Boat Jobs

I am, hopefully, about 3 hrs short of retuning to Finike and I see that I have cell phone / Internet access.

Some minutiae about getting ready to go to Greece that may not matter to anybody but me. This is not a complete list by any means.

One of the first things that I found that was going to be really annoying if I wanted to sail away, was that the VHF radio did not work. Our fancy ICOM VHF that we bought just before we left the USA in 2005, had died on us twice due to overheating of the final transistors. The second time we discovered that in their opinion the radio should not be used for more than five minutes out of every hundred. That is you could talk on it for five minutes but then you had to wait 95 minutes before you spoke again.

Nice idea for statistician, but when you need to use the radio it may be because the water is up to your knees and you don’t really want to have to stop talking and wait for a long time. The ham radio that we used to have, and this used to be common in ham radios, could transmit at full power continuously for years and not suffer any damage. It seems to me that of Marine VHF radio should be able to also.

When we found out that ICOM did not come anywhere close to sharing that view, we scratched them off our wish list. Also, as the warranty had just expired, it would cost that much more to have the radio repaired, then to buy a new radio, that is more modern, and has a full warranty. So, we told the repair man to keep the old radio for parts. Our gift.

Our backup radio since about 1984 has been a King VHF, that while old, has always worked. At least until I turned it on a couple of weeks ago. I thought perhaps some sort of memory battery needed to be recharged, so I left it plugged in for several days, but no joy. I was getting down to the wire on leaving, but it seemed really stupid for me to leave without any working VHF radio. We have two VHF handhelds but the older one needs a battery pack, because the battery pack died years ago and when we went back to the states, I bought some of the correct size batteries to install in the old battery pack, but have never gotten around to it. That lack of enthusiasm, is because at the same time, we also bought a nice new VHF handheld that filled the need. But, it has to be recharged, and though I distinctly remember seeing the charger for it when I first got back to the boat, it is nowhere to be found right now. It is on my list of things to look for.

Happily, just before leaving the USA in February, I bought a brand-new, fancy by today’s standards, VHF radio that I was planning to install when things calm down. So, this became one of the reasons that I was up to 2 o’clock in the morning, Thursday morning. I installed a temporary power connection and also rearranged the coaxial cable so that that radio works just fine. I did not have time to hook up the GPS, so many of its geewhiz safety features, like DSC & AIS do not yet work. But I can now send and receive.

Also, even though we always carry paper charts, we have relied on electronic charts since 1999. These require a computer in order to run. In order for the computer to survive more than a day or two, it is required that it be attached firmly to the boat, so that it does not go flying the first time the boat tips or rocks around. Fortunately we were planning to use 3M command strips. Therefore I had quite a few with me (and happily, I knew where they were!), and they did the job. The first attempt did not really work, but the beauty of command strips is that you can take them off again easily. And the second attempt seems to be quite acceptable.

The other requirement is that the GPS be able to talk to the computer to let you know where you are on the world, and the way that I have previously done it since 2005, did not seem to work at midnight or whatever time it was when I tested it. After a bunch of adjusting and fooling around I got it to tell positions to the computer, but the GPS was not being powered by the ships batteries and the AA batteries in the unit, would run out after six or eight hours. Acceptable, but not desirable.

So I jury rigged a system using a USB data cable, and happily the OpenCPN charting software, can understand that that this USB cable is telling the position, rather than the normal serial cable. So the computer, and the digital charts worked fine. Of course, with only one person on board, it is not nearly as easy as the old situation, where Janet would drive, and I would come down and tell her instructions while watching the electronic chart. I realize that many of you have the computer right in the cockpit, but I think that is asking for trouble with an ordinary computer, and the screen is very difficult to read in sunlight. So we have always kept it below in the salon.

Several friends have also purchased a weatherproof LCD monitor, that is daylight visible, and that they can put in the cockpit. They then control the computer using a remote wireless mouse in a zip lock bag. I will probably investigate that option as it would make things much safer for this poor old single hander.

