Day 3: Cape May

We made it to Cape May. We dealt with the engine problem by just not using it (until the Cape May canal, of course, when it failed once…it was quick to restart).

I once heard it said that the Delaware Bay is not cruised, but endured. Truth. The sailing was spirited. The Mal de mer unwelcome. The weather forecast was East winds 5 to 10 knots. My anemometer is not working; but the good folks at Utsch’s Marina (our home for tonight) told us that the wind was around 30 knots and everyone was getting beat up. I suppose we feel better knowing that we weren’t alone.

Still, we sailed fast. We remained safe. And we are going to sleep real well tonight.

Tomorrow I’m going to try and get a diesel mechanic to help me locate the problem with the engine. Air is getting in somewhere. I’m sure, given time, I could find the culprit. But it is time to stop mucking with the beast and for us to get on with the trip. So far it’s been too much worry and work. Hopefully, sometime tomorrow we will depart for Martha’s Vineyard. It’s time to start enjoying the cruise.

2014 Cruise, Day 2: Through the C&D

I’m tired. I’ll write this quickly while everything is fresh in my head; but coherence may suffer tonight…

For those boaters with reliable engines, I have three words for you…

I. Hate. You.

Really.

No, not really. I am however a little envious.

Today we made it through the C&D canal. The engine only failed twice, or maybe three times, going through the canal. At one point we were about to go under a bridge, which was a little dicey. But I am getting really good at bleeding the engine and can usually get it running within a couple of minutes.

On the way into the canal we were beset by forty or more high performance boats zipping out on a poker run, with spotter helicopters chasing from probably thirty feet off the deck. Woke us up for certain.

We did get waked pretty bad by an inconsiderate family in an overpowered cruising boat. We probably rolled thirty degrees port to thirty degrees starboard a dozen times. Anything not strapped down (and a lot wasn’t…we were in the canal, not open water after all) was thrown across the cabin. A bottle of blueberry juice was amongst the litter. The juice sprayed across the entire cabin, including the ceiling. We were annoyed.

Happily, the rest of the canal was a pleasant experience. Unhappily, it is really hard to talk about things that are boringly pleasant. Clearly, bad news is more interesting.

Our intent today was to stop behind Reedy Island (on the Delaware River) for the night. We got there so early, though, that stopping just seemed silly, so we decided to keep on going to shorten what would otherwise be a very long leg to Cape May.

I’ve been spoiled sailing the Chesapeake. I forgot about currents. The Delaware River was at times running north of two knots against us. It didn’t turn to our favor until late in the day. This made progress slow. With light winds, and a fluky engine, progress was really really slow. By 18:00, the wind had filled in a bit, and the tide had turned so when the engine next failed we just decided to leave it off and deal with it in the morning. Around 20:30 we made it to our home for the night, the rather exposed, but adequate Cohansey Cove. We anchored (under sail) on the eastern side to protect ourselves from the expected NE winds. So far it seems fine. I let out lots of scope on the anchor, just in case.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to make another attempt at figuring out what is going on with the engine, and then we are off to Cape May.

2014 Cruise, Day 1

Day one on our trip north, after a one day late start…

This morning I awoke at 6:30, jumped in the car, and got to the Yanmar dealer in Annapolis just when they opened up. I got the stupid bleed screw back to the boat, a quick engine repair, water tank fill, and ice replenishment later, we left the dock right around 10:30 AM.

Around 10:50 the engine died.

Tightened things, re-bled the system, and we were underway before long.

Not far from Pooles Island, the engine died again.

Frustrating, to be sure. So, we check the fuel system front to back and notice a lot of gunk in the Racor prefilter’s water separator. Oddly, when I was doing engine maintenance in prep for this trip I didn’t change this filter out (I’m not sure what I was thinking), so a quarter mile from Pooles Island it got done. And the engine worked!

Mostly anyhow. Periodically during the day the engine would lose RPMs, and after a few minutes would start running OK. Not too far from our anchorage for the evening the motor did slow enough to stall out. I bled the system (I’m getting really good at it…it took less than three minutes and I’m sure I can cut that in half), and the engine worked perfectly for the rest of the day.

We are now happily anchored in a little cove called Veazey off of the mouth of the Bohemia River, a short trip to the C&D canal. Lauren is making dinner as I type. I’m thinking a little swim might be in order later.

But what about tomorrow? We must transit the C&D under power.

I think we are going to go for it. What ever the problem is, bleeding the system seems to make the engine run fine. At least for awhile. Air is getting in somewhere (I suspect through the fuel filter…perhaps it needs a new O-ring), and I swear I’ll find the culprit eventually. In the meantime, if we need to do a fire drill every few hours I think we’ll be fine. Honestly, at this point I think we can bleed the fuel system before we lose steerage.

