Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tourism, Pride, and Wipers

I know you will find this hard to believe, after my last gargantuan post, but I actually left a project out of it for, umm, brevity. Instead I started another post (this one), intending to finish it in a week or two. But in an effort to not let things get so far behind again, and having accumulated a dozen or so photos, I decided to make some time and get it out sooner.

Before I bore everyone with project details, though, first an update on the goings-on of Vector's stalwart crew. As I mentioned in my last post, I was stag here for about a week, and while much of that time was occupied by projects like fixing the generator and putting the boat back together post-Irma, I did actually manage to get out and about a little bit.

Vector proudly wearing her new rainbow colors for Charleston Pride.

A search of "best places to dine alone" led me to a couple of new-to-me restaurants, including the rooftop patio at the Carolina Ale House across the street from Marion Square. After dinner there I strolled around the neighborhood, discovering a nice art supply store, a few more eateries, and the Holocaust Memorial in Marion Square Park. It was dark, and I made a note to return in the daylight.

That was easy, because one of the eateries was a Panera Bread, which I seldom have any use for but which I remembered as having a decent bagel from our time in Chattanooga a year ago. A couple of days later I returned for a breakfast bagel, and then wandered around Marion Square.

The Holocaust Memorial was moving, but the inscription on one of the plaques was the only thing I photographed. The words stopped me in my tracks; while the memorial was erected nearly two decades ago, I found them particularly relevant today. Ironically they are just yards from the statue, atop a tall column, of John C. Calhoun, one of the most ardent defenders of slavery.

"We remember the Holocaust to alert ourselves to the dangers of prejudice, to express our outrage at the scourge of racism, and to warn the world that racism can lead to genocide."

Many things in Charleston, including the main street which passes the square, bear his name. Also on the grounds are a remnant of the hornworks dating to the Siege of Charleston, the longest of the Revolutionary War. The majority of the park is a parade ground, nowadays used mostly by College of Charleston students for sunbathing, and the view from the park is dominated by the pink-hued walls of the South Carolina State Arsenal, otherwise known as the Old Citadel.

The Old Citadel, nee South Carolina State Arsenal.

The Citadel is one of three major academic institutions in this college town (the others being the College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina), and has long since moved to a beautiful campus along the Ashley River, on the northwest side of the peninsula. Citadel cadets, in uniform, can occasionally be spotted downtown. The College of Charleston, incidentally, claims to have the most beautiful campus in the US (Travel & Leisure told them so), while MUSC has all the charm of, well, a hospital complex. We ride through the lovely CofC campus almost daily.

Inside the Old Citadel, renovated into a hotel.

After snapping a photo of the impressive and well-kept "front" of the Old Citadel along the parade grounds of the park, I discovered quite accidentally that the building was renovated into the Embassy Suites hotel, and I was able to walk around a bit inside. The old open-air courtyard is now enclosed with a translucent roof and serves as the hotel atrium.

This pair of giant iron pintles framing two guest rooms speaks to an earlier time, when heavy doors enclosed a vault of munitions.

In the course of my bachelorhood here I also strolled much of the length of King Street (too much walking for Louise), which is sort of a cross between restaurant row and a suburban shopping mall, packed with a mix of tourists and college students. If it were not for the scooter there would be no way to even park in this neighborhood -- it's constantly busy.

Louise came back Thursday evening, and while I had tentatively booked a car to go get her, there was nothing else we needed one for, and she ended up getting a Lyft home from the airport instead. We arrived back at the boat at the same time, as I needed to stop at the grocery store after dinner to replenish a few items.

Pride Parade.

I mentioned in my last post that this was Pride week here in Charleston, and while I never made it to any of the handful of events earlier in the week, this morning we went out to catch the parade at the very end of its route, and later we went to the festival in Brittlebank Park just north of us along the river.

Parade color.

There is a large and vibrant LGBTQ community here in Charleston, and we were very happy to see both the parade and the festival well attended. Corporate sponsorship was very much in evidence, and we got swag from T-Mobile, Google, Boeing, and TD Bank, among others. Regretting having failed to do so at the festival in Chattanooga a year ago, we bought a 3'x5' rainbow flag for Vector to wear at festival time.

Festival. The music coming from the stage was decent.

We'll probably skip the late-night Prism party tonight as well as the $150-a-plate brunch tomorrow morning, but we'll fly our little rainbow flags from our scooters through the weekend. I might even wear the hot pink sunglasses I got at the T-Mobile booth.

Google had a booth. Turns out they have a large server farm here. Took this one for all our Google friends in Silicon Valley.

Getting back to projects, I managed to sell the empty satellite dome that had been up on the roof in rather short order. It had been up in the flybridge area up until Irma, when we had to stuff it into the master bath shower to get it down out of the wind (the empty dome is very light). I was already bracing myself for having to stash it in the only standing spot in the tiller flat until it sold, so I was glad it went quickly.

I wasn't smart enough to do it when I still had the rental car (the dome sold during the storm), so I ended up riding the scooter over the Ravenel Bridge to Lowe's in Mount Pleasant to buy a giant 20"x20"x22" moving box. Coming back over the bridge with an enormous sail crammed on the floorboards between my calves was something of an adventure. Once I had it all packed up I needed the marina shuttle to take me to FedEx to ship it.

T-Mobile tats.

The other project I made progress on, and finally "finished" yesterday, is what has heretofore been known as The Great Windshield Wiper Project. This is similar to The Great Lowerable Mast project, inasmuch as it is something that has bugged me since soon after buying the boat, but was large and uncritical and so relegated to the "some day" list.

