The sun sets in the West Marine

I rarely darkened the door, except when they had anti-freeze or anti-foul paint on sale, but this is a sea change for Toronto boating.

A rare news alert from me to my readers in Southern Ontario who may attend the Toronto International Boat Show in January: As has been rumoured around the docks for some time, West Marine is closing up shop here in Toronto on Jarvis Street, which will leave only the revived Dock Shoppe (in Genco Marine's former digs on Queen's Quay) as the only chandlery proximate to the downtown waterfront.

Reliable sources state that West Marine should have a closedown sale at the Boat Show prior to the Lower Jarvis Street store shutting its doors in January to make way for the inevitable condo project. Word is that West Marine will be winding down its Canadian operations entirely when individual store leases end, with the goal to be completely out of Canada by 2017. It remains to be seen if the sale will be merely of the 25% off variety (boat show special) or the 70% off seen when The Dock Shoppe closed in 2012. I'm still installing things on Alchemy from that epic haul of gear.

So, if seeing the shrinking number of indifferently built sailboats that resemble condos puts you off at the Boat Show, you may wish to attend this year's event in the hopes of deep discounts. I rarely shopped at West Marine, because I tend to be less about the anchor-themed placemats and more about fisherman-grade gear, but I don't like the reduction of local choice in retail chandleries to one. Given the recent shuttering of Island Yacht Club and other rumours about clubs barely hanging on, it doesn't bode well for chandleries here in pricy, roads-torn-up Toronto and it looks like I'll be pedalling west...or sourcing on the internet...more than I had hoped to do.


Skipper by name, windy by nature

Panorama of Jolly Harbour, Antigua, where we were. Photo (c) Steve P.
Well, it's been two weeks since my first hurricane. Along with the rest of the week, it was quite educational.
One hand for the shore on Antigua, smack in the middle of the eye of the tropical storm that didn't get the 45 knot memo.
Now, said storm, called Gonzalo, wasn't supposed to be of hurricane strength  It was supposed to be a tropical storm of 45 knots or so. But nature will have her way, irrespective of the embarrassment of puny meteorologists, I suppose.

(The above video is copyright Danny Jules, an Antiguan I've never met but who was shooting and ably describing events at the height of the winds. At this point in the tempest, I was crawling on all fours off a vibrating dock while a small yacht was enthusiastically trying to roll over me.)
Ffryes' Beach, Antigua, looking toward Monserrat. Note the left-hand hillside: it's an active volcano.
But to backtrack: I had arrived in the company of "Johnny Canuck"in  Antigua, one of the Leeward Islands, on Saturday, October 11 as a precursor to taking the RYA's Day Skipper course. I had taken a Yachtmaster Coastal course in Brittany 11 months ago, but due to poor preparation, fatigue from a compressed work schedule, and a bone-headed slip-up regarding IALA buoyage in Europe, I hadn't passed. This course was a bit more basic (although it was by no means trivial or particularly restful, especially when compared to the minute amount of seamanship required to obtain Canada's PCOC qualification).
 Lennox Scotland, tour guide, driver and probably the hardest-working man in Antigua.
Antigua itself is a study in contrasts. There's a lot of wealth there in the form of hotels, villas and accommodation for the bigger sort of yachts (and the bigger sort of tourist-hauling catamarans), but despite the fact that the volcanic soil is quite fertile, there's very little agriculture; consequently, nearly everything that can be drunk or eaten, save certain seafood items, is imported. The place isn't cheap, and yet I didn't see that the locals were getting much "trickle down". A part of this may be cultural: local tour guide and "fixer" Lennox Scotland (above) alluded to his country's habit of "working, but not too hard". Mr. Scotland himself seemed somewhat of an exception to the rule as he had several businesses on the fly and was friends with the Prime Minister, whom he knew from childhood.
Vast, tourist-packed cats that motor, not sail, around the island all day: More common than frigate birds.

