Copyright (c) Marc Dacey/Dark Star Media 2006-2020. Above photo (c) Marc Dacey. Powered by Blogger.


Hauled and keeled

Alchemy gets the straps at East River Shipyard. Photo (c) Bradison Boutilier

Another long break in posts, our maintenance blog. This has been, due to the demands of living in rural Nova Scotia and the sheer amount of time it takes to get to the East River Shipyard (30 minutes) or the closest grocery store (65 minutes) under absolutely ideal conditions of a) fully functioning bicycle; b) weather of mild to moderate wind, above zero degrees Celsius temperature, and no ice or snow; and c) the short days mean when we work on Alchemy, now "crated" in a shipyard's shed in East River, Nova Scotia, we are focused on getting work done in constrained time segments, themselves dependent on limited daylight, limited cold tolerance and willingness to travel by bike on a secondary highway in gales of various intensity.
Removing the rigging was fun...not. But it was necessary.

So there's that. An example of  this year's decommissioning involved laying the mast on the ground beside the boat and removing all the standing rigging, which comprises 12 15 metre or so lengths of 8 mm (5/16th) stainless steel wire and the 1.5 metre bobstay, as well as disassembling the Pro-Furl unit without damaging it, as it wasn't particularly worn out, but the furling function could be improved upon, and our model of furler was hard to get replacement parts for. 

The unrigged mast on its way to the mast rack.

All this careful removal was in aid of the complete replacement of the standing rigging and the recycling of the Sta-Lok terminals on new wire; the turnbuckles, forks and related rigging pieces are in good enough shape to continue using, but the wire, as far as we can determine, is original at nearly 33 years old, and we did not wish to go offshore, or even coastal in salt water, with rigging that old. While it looked in good shape and we'd had no signs of decay, we mostly motored to Nova Scotia and had not, arguably, stressed it overmuch in the more benign fresh water environment of the Great Lakes.

Said mast, bereft of wires, racked. I would lash it more firmly later on: it's damned windy here.

This isn't the first time we've rerigged, but it's not a job for the faint-hearted. It's expensive, although The Yacht Shop in Halifax is cheaper than most Toronto shops and they understood my questions readily, and restoring the rigging in the spring will require even more work. We have the somewhat questionable presence of three out of the 26 mechanical terminals on our rigging, 23 are Sta-Loks and three are Norsemans. There's no discernable quality difference between the two: they both work the same way via the compression of an internal "cone", which compresses the splayed wire ends to make a durable friction fit in this fashion, but the Norseman company changed hands some years ago and while parts can still be obtained, we feel that all the terminals, should they require service, should be of the same type. Same with getting a new furler on the new forestay: as we did with replacing the engine, there is much to recommend replacement over repair of mission-critical parts of the boat before they break and the crew learn that the needed parts are hard to replace or obtain.

Alchemy on the move and into her winter quarters, which keep the snow out, at least.
Photo (c) Bradison Boutilier

After the nice fellow from the rigging place came and took away all the old rigging for measurement, replication and recycling, and we had done the customary work of winterization of the plumbing and the raw water circuits, as well as the disconnection of the significant number of cables and wires from the mast and off the deck, we were put in our winter shed. East River Shipyard is an exceptionally busy place: it serves both recreational boaters and local fishing/lobstering vessels, the latter of which have short windows in which to make money and must be launched rapidly. In addition, the ownership of this yard changed hands earlier in 2020 and they've been on an expansion tear; since our arrival in the area on October 6, two vast boat sheds have been erected on poured rebar and concrete platforms and filled with boats. So we've been moved more than once out of the way of "ongoing building" as well as being moved around a bit inside the shed itself as more boats have been slotted into place. All I can say is that they know their business here, and I can see no scratches or dings I did not put on the hull myself.

These guys handle hydraulic trailers the way Mrs. Alchemy handles injured songbirds...gently!

