Saturday, March 22, 2014

Getting in Deep

Jo Beth at Hinckley Yacht Services, Savannah, GA
A little more time has passed than I’d planned for between these refit updates. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it means the work by Hinckley is really moving along now. Nearly all of the ordered materials have arrived, decisions regarding fabrics and colors for the interior have been made, and the weather is (finally!) warming. 

We do have the occasional issue arise when some new piece of equipment doesn’t fit exactly right, or there’s a question as to how new wiring should be routed, and so on. Quick and simple things mostly, and so far, all easily resolved.

One decision we did make was to replace our mast. I wrote about the extensive corrosion and fatigue damages to our boom, and once the decision was made to replace it, along with the standing rigging and chainplates – the wires that hold up the mast and the hardware they attach to – it didn’t make sense to put all of those new things on an old mast. Fortunately, we were able to get one ordered in time for it to ship with the new boom. They are somewhere between Georgia and California, hopefully closer than further, and should arrive by middle of the week next week.

One of the dozen or so fatigue cracks found in our old boom
Another big decision we made was to replace the through hull fittings and seacocks. These are the fittings and valves which control the flow of seawater into the hull and allow water to be drained from the decks or discharged from inside the hull. Seawater is drawn in from outside the boat is used aboard the boat for a variety of reasons: engine cooling; flushing the head (known as a ‘toilet’ on land); deck wash-down and cleaning; dishwashing, etc. The seacocks are constructed of a bronze housing with a stainless steel ball valve within it. The stainless steel ball is attached to a handle and has a hole through its center; when the hole is in line with the opening in the hull, water can flow in or our through the valve. When the valve is closed, the ball is turned so the hole is no longer in line with the through hull fitting opening. 

Thruough hull fittings...

...and a seacock
Seacocks are generally maintainable, but after thirty plus years of service, ours were very tired and worn. It goes without saying that keeping the water outside of the boat is vital to our success – hence, the decision to replace them. All of the seacocks and through hull fittings on the bottom have been addressed. Those for the deck drains and pump discharges will be done a little later.

The biggest job in the works at the moment is that of replacing the cabin overhead liner. Pacific Seacraft boats are built with a stitched vinyl headliner fitted with zippers to allow access behind the headliner for repairs. It’s a good idea in theory, and works well if all the nuts and wiring one needs to get at any given time are in close proximity to the zipper location. In practice however, it didn’t always work so well. The single biggest issue we had with the overhead was with the zippers. On Jo Beth, they were metal and tended to corrode and get stuck. Plus, the headliner was looking dingy with its age. It was time for it to go.

The new headliner will be a paneled system, secured in place by wooden strips, or battens. The grid for the system is in place now. This new system will markedly improve our access to fittings, wiring, etc. and make maintenance much easier. It does reduce the headroom in the cabin by about an inch and a half; fortunately, not a problem for Lisa and me!

Looking up at the grid structure for the new batten and panel cabin overhead
Two of the more challenging tasks crossed off the list were the choice of a fabric for new interior cushions and the replacement sink and fixtures for the galley. Lisa wanted to create a cozy, homey environment for the two of us aboard Jo Beth, just as she did in the rebuild of our home in Miami following hurricane Andrew in 1992. Boat fabrics require different considerations for those in a house, and must be able to stand up to sun, sea, and salt. After perusing countless fabric swatch books and placing dozens of sample swatches around the boat, she finally decided on Sunbrella Cannes Parchment. While she had hoped to bring in some warm colors similar to the upholstered furniture in our house, it was decided a neutral pallet would be more versatile, enhanced with colorful accent pillows.

Sunbrella Cannes-Parchment
The difficulty of finding a replacement galley sink surprised both of us. The existing dual bowl stainless steel sink has seen better days, and while it’s plenty deep to contain things such as glasses, plates, etc. in rough conditions, it was too small to put a pot in on either side. Our choices were to either replace or refurbish it. The costs for doing either were the same, surprisingly. So began the search.

