Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Keeping the Gremlins at Bay

The new Garmin GPS 17X VHS antenna installed

All the wiring to the stuff on the stern passes through this cable run on the stern Caprail.

Here is where I attached the ground wire to the stern pulpit so there is a direct connection now from our grounding system to the stern pulpit.

Here is a pic of our Fish Zinc for added electrolysis protection in marina's.

Here the wire from the fish zinc is attached to the stern pulpit with a hose clamp

I found this spray on tape so I am testing it out on the exposed connections on the stern pulpit to see if it is effective at warding off corrosion.

You see that little bronze screw on the right, that is the bleed screw that had a defective O ring. The guy at Terry Bearing said that after time they get hard and do not seal properly.

Thanks to the Guy at Goodyear Rubber in St. Pete for directing me here to Terry Bearing to find the perfect O-Ring for the Bleed Screw.

This is the interior of the electrical panel, just a few of all the terminals, wires and connections to maintain.

Hear is the corroded DC wire that was just about to cause havoc, thank goodness I had a reason to open the control panel up and look around. You can see how the insulation near the terminal had already turned black from the heat.

I finally replaced the 6 "Lift the Dot" snaps on the front edge of the Dodger.

Here you can see the bent corroded springs in the Lift the Dot snaps. I guess these get more salt spray and that is why they needed replacing.

The 53' Azimut recently moved in a few slips down, I wondered about his boat projects ;)

Keeping the Gremlins at Bay

Then there are those projects that are always there because they keep getting pushed back to the end of the list. This occurs since some other project has priority in terms of being able to move the vessel or a safety issue jumps in front. These are things that need to be done so that you do not have to think of them anymore but then if you complete all these little projects than you have nothing left to work on or think about or spend money on. I actually enjoy most boat projects; they give me a great sense of satisfaction and pride when I complete them. Our last boat was a 86’ Catalina 30, it was the best one we could find in the State of Texas for our budget. It came with a lot of positives; the brand new 27 hp diesel was one. It did have some leaks and needed some cosmetic help along with new running rigging. Of course there are all the upgrades you can do to move the boat into the 21st century. The purpose of this vessel was for me to learn about big boat systems so that when we bought our cruising vessel I would be able to maintain the vessel myself. The Admiral called it our Hop boat. After nearly three years the Catalina was complete, nothing else left to do. Yes I know something will always eventually need fixing on a boat but this boat was show room floor new from the top of the mast to the bottom of the keel. Besides working a few days a week on the boat I also learned to sail it as I was on the water 3-4 times every week. I remember the day I finished the last project on that boat and the project list was done. Nothing left to do but keep the boat clean. I felt sort of empty since I would have nothing to do on the days sailing was not an option. I think my brain is trying to avoid this moment again so I manage to always have something on the list and just not complete them since they are very low priority and will not interfere with our cruising or sailing.

After weeks the rains parted and we would have three days straight with no rain. Time to go out for a day sail on Tampa Bay. The Admiral had something to do in the morning so I would get the boat ready to go and we would go out about noon when she returned. Getting a live a board sailboat ready to go sailing when it has not moved for weeks takes some time to secure everything down below. The deck also takes longer since there is more sun protective canvass to remove and stow and the items that have become unsecured during the last several weeks have to be lashed down or removed and stowed. After a couple of hours of securing everything I then removed all but two dock lines so that when the Admiral returned we could easily depart the docks. I installed the chart plotter and did the customary VHF radio check. GARGLESNARKLE! What is wrong with the GPS? For some reason the chart plotter was not receiving the GPS signal from the satellites. I know my NEMA connections well. I went below and got out the wiring schematics to identify the wires from the Garmin GPS 17X Antenna. The four wires were easily identified then I looked for loose connections. Nothing loose at the NEMA Bus bar so it must be a individual terminal. I learned from a Electrical 101 Seminar at BYC that if something does not work check the ground wire first, and yes, the terminal on the ground was loose all the others were good. I crimped on a new connector and went to the helm hoping all was working. Nope. We have not sailed Tampa Bay enough to have the local knowledge to just go out for a sail. Yes we could use a chart but that takes away from a relaxing day sail, You have to constantly stay up to the minute on your dead reckoning navigation to avoid all the shallow areas or spoils. The Admiral called to say she would be there soon so I just told her not to hurry since we would not be going out. A call to Garmin confirmed that indeed The GPS 17X Antenna could be bad. They no longer sold this antenna and the next generation was still available from third party vendors but Garmin already had the fourth generation out. I needed a NEMA 2000 wired antenna to make the installation as simple as possible so I opted to take the advice of the Garmin Tech and buy a GPS 17X VHS antenna. He would email me the wiring schematics. Again came through and one of their venders had three available and it was available on Amazon Prime so I could get it in two days free shipping.

