Thursday, October 31, 2013
The SSB guy (Corey from Triton Marine) came back yesterday to check our progress on the SSB battle. We proudly showed him that we had made all the changes he suggested. He plugged in his meter and the SWR numbers were much, much, better....down around the range where they should be. Yay!!! Our confidence is now cautiously higher that we will be able to use our SSB on our up coming passage. However I still plan to cross my fingers and toes when I do use it - sort of a freaky new SSB yoga! Feel free to join me.
We will be supplementing the SSB with a new satellite phone and sailmail. That has been a interesting ride as well.
Saturday, October 26, 2013
Definition: Rally - to organize (supporters, etc )for a common cause or (of such people) to come together for a purpose
|View of North Sound from our visit in 2008|
Previously we have not been interested in sailing rallies. They just didn't seem like our thing for several different reasons 1.) Cost. 2.) Very structured - You must leave from this location on this date - weather permitting and you must arrive at this destination 3.) Very strict - You must attend all the pre-departure seminars and events. 4.) Too many pay for social events - We have never needed to pay to socialize. 5.) Herd Mentality - We are not follow the herd people. However, there are many things about sailing rallies that do appeal to us. 1.) Sharing of resources like weather and routing 2.) Daily radio check ins. 3.) Discounts and/or freebies from sponsors. *Come on, who doesn't like discounts and freebies! 4.) Sharing of knowledge.
|Bitter End Yacht Club 2008|
With these pluses in mind, we have decided to join the Salty Dawg Rally and they have accepted us. We plan to depart out the Beaufort NC inlet on November 4th (weather permitting) - destination British Virgin Islands! The bulk of the rally is departing from Hampton VA the same day but there are approximately six or so boats departing out of Beaufort (see, this rally is flexible on departure locations). Most of the rally is headed to the BVI's but there but a few vessels are going other locations. This isn't completely out of the blue.....well...actually, it's into the blue....bluewater....get it? HA! We have been planning to sail to the Eastern Caribbean. The rally is the only new part of the plan.
|Rainbow in North Sound 2008|
For more information on this rally, please check the web site Salty Dawg Rally Fall 2013. Once the fleet departs, you can track our progress there and see updates from some of the vessels. We will be posting position reports back to the rally organizers and our float plan holders. Other than that, we will be out of pocket ie....no blog postings until we arrive down in the Eastern Caribbean.
|Looking forward to see that color of water again|
|Despite the crowds, there are secret places with no one else around|
Friday, October 25, 2013
|Score of 10 on the docking! Good job.|
|Tom, Sabrina, Dan, Jean Luc, Jaye|
Later we all headed over to the Ruddy Duck Tavern for dinner. What a kewl place.
|Tom- "Just pick you one up."|
Yes, those are old outboard motors.
Kewl place, good food and interesting company = fabulous evening!
When we first acquired s/v Honey Ryder and begin spending time on her, we often heard crackling below the hull at night. It sounds like Rice Krispies when you add milk or someone walking on a big piece of bubble wrap. Snap, Crackle, Pop. We were told the sound was tiny shrimp. Ok. It's not loud enough to keep us awake. Just very interesting.
Awesome sailing sista Jaye posted more about this on her Facebook page. Seems a friend of hers discovered some Factoids about these shrimp. You can find that info here Snapping Shrimp. Thanks to Jaye and her friend Phil for this link.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
|Back in the stern I went but this time with long sleeves and gloves|
I called in a professional today. Cory from Triton Marine showed up to take a look at the SSB. He came aboard and took a quick look at the backstay antenna - "Looks ok." Next stop was the nav station and SSB. He went straight to the back of the unit and found one slightly loose connection. DARN, why didn't I catch that! Then he took out some sort of tester and connected it to the back of the SSB. "Whoa!".....the SSB should be registering something like 1.0 or a little over on 8 megahertz and instead ours is registering like 12+. Then he tested a couple of frequencies, one was so far off the chart it wouldn't register at all. * I don't know what his machine was and I can't remember what exactly he said he was registering. He just got straight to testing stuff, explaining as he went. I was trying to keep up but our nav station is a comfy little space for ONE person. I didn't want to freak the poor guy out by trying to jam my head in there right next to him to see what specifically he was doing. And yes, I took my HAM test and got my technicians license but that doesn't mean I remember or know much of the tech stuff.
