Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 26, 2009
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! We enjoyed our first official turkey day on the boat. Talk about changes in attitudes, changes in latitudes... 99% of the time, our little boat oven is perfect for our needs. Enter many of you have actually had to measure your oven at home to see what would fit inside? (Literally - we're talking physical dimensions here!) Since it was just the two of us, we figured we'd manage quite well with a little turkey breast. Good thing - given our space constraints, the days of 20-pound turkeys are long gone!

Since the cook is such a traditionalist, we had to have mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and green bean casserole to go with the turkey. And crescent rolls, of course! (They don't even begin to measure up to Aunt Sue's homemade rolls, but they did the trick.) As if that wasn't enough, we finished off the meal with pecan pie (sadly, Rene doesn't like pumpkin). Did I mention it was just the two of us eating all of this?? And since we decided to have "dinner" at our normal lunch time (2pm), there are plenty of leftovers to snack on later tonight. Life is good!

We're also happy to have the sun back out. We had a real gullywasher (aka "massive downpour") all day yesterday. It rained overnight, was raining when we woke up, and kept on raining until mid-afternoon. Just when we thought it was over, it started raining again. It felt like being back home as a kid again...Seattle for Stacy, the Netherlands for Rene. When we woke up this morning, we took one look at the dinghy and knew it was a Kodak moment. The water was ankle-deep...and then some!

Annoying as it was, the only real downside of the storm was that it prevented Dick Murray (our watermaker guy) from coming out to the boat yesterday. We still have a valve that needs to be fixed, and we're trying to take advantage of a weather window early next week to leave for the Bahamas. Weather permitting, Dick will come out to the boat tomorrow to fix the watermaker. Fingers crossed that it'll be something simple and we'll be up and running again by this weekend!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Watermaker Time...Part II

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
So you know how we ended the last blog with "we have a watermaker!"? We may've spoken too soon...

A muffled whirring wakes me (Stacy) up at 4am. It sounds like the water pump, which normally only goes on for a few seconds when you're actually running water. The exception to this rule is when the water tank is nearly empty, at which point the water pump growls while it tries to get to the last drops of water...think "angry boat sounds". Grrrrrrrrrrr. So back to 4am...after feeling my way around the dark for a few minutes, I wake Rene up to tell him we have a problem in the bilge. He crawls out of bed, opens up the bilge to verify that it's the water pump, and starts investigating. After a few minutes, we look at each other and go, "there's no way we could be out of water, right? We just made 40 gallons last night." Rene opens the faucet at the sink, and wouldn't you know it - ssspptt...ssspptt...ssspptt. No more water. How in the hell have we managed to run through 40 gallons of water in 5 hours, given that we've been sleeping the whole time? It's got to be something related to the watermaker, but neither of us wants to start working on it half-asleep and in the dark.

After staring at the ceiling for a few hours, we finally get up to begin our troubleshooting routine:

Step 1: Look for leaks. We're talking 40 gallons here - it had to go somewhere. Rene finds some water in the lazarette where the watermaker is mounted, but certainly not enough to solve the mystery of the vanishing water.

Step 2: Make sure the product hoses aren't blocked. Rene disconnects the input hoses from the valve in the bilge and blows through them. Nope, no problems there.

Step 3: Check the water pump strainer. We have strainers on various systems to capture debris before it causes any major problems. Some strainers are harder to access than others, so they don't get checked as often. :-) If any major debris gets into the strainer, it can actually shut down a system. (Our genset began shutting off a couple of weeks ago, and Rene found a drinking straw and some green bean-like vegetation in the strainer and intake hose. Yuck!) As for the water pump strainer, it needs a good rinse, but it's not enough to prevent water from going into the tanks.

Step 4: Verify that water is reaching the water tanks. At this point, we turn on the watermaker. First we make sure that water is flowing through the hoses to the tank. Having disconnected the hoses earlier, we can capture and measure the water coming through. Yep, we have good flow; it's definitely getting to the tank. Next up, look at the tank itself. This requires us to remove the mattress from the v-berth and open the panel. That done, we can immediately hear water flowing through the tube and into the tank.

