Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chalk Paint for the Main Salon Table




White Pepper's main salon table had become too tired to carry on any further.The finish was worn and stained. The teak veneer had worn so thin that another overhaul was unrealistic. However, the underneath was sound and sturdy.

Jan had been working with chalk paint at home and hit upon refinishing the table with chalk paint. This would be a dramatic departure from traditional teak and varnish so careful planning was in order.

First of all Annie Sloan brand of chalk paint was purchased at an antique shop in Goliad, Texas and brought to Florida. Then the table was lightly scuffed with sandpaper and cleaned with mineral spirits. Two coats of Annie Sloan were applied. Here I was schooled by Jan. Chalk paint  by convention is used to make old furniture look better, not new. Indeed, pieces are usually deliberately abraded (or distressed). I begged her not to distress our old table. At this point the table looked better, but it was not Awl Grip either.

Then the magic began. Jan had obtained a stencil of an anchor to apply a contrasting coat of blue gray color. Also a border was added and the blue gray dappled with a sponge. Finally two coats of semi-gloss polyurethane were applied. This step seals and protects the paint. New Perko pulls were added to the small center hatches.


The results have brightened up and updated the interior for little cost. Although the cost does not reflect the care and effort that went into the project.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Composting Head



If you can not fix the head, you can't go to sea.” is an old saying with a lot of truth. The head is so important that usually the captain is in charge of maintenance on most small yachts. White Pepper has her share of horror stories about broken potties, plugged up hoses, frozen Y-valves, and botched pump-outs as does every yacht.

I have replaced (once) and rebuilt (twice) White Pepper's venerable Skipper Mate potty from Wilcox Crittenton for so long that parts are no longer available for this model. Last year I had come to dread using the head wondering every day whether this would be the time when the lever would not move (or worse spin freely.) That moment came on Mother's Day 2014. The potty broke. Fortunately, that was the last day Jan and I were on the water. Haul out was scheduled for the next day. Here was the time to take a different direction.

We had seen a composting head at the Annapolis Boat Show in 2012 and were intrigued. A composting head has no moving parts except for a rotating handle and simply can not break. The difference between a composting head and a porta-potty or bucket is that the urine and solid waste are separated. The separation is accomplished by some clever but simple mechanical engineering. The urine compartment has to be emptied every day or every other day. The solid waste is mixed with peat moss or shredded coconut husk and allowed to compost. The composting process begins immediately but takes several months to complete. The bucket has to be emptied somewhere around 3 or 4 weeks with regular use by two people. A vent and fan keep the odor to practically zero.

Jan and I had three choices. The Air Head was the first on the market and claims to be the best. Nature's Head is slightly larger and claims to be even better. It does have a larger seat and is a closer fit to the traditional potty. The C-Head is about 1/3 cheaper. It probably works perfectly fine, but we did not believe it was study enough for long term sea duty. Eventually we chose the Air Head as it fit better in the head compartment. The seat is, however, small. The Air Head is made of quality materials, is well designed, and seems likely to last.

The Air Head arrived at Green Cove Springs Marina. There is nothing complicated about the installation. Possibly the only tricky part was drilling a 3 and 3/8” hole in the cabin top for a vent. However, I wimped out and let the yard install the head. Part of the reason I did so was that I wanted the through hull fitting removed and glassed over. I did take out the old potty, holding tank and hoses myself. All of this material along with the large through hull fitting probably weighed 150 pounds. Also I had two hose exits at the waterline glassed over. One was for the holding tank vent and the other was for a long extinct head sump pump hose. A benefit of this effort was that a leak over the stove 10 feet away stopped. Jan repainted the cabinets. Fiberglasser Charlie did a great job on the holes and modified the head compartment to accommodate the head. Technician Bobby mounted a vent and fan. I had to buy a cowl vent hood with a Dorade mechanism.

Jan put in a load of premium shredded coconut husks and kicked on the new era last month. I have delayed this post until after emptying the solid waste compartment today. Dumping the urine bottle is no problem and by the way is completely legal. All of the laws are written to control solid waste and E. coli contamination. Urine is sterile and is legal to dump. The solid waste is another matter and is supposed to be deposited in special sites. The Air Head company says that after 3 months the material is completely composted can be spread under non food plants. But the bucket needs to be changed about every month. Today White Pepper sailed out of the Fort Pierce Inlet to 3 miles offshore and dumped the honey bucket. Frankly the “yuk” factor was no worse than changing a baby's diaper—not pleasant, but not terrible. Most of the solid waste was just moldy dirt although some of today's deposit was still obviously feces.

I wore disposable gloves and cleaned up with vinegar. Strong chemicals are forbidden as they halt the composting process. More coconut husk was added and the whole process didn't last 10 minutes.


We are very pleased with the composting head. My take is that you make a choice as to where you place the effort. We would rather make the effort to empty the pee bottle and honey bucket more often, rather than struggle with the hoses, valves, holding tank and intricacies of a traditional potty.

Monday, December 8, 2014

White Pepper Brought to a Stop by a Mud Dauber



White Pepper was motoring south through Daytona Beach on a break-in run of the new motor, a Yanmar 3JH. The previous day the motor had stopped because of a loose pin in the wiring harness of the ignition system. This day, however, was to prove even more stressful.

The motor had stopped once already. I had quickly changed the fuel filter which was dirty enough to convince me that this was the cause. I should have been suspicious because the newly installed vacuum gauge did not indicate a serious obstruction. We got though the bridges of Daytona Beach in good order . Then the motor stopped again. After checking on the filter which was clean I could not refill the Racor filter bowl. The fuel kept running out. “Oh, no!” I thought a new fuel line has ruptured. But the bilge was clean. There was only one place the fuel could be going—back into the fuel tank. There must be a vacuum in the fuel tank. I went topsides to the fuel fill line and opened the cap. There was a “whoosh” relieving the vacuum. I restarted the motor leaving the fuel cap open , and it ran fine.

All this time Jan had been sailing down the ICW with a rolled out jib. We diverted to Inlet Marina, which is a small marina between the ICW and the northern branch of the Ponce Inlet.

Inlet Marina was great! They welcomed us and were very helpful for the three days we were there trying to straighten out the problem. After all we could not continue on with the fuel fill line open to the elements.

The next day I took off the fuel tank vent line. Actually, one of the marina's dock hands, George Torzsa, did the honors as he was thin enough to fit into the very tight quarters of the stern. The line was completely blocked with the nest of a mud dauber. There was even a dead wasp in the debris. Once the mess was cleaned up the motor ran without problems.

Mud daubers are solitary wasps that build nests of mud in tight spaces. The issue is well known in boating circles. It coulda/shoulda been prevented by blocking the vent with tape or bronze wool when she was laid up for storage. This problem will not happen next year.

Of interest, Wikipedia Encyclopedia, records two episodes of fatal crashes of commercial airliners due to mud daubers clogging vital tubes.

I was so spooked by the motor stopping 3 times in 2 days that I arranged for the fuel to be polished. Neel Larsen of Fuelbrite LLC, Palm Coast, Florida came to the marina and filtered the old fuel. He pulled out lots of bio film and solid debris, but no water. He made the cloudy fuel clear. Maybe I wimped out by having the fuel polished, but just knowing that there is no water in the fuel tank will be reassuring.

