This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life. I love it all!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Marina Shore Power Upgrades and Isolation Transformers

Cruising in the south sound last August, we arrived at the Poulsbo Marina. Calling in on channel 66A we were assigned our slip along “D” dock. We went through the usual litany of our arrival check list. All went well and after tying up we plugged in to the 30 Amp shore power service and were about to head for the harbor master’s office to check in, when we noticed our monitor indicated we were not getting power. After double checking we mentioned this to the office manager. She happened to have an electrician right there and he was sent down to our boat.

 “Your boat has a problem”, he told us. As it turned out several other boats just arriving were suffering from the same issue.  He explained that as marinas and docks upgrade their facilities, they will be adding Ground-Fault Interrupt (GFI) protection breakers to shore power receptacles. GFI breakers are designed to trip and turn-off power if it detects an imbalance in the power (amperage) going to the boat and returning via the shore power cable/wiring. In the past, marina shore power receptacle breakers have only had over-amperage breaker switches to protect the shore power wires and cables. These new GFI breakers will trip, turning off power, if the boat incorrectly leaks amperage, and will trip if too much amperage is consumed.
Upon returning to our home port I contacted my electrician and after explaining what had happened he suggested I might need what is called an Isolation Transformer. After a bit on on-line research I began to understand the situation better. Apparently, my boat along with a lot of older boats, give off stray voltage into the water and back to the shore power box.

Solution: Either spend what could be quit a lot of money searching for the source of the stray voltage aboard or, install the Isolation Transformer. My electrician advised the later for my particular situation. 
So, on a recent morning, Shawn from Pacific Marine Electric showed up with his tools and a heavy wooden crate. The crate contained a heavy metal case containing two copper coils buried in a mixture of sand and epoxy and the connectors for the wiring to the boat.  Shawn opened up both the forward hatch leading to the utility tunnel in the deck just below the main helm and the AC breaker panel. In about 3 hours he had the unit installed.                                                                                         
My unit, a Charles Marine ISO-G2 3.6 kVA Isolation Transformer weighs in at 70 pounds and costs around $650 shipped.  It must be wired within 10 feet of the shore power inlet on the boat. Wired up, it quietly (does have a faint hum) and completely isolates input power from output power for improved safety and prevents galvanic current corrosion due to direct connection to AC shore power. Basically, it isolates the boat eliminating our problem. We should also see an improvement in the longevity of our zincs. In short, we are now prepared for the coming modernization of our marinas both here and in Canada.

Shawn also noticed the plug in for shore power on the boat and the shore power cord were corroded and recommended they be replaced I had him relace the boat plug immediately and ordered a new Marinco 30 amp cord. Aside from corrosion control measures at connestion points around the boat, I can't imagine what else we can do to make our boat as up to date as possible electrically.

Repair, Clean Up and Hold the Line

We’ve been considering the purchase of a new dinghy now for a few years and keep putting it off for reasons of the cost or because we were able to extend the old dinghy’s life with a stop gap repair. The problem has been that ever since a Canada cruise several years ago when I went fishing in the dinghy, little pin holes from fish flopping around on the inflatable deck developed. Repairs at the time seemed to work but in the last couple of years either the repaired leaks and or new ones have developed so that the floor doesn’t stay inflated for more than a week or so. That’s not good if you suddenly need to abandon ship.

It was my wife who thought up the idea to just replace the floor. The outer tubes are rock solid so maybe that was a possibility. Contacting Mercury HQ I found out that there is a replacement floor available for about $450, a far cry from the cost of a new dinghy. And as every penny counts I decided to go ahead and order the part through the local Mercury dealer—Cap Santa Marine in Anacortes. More about this in a future blog as it will be about a week before the part arrives. So, the hope is that this, though another stop gap remedy, will hold off the need for a new dinghy another few years. Cross your fingers!

I have been frustrated for a long time with having to haul our heavy gas powered pressure washer down to the boat every time I need to do a heavy cleaning. In an ad the other day Harbor Freight listed their 1750 psi electric pressure washer on sale for 20% off, only $80. I took advantage
of that and the new washer is assembled and fits perfectly in our dock locker between uses. It’ll get pulled
out for its first use very soon.

Finally, we have had a problem with a canvas repair done by a local canvas shop for some time. When they replaced the windows a few years ago after sun and time had cracked them, the repair worked fine for a season or so, then suddenly the canvas shrunk so that it no longer stretched far enough to allow the snaps to meet between the boat and canvas. This allowed the canvas to flap around bouncing off the cap rail rubbing it raw in places. My fix was to purchase snap extenders which add  an inch or so to the canvas allowing it to be secured to the boat. It’s quieter in windy conditions and causes less wear and tear on the cap rails and canvas. As for that canvas shop? I found another shop which works cheaper and faster AND their quality is much better too. Interested? Try Northwest Tarp & Canvas on Holly Street.

