S/V Tango. Log entries 2008
The Frustrated Voyage
Friday, 8/8/08. "Ow! That was stupid!" I looked upward at the mast, wondering what went wrong but knowing that I was double stupid not to have used a safety line. I felt my thigh where I had hit the winch on the side of the mast. My hand came away bloody. I gingerly lifted my head off the deck and glanced down at my legs. My foot was at a funny angle. I had fallen about six feet before hitting the winch, then another four feet to the deck. The line I had been climbing was heaped around and under me. The bosun's chair straps dug into my hips. Bob Durnell and Patrick Robertson hovered over me. I felt fully conscious, in little pain, and disgusted by my carelessness. And I knew it was the end of my voyage plans for the next couple of months.
Bob called 9-1-1. An ambulance and EMT crew from the fire department were soon on their way. Bill, an EMT who was moonlighting as a groundskeeper at the marina, showed up to help. Patrick went to the marina gate to guide the emergency crews. Soon six or eight EMTs swarmed aboard and I was on the way to Emanuel Legacy Hospital in Portland.
It was Sunday morning and we were just finishing the installion of reefing lines and lazy jacks. The bitter end of one of the jackstay lines had come loose and was on the verge of escaping from its sheave on the lower spreader. We were trying to get the work done before the breeze came up because we had raised the mainsail to install the lines, a risky proposition when a powerfully-canvased boat like Tango is tied in the slip. We were checking off the last of our pre-voyage chores, planning to leave Rocky Point for Astoria on Monday morning. We had had a great cruise around Sauvie Island the day before. The engine ran like a top, the sails worked just the way they should, everthing seemed ready. We stocked up enough food to get to Astoria and beyond, filled the fuel tanks, emptied the holding tanks, and loaded the ice chest.
Poseidon certainly frowns on this voyage. He must be frustrated with our refusal to be stopped by the impediments he's put in our way. Maybe he felt he had to break my leg to stop me. Well, he was successful. I had surgery on Monday, a titanium rod inserted into my femur. Jill was such a godsend, staying with me in my hospital room. Now I'm home, walking around on crutches. The surgeon said the sugery went very well, the alignment of the foot should be as good as new, and I might be off crutches in four weeks.
Thursday, 7/31/08. Peter and I drove to Scappoose Sunday evening and worked on Tango through Tuesday. While I focused on the engine cooling system, he tackled the final details of the electrical panel. It was with some satisfaction that he finished installing breakers, connecting circuits, and applying labels--and, finally, after pulling more unused wire and combing and compacting the wires that were left, he was able to close the electrical cabinet door.
In a multiple-ibuprofen effort, I replaced all the radiator hoses and most of the raw water hoses. I had to drape myself over the engine or hunch down in contorted positions to get at most of the hoses, but I was able to pull the system apart and replace the hoses one by one. Three different sizes of hose were needed, and one Rube Goldberg set of elbows, bends, hose clamps, and couplings required a trip into the back room of a large auto parts store to identify radiator hoses that could be made to fit. In the end, we bought over $200 worth of hoses, but that included plenty of spares. We got enough so that there was a remaining piece of each size as long as the longest hose in use on the boat. I cleaned out the hose storage locker in the bilge, removed twenty pounds of aged metal (battery cables, rusty water pump, alternator brackets), and stowed the hose scraps where they'll be easy to find.
Cleaning efforts continue. In the cockpit, the engine gauges are protected by a plexiglass cover. Despite the protection, the faces of the gauges were covered by fiberglass dust from the deck rebuild. Peter pulled the cover off and vacuumed the gauge panel, then rubbed the plexiglass with Pledge furniture polish, which helped hide the scratches. In the cabin, even though we've vacuumed and dusted and washed down every surface, we're still finding dusty spots we've missed. As part of the cleanup effort, I decided it was time to pump out the holding tank for the forward head. I located the portable pumpout dock cart but before I hauled it to the boat I thought I should double-check the plumbing. I walked all around the deck and couldn't find the discharge deck plate. Puzzled, I went into the head and traced the pipe upward from the wye-valve through the cabinet. When I ran my hand up it to follow it to the deck, I found it dead-ended with a rag stuffed in the end. Andrew, the yard manager, seemed embarrassed when I told him about it. He got a new deck plate and assigned one of the techs to install it.
There are several items left on the to-do list, but none should keep Tango from embarking on the voyage. I'm trying to round up crew to take her to Astoria this weekend and to Puget Sound next week. Any volunteers?
Tango is nearly ready to go. We're watching the weather forecasts at the NOAA Ocean Prediction Center
Of special interest is the 96-hour wind/wave forecast:
Note that the arrows show the wind direction and speed. They are not wind vanes; they fly in the direction that the wind is going. The barbs on the tail indicate wind speed. Each full-sized barb is 10 knots. When a low-pressure cell moves east onto the coast, winds blow from the south. That's the best sailing, but expect stormy weather. When a high-pressure cell stalls over the Cascades, the wind and waves will be calm. That's second-best because it means motoring in nice weather. The worst is a high pressure cell in the North Pacific and a low east of the Cascades. That means strong headwinds. Unfortunately, that's the predominant pattern in the summer.
Updates on Tango's rejuvenation
Monday, 7/21/08. We had successful trials yesterday--if by success one means rooting out undiscovered problems. We had hoped to have two or three days of cruising upriver to power up the engine, raise sails, set up the instrumentation, set and raise the anchor, and expose Tango's remaining weaknesses. But schedule conflicts meant that all four boat partners could sail for only one day. We wanted to be back at the dock by 6:30 so Peter and Margy could drive home to tend an ailing cat. Jill, Dmitri (our grandson), and I were on the road by 6:20 AM Sunday, excited about Tango's re-inaugural cruise.