The next day the motor ran great covering the 39 statute miles between Ponce Inlet and Titusville in only five hours. She never missed a beat.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reynolds Park Marina, Green Cove Springs

 Dockside at the Reynolds Park Pier

The dock from the bulkhead

Reynolds Park Marina is only a mile from Green Cove Springs Marina but may as well be a world away. It is also centered around one of the 10 derelict half mile long piers in the St. Johns River that date back to the last days of WWII. It is on pier #2. Green Cove Springs is on pier #9. Reynolds Park Marina has redone the water and electricity and provides safe berthing along side. Green Cove Springs uses mooring balls as the electricity on the pier is not safe. Indeed while we were there a wire overheated and the pier caught fire briefly.

Reynolds is very quiet, clean, gated, and seems safe. There is a comfortable cruisers lounge with clean showers and reliable internet. Capt. David Peden answers the phone reliably at 904-284-4667 although they do not answer the VHF. You can drive your car onto the pier for easy re provisioning. Rates are reasonable. Having said all that, we missed the hustle and bustle of Green Cove Springs Marina. The squalor and dust seems a small price to pay for all of the interesting people and activity happening there. Jan and I have become quite fond of the staff at GCSM as well.

White Pepper spent 13 days at Reynolds Park including Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was a pleasant pot luck affair in the cruisers lounge. There was even football at the big screen TV. Our stay at Reynolds Park all seems like a blur to me. We had to finish up the motor project with Al, bend on the sails, re provision and generally put the boat back together after being torn apart during her stay at Green Cove. The big run to Wal-Mart for paper and plastic goods came within an ace of $400. These items are much more expensive in the Bahamas so we take our own. Also cat food is scarce and expensive. We bought Aphrodite 6 months worth and repacked it all in plastic bags. The newly emptied locker in the fore peak (where the holding tank had been) was quickly filled.

Several days were spent re-caulking the hatch over the engine which had to be cut out last August to install the new motor. I used a whole 10oz. tube of 3M's 4200. I was planning to re bed the opening ports, but they would not come apart. Thanks Deltaville Boatyard. I will have to eventually go to a proper boat yard with enough tools to pry apart what seems to be 5200 sealant.

The two weeks were a pleasant contrast to the previous ones at GCSM and proved be a convenient way to prepare for the upcoming season. Finally the last day dawned clear and calm. Jan an I were able to push away for the next and first stop of the year—Jacksonville Municipal Marina. Regular readers will remember the Muni from the tribulations last Spring. This time it should be different!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Re Power, Part II, Includes Sea Trials


The new engine arrived in late August. We had paid for it at the end of May. Jan and I drove out from Texas to Florida to help with the installation and do some maintenance chores.

Al Blande from Al's Mobile Marine was there with the shiny new motor. After three furious days of labor the old motor and water heater were on the ground and the new motor sitting in the engine compartment. There were two main obstacles. The new motor (3JH5e) was about the same size as the old one (3HM), but not quite. It was 100 pounds heavier, shorter, a bit taller, and a lot wider. It would not fit through the lazerette opening. The cockpit floor had to be opened which made the install easy but left a gaping wound in the White Pepper. The second problem was that the motor mounts were the perfect width but lacked an inch fore and aft of fitting the old holes. Furthermore, the motor needed to be lifted an inch to match the transmission to the prop. Al arranged for stainless steel blocks to be fabricated. These were expensive and would not be available until after Labor Day.

Jan and I drove to Texas with mixed emotions. Much work had been done, but the job was not finished. Back in Texas I was able to land a part time job for September and October. This job was helpful in partially paying for the project.

Also back in Texas I had time to work on the propeller selection which is the subject of another post. Of interest to anyone planning to re power, it takes 6 to 8 weeks to have a Sailor brand propeller made by Michigan Wheel. These are not off the shelf items!

During this time Al had continued to work on the engine install and by November only a few details were left undone. The big issue during this period was wrestling a 3 inch exhaust system into the back of the boat. This change was probably the most problematic of the entire project. However, large exhaust systems are the future because of environmental concerns being driven by Europe, mostly.

At the end of October I resigned my job, we wrapped things up in Texas, packed up the kitty and headed back to Florida for a rendezvous with the Al, the propeller, and our White Pepper.
Finally all the pieces of the puzzle were put together. The last touch was a shaft saver to guard against catastrophic failure of the prop at the transmission and shaft alignment while in the water.

Sunday dawned warm, gray and fairly calm. It was a good day for the sea trials. The new engine roared to life. We pushed away from the dock and headed out to the St. John's River. Al ordered 1500 revs per second for five minutes and then upped the revs by 300 cycles per second every 5 minutes. All the time he used his own instruments to measure the revolutions per second and engine temperature compared those to the actual reading on the instrument pod. The tachometer was about 40 cycles per second too low and the thermometer was reading about 8 degrees high. Both were within acceptable parameters. Wide open throttle was 3200 per second and boat speed was 7.7 knots. No smoke was seen and the motor did not seem to be overloaded at WOT. After the WOT trial White Pepper cruised easily back to the dock at 7.2 knots while running at 2500 per second.

All in all the morning was a remarkable culmination to a great deal of expense and work. I was especially pleased that the boat had matched and exceeded the expectations I had based on hours of calculation back the the kitchen table at Beeville.

Jan and I feel very confident about the upcoming cruising season. In fact, today makes me think “what was I thinking?” trying to carry on last year with such a crippled engine.





Saturday, November 22, 2014

Reef Lines in the Boom

Homemade Rigger's Implements.  There is a 16' rod in my right hand and a crochet hook in the left hand.

When you do something dumb sometimes it forces a burst of creativity.  Earlier in the year I was trying to replace a frayed reef line.  I accidentally pulled the line all the way through the boom. How was I going to re rove the new line through the enclosed boom with only small holes for the pulleys at each end? I suppose that riggers have specialized implements for this task, but I didn't.

After a number of false starts I hit upon using an extra long dowel to push a light line down the boom.  The line was taped onto  the dowel with a loop on the end. The extra long dowel is shown above.  I made it by duct taping four regular wooden dowels (4' x 5/8") that I had purchased at Home Depot for 91 cents each. One of Jan's crochet hooks was borrowed in order to fish out the line when it arrived at the end of the boom. A pair of wire ties provided a lead to guide the light line over the pulley. Finally the light line was sewn to the reef line (end for end) and pulled back through the boom.

You can see from the grin in the photo that I felt pretty good about the project.  But in truth I had to spend about 6 hours undoing 10 seconds of thoughtlessness. On the other hand 6 hours is a fairly light penitence compared to some of my other 10 seconds of screw ups.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Hot Water Heater Maintenance

When I started this blog I promised to post about maintenance. Maintenance, repair, and upgrades are the very essence of cruising as much as peaceful anchorage and beautiful beaches. Still I never realized that even the hot water heater needs routine service.

Hot water heater with zinc removed.  Old zinc is on the right. Replacement on left.

I had overheated the engine during the disastrous Spring in the Bahamas.  The pressure relief valve had popped and emptied the hot water into the bilge.  The pressure relief valve is on the upper right in the picture.  These valves do not reset and have to be replaced whenever overheated.  While on the Raritan website I notice something about a zinc.  What zinc??  I did not even know it had a zinc!  I ordered one with the new valve for about $70 each.

The zinc is huge--larger than the zinc on the shaft or on the keel cooler of the refrigerator.  It is part of the hot water discharge nipple and goes in the hole in the upper part of the heater.  When I removed the zinc I was horrified to see that it was gone.(see picture) This water heater was new in 2007. The replacement was quite easy when the heater was out of the boat.  I was careful to use a lot of plumbers tape.

Earlier Jan had flushed out the chamber of a hose and some vinegar. Copious calcium build up and debris poured out. This ruins the electrical coils.

There is no luxury quite like a quick hot, fresh water rinse after a hard day of sailing or maybe an icy dunk in cold water.  So I am hoping the hot water heater will last a few more years with regular care.