The Key of Sea, meanwhile, made a fine show of herself on our first cruise of the season--the Shakedown Cruise to the Cap Sante Marina about 15 nm south of Bellingham. We left the harbor on Thursday, 12 April and aside from a rain squall part way there, we had a very quiet cruise.

I can't say the same for day 2. Friday dawned with gale force winds gusting to 45 MPH. It was a stay in dayand except for brief visits to other boats who had made the journey the day before and a docktail gathering around 5:30, we did just that.

Day 3 was calmer but the rains came. Still several more boats showed up and by 5:30 we were all heading down to the party barges for a dinner of BBQ pork loin and plenty of pot luck dishes.

Day 4 was time to head for home. Happily the day dawned calm and partly sunny. We went out to breakfast at Dad's Diner down on Commercial, a popular breakfast/lunch joint, with some dear friends of ours. Then headed back to the boat for our pre-departure check and farewells to neighbors. The cruise home was as smooth as Thursday's cruise south. Docking went great and we were home and in the shower by a little after noon.

Next cruise? Possibly to Blaine for the SeaSkills Rendezvous or else to points west later in the summer. We have cruises planned for the south sound and to the Gulf Islands of Canada this year.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Coolest Toy Ever!

So, my wife's dad was young at heart right up to the day he passed. Just to show you what I mean,  Ldad bought two of the sets in this video, oh,  back probably 25 years ago. He set it up every Christmas. He absolutely loved this thing. He laughed just to watch it go andto see other's getting a kick out of watching it. It’s hypnotic! 

I don't recall where he said he got it bt it was quite a bargain. I think he said he got them for about $5 each; a steal! I don’t know what happened to the other set but after he passed away we got this one. It has been in a box on a shelf out in the garage. We found it among out Christmas things so, what with a nearly 3 year old coming here soon, we wanted to be decorated for Christmas to the hilt.  

Out it came. Down in the bottom of the box was a hand drawn diagram for how to put it together. Turned out to be my handwriting.  I put it together and changed the old AA battery. I started right up. Now its our turn to watch and get a kick out of other's enjoyment. Evie is gonna love this! Thanks, Gramp!

Happy Christmas!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

A Few New Items For the Boat

From time to time we make Amazon purchases. Usually I see something I want and save it to my cart waiting for enough items to be added so that I can take advantage of the free shipping. It's been suggested I should just go ahead and get Amazon Prime but I figure, how does paying a fee for Prime make the shipping free? Hmmmmm...

So, once the cart has enough items in it I go ahead and push the buy button and the purchases come to me. 

Recently, I got a small shipment of items that will all go to the boat on my next visit. All stuff  I've thought about that ought to be aboard but thatI just haven't got around to buying. 

First item is a teak through-hull plug. Huh? Yeah, its a funny looking thing that could, in certain emergencies aboard, save the boat and you. Shaped like an ice cream cone, in the event of a through-hull  or other valve or hose failure, this simple device can be shoved into the breach to 
Teak through-hull plug
staunch the flow of water into the boat. It's a good idea to know where it is and can be accessed quickly in the event of an emergency. Like any number of items aboard, an emergency is not the time to have to start thinking about where you put it. Mine will go into the cockpit cabinet adjacent to the engine hatches. There are three through-hull valves down there along with lots of hoses. So, there it will go, just in case.

wash bottle
The second item in the box delivered the other day was a small wash bottle. Another odd device but I have a great use for it. My battery bank, especially my house batteries, are in cramped space that makes checking the fluid levels difficult and adding fluids even more difficult. Distilled water needs to go into those little holes in the top of the batteries, but holding a gallon bottle of distilled waer over those holes and trying to get water into them without making a mess is hard. I saw this wash bottle and thought...problem solved! I can squeeze the bottle gently and get just the right amount of water into those tight spots. 