|Looks good but we switched out the cable anyway|
"You antenna isn't working. "I KNEW IT! I knew something wasn't right! HA!....then.... Sigh and then slight panic...."Isn't that our backstay and what exactly does he mean "not working?" Oh no. Will we have to undo/de-rig the backstay? Oh no. I better quit talking to myself in my head and listen to what he is saying now." Then he unscrewed the 90 degree elbow connector and tested again. Better. Turns out those can go bad/breakdown over time. This is the original install - 1998. he checked and tested a couple of other things. Then we discussed how many connections we might have from SSB unit to backstay. Next was a discussion about how the cable is run. Long and short of it is he gave us some really terrific ideas of things to check and changes to make.
|Not good. This pulled loose when I unscrewed it at the ceramic insulator. Hum?|
BONUS - Triton Marine has done most of the commissioning of most of the Caliber's after hull #150. They know Calibers. Once we found this out we started peppering both guys with all sorts of questions about everything Caliber. They were willing to discuss and guide us on all the things we were throwing their way. AND here is the amazing part, they were trying to get out of town.... today...right after their call with us! Seems they have Garmin training the rest of this week in Baltimore. But he knew from our conversation yesterday on the phone that we are under some time pressure to get the SSB issue figured out, so they stopped by prior to leaving town. I didn't even know he was coming. They didn't rush and took the extra time to discuss the other items we came up with. How kewl is that! We had our marching orders of items to tackle so I asked him "what do I owe you?" "Tell you what, just get this stuff checked and changed on the SSB and then I will check back with you next week to follow up and we will worry about it then." Awesome!
Monday, October 21, 2013
This posting has been a long time coming. Sorry for the delay. It was written in stages as we traveled along. Warning - Tons of pics. But if you are a regular reader of this blog you already know that can and does happen frequently. FYI - Strataglass Vinyl = glass
Things we did wrong
Things we did right.
|Double zippers are the key|
I haven’t written previously about this because it was quite a complicated project and we have still been testing it out and getting used to it. Additionally I really didn’t have any good pics that show the features and benefits (previous life in sales still slips through occasionally) until we got away from the dock.
|Starboard side door - screen in, glass rolled up|
|Starboard side door, screen out, glass snapped back|
|Another view of the glass snapped back|
Now that we are underway and using the new canvas, we LOVE it! Currently I am writing this from the cockpit while we are anchored in Walburg Creek and it is blowing! Winds 15-20 with gusts to 25. But I am completely comfortable. We have all the glass panels down in place except one. That panel the screen is letting in just enough breeze to keep some air moving within the enclosure. We used our enclosure while motoring up to St Catherine’s sound. We had some rain move in that day and our enclosure, especially the dodger and port side curtains keeps us dry and again comfortable. We didn’t have all the panels down because we didn’t want asphyxiate ourselves –* yes we are being careful about that.
|Screens in, glass rolled up|
It was a rather long road to get to “We Love it” and I will tell you about it so perhaps others can learn from us.
|Glass up for the breeze|
|Screens in protecting us from bugs|
However first I want to make something very clear. This is our experience with ONE vendor on one project.
I We simply REFUSE to paint an entire industry or subset of an
industry with a the same broad brush. None of us would want others to do that to us
in our given professions so we refuse to allow ourselves to do that. We have worked with some really terrific
people in the marine industry. Mr Lester
Forbes ranks at the top of our list of peeps we just plain like and respect. Our diver in Brunswick Lee Porterfield is
awesome. He is by far the hardest
working guy in the marina. Lee is a full time teacher and then spends every
single weekend (full days), summers and many evenings diving on other peoples
boats. Once when he was trying to get
out of town for the weekend, he took the time to free dive on our prop so we
could go pump out the next day and then he came back later once he returned to
town to do the entire bottom. Heck of a
guy. I have talked many times about how wonderful
BLM Dock Mistress Sherry is. Our diver in Charleston Harbor Marine was
good too. Chuck town is where we met diesel mechanic Aaron Vickers – Oil’s in a
Day’s Work. Aaron quietly and quickly
worked his magic to find our issue and then spent another hour (no charge)
giving us hints and tips that only a long time diesel mechanic would know. *Tom used one of his tips yesterday when
changing the fuel filter and it worked like a charm! There are many more….our broker Sonny White,
our surveyor Captain Rick Corley, Towboat US Captain Woody, etc….We approach
each new interaction with a positive attitude and strong dose of respect for
what each of these professionals does.
