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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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Splash is nearing.

Many things run through my mind before doing something dramatic.  I recall encountering an armed mob on the road in Somalia years ago and contemplated how my day was going to be if one of the members of our entourage over-reacted with armed force.  Bandoliers of ammo wrapped on the backs of very agitated and skinny, even boney, men waving AK 47s in the air, is a metaphor for chaos. I was glad we were able to prevail with some sense of calm and pass through that "choke-point" on the road near Kismayu and back to our fortified base.  The splash is an event almost as dramatic for me.  There is that undeniable pit in the stomach and dryness of mouth that goes with repeated mental checklists days before, and the mental imaging of what a successful launch looks like and, what an unsuccessful launch might also look like.

There's a lot of boat there on that trailer! 

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has experienced these feelings of woe.  But these are my feelings at present.  And I've tried to prepare for contingencies; the mast stepping, bolts, tools, safety issues, the gin-pole operation, and the "I don't know about...." of something which will inevitably go wrong.  How do you prep for something you've never done before?  Well, I have participated in a mast stepping before but it wasn't my boat so what did I care?  I was nervous for the skipper of that 36 footer but my concerns didn't have the gravitas that seems to be growing as my launch approaches.

I have a group of "usual suspects" who have indicated they might assist in the launching but since this is a voluntary event, one can't be quite sure just who will drag themselves to this drama.  Thus further adding to the anxiousness of the event in my mind.  There is the engineer, who analyzes weight distribution and angle of descent and offers caution as to the viability of anything but a very large vehicle for moving the Berg down the ramp.  The Commodore who has gone hunting somewhere up north at the time, who points out caution about the cross frame on the trailer which caused him injurious suffering when the fin keel of his Express 27 hit that rather than coming off the trailer into the water at his launch.  And there is the 747 Pilot who very happily offers his expertise and vehicle and has unlimited confidence that we can pull this off which I like.  Plus there is the retired Merchant Marine who brings a bit of military sobriety and over-watch for me.  He makes me feel comfortable, as if another military guy saying this looks good, somehow helps me stomach the event so much the better.  And then there is the Photographer, and sometime part-time Funeral Home assistant whose southern, dry wit, is perennially hilarious and observations of the obvious are not without noting.  He was curiously perturbed to know why it was the birds decided that with 40 boats in the water there was only his boat that deserved the privilege of being pooped upon as he furiously attempted to wash his boom cover again and again.  And so many more.  They are all great people and sailors who share in the adventure.  I am happy to have them all and looking forward to the instruction they will offer.  It is great to know these things happen during the day while the rest of the world is at work!

Well, it will be a Tuesday afternoon, a work day, so at least we will have the club to ourselves.  There would certainly be more pressure to do this on a weekend while moms and their kids are squinting and asking questions like, "Are ya'll sure you know what you're doin?" and "Mommie, why is that tire smooshing like that!" Just being able to accomplish this with limited comments will help immeasurably.


Splashing should be something of great fanfare if all goes well, and congratulations will be passed along as if a birth has taken place and proud parents are standing about admiring their work.  Or, there will be the pensive reflection if something goes awry and comments about what shudda been done are passed back and forth, nodding quietly.  

I could however just leave the Berg in the work yard and keep preparing for this...

But that's not where it's meant to live. The splash will take place.





Monday, October 24, 2016

One thing leads to another.  Sometimes, it becomes a dive into unexplored territory.  And sometimes, despite my ignorance, I wander towards hubris and actually get lucky. 

So, my attention has turned to prepping the mast.  Along with this, I began the sourcing for how to setup the electronics inside.  

Things to fix, reroute, improve upon.
For me, there's a nagging temptation to over-improve on an already fine design.  Perhaps its the assumption that technology is so improved since 1977 that it would make the Alberg so much better.  And perhaps this is also just the very sort of thinking that could ruin an already great design and complicate it with odd combinations.  Sort of like having Grandma wearing a mini-skirt?

On the way to improving things, I had already done some improving of down below, sanding the bulkhead below the cockpit and the transom area.  I wanted to freshen up the paint but also use Brightsides so that it enhanced the visibility of those areas, as often they are dark and foreboding and should be accessible areas where wires are neatly arranged and hung, and piping is out of the way, and where you could toss some gear without fear of it becoming soiled with diesel fuel or something gooey.  A cleanup was in order.

I tied the electrical harness on the starboard bulkhead out of the way of moving parts, the opening to port is the access the mechanics needed for the engine.  There's not lack of strength however.  There's the deck hatch above too.  Lots of light.

These below-decks areas are places where one might send a grandchild to retrieve a wrench or pull a plug on something.  It needs to be ready for inspection at all times.  In my thinking.  I'm a hard supervisor at the yacht yard.


So, gone is the dingy mustard color and all is bright white. 

