Saturday, December 21, 2013

Satellite Weather/OCENS/Globalstar

Happy after a successful install!

 This post may turn out to be boring and technical, but it does start with a real episode from 2010 in Long Island, Bahamas. White Pepper had spent 3 lovely days at Thompson's Bay, Long Island and was headed north. Thompson's Bay is not too far away, but it is over the edge of the datasphere. It was a lovely day with blue skies and gentle breezes. However, without a weather forecast I was miserable with anxiety. I was sure that any minute now a black cloud would appear on the horizon to blast us down. I spent most of the afternoon in the cabin trying to coax an inadequate radio into giving us a forecast over an unreliable and horribly static filled frequency. I began to consider what would make me happy.

Up until then we had been limping along with Internet where it was available and VHF updates from local “nets” or fellow cruisers. Clearly an upgrade was needed if we were to become more independent. The time honored solution for cruisers is SSB, single side band. SSB is expensive, difficult to install and maintain, and craps out in bad weather—just when you need it.

My thought was to use a satellite phone to obtain the weather. Compared to SSB satellite telephony is cheap(er), easier to install, and available anytime—especially the military grade Iridium phones. When the time came to pull the trigger I was talked into the Globalstar system. These satellites fly lower than the Iridium's and require a ground based antenna so they are not truly world wide. But they do work well in the Bahamas, Gulf of Mexico, and US East Coast which is White Pepper's cruising grounds. If I ever do go to Europe an upgrade will be needed. Globalstar is also about half price compared to Iridium at the present time.

I ordered a sat phone, antenna, docking station, wi-fi hot spot, and 1000 minutes all for under $2000. Jan called it a Christmas present. My plan was to use OCENS weather. I had used them previously with the Internet. I had found their system of gathering data and presenting it to be quite satisfactory. All of the weather data is actually free provided to the public by NOAA in grib files. However, getting this data into the boat and onto the computer in a coherent form is quite difficult. I was happy to pay OCENS literally pennies per page to do that task for me.

All of the stuff arrived at Vero Beach City Marina. The first sentence in the skimpy instruction manual was that “This installation should be done by a professional.” They were right. After three days of hand to hand combat in the nav station and several calls to OCENS, it was all done. The Globalstar sat phone had 4 bars and the Optimizer hot spot had three lights across. I made a few clicks on the computer, pushed the GO button, and about one second later a 7 day forecast appeared on the screen. I can't tell you how delighted and amazed I was. Indeed, I took the whole rest of the day off and went to lunch and the beach with Jan.

My hope is now that the weather will be instantly available to White Pepper no matter how remote the location, how late the hour, or how bad the atmospheric conditions. Also satellite phones provide emergency communications and e-mail. Satellite phone can not provide the camaraderie of the SSB nets, say the Cruiseheimer's net, but I will fore go that for now.

Saw this remarkable face drawn in the sand just before high tide (click on it to see the full face)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Radio Magic

In the science fiction world there is a saying that “sufficiently advanced technology will appear as magic to primitive peoples.” As an example I give you AIS.

AIS, automatic identification system, is a mandated system whereby large ships are required to broadcast their location, velocity, and other information periodically over a VHF frequency. VHF is the widely used band for marine communications. AIS information, when acquired by other boats, has undoubtedly saved a few collisions and relived untold anxiety on the part of watch keepers of boats large and small.

Jan and I on yacht White Pepper have wanted to acquire this technology. A dedicated AIS system is complicated and expensive. Some stand alone units are north of $3000.00 and require another antenna or a splitter at least. AIS would only be really needed by the White Pepper on the two nights of the year when we cross and recross the Gulf Stream on the way to and from Florida to the Bahamas. Since 2010 Standard Horizon, also proudly known as Yeasu of Yokohama, Japan, has offered a unit that combines VHF voice communications and AIS. It is the Matrix AIS+ 2150. However, White Pepper, had a perfectly good VHF unit, an older Standard Horizon, the Eclipse model.

When the Eclipse began to act up—cutting out and changing channels—I quickly got on the internet and ordered the Matrix AIS+ for the grand holiday special price of $280 from Defender Marine. Two days later the unit showed up in the mail. I have always used Standard Horizon radios so the switch out was easy. When removing the old Eclipse, I noticed that the VHF antenna cable was loose! Oh, well; at least I had fully functioning back up for the new radio.

Now comes the advanced technology/magic part. The Matrix radio wants learn the GPS data from you and in return will give back the AIS. I have an older Garmin chart plotter, a 545S. It uses the outdated NEMA 0183 format. Fortunately, so does the Matrix. But how to get the two units to talk to one another? Sometimes they want to talk at 4800 baud and sometimes at 38400 baud. An internet search said the solution was easy, but no one bothered to elaborate. The Standard Horizon website had a file on the issue, but it would not load—something about duplicate headers?? A call to Garmin International in Olathe, Kansas yielded some advice that I eventually had to discard. I must have read the three relevant pages in the Standard Horizons Users Manuel 25 times.