Peter and Margy arrived at Rocky Pointe Marina just as I finished loading a dock cart with our luggage. We rigged Tango, ran the engine for several minutes, and headed out around 11:00 AM. We planned to motor down Multnomah Channel past St. Helens and into the Columbia River until mid-afternoon, then turn back upriver and sail on the 10-knot northwest wind to the channel. For the first time, we tried backing out of the dock using a spring line to turn the boat in the right direction. (Prop walk in reverse turns the boat to starboard--we needed to back to port.) It took a couple of tries to get it right, but it worked and we headed out of the marina. I powered up the engine to 2200 RPM, which is near the upper operational limit. About a mile from the marina, the Aqualarm began ringing. If you can imagine the schoolhouse corridor alarms of the past, the dome-shaped bells vibrated by internal strikers that sustained a raucous clang so loud that everyone flinched, you have an idea of the Aqualarm. I looked at the engine gauges and saw that it was running hot.
I called for an anchor drill. We tucked into a nook of the channel downstream from some floating houses and upstream of some old pilings. At first pass, with only 3:1 scope, the CQR anchor did not bite. Peter ran the windlass and brought it back up. We idled back into the nook and tried again. This time, as Tango was backing, the anchor bit firmly and we stopped. We had lunch while waiting for the engine to cool down and brainstormed about the problem. Peter thought that we should check the valves that controlled the flow of coolant to the hydronic cabin heater. Our boatwright, Rick, set up a valve manifold that allows us to use waste heat from the engine to heat the cabin. I dug out my systems notes and we looked at the instructions that Rick left. Sure enough, two of the valves that were closed should have been open. We re-set them then started the engine and ran it long enough to feel confident that it wouldn't overheat. I was reminded of the old saying that cruising is fixing your boat in exotic ports.
After raising the anchor (another crucial element in the trials), we set off down the channel past the many floating houses and marinas. We opened a bottle of champagne, drank some, and splashed some on the bow. After passing Warrior Point on the downstream end of Sauvie Island, we emerged into the Columbia River. We motored into the wind, the waves throwing spray onto the deck. Dmitri, a thrill-loving nine-year-old, stood on the deck being doused by the spray. When we got to Kalama, we raised the main sail and turned back upriver (downwind). We gybed back and forth across the channel, dodging car carriers, container ships, and barges until we got close to St. Helens and the entry to Multnomah Channel. We unfurled the genoa, just to make sure we could do it, and worked to keep it filled, out of the wind shadow of the main, while we ran downwind. We soon started the engine, dropped the sails, and headed to the mouth of the channel. Again, the Aqualarm started ringing. Again, the engine overheated. I looked in the engine room. It looked like a Turkish steam bath--I could hardly see across the engine room. It stank. I had a bad case of deja vu.
Almost exactly a year ago, on Tango's last cruise on Multnomah Channel before going into the boat yard, I looked into the engine room during a routine inspection and found it full of smoke. We set anchor and shut it down immediately. I diagnosed it as vaporized diesel fuel, not real smoke (whew!). A fuel return line from the injector system had developed a pinhole leak that sprayed fuel on the exhaust manifold. I was grateful that Tango wasn't gasoline-powered. The situation would have been explosive. Instead, it was stinky and oily.
A year ago, while we were at anchor, I rummaged in the treasure trove of old hose pieces the previous owner (PO) had left in the bilge and found just the right hose to replace the leaker. Now, a year later, I was hoping the PO had left a scrap of the appropriate hose.
Fortunately, there was space at a public dock on Sand Island, near St. Helens, and Peter brought us in nicely as the temperature gauge pegged out. After we tied up and shut the engine down, he lifted the floorboards and found some hose that was close. We needed to replace a 4" piece of 1.25" radiator hose. What he found was a length of 1.5" diesel fill hose. It looked stout, and a heck of a lot better than the only alternative in the bilge, white vinyl wastewater hose. He cut off a piece using a small saw the PO had left aboard (bless him!) and, using doubled-up hose clamps, we were able to cinch the hose ends tight enough that they didn't leak. I filled the coolant reservoir and started the engine. Before long, it started overheating. I shut it off and Peter started looking up the terms and restrictions of his Boat-US policy (AAA towing for boaters).
We waited until the engine cooled down again. I added more water to the coolant reservoir. I had put in more than a gallon after replacing the hose, but there must have been air trapped in the system. I added another gallon. Then we ran the engine with the filler cap off until I was sure that all the air was purged.
The cooling system on a boat engine is peculiar. It includes a raw water system and a coolant system. Instead of an automobile's radiator, the marine engine has a heat exchanger that transfers heat from the engine coolant to the water in which the boat is floating. A raw water pump draws ambient water from a through-hull near the keel, passes it through a coarse filter, then forces it through a heat exchanger where it picks up waste engine heat. The water then passes into the waterlift muffler, a three-gallon pot into which the exhaust gases and waste raw water are dumped. When the water rises to the level of the muffler's outlet, exhaust gas pressure forces it out the exhaust pipe along with the exhaust gases.
The coolant (a 50:50 mix of antifreeze and water) circulates through a closed system. The coolant pump draws fluid through the heat exchanger and forces it into the cooling passages in the engine. After leaving the block and head, the water flows into a jacket around the exhaust manifold before returning to the heat exchanger. The hose that failed was at the hottest part of the cycle, between the exhaust jacket and the heat exchanger. After a hot and sweaty struggle to replace it, we ran the engine at the dock until we were confident that the new hose wasn't leaking. About 8:30 PM we started back up the channel. We watched the temperature gauge closely, but fortunately it never rose above 200 degrees.
Soon the sun set and the moon rose. We regretted the former, because the channel is narrow, winding, and lined with boat-eating pilings from long ago. It became very dark. But we celebrated the latter as the waning, near-full moon appeared above the horizon, disappearing and reappearing as we passed by the riparian groves on Sauvie Island. We relied on the chartplotter and radar to wend our way in the darkness. Finally we arrived at Rocky Pointe Marina about 11:30 PM.
