27 February 2017

What The Heck Have You Been Up To? Boat Project Roundup, Pt 1

When I was moaning about the fact that it seems like we'll never make it over to the Bahamas this season because we're constantly doing boat projects, someone asked in the comments:

"Does it normally take months to get a boat ready to go on the water?"

Obviously, the person who asked the question isn't a boat owner. A boat owner shudders when you ask that kind of question because no one knows the answer. Actually, that's not true. They do know the answer:

"It depends and, no matter how long it takes, it will cost you a lot of money. Partway through, you'll seriously consider setting fire to your boat and walking away."

In case you were wondering what the heck we've been doing and why it's taking so long, here's a roundup of some of the boat projects we've been doing since the end of December. If you want to know how much it's costing us, we detail almost every penny we spend on this page.

If you're into boats, you may find this update fascinating. You might also find it somewhat depressing because you have some of the same issues on your boat or you're bound to at some point.

If you're not into boats, you may find this update utterly boring. Honestly, I wouldn't blame you if you tuned out now and went to find a blog that posts about kittens wearing tiny, adorable hats instead. But, if you do stick around, I'll throw in a random picture of a dinosaur to liven things up. Plus, it might be marginally interesting to read about what crazy boat owners get themselves into. It'll make you feel better about your own life.


Thorny, The Beast That Consumes Oil & Diesel

The alternator on our Thornycroft diesel engine

We affectionately call our Thoryncroft T80D diesel engine, Thorny. He's a cantankerous sort of British chap who we make live in a small cupboard underneath our cockpit. Kind of like Harry Potter, but without the magic. Magic would have made things so much easier. But no, we had to deal with things the old-fashioned Muggle way, using screwdrivers, wrenches, multi-meters and the like.

Thorny took up a huge amount of our time. First of all, we had to find out why he wouldn't run. Once we were feeling all smug with ourselves that Thorny was purring like a kitten, then we went and hydrolocked him. That was a huge drama, which you can read more about here. Fingers crossed that it's all sorted.

In the end, Thorny got a new exhaust elbow (complete with new bolts as we had to cut the old ones off), expansion hose, shiny hose clamps, end cap and glow plugs. We changed the impeller (easier said than done). We realigned the alternator (three times) so we could tighten the belt. We adjusted the idle and Thorny had the usual transmission fluid and oil changes.

Goodbye Leaks! Hatches & Portlights

Tickety Boo's trailer trash look - plastic sheeting taped over the leaky hatches

For quite some time, Tickety Boo has looked a little bit like trailer trash in the marina due to the plastic sheeting I had duct taped over two of our hatches. While it wasn't a good look, it did keep the water out of the boat. Remember, if you own a boat, you always want water on the outside of your boat, not the inside.

One of the big projects on our list to tackle when Scott got back was to replace and rebed the acrylic in the hatches, along with fixing the leaking handles. Our friend Matt from MJ Sailing was a huge help with this project, helping to cut the acrylic to size and recommending what sealant to use (Dow Corning 795). 

Cleaning up the hatch frames

A supposedly straightforward job that wasn't due to having to drill out old, broken rivets, not being able to re-rivet and having to go with screws instead which required tapping the holes and grinding down the heads. One of the arms broke requiring redrilling, retapping and putting a new bolt in. The frames and handles were a nightmare to clean up because one of the previous owners used a lot of caulk and sealants to try to address the issue.

And then there were the many emails to Lewmar to try to find out the size of the O-rings in the handles. You'd think they'd have this information on file and readily to hand. They don't.

Now we've traded in the trailer trash look for bright, shiny hatches that you can actually see through.

While we were at it, we also sorted out the leaking portlights in our aft cabin/bedroom by removing the gaskets. We replaced some of them and cleaned and re-purposed others. It took ages to prep the frames for the gaskets due to one of the previous owner's love of, you guessed it, caulk and sealants.

Lewmar portlight in our aft cabin.

We also bought two very expensive Lewmar screens (honestly, do they need to cost that much?) so that we can keep the portlights open at night and get a cross-breeze, minus any pesky biting insects.

Sew, Sew, Sew Your Boat

Repairing the headsail on our Sailrite sewing machine

I did a number of sewing projects (which I'll post more about at some point). Two of the big ones were restitching the bimini and dodger and fixing our headsail (huge thanks to Behan and Jamie from Sailing Totem for their advice). While I was at it, I also whipped up covers for our water jerry cans to protect them from UV damage, a cover for our barbeque, a cover for our new generator, a mosquito net for our companionway, two harnesses (using the Sailrite kits) and one jackline.

Electrical Systems: The Case of the Disappearing Amps

The insides of our current solar charge controller

At the time of writing this post, we're currently investigating <<The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Amps>>. A case certainly worthy of Nancy Drew (remember her investigation of <<The Case of the Missing Anchor>> last year?) One problem, Nancy had some sort of breakdown, dumped her beau, Ned Nickerson, and ran off with some shady dude in a motorcycle gang and is now living in a beat-up old trailer somewhere in the Southwest.

Without Nancy around, it's been a lot harder to solve this case, but we think it's the solar charge controller. Hopefully, by the time this post is published, we've cracked the case, installed a new controller and are in the Bahamas basking in all of the energy produced by our solar panels.

We tackled some other electrical system related projects. We removed an obsolete CD changer from under the chart table and pulled out tons of wiring that led to nowhere. We replaced our lightbulbs with LED ones (much more energy efficient). We installed two Caframo marine fans (super duper energy efficient). I think we're really going to love these fans when we disconnect from shore power and don't have AC anymore.

