Saturday, March 31, 2012

AC Water Pump Gets a "T"

Winterizing the AC is always difficult because the hose between the sea cock and the cooling water pump is difficult to remove. "Difficult" is being kind. Once the hose is finally pried off of the sea cock, it's necessary to pour antifreeze into the end of the hose using a small funnel while someone else cycles the air conditioner on and off. I know we could always blow compressed air through the system to push out the water but dragging our compressed air tank down to the boat always seems like even more work. Besides, it's reassuring to see antifreeze squirting out that fitting on the side of the boat.

The list of things to be done this winter is growing short so today we too the opportunity to remove the stiff old hose from the sea cock to the AC pump and install a "T," which will allow us to winterize the system much more easily.  We have a T on each of the engine sea water intakes and winterizing the engines just takes a few minutes.

Instead of just replacing the old 3/4" ID hose, we were able to shorten that line considerably by adding two elbows.  Make a much neater installation, as well.

Here's a closer shot of the new T fitting.

While we were doing this plumbing and with the old hose out, we were able to stick our head down next to the pump and look aft, under the salon floor.  There's space there that goes back perhaps seven feet. Don't know why we even bothered to look into this space but when we did, we saw two long pieces of 1" hose just laying there, much too far back for us to reach.  They weren't connected to anything.  They had to go.

We straightened out a coat hanger and were just able to hook the hoses and pull them forward until we could grab them. They turned out to be deteriorated red 1" hose of the type that Silverton used in other parts of the boat (and which now have been mostly replaced).

Between the two pieces, there were perhaps 25 feet of hose and neither piece showed the impressions that hose clamps would have left on the ends. Our guess is that these two sections of hose were left there when the boat was being built. It would have been almost impossible for the previous owner to have stuffed them that far back under the floor, but they could have easily been left there before the salon floor was added.  It wasn't even good quality hose, which makes us even more suspicious that the guys in Millville left it there more than 32 years ago.

As we said, our list is growing short and we're on the list to go in the water during the week of April 23 so today was a good day to check the navigation lights.  The stern light has always been troublesome (sometimes needed a tap of the finger before it would go on) so we took that apart and found it, well, less than salvageable. We've ordered a new one and we'll install it next weekend.

 Shallow water. It's always something!
.Sunday, we had to spend most of the morning doing some house cleaning and of course, some quality time with The New York Times. The next thing on the boat list was to touch up the bottom paint but the curtains on the shed are still closed and it's too dark in there to see to paint accurately. Instead, we busied ourselves taking stuff off the boat, and there was quite a lot of it.

We checked in at the office to order our stern light (and hopefully get a better price than the outrageous $64.95 shown in the West Marine catalog) and were told that the "crew" was having difficulty putting the docks back in the water because runoff from the yard had built up to the point where at low tides, the shore-side of the docks were not floating but resting in the mud. Of course, we had to take a look before we left.

The area where the crew was working is carefully cordoned off for the safety of the public. Here's a typical Connecticut River mooring doing double duty.

A few dock sections are in. This is apparently as far as they got.

The process for putting these dock sections and the fingers that attach to them is really quite interesting. The sections are lifted by a crane using a fixture that fastens to holes in the side of each section.

For any gearheads who might be reading this, the crane is hydraulic and it's powered by a GM 6V53 diesel engine. This crane was purchased used about 12 years ago and that old Detroit engine is still going strong. We wish I could find a pair of those engines to put in our boat.

We shot a photo of one of the spiles and while it's difficult to see in the picture, the water between the spile and the rock embankment is only a few inches deep, and this wasn't even at low tide.

 That means there is a problem. Without most of these docks they will be unable to launch boats quickly. Will that affect our launch date? God, we hope not.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The first weekend of Spring

This week we devoted some time to the production of Portland Riverside Marina's sales flyer. We do this every year for the marina where we winter store and this year it was getting late. Frances felt this project needed some help, so last weekend she went to the marina store and started to pack up products that needed to be photographed.  During the week, we set up the "Act Three Photo Studio" on the same workbench where we do everything boat-related and shot pictures of about 30 products. It's nice to be running one's own business so you can make time for stuff like this.  Once printed, the brochure will be six pages, all color. It really helps the marina draw people in to buy stuff at prices that are often far cheaper than the boat stores charge. This will the the 8th year we have produced this brochure for them.

