June 1, 2004 Brenton Cove, Narragansett Bay, |
Newport, Rhode Island
41° 28.435 North
071° 19.866 West
A Winters Refit Tale: Part 2 of 3
By Douglas Bernon
and a half years we’ve cruised without a single 110-volt electrical
receptacle on Ithaka. We’ve carried no appliances, no hair dryers, no gee-whiz
gadgets or toys—hardly an under-privileged life—and in some ways
blessedly simple. We plugged nothing in except small battery re-chargers and
our computer. If it wasn’t 12-volt and couldn’t find its life-force
in a cigarette socket, we didn’t bring it along. Now all this is changing.
We installed an inverter and wired Ithaka with three 110 plugs. I don’t
know how slippery this slope will get, but I can see already my life is about
to become more complicated. Bernadette is eying a Braun hand mixer, and I’m
lusting after a new drill -- the devil’s playthings, all — and for
both of us, we’re noticing that some other sacrilegious items, whose names
we’ve never spoken in the context of boating before now, can be seen scooting
from the “Wouldn’t it be nice” column to the “Absolutely
Necessary” side of the ledger. It’s frightening how quickly such
corruption becomes part of normal life.
On Ithaka we have
two solar panels, a wind generator, and a high-output alternator, so it’s possible to gin up good juice without much trouble. But we also
know that when “wants” morph into “needs,” footing
gets tenuous. That said, I’m going to love having a real drill with oomph
instead of the 98-pound-weakling, 12-volt version I’ve been grousing
about for years.
Douglas paints over our old blue cove stripe with a dramatic,
shiny black Interlux Brightside.
A New Inverter Leads To New Fuel Filters
As a result of
this winter’s refit, a glorious improvement in my maintenance
responsibilities is the addition of a remote oil filter. Up until last month,
on our Yanmar 3HM35F, the oil filter—which for some insane reason was
mounted horizontally -- guaranteed a mess in the bilge at every oil change.
To replace the
filter, I had to lie on my back with my head under the sink, blindly extend
arm through a door between the sink area and the engine
compartment, insert and balance a cut-off two-liter soda bottle under the filter,
and slip an oil-absorbent rag under that. Once this house of cards was gingerly
set, with that same left hand I’d unscrew the filter, capture as much
oil as I could, and attempt to minimize an inevitable mess. Clean oil is a
diesel’s best buddy, so you really don’t want to go much beyond
the 100-hour mark between oil changes. I’ve been vigilant about this
but, because of the hassle, unhappily so. Now the world is brighter. By connecting
a $300-set of hoses and fittings, the oil filter is mounted vertically now,
does not drip, is easy to reach, and feels, I’m sure, the warm vibes
I send in its direction.
Our new remote oil filter promises to make changing the oil a less messy affair.
Fiberglass Repairs: A Blistering Hassle
boats that hang out in warm water are subject to osmotic blisters, and Ithaka
no exception. Ours were fairly benign little blisters compared
to some we’ve seen on other boats. Ithaka’s were only underneath
the waterline and almost entirely on one side. While our repairs were modest,
they were little fun. When we first hauled, I marked all the blisters and pricked
them, to let any water drain away. Then it was the attack of the grinder, widening
the area so that we could be sure there was no wicking elsewhere.
Interprotect 2000Eour hope for blister protection
After months of
drying out, we faired the area around each one and applied multiple coats
2000E Interprotect. The instructions recommend several
coats as a minimum, so we put on seven, just to make sure. Once that was dry
and lightly sanded, we coated over that with several coats of two-part epoxy—fared
now to a baby’s bottom—and started applying primer and numerous
coats of paint. The end result was elegant, albeit hidden, and hopefully this
will be the last time we have to make this repair. (Right.)
It’s curious that the vast majority of blisters were on one side only.
Asking among the cognoscenti—every problem has a stable self-proclaimed
experts, there was no consensus. The most popular opinions were: a) when the
boat was originally laid up, the glass on one side had more sunshine, cured
more fully and remained more impervious; b) different batches of chemical were
used on each side; and c) some combination of A and B. Like consultants everywhere,
no one really knew, but everyone hazarded a theory.
