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Hell Part II

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

I was going to first take care of the generator and while all of the pieces were out change the water pump in the Perkins. With the generator out I would have easier access to the pump. Since we’ve had to order a battery charger  for 240v 50 cycle I needed to make our time at the dock worthwhile and that entails changing the Perkins water pump out now which entails first draining all the coolant from the engine, then me ducking my head under the generator platform while laying on the Perkins and pulling the pump off.

Draining the coolant is easy but just not fun. The drain is behind a large coolant line and above the starter motor. It is just low enough that I can’t get a hose on it and direct it to a container, it is in a small enough space that I can’t get any container of size to catch the coolant; although I try. Most of the coolant drains in the engine sump where we have to suck it out with my handy dandy boat hook sucker and then W/ mostly mops up the rest and we then wipe the area down with soapy water to remove all the coolant. No matter what, coolant seems to get on everything!

Normal Engine work on a Yacht

Normal Engine work on a Yacht

With the coolant out I can wiggle into my prone position over the Perkins and remove the pump.  Fortunately it comes off without a fight.  Four nuts, 1 bolt and two hose clamps. We have it removed and then I plan on reversing the procedure to install the new identical part back on. It is a drop in replacement. If only I knew.

I add a little silicone gasket sealant to the rubberize gasket TAD sent with the pump. I install it, NOT!  The new pump doesn’t sit flush on the gasket.  There is a bolt holding the pump flange on to the Perkins that gets in the way of the new pump housing. I check the original pump and see that it too had been modified. DAMN ! Same vocabulary as before. With the pump removed we (mostly W/ ) clean off the silicone, get the file out and I mark where I need to remove the excess metal.  As I’m heading down the dock I talk to Jim on sv Intentions and he makes my day by telling me he has a small grinder that I can borrow and it will make quick work of that job. An hour or more work has just tuned into 5 minutes thanks for a fellow cruiser! I grind a bit and then dry fit the pump, something I obviously should have done the first time. The pump now barely fits and it is tight. I grind a little more and am now happy with the fit!  Perfect!

We again add a small amount of sealant to the gasket, leaning over the engine, head down, slippery fingers from the silicone, W/ hands me the nuts and washers (hoping I don’t drop any into the engine sump) and I slip them on the studs and tighten down the pump, hook up the hoses and clamp them,

Perkins 4-236 Waterpump On

Perkins 4-236 Waterpump On

reattach the coolant lines,  brackets, and then tomorrow when the sealant is cured I will add coolant. The following day I add coolant and while the thermostat isn’t open I only get to fill the header tank but there is a smallish hole by the thermostat that coolant can drip down to fill the engine. I get about a gallon in and have to wait. Another day and I look for a leak (after having added another

Perkins 4-236 Broken Gasket

Perkins 4-236 Broken Gasket

quart of coolant) and come as close to tears over an inanimate object as I have ever come. There is a little drip at the bottom of the pump. I must remove the pump and to do that the engine needs to be again drained and all the coolant cleaned up. Still close to tears!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stayt Long

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One Hell of a Day!

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Saturday we were going to make  some water. The water here at the Ark Anchorage is beautiful and we are down to about 30% capacity. Started up the generator, started the water maker, set the time and sat back. About 10 minutes into the process I began to hear something a little different. A minute or so later I began to hear the engine lug and went to check. Knowing that the engine (generator) is on her last legs I figured it was working too hard and gave it more fuel. It came up a few rpms and then continued to lug down quite soon stalling out. I checked things out in the engine room. All looked good. Started up the generator, runs fine. Started the water maker (WM) and she runs for a few seconds then lugs down. Damn! Damn! DAMN!

We’d been enjoying Tonga. We spent one day at a Tongan feast with Haniteli at the Botanical Gardens. Liked him and the area so much we scheduled another day to visit the gardens and hear of the history of Tonga. Haniteli was the Minister of Agriculture and in that capacity had many dealings with the previous Kings. A 2 hour tour easily turned into three and then during lunch he kept up the story telling. Lucy (his wife) had made a coconut cake for desert and what can I say, it was good! We left there under the care of James our reserved Taxi driver who transported us both times (we had asked for him) to the Gardens and back.

Wednesday and Thursday we did some holiday shopping in town looking for unique gifts that were importable and securing some fresh stuff for our trip to the Ark.

The Ark anchorage is where the previous King of Tonga had often visited to swim. A pristine anchorage with golden hue water colored form the rising Sun, this small art gallery with a few moorings sits gently floating tied near to shore. We picked up a mooring and met Sherri and Larry, owners and now citizens of Tonga.

Saturday evening was a beach fire with food shared and there we met some of the temporary / permanent / seasonal residents of the Ark Anchorage. And there too I told them our tale of woa. But by this time I had diagnosed the issue as a short in the feed wire to the clutch and figured it would be a simple fix. I thought I saw that the wire had chafed on a pump bracket and all I needed to do was add some heat shrink and keep the wire from shorting out. Boy was I wrong.

Sunday; a day of rest, found me working in the engine room. Upon further investigating I saw that the wire to the clutch had a small rubber stopper that was to protect it from chafing and I couldn’t get that back in without removing the entire unit; WM pump and large alternator. To remove the clutch I need to remove the WM pump, disconnect the alternator, disconnect the water hoses to the pump, take the belt off the generator and then lift it out gingerly, hand the item to W/ ; which will max her out weight wise and then bring it to our dining table for continuing the disassembly repair.

With the removal completed my hands were black with belt dust and oil.  Changing the oil on the WM pump is not the most precise- easy job; a design failure of the Aquagen system IMHO, and so with the two mixed together; belt dust and oil everywhere everything we – mostly I, touched turned black. I must have washed my hands a dozen times and even with Orange GoJo they still remain the hands of a mechanic not of a sailor.

