Diamonds in the Rough / A Week in Review: posted by Mark

This post is really to all of the people out there that may have dreamt, as we did, of buying a boat and sailing off over the horizon.  There are plenty of great stories out there about the cruising end of it, but I also wanted to tell the story of preparing the boat as well.  For us, the great unknowns were what it would entail to purchase a used boat and fix it up to the point where we could take it cruising.  Of course when one shops for a bargain some work is usually implied.  I think the best way to give you an idea of what you might encounter when seeking out your diamond in the rough would be to give you a recap of the average workweek, more or less, on our boat.

Saturday 10/6/12

Occasionally, we take a pause just to go see something new Florida and get everyone off the boat. Last week we took a needed break and visited the Museum of Discovery in Ft Lauderdale.  We saw horseshoe crabs and learned how Geckos stick to walls.  They had great exhibits on just about everything from exploring Mars to the fossils of Florida. We took in a 3D movie about coral reefs at the IMAX Theater and learned a great deal about our new environment in the process.

Horseshoe crab at the Museum of Discovery & Science.

Oddly enough we learned that for all of the water in Florida dealing with drought is an almost annual occurrence in the state.  It has been raining almost daily for us since we arrived so that is a little hard to imagine but apparently Florida has taken steps to recharge it’s aquifers thru a program called Acceler8.

Sunday 10/7/12

We attached an outboard engine mount to the aft stern rail where our dingy motor will reside when not in use. We may have to add an extra support bar to take some of the added strain on the rail.  One item removed from the list, another added, and so it goes…

This afternoon the boys interviewed Nick and Thea, a couple of live aboards at our docks.   Nick had navigated most of the length of the Amazon River working as the captain of a research vessel in South America for a time.   He also ran a laundry mat before that called Nick’s Soap Opera where his slogan was “Where you can drop your pants anytime”!  Needless to say Nick is a real character with a sense of humor that belies his depth of experience.  Thea is a soft-spoken woman with an English accent who grew up in Africa, England and other parts of the world. At the age of 10 she boarded a plane by herself leaving Libya to attend boarding school in England. No adults were allowed to leave the country at the time because Muammar Gaddafi had just come into power. Thea has been living aboard boats since she was 21 years old.

The boys interviewing Nick and Thea.

Monday 10/8/12

This morning I tackled the job of installing a head gasket rebuild kit.  It appears to have solved the problem we were having with sewage backing up into the head.

Installing head rebuild kit.

We bought an installed a zinc anode over the side of the boat to help reduce the rate of corrosion we observed on our shaft zinc during our last haul out.  With so many boats in the water it is not uncommon to have stray currents of the electrical kind flowing in the canals where our boat is.  Adding another anode should help to protect our new prop and shaft from corrosion.

Putting anode in water.

Tuesday 10/9/12

After our last haul out we knew we needed to replace the coolant in the engine.  With the help of Cole and Logan we drained the coolant, then removed and inspected the heat exchanger.

Working on heat exchanger.

Rather than using a radiator to dissipate the heat from the engine coolant as in a car, a marine engine has a heat exchanger that passes seawater through a series of tubes that similarly removes the heat from the engine coolant water.

We continued working aft and inspected the mixing elbow where seawater enters the exhaust system after passing through the heat exchanger.  Finally, we refilled the heat exchanger and ran the engine to get any air out of the system and checked for leaks.

All hands on engine.

Wednesday 10/10/12

Today is Christine’s Birthday and we are taking a day off to celebrate!  This morning we drive to Gumbo Limbo Nature Center and take a tour of a Florida hammock or forest as they are called.  We see numerous Banana and Crab spiders on our walk and a shell midden left by native Indians when they inhabited the area.  We are in the middle of one of the most developed parts of the Florida coast and the nature center is a welcomed glimpse of what the land used to look like.   Gumbo Limbo, which is actually the name of a tree, is also a sea turtle rehabilitation center for baby turtles that have gone astray and adult turtles that have been injured.  The center is a good reminder of the impact we have on nature.

Learning about the barrier island at Gumbo Limbo.

Crab spider seen on walk.

Big banana spider!

Apparently when sea turtles hatch they head towards the brightest horizon.  The problem is, that with all of the development along the coastline the brightest horizon may now be inland rather than out to sea.  Efforts are in place to reduce the amount of light along the coast when turtles are nesting, but one has to wonder how much of an effect it can have, still, it’s an effort to point the little turtles and us I think in the right direction.

Innovations like Turtle Extruder Devices may be helping to account for increases in Turtle counts in recent years. They also help to reduce the by-catch of U.S. fishermen.  It’s encouraging to see people continue to make efforts to reduce the impact on non-target species.   I mean I truly like sea turtles, but I also like shrimp too, just in another way…

Turtle extruder-turtles swim out of the net but not the shrimp.

