It's the most wonderful time of the year...

...even if it involves getting spattered with a wide variety of chemicals, some toxic and most tenacious. It's the run-up to "Launch 2015", and the grudging receding of winter's clammy grasp has proceeded to the point where only a zephyr off the still exceptionally brisk and recently frost-bound lake can break the solar spell.
Valiente's battered battery banks with Honda genset boosting. Yes, it's dirty there. It's pointless to clean up until I'm back at my dock, where there's water and a tap.
Many tasks remain and supplies to be a) located in my overly layered garage/chandlery and b) purchased again if a) fails, as is always the case, but progress is being made. Things are getting serviced, sewn, charged, greased, moused, painted, checked, tightened/dogged down or loosened/freed up, inspected, confirmed and lovingly patted, as is the custom of the sea.
The man who taught me celestial navigation, Nick DeMunnik, has his boat on the hard beside Alchemy. Seeing him yesterday made me think I need to refresh my ability to reduce sights. The top sextant is mine; the nice Freiberger is Mrs. Alchemy's.

When I launch Alchemy is known (May 2); when Valiente goes in is anyone's guess, as the employees of the cheapest yard in the city where I keep her have yet to manifest from their southern soujourns. There's just two men who haul and launch and cradle a few hundred boats in a jammed yard on the east side of Toronto Harbour, and they work constantly on both pleasure and commercial vessels throughout the warm months, only to head south from about November 15th to ...well, now, supposedly. I could launch Valiente with six hours' notice as my dock for her is already prepped. Said six hours would require about half a hour for an engine check and test-fire, more charging time until I reach the blessed green light status on the Guest charger, and various cosmetic work insofar as I can clean and polish the hull when there is only a few centimetres between the parked hulls.
The blessed green light on Alchemy's soon to be repurposed (to the forepeak) battery charger.
Yesterday, the airport reached 17C, which means about 13-14C on the waterfront, but this was enough to do remedial work on the hull to refresh some spots requiring "rust-locking", galvanizing paint and two-part epoxy barrier coat.  My wife, who is of modest dimensions, not to mention younger, tends to do this hull work, whilst I work on the topsides and deck.
Not to mention a provisional prop cleaning and service.
It was also a time to sort out the anchor well with the miracle of power washing and to put on a base coat of Rustoleum galvanizing paint.
Second coat will be brushed on to obliterate the drips. The bitter end eye can be seen to the right. The Dri-Dek, also power-washed, goes around this.
The tarp on the pilothouse roof, installed to keep out leaks due to the failing gasketing (itself to be addressed when I rewire and permanently reinstall the pilothouse roof this summer), was also replaced. This was a "two-tarp winter": even doubled, the wind and weather wore them to ribbons.

The VHF hailing and P.A./fog signal horn doesn't look wildly out of place, I think.
Back aboard Valiente, the main is back on. I need to tune to rig anew, and the winches need servicing, but that can wait until after launch.

Not as wrinkled as this, the Dacron main is actually in pretty good shape.
Make and mend: I have a rather elaborate sail repair and bits and pieces kit on Valiente that, when she is sold, will come over to Alchemy. I sewed a few rips in the sail cover, recycled from a CS 36 and therefore about two feet too long, and can therefore claim a readiness to sail. A readiness to motor? We'll see after the next time I go down to charge and do the bottom paint.
Y'arr, 'tis the bosun's locker, of sorts. Things stowed in here have saved more than one cruise.
UPDATE, 15.04.15: 

More make, mend and paint/sand/varnish today. It took some digging, but I located the pieces used in the tabernacle to both secure the mast to it and to enable it to be lowered for locks, or service or to avoid the bosun's chair:
Bolt, cap, shiny heavy tube part et al.
The idea is that the bolts welded to the heavy tubes can be, when the stays and shrouds are slacked off, raised to bring the butt of the mast up and off the base of the tabernacle. Then halyards can be tensioned and the stays slacked off further (or removed entirely, if needed) to lower the mast aft for service. It seems a good idea to build a gallows, even if provisional, for that.
Appropriately sturdy, I think. Ignore the temporarily deployed boat hook.
The whole scheme, for which I cannot take credit, is designed to allow the mast to rest on the pilothouse roof. I was told this was to facilitate canal travel, which I do not think this boat ever did under previous ownership. Damned handy and good thinking, I say.
I guessed the colour from a chip in a Dulux store. It's close enough for me, and as it will be covered in Dri-Dek and massive amounts of new G70 3/8" chain.
I also covered yesterday's spray can of Zincorama with a thick coat of Metalclad paint. Once again, the staff at the downtown Dulux paint shop understood why I wanted a particular coating and could confirm its properties. I really prefer going to the places that contractors use these days. There's hardly ever hand-holding or explaining to do. Tomorrow I'll check this for curing and then, if it feels cured, I'll replace the flooring and start sorting out the anchors better.

