Friday, December 16, 2011

Autumn roll-up

It has been a while since I last posted so here is some of what has happened.

Portholes - With the close of summer came cooler weather and we could finally live without air conditioning long enough to mount the portholes in the stern.  Julio, our favorite intrepid boat worker, came through for us again.  Of course nothing is ever simple on a boat and in this case the problem was the compound curve of the transom.  Julio made a template then overnight made perfectly curved teak mounting shim plates that gave the portholes flat mounting surfaces but followed the curve of the transom for the sealing faces.  All 6 portholes in the rear half of the boat have now been replaced.  All that is left are a measly 10 ones forward.

Hatch - We sold the too-heavy-for-us RBI dinghy that came with the Morgan and replaced it with the Avon R3.1 slatted-floor roll-up model from our old Horizon.  The newly exposed foredeck was nice but the first rain storm we found the old dinghy had been covering a badly warped and leaky plastic hatch in the main salon.  I was lucky and found a perfectly sized Bomar cast aluminum hatch at Don's Marine Salvage for a surprisingly good price.  Bedding the new hatch in place stopped all leaks from the cabin top.

Rose goes swimming - One evening in October we were sitting in the cockpit, sipping sangria and listening to a Martina McBride concert in the marina park when our black cat Rose decided to join us.  Rose has been out a few times but always before with harness and tether.  This time she slipped out of the cabin under the screen, then her feral switch must have tripped because she decided to make a break for freedom.  She ran down the side deck, realized the deck stopped before reaching the dock, then launched herself towards the boat next door.  She flew about half way across before landing kerplop in the cold water.  There was about a second of stunned silence followed by a cacophony of splashing and caterwauling.  She splashed her way under the swim platform of our neighbor's boat where she wedged herself on a support strut half in and half out of the water.  I got a net under her but couldn't reach far enough back to unhook her from her perch.  By this time our dock mates had mobilized and within minutes Chuck had peeled her loose and pulled her out, and we got her wrapped in a towel.

Windlass - Horizon came with a Quick electric windlass sized for combo 5/16 rope/chain anchor rode, good for little more than a lunch hook.  For cruising I wanted the security of all chain rode and after lots of research settled on the Lighthouse 1501 electric windlass for its size, power, and manual backup options.  It arrived three weeks after ordering it and my hunt for chain turned up 200' of 3/8" Acco HT (G4) chain locally at Standard Marine Supply in Tampa.  We expect to have the system installed by the New Year.

Ham/Marine SSB Communications - At this month's St. Pete Boat Show the first booth we visited was Sea-Tech.  They have a really complete communications/weather fax/email package with an Icom 802 HF radio, antenna tuner, Pactor modem, and all the incidentals to install the rig.  That package has been on the "to buy" list for a while so we went ahead and ordered it.  All the parts arrived within a week so it is now on the "to install" list.

Slot head screws [Rant] - In trying to replace a broken stanchion bolt then trying to mount the thru-hull fitting for the new radio antenna lead, I found my usual sources of stainless steel pan slotted head bolts now only carried Phillips head.  When asked, I was told that they stopped making slotted head because everyone wanted Phillips.  For deck hardware there is no substitute for slotted heads.  Salt water has to be able to flow out of a fastener head and not pool since salt water rusts even stainless steel.  I finally found and ordered an assortment of bolts from what may be the last supply of SS slotted head bolts at Jamestown Distributors. 

Marriage - Our big event was October 29th on the beach in Key West.  Of course we did it for the children; Rose and Ollie cat-nap more soundly knowing they are legitimate.  Our family is now unofficially known as the McHop clan.

Bon Voyage Horizon - Our old Horizon was sold again and is now sailing her way toward the eastern Caribbean and new adventures.

Attack of the crab traps - Our first time out in quite a while ended almost immediately.  We had just cleared the breakwater and were raising sail when suddenly there arose such a clatter (see my holiday spirit?) from the stern.  The entry to the marina is densely filled with lines of crab trap floats.  We managed to hit one exactly right so the prop caught the line and started winding it around and around and around...  Being the right pirate, I gripped my trusty butter knife between my teeth and started down the swim ladder, but the moment my solar plexus hit the 64 degree water I knew it was just not going to work.  We had no damage except the prop shaft collar zinc, but we did have to get a tow then overnight at the pumpout dock until a diver could cut the whole mess loose the next morning.  Sadly we forgot to check the trap for a crab feast but a 12v hookah and full wet suit have now moved to the top our "to buy" list.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Four down, 12 to go

Our Morgan OI ketch is 30 years old and she was built with plastic portlights.  The decades have taken their toll and many have broken parts, some leak, and some look like they would break if we tried to open them.  At this year's Miami Boat Show the folks at New Found Metals made us an offer for new stainless steel portlights that we just could not refuse.  It was not an insignificant order, Horizon has 16 portlights, but in the end we placed the order for the 4x14 portlights, screens, template, arbor, and Butyl sealant. 

