Sunday, January 25, 2015

OK, ok, ok

Kerm here,
So we have been a bunch of slackers by not posting as of late.  Chris has been doing only social media and I have been just lazy as far as the blog goes.  Here's the update:

Currently we are sitting in Bimini waiting for a weather window to start moving again.   We have been here since last Wednesday and it looks like this coming Thursday is the go day.  8 days here is a bit much but I ain't go'n out in 5 to 6's on the beam. 

There has been a lot of progress here in Bimini, well, at least at the northern end of north Bimini.  The casino has been expanding with lodging, a cruise ship landing and marina expansion.  This will all mean jobs for the population here and hopefully the town will transform from 3rd world standards to a somewhat modern little town.  They deserve it. 

So, onward on Thursday.  It's a two day trip to Nassau and one more to the Exumas but we're kinda thinking that we might stop in the Berries for awhile on the way.  We'll see, there are three days to think about it.

The Loop was a wonderful thing as we met so many people who are living the same life style as us.  Here in Bimini are two other boats that we met along the way and it looks like we will be traveling with them again come Thursday.  It's a small world.  "Docktails" tonight to form a plan with them.

The boat is running well with just the normal hiccups and maintenance.  Water heater relief valve leaking that dumped at least 40 gallons of precious fresh water before I caught it , exhaust elbow leaking around a bad gasket, etc. 

A guy finds a magic lantern on the beach here in Bimini and rubs it.  A genie appears and offers one wish.  The guy says I thought it was supposed to be 3 wishes.  The genie says "times are rough, what is your wish."  The guy says " I wish for world peace".  The genie says,  "come on, give me something easier,  something for yourself".  The guy thinks about it for a minute and says " I want everything broken on my boat fixed".  The genie responds " let's talk about the world peace thing again".

Patrick and Linda are doing well on the Belle.  It was a bit tight to begin with but now that we are getting into a routine it is working out quite well.  I have no complaints and look forward to our travels together. 

I will try to send some pictures the next post.

We will have e-mail while here in Bimini.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Update on rear bulkhead

Kerm here,
Done.  While I didn't feel comfortable cutting into the boat and especially doing fiberglass work I'm glad I did it and in the end I increased my knowledge base for doing this type of project.

Project Synopsis-
While Chris was painting the back bilge she noticed water standing back by the steering jack shaft.  I kept an eye on it and found out that water was coming out through a pin hole in the fiberglass.  I drilled a few holes around the area and found that the plywood backer was saturated with water and rotted. 
Holes drilled to see how far the rot went.  It took out the whole backer and sill above.

                            Not pretty but at least the structure holding the jack shaft was OK.

First piece bedded in. Note plate with blue on it to keep water from coming in if there was a wave in the marina.  Also through bolts for swim platform were very close to the water line.  Grinding all the paint off was the most difficult part.  I did find that the structure holding the jack shaft was breaking away from the hull so had to glass that also.
                       All glassed up but still have to drill hole for scupper through hull fitting. 
All but done.  The unfinished portion is where I'm going to tie the new sill into the old but it's too saturated with water right now.  It's not critical and will have to wait. Now I can get the steering chain on and throw on a couple of clamps for the new scupper valve.  The old valve was trash.

I still don't know where all the water was coming from that saturated everything.  I suspect it was from the cap rail or maybe from the euro strut base.  It's just another thing to keep an eye on but at least everything below is sealed in epoxy.  If we not in such a hurry to every thing done before pushing off I think it was a great learning project.

Chris here,
Captain Kerm is going strong!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Prepping for a winter adventure

Patrick here,
I am Chris and Kerm's nephew, and have spent almost two weeks on board Southern Belle getting her prepped for the Exumas. In addition to being the ships lackey, I apparently have inherited the duties of blog updater!
Chris posing with the magic scrubbing compound
You can see reflections in the hull now!

The first thing I tackled was the dinghy. The vinyl was well covered in mildew, and the bottom felt like 20-grit sandpaper due to barnacles. Soap and scrubbing took care of that. Thanks to the full moon and northerly winds, we were blessed with an extremely high tide. We were able to pull the motor and lift the dinghy to the dock so we could scrape the bottom. Some acid and the rest of Chris's kitchen spatulas made for a relatively quick clean up. Cooking dinner has become slightly more difficult, but at least the dinghy looks new again.

Dan Wold (Chris and Kerm's son) visited us over the past few days. He replaced the sink drain and surveyed just about everything else on the boat. I got a crash course in radar technology. Dan also fixed a low-idle gremlin in the dinghy motor.

Kerm repairing the transom

The offending bulkhead is at top center
Kerm has spent nearly two weeks replacing a bulkhead in the transom. Water slowly saturated the wood and turned it all to mush. Replacing it required us to unbolt the swim platform (starboard side) and remove/plug a through-hull fitting 1" above the water line. Holes in boats are never a good thing... But, after many many many coats of epoxy and fiberglass, the hull has been shored up, and parts are back in place. Good job, Kerm!