Making Water Onboard
Among the refit
projects, the biggest change to our life will not be the result of repairing
or adding a remote oil filter, or putting on new Lewmar
blocks and new running rigging, all of which look wonderful and should make
life nicer. The really big deal, the one most apt to make life better on an
hourly basis—albeit while consuming electricity—is the addition
of a reverse-osmosis (RO) watermaker.
We had debated
this for sometime. Watermakers aren’t cheap, and we’ve
cruised successfully for more than three years without one, but this time around
we wanted some greater comforts. I wanted to be able to wash my diving gear
more carefully and completely. We wanted to lug fewer jugs from mainland rivers,
and use fewer chemicals in treating what we put into our bodies. And both of
us wanted to have the luxury of showering with more fresh water instead of
salt water. In the past we’ve sudsed up with Joy detergent (it foams
beautifully with salt water), jumped in the ocean to rinse off, and then come
back aboard and sprayed ourselves with fresh water as a way to rinse off the
salt. It’s an effective, low-tech, and cheap system. In fact it’s
a very good system. I could blame La Comodora as the one who insisted upon
this comfort, but the truth is, despite my knowledge that all technology attacks
its installer at the least opportune moment, I have led this parade.
Our new Spectra watermaker has a rated capacity of 15 gallons an hour. If it only did half that, wed have more water than in our wildest cruising dreams.
The most time-consuming
aspect of the watermaker installation was figuring out where to locate the
various components. Then it was a matter of hand-fitting
everything to see how it looked—making sure there was good access for
service. After that it was about fitting Tab A into Slot B, following some
pretty decent, if not poetic instructions from the Spectra watermaker company.
The hardest part—in the middle of winter when we did this work—was
seeing everything hooked up, but knowing we were 10 feet above the water on
poppets, and would have to wait another two months to see if it all worked,
which it did, immediately.
One of the reasons we bought the Spectra is that we can locate the components of the system in different nooks and crannies around the boat a terrific attribute on a 39-foot vessel where preserving storage space is critical.
In looking at
watermaker systems, there are a variety to chose among, but in a small boat
space, the list narrows quickly to several brands.
We chose the Spectra’s Catalina 300 MPC (www.spectrawatermakers.com)
for many reasons. First, it’s a 12-volt system—meaning you can
run it off your batteries without running the engine, and it’s not terribly
hungry for amps. Their brochure advertises that the unit draws only about an
amp per gallon, and friends of our’s who have this model verify this
as fairly accurate, depending on salinity, water temperature and the condition
of the filters. Second, this unit is comprised of component parts that can
be distributed throughout the boat, making it possible to put a pump here,
a filter there, an electrical device in yet another spot, and thereby save
an enormous amount of space.
We replaced many of our 10-14 year old lines with new running rigging.
On Ithaka we have
the main filtering unit under the V-berth, the pre-filters under the sink,
in a separate compartment, and the electronic control
head by the nav station. The company claims that this unit can produce about
15 gallons an hour. Considering that for years we’ve been averaging our
use at about 4 gallons a day (including showering, drinking, cleaning, and
cooking) this will be a major luxury. Finally, with the Spectra’s new “Z-Brane” system,
there’s no need to “pickle” the unit (run chemicals through
it) if you don’t use it for several days. This one is engineered so that
after four days it will suck its own clean water out of the freshwater tank
and give itself a scrub.
We’re optimistic about our unit’s robust construction, and its
promised ease of maintenance, based on other cruising friends’ reports
from the field. We’ll soon see for ourselves how well it actually works,
how well it holds up and how it changes our daily cruising life. We’ll
report back to you after we’ve had a chance to really use it and see
how it does its stuff.
We replaced many of our old, somewhat agricultural looking blocks many of which were rusting out -- with the Lewmar Synchro series.
Launch Day Arrives
a long cold winter, and an interminably chilly spring, we arrived at launch
month. I was as nervous as a hen as I watched my chick being
driven about, swaying precariously in her slings, while some guy I don’t
know—who may be distracted by a craving for lunch, coffee or something
stronger—worked the controls on the Travelift and drove Ithaka around
the boatyard toward the water.
