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To what "1024 J" refers, we have no idea. But check out those butch reef lines!
Yesterday, after some difficulty poking spider products from the mast track with a screwdriver duct-taped to a boat hook, we raised the mainsail on Alchemy. Good grief, I could hear the gasps of shock from the clubhouse. Spidery excavations aside, and Lanacote lightly applied, battens went it and up she went.

Partly because I have yet to locate the winch handles native to the boat (one would think they would be too large to lose, but this is apparently not the case), and partly because I have been promising one to my wife, the compactly built Mrs. Alchemy, for some time, we used a freshly purchased Harken "Carbo" winch handle, the type with the bar on top you can press to release the winch from the winch socket.

Ooh, born porn: CRANK HARDER.

It just seemed appropriate as it's been a rather extended period of time since Alchemy has had need of a winch handle. Now, of course, I'll have to service all the winches, but on the day they functioned well enough.

Not just for sailing, but for templating, if that's a word.
Now, while we were happy to see that years stowed in our allegedly dry garage did not seem to leave unsightly dirt on the main, the fact is that this main came with the boat and is of unknown age, although it's unlikely to be original to the boat's creation in 1988. And you can subtract "years in the sailbag" from its real age. Nonetheless, it is somewhat light for what I expect from the open ocean, and because Alchemy, as a custom built boat, is not "in the book", I will have to have my sailmaker down to see the sail in action and to possibly leave with it to cut a second, heavier main (with deeper reefs, as I've gone off putting in a trysail track), reinforced corners and cringles and properly placed anti-chafe patches. The fact is that Alchemy has a very strong rig and can "carry" more sail somewhat longer than a lighter-rigged boat, and if I have a strong main with a third reef and a storm staysail (or the less-common reefed staysail). Given her motorsailer status, I'll want to keep moving under sail, even if it means keeping more sail up a little longer than in a lighter boat.

More to come on sails in a couple of months. Given the rather close correspondence in mast height between Valiente and Alchemy (the latter is one foot taller), we are bringing Valiente's cruising chute along for light air downwind work on the basis that I paid three grand for it and want to keep it! The Yankee-cut jib is another matter: we may want a second foresail of the genoa style for the furler. We'll see.


Stepping up

Well, this has been some time coming. Alchemy's mast is in. Even the gods got in on the act.

Mast appeal.
Having finished the fuel system (save for a nagging problem I will report on in an addendum to the previous post), and therefore being mobile, I thought "hell, there's two months left until haulout, might as well try sailing the steel boat for the first time in..urm...some time".

I'm on a club team called "the Mooring Committee", and many of them kindly showed up to make short work of the turnbuckles and lines. Photo (c) Malcolm Kirk
It doesn't take a village to raise a mast, but about eight guys makes it pretty efficient. Photo (c) Malcolm Kirk

This required requesting my club's staff to move some trailered boats from in front of the mast racks, on which our poor neglected spar has been laying, Lazarus-like, for years awaiting the miracle of completed boat jobs.

Note to self: Don't shoot with Lanacote on fingers.
Sawhorses of the plastic variety were deployed (I have quite a collection) and members of the redoubtable NYC Mooring Committee were dragooned into shifting the very heavy (I estimate about 300 kilo) Selden spar onto the sea wall, aft of the pump out. That happened Monday. We (Mrs. Alchemy was available Monday and Tuesday) have been attending mast every day since.

Spreaders add another 20 kilos.
There was plenty to do: lubricating sheaves (there are sixon this mast, four up top and two for the staysail halyard and a spare for, say, a pole lift); checking cotter pins; cleaning at least some dirt; reeving new Dyneema-cored halyard (four reeved at about 100 feet each); straightening out line and stay and shroud runs; and a great deal of rewiring. Might as well do it right, or at least, less wrong.

A little loop of wire keeps the shroud in place until it's tensioned.

Another view: Normally, these "keeper" wires at the spreader ends would be taped or "booted", but I don't intend to do much heavy weather sailing over the next two months, just to reacquaint myself with her characteristics.

