We can’t believe it’s already September. Where did August go? Ours was filled with hard work, exhaustion, and lots of sweat. I spent my time cleaning 8+ months of stagnant environment out of the boat, taking inventory of what the previous owners left (which was a ton), provisioning for our adventure – i.e. purchasing all our food & supplies for ~3 months (much easier said than done), and stowing everything (an impossible task). Of course, we also started homeschooling. Eric, spent his time investigating every system on the boat…and each needed something – parts, love, a complete overhaul, a swift kick, or complete replacement. We’ve been told the first year of cruising is the most expensive. Holy smokes – we sure hope spending like this isn’t normal! Eric’s account of our first few weeks is WAY more entertaining than mine, so I’m handing off this month’s entry to him. Enjoy.
Now that we’ve made it to Florida, task one = get my truck out of storage (2003 ram 2500 diesel) and grab some stuff out of our storage trailer. The trailer is in good shape. The truck – not so much. I notice some rust on the hood when I took the cover off (no big deal) but when I hook up the batteries, the windshield wipers come on and will not turn off. So I start the truck and she fires right up…then the wipers turn off. Good. We drive almost 200 yards then hear this awful loud metal clanging sound. I pull over to find that the exhaust pipe has fallen off the truck and is now attached by one hanger. I remove the pipe and put it in the bed to find a dumpster later. Now I’m traveling with about 4’ of exhaust pipe after the turbo. It’s not that loud.
Week one on the boat starts the maintenance and cleaning. The days are long and the nights…not long enough, though the house we are staying at is awesome, we can’t thank the owners enough for letting us stay there! Most of the day is taken up with general checks on the systems, the rest is fixing the stuff I find. The batteries need 4.5 gallons of water…this is not good. The freezer is better at being a fridge. There are some toilet issues. For example, of the 4 we have on the boat, one seems to flood, one isn’t attached to the boat, one leaks through the motor, and one is OK. This is not ideal. The dingy that I had running in May isn’t working now. Again, not good. We have a plan to replace the forestay, but have run into some challenges. We tried using the windless to winch me up the mast, but the windless broke. This is a real problem because this is what is used to bring up the 88 pound anchor…so again…not good. It is beginning to feel as though everything I touch breaks.
Upon further investigation with the windless. When one pushes the up button, sometimes it spins up and sometimes it spins down. When I push the down button it does nothing. It also only runs for about 10 seconds then trips the breaker. Not good. I know the windless is controlled by a large relay, but I can’t find it. So…I pull the windless apart and start to trace everything back. It takes my big hammer and chisel to pull the chain drum off and I see a significant problem. The chain drum is held on the shaft by a key. Well someone in the past must have really F’d this thing up, because the key was bent, the two clutch cones were bent and the shaft for the key was bent. Not good. I went to get replacement parts and was told that the parts are special order from the factory and that the factory is on vacation for August. On vacation for August? Are you kidding me?!! F’n Italians. It would be about 8 weeks before the shop could get parts. Well…it’s not bent that bad. She’ll probably hold for the next couple of years as long as we don’t do something stupid, but the wiring has to be addressed. This means I have to shrink myself to trace the wires back through all the little holes that the boat has, or become a contortionist. I follow the cables into the chain locker, and while laying on top of the chain with the spare anchor trying to perform an appendectomy, I find that one of the windless wires was nearly cut through by the chain, and the other is corroded. Well that explains the tripping of the breaker. I also I immediately see a problem behind the remote controller. I don’t know if the previous owner had no idea about wiring, or if the electricians in the islands were bad, but either way, a muppet could do a better wiring job. On one wire there are three splices within a 9” span. Each splice runs the wire to a different gage and color wire. This is insane. Once the wires get to the relay controller, they don’t make any sense. There is a hot going to one side of the remote, and the other has no power. The hot return wire is bare. This is all crap and I have to sort it out. Three hours later, and a parts run, I have the windless wired up correctly and working. Unfortunately this doesn’t fix the mechanical issues, but that will have to wait.
