Thursday, November 29, 2012

Savannah: long list, little accomplished

Aries windvane on the stern of Whispering JesseSaturday, November 24: It's the fourth day of my trip out to Savannah and I'm not overly happy with what I've been able to get accomplished on my long list of boat projects. Of course, the list is overly ambitious and would realistically take a few weeks to complete, not the five days I have had available. And I don't want to leave any projects half-done. So when I stare at the Aries windvane bolted to the stern of the boat and try to figure out what it will take to remove it, the clock inside my head goes tick-tick-tick and I realize it will take more time than I have on this trip, especially if I try to remove the lag bolts secured through the hull. That would involve emptying out both lazarettes and squeezing down in there with a headlamp and some beefy wrenches. Instead, I work backward toward the windvane, removing the steering drum that was attached to the wheel and the numerous blocks that guided the lines between the windvane and the wheel. It's not much, but it's something.

Gluing the mitered teak molding pieces together
Before I undertook anything related to the windvane removal, I tried to repair a disconnected cockpit scupper using the part I had ordered from Defender Marine Outfitters. I lucked out with guessing the correctly sized plastic elbow fitting for the 1.5-inch scupper drain, but I still couldn't get it to fit. Either the thread spacing is wrong or the drain threads are stripped, which would explain why the previous fitting was only glued in place. I expect that I will end up gluing the new one in place, but I'll wait on that until I'm ready to use up an entire tube of 3M 5200 marine adhesive on this and other applications, since the whole tube will start to set up as soon as it is exposed to air.

My greatest success has been with constructing teak frames for the cockpit cut-outs. I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon using a mitre saw to cut L-shaped molding pieces to fit, and then some time this morning gluing the pieces together. I will need to fasten some small screws as well, but the glue should hold for that process.

Cockpit cut-outs where the new teak frames will goThe molding was part of an order I placed through the West Marine website a couple of weeks ago. West Marine offers free shipping to their stores for in-person pickup, which worked even better for me than drop shipping to my folks' house. While I was at the store on Abercorn Street, I noticed that the Garmin GPSMAP 740s Chartplotter/Sounder was on sale for $400 below list price. I had to think about it for two days, but I couldn't pass up a deal like that on a necessary piece of equipment and went back to buy the last one in stock, along with an external antenna. The installation looks tricky, so I'll wait and have Thunderbolt Marine do it when I return in the spring.

Tomorrow, I'll see if the teak frames fit, take some measurements for some other projects, see if the engine will start and stay cool, and then prepare the boat to be left alone for another winter.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Redundant Sailboat Systems

Aries windvane mounted on the stern of Whispering Jesse
Sailors know the importance of having spare parts on board in the event of equipment failures that can be readily fixed. With more complex equipment, such as GPS units, sailors will typically have two or more units on board. This redundancy is largely driven by the need for safety. If you are far out to sea, depending for your navigation needs on your one-and-only handheld Garmin GPS, and it fails, then you are lost--or at least considerably less certain of exactly where you are.

It is with a sense for the importance of redundancy that I approach my sailboat's many systems. I have two VHF radios, three GPS units, two emergency beacons, and multiples of other equipment, including auto-pilots. My boat, a 1980 Valiant 40 that I purchased in May 2010, came with an Aries windvane and a Raymarine electronic auto-pilot. The windvane was bolted to the stern, but the Raymarine unit was still in its box--it had never been installed. As part of an extensive refit, the Raymarine unit was installed, and the Aries windvane was removed for hull work and then reinstalled. During the delivery trips (it took two) to get the boat to its current location in Savannah, Georgia, back in September and October 2011, the Raymarine auto-pilot proved itself to be invaluable, almost like having an extra crew member. The Aries windvane proved itself to be stuck. It is supposed to be hinged so that its trim rudder can be kicked up out of the water when not in use, but we could not get the locking mechanism to release. So we never even bothered to try out the system as a fallback for the Raymarine auto-pilot.

In the many months since those delivery trips, I have thought often about the Aries windvane and what to do about it. Instead of trying to fix it, I have decided to remove it. If it was working, it would be good to have as a redundant auto-pilot system, but I am willing to forego that option and steer manually when I need to. While I am out in Savannah this coming week, removing the Aries windvane will be near the top of my lengthy list of boat projects. I am thinking it may be easier to work on the hinge and get it to release with the mechanism resting on dry ground rather than hanging off the back of the boat. If I can get it to release, I will try to sell the whole Aries windvane system, including the original documentation, and put the proceeds toward a new Garmin chartplotter. If you know anyone who would be interested in a complete, working Aries windvane, please send me an email message. There's a link in my Blogger profile, which you can get to by clicking my photo under About Me.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Upcoming Trip to Savannah

Nan securing a dock line on Whispering Jesse back in April
I will be headed out to Savannah for a long Thanksgiving weekend in a little over a week. It will be a chance to check on Whispering Jesse for the first time since April and to spend some time with my parents. Nan will not be going with me. She is recovering from her hip replacement surgery and should not travel for a few more months. She is making excellent progress and is now fully mobile around the house with a walker and cane. We're looking forward to clearance from her doctor that she can drive again so she's not so housebound.

There are many boat projects awaiting me in Savannah. I have already placed orders with Defender Marine Outfitter for the replacement port navigation light and plastic scupper fitting that I wrote about earlier, along with some teak items: an outboard motor mount for the stern rail, a drinks and binoculars organizer for the binnacle, and some plugs to fill miscellaneous interior holes. And West Marine called yesterday to let me know that the order I placed with them is waiting at their store in Savannah: two lengths of L-shaped teak molding for making frames around the raw cut-outs in the cockpit, a quart of Cetol to varnish all the new teak with, some 3M 5200 sealant to fill some leaky deck holes, and a 12-volt receptacle like a car's cigarette lighter that I'm hoping to wire in for connection to an inverter for charging battery-powered electronics.

All that should keep me busy for a few days, but I'm also hoping to find a good length of pressure-treated 2x12 lumber to make a gangplank out of. I'm thinking it could serve double-duty as a ramp over the steep companionway steps to make it easier for Scout to get in and out of the cabin and possibly also as a ramp between the swim ladder and the water, with some fenders attached for flotation, to give Scout a way to get out of the water on his own.

More later from Savannah...