Thursday, November 26, 2009

Portlight gasket replacement

Replacing the portlight gaskets on a 1990 Pacific Seacraft 37.

This post is offered to other Pacific Seacraft owners who may want or need to replace their portlight gaskets.  I don't offer this solution as The Ultimate solution, but it was the best I could come up with.  If anybody solves this problem in a more elegant or reliable manner, please let me know!

Luckness is a 1990 Pacific Seacraft 37.  The portlights are the rectangular New Zealand portlights.  If you look closely at the portlight lens, bottom right corner, there is a logo from the company in New Zealand which produced the glass.  This solution will likely not apply to other portlights.

The portlights gaskets are moulded and one piece.  The glass lens fits into a slot in the gasket, the gasket is fitted into a bronze frame and the frame is clamped down to the portlight frame bolted to the hull to form a seal.  Or that was what used to happen - after 20 years the gaskets were starting to fail and several of them no longer formed a reliable seal.  Three of the 10 were leaking, with the others on their way.  I could see no way to repair the gaskets other than to replace them.  An example of an old gasket follows:

The portlights were made by a company that is no longer in business.  The gaskets for the portlights are custom and I had no luck in sourcing them.  The Pacific Seacraft factory could offer no advice in sourcing the gaskets.  After searching around Seattle and online, I finally came upon a solution which appears to be working for me.

An example of a completed portlight, with a brand new gasket follows.  The white flecks in the picture are rain drops, not damage to the lens.

Be warned that if you start this project, once you take the gasket out of a portlight there is no going back.  Removing the gasket is a destructive process - you won't be able to put it back again.  Once you take the gaskets out you are committed to solving the problem of finding a new gasket somehow!

If you proceed with this project it may also be worth while buying the material and constructing a gasket or two to get a feel for it.  Before you destroy what you have, you will want to gain confidence in what you're replacing it with.

Also, you will need patience for this project!  It will take several weeks to complete.

No warranty!

I'm not an engineer.  I have not had the new portlight gaskets installed for a long enough period to really know how reliable and robust this solution is going to be.  The result appears to be working, but I won't really know for a few years.  I need to subject the new gaskets to some real world abuse.  It may well be that this solution starts to fail a year from now.  If that's the case, my next option will be to buy new portlights from New Found Metals and have them installed.  The approach described here is much cheaper and allows you to keep the original bronze portlight with the boat - but it is offered without any guarantee or warranty!  I'm some random dude on the net - if anybody follows these steps you would be well advised to think through each step carefully, examining the materials and seeing if they or the process can be improved on.  Or perhaps you want to try some completely different approach.

Enough about that.

Materials required

The solution I ended up with was to build a new gasket out of two pieces.  In a nutshell, I glued the pieces together, fit the result to the lens and used Sikaflex to bond the new gasket into the bronze frame.

I found the gasket material from McMaster Carr.  The two items are:
    Self-Gripping Vinyl Edge Trim with Metal Core.  1/4" opening, 1/2" wide: 24175K16
    Neoprene rubber bar, 1/4" thick, 1/2" wide: 90125K53
I bought 50' of each and have some left over.  You should plan on building three or four extra gaskets to experiment on or to replace failures.

As I live in a wet climate, I also needed to build blocks to fit into the portlight frame once I had removed the lens.  I built three of these (two small, one large), using starboard with gasket material glued onto one side, two bolts attached with a piece of wood to hold the block into the frame.  To build these, the gasket I used was:
    Neoprene rubber sheet, 1/4" thick, various sizes.  durometer rating: 30A   9455K156
cut the board to size, cut the rubber to the board, glue the two, drill holes, attach bolts, attach small boards.

The gasket adhesive I used during the project was 3M Super Weatherstrip and Gasket Adhesive, in black.

I also used Sikaflex 291 for bonding and sealing.  Many paper towels and q-tips for cleaning, many latex gloves, styringes found in the epoxy section of my local chandlery (Fisheries.)  Tin snips are handy for cutting the vinyl trim.

The process

There was some trial and error involved.

Build the blocks for the portlights:

Pick a portlight.  Put the block into the portlight frame:

Now you need to remove the old gasket.  Read the warnings above about this step - you can't go back once you do this!

Cut around the gasket, freeing it from the sides of the frame its in:

The gasket can now be pulled out.  Grab a piece of the gasket with a pair of pliers and pull.  You're trying to pull the gasket out from around the lens - you're not trying to pull the lens out at this point.

Once you have a piece of the gasket free of the lens, removing the rest will be easy - simply keep pulling and the lens will pop free.  If the gasket you first grab breaks off, move over and try again.

You'll need to clean the bronze frame of all the old sealer as well as cleaning the lens of old sealant as well.  The sealer is a little tenacious, getting it off the bronze frame is a little tedious.  I ended up scraping most of it off and then using a circular wire attachment on my Dremel tool to get the rest off.  This step was messy, I hung pieces of plastic up to try to isolate the black pieces flying of the dremel as much as possible.  If you have cushions on board, you may want to move them to a different part of the boat, this is messy.

Cleaning the glass is easy - I used a glass cleaning tool with a razor blade attached.  This tool was also useful for trimming the neoprene gasket to size.  There is a picture of it later.  If you are removing multiple portlights, it would be wise to label the lens so you know where it came from - I kept the lenses matched to their original portlights.

Clean the lens and bronze frame with mineral spirits.

I covered the lens in blue tape in order to keep the new sealant off the glass in later steps.  When you do this, make a mark on the tape to indicate where the New Zealand logo is.  You will want to place the finished portlight back into its frame in the correct orientation, so you need to know where the logo is.

At this point you have a clean glass lens, and a clean bronze frame - time for the gasket.

