure that the bolts will give way before it does. Thanks Charlie!

The BMR-3 for the Bruce has to hang out at an accentuated angle to accommodate its wide flukes. I could only get 3 bolts of 1/2" x 4" to hold it, but it seems rock solid and probably could stand a full on collision with the dock. The URL-1 is held by 5 bolts of 5/16" x 4" and also seems quite solid. The URL-1 has a much fairer lead to the windlass,and it will be the primary anchor roller even though it is lighter.

We will have to launch without checking all of this out. I just hope it all works.

Ramses moves to Austin

We lost a crew member yesterday in Ramses, the cat. Jan took him to Austin to be with our friend, Janet Freeman. It was quite sad. All last night I thought I could hear him crying at the door. But it is a 'far,far better thing that we do' . He would be miserable on the boat and likely shark bait within 36 hours. Good luck and happy hunting (for geckos), Ramses.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BYC Lighthouse Cruise--a shake down

Bay Yacht Club hosted a cruise the Charlie Butt's Light House in Lydia Ann Channel Sat. Nov. 10, 2007. It was a great chance to try out some of the new systems.

I rigged up a bridle for the dingy out of old Stay-Set X genoa line. I cut it in half and knotted it 2/3rds the way down. It worked very well. It acted as it's own safety line and was easy to adjust underway. The dingy rode well even at hull speed in a good chop.

Sat. am was magnificent--clear, cool, and breezy. I set the new 130% roller-fulled genoa from Trent BcBride at Banks Sails. White Pepper just took off. The sail is beautiful and quite powerful--probably too much for CC Bay. I am sure it will be appreciated in the lighter breezes offshore and in the Chesapeake.

We got to the Light House just as lunch was being served. I threw out the new Rocna anchor and new shiny rode with 100' of chain. As advertised it bit hard within a few feet and stuck fast.

The afternoon was exquisite, the company good, the lighthouse wonderful as usual, but everybody left by 4 pm. Now it was time to change anchorages. I could not get the windless to engage. This was due to a failure to read the instructions--all 6 lines of them. The current was rippling and the sun going down fast. I had to lift the anchor and chain by hand which was no easy feat. It would have been impossible without Jan maneuvering the boat right over the anchor. I was determined not to stay in Lydia Ann all night. We set out for Mud Island with Jim and Jo Ann Robertson on Brigadoon.

Just after the sun set at 5;30 pm, I got the anchor down again and again it bit hard. I am starting to believe all the hype about the Rocna. By this time it was blowing hard, but we never moved an inch. Mud Island is one of the best anchorage in the area, but only available in a SE wind. I learned that I need a mid-ship cleat, maybe on the toe rail, to secure the dink for boarding.

The next morning we explored Mud Island by dingy and beach combed--something I had never been able to do without a dingy. The day was one of those amazing S. Texas winter days--sunny, cool and breezy--like San Diego is all year long. We did not get away until noon and had to creep home in the dark. At first the GPS guided us down the intracoastal waterway with survey like accuracy. Passing under the Kennedy Causeway bridge somehow gave the GPS a headache, and now it showed the ICW running across dry land. Worse still two of the large green day markers were not lit. It was a very tension filled last few miles. I was nauseated by the time we finally tied up at 9 pm. Jan bought a 3 million candle power 'Q-beam' flash light Monday morning. In this part of the world the 'Q-beam' in known as Cajun radar, and I will never sail without it.

We learned a lot and have more to learn, but the next time White Pepper leaves the slip it will be for good.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Tighten the toe rail

The only piece of advice the her previous owner, Mr. Horace Sylvester, gave me was to tighten the toe rail year yearly. He was very insistent on this point. I have followed the advice--but usually only before an offshore adventure. Before the Mexico trip in 2001 Desiree Trujillo and I spent a afternoon tightening all 200 of the 1/4-20 bolts that hold the deck to the hull. We found many loose, broken, or even missing bolts. It was a very rewarding day.

Today we covered the same ground. This time nothing was broken or missing. Each bolt usually required only a quarter or half turn. Some bolts near the center (widest) part of the boat needed a full turn or more. I broke two Phillips head #3 screw driver before I backed off to about 20 foot pounds of torque. It was tedious work and required patience of both the bolt turner (me) and the nut holder (Jan).

The chore seems odious but is so necessary. It keeps out the sea by squeezing the 5200 sealant between the deck and the hull. But it also adds potential energy to the boat. A quarter turn on 200 1/4-20 stainless steel bolt is equivalent to screwing in one bolt a full 5 inches. This is a tremendous gain in potential energy that can be translated into kinetic energy for sailing.

Thank you Jan and for everyone with a toe rail: tighten those bolts!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Habanero, our new dingy

Last week was devoted to bringing our new dink, Habanero, on board. Thursday, Nov. 1st, I drove to Houston, picked up Alan Dinn's truck at Harborwalk in Hiscock, (Thanks Alan!), picked up the new 130% genoa from Trent McBride, and finally went to Triad Marine to buy the dingy. It is a 10 foot AB made in Venezuela and we have had our eyes on it since last year. Bob and Kay Jack, ace cruisers, recommended it highly. It is a rigid inflatable with a deep vee to the bow. I seems stable and well built. Also I picked up the life raft at Triad where it had been it's annual check up. The fellows at Triad helped me lash the dingy into the truck. I drove slowly down the coast road finally getting home around 8:30 pm. It was a long, expensive, but very satisfying day.

Friday we went to Ronnie's Marine and bought a Yamaha two stroke 8 horsepower outboard. Saturday and Sunday was spent learning the combination of dink and outboard. The motor had to be broken in and well as the crew. However, after a lesion about opening the vent cap on the gasoline tank everything went very well. By Sunday Jan drove us to Soopy's via the ICW. Janet Freeman was visiting and was quite a trooper about everything.

Theft protection will be a 20 ft. length of 1/4 inch chain. We will lift the dink onto the foredeck with a block and tackle set on the spin pole. There is precisely 10 feet of space for it on the foredeck. The motor will ride on the stern rail where Jan has been varnishing a mount. We plan to test drive the whole system on a BYC cruise to the Port Aransas light house this weekend.

As an entomological note, habanero was a originally spelt Javanero. It is a spicy very small pepper originally from the Amazon basin. Later misspelling to habanero gave a suggestion of Cuban (Havana) origin which is not so. Americans will recognize habanero as the active ingredient in Tabasco sauce. Jan named the boat ,and I think its is a very clever play off of White Pepper. I wanted to name the dink Little Pepper or something equally banal.