“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain


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Last Week

One week….

Very strange and mixed feelings.  It’s Monday morning of our last week of full time employment.  We’ve both had jobs of some sort since our teens. Since graduating college I have basically had the same morning routine: wake up, take a shower, walk the dog(s), get in the car, get a coffee, sit in traffic (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours).  It will be really strange to not have this morning routine dominate my life.  But there is still a lot of work to get done in this last week.

Our last two weekends have been filled with get togethers with friends and family.  Many of whom we won’t likely see for several years.  Seeing relatives and friends, eating some great food, sharing old stories.  It’s bitter sweat to see everyone and know we won’t see many of them again for some time.

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Project wise it has been a bit of an epic fail.  My Bride somehow managed to climb into the back of the boat to change out the fuel tank sender unit.  But this didn’t fix the problem and another hour of trouble shooting still hasn’t identified the source of the malfunctioning fuel gauge.  We tried to fix the holding tank level sensor but no luck.  Still have piles of stuff we need to find space for on the boat.  This week will be a busy one between work and dealing with the last of our stuff.


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3 Weeks

We have 19 more calendar days of work.  That equates to 15 days at the office.  But I am taking a little time to deal with vet appointments and our last appointment at the Travel Clinic, I plan to do some last minute running around on those days and to bring things down to my Dad’s house (diplomas, memento type stuff from our offices, etc.). So that’s two less days and I already woke up and came to work today.  That means I only have 12 more days where I am woken up by the alarm clock at 6 AM to start getting ready for work.  Only 12 more morning commutes.  Only 3 more time sheets to submit. With each day it is getting harder and harder to get up the motivation to come into the office.  Even more of a challenge is to get the motivation to complete the tasks I have before me each day instead of surfing the internet.

We spent most of this weekend on a mooring at World’s End.  This is probably the local cruising destination I will miss the most.  But I am a little ahead of myself.

First thing Saturday morning my Bride had to setup the sewing machine in the cockpit.  She noticed a couple of stitches coming undone on our dodger. She spent a couple of hours going over the dodger and repairing areas where the stitches were deteriorating from UV damage.  She was complete and boat mostly back together by noon.  The tomatoes really started to ripen on our dock plants.  So I grabbed some to eat for the weekend and cut some fresh mint for mojitos.  The peppers are coming but not there yet.

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We cast of the lines and powered for an hour to get over to World’s End where we met up with our friends Pam and Chris on Windchaser. We rafted up with them on a friends mooring.  It was hot; probably around 95 degrees, very sunny and humid.  We got into the water very shortly after getting settled.  The water seemed a little cooler than usual but that was welcome on such a hot day.

Of course I can’t just relax so I started cleaning the hull.  It’s been almost two years since our last bottom job.  This one took a beating from the ice in Charlestown this winter.  The ice scrapped away a lot of the ablative paint so I can see the grey barrier coat in a lot of areas, especially along the waterline.  We are getting a lot of grass type growth on the waterline and some pretty thick growth on the bottom.  I am just trying to get this bottom job to last two-three months more.  We plan to haul somewhere around South Carolina to do the bottom and some other things.  But I loose about a knot of boat speed from the growth after about 3 weeks.  So it will be tough to make it last long enough.

Saturday late afternoon the weather started to change.  There was now a considerable amount of cloud cover and some potential thunder storms were in the mix.  It started to rain around 4-5 PM but that was mostly just sprinkles.  For about an hour we watched a great show while lightening hit all around World’s End but not in our direct area. Bolts were crossing the sky and coming down all around us but at a distance of several miles away.  At about 6 PM we started to get some significant rain.  In fact the skies opened out and large, heavy drops started pelting the boats.  There were 3 boats rafted up on the mooring, Smitty, Windchaser and the owner of the moorings power boat.  We all retreated into our various boats to wait out what we thought was going to be some quick passing rain. A micro burst hit the area and the winds picked up.  The rain was now sideways and visibility was only a few feet. The fetch for this front wasn’t long so the wave height didn’t get big but there were dense streaks of foam from the waves.  The Beaufort wind scale estimate was a force 9-10 easily.

