Saturday, December 31, 2016

The days are now getting longer...

...which means that it's okay to even think about spring, but let's remember that it's four months before we can launch the boat.

We had a very nice Christmas, low key as we like them, and we are writing this on New Years Eve. Frances is making an apple pie, so things are good.

Our boat projects continue but we won't bore you with too much detail. The reclamation effort on the port triangle has come to a stop. Dr. Bill performed all of the needed surgery, removing all of the rotten plywood. We have a template for the new plywood to replace what had decayed but the low temperatures make it questionable for applying resin. Better wait until it gets a little warmer before completing that project.

But, other projects continue. We wanted to add a light in our head and we did that today, We've learned not to do all this stuff on the boat but to do some prep at home where it is easier to work. It was really cold at Portland Riverside today but we headed down and, after warming the cabin to a toasty 40 degrees, got busy mounting the new light

This is where the light should go but only in a way that looked as though it had always been there:

Up near the ceiling with all of the wires hidden.

It took us an hour or so to mount the light (which we had prepared and painted at home) and run the wire channel, which worked perfectly.

Snap the cover over the wire and we were done.

If you've become feverish looking at these exciting photos, it's okay. Take a cold shower and enjoy New Years Eve.

We still have to connect power to this new light and since we don't use electrical tape or open splices, we have to come up with something that is correct and safe. No problem. We have ideas.

There's more innovative and fun stuff to do on our boat this winter but right now, Frances is putting that apple pie in the oven. You get the idea.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

We cut some of the triangle

If you're still reading this, you are truly part of our blog. Boat maintenance can be really boring.

When we left last weekend, we had discovered some extra rot creeping into our cabin. We needed to cut out the bad sections of plywood and replace it with new wood.

But how would we cut out sections of 3/4-inch plywood without damaging the fiberglass? We gave that some thought during the week and came up with using a multitool. It's a handheld machine that can use a saw-like blade to plunge-cut wood, vibrating the saw blade at something like 15,000 rpm.

We looked into such a device and found that the best one was Fein Multimaster but, at more than $230.00, it seemed a little more than we wanted to spend. We ended up with a Sears MultiTool for about $70.00 and we picked it up at the Sears store at nearby Manchester.
Here's what this thing looks like.

On Saturday, we we went to the boat and first measured along the triangle to separate the good wood from the bad. Then we used our new Sears MultiTool to do a plunge cut. We dialed  it up to 18,000 rpm.

We know, not a good photo, but it was the best we could do at the time.

The result?

Looked good to us. That piece of molding on the right will have to be removed to keep from damaging it as the last cut it made We'll do that next weekend.

Remember that we have to make the same cut on the inside, That should be interesting.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Back to the rotten triangle

We're back on the case of the rotten triangle. We used a variety of tools to see if we could get the damn thing off but at the spot where it met that piece of trim against the wall next to sliding door, it simply wouldn't budge. Then we realized why.

That piece of 3/4-inch plywood isn't really a triangle. It goes through that wall and extends all the way forward to the side window in the cabin.

Yes, that beautifully painted section up to the window is all the same piece of plywood. No wonder the part showing in the cockpit wouldn't come out.

And it gets better. When we poked that inside section down at the bottom just over that gray molding that runs under the side windows, it was also soft.  So the outside rot crept along the bottom and got inside. Keep in mind that looking at all of this from outside of the boat, everything is covered by the fiberglass structure of the cabin so this surgery is going to have to done entirely from the inside. Swell.

Why did it rot? Because there's a joint where the fiberglass cabin side meets the fiberglass cockpit liner and the material that sealed that joint had failed, allowing water in.

The plan, then, is to cut away about 10 inches from the bottom of the triangle (back to solid plywood) on the outside and about 3 inches (again, back to solid plywood) on the inside and then slip in new, epoxy-treated 3/4-inch thick plywood sections. Then we'll fair those seams and repaint.

Cutting the rotten plywood away is going to tricky since it needs to a straight cut and can go no deeper than exactly 3/4-inch, otherwise we'll damage the exterior fiberglass.