Building the gasket to wrap around the lens will initially take some trial and error.  I first built a gasket set, let it set for a few days (the adhesive gets stronger over a period of 4 or 5 days) and then tested it to destruction - pulled it apart.  I built another, installed it on the lens and again tested it to destruction.  I encourage you to do the same.  Get a feel for the materials.  Also note what type of stress the gasket will likely endure in practice.  Pulling the old gaskets out wasn't too difficult.  The new ones need to be strong in the right directions, not all directions.

The new gasket will experience its strongest loads while under compression in the closed portlight.  So things like the gasket adhesive and sealant needs to be strong enough to hold the pieces together when the portlight is open, but when it is closed everything presses together.

To build the gasket you first need to determine a good length for the vinyl trim.  Press some of the vinyl trim onto the portlight.  Arrange for the start/end of the trim to be on top of the portlight when its closed, not the bottom.  Go around the portlight pushing on more trim, coming back to the start and cut it off.  This step is actually a little tricky.  You need to adjust how far you press the trim onto the glass so that when the portlight is closed the gasket hits the frame at a good place.  If you press the trim on as far as it goes, the gasket may end up being too far inside the frame.  You also have control over how tight a radius you make at the corners.  It will likely take some trial an error for the first piece of each of the small/large portlights to decide on a good length for the trim.  I ended up with the vinyl trim being 38 3/4" for the large portlight and 27 1/2" for the small.  You may end up with something different.

Once you decide on a good length for the vinyl trim, cut the neoprene bar roughly an inch longer.  I found it easiest to glue the two pieces together while they are lying flat and straight on a table.  I had two boards which I placed the trim between.  I also had a bar that I could press on top of the bonding pair overnight, and two clamps to keep them tight.

The vinyl trim has a tab inside of it - I put that tab on the outside of the boat.  Sand down the outside of the trim to roughen it up slightly.  Do the same with the neoprene bar.  Clean them both off with mineral spirits.  Apply the 3M gasket adhesive, follow directions.  Attach them, clamp, put on bar, weight it down.  I offset the neoprene bar from the start of the vinyl trim - I didn't want to have one spot where they both met.

After drying, the gaskets now look something like this:

Let the glue dry for a day.  Once I started this project and got the sizes right, I could build one gasket per day.  This was sufficient as the other steps are slower.

Now you need to put the gasket back onto the covered lens for a final test fit.  Start with the two pieces:

Attach the gasket, fit it into the frame, adjust the tightness of the fit, repeat until you have a good fit.  Its surprising how as you vary the size of the radius and how far the gasket is pushed onto the lens how you can change the length of the gasket used by several inches.  You'll probably end up redoing your first few after you complete all the steps - don't sweat it, by the third or forth you'll have the hang of things.

Test fit the gasket, you want some overlap between the vinyl trim and the frame, but not too much:

Once the gasket is on, you want to add more blue tape to the vinyl trim and make registration marks so that you can return the gasket to exactly this position.  Also draw around the gasket in the blue tape so that you can cut the tape back to inside the gasket.  You'll want to leave a bit of a gap between the gasket and the edge of the blue tape to allow for a good seal with the sealant.

Remove the gasket and cut the tape on the lens:

Now you can seal the gasket to the lens.  Squeeze a bead of Sikaflex 291 (or an alternative sealant you use) into the trim.  Again, you'll get a feel for how much to use after a few experiments.  You want enough to seal well, but not so much that it interferes with pressing the gasket onto the lens.

Once the trim is full of sealant, put it back on the lens.  Start in the middle, lining up the mark you made to indicate the middle of the gasket and lens.  Press it on toward both ends.  I preferred to have a small amount of sealant advance as I pressed the gasket onto the lens.

Once the gasket is again on the lens, clean up the sealant that has come out and then fit the lens into the portlight frame and clamp it in.  You want the gasket to adapt to the frame shape as it dries.

Let it dry overnight in the frame.

You're getting closer now!

The neoprene bar is too long and you need to cut it back to the right size.  Take care with this step - if you cut too much you may end up with a gap which will cause you to start over with this portlight.  Been there, done that.  I used a glass cleaner razor for this step, putting the razor blade on the neoprene at the spot I picked and then rocking it back and forth to cut.

Apply the gasket adhesive to the vinyl and neoprene.  I would stick a small nail into the corner where the neoprene meets the vinyl to keep them separated while the glue gets tacky.  Then press together with a clamp.  I used a short popsicle stick (bought a bag from the kids art section of Fred Meyer) to spread the clamp force out across the seam.

Give it a short while for the glue to fix.  While the portlight is out of the frame its easy to add more sealant to the edges of the vinyl trim to create a good seal.  I used a small syringe I found in the epoxy section of Fisheries which I filled with Sikaflex.  This gave better control over a small bead.

Apply sealant to the edges, then cleanup to give the bead good shape.  I used q-tips and paper towel cut into small rectangular pieces for this.

Let the portlight lens dry overnight again.

The final step is to seal the lens and new gasket into the frame.  Rough up the outside of the vinyl trim with a piece of sandpaper.  Apply a bead of your sealant into the frame, then put the lens in, cleanup the sealant that oozed out.

The vinyl trim will not meet the corner of the frame.  Fill this gap with more sealant if its not full already.

Cleanup the sealant again.  I found small popsicle sticks useful for leveling the corner areas.

Let the combination dry overnight.

This is also a good time to clean the portlight clamps.  I used my dremel tool with a wire brush attached to clean out the threads on the bolts.  Apply a little lubricant so the clamps close well.

Come back the next day, take off the clamps, rip off the blue tape and admire your new portlight!

The first few closings will be difficult, but the gasket will form to the portlight over a short amount of time.


This is a pretty tedious project and takes some time.  But the result seems satisfactory so far and the benefit is that I have new portlight gaskets and was able to keep the original portlights in the boat.

If anybody has a better solution, I would love to hear how you've solved this problem.

Feedback is welcome.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A plan, coming together

The work on the boat is progressing.  My original estimate of two or three weeks looks like it was optimistic.  Boat projects almost always take longer than you think.

