Day after day, project after project. Eventually it gets done, and I’m satisfied to say that Cay of Sea has never been in better shape, or better equipped to cruise. She’ll be comfortable and safe for our three months of cruising this summer.

Solar Panels: Installed with little fuss. Wiring up the charge controller was a little challenging, but mostly because of my muddleheaded thinking. Fortunately my marine systems installer neighbor consulted for me several times, and sorted out my thinking. He just pointed out the obvious, and I had an “aha” moment as a result. Thanks Mike!

These are Lensun 60 watt panels, wired in parallel, and will be sufficient for our simple electrical needs. We don’t have refrigeration, which has the biggest electrical appetite. We have all LED interior lights and navigation lights, non-pressure water system, manual windlass, a chart plotter and tiller pilot, plus charging ports for phones, iPads, etc. That doesn’t amount to much of a load each day, so these two panels will do it.

This is a Victron MPPT 100/20 that provides plenty of capacity for the two panels, with room to expand if desired (which I don’t really foresee). The only hard part about its installation was pulling wire behind panels and bulkheads. This unit has a built-in Bluetooth data feed that is accessed by the free app from Victron, providing all the monitoring necessary. Very slick!

And this is the little breaker panel that allows me to turn open the circuit and turn off the power from the panels. That requires just one breaker (on the left). The other two are open and available for other applications.

Canvas Add-ons: I finally took delivery of my last pieces from the canvas shop (I know, I told you it was all complete earlier). These are the sun shades that enclose the stern, as shown in this photo.

This screen-type material is amazing for blocking out sun, but allowing breeze. I’m really impressed at how much comfort is afforded by them.

Lazy Jacks. This was a strange project, ultimately requiring two trips to the spreaders before I got it sorted. I didn’t know we needed lazy jacks until the canvas was installed and I bent on the mainsail. It’s not possible to reach that far across the cockpit canvas to flake the sail over the boom, and the new mainsail is so stiff and unruly (in part due to the full-length battens) that it became obvious that lazy jacks were necessary. So I ordered 160 feet of .25″ line, two small turning blocks, a bunch of strap eyes, and some nylon thimbles to match the line diameter. This is the system I installed:

I installed everything in this picture except the cam cleats at the bottom of the mast. Instead, I just installed two additional regular cleats on the mast. I fastened the blocks above the spreaders with aluminum rivets, and reaved the line through the blocks while up there. Later, while rigging the rest of the system from the deck, I lost the end of one line up the mast, and had to back up to get it. Fortunately, my mast climbing technique has really improved, and I got up and back down in record time. I tested the lazy jacks after finishing the rigging, and they work great. The only blocks in the system are on the mast. I used nylon thimbles for the leading the line in the rest of the system, and that was the right decision. They are simple and low friction, and won’t bang noisily on the boom in a choppy seaway when pulled out of the way. I really wasn’t sure how much line it was going to take. . . so I guessed. Out of 160 feet of line, I had 10-15 feet left over! Not a bad guess!

Finally, Ruth reworked the mainsail cover to accommodate the new, bulkier main. She installed a 10 inch strip of sunbrella between the port and starboard halves of the cover, and extended the length of the cover about 12 inches as well. The color doesn’t exactly match, but it doesn’t offend me either. And the price was right – the canvas shop wanted lots of money for a new cover. We picked up 7 yards of sunbrella (a roll-end) for about $8 a yard a few years ago, so we’ve still got lots left over. You can see the cover in several of the photos above.

So, I’m really all done with the prep. There are still little things I can do, like I need to install a couple of cover plates for access panels in the skinny part of the v-berth where I moved the cleats, but I’ll have time for that before we leave.

Whew. Not my favorite chore, but I’m glad it’s done. I had three objectives: 1. replace the deck lamp 2. install a new halyard cage over the steaming light/deck lamp fixture, and 3. inspect the rig.

