Sunday, June 30, 2013


A couple days ago, we had a squall that came through that had 70mph gusts.  It brought buckets of rain, and shook the boat so hard that we thought it would fall off the stands.  The power went out for a couple of hours and took down the a mast on a sailboat at the yard.  For those of you on the fence as to whether or not you should pull and inspect your chainplates and rigging, here are some scary photos to show the malevolence of crevice corrosion.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Wayward Wanker that Once was a Wire...

The past few days have been spent getting the Pearson ready for our big trip to NY along with some wiring projects on our own boat.  We are prepping the Pearson for an upcoming delivery from here to NY and a lot is going into helping to get it ready.  We are planning to be 100-150 miles offshore for 6-10 days, so I'm stoked to be a part of all of it as it will be a trip that Frank and I will be taking with our boat sometime in the future.  

On Moitessier Frank has, from the beginning, put me in charge of all things electrical.  He wanted me to be self sufficient and learn to troubleshoot on my own.  I admit, it has been a challenge for me to understand DC electrical systems, and having read Nigel Calder's chapter on electrical systems and alternators probably about 50 times, I think I finally have a hold on it. Well, somewhat at least.  The biggest project as of late has been wiring up the engine.  I had procrastinated this job for about a year now because 1) I was highly intimidated 2) I didn't know what the heck I was doing.  But after months of intermittently reading the Nigel Calder book along with the Yanmar installation manual, I was able to figure out how to wire it all up.  I think this was important as in the process, I learned about all the different components of our brand new engine, i.e.  where the starter is, the alternator, grounding, and so on.  It's got me up close and personal with something that was once so foreign and overwhelming to me.  Although I'm not a diesel mechanic, I have come a long way from a fashion designer.

Part of wiring up the alternator involved installing a Balmar max charge MC-614 voltage regulator.  This is used to regulate the amount of output the alternator provides to the house battery bank as well as the cranking battery. Part of this wiring also included installing a double throw switch so that in case the external regulator fails, we can just switch it from external regulation to internal.  Frank mounted the switch for me because I wanted to make sure it looked straight under our galley sink.  Knowing me, I would've mounted it crooked and it would've bothered me for as long as we own the boat.

Getting up close and personal
Regulator installed with double throw switch
Look at the pretty zip-ties...

After the wiring was taken care of, I had to remove all the old wires, and zip tie them neatly into place.  This was, by far, the most grueling part of this endeavor.  It took me 6 hours to remove one really obnoxious engine wire.  Why?  Well, I guess when the original engine went in, it was wired up before the floorboards were installed.  When I went to yank this out, I found that someone had used one of those screw in zip-ties to hold it in place.  Well, this zip-tie was buried deep under the floorboards, and the only way to access it was sticking my arm down this hole about 3" wide, and feeling it out.  The challenge was to get this zip-tie off, which wouldn't have been a problem if you could see the screw.  But without being able to see it, how was I to remove the screw using the tips of my fingers as leverage?  Well, I couldn't.  I managed to strip the screw with a socket wrench that had a phillips head tip on it.  I couldn't feel if I was turning it or if there was friction, so after an hour or two of doing this and realizing that I screwed up, I proceeded to figure out a different route.  I decided that snipping the damn thing would be the next best option.  The problem was, how was I to cut the zip-tie without accidentally snipping the adjacent wires in the same bundle?  Also, how could I get enough leverage behind the wire clippers so I could actually cut into it (as the zip-tie was so tight that there was no room for anything)?  After having my face plastered to the floor for close to 3 hours, I finally got it.  This was done by putting my left hand down a 3" hole on one side of the floorboard and feeling where the edge of the clipper was, while my right hand about 2 feet away was reaching down another 3" hole, holding the clippers that were tied to a string (so that in case I drop them, they wouldn't disappear into the depths of Mordor).  By luck of the draw, I was finally able to cut away that stupid ass zip-tie without snipping any of the wires.  There were moments that I just wanted to cry out of pure frustration, but I knew if I did, Frank would never let me live it down.  I was so enraged by the wire that when it finally came out, I stepped on it, cursed at it, spat on it, and stepped on it some more.  I wanted to kill the wire, until I came to my senses and realized that the wire was an inanimate object.  So I cut it up into pieces and threw it in the dumpster.  This made me feel a little better...

I'm really not a cutter, it's those damn zip-ties...
The bastard!  