Ar, 'tis a venerable rudder stick, it be.
This rather worn item is Valiente's 42-year-old tiller. You can just make out my fingernail marks. I took off the flaking Cetol coating and thought to pretty it up a bit with a proper sanding, a staining and then a couple of coats of marine spar varnish. I will do a light sanding tomorrow and apply a couple more. The Cetol would last longer, but this will look much nicer, and after that, it's the next skipper's problem. I have been using simple teak oil rubs on some of the discounted teak bits and pieces I've been collecting for spice racks and paper towel holders and whatnot for Alchemy; perhaps I'll try some of this treatment on that. I am on record as expressing my dislike of wood on the outside of boats but I do not mind a more traditional bit of dead tree down below. Because the interior is black cherry battens holding up masonite whiteboard, which is in turn securing inches of closed-cell insulation board, the interior of Alchemy is a bit "Elizabethan pub", but at least it's bright.

UPDATE, 15.04.16: The Metalclad paint was still a little tacky, and I put on a second coat of varnish on the tiller, so I switched focus today and decided to do some measuring twice.
For reasons of physics, I wanted to make sure the helm seat could take the helmsperson's mass even if Alchemy was subject to an unexpected wave.
This involved some test perches on our new helm seat, purchased somewhat impulsively when Genco's Queen Quay location closed last summer. The seat slides back and forth, and can be raised up and down to meet the needs of the rather disparately sized owners (and crew). The seat must allow standing operation, and also must rotate cleanly 360 degrees as it will also be a "regular seat" when we are under autopilot. So I had to fiddle and measure and futz about. Then came The Beast Makita, my weapon of choice for drilling through metal.
This is brutal enough to spin me in place if I am insufficiently braced. It's one of my favourites, and I got it on sale.

Six 3/16" pilot holes later, followed by 3/8" pilot house and the same for the variety of 1/4" aluminum backing plates I trust will keep the base firmly attached to the steel pilothouse deck and I was bolted down. When I recover said deck, I will probably trace around this base rather than remove it again.
Not all vessels come with a Deck Dalek.
The seat, while simple (read: "at the lower end of the marine gear spectrum") fits the space available and is mobile enough to fit all.

Ignore the surrounding builders' tip.
About the only issue is that the base, fully lowered, gives me proper visibility, but my relatively short legs dangle about six inches off the deck. I will have to rig some sort of bracing blocks, or stirrups, or pegs of some description on either side of the helm cabinetry (note the restored cherrywood lip? I do) in order to be braced should we be motoring in heavy chop.
In the raised, closer to the helm "distaff" configuration.
The long march continues...

Well, well: Cleaner, brighter and plausibly organized. Even my clown shoes fit in there.
The anchor situation is clarified, which might come in handy should we have unforeseen engine issues or meet up with a nice fresh squall. The cleaned Dri-Dek is back (now that the paint is also dry decked) and on the right is the Fortress FX-37, secured and with 10 metres of 3/8" chain and about 40 metres of 5/8" rope rode, as per its specifications. On the left is a 20 kilo CQR anchor (for now) with 34 metres of 3/8" chain, most of which fits coiled down into that handy bucket. For now I have the two anchors secured with shackles on wire lines in turn shackled to the bitter end; I have a "devil's claw" to secure deployed chain, but the padeye that is bolted through the deck is really too small to work without fudging about with insufficiently beefy shackles. So we shall see how my "drill through the deck" plans work out...after launch. This is simply a way to have anchors more or less at the ready should a sudden stop be needed in relatively shallow water.


Upsizing the old tackle

April Fooling in its partially solidified form.
Things on a boat refit don't happen in a logical order, as long-time readers of this benighted scribbler may already know. Which is why, during a very late breakup of the ice in the basin, I am assembling a new anchor for Alchemy.