I used the Mast Mate system for the first time, and it was a learning curve. This is the web ladder attached to sail track slugs that you haul up to the masthead, then climb like a ladder. Easy, right? Eh, not as easy as it looks. First, it’s made of web material, and it is very strong, put together very well. Second, it’s made of web material and it stretches. A lot. Like, when you put your weight into the first step, stretches no less than 12 inches. That makes all of the rungs just a little farther apart. If you’re not flexible enough, you will have trouble reaching the next step with your off leg. Third, it’s flexible. This is a big deal. We climb ladders, no problem. But the ladders don’t flex and sway. Mast Mate flexes and sways a lot, so holding on with your hands is critical, and the wider a grip you can take, the better for stability. If you are hoping to grasp the next step above you with your hands, you will absolutely feel insecure. Finally, don’t forget that you are climbing straight up. That’s not nothing, especially if you’re getting a little older.

Also, it’s best to have someone on deck handling a safety line for you. Ruth was on the deck following me up with the bosun’s seat. It’s also helpful if you know what you are going to do when you are up there, and have your work planned. We weren’t quite as organized this time has I have been on past trips aloft.

I found that stepping into one loop pulled the next loop up (opposite side) toward the side where I had my other foot bearing my weight. It was awkward to get my off foot’s toe in the loop, so I found that I could set my heel in through the front side of the loop. I was wearing work boots with a good heel, and they gave me a lot of confidence that my foot wouldn’t slip out. A rigid shoe, or boot is important on another level. If you wear deck shoes, you may find as I did that the loops squish your feet in a very uncomfortable way. Work boots were definitely the answer.

At the spreaders, I unscrewed the remnants of an old cage that had come loose in two out of three attachment points. I then drilled new holes for the rivets I was going to use – the screw holes were too small, so I drilled them out to the right size. I pop riveted the new cage on, and found that it was so much easier than drilling and tapping new holes for machine screws would have been. Plus, I used aluminum rivets, and eliminated the need for an anti-seize with stainless screws in an aluminum mast. Thanks to my neighbor Mike for suggestion to use rivets instead of screws.

After servicing the light and installing the cage, I climbed another 10 feet or so in order to get a better look at the masthead fittings. I didn’t get up close and personal, because by that time I’d been aloft for about an hour, but I think I saw enough to satisfy me that all the nuts and bolts were still tight, the split pins in place. I’ve taken the masthead fittings apart before with the spar on horses. Nothing really goes wrong up there. It’s all pretty static.

Down on the deck, we discovered that I’d gotten a couple of halyards on the wrong side of the spreaders, so I went back up again and sorted that out. It was faster and easier the second time because I had the technique down much better.

There was no bird on the masthead while is was up there, like this photo features! I’m glad it’s done, and that I have only one more significant project to complete before I can start cleaning and reorganizing. Actually, I don’t have to wait to clean and organize. . .

I could talk a lot about this, but I think I’ll post mostly photos. Some of the old and new side-by-side, and then the rest of the photos of the new hatch. I’ve written elsewhere about the faults of the old hatch, and the construction mistakes I made. It actually performed pretty well, considering that it was serviceable for more than 10 years before needing replacement. I think I did better this time (though not perfect by any means), and will probably last as long as I own the boat.

Inside painted white, holes drilled and sealed with epoxy, lexan installed, though you might not be able to tell it’s there.

Old and new. This was taken before I moved the hardware over to the new hatch.

Most of the underside of the old hatch has rotted.

View from below after installation.

I’m pleased with how it turned out. Time will tell if I did things well enough to last a long time. I managed to get 8 coats of varnish on it before I realized I needed to stop taking things apart on the boat, and start putting things back together.

The work list is growing shorter. I’ve ticked off most of the major projects on my pre-cruise list. The major items that remain are:

Finish/install new forehatch (I just applied the eighth coat of varnish today)

Inspect the rig, and do a few chores aloft

Install solar charge controller and complete wiring of solar panels

Fabricate new bug screen for companionway

Modify mainsail cover to fit new sail

There are a half dozen smaller jobs to do, but they won’t stop us from cruising. Things like cleaning (of course), installing USB ports, fans, reorganizing lockers. . .

