Friday, April 24, 2009

A Dog's Life

Greta enjoys the warm spring weather (while making sure we don't slack off).

Monday, April 13, 2009

Freshly Baked Cookies

Mmmm. Can the smell of freshly baked cookies really be topped? That delicious smell was something we’d never been able to enjoy with our ancient Mariner stove (circa 1983). The previous owners never used the oven for more than broiling and left instructions on a tiny scrap of paper (in Arabic) on how it worked. Now the burners worked just fine, but how many meals can one make on the stove top? We were way over soup and spaghetti, so it was time for a change. We gave fixing the old range a solid try and even consulted with experts on how to get the oven to heat beyond 275°, but alas, it was just her time to go. I did extensive research on marine LP ranges and came to the conclusion that a Seaward Hillerange “Euro” two-burner model would be our best bet (gimbaled, of course). Now Force 10 is said to make a dandy range, but I wasn’t fond of a few things. For one, the top burners had different BTU capacities (5,000 and 8,000). What the heck? I also wasn’t in love with the look & feel (a tad on the chintzy side). So Seaward it was.

We’d spent some time at Sure Marine’s booth at the boat show and snagged a Seaward brochure with special “boat show pricing” on the Hillerange model (formerly called the Princess), but at that time, we weren’t ready to buy. Boats are notoriously odd-sized with funny angles & nooks that make buying (and installing) things quite a challenge. Just because we have a square hole doesn’t mean a square peg will fit (in fact, odds are it will take three trips to Fisheries Supply for a hunk of teak, 16 brackets and some epoxy). That being said, we took careful measurements to make sure the shiny new Hillerange would actually fit once we brought her home.

Armed with our measurements, our “boat show pricing” brochure (3+ weeks post-boat show) and a well-rehearsed sales pitch for why they should honor the low price even though the boat show was long over, we headed to Sure Marine in Ballard. I was prepared to give my speech when the salesman said, “Weren’t you guys at the boat show?” Yes! He then offered up the special “boat show price” before I even got a chance to say anything about it. Cool! (As a side note, there is no possible way that I could ever make a living in crime. My hair is just too darn obvious, and I’m recognized everywhere.) Anyway, we loaded up the stove (which only fit in our car after being unboxed and wedged in the trunk) and headed back to the boat, all the while preparing our noses for the aroma of warm chocolate chip cookies.

The first lesson to be learned when owning a boat is that projects take anywhere from 3 hours to 45 days longer than you plan. (Well, maybe that’s the second lesson. The first is probably that when you stick the word “marine” in front of anything, there’s a 200% markup on the price… minimum.) So those chocolate chip cookies would have to wait while we took three trips to Fisheries Supply for a hunk of teak, 16 brackets and some epoxy. Oh, and stainless steel screws. And teak oil. Aaron did a stellar job of building and installing the mounts for the gimbals. For those of you confused by this term, a gimbaled range is mounted at two points, one on each side, which enables it to swing forward-and-back on those points. This keeps the range level while the boat is underway and allows tasty meals to be prepared by those brave enough to heat food to scalding temperatures whist careening over the waves. When the gimbaling isn’t required, a pin locks the range into a stable position. Now as I was saying, Aaron did a bang-up job with the install, and after patiently (not-so patiently) waiting for about a month, we were finally able to light the oven, preheat it to 375° and bake up those chocolate chip cookies. Boy, was it worth it. Freshly baked cookies on a cozy boat—now what’s better than that?

Here's Aaron polishing and prepping the area pre-install.

And here's what she looks like installed. Note the custom teak brackets for the gimbals and the locking pin.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Windlass Rebuild

Bella Star has a Muir Hercules HM1200 manual windlass manufactured in 1984. I quickly noticed after taking delivery of the boat that the chain gypsy would turn clockwise to pull the chain up, but even with the brake completely released it would not turn the other way to let the chain down. I figured I had to be missing something simple, but couldn't figure it out.

One day Nicole and I were on the foredeck monkeying around with it and one of the guys from the yacht brokerage stopped by and chatted us up. We told him what the problem was and it turns out he used to sell them back in the 80s. I thought for sure he'd know what the deal was, but he couldn't figure it out either. One of the first projects that I took on when we got the boat was regreasing the primary winches. As far as boat projects go, it was pretty straightforward, and I was able to do a complete rebuild on both the winches. The case looked like it could use some fresh paint, and I figured a windlass was basically just a winch so I took it off the boat and brought it home for my next rebuild project. The winches were much easier. I was only about an hour into taking it apart when I got that "this wasn't a very good idea" feeling, but I was committed.

