Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Incremental Improvements

  When we bought our Yamaha Zuma scooter a little over a year ago we were living at Stock Island Marina Village very near to downtown Key West. We wanted something to run from the marina to downtown, as the Yuba cargo bicycle was proving to be problematic, especially after a long day at Dante's pool or a visit to Duval Street.
  We didn't even consider ever putting the scooter on the boat, but once I started thinking about what we would do with the scooter if we decided to move, or how the Zuma might fare during the potential high water of a hurricane, I measured the Zuma and found that it would fit perfectly in the cockpit of Swing Set. I bought some foldable motorcycle ramps and when we put the Zuma on the boat for our trip to Marathon, the procedure went flawlessly.
  But after the first few trips between Marathon and Key West, we found that the Zuma is lacking on a couple of key points. The first point is that with both of us on the scooter the top speed is just meeting the 55 M.P.H. speed limit on A1A, and that's according to the speedometer. A stiff headwind reduces that figure by 5 to 10 M.P.H., and the "hump" on the Seven Mile Bridge seems like climbing over the continental divide on I-70. The other issue is the suspension: Our combined weight (ahem, over 300 pounds) is too much for the non-adjustable rear shocks. When we add Holly to the passenger list, the Zuma is struggling.
  We don't want the added complications of an automobile, although I've been thinking about getting a compact car. I have to keep reminding myself that not only would having a car greatly inhibit our ability to pack up and go whenever we want, the parking in Key West for a car is expensive and hard to find. (Parking for a bike or scooter is free and abundant.)
  I started wondering if Yamaha would start making a scooter to fit into the model void between the smaller scooters and their bigger bikes, like the 150cc Hondas and the 200cc Suzuki Bergman.
  We had an appointment for our yearly checkups at our new primary care physician in Key West last week, and after our doctor visit I decided to pop into the local Yamaha dealer in Key West to see if any new models were on the drawing board.

  Meet our new Yamaha S-max! We walked into the Yamaha dealer and I noticed the new models immediately. Al Crockett, the owner of the dealership wasn't largely familiar with the new models, they just came out three months ago, but we learned that the engine is a 155cc liquid cooled power plant, the weight is a bit heavier too, but I couldn't miss the BIG disc brakes on the S-max, front and rear. I walked around to the rear of the bike and saw a big mono-shock, unfortunately not adjustable. We compared the overall size of the S-max to the dimensions of the Zuma and learned that the S-max was five inches longer, due to not only a longer wheelbase, but the wheels and tires are bigger. I knew we had some room to work with to get the S-max to fit on the boat, so I don't consider it to be an issue.
  Al doesn't usually allow extended test rides of bikes, but he had one model serviced. He put a dealer plate on it and we took a ride around the island. I could feel the greater stability, and Rosie liked the raised seating position for the passenger, but the 30 M.P.H. speed limits around the island weren't giving me the information I needed to make a change to the S-max.
Again, Al Crockett could sense that we had a serious interest in purchasing a new scooter, and I told him that if we could take this particular bike out to the four lane section of A1A where the speed limit is 55 M.P.H., we'd buy the bike we were test riding on the spot, pending a fare trade in allowance.
  On our ride to Boca Chica Key, we hit 68 M.P.H. even with a brisk headwind. Again, the stability of the longer and heavier scooter was evident and the chuck hole laden sections of the Overseas Highway on Stock Island were eaten up by the beefier S-max suspension. We didn't bottom out once, and if Rosie wasn't so fat we could probably hit 75 M.P.H. easily. (Don't worry, she doesn't read my blogs.)
  Al got a good look at our Zuma while we were gone, and beings how our Zuma looked better than the bikes on the showroom floor, he allowed us a top trade-in price, the difference being not much more than the cost of a good pair of new shocks for the Zuma.The tax was only the difference between the two scooters, making my decision to avoid selling the Zuma on my own an easy one. We would have taken the new bike home that afternoon, but we didn't have our checkbook or the title to the Zuma with us. We agreed to meet the next morning when the shop opened.
  We arrived just after 10 A.M. the next morning. I told Al we would have been there earlier but we stopped down the street to top off the fuel on our trade-in. Al shook his head and said, "Nobody does that", and when we picked out some gear oil and Yamalube to take with us, he threw them both in for nothing. The profit margin on scooters is not that great, and Al didn't make a killing on the transaction. He also knew that he would soon be inundated with Zuma trade-ins due to lots of Zuma customers wanting to make the same switch we did. Sometimes the early bird does get the worm.
