Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Meet the feline crew

I've often posted about the dogs, Chevy and Ruby, but I've said little about the cats.   Perhaps it's because I spend more time with the dogs.   Dogs are high maintenance, requiring exercise at the dog park and potty breaks several times during the day.   Cats are pretty much set and forget.   They'll let you know, in no uncertain terms, when their food bowl is empty.  Other than that, it's not hard to forget you own cats.

This is Charlie and this is pretty much what he does.

Charlie is 75% Snowshoe Siamese, a beautiful cat.   He'd be 100% Snowshoe Siamese but he was hit by a car and lost his left rear leg.   He can still scamper around just fine, although he doesn't exercise himself much and so weighs about 16 pounds, the same as a bowling ball.

This is Gertie.   Like Chevy, we're only fostering her until we find her a home. 

That was about three months ago.  Like Chevy, we haven't found her a home because we haven't tried.  It's too much fun watching her pull grocery receipts out of Pam's pocketbook and chase them around the floor, or watching her terrorize the dogs by chewing on their tails.  She's very talkative and affectionate and purrs instantly when picked up.  She runs and jumps all over the boat and walks the rails around the deck.   She hasn't fallen off the boat yet, but we did buy a crab net (and renamed it the cat net) just in case.

And this was this morning's sunrise.  I love sunrises.

Big difference from Sunday's hurricane, eh?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Drift Away Survives Irene

Not even a scratch.   Although a dumpster did pass by within inches, we're told.  

A picture is worth a thousand words. 
Cummings Beach.

Cummings Park

Drift Away survives.  
Irene sped up to 25 MPH, which had her past us at high tide, and instead of the wind hitting us from the east, it was right on our bow out of the south.

The dumpster that just missed us.

Engine damaged by flying debris.

The view from the flybridge.

The new pier at Cummings Beach.

More of the same pier.

If the surge was four more feet, we would have floated off our piling.

Ramp at Cummings Marina.

The seawall that protects our marina.

Seaview House Marina boardwalk.

Pam and I are very grateful that Drift Away survived the storm without a scratch.   And also to our friend Christine for giving us and our dogs shelter.   I'm beat.  That's it for now.  Time for a victory beer.   Naw.   Time for a few victory beers.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

This couldn't look worse.

Hurricane Irene is forecast to make landfall at or near Stamford Connecticut right at high tide, which is about a foot and a half higher than normal because of the new moon.  The hurricane computer models show it pretty much clobbering us here in Stamford.

The NOAA weather forecast doesn't sound too rosey either.





High tide combined with a noon landfall and east winds of 50 to 70 knots will plaster Drift Away broadside, up against our floating concrete dock.   One of our pilings is only eight feet above water at high tide, which means that the dock could float off if the surge is high.  All this is speculation of course.

There's a liveaboard friend here in our marina who intends on riding out the storm on his boat.   I've been trying to persuade him to come with us, so far to no avail.   There won't be anything he can do to save his boat.

I'll post the results of this storm as soon as I am able. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's looking worser and worser.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday Irene was forecast to nail Cape Cod. While Irene is still a long way off, the computer model tracks are starting to converge in my area. This ain't looking good for folks in North Carolina who will be among the first to get clobbered. As for me, living aboard in Stamford, the forecast isn't looking good either.

This is the latest computer model predictions for hurricane Irene...

The blue and yellow tracks would be good for us.  Although we would still be in the northeast quadrant, Irene would be far enough away that the most wind we'd see would be 40 or 50 knots.   The other four tracks would be a disaster for us, especially if the eye rolls over NYC.  That puts Stamford right in the wrong place, the northeast quadrant.  Not only would the wind be ferocious, but the storm surge would be very high.  

