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


Ahoy, readers! Artificial waypoint dead astern!

Sometime over the last 24 hours, this little "fixing a boat" blog, which was started in late March of 2007, crested 10,000 "distinct views".

OK, Steve Jobs, I am not.

There's a number of hobbies, fetishes and political/religious viewpoints of which not one of those 10,000 patrons has likely ever heard of that are more compelling and worthy of perusing. Reading traffic stats of websites is not exciting, but it's revealing, and "boat restoration/prep for cruising" is not remotely in the same league as watching reality TV or even translating Buddhist chants from Tibetan into Latvian. Nonetheless, I continue to post, as it's a diary of successes, failures and "teachable moments" for me and the crew, and the interaction with readers is something I've come to value greatly.

I do believe, however, that for such a protracted and specialized narrative, that the experience of blogging has grown from "cheat notes for the inevitable cruising book" into a sort of meditation on What It All Means via Boat Repair. You can spend time, money and sweat equity in fixing a boat, particularly when you start with such a poverty of manual skills and technical know-how as I, the boy who quit shop class for theatre because all the girls weren't in shop, possess in such modest amounts. But as I acquire, painfully in some cases, these skills, I am finding that my attitudes toward the work, the trip, the adventure and in some senses my own culture is changing. We have never been particularly materialistic in my family...not being rich will have that effect...but a sharp consideration of life aboard for years at a time has tailored expectations even more. What we really need is a fairly short list; what we would like to have has to pass a number of filters, such as cost, energy needs, maintenance cycle and spaces required.

In 2008, we weren't going to have a watermaker. Now, we will. We were going to rebuild the engine, now we have a new one. And so on. Charting the evolution of opinion and mindset both within and around the perimeter of "the project" is simple when rereading this blog, and even if it's only of personal interest to me, I have found it revealing and instructive.

As for what has proven popular, the fine folk at Blogger make that tally easy. Doom, realized or in potential, brings in the eyeballs. My entry on the 2010 Lake Ontario 300 race and its brief if intense, sail-rending squalls have been the most read post to date, with 507 "pageviews". Next is this post from 2009 about how realistic it is to recover a COB (crew overboard) in bad conditions. Over 400 readers found that sufficiently interesting, which confirms to me that nothing brings a crowd like a good accident.

After that, things tail off considerably, and it is clear that I am not writing for an audience. Fair enough...I am surprised to have had 10,000 reads in the first place.

My sincere thanks to my readership and to all those who have taken the time to comment and to inform.

And so the journey continues.


Bright and butyl full

No, this is not a duplicate post of this one from last fall. It is, however, an illustration of how outside forces can derail certain aspects of the renovation schedule. Above you see a completed installation of the fab Newfound Metals portlights, for which I was grinding larger holes late last September. I had actually dry-fitted them as ye olde post describes, but I ran into a run of work, had to pull the other boat out of the water, had to secure permission for further time on land, made a fairly critical bit of ligament in my left arm n0n-functional trying to hand-lower big batteries off the boat (note to self: Warm up muscles first, then purchase small crane.)

Then we had an appalling winter and an appalling spring. Despite arm protests, minus the problematic waving, I managed to do a little work aboard, and replaced the plastic sheeting over the gaping portlight holes four times, and the tarp I keep over the pilothouse roof until I can find a replacement for the Atkins and Hoyle gasket that doesn't cost fifty bucks, a total of three times.

The good news is that not much else leaks. At the moment. We've had so much rain this year that if it did, the bilges would be awash. Awash, they are not.

I was able to prime the holes in April, but I only got time, sunshine and heat enough to mix up the Endura two-part epoxy paint I use for touch-ups this week. It was also an opportunity to paint over some scraps and dings, and, I suppose, a glimpse into the future, when I expect a weekly "hour of touch-ups" will be on the activities board of international travel.

The butyl pun, of course, refers to butyl tape, a humble and venerable synthetic rubber compound with the consistancy of bubble gum, a tendency to self-adhere, and a great ability to keep water out. Having found, while doing various repairs, gobs of "still alive" in still flexible and damp-feeling...butyl used as bedding and sealing material on the nearly 40 year old Valiente, I grew to appreciate butyl's qualities, which are somewhat passe in this age of more modern and glamorous polymers, compounds and sealants.
The real thing, as sold by the redoubtable "Maine Sail".

Nonetheless, I've decided in concordance with other boat fixers (a secretive and possibly inebriated clan of misanthropes for the most part) that butyl would be the way to keep the sea out of the pilothouse portlights, assuming, of course, that the negligent crew had remembered to dog down the lids when the wind piped up.

Who left the dogs up?