What about the starboard side, you might ask?

Solid as a rock, we're glad to report. (The marks seen on the inside surface we're left from us removing some old caulking with heat gun.)

During the previous week, we refinished the mahogany trim pieces that go along the upper edge of the triangle and re-habed the section of rail that mounts on top of it.

We'll eventually re-caulk all of the seams but for now, that's it for the starboard side triangle.

Now on to some other things on the to-do list

A couple of years ago, we installed LED reading lights in our v-berth and guest berth and they have been a really good addition that we use all the time. Last summer, we decided to augment the lighting in the cabin with two more of the same LED fixtures. We also selected spots to mount them and here I demonstrate where I think they will go.

What I think means nothing. Everything screwed down (or painted) on the boat requires the approval of the Admiral. The Admiral has the eyes of a hawk and she can detect a minor problem at quite a distance. We're sure that before those lights are actually mounted, the Admiral will have made a small pencil mark showing where they should be. Actually, we wouldn't have it any other way.

Turkey done right!

Frances cooked what I think was her best turkey ever for Thanksgiving. It was just 10 lbs. but even at that size, that's a lot for two people to eat. Her solution was a turkey pot pie and was that great! Lot of vegetables and small hunks of turkey. We had fun creating the roux (if that's what it's called) and seeing it thicken and even more fun talking about all of our crazy boating adventures while it cooked.

Boating doesn't end around here when you take the boat out of the water.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Pooka, the boat cat, has crossed the bar

No time to work on the boat this Saturday. Instead, we had to see an old friend off, an old friend that we will miss a lot.

Our Pooka hasn't been feeling well lately. After many trips (and some long visits) to his Vet, he came home one last time and was miserable. We both think that cats have a way of telling you that they want to leave and Pooka told us that very clearly on Friday night.

After a sleepless night on Friday, we knew it was time. It was so tempting to let him stay. We both looked for signs that he was, at least a little, back to his old self but, what we wanted to see just wasn't there. And of course, what we wanted was far less important than helping him.

It was time to let him go. 17 years old. A good run for a kitty that wandered into Frances' house in Marlbrough all those years ago and then went on to live with Frances' parents in Florida and then came back to Connecticut to eventually live with Frances in Suffield and with us on the boat during the summers.

This was the cat who went with us wherever we went on the boat. Sure, he puked a little on some rides, but that guy was always ready to come out and greet whoever was there once we docked.

So, Pooka is gone and we have to move on. No more cats (or dogs) for us, at least for a while. We need some time to pass. A friend like Pooka took a lot of our love. It takes some time for us to accept that he is no longer there.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Attacking the rotten triangle

It's time to get started on the winter list of improvements. The first was to order new lights for the cabin and the head. Those will probably arrive this week and we took some time to plan how they will be mounted and what the wiring plan is to be. We're good at hiding wiring and these new lights will look like they were always there while giving us lots of extra light.

Then we examined the triangles, which were a feature of Silverton boats for many years.

The triangles were simply a styling feature; 3/4-inch plywood capped with a piece of mahogany trim and butted up against another piece of trim on the rear wall of the cabin next to the door. The outside of the triangles is up against part of the fiberglass cabin.

Silverton boats with this design feature almost all experience rot of that plywood panel and we're no different except that the plywood on the starboard side look very solid. No rot at all. The port side was another story.

With the top trim piece on the port side removed, the rot became apparent. We tried prying the entire plywood section out but the top seemed fastened in place. It will take a heat gun to break the bead to that trim piece shown at right. That trim is in good shape and we want to save it.

Then we amused our self digging out the soft plywood.

Once we get the last of the triangle out, we'll glass a piece of 3/4-inch plywood, slip it back into place and paint it. We'll also refinish the trim pieces along the tops on both sides.

Like many of our boat projects, no one will ever notice what we've done.

As we drove out of the marina, we noted the many boats that still had to taken out. We learned earlier in the day that they have 50 more boats for winter storage and a number of them haven't even arrived yet. That's a scary thought considering that we had several inches of snow last night in northwest Connecticut.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Back after a week off.

