March 2-3, 2013 in Sausalito

I got a call first thing Saturday morning from the Club Nautique school director, who confirmed that there was enough wind that I could test for my Crew Overboard (COB) skills.  Now normally, this skill would have already been tested for … Continue reading

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February 23, 2013: Ahoy Up There!

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A while back, we had purchased a bosun’s chair, and we had a 3-to-1 purchase system for hauling one of us up the mast, but it turned out that the 3-to-1 purchase system line was too short to get either … Continue reading

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February 16 & 17, 2013: Back out Sailing At Last!

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My upcoming “Tag” test, where we take a boat out the Golden Gate without an instructor for the weekend, but “tag” along with a boat that does have an instructor, was coming up in  just about a month, and I … Continue reading

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February 9, 2013: Anchor Chain on Board!

I am making the next several posts for the Spring of 2013, all at the same time, in May, trying to recreate what we have done for the last three months.  I am looking over Navionics Tracks and financial records … Continue reading

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Cool Change gets her Windlass

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There are few things I can think of that can cause me as much anxiety as the mere thought of drilling large holes in our deck.    I agonized over this for many weeks once we had come to the … Continue reading

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Electrical System Upgrades

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After calculating the current demands for our anticipated list of electrical equipment when we take off for our extended cruising in 2014, we decided that we needed to upgrade our house electrical bank from the current 100 Ah capacity to around … Continue reading

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January 20, 2013 Happy New Year!

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Phase I of our windlass upgrade is complete!  After what seems like an eternity of at least 8 to 10 days over the last several weeks, working on upgrading our electrical system, Phase I is done!  I will defer to … Continue reading

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November 23-24, 2012 Sailing Again

11/23/12, 10.6 NM, 3 hours, Max Speed 6.2 kts

11/23/12, 10.6 NM, 3 hours, Max Speed 6.2 kts

These two days were our first time back sailing again since KKMI finally fixed all of their errors and got our boat back to us.  It was great to be out sailing again!

After a lovely Thanksgiving dinner and evening at the home of our friends Brian and Todd in Pleasanton, we headed out the next morning for Sausalito. We worked on the boat a little, and then went for a sail. The next day, Brian and Todd’s grown children Lauren and Stephen joined us; their first time sailing. Both days were clear and warm with good wind up to about 20 knots; I love sailing in the fall.

11/24/12, Distance 14.2 NM, 5 hours, Max speed 8.3 kts

11/24/12, Distance 14.2 NM, 5 hours, Max speed 8.3 kts

Posted in Sailing Northern California |

October 26, 2012 Boatyard Fiasco

So, it was a difficult decision to determine where we would take our precious Cool Change for her first boatyard experience. KKMI has always been considered the gold standard, and they had recently opened a boatyard near us in Sausalito – very convenient. However, they were one of the most expensive yards in the Bay Area, and a friend of ours had had some negative experiences with the original KKMI in Richmond. But, we decided that for these jobs, they appeared competent, and we really liked the convenience. After dropping off Cool Change at KKMI in Sausalito on October 14, we spent hours discussing with the boatyard what needed to be done and how much they were going to charge us for it. Our initial request was for a bottom job, the replacement of a few thru-hulls, and the installation of a dripless shaft seal. Those were all jobs best done by a boatyard. Rick then decided that maybe KKMI might do a better job than he could of installing the refrigeration unit, so we discussed that with them. Their charge for that service was way over the top, until Rick knocked off 10 hours of labor by saying he would do the electrical installation of the refrigerator himself. (It ended up taking Rick only 1 1/2 hours). Anyway, KKMI had numerous excuses for why they were delayed in their efforts, and then the refrigerator unit had to be replaced with a smaller one sent from back East, so the whole thing ended up taking 6 weeks instead of two.

We finally went to pick up Cool Change at the KKMI dock on October 26.  What a fiasco! 

As planned, we arrived at the boatyard dock late on Friday night after KKMI closed for the weekend. Rather than motoring over to our slip that night when we were tired, the plan was to sleep on her at the boatyard dock on Friday night, and then take her out sailing from there on Saturday morning.