After about 36 hours of welcome decompression and course prepping as the guests of Ian (our instructor) and his wife Cindy Grant, who were kind enough to have us prior to taking an RYA course with Miramar Sailing, we awoke at dawn (something I find unavoidable in the tropics) on Monday to troubled skies and rising winds. The weather report had suggested the sort of gales typical with a fast-moving tropical storm like Gonzalo, but I had a sense, as did marine veteran John, that we were going to get a little more than had been promised. When my barometer feature on my watch tumbled from 1006 mb to 990 mb in just over an hour, things were feeling a touch dready.

This video shows our instructor's personal boat, a 1980s Jeanneau 32, rolling and bucking at dock, just prior to uprooting the stern cleats from said dock. Ian had gone off Miramar headquarters, a few minutes' drive, to prep (over-optimistic, as it turned out) for the commencement of the five-day course that myself and two other students were taking; John, who has his Yachtmaster Offshore certification, seems to have a hobby of sailing on courses he's long since passed, but to his credit, he claims to always get some educational benefit from the process!
I would suggest this was irrelevant advice during the height of the hurricane. Photo (c) Steve P.

Ian's partner Cindy returned to the villa only to have John and myself inform her that a particularly savage gust (which were increasing in strength and frequency) had peeled off the plank from the dock on which Ian's boat's stern cleat was mounted. As it was too dangerous to board the Jeanneau or even to fend off its vigorous assault on a Whaler-type runabout on which it was thumping, I accompanied Cindy (as ballast!) in her small SUV to go back to Miramar to inform Ian of the situation.

What'cha gonna do when it comes for you?
Amidst a hail of debris, palm fronds and one particularly well-aimed coconut to the roof, we arrived to see that Miramar had its own problems and that three of the school boats were in danger of snapping their lines. I have never seen a line so taut that a man standing on it would fail to deflect it to any degree, but Ian's face wasn't happy when trying to get back on the dock from the boat most broadside to the gusts. We went back to his villa in what could be best described as "loud, liquid air" to see this:

After that, things got a touch worse. The boat crushing the unseen runabout parted its bowlines, went broadside to the howling wind and slammed into the neighbouring villa's (thankfully empty) dock.

After the storm...the damage is on the starboard bow, but she's a tough old bird.
This particular dock had two concrete posts of somewhat sturdier potential than Ian's own, and Ian went aboard, even as the boat was yawing and heeling some 40 degrees, to rig ropes. I had the unusual experience of wrapping an anchor and a chain around a post to keep the boat in place while further lines were deployed.
A "lilo" (British for "inflatable pool chair") belonging to the Grants was returned from a hundred metres to windward.

It was at this point that we figured the height of the wind happened: some prolonged gusts of what we estimate was 80-plus knots, which meant we crawled off the dock on all fours as a spasming yacht tried to climb up a shuddering dock and squash us. Very vivid, and very bloody loud (see Mr. Jules' vivid video above).
Cadenza, the Hunter 42 that took half of its dock aground and tore up hull to deck joint and toerail (but which is probably salvageable). I saw this boat's dock split in half in front of me. Yikes.
The tropical storm hurricane, not being forecasted as such, was not prepared for as well as could be expected on Antigua. Canvas was left up and sails left on booms and forestays, creating windage that led to damage or, in some cases, probably to the loss of boats. Above pictured is a Hunter 42 I personally saw tear a boat-sized chunk of its own dock apart, only to ground heavily on the manmade island in the middle of Jolly Harbour. It sustained obvious and fairly severe damage, but was later secured and, as can be seen on a calm day later in the week, did not appear to be breached nor to have taken on water. Still, a sight I could have lived without, and illustrative of the immense power of the wind to part not only right-sized lines, but to tear apart pilings and lumber effortlessly.