For readers that are actually interested in making this connection, here is the magic incantation. The colors are those of the respective wiring harnesses.

Matrix AIS+        Garmin 545              baud
Blue                     Blue                         4800            Port 1 on the Garmin
Green                  Brown                     4800            the common ground
Yellow                Violet                    38400            Port 2 on the Garmin
White                   Grey                      38400            not sure what this does

After about 10 hours of work image my delight and surprise at seeing ships (rather their AIS symbols) on the small but familiar screen of my trusty Garmin—magic!

I do not believe that I have mastered AIS technology, only that I have tricked and charmed it for awhile. Regardless, White Pepper, will be a tad safer when crossing the Gulf Stream this year on the way to the Bahamas.

NB 1-6-13.  White Pepper used the AIS for the first time in combat today.  We were off of Freeport, Bahamas and a cruise ship the Carnival "Sensation" had us  head on 4 miles astearn.  CPA, closest point of approach, was a quarter of a mile.  Every cruiser knows that cruise ships never answer a hail on channel 16, but I called them on DSC directly.  They answered "station calling Sensation."  I asked if they saw me and they seemed puzzled.  They said that I was on the radar.  I asked their intentions.  They said that they were soon to alter course to port and  that I should carry on.  All of this  relieved a great deal of anxiety in the pre-dawn hours. God Bless AIS. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Parades at Vero Beach, Florida

This Vero Beach is great for parades.  Jan and I were treated to back to back Christmas parades.  On December 6th there was a dynamite illuminated boat parade that passed withing 100 feet of our mooring ball in Vero Beach Marina.   The next day there was a quintessential home town Christmas parade down Ocean Drive.  It lasted for over an hour with dozens and dozens of home town businesses and interests represented with floats.  All of the police department marched and got a big round of applause.  The local high school band turned out in force.All in all a good time was had by all.

 Here is a pic of one of the floats.

The  day before we watched a boat parade as they came by our mooring ball less than  100 feet away.

Then as a special treat the kayak club came by one night caroling through the mooring field.

Vero Beach really knows how to celebrate Christmas on the water.

Second Set of Bow Cleats, This One with an Air Chock

I have never seen a boat with two sets of bow cleats (four total).  After years of cruising I do not understand why this is not standard.  At a rough anchorage with two anchors down the chain or rode needs a cleat on each side as does each  snubber.  At dock a bow line and a spring line each need a cleat.  When not in use each anchor has a safety line that needs to be secured.  When hurricanes threaten each point of the boat needs to be secured with a loose line and a very loose line.  There is an old sailing maxim that only one line should be on a cleat. There are then numerous precautionary tales about disaster that occurs when too many lines were attached to a single cleat.  So why do sailing yachts only have two cleats on the bow?

White Pepper chose to add a second set of cleats recently.  I called South Shore Yachts in Canada which supplies parts for old C&Cs. They said the original cleats were generics from a Taiwan source now out of business.  I found a very close match with Schaefer Marine in the 8 inch open style bolted down with four 5/16 bolts. sent the stainless steel  5/16-18 x 3 and 1/2 inch bolts and nuts. West Marine supplied the washers. Flour Bluff Plastics made the Starboard pieces back in Texas.  Cesany  Plastics, Inc helped with some last minute additional parts online. By the way these guys at Cesany are great, and I can highly recommend them for any plastics work. Finally everything was assembled.
New second bow cleat on starboard and on top of 1.5 in of Starboard

Original cleat on port on right and new one to left.

One of the best and worst parts of the C&C 41 is the toe rail.  It is incredibly versatile.  However, it runs all the way to the bow.  In a windy anchorage I am sure that the toe rail could saw right though any line. My solution was to fashion a platform of Starboard an inch and half high and level with the toe rail.  This will allow the line to go straight from the cleat into the water--an air chock!  No friction, no sawing action, no need for chafe protection! I got the idea from Heinz' book on anchoring, The Complete Book of Anchoring, now out of print, I believe.  As an added benefit I have learned how to lead the standing end (the part that goes to the load, i.e. the anchor) over the top of the cleat allowing for even more clearance.
Karl's version of the cleat knot.  Note the standing end leads over the top. An air chock!

It was all assembled today.  I am sure that the new arrangement will be safer, more secure, and allow for more restful sleep below during a blow at anchor.

Beautiful Hibiscus

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Space X Launch

White Pepper continued her hard march down from Daytona (see previous post) past New Smyrna to Titusvillle.  There we picked up a mooring ball and had a restful night.  After refueling there was more motoring south.  Finally we pulled over to the side of the ICW  in the Indian River near the mouth of the Banana River in very benign conditions.  We were watching for the launch of the Space X rocket which is the first commercial rocket launched from Cape Canaveral 15 miles to the north.