We'll stay on the boat if Irene veers off to the east or west of me by 100 miles or more, but if it's close, we're hightailing it for high ground. There's nothing we're going to be able to do to save a 50,000 pound boat with a lot of windage.
Now I have to decide what to get off the boat and toss in the back of the truck. I guess my box of personal papers, the laptop, all the Simrad electronics I haven't installed yet.  If we decide to vacate, the cats will have to ride back there. The dogs can ride in the truck with Pam and me. I'll park Pam's car and my '56 Thunderbird on the third level of the marina's parking garage, triple up on the dock lines, add the four new fenders I just bought, drop the 80 pound Manson off the bow, and either beat feet or ride it out in the big concrete office building at my marina.

I'll know more tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.

The latest on Hurricane Irene from the U.S. Navy is that it's going to brush the Outter Banks and then slam into New England.   They're saying the bulls eye is Mystic, which is about 90 miles east of us, but of course between now and then anything can happen.   There have only been five hurricanes that have hit within 75 miles of NYC, so the odds are in our favor that it won't be too bad here.   Still, I called my insurance company to up the coverage on Drift Away by the amount I've dumped into her in the past few months.

Last weekend I cleaned up the helm station.   The last thing to remove was the Wagner autopilot, which you can see right in front of the helm's instrument panel.  That's probably where the 12" touch screen will go.

The compass for the autopilot was under the helm console and I removed it as well.   I considered keeping it because the compass rose was really nice, but the cheap metal frame around it nixed that idea and into the dumpster it went.

I need to run some cables and wires to the upper helm.  I removed two pieces of wood that cover cable races.   I tried to get this panel off that houses the old depth sounder, knot meter, and radio direction finder but it wouldn't come off.   It's hanging up under the headliner.  Don't know why.   So I may just fish the cables for the GPS, AIS, and VHF antennas through without removing the panel.

The fiberglassing of the decks is finished.  This weekend will be sanding on Saturday, and then maybe painting on Sunday (depending on Irene).

Meanwhile, Pam is enjoying her new wicker furniture on the aft deck, while Ruby is enjoying some sunshine.

Someone asked me how I will prepare for Irene should it hit.   I'm thinking I'll probably run around in circles on the foredeck, waving my hands wildly above my head and screaming like a little girl.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

One month to go. Work work work.

The clock is ticking and the project list isn't getting shorter fast enough.

The latest project was to remove the goofy spinning windshield wiper thing from the center window in the helm station.   Drift Away has only moved about 15 miles in the past year and a half, but that thing made me nuts looking through it.


As I posted before, I removed the window and took it to Norwalk Repair Place who is an authorized repair center for Gebo windows.  They said it couldn't be done because the gasket couldn't be saved and they couldn't get a replacement.   Gebo said I'd have to send them a piece of the gasket so they could see if they could match it up.   I then took it to Nat Levy's Glass in Norwalk, which is about 75 feet from Norwalk Repair Place.   They replaced it, no problem.


One of the followers of Drift Away's (a guy actually building his boat from scracth!  Check it out- sent me an excellent link to a place that custom builds windows.   One day, when Drift Away will be staying in one spot for a time, perhaps I'll order one that swings out so we can get a nice breeze at anchor.  But for now, not having to look through and around that spinning gizmo will be great.

One of the projects for this weekend is to start the installation of the new electronics.  I've gotten the AIS transponder, the autopilot, and the GPS.   Still waiting for the broadband radar and 12" touchscreen.   First job, though, is to get all the junk out of the helm station.    That may take the better part of the day.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Trawler Trash?

I subscribe to many cruising blogs and live vicariously through others.  I just read an interesting blog by one of my favorites, Dick and Libby's Tarwathie Cruising Log.  Dick wrote about "Cruisers as Travelers" and a Wikipedia search turned up synonyms such as vagrant and vagabond.   That got me thinking about Pam and I on Drift Away.  

Most of the work we've done on the boat has been replacing aged and broken equipment, although we have improved the outside appearance somewhat.   Last summer, I painted the flybridge and stripe, which were a faded mess.   I started to paint the hull but ran out of summer, and so far this summer have had no time.   So the port side of the boat is faded 20 year old Awlgrip and the starboard side is 2/3s new paint, 1/2 faded 20 year old Awlgrip.  

