For the third time since I purchased my boat I was concerned about blowing myself up. The first time was my battery bank next to the fuel tank. The second was when I plugged my boat into an outlet on a dock.
I had purchased a denatured alcohol oven and stovetop burner off of Craigslist last winter and finally finished rebuilding it. One burner was completely rebuilt with a kit I purchased online. The fact that no one sells stoves that use pressurized alcohol anymore should have been a good clue implying they may be dangerous. After rebuilding the burners I soldered a broken copper fuel line, re-insulated the stove with ceramic insulation and gave it a good cleaning.
Rebuilding the alcohol tank was a challenge. The original tank that came with the oven was so rusted I ended up throwing it away and starting new. After some online shopping, a trip to the hardware store, and some research on pipe thread sizes I made an alcohol tank that could hold pressure. I bought a one gallon air tank and put a bicycle pump fitting and a pressure gauge on it as well as some hose fittings for the fuel line.
After several test runs without anything flammable I felt I was ready to give it a trial run. The stove system seemed to be holding pressure ok and the on/off systems seemed to be working on the stove burners. I filled the one gallon air tank with alcohol and pressurized the tank to 10 psi. For safety I had a pot of water handy along with some oven mitts. I turned one burner to the on position and held a lighter up to it and a small flame began to take. For a brief moment I felt rather proud of myself for successfully rebuilding something. Then the flame began to grow bigger and alcohol was coming out of every crack on the burner fittings and I turned the flow knob off but the the alcohol was coming out of the burner faster than it could burn. I may have turned it more to the on position at one point, I can never remember whether to turn the knobs clockwise or counter clockwise and have to look at the picture on the knobs. Within a few seconds the entire stove top was a big flame. I turned off the feed at the tank while trying to fan the flame out with my oven mitts. After realizing I was losing this battle I used my years of firefighting experience and dumped my pot of water over the stove and extinguished the flame.
After cleaning up that mess and mentally recovering from a brief oh-shit moment I made a second attempt. It went a little better and I turned everything off in time before a copious amount of alcohol poured out over the top of everything. For the third attempt I dropped the psi in the tank down to 3, and slightly cracked the burner knob to the on position, like slightly, maybe 1/32 of a full turn. It ignited and looked pretty good, I turned it up slightly more and watched carefully. It looked like it was working the way a burner should work and holding steady. I watched it for a while and wondered how I was going to make this work without catching my boat on fire. So long as no one turns the knobs to the full on position and watches it every second while it is on, there is a chance it might work.
We spent the first night on Big G for the season and it was quite pleasant. Took a month before Stefanie and I had the same two days off from work. It is so refreshing to get out of our stuffy apartment and enjoy some fresh air. It is important to unplug from society on occasion and break the routine. It was hard to leave the apartment at first and we forgot to bring half the things we needed but once we were on the boat, it didn’t really matter because we were happy. The new mooring in Somes Sound is quite protected and it felt like we were on a lake. Below deck, one could hardly even tell we were not on jack stands in the boat yard. Quite a change from previous years in Winter Harbor.
The engine started right up when I arrived and I motored to the dock to pick up our things. Unfortunately after we got back to the mooring I remembered I needed to fill up the fresh water tank. We also forgot our DVD player and ended up going back to the apartment to pick it up. Ironically, about half way through our movie the charge controller timed out and the power cut out. I just had to push a button to power it back on, however we forgot the remote to the DVD player and could not fast forward where we left off. We were so happy we could play the movie without the remote.
The wind picked up a little during the night and rattled the shrouds, waking us up for a couple hours. I ate two disintegrated sleeping pills to help fall back asleep. The wind died down eventually and it was not all that bad because there were no swells to rock the boat. The next morning we filled up the fresh water tank and made our way across the sound to the boat yard to pick up some oars that we had forgotten when I launched my boat. I rigged the sails while we were en rout and lost a shackle to the drink. Took while to get them set up while the wind was hounding them pretty hard. Probably not the best day to put sails up. Whatever though. Big G is 100% ready for the next time we go out.
“How do you like the curtains?” Said Stefanie. “They look like really nice curtains in a really crappy apartment” I answered. It is kinda like painting, when one section looks nice it makes every thing else look much worse then it was. Roughing it on a boat is better then roughing it in an apartment.
There were a few pre season concerns we considered resolving before putting the boat into the water but we chose to ignore them. We really should replace the water coolant circulator pump. It works fine, however it should be replaced every year and it has been over two years. It’s one of those things you know you should do, and keep putting it off and will regret it down the line it breaks. Hopefully there is minimal muscle growth around the intake.