A little background is in order. Vector has three separate windshield panes, and each has its own wiper. They are traditional pantograph style wipers not unlike what might be found on a bus, truck, or older car. Unlike those vehicles, each has its own separate switch. Each wiper has two speeds, with a three-position switch: off-low-high. The switches, oddly, all have a push-to-wash function even though the boat lacks windshield washers.

"Some day" I plan to add windshield washers, and I've even purchased the pump, tubing, and three nozzles for the project. Principally because Vector often takes salt spray over the bow, and when that spray starts drying on the windshields they become a crusty white mess and I can't see. Often one of us has to go outside with a spray bottle of fresh water to clear them off.

More annoying than that, however, is the operation of the wipers themselves. For starters, when you turn a switch from Low to Off, the wiper stops wherever it is on the windscreen. Unless you want wipers right in your line of sight, you end up manually timing the rotation of the switch for when the wiper arm reaches one end or the other of its travel. Hard enough with one switch, but you do this three times for three wipers.

Stylish pink T-Mobile shades. The shirt is actually "coral," not at all close to the glasses.

Beyond that, the low speed is still too fast for anything less than the sort of steady rain that would make a rational person use an umbrella outdoors. Light mist, sporadic rain, or the every-ten-seconds bouts of salt spray in certain sea conditions have me turning each wiper on for one or two swipes, then off again, but only when it reaches the edge of the windshield. Multiply by three and there have been some days when I've spent six hours or so driving with my hand poised above the three wiper switches the entire time.

Most modern cars and trucks have solved this problem with "interval" wipers, which swipe, stop for a while, then swipe again. Aftermarket interval timers exist which can be retrofitted to most cars and trucks to provide this intermittent or delayed action if it was not so equipped from the factory. All of these systems, though, require that the wipers have a "park" system.

A wiper park system is simply a system whereby the wipers return to the edge of the windshield when the switch is turned to the "off" position, regardless of where the wiper happens to be wiping when the switch is turned. Alas, you may recall I said that our wipers don't do that.

While I was in the pilothouse overhead, removing the spotlight controller a couple of weeks ago, I spent a few minutes looking at the windshield wiper motors. These are pretty much the first thing you see when you open up those panels. They are well-known and respected Exalto brand units, and clearly there were more wires coming out of them than would be needed for just Low and High speeds.

Two of the three wiper motors. Yes, those are fuzzy dice hanging where a rearview mirror would be in a car; a "throw" from the Naked Bike Ride in New Orleans.

I wrote down the part numbers, and when I was done with my other projects in there, I looked them up. Sure enough, these wipers do incorporate a "park" system, which is basically a switch that remains closed until the motor revolves to the park position. Great, I thought, someone just forgot to hook it up and all I need to do is connect a few wires and I'm in business.

Of course not. I found the parking wires from the motors had been removed from the switches and taped up, and I removed the tape and connected them to the proper terminals on one of the wipers. Then I turned the wiper breaker on, and the wiper promptly "parked" itself in the middle of the windshield.

Back to the manuals I went, learning that there is about a ten minute procedure the installer is supposed to go through to set the parking position as well as the angle through which the blades wipe. This particular installation is consistent with the half-baked way that may "finishing touches" were completed on this boat originally, as the first owner desperately tried to get out from under the constant nickle-and-dime project drain. Many things were rushed to completion without thoroughness.

In this case I can only guess that the installer just slapped the motors up there, wired them up, and then put the wiper arms on. The first time he ran them, they all "parked" mid-windshield, and rather than take an hour to remove the motors and correctly set the park positions, he simply disconnected the parking wires at the switches.

One set of wiper arms below the eyebrow.

Getting the arms off the motors and the motors out of the bulkhead would have been a slam-dunk at installation time, but after they'd been up there for fifteen years, it was a challenge. The arm was firmly seized to the motor shaft, and the "eyebrow" over the pilothouse windows prevented me from getting my three-jaw puller or my bearing puller up there to pry it off.

I ended up jury-rigging a puller by inserting an M12 bolt of the correct length "backwards" into the bottom half of my impeller puller. That just barely fit between the eyebrow and the motor shaft, and by "unscrewing" the bolt I was able to pop each of the wipers off its shaft.

Boaters will recognize this as half of an impeller puller.

Once the motors were out of the bulkhead I could get to the adjusting plates that connect the motors to the wiper shafts. Not only was I able to set the park position correctly, but I was also able to increase the wipe angle from 45° to 55°, and now the wipers cover nearly the entirety of each windscreen, rather than leaving about 3" unwiped at the edges.

One of the wipers (the center and thus most critical one) would not park at all, even after I hooked up the parking wires. After perhaps and hour or so of frustration checking out every possible external cause, I finally opened up the back plate of the motor itself to find that one of the two contact "wipers" that rides against the notched plate was simply not making contact. Bending it back into shape and closing up the motor fixed the problem after a couple of trials-and-errors.

I was a little surprised to find one wiper had a completely different adjusting mechanism than the other two, even though all three were the same vintage, based on their dates of manufacture. It looks like one unit may have been replaced somewhere along the line, and whoever ordered the replacement ordered a slightly different model.

All three wipers are again functional, wiping the entirety of the glass, and parking properly when turned off. And I have a timer in hand which I can use to make an interval delay system. Now I just need to find some switches with a fourth position.

NHC track projection of Maria.

During my last post I mentioned we were keeping an eye on Hurricane Maria.  We are not in the cone of probability for a landfall, and we are only in a 10% probability for getting Tropical Storm-force winds. It should be a non-issue for us here, with perhaps some rain and wind and a minimal amount of storm surge. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are in some jeopardy, and of course our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico as well as the other Caribbean islands that were hard-hit by this Category-5 storm.

NHC wind speed probability. We are in the 10% zone for TS winds.

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