We later heard that 15 boats were sunk in Jolly Harbour and hundreds of homes were flooded, deroofed and left without power around the island. By mutual agreement, we passed on starting the course that day, partially because the assigned boat had sustained some (reparable) damage, but also because everyone's nerves were well-shot by lunchtime. Astoudingly, the power did not waver in the villa properties, possibly because of standby generators. In the aftermath, local word was that Gonzalo, which would go on to do even greater damage in St. Maarten and, days later, Bermuda, went from TS to Cat 1 very rapidly over Antigua I saw a pressure drop of 1003 to 990 mb between 0700 and 0830h and from that low to bounce back to 1006mb by 1130h. I estimate as did the people I was with that we hit 75-80 knots at the very height of it. So my old "record" of 68 knots in the last squall of the 2010 Lake Ontario 300 has been, I would say, well broken.

Typical Antiguan coastline with atypical eight knots of true windspeed

Now, the good thing about a hurricane is that it's eventually over. The bad thing, from the point of view of taking a sailing course in a spot in the trade wind belt where the breeze is always 15 knots from the east, is that a hurricane literally sucks all the expected and customary winds away with it.
Ian Grant: A man who loves his work of improving mucking about in boats.
Still, RYA instructor Ian Grant is a pro and not only compressed five days of practice into four, but managed to have us travel 76 NM out of the usual 100 NM in conditions where hitting 3 knots of boatspeed was a rare and fleeting achievement.
Julie at the helm: She had achieved her Day Skipper ten years previously and was up for what's called a "mile-building course" to refresh her knowledge.
We weren't all there for the same exact reasons, of course. John C., although he participated in many of the activities, wasn't actually on a course, whereas Julie M. was on a quest for "official sea miles" (the various RYA course have minimum miles at sea requirements, some of which must be watch-standing, at night, in tidal conditions, and so on), whereas Steve P. was looking to consolidate his skills by going for a "Competent Crew" certification.
The fit Steve, who had an amazing trove of off-colour jokes and was ridiculously fit.
That's somewhat of the point of RYA courses, or at least what I've seen of them. You take them to have your existing knowledge and seamanship evaluated and, where such holes exist, they can be patched or at least identified on the fly. Everyone aboard was, or so it seemed to me, rather better than was strictly required for the course level they were taking, and certainly the boat handling, tacks, gybes and so on, while not particularly demanding given the light air conditions, were very well executed. I was rather impressed, as seemed Mr. Grant, at the execution of the "back the Beneteau down in a zigzag pattern between six or seven closely-spaced mooring balls". It was nice to have that level of skill aboard.
John at peace before his mood was soured after learning every restaurant in Antigua refrigerates red wine.

There was a fair bit of navigation in the form of coastal pilotage to get done, with the usual overfolded and pencil-nicked Imray charts I've seen before on RYA boats. Some modern passagemakers would suggest that working with hand compass bearings, sailing the depth contour, and working out backsight is overkill in this age of GPS plotters, and that sextant work/celestial is clearly not necessary. And generally such folk wouldn't be wrong..until the governments that run the GPS constellation panic and turn off or degrade GPS because of some perceived threat.
Pilotage in the daylight's a bit of a doddle in Antigua as there are loads of easily spotted hills and the biggest one, Mount Obama (not a joke) has a conveniently distinctive radio tower on it.
Now, when I can, I like to reduce sights for the mental exercise (not much as I have various "easy" methods of doing it on a single page), but also because, unlike GPS, using sextants and bearing compasses ties me into my environment in a more tactile way. Dead reckoning, transits, CN, pilotage and even, if you are feeling very nautical, the old lead line, is all good because YOU know where you are; you aren't taking the word of a machine interpreting a stream of data, which clearly can't care if you end up with a chunk of reef through the V-berth. I'm no Luddite; I just like the unchanging stars and paper charts to reinforce the man-made aids to navigation to suggest the most holistic awareness of where the boat and her crew are. The old ways are complementary to the newer; to abandon their tactile, analog contribution to situational and positional awareness would be akin to throwing out a hammer because you've purchased an electric screwdriver. The RYA would appear to agree: you're supposed to know where you are without the aid of a plotter, and to make "passage plans" that outline in detail how to arrive at places you've never seen based on chart information and, if you can winkle it out, "local knowledge".
Another view of Monserrat, which has lost much of its population since the last big eruptions.

