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:

Monday, April 17, 2017

Door rollers and other spring jobs

 Last week, we were still waiting for the new sliding glass rollers to arrive. This week they finally got here and we were anxious to get them installed and get the sliding glass door remounted.

Once we had the new rollers in hand, we were able to take everything apart on the bench at home. We took the mounting bolts off and we were able to slide out the old rollers.

The new rollers we had ordered were an almost exact match. It was just a matter of sliding the new roller in and tightening the mounting bolts.

Here is one of the rollers installed and unlike to old rollers, the little wheels actually turn. The Phillip-head bolt next to the screwdriver goes through the side of the door frame and into the roller to hold everything in place.

Once back on the boat, we simply tapped the bottom section of the door back into place and tightened the mounting bolts.

Then, it was time to pick up the door and put it back on the track. We found that there was only one spot where the door would clear the track and drop into place but once it was there, how nice to have the door silently slide open and closed.

We also had to reinstall a plastic strip between the top of the door and the frame. It went in with a little extra effort. Just think: now we know how to rehab the sliding door on an old Silverton. Hopefully, this is the last time we'll ever have to do this.

While looking at the installation of residential sliding doors on the internet we picked up a recommendation for a sliding door lubricant called 3-In-One Garage Door Lube. We bought some at Lowes and tried it on our garage door openers. This is a silicone-based lubricant that really works. All of our door squeaks and groans disappeared. We also applied it to the new sliding glass door rollers and to the track after we cleaned it. This is definitely a lube the we'll keep on the boat.

Once the door was back in place, it was time to take down the canvas roof from the fly bridge and take it home for its annual cleaning and waterproofing. This is always a joke, since no matter how we try to remove it, we always end up with it tangled over our head. This year was no exception but we did get it off the boat and home for a thorough power-washing.

Most of the bird crap came off as did lots of  dirt.

On Sunday (Easter) morning, the top was dry and the weather warm. We waterproofed the top with 303 Marine/Recreational Fabric Guard. We use this stuff every year and it does a great job of waterproofing Sunbrella, even material as old as ours.

We took the top back to the boat and re-installed it. We say "re-installed" it but actually it's an annual fight to get the top up over the mounting bows. With the top up over our heads, it's really dark and it seems to take forever to get the top in place and zipped down properly.

Then we re-installed the 13 side windows, each of which snaps to the top and zippers on each side. We used zipper lube but it still took us about an hour to get them all back up.  We'll wash those thoroughly once we get back in the water.

To finish off a fun day on the boat, we added a third coat of Sikkens Cetrol to the swim platform. That going to be it for rehabing the platform. Later this week, we'll add a new rub rail around the edge and scratch that job off our list.

Video of all this stuff and more is posted below.

We only have about three weekends left before we go back into the water and there is still lots to do. No big deal. We love this stuff!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Refinishing the swim platform

Since the new wheel assemblies for our sliding glass door didn't arrive as expected ("Oh, there must have been a computer problem with your order, Mr. Large"), we decided to use this first real day of spring to refinish our swim platform. This has been on the list for some time so since the weather was in the mid-60s on Sunday, we went at it.

We had assembled all the stuff we needed: some 80-grit sandpaper, sanding blocks and, of course, Sikkens Cetol Marine Light.

Actually, even after five years, the swim platform didn't look that bad but was showing some wear around the starboard corner where it sometimes rubs against the dock or the fender we keep tied up there.

We didn't want to attack the swim platform with a belt sander. The was a refresh that needed only hand sanding.

We sanded out all those neat little grooves first with a thin sanding block and then got to all the wider surfaces. Two hours later, we sucked up the sanding dust with our Shop-Vac and then cleaned up with denatured alcohol.

The first coat of Sikkens went on fine. It will be followed by three more over the next two weeks.

The good old Connecticut River is up quite a way but nothing out of the ordinary. Give it a few weeks and we will be cruising again.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Now, on to the sliding door

We haven't been looking forward to replacing the rollers on the boat's sliding glass door. We took it off earlier in the winter but couldn't figure out how to access the worn-out wheel assemblies in the bottom of the door.

Now it's April and it's time to get it done so we looked at the internet and sure enough, there are dozens of how-to videos on how to do this. It seems that for many doors like ours, you simply tap the bottom of the door and, at least for the guys on the internet, the bottom should come right off.

Frances came up with a really nice rubber hammer and with that, down we went. Amazing. Two or three taps on a piece of wood against the bottom cap of the door and off it came.