The furnace is almost installed.  The installation looks really good, its clean and tight.  There were many options with how the ducting for the Webasto AT 3900 could be run.  The best quality of heat would come if the ducting was run low in the boat, with the outlets close to floor level.  That way the heat is able to rise and the temperature can be raised uniformly.  While this option would result in the best heat, and could be done on my boat, it also consumes the most amount of locker and cupboard space for the ducting.  Everything is a compromise and I chose to install the ducting in a way that minimized the amount of space lost.  As my choice for a furnace came down to either a diesel bulkhead or the forced air diesel I ended up choosing, I think that even with a less than optimal installation in terms of heat, I will still have better heat than a bulkhead furnace.  Bulkhead heaters optimize for other things (simplicity, power draw, cheery flame in the cabin.)

The ducting for the hot air is mostly unseen, runs inside below the side deck on the starboard side, from the lazarette to the forward berth.  There are 5 outlets: one in the galley; two in the main cabin; one in the head; and one in the forward berth.  The first three are always open to guarantee the heater has sufficient airflow, and the other two are closable.  All of the outlets can direct the heat in different directions.  I've been able to test the furnace now and have had the heat on when the outside temperature was 50F, not a very cold evening - but it was easy to get the boat so hot it was uncomfortable.  Sweet!

As far as the other projects go: the tank was pulled and cleaned.  After the cleaning process it was apparent that the tank was in worse shape than we thought.  There is a lot of pitting in the aluminum, and some of the pits with very little prodding resulted in holes right through the tank.

At this point, I'm glad the tank was pulled and these problems found before they caused a problem.  It might be that I could have gotten another year or more out of the tank - but at some point it was going to start leaking diesel which would have been ugly.  We've found the manufacturer of the tank and are having another one built.  We'll coat the new tank in epoxy and it should be good for at least another 20 years.  This is going to take longer than I was hoping however.  The tank manufacturer is:

John Justin
15171 Pipe Lane #102
Huntington Beach, CA
Work: 714-642-8941
Fax: 714-898-0740

The autopilot project is set to start next and appears to have no issues.  Which is to say, there are things to figure out, but nothing looks unsolvable yet.  Its surprising to me that adding all this equipment to boats ends up being custom work for everything.  I used to think you could just order an autopilot and it would be obvious how to install it for the boat.  That's so not true.  There is a lot of experience and craftsmanship required to perform a good installation.  I'm glad to have YachtFitters do this work for me.

The windlass arrived recently and Terry and Justin at YachtFitters did a test fit - and then called me down to the boat.  It turns out that the Maxwell RC10-8 isn't an ideal fit for this boat. I want to have the chain fall as far back in the enlarged anchor locker as possible, with the goal being that I can raise 300' of chain without having to go below to manually flake it.  With the Maxwell, I was going to have to move the deck pipe about 12" forward - which puts it into a shallower part of the locker, further away from the back.  They could install it, but wanted to give me a chance to think it over.  I've now all but convinced myself to go back to a horizontal windlass which can push the deck pipe as back as far as possible.  The best horizontal appears to be the Lighthouse 1501.  Its an awesome windlass, completely stainless seel and rated at a 1000 lb continuous pull.  The people who own them seem to rave about them and everything I've read (blogs, experience reports, reviews, recommendations) sound good.  Nigel Calder has had three, one on each of his last three boats (it might be more now, that was an old article.)  It will probably take a little while for the order to be processed and the windlass to arrive - so again, this is another project that will push the boat into December.

I have a couple pictures of my anchor locker as it is now - the before pictures.  There is quite a lot of space further down in the locker, aft of these photos.  The hole we're looking through is the wall at the end of the forward berth, it has doors on it so you can access the locker.  There is also a hatch at the base of the doors you can open for more access.  Note that the locker is divided into two area - one about 1/4 of the whole volume to the left (port) and forward in these pictures and then one for the remainder of the space.  I'll be cutting this 1/4 section to make it shorter.  Its already too small to hold a long rode and the wall interferes with chain falling - chain piles up against the wall.

Along with those big things, I've been treating my time at YachtFitters as a kid treats his time in a candy store.  I've added a number of things to my original list: a plexiglass companionway slat; a new teak fiddle for the galley; teak liners for the deck hatches; two d-rings added to the cockpit to clip into; a couple of rainwater leaks have been identified and are in the process of being fixed; added a anchor swivel - a WASI PowerBall.

I've taken what I thought was my Genoa down to Schattauer Sails to have the UV cover repaired.  They rolled it out in the sail loft and labelled it a Yankee.  They say there is no clear dividing line between the two - I thought it was a high clew Genoa, they call it a Yankee - its a Yankee.  The sail is 114% - I thought it was a 120%.  They are happy to do the work and I feel confident that their quality will be top notch.  When it comes time to buy new sails, it would be sweet to be able to buy some from Schattauer.

I'm having a ready bag made for my Staysail so that I can hank it on to the inner forestay with bag attached so its ready to be raised when I need it.  I'll do this if I'm sailing in conditions where I may want it.  Otherwise I'll keep the staysail stay back by the port shrouds as they are now and sail as a sloop.  Terry added a small snatch block to make storage of the staysail stay even more convenient than it was.  This is a nice setup, its Terry's own design.  Its simple, robust and doesn't lose any deck space.  One of the many advantages of working with YachtFitters is that Terry and Justin have worked with these boats many times before, so I am able to benefit from how they have improved other Pacific Seacraft 37's.

Everything above are the things that others are doing for me.  Some of the things I'm doing myself are to continue with the regasketing of all my portlights.  I think I finally have a set of steps which result in the quality I want.  I have three portlights one step away from done.  I'll then have seven more to do.  This is probably a few weeks of work.