Enhancement.  Top of this photo is underneath the cockpit sole.  In my next purchase of paint, I'll finish that too.  I want the underside of things to look cared-for and easy to identify problems, find things dropped, and to generally brighten the down-below area.  Nothing more.  Below is the view to the other direction:

This is the best for now,  without removing the diesel and going underneath it, there's no need to attempt that area.  Perhaps next year if I get extremely concerned I'll see about lifting it out...maybe.  For now, this helps with routine maintenance and overall cleanliness below.
So back to the mast.  I'd laid it out in the yard and began the process of identifying entry points for the wires and detaching useless metal loops along the mast and removing anchor and steaming lights.   The cost of these items is prohibitive.  But at least I can find something to fit!

So I was able to procure an LED anchor light for 50 bucks but the steaming light, a legacy version with normal bulb, was 70.  I begrudingly uttered something about "kids with braces," an aside referring to purchasing things I need but would rather not have to pay so much for.  I spent $5k on one of my childrens' teeth.  Amazing.  So spending a few bucks on the mast had to be acceptable.  I consider these refits to be like braces.


Having the mast crane accessible I decided to remove it and see for myself what mysteries were going on inside it and how I might improve simply on that area.  A long bolt ran from fore to stern on the base, itself  bent from use over the years.  I removed the six 

This pin shows the results of some extreme pressure.  That is perhaps due to the fact that it dissects the underneath of the crane from fore to aft securing the tangs for the jib halyard fore and the aft-stay aft on the cap.  Seems a lot of bending going on up there.  Ordered a replacement.
A bit of corrosion but overall healthy.  I re-drilled the rivet holes and surface prepped this cap for assembly up top.

rivets securing the cap and began redrilling for 3/16ths rivets.  I also re-routed the electrical wires to run to the LED light and will keep them far from any moving parts of the rigging.  Mid-mast I am readying for the steaming light replacement.  Once these items are done, and some of the rigging attachments are properly ready, I will issue the call to step the mast at the club.

Yes it's expensive, and not an LED!
I'm not going to over-do this phase at all.  I simply want a standard setup, comply with USCG Navigation light requirements, and make sure the rigging is correctly setup.  I've already found cotter pins in the shrouds that were never bent-on, I really did.  So, taking nothing for granted, I am combing through everything with careful examination so there should be fewer surprises once underway.  

This week "should be" my final week of preparation before requesting a gang of thirsty sailors to assist in splashing the Berg.





Saturday, October 15, 2016

It's difficult working alone.  And conversation seems to be one-sided.

Just about the time you think, "ok, now I'm on the boat, all my tools are here, and I have all the time I need...." you can't find the tool you just brought up the ladder.  So there you stand, looking like someone just diagnosed you with "a little bit of dementia" as you stare directly at our stuff and cannot see it.  So, the problem with working solo.  Two heads are better than one.  Three becomes a political problem, so two are satisfactory.  

Having another person who is not as blind as you helps when looking for those needle nose pliers or as I did the other day, my small Vise Grips for holding onto a chain plate in a small space requiring small tools.  I simply lost it somewhere in front of me.  And I still haven't found that bugger.  It must be camouflaged.

I hope some of this disorientation and temporary blindness will not interfere with a splash some time near All Saints Day.  That'd be a fitting day to do so!  We shall see about that schedule after I get the mast sorted out.

Untying the mast from its perilous attachment to the trailer has been over 100 days in coming.  With some joy I began to cut away the sad lines that hoisted and held this piece in its transit from Nova Scotia, and I laid out the stays to see the true condition and position of everything.  Like everything else aboard, there will be no accept "as-is" for any part of the mechanics.  I'd be accepting decisions of someone for whom I cannot vouchsafe for a machine which relies upon integrity of components.  It's always best to go over all of it personally so that by the time I take the tiller, I know what I have.

The transporter grabbed this 35 foot long Bohemoth and lashed it to the trailer for its 2 thousand mile journey, across international borders, the forests of Maine and the hazards of the American Interstate road system.  I have put off unwrapping this until now.

This Alberg is the gift that keeps on giving.  Partly because of its short sailing seasons in Nova Scotia and partly due to the scarcity of parts, I think the Berg suffered from garage fixes that simply had to make do.  So, as I unwrapped the lines tied about the mast, I began to unveil a number of vagaries that needed attention. 


The masthead is suffering from a lack of proper fitment in this homemade tang which holds the jib sheet block.  If its edges become habitually in contact with other components in that area, it could cause serious problems with the integrity of the furler and/or the mast crane itself.  Better to replace.  Rationale for its being there is easy to assume but keeping it is not.

The placement of the furler on the second hole on the crane is also interesting and I'm sending out queries to the Alberg Association as to the best angle of fitment for the roller furling device.  As you see, the equipment for the FM antenna and the cable, here hanging out of its exit point, are long past functional.  In that we will engage in mostly lake sailing for now, we will continue to use our handheld radios and not worry with the big FM antenna aboard at this time. I will work a threaded component  to provide future capability of installing a wired FM.

