Chasing Screws

I’ve been ready to leave Vallejo for a couple of weeks. But the winds off the northern California coast are proving to be more persistent than the northerly winds off the Mexican coast last year. There is a blocking high pressure area in the eastern Pacific that just won’t leave. It’s certainly been there almost all spring. Doesn’t it realize summer is almost here?

One of the other manifestations of this weather pattern is the north east has been cooler than normal.  Let New York have the brutal hot and humid conditions they are used to and let me have gentle breezes.

This is all stainless except for that compartment of brass screws on the right. I’m holding a 1 Kroner Norwegian coin. It has a hole in it and is not magnetic, so it goes with the washers.

So, in the meantime, I am organizing.

I had wanted to put off this tool and parts re-organization until this summer when Ti and Thien are with me. I had thought that it would be a good way for them to understand what things are, where they go and how we use them.

Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men, sometimes go astray.

During the last two months as I have worked on various projects on Dauntless, countless jobs have taken longer than they should because I can’t find the right tool or part. Admittedly, it doesn’t help that I have spent 20 minutes looking for a flashlight that I could not find because it was ON and my brain was not looking for something that was lite, no matter how obvious.

I have also spent 15 minutes looking all over the boat, for a part I had just found only to have placed it someplace. 15 minutes!  I knew I had put it someplace I wouldn’t lose it. Where was it? In my left hand!!

Talk about the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing!

Crescent wrenches and sockets

So, a re-organization is necessary. I mentioned before that I had mixed stainless-steel bolts and screws with non-stainless. But I discovered I did not just have one tray organizer like that, but three or four.  I also found fasteners that I thought I had but couldn’t find.

Now, everything is in its right place.

I also had the problem of finding four 13 mm wrenches, but not the one 14 mm I was looking for. Now, I have a full set hanging in the engine room (before I just had the 13, 14, 19, and large adjustable that I needed for the fuel filters).

Tomorrow, I’ll tackle my electric parts. I know I have a lot, 220 v, 110 v, 12 v, but the 5 or 6 containers I thought I had has grown to more than a dozen.

 

 

Work on the Mast

During the last week on Dauntless, getting her ready for the winter without me, tears all around, I realized how sweet it was to work under a roof. 

Looking aft with the mast down, under the roof of the Vallejo City Marina

I loved it so much, I changed my project priorities a bit.  I figured it made the most sense to do those things that are difficult to do under normal circumstances.  It is such a pleasure to sit on the fly bridge, out of the hot blazing sun or the cold wet rain. With the mast down, I didn’t have to wrap one arm around the mast and hold on for dear life. Under such ideal conditions, I realized I had to get all the things done I had been contemplating for years.

Four years ago, getting Dauntless ready for her first ocean crossing, I took what was given. Unlike the Lexan storm windows which were done in the last hours, the Maretron system and instruments on the mast were completed with days to spare.

One thing that has sunk into my dense brain is if I don’t have a clue as to what I am doing, then at least do the simple solutions instead of making complicated ones. To that end, I mounted the Maretron instruments on an existing antenna arch that extended forward and was above the radar.

It was the simplest solution and worked well enough for four years, but now, I wanted to make it better. I have felt that the weather instrument that measures all the normal weather parameters, including wind speed and direction, is not in a clear air stream with winds from the stern. As you know, this Kadey Krogen loves following winds and seas, therefore if the data is being affected under such conditions, it’s not ideal.

The other issue that is also related to stern winds is that every once in a while, lines related to the paravanes, get enough slack that over time, being blown forward, like 21 days in following winds and seas, that they were easily snagged on those weather instruments or the bracket itself. In the first years, more than once, after deploying the paravanes, I discovered that the weather instrument arch was carrying the weight of the paravanes. Not good. (Though it does confirm the forces on the paravane system are as expected).

Just too many times, that antenna arch has been seconds from disaster. Time to get rid of it. The Maretron cable that runs inside the mast must also be replaced. So, the Maretron WSO and GPS will be mounted on the spreaders. In addition, I will mount my Wi-Fi extender antenna and I hope to also move my current AIS antenna to the spreader. Currently it’s mounted on the cowling of the fly bridge near the helm. It’s too low. Many times, it will not see big ships until 5 or 6 miles away. At the Dauntless speed of 6 knots and big ships possible speed of 20 knots, that still gives me more than a 10-minute warning, but that antenna should be maximized just on principal.

Plan for the Mast Spreaders
March 2019

I also need to remount the two Chinese LED spreader lights. The lights themselves, bought 5 years ago on Amazon for $20 each, have been great, but the mounting hardware is mild steel that rusts badly. I have a way to mount them directly to the spreaders, without the steel hardware. Since I am doing that, I will also change the electrics a bit and add an electrical circuit to power a LED stripe that I will also mount on the mast.

Now, your thinking, while I have eliminated one protuberance, I have made the spreaders much more complicated. That’s true. But I have a plan.

I will also add a 1/16th Amsteel line from the top of the mast to the end of each spreader, then forward to the front of the radar arch. Looking aft from the bow, this will look like a triangle. Looking from either side, this will look almost like an obtuse triangle.

