Archive for the ‘Products’ Category

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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I Hate my Yamaha!

Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Now don’t get me wrong. My Yamaha 15 hp 2 cycle is a dream. My Yamaha 2hp 2 cycle is a nightmare. I don’t understand how Yamaha could even put their name on the engine it is so bad. And it is the exact same engine as the Tahatsu and I think one other manufacture.  The 2hp’s are all crap, In My NOT SO HUMBLE Opinion.

I purchased the engine new in St. Martin 4 years ago. I followed the break in period to the letter. I’ve maintained it as well as any cruiser could and it always, always gives me problems.

When I had stored it last I had removed all fuel and cleaned all lines.  Over the course of a year water had entered the fuel tank from either condensation or from the vent design on the engine. The engine was stored on the push pit of the boat.  It is after all a marine engine.  NOT!  I’ve detailed the non marine parts Yamaha has used on it in the past.

Fortunately, when Dirk and Silvie were down helping us through the canal and then prepping the boat for anther sailing season Dirk was able to get the thing running with minimal fuss. But Dirk has skills and a touch with engines that I don’t.   The 2hp ran well but things were not perfect. Water flow seems marginal. No way to check the impeller easily. This engine requires a work bench to do much of anything with it. That alone makes it a poor choice for a cruising engine IMHO.

And back to now;  after 5 weeks of none use I needed to put the engine back in service. I cleaned the plug, checked the fuel tank to make sure there is no water in the fuel. And pulled the crank. Ironically, it started sometime after the 10th or 15th pull. Ok, I can live with that for a first startup. I ran it till it warmed up and tooled around the harbor. Then I put it to sleep and turned off the fuel.

I found in Panama  if I don’t turn off the fuel to the engine the engine floods,, the plug fouls and there is no way to start it other than to pull the plug and clean it. While in Panama for the most part if I stopped the engine and turned the fuel off, when I returned I could start it on the first pull and turn the fuel on. She ran right perdy then.  But not now!

No such luck. Damn Yamaha.  Tomorrow I’ll work some more on it. Pull the bowl and all the fuel, clean the plug  and put  it all back together. After all; it is Sunday, a day for rest; right? If I continue to be frustrated with it the damn thing may well end up  a gift to Noah; but, I’m so Scotch I make the Scotch tape look like teflon.  I will be hard pressed to drop that engine in 5,000 feet of water.  But as cruisers love to say; the future is written in water.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Gotcha!

Monday, February 17th, 2014

We’ve moved. Down hanging in the Las Perlas till our new generator engine arrives. That and the extended stay Visa for French Polynesia.  Since we felt we had to order a new motor and wait for it to arrive we figured we might as well apply for the extension on the visa.  So we did. First Embassy I’ve ever visited. Went through three huge wrought iron doors better described as gates with I don’t know how thick Lexan or Plexi covering them.  Then we waited a bit for our interview; the French want to make sure we won’t become destitute while there and can afford to leave.  We give the embassy official our $$$’s   and now wait a couple of weeks for the approval. We are then called back for the stamp in our passport.

While we await our new engine I found my ghost.  Any avid reader; of which there are two I know of – both relatives 🙂  , will recall that in Puerto Lindo (Linton) I thought we had an issue with the refrigeration compressor. I looked at fuel, fuel filters and the compressor. I left messages on cruising bulletin boards and collected data on pressures running the refrigeration and temps of the line in and out.  I thought I had bad fuel or a bad compressor. In the end I purchased a new compressor but because of my mom’s arrival we moved the boat to Shelter Bay Marina, then traveled extensively I never got around to replacing  it.

Upon our return to the boat last June I made major improvements to the generator as well as really messing up the Kubota by overheating it.  With that corrected we were able to run it for the most part without any issues but upon leaving the marina and running the generator for longer periods found that between 55 and 95 minutes she would shut down. The first time the engine did this  I found the low compression in the engine and I expressed my concern to W/ .  That’s when we began to source out a new motor. While arranging for the purchase and shipping was in the works I felt I couldn’t really hurt this one much so I began to look further for issues.

She didn’t have much compression so as with most diesels there are only a couple of places to look. I checked the head bolts for proper torque and found 5 of the 6 to be on the money. Remember the 6th one wasn’t holding anyway and that is part of the reason we felt just to be done with it and get a new motor.  I had already checked the oil and found no water in it; one of the indicators of a leaking head gasket. We had just replaced the piston and rings etc so I wasn’t going to go there. Next I checked the gap in the rocker arms. Oops!  They were both around 0.003″ and they should be 0.006-0,007″ .  I corrected that issue , put the valve cover back on and turned the hand crank. 🙂  Wow! We have compression again.