With the tank out, I was able to finally clean the last part of the boat.  The boat has always had a slightly musty odd odor.  The bilge on the boat is deep and connected, from the anchor locker to the rudder post The anchor locker drains into the bilge as does the aft compartment below the rudder post.  Anything that gets into the bilge from forward moves down to the deepest part, aft of the tank beneath the companionway stairs.  This means that mud or other material can accumulate beneath the tank and this is what happened.  After the tank was pulled, I saw the final part I hadn't yet cleaned and got to it.  It took the most part of a day and a half.  The result is a fresher smelling boat.  The first picture is of the bilge looking aft, the second forward.  You can see seven of the 1" stainless keel bolts, there are three more in the section forward of the tank area.   If you cut down you would run into the lead keel - its right there.  Note how clean it all is!

During the furnace fitting Justin moved the fresh water accumulator to test fit a duct (for an earlier plan which wasn't used) - I took the opportunity to sample the water hose.  I've always had a problem with the water quality on the boat.  The water had an odd chemical odor and taste.  It turns out that the hose has the same odor.  All of the hose was also sticky - it seemed like the plasticizers had separated or something to that effect.  Anyway, I've taken the opportunity with the fuel tank being out of the boat and all the hoses being exposed to replace all the freshwater plumbing.  I bought two rolls of hose, each 50' and have used most of it.  There are a couple of areas where I've left the old hose in.  The water to/from the hot water tank is the old hose - replacing this appeared to involved yanking the tank - I never drink from the hot water tank anyway so it should be fine.  There was also one section from the forward tank to the manifold beneath the sink that was hard to replace - from the forward locker under the berth through the head to under the sink in the head.  I just couldn't bring myself to try to yank hose through this section - if I had taken the hose out and couldn't get it back in again it would be extremely hard to fix.  So there is about 8 feet of old hose in this 25' run.  Its better than it used to be.

While I was replacing the fresh water plumbing I thought I would also replace the fresh water pump.  I've gotten rid of the old pump and accumulator and have bought a new Jabasco Sensor Max 14, which has a variable speed drive.  The new pump doesn't need an accumulator, it will speed up and slow down to deliver water as needed.  The claim is that this new pump is very quiet - I'll find out when my installation is done.  I'm hoping this will be the last I see of the fresh water plumbing for quite some time.  If the water still tastes bad, the next step would be to somehow coat the interior of the fiberglass tanks with something, perhaps some sort of water safe epoxy.  I'm hoping it doesn't come to that...

I plan to blog about the portlight project soon, other owners which have the same old portlights might find something useful in there.

Sigh.  I'm looking forward to the time when I can post new photos of my sailing Luckness rather than my working on her....

Friday, October 23, 2009

Another round of work: part 2

The boat is back at YachtFitters for its next round of work.  The theme for this round is for the boat to be capable and comfortable for coastal cruising during this winter and spring.  I also want the boat to be easier and safer to single hand.  Yes, I know that safety starts with the idiot behind the helm, I'm working on that part.  There will be a list of work to follow this round, and a list to follow that one...

The boat will probably be gone for 2 or 3 weeks, drat.  Here's what's going on:
  • a new windlass.  I've chosen a Maxwell RC10-8, a vertical windlass.  The current manual horizontal windlass works pretty well, needs no energy aside from my own, and is simple.  Its also hard to raise the anchor, clean the rode and steer the boat all at the same time.  The last thing is that I have had a bad back in the past...raising the rode twice in a row tends to tweak it
  • adjust the anchor locker.  I want to cut the current anchor locker into one large volume.  The goal here will be to be able to raise the entire rode without having to manually flake the chain.  If the chain needs flaking, it should be easily done on the forward deck.  When raising a lot of chain at the moment, I need to occasionally head below to the forward berth to adjust where the chain is piling, run up to see where the boat is, adjust, go forward to raise more rode, head below, etc.  I want to be able to avoid all of that in the future.  I'll also add 100' to 150' of nylon rode to my current 300' of 5/16th HT chain
  • add an autopilot.  I've chosen a Raymarine unit.  For offshore I'll eventually have a Monitor wind vane, but for coastal sailing an autopilot is more useful
  • add a furnace.  I've chosen a Webasto AT 3900 forced air diesel furnace.  I've gone back and forth between bulkhead mounted, hydronics and forced air.  Webasto makes a nice small hydronic unit, which has the advantage that the plumbing is small diameter pipe and easier to route - but the heat exchange units are fairly large and the power draw for the system is high.  Bulkhead units were very tempting - I like their simplicity, having a visible flame in the cabin would be nice, close to zero electricity needed, and fuel efficient.  However they occupy valuable space on a bulkhead, provide a local source of heat, and have long flue stacks which would need a hole cut into the deck along with corresponding deck space for the stack.  Forced air requires some duct work inside the boat but provides the driest air.  Everything is a compromise on a sailboat.  I hope I'll be happy with the selection
  • work on fuel tank.  My boat has an aluminum fuel tank and there have been reports of these tanks having problems due to galvanic corrosion between the tanks and the stainless steel keel bolts in the salt water bilge environment.  I like to keep the bilge dry.  The boat is 20 years old and I have no idea on the condition of the tank.  The solutions are either to replace the tank with a fiberglass version (which is what the factory uses now) or to take the tank out and fix it.  I'm going with the latter route.  This will involve: emptying the tank; taking it out; cleaning it inside and out; acid etch the exterior; epoxy the exterior and reinstall.  I'll also take the opportunity to add an inspection port and a sampling port.
  • a variety of smaller projects
While this is going on, there is one major carryover project from earlier this summer.  I'm still working on the replacement of all 10 portlight gaskets - a few of which are leaking.  The gaskets are old, they will all leak eventually.  That project will be described in its own post, its taken quite some time to figure out how to solve the problem.