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Re Power, Part 1

Yanmar 3JH5e

The re power process has been difficult for White Pepper. The first difficult decision was in February 2014 whether to re power the boat or not. The price to re power would be 25% of the retail price of the boat. This decision took about a half second of debate and discussion.  Someday Jan and I will not be able to continue the cruising lifestyle, but not this year.

The second decision was to continue with Yanmar. Yanmar did not cause the engine failure after 29 years.  I am still not clear what caused the failure although the transmission had a lot to do with it. If pressed I would say that an incorrect choice of transmission fluid was the proximate cause.

The next question was horsepower. White Pepper has always been under horsed. Indeed, these were the very first words from her original surveyor, Mr. Kershaw, in 1989. It has not been a problem until recently. The rule of thumb is that race boats should have 1 HP per thousand pounds of displacement.  This description fits White Pepper with the 3HM.  A cruising boat should have 2 HP per thousand pounds which works out to about 40 HP for the old girl.  The new C&C 41 by Alerion  will have a Yanmar 3JH as standard equipment.  The most capable cruisers will have 3 HP per thousand pounds which is way beyond what White Pepper can accommodate in her stern.  So the Yanmar 3JH5e, with 39 max. HP  was chosen.  The 3 stands for 3 cylinders.  The JH is the new line of high torque, low RPM, low exhaust engines from Yanmar. The 5 is for the fifth generation in the JH family. The "e" is for naturally aspirated, although some bloggers say it stands for export.

Choosing a mechanic was done on referral during the social hour at beach church at George Town, Bahamas. Cookie Monster recommended Al Blande of Al's Mobile Marine in Palm Coast, FL. Saber Tooth at St.Augustine seconded the recommendation.  Al was a great help over the phone at West Palm and in person at St. Augustine.  See earlier posts for details.

Matching the prop to the engine is extremely important.  This was subject to an earlier post which may need to be amended.  But for now an 18" x 15"  3 blade seems to fit.

Finally after months of waiting Al had assembled all of the necessary pieces and was ready to go in the last week of August, 2014.  Jan and I drove out from Texas to "help". The actual installation will be the subject of future posts.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Story of Tabu

The following post is a mostly true story that happened several years ago.  Some of the names have been changed as I plan to return to George Town again next year.

John motored over in his fine dingy just as I was climbing into my C&C 41, White Pepper.  "Are you coming over to the benefit for Tabu on Sand Dollar Beach tonight?  Remember we discussed it earlier."  I did remember vaguely.  Jan was back in the USA, and I was at loose ends.  I made an extra strong rum drink and headed our trusty dink, Habenero, to the beach. The party was the usual pot luck beach rum bust that happens often in George Town, Exuma, Bahamas.  This one was different in that it had a guest of honor--Tabu.  John introduced me.  Tabu was a slight, gentle, pale, blue-eyed young man with a gentle French-Canadian lilt.  However, the body language and syntax instantly communicated "whoa, different planet here."

I knew who Tabu was.  His home was a derelict 26 foot yacht anchored 200 yards south of Volley Ball Beach, the epicenter of cruiser life in George Town.  I had passed it numerous times. At the sound of a motor a curly head would usually pop up, look around, wave, and then disappear.  He had occupied the same spot for two years.

Later my friend, John, filled me in on the details.  Tabu liver alone and supported himself by doing commissioned art.  Commissions being few, Tabu had become intensely interested in trash.  While he never actually begged hand outs were graciously accepted.  Rusty cans were welcome.  Left over lemons, limes, indeed any spices were actively solicited. Over dinner one night John showed me some of Tabu's art.  It was exquisite.  The small oils had a precision and vividness that were astonishing.  The colors were "too bright." Overall they reminded me of art created by autistic artists.  Later I saw some very abstract paintings that contradicted my initial impression. Regardless, with his overall appearance and his reduced circumstances there seemed to be something very chromosomal about Tabu.

To understand why 40 sailors were toasting Tabu that lovely March evening while hundreds watched in stony silence from their yachts, I have to describe George Town. The Bahamian George Town is a lovely settlement of 1700 gentle souls and is the regional capital of Exuma, a province of the Bahamas.  The George Town known to the boating community is an evanescent gathering of 300 to 400 yachts that arrive every winter season in the large roadstead called Elizabeth Harbor between Great Exuma Island and Stocking Island.  They start arriving every November to anchor and enjoy each other's company. We number 600 to 1000 sailors and become the second largest village in Exuma.  This community brings with it all of the strengths and foibles of small town America.  There is a mayor (by acclamation), a town council (volunteers), a town hall (the St Francis Hotel), a rec center (the volley ball courts on Volley Ball Beach), a bonding festival (the Cruiser's Regatta) and beach church.  I have come to thoroughly enjoy my visits to George Town.  There are also many explicit rules and implicit mores.  Tabu lived on the fringes of this community and had committed outrage.

Let me count the ways.  First of all Tabu was being expelled from the choir of beach church.  Tabu could not sing a lick.  None of the other choristers could either.  The only one who could sing at all was the choir leader who was also the mayor's wife.  She could sing like an angel but tolerated no nonsense.  Tabu had announced that he could not attend mandatory practice sessions because of the wind.  The winter had been especially breezy, and Tabu had to row everywhere. Tabu also had a sweet tooth.  After beach church he would eat ALL of the pastries offered during the social hour and, of course, never bring any of his own.  This gauche had earned a stinging rebuke from one of the ersatz vestry.  What had brought this simmering pot to a boil was that Tabu fished for sharks.  Without refrigeration he needed to catch a shark about every three days to supply his protein needs.  In order to catch sharks he would chum the water, presumably with the remains of his previous catch.

Now no one likes to have sharks about, especially 200 yards from where children are playing in the water.  An emergency meeting of the town council was called. A new rule was announced--no fishing in the harbor and especially no chumming allowed. Never mind that this new rule was contrary to current Bahamian law.  (In 2013 the Bahamian authorities did declare Elizabeth Harbor a no-take zone.)

Every community has a bully, and Wanderer was ours.  Wanderer was a loud and large man with bulky boat parked too close to the beach. He claimed to have two shot guns. Tabu and Wanderer had a confrontation on Volley Ball Beach.  Curses and shoves were exchanged. In this crises John and some friends (not me) went to speak to Wanderer.  He was unrepentant and aggressively asserted that he would indeed fire on Tabu if he continued to fish for sharks.  To be fair a few strong souls spoke up for Tabu at next Sunday's beach church and also at "open mike" on the 8:30 am cruiser's net on the VHF radio.  Later in the week John organized his "benefit" for Tabu on the beach.

Back at the party Tabu had brought for his contribution--a series of dips for the chips.  These were flavored with the rinds and left overs I mentioned previously.  He also used the rinds for pigments in his paints. I suspected that the chief use of these condiments was to mask the flavor of rotten shark. Naively and politely I sampled each one.  They were very tasty, but they were also unrefrigerated.  Later I paid for my indiscretion with two days of fever, vomiting  and copious diarrhea.  After a bit there were some heart felt speeches and the hat was passed around.  I threw in a twenty.  Tabu was sincerely touched  He announced that "you are my family, and I will live here forever."  Someone made a bonfire, someone else broke out a guitar, Tabu played the tambourine. We sang and drank the night away.

I wish this story had a happy ending.  I wish it had an ending at all.  You see, Tabu had aggravated the Bahamian authorities as much as the cruising community.  They refused to extend his visa.  He had to leave and soon.  One day Tabu came up on the net and plaintively asked if anyone had a courtesy flag for the Turks and Caicos that he could "borrow."  The next day he again came on the net to sincerely thank all of the friends he had met in George Town.  The next morning he was gone.

