Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Systems Review - (Warning: Potentially boring)

We're still in North Sound, Virgin Gorda, waiting for a good opportunity to head for St Martin.  Perhaps next Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, here's the next installment of the renovation. Parts of this post might be a little "dry", as I review the original systems  that were replaced with new components (not very sexy to some - very sexy to others). I made every effort to bring "Saralane" up to 'code' for boats constructed today, but may have fallen short in a few areas.


Electrical standards have improved over the years and in my experience every old boat suffers from too much former owner tinkering to get things to work, but leaving the old wiring or plumbing in place. Since we’d pulled every inch of wire out of the boat, we installed a brand new, very simple system, re-shaping then re-using the original C&C breaker panel after testing all of the breakers. 

New/old electric panel
All wiring is of the approved tinned variety. Two new 4D AGM batteries were installed under the galley sink to keep the weight central in the boat and all of the primary circuits were run using extra large tinned wire. Since we were also installing an electric anchor windlass at the bow, a long run of battery size cable had to be run forward. When all of the new wire was delivered, I was surprised how much weight it represented. Fortunately we used a supplier who shipped for free!

We operate with a large “house” battery bank of 400 amp-hours, and a separate dedicated engine “start” battery. These are charged independently by separate alternators mounted on the engine – one 45 amps and the larger 125 amps. Charging is also achieved via a 50 amp charger when we are plugged into shore power. This unit has an inverter which provides us with 120V AC from our 12V batteries. We installed an array of solar panels in the Bahamas after we left in 2010 which takes care of about 80% of our electrical needs (see "Saralane Goes Solar" March 2011). 

 A note about the "start" battery. When we bought her, the boat had one small battery aboard. It sat on our front porch for about 6 months, then was put into service to run our heater the first winter. Three years later it was pressed into service as our "start" battery, and now 5 years later, it has just died. It certainly owed us nothing and we replaced it while in St Thomas just last week.

We modified our old overhead light fixtures to LED and put LED bulbs in new reading lights. Our navigation lights are also LED. This conversion to LED lighting saves a huge amount of energy and the quality of the light itself has improved greatly with new technology.

W ealso rewired the mast. Twice in fact, after chipmunks took up residence during the renovation and chewed up our brand new wires! 

As with the electrical, all of the hoses had been removed - most were old and cracked anyway. Since we had also reduced the number of through hulls, we laid out a new, simpler plumbing system.
The old gate valves on the through hulls were replaced with “Marelon” nylon valves, approved for yachts.

Marelon through hull valve
Copper plumbing was replaced with plastic, as were bronze valves. The new toilet, new head sink, new galley sink, new drains, new pumps, and new engine supply hoses were all installed. One of the new through hulls was porposely oversized to create a salt water manifold to serve multiple functions. One of those new functions is a new deck wash to make cleaning the anchor chain easier when it’s being pulled up.

While the tanks were out of the boat during the cleaning process we pressure tested them and they checked out OK. Inspection ports and tank level indicators were installed before they went back in. "Saralane” was one of the few C&C 40s built that has stainless steel water tanks – most were fiberglass I think. In the interest of minimizing the number of holes in the hull and deck, we sealed up the two deck fills for our water tanks, so now we fill directly into the tanks by bringing a hose below. Our 100 gallon water capacity seems like a fair bit, but a means to "tank up" independently was considered. Many of our friends have watermakers (fresh water from seawater) but they are expensive, so we opted for a simpler solution. As built, the deck has two drains, port & starboard that run aft and overboard to deal with water on deck when it rains. We installed a simple valve arrangement on each drain to divert rainwater into the tanks when it rains. 

Valves to divert rainwater
When it rains, we let the decks rinse for a bit, then close the overboard drains and open the hoses to the tanks! It's amazing how much water can be collected in a short period of time - and it's terrific water with no chlorine or other chemicals. We do need to be vigilant about closing the tank valves when underway. One time, with nearly full tanks, we forgot and got some salt water on deck which contaminated the tanks. There were semi fresh showers galore for a few days!