Four weeks later,
the whole launch ordeal is still an agony to think about. I know lots of
men and women with weak stomachs, who just insist
upon leaving the yard when their boat is being hauled or launched, because
the tension of waiting for a calamity is unbearable in person. I’m the
type who slows down on the highway for accidents, so I had to stay and watch.
Plus, regardless of legal actualities, I always figure anything that happens
to the boat is ultimately my responsibility, so I wanted to help strap her
in and position the slings so that no underwater extrusions would get mashed—which
I’ve seen happen on friends’ boats. Also I wanted to make sure
the foam cushions on the slings were carefully positioned so that the new boot
stripe and cove stripe, over which I’d labored, would not get rubbed
off on day one.
Just before launching, Bernadette removes the tape from the cove stripe.
were no mishaps. As soon as Ithaka was bobbing again, and I could jump aboard,
I checked the bilges and was relieved to see that the
sea was staying where it’s supposed to be—on the outside. I opened
the engine seacock and cranked her over. A good start. She sputtered a second
then spit out the antifreeze and did her thing, but the oil pressure never
came on. I shut her down to do what boys do under such circumstances. Swear.
Then I started her up again. Still no oil pressure. My handy-dandy new remote
oil-filter system, at the point where it was screwed into the engine, wasn’t
just leaking, it was spewing oil. I swore some more.
My friend Phil Burton, with whom I had spent an entire afternoon rigging this
seemingly cursed system two months before, was equally baffled. We thought
the unit was seated properly. We screwed it down slightly further, but still
reaped the same unhappy result. Like guys everywhere, not content to believe
our eyes or learn from our errors, we repeated the same dumb move several more
times, with increasing conviction, and each time multiplied our mess. Finally,
we admitted to being stumped.
We had to buy new chain to fit the new Lewmar V3 windlass, and before we stowed it in the chain locker we painted it every 50 feet to make it easier to estimate how much chain we put out during anchoring maneuvers. We know the paint will wear off, but it buys some time.
Still bobbing in the Travelift alleyway, it took several hours to find the
cause of the problem. Phil finally figured it out. It appeared that the plate
at the end of the remote hose, which affixes to the same male piece on the
engine that formerly screwed into the oil filter, was properly seated. BUT,
once we took it off again and examined everything with a magnifying glass,
Phil found a scoring on the screw threads. Sure enough, despite Yanmar selling
us this unit specifically for one of their own engines, the milling was off
and the fitting on the engine was 2 millimeters too long, making it impossible
to get a good fit, even when it looked just fine from the outside.
at least hopeful, we ambled up to the machine shop and had 2 millimeters
the end of the male fitting—something of a diesel
circumcision. With a fresh taper on the end, everything fit perfectly, we achieved
oil pressure, and a 10-minute repair solved a three-hour problem, re-teaching
me the lesson that all improvements on a boat require two steps forward so
that I can take the unavoidable one step back. It’s still progress, but
never quite as much progress as you hope for.
With Ithaka in the slings, Douglas adds a few coats of bottom paints to the underside of the keel, where the boat had been resting for the winter.
Whether all our
winter improvements work as we’d planned remains to
be seen. For now, it’s amazing that we’re accomplishing in Narragansett
Bay, Rhode Island, what the Newport Water Department has forever failed to
do. Every few days since we launched, we’ve been producing clean, taste-free,
odor-free and chemical-free drinking water. We’ve got a new windlass,
new canvas covers, new running rigging, new instruments, potential for using
power tools I’m no longer dreading the clean up after each oil change.
Ithaka gleams in her slings, just before touch down.
For a winter of
work projects, it was infinitely easier to accomplish all this on land, where
the boat was
not rolling, where there were stores nearby,
where English-speaking experts were available for consultation, where tools
could be found to make it all possible, and where a car made chicken buses
and hitchhiking a quaint memory from boat projects accomplished in the Third
World – also a glimpse of the future, but for the moment unnecessary.
In Part III of
this refit series, which I’m now writing from our navigation
desk aboard the boat – a place I’d rather be -- I’ll finish
up by taking a look at my favorite tools aboard Ithaka, including the
one pictured to the left, the original device that Trini Lopez lusted for