We ran her that night….successfully… and we had no problems. She actually started better and seemed to handle the loads better. The following am we tried running first the refrigeration and then the water maker. After about 90 minutes total run time she shut down. As she was shutting down I turned off the Watermaker; reducing the load,  and she still shut down. Not good, she didn’t have time to cool down so I restarted it; she restarted fine, and then idled her for about 3 minutes. She didn’t idle for a full three minutes before she shut down again but she idled long enough  I felt to cool down enough that there would be no more problems from overheating.  This is getting to be a real head ache.

The following day we ran her in the am successfully and I wanted to see what happened with no loads and still running. After the refrigeration run completed  I set the engine to idle at about 1200 rpms and ran it for 15 more minutes up to a total of about an hour. After about 55 minutes she shut down. Only really one thing left; a fuel issue.  I went and felt the newish fuel pump I had put on her when in Shelter Bay and it was hot. So hot I couldn’t keep my hand on it.

Fortunately, a friend on sv Cetacea had just purchased a new DC Genset from Aquamarine and upon my advice (some people do listen to me) made sure they included a fuel pump with the setup. So armed with the correct fuel pump info I went into Panama City to get the “perfect” pump.

No matter what others have told you, cruising is about compromise. I couldn’t find the same pump anywhere in the city. Oh, it may be here somewhere but not where I was looking, even with the help of the cruising community I couldn’t find it. So; I compromised, I bought another fuel pump  from the same company, a company that makes fuel pumps; Facet / Puralator.  The

Bad Pump

Bad Pump

pump I had purchased in Colon was some off brand el-cheapo!  Using the numbers on the pump I couldn’t even find a reference to it on the net.

Better Temporary Pump

Better Temporary Pump

Yesterday we installed the Facet; that is barely out of spec for my system, and all is working great. The pump warms up but does not get hot. The engine ran for 2 hours this am, first the compressor and then the HP pump for making water. Sweet!

When I first had installed this unit I had checked with Dan at Aquamarine  and he had indicated that a low pressure pump was what was needed. He never indicated a specific pump saying  just that I could pick it up at an auto supply store.  So I did. Actually I think it was the same pump as I now have. But as things happened to the engine, the raw water leaked, the exhaust elbow leaked, the pump situated underneath it all became a mess. Not knowing any better and just thinking I could use any ol’ low pressure fuel pump I had purchased the replacements at an auto supply store in Colon. The first pump worked for close to a year before giving me head aches by at about 20 minutes run time  it wouldn’t put  out full pressure and then my beloved (at the time) motor would drop down to 2600 rpms under load. At that speed it would run fine. But I knew something was amiss.  Then I switched it out with a new identical (cheap O ) model and after about 40 minutes the motor would waver down to 2600 rpms. and then back to 3010 rpms.  I thought it was some item I had added to the refrigerant hose to keep water from dripping on everything  thereby letting some liquid return to the compressor. But removing the hose blanket didn’t help. Not until I did the idling did I find the culprit and now I’m in the process of ordering two of the newer, stronger; and more expensive pumps. That with a new motor and the advanced degree I have earned through the school of hard knocks I hope to keep this motor working well, well past my tenure on this earth.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Ready to Go – Oh N0!

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

We’re ready. Well almost. We’ve loaded up on the stuff we need. We have a schedule to pick up fuel. W/ and I are going with the group to get the last of the fresh vegetables.

But for some quirk of fate I was in the engine room looking for a new sound W/ and I heard while running the generator, to check and see if there was something amiss on the alternator, HP water pump or the refrigeration compressor as well as the Kubota.  I turned over the Kubota with the hand crank.  Seems to me like there isn’t as much compression anymore. This is just not good.

But; the little Kubota has been running, it has run the water maker  and it has run the refrigeration compressor and kept the batteries charged up. Guess it’s ok.

The following day about 2 days prior to our heading S. we run the generator again. Charging the batteries; good, running the refrigeration compressor, fine. We shut down the refrigeration compressor and turn on the water maker. Check the quality of water

Kubota EA300

Kubota EA300

and begin to fill our center tank. Fantastic. Must be my imagination.

