Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Curve of Time, Revisited

Think back...  Do you remember the third grade?  Where the teacher, at her wits end at the end of the day, had you kids put your heads down on your desks and spent the last half hour quietly reading to the class?   Old Yeller and Charlotte's Web are still stuck in my head from that experience.  And it was an experience...  it was much more than the story alone.

Several years ago (have I been blogging that long?), I reviewed The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchet (ISBN 1-58005-072-7).  I strongly recommend that you go back and re-read that review now.  We'll wait for you to come back.

OK, you're back!  Now that you have the flavor of the book in your mind, this isn't strictly about the book - it is about a new audio version of the book, narrated by Heather Henderson.

I highly recommend this audio version to you.  Why?
  • The experience of listening as someone reads to you is subjectively different than reading yourself. 
  • At anchor, with your eyes closed at the end of the day, Heather's reading M. Wylie Blanchet's words soon becomes M. Wylie telling you the story herself...  it becomes a much more personal experience.
  • This lyrical book lends itself very well to this presentation.
  • Jane and I finally experienced the book together.  When we were reading the print version we had to share experiences in series.  
This has been a wonderful companion for us this summer adrift in the Pacific Northwest, in the San Juan Islands.

Now put your heads down on your desks...



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Monday, August 25, 2014

PO Recursiveness

In the past I have repeatedly referenced the Previous Owner with some disdain.  In fact I have attributed most of the problems we have dealt with aboard Eolian to the Previous Owner. 

However, astute readers of my previous post will have noticed something:
  • I whined about the use of silicone rubber as caulking under the caprail
  • I last exposed the caprail to daylite in 1998.
Yes, embarrassingly,  it is true.  That was me - I put that silicone rubber there.  I have become my own Previous Owner.  If you own your boat long enough, this is inevitable.  You will eventually have to face your own repairs, made by a younger, less experienced version of yourself.

In the 16 years we have been responsible for Eolian's care, I have learned some things.  No, that's inadequate.  I have learned A LOT.  And the inappropriateness of silicone rubber is one of those things.  While I may have whined about our Previous Owner using silicone rubber for simply everything (liquid duct tape?), I was guilty of bringing this nasty stuff aboard too.

But that is one of the purposes of this blog - to keep others from making the mistakes I have made.

Learnings:

  • Leave the silicone rubber ashore (except where explicitly required - by Beckson for installation of their ports for example).
  • Hubris can result in embarrassment

Years ago when I was a kid, I used to read Flying magazine. I particularly enjoyed a long-running series of articles entitled "I Learned About Flying From That." Each article was written by a pilot, who humbly admitted to having made a mistake, and then having lived, told about it in the hopes that others would not have to make the same mistake. I thought then that it was a good format, and I still think that now. This series of postings is my attempt to recreate that article series with a new subject and new technology.

(If you would like to help others to learn from your mistakes, please send your article to: WindborneInPugetSound at gmail dot com)

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Starting Over

Bare wood
We have been uncharacteristically quiet here.  No, there's nothing wrong - we're just really busy.

It's the time for that annual task: sand/revarnish all the brightwork on Eolian's the exterior.

But aside from the normal work, examining the condition of the varnish on the starboard cap rail showed it was obvious that it was time - time for a complete re-do.  The last time this wood was uncovered was in 1998, the summer after I had moved aboard.  That time I used a chemical stripper to remove the last dregs of the Cetol that the Previous Owner had applied and then failed to maintain.  The work experience was not good - it was very difficult to control the stripper, to keep it off of the adjacent gelcoat (as it turns out, the stripper attacks gelcoat too).

This time I elected to use a heat gun, and that turned out to be a good decision.  Because of the thickness of the varnish after 16 years of application, with just the right amount of heat it became rubbery enough to just peel off in large sheets. Two days.

Then it was necessary to dig out the silicone caulk that had been used to seal the caprail to the top of the bulwark.  (This seal was necessary because the factory did not varnish the undersides of the wood when installing it, thus when moisture got underneath the wood and soaked in, it lifted the varnish on the top.  Unfortunately, silicone was a poor choice (it's always a poor choice) - it did not adhere to the teak well and allowed moisture to enter.  So, I had to very laboriously dig out the old caulk, making every effort to remove even traces of the old silicone.  Two more days.