Having spent my life not protecting my hearing has left me somewhat deaf, especially in my right ear. Many years ago, as a teenager, my grandfather took me to the gun range as he routinely did with my dad and I whenever we came to visit. On this occasion he handed me a .45 handgun and gave me a few instructions for firing it. I held it close to my right ear intending to lower the weapon slowly towards the target before pulling off a round. Unfortunately, the hair trigger went off right next to my head.  I felt the hair on the side of my head flip up as the bullet went past it. I put that gun down and that was it for my day. In fact, I think it may have been the last time I ever fired one of my grandfather's guns. He just laughed his head off at me but I felt I came a little too close to losing
Safety Ear Muffs

All these years later I have purchased headphones to use when operating loud equipment in our yard or shop and I use them religiously. But aboard the boat with its two noisy diesel engines, I had nothing. Well, now I do. These should do the trick and though I am seldom in the engine room when they are running, they are still a good idea when anywhere near them. I'll store these in that cockpit cabinet. 

Item #4 in the shipment was a couple of Satco brand Rough Use, Shatter-proof 100 wattlight bulbs. These bulbs running 24/7 during the cold months add just a bit of heat to the engines. I have a single bulb hanging between the engines. They hold up well when the engines are running despite the heavy vibrations and each bulb lasts about 2 seasons before burning out. I finally needed some new ones and they topped off my Amazon order to get the free

They are shatter-proof as well so if they do break you don't have a mess in your bilge to try and clean up. I've found them in local hardware stores as well so they aren't a rarity. They are pretty reasonably priced too. 

The final item ordered was a Micro Dry/Wet Vacuum by Shop Vac. This little wonder came highly recommended by my mechanic. I saw it in action recently when he was aboard. He loved it. It has good suction despite its 'Micro' size. 

So I had to order one. What with very limited storage aboard the boat, something that must always be taken into consideration when bringing anything new aboard, this little device seems like a no brainer. 

It holds one gallon of liquid and is 1 hp. It comes with a couple of attachments, hanging hardware, a six foot cord and everything you need to get started. And, its by Shop Vac, a quality product. They run about $40.

So, there you have it. A few little somethings for the boat. Nothing spectacular but all with specific and necessary purposes. The Amazon cart already has some more items in it...waiting. They probably won't get ordered until next spring though as they are all items I'll need to prep the boat for cruising season. I can't wait!!!

Snow? In November?

Taken on November 3, 2017
Well, yea, it does happen on occasion. But snow in early November is pretty rare here in B'ham. So a lot of us were taken by surprise when we, first noticed a few flakes falling on our way out the door from the Bellingham Sail and Power Squadron Dinner Meeting on Thursday night at the yacht club, and then awoke to a pretty substantial amount of snow on the ground Friday morning.

Amounts varied throughout the region but up on our hilltop we gazed amazed at nearly 5 inches sitting on our deck railings.

It didn't stick around on the street very long so my wife was able to drive down the hill to work. It was just enough to look beautiful on the trees, shrubery and lawns. Perfect day to sit in the front window reading, occasionally gaze out the window and sigh.

Our Oil-filled Radiant Heater does the job!
I haven't been to the marina to check on the Key of Sea yet but friends who had been to their boats all recommended staying away until things warmed up a bit as the docks were covered with 3-4 inches of snow on top of ice. So, pretty slippery and not worth risking a fall or worse, falling in!

I'll head down tomorrow sometime during the day to check on things. I want to make sure the heat is up high enough. I already turned it on but purposely kept it low as it never gets this cold this early in the season. Fortunately, I have already turned on the 100 watt light bulb I hang between the engines and the electric oil-filled radiant heater. I still have some things needing done though before I feel really winterized.

The dinghy outboard  and the generator both need to come home and the kayaks are still outside the boat. They either need to be dragged into the salon  or deflated and hauled home to inside storage.  I need to pour a bit of anti-freeze down the drains and sump pump and open the cabinet doors to allow warmer air to flow through them. Aside from that, I think we are in pretty good shape for the winter. Not that that isn't enough to do and that needs doing pretty soon before damage sets in. Guess I ought to stop writing and get busy!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Fall 2017 Boat Projects Completed!

Final push tonight to finish up the fall boat projects aboard the Key of Sea. Also, pay day for my mechanic.

Tonight he installed the new Y-valve, the last thing needed doing. The old valve was cracked when he removed it. The new one is considerably better built and he mounted it to the bulkhead. The old one just sat, unmounted , on the floor of the utility tunnel. Everytime it was turned it probably added to its demise.

The Y-valve controls the directional flow of the waste tank contents. Turn it one way and waste can be pumped out using a Marina’s pumping system. Turn it the other way and waste is pumped overboard through the macerator pump directly into the sea. This can only be done in certain places in Canadian waters. In the US the valve must be zip tied in the marina pump out position.
Failure to do this is subject to a hefty fine from the Coast Guard.

