Sunday, January 3, 2016

15 minute boat jobs

Howdy Folks,

As mentioned in the previous post, today was a busy day of meeting with boat contractors, to plan our refit.  Between meetings we decided to knock out a few "quick' projects...when will we learn?

Kara, spent a couple hours brushing on 303 protectant on the current original dodger.  We're trying to get another year out of it and it leaks when it rains which is a drag.  This should help solve that problem for the immediate future.  We'll call that one a success, good job chicky!

While she was doing that, I decide to tackle something that's been bugging me for a while now.  We have an engine driven Sea Frost refrigeration system.  It works great and freezes a huge block very quickly if we're running the engine.  It will also run off the inverter but takes longer to freeze the block and eats power.  Part of the refit will likely include a DC option...but I digress

So we've replaced all the zincs on the boat with the exception of the one for the Sea Frost cooling tower, because much to my own embarrassment...I wasn't exactly sure where it was...and it's been eating at me.  So I today I found it in the engine compartment...imagin engine driven refrigeration system that runs of the same raw water actually located next to both of those things...who'd a thunk it.

Yours truly - beginning the zinc removal process

Sweet, changing a zing, I'll be done in 15 minutes chicky and then maybe we can go sailing.  I consulted the 15 year old xerox copied owners manual for instructions.  Let's just say they where less than clear, so I took my time interpreting them and finally figured out how to remove the zinc.  The problem was, when I unscrewed the bronze plug that I should hold the zinc, from the zinc.  Oh I in the right place or is there a bigger problem?  On closer inspection I realized the zinc had simply snapped of while I was removing the plug, at least I'm in the right place.  How hard could this possibly be?

Now we have two problems to deal with.  1) There's a big chuck of zinc in the cooling tower and I know if we leave it in there, it'll clog the system and likely cause major damage.  2) The threaded hole in the bronze fitting appears to be a single solid piece of zinc, the threads for the new zinc aren't even visible since a half inch of the old one snapped off flush with the plug...good times.

Oh well, one problem at a time.  First let's get that zinc out of the tower.  Problem is the hole in the tower is small enough you need to be a freaking smurf to reach in and actually do anything.  So I waste a bunch of time trying to fish the cigar shaped zinc out of a little hole.  The small diameter means it's only coming out if it's oriented perfectly (picture trying to pull a cigar out of a hole that's barely large enough to accommodate it's circumference, upside down and partially obstructed (of course).  After brushing up on my impressive sailor's (swearing) vocabulary...I ask Kara if she'll give it a try.  Fortunately, her fingers are small enough she can reach in and feel around a bit.  After removing the intake house from the housing we have a larger hole to work with and more importantly two holes on apposing sides of the tower.

Did I mention this is a stupid design?

So like a racoon with a shiny object, Kara goes to work fishing around inside the housing trying to push the broken pieces out.  After an hour...or more of work and missing a few layers of skin from her fingers, it's out and we're good to go.  Did I mention she's a trooper and this is a stupid design?

The remains of the zinc

So now all that's left is to remove the broken piece from the plug. so we can screw in the new one.'s perfectly flush with the brass plug that it mounts in.  After a little research I realize that zinc melts at a significantly lower temperature than brass.  Time for a run to Home Depot for a blow torch, this is where I'm really glad we chose Kemah and the marina we did to keep Vela while we prep her for departure.  We thought very hard about going to Port Aransas instead, due to the fact that it's a cool little town with a  much more chill vibe (which we prefer).  We chose Kemah because it's close to Houston where our company has an office we can work out of, and it has access to just about every kind of boat related gear/service you could ever yeah that's paid off 1000 times already.

Let's get this party started

Fortunately, our marina has a nice little work bench with a table vice for us too use.  After 45 minutes, the majority of the zinc has dripped out on the concrete under the vice.  Problem not the same as all.  The threads are still too gunked up with zinc to install the new zinc.  Looks like I'm headed back to the store for a tap and die set.  Oh and I also left my drill at home, because you know...we live there and stuff.  So we find the tap/die kit and sweet talk our way into using a cordless drill and a table clamp in the store (flash back to our departure and bumming a clamp at lowes to replace the propane Solenoid).  But hey, this looks good, lets go knock this out.