I had used creative visualization to imagine the moves it would take--rudder, throttle, forward and reverse gear--to get us into our slip. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, it was time to bring the drill into reality. The slip is perpendicular to a narrow channel, and there's a current that sweeps downriver. As we idled toward the slip, I turned the wheel hard over. Tango responded slowly (15 tons of inertia!), but it was evident that we would crash into the floating toilet/laundry room next to our slip if we continued on our heading. I put it into reverse and cranked up the throttle, bringing her to a stop, then forward gear and full throttle with the wheel hard over to kick the stern around. She slipped into her berth, then I hit reverse and full throttle to a bring her to a stop. I indulged in a shameless bit of mental self-congratulation and hoped that I could repeat the performance when needed. But I remain humble remembering the many collisions I've had with docks.
Peter and Margy left for home and the rest of the crew spent the night aboard. This morning, I scoped out what it would take to replace all the coolant hoses--better now than later. After we service the cooling system and take care of a few items on the to-do list, Tango should be ready for her next adventure, the passage from Rocky Point to Puget Sound.
Friday, 7/18/08. When we got to Tango Wednesday morning, we immediately noticed that she had been moved to the slip next to the one she had been in when we left her last week. Also immediately evident were scratches and scuffs on the port side of the hull. Whoever moved her scraped her against the side of the dock. Peter, one of the most laid-back people I know, was steamed. We hot-footed it to the marina office, but fortunately for Stan, the marina manager, he wasn't there. So we walked the quarter mile to the boat yard office. Peter said that it was good that it was a long walk so he could cool down a little. Andrew, the yard manager, wasn't happy to hear the news. He said, "That's two for two!" and sent Brian, one of the techs, back to the dock with us to look at the damage. Brian said that the marina had hired a new man to run the tug--a man with too much pride to take advice about not pushing ten-ton boats too fast and not leaving enough room to slow and stop. He had run a woody into the dock, causing some damage.
After looking at the damage to Tango's hull paint, Brian thought that acetone could clean off the vinyl scuffs left from contact with the dock bumper and the scratches could be buffed out. I've taken care of similar damage to Lacuna's hull from docking mishaps. I hope the scratches aren't through the Awlgrip paint, which is very tough stuff. I also hope that the damage can be repaired at the slip--without moving Tango again!
We set to work on the to-do list with a strong motivator--my 4Runner was literally stuffed with Tango's cushions. We had to finish most of the interior tasks, including thorough cleaning, before we could move them into the boat. We vowed not to haul them back to Peter's house. We finished and crossed off one task after another. I assembled and installed the instrument pod I made out of teak and mahogany scraps. When I fired up the old digital depth sounder, the screen showed the "---" sign that it couldn't find the bottom. I pulled the face panel off the pod and checked the connections one more time. The power supply was OK, and when I checked the resistance across the contacts of the wire to the sensor at the bottom of the hull, there was continuity but resistance, indicating that the sensor was functional. I put it back together and shrugged--time to move on to other tasks.
When I looked at the sounder an hour later, it showed "470 feet." I knew there couldn't be more than 30 feet of water at the dock. A couple of hours later, it showed 70 feet. A while after that, Peter fired up the Furuno nav system and found that the depth was 30 feet--and at that moment, the old sounder agreed. Was it a miracle of electonic self-healing? Alas, as we watched, the sounder's display rose to 80 feet. It is not to be trusted. Further inquiries are needed--the wire from the sensor to the instrument was spliced in three places, and perhaps there is excessive resistance in a splice.
We hustled with the vacuum and wet rags, cleaned the interiors of cabinets and re-installed back panels and cabinet doors. I stuffed our collection of usable wire scraps into a dry bag and put it into the bilge. We sorted out the recycling, tools, and supplies that could go home and broke cardboard boxes down. Finally, the cabin was clean enough to re-install the cushions. We worked hard all day, skipping lunch and our customary latte-seeking excursions to Scappoose, but seeing the goal so close kept us motivated. After putting the newly-cleaned cushions in place, we partook of mild intoxicants to celebrate being able to sit at the dinette again. It had been almost a year since we last sat there.
Tango is ready for river trials. Our plan is to put her through her paces on Sunday and, if she passes the test, prepare her for the voyage down to Astoria and north to Puget Sound. After Astoria, we'll be at the mercy of the weather. We're hoping for either a stationary high over the Cascades, which would result in clear weather with little wind--we would have to make the passage along the Washington coast by motor--or a low pressure cell moving in from the western Pacific, which would give us a tailwind as we sail north. The prevailing weather includes a high-pressure cell that typically parks in the northeast Pacific, causing north winds along the Oregon and Washington coasts. The trip north last spring from Alameda was enough to convince me that I don't want to pound into a headwind again if I can avoid it.
Friday, 7/4/08. A year ago, Tango's crew celebrated Independence Day offshore, on a great cruise from Newport to Scappoose. I wish we were offshore again, because the weather forecast predicts 15-knot southerly winds and moderate seas off the Washington coast for the next couple of days.
When Peter and I drove into the marina on Wednesday morning, I spotted Tango in her assigned slip--the first time she'd been there in 10 months (Peter's and Margy's Windrose 24 occupied the berth for much of the winter). The boat yard workers had moved her from where we had left her, tied up to the dry dock. The yard is so busy that space is precious--they're always moving boats around, on the water or on land, and any empty space is quickly filled. I'm glad they moved her--I wasn't looking forward to doing it in that crowded yard. They probably used the yard tug, a small barge with a pilothouse, a 40-hp outboard motor, and a dog on the bow.
