Copyright (c) Marc Dacey/Dark Star Media unless otherwise indicated. Above photo (c) Marc Dacey. Powered by Blogger.

2018-05-20

Comms 'n' sea

The baffled cat, "Shadow". Much as I would like to bring her, she's not coming on the voyage. Wouldn't be fair, and likely would be fatal for the cat.
Leading with a cat photo should not only get me some cheaply earned hits, but also suggest I am capable of whimsy. Which is true, but not often when it comes to the boat. However, I'm willing to make an exception when it comes to my cat, who only goes into the entirely wild yard under supervision.
The Vesper XB-8000 AIS transceiver booting up. All the wiring is loose (and the holes in the pilothouse unsealed) until I can route said wiring back into the pilothouse roof, which will be thereafter fastened down to the pilothouse frame for the first time in ages.
I, on the other hand, tend to work solo on the boat. This is because Mrs. Alchemy works at a distant wildlife centre for stupidly protracted hours, particularly in fertile spring, and I work from home upon request as an editor. Which means, in practice, plenty of work some days and bugger off  by 1100h others. That's condusive to boat work, which is why I haven't worked in an office since I got into boating in 1999. Sincerely, what have I missed? Oh, yes: NOTHING.
Had to download some USB drivers, but otherwise, this installation of Vesper Marine's software was a doddle.
Anyway, in a week that saw, as part of our house-sale process, the acquisition of a stackable washer-dryer and the transport of same about three kilometres by hand cart and shoe leather (we lack a car and rarely miss one, save for when we have to do this sort of First/Third World transit), I was able to drill some strategic holes and get both the radar and AIS cabling inside the pilothouse. The cabling is sloppy and excessive because I have yet to decide where to mount the AIS module and the radar display...to think I thought "I wonder if it's big enough?"...damn, it's huge from 45 cm. away.
From marinetraffic.com, evidence that Alchemy can both see and be seen, at least in terms of AIS. And yes, I turn it off when I leave the boat. I actually have no interest in pointing out where I keep my tools.
The AIS setup was pretty straightforward, save for the usual search for the USB drivers and the paranoia surrounding the correct inputting of the MMSI number. However, all went well and, as seen above, we are now transmitting a Class B AIS signal, complete with some related data attached to our MMSI number. Huzzah! I didn't screw up the mast connections!
Boat, as seen from the boat. It's all a little meta, isn't it?
Sure, English, but just this once.
The Furuno 1815 manual and related guidance (note the "quick start" flip cards to the left of the above photo) are excellent, if densely detailed. Because I tend to learn by doing, I will likely take the now rigged-for-sailing boat out tomorrow to play with the radar controls and see what I (literally) see from a few miles south of Toronto.
The first sweep. Of course, inside a basin next to about 300 condos, plus a tree line, it's a dog's breakfast.

The radar is complex in terms of the variety of tunings, ranges, guard rings, and display options, but not dauntingly so, and on first glance it seems very much what the skipper ordered. What remains to be done is linking the plotter via a to-be-purchased NMEA 2000 patch cord to the AIS unit, so that AIS targets (and their calculated distance away) are visible on the plotter. I may also link via the secondary NMEA 0183 wiring the radar to the AIS, so I can have AIS information available on the radar screen. What I won't likely do is have radar "layover" on the plotter...I think that would be visually too distracting and I want to keep radar church and plotter state separate for now. Still, a good few days' work.



2018-05-17

Sticking around

That big radome doesn't look so big up there and seems like it won't interfere with the sails when tacking. That rescue hook is not part of our rig, but of our dock.
When I last posted, it was about an unexpected day-long power outage during which our frozen and refrigerated food was saved by a portable generator. Today's post is about the extensive modification of the mast prior to putting it in, or, in the case of our deck-stepped mast in its tabernacle, on Alchemy. Said extensive modification involved the running of four lengths of wire (two 1/2" thick LMR-400-UF cables for AIS and VHF antennas, one 18 mm Furuno radar cable and one 1/4" UHF-style GPS cable). This proved to be...tricksy.
In order to get a greater bearing surface for the AIS antenna mount, I added a bit of scrap teak to an existing teak pad on the spreader. Saved drilling fresh holes in said spreader.
The prior RG-58 VHF cable was inside a cable-tied length of nasty foam pipe insulation, along with several 14 ga. wires for the various mast-mounted (and now LED) lights. So while I could clip the PL-259 connector from one end and pull the cable out of that half-assed loom (presumably to reduce mast noise and halyard abrasion/fouling, but a pain in the ass for us), I could not use it to "fish" new cable. In addition, the new cables, save for the wee GPS run (which is part of the Vesper XB-8000 package) were considerably bulkier than is customary on Lake Ontario, because they transmit more power to the antenna with less signal loss, a worthy ambition for the prospective offshore sailboat. So that meant cutting holes in the mast large enough to get them in.