How the semi-senile skipper keeps 11 stays and shrouds straight.

The halyards I got at a bulk discount. Basically, I bought 80% of a reel of the stuff. I wanted Dyneema core for strength and its low-stretch characteristics, which I favour in halyards, and the Dacron cover for UV protection and "hand feel". It's the same size (1/2") as the stock Dacron line it replaces.
And it's pretty by virtue of being clean.
This doesn't mean the old line is compromised, but it's impressively grubby; I will machine-wash it all and make all sorts of lighter-duty runs out of it.

Why, yes, the tight angles of that Windex are pretty optimistic, but a skipper can dream.
I put in a new LED masthead light purchased last year (long-time readers will recognize this habit of buying stuff before I'm prepared to install it). I hit a wall in terms of fishing 65 feet of three-conductor wire, so I recut the old wires, crimped and heat-shrank on some adhesive tubing and I'll sort out the wiring at the bottom later. It'll be off in two months, anyway. 

Whip it good.
I also replaced the feeble old VHF antenna mount with a new Metz whip. Thanks to Active Surplus, I found reasonably priced PL-259 connectors, and got soldering. Plugging everything together today into the SH GX2200 base unit brought a gratifying "5 by 5" comment from the Coast Guard. I noticed immediately that I was acquiring more AIS targets, so I deem it functional.
After some expert Polecatting, we got the stick in without incident, despite having to send up Sailor Jeff in a bosun's chair to undo the hook and sling. The solar panels, removed to address the error of "not remembering where the backstays go", will probably stay off until I can have their arch redone to take the outer panels offset. The engine performed flawlessly, as did the steering in tight conditions and blustery wind. Rigging the boom, the mainsheet and the topping lift didn't take as long as tidying up the pilothouse, which tends to sprout toolish disorder after one of these sort of jobs.
What tangles that remain I'll solve tomorrow.
Now, to prise the sails out of their hidey holes in the garage...


These fuelish things, revisited

While as functional as any daytank/gravity tank, this is too gruesome to endure.
The temporary, if functional "bungee-corded jerrycan half full of diesel" situation being about as far from code as I can bear, work has progressesg on the (at last!) installation of my FilterBOSS fuel cleaning device, and of the decision to either have the 100 gallons of diesel in my keel tanks polished on board, cleaned by a commercial service at the side of the sea wall, or simply disposed of as the cost of keeping my tanks less rusty in the last several years.

The Baja filter is the first step to clean fuel: Capture the bugs, grit and rust flakes before the diesel even enters the hose fill.

It's been some time, more than I would have preferred, since I last thought about diesel. But all things must pass, and when it comes to diesel, passing through a filter is a good idea. Some folk consider pre-filter assemblies an expensive complication, relying instead on physical scrubbing of their tanks and meticulous filtering (usually at the deck fill point via a Baja-type filter funnel) of any fuel they bring aboard. But as Colin Speedie of the long-legged yacht Pelerin acknowledges "if the fuel is dirty, once it’s in the tank, there’s not much you can do except dump it or keep changing the filters – that is, if you find out about it before the engine quits on you." "Dirty" in this sense could include either corrosion or debris from the tank itself, or from growth in the otherwise clean fuel itself.

The original pre-motor fuel filter was a tad basic.
I purchased the KTI Filter Boss unit some time ago at a bargain price. While I now have the skill set to (probably) build one at a cheaper price, I didn't back then, and besides, the Canadian dollar was over par, a situation no longer in effect. Like a lot of boat gear now being installed, it was bought out of sync with the actual progress of the project. Nonetheless, the first job was to mount it in a proper place.

On the aft bulkhead of the engine bay means a long, if shallow, run.
The fairly comprehensive literature from the makers of the filter unit specify that it should be kept as low as possible. With keel tanks, this is a challenge, and it may be necessary to put in, as is seen in Pelerin's installation, a "helper" inline fuel pump for when the lower parts of the keel tanks are being drained. Such a pump is the Walbro FRA-1 Industrial Fuel Pump, a robust little 12VDC diesel lifter.

