Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the large Alberg inventory.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Alberg Swim Platform

Our testing team arrived over Easter weekend and set forth on the Alberg in very light and variable winds, the kind that make you want to go swimming rather than sailing.

After a few tacks, it was apparent that we were not going to enjoy much wind on the day before Easter so we decided to toss the anchor out and deploy the swim ladder.  It had been a long time since I had installed the ladder and this was the first time that it would receive a brutal test by numerous folks.  Using a tough testing team, two grand-kids, we paid out the anchor rode and basked in the sun while the kids attempted to wear out the ladder.

It proved it's weight in stainless steel, as the kids and a couple of us adults tramped up and down on it for a couple of hours. 

Here I get input from one of the trainers about the ladder's operational characteristics.  I was impressed with her direct input which included shrieks of joy rather than the usual load capacity issues and the weight distribution.  She was so happy about it that she wanted to swim to it again and again just to see how it worked so well. 
The kids weighed less than 50 pounds and both of us adults were at about the 200 pound level. Every time I mounted aboard I detected no movement whatsoever in the deck plate mounting which I had painstakingly affixed from below.  The backing plates were enormous 6x6 stainless steel plates of about 1/8th's thickness.  

One of our testers illustrating good technique coming aboard.  The ladder extends about 4 feet down.  With about a 3 foot free-board, the last step is submerged and rather easy for the small testing crew to negotiate.  At 5'11" I did not find it hard to plant a foot and pull myself upward.  One of the benefits of the side installation is being in close proximity to the lifelines and the shrouds which make for additional safety  coming aboard.  A great investment in fun and safety.

During the testing phase I was able to validate the ease by which if happening to fall overboard while solo sailing, I could remount the vessel.  The reach from water to cap rail is about an arm's length for me, enabling me to hoist myself up and grab the ladder and deploy it over the free-board.  Now I can remove the small lines I'd put in place to hoist it via the life-lines.  They were awkward and being within easy reach the ladder becomes a valid safety feature for single-handing.

In this photo, the senior tester is examining the ease with which one can maneuver from the swim ladder to the fore deck.

All said and done, the Easter test was a grand success despite the lack of wind.  Fortunately, the iron genny I repaired the other week was running without flaw for the entire testing period.  We've got a placeholder for August with the same testing group for eclipse operations.  We may have to turn on the running lights!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Breathing easier now...

It's just not right to match a humanities guy with an engine.  The only upside, I guess, is that the engine becomes a journey to the skipper with a humanities degree while for the engineer it is simply a problem.  For me, this, like many other things aboard the Alberg, was more than a problem, it was mechanical harassment!

But, in the kindness of time and patience, I did manage to prevail, and, drawing on every bit of mechanical history I'd ever been privileged to to collect, was able to fix both the blown muffler problem and the tachometer calibration issue.  

The alternator is the now the second shiniest part on this 40 year old diesel.  After viewing the engine mounts, I think it propitious to secure another angle iron for the rear starboard foot, as that iron has suffered from salt water.  I will be proactive about replacing that after I get over my sore chest and arms.

After doing a bit of work on the front side of the Yanmar where everything is served up and easily accessible, the flip side is much more of a challenge....

Taken from my cockpit access hatch, this view is from stern to the forward doors of the v-berth area.  And the copper gasket looking this way is where the "elbow," or muffler (as I call it) will bolt on.  Viewed last Fall, this is the miserable workplace from the same viewpoint, the rusty elbow amidst the entry and exit of necessary pipes and control lines:

While on the hard, replacement of a thru-hull on the starboard side and see the rusty elbow looking downward to link up with the larger muffler box, here pulled back out of the way for viewing.
It's very "therapeutic" to relook these old photos to remind oneself of the enormous leap in progress over the past 9 months!  I think the most difficult thing about the work is the physical punishment of this yacht yoga. After finishing this installation I felt like I'd been in a wrestling match with a gorilla.  Sore and bruised, I felt I had won the match if only it would not leak upon installation!

