Sunday, June 30, 2013

Monitor pendulum lines and amsteel

[Update at end added Sept 27, 2013.]

I'm still working through some project posts that have piled up.


Luckness has a Monitor self steering wind vane, made by Scanmar.  Its awesome.  I used the Monitor to steer all of the time offshore and I really liked how it performed.

I won't go into any detail on how it works, other than to say that the Monitor at the back of the boat is connected to the wheel in order to steer the boat.  The connection is through lines which run beside the cockpit and then to the wheel around a hub.  Its a very simple setup and works well.  Most of the parts are very robust and sturdy - the exception being the lines themselves.

In my experience so far, the pendulum lines chafe continually.  My setup is pretty nice.  There is one set of blocks to turn the lines from the cockpit onto the wheel at a right angle, and one set of fairleads that turn the line around a stanchion.  The line seems to run freely at both places.  When I examine the line passing these points I don't see any problem, everything has a lot of clearance and there is very little friction.  However the nature of this steering is that it undergoes continual small adjustments and frequent larger ones.  The lines are just constantly in motion, moving back and forth around all the blocks and fairleads.  What would not be a chafe issue for normal lines run as halyards, sheets, reef lines or just about anything else simply accumulates and slowly chafes the pendulum line.  Its pretty brutal.

On my trip down to California in 2011, on the last night before I pulled into Drakes Bay one of the fairleads that leads the monitor pendulum line around a stanchion rotated and ended up chafing the line badly.  I started my sleep pattern at night with the winds in the low 30's with everything fine and by morning as the sun rose I noticed the fair lead problem.

Bottom fairlead has rotated, chafing through control line cover
The lines cover had been completely stripped off due to chafe.  When I saw this I thought it might break at any moment.  Since then I've examined that line in more detail - the spectra strands were in pretty good shape, chafe on them was minimal.  It was pretty amazing that the spectra survived, this was a pretty brutal test.

Here is scanmar talking about their line:
Custom Spectra Pendulum RopeThis 1/4" inch rope is custom made for the Monitor and included in the price. It has straight (not woven) SPECTRA on the inside to minimize stretch.
The outside is polyester which will protect the line from wear. You can do a complete circumnavigation if you make sure to periodically change the places that chafe. Just pull out a few inches at the pendulum, make a new knot, cut off the stump and discard it.
All of the strength of the line is in the spectra core.  Scanmar seems to be suggesting that the polyester cover is there as chafe protection.  Polyester is a poor material to be used for chafe protection.

Aside from the problem I had with the fairlead above, the monitor pendulum lines continually chafed on all of my passages.  I tried wrapping the chafe areas with low friction tape and that seemed to help, although on the longer passages the tape started wearing through so I ended up adding more.  It also started being a friction concern as the tape built up and started fraying off.  Not a very elegant solution.  I wanted to find a better solution to this problem - I wanted pendulum lines which were better suited for their application.

At this point I can't help but start talking about spectra, dyneema, UHMWPE and HMPE, it just can't be avoided.

Spectra and Dyneema seem to be essentially the same fiber, although there may be subtle differences.  They belong to a family of fibers called Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene (UHMWPE).  Dyneema is being used in armor, netting, cut resistant gloves, tug tow lines, mooring lines for freighters as well as high tech sailing lines for halyards among many other applications.  The following is from wikipedia:
UHMWPE is odorless, tasteless, and nontoxic.[2] It is highly resistant to corrosive chemicals except oxidizing acids; has extremely low moisture absorption and a very low coefficient of friction; is self-lubricating; and is highly resistant to abrasion, in some forms being 15 times more resistant to abrasion than carbon steel. Its coefficient of friction is significantly lower than that of nylon and acetal, and is comparable to that of polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE, Teflon), but UHMWPE has better abrasion resistance than PTFE.
Coefficient of friction lower than Teflon? That sounds like pretty good chafe guard material

I was initially thinking of adding dyneema chafe covers to my pendulum lines.  Where in the past I used tape as chafe protection, I could use dyneema as chafe protection instead.  This would be much better.