Five screws, tidy heat shrinking and no sharp radius. Should work well.
So I had to get inventive. In my garage of Too Many Boat Things, I found the 1/4"(6 mm) forestay to Valiente I had removed in 2013 when I rerigged. I cut off the terminals and I had abour 40 feet/12 metres of reasonably stiff wire. I drilled the VHF hole in the top plate of the mast between the sheaves and, with the coax taped to one end of the forestay wire, carefully pushed it down the mast. Carefully, indeed, because it's a busy area in there and I did not wish to foul halyards or that grubby, if still functional, foam loom of 14 ga. wire.
This is the Scanstrut LMM-2 gimballing radome mount. It's pretty slick, but I had to be careful to get it centered and rivited correctly.
After I learned I could spin the stay to get it past obstacles, the work went slowly, if productively. Together with Mrs. Alchemy, we fished the four wires to the appropriate mast-base exits. After that, it was time to do the radar mount.
A total of 12 3/8" pop rivets are holding this on. Feels pretty permanent to me.
This was mostly just careful work and following the IKEA-like instructions from Scanstrut. Then the usual routine of inking the right spots, using a  nail punch and hammer, followed by the use of a small drill bit and then a larger drill bit, and then the riveting. It took about three hours.
The Vesper AIS's GPS receiver is mounted on the same gimbal as the radome, nice and high.
May we never heel or pitch-pole this much! But I'm ready if we do.
Loads of crimping, chafe-guarding and tidying up later, we moved the mast to the Place of Hoisting.
Two of the delays in getting the mast in were the realization that Alchemy was pointing in the wrong direction and that the mast had to be craned on its "back"
Because I have so many stays and shrouds and must mount rather exactly into the tabernacle, the crane activity can take longer than the allotted 30 minutes per boat, and it's to the credit of my friends who helped me that certain slowdowns (like the inability to retrieve the hoisting line) were dealt with in such a patient way. I need to tell the crane operator I'm going to need an hour next time.
Alchemy unbound: waiting for my turn.
Some frustration, followed by a round of beverages purchased to mitigate frustration, later, Alchemy was back at her dock with shrouds and stays provisionally tensioned....which reminds me, I need one of these.
Nice! Got the full-length battens in unassisted this year, which is always a little tricky.
So the jib and staysail are now in place, as well as the rather good-looking mainsail pictured above. I declare the season underway.  The next steps will be drilling fresh holes in the pilothouse in order to route all those cables to their new devices.








2018-05-05

Powerless (almost)

This is the heavy-gauge extension cord not on the boat. It's powering the fridge...
A short digression on preparing for life aboard was prompted yesterday by a rather strong wind storm (gusts of 60 knots were reported at the lake, and there were perhaps some local downbursts of greater intensity. Intense enough to down large trees across the city, anyway, which led to a large number of discrete power outages.
...which is powered by the dependable Honda 2000, now easily over a decade old and showing the wear and tear of being bicycled for many winters to an otherwise electricity-free boatyard some distance away. Why? To charge batteries on Valiente I enjoyed transporting even less.
Ours started between five and six o'clock Friday; I don't know for sure as I was having a mast-moving-inspired nap, which was broken by Mrs. Alchemy's return from errands shouting "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WIND?" (I suspect she thought she was still outside). Thinking better of my CanLit-inspired answer of "no, who has seen the wind?", I arose to relative silence: a house without electricity in it is, even to my comparatively aged ears, a quieter place. Save for the honking of the cars negotiating an intersection with dead traffic lights outside, of course. Plus that howling wind.