Our hot water heater was shot, so we replaced it too (and renewed again in Norfolk - see "Norfolk" November 2010).

Current laws require that all vessels have a holding tank (sewage) aboard. In 1979 these regulations were pretty much ignored, so installing a proper holding tank was on the list as well. The head compartment got the same cleaning/paint treatment as the rest of the boat and the old toilet and sink went directly to the dumpster. There was a cupboard behind the toilet that was appropriated to house the new holding tank. I patterned the odd shape (the tapering curve of the hull) and built a fiberglass tank that gives us about a 28 gallon capacity – lots by today’s standards. I installed the tank and made a new panel to cover the plumbing.   
Left - Before holding tank
Right - Holding tank installed (behind towel)
The tank is elevated above the waterline so gravity is our discharge pump, and y-valves, macerators and extra hose connections are eliminated. The primary source of tank odor is not the tank itself but rather the hoses which are declared "odor resistant" but do smell over time. To address this, I plumbed the entire waste system with rigid PVC (like you find in Home Depot). It's a pain to work with, but cheap. Connections to the tank and head are with flexible exhaust hose which is "odor proof". To finish up the head I installed a new toilet, sink and new varnished wooden countertop. 

We didn’t even try to start the engine when we bought the boat. The amount of rust and oil - and the fact that someone wrote 06/2003 on the oil filter - weren’t good indicators. And the old engine was BIG! Someone had installed a large alternator at some point which really didn’t fit in the engine space – so they cut a hole in the side of the engine box (also the side of the fridge) and removed the insulation to allow the alternator belt to be tightened, essentially putting a 200 degree heater in the fridge.

The old Westerbeke before removal
We considered the industry standard – Yanmar – as a replacement, but it was expensive. I’d met a Phasor (engine) supplier at the boat shows who sold a line of marinized Kubota engines and he gave us a great price for a new 4 cylinder 37 hp diesel – so we went for it. The Phasor saved 150 pounds and is dramatically smaller than the old Westerbeke. 

I cleaned and painted the engine space and insulated it on all sides with 2 inch acoustic insulation. I had to modify the engine beds a bit (once from the drawings and once again just before we put it in) and replaced the leaky stainless steel muffler with a fiberglass unit. I opted for a dripless shaft seal and also changed the cutlass bearing in the strut. 

The old and tired Westerbeke 4-107
A messy and oily engine space
Our friends George and Christina from s/v Sophie were in town during the engine replacement and helped with the installation. We cut a hole in the protective covering on the starboard side and borrowed a forklift from the yard to raise the new engine into place.

Our new Kubota 37
A borrowed fork lift helps
Nice and easy...
Almost there...
Room to spare!
We installed a second large alternator to charge the new house battery bank which required a complicated bracket. John Whitney, a machinist friend in Newport, did a great job fabricating this for us. The new alternator did create one issue though; the oil filter couldn’t be removed for service with this new arrangement. I solved this by installing a remotely located oil filter – a real plus now when changing the oil.

With the new engine, a different propeller was needed and we opted for a feathering Maxprop propeller. The three blade was kind of pricey, so we got a two blade and works it perfectly.

Finally, the original boat had separate throttle and shift levers which has potential gear shift at high RPMs when maneuvering gets dicey. I installed a single lever shifter, that has the throttle and shift together and can only shift at idle, as well as all new cables.
New single lever engine control
The original aluminum fuel tank holds only 20 gallons and we'll need more for long distance cruising. The weight savings on the engine (150#) was a plus as it allowed us to add an additional 27 gallon fuel tank (150# full) under the quarter berth next to the engine. It required some shuffling, but in the end it all fit. We now have about 75 - 85 hours worth of fuel aboard in two tanks (and we carry an extra 5 in a jug). The fuel fills were also relocated from the side deck to an interior surface to keep them out of the elements.