However, at this point I started considering what I would have.  The core of the line would be spectra or dyneema (essentially the same thing), then a polyester cover, and then a dyneema chafe guard cover in the critical areas.  dyneema-polyester-dyneema.  What exactly was the polyester contributing to this equation?

If you have to handle lines, polyester has a nicer feel than spectra or dyneema itself.  However for this application you really aren't handling these lines.  You set them up before a passage and then basically leave them alone - you trim the Monitor using a different control line and if you want to disengage the steering you do it differently.  My Monitor lines were attached for months and months without really ever being touched.

If you remove the polyester from the dyneema-polyester-dyneema equation you are left simply with dyneema.  I liked the sound of that.

If you simply want a dyneema line, amsteel seems to be a good one to pick.  I've been working with amsteel for a few years now and like it - it splices easily and is generally easy to work with.  The original line was 1/4" and amsteel is made in 1/4" diameters.  A plan was forming...

Close up of monitor line from first photo above and 3/16" amsteel
In the picture above note that the amsteel isn't 1/4", only 3/16".  In 1/4" the old Spectra strands and the strands of the amsteel seem to be the same size - meaning the new line has roughly twice as much of the good UHMWPE (dyneema) as the old.  Also note that the spectra above is the spectra line from the first picture - it spent a night sawing away at two right angles which totally ate through the cover - and yet the Spectra is in remarkable good shape - all six strands survived.  I like this material.

1/4" amsteel has an average strength of 7,400lbs.  That's plenty for this application.  The Monitor just doesn't pull on the lines with that much force.  I would be surprised if the force was more than one or two hundred pounds, usually much less.  I could easily use smaller amsteel line, perhaps 3/16" and I would still feel confident in its strength.  However, since the system was setup for 1/4" line, having the extra material in the new line will simply give added chafe protection.

There is a concern about UV damage, as amsteel has no cover and is exposed to the sun.  Amsteel is being used in lifeline applications which is another application where it would be exposed to the sun continually.  I believe Samson is suggesting a 5 year life in the lifeline application which I suspect is conservative.  For a  Monitor pendulum line, it will probably be eaten by chafe before 5 years is up anyway, I don't think UV will be the limiting factor.

Scanmar constructs their line with the Spectra running straight, its not woven.  They claim to do this in order to minimize stretch.  Amsteel is advertized as having a 0.46% stretch at 10% of load - which would be 740lbs.  The monitor loads are much lighter than 10%, perhaps 2%?  So stretch will be on the order of 0.1%?  With a 17' line, that ends up being 0.2 inches, which is probably less than the slack in the system.  I don't rate this as a concern either.

When I went to buy the line I saw that 1/4" amsteel was $0.64 a foot, while amsteel blue (an even stronger material, with an 8,600lb average strength) was only $.10 more, so that is what I ended up buying - 180' of 1/4" Amsteel blue.  I have some left over, its handy stuff.

I decided to replace all of my monitor line with the new Amsteel, including the line around the hub at the wheel.  For the wheel line, I put a stopper knot in the middle and then a figure eights in each end.  I used figure eights rather than splices as I didn't want a long bury to make the line wider as it wrapped around the hub.  I did a short taper/bury on the line ends to finish off the figure eights though, that should be ok I think...and looks better than leaving the end of the line dangling.

I made the main pendulum lines pretty long and you can see some line wrapped up in the picture above.  As chafe appears I can do what Scanmar recommends and pull some line through at the pendulum to change the areas which chafe.

Here is a picture of the block - the new lines run through nicely.

I'm feeling pretty good about this new setup.  I'll try to remember to post an update in a year or two to report on how its holding up.  If anybody is curious after I start my passage making again on how the line is holding up, send me an email.

If anybody has any experience with using Amsteel as Monitor pendulum line, please let me know how it turned out - either through a comment or email.


