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Tour du jour, or how to do reciprocity right

How odd she looks having visibly moved to a different dock
Due to a combination of unexpected work, dubious weather, prolonged refitting and other banana peels left beneath life's rich pageant, we did not get off the dock this summer, nor did we get away for a camping weekend or other brief, cheap aways from home. Mrs. Alchemy, who typically works not only prolonged hours saving critters at a wildlife rehabbing facility, but who also works every second weekend with few consecutive days off, was understandably peeved at this failure to vacay, and so was a great help in cleaning out the boat, readying sleeping arrangements, stocking the now-functional reefer and making an October weekend on board possible.
Cabin Boy contemplating the metropolis from the north shore of the embracing Toronto Islands.

We didn't go far; the diesel is, after all, still aged if evidently properly filtered, and the motor is still well within the break-in period, but the nav lights leads were cobbled together and the boat, while basic, allowed the usual range of civilized functions. We even had heat. We needed it, as it turned out.
Moon over the foredeck at a marina.
In case an actual purposeful run should reveal issues, we stopped for Night One at the nearby Toronto Island Marina. We had a free berth coupon, and they gave us a good one right by the restaurant. Beverages were had. Cold beverages.After years of pioneer boating, having kettles, fridges and even a working microwave is a treat. The oven may work, but I have to check the propane lines before I try it, and, more to the point, I need to purchase a propane detector before I fire up the Force Ten. It worked fine in 2008, but hasn't run since. Also, the tank could be better secured...somewhere other than beside the companionway.
I am growing to like the Yankee.
The next day was windy from the WSW and we were headed ENE. I decided to keep the main sheathed as we do not have reefing rigged, and it was a single-reef kind of day. I was glad of it when the leisurely 4.8 knots under jib-as-spinnaker turned to 7.1 knots in the gusts. Adding 350 kilos of lead in the batteries plus another 100 kilos in charger, lengths of heavy-gauge wire and assorted electrical gear hasn't slowed the boat much. She charged properly.
Warm day, too, but it got very fall-like in the hours that followed.
The waves were blocked by the large and lengthy spit or headland on the east side of Toronto Harbour. Mostly artificial in nature, it has changed the dynamic of erosion and island-building in our closest cruising grounds and requires a fairly significant detour to get into the Eastern Gap, one where we've been plastered by squalls more than once. This day brought 14 knots blowing 28 on a rather irregular basis, but a few hours decent sailing was had, which we enjoyed.
Not very imposing cliffs are to the right, but the wind drops off 'em readily enough
 Of course, the benefit to essentially visiting one's nautical backyard is that you need not sail all day: two or three hours gets you to someplace different yet not requiring long-distance service. We went to Fairport YC, a very well appointed, if overly secured, appendage to a condo development in Pickering's Frenchman's Bay. And yes, it was a reciprocal visit, so we ended up spending very litte this weekend, which was nice if you don't count the grand or so I spent wiring up the batteries.
It's the sort of faux-New England planned development we normally would avoid, but the adjacent marina had our new friends Jay German and Rob Lamb on their steel Roberts ketch Goshawk. Once we had docked in pretty brisk wind involving some aggressive throttle work to bounce the stern in snugly, they were very hospitable in the fine old tradition and much boat chat was had to our mutual amusement. Both Jay and Rob are video gamers, so even the Cabin Boy felt rare feelings of respect and admiration.

The next day, we didn't force the issue of leaving, but a strong front had passed in the cool night and the same wind that had plastered up obligingly on an end-finger slip had clocked to just about due North and was pushing merrily on our stern. Having been warned to turn tightly to avoid a sand bank, we left under more power than usual. Alas, the wind was pushing the water out of the relatively confined bay, and it had been many month since the last dredging. We ran aground.

It was yet another paint removing learning experience. I was concerned about it as we had turned into the wind, because I suspected that a season's worth of channel churn combined with the water leaving the bay would make things tricky. I made the first set of buoys but had to do a chock-to-chock turn at speed (necessary due to the friggin' wind on my nose) to make the turn and we went wide. The boat hit sand at about three knots (good) and plowed about, I estimate, a foot or 30 cm. down. We draw five foot ten inches or around 175 cm. The boat heeled about 15 degrees to port, right in front of Pickering's rescue boat.

