Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Mini-Break to Ottawa

[Maryanne]It seems Kyle has spent every moment of spare time at the boat for the last two months. My timetable is more rigid than his, and my attempts to join him some weekends have been foiled by flight cancellations and bad weather.

Just as it seems the boat is eventually ready, and we can actually sail it, we'd missed our chances to be together on the boat for a weekend; Kyle had to work.

We were able to make lemonade out of lemons though since Kyle had a Saturday and a Sunday overnight in Ottawa, the capital city of Canada. Well, if I can't join him for work aboard Begonia, I can certainly join him for fun and adventure in Canada for a weekend get-a-way.

Random Ottawa scenes - what's not to like?

We could not have been more lucky, the weather was beautiful, as was this wonderful small city. We ambled, ate, relaxed and enjoyed the views. The city was filled with things to occupy and amuse: cycle trails, hiking trails, black squirrels, fantastic architecture, sculptures to trip over everywhere, a flight of canal locks, and so much more. Much was free (a tour of the Federal and Supreme courts, and a evening light show projected onto the Parliament building), or really inexpensive ($6 bicycle rental for the day, with pick-up and drop-off points every where you might need one).

The canal, parliament's library, and, of course, beer!

We thoroughly enjoyed our break (even though Kyle was technically at work) and recommend Ottawa to all.

Maryanne has a try as Federal judge.. watch out, she enjoyed it!

The Refit is Done!

[Kyle]Finally, Begonia is in her slip as a regular sailboat instead of an injured-looking project boat.

Begonia is a sailboat again

The last few weeks have been tough. While my list of jobs to do has been winding down, the yard here still conspicuously had major work remaining. Parts were delayed and I was beginning to get very nervous Begonia wouldn’t be finished in time. Increasingly frustrated, I struggled to ride the line between not letting the yard have any slack and not irritating them to the point that they no longer wanted to help me.

It was close. The major parts for the mast and crossbeam arrived with just over a week to go, with some critical minor parts for each still on the way. All of the parts for the heating system were already there, but the installation was a big, time consuming job. It took constant pressure from me to keep them from taking our installer for more pressing (for them) tasks. As our deadline approached, the remaining work got compressed into a smaller and smaller window.

We got the crossbeam on right at the end of business for the day. I worked until dark wrestling the trampoline back on. I was so tired afterwards I could have slept right there on it, but the biting bugs were coming out for their dusk feeding so I had to drag myself inside.

Two days later, as quitting time approached, the heater installation was finally complete enough for an operational test. A late shipment of rigging for the mast arrived so our installer, Ed, left me to wait and see if any heat came out of the vents while he left to work on the mast.

Nothing happened for a while. Our heater uses very little fuel and the line from the pump to the combustion section is long. If the heater doesn’t light off in a minute or two, the controller commands an auto shutdown. On about the seventh attempt, the heater fired. It was exciting, but also alarming. One of the fuel connections was still loose. Fuel was dripping onto the exhaust, which was getting VERY hot. The fuel didn’t ignite, but there was a lot of smoke filling the small compartment. I shut the unit down, tightened the connection and restarted it. Another connection downstream started dripping. I repeated the shutdown, tighten, restart process and found the leak had stopped.

I cranked up the heater to maximum and waited. In short order, there was smoke everywhere. Most of it was from the thin layer of fuel left over on the exhaust after wiping it off, but there was also a lot of outgassing from the insulating cover on the exhaust as it became exposed to the high heat for the first time. With our new heater screaming, I felt all along the length of the exhaust. I could touch the cover, but not hold it. There were a couple of gaps in the heat shield at joints that seemed too dangerous to me. I shut everything down, clamped double insulation over the joints and restarted. The smoke was clearing and the exhaust could now be touched over its entire length.

The boat, which was ninety degrees inside to start with, started filling with hot air. It works! The engine compartment with the actual heater in it got even warmer. Dripping with sweat, I crawled all over for another hour or so checking everything over until I had satisfied myself that no fuel was leaking and no fire hazard exists. Finally, it was time to shut the thing down and burst outside. Never has ninety-degree air felt so refreshing.