But today’s post focuses on paint and exhaust. Last year, I removed six bolts from the cockpit sole that held the rudderstock bracket in place. I cleaned up and repainted the bracket with rust-resistant paint. Then I filled the bolt holes in the sole with epoxy, redrilled, and reinstalled the bracket while sealing the bolt holes with butyl tape. The cockpit sole, however, is still ugly from the surgery, so it got a coat of flat white paint. Here are before and after photos:

Dingy even after a good scrub and power wash. This time I had the foresight to include the caulking line in the paint area.

And. . . should have taken a photo after I pulled the tape, but you get the idea. While I had the paint out, I touched up a couple of areas on the bow where the while gel coat has begun to wear through. I looks a little splotchy because the hue of while isn’t the same, but it is an improvement, and not too noticeable.

My boat tech neighbor was looking around in my engine compartment and noticed that my exhaust hose was near the end of its life. That was a good catch. Springing a leak in that part of the hose means water and exhaust fumes in the bilge. I obtained six feet of exhaust hose and installed it. Where exhaust hose is concerned, the heat gun is your friend. Heating the end of the hose made it much more manageable, both to install, and to remove the old hose from the hose barbs.

That hose has been in place since I repowered the boat in 2007. It appears to have been the wrong size, now that I look at it. The hose was 1 7/8″, but should have been 2″. It’s the proper size now.

New hose installed, and worry for problems in that area set aside.

I suppose they would be simple to most DIYers, but I found them challenging and confusing. In many ways, electric wiring is like plumbing – you gotta follow the flow, and keep track of where the pressure is.

I addressed my shower sump float switch wiring again today, after wiring it wrong last time. I wanted to be able to turn the pump circuit completely off; have it active only via float switch; and have it actively switched on independently of the float switch. As wired initially, I could only activate the pump by turning on the switch at the panel. Figuring this out took an unreasonable amount of time. I finally stopped trying to think it through, and caved in to referencing other material, namely Don Casey’s This Old Boat. I’ll post the image that was most helpful, from page 250.

The middle illustration is what I wanted to do. I needed a 3-way switch to accomplish this. When you go to look at switches, there are numerous options: single pole, single throw; double throw, double throw, double pole, single pole. . . It took two trips to West Marine to get the correct switch. What I wanted was a switch that would turn power off, turn it on, and have a momentary position that would activate the pump, but go back to off when released. Rather than trying to explain it, I’ll just refer you to the illustration. Here is the results:

After (finally) wiring the pump and switch the way I wanted it, I had to disconnect all the plumbing and bring the sump box up from the bilge so that I could fasten the float switch more securely. I had tried to glue it to the bottom of the box with 3M 4000, but it wasn’t staying well, so I drilled two holes and screwed it into the bottom. After testing the switch to ensure it wasn’t binding anywhere, I reattached the hoses and put it back into the bilge. Then I realized that the box was preventing the regular bilge pump float switch from moving, so I had to figure out how to secure the box away from that. All in all, a fairly long afternoon on my hands and knees.

On Saturday I wired in the new socket for the tiller pilot. Though not as strenuous, it proved to be amazingly frustrating. If you buy a Raymarine product, be aware that their wiring diagrams may be completely useless. The socket has six pins, with a channel for a locating flange that indexes the plug to the correct pins. It took me 5 minutes to realize that the illustration in the instruction manual for the tiller pilot showed a mirror image of the part I was wiring. The flange and power pins seemed to be located on the opposite side of the part I was holding in my hand, while referencing the diagram. So it was trial and error. I tried it the way the diagram showed it. No joy. I tried it mirror image of the diagram. Again nothing. I reversed the polarity of both of those positions. Nope. Then I began to clock around the back of the socket, methodically trying adjacent pins, and their reverse polarity. Finally, I found the combination that worked. It bore no resemblance to the diagram at all. I spent an hour and half on a task that should have taken 10 minutes. Well, the pilot works now, and that’s a relief.

Really looks simple, doesn’t it? It would have been, had the diagrams been accurate.

