Friday, November 21, 2014

Back in the water

It pains me to even have to write this, but we are still in Deltaville, Virginia, at the boatyard.  For reasons known only to them, work on our boat slowed to a crawl after my last post, with sometimes days going by with no one working.  I finally had to light a fire under them to get us back in the water by the end of the day Tuesday, knowing that Tuesday night would be a hard freeze.

Finally ready to splash.

Some of the delay was the result of borescope inspection of the shaft tube that I insisted upon after the treatment was "complete."  That inspection revealed a number of voids in the topcoat showing through to the barrier coat, which is not a real problem, but, worse, a number of voids in the barrier coat showing already-rusting bare steel.

Remediating these spots in the tube took another two full days before they could begin to start putting the shaft back in, which happened last week.  Based on my insistence that we be back in the water Tuesday, so our plumbing would not freeze, there was a mad scramble Monday to get the rudder back on and painted.  It all got done just in time and we were back in the water late Tuesday afternoon.

Rudder in its gudgeon.  Still needs paint, fresh zincs, and to be connected to the post above it.  Gray paint on the propeller is zinc.

While they were getting the rudder back on, the rudder packing needed to be replaced, and we solved a mystery that had been bugging me since the rudder started leaking and we had it repacked in July.  Namely, why there was so little packing and why there was no lantern ring adjacent to the Zerk fitting on the side of the stuffing box.

This time I watched as the packing was cleaned out, and measured the depth of the inside of the box, coming up a bit more than a half inch short of the outside.  Sure enough, lying near the bottom of the box was the lantern ring, somewhat worse for wear, and under it the remains of a single, rotted ring of packing.  This time they got it all cleaned out, and got the lantern ring where it was supposed to be by inserting the first three rings of 1/2" packing underneath it.  A course of marine grease and two more rings completed the job.

We're much more comfortable now.  For one thing, we can run the boat's reverse-cycle heat, which is much more effective and powerful than the three little electric heaters we were able to run on the hard.  For another, while the air temperature has been in the 40's during the day and the 30's overnight (and the 20's the last few nights), the water is still 55 or so.  Since the hull is steel and the bilges are uninsulated, the boat loses a lot of heat in that direction, and, of course, lots of plumbing runs through the bilges.

The boat needs to "rest" afloat for a full day before the drivetrain can be aligned, so that got done Wednesday afternoon, and yesterday we went out for a sea trial.  That went mostly well, except that the fancy new PTFE shaft packing I installed after the shaft was back in caused the shaft and stuffing box to overheat quite seriously.  This is the same thing that happened a year ago with the more conventional waxed flax packing, and after we got back to the dock I ended up pulling it all out and replacing it with the same graphite-impregnated synthetic packing that solved the problem a year ago.

I was hoping to move away from the graphite, as it can cause galvanic issues, but it seems that this is the only stuff that will work in our application to keep the whole system within temperature limits.  I need to order some more of it, as this used up the rest of my supply.

New sump box to catch shaft runoff.

Replacing the shaft packing completely with the boat still in the water is not for the faint of heart.  When you pull the last ring out, the sea starts coming in until you fumble around and get a couple of replacement rings in place.  That said, my new sump box system worked beautifully, easily keeping up with the full flow throughout the process.

Non-penetrating mount I made from HDPE. It clamps over the "T-beam" top of the keelson.

This box replaced a hokey arrangement made from a Sterilite sweater box and an old bilge pump, held in place with string.  The chief impediment to replacing it was coming up with a suitable mounting system. In addition to just looking more "finished," the new pump also has a higher capacity.

The contraption it replaced, sort of a proof-of-concept that remained in place for a full year.

That was all done by the end of the day, and we could have shoved off this morning if not for the fact that the forecast was for 3'-4' seas on the Chesapeake, and we decided to wait for tomorrow's 1'-2' forecast.  That gave the yard a few more hours to get in the last paint touch-ups as well.

The good news is that we will be shoving off in the morning for points south. We first need to move over to another dock so we can load the scooters, the first test of our new winch cable.  I had hoped to move this afternoon, but we are experiencing astronomically low tides, and we were sitting on the bottom when the dock became available.  I probably could have backed out, but I don't want to scuff up our brand new bottom job.

As long as we were here another two weeks, I knocked a whole bunch more projects off my own list.  Chief among those was replacing the guest head, which arrived here a couple of weeks ago.  I had figured initially that we'd be sailing away with it still in the box, awaiting installation in Florida someplace.  That was a big project, taking me three full days, but we're very happy with it and we can now have guests aboard without having to worry that their head will be filling the waste tank too quickly.  I've been scrambling trying to give away the two heads we've removed before leaving the yard, but it looks as if I will be carting them all the way to Florida, where there will be more takers at this time of year.

