Sunday, January 25, 2009

A few minutes for the Boat.

I continue to be plagued by outside demands and having to hold down a normal job.

Poor me.

A friend borrowed my almost new, very pristine, very over-cared for Honda Civic for the day to do some car shopping. On the way there was an 'incident' and my baby was hit on the side by a monsterous Mercedes SUV and smooshed into a second vehicle. My friend is okay. A bit bruised but okay. The car did its job well. Unfortunately, the car also gave up its life in the process and is a total loss. Suddenly my decrepid worktruck, that is fine for the five miles to the boatyard but nothing else, is doing the commute thing on Boston's most treacherous stretch of highway. Its trying, but its falling apart and I am struggling to keep it running, keep my job, get a decent settlement out of the insurance company and find a new car.

Poor me.

Being a student of economics and finances I should know how important a little cash reserve is. If I had it I could easily fix the problem with a decent second hand vehicle that I could sell for what I had into it later. But I don't have it. The boat has it and it isn't giving it back. I have everything in this boat and there is nothing left to fall back on. Its forcing me into some rather uneconomic decisions. Its the price for running on a wing and a prayer.

Poor me.


Not much time this weekend but I did spend a little time doing some woodwork. I started working on the frame for the engine instrument panel that will go in the aft end of the cockpit well.

To make it easy on myself I drew an outline of the hole on the workbench and built up my idea from there. I am too dimensionally challenged to figure it out all on a piece of paper.

I layed the pieces on top of each other, drew some lines where they overlapped and used my skilsaw to cut notches in the ends. I went overboard last year and ordered a Forrest blade for my skilsaw. Very expensive (around $100) and way overkill on a hand operated skilsaw but I have to say they are lovely to work with. They cut through anything like butter. Think 'Cut' and it cuts. I actually have to be careful because the saw will wander easily since the blade cuts so smoothly. There is no resistance when I twist the blade sideways so making a straight cut takes a bit more concentration than I am used to. Great blades.

Then I used a sharp wood chisel to cut out the remaining wood and smooth it out. It took a little tweaking to get the ends to fit tightly (and I will need a little teak colored putty) but I got it pretty close.

I put the joint together and installed a countersunk screw from the back side to pull the pieces together. I wish I could say I got it laid up and will come back when the glue dries. Unfortunately, when I was cleaning a month or so ago I must have looked at my epoxy pumps and tossed them out to force me to use new ones. I try to replace them with every new 5 gallon jug. I thought I had bunches on the shelves. As it turns out I have bunches of pumps for the hardener but none for the epoxy. I could have used Elmer's but I decided to wait and ordered the West System pumps.

While I was ordering, I started looking around for the Clevis fittings for the transmission shift cable I ordered last week. I have never used before but they had good prices on 60 series control cables so I ordered a cable and fittings from them. Good cable. Good fittings. Got here fast. But the fittings won't fit the ginormous shift handle on the Atomic Four so I had to do some looking around. I didn't find anything through my usual marine suppliers but I did find what I needed through a homebuilt aircraft supply house, I ordered the clevis and epoxy pumps through them.

And that about sums up my miserable week. ;-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The lost weekend

Other stuff came up. The boat sits quietly under tarps while the snow falls.

Sorry, but that's it for this week. I keep ordering stuff. That's something...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shoveling Snow and Burning Bronze

That about sums up my weekend.

The cleaning up after the snowstorm ate up half my weekend and continuing my fruitless efforts to reviving a bronze shift lever killed the remainder. (that and laundry of course)

After four years I should be used to the lack of progress in the winter. Even with scheduling work at home things just don't get done as fast as during the summer. December, January and February are basically lost months- for me at least.

A friend of mine was gracious enough to donate this shifter off of his project boat. He wasn't planning on re-using it so he grabbed his sawz-all one day and hacked it right out of the cockpit well for me. I will forever appreciate the gesture.

The problem is I can't get the two halves to separate. The shaft has 'swollen' enough to where it won't disengage from the shift lever. If I can't separate the two I can't install in through the shaft hole (or rather future shaft hole) in my own cockpit well. With a lot of oil and a blowtorch I was able to get it loose. The set screw is out and the shaft is clean. Its just wider at one end than the other. I even measured it with my precision calipers. I probably didn't help it when I started beating the end to get it out.

Today, I stuck it in the kitchen oven for an hour at 350 degrees. I was hoping the metal would expand enough to slip out the shaft. After an hour in the oven I detected a peculiar odor coming from the kitchen. Hot bronze smells funny.

By heating it all up and then dipping the shaft in water to cool the center quickly I was able to get the shaft to move about a quarter of an inch further in. Then my hand started to catch fire and I dropped the whole thing in the bucket of water causing it all to cool down, shrink and seize the two parts tightly together. So much for plan 'B'.

Because of the storm I didn't make it to the only store nearby where I could have purchased the hardware to finish up the engine electrical panel. I was going to order the hardware online but I balked at paying $8 in shipping for $2 worth of hardware. Next week. Or next month when I break down and order the stuff I need.

The wire and supplies I ordered came in. That was $150. Today I ordered a cable and end connectors for the transmission shifter (I am having second thoughts about a direct connection) that was $150. Less than two weeks into the month and I am on target for another $600 dollar month. That doesn't count the $1000 winter storage bill that came in January first. Happy New Year. I only say this as a reminder than even the little things cost big money.

The only really productive thing that happened this week was that I milled out some teak from my toerail leftovers for a frame that will surround the engine instrument panel at the rear of the cockpit. I don't have a good tool for making precise 45 degree cuts so I guess I will have to add that to this months expenses.