But wait, there's more.  There's plywood covering the middle window of the helm station while I get the glass replaced.

We have a kitty litter box on the stern, bare unpainted fiberglass decks, and blue tape along the roof which is partially painted.  The doors are left partially open so the cats can get to the litter box and visible inside is stuff piled everywhere for our many boat projects.

Are we becoming "trawler trash"?

Hmmm... maybe I should take off the nice white boat fenders and replace them with old tires, and perhaps I can get a crank out louvered window for the helm.  Maybe play some twangy country music (I love old style country music!) on the outside speakers like Ferlin Husky and Patsy Cline. 

Perhaps our boat's theme song (every boat needs a theme song) should be "I'm just an old chunk of coal but I'm gonna be a diamond someday".

By the way, do you know what you get when you play a country song backwards?  You get your wife back, you get your dog back, you get your trailer back...    :-)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Homemade LED light fixture

Sunday was a very dreary and rainy day.   New York City got an amazing 7.7" of rain.   Despite my best efforts to carefully seal the new foredeck hatch and two side deck port lights, they leaked like crazy.   The plywood that I duct taped over the hole in the helm station where I removed a window was as dry as a bone.  I guess the answer to boat leaks is duct tape and plywood.

I needed to do an indoor boat project and I decided to make the new light for the master stateroom head.  I had removed a flourescent fixture that burned out and decided to cover the hole with an idea I had for an LED unit.   I bought a 3' piece of of teak at West Marine ($50 distributor price!!!) and cut off 16" of it.   I then cut two 2.75" holes to hold two round LED units.   It came out pretty well if I do say so myself.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Very Sad Day on Drift Away

Smudge, the 20 year old, old lady cat died last night. 

For the equivalent of a 140 year old woman, she was in remarkably good shape until just a few months ago.   Her kidneys started to fail, and her thyroid was so messed up that she ate constantly.   She had no pep.  She'd sit with her eyes half open, she seemed groggy.   Pam and I had even been hydrating her with an IV and bag of water and that didn't do much good.

About a week ago, I wrote about how she fell into the water and somehow got herself back on the dock.   Well, yesterday I saw her standing on the edge of the dock, staring into the water.   I thought she looked confused, maybe even senile.   She took a step towards the water and then stepped back.  She then got back on the boat.

She was missing this morning.   A boat guest said she saw Smudge sitting on the same dock at 11:30 last night.  We looked around  a bit but didn't see anything.  Later, our guest was walking up the dock and found her floating by that same dock.   She called to me to bring a bag, but Pam heard too and ran down the dock and pulled her out before I could get there.  Pam is very distraught to have lost a family member that she's had for 20 years.  

We'll never know, of course, if Smudge died and fell in, was confused and stepped in, or perhaps knew it was her time to die and ended it as animals sometimes do.

If you don't believe that there is a greater power, then consider this.   Smudge fell in the water sometime during the night.  The eight foot tide here in Stamford goes in and out twice a day, moving things pretty good.   Smudge was carried out with the tide, but then brought back right to us so we could find her and have closure.   Sort of her way to say goodbye.

This was Smudge in February, just a few months ago, healthy and helping Pam make jewelry.   Rest in peace, Smudge.   You were an awesome cat and a wonderful member of our family.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Round and round we go

If you recall my previous blog, I mentioned removing the center window on Drift Away and bringing it to a Norwalk Repair Place that does things like repairing hatches and port lights.  

They called today to tell me that they can't do the job.  It seems the window is made by an Italian firm named Gebo and they don't make that window anymore, nor do they make the gasket that hold the glass in.  They recommended that I contact Gebo.

So, I googled Gebo and went to their website.   It took me a bit to find the English icon to translate it from Italian.   I then scanned their site and found a link to worldwide distributors, and read down through that list until I found United States.   There is one, and only one Gebo repair center in the United States.   It is the Norwalk Repair Place.