Lest I give the wrong impression, however, there's plenty of time (especially in light airs) to actually look around and enjoy the environment. Antigua, its sister island of Barbuda, and the surrounding islands in the chain (including Nevis, St. Kitts, Redonda, and Guadaloupe to the south, all visible depending on conditions) are very appealing and surprisingly individualistic and there's no shortage of sea life and weather to admire.
More typically tropical Antiguan sunset. Photo (c) Steve P.

The waters are warm and beautiful (though I never fancied a swim, probably due to the lurid jellyfish that was sucked into the Lavac head...) and the view are spectacular.

Beating a course to round the SW corner of Antigua.

Post-hurricane clouds: By week's end, we were hoping one of these would hold wind.

We made an effort (sailing fitfully, then a quick motor) to overnight at English Harbour, the British naval base greatly expanded by Admiral Horatio Nelson into one of the nicest and easily defensible harbours I know of.
On course for English Harbour at a blazing 2.3 knots.
Once there, we were able to have a decent wash (the facilities seemed largely undamaged from the hurricane) and could admire the various fortifications, old "Fort York"-like architecture (but bigger and surrounded by palm trees, naturally) and I even took in a charming local museum, which, unlike similar places here in Canada, had its windows thrown open to catch the breeze...such as it was.
The columns called The Pillars of Hercules, plus The Hat of Steve.

John suggested we Med moor right here. We didn't use the tender all week, although we anchored a few times.

English Harbour boat yard: The place is a strange mix of good old boats and superyachts and Julie.

Why, there's one now: about 80 feet of aluminum ketch.
...briefly eclipsed by yet another vast touristic catamaran...

The Admiral's Inn, should one ever feel the need to have a Sunday roast at 17 degrees North. Easy to find, it's to the right of the tribute to Nelson's penis.

Obligatory model of HMS Victory. The place is a Nelson fanboy's dream and a sort of colonial shrine.
Nelson died shortly after hoisting this signal. My camera died shortly after taking this shot.

Shirley Heights, not only a great place for a fort, but also a big party spot.

Thanks to careful planning, we were able to eat ashore most nights, a few times in Jolly Harbour itself, sadly featuring after Monday a few smashed or sunken boats. Conveniently proximate was a dock where we practised stern-to docking, warping off and other exercises; a 20 metre walk away was Al Porto, an Italian restaurant run by a charming French couple, Alain and Sandrine, serving a lot of local seafood and the aforementioned too-cold red wine. And Ian's daughter works there...Antigua's not really very big, is what I'm getting at.
The good ship Miramar, our home and classroom. As it was a 1986, I found the layout logical and the construction robust. Don't get me started.

A pair of the hardly rare "Charterus Catamarani". Easily spotted by the constantly roaring gensets.

In my opinion, more restaurants should have 60-foot docks.

In the end, and after many experiences too mundane to mention, I got my Day Skipper cert, and with it, a little thing called an International Certificate of Competence, which ensures port officials I'm less of a menace over the waves and in their harbours than I might be with, say, a rotten, token affair such as a PCOC. Ad astra, babies! Although I do not care to see that sort of weather anytime soon, and if I see it coming, we will run out to sea...it's crazy on land in a hurricane.

"Nelson's Blood", eh? I'd heard he was sent back to England pickled in brandy.But I do enjoy a tot of rum.


Well, that took only seven years...

Thank you to my very patient readership for enduring the tedium of watching a man with a boat learn to watch paint dry.

Still plugging away.
It seems I've had just over 100,000 views of this series of hapless missives from the "too dull to know better" boat restoration blog, for which I thank you all, individually where possible and collectively when not. Up next when I can collate some photos and lash together some deathless prose, the tale of my first hurricane and the reason you can officially call me "Skipper".
I was there. I don't recommend it...well, not at that particular Monday morning.