Having contacted them to assure them that we appeared to be well and undamaged (not an item fell in the galley, such was the leisure with which we took the ground), we attempted to power off. We succeeded in rotating the boat 120 degrees to face our putative rescuers....and also the channel. Further attempts to aid the motor, which performed very gratifyingly well given the circumstance, involved tows, a Zodiac on the hip, and the use of the staysail to provide thrust. Eventually, running a spare halyard to a man sitting in the Zodiac as it backed up did the trick: we heeled over another five degrees, I gave her full throttle and we slid into the channel with a slight bump.

All that time (and it took nearly one hour) we were just 3/4 of a boat length from the channel. The journey back was blissedly uneventful, save for the spray over the deck as that wind persisted until we got into the lee of the spit. Please convey to Rob our thanks, and to our nameless helpers in the Zodiac. The halyard trick was the one that worked. Our keel is "bevelled" somewhat either side of the chunky weld line, and once that went parallel to the bottom, we slid easily off. I'm glad for the skeg. And the four blades. I think I dug Fairport YC a new mooring.

Yeah, it was breezy coming back, too.

We had a great weekend getaway, and save the practicum on freeing the boat from surprise dirt, everything worked well and we were comfortable. It bodes well. Next Monday, out comes the mast and next Friday, Alchemy follows and a new phase of carpentry and plumbing commences.


Better light than never

Now capable of sailing, motoring, bilge pumping and beer cooling.
This is a recent, if dim (because I shot it just after sunset) picture of S/V Alchemy. Plenty has been going on, but not much of it is visible in this shot. I just thought the absence of the Mumm 36 one slip over was a good chance to get a profile shot without deploying the Portabote. The most recent round of DC-side improvements, which will conclude with a new start battery and the installation of an ACR, have progressed with a notable lack of magic smoke, for which Mrs. Alchemy and Cabin Boy are presumably grateful.
Of course, I still work for a living and have other duties. This is Craig Lahmer, a member of the mooring committee and a diver whose job it is to inspect the chains and related subsurface gear in our mooring field. I tend to drive the workboat from which he deploys, and the weeds he bears amused me one recent morning. But back to business. This is the house bank state of charge after a day off shore power. Not bad.
That tiny "AC input" merits further study. The AC side charger breaker is off here, so why 0.8 A?
Yes, there was a load: Our NovaKool fridge was on for 24 hours. Yep, we have beer and pop and cold water. The head's working again, too, but hey...priorities.
Cheapo temperature sensors are surprisingly useful aboard. The fridge part of the top-loading reefer reads 32F, so I turned it down.

The freezer portion read 14F, really, that's overkill. It's now cycling less frequently.
Cursory readings of just the charger panel (as I have yet to install the amp-hour usage meter) suggest three to four-amp draws when the boat's pretty toasty, such as 33C. That's fine. Real-life usage will differ and will dictate if more insulation is required.
Another long-anticipated change is the shifting of tools from the aft cabin to the workshop, you know, in case one day we'd care to actually sleep in there. The bungees are provisional and "good enough for Lake Ontario" in terms of keeping that box still, but I plan on installing fiddles and tensioned strapping to guarantee lack of undesirable movement.
Yeah, the worklight was fun and all, but I've wanted "general engine bay illumination" for ages.

Another improvement: a 12 VDC LED floodlight in the engine bay. The leads run back to a dedicated breaker (I still have several spares) and make a difference, particularly at night. Not pictured is a new "unswitched" DC subpanel to which the bilge pump leads have been run; the fridge and the bilge pump are now permanently on, unless switched off at the device itself. The bilge pump control panel is now above the LED flood light on the aft bulkhead of the engine bay and is accessible, if needed, from a removable panel under the lowest companionway stair in the pilothouse.

Speaking of lighting, I took a couple of hours to chase down the various dusty conduits for Alchemy's nav lights. Evidently, I found them:

Proper wiring determined through "no, no, YES! RED!" from the dock.
The lights are a new Lunasea trilight/anchor combo, with which I am well pleased, and Aqua Signal 41s, 25 watt fixtures. Technically, our LOD is 39 feet, 11 inches, or a few millimetres short of the 12 metres that demand that size of nav light, but it's no sin to be visible.

