Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Assault and Battery

One of the most important projects keeping us from taking the boat out for a daysail is our battery situation.  The batteries we currently have will not hold a charge without some sort of power source (i.e. engine, battery charger).  This means that we can't go for a sail without leaving the engine on, as shutting it off would mean no battery power to re-start it. We all know that with our minimal sailing experience, docking without power would be catastrophic for dear Moitessier.  Since I've been crowned queen of our electrical system, this is something I have been meaning to tackle.  We are in the midst of rebuilding both house and start battery banks as I have seen many faults in our current system.  Frank has been waiting patiently for me to get the ball rolling on this, but with my busy work schedule, I simply have not had the time.  Fortunately for me, Frank has decided to take the initiative and do what he can to help start the project.   A couple months ago, before we splashed, Frank had built us a battery box made from fiberglass and plywood.  He based the measurements off of the footprint of the batteries, and created a box that would very snugly fit the house bank.  From there, he bolted the box to the floor and the wall of the space where we are going to place the batteries. Since the new battery bank is being relocated closer to the centerline of the boat, in the space that our old generator used to occupy, this posed a slight problem.  This meant that we had to figure out how to lift four 110 lb batteries up and into our battery box, which is in a small space under our staircase.  

One night, while I was at work, Frank designed a block and tackle system that would help lift the weight.  When I returned home, it was just a matter of me pulling a line, while Frank helped to lift and guide the batteries into their places.  It was, as usual, a stroke of genius as the system worked out perfectly as he had planned.  Now that they are sitting nicely in their new home, it is just a matter of wiring them up along with our new start battery. If only there were a few more hours in a day...

On a side note, we recently discovered this really repulsive alien creature called the Bristle worm.  One night, while walking from the boat to the car, we noticed millions (not exaggerating here) of these little red creatures squiggling around in the water.  At first, we thought that perhaps they were baby shrimp, but after looking more carefully, we realized that they did not dart around the same way shrimp do.  Instead, they were literally swimming around frantically, much like tadpoles.  After grabbing some in a cup and inspecting them at the fish cleaning station, we saw that they were most certainly NOT shrimp.  These red things looked like tricolored slimy caterpillars, and upon a quick google search via smartphone, Frank discovered that they are called Bristle worms and that they come around once a year to mate when the salt water warms up.  Now if that doesn’t give you nightmares, he also found out that the bristles sting you if you touch them and that they have “strong jaws that bite.” Ackkkkk! After running away from the scene of the crime, with our skins crawling, into what we thought was our safe haven, Moitessier, we found that a few had made it into our head! We were surrounded.  I thought we were experiencing the eleventh plague of Egypt, and conceded that the water was going to turn into blood and that the locusts were about to swarm the boat. Fortunately, that didn't happen, and the little worms eventually died in our toilet.  I guess you can say our head is not considered a hospitable environment.  

Notice how many there were!
Bristle worm

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Dingy Dinghy Fitting

With the outboard motor finally remedied (or so we thought), we decided to go for a dinghy ride yesterday.  Since I have been marathon bar tending, working 6 days a week since we got back from NY, it was a much welcome respite for my one day off.   Midway through our ride, the motor conked out on us.  This was due to a faulty fitting (the fitting that attaches from the gas tank to the outboard), which to our surprise failed after only one day of use.  Piece of crap!  Luckily for us, Frank had the foresight to carry an extra fitting with him and quickly jerry-rigged it as I was in the midst of very slowly rowing us back to the marina.  With a quick jaunt to West Marine, a new fitting was bought and re-installed.  We resumed our chilly, but fun ride on the water in search of dolphins.  We never did find them, but being on the water, feeling the wind blow on my face, and seeing wildlife everywhere most certainly made my day.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Passing Gas

With our return from NY, it was time to get down to some of the periodic maintenance we had let go during our extended stay on the hard.  Now that we are back in the water and the weather is starting to warm up, we thought it would be nice to have our dinghy at our disposal.  When we first moved down here, we had kept up with making sure to start our outboard engine at least once a month to be sure that the carburetor wouldn't get gummed up from stale gas. (Gasoline degrades to shellac when left unused.)  A carburetor is a device that blends air and fuel for an internal combustion engine and if its not working correctly you're dead in the water. When we got on the hard, that motivation faded fast, and the maintenance got put on the back burner.  Bad idea!  Frank has spent the past couple of days trying to get our outboard started and running correctly. Before this, he has had very limited  (i.e. zero) experience with small gas engines.  At this point, he has disassembled, cleaned, and re-assembled the carburetor and fuel lines at least 4 times, re-gapped the spark plugs, and checked the impeller nearly as many times as well.  It turned out that aside from the initial dirty carburetor, a simple 10-cent O-ring in the carb was causing the engine to run poorly.  

