Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

December 31st 2011

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL  

The last day of the year, phew! The past year has been a year of much excitement and change; it has also been one with happiness and great sadness. As I write this blog entry Lavinia & I are gathered with other family in Pensacola, FL offering comfort and some distraction to our daughter Lavinia and our three grandchildren from the sad recent event of the death of Joey Harrison our son-in-law. Joey passed on 27th Dec. at the young age of 41. Joey had been sick for seven months after a terminal cancer diagnosis. We will all miss him greatly... 

From the personal point of view never in our lives have we experienced such a transition? Starting the year living in a large four bedroom home surrounded with all the trappings that go with a home, gardening equipment and machinery, large home appliances including the house sized vacuum cleaner, huge ironing board, large food processors, coffee maker, toaster etc., None of these things would work on the boat. In spite of these challenges we are ending the year in a few hundred square foot boat! Remarkably we did it with little or no time off work. All we have left is to empty a small storage unit and two car trunks! We have found homes for our cars when it is time to leave so we are almost ready to ‘cast off’. I have written before that our target month to set sail south is late October/November 2012. Between now and then we will both be working hard at our jobs and continuing to outfit ‘Partners’ to the specification we want. One important addition to the navigation electronics is a new Simrad autopilot which will give us complete redundancy. Steering a boat hour after hour is not my idea of fun so the autopilot redundancy is a priority as far as I am concerned. I will be adding another laptop computer loaded with our Nobiltec Admiral 11 software and C-Map charts to give us triple redundancy in this department. The existing Simrad pilot is interfaced with a Garmin chart plotter so we will have three navigation software sources able to drive two auto pilots. We also have three GPS/WAAS sources. One other ‘quirk’ that will need rectifying is the searchlight wiring...during our trip to Florida from North Carolina we had occasion to turn the searchlight on and when we did the autopilot failed, the alarm went off the pilot disengaged and we were left bemused. Turning off the searchlight enabled us to reset the pilot so I am assuming that both the pilot and the searchlight share the same power source and the current taken by the searchlight was great enough to ‘starve’ the autopilot. I will be rewiring the searchlight to rectify this problem. I had the stabilizer actuator seals replaced at Sailcraft Service; these need attention every three years. Again, during out trip south from NC, we experienced a failure of the starboard stabilizer fin. The oil alarm sounded, we were leaking oil somewhere. Needless to say the weather was the roughest of the whole trip, movement was very difficult and we had to get to the bowels of the boat to try and identify the leak. With difficulty we established the starboard fin was the culprit. It wasn’t a hose which would have been a relatively easy fix, so we would have to wait until the end of the trip to further investigate the source of the leak. FOJ and I have now dismantled the unit and think that the culprit and problem is the sensor feedback unit. We called Naiad and ordered a new seal and some o-rings; we were delighted to find out that the cost was a mere $16! I hate to think what the labour charge would have been had we called in the Naiad rep. The parts have arrived now so I will be calling John/FOJ when we return to Sarasota and ‘Partners’. All quality boats come equipped with very good manuals which usually include schematics and explicit maintenance instructions. By following and reading the manuals most people can perform most of their own maintenance which dramatically transforms the annual maintenance budget. FOJ, an excellent electrician has taught me much the one big thing is ‘find the book first’. I, in the past, had a tendency to ‘look’ at the problem and to blindly start disassembly only to find later, after encountering a problem, I should have followed a different procedure. FOJ’s methodical approach doesn’t have instant gratification but it sure beats doing the job twice! One is never too old to learn. One thing I do have, built up over many years and three previous boats, is a comprehensive collection of tools. Before leaving the boat maintenance subject I must say that not only when we called Naiad did the parts representative talk us through the repair and advise on the parts we would need but when the parts arrived they came with an easy to follow instruction sheet. We replaced the transmission cooler in Palm Beach during our voyage home the same great service came from American Diesel on this occasion too. You see a pattern here, doing one’s own maintenance is possible, with each job confidence builds. I am still working but when we begin our cruising I will have time which will make more projects possible. 
6.7 Litre Ford Lehman

Tonight we will be raising a glass to all readers, friends and family...Happy New year everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2011

One month today - Christmas two days away!

December 23rd 2011

Position N 27° 22.225’,
               W 82° 37.075’.