It looked pretty shiny out of the box.
My ongoing relationship with Fortress Anchors involves my ludricious ranting about the marketing of anchors with the person tasked to persuade the world to try out the Fortress brand. Said person has, against all reason, I would suggest, found my laughable insights of apparent value and has sent me an anchor in the past. Perhaps it's his sense of humour at play. A refurbished model one size up from the previous one, which will move to the "secondary, stern or kedge" role, was offered as a courtesy for my blatherings, and was gratefully accepted yesterday from the Fortress distributor in my neck of the harbour. Said distributor is an interesting fellow in his own right, and vends a variety of boat-specific products under the "Natural Marine" banner.

Anyway, new (or evidently barely used) anchor! What is not to like on a sunny, if barely out of the frost zone, April First?

I have been told that the green lettering on the shank was special-ordered. I know it makes this harder to successfully steal as almost all the rest have red lettering.
The model in question is the 21-pound FX-37 model, recommended for boats 46-51 feet LOA. As is the custom of the sea, anchors are, by the thoughtful skipper, "upsized" one or two grades for extra sleep reasons. This is easy with the aluminum Fortress line, because even this large and purposeful-looking hook weighs comparatively little, and actually should have better holding than the 20 kilo (44 pound) CQR plow-style anchor it will be replacing.

I believe I can both see the active principle and can shave with this.
Now, I won't endorse stuff just given to me, although I like the price. They've got to work. I've been using the 15 pound FX-23 on Valiente for three seasons, and it works exactly as advertised. My son first hauled it straight up at age 10, which is no small thing. A caveat to my success is that I have never anchored with my Fortress in other than good, primarily firm sand bottoms, never without sufficient scope of at least 6:1 and recommended chain leader of at least four metres. I also haven't anchored with the Fortress in more than 20-odd knots. So the bar hasn't been high, but on the other hand, I think the key to successful anchoring is to grasp when anchoring is most likely to succeed. The so-termed "super-high holding power" of modern anchor designs is no excuse to forgo proper technique and methods, and even the Fortress folk will readily admit that there's no such thing as one anchor for all scopes, all bottoms and all situations of wind and current.

That said, if the Fortress proves, as I already believe it will, to be a decent "all arounder", there are plenty of advantages to being a fraction of the weight of its competitors, and let's face it, most sailors, most of the time, anchor not to stay put in a Patigonian williwaw, but to enjoy lunch. Therein lies a big advantage for a light, lie-flat anchor.

Now, Alchemy has far more windage and mass than does the for-sale Valiente, and I intend with whatever anchor I use to have all-chain high-quality rode (3/8"/10 mm), and to make use of snubbers and bridles to reduce shock loading and to bring the "pivot" of the chain catenary down to the waterline or slightly below. Interestingly, the Fortress might prefer a rope leader between itself and a chain rode (see "Update: March 19" section) in order to keep its shank at a favourable angle of entry. I'm going to have to experiment. The opposite (a few metres of chain on 80 metres of nylon rode) works well on our smaller boat.
Why, yes, I am the suspicious type.
In other words, irrespective of the anchor we use (and there is going to be more than one anchor in use), certain safeguards and techniques will prevail. The exception to this general rule would be the "lunch hook" scenario so common on the Great Lakes (and on RYA training courses, I might add), in which a rope and chain rode and a light anchor is dropped in benign or predictable conditions in order to chow down, to rest the crew, or to do minor maintenance. This is not the same as proposing to sleep while at anchor, possibly with a large number of boats, which usually requires a different level of vigilance, and occasionally a Plan B.

What, me worry?
Assembling this new Fortress was only slightly more awkward than the last time, which I did in my garage instead of my pilothouse. It took under an hour, including the affixing of the "mud palms" which I've found work as advertised already. Only a screwdriver and a few wrenches and sockets were needed after I had finished "personalizing" the shank with a Dremel. I added Loctite to the fluke bolts because why wouldn't I? I will rarely, if ever, disassemble this anchor because I will rarely, if ever, move it off my foredeck and/or anchor rollers.
Ease the main or master Photoshop. There can be only one.
The phrase "ar, she's a big bugger" comes to mind, but the working principle of this style of anchor is its keenness to cut into the ground and the surface area of its flukes. Anchors with lead in their pointy ends, such as the Spade favoured by John Harries at Attainable Adventure Cruising, work on "plenty of weight concentrated" to guide themselves into a well-rooted condition desirable for those wishing to stay put.  In our own case, I suspect we will bring the Fortress, whatever anchor style can be viewed as its complete opposite, a Bruce for those rare bottoms that favour the Bruce (I have a decent-sized one in hand), and some kind of Luke/Fisherman's I can stow and forget unless we need to anchor over broken "pavement" or some sort of basaltic lava flow/kelpy forest.

