Saturday, November 29, 2008

Inlet Currents on Steriods

Vero Beach

The analytical engineer in me couldn't let that problem with the inlet currents in the previous blog alone. I know that the simple example in that previous post with 5 knots current and 5 knots speed and 1 mile between inlets was unrealistic. So what would realistic numbers really look like. Therefore I wrote a little simulator program to calculate the numbers for me. The results shown below are surprisingly complex. No wonder I couldn't do the math in my head.

Here is the basic problem. Suppose that inlets are 30 miles apart, and that the strongest tidal current is 2.5 knots. Those are realistic numbers for the ICW. Then suppose that a boat leaves at a certain time and with a calm water cruising speed of 3, 5, or 7 knots, and that the trip continues for 24 hours. How will the speed vary through the day?

The results are shown below for two times; departure against peak current and departure with peak current.

Why are the curves so wiggly and wild? We see the interaction of three things. The tide varies with time with a period of 11.5 hours. The boat moves from inlet to inlet interacting first with the inlet behind and then to the inlet ahead. Finally, as the boat passes an inlet, the relative current direction abruptly flips.

I think it is astounding that such complex behavior can arise from such a simple problem. No wonder I couldn't do the math in my head.

What about the pessimism factor I mentioned in the previous post? We know that at constant engine RPM, the boat spends more time moving against the current than with it, but by how much? See the table below. 50% means equal times with current and against it. I guess that the pessimism factor is not as large as I imagined.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Inlet Currents

Cruisers along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) are made keenly aware of one thing -- namely tidal currents. The currents can be very strong and very significant for your progress. A sailboat like Tarwathie cruises at about 5 knots under power. With a 2 knot tidal current, our net speed may be 3 knots with current against us, and 7 knots if it is with us. That's more than a 2:1 difference!

Another feature of the ICW is that it is like a narrow river, separated from the ocean by barrier islands. Every once in a while, there is a gap between the barrier islands forming an ocean inlet. Boats may or may not be able to navigate the inlet, but the tidal waters surge in an out at these points. Those surges are what causes the tidal currents in the ICW.

The two pictures below, illustrate a passage between two neighboring inlets. During flood tide, water rushes in and during ebb tide it flows out. In the picture, you can also see boats, being depicted as traveling fast or slow. You get the picture.

Now, consider the following two assertions. First, when a boat passes an inlet, the relative current flips. If you had current with you before, it is now against you. Second, although the average current speed is zero, you spend much more time with current against you than with you. Call that the pessimist's rule.

What's with this pessimist's rule? Isn't that urban legend? No, it's real. I'll explain. Let us consider a simplified tidal profile. The current runs at a constant speed of 5 knots in one direction for 6 hours, then it instantly flips to 5 knots the other way for 6 hours. Further suppose that your boat speed is 5 knots. Then, with current against you, your net speed is zero. You don't move at all, and you might as well anchor for those 6 hours. Then, when the current flips, you are whisked to your destination (or to the next inlet where current flips again) at the breakneck speed of 10 knots.

Take a numeric example. Suppose inlets are 1 mile apart. Just after you pass the first inlet, the current turns against you at 5 knots. You sit there making zero progress for 6 hours. Finally, the current flips again and you reach the second inlet in another 6 minutes. As you pass the second inlet, the current flows against you once again for another 5 hours and 54 minutes. No wonder boaters are pessimists.

There is an important exception to the pessimist's rule. Suppose you pass the inlet at the right during flood tide. You'll have current with you. Then suppose that your timing is such that halfway between the inlets, the tide switches to ebb. You will have had current with you the whole time. It is like pumping your legs at the right speed on a swing set.

I recall once when we hit it just right. We left the Saint Johns River near Jacksonville Florida, and entered the ICW. We had a very fast trip at 7 knots all the way to Saint Augustine, 36 nautical miles away. We made it in about 5.5 hours. With no tide at all, it would have taken 7 hours. If our timing had been such to suffer the full pessimist's rule, the same passage would have taken 9.5 hours.

