Sunday, December 31, 2006


Replace Hoses, 12/2006

Rubber hoses deteriorate over time. They become dried, cracked, or brittle, which can cause them to burst, which would be bad!

The surveyor called out our engine intake hose as needing replacement. The worst part of this replacement (aside from the cost of 10' of 1 5/8" wire-reinforced hose) was routing it through to the seacock. I have some plastic chafe protection surrounding the hole in the bulkhead to keep the edges of the wood from wearing through the hose.

The surveyor also suggested replacing the air conditioner intake hose and the plastic fitting on the pump. In this case, the hose and fitting were in fine shape, but not the right type for below the waterline. Regular plastic fittings shouldn't be used, so I replaced the elbow with marelon. And the hose, like the engine intake hose, is wire-reinforced and resists bursting and collapse.


Blower, December 2006.

An upgrade required by BoatU.S. Insurance...

Blowers are generally used to evacuate gasoline vapors from the engine compartment before starting the engine, so that the vapors don't ignite and explode. Diesel powered boats don't require blowers, because diesel vapors aren't explosive. Nonetheless, BoatU.S. required that I install one.

Meh, blowers are cheap and easy to install, so I didn't bother fighting. I can use it to evacuate heat after shutting down the engine. I installed it inline in a vent hose close to the DC switch panel, and ran the wires to the panel. Piece of cake, compared to all the other wiring I was doing.

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Electrical Wiring, 12/2006

In general, the electrical wiring on this boat was done pretty well (well supported, chafe protected, etc), but in a few areas it was suffering from 20+ years of vibration and exposure to salt air. This was most obvious in the cockpit courtesy lighting, where exposure was the worst and the wire had become so brittle that the lights weren't even working consistently. In a few other areas, repairs were made with household wire and wire nuts, which (to me) are unacceptable on a boat, just begging for further deterioration. One such place was the bilge pump wiring. Wire nuts on bilge pump wiring? Yikes -- if there were ever a place for waterproof connections, it's the bilge!

I tore out the wires to the courtesy lights and ran new Ancor 16 GA duplex safety wire to the cockpit and wired in both cockpit lights in parallel. (At the same time, I ran a wire for the stern light that I plan to install in the spring, to complete the navigation lights.)

I also replaced the various wire nuts with waterproof heat-shrink butt connectors. While tackling that, I changed the bilge pump wiring a bit. It was set up so that the pump could be turned on manually or set to "automatic" with a switch at the helm. That setup required the main battery switch to be on all the time to provide power to the pump. I changed it so that the battery float switch is now wired directly to the deep-cycle battery (with its own inline fuse). Now I can turn off the main battery switch, and the pump will still have power if the float switch is activated. This is a much safer setup: the main battery switch is off, so nothing else is accidentally left on, possibly draining the battery, or possibly even starting a fire. The only downside is that you can't turn the bilge pump completely off; the float switch is always supplied with power unless disconnected from the battery.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Grease Is The Word

Serviced Seacocks, 11/26/2006

The Spartan seacocks on our boat were frozen in place when we bought it. The boat was in the water almost immediately, so I couldn't disassemble them for complete service. I did just enough work to get them operational, postponing full service until haulout.

These seacocks are fairly easy to maintain. Spartan suggests annual maintenance, but word on the water has it that every two or three years is sufficient if they are operated frequently. Disassembly is straightforward: remove the lock nuts from the barrel, and slide the barrel out of the housing. Michele and I disassembled the three we have (engine intake, head intake, and head discharge), cleaned them thoroughly with paint thinner, and then gave them a light coating of waterproof grease before reassembly. We used Morey's Super Red waterproof grease (available at Napa), which came highly recommended by other Cape Dory owners. A light coating is sufficient: anything more just squeezes out during reassembly.

The only tricky part is getting the seacock adjusted properly during reassembly. The barrel is tapered, so if you tighten the nut too much, it becomes difficult or impossible to operate the seacock. I overtightened one, and we had a hard time getting it back out. Snug is best. The handle should move smoothly, but shouldn't be so loose that vibration will cause it to move.


