Maintenance, Repairs, and Upgrades

As I cleated-off the last dock line, having returned SV Scat! safely to the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor, we reflected on all that happened during the past 12 days while Scat was in the KKMI boat yard.

I had been a little nervous when we motored the relatively short distance from the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor to the KKMI boatyard, as we had removed the main (and only) sail the previous afternoon. Without the sail, we had no “plan B” if the iron genoa stopped unexpectedly as we negotiated our way through the expected tankers and cargo ships maneuvering to and from the docks of Port Richmond’s inner harbor. Fortunately, the few tankers and cargo ships there were were already docked by the time we set off for KKMI.

When we had originally met with our KKMI project manager, we had requested that the boatyard: pull the mast and replace the rigging, install a dripless shaft seal, and install our manual windlass. We had also planned to replace the mast lights with LED, install a new VHF antenna and cable, and install a mast-top wind speed / direction indicator ourselves. As with most boatyard projects, this simple list grew considerably and stretched what we thought would be about a week to 12 days.

First up on this Friday – mast removal! KKMI’s expert rigger removed the hangers and topping lift from our wishbone boom and placed the boom on makeshift stands on deck. As I removed the bolts, pins, and leash that affixed the mast to hull, the rigger worked diligently to remove the wedge blocks that held the mast firmly to the deck collar. This turned out to be more of a chore than we had expected! Even with a gentle tug from the mast crane, the mast didn’t break free from the blocks. It took more than an hour of chiseling, hammering, and wiggling to free the mast. Upon completion of this intermediary task, the mast was expertly lifted from Scat and placed on stands in the boat yard. We had officially become the motor vessel Scat!

The plan was to haul the boat the following Monday, so we spent the rainy weekend tracking down and installing new anchor, running, and steaming light fixtures and LED festoon bulbs. We also consulted with a local marine electronics expert and ordered a new VHF antenna and coax cable, as well as a new B&G Triton wind instrument. We installed this equipment in our “spare” time over the ensuing week.

When we awoke on Monday, the KKMI crew were already busy with the many boats and projects in the yard. After a quick discussion with our project manager, the rigger hoisted the boom from our deck, we motored over to the travel lift. It always makes us nervous seeing our little boat swinging from the lift straps.

After a quick power wash, we were able to inspect Scat’s underside. It had been about 19 months since we had the boat hauled and painted in Vallejo. During this time, we had accumulated a surprising amount of growth – especially on the propeller. In fact, the prop was sporting an entire ecosystem.

[We think they are tubeworms.]

It was also evident that prop shaft zincs would need replacing. I had installed two zincs during the previous haul out, but only one remained loosely attached to the shaft. We also observed barnacles starting to spread out from the bottom of the keel. In addition to new cathodic protection, Scat was going to need new bottom paint and propeller sealant. The KKMI team would have time to complete this work while the the dripless shaft seal was being installed.

After the pressure wash, Scat was shuttled over to an open space in the yard and placed on three sets of stands. Our boat listed slightly to port as shewas placed on the stands. While this didn’t appear to matter, it made us nervous every time we climbed the ladder to board. And, we lived on the boat for a week while it was on the stands, so we did quite a lot of ladder climbing.

Installation of a dripless shaft seal turned out to be quite a project. But it wasn’t actually the installation;rather, the difficulty was in separating the propeller shaft from the coupler. It took the experienced mechanic more than two days to separate these two parts and extract the shaft from the boat. The mechanic patiently worked on this project while contorting his body around in our engine “room.” Fortunately, installation proceeded on a more expeditious pace. However, the final test wouldn’t occur until Scat was splashed back in the water and a proper leak check completed under power.