The theme for the next list will probably be energy self sufficiency.  That would involve a wind generator, solar panels, charge controller, possibly an arch, possibly reposition the current radar.  Beyond that, the lists will involve projects for offshore

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Simple single handing

    I single handed my boat for the first time today.  There was no wind, so I practiced docking and backing.  Docking in these conditions is pretty trivial - but as there were more things to do than usual, the extra time I had due to the boat not being blown around came in handy.  My slip-neighbors are gone for the rest of the week, so its a good time to experiment a little as I can't run them down.

    Backing this boat up is a real challenge.  I spent around an hour trying to back it where I wanted out off the break water at Shilshole.  I would like to be able to motor backwards in a box.  Straight, turn, straight, turn, etc back to where I started.  This is very doable in a boat with a sail drive/fin keel/spade rudder.  So far Luckness, with her longer keel, skeg, aperature prop and canoe stern can do a backwards wiggle, which is good, except that its a random walking wiggle.  Backing needs more work.

    The view from my slip isn't so bad, a nice way to finish the evening.

    Friday, August 28, 2009

    No dinghy

    The plan: leave Aug 28th for 11 days away from Seattle; be on the boat each night; head north to the San Juans; putter around and then come back.  There were no more detailed plans beyond that.  I had two friends joining me for the trip up, Joe and Marcie.  They joined on friday and left monday afternoon.  Ivy joined on monday and stayed for the remainder of the trip ending Sept 7th.

    After leaving on friday night we stayed at Port Ludlow, where we anchored out.  Saturday we anchored in Mackaye Harbor where we took the wind on our nose and the waves on our beam all night.  Rolly.

    Most of the trip was amazing.  The trip up was perfect.  While crossing the straits the winds and water were just ideal - this was perhaps the best sailing I had done this year, it was just perfect.  The winds were a little forward of the beam, the boat was at hull speed, the sails were quiet and drawing nicely - we were all feeling great.  The next day at Mackaye Harbor there is fog, so we delay our move by a few hours for it to partially burn off.  When we do leave, the fog is still present but we want to be at Friday Harbor for the meet on Monday - so we leave with the radar on.  While using the radar, which I had only turned on to verify it was working earlier, I notice that the image is upside down.  The radar is installed backwards.  Oops.  This is later fixed.

    The crew exchange is done in Friday Harbor.  After a quiet night at the dock, we have a little excitement in the morning - we had tied up to the docks in the Marina just behind the pump out station.  We were pumping out the previous evening when we asked for a guest slip.  The suggestion from the marina was to back the boat up a few boat lengths and leave it there.  Well, as it turns out, the waters there get shallow.  We woke up in the morning at around low tide to see roughly a foot of water beneath the keel.  The sailing lessons just never end.  This was a rookie mistake - I could easily have checked the depth and tide drop overnight to see it was going to be a problem.  Its easy to be lulled into a false sense of security.

    Once away from Friday Harbor, Ivy and I visited: Blind Bay; Swifts Bay; Echo Bay; Prevost Harbor; Roche Harbor and then Friday Harbor again.  The only time we get onto land is at Friday Harbor - the other days we are at anchor as there is no dinghy yet.

    We're at Roche Harbor on friday Sept 4th and its busy.  We are offered a guest slip - a starboard tie and I would need to back in.  This boat has awesome prop walk, to port.  Its a bear to control in reverse, I don't have the hang of it yet.  I declined the offer and we anchored out, again.

    Anchoring out is amazing, I love it.  But without a dinghy we’re missing out on all the shoreline and exploring ashore that is possible in this area.  A dinghy is on my list.

    August 30th its time to cross the straits and get closer to Seattle.  The plan was to leave through Cattle Pass.  We have 20-25 knot south winds with an ebbing tide - opposing wind and current through the pass.  I’ve read about this and experienced it before in other locations.  No worries, the waves will be a bit steeper, nothing serious I think to myself.  Well, as we exit the pass the winds are blowing and there are 3-4 foot wind waves.  The standing waves in the pass have the boat plunging down their backs until the bow meets blue water and then up until all we see is sky.  That was a little more than expected.  This lasts around 5 minutes and its a wild ride.  The boat feels fantastic.  No pounding, the helm has control, no scary moments.  I wouldn’t have wanted to be there in any of the other boats I’ve chartered in the past.  After motoring through the pass, I realize that something I had forgotten to do before leaving the protection of the San Juans was to install the Jack Lines on the boat.  I now decide they aren't doing any good in the locker and install them.  This involves crawling to the bow of the boat, clipping my harness around a strong point and bracing myself as I work on threading the jack line through a cleat and then walking them back to the stern, one at a time.  While at the bow, I have waves plunging across me.  Surprisingly, the foul weather gear I'm wearing keeps me dry.  Also, the motion of the boat is very assuring.  There is no pounding, the motions are broadcast by the boat.  I'm liking this boat more and more. Its now time to raise the sails.  The genoa on Luckness currently has a ripped UV cover, and when a reef goes into it the leach often flaps which helps to destroy the cover further.  So to avoid further damage and to quiet things down, I put up the staysail and a double reefed main.  This isn't really enough sail area for the conditions, but things are calmed down.  By calm, I mean the rail is in the water during the gusts and there is lots of spray over the bow.  Its fun.   It ends up being slow going making our way south, the seas are still high enough to keep the bow good and wet.  I should really have planned this day a little better.  Later Ivy gets seasick, the forward hatch has popped open and is being tied down from inside by a few lines, and the anchor has started to work itself loose.  Time to quit this crossing and use plan B which is a loop around the south side of Lopez into Hunter Bay.  Once back at anchor there is some cleaning up to do, salt water in the cabin, etc.  It was a good introduction to slightly heavier seas, and I have a list of projects to resolve to make this easier and safer the next time.  The other thing that will make this easier is a little more planning ahead of time.  It was a useful little trial, a taste of slightly heavier seas with an easy out if we decide to seek protection.

