Friday, November 10, 2017

End-of-season winterizing

We certainly don't look forward to this job and it was made just a little worse because the day we did the engine winterizing, it was a beautiful day. While the go-fast boats roared by our slip at Portland Riverside, we dragged down the oil, filters and our vacuum pump and got down to the dirty work.


As usual, we warmed up the engines, spread out the Puppy Pads in the bilge and changed the oil filters. Dropped one but caught most of the old oil in a zip-lock bag along with the old filters. After that, we used the vacuum pump to extract the old oil from the engines and then started them up and let them suck up about three gallons each of anti-freeze. A shot of Marvel Mystery oil down each carb and the boating season was officially over.


We certainly hope that this year's weather isn't a hint of what's to come. The week before we brought the boat up from Norwich, the sea conditions were not pleasant and we picked our day to travel carefully. It was a rough ride in the Sound but nothing that rearranged the furniture. A few days later when we did the winterizing, it was like summer. As we write this, a couple of weeks later, we've experienced a big storm that downed some trees in our yard that punched some holes in our garage roof. All's good with the boat, however. She's safely in the big shed and we've found the time to pump antifreeze through the boat's fresh water system.

For  those of us who know us well, we can report that Frances is doing well. She was slowed down a little by what appears to be Arthritus but she is coping and in great spirits to get through the winter and begin another boating season. If you know her, I know she'd love to hear from you. You know her email address.

We shot some video of some of the winterizing agony. Not a lot of detail there since we've done that in previous years and frankly, changing the oil really doesn't vary much from year to year and it is anything but exciting video.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The cruise to winter storage


October 18... time to leave American Wharf and cruise up to Portland Riverside for what right now, seems like a very long winter with no boating.

We planned this trip for the previous week but every time we looked at the weather, it seemed to get worse. Winds from the west at 15-20 kts. is a little too much for us. When the Small Craft Advisories finally went away, we looked at what we thought would be the best day and headed out.

Frances is doing fine but we felt that the ride might be a little uncomfortable for her as would driving an extra car to Norwich so Bill created an alternate plan in which he'd bring the boat up himself.

Since you're reading about it here, you'll know that that worked out fine.

 The Enterprise Car Plan 
Bill drove his car to Norwich on October 18 and left on the boat. Once in Portland, Bill called Enterprise Rent-a-Car in Middletown and they picked him up at the marina (this was prearranged). Once he dropped off the delivery person, he drove the rental car home in Hartford. The next morning, he returned the rental car to Enterprise in Norwich and they gave him a ride back to the marina, where he picked up his car and headed home. Perfect! Total cost: $84.83 plus $2.00 to refill the rental car with gas. When you consider how easy this made the whole trip, we consider it a bargain.

The cruise
The Thames River was docile but cold. Bill had to stop at the sub base while the USCG and the sub base police pulled a sunken aluminum row boat out of the channel. That took almost half an hour. Once we turned west on the Sound, I could see that it wasn't going to be pleasant. The west wind was there as predicted and the opposing tide made it 15 miles of what we like to call "bang and slam" boating. However, we didn't rearrange any of the furniture and our 37 year old Silverton went through it without any problem.

The ride up the Connecticut River was fine (absent any fall foliage) and Enterprise picked Bill up within 15 minutes of his call. The pickup driver was a 20-something female who told Bill that he was "funny, like my grandfather." Oh, well. At least she didn't say "my late grandfather."

Docking at Portland Riverside after a long - but great - day.

There's video here. A little long but at the end of the year, we like every minute we can get.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tinted windows

After discussing darkening the windows on our boat for about eight months and contacting a number of vendors, we finally decided to begin by having just the three large windows at the rear of the cabin tinted.

We arranged to have Dwayne, the window-tinter who seemed the most cooperative (and who lived fairly close to Norwich), meet us at the boat at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Our first task was to remove the three six-ft. long rear blinds that were in poor condition,  Then Dwayne took over. When he was finished less than an hour later, our boat had a new look.


The amount of light and heat that the tinted windows keep out is substantial and while no one will ever notice but us, look really cool.



