Friday, April 27, 2012

First Night on the Hook

  This should be a quickie post, not much to tell after our first week since moving onto the boat.
We did go back to our condo last Tuesday to pick up the last of our clothing and clean out cabinets of our personal effects and we spent the last night there.
  When we left the condo last Wednesday, our Explorer looked like Sanford and Sons but most of the stuff got dropped off with a visit to the Salvation Army and to Rosie's brother's house where we dropped off a "Hope Chest" full of I don't know what, that Rosie has had since she was a teenager. I hope her hopes have been fulfilled by now.
  Since her brother lives near an old motorcycle riding buddy of mine, we dropped by to say goodbye. Kenny Olsen and his wife Donna had been friends even before we worked together
  Rosie had a doctor visit and we paid our lawyer one last visit, we hope, to tighten up our personal affairs, before we finally made it back to the boat and loaded it up with the last of our stuff.
  We have one inch left of boot stripe and Swing Set is about to founder, as we're full of fuel, water, and canned goods. I'm eating six meals a day, justified by weight reduction on the boat, not myself. Just kidding, but why is it that when you prepare a meal, what's leftover seems to be more than what you made in the first place?
  Rosie has found a place for all of our stuff but I don't know how she did it. I heard the salon door open several times last night and I suspect that the Mississippi has laid claim to some of our more obscure belongings. Just kidding again, I can't help myself. We don't litter.
  We made it out on the hook last night for the first time this season and the wind is kicking up, keeping our wind generators at work. When the wind started up last night the generators kept braking and not making electricity and I couldn't figure it out until I discovered that the circuit breakers were off. I don't know if it was because I did it last fall when I winterized, or perhaps some high wind from a storm over the winter caused it. Anyhow, the mystery was solved and we're all happy again.
  Our WiFi signal is decent and is allowing this blog, and we checked our mail, now being sent to our Florida address. It's nice to have the contents scanned and we can shred or save as we see fit. This is better than going out in the snow to a mailbox...way better.
  I had some trouble hooking up our printer/scanner, but solved that by re-installing the driver for the scanner. The printer (same Canon unit) went into action once I installed a cable for it. I should have done that years ago because sometimes we would get bumped offline using the wifi on the Canon.
  I also was a little leery of my desktop stability even though I used plenty of Velcro and sticky tape to stick it to the desk. I added some insurance by virtue of running a cable tie from the back of the computer through the grommet on the desktop for the various wires that feed the Mac and cinching it down. I don't think it'll go anywhere, and if it does, it's probably Edmund Fitzgerald time and the computer will be the least of our troubles.
  Some storms are forecasted for this evening but we're staying out. I'll double check the hook before it gets dark but we've stayed put since yesterday afternoon. I set our anchor watch last night and we only swung with the wind, but gusts have only been in the 15 M.P.H. range so far.
  We have to go into the harbor on Monday as our vehicle will be picked up by the buyer then. I'll be without a car for the first time in 41 years, feels a little funny but every trip on the highway just leaves me in awe of all the inconsiderate drivers out on the road and we'll both be happy to minimize our travels on the land.
  We toasted the chilly morning over coffee with Rosie exclaiming "This is the life!" I sure hope so after all this planning, but so far, it sure feels like it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

We've Officially Moved Onto Swing Set

  It's been nearly a week since my last post and a lot has happened, the least of which was that last Friday was Rosie's last day at work, and after I picked her up we headed to the boat with the car loaded up with some of the last things we needed aboard and we officially moved in.

  The desktop computer was the key item brought on board that validated our permanent move. In the picture above you can see how much room it takes up on the desk, partially hiding the opening port behind it, but only partially; I can still reach around to open the port when necessary. I don't know how much salty sea air I want blowing in on the computer anyway. The computer is attached with lots of Velcro and I will also fasten it down with another method I devised before we travel.