Now, I can get back to the forestay. The standing rigging seems to be in good shape, but it’s original. The one cable that I can’t inspect is the forestay, so I figure as peace of mind, I’ll change it out. I go to loosen shrouds…holy crap they won’t move. I have two 12” crescent wrenches and can’t budge the turn buckle. Time for my daily trip to the hardware store – everyone there knows me by now. I need to find something for breaker bars. I get two 30” pieces of steel pipe. After three hours and only dropping one wrench into the water (and retrieving it), I have the shrouds loosened. With all these projects adding up, Kelly and I decide to hand this job off to the professionals. I call several riggers in the Ft. Lauderdale area and one actually calls me back. I learn these guys have recently changed out the standing rigging on our boat model, seem very knowledgeable and competent, so I hire them to change the forestay. Unfortunately the boat uses a special compressed strand wire for the standing rigging. I don’t really know what that means, but I find out pretty quick. The standard 1×19 stainless steel cable used on many boats is about $5/ft. but compressed strand wire is about $16/ft. My $1500 forestay replacement just went up to 3 grand! As luck would have it, while the riggers were up the mast they found a couple of fittings that were cracked. I investigate and yes, more of the rig will have to be replaced. Kelly and I talk about it and, the heck with it, we decide to replace all the standing rigging. And just like that, we are $13,000 poorer. I’m finding that when it comes to boats, you start to round the cost of things to the nearest thousand instead of hundreds. That being said, the riggers do a great job.
Now, back to the batteries. I’m concerned about how thirsty they are. We have 8 batteries, and four of them seem to be really hot, and need a lot of water. I put about a half gallon of water in each of the four this week. This is not good. As we’re now using the batteries more, and I’m fixing the refrigeration, two of the four batteries have started to smoke. They are boiling off water fast, and I can barely touch them. For clarification, this is really not good. This is also the last straw. I disconnect the four hot batteries. Everything seems to work fine, but I’ve lost half my power. Smoking batteries make me think that I may need to replace them. After a short discussion with Kelly that I want to replace the four bad batteries, she declares that she wants to replace all 8…so we compromise and replace all 8. In all honesty, one should always replace a full bank of batteries. So there went another grand…poof!
Fortunately as I was out finding parts for new battery bins, breakthrough! After having visited West Marine who sent me to Boat Owners’s Warehouse who sent me to a boat owner’s paradise called Sailorman. This place was awesome. They have all kinds of new and used items including…a newish windless that was perfect for us! I negotiated a price and the windless was done and done. One more problem solved.
Now, I finally get back to looking at the dingy. What a disaster. I previously charged the battery so that I could use the starter motor. I push the button and CA-CLICK. The flywheel doesn’t move. That’s strange, and after a couple more tries, there is no change. So I figure the starter is dying. I grab the pull cord with a curse. I yank on the cord and the handle rips from my hand. That stings. The motor Is seized up solid. Crap. I have no choice but to look at the pistons…off with the head. They don’t look all that bad, but it doesn’t take much. Ten minutes goes by as I flood the cylinders with Amsoil Metal Protectant Penetrating Oil and WD40 and grab the fly wheel trying to get it to turn. I can get the fly wheel to move about 10 degrees. Let’s see, one degree per minute at this rate I’ll have the engine free in 180 minutes. Three hours of this? Crap. I won’t have any fingers left! Fortunately it only takes about an hour of exhausting work to get the motor to free up. At this point it’s 7:30 at night and Kelly has brought the kids up to the front of the boat in an effort to limit how many curse words they hear…and I’m exhausted. I call it; and we head out to our borrowed house for the night.