The weeks passed by.  After Easter the mayor departed with great fanfare on the VHF radio.  Later most of the town council left for Florida.  The anchorage thinned out.  The best Christian I have ever met, John, left for somewhere "south."  Net Control, the heart beat of the community, faltered and failed.  Beach church had one last service.  The community was dying to be reborn next November.  Finally on one brilliant morning in late April with a steady, fair wind from the south and with Jan back on board White Pepper headed out.  As we cleared the opening, Conch Cut, I looked out to the east.  It had seemed criminal to force Tabu out to sea in his  derelict junker of a sailboat.  However, the weather had been fair for weeks.  I hoped that he had made it to the Turks and Caicos.  He would not fit in there either.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Choosing a New Propeller

Part of the re powering project for  White Pepper involves choosing a new propeller to match the new engine.  Such a task is not easy.  A poor selection can lead to engine failure as well as poor performance.  Indeed I now suspect that some of  White Pepper's current problems stem from "under pitching" the prop when it was changed out in 2007.

The universally acknowledged expert in selecting a prop is David Gerr and his book, "Propeller Handbook."I ordered one from Amazon and set to work.  I must say that I have never spent better money on a nautical book. I wish I had learned this stuff years ago.

Mr. Gerr's book is for those who want to know why and not just the answer.  The book is well written but dense.  I had to read some sections several times.  The math is about the level of a good Algebra II class in high school.  I used the scientific calculator on my smart phone.  My chief complaint about the book is the poor reproductions of the  graphs.  I really had to squint at times. There are propeller calculators on the internet. Indeed I used one from Max  Prop and got the same answer, but I felt more comfortable having worked it out myself.

The process starts with consulting the power curve of your engine.

Power Curve for Yanmar 3JH Series

Where the two lines meet is the only spot where the propeller is optimum, that is at 3000 RPM and 38 mhp. MPH is metric horsepower which is almost identical to an English horsepower.  Then chose a reduction gear.  Yanmar has two--2.4 and 2.6.  The 2.6 gear will turn the prop at 1150 RPM.  This slower speed allows for a larger blade and less chance of cavitation. Torque is slightly higher for lower RPMs since torque is power divided by RPM. Variable pitch propellers are available which will allow the two curves to match up.  These are so expensive they are only for tug boats and mega yachts.

The "Propeller Handbook" provides two methods of estimating propeller diameter and pitch from horsepower, shaft RPM and boat dimensions.  There is the old traditional slip method of Crouch and a newer, more numerical, but not necessarily more accurate method called Bp-delta. For those who do not know, the pitch of the propeller is how many inches it would advance in one revolution if it did not slip.  A typical sailboat slips about 45%, so a boat with a propeller pitched at 13 inches would advance about 7 inches each revolution.  That works out to 9,250 inches per minute (at 1250 RPM)  or about 7 nautical miles per hour.

The slip method yielded a suggested propeller dimension of 18" in diameter by 14" of pitch for the 2.6 gear.  This was close to the propeller suggested by the Max Prop calculator on the internet.  Max prop suggested 18x13. 

The Bp-delta method gave 20 inches for the optimum diameter.  I thought that this was too large for the aperture.  Choosing an 18" blade,  gave a pitch of 15"  and an efficiency of 46% (55% is the best you can do.) This choice was confirmed by a call to Michigan Wheel, the premier manufacturers of bronze propellers.
Bp-delta diagram for a 4 blade prop

By comparison the current prop is 18" x 10".  The Yanmar 3HM was rated at 3600 RPM and 27 horses max.  The last time the old girl saw 3600 RPM was the day she raced for a bridge opening in 2009.  The transmission failed the next day.  Based on calculations of diesel consumption, I estimate that the power output was down to about 8 HP by 2013.

The Bp-delta method also allow you to calculate expected speed, 7 knots, and thrust, 880 pounds.  I was surprised at how low the trust was.  A full press of sail will generate thousands of pounds of force on the rig and anchor loads in a brisk wind are in the thousands of pounds.

David Gerr speaks glowingly of the advantages of a feathering prop and calls it ideal for the long distance cruiser who need to sail and power.  He reports that the drag of a fixed three blade prop is equal to the drag of the entire under body of a well designed yacht.  Compare that to the drag profile presented by a fully feathered propeller.

3 Bladed Max Prop looking forward when fully feathered.

I exchanged e-mails with Max Prop.  The price of the 3 blade classic is "only" $3300.  which is a bargain compared to the price I paid for my old two bladed prop 15 years ago.  I lost that one to electrolysis, but nowadays the Max Props are fitted with a large zinc bolted directly on to the hub.  That is what you are looking at above.  I asked about the new heavily promoted 4 bladed Eccowind Max Prop that has a spring which automatically adjusts the pitch to the load.  Unfortunately it will not work at the RPMs generated by the Yanmars.

The blades are obviously flat and efficiency suffers without the familiar twist we all see in traditional propellers.  However, the degradation is only 5%.  Furthermore, according to Dave Gerr  the efficiency enters the velocity and thrust calculations as the cube root, i.e. 2%.  So the expected speed for the re powered  White Pepper will still be 6.8 knots and thrust 836 pounds.  I can live with that if she will sail at 7.4 knots.

On the other hand a fixed 3 blade prop from Michigan Wheel Co would cost about $600.  The yacht would likely motor at 7.4 and sail at 6.8.  The fixed prop would likely be slightly more powerful facing a headwind and chop.  Choices!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Life in a DIY Boatyard


White Pepper made it to the travel lift safely and was hauled and blocked in the work yard of Green Cove Springs Marina. This marina is DIY (do it yourself) boatyard and one of the few such in Florida. We were able to stay aboard and work on the boat. We caught a break with the weather as an unseasonable spell of cool and dry air made for pleasant working conditions. Usually at this time of year northern Florida is a misery. .Living aboard was pleasant enough with cool nights. The days were always busy with noisy activity everywhere. The only aggravation was having to climb down the ladder to go to the head.

Jan varnished the bright work to perfection. She also waxed the metal stanchions and winches. She completely cleaned the interior with vinegar and furniture wax. I compounded and waxed the hull which took four days. We installed an oil lamp on the port bulkhead.

Also I cleaned and greased all of the winches. I have posted previously about the amazing Barient 726's which are White Pepper's primary winches. What I did not post was that I had lost the low gear on the port side to corrosion last fall. We no longer need low gear as we no longer have to grind in a large genoa in a breeze. But still I felt responsible. These old winches are museum pieces—relics of an older and perhaps better era of sailing in the 1960's and 70's. I took the rusted piece and soaked it overnight in acetone and ATF fluid. I bought a propane torch and heated it. Marvelous flames of burning ATF came out of the gear. Finally, I took that most delicate of tools, the ball peen hammer, and whacked it hard 4 or 5 times. It moved! Ten more whacks and the pieces were freed. Then I sanded and cleaned the gear for hours. I had purchased new paws for the gears. Despite the promise of a universal fit, the paws were too fat and too short for the ancient gear. New springs and new high tech Teflon grease finally got the paws to work again. Originally, I had imagined that if I succeeded in reviving the gear my joy would be unbounded. However, with success I felt more relief and anxiety than joy. The gear had failed more because of lack of use than anything else. I would have to deliberately exercise the winch regularly from now on.

Other chores included replacing a failed battery selector switch. We negotiated a deal with Yanmar to purchase a new motor. This will hopefully happen in 3 or 4 weeks. We ordered new lifelines from Julian at Sparcraft.  Both of the upper life lines had parted on the cruise.

