Friday, March 16, 2018

At last...

After way too many days, weeks really…well, to be honest, months, Kintala is riding to her anchor rode once again. We got off the dock a couple of days ago, went out into Tampa Bay flying the jib, tacked up toward the bridge then back to the mouth of the Manatee River. Once there, it was a sail change and an easy, 4 knot deep run on just the staysail up the river and to the anchorage not too far off the boatyard. The kids can wave at us from the shore which is really kind of fun. Setting the hook must be one of those things that you don’t forget since the Mantus went down and dug in with little ado.

Though friends up north will laugh at this, a brisk north wind and temperatures in the low 50’s made it a chilly evening of sitting in the cockpit. Hot buttered rum was the perfect celebration of being out on the water once again. Though it isn’t the usual practice around here, Kintala’s conch horn echoed across the wavelets as the sun touched the horizon.

Though the water was pretty calm, stutter steps and grasping at hand holds was clear evidence that legs can forget what it means to live on open water. I kept bumping into things that were suddenly in my way, door jams, walls, and cabinet bits. And, truth to tell, I think my inner ear might have forgotten some things as well, like how to ignore being in a moving, swinging, bouncing house. Settling into the v-berth came with a slight sigh of relief though, within minutes it was clear that another thing that had been forgotten was the symphony of noises that a boat at anchor makes bow into winds gusting to twenty plus knots.

Which I am going to use as the excuse for doing absolutely nothing since the hook went down. Some stuff gets read, other stuff gets written, music fills the headsets and naps appear out of nowhere.. And yes, that is our new hammock strung between the mast and stay. 

Another delight has been the appearance of wildlife. Even though we live closer to the natural world than most even when in the marina, just a few hundred feet off shore it feels like the cosmos ignores the fact that humans are around. Yesterday evening a gaggle of a dozen or more pelicans went into a feeding frenzy just off the starboard side. It was a parade of the big birds all but hovering 10 to 20 feet off the water, then twisting and bending their wings for a kind of feathered cannon ball crash into the water. Some kind of tern were also in on the action, landing on the heads and backs of the pelicans hoping (apparently) to make off with a meal. I haven’t seen that happen before; it seemed kind of a bold move to me. The pelicans didn't seem to mind, which didn't surprise me. Pelicans are the stoics of the Aves family of animals; unruffled, capable, content, and completely at home in their environment.

In the next day or two we will be heading back to the dock for one more short stint. There is nothing major needing done to the boat, but we are going to help with the little ones as Son-in-Law needs to be away for a couple of days. 

Back to cruising. At last.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Once again

If you can’t point to something and say, “this is the problem,” when trying to fix something, the chances are pretty good that the something isn’t fixed.

Ed Note: We did in fact get off the dock today
and had a really nice sail in Tampa Bay.
That's what that white thing is for...
And so it was with the head modification. The first configuration should have worked, did work, but did not seem to be working very well. So the configuration got changed. It also worked, seemed to work a little better, and was a decidedly more elegant solution to the hose runs than the first one had been. There is a certain amount of wisdom in the idea that, “If it looks right, it is right”. The new configuration certainly looked a lot more “right” than the old one. It was enough to stoke the hope that the problem had been solved. Still, the more thought that went into it, the less likely it seemed. This is a low pressure, low volume fluid system. The things that were changed were 99% cosmetic. From the point of view of fluid flowing through lines, the first configuration was as “right” as the second. Still, it had been a longish work day, the project had already taken two more days than planned, and yours truly was just getting tired of working on the boat. The system had worked before the modification, the new “look” was better than the old, and I really, really wanted the job to be done.