The first shipment of 4 arrived in early April but it took a while to find time for the project.  We decided to start with the 4 coach top ones since we can easily get to both sides from the boat and do not have to use a dingy or work from the dock.

The videos on their web site make it look so simple; it takes them minutes to cut through the drywall panel they used for the demo, drill the holes, fair the cutout and mount the portlight.  Real life is not quite as easy though and we found that after 4 installs, each portlight still takes 4 hours working plus 1 hour cure to install.  I was lucky to get a referral for Julio, a fantastic worker we hired to help with the project.  Well, he was hired to help but he has so much more energy than I that he ends up doing the majority of the work and I help him.

A hacksaw and chisels make short work of getting the old plastic portlights out but even 30 year old 5200 can maintain a tenacious grip.  Then the template is used for drilling the screw holes and to mark for the slightly larger cutout.  We used a RotoZip to cut through the 1.5" to 2" coach top and each portlight chewed through 1 or 2 cutting bits.  Superbond Epoxy filler from Fiberglass Coatings is used to fill any voids then we wait an hour for it to cure.  After that, a little shaping and re-drilling and the hole is ready. 

Next comes the fun part: the cabin sides are not parallel and an odd thickness so we have to custom cut each of the 8 through bolts for length.  The videos didn't show that step but I think we snapped one of the gussets on the inside of first trim ring before we figured that out.

We did use the Butyl sealant but found that making the smaller sealant "string" they show in the videos is NOT easy so we fudged that part a bit.  I hope that stuff holds up as well as 5200.

The new portlights are sturdy, look nice, and pass a lot more light than the old hazed plastic ones.  We now have the procedure down so the more difficult hull portlights may not be as impossible as they appear.  While we can get within reasonably easy reach of 11 of the rest, the one in the galley is arms reach.  That will be the toughest one!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Yesterday I helped deliver my old boat Horizon to the yard for bottom paint.  Her captain was Eoin, her new owner, and it was the first time she has been commanded by anyone other than myself for probably 20 years.  Horizon did great, and her new captain did even better.  She is in very good hands.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Horizon clan is officially living aboard.

As of Sunday, the human and feline components of the Horizon clan are now united aboard. Like our attempt a week before, the move was not without tribulations.  It involved variously: a not too comfortable mid-afternoon nap wearing a long sleeve jacket and kitchen gloves (to mitigate the blood loss problem of the prior week), getting a small wire mesh dog crate/cage, and scattering lots of towels and blankets around the house to be able to swoop Ollie up easily wherever he decided to perch.

In the end the nap didn't help draw him out from hiding and the towels were not needed.  After the prior weekend, Ollie had come to associate being drugged with impending skinning so to get him to appear at all we had to leave him alert.  We set up the cage in the living room and randomly tossed cat treats into it.  Ollie, too savvy to use the cage door, would reach a paw through the bars to snatch up treats Rose missed.  But eventually there was one he couldn't quite reach and as he slid in to get it Cate managed to latch the cage door behind him.  Some quick sprays of feline pheromone spray and his yowls subsided.  We quickly scooped up Rose and our gear and started them off to their new home.

Within minutes of arrival Rose was carefully exploring every inch of her new home.  Ollie played osterich with his face buried but his body in plain view for the rest of that day.  The last couple nights though they have used the hall as a drag strip so we think they are getting acclimated although Ollie does still burrow behind salon cushions whenever there is an odd sound.  Also, just like Ginger before, they love watching the marina life beyond the portholes at bed level in the stateroom.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cat Scratch Fever?