Here's a series of photos of the valve mounted to the bulkhead, much easier to get at than its old location. Also, notice all the new white hoses running around. The macerator pump is in the foreground and just behind the sky blue cylinder is the waste tank. Above the new valve is a grey box with a red switch. This is the macerator pump switch. A circuit breaker on the DC panel below the main helm must be on before this switch can be activated. This prevents the pump from accidently running when thee is no liquid in the line. The pump would burn up if that happened.

When I got on the boat this evening the old odd non-descript smell had disappeared. So, I guess we did need to replace those old toilet hoses!
New Y-valve replaced 10/23/2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sea Strainer and Other Projects

sea strainer parts
Aboard the Key of Sea for the first time in a month. Taking on a couple of projects thanks to my stalwart mechanic, Jared. He’ll be replacing coolant hoses he discovered had pin holes in them, repairing some minor oil leaks, replacing the intake hose for head and output hose for the bilge system, both of which were very worn AND, drum roll please.....replacing all the hoses on the head, the macerator and the hand pump on the head. Woo-Hoo! Hope to be finished up this weekend.

The sea strainer project is about done and ready to install when I find out the nuts pulling the top and bottom of the strainer are missing. Need new nuts! Then, ready to reattach the unit to the bulkhead we find out the piece of plywood (can't tell you how much crappy plywood is used in these old Bayliners) the unit is attached to is rotten. A piece of starboard is purchased and voila, the job is done.

Interesting! No mechanic ever aboard our boat has ever caught this problem and yet there it is, plain as day. Pin holes at regular intervals along both our coolant hoses complete with tiny drips of coolant coming from each tiny hole. Not enough to cause any damage or even noticeable
new hoses being installed
when checking coolant levels over time. Just enough to make a mess over time that no mechanic has ever picked up on until my new mechanic.

Jared has himself squeezed into a hole about 24 x 36 inches and down in the utility tunnel where he is changing out hoses. A place I might have got into 25 years ago but certainly not now. Amazing!
My new mechanic Jared had to squeeze himself into a hole about 24 x 36 inches, hatch under the main helm,  and down into the utility tunnel where he changed out the damaged  hoses and the waste system hoses. He was crawling into place I might have got into 25 years ago but certainly not now. Amazing!

new toilet parts

 I am hoping the completion of these projects aboard the Key of Sea, aside from the mechanical improvements, will clear up an odd smell that has persisted on our boat since we have owned it. It isn’t, excuse the language, a sewage issue but rather, I suspect, a combination of odors that seem to permeate the boat whenever we come aboard. It seems to improve after we’ve aired it out a bit but ......
I am told by my mechanic that his experience is that smells are always evident on every boat and this is just our boat’s particular smell. But ... having said that he believes the replacement of all these hoses should alleviate much of the smell! From Jared’s mouth to the sea god’s ear!
The Key of Sea saga, my mechanic is installing new hoses to the head when he comes across the “Y” valve. He removes the old hoses running in and out of it and on close inspection sees it is cracked and if it had been used one more time it may well have broken completely. Not something you want
Y valve
to have happen out on the water.
Oh, what is a “Y” valve you ask. Well, even if you didn’t I’ll tell you. It opens and closes off the direction waste from your waste tank goes. When in Canada there are times when the waste tank is full and needs to be emptied. The problem is that many places
In Canada are out of the way enough that your only real option is to pump out overboard. I know, I don’t like it either but there literally are no other options in places that out of the way. So, you turn that valve and turn on the macerator pump and all the waste in your tank is ground and pumped overboard. Once you re-enter the U.S. though, that valve MUST be tied off. If a Coast Guard inspection set so the waste can only go into the waste holding tank. If found otherwise, you 
are in for a big fine.
No Y valve was to be found the day we needed it. We'd have to wait until Monday to pick one up. The good news is that when the new one gets installed it will be placed further to the stern of the utility tunnel so that when I need to use it I won'thaveto crawl 6 feet back into the tunnel trying to avoid damaging a depth sounder transducer and the macerator pump which used tolie between me and the valve. Now it will not only be attached to the deck but will also be easily accesible. YES! 

It seems like you do one thing and find another thing needing doing or that ought to be done since you’ve got this or that apart. So, why not install drain valves on both the Key of Sea’s engines to facilitate draining the coolant easier and faster in the future. It’s a simple, easy, quick install and an inexpensive part that will wind up saving you money down the road. So...each engine received its very own, brand spanking new ball valve with one purpose only. Not a new gadget or domewachit that we can proudly show off when guests come aboard. These devices will remain hidden away from view (especially the one on the starboard engine) and only get used the next time we replace the coolant. 
So, there you have it folks. A boat buck or so later our boat smells better and and operates more efficiently.