 The stern light was never disconnected, and proved to be intact.
 The two pilothouse-side lights both had dead bulbs: I had a 10 W spare of the right base...
...and a 25 W spare for the starboard side. I am so going to 25 watt-equivalent LEDs for these...they draw just three watts.
The steaming light is intact, too. The deck lights are blown or loose...which troubles me not. We have a couple of sailing things planned before haulout and the days are now fewer than 12 hours long: we needed working nav lights.
As if the Lancaster flying over wasn't enough...
 And sail again, we have. JOY!
Felt good.
It's not much of a change, but it's considerably deeper.

After we haul, I want to confirm the "bus bar performance" theory posted (heh) here. I've never heard of it, but it makes a sort of sense.


Wired and perspired

The boat's DC side will resemble this. At some point.
Any boat restorer will admit that progress is incremental. One reaches a point when the boat can motor and sail, perhaps, but not at night, because the lights aren't currently (so to speak) hooked into the panels for some completely unrelated reason. So there's a reluctance at times to finish one class of job, such as "making the boat move" in order to start another that will take time, effort, supplies, sweat, and time away from sailing, like "getting the fridge to work".
Prepping a typical "big crimp", in this case, a 2/0 ga. negative feed from the battery to the shunt. Evidently auto-focus didn't.
This weel, after the strategic acquisition of several bits and pieces (how, I ask you, could I run out of 2/0 gauge power lugs?), I decided to hook in the house bank to the DC panel. Due to some particularities of the installation, this turned out to be, while not overly puzzling, pretty laborious and hot, cramped work.
Yellow or black, whatever I have, passed for "neg/ground". I haven't bothered getting the right colour of wire cover.
While I was cutting and crimping and labelling and heat-shrinking around the boat's middle, Mrs. Alchemy was spraying cold galvanizing paint over the (relatively few) rust spots in the forepeak workship, and then applying a sort of patchy white Tremclad top coat that, if nothing else, alleviates the gloom until I can get lighting installed in there. There's DC and AC runs roughed it, but I have yet to trace them back to the panels. I suspect they are just looped and tucked away in the general vicinity.
So...empty! The disc is the backing plate for the bitter end U-bolt.
The general idea is that the mass of tools littering the aft cabin and the pilothouse lockers will be shifted forward and some lead "trim ballast pigs" will be shifted aft. There's about half a tonne of these lead ingots; as we add tankage, spares, tools and provisions, I will shift them down, back or off.

This is the starboard side of the forepeak. I plan to mount a cot here for crew or just to stow sail bags.
 Back in the crimpware section, I was running short of power lugs. Hard to believe, but true.
Just 2/0 gauge, really, in 5/16ths and 3/8th inch sizes.
A flying visit to the local chandlery got me a bag for 25 for about $60, the cheapest marine thing I bought all week.
Because I like convenience as much as anyone else, I added this socket and dual USB charger plate to the helm station. That whole area has gotten "busy".
Sized for your amperage pleasure.
The positive side of the house bank feeds now through a shut-off right above it, but aft. If a battery fails in in a sparky or splashy manner, this is the the main busbars.
This is a 500A/50 mv shunt.
The negative side needs a shunt close to the battery. A shunt is premised on exact measurements of resistance in order to gauge current; with it, a properly configured battery monitor can gauge how much current each circuit on board (or a variety of circuits over time) is drawing. It's firstly a measurement device and secondarily a way to trace, by process of elimation, which circuits are drawing unusual amount of juice. I have two more for the solar and wind charging sources; used in conjuction with this one, I will be able to measure with a fair degree of precision how much electricity we use aboard and how much we can make via sun, wind, alternator, and, if necessary, plugging into a Honda 2000. Given my calculations, that should be more optional (like I don't want to initiate DC inversion) to run power tools aboard than necessary to keep precious icecubes in play.
The main post-disconnect positive conduit, with an inline 250 A ANL-type fuse (covered)
The usual issue with boats is finding places to put things. There's a handy gap at the top of the mid-ship half-bulkhead accessible under the head sink. The plumbing, both feed and drain, is well away from the "walls" here, so I thought this a good, quiet place to put the main positive bus bar.
The negative bus bar is on the bulkhead 90 degree away and about 18 inches in distance. A refinement to the usual "just clap the ground here" is that this circuit also has a disconnect, meaning that if I wish to utterly isolate the house side from the starter bank side, I can. The starter bank and house bank negative cables are grounded at the engine block.Shortly, I will be adding a ACR to allow charging of both start and battery banks. But for now, I'm still on the master switch.
Position #1 is now house bank and #2 is start. I need a new start battery.
And here it is. We've seen it before, but now it's fully hooked up. I can start the engine will either house or starter bank (the sad little Group 24 I've been using as a house bank and bilge pump battery for far too long). 