About 5 minutes into the 2nd hours run the generator stalls out. SHIT!  We turn off the HP pump and I restart the generator. She starts back up and I let it cool down properly then we shut the whole thing down again.

Now we have to go to Plan B or could it be C or G or M or P.  We decide that to head across the Pacific with this demon over our shoulder is not something we want to do. I send out queries to purchase a new motor. We’ll have to have it brought into Panama and I’ll replace the motor. I just don’t trust what we have anymore and trust is important when you are all alone on a HUGE ocean.

Thinking about the Kubota all day I figure I can’t now do any wrong. When back at the boat and the engine is cool I begin checking things. I check the oil, no water in it, I check the coolant level, no change, I take off the valve cover. Might as well check the head bolts as that would be the main place to lose compression. I didn’t believe there would be loss of air out besides the piston as we have a new piston and new rings. 5 of the 6 head bolts are fine. The 6th was suspect when we did the rebuild if one remembers my past blogs.  We had drilled it out 2 times and used Certs but even the second time it wouldn’t hold and there just isn’t enough meat on the Al block to drill it out farther.  While I have the valve cover off I check the gap in the valves. Wow!  It’s only about 3 thousands for each one. The specs say the gap should be 6-7 thousandths. So I re gap them and then close it all up. Once put back on I turn the crank over and … humph, we have much better compression!

That evening we run the generator for an hour and all appears well. Sweet. But we still choose to replace it. We could maybe nurse it and if we were in the middle of the Pacific we would. But right now, now we have the opportunity to replace it and start over with a new one, with a new warranty (for what good it will do) and then head across with everything working top notch.

A few days later I try again to run the water maker. We make about 20 gallons and then the generator begins to lug and slows down ready to stall out. Maybe I don’t have the valves exactly right. I might still be a bit tight on them. I’ll see. That evening and the following day I run the little Kubota again, charges fine, runs the compressor fine and I shut it down. Keep nursing it along till the new one arrives. An old saying in mechanical circles is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”.  We’ll it’s broke, but it’s also working. I won’t screw with it much more.

And my new saying is “If it’s broke, replace it”!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Watermaker In and Working!

Saturday, January 25th, 2014

She’s looking good. We received the new Giant High Pressure pump last Friday and now

Not Identical

Not Identical

we’ve replaced the one that was problematic. But twas not likitty split like I had hoped. We have the same pump, well, same pump number, the pump is on the correct side of the shaft, the house for the pump is the same but the crankcase is slightly different. The foot print is the same but they’ve moved the mounting bolts a little more inside the case which using the mounting holes on the generator plate put the whole thing so close to the motor it would not fit with the mounting holes on the plate.

So I needed to mark and drill some new holes. That I did. All marked correctly, I drilled a pre hole because larger bits like to walk in metal and end up where you don’t want them. I then drilled 4 over sized holes so I have just a little play in the pump for alignment and then go to mount it; again.  Something just isn’t right.

We remove it; and this isn’t a light piece of equipment, and I investigate. Yep all my marks are right but the hole the farthest away and most difficult to get at, the one where I had a leak in the old pump where corrosion was happening on the Aluminum plate, that hole was drilled in the wrong spot.

For that hole I drilled by feel mostly, very little light there, as far from where I’m at, and I thought that I had the bit in the pilot hole when in fact I had it in a spot o’ corrosion.  DAMN!  So now I need to enlarge the hole, file to clean up and then mount the pump again.  Needless to say Dave was not a happy camper.

I had already bid this job at 2-4 hours.  W/ keeps up the pretense that I can’t seem to be on the money with my time estimates and I’m bragging that I’m getting so very close now to my estimates that she doesn’t need to counter propose any more. Well, she wins….. again.  This whole job ended up close to 7 hours with her assisting me.  And part of the time I was searching for some mounting hardware.

I never liked the way AquaMarine had the pump attached. An Aluminum housing shimmed with SS nuts, SS bolts and then stud,  nut and lock washer on the bottom. It was just a frustrating issue getting it all back together and lined up. So; I think, in Colon to purchase some longer bolts (mine from AquaMarine were just a tad too short) and then make my own studs and when I need to be working on the pump again I’ll put them in. I took them to the workshop at Shelter Bay Marina and made studs out of some metric hex bolts, cleaned up the threads and we stored them on the boat….somewhere. We just could not find them.

After searching most every locker we could think of that we stored them in; we gave up and just installed the pump the old way. Here in Panama City I’ll buy some more and make some more, but not now.

