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2019-05-13

Lurch, launch and all before lunch

Amid frankly appalling (see wind-driven sleet in the tiny clip above) conditions and a case of skipper's jitters regarding the soundness of the standpipe thread sealing...

When access was straightforward, no problem...

...but with this much lead in front of it, a concern.
...thanks to the restoration of the house battery bank, seen above minus tie-downs and lids, we launched on April 27. Second boat in, in fact, in the East Yard, winter lodgings of the behemoths of the first row.
Always be cinch-belting!

There's often a touch of ambiguity about our sling marks, as the movement of internal ballast over the winter can be significant.
So we requested, and grudgingly (because launch waits for no one) received "a minute hanging in the slings" to check the integrity of our multiple valvings, tapings and pastings. Luck and, I certainly hope by this stage, skill prevailed and we had no ingress at the many threads in play. That meant I could leave the engine cooling water valve open, fire up the iron jenny (already tested in the cradle as being good to go, the harness and battery connections fully restored) and proceed to our dockline-festooned slip.
Back where she belongs...until July.
As I was on towboat duty, and, inexcusably in my view, a lot of boats this year needed tows (the ones with dead engines/no engine get a pass, of course), I couldn't linger and admire our handiwork, or tapework: Mrs. Alchemy and myself resumed "helping out at Launch".
Shot from mid-morning, this gives an idea of the scale of the cranes employed at launch. Ours is not, in fact, the heaviest boat in the club, an alarming stat for a steel boat owner.
The wind, at times gusting past 25 knots (borderline for crane operations and enough to make Alchemy "shiver" in the slings a few centimetres off her cradle), gave us in the club workboat Storm King plenty to consider. I lost count past 20 tows, but it was near-continuous and increasingly cranky duty. Why can't people ensure their motors work (and have batteries and tillers) on the day? It's not a surprise if you can work a calendar!
Alas, my logo was rejected in favour of cheaper Mac-Tac
After my shift concluded, I got a picture of the effect of Alchemy's winter on the substrate...

No wonder I felt pitched a little for'ard.
This subsidence was, perhaps, aided and abetted by the rising levels of the lake, which led to a group decision to get the mast in as soon as possible.
Two weeks ago. Today, the bricks are partially awash. The lake is 1.6 metres above chart datum.
I had to sort all the wires, cables, strings, stays, shrouds, halyards, etc. and bolt on the spreaders. I'm getting about as fast at this as I think I can. Kudos to the club members who helped with my notoriously massive mast.
It's only confusing if you think about it.
Some chafe-type repairs were needed and the usual "keeper wire" sorting, but it went well and the masting, while heavy work, went without blood sacrifice.

Looks good even boomless, we think.
So, for a multitude of reasons, launch came and went to our satisfaction, even though we needed every minute in the run-up to it and many minutes since.
Postcard-grade, really.
The boom is on, and the new lazyjacks can be seen. More to come shortly as the Drive to be Live in July continues.
I rigged the lazyjacks by copying a picture I saw online. Ah, modern sailing theory!
As a postscript, our former boat Valiente is now sporting a new, stainless steel rudder. We are vicariously anticipating great things of it for the new owner!

Anode goes where? As she's on a mooring, not such a big deal...




Getting properly hosed

Helm's deep: Mind the hobbits.
I alluded to the rehab of the hydraulic hose setup in a previous post. This was accomplished by biking a fairly ambitious distance from downtown Toronto to the north of the suburb of Brampton, home of Green Line Hose and Fittings, a well-regarded hydraulic specialist. Because I was not entirely sure if my fittings were metric or Imperial, I removed all the old, starting to weep hoses and handed them over the counter, saying to the compentent fellow there "please replicate these". And they did.

