2015-01-22

Short cuts and long views


Illustration by Gary Clement, @garyjoelclement, via http://www.greaterfool.ca/2015/01/21/the-second-coming/

We live in low-interesting times. Saving is barely worth it, and overextension of one's finances in order to buy, say, property at the top of the market has never been so attractive. At the same time, the irrational commodities markets have been seizing over the drop in the price of oil, which has (once again) revealed Canada's lack of economic diversity in our horrible, dopey reliance on resource extraction (which seems to have surprised only the economists), and which is partly subsidized by incentives and (frankly) graft, and partly paid for via damaged or destroyed ecosystems. Not that this seems to make much of an impression on the average North American; as soon as gasoline prices began to drop, environmental concerns were trumped by penis compensation.
Guess what? It's hardly worth it at the moment to destroy the environment.
Of course, just like the last time, which was a mere seven years ago, a lot of people will be caught owning newish Canyoneros and F-250s they can't afford to run, or, thanks to easy loans, to pay for. For someone like myself, who is tiring of waiting for the basic diesel-electric box on four wheels I could run short distances, it may make sense to wait for the coming flood of SUVs purchased with low-interest credit to hit the market as "gently used" when interest rates inevitably rise.
Too easy by half.

Whither cruising in all this? Well, the rates I charge my clients and the modest take-home my wife brings in have been static for some time, even as our taxes and fees and utilities, such as gas, electricity and water/waste, have risen, in some cases at rates multiple that of the rather abstract "inflation". I can't charge my tenants more than a figure (1.6% in 2015), even if they leave all the lights on and the water (which has gone up 8% per year for many years now, ostensibly to pay for replacing Victoria-era piping) running 24/7. So there are "bottom line" impacts in that it is difficult to both save for cruising, to refit the boat properly, and to have a life less austere. One somewhat counterintuitive course is to get the boat livable enough to move aboard, and to rent out the part in which we currently live. But this would mean more commuting (my son walks to school and will walk to high school next year) and the logistical craziness of camping out in a boat that is still a worksite. I'm not sure that the extra $1,200-$1,500/month, minus the cost of overwintering in the only marina in the same general area as to my kid's school, minus the insanity of living in a plastic-battened boat with roaring power tools, jerry-rigged heaters and rotating bunkage, even makes sense...although some have done it quite successfully
This is the deal living aboard in a Canadian winter. I see someone bought this boat. I considered doing so way back in 2004.

But that's the micro-picture. The macro picture involves energy, food, water, and therefore you and me and everyone we know. Amid all the current babble about freedoms and liberty, I'm not convinced that our vaunted democracy is the answer to solving situations demanding a planetary response. Democracy is great on the level of the local and the immediate, just like capitalism is fabulous if you've got capital.

Not seen: Hubris.
Both doctrines, however, have got a dubious track record when the timeline involves decades and requires individuals used to individual freedoms (like buying SUVs because gas gets cheap for six months or houses because money is close to free to borrow) to expect those freedoms to be modified or curtailed for a greater good, a greater good that may be both nebulous and unavailable to those making the "sacrifice" of reducing personal choices. The climate change debate is fairly obviously framed in these terms, and, historically at least, the history of altruistic self-denial is not great, and in fact, such sentiments have frequently been considered weaknesses or politically idiotic. Hence, if gas is cheap, burn it. If it isn't, burn less. That's a dichotomy only if you fail to rule out burning gas.

On the other hand, the British wartime economy became a Soviet-style command economy with restricted civil liberties (like driving what you wished when you wished) in order to preserve a parliamentary democracy from Axis fascisms. Food itself was strictly rationed. When the British public had little or no access to crappy or excessive food, health improved dramatically.
Blunt, but effective: No rationing equals class warfare.

Would Americans and Canadians, who, historically at this point, experienced far less rationing inside America, accept a "war footing" economy in order to transform their countries into ones that greatly reduced personal car use, energy consumption and sold only healthy, local foods in local shops, instead of cheap sacks of corn chips in WalMarts out by the highway?

Hell, no. That's why we fought the war!
This, however, would have to wait several decades.