While the mechanic worked diligently from our bilge, we installed the mast lights and ran the coax and wind transducer cables through the mast. We also purchased and installed several new blocks for the halyard, topping lift, and choker. Not wanting to risk extracting the internal halyard from the mast, we agonized for several days (well, I agonized – Laurie was a little more blasé). about how to install the new block. We searched far and wide for a block that could separate similar to climbing pulleys that I’ve used previously for mountain rescue. In the end, we tied a tag line to the end of the halyard and pulled it through the 49 ft mast. This was surprisingly easy, and within just a few minutes, we had the old block removed, the new block installed, and the halyard rerouted through the mast. Apparently, like many things in life, I anguished about this for nothing!

Soon after the shaft seal project was completed and the bottom paint was touched-up, Scat was again hoisted by the giant straps of the 35 ton travel lift (affectionately know as Ella Liftsgerald) and carefully lowered into the water with our mechanic onboard. Fortunately, after about an hour of inspection, including running up and down the channel under power, we were deemed leak-free so we docked near the mast crane.

Next up, installation of the RC Plath manual windlass that Laurie inadvertently purchased last summer. Everyone agreed that this project would be easier to complete with mast removed since this would provide mostly unfettered access to the chain locker. The same mechanic that installed the dripless shaft seal was assigned our windlass project. Given the stoutness of our forward deck, as evidenced by the lifting of the boat during the initial attempt to extract the mast, the project consisted of constructing a mounting platform with a small piece of starboard and aligning the new hawse pipe with the original hawse pipe hole. Once accomplished, it was simply a matter of gluing and bolting the whole assembly down (I’m making it sound easier than it actually was). The final placement was perfect and will allow me to lower and raise the anchor without wracking my knuckles on the mast!

The final project was to re-step the mast, affix the wind transducer, attach the boom, and figure out how all of the lines and blocks attach to the mast and deck fittings. The prudent thing would have been to snap several clear photos before the mast was pulled. Yes, that would have been a good idea! However, between the cryptic drawings in the owners manual and a bit of common sense, the three of us (me, Laurie, and the KKMI rigger), were able to reassemble the important parts of the running rigging. With the mast back in place – even though the sail still filled the back of our vehicle – we shed the M/V moniker!

In the end, we completed the following projects during our 12 days in the boatyard:

  • Install new topping lift and boom hangers
  • Install new VHF antenna and coax
  • Install new mast top wind instrument and cabling
  • Replace anchor, running, and steaming lights with LED fixtures
  • Replace pendant line block
  • Replace halyard block
  • Replace topping lift and a choker blocks
  • Remove prop shaft, replace the cutlass bearing, and install a new dripless shaft seal
  • Sand hull and apply new bottom paint
  • Clean propeller and apply an anti-growth sealant
  • Install new aluminum-based prop shaft cathodic protection (formerly zinc’s)
  • Remove old knot meter and insert a plug with new O-rings
  • Install new manual windlass

We were both amazed at how fast our little craft moved through the water as we motored back to our slip in the Marina Bay Yacht Harbor.

Benicia Bound

As the Coast Guard patrol vessel approached our tiny boat in Mare Island Strait during mid-August 2018, the captain yelled over to me “Have you ever been boarded?” My heart raced a little as the Coast Guard vessel maneuvered alongside. We were just about to turn into the wind and raise the sail at the start of our journey to Benicia.

I knew, however, that everything was in order since we easily passed our courtesy inspection with the Coast Guard Auxiliary just two weeks earlier. I yelled back, “No. What do you need us to do?” And Laurie, at the helm, added, “Should I keep it in gear?”

The Coast Guard commander yelled back, “I noticed that it looks like your CF numbers fell off the port side.” “We’re USCG documented” I replied. “I can show you the paperwork” as I pointed to our Auxiliary certification sticker affixed to the port side of mast.

Disappointed at our eagerness and apparent readiness (we were wearing our inflatable PFDs after all), the Captain opted not to board, wished us a good day, and the patrol boat headed back to their quarters at the east end of the Vallejo Marina.