Dining Table Workbench

Dining Table Workbench

Getting the clutch off should not have required a gear puller but indeed I needed one. Fortunately Dirk and Silvie had brought one from the states when they had helped us through the canal so out it came and eventually off the outer clutch housing was removed. I could see that the clutch had moved in close enough to the magnet that it was rubbing on the housing, heating up and then acting as a brake slowing the engine down. Checking the system the day before I did notice that the clutch was HOT, too hot to keep my fingers on and that helped me diagnose a shorting restarting of the clutch as a problem. Now that I thought I knew the source of the problem I figured that I could clean it up, and set the clutch to the correct distance off the magnet and bingo; we’re back in business.

Once the pieces were reassembled I needed to figure out if I ought to put a new belt or leave the old one on. When the system is pulling a 100+ amps the belt screams so we decide to put the new belt on. However upon closer look I see the belt will drag on the alternator fan so I decide to keep the old belt. I was thinking I could put a washer under the pulley and then use the new belt. No way could I budge the nut on the alternator.  Ok, back to using the old belt.

The complete removal, cleaning resetting the clutch took almost 4 hours non stop. W/ my boss doesn’t follow US work rules so breaks were definitely at a minimum 🙂 . Lifting the two items  off the generator mount, bringing it out to the table to work on and reinstalling it was back breaking work. I was sitting on the main engine bent over, laterally moving about 30 lbs of mechanical gear and setting it, securing it on

Clean Hands (?)

Clean Hands (?)

the generator platform. Finally everything was back in place. We started up the generator; that ought to go well as I didn’t touch any of the wiring with the starting system, and the first thing we heard was a light screaming of something belt related. I looked, I searched I figured we can live with that. We started up the WM pump and that too was working fine but we still had the light screaming. Oops; the pump system shut down. I felt the clutch housing; it was hot. DAMN!  I look closer and see that the clutch has again slipped to where it is tight to the magnet rubbing. It’s getting late and we have a dinner reservation. Time to clean up and reset the thinking / planning process. As cruisers often say; our future is written in sand at low tide.  Our generator is the heart of our cruising life. It provides us ample energy, cold drinks, extending the life of food stored in the freezer, and of course water. What will we do now?

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Yipee!

Friday, June 19th, 2015

I can’t believe it. I thought I was going to have to replace the fresh water pump on the ol’ Perkins 4-236.  But nope!

We waited for the near gale to abate before doing any more engine work. I didn’t want to be without ships power just in case we dragged anchor or someone else was dragging anchor down on us. So while the winds blew steadily 25-30 kts gusting to near 40 in the harbor we just hung out on the boat.

Towing sv Barbarella

Towing sv Barbarella

Sadly we watched as a friends 65′ boat broke free of its mooring and needed to be towed off the mud shore.  Unfortunately, the boat is so big that none of the cruisers could really assist. His anchor alone is 225 lbs and it would be impossible for anyone of us to carry it in the dinghy to set out a kedge. So Dick (the owner) went and hired some tugs to come pull him off and he is now resting comfortable at the marina (if it can be called such) here.  Finally, today the winds abated enough for me to feel comfortable taking the engine off line for a couple of hours.

Remember this all started in Penhryn when we first heard the ticking. After Steve on sv Lady Carolina came by with a mechanics stethoscope which by the way didn’t find the issue, we identified the source.  We pulled off the belt to the alternator, water pump and flywheel. When we did that the ticking was no more. Great! Now I know it is one of those three items. Actually, the fly wheel was not in the mix as is was turning without the belt. Thus it came down to the alternator, belt or water pump.

Thinking ahead I had ordered a new water pump while in Penhryn. Luckily their internet is quite adequate and operating 90% of the time or better. So when we arrived we had the water pump within a few days.

After working with Steve I realized I needed a spare alternator and as this wasn’t like the US 30 years ago I needed to order that too. So I found what I thought was a great company Great – Water who sold the same high quality AmpTech alternator that I had and I ordered that. They indicated it would be shipped as I requested, via USPS Priority Express; however, they had it drop shipped from the manufacture and they shipped it UPS Sure-Post.  What a mess. After waiting a month for it I contacted Great – Waters both by email and by their web contact form. Only their web contact form provided me some relief and I was able to get them to ship the alternator the way I had asked the first time and I received it in less than a week.

Today I switched out the alternators. Ran the Perkins for 25 minutes and …. and…. get this…neither I nor W/ heard the tick, tick tick that occurred not quite randomly but frequently.  Woohoo!  One less job to do here. Now; we are down to receiving two packages and then looking for a weather window to head to Tonga. We’ll be able to move again. I feel whole!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Ouch!

Friday, May 1st, 2015

We had ordered heaps of stuff while in Penrhyn. As out of the way as the atoll is they have good; relative to most of the pacific islands, internet.  So the last 6 weeks there we had ordered spares as well as some new things we needed, had them sent to one of our shore support team members and she consolidated them to send on to American Samoa when we left.

USPS Priority Only

USPS Priority Only

About a week before we left we asked her to go ahead and send them suggesting the USPS Flat Rate boxes and Priority Mail.  She wasn’t able to send with the Flat Rate boxes but luckily  she sent with priority mail  (we hear horror stories of not sending supplies Priority Mail) and we didn’t figure that would be too problematic-or costly. It wasn’t problematic because she had packed well but turned out to be more expensive.