    The next day the forecast is for 10-20 knots of south wind.  We exit Lopez pass planning to cross Rosario and get into the lee behind Whidbey.  But the winds never arrived.  Its a long motor back to Shilshole, the winds got up to a few knots - a light wind day.

    It was a great trip.  It was: my longest trip on a sailboat; my first trip on Luckness to the San Juans; my first little experience of stronger winds and conditions on Luckness; a good test of the boats systems and comfort.  Luckness is looking good to me!

    Everything went very well - I want to do more of this!  Luckily I have a sailboat and doing more of these trips can be arranged.

    More photos are available.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    The name is added

    At the last minute I had arranged for the boat name to be put onto the hull.  I visited Prism Graphics monday Aug 24th with a loose idea of what I wanted.  After an hour working with one of their designers, I asked if they could install it before friday when I wanted to leave on a trip - after a brief pause they agreed.  Great service.  In the image, notice that Ballad is still fighting to be seen, behind the new name.  As I write this, a month later, I’m in the process of waxing the hull and its starting to look beautiful.  Gelcoat oxidation is a sad thing on a blue hull.  There is a deep blue hull in there trying to get out.  The next picture of the name will be pure Luckness.

    Friday, August 7, 2009

    On the hook again

    The plan this weekend is to head over to Port Madison on Friday evening and anchor out.  Then leave for a sail up to Port Ludlow returning to Shilshole on Sunday.

    We end up leaving a little later than expected on Friday but there is some wind so we sail across.  Its starting to get dark and we enter a small crab pot field while still sailing - a good time for more tacking practice!  Anchoring out on friday night I don't really trust my anchoring setup yet - I need more experience with it before that trust will come.  I have a 20kg Rocna anchor along with 300' of 5/16th HT chain - its a pretty beefy setup for this boat.  We motor into Port Madison where I pick my spot and we drop the anchor and a lot of rode.  Then while we are setting the anchor we end up closer to some boats than I like so I haul it up again - manual windlass - and drop the hook a second time further away from everyone.  This should get easier over time.

    Its another quiet night at anchor - no winds, beautiful skies.  We leave in the morning for Port Ludlow.  Again, we anchor out.  I pick a spot close to the south shore with views across the harbor toward the marina.  I like this spot, there is nobody around, plenty of room.  Later as ferry traffic and freighters pass by in the Sound all night, their wakes wash into the harbor into our beam or nose.  Ok, so there is the occasional wave - that only enhances the feeling that we're in a boat and not at home in an armchair.  Right!?

    Sailing back on Sunday the winds are decent from the north.  We sail accidently into a wind hole at the south side of Lopez - a rookie mistake.  It makes for a nice time to have lunch as we bob around moving at roughly 0.1 knot.  As we finish lunch the winds fill and we have a decent trip back to Shilshole.

    Nothing broken.  We didn't lose anything overboard.  We came back with the same number of people that we left with (2).  Another successful weekend cruise.

    Friday, July 31, 2009

    First time on the hook!

    Friday July 31 Ivy and I leave for a weekend trip on Luckness.  I've been working like a mad dog, focusing on the little details without taking the time to enjoy having a sailboat in my slip.  Sailboat.  You know, a boat that you take out sailing.  Its time to start testing out the systems, and, well, enjoying myself.

    The plan is to head out to Blakely Harbor, then Quartermaster Harbor returning to Shilshole on Sunday.  We leave Shilshole in good time and do a combination motor and sail over to Blakely Harbor, the winds are light.  Once in the Harbor we're all set to try out the new anchor and rode for the first time.

    The boat came with a 35lb CQR, which is a good anchor, its been around forever.  I wanted something larger and better than this, and bought a 20kg (44lb) Rocna.  The original rode was a 20' leader of 5/16th chain, followed by 80' of 3/8th connected with a shackle.  Weird.  I don't know how the previous owner ever made that work as the windlass gypsy is 5/16th and the 3/8th wouldn't fit on it.  It was replaced by 300' of 5/16th HT chain, so my anchor and rode were both new.  Rocna is known as a fast setting, fast resetting, good anchor in a wide variety of bottoms.  I was sold on all the stories I had heard and read about this anchor.

    The first time we used the anchor was in 45 feet of water, so I put out 180 feet of rode.  We had plenty of space around us with nice views across the Sound to see downtown Seattle all lit up.  Winds were hovering around 0.  So basically we bobbed around all night all prepared for heavy seas but instead presented with an idyllic night.  The biggest danger was that we would drift into one of the boats that had come into the anchorage after us and were a little close.  The night was beautiful - it is such a kick being at anchor and seeing the beautiful surroundings and night sky above you.

    Throughout the night I kept hearing scraping sounds coming from down below.  Are we dragging?  What's up with that?!  It took several trips and nights at anchor to figure out what the normal sounds are, and this ends up being one of them.  We have been out in much stronger winds by now and the anchor hasn't dragged.  I'm starting to relax a little about the noise - although I still set the anchor alarm on the GPS's.

    The next day we left for Quartermaster Harbor.  No wind at all in the morning, so we motored down toward Vashon Island and then cut the engine and bobbed around while we ate lunch.  Toward the end of lunch winds started to arrive and we were able to sail most of the rest of the way to Quartermaster.  Sweet!  Anchoring in Quartermaster is much shallower than Blakely Harbor, mid 20's feet.  I picked the middle of the anchorage and again there were no winds and we bobbed around all night.  The night was just beautiful again, awesome.

    Heading back to Seattle the wind pattern was the same: none in the morning followed by decent winds in the evening.  Sailing along at hull speed, a good heel on the boat sailing upwind is reassuring.  This boat I bought and have been working on is a real sailboat.  She's heavier than other boats her size and is made for blue water cruising - but she still sails sweetly in light airs and is a blast to handle.  She's no race boat, but I love the blend of compromises she presents.