Wood that it had stood.
Sailorly habits mean we have candles and flashlights to hand and the outage was only the south side, our side, of the street; we had no particular reason to assume it would be long, so we picked up a pizza for dinner and played Settlers of Catan by candlelight. The game's vaguely medieval, so it made sense. But as the hours went by with no restoration, I started to be concerned that the food in the fridge and the chest freezer would defrost or otherwise perish. Other sailorly habits include shopping the grocery flyers, meaning we have food items bought on sale to last a few weeks, and some of which are frozen. So it was time to invoke the generator.
As seen on Kindle.
The Honda 2000 I bought many years ago has yielded stalwart service when I've needed to charge batteries or run a power tool too far from an outlet for even the ridiculous lengths of extension cord we own. This was such a time. Its output is approximately 10 amps on the AC side, with a brief allowance for surges, meaning I could safely alternate fridge and freezer (and charge my son's computer which holds his textbooks) to keep their contents sufficiently cool (the furnace, too, was off, but the house was about 19C).
Wires were gnarled, but that house was missed, luckily.
It worked a charm. I ran it about two hours last night and three hours this morning before going off to do mast work, and when I got home, power had been restored. We did something similar a few years ago after a summer thunderstorm-related outage, and it's been a good reminder that life restricted to 10 amps is more or less daily boat life in some ways, and that being conscious of what life without mains power is like is salutary to a future when sun and wind will keep the batteries, for the most part, topped up. I'd write more, but there's a hot shower to take.

2018-05-03

Mast appeal


At what I estimate is about 220 kilos, this is always a group effort to remove from the mast rack.
As we continue to actually install things in preparation to cast off next year, there are a number of alterations, modifications and fabrications to do or to prepare to do. The mast is getting a few upgrades, for instance, including the replacement of fairly worn-out, if still functional, RG-58 VHF coax for more rugged and less signal-lossy LMR-400-UF coax; this was on the learned advice of fellow sailor Ken Goodings of S/V Silverheels III. The coax will run to a mast-top Metz antenna and also to my new Vesper AIS antenna on a separate run to our new XB-8000 AIS Class B unit. For a nice change, I'm not a total newbie at radio comms; I had a CB radio and SW receiver hobby as a teenager and that's how I learned to solder. I'm sticking with the familiar crimp and solder PL-259 connectors, which I will "skin" with heat shrink tubing at the antenna ends.
It's raining today, so Mrs. Alchemy and I will do the stays and shrouds and untangling tomorrow
So I will have to "fish" the new cable carefully and then solder in the yard. Just out of shot is a light stand with two outlets; once again, my 12 ga. "contractor grade" extension cords will earn their keep as I solder and heat shrink out of doors. In addition to those tasks, I will be tapping threaded holes for the new gimballed radar GPS mount, plus, of course, making a hole in the mast large enough (and smooth enough) to take the radome's cable. There's sufficient slots in the mast base to accommodate all these new cable runs, but it will complicate putting the stick in when that happens.
I was gratified to realize this was a near-perfect fit.
Like many local sailors, I have a few examples of the well-built Blue Performance cockpit and bulkhead storage bags aboard. They've stood the test of time (perhaps because we've kept them essentially below decks) and they are very useful for keeping various bits of equipment in place. The bag pictured above spent a few seasons (well, since it was put in) on the back of the pilothouse helm seat, but this prevented the seat from rotating 360 degrees. So it struck me yesterday that the companionway hatch might work. Did it ever. With a series of drill bits, the torquey Makita, and some cutting oil, I made two holes, tapped them and put in two 1/4" hex head 3/4" bolts in the SS "lip" behind the hinge in the companionway hatch's top flap. I like the fit and I can stow a VHF, a couple of winch handles, sunscreen and maybe a pair of binoculars to hand. Most of the time at sea, this hatch will be secured in the open position; in following seas or moderate rain, the top flap will be open. Only in heavy seas or driving rain will it be fully closed, so this small change will allow us to retrieve a small list of items without leaving the "sailing deck". Nice.

Port side, reporting! (That rust is from grinding, not deck corrosion...). The whole boat needs a good wash after winter.


Speaking of nice, the new transverse exhaust installation is, to my deep satisfaction, working properly (and the boat isn't filling up with stinky water, either). The exhaust "note" has changed slightly, which I'm guessing is a function of the reduced back pressure. I am thinking of putting in an exhaust gas temperature unit with an alarm to warn me if I'm seeing the higher exhaust gas temperatures that would suggest, indirectly and without actually peering over the side, reduced cooling water flow (or that I've sucked a plastic bag into the circuit or thrown a couple of vanes from the impeller). Such a device can also provide data about how hard the engine is working with a given prop pitch, which, having a VariProp, I can remedy in the water.  But for now, I am content with the winter's labours.