Strangely, the very restrictions for which most people would be unwilling to submit on land are seen as rational at sea on a small boat (unless you "sail" a dock queen). It's clear that if you make every amp aboard through diesel, sun or wind, you can't leave lights, even LED ones, on, can't leave the stereo blasting and can't, mostly, have hot or pressurized fresh water in practically unlimited, municipal quantities. Everything must be planned and measured...even if you have money...if shortfalls that haven't been customary since the mid-19th century on land are to be avoided.
Five cabins and three toilets? That's a small motel.

Boat living is therefore intrinsically "greener" if only in the sense that the skipper and the crew are directly involved in the means of energy production and its storage and rationing. Be oblivious to these aspects of life aboard, and you are soon reading by oil lamps, assuming you remembered to bring lamp oil, and you are also trying to spin your diesel's flywheel with the crash-gybe method, assuming you have compression levers. Of course, simplicity while sailing can be considered virturous, certainly in the sense that there is less to buy, and therefore less to break. Some rather famous sailors have made a living at living a cruising life of near-Luddite parameters.

No mention of rum, I note.

In this sense of being aware of the non-infinite nature of the resources on and within it, Earth can be considered to be a very large passagemaker. We jumped-up apes may disagree on how best to address the excess and bulky crew who are forgetting to turn off the lights, but can we agree that the lights need more turning off? One can only hope so, before that decision is removed from the realm of choice.
Perhaps too cost-conscious?

Fascism can come in any colour, in my experience. The paradox is that a more ecologically oriented democracy would, as happened in some senses during the Second World War, in terms of curtailed domestic fuel usage and food wastage, have to restrict freedom of choice in the marketplace in order to preserve freedom of quality of life on the planet.

High-fructose cornucopia.

It's a tough order. People have difficulty working credit cards 30 days into the future (which is in fact the whole basis of the credit card industry), so saying "we need to do X.Y and Z for the next two centuries in order to make a better, more sustainable world, and it will involve not having everything you want at a cheap, Chinese factory serf-price shipped overnight to your front door, which won't be made of tropical hardwoods" is, frankly, going to be a hard sell, and not just in Western, land-based culture. If one isn't actually being kept down by the excesses of capitalism, it's easier to pretend there's no problems and to enjoy the discounts. Ultimately, most of us are only grabby monkeys with a slightly better puzzle-solving talent.


But with less stuff, we may have more contentment. "Less stuff" is the mantra of the active cruiser, who can see with the disappearing waterline stripe the consequences of unthinking acquisition. In this sense, the cruising life is good preparation for a future in which there is very likely going to be more diners splitting up a pie that, at best, gets no bigger.

2015-01-16

Comes a time



Photo (C) 2006 Matt Phillips.
It's been a good run, but it's time to simplify our situation regarding the "one boat surplus".
The jetski guy is nice and is rarely around.

1973 VIKING 33 Hull #32 FOR SALE

 1973 Viking 33 in middle blue. I have owned her since 1999.
Atomic 4 engine rebuilt in 2006. Some 150 hours run time since then.
Stock 35 amp alternator. Coil replaced in 2012. A4 crank included.
Fuel system replaced in 2006. Water-fuel separator and raw basket filter.
Vetus waterlock with 2007 exhaust hose.
10 U.S. gallon Tempo fuel tank with 5/8” vent line, new in 2007.
Whale Gusher manual bilge pump with handle.
Whale Sub 650 electric bilge pump…needs servicing.
Guest 10 amp battery charger; 30 amp shore power circuit.
Traditional stuffing box, repacked 2013.
All original gate valve seacocks replaced with ballcock valves.
30 gallon holding tank.
 
And excellent light-air performance.
Custom-built anchor roller adds about 15 inches to LOA.

