Friday, October 31, 2014

New Vinyl Lettering

Just a quick post - we finally got our new vinyl lettering in today and did our best to install them.  And for some reason, this definitely makes us feel like were getting close to getting her in the water.  Add to that, we got the main sail back in place along with the new stack-pack - and it was easier going up with it than it was taking it down.  

Anyway, here are a couple pictures from today.

76426 - Represent!!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fantasy Fest 2014 - where the Crazies Come Out

Fantasy Fest 2014
Last night we attended our first Fantasy Fest (at least one day of it anyway) that's held every year down here in Key West and it did not disappoint.  We were told it was Mardi Gras gone bad and that all the demented people gather here every year and let it all hang out - and they do.  From old (and they were out in droves - I've never seen so many Grannies with their boobies hanging out) to the young (small children being towed behind in wagons) and everything in between. 
The start of the Parade
S/V Saltrun invited us to join them so we could get a taste of a good old fashion party - Key West style.  Yesterday's parade was the Masquerade March where anybody that is dressed up in some sort of costume can enter - and they just walk through the streets on a set route.  While Chris and Joyce were both wearing great costumes of their own, they wanted to see the parade rather than be in it - so they hung out with us on the sidewalk.  

The Prom King & Queen from s/v Saltrun
The thing I found interesting about the parade is how funny and creative people are - the Ebola Hazmat Team that was spraying the streets; a group of men and women all dressed up like Flo from Progressive Insurance.  The blow-up doll that kept posing for pictures with her mouth in a perfect circle.  Adam and Eve were another favorite mine and that were happy to pose for everybody that wanted a picture.  With so many funny costumes and weird people, it was hard not to be completely entertained.  

One of the Flo's from Progressive Insurance
The Hogfish

"My back's killin' me!!"

With the parade over, we decided to call it a night and skip Duval until another day - we still have a boat to launch, and times running out.

Check out the latest going's-on aboard Catchin' Rays here:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Installing Solar Panels - 840 more watts of Freedom

We knew we needed more solar power when we bought the boat - it only had four small 46 watt panels that equaled 184 watts total.  But how much is too much?  The only restriction is money - although having the space to put them does start to creep in as the number 1 restriction, because you can run out of room to put them pretty quickly. 

I had two options:  1.  Put them on the fiberglass hardtop or 2. Install them on the solar rack above my dinghy in place of the smaller panels.  I would then have to relocate the small panels to the hard top or elsewhere. 

The top of the solar rack is actually about 17' off the ground
We went back and forth on the location weighing the pros and cons of each decision - and for some reason or another, I ended on making a new (and gargantuan) solar rack for above the dinghy.  It will measure 120" x 77" and I had it all figured out - down to the sixteenth of an inch.  We'll make a new slide adjustment for the starboard side, we'll have supports front and back/and side to side.  It will be awesome!!  and so I thought.  

Some "dry runs" to see what the possibilities were
Maybe it won't be too bad after all
We went down to the local metal shop and purchased about $200 worth of 1 1/2" aluminium angle stock and delivered it to the metal shop right next door to my boat.  He said he'd have it done lickidy-split - about 2 weeks later, we got the finished product (I wasn't in that big of a hurry anyway.)  

We brought it home and quickly hoisted it up into place.  And it was big - but I was prepared for that.  I had done drawings and photo-shopping to get an idea of how big is was going to be.  But to back up for just a bit, why did we opt for the solar rack and not the hard top?  I really don't know other than to not take up our entire hardtop with solar panels - my sons might want to use it as a launch pad into the water; we might want to store stuff up there; I don't really know - but the decision was made to make a massive solar rack and put it above the dinghy.

And it was good - it fit right into place, and soon we were test fitting our solar panels into the rack to see what we'd gotten ourselves into.  And they fit perfectly; one right after the other - the measurements I'd given the fabricator were spot-on!  But soon after the panels were in place, a quick movement of one corner up and down and I started to get that sinking feeling.....the one where you just might have wasted a few hundred dollars and a few days of work kind of feeling.  So I tugged on it again - and this massive wave of movement rippled over the entire three panels - and if that wasn't enough, the entire solar rack moved about 2 inches from side to side - it moved so much, that it even moved the massive dinghy davits that bolt through the back of the boat.  And I slowly convinced myself that this was a bad idea. remember that solar rack I had built...well...
Now, I just had to convince my son and my wife that this was a bad idea and that the panels now needed to go on the hardtop where I knew in my gut that they needed to go from the beginning.  

The next day, we had the old panels back in place but with a couple extra side-to-side supports and an additional slide support - and then it was time to wait on the Z brackets to install on the preferred location.  I also bought 80' of 6 awg wire to run to the control panel that will be located under my berth, right next to the battery bank along with a 50 amp shut-off switch.  

Four days later, we were installing the Z brackets on the panels and putting them into place.  The only thing we had to watch for is how close the boom came to the panels - my boom will actually hit the hardtop if let out enough - and so if I have solar panels that stick up another 3" then the boom will hit it even sooner.  So we cheated all the panels as far back on the top that we could - and it was an easy install.  A little dab of 5200 and six screws each and we had the panel installed.  We then wired each one together in parallel and attached it to the wire we had previously installed while we were waiting on the brackets.  