  The cabinet just to the left of the knee space houses our WiFi printer on a slide out tray on the top, and a hanging file for important papers on the bottom. I used some plastic plumbing strap to secure our external hard drive to the bottom of the desk above the printer which made for a neat installation. I have all of our charging and linking cords here all in one place, plugged into a power strip with a switch so that when the switch is off, no power drain occurs on those little items that seem to draw no electricity, but added up, they do.
  We had a nice celebratory dinner and while I was installing the computer, Rosie was organizing the spaces for our clothes when some friends stopped by with a parting gift. Steve and Sue brought a cooler full of home made sausage that Steve makes in various styles. We have very limited freezer space, but the vacuum bagged packages are small, and we knew that Steve was going to supply us with his delicious sausage so we saved room. The trick will be to not use up the supply before we shove off in a couple of weeks.
  We claimed the entire evening a success once I fired up the iMac and was able to hook up an Internet connection via our personal WiFi on the boat, and even better when we connected to the free WiFi here at the Duck Club. AT&T claims thousands of free WiFi hotspots all over North America and we intend to find them and save data transfer charges on the on board hotspot.
  Friday night only topped off a very busy week. Some of our friends had claimed that we were unusually scarce, given that not many emails went out, and our facebook presence was slim.
All the work in the engine room is complete for the time being. I picked up our new fresh water pump at St. Charles Boat and Motor last Wednesday and armed with ample supplies from Lowe's, began to re plumb both fresh water pumps. I made the mistake of using a lot of the old compression fittings and although there were few right angles evident in my work, I rationalized that not many people would bear witness to my handiwork and decided to let form follow function. Function is the key here: but when I switched on one of the pumps to test my work it looked like the fountains in front of Union Station down in the engine room. I also found that the circuit breaker was tripping as the pressure built up, and discovered that my two new pumps now had undersized circuit breakers and the two 10 AMP breakers had to be replaced with two 15 AMP breakers.
  I set to the task of fixing one leak at a time and was able to contain the majority of the leaks before I became just too tired to continue. Climbing in and out of the engine room took its toll,  and as I took a misstep, I grabbed the engine room hatch and caught myself, but not before I broke one strut on the hatch, and tore the bracket from the other one clean from the fiberglass. I declared my work done for the day, gathered up Holly and made the drive back to the city to pick up Rosie from work, and like Vivian Leigh, vowed that "tomorrow is another day", but only after stopping by Bloch Marine where Karen was able to find the two 15 AMP breakers that I would need for the two fresh water pumps.
  I really don't like crappy jobs, and I like to think I'm better than that, so on Thursday morning I decided that I was going to the boat and do the job right or not come home. We left Holly in her well appointed room at the condo and I dropped off Rosie for her next to last day at work. I stormed into Lowe's with a long list of supplies to obtain; I was on a mission and was not to be denied.
  I had read a post from a fellow blogger that had replaced the plumbing on his boat and had used PEX fittings and was pleased with the result, so I armed myself with enough of those fittings to replaced nearly all that I had installed on the previous day, practically redoing my previous work. I popped in the two new circuit breakers and fired up the pumps. I found one small leak as a result of not seating one of the fittings properly and after fixing that, declared the job a success.
  I then set in to fix the struts on the engine room hatch. I had four spare struts, taken from the bunks in the second stateroom when I tore them out to build the office/NAV station. Where the bracket had broken through the fiberglass I fashion a bigger bracket from some angle aluminum I had, pop riveted the new bracket to a meatier section of the fiberglass around the hatch, and then pop riveted the strut bracket to the new aluminum. The new fabrication left this strut and bracket stronger than the original installation from Sea Ray.
  I called Rosie and told her she didn't have to take the train back to the condo and that I'd pick her up after work on my way back to city. That evening after dinner, I relaxed in the glow of a successful job and Rosie vacuum bagged more clothes for us to take back to Swing Set the next day. On Friday I dropped off yet another load of clothing at the Salvation Army before picking up Rosie and that brings us back to the beginning of this story.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Preparation Continues

  Some friends have remarked that it's been a little quiet on this front lately, not only with the blog, but with Facebook too. The reason is that lots of things are coming together here as we are within three weeks of a scheduled departure.
