Saturday, September 20, 2014

Big Leaps Forward, a Small Step Backward, and Another Leap Forward...Again!

A lot has happened since the last update. The mast, boom, and rigging are in place, and plumbing and mechanical work has restarted. We’ve made an interesting discovery about our boat, and have run into a few small roadblocks. Still, we’re moving ahead.

The old backstay chainplate. The tape was placed on the hull to show the length of the spaces between the bolts.

One of the roadblocks came about because of a thin, small, and very important piece of the rigging system. It’s called the ‘backstay chainplate.’ As I explained in an earlier post, chainplates are pieces of steel which are bolted or otherwise mechanically fastened to the hull structure. The rigging wires, called stays and shrouds, are attached to these chainplates and hold the mast upright and in place. Because of the age of the existing chainplates, we replaced them all with new ones as a part of the refit. When I was ordering the new ones from the builder, Thumper Brooks, (yes, that’s his real name!) the operations manager for Pacific Seacraft advised me that around the time Jo Beth was built, the mounting configuration for the backstay chainplate had changed slightly. I took careful measurements of the existing backstay chainplate and forwarded them to Thumper.

So, you can guess what happened when the time came to install the chainplate – the configuration, with regard to where the bolt holes were cut in the chainplate and in the hull – were slightly off. Thumper had said the chances of getting an exact fit were going to be slim. The fit wasn't too far off, about 1/16 of an inch. The problems were easily addressed; a new backing plate, to match the correct configuration of the bolt mounting holes, has been made and the plate fitted. The mast was stepped and the rigging fitted. The boom has been installed, the halyards (lines which raise and lower sails) and mainsheet, (the line which controls the mainsail), have been run. Rigger Greg Johnson will be installing other small but important accessories on the mast and boom during the next week or two.

Hoisting the new mast to be stepped aboard Jo Beth

Hinckley riggers Greg Johnson and Mark Edwards guiding the new mast on to Jo Beth

Jo Beth with her new mast and boom

The new mainsheet assembly

The final steps to convert the quarter berth to a useable storage locker are underway. Aboard Jo Beth, there is a single large storage locker in the cockpit on the port side of the boat. The starboard side had a storage locker as well, but it was fitted with a shallow pan, perhaps 6 or 8 inches deep, in which we stored spare power cords, line, etc. Beneath the pan is a quarterberth, a supposed sleeping area in the cabin. In reality, a quarterberth is a dead space on the boat, not useful for sleeping or storage. (I described a quarterberth in this post.) We decided to remove the pan in the starboard locker, build a bulkhead in the cabin, and make the quarterberth a useful space. The pan is cut and the conversion well underway.

 The locker pan is cut, opening the quarterberth space into a storage locker

However, with the removal of the locker pan, we’ve discovered another issue. On the inside of the edge of the locker where the pan was attached, the fiberglass structure had only partially bonded to the deck structure. This is something that apparently occurred during the construction of the vessel. It’s not a serious issue by any stretch of the imagination, but it needs to be repaired. And so, repaired it shall be – another unplanned line item to the budget.

 This is the area of non-bonded structure found in the starboard cockpit locker; it can also be seen in the photograph of the water heater, below

The new water heater, fitted in the new cockpit locker

The new lifelines, wire cables strung between stainless steel stanchion posts which provide security for persons on deck, are fitted and small repairs made to the boarding gates and bow railings. We’re also ordering a stainless steel folding boarding ladder which will fit inside one of the boarding gates and allow us to get on the boat from the water or dinghy. The ladder will work on either side of the boat.

Repairs to the portside boarding gate; also, the new chainplates can be seen also

Here's a test fit of the new insert made for one of the two overhead deck hatches aboard Jo Beth; finish work on the hatch inserts and battens remain to be done

The new engine control panel box and cover

Now, we’re at the stage where plumbing and mechanical projects are underway and heading towards completion. The new canvases for the boat exterior and interior cushions are being made. The new engine control panel box and cover, now watertight, is installed. The overhead is nearly completed. The refit is getting to the point where, with some degree of confidence, we can start to anticipate a completion date. Even so, much work will remain, even once Jo Beth is afloat again, but the day when we can once again sail her into the wide waters of the Atlantic are in sight.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Over the Hump

We’re on the downhill slide. Sort of. 

There’s no engraving in a calendar somewhere which designates a declared completion date. It’s nothing like that. Instead, what we have is an agreement of a timeline.  We know that we’d like to have such-and-such job done by such-and-such date, and so on. The establishment of a timeline is a good thing, but the fact remains there’s still much to be done. A single small misstep can still rock the proverbial boat.