Once the photos have been taken, we open them in PhotoShop and enhance the color and take out the backgrounds. That's the reason you see the green background behind the cans of solvent.

But, back to our boat. Today (Saturday) we re-erected the bridge enclosure. As we described previously, we waterproofed the top piece and today we installed it. It went up OK, but what a pain in the butt! We don't look forward to doing this again any time soon.

Then we began adding the side pieces of the enclosure. The exercise keeps us young. First, climb down the ladder and go out to the car. Select the right section of the enclosure. It only goes up one way because of the zippers on the sides so you need exactly the right section. Once the the right piece is found (there are 12), bring the selected section back to the boat, climb up the ladder to the boat and then climb up onto the bridge and snap the piece in place on the top and bottom and fasten the zipper. After the first two sections were up, we took a picture. We wish we could see water out there instead of the boat shed.

An hour or so later, the bridge enclosure was up. We have found that a small dot of Lithium grease on the fittings makes them snap together easier.

There were other things on the list for today but we decided to mask and paint the wire raceway that we had to put in when we installed the new light in the cockpit. The fact that the raceway was white and the mounting surface was beige just wouldn't do.

First we noticed that some mold had grown in that area. Not a lot but enough to see. We wiped everything down with a solution of bleach and water and the mold stains were gone. Then we masked and painted. Looks better, wouldn't you agree? (Like you'd really notice!)

By then it was only 3 PM but we left the boat to go play with a new toy (we mean new tool).

On the way down this morning, we visited Harbor Freight and bought an inexpensive ($129.99 on sale for $99.99) pressure washer. Our intent was to use this washer to clean out our bilge but since there is still no water at the boat yard, that would have to wait. Instead, we went home to assemble this new tool and see how it worked. You can't expect much for $100 but at least on first try, it worked okay. We blew the mold  and loose paint off the our deck.  Can't wait to stick that thing in our bilge!

Sunday: Shower sump surgery
In a blog post last winter, we described the installation of a new holding tank and a new shower sump. The old shower sump was carefully located by Silverton so that couldn't be reached even with arms twice as long as ours so we had to pull up the carper and cut a hole in the floor. In went a brand new Rule shower sump. We poured some water down the shower drain to test it and the sump worked fine. Off we went for a carefree summer on the boat.

But not quite. Just after the boat was back in the water, we got aboard and noticed that the shower pump was on and apparently had been for some time. No one had used the shower and in fact, there wasn't even any water on the boat. We were unable to stop the pump so we disconnected it. We never use the shower anyway but it is nice to know it will work if we ever decide to. Last fall, we checked with Defender Marine, where we had purchased the sump, and were told that the warranty had run out. We're there serviceable parts inside, we asked? No one really knew but the consensus was no. So we plunked down one boat unit ($100) for another shower sump.

Today, we again pulled up the carpet and our little access hatch and reconnected the power to the sump. The pump came on immediately and no amount of tapping on the float switch would shut it off.  Here's this P.O.S. with a little antifreeze in the bottom. The pump worked fine even after running dry for who knows how long.

This thing is really just a plastic tub with an 800 GPH Rule bilge pump and a "Rule-A-Matic" 20-amp. float switch. How about Junk-A-Matic as an alternative name? We elected to replace just the float switch because replacing the entire sump would have involved fighting the hoses and the mounting screws and would have an hour or more..

Once we had the old switch out and the new one in, the shower sump worked fine. It will be interesting to see how long this one lasts.

We tested the old switch and it was shorted to an always-on condition. Luckily, we don't use Rule bilge pumps or switches for our main bilge pumps.

While we were taking that picture, our friend Rob, who has a Luhrs 34X right next to us, mentioned that he had a Rule switches like ours fail on one of his bilge pumps after just a couple of seasons. Guess we'll cross Rule off our list permanently.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Replacing the upper helm

Frances volunteered to help as we reinstalled the newly rebuilt upper station steering helm. It came back this week just 10 days after we sent it to Florida for rebuild. The cost was $190 and we certainly can't complain about that.