  Swing Set was launched after bottom painting eight days ago on the Monday after Easter. Two weeks of sitting in the boatyard left a fine film of dust and dirt on the boat that I rinsed off after securing Swing Set in her slip. The pollen in the air up here in Missouri is the largest contributor to a dirty boat this time of year, covered slip or not. Boats don't stay clean more than a couple of days, but the green tint doesn't stain and washes off easily. A thorough washing was planned for the upcoming weekend.
  Karl Kotraba met me early the next morning armed with parts. Karl brought V-belts for the main engines and the generator. He also had impellers, wear plates, and cams for the raw water pumps on the main engines and another rebuild kit for the generator pump. The impeller puller I bought was useless  because the T-handle wouldn't fit between the pump and other parts on the engine, but Karl had his own puller and offered a suggestion as to how to make my puller work in the future. While watching Karl climb in and out of tight places around our Caterpillars, it occurred to me that the chances of my actually making use of an impeller puller of any type is fairly slim. There were several vanes on all three pumps that were missing, but were searched for and found in the inlet to the heat exchangers. Those impellers were about 3 years old with only about 300 hours on them, so notes were made in my maintenance log.
  I had cleaned the K-N air filters on the Walker Air-Seps before Karl arrived by soaking the filter elements in a bucket of Oxyclean, much cheaper than the filter cleaning kit that I made the mistake of buying one time. Once the elements were rinsed off and dried, a coating of air filter oil was applied and the filters were re-installed when all the other work was complete.
  We had the main engine hatches open to allow for easier access to everything and I was able to learn a few things about our engines by watching Karl at work, along with his patient explanation of the things I found to question him about.
  The V-belts were mostly original, over 16 years old with over 1400 hours. We have all new ones now with a set of spares. Pumps are now virtually brand new, again with spare impellers onboard. New raw water hoses were installed, cut from a large roll that Karl brought with him.
  The engine zincs were all in good shape except for a couple that had broken. The broken parts were easily fished out. Checking the zincs at least monthly will be the plan, and plenty of spares will be on hand in case we aren't near a good supplier. Access to the zincs is very good, so this won't be a chore.
  I was left own my own the next day where I set to work rearranging some components in the engine room. I pulled out the accumulator tank (a pressure tank for the fresh water system), a box that holds two five gallon containers for oil changes, and both fresh water pumps. I had replaced one of the fresh water pumps about two years ago, and it was in fine shape once I cleaned out the strainer on the inlet of the pump. The other pump was original and was toast.
I ordered another pump so that both were the same; this allows for a better fit for the installation and also the circuit breakers will also be the same.
  With these items pulled out, I was able to access the trim tab pump and oil reservoir and top it off with a few ounces of ATF, something I've only had to do once in eight years. Trim tabs don't get much use when the majority of the time we're running at displacement speeds.
  I had built a bracket for the accumulator tank last year, but it was too tall for where I now wanted to put it. I modified the bracket and installed it back towards the hull sides, but left room to still access the trim tab reservoir when needed. I constructed a mounting board to place the fresh water pumps closer to the middle of the engine room so I could access them and clean the inlet strainers on a regular basis. To make room to move the pumps, I made brackets to place over the engine shaft seals, still with enough room to easily see the dripless shaft seals, but very easily removable to install new seals if needed. One of these brackets hold those two five gallon containers, and the other one holds engine oil and coolant to use during regular checks in the engine room.
  This work took place over the course of two days, allowing time for me to contemplate and plan, the result being a hopefully well thought out placement of components that require regular attention.
  I spent a full day or two at home, during which I finalized our "move" to Florida, filling out forms for Florida residency and activating our mail forwarding account with St. Brendan's Isle. I also contacted a State Farm agent in Green Cove Springs and bought a non-owner auto policy that will cover our liability when we rent or borrow a vehicle. As of May 1st, we'll be "car less" for the first time in over 41 years for me.