Finally, Finally, we finished for the day. Only need to fire up the generator and turn on the watermaker. We’ll run the watermaker the following day for now; just recharge the batteries and chill the freezer and icebox. Tomorrow I hope to fill our water tanks again;  Hurray!

And we run the water maker in  the am. We turn it on. I check for leaks, none. Hurray!  We begin to increase the pressure in the pressure vessel.  And she’s holding.  We were concerned. We hadn’t run the WaterMaker for a year preferring instead to adequately flush it. We flushed 3 times before we left for the states. After returning from the states we flushed it again. Went to Peru, returned for our projects and then flushed each month till the pump began leaking so badly we had to stop. So it has mostly sat for 3 months.

Now this is when the birds come to roost. I spoke with the Water Maker expert in Antigua and he said he never uses the pickling solution. Only flushes 3 consecutive times and then she properly stored for quite a bit. Never heard exactly for how long.  Our friends on New Haven follow this method and they leave their boat for 6 months at a time without any problem. We’ve followed this method  a couple of times before and it’s always been fine. But never for this long.

The result is 170 ppm of solids in the product water.  The EPA say’s anything under 750 ppm is good for drinking water.  I’m happy. W/’s happy we’re looking to check out and head to Ecuador.  Yippee!

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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The Panamanian Roller Coaster

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

And what a ride it is.  We’re here in paradise, working on Elysium, making changes to her that we hope will enhance our living on and sailing experience. The ups and downs at times are extreme.

We sold our 12′ Achilles inflatable… finally. I was going to title this blog “Buy High and Sell Low”. For it seems that only other people find great deals and we always seem to provide them. But then, I remember a fellow cruiser; Danny, who bought an ABI Aluminum Rib and after one day of ownership decided he didn’t like it, so he sold it for a $1,000.00 less then he paid! Sounds a lot like a new car purchase and truth be told, with the cost of all our dinghies and what we sold them for, we’ve lost much less then what we would have on any day we drove a newly purchased car off the lot.

Right now we do not have a dinghy, and we’re tied to the dock.  Our new AB Dinghy is in Panama City and we’re looking forward to having her. Our 12′ Achilles (which I loved) but which seemed to not love me back, is now serving another diver. The dinghy seemed to want to run free and some readers may remember the two times she went missing; once in the Bahamas where she was stolen and we luckily got her back… a bit damaged but usable, the other in the San Blas where I loosely tied her to a cleat and while telling stories (lies) at dinner Charlie (our host) counted dinghies and said one was missing. But she didn’t get far and with the help of the other guests the dinghy was recovered. Now I hope she finds her new home more to her liking.

With our new dinghy we’ve purchased a set of wheels; yes, you heard me right, wheels.  On the Pacific side the tides are so great and the beaches not as pristine that to visit them you need to haul your dinghy up beyond the tide line. (Tides are in the double digits there). So we’ve to attach them and as she has a hard fiberglass bottom I’ve purchased a rubber rub strake for the keel so beaching her won’t wear the fiberglass away.  Add to the list when we receive her we’ll make a cover for her while cruising and one for her when she’s deflated and set to carry on the aft deck.  Lots of work yet.

The unexpected was our generator which we are still sorting out.  Greg, a cruising mechanic has been working with me on the rebuild of the generator. When we first tore into her he found one of the rings frozen in place by carbon deposits. Thinking, hoping the frozen ring might be the cause of minimal compression he cleaned the rings and the head and put it all back together.  While torquing the head bolts,  he found two that didn’t want to torque down properly. As correctly tightened as we could we turned the hand crank to see if now we had any improvement in compression … and we didn’t. Back apart the generator came and we made a list of what parts I needed to order. It wasn’t looking all that bad and I proceeded to contact a supplier in the US and order the parts.

Bad Kubota Head

Bad Kubota Head

Perfectly timed Roger showed up (the cruiser friendly Panamanian driver) and I could send the head with him to Panama City for a valve job and general clean.  Off he went, and we began the task of getting our ducks in a row for the rebuild.

To receive the parts I needed to fill out some forms and work with the distributor and a retailer to enable the parts to be shipped. I would use FedEx as they are the most reliable for fast shipments to Panama and they deliver right to the boat. I contacted  Mary at  South Eastern Power (the Kubota Dealer for this area) and she had her retailer contact Carlos at Power Solutions handle the billing and  fax the paperwork back and forth.  Actually I faxed to the states and they emailed back what I needed.  With the order mostly completed Roger called. As there was horrible phone reception on the boat all I really had was a timed record of his call. I grabbed the phone, hopped off the boat and went in search of a good signal. Walking down the dock and around the marina until I had 3 bars.  I called Roger back and discovered a new let down. The head on the generator was cracked.  Oh-Oh! Greg never saw any crack, I never saw a crack, yet they said it’s cracked and un-repairable.