We reinstalled the helm and then began the time consuming task of refilling the reservoir and bleeding the air out of the lines.  This is a three line steering system, port, starboard and return.

First, we refilled the reservoir, opened the bleeder valves and, using our newly acquired bicycle pump, pressurized the steering system to 45 psi, as required by the bleeding instructions.

That's our new bicycle pump mounted neatly above the reservoir. At this point, it's necessary to crack open the port and starboard hydraulic lines on first the upper and then the lower helm to let out any air that is in the lines.  Of course, to to that, we have to close the port engine hatch so we can put up the ladder to the bridge.

There was some air in the lines and after that was gone and the lines re-tightened, it was back down to the reservoir to top off the fluid and pressurize the system again. But first, take down the bridge ladder so the port engine hatch could be opened. This was getting old very fast.

However, ever faithful to the instructions, we then closed the port engine hatch, put up the bridge ladder again and began turning the upper helm wheel from center to port and back again. The instructions said to do this 60 times to port and then 60 time to starboard.  This is where Frances came in. She watched the rudder arm as I turned the wheel, once, twice, three, four... on and on we went.

Then Frances yelled, "It moved!" Thank God. As we continued to move the wheel to port, the rudder arm picked up speed. Now we were getting somewhere! We switched to starboard and went through the same drill and eventually, the rudder moved the other way. By then, we had marked the wheel so we could count how many times it was turning.  Interestingly, we could both hear the hydraulic fluid filling the lines as I cranked the wheel. With the rudder now moving properly, our taskmaster, the directions, indicated that we should go below and refill the reservoir. We did the ladder-hatch dance once again and found that about half of the fluid in the reservoir had been pumped in the system, so we refilled and then, you guessed it, went back to the bridge and cranked that wheel some more.

We also went through this same routine with the lower helm but since that one hadn't been removed, it went a lot faster.

We ended up having to add fluid once more before the system stabilized. Out total hydraulic fluid usage was one quart.

Fairly satisfied that we had accomplished what we had set out to do, Frances left to take care of some things she had to do.

The other thing on today's list was to remove the bimini top support that was bent during the October 30 snow storm, while our boat was still in the water. By the time we got to the boat after that storm, there was about two feet of wet, heavy snow on the top and one of the stainless support bows just couldn't take it.

 We weren't looking forward to removing these mounting screws that looked as though they had been on there for decades.

It must have been the luck of the Irish (although we're not Irish) because all four screws backed out without too much effort.  The bend in the support was pretty bad.

We took the bent piece off the boat with the intention of measuring it before looking for someone who could bend a new piece for us. But before we did, we put it on the ground and examined it closely. It wasn't cracked as we had thought. Why not try to straighten it?

We propped the bent tubing between two large blocks of wood and jumped on it. It began to bend back to its original shape.  We kept repositioning it and jumping on the bend and before long, it looked pretty much the way it should. Two little kids in the shed helping their parents uncover their boat had quite a few giggles watching.

Tomorrow, we'll try erecting the bimini roof and see how it looks. Maybe we lucked out on this one on St. Patrick's Day.

The Sunday Erection
 On Sunday, we took the bimini top out of storage and spread it out on the driveway. The outside was pretty grungy and even had a trace of seagull crap that we collected two summers ago at Montauk.  We could take care of that later but right now, we wanted to see if it fit properly after we had straightened that bent support bow.

We went to the boat yard (first time we needed air conditioning in the car this year) and began by erecting just the three stainless steel support bows on which the top mounts. They went up okay but there seemed to be something wrong and there was. Yesterday, when we straightened the bent section, we reinstalled it backwards. It took a while to disconnect that one bow again and swing it around the other way. A 9-ft. piece of stainless steel tubing doesn't go where you want it too without some emphatic cursing, but we finally got it back in place, this time facing the right direction.

Then we dragged the top up onto the bridge, spread it out and then crawled underneath to slip the bows into position so the zippers would all close. We don't know why we always forget how dark it is under there and how difficult it can be to start all the zippers.

