25 March 2018

Spring Reveal: Getting Argon Ready For Another Season

Argon will be splashed in just a few weeks.  We have a pretty long spreadsheet of things to get done before (or shortly after) that happens.  We're way overdue for a blog so here's a bit about the projects.

Bob Damiano

Stern Light

Argon's stern light is mounted on the stern rail. Sounds logical so far, but then we went and added davits for the dinghy. The problem is that when the dinghy is hoisted, it just about perfectly blocks the stern light. Our rear end is definitely not visible for 2 nautical miles like this.

Stern light needed to be re-positioned from the stern rail up to the transom radar mast so that it is clearly visible when we have the dinghy hanging off the davits.

The logical place to put the stern light up higher would be on the transom radar mast. This mast is a standard Edson 3.5" round aluminum mast. The new light - an Aqua-Signal series 34 LED (of course) has a flat mounting base.

I figured there would be dozens off the shelf thingies - either from Edson, or others - that would provide an easy way to mount this light. I couldn't possibly be the first person who wants to mount a flat thing to an Edson mast, could I?  Well, apparently I am.  After kicking around a few ideas with my brother and others, I happened to be in the hardware store one day and noticed that 3" PVC pipe has exactly 3.5" outside diameter.  I decided to try molding my own thingie out of epoxy.  The pipe made the nice radius and some duct-tape covered cardboard formed the edges of the mold.  Then, I just filled it with six-10 and waited a day.

It's not the most beautiful thing, but it worked. See photos to follow

Building the mold

Mold filled with six-10

First prototype extracted from the mold

Final version drilled for the light and ready to paint

Back on the boat drilling wiring hole and drill/tapping mounting screw hole

Wiring done, bracket mounted
And the light mounted to the bracket
The new wire was easy to snake down to the bottom of the mast.  I've ordered some Deutch Connectors for the disconnect at the bottom of the mast.

Ground Tackle

Argon's main ground tackle consisted of 100 feet of 3/8" chain plus 100 feet of line.  The Anchor is a 35lb Lewmar Delta.

This setup has served us well in most conditions.  There was one particular situation during our Caribbean Cruise in 2016 where we wished we had a little more going on down there.  It was about 40 hours straight of 30+ kt winds while anchored in 30 feet of water in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. Our chain alone had us at about a 3.5:1 scope.  We put out some line and also extended our snubber as far as we could but we were still very under-scoped for the conditions.  We dragged nearly 30 feet over the 40 sleepless hours.

We became particularly intimate with our ground tackle while cruising the Caribbean regularly diving in to check the set and confirm there was no debris. And we also decided that even more chain was needed.

So, we purchased a new 160 foot length of 3/8" chain.  I think Defender actually gave us more like 165 but who's counting?  I spliced our existing rode to the new chain, put some marks every 40 feet and installed it. This extra 60 feet of heavy chain would have sure come in handy in Guadeloupe.  It will certainly make me dislike anchoring a little less in general.

Measuring and marking the new chain

Ready to "weigh anchor" and slurp it all into the boat for the first time.

Chain Splice by Bob.

Sanitation System

The head worked. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Marine sanitation systems are built for weekenders.  We lived on the boat full time for nearly three years, so this system had about ten years of normal use on it. I figured it would be much easier to tackle this stuff preemptively while on the hard than it would be during the season while sailing around.

What we did:

  • Replaced all (well most) sanitation hosing including the vented loop
  • Replaced all internal components of the toilet itself
  • Replaced the deck filler cap

What we learned:

Warning: I'm going to say a bit of bad stuff about the Tartan-4000 here.
I have always loved how easy Tartan made it to work on the various systems on Argon.  I am able to get access to and work on just about anything, anywhere on the boat. The sanitation system is the exception. I have to say, I'm really unhappy with the access to this stuff - especially considering that there is some below-the-waterline stuff in there. Access to the Y-Valve, Thru-hull and Macerator Pump are through a tiny door that opens under the sink which is not nearly wide enough to get both hands inside. At one point I stuck my head in there and was not quite sure it was going to come back out. I found myself fishing around in my pocked for my phone in case I needed to make the most embarrassing 911 call ever.  It is extremely difficult to work on this stuff and given how unpleasant the sanitation system already is to work on, this was a particularly miserable project.  I am very tempted to hire someone to completely re-do the pretty round casting under the sink to have a nice big fat access panel. There's just too much important stuff behind there to have such horrible access to. Either that, or maybe I'll get me some trained rodents to work on it next time.

The main access to the vented loop and deck fitting is gained by removing the shelf cabinet in the shower.  That's easy enough to do and actually gives pretty decent access.