We changed the zincs on the keel cooler of the FrigiBoat refrigerator. I serviced the anchor windlass.  It was frozen and also needed the ball peen hammer treatment.  I exchanged the primary and secondary chains on the bow.  Also I shortened the secondary chain from 100 feet to 40 feet.  This will remove 100 pounds from the bow.  In October I will ask Julian to redo the chain to rope splice.

Finally, we have run out of time and have to leave for Texas. Many more chores remain to be done. Re bedding the windows to prevent leaks which should take about a week, re bedding the mast step, replacing the rudder which is leaking, and replacing the potty with a composting head. The hot water heater was damaged with the overheating and needs service. Of course the bottom needs to be sanded and painted with antifoulant. We will do these chores in October before heading out again for another adventure





Wednesday, May 14, 2014

70 miles plus 100 yards

Some times the last 100 yards are the most difficult of a 70 miles trip.  On White Pepper's trip from St. Augustine to Green Cove Springs Marina each and every of the 100 yards were difficult, but the last 100 yards was perhaps most difficult.

Jan and I started out Tuesday from Rivers Edge Marina on the San Sebastian River on a beautiful morning in calm conditions.  We cleared the Bridge of Lions bascule bridge in downtown St. Augustine on the Matanzas River near slack water. Later we  were able to use the tidal currents of the Tomatoto River to good advantage.  We could boost the boat speed of 2.5 knots under motor to 4 or more using current and wind.  In Palm Valley we saw a manatee and cub.  This is one advantage of travelling so slowly.  The manatee was able to keep pace with us.  We cleared the treacherous Pablo Creek Bridge at slack water.  This bridge carries US 202 across the Pablo Creek and the ICW.  It lies in the shadow of the Mayo Clinic at Jacksonville and is notorious for impassable currents at max ebb and flood tides.  We docked at Beech Marina in Jacksonville Beach at 5:17 pm.

Wednesday brought the challenge of the ICW intersection with the St. John's River.  This is known to cruiser's as Sister's Creek and is also  known for treacherous currents.  White Pepper was 45 minutes late for low tide.  Instead of slack water we had 1.5 knots of cross current. But with full sails and a favorable wind, she handled it beautifully.

Successfully in the St. John's River I expected a flood tide but found ourselves caught in the last of the ebb.  This made for a long slow slog upriver.  Currents in the St. John's are mystery to me.  I have at last come to view them as great hills  and valleys of water travelling up and down the river. Thus you can visualize why the river can be ebbing and flooding at the same time--just as a hill has an up and a down slope at the same time. Anyway we got to Jacksonville after the valley had passed through and now were in a rip roaring flood tide. This made landing at the Metro Marina something of  a fire drill as the current tried to sweep us past the marina.  We made it; literally crash landing into an empty slip.

The Metro Marina is our favorite spot in Jacksonville.  It is a free marina for the first 72 hours and also empty.  It lies in the shadow of Jaguar  Stadium and is used by the city for special events.  In between these events it is available to the transient cruiser freely. Our only company for two days was a hippie commune of sailing gymnasts who give exhibitions from the rigging of their Thames River Barge. (I can not make this stuff up.)

I had planned the events of the next day Thursday so carefully.  Slack water at the Main Street Bridge downtown was at 9:30.  If I left Metro Marina at 9 am White Pepper would cover the mile to the bridge in 30 minutes. A quarter mile further on was the FEC railroad bridge that was unpredictable, but at slack water I could deal with the issue.  A fair East wind was predicted that would carry us by sail all the way to Green Cove Springs.  I called the Main Street Bridge at 9:15 to request an opening.  He responded that the bridge was under repair and would not open for 2 hours.  There was NO WAY.  The next opening would be near max ebb and we could not make it through as crippled as we were.  Tomorrow slack water would be at 10:30 but a brisk South Wind would make the trip up the St. John's an impossible beat.   Defeated we returned to the Metro Marina before the tide changed.

We called Sea Tow and accepted a scheduled tow on Friday to Green Cove Springs Marina.  "Big Jeff" was the captain of Sea Tow 7 and did an excellent job taking us through downtown Jacksonville and up the river 25 miles to Green Cove Springs were we grabbed a mooring ball in the marina late in the day.  Nominal cost for the tow of 7 hours was $3200, but it was fully covered by our Sea Tow policy. Somehow I was reminded of the economics of medical insurance while remaining very grateful to Sea Tow and captain "Big Jeff." I was particularly grateful because by this time the water pump had again lost its prime. No water was flowing through the exhaust so even minimal propulsion was not available.

Green Cove Springs Marina is very cheap and VERY busy.  We could not schedule a haul out until the next Wednesday.  That was not a problem as Jan and I had many chores to do, not the least of which was resuscitating the car.  It had been in storage for 7 months and did not come back to life easily.

Finally the day of the haul out arrived on Wednesday.  We had bagged the sails, stored the dingy, and prepped for the worst.  There was 100 yards between the mooring ball and the haul out slip.  We were number 6 of 7 and due to haul out at 1 pm.  There was limited space at the slip.  The sea breeze had picked up to 16 or 17 knots, a river current was flowing, and a huge thunder storm was brewing to the West.  I seriously doubted if White Pepper could even make it these 100 yards. Then as our number was called out over the VHF radio, the thunder head swung around and blocked the sea breeze. It went flat calm for 30 minutes. Dropping the mooring line she chugged ahead at 1/3 to 1/2 knot getting hotter by the minute.  But we made a perfect landing at the haul out slip.  A hour later we were hauled, washed, and blocked safely in the yard.

Readers my see this episode of the Adventures of the White Pepper as another sorry tale of woe on the high seas.  But Jan and I view today  as answered prayers from a God who listens.  I  can not imagine any other explanation of why a dangerous thunder storm would block the wind for the very 30 minutes White Pepper's motor needed to make her last voyage.






Thursday, May 1, 2014

Retreat from George Town, Part III


Do you think that you are a good enough sailor to sail 240 miles up the Florida coast without an engine. I thought I was. I wish I had never had that thought.

After cooling down overnight from all of the excitement of anchoring under sail in Lake Worth I phoned the US Customs to clear in. We had prepared extensively before leaving the US in order to participate in the Florida Local Boater's Option. By visiting the Customs office ahead of time and doing considerable work on the internet we hoped to be eligible to clear customs upon returning to the US with a phone call. The process worked well and within 20 minutes I had a clearance number. We had never even stepped off the boat. Jan worried that our border security seemed weakened somehow. But I think that by streamlining the routine stuff, Customs can concentrate on the bad guys.

For the next two days I fiddled with the exhaust system. I called our new mechanic, Al, and got several suggestions. Somehow the cooling system started working again. I was not quite sure how or why, but the engine purred along for 20 minutes and water poured out the exhaust. We canceled plans to haul out in West Palm Beach. We would try to make Green Cove Springs on the St. John's River. The St. John's River entrance is 240 n. miles north of West Palm Beach.

The weather forecast was perfect. Four days of dry moderate SE breezes were predicted. Within 30 minutes of making the decision White Pepper was motoring out the Lake Worth Inlet. The afternoon was perfect with moderate quartering breeze and seas. With the edge of the Gulf Stream pushing us along we were making rapid progress north. Rounding Cape Canaveral that night, the wind lightened (NOAA said it would strengthen) and the seas became lumpy for some reason. I turned on the motor to get some more forward motion and hopefully allow the off watch crew to rest. After 3 hours the motor overheated. We were once again a pure sailboat.