I anxiously called Mary to find out if my parts had been shipped. Nope! They were still in the queue waiting to be picked up. I added a new engine head to the order. That necessitated another round of emails to guarantee payment and a new calculation for the shipping cost. Thus another day added before they would ship. Next week, I would hopefully have the parts and have the heart of our cruising comfort working again. (As an FYI- the generator runs the high output alternator, the water maker, and the refrigeration compressor).

All there was to do now was wait.  And while we waited the dinghy almost sold and then was sold.  I say almost because the new owner came to look at it and he made an offer W/ couldn’t refuse. I’m never really happy selling anything, always believing I should have gotten more. Anyway, he left a deposit and in hindsight I should have accepted his offer on the contingency that he take it all now. But I’m not the best salesman and I didn’t add that clause. So during the night we (mostly I) worried about anything that could happen to the sale of the dinghy. We worried for naught for the following day he showed up …eventually.

The deed was to be completed at 11 ish. It was raining, Light squalls would roll through filling the dinghy up with water, I would empty the water then it would rain again and I would empty it again.  The dinghy was sitting on the dock fully inflated. He emailed me that he would be here closer to noon. Ok, we wait. Noon came and went. No buyer. Yeah, we would be able to keep the 100 dollar deposit but we didn’t want the dinghy and a 100 dollars. We had a new dinghy on the way and we didn’t want two … again.  About 3pm he showed up in the only break in the rain and some greenbacks came our way and the dinghy went his.  Later I discovered that at 1 ish or so he emailed that he was on his way. Thus our emotional roller coaster drop wasn’t as far as thought but there was a splash zone on the way.

With the dinghy gone we could again focus on Elysium. We began to prep the shear stripe / cove stripe that Lyman Morse neglected to paint.  We had given Dave the marina yard manager our old never to use again Poly Glow.  This deal was way better then “Buy High and Sell Low” as we had bought it and now were giving it all away. But on a boat there is no room to carry what we won’t be using. Only thing is; I forgot we needed to remove the old Poly Glow that was on the stripe before we add the new Signature Finish paint. Back to the new yard manager, Edwin, to explain what we needed and hopefully get some back. Edwin was kind enough to locate the Poly Glow stripper and we felt lucky; he didn’t ask for any money! We returned to the boat and proceeded to prep the area for painting.

Sailomat-Wind-Vane-Paint

Sailomat-Wind-Vane-Paint

With that part of the paint project completed there was a steel boat in the yard that was being sand blasted. I wan’t happy with the paint on our Sailomat Windvane. The blue paint (which I never liked that color on the wind vane) was pealing, cracking, and falling off. I approached Edwin about the smallish job of blasting the 6 items while there was a crew on the other boat project. He agreed to bring the blasting manager by that afternoon and give us a price.  He did and the price was too high.

They said $110 would do it. I balked. Maybe the one good time in my life when I did.  We are after all in Panama and the minimum wage is about $25 / day.  I figured I could, with Rudy (another cruiser friendly Panamanian driver, Colon based), find a shop in Colon that would bead blast them for less then $50. So I explained what I intended, that in the US I had some blasting of small parts done at an auto shop and this should be about $50 bucks in the US.  They agreed, I could get it done for $50. I would deliver the parts to the work area and they would remove all the paint.  Sweet.  I hate grinding away, stripping paint!

The following day no one worked. The sky never turned blue, and rain continued to wet the Earth off and on for about 6 hours. I was lucky as I didn’t yet have the vane off and in pieces and hoped by the following morning I would.

Finally off and in pieces I hauled them up to where the blasting was taking place and left them for the start of their renewal process. How sweet it is when things actually come together.

The pieces are cleaned and ready for etching, primer, and paint!  We’re making progress again. And!  FedEx shows up with my parts. Life is smoothing out.