That's pretty much it for the "infrastructure". Stay tuned for more where you will see how we brought "Saralane" into the 21st century with some modern alterations.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hanging around North Sound

I'll wrest control of the blog from Skip for a quick post here.... just to say, well... that there's not much to say! We haven't gone anywhere since we arrived in North Sound a week ago Friday. We keep saying "Should we leave today?" and we keep coming up with reasons to stick around. Truth be told, one of the reasons we're still here is that there's great wifi out in the anchorage. We haven't shaken our need for wifi since our return nor the compulsion to work when we have wifi.

We've carried a few other bad shoreside habits back to the boat as well, most notably our overuse of water. Normally we can make the 100 gallons we carry last about a month. We filled our tanks before we left Yacht Harbor twelve days ago and our tanks are almost empty already. If it doesn't rain soon we'll be forced to move along just to get some water. Goodbye excellent wifi signal....

Here are just a few photos to cleanse your visual palate before Skip jumps back in with more filthy bilge pictures.

New and old signs seen around Leverick Bay
Not much of an attack cat
Spectacular evening sky last night
Maybe we'll move today...

Sunday, November 11, 2012


I've been promising a blog (or two or three) about the renovation of Saralane for quite a while now. So without further delay, I'm turning the blog over to Skip for the details!

This has been a long time coming, but this will be my first blog post describing how we turned a tired old club racer (C&C 40) into a comfortable cruising home for us. Several more posts will follow highlighting specific projects and finally the finished product.

When we first saw “Expectation” (now “Saralane”) in 2007 it was reported that the 28 year old boat had been on the hard in Maryland for four years. Winter cold, summer heat, leaky hatches and ports had taken their toll and there was mold and mildew of epic proportions throughout. The boat had also become a major haven for mud wasps. What a mess! But under the mold and mildew there was potential - and a good boat to be had. I did a cursory survey and felt that structurally she was sound, with flaws that were to be expected on a 28 year old boat. We made a low offer which was accepted. Damn... now what do we do!?

'Expectation' arrives in Rhode Island
In the slings.
She is now a Rhode Islander!
We weren't confident about getting her home on her own bottom so we trucked her to Rhode Island, struck an annual storage deal with a local yard, and began a three year restoration. The first order of business was to remove everything we could from the interior and scrub every surface, including the inside skin of the hull and deck. All old boats have that “old boat” smell and I resolved early on to eliminate the smell by sanding and coating every surface of the interior with a coat of paint, varnish, or epoxy.  

The head, dripping with mold and mildew.
More mold and mildew in the head.
Mold and mildew in the V-berth coats the dark wood.
We took off everything and anything that could be unscrewed or unfastened – the overhead (ceiling) the ceiling (hull walls), the sole (floor), drawers, cupboards, fridge, engine, batteries, pumps, sinks, toilet, doors, hatches  windows, tanks, water heater, steering system, pulpit & pushpit, and more. We pulled out every wire and every piece of hose and all the deck hardware. Everything to be reused went into the basement for refinishing and everything else went into the dumpster.  

Messy interior
Filthy Bilge
More filthy bilge
Household wiring used in Expectation 
We installed an elaborate winter cover and rear staircase for the long haul. No ladders for us! I had become one of ‘those guys’ in the boatyard with a project boat, rose colored binoculars and a set of semi-permanent steps built (with a back door) to access the boat.

Although she was structurally sound… she was still nearly 30 years old and I didn’t want to be tinkering with old pumps, old fixtures, old plumbing, an old engine… all the old stuff old sailors struggle with. So we wound up with and old strong boat and replaced all of the old stuff with brand new stuff. At the end of the renovation we have essentially a new C&C 40 well within current market value.

The old engine - a 1979 Westerbeke 4-107 with an unknown number of hours on it.
With a lifetime of boat features stored in my mind, I had a good idea of what we ought to do with our new project. I also wanted to incorporate some of the sensible and practical features found on the Outbound Yachts, which I represent, some of which were going to require major surgery. Boats the vintage of our C&C tended to be quite dark below with poor ventilation and we needed to address that too. Most importantly, we wanted to create a comfortable home for ourselves and occasional guests.