Another point of concern not having a mooring lined up for the season. There are plenty available, however it is difficult to find someone to return my calls and emails. It is a little early in the season and boat yards are just coming out of hibernation from the winter. I may have to be persistent and rather annoying in order to get find a mooring. If it comes down to it I will just commandeer a mooring and persistently try to find someone to pay. It seems people are a little laid back in the Maine boating world.
After sleeping on the subject I decided to just put the boat in the water and deal with problems as they arise, or sink. After scheduling a day for launch with the boat yard and having that day pass I called them and inquired. They wanted to know if I would prepare the mast. I told them there is nothing to prepare. It is a mast with 6 shrouds, you put it on the boat and tighten the turnbuckles. They informed me the spreaders were taken off. Being the cheapskate that I am, I put them back on myself and it took about 5 minutes. I hate getting billed for things that don’t take any time. What did take time was re wiring the spreader light, which was cut when being disassembled (not by me).
I then told them to launch Big G and do whatever it takes in order to get her in the water. The mast was put on and the boat was launched. After reviewing the bill, I noticed I got dinged one hour of labor ($70) for them to start my engine. It did not start right up and they decided to bleed the line. I really need to be better at anticipating these things. I know how to start the engine, and I have never spent an hour starting it. It just takes a little finesse. Squeeze the bulb primer until you can’t, full throttle, turn ignition for 5-10 seconds and she will turn over. They also put the engine box back on wrong and forgot to put one of the pins in for a shroud. For the amount of money they charge, their attention to detail is quite poor. Hopefully the pay closer attention to the more expensive boats.
Haggling with the man would have been a wise idea. I think he was surprised when I paid full price for this boat oven. Not long after purchasing the oven, he called to tell me he took all the insulation out because it had mouse poop in it. I had purchased a respectable project. Stefanie was in love with the idea of having a denatured alcohol oven and a three burner stove top on the boat. This stove model has been discontinued, probably due to the availability of simpler, safer propane ovens.
First order of business was rebuilding a broken burner. It was rather difficult to find parts for this oven, which was probably from the the 80’s. I could not find the same model online. Most of the stoves I found were heavily used and in rough shape. I was able to buy a rebuild kit for the burner and that went back together quite easily.
Second order of business was replacing the broken copper piping for one of the burners. I could have just capped the line and had two burners instead of three but that’s no fun and I needed a challenge. I had already rebuilt the broken burner so I was committed now. It was some sort of 1/8 inch piping with a flange fitting that you could not find in any hardware store. I tried soldering it but couldn’t get the solder to stick without making the copper and brass red hot. I was afraid if it got too hot the felt filter would burn up, among other things. I used some special high heat liquid metal welding glue from the store. The weld broke when I put it back together, which was annoying because it took 24 hours to dry. I glued it again. And broke it again. I glued it a third time and put it back together before the glue was dry in hopes it would dry while in place. It seemed to work.
After ordering some ceramic insulation, the oven was in good working order and seemed to be able to hold in heat. The alcohol tank, however, was almost solid rust. I worked on this for a good while before I came to the conclusion that it would never work again due to a buildup of solid rust inside. I also broke a fitting when trying to unscrew it. Next order of business…building a denatured alcohol tank that holds pressure. No such thing exists on the internet so I will have to retrofit an air tank to hold denatured alcohol. This is still on the to-do-list, along with installing the oven on the boat. Once again, I have found myself over my head. Oh well, everyone needs a project.
While buying some fish at the market the other day, I noticed the deli attendant get very excited about cutting a fillet of fish at exactly one pound. After placing it on the scale he looked at me in hopes of getting a compliment. I hesitated for a moment as he stared at me in silence before reiterating “You can not get closer to a pound”. I barked a verbal cookie for him and moved on with my now existential shopping. Took me a moment to pick up on his body language due to the fact that I was in my own little world pretending not to be in a grocery store. I should have given him more praise. Winter is long and after a few quiet months it is interesting how one wants to get out and find some trouble to get into. Spring will be here soon enough and I will hopefully will be painting the bottom of Big G in preparation for her launch.
Most of December was spent traveling to Arkansas and Alaska to see the in-laws. This was fun for about 3 days out of 30 days. We planned this trip for our honeymoon, but in all actuality, it is not a honeymoon if in-laws are present. So really it was just a trip and I think there is a good chance we will take another shot at a honeymoon, hopefully involving a boat and no one else. While sitting in airports and staring at large jets it really gave me a greater respect for sailing. A quieter, more relaxing mode of transportation, during fare weather at least.