The shed is pretty basic and unheated, but then we aren't paying very much to be "inside" and we can run from a 30 amp service any time we are aboard. This allows us to keep the batteries fully charged much of the time, and will permit an equalization in the spring. There's new LED floodlights overhead and if I really need more amps, we've left one of the Honda gensets aboard if I want to run 15 amps of heaters or extra lights.

One of the jobs we elected to farm out is the sounding of the hull. We are at the shipyard in the first place to have the bottom paint ground off to the bare metal and to have it coated with a galvanizing layer, then a two-part epoxy barrier coat and then a few coats of anti-fouling paint suitable for seawater. While it would be possible to do this oneself (and indeed, we are doing the topside painting for the various nicks and dings we've created to date), I lack the enthusiasm for the hours of grinding I would need to do and the equipment to spray the various coatings on in a fast (to avoid time spent in open air for the bare steel of the grinded hull plates) and efficient (to maintain an even depth of coatings) job.

Reasons we were concerned: after 19 months in both fresh and salt water, the anodes were pretty corroded...were the steel plates they were protecting also in trouble? We had been in some pretty basic marinas with potentially dodgy shore power: the rather heavy decay of these anodes could be perfectly normal and a sign they were working as desired. But we had to know for sure.
The father and son team of inspectors were fast and efficient, which is one of the reasons we decided Nova Scotia would be a better place to get work done than Toronto

But we had to get past the rather daunting hurdle of confirming the hull was sufficiently thick in the first place. Thanks to the purchase survey I had from 2005, I knew how thick the hull plates were at the time of building, and so had a baseline. I even had a plate sounder with which I had done some initial investigation a few years prior; what I lacked was the expertise to interpret my results, plus the experience to know exactly where I needed to sound, or determine the thickness of, the steel hull plates.

The process used by the pros was methodical as one might expect. A few square centimetres of paint down to bright metal was removed and sounded. Results were recorded and compared to the stated plate thicknesses I provided. The drawing the son made was pretty nice for a sketch on a clipboard.

Nice work, isn't it? I've kept the PDFs, which are equally pretty in the report.

The evidence of the rust-creating ability of seaside air emerged within hours. We had to  spray two coats of Tremclad onto all the "test sites" after a manual sanding and application of "Ospho" to convert the rust after just one day. These polka dots will, of course, come off in the spring when the boat is hauled out of the shed to be grinded and sprayed. The good news of the report was that all the plates, save that on the bottom of the keel was actually slightly thicker than specified, suggesting that wastage of the hull over the years had been "none to minimal" As for the plate on the bottom, it was supposed to be 3/4" thick, but surveyed so consistently at 5/8" thick that I suspect the thickness reported in the purchase survey was incorrect. Regardless, plenty of metal is where it should be, and peace of mind on this point has been achieved.

The second biggest job is to fix the rudder to hydraulic ram connection, and to better keep water from getting into the boat where said ram exits the stern.

With the ram end "cuff" unbolted.

But the disassembly was on us. I was given the good advice to record my steps.

With the HDPE "ram plates" loosened.
Exterior plate off revealing the "gasket". We want to explore having a PSS-type shaft seal here. The grey goo is butyl tape,
The hole through the plate is angled precisely to let the ram move linearly in and out, pivoting on the rudder tab.
This is the "ram pin", which I think is a modified trailer hitch in SS. The threads are shot and that's why the nut originally on there failed. The hole was my attempt to do the job right, which proved impossible in water. The right way would be to have whatever nut is used to be cotter-pinned straight through the shaft so it could never work its way loose.

What remains is to get our son down to the boat to help us remove the now-disconnected rudder from it pintles. It's made from aluminum, and I can grind it back and repaint it myself with a couple of sawhorses, leaving lots of room for the pros at the yard to do, once things warm up sufficiently in the spring, the bottom job.

More to come as we soldier on.