We hoisted our sail and proceeded down Mare Island Strait on an outgoing tide and with a light breeze coming from the west. Soon, we entered Carquinez Strait and pointed the bow east towards the City of Benicia. With the wind coming directly from the west, no spinnaker, and no way to prevent an accidental gybe, we prudently steered a zig-zag course towards Benicia.

As we sailed under the Carquinez Bridge, we once again heard the squawk of a loud parrot. “It must be a speaker” I commented to Laurie. “But why?” I chuckled that some biologist was probably able to convince some highway engineers that the presence of parrots would keep the pigeons and swallows from making a mess of their work.

Our zig-zag course gave us plenty of opportunity to practice our controlled gybes in light wind conditions. (And, I got a good workout!) We learned, however, that even in moderate winds, we should consider a chicken-gybe (i.e. 270 degree tack) rather than the risk and effort of a controlled gybe with our massive single sail.

After dodging a few tugs and fishing vessels, we arrived at the entrance to the Benicia Marina, fired up the iron genoa, dropped our sail, and motored into the marina. Laurie carefully guided our floating home into the narrow slip, which allowed me to easily step onto the dock and tie off the mooring lines. All in all, it was a relaxing 3 1/2 hour trip!

Cruise from Vallejo to……Benicia!

So last week a couple of weeks ago several weeks crap er… sometime back in April, we decided that we’d had enough with fixing and replacing boat parts, and wanted a change of scenery so we decided to sail out of Vallejo and around the corner and stay in the Benicia Marina for a night.  Vallejo and Benicia are adjacent towns, but it is actually about an eight mile sail out of the Mare Island Strait, up the Carquinez Strait, and around into the Benicia Marina. The wind was light and variable, heavy on the variable.  At one point, our wind vane at the top of the mast was actually spinning. ​

Bob and I have a ​​thing about Quonset huts…apparently.  Mare Island has what could be termed a shit-ton of Quonset huts.

​​Sailing Selfie.  We also really should be paid for our West Marine advertisements.

​​into the Carquinez Strait watching carefully for large, fast moving shipsIMG_0754

​and under the Carquinez Bridge.

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Lucca Bar and Grill – awesome drinks
When we finally got to Benicia and docked in a tiny slip, I felt I needed a drink.  Or two. Then we had a really nice dinner at Mai Thai.

The next day, we had to wait for the tide to come in, so we wandered over to a car show that was going on along 1st Street.

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Huh. When I was in the Benicia High School Panther Band, we sold beef jerky strips and band candles to raise money. They’ve come a long way.

The wind was not only light and variable on the way back, it and the current were against us, so we motored back to Vallejo.  When we arrived back at our slip, I decided to back Scat in.  As we were coming into the slip, I was looking backwards and felt the boat rock as Bob hopped off.  I said, “Could you…(my ears registered a splash, but my brain didn’t catch up) (quickly looked around – no Bob)..Did you fall in???”

The next probably 30 seconds were a blur of trying to stop the boat and not let the bow or stern hit the dock, and more importantly not hitting Bob with the prop or squishing him against the dock with an 8,500 lb boat.  I failed at not hitting the dock, but managed to avoid Bob, and came to a stop diagonally in the slip with Bob muscling her off the dock.  Whew.  As the boat stopped moving and I cut the engine, I heard a PSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH sound.  From Bob’s perspective he heard the PSSSSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH overlaid with RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP as his PFD inflated around his head and the Velcro holding it closed all ripped open.  I started laughing, partly from relief, but it was also pretty funny.​

​Lessons learned:  Step off the boat – no leaping.  If the boat isn’t close enough, come around and try again.  Also?  We’re not spring chickens anymore.

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They cost $35 to re-arm, but hey!  They work!  As long as you can keep your head above water for 30 seconds.

Name Change – Sort of…

Documented!!