We have made significant progress. With so much of the work being done essentially hidden through the myriad of systems which comprise a modern small sailing yacht, it’s exciting that we can see indications of progress. We can actually see now the boat Jo Beth was meant to be. 

 Test fit of headliner panels and battens in the main saloon

The new cabin headliner is nearly finished. Test fitting and fine tuning of the panels, trim pieces, and battens has been underway. There’s a smidgen of electrical work left, and a fair amount of mechanical and rigging work remains; such as the installation of the chainplates, (metal bars which attach the rigging wires to the hull), installation of a deck washdown system, installation of the galley sink and the re installation of the head (toilet), etc. There are also a couple of major parts which need to be ordered for the sailing rig; things which couldn’t be built and installed until things started coming together to make Jo Beth a whole boat again. And, the conversion of the quarterberth to a storage locker has to be completed.

The final steps to get the mast and rigging installed are set to begin this week, provided the weather cooperates. A weak but persistent area of low pressure has moved into the coastal Georgia region and stalled. The forecast calls for the system to slowly drift north and east over the coming days. However, it has brought squally and unsettled weather to the area for much of the past week. I remarked to Lisa how much the skies looked like those we used to see in Miami and the Keys; skies I’d seen many a time in the Bahamas. Much of the work on the decks and bottom will have to wait for clearer weather.

The new engine control panel cover

The weather did provide us some unexpected assistance. The new engine control panel box, designed to be watertight, turned out to be not so watertight. This is an important issue to correct. The engine control panel is located in the cockpit just above the deck, and right at the cabin entrance. The panel houses the ignition switch, the tachometer and temperature gauges, and other critical instrumentation. Exposure to water, whether from rain or a boarding sea, is not good. An early project in the refit was to relocate the panel and instruments to the cabin interior, but the necessary rerouting and extensions of wiring, heavy gauge battery cables, etc. proved to be too costly. So we opted to leave the panel as it was and improve the panel’s protective housing.

Lisa and I also met last week with our canvas maker, Causa’s Cushions, to go over the final details for the new interior cushions, order new pieces for the canvas inventory which we carry aboard, (such as winch covers to protect the shiny bronze winch drums), and refine the details of our new spray dodger. A dodger is a canvas windshield of sorts. It keeps spray and rain off of the crew in the cockpit, protects the main cabin entry companionway from the weather, and so on. Clear vinyl windows allow for visibility. Jo Beth’s original dodger had worn severely and while the system as a whole was functional, it needed a redesign to better suit Lisa and me. 

This is a shot of Jo Beth from a few years ago; the structure which resembles a canvas and clear vinyl windshield is the dodger

For those who don’t know us, Lisa and I are quite short. When we stood on the cockpit deck and looked forward, the rear bar of the dodger frame, called a ‘bow’, fell right across our line of sight. This meant we were always stooping to see under the bow, or standing on tiptoes to see over it. The replacement bow will raise the height of the dodger by 6 or so inches and greatly enhance our ability to see what’s in front of us. The dodger frame also lacked handholds, so we’re adding grab rails on each side and on the back bow. All around, it will make our little future home a safer and more comfortable place.

Here's a before and after shot of our winches. Thirty years of patina removed with a bit of polish and elbow grease. We'll have canvas covers made to keep them nice and shiny.

So what’s that timeline agreement I mentioned at the start of this post? Well, we hope to have the mast and rigging installed in a week or so, have the boat secured and floating at the marina service dock by early October, get the sea trials conducted, and be back in our home slip in November.

Of course, more updates are to follow.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Moving Along

 Jo Beth showing off in Oyster White and Flag Blue

It's been a wet, hot, and humid summer in Savannah. Fortunately, the stretch of time Jo Beth was in for paint, the weather was dry. The environment in the paint shed, which is in reality a tent, is controlled by positive pressure - meaning the air pressure inside the tent is slightly higher than it is outside the tent - and while it remains hot (the paint shop guys at Hinckley refer to the paint tent as the 'easy bake oven') the humidity and dust is controlled. The hull is painted and she's out of the paint tent now, being washed by daily rain showers.

Lisa and I went over the remaining jobs on our refit list. Many of the big and scary jobs, both in scope and cost, are finishing up. What's left is a myriad of smaller but equally important jobs to be done; cleats to be installed; pumps to be wired and plumbing to be run; the assembly of all of the hardware on the new mast & boom; and so on. Lots and lots still to do.