It was definitely time to use last weekend for some housework. We changed the bag in the vacuum cleaner and went at it. Things look so nice after a thorough cleaning and we have to admit, it has been a while.

Two weekends ago, we removed the sea lip molding in our galley.

Once we got the molding home, we rubbed each piece down with paint thinner using fine steel wool. That helped, but really didn't remove all the old discoloration. Then we tried a palm sander with 120 grit sandpaper and, although it took a while, the molding cleaned up very nicely without removing too much material.

Our intention was to put on a couple of coats of Sikkens Marine Light, which we have used before very successfully on other areas, including our swim platform. But that was going to take some time since this molding is exposed both front and back. (It mounts against the 3/4-inch counter top in a groove that is milled into each strip but part of the back of each piece is exposed to form the lip.) That would mean applying the Sikkens to the front of each piece (all 14 feet of it), giving it ample drying time, then turning each piece over and applying Sikkens to the back. Two coats could take the better part of a week or more.

But Frances, the Queen of Process Improvement, came up with a better idea. Why not coat both sides of each piece of trim with Sikkens and then allow them to dry while mounted on toothpicks that had been inserted into the mounting holes?  Why not, indeed?

Toothpicks went into the holes in each section of trim easily and with a few pieces of scrap, into which we had drilled some small holes, we had a place to let each piece dry, both front and back.

That worked perfectly. Yes, we did wear disposable Nitrile gloves while applying the Sikkens to both sides, but we would have used those gloves anyway.

The result was some very good looking molding.

The miniature cleats were on there before the refinishing and are used by Frances to hang up various galley gadgets.

This weekend, we reinstalled the sea lip trim and it looks great. But, like so many of our little projects, we did this for ourselves. No one will ever notice it.

After the trim was reinstalled, we looked at our to-do list for the winter. We measured for the installation of new lights in the cabin and a new one in the head. We looked at the "dreaded Silverton triangles" about which you'll hear in coming weeks. Finally, we figured out how to remove the big glass sliding door in the cabin so we can replace the little wheels that allow it to slide smoothly. We got the door off but have yet to figure out how to remove the old, worn out wheels, which, we found out, you can buy at Home Depot.

To finish out the weekend, we did what lots of people here in New England do at this time of year: we raked leaves. We use an old tarp to collect them and then drag them out to the street where the city will pick them up soon. So far, we have about 50 feet of leaves, about three feet high and we'll add to that soon. Hopefully, that will happen before it snows.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Winterizing the boat's water system

ACT THREE has, probably, 60 ft. of hot and cold water pipe in her and all of that has to be filled with potable antifreeze, so that's what we did this weekend. It's not difficult but does have to be done with a certain care. Any fresh water left - anywhere - will freeze later this winter and damage something.

With that rather obvious info in mind, we ran the water tank dry and then poured in 4 gallons of Wal Mart's best at $2.58 a gallon. Don't laugh. This stuff has gotten us through many a very cold winter.

Once that was done, we were able to stand in front of our galley sink and watch the pink stuff fill everything, including the hot water tank and then squirt out onto the ground.

As you can see, it doesn't take much to keep us happy.

 Once we were sure that everything was winterized, we looked for an easy project and we found one. The galley has what we found are called  "sea lips"  that are actually small moldings that keep things from sliding off a counter top in rough seas. Ours were stained and looked terrible and we've always wanted to take them off and refinish them. What a great project to begin the winter slowly.

We pried them off, all 14 feet, and looked at what will be a easy and fun project for evenings after work. Hey, we're facing more demanding projects this winter. Starting small is good, believe me.

We shot some video that won't rival NetFlix but it's fun for us to do... and look at later.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Winterizing - Going to the dentist would be more fun

Going back over years of our blog posts. you'll see one at the end of each season where we bitch about winterizing the engines. And why not, given that it's the most disagreeable part of boat ownership?

