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The great cover-up

The heaviest snowfall to date (January 11, 2020) was two months ago. We've had nothing like it since.
The last post described the decision to stay in the water over this winter here in Toronto to get a jump, if a cold one, on next season's sailing, which we hope will see us get to Nova Scotia for a bottom-paint job and a redo of our mast's standing rigging. In the meantime, however, there's a number of jobs aboard to complete before we toddle off down the St. Lawrence River, and our insurance firm informed us that "in-water storage required a boat cover, tarp or enclosure."

The reason for this is (reportedly) to avoid ice and snow buildup on deck that could a) melt, flood and freeze the interior, causing damage and b) cause the boat to become top-heavy and unstable. Presumably, c) would involve slipping off an icy deck and smashing through the ice, but who knows? We were obliged to extend the policy.
Good news: the pilothouse roof hatch gasketing doesn't leak!
As discussed previously, while I had had a frame and a waxed canvas cover for Valiente, our now-sold 33-footer, I had not worked with shrinkwrap and fellow steel boat owners,  along with the practised liveaboard community at Marina Quay West, were generous with their advice. I was able to exchange, in the time-hallowed manner, six-packs of Moosehead for a propane-burning torch that was both dangerous and useful. 
Mrs. Alchemy on the job clearing the sidedecks.
But first we had to build the thing. The need for it was obvious: November 12 is pretty early here for a big snowfall, so getting the frame together became a matter of some urgency. We took measurements, passed them to our friends on a bigger boat for vetting, and my father-in-law kindly drove me to a Home Depot to acquire the necessary lumber, PVC bits and screws, tape, etc. The tab was about $500.

Hole saws get a lot of use on a boat with upgraded plumbing and wiring.
The general idea was to cut PVC pipe hoops over much of the deck (about 30 feet out of 40 total, or from the windlass forward to the end of the boom aft). These would be seated in wooden "feet" consisting of a block of wood screwed to a second block in which a hole matching the diameter of the PVC pipe. Said pipe would be stuffed in the hole and cable-tied to the pipe stanchions welded to the deck. The block would stabilize the pipe and keep it from damaging the paint.
Early stages, before the suppprting frame for the door was put in.
 Once lashed to the stanchions port and starboard, the PVC pipe could be bent to fit into a coupler piece at the center, forming an arc or hoop. The forward and aftmost hoops had a T-fitting coupler in order to run a straight pipe as a ridgepole, which itself was lashed to the mast.
The doorframe and its supports, screwed to a sort of collar
The ridgepole was cable-tied and "anti-chafed" with bubble wrap and tape so that the plastic sheet cover would fit smoothly.
Layer 1 of the "tarp battens".
The next job was (on a calm day) circling the boat in a tender to screw on just above the gunwales (the "toerail" where the deck meets the hull) a series of 1 x 2 inch little lengths of planking to which the plastic cover would be stapled. This took two runs to achieve as a second length of batten was screwed over the first, making a secure "sandwich"; staples alone would soon see the plastic fret and tear free.
..and after.
The job took about three afternoons to complete. The idea was to get a moderately snug fit over the hoops and framing and then to "shrink" the plastic to a more aerodynamic tautness. Had we proposed to live aboard, I would have done a better job, particularly as I was coming up with improvements to the process while I was doing it. But really, this is slightly half-arsed as I'm just appeasing my insurer and avoiding shovelling. I've never covered Alchemy on the cradle, and she's had a metre of snow on her decks at times with no ill effects.
Oh, dear...
Alas, two 45-knot gales in the same week "sprung" a couple of hoops and poked holes (or widened the necessary ones, as in the gaps for the stays and shrouds) and repairs had to be made.
The hoop ends could've poked bigger holes, but didn't, which was nice.
I drilled holes in the couplings at the apex of the hoop "arches" and used small screws on the underside to better keep them in places. The rest was mostly "the red tape of shame", as Rob Lamb, who came up with this methodology of covering, calls it. I can live with shame.

People living aboard tend to go to greater lengths than we did.
The young couple living aboard in front of us did a more elaborate job of tarping their unusual 50-foot steel powerboat, which actually acts as a partial windbreak to ours, and we are rarely the smaller vessel. Also seen in this shot is the 100 foot 5/8" "lock and tidal" line, one of four, we now carry, going forward to a dock opposite from our starboard bow bollard.
The agitator at rest is hung from a convenient spot. The left side is tied to the stern and both lines have anti-chafe.