I was prepared to be impressed but not overwhelmed.  The rocket launched on time at 5:41 pm several minutes past sunset.

Two thoughts jumped into my head.  One is that Elon Musk, founder of Pay Pal, Tesla Motors, and Space X, must be so proud.  And that it was no wonder locals were so hooked on the launches.  This beats fireworks all to hell.
Man made sunrise at sunset

Setting Sun catches the contrails

Second stage burn

What could not be shown in these photographs taken on a Galaxy phone is the stately pace with which the rocket slowly ascended into the heavens.  There was a rumbling thunder several minutes after the visual events 20 miles north and up.  In the last picture at the end of the middle contrail is a bright speck.  This is the first stage rocket reflecting the setting sun.  It very gradually fell to earth as the second stage powered away.  Later there was a smaller speck, the second stage, falling to earth.  By this time the third stage was just a faint star burning in the sky.

We can only hope that this private enterprise endeavour re-invigorates the space industry.  Please see my previous post about Titusville in Dec. 2010 titled the "Sadness of Titusville" when the government space efforts were shutting down.  It was so depressing, but maybe today things are looking up for Titusville and Cape Canaveral.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Karl Screws Up--Suffers

It has been my practice to always use an anchor float in American waters; this practice being discouraged in the Bahamas.  An anchor float, attached to the crown of the anchor, allows one to visualized the anchor on the bottom and provide access to a trip line if needed to retrieve the anchor from a snag. It also allows for fouling the prop.  This is what happened this morning during the anchor retrieval drill aboard White Pepper as she lay at anchor in the laguna between Daytona and Daytona Beach, Florida.
Chilly Dec. Dawn Swim

We had anchored at the excellent anchorage near marker R44 on the ICW.  The current had shifted and there was a contrary wind to the current.  The float was positioned precisely under the stern of the boat.  It was out of sight and out of mind when Jan engaged the motor to assist me in raising the the anchor--CLUNK.  The anchor float and line had wrapped around the prop.  The diesel process can not proceed without rotation.  Fortunately, the anchor was still in place.

There was no other course except to go into the water and dive to free the prop.  Please remember that this is dawn in December.  On deck I would wear a fleece and a jacket. Jan sharpened the sharpest kitchen knife and after much fuss I entered the water.  Indeed the prop was well fouled with 5 or 6 tight wraps.  It took several dives to free the whole mess.  As readers can see from the picture a wet suit was not needed to protected core temperatures.  Health was restored after the dive with a hot shower and hot breakfast.  Two hours late we were off the New Symrna.

From now on I will not use an anchor float except in well known problem areas such as the Alligator River and Beaufort Creek, both in NC.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pine Island Anchorage

Lonely Pine Island

White Pepper started the first leg of the drive South by leaving the Jacksonville Municipal Dock at slack water at 9:30 am Thanksgiving Friday. Catching the ebbing current made quick work of the 16 n. mi. trip down the St. Johns River to the ICW intersection arriving about 12:30 pm.  The entry into the ICW went smoothly despite a ripping cross current.  For reasons that I can not understand the current was flowing out of the St. Johns River but into the ICW which is also known as the Tolomato River at this part of its existence.  We made good time and were quickly through the narrows at the Pablo Creek Bridge which can be tricky with currents near 4 knots. By the way the Pablo Creek Bridge is in the shadows of the Mayo Clinic at Jacksonville Beach. Jan even got the Genoa out. We were making 7 knots heading South with the current and North wind.

About 1:30 pm we came up to Palm Cove Marina which is the logical stop over as there was no way we could reach St. Augustine, FL. in the short winter daylight.  But the day was pretty, the sun was warm, the current favorable, the wind moderate at our back and predicted to fade. There was still 3 hours of daylight.  We decided to press on to Pine Island Anchorage.  After all, what could go wrong. Quickly the weather deteriorated as an unpredicted coastal trough developed and sent the wind gusting to 35 knots with a steady 25.  Low clouds made the afternoon gloomy and ominous.

 Pine Island is the only anchorage between Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine--a distance of 38 statute miles.  (For non sailors, distances in the ICW are marked in statue miles rather than nautical miles.) It is an old ox bow at statue mile marker 865 and popular with the local sailors.  We got there at 4:30 pm. The wind was howling and the anchorage crowded.  I usually use the Bruce anchor in river mud, but this time I decided to go with the Rocha since I figured we would have only one chance at anchoring.  It wasn't the prettiest set White Pepper ever executed, but after dragging a few yards the trusty Rocna bit and never moved again.

We spent an uncomfortable night rocking and rolling.  Aphrodite was most upset by the strange new noises of creaking, groaning, and halyard banging inside the mast.