Is there anything a boater can do to improve his net speed without increasing fuel consumption? Yes, he can ease the throttle when the current is with him and use more throttle when current is against him. However, the net gain is small and most of us don't do that; we travel with the throttle set at cruise speed 100% of the time.

What can you do to minimize fuel consumption? That's easy. Anchor when the current is against you and drift with no power when it is with you. Your average speed is one half the current speed and your fuel consumption is zero. With a little bit of wind in your sails, you can achieve a much higher average speed.

Of course, the more power you have, the less you are hindered by those pesky currents. It is a problem mostly for slow, underpowered, sail boats where current speed is a significant fraction of cruising speed.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Look Ma, No Hands

Vero Beach

It is only reasonable to expect that the longer one lives on a boat, the more tips and tricks one would learn. It's only natural. This trick though tickles my fancy because I did not expect it. I have learned to steer our dinghy with no hands. I can do it accurately and reliably.

It brings back memories of the time when I learned to steer my bicycle no hands. You remember -- "Look Ma, No Hands." I'm sure you have the same memory from your childhood.

Actually, the trick in the dinghy is the same as on your bike. I simply lean from one side to the other. Unlike a bike though, I lean right to make the boat turn left.

Why do that? When driving a dinghy with an outboard motor, you need to sit in the back to reach the motor's handle (tiller). That unbalances the boat. The bow sticks up in the air and the stern sinks. It's like doing a wheelie on a motorcycle.

To balance the boat, you need to move your body forward. Then you can't reach the tiller. People use all sorts of extensions to make the tiller handle longer but those have disadvantages. I'm proud to report that I learned how to do it with no hands at all.

p.s. I don't think my trick will work in an inflatable dinghy or one with a flat bottom.

Rewired: Part 3

Vero Beach

Yesterday I re-re-wired [sic] the Link 10 monitor. I decided that the signal wires that I used were too fragile and would prove to be too easy to damage and too unreliable. The wire came from a spool of wire that I bought at a Radio Shack store. I regret buying it. I also regret the marketing practice of packaging goods in clamshell plastic packages that make it impossible to really inspect the goods before buying.

Anyhow, I rode the bus to the hardware store and bought some heavier guage wire. Then I returned to the boat, ripped out the old wires and installed the new. Then I ran the generator long enough to get the battery fully charged. Now the Link 10 is installed and calibrated and we can start using it seriously.

So what is a battery monitor and why would we want one? Simply stated, it is a device that accurately measures only three things -- battery voltage, battery current and time. From those three things one can calculate a number of derived quantities. Most significant is amp-hours, the measure of battery consumption. Also, one can calculate kilowatt-hours, and estimate time remaining before the battery goes dead. It can also keep historical records on the number and depth of charge-discharge cycles that allow you to spot trends. An optional serial interface (which I don't have) allows you to download log files of the measurements into an Excel spreadsheet so that you can analyze and plot data to your heart's content.

The value of a battery monitor is to prevent you from overcharging your batteries. Boats use deep discharge batteries that are unlike the batteries that you use in your car. Deep discharge batteries are designed for fewer but deeper lifetime charge-discharge cycles. Without a battery monitor, you have only battery voltage to judge the charge state of the batteries. Voltage is a poor indicator, especially when the current draw is variable.

Just guessing as to the battery charge state invariably leads to overcharging. It is better to be safe and overcharge rather than to undercharge and wake up to a dead battery. Overcharging costs money. It costs fuel, engine wear and tear and reduces battery life. In rough numbers, I think that I need to charge our batteries about 1 hour per day, but in the past 4 years I have averaged 2 hours per day, just to be safe. What is that worth?

  • One hour per day excess charging * 250 days/year at anchor or under sail. (When we run the motor all day on the ICW, charging is "free.")
  • Engine replacement ($15000/10000 hours)= $1.50/hour
  • Fuel ($4*0.3 gallons/hour) = $1.20/hour
  • Battery Life extended from 1.5 years to 3 years $.18/hour
Tht total is $575/year wasted costs. WOW! Compare that to $200 for a battery monitor. The investment can pay for itself in a very short time.