I should also mention the store where I bought the line - ignore this if you don't live in Seattle.  There is a store called Seamar (Seattle Marine and Fishing Supply company.)  Google it, its down past Chinooks, south side of the ship canal west of the locks.  They have some amazing bargains.  Fisheries has pretty good prices, but their price for amsteel is $1.37 per foot.  Seamar's price is $0.64.  The place is a bit industrial, its cool.

Seamar is also an awesome place to buy Seine twine.  I've been looking for this for a while, its used in lashing, seizing and is generally useful to have onboard.  When you buy waxed nylon twine to be used for lashing from a sailing store its something like $15 for a few dozen feet - pricey.  Seine twine at Seamar comes in rolls up to 1000' for $10 - the length of the roll depends on the diameter of the twine, and they have a complete selection.  The Seine twine comes in tarred black, white and green, its seine twine heaven.  They also have a great selection of fishing gear, etc.  Its worth a visit.

[Update Sept 27th, 2013.]

After arriving on Coos Bay after my first passage with the new setup, I've made an adjustment.  I thought the knots at the ends of the control line and the hub lines would be sufficient.  I used the 'monitor knot' on the control line, which is a bowline along with a long tail which can be used in the lashing to the hub line.  This knot is nice, as you end up a lot of extra line on the control line which can be used to adjust the chafe points as they arise.  If the line chafe's then pull some through from the stopper knot at the base of the monitor and tie a new monitor knot on the other end.  But the knots slipped in the amsteel and the lashing I had used between the two lines was getting shorter and shorter over the four days I was out (only two of which I sailed.)  The control lines would slacken, I would adjust the lashing to tighten it again which would shorten the distance between the two knots.  And then later the lines would be slack again - I repeated this until the distance between the two knots was about 1 inch after a few days of sailing.  Maybe the situation would have stabilized, I don't know.

So I've now spliced eye's into the ends of the control line and hub line, with brumel locks and short bury's.  To two eyes are separated by 4 or 6 inches.  To join them I spliced eyes into two separate pieces of amsteel, cow hitched them to the control line eyes and then lashed them between the control lines and hub lines  This looks like its going to work well - but I've lost the option of adjusting the control line if it develops chafe points.  I could possibly end-for-end the control line if it develops chafe.  I have well over 100' of amsteel onboard so I can just make new lines as needed.  I'm still curious how much the amsteel will chafe, its not really been tested yet.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Stove gimbal pivots

Another little project post.

I have a Force 10 stove.  As the boat is constantly rocking while at anchor or underway, the stove rotates on two metal pivots which attach to the stove and fit into two brackets:

This is all very standard - stoves on boats gimbal in order that they mainly stay horizontal as the boat moves around them.  When I had my stove out last autumn after returning from my journey I was surprised at the state of the pivots.  Here they are:

I bought this stove in 2009, so its not very old.  I used to notice what I thought was dirt beside the stove, you can see some of it in the photo of the space the stove fits into above.  I now believe the 'dirt' is mostly metal fragments from the pivots being eaten away.  The pivot on the left in the photo above looks like its eaten roughly 1/2 way through.  The one on the right looks like its further than that.

In quiet waters, the stove doesn't rock back and forth very much.  On a passage or in a rougher anchorage or mooring the boat rocks constantly which means the stove is constantly rocking back on forth on these pivots.  You end up with a metal on metal chafe, and over time the pivots would be eaten completely through.

Before last autumn, this wasn't something I could inspect very easily - getting the stove out meant I would need to disassemble the grab bar and go through contortions to get the stove out.  Last fall I modified the fiddles above the stove slightly and getting the stove out now is relatively easy.

I recently replaced the two pivots with two new ones I had ordered.  Also note that the pivot on the left has two grooves.  I noticed this as if the stove was resting in one of the grooves the stove would swing freely in its space, while the other groove would mean the stove would hit parts of the frame around it when it swung.  This was annoying.  I added some nylon washers to the pivot on the left in order that the stove always remain oriented properly - swinging freely.  Before leaving I had noticed that the stove needed a little nudge into the proper spot in order to swing freely, but didn't think much about it.  I know better now...