While I have two seal kits for the two helm pumps, they looked in pretty good condition, and so become spares for the future. While onerous to replace and reroute these hoses, it was a good learning experience. We have the autopilot pump in hand, but ran out of time to fabricate and weld in a stainless steel mounting plate for it, which I hope will be done this week, after which I can piece together the new and wonderful autopilot. However, we were able to launch with restored steering that is properly pressurized and is clearly needed fewer helm wheel turns to go chock to chock, so to speak. In fact, I may have to take a more subtle approach as it's that much more responsive.
Shiny is good.
Restoring the hydraulic oil was interesting. Firstly, my hose runs are long: nearly 25 feet each from the pilothouse aft to the rotary actuator pump in the stern, plus a pair of 15 footers from the aft helm on the "sailing deck". Even with the tiny cross-sections of the hydraulic hoses, that took about three litres of oil, all of which had to be bled to purge the air (using cryptic translations from the Japanese I would have run through a native speaker's brain before printing, personally). Still, can't argue with success.
Dryfitting prior to bottom painting.
The aluminum anodes are on, all 16-odd kilos of them. I had a bit of trouble with Nautilus Propeller's fulfillment from the VariProp factory in Germany; having been promised the aluminum prop hub anode I ordered at the boat show months back, they sent zinc instead. No good to me at their price, as I could get zinc at a fraction of that from the U.S.-based Boat Zincs. com. So I have a zinc prop anode on the prop and aluminum plates on the hull and fingers crossed, this will suffice (the two metals are cathodically close) for the trip down the river until haulout in October in Nova Scotia. Had I left the magnesium anode on the prop, it would've potentially bubbled and fizzed after Quebec City and the introduction of salt water...not a good look!
Better than nothing!
We switched to Pettit Horizons bottom paint, which went on thicker and more expensively. Looks good, however, and, as in the past, we changed the colour so that paint failures will reveal the previous iteration, should that be a data point worthy of note
Ready, aye, ready.
Anode what you did last winter.
The next step was launching for 2019 into an already swollen lake.

2019-05-12

Stand by your pipe

A magnet, some line and a boathook hauled this out of the lake after six months. Cleaned up nicely, no?
As the departure date approaches, and, as the last post suggested, the paying work has more or less ceased, boat work has taken on a near-daily rhythm. I say "near" because there are still calls on my time for peripheral concerns, like our out-of-town rental property.
My brother-in-law tacking down the flashing on the roof vent on the last day of March. It's been a fairly harsh spring.
The day before our new tenants were to move in, the next-door neighbours contacted us and said "I think the flashing coming off your roof and is maybe letting snow and rain in."

Talk about motivation.

Myself and my brother-in-law skedaddled eastward, drill sets and fasteners in hand. As it turns out, the flashing was actually aluminum soffit lengths under a wooden, full-length "cap" over a roof vent. Water couldn't actually get in, but we repaired it nonetheless as I wanted to make things right for the new tenants, who are now settling in.
They look heavy, and weigh more.
Meanwhile, back on the still-cradled boat (circa the start of April), I had to remove the six L-16 batteries in order to access the standpipe, which brings water from the outside of the hull to, respectively, the raw-water cooling side of the engine, the head, the air-conditioning/heat pump circuit, and, in the near-future, the watermaker we hope to install in Halifax.
Note the relatively short threads on the nipples.
I discussed after haulout last fall with Andrew Barlow, pal and fabricator/welder extraordinaire, the possibility of replicating the original standpipe of Alchemy in favour of something a) in stainless steel and b) threaded in NPS to take Marelon or equivalent ball valves, as we did with the galley and head sink drains.
Creative carving was required in order to access the various sides of the standpipe. This is inside the galley cabinetry.
Andrew indicated he was up for the job, despite the tricksy time he had in the past getting the NPS threaded nipples cut on a lathe. Despite the fact that NPS, which needs pipe dope or Teflon tape (or both) to be sealed as it is not sealed via a tapering thread, is quite common, apparently you need to know some kind of handshake to have a set of NPS dies.
Four really expensive valves, one pipe. Behold the logic of "fewer holes in boat, happier skipper".
The two leading manufacturers of plastic-type (as opposed to metal) ball valves are U.S.-based Forespar and New Zealand-made TruDesign, the latter being the newer entry in this rather rarefied field of yacht plumbing. The rationale is that plastic valves neither corrode nor are subject to galvanic corrosion, evidence of which I found in the replaced drain nipples and in the old standpipe. Both had bronze ball valves on mild steel nipples.
The dry fitting is a good way to see if you're going to have problems. The Tru-Designs went on precisely.
I opted for TruDesign because last year's Marelon ball valves leaked slightly and spun on with some reluctance. We were able to get them to work, but the 3/4" I.D. ball valves I obtained from Defender Marine seemed to bind in the NPS threads. A phone call to Forespar confirmed that they used "only NPS", which was the whole reason I had to go that route in the first place. Nonetheless, I did not feel confident about such a mission-critical component (all the water-inlet nipples are well below the waterline, of course) making me anxious, so I got four TruDesign ball valves.
Occasionally, I plot my next moves on the foredeck when hauled out. Visionary requires visions.
 I now have spares. That's OK. With water tankage and a water maker to come, I'll use them.
Sparky!
Having cleared the space, cut the needed access, and assured sufficient power, I watched as Andrew wielded his grinder in the tight quarter. Apparently, yoga keeps him flexible.
Further inspection of the old standpipe suggested replacement to avoid failure was a "sooner rather than later" situation.
The hole left down in the hull was interesting because it's the smallest possible amount of wood I could remove to allow Andrew room sufficient to weld the new standpipe in place. Those black hoses are fuel lines from the forward and aft keel tanks. This whole area is usually beneath the batteries and (of late) companionway stairs.
The abyss.
 The sight of Andrew welding a structural "doubler" on the outside of the hull was...interesting.
Not seen: A fire extinguisher at the ready
Of note is the positive shut-off. When working on the batteries, I typically turn off the charger at the panel, the main switch and both the positive and negative disconnects.
That area, once completed, was painted by Mrs. Alchemy
 The welding went well, I thought. By "well", I mean "we didn't sink when launched".
It's warm work down there.
I had to cut a little notch for the lowest nipple (the engine raw-water inlet). No biggie: I have a useful Fein Multimaster knock-off I've brutalized for years. Still works and cost me $99! 
Note the depth of the threads. I wanted maximum contact.
The picture shows the nipple covered in Teflon tape. I also used pipe dope, aka "joint compound" or "pipe paste". I use it sparingly and it coats the threads both on the valve and the nipple. Absent the sort of gasket a garden hose possesses (probably the most common object the average person would encounter an NPS thread), the combo seems to do the trick.
I had to orient the handles in different directions and mountings to allow them to work in this proximity.
Spoiler alert: Not a drop. 
Smooth operation. When we haul in Halifax, I'll have it ground down smoother.
This was a big and backbreaking project, but I'm happy we did it. No amount of softwood bungs would do the trick if a pipe nipple crumbled at sea.