Sailing is relative

A man dead nearly 60 years still holds in the popular imagination the role of designated scientific genius, even, arguably, more so than the still-with-us Professor Stephen Hawking. Albert Einstein was many things, of course, besides the pre-eminent physicist of the first half of the 20th century, a theorist so innovative that he is mentioned in the same breath as Galileo and Newton. He was a musician, a refugee emigre from Hitler's Germany, a philosopher and an early peace activist.

He was also a poor, if enthusiastic, sailor. Tales from Einstein's American life, comprising the last 22 years of it, are clear on the point that the great physicist seemed to have no sense of direction, experienced difficulties with his line controls and even keeping his mast stayed, and was regularly so oblivious to time and tide that he would often ground out on sandbars.

And he couldn't swim.
Einstein and vacation pal. Note Einstein's "women's sundials".

But like so many sailors not burdened by an excess of formal skills, Einstein certainly seemed to enjoy his time on the water. Reportedly, he would spend hours becalmed scribbling down his thoughts with pencil and pad, and clearly, he was able to think of ways to bring his radical physics down to the level of (relatively) easy explanation.

Certainly, when one sails out of a boat club, there are plenty of opportunities to see excellent seamanship. Some people, and I count myself among them, seek out situations of boat, wind and weather to improve their sailing skills, and books are consumed and courses taken to that end.
Space and those shrouds are curved.
But just as clearly, there are sailors whose ambitions do not extend much beyond "messing about in boats", and while that can make for interesting docking scenarios, such skippers are rarely a danger to others, and if they are a danger to themselves, they frequently seem unaware of it and get themselves out of whatever trouble better seamanship might have avoided. These days, of course, truly bad sailors just hit the big red button.

For the most part, however, the restorative and relaxing process of sailing, rather than its relative efficiency, would seem to be the goal of some of the sailors at my club, and of Einstein, who sailed a very nice boat given to him in Germany...until the Nazis stole it.

Of course, seamanship requires both vigilance and focus in order to make use of its precepts. Einstein wouldn't have been the first scientist or sailor to have his mind drift farther than the boat, but there is also suggestions that for all his nautical vagaries, Einstein could actually sail perfectly well when his mind was on it.
Einstein's German boat: state of the art for 1929.
Perhaps this focus on focus, outside of racing and passagemaking, is a little overdone. Clearly, Einstein personified the unruffled helmsman and even when in clearly dangerous situations, he never seemed to panic. His passengers, less so. But relatively speaking, can it be said that he got less out of sailing than the more skilled? It would appear not. The great genius, who died in bed and not on deck, loved sailing and if his methods were unorthodox, that is emblematic of a great number of folk at home on boats.


Lord of the ring terminals

Ye olde main switch.

Warning: Loads of photos in this one.

I have maintained for some time that the reason I have taken so long to do jobs on Alchemy is that I have felt it critical for the safety and well-being of myself and my family that I understand all the mechanical, electrical and hydraulic devices aboard that I have installed, or have yet to install. Given my utter absence of any sort of practical instruction in such matters, and the fact I never took even rudimentary "shop" class in high school, and that I don't own a car nor did I grow up with greasy hands from repairing them in my parents' driveway, it's been a bit of a slog.