The next day, just before closing, the rig was assembled and the mast went on just like it was supposed to. By the time I emerged from under the setee where I was hooking up the electrics, the guys from the yard had all gone home. I wrestled the boom on myself and then took Begonia out into the Rappahannock to check everything works and to calibrate and synchronize the instruments. I was relieved to find no surprises.

It took all day the following day to get the mainsail on. The fully battened main has to actually be assembled onto the mast. The process takes more labor hours than stepping the mast itself. It was horrible, fiddly work in the hot sun. By the time It was on stowed in its cover, I had to get a shower and rush off to work, so I didn’t actually get to go out and hoist it until I got back.

The sail was necessarily brief – just long enough to check everything over. In spite of the fact that we have been bringing carload after carload of stuff down from our apartment and packing it aboard, she is still fast and nimble under sail. I was very pleased. The boat was finally done.

I spent the following day scrubbing, running errands and loading provisions aboard. I wasn’t feeling the least bit done. I still seemed to be finishing all of my days hungry and exhausted, but craving food or sleep not nearly as much as a nice, cold shower.

So now Begonia is all fixed up, scrubbed and ready to move on. Maryanne and I finally get to spend the weekend anchored out together like a normal couple. Well, normal for us anyway.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Repairs, Upgrades and Maintenance. Work Continues…

[Kyle]Since things stopped being horrible 100% of the time, they’ve only been horrible about 50% of the time. I’ll get parts in the mail and I’ll be back to being crazy busy for a day or two. My most recent crazy day came when all of the dinghy stuff that wasn’t actually the boat itself arrived in the mail (the boat arrived last week).

Dinghy and radar installed - Actual Progress, yay!

In addition to the basic boat which, you know, lets you float on top by keeping the water out, we also ordered the sail kit, the lifeboat kit and a few other extras, including all of the necessary hardware to securely attach it to our davits. My day was spent unpacking and checking over all of the hardware, then putting everything together and getting the dinghy stowed in the davits.

As an aside, I want to compliment Portland Pudgy on their dinghy. The refinements that designer David Hulbert has made since our last pudgy have been marvelous. The dinghy, the sail kit, and most importantly, all of the safety gear associated with the lifeboat kit are really well thought out and constructed using the highest quality hardware. I honestly don’t think you can get a better dinghy/lifeboat anywhere else. It’s a nice feeling when opening the boxes to be impressed again and again with each new item that comes out. Well done, guys!

After the fun of unpacking, the real meat of the day was spent figuring out how to get the Pudgy secured. After several hoisting/lowering attempts, I finally determined there was just no way to make it work without removing our ten person canister life raft from its bracket on the stern. We had bought the Pudgy as a replacement lifeboat, but I was hoping we would still be able to keep our raft as a backup. It’s not possible. Like young siblings, there’s no way those two things can occupy the same space without them tearing each other up. The problem was that I now had to get the life raft out of its mounting. I manoeuvred myself underneath it in the Pudgy and untied its lashings and worked it to the edge of the bracket. I could tell it was heavy. I had the same feeling I had as a teenager when I replaced my first clutch. As I removed the last bolt, the weight of the whole transmission came down on my chest, pinning me to the garage floor. While the raft’s weight was still being supported by Begonia I had the presence of mind to take my glasses off and put them in the cockpit because I just KNEW I was going in the water with it when it came free.

Somehow, I was able to control its fall and we both ended up inside the upright dinghy in the end. I had a foot pinned, so I tried to maneuver the raft both off of my foot and into a position that would make it easier to get it out of the Pudgy and onto the dock. That thing is really heavy – at least 200lbs. As I yanked and pulled on it, I fell over into the other side of the dinghy and then the life raft canister rolled onto me. Ahhh, THAT’S the feeling I was expecting. This is one of the reasons I exercise so much, so I have the muscle strength to get myself out of crazy situations like this and the tendon and ligament strength to not have them just snap when something tries to force all of my joints the wrong way. It still hurt like hell, though, but I couldn’t get in a deep enough breath to scream.

Once that was out of the way on the dock, I was thrilled to find that the Pudgy was easier to hoist and stow than it was on Footprint. It fits perfectly into a vee between the davits and the life raft bracket and once it’s there, feels like it’s bolted to the big boat. Whoo, hoo!