GFCI outlets, 11/26/2006

Another suggestion by the surveyor, and one that makes sense: replace the galley and head outlets with GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupt) outlets. GFCI outlets have a breaker that shuts off the power if there is a ground fault. For instance, let's say you're standing in water and providing a ground path through your body, and you don't really like all that electricity passing through your body. Well, a GFCI will help you by interrupting the circuit.

I've installed these at home before, and it's easy, so I thought it would be easy on the boat. You see where this is going, don't you? Riiiiight. The back of a GFCI outlet is a bit bigger than that of a regular outlet, and the holes in the bulkhead on the boat were cut just to size for a regular outlet. No way to get a saw in there, so I used a grinding bit attached to a drill, and ground the edges of the holes until they were large enough.

I also needed a new outdoor-type water resistant outlet cover for the head compartment (we shower in there, so it's likely to get sprayed). Newer GFCI outlets have a square face, so the old cover did not fit. As usual, all more effort than expected, but a good upgrade for safety.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Little Rusty

Corrosion Cleanup, 11/12/2006

Rust... corrosion... it's everywhere. Well, it was everywhere. Seacocks, rudder mounting bracket, bonding wires, engine mounts, the engine itself. Salt air is such a hostile environment. It really takes a heavy toll, particularly on metals.

Michele and I went through everything on the boat, cleaning and removing the corrosion. For the most part, the job wasn't nearly as bad as it might seem. We attacked most of it with tooth brushes and a mixture of baking soda and water. In a few spots, we needed to add a wire brush to the arsenal, but we tried not to resort to that. Once we loosened everything up, we cleaned up the mess with the shop vac, and gave everything a good coat of Corrosion Block. That should keep the problem at bay for a while. What a difference!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Put Away Your Toys

Winterization, 10/28-11/11/2006

Nothing fancy here. This was my first time winterizing a boat, so I was a little nervous about doing it right. Also, this was my first winter with this boat, so I don't know when a lot of things were last done. As a result, the whole process probably took a lot longer than it will in the future.
  • Pumped out the holding tank. Flushed a gallon of pink antifreeze through the toilet.
  • Ran the water system dry. Poured in two gallons of pink antifreeze, and opened the taps until pink flowed through the whole system.
  • Hot water tank was bypassed already, so nothing to do there.
  • Pulled the intake hose for the A/C off the seacock, held a funnel in it, and poured pink antifreeze in until it came out the discharge.
  • Filled the fuel tank with diesel, added stabilizer.
  • Changed oil and filter.
  • Changed crankcase breather.
  • Drained raw water from the cooling system. There are a handful of petcocks for draining off the water, and some are positioned such that the water won't drain directly to the bilge. I drained into a small flat basin that I could fit under them, and emptied the basin each time it filled. Definitely learned something here: Get a hose that fits over the petcocks and let the water drain into the bilge.
  • Drained and replaced coolant/antifreeze. Like with the raw water system, next time I'll get a hose for the petcocks so I can drain the antifreeze directly into disposal containers. Fortunately, the coolant doesn't need to be done every year.
  • Replaced engine zincs. The raw water cooling system has zinc anodes that screw into caps, that then screw into the side of the heat exchanger. There are a handful of these, and some went in easily, others not so much. Part of the problem here is that I think the pencil zincs available at the store do not match the original specs -- they are longer, so they don't quite go in all the way. I cut some of them with a hacksaw so they fit better.
  • Cleaned seawater strainer. Here's a tip, if you do this in the water make sure the intake seacock is closed. If the strainer is below the water line when you remove the cap, well, you can guess what would happen!
  • Circulated pink antifreeze through the raw water system. Basically this just involves pulling the engine intake hose from the seacock and sticking it in a bucket of antifreeze. Run the engine, and the antifreeze is sucked through. There are arguments about whether to use non-toxic pink, or toxic ethylene glycol. Apparently, many people are concerned that the pink stuff doesn't inhibit corrosion, but the stuff I used specifically says that it does. The advantage with pink stuff is that it's non-toxic, so in spring you just run the engine and blow all of it straight out the exhaust.
  • Changed antifreeze cap. Old cap was rusted badly, so I replaced it.
  • Greased steering cable.
I saved the fuel filter change for spring. It doesn't hurt them to sit over the winter, so I did this for one main reason: I wanted to make sure that when I first try to start the engine in the spring, I could be sure that any failure to start isn't just due to air in the fuel lines. I had never bled the air from the lines before, so I wanted to save this for spring, after I know the engines are ok.