    Tuesday, July 7, 2009

    The first list

    The boat goes into YachtFitters for the second time.  The first trip was for a few essentials in preparation for the aborted trip to Quartermaster Harbor for a raft up with friends.  That didn't happen.  But the folks at Seacraft Yacht Sales and YachtFitters had done a lot to the boat so that it was ready for the trip - it was done to schedule and done well.  But now its time for more work.

    This list of projects includes some of the things done during the commissioning, during this visit to YachFitters as well as a few things I worked on afterwards.  (As I write this in late Sept, I'm still working through the list!)  Items such as stepping the mast aren't listed, but of course were done!  YF - YachtFitters.  SC - Seacraft Yacht Sales.   The list is something like:
    • take off a lot of old equipment off the boat, much of which seemed past its expiry date
    • clean the boat, inside out, bow to stern.  Bilge, all lockers, headliner, walls, cabinets, everything and everywhere
    • new standing rigging (YF)
    • new running rigging (SC)
    • static rig tune.  pin the rig with stainless steel welding rod (YF)
    • fix questus radar mount after damage in shipping (SC)
    • fix GPS damaged in shipping (SC)
    • fix electrical panel at mast base (SC)
    • install new windex (SC)
    • fix mainsail batten pocket which had ripped out (SC)
    • clean genoa and mainsail (SC)
    • replace zincs (YF)
    • service PYI ShaftSeal (YF)
    • free up two frozen seacocks (YF)
    • free up frozen Y-valve in head (YF)
    • fix refrigeration (new control unit) (YF)
    • install new LED tri-anchor light on mast (SC)
    • install new LED nav lights (SC)
    • install all new sensibulb LEDs in the interior (3 red/white dome w/dimmer, all side lights with dimmer, remaining dome lights plain sensibulb.)
    • install lazy jacks (SC)
    • replace fuel filters (YF)
    • change oil, filters
    • change impeller, install speedSeal
    • clean air inlet filter
    • replace all 4 engine mounts (YF)
    • remove old sound deadening material from engine compartment (it was falling apart)
    • install new bilge pump in forward bilge compartment (old pump was not fixed to hull) (YF)
    • fix manual whale bilge pump - was not working
    • buy/install new force 10 2 burner stove (YF & me)
    • buy/install new 20lb propane tank (SC)
    • cleanup electrical panel - some add ons were sloppy (YF)
    • fix throttle cable tension
    • install new house battery bank (4x odyssey group 31.  400Ah.) (YF)
    • install new battery charger/inverter/controller (Outback) (YF)
    • buy new dock lines, splice, whip
    • buy new lock lines, splice, whip
    • buy new fenders
    • buy plate anchor snubber and two lines, splice line to shackles, connect, whip, sieze
    • buy second anchor snubber: chainhook, line, splice, whip
    • have all cushions cleaned
    • buy new anchor (Rocna 20) and chain (300' 5/16ths HT)
    • mark chain in 20' increments.  Twice.
    • buy nylon leader for chain, shackles.  Sieze chain shackles
    • replace sink strainers and connecting hoses
    • clean fresh water tanks (had some sort of growth)
    • clear vents for both fresh water tanks
    • clean/wax topsides
    • clean/wax hull
    • replace missing/broken deck track caps
    • replace gaskets on deck hatches
    • replace gaskets on locker hatches
    • replace gaskets on access panel in cockpit to engine compartment
    • replace gaskets on water tank access ports
    • replace gaskets on portlights (still in progress, 09/09)
    • replace gaskets on dorade vents
    • replace gaskets on fridge (3 times, each with different gasket material, until I found what was good)
    • install knife holder in galley cabinet (over sink, starboard cabinet, port side)
    • install spoon/misc holder beneath sink
    • install toilet brush under sink in head
    • fix leak at rudder post (which explains water in bilge and engine compartment)
    • fix leak at fresh water pump
    A few of these items seem innocent enough in the list but standout in my mind.  Replacing the sink strainers took about 10 days.  I found it hard to find the parts and work in that space.  Luckily I wasn't paying myself by the hour for this project.  I finally have an installation that looks good and is well built.

    Cleaning the water tanks is an ongoing project.  The tanks are clean but the water does not taste good yet.  All the hoses may need to be replaced.

    I'm very happy with the work done for me by both Yacht Fitters and Seacraft Yacht Sales.  In particular, the battery/charger/inverter installation done by Yacht Fitters is fantastic - its a work of art, thanks Justin.

    Tom with Seacraft Yacht Sales did a lot of custom work for me with the nav lights and at the mast.  Terry with Yacht Fitters did the rig tune and was involved with most of the projects - there are numerous little touches around the boat which show he has been there - all for the better, most that I would never have thought of.  The folks at YachtFitters (Terry and Justin) are happy to teach you how to work on the projects.  It seems to be their goal to get the owner up to speed with their boat as much as it is for them to complete the projects themselves.  I learned a lot through them and look forward to having the boat back with them soon for some pre-winter projects, and then again for pre-takeoff projects.  YachtFitters has worked on Pacific Seacraft boats many times in the past, which is encouraging as there are some idiosincractic aspects to these boats.

    Monday, June 29, 2009

    Things get busy. Working on the boat.

    There is a period of time where I’m busy.  Either working at my day job, or working at my night job - which is the boat.  We move the boat out of the yard off the hard to YachtFitters where we can start work.  Later we move it back to the boat yard to have the mast stepped.  We get the boat into Shilshole before a planned weekend trip on July 4th.  Something comes up to sidetrack the trip (hard coaming, soft female shin.)  The boat spends a few days at my slip.  Then on July 7th the boat goes back to the ship canal and YachtFitters for the next round of work.  Then after a while, the boat is back to my slip and a few sails.  Then more work.  Then more work.  Then more work.  A few sails (Quartermaster harbor, Port Ludlow, day sails.)

    Finally its time to take 11 days off and go to the San Juans.  Its about time!