Not ideal, maybe; but that is what adventure is all about. Over coming obstacles.

Spot Connect

I have a SPOT Connect device:

It’s a clever little variant of the SPOT Tracker device that allows not only tracking, and sending check-in/I’m Ok and Help messages, but very short text messages (43 characters, as I recall) as well when linked to an android or iPhone. I bought it a couple of years ago when I was first planning on sailing to Martha’s Vineyard in my little Seafarer 24. Finally, hopefully, in a few days I’ll be able to put it to its’ intended purpose as Lauren and I are planning on departing Thursday for a month-long cruise to southern New England waters. My SPOT tracking page is here. I’ll also have it updating Twitter (@b29seeker), which I may add to the sidebar here.

SPOT is pretty cool. But I also find it horribly frustrating. A public SPOT forum doesn’t appear to exist where the developers pay attention to users, so I thought I’d throw my list of gripes here.

  • The shared page will only hold a maximum of SEVEN days worth of check-ins. Seven days? I can’t contemplate a real reason for this very, very short limitation. Presumably, a great many SPOT users are using it for more than just an afternoon or a weekend at a time. I’d like to see them hold the data for at least a month, better a year, and best forever (or until I delete it). Each check-in is very small. Online storage is cheap. I can think of no practical advantage to such a short retention time, and lots of reasons for much longer retention times.
  • The findmespot.com web page is kludgy. It is hard to navigate. It is SLOW. Logged in IDs time out far too fast. Often times clicking on a link just never connects and it becomes necessary to try several times (often getting logged out in the process). This isn’t 1995. Upgrade your servers!
  • Tracking is frustrating. First, when you set tracking it only runs for 24 hours before it must be reset. Second, I believe if you have tracking set it will automatically send a signal every 10 minutes. This is way too often for a sailboat. For hikers it is way, way too often. It just clogs up the tracking page, and burns batteries. Happily, this has been apparently corrected in the Gen3 Spot where it is now selectable at 2 1/2, 5, 10, 30, or 60 minutes. I would like to see a completely customizable setup; but this is much better than it was. Apparently it also only sends a tracking signal when it detects movement and it no longer has the 24 hour restriction. Much better. I don’t see a gen3 Connect with this feature, yet, though. I keep hoping a software update will come along and fix it. If not, this change in feature alone might be enough to get me to change to a regular gen3 SPOT at some point.
  • Sending messages could be improved a bit. The communicator seems to work fine for sending messages when linked to a bluetooth enabled phone. However, what happens if the phone goes swimming, or otherwise dies? There is an SOS button on the Communicator. In the next version I would also like to see a check/in button, and maybe even the custom message and tracking buttons that exist on the regular SPOT. The cell phone is fine and dandy; but now there are two points of failure. Not good. I’d hate for people at home to panic unnecessarily just because my phone died and I couldn’t send I’m Ok messages or restart the tracker after 24 hours.
  • And speaking of bluetooth…My laptop has bluetooth. Why isn’t there software so that I can control the Spot Connect from my laptop? Seems obvious.
  • For reasons I can’t figure out, even though I’ve configured it over and over, my updates just aren’t ending up on Facebook. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was a Facebook issue, and they are just blocking the messages as unimportant or something. Pisses me off, though, as I’ve spent too much time trying to get it to work.
  • An API would be nice so that it could be nicely integrated with WordPress and other software. Just a small request. It would be nice to be able to display the tracking map right here in this post.
  • It would also be nice to be able to track someone using an Android/iPhone app, instead of having to go to the shared web page.
  • I hesitate to add this since it isn’t SPOT’s fault; but if anyone is reading this list and contemplating getting one of these devices they should be aware that there are some dead spots in the world. It is a limitation of the satellite network that they use. Most of the world is covered, though. If you are planning a sail to the South Pacific or something, though, you might have a problem. Their current coverage map is here. There are some alternatives that use the world-wide Iridium satellite network; but I believe they are more expensive. Use what works best for you.

Otherwise, it is a neat device. I’m looking forward to using it for real on my upcoming trip.

 

Essay on bright work

One of the complaints I’ve heard of regarding the Bayfield 29 is that there is too much bright work to take care of. I don’t know that it is too bad. Bow sprit platform, rub rails, hand rails, eye brows, companionway trim, cap rails, and taffrail. Sounds like a lot; but most of the pieces are easy to deal with.

Still, the complaint rages on. I’ve been slowly moving around taking care of the previous owners neglect, and just completed the first coat on my cockpit wood (rough shape, hasn’t been touched since I bought the boat). I think I have the solution to dealing with the bright-work with a minimum of pain.