So that's about it. There are various other miscellaneous things, like cleaning, taking down curtains, propping up cushions, etc, but the list above is the bulk of it. It was work, but it was interesting and educational. Shrinkwrap will be done soon, and then the boat is put to bed for winter.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

See The Light (Part 1)

Navigation Lights, 10/15/2006

This is a fun one. Powerboats under 12 meters in length are required to display navigation lights that include, as shown in the picture:
  • red and green sidelights
  • either a single all-round white light, or a separate masthead light and stern light

Our white light was a single all-round light like the one on the left, but it was in bad shape (shedding fiberglass -- ouch!) and our surveyor pointed out that it would shine directly in our eyes if we pilot from the flybridge.
So I planned to replace it with separate masthead and stern lights, as shown on the right. One hitch: At anchor, the vessel must display a single all-round light (and nothing else). There are special lights for this, called combination lights, which when wired properly will illuminate just the forward-facing masthead portion for navigation (to be used in conjunction with a stern light), and 360 degrees for anchoring (to be used by itself). I replaced our all-round light with one of these combination lights, and plan to install the stern light over the winter.

The light switch is a 3-position switch: NAV-OFF-ANCHOR. If you give some thought this, you'll soon discover a puzzle: The "nav" position must illuminate the masthead part of the combination light, plus the red, green, and stern light. The "anchor" position must illuminate both portions of the comination light (the masthead and aft-facing portions). So the forward-facing portion of the combination light must illuminate in either switch position. But you can't just connect it to both positions, because that would effectively connect the NAV and ANCHOR positions together, so that everything would turn on regardless of which way you flip the switch.

The solution to this puzzle is a "double-pole, double-throw" switch. Double-throw refers to the two "on" positions: on-off-on (nav-off-anchor). Double-pole refers to the ability to turn on two circuits in either position, rather than just one circuit each. The "nav" position circuits are set up so that the sidelights and stern light are on one circuit, and the masthead is on a separate circuit all by itself. The "anchor" position is set up with the aft-facing portion of the combination light on one circuit. The second circuit is then connected together with the masthead circuit from the "nav" side. In this way, the masthead light is kept on its own separate circuit, isolating it from all other lights, but that circuit is activated no matter which way you throw the switch.

Incidentally, the same situation arises even if you use an all-round light for navigation, rather than separate masthead and stern lights. The all-round circuit must turn on in either switch position, and must be separate from the red and green sidelights.

See? I told you this would be fun.

Friday, October 6, 2006


Compass, 10/6/2006

A barely functional compass makes navigation a bit... challenging. A compass has one job: point to Magnetic North. Our flybridge compass had virtually no fluid, so it didn't do it's job very well. A compass can be repaired, but ours was in pretty bad cosmetic shape too, so I installed a new one.

Installing a compass isn't as easy as you might think, either. The compass has to be aligned very carefully with the keel of the boat, or the "lubbers line" won't tell you your true (er... magnetic) course. Plus, a new compass requires compensation. No, you don't have to pay it a salary -- not that kind of compensation. I'm talking about making adjustments to the compass to compensate for ferrous metal on the boat that might cause inaccurate readings. It's a challenging problem. Ritchie Navigation has a good description of the compensation process, but if you're really interested in the amazing history of such a "simple" device, read Gurney's book, "Compass: A Story of Exploration and Innovation". Incredible!

Our 20-year-old compass was a Ritchie, model HF-72, no longer in production. The replacement model, HF-742, allegedly includes a retrofit adapter so it can be installed easily in the old location. Ah, but I should know better by now, it's never that easy. The adapter didn't quite fit either, so I ended up having to patch the original mounting holes and drill new holes in the right places. In the end, though, I successfully navigated my way through another project, and learned a lot about this magnificent instrument along the way.