What else... The top of the anchor has been painted bright red so it will be visible in the murky depths. The radios have been rewired so they can act as an intercom between the upstairs and down, as well as control the PA speaker on the bow. Replaced the dinghy seat with a cooler (for keeping our gear dry). Chris and I took a day off and went to Ft. Pierce to get my Local Boaters Option, as well as some boat part shopping.

I had no idea how much work it is to prep a boat for a winter of cruising - my hats off to all who venture offshore!

Sunset Bay Marina at night (time-lapse photo).

Southern Belle at night (time-lapse photo)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Broke, don't work

 I was cleaning the back bilge the other day and had a real shock.  The steering quadrant was broken and all I had to do was touch a steering cable and it fell off the quadrant.  Dang, I hate when that happens.  So another adventure we have.  The quadrant for this boat is no longer available and whatever we find to replace it will have to be custom AND modifications to the steering system will have to be made to fit the new piece.

The worst part about this is that it probably was preventable.  Mea clupa, last year I noticed that some of the thru hull valves were deteriorating probably from electrolysis and had to replace them.  The problem was that the grounding system in the boat had a broken wire.  This grounding system prevents or at least slows the electrolysis on metal parts.  Remember salt, metal and electricity don't mix.  Anyway, the ground wire was repaired and I checked to make sure all critical metal parts were grounded but I didn't even think to check the aluminum quadrant.  A further teaching moment, aluminum is the most sensitive metal to electrolysis which is why most quadrants today are made from stainless steel or bronze. And another teaching moment, the aluminum quadrant was attached to a stainless steel rudder post where the problem of dissimilar metals creates its own set of problems.  There were also stainless bolts holding the quadrant together that also 'rotted' out the aluminum.

So, a new bronze quadrant is being made but I'm going to have to move a few things around to get the steering cables to line up which involves some cutting, fitting and fiberglass work.  At the same time some fiberglass patch up work has already been done around the rudder post stanchion where the existing fiberglass was pulling away.  This was also probably due to the steel stanchion rusting from electrolysis.

While waiting for the new quadrant I'm also going through the complete steering system and fixing and /or replacing anything that could be suspect which means lots of chain and cable is going to be replaced.  When done this baby should steer like a new boat and we shouldn't have to worry about a thing for another 30 years.

Quadrant with broken cable tang on left and stripped out bolt on bottom left.

Steering stanchion before refurbishment.  Note on sides where fiberglass is broken away.
Refurbished and now to paint the rest of the compartment.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Yea, back at the boat

Kerm here

I had a nice drive down here to Stuart about a week ago.  Chris stayed back in the cities to take care of some financials and to nurse her leg that was badly bruised getting on Linda's sail boat.  On the way down I stopped in Cleveland to take care of some paperwork with son Dan and see his new apartment.  I also stopped in Atlanta to see cousin John and Cheryl. We did some sailing on Lake Lanier on our old J 24 sailboat that John bought from us about 20 years ago.  John and Cheryl are fantastic hosts and 'my' room has the best bed in the world.  Jeez, I sleep later there than anywhere. 

After 3 months away the Belle is a bit shabby.  The wood trim has discolored a bit and everything needs a good wash and wax.  The good news is that the bilge has no smells and there was just a bit of old boat smell in the cabin.  This, I believe is from the salt air slime that builds up on interior panels over a period of time.  Bring out the vinegar water and all will be good for awhile.  For now I'm going to leave the washing and concentrate on fixing and replacing projects.

Its been a good week for boat work.  I built a new hatch for the flybridge when I was in the cities and it fit perfect.  The old one was a sliding hatch that weighed a zillion pounds that slid on wood rails.  Especially when it was humid the thing was a bugger to move.  The new one is light weight and hinges up with the help of a gas shock like you would see for the tailgate on a SUV.  Currently there is a clear plastic top on the hatch but I'm going to put on some plastic tinting film that will probably reduce the appearance of scratches.  This project started the winter before last when I built and installed a new ring around the hatch opening so I'm glad this project is just about done.

Next.  I'm sure that anyone that has a home sees something that is broken or worn that never seems to get fixed and not a day or week goes by that you look at it and figure that you will get to it some day.  On the Belle there was one of these that drove me nuts but in this case I didn't think I had the skills to fix it and could not bare the ridiculous over the top cost of a pro doing it.  In this case the back door had a piece of trim that was broken off and each time I sat on the back deck that broken piece became a focal point.  At one point a couple of years ago I did have a pro look at it and he said that to do the project right the door would have to be disassembled and have a contoured blade made for a router to make up a new piece.  Another option would be to have a skilled wood carver made a piece. $$$ either way.  So I looked at it for another couple of years and then said screw it, I'll do it myself.
I cut out the bad section and glued in piece of teak that had the same outside dimensions and without having the proper carving tools I just started sanding away with sandpaper wrapped around different size round things found in my tool box.  In the end the project turned out so well that I'm now in the process of refinishing the whole outside of the door.  I'm posting a picture but there isn't much to see as the area looks just like the rest of the door.  Sometimes you get lucky...