From here.

The stern line on the power boat broke free.  They quickly scrambled and got it back on but that was enough to get us all on deck to recheck all of the lines.  Windchaser was in the middle and on the ball.  We were on her starboard side.  We added a second bow line just to be safe.  We watched other boats loose fenders and inflatable floats while the heavy winds were hitting.

The high winds and driving rain only last about 30 minutes.  After that we were still getting some rain and lightening was all around us but again a couple of miles away.

We were all checking our phones for updates on the weather. Another cell was to the west of us but we couldn’t tell if it was going to hit or move more south.  We watched that cell pass just to the south of us while we only received some rain.  After that there was a lull but another line of potential storms was further west that might impact us in a couple of hours.  We used the delay to cook some food and take Summer for a quick walk. The power boat made a run for home. We then retreated down into Windchaser to hangout out of the rain.  After dinner we were all a little tired so we called it a night.  We did get some more rain around 1AM but nothing like the micro burst.

The next morning we had breakfast in Smitty’s cockpit.  I hung our stern anchor, another project off the it-would-be-nice list.  We went for a long dingy ride and picked up some more ice while drinking Painkillers. When we got back to the boats, some friends joined us for an afternoon of swimming and hanging out.  Around 6:30 we heading back to our dock.  After a brief delay to retrieve our wayward dingy after I failed to tie a good knot holding her to the stern rail, we were treated to a great sunset but no wind as we powered back to our marina.

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I will really miss hanging out at World’s End.  We have had some great raft up parties here in the past and also some great times of solitude.


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Solar Install

We finished the solar panel install about two months ago.  This is a project that started over a year ago and had me doing tons of research and learning all about solar and charge controllers.  Here are the previous posts on this subject:

Just to review, we went with the Renogy (aka Chinese Knock Offs of Solbian Panels) semi-flexible panels, a Rogue MPT-3048 charge controller (possibly the last one ever purchased since they discontinued the model) with Renogy wires and MC4 connectors.

Panels on the bimini and a write up of attachment system will be coming soon via a post from my Bride.

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Wiring was run inside the bimini bow pocket.  Down the support and into the hull.  I put the positive and negative wires from the panels together with a 16 AWG by 2 wire (for a future LED light install on the bimini) in a 2 inch diameter, non-adhesive heat shrink tube.  The tube was six feet long.  I then heat shrunk the whole tube.  This kept the wires in one bundle and made the install look a little more professional than having multiple wires visible running along the exterior of the boat.

The panels are currently wired in series.  We purchased the set of MC4 parallel branch connectors.  The bimini bow pocket on our factory bimini is large enough to allow us to switch between series wiring or parallel wiring and still have all of the wires in the pocket.  This way we can alternate between series wiring and parallel wiring and use the one that produces the best power on our boat in the given situation (i.e. on anchor vs. at a dock).

The wires pass through the hull using a Blue Sea Systems Cable Clamp.  I didn’t put this hole far enough away from the stanchion.  As a result I had to drill through the metal plate.  Funny story about drilling this hole.  I first drilled it too small for wire bundle.  I had to run off to the local box store and get a 3/4-inch drill bit to allow me to redrill the hole larger.  When I went to try and redrill the hole, the drill bit caught the edge of the existing hole and spun the drill out of my hand.  It landed right in the water! I let out some of the loudest string of foul language most people had ever heard. I was rushing and the cost I paid was a practically brand new Makita 18 volt lithium-ion drill with a brand new $50 drill bit.  Always tie of your tools when working over the water.  When I ordered the new drill off of Amazon, I also got an interchangeable end tool lanyard.  I now will not use my tools on deck without this.

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I installed the Rogue Controller next to the battery charger. I mounted it on a piece of starboard and through bolted the controller.  The bolts are in the lazarette and easy to access.

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Down in the battery compartment I reconfigured my positive buss.  Using a Marinco Pro Installer Link Joiner from Defender I created a positive buss that had inputs for the shore power charger, alternator, charge controller and the positive feed to the battery no. 1 spot on the battery selector switch.  I then linked over to my Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charge Relay (ACR).  The ACR brings charging juice only to the reserve battery.  All of the different lines are protected by appropriately sized ANL fuses.  All of the lines were labeled and then the labels were covered over with clear heat shrink following Maine Sail’s method.

