Showing posts with label teak maintenance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teak maintenance. Show all posts

16 February 2020

More Boat Projects in Paradise

After an indulgent extended weekend in Saba, attention was quickly re-focused on Argon. We had a few more days tied to a dock at Simpson Bay Marina on the dutch side of St. Martin thus a perfect time to tackle our latest nautical to do list.

Captain Linda Perry Riera

Back to Cruising Life - More Boat Projects in Paradise

Just few weeks ago we were feeling accomplished when numerous projects and chores where completed while docked at Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbor. But alas, the new list started to form even before we left Antigua.

Topping Lift

The topping lift runs from the top of the mast to the aft end of the boom. Most of the time it hangs a bit slack and does nothing. Sometimes, such as when motoring in sloshing seas, the topping lift is important for holding the boom up off the bimini and dodger. Recently (ever since bending the new main sail in Grenada) the topping lift has caused us trouble periodically by fouling in the leech cleat, batten pockets or reefing rings causing angst and mild terror when struggling to drop the sail including once when approaching dangerous reefs in Barbuda. The assessment, options and solution will be a topic of a separate blog coming soon.

The topping lift has been causing problems - getting caught in the leech cleat, Antal rings (for reefing) and the batten pockets. This has been quite frustrating and a bit scary when it interferes with getting the sail down. Bob has been thinking a lot about options. A detailed sailing geek blog dedicated to the topping lift is forthcoming.

Getting ready to be hoisted up the mast to check out the topping lift and re-run the lazy jacks.

View from just above the first set of spreaders to re-run the lazy jacks. Also removed the connection of the topping lift at the top of the mast

Boom Pad Eye and Backing Plate

It's just a little pad eye... what's the big deal?

We were awoken suddenly in the early morning dark while anchored near St. George, Grenada, back in November to a crash and loud rhythmic squeaking as the boom thrashed back and forth violently, its inertia accentuating the sounds in the swell. The dock line that runs from under the boom, normally attached snugly to a midships cleat to keep the boom stable and quiet while at anchor, lay slack. Quickly we found the culprit - a busted pad eye. This pad eye also attaches the boom brake (which made the crashing sound when falling on to the deck). @#$%! We re-fasten the boom temporarily and commited to making a more complete assessment at day light.

Argon's boom is a carbon fiber pocket style. Inside the V of the boom is a flat base allowing for a long hollow chamber for the out haul and reefing lines to run through in addition to the backing plates for the head of the vang and several pad eyes with backing plates to attach various blocks and run lines. After considering options, we decided to move an existing extra pad eye to the recently opened hole. That extra pad eye is normally the attachment for the Wichard Boom Brake. We knew we had mostly upwind sailing in the near future until at least Antigua so this wasn't that urgent as the boom brake is more instrumental when sailing down wind. We planned to fully address the busted pad eye situation in Antigua a few weeks ago, but our time at dock there was during an especially windy spell which prevented us from doing anything that required removing the boom from the mast. But now that we are in St. Martin at a dock with low winds, with more down wind sailing for the next few months, it is time to get this fixed appropriately.

Back in November (Grenada) a pad eye under the boom busted (strangely, while we were at anchor). Now that we are in the cruiser's shopping mall of the Caribbean and on a dock, it is time to get this fixed properly.

Main sail taken off on a low wind morning in preparation to try to get the busted backing plate out of the boom. Good time to also inspect the sail track cars and replace any missing ball bearings. We wanted to use the broken backing plate as a template to get a new one fabricated and remove it to prevent it from perhaps fouling something someday.

First, let's retrieve the broken backing plate from the boom by tilting the boom up...

Ok, tilt it more; shake it around. Nothing. No sign of the backing plate.

Let's try removing the boom completely and hanging it vertical. (What can go wrong?) Ugh - still no backing plate! Bob said it must have gone in to another dimension.

Ok, now dinghy across the lagoon over to FKG Rigging to get a new pad eye and backing plate fabricated (and a spare). $200 and a couple days later - voila!

New pad eye and backing plate; and a spare.

Messenger line attached for the patience-testing activity of getting the new pad eye through the boom, pulled in to the slot in the carbon, and re-fastened.

After several tries and permutations with messenger lines and a metal hook...

Almost... now to get those fasteners in.

FKG did a very nice job fabricating the new backing plates without one to use as a template, but the threaded holes were just a tiny bit off center of the clearance holes in the carbon.  We opened two of them up just a bit.

Ta-da!!! Phew, that was quite the project. Now time to get the main sail back on.

Dinghy Scrubbing

Algae and barnacle growth on the bottom of Argon as well as the dinghy requires regular attention. Argon has ablative anti-fouling bottom paint which helps control the growth but still requires us (and occasionally a professional diver) to scrub and scrape. The growth on the aluminum dinghy bottom and hypalon inflated pontoons is particularly stubborn. I have been unable to get the dinghy bottom clean with a scrub brush while she has been in the water. This is going to require a more concerted effort and chemicals.

Dinghy bottom before: The stubborn algae was impossible to scrub off with a stiff brush in the water. Time for more concerted effort (and chemicals).

The outboard, bench, and all contents removed; dinghy hauled up on to the dock, Calbert and I attack the dinghy with diluted On-Off, Simple Green, Magic Eraser, regular boat soap and elbow grease.