Step 5: Call the experts. Rene calls Dick Murray, our trusty Spectra vendor. First of all, I have to say that Dick has been incredible through this entire process. He's always smiling, and doesn't seem to get riled up by anything. Rene has called him a few times during the installation process and he's been very helpful and patient. Yesterday Dick came out to the boat to certify the system. Wouldn't you know, it started pouring as soon as the dinghy left the dock. All three of us were drenched by the time we reached the boat, but he just acted like it came with the territory. Anyway, Rene called Dick this morning to tell him about our water's disappearing act. Rene is pretty sure the problem is tied to the fresh water flush, which literally flushes the entire system with fresh water to clean out the salty water at the end of the process. It seems like the fresh water flush is continuing to pull in water from the fresh water tanks even after the 5-minute flush is done. Dick explains how the flush valve works, which is counter-intuitive to a typical screw. Remember the old adage "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey"? In other words, if you turn a screw to the right (clockwise), it tightens or closes itself. Turn it to the left (counter-clockwise), and it loosens or opens. This is the theory we went by yesterday when Rene adjusted the water flow into the filter. It turns out that's backwards for this unit, so we may've been "super-flushing" the system. Bottom line: up to 5 gallons per minute go through the system instead of 1 gal/min. Having made 40 gallons last night, it's possible that we lost 25 gallons to the fresh water flush process. Wonderful...

We soon kick up the generator again and run the watermaker for two hours. All goes according to plan, and Rene adjusts the flow to the fresh water flush to a more reasonable level. At the end of the cycle, we shut everything off and listen for the water pump. If all goes well, it shouldn't go on again. A couple of minutes go by and...crap! It isn't as persistent as it was at oh-dark-hundred, but it's still there. There may be something wrong with the valve itself, so for now we'll have to shut down the water flow to the valve between watermaker runs. Dick will be on the boat tomorrow morning to check it out. Hopefully we'll get this fixed soon so we can still make our Bahamas departure early next week!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Watermaker Time!

Saturday, November 14 - Monday, November 23, 2009
Lake Worth Anchorage, FL
As you know, we've been in Lake Worth for nearly a month now, and other than showing pictures of new arrivals to the area (nice schooner at Peanut Island, left), there really isn't much else to say about this place. So our latest and greatest blog entry is all about installing the watermaker. Boring, you say? Think again. It's gonna get pretty steamy, folks! There's a lot of talk about laying tubing through tight holes and such. Not that any of our friends have dirty minds...

Rene has started laying down the tubing (i.e. hoses) for the watermaker, and boy is he managing to get into some tight spaces. If only I'd taken pictures! Our plan is to install the majority of the watermaker modules on the bulkhead in the lazarette, but from there, we need hoses to run forward to a pump in the bilge and on to the water tanks (mid-ship and v-berth); we also need a hose to run from the watermaker aft so the brine can connect to one of the overboard lines (?). Sounds easy, right? Hahahaha. At best, each tube has to go under the floorboards and around whatever structures happen to be in the way (three 130-pound batteries, for instance). At worst, the tube has to go through a blind, mostly inaccessible passageway that may be 5-10' long. The tube has been coiled, so you also have to twist it as you push it through to keep it from catching on something. Fun! The first few hoses are relatively easy to run. We're able to get them through an opening under the floor and behind a wall that leads from the washing machine, around the batteries, and into the bilge. Piece of cake (which means it takes under 2 hours). Next up, we have to figure out how to get hoses all the way forward to the water tank under our v-berth bed. The existing water hoses go from the bilge to the starboard side of the boat, behind the walls of the salon, forward head, and v-berth, and finally into the water tank under our matress. It'll be physically impossible for us to route the watermaker hoses the same without tearing the boat apart. There must be another way! Rene pulls out the v-berth drawers and finds wires leading under the floor back towards the bilge. Now he just needs to figure out where they lead. With Rene in the bilge and Stacy in the v-berth, we pull on various wires until we can verify that they do, in fact, run through an opening to the bilge. The only problem is that the hole is behind the generator, accessible only by feel. Rene crawls into the bilge between the generator (below) and the floorboards (above) to get to the access hole. The space is so small that he has to remove the sound-proofing on the gen to crawl in. We're talking mere inches here, and he ends up literally lying on top of the generator. After some struggling and a few choice words, he finds one end of a pipe that continues behind a wall, under the v-berth floor, and ends in the v-berth bed frame behind the drawers. Success! Of course, confirming that the access hole even exists is only part one; part two is running the tubing. Think lead lines, tape, and a 12" Swiffer handle. 'Nuff said. So goes the rest of the day, and by the end of it, all of the hoses are where they need to be (we think).

The next couple of days are for shopping and running errands. Sunday we bike a 10-mile circle to K-Mart, Target, Lowe's, and Publix. Unfortunately, the gear lines on both bikes have rusted through; Rene's stuck in a lower (higher?) gear, but Stacy's bike has defaulted to the lowest setting. She peddles like crazy and goes nowhere. about frustration! (We love our Dahon fold-up bikes, but a few parts aren't as sea-worthy as others.) Monday we face the fact that we won't make it to the Bahamas by Nov. 24th, which means that we need to renew our pet entry forms. Stacy's German stubborn streak rears its ugly head, and she refuses to go for any more long bike rides until the gears are fixed. Rene bikes over the monster bridge to the post office on his own to overnight the renewal forms; not being able to downshift, Rene gets his butt kicked by said bridge. Looks like we'll be repairing the bikes sooner rather than later...after the watermakers, of course.

