Sunday, January 24, 2010

A nice hot shower

The shower on our boat works but the shower drain doesn't, at least the way it should. Originally, the shower drained into a sump, basically a small plastic box that held a pump and a float switch.  When the sump filled, the pump turned on and pumped the shower water over the side through a hull fitting on the port side.

But, the shower sump on our boat was dead and to make matters worse, it was mounted under the center hallway just aft of the step to the v-berth. After removing the hatch in that hallway (or companion way in nautical terms), it was necessary to lie down and reach back under the flooring to disconnect it. When we say reach back, we mean being just able to touch the mounting screws and hose clamps.We got the old sump out and bought a new Rule shower sump, basically the same plastic box with an 8 GPH pump and a much improved solid-state float switch. It looks like this.

We don't understand what ever moved the people who designed this boat to bury what are basically owner-serviceable parts in such an a difficult spot, but they did.

The problem with connecting the new shower sump to the old hoses was that that they just barely reached the new sump and putting hose clamps on them took hours, many hours, in fact. The two hoses - shower water in and pumped water out didn't fit the new sump easily. We applied our trusty heat gun the the hoses and eventually got them on and locked down with hose clamps.

The photo below shows our working area. The shower sump was installed in the compartment between  the stringers that are at upper left. There is a light in that area in the photo.

This project was supposed to take an afternoon. It ended up taking two complete weekend days. I guess  should have guessed that nothing on a Silverton rehab ever takes a few hours.

On a less important subject, we were concerned that the overhead light fixtures in the salon and the v-berth tripped the circuit breaker when all were left on for any extended period.  The reason is that each fixture (and there are four in our boat) contained two automobile tail light bulbs. Each fixture got hot and drew a lot of battery current.

On the advice of good friends who have a lot of experience in this area, we consulted We found a bulb that fit the Silverton's fixture, shown here.. We bought four # 1156CW18-T cool white LED bulbs at at eye-popping $17.95 each. Considering that these LEDs will probably never need replacement and draw a tiny fraction of the current required by the auto bulbs, maybe they are a good deal.

The photo below shows one of the lights in the salon using the old automotive bulbs

And after installing the LED bulbs 

Looks OK to us.

One other note while we're on the subject of LED lights. We, like a lot of other boaters, would love to change all the navigation lights from incandescent to LED. We recently poked around looking at Ancor marine LED bulbs to see if we could find an LED replacement for the 0.97-amp festoon style bulb that we currently use as a stern light. No luck and the LED bulbs that Ancor lists are marked "Not for navigation use."

The rule is 2-mile visibility for masthead (steaming), navigation and stern lights and I guess that at this point, LEDs just aren't bright enough or don't have adequate Coast Guard approval. I'm sure this will change eventually but for now, we're sticking with the incandescent bulbs for navigation.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Finished on the Fly Bridge for now

Had some good weather this weekend and was able to finally finish off the fly bridge wiring. The radar is now mounted on its own pedestal on the port side and the GPS on the right.  There really isn't any room to mount navigation displays anywhere else on this boat.

Then we fired up the Icom radio and tested for reflected energy. Looked pretty good at 1:1.2 so I think that installation is finished.

While we were spending all that time upside down under the upper steering station, we removed the access door and cleaned it up a little.  (Silveron saved some money by not using hinges but it fits OK) The lock was frozen so we replaced that. Frances donated a really nice speaker and we mounted it in the door and then connected it to the Icom VHF radio. Amazing how clear the radio sounds with a good speaker.

We're not fans of the usual marine 8 ft. fiberglass antennas because we like to know that when we pick up the mic, we'll get the best performance possible from our radio. A good alternative - and one that doesn't cost as much as a Shakespeare fiberglass antenna  - is the GAM Electronics SS-2 antenna.  It's only 35 inches long and ideally mounts on a fiberglass extension mast and Gam Electronics makes a nice adapter that allows that. Makes a nice, clean installation with no wires showing. This is what it looks like installed. Not a good picture but you get the idea.

Now it's down to install the shower sump.  This should be fun.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

$20,000 worth of gas

Each year about this time, I file for a refund of the Connecticut motor fuel taxes paid on the gasoline we used on the boat in the past year. It comes to 25 cents a gallon currently (26 cents for diesel) and if you've used at least 200 gallons, you can file Form AU-724, which you can obtain at or simply download from here. You need to complete only Schedule A & B of the form.  Note that Connecticut DRS will subtract 6% use tax from your claim.