Someone in engineering decided to put an upward angle to the tip of the elbow, as if doing so would make the transition for the exhaust tube easier for the installation.  That "Good Idea Fairy" should be tied to the yard-arm and held there for several seasons in order to learn the fact that if you re-engineer something you must take into account that nothing else on the boat is going to move to accommodate your idea! 

Had the "smart person" who re-engineered this elbow left things alone, the tubing would never had had such an obstacle to overcome. 

It looks "purtty" doesn't it?  But note carefully the "near-miss" as the 2 inch exhaust pipe only clears the thru-hull on starboard by the increased turn clockwise of the elbow itself.  I muscled it about 3/16ths of an inch in order to clear that obstacle.  As the tube fits, it has to carefully wrap on the end of the elbow--something I will continue to monitor because I do not trust time, heat, and vibration, to leave it alone!  And yes, I will put a second clamp on that location.

Easy fix right?  Just reach down and slap it in.  Not so fast 'Bosun, try that now with one arm reaching through the cockpit hatch and see how that works again?  After several hours of wrestling I did manage to conquer this problem but have paid the price of a slow physical recovery to install just several essential pieces.
So, I checked it after installation and again the next day, running the engine both slow and fast, to see if that dreaded thing, called a leak, would appear.  Up until now, there are no leaks.

This seems like a benign posting but it highlights the small issues which can potentially become large problems.  Had that muffler blown while out on the water and without wind, I'd have been calling Boat US for a tow.  Glad I have that coverage!  I've used it before and it's great.  But I prefer to be able to sidestep that and know that my gear and components are sound and capable.  Yet, the rusty elbow was on my long term fix because of it's very high price ($ 209 bucks) which I think is robbery, and because if something is evidently working I don't run to fix it.  Yet.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

A to-do list turns into an emergency!

I had been fiddling with calibrating this new tachometer I'd put into Nautica along with getting it synchronized with an up to date alternator. 

I'd also purchased a very inexpensive (and hopefully somewhat reliable) digital reader off Ebay from some place far-far-away, in hopes that my friend's advice was good, that it would at least read the revolutions per minute of the alternator which then would permit me to calibrate my tachometer to some level that would give me an idea of how my diesel is running.  At least that's what I thought I was doing when something unexpected and exciting took place and derailed that process...
Hope this little jitney performs one function, just give me the RPM reading...
 ...And I felt pretty confident that this was going to at least be a great attempt at calibration!  I'd been over this engine, rewiring, and running new clamps and rubber hoses, and felt that we were getting to know each other quite well.  I had run her a few days ago and deliberately done so for a full hour at the same RPM on the lake.  Lots of sailboats don't run their diesels enough to sustain their batteries.  I'd noticed in the past few run times that I was accruing a bit of hazy smoke from below, nothing big, I'd figured there was some diesel residue "cooking off" the engine block as it was running a bit hotter for a longer period of time.  So that was in the back of my mind this particular morning...

But, something struck me as strange when I arrived aboard this late morning.  There in the drip pan below the engine was something that appeared like a piece of tree bark.  Well, my eyes were not able to see it very well, so upon closer examination, my fingers revealed it was a quarter-sized chunk of rusted material?  Well, no problem, the boat is 40 years old, what to expect I thought?  A clue perhaps though?

Readying my Chinese manufactured strobe light, I taped a piece of reflective tape on a blade of the alternator pulley.  Feeling a bit of mechanical hubris sweeping over me, I hauled myself out of the salon and sat on the cockpit bench to turn over the diesel.  She started right up like it had just been run.  "A good engine she is," I thought to myself smartly.  As the now warm sun felt great after a cool winter this year, there was suddenly that smoke again, this time quickly appearing.  And then in an instant, the engine changed sounds, there was a rattle and the sound of a water hose spitting out water in spurts.  Water! Emergency! Go fast!

I immediately shut down the diesel to stop the water.  I could hear it dripping into the bilge.  "Am I sinking now?"  I thought to myself as I catapulted into the salon and began looking at the damage. Looking all over the engine I knew I'd had a hose either come off somewhere or a clamp give up.  There was too much water down in the bilge, and that pump had started evacuation procedures while I furtively passed my eyes and hands around my little diesel pal.  Confident this would be an obvious fix, I calmly examine her small power-plant to find the break.

