Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Irene Passed

Just a brief note to say that Irene passed us late Saturday night with gusty winds from the north. It didn't rain very much and the wind was pushing the water out of our little wharf, so instead of the flooding everyone was expecting, we were almost sitting on the bottom. The wind wasn't too crazy either, maybe gusts of 60mph? Definately felt like we had worst storms before. We got super lucky also, and didn't loose power at all. All is well.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Ominous clouds began appearing early this afternoon with bringing rain and moderate winds

Preparing for Hurrican Irene. We're taking Me Voy to a neighboring marina with floating piers. That seems the safest way to go, since our first option of hauling way unavailable due to lack of space in the yards. That leaves us with only one boat to take care of , Tara, which will have long lines extending to the neighboring trees. We're really protected here in our spot, both in terms of our boat and the location of our marina.Its surounded on all sides by trees and buildings, on all sides that is except the South. Like an old timer here said, it will be a battle between Northeasterly winds and rain, and the Southwestern surge pushing water up the river from the Bay. Several people have been here for the last hurricane in the late 90's, Isabelle, and talk of a very strong surge that kept coming in from the Chesapeake. Coming and coming. Last time they had no power for 13 days, but that turns ou tot be only because no one reported the outage. Anyway we're stocking up on some food, fuel, getting extra dock lines, replacing our haylards with messangers, and generally taking action as if this is going be a bad one. The good thing is there is a great community of people here, of all ages and experience levels that makes it a good place to be. In general Baltimore seems like a safe place tucked up into the mainland and like I mentioned already our marina is very well situated especially against Northerly winds.

Due to unrelated issues we have no internet, so here we are at Dunkin Donuts, squeezing in some online time. Yesterday was a flurry of activity. A long 13 hour day of preparing. We took Me Voy to a very swanky marina and tied her to floating piers.We're staying aboard Tara and waiting to see how this develops.  We are hoping that we have over prepared, and judging from the latest forecast it that seems probable. As of now the rain is pouring and we are expecting winds between 35-40 with gusts of up to 65. Thanks to one of our neighbors I am obsessively humming "come on Irene...", you know the song right?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Zen of Boats (again)

Buddhist practice often uses the image of a rainbow to illustrate both the illusory nature of  all things and to demonstrate their impermanence. Now I'm not a Buddhist (nor am I a non-Buddhist) but I suppose this image is used because all of us, at one time, have chased a rainbow only to discover that its end can never be reached, that there is no end. This brings me right back to boat work. Although our lists have gotten considerably shorter over the years,  that proverbial pot at the end of the rainbow continues to, at times, lure our minds and cause all kinds of conflict. What exactly am I talking about?

I have a confession to make. I'm not perfect. Sometimes I push and push and push to get a project done because I think that when it is finished I will be happy. I fall into the 'if only' mentality, you know... 'if only we get the haul out over with', or 'if only we got the solar panels installed', or 'if only we had one boat', or a million other 'if onlies' that sneak into my consciousness when I'm too busy to pay attention to the important things like my breath or they way Chopper runs down the dock balancing on only three legs.

And this is where the boats have truly been my guru. It is said that a guru is like a spotless mirror where we can see both the beauty and the ugliness of our inner life. Our weaknesses, virtues, doubts and strengths are revealed thru both joyful and painful experiences. (Excerpt taken from "The Journey Home" by Radhanath Swami) This is how the boats feel to me. In their steady presence the face of my  weaknesses, joys, and doubts is revealed.

Poets, dreamers, romantics and seekers of all types go out to sea to experience the solitude of the ocean and the oneness with Life. Sailing, and the sea is used in many spiritual metaphors. We have yet to go to sea, but if these boats can teach us such lessons tied to the dock, I can only imagine what awaits us out there in the deep.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Had some engine issues in the morning of our planned cruise, but they have been solved, again.
Now we are wondering, if it is wise to go out during a small craft advisory. Seems like we a forcing this whole trip to happen and need to lessen the tension by accepting that it will not happen this weekend. Stupid nature.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer Sailing

Mr Perkins with head removed and gasket scraped.