"There's a force more powerful than steam and electricity: the will. " ~Fernan Caballero

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stick 'em up

I would like to say that we are no longer an elevated trailer!  We stepped our mast yesterday, and boy it sure feels good to be a sailboat again.  Well, at the very least, we are a trailer with a very big antenna, but Moitessier is looking pretty fine. The crane came at 10am yesterday morning.  With the help of the yard, the stepping itself went very smoothly.  I guess there is a new law in Florida now where only the people working at the yard can be involved in stepping the mast.  It's a liability issue that Frank was not too happy with at first, but after sitting back and watching 5 guys do a job that we would've had to do on our own, he was pretty pleased.  It took all of 40 minutes from start to finish to get the mast up.  John, the owner of the yard, said that it was the quickest mast stepping that they had ever done.  This, no doubt in part, was due to Frank's anxiety fueled prep work the day before.

The day before the stepping, we tied all of the rigging to the mast with the halyards, making sure that nothing was tangled and placed it so that it could easily be attached to its corresponding chainplate.  The roller furlers were snuggly lashed to the mast as well, and all of the clevis pins were in the lower toggles, with the cotter pins placed so that they could be removed by hand.  We also cut the wires to length and zip tied them in neat bundles to facilitate an easy run down the compression post.  We had also run string tracers down through the boat so that the bundles could be easily pulled through.  On the spreaders, we used Monel seizing wire to secure the upper shrouds to the tips.  We had everything ready to go including our "gold" coin at the base and had mentally walked through the stepping procedure together to ensure smooth sailing.   When the time came, all they had to do was lift the mast, get it on the boat, Frank pulled the wires through, and we all jumped in to get the stays and shrouds loosely secured.  A good tip is to wrap the ball and lifting hook on the crane with some towels or rags so you don't scratch the paint on the mast.  We also left our windex and anemometer off so they wouldn't be damaged in the process.  So I have the pleasure of going up the mast at some point to install these.  Now, it's a just a matter of tuning the rig and getting mast straight :)

Everything tied together
The "gold" coin that Frank found in Orlando
with our friends on the Gremlins Hammer.

Backtracking a bit, a week ago in preparation for this big day, Frank assembled our roller furlers.  The staysail roller furler was re-used from the jib and we bought the jib furler brand new from the Miami Boat Show last season.  When we first bought Moitessier, the staysail furler was completely shot, owing to the fact that the lower bearings had exploded.  The furler was continuously used, thereby chewing up the lower drum, thus preventing us from installing new bearings.  Stupidly enough, buying a replacement lower drum was as much as it was for a larger furler as the parts were discontinued.  Go figure.  We used the larger Profurl NC-42 from the jib on the staysail, allowing us to remove some of the broken bearings and damaged extrusions, as the staysail stay is significantly shorter than the jib stay.  Upon assembling the new roller furler, also a NC-42, we discovered that the parts they had give us were ever so slightly too short for our application.  The stock parts come in 50 ft, what we needed was 50 ft 5 1/2 inches.  Here's the issue, the top of the unit requires a top bearing that goes all the way  inside an extrusion (the tube that fits around the stay) its full length, the extrusions are attached to each other using a bearing that goes halfway into each side.  Because the bearings themselves are 4 3/4", this made it impossible to get our required length by only cutting one extrusion.  The problem with cutting 2 is when you butt them together with a bearing, they have 2 pre-drilled and tapped holes for set screws that correspond to 2 holes in the bearing itself.   Drilling and tapping these was a bit of a challenge.   What Frank did was, he cut apart one of the end sections of tubing that had the set screw holes in it and used them as a drill guide.  This allowed him to accurately drill the holes after cutting up the 2 extrusions, and from there it was a matter of lightly sanding the tube ends to make them square so they would butt together precisely.  