The next two days were difficult. We slowly gybed the boat down wind as the wind became weaker and weaker. I did not want to set the pole in the lumpy seas or if the wind were really going to build. I downloaded the GRIB files and sure enough it was supposed to be blowing 20 knots. The radio was calling for breezy conditions which would have easily blown us up to the St. John's River. Looking out from the cockpit what I saw was 6-10 knots of wind and 3 knots of boat speed. The atmosphere was clearly unstable and despite dry predictions thunderstorms were building over the coast 15 miles away.
We tied down everything on the deck. I put the electronics in the oven which can act as a “Faraday cage”. We took down the main sail and lashed it to the boom. About 8 pm when the first rain drops were falling, we rolled up the Genoa to flag size, sheeted it tight and went below.

The line squall struck hard about 2010 with 35 knot winds and gusting rain. Fortunately most of the lightning was cloud to cloud. About 2020 NOAA was warning of a major line squall moving off the coast. We stood watch from behind the dodger and by watching the AIS display below. The little flag of a foresail caught enough breeze to pull us along at 4 knots and keep the motion reasonable. It was all over within an hour.

By midnight when my watch started the SE breeze was back in force. The St. John's jetties were only 65 miles away. At 6.5 knots we would be there by late morning, just in time to catch the flood tide. Things were looking up! However, by 4 am the wind had died for good. Boat speed was under 3 knots. It looked like we would have to spend another night at sea. At dawn there were ominous clouds over the shore and another evening squall seemed like a sure bet. Even NOAA had caught on and was calling for thunderstorms. Jan and I decided to throw in the towel, and divert to St. Augustine 26 miles away, and call for help.

Arriving at the St. Augustine sea buoy about noon, Captain Dan on the Sea Tow 4, came out to meet us. There was no way I was going to try the treacherous St. Augustine Inlet without power (or even without wind).

 Capt. Dan and Sea Tow to the Rescue

Dangerous Inlet and Gathering Clouds.  Made the Right Decision

Captain Dan did an expert job with the tow, negotiating the Bridge of Lions lift bridge and putting us gently on the dock at the River Edge Marina on the San Sebastian River. Another thunderstorm struck just as he was casting off. Getting a Sea Tow membership seemed like the smartest thing I had done all season.

St Augustine is the end of our retreat from George Town. I am going to call a proper mechanic to look at the motor.

Being forced to sail without a motor for 3 days was a humbling and instructive exercise. Dealing with the really light airs for hours and days was trying. With a working motor, just a push of the button takes all that misery away. I believe that just sitting there waiting to be run over by a tanker or a thunderstorm was the worst part. Finally, my previously high confidence in the GRIBs and modern weather forecasting in the supercomputer era has been shaken. I never would have started off on this voyage if given an accurate forecast.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Retreat from George Town, Part II


White Pepper spent 7 days in Nassau at the Nassau Harbor Club Marina waiting for weather. There was 2 days waiting for the weather to arrive and an unusual 5 days waiting for it to blow over. There were two strong associated late season low pressures with trailing cold fronts—very unusual for this late in the season. The weather was not bad or cold in Nassau, but the front maintained strong head winds for us--West, Northwest and North wind for 5 days. Indeed, it was still blowing light out of the North the day we left. (NOAA had called for SE all day.) We headed for the Berry Islands and Frazier Hog Cay. We were delayed by being boarded by the Harbor Patrol. They did not give a reason, although I suspect accidentally getting close to a cruise liner had something to do with it. They were very professional, and we were on our way in 45 minutes. My late friend, Bruce Ray, single hander, had always spoken well of Frazier Hog as an alternate to Chubb Cay, just 5 miles away. After an agonizingly slow sail we got there just at sunset. We used the outer anchorage and did not take a mooring inside in front of the Bimini Yacht Club. I could not get the anchor to set in the rocky, grassy bottom. The anchorage was quite exposed, esp. to the south. I put out all of the chain which held us all night in the quiet conditions. But I do not think I am going back to Frazier Hog any time soon.

That night I checked the weather again. Now there was a mention of yet another cold front moving off of the Florida coast in two days. It was very mild. The GRIB files (computer generated predictions) showed only 10 knots from the north west then clocking East and dying rapidly. What could go wrong? I even foolishly thought that it would help. The wind would blow gently from the North. I would set the sails up to go West. The Gulf Stream would push North. The boat would go Northwest which was our destination. Sort of like squeezing a water melon seed between two fingers. Later we were to learn what that felt like. Besides to wait meant going into Chubb Cay Marina and paying exorbitant fees. Staying a Frazier Hog did not seem feasible. We took off.

We passed the Northwest Channel at noon. There was not much to see—just a color change as the depth changed from thousands of feet in the Tongue of the Ocean (blue) to dozens of feet (aquamarine) on the banks. The famous Northwest Channel Light is long gone and, indeed, is now a hazard to navigation. In truth with universal use of chart plotters, navigation lights are no longer necessary. But still it makes one wonder about a government that will not even maintain the basic aids to navigation. We made a long slow crossing of the Grand Bahama Banks exiting them at 3 am via Great Issac (also light extinguished) and the Hens and Chickens reef. We alternated watches but did not get much sleep.

Red Sun in Morning, Sailor Take Warning

The next morning dawned with a red sky--'sailor take warning.' The Gulf Stream was extraordinarily calm. The water was at times mirror like. White Pepper trudged along at 4 knots—two from the sick motor and 2 from the Stream. Then about noon a light Northwesterly sprung up--”Great” I thought. Boat speed picked up to 6 knots. Cool wind dried the sweat. We were in business. Then about 1 pm all hell broke loose with 15+ knots of wind gusting to 20 knots from the North. We were now only 5 miles east of the axis of the Stream. Thank you NOAA! Thank you GRIBs! Jan quickly reefed the Genoa. We both reefed the main. The boat took off to the Northwest on the close reach. We were making 9 knots, once touching 10. This was 3 and half knots from the Gulf Stream and 6 and half or seven knots from White Pepper. The waves were never too bad. Legends are told of great “elephants” marching down from the north in these conditions, but we never saw any. There were a couple of dozen gnarly waves, but White Pepper shook them all off like the through bred she is. Poor Aphrodite, however, was completely miserable. She spent the entire afternoon gripping a cushion with her claws. After the waves set in speed “dropped” to 8 knots. At least we were making tracks away from ground zero at a rapid rate. By 3 pm things were reasonable. This was after we crossed the western wall of the Gulf Stream. We raised the jetties of Lake Worth (between Palm Beach and West Palm Beach) about 5 pm.

Just inside the jetties the motor overheated again. We had to shut her down. It was a really mad scrabble to sail into the crowed Lake Worth anchorage.  Jan expertly steered and wove the boat through the anchorage. She picked out a likely spot.  When the time came she brought the boat to a stop at just the right place and dropped the main sail.  I was on the bow and let the anchor down.  Thankfully, the anchor bit and held.  

Jan and I were both exhausted—mentally and physically—after two days of grueling boredom , 4 hours of a roller coaster ride and 30 minutes of sheer panic somehow getting anchored without causing huge damage to another boat..

