Monday, September 23, 2013

By the rockets' red glare

We are docked at the Harborview Marina in Baltimore, Maryland.  We had an excellent cruise here from Rock Point on Thursday, in perfect weather.  While we do enjoy remote anchorages, there is also something special about coming in to a busy harbor -- so many sights to see.  We had a fair amount of wind when we arrived, though, and it took me two passes to back into the slip.  I might actually turn the boat around today and put her nose-in, because we are facing due east at the moment and the afternoon sun is brutal on the aft deck.  Or maybe not -- we'll probably be more sociable if we can see folks walking the docks when we sit there.

Even though this is a fantastic spot, with lots of attractions a short walk away and even more accessible by scooter, water taxi, or the Charm City Circulator, we've been mostly confined to the boat since we arrived, trying to get everything squared away and ship-shape for our visitors and the show.  For example, when we arrived, the faces for the drawers under the master berth were still sitting atop the guest berth. we still had water in the bilges from our cruise last week, and parts for a fuel-filter upgrade project were all over the engine room.

I figured I had enough time to get all this done, especially having moved our arrival up one day, but of course I did not count on the "extra" projects that would land on my plate.  It is said that cruising simply means working on your boat in exotic locations, and it was inevitable some things would break while we are here.

Once we were docked, signed in, hooked up, and settled, one of our first orders of business was to unload the scooters, so we can have wheels while we are in town.  I had ordered some brand new hoisting tackle for the scooters, which was waiting for us when we arrived, to replace the jury-rigged setup I had cobbled together at Home Depot.  The new tackle, from McMaster-Carr, involves a rated nylon lifting sling, a pair of rated aluminum carabiners, and a stainless steel O-ring, the weakest link in the setup at 750 pounds WLL (the davit itself is rated for 800, and the scooters weigh less than 300 apiece).

The new tackle worked like a charm, and we were easily able to get the scooters right to the lift point from their chocks without any excessive jockeying.  Lifting them without first moving the tender back was tricky but do-able, however in the future I think we will slide the tender back a foot first.  Their positions on deck determine the lifting order, and my (slightly larger) scooter went down to the dock first.

I had Louise's scoot in the slings and was adjusting the O-ring position for a level lift when the davit decided it would no longer go up -- only down.  I could hear the solenoid clicking, but the motor was not budging.  Louise was already on the dock, ready to take the tag lines, and I had the scooter balanced precariously after having unloaded the tension on the lifting line, with no way to take up slack.  Eventually we got the bike unhooked and put it on its side stand over a piece of plastic decking so I could work on the davit.

I should not have been surprised, given that the controller connector had previously crapped out already, and I had noticed that the manufacturer had chosen to use solenoids rated for indoor use in this fairly exposed application.  It took me the better part of three hours to remove the solenoid pack, dismantle it, test each solenoid (both were working), and clean the corrosion off every terminal and bridge bar with a combination of bastard file, emery cloth, and wire brush.  I found the ground terminal to also have been hooked to the wrong place, although the davit seemed to be working that way up to now.

Once I had them all cleaned up and the solenoid contacts exercised a bit, it all worked fine when I got it back together.  Only later did I discover that we actually have a spare solenoid and bridge bars aboard, which is good to know for the next time, but I am glad we did not need them.  Better late than never, we resumed the hoist, albeit in more wind than when we had started.

Wind notwithstanding, we got Louise's scooter safely down to the dock.  As she was unhooking the hoisting tackle, though, the steel O-ring jumped out of her hand.  Being completely round, it rolled right off the dock and into the 25'-deep harbor, never to be seen again.  It cost me less than five bucks, so no big deal, and I will replace it with a pear-shaped lifting ring to avoid this problem in the future.  This latter item does not come in stainless, but the galvanized ones have higher ratings anyway, and will slip less on the sling.

We pushed the scoots to the parking lot, which is a long way down the pier and around the corner, where they are securely chained up.  Our marina pass includes parking and we have a gate key for the lot.  As yet, we have not had a chance to go anywhere with them, but Louise will probably go out for groceries later today.

Not that we haven't left the boat.  We did manage to get out, at least a little ways, for dinner each night since we arrived.  So far we've had burgers at the Tiki Barge at the end of the dock (a great drinking venue but we'll probably not dine there again), Cuban food at Little Havana just down the street (the joint behind which we were parked in Odyssey when we were here two yeas ago), light fare at Cafe Sorso in the marina building, and last night we walked to Porter's a few blocks away, a place we also remembered from our last visit.

Once we had the forward stateroom cleaned out, we decided to use the forward shower for the first time since Captain Chris was aboard back in February.  We'd made some changes to the drain system in there while we were in the yard, and a few days ago I repaired some damaged trim and re-caulked, and we wanted to give it a test before our guests arrived.  Good thing we did.  No hot water.

We fell back to the master shower and I set about to trace (again) all the water lines to the shower to make certain the vinyl hose that carries the water the last dozen feet had not gotten pinched somewhere during the copious yard work in the area.  This involved pulling up carpets, opening bilges, and unscrewing access panels in the forward stateroom.  I found no obvious problems.  I did remember reading that the previous owner had exactly the same problem early on, which turned out to be the shower valve itself, and a bit of research revealed these valves to be notorious for blockage due to calcium (hard water) deposits.