Here are the reasons why it's better to hire someone to winterize your engines, even though we are too proud and/or too cheap to ever do that:
  • Oil filters automatically tighten themselves over the summer. How can a filter that was installed hand-tight plus one quarter turn last year now require several thousand pounds of back-breaking torque to get off this year?
  • Oil filer wrenches were designed by the devil. Just try one in your bilge's limited space and you'll see what we mean.
  • Used motor oil is among the worst stuff on the planet. It's dirty and smelly, which also fits the description of several girls we dated in high school. Used motor oil is also very slippery, much more so than the girls of our youth.
  • Motor oil multiplies over the season. At least it seems that way. It takes 2 minutes to pour in 5 quarts of new oil into the engine and 10 minutes to suck that same oil out at the end of the season. (There is a vague parallel to our high school girlfriends here that we won't pursue given the family-friendly nature of our blog.)
Here's our new best friend each autumn.

We invented this about 15 years ago from stuff we had in our garage. We also created a simple "T" fitting at the inlet of each engine's raw water pump where we could easily connect the hose from our bucket. That enabled us to fill the bucket with antifreeze and let the engine suck up all the antifreeze needed to protect its raw water plumbing. They make nice neat winterizing kits now that do the same thing now but they cost boat bucks.

Our oil filter removal routine is really pretty slick (pun attended). Stuff a Puppy Pad down under the filter (Google "Puppy Pad" to see how great these things are even if you don't pave a puppy.). Then slip a kitchen garbage bag up around the filter. Spin the filter off and let it fall into the garbage bag. The result? No spilled oil.

Enough, already. It was a beautiful day on the Connecticut river in Portland. Our marina was packed with winter storage boats.

We wish the season was a month or so longer. All that motor oil we sucked out today still had a lot of life in it.

Friday, October 21, 2016

October cruise to winter storage

This year, we found a great day to take the boat from American Wharf in Norwich to Portland. October 19 weather promised wind from the west at 10-15 kts. and 1-2 ft. seas and that just about what we found, although once we turned west in the Sound, it was definitely time to put on a sweater.

We left Norwich at 9:50 a.m. under somewhat cloudy skies but it brightened up nicely as we went along. The marina looks somewhat sad now that many of our summer dock mates have left but this year we were prepared with all of our lines out and fenders ready so off we went.

The bridges in New London gave us a photo op that we couldn't let pass. We really wanted to get a little extra out of the boating season and take a cruise to Long Island but we've learned over the years that mid-October is about as long as we can keep using the boat.

It had really brightened up by the time we arrived at Old Saybrook and there were a few boats heading out to go fishing.

Once we got in about 1/2-mile, making 5-6 miles per hour in the no-wake zone, we watched a Sea Tow boat cut directly across in front of us, the captain talking on his phone and doing some paperwork. I don't think he ever saw us until he had passed. Not a big thing; we were keeping a lookout even if he wasn't.

The fall colors became a little more intense as we went further north on the river. This picture is at a turn in the channel in Hadlyme, a mile or two above the entrance to Hamburg Cove.

Finally, the trip was over and it felt like a day in mid-August. This photo was in Cobalt, just a few miles from Portland Riverside were we'll be during the long winter.

The trip took 4 hours and 20 minutes and we could have gone faster but why would we on such a beautiful day?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Disabled boat sucessfully towed by three inflatables

NORWICH, CONN., October 15, 2016 - This morning, three A-dock captains joined forces to tow dockmate John's 27 ft. Bayliner Miss Nicky II to the Brown Park launching ramp where it was hauled onto a hydraulic trailer for the overland trip John's home in Massachusetts.

The Bayliner had suffered what marine experts call an "engine casualty" earlier in the summer that made the boat unable to operate under its own power. The owner will replace the engine over the winter.

Marina at American Wharf A-dock residents captains John H., Mike and Bob fired up their outboard engines early Saturday morning and by 9 a.m. had them ready, idling at the dock. 

The total horsepower of the towing group was estimated to be as high 20, but no one was exactly sure because of the various ages of the engines.  Given the cool weather, several of the inflatables had a noticeable sag but that sag certainly did not extend the enthusiasm of the captains.