Hull Repair and Deck Hardware Removal

I went over the hull initially with a moisture meter and did find areas of moisture in the hull – no surprise for a boat of this vintage - and some areas were kindly marked in chalk by a previous surveyor. It would have been a miracle if there had been no moisture in the cored hull (two fiberglass laminations sandwiching a ¾ inch balsa core). With three years to dry out on the hard, I drilled a series of ¼ inch holes (probably 60 or 70) through the outer skin into the wet balsa where the meter indicated, protected the holes so rain wouldn’t get in, and let her dry over time. There also seemed to be 30 years worth of bottom paint on her. I tried solvents and sanding, and got quotes for someone else to strip her but in the end I took two years to scrape her down bit by bit to fiberglass and then sanded her smooth. After nearly three years, when the balsa was completely dry, I filled the holes with epoxy, fiberglassed the holes, then faired the repair. 

A few of the filled and faired drain holes - lots more on the other side!!
One priority was to reduce the number of through hulls in the boat. Most of the old ones had gate valves (like your garden spigot) which are a problem aboard. I tried to unscrew the gate valves, which resulted in the entire through hull assembly turning. I then had to saw all of the bronze valves and through hulls in half to get them out. In the end we were able to eliminate 5 of the 10 through hull holes, which was a big improvement for safety and convenience. The old holes were ground and feathered, inside and out, then were liberally glassed over with 5 layers of triaxial fiberglass and epoxy inside and out. The entire mess was then faired smooth. Before launching we also applied two coats of special epoxy and three coats of epoxy barrier coat – then bottom paint.  

Glassed from the inside.
Glassed from the outside
Looks good!
Back in the 70’s it seemed like the number of winches on deck was often tied to the owner’s ego. Racing boats were referred to as “winch farms” and  “Expectation” was no exception. In the interest of keeping the boat as simple and uncluttered as possible, we removed 10 winches (two of which were relocated on the mast) and assorted other fittings. This left numerous fastener holes to be filled and glassed over. Since we had removed all of the deck hardware, I also filled the holes we would re-use, to be re-drilled before rebedding the hardware. This would further encapsulate the balsa coring and resist water intrusion.

'Winch farm' on deck
A few of the filled & glassed deck hardware holes left behind
Since we knew this was a multi winter project, some sort of heating system was in order. Mike Bowden, a friend at Ocean Options in Rhode Island, had a used Espar heater that we acquired and installed. It is a forced hot air system that runs off of the boat’s diesel fuel tank. During the renovation I ran it from a jerry jug in the cockpit and used pure kerosene, which would burn cleaner than diesel in the cold winter weather. It worked beautifully during the refit. On snowy winter mornings, I'd turn it on when I got to the boat, then I'd go up the hill for a cup of coffee. By the time I got back it was warm enough to work, and an hour later I was usually in shirtsleeves. It was a lifesaver in the Intracoastal too - we even plumbed a small duct into the head for those chilly mornings!

The C&C 40s (and most boats of this vintage) suffered from lack of ventilation. We solved this by replacing two of the large fixed windows, port and starboard, with four opening ports. We had to build in and fiberglass two “pillars” to divide the two long openings into four shorter openings. Lots of filling and fairing and mess! Two additional opening ports were installed in the aft side of the cabin in the cockpit. This space also used to be occupied by instruments and bulkhead compasses – so these holes needed to be filled and faired also. All of the original plexiglass windows and overhead hatch lenses were replaced with new ones, and we added two dorade boxes with cowl vents just aft of the mast. (Thanks Dad, for your help on this!)