We are really close to the final move onto Horizon.  This weekend we gathered together most all our clothes and sundry from condo and house, then went to corral the cats for the trip to their new home.  Ollie has never lost his feral switch so on Saturday morning we dosed him with Quiet Moments calming aid for cats.  An hour later he was about as relaxed as I have ever seen him so I picked him up and had him within inches of the carrier before he realized what was happening and went into "they are skinning me" mode.  He dug in his claws and spurted out then hid for the rest of the weekend.  I expect my wounds will heal in a few weeks :(

We went ahead and continued to spend our nights on Horizon but stop at the house to visit the feline part of our family at least once a day.  Rosie, always open to anything, plays around and jumps in and out of the carriers and generally shows us she would rather be around her humans 24/7.  But even today, 2 days after his scare, Ollie ran and hid when he heard my voice and no amount of coaxing lured him out.  We thought about just bringing Rosie with us until we can figure out what to do with Ollie but they have been together since kitten-hood and we worry what he would do if left for periods with no companionship.  For now we will try to figure out how to get them both to their new home.

On another front, we decided the original propane stove with no automatic thermocouple gas shut-off was just too much of a safety risk so we ordered a new Force 10 3-burner stove.  We did finally get that mounted, but not without a great deal of contemplation and head scratching.  Of course everyone knows that no boat project is ever simple.  We first found that try as we might, the new stove just would not fit through the companionway to the galley and main salon.  And, while it would fit through the aft companionway, the walk-thru to the main salon was too narrow.  After hours of careful measuring and judicial dismantling I found we could get it into the main salon through the walk-thru if we:

1. Took off some teak molding
2. Removed the door to the aft stateroom
3. Removed the cover of the electrical panel
4. Removed the door to the upright refrigerator
5. Removed all unwelded/pop riveted pieces from the new stove

After all that, Eoin and I managed to get it into the main salon for reassembly.  Of course the new stove had different mounting locations from the old stove so the mounts were moved to where we thought they should be, but when we tried to drop the stove into the mounts it would not seat - the gimbal pins on the new stove were slightly larger than the old ones.  Measured some more and used the mounting plates that came with the new stove and viola, it was mounted!  The next morning Cate fixed a fantastic biscuits and SOS breakfast on it.  We still have to do some woodwork on the hinged cabinet cover to let the new stove gimbal fully but for now it is very useable and nicely shiny.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ginger aka Green Eyes 1995?-2011

Our hospital cat, the one neighbors left in a box on our front yard last November, has passed away.  We don't know her birth year but the vets told us she was 15-18 years old.  When we got her, Ginger was diagnosed with many problems but the biggest were severe (6 of 6) Arrhythmia, and kidney failure.

For the past five months she has thrived and had been gaining weight.  But about a week ago she stopped eating despite being plied with all kinds of fancy cat and human foods though she continued to look happy and still purred contentedly around her adoptive litter mates.

Friday she went with us for a weekend on Horizon and she loved it.  The aft stateroom was perfect for her - the port holes on the stern are inches above the berth and she spent the nights peering out at the water and all the goings on around us.

She was failing rapidly though and yesterday exhibited labored breathing.  Today we made the difficult decision to prevent her further distress and had the vet send her on her final journey.

Ginger had endeared herself to us and will be missed greatly.

ACT's Facebook photos of Ginger

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Horizon is in her new home

Saturday was a really great day.  It started with the JSI Marine Flea Market where we scored two treaures I have wanted for quite a while: a pair of Dahon Stainless Steel fold up bikes!  They are in immaculate condition and we got them for a really good price.

After the flea market we met up with Eoin and Devin for breakfast at Skyway Jacks then we all headed off to Maximo to get Horizon.  She looked great and we spent only a little time getting the gear ready for her maiden sail.  The first 2 hours were motoring through the inland waterways, then motor sailing until we rounded the point at Fort Desoto.  At that point we started to get some breeze so we shut the motor off and sailed most of the rest of the trip to the marina.  She sure sails nice!  The most wind we had was probably 15 knots but the GPS showed she held 7.3 knots for long periods with less than 1 kt flood.  We had a beam reach to the Skyway, then were hard to after the turn north.  I am actually really happy with the way she sails.  I was a little worried about the lack of feedback with hydraulic steering but didn't miss it a bit.  She balances well with the 135%, main, and mizzen - and with the hydraulic steering I didn't have to touch the helm for minutes at a time even with pretty significant changes in wind speed.  Anyway, everything worked great and I was happy as a pig in ... well, lets say I sported a SEG ...  lets say I was happy!

On Monday we got the new LED anchor/tri-color light and the anemometer mounted at masthead.  Now to figure how to run those wires to the engine room...