  Even with the subtle differences in the two scooter models, our ride back to Marathon was like night and day compared to our ride back on the previous afternoon. We were able to not only keep up with traffic, we didn't have anyone tailgating us and I even managed to pass a car or two!
  I detailed the S-max last Saturday morning, applying gobs of U.V. protectant and wax. I even took the time of removing a sticker that reminds us to wear our helmets and read the instructions. We do and I did. The apprehension of whether or not our new Sunbrella scooter cover would fit was satisfied when the detailing was completed. The cover doesn't fit perfectly, the S-max has a windshield, but mainly because the Zuma had a top case and the S-max doesn't, but I figure it's similar to how my pants will fit if I ever lose the 20 pounds that I intend to. Eventually.
  I've been doing some small projects on the boat. I'm caught up on the waxing for the time being, but another item that takes its toll in the salt air is painted aluminum surfaces. The aluminum corrodes and the paint flakes off, especially when a small crack develops.
  Our brackets holding the anchor lines on the bow have been slowly looking worse and worse, with a couple of them having their paint nearly disappeared. I took off the brackets and used my cordless drill with a wire wheel to grind all the paint off of the four brackets down to bare metal. A good friend in the painting business suggested that I use epoxy paint when I repair some of the trouble spots I had asked him about, but I already had some Rustoleum spray paint and wanted to use it up.
  One thing I do is use our engine room as my spray booth if the items are not too large. I turn on both blowers to evacuate the airborne paint, and I just let 'er rip. I don't care about getting a bit of overspray on the engines and other parts, it's usually not much. The only colors I ever have to paint or either white or gray, and both colors are dominant in the engine room of our Sea Ray. I love it when things just work out like that.
  Last week I painted the steering column after removing it from the helm. The flat black paint was dull and nearly all flaked off. I sanded it down to bare metal, primed it with gray, and laid on a nice glossy silver/gray topcoat that sets off our silver and wood wheel very nicely. Little things can make a big difference in a boats appearance.
  Another little thing was that when Rosie had the throw rug from the galley in the wash, I noticed that the gray composite flooring where the rug sits had turned yellow. After a Google search, I learned that the backing on many throw rugs can cause a yellow stain on linoleum and rubber surfaces. The remedy is not immediate, as one solution is letting the sun bring out the stain, but we began a process to eliminate the stain and it's getting better with time and application of bleach and/or vinegar. The lesson here is to avoid putting throw rugs around where they aren't really needed.

  Uh oh, what's this? Yes, it's the floor of our salon opened up to access the engine room. This process is generally reserved for the "heavy work" that sometimes has to be done in there, and I've had a job that I've been putting off for months now, and it was time to bite the bullet and git 'er done.
  If you've been reading this blog, you should be familiar with our issues of the engines running hot. I've done everything usually associated with hot running engines that can be done, and I've cleaned our heat exchangers on three previous occasions, but I knew that I hadn't done the job properly, so before we left Stock Island last November I bought some more Barnacle Buster with the intention of cleaning the heat exchangers again before hurricane season. Why before hurricane season? If we want to run, we want to run at cruising speed for hours if conditions allow it. You don't run at 9 M.P.H.
  When we were in The Bahamas, I couldn't run the engines at cruising speed for more than five minutes before the temperature alarms would sound. That was nearly two years ago.
The first time I cleaned the heat exchangers, I thought I was clever and hooked up both engines (two raw water coolant heat exchangers and two oil coolers) and got some improvement, but I decided later on that the flow rate of the acid may not have been good enough to do a thorough job. So I did it again, and included the fuel coolers, only to find out later that cleaning the fuel coolers is not necessary. I did each engine separately, and ran the acid for a long time, or at least thought I did, only to discover later that my circulating pump had been air bound. I could hear the pump running, but because I had submerged the return hose beneath the solution in the container that I was using (an old cooler), I didn't know I had no flow. Dumb dumb dumb. Again, because the acid just being in contact with the calcium buildup in the heat exchangers is somewhat effective, there was some improvement, but not as much as I wanted, so I immediately did the job again.