As far as we understand, carburetors tend to be the main culprit when an outboard either refuses to run or runs poorly. Frank was a bit apprehensive when he started taking apart the carburetor for the first time without any instructions, so he made it a point to chronicle his experience in case anyone else out there is in the same predicament.  Our outboard is a 4 stroke Nissan 9.8 and should be the same as the 8hp Nissan as well as the 8 and 9.8 Tohatsu, though I'm sure this is relevant to a lot of other small outboard carburetors as well.   

The first step is remove the carburetor from the engine.  To do that, first, you need to remove the throttle linkage from the carburetor body by loosening the set screw and sliding the connecting rod out.

Set screw for throttle connecting rod

Be careful not to lose the rod as there is nothing holding it in place on its other end.

Throttle connecting rod back end that easily falls off

Next, the choke connecting rod must be removed.  The small white plastic retaining clip rotates down freeing the rod.

Choke linkage

Remove the hose connected to the top of the air box from the engine side.

Air box hose

The fuel line must also be removed from the back side of the engine.  Some gas will most likely spill out as the line is removed, so have some paper towels handy.

Fule line

Now that its all freed up, its time to remove the carburetor (as well as the air box as it comes off with the carb) from the engine.  Loosen the 2 10mm bolts and the whole shebang should easily pull off.

One of the two 10mm screws attaching the carb/air box to the engine

At this point it's time to take the carburetor to a CLEAN work surface to continue disassembling it.  On the bottom of the carb bowl there are 4 phillips screws that need to be removed.  Once off place the screws in a small dish so that they don't get lost, and separate the bowl from the carburetor body.  There  will most likely still be some gas left inside, so its best to do this over a disposable plate to avoid making a mess.

Screws attaching the bowl to the body

Inside the float is visible, and can be removed by loosing the phillips retaining screw.

Removing the retaining screw that holds the float in place

Once freed up gently lift the float body straight up; careful not to lose the needle in the process.  Remove the needle as well as the hinge pin form the float and place them in a small container of carb cleaner (a shot glass works well for this).

Floate with the needle and roller pin still attached

 Now with a flat head screwdriver remove the two brass screws that are visible.

Larger of the two brass screws

They are easily stripped so be careful.  Once removed, place the screws into your small container of carb cleaner along with the needle and pin.

Removing the smaller screw that hides the jet

Under the smaller of the two screws lies the jet.  You will need a small flathead to get down in there and unscrew it.

The jet is visible in the lower hole

The jet is one of the most prone places on the carburetor to become clogged by small debris because of the tiny passages it contains.  A specialty carburetor jet cleaning tool is available, however, a piece of mono-filament fishing line will work if your cheap like me.  The idea is to clear out any debris or gummed up gas from the tiny hole down the center of the jet.  A soak in the carburetor cleaner will help loosen all the nasty stuff up.  


Next, flip the carburetor over and remove the SS plate from its top.  At this point the carb is as disassembled as it needs to be for the average cleaning.  Take the body outside along with the bowl that you removed earlier and blast it all with the carburetor cleaner.  Make sure to pay special attention to all of the small holes and passages through out the body, and use a liberal amount of cleaner (this is no place to skimp). 

SS plate on top of carb

When your sure that the carb body, bowl, jet, needle, pin, and brass screws are absolutely positively squeaky clean, you can begin to re-assemble everything.  This is a good time to check the gaskets and o-rings that you removed and replace any damaged ones.  When you have everything back together and mounted back on the engine the last thing you have to pay attention to is the adjustment on the throttle linkage.  With the throttle set to full on the handle, the throttle on the carburetor should hit its stop.  If it doesn't just loosen up the set screw and re-adjust until you have it right.

Throttle hitting its stop on the carb body when the handle is set to full throttle

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ice Ice, Baby

We just recently got back from a frigid trip up north.  Reason for torturing ourselves with the winter was because I had to take a DC Electrical systems course in Annapolis.  A few years back, Frank had taken a Diesel Mechanics course at the Annapolis School of Seamanship and touted it to be a very comprehensive, hands-on class.  Since I had been struggling with understanding wiring and how to build a well balanced electrical system on board, I figured the best thing I could do would be to get a more hands-on learning experience versus trying to learn through reading very dry textbook material.  Unlike Frank, I cannot learn through books, and trying to retain all the pieces of information involving DC systems has proven to be incredibly frustrating.  I cannot say more about how great the class really was.  Before the class, I had a very basic knowledge of how to wire some piece of equipment into our panel, but after taking the class, I now feel confident in troubleshooting any electrical fault as well as building a safe, efficient way of charging and maintaining our brand new Rolls Royce batteries.  The class teaches you everything from theory, what a diode is, to how to use a multi-meter, how to properly fuse, to the types of batteries, inverters, chargers, and regulators you can get for your boat.  Bob Campbell did a really good job teaching it all in a concise and relatable manner and being able to work with all the systems hands-on has helped increase my understanding of electricity exponentially.  If you do take the class, I recommend taking both parts 1 & 2, as part 1 really only covers just the basics.  