My monitor includes an optional fourth measurement -- battery temperature. The temperature is used to refine the estimate of time remaining on the battery according to Peukert's Equation (see below). The capacity is further corrected by 0.5% per degree C battery temperature.

I would have loved to have been the engineer who designed, programmed and documented the Link 10. It would have been a juicy snack for an analytical engineer; especially for an engineer who made a lifetime career out of understanding E=I*R (Ohm's Law.) Most of my friends also made careers out of E=I*R. Too bad finance and economic theories are not as simple as that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Endeavor from another angle

Vero Beach

Below is another great shot of last week's launch. This one was taken from across the Indian River from the launch site.

The picture shows white light whereas we saw red-orange. Why? Because of the low cloud cover you see in this picture. We saw the light reflected by those clouds while people closer saw the direct light.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rewired: Part 2

Vero Beach

I finished the wiring project yesterday, cleaned up and tied up all the loose wire with wire ties and faseners. I also installed the 7 signal wires to the Link 10 monitor.

In testing, I did find one wiring error -- a potentially dangerous one. Here's the deails. My solar panel charge controller (a FlexCharge PV7D) claims to support two independent battery banks if wired as shown below.

I wired it up as directed. However, during testing, I discovered that both banks were connected in parallel on battery switch positions 1 and 2 and BOTH. What? I disconnected the solar + from the start battery, and that fixed the problem. Now, the two banks act as they should; either bank 1 or bank 2 or both in parallel.

The controller evidently does not isolate the two + outputs from each other as the manual suggests. That's a potentially dangerous error. If banks 1 and 2 ever became seriously unbalanced, then they would try to equalize themselves through that light gauge wire for the solar panel. That wire is far too small for heavy current. It would melt and perhaps start a fire.

The Link 10 is a marvelous toy for an engineer to play with. All it does is accurately measure battery voltage and current (0.1 ampere resolution) and time. From those three measurements, it extract maximum value via some very cool engineering analysis. I would have loved to have been the engineer who designed and programmed it. I'll write more on the Link 10 after a few days experience.

I don't have it calibrated yet but within the first hour the Link 10 exposed a real problem. Running my Honda generator, I powered up the shore power connection to charge the batteries. When the voltage got up to 14.0 volts, the Link 10 showed that there was still maximum (20 amps) of charge current going in to the batteries. It should taper off to 1-2 amps trickle charge at that voltage. I'll investigate. Meanwhile, it appears that I found at least one cause of overcharging of my batteries.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rewired: Part 1

Vero Beach

I accomplished the biggest part of a major project today. I rewired all of Tarwathie's Power wiring according to a new design. Actually, I bought the materials for this project last February in Marathon. The actual project has been sitting on my to-do list ever since. Today, I finally tackled it.

The purpose of the project was twofold. First, I had been running four years with two identical house batteries. They were wired as bank 1 and bank 2, but I had to use them in parallel on the "BOTH" position of the battery switch.

The basic idea of having a 1-2-BOTH battery switch is to allow you to run house loads on one bank while the second bank stands in reserve to start the engine in case the first bank goes dead. That idea works very poorly if you have two identical batteries on banks 1 and 2. That means you have 50% of your capacity in reserve all the time. That shortens the lifetime of the house power battery and it wastes capacity.

My solution was to buy a third battery. The third one is a small car battery, not the deep discharge kind that we use for marine batteries. Therefore, I had to rewire to put the two house batteries on bank 1 and the third starting battery on bank 2.

Second, I also bought a Link 10 battery monitor on EBay last winter. It measures both battery voltage and current, and computes kw and amp-hours. To use, it, I had to wire in a shunt into the battery circuits. All battery current passes through the shunt, so the voltage drop across the shunt is proportional to battery current.

I started by drawing diagrams of the existing wiring. I used Microsoft Visio to do the drawing. Visio is a uniquely well suited program for making such drawings. It is object-oriented so you can create composite objects, copy them, move them around and the like. I carefully labeled every wire on the drawing. I was even able to draw the wires with thick or thin lines to show which were heavy gauge or lighter gauge.

