20 January 2017

Back From The Brink | Hydrolocking Our Thornycroft Engine

There are certain things you never want to hear. Like when you're wiping crumbs off of your shirt and someone shrieks:

"Who ate the last chocolate chip cookie?"

Or when you hear your mother scream up the stairs using your full name:

"Mary Jane Thomas, get down here right this minute and explain the bruise on your little brother's forehead!"

Or when you start the engine on your sailboat and hear:


As soon as you hear that sound you feel sick to your stomach. That's because it's the unmistakable sound that occurs when your engine seizes. That can result when you hydrolock your engine. I don't know much about boats, but I do know one thing - hydrolocking your engine is never a good thing.

If you don't know much about boats, hydrolocking your engine means that water has gotten into your engine. If you want to get technical about it, water gets into the cylinders which causes your pistons to not be able to complete their rotation. This causes your engine to stop. It can also cause significant damage such as bent or broken rods, blown head gasket, cracked cylinders or cracked block. That kind of thing.

For those of you who aren't into the technical detail, I'll translate. It means that everything is [insert your favorite naughty word].

After your stomach starts to settle down a bit and you've had a very large gin and tonic to calm your nerves, you start to assess the damage this is going to do to your savings account. We're talking big numbers here, at least they're big numbers to us. Potentially something in the order of $10,000. 

Actually, we're probably talking something like $10,250. The extra $250 is for additional gin and chocolate chip cookies. These will be required if you have to repower your engine.

"Repower" sounds innocuous enough. Kind of like eating an energy bar when your stomach starts growling.

What it really means is that you have to buy a new engine. Not only is that expensive, it would be a huge setback to us in terms of our cruising plans.

Besides, I've kind of grown fond of our Thornycroft engine. Sure, he's a bit rough around the edges and snarls at you when you change his glow plugs, but he's got an eccentric quality to him that's kind of endearing.

[Note: Scott just read this and asked me why our engine is a boy. I told him it's because Thorny smells bad.]

Thorny, our eccentric British engine.

Because we didn't have our engine in gear at the time, we had a small glimmer of hope that there might not have been any damage and that Thorny would continue to be part of our crew.

Turns out that we were lucky, which is why this blog post is entitled "Back from the Brink" and not "Goodbye, Savings Account."

Some of you nerdy boatie people are dying to know how the whole hydrolocking thing happened. You're weird, by the way. Turns out I'm kind of weird too because I'm writing blog posts about hydrolocking engines. How did that happen?

It was our exhaust elbow. It gave up on life and water backed into the engine. Fortunately, a spare exhaust elbow, gasket and end cap had just arrived from the UK the day before, so we were able to change it out.

Brand new exhaust elbow imported from England.

We administered TLC to Thorny by removing the glow plugs and draining the water from the cylinders. Then we ended up changing the oil ten times. Luckily, there was only a bit of water in the oil. Thorny really didn't like all of the oil changes. It's kind of like forcing a five year old boy to take ten baths in a row after he's been playing in the mud all day long. There's a lot of whining and screaming going on.

Finally, we got the oil looking the way oil should look - brown, somewhat clear and quickly turning to black. Not the unpleasant gray quality it had when there was water in it.

After that ordeal, here's the sound you do want to hear as Thorny starts up:


We definitely hope we dodged a big bullet here and that Thorny continues to purr when we head off to the Bahamas.

Have you ever hear a noise that made you feel sick to your stomach? What bullets have you dodged?

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18 January 2017

Wordless Wednesday | Manatees, Warm Water & Electricity

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Tampa Electric discharges warm water into a canal outside of their power plant at Apollo Beach, Florida.

2 - Manatees love warm water and come hang out here when the water in Tampa Bay is too cold. 

3 - There's a free viewing center where you can watch tons of manatees swimming about.

4 - Manatees come into our marina occasionally. There was a huge one next to our boat the other day. Such gentle giants.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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16 January 2017

Life Lately At Indiantown Marina

It's been ages since I've done a >>Life Lately<< post. Over the past three weeks our life lately has been consumed with boat projects.