Nylon washers around the forward pivot to properly position the stove in its space
I'm also going to add a maintenance item to lubricate the gimbals from time to time.  I'll try just dripping some oil down onto the gimbal from above.  I hope that works.  The point being that the pivots need to be lubricated.  I didn't know that.

I'm now carrying an extra set of the pivots for a future replacement, but hope to never need them.

If any of you have boats with stoves which gimbal - you might want to look into this.  If your stove enclosure has grey or dark 'dirt' along its sides, below the pivots which you don't think is simply food related - your pivots may be wearing!  This is likely not a problem when sailing in local sheltered waters.  But offshore the waters aren't always so sheltered.

I've been following the travels of Jeanne Socrates on s/v Nereida as she completes her single handed, round the world, non-stop, below the 5 southern capes trip.  Back in May her stove broke off its gimbals.  I wonder if her problem was related to what was happening to mine?

Update: July 1st.

It was pointed out to me that I should be locking the stove into the frame to keep it from swinging when its not in use.  This wasn't something that occurred to me a single time while I was out cruising last year.  I wonder how many people do that?

I found this on page 10 of the Force 10 manual:
The bolt should be locked into the adjoining cabinet or bulkhead whenever the range is not in use to prevent it from swinging in rough seas.  ...
The manual didn't mention: "or else the stove gimbal pivots will wear through and the stove will fall off its mount!"  A little drama helps these types of warnings...

I always had my kettle stowed on the stove when the stove wasn't in use.  There were seas I was in where the kettle would have launched itself off of the stove if it was locked and not able to gimbal.  But that's a better problem to solve than having the mounting pivots eat through and having the stove fall off its mount.

So that's good advice.  I should be locking the stove against swinging when not in use.  Something to consider for you others...

Monday, June 24, 2013

Working through a list...