The Walbro auxiliary fuel pump is on the right. The filter model is different from mine. Photo (c) Colin Speedie/S/V Pelerin
Because I had a spool of it, and because I have gone from a 52 to a 60 HP engine, I decided to change out the original 1/4" fuel supply and return hose to 5/16". This necessitated the purchase of a variety of hose barbs and T- and union fittings in brass for the various connections required. I also needed a whack of AWAB hose clamps, which are my preference when dealing with pretty well anything, but particularly anything that's involving fuel or is beneath the waterline. Being without perforations in their bands, they don't cause the hose material to bulge from the band, leading to wear.
It's ridiculous how many places I had to go to before I found "5/16 to 3/8 inch reducing hose barbs".

After the usual faffing around trying to divine from local chandlers whether they grasped my questions and debating whether I should just order stuff from the States, a local hardware store of vintage layout (Jacob's on Queen West, for the interested) had every brass bit I required, and understood my English, too! Each connection from tank to filters to engine was soon prepped with pipe dope and was carefully torqued.
I'm a dope addict, but only near my nuts.
The fractionally larger hoses required a fractionally larger hole through the forward engine bay bulkhead in order to reach the fuel tank manifold.
That's steel back there.

The big gun was summarily brought out.
I have four or five tradesman-grade Makita power tools. None have failed me. Black and Decker, on the other hand...

The fuel manifold was inspected and checked and (finally) labelled. It's under the steps to the saloon, which I took apart to better access the "taps".
Both taps to the right draws and returns fuel to the forward keel tank, both to the left, to and from the aft keel tank. Etc.
The fuel supply and return lines were secured to the starboard engine stringer, away from its heat and in a relatively sheltered spot.
Yes that area gets rubbishy and needs more janitorial service.

I have a large amount of wire loom aboard, but some of my wire and hose runs may be relocated for better securing once I've finished in here, and so I haven't yet installed in on every run as anti-chafe and related protection. So this setup isn't as anarchic as it looks.
The thick black hose is one of my hydraulic lines. The orange is a work light cord.

The Filter Boss is both easily accessible and visible from above, so filter switching on the fly is not difficult, and neither is reading the vacuum gauge on the front, which tells the skipper how hard the pump is working to overcome obstructions and/or cruddied-up filter to deliver fuel to the diesel.

Part of the "ignore the manual and wire separately" plot.
The manual suggested that power to the unit (which only requires a 5 amp inline fuse) be run through the diesel control panel key. Well, I didn't like this, not only for the longer run it would create, but because I had the main switch and my DC panel, complete with existing spare 5 amp circuit breakers, closer to hand. I also didn't want to have to switch on the key (and have it go BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!) in order to power the unit for "engine off fuel polishing mode". So I phoned KTI and got their blessing to do it via switches. Now, if you want to run the pump, you turn the main switch to "1", flick on the "MAIN" breaker on the DC panel, and flick on the "FUEL PUMP" breaker. Then if you flick the filter unit to "on", it gurgles happily. I also installed a warning light on the DC panel front that indicates when the pump is running and when the increasing vacuum suggests it's time to change filters. I intend to wire in an audible buzzer on that second circuit.

Mounted below the helm, but you get the idea.

This arrangement may seem overly complex. I don't find this hard to remember, but then I built it. I may have to come up with an operator's manual for others, however. I did for Valiente after I rebuilt and rewired the Atomic 4.

Looming disaster averted.
After checking for continuity, I didn't fancy the look of the four loose wires leading up into the DC nerve centre from the filter unit (two for DC power and two for the warning lights circuit), so I covered them in wire loom and secured them under the pilothouse decking.

Yes, forgot to open the bleed/return circuit, yes.
After purging the air from the lines into The Former Fuel Supply jerrycan (bubble, bubble, avoid some trouble), diesel was drawn from the tanks. It's elderly, but it looks no worse for wear. If I can burn what I have after going through the filters, I will be well-pleased.
Purge first, binge on old diesel later.
I will have to monitor the gauge for signs of "strain" and determine whether the extra complexity of the Walbro pump is required. I will also have to source bulk Racor 10 micron filter elements. I sense I may need them.
This is the finished product, running with fuel from the forward (No. 1) keel tank.