This has definitely made a difference for us. We take a genuine interest and in return they
have taken the time to teach us additional valuable tools we have put to good used. We
have really enjoyed all the wonderful people we have met and worked with.
|Dodger with the sun cover on - excuse the stuff - liveaboards|
Our new canvas – We knew we needed new dodger and bimini and therefore planned and budgeted for it. As long as we were doing a replacement, we decided an enclosure would be a wise investment. We heard from so many cruisers how it extends their cruising, allowing them to do more and in comfort. It is essentially like adding a room onto the boat and who doesn’t want a little more livable space on their boat! The old dodger height was such that it was exactly at my line of sight when I was at the helm, so we raised it a touch and I can now see perfectly through the front windshield. Tom can still see over. I insisted on making our dodger a California dodger even though the framing isn’t supportive of that style. A California dodger is structured so all the side panels can come out, leaving just the top on. I wanted this style only for purpose of ongoing maintenance. Having each panel separate will allow me to mend any panel much easier in the future.
|Front window zipped up - the one exception to our U shaped window ban|
Our old connector piece – the canvas connecting the dodger and bimini was solid canvas. Our new one has a window. This is awesome. It lets in tons of light. A skylight if you will. On rainy days the cockpit still has some light, where previously it was pretty dark on cloudy days. At night, we can see the stars through it. It also has a solid cover that snaps in place for protection when the sun is beating down.
|View through the front window|
We changed the binimi as well. Previously it had its own frame that was on the edge of the cockpit coming. We removed that frame and built the new frame off the arch and cockpit rail. This opened up (widened) our cockpit living area by a good 20%. The aluminum frame for the old solar panels was replaced with a stainless steel frame. We found aluminum just isn't strong enough. We had our aluminum frame on our C30 bend back in Kansas due to wind. Can you imagine what ocean conditions would do to an aluminum frame!
|Screen with glass rolled up|
There are many, many styles of enclosures. Most options are for either screen enclosure or glass. If you want both then you have to zip one out and then zip back in the other panel. This leaves storing the unused panels. Storage of the screen panels isn’t that bad but the glass must be stored flat or CAREFULLY rolled with nothing crushing them. You try finding a safe place (NO CRUSHING) for glass panels – 7 of them -in a liveaboard boat where every little nook and cranny is being used. Fat chance! Some people opt for panels that stay in place with both screen and glass where a big U shaped zipper allows you to open up and roll up the glass. We are not big fans of this design. We don’t care for the look and more importantly zippers don’t like U curves. *Zippers and I have a love/hate relationship due to zipper canvas failure – plus I struggle with them in my sewing. We really wanted both screens and glass.
|View through port side door - north wind was blocked by the glass|
Caliber 40 s/v Brilliant Star to the rescue. Caliber Chris figured out a brilliant design for their lovely boat that is both screen and glass. Double zippers. It is truly an elegant design. I took tons of pics and then took our canvas guy over there. “Can we do this on our boat?” “Sure.” Well yes and no was the real answer.
|Back door - access to dinghy and swim platform|
Even though our canvas guy said yes, he got distracted, forgot or whatever and as he started to deliver parts of our new canvas – VERY, VERY slowly over weeks and weeks and weeks – the bimini didn’t have the double zippers. “No, problem. We will add them in.” And they did. However they put both zippers on top of one and other using the same seam line. Not good when working with big zippers under extreme conditions. The zippers should have been offset by 1/4 . Then we discovered a few missing. These were added, well most. The back edge of the dodger only has single zippers and should have double. By the time we finally got our completed canvas (so to speak ) it was LONG overdue. Well over a month overdue. We were not happy. This delayed our departure out of Brunswick GA and drastically changed our cruising plans. Additionally, because it was SO overdue, we rushed through thoroughly checking it out. We just wanted them off the boat. It was NOT a happy working relationship at this point! I figured I would have to fix the issues as they popped up and tweak it as we lived with it (normal).
|Back door, screens down, glass rolled up|
Things to fix/enhance
1. Both sides of the dodger leak into the cockpit where the hand hold attaches. The canvas guy tried to fix it at the end but the solution is halfass and only works in perfect conditions at the dock and only if it’s lined up exactly. My interim fix since leaving the dock was to cut off the backstay wraps off the old bimini and wrap those around there. It worked for the most part as we traveled up to Morehead City NC. I have discussed this with a couple of different people (Caliber Chris – designer of the brilliant double zipper enclosure and a canvas guy here in Morehead City) and I believe I have a couple of different solution options that will work.
2. Backstay wraps leak slightly. I don’t know if they aren’t tight enough or really leak. I am going to try tying them tighter and see if that does it but I also have an additional solution that should work to stop the leak in the event tying them tighter doesn't.