After having had a few days for reflection, we agreed that the cockpit bulkhead was the best place for the 10" Furuno radar/navigation display. I had fabricated a teak backing panel to cover the holes left by the old instruments. After some discussion of how to align a rectangular panel on a non-rectangular boat, we reached a satisfactory compromise and scribed the outlines of the cutout. With my saber saw and a fine metal-cutting blade, I carefully followed the lines. Even with a heavy-duty saw, it was slow because the fiberglass of the bulkhead was a half-inch thick and backed by a wood panel nearly an inch thick. My arms were covered by fiberglass dust (oh, the itches!) before Peter brought the ShopVac to bear and sucked up the dust as it left the saw. After a bit of trimming, the panel and instrument fit just right.
Peter spent much of the remainder of Wednesday and most of Thursday morning wiring the system and installing components. Much to our delight, the system fired up. The radar and the mast-head weather station worked. Both displays received and transmitted information. We still need specialized cables to complete connections to some of the components, such as the depth sounder, and we have to figure out how what settings to use, but the system is in place and running. We looked in catalogs for instrument pods to house the old depth and knotmeter dial gauges, but nothing met our needs and most units were $500 or more. I decided to make a housing out of teak and mahogany scraps I have in my shop.
Our task list is down to a single page, and most of the items are fairly small. We're planning to work on it a couple of days next week and hoping to set sail the week after the Oregon Country Fair (7/11-13/08).
Update Friday, 6/27/08. It has been an eventful week, and Tango is so close to being ready for river trials that I can hardly keep myself from casting off. Her mast was raised on Monday. On Thursday the dodger canvas and new sails were installed. The engine started and ran flawlessly after nearly a year of silence. The boat yard bill is paid. There were some setbacks and delays, of course, and some installations yet to complete, but she's almost ready to go.
The mast raising was hair-raising for me but S.O.P. for the guys at the boat yard. They pushed the mast on a dolly across the parking lot to the Travelift dock, where the crane waited. Tango was tied tightly in the dock, as close to the shore as possible. When the mast was in position to raise, Peter installed the last minute items at the masthead--the VHF antenna and fragile wind vane. With Andrew at the controls of the crane and a crew of experienced boatwrights to wrestle it into position, the mast stepping was picture-perfect. They managed to avoid tangling the rigging in the yard light pole, and they guided the mast base through the cabin top and down to the keel step just as if they had done it many times before.
Monday evening was hot, and as the sun was setting across Tango's decks, I saw a big blister. I pushed on it. It bulged like a balloon. We looked around and saw several more. Quickly, while they were visible in the oblique light, Peter tagged them with blue masking tape. Tuesday, we reported them to Andrew, who didn't seem surprised. He guessed that the paint hadn't adhered because the painter dripped sweat on the deck as he was painting. He said he'd follow up. We drove home Monday evening and back to Scappoose on Thursday.
When we arrived Thursday morning, the decks were wet and the tape markers were gone. Kerry and Annika of North Sails and North Winds Canvas were aboard, fitting the new sails and dodger panels, side curtains, and bug screens. They said the boat had been washed that morning before they arrived. It was a good thing, too, because the new sails were pristine white, crisp, and shiny. We laid them out on the deck to prepare them for hoisting, and it would have been unpleasant to lay them on a dirty deck. However, our effort to keep them clean was only partially successful--as we lowered the main from its virginal top-of-the-mast flight, it wore a streak of bird shit.
In all the excitement, we didn't look for the blisters, and now that we were moored on the east side of the dry dock, we wouldn't have the oblique evening light to highlight them again. Just before we left for Eugene late this afternoon, we asked Travis about them, expecting that he wouldn't be able to get to them until next week. He said he'd already taken care of them. The problem was between the original gelcoat and the underlying fiberglass, and as he described it, a bond that had persisted for 32 years failed during the deck restoration. I'm not surprised because fiberglass resin technology has changed a lot in that time, and new products might have unforeseen incompatibilities with older materials. He said that he popped the blisters, removed the unattached skin, and ground the edges of the blisters to sound material, then re-painted with nonskid texture beads and Awlgrip.
We have been wrestling with the question of where to place the Furuno navigation system displays. We bought two units, one for the helm and one for the navigation station. We intended to have the unit with the 7" display in front of the helmsman and the 10" unit at the nav station. But when we had them in hand, we realized that they were too large to place them as we originally planned. The larger case was way too big to fit at the nav station, which was almost overwhelmed by the smaller unit. We set the larger display where the old radar screen had been, on the cabin top alongside the companionway. It was right next to a winch where a vigorous winch grinder could easily bust her fist through the screen. No good. I held it up in front of the wheel where it dominated the view from the helm. No good. Tango should be sailed by the spine, not the eyes and brain. I suggested removing the three dial-faced gauges and putting the display in the forward bulkhead of the cockpit. Peter liked the idea, but we agreed to wait before getting out the saw. In the meantime, we plotted how to run the radar cable from the base of the mast to the possible locations for the 10" unit.
Tango's bilges are occupied by several failed and abandoned stainless steel tanks that once contained fuel or water. Running wires, cables and hoses under the cabin sole can be difficult. We looked at different paths that a cable could follow from the mast base to the cabinet housing the old gauges before discovering that we could run through unused space under the navigator's feet. The plug at the end of the radar cable is so large that it can't pass through a small hole. With a cordless drill and a 2" hole saw, I cut passages in hard-to-reach areas in a drawer cabinet under the settee berth and in the hanging locker behind the navigator. Before drilling another 2" hole in the panel behind the navigator's head, I prayed to Poseidon that I was making the right move, drilling such a huge hole in the original paneling. I think I can hide it with a smoke alarm after the cable is installed...