Catching up and not coughing

Not a bad moon rising across from the National Yacht Club back in June.
Well, that was a rather significant pause in new posts. It's October 8, 2020 at time of writing and we started sailing on our voyage of discovery, COVID-19 and repair around July 15. The prep for leaving was retarded by the sense that, once the St. Lawrence Seaway had opened in late June, that we should prudently stand by for a couple of  weeks to see if the dreaded "second wave" manifested. Alas, that didn't happen until we were in the Atlantic Bubble, but I digress. Digression will follow, trust me.
The end of June saw our boat club launch, finally, and our return to our dock instead of the convenient seawall
The weather improved sufficiently to get multiple small jobs done and to plan out where I wanted to take this "repair and refit" blog in light of plans to debut a new, more voyage-focused blog. Now, given the axiom of cruising as "boat repair in exotic places", this does not mean the retirement of this elder blog, but I will be posting more rarely and with a goal of showing what actually living aboard takes out of a boat and how to order the necessary labour effectively to continue moving and remaining functional...and what you can safely leave for winter.
Rooms with views and a mission attic probably aren't great for restoration purposes
Speaking of living aboard, the vagaries of Toronto real estate were revealed, and I mean revealed, in our former house and its mate on the other side of the firewall. The person who bought first our side and then the other obviously has plans, likely of the "fashionable restaurant" variety, but leaving the roof off and the back exposed to the weather for months at a stretch seems counter-intuitive. Luckily, I am more utilitarian than sentimental on subjects like real estate, but it seems a little wasteful. But then I lack the nous of developers.
Two Honda 2200s, for when you really need 27 amps of AC and there's no shore power.
Back at the lived-aboard, we were testing various systems for soundness. The Honda gensets worked like champs, and, now in our Nova Scotia winter digs, we've got one ashore in case of a power outage over the winter (a distinct possibility, we've been told, as is the need to bring in rum and storm chips).The other Honda is staying with the boat so we can have power at the boatyard to which we are going tomorrow case power goes out there...
And it was moving steadily to the SE. GOOD JOB, BOYS!
Meanwhile, back in June/July before we left, we had time to observe the state of marine expertise far from the ocean. This is a warning buoy to delineate the crumbling end of the seawall. Note that it isn't actually at the crumbling end. We saw the City of Toronto workboat (or a subcontractor) screw around more than once getting this nav aid in place correctly and watched them leave bow paint on another part of the seawall on a dead calm morning. The further east we've subsequently gone, the greater the level of seamanship we've observed.
Solstice 2020, observed with a measure of social isolation, and a measure of rum.
Huzzah! Sumer is icumen in!
Meanwhile, living aboard at a COVID-affected boat club meant we were left largely to our own devices until the launch process happened. Mrs. Alchemy and myself have enjoyed for many years "kicking off summer" by watching the sun rise after the shortest night of the year. This year, despite daunting circumstances and no guarantee we would dare to leave, was no exception.

In the meantime, boat life continued. We got to see a lot of these sights...

A cliche need not be ugly.

...and a mother canvasback and her brood of curious offspring were a feature of morning coffee on the aft deck...
Once there were eight, but my biologist wife suggested five was fine parenting.
The watermaker can't be really started in fresh water. This is no longer a problem.

Boat jobs accomplished included a partial installation of the watermaker, mainly to get it out of the portside seaberth. These RO tubes went over the port water tanks and the rest of the pieces, which are modular, will go starboard side.
Brown feet are inevitable in this lifestyle.

The liftraft, which I didn't like on the starboard aft deck rail for reasons of scraping while docking and the weight of the thing, went snugly on the cabin top a little in front of the mast and between the saloon hatches. This I greatly preferred.

The drogue was repacked and stowed at the aft end of the sailing helm footwell, bagged against UV. It could work on the aft bollards, but the goal is to install chainplates on the stern this winter and then never use it!
Nephew No. 2 Ryan Dacey

Goodbyes were made and signals hoisted...
Thank you, everyone who helped us begin the voyage
...and we were off! And I finally got the solar panels tied into the batteries. Behold, free amps!