Haven't quite worked out how this will be stowed yet, so consider this temporary for purposes of display. That CQR is twice the weight of the Fortress, but is actuall a size small for Alchemy.
Sounds like a lot of ground tackle, doesn't it? And the answer to that is "probably, if you anchor in more or less the same ground more or less all of the time". But the weight and even the expense of multiple anchors and extra ground tackle is cheap insurance when one considered the damage a loose Alchemy could do in a gale, never mind that we could be sunk by a sufficiently rocky shore. So the Fortress is just one more welcome element in a ground tackle game plan we hope has just become more comprehensive.


Thinking outside the anchor locker

I was once ignorant and accepting of the logic of boat design. I'm still ignorant...I can't even draw Bambi...but certain features of even the best of boats can annoy me and strike me as continuing to exist not because of logic or even utility, but because of habit. Examples can include restricted access to critical systems or components, like seacocks or engine parts or tankage. Like when I realized my SS water tanks had decent access ports (good) which were within one centimeter of the underside of the pilothouse floor (stupid).
Measure twice, oh, to hell with it.
But nobody's perfect, right? And one person's bad or compromised design is another's beloved vessel. Provided the boat in question doesn't sink while it's spantaneously combusting, de gustibus non est disputandum.
A typical modern design with a typical windlass and chain setup. Photo (c) Tom Irwin

But, having demonstrated love and tolerance for all boats and those who sail in them, why the hell are anchor lockers at the front of most small yachts? It has occurred to me of late that few sailors in my experience does the right thing in terms of the physics of ground tackle. Logically, you would want the windlass right in front or beside the mast, with no centerline hatches in the way, and that centerline space covered in either a stainless strip or even an inset "gutter".
As one does on HMCS Montreal.

The chain or rope rode would go down a spurling pipe forward of the mast (the hawse pipe is where the chain rode is routed off the bow and into the water, by the way) into a bilge or keel locker very close to the center of gravity of the boat. This locker could be in the aft corner of a cabin or would be built as part of bulkhead involving the head, so the chain pipe (which would be removable for servicing or inspection) could be stowed inside that, which could actually strengthen the deck.

If the windlass dies, you've got beefy winches on the mast or deck right to hand. If you choose not to install a chain washdown on deck, you could have the chain flake down in the bilges over a perforated plate, under which is a low-profile bilge pump. So you can "wash without slosh", and then pump the bilge-based anchor rode locker a lot drier than something forward. You can examine the chain for defects or service either inside the cabin, or on the deck in a more stable and sheltered location than the actual bow. Lastly, the wire runs to the windlass are shorter and unburied: easier to service and shorter, cheaper wire runs.
Why, the way this ship does things would wreck the V-berth!
Getting the chain over the keel, like getting the batteries under the saloon settees instead of beside the motor, typically aft in most boats, makes physical sense. I can only assume that habit and an aversion to bringing the potentially mucky "machinery" into the condo-like interior of most modern cruisers (plus their limited bilge stowage of many) means this idea is a non-starter.

But let's look at the problems implicit in the current design choicesd: Having a load of chain and anchor and machinery weight at the bow leads to hobbyhorsing, seas over the bow, difficulty staying upright, harnesses and jacklines for the person handling the gear (which is never a bad idea, actually) and a lot of wear and tear from the movement of the stowed chain...despite this, most sailors will tell you that there isn't really a better spot. Not on most modern yachts. Now, sharp-eyed readers will note that on the ship pictured above, the chain fall (the sloped ramp beneath the windlass) and chain locker are well back from the stemhead, leaving the foredecks blissfully clear and largely untrodden by the crew unless it's Titanic Tribute Night. But this is rarely done on sailboats.
Lots of people put paint dashes or tags or cable ties to indicate the amount of chain rode they've paid out, but not many provide an aide-memoire so convenient. Photo (c) Sauniere59
In the above example, the anchor locker is reasonably well-lidded and the Lofrans Tigres (I think) windlass is bolted to a sunken platform, which, most of the time, will keep it and its electrical connections out of the weather and the deck free of a tripping...or worse...hazard. There's a plastic (probably HDPE) plate forward to take the wear of the chain and anchor shank, and the fall of the chain is being guided forward by a roller. It's as far back as it can go, and this is about as good an installation as is typically found on production boats in my snack bracket.
Uh...did another West Marine close? Photo (c) Artofhookie.org

