Monday, July 27, 2009

Running Rigging, The first ride, and tragedy!

I missed a weekend on the boat and then went back this previous weekend for more work. It took a while to get all of the lines in for the running rigging, since I had to order bulk. Most places charges similar amounts for the line, but West Marine had the best bulk discount. Interesting because they seem to be more expensive on most things. So I ordered a 600' spool of 7/16" New England Ropes Sta-Set to replace all of the sheets and halyards. I also got 200' of 1/4" to do the topping lifts and outhauls.

During the week I have been testing my woodworking. I took home the teak magazine rack and front cabin door. The magazine rack will be my test project to see how my cleaning and finishing methods work. I will then apply what I learned to the door, which also needs to be glued back together in places. To clean the wood I used a mixture of detergent, bleach and TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) watered down and scrubbed on the wood. The mix didn't give the wood a consistent color so I upped the cleaning power with Ajax, which has the same chemical in single part teak cleaner at a fraction of the price. That cleaning did the trick on the magazine rack, so I went on with some light sanding. I went with lemon oil to finish and after applying to the magazine rack it looked amazing! The oil absorbed throughout the night and it is obvious more applications will be needed. All of this advice on cleaning and finishing come from Don Casey's books I wrote about previously. He says to re-oil after a week, so I'll see how that comes out. Maybe someday I will get into the whole varnishing thing, but for now oil will do well. I have enough projects to worry about before I go the lengths of varnish. I will begin on the door after I re-apply the oil and see how it comes out.

This weekend I took Jenny and my roommate Mark up to the boat for the work. I had already figured out the lengths for all of the lines before hand so all I had to do was measure, cut and run the new lines. We measured out the lines on the dock and then run them by attaching an end to an end of the existing lines, then pulling the new line through until it was fully run. It took a few hours of being out in the heat, but the result was stunning! It was the first change to the exterior I have done, and the new lines make it look sharp. I still need to buy a couple of shackles, and get the eye splices on the lines instead of knots. I am going to try to learn how to do that this week. Jenny has been working on stripping the wallpaper from bulkheads on the interior. She got most of the work done while I was doing the lines, and it is looking great.

After we finished the rigging, I planned on taking Windsong out for our first ride since the sea trial. I was extremely nervous due to the tight canal and unfamiliarity with the boat and river. I had hoped to take the boat out to actually hoist sails in the Gulf, but I would be happy with a run up to the inlet and back. I did a little work on the engine before we left: I checked all fluid levels and topped off the coolant, I cleaned the raw water strainer, and I tried to install a new air filter element. Unfortunately, the new air filter element did not fit, so that will remain a to-do project.

The engine cranked up smoothly and after some nervy moments getting the boat away from the dock, we were riding smooth! I let out some fishing lines to troll once we got to the brackish water, hoping for some good lunkers. Around 2/3 of the way to the inlet, I noticed that some smoke or steam was coming from the engine, then all of a sudden a LOT of it. My heart immediately sank as I shut down the engine to check it out. First we had to deal with the fact that we were free floating in a river only 2 times wide as the boat is long! One of the things I had meant to do that day was to test the anchoring system out, moreso so I know how to use it in practice than anything. I ran up and let loose the anchor as best I could with plenty of scope after the engine shut down, quickly gaining that experience.

When I checked out the engine, the expansion tank for the engine coolant had popped its lid and was spewing steam and coolant everywhere. I had noticed that the air silencer had popped off and had kinked a hose coming from it., maybe from me not sealing it correctly when trying to replace the element. So I put everything back where it should be and we let the engine cool down. A while later I give it a try and it cranks up without a problem. However, I notice that the oil pressure is pretty low, and the temperature reading is very high...not good. So we limp back home and as soon as we are about to enter the side canal where the house is, the coolant expansion tank explodes with more steam again. Thank goodness we got back though, and were able to dock up without problems. I didn't attempt the big turn around in the canal due to the engine, so we just docked with portside on the dock.

After thinking about it for a day, I think I may have an idea of what happened to the engine. First, the kink in the hose from the air silencer definitley had something to do with it, but that doesnt likely seem to be the main culprit as the engine still ran with high temp and low pressure after I fixed that. I may have also not sealed the raw water strainer correctly, not giving the raw water pump solid flow. But the primary concern is the belt tension. I remember checking the belt tension a few weekends ago and it was very loose. I had forgotten to tighten it, so will do so first thing when I get back up there. Aside from all of that, I may have to replace the impeller on the raw water pump if I did any damage. I will inspect the raw water circuit if none of the above works. Hopefully I can figure it all out this weekend and I'll do some other maintenance on the engine as well. To do list for next weekend:

  • oil change
  • oil filter change
  • primary and secondary fuel filter change
  • impeller inspection/replacement
  • belt tension adjustment/replacement
  • Get main and staysail sheets or splicing
  • Continue cleaning/restoring inside
  • Continue woodwork at home
I had planned on doing all of this this weekend, but I didn't expect the lines to get in either, so that took priority.