  This time at home included some much needed couch time for me and Holly, as she had been neglected for longer than she is used to since we brought her home in December. My aching back needed some R and R too.
  We were back to the boat on Friday night, loaded with plumbing parts to hook up the fresh water pumps and to plumb the water maker. I had previous used J-B Weld to attach some fittings to a drain and supply for the water maker and had good solid mounts for the water lines when I attacked that project early on Saturday morning. This project was not technically hard, but access to areas that I had to get to in order to route hose wasn't easy. I found good use of a pair of those "grabber" devices that they sell for older folks to reach things off the top shelf at the grocery store. Things dropped in the remote corners of the bilge are no longer given up to the bilge gods with one of these devices on hand.
  My hose routing was interrupted by other chores too. I started the day by removing each set of Racor fuel filters so that I could trim down the mounting boards for them. This allowed easier access to areas behind each board; the hot water heater is behind one, and a battery bank and holding tank is behind another. I continued to run hose to the water maker as each coat of paint dried on the Racor mounting boards where I had hacked them off with the jigsaw. In between all this, I had to make a run to the auto parts store for a fuel line fitting that I needed. Make that three auto parts stores. It wasn't until I was at Advanced Auto that I was told that it would be doubtful that any auto parts store would have what I needed, but would easily be found at the hardware store. I was going there anyway, so I got the part cheaper, but the whole process took two hours out of my day.
  I finished up for the day as darkness fell on Saturday evening. With no water onboard with the pumps not presently installed, I made use of the showers at the Duck Club as Rosie made a couple of the best steaks I ever ate in our convection oven on Swing Set. It was fairly quiet on the dock that evening, as our dock mates partied it up pretty good the night before, but we relaxed after dinner with a couple of beers and turned in early and enjoyed a quiet nights sleep at the dock instead of our preferred choice of on the hook.
  I finished up what I could in the engine room on Sunday morning and by mid-morning it was time for a break. Rosie volunteered to give Swing Set a good bath and I was glad to comply and make myself scarce. Before I left, I pulled out the cockpit seat and scrubbed the cockpit floor with Soft Scrub, then I grabbed a beer and went to visit with some other Duck Club members.
  As Rosie finished up and we thought we might go for a spin, rain moved in and we gathered around the dock with several dock mates and various passers by. The next best thing besides boating is sitting around talking about boating, and Sunday afternoon was spent doing plenty of that and telling other lies. As the afternoon wore on, a bunch of us decided to descend upon the Duck Club to catch the end of the Cardinal game and have dinner. A big old bacon cheeseburger along with tater tots from the Duck Club goes a long way to soak up a few Bud Lights. We treated ourselves in this manner after a couple of very productive days working on the boat and turned in fairly early so Rosie could start her last week of work, and then we'll move onto the boat full time by the end of this week.
  I have to finish up plumbing the fresh water pumps this week and then we start moving the last of our clothing and computer equipment onto the boat. We'll stop by the condo for the last time next week before we leave it in the hands of a new real estate agent that we are employing, before we get on our way to our lawyers office for some last minute legal matters and a doctor's visit for Rosie.
  We're confident that the burden of not having a vehicle anymore will be more than offset by the regular tranquility of life on the hook. I may find myself forgetting how to drive; Rosie says I already have.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Another Milestone Today

  It's Easter morning here in St. Louis and the sun is just beginning to show itself. I took this picture with my iPhone; we have lots of pictures looking out our living room window for a view of the St. Louis skyline, this is not the best one, but it's the one I took today. What is significant about today is that this may very well be the last Sunday morning we ever wake up here at our condo in St. Louis. Until we leave on Swing Set in a few weeks, it's certain that we'll be staying aboard every weekend until then.