You’ve heard me say it a thousand times: space on a small cruising yacht is limited. So it was with the space allocated for the sink. The structure of the cabin interior allows no room to move, either front to back or side to side. Every ready-made sink we found fit in one dimension but not the other – without fail. Eventually, after visiting dozens of websites, consulting with restaurant supply companies, and visiting a couple of interior design firms, Lisa found a sink online which will work. It’s a granite composite sink. Very heavy duty, and very durable, it is a residential bar prep sink, made from a mix of 80% granite dust in an epoxy resin. A little bit of trim work around the flanges and we will have a beautiful and much more functional sink installation. She even found a pull out spray head faucet in a matching color! Pictures will follow once the installation is started.

Electrical work in progress
Jo Beth’s electrical system is another area where a fairly large job is underway. We’re not rewiring the boat, but we are removing old and unused wires and replacing our aged electrical control panels and breakers. We’re adding a battery management panel, (batteries are our electrical lifeline when we’re at sea), and with it a monitoring panel for tank levels and electrical consumption, as well as consolidating switch locations and the system layout.

Jo Beth's new dual filter fuel filtering system
 We’re hopeful for a launch date sometime in early June and to be done with sea trials and the like by the end of June. Mechanical, carpentry, and electrical work are continuing and rigging and paint work will begin soon. More updates will follow as things move ahead. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Miami International Boat Show!

Strictly Sail, Miami International Boat Show
For the past few days, Lisa and I have been in Miami at the Miami Boat Show and the Strictly Sail sailboat portion of the show. Sponsored by NMMA (National Marine Manufacturer's Association) and Progressive Insurance, it's one of the largest shows around. It covers three venues; two marinas and the sprawling Miami Beach Convention Center. It was a good show. We were able to make a lot of the critical equipment purchases for our refit over two days spent between the sailboat location and convention center, see some old friends, and enjoy some really good Caribbean and Cuban cuisine.

The show did come with it's quirks, as much in this fun and diverse city always does. Snafus in shuttle services between the venues and parking left us stranded once and standing in long lines frequently, but such is the nature of the event. Regardless, for anyone searching for equipment, shows like this are the ticket - we were given some amazing deals, and negotiated even better ones from an array of vendors. I highly recommend it. Just be prepared to reset your clocks to 'island time'.

Be Prepared to Stand in Long Lines for Shuttle Services

Today, we're going to our old neighborhood to see how things have changed and who's still around. We lived here for about 10 years, and left in '98.

Test Fitting the New Reverse Cycling A/C System

The refit itself is progressing. When we left for Miami, the A/C and heating system and new refrigerator and freezer installs were nearly finished. A quick call from LeFiell Marine in California confirmed our new mast and boom are nearing completion and materials we've ordered through Jo Beth's builder, Pacific Seacraft are getting ready to ship. I expect the pace of things to really pick up over the next few weeks. Exciting!

Sunday, January 26, 2014


The last entry on our blog was in January 2012 – two years, almost to the date. Much has happened in those two years, and most of it isn’t related to Jo Beth or sailing. In fact, for the vast majority of that time, Jo Beth sat afloat in her slip; forlorn but not forgotten.  Patience pays, and now things are on the move once again, both for Jo Beth and for us.

Lisa was in Atlanta for those two years, dealing with her mother’s changes in health. I was in Savannah, working, and experiencing a boom in business. Now, Lisa’s mother has moved to St. Simons Island, GA and lives in a lovely senior community on the northeast end of the island, very close to Ft. Frederica National Monument. My business is still doing well, Lisa is now home and working with me handling administrative tasks, and Jo Beth is at Hinckley Yacht Services in Savannah, undergoing the beginnings of a much needed refit. 

 Jo Beth being prepared for hauling at Hinckley Yacht Services, Savannah, GA

Refits on yachts are complicated. If you’ve ever remodeled or rebuilt a house, you have some inkling of how it works; decisions on what goes where; choosing colors, patterns, and styles of fabrics and furnishings; and managing the budget and the project. Add to that, the complexities of a small sailing yacht: small, cramped spaces, exposure to salt water; dual power systems, (12vDC and 120vAC); mechanical systems; and you have the makings for endless hours spent in the boat and the boatyard offices with trades persons, poring over catalogs and equipment websites and sailing forums. But, I gotta confess that I’m having a good time.