 

During the survey
Years ago, when we first saw Scat, we really didn’t like her name. We figured that if we ever bought her, that would be the first thing to go (turns out the first thing to go would be the marine toilet, but that’s another story).  By the time we actually got her, the name had kind of grown on us, but we still asked friends and family if they could think of a better one for a cat-rigged boat. There were some good suggestions, but we had to make a decision quickly since we were documenting her with the United States Coast Guard instead of the California Department of Motor Vehicles and ended up sticking with Scat.

The Coast Guard has some fairly strict requirements for the name on a boat: The name and hailing port for a recreational vessel must be displayed together on a clearly visible exterior part to the boat (for a commercial vessel, they must be on the stern, with the name again on each side of the bow unless the vessel is square hulled – it gets quite complicated).  All letters in the name must be at least 4 inches tall and the letters of the hailing port must be at least three inches. Once the Coast Guard processes the application, they assign the vessel a unique number which remains with the boat for the rest of it’s “life” no matter how it is registered by future owners.

§ 67.121 Official number marking requirement.  The official number of the vessel, preceded by the abbreviation “NO.” must be marked in block-type Arabic numerals not less than three inches in height on some clearly visible interior structural part of the hull. The number must be permanently affixed to the vessel so that alteration, removal, or replacement would be obvious. If the official number is on a separate plate, the plate must be fastened in such a manner that its removal would normally cause some scarring of or damage to the surrounding hull area.

Although we applied as soon as we bought Scat (before we even moved her from Alameda in September), we didn’t get the official documentation until January.  Bob tracked the progress for months.  Finding a “clearly visible interior structural part of the hull” that allowed for a fairly long number “not less than three inches in height” was not as easy as you might think on a 26 foot boat.  We settled on an area just behind our companionway steps in front of the engine.

Bob wanted to get stencils, but I insisted my printing would be good enough. He seemed dubious. I lay on my stomach and printed with an erasable pen, measuring to ensure each character was three inches. Then it was Bob’s turn to lie on his stomach and trace my lettering with a dremel drill. Then I got back down and filled it in with a sharpie. Not bad, if I do say so myself! We make a pretty good team.

Next came new lettering on the transom. We had designed and ordered the decals from BoatU.S. back in September, but it had either been raining or we had had other boat projects (there are ALWAYS boat projects) while we were there, so we didn’t actually get to it until a couple of weeks ago.

Removing old lettering
We found that a plastic razor blade and a carefully used heat gun work well for old decal removal without harming the gelcoat finish.  The heat gun has actually been one of the most used tools on the boat.  We’ve also used it when we replaced the toilet and to heat-shrink quite a few electrical connections.  Removing the bolted-on transom ladder steps involved me becoming a bilge rat while Bob tried not to drop them as they came off.  Once we got the old letters off, we washed, buffed, polished, and rewashed the entire transom.

Getting closer
When we filled out the documentation paperwork, we didn’t know where we would be keeping Scat!, so we put our hailing port as Placerville.  We decided her name needed some pizazz so we added an exclamation point.

Unfortunately, you can still see the shadow of the previous lettering even with all the buffing.  If you look really really really closely, you can still see the shadow of her original name – Catbernet.  We reinstalled the ladder rungs and took a look.  At this point she was finally completely legal.  She just needed one more thing.  Actually 9 more things.

And closer
Done!

Basic Keelboat (ASA 101)

Sailing the San Joaquin!

Although we’ve both sailed before, we decided that we needed a bit more experience to sail confidently along the coast, so we looked into taking the American Sailing Association (ASA) Beginning Coastal Cruising class.  To do this we had to take the prerequisite – Basic Keelboat.  We did some research and settled on the Delta Sailing School located in…the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the second link is to a post in my other mostly defunct blog, Chimaera Contemplations – which includes a photo of the now infamous Oroville Dam, which will never look like that again).