At approximately 9:15 a.m., the Bayliner was pushed out of its slip by hand and the three towers took up their positions:

 Captain Bob towing from the bow, Captain John H. on the port stern and Captain Mike on the starboard stern. Captain John, owner of the Bayliner, stood at the helm to provide direction, encouragement and extra steering force.

We joined Pete and his assistant from Pete's Marine Services at the Brown Park launch ramp as the flotilla slowly made its way out of the marina. Pete positioned his hydraulic boat trailer down onto the ramp as the towing captains executed a perfect 90 degree turn to port and headed straight across the Norwich turning basin toward the ramp.

In what seemed like just a few minutes, the group had the Bayliner positioned close to the ramp.

 Captain Bob had a little difficulty passing the short bow line to Pete, who was standing on the trailer but, soon enough, the line was passed and Pete winched the Bayliner into perfect position. There were nods of approval as the hydraulic pads on the trailer lifted the Bayliner up out of the water.

Minutes later, Pete, now at the wheel of his truck, pulled the boat and trailer up onto the surface of the parking lot where the towing captains gathered to examine the slime on the Bayliner's outdrive.

For some reason, slime-covered outdrives are always interesting.

Captain John dismounted from the Bayliner via the swim platform as Pete and his assistant strapped the Bayliner down for its trip to Massachusetts.

All in all, it was a perfectly executed boat movement. In fact, it went exactly according to the plan, which had been developed in great detail days before over rations of Maker's Mark Bourbon.

This event was covered by A-dock's EyeWitness News Team.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

End of the season unloading

This weekend started with the first part of preparation for leaving Norwich for winter storage: checking the engines. We know we're old fashioned, but we always check the fluids in the engines, V-drives and transmissions as well as the condition of the belts and hoses before going anywhere. Once again, all looked well.

We also did some shopping for the supplies we'll need to winterize the engines and water systems. This year, Wal Mart came through with the best prices we could find for potable (pink) antifreeze and engine oil and filters.

On Sunday, we had lots of rain, courtesy of hurricane Matthew, which headed offshore but left us with really lousy weather. But, as you can see from the photo above, there were quite a few boaters like us who were there to take stuff off of their boats.

A-dock, our summer home where we have had so much fun, looked pretty drab in the rain.

We also started taking any liquids off the boat that could freeze, excepting things that Frances and Pooka might need over the next week. We use those plastic crates that you can buy at discount stores and we filled a couple of them. We also off-loaded our pink anti freeze. Yes, there are 15 gallons of that stuff.

Here's why we do it this way. Our winter storage yard doesn't enable us to get very close to the boat with our car. Carrying a lot of antifreeze can be very difficult and energy consuming.

We think that it is always the safest way to run antifreeze through every plumbing element of the boat. Yes, we drain the water heater and then let it refill with antifreeze. That means we're protected from the on-board fresh water tank and then through every hot and cold water line on the boat, including the air conditioner. To winterize the engines, we connect them so that they suck up few gallons of pink antifreeze until it spills out the exhaust. Then we check the quality of the green antifreeze in the heat exchangers that actually cool the engines.

We hate to leave but we have to very soon.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Getting gas - How boring is that?

Last weekend, we called for a pump-out. Our poop gauge was showing five red lights and that, my friends, is a true sanitary emergency.

We called for the pump-out boat but it wasn't working. Seems that the steering wasn't steering. Late Sunday, we found that a part had to be ordered and it wasn't going to become available until the next weekend.

By then it was too late on Sunday afternoon to take a cruise to the gas dock where the pump-out machine actually worked, so we planned to do it the next day, Monday.

Monday morning was beautiful.

We called on the radio for a dock attendant to give us gas and he was waiting. Feeling frisky, we decided to turn the boat around and dock port-side to the dock, because that's where both the gas filler and the pump out fittings are. Slid right up to the gas dock. Of course the fact that there was no wind and no current had little to do with it. Just pure, end-of-season skill.

Both the pump-out and the fueling were uneventful. We took just 66.7 gallons of gas, the least that we think we have ever needed. That gas will take up the Connecticut River to winter storage in Portland and bring us back to Norwich next spring for another fun summer.