The inverter provided the drama and emotional ups and downs of the latter half of the week. The boat yard had taken it to the service center in northeast Portland for warranty repair. A failed circuit board was replaced and it was turned around quickly. We picked it up Thursday. Steve, the tall, skinny boatwright, re-installed it. We tried it. It didn't work. Peter got on the phone to the tech who had done the service. Our only recourse was to pull it out and take it in for analysis. He suggested that we bring in the remote control panel for testing as well.
The realization came to me that failure might be common with this unit. I felt I had to learn how to pull it. I didn't feel good about asking Steve to pull it again. Steve is skinny, which is a plus, and tall, which is not. The mechanic must fold himself into the port lazarette locker, remove a hatch from the floor of the lazarette, and reach down into the remote corner of the engine room. He can ease the bolts holding the unit to the bulkhead and, with some exertion, lift it onto the water heater, where he can reach and stretch and fiddle with wrenches and tiny screwdrivers to remove all the wires and cables. Then he fastens a lifting strap around the unit and, with the help of an accomplice outside the lazarette, wrestles it to daylight.
I wriggled my way down into the lazarette, slowly fitting my body into the tight space and turning so that I could reach down through the hatch and wrestle with the intractable item. One by one, I took off screws, bolts, and wire connectors. Fortunately, Peter had marked every connection clearly on the case and the wires and cables with a Sharpy pen before the original installation, so all I had to do was disconnect everything. I didn't have to worry about how it all went back together. Just when I removed the last connector and got the unit into position for lifting, Steve came running to help. He pulled it out of the lazarette and carried it onto the dock.
Much dejected, we drove to northeast Portland once again. Fortunately, the tech who did the warranty service was very accommodating. He immediately put the unit through its paces and after a rigorous test of both the inverter and battery charger functions declared that the unit was working the way it was supposed to. He tested the control panel as well and pronounced it functional. Mystified, we drove back to the boat yard to re-install and field-test the inverter and control panel. When I lugged the unit down to Tango, Steve hustled up. He insisted on re-installing the unit, much to my delight. After everything was connected, we turned on the breakers to light up the inverter--and it worked just the way it was supposed to. We ran vacuums and work lamps on the inverted 120V then plugged into shore power and charged the battteries. It all seems good. We breathe deeply in relief. But as they say in the newspapers, only time will tell.
At least next time the inverter fails, I'll feel confident in my ability to yank it out. When we bought Tango, I looked forward to the challenges of becoming familiar with all her systems, components, quirks, capabilities, risks, and strengths. Peter and I noted that we feel that we've been through a graduate course in boat ownership and maintenance. I've squeezed into that lazarette more times than I want to count. I expect to do so again.
Next week, we'll install the electronics displays, and if the gods are willing, embark on river trials. As soon as we feel that Tango is ready, I'll post an itinerary.
Update Saturday, 6/21/08. Tango is afloat! She was launched Tuesday, and although she doesn't have her mast up yet, she feels alive again. There's something unnatural about the feel of a boat on stands. It doesn't move when someone walks around on the deck. It doesn't rock with waves or tremble when the wind is up. Once on the water, she takes on a different character, lively and responsive to people and the elements. Someone steps aboard and she lists gently. She tosses her head when wakes from passing boats hit her. Though she's moored to the dry dock, the river's current makes her dance as if she's going somewhere.
Although there's more work to do before she's ready for trials, we boat slaves are excited about the progress. Before the launch, we devoted ourselves to straightening out the wiring. Peter pulled all the old circuit breakers and replaced them with new units. I focused on the spaghetti in another part of the boat and found great satisfaction in pulling unused wires and resolving wiring mysteries.
Among the other tasks in preparation for the launch was the placement of the coin at the mast step. The previous owners of Tango had left a gold coin with some sentimental value under the mast. We agreed to send them the coin if we ever pulled the mast. Last fall, when the mast was pulled so a cocoon could be built over the deck, the coin went through some adventures when one of the techs vacuumed out the stinky carcasses of the multitude of box elder bugs that had died in the bilge under the mast. He dumped his ShopVac over the side. If Tango had been on the water, no one would have seen the coin again. But Tango was on the hard at the boat yard. A few days later, when we visited and made inquiries about the coin and heard the story of the vacuuming, we searched the ground beneath Tango--in vain. But a week later, the techs were beaming--Travis had found a shiny little coin in the dirt and picked it up. He didn't know what he had, but it was interesting. He gave it back and I sent it to the previous owners, who plan to put it under the mast of their new boat.
A few months ago, I went to a coin store and bought a 1976 Eisenhower dollar, a big flashy coin with Ike looking vigilant in bas-relief ("beware of the military-industrial complex"). I glued it to the mast step with epoxy, hoping that Charon won't be put off by the epoxy coating--this bimetallic coin won't resist corrosion like the gold sovereign.
We had some setbacks, including the failure of a near-new inverter and the discovery of a pre-catastrophic crack in the mast rigging. The inverter was a bad case of deja vu all over again. Tango had a Heart 1500 watt inverter/battery charger aboard when we bought her, but it soon failed. When we pulled it out, we found that a circuit board had been corroded by salt water. We bought a new Xantrex (ex-Heart) 1500 inverter several months ago and installed it in the most remote, difficult-to-get-to place in the engine room, hoping we'd never have to service it again. Everything seemed well as long as Tango was connected to shore power, but after the launch I noticed that the 120V circuits were dead. The inverter should have automatically switched from its battery charger function to its inverter function when shore power was disconnected. The control panel did not respond to repeated and prolonged button pushes. The display read an unchanging value for battery voltage, 13.60V, that I remembered from the previous failure. I checked the battery bank with a voltmeter and found 13.18V. Peter made some calls to Xantrex and found poor customer support, finally coming to the conclusion that we'd have to pull the unit and take it to a service center in Portland. We'll have the youngest, strongest, skinniest tech do the removal.