Now, I have not added this yet. This will happen in March when I return to Dauntless, but in my mind’s eye, I see this little line as making it much more difficult for a loop of any line to become snagged around the spreaders, radar arch or the mast itself.

We’ll see.

 

Teamwork

It’s 20:30 hours. I had a glorious day in all aspects. The weather could not have been better, 72°, light breeze. Dauntless is under the roof, no problems with sun or rain. Of the two projects I started out this morning to get done: one’s done and the other two are almost done.

this picture was taken just 5 hours before my departure. I was so enamored with the sunset that I really did not look at the situation.
Notice the solar panel array on the port side stern of the sail boat in front of me.

But this evening, I felt a disquiet. My project list is not even a quarter done and I’m leaving for the winter in 5 days.

Then I realized it’s not about progress on the projects, days left, or anything else. It’s that I’m alone.

But even that is not so simple. In fact, my happy meter is well above my “normal”. Boat wise, relationship wise, career wise, pretty much everything, I’m quite happy about.  So why the grumpy face and thoughts?

I’m not feeling lonely; but something is still missing.

Then it occurred to me. My entire life, from as early as I can remember, has been about teamwork. Working with others to a common purpose.

I can’t even begin to tell you the times I sacrificed personal accolades for the sake of the team.

All my successes in life can be attributed to building and nourishing successful teams.

Even when I started my teaching career, I did not become a successful classroom teacher until I realized that I needed to make the students in each class understand that they were a team and needed to help each other for their own learning, not for me.

As a high school principal, it was harder, because professionals in education have never been taught anything about teamwork, but the successes we had were all because the entire staff was working together for the good of our students. Sure, there were a few bad apples, but despite them, we got a lot of kids to college and success that would not have happened otherwise.

Then, I look at the other side. Even though I was quite successful selling cars, I hated it. The General Manager at a very successful dealership once made the comment to all in our sales meeting that, “Bost, probably tells everyone that he is a lawyer” I wondered how he knew, though I didn’t pick lawyer, I just never told anyone I sold cars.

While I was successful there, I was a duck out of the water.

With my project list for Dauntless, the list would feel less daunting if my teammate was here. Teammates don’t let you get overwhelmed with small stuff and they convince you the big stuff isn’t so big.

Even better, teammates give you that Cesar Milan nudge or click, that gets you off the obsession and back on track.

That’s what I miss. Otherwise it’s too easy to go around in circles or become obsessed about the unimportant.

In teaching, once I realized that I had to convince the students that they are a learning team. One time, I noticed one of my special colored pencils was missing from my grade book, that was open on the first row of desks. I used color codes for different types of work. I was irritated about it and started complaining to the class about my missing pencil.

In a New York minute, which in this case was probably 30 seconds, one of the students calls out, “OK, we get it Mr. Bost, now can we move on”

I snapped out of it. It was the nudge I needed.

(A couple of days later, in walking around a different class, I saw my pencil in front of one of my problematic students. Without a word and I just took it back.  Months later I finally got that student to start working and she passed with a 72 out of 100 on the NY State Regents.  She worked hard, finally. How we got there, is another story, I’ll save for the book).

And I wouldn’t have spent 3 hours on the Maretron power problem without checking the fuse from the very beginning.

Oh Richard, since you know the circuit had power until you shorted it, why don’t you check that fuse once again?

Oh yeah, that’s probably better than spending the next three hours on this connector!

 

Maretron or Not

For a little, non-electronic boat, I sure love my Maretron data. I have 9 modules:

  • two to communicate with everything else, (USB, IPG) and the N2K Viewer
  • two for the fresh water tanks, (TLM),
  • one solid state compass, (SSC),
  • one GPS, (GPS),
  • one depth sounder with paddle wheel and lastly, (DST),
  • the love of my life, my (WSO), the weather instrument.

The solid sate compass seems to work better with my ComNav autopilot. In addition, it gives me the roll and pitch data I often quote in my blog.

The weather instrument is also solid state with ultrasonic wind measurement.  Considering I installed the system myself over 4 years and 20,000 miles ago, I’ve had few problems.

A glorious day in Vallejo, under a roof, with the mast down, facing aft

Coming west across the Atlantic, the constant winds behind us and to the side, from 15 to 35 knots for 528 hours or 22 days (No, I didn’t stop to change the oil) took a toll on my connections on the mast. Everything still worked, but occasionally, if a line got caught it would put enough strain to disrupt the connection until I freed it.

So, one of my projects now is to redo all the connections in the system. I  also now slather everything in dielectric grease. So much so, that I almost put it on my pancakes the other morning.

One of the offending connectors

So, the day started out so very well. Sitting on deck, with the mast down, Dauntless under a roof, protecting us from the elements and sun, I thought about climbing up the mast in Cabo San Lucas, in hot, 95° sun, holding on the mast with one hand, while trying to tighten the 5 little wires inside the plug just under the WSO.