Any future cruisers visiting AS be sure to have anyone in the states shipping you supplies to use the FLAT RATE boxes.  I include  pictures of two almost identical sized packages. The one is

Priority vs Flat Rate Priority USPS

Priority vs Flat Rate Priority USPS

sent priority mail; insured and it’s cost is $81 where as the FLAT RATE is about $18 with the same amount of insurance.  Lesson Learned. If at all possible; ship in a USPS FLAT RATE box to American Samoa!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Headin’ South and a little West

Saturday, April 25th, 2015

Day 1: We upped anchor about 9 am after a good breakfast and running the generator. We wanted to be out of the pass before the tide switched; better to wash out than fight the current getting out.  While we waved to the residents of Tetautua I don’t think any were up and about or they just weren’t watching. Understandable but too a little disappointing.

We tooled across the harbor listening to our engine. The click we had started to hear was becoming more noticeable and I counted 2 / second at about 1,200 rpms. So I emailed that info to our shore support team and received a cryptic reply from one that he could not believe; since I’m an iPhone guy, that I didn’t have the strobe on the phone and did not have the tach set accurately.  Damn! I never thought to look in the App store but now I will add that to my list.

Even if the engine would have quit here we could have sailed out and if the winds are to do what history tells us we could sail all the way to Pago Pago, American Samoa and into the harbor and anchor; all under sail.

We did make is successfully across the lagoon under diesel power and leaving the pass a pod of dolphins waved good bye to us. Fish here were in a feeding frenzy and had we been up to it we could have dragged a line and caught at least something. But we were most concerned with getting our sea legs and setting the boat right for the trip South and West.  Too as we exited the lagoon the water was swirling about on the ocean side of the pass, boiling and turning over as if at the base of a waterfall. The lagoon water must be a bit higher than the ocean to create this effect. That happens because the wind driven waves are pushed into the lagoon over various shallow places in the atoll and the exit points are smaller than all the entrance points leaving the water level in the lagoon a tad higher than the ocean. When you are talking about trillions of liters of water pouring out a few small openings you end up with the whirlpools full of small fish just outside the door, a smorgasbord for lunching by the larger fish.

We set the Yankee, adjusted the wind vane and laid back with our books. It was looking like a fine day as we sailed on we looked up every so often to see our home of 5 months disappear below the horizon. We will miss our friends and life on the atoll.

Day 2: Yesterday we clocked close to 100 nm and while it’s not near our best day we were satisfied with the results. The sailing was easy and the ride a little uncomfortable. The seas as usual were not our friend and with the lighter than expected winds combined with left over swells from what looked like 3 different directions we were pushed around a bit. The movement of the boat necessitated always using one hand to hold on to the boat as we moved about below. The winds dropped off today and our second days run was in the low 80 miles.  W/’s been warming up the meals she had planned and the brownies I’m trying to stretch out for as long as I can. We’re feeling more normal and our sea legs are sprouting but I’ve not yet felt like putting a fishing line into the water. I hope maybe to tomorrow. Progress!

Day 3: In the am I usually fire up the SSB and using the Pactor to connect with either Sailmail or Airmail to get the new Gribs. I’m not sure why I do this as they are computer predictions of the weather and they are so often missing what is going on locally that the whole situation frustrates me, but I still do it.  W/ turned on the SSB for me as we started the day and her first words were “Oh-Oh”.  The Icom 802 didn’t switch on.  Time to see what the issue is. I’ve never had occur before but for most of our years cruising we had the SSB connected to a circuit breaker (against what the manual says), and on the trip from the Galapagos I figured to follow the manual. In the Galapagos I made the change and  connected the radio directly to the hot power post.  So I start to investigate; I check the connections and they all seem solid, I check the fuse and it tests good.  I put the fuse back in and hit the switch – Boom!  the radio has power.  In one of my emails to my shore support team both Mike and Dirk tell me they have had their radios lock up too and had to depower the connections and then connect them back up.  Oh well, something new to keep in mind. Fortunately for the rest of the trip we had no more issues with the Icom.

Today I gave in and drug a lure about 50 nm+ and nothing, not even a bite, nor nibble. There just doesn’t seem to be any fish here. We’ve not even seen any other boats around. None, Nada, Zip!

Broken Bracket

Broken Bracket

Day 4: Last night W/ thought the generator sounded noisier than usual. Well; since we were beginning our night watch and there was no immediate need to start a project that could be saved till we are both rested and there is light out I would look at it in the am. With first light I found the adjustable bracket for the alternator had broken. Just @$#%^^@#$ amazing!  The belt was still on and had a bit o’ tension I figured we could run it under reduced load and since the only thing we really used power for last night was the sailing light (1 amp) and the iPad (another amp or less) the batteries wouldn’t have been drawn down much. First I pulled off the bracket so it wouldn’t rattle back and forth then we charged the batteries and ran the refrigeration compressor. That done I set about to create a Willy Wonka – Rube

Aquagen Broken Bracket ready to reinstall

Aquagen Broken Bracket ready to reinstall

Goldberg repair. I had enough play in the bracket I could shorten it a bit and put it back on.  W/ and I set about to drill a hole in each piece and then I would pin it with a bolt.  And that we did, while the boat rocked and rolled, W/ held the plastic cutting board over the bucket (I didn’t want to drill into the boat) and I balanced as well as possible and we drilled. I drilled a bit; W/ added a small amount  of oil to the bit tip. What seemed like an hour later we had two holes drilled in the SS bracket. I then inserted the bolt and a locking nut. Later in the day when the generator had cooled down I would put the bracket back on.

We weren’t flying along but we were making progress to our destination. Today I dragged two lures in the water and had no strikes. However; when I retrieve the lures  some of the plastic fringe was missing on one of them with my only conclusion being that one pescado had decided to taste test before swallowing the whole thing and after said test decided this was not the fare he wished.  Again a day without a nice fish.