The other section of the masthead reveals a legacy anchor light with its power and ground (to the mast).  The blocks are a tangle underneath this crane in my opinion.  The block in the photo below  nearest the orange cone, appears to be the topping lift and the tang supporting the second block to its left appears to be the blue and white mainsheet.  Simple enough, if not crowded at the top of the mast.


 Nonetheless, it is a bit worn but not excessively so for her age of 39.  I unwrapped the spreaders to see what was awaiting me here and was surprised not to see some sort of bailing wire holding the spreader in place on the shrouds.  I assumed there would be something, but here again, perhaps I have wrongly assumed this.  But by sheer reason of the way sailboats work, this device has to hold at a certain mathematical point along the shrouds to be effective.  Another "due - out" for me to check with my Association of Alberg owners.  Checking in Don Casey's excellent books, this needs attention nonetheless.  Could it have been sailed without this? Everything is possible.
The 1st Mate provided some of her time to come to the yard and hold the ratchet on the chain plates and finish off some fastening that I had not been able to achieve alone.  This was especially helpful and so I asked her if she'd also climb into the chain locker to check no a couple of bolts up there too.  No problem.  We finished tightening up a loose bolt on a cleat portside bow and checked on the viability of removing another cleat on the bow plate which is necessary in order to fit the anchor roller.  

There is a lot of conversation amongst the Albergers about these old pieces of metal, judged by many, to be insufficiently capable of taking the strains of this size yacht.  Aspersions to Whitby's Boat Works not using large enough bolts also adds to the mystique of a critical refitment.  I had no reason to dispute this, but as I entered into the bulkhead, I realized my vessel was pretty hearty down below despite these comments.  Putting in new stainless steel and larger bolts at least made me "feel" better about my Alberg's condition.
The chain plates are all newly manufactured.  I did not enlarge the slots in the deck, that was far too invasive for this refitment.  Rather, I increased the size of the bolts from 1/4 inch to 15/16ths shoulder bolts instead of fully threaded bolts.  This enables the bolts a close fit without damaging the plates and the increased diameter will provide that assurance the rigging needs to power up.  I also did not see the need below decks to enhance the bulkhead as it was in good condition.  

Hopefully this older Harken will make its debut on the Alberg in a couple of weeks with or without a sail.  I've left the genoa at a loft to add a sacrificial on the sail to protect it from the UV rays.  

No matter, there's always a half-dozen things to do on an Alberg of this age and I will not be bored soon.  The mast is already testing my capabilities.  But I will begin to retrograde some of my equipment back home and open up the inside of the Berg for humans again.  It's a bit crowded with work tools down below still yet.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

It's taken a few weeks.  But it was worth it.

So my diesel mechanic, Charlie, recommended I get my prop shaft redone, in stainless steel, by a team in Brunswick, Georgia.  Well, a short drive south, an overnight, and then I got a shaft, perfectly machined and then returned to Charlie, who installed it.  The result could not be better.  Now I can start from a base-line of a "serviced diesel," and a remanufactured prop shaft. 

The inscription of my name was simply to make sure I got the propeller I brought.  They did a lot of business at the machine shop in Brunswick.  I hope to find a feathering prop in the future, but for now, this will do!


It has taken a few weeks of course.  and during that time I've had time to catch my breath and get some other things done that might have been pushed aside, like the sole boards, which I finished and tossed into the Berg.  But this professional machine work has put me into the next category of work, chain plate installation and stepping the mast.  Getting closer to the water every day!

The cost was worth the replacement.  I now can breathe easy about the power plant and the propulsion linkage.  There's nothing more frustrating than a sailboat with a fickle engine.  I don't think anyone would want to be in a motorboat with an engine which might not work.  So, in a sailboat, without a reliable powerplant one might as well prepare for adventures they only dream of at 2 o'clock in the morning, something bizarre and crazy.  I want a reliable engine backup that can bail us out in a time of  need.  

Circa, 1977, bronze shaft and prop, rusty, corroded, a shaft with a bad oscillation.

Neat, clean, straight, and ready for operation.
So now to finish off some minor details, connect the muffler, put the chain plates, and step the mast.  

I know I have some challenges ahead in making sure the furler works correctly.  I also have to rewire the mast and get the organizer plate on the deck for running the sheets to the cockpit, but those are easy items to get situated in contrast to this work.  I'm now looking to the end of October to splash this Berg! 

I should add that Charlie runs the Company Boat-Biz here in Lake Murray, South Carolina.  I really appreciate their attention to detail in the maintenance of this diesel and their helpfulness in getting this Berg to splash.  The company in Brunswick who did the prop shaft and propeller work is Dominy, the sole marine machinist shop in the city.  I certainly got in and out of there in time due to arrival of Hurricane Matthew which came right on the heels of my departure.