While removing the masking from the freshly-painted mast, I took a close look at each of the fittings, wires, swages, clevis pins, and cotter pins that I exposed. We had the rig surveyed in Alameda, but the rigger couldn't look at some fittings that were covered by spreader boots. Now that the mast was down, it was time to look at everything closely. As I cleaned the accumulated dirt and dead leaves out of the fitting that held the upper and lower shrouds together at the end of the port lower spreader, once covered by a boot, I had a "Holy Shit!" moment. One of the eyes holding the 3/8" stainless steel shroud to the top of the mast had a big, rust-stained crack. It took a millisecond to imagine possible consequences of its failure--the mast could fall, and if it happened, it would likely be when it was highly stressed. Big seas, lots of sail, a sudden gust...
Rick, the lead tech on Tango, took all the other shrouds apart one by one, cleaned them, and applied a dye that migrates into cracks and crevices. He found no other faults. At the rigging shop, they were shocked to see the crack, reported Stan, the marina manager, who delivered the new shroud. It took less than 24 hours to get the new one. It was another, more mundane part that caused a greater delay--the mast spreader boots. I had bought two pairs of vinyl boots, but overlooked the size of the connecting plates that had hidden the cracked shroud end. The boots were too small, so on Friday Peter and I drove to Portland to buy extra-large leather boots. By the time we got back to the boat yard, it was too late in the day to step the mast. And the leather boots weren't big enough. I'll have to buy some leather and make some from scratch. Tango is waiting in position at the Travelift dock, and except for the mast boots, the mast is ready to go up.
See http://picasaweb.google.com/shocasailor/Upgrade3 for new photos.
Update Friday, 6/13/08. It's yet another week, and Tango is even closer to being ready to launch (where have we heard that before?). She's so close that Andrew and the techs are talking about splashing her Monday. But....there are possible delays, of course. When Peter and I left the yard at 5:30 today, there were still two woodies blocking the alley between Tango and the launch dock. One, a 36-foot Grand Banks trawler, is in for bottom paint. The techs had sanded the bottom, but my fear is that they'll discover some rot that will delay the application of bottom paint. I don't know what the other boat up on stands, a ~27-foot sedan cruiser, is in for, but the Travelift was parked astraddle as if it were soon going back in the water.
Another possible delay is that the mast, spreaders, and boom have not yet been painted. The techs masked, sanded, and prepped them, but they are not under cover, and almost any weather can be cause to postpone the final application. If it's raining, no go. If the wind is up, no go. If the weather is unsettled, no go. They're going to work tomorrow, so I hope they can shoot the paint. I agree with the decision not to apply Awlgrip (very expensive stuff) unless the conditions are right, but it's frustrating to see day after day go by. We don't want to install the radar reflector or the mount for the radar scanner until the painting is finished. We don't want to install the radar scanner until the day the mast is ready to be stepped. We don't want to install the mast-head wind vane or weather station until the crane is ready to step the mast. We've seen radar scanners fill with rainwater when they're on their side, the mast on sawhorses. We've seen wind vanes and mast-top instruments tangled in the bushes when a mast is pushed out of the way.
There's good news. The aged crane is revived. Today, the hydraulic cylinders that raise the main boom were re-installed. The poor old thing looked so pitiful with its boom flat on the ground, like an old fighter face-down on the canvas. But it's apparently back in fighting trim, much to the delight of those who want to see Tango's mast upright again. The techs got down to final details, including removing the vinyl letters that spelled out Tango's former home port, San Francisco, and replacing them with her new hailing port, Newport, Oregon. They washed the hull today, showing Tango's beautiful paint to its best advantage. The zinc is on the prop shaft. The rudder is painted. We've crossed a lot of tasks off our to-do list.
Peter and I focused on electrical work the past couple of days. He removed the main breaker panel and installed new breakers mounted in a new cabinet door. Far from a simple task, it involved tracing down dozens of circuits. Before we bought Tango, we vowed that we would remove any superfluous wiring from any vessel that we acquired. Since all the boats that attracted us were about thirty years old, we knew we'd have to deal with lots of wiring bizarreness from previous owners and mechanics. A few years ago, we chartered a boat much like Tango and marveled at the amount of wires and switches that had been abandoned, disabled, or left as a mystery. We've kept to our vow. We remove any wiring element that doesn't serve a purpose. So Peter traced down each circuit and purged the non-functional elements. He simplified the wiring substantially, removing old bus bars, speaker switch, solar panel regulator, and dead-ended wires from the electrical cabinet. I made a fiberglass cover for the back of the new 120V breakers so we could avoid accidental shock. The old panel had no back cover over the 120V circuits, exposing the unwary person who delved within to dangerous shocks. Even Peter, an experienced electrician, fell afoul of the exposed contacts.
While Peter worked in the main electrical cabinet, I tackled another wiring mess. In a couple of small cabinets above the galley counter and behind the companionway ladder (an awkward and claustrophobic place to work), there is a rat's nest of wires, funky connections, and mystery switches that cries out for help. I tackled it bit by bit. My first project was to fix the switch that powers the electric fuel pump, which is used to prime the engine if it gets an air block in the injector system and also used to polish the fuel by recirculating it through the filter system. It took me a couple of hours to straighten out this one circuit. First I traced the power supply back toward its source. I found that two other wires had been soldered to the hot wire. One had been cut off, the remaining stub wrapped loosely with black electrician's tape. Another parasitic wire jumped to a two-position pull switch with a label that indicated that it was a battery combiner. It had fat red wires that led into the rat's nest at the back of the cabinet. I cut off all the parasites and spliced the wires together properly, then replaced all the bogus crimped terminals on the pump switch. With some regret, I re-installed the in-line fuse holder protecting the circuit. I'm not in favor of fuse holders in hidden places, but sometimes they are necessary. Unfortunately, the cabinet that I've taken on has several more in-line fuse holders, and I'll have to figure out what device each one protects so that I can record it in the ship's systems notes.