We raised anchor at 10 am in a lull in the wind.  The new modification that I made to the bow roller worked to perfection. The new Mantus chain grabber worked very well.  The Rocna took 10 minutes to work itself out of the mud which is why I usually use the Bruce when in the ICW.  Finally were were off to St. Augustine to pick up a mooring ball and wait out the rest of the bad weather.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Day at Jacksonville Municipal Dock

Some cruisers leave the boat and fly home for the holidays.  Most join pot luck dinners dockside at what ever marina.  One such Thanksgiving pot luck dinner at St. Mary's, Georgia has become so famous that sailors organize their cruise around the event. For reasons found in the previous post White Pepper found herself alone at the Jacksonville Municipal Marina.  By alone I mean nobody here.  The place is beautiful with expansive well kept grounds and state of the art concrete floating docks with water and electricity.
White Pepper at empty marina

Nobody here, just a few homeless

There is not even a dock master or marina office.  Dockage is free for 72 hours and electricity is purchased from a kiosk with a credit card.  Apparently the marina is used by the city as a watery parking lot for tailgate parties before the Jacksonville Jaguars home football games.  The scene above will be stacked with boats five deep  before games. Here is a pic of the stadium less than a quarter of mile away.
Ever Bank Field

Needless to say there was not any pot luck dinner here, but Jan organized a delicious traditional Thanksgiving meal.  It was certainly better than any served on any dock anywhere and hot as well.
The turkey breast was cooked in the pressure cooker in only 45 min. Other dishes were green bean casserole, stuffing, Waldorf salad, and cranberries.
Thanksgiving 2013

After the meal we had a walk around the park and listened to the Dallas Cowboys game on Sirius Radio. All in all it was a very satisfying day.

All of this has me thinking about Thanksgiving traditions.  Why is it that we cruisers so willingly exchange the easy camaraderie of common interests at a pot luck  rather than the more difficult intimacies of the family? I have no idea.  But I do know that  without easy transportation no cruiser can go shopping at the Mall on Thanksgiving evening or Black Friday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Struggle for Power

White Pepper left her month long berth on a mooring ball at Green Cove Springs Marina today in the teeth of a Lake Winds Advisory (20-25 knots out of the WNW gusting to 35).  The reason for this madness was a hard freeze warning tonight (28 degrees F.)  Our destination was the Municipal Dock at Jacksonville 28 nautical miles to the North.  Dockage there is free, but  electricity is available for $8.95 per day. White Pepper does not have any internal way to make heat except body heat and candles.  We do have a ceramic heater, but the power consumption is so great that the device needs shore power.

Another issue was the Florida RR Bridge in Jacksonville which currently has a broken bearing, It is only open from 2 pm-4 pm. The next opening is at night which does not help at all.

Dear White Pepper's engine is so under powered with all the added gear that she can not motor well anymore, and any wave action just brings her to a stop.  However, the racing hull is  easily driven and if any amount of sail can be added, she motor sails quite well. Today on those legs of river that were North (about 20 n. miles), we would motor sail at 6 to 7 knots with about 25% of the jib rolled out.  There was an ebb tide helping as well. But on the legs that were Northwest (about 8 n. mi.) we had to roll in the genoa and motor at about 1.5 knots.  The current added a knot at the price of a vicious wind-against-current short chop. Hence the picture above.  These tired pelicans tucked in behind the stern thinking we were stopped!

Finally we cleared the RR Bridge at 2:30 followed by the Main Street lift bridge. We got to the Municipal Dock about 3 pm.  I felt like I had crossed an ocean. Jan was thrilled with her first day of our 6 month cruise. Most importantly Jan, Aphrodite cat, and I will be warm tonight. One pleasant side effect of today is that Aphrodite spent all day struggling with the motion and has been especially mellow this evening.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Local Boater's Option--Customs

Jan and I cleared customs today and we had not even left the United States yet.  What I am talking about is the Local Boater's Option also known as small vessel reporting system (  This is a US Customs program that allows travelers to clear into the USA in advance. The first step is to use the Internet to register and record your documents.  These documents include your passport numbers and the numbers on the federal yacht registration. Second step is to make an appointment for a face to face interview with a Customs officer.  Then we get a long number.  When we return to the USA next year, I will call the Customs office with our numbers and after answering routine questions be cleared into the United States without actually going to the Customs office. I forgot to add that we will have to provide our "decal" number to the customs office.  Every vessel no matter how large or small that enters the US has to have a customs decal.  It is a tax pure and simple, but only costs $25. per year.

It sounds simple but, of course, isn't.  It took several hours on the computer and two trips to the Customs office.  However, in the past we have usually landed at Fort Pierce, FL upon our return from the Bahamas.  We have to take a taxi ride to the Ft. Pierce airport where customs formalities last all of five minutes.  However, we are still out the $50. taxi fare. So hopefully all of this effort will be worthwhile.