The culprit after having been removed from duty.  This is about the angle you would observe if attempting to view the exhaust elbow from above the engine space below decks.  One can see something underneath the elbow but what?  Certainly not a hole right?

 It was called an elbow assembly and it was quite rusty but it appeared to be working quite well up until now.  A bit of flaking was just visible underneath it and with a little more invasive poking, I realized that the pressure exiting the engine had finally reached the end of its tolerance and had blown old rusty flakes into the pan below the engine along with lake water.  Found it!  

But it was not what I expected at all.  I had actually purchased a new section of water-exhaust hose months previous thinking that since all hoses need replacing it too would get some attention.  But I hadn't been able to easily remove the exhaust hose, and I left it for later.  This, was later.  The photo of the culprit is revealed lying on my work bench at home.  After beating the daylights out of the elbow to release it from the flange, I discovered massive corrosion to the point that the result was pressure blew out the weak point of the elbow.

Unless you use a mirror you simply cannot see the underbelly of the elbow.  Removing this 40 year old part is like any other part on this old boat, rusty and resistant to removal. Removing the flange along with the elbow with attached rubber (now after many years melded onto the rusty part) was the only way to extricate this bastard without damaging all sensibility to my efforts.
Massively corroded and weakened by years of salt-water the elbow just exploded under pressure. 
This explosion actually came at a great time.  I was in my slip on a nice morning, about 10 days out from having 2 of my 7 grand-kids aboard for an Easter sail.  Whew, gotta get those parts fast!  Getting home I got on the phone with J-Way Enterprises and sorted out the 2 parts I needed to recuperate my "elbow assembly," happily in-stock and on the road soon to s/v Nautica.  

With all the trepidation which comes from sourcing parts, I anxiously awaited the pricey components. Arrived in 2 days from ordering they looked like diesel candy.

Flange, gasket and elbow with nipple already intact lying side by side with the original soldier.
Due to restrictions of space it will be easier to attach flange here shore-side and do the final gasket and attachment aboard.  It's funny how I had had the intention to put a new hose on this when it first arrived...however, upon closer inspection my hose was a quarter inch too small in diameter. That figures right? It sure looks the part but no cigar, not yet.

A little bit of calling around and taking advantage of my neighbor being in Charleston, I was able to schedule a pickup within a couple of hours and get the revised hose size for implementation the next has to get done cause we have sailors coming!
And it ain't cheap. 

More to follow....

Friday, March 31, 2017

When not aboard...

I was lamenting the fact that I didn't have any cool photos of the Alberg for display on the walls of our house when Photobucket announced a super 80 percent off sale!

So I jumped at the opportunity to get a triple display set of the Berg.  What would have cost me a pretty penny was just under a couple hundred for one large 36 x 36 photo wrapped on a frame along with 2 smaller photos likewise mounted.  

So I perused my many photos of the Berg and came up with several I thought would fit on the large space in our bedroom.  Of course I didn't want something too dynamic, just some easy images of sailing, and perhaps something a bit ethereal.  After all, this is a bedroom, and it is for sleeping!  I don't want to have second reef before going to sleep!

Having dreaded the normal price of such a display, which would be 3 times what I spent, my pieces arrived, very well packed, and easy to handle.  Each photo wrap was entirely closed on the back-side, making them a bit sturdier than if they were open.  Then I retrieved some slimmer 3/8ths line from WestMarine and utilized the stainless steel Herreshoff cleats I had mounted years earlier for another display project which had come to the end of its display run some months back.  

This is what I came up with...
Center is a 36x36 and sides are like 24x30

Not sure of the effect of this trio, I never said anything to the 1st Mate and simply let them hang...she rarely opens her eyes before getting into her car for work.  Then she came out of the bedroom and said, "wow, that's cool...just enough activity in them but also rather peaceful..." 