For readers who have patiently read this account of misery are there any take home lessons? Yes. Never believe the GRIBs, but most of you knew that anyway. Never go out in the Gulf Stream when there is any chance of North Wind, but everyone knows that. Third, I guess you got to do what you have to do. If we had returned to Nassau, it might have been another 2 or 3 weeks before the weather opened up again. This year has been severe. Despite all of the losses, we are very grateful and glad to be back in the USA. Indeed it seems to me nothing short of miraculous given all of the set backs of the past two months. And finally, Aphrodite, is a really great boat kitty.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Retreat from George Town, Part I


What a difference a crippled motor makes! Yes, Jan and I know how to sail. We know which way the wind blows and how fast it blows without instruments. We can read the water depth without a depth sounder. White Pepper has a big, muscular rig, and we know how to use it. Indeed, sailing free and fast on the open ocean or vast expanse of the Bahamas Banks is a wonderful feeling. However, having to sail through intricate channels and cuts, in and out of anchorages and harbors, or dodging storms without a motor is a completely different thing altogether!

The miraculous efforts to deglaze the transmission described in the previous post seems to have been successful in restoring about 50% of power which was minimal to start with. How long the fix would last was unpredictable. We had to consider the prospect of sailing without motor all the way back to Florida.

The first leg and the hardest was leaving George Town. After endless waiting, a seven day weather window of benign conditions opened up. (It did not last, but that is another post.) More importantly, the tide was changing so that low tide was beginning in the early afternoon. On Monday April 14 low tide was at 2 pm. Therefore, after 2 pm the current would be flooding and White Pepper would be sucked into the banks from the Exuma Sound, rather than spit out in a “rage.” All this made me more appreciative of the old captains that sailed these waters for hundreds of years before motors first became available during the Prohibition Era.

After several days of preparation White Pepper was ready to leave Monday. Best plans called for a predawn start, but White Pepper was half asleep at 7 am. We were able to clear Conch Cut by 8:45 am, something of a miracle in itself. The day was crisp and the wind bracing, perfectly positioned to carry us up 36 n. miles of the Exuma Sound to Galliot Cut by 2 pm. Of course the wind died about 11 am. At these speeds we would not even make Galliot Cut by dark. Reluctantly, I turned on the motor and it worked! With a motor assist we made it about 4 pm, 2 hours into the flood. With motor and full sails we cleared the cut and swirling waters without problems. Now on the Bahamas Banks the wind picked up and clocked East. I suspect that this was a late sea breeze. We roared along at 7+ knots which is hull speed for White Pepper.

By 6:30 pm we had made it all the way to Little Harbor behind Great Guana Cay, Exuma. (There are several Great Guana Cays elsewhere in the Bahamas.) We anchored with our friends, Graham and Valerie from Bonnie Lass, in ideal conditions. These did not last as the wind shifted South against predictions and sent small rollers into the anchorage after midnight. I suppose this is why Black Point just to the North with good southerly protection is popular and Little Harbor is not. One point of gratitude was that the rolling woke up the cat, who woke me up to complain. I got up to look around and was able to see the total eclipse of the moon just before dawn. I have to admit that I would have missed it otherwise.

The next moment was decision time. I checked the weather. Bonnie Lass had more weather from Chris Parker which they shared, but the clincher was that the transmission had failed again during the anchor drill. Bonnie Lass set out for Eleuthra and White Pepper elected to go north up the Exuma chain staying in the relative safety of the Bahamas Banks. We had a sparkling sail gybing down wind in 20 knots of southerly breeze on the Banks arriving at Exuma Park, the Emerald Rock Anchorage at 2 pm. By coincidence or not we were quite close to where the transmission had failed 2 months earlier.

I added 60 cc of ATF fluid and the transmission seemed to return to life. The next morning White Pepper set out for Highbourne Cay. The wind was predicted to go light which is another reason we chose not to cross Exuma Sound to Rock Sound. Eleuthra. It did go to near zero. Again it was crunch time for the motor. It started and engaged. We made an agonizing 15 miles to Highbourne at 3 knots in absolutely flat water and zero wind. This time the anchor drill went well. The next morning I added 30 cc of ATF.

By Thursday 3 days into our ideal 7 day weather window the forecast had turned ominous. A cold front at least was coming. Chris Parker , weather forecaster, was predicting very dire storms. He was even calling for 10% chance of a NAMED tropical storm on Easter Sunday—an almost unbelievable scenario. A slip in Nassau suddenly looked very cool. Typically this is the worst bunk in the Bahamas, but how we wanted it now! I checked the transmission. It was full for a change but the dip stick was loose—not for the first time. I gave it a good twist. Also the engine needed a half quart of motor oil after all of the effort it gave in the past three days.

Wing and wing across the Yellow Banks

The trip across the Banks and the Yellow Banks from Highbourne to Nassau was idyllic. We ran wing and wing with gentle 15 knots winds from the SE pushing us along at 4 to 5 knots. I want to remember this day for the rest of my life! Jan got some great pictures of the coral heads that make these waters so treacherous. But in the perfect conditions, such as we had today, they are easily seen and avoided.

White Pepper took a slip at Nassau Harbor Club Marina just feet from where we were several months previously and next to Quartet with whom we shared a number of adventures this Spring.

It is hard to describe the relief that Jan and I feel at being here regardless of whether the storm develops into the killer Chris Parker predicts. We have made a difficult trip with the potential for disaster more apparent than usual during cruising. Aphrodite, cat, is enjoying her first touch of dry land since she was here several months ago.


Part II will cover the trip to Florida.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Karl Fixes the Transmission--with advice from friends


White Pepper has been crippled with transmission problems this year. While entering Exuma Park earlier this year the transmission collapsed. We could only make 1 knot forward at best. The last time this happened we had no forward power at all. We have spent most of this month at anchor waiting for the winds to change so we could limp back to Florida. I even took out a policy with Sea Tow.

I complained to a fellow cruiser, Ron from Ursa Minor. He casually told me he had fixed this kind of problem by adding diesel fuel to the transmission fluid. Naturally, I was skeptical. Long time readers of this blog will remember that White Pepper had similar problems at Oriental, NC. She was in the yard for all of October 2008 and paid a $4,000 yard bill for a used friction plate. A new friction plate would have been the same price but taken another 3 or 4 months to come from Japan.

I called on the sat phone my old friend and mechanic, Don Gallant, of Gulfstream Marine in Corpus Christi. He was gracious enough to take my call on a Saturday. Indeed his son, Blake, was getting married that day. He did say that glazing could be the problem, and diesel would help dissolve the glaze. He made some suggestions.

The next day, Palm Sunday 2014, I did pull 600 cc of brand new ATF fluid out of the transmission and replaced it with 600 cc of fresh diesel. The unit's capacity is 700 cc. I expected a loud bang or maybe a “thunk” when I started up the engine. Jan was at the helm while I kept an eye on the anchor. To our absolute astonishment the old girl leapt forward when Jan engaged forward gear. We put the transmission in forward and reverse for a few seconds at a time about 10 times. I wanted to take a little walk about, but Jan pointed out that the transmission was working fine and indeed had never felt or sounded better.

I pulled out over 700 cc of fluid from the transmission which seemed to me to be a good sign. I then added 600 cc of ATF fluid and as a nod to Ron 100 cc of diesel. Tomorrow will tell if the fix holds.

Also I have to wonder if this procedure would have worked in 2008 avoiding a huge delay and yard bill?

The engine and transmission have other problems. The transmission is clearly leaking fluid and not performing well even before glazing up. The engine over heats and feels like it's on its last legs after 28 years. Looking back on this year it was madness to set off without a re power, but next year is another year.


Changing the Impeller


White Pepper continues to be plagued with motor overheating. The motor overheated in the Northwest Providence Channel after leaving Port Lucaya. In Nassau I found that the raw water strainer was full of grass and the belt to the water pump loose. Both were easily fixed.

Then between Black Point and Cave Cay on the bank side the water belt broke. I had to replace it underway. Jan did a fine job hand steering while I wrestled the belts down below.

