Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A weekend on the hook - Finally

Howdy Folks,

If you've managed to make it through a few of our blog posts, chances are you've asked yourself..."Do these guys ever actually get out and use their boat?"

Fair question, I know Kara and I have been joking with each other and most of our boating friends about that for a quit a while.  The fact of the matter is, we're 3.5 hours 1 way from the boat...after our move back to Austin (4.5 hrs before we sold the house).  That distance combined with the large list of items we wanted to address in a short period of time, has meant that the majority of our weekends on the boat (2-3 a month) have been dedicated to working on the boat vs. actually enjoying it.

While we've made some real progress this last year, all work and no play has been frustrating at times.  So we talked to a few of our marina boat buddies and decided that this past weekend (Nov 5 2016) we where dedicating to getting away from the dock for a change.  A weekend away for a little sailing and few nights at anchor...what an novel concept.

Unfortunately work conspired against me and I had to be in Austin for an important customer meeting Friday afternoon.  The original plan was to work in Houston and make for an early afternoon.  Get out and anchored in time to fire up the grill and enjoy a few sundowners with our friends.  As it turned out Kara and I weren't able to join the rest of the group until 10PM on Friday.  But hey, we made it in time to launch the new dink and row over (still working to replace some missing fuel fittings for the outboard) to a friend's boat and join the group for a few drinks in the cockpit.

We anchored out at redfish island in Galveston bay, which is an oddly cool anchorage.  Not real picturesque compared to the type of images that come to mind for most of us when contemplating the cruising lifestyle, but cool none the less.  It's a little man-made island right off the Houston ship channel.  The shape provides good shelter from the East and NE as well as blocking the wakes from the passing ships.  It's out towards the center of the bay so you get a nice breeze and can sit in the cockpit and watch the massive ships role by, so cool in its own right.  Oh and did I's outside the marina, that might be the best part.

Chart view of Red Fish with the Houston ship channel to the East

We had a nice night at anchor and got up early to enjoy a little coffee in the cockpit while watching the ship traffic.  The original plan suggested by our friends was to sail down to Galveston just outside the ship channel and possibly anchor in the Galveston yacht basin.  Our original target of Offatts Bayou and Moody Gardens wasn't really an option due to the Galveston causeway rail bridge being closed for work between 7AM-7PM.  Since the clearance is around 8 ft when the bridge is closed, that was out.

Our buddy boats at anchor Saturday morning.  The shipping traffic is much closer than my iphone shows here.

Our friends boat Irie (Catalina 36)

Vela at anchor, as seen from Irie.  Thanks Joel and Jennifer for the pic.

We got a late start the next morning and a tight wind angle combined with close quarters to very large fast ships made for a stressful situation for Kara and I.  Since the goal of the weekend was to have fun, we opted to turn around and just spend the day sailing around the bay.  Once we made that change, we had a nice relaxed afternoon of sailing.  We tacked and jibed our way around the bay, while watching a few Saturday afternoon rum racers fighting it out around the marks. Then just decided to be lazy and head back over to Red Fish to set the hook and grill a few turkey burgers over sundowners in the cockpit.  The wind picked up overnight but our 73lb Rocna didn't seem to notice, which is just how we like it.

Too cloudy for much of a sunset but hey, at least we where able to take advantage of the breeze with our new silentwind generator.

The next morning we made coffee and enjoyed breakfast in the cockpit. Stowed the dinghy on the davits and upped anchor for a nice sail back to the marina.  For the first time in WAY too long, we went the whole weekend without touching land, nice change.

This was also our first real test of the new solar panels and wind gen, both worked perfectly and our old degraded lifeline batteries never dropped below 13v all weekend.  Of course, we didn't put much of a load on them either, but it sure was nice to enjoy a little piece and quiet for a change.  Of course this weekend, it's back to the grindstone...we have several projects to knock out.  But we're getting there.

According to my little countdown app....we're a little over 5 months away.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Project update - Stern Seats, Davits and a new Dink

Howdy Folks,

Just a quick update on our progress to date.  We're now finished with the new stern rail seats and they turned out even better than we where hoping.

New stern seat - 3 coats of Cetol natural and 3 coats of gloss

Getting there - We've since replaced these speakers with a new pair of fully waterproof speakers from wetsounds.