Jo Beth is more than a weekender sailboat, or a vacation home. She’ll be our permanent (or at least, long term) home, our cocoon that will shelter and protect us from an environment in which, without her, we’d most certainly perish. We’ve rebuilt homes after hurricanes, and remodeled homes bought, lived in, and sold. However, none of those projects were done with the thought in mind that we’re dependent on the house for our very lives, that without it, our lives would be in very real danger. Refitting a yacht requires a different perspective.

So, perhaps you want to ask what exactly is involved in the refit of a yacht. It depends. Just as with a house, a refit can be minor or major, both in scale and cost. I’ll cut to the chase and say: Jo Beth is undergoing a major refit.

We’re updating her electrical and mechanical system controls, and installing an air conditioning and heating system, as well as replacing our ancient water cooled refrigeration/freezer system with a modern, air-cooled one. The auxiliary diesel engine fuel system is being updated with new lines and filtering systems. New fresh water lines will be installed and the water system pump replaced. We’ll be getting sails repaired and perhaps replaced, more efficient sail handling systems fitted, new rigging, and the mast, boom, and hull painted. Pumps will be replaced and rebuilt, the toilet will be replaced with a new one along with new plumbing, and the water storage and waste tanks are getting a thorough cleaning and will be capped with new lids and inspection ports. 

Jo Beth in the slings

New mooring cleats will be fitted on deck, and the sheet and halyard winches which control the sail handling lines will be rebuilt or otherwise serviced. The anchor windlass will be served and new railings and lifelines are to be fitted.  The exterior canvas coverings are all being replaced with a new color, and will be modified to better fit my and Lisa’s sailing style. New navigation lamps, low power consuming LED’s, will be fitted on the mast and the remaining exterior and interior lights will be updated with LED bulbs. The cabin overhead material is to be replaced.

And these are the major tasks.

The work is underway, but progressing slowly. The recent holidays followed by persistent and unusually cold weather have slowed our progress. We remain optimistic and hopeful, to begin moving aboard in early summer. 

Why are we doing this? Because it’s what we want and it’s who we are. Lisa and I met at a marina where I kept my first small sailboat. We started sailing together on that little boat, making short weekend trips along the Georgia and northern Florida coasts and were married 51 weeks later. To live aboard and sail on our own boat, capable of taking us wherever in the world we want to go, has been our one persistent dream. I’ve never thought of myself as a patient person, but I must be more than I’m aware. Jo Beth is not just any boat however; she’s the boat. We knew, from our early days together on boats, that a Pacific Seacraft was the boat we wanted. We’ve owned her for nearly 11 years now. Her time – and ours – has come.

I’ll be much better about keeping current with our news here. I suppose I’d be hard pressed to do worse! 


I mentioned in the last blog entry I was moving this blog to WordPress. That may happen still; however, the Blogger interface seems somewhat better since Blogger became a part of Google. For now, we’ll stay put.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Traveler's Tale, Part II

The old traveler assembly

While Jo Beth was hauled at Tiger Point Marina & Boatyard in Fernandina Beach, Florida, we took care of a few projects that needed doing. Repainting the bottom and the below waterline fittings with anti-fouling paint was one job. Changing the sacrificial zinc anodes was one more, and another was the replacement of the propeller shaft seal and the cutlass bearing. The propeller shaft seal is just that; a seal that prevents water from entering the hull through the hole where the propeller shaft exits the hull. The cutlass bearing is a bronze tube with a slotted rubber sleeve and fits into the tube the propeller shaft fits in where it exits the hull.

The job of the cutlass bearing is to cool the shaft. The shaft is made of stainless steel and as it spins in the shaft tube, it creates a tremendous amount of friction and heat. The slotted rubber sleeve inside the bronze tune of the cutlass bearing allows seawater to surround the propeller shaft, cooling it as it spins. It also allows seawater to reach the propeller shaft seal for the same purpose.