  We like this place, but even so, we feel it's best to sell it so we don't have an easy excuse to abandon our living aboard plans. Without a sales contract in hand, we still plan on locking the doors and leaving the rest to the real estate agency to take care of things.
  We were going to stay on Swing Set last night, but it's still on the hard at Bloch Marine until tomorrow afternoon. We went up to the river yesterday for a BBQ and stopped by to see how everything looked and we were pleased to see that Swing Set was sporting a nice shiny new wax job. The bottom paint looked marvelous and the only thing to be done on Monday morning is to install the saltwater "zincs", hang our dinghy back on the davits, and plop her in the water.
  As I said, we were going to sleep on Swing Set last night to avoid the drive home, but somehow it just didn't seem right to stay onboard at night without being in the water. I may have sleep walked off the swim platform and did a faceplant onto the parking lot at Bloch Marine. I don't mind so much if the same thing might put me in the drink one night, it'll just wake me up in a hurry, but the five foot drop to the pavement is sure to break something.
  We'll most likely spend what we intend to be our last Easter in St. Louis here at home. We might take a walk to the market a few blocks away and get something good to make for dinner later; they'll be open with a few employees as it's pretty much the only place downtown to get groceries.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Swing Set Gets A Checkup

  No better time to get yard work done that when the weather is not fit for boating, but then the rainy weather impedes the work you need to get done, but that's just the way it is sometimes. When I say "yard work", I mean boatyard work. I haven't owned grass in over 14 years.
  The third coat of bottom paint went on yesterday morning and we raised the boot stripe, or rather raised the bottom paint to come all the way up to the boot stripe, allowing for about another inch of bottom protection. All those additions to Swing Set over the last two years in preparation for living aboard had to be paid for somewhere. Turns out we like the look, and the two inches of vinyl just above the paint will go a long way to prevent those solvent streaks that tend to occur after a needed thorough cleaning to remove water spots due to a long interlude between regular washings. It's something that happens during several days in transit, especially on the dirtier rivers.
  Jason, one of the techs at Bloch Marine was busy applying epoxy to the running gear when I showed up yesterday, and Casey supplied me with a quart of Interlux Micron Extra to have on hand if I need to touch up a scuff or two down the line between bottom painting It's something I've always wanted to do but never had any paint on hand. I do now.
  If the rain today doesn't hinder them too much, an ablative coat will go over the epoxy and then two coats will be applied where the stands, or supports, are in place on the hull now. We'll forgo the telltale blue for these areas, there's not much to them. Jeff, the service manager, and Jason, decided to paint the hubs of the props; a good idea in my estimation. Barnacles, or "barnies", as Loopykiwi, one of the readers of this blogs calls 'em, won't grow on the "working portion" of the props. As I've made mention of earlier, I'm concerned with applying paint to the blade portions of the props as I've heard some negatives regarding doing so, in terms of vibration, or noise.
  Bob Peyman, the marine surveyor showed up right on time. Bob had gone over the exterior of the boat late last week before the bottom paint had been applied and had seen the few areas where some minor blisters had been repaired. I had the interior of Swing Set open for him to conduct his thorough inspection. Bob had some very complimentary things to say about Swing Set and albeit with some very minor infractions, easily rectified, he pronounced Swing Set fit as a fiddle and intended to pronounce her in bristol condition on the upcoming survey. We will be eligible for a nice discount due to the fact that we had our old survey, done before we purchased Swing Set eight years ago. It's nice that people in the know acknowledge your efforts to maintain a fine vessel.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Progress In Small Increments

  I'm starting to feel like Oprah Winfrey. Didn't her "last show" last something like two years? We're about a month away from our planned departure but it feels like we've been discussing it for years. I want to keep the blog updated as much as possible, which may require some grasping at topics until we get underway. This post is one of those.
  Last weekend we made another trip out to our old stompin' grounds of Fenton, MO to see old friends and enjoy the music of a band, Liquid Gold, who we became aware of just last fall. We got to see some folks that we haven't seen in years and may never see again but we all frequently forget that anytime you say goodbye, it may be the last, don't we?