New seats are much more usable and orders of magnitude more comfortable than the old ones.

The next step was finally taking Vela over to Seabrook for some much needed fiberglass repair.  This was primarily to patch all the holes we made when removing the old stern hardware to make room for the arch.  We removed an old wind generator, davits, stern light and various hardware to make room for the arch.  We installed a new LED stern light on the arch to make it more visible, due to the added height.  The new wind generator is also up on the arch, so we had several holes left in the fiberglass as a result of the moves.   Getting these all fiber glassed in, means we no longer have a bunch of duct tape covered holes on we're pretty happy about that.

Vela patiently waiting at the dock to patch the holes and finally remove the duct tape.

Our next order of business was rigging up the davits and motor lift to get ready for our new AB lammina 10AL dinghy.  To do that I finally learned to splice double braided line, thanks to our friends at Stix-n-Rig'n, who where kind enough to teach me...and then a bit of trial and error back at the marina.

Newly rigged davits with 6:1 lifting tackle.  The motor lift took a little more time since I had to splice it directly onto the becket of the top block.

Then a few days later our new dinghy showed up.  The best pricing we could find, even after heading to the Annapolis boat show, was from Defender.  Of course that presented some logistics challenges trying to coordinate shipping when we're 3.5 hours away from the boat.

Fortunately, being a Texan I drive a truck.  Big thanks to our friends at JZ Custom rails (they built our arch) for letting us ship the dink to their shop and loading it into the truck with their forklift.

Unpacking back at the marina

Good ole Texas neighbors helping bring her down to the slip.

Inflated and ready for Vela to return from the fiberglass work.  No fiberglass on this boat 117lb of aluminum and Hypalon.

Good looking dink, can't wait to share many cruising and diving adventures with her.

And finally, my reward for a 'quick trip' down to pick-up the dinghy.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned.  Our next update is actually a full weekend....away from the dock....crazy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Progress and more projects

Howdy Folks,

Been a while since the last update, but we've been super busy.  First the saga of the arch, stern seats and swim platform is finally complete.  We're super happy to be done with that one and the quality that Jason over at JZ custom rails came up with is truly impressive.

Before the panels went on - gotta love the tape covering all the old holes.

Still shows the old dodger and empty bimini frame, not to mention the ever present holes in the fiberglass, need to get those filled...eventually.

Welding on the solar panels

Here's our new swim platform and transom step.  The swim platform is completely removable by removing to thru-bolts and sliding it out of the brackets.

Then of course, true to form we had to have the canvas folks get started immediately after.  They made us a new bimini and dodger out of sunbrella supreme, which turned out great.  I'm realizing we don't have any great pictures of those but will share what we have.  The outside of both dodger and bimini are black, with supreme you get a nice linen (tan) color on the inside which brightens up the cockpit and cuts down on absorbed heat from reflected light.  At least that's the claim, anyway we love the look and it's 100% waterproof which is a nice bonus.  You'll also notice our new polycarbonate windows in the dodger still have the protective brown paper on them, which looks odd for now.  We're leaving this on until the teak work is complete...

Here you can see the new dodger and bimini.

Windows still covered while the teak work is in progress.

Sterm view showing the interior color, seems dark due to covered windows.  Swim platform was off for fine tuning the fit.

Good view of bimini and newly sanded teak.  Connector piece between dodger and bimini is in the works.

Yep, you heard that right.  We're also refinishing our teak, since we've been drilling holes in everything and have completely let the teak go while re-working the windlass, arch and stern railing.  Since we're so far from the boat, we unfortunately had to pay someone to do this for us.  It's not super difficult but very time consuming to strip everything down to bare wood, sand a re-coat it all.  So we talked with a few folks that where recommended by our marina neighbors.  One, that we really liked quoted us a price of $5500 for the full boat (yep, crazy) but then we found another lady that was a bit eccentric but said she'd do it all for $1800.  We can deal with a lot of eccentricity for 1/3 the price, particularly when she agrees that we pay when it's done and are happy with it.  So she and a helper stripped everything down and put a couple coats on last week.  They should finish it this week.
We also removed our old stern light and put a new LED up on top of the arch, installed a down light on the bottom of the arch to help light the cockpit and rear of the boat and the solar panels, new MPPT controller and wind generator should be hooked up this week.