The next step was to identify each wire in the engine compartment and to tape an identifier tag to it that matches the drawing. The tags make good documentation. They also give one time to become completely oriented with which wire goes where. After an hour or so, it doesn't look like a rat's nest of wires any more. It makes sense. I'll also tape a copy of the drawing, protected in a sandwich bag, to the engine compartment wall for future reference.

I also had to locate a place to mount the third battery. Space in the stern of a double ended boat is very tight. I finally gave up on mounting it in the engine compartment. I put it on the floor of my lazarette compartment instead.

Next, I made a second drawing for the new wiring scheme including the third battery and the shunt. I took time to think about which of the old wires I could re-use considering the wire length and the kinds of terminators on the ends. It worked out that I could re-use all the old wires. Only once did I have to cut off the old terminal and put on a new one of a different type. I also had to make up several new wires with new terminals.

This morning, I set out to actually do it. The re-wire job took only 4 hours. I expected it to take longer. Because of the planning and preparation, it went fairly smoothly. I committed no wiring errors that I know of. My only screw ups were that I dropped washers into the engine pan multiple times, and as I hooked up things again at the end, I twice let a hot wire end carelessly brush against the engine giving a zap sound and some sparks.

I think I did a fairly professional job. The only thing not kosher was that I did not have tinned ends on the new wires. In marine power wiring, it is customary to "tin" the ends. That means coating the strands in solder. The solder makes good connections, it is deformable and it protects the copper from corrosion.

I thought I could do it myself. I wrapped turns of solder around the ends after I stripped the ends. Then I heated it on the stove. It didn't work. The solder dripped off and refused to coat the wire strands for my. I'm not sure what to do now. I don't have a cup full of molten tin on board to dip wires in. Does anyone know how to properly tin the ends of a multi-strand wire cable?

Tomorrow, I do part 2 of the project. I'll write about it.

Blog 2.0 Modernizatoin

Vero Beach

I added a new "Followers" widget to this blog page. You see it on the right sidebar. If you would like to become a follower, publicly or anonymously, click on the Follow This Blog button.

I also added a new Subscribe To widget in the sidebar. You can use it to subscribe to an RSS feed of this blog.

I also noted that the two links I had to Position Reports and Track were both broken. One linked to Pangea, a service in New Zealand, and the other linked to the SSCA web site. Sorry about that. I removed them. Both of those links were to services that plot a "bread crumb" trail of where we have been on a map. I'll try to repair them or find a new service for that purpose. I wonder if I can create a trail of Google Earth marks. Are any of you Google Earth fans?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Man Oh Man, What a Show

Vero Beach

Last night we went over to the beach to watch a show that few places on earth could offer -- a night launch of the space shuttle.

We had the choice of going to the beach or to the mid span of the 65 foot bridge near the marina. The bridge is perhaps the highest lookout point in Florida (neglecting condo buildings), but the beach is more romantic. Ours was the only dinghy at the landing. Suprisingly then, we were the only boaters to choose the beach.

That doesn't mean that we had the beach to ourselves. There were thousands of people there and a minor traffic jam as more people sought parking places.

We went down on the sand and spread out our bamboo beach mats. Then we laid back and enjoyed the spectacular full moon that was just then rising out of the sea. I thought of how much more fun this was than enduring the winter up north.

As we neared the scheduled 7:55 launch time, we scanned the skies. We spotted a tiny point of light moving slowly eastward. "Look, a satellite," I said. A minute later it looked like the same satellite was moving westward. "Huh?" Then I watched closer. The point of light was circling. I figure it must have been a NASA observation craft. Then I expanded my field of vision. The sky was full of aircraft. Lots of them. They were traveling slowly, no doubt up there for sightseeing.

I heard, "26 seconds and counting," on the radio. Then I put the radio down and looked to the north. Suddenly the sky in the north lit up red. It was like the dawn. It's intensity and suddenness of appearance were stunning. A few seconds later, we could see the brilliant orange flame of the exhaust as the rocket itself lifted in to the sky.