I also serviced the windlass, replacing the oil as well as the oil level sight glass, which was so old it was no longer transparent.  It took a dead-blow and penetrating oil to separate the chainwheel from its inner clutch plate, one of the culprits in the great abandon-anchor escapade.  There was so much corrosion in between them that I had to use the oscillating sander to smooth it all back out. It's all properly greased now and we should be able to drop the anchor by gravity alone in an emergency if need be.

Louise has been complaining of cold showers lately (she likes her water hotter than I do) and, as long as we had a good address, I ordered a new tempering valve.  The one we had, which I installed last year, was supposedly adjustable to 150° but the water we were getting was barely 110°.  When I cut the old one out of the PEX I found a lot of scale buildup, which was perhaps part of the problem.  You can see some of the scale in this tee fitting, which got replaced and moved somewhat to make room for the new, slightly larger valve.  The new valve is working like a champ and I'm now having to add a lot of cold at the tap.

Scale buildup.  This fitting and the PEX is only a year old.  We've been taking on some very hard water.

The scooter is all back together with all the body damage repaired and mostly invisible, and it has a new battery as well as a fancy jump-start plug.  I added a matching plug on Louise's scooter and made a cable to go to between them.  I painted the propeller and all the running gear with zinc, and as mentioned, I packed the stuffing box, twice.  Lots of minor things got tweaked as well, as long as I was in grubbies and had tools out.

Since it was a T&M project, I also ended up helping the yard get the bow thruster back on, wherein we discovered that the bolts that came with it were too short for the job.  That explains why the last yard omitted the required lock washers, which might have been part of the problem that caused the failure.  The original bolts from the one before that were the same length, so the whole assembly had been held together by barely two threads.  I had to order new bolts; the local places didn't have them in 316 stainless.

Somewhere in all of this, Louise started the process of moving us, legally, to Florida.  We had high hopes of staying South Dakota residents for a few years -- it cost us a pretty penny to "move" there in the first place -- but our health insurance company has canceled us effective year-end, and we can't get suitable coverage in that state any longer.  Florida has more options, and probably makes more sense on the boat anyway.  We already registered the boat in Florida earlier this year, a legal requirement to be able to stay there longer than 90 days.  We'll be Floridians by New Years.

We will be very happy to be out of here.  By this date last year we were already well on our way south.  That experience tells us that we need to seize each weather window to stay on the move.  With a bit of luck, we can perhaps be as far as Wrightsville Beach by Thanksgiving, where we know there is a decent place for the holiday meal (and a great holiday boat parade).

Once we are on the move I will be posting here more regularly, with a goal of posting each time we move.  Internet access being what it is in the low country, that will not always be possible, but at the very least it will be more frequent than it has been here in the yard.


  1. Good to hear you've finally splashed. Hope that your late-season journey south goes smoothly.

  2. Good to hear you are back in the water and preparing to run south. From time to time I had to slip into AIS and just check that you were still in Deltaville and hadn't snuck off on us. Travel safe!

  3. Geez. Were the short bolts on the bow thruster as scary as it sounds? It certainly sounds like it's worth further discussion with that yard.

    1. Not really scary, but possibly part of the root cause for the failure. Absent the lockwashers, the bolts were able to loosen, which we think caused a propeller/tube impact that sheared the Gates coupling and probably damaged the gear train, which has been slowly failing since. I think now, over a year later, it's going to be hard to extract any compensation from the yard, and especially considering these bolts were supplied with the unit, by the manufacturer, as the stock "proper" bolts.

  4. Wow -- a lot of work, a lot of issues to deal with. Hope the boat runs splendidly after all that. Do you know where you'll end up in Florida? Do you plan to head to the Bahamas?

    Happy turkey

    1. We're en route to Key West for the holidays. After that, we have no concrete plans until late April. In between we may go to the Bahamas or we may cruise the west coast of Florida (or both).

  5. Glad to hear you are back underway! I was worried about not seeing any posts for so long. Welcome back to NC! Chan

  6. Glad to hear that your back in the water! What was the outcome of the prop pulling tool that did not thread to YOUR shaft?

    1. We came up with a work-around to get the prop off. It was put back on the old fashioned way -- tapped in place with a mallet and then tightened with the jam nut before installing the front nut. We will be sending the Propsmith people our spare nut so they can make a tool plate to match it.


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