The next morning I have new hope. All I have to do is get a head gasket, some fuel, and the dingy will be ready. It takes three phone calls to the local Yamaha shops to dash my hope. No one has a head gasket, and I have to get one online. Shipping will take another three days. We told the owners of the borrowed house that we would be out of there in two days. I’ll skip forward to finish this part of the saga. We ask to stay longer and get permission, the yamaha parts come in and we are rollin. I get fuel, install the new parts, torque the head gasket after the tedious task of cleaning the head and block. I pull the cord and this time it moves… Yeehaa! We are rollin. My jubilee lasts about 20 minutes until my arm starts to crap from pulling the darn cord so much, which kills the starter, and at the end of the day…the engine is still not running. I should have known better. After even more investigate work, and a a significant amount of carb cleaner, I learn that I need a carb rebuild kit. Luckily West Marine actually had one, so I’m off to get it. I rebuild the carbs and start to figure out how to get them dialed in. The engine cowling had some good info on it like where to set the idle screws. I set the screws to the identified 2-3/4 turns out. With completely unjustified optimism I put the carbs back on and try the engine. Nothing. I then start to back out the idle screws, and after another 20 minutes, I finally got it started…YEA! After testing the dingy, the only problem left is that the fuel pump doesn’t seem to work. As I drive I have to have the fuel bulb in my hand and give it a slight squeeze every 3-6 seconds. No big deal, I’ll call it working, for now. Let’s move on.
Kelly seems to think that one out of four operational toilets isn’t enough. These are simple things to fix, I may as well work on that next. The toilet that isn’t attached to the boat is up first. Some epoxy, new mounting bolts and that puppy is done. I need a rebuild kit for the one leaking through the motor. I call around and luckily West has some, they actually have three, so I buy them all. As I work through the boats sewage system I find that there is a significant legal problem. None of the toilets pump into the holding tanks. OOOH that’s bad, and legally questionable. I’ll need to address that. Hanging out in sewage for hours is not fun, but with only 4 or 5 trips to the marine store, I re-route the toilets to only go to the holding tank, from there we can purge when we are far enough out to sea. The flooding toilet I still haven’t fixed yet, but three out of four toilets is plenty. Moving on the the next project.
I think it would be a good idea to take a look at the life raft. My initial inspection revealed that the life raft had not been inspected since it was packed in 2003. I understand that they are supposed to be inspected at least every three years, so this one is a bit out. I find a place to inspect it and drive over. The technician comes out and immediately states that the raft is no good. He points out that there is rust coming out of the ignition point that is used to puncture the CO2 and inflate the raft. I’m skeptical and we decide to inflate the raft in the parking lot. The technician pulls the inflater cord and bam… nothing happens. We drag the raft by the ignition cord and still nothing. I pull the case off the raft and inside is a wet, rusty pile of rubberized raft. It’s a total loss. The CO2 tank is a rusted pile of scale, the flares are soggy cardboard shells, the emergency food is rust color packages of goo. So I buy a new life raft and just like that…another two grand…poof!
One of the major necessities of the boat is self sustainment. That means that we have to be able to make water. There is a water maker on board, but I don’t know if it works. I was optimistic before, but that has been mostly beaten out of me. While we are on the dock and have shore power I see if it works. I go to the breaker panel and turn on the “water maker”. It seams to power up the water maker control panel, and that’s where it falls apart. To save you from reading more heartache, we’ll fast forward a bit…after a lot of rewiring, a new inverter (3 grand – are you keeping a running total yet?), even more rewiring, new filters, a false start making stinky water, draining the tanks, filling up on water at a marina, and even more new parts…we should have clean drinking water…in a few weeks when I get a chance to install the new membranes. But everything is in order to get us moving out of Florida.
This post is about 2 weeks behind reality. We’ll fill you in on that adventure filled gap very soon, but wanted to thank the many who have reached out about the pending hurricane. We’re going to hang here in St. Mary’s, GA until it’s path is firmed up, then make a decision to continue on or stay and batten down the hatches. We’ve met some awesome people here and have learned of a good hurricane hole nearby. Right now it looks like we’ll stay here. We’re prepping the boat for the worst, which probably means we’ll get nothing – but we’re completely ok with it. Safety first. Rest assured that if the inevitable happens, we have a plan and will definitely play it safe.