With the bottom off, we had access to the two 10-32 bolts that held the wheel assemblies in place. Those bolts gave us a little trouble but with patience, they both came out.

This photo is staged, but you'll get the idea.

The sliding door rests - and hopefully slides - on these wheel assemblies. They were completely frozen and worn out.

Sorry for the blurry photo but we're a one-man film crew.

Having these things in our hand meant we could go to the internet and see if we could find replacement.

Once back at home, we used our advanced knowledge of search engines (not), and typed into Google, "rollers for sliding glass doors". The first site that came up was swisco.com and boy, did they have rollers, with photos and dimensions for each one. Based on our measurements, we ordered these little beauties.

We threw in a couple of extra bucks to get them this week. Once they get here, we'll see how well they fit and if the do, our sliding door will be ready for summer.

A couple of more projects finished

We've been inching toward completion of the stink'in triangles and this weekend, we finally got there. What a trial to custom cut and fit what were essentially patches in 3/4-inch plywood that had decayed because the factory caulking between the hull and bridge seam had failed.

On Saturday, we installed the epoxy covered patch pieces and then masked and caulked the seams. We also re-caulked the hull to cabin seams on both sides. The temperature wasn't bad (about 50 degrees) and we let the caulk set up overnight.

Before we left home for the boat on Sunday, we fabricated a mounting for Frances' new LED exterior light. We wanted this light to be up and out of the way but able to light the aft deck area. It took us a week or so of thinking about it before we came up with something that would work and something that received the Frances Seal of Approval. Hey, we know how things work on our boat!

On Sunday, we painted the wood surfaces on the triangle patches and let the paint set up for a while. Looked so good! We then mounted the mahogany trim and the original OEM handles on the two triangles.

Then we tackled mounting the new Frances light. We already had power at the point above the sliding door where we wanted to mount the new light. Our plan was to use what is known to some as a "project box," a small plastic box with an aluminum cover that is used to build small electronics projects. At home, we mounted the new light on the cover and drilled the necessary holes in the box itself.

On the boat, we mounted the box and then the new light. All of the wiring connections are hidden in the box. The work lights that we are using make working in the dark somewhat less difficult but after a lot trial and error, we made the 12 volt DC connections.

Disregard the extension cords hanging down. That's the new deck light behind them.

We put a switch on the side of the mounting box because we had one and we thought it might be useful. Next. we'll wire another switch for this light inside the cabin so it can be turned on and off from there. Frances lives on the boat during the summer and she'd like to be able to light up unwanted night time visitors to our dock. Stuff  sometimes happens once the bar closes, if you know what we mean.

That should be bright enough, don't you think?

Next, we'll tackle the rollers on the bottom of the sliding door. We did some internet research and it appears that the bottom of the door has to be removed to gain access to the two sets of rollers. That should be a fun project.

Two, hopefully not painful, minutes of video:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

More on the winter boat projects

With last week's snow beginning to melt, we were off to the boat on Saturday to see how long it would take to get of cabin up to an at least not painful temperature. The answer is about an hour, during which time we walk around making notes of things we want to do before spring.

Our "patch the triangles" project, which has now consumed much of the winter, is slowly drawing to a close. We've fitted a couple of plywood patches and pieces of 1/8" plywood veneer that bring the patch piece up to a full 3/4" thickness.

We've coated all the pieces with epoxy and once they are in, we'll bed them in marine caulk and fair the edge between the patch and the old wood. Once we've painted it, we assume that no one will ever notice what we're repaired.

With the triangle project out of the way, we need to concentrate on the sliding door that separates the cockpit from the cabin. The wheels that run along the bottom need to be replaced.

We've located the right replacement wheels and we can remove the door quite easily but we don't know how to open the bottom of the door to gain access to the two sets of wheels that support the door. We've also learned that there's nothing "marine" about this sliding door. It's the same door that is used in household applications, which explains why the wheels are readily available.

We suppose we could take the door off the boat and take it to a sliding door expert but that wouldn't be in the spirit of do-it-yourself boating. No, this is one that we have to figure out.

We also have to mount the new LED light that Frances bought at Defender a couple of weeks ago. Finding the right mounting location of a light on our boat isn't a trivial decision. Frances likes things mounted, in the case, exactly on center and we both agree that we hate things just screwed into place anywhere. This has to be done just right.

We made some video of this thrilling day on the boat. OK, not exactly thrilling, but fun to make. It's only five minutes long.