The watermaker finally arrives Tuesday - now the real fun begins! Visualize where everything will go...measure for placement and drilling...hold modules up against the wall to help with visualization...make sure we can still open the washer and cabin doors...visualize some more...measure one more time...maybe two more times...and...drill! This may seem like overkill, but drilling holes in the boat is scary stuff. Plus, we're drilling holes in small spaces near other important hoses, frames, etc. We really need to get this right the first time without doing any major damage to the rest of the boat. By Thursday, Rene has everything mounted where it needs to go, and by Friday he has most of the electronics connected. Saturday, Rene taps into the water tanks and splices the watermaker hoses into Pipe's existing system, and Sunday is for finishing touches. Dick Murray, who sold us the watermaker, comes aboard Monday (which means a dinghy ride through a downpour) to test and certify the system. Everything works perfectly, and we can't find any leaks or other surprises. It's official...we have a watermaker!

Now that the big boat project is done, we just need to get the Bahamas pet entry permits in hand and set up a quick visit to a local vet for shots and a sign-off that the kids are healthy. We'll spend Thanksgiving on the boat and will find a nice restaurant for our 3rd wedding anniversary on November 28th. Early forecasts show a possible weather window early next week, so we may be able to shove off for the Abacos next Monday or Tuesday. Fingers crossed!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lake Worth, Florida - Southern Anchorage

Thursday, October 29 - Friday, November 13, 2009
It's official: we've arrived at our jumping-off point for the Bahamas! We're anchored near the Lake Worth inlet, which is about 60 miles from the west end of Grand Bahamas island. We arrived here this morning from the anchorage near North Palm Beach, and have rented a car for the first week that we're here. We plan to attend the Ft. Lauderdale boat show, visit friends there, and do some major provisioning while we have the car. It's great to be mobile again!

Friday morning we're off the boat by 7:30 to make the 50+ mile drive to Ft. Lauderdale. We're going to see Tracy and to attend the boat show. It's definitely more geared towards power boats, mega-yachts, and the like (where else would you see Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Ferraris, and Maseratis sold at a boat show?), but we're hoping to get a good deal on a watermaker and maybe find a few cool gadgets. We start out by hitting every possible watermaker booth, and are suffering from sensory overload by the tenth one. Rene is still debating between a 110-volt (electric) and 12-volt (battery) system, as well as a bells-and-whistles (more to break) vs. a more basic (i.e. no automation) system. We've heard great things about the Spectra system from Chris and others, but some cruisers have touted the more basic systems that include generic replacement parts that are easier to maintain outside of the U.S. Decisions, decisions... We're exhausted after our first day at the boat show - how do the vendors make it through 5 days straight??? - and try to relax as we talk through our options over dinner at Macaroni Grill. (Side note: this is our first Mac Grill visit since leaving's just as good as we remember!) We really don't know which system to get, but we're supposed to get more info from a couple of the contenders over the weekend. Hopefully it'll help us figure out what to do.