Color on the wall here and there but not much.  The stainless steel Herreshoff style cleats make for easy alignment.
The effects were great! And as a point of order, the two photos on the sides are in color of course and from a very brisk day aboard.  As you can see, the sky is brilliant blue and there is a bit of grey and silver in each of them which connects to the center piece which was honestly a photographic "risk."   I was on a long slow reach to the south on Lake Murray, held my Nikon D3100 over the gunwhale and clicked the "on" button and forgot about the photo.

It was later at home I realized that in black and white the horizon was just nearly a straight line with the hull merging into the photograph with complete solitude...what a chance photo!  So the trio represents our current state of sailing and compliments a bedroom which really needs some color as it is largely soft pastels.  Makes for some contemplative moments before one turns off the lights and burrows in the covers.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Sailing with a Mentor Aboard

Having a seasoned sailor aboard can definitely improve your sailing performance.  

A second set of experienced eyes can immediately calculate and suggest a more optimal way of managing the wind and our vessel’s capabilities for prevailing conditions.    Because most cruisers are not necessarily avid racers, they seldom have the opportunity to have a “Pro” along as observer, coach, and mentor, taking into account boat design, sail plan and tactics on the water.  

Yet I had that opportunity recently when I invited a seasoned sailor and competitive racer along for a sail.  It was a great experience to have another set of eyes on the sails, hands on the lines, and a certain depth of knowledge from which to draw. My experience resembled a re-certification process, with my “Pro” taking the First Mate’s position as I took the helm.  We were fortunate to have some stiff 23 to 30 knot breezes across the lake that day, conditions under which some cruising skippers might not risk leaving the docks.  

With a single reef in the main and a second in the genoa, we headed out to see what the lake offered that day.  Reefing is too seldom employed by cruisers but is an essential skill for all sailors.  Even large vessels can become overpowered by carrying too much sail.  Strong winds can tear sails and create frantic emergencies.  Reefing manages sail power and, if trimmed for the unique characteristics of each vessel, will balance the boat and "tame" strong winds for safe sailing enjoyment .  

The reefed sails on my Alberg 30 provided us with a good pointing to windward and good hull speed over the water in a very fresh blow.    Most of our time was spent doing what sailors do, we tacked and hauled on lines, we hiked out a bit, we talked.  While obvious that we both knew how to sail, it was helpful of him to observe what I might be doing that was getting in my way to being a better sailor.  In collegiate racing, team coaches often use megaphones and shout corrections so teammates learn best practices under the pressure of drills and practice races.  Here, there was no yelling aboard.  This was quite collegial as my mentor assessed the performance of the Alberg and then pointed out beneficial tips on sail shape, rudder handling, and pointing.    

My learning curve peaked suddenly, after several hours on the water.  The wind was a bit cooler and the sun was beginning to hide behind the winter clouds when we turned toward home.  We’d had a great time under sail and I savored the chance to get real time coaching.  During the reach home, I saw something happening that didn’t match my idea of sail trim. 

With wind on our port beam, my “Pro” had let the main out to starboard looking as if we were headed downwind on a run.  Posing the obvious question while looking at the Windex, I asked “Why not pull in the main to leverage that wind on the beam?”  In a revealing teaching moment, he pointed to the tell-tails on the leech of the main.  Hauling in a bit to windward the tails began to flutter in the disrupted wind flow behind the main.  He then eased the sheet and explained the concept of flow over windward and leeward surfaces as the tell-tales streamed off to leeward and the boat pushed forward, the main now cooperating with the wind on the beam.  We looked as if we were sailing downwind but were actually on a beam reach.    

In that instant, I realized that,  somewhere in that catalogue of sailing lore we keep buried in a mental drawer, I’d lost track of such a simple but important characteristic of sails.  By my advice, we would have continued to sail fighting the wind instead of trimming for optimum power.    Not having the “Pro” along that day would have meant that, unless I could remember enough of my sailing instruction and articles I’ve read, I’d continue to mishandle that point of sail indefinitely.  What a waste that would be!
This was one of those moments where I changed the point of sail but did not do the mental math on what I saw with the wind direction.  Deflection and flow is everything to a wing, even the vertical wing we raise on our sailing vessels.  But on this particular point of sail, I learned a valuable lesson: watch the sail position carefully and give it the best flow on every point of sail maximizing boat speed and balance. 