With no way (yet) to isolate this shower from the rest of the water system -- one of my many long-term project goals -- we opted to defer the repair to the next morning when we could run out for a new valve if needed.  Again another unplanned three-hour project, but I was able to remove, disassemble, clean, reassemble, and reinstall the existing valve with good results.  I was fortunate to already have the correct size O-rings on hand for the rebuild in my little O-ring kit.  I think the culprit in our case was rust, not calcium, which had worked its way into the valve from the steel piping upstream.  I am constantly removing rust particles from the faucet aerators, and I look forward to the day when I pitch the last galvanized water pipe overboard.

I think we are finally ready for guests, and our good friends Martin and Steph arrive this evening.  They will be staying with us through Sunday morning when they return to California.  In a surprise last-minute development, our other good friends Ben and Karen will be joining us on Sunday for the final day of Trawler Fest and we will host them for cocktails aboard and perhaps even have dinner with them.  Other commitments preclude it being more than a day trip for them on this visit, but at least they will get to see the boat.

Last night we were treated to a fantastic fireworks display a mere 500' away, at the Museum of Industry.  I'm not sure what the occasion was, as I could not find it listed anyplace, and the Notice to Mariners only reports time and location for such events and not purpose.  With such a long display so close, the cats were shell-shocked for a good half hour or so, and Louise, who was testing the forward shower at the time, missed most of it.  The lone fire truck and crew sent to babysit the operation looked bored; I suppose 200 years of fireworks over Baltimore harbor has the locals blasé about it.

Unfortunately, last night I also spent two hours wrestling with the inverter.  I've written here that we have been having lots of trouble with the batteries and the inverter has not been keeping them charged.  The batteries are shot, and the battery condition itself was the primary factor implicated in the problem, or so we thought.  But now that we are at the dock and have AC power available full time, this should all be moot.

So when the house DC voltage started dropping even while plugged in full time, I finally knew for certain that we had a charger problem independent of the marginal batteries.  Over the past two weeks I have tried every possible combination of master resets, full reprograms, multiple settings, and even removing batteries from the system, to no avail.  Some Internet research turned up a few folks who had similar problems that turned out to be loose connections on one of the control boards, and so after dinner I opened up the case and systematically removed and reinstalled every jumper and connecting wire on the suspect board.  I did find one wire to be quite loose, and so far the charger now seems to be working normally after getting it all back together (minus the cover, until we're certain).  Only time will tell, but I hope to have the unit buttoned back up before we do any engine room tours.

This morning we were treated to the arrival of the liberty ship John W. Brown under power of a trio of tugboats.  The Brown will be our classroom for the next five days, and our dining venue for part of that time.  It is tied up at the pier where were were parked two years ago; ironically, we'd have a much shorter walk had we arrived in the bus.

I expect this will be my last post here until after Trawler Fest, or about another week or so.  Trawler Fest segues into the MTOA rendezvous, but I will try to squeeze in an update somewhere in the middle if I can.


  1. Yea Sean bow in tell them you just mighty want to be left alone, but I know what you mean about that sun. Thank God it's not Aug with 95' and 80% humid .....

  2. I've had the opportunity to watch 4th of July fireworks from the Museum of Industry - it's a great venue for the show. The museum itself is also worth a visit.

    Sorry to hear you're having electrical challenges. The popular solderless spade connector is convenient and cheap, but unsupported versions don't hang on all that well in vibrating environments - particularly for high-current connections. Is dielectric grease an appropriate way to prevent connections problems like you saw with the davit?

    I'm hoping to be able to stop by the Trawler Fest on Saturday, likely with kids in tow - and hope to have the opportunity to meet you in person!

  3. I did indeed visit the Trawler Fest yesterday, Saturday the 28th. My apologies for not creating a proper plan to visit you: Knowing I was limited by kid schedules, I winged it. It was great to see Vector, even just a view from the main pier. I was able to bring one son, and we were particularly pleased to get a long detailed tour of Liberty Ship John W. Brown. My son really enjoyed an up-close look at the triple expansion steam engine. I had hoped to stumble into you in the movement between the classes on the Brown and the later reception, but it wasn't meant to be. I hope you've enjoyed the Trawler Fest and your visit to Baltimore!

  4. Well Sean, I don't know if you two are crazy of not, but. Being I guess significantly older than you, 76, I would be nuts to do what you're doing. What really is somewhat concerning are the repairs you have done to both of your rigs over the rigs to keep them from falling apart. Frankly, if you plan to take the trawler over the Atlantic, etc., I would think about it several times no matter what condition you think it is in. Seems as if you are always having problems. Boat yards are hard to come by in the middle of some ocean I'll bet. No, I think we'll be happy with a property that stays in one place in the Saguaro Coop and be happy. Even sold the relatively new 40 foot diesel, bought an in place 5th wheel with a casita and went down to a class C 31 foot Winnebago for traveling. You guys can enjoy the adventures traveling and keeping your gear running from day to day. Sorry my friend, that doesn't sound much like enjoying life to me. At least any more.
    Good luck to both of you guys. Will be watching. Regards, Ed Thomas


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