Absolutely floored

The Lonseal was very carefully cut by Mrs. Alchemy based on paper templates and You Tube tutorials.
As mentioned last post, the good ship Alchemy came with many desirable features, but nice flooring was not one of them. So we decided if time allowed, we would "refloor" in Halifax over the winter. Well, time allowed and, thanks to the pandemic, it very much has, we determined to do the job this spring, prior to leaving.

The Lonseal product is not cheap, but it looks very nice and has a reasonable quality of non-skid (non-skiddiness?) desirable on a sailboat. In other words, given a decent shoe, you can stand without slipping on a fairly vigorous angle of heel. It is applied to wood or metal decking with a two-part epoxy. Once on, it's unlikely to come off.

Which brings us to the prep. The saloon was done first, which involved a prepatory sanding and cleanup of the existing subfloor, which is 3/4" thick marine plywood screwed to framing, which in turn is through-bolted to the frames and stringers, and in some places, such as the area above the forward diesel keel tank housing the 350 kilos of batteries, has been reinforced by me, because 55 kilo batteries stoving in the top of a keel tank at sea is considered undesirable.

The previous floor covering was green indoor/outdoor carpet in the saloon and the floor was held down with coarse drywall screws. The latter would surely rust in the sea air and were replaced with slightly longer (1 1/2 inch), slightly larger (#10) silicon bronze screws, which are far less likely to corrode in place and are often used in wooden boat building. So all that took time to prep.

The template cutting, which involved both cutting out multiple hatch covers and matching the "holly" lines neatly, also took a lot of work, all credit to the missus, who did a fine job and now we can have people over without cringing, mostly. Where I came in was in the pilothouse.

You've seen these two photos before, but they bear repeating. To the left is prepped metal, to the right is flap-disked and Ospho'd metal.
The former flooring was, in sum, metal decking over which odd, wide-headed self-tapping screws held down a quarter-inch of cedar ply, over which was glued a further one-eighth inch of cedar ply, over which was a sort of vinyl parquet pattern substance, also glued.

Friends, to use sailor talk, it was a fucking mess. Parts of the floor were rotten, other parts were heavily worn, and there was evidence of mold in the wood. I took it up with a combination of prybars and a Multimaster knock-off that is about the best $99 I may have ever's so reliable and useful in the more nasty jobs like this that I buy it actual Fein blades at great cost. But they work and they fit. Were I using this tool everyday, I would pay four times as much for the real thing, which appear indestructable.
The self-tapping weird metal screws were, of course, rusted in place, so I had to grind off about 60 of them. Makeshift curtains and rounds of vacuuming were made to keep the grit thereby made airborne out of the rest of the boat. The helm seat, which, as one might imagine, I installed particularly strongly, was unbolted, cleaned up and reinstalled. Acetone wipes, metal prep and protective paints were applied and there was much dryfitting upon the face of the waters.
Looks nice, doesn't it? There a massive hatch in this picture.
But the results were worth all the odd smells, tiptoing around while things "set up" and labour and dollars expended. The boat is cleaner, safer and looks markedly better. We'll do the aft cabin floor, which is tiny, after we get to Nova Scotia, which looks like it's going to happen, fingers crossed, as the Seaway locks open to pleasure craft June 22. We will pause to see if a pandemic "second wave" happens that could affect marinas or our passage materially, so early July is our new "go date".

Held together and to the countertop with countersunk #12 SS screws, it's not likely to move.
But back to further improvements: My wife has remarked on the disagreeable habit of the galley sinks not completely draining even at zero heel. While nothing short of a grey water tank with separate pump out could solve all of that, the simple addition of a two-inch HDPE sink surround has now raised the two galley sinks enough to permit full drainage, even if I can't take a decent picture of it.

Rubber strips glued to the underside of the wind generator pole should provide a bit of cushioning and, we hope, sound deadening.
I designed a simple base for a wind generator pole that fabricator pal Andrew Barlow knocked off in stainless steel with his customary skill. Before the wind generator is mounted, however, I have to make it more stable with struts at the rearmost solar arch and at the stern rail. I'm thinking Kee Klamps, but my friend Dean Muto is an actual rigger and I will see if he thinks that's a good idea.