Another job was the installation of a galvanic isolator in the boat’s shore side electrical system. Last year, I wrote about a corrosion issue we were having on board. (Click here to read that post.) After months of continuing searching and testing, I finally made the decision to install the isolator. So far, so good; we had a diver go down just before Christmas to check the condition of the propeller shaft zinc. Jo Beth had been re-launched two and a half months earlier. If the isolator wasn’t working properly, the propeller shaft zinc would be severely deteriorated. I’m happy to say the diver reported the zinc looked brand-new.

The other jobs done in the yard fell under the heading of routine maintenance: an oil change; cleaning and re-filtering (called ‘polishing’) the diesel fuel tank and fuel; and the replacement of the engine to tank fuel return line. Of course, the bigger jobs awaited us back home and those are the jobs associated with the traveler and running rigging, and the work which needs to be finished before we can fully transition to living aboard Jo Beth on a permanent basis.

The bolts attaching the traveler to the deck are removed with little difficulty

Back in her slip at Brunswick Landing, we tackled the job of removing the old traveler. This began with an exchange of telephone calls and emails with the service folks at Pacific Seacraft. The traveler, along with the other deck fittings on Jo Beth, is mounted through the deck. In order to provide access to these fittings and fasteners, the headliner in the cabin is zippered panels of vinyl, the idea being the zippers can be opened to gain access to deck fittings, wiring runs, etc. Unfortunately, 27 years exposure to the humid and salty ocean environment had taken their toll on some of the zippers, one of which we needed to open in order to remove the traveler assembly.

So began a cycle of several days soaking the zippers and external bolts and screws in the traveler with a variety of solvents. For the most part, the solvents did their job. Unfortunately, the one stuck zipper refused to budge and finally crumbled into pieces. Reluctantly, Lisa grabbed her X-Acto knife and cut the zipper tape. Another project added to the list.

With full access, we began the process of removing the traveler assembly. The traveler track and car are mounted to an arched aluminum piece which was through bolted to the cabin roof. The first bolts to be removed were those securing the aluminum arch to the deck. With Lisa below holding a socket on the nut and me on deck, turning the large slotted blot heads, these were out within thirty minutes. The aged bedding material let go easily and quite frankly, I was alarmed at how little of it remained – and how easily it released.

Tools of the trade...

With the traveler and support beam off, we carried it up off of the dock to the marina parking lot. Years of working on and around boats has taught me to do this whenever possible if what you’re working on is too large or unwieldy to be carried below. As one old-timer I worked for once told me, “when you pull whatever apart, put all the parts and pieces in a coffee can or jar,” he said. Confident, I added “so you don’t lose them.” He looked at me hard for a second and finally said, “yeah, there’s that. But mostly it’ll drive ya crazy to lose things one at a time overboard. This way, they all go at once.”

One small bolt proved stubborn...

We spread out an old bed sheet on the concrete and laid out our tools: screw drivers, sockets, a spray can of solvent, P.B. Blaster, a four pound mallet, and a manual impact driver. I sprayed each bolt head on the traveler track with the Blaster and one by one, we worked the nuts off and the screws out. Amazingly, we only had to use the impact driver on one bolt to break it free. All the others were wonderfully cooperative. The entire job was finished in an hour.


All that was left was to clean the old bedding from around the holes on deck and fill them with caulking, (we used 3M 4000), and get the new components ordered. This included replacement blocks for the entire mainsheet assembly and in addition, a set of lazy jacks and new bails for the boom.


I've made the decision to move this blog to WordPress. Putting it nicely, the Blogger interface is just too cumbersome and difficult. The next post will be the final one for Blogger, and will include the new address for Jo Beth's blog. please stay tuned and get ready to change those bookmarks!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Traveler's Tale, Part I

Jo Beth, hauled and blocked ashore at
Tiger Point Marina and Boatworks,
Fernandina Beach, Florida

Hello everyone. Once again, I apologize for so much time passing between posts. I'm hopeful such long pauses are behind me. What follows is part one of my 'catch-up' story; where Jo Beth is now, where we are with her, and what's in store for the future. Thank you for sticking with us.