Of course, while there is no excuse for poor design, the fact is not only that fewer boats these days anchor much, but also that fewer sailors know how to anchor, and on occasion seem to be unaware that anchoring includes etiquette. I'm no Ancient Mariner on the topic, but I see problematic stuff, like insufficient scope, lack of sturdy enough fair leads, rode left on the roller, rarely a snubber or a bridle, etc. Part of that, to be honest, is where I live: it's mostly fair-weather sailors stopping for lunch. But another part is that the habit of anchoring is being lost, I think, because the activity of anchoring is being discouraged. After all, anchoring is in some ways part of the watery version of the commons, and while the tragedy of shared access cuts both ways, there's more money for a marina in renting the visitor to the fuel dock a slip for the night, particularly when some abuse the resource.
The bigger the boat, the more chance of doing the anchor locker concept correctly by having the chain fall aft, low and with no easily breached lid on deck. This is a S&S 60. Photo (C) 2011 Practical Sailor

But back to the dilemma of anchoring and ground tackle, which is almost invariably heavy (even if there are exceptions) and is best kept aft and low, but usually isn't. It's not like the problem is unknown: Practical Sailor had a couple of really good articles here and here a few years ago. Many of pros and a greater number of the cons are enumerated. But if the best practice of ground tackle management is to stow chain low and aft, why is this so rarely a feature of modern production boats?

A large part of the reason is that many people who own boats prefer not to be reminded that they are actually on a boat, I think. They want the "working" part of the boat (the backing plates, seacocks, pumps, engine compartment, tankage and yes, anchoring gear) to be invisible in the "living" area, and banishing the often smelly and rusty chain to the pointy end is one way to do this, even if in terms of the physics of sailing the boat it's like putting a fat kid on the very edge of the see-saw seat.
Custom, homebuilt projects can think outside of the anchor locker if they are willing to commit to non-traditional layouts. Diagram (c) https://framsblog.wordpress.com/
In the diagram above, which is from the blog of a Dutch trimaran builder, the chain locker is well-aft, giving the height needed for an effective chain fall. This is the distance and angle that chain runs off the windlass's gypsy so that it piles neatly in a pyramid at the bottom of the space provided.

I find interesting this blog author's contention that figuring out the angles of his chain fall had to be derived empirically and not from an established set of parameters. Diagram (c) https://maringret.wordpress.com
Now, getting the chain aft on the premise that this is better needn't involve radical surgery: one boat builder found even eight inches aft made a difference and also introduced me to the rather useful and economical concept of the recycled tire garden trug as a durable receptacle for piled chain. This is easier to remove and clean and cheaper in time and dollars than was my idea of making a triangular box with several coats of Rhino Liner applied.
If you're prone to drug, pay out the trug. Photo (c)http://www.odysseyyachts.com/Odyssey_Yachts/BUILDING_BLOG/BUILDING_BLOG.html
A related approach is seen on the rather beautiful S/V Jedi, a Sundeer 64. Here the chain run on deck is taken well back to an offset windlass and protected hawse pipe straight down into a dedicated locker.
The best option to my mind involves a willingness to surrender a bit of internal space, but so what? It's a boat! Photo (c) http://www.sv-jedi.org/

Now, I thought I had all this ground tackle nonsense sussed out years ago. Alchemy came with a relatively shallow, uncovered anchor "well", which carries some 200 feet of chain splayed about only 14 inches below deck level. The positives were (and remain) that this well is dry and protected by pipe rails. Losing 14 inches in height means the forces in a seaway attempting to throw crew off the boat are mitigated, somewhat. The drain hole for the anchor well is relatively high in the stem; even in a plunging sea, there is enough buoyancy in Alchemy's bluff bows to keep the anchor well drain hole out of the sea, and the area is shallow enough that even brimming with ocean, it wouldn't drag down the bows before it self-emptied.
Conceptually in 2009, because I got absorbed with repowering and detanking.
As can be seen, the "well" is basically just a place to get sorted. So I thought "hey, why not make a nice deep bucket? At the front of the boat? I'm sure I could make a lid for it!"

This is actually a vast amount of cutting and welding.
But while this would work, it turns the bow into a bucket, leaves far less prospective anchor well "floor" in which to stand, and doesn't move the chain back so much as down, while removing the aspect of "self-draining" that is desirable in a steel boat.