So far, so good. I ran the engine for about 15 minutes with varying degrees of RPM (in neutral gear, for the moment. Although I would like to put a three-way valve to allow the filter unit to bleed the system at a convenient point, and I have plans to put in a post-filter daytank so that I always have X litres of "known filtered fuel", that's this job done for now.

More bloody obscure hose barbs lie in my future, I think.

Next up: the mast. Oooh. To actually sail this season? It could happen yet.

UPDATE: 15.08.26:
If one looks three photos up, the rather dangerously high vacuum reading from the forward keel tank to the engine can be seen. I fudged this to test the system, but upon RTFM, I recalled that an "ideal" vacuum is more or less zero PSI and that the integral pump to the Filterboss is mainly there not to act as an auxiliary inline fuel pump, but is to power the engine-off, "polishing" function. Yes, if one's engine fuel pump packs it in, the Filterboss can do the trick in a pinch, but it's not meant to run continuously, as far as I can tell. So a call to "Andy at KTI" suggested, and, barring out too high of a height gap between the engine lift pump (hence "lift") and the Filterboss, it was probably crud in the pickup tube.
Somewhat improvisational approach to fuel line suction issue resolution.
In order to test this, I had to disconnect the fuel line from the pickup tube and run a temporary fuel source (in this case, a sacrificial cup) to the Filterboss and hence to the engine. Well, the needle pinning into the red zone went away with a quickness.
I murmured a Tarentinoesque "that's a bingo!" about here. Filterboss pump on...

This confirmed (as the fuel line end was only about the thickness of the fuel tank lid away from the top of the diesel within) that the pickup tube itself was likely cruddy.

...and Filterboss pump off. That's about zero PSI, meaning the lift pump is lifting as if the filters weren't there, i.e. "nornal operations".
So said pickup tube was removed and examined (for the first time!) and I got a strong sense of how deep the keel tanks are: some 31 inches.
Please ignore disassembled boat part chaos.
It's well-made, however, and looked rust-free, meaning there's little or no water in the tank. I sent a hose to the bottom and sucked out some fuel. Yes, there is some particulate matter there, but not nearly as much as I had feared.

Beware the lumpy goo!
A single chewing gum-like chunk of black goop was extracted, and I reamed out the tube with a wire length and generally cleaned up the threads. I replaced the thread tape (possibly the cause of the goop, it was far too gone to tell) and reassembled the pickup and fuel hose and bled the lines.
PTFE tape is to code for fuel-proximate threads.

While there was a slight increase in pressure, possibly because of the slight drop in fuel pickup level, the results were gratifying. I will do the second tank at my leisure, as the odds of burning 50 gallons of diesel before haulout are very slim, indeed.
Huzzah! Minus 1 PSI with the Filterboss pump off! WITHIN SPEC!
A couple of days ago, Ray Singh of Ray's Marine, the competent local tradesman, mechanic and technician who sold me this Filterboss unit an embarrassing number of seasons ago, pointed out that I should rig Ye Olde Jerrycan lashed down in the saloon one more time, because the sloshing of a proper sail will potentially loosen crud from the sides of the tank, overwhelming the filters and causes an engine shutdown or a pump failure. He suggested a sail followed by a more extensive pump out of the bottom of the tank(s) in order to see if there's more crud to remove, which in turn will dictate whether I polish what I have or replace it entirely.

But for now, I've fixed the problem of Excess Suck.


We apologize for this interruption in service....

It's been pointed out to me recently that it's been several weeks since a post has been made. So this brief missive, directed to the two readers I may have left, is proof I haven't been killed in a horrific caliper or crimping accident. There are items to report...but soon, soon...

It's been a busy summer. There have been Solstice dawns to observe; this was shot at a beach party I've attended for over 30 years, because I enjoy it and it's a beautiful way to kick off the season.
I don't recall a "diploma". His is larger than my wife's university degree.
"Other than boat related" has dominated that summer, alas. There was the pressing matter of seeing Cabin Boy Number One finish elementary school.