Today we were very well treated by officer Juan Terry of the US Customs at the St. Augustine airport. Since we well still using our own car--the trusty Grand Vitara--we went into downtown St. Augustine for lunch at Columbia's.  Tell the truth we have been to Columbia's five times in the three weeks we have been in Florida.  It is one of the best restaurants I have even eaten at, and the prices are quite reasonable. Today's special was shrimp and scallops in a tomato pepper sauce with pasta purses stuffed with truffles and pine nuts--$13.95.

To walk off lunch Jan and I hiked over the Bridge of Lions that spans the ICW/Matanzas River.  Here is a pic from the top of the bridge looking over the St. Augustine Marina about 4 pm.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Marine Canvas and LEDs

White Pepper was blessed with a visit from first brother-in-law, Charlie Mitchell, and sister Susan Mitchell.

Charlie is an artisan in marine canvas and brought some of his wizardry to us this week. For sailors in need he can be reached at

 Most impressive were sheet bags that cleaned up the mess on the coach roof.

Also great were the reworked dodger and splash guards.

The mainsail cover had to be modified because the pole has been mounted on the mast.

Here are Charlie and Susan on the St. Augustine Beach which is awesome in its own right.

In the mean time yours truly has been replacing all of the interior lights with LED equivalents.  The results are outstanding.  Now we have much more light with negligible power draw.  Here is a pic of one of the fluorescent lights that I replaced with LED strips.
My experience makes me wonder why incandescent lighting has survived this long.  If we ever go back to Beeville, Texas my first chore will be to replace all of the lights with LED. The case for nostalgia just can not compete with the cost, energy conservation and heat savings. Once again I am reminded that everyone should live for a year on a boat.  Then we could all be green without being silly.

White Pepper is tiring of chores.  Soon we will be departing Green Cove Springs for parts South.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Winch Maintenance

When I am too old to sail anymore, I will open and operate a shelter for abused and neglected Barient and Barlow winches.  I will not buy any old winches (please note that all Barient winches are old). Rather I will accept donated winches, refurbish these beauties, display them on long shelves, service them yearly, and let kids turn the handles after their parents make a modest donation. The reason for these foolish musing is that I have been servicing and greasing White Pepper's winches this week.

White Pepper has nine winches in all.  Two absolute state of the art Anderson 40s stainless steel self tailing winches are on the coach roof.  The starboard one is motorized and will raise the main sail and lift the dingy onto the boat.  Also on the starboard coach roof is a small Harken 18 winch that raises and lowers the centerboard.  On the port coach roof with the Anderson is a a small Lewmar  16winch that trims the main sheet . This little guy is actually the most powerful winch on the boat.  It is connected  to the traveller with a 6:1 block and tackle arrangement and could pull the mast down with a theoretical 96:1 purchase.  It also has the trickiest little last step to reassemble.  The whole winch has to be lifted up 1/4 inch to accept the locking retaining rings that complete the reassemble process.  It took me 3 or 4 hours one afternoon to figure this out.  Finally on the port coach roof is an original Barient 21 that we used to tighten up the reef line.  It does not get much use anymore.

The pride of the boat, however, are the four Barients on the comings.  The yacht came with a pair of Barient/Barlow 32s as primaries.  These were great winches for their day.  However, it quickly became obvious that they were not powerful enough to grind in the 150% genoa when racing.  I bought two Barient 736s from the redoubtable Robbie Young.  He had just finished performing as bowman for one of the America's Cup contenders and was starting a rigging business in Houston.  He assured me that they were lightly used and like new. They are monstrously large with about a 65:1 ratio.  With a standard 12 inch winch handle the average crew member will generate about 100 foot pounds of force.  This means the genoa sheet will feel 6500 foot pounds of force. This much force will pull in anything.  The 32s were relegated to spinnaker work and controlling the check stays. I paid $7000.00 for the pair of 736s and some design work.  This was quite a lot of money in 1980. I remember  handing over the check and saying that, "I hope they make me happy."  After my first round of servicing these winches I realized they were over 20 years old but so well made that they were, indeed, like new.  And for the most part I have been very pleased with these beasts.

Barient has an interesting and obscure history.  There is no entry in Wikipedia for Barient.  What is known is that the company was founded in San Francisco by two elite yachtsman in the 1950s with an interest in providing innovative deck gear for the America's Cup boats and other grand prix yachts.  One had a yacht named Baruna  and the other had a primo yacht named Orient.   The names were jammed together to form the company name.  It never tried to make a profit.  The company just made winches for the owners and their friends.  Somehow the Barlow Winch Company out of Australia began to make identical products.  For some reason Barient never complained.  However, the quality of the product was so good that nothing else would do.  In 1985 the Lewmar company bought both entities and soon closed both in order to open the field for their own products.  The Australian Winch Company assumed responsibility for service and repair.  However, this was done desultorily at best.  My point is that these wonderful products were orphaned too soon.  They were built so well that they have long out lived any expected use and remain on many older yachts. I have 5 of these museum pieces. And they are museum pieces.  No individual part will ever break, but if some piece becomes corroded or is lost, it can not be replaced.  Hence, service work has to be approached with great reverence and care.

