Monday, October 1, 2012

Another Academic Achievement

This weekend Cate put another academic feather in her sailor's cap.  She is now Cate "Skippy" PhD, ADC, and now CCG (Clown College Graduate :)  She successfully navigated the arduous 2 month Caring Clown course offered at Suncoast Hospice.  Yesterday was her graduation.  We are all so proud of her!  Okay, maybe it wasn't too grueling or arduous but she sure had fun!  I think next is bar tending class ... that will serve us well in the cruising community.

Friday, September 21, 2012 is live

At long last I spent a little time and updated to describe this Morgan Horizon instead of our Rafiki Horizon.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Forward cabin sole is done

We finally finished the forward cabin sole, I think 3 weeks after starting.  After the last piece work, Cate gave it 5 coats of Epifanes RapidCoat and man does it look nice!  We have now started the aft cabin...
Before with carpet

Before I forget, last weekend we got the old genset out of the engine room.  I still have to clean up the area, give it a fresh coat of paint, then start mounting watermaker and washdown pump, and ...
Empty 4.5' x 3' space!
Genset in transit

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cabin sole and solar panels

We had some real movement this past weekend on the forward cabin sole.  The individual plywood pieces have all been laid along with the teak joints between, and everything bonded in place with Sikaflex 219.  Julio will visit one final time to plane the joints flush and then we can sand and varnish.  

This has turned out to be a much more involved process than we ever expected and takes 4 full days of work to get to the varnish stage in each section including the full day Sikaflex cure time:
  • Day 1 is filling low spots and leveling the subfloor with lots of sanding to give a flat bonding surface.
  • Day 2 is bonding the pieces of veneer plywood to the subfloor making sure the holly stripes all align.
  • Day 3 is chiseling clean edges between the plywood pieces and fitting and bonding the teak joints.
  • Day 4 is planing the joints flush with the plywood pieces and attaching trim molding. 
  • Days 5-?? will be complete general sanding then applying coat after coat of Epifanes Rapidclear varnish.
So far we are still working on the first section, the forward cabin.  We still have the aft cabin section then the much simpler walk through section.

Solar Panels

This weekend we got our two new Hyundai HiS-S240MG solar panels mounted but I will need to do some more work on the bracketing to make sure they cannot flex and that there is sufficient air flow underneath them.  I hope by next weekend we will be ready to complete the wiring then throw the switch and see just how much power we can realistically expect from 480 watts of solar panels.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Birthday girl

Send in the clowns

Missing her days as a starving student, Cate has taken up a new educational endeavor - Clown College. We wish her luck and hope she can keep her GPA up :)

Last week Cate reached the ripe old age of 39 and some months and we have been going all out to celebrate the event.  One of her presents was a Torqueedo 1003S electric outboard.  The built-in battery runs for 30 minutes to 3+ hours depending on throttle, it breaks down into 3 easily toted components, and the entire unit weighs only 29 pounds - making it easy for Cate to toss on and off the dinghy.  When I did the 5 year cruise from San Francisco to Tampa we seldom stayed in port so gasoline for the outboard was always an issue even though probably 75% of dinghy use was within a mile of the boat.  The Torqueedo should handle those short distances fine and can be recharged from Horizon's electrical system maintained by the 480 watts of solar panels and wind generator.  That saves the limited gasoline supply for our 15 HP Mercury outboard.

Cate's other birthday present is a work in progress and definitely "some assembly required".  Horizon's main salon has the traditional teak and holly sole but the v-berth, aft cabin, and connecting walkways were all carpet covered.  Cate wanted wood throughout so we started asking lots of questions at boat shows.  We ended up buying wood veneer plywood from Teak Decking Systems in Sarasota, FL with a teak and holly pattern that sort of matches our current cabin sole.  Julio has finished the leveling and smoothing process for the first section, the v-berth area, but with the RNC madness (closures, restrictions, etc.) it will probably be a couple weeks before we can get the new flooring glued and trimmed then varnished in that section.  As always, corralling the cats to keep them away from fiberglass dust and other toxins is a perpetual problem with these kinds of projects.  Speaking of RNC, where else but Florida would we be prohibited from carrying umbrellas or light bulbs downtown during the RNC welcome weekend but wearing a sidearm is perfectly fine.