Sanding the extrusion ends
Makeshift drill guide

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

May the Force be with Yu

Lightning strikes are a serious concern for any sailboat owner.  You are essentially running around with a 50 some odd foot lightning rod right smack in the middle of your boat.  Getting hit by lightning could really ruin your day.  Aside from the obvious physical danger, having to remove/buy/and reinstall all new electronics can do some serious damage to your wallet and emotional well being.  Since I'm already emotionally unstable as it is, it wouldn't be smart to take any chances.  There are several precautions you can take to mitigate your risks of a strike, and there are a few products being directly marketed for exactly this purpose.  One of which already came with our mast is a dissipator that is designed to disperse static electricity, thereby reducing the favorable condition for lightning to hit.  We hear that these are literally hit or miss, and the effectiveness is questionable.  There is, however, a new product out there that is not necessarily marketed for lightning protection but, from our research has a 100% success rate with rigorous real world testing to back it up.  Thanks to s/v Bella Star, we have discovered the secret of the Lego men.  By placing a Lego man atop your mast, you not only gain a valuable third watchman, but also a fool proof and tested way to protect your electronics and loved ones aboard.  According to the crew of Bella Star, "There have been no recorded incidents of sailboats with Lego guys glued to the masthead being struck by lightning.  EVER." And it's true, we've asked around.  Darth Vader was our choice as he seems like the most intimidating and formidable ally we could have.  I'm sure lightning would not wanna mess with him (I try to avoid him at all costs).  Plus, he has a light saber, which could come in handy for killing any unwanted birds.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

MASTering the Art of Painting

The mast is finally painted!  Woo-hoo.  Yay us!  We have been waiting for a non rainy day now for the past week or so so that we could get the very last coat of Awlgrip on the damn thing.  We had decided when we first took down the mast that we wanted to treat and paint it while we had the chance, because we didn't know when we'd pull it again.   To paint aluminum, you start by sanding down the areas of failed paint to shiny aluminum, feathering the edges as you go.  From there, you chemically wash and etch the bare aluminum with Alumiprep 33.  Some people use equal parts water and white vinegar for this step.  If you don't etch aluminum, paint won't stick to it.  You must allow the Alumiprep to stay on 3-5 minutes and rinse thoroughly with fresh water.  The key is, you can't let the Alumiprep dry at any point, so it's important to continuously apply the stuff during the 3-5 minute period.  Also, be careful not to get the stuff on you as it's an acid that will burn your skin.  We found that a spray bottle worked best for this application.  From there, before it dries, you treat the areas of bare aluminum with Alodine.  Alodine is a chemical conversion coating that prevents the aluminum from oxidizing and corroding.  Once again, it must stay wet for 2-3 minutes before rinsing with water.  Then you allow the water to dry before applying Zinc Chromate which is a highly, highly toxic chemical that works as a primer for aluminum.  Most toxic paints are apparently only "known to cause cancer in state of California..." Apparently, this stuff causes cancer worldwide as it states directly on the can..."WILL CAUSE CANCER."  Hmmm...I wonder if this stuff causes cancer.

From here, after allowing the zinc chromate to dry, it was business as usual.  545 Primer, sanding, waiting for the rain to subside, taping, wiping down with denatured alcohol, another coat of primer, sanding, more waiting for weather, taping, wiping, Awlgrip topcoat, sanding, waiting, yelling at NOAA weather forecasters, taping, wiping, and finally the last coat of topcoat.  Then.....flip mast over and repeat.  During our last coat, this #$%&* that had his boat parked next to ours decided that he wanted to wash his boat right after we painted.  When Frank came down to drive me to work, he noticed that there were these blue spots all over our brand new paint job.  When he confronted him, the guy was so rude that he didn't even apologize, merely dismissing his actions by claiming he didn't realize we had painted.  I guess seeing us out there painting for 2 hours, and seeing all the blue tape on the mast wasn't indication that we had just painted.  I mean, we were only wielding paint rollers 4 feet from his boat, painting...I couldn't really tell if he was actually that stupid or if our paint fumes had started to cause some damage.  It took me several hours to convince Frank not to break into the guy's boat in the middle of the night and take a crap in his bilge (I'm serious here).

Anyhow, since we had been set back another couple of days because we had to sand it back down, we lost our good weather window.  Grrr.  A helpful tip, aside from having a giant WET PAINT sign, is that during the painting process, have someone hold a shade over you, it is hard to see where you've missed, especially when you are painting with white.  (Note: the guys at the yard will inevitably make jokes about your wife holding an umbrella over you, so be prepared to feel like a princess.)  I can't tell you how psyched I am to be wrapping up with most of our painting projects (we still have the bottom job and boot stripe).  I have finally stopped having recurring nightmares about having to sand everyday....oh wait, that was real.

Since we finished painting yesterday, we spent today putting most of the hardware back on the mast and boom.  We still have some more hardware to install, wires to run, rigging to put back, and roller furlers to assemble, but it's starting to look like a mast again, and not just some project looming over our head.  Plus it's super shiny...