After:  Much better! We are now going to be more disciplined about hoisting the dinghy on the davits more often when not in use to keep the growth at bay.

Hull & Deck Waxing, Stainless Polishing, Teak Cleaning

The salt and sun wage constant assault on a boat. I set my sights on polishing the stainless steel, waxing the gel coat decks, and cleaning the teach cockpit. Help is employed to clean and wax Argon's hull.

I splurge and hire Calbert and Pete to clean and wax Argon's hull while I work on the waxing, polishing and other cleaning.

Some of the products used to help keep Argon shiny:  Scotch Guard and 3M for waxing the hull and gel coat. And some Awlgrip wax (not pictured) for a finishing touch on the hull. Flitz for polishing the stainless steel along with OsPho and Spotless Stainless for the more stubborn rust spots.

Cockpit teak scrubbing.

Deck waxing started in St. Martin and finished while at anchor in Anguilla. Well, is it ever finished?

Water Treatment, Tank Filling, Strainer Cleaning and Laundry

Argon carries 135 gallons of water between two tanks. We have no water maker nor a sophisticated water treatment system. To keep the tank water potable, we flush the tanks periodically (difficult with scarcity and expense of good water in the Caribbean) and the add chlorine. When there is enough fresh water to spare, I can do some laundry by hand. Raw water filters for the refrigerator, diesel and air conditioner are checked and cleaned regularly.

Water tanks were low so we decided to give them a good shock with some extra bleach while we were away in Saba. Then inspect to ensure all looked fairly clean and clear, followed by a good flushing. Having access to good potable water at the marina (at 20 cents / gallon!) allowed us to have full water tanks upon departure. We can last up to 3 weeks with very careful usage.

Good time to check the refrigerator and diesel raw water strainers. In addition to needing a cleaning, this one is getting corroded and will soon be replaced.
Several loads of laundry were done at a nearby laundromat but some items were best hand washed on board.

Jib Furling Drum Repair

The Harken furling systems are mostly very well designed. The weak spot is the top and bottom platters inside the drum. They consist of semi-circles of plastic held together by two fasteners. The problem is that the attachment for these fasteners breaks over time. More than a year ago in Bermuda, Bob did a "hack" to hold the platters together after this breakage. The problem if they separate is that they can no longer spin freely inside the drum. And spinning freely is the main thing a furling system is supposed to do.

While sailing from the dutch to the french side of St. Martin, we noticed that the jib was getting difficult to furl (again) and upon inspection, the Bermuda hack had failed and the bottom platter had separated. It was time to re-hack it. Always the engineer, Bob was saying something about a re-design and buying a 3D printer when we get home.

After departing Simpson Bay Marina en route to Marigot on the french side of St. Martin, we realized that the jib furler had an issue. Luckily Bob was able to fix it at anchor without taking down the jib as the winds were up.

WiFi Router - Failed Attempt to Resuscitate

Our beloved ArgonAfloat network is served by a Ubiquity Bullet Titanium router mounted up on the radar mast. The router has been getting flaky over the last few months sometimes working great, other times not so much. Normally cleaning connections and chanting incantations has solved the issue, but now it seems, the Bullet itself is really dead. Bob unmounted it from the mast and did some testing down below and declared "He's dead, Jim". It's been baking in the sun and freezing in the winter for five years, so we don't feel too badly about it. Fortunately, we are at a point in the cruise where we can primarily rely on mobile data from here on out anyway. We're shopping for replacement solutions (maybe another Bullet), but won't buy anything until we are stateside again.

Resuscitation of the WiFi router failed.

Vented Loop and Engine Check

The sump has been periodically kicking in even when no water is being flushed down its drains. If no water is flowing in to the sump, the only other source is that the discharge is siphoning back. A couple years ago, we added a vented loop to the sump discharge which solved the issue until recently. While in St. Martin we purchased a new vented loop and a spare. Time to crawl in to the aft bowls of Argon and replace. And, while back there, we also opened up the access panels to the starboard side of the diesel for an inspection revealing a broken air intake filter laying on the floor of the engine room. The foam was pretty much disintegrated. Another item to write on the shopping list (and we'll get a spare of course). In the meantime, we fabricate a new temporary one.

After clearing out the aft cabin (that functions as our storage closet for all sorts of stuff) Bob crawls back behind the cabin to replace the vented loop for the sump.

Upon peering in to the engine compartment I see the air filter has broken off.

We decide to sacrifice a linen top of mine to make a new air filter.

Jerry-rigged air filter. And one less white top.

Fishing and Sailing

Although maintenance and repairs are continual, and demands of our day jobs are constant, we feel pretty caught up and will be able to spend more time sailing and exploring for the next week or so.

Experimentation with different fishing lures continue as we troll between islands with recent activity. And we eagerly await the arrival of dear friends as we round out our stay in Anguilla.

Switching up lures off the coast of St. Martin.

Landed and carefully released modest sized barracuda.

First time using a simple cedar plug en route to Anguilla catches this marlin but only after his hind third was chomped by a shark or some other big fish. I was able to fillet a fair amount of delicious meat off the remaining part.

My office while at anchor in Road Bay, Anguilla.

Bob's office for a bit at Sunshine Shack, Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla.

Johno's, Road Bay Anguilla.

Our neighborhood for a little more than a week - Road Bay, Anguilla.

Even time for some music making now.

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....