A very useful addition.
Slip at Marina Quay West, Toronto is potentially available with the boat. 
2015 cost: About $3,100 for the season.
Gori two-bladed folding prop 11.5 x 8.
I gained about a 1/2 knot when I installed this.
ICOM M-45 VHF radio.
Seafarer III depthfinder (from the '70s, but quite functional!)
Most deck gear backed with custom-installed, quarter-inch aluminum plates.
Custom teak-mounted amidship cleats.
New wiring to batteries, new main battery switch and terminal blocks (2013).
2011 Garhauer triple-block mainsheet, newish 7/16th inch jib sheets and traveller control lines.
Full set of dock lines, plus “away” dock lines.
Danforth 22 lb. anchor and chain and rope rode (approx. 13 feet of chain and 150 feet of line). Hawsepipe opening with SS hinged lid. Barlow 26 primaries and Barlow 20 secondaries, well maintained.
 
Elbow grease brings back the gelcoat in spring.
I like labels.
New folding boarding ladder 2013.
Run for the boarder.
Electro Systems propane/gas sniffer.
Legal complement of flares and extinguishers.
Two lifesaving rings.
Heaving rope, elderly LifeSling.

Standing rigging replaced in 2013 via Genco Marine, Toronto.
Yes, she's fast.
Extensive sailing and engine spares inventory.
Many spares available. Thorough maintenance logs available.
Force 10 rail barbeque.
Custom light blue fitted cockpit cushions.
Six-pad Marine Cradle Shop cradle. Custom-made Quinte Canvas tarp frame...needs replacement tarp.
Rudder repair, 2012:
 
 
This needed a touch of fairing forward of the strut. There was no structural issue or misalignment.
There is a saloon table aboard and a new table support base, but as we don’t use the table, I haven't installed it.
Sails: the main is relatively new Dacron and there are a wide variety of "less old" sails that will come with it. Quite frankly, I've got a lot of sails "in reserve" hanging in my garage. I have things like lightly used Mylar No. 1 and 2s in the garage off a C&C 34 (Aristo out of NYC) that can be converted to hank-on for about $150/sail. I've done this with the Kevlar/Mylar No. 1 and a previous main, but the current composite No. 1 is getting a bit tatty. We carry a No. 1, 2 and 3.
 
And we like serious gear.
Keel fairing repair, 2010:
Items not included in the sale: Triton asymmetrical chute, foredeck whisker pole, Fortress FX-23 anchor and rode, 10 foot Portabote, and the sailing repair box, the “crash box”, the camp stove and all tools.
I would also throw in a lot of Atomic 4 spares as I wouldn't be needing them anymore, including extensive documentation, some gaskets, various pumps and belts, the stock alternator and so on.
If the interested party is in Toronto, it may be possible to "inherit" my 30-foot slip at Marina Quay West, which I would think is a big incentive, unless they really want to be in a yacht club.

Asking $15,000 Canadian.


The main downsides are the original upholstery, which looks worn and is plaid, and the fact that Valiente needs a redo of the ITT Brydon head, because we essentially just day sail her. So while there's not a lot in the way of amenities...she just sails really well.
She would need a rather good scrub before I could show her, because Pier 35 is a dirty place and it has been a hard winter.

Frankly, if I could bag this boat and retrieve it when we return, I would, because I believe it's a really good, fast, strong and capable boat for sailing around the Great Lakes.

Interested parties are welcome to search my blog www.alchemy2009.blogspot.com for posts on "Valiente"; there are records of the many fixes I've made in the last few years, because I've done them on Valiente first before doing them on Alchemy. Nothing's blown up yet!https://ssl.gstatic.com/ui/v1/icons/mail/images/cleardot.gif

2015-01-07

Bottoms up: A visit to a potential hull stripper

This is a radio my late father purchased about 45 years ago. I recall it from our annual two-week cottage rental as being the only form of entertainment beyond cards, board games, rowing and "chase the toads". It's a little crunchy-sounding but it gets CBC well enough. Note the bad weather and improvised lighting. If I need a light, I usually just crimp one together.
The weather outside is frightful, and the pilothouse is less than delightful, but between a welcome but time-eating dose of work, holiday preparation and commitments, and weather that was less than clement when I was available to do boat things...not much has happened of late.
This is why I want to have a proper companionway door fabricated. A sheet of Lexan as one big dropboard lets in lots of light, but also lets in snow, rain from S to WSW, and benzene fumes from the accursed airport.
On a day that was sunny and well above freezing, I took bike and trailer to tend to poor Valiente's batteries, which received a much-needed, Honda 2000-supplied boost and a bit of a tidy-up. Plans are in motion to get her sold as I have reached the boat-owning equivalent of the last of  Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's five stages: Acceptance.