Can we see out at night? Yes. Can people see in at night? No, not under normal conditions. This was a fairly expensive job but we're more than pleased with how it looks and the extra room that became available once the blinds were gone. Next, we'll save up some more boat bucks and have the side windows done, as well.

With that spiffy new look to the back of the boat, Bill was moved to wash the exterior, a job that took him the entire rest of the day.


On Sunday, we decided to head over to the gas dock to fill up. Our original plan was to cruise over to Greenport during the week but the aftermath of Topical Storm Jose was predicted to make that an very unpleasant ride. But we gassed up ($450) anyway.

Not a very exciting video but we've added it below it anyway.






Saturday, September 9, 2017

Reverse Polarity

"I am an expert of electricity. My father occupied the chair of applied electricity at the state prison."  - W. C. Fields

Reverse polarity is something that most boaters don't really worry about. Those big yellow (and expensive) shore cords that we use to connect to shore power have carefully designed prongs that keep us from plugging them in backwards.

Our boat has two reverse polarity indicators (tiny red lights) on our power panel and neither of these has ever lit up.

On Saturday evening of Labor Day weekend, we were aboard and Frances was busy preparing dinner. Yes, she was drawing a lot of current, what with both stove elements lit up brightly and the toaster oven just getting warmed up.  That was in addition to the battery charger and the hot water heater. Then the lights went out.

No problem. We know what to check. Circuit breakers?  All on. The breaker at the dock? On and ready. Shore power cords connected? Yes, nice and tight. What the hell? There goes cocktail hour!

Since Bill didn't have any useful ideas, we decided to go to bed and sleep on the problem.

The next morning, Bill assembled all of his tools and got access to the breaker panel (with the boat unplugged from the dock, of course). His theory, based on a good night's sleep, was that the main breaker was faulty. Sounded good and he soon swapped in a new one. But that didn't work either. 



Then he went for the socket into which one of the shore plugs connects to the boat. Unfortunately, that looked good too. Nothing black and burnt.

Then it was down on the wet deck to look up behind the shore power inlet plugs. Maybe a wire had broken off somewhere? Yes, this was a desperation play because we had zero additional ideas. Fumbling up behind the plug we could feel the three wires (black (hot), white (neutral) and green, (ground). Each was routed neatly forward into the boat except the black (hot) wire that first detoured into a fixture mounted between the two power inlets. That fixture was our 1980-era reverse polarity indicator that had never worked. In fact it had been ignored for all the years we have owned the boat and we would never have known its function except for the faint words "Reverse polarity" stamped on its face.

The excitement built as Bill disassembled it and pulled it out of its mounting hole. It had a tiny bulb, long since dissolved in corrosion. Hmm. Black wire goes in energized and come out dead. Time for some quick rewiring!
The original Silverton reverse polarity light removed. No continuity between those two contacts meant no juice to all of the boat except the air conditioning.

It took only a few minutes to butt-splice those lengths of black #10 wire together and fasten the power wires back in place. Even with the door closed, we could hear Frances cheering as all the lights came back on.
Now we have some holes where the old light lived. We'll have to fit something in there. We'll bet that Frances has some ideas!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Block Island, August 2017


 On August 10, we finally got everything in order for our cruise to Block Island. Frances was feeling sprightly and our stuff was packed so off we went on a very nice day.

The Sound cooperated, so much so that we didn't need to steer much as we went across Block Island Sound.

It was a Thursday so we knew we'd be avoiding the weekend boating traffic but unlike previous years, Payne's Dock was just about full. We waited a while at their famous flagpole and they found a spot for us up against the bulkhead, which made it easier for Frances to get on and off.

Getting into that spot took some work and we kept the cameras on just so the folks who hate Payne's docking situation could see what they're missing.


Block Island's New Harbor has a way of relaxing you after a day or so. After a while, we simply enjoyed the beautiful weather and relaxed.


Francis met some nice dogs, one of which was also named "Frances." Both of these poodles got a bath using our hose. We don't think we've ever met a boat dog that we didn't like!