Most regrettably White Pepper has been in storage for two years and the last service was probably three years ago.  I could have been reported for Barient abuse!!
Barient/Barlow 32 ready for service
Drum removed
This winch is serviced from the underneath. Plate has to be pried off.
Bull gear is in the center. Second gear above. Transfer gear that actually moves the drum is on left.
Transfer gear removed. Pawls of second gear exposed. Note winch has been rotated.
Second gear removed. Bull gear still in place around shaft.
Bull gear pulled and pawls exposed.  Pretty grimy!

My recipe which I have followed for years is to clean all of the parts with mineral spirits. This year I had to use bronze wool to clean up the pawls and their housing.   I use 3-in-1 Oil on the pawls (no grease as it sticks) and then lightly grease the actual gears with a proprietary grease such as Harken or Lewmar Winch 
Grease.  All of the screws also get grease so that they will release in another year or two.

For the reassembly I know of no extant manuals, either on paper or on the Internet.  However, like a Sudoku puzzle there is only one unique way to put all of the parts together so that the gears turn. Patience, a good memory or a logical mind will get it back together. Alternatively you could take hundreds of pictures instead of these few upon the disassemble.  In the end there is the wonderful satisfaction of feeling the winch turning effortlessly and hearing the pawls clicking happily.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

White Pepper Revisits St. Augustine with Friends

Super sailor, super golfer and brother-in-law Charlie Mitchell came to help re-rig White Pepper and  move her to Green Cove Springs Marina. After bending on the sails, it was time to party. (For non-sailors bending on the sails means mounting the sails in their proper place.)  It was off to the World Golf Hall of Fame for the crew.  This is a mildly interesting attraction maintained by the PGA near St. Augustine.

There is much memorabilia from recent inductees to the Hall of Fame and a lot of history about golf in general.  I especially enjoyed the display of trophies including the Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup.  After the tour of the museum we tried the challenge hole which is a replica of the famous TPC Sawgrass, 17th hole also known as the island green.

Then we played the 18 hole putting course.  I beat Charlie by one stroke in a thrilling match.  We all had dinner at Columbia's Restaurant in St. Augustine.  A great day all-in-all.

The next day Charlie and I brought the boat up the St. Johns to Great Cove  Springs on a glorious fall afternoon in Florida. Jan drove the car around and took this pic from the dock at Green Cove Springs Marina.

Later in the week we were treated to a visit by Paula Sands, a friend from Beeville.  Paula did not have to work on the boat although she did treat us to a lovely acapella concert before dinner one night.  We all went to the St. Augustine Beach which is lovely--much wider and better maintained than other east Florida beaches.

 After a lunch at the Beachcomber's Bar we did a quick tour of St. Augustine before heading back to Green Cove Springs. The next day we revisited the actual springs from which the town derives its name.  It is remarkable--3000 gallons per minutes of mineral laden water wells up and makes a 100 yard journey to the St. Johns.  No wonder people settled here years ago.

 On Thursday Oct. 30  Paula had to head back to Texas.  We will miss her and wish her well.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Miraculously Karl Fixes the Autopilot

I bought the autopilot for the boat about 1999.  She was docked in Kemah, Texas as part of the divorce awfulness. Racing was coming to an end, and I had delusionaly considered single handing. I called up Sea Tech in Kemah and ordered up an autopilot.  Having seen all of the shiny ads in the sailing magazines, I had decided on B&G brand.  The  young man on the other end of the line was silent.  "Any problems with that?" I asked. He said that he had seen a lot of B&G stuff come in for repairs.  "Then what would you buy?" I asked.  He said Simrad AP22 with a Robertson linear drive attached to the rudder post.  I have never received better advice.  The unit worked flawlessly for 10 years.  It was never powerful enough for the big waves, but I preferred to hand steer in the rough stuff anyway.

Then about 4 or 5 years ago ago it began to slow down.  It took longer to wake up and engage.  It became weaker and weaker. By last year even motoring in a flat clam was a problem and by this June during our delivery to the yard, the autopilot  flatly refused to stay on track.  It knew where it was supposed to go but just did not have the "oomph" to do so. My diagnosis was loss of hydraulic fluid in the linear drive. I called tech support for Simrad, and he agreed with me.  He told me to locate the tank and look for a hemisphere. Unscrew this and add hydraulic fluid.  He recommend Pure Oceans brand (which is the house brand for West Marine, go figure?).  "Don't use transmission fluid which is too thin and don't fill the tank more than 75%. It needs air to self bleed. Good luck." were his final words.