Next, I looked at the battery combiner switch. Peter has a signal generator that can be clipped to a mystery wire and a sensor that sounds a tone when it's near the wire. I used the setup to trace the wires that came off the pull switch and found that they dead-ended at the aft end of the engine room, so I removed them and pulled the switch out of the panel. I had to cut the zip-ties that bundled lots of wires together in order to get the wires out, so the more I worked, the more disorganized the wiring seemed. Toward the end of the day, I hit the mother lode. I found a couple of fat 10-guage wires in the back of the cabinet labeled "generator." I immediately suspected that I had found more mystery wires because Tango doesn't have a generator (we later concluded that she once did). It took some gymnastics to find them, but by stuffing myself into the lazarette under the cockpit seat, peering down through an access hatch into the remote side of the engine room, and waving the sensor around, I found the ends of the wires. I had to lie atop the engine to get to the cut ends of the wires, but I found more than I expected--there were eight or ten wires, a bundle an inch and a half in diameter, that were cut off and abandoned. I was excited to find them, because I believe that if I trace them back, I can get rid of a whole lot of clutter in those cabinets. However, my joy was tempered by the unpleasantness of the task before me. The flex conduit that held the wires across the engine room also held decades of condensed diesel fuel vapors and smoke. When I peeled the conduit away, stinky old diesel fuel dripped out. When I grabbed the wires, they were slick with dirty, oily residue. Mercifully soon, it was time to go home, so I left the mystery wire removal project until Monday.
Update Friday, 6/6/08. Tango is close to being ready to launch. When I left the boatyard late Wednesday afternoon, the techs had prepped the topsides for a final coat of Awlgrip on the cabin sides and top. The patches on the rudder had been painted with barrier coat and lacked only a couple of coats of bottom paint. We're still trying to figure out how to install a zinc on the new prop shaft, but otherwise all underwater tasks are done.
We've been tending to details and cleaning up. The techs have been re-visiting their projects, wrapping up details. Peter dragged the whole length of anchor chain out of the locker and vacuumed out the fiberglass dust (he reported emptying the ShopVac twice). Last week, I took down the doors of the forward stateroom and head, pulled off the hinges, drilled out the screw holes and filled them with thickened epoxy. I straightened the hinges and stripped the accumulated varnish off them. This week, we re-hung the doors, trimmed them to fit, and got them working properly. I worked on some electrical mysteries around the bilge pumps and resolved them (but there's still the mystery of the +7V reading on a couple of the float switch terminals--my guess is that it's monitor voltage from the Aqua Alarm). My final task of the day was to suck the noxious fluid out of the bilge sump with the hard-working ShopVac and re-flood it with fresh water and Simple Green. I'll let it marinate for a week before sucking it out.
The mast, boom, and spreaders need a final coat of Awlgrip but that can't happen until there's a day or two of dry weather. The yard crane is down for hydraulic repairs, so they won't be able to step the mast until next week. Blocking Tango's way are a couple of boats in for bottom paint, so she probably won't splash down until late next week.
Update Friday, 5/30/08. It was a week of finishing projects on Tango. Rick and Travis (with Peter's help) finished installing the genoa tracks. Adrian and Travis tackled the rudder, taking turns grinding away the soft spots and re-filling them with fiberglass cloth and vinylester resin. They finished tasks in the lazarette and engine room, cleaned the decks, and took care of other details. Peter removed the fixed ports over the galley and nav station. We'll have laminated safety glass cut to replace the fogged plastic. I removed the teak grates from the cockpit and vacuumed out the accumulated fiberglass dust. To remove the grate, I had to disassemble the binnacle to remove the grab bar, which was screwed to the grate. When I pulled the compass out, I discovered that there were some serious wiring issues that needed to be addressed.
On the front of the binnacle is a 12V outlet. The wires that supply it run up the binnacle from the engine room, alongside the chain drive of the steering mechanism and the engine control cables. They were spliced by cheap butt connectors that had been crimped with a cheap tool. Bare wire showed at both ends of the butt connectors. The connectors were placed in a failure mode--they were just below the anchor point of the wire, with the weight of the wire hanging on them. If a wire had pulled out of the connector, it could have ended up tangled in the steering chain, possibly hindering steering or causing a short circuit. I re-did the connections with uninsulated connectors squeezed with a ratcheting crimper, covered the connectors individually with adhesive heat-shrink tubing, then covered the whole bundle of wire and connectors with an outer sheath of adhesive heat-shrink. I secured the bundle to a strong point that should keep it out of the steering gear. I re-did the connectors for the compass light, epoxied some worn-out attachment points, polished the metal of the compass and its cover, and re-secured the teak grate and grab bar. It's an example of how one project (vacuuming) can lead to many more (electrical, epoxy, metal polish).
There's talk of moving Tango out of the tent now that the deck is painted. I'm hoping that instead of being moved to another spot in the yard she can splash down, but que sera, sera. I don't know when the mast will be stepped. The old crane has experienced hydraulic cylinder failure and is on the DNF list. The mast, spreaders, and boom have been primed but not painted.
All boat partners agree that next year we'd like to do the voyage we planned for this year. Put it on your calendar! This year, we'll start whenever Tango is seaworthy, we'll get as far as we get, and we'll have fun all the way. We'll do some shakedown cruises on the Columbia River as soon as Tango is ready. Stay tuned. There will be oppurtunities for day sailing or short cruises in the near future.
