Sunday, July 19, 2009

Quit 'yer bitchin

I realized that I have been doing quite a bit of complaining lately. Sorry about that. Nothing is duller than reading someone's complaints. I am all done now. I will present facts and successes only from now on.

I love the simplicity and sound of a well designed rowboat. No motors to service. No noise to shout over. Slow enough to enjoy the scenery and not scare away the wildlife. I really like my nutshell although it is looking like its starting to ask for some TLC.

So it isn't impossible to row out to the boat. Its just a bit more challenging. I timed the tides and weather this morning and had a quick look over and checked the bilge (nothing out of the bilge pump).

Here is a picture of the burn mark from the 'fireworks' two weeks ago. I am sure now that it was from one of the boats at the marina across the river firing their old flares. From that congested mess in the marina slips I bet my side of the river looked quite deserted and safe for flares. It wasn't though.

I noticed that the line that holds the four fenders I have strapped along the dockside sagged a bit. Between the sag and some wave/wind action I have managed to secure a spot in the "is Awlcraft 2000 repairable?" class this fall. Looks like the wood docksides and my freshly painted hull sides introduced themselves. I really have nothing good to say about docks these days.

I bet my neighbor doesn't either.

It looks like one of the chocks he was tied off to broke free and the next available one was a stretch.

I added an extra fender over the scuff mark in case something shifts again or the boat is rocked extra violently. Its not doing anything now but if the fender on the line moves then the vertical fender will drop down and (hopefully) protect what's left of the hull paint. I should add that the paint isn't scratched through. Just scuffed up and dull.

Once I had settled down and checked things out I had time to contemplate the geometry in the rigging.

After half an hour enjoying the morning the tide swung around and the breeze started picking up which was my cue to head back for some skiff repair work.

The motor mount as repaird by my cousin some years ago.

The inside always bothered me especially. It's not adding much support.

When I grabbed the wood it was obvious that I had let it go a bit too long. This took about 15 seconds with no tools.

In two minutes I had it all off.

Nothing but the best for my great grandfather's skiff. 3/4" marine grade okoume plywood costing somewhere around $170 a sheet last time I checked. Yeah, I forgot to drill some of the holes. The shape I chose as much to look good as to be functional. Square slabs would have worked just as well I think. I coated the inside faces and outer edges with epoxy to help seal it. I will probably do the same on the outer faces and then finish it bright with some Epifanes Gloss Wood Finish I have just lying around. Silly, I know, but that's the kind of guy I am.

While I would really like the new inflatable I think I would rather have sailing hardware and a chance to sail this season. I think I will limp along with the aluminum skiff (and pram perhaps) this season. The solution is to change my mooring next time rather than buy a boat just for this mooring situation, which as anyone that has been reading this blog knows, I absolutely detest. Lesson learned. I have always been a small boat and trailer sailer so the whole mooring thing was a new for me. I am much better educated now. Moorings good; Docks bad; transportation to the mooring is an extremely important part of the equation and it needs to be thought out and executed well. No half-assed measures like I took this year.

I will continue to keep my eyes open for a used inflatable but they seem to be quite scarce and pricey at the moment.

I am getting over the hump with the last minute shopping sprees I was on last month as part of the launching process. I hope to put in a new order for deck hardware soon. Maybe I will have something to show in the near future besides the slow degradation of my beautiful boat and repairs to a 50 year old aluminum skiff that really belong in the scrap pile.

Here's hoping.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Honda 5hp

I will start by saying that I love my Honda 5hp four stroke outboard motor.

With one growing exception. The starter cord gear keeps breaking. I have owned two Honda 5hp's so far, a long shaft and a short shaft, and both have broken the starter cord gear within the first 20 hours of operation. I have spoken with friends that own small Hondas and been told that they have all experienced the exact same problem.

I was at the store buying a new gear today and was told by the technician that I need to be gentle with the cord. I must pull gently until the gear engages the flywheel and only then pull vigorously. He blamed my bad technique. I will admit that I don't baby the motor. I also stick to my story that Honda has a design flaw to work out. I should not be breaking a motor by using the normal starting system every 10-20 hours no matter how hard I choose to pull the starter cord. My lawnmower takes much more abuse from me it has worked flawlessly for years and years.

Here is a picture of my 20 hour Honda 5hp short shaft that I broke last week. The white plastic gear is the one in question. When the starter cord is pulled, the gear rides up the spiral teeth and engages the flywheel which makes the flywheel turn and the engine to start. When the engine starts, the plastic gear is pushed / drops down and out of the way and when I release the cord a spring re-winds the mechanism. Simple.

Except the plastic gear and spiral teeth has such a loose fit that the gear can tip


...and up...

With normal engine vibration the gear hums up and down constantly. Over time the teeth get worn...

... and when the teeth get worn enough, a strong pull will allow the plastic gear to ride up and beyond the teeth on the flywheel, jamming the plastic gear against the flywheel. When that happes the result is very often...

... a broken gear.

