Sunday, August 29, 2010

Always a hole

Seems like every project I do involves drilling a hole.  But this is the first one I’ve done that could let water in. 
Bella Star is currently receiving an electronics refit.  We’re installing a new chartplotter, HD radar, anemometer, transducer, secondary instrument display and SSB radio.

The depth sounder that came with the boat usually works fine.  But even with a clean bottom it  frequently reads irregular and  alarmingly shallow depths when we have 500 feet of water under us.  This one will read speed through the water and temperature as well as depth.  Also it will be networked into the chartplotter, so we don’t have to have a separate display for it.  Should just be  a matter of taking out the old transducer and screwing in the new one, right?  Easy cheesy.  As it turns out, I had never really looked too hard at the old transducer and just assumed that it was a through-hull fitting. 

So with the boat hauled out I got ready to make the switch, only to find that in fact there was no through-hull for the depth sounder.  It’s just bedded in a big blob of epoxy to the inside of hull.


We decided to go ahead and put the new transducer in anyway.  So out came the hole saw. 

The old transducer is located almost all the way aft, pretty close to the prop wash.  I wanted the new one up forward, where it would be easily accessible and get an undisturbed flow of water over it.  The prime spot is already taken by our forward looking sonar transducer on the starboard side (which we’re happy with and want to keep) so the new hole was going in approximately the same location on the port side.  

So here’s how I did it.

1. Drill a small pilot hole from inside the boat.  Find the hole outside the boat and make sure the location looks good there as well.

2. Drill 2” vertical hole.  I drilled it half way from the inside and half way from the outside to get a clean cut on both sides)

(I do recommend doing this before the beer break.  And if you drill the hole in the wrong location, don’t sweat it.  Just keep drilling them till you get it right.)


3. Build fairing blocks so that the transducer points straight down, at least when the boat isn’t heeled.

I used two sheets of 1/2” StarBoard marine polymer with the recommended epoxy to glue them together.  I built several of these blocks anticipating screw-ups.


4. Cut the 2” hole in the blocks and slice them in half at the same angle as the deadrise in the hull.  (I used a piece of cardboard held against the hull and a bubble level to find the angle)

Here’s the one for inside the hull.  This ensures the locking nut on the through-hull has a flat surface to mate to.


For outside the hull I made four with slightly different angles, knowing full well if I only made one it would be off by 1.4 degrees.  Unacceptable!


5. Trim down the fairing block.

I anticipate that the efficiency of  this fairing block is so hydrodynamic that it will actually add .25 knot to our boat speed!


6. Sand to bare gelcoat around the hole.


7. Using appropriate epoxy I set it up on the hull with two wooden blocks bolted from either side to hold it in place. 

(If Seaview Boatyard asks what happened to one of the legs of their office chair I don’t know anything about it.)


8. Mount the through-hull into the fairing and hull with adhesive sealant.


9. Paint with antifouling.


Since we don’t have any of the electronics installed yet we just inserted the blanking plug before we splashed.  The idea is you can pull the transducer out if you’re not going to use the boat for awhile and put a blank plug in the hole.  This will help to prevent growth on the transducer and also allow us to clean it.  You do this while the boat is  in the water, so I would think it would be a pretty wet process changing them out.  According to the instructions, “With practice this can be done with only about 10 oz of water entering the boat.”   I’ll be interested to see what the “without practice” volume is. 

Anchor Chain Marking

By popular demand, here is the anchor chain marking system that we use on Bella Star.  If you ask 10 people what marking system they use, you’ll probably get 10 different answers.  We wanted something visual, simple and void of complicated math (like some of the systems out there), so we came up with this:DSC_1131

Here’s the pattern:
Red = 25’
Yellow = 50’
Green = 75’
Blue = 100’
Black = 100’ + (length of the other color)

Let’s say you see black and another color on the chain.  The amount of chain would equal 100’ plus the length of the other color.  So if red equals 25’, then “red, black, red” would equal 125’.  “Yellow, black, yellow” would equal 150’ and so forth. For lengths over 200’, just use two black markers.