Day 5: I have the bracket replaced and it’s doing its job. I still have the generator turned down because when we tried to run the alternator at greater power the belt was screaming at us. Neither of us love to hear that talk from the system and more so I don’t like the belt dust that a slipping belt creates.

About an hour after sunrise I hear my fishing real zing!  A fish. I grab the rod and yell at W/ to get my fishing belt. I get the rod out of the holder and look for what we have hooked!  Wow! A bill fish. This will be fun. As we’re only traveling about 3 kts I just hoped to stop the fish and then drag it through the water eventually killing it so I can bring it aboard.  But stopping the fish was never in his future. He jumped several times all the while my line was still ripping off the real.  I was getting close to the end and yet the entire time I was increasing the tension on the real trying to stop the loss of line.  I had it cranked up as far as it would go and then the line reached the end where everything sat in stasis for a few seconds only to reward the fish with a “Ping”. He just snapped a 100 lb test line.  As Dirk says, “You don’t really want a fish that big anyway” and ironically fate decided the same thing. No fish, just a fish story.

Day 6: The winds have really, I mean really died.  We are now floating. All sails are down, the helm is tied off and the only movement we have is from the waves and currents. Unfortunately the seas have not died near as fast and so we are bobbing around much more than either of us would wish.  Today we make all 20 some miles. We attempt to sail 3

No Puffs even in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

No Puffs even in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean

times and have a grand ol’ speed of about 2-3 kts at the best of times. During the second try sailing I noticed I could see a small patch of blue where red should be in our drifter. A part of the seam either chafed or let go. When the sail is down I will stitch it back together.  I download a very large area GRIB and discover that 300 miles south of us the trough that had run to Samoa from the higher latitudes has formed into a L pressure system. Fortunately it’s 300 miles S. Unfortunately it has cut off our winds. Fortunately it is 300 miles S. Unfortunately it throws up squalls and sometimes

Fixing a seam on the Drifter

Fixing a seam on the Drifter

thunderstorms. For the last couple of nights we’ve been watching a wonderful lightening show south of us. Now we know the cause. And it was wonderful because it was 300 nm  S of us.

Day 7: Becalmed again. With the drifter back 100% we’re able to fly it again without concern. We look forward to moving again. Some might ask why we don’t motor and had the engine been running perfect and we had adequate fuel we would have. We have about 40 gallons of diesel saved for the main engine and since I don’t know exactly what the tick, tick, ticking is I want to save the engine for the final entrance to Pago Pago. Today, trying to move in the direction we need to go we made 8 sail changes. Our boat is not set up for the fast easy sailing like some boats where you push a button and roll up a sail or roll it out. I believe in the KISS method of cruising (Keep It Simple Stupid).  I’ve seen too many in mast furling problems to have a system like that in as remote a place as the Pacific. I reef the main, I throw the reef out, we hoist the drifter, set the pole, douse the drifter and store it below deck. We put up the staysail and reef the main; all the while trying to find the right sails to keep moving.  Early afternoon we again sit, sails down, going nowhere. By now however the seas had dropped to nothing matching the winds and Neptune was undulating like a giant breathing while sleeping on it’s back. We rolled slightly but moving on the boat was close to being anchored in the lagoon.  By evening we had some breaths of air and were sailing again.

Day 8: Sailing in light air is magical. Sailing at night too has it’s own magic and if you combine them you have one of the rare moments we all love. We were making about 3 kts on a flat sea with stars shining brightly framing the Milky Way.  For 5 hours we were in Heaven.  By early am we were again becalmed and this would be our last time. We have now crossed the line to the last 100 miles to go. I’m thinking that if we get within 50 miles of Pago Pago and there is still no wind we will fire up the ol’ Perkins and take the risk.

Day 9: Much like the earlier days we were making progress but it was in the 2-3 kt range.  My fishing wasn’t going all

Even the Birds liked the Lures

Even the Birds liked the Lures

that well but I did drag two lines and one spinner on a sinking rig.  Somewhere in the late am we hooked a white fish only to be surprised when we pulled it in it was  a beautiful Tropic Bird.  The good thing about Neptune is nothing goes to waste out here so we gave her back to the sea.  Damn. Lures out again later in the am I got another strike. This fish I never saw. By the time I reached the rod the line was ripping out like a marathon runner had grabbed it.  I again tried to increase the drag stopping the fish but he would have none of that. Out the line ripped and at the end I could see the line stretch and then “Ping”, it parted.  Damn!  Only one lure left. And to my chagrin while the line had paused at one point and I stupidly put my thumb on the real, the fish had decided to make another run at freedom leaving me with a nice friction burn on my thumb.  Now I’m down to only one lure and one good thumb. The blue and white lure had to be the one to catch something. It hasn’t received much notice and I’ve not used that color much but since it’s my last lure I’m trying it. Mid afternoon we get another hit. Since we now only have one line to worry about I go to grab the rod and W/ is watching the end seeing what fish we might have.  She later reports it as some wide bodied silver fish. But as in my other scenarios this one too rips off all my line even as I tighten down the drag on the real. I am afraid I have both reals now burned up and will have to check them in port. Af the end of the day, I have 4 lures now in Neptune’s hands and no fish.  Some exciting fishing but nothing to take pictures of.