Yes, but can you reduce a sight?
And my wife, the wildlife rehabber, brought baby pigeons home...and, because they needed feeding every few hours, BROUGHT THEM ON THE BOAT when we overnighted. There may still be millet in the bilges.
Certain elements of my life are well beyond my control. Sailing with eight pigeon chicks is emblematic of this.
 There were dinghies to assemble and cabin boys to row them:
This 10-foot nesting dinghy, which also has a sailing rig, is going to be our son's primary tender. The more cargo-oriented Portabote will be ours. Unless circumstances dictate differently.

And there was an enormous amount of paying work in June and really, well into July right up to the present. Good for the bottom line, less good for boat-related tasks. However, there has been time for the occasional refreshing dip and boarding ladder testing:
Cabin Boy can swim perfectly well, but he likes to bob and doze off a bit in the water.
There's been a few sailing days...this one saw us overhaul a similarly coloured  Viking 28, the "little sister" to our Viking 33, Valiente.
"Eventide": I don't know where she's berthed, but that's a nice design on the jib. We effortlessly overhauled her.
Fortunately, our fairly paranoid weather sense led to looking aft and we didn't like the look of the sky.  I fancy I can "smell" weather and (broadly) sense barometric changes. It's either something innate or is a skill I've learned and which I am mistaking as innate. Either way, it's kept me safe and dry since I was a kid.
It wasn't like this, I mean.
So we dropped and secured our sails, kicked the fenders over the side and motored back to the marina and tied off with the requisite spring lines. A mere five minutes later, a characteristically brisk squall of short duration passed over. I would say it blew at 35 knots or so.
One of these babies: you are seeing the backside of the squall we ducked. Happens about a dozen times a summer, and you can heave to or run off without much concern, because they are gone in five to 15 minutes.
Unfortunately, a Viking 33 we hadn't noticed during our excellent sail was out in the squall, and evidently was too close to the rocky lee shore of  a local water slide...and she met her end there.
Very sad, although my first rather mercenary thought was "this makes the boat I'm trying to sell a wee bit rarer". Photo (c) Jeff Cooper
According to fellow Viking 33 owner Dan Erlich (Ketchup): "Last Sunday during a line squall the inexperienced young owner was too close to the rocks when the squall hit and his crew went below to be out of the rain.  He had no one on deck with him.  Hull number 24 has the traveler on the coach roof so the helmsman could not dump the main sheet.  That is why I prefer the traveler in front of the companionway on this boat.  The engine on this boat was a 15 Hp outboard not suited to pitching seas or extreme heel angles and no one felt compelled to have the anchor and rode ready to use.  The result was boat was pushed upon the rocks and then holes were eventually punched through the hull in several places."
Ouch. It's never good when a boat dies.

The still-kicking, for sale boat, after the pigeon incursion, needed a good clean, so a good clean was done, partly via the removal of the accumulated crap we've felt necessary to accumulate over our years as cruisers.

The full horror of "colour-blind Scotsman brown plaid" is revealed when you stow the sails properly.
Of course, having done this task of subtraction and the application of elbow grease and teak oil, the boat's rarely looked better, and I want to keep her all over again. But I will entertain thoughtful offers.
I haven't seen the top of this navigation table for three seasons. Usually it's covered in obscure little boat bits, logbooks, and charts.

For simplicity's sake, we dealt with deck and hull cleaning by motoring over on a calm evening to the bigger boat Alchemy, which has a power washers and all sorts of cleaning supplies. The nearby presence of a soot-producing airport was revealed as dirt sluiced off the boat in impressive amounts.

Very possibly the last time my navy will raft up.
 The result was a markedly cleaner and less cluttered vessel, inside and out.

Ooh, shiny.
 But the real work on Alchemy has not been avoided or shirked. Something fuelish this way comes.
I'm actually starting to enjoy wire work and brand-new circuitry leaping to life in a safe and non-flammable fashion.

More to come, sooner, too.