Now I'm thinking that if I can't replace the window, I may just swap it with a window on the side.   It's really annoying to stand behind the wheel and have to look through and around that silly wiper thingamajig.  Or, maybe I can remove the wiper and I'll just have a big hole there.   If I could hinge a piece of acrylic or something over it to keep the bad weather out, and I could open it on nice days to get a breeze.  I'll have to think about this.   Ideas, anyone?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Spending Money Like a Drunken Sailor

The money taps are open and boat projects are well underway.   We're figuring on a departure date of somewhere around September 19th so we can hit slack tide at Hell Gate in the afternoon, so that gives us only five weeks to get ship shape.  Here's the latest progress report.

The fiberglassing of the decks is underway.  That big square hole is where the old hatch was and where the shiney new Lewmar hatch will go.  Needless to say, it's rained frequently since we opened a big hole in the deck, including a 2" deluge the other day.   We used a big empty tote to catch the rainwater.

The old worn loveseat was replaced with something more comfortable and boat like.

Here Pam is lecturing Chevy about not getting on the new furniture.

Here is Ruby getting on the new furniture.

We had a local upholstery shop make new cushions for the foredeck and for the dinette chairs and bench seat.   We used Sunbrella for everything.  Oh, see that round windshield wiper thing in the middle window?

That's going away.   I dropped the window off at a local Norwalk place to get it replaced with Lexan.  I hated looking around and through that silly wiper gizmo.

The last project last night was a big one.

The 35 pound CQR anchor was replaced with an 80 pound Manson Supreme.  
If you enlarge the photo, you can see the size difference between the two.   The Manson is the latest and greatest in anchor technology, but to be honest, I'm not too impressed with the build quality.   I know it's only an anchor, but the finish is very rough.  I hope it holds better than it looks.  If Manson hopes to sell more anchors, they should concern themselves more with looks.   We had a saying in the car sales business- "eye appeal is buy appeal".

Next up are electronics.   I ordered a complete Simrad package a couple of days ago and it's on its way.   I also need to get the Boston Whaler running.   Without that, the dogs will have no way to get off the boat when we're at anchor.

In the "maybe I should order one of those" categories are 200' of 3/8" chain (95% probability), new Morse MT-3 engine controls for the flybridge (90% probability), a 12 volt/120 volt Dometic TJ85AC refrigerator (75% probability), and a Taylor Made misting system for the flybridge (50% probability). 

A misting system, you say?  I think it's (ready for it?) pretty cool- click here and check it out.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pam. Your cat is all wet.

I was awakened by a cat that jumped up on the bed and then my chest.  I half opened one eye to look at the clock.  2:33 AM.   I looked at the cat.  It was Smudge, the white old lady with the new collar.   I groggily reached down to scratch her head.   She was soaking wet.  Dripping wet. 

"Pam.  Your cat is all wet."

"MMmmmm.... zzzzzzz."



"Smudge is all wet."

"What?"   Pam sat up.   "She's all wet!"    Pam is very observant.  "How did that happen?"

"My guess is that she fell in the water."  I am very astute.

I'm not sure what happened after that seeing as how I went back to sleep, but I'm guessing that Pam toweled off Smudge and then went back to sleep too.  

I went up to the showers in the morning and this is what I saw.

I don't know why or where Smudge fell in, but I you can see in the photo where she climbed out.  She grabbed ahold of the vinyl rub rail and pulled herself up.   That's a long reach for an old lady cat.   She then made a bee line down the dock, onto the boat, through the saloon and downstairs to our room.   I understand what our pets say.   It's a super power I have.   Smudge stood on my chest and said "This is all your fault!  You made me live on a boat!  I hate living on a boat!  Look at me, I'm all wet!!   You're gonna pay for this, Baldy!"

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drift Away's New Hat

Back in the olden days of yore, when I was a kid in the 1950s, my mom liked buying a new hat.  That was back in the days when people dressed up to go out to dinner, or to church, or even shopping.  Mom would put on her new hat, white gloves, pretty dress, and drag me off to downtown Troy NY to shop for the day.   We took the bus because she didn't drive.  But I digress.

