Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pink Stuff

With our boat out of the water it was time to winterize the engines, air conditioning and water system. This is never a pleasant task but this year, because the weather was good, it went quite smoothly if one could call running up and down a step ladder about 100 times, smooth.

Last weekend, we dismantled the bridge enclosure. For us that's 11 individual sections, each one zippered on both sides with a clear plastic window on top and Sunbrella (or whatever this material is) on the bottom.  This year, we also removed the Bimini top itself, which also uses zippers to secure it to the stainless steel frame. The zippers on the top looked as though they hadn't been moved on years but surprisingly, each zipper opened and we were able to remove the Bimini top without too much effort.

The 11 side curtains and the top went home with us, where we hung them from our back fence and thoroughly hosed both sides of each piece. We then applied Plexus Plastic Cleaner Protectant & Polish to both sides of each of the window sections. (We have to thank Karen at Portland Riverside for suggesting this stuff.)

 Plexus produced some amazing results. Discoloration and dirt that we didn't know was there came off, leaving each window section looking like new. Plexus isn't magic. You spray a little on the plastic window section and then use a clean cloth to distribute it, taking off dirt as you do.  Then using a separate cloth (not a paper towel), you buff the surface.  We found that after doing two plastic windows, both cloths were too dirty or saturated to re-use. So, before you try Plexus, have a lot of old towels available.

This Saturday, we began the winterization process by buying 10 gallons of pink, potable anti-freeze from the marina store at Portland Riverside. The engines were done first. Our engines have a T-fitting installed just after the seacock and before the sea water pump on each engine. Years ago we made up a 5-gallon bucket with a shut-off valve in the bottom. A piece of flexible hose connects the contents of the bucket to the T-fitting on the engine. Doing this alone takes some prior planning. Connect the bucket outlet to the engine water intake, valve closed. Pour in four gallons of antifreeze. Make sure you have a supply of Marvel Mystery Oil to pour into the carb, just as the last of the anti-freeze is sucked into the engine. Open the valve on the anti-freeze bucket and then go very quickly into the cabin and start the engine.  Race back to the engine bay and watch the anti-freeze get sucked into the cooling system.  In our case, that took less than 45 seconds. Just before the last of the anti-freeze disappears from the bucket, we squirted a liberal amount of Marvel Mystery oil into the carb, stalling the engine.

For anyone who cares, our engines have heat exchangers, so this process is a little quicker and easier.

On Sunday, we did the fresh water system and the air conditioning.  The air conditioner sucked up one gallon of anti-freeze and the fresh water system, including the hot water heater took another four gallons.  We also took off lots of stuff, like clothing and bedding.  There's nothing on the boat now that can freeze.

Now it's off to the list of things we'd like to accomplish over the winter. The top of the list is repacking the stuffing boxes and installing a new toilet and holding tank.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Switch to 22 Alpha

Our last cruise, from Norwich to Portland where we would winter the boat, should have been an easy cruise. With dockmates John and Joanne, we left at 9 AM on Sunday, October 24. It was a cold and potentially rainy morning but with good company, what boat ride isn't good?

Things went fine until we got into the Sound for the ride from New London Ledge Light to Old Saybrook, just 10 miles.  The boat felt sluggish and as time went on, we couldn't go much faster than 10-11 miles per hour.  Once in the Connecticut River, we checked the fuel filters and they were clean. As we moved up the river, we seemed to have less and less power, down to about 6-7 MPH.  Not good. Finally, while John drove the boat, we went below to check the engines.

Once we opened the engine hatches, we saw a lot of water, so much in fact, that the pulleys on the front of the engines were spraying sea water over the tops of the engines. We looked under the engines for a leak and saw what appeared to be water gushing in from the stuffing boxes or V-Drives. We tried to lower the water level by using a hand pump and that worked,  but not enough to keep up with the flow. I  went up to the bridge and said that beaching the boat was an option that we might have to try. By now we were south of Cobalt. Our GPS had failed. Frances tried to contact our Marina (Portland Riverside), by phone, but there was no one in the office.

Then Frances picked up the mic on the radio and called the Coast Guard. Thanks for having such good judgment, Frances.  They answered immediately and I took the mic from her to answer their questions about our location and postition. In the meantime, our Marina called back and Frances maintained contact with Karen.  This resulted in their preparing the well and sling for our arrival. She then got on the radio (channel 16)  We were told that PRM was on channel 9, so she tried that.

About that time, another boat came on the radio. We coordinated our situation with the Coast Guard and Dream Boat. We were asked to switch to the Coast Guard's exclusive channel, 22-Alpha. Dream Boat's owners were Coast Guard Auxiliary and said that they would take us in tow. I looked behind us to see a beautiful 44-ft express boat.  They had come up north on the river from Haddam Island.  The setup for the tow and the transfer of Joanne and Frances to their boat went smoothly.    Dream Boat towed us up the river to PRM.

John and I sat on the bridge for the tow for about 5 miles to Portland. During that time, our boat's pumps cleared the water out of the bilge completely.  Once at Portland, we restarted the engines and steered into the well where the PRM crew was ready to pull us out of the water.

What happened? The aft bilge pump wasn't working reliably. It could easily have sucked up whatever water had accumulated in our bilge. Where did all that water come from? Probably from the stuffing boxes that I should have re-packed last winter and also from a failure of the dockside water line that we found and fixed weeks before. But we never made sure that all that water was pumped out. Silvertons like ours accumulate water in the center of the boat, aft of the front bilge pump and forward of the aft pump. That's a mistake we won't make again. In fact, as part of our winter to-do list, we'll hot wire both bilge pumps directly to the batteries and bypass the ineffective Silverton switches and fuses.

However, no damage to the machinery was done. The engines, transmissions and V-drives work fine and there is no water in the oil.