The detail work in the grid for the new cabin overhead is coming together; the battens which will support the panels were under foot when I was aboard to get this shot

As large as the scale of this job has been, a humbling fact I should mention is that this isn't a final wrap up of the 'to-do' list. In earlier posts, I mentioned some of the jobs we're delaying until later. These include the purchase of new sails, the installation of a wind-vane self- steering system, (a non electronic autopilot of sorts), and the replacement of our navigational electronics. With the exception of a first generation GPS unit, which never worked properly for us and stopped working altogether a few years ago, all of Jo Beth's navigational electronics are functional. I say 'all' when in truth, the only original instrument aboard the boat, after the death of the GPS, is the radar. We removed the non-functioning single side band radio system when we bought her and updated our VHF radio at the same time. And, in this refit, we've replaced the VHF again with a more powerful and expandable model.

Marine navigational systems have pretty much gone the way of the wireless telephone. The smartphones the vast majority of us carry now are so much more than a telephone. So it is with marine electronic instruments. As recently as 15 years ago, the GPS, autopilot, radar, depth and speed instruments, etc., were all stand alone components. The navigation station on a moderate cruising yacht looked like the command center of a navy destroyer. Now the functions of the GPS, radar, depth, wind, and speed are integrated into one or two components. Our new VHF radio is AIS capable. AIS is 'Automated Identification System.' All oceangoing ships and a great many yachts are equipped with AIS. It works more or less like a transponder in an aircraft. Each ship or yacht has a unique code assigned to it. When two ships equipped with AIS approach one another, their data regarding the name of the vessel, its speed, course, etc. is shared instantly between the vessels. AIS is a huge boon for safety.

Enter the smartphone and tablet. Navigational software has long been available for the PC. Computer based navigation works well. The big difference is that a tablet or smartphone offers connectivity options for the weather, satellite data, and other information we sailors crave in a near real-time structure, provided a network connection is available. In fact, the delivery captain we hired to move Jo Beth from her slip in Brunswick to the boatyard in Savannah used only his i-Phone and i-Pad for navigation on the trip. Thus far, the available navigation apps for smartphones and tablets perform mostly charting functions - basically map reading and plotting of positions, courses, speed, etc. Needless to say, we still have to do a lot of research on the matter.

We're past the halfway point now in the refit, so we're optimistic things will progress relatively quickly. More pictures and refit news to follow.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

White it is!

Oyster White, actually.

Spending a few minutes with Hinckley paint foreman John Lancaster hammered home once again, white ain't white. As with many things, our initial call on the color proved to be the right one. But, a little checking and comparison under a hot Savannah sun got us on the right track. We didn't drag the boom out of the rigging shop as originally planned when we realized the new mast spreaders, also painted with Sterling Off-White, are the same color as the mast and boom. Plus, they're much smaller and lighter. So, mast spreader and color card in hand, off we went.

Jo Beth In the Paint Shed
Even though we understood white ain't white, the range of differences in the color tones took us aback. Many of the white color chips, ranging from bright white and cream colored when inside, exhibited significant gray and blue tones in sunlight. And when compared to the spreader, some were almost beige or tan. It was quite surprising.

Another fact we had to consider in making our hull color decision was the color of the cabin house and deck. We aren't painting the deck or the house, and decades in tropical and semi-tropical sun has bleached them to a bright white. The deck and house will have minor cosmetic repairs done and then be polished, which is going to result in them being a bit brighter still. The original color of the house and deck was a very warm toned and creamy white; easy on the eyes in bright sun, which sun-bleached, bright white surfaces won't be. That's why we wear our fancy and expensive Costa shades, right?

Eventually, after comparing the color chips to the spreader and in one or two instances, to actual smears of Awlgrip paint, Oyster White was our best choice. It's not an exact match to the color of the mast and boom, but it's very close.

Jo Beth has now made it into the paint shed. The final bit of guide coat was being dealt with when I snapped the picture above. Actual painting of the hull should begin this week.

Groco KH Manual Rebuilt Pump
The rebuilt toilet pump from Groco Marine arrived this week, looking sleek and brand-new. Of course, it's not been put to use yet, but my confidence in the rebuild is high. The cost of the complete rebuild, plus the gasket kit needed to marry the pump and bowl, was less than $250.00, without shipping. The pump is heavy, cast bronze, so shipping isn't cheap. Overall, it seems well worth it. I didn't snap any photos of the pump prior to the rebuild. It was a smelly and dirty white speckled chunk of bronze with a heavy green patina. You'll have to trust me that the transformation is quite impressive.