3. Connector piece leaks slightly at connector to bimini point. The finished bimini edge should have been a little bit longer or had Velcro to keep it in place. It doesn't lay as flat as it should. I think I am going to sew a small extension on the bimini to lengthen it and then add Velcro to keep it all down securely.
4. Back edge of the dodger does not have double zippers. Thanks again to Caliber Chris ( for another brilliant idea), I have a fix for this. However, it hasn't been a huge issue to date
5. The double zippers sewn on top of each other is working so far. If it becomes a problem I should be able to use the same fix for the missing double zippers on the dodger.
6. Make a screen for front -middle panel in the dodger.
|Canvas box is where our two outboards are attached to the rail|
1. We did not get enough references- specifically sailboat enclosure references.
a. Red flag – Canvas guy mentioned that while he lives on a boat, he has never really experienced canvas at sea – in the conditions. This means he doesn’t really know where and how water can get in.
b. Because I am supposed to have a B when I have an A
2. We should have taken the boat to Fernandina where the canvas maker was. They said it wouldn’t be an issue but we had 3 no-show days and many, many, many delays or “I am now coming day after next instead of today.”
3. We should have been more firm on when we needed the canvas to be complete. Additionally we should have made it clear up front that any delays past a set date would mean reduction in payment. *I don’t know if this would have worked but…
4. We should have questioned more as they were working. This was our first project of this type. We assumed too much that they knew what they were doing and it would work out in the end.
|New stainless steel solar panel mounts replacing the aluminum|
1. Getting new canvas.
2. Investing in design changes of dodger and bimini to suit our cruising.
3. Enclosure – Soooo nice
4. Enclosure with glass and screens. This is such a brilliant design. Thank you again to Caliber Chris.Summary - Now that it is over, we are very glad we made the investment in our new canvas. We love the design. The changes are working out well. The cockpit enclosure is awesome. First, keeping the bugs to a minimum. Second, keeping the elements (wind and rain) out.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
|Goofing around last winter with an old HAM mic - not connected|
|More of the same|
Here is the link to this mornings Sunday Cruiseheimers Net I checked in this morning so listen closely.
Oh and here's something interesting. Mid-day we were visiting with a dock neighbor about LED nav lights. I did my usual..."So, do you have a SSB?" He did. We told him that we are struggling to get the hang of it and really aren't hearing but maybe 1/2 with a lot of static. "Well, yeah. That is just the nature of it. Once my buddy and I had to use our Bahamas SIM card cell phones to call each other and stay on the phone for a long time as we dialed our SSB's together, trying to find a channel we could talk on and hear each other!" We are learning more and more that this is just how it is. While that makes us feel better that it's just not us or our SSB, it doesn't really give us a warm and fuzzy about the technology and reliability of it over all.
We are still trouble shooting the SSB trying to get better reception. Some days I hear about half of the boats checking in and net control. Other days I don't hear anything. Lots of cruisers have been trying to help with suggestions. Checking the connections and grounding was suggested by several people. Of course, but that is easier said than done. Checking the connection at the backstay antenna was easy as it's in the cockpit. "Yes, looks good." Checking the connection at the AT130 tuner is a totally different story. It's located in the far stern of our boat on the starboard side. The only access is through a very small hatch in the back of the aft cabin - the spare cabin. For fellow cruisers, you know what this means. For those that are not liveaboards, it's the storage area of the boat. We call it the garage on s/v Honey Ryder. Imagine you main breaker box being located in the very far corner of your garage or basement behind all the stuff you store in there. Now imagine it isn't just on a wall but in a secret compartment through a small opening. I honestly don't know how they got it in there originally. I suspect it was added as the boat was being built. Seriously, because the copper grounding strips are attached to the hull and partially painted along with the fiberglass.
|Tom on a previous project - access hatch in the background|
Anyway, in the battle to master the SSB, we needed to check that connection so last night after a fortifying dinner, we started the process. First we moved all the stuff out of our garage into the salon. Then Tom removed the panel. He could sort of feel the connection but he couldn't reach it to work. The hatch opening was too small. I was able to partially climb in through the hatch by putting one shoulder in at a time. It really would have been better to have a 10 year old at this point in the project. Where is the "Rent a Kid for Small Places" number when you need it! I keep misplacing that number.
|This hatch was our only way to access the AT 130 SSB tuner|
|It's the 3 tiered circle thing - it's actually cone shaped|
|Cooper ground connection|
|Connection at the top of the tuner|
Friday, October 18, 2013
|Another view from yesterdays trip to the top of the mast on s/v Honey Rdyer|
1.) They did not appreciate the Up the Stick workout yesterday.
