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.