Four hours of sailing with a “Pro” was never better for me.  We often laugh about the fact that we’ve been sailing for years and years and repeating the same mistakes whether they’re right or wrong.  And that’s often very true.  With another set of experienced eyes aboard, will we be able to maximize our learning curve and avoid our tendency to repeat the same mistakes.  We often look but don’t see our deficiencies.  

This mentoring moment aboard the Alberg 30 had a profound impact on the way I look at my sails and boat’s balance in the wind. My instructor’s mentoring moment that windy day helped me to apply a basic principle of sail shape overlooked because of a failure to read my sail to best advantage.  Those four hours of "re-certification" will pay big dividends helping me sail a terrific classic design in an optimal manner.

They are not called "tell-tails" for nothing!
 [I wrote this originally for our Club Newsletter.  It was edited and published in our club newsletter by Ryan Gaskin, our former Commodore and Sailing Instructor at the club and my Pro for this sail.]

Friday, March 3, 2017

March is being itself again.  

Blustery winds are sweeping across the country and creating some sustained breezes for sailing in our region.  

Gone are the hazy winter skies and pleasant breezes, easy to bear with a bit of sunshine.  Now the wind is definitely upset, and the fetch is annoyed too, the sailing demands some tactics and procedures that you don't use everyday.  It'll be cold going out that's for sure but it will also be a good time to reef-up and test the water sealant along the cap rail again.

During the period passage of storms, I've been on the phone trying to find the problem of my Alternator's outputs and the requirements of my Tachometer.  Also, I'm looking in town for someone who can open up this tach and put in a wire for 4 volts of AC power which the it requires.  Some frustration over this little wrinkle.  It all seems to come down to "sourcing" again.  It was harder before the internet existed. All we had back in the day was the yellow-pages.  At least we can scour around and quickly spot who might most likely be able to get this odd job done.

Purty little thing in its box.  Needs to get to work!

And I found the guy.  Working out of an old garage that showed signs of several generations and hundreds if not thousands of alternator and starter parts, the guy knew exactly what I handed him and exactly what it needed.  Whew.  What a relief.  As he pored over a real desk catalogue to insure he had the correct part, I gazed at the exposed rafters, one or two bowing toward the ground, and the fridge, which looked like something from my early days that held old bottles of coca-cola, yes, the real ones that were small and very cold or so it seemed.  Because in Carolina it gets very hot in the summertime, and this garage showed the signs of it.  

I wondered what we will do when this guy is gone.  Who will be the resident Yoda of electricity here?  The folks at the bright and shiny stores don't have this guy's encyclopedic knowledge or the stories to go with that memory.  He told me all about my original alternator, how GM used these in every car they built, and how the Japanese Hitachi item in his hands was really the same thing except made strictly for one use only, power.  It was 35 watts and it only had a DC outbound peg.  He would pop the alternator open and solder a connecting wire with a 4 volt outbound AC current for my tach.  I breathed a sigh of relief as the internet company had no other recommendations than to find this guy, this one right in front of me, and ask him to fix the additional wire.  And they didn't even know where this guy was.  

And, after securing my refitted alternator from him this week, I installed it and began calibrations.  The fix is good, it works!  Plus the new alternator is just so much smaller than the original Delco monster alternator, so there is a bit less stuff in that crowded space.  The journey of the panel is now complete, from the old faded and sad looking face to a happier and more informative one.

Bringing back life to the original electrical panel.
These photos show what is on the other end of the alternator, the original engine control panel in the cockpit.  Of course the tach did not fit the original hole (you were wondering that I'm sure), I used a curved hand rasp to enlarge the hole for the tach.  

Everything in it's time and sequence.  I want every item I do to be a good fix, not just a band-aid.  If ever there comes a day when I might choose to sell Nautica, I can at least proclaim the fixes were done with attention to longevity not timidity.
Winter winds sweeping the playing field.