It’s been three weeks since last update. Ugh. Sorry about that. Honestly, I’ve been too busy to write much at all about what’s been going on since arriving at the marina. I’ll try to sum things up without too much extraneous detail. We built a set of cradles fit to the deck to drop our mast onto. This may sound like a trivial task, but there’s a bit of funky angles to deal with, and one thing we don’t want is to have a weak cradle that would give way if we hit some weather crossing the lake… dropping the mast overboard would be a really, really bad day! TearAway was picked up and set gently on her own cradle in the marina yard. This was the first time out of the water since we bought her, so it was interesting to get to see things from that perspective. She looked very uncomfortable flying through the air, and feels very unnatural on the hard. We expected this would be a relatively easy few days to get things done. Cut into the crack, fill it up with epoxy, drop the mast onto the cradle on deck, get the survey done and off to an insurance company, have a professional make final fixes to the exhaust elbow setup, paint, back in the water, and off we go. A week, tops!
Surveyor (n): A professional pessimist
A surveyor has the job of looking at a boat with a discerning, professional eye to find anything and everything that could go wrong. Naturally, there are degrees of danger of failure, so one must decide which things need to be fixed now and which can be left until later. Ian, having recently turned 74 and working as a surveyor for quite a long time, is a master at this. He’s seen lots of bad, and has stories. Many stories. And he’s been great at telling me the things that need to be done, and some of the things that could be left undone. For example, the hull is sound. He took readings of the moisture levels and proclaimed them quite good, especially for just having been pulled out of the water the day before and for the age of the boat. The hull has some osmosis blistering that makes it look like it has chicken pox where the ablative bottom paint has rubbed off (as it’s supposed to), but this is not something that is critical to the integrity of the boat. Short of a few little things, the structure of the boat is quite good and we’re in good shape. It probably hit ground at some time in the past pretty hard, but the repairs are very well done and are not to be given a second thought. Ian even sends emails of stuff he thinks of during the night, like perhaps a 16mm bolt to replace the pin giving a little play in the rudder might give just that tiny fraction more to fill the space. He was right.
But, there were some things that just would not do. The electrical setup was not up to par. In fact, the AC “shore power” was critically bad. It was certainly not put in by the manufacturer, and was all household stuff from the early ‘80s, including aluminum single-strand wire and an outlet in the engine compartment. I’ll spare you the details, but this stuff has been known to cause fires in houses and boats are even messier. Additionally, the DC isn’t good. The batteries are dead at nearly 10 years old, it’s got some wiring issues, and the solar is not going to be enough to last with long-term daily usage like we’ll need. The sewage discharge Y-adapter so we can pump the toilet’s tank overboard would not do in the lakes and rivers, of course (even though it’s a got a valve we can use to keep everything going into the holding tank, as we have done), so we’d have to do some re-plumbing.
So, off we go to work through the list of things to get done. Gabe and I grind away at the crack, which, by the way, was not anything structural and, though good to fix before getting to salt water, wouldn’t be critical, and start filling it with epoxy. We tear out all of the old AC wiring, install a circuit breaker (critical piece missing from the original setup), I break the plug where the wiring comes in from the outside, so need to buy a new $100+ part, put new outlet boxes in that are slightly larger than the ‘80s version, necessitating some fiberglass cutting, and wire in new GFCI protected outlets. Yay! New house batteries. New battery charger that will plug in to AC when we happen to be in a marina to charge both house and engine batteries. New solar setup with 200W panels instead of 43W and a real controller. It’s slow going putting layer after layer of epoxy on to fill in the gap left getting down to metal, since it basically takes a day to harden to the point of sanding down the high spots and applying another layer. But, we’re doing OK; I know electrical stuff since I took a couple years of AC and DC courses for my degree, and I had a 1982 Toyota Celica, so I know body work!
Enter the mechanic
I’ll leave the story of not confirming with the mechanic, though I thought we had, out for all of our sakes, but, suffice it to say that the appointment ended up happening about two weeks after I’d expected. Further to the above, getting time for him to do actual work other than just figuring out the problems, would be another two weeks. Upon climbing the ladder into the boat, he exclaims “I smell diesel!” No doubt this was due to my less than perfect… ok… bumbling job of replacing the fuel filters; a job I’d hoped he’d do the first time so I could see how it’s done properly. Then, after nimbly dropping into the cabin and taking a look at the engine, says “I’ve been here, what? 30 seconds? You’re not going to like this.” He was right. I held it together during the visit, but nearly wept after he left, fairly certain I’d just heard the death knell for this whole trip, before we’d even departed.