Fishing line takes 600 years to decompose, longer than plastic bottles and disposable diapers which take 450 years to decompose.

Thursday 10/11/12

On Tuesday we ran out of compressed natural gas, CNG.  Most boats use liquid propane gas, LPG for cooking.  CNG is great from a safety point of view because it is lighter than air if there is a leak the gas simply flows up and out of the boat.  It is also inexpensive at about $2/gallon.  The problem is it’s difficult to find.  While natural gas is abundant and many people heat their homes with it, it’s not highly pressurized and there in lies the problem.  Finding a station that pressurizes CNG to 2,000psi is difficult in the United States and impossible to find in the Bahamas.  We will likely switch to LPG before we go sailing but for now we just want to fill our bottle.

The person who could fill our bottle wasn’t going to be available to do so until today so it meant cooking on the barbeque for a couple of days.  We had to call for directions after missing the entrance to the station or should I say pump. We drove down a little industrial alley next to a bunch of busses waiting to be reconditioned or just abandoned, we weren’t sure which.  In the corner of the lot was the CNG pump, and the object of our quest.   After a few minutes of waiting and watching my mirrors, the purveyor of the pump arrived and began filling our bottle up.  We had a great conversation about alternate fuels, electric cars and oil companies in general.  He topped off the CNG tanks in his pickup truck and followed us out of the lot shortly after.

Once back at the boat I replaced a couple of marginally working faucets in the V berth and in the head.  Last we checked we had any leaks stopped beneath the waterline, which demanded our haul out, and moved to fixing a couple of leaks above the waterline.  While they don’t threaten the in the same way as they do below the waterline, they do tend to annoy the heck out of you all the same.  I was sealing a leaking port light when Val came out to begin installing our new dodger.

Val does canvas work on all kinds of boats including mega yachts and it’s not uncommon for him to be flown to different countries to work on a yacht so we were glad to be able to catch him to do ours. We had heard that Val had been on the crew of a round the world Whitbread race so we were looking forward to hearing some of his stories.  He told us he would bring a book written about the race tomorrow and he would take us to see the boat he currently races and did I mention, built himself!

Friday 10/12/12

Val returned this morning to measure out the fabric for the dodger.  He brought us the book “Fazizi” the story of his experience in the Whitbread race.  After making measurements we followed him over to his house and shop.

Val working on the dodger template.

When one imagines a homemade boat, the vessel that Val built is not usually what comes to mind.  Where most amateur boat builders use plywood as their material of choice Val has used carbon fiber for an ultra light mast and keel support.  The sailsare Kevlar and that’s a good thing too, because with a hull design that can plane off waves like a sled he enjoys reaching speeds around 17 knots  in a fresh breeze.  Not exactly what I would call sailing for the faint of heart!  I couldn’t imagine a better way to expose our boys to engineering and material science than sitting inside the hull of that boat and seeing it first hand.

Val’s boat Breeze.

On the way back to our boat we stopped at “E marine” to get some ideas for alternative ways to supply the amps we will need to charge our batteries when we are cruising.  It is already evident that we will need to balance power, cost and convenience, but there are many exciting options available.  See them at

Back at the dock our neighbor Burt was in the progress of reinstalling a bracket for his outboard engine.  When it became apparent that the only person able to fit inside the lazarette needed to be small, Logan found his first job as a boat sub-contractor.   He replaced the bolts needed to readjust the bracket while Cole found employment swabbing the decks and washing down the boat, skills I hope he will apply to our boat as well!

Logan turned 11 today, and a surprise birthday party ended our day.  Ross came down to help celebrate on his way to the airport to pick up Astrid, and we all shared cake and ice cream. Who knew there was even a candle app out there! Logan received gifts from several of our new friends and opened a present he received in the mail from Grandma and Grandpa too.

Logan’s 11th birthday party.

Saturday 10/13/12

Every boat is different and so are the repairs but after a quarter of a century one can expect to be making at least a few repairs or replacing parts that have reached the end of their expected lifetime. We have been making great progress with the boat, every day we chisel away a bit more at our to do list, but I now see why people say, work on a boat is never done.

Today I opened up the overhead to discover why the lights on the starboard side of the boat were not working. Even though we won’t use them when we are sailing to conserve power, I really wanted to find the source of the problem.  On the way I found more abandoned speaker wires from the stereo and pulled them out as I went.  I made good progress when our neighbor Randy stopped by and found one end of a wire that had slipped out of its connector.  The setting sun brought a close to the days troubleshooting, but tomorrow I will search out the other end of the wire and with any luck we will have starboard side lighting!

Till next time,

Mark _/)

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