    Splashing the boat for its first time on the west coast!

    Luckness at YachtFitters

    Stepping the mast


    Monday, June 22, 2009

    Ballad/Luckness arrives in Seattle

    Ballad/Luckness, the boat with the name Ballad on her sides but known officially as Luckness arrives in Seattle from Annapolis.  There were a few moments where I needed to satisfy myself that this boat I just plunked down a chunk of money for was really the one I wanted - had I spent enough time in Annapolis looking her over?  Had I missed anything major?  Did I really want a Pacific Seacraft 37?

    The more I spend time on this boat, the more I like her.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    The Purchase of Ballad

    I found Ballad on This site is full of boats for sale, across the world. Big boats, small, motor boats and of course sail boats. The site is known as Boat Porn by those who spend too many of their waking hours pouring over the listings, trying to find their ideal boat.

    Ballad was listed in Annapolis. This would mean a long and expensive trip across the country for her, Annapolis to Seattle. I had already visited a boat in California and passed on it. Ballad looked good on paper. An offer was accepted on May 9th and then my broker Ray Neglay and I traveled out to Annapolis for the inspection. Ballad was in great shape. She needed some work, but it appeared nothing major. The deal was on. Long story short, Ballad became mine on June 3rd and was renamed on paper to Luckness. Luckness/Ballad arrived on June 22nd in Seattle.

    The day the boat arrived was my last free day for a long while. Every day I would be involved in either a boat project or preparing for one. I took three days off from mid June to my vacation at the end of August. The work has paid off, the boat is getting into better and better shape. The work seems to be never ending, but the satisfaction is high. There is an awesome boat in my slip. Its mine! That still seems a little surreal to me.

    The boat lacks many of the features needed by the cruiser: auto pilot, wind vane, wind generator, water maker, dinghy, solar panels, and the long list of other essentials (*). But it does have a deep heritage and enormous potential for adventure. Its not large inside, but its quality through and through.

    The first time I sailed this boat was in Seattle: light winds, 10 apparent on the beam. We hit hull speed of just over 7 knots and things were sweet. This was on the first sail from YachtFitters on the ship canal, through the locks to Shilshole.  There was a short excursion out onto the Sound as that's the most logical way to get from the locks to my slip when the winds are good.

    Many thanks to Ray Neglay and the folks at Seacraft Yacht Sales, as well as Terry and Justin at Yacht Fitters who have helped in many ways. More on those folks later.

    More pictures of Ballad in Annapolis are here.

    (*) re: essentials.  People sail around the world safely with seaworthy sailboats setup with the most basic equipment.  In that context, Luckness is almost ready to go, some form of self steering is needed (autopilot or windvane.)  I will likely be single handing my boat which is made easier with some additions to what I have now.  I'm also a bit of a gadget freak, the things you can outfit a cruising sailboat with is awesome.  As is the amount of money that can be spent on doing this...

    Thursday, January 1, 2009

    The back story - how I got here

    I was born and raised far from the ocean.  Short holidays to the ocean always seemed cool - being around the water and hearing the waves crash onto a beach is awesome, which is a feeling shared by many.

    I had never thought about going sailing until I read a series of books by Patrick O'Brian, starting with Master and Commander.  Its a great series, I recommend it highly.  Sailing seemed to be full of adventure.  I was getting hooked on the romance of the idea.

    I moved from Toronto to Seattle in 1996.  After a while, I started hiking, skiing and enjoying the area, which is spectacular in so many ways.  I though of sailing, but always considered that it was something I would do when I retired.  Idiot.  I started kayaking in 1999 and eventually messed up my back, leading to a little reevaluation of what I was doing.  Carrying a kayak was no longer a real possibility for me.

    I live close to Shilshole Marina, and would walk by it frequently.  One day I wondered if I should finally look further into sailing.  I start things by reading all about them, so I started buying books on sailing.  There was much more to the activity that I thought.  It seemed very deep, with lots to learn.  I joined Windworks sailing club in 2007 and learned how to sail.  It was fun and demanding, also very social.  Along the way I abandoned my idea of waiting to get involved with sailing until after I retired.

    In 2008 I decided that I wanted my own boat.  I started getting more serious toward the end of the year when I put my name down for what is normally a long waiting list for a slip at Shilshole Marina.  I got a phone call in January 2009 that a slip was available if I wanted it.  Time to decide...  I took the slip and started looking for a boat.

    I wanted a boat that would be able to take me anywhere in the world.  I preferred a boat that erred on the side of being rugged and safe, while also sailing well.  I wanted a boat I would be able to single hand.  Every boat is a compromise - faster, slower, larger, smaller, heavier, lighter, wider, narrower and so many other design points.

    Plagiarizing from Nigel Calder, modifying slightly, the list I was looking for in a boat is something like:

    • proven blue water construction
    • the ability to take severe groundings with no more than cosmetic damage
    • reasonable upwind performance
    • a reasonably balanced helm
    • seakindly motion
    • directional stability
    • a design that can be single handed
    • room for a small number of people, not a large crowd
    • a safe and comfortable cockpit
    • an interior that is functional at sea and comfortable on the hook
    • a boat built by people who care about quality, and express that care in their product

    Sailing in Puget sound, the wind seems to be always from the North or South, and you tend to be traveling North or South.  So you are either going upwind or downwind - there isn't that much beam reaching around Seattle.  I wanted the boat I bought to be suitable for oceans out there, and to be adequate for puget sound.  This is not a boat optimized for local sailing.

    I discovered Pacific Seacraft early in my search and read everything I could find on them.  I visited Seacraft Yacht Sales in Seattle early in 2009 and met Ray Neglay.  At the time, they had two PSC 37's at their dock, and they showed very well.  They were both pricey and very complete - there was not much work to do on either of them.  At the time there were 17 or so PSC 37's available across America.  I kept on looking and looking...