I was in hog heaven. I carefully tool the plug apart, unattached the 5 little wires, and recut them all and trimmed them. Now, I knew power was still on the system.  Before I started any of this, I wanted to make sure that it was only the WSO that was incommunicado.  So, just as I was thinking that I would have to be careful in cutting the positive power line, meaning not to cut it with the ground wire at the SAME time; I did exactly that. The little spark, showed me that I’d f..ed up.

Sure enough, when I go below to check, now the whole Maretron system has no data.

Had I shorted out something serious? Was there a fuse in the system? If so, where was it?? Who the hell installed this system?? Oh, it was me!

Let me check the computer cabinet. Open cabinet and what do I see, the fuse block that I put in 4 years ago and even nicely labeled at that.

It went downhill from there.

To check the fuses, I had to pull them, to do that I needed to power down the whole system. That done, I pulled each fuse and looked at it very carefully. Very carefully (for those of you who already know the answer, don’t spoil it for your dear ones who are also reading this).

They all looked good. I powered the system back up. That takes a few minutes because the modem and router have to be booted up before the computer otherwise everyone gets confused.

At this point, I noticed that the little light for the Maretron circuit was not lit on the router until I turned on the computer. I hadn’t noticed that before. (and in the future, I will explain that issue).

No change. I went back to the fly bridge. One of dozens of trips I would make over the next couple of hours. I figured I had screwed up the wiring of the plug. I took it all apart again. I convinced myself that possibly the ground shield covering was touching one of the data lines. I put it all back together again, rebooted the entire system and alas. No joy.

At this point, I’d spent an hour on this. I pulled the fuses again. They still looked good. I even held them up to the light. But finally, just to be sure, I changed the 5-amp fuse that powered the Maretron system. Surely now, it would work.

Still No Joy. Now, more than ever I was convinced it was the plug. The plug was the only thing I had worked on.

Back to the flybridge. Took plug apart again. Put it back together again. Rinse and repeat.

I got my electric meter out (finally you think), check the plug for the umpteenth time. No power.

I go online and check the Maretron site. It tells me I should see 60 and 120 ohms between certain lines. I see exactly that. But still no power. I must have shorted something else out. Where did I install the power tap?

Oh, I remembered where the power tap was because it’s in the port side pilot house wire race that is so full of wires I have trouble getting the teak panel back in place.

Other than no power, the continuity on the plug and lines tested correctly.

I’ve been working on this for three hours now. I return to the computer and fuse block.

I finally decide to test for power in the fuse block. Umm, the Maretron circuit has no power here.

I pull that fuse and check it. No circuit. I check the old fuse I had pulled out, no circuit.

I got fuse number three and checked it, a circuit.

I stick it in and low and behold, power.

Two hours earlier I had replaced a bad fuse with another bad fuse. Both fuses showed no sign that they were open. Both had very clear “Z” wire that wasn’t broken.

One of the offending fuses

 

Hundreds of Males, Too Few Females.

I was looking forward to this project, as I like working on the electrical things and I just wanted to also tidy up the wires and the things I’d done over the last couple of years.

I needed to put new female spade connectors on the gauges and switches in the forward head. I also needed to replace the little bilge pump and replace the float switch for the big Rule 200 bilge pump in the forward bilge.

Cleaning up my cabin. This fuse and terminal block is for the forward head and bilge. The Raritan black box is for the old ElectroScan that I replaced with a Purisan.. This was the easy part. I had no corrosion here.

So, I get my two trays of electric connectors, with hundreds of pieces and what do I find: hundreds of males and a half dozen  females.  Sociologists warn of impending disaster when the male to female numbers reach 52% to 48% respectively in society. Because those single males unable to find mates wreak havoc on the society.

All those rogue elephants in Africa, male. Nuff said.

Female spade connectors are needed to connect a wire to the switch or instrument. I need about a dozen just for the forward head. The current connections are all corroded considerably. I know why, but don’t think I’ll mention it, other than to say, my not wanting to throw anything away can be dangerous.

Amazon will deliver the females on Tuesday.

So, I could tackle the paravane bird holders. I’ve tried various things in the last 4 years. Some have been a bit more effective than others, but in the last weeks I’ve gotten tired of stepping over them on the side deck. With the paravane pole taken down, there is not way to secure them.

In normal use, even if I think I won’t need the paravane stabilizers, I will deploy the poles only.  This allows me to deploy the birds without having to go the flybridge again. So, I need a method to secure them, with or without the poles in place.

This has been an ongoing issue. Each half-assed system I make, breaks sooner rather than later.

My solution is very simple, net and won’t get in the way, in the narrow deck space. I must say, that I think my time in Vietnam has enabled me to see simpler solutions. The Vietnamese make do with whatever they have, which is fractions of what we Americans are accustomed to.

The New paravane bird holder, suing eye hooks and 1/16″ Amsteel. Another view
The New paravane bird holder, suing eye hooks and 1/16″ Amsteel

It’s a thrifty culture and probably what I need in my reduced earning years.

To that end, I have also really tried to limit my going out for dinner. Thus, my chicken and brussels sprouts for dinner today. Very good.

My plated dinner, chicken and Brussels sprouts.
My dinner cooking, chicken and Brussels sprouts