On Saturday morning at first light, we peeked out on our deck and found the deck surface to be filthy. I suppose sitting outside in a boatyard for over a month, a boat can pick up a lot of stray dust, paint particles, soot, etc., but this was disgusting. No one had bothered to clean her up, it seemed. She was coated with a greasy, grimy layer, at places ground into the surface by repeated scufs of big boots, especially in the cockpit. We couldn’t wait to clean her up, but first, we wanted to get as far away from that boatyard as possible.

As soon as Cindy put her into gear, there was a HORRIBLE sound and extreme vibration throughout the boat. Cindy put it back into neutral immediately, and Rick went down below to check it out. We briefly put it into gear again, and Rick saw the entire propeller shaft vibrating like it was going to shake itself right out of the boat. Our first thought was, didn’t anyone think to operate the shaft and propeller after having replaced the shaft seal and taken the propeller off and on? Wouldn’t that be standard procedure? There was NO EXCUSE for this!

After smoke stopped steaming out of Rick’s ears, he wrote a terse but polite email to our KKMI Project Manager. Apparently, Rick’s anger and urgency showed through the email, because within about 2 hours, the Project Manager showed up at the dock on his day off. That was encouraging.  But then, without even asking to listen for himself to what happened when we put the boat in gear, he proceeded to stand on the dock for several minutes, lecturing us about how whatever was going on couldn’t possibly have been caused by KKMI, and that the most likely explanation was that we brought our boat in that way! He said they never check the operation of the shaft after changing the shaft seal or removing the propeller because there is never any reason to – nothing ever goes wrong. In any case, there was nothing he could do over the weekend, and they would haul it back out on Monday to see if they could identify the cause of the problem. Meanwhile, our plans for sailing were foiled.

While the Project Manager was there, Rick also showed him the ghastly, childlike attempt at dressing the excess copper tubing from the refrigeration system in the locker beneath the head sink. Rick literally said that a 10 year old child could have done it better. It looked like a nest of copper spagetti. The Project Manager was as aghast as Rick was, and had no excuse except to say that it would be fixed also.

Rick was beside himself. Fortunately, the owner of a deisel engine repair shop next to KKMI happened to be in his yard on his day off, so Rick asked him if he wouldn’t mind coming by to look at the problem. Rick wanted to rule out the accusation that there was something wrong with our engine. The deisel shop owner’s diagnosis was a highly likely probability that KKMI put the propeller blades back on at the wrong pitch. He compared it to trying to start a car in fifth gear. He looked down through the water from the dock at the propeller and could tell the blades were pitched improperly.

After an incredible ordeal and much frustration, KKMI finally admitted on the following Monday that they had put the propeller back on wrong.  They fixed it, and even called the propeller manufacturer to make sure they were doing it right. They took a video of the shaft rotating smoothly, and sent it to us! They also dressed the copper tubing the way it should be. I had paintakingly scrubbed the entire deck and had left cardboard mats in all of the stepping places, and KKMI respected my attempt to keep the boat clean by not dirtying it again. And because it is a three hour drive for us to come down a second time just to move the boat back to our own slip, KKMI moved the boat back for us. We were almost to the point where we might possibly be able to be at peace with using them again, since they had at least made it all right, and then ….

We arrived at the boat the next weekend, once again to go sailing. When I looked at the helm, and there was something wrong with the gear shift lever. On our boat, we have two levers at the helm; one for the throttle and one for the gear. The throttle lever is straight up in nuetral, and forward for more power, but never is the throttle lever pulled aft. But, someone had. They had obviously forced the throttle lever in a direction it didn’t go – it must have taken quite some effort to do so; not something you would do accidentally. There is a saying on sailboats – if it doesn’t move smoothly, don’t force it – instead, take your time and find out what is stopping it from moving smoothly. Otherwise, you are sure to break something. Well, they broke something, all right. We had to take the helm apart and reset the throttle lever in its proper position. Fortunately, one of our dockmates, Dan, spent his life on the ocean in charge of engine systems so he made quick work of the job. Wanting to give KKMI the benefit of the doubt that somehow there was an explanation for all of this, Rick wrote the Project Manager another email. He never responded.