Everyone is asking what our plans are for the winter.  We have no plans and we're sticking to it.  Just so long that it doesn't include gloves, long pants and windshield washer fluid.
                                    It's the contoured piece just this side of the keyhole

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Not yet

After a great time at the cabin we came back to the Twin Cities for doctors appointments and Chris had to fill in as race crew on her sister #1's J 22 sailboat.  She was fill in as sister #3 sprained her ankle and couldn't walk let alone put up a spinnaker.  They had a couple of decent finishes yesterday but Chris (sister #2) fell on the dock and pretty well messed up her leg.  So now with 2 of 4 sisters down sister #1 has run out of sisters and may have to rely on daughters.  There are only 3 of them but with only 5 races left sister #1 just might make it to the end of the season.

Depending on what the saw bones say next week we will be headed back to FL soon.  We miss the Belle and my lists of to do's has probably grown beyond what I can do this winter.  The biggies are new electronics and auto pilot.  We have been using one of our old Garmin GPS units from our now long gone 'Harry" as a primary and the lower helm unit is being reserved for the Smithsonian exhibit on the early history of marine GPS units.  The radar is even older and kidding aside it still has vacuum tubes.  There are so many ways of doing the new electronics from bare bones to full on network systems that will even turn your coffee pot on in the morning.  We will probably go with a main unit that will have network capability and add abilities as time goes on.  And no, the coffee pot will not be networked.

The autopilot on an old boat like the Belle has it's special problems as the steering is chain drive.  Even when this boat was built in the mid 80's chain drive was out of date so most of the manufacturers don't even make the components to do the job.  Raymarine seems to be the only mainstream manufacturer that does but it is expensive and will take a bit of engineering and fabrication to make it all work.  The good part is that the Raymarine electronics should be able to network quite easily with the new Garmin GPS / hub that we are looking at.  This is important as we should be able to set multiple waypoints for a route on the GPS and the autopilot should be able to take the commands and follow through with steering adjustments.  Even tho both manufacturers say there stuff should be able to communicate with the others equipment it's not plug and play according to comments on the internet.  Again, I'm being dragged into the world of modern technology. 

Chris's big thing that she wants changed on the Belle is the addition of an enclosure for the flybridge to keep us from the cold, rain and /or wind.  They are pretty much standard on trawlers these days and are a nice deal as it would make the bridge much more usable when the weather would normally force us down to the lower helm where the view is poor. 

I just got a call from Tom at the marina and he checked on the boat this morning.  No smells and no water in the bilge was the report.  I like short reports.  I asked him what the weather was like and he said the conditioner in his boat was on.  Nuff said,  I want to go home...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Another boat

Kerm here,

We did buy a boat for the cabin.  It is a used but well taken care of 14' Lund with a trailer, a 15 hp Evenrude outboard and it also came with a boat lift.  We launched it in town yesterday and I took it back to the cabin for fishing expedition outfitting.  In the afternoon Chis and I took it out for a try a and after a bit caught a couple of nice northern pike that were just under 24".  The slot limit up here is that you can keep 3 per person up to 24" and must throw back up to 36" and then keep only one over 36".  My experience is that anything over 36" probably is not the greatest eating so we'll take 23 1/2's all day.

We threw both back.  The object of this trip was to test the boat out, have a pleasant afternoon together and not go out for meat.  That comes later.  Storms are predicted for today so Monday looks like our target day..

Books.  We need books.  Lot's of books.  Not that we would use it much but the TV satellite stuff up here is out of date so it doesn't work and the radio reception is very bad.  The only thing that comes in half decent is public radio and I can only handle some much of that in a day.  One of the nice things about cruising on the Belle is that nearly all marinas have book exchanges so we keep our shelves stocked with plenty of great reading material.  Right now we have 2 National Geograghics from 2008 and a dozen cook books. The next free day we will be going to Cook or Virginia looking for 2nd hand stores to stock up. 

We continue to work a little of this and that but it appears that the major work is all but done.  The roof and gutters have been cleaned but Chris still wants to go up there with moss killer to finish it up.  The deck looks like hell as the finish that dad put on there a few years ago is peeling.  Chris's latest plan is to scrape and sand the old finish off and let the deck go grey.  Perhaps do just a few boards per day. 

Breakfast.  I'm hungry.