Day 10: After the squall last night and clicking off quite a few miles while the stars passed slowly overhead we were both up in the am contemplating our arrival. We had two options; if the winds stayed we could go for it and if it became to dark we could heave to offshore. If we were close enough to dusk we could motor in. Dirk (part of our shore support) had indicated that the harbor is safe to enter at night -he however did not, and the author of a cruising guide said that he had entered the harbor at night when the power was actually out. But night entrances are often fraught with dangers and if we could we would like to enter while the Sun still lit the way.  We decided to go for it.  We shook out one reef in the main (we still had one in. We pulled out the Yankee and added the staysail. We were making 6+ kts for a good part of the am with the winds slowly dying out. But; we were closing in. Early pm we saw the mountains of American Samoa and we felt we could make it in and anchored while it was light yet. About 3 miles out the winds had lightened enough that we started up the engine and I began furling the sails. Passing through the outer reef we were greeted by another pod of Dolphins. Either they beat us here or their cousins told them of our impending arrival. The site of them swimming near the boat, surfacing and diving filled us with the joy that comes when when you have shared your time on the ocean with them. We cleared the outer reef and both of us were quite relieved. We still had light, the sails were furled, and we were motoring towards a good night’s rest. We entered the harbor proper and moved to the back where the small boats (like us) were anchored. There we dropped 200′ of chain with our trusty CQR  in about 35′ of water and sat down elated and exhausted. One of the best things about any passage is the first night’s sleep. I’m reminded of how I slept in high school or college. Like a baby!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Maintenance – Sewing

Friday, February 27th, 2015

We use an ATN Tacker when we sail with the Drifter/Reacher. It flies free on the luff and this gizmo is to allow the best alignment for the clew on the foot of the sail.  Running for 3 days with it from the Galapagos to the Marquesas all seemed to work well, at least for the Tacker and that I did not notice any issues.

Six months later while running from the Societies to Penrhyn we flew it for another day or so. After the winds died and we furled the sail I noticed some chafe on the sun cover for the headsail. The sun cover is what the tacker floats on with basically a teflon like surface. However the inside of the ATN was wearing on the sun cover and visa versa for the ATN is now a bit rougher on the inside.

Thus we had some repair work to do. In comes the trusty Sailrite sewing machine. For the first 2-3 year of cruising I do not remember having it out much. The last 3 years we’ve had it out quite often. That may partially be due to our cruising grounds. We had a ripped main when we arrived in the Chesapeake but of course Annapolis has a lot of sailmakers and repairs there were much easier than for us to complete them.  And in the last year we’ve completed about 1/3 of our total miles to date.

In Columbia I repaired the Yankee clew and in the San Blas I repaired a tear I made while setting the main. In Colon, Panama we made a new dinghy cover – that alone saved over $800 ! In the Galapagos I repaired the sun cover on the headsail, the leach line on the foot of the sail was tearing out and as we never use it I removed it. Again in the Marquesas we had a ripped staysail that we were able to repair on the boat. And here we repaired the chafe as well as checked all other points of wear on the sail and touched them up. While the machine was out there were some seams letting go on our dodger fabric with the zippers so we touched them up too.  I’ve been able to sew up ripped seams on clothes that otherwise would have seen the rag bin before their time. We don’t have a lot of extra space compared to those living in the US that have racks and racks of clothing in walk in closets.  🙂  W/ wanted a fitted sheet for the berth in our aft cabin so we’ve made up the first generation of that and now have a fitted sheet to test.  I would say that the machine has been an excellent choice to have for our cruise.

While in most places we could have found someone to do the work, ensuring it is to the quality we desire is sometimes a throw of the dice. Gary and Kia on Kia Song had a dodger repaired in Columbia by the canvas guy who at the time was considered the ultimate. They gave him the thread they wanted used –  Tenara ( a super strong long lasting thread – and expensive) and when they installed their dodger and had left they noticed that the thread they gave him was not what was used!  Other places people  don’t have the right or best  material for the marine environment  or a machine that can really do the work.  While it has been a real adventure at times moving a 400 square foot sail about on a small boat we’ve been able accomplish all our tasks with a little patience and some forethought. We have had the machine on the foredeck, in the cockpit and on table down below. We’ve taken it off the boat and used it in the large room some marinas have to work on our awnings.  It has been a work horse and still is going strong.

For us / for me, my recommendation is don’t leave home waters without a machine capable of doing 99% of all the canvas – sail repairs on your boat.

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Varnish, Varnish, Varnish!

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Varnish 2015….NOT

Westsail 42 Dorade

Westsail 42 Dorade

You know you have good varnish when a fellow cruiser asks you, “Did you just varnish”?  This question was after 13 -14 months of not having varnished and we were just thinking of re doing it.  She wasn’t too happy to hear how old it was and that we were considering redoing it!  They (she and her husband)  were discussing what to do with the teak on their boat. ( I won’t name names so as to protect the innocent and not so innocent).

It took us about 3 months to complete the job. That is 3 months of intermittent varnishing between moving the boat, seeing the sites and hiding from the rain. But finish we have. If we can work straight through; without trying to commit varnish-cide, it takes us about 8-19 days working 1/2 days.

When we moved across the lagoon to Te Tau Tua one of the reasons was to complete the varnish job on the rub rails. There we could do the prep and varnishing from the dinghy  as opposed to me holding W/ by the feet while she reaches over the side of the boat to scuff, wipe down and varnish the rails. Obviously, I would get a little tired keeping her in that position for any length of time. 🙂

Just to clarify: we use Signature Finishes; Honey Teak.  For the initial few recoats we were putting on two coats

Westsail 42 Custom Companionway with Honey Teak

Westsail 42 Custom Companionway with Honey Teak

every 12-18 months but a couple of years ago we figured to try just one on some sections and viola!  We never could tell the difference.  So now our process is to take a red scotch brite pad , scuff the surface, wipe down with Alcohol (don’t worry it’s not the drinking kind) – I think we would let the wood go natural if we had to use the good stuff!  Once it’s wiped down we apply with a foam brush we / generally W/ puts the varnish on as Im clean up support at this point.  An hour or so after the varnish is applied we pull off any taping we did and by 2 hours Mother Nature can spit rain all she wants and the varnish is still good.  In the hot tropics we’ve even had it rain about 45 minutes after application and we’ve still been good!  Sweet!