But 24 hours later it was clear that wishful thinking wasn’t enough to call a job finished. The system was still not working as well as it should. The main give-away was the amount of pressure that was building up at the diverter valve. A little bit of pressure was expected as it is at one end of the anti-syphon loop. Turn the valve and what fluid was in that half of the loop would flow into the holding tank. But, even after the configuration change, when the valve was turned, fluid was doing a soft kind of explosion into the holding tank. There was also more pressure on the flush pump handle than was usual. Clearly something was seriously restricting the flow somewhere, likely something we had disturbed during the mod. That didn’t help much since, during said mod, we had pretty much disturbed the entire black water / holding tank run from flush pump to thru hull.

There were several likely candidates. One was the diverter valve itself. During the work it was discovered that the valve had suffered an internal failure. One of the seals had torn and was partially jamming the thing. It had been completely disassembled, cleaned, all seals had been replaced with new, and the valve reassembled. Since it seemed impossible to put the bits back together wrong it wasn’t likely the home of the trouble. Still, it was easy to reach, another plus for the new configuration. Since the problem had not existed before we started, had existed after we finished, and the valve was the one thing that had been touched the most, it seemed the best place to start. Disassembly proved that it was, indeed, impossible to put it together wrong and that it was working exactly as it should.

The curved plastic tube at the top of the anti-syphon loop, the tube that holds the Micky-Moused little valve itself, was the next easiest place to reach. Since things tend to fall away from the top of something, there was faint hope that this would be the place to find “the fix”. On the other hand, if one skipped looking there, Mr. Murphy would suggest that was where one really needed to look. So we looked.

And found nothing to fix.

Least attractive and holding the most potential for disaster was something jammed up in or near the thru-hull. It was also the only place left where the trouble could lurk. So it was with some trepidation that the clamps were removed, the heat gun applied, and a sharp knife was taken to the hose attached to the thru-hull shut off valve. Mine wasn’t the only sigh of relief when the hose came free without water flooding into the boat. There was another sigh of relief when the valve was slowly opened and water did, indeed, flood into the boat. The hose itself? Ugly. And clogged. Clogged with sheets of calcified “stuff” clearly knocked free from the inside of the hoses as they were twisted and bent into various configurations. There was also a plain, old fashioned clog where it attached to the thru-hull, the inside diameter of the line less than half the original. Open enough that the pump still worked before we messed with the hoses. Blocked enough that the debris cascading down from the hoses being moved was enough to do it in.

Something that was clearly wrong that needed to be fixed. A new length of hose and some flushing of the thru-hull, and the head seemed (don't want to jinx it) to, once again, be working properly.

One of the most used pieces of equipment on board. A parts cleaner from
Harbor freight into which the Merc jets go for cleaning. The whole carb
body fits in there as well. Four or five cycles later the carb is sparkling
and the jets once again let the fuel flow. Best $20 we ever spent.
Kintala is buttoned up once again. The Merc, after throwing a second fit that left fuel running out of the bottom of the engine cowl, had hands laid upon it and is also docile and cooperative once again. So, as soon as this bit of weather decides what it is going to do, the hope is to get off of the dock for a good couple of days worth of shaking things out. And, in a week or two, to go cruising…once again. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Bucket list

No, not that one. It seems a bit silly to have a list of things one wants to do before one dies for the simple reason that no one knows when that is going to be. Imagine working on “the list” and having a hammer fall from somewhere. Bang. There you are looking at the next world (whatever that may or may not be). Then The Greeter (whomever that may or may not be) asks what you were doing when the earthly lights went out.

“Working on my Bucket List.”

“Well, that was a waste of time, wasn’t it?”

The Bucket list I’m thinking of has to do with boat jobs. Even then it isn’t likely the kind of list first comes to mind. This list isn’t a string of jobs one would like see finished. That list stretches to infinity or, at least, will last as long as the boat exists. No, this list is more about the size and complexity of the job being contemplated for the day. My favorite kind of jobs are those where everything needed to do the job; parts, tools, materials, rags, etc., all fit into a single bucket. And not a 55 gallon sized “bucket,” either. Or even ten. Five gallons, max. Three gallons, preferably.

