Friday, April 29, 2011


Now here's a word which, standing alone, has negative connotations.  To me, it seems to evoke feelings vaguely similar to "tattletale".

But in the marine world, a telltale is a good thing.  It provides proof that a system is working.

Outboard motors typically direct a tiny part of their cooling water to a port where the discharge stream is made visible - so that you know that the cooling water system is functioning.  (The only outboard we have here on Eolian is the little 2 HP Evinrude on our dinghy, and it does not have such a port - it doesn't have a cooling water pump either, depending instead on ram-effect for cooling water propulsion.)

But on Eolian our main engine does have a (perhaps inadvertent) telltale - when the engine is operating, some of the discharged cooling water comes out the anti-siphon vent on the port side.  Inspecting the vent discharge is not more convenient than looking over the stern for water discharge in the exhaust, but I have heard that some boats direct the vent stream into a cockpit drain, thus providing easily seen proof of cooling water flow for the helmsman.  And occasionally wet feet.

Our refrigerator cooling water circuit has a (also perhaps inadvertent) telltale too.  With our new pump, it is not possible to hear the pump running (yea!), so this becomes particularly important.  Now, our galley saltwater foot pump draws its water from the line between the refrigerator cooling pump to the refrigerator.  Thus, when the pump runs, enough pressure is produced that a stream of water makes it thru the foot pump and shows up in the sink.  (Of course, this affects the logistics of washing dishes a little - you want to do the wash in this side of the sink, and the drain-for-dry in the other side.)  And the frequent flow means that the water in the foot pump and lines does not get stagnant and smelly - operating the foot pump always produces fresh, clean seawater.

So if you can, replace that negative connotation with a positive one.  Let the word "telltale" leave you with an impression of sitting in front of a fire with someone who is telling you a story - a story that ends saying, "all is well."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Return of the Dolphin

Long, long ago, Eolian used to have a figurehead:  a beautiful brass dolphin mounted between the bowsprit and the beakhead.  Unfortunately, he had to come off when we rebuilt the bowsprit.  And he has been languishing in the shop ever since.

Recently, however, the guilt I felt each time I had to move him on the workbench to make room for yet another project became overwhelming, and I made *the dolphin* the next project.

First I ran him over the buffing wheel.  This got the corroded sections cleaned up and made him gleam once again.

Next, he spent a few days hanging from the overhead handrail getting several fresh coats of varnish.

Now the interesting part begins.  He is held in place with two very long stainless lag bolts that pierce him and run into the beakhead and the bowsprit (he's metal - he cannot feel pain).  Of course, the hole in the beakhead is still there, but there is no hole in the new bowsprit.  And I won't just drive the lag bolt in there without at least a pilot hole.  So, how to get a pilot hole in the right place and at the right angle?

My answer was to mount him in place with the beakhead lag bolt.  Then, use an installer bit (this is a *really* long drill bit) to drill a pilot hole into the bowsprit, guided by drilling thru the holes in the top and the bottom of the dolphin.  Because I couldn't get a bit of the right size, I had to settle for a 1/8" bit - too small to act as a pilot hole for a 1/4" lag bolt.  But a great size to act as a pilot hole for the correct size conventional drill bit.  So after taking the dolphin down again, I enlarged the 1/8" hole to the proper size using a regular drill bit.  It was easy to keep it in alignment, since it wanted to follow the 1/8" pilot hole.

Next step:  rot protection of this penetration in the bowsprit.  I put a piece of tape over the hole, and used a hypodermic to inject "end cut solution" into the bore thru the tape, replenishing it as it soaked in.  This took a while.  And several beers.

Final step (well, final minus one): mount the dolphin.  To prevent seawater from getting inside the dolphin and into the bowsprit and beakhead, apply a liberal gob of white polysulphide around each of the holes in the dolphin.  Run the lag bolts in, but do not tighten them.

Wait a day for the polysulphide to cure.

Now go back and finish-tighten the bolts.  In this way, a rubber gasket is created from the polysulphide, and then compressed to make a seal which has the thickness to accommodate any relative movement of the bowsprit, dolphin and the beakhead.

It's good to have him back, up there on the bow and guiding our way.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Disorientation and adaptation

There is a word for this: that feeling of being in familiar surroundings that are somehow not right.  Where there are enough cues to make you feel that all is as it should be, but then there are others that are dissonant and contradict that.  My vocabulary is inadequate to the task of putting the word to it (perhaps one of you out there will help me).