"Spurling pipe" is number 11 and is the least likely clue in Pictionary.

So my new thinking is to leave well enough alone (pun intended). The forepeak workshop space is seven feet aft of the stem; I can move the windlass about five and a quarter feet back, almost to the forepeak hatch frame. This will keep the windlass slightly more protected and out of the weather and will leave the well as a place for chain management and cleaning, a rode footbath, so to speak. The chain fall can then be a simple pipe from the underside of the deck, in the same "empirical" combination of straight and angled spurling pipe down to a floor-bolted trug. This means there is no bucket, no welding, no lid, just a lined hole in the deck that pipes chain into a sort of soft bucket. Chain is cleaned on deck before it is stowed low and several feet aft, and I can keep the buttons to work the windlass when in electrical mode better protected, another win.

I think I'll start measuring twice and cutting once. I may have just talked myself out of an expensive mistake.


Getting a charge out of winter

Ice, Sun Dog and Condo Crane: A typical Toronto tableau.

While I can ski, or rather have skiied in the past, I don't do so now, as this car-free sailor doesn't find the idea of taking a bus to and from a place to rent ski gear particularly appealing. I don't skate, either, and hence am not much of a Canadian, I suppose. So my winter sports are essentially identical to my summer ones: lots of cycling and lots of boat repair.
Open water? In my lake? It's more likely than you'd think.

Of course, the more appalling brand of weather, of which we've had an excess since late November, can and has put a kink in those activities; it has been either too cold, too windy or too snowy, sometimes all at once, to get more than essential biking it (groceries and run-dry impellers and Perko seawater strainer gasket kits, for instance). So things have been slowed up.
Allegedly visible: A sundog, as seen by a seadog.

This has created some practical problems. Aside from the cold, which may be testing the limits of my winterizing regime (currently under review, by the way), I habitually "lay on a charge" on both boats several times a winter. For Alchemy, this involves simply plugging into a power stand in the drift-covered boat yard. As long as it's between 0800 and 2000h and the power company is on game, I can get one or two 15 amp circuits aboard, the latter enough to get the sole battery aboard charged and to allow a minimal amount of space heating to occur, the latter being of interest as I tend to stay aboard when charging is happening, due to some early lessons in what can go wrong with unattended boats while plugged in.

During my unfortunate stay at Outer Harbour Marina in 2007, this boat went up in little toxic cinders while charging unattended and took the portable toilets with it
On Valiente, which has a pair of larger-format batteries as a combined house/start bank, it's a case of taking a Honda 2000 generator down to the boat and letting it power the onboard charger for several hours. That means a) finding a day clement enough to do the job, as I have to cart the genset by bicycle trailer, and b) finding a day in which it's practical for me to kill several hours aboard a cold, dim boat. Item B is really more of an issue, inconceivable as that might seem to a car owner, than is the transport aspect, because I don't leave the boat unattended. If it's below freezing, as it has been for a ridiculous, record-breaking stretch here this year, even the useful prospect of swabbing out the interior can't be realized. Besides, that yard's pipes are almost certainly frozen or off.
Roads to nowhere until the ice breaks up in a few weeks
So I may have frozen batteries and a burst block when I finally get to poor, drifted-over Valiente, probably later this week. Oh, well, it'll be something to write about.
"Hank on the drifter", they said.
UPDATE, 15.03.10: I finally got to Valiente and while a surprising amount of snow had to be shifted to even reach the cockpit lockers.revealing an absolutely filthy coaming and deck thanks to the diesel and dust from the nearby recycling plant, the good news is that the engine appears unburst from the anti-freeze defeating cold.
Focused or not, that's a lot of snow.
Perhaps the metre of snow insulated the engine bay?

The penalty for leaving the mast in involves frozen bilges. The sobering thing is that I poured a litre or so of antifreeze in that bilge in the fall.
The batteries, read (quite) cold, summoned up 12.8 volts, which was better than I had hoped for. Three hours of Hondafication later, they read 13.6. I even gave the Coast Guard a radio check to see if the antenna and connections were intact. Apparently, yes.

Bucket and drop board substituting for shovel is no way to get past winter.
So, while the boat is cosmetically at somewhat of a low, the snowpack is retreating (i.e. "pushed") and while I won't know for sure until a test fire if the engine isn't cracked, I have no evidence in the form of extruded pink tears to indicate it is. A cold, wet, dirty but good day.
On Comet, or perhaps Vim, and a conscientious power washing. Argh.