Saturday, April 8, 2017

We are back in the water!

It's been quite an eventful three weeks since my last post. As predicted, they rolled Vector out of the paint shed the very next day, and spotted her in the yard close to the office. There, the crew began the long process of reinstalling all the deck hardware that had been removed ahead of the painting project.

Vector emerges from the paint shed into daylight for the first time.

Friends Cindy and Jeff from the North Shore dropped by for dinner and a final visit later in the week; we had a great meal at Ruths Chris out in Metairie, and Jeff brought our coolant pump with him. You may recall his shop rebuilt the pump for us a short while ago.

We remained in the RV that weekend, as the deck finish still needed to cure completely and we also did not want to be running gray water overboard until we were certain the hull paint was ready for it. When the yard gave us the go-ahead later in the week, we began the lengthy process of moving back aboard.

Rolling away from the shed en route to a position in the yard.

When we moved off the boat into the RV, the boat was still in the water, and getting ourselves and our gear off was a simple matter of stepping across to the dock. The reverse was not also true -- after wheeling each cartload over to the boat, we had to hand-carry items up a straight ladder to a side boarding gate. Normally when we are on the hard we board via the swim platform, but this was removed for painting and had not yet been reattached.

Vector on the hard. Note the straight ladder we had to use to board.

With brand new paint on the hull and decks, we were extra careful with each load. We left some of the heavier items with more damage potential, such as the rebuilt coolant pump, at the RV until the boat was back in the water. But all of the essentials of our daily lives made it aboard across two full days of schlepping.

One of the subjects we've been dealing with as our time on the hard wound down was what to do about the bottom paint. We now use a hard bottom paint, which we had applied back in May of last year at Snead Island. That paint should last well past a full year, and as much as two years in our usage. But it does not like to be out of the water for more that a day or two; after a month on the hard, the paint can "passivate" and needs to be reactivated by light sanding.

When we looked at the cost of sanding alone, the stock price of a full bottom job was not much more, and so we had all new bottom paint applied. We've switched to Trinidad, which is probably the best bottom paint for our type of use. It was a very reasonable add-on to the entire project and did not really impact the schedule at all, as it was applied while the hardware was still being reinstalled.

Meanwhile, I spent some time back in the yard's workshop, where they had stored our freshly galvanized anchor and chain, adding a dozen feet of 3/4" triple-strand nylon line to the bitter end of the chain. That's enough so that if we have to jettison the anchor (again!), the end of the chain will run all the way past the gypsy and the line will be accessible on deck to be easily cut.

In order for the line/chain connection to pass through the gyspy, the line needs to be spliced directly to the last link in the chain using a "chain splice." My marlin-spike skills are amateur at best, and the ancient line we had aboard for the purpose is stiff and difficult to work. I spent hours where a pro would have spent minutes. But I was able to execute a splice that will hold the boat and also pass through the windlass, as well as another splice on the other end to the shackle that secures it to the boat. That one was less elegant but needn't pass through anything.

Louise holds up the chain splice before I smoothed it out a bit and trimmed the tails with my hot knife.

The yard finally moved the anchor and chain over to just under our bow roller literally the day before our scheduled splash. We spooled all the chain into the locker, ensuring that none of the links was fused to another (a sometimes-consequence of the hot-dip galvanizing process) and that it all fed through the gypsy properly. We connected the anchor with a brand new hammer-lock type connector, one of two spares I had aboard, and decked the anchor.

Well, we tried, anyway. The new connector promptly jammed in the newly-remade roller carriage. I knew that with the thicker steel, there would be nearly a quarter inch less width in the carriage but I did not think that would be more than a bit of a scrape, but this was a full-on jam. After a bit of study we determined the new connector is also a good quarter inch wider than the old one. I used a bearing press to remove it and we put the old one back on, using zip-ties for the retaining collar, to at least get the anchor aboard.