Saturday and Sunday we jump head-first into provisioning purgatory. First up...spare parts for the gen set and engine from the Ft. Lauderdale Westerbeke and Yanmar suppliers. We find out that Yanmar is only open during the week, so we'll have to come back after our boat show visit on Monday or Tuesday. Next, we stock up on beer and wine at Total Wine, followed by a non-perishable run to Publix before heading back to Palm Beach. Rene's credit card company gets suspicious of all the charges, and his card is frozen after the third stop. After a quick call into the credit company, we're off to spend more. His poor card is even more tired than we are! Sunday we make a few more supply runs near the marina...Kohl's, Wal-Mart, Winn-Dixie, West Marine, etc. We're back on the boat by mid-afternoon, and barely manage to get everything down below and into the guest room before dark. We've just learned that we may have a visitor in a few days...we'll have to relegate him to the salon couch unless we can find places for everything! At last count, we have 10 cases of beer, 6 cases of "pizza wine" (in addition to Rene's wine cellar), 3 cases of diet coke, 2 cases of tonic water, 100 cans of veggies, 25 jars of pasta and curry sauces, 50 cans of tuna and assorted meats, plus soup, rice, potatoes, couscous, pasta, and various other dry goods. How do you organize four months' worth of food on a boat?? That's a mystery for another day...we're heading back to Ft. Lauderdale to make a final decision and purchase at the boat show first thing Monday morning. Organizing the boat will have to wait.'s the last day of the 50th Annual International Boat Show in Ft. Lauderdale, and boy do those vendors look wiped out! It's much quieter today than it was on Friday, and we're able to wander through the booths without last week's crowds. Our first stop is the Boomerang Fishing booth, where we finally get a rod to go with the Penn reel that Donna and Steve gave us as a going away present last December. We're ashamed to say it, but we haven't tried our luck at fishing since we left Texas. Granted, we wouldn't want to eat anything out of the brown-ish ICW waters anyway! Now that we're headed to the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas, it's time to get a pole and lures ready. We're still clueless about the whole fishing thing (Stacy's grandpa must be so ashamed!), but we'll try to absorb more info along the way. We've seen a few charter boats bringing back their catch throughout our travels, and we're ready to try our hands at some fresh tuna and mahi mahi! With the pole purchase complete, we head to our real destination: Spectra Watermakers. We've decided to go with Spectra, certainly for their reputation, but even more for the fact that they've re-engineered the 300 gal/day model in a way that better suits our installation plans. The large pump that most companies use has been replaced by a smaller (but still powerful) unit, so Rene will be able to put it in the bilge rather than try to find a place under the waterline for something three times its size. Best of all, Rene's able to get a great deal on the watermaker; it ends up being about 25% off the regular price, which basically gives us the bells and whistles for free. Productive day!

The next few days are spent back on the boat trying to find storage space for the mountain of cans sitting in the guest room. Our Kemah friend, Steve, will definitely be coming to visit this weekend, and we'd really like to have a bed ready for him. We tear the boat apart figuring out what we already have in various nooks and crannies, and manage to find space we didn't even know we had (with help from the kitties, of course). It takes a couple of days, but in the end it all fits. We have a true guest room again! Steve arrives Saturday night after a 1500+ mile road trip. He's our first repeat visitor having last seen us in the Florida Keys, and it's wonderful to see him again. Unfortunately he arrives during a bizarre patch of weather we've been having: winds have been 20-30mph for the past 5 days and are showing no signs of slowing. The anchorage is getting a bit more crowded as people hole up to get out of the Atlantic's 10'-plus waves. Every dinghy ride between the boat and the marina requires trash bags for our belongings and ponchos for us, and we still end up soaked from head to toe. Steve's a good sport, and we brave the surf yet again to have dinner ashore Sunday night. The Tiki Bar at our marina serves good seafood dishes and cold beers, and it feels good to get off the boat for awhile. Wouldn't you know it, we have to go against the waves to get back after dinner. With three of us in the dinghy, there's no way we can plane to stay drier. Rene mans the outboard, and Steve and Stacy cover themselves as much as they can with the ponchos. It's a long ride back, and we barely make it past the port before a pilot boat leads a barge out into the channel. Talk about timing! It's too dark for Rene to read the waves, and we lose count of how many direct hits we take. The waves manage to hit us in the face and go down the necks of our ponchos, and we're completely drenched by the time we step aboard Pipe Muh Bligh. What else can you do but laugh?

Steve leaves us on Monday to visit family for a few days; trusting guy that he is, while he's away he lets us use his new baby - the Blue Bullet. What a gorgeous car! Steve bought the Porsche 911 from a friend who's leaving Kemah to go cruising, and this baby has been pampered for all of her 28 years. She's a true classic, and Rene has a blast driving a sports car again. For those of you familiar with the fate of Rene's little red Corvette, not to worry. Now that he doesn't have his own car, he's a very safe, careful driver. (Really, Steve - we promise!) We drive down to Ft. Lauderdale for another visit with Tracy & Seann; now that the boat show, birthdays, and Halloween are finally over, they have a little more free time for a get-together. We have a great dinner with them and get to meet a few more of their friends. We spend more time visiting with them on Wednesday before picking Steve up at the airport. After a fabulous dinner at a German place in Ft. L, we get a nice surprise back in Palm Beach: the winds have finally calmed down! We enjoy our first dry dinghy ride in over a week, and hope the crazy winds are over for awhile. After a quick nightcap, we all crash early. Steve has to head back to Texas in the morning, so no big partying tonight. :-)

With Steve gone and provisioning done, we focus on our next big project: installing the watermaker. By some crazy stroke of luck, the Spectra vendor for the area is less than two blocks from the marina. It's an easy walk or bike ride, and we're able to visit him for some helpful hints as well as a few hose lines to begin prepping the boat. Our watermaker should arrive early next week...can't wait!