Longboat Key Club Moorings, FL 
Assuming we do have some readers, Good morning! It will be a month tomorrow that we have been in residence here at Longboat Key Moorings, so far so good. It is a quiet marina with normal daily activities of boat washing and occasional boat movement but all in all quiet. There is no traffic noise only an infrequent aeroplane taking off from SRQ international airport almost due east three to four miles away accross Sarasota Bay. We have met two of our neighbours Rudy & Teresa, weekend visitors to their motor cruiser and another live-aboard Jeff who has a sport fishing boat. As usual great first impressions; most boat owners are very friendly, very helpful and have interesting stories to both tell and learn from. Rudy & Teresa took a sabbatical from their careers in their 40’s, bought a Tayana 37’ sailing boat and headed south to the Caribbean, we are going to spend an evening together exchanging stories and hearing about their adventures; they did give us a taste of their adventure as we first met the other evening on the dock. You see, there are a variety of times in one’s life when ‘it is time’ Rudy and Teresa made a decision for whatever reason to ‘make it happen’ in their 40’s and not wait until retirement, the main thing is they made time to live life to the fullest for a few years and to make time to realize a dream of cruising before returning to the necessity of their career paths. One’s own life pattern and path will dictate the course, the main thing Rudy stressed is don’t lose sight of a life outside the one of your career. It is so easy to take each routine day for granted and not make time for ‘life’ or just be too frightened to make a difference for one’s self. More and more young couples with children are choosing the cruising lifestyle, experiencing the adventure, home schooling their children and at the same time exposing them to their own adventure of world cruising, which incidentally, I think, is the most marvellous education in itself. My own father always encouraged me to travel and after I joined the British Merchant Navy as a deck cadet for Trident Tankers, a subsidiary of P & O Shipping Company, he remarked on one of my leaves that “You went away a boy and returned a man”. I did leave for sea at the age of 16 so it was inevitable that I would ‘grow’ up some day! The Admiral, on occasion, however, may not totally agree with the last sentence though! Both of us feel it is necessary to take steps to stay young and stay in touch with the ever increasing pace of life. Messing around on boats definitely helps with the physical aging process and both of us have become a little more fit and agile as a result. Technology is another mental stimulation which we strongly recommend which stimulates ‘keeping in touch’ so there you have it, our philosophy for life, just kidding! There are so many ways of ‘skinning the cat’ the motto here is find your own but don’t just vegetate and waste your time away, there is only one ‘shot’ at this life thing, make it count. Okay, rant over...

Clean and golden teak
Port side deck
The past month has been a busy one going through ‘Partners’ correcting and tweaking this and that. The deck is now fully maintained every seam is caulked, every missing bung has been replaced and I spent the last day and a half on hands and knees cleaning it. By the way it is true what the cleaner bottles say...rubber gloves, and, if you are like me an on your knees cleaner, then knee pads. Oh, rubber boots are a must too unless you want skinned toes! Anyway it is now its original beautiful gold. Sailcraft Service in Oriental, NC did a marvellous job on our bottom peel and many other updating jobs which they undertook during the four months ‘Partners’ was there, however, everyone is human and two things were forgotten! The first was the refitting of the lower rudder post retaining ring which in the event a grounding would assist in stopping the rudder from jumping out of the shoe it sits in on the extension of the keel and the second was getting the new pilothouse pedestal table level. Sailcraft sent me a shaft zinc which comes in two halves and would tighten around the rudder shaft to act as the lower retaining ring. I will replace the zinc at the next haul out when we can slip the rudder down and put the original retaining ring back where it belongs. Chris the master carpenter at Sailcraft made a shim to fit between the top of the pedestal and the table thus levelling it out. All is well, the Admirals coffee will no longer slide away from her! 

I finally got the water maker pickled after again engaging FOJ’s help. The water in the marina is fairly clear but not clean enough that we intend to use the water maker and supply our own water. The marina water is very good and we have our own personal spigot at our slip. The new transmission oil cooler that FOJ and I fitted in Palm Beach on our way round from NC to Sarasota is now engine red to match the rest of the engine and while I was at it I touched up the other places in need, so we now have a beautiful shiny red Lehman as the centre piece in our ‘holy place’. I bought a supply of oil for the engine, generator and stabilizers. Two common causes of fire on a boat are loose battery terminals and old worn out shore power cables. The battery terminals have all been tightened and I bought brand new shore power cables and connectors in NC so this possible cause is not an issue for a while. A sink leak in the galley has been fixed, a simple one, just a matter of tightening the pipe fittings. This incident did prompt me to buy a small supply of PVC items as spares to meet future needs. We have a salt water spigot both forward and aft, both were frozen and needed new hose connections; a visit to the local Home Depot has solved these problems. So, you see slowly but surely we are getting ‘Partners’ ready for the adventure of our lives in 2012. 

In our effort to trim down our belongings and stow the necessities away we also embarked on a journey of exploration it turn out. We began discovering things that we were not aware of when we bought ‘Partners’; she had brand new canvas window covers for the pilot house tucked away which now are in place, many spare parts have been discovered and inventoried. The aft deck a/k/a the ‘back porch’ is now protected by the new enclosure curtains that Chet & Dixie, the previous owners, had just bought. Even though we are here in sunny Florida and have experience one of the warmest Decembers that I can remember in the 30+ years I have lived here, in the evenings the enclosure has enabled us to eat outside and remain comfortable in the cooler evenings of winter.

Christmas is only two days away now and ‘Partners’ will be hosting our two sons, one daughter-in-law and two of our grand children for Christmas Day. The Admiral is prepared; the boat is Ship Shape and Bristol fashion, ready for inspection. We will be visiting one of our favourite restaurants for a Christmas Eve luncheon with them all and then on Christmas Day have our Dinner on board. A Merry Christmas everyone.