We have had a string of ten gallon bucket jobs; teak work, bottom job, fiberglass repairs. They stretched on for days, then weeks, then months. Many days started early, ended late, and had few breaks along the way. A concern was how sore the body would be come morning, when the next day’s tasks start demanding attention. The last of the ten gallon jobs waiting completion was finished yesterday when a newly installed pump started up and the level of (clean) water in the holding tank started down. Kintala is now configured so as to carry waste water in her holding tank out of a harbor or anchorage, out where the whales and dolphins deposit their own waste water, and then empty the tank without the aid of a shore side suction pump. Such shoreside aid is nigh on impossible to find in the Islands and, after Irma, not that easy to find in Florida either.

With that task done, 3 gallon bucket jobs come to the fore, and are much more enjoyable. Polishing the cabin ports is one. Each port takes about an hour to remove, 1500 wet sand, compound polish, polish, wax, and reinstall. As each one is finished, the interior of the boat gets just that little bit brighter, looks just that little bit newer. One can look out a port and actually see what is around the boat, even at night. It is an easy task as well, no contortions into constricted boat chasms, no muscle cramps, and no worm clamp slices.

Three gallon bucket jobs are often routine maintenance, usually done without chewing up an entire day. Around Kintiala we try to average out work time to about four hours a day, at least that is the goal when not in refit mode. It would be nice to keep weekends free but, honestly, we don’t always know what day of the week it is. (And often don’t see any real need to bother with it.) “Ten to Two” is the goal for the start and finish of a working day while out cruising. Ten in the morning gives us time to get up, get going, get coffee, and greet the day. Two in the afternoon leaves plenty of the rest of the day to play, get out of the heat, write, read, and just enjoy living this life we worked so hard to find. It isn’t “time clock” time. There is no need to punch in or out. Get going, get it done, call it done, relax.

NOTE: After 24 hours it has become clear that the new head plumbing is not working as advertised. The overboard pump pumps, and the water goes where the water needs to go, but there is too much pressure on the flush pump. There is something not right. Reach for the 10 gallon bucket.

NOTE to NOTE: After much ado we could not find a single reason why the system was acting as it was. Low pressure, low volume fluid was going where it was supposed to go, when it was supposed to go there. But it was going with much reluctance. So the system was reconfigured to send the water to the exact same places, using the exact same fittings, in the exact same diameter hoses. All that was done was to turn things around so one angle of flow is now slightly straighter and there is about 2 feet less hose in a configuration that likely still has more than 20 feet of stuff. As a result, and for reasons that are a complete mystery, the system now works much, much better. But I still have no clue as to why that is.

Some days I really hate boats. The good news is that fixing whatever it was that was wrong turned out to be a 3 gallon bucket job. Which, all things considered, is a pretty good day.

Saturday, March 10, 2018


For any of you who have read the years past of this blog, you may remember the travails of our oldest daughter and her family and the Little Boat That Couldn't. It was a time in both their and our lives we try not to think about much. It was as hard as hard gets.

Today we were finally able to put that chapter to rest as we motored out the gate of the boat yard in their new-to-them Ericson sailboat and headed into the river for its maiden voyage. Everyone had huge smiles on their faces and there were a few whoops and hollers from the bow as the kids urged Papa on at the helm.

Thanks to the excellent care given to this particular Ericson by the previous owner, and his graciousness in allowing them to buy it at a fair price, the family has once again found a home on the water, a life that few but us can understand, a life that resonates with them, a life that brings joy. It was indeed a day of redemption.

Ever try to get three kids to smile at the camera at one time? Then you'll understand this photo

Grandbaby #10 spent most of the first sail of her life sleeping

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Mutually Exclusive Muses

                                            - - random political muse - -

It always seemed likely that it would be the women of the nation that would save us from ourselves. Wasn't it inevitable that, at some point, they would rebel at the assaults on their civil rights, on restricting their access to health care, to discrimination in the areas of equal pay and insurance coverage, and to the constant threats to the health and welfare of their kids? But it is starting to look like it will be the kids themselves who save us from ourselves. Or, more accurately, the kids are moving to save themselves from us while dragging society to a better place, one we should have found a couple of generations ago.