Next, we winterize the engines and water system and start working on a new toilet and holding tank.

Not a great way to end the season but we did get to meet two very capable and nice  boaters - both with 100-ton CG licenses and towing endorsements - who saved our bacon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Salon status at the end of the season

It's been a great summer for us but it's been a little tough on the furniture, of which we seem to have an abundance. We started the summer with lots of stuff including our beautiful bargain basement table (see an old blog post for more details) and our beloved Klobo, the Ikea sofa (see another old blog post for even more detail).

The problem was, for Frances, things just weren't "right" in our salon.  Each week Frances would shift the furniture around, carefully running speaker wires under the carpet. And, about every week or so, she'd call saying, "You'll love the way the salon is arranged!" And frankly, I always did. Speakers became miniature coffee tables. Klobo, the sofa, crept out from the starboard side as thing were stored behind him (or her).

But regardless of the the configuration, my chair was always there. I think it can best be described as a "barrel" chair, circa 1980, and original equipment with the boat. I liked it the first time I saw it and I enjoyed sitting in it, swiveling left for some munchies and right for a cocktail.  Flip over the cushion and the stains were gone. My kind of chair.

However, Frances called last week with the news that the salon was finally arranged the way she liked it. Perfect for us. Perfect for entertaining. "I can't wait for you to see it," she exclaimed.

I must admit that the salon had a lot more room. Our table was now awarthships, just behind our lower (useless) steering station. Klobo, the sofa, was now back against the port salon wall.  There was lots of room. "I love it," I announced from my favorite chair. "Oh, there's one more thing.  That chair has to go," she noted.

"My chair? I asked. "I love this chair!"

"Sorry, it has to go," she said rather firmly.

So, rather than seeing my old friend end up a Dumpster, I took it home.  I have no idea what I will do with that chair but I love sitting in it and thinking of all the time the previous owner must have enjoyed it.

It's not a style leader, I know. But old furniture, like old boaters, deserve an second chance.

Our next blog, we hope, will cover our trip from our summer dock in Norwich to Portland on the Connecticut river. Between now and the time we leave for that last trip of 2010, I'll sit in my favorite chair and dream.

Friday, October 15, 2010

When we're not boating...

... We have a real day job. We do publicity and public relations for a number of  companies, municipalities and non-profits. One of our oldest clients is Ringling Bros.(yes, the circus) in Hartford, Bridgeport, Springfield and recently, Worcester.  Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the circus, also produces the Disney on Ice shows and a series of Monster Truck events and we're fortunate enough to do the publicity for them as well.

Over the last few weeks, we've promoted the circus in Worcester and Springfield.  Next week it will be in Bridgeport.

On Thursday, we prepared an "elephant lunch" at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield. The press loves events like this and their coverage helps promote ticket sales.

Here's "lunch" for three 8,000 lb Asian elephants.

That's lettuce, bananas, apples, carrots and 12 loaves of Italian bread. Elephants love bread and they eat that first. For dessert, we provided three big watermelons, although we have to hide them until the very end because the elephants will head for them immediately.

 The elephants make short work of the watermelons.  They simply step on them and then eat them in pieces.

An event like this is a natural for TV coverage and it's that coverage that really helps sell tickets. The little kids just love it.

We should mention that the elephant lunch is a special treat. The circus elephants don't eat these types of food every day but are fed a special diet under the care of a full-time Veterinarian. The circus staff members who take care of these animals know each one as an individual and really care about their welfare.

We've done so many circus events over the years that we probably should have considered naming our boat "Three Rings" rather than "Act Three."

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The end of our season is in sight

Only a few more weekends at A-dock before we leave for winter storage. We hope to make a party out of that last cruise by inviting as many of our friends who can join us. The weather is always a consideration, so we'll have to pick our cruise time carefully.

This weekend was devoted to puttering, doing small things and taking some stuff off the boat for the winter and that was kind of nice. The sun was warm and Frances and I negotiated the new furniture configuration she and her brother, Fred came up with. I agreed with whatever she proposed and our cabin looks better than ever.

I spent the time installing new tachs (courtesy of Barbara) in our lower helm. I know it looks like a rat's nest but it all works.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The boating season is winding down

The days may getting shorter, but the sky at A-dock makes us hope that fall will last for a long time.

I told Frances that this shot would never come out, but it did...

(Collaboration on text, obvious to some...)

On Sunday, we converged with guests on the boat after a luncheon in Easton with F's family.  John joined us for dinner in the cabin. The original plan for this weekend was to take our guests - Fred and Kathy Curtis, (Frances' brother and sister-in-law who were visiting from Florida) -  on a short cruise to Mystic on Monday and return on Tuesday. But, as has happened several times recently, the weather didn't cooperate.  Monday dawned gray, windy and cool and rather than slog through the seas (a Small Craft Advisory that had been posted), we enjoyed a great breakfast together in Norwich and then went by car to Mystic.

We had a fine time walking around Mystic and after the inevitable shopping, went on to Stonington for some lunch at Skippers.  We've been to Skippers many times but this time, the food seemed extra good. It just might have been the great company.

Later Monday, Frannie's cousin Susie, from Easton, CT was in New London on business and drove up to join us on that evening.  A great pizza from Voc's was shared and Fred and Kathy spent another night on the boat. Tuesday morning came and Fred and Kathy left for Boston and Portland, Maine, where they were to see other family. We know now how comfortable sharing quarters with another couple is.  Not bad if we stow some stuff up in the Captain's office to make room...However, Frances and Bro were up until 2AM on Tues. gabbing and rearranging furniture.  I can't wait to present the changes to the Capt.................

At this point, we need to begin planning our trip back up the Connecticut River for winter storage.  Frances would like to make that a cruise with as many of our dock mates aboard as possible. That would be fun!