Friday, September 29, 2023

Five months in the shipyard

It is pouring rain today, the relentless remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia. We are under a flood watch here along with much of New York City, and we're more or less pinned on the boat, as we'd get drenched even walking to the shop. That makes it a great day to catch up the blog.

The latest delay. You will notice that this boarding gate and the area around it is a different shade than the rest of the hull. This is the situation at all five gates.

Monday will mark five full months since we arrived here at the shipyard. Notwithstanding the hope I expressed in my last post that we would be out by the end of the month, a full two week delay in the painting has condemned us to pass the five month mark, and I will consider us lucky now if we are out by the end of October. 

One of our nice new latches. The gate was the right color in this photo, but you'll notice the tan stopped short of the gunwale between the gate and the rub rail. This is what they were trying to correct.

In about two weeks we will pass both the 180-day and the six-month mark in New York, which this week sent us scrambling to the New York legislative codes to make sure we're not going to cross some magic tax boundary. Most states do have an exemption for vessels and crew while work is being done in a yard, but in any event we found nothing to suggest we'd have an issue.

Hoisting the mast. It took four burly guys to carry it out to the crane, and four lift attempts before they got the slings positioned properly. I'm standing on our boat deck for this shot.

The cause of the latest delay is that the painting contractor literally disappeared, with no communication, for two weeks. In fact, he had already disappeared by the time I last posted here. We could not reach him, the yard could not reach him, and even his workers were showing up at the yard looking for him. After ten full days of radio silence, the yard finally gave up waiting and assigned another worker to finish the touch-up.

My digs for most of a day after the mast was up, seated cross-legged on that square of plywood working on the radar, which is open in this photo. The plywood is positioned across the cross-members for the soft top.

That proved to have problems of its own, and so when the painter magically re-appeared mid-month, even though everyone was annoyed with him, we all agreed he needed to finish the job. In the meantime, however, the paint ran out, and now we are again delayed waiting on fresh paint from the manufacturer. We have our fingers crossed that the paint shows up this week, and that the color match is acceptable.

The guts of the radar as seen from my new perch. I've already worried this mess of subcables and connectors into the housing through a 1" hole, and now I need to thread them into place. At one point I dropped a tiny screw into the bowels of the housing and had to fish it out with a dab of putty on the tip of a long, skinny screwdriver.

It's not that everything stopped during those two weeks. With both primer and paint on all the metal surfaces, the yard was able to continue installing hardware, including the rest of the rails and the fancy new door latches we bought for the boarding gates. And you may recall we had moved the boat to the east dock next to the rigging crane so they could get the rest of the big and heavy stuff on board.

We've put most of the deck gear back in the lockers, and as I was cleaning up this collection of adapters I arranged it for a photo for one of my boating forums, where I explained how we use them to take on water in some odd places. Clockwise from top: Irrigation quick-connect adapter, 2.5" NST fire hydrant adapter, Y-splitter to share an already occupied spigot, Camco "Water Bandit" adapter for threadless spigots, SingleSeal adapter for hose bibs with damaged threads, four-way water valve key, standard hose bib valve handle.

That included the largest railing, some 30' long, the windlass, and, of course, the mast, now mostly populated with all the gear. This final item took three yard guys and myself, and the paint got dinged up a bit in the process. After it was in place, it took me three full days to finish running all the cables, install the remaining hardware, and connect and test everything.

I was able to make the connections for the anchor and masthead lights inside the new access panel, and so instead of worrying mismatched-gauge wires into heat-shrink crimp terminals I used some of my new lever-lock butt connectors inside a tupperware-type container with a cable gland.

I was very relieved that all the equipment worked once re-installed. That relief was short lived, as I managed to break the integrated cable on the 20 year old dedicated GPS for the radar when we lowered the mast three days later to touch up the paint. We were both so focused on the winching of the mast and not dinging anything up that neither of us noticed that we'd run out of slack on some of the cables, and we stretched this one until it broke internally.

Lever-lock cable block in the pilothouse ceiling for the radar GPS. I had plenty of slack at this end but failed to leave enough of it in the mast.

I slacked up all the cables and tested everything, which all seemed to be working. When we went to move the boat a week later to the west dock, where we are today (map), in order not to be blocked in by the 112' Westport Bravo Zulu that arrived Tuesday, the GPS was inoperative. I spent a day crammed under the helm temporarily patching the radar over to a backup GPS, and I have both a replacement GPS and a shielded cable on order to restore full functionality.

I cut the cable inside the new upper access panel for the mast, where I found the unit to be working, and then I took my meter and some dikes to the bad cable until I found the bad spot. If you look closely you can see the insulation stretched and conductors broken on many of the six insulated wires.

This was a personal low point for me, perhaps the culmination of five months of false starts coupled with annoyance at the painter, who had just re-materialized out of nowhere. I had spent hours carefully removing that integrated cable with the GPS, re-installing it later, re-routing it and reconnecting and testing it, happy to have succeeded in caretaking a decades-old piece of gear, and here in a few seconds of lapsed attention I had undone all that effort. The fix will only have cost me another few hours and a c-note, and in due time will fade from memory, but in the moment it was a punch in the gut.

Our new neighbor, superyacht Bravo Zulu, threading its way through the harbor. It's here for dockage, as there are really no other docks in the harbor for her size.