Air Conditioning

The new self contained 16,000 BTU Marine Air A/C unit is now installed in the big sail bin forward and it works great keeping the main salon and v-berth cool even in the August Florida heat.  That, and the small window unit aft, has allowed us to reclaim a handy bin and permanently remove lots of copper tubing and both of the big 20+ year old 1.5 ton A/C compressors.  Once we find someone who wants a rusted frozen diesel genset in exchange for helping us get it out, the entire back half of the engine room will be empty for mounting new gear.  I am so itching to get that VM LWM-200 watermaker out of the back of my car!

Sailing again

We did get Horizon out again for a few hours two weekends ago and it sure was good to get the sails shaken out and have no problems.  We definitely need more of those.  The diesel tank got another 40 gallons on the way back to the slip so we now have an almost full tank and still not a drop in the bilge.  I can stop worrying about a leaky fuel tank.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Horizon gets out


All work on Horizon stopped for a few weeks while we packed up and moved the family heirlooms back to the far cold north, helped as best we could with final preparations, then were honored to attend an impressively glitch-free and most beautiful wedding for Cate's daughter Maureen and Johnny Falvella.  Congratulations!  (And you guys brew some awesome beer!)

One more of the wedding party :)

Horizon goes for a jaunt

Recovery took a week but we shook the dust off and finally got Horizon out of her slip.  The hydraulic steering worked flawlessly (though the nut behind the wheel caused some consternation) and has not leaked a drop since we topped everything up a month ago.  I think that issue can be considered a closed chapter.  We do have some new minor engine system gremlins but those we can work on at leisure.  We also started filling the diesel tank, 40 gallons each time we go out until the 120 gallon tank is topped off.  We have not yet had the tank full so if there is a leak, we will hopefully find out with smaller quantities and not be surprised by finding an entire tank full in the bilge.

New air conditioning

When we bought Horizon, she had two aging 1.5 ton A/C units with separate compressors and evaporators.  One unit originally cooled the v-berth and main salon using a single 18,000 BTU evaporator and split air duct, but that unit never worked for us because of leaks in the long refrigerant lines.  The other unit also cooled the main salon using an 11,000 BTU evaporator and the aft cabin with a 6,000 BTU evaporator.  Although that unit worked okay, the age meant low efficiency, the circulation fans were noisy, the sea water pump ran continuously, and it just could not cool the main salon well since the thermostat was in the aft cabin.  With all the recurring cooling water problems, we recently installed a tiny window A/C unit in the aft cabin companionway for use at night, and only turned on the big A/C during the evening.  That worked great for power consumption and the limited sea water pump running time helped slow barnacle growth in the main A/C cooling filter system.

We are now in the process of replacing the dead forward A/C system with a new self-contained 16,000 BTU unit mounted in place of the old evaporator.  Our expected benefits will be quieter operation, digital temperature control in the main salon, and a sea water cooling pump that cycles with the compressor to greatly reduce barnacle growth. 

Space complex

With those changes we no longer need the two big A/C compressors taking up space in the engine room and since the genset has been frozen solid for who knows how many years, we are planning reuse of that entire 6' x 3' flat space behind the engine.  The current list for that area has the VM NF-200 12V water maker, the deck washdown pump, and possibly a HookaMax 12V dive compressor.  The remaining space may have captive closed shelving for tools and non-combustible spares for the engine and other systems.

Movie time

We have been accumulating movies on DVD for a decade and have quite a collection of over 200 movies.  For cruising we got a LaCie ruggedized impact and water resistant 1.5TB hard drive to hold our DVD and music collections.  Of course ripping DVDs to the hard drive is mind numbing and it takes about 35 minutes per disc but doing that will save about 8 linear feet of DVD shelf space.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Nothing on a boat is ever easy

We had quite a rollercoaster weekend putting Horizon back together.