Feathered edges
Evidence that it wasn't a nightmare
The yellow stuff is the zinc chromate
Blue spots thanks to the idiot
What it should look like
Teamwork at its best
Installing the steaming light
After zinc chromate

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reggae Sundays

Ever since I've lived here in St Augustine, I've wanted to go to Reggae Sunday.  It happens every Sunday during the summer at the Conch House Marina.   It's pretty much a giant dance party, with live reggae performers.  Frank and I went with a group of my friends from work, and had a blast dancing the day away.  Afterwards, we went swimming at our friend's pool and enjoyed hanging out with some people our own age ;)  It was a fun-filled night with a lot of laughing, a lot of dancing, and some swim racing.  

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Answer, my Friend, is Blowin' in the Wind....

"We are enriched not by what we possess but what we can do without." ~Immanuel Kant

One of the hardest things about refitting a boat and trying to live your dreams with the one you love is learning to work together as a team.  This doesn't seem to be something that's talked about about on other blogs, but I find it important to address as this is something Frank and I have had to contend with for the past couple of years. Through this venture, we've seen ugly sides of each other that we didn't even know existed within ourselves.  If you think about it, you are in a relatively small space, working day in and day out on very challenging projects together.  When you get into a fight, you don't really have the space you need, and even if you close the bedroom door, chances are you can still hear your partner, on the other side of the door, breathing on the settee 5 feet from you.  You are away from the ones you love, your friends and family, away from your comfort zone, and all you have is each other.  At times, your ego is bruised because you are faced with yet another hurdle that you can't seem to overcome.  You take your frustration out on your partner simply because he/she's there.  You feel shame because everyone in your life has told you that this was crazy, and you start to wonder if they were right.  You start to resent the roles that you have fallen into because you happen to be good at it, and you wonder, why the hell am I doing this?  What am I doing risking everything I have, including my relationship, for this dream that may never happen?  Have I made a big mistake?

Admittedly, I have definitely been there.  Though I have learned that this is all a part of growing up and part of the evolution of a relationship, it doesn't make it any easier.  Before this commitment, Frank and I lived by the seat of our pants.  We satisfied every whim, every curiosity, every desire we've ever had.  If we wanted to just take off and fly somewhere for a week or two, we did.  If we wanted to buy motorcycles and ride for the summer, we did.  If we wanted to go to a fancy restaurant, no problem.  If we felt like driving to some obscure place at 3 in the morning because we were bored, I'd have the car warmed up even before Frank had finished packing.  We had very few limitations, aside from financial ones, because we had only ourselves to think about.  It fueled our relationship, the spontaneity, the indulgence, and it made things interesting and shaped us as a couple.

This is the first time we have been faced with working together and committing to something big.  You quickly learn that it's no longer just about you, and that in order to get what you want, you have to give up the plethora of mini luxuries you allow yourself.  You learn that it's no longer about yourself, about him, even about the relationship, that it's truly about the dream.  You learn that you have to commit to playing the role that you are good at, even if you don't want to, because otherwise you won't succeed.  You try to divide and conquer, even if it means forgoing the things that are important to you, because your partner is doing the same for you.  Hey, if you want it bad enough, you'd pay just about anything for it, right?  I think this applies to all things in life.  Everyone gives something up in pursuit of what they consider happiness.  It is a rite of passage of sorts, a part of becoming an "adult."  Some people give up their time and work 9-5 in pursuit of stability.  Others give up their freedom to raise a family.  And even after all of this, some people will even risk the stability that they've gained from their 9-5s and the comfort of their homes in pursuit of a successful business.  It's human nature to want what's just out of reach.  For us, this means temporarily giving up our family and friends, our personal space, all of our money, and being impulsive just so that we can eventually have the freedom to see the world with no boundaries.  It's suffering now so that we can be rewarded later.  You can't have the good without the bad, and I have been reminded of this simple truism time and time again.

