17 August 2015

Sailboat Projects and Logistics

Captain Linda Perry Riera

The Other Side of Sailing - Some of what we are doing when we are not sailing

Sailing Argon can perhaps be divided in to the following categories:
  1. Sailing
  2. Exploring & relaxing in harbors & ports
  3. Boat projects / upgrades
  4. Boat chores, maintenance & repairs
  5. Logistics of living aboard
Most of our blog posts deal with items 1 and 2 above which are plastered with scenic views, exhilarating experiences, interesting explorations, and generally the most inviting and enjoyable aspects of sailing.  However, there are certainly other aspects to sailing that are not necessarily as appealing but it is helpful if one embraces these less obviously enjoyable tasks so as to add to, versus subtract from, the overall sailing experience.  It is sometimes a bit like a puzzle or game to try to figure out more efficient ways to handle logistics or better ways to approach a chore.

Boat projects, while not as fun as the actual sailing and exploring, are generally quite interesting and several of our blog posts outline various projects.  Most projects usually entail an important initial period of learning and figuring out options and which route to go.  For instance, before even getting around to Installing Davits, we first had to figure out what type of dinghy we wanted (inflatable or rigid? hard bottom or soft? size? brand / type? etc.) and how we wanted to transport it (deck? collapsed? tow? davits?), then what kind of davits and what manufacturer to use, then what specific features (winch or just block and tackle?  rigid or swinging?).  Then there is the ordering or parts gathering and finally making time to actually do the project.  Even though we purchased Argon brand new and had some semi-custom specifications, there have been many boat projects in just our first two seasons with her including AISdavits, some re-wiring, spinlock rope clutches, etc.

But in addition to projects and upgrades, there are all sorts of chores, maintenance and repairs.  These items are needed for coastal cruising or to keep Argon looking good.... part of the overall sailing lifestyle.  In addition, given that we are currently living aboard, there are many normal daily activities that are approached differently.  This blog posts shares just a handful of boat chores/maintenance as well as some logistics as part of coastal cruising.

Keeping Argon's Exterior Spiffy - We think Argon is a gorgeous sailboat; and we also know it does not take long for any boat, especially salt water boats with heavy use, to quickly look weathered and loose their luster.  Therefore, we spend quite a bit of time:
  • Polishing, polishing and more polishing:  gelcoat, hull, chrome (stanchions, bow roller, canvas framing, porthole frames)
  • Cleaning and treating the teak floor of the cockpit and the coming ledges
  • Varnishing the teak cap rails, table, washboards, etc.
  • Scrubbing the waterline and cleaning the bottom

Buffing and waxing the gel coat parts of the deck:  Linda worked on this while we were docked at Liberty Landing across from Lower Manhattan earlier this summer during a very hot morning.  It is unlikely she was as happy as she looks in this picture.  Although we use a really nice Makita brand buffer for the large hull area, given that the gelcoat on the deck is in smaller patches among the non-skid sections and between all the portholes and hardware, this job is best done completely manually with lots of elbow greese.

Cleaning off last year's teak oil from the combings in the cockpit.  Needed to use a very strong acidic cleaner (Semco Part 1) with gloves  and a stiff brush followed by a neutralizing agent.   Although the teak oil initially results in a nice golden tone, we have learned that it builds up and attracts too much dirt.

Looking much better after a cleaning.
Teak sole in the cockpit drying.  We aim to keep the teak floor a tan/natural color versus letting it grey.  When we spec'd out Argon we were initially unsure about the going with a teak floor due to the extra cost but we have been very happy with the functionality as it provides good grip when the boat is heeled.  And, of course, teak adds to the beauty.