In the course of all the mast work during this project, I relocated the ComNav satellite compass back to the stanchion on the flybridge coaming that once held the spotlight. This is where I had installed it originally, because it was easy, and I had relocated it to the mast a while back, where I thought it really belonged. I was never able to get it to work right on the mast (long story), and we've had to run the autopilot from the magnetic compass in the interim. I'm hopeful that the relocation will solve the issues, and I used the vacant spot on the mast to reinstall the Ubiquiti Bullet that we use to receive marina WiFi when available.

Ubiquiti router and antenna on the starboard spreader. You can also see our new TPZ camera near the top of the mast. 

Speaking of antennas, our 16 year old SSB antennas were quite worn, with most of the paint gone and the fiberglass not only showing, but starting to break down. Following manufacturers instructions I washed them, put a couple of coats of paint on them, sanded them, and put a finish coat on. They are by no means perfect, but they look a lot better than they did when we arrived. I'll need to replace the cables as well, which were brittle from age and have cracked from all the manipulation during the painting process.

New Starlink mount made from schedule 80 PVC and nicer pipe clamps.

I put the davit crane back together, complete with a new hand controller and connector as well as new gas struts and a new bearing for the sheave. I'm sorry I don't have a photo yet; we opted to leave the boom bare aluminum rather than re-paint it white. It's a little stark right now, but should become less so as the aluminum oxidizes to a duller gray. I also installed the new floodlights on the pilothouse brow, but won't be able to dial them in until we are someplace dark. The yard is anything but.

The painter made a shelter with plastic on the aft deck while he worked on our back door. You can also see our new drop-leaf deck table, an Amazon purchase to replace the round folding table we gave away upon arrival.

Out here at the end of the dock we have been struggling with voltage issues, with all our outlets seeing barely 100 volts. After the UPS running the network and helm electronics quit several times, taking the sub-100 input to be a brownout, it finally occurred to me to just turn off the input to the inverter, letting it make a fully 120 volts from the batteries, and turn on the backup charger to make up the deficit. That worked great until this week, when the dropping outside temperature has had us running our 120-volt heaters much longer. I ultimately deployed our 30-amp shore cord to bring something closer to 120 volts into the inverter/charger.

The Joel Miller, in for repairs to the bow after hitting the rocks, had the enormous heavy-equipment tires that served as stern fenders changed out for some newer ones. I joked that she was in for tire rotation.

After five months of sitting out in the boatyard, the dinghy steering seized up completely and I spent a few hours taking it apart, reaming out the rust, and putting it back together with some fresh grease. And the battery is dead from the parasitic load of the bilge pump, but there's not much I can do about that until it's back in the water and I can run it around.

I reinstalled the flybridge radar/plotter but the screen is so badly damaged now that I will be changing this out shortly for a better unit I picked up on eBay a couple months ago. I needed to use this one for testing because the replacement is not yet programmed for our installation.

In the way of dining we finally made it to the Orienta Beach Club, one of our reciprocal clubs, for dinner in their more casual "Trap Room." The club is very tony, and we could not tour the entire grounds on account of a wedding that had taken over most of the club. The food was good, as was the service. We also hit Rosa Cucina Italiana, which would have been an easy walk from our first AirBnB but had not yet opened until we moved out. It was fine, but there are so many good Italian places here that it has not been worth a repeat visit.

We're not the only ones with a delay. The Bennis, our former neighbor in the paint shed, got her hulls blasted for bottom paint, and they found a lot of the plating was too thin to remain in service. Here you see it being replaced.

And finally, on the social front we had a very nice dinner with Eric and Lauren, who own the other pleasure craft in the yard, a 54' aluminum sailing yacht. Their boat has been under refit in the yard for two years now, which gives us some perspective about our five months. And we had a great meet-up over lunch with long-time friends Stacey and Dave, who dropped by en route to one of Dave's gigs.

Stacey snapped this photo as Dave and I were conversing in the inclined storage shed for the marine railway. Photo: Stacey Guth.

All we are waiting on now is final touch-up, including re-painting around all the boarding gates. Even if we had the paint, nothing can be done in this kind of weather anyway, and so we're here until the confluence of fresh paint, dry weather, and the painter's availability.

My beloved beer store, Half Time, inaccessible and starting to be inundated.

Update: After wrapping up my typing we hit high tide, and despite the pouring rain we decided to brave the elements to see just how bad things are in town. Besides, we had packages to pick up at the office. Below are a series of photos I took in an hour's walk around town. I could not get to the worst sections, because even in my watermen's boots, it was too deep to proceed further.

Mamaroneck River at the Tompkins Avenue bridge.

I was not the only one out taking video.

This SUV got towed out of the flood waters onto the sidewalk by a pickup truck with that big yellow strap. Zoom in to see the water gushing out the driver door. There was a lot more than that but I could not get my phone out fast enough.

Our old neighborhood, near our last AirBnB. This flooded intersection was as close as I could get.

Columbus Park, completely inundated, as seen from the train station. That's a pedestrian bridge over the Sheldrake.

The business in town that outfits all the police cars for most of the local agencies moved their entire stock of new cruisers to higher ground across the avenue. I'm guessing they have a deal with the local PD not to get cited for overstaying the time limits.

The river is flowing over the banks and into the parking lots and lower levels of several local businesses and homes.

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