We continued watching as the rocket rose. The orange flame got longer and longer. It must be that the faster the rocket moves, the longer the visible exhaust. That makes sense. Then, abruptly, the flame changed from orange to white. We figure that was when the solid fuel boosters exhausted. The white flame was as long as the orange one had been.

A few seconds later, we saw the solid boosters separate and fall back toward earth. They continued glowing red long enough for us to see their progress. Soon after, the white flame abruptly shrank to a much smaller point. Now the rocket looked like a jumbo star. That must have been what NASA calls, "throttle back."

We continued watching for another 7-8 minutes as the bright star climbed higher and shrank in size. Then it abruptly disappeared. I figure that it must have been obscured by a cloud bank somewhere over the Alps.

Man oh man; what a show.

Sorry, no sucessful pictures this time. My camera at night needs 4-5 seconds to make an exposure and there is no way I can hold it still enough. All I get is blurs. The picture below I downloaded from the NASA web site. We were not that close. We viewed from about 60 miles away.

Traveling back in the dinghy, we encountered a giant bird, the size of a blue heron, sitting on top of an isolated piling out in the river. We moved behind it until the piling and the bird were silhouetted against the full moon. It would have made a spectacular picture. Alas, from a rocking and drifting dinghy, and using long exposures it was quite impossible.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tedious Work

Vero Beach Public Library

Libby and I have been working on a computer project. We are converting our blog archive in to a format suitable for book publishing.

It turned out to be much more work and more tedious work than I expected. In fact, I expected to find an automated tool to do it for me. No such luck. There are numerous tools, but for unexplained reasons, none of them work with

Therefore, there are a lot of manual edits we have to do to format post headers, and to place pictures on the page. I also have to get rid of a lot of sins that don't matter in web blogs but do in a book. For example, in a lot of posts I have a hard return at the end of each line rather than just at paragraph breaks. I wrote macros to change those.

Another thing is that typos, wrong words and incomplete sentences might be acceptable in the infomal diary style of a blog, but aren't OK in a book.

I've been working 4 days straight on this project and I'm only 1/3 finished. Today, Libby worked with me. She proof reads and catches things that I didn't.

After we're done with formatting, we'll choose a publish on demand vendor and go from there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Rainbows In the Morning

Vero Beach Public Library

We had several brief but intense rain showers this morning. I got caught by one of them while walking to the library. Now I'm sitting here in the library in wet clothes and freezing because the air conditioner is set so low. At least the hot laptop in my lap feels good.

Anyhow, I wanted to comment on the three spectacular rainbows we saw this morning. I realized that we are accustomed to seeing rainbows much more often in the evening than in the morning. Why is that? For that matter, why do we see spectacular red skies more in the evening than in the morning?

During the years that we lived in Sweden at 59 degrees north, we got to see lots of beautiful rainbows, including double and triple rainbows. You see, near the arctic circle, the sun spends much more time near the horizon than it does at the zenith. Low sun angles and rain create rainbows.

Once, on the Neuse River near New Bern, NC, we saw a rainbow at noon when the sun was at the zenith. That is even more unusual. I recall that the rain bow had a strange squashed shape that puzzled me until I realized that it was precisely because the sun was so high.

My non-scientific guess is that during the day water evaporates from land and sea and at night it condenses. Therefore, there is more water in the air in the late evening than in the early morning. The same phenomenon would explain why thunderstorms happen more often in the evening than the morning.

What about the old proverb, "Red sky in the morning sailor's take warning. Red sky at night, sailor's delight?" It dates back to the Old Testament of the Bible. I make no sense of that and I fail to see that it predicts weather. Various web sites, here and here, attempt to explain it technically, but I think it's mostly bunk. Let me know if you disagree.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A New Blog; A Belly Laugh

Vero Beach

My friend Rich tipped me off to a new blog. SV Pelican is crewed by a family from upstate NY, not far from where we lived. They have only one toe in the cruising-life water, so to speak. It will be interesting to follow their evolution and growth as cruisers. I'll add a link to their blog in the side bar at the right.