Blue tape, lots of blue tape as the cap rail and other teak trim is prepared for varnishing.  When Argon was getting commissioned last year we went with a product that has been available in the US for only the last few years:  Awlwood from Awlgrip.  It has the deep finish of traditional varnish but needs a little less maintenance.  Looks much better than the more common Cetol which lacks the luster.  We are very much DIYs but we hired the local experts this summer to do the two needed maintenance coats of varnish.
Anti-fouling paint helps protect the bottom from unwanted algae and other sea life from adhering to and growing on Argon's bottom but there still tends to be a thickening film that will form and thus negatively affecting Argon's sailing performance. We use Interlux Micro Extra bottom paint. Think your house paint is expensive?  Try $230/gal for this stuff.
We hire Brian from J&B Underwater Services to scrub Argon's bottom periodically.  While down there, they will also  check and replace the zinc on the sail drive.  Bob regularly scrubs the waterline during his periodic swims.
Cleaning Gunk Inside - Not sure gunk is an official term, but it aptly describes the crud that needs to be regularly cleaned out of filters and the bilge. During the spring and early summer in Boston, there is a large bloom of Jellyfish. These tend to get sucked into any raw water intakes on boats. Not so much a problem for systems that run intermittently like the engine or the A/C but for the refrigerator, it's a big problem and requires the strainers to be de-jellified every day or so.

Strainers for refrigerator and diesel engine raw water cooling system are checked and cleaned at least weekly; more often if it is moon jelly infestation time as jellyfish get sucked up and clog the strainer - makes for a stinky job.

A simple metal filter collects debris from the fresh water tanks and is cleaned out at least weekly.  Adding just a bit of chlorine to the water tanks is helpful.
The bilge runs along the center line of the boat under the floor and collects water and residue.  Although a pump keeps the water level low, it is important to keep the bilge clean to avoid bacteria growth and odors, and to prevent corrosion of equipment that sits in the bilge. 
Laundry  - Not a huge challenge but certainly not as simple as having your own easily accessible and predictable washer and dryer in your home.  And given the sparse amount of clothes we keep on board, it is important to do laundry very frequently as we just do not have a lot of back up clothing.
Although many marinas and town harbors have facilities, there is great variability in the settings of washing machines and dryers.  More than a few articles of clothing have been been ruined by unfamiliar, rough machines.  Waiting for availability can sometimes be an issue.  And there is the skill needed in hauling laundry back and forth in bad weather or on a wet dinghy.  
Garbage Runs - Given the sparse storage space, we have very small trash bin on Argon thus very frequently need to dispose of our garbage.  When at a dock it is generally straightforward even if not very close by.  But when out on a mooring or on anchor, it means remembering to load up the dinghy when going ashore and finding a proper disposal container.
Filling up the dinghy with dirty laundry and garbage for a trip to shore.  Sometimes it is tricky to find a proper dinghy tie up (aka parking space) as well as proper garbage disposal containers.  It also can be challenging to ensure the freshly laundered clothes make it back to Argon clean and dry.  When the weather is nice, it is much easier.  
Dampness  - A dry interior is much more comfortable than a damp one.

When out on the water a lot, bedding often gets damp and this can be uncomfortable.  We take advantage of sunny, dry days to air out blankets even though this gives us a bit of a trailer park appearance for an afternoon.
Paperwork - While venturing out on long coastal cruises and certainly for living aboard, we have to be a bit more creative and compact with our personal paperwork.  Our navigation table doubles as a desk.  And thank goodness for the increasingly standard electronic options of transactions.
The logistics of life need to be organized with much smaller storage space.  Our navigation table also serves as our home desk for needed paperwork.  Heavily using Drop Box and Google Docs as well as maximizing electronic mail / bills is immensely helpful in keeping our paperwork manageable.  Currently we do not have a printer/scanner on board which is occasionally a challenge.  We will be looking in to very compact options in the future.
Managing Fuel, Water, Electricity, and Waste - Managing our electricity usage when not plugged in to shore power is critical.  See our recent blog post regarding some of our challenges:  Starving for Voltage.  In addition to monitoring amps and volts, there are also gauges to monitor and manage:
  • How much water we have in our water tanks (capacity = 120 gallons) - military showers and conscious dish washing is the norm; with careful usage, we can go about two weeks before needing to fill the water tanks;
  • Amount of diesel in our 75 gallon fuel tank - we try to keep the diesel tank at least half full as we have learned that it is a shallow, flat tank susceptible to slurping up air if we are heeled while running the engine (eg, while motor sailing).  We also track the diesel consumption which is normally about 0.8 gallons per hour;
  • Holding tank volume - this is for, uh, human waste; the holding tank is either emptied by visiting a dock with a pump out station, having a specialized boat come and pump the sewage in to a different tank to be transported to land, or releasing overboard if one is many miles offshore in designated ocean areas. 
In addition to monitoring amps and volts, there are gauges to monitor water, diesel fuel, and waste.  We have learned to bring along our special fabric hose to fill our water tanks from different marinas to avoid awful, garden hose tasting water.