Sometimes, delay is indeed about ignorance or inexperience. Now, I've had plenty of help from friends, professionals and friends who do their boat work at a professional level. I have also not hesitate to contract out work (generally to my own designs and measurements) that I am too inexperienced to do, even if I had the right equipment. The Aquadrive thrust yoke and the engine stringers fall under this category. Other times, however, hold-ups can be about a missing part or parts one needs to do the job correctly. Not that I didn't have a lot of parts at hand to revamp the diesel's 12 volt system:
Just some of the bounty from the closing of the Dock Shoppe, now reopened as "The Dock Shoppe".
Note the completed 2 gauge tinned wire lengths below, made up as per the reliable refit guru Maine Sail's methods. While I had been assured by local authorities that 2 ga. would be robust enough to run current from battery to diesel starter, I knew that what I really wanted to do was to have heavier gauge wire, which not only can carry greater current and suffers less "voltage drop" but arguably takes longer to decay. So Peter from Holland Marine had an appropriate length at a sale price. Off to Mississauga via bike, and yes, 45 feet of 2/0 gauge is heavy.
This rather nice examples of my crack at "Maine Sail"-quality crimping and heat shrinking technique will be repurposed with the house battery bank. This stuff is too pricy to waste.
Meanwhile, while I had already ordered a selection of 2/0 ga. "Power Lugs" for crimping purposes, I was finding, somewhat to my dismay, that I needed a variety I didn't have. I must have killed a day phoning around trying to trace these items. In the end, I reordered bags of FTZ lugs in 1/2 inch, 3/8 inch and 5/16th from Bargainboatparts.com, who had actually spotted an ordering error in my prior order and sent me a free bag of the right item) and from Binnacle.com, who had the otherwise extinct 2/0 ga. 1/4" hole crimpable lug, made by Ancor. These items arrived in what I can only describle as a dilatory manner, and the NYC office folk asked me not to send stuff to them anyone as I was a pest, and probably mad and bitey-looking as summer dribbled away and I was a few lugs short of a connection.

Blank, long or short-barreled, angled three different ways...who knew? Now, I know.
Naturally, as is the way of boat refitting when one is constantly salving ignorance with time and money and occasionally burns and cuts, I found out that items such as Power Lugs can come without holes at all. Yep, I could order a selection of blank lugs and simply drill them as tight as I wish, depending on the bolt or stud to which I wished to dog them. At a recent party, I met an old pal named Pat, whom I hadn't seen for literally decades, is some sort of supervisory electrical contractor fellow and he has bags of these things he can acquire for me, and I don't even know his union handshake. Needless to say, I will be stocking up on spares from Pat.
I estimate the "kick" of the current draw of the starter to be about 170 amps. So a 250 amp fuse would've worked
Meanwhile, there were other elements to consider, even though this set-up is strictly "rubbishy little battery to switch to diesel" By upsizing the gauge of the wires, I was increasing the potential load they could safely carry. This means recalculating the amp limit of the fuse involved.

Ah, that's more like it.
Because I wish (in the future) to have "switched flexibility" with my starting options, I had to calculate for starting the engine from my as-yet unbought house bank. Basically, I want to be able to pump amps at specificed voltages into said bank, which, when topped up, will "spill" via relay/echo charger current into a starting battery, which, when full, will not overcharge. But I also wish to have the option, should I experience a failure in the starter battery or circuit, to start the engine from the house bank, or vice-versa. This is actually just the start of a system I hope is robust enough to do the job, but flexible enough via switching to stand unanticipated outages. Because in cruising, unanticipated outages are best anticipated.
New, beefier main switch means bigger studs, meaning bigger ring terminals...oy.
So the old main switch got "back-benched" to a future role featuring less amperage, and the new Blue Sea switch (which is matched to wire and fuse) went in. The only problem was that the 12 ga. conductors that fit on the old switch's 3/8 inch post...crudely....needed 1/2 in. ring terminals.
About five bucks per light, and I should get two or three years per doorbell battery, maybe more for infrequently accessed stowage spaces.

Off to Mississauga I went on my bike to A1 Parts. It's quite a bit what Active Surplus used to be like: chaotic, but they somehow know where slightly obscure ring terminals would be. I got some dandy wee LEDs and assorted holders for my future "open a locker hatch, light goes on" project.
The labeller has been getting a workout, and so have all the big and little fancy crimpers I've acquired.

But I digress, even though my legs were getting a decent workout cycling out to Mississauga. That's where all the obscurities are. Now, one of the slightly odd things about my Beta Marine 60 is that it comes in, as with all Betas, evidently, a multiplicity of variants: There are gensets, there are keel-cooled British canal boat diesels, there are several gear box options both mechanical and hydraulic. Betas are known as a basic, decent diesel (made by Kubota) that has been customized for the typical "motor cave" in modern sailboats, which, quite typically, lies under the companionway stairs, which tend to hinge upward. Revealed, the Beta will have the "consumables", the belts, filters, and engine controls, within easy reach, at the front of the engine. That's their charm. I did not require charm, and I got an engine with (for instance) a fuel filter that did not have a priming button, but rather a little device with a tiny priming lever. The diagrams that came with my Beta (and the various manuals I've been able to download) do not precisely match my engine's layout. The fuel intake and return is well aft. There's a mysterious hose. I had to work by feel and extrapolate. You'd think I'd be getting used to this by now.