Bill Ballard


On a balmy Sunday evening in middle August, as hurricane Irene lumbered through the northwestern Caribbean, approaching the islands of the Turks and Caicos, and southern Bahamas, I watched with a mix of interest and growing concern. I take hurricanes very seriously; having endured three of the damn things, Andrew among them, I am wary.

The southeastern coast of the US, including all of Georgia, a smattering of northeast Florida, and plenty of South Carolina had been contained within the forecast track of the storm, aptly called “The Cone of Uncertainty,” for several days. Dead center, with little variation for these several days, was the region surrounding Savannah, including Hilton Head Island and Beaufort, South Carolina. The track of the storm wobbled from day to day, but remained relatively consistent. Hurricanes which maintain consistent and persistent tracks are worrisome.

We had planned to haul Jo Beth for bottom painting and other minor maintenance in September or October at Hinckley Yacht Services in Savannah. As I watched Irene remain steadfastly on course, I decided Jo Beth needed to be hauled much sooner. Savannah lay 75 miles due north from our marina slip in Brunswick, as the crow flies. As the boat sails, the distance was closer to 100 miles. There was always the chance the storm would pass us by.

Between our slip in Brunswick and the Hinckley Service dock in Savannah, lay 100 miles of Atlantic Ocean, salt water marshes, and brackish rivers. With a large cyclonic storm approaching the area, swells would be building and winds would be steadily clocking around to the northeast. A beat for sure, or a motor sail directly into the wind. The swell would be rising as well.

The ICW (Intracoastal Waterway) was another option, but due to a lack of maintenance and dredging, Jo Beth with her 5’ draft would surely touch bottom in a couple of spots. Sailing on the ICW is limited as well; any engine trouble or a grounding, and my problems would grow exponentially.

Tiger Point Marina and Boatworks lay to the south in Fernandina Beach, Florida. This is much closer to our home marina -- approximately 40 miles total from slip to service dock. The run outside would be easier as well; out St. Simons channel, turn south, sail to and enter the St. Marys channel. The distance from sea buoy to sea buoy was a scant 24 miles. With expected north easterlies, it would be a fun and fast downwind ride.

As Sunday morphed into Monday, Irene continued on her track unwaveringly. I called Tiger Point at 8:00 a.m. and scheduled the haulout.

Now, I needed crew. Lisa had taken a consulting job in Atlanta some months before and would not be able to join me. After confirming the haulout for Tuesday afternoon, I called our friend James Baldwin. James is a veteran cruising sailor, friend, and excellent yacht repairer and re-fitter. I asked if he could make the trip; he could. I began to relax. Boats don’t do well in the water during hurricanes. If Irene paid a visit, Jo Beth would be safely ashore.

We were originally hauling for routine maintenance and a few odd jobs; among them were bottom painting; the replacement of the cutlass bearing and the propeller shaft seal; and the installation of a galvanic isolator. (The galvanic isolator was being installed to resolve our issue with electrolysis discussed in the previous post, 'Wasting Away.' Even after extensive testing by two very competent marine electricians, we were not able to isolate the problem. Thus, we decided to install the isolator during the yard period.) Boats being boats, there are always a multitude of jobs that need doing, but for us, these were most pressing. The trip to the boat yard changed all that, somewhat.

Those jobs were still done, but the off-shore passage to the boatyard revealed much more that needed doing, particularly to the running rigging. ‘Running rigging’ refers to the general network of ropes, lines, blocks, and cleats that are necessary for proper and efficient sail handling and control.

Prior to the trip I was very aware that a good deal of the running rigging aboard Jo Beth was ready for replacement. As James and I sailed out into St. Simons Sound, setting the yankee and mainsail, much was revealed. Initially, the forecast was for light easterly winds of 5 to 10 knots, increasing and backing to the east-northeast at 15 knots by afternoon. What we actually had in the sound was a stiff easterly breeze of 15 knots. As we entered the St. Simons Bar Channel and headed offshore the winds increased to 20 knots and shifted to the east-southeast.