I wrapped narrow, snot-like strings of butyl on the trim rings (the outside SS rings through which the body of the portlight passes), going inside and outside the 1/2 inch little stubs into which the mounting bolts went. Then I pressed slowly and firmly on the rings until they stuck to the recently dried epoxy paint. You can see a little bit of extruded grey stuff above, which I will trim with a little Exacto knife...apparently a Canadian term, so for my southern readers, think "artist's boxcutter", I suppose. I used Sikaflex 291 on the bolts, using a "twirl around the middle of the bolt shaft" techniques I've found keeps the threads dry and yet allows removal if needed.

I created a second gasket around the sort of flange that pokes out of the boat a bit. Then I spent about a hour gradually tightening with my largest socket wrench the rather unusual 6 mm bolts I had to travel by bike to Etobicoke to obtain. The whole assembly, crudely cut "spacer" rings and all, is now practically welded together, and if leaks appear, they should be immediately obvious, as restoring insulation and panelling and wood trim that will bury that crudely cut ring is one of the last jobs I'll tackle pre-departure.
Prevailing winds come in here.

Note the little chain thingie at the top of the photo. That's the little clip that holds the portlight open as needed. I drilled a couple of boltholes in the aluminum roof "underflange" to mount them, but that area will also one day be restored to a more shippy, woody look and they'll probably go into a piece of glued wood at that point. Today's point is that tomorrow's rain will not enter the pilothouse, and the next time I'm there, southerly or northerly breezes will suck the heat out better than previously, previously being 1/2 inch clear circles of Lucite, bolted with 30 little bolts.

A last word on butyl: The aforementioned aluminum roof is, of course, through bolted to the inward top flange of the sides of the steel pilothouse. I have already repainted that flange, but will likely create nylon bushings and will apply goo of the galvanically isolating kind to keep the SS bolts from reacting with the aluminum roof, through which I have run and will run again considerable numbers of volts and amps for the various pilothouse gadgets, sensors and lights. In addition, I will use thin strips of both bedded HDPE plastic and a special sort of butyl used in roof sealing called EPDM rubber in order not only to electrically isolate the metals, but to keep the sea out effectively if we take a wave. I have found evidence that the bead of 5200, while personally challenging to my sabre-saw blade budget, was not entirely good at keeping out the water, which is not my idea of proper to a voyaging vessel.


Rode work ahead

Even though I continue to repair and refashion Alchemy, it doesn't mean I don't tend to the needs of the old sloop Valiente. Getting her in fit fashion this year in the face of bad timing, daunting weather and the need to make money in Non-Boat Land has taken some time, but I finally got the ground tackle sorted.

As can be seen, this involved putting on a short bow roller (salvaged from a C&C 35!) and a hawse pipe hinged cap (found in the "spares" locker at my club, and putting in anchor hangers (alas, I had to actually buy these). One club workshop-fabricated backing plate made from a length of genoa track later, one garage-fabricated U-bolt and backing plate installed in a bulkhead for the bitter end, and everything looked like it had been on the boat for ages. Mainly because it's old.

The hawse pipe (please ignore the dirt) can only contain the rode, unless I take apart the short length of chain. This is not necessary unless I am leaving the boat for some time and want to remove the anchor itself. This anchor, by the way, is a steel "hi-tensile" Danforth knockoff from (likely) the '70s. I will keep it as the "lunch hook". The "main" is of course the thing I didn't take a picture of, the Fortress FX-23:

That's the anchor we actually tested for the first time today, in admittedly benign (a mere five knots of wind, firm sand and grass bottom) conditions.

What benign conditions resemble:

Lacking foresight, means and a sense of nautical decorum, we simply used a fender to buoy the anchor, in case the somewhat modest rode parted due to the mighty backing down power of a recently tuned Atomic 4 engine with a wee prop, or the aforementioned sheer age of the thing.

But all went well. We let out 80 feet of rode in about 15 feet of water, which was, to be sure, only just over five-to-one scope instead of the recommended seven-to-one, but the anchor is sized for a boat 12 feet longer and the wind consisted largely of angel farts, so the recklessness continued unchecked.

In short, we held just fine. Veering hard in reverse did nothing...once set, the Fortress did not break free when subject to a mighty churning aft. Not fancying my chances with the rode, however (which I will size up to perhaps 1/2 inch or 9/16ths or something beefier, I think{I eventually purchased 5/8"
}), we merely pulled in the slack by hand, and, when directly over the anchor, a half-hearted yank upwards freed it and it was soon on the deck looking suspiciously clean.

So that test went in the right direction: sticking firmly when deployed, and easing out cleanly when hoisted.

Lurching into a crowded anchorage with 30 knot gusts and a square chop will no doubt prove more educational, but I suspect this anchor will rise to the challenge as it sinks into the bottom.

I will play further with the "as found in bottom of locker" steel Danforth to contrast and compare. I have a 33 lb. CQR and a 33 lb. real Bruce I could fling off the front as well, but it's best to invest in more robust rode first, I think.