About half way through taking it apart I discovered why the gypsy wouldn't let chain out. There is a part called an O cone that fits into the gypsy. As you tighten the clutch nut against the gypsy, it acts as a brake. The O cone had simply gotten stuck to the gypsy since it hadn't been used in a while. All I really needed to do was knock the O cone off the gypsy with a hammer and put some grease on it.

Instead I was well on my way to rebuilding the windlass. Once I had it all taken apart I was pretty alarmed at the number of gears and the pile of parts I had created. I degreased all the gears, keys, washers, pawls, shaft idlers, and doohickeys and set them aside. My first task was to strip the paint on the case.

I like soy. We enjoy soy hotdogs, soy sausage, soy burgers, and edamame. So I naturally thought that a soy-based paint stripper would work well for stripping the paint. It's much more environmentally friendly and has less odor. Results? It just made a mess. For a stripping job like this, go with vicious cancer-causing chemicals and leave the soy for fake meat. I got my hands on some commercial-grade paint stripper made for airplanes and that did the trick. After doing plenty of research on proper aluminum painting techniques I got some acid etching primer and completed the painting.

The aluminum cover on the bottom of the case looked to have suffered some corrosion and was not suitable to use again. I sent an email to Muir to see if there was anywhere I could still get the part. They said that I would have to have one fabricated.

If you ever need pretty much any kind of metal cut to your specifications and shipped to you, checkout They're over in Ballard and offer will-call pickup as well. I chose the highest grade aluminum they had, chose the thickness and gave them my measurements. With shipping it was about 10 bucks and the fit was perfect. I used a grinding wheel, compliments of my father-in-law, to grind the corners off, drilled the screw holes, and it was ready to go.

The hard part was reassembly. The three main gears were attached to shafts and could only go in the case one way. My problem was with the spring-linked gears that were not attached to a shaft. Since they just kind of fell out of the case when I was taking it apart, I wasn't sure how they fit in. I didn’t have a manual for the windlass, so I emailed the nice folks at Muir down in Australia and they promptly sent me a PDF. At first glance I thought it was a schematic for a time machine. It didn’t really spell out for me how the gears were supposed to go, so I laid them out and sent them this:

In my mind it looked more like this

A sales guy named Jason Page at Muir checked with some guys in the workshop and pointed out that I did not have the spring loaded gears in the correct position. So with the proper positioning figured out, I put everything back together and had ZERO parts left over. Success!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Uff Da

Aaron and I were one with the Vikings last weekend as we sailed into “Little Norway” (AKA Poulsbo).
Poulsbo is located on the Kitsap Peninsula, tucked behind Bainbridge Island on peaceful Liberty Bay. The marina is known for catering to visitors, and the town is quaint and friendly, with lots of cute shops, restaurants and bakeries (oh boy, the bakeries).
We had fantastic spring weather for our cruise over and for poking around town, with sunshine and the warmest temperatures we’d seen since I can't even remember when—I even managed to add to my freckle collection.

Now virtually everyone who encouraged us to visit Poulsbo also commented on the fabulous bakeries, and since Aaron is a true pastry fan, you can imagine his excitement at eating fresh bear claws and cinnamon twists and glazed donuts for breakfast (as many as he wanted!). On Sunday morning, we walked the short distance from the marina to the main street and after a moment of indecision, chose Sluys Poulsbo Bakery (based on their amazing window display and the delicious smells wafting out the door). Aaron was like, well, like Aaron in a pastry store—he was a happy boy. We made our selections and hurried back to the boat. Here’s a picture of Aaron’s plate (yes, he ate the whole thing and loved every bite).
With our bellies full of deliciousness, we took Greta on a walk along the waterfront, down a boardwalk and through a wooded stretch to a small park. The daffodils along the trail were spectacular! Back on the boat, we shoved off and started to make our way back to Seattle under sunny, warm skies (we didn't even need our coats!). Since we’d arrived via Agate Pass, the northern route, we decided to take the long way back via Rich Passage to the south. What a peaceful and relaxing trip! I am absolutely ready for summer sailing.

We still have things we want to do (and eat) in Poulsbo (I really should have bought that Poulsbo shirt with the cute little Viking on it), so we’ll certainly be back. May the Norse Be With You.