We have gone as long as 18 months between recoats and a friend on Salty Dog went three years!  But he did say quietly that he would have been best to recoat after 2 years as there were some largish spots to redo.

For us, we keep it on for two reasons: 1)  we do like the looks of it, the teak sets the boat off nicely, and 2) Natural Teak isn’t forever.  Varnish protects it from excessively drying out, getting brittle and hollowing out from cleaning and constantly oiling.

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Internet: French Polynesia

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

In a word: BAD!  At times it rivals the worst of the Galapagos in Ecuador and other times, it is almost not bad. You would think a country that is so closely related to a first world nation: France, would have a solid internet setup. I don’t really care that it is in the Pacific, I care that if the service is offered it works; even slow is better than pretending. And too; here in French Polynesia you don’t buy data; you buy time, except on a smart phone you buy DATA but it is so expensive.   So if you have a smart phone you DO NOT want to leave anything on for any data.

The only phone service available in the islands is VINI and they have a way of taking your money and giving you very little. And if you think you will use data from your plan at home think again; one cruiser that has AT&T Worldwide received a call after about 3 days of intermittent use. He said, “See I have data” and his bill was $500.00 US. He was able to get it reduced but not to any reasonable rate. Check with your carrier on the price for data here before you leave it set to receive.

Vini: Fist if you want data at any speed it is $12/ 120 megs. Yep $1 / 10 megabyte.  Now that is EXPENSIVE! In Panama data is roughly $1 / 100 megabytes.  Vini is certainly not the best deal on the planet but one some choose to live with. Vini advertises the data connection as 3g and speeds are 8 mb / sec. However, individuals that have used the connection tell me while it may connect at 3g the data transfer rate is often much closer to the EDGE network speed (equal to an older modem dial up connection of 56k / sec) and they are mostly reduced to emails.  As for phone service you receive some free text message when you purchase and add the money to your SIM card. It’s like 20 messages for $12 US or 50 messages for $25 US.  And of course you get time with that too. BUT; and you notice I put the emphasis on but; the time runs out and quite fast in my opinion.  30 Days. If you add time and you don’t use your time up in 30 days you lose it. At least the SIM card is good for 6 months of inactivity which is fair but 30 days for the time being and then it disappears. IMHO not  a fair deal.  And, should you add more money to your account in 30 days it appears the old minutes disappear after 30 days anyway. Thus to keep the account active you need to add $12 / month. They have smaller amount cards but last time I bought one they only had the 1,000 cfp cards which is about $12 as of this writing. The smallest  prepay is 500 cfp and is only active for 15 days. I’m guessing the 2,000 cfp will be good for 60 days but that is still costing anyone not using the service often to pay roughly $12 US / month.  Further to add time can often be problematic. I purchased a prepaid card after my time ran out and I couldn’t use their messaging system to activate it.  Yeah, after purchasing the card they made it difficult to use it!  This may disappear as time passes but the instructions on the card were not correct needing to put an 87 in front of their Prepaid number.  Some cards are now correct and others still in the system in the outer islands are out of date.

WDG: This WiFi connection spot is one of 3 others. Sometimes it works sometimes not. When we were in Tiahoe on Hiva Oa WDG was one of two ways to connect to the internet. Manospot was the other (see below). In Tiahoe I had a good signal with my high gain wifi adapter and could get to the sign in page. For all of these services I tried I first paid for a few hours to see how well they worked. In Tiahoe I could not even complete a transaction. The sign up page there just didn’t work. I was able to connect successfully and pay in Rangiroa for WDG. The boat Evenstar had the same issue in Tiahoe. I use a Mac and he used Linux. Both of us were IT people back in our other life. Neither could get past the page to sign up and of course contacting the company can be a problem even though there is a place on the page to “choose your language”. Mark on Mystic had our agent in Tahiti call WDG and  try to get some resolution on an issue  he had; and she, being a fluent French speaker, could not reach the one individual that manages or owns WDG.  For us WDG worked in Rangiroa, Moorea, Marina Taina, and Raiatea, and Maupiti. While for the most part the hotspots they indicate have been correct the area of the hotspot coverage has been smaller than shown.  And finally, don’t expect WDG to be everyplace they say they are and don’t expect the coverage they show on the map to be near the coverage in practice. They have over exaggerated their coverage area.

In Raiatea I had much difficulty. I was able to connect in with my eeePC but when I tried with the Mac running 10.5 and Firefox  31 I the connection would continuously time out.  I switched to Safari where it connected up fine.  BTW, to keep Firefox working fine with WDG I needed to clear my Cache about once / week.

Beyond that the log off for WDG is at times problematic. When I updated Firefox the disconnect button worked fine. Before the update I couldn’t disconnect from the computer with the window they provided. I would quite Firefox and unplug the modem.  WDG indicates that after 5 minutes of inactivity they automatically disconnect you. So each time I lost 5 minutes. I never seemed to lose any more time than that. However; NorthStar indicated that WDG double billed them and they received that info from other cruisers. That is; when you check your history you will find two identical times and usage with identical times and the time then doubly debited. He had to email WDG to get it corrected. Steve did indicate it was corrected I believe in one day; however it is something to watch out for. NorthStar is using Linux. Finally, I’ve lost 13 hours of connect time with WDG. I have used their contact button on the bottom of their web page asking them to restore the 13 hours 3 times now over two days and have NO response from them!