 It's fun to dream about the future. It seems like only yesterday when Maggie and I were living in an old Airstream camper in the Mohave desert, dreaming of someday having a boat that we could live aboard. Of course in that dream the weather was always perfect, and nothing ever needed repair or maintenance. Over time this dream of boating grew and was refined to the reality that we now enjoy. But, along with all of the good, there is an equal amount of trial and difficulties that could easily pull us both into regret and despair. We had imagined ourselves spending limitless amounts of time learning to sail Me Voy together this Summer, finding all of the local anchorages, and having loads of fun on the Chesapeake. But, I have found, the future rarely lives up to our expectations. In reality, there is never an end of work to do, and just when you get close, something breaks and it is time for another costly repair.
The scope of the project fully engulfs Me Voy's interior
 We managed to get two days of sailing in before the blown head gasket was discovered. On our last trip, I was alarmed by difficult starting, and devastated by rising oil level. I knew what it meant. I would need to replace the head gasket. I immediately consulted Nigel Calder's book "Marine Diesel Engines" to see if this might be something I could tackle. Nigel was very encouraging and wrote concise, easy reading instructions for me to follow. Now I just needed to get parts.
Neatness is essential to be sure no parts are lost
 I usually order Perkins parts from Torrensen Marine. They have a great selection for the 4.108 and they ship quickly. They also have a terrific web site. Their price for the head gasket was $274. Kind of pricey but you've got to do what you've got to do, so I placed the order. They let me know immediately, that this gasket was on back order and they didn't expect it for 4 to 6 weeks. Not good. So, I went web surfing. After searching all of the marine suppliers, and getting the same answer, I tried a tractor supply site. I was shocked to find the same gasket in stock, for $25. I went ahead and got a top gasket set $40, a bottom gasket set $40, a new thermostat $15, and a single head gasket. All for less than half the price of just the head gasket from the marine suppliers. I had the parts in a couple of days. I have discovered that parts for the 4.108 are not hard to get, they are just hard to get from marine suppliers. Everything is still made by Perkins and is readily available from any tractor supplier that supports Perkins.

While disassembling the engine, I discovered the cause of the blown head gasket. It seems a failed Vetus Waterlock was letting raw water drain back into the engine filling the combustion chambers with sea water. Water doesn't compress so the head gasket gave out when the engine turned over. The oil level was more than a gallon high, almost fifty percent sea water. Why did the muffler fail? I forgot to drain it when winterizing. It's a real bummer to realize that my own mistake was the cause of a major problem. Live and learn I guess. I promptly ordered a new waterlock I found on ebay and decided to never again forget to drain the muffler when winterizing. It is important, evidently.

First try plumbing the new fuel system, leaked from every connection

 Since the fuel system had to be disconnected to repair the engine, I decided to add a second Racor filter, so that we could switch from one to the other without stopping the engine, in the event that the filter clogs while we are under way. For my first attempt at this, I used flexible copper tubing and mechanical connectors. This took almost all day to create, and leaked at every connection. I now know that mechanical connections only work on rigid copper pipe and should not be used on the flexible type. Too bad I had to waste so much time and money to find that out.

Final fuel system installed and not leaking.

After another day of gathering fittings, cutting tubing, and soldering all connections, the system is finished and leak free. This time I added an additional line off of the delivery pipe so that I can add a little fuel pump that will circulate our fuel through the filter and back into the tank to polish the fuel. This way, if we ever make it to the islands, we will be able to clean the dirty fuel before using it. This system was explained to me, years ago, by the genius, Peter Lawford, of Annapolis. He is also the architect of our charging system, currently under construction. He eagerly avoided work one day to explain the tricks of clean fuel and fully charged batteries to me. Thanks again Peter.

Two absolutely essential books for a wannabe Perkins mechani
Even more thanks to Nigel Calder, who wrote the book on marine diesel. There is not much I would not feel comfortable doing with Nigel's book as my guide. If you have a diesel and think you may ever want/need to work on it, get this book! The factory service manual is also very handy, but if it is not available, Nigel's book will still get you through. He is also the author of "The Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual" which gives an in depth explanation of every system aboard your boat.

Mr Perkins reassembled and ready for action
Another long standing problem was the saildrive. It knocked in higher gears. We have pretty much decided it would need to be replaced. However after looking into the problem, it turned out the knocking was not being caused by a worn gear, but was rather a transmission cable that was not adjusted properly. After tightening up the cable, it hums along with no knock at all. So, now it seems we may indeed be ready for some Summer sailing. Maggie's birthday is Sunday and we are planning a cruise. It looks like it might actually happen, unless something else breaks down.

I guess that's just the way life works. Good times and bad times are just the two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. I am slowly learning to enjoy the good times without getting too attached to them, and accept the bad times as part of the process of living and growing. I know we can't always have fair winds and following seas, and that it is often the struggles that define us. So the only thing we can do is try and be thankful for whatever comes, knowing there are greater forces at work, pushing and pulling each of us along our individual evolutionary path. That way, maybe we can become free to enjoy the good times without fear of bad times coming, and appreciate the bad times as the great life teachers that they are. Then everything that comes can bring happiness. It sounds pretty impossible to be happy in all circumstances. But so did living aboard a boat while we were baking in the hot desert sun just a few years ago. It all starts as a dream, and then ...