Remember that one of the reasons I keep this blog is as a record of the things I've seen and done.  Well, for the last little while, I've been working on boat projects and this post is all about things that I've done:
  • Updated my safety equipment.  Renewed the fire extinguisher inspection certificates and bought new flares and smoke
  • Replaced foam in two Settee cushions.  Two of my cushions get the most use and had lost the spring to their foam.  I found a store to replace the foam and liner.  They did a nice job
  • Built a new rope boarding ladder.  I was using a plastic boarding ladder on my last cruise and wasn't really happy with hit.  It would bang against the hull and looked a little tacky.  I built a new rope boarding boarding ladder.  It looks better but still needs to be tested
  • Installed a forward water tank gauge (SCAD solo tank monitor).  On my passage to Hawaii I arrived with a nearly empty water tank due to what I believe was a siphon effect sucking water out of the tank via the air vent.  Once underway, I couldn't inspect the water level in the tank due to equipment being stowed above it.  With the monitor I can always see the water level now.  The install went smoothly
  • Installed my 35lb CQR anchor on the bow.  During my last cruise I was only carrying two anchors - my Rocna 20 (44lb) and a stern anchor.  Luckness came with a CQR 35 and I thought it would be a good idea to bring it along next time, and so I mounted it on my bow with some amsteel lashings holding it in place.  After a few weeks of looking at it I didn't like it up there
  • Bought a new anchor - a Rocna 25 (55lbs).  Rocna has a sizing guide they use with their anchors.  They have a conservative rational with their sizing guide, and for Luckness, the Rocna 20 was entirely sufficient.  Luckness is 37' long and roughly 19,000 lbs.  The Rocna 25 is oversized.  I don't know where I'll end up this time when I leave, but having an extra beefy anchor shouldn't hurt.
    My old Rocna 20 and new Rocna 25
  • Galvanized my chain (300', 40' and 2 8' lengths) and my old Rocna 20.  My chain was starting to show signs of rust in places, as was my Rocna 20.  They both could have gone longer without being regalvanized, but as it is so easy to do here, I had it done.  There are two shops close by that do galvanizing and at least one further away - lots of choice.  Also I have a car now - later in this cruise doing a project like this will be more difficult
  • Stowed my old Rocna 20 in my lazarette.  Once I bought my Rocna 25 and found that it did actually fit on my bow, I wanted to find a way to keep my Rocna 20 as a backup.  I don't expect to ever need to use both Rocna's at once, as my primary anchor is also my storm anchor.  However I need to have a secondary that I can use if I abandon or lose my primary.  My Rocna 20 is a perfect secondary anchor as its strong enough to be used as a primary.  I wasn't happy with the CQR 35 as a secondary as its not an anchor I would trust in all conditions - and I want to be able to depend on my anchors.  I was hoping I could find somewhere to stow the Rocna 20, and found that it stows perfectly at the bottom of my lazarette.  I also installed two pad eyes that I use to lash the anchor in place
  • Marked my chain in 20' increments.  I used different color zip-ties for this.  However the trick I learned is to not attach the zip-tie around the outside of the link, but rather between two adjacent links.  Zip-ties on the outside of a link get stripped off by the windlass gypsy
  • Spliced my 40' chain back onto the 300' nylon 8-strand rode, marked the rode in 20' increments and re-stowed in aft anchor locker to be used with stern anchor
  • Bought a new 40' length of chain.  Spliced it to 300' of nylon 8-strand rode, marked in 20' increments and stowed with the backup Rocna in lazarette
  • Re-installed the Tack Tick wind instrument.  Last fall I obtained a replacement Tack Tick wind instrument and when re-installing it I stripped one of the bolt holes at the top of the mast.  This is now fixed and the mount is secure again
  • Jib and main halyard.  While up the mast I was inspecting things and discovered my jib halyard had bad chafe where it move around the halyard restrainer on the mast.  I already had an item on my list to have chafe cover added to my main halyard where it goes up and over the sheaves.  I added the jib halyard to this.  Luke who is working with Terry at Yacht Fitters did this for me.  Luke is the new rigger at Yacht Fitters and is doing really fine work with lines.  We used a core dependent line for both halyards.  Luke spliced in six feet of chafe guard to the ends of the halyards, and the work is excellent - far beyond what I could have done myself.  Far far beyond. I was there watching him perform both splices and he went really slow for the first one explaining it all to me and I still can't do it myself.  The core dependent eye splice he uses is one he used with the Americas Cup fleet in New Zealand where he spent a year as their rigger - its not the one Samson explain in their literature - and Luke's is a much nicer splice.
  • Two new genoa sheets.  While on my last cruise I found that my sheets were about six feet two short on each side for what I needed.  I want to be able to have the pole deployed, and then before jibing the boat, release the active sheet from the poles jaws, swap the pole to the opposite side and set it all up.  This means the sheet needs to be long enough to be out on one side of the boat, and then cross to the other side out to the poles jaws and from there back to the cockpit.  It wasn't quite long enough - now it is.  I have also changed how I attach the sheets to the clew of my genoa - I no longer use a cow hitch.  I found the cow hitch would slide when under load making one side of the sheet longer than the other.  I also didn't like the fact that if the cow hitch failed I could potentially lose the genoa.  With the new arrangement, I've spliced thimbles into the new sheets, sized them into place with seine twine, and then I have a lashing of 1/4" amsteel between the thimble and the clew.  I believe Chris Tutmark is doing this (although without the thimble.)  I'm hoping this will let the clew move cleanly across my shrouds and inner forestay - I'll try it out anyway.  I could always cut the fancy bits off and use a bowline if needed.  I spliced the thimble in myself - which I did after practicing by doing 7 splices in some 7/16ths double braid I had laying around.  I finally understand how a non-core dependent double braid splice works.  Need to figure out core dependent still...
    My new sheet splice, thimble and seizing.  Lash with amsteel to genoa clew
  • Re-installed the sound deadening in the engine compartment.  Years ago I installed new sound deadening material.  It came in 1' by 1' squares with a strong adhesive backing.  The adhesive was not sticking in several areas, such as the deadening on the 'roof' of the engine compartment, around where the steering cables turn and wrap around the quadrant.  When I got back from my last trip I found the steering was getting heavier than usual and after inspecting the engine compartment found several of the tiles were hanging down and interfering with the steering.  Its all now mounted mechanically and is rock solid.  There are a few more gaps however...the sound deadening is safely mounted but as far as engine noise goes, its not the best work.  Doing a good job in deadening the sound may require a re-install of many systems in that compartment and that isn't going to happen.
