Friday, April 19, 2013

Preparing for The Gulf of Mexico

I have wanted Hand rails on the forward end of the Bimini since I met John Ruiz! I put these on just before leaving Marathon. Much better going forward now when underway. 

Rebuilding the alternator has been on the back burner for a while. Now complete.

I tried to put a kit in the old one but I just could not get it to stop leaking after several attempts so I installed a new Galley pump that is used primarily to empty any water out of the frig but can also pump fresh or seawater to the sink as well. 

The Old ACR GPS antenna failed so I had to see what was inside the sealed unit, at least it was'nt a dead mouse.

Had the number 6 plus 2 Chinese characters on the  round disk, one sailor here said that it was a recipe for rice cakes.

The replacement GPS antenna for the AIS system, ONLY $25.00 from and free 2 day shipping!

There was a concerning noise coming from the Sea Power Unit, a 5 Kilowatt generator. 

Turns out it was a worn bolt on the bottom bracket. 

The old Bilge pump had to go. I put a kit in this just after buying the boat b ut it started leaking again at the worst moment so time to get a new one. 

The new bilge pump installed, again several hundred dollars cheaper on Amazon than! and with free 2 day shipping!

We thought we might have a leak coming from the forward water tank so  in order to get at the connections I had to remove the Salon Floor. Everything checked out. so the floor went back in the same day. 

PLB are the new EPIRB, they do the same thing and  instead of connecting them to the boat you connect them to your body so you do not have to go find it when you need it. And when help arrives they come to your location and not the boats location. We have two on board now.

Preparing for The Gulf of Mexico

Preparing for a approximately 7 to 11 day trip straight across the Gulf of Mexico is a lot different than just doing a day hop or a over nighter out in the Gulf. Being Hundreds of miles from help means you need to go over every system on the boat and make sure everything is up to date on maintenance and repair. Whenever I am planning a short passage I usually start to que up 3-4 days in advance and start paying attention to the ever changing project list. The day before departing I program the routes into all the navigation devices.

