Category archives: Maintenance

Update And Navigation.

In case anyone is wondering how things are going here is an update. Tomorrow my friend Patrick and I are getting a Uhaul van to get my stuff from storage. Some of it will come along on the boat and the rest will have to be disposed of or sold. That afternoon I will take everything I intend to bring along and load up the van. Tuesday morning we will head to Dagny, unload everything on the dock and load her up. I expect it will take quite some time. The locks need to be installed so that I can sleep soundly here at home with all my possessions aboard.

There should be time to look at the engine and see if anything is preventing a valve from closing. I am no mechanic, but I need to learn more about diesels and there is no better way than working on one for that. If I fail it will be time to call in a specialist.

My rudder is finished, still drying, but otherwise ready to go.

Thinking about navigation… I have a few GPS units. One is built-in my Standard Horizon (Yaesu) GX2200 VHF radio. It doesn’t display a chart of course but you do get your latitude/longitude on the screen. I bought a USB GPS for my laptop, which is running OpenCPN. My Delorme inReach satellite gizmo also has a GPS, no map display. Then there is my iPhone with the Navionics app. Using a laptop in my exposed cockpit doesn’t seem like the greatest idea. I thought about the iPhone, but my vision up close isn’t what it used to be, and the screen is rather tiny. The logical solution was an iPad. Unfortunately I really can’t afford one. Looking at Android tablet choices, after discarding many no-name cheap Chinese models (loaded with spyware), I came across the Acer Iconia A-830 for a mere $100 on Ebay. Navionics requires Android 4.0, the Iconia comes loaded with 4.1 so I should be good.

Acer Iconia A1-830 with Navionics

Acer Iconia A1-830 with Navionics

The great thing is that it has a built-in GPS. I also ordered a couple waterproof tablet bags from Hong-Kong for that model. Now I will be able to see where I am going! Not to mention that I also can use the tablet as, well, a tablet! I might even get a refurbished one (seen at $70) as a backup. Getting a sextant and learning celestial navigation is still on my list, but it can wait a bit. I also have a Plastimo Compass in a nice wooden box, which I can bring to the cockpit or inside and keep an eye on my heading.
GX2200 Radio Installed

GX2200 Radio Installed

I am still collecting the numerous items still needed for such an adventure; the biggest one will be an SSB Ham radio. It seems like my Icom AT-120 tuner isn’t working anymore, so that will have to be addressed. At some point I will have to leave, ready or not. I do not expect to have everything I need or finish all the maintenance projects on my list. Dreams have been lost by delaying departure too long hoping everything to be perfect; is never is.

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Engine Woes.

Of course it could not go so well without trouble.

I have been working on Dagny for three days and boy, have I done a lot! Painting is finished. Well, not counting the touch-ups.. So, as on every work trip, I proceeded to run the engine for ten minutes, just to make sure it works and to move oil around a bit. Well, the starter turns the engine but there is no compression. I tried the hand crank, same issue, the engine turns freely. I checked the decompression lever, but I have never touched it before, since the engine always started right away. The lever feels very loose. Obviously it isn’t doing anything. This is really bad timing, or maybe good timing, depending on how you look at it.. Better now than in the middle of nowhere, but still, very frustrating. Armed with the supreme confidence of the novice in all things diesel, I decided to take the valves cover off. It all looks fine, though I have no idea what fine would be in this case, but there are no bits and pieces floating around at least.

Volvo Penta 2001 Valves

Volvo Penta 2001 Valves


When I turn the hand crank the valves go up and down, good. The decompression lever, used to start the engine by hand, turns a rod on top of the two valves.. Hum.. I can’t see what it is doing exactly. Maybe it is supposed to open some hole in the cylinder head or lift a valve to let air out. Bottom line is, if there is no compression, there is a leak somewhere, otherwise I would not be able to turn the engine by hand. Not that it all matters much anyway, because I doubt I will be able to fix it myself, though I haven’t given up yet. Anyone knows a good looking female diesel mechanic who accepts payments in nature? I thought not.

On the bright side, I will be varnishing today, completing all inside cosmetic work before heading back home. I did hoist the jib just to check everything, missing a couple shackles which I temporarily substituted for zip-ties. I still have to figure out how to rig the self-tacking jib and boom.