Now, dear readers, I do not even like to fix things.  I only do so because I have to, and I figured that a service call would be over $500.00. I found the tank by wedging as far back into the stern compartment as I could.  I marveled at the unit as it looked new after all the years.  Those Danes, who originally started Robertson, really used quality stuff.  I looked at it three times and looked at the schematic three times before I realized that what I had taken to be a round headed screw was this fabled hemisphere.  I had actually kept the instruction manual all these years, It is also available on line.  Now how it  get it off.  The unit was wedged underneath a bulkhead with only an inch of clearance.  No screwdriver in my bag would fit.  Eventually, I had to breakdown and borrow a special tool from the yard.  Thanks, Sadler Point Marina!

Finally, I had access to the tank, and as expected it was bone dry.  For a dip stick I improvised with stir sticks courtesy of Starbucks.  I carefully added just the recommend amount of hydraulic fluid and used the special tool to close up the tank. The whole job took 4 or 5 hours including 20 trips into the stern lazerette, two trips to the office and one trip to West Marine.  But it was done.

Two days later on our delivery on the St Johns River of White Pepper from Sadler Point Marina to Green Cove Springs Marina, I tried out the unit.  It worked perfectly and seemed to have all of the power it displayed in more youthful days.  The sense of satisfaction was intense!

As long time readers of this blog we understand: to boat is to fix things.  This time it worked out wonderfully well.  But from now on we have to carry an extra bottle of fluid, and I have to make a trip to Harbor Freight to buy a special tool. 

Finally as a caution, I have praised Simrad and Robertson, but both companies as well as B&G have been bought out by large marine conglomerates.  I have no idea whether the quality has been maintained.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

New Toys for White Pepper

White Pepper is coming back to life after hibernating for over two years. Cleaning or rather mold abatement with vinegar has taken all week.  Jan and I put a new coat of bottom paint on in only 4 days of back breaking labor. The propane system had to be coaxed back to life (rusty solenoid). There is mold all over the deck and lines. About half of the interior lights are out, but they all need to be replaced with LED anyway.  The head (potty) works well at least.

 Despite all of the hard work we have some neat new toys to play with.

The most laborious chores on the boat for both of us is raising the main sail and getting the dingy on board. Getting the mainsail up is such a hassle that sometimes we just don't do it.  This can be a danger as when transiting the gap, etc. To address this problem which only gets worse every year we have installed an electric winch on the starboard coach roof.  It is an Andersen stainless steel 40 self tailer with a single speed motor installed underneath.  Sadler Point Marina did the installation and carpenter Kenny built an an attractive wooden box to hide the motor. The switch was installed at the pedestal so that Jan can control the motor while keeping the boat pointed upwind.  (For non-sailors the main sail will only go up when the boat is pointed directly upwind.)

Incredible Andersen 40

Other chores for this winch will be to lift the dingy, Habenero, onto the fore deck using the starboard spinnaker halyard.  This chore still requires remarkable agility by Karl on the fore deck wrestling a nine foot two hundred pound dingy, especially if the wind is blowing at all.  But at least now it will not require manual labor by Jan grinding up the beast.  Finally, the winch will let Jan winch me up the mast which was impossible previously.  Having me winch Jan up the mast resulted in the very cute posts of her waving from aloft when the halyards tangled at Little Farmers Cay Bahamas April 2011.

We bit the bullet and had a new cabin sole installed to replace the incredibly scarred and worn old one. (Non sailors will recognize the cabin sole as a floor; sailors know that the floors on a boat are the cross members of the foundation.)
Aphrodite enjoying her new cabin sole

The Navtec hydraulic back stay adjuster was replaced with a mechanical stainless steel ratcheting mechanism from Wichard.  The Navtec is just not reliable enough for cruising.  It leaks and when the fluid is gone, you are helpless.  The whole story is so sorry.  Only Navtec has the seals and the tools to install them with leak proof (sort of) results.  However, Navtec is out of business.  Sending the unit to Hydraulics-R-Us just won't cut it.  So the whole $2500.+  apparatus is junk.  The Wichard unit, however, looks and works great.
Ratcheting Back Stay Adjuster by Wichard

Minor issued addressed were nipping up the genoa halyard which had become frayed over the years.  Failure of this line in a remote area would be catastrophic.  And finally we had a chock installed at the base of the mast to allow the spinnaker/whisker pole to be stored and deployed from the mast.  The last trip out convinced me that a spinnaker is not reasonable for a powerful 41 foot boat double handed.  But there are many opportunities for wing and wing sailing downwind in the Bahamas esp. in the Spring. Not having to wrestle the pole off the deck and onto the mast will allow us to take advantage of those opportunities.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

White Pepper Visits the Davises in Solomons

After the excitement at the boat show Jan and I had a chance to visit with our friends Kay and Richard Davis on there boat docked in Solomons, Maryland.  They have a wonderful Katy Krogen 48 trawler and were attending the annual Katy Krogen rally at Solomons. The name of the boat is Texas Ranger.
Texas Ranger at dockside

Kay and Richard also maintain a neat blog at  Following it I was filled with nostalgia as some of the pictures in the blog were near duplicates of those we took on our own journey up the East Coast in 2008.