One day we ventured across the island the Old Harbor. While we have visited Block for many years, we've rarely seen the downtown area as crowded as it was. The ferries were pouring out hundreds of people and various food delivery trucks waited in the ferry line with their diesel generators roaring. People shuffled up and down the sidewalks looking for something - a restroom, the beach or a place to buy a souvenir. Mopeds scooted by operated by unsure drivers. This is all a result of one of the most successful tourism campaigns the the northeast. The quiet, beautiful island that we knew wanted more visitors and their money and they surely got their wish. At least in Old Harbor, this just isn't "one of the last great places on earth" anymore.

But, on our boat surrounded by other boaters, life was good.


It was difficult for us to stay up much past sunset and that's what makes a good vacation for us.

The Solar Eclipse
On August 21, after we had returned from Block Island, we were treated to at least a partial eclipse. Frances was ready to see it in all its glory. Several days in advance, she had us visit Praxair in Hartford to obtain several pieces of dark glass used in welding helmets. She also talked them out of two small boxes from which she had us fashion two "viewing hats." We looked pretty spiffy as the sky finally darkened.



The video is a little long because we included most of the docking activity but we like that part so we left it all in.


Monday, August 21, 2017

The 2017 Catfish Tournament

We make a video of the Connecticut River Catfish Tournament almost every year, although we had to skip last year because of another commitment. This event is put on by Portland Riverside Marina, which is where we store our boat in the winter. The folks who own the marina are old friends and it's our pleasure to be able to record this unique event.

The video is a one man effort, just Bill trying to capture everything. Just seeing the little kids getting their prizes (and helping to release the fish at the end) makes it worth the time it takes to watch.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Repair and relaunch Miss Nicky

Our friend John put a new engine in his boat, Miss Nicky II, this winter and during the sea trial he had some issues. He fixed those in the water at our marina but did need to replace the control cable to the stern drive lower unit. For that, the boat would have to come out of the water and that's where we found him on Sunday.


John enlisted the help of dockmate John H. In fact, John H (white shirt) pulled the boat out with this diesel truck and trailer. Another dockmate, Bob, also joined in. We were there to take some video of this project since we know next to nothing about stern drives.

Under an 80-degree sun, the first task was to remove the lower unit.


Then it was time to remove the old damaged control cable and install a new one. Not easy, it turned out,


There was lots of adjusting and readjusting of that cable to get it to go into gear reliably.


 The only way to tell was to try to turn the prop and we turned that prop many times before the cable  seemed to be adjusted properly. But finally, it was time to put away the tools and take Miss Nicky over to Brown Park to be launched.


The boat went into the water easily but once clear of the dock, that damn cable wouldn't function properly so John motored across the harbor backwards.


We know some people who would have yelled for help but John backed across perfectly and then went all the way down a fairway to where he could dock.


He'll get the final adjustment of that cable done soon and will be on his way to a great summer with that new engine.

The video from which the pictures shown above were taken is here.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

The admiral is down, but not out

We know Bill will be chastised for including this photo, which Frances hates.

Frances' health hasn't been great. Over the winter she lost some weight and as we returned to the boat this spring, she had trouble getting on and off. Not good but, if you know Frances, when she says she's going to fine, you accept it.

That kind of optimism went away during the evening of June 18 when she could no longer walk, even to the bathroom. The next morning, we visited Middlesex hospital in Middletown, Conn. and she was admitted. The next few days were distressful and confusing for her, since medical people don't seem to share much with their patients. We visited every day (and we went home with a long list of things that she felt she needed) and by Thursday we could see some real improvement. She is eating and has built a personal relationship with everyone from the staff who comes into her room. (That's the old Frances.) She can also walk with a walker, and is looking forward to being discharged sometime soon.

Because she is so weak, she'll have to have some physical rehab once she is discharged and we'll deal with that when she's ready.

So, for now, we're not boating and that's fine. Frances comes first.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Still putting stuff away

We spent last weekend finding a home for all the things stacked neatly on our guest berth and sofa. The weather was really nice and we didn't use the air conditioning much at all. Following our new routine, we both stayed over on the boat Sunday night and finally left for home mid-morning on Monday. That has the side benefit of shortening the week considerably.

Old friends and some new folks continue to arrive at the marina and Frances is doing her best to get to know each one of them.

Right now, we're getting things squared away for our first cruise and has become our practice, that will be to Greenport, Long Island for a few days.

