2014-10-06

Sailing is relative

Clewless.
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.



















2014-10-02

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.

NOT TO CODE
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.

LOOK INTO MY DEPTHS AND DESPAIR!
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.





















2014-09-26

A video is worth 1,000 RPM

Considering there is no fuel supply hooked up, and I can only assume there are ENSIS fumes in the cylinders, or maybe a few millilitres of diesel from a factory test firing, I am rather pleased with the eagerness displayed. Actual fuel supply and picture-heavy post on How I Got Here to follow shortly.

  video


And I have to rig up some 8 mm. fuel hose, a bulb, some clamps and a little yellow jerry can.
Just for the initial run-in at dock, mind.

2014-09-23

The runway not taken

The valiant Valiente's Cabin Boy fends off the creeping scourge of the airport's Marine Exclusion Zone. Note the required "horn, bell or other sound signalling device".


It's getting pretty skinny trying to leave via the Western Gap.


If one reads last spring's TAO report, which is very illuminating about the potentialities surrounding the proposed BBTCA expansion in ways that many local boaters, kayakers/canoeists, residents and enjoyers of the harbour may not have considered. More airport means less water, a lot less, and what is left will arguably be less safe.

I keep Alchemy, the titular subject of this blog, at National Yacht Club, which, along with the adjacent Alexandra Yacht Club, are situated at the west end of the restricted channel known as the Western Gap. Even if one discounts the considerable noise and the fumes over and above the current stinky and loud level, the extensions of the existing Marine Exclusion Zones (MEZs) required by government regulation for the proposed extended runways required by the physics of the proposed passenger jets, will likely lower the appeal of these yacht clubs site to the point where it would be impossible to continue running them. So I feel I have a direct interest in the matter. As I consider it unlikely that the federal government and its functionary arm, the Toronto Port Authority (TPA), under whose aegis Toronto Harbour lies, propose to blast a ship canal through Ontario Place, I suspect the needs of the MEZ will effectively bar the Western Gap, the harbour's gateway and the "frontage" to several boat clubs, from civilian and indeed commercial traffic. We can't leave our basins if the assumed (on good, Transport Canada-mandated grounds) new MEZs go in. Even the TPA itself warns against it!

I would imagine the same fate would await (perhaps paradoxically) of the TPA-run Marina Quay West and Pier 4, access to both of which would be very constrained by the new, expanded and jet-friendly MEZs. And yet to have jets, one must build more runway, but is it even necessary to have jets? Not to mention that the jets in question, the ones on which all the runway sizing is predicated, are neither out of the prototype stage nor appear likely to exist for some time to come.

Hence last week's protest:
It started off small, or at least small kayaks.
I thought for a first attempt to physically "present" actual boaters on the waters that would, should the airport runway expansion come to pass, be restricted for the use of screaming business-class jets, had a pretty good turnout. It made the news, anyway. And NYC's own commodore Denys Jones, an avid racer, showed up as well in his sleek J/109, a difficult boat in which to dawdle at a kayak's pace.

Nearly the Dunkirk spirit?

A regular flotilla.

Close quarters and plenty of slipping in and out of gear.
We saw some nice vessels as a bonus.

Ironical overflying.

Protest does not exclude creativity.
Tri to grasp the rationale, politicians.

It would be interesting to hear the viewpoints of the executives of Royal Canadian Yacht Club and Island Yacht Club and Toronto Island Marina: All of them would see their boating activities truncated or perhaps made untenable by these extensions. Contrary to what may be public perception, not all yachters are wealthy or even privileged; clubs around Toronto Harbour, including NYC, run extensive learn-to-sail programs for adults and children, and summertime Junior sailing (seven to 16 years old) is currently done either close to or inside the assumed MEZ extensions. So is a program called Broad Reach, a registered charity which teaches underprivileged kids how to sail in donated race boats that brush the current 18-metre mast height. Jets have a shallower "glide slope" than the current Q400 turboprops...it is arguable if 18-metre masts will be able to go anywhere in the Inner Harbour aside from hugging the easternmost seawalls.
The future of Toronto Harbour or a reasonable fascimile of the future?


So while the concerns of sailboaters may seem only a small part of the mix, we aren't all in possession of big Beneteaus. Some of us are teaching your kids how to sail, an activity best done without, I think, the roar, blast and stink of commuter jets in a situation reminiscent of the notoriously crowded Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong prior to its closure in 1998.

We've seen this future of putting jets in tight to towers, trees, bird sanctuaries and actively used waterfront before, and it's in the past.

2014-09-20

Feeling hot, hot, hot

Just because there has been a dearth of postings of late doesn't mean I haven't been beavering away en bateaux, but as I prepare a couple of fairly large and technical entries, here's a short, sharp one.

Valiente, the 33 footer is a year older than Mrs. Alchemy, and boat years are briefer than human. Consequently, things break, fail or require pre-emptive care. Such was the case just prior to our August mini-vacation down the lake. The Atomic 4 engine panel has not much in the way of instrumentation, but the little there is I consider essential. So when the temperature gauge failed to budge one day, I got out the digital multimeter in order to see if it was getting power. Indeed, it was. So this suggested that the engine block's temperature sensor, or thermistor, was on the fritz. It was.

The Frankensteinian nature of my rebuilt Atomic 4 is revealed in the variety of engine paint on the various bits.
Some measurements and twenty bucks later, a replacement was installed with PTFE tape on the threads and enough torque on the wrench to forbid leaking. A new crimped on ring terminal completed the clean-up. 
It looks worse than it is. It starts readily enough and very little smells funny.
 Proof equalled pudding as a static test in neutral at the dock yielded a gradually rising temperature gauge needle that actually showed a slightly higher reading that more closely agreed with a fully opened thermostat (180F). So a quick fix actually worked out as it should have.
Not seen: the little piece of tape on the ammeter that lines up with the black shifter knob to indicate "you are in neutral".