Annapolis School of Seamanship
Hands on training
Since we were taking a trip up north anyway, we couldn't skip out on seeing my beloved New York, and our well-missed friends and family.  The trip was short but sweet, and seeing 10-12 inches of snow made us feel a little less bad about living in Florida.  It reminded me of how miserable winter in NY can be, and upon my third day there, I got really sick with a fever and what I believe was the flu.  Yikes.  We haven't really seen a true winter since moving to St Augustine, so turning into a human popsicle in 7 degree weather was certainly not ideal (Mind you, 7 degrees was the HIGH and not the low). I can't believe that we have lived that way for most of our lives! Seeing only warm weather for a couple months out of a year is not cool (well, actually, it's too cool.)  Knowing that the cold was only temporary for us, we took advantage of how beautiful a white snowfall can be and played like school children on a snow day.  Snowball fights and snow angels made an appearance along with our dusty winter hats, shearlings, and snow boots.  Frank even had to shovel my parents’ driveway to get the car out, while I sat inside sipping hot chocolate, watching him through the window.  Thanks, but I’d rather squeeze into a tiny space to work an angle grinder inches from my face any day!  

My sister and I 
Caught in the Act! Frank getting ready to chuck a snowball at me
Yes, that says 7 degrees at 11:31am
Upstate, NY...
I even got to play with my darling, Cynthia :)
My brother and Cynthia
So long NY, until next time….

Saturday, January 25, 2014


With the cold weather keeping us indoors on the boat with no Internet to entertain us, I’ve had a lot of spare time to just think.  Sometimes, we get so caught up in the immediacy of our lives and our goals, that we lose sight of our priorities.  We forget why we work for the things we do, what’s important to us, because everyday life gets in the way and we go into autopilot mode.  We go, go, and go, working for the future, without a thought to what makes us happy in the present moment.  This is something we have all been guilty of.  We have been caught up with boat project after boat project the past couple of years, and I find that we sometimes lose sight of why we got into this in the first place; and that is to love each other and to love our lives.  Though I’ve written many-a-whiney blog post about the situation we’ve had to endure, in all honesty, I am very grateful for the experience.  Like a sailor many days at sea truly values the warmth of a dry bed, I have learned to appreciate the things I have overlooked in my life.  I really believe in the notion that we don’t truly know what we have until it’s gone.  Sounds tragic, but it’s really not, it’s simply life.  It only remains tragic if you never recognize it and take the time to be happy for the things you do have when you have them.  Without hunger, one cannot fully appreciate satiation.  Without loneliness, one does not value companionship.   Without darkness, one cannot understand the luminosity of light.   Funny how it works that way.   

I miss the people I love. Simply having someone to laugh with, to have lunch with, or seeing a familiar face would be something I’d give my first born for.  These things I never thought I would miss to the extent that I do.  To have someone care for you and your well being, and not judge you if you fall, but hold your hand and pick you up.  Thinking of this makes my heart swell with sadness and longing, but again, this is a part of life.  Believe it or not, I chose this lifestyle knowing that living on a boat would do this to me.   I knew it would open my eyes, make me not take a moment more in my life for granted.  

I remember the day that I had this epiphany, the day that cemented that living on a boat was something I wanted, something I needed to do to shape myself.  We had been out at sea for a couple days, between Bermuda and NY, only snacking on fruit, nuts, and cold cuts.  The weather was rough and I remember someone made Lentil soup.  I remember how grateful I was for the warmth of that soup, how every bite tasted better than anything I had ever consumed before, how I savored every moment of that soup-eating experience.  In those moments, it dawned on me that I wanted to forever feel that way about life, about the ones I loved, about food, about the warmth of a hug, about the smell of a flower, about all the things that I had never given a second thought to.  I realized that the vibrancy of these seemingly mundane things would be paled if I went on the way I did, living comfortably, just letting life smoothly pass by.  I knew in those moments that I needed to live and suffer so that I could enrich my life, not with all the things that I wanted for myself in the future, but with the things that I already have. 

Sunset reflected in a puddle
Photo Courtesy of Frank 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Life is but a Dream….