Unknown to us all this time was that the vented loop had at some point failed.  The "duck bill" was stuck open so that what was inside the pipe could get outside the pipe when flushing. This explained the occasional bouquet inside the boat which we always assumed was because of permeation of the hoses. No - it was just squirting sewage on the side of the hull and a wiring conduit - that's all.  If nothing else, seeing and fixing this made it worth opening up the shower to get this replaced.

Strange Deck Fitting

The deck fitting for waste pumpout has always been a bit frustrating on Argon.  We first ran into a problem when we lived aboard over the winter at Constitution Marina and tried to get a pumpout "snorkel" made. We could not find anything that would fit the thread properly. Nothing english or metric would fit quite right.  The next indication that this was a strange fitting came when I accidentally swept our filler cap overboard while sweeping snow off the deck one day. Finding a replacement eventually led to emailing Tartan to ask where they got the fittings.  Turns out, they are sourced from a company in Florida that I had never heard of.

The problem really came to a head (ha!) in Turk$ and Caico$.  The marina we were at would only do screw-in fittings for pump-outs. They had nothing in stock that would fit our deck fitting.  Eventually, they took an old fitting and cross-threaded and mangled it enough to get it to suck (then charged us $30 for the pump-out).

As long as I was in there, I wanted to replace that deck fitting with a normal one with a regular ol' thread.  The new one is a White Cap brand.

Shower cabinet removed. Stains on the hull were from the spewing vented loop. Yuk.

Toilet is out (and home)

The old vented loop and hose

Linda working on replacing everything in the toilet at home. PDF manuals on the laptop.

Linda, our head technician.

The replacement parts for the toilet were challenging to source. No kits available and had to search for individual pieces across three different companies. Ended up costing well over $200 for several basic parts. All in all, we spent nearly what a new toilet would cost replacing all the guts of the toilet. Tartan: this would make a nice spares kit!

Removing the old oddly sized deck fitting.

The new White Cap deck fitting installed - easy job.

Rebuilt toilet ready to install. Brand new sanitation hoses already run.
Another improvement to the system can be seen in the above photo.  Tartan had simply butt-spliced the four wires to the toilet.  The new motor for the toilet came with a Deutch Four-Pin connector.  After some searching and several re-orders, I finally got the mate to this connector from a race car supply company called Batts Racing.  The connectors are very well made and waterproof.

The toilet is in (and it runs). Note the tiny access door under the sink.

New vented loop and hose can be seen behind the shower
Generally, when we touch anything on the boat, we try to make it better than it was. On this project, we also replaced all of the low-end hose clamps with expensive non-perf stainless steel ones. We've been doing that all over the boat in other projects as well. The cheap ones are about $0.79/ea and the good ones are several bucks a piece.


Speaking of Vented Loops

I have no photos of this one, but the discharge hose for the sump pump had a loop, but not a vented loop. Argon has always had a slow re-filling of the sump due to siphoning action from the discharge. This became semi-alarming (actually literally alarming) during the six day passage from Bermuda to Antigua as the sump was filling quite often.  Per Tim Jackett's recommendation I also put a vented loop in this discharge line. That problem should be solved.


Headstay Adjustment

We've known for some time that Argon's head-stay could use a little more tension.  We find ourselves hardening up the backstay to compensate even in pretty light air. A couple of different rigging folks have suggested that a turn or two might be good but that it was "pretty close" as it was. Before putting the sails on, I wanted to get to this chore. With the furling head-sail systems, it requires detaching and raising the drum to reveal the turnbuckle.

It's been a while but I finally remembered how to do that. We ended up putting 1-1/2 turns on the turnbuckle.  I measured the head-to-head spacing of the turnbuckle rods and we shortened the headstay by about 4mm.

Measuring the turnbuckle spacing with digital calipers


The best part is that Argon is finally uncovered. The heavy winter canvas cover and metal framework are taken down. Now, we're just hoping for a good hard rain to clean things up. This time, when we took the cover off, we added some labeling to make putting it back on a little easier.

Taking the cover off.
Cover off revealing the frame.

Rolling up and labeling the cover.

Getting ready to fold the bigger rear half of the cover.

Soon Argon's bottom will be painted and then back in to the water where she belongs!

There are other projects in the works as well.  We're replacing the gooseneck bolts with shiny new ones that we ordered from Tartan (another proactive replacement).  We're also adding some control lines for the reacher sheets. And of course there is plenty of routine maintenance such as painting the bottom, replacing all the zincs, waxing the hull & deck, cleaning & treating the cockpit teak, and all the diesel engine maintenance. Oh, and there will be sailing too!