The installation took two days to remove the old and snake the new cable from the NEMA connecting Bus located on the ceiling of the midships engine room to the stern of the boat where the antenna is installed on the dingy davits. Of course when you are crawling into these spaces you find other things that need your attention, and better to do them now while you got all the stuff out of the way.

Along with installing the Antenna I was encouraged to pay attention to a very small leak of fluid from the Autopilot. I had looked for the source of this leak several times but could not find it since it was so small. I would lose less than an once of fluid in 6 or 8 months. I just kept a large absorbent pad under the unit to catch the drip. This time since we had not used the boat in so long it was obvious where the leak was. It was from one of the two bleed screws. A new O-ring would fix this! Inspection of the ground wires in this area revealed one attached to the rudder post had corroded and needed replaced. Also since I would be snaking a cable through the stern of the boat up through the cap rail this would give me a chance to add a ground wire to the stern pulpit to attach for the fish zinc we used for extra electrolysis protection. The instructions for a exterior zinc hanging into the water from the boat says to connect the zinc to the boats grounding system. Our Engine guy in Kemah told us that we could just connect it to our stern pulpit and that would work fine. This is the way we have had it since we owned the boat but I was unsure if it was truly grounded and was providing the protection it should have. Another option is to connect it to a shroud since the mast is grounded. This option concerns me as I had a friend who did this and eventually his shroud failed. I always wondered if connecting the zinc to his shroud promoted corrosion at the swagged fitting where the cable connects to the chain plate? Anyway I now had the perfect time to add a ground wire from our boats grounding system directly to the stern pulpit to insure the fish zinc had proper grounding.

The GPS now receives the Satellite signal, the fish zinc actually seems to be working properly, time will tell. The Hydraulic Ram no longer weeps fluid and the short ground wire to the rudder post is all good.

This attention to the electrical system encouraged me to go after 1 more item on the project list. Our Stereo has never worked when the battery selector switch is set to “1”. This means when we are sailing and the engine is off then no music. I knew I could fix the problem since I installed this particular Stereo. If we were just motoring or motor sailing which is the way most of our cruising has been, we could still listen to our Ipad. It was an easy install though since I just removed the old technology Alpine that was on the boat and replaced it with a Bluetooth/MP3 player. I just had to connect the same positive, negative, speaker wires to the same connections. Upon inspection I found that the stereo was connected to the number 2 battery bank which is off when we are sailing to protect the start battery from draining. I wondered why did the previous owner do this? Then I realized all the batteries had been replaced and reorganized just prior to our buying the boat, the battery bank 2 became battery bank 1 and of course vice versus. So I just had to switch one wire and that was now fixed. But while doing this chore it drew my attention to another problem. The major wire that ran from the DC switch to the electrical panel (that operated all twelve volt systems on the boat) was badly corroded. Not sure when this started since we thoroughly inspected and cleaned every terminal inside the control panel before leaving Corpus. Besides my eyes, I had three other highly qualified individuals look over the panel in the year before we left Corpus. It just goes to show you that in the harsh ocean environments need to stay vigilant on all things electrical. A small unnoticeable bit of corrosion can grow and create a hazard. Since the corroded wire is much less efficient at moving along the electrons the resistance can build up and cause the wire to heat up slowly near the corrosion burning the insulation and could actually cause a fire. The protective circuit breakers are designed to protect against electrical surges or shorts and are apparently not as good at protecting against this type of problem.
The end of Hurricane season is nearing so we are making plans to continue our cruise. We plan to depart Tampa the end of November and make a two day trip to Ft. Myers by way of the ICW and Sarasota. Then I will take Wand'rin Star on the outside in the Gulf overnight to Boot Key, Marathon Fl. We will hang out there to explore the Keys by a bus that runs up and down the island chain. Then it will be a 1 day trip in the Atlantic to Miami. After that we will  the AICW till we get to St;. Augustine, Fl. and we plan to spend the winter months of Jan and Feb there. It is good to get these little details taken care of now so we can just concentrate on the cruise.

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