I noticed I had a length of teak that would be just perfect as a handle for a boathook. My current ash boathook that I made a few years ago developed a crack and was really only a crude first attempt anyway. I wonder if it would be too extravagant to have a teak boathook handle?

Now I am off to check on the boat and shovel it out as necessary. Winter is a terrible time to work on boats...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Engine Schematic

I just whipped up a schematic that shows how I intend to wire the engine.

Well... I am not sure there is any other way to wire a gas engine actually...

I didn't spell out the engine indicators other than the power and ground connections. The ammeter shunt (the sensing part of the ammeter) will go between the battery and alternator wherever it is convenient. The voltermeter is connected across the battery terminals. The water temp and oil pressure circuits have the sensors downstream of the indicator and before the ground.

All the grounds are actually the engine block or connections to the engine block.

The Moyer Marine illustration is a PDF document. I tried making a direct link but it didn't go through. I could figure it out or I could be lazy and just post the link. I am posting the link to the forum thread. Don Moyer's reply has a link to the picture. Its worth looking at.

[Edit- here is a low pixel version]

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spicing it up

I spent what time I had on the spice rack this weekend.
Silly title for this post I know.

The spice rack on the original boat also doubled as the electrical panel. Here is picture showing the spice rack/electrical panel right after I bought the boat and cleaned it up. (sometimes I wonder if I could have learned to live with the formica and dirty overhead and just left it all alone...)

Most people that redesign a Triton dump the spice rack but I kinda liked it where it was. I am not a great cook but a spice rack full of spices makes it all a bit more homey I think. The original boat wiring was a mess so I ripped it out everywhere I saw it. I spent some time thinking about making the old electrical panel location into some sort of storage cubby but in the end I decided to install a switch panel for the engine and other items I wanted to get to from the cockpit.

While I was varnishing this past year, I cleaned up the rack (made of teak no less) and gave it three coats of varnish- a coat of regular spar varnish and two coats of rubbed effect varnish. It shined up nicely.

Originally, I had planned on making a back panel out of stainless steel and had a piece cut for me. Painting it proved tricky and I wasn't happy with the results so a friend of mine pulled some black shiny acrylic out of the 'scrap bin' and passed it along. It helps to have friends in the industry...

The acrylic was thicker than the original formica so I had to pull out the original fiddles and reposition them.

Then I had to cut out the acrylic panel to accept the electrical switch panel and extras I wanted to install.

Cutting the acrylic was not at all like cutting the Lexan I had done earlier for the cabin windows. The acrylic would quickly heat up and weld itself back together right behind the jigsaw cutting blade. Even going very slowly didn't seem to help. In the end I just kept making the same cut over and over until the kerf became wide enough so that the edges didn't touch and melt back together. I am sure there is a better way but I didn't take the time to find out how it should have been done. Drilling went easily enough. I used regular wood drill bits and went slowly. I am sure I ran the risk of cracking the acrylic doing it this way but I got away with it this time.

I didn't get the job finished today as I had to help out a friend on his car and run some other errands. That's probably better since I should let the glue dry behind the fiddles before I mount the acrylic permanently. Just to show how it will look I set it up with the protective paper still on. The panel, as I mentioned, is a gloss black and looks much better than my painted version.

Wire and lables are on order so that I can continue wiring the engine in the near future.

The switch panel will have the following functions (from top to bottom)

1.) Blower motor. Always the first thing that should go on so right on top.

2.) Ignition. I am not using a key switch so this turns on the ignition. It also will turn on the fuel pump (oil pressure safety switch downstream too) and the engine instruments.

3.) Alternator. A throwback to my aviation background. Probably not necessary in this case but I like the ability to shut off the alternator and disconnect it electrically from the system.

4.) Navigation lights. For the moment the red/green/white lights at deck level. Eventually this will probably become the masthead light switch.

5.) The steaming light. For the moment just the steaming light. Eventually, when I add a masthead light I think this switch will control the steaming light and the deck mounted nav lights. I don't forsee a reason to run deck mounted lights without the steaming light once I have a masthead light. The steaming light switch will also control the engine instrument lights. If I can't read the guages then it must be time to turn on the lights...

6.) LPG solenoid. Just because it is a very convenient to the stove.

I should add that this Blue Sea switch panel is 'weather proof' and has lighted LED's in the switches to indicate when they are on.

Right below the switch panel is a push button starter switch. Push the button and the starter turns. No key necessary. I will install a secret kill switch somewhere else in the system to prevent unwanted guests from borrowing my boat and motoring away. No, I am not going to discuss it in the blog. To anyone with a little mechanical knowledge it isn't very hard to bypass any secure switch. Keys don't help much and I would probably drop them overboard or lose them anyway.

Below the starter switch is a 12 volt accessory plug like what we all have in our cars. There is always something you want to run in the cockpit that needs to be plugged in to one of these. This seemed like a good place to put it.

Everything always takes longer than you expect and this is all I got done this weekend.

Except of course I went out to the boat and spent some quality time on board. The heater made the cabin quite comfortable in about five minutes. (it is 20 degrees outside) and I had a chance to figure out the rest of my engine wiring. I spent a few hours yesterday at home figuring out exactly how I wanted the wiring to go and drew out a schematic. I don't have time now but if I can draw out a schematic with Microsoft paint or something I will post it.

Moyer Marine ( has a nice picture of the engine wiring. Here is the link address,

The problem for me is that I can see how the system works much better with a schematic. I get confused looking at real pictures. If you just want to wire up an Atomic Four without needing to understand how it works then I would recomend the picture. Just follow the example and it will work fine.

That's it for this weekend.