1. Saturday AM: Hydraulic steering reassembled and bled!  Leave it overnight for pressure test.
2. Saturday PM: Start engine to make sure all systems are ready for voyage tomorrow.
2a. Engine will not turn over.  Found that during steering pedestal work with hydraulic lines, wire pulled off switch.
3. Saturday PM: Start engine to make sure all systems are ready for voyage tomorrow.
3a. Engine started immediately and ran smoothly!
3b. Revs started dropping and eventually would not go above idle.  Must be fuel. Cogitated a while...
3c. Have not filled diesel tank so dipsticked it.  We still have 13" of fuel, maybe 30 gallons.
3d. Remembered I turned fuel off a couple months ago when we had a diesel leak.  Turned fuel on.
4. Saturday PM: Start engine to make sure all systems are ready for voyage tomorrow.
4a.  Engine cranked a while but finally started, ran smoothly, and ran in gear until temp stabilized at 170 degrees!
5. Sunday AM: Pressure and fluid levels held overnight but helm feels soft at stops and generally uncommitted to moving rudder.
5a. Bled through another 3/4 gallon of ATF until more foamy fluid and air bubbles were out of system.  Will leave until next weekend to verify pressure, fluid levels and steering stiffness holds before feeling sure enough of the system to take Horizon out.
6. Sunday PM: Dismantled A/C intake strainer system after only 3 weeks to clear out barnacles and weeds and replace chlorine tablet.  As difficult as it is to keep the marine water cooled system working, window units look more attractive every day.
7. Sunday PM: Our neighbor Rhonda helped us hacksaw a rusted shackle off the 60# CQR anchor we bought used a month ago then we made it ready on the chain rode.  Anchor is ready to go once I get the electric windlass wiring finished.  This week?

I don't think either of us realized how long Horizon had been disabled with the hydraulic steering system rebuild.  With all the initial leaks and bleeding of the system we ran through 5 Oilsorb bilge logs to clean up after the leaks from the old system.  And we probably used 20 Oilsorb mats during the bleeding processes for the new system.  Space is so tight there is little room to position buckets to catch spills so mats are the only way to keep the area under our bed oil and smell free.  One huge side effect of the cleaning process is the boat no longer has the mold growing medium of oil rich bilge water so she smells much less like a damp basement.  Now some occasional fabric softener should do the trick.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekend update

True to our word this weekend the last two port side plastic portholes were replaced.  Our neighbor Tom will now see only stainless steel portholes on his side of our boat.  A couple weeks ago we got our new mattress from JSI and it sure is comfy.  It is composite foam made of 3" of firm, 2" of medium and topped with 2" of memory foam.  Aaaaahhhhhh

We just survived a week of rather impressive storms and rain and it was nice to see the sun this weekend.  I am happy to say that while many other liveaboard boats on our dock had piles of towels out drying, we had very few leaks and they were all small ones.

The hydraulic steering motor/pump is back from the shop and this evening we expect to put it in.  Assuming it now purges correctly we will get to see how well it holds pressure and fluid long term.  After far too long a time it will be nice to have Horizon ready and able to sail once again.

I have been loading up on free Kindle books.  I have Kindle reader apps on my Galaxy Nexus and laptop and routinely visit a site ( is one among several) that parses all the best seller books Amazon is offering for $0.00.  The selection rotates but you have to sort through the bodice-rippers to find the gems like thrillers and mysteries.  Cruising this time I expect we will not have nearly as many paper books but lots more electronic ones.  Of course we are also loading up on cruising guides and other avocational reading from and SSCA.

Monday, June 4, 2012

6 to go

This weekend Julio got the 4 v-berth portholes replaced.  So of the 16 total, only 6 remain: one in the forward head, four in the main salon, and one in the galley.  Next weekend we intend to get 2 done in the main salon so the port side will be complete.  Our dock neighbor to port says it upsets his sensibilities to see the mixture of plastic and stainless portholes on "his" side of our boat :)

The newly rebuilt hydraulic steering motor from the helm is back in the shop.  We just could not get things to work so I took it back and hopefully they can figure out what is wrong with the pump.  We have had long discussions on the yahoo morganowners forum but none of the suggestions worked out.  We will see what the shop finds with the pump and hope things get squared away easily.