Overall the experience wasn't detrimental, unless I severely damaged the engine somehow, but I think I avoided that. If I can get it repaired, I will have built a lot of confidence in my ability to work with the engine. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I need to become self-sufficient, this means tackling the hard problems :) And aside from the engine experience, the ride up the river was very fun and the others enjoyed the ride. I also got to lower and raise the anchor! I still need to figure out how to use the fast gear on the windlass, but the slow one raised the heavy chain and anchor just fine, albeit slowly.

Here are pictures from Saturday.

Measuring the lines:

Running the lines:

Figuring out the ol' GPS:

The bowsprint is definitely the best seat in the house:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cleaning, troubleshooting, rummaging

This past week I spent time rummaging through the things that came with Windsong. A lot of it junk, a lot of it useful, and most of it interesting to discover. It was like going through an old thrift store or antique shop and discovering old treasures from someone's past life. I'll do some inventory and post here what I found, but I took pictures to do that with and haven't uploaded them yet.

The best part of all of the junk were the manuals and charts. The old service records and manuals for all of the boat systems really helped me out to understand what is going on. Many of them date way back into the 80's and its hard to tell what modifications are still on the boat and what are in the past. The charts themselves were a blast to start studying too. I have been able to begin planning the trip down the coast and have been able to use those along with my navigation books to learn chartreading.

This weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday aboard Windsong. I studied the electrical system, engine, did some more cleaning, discovered more leaks and problems (this will be happening for some time), and did a lot of prioritizing and shopping list making. I pretty much know what I need to do for the engine now: oil and filter change, fuel filter change (primary and secondary), clean out raw water strainer, change air filter element, top off coolant. I also spec'd the running rigging and anchor chain further, now knowing how I am going to replace all of them. Next week, money permitting, I will have the rigging done and she should be ready to sail!

My parents came down on Sunday to check out Windsong and have some lunch. It was great to see them light up with excitement when they saw it. They know it is a long work in progress, but I know they are as excited as anyone about its potential.

I found a great website chronicling a man's journey aboard his 28' Pearson Triton back in the 80s'. His circumstances are a lot like mine, so I have been completely immersed in the story. Here is the introduction and any reader of this blog will find similarities in his situation and mine (and maybe yours!):

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

-from Wanderer by Sterling Hayden

This voyage I want to tell you about took two years to complete. Though I’ve written about it before in short articles, somehow it has taken some 20 years to get around to telling the story in more detail. It took place in 1984-86 when I was in my mid-twenties, as close to broke as I dared to be, and hungry for the adventure and romance of a long voyage. The premise is not so unusual: a young man, lusting after adventure, knowledge, romance, his fortune, and finding little of it at home, strikes out to see the world. It has taken me those many years and thousands more miles under the keel to fill some of the hunger and give me a more balanced perspective on that life-changing voyage alone around the world.

The world of cruising in yachts has changed in those years. For better and worse, new equipment at more affordable prices has reduced the physical and technical challenges of voyaging, and reduced along with it the rewards gained from hard physical work, self-sufficiency, and the thrill of risks inherent in any true adventure. Meanwhile, the popularity of world cruising has made the search for untrammeled and unspoiled islands more challenging than ever. Part of my reason for writing this narrative now is to provide a glimpse at an alternative style of travel to which the modern backpacker or sailor may not have been exposed. And to remind them that they can voyage now as I did then, filling their lives with discovery and living close to nature on their own terms. Combining a sailing voyage with a land travel adventure is not unique, but it is often overlooked how well the two modes of travel complement each other. Compared to a simple boat, a backpack and my boots, the thought of fussing around with airlines, taxis, busses, hotels, restaurants, and all the other trappings of tourist travel leaves me uninspired.

When I began my journey I didn’t realize that along the way my growing commitment to walk across each island and climb their highest peaks was to be a bigger part of the adventure than the actual sailing. Like a richly lived life, as a voyage unfolds it evolves and carries you where it will.

My life is different enough now that as I read over my saltwater-stained journal and tattered log book and flip through the photo albums it seems as if it were someone else’s life. Was I really so rash to set out across oceans possessing only a few hundred dollars on a boat with sails so old you could push your finger through? Had I been that ignorant not to fit an awning or dodger over the cockpit for protection from the elements? Surely, I hadn’t been that lacking in judgment to walk into that dark cave in New Guinea and tumble into its deep black pit. Was it foolish to look for the love of an island girl when I must have known I would soon sail away from her forever?

While there turns out to be no perfect plan, no perfect life, I learned some things on this imperfect voyage that shaped my whole life in the best ways possible. What better reward for a journey of two years. May you also avoid a “routine traverse”.