Friday, January 24, 2014

Small Projects Lead to Large Projects

Boot Key Harbor, Marathon, Florida

Boaters are fond of saying that starting a small project leads to complications that lead to further complications, that end up being large projects.  They say that for two reasons.  First, it is true.  Second, it is a great excuse for procrastinating on the start of small projects.   Recently, I had three such small/large projects.

First, was replacement of a cracked window glass in a small 6 inch port light in the V-berth.  We have no idea why it cracked.  The glass is 3/8 inch thick tempered safety glass; very tough stuff.  But the glass is held in the bronze housing by a bronze threaded ring.  I have been unable to get that ring out.  Bud Taplin suggested that I would have to break and remove the old glass first to loosen the ring.  I did that with no success.  I did however commission a new piece of glass to be custom cut and tempered (that cost $50, ouch!)  However, I still don't know how to unscrew that ring to finish the job.

Second, was replacement of the sight glasses on our diesel fuel tanks.  The old sights had become so opaque that I had to use a high power light and 60 seconds of peering to see the actual level.  Starting way back in 2005, I sought a source for replacements.  Finally, in 2008 a blog reader told me to look for "boiler tubes"  Finally this year I found "boiler tubes" and bought some.  But then I had to cut them to the exact length needed.  A saw wouldn't even scratch the glass.  I borrowed a glass cutter tool from Bob, but that was unsucessful and shattered a tube.  A second tube shattered when it was bumped by a tool while laying on the desk. Uh oh.  Fortunately, I had bought spares.  A local glass shop was able to cut them for me. Now they are installed and marvelously transparent. See the picture.  Success!

Third, we decided to give up on our trusty Wilcox-Crittenden Skipper head.  This head was famous as the Cadillac of marine heads.  Built of solid bronze and china it was built to last a lifetime.  It cost nearly $1000 when it was last sold.  I met a megayacht captain who told me that he had 8 such heads on board his yacht.  Unfortunately, it is 39 years old.  It is no longer made.  I can't buy replacement parts, and it leaked.  We decided to buy a modern plastic toilet.  Buying it was simple. The had one at the local West Marine for $200.  Installing it took only 3 hours.  But alas, the old "throne" was 19.5 inches high at the top of the bowl and the new one only 15 inches.   It makes the saying "how low can you go" a real literal problem.  See the picture.  It feels like floor level when you sit on it. So now I have to build a platform to raise the new head 4.5 inches.  That's not all, the new head is much wider at the base than the old one and it will block my access to the sea cock below the floor. I may have to uninstall the whole toilet every time I need to close that sea cock.  What a pain.

A fourth project, replacing all remaining incandescent lights with LEDs was relatively benign.  The V-berth, the head, and the stern light were all that remained.   All went well except the stern light.   I had an LED bulb in that before, but it failed in only two years. A spare incandescent festoon light I had on board drew 3.5 amps!!!; far too much.  I tried twice to buy a replacement LED bulb but failed.  The first bulb (for $53) was far too dim.  The second bulb (for $43) was the wrong voltage.  The stern light needs to direct the light back and to the sides, and the Aqua 25 fixture I have has no reflector.  Therefore the bulb itself must orient the LEDs correctly.   I may give up and buy a whole new Aqua 25 fixture for $29 what includes a 10 watt incandescent light.

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