The radar is all hooked up and works great and we now have two chart cards in the HDS-8 unit: one for US coastal waters and one for the Caribbean.  Our electronic suite will be complete once I build the GPS hack for the VHF radio.  When we get the hydraulic steering working we expect to spend lots of weekends out getting used to the gizmos.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Visible Progress

Last weekend Brad of Paradise Yachts spent about 6 hours up our mizzen mast mounting all the gear you see in the photo.  We now have a full complement of gizmos and are slowly working to get them all hooked up.

  • Lowrance 4G Broadband Radar
  • Rutland 913 wind generator on KISS isolation mount
  • TV antenna
  • Loud hailer speaker for the new GX2150 VHF radio
  • Tri-Lens radar reflector

Settee bin access

We also got Julio down to work on our under settee storage situation - now we can actually get into those bins and start getting our storage organized.  To compare, you can see the new bin access with the original tiny tops.  Next up is to find that can of paint to make it look prettier...

Random interruptions

We have been busy running the three new (+1 spare) hydraulic lines for the steering but we are still scratching our heads over how to get the two 2/0 windlass battery cables into the engine room - thirty years of patchwork wiring has left a real rats nest of wires and cables in the area we are working in.  Layout and configuration work continues for integrating the future new batteries with the wind generator, 360 watts of solar panels, a C-60 charge controller, and water heater diversion load.  Sound like enough going on?  I would love to also get the VM NF-200 water maker out of the back seat of my car and actually mounted on the boat!

On a side note, I gave up Verizon and my Droid Bionic.  I have gone contract free with the GSM Galaxy Nexus and the StraightTalk $45/month unlimited everything SIM-only plan and the combination is fantastic.  My first 2 battery conditioning cycles went 31 and 35 hours, a far cry from the 5-7 hours the Bionic got and my HSPA+ data speeds are nearly as fast as those I had on the Verizon 4G network.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Miami Boat Show 2012

Boats, toys, vendors, manufacturers, and skimpily clad deck ornaments!  What is there not to like?  This year was not like prior years for us; instead of drifting aimlessly through every display of every aisle of every floor, this time we targeted information on specific products.  Well, we did wander the small booth aisles on the main convention center floor and all of the Strictly Sail venue before ending the day as volunteers at the SSCA booth.  We gathered information on lots of stuff but the two most useful to share are about satellite phone and radar.

GlobalStar Evolution II satellite phone plan - This is a $40/month unlimited voice, text and data plan with a home area of North America and the entire Caribbean.  We thought that sounded perfect for us... until we talked to the GlobalStar representative.  He said satellite availability is about 70% of each hour at any given point in the home area which we could probably live with, but then came the problem: the last set of satellites launched in December have the exact same problem with reaction wheels as earlier ones and satellite longevity will be short.  It is up in the air if the investor backing the project will fund yet another batch of satellites given the repeated problems.  Even if more are launched, once complete coverage is available, plan prices will probably jump to the competition's in the $1 to $2 per minute range.  Sigh.

Navico Broadband 4G Radar - I already knew this was likely to be the radome we wanted because of its low power and instant on features but it still needs a display and control unit.  The choices I talked over with the program manager from Navico were narrowed to the tried and true Simrad NSE8 or the new touch screen NSS8 or the economy fish finder style Lowrance HDS8 Gen2.  While he was careful to not show bias, for me his most telling statement was "until the Gen2 the Lowrance was slower".  The NSS touch interface was smooth and looked intuitive but I have personal reservations about the technology.  The HDS8 is $500 less than the NSS8 and $1000 less than the NSE8 unit.  The HDS8 is in a slightly smaller package and it uses less power than the Simrad units.  Yesterday I ordered the HDS8 Gen2 unit with the 4G radar.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Interesting neighbors

We were at the house last week and heard some odd noises coming from next door.  The neighbors now have 4 chickens pecking around their back yard!  It amused us because these are the same neighbors who filed a complaint over our TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) of some of the neighborhood feline population because the cats "buried poop in their yard which their 9 year old boy would dig up".  I wonder what changed that their now 10 year old boy doesn't pick up chicken poop that is not even buried?  LOL