Motoring on a heel will tell me more, of course, but for that, I'll need the mast in. Watch this space.
...and the starboard exhaust is exhausting nicely, too.

2018-04-30

Return to the floating world

Still to replace: the cracked shut-off hose under the actual sink. It's complex down there.
Behold the (mostly) completed new galley drain. That four-piece AWAB opposing hose-clamp set-up is the apotheosis of belt-and-suspenders sailing, given that it's a ridiculously short piece of hose...but then I was the one who specified a taller pipe nipple, meaning the PVC elbow and the nipple on the Marelon ball valve very nearly meet in the middle. Oh, well. It didn't leak from there on the day.

Still life with bicycle and boat. Yeah, she's a bit hefty, that boat.
The day in question was Saturday, April 28th, cool, windy and frequently rainy. Sub-par in most respects, save that a big push from Mrs. Alchemy (painting a specialt) and myself (wrenching the same) got the job(s) done.
The bottom paint this year was once again Pettit, but of a delightful Hunter Green not unlike the cove stripe (which also got touched up by my fastidious co-skipper. Next year, we grind back to the bare metal in Nova Scotia, but that's a future post.
The new outlet for the head drain is behind the redone caulking for the forward-looking sonar.
There was a little bit of water ingress from the depth transducer last year, so Mrs. Alchemy took charge of "dissolving the old 5200", a stinky and labourious process, and applying "fast cure". She was more careful inside and out than was possible with last year's rushed (and bloody) process, and nothing is leaking as of yesterday's dockside inspection.
"Fire Escape", owned by a fire chief, naturally.
Unlike previous launch days, the crane position dictated we were to go in quite early, as the second boat in the east yard, shortly after 7 AM. It was calm, however, and not yet raining...
The "sling crews" step from boat to boat to do their work.

That fibreglass hull needs a touch more TLC than ours.
The front row of what we call "The Inner Basin" is full of alarmingly large powerboats: Alchemy is far from being big in such company, although at about 15 tonnes, we are not insignificant.
Sling marks obtained!
The head of hair belongs to the owner of the next boat after us.
Note the "cinch belts" holding the slings in place. This keep the slings from "creeping" up the slope of the keel, as I am never sure if my moving things about in the boat all winter has altered the ideal place on which to put the slings in terms of a level hoist.
People never fail to take a step back at this stage. Note the nice job done on the keel bottom. That plate is 3/4" thick.

You can never have too many fenders for this gig.
The lift this year was quick and efficient; compared to the more methodical haulout process, launch is usually faster.

Putting pennants on moorings in better weather earlier in the week. At launch, it was too wet and busy for photos!
After docking, however, I was crewing on the club workboat and we had the highest number of "splashed with dead motor" cases I can recall...so it was a very busy morning on that boat.
Maybe I should shift the sling marks aft a little bit?
Long morning story short, the engine fired instantly (I had done a static test in the cradle the previous day) and we docked without further incident, although there was slight leaking beneath the new Marelon ball valves that needed a bit of tape to cure, no pun intended. I may have to spin them off next fall and be more generous with the pipe dope. As of yesterday, however, the damp has been banished. We will monitor for further issues. The dual exhaust is also, gratifyingly, dual exhausting, and the engine "note" is slightly changed, suggesting that there is, in fact, reduced back pressure.
The benefits of being (nearly) first in is getting an unobstructed beauty shot.
Next up: Manifesting the radar love and readying the mast with new VHF and AIS runs.