So this entire week we have been busy scrubbing and working on Horizon, trying to quickly get her ready for whatever her future holds.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Red, White and Black

Yellow was also in there as masking paper when I arrived this afternoon which made for a set of very loud but interesting colors!  It felt a lot like Christmas watching Bob, the paint maestro, unveil his work.  The time and attention he took to fair out 30 years of stressful life resulted in a really smooth underlay for the Awlgrip paint and the results are fantastic.  Thanks, Bob, for making her so beautiful!

I just talked to Patrick, the artist doing the boat name.  So long as the front that is due here on Thursday is not early, he should have Horizon and port emblazoned across her butt by tomorrow afternoon.  He will be working on the stern while yard workers give her bottom a fresh coat of bottom paint.
Assuming that all goes as planned, Thursday she gets a thorough scrubbing from top to bottom.

The ulterior motive here is we hope she will be ready for us to sail her away on my birthday this Saturday.  Don't ask how many years...

 Update 3/9 - Splash time!

The planets must have been in alignment because all the painting is done and she looks beautiful.  Tomorrow they mount the boarding ladder then she gets a thorough scrubbing.  After that she sees sea water for the first time in 2 months.

My she has a wide butt! I think the red pin striping around her name is a really nice touch.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Community minded criminals

In November 2009 our 18 year old cat died and we had to replace her.  We were considering pet adoption when we realized how huge the feral cat population was in our neighborhood and looked into a community friendly approach of Trap, Neuter and Return.  TNR humanely reduces the feral population over time at a cost of only about $25 per cat.  So far as we know we are the only ones in our neighborhood interested in actively controlling the feral cat population. Now we can see why, but I get ahead of myself.

In December 2009 a feral cat had a litter of kittens somewhere in our yard and over the New Year's break we put our plan in operation.  That first time we trapped momma and 4 kittens; we had them all neutered at Animal Coalition of Tampa, adopted 2 kittens for ourselves then released the rest.  We started leaving some food out for those cats.

Over the next year we continued to feed the neutered cats and what strays came around looking for handouts.  When the current problem started we were ready to do another TNR, hoping to catch at least 5.

In November 2010 an older, maybe 15 year old, cat was left in a cardboard box in our front yard with the inscription: "We know you like cats and hope you can help this one".  We took in that cat, our third pet, and she became the abused cat of the month on ACT's web site due to extreme malnourishment with attendant heart and renal problems.  Vets have now seen her several more times and under our care she is now looking much more healthy and happy.

On February 22, 2011 we received a notice of suspected violation that stated in part: "we have been informed that your pets are roaming loose in a neighbor's yard.  If these are your pets you must confine them.  If these are not your pets please ignore this notice and you do not need to contact us."

We verified that our 3 pets had not clawed through a screen and were still inside our house then complied with the instructions and ignored the notice. We did not realize that Hillsborough County now considered all neighborhood cats to be our pets.

On Friday February 25 we were talking to our neighbor when she brought up the feral cats and said "cats are burying poop in my yard".  We asked what she expected us to do about that and she replied "stop feeding your pets". We told her "our pets" were securely locked inside our house and reminded her that the cats in all of our yards were feral neighborhood cats that had been there long before we moved in.  We tried to reason that with our TNR efforts, the huge local feral cat population would decrease over time and everyone would benefit.  That reply made her more irate and she started screaming that "she would make us sorry" and "this will get ugly".  We disengaged and went inside our house to ponder the problem - her screaming continued for quite a while.

The next day we decided the neighborly thing would be to move feeding from our back porch to a station we erected on the side of our house away from her.  We tried that for two days but each night raccoons destroyed the feeder so we gave up.  At that point we really didn't want to risk antagonizing our volatile neighbor further so by February 28 we had stopped leaving any food outdoors but left the feeder enclosure as a shelter.

On Tuesday March 1 Animal Control Officer Luis Garcia came to the house.  We talked for quite a while and I told him about the cats we had neutered and how huge the local feral cat colony was and that we were going to do another TNR.  At that point I still did not realize that it was illegal for us to do that.  That was when Mr. Garcia informed me that under the Hillsborough County statutes, having a feral cat neutered makes that animal a legal pet of the person who has it done.  Mr. Garcia said he had not expected to come into contact with people working to help control the exploding feral population and said he could see we were actively working to help his agency with the feral problem.  Mr. Garcia gave me his business card and told me he would talk to his supervisor and to expect a call that afternoon or the next day.

Late the next afternoon I had not heard anything so I called the number on his card and gave my case number.  The officer who answered iterated that by neutering or even feeding them, those cats became my pets.  Pets are not allowed to roam free so she said we would be fined $240 per pet and that the officer saw many, I think she said 10, cats in ours and adjacent yards.