As for speeds Wow! And I’m not saying WOW for how good it is. In Rangiroa my speeds would max at 65 kbs. I would watch the data app and she would rise to that amount and then stay for awhile and finally drop off and maybe back up or not.  In Marina Taina I saw speeds increase to about 125 kbs but it never would stay there if I was updating something or downloading  a short file. The speeds would bounce around often ending up near zero where I would just need to disconnect and start over. If, of course you were on in the middle of the night; which one cruiser told me, you might find it much faster. He never reported the speeds to me however.

As for cost – it is up there. The best rate is 2 euros / hour if you purchase 100 hours and then there is a supposed bonus of 20 hours. Ok, that’s 200 euros for 120 hours.  The worst is 4 euros for their minimum hourly rate. There is no data restrictions other than the max data speed their hardware is set to provide or the access point can push out.  They seem to have two few access points for the number of connections made as indicated by the excessive slowing of data during the day.

Manospot FP

Manospot FP

Manospot: This is one of the alternatives to WDG and often in the same harbor you might have both. We’ve used Manospot in Ou Pua, Tiahoe, downtown Papeete, and Moorea.  It seems all the post offices have Manospot. In  Ou Pua it was quite good and the best we had in the Marquases. Speeds at times close to the 100 kbs range. In downtown Papeete the speeds would surge to between 100 and 175 kbs range and the consistency was much better. Still not good enough to say update iPhone or iPad software.  In Moorea the connection in the harbor was weak and one was often left waiting. However the disconnect worked fine and checking my time I was never double billed. However;  one BIG caveat is that from when you purchase the time you have 3 months to use it!  This to my knowledge was not on the purchase page but came in the email confirming purchase.   There may be some wiggle room but not much. I purchased 100 hours planning on using it during our 6 month stay and lost about 50 hours because of the 3 month thing. Again the rates are the same as WDG and Kevin (the yacht agent) on Nuku Hiva indicated they were the same company or used all the same hardware and uplinks. I don’t know if that is true but for the most part the deal is the same. You buy time and not data but don’t think that you get unlimited data. Again; data  is limited by the poor data speeds that the system is providing.

Ioraspot:
I never used Ioraspot and it is said that a fellow cruiser is running this service but because we were moving and both Manospot and WDG were more places and I could then purchase the longer time deals I went with those two using the best one  (strongest or fastest) at any location we were at.

Private:  There were some times we could connect to hotels and restaurants and homes. We met a wonderful cruising land based family that allowed us to connect to their service and the speed was equal to the best of either WDG or Manospot and the connection quality was far superior. Same with the hotels and restaurants. Too, there was a wifi cafe in Papeete that actually had very fast speeds. They charged $10 US for as long as you could sit there in  one day.  One account; no sharing of the connection between you and your friends. I was able to update my iPhone while there and some other software on the computer that had been hounding me too.  That was the best connection we had anywhere in French Polynesia, and my download speed topped out at 1 mps, most often running between 500-800 kps.

If you expect first world connectivity…stay home.  If you expect anything like you’ve had in the Caribbean or South / Central America you will be disappointed. If you hope to stay connected to family and friends off and on for much of your stay here it is possible, just not loads of joy. For joy, head to the beach, snorkel a pass, walk the islands, try the food, and share in the sunset with your friends. Here the internet is not your friend.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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I Can Juggle

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

And too we changed…
One characteristic of cruising is the added knowledge of how people in other cultures live. And in French Polynesia everything, well; most everything shuts down. Yeah, there are hotels and some restaurants open. But nothing beyond that. There are no malls, the stores cruisers often need are all closed. One grocery is open until noon and in the afternoon everything it shut down.

If you know about it you can plan ahead for those days. Sunday is a good day to move the boat or do a project on the boat that does not require additional supplies.  More than I wish to admit; while doing the thermostat on the boat I would realize near noon time that I needed such and such. Off I would go to be stymied by the business closing for the lunch hour. Quite often it wasn’t a lunch hour but close to a latin siesta; 2 and in one case 3 hours.  Coming from the land of “Instant Everything” where even stores you wouldn’t expect to be open are open 24/7 this turn of events can be a wee bit frustrating.  But we are adapting. So on this Sunday we choose to rewire some on the Aquagen.

I wasn’t happy with my wiring and some of my mods as I upgraded various parts per Dan at Aquagen. Yeah, he sent me new wiring diagrams but still, it was a bit of a mess. Oh, wires were bundled properly and the ends were fitted correctly but I had to work with the setup Dan supplied. Well. fortunately for me our cruising friends IB and Becca on sv Passport had in Cartegena added the same generator setup and even more fortunate for me IB knows so much more about electricity, electronics and schematics  than I he’s like a college professor whilst I wallow in the sand box.

He was kind enough to send me the schematic he made of the way the setup would be best wired. Now up to this I really thought I was doing ok.  But; when on the crossing from the Galapagos I had a pump magnet break and short out I discovered how far off I was. Diagnosing the issue took a good part of the am and had I just put in a new fuse I would have soon run out of fuses finding the culprit.

So we set up to rewiring from the control panel onwards.  It’s still not perfect but MUCH better and what I found was scary.

OEM Key Switch Wiring AquaGen

OEM Key Switch Wiring AquaGen

To go back a bit any avid reader may recall that I was having issues with the starter on the generator. I had 99% of the time adequate power to it. I even purchased a new key switch from Aquagen and replaced it but that did not change anything. The lights would barely dim as I cranked it over but every so often I would only hear the click on the solenoid and I would have to try the key a couple more times for it so start. Too some may even remember when we had a run away starter in the San Blas of Panama a couple of years ago. So high on my list was to make sure the wiring running to the solenoid was perfect and the wiring running to the other system could allow easy diagnosis of issue.