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Rogue recommends you install a breaker in between the panels and the controller.  I used a Blue Sea Systems 60 Amp Circuit Breaker. I used a 65 amp terminal block to make accessing the wiring easier.  By doing this I was able to wire the controller to the terminal block prior to hanging it.  Then run the wires to the terminal block from the panels.  I ran 4 AWG wire from the controller to the positive buss and negative buss at the batteries.

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By the time everything was installed, it was late in the day and I didn’t have very good sun to check the operation.  But at 10 AM the next morning things were looking good.  The panels were producing 34.6 volts of power at 3.9 amps and the controller was delivering 13.5 volts of power at 9.4 amps to the batteries.

IMG_3397It’s now been 8 weeks since we put the panels to work.  I have kept the panels in series during this time.  We have not had to turn on the shore power charger yet.  We are typically back to 100 % SOC by 2-3 PM each day.  This is using cabin lights, fans, a 12 volt TV, refer, etc. each day.  The only thing we use our 120 volt power for is to charge our phones and tablets and run a large box fan on warm nights.  Otherwise we are entirely off the grid.  With the inverter installed we could now be 100 % off the grid and soon will be when we cut the lines in 27 days.

 


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The Neglected Steering System

The poor steering system on Smitty had been neglected.  According to the manual from the manufacturer (copies of manual on the bottom of The Boat page), Edson, there are certain maintenance activities that should be done annually.  I know I have never done them and I doubt the previous owner ever gave it a second thought.  This was the last project on my “must do” list before we head out cruising.

This task starts with removing the compass from the binnacle.  You will want to put up the cockpit table before you start otherwise the weight messes with the binnacle as you remove pieces.  There are two screws holding the light onto the compass, after you remove those the whole metal collar around the compass can be lifted straight up.  The compass light can be disconnected via a quick connect located under the metal collar.  I then removed the compass by loosening a small clamping screw at the base. Don’t set the pieces you remove on the table as the weight will mess you up later on.

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Once the compass is removed you can turn your attention to the 4 bolts holding the compass base on.  These are about three inches long and thread into the bottom metal stand of the binnacle after passing through the section that holds the gear shifter and throttle.  One of my bolts was very tough to get out.  It was under the Nav Pod for the chart plotter so you could get straight down on it and the flat head opening was starting to strip.  It should really be a bolt here instead of a screw so you could use a ratchet or wrench on it.  I tended up using my impact driver to get it started.  I don’t think Catalina used any anti-seize or corrosion agents when they put this together.  Once I got the plastic base for the compass off, I set it on the cockpit table, this prevented having to cut and reconnect the compass light wires.

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I found the access was good enough for this task without removing the shifter and throttle section.  I looked for any signs of loose parts or wear. I cleaned the chain with a rag, then sprayed WD-40 Specialist Water Repellent Corrosion Inhibitor and Lubricant (I would have used Boshield T-9 but I ran out and the box store I went to only had the WD-40, this Specialist is a similar product) on the chain as I moved the wheel back and forth.  I lubricated the chain with motor oil.  A common mistake is to try and grease the chain.  The correct lubricant is 30-40 weight motor oil.  I used 3-In-1 Oil Motor Oil, the bottle makes it very convenient for application in this use. When the oil in the bottle runs out I will just refill it with the same oil I use in the diesel engine. Again, I moved the wheel back and forth several times during the application process.

On either end of the shaft for the wheel there is a needle bearing.  These need to be checked for play by trying to move the wheel shaft around.  Mine was good and tight with no play. Edson says to grease these needle bearings with Super Lube Synthetic Grease.  I get mine in the small 1 ounce tubes and you can easily push the tip into the holes on either end.  Again turn the wheel while applying to get a good application.

