Monday, December 28, 2009

The "To-Do" list

We caught a break in the weather last weekend and that enabled us to finally get some things completed. In fact, we didn't really need the electric heater in the salon as we have for the past few weeks.

We've been working towards getting the communications (VHF radios, radar, GPS, etc.) wired and mounted and now, we are almost there. We've fabricated and installed a mount for the Standard Horizon GPS/Chartplotter on the bridge. That is complete and wired to the Furuno radar.

We made up a platform to hold the radar display and will finish that this week and install it next weekend.

While we had everything opened up, we snaked wires from the lower station stereo to the corners of the saloon, then up through the floor to free-standing speakers that Frances provided.  Snaking wires in this boat is really an effort, meaning that I have to crawl down under the deck, snag a wire with a long pole, draw it in and then do it all again for the next wire.

While I was running new wires, I cut out another 50 feet of what appeared to be old, unused speaker wire. Why would anyone leave all that stuff hanging? No idea, but it's gone now.

It was fun to flip a switch on the stereo and have the salon filled with music. Right then, we were glad that we spent the time - two weekends - that made that music possible.

Tonight, I devised a list of things that we want to get done between now and when we go back into the water in April or early May. There are 17 things on the list; some take one-half hour and some take a whole weekend. There are 16 cold weekends left. We need to plan our time carefully.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Silverton Owners Club

Like most mass-produced boats, Silverton has a web-based "club" populated mainly by Silverton owners. We belonged to the Chris-Craft Sea Skiff Club for years and met many nice Sea Skiff owners there.

For people like us who have never owned one of these boats before, the club is a real resource.  There are a number of members who own Silvertons as old as ours and older. Once I began posting questions, I found that several members had done exactly what I was doing - updating wiring, removing poorly installed parts and revising and modernizing plumbing - and knew exactly what I was talking about. In fact, several of these people appeared to be superb craftsmen and had accomplished more than I would ever attempt.

The Silverton club website isn't very fancy and it looks somewhat outdated. However, it is inexpensive ($35.00 per year) and has probably saved me more than that in the first month after I signed up.

I often wonder if the boat manufacturers ever monitor these affinity-based websites and make product improvements on what they learn from them. I'd guess that the answer is that some do sometimes and some don't.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lower station electronics

This weekend we continued the wiring and installation of an AM-FM CD until and a VHF marine radio in the storage area just to the right of the salon's lower steering station. The wiring inside this compartment was, like a lot of the wiring of other electronics added by the PO, pretty messy. We found 12 volt DC cables, tapped from the wiring behind the lower steering station, secured in the this little compartment with two household-style insulated staples. There was also a snarl of bilge sniffer cables and about 20 feet of speaker cable that didn't seem to go anywhere. Almost all of that was removed and we started over again.

The refurbished Jensen stereo we purchased on Ebay for $69.00 is actually a car unit so we needed to simulate a vehicle installation, where the radio's memory is connected to 12 VDC permanently to save preset stations and the time-of-day. To simulate the vehicle's ignition switch, we mounted switches in a small utility box and mounted that inside to compartment so it wouldn't be seen with the sliding doors shut.

We also provided new wiring for the cigarette lighter/map light, which was already there and the marine VHF radio that we inherited with the boat and had now become surplus.


We cut a piece of 1/8-inch mahogany plywood (finished with five coats of varnish) to make a faceplate to cover the old holes. The electronics fit as planned and  before we left, we fired up the stereo, temporarily connected to external speakers, and it scanned for stations and seemed to work perfectly.


Next, we have to fish the speaker cables under the salon floor to the spots that Frances has determined would be the best location for them.

You may wonder why I'm busy installing a stereo in the salon when I should be doing more important things out on the deck, on the bottom or in the engine area. The answer is that it is cold here and we have a small but effective electric heater that I turn on when on the boat. In an hour or so, that makes the salon warm enough to to work in.  Don't worry.  I'll get to the other stuff soon enough.