Many of you must be wondering what we have been up to since splashing.  Well, maybe not, but my delusional mind would like to think that there is someone out there who reads this blog aside from our immediate family….No, we did not fall off the face of the earth; No, we did not untie the dock lines and start our cruising adventure; and No, we were not abducted by aliens.  We have simply been internet-less as wifi here on the water is intermittent.  Days have been spent getting the sails back on the boat, checking the bilges, getting our storage unit sorted out, tuning the rig, checking the bilges some more, reading, doing canvas work, getting our boat registered, and lately, trying to stay warm cuddled up in bed, and watching movies from our hard drive (Thanks Matt and Jess!).  

We have gotten many emails from people wondering what our next step is, and to clarify with you out there, we are not setting sail just yet.  We are not quite ready to do that; financially, we are working on rebuilding the kitty; mentally, we are readjusting to life on the water. Everyday, I pinch myself and wonder if I'm going to wake up on the hard.  Wondering if our boat splashing was all just a dream.  When I open the hatch every morning, I half expect to see rocks 12 feet beneath me.  I can finally pee in my own toilet and our boat isn't covered in bottom paint (now just bird poop).  When the boat moves and rocks, I have to tell myself to not run around screaming maniacally that we are falling off the stands.  I still keep a mental tab when I wash dishes of how much water I've used so as to not overflow our bucket.  I still eye empty drink bottles like treasure and am reluctant to toss them lest I have to pee in the middle of the night.  Have I become some weird version of a boat-dweller that no longer knows how to adhere to social norms?  Yes, but that is irrelevant. The past year and a half has traumatized me a little.  I know the painful memories of being on the hard will slowly fade away, just like the pain of childbirth is eventually forgotten by the mother.  The mind erases these memories so that you will brave doing it over and over again.  A true testament to the resilience of the human animal, I guess. I know that this is not the end of our boat projects, I have come to terms with that, but I also know that this is the beginning of another chapter in our lives.   With 2 years of Moitessier kicking our asses and forcing us to toughen our skin, I know we are now a little (I repeat, a little) better equipped for whatever lies ahead.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sailors Exchange….Vows.

Hands down the most amazing thing about living on a boat and being a part of the sailing community are the interesting people that you meet.  Our friends, Jim and Denise, decided to get married the other day.  Our formal invitation consisted of Jim shouting to us through the marina’s bathroom door while we were showering, and asking us what we had in store for the next day.  When we said nothing, he told us to go to Sailors' Exchange, where he works, at 2pm the next day for him and Denise’s wedding.  Imagine our surprise when he said this. The celebration was an informal one to say the least, but the love in the air was certainly palpable. With the vows exchanged right in the middle of the store, and the part of the marriage officiant played by Clay (current owner of Sailors Exchange), we toasted to Jim and Denise’s life together as husband and wife.  Congratulations to you both!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Splish Splash

I’m proud to say that Moitessier is back in the water.  We got her back in a couple days ago, and I must say, I never thought this day would actually come.  The day of the splashing was unnerving.  We had spent the day before prepping all that we could to ensure everything would go smoothly.  We prepared by vacuuming the bilges, checking that the thru-hulls that needed to be open were open, and closing the ones that didn’t.  We did a thorough off the hard cleaning as well, as Moitessier was filthy from all the yard work that had been going on around us.  We got ready our dock lines, our fenders, and made sure that we had a boat hook handy if we needed it.  In the end, everything went off with out a hitch.  We were both a bit surprised to see that the engine was working properly and that none of our thru-hulls leaked.  Actually we were REALLY surprised about that one.

I could tell that Frank was more anxious than I was, and I can surely understand why, as this day was the culmination of 1 year and 8 months worth of work that he has done.  I am very, very proud of him as everything that he has taken on he has learned along the way.  I have simply been his helper, the one who he’d vent to (yell at), as well as the primary financier.  This has had its own challenges of course, but nothing compared to what he has had to overcome.  Without his problem solving skills, we would’ve never been able to refit to the extent that we have.  It has been an arduous road, and often I wondered if we would ever make it to the end.  Not just make it back into the water, but make it as a couple, as 2 people coming together to live a shared dream.  This has been the most challenging thing that either one of us has taken on, and we have risked everything for it….our relationship, our savings, our mental well being.  We have both learned a lot about ourselves and each other, and the past 2 years of this refit has taught us more about one another than the 9 years we had been together prior.  We have learned our limitations, our shortcomings, our strengths, and our flaws.  As sad as it may be to grow up and to see that we are weak at times, the juxtaposition between that and what we have overcome has certainly  been most enriching.  From here, what will we do?  Where will we go?  Many people have asked us this, and to be honest, I have no idea…

In the slings...
Our empty concrete pad where we have lived for 1 yr and 8 months
Finally in the water!
Frank relaxing in our hammock after a stressful day
Our new view :)