2019-04-07

Retiring natures and getting wiped

My primary clients since the mid-'90s were kind enough to throw me a lunch party. Very generous of them.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended a lunch in my honour, which was a pleasant surprise, as it was thrown for me by my clients for whom I've been a contractor since mid-1996 in the roles of graphic designer/layout guy and, latterly, editor of their many publications. The firm, when I started working for them, was just four people in an attic office; now, it's over 30 analysts and has been acquired by a U.S. firm, which was, a few months back, itself absorbed by an even larger U.S. firm. All through this time, I've beavered away as a freelancer, and the amount of work, while never large, was enough to live on when combined with rental income and the modest earnings of Mrs. Alchemy, who has worked for a wildlife rescue charity for about the same time.

But, as the meme has it, the cake is a lie: I am retiring from this day gig, much as I "retired" from full-time salaried employment in 1999 (and used the "shut up and go away" severance sack o' loot to buy our first sailboat instead of, you know, a minivan or a lump-sum mortgage payment...). But I do not rule out occasional work of a less-time-sensitive nature for this and other firms, as my skill sets are largely portable, save for those relatng to boat maintenance, repair and operation. That's hands-on, baby!

Besides, I have plans to write articles for the few sailing magazines still extant, and to change this blog for a new, "on passage" blog where the emphases will be less on boat repair and maintenance and more on where we go, how we get there, and what we think of the passage-making life. I will also (sorry!) have ads on that new blog and will be supplying content to a You Tube channel as this seems to be pretty common these days....but ours will have fewer bikinis, and you'll thank me for that later.

I have a background in film and television productions and friends who are already doing this sort of "sailing television" quite successfully, and we hope to bring a slightly different angle into play that we hope will be of interest...but more of that after we leave!

In the meantime, work progresses...so many projects... 
The rarely seen Admiral in her natural habitat: holding a screwdriver while I tighten a Nylok.
This object is an Ongaro wiper motor. It's positioned to take a short arm and a large wiper blade right in the eyeline of whatever person happens to be at the pilothouse helm seat. I'll hook it up before departure, but I wanted to get the wiring run up to the pilothouse roof in now. That's a skinny mounting block of UHMWPE to spread the load of the motor and all the bolts are sealed with 4200 as well as being quite protected by the pilothouse roof overhang in this location.