During our travels we stopped in to see my uncle who enjoys restoring old wooden boats. He has two of them, one about 75 foot and the other 65. He has been restoring them for years and they are monstrous boats requiring a great deal of attention, skill, and knowledge at all times. Way over my head. He was rebuilding an old diesel engine about the size of my car on one of them. It was pretty amazing to see what he had done with the boats and made me appreciate the simplicity of Big G.
I am glad I did not sail south this year, the weather has not been all that great. It was warmer in Alaska then in Maine during our trip and it made me happy to know Big G was out of the water and tucked away for the winter. I do not have to worry when there is a big gust of wind or sub zero temperatures. I will check on her later in the week and maybe do some cleaning or replace a water pump.
In my head, projects seem to go a little smoother than in real life. This is probably the norm for most people or I just live in a silly fantasy world. I figured an hour or so to set up the wood frame and throw a heavy tarp over my boat to keep the rain and snow out. Three hours later, I managed to complete the project with minimal success. By the time we finished I did not want to make minor adjustments and settled for good enough. Several yard employees gave me their advise as they passed by and I promptly ignored it. I had a vision of exactly what I wanted to do but we ended up doing exactly what Stefanie wanted to do, which is good. As long as the boat stays dry it does not really matter how we cover the boat.
The cover itself was a challenge. It weighed about a 75 pounds and carrying it up the wooden ladder onto the deck did not give me warm and fuzzy feelings. In my head I would shake the tarp out like a blanket but in real life it is more like carefully unfold it and hope it is square so I don’t have to rotate it. I am still not entirely sure if it is a square or a rectangle because it covered the boat and I did not mess with it after unfolding it. The stern was a little exposed and there was a little overhang on the bow but it was so heavy I could not move it towards the stern while standing on a wooden ladder that was older then me, so I called it good. I noticed several small holes in my tarp and made a note to put some sail tape or some other equally stupid adhesive material over it in hopes of feeling more satisfied about my mediocre craftsmanship.
Josh stopped in to assist after dropping some trash off at the dump. We were planning on going to look at some overpriced real estate but got caught up with my project and decided to go back to his place for tacos instead. It was a good day.
Knitting can be considered as long periods of silence with short bursts of choice language. That is my spiel on knitting. I have an addiction. Seeing as how the boat is on dry land now, I have to find other excuses to use sailor language. But, I recently had to take a break from knitting to take care of boat things.
I almost broke up with my former boat yard, but I haven’t yet because I am procrastinating. I had every intention of telling him that its over but I could not find him or reach him by phone so I just made a poor attempt to gather my things and left. My boat cover was close to the bottom of the large pile of covers and I put the pile back as best I could. It was difficult due to the confined space taken up by a very nice rigid inflatable craft. I figured the covers would be on boats this time of year but I was very wrong. This boat yard continues to perplex me.
After downloading a flashlight app for my phone, I began the search for the wood strapping frame for the recently found boat cover. The boat yard is very large and overwhelming when trying to search with a cell phone flashlight. I managed to find a pocket watch in one pile of boards and I pondered how it managed to get there. It was still ticking so I placed it where one could find the watch. I considered keeping it but I have a very nice pocket watch and I imagine the owner may be delighted to find it again.
I found a lot of wood for boat covers, but not Big G’s. I remember packing it away on a rusted old trailer over a year ago. I had an obnoxiously large black paint marker and I labeled every board with its location in the framing process. It was complicated to take down and I was thinking about the future when I had to put it back up. My brother was a little excited about his hand roll of shrink wrap and we bundled all the boards up very nicely and labeled them with our paint marker. I think what happened was I made it very easy for someone else in the boat yard to make a frame for their boat cover. I am sure Big G is not the only 30 foot sailboat in the yard.
After about an hour of pawing through piles of boards in the dimly lit yard, we gave up. I was getting tired of turning my phone light off when cars passed and feeling like a criminal even though I am a contributing member of society, finding a pocket watch and all.
The last sailing day of the year was rather bittersweet. It was a beautiful day and I got lucky with tides and currents and sunshine. I had a falling tide pushing me out of Winter Harbor (won’t miss that cove) and a rising tide into Somes Sound. Worked out perfectly. Found a few home brews and a Bud Light in the bilge and started drinking while I cleaned out my boat. Several canned goods went into the drink. Stefanie was not thrilled I threw her vienna sausages overboard. They are so gross I can’t even look at them and they smell like cat food. I fired my shotgun at one can just to make sure it still worked since it is so rusted.