However, the engine continued to run hot. I suspected the impeller because little water was coming out of the exhaust. The impeller had not been changed in several years, but I had spares and gaskets for the pump thanks to the foresight of home town mechanic Don Gallant. He assured me that I would need them someday.

At first I could not even figure out how to get to the water pump. A review of a helpful blog post on the internet showed me a clever way to remove the belt and detach the whole pump from the engine. With the plate exposed the 6 bolts came right out without protest. The pump is a super simple apparatus. I was grateful that Yanmar used the highest quality materials to manufacture it. There was not a speck of corrosion despite continual exposure to salt water for decades. One curiosity was that the entire engine is metric; however, the water pump has English measure bolts—9/32 inches.

When I removed the impeller it seemed to be in good shape. One of the vanes was pointed in the wrong direction and I wondered how it survived all these years and how much that had degraded the performance of the pump. While the rubber vanes all seemed to be intact close inspection of the key way showed subtle signs of wear. I wondered if the key was slipping past the key way. (Picture below.)

I applied plenty of white lithium grease to the new impeller. I used an electrical tie to compress the vanes and line them all up in the proper direction. I had taken a picture of the old impeller to learn and remember the proper direction. I rechecked that picture and sure enough I had put the impeller in wrong. I flipped it around and eased off the electrical tie. (Picture below.) The whole thing went back together fairly easily and without leaks. The secret to avoiding leaks is to use a proper gasket which should also be heavily greased.

I opened up the sea cock and started the engine. More water seemed to be coming out of the exhaust so I know the new impeller helped. However, I suspect more problems for the future. A common problem in the Yanmar 3-HM is a plugged up mixing elbow. Or the water jacket could be full of corrosion.

Later while in St. Augustine, FL in May the real culprit was discovered by mechanic, Al.  The cover plate had become so scored that it was allowing the prime to fail.  Al simply reversed the cover, and it worked fine.  I had never heard of such a problem, but Al said it was common.

Regardless, White Pepper just needs to get back to Florida where a new engine awaits her.

Water Pump with new belt is in lower left corner.  It has to be unbolted and removed to access the impeller.


New impeller  (top) and old one with rounded key way (bottom).  By coincidence real culprit is in left upper corner.

New impeller with vanes all held in place by electrical tie.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Lee from Alesto Fixes the Battery Charger


Readers of this blog will remember my slogan that something breaks on a White Pepper every day. Thankfully that saying is not as true as it used to be. However, one day last week while the Honda 1000 generator was chugging along charging the batteries I noticed how the noise changed and the amp meter swung from charging to discharging. The Master Volt battery charger which I had installed 6 years ago in Fort Pierce had failed. If was drawing a larger than usual charge because I had let the batteries run down to 12.2 V. This is not an unusual situation on White Pepper and not usually a problem. This was the first time though I had let the two new “suit case” batteries get this low.

Within 10 minutes of the failure, Lee Haefele, of Alesto 2 was heard on the VHF announcing that he was giving a seminar on electrical problems on Volley Ball Beach. Also he was available to help with some electrical problems. How much more heaven sent can it get? Lee is from Ithaca, NY. He is not an electrician, rather and enthusiastic amateur.

I went to the seminar which was great and put my boat card in the pile on the table. By and by, Lee came to the boat. After some preliminaries it was obvious that the problem was indeed in the black box of the battery charger. The manual for the Master Volt was worthless, and it said not to open the box. Rather we were to take it to the dealer.

The inside of the Master Volt was a large transistor board. Nothing seems burned or amiss. Eventually, Lee spied some fuses which looked good but upon testing with his meter were found bad. They were simple 20 amp car fuses. Lee hopped in the dingy and sped across the road stead to the local hardware store. Within several hours and for less than $4 the unit was fixed and functioning.

This was a huge save for White Pepper. This unit easily charges the batteries up to the 14.5 V. that is needed to knock the sulfate off of the lead plates. The Balmar generator on the engine can also get to 14.5 but only after several hours. Also I am sure that if I had had a marine electrician look at the unit back in Florida he would have announced that the unit was burned out (it was) and needed replacing. The Master Volts typically cost $1500.

Thanks Lee.



Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cave Cay, Glass Cay and George Town, Exumas

 Looking East at Cave Cay Cut

Musha Cay


Ordinarily the run from Black Point to George Town along the Exuma chain is an uneventful 46 mile run sometimes with an overnight. White Pepper managed to turn this trip into a three day adventure.
It has always been the policy of this blog to emphasize the positive aspects of cruising. Otherwise travel literature would turn into a “litany of misery” ( quote from Mark Twain. ) This trip, however, was harrowing. On the leg from Black Point to Cave Cay the water belt broke and the motor overheated. After a scramble I was able to replace the belt, but the motor and transmission never quite recovered.

We anchored at lovey Cave Cay which is private. There is an upscale marina, the Safe Harbor Marina. Musha Cay is just a half a mile away. Musha Cay is the property of the magician David Copperfield. Between Cave Cay and Musha Cay is Cave Cay Cut. This is the last deep water cut between the Great Bahama Bank and the Exuma Sound on the way south to George Town. Cave Cay does not get any respect from most of the regulars who use Galliot Cut two miles to the north. White Pepper wanted to try a different path. We had to wait until late morning for the current to clear the cut. Clearing the cut was uneventful at slack water. By 11 am we were off to George Town 31 miles to the SE. A wonderful, gentle southerly breeze made for a power reach under full sail—135% Genoa and main. White Pepper had the most delightful, sparkling sail until 2 pm when the wind stopped. Ordinarily this would be no problem for a cruiser, who would power up the engine and motor on. No such option was available for White Pepper with a crippled motor.

It was Jan who came up with the plan for an emergency landing at Glass Cay. Glass Cay is more of a day stop at the northern tip of Great Exuma Island, but the weather was settled. Indeed that was the very reason we could not proceed. We made an uneventful passage of the Glass Cay Cut and spent a pleasant night anchored over 9 feet of sand. The morning brought a predicted SW wind-- but much stronger than anticipated. Or at least unanticipated by NOAA because there were several kite boarders there enjoying the breeze. We waited until late morning for the wind to behave, but it never did respond to commands from NOAA to lay down to predicted values. We had a very anxious moment getting the anchor up because the motor failed again. We had to sail out of the anchorage. The newly installed electric winch for the main sail halyard was the hero of the day. It got the main sail before I had to re-anchor.

By early afternoon the breeze had clocked to the west and northwest building to force 4, 16 to 20 knots, with higher gusts. White Pepper was scudding along at 6 to 7 knots on the short trip to George Town 14 miles to the SE. This is hull speed for her, and reminded Jan and I of racing on Corpus Christi Bay. About 3 pm we were able to sail the familiar doglegs of the northern entrance to George Town known as Conch Cay Cut. Any joy at returning was tempered by having to actually sail the boat to the five precise way points that make up the entrance.

We passed by hundreds of anchored yachts in the phenomenon that is the “village” of George Town cruisers that Jan and I have grown to know. The tally on the last day of Regatta was 302 boats. Finally we skidded to a stop at the Sand Dollar anchorage. We anchored under sail which is no easy task when there is a crowd. Sand Dollar is our favorite "subdivision" in the "village."  There were only 50 boats around. 

In addition the hot water heater was affected by the overheating and is leaking. This will need to be addressed or we will not have fresh water. How much damage was done by the overheating will determine whether White Pepper will be able to continue cruising or will have to return to Florida. However, for the short term we are safely anchored in a safe and familiar place with friends.

 Sand Dollar Beach

 Kite Boarder enjoys wind and clear water of Glass Cay

The "village" of George Town cruisers