With the old caulk removed, then I applied tape to delineate the area to be caulked and extruded black polysulphide (BoatLife Life Calk) and worked it into the seam with my finger, and then finally pulled the tape.  If you have ever worked with this stuff, you will know that unless great care is taken, it will end up everywhere.  I had a package of paper napkins handy and a gallon of paint thinner on hand, frequently wiping down my hands.  It is messy work, and along the deckhouse the access is terrible on the inside of the bulwark - there is just barely enough room for me to lie on my side in there, meaning that all the work has to happen with my arms extended over my head.  Three more days - I should finish this step today.

Next will come a wash of the teak with oxalic acid to remove the water staining, a light sanding, a wipe with thinner to remove the teak oils on the surface, and then finally, finally, four or five coats of varnish.

Hopefully this will hold for another 16 years.  The people in the slip next to us (transients - they've been here for part of this) are wondering whether we ever take the boat out, or if all we do is maintenance.  While there is more maintenance on a "Classic Plastic" boat than a modern boat with no exterior wood whatsoever, we think the results are worth it.  And really, we are only talking about 3 or 4 days a year (with a big effort every 16 years).

For us, it is worth it.



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Monday, August 18, 2014

Escalation in Problem Solving

Recently, the generator onboard Eolian began acting up.

First, there has been the smell of diesel present under the floorboards whenever it has been run.  This started small and grew so gradually that I had been ignoring it.  Jane however is the ever-practical one.  "Why does the generator smell like diesel?" she asked, pointing out that there was indeed an elephant in the room, and leaving me no more room to pretend that there was nothing amiss.

I searched all the diesel connections and didn't find any leaks.  Finally, I put it down to a possible fine mist escaping from a high pressure line feeding one of the injectors - it's hot up there and any leaked diesel would quickly evaporate.  Yeah, that's the ticket. 

But the smell persisted. 

And then the generator began to act like it was starving for fuel.  So as an experiment I turned on the electric fuel pump and pressurized the diesel feed line to the generator.  It immediately smoothed out and ran normally.  No problemo!  All I have to do now is run the fuel pump whenever I run  the generator.  And the bilge blower to get rid of those diesel fumes.

Some of you probably have this figured it out by now...

OK, at this point I have grudgingly admitted that there is something actually wrong.  So I took the simplest and cheapest approach as a first step:  I changed the generator fuel filter.  As a problem-solving method, this is a good first step.  It cost very little, was very little effort, and in even the worst possible case, it does no harm.

Unfortunately, it didn't fix the problem.

Next step:  Change the fuel lift pump on the generator.  Cost $75 (yeah, that's a lot for a fuel pump, but then this is a Yanmar 2GM).  As to effort, well there is a reason this was the second thing I tried.  The lift pump is cam-driven, just like a fuel pump on a car, and is located on the port side of the generator, about 3" away from the port battery bank.  Just about enough room to get a socket on the 2 bolts attaching it to the block.  But not enough room to get my head in there to actually see the bolts.  Oh and did I mention that the pump was a corroded mass so ugly that it was difficult to identify except that the fuel lines ran to it and from it?  Apparently the Previous Owner had had a water leak from the exhaust elbow, which is immediately above the pump.  But this also meant that changing the pump not only did no harm, but was a huge positive, regardless if it was the cause of the problem.

Putting the new pump in was an even bigger puzzle because the hard line on its discharge must be installed before the pump is placed and it must be threaded thru some obstacles before the pump can be placed into position.  And all of this must be done while maintaining the gasket in place (I used Permatex to glue it to the lift pump) and fiddling the mounting bolts into their holes, blind.

Yup, that fixed it.  Both problems.  Although invisible under the mass of corrosion, apparently the pump casing had corroded thru or cracked, allowing diesel to escape on the pressure stroke and air to be sucked in on the suction stroke.

This was a classic case of following my troubleshooting aphorism: 

"Do the simple, lowest cost things first." 




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