Self-Tacking Jib

Self-Tacking Jib

I guess something had to take me down from my high of hatch-fitting, painting completion bliss. It was just too good to last. I hope this will not delay my departure. It is what I call a no-go problem. Meaning, I can’t leave until it is solved. I have no other no-go problems right now. I can’t afford another engine, new or used, so I hope it will be a quick, most importantly cheap repair. The last stretch is always the hardest.

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Building a New Companionway Bubble Hatch.

When it rains it pours, and it is pouring down my hatch right now every time it rains. My most pressing issue became the replacement of Dagny’s companionway hatch. Remembering Roger Taylor’s Mingmind and Bernard Moitessier’s Joshua, I decided to add a Lexan (polycarbonate) bubble to the hatch so I could have a look outside without exposing myself to the elements. My friend Erin drew the hatch on his CAD station and sent the file to Marc at Elite Woodwork in Sarasota, who is also a friend and incidentally my last Systema instructor. Between the two of them it didn’t take long before I was heading back home with my three layers of cut half-inch marine plywood. Marc’s CNC cutting machine is amazing, just watch the video:

Next I epoxied the bottom and middle layers together. My resin pump broke, prompting me to eyeball the mix, not a good idea. It seemed to have worked this time.
I could have waited to set the bubble in until I was at the boat, but there was still quite a bit of work to do and it would be much easier to do it at home. I decided to set the bubble in, trusting my measurements and the computer model. Again I eyeballed the epoxy mix. Next was gluing the side rails in. This time my luck ran out with my mixing scheme. It took forever for the epoxy to set. The result is probably not as strong as it could be. I hope it will set fully in time.
Fortunately I found another pump to finish the job. I glued the transversal bars on the bottom of the hatch. They will receive the flat metal bars that keep the hatch secured and allow it to slide to open and close the companionway. Hopefully everything will fit. I will put one last coat of epoxy over everything tomorrow and hope to go to Dagny on Sunday. The varnish will have to wait until the hatch is installed.

Success!

Hatch Installed

Hatch Installed

The hatch fits like a glove without even a hint of sideways play. What an improvement! Happy as a clam right now..

On this next trip, the main goals will be to finish the cabin interior painting and install the hatch, along with a flurry of other small tasks of course. My radio installation isn’t quite complete. I still need to install my kerosene stove, the companionway lock, and fix the five feet of rub rail I removed. There are two small spots of rot to take care of. The list never ends. I hope this will be the last big work session on Dagny. All the big tasks should be done by Thursday.

As my departure date approaches, though I have no precise idea when that will be, the whole project is getting closer to reality. It is quite different to plan and work on a boat than actually realizing that a big adventure might soon be starting. Not that getting Dagny ready hasn’t been an adventure in itself, but leaving for me will be the start of a whole new life, hopefully. There comes a time when your days all look the same. I could describe the last three years of my life with a few sentences. That scares me more than storms, pirates or anything else. Ideally I would leave in about three weeks. There are so many things I need to do before then, it just seems overwhelming; not to mention finances and health concerns. I am forging ahead, and like we say in France, “advienne que pourra.”

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Rudder, Hatch and Dinghy Outboard Motor.

Luck favors those who help themselves. Browsing Craigslist I stumbled upon a Mercury (Tohatsu) 2.5hp two-stroke outboard motor in great shape. It necessitates mixing 2% of oil in the fuel; small inconvenience for half the price of a new four-stroke model. I know those small outboards can be tempermental but it beats rowing against current on a windy day, every time. Two-strokes are noisier than the four-bangers and less reliable. they make up for it with good power and light weight. I was really surprised at how light it is. I can easily lift it above my head with one arm. It will be great on the Achilles LEX-77. As I have mentioned in my previous post, a dinghy motor is a matter of safety. Sometimes rowing out of trouble just isn’t an option.