The fresh water pump issue
 Far be it for us to bitch about boat parts but since we're here, we'll bitch about just one: our Jabsco "Par-Max Plus" 4 gallon-per-minute fresh water pump. Purchased 31 months ago at a cost of $133 and used no more than three dozen times since new. This spring, the pump refused to run, preferring the blow a fuse instead. On inspection, we noted that the motor was frozen and probably beyond repair, so we bought a new pump, this time one made by SurFlow. Let's hope the different brand name means it was built in a different factory.

But, we wanted to find out just what went wrong with it so be brought it home for a post mortem on the workbench. The outcome is shown in the video posted below. This is fascinating stuff so please pay close attention.

 

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Boy, did we clean up!

No, not at the casino. This cleanup was on our boat.

Things were a little grimy after a winter in the shed so we arrived on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend with everything we'd need to make the old Silverton presentable as summer nears. That included buckets, our pressure washer and more cleaning products than we knew we owned.

Upon boarding, we realized that we had better provide some good things to eat, as well, so off we went shopping. Out came the list; do we have a filter cartridge for our city water connection? Nope, so off to Mal Mart to get two (so we'll have one for next year). Then we went  to the supermarket(s) for all the edibles that we always keep on the boat. By the time we finally got back to the marina, our enthusiasm for cleaning had waned a little (and cocktail hour was rapidly approaching) so we had dinner and hit the bunks determined to make the most of Sunday.

Sunday was bright and cloudy but nothing would stop us. With hoses, buckets and extension cords deployed, we began doing a truly thorough cleaning. After scrubbing all of the superstructure, decks and cockpit, we removed a large section of carpet that we had used in the cabin (to protect the real carpeting) and vacuumed everything in sight.



That included moving Klobo, our Ikea-sourced sofa, which seemed much heavier than when we assembled and installed it seven years ago.


We also removed three place settings of Corel dinnerware, which we have never used. Good quality paper plates make the boating season so much more fun.

By the end of the day, we sat down to make a list of the next load of freight that we'd need on the boat to make it a really fun summer or, what could we take off the boat to make the trips to the gas dock more enjoyable.


Frances put together a great dinner on Sunday night and while she managed to stay up, Bill was asleep before the sun went down.

Monday morning brought rain and most of the inmates of A-dock disappeared early. The boat looked nice and clean even in the rain.


We loaded up about eight bags of stuff that we wouldn't be needing and headed home about noon. Knowing the New England weather as we do, next weekend could see 100 degree weather or it could rain all weekend. Whatever it does, we'll be ready.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Underway again for summer, 2017


It took us longer than expected to get everything together and our schedules aligned so we could head out for the trip to Norwich. That's the best 62 mile cruise we take each year. We had everything set for May 17 but that's the day Donald Trump addressed the graduating class of the Coast Guard Academy, so the Thames River in New London was closed from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The weather for our trip looked ideal with seas of one foot or less and winds from the south at 10 m.p.h. and that's exactly what we got except those winds were cold and right in our faces as we went south on the Connecticut River.

We have rarely seen the water at the Connecticut River bar as smooth as it was. The only un-smooth thing was having to change course quickly to avoid an Old Saybrook police boat that cut across the inlet right in front of us.


In doesn't look close here because of the wide angle lens on our cam but they came within 150 feet of us. Yes, we know the rules: in this situation we're the give-way vessel but I had restricted visibility on our starboard side due to the height of the jetty. Once I cleared the end of the jetty, I had to steer hard left to keep from running into him. No big deal. We understand the importance of keeping a proper lookout even if the Old Saybrook Police doesn't.

Once we got back on course and headed east down the Sound it was so smooth that we could leave the wheel where it was for five or ten minutes at a time. Frances fell asleep in her bunk. We passed a couple of sailboats motoring along under bare poles. Not a great day for sailing.


We made great time, for us. Four and one-half hours, dock-to-dock. Twenty-eight hundred RPM gave us a consistent 16 miles per hour. We know, that's not very fast for most power boaters but we're conservative with our old Chrysler 360s.

Soon we were back in Norwich.

 Looking forward to another summer with our boating friends on A-dock."