Once erected, it looked okay.  The sag in the material from the bent bow was now gone and the top looked nice and tight. We disassembled it and brought it home for a thorough cleaning.

It was a beautiful spring afternoon and we had decided the only way to clean this big thing was to lay it on on the driveway and scrub it by hand.

We used dish washing liquid and from the color of the water, a lot of dirt came out. We then hung the top from our back porch and really rinsed it thoroughly with the hose. With any luck, it should be dry by tomorrow afternoon.

We're going to apply 303 High Tech Fabric Guard to waterproof this top. We've used it before and have not had the waterproofing hold through the entire season. We looked at the Fabric Guard website and it seems that we may not have been applying this stuff correctly. They recommend two light coats and the use of one of those garden sprayers that you pressurize with a hand pump. (We used the squirt bottle the last time.)  Frances has a really nice garden sprayer that we are going to add as an Act Three boat maintenance tool.

Next weekend, we'll re-erect the newly waterproofed top and cross that off the list.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's great when everything goes right

We found out this week that the grant application we had researched and written to the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was approved. That will allow the folks who run our winter storage marina to purchase a 300 gallon, trailer-mounted, Edson pump-out station. These things aren't cheap but the grant, for $10,750, will cover about three quarters of the cost. There was lots of paperwork involved but we got everything signed today so now we'll just have to wait to see when the money actually arrives.

We started the day at Defender Marine in Waterford, CT. Always a fun place to visit. We had ordered a new shower sump and we picked it up this morning. Too bad we had to replace this Rule "Shower Drain Box" (official name) again, since we installed this same unit new last winter. The first time we powered it up after the boat was in the water, the float switch failed and we arrived to find that the pump had been running for a day or two, even though we hadn't used the shower. These sumps have an integrated float switch, so there's no taking it apart.  We tried to exchange or have it repaired but Defender's answer was that once installed, these things can't be exchanged for a new one.

We're replacing the old sump with the same Rule sump because the mounting and hose configuration now fits it perfectly and it's mounted down below the floor in a spot that is very difficult to reach. We'll see if this new one lasts. If you're buying a shower sump, we'd suggest you avoid the Rule 800 GPH Shower Drain Box. It's engineered for the recreational marine market, which we all know has lots of money to spend on unending parts replacement and repair.

Back on the boat, we were able to install the new, slightly shorter, belt on the port alternator. Perfect. Check that off our list. Next was to fill the port heat exchanger with anti-freeze. OK, not a big deal but it was on the list.

Then we went into the salon to install the second string of LED lights in the galley. It's amazing how fast these odd jobs go when you've done them once before. This time, we heated the super glue on the hood of the car for about a half hour before we applied it. The LED string went up without much effort.  We wired the first strip that we installed last weekend to the new one and the took some pictures.  Frances' galley looks nice and bright now.

On Sunday, we decided to take care of the last of Frances' lighting projects. We have four small LED lights around the edge of the cockpit that we often use during summer evenings. For some time, Frances has also wanted a light mounted over the sliding door. Since we now don't install any lighting that isn't LED, we shopped around and found a simple 5-1/2" diameter white LED light with a self-contained switch.

The problem was that there isn't a 12 volt DC source over the sliding doors so we bought 10 feet of Wiremold surface mount wire raceway. and some angles. We'd run a length of 16-2 marine wire in the raceway sections across to the starboard side, then down almost to the deck where we could drill through the wall and into an access panel where all the control cables and wires from the bridge go through the salon floor and down into the engine space.

We'd forgotten how carefully you have to measure these things when you cut them.  If they are off even a little, the corner pieces won't snap together as they should. We definitely did the "measure twice, cut once" routine for this little job.

This damn thing took us three hours to install so I guess we should keep our day job and not branch out into installing boat lighting for a living. In the end, the light looks fine and should supply some very nice soft lighting to evenings in the cockpit.

This plastic raceway is white and the vertical portion is mounted on a section of wall that is painted a very light tan. We think it will look better (or draw less attention) if the raceway is also painted that tan color. We can take care of that in about 15 minutes next weekend. Ah, come to think of it, that tan section of wall should be cleaned first. I guess an hour would be a better estimate.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Finished with the engines.... finally

We were coming to the end of the heat exchangers-exhaust manifold-new carburetors portion of this winter's boat list.