It was not all bad, however. In the end, Cool Change had a new refrigeration system, two new thru-hulls, a bottom job and a dripless shaft seal, all installed properly, and we were able to repair their throttle damage without permanent injury. Best of all, Rick learned that even the “gold standard” of boatyards screws up sometimes, and that he has as good a likelihood of doing it right as they do. The refrigeration system, once we saw how it was installed, was certainly something we could have done ourselves, and Rick would have dressed the copper tubing properly the first time. If only we have enough time, I am confident that many of the projects we have left to do, we can do ourselves. And boosting our confidence of doing it ourselves will help us not only to save money, but also to be better informed about our boat when no boatyards are around to help us.

Posted in Deck and exterior maintenance, Engine |

The Cruising Outfitting Has Begun!

Watching our friends Nancy and Rob take off in Shindig for their world cruising adventure last weekend inspired us to get moving on getting Cool Change ready!

So, October 1st or not, we have started buying for our long term cruising.  How exciting!  One of our first major purchases is our refrigeration system.  We currently only have an

The Isotherm ASU SP 3751 Refrigeration System

ice box.  After extensive research, we have decided on the Isotherm ASU SP Refrigeration System.  It uses less energy than any other system on the market, is quieter because there is no fan, and takes up less space on the boat.  Energy and space are premium commodities for us.  It cools by means of a thru-hull so there is no need for a fan, resulting in a smaller footprint for the compressor.  We believe this compressor will fit under the head sink.  That would be perfect.  We bought it now because we are scheduled for a bottom job in a couple of weeks and wanted to take advantage of the haul-out to replace this thru-hull.  At the same time, we will replace one or two other thru-hulls and add a dripless shaft seal.

Cindy has been holding off on a number of comfort and convenience items until we knew we were keeping Cool Change, so now she is ecstatic with the fun of getting all those things. The first thing she ordered was Bottomsider cockpit cushions.  Finally.  And then a  matching plate set made for a boat with sticky bottoms.  And then, a cockpit table.  We also had Tap Plastics cut us some green plastic window shades that we will adhere to the port lights with small velcro patches.  These are just some of the minor dressings that make the boat so much more livable!

Rick in the meantime has been researching power requirements.  He has decided that we need 450 amps of battery power, and found that in just two, very expensive and heavy batteries that will fit nicely into our only decent-sized cockpit lazerette.  He is planning the installation now, along with increasing the size of the alternator.  We are both exploring solar and wind power.  Although we won’t install the water maker until closer to our departure date, it takes up so much room that we are planning now for where all its parts will go.

We put together a list of every major category of things we need to do and set forth a schedule to get it mostly done in the next 18 months or so.  It seems daunting now, but I think it will go smoother than it seems.  After Rick finishes the electrical upgrade, we will purchase the windlass and ground tackle.  Rick will install the electrical wiring and then we will hire KKMI to do the deck work to attach the windlass in place.    We hope to have all of this done by February, 2013, since they are all necessary for us to use Cool Change as our “tag boat” to complete our Coastal Passage Making certification.

After that, our next major task is scheduled to be our cockpit configuration to accommodate a wind generator, solar panels, a bimini, dinghy davits and a wind vane self-steering system.  We may need an arch built.  We will definitely need some design help on that effort.  Close behind is a complete overhaul of our standing and running rigging systems.  The mast may have to come down.  Tied to that effort is the replacement of our main sail and perhaps the purchase of additional sails, like a genaker, and all the rigging that goes with that.

Next will be the upgrade of our electronics and communications systems, including new radar, a chartplotter, AIS, new instruments, an SSB, and anything else we need in the electronics realm.

By January, 2014, we hope to have all of these things accomplished.  We will still have some minor plumbing changes to implement, seals and latches and bedding improvements to make, an engine overhaul and autopilot check, and the water maker to install, along with probably dozens of little jobs, but mostly we hope to take 2014 to test all of our new systems thoroughly and get to know them before we cast off the dock lines in September!

Posted in Anchoring Systems, Deck and exterior maintenance, Dinghy and Outboard Motor, Electronics, Engine, Interior Cabin, Galley, Head, Maintenance and Enhancements, Plumbing, Preparation Details, Sails and Rigging, Uncategorized |