I have to share something with you. While waiting for the Library to open this morning, I picked up a copy of The Economist. I read a letter to the editor there that gave me the best belly laugh I've had in a long time. You can find it under the title Travel Advice. The text is below.

Travel advice
In reference to your article ("From treks to sex", January 26th) we would like to clarify that the "Wild Stag Weekends" advertised on the Nepal Tourism Board's website are part of a destination-branding exercise that was launched two years ago. We sorted tourists into different categories and targeted short-haul markets with weekend breaks for a variety of holidays tailored for families, young people, women, pilgrims, etc. You can find these in our brochure.

Our intention when branding "Wild Stag Weekends" was not to promote sex tourism in Kathmandu but to encourage holidaymakers to enjoy traditional Nepalese dancing, where they could mingle freely with the dancers. Apparently this has been misunderstood by your newspaper.

Sarad Pradhan
Media consultant
Nepal Tourism Board

Sunday, November 09, 2008

My Accomplishment For The Day

Vero Beach

Saturday morning I worked with paint stripper chemical. That is sure nasty stuff. I'm working on preparations for refinishing the non-skid on our upper decks.

This afternoon it was a lovely afternoon. Our mad dash to escape from the cold to the warm sure paid off. On Friday afternoon it was 94F (34C). Saturday it was mostly sunny, wind only 5 knots and 80F (27C); just perfect weather.

Libby and I took the dingny to the beach. How does one dinghy from the ICW to the beach? Study the sattelite picture.

At the beach, we laid on our backs and soaked up some sun. I took it upon myself to count the number of clouds that passed overhead. A little later I took a swim. Libby chickened out.

The sea was flat and green. We could see only one boat out there with all that ocean to play in. Amazing.

Oh yes, my accomplishment for the day? 1

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Helpful tips

Vero Beach

Several readers sent in helpful tips about my zinc problem. Thank you very much. I think I'll try some of the tips to limp along instead of precipitously running to haul the boat out of the water.

The picture above was taken after our repowering project. We have a Max-Prop that feathers when in neutral. You see it here in the feathered posittion. You can also see the cone-shaped zinc attachted to the butt end of the prop. You can also see that there is no room for a collar zinc on the shaft.

We put the new motor in with the help of Bud Taplin. Bud is the guru about all things Westsail. Bud said that in the past he had trouble with Max Props getting too close to the rudder (seen on the far left of this picture). Therefore, he makes the shafts short. The trouble is that he made it so short that we have no room on the shaft for a zinc. In reality, the shaft could have been 3 inches longer while still giving adequade prop-to-rudder clearance.

I thought about moving the whole engine and shaft further aft. I could use more room at the front changing the raw water impeller. But we can't do that without building a new fiberglass platform for the aft motor mount. It would be a major project.

I would also like to re-grease the Max Prop. It has two places where you can remove a little set screw and screw in a grease fitting instead. Then, using a grease gun you pump in grease until it oozes out from all the seams, like in the picture. In theory I could do that under water also, but chances of losing the little set screws and/or the grease nipple would be very high. Perhaps in the Bahamas with clear water, I could get Libby in the water too to hold a big pan under me to catch dropped parts.

By the way, Bill K also commented that low water in the batteries is a sign of overcharging. Maybe so. Another dissapointment on the new motor was that it came with an alternator that uses an internal voltage regulator that is incompatible with the modern external three-stage battery charge controllers. We have such a controller already, but now we can't use it.

Especially when we motor down the ICW, I see the battery voltage pegged at 14 volts all day long, and I wondered if we weren't overcharging. To get around that problem, we would have to buy a new alternator.

Our shore-power battery-charger also does not have a three-stage controller. It is a 25 amp controller and it was plenty expensive. I paid $450 for it. A 40 amp charger with 3-stage controls would have cost more than $750. Ouch.

However, another project on my list this month is to install a battery monitor that I bought on E-Bay last year. The battery monitor lets me keep track of Kw-hours, not just battery voltage. With the monitor I can hopefuly learn a lot more about our energy consumption and our recharging cycles. It should make it clearer whether or not we are overcharging.
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Friday, November 07, 2008

Bad Things and New Projects

Vero Beach

I told yesterday about the broken screw in the propeller. Last night, our main battery voltage suddenly dropped to 10.5 volts on both batteries! That's really dead.

