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!