She suggested there were only two courses of action available:
1. We could trap and hand over to Animal Control all cats from the neighborhood but, with adoption rates so low, we would effectively be handing them over for euthanasia.

2. We could erect a fence around our yard to corral all the neighborhood cats but that fence had to be high enough to keep them from getting out and roaming the neighborhood.

Not liking either of those options I asked what would happen if we paid the fine as a "my bad for not doing diligent research on legal ramifications"? She replied they would happily take my payment but they would still periodically recheck and if any cats were seen roaming free in our or adjacent yards, those cats would be assumed to be ours and we would be fined again.

I am an easy touch and have often donated food and money and invented "make work" projects for those in need, never once worrying that altruistic actions would expose me to litigation.  When the woman who made this complaint came to me last month to ask for a loan, I even gave her more than she asked for.  I am certainly not rich and I have no idea what exit strategy to take.  The 3 options the county is allowing me: killing all the neighborhood cats, taking them all into my home, or periodically paying thousands of dollars in fines, are unacceptable and impossible.  Is there no middle ground that would be inclusive of community friendly approaches?

Update 3/6:  In the week since we stopped leaving food out, the feral population that comes around our house has quickly dropped to almost zero.  The good news is that our neighborhood has lots of cat lovers and none of the ferals ever looked the least bit hungry even when we had been gone for several days :)  We have also not yet received a formal citation but it could arrive at any time.  Meanwhile we have had contact with the Hillsborough County Animal Services Director of Operations and the Humane Society of Tampa.  While wheels have been put in motion there is nothing concrete to report yet.

We realize we caused our own problem by not fully researching the TNR issue especially when it came to local regulations.  Any more you have to be a lawyer to just live.  While all learned reports show the advantages of TNR, none mention that in many parts of the country the practice is illegal.  Besides the obvious lack of new offspring, studies have shown that neutered feral cats have less tendency to fight or howl.  Also, nature abhors a vacuum so when a colony of cats is removed, another colony quickly fills the void.  In this case the neutered cats would be taken away and killed and a new set of fertile feral cats would take their place.  In our reading early on we relied on the local TNR web sites, not realizing that almost every one had disclaimers like "any inquiries are kept in strict confidence".  That should have been our cue to read between the lines.

More as the saga unfolds.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hull is painted!

She is starting to look really nice.  Tomorrow if weather holds will see her with new black boot stripe and Sunset Red coach stripe.  Then the artist paints her name on the transom and she can splash!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Almost ready for paint

Her hull is mostly faired, sanded and taped, but we have had dense fog each morning for the past few days so the first coat has yet to go on.  

I stopped by her new slip and met one of our neighbors Matt.  Her slip is one dock away from our old Horizon (just visible above the davits of 'Terra Australis II' to the right.  She is also directly across from another quite nicely maintained and outfitted Morgan 41 'Braveheart'.

Hopefully it will not be more than another week or maybe two before we can get Horizon tucked away in her new slip.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Our new sailing vessel 'Horizon'

With everything else going on, we needed a diversion and eventually finalized the deal for the 41' Morgan Ketch.  Of course at the time we were inundated with too much to do with other problems and too little time to think about the boat, so we took the easy route and documented her as 'Horizon', the same name as the original 35' Rafiki that sold in November. 

Our new Horizon has just had some critical items fixed (prop shaft and bearings, exhaust, etc.) and is now at Maximo Marine for hull paint, stripes, and name.  She is going to have her dock rash faired then her hull will be painted Awlgrip white, her boot stripe will be black, and coach stripe Imron Sunset Red.  We hope to have her back and looking really pretty in 3-5 weeks!

We already have a pile of gear to start installing once we get her back: a Rutland 913 wind generator and Village Marine LWM watermaker that have been stored in a back bedroom for a couple years, a new automatic fire extinguisher (for the engine room), and a LinkLite battery monitor to name just a few.

Our maiden motor in the Intracoastal to get her to Maximo went great.  I had some slight trepidation that the extra 6' in length and 3' in beam would cause me handling issues after all those years with the Rafiki.  It turns out that the view from the center cockpit 41' Morgan is close enough to the one from the aft cockpit 35' Rafiki that everything felt very natural.  Well, natural so long as I forgot the extra 10 feet dangling aft that the Rafiki did not have :)

So now we take a break and dream about all the fun we will have once Horizon is out of the paint shop.

I had to throw this in - it is a sister ship looking pretty!