This time I started my planning by programming the route into SeaClear II first. The route is 801.22 Nautical miles from the Marina here at St. Pete to the Corpus City Christi Marina. At best I think we could make 144 NM per day. If there is no wind at all and we have to motor all the way across (as a few sailors I know have had to do, we would only be able to make 96 nautical miles a day to conserve fuel at a speed of 4 knots. So over 8 days on the slow side and about 5 1/2 days on the fast side. Given that Amazon or anyone else does not deliver to all coordinates within the boundaries of the Gulf of Mexico things need to be ship shape. Every day I think about getting it right so the passage will just be fun adventure. I began by talking to Bill about the crossing on our way up from Marathon. One thing I remember him mentioning was to be sure and have a spare fresh water pump for the engine on board. I brought this same topic up to John Furlinger and he agreed and added that a spare fuel pump and a spare thermostat would be good to have as well. You can spend a lot of money on engine spares and John mentioned it all depended on how far you want to go with it, and then there is the problem of having space to store the extras. After consulting the engine manual I concluded that Bill and John were correct on their suggestions so the good news is that Bill works at West Marine here in St. Pete and he knows every boat chandler in the area. He provided the directions to Mastry Engine Center: I love this place! They not only have every singe Yanmar part on the shelve but they take the time to make sure you have any related parts like gaskets etc. to make the install of the spare go smooth.
The Rest of the Gulf Project List Developed synergistically.
1. The Alternator. I knew the Alternator had not ever been serviced since we owned Wand'rin Star...time to get er done. Again Bill sent me to Wills. As I walked in the door Will said "you got a Yanmar alternator there", He rebuilt it for $150, Mighty Fine
2. It was time to replace the leaky Whale Galley Pump, I had tried at least three times taking it apart, putting a kit in, taking it apart again, and again to get it to seal. This King's man could not put it together again one more time so I just bought a new one. The best part is the 2013 model fits exactly in the same spot with the same exact foot print as the 1980's one.
3. On the way up from Long Beach Bill hailed a tow we were waiting on in the ICW to see if we were coming up as a target on his AIS system, he replied "Negitive". turns out I had a bad AIS/GPS antenna. I called ACR but they sold the AIS part of their company to a company in Austria. I tried calling them but it was 3am their time. The Admiral was going up to Tallahassee for a overnight Tai Chi event so this was the perfect time to remove the entire bed and access panels in the Aft Stateroom to get at the cable. Turns out the cable had chaffed, I found a RG58 cable connector at West Marine to splice the spot but no luck. The heck with it so I just ordered a $25 Passive GPS antenna from Amazon and with 2 day delivery I got it installed the day after the Admiral returned from her Tai Chi trip. The Antenna works great picking up 9-10 satellites right here in St. Pete.
4. After installing the rebuilt alternator and starting the engine to make sure the install was good I noticed a unusual noise and it sounded like it was coming from the Sea Power unit. I knew the bearings were good in it as it was rebuilt before we left Texas. It was time to replace the V-Belts on it anyway so after a bit of tinkering I took out the lower support bracket bolt and it was worn pretty good on the inner bracket points. I asked the guy at the Yanmar shop if he had a bolt like it but he could not find one so he recommended Pinellas Fasteners, they had it. I bought 2 and a couple of thin washers to go with it to shim the bracket.No more squeaking.
5. About 9 pm we heard the Bilge pump go off. The Admiral said turn off the Air Conditioning. Turns out the hose to the seawater out line had come loose and water was spraying inside the AC locker and down into the bilge. I open the engine access to check the progress of the bilge pump and the bilge pump was also leaking. I turned off the Bilge pump and used our 1 gallon shop vac to vacumn out the seawater from the bilge. repairing the hose on the AC was just a matter of replacing the hose and tightening up the hose clamps.  The Jabsco Bilge pump is different from most as it resides in the engine room and not down in the bilge. This is the same pump that was on the boat when we bought it and it was leaking then. It was one of my first projects to put a kit in it. It has worked flawlessly for almost  5 years so I thought it best to just put a new one in this time. After installing the pump I brought a hose down into the boat and filled the bilge to let the new one work and wash out all the salt from the seawater.
6. Again the Bilge pump went off around 9 pm. this time it was fresh water. After considering the sequence of events I felt that perhaps a hose had slipped off the forward water tank and the pump had siphoned out all the water in the tank. Tracking this down would require removing the Salon floor to get access to the forward water tank.Now that I had all the other stuff taken care of I was ready to tackle this. Fortunately I had plenty of experience removing the flooring and I knew I could get this done pretty quickly. The forward water tank and all the connections checked out so it had to have come from somewhere else. Wand'rin Star had to be inspected when we checked into the marina, just part of the routine here. I asked the marina technician who inspected the boat to confirm a couple of items on the inspection list to make sure my memory was accurate to chase down the source of the leak. He mentioned the pressure release valve on the water heater and I now realize the the mid water tank had emptied, the water pump continued to pump air into the activated water heater, the pressure release valve opened as I changed the valve to the forward water tank and the contents of the water heater then emptied into the bilge. The good news is the pressure release valve works!
7. We purchased two ACR Personal Locator Beacons. These take the place of EPIRB's that have been the standard till now. The difference is that the PLB's must be worn at all times while at sea. this is much better as they are readily available in case of emergency and do not have to be located. The PLB's bring the rescue responders to the crew and not the vessel in the event the crew and vessel become separated.
8. We will rent a 4 man life raft from Solution One Maritime in Tampa to make the crossing. I have researched  buying used ones, accepting offers from friends to use their out of certification rafts and have them re-certified, and just buying a brand new raft. If we were to continue to make crossings of this nature the best solution would to be to buy a new one. All the other options make little financial sense so the no-brainer is to rent one at $250 per week.
We had a rough Tampa Bay crossing from Long Beach, it shook loose the hose from the AC this in turn exposed a weak bilge pump.  I realized the alternator needed attention which led me to the Generator noise. I bought the ACR beacons from Solution One Maritime who happens to be one of the primary life raft providers in Florida and trains the US Coast Guard recruits on life rafts. Bill asked a question that exposed my defective AIS system
Marilyn Monroe said

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

She must have been a sailor.

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