In our free-time (dripping sarcasm)...we also closed on the sale of our lake house and have moved into the condo.  We were both fairly bummed when this finally happened but are trying to focus on the positives.  We've paid off Vela, so she's 100% ours now.  We also have the cash to payoff the condo that we're living in now and will be renting when we head out to cruise.  This means more $ in our pocket every month from that rent, which equals a nice boost to our monthly budget.  In the process of moving we sold and gave away a ton of stuff.  Which means things are starting to get real...quickly.  We're still selling big ticket items on craigslist in Austin but have done pretty well with the downsizing.  Of course, we'll have a lot more to get rid of once we move onto the boat.

Our last night on lake LBJ.  We'll miss you... But as our friends Joel and Jennifer say, we trading in the lake house for waterfront property...anywhere in the world!

I had to include this one.  As I mentioned we where not exactly overjoyed to be selling the lake house.  So, imagine my surprise when I hooked up this uhaul trailer (that I didn't get choose) and realized it had a sailboat on the mural.  Sometimes the universe just...makes sense ;)

Now both people that actually read this blog know the reason for the long silence.  We've been crazy busy making major progress on our target date.  Next week, we leave for the sailboat show in Annapolis (including cruisers university) which should be fun.  Then we'll be back, selling stuff and working on the boat, we might even leave the dock one of these weekends...that would be rad.

I'll leave you with a marina sunset, the best we can do with so many projects in the works on Vela.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Surprise - Leak

Howdy Folks,

Since our last update, we've been busy both with Vela and at home.   On the Home front, we've begun the process of moving back into the condo (now that our renters have moved out) in preparation for the sale of the lake house.  We still don't have an offer, but we have a couple that seems very interested and is trying to make the financials work.  So we're hoping something will come of that soon.  Since it would be nice to check that one HUGE item off the list.

Meanwhile, we've spent 4 of the last 6 weekends aboard working our butts off to get Vela ready to take us on our voyage.  We're still waiting on the arch...don't even get me started on that one, but we're told it will be back on the boat this week.  Of course, we've heard that before, so we're hopeful it will happen this time.  We also have our mast back in place, which is nice.  As part of that process, we have new backstays, a new SSB antenna, new radar, new whisker pole on a mast mounted track, new masthead tri-color, new windex, new steaming light, new foredeck light, and new spreader lights.  We also replaced all the original wiring in the mast while it was down, just to be safe.

Our plan this weekend was to get down early Friday afternoon and get the sails back on.  We're planning to sail a race with our sail makers next weekend and needed to get Vela ready to strut her stuff.   We also had plans to complete the wiring of all the lights on the mast and reconnect the new VHF antenna cable.

Wet cabin sole, it looks bad here but once everything dried out, it's very hard to notice.  We'll likely refinish 1 small spot but most of what you see here is not visible after thoroughly drying.

So, I got to the the boat and started getting things ready for the weekend.  During the process I noticed that our carpet in the Saloon was a bit...moist.  So I pulled it up and realized the pad underneath it was soaking wet and had been for some time...yep stained cabin sole.  So after a few choice words I got the carpets pulled out and drying in the sun on deck.  Since we had just replaced the mast and the deck seal, I KNEW it had to be the mast. Particularly when I looked up and was able to see daylight between the deck and mast.  So of course that's where I focused my efforts.  After a bit more cleanup, I noticed water at the base of the starboard settee and traced it back to...yep the AC.  The "daylight" I saw between the deck and mast was just light filtering through the new mast boot.  We've since covered it with a Sunbrella boot to keep the UV off it.

Light filtering through the boot.  We dumped a ton of water on the boot using a hose and it definitely is not leaking.  We've since covered the boot with Sunbrella to protect it from UV.

When we're gone, we set our AC unit to de-humidification mode to keep the interior from developing any mold.  This has been great and typically all that water drains down into our shower sump where it gets pumped out.  Much like you may have seen at home, this AC unit has an integrated drain pan and it looked like that had stopped draining and, since it's in the starboard settee...overflowed from there onto the floor.  Where it sat for the only 2 week period we've been off the boat for the last month and a half...Murphy's anyone?

