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.