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!  

Saturday, June 7, 2014

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Updates...

Scraping the remains of the caprail varnish on a hot Savannah Saturday

It’s been a while since the last update here – a little more than three months – so today’s post is going to be a game of catch up. It’s likely to get a little long as well.

For those who would prefer a condensed version, here’s an update of the last three months in one paragraph: the wayward mast and boom finally arrived, more electrical work has been completed, the water tank and waste holding tank lids have been removed, the tanks cleaned/repaired, and new lids fitted. The bottom was sandblasted, more joinery jobs were completed, and JO BETH is being prepped for her hull topsides painting. Lisa and I have finished removing the majority of the old and degraded varnish and pulled off the anchors and chain for maintenance. That’s it in the proverbial nut shell.

Reading that paragraph will tell you what has happened in the past three months, but much is lost without the details. A good portion of that time has been extraordinarily stressful, easily the most worrisome times we’ve had in this entire process. The bulk of this stress was centered on the delivery of our new mast and boom from the manufacturer in California - more on that in a moment – but the discovery of new work necessary to be done, the expansion of projects already underway, and unexpected material acquisition issues added to the mix.

With the painting of the hull now beginning, the portion of the refit in which the visible transformation of JO BETH will become apparent is underway. Once the paint work is completed, she’ll be fitted with her new mast and rigging, the interior work will be completed, and her new canvas and cushions will be delivered. Make no mistake though, that is still a lot of work to be done. Stress is to be expected in a job of the magnitude and depth with which we are doing. We were hoping for a launch date of the end of this month, and to be back in our home marina by August. Now, it’s looking more like the fall before we’re aboard full time.

Our new mast, nestled in amongst other masts, in the Hinckley rigging shop

Spar Delivery
If you’ve read this far, then I’m presuming you’re interested enough in knowing the details of the past few months. The obvious starting place is the mast and boom. I’ve written in previous posts about the damages and wear on the boom. After much consideration, we decided that putting a 30 year old mast in the midst of a brand new boom and rigging just didn’t make sense. So we bit the bullet and had the spar builder, LeFiell Manufacturing in Santa Fe Springs, California, build a new mast. In hindsight, that was the easy part. Shipping the mast and boom, which are essentially long and skinny aluminum tubes, from California to Georgia proved to be a huge challenge. Every boat hauler we spoke with didn’t want to handle just the mast and boom – they wanted to move the entire boat. We considered shipping the spars on a LTL basis – less than trailer load – on a flatbed carrier. Basically, the driver will bring the spars on a flatbed for a minimal charge, provided there’s room to do it safely.

We thought this was in the bag – LeFiell had located a driver they’ve used before for LTL carriage who happened to have a run to the east coast – and he agreed to bring the spars. Unfortunately, when the driver arrived to pick up the spars, there wasn’t enough room on the trailer. Back to square one.

After doing some research on my own and getting some recommendations from others, I located a driver. He agreed to move the spars for the LTL rate, which was a bargain, as the per-mile charge was ½ of what we were expecting to pay for a dedicated load, meaning our spars were the only freight being carried. We agreed on a delivery time and date, and the deal was done.

Or so we thought.

The mast and boom were picked up in California as arranged. Then, they and our driver disappeared. Aside from one or two text message exchanges, he was AWOL. For nearly 8 weeks, we had no idea of the whereabouts of our mast and boom, despite our repeated efforts to find our spars, locate the driver, and secure the delivery of the mast and boom. We only had brief and evasive replies by text messages. Eventually, we were forced to involve our insurance company and law enforcement. Then, out of the blue, the driver appeared at the Hinckley facility in Savannah. Mast and boom delivered, only slightly worse for wear, but with no explanation or apologies.

The driver we hired is a man named Daniel Steadley. His company is Big Dog Marine Transport, based in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Steadley came highly recommended, from people I trust and have done business with. I researched him before contracting with him for the delivery, and found only a few negative comments spaced out over a few years. Nothing very alarming popped up.  As time wore on, I did my own checking into Mr. Steadley and Big Dog Marine. The company business address in Charleston turned out to be a UPS Store mailbox. When all was said and done, the delivery of the mast was six weeks overdue.

But, delivered they were, and mostly none the worse for wear. There were a few paint abrasions on both of the spars and one or two deep scratches on the mast, perhaps because the packing tubes sealed by the factory were disassembled and resealed with an inferior tape for reasons only the driver could explain, but he didn’t. A cleat was pulled free from the boom. Some touch up paint and reattachment of the cleat, and things will be good.