We shot some video, this time with two cameras, one facing forward and one aft. It's probably a waste of seven minutes of time, but we like it. We should probably have a third camera dedicated to capturing Bill's confident hands on the controls or Frances heaving a docking line, which she does so well.

Maybe we'll do that next year.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Spark plug wires - how boring is that?

Throughout this season, we noticed just a little miss in our starboard engine. Nothing major, but you could see it on the sync gauge. That engine would drop a few RPMs every once in a while. As the season went on, this became more frequent and by the time we took friends to Mystic a few weeks ago, it became a major problem that was resulting in increased fuel usage.

Time to fix it, and we focused on the plug wires because when the engine idled, we could hear a snapping sound and that sounded like spark.

The plug wires weren't that old. We installed them about six years ago and didn't replace them when we rebuilt the heads on that engine two winters ago. They looked good and aren't these things made out of long-lasting, space-age material?  Apparently not.

We had Packard Delecore II, 7-mm wires on that engine. On Chrysler marine 318 and 360 engines, they run from the distributor down between the heads and the exhaust manifold ports to the plugs. No matter how you try to secure them, that puts most of the wires in contact with the very hot manifolds and in our case, one or more of them failed.

We called our favorite supplier, and the guy who answered the phone confessed that 1980 Chrysler engines where "a little before his time." We coached him to sell us a plug wire set for big block GM engine, thinking that they would be longer, and they were. In fact, the new Magstar 801 8-mm wires were at least four inches longer than the old wires that were intended for our Chrysler engines.

On Saturday, we installed the new plug wires, running them outside of the exhaust manifolds so there is no contact between the plug wires and the manifolds. The engine started perfectly and ran without the old stumble. We'll put another set of these Magstar wires on the port engine this winter.

Pooka's health emergency
About two weeks ago, Pooka got sick. He was weak and obviously, something was very wrong. Frances rushed him to the animal hospital in nearby Marlborough where he was found to "shutting down" with a very low temperature. That's not good for cats and the Vet treated him, which included putting him in a incubator to bring his temperature back up. He was also tested for several important bodily functions and those tests came back as okay. In about five days and $800 in treatment costs, Pooka, the boat cat, came back to his summer home, apparently well again.

Pooka is an important member of our crew. It's great to see him back and home.

Just to show us that he was fully recovered, he climbed to the steps to the fly bridge and, for the first time, climbed back down without assistance. Go Pooka!

Frances cooked one of our favorite dinners while Pooka and I watched. It may be getting cold, but boating is still good.

Summer is definitely over
 We turned on the heat in the boat one night last weekend, just 12 hours or so after the temperature at the dock had been up to 80 degrees. A 40 degree change in temperature in one day really gets your attention, but that's New England weather. Unfortunately, that means that we have to begin planning to move the boat back to Portland, Connecticut for winter storage. That will probably take place in mid-October.

Even though the autumn weather can be beautiful, we really have to be careful. Several years ago, we went up at the end of October and when we went back to the boat the next day to winterize the engines, we had eight inches of wet snow on the boat. We learned the hard way that fly bridge enclosures aren't meant to support the weight of that much wet snow.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day Weekend: No boating around here

Not much boating this weekend at American Wharf (or anyplace else around here) as former hurricane/former tropical storm Hermine churns away off the coast. The sky was overcast for a lot of the time and we had to content ourselves with lots of socializing on the docks. That's something that A-Dock does very well.

A high spot for us was the fact that September 5 was Frances' birthday. Of course, she received a birthday crown and a bottle of wine from our dockmates.

And a shot of her sitting down, crown slightly askew... She'll wear that crown for the next week!

 One member of our crew couldn't care less about tropical storms or special birthdays. Pooka knows how to relax.

 The media loves to characterize Labor Day as the "end of summer" but for us it isn't. We have another 45 days or so of wonderful fall weather ahead of us. We're in a great "hurricane hole" so even if it blows, we're relatively safe. We have a few complaints about how the marina is run, but all in all, it's a nice place to be.