  Barnacle Buster is $72 bucks a gallon. The last time I did the job I used two gallons, but still I didn't do the job right. When I removed the hoses from the second engine I cleaned, I could see that because I ran the acid in the same direction as the raw water flow, I didn't thoroughly clean the lower positioned oil coolers, having only gotten the bottom half of the coolers clean. Hence, my realization that I needed to clean the heat exchangers again, and run the acid from the bottom, uphill so to speak, to return at the higher raw water inlet, plus loop the return hose higher than any component in the system. I also made sure the return hose remained above my cleaning solution so I could make sure I was getting flow throughout the CIP (cleaning in place) process.
  While the solution was running, it occurred to me that I may have an air pocket in the top of the raw water heat exchanger, so I bled the topmost plug to let air out, and out it came! (The plug I'm talking about is the recommended procedure where I removed the zinc anodes and replaced with blank plugs so I wouldn't eat up the zincs.)
  I think I got it right this time. In the next few days we'll take Swing Set out for a trial and I'll know for sure. If it doesn't work I'll have to call in the cavalry in the form of our local authorized Caterpillar dealer.
  While I was in the engine room for most of the day yesterday, I noticed one of our five lights in there was not on. I checked the bulb and replaced it although it looked O.K. It still didn't work even after I checked to make sure I was getting 12 volts to the fixture. I also noticed that the lenses to three of the five fixtures were melted through from the heat built up from the incandescent bulbs. The engine room is the last place on the boat that doesn't have LED lights, except for our running lights, so I decided to get new LED fixtures for the engine room. I could have gotten just the bulbs, but like I said, some of the lenses were ruined, and the others were yellowed, so going with new fixtures was the answer.
  The power drain from five incandescent fixtures when working in the engine room is substantial, and it's even worse when you close up the hatches and leave the lights on for a day or two, wondering why the batteries are taking such a hit when you're sitting on the hook. Yes, I've done it.
   Next, my plan is to systematically remove the aluminum brackets one at a time around the four storage compartments in our cockpit to paint them. (Systematically means I'll take a few weeks to do it.) There is some minor corrosion beginning to occur on the bracket surfaces and it's the type of job that can be done easily when the temperatures start to climb, as they are starting to do now.
  We also have some rust occurring around the bases our stainless steel roller brackets mounted on the swim platform, and I'll have to remove the brackets, grind off the rust from the underside of the brackets, seal them with 3M 5200 sealant (the duct tape of boat owners), and re seat the brackets. I know this method works as I've used it on the grab rail above our swim ladder with long lasting results. This job has been on my radar screen for some months, but we can't rush into things now, can we?
  I mentioned earlier about our doctor visits. I don't mention too much on here about our health; for one reason it's boring, and it's also no ones business, but recently one of the folks we met at the pool asked us just how much beer we actually consumed on a weekend. After some consideration on our part, the answer even astounded us, let alone him. He admitted that he lost a bet with his wife. (She wisely guessed a higher consumption rate in spite of our lithe figures. Hahaha.)
  Later, in a lucid moment, and with our yearly wellness visit to the doctor on the horizon, it occurred to me that we spend a great deal of time in keeping Swing Set looking nice and performing preventive maintenance so that the boat lasts a long time; why aren't we giving the same consideration to our own health and well being?
  We both decided to cut down on our beer intake, as hard as that decision was, in order to not only keep our weight down, but also to save a bundle at the grocery store. (Not to mention that the companionways on the boat are as narrow as 14 inches. If not being able to get into the bathroom is not incentive enough, what is?)
  The main problem we see is what we're going to do with all the extra time we'll have on our hands. If we're not at happy hour four times a week for three hours, what in the world are we gonna do? An added issue is that I need a couple of beers in me to work up enough personality to socialize with folks at the pool. (Most people may allow as that method doesn't work either.) I guess we can just spend our extra free time waxing the boat more.
  Speaking of socializing...we met another blog reader and his wife at the marina the other day, them popping in here in Marathon in their boat on a little trip down from their home upstate. They both were very happy to meet us, and they both appear very nice to us too, but when the man of the couple said that they would like to sit down with us some afternoon and hear all about our trip downriver from St. Louis, I looked at them and asked, "Can't you just read the blog?" I think I'm more fun on here than I am in person sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Am I going to have to find another another blog for drinkers with a boating problem?