Our LED steaming and foredeck light, newly installed on the mast

The arrival of the spars meant that work could continue. The Hinckley electrician began dressing the mast with navigation lamps, wind instruments, and cabling for the VHF radio transceiver. The joinery shop is making pads for the halyard (lines used to raise and lower the sails) winches to be attached to the mast. The pads will be made of teak and prevent the aluminum mast and bronze winches from contacting one another, thereby causing corrosion. More work on the task list.

Two views of our aft water tank; above is the tank before cleaning and re-coating; below is how it looks after repair and re-coating 

Interior “Head” Aches
Our water tanks, long contaminated and unusable, have been refurbished now, and the new lids fitted. The old lids were wooden, coated on their undersides in an epoxy coating, and as they deteriorated from age and wear were the primary cause of the tank contamination. The new lids from Pacific Seacraft are fiberglass and fit the tanks perfectly. We also discovered two cracks in the forward water tank. The tank interiors have been refurbished, the cracks repaired, and the interiors completely re-coated and sealed. The same was done with the black water/waste holding tank.

Then there’s the head (toilet). In an earlier post, I wrote about how we decided to replace the entire system, bowl and pump assembly, since it only cost $100 or so more than a new pump alone. When we received the new head the interior and rim of the bowl were unglazed. Everyone was dumbfounded as to how this could get by two QC checks (one at the porcelain factory and one at the head manufacturer). The on-line dealer, of course, offered an exchange for no extra shipping, so we sent it back. Weeks later, after having received a full refund, we are notified that the manufacturer is “experiencing supplier issues” and the dealer has discontinued the item indefinitely.  Just buy it from someone else, you say?  Well, just so happens we got this one on sale at a really good price. Having to pay almost half again as much caused us to rethink our choice of head.

Several years ago we had discussed changing the whole system to a La Vac, which uses a vacuum created by a pump to empty out the toilet bowl. Hydrodynamic physics, plain and simple. The theoretical advantage is fewer moving parts to break and clog. I’ve now done some research and found an electric La Vac with manual pump back-up can be had for less than the price we had paid for our unglazed replacement head. Also, Lisa has confessed she would like the toilet seat to be a little lower to the sole (floor) of the head since her feet don’t touch when she is seated.  A La Vac would definitely be lower than our original head. I’ve also placed a call to Pacific Seacraft to see if they can help us find the original head and or pump for a reasonable price. A final decision has yet to be made.

Much of the interior electrical work is finished, or nearly finished. The electrician was impressed with one of our favorite boat show purchases, the light over the galley sink that uses touch to turn on. Swipe it one way and the white lights come on; swipe it the opposite and you get red to protect night vision. There is plumbing work still to be done, along with mechanical work and joinery projects. The canvas work is just now getting started. A good portion of the work remaining can’t be done until the boat is off the ground and back in the water. Even then, we will be conducting sea trials to test new systems. There is still much to do.

Cover & protect materials going on in preparation for painting

Sandblasting and Painting
Lisa and I also decided to sandblast the old layers of the anti-fouling bottom paint from the hull bottom. The paint build up was noticeably thick, and was getting to the point where additional coatings would not likely adhere. The boatyard has no sandblasting equipment in house, but had rented a unit to do the same thing to another boat’s bottom. Originally, we were going to put this off until the next haulout for maintenance. In the end, it may sense to do the sandblasting now, might as well, so we did.  Better now than with the new hull paint. The sandblasting opened up some minor blemishes in the hull which have to be repaired as well. While many of these jobs weren’t planned or budgeted, they did need to be done, whether now or later. The bulk of them will not likely have to be done again for as long as we sail JO BETH.

JO BETH before her bottom paint was sandblasted away, above...
 ...and after; her new bottom color will be a deep, brick red

The painting of the hull is a big milestone. This represents a huge transformation of the boat. We are using the paint color cards, trying to determine whether we want Oyster White, Off White, or Eggshell White as the hull color. Then there’s the striping. Navy Blue or Flag Blue? Dark Blue or Aristo Blue? Decisions!

The first of many steps to prep the hull for primer and paint

One of our future projects is the installation of a windvane self-steering system on the rear section, or stern, of the boat. We have an electric autopilot, which consumes a lot of power when in use, and on long passages can be a detriment. The windvane system uses the wind. However, to install it, we have to remove our boarding ladder. Removing the ladder before painting was another “might as well” decision. We’re now shopping for a side installed ladder, which will fold up and stow when not in use. One we are considering is made by a company called Mystic Stainless& Aluminum, of Mystic, Connecticut.This is how budgets get blown away. And as I said, decisions!

As the work to remove oxidation, contaminants, etc., from JO BETH's hull progressed, her former name, PUFFIN, emerged

Progress will begin to move rapidly once  JO BETH leaves the paint shed in a month or so. Still, countless decisions remain to be made. But, by middle or late July, with fingers crossed, JO BETH will be afloat once again. Stay tuned!