The immediate fix is to cut the cord off the starter gear assembly and wrap it around the fitting on the top of the flywheel and start the old fashion way. Wind it on, pull. If it doesn't start on the first pull... wind it on... pull.

Like I said, overall I love the motor; quiet, smooth, low fuel consumption, low(ish) pollution, maybe a bit heavy but I can live with it. I am just getting tired of replacing these gears. Rewinding those darned recoil springs is a P.I.T.A. too.

This morning I got coralled into working for Mom. By the time I got out of that the only decent supplier of stainless hardware in the area had closed (1:00pm) so I wasn't able to get what I needed to fix the skiff motor mount. At present I have no way of getting to Jenny. I might try timing the tide/current and rowing but the Merrimack river is known for its 3+ knots of current and stiff chop which can be a challenge in a 8 foot rowing pram; even a Nutshell pram of excellent character and superior action. Maybe. More than likely I likely I am out of the running until next week. A friend took his kayak across at an opportune time and checked out the boat and pronounced it 'good' so I might have to take it on faith. From a quarter mile away while driving over the highway bridge at 60mph it looked okay to me.

Complicating matters is that the tools and epoxy I would like to use, to make up a new motor mount on the skiff, are currently on Jenny.

Working on boats on moorings really sucks...

I can only keep putting one foot in front of the other and hope I will get there eventually. That has to work. Right?...


How about a vote. Should I just whip out the credit card and buy a new 10' inflatable and end my dinghy woes once and for all? Warning: if you say 'Yes' you need to tell me which one and why ;-)

I should add that buying an inflatable will probably impact buying any more sailing hardware this season...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I should listen to my girlfriend more

especially when she turns down a pleasant river cruise in the skiff because she 'doesn't feel safe in that boat'.

Half way across the river I started wondering why the angle on the outboard motor didn't look right. On closer inspection, it became obvious that the half baked repair my cousin did to the motor mount 'pad' on the transom, before I took over custodialship of the boat, was failing rapidly. What was left was the thin aluminum transom that was flexing quite badly under the weight and thrust of the motor. And then on the return trip, the little plastic gear that engages the crankshaft when the pull start cord is pulled, decided to shatter half its teeth off. What was left was not enough to turn the motor fast enough to get it running. The fix was to cut the starter cord and wind it manually around the cranshaft. Honda is nice enough to put a fitting up there for just such a situation. The funny thing is that my last Honda 5hp motor, did the exact same thing. Both motors had about 20 hours of total service on them. Much too early to be failing. Nobody that reads this blog cares about outboards so I won't go into more details.

No pictures today. I forgot the camera at home.

Not much to report anyway.

The first thing I noticed when I got to the boat was a burned spot on my new deck paint from the remnants of the fireworks last week. I am not at all happy about that. A 3 inch black scar on the sidedeck. If I thought someone who would care I would file a complaint.

I did some cleaning. I drilled and filled holes for the mid position stanchions. I made a list of things to order/bring next week. I put a coat of varnish on the toerails and a few spots that looked in dire need of coverage. Its going to be tough keeping up on the varnish this summer when I only started with four coats before launching.

And speaking of tough, projecting forward I am seeing a slim and fading possibility of sailing this boat this summer. Sailing is going to require a serious push, dedication, and a functioning credit card. Frankly, I did my best this spring and I am not sure I want to put in that kind of energy all summer too. If working at the boatyard takes twice as long then working on the mooring is easily four times as long. Maintaining the tools I need at home, at work, and on the boat at the same time is a huge chore. With my skiff on the fritz that is going to add another wrinkle to the problem.. My credit card has about had it and I am tired of running with no economic safety margin. The solution to my dinghy issue is to buy a boat. I just don't want to spend the money or take the time for the all day registration process. I ran my finances into the ground getting the boat launched and there just isn't any left to continue working aggresively on the mooring.

Boats on moorings is kind of a new thing for me too. I have always done the trailering route and when I last had Jenny in the water I was only on the mooring for a week before I took off cruising. I can see now that maintaining a boat on a mooring requires an investment in dinghy transportation that I hadn't fully anticipated. A real boat and a real motor. I was hoping my great grandfather's skiff would pull through just one more season but without some work I don't think that is going to happen. Even with the skiff working, with all this rain and my being away all work week, the skiff would probably have sunk at the dinghy dock. Its just not the right boat for my current situation. And I hate investing to better my current situation because I think in the long turn its not really workable. I am hating being on the floating dock and having the spring lines chafe the new teak toerails all day long. I am hating the boat banging against the fenders all day long with the wakes of big power boats going by. (I really need some custom cast bronze chocks that fit into the toerail to pass the lines through- Lessons learned.) I hate the bird poop. I hate the broken dock fittings. I hate the hassle of launching the dinghy and having to cross a steep chop with a strong current. I am hating the slow progress of working on the mooring. I really look forward to having the boat back at the boatyard where I can protect it (like from stupid fireworks burning my decks) and work on it until it is really 'ready'. I am glad I launched the boat. The deadline made a lot of things come together. There is also a lot still to do.