Dragging down the cables

The focus of this weekend was twofold: find a place to mount the radar and GPS-Chartplotter displays on the fly bridge where they wouldn’t block the view of what is directly in front of the boat while underway and run two cables from the fly bridge to the compartment next to the lower steering station.

First, the displays. There isn’t much room on the bridge console to mount anything, although there are dozens of holes where the previous owner (PO) must have tried. We tested mounting the radar display directly in front of the steering console and the GPS Chartplotter to the right of it but it was apparent that the radar would make it difficult to see what was directly in front of the boat without having to stand up. Not good.  Lobster pots appear out of nowhere and we need to keep a good lookout for them even while seated at the helm.

The solutions came after much measuring. For the GPS Chartplotter, we fabricated a small “L” shaped bracket that will be mounted on the right side of the helm console.  It will be below our sightline but still close enough to reach to set waypoints. For the radar, we came up with the idea of mounting the radar display on a 24” high seat pedestal, mounted to the left of the steering console. We’ll have to fabricate a top for the pedestal, but right now, it looks as though it will be at the right height and be close enough to work the controls on the display. We ordered a 24-inch pedestal and spider today, so we’ll soon see if this works out as planned.

The two cables we needed to run from the bridge to the lower steering station became quite a lot of work. One of the cables would be RG-58AU coaxial cable from the starboard VHF radio antenna and the other, a cable from the bridge-mounted AM-FM antenna. The goal here was to have good AM-FM reception from the AM-FM-CD player in the salon and the other was to have a second, standby VHF marine radio down there.

All of the wiring and control cables in this boat run down along the starboard side of the fly bridge and down through a pipe to the starboard engine space. We found several cables from a long ago disconnected bilge sniffer and we used one of those and an unused transducer wire on the bridge as pilot wires. We taped the new cables to the old ones, and then went below and pulled the new wires down. Amazingly, that actually worked, although it meant pulling down a foot or two of cable and then going back up to the flybridge and forcing a few inches of cable into the pipe. I certainly got my exercise doing this routine about 30 times that afternoon.

While doing all of this, lying down behind the starboard engine, I found lots of disconnected wires so, between pulls on the new cable, I cut away lots of old wire including, oddly enough, part of an extension cord that had no use that I could figure out.

Next weekend, we’ll mount the lower station VHF marine radio and the AM-FM-CD player and wire them up. Hopefully, we’ll hear some tunes.  If we do, it’s off to the next project on the list.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Finished stripes on bridge

Well, here is the unmasking of the bridge stripes.

The painter used Frog painter's tape and is not 100% pleased with the result.  I overlaid the sections of the tape, as fellow painters would, and there was some seepage where the overlays were.

For the taping of the cabin stripes, I may choose to go back to the painter's tape with the blue hue...Any comments or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Now I must return to the job site and touch up this bad boy, with an X-acto knife and a tiny brush.  OY

The Romanian Dinette

Since Act Three did not come with a dinette section, and the crew has no plan to convert the bunk area into such, my mission was to come up with an alternative...

While trolling aimlessly through a consignment shop (used stuff and antiques), I stumbled upon an unusual drop leaf table. In my spatial, if not fertile, imagination, I knew exactly where and how this table would work on the boat. It met all of our criteria, such as being big enough to fit 6 people for dinner (2 will have to bring their own chairs) and plenty of space for Mad Dog and Dogette to spread out the Sunday NY Times. The only thing I need to get, as a centerpiece, is a piggy bank to save up for the paper...

Before I made the $75 purchase, I made a quick call to the captain for input. His and my opinion of drop leaf tables, in general, is that we have never met one we did not like. I dashed over to the counter and quickly wrote a check before another customer, who was just in the store, returned to make her buy. Apparently, the thwarted purchaser did not have a car phone (HUH?), so she had to find a land phone to authorize her purchase. SNAP! I did feel bad, for a nanosecond.