  We had gotten a call from some friends on Friday night to invite us out on their boat on Saturday but we knew we were going out boating with other friends on Sunday, so we respectfully declined. We didn't want to be driving home from the river two days in a row; this has nothing to do with traffic.
  Liquid Gold was going to be playing near our home again on Saturday afternoon at an old hippie bar called The Shanti, in the historic Soulard neighborhood, just south of downtown St. Louis.

  The Shanti is "dog friendly", and we had been wanting to take Holly there for her first saloon visit and last Saturday was probably her last chance. In the picture above, the place was just beginning to get busy, but there was already a fella in there with his dog. He saw Holly and promptly bought us a beer after introducing himself and his dog Parker. By the time the band started, the place was packed with people and pets and all in all it was a real fun afternoon even if we didn't spend it aboard Swing Set. Liquid Gold was glad to see us and Holly got plenty of mentions by band members as she sat on our tabletop in rapt attention. She especially enjoyed watching Ferd as he abused the washboard and other assorted noisemakers he always has strapped to his chest. (Only during gigs.)
  As you know, Swing Set is on the hard, still getting bottom work done. I had gotten a call last week from the new service manager, Jeff Miller at Bloch Marine, and he was concerned about a couple of screws that were poking through the hull, just barely, found by an eagle eye technician sanding the bottom in preparation for paint. When Jeff told me where the culprits were, I knew right away what the problem was and told him I'd be up to the yard as soon as possible. Basically, the problem was me, as the offending screws were in the location of the work I'd done installing the office on Swing Set a year and a half ago.
  In my meager defense, the bunks that I had removed from the second stateroom in Swing Set were installed using some aluminum angle brackets. The brackets were installed using a certain size stainless screw and my method was to use the same size screws on similar brackets when I put the desk and cabinets in for the office. The plan is sound unless you grab two screws that are just a tad longer than the others you had been using. Nothing good ever happens when you grab a bad screw. When I got there, I pulled out the screws and used adhesive on the brackets instead.
Although I didn't sink the boat, and no leaks had occurred, it is certain that over time those screws could work loose, or corrode, and cause us some annoyance at the least, or a calamity at the worst. It's lucky for us that Casey was paying attention as he was sanding away on Swing Set.
  When we went up to the river on Sunday for our boat ride on Rocinante, we stopped by our boat to pick up swim wear and sunscreen, which neither was used to full potential on Sunday. We checked on the progress of Swing Set; the few blisters that had been found were patched and sanded, and the two screw holes were ground out and filled. Swing Set was ready for her first coat of bottom paint on Monday.
  We're using Interlux Micron Extra, three coats, and this paint needs 16 hours between coats. If the weather permits, the third coat will be applied on Wednesday and I'll meet the surveyor at Bloch Marine on Wednesday afternoon.
  The Interlux rep suggested Interprotect Epoxy for the running gear for a base, with Interlux NT for the shaft, rudders and trim tabs. I want to keep the props free of paint. I've been advised by a reliable source that paint on the props may cause some noise or vibration that we don't want. I plan on keeping an eye on Swing Set's bottom with my hookah snorkel equipment, therefore, I can keep barnacles off the props if I pay attention.
  I also decided to raise the boot stripe about an inch on Swing Set, as she's setting a bit low in the water with all of our belongings and provisions weighing her down. It's true that she'll sit a bit higher in the salt water, but the one inch of white hull that showed between the bottom paint and first vinyl stripe was always dingy anyway. It may look funky, but at this point, form is following function in regard to most things aesthetic on our vessel. We want to keep a good looking home, but we gotta do what we gotta do.
  Salt water zincs and a good hull waxing will round out the work being done at Bloch Marine before Swing Set hits the travel lift for the last dip back into the Mrs. Sip, hopefully for a couple years at least. Chances for this are good if I can force myself to use a little more sense when I get into the bilges with a screw gun in my hand.