However, since I do not have these new gadgets presently, this meant that I could not do a somewhat tricky approach to the Greek island, that required passing between two rocks and avoiding many small reefs to come into actually a nicer anchorage. But, it worked out just fine to go in the main entrance, which is quite easy.

There was lots more excitement that very long night, but those are some of the biggies. I tested the autopilot at the dock, because I would not have left at all, with it not working. Not when I’m single handing for the first time in many years. But, it seemed to be working fine. Like so many things, it was only when I was actually relying on it that I found out that it was wacko.

Anyway, the whole trip actually turned out very well. But there were many times that I was having more excitement than I really wanted. I did not fall overboard. Primarily because that would’ve meant almost certain loss of the boat, and would’ve meant a long swim to shore. At times I’m not sure I could swim that far.

I wear an inflatable life vest that is also a safety harness and I clip into the boat whenever possible. This means that I have an extremely strong rope that is not very long connecting me to a very strong part of the boat. The idea being that it would be impossible to get separated from the boat. I am very aware that it is extremely easy to get quite banged up, perhaps injured, if I were to fall on deck or especially hang over the side, but in theory one should be able to climb back on board.

I have always enjoyed going barefoot when the weather was nice, but years ago another cruising friends said that they never go barefoot when they’re on a passage of even a short distance. Like a day sail.

I asked them why, and they replied that because it is so easy to injure your feet when you are barefoot. In their case, I think that that was especially true, because I always felt that their boat had a lot of things the jam your foot against. Deck cleats and other fittings that could seriously injure your feet. Fortunately, when we were building Alegria I had already discovered how dangerous some of these common things are, and so we tried very hard to make Alegria is foot friendly as possible. However, and is a gigantic however, in the years since, I have several times severely injured my feet while going barefoot. One time I am pretty sure that I broke a toe. It healed after a few weeks, although I continued to jam it on things before it was completely healed, and had to start the healing process over again several times.

So, even though when there were two of us we usually went barefoot if we wanted to, for now I am wearing shoes until I get back to Finike. I do not want to take a chance on getting gimped up.

There are ways that one can stay attached to the boat, and we have all the equipment to do it. One way is using a much longer rope, that allows you to stay attached at all times that you’re out of the cabin. For the truly paranoid you can stay attached while you’re in the cabin. However, I made an executive decision to not utilize that. The conditions were so calm. We have very high lifelines. (A strong rope railing that surrounds the boat that is more than knee-high even on me.)

The reason being that the risk of tripping or somehow injuring myself due to that long rope is greater than not having it. And the frustration factor is dramatically higher when you use it. At least that is been my experience the many times I have used it in the past. If the weather had been bad in the motion of the boat had been greater, I certainly would have used it, but when it was practically like being at the dock, I took the risk. Not using the long rope makes moving around the boat so much easier and faster, that I felt it was an appropriate trade-off. Of course, I was also extremely careful when moving about. Was it the smartest thing I’ve ever done? Probably not, but it certainly would was not even close to the dumbest thing I’ve ever done. That’s a long and embarrassing list.

Anyway, those are just a few of the things that kept me up till 2:30 AM the night of my departure. They were predicting strong winds during the middle of the day that would be right on my nose. I very seriously considered leaving as soon as I could. Which would of course be in the middle of the night. And trying to get close to the island and time my arrival to the trickier navigation area near the island after the sun came up. I would just get close to the island and navigate through the hazards in daylight. There are virtually no off-line dangers from Finike until you get quite close to Castellorizo. The water is too deep for crab pots which are a plague in many parts of the Mediterranean. It seems like at least half of the crab pot floats that we have seen are painted black. All black. Is that so that it won’t worry you as you’re going through the dark and can barely see them? This way you won’t be able to see them at all and so be reassured? Under most conditions even makes them very hard to find in the daytime.

Two people would like very much to know where they are. The fisherman who is planning to pull up his trap and take out whatever it is that has been caught, and the boater, who would like to not get the rope around his prop. I cannot imagine what possesses them to paint them jet black. But they did not ask me and I doubt if they care about my opinions.