We also had an issue with our navigation lights - neither the stern nor the bicolor on the bow were working. The stern light was a simple fix - new bulb. But the bicolor was a bit trickier to troubleshoot until we found a wire that looked like it had been chewed through and needed to be sorted out.

Could this dinosaur be responsible for chewing up the wire to the bicolor navigation light?

Along with <<The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Amps>>, we still have one other electrical issue we're working through which involves our stereo speakers in the cockpit. No matter what we do, we can't seem to get them to work. Yes, we've tried it all - rewiring, new switch, offerings to the gods - you name it.

In addition to our solar array, we also have a new generator which will be great for providing power on those cloudy days. We spent some time marinizing it per Sailing Totem's helpful tips so that it will hold up longer in a marine environment.


Are you still here? I don't know about you but I need a bathroom break and a snack. I just read the draft of this post and it's way too long. So I've decided to stop here and we'll be back next week with Part 2. I bet you can't wait. There'll be some scintillating stuff about our galley, anchoring set-up, rigging, safety stuff, our potion box and more.

Have you ever had a boat project or DIY project go wrong? Have you ever wanted to burn your house or boat down in frustration?

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  1. Yes and yes! I've mentioned scuttling a time or two to David but I can't seem to get him on board with the idea -- foolish man!

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

  2. Sorry I asked!
    Maybe when your muse returned looking for cookies and found none, she took those amps?

    1. It was a fantastic question. It's just a shame the answer is so boring :-) Good point about my muse. I bet she's behind it.

  3. Gosh, just yesteday, or maybe the day before, or possibly last week, I wanted to burn our boat down, or at least stay in a hotel. Things are looking up around here, though, and I imagine they are for you s well. Isn't it funny how when the parter comes home, all the hellascious projects break loose and suddenly life is very busy again?

    1. There's definitely a correlation between Scott being back and chaos on the boat :-)

  4. Yes, absolutely! Last summer I wanted to torch the house, and collect insurance. We have scheduled our haul-out for middle of March, my first. If I thought sanding, and painting the deck was tedious, I can hardly wait for this new endeavor. Hopefully, my imagination is running away with me.

    I think you had better get that dinosaur off of your boat. He could be responsible for all kinds of mayhem.

    1. I'm afraid you might be right about that dinosaur. Who knows what mischief he gets up to when we're not watching.

  5. BOAT = Bring On Another Thousand. I get that.

    We have most of our work done by others. The pros. So we just make a list each year and send it to whomever needs to do the work. We're not very mechanically inclined.

    We did spend Saturday do deep cleaning on our boat. We're preparing for a cruise next month and spring cleaning was in order.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. Of all the sayings about boats, the BOAT one is probably the truest :-(

  6. And what do you do in your spare time? *Ducks!*

  7. Dude, actually your boat revamps sounds a bit like my house. Things would be great if the gutters didn't fall off, we didn't have multiple cracks in the foundation, if the skylight wasn't leaking, if the siding wasn't coming up... Yeah, I totally feel your pain.

    1. Yikes - that sounds awful :-( Houses can be a real pain and money drain too.

  8. Any chance your "disappearing amps" are due to failed reverse current diodes in your solar panels? Something else to check...

    1. I'll mention it to Scott. I think everything checked out fine with the solar panels. They're sending a replacement controller today so we'll see if that sorts things out.

  9. This is all very interesting to me. Anyone can sip sundowners under a palm tree but that doesn't often turn into a story you'd want to hear. I would infinitely prefer boat projects ;)
    Why is it that everything technical is pretty straight forward these days, but when it's on a boat it turns really mysterious? Some kind of boat magic...

    1. I'm glad it's interesting to someone :-) There definitely is some sort of boat magic at work, or is that boat voodoo?

  10. LOL! Don't talk to us about hatches! We had a terrible time with keeping our batteries topped off in Florida, but it's been much better in the Bahamas...more sun, a higher angle, happier panels? I'm not sure, but #itsbetterinthebahamas

  11. It's all new info to me but you tell it very well. Although I have no interest whatsoever in getting a boat I do enjoy hearing about all your dramas and your successes. I hope you manage to set sail soon.

  12. One of our dogs likes chewing wires, so I'm sure dinosaurs do too. Very hungry beasts. Hopefully before long you'll be in the Bahamas, kicking back with your solar power and calypso beats coming out of your fully functional speakers!

  13. Oh wow Ellen! You live such a fascinating life and thoroughly make me chuckle. I love all the pictures as I am a midwestern girl and it has been years since I went out on a boat in some local lake regions. Sadly our lakes seem too infested with germs and bacteria now for me to consider swimming in or enjoying. I wish you much luck!

  14. After 7 years, we cringe when people ask what's taking so long! With a project boat and full-time jobs it is tough!

    We've also been replacing all our lights (interior & navigation), maintaining our engine & just starting to research solar panels, batteries, anchor, dinghy storage n all sorts of fun stuff .. Ugh! I feel your pain about researching stuff that should be easy to find info .. but never is!

    We're almost finished the all-new plumbing. Folks say, "You've been saying that" when we run into them and they ask what we've been up to. They have no clue!

    Sounds like you're getting real close! We plan on leaving this Summer. Thanks for the tip on caring for the generator. We plan on buying one & missed Behan's post.

    Good luck on the solar panel issue!


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