I scrambled to start the Honda generator to charge them up. The starter rope broke off when I pulled it. Double Oh no.

This morning, I opened up the engine compartment and started to remove the batteries to take them back to the store and trade them for new ones. First though, I checked the water level in the cells. Surprise! They were very low on water. I don't really understand that. I have been checking the water level every month or so and it was always fine. I don't know if the low water was the cause of a battery problem or a symptom of some other problem. Anyhow, I refilled the cells with distilled water and we'll try them for a few days before taking any other action.

I then set out to repair the Honda generator. I never had a recoil starter apart before. Needless to say, as I took it off, the recoil spring unwound. What a pain that was. It took Libby and I 3 hours to rewind that spring and put it back. Now, I have the whole thing together with a new rope. It started, but it makes a bad noise. There is a nylon pawl that sticks out to start, and should retract when running. It's not retracting and it hits on the rotating parts, making the noise. I don't know what to do about that. Does anyone have experience with small engine recoil starters?

This afternoon I started with paint stripper. I'm removing the old deck paint in preparation for repainting. The old paint I used, Interlux Topsider, turned out to be very unsatisfactory. It didn't stick, flaking off in places. That could be poor preparation on my part. It also wore completely through three coasts in high traffic areas in less than a year. It also seems to absorb dirt and it looks dirty everywhere we walk.

I bought a gallon of tug boat deck paint. That stuff, I hope will be immune to all those problems. It is also non-skid. One applies is with a very coarse roller.

We also ordered new cockpit cushions. We have custom fitted vinly covered foam cushions. They are ideal for our purpose, but the vinly came the end of life and began to crack and split in multiple places. New custom cushions are very expensive. Nearly $900. But we can't get along without them.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Oh No, Screwed Again

Vero Beach

This morning early I resolved to do an unpleasant chore. I had to replace the zinc on our propeller. The water in Vero is very murky and not so clean which makes it not nice. Besides, it was a bit chilly and windy and the water was cold; not the best time for swimming.

Brushing aside all that, I went in the water to inspect the old zinc. It was completely gone. The poor design of the Max Prop zinc I've complained about before. The zinc first wears away at the screw holes which fasten the zinc and it falls off.

I started removing the three screws that held the zinc in place. While unscrewing the second one, it broke off. Oh No! It left the stub of the screw in the screw hole. Double oh no!

Now to repair that, I'll have to haul Tarwathie up on the hard for an hour or two. Then I'll have to drill out the remnants of the old screw without damaging the threads on the prop. That will cost $250 to $300 just for the haul out. That makes it a very expensive screw. You might say I'm screwed.

For temporary protection I hung a loose zinc over the side attached to a wire with the other end attached to the boat's ground. At least that buys some time while I think on the problem.

Can anyone suggest a better way to get that screw out while under water?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

News In The Morning

Vero Beach Public Library

I get the feeling that Libby and I were the only two people on the planet not tuned in to TV watching the election returns last night. Instead, we got the news on the radio when we woke this morning. I think that we are also the only two people on the planet who have never seen Obama speak; we have only heard him on radio.

Well, it sounds like the whole world loves Obama. At the very least, his administration should have the opportunity to do much better with foreign relations. At home, his fate depends mostly on when this great recession bottoms out. It would be the same if McCain had won. If he leads us out of the depths in to renewed prosperity, he'll be much loved like FDR was. If things continue to decline during his term, then he'll be despised like Hoover was.

I don't normally dabble in poetry. However, Pat and Ray on Reflection recently sent me a poetry challenge for cruisers. You can read my entry to Pat's challenge here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Dick's Shocking Pink Shoes

Vero Beach Public Library

Both Libby and I are Crocs fans. We wear our Crocs almost 24x7x365. They are cool, ventilated, oil-resistant, mildew-resistant, washable, give good traction, and are very comfortable.