  • Autopilot modification.  More on this later.
  • Replaced propane switch and solenoid.  There were a number of times on my last cruise when the propane switch circuit breaker was tripping.  This was continuing to happen while I've been at the dock here.  I've now replaced the electrical side of the propane system and I have spares for the solenoid and its fittings.
  • Painted knot meter with anti-fouling paint.  The knot meter fouls up like anything else that's under water.  I've pained it with anti-fouling paint, hoping to slow this down.  Also, taking it out of the water and installing the plug in its place helps!
  • Screwed in bottom edge of bag in lazarette that holds my companionway boards.  At sea on a port tack I finally tracked down an annoying bang-bang-bang noise to the bag and its contents.  I'm hoping it goes away now - will find out on my next passage
  • Performed maintenance on my pedestal.  This started with my throttle cable being difficult to move.  I ended up taking the pedestal apart and performing the maintenance it needed.  At this time I also tried to remove the wheel from its axel and found it was frozen in place by rust.  I ended up buying a gear puller to get it off.  To use the gear puller I needed to cut the monitor hub off the wheel to make space.  One thing leads to another, and a short project ended up consuming four days.  I'm glad I don't pay myself by the hour.
  • Made gaskets for the cockpit lockers.  More on this later.
  • Installed new AIS transceiver and antenna splitter, rewired NMEA network.  I'm now on my third Vesper Marine WatchMate.  I started with the 650, their first unit.  I later upgraded to the 670 which adds anchor watch.  I now have the 850 which adds the AIS transceiver.  Other than transmitting AIS and having a built in GPS, the 850 is pretty much the same as the 670 that I had before - which is good, as I really liked my old unit
  • Bought a better 12volt plug/socket for my WatchCommander.  While underway last cruise I found that the power plug I was using between a boat socket and the WatchCommander was becoming intermittent - I needed to wiggle it to get steady power.  This is one device I really want to be able to depend on - its the timer that gets me up every 20 minutes, which is annoying, but is something I want to do.  I bought a military/aircraft grade plug from Connector World here in Seattle as my new socket/plug pair.  The quality is much improved.  Although at $75 for two plugs and one socket they should be better!  Its part numbers MS3102E12S-3S for the socket and MS3106F12S-3P for the plug.
  • Bought a second (spare) WatchCommander.  The spare has the new plug installed as well, ready to go.
  • Made a mount for the American flag.  While on my last cruise I didn't have a good place to raise my american flag.  I used to raise it on my starboard spreader halyard, above the flag of the country I was in.  This turns out to be not the proper way to do it.  I'm trying to avoid casting shadows on my solar panels which are mounted on my stern rails.  The new flag mount is on the back of my radar/wind-generator pole.  I'll see how it works there
  • Got a ham radio license.  I'm now an amateur, my call sign is KG7 BYA.  On my last trip I could only listen in to the ham radio nets such as the Pacific Seafarers net but I couldn't participate.  Now I can
  • Installed my KISS SSB counter-poise.  I wanted to change my counter-poise from the dynaplate I have installed to the KISS as I think it may be more reliable longer term.  The copper foil from the antenna tuner to the dynaplate was starting to corrode even in the short time it has been installed - you get salt water back there...   I have no real experience with the KISS yet.  I did buy a SWR meter and measured the SWR before and after the install.  It looks roughly equivalent to the dyna-plate, better in some frequencies and fractionally worse in others.  The highest SWR I measured was 1.4, which is good.
  • Inspected my SSB installation.  I understand a little more about ham radios these days and wanted to understand my entire ham radio installation - so I took it all apart and pieced it back together.  I completed what I had started earlier by cutting the grounding foil between the SSB ground and the keel bolt.  All of the old copper ribbon is gone now.  Removing the copper foil wasn't easy.  I can't imagine the pain Justin went through installing it all, it was heroic work.  I found the antenna feed wire was zip-tied to some other cables and from there lead to the antenna - I modified this by drilling a new hole and lead the GTO-15 feed wire more directly where it needed to go and away from the other cables.  A little more on the SSB below
  • Bought a spare small winch handle to complete my winch handle spares (I already had a spare larger handle)
  • Re-stowed my 600' of 3/8" float line from off the spool it was on into two mesh bags with 300' each.  This is much easier to stow.  We'll see how easy it is to deploy and retrieve this way...but this line still hasn't been used
  • Bought line to be used as an anchor retrieval line.  I wanted to be able to attach a line to my anchor when anchoring in an area there is a danger of it becoming fouled and being difficult to retrieve.  The technique I'll try for this is, when I want the trip line attached, to attach the line to the anchor and then lower the anchor and line until there is maybe 1 1/2 times the water depth lowered and then tie the line to the chain.  When retrieving the anchor I'll then bring the trip line up with the chain, untie and secure it, and then if the anchor is fouled be able to pull on the line.  I think I prefer this to using a buoy for the trip line.  I'll try it out and see how I like this approach.
  • Installed two new gimbal pivots in my stove (more later)
  • Greased my max-prop.  My diver was unavailable, so I dove on the boat myself and greased the prop.  The water here is chilly - but with three layers of neoprene it was just fine.  Immediately after diving into the water, I lost the zerc riser that you need to attach the grease gun to the max-prop.  Luckily I had a spare.  I've since gone online and ordered a few more from PYI 
The list is dwindling, although by no means empty yet.  I still have to install my new fridge.  My stern water tank needs to be opened up, stripped and re-finished.  I had applied a two part epoxy to my stern tank before leaving last time, after fixing a leak in the tank.  The epoxy has delaminated from where the patch was made and I need to return the tank to serviceable condition.  I have a new furler which will be installed soon.  I'd like to haul the boat and add a new coat of bottom paint before leaving.  Those are the big remaining projects, then a bunch of smaller ones.  It will feel good to get the fridge and stern water tank done, those have the greatest unknowns, and potential to take a long time I think.