Works for me.

                        - - don’t really care what goes on in the world / boat muse - - 

The last batch of teak is finished. The first batch was the dorade boxes cockpit seats, floor grate, and entryway pad, ten individual bits plus the keyboard of slats that make up the seat at the helm. Slats screwed and sealed directly to the fiberglass…not the best idea anyone ever had. The next batch included the port, starboard, and aft toe rail, just three bits but a lot of area. Another batch was cockpit table, drink holder, and cabin top hand rails. The last batch was the companionway / hatch bits, six that came off the boat plus the one at the top of the companionway, and three more odd bits at the storage shelves and engine panel at the back of the cockpit.

That is a lot of bits. 

Each of those bits was sanded clean of old varnish using 80 grit, repaired as required, and then smoothed in steps of 120, 220, and 320 grit. About half also got the 400 grit wet-sand treatment. Then there was a coat of prime, eight coats of clear with at least one session of 320 or 400 wet-sanding in there somewhere, one last session of 320 or 400 wet-sanding, and a final clear coat to finish it off.

(Note to self - if there is "another boat" in the future, pick one with a little less wood, maybe a lot less. Or maybe no wood at all. One must admit it sure looks pretty but even some rich people can't afford to keep it looking at that way by paying someone else. Hundreds of hours at a hundred dollars - or more - per hour?  Two slips away from Kintala lies one of the biggest and certainly the  prettiest boat in the yard. It is owned by a friend who has oodles of "resources" beyond anything most people can imagine, and he has been working on his teak for several weeks now. The next time a big, teak-glowing-in-the-sunset sailing yacht appears in an anchorage, remember there is a good chance the owner's hands show the callouses of making that happen.)

While doing the companionway, there was a gelcoat repair needed where the hatch slides on the house top. Thirty plus years of sliding back and forth had ground through to raw fiberglass on both hatch and cabin top. It opens much easier now.

The day when the last of the big projects is done and Kintala becomes a cruising boat once again is tantalizingly close. A young friend from the yard went to the top of the mast to fix the topping lift / back stay woogle. As it turned out having the topping lift crossing the back stay wasn’t much of a deal. Apparently there is little motion up there, the topping lift line wasn’t damaged at all. What was an eye opener was that the pin holding the bracket that holds both the back stay and topping lift to the mast head was missing the cotter key that stops the pin from falling out. Nearly five years since the mast went up, thousands of miles covered, with some of those miles in rough, pitching seas that made the rig shudder. It is anyone’s guess as to why that pin stayed put.

A missing pin
There is still reconfiguring the holding tank system to finish. Getting it done requires moving Kintala to a pump out since modifying a full holding tank system is a thought too ugly to consider. There are two options. One is a few miles away at a place called Regatta Point. It is a tight fit for a 42 foot boat. Well, tight for a 42 foot wayward wondering modified full keel boat without a bow thruster and driven by the likes of yours truly. Depending on the tide it is also a bit thin for a five foot draft.

The other option is a day’s sail to the north-north-east away. Then, of course, it is another day’s sail to the south-south-west back. There is a three day window before the next front comes through. Sure enough the wind is going to back half way through, which will put it directly on the bow going both directions; and blowing 20 knots.

It looks like Regatta Point, tight fit an all, will get the nod.

It has been a while since daily tasks included making nice with Mother Earth before attempting something as simple as finding a pump out. It has been a while since the daily life included anticipating when the water would run out, when the batteries might need a little generator support, how much range remained in the fuel tank, and where would be a good place to toss a hook with regard to tide, wind, and incoming weather. All part and parcel of living the life of a boat gypsy.

A life that doesn’t really care about what goes on on land.