Monday, April 12, 2010

And The Beat Goes On.....

This past weekend I went down to the boat on Friday morning by myself.  We're getting loaded down with so much to do and so little time to get it all done.  Cheri stayed home to work on getting things packed for hauling down to her sister's house in Florida.  There is a small trailer load of stuff that we'll be keeping or passing on to family and Holly and Phillip have agreed to store this for us.  Holly has been a great supporter of our adventure and will be our point of contact once we leave for distant shores.  We've actually had incredible support from all around.  Our friends Paul and Cheryl Marshall offered storage space in their barn and several friends have offered to donate money, which was a really nice gesture but not needed.  Hopefully we have things planned well enough that we'll be in the black from here on out.  Friends and family have been wonderful and we want you all to know how much you're loved and appreciated.

I spent Friday afternoon working on the mast, my never-ending project.  The first thing I did was to pull all the wire out to remove a blockage that was about 2/3 the way down the mast.  As the last wire came out it brought the knotted up braided cord I had lost the week before.  The mast is about 60' long and I'm using a 65' fish tape to pull wire so theoretically I should be able to see both ends of the fish tape sticking out of the mast at the same time.  Theoretically.  For those who don't know, fish tape is a long coil of 1/4" wide flat metal tape with a hook on one end for pulling wire through walls and conduit.  My first attempt I had the entire thing in there and when I walked down to the other end there was nothing sticking out.  I was scratching my head over this as I walked back when I noticed a large coil of fish tape sticking out the side of the mast.  I went over and looked and sure enough, it was sticking out the hole for the Main halyard.  This is the part in the cartoons where the lightbulb goes on over the guys head.  What I had been struggling with all along, the blockage 2/3 of the way down the mast, was actually a gap in the conduit inside the mast.  It turns out that the conduit is made up of six 10' sections split lengthwise and slid onto a T track to hold it in place.  There's really nothing else holding them together.  I took my hammer and a 3' length of 3/16" x 2" bar stock and tapped on both ends of the conduit to drive it all back together.  I then ran my fish tape through the entire length of the mast with no problems.  Eureka!  Progress at last!  I laid all the wires out full length on the grass and taped their ends together with electricians tape and then taped that onto the end of the fish tape with the hook.  I went to the other end of the mast and slowly pulled the fish tape through.  Some resistance is expected because it's a pretty large bundle of wire and it's 75' long.  This went through like pulling a hot knife through butter.  The worst is over.  Now I'm waiting for some parts to finish the job.  Still have another length of wire to pull but I feel confident that there's plenty of room and it will go easily.  I'd like to thank the good Lord for granting me the gifts of patience and persistance.

My next project was rebuilding the gas line for the range.  I pulled the two propane tanks out of the deck well and removed the hose and regulator.  Everything was coated with heavy corrosion.  Ugh!  I worked from one end of the line to the other, restoring one fitting at a time.  It had been so long since this was done that the teflon tape in the pipe joints had gone through a molecular change and was now something like chalky concrete in the threads.  It still resembled tape but was really tough to clean up.  I found a couple of fittings where someone had put in some goo to seal a leak in a joint that's supposed to be metal on metal.  Now the goo has tuned hard and makes it a guaranteed leak.  Great stuff.  It took me over two hours to go through the whole line.  When I got to the other end I found a rusty clump of crud that had once been a gas solenoid.  It still worked so I just cleaned up the fittings and put it all back together, figuring I'd replace it at a later time.  When I hooked it all back and opened the valve for the propane I could smell the gas right away.  Bummer.  I mixed up a heavy soap and water solution and dribbled it over all the fittings.  Everything was good except the outlet of the regulator.  I tried to tighten it but that made no difference.  When I got right up next to it and put the soapy water on I saw that the bubbles were coming from the regulator seal right above it and not from the fitting.  The regulator is coated with about a 1/4" of salt water corrosion so I knew right away it wasn't worth the effort to try to fix it.  Heck, I couldn't even see the screws to take it apart.  I think I'll just replace the entire system and stop wasting my time with it.

I took a break here and installed the new stainless steel strut for the refridgerator lid (wow, that's nice!) and the cover for the engine control panel out in the cockpit, both about 30 seconds worth of work.  Now I can at least say I've accomplished something!

Next on my list was troubleshooting the charging system for the batteries.  The electrical system for this boat is complicated, to say the least.  It has two 30 amp 110VAC shore power connections with an associated breaker panel.  It also has a 12VDC breaker panel connected to two banks of batteries.  One bank is for starting the engine and running the anchor windlass.  The other bank, consisting of 4 batteries tied together in parallel, is called the house bank and is used for lights, making hot water, instruments, refrigeration and a host of other things.  The batteries are all AGM (absorbed glass mat) type which means that all the acid is contained in the glass mat.  There's no free liquid so it can't spill.  It also means that they are sealed and maintenance free.  Sweet!  There is an inverter that can convert DC to AC so you can run your hair dryer when you're out at sea.  There's also a charger, actually two, that will keep the batteries charged.  One of these is stock, came with the boat.  The other is a Freedom 2000, made by Xantrax.  This thing is programmable and can be set up to monitor both banks and charge them automatically in three different modes to prolong the life of the batteries.  This works in conjunction with the high current alternator mounted on the engine, shore power when you're sitting at the dock and with the solar panels.  The solar panels are run by a doodad called a Blue Sky controller that's supposed to boost their output by 30% through some kind of black magic voodoo.  Both the Blue Sky and the Freedom 2000 weren't working.

I have a 3 ring notebook that is filled with manuals for all this stuff that I downloaded off the internet.  I spent all of Saturday afternoon reading through this thing trying to get a handle on what I had here.  In addition to all the stuff I mentioned above, there are remote panel controls for everything, each having it's own seperate manual.  Of course.  After reading through everything I settled in on the Freedom 2000 as being the best candidate for repair in the amount of time I had left.  The troubleshooting went pretty easily and consisted of removing shore power, removing DC power, waiting 45 seconds to give the computer a reset, and then putting it all back together.  Then there's a sequence of buttons to push to initialize the system and, woohooooo, it worked!  I spent the next two hours going through all the controls and reprogramming it.  Pretty cool!

Now all I have left to do is figure out the solar panels and their controls and I'll have the charging system back up and running 100%.

I made pretty good progress this weekend.  I talked with John Hellwege on Friday and set things up to get the hull compounded next week.  I also ordered 3 gallons of anti-fouling paint to do the bottom and ordered the rest of the stuff I needed for the cell phone system.  Had to leave Saturday afternoon to get back home in time to help Cheri get ready for her trip to Florida.

Next weekend I'll be on my own again as Cheri won't be back until Saturday or Sunday.  I hope to get two coats of paint on and maybe wax the hull.  If all my parts are in I can finish up the mast also.

Can you hear the wind and the water yet?  I can.

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