2.) They think I am crazy for thinking I could do that when routine exercise on a daily basis has been missing for....er...months.
3.) They are laughing at me or would be if they didn't hurt too much to laugh.
4.) They are basically yelling at me today, letting me know "you are NOT as young as you used to be and even back in the day you could never get more than 1 1/2 ft up when you had to climb the rope in gym class. What were you thinking - Moron!"
On the plus side, we had the chance to spend the afternoon with another cruising couple. They picked us up at the marine in their rental car and we ran errands and then gorged ourselves silly at a lunch buffet. Super nice peeps so it was a lovely afternoon. That helped quiet my screaming muscles to some extent.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
This time it was on our boat s/v Honey Ryder. And this time I cranked myself up so to speak. There was no sit back and enjoy the ride this go around. I used our Mast Climber. If you don't know what that is, click here for a video demo. HOWEVER, it is not as easy as little Ms first time to try it makes it look. No way! Plus she only had to go to the top of the mast on an O'Day 26...not that that is not impressive but I am just saying there is a difference between the height of an O'Day 26 mast and our Caliber 40 LRC 58 ft mast.
Anywho....it's basically a climbing rig where you can step/stand yourself up the mast.
Then you stand up and move the rigging thing/carabiner (or whatever it's called) up the line above your head and then you repeat the previous step, raising your feet again and so on and so forth.
I think the video calls it leapfrogging up the mast. Yeah right! It is not easy.
First you are hanging on for dear life, gripping just as tight as you can. Second you really need to be somewhat flexible - I am SO not flexible - to raise your ankles up to your butt and your knees up toward your chest. It also helps to have good leg muscles. Ugh! Of course I was getting all twisted around in the various sides stays as I first went up. Then I had to maneuver around the radar dome - a.) not bang my head on it as I inched up. b.) not knock into it as I was next to it. c.) not kick it as I passed it. My ascent was very, very, very slow - 6" max at a time. A dock neighbor came over to see if we needed help and then to observe but he got bored at my snails pace and left. When I finally reached the top I discovered that we have two mast steps near the top of our mast - one on each side. Kewl! The starboard opened after a little wiggling and a tap. The port side wouldn't, even with a fair amount of banging. Crap! I had the Mast Climber rig/carabiner as high as it would go. I took my feet out of the foot rig and moved it up really high- basically right under my butt. Then I maneuvered my left foot over to the mast step and put my right foot back into the foot strap on the rig. My knees were basically up close to my ears - at least it seems like they were. For me that is near impossible but being 58ft above the deck of our boat attached only by a rope and webbing put a good dose of unknown flexibility into my system. No doubt fueled by a fair amount of adrenaline. I hoisted myself up in one big hurmph! I wrapped my arms around and over the top of the mast like I was hugging a long lost friend. Luckily I didn't knock anything loose in the process.
Whew - made it! I went up the mast to 1.) check our rigging and take pics. 2.) see what type of bulbs we have so we can get replacement LED bulbs. 3.) replace the windvane. Rigging looks great. Bulb would not come out but I got a pic so I know what we need. Old windvane base would NOT come off. I tried and tried. Twice I had to sit back down - which was very scary as I was sitting WAY back down and it felt like there was nothing there - like I was just sitting back into nothing. Three times I hoisted myself up to work at the top of the mast. Finally I was worn out.
But now I had to get back down. The process is supposed to reverse you down easy peasy. HA - bullshit! First I lowered the foot strap (remember it was really high up under my butt) but then I couldn't get my feet back in. I struggle and struggled. Finally I got them in the straps. Then I lowered the top rig down. Zoom - way down. Too far down. I was now squatting in mid air feeling like I was going to flip upside down. I didn't but it felt that way. Then I couldn't take enough pressure of the foot straps to release the lower foot rig. I was stuck. Like a cat up a tree...actually like a frog up a mast except a very weird looking, blond, frazzled frog. I finally raised myself back up enough to where I could take the pressure off the foot straps and lower that rig. I inched my way up the crazy mast, I don't know why I thought I could repel down in two and three foot chunks. I could not. That didn't stop me from getting stuck in the frog position a few more times. It was harder coming down that going up.
Despite having gloves on I manage two blisters on the my left hand and some deep gouges on my ankles from the foot straps.
I have no doubt a whole rash of bruises will start showing up tomorrow. But I did it. I went up and back all on my own. For the record I volunteered - Tom has done this once before ( much faster, much more gracefully). I think next time, we will let the neighbor help and I will just ride.