A little more info on the SSB audit as its somewhat illustrative of how these projects work.  Imagine this one detail multiplied many times over to get a sense of the number of decisions you get to make when doing this work.  

There is one piece of the SSB project where the antenna feed line which leads out of the antenna tuner needs to be attached to the backstay.  The antenna feed is GTO-15, which is the standard for that application.  Attaching the antenna feed to the backstay has a number of choices.  The categories to choose from are:

How to attach GTO-15 wire to backstay?
  • with a cable clamp (or two)
  • with a bronze split bolt
  • seizing it with monel wire
Where to attach the wire?
  • to the backstay directly
  • to the swedge
How does wire approach the backstay and attach?
  • wire leads directly from below up to the backstay
  • wire leads from below, up in a loop to connect to the backstay heading back down
How to finish the connection?
  • cover connection with riggers tape, try to make the connection waterproof
  • lightly cover the connection, but allow any water that enters to dry out
  • don't cover the connection at all
What shape is the wire in when it attaches to the backstay?
  • simply twist the strands of the wire together and attach
  • solder the strands of the wire together
  • loop the wire back on itself and solder all together
Basically, to finish this step you need to choose one of the options from each of the categories.  It seems like all possible combinations have someone who is supporting it.  Someone claims that attaching to the swedge give a better surface contact.  Someone else claims that is bogus.  Having the wire run straight up to the backstay (with no loop) means drips flow out and away from the connection.  Others claim this means water drips down inside the GTO-15 corroding it from the inside.  Forming a loop and attaching from above means the feed line stays dry inside and can be shortened in the future to reattach.  Some claim there is no way to create a waterproof connection as water will wick down the backstay inside the wire strands - so you might as well leave the connection open.  Others want to wrap it up to keep it out of the elements.  If you're not careful you can spend hours going back and forth between the different options.