In some waters many miles off the coast, pleasure boats can empty holding tanks in to the ocean.  The waste travels from the holding tank on the boat through a macerator that grinds up and pumps out the waste.  Our macerator seized up at the tail end of our Summery 2015 trip but Bob was able to easily fix it after a fellow sailor friend pointed him in the right direction.
Argon has a 20 gallon holding tank; managing the volume is important as one is definitely not able to just flush and forget like on land.  Above is a pump out boat that was making the rounds offering to to empty all of Linda's rose pedals from Argon's holding tank while we were anchored off Shell Beach Shelter Island. Bob commended this guy on it being the "cleanest pump-out boat he's ever seen". The guy said "Thank you... I eat my lunch on this boat".
Bathing - We normally take military showers turning the water off for soaping up and generally being frugal so as not to run our water tanks down too quickly.  When the water is not too frigid and we are out on an anchor or moored, we can bath in the ocean then rinse off with fresh water using our cockpit hand held shower.  If we are at a marina with nice facilities, we may indulge in an overly long on shore shower.
Simple Projects - .... are sometimes not so simple.  The needed tools may not be readily available on the boat.  And it can be oh so easy to accidentally drop something in the water.
Bob is helping a dock neighbor trim a bit off an interior door.  A bit more complicated doing this on a dock instead of on a workbench.
Home Office - Argon is not only our pleasure boat and our house, it is also Bob's office as he works from home full time.
Bob WFB (working from boat).
A Few Additional Things....
Provisioning aka Doing Groceries:  Normally we walk to a nearby grocery store several times a week and get small amounts of groceries at a time.  This is not an issue and we quite enjoy the exercise. However, larger stock up trips require loading up a utility cart given the long walk along the docks to get to the boat.  When out sailing and staying in other harbors, we do a bit of homework to plan on where we will have access to stores to re-stock and may factor in a dinghy ride.

Bumps and bruises:  One or both of us always seems to have various bruises, scuffs, or cuts which seems to just be part of active sailing.  Thankfully we have only minor sailing injuries and mishaps.

Rocky, bumpy, and/or squeak nights:  Although it is usually relaxing sleeping on Argon, occasionally the waters can be rough resulting in difficult sleeping conditions; sleeping in the salon on the settees in midship instead of the V berth at the bow is helpful when the boat is rocking too much.  We also ensure that halyards are tied off away from the mast to prevent clanking and the boom is secured to the side to prevent the gooseneck from squeaking; however, sometimes nearby boats are not as noise-conscious or we may be at a dock with noisy pylons or ramp hinges in which case we pull out the ear plugs.  Lastly, on very calm nights while moored, the boat may drift up against the mooring ball resulting in an annoying thumping that is just on the other side of the hull from where we sleep.

This post may sound like a gripe session but it is not meant to be.  We absolutely love the sailing life and being full time live-a-boards.  The various chores and maintenance are just all part of the overall experience and lifestyle.  And all of the above allows for....





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