Friday, September 1, 2006


Fuel Hoses, 9/1/2006

Recommendations from our surveyor were divided into three groups: Essential for safety/seaworthiness, Required by USCG regulations and/or ABYC, and Desirable/Cosmetic. Following the survey, BoatU.S. insurance required that we repair most of the deficiencies, including (strangely) many of those on the Desirable/Cosmetic list. I fought back on most of those in the last category, not because I won't make the repairs, but because I don't want my insurance to be contingent on cosmetic repairs. They yielded on most of them.

Among the most serious of the problems on the "Essential" list, however, were deteriorated fuel hoses which needed to be replaced with "type-A USCG-approved flame-retardent hoses". The before/after picture below shows one of the fuel line connections, and you can see that the original hose and crimp fitting (on the left) were in pretty bad shape. Although this type of repair probably isn't difficult, it is pretty serious, even for diesel fuel (which is far less explosive than gasoline). So, I elected to have Bristol Marine (at Shipwright, our marina) do the repair.

Bristol hasn't steered us wrong yet. They seem to do good work, and my only complaint is that they sometimes need repeated prodding before they get around to doing the requested work. That's pretty common in busy service yards, and certainly worth tolerating if the work is done right.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Ground Tackle

Anchor rode, August 2006

This is how you know the anchor rode (or at least the thimble) needs to be replaced. The thimble is so corroded that the shackle, which connects the thimble to the anchor chain, is stuck in one place and won't come off.

The double-braided line attached to the thimble is too old to be re-spliced on to a new thimble, so we've replaced the entire line with 200' of 1/2" three-strand line, new thimble, new shackle, and 20' of 1/4" chain. I'm partial to three-strand rather than double-braid; not quite as friendly on the hands, but I like how it looks and it has a bit more stretch, which is good for an anchor rode.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006


The interior is clean and looking good! Michele did most of the cleaning while I worked on other repairs, and she did an amazing job. There was mildew everywhere, particularly on the carpeting along the v-berth walls. We really didn't want to sleep on the boat until the mildew was gone, and Michele worked hard to get it all done for the holiday weekend. She spent lots of time on the wood as well. What a difference!

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Instrument Bezels

Instrument Bezels, 5/2/2006

The instruments at the lower helm are in decent shape, except for the fact that some of them kept falling down inside the panel. They're designed so that they insert in the panel from below, and screw into the the plastic bezel ring above. The bezel then holds the gauge in place. The problem was that the bezels for two the smaller instruments were cracked, so they no longer held tight.

They're Volvo-Penta factory instruments, and I was able to get the bezels from Vosbury Marine in Annapolis. A cheap fix, for a change!

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Don't Get In Over Your Head: Call A Plumber

Faucets, Toilet, 7/1/2006

The title for this post is an inside joke. Clue will recognize it...

Based on my experience, plumbing problems seem all too common on boats. I spent months trying solve some plumbing problems on our first boat (Mariner) in Seattle, and faced problems right away with Mariner II. The galley faucet was broken, the head faucet was broken, and the toilet wouldn't flush. Two-for-two boats with plumbing problems, and three-for-three fixtures on this boat. I replaced the two faucet fixtures right away, as running water is pretty important for us to enjoy the boat. Generally you can get "rebuild kits" for marine toilets at about 1/3 the cost of a new toilet, and then just rebuild the flush pump. I might have done that, but since the toilet was 20 years old and looking kind of dingy and gross, I just replaced that as well. The floor mounts didn't line up exactly (of course), so I'll have to plug the screw holes in the floor.

And then there's the little issue of tracking down the leaks in the system, but that's a story for another day.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Charged Up

Battery Charger, June 2006

We'll be keeping the boat in the water, so I want the bilge pump always at the ready in case there is any serious leak. The pump runs off the house battery, so the battery needs to stay charged even while the engine is not running. With many projects ahead, I took a simple approach for this to get it out of the way quickly. I installed a very basic Guest 2611A, 10-amp, 2-bank charger that plugs into an electrical outlet. Installation is easy: connected the positive and negative leads to each battery, plug it in, and turned on the shore power. The only hard part was finding a suitable location to mount the charger. It's air cooled, relying on passage of air behind the base. As a result, it's best to mount them on a vertical surface, but horizontal will do in a pinch. In a pinch, I installed it horizontally, on the floor of the storage area behind the battery switch.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Keep The Water On The Outside, Part 1: Seacocks

Seacocks, 5/31/2006

Virtually every boat has holes in the hull. That sounds bad, but it's not. Many systems need a constant flow of seawater, so a thru-hull fitting below the waterline provides this flow via a seacock and hose. A seacock is simply a valve that protects the boat from flooding in case the hose fails. Open the valve, full water flow. Close the valve, no water.