We then spooled all 400' of chain right back out again, flaking it on the ground in loops of 50' each to paint the distance markers. We managed to get all the marks primed and painted just as the last of the daylight faded. The mad scramble to get it all done turned out to be for naught, as we ultimately did not end up splashing the next day anyway. But at least it was done, and in the morning we were able to bring it all aboard and get it out of the yard's way.

Painting chain marks. Red at 50, 150, and 250; yellow at 100, 200, 300, and 400 (end).

High winds and heavy rains had the yard virtually shut down for a full day, and we did not end up splashing until last Friday. First we had to be moved away from the fence so that the forklift could bring our swim platform into position to be attached. That process took longer than the yard anticipated, so rather than take the extra time it would take for Louise and I to install the rub strip around the swim platform, we had the yard do it. They also affixed the "staple rail" we had fabricated, something we've been wishing for since our first yard visit four years ago.

Attaching the swim platform and new staple rail.

While we were still hanging in the slings getting the swim platform touched up and the staple rail installed, the sign vendor arrived with our new "Vector" decals and hailing port, thus making us legal to get under way.

Last weekend we were exhausted from moving back aboard and getting ready to splash. We spent some of Saturday moving the last loads off the RV and onto the boat, now that it was in the water, and we took Saturday afternoon off and went down to the waterfront at Crescent Park. We were just cresting the iconic arched bridge over the train tracks when Carnival Triumph steamed past downriver on its weekly cruise from its New Orleans home port.

Carnival Triumph steaming past as seen from the top of the pedestrian bridge at Crescent Park.

After spending a little time in the park we strolled the French Market, had a beer on the sidewalk at one of the cafes, and ended up dining on the balcony at the very excellent Sbisa on Decatur street for dinner. A very lovely evening in the quarter on a beautiful day.

Sunday I cleaned out the workshop, and most days since, we've been focused on cleaning the boat and getting everything stowed. Friday the yard brought us all the gear we had them stow in the warehouse when we cleared off the decks, and this weekend we've been trying to get that all sorted and stowed back in lockers.

Splashdown, on the last day of March.

I did knock off one big project, installing an auto-retracting hose reel in the port Portuguese locker near the water fill. We've been using a hand-crank free-standing reel meant for garden use, and dragging it down from the boat deck where it's stored and onto the dock every time we need water has been a pain in the butt. As long as the lockers are empty and freshly painted we thought we could do better.

We ended up ordering this one from Amazon, a self-retracting 65-footer. None of the auto reels over about 25' (what we had on the bus) offers a potable-rated hose, but this one is clearly reinforced vinyl, and other than having mold-release compound in the hose when new, should be fine for our use. We ran a good bit of water through it full blast to clear as much release compound out as we could.

New auto hose reel mounted in locker, with room below for storage.

It took me a good couple of hours to get four holes drilled in the 1/4" steel bulkhead of the locker and thread all the hardware in. And I had to add quick-connect couplers at each end, since the reel is "backwards" for our use -- we need the free end to connect to a hose bib and the stationary end to connect to our fill filter. The quick-connects allow easy gender changeover at either end.

Back in the water with her name on the transom. Still stowing gear, on dock.

This week I also made two trips to a local rigging suppler until I could source a replacement hammer-lock connector the same dimension as the one we removed. It's still a tight fit -- the old one was worn down -- but much closer than the one that jammed immediately. At some point I'll need to go over the side with my Dremel and ease the guide plates where the connector passes through.

The other trip I made was to a marine machine shop across town, to try to have the new hawse pipes cut down properly. They allowed that they could do it, but the CNC mill needed was booked out for two weeks. Instead we asked the yard to make HDPE spacers for the pipes to mount them as-is; it looks a little hokey but is serviceable.

New hawse pipe and cleat just abaft the Portuguese bridge.

In the middle of the week we had a terrible windstorm. With most of our lines still in storage, we did the best we could to secure Vector in her slip with what we had, but the wind overcame our limited spring lines and pushed us back into the dock, putting a scratch in the new paint on the swim platform. We'll have the yard touch it up before we leave.