Tango update Friday, 5/23/08: It's two steps forward and one step back, as usual. The re-installtion of deck hardware is going well, but the genoa tracks are posing problems. The tracks are almost twenty feet long and are held to the cap rail by 8-inch-long machine screws. The standard distance between bolts is 4 inches, but the spacing on the new tracks is slightly different from the old tracks, meaning that the new track won't fit the 120 holes that are already drilled through the cap rails. We decided to fill the holes in the cap rail with thickened vinylester resin. We plugged the bottoms of the holes with foam ear plugs and duct tape then the techs injected the resin into the holes with a syringe. It was a treatment that we had considered earlier because the track bolts had leaked so copiously for so long that the mahogany planks embedded in the gunwales had partly rotted. The amount of resin injected showed that there were quite a few voids. Even though the installation of the new tracks is more involved than we hoped, having the bulwarks reinforced will be a benefit.
As Peter and I were looking at the rudder, I noticed some slight bulges. We tapped the rudder surface thoroughly and found some areas where the gel coat is delaminating. It'll take a tech a day or two to grind off the weak spots and repair, fair, and repaint them. Andrew said that he would finish painting the mast, boom, and spreaders today. Peter and I will install the radome, radar reflector, weather station, and wind vane just before the mast is ready to be stepped. After most of the work on the deck is done, the techs will spend a day touching up the paint.
Tango update Friday, 5/16/08: The decks weren't ready to walk on until yesterday, so Peter and I headed north during the heat wave to supervise the re-installation of the deck hardware. The decks look great, with new nonskid and glossy white cabin sides and bulwarks. Yesterday, we prepped the mast, boom, and spreaders for touch-up painting, and cleaned and organized the stanchions and other hardware. Today, there was tangible progress as four techs worked all day to install the pulpit, stanchions, and stern pulpit. Peter leaned against one stanchion and commented on how much stiffer it seemed. That was the goal, and it's great to see it realized.
I drilled all the holes in the cabin-top deck oversized and filled them with thickened epoxy. Next week, I'll re-drill the holes for the screws and bolts. When (not if) they leak again, the epoxy bushings will prevent water from getting into the deck core. I don't want to go through this again! We'll head north next week and continue the effort. It is possible that Tango could be on the water late next week.
Tango update Monday, 5/12/08: Andrew, the boat yard manager, told me that he sprayed the third and final coat of Awlgrip topcoat paint on the decks and bulwarks today. Tomorrow the techs will apply the non-skid, and by Wednesday we should be able to walk on it in stocking feet. If all goes according to his predictions, we'll begin re-installing the deck hardware, a task I will closely supervise (I hate leaks and I hate the use of inappropriate sealants). I'm reluctant to make predictions about when Tango will be ready to sail, but it's unlikely that she'll be set to go before Memorial Day.
We won't be able to make it to Glacier Bay this year. An alternative destination could be the Queen Charlotte Islands, or closer to home, the Broughton Group northeast of Vancouver Island. Keep your time slot open, and I'll post an updated itinerary when Tango is ready to go.
Tango update Friday, 5/2/08: Tango moved for the first time since August. It wasn't far, and it wasn't into the water, but it's a sign of progress. The Travelift moved her into a large tent so the cocoon could be stripped off and the decks finished. As Peter pointed out, it's a mixed blessing--Tango moved further into the back of the yard and into a tent that recently held a boat for two years of work. But when the cocoon was stripped off, she showed ecnouraging progress toward completion. The deck has been sprayed with primer and now needs finish sanding before topcoating. After the topcoat is done, the non-skid texture and paint will be applied and the deck hardware and mast reinstalled.
Tango update Saturday, 4/26/08: Peter and I visited Tango Tuesday, 4/22, to work on the mast wiring and pick up the deck hardware so we could clean it for re-installation. Travis, the fiberglass tech at A & D, was applying fairing compound to the deck. All the major grinding, re-glassing, and preliminary fairing had been done. The decks had received their first coat of primer, and Travis was correcting cosmetic defects that the primer revealed. Several iterations of filling and sanding are typical. On Friday, Travis left a voice mail progress report. He had tapped the decks to find voids that weren't filled with resin when the upper skin of the deck was re-installed over the new core, then drilled into them and injected resin to fill the voids, but he could do no more work for the day until the resin hardened.
Today was the day that Andrew was shooting for splash-down, but obviously that's not going to happen. The topcoat paint must be applied, the deck hardware and mast re-installed, and the new genoa tracks installed (two tracks 19 feet long, held in place by 120 bolts that had to be special ordered...but that's a story for another time). I'm grinding, sanding, and polishing hardware, some of which hasn't seen such treatment in 32 years, hoping that my efforts will reduce the amount of leaks.
As the days wear on, it may be necessary to re-think our route and ultimate destination, but don't give up hope. If you were scheduled on an early leg that had to be canceled or postponed, try to join us later in the voyage. We will go sailing, and we will explore remote waters, and we will have fun. If you are on a later leg, hang in there, don't buy your airline tickets yet, and be open to exploring waters other than your original itinerary. --Dennis
Tango update 4/16/08: I spoke with Andrew, the manager at A&D Yacht Repair, and Travis, the tech who's doing most of the fiberglass work. They reported that four men are working ten-hour days on the deck, filling and fairing the rebuilt surfaces. The structural work is done, but more cosmetic work remains. Andrew hoped to spray the deck with primer two days from now. More detail work, filling, fairing, and sanding, will follow. Then the deck hardware, mast, sails, and dodger will have to be installed. Additional work that has to be done includes cleaning the interior thoroughly, installing the electronics and electrical system upgrades, testing and troubleshooting all systems, and cleaning the water tanks.
Andrew is shooting for a splash-down date of April 26. *IF* we can begin the voyage by May 8, we should be able to catch up with the prospective itinerary by May 29. If the starting date is much later, we may end up not getting all the way to Glacier Bay. But we will go sailing and we will have a wonderful time. Crew members who signed up for the canceled legs are encouraged to join the voyage later. --Dennis