Stats: 3' x 1' (closed); 3' x 4' (one leaf); 3' x 7' (2 leaves). Note the storage area for 4 folding chairs. Item was made in Romania.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bridge surgery. Patient resting comfortably

This was the weekend to open up the flybridge steering console and see what was going on with that tangle of wires and connectors. We needed to add the radar power and antenna cables and connect the chartplotter's GPS output to the radar's GPS input. We simply couldn't tack on more wiring to the mess that we found under the bridge console. So, we did some surgery. Almost all of what we cut out was unused, apparently the function of adding accessories over the years and not taking out the associated wiring. The photo shows some of the junk we took out, not including 6 feet of 16-2 marine cable that was coiled up behind the console and was used to connect the horn button on the lower station with the one on the bridge. That cable was shortened and mounted neatly under the console. We also provided wiring for the horn air compressor. That will go in next weekend. Air horns rule, especially if you have ever owned the winpy electric horns.

When we finished, everything including the radar, worked, so we haven't lost our touch.

Next we'll have to drag some antenna cables from the flybridge down to the lower steering station, where we'll install a second VHF radio and an AM-FM-CD player. This area, shown in the photo, has a nice little storage area to the right of the steering station that was probably intended for charts. The previous owner used a sazs-all to cut holes in the bulkhead to mount a bilge sniffer and some other piece of equipment. We've made an attractive mahogany face plate to cover the old holes. In that, we'll mount a the VHF radio and the AM-FM-CD player. We test-fitted it this weekend and it fits perfectly. The VHF marine radio we'll use was on the boat when we bought it and the AM-FM-CD player is on its way via an Ebay seller.

Having some trouble finding a place to mount the radar display, since there isn't room for it on the top of the bridge console that doesn't obstruct our line of sight. We have an idea for that, however, but it may take some digging to make it happen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Replacing the stripes

This weekend we concentrated on just three tasks: Repainting the accent stripes around the flybridge, straightening out the outdated and poorly installed wiring on the bridge and mounting the radar antenna.

Mounting the radar antenna was fairly straightforward, although it took the better part of three hours. We removed the electric horns (which didn't work anyway), put the mount in place and marked the mounting hole locations. We applied masking tape and drilled through the bridge, after which inserted the stainless steel toggle bolts. The radar mount bolted in place fairly easily. Then we put the antenna on the mast and bolted that down. Dragging 30 ft. of antenna cable through the hole in the front of the bridge was time consuming.

Frances arrived and began painting the two accent stripes. That went well, although there are a few spots that need more attention. As we left on Sunday afternoon, it looked pretty good.

The wiring on the bridge took a little more time. In fact, much of Saturday afternoon was spent lying upside down under the upper steering station studying what I would consider sloppy and questionable wiring that had been made over the years. It took a while to figure out just what all those wires and connections were for.

Silverton's original wiring plan was quite simple. Two large multi-conductor cables (one for the port side and one for the starboard side) run up from the lower steering station and the circuit breaker panel. All connections were made at the bridge instruments and the two ignition switches. For instance, the -12 VDC system ground for each side was connected to the brackets that hold the two tachometers in place. Cheap, simple and easy to install. However, over time electrical accessories were added on the flybridge: a VHF-marine radio, a Judson engine synchronizer and a spotlight, among others. Since there is a limit as to just how many extra connections can be added to the terminals on the ignition switches and instruments to get needed DC power for these accessories, the previous owner simply tapped into the existing cables, eventually leaving a rat's nest of mis-matched wires and taped-together splices. For example, when an older depth sounder was replaced with a new fish-finder, new wiring was tapped into the old and the old equipment's wiring simply left dangling.

On Sunday, all of that was removed on the starboard side, yielding about 20 feet of of various size wire and more than 30 splices. New wiring and barrier-type terminal strips were installed to organize and fuse everything properly. That included DC connections for the radar, a new VHF marine radio and the GPS/Chartplotter.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Picking up the pace

We've picked up the pace a little since the boat came out of the water about a month ago. We now have a number of projects going at once.