Mercury 2.5HP

Mercury 2.5HP

Next urgent problem is my companionway hatch falling apart. I ordered a 14″ lexan bubble from EZ Tops Worldwide, which should be here on Wednesday. Lexan is much stronger than the clearer acrylic, though it scratches easily. I’d rather go for strength. Thickness is 1/4″, 7″ tall. It will be incorporated into the new hatch. I got the idea from Taylor’s Mingming pocket cruiser. It should keep me dry by avoiding going outside to look around in bad weather. My friend Erin created a CAD file for my other friend Marc at Elite Woodworks to cut with his CNC machine. The hatch is three layers of 12mm marine plywood epoxied together.
Bubble Hatch

Bubble Hatch

My rudder is still less than half-way done, shame on me. I yet have to varnish the first side. The anti-fouling and white paint are done. Then it’s on to the other side.
Morris Frances 26 Rudder

Morris Frances 26 Rudder


Giving myself a week to complete the hatch, mainly because of varnishing, that brings me to mid October for a new work session on the boat. I should then install the new hatch and finish painting; four days of work probably. The next trip should be at the end of the first week of November, with a Uhaul van to bring everything to the boat. Then the wait for a weather window will start.

It is with mixed feelings that I approach departure. You make a lot of friends by living anywhere for twenty one years.. Leaving everyone behind will be hard. There is also the uncertainty, physical and financial. Being a programmer I can work anywhere there is wifi. I won’t be online every single day however, and that might be a problem, or not.. I am mostly concerned about my health, which has declined for the last few months. I hope a new environment free of stress will help. There is also the learning curve I will face, having only sailed locally. This is the way I approach new challenges, very cautiously and with a lot of preparation, if not experience. I hope to stick to my schedule, but nothing is certain, money being the biggest obstacle. Time to start packing up.. Change is coming..

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Cabin Painting Almost Finished!

It was a good four productive days on Dagny. I completed about 60% of the cabin painting with Pettit “Easy Cabin Coat,” a mold and mildew Resistant interior paint. A look at the previousely painted bow section seems to show that the paint works. There was no mold at all on the new paint. The only issue I have with it is that it isn’t mechanically strong. Anything rubbing on the surface will peel the paint right off. If I was to do it again I would first apply Pettit Easy-Poxy and then the Easy Cabin Coat.

The Fusion 1000W pure sinewave inverter powered my orbital sander easily and the solar panels kept the battery full. This inverter however is very RF noisy. I can’t use any of my radios at the same time. You get what you pay for. I also can’t use my laptop with it as the mouse cursor goes crazy. I hope it is the RF noise, and not a bad waveform. I will use it for charging only and run the computer on its battery when working.


I understand now the sailor’s fascination with fans! It felt like 120 degrees inside. I wore just my underwear, and it was still way too hot to stay below for any lenght of time, and not because I was half naked! Now I know how dogs locked in cars on hot days feel like.. Doing nothing laying on a bunk was barely tolerable. As soon as I moved I started sweating. I need to investigate those dorado boxed more closely. There was no wind, so I am not sure they would have helped.

One thing I will have to be aware of is my exposure to the sun. That means long sleeves, pants, and something for my neck and face, if just some sunscreen. I burned my knees this week-end just by being on deck for a little while. It doesn’t take long.

My companionway hatch is all warped because of rain and the failing of the fiberglass I glued on with epoxy. I didn’t have my sander then and sanded by hand, obviousely not well enough. I also suspect the fiberglass/epoxy shrunk, and since it was on the outside only, pulled on the planks. I will build a new one out of marine plywood left overs from my Fafnir project. I am even thinking of including a clear bubble to allow a good look around without having to open the hatch.

Another four-day session at the end of this month should be enough to finish the boat. It is never 100% finished of course, and I know of a few to-do list items I will have to complete under way or at anchor somewhere. I just didn’t want to have any big project going on to spoil my adventure. In the mean time I will probably build the companionway hatch and drop it off in a couple weeks. Rain water finding its way down below during every squall can’t be good.

A guy stopped by to offer his diving services to clean my bottom, uh, the boat’s bottom I mean.. One Dollar per foot, that’s $26 for Dagny. I eagerly handed out my money, also left him a new zinc to put on the propeller shaft. “No extra charge,” just my lucky day. I will have him do it one more time before leaving. My three-bladed prop will be enough of a drag, I don’t need the extra barnacles!

Thanks to Melina and Dave again for helping me getting there and back.

I have such good friends here, it will be very hard to leave them all behind.

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