We're trying to plow through our very long list of projects that we need to do before we head to the Bahamas for the season. But for every one item we cross off the list, two or three more seem to take its place. Things haven't been helped by the fact that we had some serious engine issues, which derailed us for a while.

I'll update you on the engine later this week, but in the meantime, here's some of the other things we've been up to lately.

The Sponge Wars

Even after 25 years of marriage, there are things Scott and I still don't agree on. Like sponges. I think they're stinky, vile little creatures. Scott is under some delusion that they're man's best friend.

Let's face it. Sponges smell bad after just a few uses. Especially when you live in a hot climate. While Scott was away, I switched from sponges to these awesome Lunatec scrubbers. They don't smell, food doesn't cling to them and they're safe to use on non-stick pans. When I need to mop up spills, I use a microfiber cloth. Carolyn from the Boat Galley recommended them, so you know they have to be good. Kelley from Sailing Chance agrees and mentions them in her post on must have galley products.

For some reason, Scott hasn't seen the light and insists on using sponges. I hide them from him, but somehow he finds them and puts them back by the sink. {Sigh}

Hello Neighbors, Goodbye Leaks

That's the view of our neighbor's boat from one of the portlights in our aft cabin. There's not a huge amount of privacy when you live in a marina. Fortunately, most cruisers are exceptionally nice and fun people and our boat neighbors are no exception.

One of the things on our project list is stopping our portlights from leaking. That's a new seal you're looking at around the window frame. It took us two hours to take the old one out, remove the old sealant and install the new one.

Two hours is crazy. You can bake multiple batches of chocolate chip cookies in that amount of time. Considering the fact that we have five more portlights, let's hope we get more efficient at this process.

Five A Day

Sometimes you have to take a break from more serious boat projects and do something simple, like hanging up a hammock for fruit. We have very limited space on our boat so this is a great solution to free up storage for other important things, like beer. I figure it's a great reminder to eat our five a day, especially as I have to duck under the hammock whenever I sit down.

Feeling Foolish

This is our propane cooker. For some reason we thought it was a Force 10 model.

It's original to the boat, which makes it 30 years old. While 30 years is young in human terms, it's pretty old for a cooker. We knew we needed to refurbish it, so I sent off emails to various marine suppliers inquiring about what burner replacements were available. As you can see, we really need to replace our burners. One of them has completely rusted out.

I got back a very politely worded email letting me know that it's not a Force 10, but rather a Plastimo Atlantic. How embarrassing. But at least now I know what model of cooker we have, which narrowed down the search for replacement parts. Unfortunately, it looks like you can't get replacement parts anymore which means we may need to buy a new cooker.

Those of you who have boats know what that means - saying goodbye to a big chunk of change. Or maybe we could just embrace some sort of raw diet and stop cooking our food.

What's been happening in your life lately?

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13 January 2017

Five Frugal Things | The Gorilla Tape Edition

Katy at The Non-Consumer Advocate regularly posts about five frugal things she's done. Some things are big, some things are small, but they all help keep her spending down and her savings up. I've shamelessly stolen her idea (as many others have) and started to share my five frugal things on occasion. It's a great way to inspire me to keep looking for ways to top up our cruising kitty (fancy sailing talk for savings). Maybe it will inspire you to find ways you can save for your personal goals and/or stretch your income further.

This edition focuses on the magical properties of Gorilla Tape. Gorilla Tape is like ordinary duct tape on steroids and is a cheapskate's best friend.

1 - Backpack

About a gazillion years ago (okay, maybe just 18 years ago), Scott got a backpack from L.L. Bean. They're best buddies. There's almost a kind of bromance going on. That's the only explanation I have for why he still has this tattered, beat-up, old backpack. I've tried to get him to buy a new one, but he refuses.

One day, he showed me how he fixed the torn strap on the back with gorilla tape. It's almost like it's brand new. Assuming you have really bad eyesight that is. But he's happy and the backpack bromance lives to see another day. And of course we saved money by not buying a new backpack.

2 - Coffee Mug

Then Scott showed me how he used gorilla tape to secure the handle to his beloved coffee mug. This is what we call functional. It sure ain't aesthetically pleasing. But with all the money we saved not buying a new mug, we can invest in Gorilla Tape stock.