Nevertheless, I think I have described the feeling well enough that you can follow along with me.  This weekend was full of that feeling.

First, I spent days mentally preparing myself for having our home hoisted out of its natural element and propped up on land, on blocks and stands.   And when that happens, life aboard (is that still the right term?) changes dramatically.  I've talked about it before - you can't run water down any of the drains, you can't run the refrigerator (it is water cooled) or the heat pump (also water cooled).  Which means that cooking changes dramatically, and that using the bathroom means a trip down a 12-foot step ladder and a walk across the yard and thru a locked gate.  Also, your days are full to the brim with work, so that you are exhausted at nightfall.  And eating out is the norm (see cooking, above).

Nevertheless, despite the mental prep work, when the actual event happens, there is still disorientation.  Looking forward, you see your bowsprit in the trees instead of over the water.

And the boat is still.  It feels dead, somehow.  And tho it may not make it into your conscious awareness, this troubles you while you sleep.  Which means, of course, that you sleep poorly.

But humans are remarkably adaptable.  Our brains have evolved to assimilate our surroundings, and make them familiar.  My theory is this is so that as much as possible of life is put onto subconscious autopilot, freeing up the conscious for more important tasks.  So after a couple of days, you adapt.  It is no longer remarkable that the sinks are not usable, or that your hands are always dirty and you are always sore and tired.  This becomes "normal", and you really don't think about it.  And then you *do* sleep at nite.

Ah, but then everything changes again.  The boat is picked up and re-introduced to water.  And as valves are opened and systems are brought back online, once again the disorientation returns - the subconscious programs in the autopilot are again no longer valid.

There are people who push adaptability hard - military folks, business people, pastor's families, musicians, cruisers.  They move frequently or travel extensively; they go thru change constantly.  Amazingly, human adaptability is able to make constant change into the constant, and put it into the subconscious autopilot.  These people then undergo disorientation when they cease the constant travel and/or moving - we say they "have itchy feet," or they are "footloose".

For us this past weekend, the haulout was so quickly accomplished that we never reached accommodation with life on the hard.  And yet, going back into the water was still disorienting.

But is is good to be afloat again.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The fourth W

Back in our slip again!

We're back in the water.

The whole event lasted less than 36 hours, which must be some kind of record.

And when we were pulling out of the Travelift slip, and waving goodbye to Roland, Tom and the crew (who were all out on the pier) I felt like we were waving to family.  And in a way we were - they have been taking care of Eolian and us for more than a decade.  We keep going back to have the work done by this crew because they recognize that a haulout is a traumatic experience to us (and every boat owner), and treat us accordingly, with professionalism and amazing attention to the details which make the process go safely and smoothly.

Below are some pictures of our brief time up on blocks, with some wisdom that I gained from Tom - he's got years of experience, working on hundreds of boats - boats which he sees year after year.  He gets to see what works and lasts, and what doesn't.

To clean a prop, I have always used a rotary wire brush chucked in an electric drill.  But Tom said that aside from the scratches the wire brush leaves, it will leave small pieces of iron embedded in the bronze, which could cause localized galvanic corrosion.  Instead he suggested I use a 3M disk - kind of an industrial version of Scotchbrite.  It worked great! 

Shiny, shiny
Definitely time for a new zinc!
Tom said that I should apply 1 coat of Barnacle Ban for each year I intended it to last - this is three coats, because I don't want us to haul out again until 2014.

On the left we see a groady old man, looking a lot less professional than the yard crew, buffing out the hull.  On the right and looking a lot better, Jane followed behind and did the boot stripe which I didn't want to do with the power buffer for fear of getting wax on the new bottom paint.  Tom suggested I use a different bonnet on the buffer - one which would cut the oxidation more quickly.  Once again, he was right.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Asphalt, not water

The view out of our cockpit looking aft is a little different this evening - Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains are still there, but crowding into the foreground is asphalt - not water.  Yup, we're up on the hard for our every-third-year haulout.

As usual, I was nervous about maneuvering in the very tight confines just in front of the Travelift slip.  And the wind was up out at the end of G Dock.  But it was out of the South - and the Travelift slip is sheltered from a South wind, so the water was calm.  Jane and  Scotty from Ghost kept us off the steel pilings as I backed into the slip, and the hoist itself was uneventful.

And tonight we are going to sleep on a boat that is strangely motionless.  Unless you live on a boat, you do not know how weird that is.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Resistance (was) futile

Backpack soft case
I couldn't resist.  I ordered an ideal boat guitar for myself.