Our old lady boat, Drift Away's new hat.

It's being held on temporarily with zip ties.  I'll need to mount the new radar raydome up there and I'll need to fold the bimini back to get to it.  Once that's done, I'll lace it on proper and nautical-like.

I have no idea what that forward antenna is for just outside the bimini frame.  Maybe for the Magnavox Satellite Navigator that I tossed, or maybe the SSB, whatever.  My TV antenna now sits atop it nicely.

Today we fiberglass over the teak decks!  YAY!  We'll miss the nice look of teak, but won't miss the leaks, and once the leaks stop I can start replacing the water damaged paneling down below.  Or, we can go as far south as Guatemala where I hear excellent craftsmen work for only $5 a day, and we can replace both the paneling and the teak decks. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Does this cat look angry?

We live aboard Drift Away with two young pit bulls and three cats.   One cat is a kitten (she's turning into a real terror), one a fat three legged Snowshoe Siamese, and one is an old lady cat.   Smudge is 20 years old, almost as old as Pam's son, who is in the Air Force.   She's an interesting cat, all white with one blue eye and one yellow eye.  Kinda freaky, actually.  She's going downhill though with kidney problems and other ailments.   She eats ravenously but is all skin and bones and her fur is getting kinda wierd, sticking out in spots.

Smudge is the only boat critter who gets off the boat and wanders around the docks on her own, sometimes during the day but mostly at night.  One recent morning, Pam was doing a critter count and came up misssing one.   Smudge.  She looked all around the boat in the usual hidey places.  Nothing.   She then looked around the docks and came back to announce that Smudge was cat-napped.

"How do you know?"  I asked.

"Because there's a can of tuna and a cup of milk up there."

Hmmmm... try as I might, I could not think of any other logical explanation.   Pam saw an older gent walking his dog and went up to ask if he saw a white cat in his travels.   As it turned out, his grand-daughters saw Smudge the night before and, because of her decrepit condition, thought she was a starving stray.   Pam explained the cat's age and condition and he called his daughter.  Smudge was retrieved and all turned out well.

Pam decided that if Smudge was going to wander off the boat, especially looking like she does, she should have a collar with our phone number on it.

Old folks don't like change much, and I do not believe Smudge has ever worn a collar before.  Does this cat look angry to you?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What it takes to restore an old boat

Drift Away was a well equipped boat when it was new in 1980.   After 31 years, much of her gear is outdated, outmoded, or nasty.  We knew that we'd have to dump a truck load of boat bucks into her and took that into consideration when we bought her.   I'm a pretty organized guy (at least at some things) and I kept a spreadsheet of all pretty much all the stuff we've bought.  

People are often interested in what it takes to rehab old stuff, from houses to cars to boats.  This is the list so far of things purchased over the past year and a half:

Petit Hydrocoat, two gallons, rollers etc.
zincs, 8
Taylor 10-1/2" x 30"fenders, four
7/16" braided line
Boat Life polysulfide
Interlux epoxy primekote
Jabsco 29120-3000 toilet
Boat Life polysulfide
Interlux Perfection Snow White
Taylor Steps
25' 50A 125/250 cordset 6152SPP-25
Heating Element with Gasket, 120 Volt, 1250 Watt (Bolt on Type)
Diesel heater for main saloon
Four smoke detectors
CO detector
Thompson's Adv. Form. Water Seal
racheting crimper
Ancor marine electrical connector kit
Mini-bus bar
cover for bus bar b/o
toggle switches, three
Racor 120R-RAC-01 filters (diesel heater) S3240  
Spin-On Series Fuel Filter/Water Separator - 120R
Lewmar Ocean hatch 60
Lewmar roller screen/trim kit
3/4" Dia. Dock Line, 25' Length, 19,400lb. Breaking Strength, White
3/4" Dia. Dock Line, 35' Length, 19,400lb. Breaking Strength, White
Manson 80 anchor  
Pettit Zinc Coat Barnacle Barrier
PAR-Max 7gpm 12V Kit (Pump, Pumpguard Strainer, Adjustable Nozzle, 25' HoseCoil Hose, 35A Circuit Breaker
Maptech Chart kits regions 3 thru 10
Maptech Cruising Guides
Skipper Bob Cruising the Gulf Coast 
Skipper Bob Marinas Along the Intracoastal Waterway 
Grocco K-H marine head rebuild kit 501207
Throwable life ring
bilge oilsorbers 
Deck Fill for Waste with Key, 3-1/2" Flange Diameter
Sea-Lect Diverter Valve, Surface Mount, 1-1/2" Hose Dia
20' SHIELDS RUBBER Series 101 No-Odor Super Head Hose
SeaVolt 12V deep cycle battery 550 MCA
battery box
Origo electric stove Cutout Dimensions: 10 3/4"L x 20"W
Cape Cod Seat with Cushion
StarTron Gasoline Additive, 16oz.
hypoid 90 wt gear oil for windlass
standard roller aluminum 1" X 6"
biaxial cloth 17 oz 38" X 25 yd 3/4 oz mat backing
WEST 105B epoxy resin, .98 GAL
Standard roller aluminum 1" X 6"
Econo roller aluminum 1/2 X 3"
FIB-969 biaxial cloth 17 oz 38" X 25 yd ¾ oz mat backing
WEST 206B slow hardener 0.86 qt
Epoxy clean up solvent, quart
Magma A10-225 LPG 10' gas grill connection kit
Magma A10-223 valve
10 5/8" x 12" Black Diamond Propeller
telescoping crab net
8" Basic Brass Ship's Bell
COLE HERSEE 3 Position Sealed Ignition Switch 
Heavy-Duty Telescoping Boat Hook
Pure Oceans Hydraulic Steering Fluid - 32 oz.
Steiner Commander V 7x50 Binoculars with Compass 
Trident Marine LPG Regulator
Sunbrella bimini (being installed today!)
Repair A/C

The cost so far is a little over $12,000.   What's coming up, though, is a new Simrad electronics system (Broadband 3G radar, GPS, 8” display for the flybridge, 12” touchscreen display for the lower helm, class B AIS, and autopilot), for which I'm awaiting a quote, but guessing a bit over $10,000.   I'm also getting the two Onan generators either repaired or replaced, the teak decks fiberglassed over, and I’ll probably be ordering 200’ of 3/8” BBB chain.   Add it all up and it’s somewhere around $25,000 to $35,000 (depending on the generators) to make Drift Away seaworthy and ship shape. 

I think the end is in sight, but there’s much work to be done in the next six weeks. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Happiness is a new chair?

Drift Away has two helm stations, one on the main level and one on the flybridge (the roof for my non-boating friends).  I intend to steer from the main level where I'm out of the sun and weather.  Pamela wants to drive the boat from the flybridge where she can be out in the sun and weather, plus get a better view.

One of our boat projects was to replace this helm chair.  We have the cushions for it, but they need to be reupholstered, and the stainless steel frame is cracked, so time for a new chair.

Stainless steel is very hard to cut, so I used my Dremel and carbide cut off wheels to cut the frame off the bottom plate.  This took about 45 minutes.

The new helm seat has four mounting holes on the bottom.   They did not line up with any of the holes on the bottom plate, so I needed to layout and drill new ones.   Drilling through stainless is very, very difficult.  Drill slowly, and use oil to lubricate and cool the bit.  You don't want the stainless to heat up too much because it might become "work hardened" which would make it even more difficult.   I drilled 1/16" pilot holes, followed by 5/32", followed by 1/4".   I could only drill for a short time before I'd have to stop and resharpen the drill.   Luckily, I remember how to do this from some time I spent as a toolmaker apprentice.  After an hour and a half of drilling and sharpening, it was done.

Happiness is a new helm chair.