I’ve been at work with a lot of little projects. Ironic how after servicing the cooling system and the fuel system, I then had problems with both. I rediscovered a basic truth regarding cooling systems: the reservoir tank must actually have coolant in it to work! I had added about half the amount needed, then ran out of coolant. My test run of the engine revealed that it would run at idle just fine with no problems, but under load, the over-heat alarm would sound. Back at the pier, I checked the coolant level – aha! Ran to the store for coolant, finished filling the reservoir – cooling problems solved.

Fuel system glitch: I bled, rebled, rechecked all the hose fittings. . . still having problems. Engine would surge, especially under higher rpms, but even while maintaining a cruising speed, it would surge unaccountably. The one area of the system I hadn’t serviced yet was the Racor filter. I removed the old filter after draining old fuel and a little water from the separator, then installed the new filter and rebled the system. Problem solved. Yeah, it was pretty dirty.

While removing the sails last fall, I found a large section of leach on the jib that was separating at the seam line, so I knew that a repair was in the cards for this spring. Several weeks ago I spent a couple hours watching my favorite murder mystery while repairing the sail.

My repair material of choice is white Gorilla Tape. Very sticky, easy to apply to both sides of the material, very strong. I always sew down the edges with my Speedy Stitcher.

I also installed the two-speed winches my neighbor gifted me. Though not pretty and shiny, they work very well. The newly lubricated pawls and gears provide a satisfyingly sharp “click” as they turn.

Above is a fuzzy photo of the mounting from underneath. The tasked presented several access challenges. The first was accessing the port side winch fasteners through an access hatch. There was a fair amount of room to operate the tools, installation of the new pieces wasn’t hard. What made it difficult was the original fasteners were close to two inches too long. My painful arthritic hands needed multiple rest breaks to unscrew the nuts. It seemed like miles of thread! As you might be able to see, I replaced the fasteners with much more appropriately sized bolts. The starboard side wasn’t too difficult, even with the same ridiculously long bolts. Access was much easier.

I also stripped the interior cushion covers off the settees and washed them. I don’t have an “after” picture here, but I was very pleased with the result. The colors are bright and clean again.

Finally, i have just applied the sixth coat of varnish on the forehatch, although this photo was taken after the fourth coat. I’ve very pleased with how the grain is filling and how shiny the hatch is becoming.

Its actually a good bit nicer looking than this now.

Today’s main project will be to ascend the rig and check everything over, with my neighbor’s help. I will also install a new deck light and line cage over the deck light. I own a Mast Mate flexible ladder that I can hoist to the masthead, but as I experimented with it yesterday, I learned that it is still quite difficult climb. The steps are flexible, of course, and it takes a good bit of strength, flexibility, and stamina to use it. I don’t have any of those attributes anymore, so a bosun’s chair is going to be my vehicle.

Spring is in full cry and warmer temperatures dominate. I’m down to wearing jeans and a sweatshirt over long sleeves. That also means bottom sanding/painting season has arrived, and both are accomplished as of this writing. Might be a record for me having it done this early before launch. I’ve also had time to wash and wax the topsides, so there is a nice protective shine ready for the new season.

All of this, of course, is the normal spring activity for the upcoming season, but this year is special since we are cruising to Maine June-August.

Engine Service

So with the exterior completed (for now), I turn my attention back to the systems. In view of a summer of extra reliance on the engine, I’ve ordered and replaced all of the cooling system hoses. My aching back is bearing testimony to the amount of time I’ve spent bowing in supplication before the aluminum idol. It’s just not a posture that I can long endure, so my fervent prayers were for the timely release of old hoses from hose barbs. This went pretty well, and my prayers did not go unheeded. Only once did I resort to the heat gun, which when applied, made the installation of a particularly difficult hose very easy. I also took the precaution of replacing the thermostat, saving the old-but-still-working part in case of unexpected failure. I had similarly ordered new belts, but have only replaced one. . . seems that I ordered the wrong part for one of them, so I’ll try again soon. I’ve also thoroughly inspected all of the fuel lines and found that they are in good shape, mostly. The only areas of wear or cracking were at the clamp ends of the hose where there is flex. I cut 3″ to 4″ inches off the ends and reattached. I did completely replace one 10″ piece of hose that connected the fuel filter to the injection pump. It was hard and no longer flexible. Finally, I adjusted the valve lash back to .008″. It had crept out to around .015! How does it get that far off? Oh well, better that it crept wider than smaller.