It’s true that the gypsy has been known to eat zip ties, but we put multiple ties per link and go over the chain once a year or so to replace any missing ties.  DSC_1133“Red, red, red”  = 25’

If you’re fancy, you could always mount a digital chain counter on your windlass, but where’s the fun in that?  They also sell markers that fit in between the links, but zip ties are waaay cheaper.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Yanked our chain

Our anchor chain was just starting to show some light rust on a few links, so I decided to have it regalvanized.  With the boat on the hard, we backed the car up to the boat and transferred the chain to the trunk of our car.  250 feet of 3/8-inch chain is about 300 pounds.  It lowered the back end of our car a bit and stove in the cover over the spare tire. 

We took it to Emerald Galvanizing, since they were the only local shop here in Seattle that has a centrifuge for the chain.  This is important, because if you don’t spin the chain after the galvanizing process some of the links get clumpy and stick together.  Also, they didn’t have a minimum order size like other shops I called, and their prices were very reasonable.  They charge 80 cents a pound.  With tax, it was $250.54 to have this done.  Significantly less than a new chain!  They quoted me a week to have it done but had it ready for me to pickup the next day.  Good price, good service, and it turned out beautifully… I’m going to go ahead and throw down a happy face emoticon right now :)

Here’s the chain before.


Here it is after regalvanizing.  Looks brand new!


Before putting it back in the boat, we needed to add our markers that identify how much chain we have out.  So we laid it out in 25-foot lengths and marked it with zip ties using Nicole’s clever numbering system.


Loaded up and ready for some anchoring action!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hello from the Lazarette

DSC_1075 Batteries topped off?  Check.

Steering system inspected?  Check.

Yoga practice completed for the day?  Check.

We’ve been knocking projects of the to-do list like crazy over the last few days (yay!).  I’ve had “replace portlight gaskets” on my list for like three years, and today, I can finally say it’s done.  And it’s always nice when a project takes less time and fewer Tylenol than you originally estimated.

After spending a good deal of time reading posts from the Hans Christian Owners Association message board on the proper gasket material and installation technique, we decided to go with the 3/8” weather-resistant closed-cell foam rubber.  As is always the case, there was a debate waged on the board (this time between the right size--3/8” or 1/2”).  I think either would be fine, but the 3/8” seemed to fit nicely.

Here’s a shot of the ensuing mess and required safety gear (I’m wearing the dust mask).DSC_1086Funny that I should come across a post on the message board from the previous owner of our boat.  Apparently replacing the gaskets was on his to-do list back in 2003.  :)

DSC_1088 Ta-da!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Still at the yard

While at the yard today we saw this thing rolling by.  Finally, a boat we can beat in a race!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On Solid Ground

Bella Star and her crew are spending some time on the hard this week.DSC_1097Aaron tried to tell me that people get their boats hauled out all the time and that it’s not that big of a deal, but it’s not every day that one sees her home lifted into mid-air by two thin straps, driven across a paved lot and set up on blocks & jack stands (you know, ’87  Camaro-style).   Eek.DSC_1100  DSC_1110But, among other things, it’s time to give Bella Star’s bottom a good sanding and a coat of paint to keep the kelp and barnacles and mussels at bay.

While the boat spends some time in the yard, we’re fortunate enough to have  a lovely townhouse to call home (thanks, Deborah & Marty!). And it has a real freezer!  The first thing we did was zip out to QFC and buy ourselves some ice cream.  Ah, the luxuries of shore-side life.

It’s wonderfully comfy here, but I must admit that I’m feeling rather, well, stationary, and I’ll be glad to see Bella Star floating back in her slip soon.  In the meantime, though, we’ll be enjoying all that ice cream.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


A number of things went through my head as Aaron hoisted me up the mast the other evening.  Is the harness secure? Will the halyard snap? Did we rig the back-up mechanisms properly? And, of course, how totally cool!IMG_6388Ever on the quest to reduce our energy consumption, we’ll be replacing our existing anchor light with an LED model from this fantastic little Fijian company, Bebi.  They even shipped our order before we ordered it (courtesy of the international date line – haha).  How’s that for speedy shipping?

We’d never been aloft before, and we thought it was high time (sorry) to make the trip.  So up I went to do some recon on the current anchor light fixture—and to get a few pictures.

It was a tad scary (especially when I swayed back and forth in a wind gust), but it was worth it.  And as it tends to go, next time won’t be nearly as adrenaline-producing.IMG_6387The view from high atop Bella Star with Golden Gardens beach, Sunset Hill and Puget Sound in the distance.