Some of the zipties we removed pulling the new antenna cable and the real reason for our drain overflowing.

Oddly enough, we had just purchased a wet-vac model that fits a standard 5 gallon bucket for the boat as part of another project (cleaning the bilge) that we've yet to tackle.  At the last minute, I threw it in my truck, just in case we had some spare time this weekend.  Glad that we had it, I opened the bilge and used the wet-vac to drain the condensation pan via the hose to ensure it was free of clogs.  By then Kara had made it down and joined in the festivities.  We did our best to clean everything up and locate all the areas the water had run into.  Since we have quit a large amount of storage under that settee, the water was able to run along the settee and get into several of them from above.  So we cleaned them out and decided to leave everything open to allow it to dry.

Kara cleaning a section of the bilge.

Then we went ahead and tackled the re-installation of our nice new (heavy) mainsail.  This took us a while since it was our first time installing it.  Not a complicated process but we took it nice and slow to ensure we got everything clean, lubed and ready to go.  By the time we had it up and furled, we where both hot and frustrated over the AC we bailed to the marina pool and ordered a few Pina Coladas...which helped our perspective a bit.

After relaxing in the pool and cooling down, we wanted to hit the dock happy hour and chat with some of our neighbors, so headed back for some dry clothes to find...yep a wet boat.  Same problem, pan overflowed, so it wasn't a clog.  We traced the drain tube and found that unfortunately, we caused the issue.  A couple weeks ago, when we where prepping to replace the mast, we pulled the old VHF antenna cable out so we could replace it with a larger (lower loss) cable.  In the process we had to remove the 8 billion zip ties that bundled it to every surface in the entire boat.  I didn't notice it at the time, but the hose for that drain was in one of those bundles and the process of removing those zip ties left it hanging lower in the middle and ramping up before dropping into the shower sump.  As a result of the (now) poor routing it wasn't draining efficiently and backed-up and overflowed again.  Since we didn't have the parts we needed for a permanent fix we duct taped it in the right spot to get us through the night.  Then we went to happy hour to commiserate with our boat buddies.

After a late night of BS-ing, we got up early the next morning and completed the wiring for all the new lights on the mast, re-routed and terminated the VHF antenna cable (including soldering the connectors) and of course remounted the AC drain hose with a permanent (we hope) fix using a few mounted D-rings.  So all in all it was a pretty productive weekend and we know our Vela even better as a result of another couple days crawling through the bilge and lockers tracing and routing cables.

And hey, we now have pretty new lights on the mast, and this coming weekend...we're sailing! (weather permitting)

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Adding an Arch

Howdy Folks,

As I've mentioned a few times here, we've been planning an arch for our solar panels and mounting our new wind generator.  To ensure we got this done as early as possible this spring, we even dropped a deposit with the local craftsman that's custom building for us...last November (6 months ago).  The original agreement was that it would be complete at the end of April (a month ago).

Just a few of the tools they hauled down to the boat for the initial fit.

Nice day for a little welding.

Want to guess where this is going?  Yep it's now the end of May and we still don't have an arch on Vela.  On the plus side, work has started and they even brought the initial rough build out and fitted it.  Now it's back in the shop having the davits added and our (2) new 315W solar panels mounted.  So I'm sure we'll have it completed, you know...any time now :)

Setting the new arch in place for a few last minute tweaks.

They trimmed the legs on the dock for the initial fit and then tacked it to the new stainless base plates.

More pics to follow as it nears completion along with the new stern seats, solid top rail around the  cockpit and a new swim platform.  Once the arch is done we can mount the new higher bimini frame and the canvas shop will be able to complete the new dodger and bimini we'd been waiting for.  Unfortunately, the delays with the arch are holding up that and several other projects...which is why we started so long ago.

The inspiration for the shape of our new stern rail seats (Hunter)

Nothing like a little 316 stainless in the sunset.  Notice all that sweet duct tape that's currently covering all the holes in Vela.

In all fairness, the guy we're using does amazing work.  He's probably more of an artist than a craftsman, so we're willing to accept the delays.  Still, having a boat with no bimini in the heat and rain of the Kemah spring, has been an adjustment.  Then again, it's made removing all the sails and dropping the mast a little easier.  But more on that next time...