The class was two adjacent weekends, and a half hour closer from Scat than Placerville, so we left after work on Friday and drove down to the Vallejo Marina.  We had to get up bright and early the next morning and head into the Delta.  The farther into the Delta we got, the worse the roads got and we eventually turned onto one that was mostly patches and potholes.  At the end of it, we drove up onto the levee holding back the waters from Seven Mile Slough and the San Joaquin River.  The school turned out to be a tiny floating one-room schoolhouse in a slip in a marina.  It was the perfect size for an instructor and four students.  There we met George and Tomás, the other students, and Alan the owner/instructor.

After an hour or so of instruction,  we went out and started getting acquainted with Hog Wild, the Capri 22 that we would be sailing for the next two weekends.  Bob and I kept being distracted by the huge flocks of snow and Ross geese and smaller flocks of brant and Canada geese that were noisily landing and taking off from Twitchell Island across the slough.  We practiced motoring and docking the boat until lunch.  After lunch, we motored out of Seven Mile Slough and hoisted the sails.  It was a fairly windy day, and we had quite a bit of fun zipping around in the San Joaquin River.

Keeping track of our ASA classes
The next day we arrived to gusty winds and torrential rain.  We held off sailing and spent the morning in the classroom.  The wind and rain died down by the afternoon, so we went out to practice more spirited sailing. George tried to kill us all weekend – he kept narrowly avoiding accidental jibes because he would turn the tiller the wrong way, and at one point he had Hog Wild’s rail so far under the water that Alan’s seat got soaked. 

The next weekend was the complete opposite.  Light winds, sunny and warm.  For much of the weekend we floated around carried more by the current than by the wind.  We did occasionally have enough wind to practice man overboard drills.  If you ever come sailing with us and fall overboard, stay calm and don’t worry as the boat sails away into the distance.  We will come around and get you eventually.  Probably…

We did it!
One of the other things we learned is that Bob is a knot savant.  Actually, I think Bob already knew this. Being an ex-Girl Scout, I was also fairly familiar with knots, so we were both able to help the less knot-savvy Tomás and George.  Among the many other things we went over in class were navigational rules, navigational aids, and points of sail.  All in all it was a very informative and fun class!  We’re really looking forward to the Basic Coastal Cruising class in May!

Test Sail

With a boat, things are never that easy

Making an offer on a boat without test sail and a marine survey is not wise.  After the sellers had accepted our offer, we scheduled the test sail and survey on adjacent dates, made a mini-vacation out of it, and stayed overnight at the  Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square in Oakland.  We drove down and met our boat broker, Elvis, who had brought Mike with him to help out.  Mike had actually had a little experience sailing a Nonsuch.  He also ended up being the “muscle” as the huge sail can be a bit of a bear to raise – especially since, as we found out pretty quickly, the main winch needs some servicing…  it goes backwards as well as forwards.  Elvis motored the boat out of the maze that is Grand Marina and into the Oakland Inner Harbor Channel between Alameda Island and Oakland.  Once Mike had the sail up, Elvis said, “So who’s going to be captain?” 

 “ME!! I squeaked.”  

“Well get on over here and take the helm!”  

I scrambled over (it is a small cockpit) and grabbed wheel in a death grip.

  

There was a nice breeze, and Scat! heeled over and took off!  She was amazingly sensitive to any touch – far more than I had expected.  With gentle coaching from Elvis, we tacked back and forth in the narrow channel, tried a controlled jibe, which ended up not-so-controlled, and decided to turn around when an enormous container ship looked as though it was headed our way.  It was awesome.  We then fired up the engine and put her through some more paces.  She turns on a dime.  As far as we were concerned, she passed with flying colours.  Elvis then took the helm, and motored us around into the slightly dilapidated dock where the survey would be performed the next day.  

Bob leaped off and Elvis and I gasped as the dock rocked precariously.

Then, giddy with excitement, we made our way to Jack London Square for a night out on the town.  Well, ok, dinner and an early night.  We had to get up early to meet Elvis and Richard, the surveyor. 

View of the Oakland Ferry Terminal from our hotel room balcony