The positive post on the starter: this was a process of elimination, really, as it doesn't match the blueprint so well.
A mirror and a strong light came in handy. Of course, positive and negative posts are differently sized (3/8" and 5/16", or their metric equivalents, of which there is quite a lot on the Beta) and so there were a couple of crimping errors involving 1/16" of an inch. 
That digital caliper/micrometer cost me $9 and I use it a great deal. So, it was a great deal.
Why worry? Because a tight fit to the post or bolt in question gives maximum conductive surface area, tends to exclude moisture a little better, and is less likely to vibrate freely. It's a steel boat. I wouldn't want these cables in a condition of "full of amps" flopping about.

Before: As shipped, all that red wire suggests this is the needful place.
I've certainly used mirrors and camera to good effect in these tasks. Despite my compartively fantastic engine access, I can't see some spots easily without excessive, unappealing grunting.
After: there's a small "blade" type fuse in there that's 40 amps. Guess what I can't find above 30 amps?
This is the finished positive post on the starter. Behind the lug are wires leading to the loom (the bundle of connections going to the readout panel at the helm) and to the alternator.
Slightly out of focus are the various cutting and crimping tools I have been using for some time now. I have yet to regret buying decent tools.
This is the negative, or ground, conductor, along a beefy 2/0 gauge. It goes from a perfectly nondescript and unmarked bolt on the block adjacent to the starter, straight back to the negative post on the battery. Both positive and negative conductors are long enough (about 1.7 metres) to reach anywhere in the engine bay I am likely to tie down the permanent start battery.

It only looks half-assed. It's merely temporary to ge tme moving before haulout.
 Leads connected, meter in hand, I checked all my voltages. This smallish 12 VDC is only required to stay charged, to start the diesel (fairly obvious, that one), and to power the single bilge pump I currently have installed, despite the fact that water only gets down there to date if I fail to close the pilothouse roof hatch when it starts raining.
The terminal block with the Fuse of the Gods. And the cover of the Fuse of the Gods.
According to ABYC standards, which I generally find sensible, the fuse from the positive battery terminal should be no more than seven inches from said terminal. This is six inches. So it hangs in the air...those 2/0 ga. wires easily support it. Again, this will be done to code later when I integrate a house bank with the engine circuits.
And this was with no fuel supply.
Eventually, after various measurements and a very technical spot of thumb-sucking, I declared the power aspects done and actually started the engine. It obliged on what I would term "the first crank". What was odd was that there was no fuel supply. Not being prone to seeing religious icons in the reflection from a shiny diesel, I felt sure that the "0.1 hours" on the meter was from a test-run at the Beta factory and that there was elderly but still viable fuel somewhere in the injectors. Or it was Neptune pulling my leg. Regardless, I shut her down quickly...all I really wanted was to spin the starter.

The fuel lines are in a somewhat unexpected place, but it's accessible.
 Having not found precisely what was depicted in my documentation, namely "fuel in and out" (diesels return unburnt fuel via a "return line" back to the fuel tank for further exploding later on), I called in the redoubtable Captain Matt, who was in a perversely gratifying way, about as baffled as I was as to where certain things were. The presence of split loom on fuel hoses, making them look like bundled wires, he found unorthodox, but between the two of us, we followed the hoses back from the obvious spot of the fuel filter and sussed out how to hook it up. Which I did.

Now, there is 100 gallons of diesel in the fuel tanks in the keel, but it has been there for some years. I needed, for static and dynamic tests of my diesel installation, a small amount, say 10 litres, of fresh diesel. So here's the yellow jerrycan bungeed into place, with the hoses clamped more or less securely. I squeezed the bulb, I primed the little lever, I checked my Big Deal Battery Switch, and hell, yes, the diesel ran. Eagerly.