As usual, we shot some video. Here, we've edited about an hour of the voyage down to about 7 minutes.



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Back in the water...

Late in the day on May 9, the old girl was eased back into the water. It's been cold and somewhat rainy so we haven't gotten a chance to do much to get her ready for the cruise to Norwich.

However, this weekend, we did get a chance to start the engines. Just a tiny squirt of gas into the carbs and off they went, with lots of cooling water out the exhausts. Always good to hear that merry tinkle.

We run two banks of batteries: two Group 27 Sears Marine Diehards for the starboard engine and two Group 24 no-name batteries for the starboard engine. The then-new no-name batteries were given to us by the previous owner when we bought the boat and we installed the Diehards at the same time. That was in 2009.

This year, it was pretty obvious that the no-names had reached the end of their useful life. There was just enough juice to get the starboard engine running. Since we're careful about stuff like this, bought two new group 24 marine batteries (brand named Duracell) from Batteries + Bulbs in Manchester, Conn. The price was right and since our favorites - Sears Diehard - aren't around any more, we settled on these. After 8 years of service, it will be interesting to see how long the old Diehards last.

Fresh water pump


When we tried the fresh water pump this year, it blew a fuse. That's odd since it worked fine last fall when we used it to distribute potable antifreeze throughout the boat's plumbing. It's also odd because we rebuilt this pump two years ago and since then, it has worked perfectly. Needless to say, we're not fans of Shurflo Aqua King II pumps. But, to make things easy, we bought yet another pump at Defender Marine and by the time you read this, will have installed it.

We rarely use this pump. It's nice to be able to run fresh water from our tank while underway but other than that, its main use in in winterizing the boat in the fall. Too bad it's not what the manufacturer claims it to be.

A step up for Frances
We have some plastic kitchen steps that Frances has used to get on and off the boat when we are visiting a marina with floating docks other than out own. Our boat has high side decks and with her short legs, getting on and off can be an issue but the little plastic steps have worked, provided we tied a line around them so they didn't blow off into the water.

This year, Frances isn't as strong as she used to be and we thought it would be a good idea to reinforce those plastic steps in a way that would give her an extra step up. Enter the Frances Steps V2:


Now she has an extra 7-inch step, which we hope will make it easier for her to get on and off during our summer travels. Note those big eyelets for securing a line. Hey, it's what we had in stock.

Security Zone
Our intention was to drop a car off in Norwich on Tuesday, May 16 and then take the boat to Norwich the next day. Turns out that isn't a good idea. A call to SeaTow confirmed that President Trump will be making a speech at the Coast Guard Academy graduation on May 17 and the Thames River in New London will be closed. Best guess? 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

No problem. We'll go up the river the next day. Our hope this that the President will have something inspiring for those Coast Guard cadets to hear. Not, "look, I'm President" or "how I beat Hillary" but something that reflects the dedication shown by those young Ensigns.

We don't do politics here but sometimes we think that those young officers deserve some encouragement. God knows, they have worked for it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bottom painting and loading up

On Saturday, we arrived at the boat full of energy. Time to finishing painting the bottom, which be began last Sunday.

But first, let's do something fun (at least for us). Put the new registration stickers on the boat. Makes us feel good that now we're legal until April 1, 2018.


Then we popped open the last of our bottom paint, grabbed a roller and a brush and crawled down to where the sun doesn't shine. Two hours later, we came up for air since the bottom was now painted so the little sea creatures can't stick to us. An added benefit this year was that while we painted, we also cut away about a hundred feet of fishing line that was wrapped around our prop shafts. That's a first for us.

Then we sat down for a brief rest, all the while confirming that painting the bottom of a boat is among the worst boating-related jobs we could think of. (The head-mounted light adds quite a lot of charm, don't you think?.)


Time now to start putting stuff back on the boat. Even with a ladder involved, it's easier to do it here than it is in Norwich, There were many trips up and down that ladder.


Normally Frances would be here to help but she isn't feeling all that well and we decided that it would be best if she stayed home.