It came in just under a week, shipped by FedEx in a huge box surrounded by lots of padding; it arrived in perfect condition.

Inside the box was the advertised backpack softcase containing the folded guitar.
  • First surprise:  it is light weight! 
In fact it is amazingly light in weight compared to my Hohner and semi-hard case.  You (literally) can lift it with one finger.  Easily.
  • Second surprise: A quality backpack
This is not just a guitar case - it really is a quality backpack, designed from scratch to hold the guitar.  The surface that contacts your back when you don it has extra foam padding and is covered with breathable mesh.  For hand-carrying, there is a padded handle on both the top and on one side, should you prefer to carry it that way instead of wearing it on your back.  And there is a huge zipper pocket to hold music and easily your laptop as well.

Looks weird, doesn't it?
Zip open the specially contoured top, and there is the guitar, perfectly happy but looking broken.  The strings are stuffed in the sound hole, and the neck rests on a specially formed padded support to prevent it from scratching the guitar top.
Nearly invisible hinge joint
Remove it from the case and unfold it - the hinge goes slightly over-center so that it is not difficult to hold against the string tension.  While holding, tighten the thumbscrew.   The neck is a little floppy when it is folded, but once unfolded and locked down, it is as rigid as your guitar.  The hinge joint is almost invisible when the guitar is unfolded - a good design well executed.

Strings are captive at the nut
The only other deviation from normal guitar design is that the nut is not simply notched to take the strings.  Instead it has bored holes to keep the strings from going too far astray when the guitar is folded.

Keeping in mind that this is intended for use on our boat, I bought the VAOM-02.  This is a little smaller than a full dreadnought (it's an orchestra model), but it has a full sized 1-3/4" bridge and 25 1/2" neck.  What this means to me is that I won't bang it into things as much while moving around the boat.
  • Next surprise: It is easy to play
I'm not sure why this might be, but I would swear that this guitar is easier to finger than my Hohner.  And I'm not talking about the action here - I mean it is as if the strings have less tension or something.  Regardless of the reason, this guitar is a pleasure to finger.

And it sounds good.   No, it sounds really good.  Of course it would sound even better if played by somebody who knows what they are doing, but then we can't have everything, can we?

Final assessment (now based on actual physical appraisal):

This is the ideal boat guitar.


Monday, April 18, 2011

The convergence zone

There is a natural tendency to think of weather as a region-wide phenomenon.  And in the Midwest where I grew up, this approach is a good approximation (except for thunderstorms and tornadoes, of course).

But not here in Seattle.  With the influence of the Sound, the Cascades and the Olympics, we have several "micro-climates" - areas where the local climate is significantly different.  One in particular that is frequently mentioned by the TV weather folks is the "Convergence Zone".

The Convergence Zone is pretty easily explained.

Directly to the West of Seattle, where most of our weather comes from, sit the Olympic Mountains.  Now the Olympics are not a chain of mountains like the Cascades or the Rockies...  instead they are best described as a "patch" of mountains.

So Seattle is guarded from the incoming weather by the Olympics.  Sort of.  The incoming weather is forced to split by the Olympics, with some going South and some going North.  But things being as they are, those two streams of air rejoin again on the far side of the Olympics, exactly like a river parting to flow around a rock and then rejoining again downstream.  The area where the two streams of air rejoin is the Convergence Zone.  (This, by the way, explains why we can have a Southerly wind in the South Sound while at the same time a Northerly in Admiralty Inlet).

Frequently, the Convergence Zone is a place of nasty weather.  It is pretty much the case that if it is raining anywhere in Puget Sound, it will be raining hard in the Convergence Zone.

So, where is it?  Well, it is not in a fixed location.  Considering how it is created, it will be located pretty much diametrically opposite the direction the weather is coming from.  Under normal conditions, it seems to be at Everett.  But if the weather is coming from the Southwest instead of the West, the Convergence Zone will move North, to say Camano Island.

It exists in good weather too.  Have you ever been sailing down Admiralty Inlet, returning from the San Juans and then suddenly become becalmed just about at the Southern tip of Whidbey Island?  Yup, you guessed it - you're in the Convergence Zone (and just about across from Everett, aren't you?).

The idea for this post came to me yesterday, as we drove from Camano Island to Seattle.  On Camano Island, it was cloudy, and in Seattle it was sunny (really!)... but in Everett, ah in Everett, it was pouring rain so hard that the windshield wipers couldn't keep up.