The key to this was to remove the wiring harness that Dan had put together and add a terminal block.  First to remove some of the wires and the connection block he installed and it was there I immediately saw the problem. When I removed the block he had

OEM Wiring Harness, AquaGen

OEM Wiring Harness, AquaGen

supplied and wired up there on the pin connecting the solenoid was a great deal of corrosion. This is in a completely dry area and only the humidity in the atmosphere enters. The pin and corrosion was completely hidden and had I not been cleaning up this mess I would never have discovered it.

With that removed I added the terminal block, labeled the wires and reran them to the various parts of the system.  We fired it up and viola’ !  There was no pause, no thinking that will it start this time or not. She fired right up, and with the new wiring running to each system I will say it seemed like I have better water flow. Yes; the cooling water in the system is an electric pump.  Everything is running better. Everything.  I still have some cleaning up to do. I mistakenly used the temp switch on the heat exchanger to run the fan and the regulator, discovering too late that that switch can’t handle the current.

Now we have to manually turn on the regulator. Just a minor inconvenience that will be eliminated when we get to American Samoa and can easily get supplies. Till then, we’ve power again and how sweet it is.

Go Slow/
Sail Far
Stay  Long

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Patience is NOT my Name

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

I’m not a patient man. It is amazing that I can be a sailor; really! Sailing is different however, there are things you can do while sailing, read, think, watch the world around ya, listen to the sounds of a boat moving through the water. Sailing is mezmorizing in many respects.

Working on an engine is not mesmerizing in any respect. I have 3 of the 4 bolts out of the header tank. The 4th will not budge. It’s been 3 days now, I’ve soaked it in PB blaster, I’ve warmed it with a heat gun (being advised to not use a torch to it I didn’t), I wiggled it, I’ve pulled it, I’ve wedge both sides up from the engine pan and finally I’ve devised a clamping system that put upward pressure on the tank and pushed the bolt downward. I’ve tapped with a hammer over a 1,000 times sending small vibrations to the entire thing hoping the PB Blaster will soak in a little farther and loosen it up. Any moment would be good but alas; I observe none.

I take a Micrometer tt and measure if it has moved any. All my readings are less than 1,000th of an inch. The difference I attribute to not having the Mic in the same place and same attitude every time. It just isn’t moving.

Thinking about what my shoreside support team has said I look closer at how I might be able to cut the bolt. There is a gasket there and I think I can clear it out with a Japenese saw ( a really thin saw) that I can finagle between the header tank and the fitting.  I’m successful here and it seems I have a clear path to the bolt.  I grab my handheld hacksaw and see if I can work it in place.

I remove more stuff.  The hose that is in the way does not want to give so I take a utility knife to it. That removed I take apart the hack saw and reassemble it so the blade can reach the bolt with the back on the other side of the fitting. I have already wedged this side of the tank up hopefully giving me some extra room for the blade to cut the bolt and not the header tank nor the fitting it sits on.

I begin the task of push forward and sliding back. Hacksaws only cut in one direction and the push cuts while the slide cleans the blade. I can’t get any oil on the blade where it is at so I go slow. 100, 200 strokes; I count to ease the boredom. I feel I”m making progress but there is no way to know. The bolt is hidden and I’m only guessing. I press on.

Somewhere before a 1,000 pushes of the hack saw; oh, I lost count and started over a couple of times, the tank pops free. No more blisters and a great deal of relief sweeps over me. I sit there a moment and then tell W/ it’s out.

Thermostat Housing on Perkins 4-236

Thermostat Housing on Perkins 4-236

I remove the header tank and check the thermostat then climb out of the engine room to stretch.  I return with the camera to take pictures – need to put the new thermostat in the exact same way.  I still have two jobs left. I need to remove the stud from the header tank and remove the threaded

Stud is Still Stuck

Stud is Still Stuck

portion from the fitting on the engine. I attack the threaded portion first.

It turned with the header tank attached so I had relative confidence in the bolts removal. I first tried the cold chisel and found a little stub of the bolt sticking out. I tapped it to loosen it and after 5 minutes felt I was getting no where. On to the alternative path.

I grabbed the drill, found the easy outs (they are tapered hardened steel bits with a very coarse reverse thread that when you have a good size pilot hole you can twist – they will then bite into the bolt and thread it out), found the correct size drill bit for the project and setup to fold myself into a position I’m not use to, then attempt to drill a straight line.  As in most work on the a boat there is not enough light. I have installed two lights in the engine room but it could use for more, more specifically some spot lights. Fortunately W/ comes to the rescue.

She’s able to hold a light on the spot I’m drilling and we begin.  I drill a bit, clean and oil the piece to cool the bit and at a bit of lubricant for cutting.  Clean, oil, drill, repeat. I have to be careful; breaking a drill bit in this would cause a good size problem and I would need to then remove another piece from the engine and take it to a machine shop. I’m damn glad we didn’t start this project in the more remote islands.  Eventually I  get the hole deep enough in the bolt that the Easy Out can work it’s magic.

Easy Out with Stud Removed

Easy Out with Stud Removed

I slowly put the Easy Out in and begin to rotate it. I have a small open end wrench on the tool and it begins to bite but the bolt isn’t turning. I am very cautious here. Again; breaking the easy out in the fitting will result in much, much more work.  I stop and change tacks. I need a larger Easy Out and fortunately I have one, having needed it years ago on our other boat. I check what size pilot it needs and redrill the hole.

I insert the Easy out and twist; slowly. This time I see movement in the cut bolt. Yipee! I silently chortle.  I continue to turn slowly and the bolt continues to move. After another couple of minutes it is out. Whew!  Next I grab the tap to clean up the bolt holes. I oil the tap and run it; run is a misnomer, I slowly walk it down the bolt holes cleaning up all the rust and accumulated residue from non use. They clean up fine and I’m left with one thing to do – get the stud out of the tank. Then we’re ready to reassemble.
Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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