The sleet I put up with.
On Alchemy, progress continues on the positioning and installation of the fuel filter system. I have some questions I will pose at next week's Toronto Boat Show to the guy who sold it to me, and who will no doubt be amused that I didn't install it years ago, but such are the trials of a idiot savant refitter. My questions are improving. Somewhat.

I always like to know the weather, inside and out.
Working aboard in the winter means layering up on the clothing, clearly, but I have to run a second 15 amp line (on top of a reduced 15 amps for "boat power") in order to run extra work lights (it is often dim) and at least one heater fan.
There are others I could use, but I have to be careful not to trip the circuits on the power post closest to the boat.
More to come soon on developments aboard in the present. When it comes to longer-term planning, you sometimes have to take a field trip. Captain Matt, who owns the steel 40 foot ketch Creeation and has been a big influence in getting me into a bigger boat and in keeping me out of trouble, has his own vessel in the shop at the port of Whitby, Ontario, about 30 miles east of National Yacht Club. Creeation is out of the water in order to have her 36 year old hull "blasted back to bare metal" to check and remedy corrosion or thinning out of the carefully welded plates that comprised her nicely rounded chines and then to apply the various potions and coatings required to keep said hull rust- and critter-free going forward.
Even with a touch of rust, that's an amazing turn of the bilge for a small steel yacht.

Matt picked boat builder and restorer Peter Karadi's operation on the basis of long association and the fact that the man clearly knows his business. My trip with Matt to inspect some additional repair work (the actual redo of the hull will commence shortly) was to "get a feel" for the man and his shop because Alchemy, while nine years younger, faces the same maintenance issues and my wife and I agree that it is best they are addressed before we hit salt water, where the acceleration of corrosion of any steel surfaces unprotected, even on a microscopic level, can be expected.
Damned spots. Also, half-second shutter speed.
Now, Captain Matt is pretty rigorous when it comes to care and maintenance of his vessel, and is arguably more thorough than me, although we tend to emphasize in slightly different areas. 
The engine bay of Creeation: Cleanliness is next to captainliness.aption
Clearly labelled, anti-chafed and well-secured: I try to live to this standard, too.
People think everything's labelled on boats so that know-nothing crew can figure stuff out. It's actually for the benefit of the confused captain.

He has been doing "spot" repairs for a few years on the more obviously troubled areas of his hull after hauling out each season, but there are signs (there are always signs, if you care to see them) that the issue, requiring plenty of grinding and application, was getting worse, or at least, more extensive.
Rust never sleeps, but it can be made to take naps.


But it's a non-trivial thing, to soda- or sand-blast a metal boat hull, and it's best done quickly, the idea being that one wishes the minimum amount of time that untreated, freshly ground-smooth mild steel plate is exposed to the corrosive soup we call breathable air. Specialized equipment is required, special (very) heavy-duty hoists are employed, grit-confining giant curtains are hung, parts of the hull not requiring constructive destruction are masked off...it's a big, expensive deal. But it is not a surprise.
Matt knows how to light a set. That pitting reveals sub-coating corrosion and will require blasting off.


In that spirit, I am also thinking we should have this done next winter. The advantages of going to Mr. Karadi are not restricted to his lower-than-Toronto but by no means cheap skills and services. He has a Travelift and room on his grounds to store the completed job until spring at a reasonable tariff...far more reasonable, in fact, than it costs to keep the boat on land in my own club. There's a GO train station within a 10-minute walk, and Custom Yacht Builder is heated, and then some. Some planning and leaving of a "skeleton" set of tools aboard should mean I can get work done, including perhaps some fabrications, until my own bottom is blasted, which sounds rude to everyone except a paranoid metal boat refitter.