Heating the zinc

Finally starting to melt

Bombs away

The aftermath

Back aboard Vela, the Zinc fits perfectly and 10 minutes later, we're able to run the engine and fridge compressor leaks success!

So that 15 minute job only took...a little over 8 hours.  Sweet, lets grab some grub and drive the 4 hours back home.   Yep, prepping for cruising is pretty freaking glamorous.

Suffice it to say that from now on, I'll be replacing that zinc on a VERY regular basis, to avoid a repeat.

Anyway, thanks for stopping in and if you actually made it this far, let us hear from you.


Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome to 2016 - A look ahead

Howdy Folks,

I'm sitting here in front of a nice warm fire New Year's morning, in Marble Falls TX.  All our friends have just left after our annual New Year's party and some homemade breakfast tacos.  Now, it's time to kick back relax a bit and absorbe the fact that it's freaking 2016.

When Kara and I first seriously discussed the idea of extended cruising, it was always a kind of ethereal 'plan'.  You know the type...that sounds like fun, we should really figure out a way to make that happen.  Then it settled in that this really was something we could do, but only if we did something to actively make it happen.  So we got serious about actually learning to sail our little Catalina 22 around the lake, saving as much $ as possible and started shopping for a middle boat.  Something bigger (mid 30s) to learn on for a few years before we actually bought a much bigger (we probably need at least 50ft...or so we thought at the time).  We could do all that and aim to actually leave in 2020 (typical 5-6 year plan).  The more we looked and read the more we kept thinking about that old tired advice of go small, go cheap, go now...

The thing is, I think it feels like old tired advice because you see and read it everywhere, once you get serious about really investigating the cruising lifestyle, it's literally everywhere.  Everyone says, we should have gone sooner.  So we really thought about that and made the decision to give that advice a shot.  The great thing about life and boats is that everyone's ideas and perceptions are different.  Guaranteed that we all picture something different when we think small and cheap.  For us it meant finding a much smaller boat than we originally pictured for ourselves but that we believed we could be comfortable on.  This originally brought us to Vela (then Baboo).  We figured, this is plenty of boat for us.  I mean sure we'd love a sugar scoop stern, and a pilot house,  and the newer bigger boats for 2-3x the $ are super nice....but we can be happy (we think) with much less.  So we opted to spend less on the boat and start getting her ready for an earlier departure date.

Some of the best advice we got, came from our virtual friends over at Totem.  We've never actually met but reached out to Jamie for some advice on new sails and while we ended up going with a local loft to get that local connection, we really appreciated Jamie's willingness to share what they've learned on their voyage.  His advice was to pick a date, not a year and a month but an actual day on the calendar.  Something you can point to and say, we're going then.  Otherwise it's just to easy to drag your feet and think we'll get to that...we still have years.  Once there's a date and you compare that date against the todo list, shit gets real.  But it also gets exciting.

So this year, we really get rolling.  The new sails should be ready in the next couple weeks and we just removed out staysail boom to get ready for them and clean up the deck a bit..  We have a new dodger and bimini in the planning stages and have started planning the arch that will be built and installed in the March/April timeframe.  We're hunting down the largest solar panels we can realistically fit, currently thinking 3 large panels in the 300-350W (each) range for the top of the arch.  Followed by a wind gen and davits.   That project will also include a full electronics upgrade, swim platform and by far our biggest ticket item.

At the same time, we're planning to put our pretty little lake house (where we currently live) on the market (April/May) and move into our condo (currently rented out but the lease ends in May).  This start our downsizing process and by getting us back to Austin means we'll be an hour closer to the Vela, two hours closer on the round trip which will make it easier to get down and be productive on those work weekends.

So for us, 2016 is going to be a big year and that's really sinking in for me as I sit in front of this fire and think about the year ahead.  I'm pumped and while I know it will be an expensive and likely stressful process, it's that date that has my attention.

April 26 2017, is right around the corner...lucky us!