If you are moving here from out of the area, it would be a good idea to give consideration to our many micro-climates, including the Convergence Zone.  In fact, you might just want to consider renting for a while until you have a better idea how the weather plays out over the course of a year.  Is there such a thing as a Consulting Meteorologist?  If there is, realtors are missing a bet.  I call dibs on the idea.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Well then, it's settled

All the W's are established.  We haul out this coming Thursday at 09:00 at Seaview West.  Roland and Tom are back to managing the West yard (we're fans), they have a new, larger Travelift and newly renovated Travelift dock, and, frankly, it is more convenient not having to traverse the Ballard Locks.

Well, that is if the weather cooperates.  We have hauled out in spite of the weather in the past, but not this time.  If there is a 20 kt crosswind, we will simply remain in our slip and reschedule.

Now it is our task to gather tools and supplies.  Our primary task while the boat is up on stands, and while the yard does the bottom,  will be to do a thorough job of buffing out and waxing the hull.  This is a job that is quite difficult to do from a dinghy, and it is a big job.  Ever painted your house?  How'd you like to buff it out and wax it?  Yeah, that big.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A wet finger in the air

That's as good as it gets here on Eolian for detecting the wind direction right now.  And on a vehicle that depends on the wind for propulsion, knowing its exact direction is important!  You may remember our fat bird incident, where a gravitationally-challenged bird sat on our windvane and broke it off.  So we are down to a wet finger in the air here.

Masthead transducer,
sans wind vane
I removed the transducer from the masthead and taped over the connections up there.  So here is what it looks like.  If you turn that dark grey disk on the top, it makes the cockpit display turn.  So all I have to do is put a wind vane on that grey disk.

But where?  Since the cockpit display only allows for +/- 15° calibration adjustment, it is important to get the vane on there in the correct orientation.  Rather than climb to the masthead and try to adjust it up there with Jane in the cockpit below telling me when I have it turned dead ahead (too much drama, aside from climbing the mast again), I made up a patch cable and hooked the transducer up directly to the cockpit display.  The tricky part of that task was to make connections to each of the 6 pins in the connector on the transducer, pins which are very close together.

Alternate use for DB9 connectors
I didn't want to solder anything to them (even if I could) because then there would be a problem cleaning off the solder well enough to allow the pins to enter the masthead connector.  I finally settled on using the female connectors sold for use in computer connectors.  These come attached to the web on which they are fabricated.  I pressed an old RJ45 ethernet cable into service for the actual wiring (I only needed 6 of the 8 wires), and soldered a connector on each.  These were easy to push onto the connector pins without shorting between them (sorry this important part of the picture is out of focus).

Now I could turn the shaft on the transducer back and forth to get the display exactly centered.  And then I marked things to retain the results of this work.

OK, so now I know how to orient the wind vane.

What wind vane?  I don't have one anymore.  Da%$# fat bird!

It turns out that a 1" PVC pipe cap is just about the perfect size to fit over the body of the transducer, reaching down the sides a distance to protect against water intrusion, and making a pretty tight fit around it.  So I started with that as a base.

In balance?
Next I drilled a 1/8" hole across the PVC fitting and added a 1/8" brass rod.  Then I cut a vane from some sheet brass to what was a pleasing shape of adequate size and soldered it to the rod.  Finally, I threaded the other end of the rod to accept a counterweight (this thing has to balance, otherwise the reading will change when the boat heels).  The counter weight is a 3" length of 3/8" brass rod, drilled and threaded on one end.  I shaped the front end by chucking it in my drill press and applying a file.  (Here, I am getting the rough balance point by balancing it upside down on the handle of a hammer.  Fine adjustment after mounting to the transducer will be by moving the counterweight along the threads.)

Mark 1 vane
(I should probably call this the Mark 1.5 version, since the first version had a vane that I decided was too small by half, and ugly to boot.)

But I am not going to install this vane yet...  I am concerned that it may be too heavy.  To lighten it, I could make the vane out of lighter-gage brass - that would allow me to use a smaller counterweight.  Or I could make the vane bigger and mount it closer to the PVC cap - that would also mean that the counterweight could be smaller.

But before I try either of these, I am going to try my hand at making the vane assembly entirely out of aluminum.

Next weekend.

Monday, April 11, 2011

On one beautiful sunny day in Seattle...

On one beautiful, sunny day in Seattle, I spent time outside working on killing off the mildew growing on my body.

No - ha, ha, that's not true.  Instead I spent time down in the bilge, replacing the cover on our raw water pump with our newly arrived Speedseal cover.  We've talked about the Speedseal pump cover before, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise to you that I'm installing it... 