The depths I'll go to...
This is the Navico forward-looking sonar transducer fairing. It needed a good demucking, and while I'm unsure whether its functions were affected by the small amount of growth that had accumulated last season, it doesn't hurt to give it a once-over.
Every boat needs a big driver.
This is the screwdriver I dropped over the side when I demasted for the winter last October. I can't recall if it belonged to my late father, or if he had got it from my even later grandfather, but it's easily 50 years old and is of a great length to spin off a big-arsed turnbuckle, which is how it ended up in the drink. When it happened, I was right on the stern of Alchemy, and I noticed the location of the bollard on the sea wall next to us. So, when the water cleared to near-transparent last week on a near-calm air day, I saw the screwdriver on the bottom. I rigged a big magnet on a length of line, extended that line out with a boat hook, and snagged the tool on my first attempt. Some wirebrush work later, it's back aboard and will be getting a light lanyard through that handle soon!

Anodes: Elementary

The prop minus the magnesium anode suitable for fresh water. The prop's been cleaned since and the anodes arrive this coming week from Nautilus Propeller.
Between boat stuff, the annual tax-prep collation, and doing some final fixes on the rental-income house in Trenton (which was rented to a nice couple as of April 1!), it's been a very busy time here in Alchemy Land. In fact, until the last weekend in April, we are on land in "winter mode" and are doing the things necessary to enter the boat's natural element of water without bringing too much of it inside, so to speak.

Great for ventilation, less so for buoyancy.
There was a superflous speed wheel mounted in the hull to a long-gone sensor original to the boat on the port side of the engine bay right where I pictured putting a water tank. So I had welder-fabricator extraordinaire Andrew Barlow plate it over...

This involved deployment of the fire blanket. I've been down this sparky road before. Oh, and that gruesome parquet flooring in the pilothouse will be gone in the near future, along with the yard dirt it's collected.

The burning ring of fire.
Andrew put in extra material to ensure not only watertightness, but strength.

I have referred to this book in the past. It's a great compendium for any boat owner, but has particular relevance for the metal boat owner in understanding the role of stray current in the water due to marina wiring, faults in the power setup aboard or other related issues that can eat (in our case) steel.
Yes, that's the aft bilge, or "smugglers' cove". You can see where the bead is running by the cooking off of the plate. And no, I didn't breathe in the smoke, which is toxic.
To this end, I decided that the impending cruise down the St. Lawrence needed a rethink of the somewhat casual approach to anode deployment on Alchemy...casual not because we were ignorant of the issue, but because we had some basic anodic protection in the form of magnesium anodes on the bronze prop hub and on the aluminum rudder and little evidence of damage elsewhere.

But we can't count on being in well-serviced waters once away from home waters. So I decided to acquire anode plates. Big anode plates.







DO NOT PAINT. To do so indicate a misunderstanding of the function!


Aside from "Martyr" being an apt name for a "sacrificial anode", I have come to accept that aluminum anodes of this particular grade are the best choice for our steel boat, and even for our aluminum rudder (of a differing composition/grade of aluminum). After a fair bit of research, I think aluminum anodes are the way to go. Should I change my mind, we can always switch, thanks to the way these are attached to the hull, to zinc anodes, which are also appropriate for salt water...which, after all, we won't be in until we pass Quebec City. Magnesium is right out in salt water, by the way...it apparently fizzes away in a matter of weeks should stray currents be present.

The daily grind of the boat fixer.
There are, typically, two ways to put the anode in contact with the hull material it is supposed to protect. One is by removing all the coatings on the hull to reveal the bare metal, and then directly welding the anode by tabs on its ends to the hull. This is common on commercial ships.
A "dry-fit" of one of the anodes prior to taping off the plate when we reapply this season's anti-fouling paint (Pettit Horizons)
The second method is to make a mounting plate with welded in studs of appropriate length on which the anodes can be bolted. This involves grinding off the coatings to the area of the mounting plate and welding the plate (which is stainless steel plate with 1/2 inch stainless steel studs) directly to the hull. This gives the desired direct connection between anode (alu brick) and cathode (big old steel hull) and should do the trick. Yes, there's a bit of drag created, but not as draggy as a rusted-through hull would occasion. We have aluminum anodes on the rudder now and are just awaiting the arrival of a pair of aluminum prop hub anodes this week, one to install and a spare.

There's more to this topic of protecting metals, isolating circuits and related topics, some of which I've dealt with in previous posts, And more is likely to come...