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The brass portion of the shaft in that looks like it has a grid pattern stamped on it is where the brake grabs.  Be careful not to get any grease, oil or lubricant in this area. I checked over the shifter and throttle and lubricated those areas with spray lubricant while I had the area open.  Then I just but everything back together.  When it came time to put the 3-inch screws back in, I treated the threaded area with Lanocote for corrosion and anti-seize protection like I talked about in the Preparing Equipment for Life at Sea post I did a couple of months back.  I caulk the heads of the bolts and the wire penetration through the compass base with some BoatLife Life-Caulk just to try and keep the area under the compass as dry as possible.  It appeared that Catalina had done the same during the initial installation.

Next it was on to the below deck portions.  The first thing you have to do was access this area by removing the fiberglass shroud.  I actually did this last weekend to look at the plate at the base of the pedestal.  Catalina had sent out an email warning of potential corrosion issues but I examined mine and found it to be in good condition.  To remove the shroud I had to remove all the screws and then cut away the caulking that was put there to make this a water tight area.  I used a utility knife to cut away some sort of white polysulfide caulking.  I then clean off all the old caulking and prepped the area for new caulking with acetone.

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For the maintenance, I checked all of the cables and idlers for play.  The cable was taught but not like standing rigging.  I check the steering radial drive and rudder for play. I also checked the alignment between the idlers and the steering radial drive. It took two people to really check this area over well.  I was down below while my Bride was turning the wheel back and forth for close to an hour. No major issues were found.  I found some surface corrosion on the idlers and the quadrant that was easily cleaned up a rag and some WD-40.  There is one area about the side of a pencil eraser of surface corrosion on the starboard wire that I don’t like. I can see this area when the wheel is hard over near the water heater.  I will continue to watch this area.

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I oiled the wire with motor oil by dripping it on top of the wire as my Bride turned the wheel.  I had to do this in several locations to get good coverage of the wire.  I also ran a paper towel over the wire as I was lubricating it. I used the paper towel over a rag because if there where any fish hooks or other defects in the wire it would tear off little pieces of paper towel and indicate I had a damage and the wire needed to be replaced.  I didn’t see any paper towel pieces or other indications of problems with the wire.

I then checked the rudder bearing, packing gland, rudder stops and through deck fitting. I had to open the top access panel where you attach the emergency tiller for part of this inspection.  I didn’t find any issues in this area.  The bolts for the packing gland were a little loose so I tightened them up a little.  You don’t want to over tighten these as that is the equivalent of over tightening a stuffing box.

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Rudder stops on my boat are glassed into the hull where the deck drops down for the top portion of the rudder bearing. The stops look good and so does the stop that bolts onto the radial drive to make contact with the stops.

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Glassed in Rudder Stop

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Rudder Stop Attached to the Radial Drive

I put a wrench on every bolt and nut in the steering system: the take up eye; the wire clamps; the bolts holding the quadrants of the steering radial drive together; etc. I checked everything to make sure there were no loose connections, no loose wire, no missing bolts or nuts. I feel pretty good about the steering system and it now turns smooth as can be.  I am thinking about ordering a spare Edson wire and chain but at $300 I may not go for that spare.  The most likely point of failure based on my inspection would be the wire.  But that is 1/4 inch wire and I should be able to find that pretty easily throughout the Caribbean.  I put the fiberglass shroud back over the steering components and recaulked it with some more BoatLife Life-Caulk.

So now I am done with the “must do” projects.  I am into bonus time.  Anything I get done from here out could also be completed along the way.  The first bonus project I tackled was installing a 12 volt outlet at the helm.  I found a spot in the engine controls to tap off some power.  I installed the outlet next to the connection point for the RAM Mic.  Now I can power the iPad while underway easily.

Next up will be to install the Navionics Sonar Phone T-Box.


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One Month!

It’s August 4th and within 31 days we will be unemployed, full-time cruisers.  We started this blog more than two and half years ago with the dream of quitting our jobs and heading off cruising.  We are now one month from fulfilling that goal and moving on to the first real big adventure of our lives.

We only have one more “must complete” project left, the long overdue maintenance to the steering system.  After that we have a couple of “it would be nice” projects that we would like to get done while it’s more convenient but they could be finished along the way as well.

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Some of the last sunsets we will see from our slip in Hingham.