Strainer Installation

I ordered and installed gaskets for my new-to-me bronze Perko water strainer. This was another exercise in plumbing, hose barb sizing, and appropriately locating for optimal operation. I fastened a piece of plywood inside the engine compartment upon which to mount the strainer. I didn’t anticipate that the foam sound deadening material would twist up on the drill bit and make things difficult. I wound up having to cut a window in the foam for each fastener hole.

The strainer attaches to the two screws in the middle of the board, then all the plumbing can be completed.

Attach hose barbs, well wrapped with Teflon tape, then connect hoses. The locating trick was attaching the right-angle hose barbs so as not to kink the hose. I also had to change the hose barb on the through-hull fitting from a 90 degree to a straight barb. Now all the hoses lead fair.

Yeah, I know that hose clamp is too big and the tail is too long. I’ll change it soon. I’m interested to see if there are any leaks in the system. There always seems to be an adjustment or two that needs to be made to get a drip stopped. We’ll see. Same is true for the engine cooling hoses. I’ll need to spend some time just sitting in front of the engine while it’s running to watch for drips.

Two-Speed Winches

I serviced the two-speed winches given to me by my neighbor. They were in terrible shape – just completely gunked up with old grease, dirt, dust and funk. However, I could not figure out how to get them completely disassembled. I got the drum off, and the upper pauls out, but couldn’t figure out how to release the center shaft assembly.

I looked on line for the winch manuals, and lots of models of Lewmar winches were illustrated. . . but not the particular model I have. Improvising, got a quart of solvent, a couple of throw-away paint brushes, and a small soft bronze wire brush and washed. And washed. And washed some more. The old grease was very stubborn. I got a can of degreaser and washed some more. They are much cleaner than when I started. I bought two new snap rings at the hardware store to hold the drums in place, since neither winch had them. I greased the bearings with lithium grease, and oiled the pauls with 3-in-1 oil. Now they work smoothly and give that satisfying “click” as I turn them. I will install them sometime soon, but for the next few days, we have rain. Rainy days give me a chance to catch up blogging!

Yesterday marked several more steps towards completion. Things are very advanced now. I can actually proceed with fitting on the hatch surround and marking locations for the hinges and dogs. I want to have all holes drilled and sealed before adding the bright finish.

This step included taping and refilling the seams where low spots were revealed the first time around. So glad I decided to tape it off – you’ll see why in a minute.

After the initial round of sanding last time, I noticed that some of the seams had low spots – I obviously hadn’t filled them sufficiently to result in a uniformly flat surface. So I cleaned the whole project with a damp rag to wipe away the amine blush of the epoxy, then again with alcohol. Mixed my epoxy resin and graphite (and this is where I went wrong) and began to fill the low spots. What I missed, however, was the silica filler I had used before. The epoxy wasn’t thick like last time, it was soupy. I was able to get it to stand up above the surface of the boards, but the consistency was a little different, and the shade of black was a little darker also. I don’t think the coloration will be an issue once I get the bright finish on it (that will make all the seams look black and shiny anyway) but the thin viscosity of the resin made it sneak under the tape in a couple of areas. Had I anticipated that, I would have pressed down the tape again before applying the resin. Anyway, this was the result.

Ase you can see, the resin wasn’t completely confined to the area between the tape strips. However, the next round of sanding took care of most of that. I used a belt sander to take down the bulk uniformly, then switched to a random orbital sander with successively finer grits. This is the final look.

As you can see, most of the blobs and over-runs were cleared up. I’m not going to worry about it – so little of life is perfect anyway!

I also cut the 3/16″ lexan to fit the opening. I flange is is actually 1/4″ deep, but I will use the thickness of the caulk to to bring it up to level, and I’ve decided not to use any fasteners to hold the lexan in place. I’m counting on the caulk to do that sufficiently well. Hopefully, I’m right about doing that.