With the RV now empty of our gear, we spent part of the week cleaning it up, and I spent a few hours re-wiring the electric element for the water heater to get the thermostat in the right place and the plug to an outlet on the interior. Previously the thermostat was zip-tied to the TPV and the cord hung down outside the RV. I also glued two loose window handles back in place.

Most of the Mardi Gras beads went to recycling as we cleaned out the RV. Our scooter bears are still quite stylish wearing theirs, though.

Today we took the rig to the RV park next door to empty the tanks and then we gassed it up just in time for our friend Pat to come down and pick it up, along with her son and grandson. We all had a nice lunch at iconic BBQ shack The Joint in Bywater. It was very generous of Pat to lend us the rig and I was happy to fix a few things on it for her. The yard charged us $600 for two months of parking and utilities.

This is our second weekend back in the water, and I hope our last in New Orleans. Tomorrow we might go down to the quarter to catch part of the final day of the French Quarter Festival. Monday and Tuesday I expect the yard to wrap up final touch-up on a number of paint issues, and if all goes well, we might be under way as early as Wednesday.


  1. The boat looks very shiny but - I'm sorry - that splice is butt ugly. That's one picture that should never have hit the interweb.

    1. Thanks, Bob. I love you too ;-)

      Seriously, I did say that 1. My marlin-spike skills were bad and 2. The line we used was very hard to work. My splices on fresh new line look much, much neater. Also, the one this replaced (we threw away the old bitter end I made four years ago) looked much, much nicer -- I was trying hard to do a good job and I nicely tapered it all. But this thing sits at the bottom of an 1,100-pound pile of chain for it's entire life, and I just need to know a lot more about who's going to be impressed before I was ready to invest and more effort in it. So long as it passes the gypsy, I'mm good.

  2. Replies
    1. Can't have a thimble on a chain splice. You have to splice the strands directly to the last link of chain. Otherwise it will jam in the gypsy.

  3. Replies
    1. I removed these two comments. The first was, basically the instructions for how to do the chain splice that I did. Those are widely available on the web and do not need to be repeated here. The second was irrelevant to the purpose of adding line to the bitter end, which is a safety valve in case the chain needs to be cut away.

  4. This is the first time I've visited your blog (I've been following Louise's for a while now). What a great way to keep a record of where you've been, what has been done, where it was done, and when. Congratulations on being back in the water and underway once again.

  5. Well, that splice looks good to me - not that I am an experienced splice maker - and difficult to do. Like macrame on a giant scale??? Nobody is going to be going off with your chain.... so don't let anyone pull it either!
    I love your life on the water....

  6. I've been reading your blogs many many years. Always interesting and I have learned a lot about many things. Thanks for an always interesting blog. And I always read all the technical stuff for Vector and for the bus when you all were rving. In MHO not all functional things have to be beautiful! Keep up the great job. Safe travels.

  7. Sean, I am awed and amazed at all you have to know how to do to live the way you and Louise do. Fascinating stuff!

  8. Yay for being back in the water and 'home'! It was certainly a lot of work for the two of you. Looking forward to hearing about your future adventures on Louise's blog. Enjoy your week!

    1. Ditto!!!! Congrats. I think your splice is one made with heart and exudes a wonderful sense of character!

  9. well done on that splice - it is difficult and I think anyone calling it butt ugly has probably never tried t do it. I have so know it isnt easy but its functional so who cares - it works. well done

  10. Sean, I've hopped over to read your bog posts now and again, I've been following Louise's blog for quite some time.
    I love to read about your life "on the ocean wave" and all the maintenance you carry out yourself. The splice looks good to me!!! Must be a hard job with that hefty rope.
    Pleased you're underway again now, enjoy!!

  11. Its been a long time since I've attempted a splice. :) Nice to stumble on your blog this morning. It's been a long time since we lived near the ocean and I miss it. We spent two years as lighthouse keepers in British Columbia many years ago.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!