Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Getting the oil filter off

We have reached that portion of the year when boats are being tucked in for long winter naps.  This is an excellent time to change the oil in your engine so that it rests all winter with fresh, non-acidic oil.

This means that it is time to change the oil filter.  And there we are all faced with the same problem:  That filter which was so carefully installed, following the manufacturer's recommendation to only turn it 3/4 of a turn after the gasket contacts (they even paint little marks on the filter to help you determine this)?  That filter which was installed with your bare hands and nothing more?  Well it is now welded to the engine.  What went on with bare hands is by no means coming off that way.

Man is the tool maker.  No matter the difficulty, he has invented a tool to overcome it.   Removing a stuck oil filter is no exception - since the spin-on oil filter replaced the element-in-a-canister, many tools have been invented to deal with the seemingly inevitably recalcitrant filter.

On Eolian, I use a rubber strap wrench to loosen the oil filters on the engine and the generator:

Strap Wrench
This tool is cleverly designed so that the harder you pull on the handle to turn a cooked-on filter, the tighter the strap grips the casing of the filter.  It is a one-size-fits-all tool - all you need to do to adjust it is to pull on the strap.

But not every filter is mounted where there is enough free space to swing the handle of this wrench.  In my shop I have a couple of alternatives which have served me well working on automotive engines over the years. 

Mechanic's metal strap wrench

This is another kind of strap wrench - but on this one the strap is a metal band, and it has no handle.  Instead, you use your 3/8" ratchet wrench with an extension as a handle, which allows it to be used in much tighter quarters.  Needless to say, you can apply much more torque with this tool than with the rubber strap wrench.  This tool does not have the range of adjustment of the rubber strap wrench; nevertheless it has worked on every Ford and GM filter I've used it on.  It wouldn't fit the small oil filter on Eolian's generator tho.

"The Crusher"

Next is a tool that grips the filter from the end.  For really tight spaces this is the ideal tool.  As torque is applied to the nut, a cam action pulls the two grippers tighter and tighter together, eventually crushing the body of the filter.  No way can this slip.

I do not use the 'socket wrench' type of filter grippers - those cup-like things that have an interior contour like the shape of the end of the filter body.  First, all the filters are different, so you need to have a collection of them.  And they don't grip nearly as securely as the tools above.

Finally, when all else fails, more than one desperate mechanic (possibly including your correspondent) has simply driven a screwdriver clear through an oil filter and used it as a lever to turn it.  This method is crude, messy, and effective.

Whatever tool you use, it is a good idea to put on a new filter once a year.  Filters are cheap; engines are expensive. 

Now go get dirty.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Contemporary figurehead

Look who's the figurehead on this modern racing boat: Mermaid Barbie!


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A modest proposal

In science and engineering, the units used to express a quantity are typically chosen so that the number of places either before or after the decimal point are not excessive.  This makes for easy reading, and lowers the risk of a mistake (were there 7 zeros between the decimal and the '3', or were there there 6?  Better count again.)

In the boaters' world, prices and expenses are high enough that dollars have proven to be inadequate as a unit of measure.  This explains the near ubiquitous use of 'boat buck' (for you readers not fully in the boating world, a 'boat buck' is 100 regular bucks).

But we boaters are suffering from an identity problem here.  All the other currencies of the world have a symbol to identify them.  I propose that we in the boating world need a symbol for the 'boat buck'.  Without a symbol, we have no street cred.

So I started a search - through HTML and then Unicode.  My first find was (I will always show the symbol with a quantity, as it would be used): ฿1.95.  It looks great and invokes the boat buck concept by virtue of being derived from a 'B'.  Sadly, the reason that it looks so appropriately like a currency symbol is that it is a currency symbol: for the Thai currency baht.  Well.  Boating is international, and so we can't risk errors of interpretation by overloading the symbol (are you listening NASA?).  Rats.

Next, for your viewing pleasure, I have another submission: Ƀ1.88.  This is not a currency symbol anywhere in the world, at least that I could find.  To enter it (other than by copying/pasting) might seem a little complicated...  you use this collection of letters (without the enclosing single quotes):    'Ƀ'  That might seem like a lot of typing, but with use, it would become not much different than using the degree symbol: 70° by typing '70°'

And then there is perhaps the simplest version:  a strike-thru capital B:  B2.45.  Easy peasey.

Any other suggestions out there?  Which do you think we should use?

Sadly, in these days of inflation, even the boat buck is inadequate in enough cases to have spawned yet another unit of measure: the 'boat unit', where

1 'boat unit' = Ƀ10.00 = $1000 

Yet another symbol is called for.  I humbly submit this proposal:

ℬ1.000 = Ƀ10.00 = $1000

This symbol represents the Bernoulli function, and thus will never be confused with a currency.  It is produced with the characters:  'ℬ'.

Now, only accountants and gas station operators represent dollars to 3 decimal places - the rest of us are accustomed to using only two.  For the Ƀ, two places allow direct visual translation to dollars.  But please note that for the , I have provided three - two do not provide sufficient precision. 

Any other suggestions out there for the boat unit?

(I plan to begin using these unit symbols immediately, with a link back to this post as a means of explanation.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Greed, personified

(I already know this is a crappy picture - no comments, please)
The movie "Finding Nemo" really had the character of seagulls down to perfection.  All too frequently, we see a seagull who has taken on a starfish.  And like this guy, they'll have one arm down their throat, while the starfish is hanging on with all it's remaining arms to the seagull's neck for evedrything it's worth. 

