Monday, June 6, 2016

Mini Cruise

  A few weeks ago we decided to take Swing Set out for a mini-cruise, not sure really where we wanted to go, but headed south on St. Joseph's Bay to see where we would wind up.
  The wind was up a little on the "outside", so we stayed in the Intercostal and just glided along at our slow trawler speed of 8-9 miles per hour, sight seeing again the area from Clearwater down to Tampa Bay. We hadn't been on this route since first coming through it in 2012.
  We crossed the mouth of Tampa Bay towards Passage Key, a small island just off the northern end of Anna Maria Island. We anchored out to watch the sunset, but as it got closer to evening I decided to pull up anchor and find another anchorage a little more out of the wind. It was at this point that our windlass quit.
  Recently, the rocker switch for our engine sync had been acting up, and the switch for the windlass seemed to be acting intermittently as well, so I ordered two switches from Morgan at Marine Max at Lake of the Ozarks. You might wonder why I order parts from a Sea Ray dealer way up in Missouri, but a lot of parts are that we need for a 20 year old boat are not kept in stock, they're special ordered from Sea Ray and drop shipped to wherever they're needed anyway. When I call Morgan, he knows us and has never failed to deliver.

  As the sun was close to setting, I didn't want to start taking the dashboard apart to replace the rocker switch for the windlass, but I did check the circuit breakers, and I also performed other checks I thought necessary to troubleshoot. Nothing I tried worked, so we just stayed put on the hook we had set. It wasn't the ideal situation, but the forecast for wind wasn't that bad, so instead of pulling up the anchor manually and risk not getting a good hook in another location, we chose the easiest path.
  The wind kicked up during the night and we spent a restless night. The anchor stayed where we had put it as there is very good holding just off of Passage Key in a sand bottom. After having a nice breakfast just after daybreak, I replaced the switch for the windlass, but it still wouldn't work. I began to suspect a bad motor on the windlass, so I called Tom Ring at the Good Windlass Company. Tom as been very helpful before, and has told me in the past to never hesitate to call if we have any problems.
  Tom gave me some advice on how to further troubleshoot the windlass. I tried a couple of things but then called him back and told him the motor was shot. I ordered another motor and he got the wheels turning to get a new windlass motor to us ASAP.
  Pulling up the anchor by hand was no treat, but I was able to pull out the tension arm on the windlass and feed the line and chain back into the anchor locker and stow the anchor back on the pulpit as it is supposed to be, secured with the cable and clip for it.
  The wind was coming from the south so we headed out to the Gulf for the run outside back to the Clearwater Inlet. Swing Set ran along at her cruising speed of 25 miles per hour with no issue. The sky was clear and the lobster trap markers were easy to see. Unlike in the Keys, there are less of these trap markers up here along the coast. I may start eating lobster again.
  About an hour and a half later we were entering the Clearwater Inlet. The run outside was very close to 35 miles, just a few tenths of a mile different from the inside route that we had taken the day before.
  Back at the dock, we secured Swing Set in her berth and dropped the dinghy for a ride down to the Dunedin City Dock where we tied up to the dinghy dock provided free by the Municipal marina there. It's a nice touch provided by the City and much appreciated. We stayed until after dark and motored back to Marker 1 Marina. Our running lights worked perfectly, as we have kept them housed inside the neat covers we had made to keep them dry and out of the weather.
  The next morning we went through our regular routine of flushing the main engines on Swing Set, as well as the generator and the air conditioning system. I pulled off the old motor on the windlass with the intention of sending it back to Good Windlass for a rebuild. It's a good thing I did.
  The new windlass motor came on the day before we had planned to return to Dunedin and the boat. I took one look at the new motor and knew there had been a mistake. Not only was the coupler the wrong one, the information on the motor as far as operation R.P.M.s and voltage was not the same as the old motor. A call back to Tom Ring was in order.
  As soon as I told Tom what I was seeing, he told me to hold on while he talked to someone he had left in charge of sending us our windlass motor. He came back on the line in a couple of minutes and told me that someone else out there also had the wrong motor because the fella he left in charge sent two motors out, each to the wrong place.
  It's a good thing I noticed that the motor was wrong, because it would have been "troubling" to get back to the boat and not only not be able to hook up the new motor. Had the couplings been the same, the motor wouldn't have worked properly had I been able to connect it.
  The new motor was on the way before I was able to get the wrong one back to UPS, and Tom had sent a shipping label so I didn't have to buy that.
  A few days later the new motor came and we went out to the boat and in about 15 minutes I had the new motor installed. An operations check at the dock told us that the replacement was a success, and when we motored out to Three Rookers Bar for the weekend, the windlass worked perfectly. Our old motor is being diagnosed for a possible rebuild so we have a spare.
  On another issue, the other day I pulled off the propellers on both of our wind generators and used my Dremel tool to remove the loose paint from both wind generator bodies. I had some trouble getting the propeller hub from the shaft because the shaft is stainless steel and the prop hub is aluminum. The hub had seized onto the shaft on the starboard wind generator. I used some WD-40 to loosen up the hub and was able to pry the hub off the wind generator body without damaging either. I'll use some anti-corrosion lubricant before I install the hubs back onto the housings.
  As it is, when I painted the housings the other day, I left the props off and the we came home. We are currently on a Tropical Storm advisory for Colin which is heading for the west coast of Florida as I write this. We don't expect much in the way of damaging wind, but having the props off the wind generators right now is not a bad thing. When the storm passes in a couple of days we'll go back to Dunedin to check on Swing Set and install the blades back onto the wind generator bodies. I'll also put some new "tails" on each one. The tails are strips of nylon webbing I decided to install when we first installed the generators. I think they help to keep the props facing the wind. Think of how a tail on a kite works. Nobody told me to do this, but when I talked to the Air-X people a few years ago, they agreed that it was a good idea. The key here is to make the tails long enough to be effective, but not too long where they would get tangled in the blades of the wind generator.       Another thing I'd like to mention here is that the propeller blades are sharp enough when they come from the factory, but they tend to get even sharper over time as they turn. A blade can cut deep while not even turning. If you get mixed up with one turning, there is little doubt in my mind that serious damage would occur. I have used a boat hook in the past to grab the back fin on the wind generators to turn them away from the wind and stop the props. Usually though, I don't do any work near the wind generators in any wind at all.

  We get notes from blog readers who remark to us about Holly, so I don't mind keeping those folks informed about our little buddy. In a week, Holly is going in for surgery to repair some torn tendons in her left knee, as well as repairing one of the patella laxations that she has on both hind legs. (This means her kneecaps rotate off the front of her knees.) If this surgery goes well, we'll plan on another surgery on her right knee so that she can return to taking long walks with us and running up and down the stairs on the boat and at home. We knew this day would come at some point and it's best for her recovery to get it done while she is young. She'll have to stay overnight at the "hospital" and we're not looking forward to it. I hope she doesn't hold it against us.


  1. Thanks for the update! We've been missing them!

  2. Lovely photo and post, and Holly is adorable!