Thanks for swinging by,

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Financing the mast pull (aka - selling the Harley)

My old 2002 Softail Deuce

Howdy Folks,

Kara and I spent yet another weekend away from Vela.  That's two in a row now and if we're going to ever get her ready to go, we can't afford too many streaks like that.  Particularly when you consider we'll likely miss next weekend too, so we can move some stuff into our little condo.  Our renters moved out this weekend. 

Cleaned up and ready for a new home
We had originally planned to go down to Houston and work on a few things this weekend.  Replacing a few aged hose clamps and drying out the bilge, now that we've repacked the stuffing box.  But those plans changed when I got a call last week from an actual person that was interested in buying my old Harley.  I've had it listed on Craigslist for sometime and if you've ever tried to sell anything of value on CL, you know it's full of scammers.  "Hi sir, is your Motorcycle still for sale?  I'm traveling for the military right now and visiting my sick aunt in Tawain but I'd like to send you payment via PayPal plus $700 for your trouble, and then of course shipping fees to get it to me".  So it was refreshing to talk with someone who was actually interested in an honest transaction.  This guy was driving in from Colorado to buy the bike and was bringing cash, so we knew he was serious.  We cancelled our Houston trip, rounded up all the paperwork, cleaned up the bike and then sold it early yesterday morning early.

New owner loading the bike up.

I have mixed feelings on the sale, I loved that bike but the cash we got for it will completely cover a big project we have scheduled for May.  While we're waiting on the new arch to be completed, allegedly sometime in 2016...we've decided to pull the mast to install our radar.  Surprisingly, it's cheaper to pull the mast and install the radar and associated conduit while the mast is down, than it would be to add the conduit with the mast up.  This will also allow us to replace all our masthead instrumentation, antennas, add a Windex and likely a TV antenna.  While it's down, we'll also be adding a whisker pole, track, mast mount and associated rigging.  All those extras add up pretty quick and let's just say that the bike sold at a great time.  While I'll definitely miss the bike, I've always known I'd be selling it to finance 'the dream' and it's really nice having the cash in hand to cover another project without impacting our efforts on beefing up the cruising kitty (investment account) at the highest rate possible.

Kara and I have been talking a lot this weekend about our little dream and how it's starting to take shape.  It's still overwhelming and a bit terrifying to consider the fact that we're a year away from our planned departure date from the working's also very VERY exciting.  Still, we have a lot to do between now and then. 
  • Sell our lake house (currently on the market)
  • Move to Condo
  • Remodel condo bathroom to increase rental value
  • Move from condo in Austin aboard Vela in Houston
  • Quit two great jobs (talk about an oh-shit moment)
  • Begin our slow migration to...wherever

So it's been a good weekend, but we really need to start knocking off some of these major projects.  For now I'm trying to focus on the fact that we can now pay for at least 1 more of them, and once again....that's a win in my book.

Thanks for stopping by.

Hope the new owner loves this bike as much as I did.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Ripping Vela a New One and Installing a Buzzkill - By Erin

Friday afternoon sail
 Howdy Folks,

Kara and I just got back from a LONG weekend with Vela.  From a calendar perspective, it was just a normal weekend but we where both pretty tired at the end of it, so it felt much longer.

Since we where both down in Houston for work on Thursday, we where actually able to get out for a sail on Friday afternoon/evening.  We knew it was going to be a crazy busy weekend so we made it a point to get out and enjoy the amazing weather while we could.  I should probably share the fact that after a long week at work, neither of us really felt like getting everything ready to go out.  In fact, I think we where both pretty tempted to just be lazy and relax with a few drinks at the dock.  But we've been frustrated lately with the fact that all we seem to do is work when we're down at the boat.  So we drug our lazy asses off the settee and got out for a couple great hours of sailing.

My chicky at the helm and all the new sails drawing.  Happy Friday!
Believe it or not, the weather in Houston in early spring is actually really nice.  So, once we got out there we where both really glad to of the dock and Vela seemed happy for the exercise.  It was the first time we got all the new sails out.  Add in a 10 knot breeze and it was great.  We got in quit a bit of tacking just see how the new sails felt and overall it was great night.