I don't claim that my choices are the best...but I need to make some choices in order to make progress.  So I ended up with: a bronze split bolt; attached to the backstay; with the wire forming a loop and attaching from above; not covered at all; and with the wire looped back on itself twice and soldered together.  In addition I added liquid tape to the feedline attachment at the backstay with heatshrink around it - trying to keep the elements out of the GTO-15.  Time will tell how well these choices work out...

The feedline
The feedline is clamped in a split bolt

Feedline, heatshrink and liquid tape leading down into split bolt.
A few wraps of tape to secure the nut are still to come.

If you don't own a boat yet and are thinking of buying one, and then heading offshore.  Look at how much fun you can have working on various projects before going!  Last time before I left I also worked like a crazy man on projects - but once I left I didn't have that much work to do - there were many months of just enjoying myself.  I'm hoping the same will be true again this time.

One way I was thinking of my previous year out cruising was as a long sea-trial.  I came back with some things I wanted to adjust to make cruising life a little safer and easier.  Looking at Luckness now, I'm pretty happy with her progress.  There are lots and lots of improvements.  I could have not done a lot of these things, as I spent a year out cruising and it was successful.  But having an extra anchor aboard with its own rode ready to deploy is pretty nice.  The new sink is nice.  An AIS transceiver will be useful.  Doing pre-maintenance to my HF radio install was probably time well spent.  The chafe guards on my halyards is going to bring peace of mind and longer lasting halyards.  I could have been out sailing more and have done less on the boat...but I'll be getting out plenty as the year progresses and I think I'll be happy with the things I've done.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Now, where was I...

Much to my surprise, it turns out that I'm cold blooded.  If the temperature is in the 50's or lower, I find myself hunkering down inside my cabin, heater turned on, with all sorts of excuses to not work on boat projects or get out sailing.  This pretty much ruled out boat related activity all winter and for most of the spring.  It never used to be this way.  Luckness' log book is full of trips I made previously in what I would now consider 'freezing' conditions.  I blame the single season of cruising in warm waters the previous winter for my cold bloodedness.  I have no idea what shape I'll be in after cruising warm waters for a second and the subsequent seasons, but I'm looking forward to finding out.

Anyway.  Seattle weather has made a turn generally for the warmer and there have been many weeks of Very Fine weather here.  Once it crept above 60 degrees and stopped raining, I sprung into action and started to whittle my way through my growing project list - I've made some good progress.

My software project, LuckNews, has gone through 10 versions since I first released it in early January.  The 10th version, version 2.0.2, has been submitted to the App store and barring any major foulups I'll leave it alone for a while.  Its been fun working on software again, and the Mac is a fantastic development platform, but its time for the sailing thing to take priority as I have places to go and a very loose schedule to keep.

My sailing plans are still on, and still fairly loose.  I'll be leaving in late August or early September to head down the coast to California, then Mexico.  I'll leave Mexico in early to mid March for the Marquesas, the Tuamotus and then Tahiti.  I'll need to leave French Polynesia three months after I arrive due to visa restrictions.   That's about the extent of my planning for this trip so far - beyond that there are lots of options and the version of me that I become by the time I get to that point will make the decisions about where to go.

I've been following some other cruisers blogs as they visit areas in the South Pacific that I'm hoping to visit in 2014.  This post has no pictures.  If you want to be inspired by some pictures of idyllic areas, visit Bella Star as they spend time in the Tuamotus.  When I think of myself being in those areas I get all tingly with excitement.

I have a few project posts that I want to catch up on, so expect a few of those coming up.  Rather than pictures of blue lagoons I'll be posting pictures of custom locker gaskets, mods to an autopilot, and other project goodies.

All is well here, I hope the same is true with all of you.