3 - Sewing Machine Case

I guess the whole Gorilla Tape thing was contagious. I even used some myself on my new sewing machine case for my Sailrite. I was too cheap to buy the special case designed just for this sewing machine ($200, no thank you), so I decided to look around for a relatively inexpensive plastic one instead.

I measured the base of my machine carefully and was over the moon when I found one that fit it perfectly, including the pins that slot into the machine which allow you to tilt it up, for $50.

One tiny problem - I forgot to account for the fact that the motor overhangs the base. When I went to put the lid on the case, it wouldn't fit.

If we returned it, we'd lose a chunk of money due to shipping and restocking fees. So Scott, being the ingenious MacGyver that he is, cut a hole in the side of the cover to accommodate the motor. It obviously isn't ideal, but it will allow us to more easily store the Sailrite once we're underway. Gorilla Tape came into play again as I used it to tidy up the cut edges.

4 - Cooking While On Holiday

One of the non-Gorilla Tape related things we did to save money over the past month was limiting our eating out while on holiday at Anna Maria Island. We had decided to splurge on renting a holiday cottage for a week when Scott came back to the States. We rationalized the expense as we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. But we decided to minimize how much we spent overall by cooking all of our meals at our cottage except for lunch one day at an Ethiopian restaurant.

Instead of eating out, we created our own fun that didn't cost a dime, like walks on the beach.

5 - DIY Boat Projects

We're trying to do all of the projects on our boat ourselves, rather than pay other people. The obvious advantage of this is that we save money. But we also learn a lot about our boat's systems in the process.

We've got a long list of boat projects that we need to tackle before we head off to the Bahamas, as well as some that we didn't anticipate, like replacing the exhaust elbow on our Thornycroft engine.


This exciting DIY project got added to our list when we hydrolocked our engine. If you don't know what hydrolocking an engine involves, all you need to know is that it's the opposite of a good thing. The thesaurus would tell you that the opposite of good is bad, but that hardly does it justice. We'll do a blog post about the whole disaster at some point. It will either be entitled "Coming Back from the Brink" or "Goodbye Savings Account." Who knows, maybe Gorilla Tape will be involved in this project in some shape or form.

What things have you done to save money lately? Any frugal tips and tricks to share?

You can find more links to blog posts from ourselves and others on how much we spend and how we try to save money on this page.

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11 January 2017

Wordless Wednsday | Bright & Shiny Galley Faucet

Wordless Wednesday is supposed to be about posting a photo(s) without any words. But, I'm a rule breaker, so here are a few words:

1 - Our new galley faucet is finally installed. We had to take out a sink to get the job done.

2 - It's bright and shiny. Everything else surrounding it looks old and icky now.

3 - I have to remind myself that we replaced the faucet because it was leaking, not for aesthetic reasons. A total galley makeover isn't on the project list.

4 - Water is a precious commodity when we're out cruising on our sailboat and we can't afford to lose any through leaks. We carry 50 gallons in our water tanks and an additional 20 gallons in jerry cans.

What words does this picture(s) bring to your mind when you look at it?

For more Wordless Wednesday fun, click here

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09 January 2017

Morning Coffee | Random Thoughts & Oddities

Paul at Lat43 does these hysterical Morning Tea blog posts which are a brain dump of whatever pops into his head while he's writing them. I decided to steal his idea. Except, I'm drinking coffee while I write this and he drinks tea, so it isn't really stealing, is it?

So, here we go - all of the random nonsense floating through my head while I sip on my morning coffee.