When you are suffering, it is easy to lose sight of what it is you are suffering for because you are only focussed on the pain of your distress.  For some, this is enough to make you give up because at the time, all you want is relief.  I know all too well what that feels like, but then I think to myself, what would I have if not for this dream?  Life is colorless when you have nothing to strive for.  I know I sound a bit histrionic, but truly, what do you have if you have nothing to LIVE for?  Nothing to die for, no purpose?  I am lucky that I have been given the opportunity to pursue what I want from life.  I am lucky that I have someone to do that with, that we share the same dream.  Not many people can say that.  Am I happy now? Sure.  Is this hard?  Hell yeah.  Would I ever want to go through this again?  Not really.  Do I have any regrets?  No, not at all.  Is it all worth it?  I think so...

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Highered Help

Recently, Frank has been getting some miscellaneous rigging related jobs through our friend, Dylan Bailey, who happens to be a local surveyor.  Dylan is an incredibly meticulous person with an extensive background in boating related trades due to his experience with his father, Howdy Bailey, building steel and aluminum yachts in the Chesapeake Bay area.  Because he is so thorough with his surveys, he often finds it pertinent to have a separate rigging inspection done mostly because he has seen so many sailboats with rigging related problems that are often overlooked.  Given Frank's background as a rock climber and his unique ability to spot issues with stainless steel, he was a natural fit, and it's quite flattering that Dylan has hired him on for these pre-purchase inspections.   Since there are not many riggers here in St Augustine, work has been falling into our laps in greater volume that we can currently keep up with as our own boat project is still priority number one. The inspections themselves involve going aloft and visually checking all vital components up the mast as well as on deck and below.  These include lifelines, chainplates, turnbuckles, wire, tangs, etc.  Occasionally, an inspection will find issues that the new owner will want remedied and more recently, a big project for Dylan has been being an owner's representive on a recently purchased Pearson 530 here at the yard.

Most jobs that Frank gets require an extra set of hands, and since I have become the default handy dandy helper, I have been along for most of them.  Sometimes it includes me getting Frank up a mast, others it's me going aloft when Frank doesn't feel comfortable with me hoisting.  It's been very interesting for me as I'm learning a lot about rigging and its various components.  One of the many projects that Dylan has hired Frank to do was to install 2 Mack Packs, one on the Main and one on the Mizzen of the Pearson 530.   The installation itself was pretty straight forward.  Looking at the Mack Packs themselves, I wonder why they are so damn expensive, as they are simple shapes with minimal hardware.  The Mack Packs come with integrated lazy jacks, and the installing them requires going up each mast and installing a set of cheek blocks at a predetermined height from the boom.  Bacause the winch was undersized and above my head on the main mast, Frank insisted that I not hoist him up as he was concerned for his safety.  Instead, I volunteered to go up and install the 2 blocks.  I was a little apprehensive about it at first as I have never drilled and tapped metal before, let alone 60 ft above the ground (as the boat is currently on the hard).  Drilling metal is nothing like drilling wood or fiberglass as the bit tends to wander from the mark before it bites in.  I was worried that I would not be able to do this accurately, and that it would be installed crooked.  Before I went up, Frank gave me a crash course in drilling and tapping metal, as well as advice on how not to break the drill and tap.  When going aloft, it is important to have all tools tied with lanyards as dropping them is not a good thing.  So with the drill strapped to me and miscellaneous tools tied to my bosun's chair, I was hoisted up.  After drilling and tapping the first hole, I thought I had it down until.....SNAP!  I broke the tap in the second hole.  Nice.  After hearing Frank lecture me the whole way down the mast about not listening to his advice, we quickly drove to home depot and got a new one.  After removing the broken tap with a set of lockjaw pliers, and armed with my newfound experience, I was able to get the second block installed without incident.

It started to pour while I was aloft...luckily
there was no lightning around and
I got to finish what I was doing :)
Both Mack Packs installed :)

In addition to installing these, Frank was also hired on to install a Tides Marine Sail Track on the main mast, which was also straight forward, aside from having to enlarge the gate in the pre-existing sailtrack on the mast.  He also had to rebuild all 15 winches on the boat, which was pretty cool, as we got to disassemble some beefy Lewmar winches as well as a few overly complicated Harken winches.  He also had to replace a stay on the mizzen mast with Norseman fittings; a wire to rope halyard, which was  enlightening as I learned how to use a Nicco press tool.  There's a bunch of other miscellaneous jobs, but these have been the most interesting for me.  Frank has been only one of the many worker ants getting this boat ready for its new owners.  He has also been hired on as crew to help in the upcoming delivery to NY sometime this summer.  It's all still very tentative as the boat has many ongoing projects that are delaying things and hurricane season is already here.