The only trouble is that the molded-in tread ridges on the bottom of the soles doesn't last long. Once the treads are worn smooth, they become slick and dangerous to wear on the deck of a boat. That means that we frequently have to buy new Crocs and to find something to do with the old ones. The obvious solution is to wear new Crocs on the boat, and old ones on shore where traction is not so important. Trouble is, we never managed to get in the habit of changing shoes when we go ashore. We're constantly forgetting.

Last spring I found Crocs on sale in a West Marine store for $19.99. That's great. They ususally cost $29.95 and are seldom on sale. Needless to say, the store had only a limited supply of sizes and colors. The only pair my size were shocking pink in color.

Shocking pink shoes are not the kind of fashion statement a macho guy like me wants to make. "No problem," I thought, "I'll use the pink ones only on the boat, and wear the blue ones ashore. Besides, the pink color will make it impossible for me to forget to change. Nobody will ever see me in them." So I bought them.

The first time I forgot to change the pink shoes was up in Maine. Nick was on board with us. He thought it best to not warn me of my mistake. In fact he thought it was hilarious to send his grandfather ashore in pink shoes.

Several times since then I forgot to change again. It's a hard habit to learn.

This Saturday when we arrived in Vero, I saw my bunch of Vero friends holding down the porch in front of the sailor's lounge. They are like the four friends on that King Of The Hill show. They sit there kibitzing month after month. I waved at them from a distance and was pleased to see that they recognized me. I hadn't seen them in six months. When I got with 100 feet of them, I expected to hear them say, "Welcome back Dick." Instead I heard one of them shout "Great shoes Dick."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hat's Off To Libby

Vero Beach
N 27 39.627 W 080 22.257

When I wrote the other day about fatigue, I should have given Libby more credit. The hardships of living at sea are hard on me. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not getting any younger. What about Libby? She isn’t as strong as me. She doesn’t have the same endurance. Nevertheless, she stands her watches. She insists on equal time on watch, especially in the hours of darkness and bad weather.

Libby stands watch without hesitation and never with a word of complaint. She goes to bed exhausted and drops into deep sleep. Still no matter how deep her sleep, when I wake her at the proper time, she leaps right up to relieve me.

She even does a better job as helmsman than I do. She holds a straighter course, and she keeps a better eagle eye out for traffic than I do. She has learned to deal with the tiller and with the Monitor self-steering. She’s (very gradually) learning about sail trim. She’s alert for all kinds of off-nominal conditions that should be investigated.

Besides being a wonderful wife, mother, lover, and companion, Libby is a great sailing cruiser and I’m very lucky to have her with me. Hats off to Libby.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Securely Moored in Vero

Vero Beach
N 27 39.627 W 080 22.257

Well we made it. We are tied up to the same mooring we were tied to last November. We are paid up for a month’s stay. We have a date on Thanksgiving week to receive a visit from my sister Marilyn and then to have Thanksgiving dinner with my brother Ed and sister in law Sally. We’re looking forward to that.

In the meantime, we won’t be idle. I’m making up a list of maintenance and improvement chores to do on Tarwathie. Last year’s list had about 35 items. I’ll publish this year’s list when it is complete.

This morning we traveled the very familiar waters between Fort Pierce and Vero Beach. I don’t know how many times we traversed that passage -- a lot. One of the nice things about it is that there seems to be more dolphins per square mile than any other place we know. Last spring I saw a boat with three fishermen and three small boys in it. They were feeding the dolphins and the dolphins responded by taking the food out of their hands.

Today, Libby and I spotted a big commotion in the water. It was dolphins. At first we thought it must be dolphin whoopee. Tee hee. Then, we saw three dolphins jump simultaneously. Nope, not whoopee. They may have been just frolicking, but the most likely explanation is that they were torturing a fish. Yes kiddies, those lovable dolphins from marine world and the Flipper TV show and who would never hurt a flea are predators. They take great delight in torturing their prey and prolonging their death agony before they eat them.

By the way, I miscalculated in yesterday's post. It took us 59 hours to sail the 320 miles to get here, not 71 hours as I said yesterday. Our average speed was 5.4 knots.