Justin wiring up 3 panels with 6 AWG 
1024 watts of solar power kickin' ass!
In the end, the panels look right at home on the hardtop and I don't have to worry about them ripping off my boat in a stiff breeze.  And what about all the added power I have to run all my shit?  ....well, that's priceless my friend.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Video: A Sailboat Refit - Part 4 - Seatalk Hs Cable, 12 volt Panel, and more Rigging

Here's our latest installment of our on-going "Refit" series.  Only one more after this, and it will be time for the "launch" episode.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Painting Bilgekote in the Engine Rooms

It wasn't fun, it wasn't comfortable, and it was pretty much the equivalent of getting bitch-slapped  - but painting the engine rooms with BilgeKote was definitely worth the trouble.  Its something that I've put off for awhile, and for good reason.  To begin with, there is barely enough room to turn around, and forget about squatting.  But to make matters worse, the curvature of the boat on both sides of the engine slant upward - so there's not even a comfortable spot to stand.  But when your back begins to get those deep aches from leaning over a Yanmar engine and you do try and stand upright for just a minute, you inevitably hit your head on some goddamn piece of boat that comes out of nowhere.

Justin started the project by cleaning and scrubbing everywhere he could reach - wash, rinse, wash repeat.  And I kinda felt bad looking down from the deck - I kept wanting to tell him to, "Put ze lotion on ze skin" but stopped myself - didn't feel like being such a smart-ass that early in the morning.  After an hour of scrubbing, rinsing, and repeating, it was my turn.  We tried to suck out as much water as we could, but I still had to use a towel to dry places that the shop-vac couldn't reach.  I then placed a towel on top of the engine so it could avoid any accidental drips of paint - but there are so many lines in an engine room - fuel lines, water lines, and push-pull cables - and trying not to get paint on them was a trick.  I did have a spare work rag to wipe away any drips that did find their way where they weren't supposed to be - and I used it quite a bit.

This is what it looked like when we bought the boat.

I got a brilliant idea: lets put disintegrating foam everywhere in the engine compartment.  Sure it showers the entire area with non-stop shit, but think of how well it will deaden the sound!
There was some God-awful foam insulation that was close to 2" thick and was stuck everywhere.  I understand the thought behind it, but this stuff was completely non-user-friendly.  It would be impossible to service these engines without giant pieces of foam breaking away and down onto the engine and into the bilge.  So a few months ago, the first step to this process was to scrape the lids and side walls of all the insulation and suck it out with a shop vac - my sons were not happy.  The following picture was the after shot.

But now, months later, it was time to finally paint them.  And to reiterate, I can't stress how horrible this job really was, and the buzz I was getting from the fumes wasn't strong enough to make it any better.  Although I did have a work-fan blowing into the area, it didn't quite makeup for the limited space to work and move around in - my feet, legs, and back were all pretty spent.  The only thing I can think of that would make somebody feel like this was if I exercised - yeah, that's it - it's like I exercised or something.  The final results speak for themselves and I would totally do it all again, but on second thought, next time I'll just let my sons get some OJT on painting BilgeKote.

Port engine room
Starboard engine room

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Lobster Hunting with s/v Saltrun

Our new friends at s/v Saltrun - Chris and Joyce were kind enough to invite us for our first ever lobster hunt.  After purchasing a Florida fishing license with a lobster stamp, we set off with a boat full of scuba equipment.  Chris ventured off about 30 minuets from the boat-ramp to one of his favorite spots and we dropped anchor.  

Captain Chris at the helm
We decided that the easiest thing to do was to dive in teams so Saltrun went first.   After suiting up, they dove the anchor to make sure it was set, and away they went into the current as Justin snorkeled above to learn how its done.  The trick to it (other than avoiding all the jellyfish that kept drifting by) was to keep up with everything needed to catch them - a tickler (encourages them out of their hiding hole), a net (to trap the buggas), and another net to contain the keepers.

Time to suit up
Fortunately for us, Saltrun came back with six beautiful keepers - now it was our turn.  And although it had been about 7 years since either Justin or I have strapped on a tank, it was literally like riding a bike (and diving in 12 feet of water, if anything should go wrong, you can just drop your weights and go to the surface.)  We descended to the bottom and off we went.  You look for any formations where the sand is - basically anywhere there isn't grass. And then you look for their tentacles sticking out - and they were everywhere.  Each place that you see that looks like a lobster should be, they were there.  Justin was the "encourager" as he tickled them out of their home and I was the "netter" - snatching them up as they try and back into their hiding hole.  But unfortunately for us, they were all too small - but catching them was a blast.  Its amazing how fast they are - I'd even have them back straight into my net - but if I wasn't fast enough, they'd swim right out of it.  

Gettin' my grove back

One of the lobsters we had to let go due to size

Sometimes, its good to be under-sized 
Other than the gorgeous weather and good company, the best part about the day was just being on the water.  It was just another beautiful Key West day - sunny and warm with a great ocean breeze.  But it was time to go back to the boat ramp and back to Catchin' Rays.  Chris was nice enough to let us keep their catch, but we didn't really know how to clean them or prepare them - so once again, they were generous enough to invite us over for dinner where they would show us how to prepare the lobster.  We posed for the picture with the 6 lobsters and told everybody on Facebook that it was "our" catch - Chris said he didn't mind. 
We'll still take credit for them
We then practiced pulling off the tails while trying to get as much meat as we could to stay with it, and Joyce showed us a great way to de-vein them.  The meal was great, and once again, so was the company and conversation.  Preparing and cooking lobster (well, Chris does the cooking) in their back yard that backs up to a gorgeous canal - it just doesn't get much better than that.  We can't thank them enough for being so generous with their time and for giving us a much needed day off.  Now its time to get back to boat work.