One of the running rigging components most in need of replacement was the mainsheet traveler. The mainsheet traveler is a slightly curved track which is fitted across the cabin roof. A car slides on the track from left to right, controlling the position of the boom and mainsail relative to the centerline of the boat. Attached to this car, through a network of blocks, is the mainsheet, the line which controls the mainsail.

Long before reaching the terminus of the channel, with James at the tiller, I put a single reef in the mainsail. Reefing is the same as shortening the sail; it reduces the amount of sail surface exposed to the wind, thus reducing the loading and strain on the entire boat. The easterly winds were in opposition to the outgoing tide and had created short, blocky, and steep waves. As Jo Beth pounded headlong into the short but solid walls of water, the mainsheet would jerk on the traveler car, lifting it nearly free of the track. Reefing the sail helped ease the loading on the traveler, but still, to see the small car dancing about the track, rising and falling with the swell, was unnerving. If it failed, we would not be able to control the mainsail.

James and I didn’t say anything for several long seconds. Finally, he asked “has your traveler always been that loose?” I watched it snap up and down. “It needs to be replaced," I admitted sheepishly. He glanced towards me, looking slightly pensive, countering the motion of the boat with the tiller. “Yes,” he finally said in his usual flat tone, “I think you should replace your traveler. Soon.” The traveler car continued its dance. "Actually," I began, "there's lots that needs to be done with the running rigging." James smiled slightly. "Yes," he agreed, "there is."

As we turned south so did the wind, putting itself nearly on the nose. It increased in velocity as well, to 25 knots with the occasional gust likely exceeding 30 knots. In order to hold our course, we put a second reef in the mainsail and turned on the motor, motor-sailing and beating into the seas and wind. Remarkably, the seas didn’t increase much beyond the four foot average, though frequently a six footer would roll under us. Occasionally, one or two eight footers would hit us on the nose too. Each time they did, Jo Beth would effectively stop, fall into the trough and then gathering herself, step out and build her speed once again.

James is an accomplished sailor, with two and a half circumnavigations of the globe in a 28’ Pearson Triton under his belt. He is completely immune to seasickness. I am not and after the second reef was in, I was stricken. I spent the rest of the trip lying prone in the cockpit, the exception being two 10 minute feed-the-fishies sessions. Soon thereafter, we made our turn and entered the St. Marys channel - in near flat calm conditions – having used that double reefed sail nearly the whole way in. (Actually, James shook out the second reef at some point during the run. I’m presuming it was one of the times my head was over the side.) As we entered the channel at mid point, the wind simply vanished. Less than seven hours after leaving our slip at Brunswick Landing Marina, Jo Beth was being blocked ashore at Tiger Point Marina.

The yard period was completed without a hitch. Jo Beth was relaunched, and on a nearly windless Saturday in mid-October, Lisa and I motored north to Brunswick in a nearly flat calm sea. Upon arrival, we topped off her fuel tank and secured her in her slip, knowing we would be dockbound for the next several months.

Hurricane Irene eventually did bypass Savannah and the immediate coasts of Florida and South Carolina, but only by 275 miles. That’s not far in the world of hurricanes; had Irene been a more symmetrically shaped storm, or slipped her course a mere 1/2 of one degree to the west, Savannah and Hilton Head would have likely fared a bit worse than just the few hours of near gale conditions and moderate beach erosion they experienced.

One pleasant surprise was the discovery that our insurance company, Boat/US, would cover half of the cost of our haulout. A provision in our policy provides reimbursement for one-half the cost of a haulout when an area where an insured vessel is located is actively threatened by an approaching storm. Yet one more reason to insure your vessel with a dedicated marine insurer.


'A Traveler's Tale, Part II' will be posted next weekend. See you then!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Wasting Away...

Sitting warm and snug in Jo Beth’s cozy cabin, I'd much rather avoid the topic of this post. But sailing isn’t all trade-winds and paradise. I almost want to twist the old Navy recruiting slogan and apply it to the rigors of owning a cruising sailboat: “It’s Not an Adventure, It’s a Job.”