Here's the water pump, with the old cover in place.  Unlike on so many boat engines, this one is easy to access.  In the picture, I have pulled all but two of the stainless allen-head screws holding the cover in place (I replaced the original phillips screws long ago).  Nothing was difficult to remove, since I had this apart just a couple of weeks ago.

Here's a comparison between the old, eroded cover and the new one.  You can see that the impeller has worn quite a bit of depth into the old cover.  In fact, in the close-up below, the roughness at the top is an indication that backflow of water was occurring there, sneaking past the impeller, just at the high pressure discharge of the pump chamber.  This is erosive wear at its best.

Erosion has been at work
So, finally, the new SpeedSeal cover in place.  Looks pretty, doesn't it?  I took this picture because I know that it won't be long before it looks a lot like the outside of the old cover did.  Installing was a snap.  Insert the two lower screws part way, slide the cover under them, insert the two upper screws, and tighten everything finger tight.  That's it.  Seems too easy, doesn't it?  More screws are not needed because this cover is at least twice as thick as the old one, and therefore does not flex.  Four screws are adequate to the job.

Sunny days are as rare as hen's teeth this time of year in Seattle.  Think I *will* go out in the cockpit with a beer and work on that mildew.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The four W's

It's time.

It's been 3 years since the last one.

I anticipate this like I anticipate a visit to the dentist, and like a visit to the dentist, we put it off as long as possible.  It's time for (cue 'Jaws' music)... the scary H-word...


This is where you have to put your pride and joy in the hands of others - where you must put your trust in others as they perform definitely non-boaty things to your partner/baby/home.

For us, this starts when we must partially de-rig the mizzenmast so that Eolian will fit into a Travelift, backwards.  Because of our size, if we pull in to the Travelift slip forwards, the forestay interferes with the rear crossbeam of the Travelift, meaning that the Travelift slings cannot be positioned far enough back to suround our center of gravity:  in other words, if they try to pick us up when we are facing into the slip, we will tip over backwards.  Not good.

So we know we will to backing into the Travelift slip, with all the fun that entails.  Now, apparently due to a Seattle municipal ordinance, all boat yards with haulout capabilities are required to be positioned so that they are exposed to crosswinds.  So we will be backing into the narrow Travelift slip in a crosswind.  Three years ago, it was a 20+ kt crosswind laced with rain and snow.  That event required 5+ yard personnel acting as live fenders because while backing upwind, when it was time to make a right angle turn into the slip, I was able to turn the stern, but the bow continued to point downwind, across the slip, flying from the stern like a flag flies from a flagpole.  I'd like to never have to do that again.

This brings us to the four W's which are required to be on your haulout planning list:
  • When
    Because of my work schedule, we will schedule for a Friday.  But which Friday?  It seems that we are always way early in the year (snow! last time).  In the past, the yards offered price incentives for these early slots, trying to keep their schedules full.  But not anymore.  This time I'd like to try it in warmer, and hopefully less stormy, weather.  So, April or May.  Depending, of course, on availability of yard space.  I need to call them.
  • Why
    Thankfully, we have no major maintenance items.  Just:
    • refreshing of the bottom paint, 
    • a thorough cleaning of the prop and retreatment with Barnacle Ban, 
    • changing the zinc without having to hold my breath in frigid water,
    • and buffing out the hull - much easier to do from scaffolding on shore than from a dinghy in the water
  • Where
    We will be using the Seaview East yard.  They are staffed with extremely experienced people, and are familiar with handling large boats.  In fact, we will be one of the smaller boats in the yard.  I cannot recommend Roland and his staff highly enough.
  • Wine
    Umm... Because it's required?  Life on the hard is, well, hard.   I needed a forth 'W' anyway.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Customer service: *this* is how it is done

Remember my water pump impeller problems?  As I mentioned, I ordered a SpeedSeal replacement cover plate as the solution to my eroded one.

Have you ever gone to the SpeedSeal website with an intent to order?  If not, you're in for an unexpected treat.  You will find that, in order to assure that the correct product is shipped, each order is a very custom experience.  SpeedSeal expects and wants to interact with you.

I made my order on 3/8.  And here it is 4/4 (when I am writing this post).  And nothing had arrived.  So I emailed my original contact at SpeedSeal (yes, you will have one), asking for a tracking number or something.  Alex called me back (an 8 hour time difference means that he called at 21:17 his time) to explain what he thought had happened.  It seems that a certain three-lettered government agency that has been in the news a lot lately may have detoured the shipment as possibly a threat (??!?).  And apparently this has been a not-uncommon occurrence lately (your tax dollars hard at work).