Next up is runninga couple of mercifully smaller leads (1-2 gauge) to from the power busbars to power the "unswitched" DC loads, such as the fridge/freezer, which honestly I don't even know if it runs anymore, and to tie in the bilge pumps to the house bank. I also have to secure and tidy up these heavy leads with loads of tie-downs to avoid chafe, and the holes I've drilled need to be split-gasketed (McMaster-Carr makes some nice ones). After that, hooking up the nav lights in order to sail after dark. We want to take a little trip next week, whether I've rebuilt the saloon stairs or not!


Little bright spots

Snowbirds of two types.
I've been doing "big jobs" this summer, despite roaring heat and needed, if ambition-thwarting, spells of paying work. Part of the issue is time management: if I know I have four hours free, that's worth setting up for drilling, big crimping, meter work, etc. That's a nice stretch, although in the typical heat aboard the boat under in my as-yet unrestored-with-insulation pilothouse roof, it's also about the limit of what I can do without passing out. I mean, the A/C works fine in the saloon and the aft cabin, but a) I can't always have it running when I am doing electrical work and b) the lack of insulation on the lid largely defeats it.

Today, I had about two hours to spare for boaty things. There's always a myriad of small improvements I've wished to make and many of which I've long since acquired the requisite bits and pieces. One such was a small LED light, picked up for a liquidation price a couple of years back, which I wanted to use for direct, more or less, light on the breaker panels and indirect, dim light for the pilothouse. I'm not talking about a red light for night watches or map-reading, but a low-draw general illumination light. I saw it digging around for some monster switches, and thought...well, it's one more box ticked, isn't it?
Light fantastic.
Unfortunately, I can't do half-assed anymore. Unseen arethe carefully crimped connectors and terminals, lovingly sealed under heat shrink and made with 100% marine-grade tinned wire. I tied this LED fixture in to the cabin light 10 amp breaker, as most of those lights are already low-draw and it would be overkill, even for me, to put this on a breaker. At first, I tied it onto the fuel pump breaker (the white-labelled switch last on the lower panel), but unsurprisingly, the fuel pump induced a rather disco rhythm to the light, which would have been obvious had I not been stunned slightly from the racket of low passing jets during the Air Show (see top photo). 

It was a simple job, but it's satisfying to do simple jobs that don't involve unplugging the shore power to avoid welding.