The plywood floor sections that span the stringers between the engines had gotten a little grimy over the winter so we decided to bring them home and paint them again. When we originally made them several years ago, we slapped on a coat of Benjamin Moore house paint that we had left over at home. During the evenings this week we applied some very durable high gloss deck paint to each of the three sections. There's also a fourth section but we had to leave it in place so we'd have something to stand on as we climbed out of the engine space.

We installed the three sections on Saturday. Big improvement and the surface is now easy to clean.

Then we began to work our way through the list of little things that still needed to be done. We started with new fuel line from the fuel pump to the carb on the starboard side. This is the engine that has given us so much trouble once it was warmed up. Seemed like fuel starvation so now we have all new fuel line from the tank to the fuel filer and from the filter to the fuel pump. We also replaced the line from the fuel pump to the new  carb. Everything's new from the tank to the carb inlet. (We previously also replaced the fuel pump on that engine.) Can't wait to fire it up in another month or so and see how she runs.

We also fabricated a connection between the throttle cables and the new port carburetor.  Not exactly a factory design but it's strong and the throttle cables operate very smoothly.

We added new overflow tubing from the tops of the fuel pumps the the carbs and then, finally down to the last thing, connecting the ground wires for the electric chokes. Edelbrock recommends connecting the grounds to one of the three tiny screws that hold the choke adjustment ring in place. That's fine, but those tiny screws are Torx head. Why Torx when they could have been Allen or even Phillips? No idea, but we did dig up an unused set of Torx sockets that we had in our workshop. We did the starboard choke first but when we removed that same screw from the port choke, the Torx socket made its last bid for freedom and jumped into the bilge next to the port engine. This is what makes these seemingly small jobs take so long.

We rigged a light and squeezed down next to the port engine and there was Torx, hiding up against a stringer.  We retrieved it and made the ground connection.

Then it was time to clean up.  We took a picture of each engine with all the tools and garbage removed.

That white box in front of the starboard engine is used for storage. It hooks over a stringer to keep it from moving and touching the engine. Spare oil and transmission fluid are stored in milk crates located under the gray floor sections shown at the left of the engine. We do likes things nice and neat down there.

To make this part of the project really complete, we'll install the new, slightly shorter, belt on the port alternator before we leave for the weekend. Then it's on to installing new LED lights in the galley. After more than two months with the engines, that job should be fun.

On Sunday, we put a first coat of deck paint on the last floor section at home and then, once on the boat, filled the port heat exchanger with water-antifreeze mix.  Looks like we'll need more. Two gallons didn't fill it completely.

Then we moved inside the boat to install the two strips of LED lights in the galley. These strips each contain 36 LEDS and are supposed to be held in place with tiny clips.  The holes in the clips were smaller than any screw that we had available and even if he had found a screw that small, we didn't have a screwdriver small enough to use them. Instead, we bought two tubes of super-glue like adhesive. The instructions said that this stuff could be used like contact cement by coating both mounting surfaces and then letting them dry for five or ten minutes.  That's what we did and they indeed did stick, although we had to go back over each one, pushing the strip up against the mounting surface until all eight clips adhered.

The first LED strip was mounted just above the sliding plastic doors behind which Frances stores glasses and lot of other stuff. "Lots" was the operative word as I cleaned out that cabinet before starting this installation. Here's what it looked like as the contact cement dried.

We discussed this and decided to install a switch for these LEDs behind the sliding plastic door, so that no wiring would be apparent. Before we left on Sunday morning, we made an L-bracket out of some aluminum and mounted a 12-volt toggle switch that we had on hand. That went inside the cabinet.

That nasty looking thing above the switch is the air conditioning control panel. The most time consuming part of this was running a 12-volt DC wire from the galley, down under the floor and up under the lower steering station to connect to a power source.

The galley is L-shaped and we have another strip of LEDs to mount along the port side of the galley cabinet. We ran out of time to mount that second LED strip and connect it to the first one today, but we'll get that done next weekend.

Difficult to see from these photos because of our camera's flash, but the old galley looked nice with this new lighting.