Over time, it's fairly common for seacocks to become stuck (or "frozen") if they aren't maintained or at least operated regularly. In our case, the prior owner kept the boat on a lift, so he never closed the seacocks. As a result, our engine and head intake valves were frozen in the open position, which is not safe.

Cape Dory is known for rugged construction and quality components. Much of Cape Dory hardware, including the seacocks, came from Spartan Marine in Georgetown, Maine (the original home of Cape Dory). Sometimes, that quality has its drawback (read: "price"). I learned this very early on, when restoring these seacocks to operating condition. I briefly contemplated replacing the seacocks. Very briefly. Bronze is obviously not cheap, but the $238.00-per-seacock price tag made a repair effort seem like a great idea.

In the end, the repair work was not that difficult. While the boat was out of the water for bottom painting, I soaked and scrubbed them with CLR to remove lime deposits and WD40 to loosen them up. Eventually I was able to get them moving again, enough to suffice for the first season, and plan for more complete maintenance at next haulout. Now that the seacocks are functional, I've made it a habit to close them every time we leave the boat overnight. I sleep much better knowing that sturdy bronze fittings, rather than rubber hoses, are protecting the boat while I'm away.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Bottoms Up

Bottom Paint, Bootstripe, 5/30/2006

The prior owner kept the boat on a lift, so never had a need for bottom paint. His maintenance records show that when he acquired the boat in 1996, he had a few minor bottom blisters repaired and had an epoxy barrier coat applied. That's a great benefit and works well to prevent future blisters.

Now that the boat will be in the water 7 months each year, it needs antifouling paint to prevent marine life (barnacles, algae, etc) from growing unchecked on the hull. Bristol Marine hauled her out during our first week, and applied the paint. They also installed a new zinc anode on the propshaft and repaired some gelcoat damage along the starboard side. The repair (of course) required repainting the entire bootstripe (the blue stripe along the waterline).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Drop The Charges

Battery System, 5/28/2006

[Note: backdated this post to reposition in chronological order.]

One more maintenance/repair post, then I promise to write about one of our weekend cruises last summer. I say that as if someone is actually reading this, and actually cares. ;-)

Our pre-purchase surveyor cautioned me about the battery system. There was a problem getting voltage, and it wasn't clear why. We sea-trialed ok, though, so I felt we could address the problem after taking delivery Memorial Day weekend 2006. Oops.

My friend Chris was visiting from Tennessee, and I was glad for the help to bring the boat home. Saturday of Memorial Day weekend arrived and Chris, Michele and I set out to pick the boat up at the prior owner's home. He was away for the weekend, but gave us permission to take her away while he was gone. Guess what, no power. We struggled for a little while and then gave up, resolved to return on Sunday and gut the battery system. We did just that: replaced both batteries, the battery switch, all battery cables, and the ground wire. It took all day and three trips to four different marine supply stores, but shortly after 4pm, the big old diesel engine roared to life.

In the next few minutes, I made a very risky decision. On a Sunday of a holiday weekend, with evening approaching and a 3 hour trip ahead of us, in an unfamiliar boat, in unfamiliar waters, navigating solely by compass and charts, Chris and I cast off and set a course for Shipwright Harbor, our boat's new home.

Fortunately, sunny and mostly calm weather made for a really nice cruise, and we made it with no real problems. Our only struggle was finding red #2 in Herring Bay, but eventually we got in ok and Michele was waiting for us at the slip, ready to catch our lines. We tied up, covered the boat, and headed over to Skipper's for dinner and margaritas. The bartender welcomed us to the neighborhood with a couple complimentary tequila shots, a gesture we surely won't forget!