So, in order to minimize my inconvenience, Alex offered to make a second shipment, at no charge.  At which point, of course, SpeedSeal would then be losing money on this order.

Now THAT'S the way customer service is done.  Listen up all you fly-by-nighters out there on eBay:  I am willing to pay for customer service.  (Not that selling on eBay is, per se, a reflection of poor customer service - I have gotten some of the best service from vendors on eBay - but also some of the worst).

I am happy to report that not very long after my international call with Alex, the afternoon post delivered the package, and that, tho it had been opened, everything was in there.  No second shipment was necessary.

I am looking forward to the install.

Thank you, SpeedSeal, for the extraordinary customer service!

you may notice that each mention of SpeedSeal in this post is a link to their website - that is because I think they are deserving of your business

Monday, April 4, 2011

Head grease

Last nite I greased my head.

Folks who live on boats know what I mean here - the rest of you are going, "Wha..?"

Now, gentle readers, I must dissuade you, lest you think this is the beginning of a treatise on hair care.  Alas, it is not, and I apologize for any confusion.  Today we will be discussing the marine head, and its proper lubrication.
Consider the head.  That tee-shaped black handle that you stroke up and down to empty the bowl and flush it?  It moves a little, flat, o-ring sealed piston up and down. 
Aside:  the designers of this mechanism were very clever.  The piston does double-duty - the space below the piston pumps out the bowl contents, while the space above is used to deliver the flush water.  So that, for example, when the handle is pulled up, the piston inhales bowl contents in the lower chamber and squeezes out the load of flush water above the piston.  This rinses the cylinder walls with every stroke, and means that the seal where the pump shaft leaves sees nothing but clean seawater
Eventually, the cylinder walls and the o-ring on the piston get completely wiped clean of lubricant and the pump starts to squeal when it is operated.  If the increasing difficulty of operating an unlubricated pump wasn't enough for you, this is your signal:   Lubrication needed.

With our old Groco heads, lubricating the pump required a complete disassembly, meaning that the (disgusting, even after pumping a lot of rinse water) contents of the discharge hose all the way up to the anti-siphon loop would run out onto the floor.  In addition to being messy, the task took a good hour.  And you risked breaking the fragile internals of the pump each time.  And it seemed that the pump always leaked after reassembly, and so required multiple assembly attempts.  It was a nightmare, and so we did it absolutely as infrequently as possible.

But with the Jabsco head, this is a 5-minute task.  The Jabsco folks (long may they prosper!) made this easy by making it possible to withdraw the piston from the top, without having to completely disassemble the pump (the way we had to with the Groco heads).  So,
  • Unscrew the (o-ring sealed!) top of the pump cylinder and withdraw the piston and shaft.  
  • Wipe the o-ring and the cylinder walls with white teflon-bearing grease.  
  • Screw it back together.  
Five minutes is an over-estimate of the time required, and means that there is no excuse for an under-lubricated head.

And so, less than 5 minutes after starting, I was done and hoisting a beer to Jabsco.

And yes, my hair remains grease-free.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The ideal boat guitar

Tho guitars are not heavy, they are awkward, and on a boat, it is usually difficult to find a good home for one.

Steve, one of the guys in my guitar class (you knew I've been taking lessons for years, didn't you?) has been showing up at class with the perfect boat guitar - a Voyage-Air folding guitar.

This thing is amazing.  Folded and in its soft case, it occupies about the same space as one of those bags designed to just fit in an airplane overhead compartment - as a matter of fact it will fit in an airplane overhead compartment.  To ready it for play, you just fold the neck back and tighten the thumbscrew.  And amazingly, Steve usually has to do very little tuning - certainly no more than I do when getting ready for class, and the ubiquitous electronic tuner (when, oh when, are they going to become standard built-ins?) makes this a trivial task.

Model VAOM-02,
from their website
And aside from the storage advantage, it has another.  Because of the mechanical aspects of the instrument design, the strings slowly but surely distort the guitar, pulling the neck up, as the wood inevitably yields to the load imposed by the relentless pull of the strings.  But since the Voyage-Air is only under tension when it is actually being played, "neck dive" should be essentially non-existent.

Finally, a rarity in the musical instrument world, the Voyage-Air is not expensive.  And from personal experience I can tell you that it sounds good - certainly better than my old Hohner.
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