But, by 230AM I was still 30 minutes to an hour away from being done, and my last project was to pile the large collection of stuff that could not yet be stored where it’s supposed to be, on my bed in the bow. There are two kinds of objects aboard the boat. Objects that are correctly stored in a good place. Hopefully their permanent homes. And objects that are not correctly stowed, which are alsoknown by their propensity to fly about the boat when you go to sea.

I thought it better to get a couple of hours sleep on that bed and and get up at 5 AM and pile the stuff. Naturally, it took longer than I thought to pile the stuff and take a shower. I had planned to leave at first light, which is presently about 5:45 AM, but at least got the engine started at 6:16 AM and got away from the dock without smashing into my neighbor or anything else.

It was certainly not a perfect departure. There were a couple of tense moments when I thought I’d miscalculated, but we did not touch anything and if the pilots have a saying, ‘That any landing you can walk away from is a good one’, then I would say any landing or departure that you don’t break anything is a fantastic one! So this one was fantastic.

The thing that cause stress in this case, occurred when you have a 26,000 pound boat that whatever changes you desire, to turn faster or to go faster or slower, takes a long time to arrange. You have to be planning way ahead. And so, as I backed out of the berth , my haste in putting the boat in forward, to make sure that I did not back into the boats downwind of me, turned out to be significantly premature. If I had just waited a little while longer, before going into forward, we would not have come quite as close to to the sterns of the other boats upwind, and I would’ve been a much happier camper. We by no means got frighteningly close, but when you’re in the business of thinking way ahead, but not very good at it yet, I was not so sure just how close we were going to be.

The jib, our forward most sail, is very important. It rolls in and out like an old-fashioned roller blind. Or rather it is supposed to be able to. However, in the time we of been gone the large ball bearings at the bottom have gotten quite difficult to turn. For some reason the ones at the top which appear to be absolutely identical turn just as nice as you please. Absolutely perfectly. Like new. But the ones at the bottom are extremely difficult to turn. I have no idea why this agony has been thrust upon me. It does not seem to be salt buildup or dirt buildup or any of the theories that have been suggested. But it definitely is a problem. I can get a replacement part from the US for only $140 plus shipping, and it may well come to that, but the shipping would be about another hundred dollars and who knows what customs would decide that I owed them. So, I’m trying to fix it myself. I do not need it for a year. We have other sails and an engine. And I am almost back to the marina.

Now that I will, hopefully, soon have more discretionary time. I hope to forensically discover what the problem is. So that it never happens again. And I may even be able to fix the one I have.

The manufacturer, Schaefer, like many companies, does not seem to understand how marine corrosion works. If I can remove the bearings that from the housing, I would know a huge amount more about what has failed. But I cannot due to corrosion. Having some years of experience in this field, but not nearly as many man years as the manufacturer, I think I could’ve designed it in such a way that you could take it apart after to been in use for several years. But they failed to do that.

Now that I know that that is a serious problem with this unit, when it arrives, I will try to disassemble it and put the best greases that I know of into the best places that I can think of, in the hopes that I will be able to disassemble it in the future if it becomes necessary.

The ball bearings are a special hard plastic that are designed to run without any lubrication and so do not need to be sealed from the elements, in fact a little rain water or seawater once in a while would be a good thing. I think that is an excellent design philosophy. There are two rows of ball bearings, and I am seriously concerned that the problem isn’t the bearings, but is that a little corrosion got in between one side of one of the bearings and the rest of the assembly. This change the dimensions between the bearings and so they are pushing against each other. I put it in a hydraulic press and pushed on it quite firmly, but cannot get anything to move at all. So, am trying running a little bit of grit, Comet and plastic polish as two different abrasives to wear something down and until it’s loose. However, the more I think about it, the more I think that may not be what’s wrong at all and that I need to address what is really wrong. So I hope to build a better hydraulic press, or find someone who has a good one, that will let me try it and see if I can get things to come apart.

Well the thing I was waiting for is ready to be worked on again so I will go do that rather than continue putting you to sleep.



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