Lexan cut to size leaning against my new/used raw water filter with new/used 2-speed winches in the background. Cutting the lexan wasn’t the easiest task. I used a hand-held jigsaw with a plastic laminate blade, which worked well, but slowly. I clamped a straight edge to the work bench on top of the lexan after measuring (multiple times) the shoe off-set of the saw. I got very straight cuts this way.

Last week I got on board Cay of Sea and finished the installation over a two day session. Lots of hands and knees posture! I set the box in the bilge and found the most common-sense place for it, then took it out again, and turned my attention to the shower drain itself.

Purchased from West Marine, it’s the white one.

And here it is installed. I already had the drain cover, so I took a few minutes to clean it up with a Scotchbrite pad, and drilled four new holes in the shower pan to attach it. I mounted the draining fitting itself in a thick doughnut of butyl tape after attaching the flex hose to the barb. The butyl was thick enough to provide soft resistance as I snugged down the drain cover on top of it.

After the drain was installed, I could lead the hose aft and attach to the sump. The next step seemed to be the vented loop, which I installed inside the galley locker below the sink. I had spent quite a bit of time sorting out hose sizes, and had all the fittings on hand with the correct size hose. I used clear polyvinyl hose for all of the connections, since there was no reason for a pressure-reinforced hose in this application. It was cheap!

Shower drain hose connecting to sump.

There wasn’t enough room to pass all the new hoses through from the galley locker into the bilge sump, so I opened it up with an oscillating multi tool.

I made the opening bigger above the pictured hoses, and expanded it to the left as well.

After enlarging the opening, I attached the icebox drain and the sink drain to the sump. The next step was electrical. I sorted out which panel switch to use, climbed into the cockpit locker to access the back of it, and attached the wires, after crimping extension wires onto the float switch and pump. Unfortunately, I misinterpreted the wiring diagram and managed to obviate the float switch. If I turn on the panel switch, the pump runs (hooray!) but the float switch does nothing. I’ll have to sort this out on another day.

But first, one last photo of me and the sump box. Note the family resemblance. . .

We’ve owned Cay of Sea since 2003 – almost 19 years. For all this time, through many overnights, week-long cruises – all of our time living aboard, we’ve always allowed the shower to drain into the bilge. Not good. That allows human skin cells and hair to populate the bilge – it’s just not sanitary. I have always intended to add a shower sump to collect the the shower water, but it never rose to the level of “I need to do it soon” like it has now. As we plan to cruise to Maine this summer, we will be showering aboard every night for 3 months. I’m grossed out by the thought of processing all that soap and shower water through the bilge. So this past fall I built the sump box. There are several commercially available “off the shelf” units one can buy for this, and I did acquire one, only to find out I couldn’t get it to actually fit into the bilge access. The only solution seemed to be making one that was custom sized to fit through my bilge access panel.

Tall and narrow to accommodate my bilge access

The box was made of .25″ plywood covered with fiberglass cloth, coated with epoxy resin 3x. I included a frame in the top allow easy attachment of the lexan top, which will be fitted with a gasket for watertightness and easy removal/service. It’s important to be able to look inside to trouble shoot in the case of possible clogs or slow evacuation.

You can see in the photo above where I’ve planned inputs from the Icebox and galley sink, and the output for the pump.

This is the forward end of the sump, which will receive input from the shower drain.
Fittings for all the plumbing into and out of the sump.

Selecting the plumbing fittings for the sump took a lot of thought. I needed to know all the hose sizes, and I needed to think through what kinds of fittings would work in this application. I think I got it right (we’ll see!). One of the valves pictured above will be fitted into the icebox drain line. I need to be able to close this line to keep all the cold air from falling into the bilge.

The line with the vented loop will be routed into the galley sink cabinet, rising above the waterline, then plumbed into the (former) sink drain sea cock, which is inside the same cabinet.

And here are some of the fittings mocked up after drilling holes for them.
Here are the pump and float switch loose-laid in the sump.

The wiring for pump and switch will run through an access hole through the top of the box over to their own circuit switch and fuse on the DC electric panel.

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