There should be water hitting that water.
But there was an issue. My seacock was open and there was water in the Perko strainer, but no sign of it leaving the boat having cooled the inferno-like exhaust gases of the modern diesel. Having burnt up an Atomic 4 in an ignominious episode in the swaddling days of my boat-owning career, I knew "no aqueous throughput" was an issue. So I shut down again.

I've had to get inventive working alone. This is holding the Perko seawater strainer at the precise height I needed to reposition it 2.5 inches lower.
 The next day (because I work for a living, and I need to mull over the possible solutions), I checked the strainer and the level of the water seemed a little below the intake and output hose barbs. I thought I might have mounted it slightly high, and while I knew the impeller on the engine could create some impressive suction, why make it work too hard? So I lowered the Perko 2.5 inches, based on where I suspected the waterline was.
About $250 to replace the entire pump. This compares to $450 to replace the Sherwood F-85 pump on my old Westerbeke.
Then I had to inspect the impeller, because running it dry might have damaged it. At the same time, I verified the pump model so I can get a proper service kit for it and some spare "run-dry" impellers. Ya never know, but ya should.

Sometimes when you shut down, the crankshaft will reverse a half-revolution, leading to "backwinded vanes"

The impeller looked OK, but I will probably pull it and keep it as a spare and put in a Globe "Run Dry". As one does.
That's just hot air, much like this blog.
So I fired up, briefly, again. Still no water out of the exhaust. Shut down. Ponder. Wonder if there's a blockage in the standpipe. Unscrew the cap. Here the hissing of inrushing air, suggesting a partial vacuum. Ah, of course.

Looks like a Dalek's gotten into the bilges.
 I attempted to "plunge" the standpipe with a boat hook, and then to "blow" it with some hose. And I quickly learned about displacement, although with less "eureka" and more "where's the friggin' teatowel?" And I pondered. I dreamt about the standpipe like I was the sickly, questing Frodo and it was the Eye of Sauron longing to thwart me.

Basically, this was foreseeable. The boat has been immobile at a sunny dock since April. There's probably a reef or eight feet of weeds under the boat, and all varieties of water creature may have set up house. So I needed a plan.

Meet the 'plan': a bottle brush on a boat hook
Some vigorous scrubbing and cursing later, followed by more scrubbing and the formulation of Plan C (switch the engine intake hose to a different T-off/barb, of which there are four), I declared myself ready.
And lo, the throughly mixed exhaust moved upon the face of the waters.
In short, it worked. Plenty of throughput. All readings nominal. I put the hydraulic transmission in reverse. The shaft spun. Nothing fell off. Nothing leaked. Smoke did not emit. Whoa, she pulls fiercely against the dock lines.
The author pretending to have another idea.

Tomorrow, I motor.
I was too busy remembering how to steer 15 tonnes of inertial mass to over-emote, but this was clearly a big deal.
UPDATE: 2014.10.03: The first hour of driving back and forth, stopping with full reverse, tight turns at speed and general "hovering' is complete. While the Thordon stern bearing squealed a bit at first (and during tied-off in-gear testing at dock), it soon freed up. First impressions are "holy crap, I can stop and back down a lot better" and "I really like this hydralic shifting". Not to mention that had the engine bay hatch been down, I would have heard very little diesel noise, as the AquaDrive and soft mounts reduced motor vibration significantly. Capt. Matt, who was aiding and abetting, particularly in the docking and undocking, seemed very satisfied with today's efforts. He understands better than anyone what a long road it is to semi-competence, or at least, to leave "the horrible warning zone".

Your correspondent, not entirely visible at the helm. Please ignore the wayward tarp...it's there to cut the heat on an uninsulated metal pilothouse roof. Also ignore the dirt and dust: I'm refitting beside an airport, after all.

I freely admit that I am pleased with myself and I won't deny it. I may open up the good stuff tonight.