I was concerned about mussel growth on the raw water coolant intake for the engine. They managed to clog up a scupper and when I went to pump the bilge the nasty water went up onto my deck instead of overboard. Had to get out the coat hanger I use to open my car when I lock my keys in it. Works good at clearing the mussels out. I could feel the crunching as I snaked the thing through the scupper. I am also worried about mussels going into the engine and damaging the coolant pump. They really are a huge pain.
Somes Sound was beautiful as I was drifting up the fjard on the incoming tide. I turned my engine off and drifted for a little while and enjoyed the scenery for the last sail of the season. It would have been much nicer if Stefanie was sailing with me drinking some Bud Light. It was the kind of sailing she likes, no sails, just motor. When I pulled into the mooring field I laughed out loud when I observed the first mooring is in 200 feet of water. Forget about anchoring anywhere around the moorings. Might be a little tricky to retrieve anything that goes overboard as well.
The new boat yard is pretty nice and the folks are friendly. They told me I should probably take my shotgun off the boat for the winter. I agreed with them. It was a little depressing to see Big G on jack stands. I did not get to sail much this summer and it is very expensive to just keep on mooring all season. I am not looking forward to the maintenance I have to do before winter sets in. Weatherizing the engine and cleaning every inch of the boat. At some point I will also need to break up with my old boat yard. The old yard called to check on me and ask if there was anything I needed. I told him I would be there pretty soon. I neglected to tell them it was only to pick up some things I had left there. I owe him 17 dollars in interest and he owes me 20 feet of anchor chain so I would say we are about even. Last season it took him two weeks to put my boat into the water, which is annoying. The new place has two travel lifts and they can have it done in an hour. I think Big G will like her new winter home.
It is a bummer when I have to take the money I make from lobster fishing and put it towards medical bills from lobster fishing. Each day, I work quite hard and sometimes even barf hard then go to the doctor for whatever reason. What a life. I don’t know how fishermen do it for their entire lives. I have gone fishing 4 times this fall and I managed to get tendentious in my left index finger. It’s pretty swollen and my left hand is just about out of commission. The doctor stated the best thing for it is to not lobster fish, and I stated I still have to pay bills. Hopefully with some ice and NSAIDs for breakfast, lunch and dinner I can finish the month. I should be cutting back on the knitting as well but I can only do so much.
The doctor recommended a several hundred dollar wrist brace and some Prednisone. I declined both of them and I am sure I am going to regret it when I get old. I did buy a value brand wrist brace, which will get me through one day of fishing before it turns into a twisted up pile of cheap metal and velcro that smells like bait for the rest of its existence. As far as the anti inflammatory steroids go, I will pass. The side effects are worse then the relief. The munchies would not be to bad, but the mood swings and depression would be less then desirable. Thats just what I need, a depressant to get me through a miserable day of vomiting and smelling like rotten fish. We will see if I can finish the season. As much as I would like to avoid working, I need to fork over 2k to get Big G in storage for the winter. The wind has been terrible this month and the sooner I get her out of the water the better.
When I have a good window of weather I will sail Big G across Frenchmen’s bay for the last time this season. I am looking forward to one last sail before winter storage. I am sure something will not go as planned and I will have to come up with some innovative solutions. I might even invite Mr. Hibbard along for the ride. We could use the company and some box wine.
The SW winds were not very kind last Monday. Gusts up to 70 MPH. It was so rough in Winter Harbor I did not even dare row out to my boat. The bow was diving into the waves at times. The sail cover lost some turn-buckles and was flapping in the wind a little. All in all though, my boat fared the storm pretty well. After all, it is made to handle waves breaking over the bow, maybe not so much the stern though. The primary concern was the boat breaking loose from the mooring and getting pummeled onto the rocks.
Stefanie told me there were two boats on the rocks in Winter Harbor and one was a sailboat and the other was a lobster boat. My heart stopped for a brief moment before she told me it was The Pirate’s boat. Poor Castaway. He was on anchor in the cove next to mine by the yacht club and his anchor dragged. I thought the guy was long gone but apparently not. It was a 200 pound anchor and he stated the anchor chain got wrapped around the anchor keeping it from getting a good hold. If that was my boat I would just walk away or put a free sign on it. The waves were not all that big in Sand Cove and it did not get beat up too bad. I went over to investigate and The Pirate was taking as much stuff off his boat as he could to make it light in hopes of floating it on the next high tide. I am not sure how that worked out for him, I did not stick around to find out. It looked like it was in pretty good shape for being on top of a rock.