Another factor to consider when overwintering in-water in Toronto is that the lake may freeze around the boat, possibly to the point of damaging it. While this is less a problem for a steel boat such as ours is, we still have a transom-hung rudder and a hydraulic ram off the stern that could be damaged by ice pans, so the solution is to suspend an "ice-eater", a small electric motor turning a plastic propellor, beneath the boat.

The draw of these agitators is about seven amps continuous, but with a capacitor-mediated surge at start-up. I'm drawing 30 amps (24 amps of which are "useful", according to the marina), meaning that I can still keep my battery bank charging all winter and a couple of lights on when needed.
Those large fenders would actually save the rudder were the dock lines to part.
I took some time to tweak the positioning of the agitator to direct the above-zero water from the depths (which is how the ice is kept away from the hull) both at the stern and down the starboard chine of the hull. There's a single protrusion there amidships for the FLS tranducer, and while it would be a very ambitious chunk of ice to get that far down, I might as well keep the area ice-free. To date, there's been little more than a "skin" of ice in the marina basin, however, and there's not the immediate sense of a week-long deep freeze in the next week or so, so all this prep has not been tested as of yet. The marina insisted on me having one of these, strangely, and not the insurance company.
Barely visible in the above shot (and please ignore the rubbish in the winterized sinks) is the vast, empty expanse of the galley bulkhead. We lack proper storage space for dishes, a means to dry them underway and a place to put a small microwave. So I designed something...

My father-in-law, Dave McMurray, worked building boats in the 1980s and has maintained some friendships from that time. He suggested a man named Fred Blair, who is building us this design in marine ply with a formica-like veneer. Fred came down to the boat and asked a lot of questions, as did we. We are expecting results better than I can do, meaning I can assemble strong, but fall short on pretty. We've taken down the slats covering the steel behind this side in the pilothouse and will mount it on four M10 bolts and load-spreading fender washers. I will likely bolt on a handhold on the companionway stair side to increase stability in motion.
Behold, the new bar.
Creating this galley stowage cabinet will allow several good things to happen: 1) the dishes will be stowed where they can dry, but not easily move; 2) less accessible lockers currently holding small pans can migrate closer to the centerline; 3) much of the cabinet over the stove can be liberated from loose things such as cutlery, funnels and cups; and 4) the former microwave cabinet can be used for bottle storage, freeing up a large shelf on the starboard side for various foodstuffs.

Dry is good.
Behold the deepest bilge, aft of the diesel and beneath the thrust-bearing yoke of the Aquadrive. Keen eyes can just make out the absence of any ingress of water, as one would hope with something called "dripless" on the shaft. I need to service the Rule 3700 bilge pump and will be changing to a beefier hose. In addition, I am considering getting a second 3700 and float switch just to have it handy as a spare at the upcoming Boat Show. More on the Boat Show in a future post.
Lastly in this round of winter prep came The Running of the Genset. This Honda 2000 is about 12 years old, but likely has less than 100 hours of running on it, and is still trouble-free. So I believe I will drain it and stow it in Trenton for future land-side use as they certainly seem to hold their value. It's getting upgraded to two Honda eu2200i models, one of which will be the "Companion" version and which can be hooked together to form a 3600 w continuous genset which will run (combined) for about 2.5 hours on a litre of gasoline. That's enough to weld with on a minor basis, and exceeds what I can produce with the Victron inverter already in play. Total weight will be about 40 kilos for the pair and they can be stowed under cover on deck or in the forepeak down low.

A brief review of our power provisions aboard Alchemy: We have a large battery bank of six L-16 6 VDC batteries wired in series-parallel to provide 1185 Ah at 12 VDC. We also have a 400 w wind generator and four fixed 135W solar panels. Lastly, there's the stock 75 amp alternator that we plan to upgrade to 150-200 amps for quick charges AND to make water while motoring with our on-order watermaker. So if all these systems fail, we'll have the means to replicate shore power. More importantly from our point of view is the reduction in time spent inverting power from DC to AC, which is a somewhat wasteful transformation to run "house power" from DC batteries. If we want to vacuum the boat, for instance, at anchor, or to use a terrestrial power tool with a six-amp draw, it's more logical to use a genset for 15 minutes than to invert power from the ship's batteries. The same can be said for charging the forepeak windlass battery bank (two Group 27 12 VDC deep cycle batteries): an hour on the Honda can put them to 100% and "cost" a teacup of gasoline, which we carry in any case in small amounts for the Honda outboard motor. In addition, if we want to make friends in distant places, lugging one or both Hondas in one or both tenders to, say, fix a lagoon-side structure is generally considered a friendly act.

More to come shortly, as there is more to tell.

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