First, if you don’t already own your boat, buy one where the trim wood is in rough shape. Not fall of the boat rough, but former finishes are flaking off rough, or at least where the bright-work is not actually all that bright. This is helpful in that it works to set up realistic standards. Buy a yacht with gleaming varnish and you will feel honor bound to maintain it. THAT is a pain, and takes away too may good sailing days, and I’m certain what the above complainers are talking about. Skip that altogether.

Second, when you scrape off the old junk (the first time will be a bit unpleasant; but get into a rhythm and hopefully you can get it done it a day or two) don’t worry so much about bringing it down to bare teak. If you want a perfect job, perfect prep is important. Lower your standards to “good enough” and the stress is significantly reduced. If the old varnish doesn’t want to come off the wood, why fight it? Get a good scuff on it and move on.

Third, skip the traditional varnish altogether, which seems like way too much work. I’ve been using Cetol. The original, orangish version. The darker tint I suspect helps with UV protection. But even if it doesn’t, it seems to work toward evening out mismatched wood. It’s also easy to apply and long-lasting. I’ve heard complaints that it isn’t as pretty as regular varnish. Well, boo hoo. I’d rather be sailing than messing with it constantly.

Fourth, don’t worry too much about the instructions on the can. Oh, sure, if you want to do the best job possible I would follow the instructions to a T. But my standards have already been lowered. Besides, it’s not easy finding a day with no rain, proper humidity and temperature, but just cloudy enough to keep the boat out of direct sunlight (or at least early in on a morning without dew). You want the best job, I think you need to apply inside a shed. Forget best, and go with good enough.

Fifth, keep up on it. This is not a big deal as Cetol seems to last pretty well. Once a year scuff it up with a Scotchbrite pad, dust it off, and reapply. The whole boat can probably be done in a single day.

Sixth, go sailing and don’t worry about it again until next season.

Lower your standards. If it looks halfway decent from a boat length away, I’d say you are doing pretty good.

Spring is here. Time to get to work.

My God, what a long, miserable winter. But it’s over. Well, mostly. It is going to approach freezing overnight for a night or two later this week. For all intents, though, it does appear to be done. And not a moment too soon.

Lulled into some carelessness by the recent mild winters, I was planning on spending several nights every week aboard, and figured with a little heater running I didn’t need to winterize the fresh water system. Bzzzz… Wrong answer. It got cold enough to not only freeze the water; but bust the water pump.

This weekend, finally, I replaced the electric pump. I also installed a backup manual foot pump and faucet. A new inline filter is in place leading to the pressure galley faucet (I wanted the filtered water to go everywhere; but the plumbing system was turning into a spaghetti like nightmare, so I simplified it). It all works very well. In fact, the foot pump is so effective I sort of regret keeping the pressurized system. Ah, well. It’s in now. Removing it might simplify the water system; but it would do nothing to simplify my life, so it stays.

Unfortunately, just when I was testing all the systems I discovered that the Head sink faucet (an old, brittle, plastic thing) had cracked as well. I guess I’ll replace that at some point, though the head sink doesn’t get a tremendous amount of use.

This weekend also saw the recommissioning of the engine. Truly, it is much easier to restore it to service than it is to winterize it. Still, it is a relief to see it running.

The sails come back from the sail loft next week, all fixed and clean. At that point, while many projects remain (as always), I can go sailing.

I. Just. Can’t. Wait.

 

Winter Solstice

It’s officially winter. Yay. Notice the exclamation point on the banner. That means I love this time of year.

Except, of course, I’m lying.

I’ve got the worst case of self diagnosed SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It’s unseasonably warm this weekend, which is nice, but not enough to shake me out of my funk. I really, really want to head out on an adventure. This would be the perfect winter weekend to make a break for warmer climes. Alas, the bank account is a bit anemic and I’m going to have to keep working for a while longer.

Perhaps I need a project. Something to achieve. Being as I own a boat, there is no shortage, of course. I just need to get off my tail and begin. I’m thinking the modification to the cabin table is the right place to start. The table takes up a little too much room, so needs shortening. Thinking about that makes me just a little happier.

The good news: today, being the shortest day of the year, also marks the return of sunshine. Just a little more daylight every day from here on out. In a little over three months, early sailing season should begin. And that really will warrant an exclamation point.

Water

I have tankage for twenty gallons of water on board Seeker. Frankly, that isn’t a lot for the extended sailing I have planned and I hope to augment that in the near future. But, given that I have what I have, even on shortish week or two trips it is critical to conserve water.

Brita Water FilterNaturally, some water shouldn’t be conserved. It is important to drink plenty of water, especially in the warmer months. Many people do their drinking solely from disposable plastic water bottles, which is a great way of consuming good tasting, clean water. It’s also expensive and wasteful. Admittedly, I do do this; but I am trying to break myself of the habit. I have installed on the pressure water system a Brita filter which produces fine tasting water from my 30+ year old water tanks.