We got back to the dock just before sunset, grabbed some dinner and enjoyed enjoyed sunset in the cockpit before turning in  early to be ready for Saturday's big project, adding a new secondary bilge pump.

For this project we're working with Gary Deason, a local boat services guy that is super friendly and actually seems to enjoy working with folks who are prepping to go cruising and want to be involved in the refit process.   Sure it would be easier to just showing up and have it all done for us, but we want to know where every hose, wire, thru-hull and component is located.  Which means this is exactly the kind of help we need.  In addition, Gary comes from a Coast Guard background and brings a ton of experience to the table.  The fact that he's very relaxed and likes to teach as he goes really helps.  It's also nice that he takes in our suggestions/requests, incorporates what makes sense and explains when he feels like another option would be better.

Our workspace - planning the project.
So at 9 AM Saturday morning, we started laying out the project, examined several potential hose routes, measured for the final hose run and made a run to West Marine for the parts we knew we needed.  Of course, Kara also made a couple mid-project runs but that's one of the reasons we chose the marina we're in now, it's convenient to everything...except home ;)

  I should probably mention that the rule 4000 (4000 GPH) pump we installed required a 2" smooth bore inner diameter hose, with a surprisingly high list price per foot.  However, working through Gary meant that we got the hose at about half the list price (thanks to his port supply discount).  So that saved us a good bit which helped cover part of his fees for helping us.

Mounting the new bracket/pump

When we got back aboard, Gary mounted the bracket for the new pump down in the bilge while I drilled the holes under the starboard settee for the auto/manual switch, buzzer/alarm/light and fuse holders.

Drilling new holes for switch, buzzer, and fuses

The concept here is that since this is purely a secondary/emergency pump for us, we want to know anytime it's running.  So we wired in an obnoxious buzzer and red light that run anytime the pump is running (either manually or automatically via float switch).  We did wire it, so that if we ever had to run the pump for an extended period of time, we can physically disable the buzzer by removing a single connection (which we're referring to as Buzzkill).  Hey, if we're ever in a situation where we need to run this thing, it will be stressful enough without having to listen to that buzzer.  But it's great to get your attention so that, you know there is a potential problem.

Kara laying down on the job (aka boat yoga)

While routing the hose we ran into a good deal of extra hose for the primary pump that was causing us some issues, so Kara and I spent a couple hours shortening and remounting that hose in the giant rear lazerette.   In the picture to the right she's partially inside the compartment where our hot water heater usually sits.  It's been removed and is laying beside her on the left.  She had to worm her way in here to help me access the hose we're re-routing.  I'm in the lazerette on the opposite side, doing my best not to swear to much, like a....sailor.

Down in the lazerette.  Here I'm cutting a bulkhead to route the new hose.

While we where doing that, Gary installed ring terminals on the wires and connected up the pump and switches.  We then reviewed the wiring, tested everything and verified it all worked as expected.

Because who doesn't love cutting giant holes in their boat?

In the end, this project took the 3 of us about 11 hours from start to finish and by the time we wrapped up about 8 PM Kara and I where way too tired to go checkout the Kemah crashfish and Zydeco festival we had planned to attend.  So, we did our best to scrub the fiberglass off our skin with a shower (never an easy task), ordered some Chinese food delivered to the boat, and relaxed in the cockpit.  Of course we where also cleaning up from the days events as we went.

On Sunday, we finished the cleanup.  Spent a little more time on the windlass and are now happy with how it's handling the new anchor and chain.  We still have some work do to getting the anchor secured on deck in a way that we'll be happy with for the long-term, but we're very close there.

While in the lazerette we also had to add a new thru-hull on the transom to give us a direct exhaust for the new 2" hose.  So yeah, we ripped Vela a new one.  Here you can see what it looked like when scored from the outside with a 2.5" holesaw.  We finished the process off from inside the lazerette and installed our new thru-hull fitting.

Overall it was a great...OK successful weekend of boat projects.  It was nice having someone there to guide us through installing the new pump, hoses and wiring.  Kara and I worked well together throughout the day, which is always a big plus.  Particularly given the tight, itchy uncomfortable work.  That in combination with a little sailing makes this a win in my book.

t- 1year-sh....and counting