Jan and I were travelling with daughters Kristi and Layla and son-in-law Pat.  By and by we all headed off the lunch at Stoney's Kingfisher. There is some history here.  During our last visit to Solomons I was still on my quest for the perfect crab cake. A crab cake seems like a simple meal, but is really difficult to do well.  So difficult that few people from Texas have ever had a good one. First the crabs have to be good and fresh, then you can not use too much filler, finally it has to be seasoned and cooked to perfection.  My quest had been fulfilled at Stoney's in 2008, and I was looking forward to another perfect crab cake sandwich.  Richard had said that the crabs were not as good this year in the Chesapeake, but I persisted. When the meal finally arrived it was good but not great, and I was unreasonably disappointed.  The crab was not meaty at all.  I believe the oil had been left in the fryer too long.  

Heraclitus said in the fifth century BC that you could not step into the same river twice.  But I say today that you can not eat the same crab cake twice. So enjoy life the first time around because if you do get a second chance it may not be as much fun.
Three happy customers and one disgruntled gentleman at Stoney's Kingfisher

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 2013 Annapolis Sailboat Show

 “Why go to the boat show when you do not have a boat or plan to buy a boat?” That was the question I heard several times before Jan and I attended the 2013 Annapolis Sailboat Show. Well, for us it is not about the boats for sale on display. There were many on display to be sure, but most of the boats were large catamarans destined for the charter trade. We did board the Tartan 47 which was listed at close to a million dollars. It was large and well laid out, but it was after all--a Tartan and for a million dollars?? There were three Alerions on display—the 28, 34, and 41. These are gorgeous boats, but pitched towards the day sailor. We caught the scuttlebutt that Tartan had cut C&C loose and Alerion/J Boat had picked up the trademark. There is no word yet on what will happen, and no new boats have been announced. It is another sorry chapter in the saga of the once glorious name C&C. For my money the pick of the show was the Gun Boat, a futuristic 60 foot catamaran made out of carbon fiber.

We had come to meet friends. We rendezvoused with Don and Sue Engler, our cruising buddies from 2011 in Georgetown, Bahamas. They own a sister ship C&C 41 (but not keel/centerboard) and they base out of Delaware. We also had the kids with us—Kristi, Layla, and Pat. We all had the traditional lunch of large and rare roast beef sandwiches at the Fleet Reserve Center. This is a boat show tradition that is not to be missed. Also at the lunch at the Fleet Reserve Center was Bob Bitchen. He has relaunched his publishing business with “Cruising Outposts” after the collapse of “Attitudes and Latitudes.” I was able to introduce him to Pat. Bob was as gracious as ever.

We also came to see the vendors. This was actually the principal reason to go at all. Jan meet a Facebook friend , Dinnen, at the Mantus booth, and I bought a Mantus chain grabber. I had been eying it for several months in the magazines, and think it will serve nicely as part of the anchor system. Just around the corner at the Spade Anchor booth, I saw an innovative anchor stabilizer that will fit very nicely on the tip of the anchor roller. The White Pepper's bow roller is too small and the anchor chair often jumps off the roller. Hopefully, this will help. I got advise from the Map Tech vendor about problems with the program I bought 5 years ago. We picked up a Nautical Almanac at the Celestaire booth. I had a long and informative discussion with the Yanmar distributor about a possible re-power. Also at the Yanmar booth was Chuck, an old friend from Deltaville Boatyard in Virginia. Jeff Coxwell, an old friend of Jan's from Rockport, Texas was there selling his very successful C Cushions for boats. I picked up some invaluable insights from the Edson dealer about instrument mounts.

So you see, I hope, that the boat show is not just about boats. It rained off and on all day, but we were sad to see the show close at 6:30. Like so many cruisers, for us the Annapolis boat show marks the start of our cruising season. The next Monday we headed for Florida --via I-95 this time and not the ICW. Next up the Sadler Marina Boatyard and all of the 2013 upgrades to the White Pepper.

The pics show how rainy is was.  But as one attendee said.  There is no bad weather only bad foul weather gear. Also shown is the Gun Boat, my new gadget for the anchor bow roller and "too many multihulls."