Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Vero Beach

I’m having trouble getting inspiration for new blog articles while we sit here in Vero. Sorry to let my readers down. I know you expect something daily.

Projects: We haven’t been entirely idle while waiting here. There are always maintenance chores to do on a boat.

Deck paint: Last year we repainted the non-skid areas of the deck. The job was a disaster. Even before we put down the second coat, the paint started coming off areas where we walked and where we dropped the anchor chain. Apparently, we didn’t de-wax or sand or otherwise prepare the surface well enough. Preparation is everything.

This time, we made use of our new Honda generator to use a power sander. We sanded down the whole surface thoroughly. Then I put down a polyurethane deck and floor paint from Home Depot (horrors! it is not marine paint) sprinkled with a non-skid material. This time it worked better, although the paint came loose in places where we had heavy traffic or where we set down the generator feet within 24 hours. We retouched those places.

Chain paint: For more than a year we have been trying to find a place to re-galvanize our anchor chain. It is rusty and it stains the deck every time we use it. We have 220 feet of 5/16 inch BB chain. To replace it with new chain would be very expensive, as much as $750. Worse, there seems to be only a handful of places in the USA who can do the job properly and affordably, and with a reasonable turn-around time. A proper job means shot peening the chain to remove rust, then hot dipping it in molten zinc, then allowing the dipped chain to cool on a powerful shaker table. The shaking prevents the chain links from fusing to each other while the zinc is molten. To do all that at today’s rates would seem to cost as much as new chain. The only place I found on the web that sounds suitable is Acapulco Mexico.

I decided to try to paint the chain to get a few more years life out of it. The paint probably won’t work, but I have little to lose by trying. First I bought some wrought iron fence paint and dipped the chain into it. That put a thick coat of paint on the chain that will probably flake off as we use it. That covered 80 feet. For the rest, I’m going to try Rustoleum primer paint. I hope that will soak in and leave only a thin coat.

Bowsprit and Sampson Posts: I wanted to refinish these critical wood components to protect them from rot. I found three spots of rot on the bottom side of the bowsprit. They are about 1 cm deep. It makes me worry. Again we took advantage of the power sander to get the old finish off. Part of the job I had to do while standing in the dinghy. One time (you guessed it) the dinghy shot out from under my feet and I had to grab the bobstay with both hands to keep from falling in. The sander fell into the salt water, still running. Luckily for me I didn’t fall into the salt water too with the 115 volt AC current nearby.

I took the sander out and dipped it in fresh water to get the salt out. It is a DeWalt sander, the top quality brand. Thank goodness, it runs fine and does not seem to be hurt.

Replumbing: The rubber hoses that carry water for the sinks and heads are very old. The hoses that bring salt water to the toilet for flushing are disintegrating. I decided to replace it all and to re-plumb the head and the galley. At the same time, I decided to add a salt water faucet to our kitchen sink. We use fresh water for cooking but salt water for washing. I encountered the usual problems when taking the old things out. Hose clamps were rusted frozen. Some copper elbows were so rotted that they crumbled. The faucet on the sink has and end ready for ¾ or 5/8 inch hose, but the hose was ½ inch. There was a real Rube Goldberg rig on that.

I drilled a hole in the counter top for the new faucet. Then I found a bulkhead brace directly under the hole. I had to drill a second hole in a different place. Now I have to find a way to plug the first one.

I have a week to wait for the new faucet/spigot I ordered for the sink, so this project is still not finished.

Polishing: We polished and waxed the stainless steel deck hardware and the below deck brass. Libby also did her slimy-grimy trick on the hull to get rid of the brown stains near the water line.

Battery Charging: When we bought the Honda generator, the first thing I found was that it took forever to recharge the batteries. I took a closer look at our battery charger that worked off of shore power and I found that the nameplate said that its output was only 5 amps. I never noticed that before because when using shore power we were always hooked up for 24 hours or more. However, since we use about 40 amp-hours per day, we would have to run the gasoline generator for 8 hours every day to keep up. That would be ridiculous.

I replaced the battery charger with a new one rated at 25 amps. It actually puts out 35 amps at the start of the cycle. This was a good match for our 800 watt generator. That worked much better, but I noticed that the charging would halt at a voltage of 13.5 volts rather than 13.9 volts. I measured and found a 0.4 volt drop between the charger and the batteries at 20 amps. The wiring was inadequately sized. I ripped out the old wiring, and found that it was only size 14. Tsk tsk, another thing that Al Hatch did less than perfectly. I replaced it with number 6 wires and now the voltage drop from charger to batteries at 20 amps is less than 0.05 volts.

I also replaced the the charge controller for the solar panels. The old one I suspected was not controlling and it allowed our gel cells to get overcharged and thus ruined them.

Still to do:

Dinghy: We want to repaint the inside of the dinghy and to refinish the oars. We also bought new canvas bumper material to line the gunwhale. This project is hard to get started in Vero because we use the dinghy every day. The oars in particular would need to dry for a couple of days before applying finish.

Hatches: We need to redo the varnish on the cabin hatches.

Stained glass: Libby bought a kit to make hand painted stained glass inset for the galley porthole.

More wiring: I still have an intermittent problem with a one half volt drop between the batteries and the buss bars in our power distribution center -- even at zero load. It is hard to fix because I have a hard time identifying the supply wires to the busses. They are routed through inaccessible places where I can't trace them. The 0.5 volt drop only occurs about one day out of five. It has to be broken strands or a poor connection some place. I just have to find where.

Projects while living on board: Everything is more difficult to do when you live on board while doing projects. For example, so far I made six trips to the nearest hardware store (Home Depot). Each trip takes more than half a day on the bus. If there was no hardware store nearby, I would have to postpone the projects or rent a car for every trip to the store.

It is also quite delicate to paint the walking surfaces of the deck when living on board. Deck stored items can not fit below, and we can not abstain from walking on deck for a whole day. Plumbing can not be put out of service for more than a few hours at a time.

Not to mention that all these projects just keep us busy until the really big engine project next month.

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