Testing times, currently

Boat blog-unrelated shot of one of the two flight-capable Lancaster bombers left on Earth overflying National Yacht Club. It's important to lift one's eyes from the task occasionally.
A spate of work on the homefront meant that my battery bank was both unhooked to the DC side and off charger. Even with the installation of the galvanic isolator, I do not believe there's a compelling reason to leave the charger on unattended for a week, not when I have suspicions concerning the quality of the shore power setup.
Very much as seen in the above video, I checked out the specific gravity of each of the battery cells (18 in all in a six 6 VDC batttery bank). Initial readings were between 1.250 and 1.260, or "not bad", even uncorrected for temperature for my somewhat toasty vessel. The initial voltage was 12.47 VDC, "corner pos to corner neg", (recall that I am treating my house bank as one large 12 VDC battery), which was also indicative of pretty good health. The science of measuring battery state of charge and health (as judged by its ability to reach 100% of its rated capacity) is somewhat daunting and I claim no scientific expertise. I do think I now grasp enough to handle the basics, however.
Well, best hook this up then.
I then charged the bank until only a trickle of amps was being provided in the "float stage" from my charger. After an hour's rest (off charger completely), I registered 13.04 VDC. Measurement of each of the individual flooded cells gave SG readings of circa 1.275. All the batteries are therefore deemed fit. 
Behold the Skil 18 x 3 belt sander.I bought it (on sale, of course) to refinish red oak stair treads. Little did I know...
 I was, however, thinking that it had been a hot summer here and that my battery temperature monitor had frequently reported case temperatures of over 31C/88F. That in itself is no biggie, but I wanted to check the electrolyte levels nonetheless. So I thought I'd do a minor cosmetic job first.
Evidence that sloppy power washing will haunt one's decks.
This are the rather rudimentary aft-deck seats on Alchemy. We haven't paid attention to them, except to ponder at times how much of them we would likely cut out to put in propane tanks, liferaft valises and fender stowage or even some sort of dock box in which to put items like a barbeque while on passage. They've been neglected, but ultimately, it hasn't hurt them much, except aesthetically. The belt sander I purchased earlier in the summer to rehab some Victorian stairs at home made short work of the remaining bits of varnish, and a quarter-sheet palm sander did the rest. The result is either worthy of "nothing", or, in other words, just to let the bare wood "silver" naturally, or to give it a nice oiling. We'll see which Mrs. Alchemy opts for : coatings and stainings are more her department as I'm a grumpy incompetant when handed a brush.
Still needs some finalizing, but better than it was.
Back to the light of the charge brigade, I got a bright LED emergency torch and shone it down the fill holes of each cell on each battery. While, as would be expected from factory-fresh batteries, none showed exposed plates, I made an arbitrary call premised on imminent load cycling before the cool weather of fall and injected 10 ml of distilled water into each cell. This was enough to ensure the suggested 1/4" of electrolyte above all plates, but not so much that the level was particularly close to the underside of the vent caps.
Also, don't sweat into the batteries. It's an amateur move.
 Lastly, these vented caps need some vigourous thumb pressure to "click" back in. They are called "Water Miser vented caps" and, while better than just a pop bottle "solid" cap, they aren't the gold standard of a self-watering setup. Not sure if that's actually a good idea, however, as I would prefer just to have the habit of regular inspection and maintenance, much as looking at the end of a dipstick on a diesel can tell you more than just your oil level.
Click, and we are done.
A shout out to solar-power enthusiast"Handy Bob" for his role in suggesting these batteries, with which I am well-pleased.


Doing the right thing involves having the right skills

The video above is by Duncan Wells. I recommend a viewing. Recently, a tale of a careless and evidently unskilled boater doing a "hit and run" at a local club reminded me of a small incident in my own. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbour to the west at NYC in a Mumm 36 was being blown on and failed to allow for this in his solo turn to the east. He bent a stanchion on one of my fixed 1/2 in. steel tabs, which are welded to the deck pipe rail, and he hooked the one assigned to a future wind gen pole. 
The tab is identical on the port aft quarter as the one in this shot bearing the deck crane. Naturally, you can see why Alchemy did not budge. Unfortunately, I don't have a second fender on the inside...I never thought I'd get hit there.

I was aboard and heard, but didn't feel, the impact. I did hear nautical expletives and jumped off the boat to hear the member in question yelling that "he'd be back!" Fair enough; it's understandably traumatic when one dings the vessel and doubly so for an active racer who probably spends as much as me refitting just going around the buoys.

Mister Mumm docked on the wall to inspect his damage. Mine was about a dime's worth of blemished paint. I wasn't sore about it, and actually enjoyed experiencing the physics in play and realizing that my eight 3/4" dock lines worked as advertised, but I said if he saw my portlights open, just to knock on the boat and I would happily walk him out so he could stay at the tiller and throttle. 
Confused yet? Try it in real life on a calm day...much easier.

Maybe I'll explain "warping out", too, but really, this happens to everyone at some point. What's inexcusable is it happening more than once. I've been sailing now for about 17 years, much of it solo in a 33 footer, and now in a steel 42 footer four times its mass. Because of that, I try to take a lot of care coming and going, and simply go to the wall if my own dock is dangerous due to the conditions or I'm undercrewed. I don't hesitate also to ask for the dockmaster to take a (usually amidships) line against which I can maneuver with control. But then one has to know that seeking help to dock isn't representative of a lack of experience, but is simply prudent seamanship. 

I have seen in the last 17 years a decrease in the ability to handle sailboats in close quarters and rarely do I see anyone warping off or using simple line-handling (and prop-walk in a constructive fashion) to leave or enter docks safely. And yet it's not hard: here's one of the better books I've read lately on the topic:

Deficiencies in boat handling are real issues in most clubs these days: the absence of proper etiquette is grounded in the missing skill set that should be the baseline of responsible seamanship.