Pipe goes over this well-bolted stub and is cross-pinned. Wind generator is collared to the top of the pole and clears the adjacent panel by about 15 cm.
 So we've got a few more projects to go, but arguably five weeks to get them done in, which will include "family docking in cross-winds" lessons, anchoring setting and retrieval practice, and the relocation of both the liftraft from rail to foredeck and the mounting of the nesting dinghy ... somewhere...Enjoy last night's brush with a squall!
This one had little rain, but over 30 knots of wind, always fun on the nose tied to a wall.
But we got a rainbow in the boatyard, which was nice.


And we're back....

One of the pleasures of living aboard is the proximity to the great outdoors, which are greater now that air and land traffic are truncated.
Well, it's been some time since my last post. And yet it's been an eventful month here on the good ship Alchemy, now tied to the seawall at National Yacht Club.  We moved back aboard her on April 30th, having left our winter digs, amid the pandemic stop and start. Our club gave us and two other liveaboard boats permission a good 12 days before any members were allowed on the grounds to tie up and, for lack of much else on offer, bob in place. Even though May was a somewhat unseasonably cool month, appropriate bedding allowed a modicum of comfort and we've done a lot of boat jobs whilst waiting for an improvement in conditions that might allow us to get to the East Coast this season.
This is now full of dishes and other galley gear. It's been a valuable addition.
So far, there's been a slight loosening of the "go nowhere, do nothing" restrictions to retard viral spread. Our club, after a lot of debate, is skedded to launch those who wish to be launched (and a minority do not), in mid-June, and various Lake Ontario marinas may be open by then, although the policies on "visitors" are as yet unclear; the Murray Canal opens tomorrow, however, on June 1.

Alchemy at her temporary dock; the power's off on the main finger at the moment, so we are on the wall with a glorious 1.5 bars of wifi!
Our first two weeks here were, unsurprisingly, quiet, with only two other boats, both occupied by single men, and the spectral forms of the club manager and yard man making the odd appearance. But there have been repairs and upgrades done (at a proper distance) most days we've been here, and our son has been completing on online computer science course. Most of the time, or so he says.

Pick a slip, any slip.
 Several jobs have been completed; one was the installation of a chain stopper on the foredeck.
Ah, yes, steel boat skippers just love putting holes in the deck. Not.
 Because of the comparative heights of deck, windlass and anchor roller, I had to fabricate HDPE "risers" for the chain stopper, as well as calculate the most accommodating angle of offset from windlass to roller. The idea is that the stopper keeps the "yank" of the anchor off the windlass gypsy and instead transfers those loads to the deck. So this has to be well-mounted, to say the least. While we have a similar chain hook, and the usual bridle gear, this inline stopper seems to us to be a tidy solution.
Tightening the mounting bolts.
 The job went smoothly.
Missing here is the lever and plate used to trap chain links in the groove just visible. Chain can come up, but can't be lowered or payed out without lifting the plate.
 As did the interior work.

Backing plates and plenty of sealant, as was the case for the windlass, finish the job. No leaks detected since installation
 Getting all that chain out of the well and down the hawsepipe was an improvement.
Doing what it's supposed to.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Alchemy decided that the more tender herbs needed a warmer spot in order to thrive. We didn't really see frost in May, however. Well, just a bit.
OK, snow.
The weather was generally a bit discouraging, which probably reconciled a few sailor to a multi-week delay in getting launched.
Yes, snow. In May.
The harbour is behind that squall.
Meanwhile, fabricator extraordinaire Andrew Barlow made me a beautiful SS wind generator mast and matching base. Well, beautiful to me, anyway. I had to modify it to take a 3/4" hole for the wind generators leads to exit the pole. And that meant cutting a hole on a curved piece of stainless steel.