Patching the old instrument holes in the aft cabin bulkhead.
Sketching in the opening port shape (port side).
New "pillar" faired and in place (starboard side).
Holes cut for new ports (port side).
New opening ports and new plexiglass port installed (still covered in protective brown paper) 
I hope this has given you a little view into the scope of our project - and some particulars. I'll post again with details about the systems we replaced on "Saralane" and some serious surgery that I performed (successfully!). Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Afloat again

After less than a week on the hard in the yard in Virgin Gorda, painting and sweating and cleaning and sweating and painting some more, we're back in the water. 

Speedy's - the last leg of our trip
We were delayed on our way south just long enough to miss the last ferry to Virgin Gorda. It was probably just as well, since we'd have had to hike around the hot dusty yard in the dark with all our bags, looking for the boat. (Plus we got to spend one last night in air conditioned splendor in a hotel in Tortola.)

We knew the yard would move the boat, but we were sort of hoping they'd remember where they'd put her! When we arrived Monday morning we hiked around the hot dusty yard with all our bags looking for the boat. When we found her, we got to work.

She wasn't where we left her.... the yard moved Saralane to accommodate other boats in the busy yard.
Respirators at the ready
Bottom and stripes taped off and ready for painting
We'd painted the boot stripes previously with spray paint (apologies to the purists out there) because we loved the bright green color and couldn't find anything like it in marine paint. This time we decided to paint with marine paint and match the green by tinting white paint.  

Have white paint.... add green tint.
Uh oh. We were after BRIGHT lime green, not pale mint green.
The paint guide was a little off. Time for a new plan. Thankfully the ship's store here had some green paint, so we doctored it with some white and some yellow tint and a little of the mint green mix we'd come up with and voila.... we got a sort-of lime green!

The secret formula
The leftover.... for touch ups
The unmasking
One upside to being in the yard was that we got to spend time with our friend Jim from Top O' the World who's been out of the water for over a year and was getting launched a few days before us. He had air conditioning on his boat, and we not only enjoyed Jim's company, but the killer dinner and strong drinks he made for us while we cooled off in the AC. (I know in my last blog post I said I didn't miss air conditioning. Apparently I lied.)

Captains Skip and Jim
Top O' the World gets wet for the first time in over a year
Hurricane Sandy didn't cause any problems in this far east in the islands, but the storm was big enough to push the easterly trade winds down around to the south and west. It also brought in enormous swells and waves that crashed into the channel making Jim's exit a little exciting. He made it out just fine though - and is now hanging out in Vieques with his son-in-law and planning his next adventure.

Top O' the World faces down the crashing waves at the edge of the channel
After seeing Jim off, we had no excuse not to work all day and into the evenings to get Saralane ready to go. Once she was ready, she went back into the slings and into the water. 

Skip keeps the paint handy for touching up once the stands are removed.
Rolling toward the slipway
The waves and swell were had calmed a bit since Jim's departure but still made things a little challenging in the slipway, hence no photos of our exit since we were both on the boat and handling lines on our way out. By the time we left the marina the following day the winds had shifted back into the east and the swell was down. We made our way up to the North Sound to settle in and finish cleaning up the boat and stowing things. 

Our plan to go ashore for a celebratory drink last night was dashed when the outboard on the dinghy refused to start. (Thus commenced the swearing and muttering and banging on the outboard.) When it got too dark to see what he was swearing at and banging on, and after swapping out the fuel, checking all the connections and undoing and redoing the hoses and siphon, Skip decided to revisit the problem in the morning. 

In a 2 AM revelation, he realized the problem. Seals on the connectors at both the tank and the engine were worn from use and hard from age and were leaking slightly and not allowing the fuel to get to the engine evenly. In the morning he cut some 'seals' from leftover leather we had on board and went out for a test ride - we're back in business! The oars are in the dinghy just in case. 

We'll be hanging out here for another week or two waiting for a friend's boat to arrive. Meanwhile we'll be getting reacquainted with Saralane (three months is a long time to be away!) and readjusted to the easy pace here. Now that the dinghy is operational - I think we'll go have that celebratory drink.