I am thinking of using Jenny strickly as a picnic boat. That is, go out on a sunny weekend and have a picnic on board. That would be nice...

Just a frustrating bad day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Windy picnics

Today was the first time in two weeks that I set foot on the boat. It was windy. I, and my girlfriend, had a picnic. She then read, and I worked on the boat. A perfect day.

First though, I was not pleased to see my decks littered with the remnants of last week's fireworks.

After I cleaned up that debris I started looking at installing the jibsheet cleats. I ordered some 6 inch Herreshoff styles but I am not so sure. They look puny crowded in between the 6 inch high coaming and the 2 inch high toerail. I need to think about that. They look much better on the coaming itself and would probably be easy to use in that location but I think its more stress than I want to subject the coamings to.

Then with visitors on the boat, a functioning head seemed like a high priority item.

I installed a pre-made shelf and inside liner to the storage area behind the head and then attached the hoses with the new clamps that arrived from Hamilton Marine. The hoses run through the back panel so the panel had to be hung up at the same time.

I need to revisit the panel and inside construction. Next year. I always thought the outlet hose for the toilet, which I cut about a year ago, was a bit too short. I had a new section on hand so I cut it to fit. It was too long so I trimmed it. Then I ran it through the panel which put a small bend in it. Now the new hose is too short again . That killed my hopes for a working head this weekend and sent my partner home early for better 'facilities'. I will order another $10-a-foot hose this week.

Yet another plastic fitting that doesn't seem to match the hose well. I measured the hose. Its a 3/4 inch hose that is more like 7/8 on the inside. I thought the fitting on the toilet was 3/4 but it was a bear getting the hose on and there was definitely no way to get it on far enough to double clamp the connection.

With the need to depart I only spent a little more time applying oil where the varnish was getting thin. Tomorrow I hope to put another coat of varnish on but just in case I wanted something with UV protection on the wood. Anything. The four coats of varnish is just not holding up at all.

Before I left I drilled the two holes where the mainsheet block attach fitting will mount behind the cockpit. Then I filled the holes with thickened epoxy to be drilled out later for the fitting. The fitting is a bow tow fitting left on my shelf from another project that I think will work fine for connecting the mainsheet block to. I might have to trim it down a bit.

Yup, that poop deck looks a bit ... poopy. Tomorrow, (hopefully) is cleaning day, and varnishing day, and bow skene chock day, and stanchion day, and... well, now I am off a real schedule and its all about having fun on the boat this summer. No schedules really. I want to sail but I am not going to kill myself over it. Life is too short.

I also measured and located the new positions for the middle stanchion tubes. The aft and middle ones were originally very close together and now I am moving them more equidistant. That puts the middle stanchion at the forward edge of the forward deadlight and leaves more room for the jib sheet track. The last time I sailed I always wished I could have moved that jib car just a bit more forward and now it looks like I can. If I get to it :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Best Marine Imports

Just for the search engines I will say it again:

Best Marine Imports.

Its my own fault really. A couple of years ago this low profile cowl vent at Mariners Hardware caught my eye.

I ordered two for the aft deck.

I got a call saying they only had one in stock but could get the other one in 3-4 months. I said okay. Two years later and many emails and phone calls later Mariners Hardware went out of business. Serves them right.

So I kept searching for another source for the cowl vents. I kept seeing the same stock photo at many online stores but when I would check into it they would tell me the style was no longer available.

Along comes Best Marine Imports and they tell me they can have it shipped in about a week and could I please pay via PayPal instead of Visa. Sure no problem.

A month later, several emails and a few phone calls and I have nothing. So, I do a quick Google search for Best Marine Imports and I find several business review websites. And most of the reviews tell the exact same story as mine. Nice chat, promise to ship in a week, pay via PayPal, dropped off the face of the earth. Curiously there are some other reviews out there that are raving. A closer look though reveals that they are all placed by the same person/account. Someone is trying to balance all the bad reviews out there.

Its my fault. If I had done the quick Google search for Best Marine Imports first I could have saved myself the hassle of disputing the charges and that whole rigamarole. Instead, I took the chance and it bit me. I really wanted that second cowl vent. Now it looks more and more likely that I will have to order a matching pair of something else. Too bad as good bronze hardware seems to be disappearing from the scene.

Fourth of July weekend, The mooring field is filled to capacity and beyond with Yahoos in ugly plastic powerboats that didn't know the rules of the road before they drank a case of beer let alone after that. I always make a habit of avoiding the boating scene during the big holidays. Otherwise I might get so disgusted with the whole thing that I take up a far cheaper hobby like knitting instead.

I think the girlfriend appreciated spending the first entire weekend in over six months together. I hope so at least. I actually saw members of my own family this weekend too. I had forgotten how nice they were :-)

More supplies from Hamilton Marine came in (great company, occasionally a bit slow in the shipping department but not like Best Marine Imports at all) Next week I hope to have weather dry enough to mount the last of the deck hardware I need to control the sails. Sailing by August, that's my new goal.

Once more for the search engines: Best Marine Imports, horrible, miserable company. Don't say I didn't warn you.