I've been filing for this refund for the last 14 years and often back then, the refund was enough to really make it worthwhile because gas prices were relatively low. In recent years, with higher gas prices, the refund hasn't been all that exciting. Last year, my refund check came to just $37.00 but, since I keep the records anyway, I keep on filing.

When I file the form, I also add that year's totals to a spreadsheet that I've kept since 1996. This year, the totals got my attention: $20,141 spent on boat gas in the last 14 years.  That's 8,824 gallons.

No complaints here, however.  When I think about all the great places we've been, the adventures we have had together, all the wonderful people we have met and friends that we have made, $20K was a great investment.

We're looking forward to starting on the next $20,000 although with the price of fuel, we'll get there in a lot less than 14 years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Long johns and the best of intentions

Last weekend, January 9-10, provided some very cold weather. We've grown somewhat accustomed to the cold but Saturday and Sunday did slow us down. It was about 18 degrees inside the boat when we arrived and after an hour with the electric heater and all the lights on, we were up to a positively tropic 30.

Our goal was to fasten the starboard side antenna mount to the side of the fly bridge, run all the wires and add connectors where necessary. That was all outside work, not something we could do in the "toasty" salon. We managed to get the antenna mount on before we left on Saturday.

As we drilled the mounting holes in the sides of the fly bridge we were reminded how inexpensive fiberglass resin and gelcoat must have been back in 1980. Silverton laid up quite a sturdy bridge, it seems.  It took us a while to drill through it.

Those triangular antenna mounts aren't very attractive but they do serve consolidate the VHF, FM and GPS antennas. We made them at home over several weeks out of 3/4" plywood, glued and screwed together and then fiberglassed inside and out and finished with five coats of paint. They are bolted to the bridge using resin-impregnated backing blocks also made out of 3/4" plywood.  My goal was to be able to stand on the top of the mount and I did, before I added the antennas.

On Sunday, we made an attempt to run and terminate the cables and wires under the steering console but they were so stiff from the cold that we couldn't do much with them. We also tried to solder on two PL-259 connectors but our soldering gun wouldn't quite heat the connectors enough to get a good solder joint. Sunday was also the day we wanted to mount the air horn and compressor but we never got that far before the cold got the better of us.

At this point, we need to finish up on the fly bridge and get going on the storage area in the bilge between the engines. The air horn won't be easy to mount since we have to run tubing between the compressor up under the front of the bridge and the horn on the outside of the bridge and make the installation as neat as possible.  Once that's done and we have done at least one long air horn blast, we're off to the bilge!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

27 degrees

We hoped to get an extra day of work in during the New Years weekend and we did, but that was shortened somewhat by the cold. Inside storage is nice but it's sometimes like working in a freezer. We have a small electric heater that that can raise the temperature inside the boat by about 15 degrees.  Unfortunately, sometimes we have to work outside and that's when it gets difficult.

The salon isn't what we'd call neat right now but all of that stuff will be gone by spring. It looks nice and cozy in the photo but it isn't.

We need to button up the wiring on the fly bridge but on Saturday, we looked ahead to the next thing on our list: providing some storage space in the bilge behind the engines. There is a lot of wasted space between the stringers and our intent is to cover that space with plywood both to make it easier to step down there and create some space to store fenders and other stuff we need to have on board. Here's the space we intend to reclaim.

Then there are the four batteries, in what will pass as a battery compartment and one extra on the port side to operate the windlass.  I know that the wiring is somewhat sloppy and not color coded but we are going to have to leave it the way it is for this season. We'll also cover the batteries with 3/4" plywood and provide some space for ventilation.

We enjoy discussing these projects, often in advance, to figure out how to best do them. For the discussion of covering the battery box area, we made some drawings, in this case on the most recent To-Do list. The drawings look crude but they help us envision problems and how much material we will need.

This weekend we mounted an antenna bracket on the port side. The bracket is of our design and is inended to keep the radio antennas away from the enclosed bridge. The port side mount holds one VHF marine antenna and the GPS antenna