That was another exhausting day. I work hard when I’ve got jobs to do because I’m not sure how long things will take. I’ll be plowing through, when I suddenly find myself at the end and coast disoriented into a few hours or an afternoon where I have nothing substantial left to do until the next shipment. It’s so unexpected that I find myself wandering around aimlessly looking for work that I can make, even if it’s just double checking work I’ve already finished. I seem completely incapable of calling the day done and propping myself in the cockpit with a glass of wine at 3pm. That’s fine when we’re cruising, but this is a refit. Refits are supposed to be work. This one has been pretty exhausting so far and I have the sneaking suspicion I’m forgetting something important if it doesn’t continue to be so.

New beam, and new heating both moving along nicely

So I go to our refit list and it tells me coldly and objectively that most of the jobs really are done, except for a few over which I have little personal control. The few items that are left are dependent on the mail delivery or the marina.

Most conspicuously is the mast. The riggers at the marina are waiting for parts to arrive this week that will allow them to finish the repairs. Begonia still has no mast, no boom, no sails, no crossbeam and no trampoline. These are big, obvious jobs, so for a boat that is almost done, she still looks half taken apart, or half put back together if you like.

The only interior job left is to finish the heating installation. While somewhat invasive, it doesn’t require the whole boat be torn apart, so I’ve been able to reclaim some areas to do some reassembly and get those spaces organized into eventual cruising mode.

Although the refit as been mostly exhausting and unpleasant, it hasn’t all been bad. While my day-to-day experience has been a lot of hard, sweaty work, in the larger sense I think the experience has made the boat mine in more than the financial bill-of-sale sense. I’ve repaired engines. I’ve worked on every system on this boat. I’ve been in every living, machinery and other space on the boat – even the claustrophobic space between the cockpit floor and the bottom of the bridgedeck. I know how every wire, pipe and cable gets from one end to the other. I’ve taken things apart, modified them and put them back together. I’ve drilled holes. I’ve plugged them up. I now know this boat. I know how she’s built. I know what she’s made of. She’s mine now. I no longer feel like I’m intruding on somebody else’s space, fumbling my way through.

I’d still rather be sailing, though. It occurred to me this morning over coffee that most of the time we have owned Begonia, she’s been in pieces and our connection to her has been through the work we are doing. It seems strange to think there will be happy days spent sailing, swimming, exploring and relaxing instead of just hard, sweaty work. In spite of most of the work being done, progress has not been noticeable on a day-to-day basis. Our chartplotter, for example, is really cool, but we haven’t been anywhere, so apart from testing it out to make sure it works, we haven’t used it. Most of the refit is like that. The boat was in pretty good shape to begin with. Most of our modifications are stuff that will make cruising better, but we’re not cruising, we’re refitting, so it’s hard to notice them yet.

It helps to think there will be a time soon when things will be all done and we’ll have a great new boat with which to go out and explore and relax, including the occasional three o’clock glass of wine.

[Maryanne]I haven't had to work nearly as hard as Kyle has on the boat, but I do promise to help out with that 3 O'clock wine - any time. And almost as much as Begonia, I'm looking forward to sailing with our new Portland Pugdy someday soon.

Actually much of my efforts have recently been with organization, chasing up, and shipping items for return or repair; I've been promoted to project administrator I guess, while Kyle does the nasty, dirty, hard work.

I've also wasted several days of 2 steps forward and 10 back on a project to put a zipper in our sail cover. Eventually I had to agree that my sewing machine just isn't up to the job: it will neither handle the extra stiff threads used for outdoor projects without jamming, nor some of the extra thick patches of folded materials that need sewing.

Since this was my mother's sewing machine I was especially keen for it to work and spent many hours attempting work-arounds. Eventually, and with some regret, I conceded defeat and purchased a old but beautifully refurbished singer sewing machine from the same Canadian e-bay seller that I'd used before (and he remembered me). My new machine is being shipped to the marina, and that pretty much dictates my weekend I guess. Since we hope the mast to be re-stepped next week, I had better do my best to have the sail cover ready!

Kyle has the boat upside down with multiple projects, while Maryanne has the apartment converted into a sail loft

So soon it really will be all done, and we'll be able to host guests and break out the wine. I had one friend who was brave and kind enough to join me for a weekend of hard work in high humidity (thanks Liz), for the rest of you, the coast is almost clear of work, so when are you coming to visit?