Using a heat gun, we stripped off the tape along the boot top. The tape looked terrible but it took four hours to get it all off and then wash the adhesive off with acetone. Once we have masked that off, we'll paint on a new brown stripe.

Removed the old antenna hardware from the sides of the flybridge. Nothing on this boat comes off easily. We fabricated two new brackets for the radio and GPS antennas and will mounts them soon. These brackets will keep the antennas from slapping on the sides of the bridge enclosure when we are underway and look a lot neater. With the help of some Internet research, we put together a high performance VHF radio antenna that will be connected to the radio on the bridge. More about that later.

We removed the 5,000 lb. pull-out sleeper sofa from the salon. It wouldn't fit through the salon door so we took it apart first and then tossed the pieces over the side onto the ground. Sorry we don't have pictures of this but we were too busy dragging all the pieces to the cockpit. The sofa went to the dumpster. That alone will probably help to our fuel mileage next summer.

All but two of the cabinet doors have been refinished, repainted and reinstalled. We are searching for a new latch assembly for the door to the head. If we can't find one, we'll clean up the old one and reinstall it.

The wiring under the helm on the flybridge was fairly messy and that's no surprise in a boat this age. Over time, old electronics equipment was replaced with new but the old wiring was left. We removed many old disconnected cables and will soon clean up the rest of the wiring. We've found a mount for the radar antenna and will be securing that soon on the front of the flybridge. Unfortunately, it is impossible to reach under the inside of the front of the flybridge far enough to to put nuts and washers on the bolts that will hold the radar antenna mount in place. That slowed us down until we found some neat stainless toggle bolts called "togglers." It looks as though those will work but we'll have to see.

This boat originally had accent stripes around the bridge and the trunk cabin. Most of them are gone but it is easy to see where they were. We think that the stripes break up the all white fiberglass and we are going to put them back on, this time with good quality paint and not the cheapo tape that Silverton used (not that we could find that tape today anyway).

Frances is probably the best masking tape applier in the Western world. She is precise and really gets it right. We've included a photo of her at work on the front of the flybridge. No, it wasn't really that dark.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Act Three Renovation Project 2009-2010

Phase 1: Refinish Interior Doors and Bunk Drawers. This boat has nine built-in cabinets and lockers and two large under-bunk drawers. The cabinet doors are made of approximately 5/8" thick Philippine mahogany, framing center panels that are covered with a textured wallpaper of some kind. The drawer fronts are made of the same mahogany. Silverton applied a stain or varnish of some kind when the boat was built and over the last 29 years, the finish had darkened as shown on the door on the right in the photo.

All the doors and drawers were removed and taken home where they were sanded to bare wood. The center panels on each door were cleaned and prepared for painting. The hinges were also removed, sanded and sprayed with two coats of black paint.

The plastic latch assemblies were removed and four were found to need replacement. Surprisingly, they turned out to be a common RV part and are still manufactured today, so we were able to order four new ones.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who we are

We're Bill and Frances, two people who love boats and boating. We live in Connecticut and keep our boat in Norwich at the Marina at American Wharf.

The boat we will take to Norwich next spring is the boat shown above. That's the "new boat." Our old boat - a 1967 Chris Craft 32-ft Sea Skiff named "Mad Dog" - was our good friend for almost 14 years. "Mad Dog" is shown in the bottom photo. We still miss her but she was sold to someone who will take good care of her.

We decided to search for another boat that wouldn't require quite as much work as our wood boat did. After looking at many boats over the winter, we bought an old - but nice - Silverton 34 ft. convertible. Her new name is ACT THREE and she is shown in the top photo.

We know, ACT THREE needs some cosmetic work but that's the fun part.

We always take lots of pictures and we'll post them here as time goes by. We hope you will comment and enjoy this next boating adventure.