The battle between the two living creatures sometimes takes as much as an hour.  But I've never seen the seagull lose.

Greed triumphs.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wile Coyote is my mentor

Don't look down...
You remember those Road Runner cartoons, right?  The ones where the coyote runs right off the edge of the cliff and then keeps on running - on thin air - until he suddenly realizes that there is nothing beneath him but air.  Then zip!  And a distant poomph! as a small dust cloud is raised at the ground far below.

So far retirement feels sort of like that.  But not the sudden drop part, and that's just the point.  I have kept on with life just as before, pretty much.  There haven't been many 'empty' times, and I've not yet had time to finish the second book in the Game of Thrones series.

I feel like Wile while he is running on air, just before the point in the picture above.  Every footstep is just like the last one, and the one before that, even tho the cliff is no longer supporting me.

And everything will continue to be OK.

Just as long as I don't think about it and I don't look down.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Foggy morn

The fog horns are blowing here in Seattle this morning, echoing my mood.

We had Helmut and Dominic over for dinner last nite, for the last time.  s/v Nevada Faye will be hauled out tomorrow for transport to Conneticut, from whence she will sail to Germany.

Well, we think that's what will happen.  I spent some time on the phone with Dominic at my side this morning, trying to help salvage the plans they had made - salvage was needed because their hauler had become ill and could not transport the boat.  So, a visit to the yard to nail down details and then the time on the phone and another hauler was arranged.  Situation sorted.

Nevada Faye will get her masts pulled tomorrow morning at low tide (to give the crane enough headroom), and should be on the hard on stands later in the day, or possibly Wednesday, depending on how the prep work goes and the yard schedule.  The boat leaves Thursday, and Helmut and Dominic fly back to Germany on Friday, leaving behind an empty slip and a big hole in our hearts.

Helmut and Dominic are two of the most congenial folks you'd ever meet.

They will be missed out here on the end of G Dock.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Nano experiment

I'm excited to try this nano stuff.  

For the experiment, I chose the subject to be our fabric sea hood.  (Yeah, I know what you're gonna say.  Building a real, solid sea hood is on the agenda.  But that's why this is such a good candidate for the test.)

When the hatch is closed, there is no support for the fabric so it collapses into a shallow depression that holds water. And because the hatch is closed, and its wet all winter, mildew runs rampant on it. Opening and closing the hatch, which will also go on all winter, will give it some good mechanical exercise too. 

Applying NeverWet is a two-step process.  Following the directions, I applied Part One and waited 30 minutes for it to dry.  Part One was completely clear.  It smelled suspiciously like an acrylic enamel going on, and it stiffened the fabric - just like an acrylic enamel would.  At this point I was really happy that I had chosen a part of the dodger that is scheduled for removal as the experimental subject.

After 30 minutes, I applied Part Two.  This is an entirely different composition, and apparently uses an alcohol as the solvent.  As advertised, it left the fabric with a white, frosted appearance.  Once again, I was glad for the choice of experimental subject.

It will be many months before this test can be declared a success or a failure.  But the results the next morning, were pretty amazing.  The dew was scattered over the surface like a field of diamonds, and a few fat drops had consolidated and swept up their near-microscopic brethren, leaving dry trails behind them. 


  • Really, really hydrophobic coating!


  • $18.75 for coating to cover 10 ft2.  That's $1.88/ft2
  • Substantially stiffens the fabric
  • Leaves a white, frosted appearance on the fabric (might be OK for white fabric)

Addendum:  After Rain

If you look closely, you'll see actual air, under the water


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Doubled Docklines

Mixed feelings.

I have mixed feelings about this time of year.  On the one hand, the weather has made it uncomfortable to be off the dock.  It is cold; rain is frequent. Winter storms are lining up out there in the North Pacific, jockeying for position to attack the Pacific Northwest, one after the other.  The sun is visible less and less every day, not just because of the now ubiquitous clouds, but because the tilt of the Earth's axis and its progress around its orbit puts the sun lower and lower in the sky every day.

But on the other hand, the "nesting instinct" returns at full strength this time of year.  We like to think we are "above" the animal kingdom, that we are too "advanced" for the instincts that govern the behavior of the lower animals to affect us.  What bunk! 

Perhaps because of my retirement, for the first time ever, we enter the stormy season with all the preparations completed:
  • Docklines have been doubled.  
  • The winter fenders have been added.  
  • All the failing seams in the cockpit canvas and a total of eight new (YKK #10) zippers have been installed.  
  • The sail covers have been completely restitched. 
  • The annual brightwork refinishing tasks are done.
  • The prop nut zinc has been changed.
  • The spreaders have been inspected and repainted.
We are ready.  And there is huge satisfaction in that.  We have evolved so that complying with those instincts is one of the most satisfying things we can do.

So yes, mixed feelings.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Workshop again

With the additional time that retirement brings, I am tackling some things that had been too low on the priority stack for too long. 
First project: freshen up the finish in the galley. This area gets probably the heaviest usage of any on the boat. That, coupled with grease mist from cooking these last 15 years has made refinishing here a priority. 

I am using Interlux Goldspar Satin for this. And once again, I find that the $40/qt varnish is worth every single penny. It goes on easily and self-levels to a gorgeous smooth satin finish.  I can't recommend it highly enough. 
And of course, with the workshop occupying the saloon table and the galley disabled for all intents and purposes, we've had a spate of eating out.  Well, except for last nite - last nite was our 42nd wedding anniversary, and we stayed in for that (yeah, that is an empty wine bottle - some of the good stuff).

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