On Sunday, we put things away inside the boat and then checked the engines, transmissions, thru-hull fittings and hoses. Once we're in the water, it's nice to have that stuff taken care of. Of course, this year, as we go to start the engines, we'll remember that THE SEA COCKS FOR ENGINE COOLING WATER ARE CLOSED! It only takes seconds to destroy the impellers on the sea water pumps if they are run dry.  Guess you realize how we know that!

We do that because we're not usually there when the boat is put in the water and we like to know that every sea cock is closed until we get there and open them. That only seems sensible to us.

Before we left on Sunday afternoon, we took a look at the river. The crew was busy at work using their crane to put more docks in the water. Now that the boss is back from Florida, the crew is working extra hard.


There's some video. Just a little over three minutes and hopefully painless.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Cutting a hole in the hull and other boat stuff

We hope to be back in the water in about two weeks so it was time to deploy our dock fenders and boat steps. That meant taking a half day off on Friday and making a road trip out of it. We loaded the steps and fenders in the old station wagon and then took a leisurely drive to our marina, The Marina at American Wharf in Norwich. It was a beautiful day, perfect to play around on the dock.


We put the fenders out on the dock and pulled them nice and tight. That's where our boat will rest on for much of the summer.


Then we only had to put the boat stairs exactly where the were last year. Luckily, we marked the dock before we left last fall so it was easy getting the stairs right where Frances can use them comfortably.


Now all we need to see in this picture is our boat tied up right there.

Saturday and Sunday were a blur of fun boat activities. We planned to install a much-needed garboard drain midships and that meant cutting a hole in the hull. Here's what a garboard drain looks like. It's really just a plug in the bottom of the boat that can be opened once on land, to drain out old bilge water, much of which is condensate from our air conditioner.


We measured thrice before we used this 1-inch hole saw to cut the necessary hole.


The plug that came out of the hull was 5/8-inch of solid fiberglass. We like solid!


With the garboard drain installed, we moved on the next annual task: installing the zincs. We have ten and we dutifully scrubbed all the surfaces clean and installed new ones. We don't want our boat eaten away by corrosion, do we?

Then we began the most hated, dirty work on the boat: Painting the bottom or, more correctly, putting on bottom paint wherever the crew last fall blasted it all off with their power washer.

Several years ago, we scraped the bottom down to the Gelcoat and applied a barrier coat of green paint. Each year, over that, we apply a coat of ablative black bottom paint. Wherever the green barrier coat shows through, we need to reapply some back bottom paint and that's what we are doing now.

If you are smart enough to pay someone to climb under your boat and roll on this black paint, we congratulate you. Every year, we say that we will never do this again, but we do. This just might be the last year that we come home with black dots on our face.




Monday, April 24, 2017

A few more things off the boat's to-do list


We skipped Saturday's boat duty this weekend. We weather was rainy and cold and Frances wasn't feeling all that great so we relaxed at home for a change.

Sunday was beautiful and the boat yard filled up early. In parts of the yard, there was really no place close to park. Of course, we got there early and found our usual spot. That's a good thing because now we're taking stuff off the boat and taking it home to put away for next winter. About time.

We're happy with the refurbished swim platform and while we had lighting down in that area, we installed some black rub rail along the edge. We measured 12 ft. along the edge of the platform and Jamestown Distributors had some nice black rub rail in 12 ft. sections. Perfect. It took twenty-six #8 1-1/4-inch screws and our heat gun but once we were finished, it looked great.

We've always wanted to cover that raw edge.


Again, while had lights rigged up down at the stern, we replaced one of the exhaust flappers. No idea of where the old one went but a new one was just another $35 bit of boat maintenance.


We need these things because our engines sit low in the hull and flappers keep water from getting back up the exhaust lines and into the the engines.

With that out of the way, we did a little touch-up on the triangles that we repaired early in the winter. A little masking and a little paint and we were happy with how the port triangle looked.


We also reinstalled the lower helm windshield cover. We took it off last weekend and during the week, power-washed it and applied waterproofing. One more thing done for this spring.

Before we left on Sunday afternoon, we had to take a look at the river. It's high but shows no signs of really flooding. There isn't much room in the well to launch a big boat but there will be a couple of weeks, when it's our turn to motor down the river for another summer.


Here's Sunday's efforts as a video: