Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sea Trial

It took a good deal longer than I had guessed in my last post here, but we finally left the dock today under our own power.  I say "we," but Louise remained ashore as I took off on a three hour sea trial with two of the yard's most experienced technicians.  We still have no working bathrooms on the boat, and Louise had a rocky tummy this morning and was concerned about 3+ hours away.

Once again I am exhausted, and there has been no time to post here.  I did take a couple of hours out for a much-needed massage last week, but otherwise we have been working straight through since my last post.  I wrote then that we needed to resolve the trim issues before the engine alignment.  While Louise added that we got rid of the port list by moving fuel from the port wing tank down to the belly tank, we were still a good bit nose-up.  At least part of that was addressed by loading all 1,200 pounds of anchor chain back aboard, which, since the bow roller is still off, was accomplished with a forklift and manual labor.

At this point, though, we still had just the 200 gallons or so in the belly tank that had been in the port tank, and we had an unknown quantity of fuel in the starboard wing tank, possibly another 200 gallons.  That's a good 1,400 pounds or so aft of the center of gravity, and we needed to move it forward to see how we would lie.  We also needed to empty the tank so that we could clean the crud out of the bottom, inspect for rust, and spray it down with diesel before sealing it back up.

The fuel in the starboard tank has been sitting in there a long time.  We honestly don't know how long, or what else might be in the tank, and so I opted to move it to the center tank with the polisher rather than by gravity alone.  Right off the bat I managed to forget to open a critical valve, and the polisher quit almost immediately, sending me on a wild goose chase through Algae-X (whose name is on the polisher) and Reverso (who made the underlying guts of it) before learning that it probably just lost prime rather than sustained any real damage.

Several hours later most of the fuel was moved into the belly tank, and we were once again listing to port as depicted in the photo on my last post.  At least we now finally knew how the boat sat with both wing tanks empty, and we corrected a good deal of the nose-up trim this way.  Having paid the yard to clean out and spray down the port tank, I opted to do the starboard one myself, and I spent a couple of hours in the tank in Tyvek booties, with a blower supplying fresh air while I mucked it all out.  All things considered, it was really pretty clean -- we discarded only a couple of gallons of fuel and a couple of pints of crud.  When I was done I wetted the entire inside with a spray bottle of clean diesel before bolting the manhole cover back on.

Me in the starboard wing tank.  The pipe is actually a guide tube for a dip stick.  Yes, I can stand up in here, and it's 15' from front to back.

To get back to sitting level we now needed to add more fuel, and I ordered a truck to deliver it dockside -- with no working driveline, we had no way to get to a fuel dock.  Louise sat inside with a spirit level and I sat on the dock directly astern, and when we leveled out I ran over to the truck to see how many gallons it took.  It turns out that right around 215 gallons is what we need to keep in there for left-right trim, or around 1,500 pounds.  We had ordered a 300-gallon delivery, so we added the remainder to the belly tank, bringing it up to around 85% full, a good place to trim the boat.

I'm not entirely happy about having to carry an extra 200 gallons all the time just for ballast, but there is not much else we can do about it for the time being.  At some point in the future we can consider moving some of the existing lead forward and to the starboard, adding lead, or moving some other things around the boat.  Until then we will consider the 200 gallons our reserve fuel supply -- we can always opt to use it at the expense of a bit of port list.  And we'll need to be conscientious about rotating it out on a regular basis, so that it's not the same fuel in there perpetually, slowly getting stale.  Mostly that will mean draining it into the center tank at fill-up time, then replacing it with fresh.

It was past mid-week by the time we finished with all that and had the boat trimmed, and the engine alignment and connection of the propeller shaft finally happened at the end of the week.  We agreed to sea trial on Monday to check the driveline, with a mini haul out (where the boat never leaves the slings) set for Tuesday to install the line cutters.  When we made this decision Friday morning, however, we were not really thinking clearly about how much we would have to get done over the weekend.

It took the two of us all day Saturday to re-assemble both berths.  I had spent several hours earlier in the week cutting down all the cross-pieces of the master berth by seven inches, to bring it down to queen size, and Saturday morning we went into the shop and picked up the footboard, which their finish carpenter had cut down for us weeks ago.  But lots of other bits and pieces needed tweaking to get it all back together again, as now half the parts no longer lined up exactly.  On top of that, it had been so long since we took these berths apart, we could not remember the exact sequence we now had to reverse -- had we known it would be so long, we would have made a video, or at least taken better notes.

Between all the screws that went missing as the berth parts moved around the boat, and nearly a dozen new cutouts in the sole that needed to be screwed down, Louise had to run out to the hardware store mid-project to buy a hundred screws, a quantity we exhausted by the end of the day (on top of the hundred or so we still had on hand).  And we vacuumed and photographed every compartment before screwing the access panels back down.

Looking aft at the mysterious starboard bilge in the master stateroom.  Mostly inaccessible once the berth is in place.  The gray part that my wrenches are on is the top of the main fuel tank.

That left just Sunday to move everything back to the two staterooms that had been scattered all over the boat.  Still there were lots of things we could not stow in their proper places, because three of the doors are still off their hinges, two lockers have no doors at all, and lots of access is still required down below to finish up the waste system project.

In the course of getting all the "normal" gear stowed, I kept sweeping up tools and parts of half-finished projects, and by the end of the day the workshop, which is also the access vestibule to the engine room, was piled to the rafters with unsecured items.  By 9pm, when we still had not finished, I conceded defeat and sent the yard an email that we would not be ready for sea on Monday morning.  Thus the sea trial was postponed until first thing this morning.

It took all of yesterday to get the workshop back under control as well as secure all the loose doors and locker lids.  Some items got "stowed" by completing the projects to which they belonged; thus we now have working blinds on all the pilothouse windows, the work in the thruster bilge is complete, and various other loose ends were tied up.

Lots of other projects got done over the last week and a half as well.  In an effort to wrap up under the helm so I could re-stow all the safety gear, I ripped out the old and mostly crushed ductwork for the forward head exhaust fan and replaced it with sturdier stuff; that eventually entailed cutting through the bottom of the helm cabinet as well as the sole underneath it with an oscillating saw.  While I was in there I also spliced and ran the last meter of cable for the forward bilge pump, and installed an AC power outlet on the port side of the helm console, so we can plug in the cell phone and iPad chargers -- there was not a single accessible power outlet in the entire pilot house.

Having the two berths put back together and the stateroom contents back in place has made a huge difference on the boat.  The eight drawers from under the berths had been all over the boat, with some in the galley, some in the salon, and even some in the engine room.  We could hardly walk in some spaces, and we needed to move drawers out of the way to get to anything in the galley lockers.  Once the lazarette and flybridge lockers are finished, we can finally store all the outdoor gear that has been languishing on the decks as well.  Our new series drogue has been sitting in a cardboard box in the shop for weeks, and we'd like to get that aboard as well.

We can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Being able to motor away from the dock today was a huge milestone -- our first log entry since May.  Tonight we are back on the hard, as it were, sitting in the lift slings.  The line cutters are on, and they are finishing up drilling holes on either side of the anchor locker for direct overboard drains.  The anchor chain is back off for that process, and we had Line-X come out today to quote on spraying the inside of the locker with polyurethane coating to protect it from the chain.

Tomorrow we should be back in the water, and by next week sometime I hope to have working heads on the boat again.  When we finally wrap up here, I'll need a vacation.


  1. Wow! Quite an accomplishment to make so much headway in so many areas. Yes, I know: It wasn't supposed to be quite this involved, or take this much time. That just the way it can be with such projects. After watching you progress on Vector, I look forward to hearing about your future adventures in a dependable, properly sorted boat!

  2. Didn't Gilligan and the Minnow go out for a three hour trip???

    1. Yes, and the theme music did get stuck in my head as we headed out. Fortunately, the Minnow was not lost.

  3. I like your tone of voice young man! While the light at the end of the tunnel is certainly glowing, I noted that not once did you talk about making a deadline to be somewhere on the boat. I would call that 'healthy'. You're going to have plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. These projects somehow seem to have a much more permanent feel to them than those aboard Odyssey. It just seems there are a lot of them that if they are done right the first time, and properly cared for, that won't have to be redone in your lifetime. So what kind of vacation do you have in mind?

    1. I'm thinking maybe a few days at anchor, sipping cocktails on the aft deck, with no projects on the agenda at all. Tropical resorts are definitely not in the budget now until we recover from the yard bill; I expect our next tropical vacation will be in the boat. Y'all need to be thinking about when you can get away for a few days to join us...

  4. Sean, getting her going again has to feel pretty good even though a few things need to be finished up yet. You guys are "wearing me out" with all the projects you are doing, but you sure will have erased a number of potential problem you might have had down the road. We are "cheering you on", so if you happen to hear any virtual noise, that's it! Steve & Carol

  5. Congratulations Sean, and I look forward to reading of your travels soon. I have three comments and a question: 1. A great way to level the boat when fueling is to turn on the engine and stabilizers which lets the fin position show you when you are level according to the gyro. 2. If the dingy is off the boat, you will list a little to starboard. 3. You will be glad to have the 200 gallons starboard as a reserve on long trips and it's easy to transfer at each fueling.
    Q. How did you transfer fuel from starboard to center with the polisher?

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, John. The dinghy has been off campus now for two months, as one of the yard techs here is swapping the engine out for a smaller one. He's getting a 40hp out of the deal in exchange for his 25hp, but he's also doing all the work. We're not sure what it will weigh when we get it back, but I put a little extra fuel in the starboard tank to compensate for it.

      To answer your question, the polisher intake is actually in the pipe that brings fuel to the center tank from the wing tanks. There is a shutoff valve in that line between the polisher intake and the center tank, so I simply shut that valve, then opened the starboard outlet valve, and started the polisher. So it turns out to be possible to extract fuel from any of the three tanks with the polisher by opening and closing the right valves, but, of course, there are still only two choices for output -- center, or day. At some point I plan to add a tee to the day tank transfer line so I can instead send fuel to either wing tank. That will give me the ability to re-ballast the boat at any time, and also to empty the center tank for maintenance, if needed.

  6. So, how did the sea trial go? Did all systems operate as they should or are there a few more to-dos to add to your project list?

    1. The sea trial was strictly to check the driveline and the watertight integrity of the shaft and rudder seals as well as all the added through-hulls. All checked out fine, although the stuffing boxes for both the propeller and rudder shafts, of course, needed to be adjusted during the run. The shaft vibration we were experiencing at certain speeds is gone, and everything is much smoother now. We will have a more full-fledged sea trial at the final completion of the yard work to check all the other systems.

  7. Glad to read about the progress although your drive makes me envious since my project is still overwhelming and we do want to begin our travels. But reading yours gives me motivation. It's also infectious to read your tales and sense the excitement in your words as you near your journey.
    Have fun, travel safe and when you get time, keep the updates flowing. Hi to both of you from Pat.


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