2014-12-13

I zinc, therefore I exam


Not all zincs are created equally, and not all zincs are even zinc


There is clearly always more to learn about how even strong materials react to stress imposed under laboratory conditions versus in the real world, just as there is much to learn about galvanic action on  metals when they are used in a boat hull in the weak battery fluid that is salt water. I have decided that I will take a little chance with deformation with the more pliable grades of mild steel, for instance, in order to avoid a catastrophic failure with stainless steel (SS) or other comparatively brittle grades of steel. It's among the things I'm learning as I'm teaching myself to weld. 

Even a simpleton such as I am should come out of this with an even number of digits
I will also mix metals with proper isolation if the potential for galvanic interplay is low or can be mitigated. An example would be my aluminum pilothouse roof, which sits on an inward flange of the mild steel sides of the pilothouse. It was originally through-bolted in 40 spots and sealed with a bead of the dreaded 5200, which I think is great stuff for gluing on fibreglass keels, but should come otherwise with dire warnings. particularly for those end-user who tend to idly scratch themselves.. It took many hours and many reciprocating blades to pry off the roof of Alchemy in 2011 in order to swap out the old engine via a Polecat crane. Now that the engine installation is more or less completed, and, short of installing a series of water tanks that will fit through the companionway, the reinstallation goes thusly: Grind the mild steel flange back to bare metal. Coat with a couple of layers of high-zinc galvanizing primer. Top with Endura two-part epoxy to keep it unexposed to the various elements for the foreseeable future.
Not necessarily a brand endorsement, but among a group of similar products required.

Here comes the science: I want to put nylon bushings in every steel flange hole (40 of ‘em, remember?).  Then I want to lay down 1/16th strips of Delrin or HDPE atop the flange with appropriate holes for the bolts. Beside this plastic strip, which performs, along with the bushing, the role of electrically isolating the aluminum roof from the steel hull structure, I want to also lay down a line of butyl tape. This can be a fairly narrow line of tape, as it will be compressed in place as a barrier to water ingress, on the outside of the HDPE strip, which itself can be bedded with something that will given without severe difficulty in the future. Fit the 40 SS bolts and 40 new nylon washers and Nylock nuts to fit through the bushings, and put dielectric goo on the threads. Dog down as is sufficient to squish out the butyl, and trim to desired neatness.

This method (SS bolts, “other metal deck” and “other metal backing plate”) also applies for any deck gear, as making backing plates from SS is a royal pain, whereas power tools shape 1/4″ aluminum plate easily. In practice, this means attention to paint service is critical, as "rust" is a lesser worry than voltages, in some senses. EPDM rubber strips, able to withstand compression and UV exposure, seem like a good bet here when (for instance) bolting the typical sort of SS clamps to support awnings or biminis to the extant, painted pipe rails. The likelihood of paint plus rubber failure is low. And, of course, when one is making electricity, the need for effective insulation/isolation is commensurately greater.

"What do you mean, 'you forgot the gasketing'"?

Even on a plastic boat, I’ve sometimes chosen encapsulated ply over aluminum as a backing plate choice because of the number of SS bolts involved and the unlikelihood of keeping everything both isolated, in strong compression, and yet fully dry.

My impression is that in materials such as chain, plate or in gear such as failed stays and bolts, it is the prep and awareness of the role electricity plays in the weak electrolyte we call the ocean that defers or at least delays the majority of unpleasant surprises. Certainly the process of “ground tackle” is not commonly thought of in an electrical sense, but dissimilar metals in anchoring, even in a galvanically benign (presumably) open roadstead can have a negative effect on top of the differing material characteristics, such as ductility, of their respective parts.
Two very helpful volumes that are destined for the onboard library.

I have found Bruce Roberts’ “Metal Boats” and Nigel Warren’s “Metal Corrosion in Boats” excellent resources in understanding, at least for starters, a complex subject with many possible reactions and solutions. But even if you think you know this topic, and have taken all necessary measures, one should never neglect to actually examine your vessel, metal or not, for signs of wastage or corrosion due to galvanic issues. Part of dealing acceptably with this involves a little gadget called an isolator,and is a topic I will return to in the future.
Meet my little friend.