Don’t get me wrong; we love Jo Beth. We love her dearly. Perhaps that’s why we put up with her issues. That’s why we continue to nurture her and support her, and look after her. After all, we expect the same from her.

There is a whole laundry list of tasks, large and small, cheap and expensive, that need doing. However, the issue of the utmost importance to resolve is one of electrolytic corrosion.

Our shaft zincs – protective collars made of zinc that fit snugly on the propeller shaft – are degrading fast. Very fast. Faster than they should.

A new shaft collar zinc is shown on the right. The zinc on the left is what remains of a new one installed on Jo Beth's propeller shaft after less than two months in the water.

For the non-sailor, or non-boat owner, I’ll explain.

Seawater is an electrolyte, or an element capable of carrying an electric current. When two dissimilar metals are immersed in an electrolyte – seawater – an electric current will flow between them. This creates a very elemental battery. Now these currents are very small; mere millivolts, but the greater and damaging effect is that one metal will sacrifice it’s electrons to the other. This is known as electrolytic corrosion. Every metal and metal alloy has a place on the Galvanic Series Chart, from the most active (anodic, or least-noble) to the least active (cathodic, or most-noble), and a metal’s position on this chart determines how active or inactive it will be when immersed in an electrolyte or otherwise subjected to electric current.

Metals commonly used on boats below the waterline are aluminum, stainless steel, and bronze. In the case of Jo Beth, the only metals in contact with the seawater are stainless steel (the propeller shaft) and bronze (the propeller, through hull fittings, and rudder fittings). Because bronze is lower than stainless steel on the Galvanic Series Chart that means that Jo Beth’s bronze propeller is sacrificing itself to the stainless steel propeller shaft. Left unchecked, the propeller would eventually, given enough time, disappear.

Because bronze propellers are expensive, and we don’t want to have to replace ours again and again and again, we place fittings made of zinc in the proximity of the two active metals. Zinc is very low on the Galvanic Series Chart and will sacrifice it’s electrons to nearly every other metal when immersed in an electrolyte. So a small collar made of zinc resides on our propeller shaft solely to be sacrificed.

The problem is our propeller shaft zinc is giving itself up too rapidly. It’s important that we find out why, as rapidly deteriorating zincs are often symptomatic of other problems. Typically, those problems are within the on-board electrical system, but they can sometimes be brought about by other boats in close proximity, or the dockside electrical system.

Electrical grounding on a boat can be tricky. Mostly, this is because there are two electrical systems aboard: DC and AC. DC, or Direct Current is the electricity supplied by batteries. AC, or Alternating Current, is the stuff you buy from your local electric company.

Often, electrolytic corrosion is referred to as ‘stray current corrosion.’ This is because a faulty ground on the AC system aboard a boat can ‘leak’ current to the DC system. The AC current will attempt to seek a path to ground and the resulting stray current will cause electrolytic corrosion. Boats in close proximity can also be the source of a stray current.

The real rub is finding the leak, or the problem within the system. Every grounded circuit on the boat, of which there can be hundreds, is suspect. Improperly grounded radios have destroyed engines because of electrolytic corrosion. Testing must be done, and I’m off to get some basic tests made. I’ll discuss what I find in the next entry.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hello World - Again!

My parents used to tell me time flies when you’re having fun. As of late, I’ve found myself asking questions regarding the passage of time to no one in particular. Time has flown, but it’s not been particularly fun.

Nonetheless, the time has gone. Where? I have no idea. Jo Beth is still very much in our lives, though we don’t seem to be so much in hers. We’re working to change that, but it’s a work in progress.

2010, particularly the end of it, was somewhat trying for us. We had family members with medical conditions to deal with, resulting in some unanticipated changes and stresses. Most of that seems to be behind us now. However, our re-emergence into our own brand of normalcy is going somewhat slow. I hadn’t fully realized how slow, until I received an urgent and somewhat agitated voice message today from a client.

This brief update is to state to the world “we’re still here, we still have the boat, and we’re still going sailing.”

However, we do have a few things to fix first - more to follow.