Pump up solar showerOther daily water uses can easily be reduced. Baby wipes are inexpensive, and wonderful for a daily sponge bath. They aren’t as nice as a real shower, of course; but they do greatly reduce the need of the daily shower dirt dwellers are accustomed to.

For an on-board shower I mostly use the Pump Up Solar Shower I found on Duckworksmagazine.com. I can either use it in the head (where I also can use the wasteful, and cold, pressure water shower), or on the deck. I sort of like to sit at the bow with my legs in the anchor locker and clean up there as the second best solution is the cockpit, which I’d much prefer to keep dry and comfortable. I fill this shower before leaving so as to not use the tank water, and find I can comfortably get several showers out of it. The black container also warms up in the sun which is nice. The portable nature of this shower also allows me to rinse off the boat and gear with it, or even dishes if I’m inclined to do them in the cockpit. A real bonus.

Speaking of dishes, I believe that doing them is one of the most wasteful uses of water.

Dish soap sprayer

A good way to save water while doing dishes

One solution to this that I found is to mix up some dish soap and water in a heavy duty spray bottle. A few pumps of the lever and the dishes are wet and soapy and ready for cleaning. One bottle lasts a really long time and uses hardly any water. I have been rinsing using pressure water; but I think a separate water only spray bottle would work really well. There is a minor issue with this method. on the bottom of the pickup tube there is a little plastic strainer that the dish soap seems to coagulate around. After a day or two it is necessary to pull the sprayer nozzle and tube and clean off this intake strainer, or the bottle just won’t pump. The strainer itself pulls off easy enough (at least in the bottle I have), so I removed it from mine and will see if the dish soap starts gunking up more important and less easily cleaned parts of the pump works. Either way, I definitely recommend grabbing a bottle or two.

Oh, and a word about pressure water: I’ve always bought into the common knowledge that pressure water equals waste. That may be true if you have dirt dwellers aboard, or maybe teenage girls or something. With a little care, however, I have found that it is real easy to use a miserly trickle of water. I still desire a manual pump; but more as a backup than to save water.

Coming soon eventually: more water tankage. I’m looking at installing a fresh water tank where the holding tank used to be. The holding tank was twenty gallons and ideally I could get the same for fresh water. Sadly, I can’t find an off the shelf thank to properly fit the spot so will likely end up with a smaller 13 gallon flexible tank in that area (that may or may not be able to be fully utilized). I suspect custom tanks would be too expensive, although I suppose I can look into building one myself. I’m also considering installing another twenty gallon tank under the starboard settee. I’m a little uncertain of this one, as I hate to take away too much of my limited stowage. But, I really hate having to dig under the settees anyhow, so maybe the compromise is worth it. I should still have a fair amount of stowage available. Upping my water tankage from twenty gallons to fifty would really extend my range.

Snow and the Chuck Wagon Boat

Today we got the first snow of the season, mixed in with a little sleet. The winter storm warning, or advisory, or whatever it is continues until ten AM tomorrow morning. I figure this is a good weekend to stay aboard!

Seeker in the snow

Seeker in the snow, 8 Dec 2013

I have completely fallen in love with my cockpit enclosure. Throw a little electric space heater in there (or, if away from the dock, a little propane catalytic heater) and it stays pretty comfortable even when the temperature outside falls well below short sleeve weather. Unfortunately, I’m pretty certain that it isn’t designed to withstand the weight of what winter has to dump. So yesterday afternoon I purchased some 1/2″ PVC pipe, and a 10′x16′ tarp, and built the little bowed shelter you see in the photo. Frankly, I was less than convinced it was strong enough, as it only has three bows along the ten foot length; but at least for this storm it is doing well. The snow and sleet just slide right off of it! Do to the geometry of the rig, it wasn’t easy to cover the aft part of the enclosure; but at least a ton of snow isn’t falling on the more vulnerable top.

I have to say, it was a pleasant day spent reading, listening to football games, and just generally screwing around out in the cockpit while watching the snow fall. While, given the choice, I’d prefer to find myself halfway to the Bahamas, if I absolutely must remain where winters get cold, this is the way to do it!

The brown tarp does impede the view out the sides of the cockpit; but I can enjoy the world fore and aft. Unfortunately, it does further complicate the already not so easy process of getting on and off the boat; but I don’t really see a reasonable solution. I take extra care as going for a swim this time of the year could well have unpleasant consequences.

I can’t wait for spring.

Tarp Label

Tarp label clearly states that it is not recommended to use tarp on automobiles

OH, and just for a little fun, I copied the labels that where on the tarp packaging. The label on the back clearly warns against using the tarp on automobiles. The eye-catching front label naturally shows the tarp wrapped around a … well, guess.

The photo on the unopened tarp package is of a wrapped up car

The photo on the unopened tarp package is of a wrapped up car