Thursday, July 16, 2009

We're getting there! Lessons on boat maintenence...

I read something a while back that really put in perspective what owning a boat and keeping that boat afloat entails. I cannot remember where I read it or who said it, but the gist of it was that if, at any given time, 80% of your boats operating systems are working -you are in REALLY good shape. That means, on average, at least 20% of a boats operating systems are in some form of disrepair. And guess what? I believe this to be true. And I'm glad I read it and went into buying a boat expecting that. I have found in my life that having the right expectations are key. In fact, my theories on that require another blog post all together so I'll skip it...

Moving along.

As you (presumably) read in our last blog - we had three major issues on our boat that required immediate attention. Here they are in order of importance: 1) Our boat was leaking. 2) Our automatic bilge pump wasn't working and 3) Our hydraulic steering was so out-of-whack that it was pretty much impossible to steer with. Those are three pretty integral pieces of the boating puzzle. We had to fix them. But how?

It's no secret that Scott and I have been at our boat every single night since we brought her here so we found the best way to fix these issues was to 1) thoroughly examine them 2) enlist the help of friends and family with boating know-how and 3) Comb the Internet sailing forums for advice from people who know what they heck they are doing and have dealt with similar problems. Again, unsolicited plug for Love that site.

First issue: non-functioning automatic bilge. The manual switch on the bilge was working - but the automatic was not. After some research and talking to some people at West Marine - we decided that our bilge pump probably didn't need to be replaced entirely, but that the float switch was somehow not functioning. So Scott took out the old pump and I cleaned out the bilge (ick - not pretty - word to the wise, if doing this - wear rubber gloves!!) we followed the wires, opened them all up - removing the shrink wrap and butt connectors (yep, I now can use the term "butt connector" and know what I am talking about!!) and Scott discovered that the wire for the float switch was completely corroded and needed to be cut and re-butt-connected. I ran to West Marine, got the tools and appropriate pieces and VOILA!! We had a working automatic bilge pump. This was *very* exciting for us and there was no shortage of high fives in the cockpit when we filled it with water from a bucket and heard it start (automatically) pumping away. Music to our ears. Good times.

Then there was the leaking engine. We had no idea where the water was coming from. The rudder post was producing a few drips of water, nothing that would justify the 10-15 gallons we were taking on. Every place on a boat where water usually comes from the rudder post, the stuffing box...was more or less bone dry. Multiple friends and family members came aboard to take a peek as well - and everyone left scratching their heads followed by a "Sorry, I can't figure it out". Harrumph. Talk about frustrating. So I took to and put up a post soliciting the help of the salty dogs that frequent that site. Later that night, Scott and I went back to the boat and, while looking at the engine again, he noticed a drip coming from waaaayyy aft...from the engine. A ha! So we were getting somewhere! The next night we went back to the boat and Scott pulled a maneuver that rivaled those of the performers in Cirque du Soliel to get his head back in the engine compartment. And there it was. A leaking intake hose leading to the transmission. We shut off the gate valve sealing it completely (where the hose was connected to - that went through the hull and into the water - sort of like turning off a hose at the water source to paint a picture in your mind). Scott removed the hose, and sure enough -it was old and cracked. Never have we looked at an old crumbling hose with such reverence and glee. It was a work of art I tell you. Mystery solved.

And now we're on to the hydraulic steering. The filling oil and bleeding of air in a hydraulic steering system is a delicate job that requires two people (to keep it simple). One must fill the system with oil, while the other bleeds the air. I was at the helm pouring the oil in (it guzzled about three cups of the stuff!!), while Scott was in the aft cabin bleeding the air out. We think we've got it. At least now actually can feel "hard over" whereas before the wheel would just turn and turn and turn and turn and turn get it. I must admit though, I am a *bit* skeptical however, as I have read quite a bit about our Vetus system and I'm pretty sure that we're leaking oil because steering was fine on the sea trial and got progressively worse on the delivery. Additionally, I now know what hydraulic oil looks like and remember seeing it (a lot of it) in our bilge (which you remember, I cleaned)...anyway...we shall see. For now, it's fixed!! HOORAY for small victories!!

This is all very, very exciting for us. Now the only question is, what else will we discover that needs fixing....hmmm.....

We're off this weekend on the Mac Race on my dad's boat Lancashire Lass - so all you friends that are staying in town - keep an eye on her for us and make sure she's sitting pretty in the water :). And, if your the religious kind - pray for wind.

Fast sailing,

Brittany and Scott

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