  • I occasionally check the spam comments that Blogger filters out. This one cracked me up - "Unlike other blogs here I am writing a lot of knowledge so tasty I have read and blog in my opinion very well Greetings admin." Greetings to you too, Mr. Spammer. Glad you enjoyed the tasty knowledge on offer here.
  • I hate when you want to leave a comment on someone's blog and you have to go through hurdles to prove you're not a robot, like picking all the pictures with things like cups of coffee or street signs in them. If I'm going to have to spend time doing that, at least have pictures of fun things like kittens.
  • I hate cleaning out our French press coffee maker. Coffee grounds get everywhere and it takes a lot of water to clean the thing out.
  • Coffee tastes much better when someone else makes it for you. It tastes even better if someone cleans the French press too.
  • We're loving Guatemalan cookies lately. They taste like a cross between cinnamon sugar cookies and biscotti. They go great with coffee. 
  • It hadn't occurred to me until recently that Spanish is a second language for many of the Guatemalans in Indiantown. They speak various Mayan languages as their mother tongue. It should make me feel less self-conscious about practicing my Spanish with them, but it doesn't. I need to get over that.
  • There's nothing worse than sewing a really long seam and feeling really proud of yourself because it was so straight only to find out the bobbin thread ran out and you have to do it all over again.
  • I'm in the process of repairing our bimini and dodger (the canvas work over our sailboat's cockpit that keeps rain and sun off of us). I love my Sailrite sewing machine. It just powers through thick layers of sunbrella and strataglass.
  • Who knew I could love a sewing machine so much. Of course if you're going to spend that much money on something, you better love it.
  • It's really cold. I dug out my wool socks and I'm all bundled up. If it wasn't for the palm trees, I would find it hard to believe I'm in Florida right now.
  • We're going to take six cases of beer with us to the Bahamas. I know some people take 20 cases, but we don't have that kind of room aboard our boat. Plus, if we drank 20 cases of beer we'd get really big beer bellies. And we'd need a lot of naps. Beer makes you tired.
  • We're going to go to Trader Joe's and stock up on cheap wine. We'll also get some fun snack foods. The trick will be not to eat all of the snacks up in the first couple of weeks. That's the problem with fun snacks. You want to eat them right away.  
  • I feel like I constantly have dirt, grime and grease underneath my fingernails these days. I find myself checking out the hands of the other ladies at the marina to see if they have the same issue.
  • This blog post is 631 words long. I'm tracking how much I write every day in an effort to make it a daily habit. That's probably more words than you wanted to read.

What random thoughts are going through your head today?

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07 January 2017

Running Water Is For Sissy Babies

I told Scott he was being a big sissy baby yesterday. I think he's gotten soft in his old age. He seems to think running water is important. We've got a lack of it on our boat right now.

Here's why. This is the faucet in our galley. You might notice a distinct lack of handles and a spout. Kind of useful attributes in a faucet.

Things didn't exactly go as planned yesterday - not just with the faucet, but with other things.

What should have been a simple task of changing out our old, leaky faucet for a bright, shiny new one turned to {insert your favorite naughty word here}.

Yes, there were plenty of naughty words yesterday. And some blood. And some bruises.

Scott wanted to persevere late into the night and continue to try to get the old faucet off. I suggested we quit for the day and have a very large drink instead.

"But we don't have any running water," he said.

That's when I called him a sissy boy. We can live without running water. We've done it before. This is what we call role reversal. In the past, I would have been the one complaining about a lack of running water and Scott would have told me to suck it up. It's like Freaky Friday on our boat. Somehow we've switched bodies.

Of course, it wasn't just the faucet that turned to {time for a naughty word again}. The outboard engine on our dinghy started messing with us too.

We had been so happy just a couple of days ago when it started right up. Then we did some routine maintenance on it and it refused to cooperate after that. Stupid outboard.

Remember how excited we were that we got our Thornycroft engine on our boat to work?  We figured out the main issue was with our glow plugs. (Glow plugs heat up the air in the cylinders which allows the fuel to be ignited and makes your engine go vroom vroom.)

We could get it going with the existing glow plugs, but they didn't heat up enough to start the engine quickly. So we decided to order some new ones from the UK which were recommended for our particular engine. (Thornycrofts are British engines.)

They worked as advertised. The engine started lickety split. One tiny problem - a burning smell. The kind of burning smell that makes you look frantically around for the fire extinguisher. Fortunately, we didn't need to put our firefighting skills to the test.

If you were wondering why there wasn't the usual Friday blog post, now you know.

Have you ever had a day where nothing seemed to go right? Could you live without running water?

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