Greg arrives the next am and we begin (mostly he) to put the heart of our cruising boat back in order. Piston in, bearings in, the end gasket is on and we begin to clean up the head bolts to put the head back on.  He discovered that the threads in two of the bolt holes are messed up. Remember the two that would not torque down correctly!  Most likely when Kubota put the engine together the bolts went in badly somehow or were fixed after the first assembly but before shipping.  I doubt Aquamarine had any need to do anything with the head and I never removed it nor even torqued the bolts (which I should have done). The end result is that there is a problem and the best way to fix it is with Heli-Coils. We stop work.  The plan is to go into Colon and at Garcia’s (which is a big bolt, nut, screw, place); pick up some M9 Heli-Coils. That’s the plan.

I went in expecting success. I don’t know why, I’m generally not an optimistic person but I’ve found most of the fasteners I need for the boat Garcia’s has.  I was disappointed. Garcia’s pointed me to another store and there too I was disappointed. Then I decided I needed to call Roger in Panama City. He could maybe pick up the Heli-Coils there and when he’s out this way I can meet him.

And that is were we’re at today. I’m waiting to hear if Roger has them or if I again need to order a set from the states. As they (Heli -Coils) appear to have a great deal of value for situations like this; should I need to order them from the states I’ll get a couple of sets. In the Pacific; I know I won’t find any. For now the ride has stopped. I wait for the next go around, knowing that the ups and down in life are all part of the experience.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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Bad Diesel

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Today it was “Two Steps back”.

I know the saying is “Two steps forward and one back” but that didn’t happen today.  Sometimes I’m lucky and sometimes I’m unluckily lucky. To further understand there is this parable I remember  “Maybe yes, maybe No” that is best referenced for you to read by another….then I’ll continue with my story.

I was cleaning up the wiring around the generator the other day and decided to shorten one long black wire. I didn’t really know exactly what it ran to but I figured I didn’t need 10′ extra spooled up hanging around the engine. I cut it and used a butt connector to put it back together.  I didn’t know at the time that

Aquagen Panel with TinyTach

Aquagen Panel with TinyTach

it was the wire for the Tiny Tach on the diesel. After all the electrical work that day on the generator we started her up to make sure everything was working right.  Yep, she runs fine; well a little rough but I know I needed to change the injector and clean all the fuel filters so I didn’t worry. But the Tach for the generator, stopped displaying RPM’s. Odd. I thought I just needed to clean one of the contacts and try again but that didn’t change a thing. All I was receiving was the engine hours. Well, not to worry, I had purchased a new one in the states and in a couple of weeks we will just add the new one and be back to working fine again. I wanted a lighted Tach and the one we had did not have a light, thus the new Tach.

Today I pulled out the old tack and it was there I discovered that the cable that transferred the signal was a Coax cable. Wire sleeve around a common core. So when I spliced the old wire together “I” screwed it up. Cleaning up the wiring actually ended up disabling the unit.  Damn, I never would have guessed. I’m sure my other cruising companions are now chuckling at my naivety in how the Tiny Tach works.  Now I have labeled the New Tachometer cables. Then while I was connecting up the new Tach I was rather concerned that I didn’t have enough Coax cable length.  I had just thought the wires were simply 20 awg wires and now if I need to add some length to the Coax I was going to have more work to do. Here at least I was lucky. The new cable length was perfect!  I had maybe an inch or two to spare and all went back together slick as a whistle. From here my day went down hill.

Finished with the majority of my work in the engine room I go to start the generator and the alarm sounds. Yep, it’s suppose to, the alarm sounds until there is adequate water flow. W/ mutes the alarm and cranks over the engine while I wait in the engine room watching for any issues. She holds the key, cranks over the engine. Nothing. Nada, Zip!  Ok, check the fuel, run the fuel pump longer and make sure there is good fuel to the diesel. We do that. Ok “Start the engine” . Again, nothing, nada, zip. Oh… the engine turns over. The starter is doing it’s job but the fuel isn’t exploding in the cylinder. I remove the hand crank from it’s mount and turn the engine over by hand. Uh – Oh!  I rather easily crank the engine. I ought not be able to do turn it over that easily. Not!  without using the decompression lever. OH-OH. Now we have a problem. A rather large problem.

I check the decompression lever and make sure it’s not somehow stuck with the decompression lever “on”.  If it was stuck then that would cause the issue. It wasn’t stuck.  Not good!  I go in search of a Canadian Mechanic that has been at the marina for a few years working. I talk with Greg and he gives me a couple of ideas, should those not work he’s available Wednesday. As with many things on the boat, this is nothing that can’t be solved by throwing more money at it.

Needless to say, I’ll see the mechanic Wednesday.

Go Slow
Sail Far
Stay Long

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