2018-04-21

Exhaustive reasoning, part 2


It's the most wonderful time of the year! Docklines at the ready.
The pins were barely in the steel before I was walking along the reassembled dock to put on my docklines. I've been told that, instead of every previous year when ours was one of the last boat in the water at launch (this year on April 28th), we would be one of the first, thanks to a change in the crane deployments. That means an extra emphasis on being ready to rock off the slings. Or at least, to motor sedately.
The angle is intentional: the waterlift muffler is not on the centreline. Blurriness unintentional.
Behold the stainless steel exhaust circuit shut-off.  It's the culmination of a long-planned alteration to Alchemy's diesel exhaust setup, one that (after an appropriate real-life test period) will allow me to get rid of the dreaded anti-siphon loop, which I consider a weak spot in getting water out of the boat, having had them fail on me on two different vessels.
Yes, skipper, there is something called a "flash".  Seen on the right: the anti-siphon valve. Mine's a Vetus.
In the picture above can be seen the fibreglass "T-fitting", a short run of exhaust house down to a SS ball valve, and a further length of hose down to the waterlift muffler. Also visible is the anti-siphon circuit, the purpose of which is to keep cooling sea water from backing into the engine once it ceases to use its exhaust to "push" it uphill and out of the boat. Well and good: my diesel is at or below sea level, and is more so on a heel. Water sucked in for cooling purpose via a seacock off the standpipe is perhaps one metre below sea level: anyone who has attempted to hold an inverted bowl full of air in a swimming pool can get a sense of the pressure involved. So the anti-siphon valve, by dissipating this pressure, allows the impeller to send seawater (and the heat it draws from the engine via the heat exchange) out of the boat, combined with the diesel's exhaust. It's why one's boat squirt out the stern, or, in our case, out the side.
Yes, I like to label. This shows the distance of the valve above the waterlift muffler. The top of the valve ball is just about at the waterline level of the boat at zero degree, or "no heel". This means that very little water can accumulate above it without draining to either side of the transverse exhaust.
Problems can occur with this anti-siphon valve, however, and I wanted to avoid complexity. Even though we sail in fresh water, I have had the "plunger and spring" part of the valve corrode and or stick shut and have had exhaust water back into the exhaust manifold, occasioning the dreaded "hydrolock" and extensive repairs and remediation. That's why I wanted to avoid the issue entirely: that's why, noting I already had an unusual starboard side exhaust, decided to go for a two-fer.

The new, port-side exhaust outlet being welded into place.
It got warm.
This involved some fabrication: Stainless steel "nipples", Sch. 80 and grooved to better accept hose-clamped exhaust hose, were welded in port and starboard. All credit to A. Barlow, my welder/fabricator of choice. As mentioned previously, he also did the new galley and head drain nipples in the same, robust form factor.
Back to the bare metal. It won't be the only time: we're having the entire bottom redone in Nova Scotia.

The idea was to dispense with the need for an anti-siphon loop at all. This installation means, in essence, that the area of the exhausts is effectively doubled (there's now two exhaust hoses, not one). This leads to less "back pressure"; the exhaust gases that propel themselves and the cooling water do not have to work as hard to get the mixture off the boat. The absence or negation of the anti-siphon circuit is compensated by the fact that the boat is nearly always heeled to some degree; the downward slope of one exhaust hose leaves the "windward" or "high side" hose open to the atmosphere, which allows the exhaust to exit properly.


That "T" is as high as it can go at present, but if it needs to be higher, I can make a box for it to increase the slope of the exhaust hoses out of the boat via that removable plate. As I've mentioned, I've been thinking of this for some time.
Now, this arrangement is neither common nor written about much, which accounts in part for the delay in implementation. Most sailboats have long hose runs to the stern and while that's fine in terms of function, unless the engine's in the saloon, an anti-siphon loop is essential, but the run is long and the possibility of having following waves flood the exhaust is real.  That's why I took this route and, let's face it, I was already, with a starboard exhaust out one side, conceptually halfway there.
About as neat a "bead" as I can manage in tight quarters.
Tests will follow once launched next week. In the meantime, I've finished the new bilge outlet. This is an above the waterline hole in the boat that takes a plastic fitting. It's bedded outside and in with 5200 Fast Cure sealant, which is the nuclear option for boat glues. But, as Mrs. Alchemy pointed out, one doesn't want the bilge outlet to leak, and so the big gun was brought out.
Recycled copper strapping. I suspect the hot water heater will go in the 'blank space'.
While I was down there, I gave extra support to the bilge pump hose, which is rather cheap and may be replaced before we skitter off the edge of the world.
The PSS "burp line" is better secured now.
In the process of strapping down the exhaust hose and ball valve, I secured the shaft seal's vent line high in the engine bay. It is not, in fact, the recommended two feet above the waterline, but coiled as it is, the water would have to be "extreme" indeed to crawl up that line. I have never seen it more than a few centimetres above the seal itself, in fact. Should this become an issue, however, I can easily raise it significantly higher...and drier.

Just because I often get asked about costs, the four nipples (two drain, two exhaust) cost about C$400; the run of corrugated exhaust hose (about 3.5 metres) was about $180; the AWAB SS 44-51 size hose clamps were about $60 and the stainless steel ball valve and tailpieces were about $230. We will soon learn if this was a wise investment.