Otherwise, back-ordered winch parts finally arrived from Lewmar and work continued on the interior overhead and a few other carpentry and electrical projects. We now have new batteries on board and the new battery control panel and main electrical system control panels will make life a bit easier.

Work on the mast and rigging should begin soon. Shortly after she's out of the paint shed, the mast and rigging are set to be installed back on board, or in nautical parlance, 'stepped.' She should soon start to look like the cruising yacht she is.

Jo Beth is once again buttoned up tight as of Friday afternoon in anticipation of continuing paint prep and later this week, shooting of the first coat.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shall We Paint Her White…or…White?

At this stage in the refit, there’s simply not enough happening to write about. Dealing with paint means dealing with physics and chemistry, and it also means doing battle with Savannah’s summertime and the heat and humidity it brings. The yacht DULCINEA should be exiting the paint shed early next week. JO BETH will move from the prep shed into the paint shed accordingly. With that in mind, it occurred to me this morning that we’ve not chosen the specific color for the hull paint. My conversation with paint shop foreman John Lancaster and his question "what color?" was the key reminder.

Which Color of White is That...?

A Portion of the Awlgrip Color Card

We know we want the hull color to match the paint on the new mast and boom as closely as possible, and the stripe color will remain Awlgrip’s ‘Flag Blue,’ a dark, deep blue. But, the mast and boom were painted with Sterling Paint ‘Off-White’ and the Awlgrip ‘Off-White’ is not an exact match. So, color cards in hand, we’ve narrowed it down to the Awlgrip colors of either ‘Oyster-White’ or ‘Egg Shell White’ though at first glance, the Egg Shell White seems too warm. One day next week, we’ll haul the new boom out of the rigging shed and into the sun to make our decision.  Either way it won’t match the deck which has long since bleached out. For the deck and exterior parts of the cabin, we’re making minor gelcoat repairs and having a hard-core buff and polish done to restore the finish.

Reinforcing Grid Structure for the New Cabin Overhead

Otherwise, work has continued on the installation of the new overhead and the new quarterberth bulkhead. However, once JO BETH is in the paint shed, paint work will be the only work happening and will likely take the remainder of the month. 

What the Heck is That thing For...?

With that in mind, I’ll go ahead and issue a ‘boat-geek’ warning: while JO BETH receives her new topcoat and striping, I’ll write a bit about how we plan to equip her for living aboard and future voyaging, the equipment choices we're making and why, etc. I’ll also talk about the way Lisa and I are approaching the transition from living in a space of 2,000 sq/ft to less than 350 sq/ft.

We both wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July holiday!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Refit Limbo

JO BETH in a state of 'Refit Limbo'

JO BETH is in a state of ‘refit limbo.’ The primer and prep for the hull painting are essentially done. But until DULCINEA, an early 1980’s vintage Tartan 37 sailboat, leaves the paint shed JO BETH will remain in her spot. However, because of the delay, work is resuming on the interior and electrical systems. 
One of the larger projects, not so much in scale but in complexity, is the conversion of the saloon quarterberth into a cockpit storage locker. The ubiquitous quarterberth came about as a result of naval architects and designers getting creative with ways to cram more bodies into boat interiors. Pick up just about any sailing magazine and look at the specifications shown on the new boat ads; chances are there will be one or more indications of how many people the boat's designer says can sleep aboard. Of course, this is in theory only. Space aboard a small sailing yacht is at a premium and the competition for it is brutal. All of those sleeping aboard must be well at ease with a severe lack of privacy and do well functioning in close, cramped, and often hot and damp quarters. A boat advertised as ‘sleeping six’ is in reality, uncomfortably cozy with four.

The quarterberth is fitted in the aft or rear section of the hull and to one side. Aboard JO BETH, it’s on the starboard side. On the design drawings, it seems a good idea. One demand most every sailor places on the space and equipment which finds its way aboard a small boat is that of multiple utility, and the theory behind the quarterberth fits the bill nicely: a space that can function either as a berth or a place for storage. The problem is it does neither well. As a berth, it is cramped and hot, and difficult to get into or out of without doing contortions which could win one a starring role in a Cirque De Soleil act. It also fails as a stowage area. With access only on one end, it tends to become an unorganized catch all for odd shaped and bulky bits of gear which inevitably wind up in tangled piles. I’m certain the word ‘quarterberth’ is itself derived from a long unused phrase meaning ‘place to toss things.’