The exhaust hose needs to be completely replaced. The exhaust elbow that has been such a huge struggle was not done right and needed to go… my gooping job to make a gasket was “probably not your best move ever” and the hose was hitting the fuel tank so would cut right through in a matter of hours. The fuel lines all need replacing. The engine mounts need replacing… well, one is shot, one is bad, and the other two are marginal. The water intake to the engine is T-ed with the sink intake… that is never going to fly because the engine will find it easier to suck air down from the sink than to pull water up if the sink pump ever fails even a little. So, we’ll have to put a new through-hull (hole in the bottom of the boat) in to pull for the sink. The prop is too close to the strut so it’ll cause cavitation when the power is needed most. A three-bladed prop would be a lot better than a two-blade, so it’d be good to change that.
The cutless bearing, a 4” long brass and rubber bearing that is in the strut holding the shaft to the propeller, is wore out and should be replaced. In order to fix the exhaust issue, probably the best bet is to move the fuel tank a few inches back, which will necessitate cutting a hole in the floor of the cabin and fiberglassing the current hole for the fuel fill.
So, after giving in to despair for a night, I started working on lists of what could be done, what was critical, what was not going to get done. Obviously, with the boat out of the water, everything dealing with the hull and keeping water where it’s supposed to be was priority. We’ve kept at it. Every day, getting out of the house by 7:45 to catch the 9:00 ferry, to work on the boat all day, taking occasional breaks to check in with work while people are in the office and follow up on the critical items there, back home on the 5, 6, or 7:00 ferry, depending on how things are going, eat, and sit down to work on work stuff until midnight or so. This is why I’ve not written. In fact, today is the first day in three weeks I haven’t been to the boat, and here I am writing about it. Here’s, roughly, what we’ve been doing.
We moved everything out of the cockpit lockers into the V-berth. It looked like we used a wood chipper to do it! We disconnected the shaft from the engine, pulled the prop off the shaft, and managed to get the shaft pulled out of the boat without removing the rudder. We removed the exhaust hose completely and took the elbow off and took it to Marty for another rework instead of moving the fuel tank. We kept on the daily sand and epoxy regimen to fill in the crack. We sanded a few spots where the paint was chipping, and filled them in with some funky, expensive epoxy paint. We painted the whole bottom with ablative anti-fouling paint (stuff that will keep sea life from growing on the hull, at least for a while). Replaced the cutless bearing… getting the old one out was a full day’s work of sawing and pounding and a little cussing. Cleaned the shaft and put it back in. Replaced the hose between the hull and the stuffing box, which is what keeps the water from coming in where the shaft goes through the hull using an ancient but effective method of squeezing some waxy flax into a screw-down tube that compacts it against the shaft. That had a lot more cussing. And, also, why the heck does it cost $45 for a foot of this hose and why can’t it be purchased in the needed 6” lengths?! I have a spare.
A waiting game
Now, we are waiting for parts to come in. The 10 feet of exhaust hose, the proper exhaust gaskets, and the stuff to properly hook the engine water intake up. Once they’re in, the bottom is sealed up and ready to go. If the mechanic shows up before we get that done, I’ll have him replace the critical fuel lines. If not, I’ll carry some spare hose and make do if I need to, but get further south before taking anything else apart. I’m not afraid of doing engine work, and this is a small one as engines go. But, I have no experience in diesel mechanics. And, dealing with one that could be life-critical, not just running a lawnmower, adds an element of “get it right the first time.” As I’ve been forced to do more and more with this engine, though, the less difficult it is. In fact, in some ways, it’s the most simple engine I’ve ever worked on. No spark plugs = no accidental zap! By the end of the week, we should be back in the water, getting the final stuff loaded onto TearAway at the marina, and be ready to head for the U.S.
I know, I’ve said that all before. So, you’ll have to wait and see.