Start with a pilot hole. Actually, start with clamps. The more, the merrier...
Cutting stainless is a bit of a trial at the best of times. It takes slow drill bit speeds, and plenty of lubrication in the form of cutting oil or water to avoid the dreaded "work hardening".  But I must be improving.
The geared-down shop drill press helped here.
As did plenty of oil. No smoking allowed.

Done. I cleaned up the edges until reasonably smooth and we are ready to pole.
Living in semi-isolation in a mostly closed yacht club means no waiting for the showers, but it also means encounters with various fauna. This is either a Peking duck escapee or some sort of partial albinism...friendly little fellow, either way.
I will call you "Quackers".
Aside from the expected sparrows, terns, grackles, starlings, mallards, red-winged blackbirds and gulls, we've also have had visits from trumpeter swans, cottontail rabbits and one fearless mink, who runs past our boat every morning, usually with an improbably large fish in her face.
The little flange turns sideways and the hawsepipe is sealed.
Still on the topic of ground tackle and fabrications, it's customary offshore to bring the anchor belowdecks and to stow the chain low. This leaves a rather obvious hole in the deck, however, capable of letting in undesirable volumes of ocean. The solution is another Barlow-executed gasketed cap for the windlass's hawsepipe. The anchor end of the chain is attached to the wire lead and, if needed as land is approaching, the flange is turned sideways and the chain is hauled onto the deck for reshackling to the anchor. Neat, isn't it?

Us moved to the wall for that sweet 30 amp fix needed to run space heaters.
 A couple of recommissioning issues have surfaced. The March pump used to run water to the Marine Air heat pump/AC unit has blown a seal, which is leaking prodigiously. I have a spare, but it's a rather big effort to take apart the saloon stairs to access the relevant area, so I've been putting it off. While cycling about 10 days ago, I hit a curb cut badly and pulled a few muscles in my back going over the handlebars in a rather undignified, if strictly Newtonian, fashion. Every job on the boat seems to involve wrenching at arms' length, which, to be honest, isn't the sort of physio called for. But I am recovering even with daily doses of boat yoga.
A sign of better days was seen in the club parking lot.
A more serious issue (we rarely use the AC in either hot or cold modes) arose when the fridge ceased working. The compressor is new last year, and I didn't think it was the problem, so I redid the power leads and remounted the 20 amp circuit breaker (less boat yoga now). Then I checked the power leads going to the module. All good and the customary 13.2 VDC was found.
The dreaded module.
I thought that the thermostat might be involved, so I took the old one I saved from The Time of the Flood and hooked it up. Oh, ho, the fridge happily ran. So I pulled out the leads from the control module and found on the ground lead very little bare wire in the spade connector. I stripped it better, folded it over and crimped on a new spade connector. It's been running fine again for four days, and I deem "crisis averted".
It's the little black wire at the bottom. The outages were intermittent, and therefore frustrating, but we worked it out.
Meanwhile, the club is awaking from its slumber. Dinghy docks are back and the various workboats are launched. Even the old and cranky Blue Barge started immediately. I can't recall the last time that happened in spring, actually. May it be a portent of things to come.
Not sure about Junior Sailing activities this summer, though.
I will also note that this May has featured a tremendous amount of strong easterly winds...I believe we had a five-day stretch of 20 to 30 knot E last week. And some pretty vivid weather along with it.

But southerly this time.
 This has cramped our style regarding certain jobs, such as The Great Reflooring. Yes, we are actually getting to more "make the boat prettier" jobs, as opposed to the "don't sink" and "be capable of sailing" jobs. This has consisted of removing old flooring, prepping the surfaces and remediating them as needed, dealing with found rust, grinding, "converting" and repainting with rustproofing. After that laying down ruinously expensive, if very nice, vinyl flooring held down with two-part epoxy seems the easy part.
The silver part is rustproof-painted; the grubby part is rust-converter painted. It's technical.
The saloon is fully done thanks to Mrs. Alchemy's steady hand and art. The pilothouse will be completed on Tuesday and the helm seat and pedestal restored by then. The boat's looking good. Let's go sailing!
Apply glue and Lonseal Teak and Holly as needed.