 Here's a view of the quarterberth as it looks pre-conversion; it's the space where the large white squares, our cockpit cushions, and the edge of the blue seat cushion can be seen

Aboard JO BETH, our quarterberth had certainly become a catch all. Lisa and I were long dissatisfied with it; frustrated by the non-functionality of what constitutes a large chunk of interior real estate. JO BETH is fitted with a deep storage locker on the port side of the cockpit. When we began to discuss the refit and create a task list of the jobs we wanted done, we hit upon the idea of converting the quarterberth to a useable and functional storage locker, which would be accessible from the cockpit - a second deep cockpit locker. There is a locker on the starboard side of the cockpit, (both port and starboard lockers are accessed by lifting a hinged lid which serves as part of the cockpit seats), but it’s fitted with a shallow pan which is the overhead portion of the quarterberth. It can only accommodate things such as electrical shower-power cords, winch handles, and the like. Removing this pan and fitting a bulkhead inside the cabin at the front of the quarterberth would give us a second functional storage locker which we could access from the cockpit.

The new bulkhead rough-in; the finished bulkhead will be veneered and stained to match the rest of the interior joinery

 It sounds simple enough, but in reality the design and installation of the new bulkhead has required a surprising amount of engineering. First, the bulkhead will cover part of the aft water tank lid. Because of this, the bulkhead has to be installed so that it could be removed if it ever became necessary to remove the water tank lid. Also, the placement of the bulkhead had to accommodate the forward inspection and cleaning port on the water tank lid. And, because of the shape of the hull sides, the bulkhead had to be fitted in two pieces. The project is coming along nicely, and the roughed in bulkhead is now in place. Next will follow the removal of the locker pan and the installation of a protective gasket around the edges where the pan is cut. Then, the new locker will be cleaned and the finished bulkhead installed.

A lot of forward stowage space was sacrificed with the installation of the air conditioning and heating system. We’re very excited about having a new and functional storage locker aft.

Easing the “Head” Ache
Perhaps I should preface this with ‘Boat Geek Moment Alert.’ I’m sure this will be exciting news for everyone: we’ve made a decision regarding the head (toilet). After discussing the La Vac option mentioned in the previous post with Hinckley Manager Dustin Hartley, we came to the realization the additional plumbing, pumps, and wiring required to fit the La Vac would increase our refit costs by approximately $2,000. Lisa and I both readily agreed that was not acceptable.

We continued to shop for a replacement Groco Marine KH Manual toilet, the same which we had bought and been forced to return, but with no success. Then, while researching other options, I came across a posting on a sailor’s bulletin board about a factory rebuild program for the old Groco Marine KH Manual toilet pumps. The pump is the heart of the system, and really the only part of our system, aside from hoses, which needed to be replaced; with a bit of polishing, the old bowl will be fine. (The seat needs to be replaced if I’m honest.) So much for Lisa’s feet touching the deck while seated.

After a quick call to Groco Marine in Maryland, I tore down the pump, boxed it up and shipped it back to the factory for a full rebuild and servicing. Based upon my conversation with the engineers at Groco, we should get a full working life out of the rebuilt pump – easily 10 or more years, with proper maintenance. These pumps are beefy and robust solid bronze piston pumps; simple, powerful, and effective. The estimated rebuild cost is approximately $350; compared to nearly $1,500 for a new pump assembly, we’re glad to have found this option. As a curious and humorous aside, it turns out the parent company under which Groco Marine operates is called…Gross Industries.

Getting Electrified
Most of the big electrical jobs aboard are done. The new and consolidated AC/DC system control panel, a thing of beauty, is in place, as is the new battery control panel. The monitoring panels for the water and fuel tanks, batteries, and battery charging are fitted and working. The new VHF radio transceiver and stereo are fitted and the Sirius XM tuner and antenna have been installed. Mostly what remains for the electrician to do are the lights and instruments for the mast when the mast and rigging are reinstalled and stepped.

Here's a before shot of our 'modular' electrical system control panels; two DC control panels, separated by a stand alone AC panel - not the best arrangement

And here is our new, larger, and consolidated electrical system control panel; below it are the monitor panels which allow us to manage our electrical energy and fuel and water tanks
Progress will be slow until JO BETH is painted and out of the shed. We’re still hopeful to see her afloat again by late July. Lisa and I want to send our heartfelt 'thanks' to all of you for sticking with us. We appreciate your interest, comments, and questions!