Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Six Less Than Ideal Things to Discover About Your Boat

Peek-a-boo!! You can't see them, but they can see you!
The past few days have been busy, busy around here.  Scott has assembled a skilled and capable team of three guys including our awesome boat neighbor, Dave (former woodworker extraordinaire), to help bang out a bunch of projects over the next couple weeks.  They've already completed a lot: the bilge pump is hard wired to the battery, they installed a high-water bilge alarm, our watermaker is almost completely installed, we have new DC outlets in strategic places around the boat, our holding tank manual pump-out is ready for install, lazarette sectioning off has begun and much more.  It feels really good to see things getting crossed off our list and Scott is much more efficient with this great team around him.

While Scott is doing manual labor on the boat, my job - besides caring for the best baby on the planet (wink) - is to do research.  Lots and lots of research.  I order parts he needs, email companies and research solutions for problems.  Between Scott's manual labor and my super-sleuthing, we have discovered some not-so-great things about our new boat.  I will chronicle them here in the hopes that a) we don't make the same mistakes again and b) if any of you are looking for boats, you can keep your eyes peeled for these things.

Six Less-Than-Ideal Things to Discover About Your Boat 

  1. Your chain and anchor are undersized.  We knew this when we bought the boat.  Not a big deal.  When it comes to ground tackle we go big.  In our opinion, this is not an area to cut corners on.  We were planning on upgrading the 50lb generic claw anchor and 5/16 BBB chain anyway.  We figured all we'd need was to purchase a new 73lb Rocna and swap out the old gypsy with a 3/8 G4 High Test gypsy and we'd be good to go.  Not so.  Which leads us to number 2...
  2. Your windlass no longer exists, and neither do the parts it.  Unfortunately, the above projects are much bigger than originally thought because our Simpson Lawrence windlass is no longer in production (I literally have scoured the internet for hours and have yet to find another photo of it) and parts for an unidentifiable out-of-production windlass are hard to come by.  The company has apparently been bought by Lewmar and is slowly being faded out of existence.  I contacted the folks at Lewmar and they told us that our windlass is so old that not only does a 3/8 gypsy not exist, but neither do any spare parts.  It's looking like we'll be in the market for a new windlass...sigh.
  3. Your winches no longer exist, and neither do the parts for them.  Another project I was given was to purchase some service kits for our winches.  Turns out, our Barient winches are also no longer in production and finding parts and service kits for them borders on the impossible.  They might be working fine at the moment, but on a boat, it's safe to assume that everything will need servicing sooner than later.  Guess we'll have to hope for the best here because we are NOT replacing all of our winches.
  4. You have aluminum water tanks.  Aside from the fact that aluminum pits and corrodes, did you know that aluminum is linked to all sorts of health issues from Parkinsons to Alzheimers!?  I did not.  Some people suggest coating the inside of the tank with epoxy to help with corrosion and/or drinking aluminum which sounds fine and dandy, but to open up, clean out and paint our water tanks would involve tearing the boat apart.  Like, literally tearing it apart.  Again.  Anyone care to weigh in on this matter?  Big deal, not so big deal?
  5. Every lightbulb on board is halogen.  Energy efficiency is key on a cruising boat and Scott and I replaced every single bulb on Rasmus with LEDs.  They last longer and use up to 75% less energy than other types of bulbs.  While this is NOT a cheap undertaking (LED bulbs range from $10-$50 bucks a pop), it was well worth it in energy saved.  Last night, I went through all the lights on Asante (except the ones up the rig) and determined that not only is there not a single LED on board, but every friggin' light is halogen.  Heat generating, energy sucking, fire hazard creating halogen.  Sweet.  Replacing all these is going to be very costly and a bigger-than-it-seems project.  
  6. Your boat is housing baby German cockroaches.  This one is the clincher.  Remember when I found that one cockroach on Rasmus?  Yeah.  I nipped that problem in the bud right away and we never saw another after that.  The other day, Scott and I were inspecting under the floor boards when we saw these tiny brown bugs crawling around.  A little Googling here, a little photo identifying there and it's official:  our boat is housing baby German cockroaches.  The thought of this makes me gag and shudder with creepy-crawliness so Scott is, at this very moment, getting an arsenal of cockroach killing supplies (foggers, boric acid, roach motels - the works).  We are not moving aboard until after we kill these bastards and, obviously, thoroughly clean the boat to remove any traces of toxins from all surfaces.  Insecticides and babies do not mix.  
So yeah, we're taking two steps forward and two steps back at the moment and not in the cute Paula Abdul kind of way.  It's how it goes in the world of boat refitting.  We'll get as much done as we can and leave the rest to accomplish as we go.  In the meantime, if any of you have any advice/solutions/thoughts on any of the above we'd love to hear them!


Cynthia said...

The link between aluminum and Alzheimer should not be a concern. Check out this link from the Alzheimer's web site: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=99

Tim said...

Leave some breadcrumbs in your water tank for the cockroaches?

I agree with Cynthia in that the link Alzheimer's isn't well founded. However a leaky water tank could be life threatening. To line the tank with expoxy I would try to duplicate the process used by Insituform. It is effective and well-proven. You would have to re-engineer it yourself to your application.

Carolyn Shearlock - The Boat Galley said...

Britt --
You don't need to post this reply, but if you're in the market for a Spade as opposed to a Rocna, you can get 10% off as a fan of TBG. Send me an email if you're interested and I'll tell you who to contact, etc. We loved our Spade but I know Rocnas are good too so not trying to change your mind.

And I know ALL about being the parts and info sourcer. No one understands the amount of time it takes -- or the fact that you have to know just about everything about all your systems to do it well. It's at least half (my feeling, more) of every project. At least you're in the US with fast internet, nearby stores and good shipping for those things you have to order. Good luck with it all!


Anonymous said...

A good place for unusual parts, I found, is Sailors exchange in St Augustine...I know they are not that close, but they have lots of stuff tucked away in obscure places. I am going through the same teething problems as you are having recently decided to get a bigger boat to sail to the Caribbean in 2014. Good luch. What are your feelings toward wind steering?

Anonymous said...

Hi Brittany,

Regarding the Barient winches, if you can't find parts, you may be able to find some used same-model Barients, for cheap, and gut them for parts. Minney's yacht surplus (http://www.minneysyachtsurplus.com/) in S. Cal and Sailorman in Florida are the biggest used boat gear places. They have tons, literally, of old winches and sell them cheap. It's a long shot but could work out and save you some money or hassle.

David & Elena
sv Tigress

sailinglunasea said...

I'm still new to the boat world, but is it possible to insert a bladder into the tank?

Robert Salnick said...

I'd also agree with others that the link between aluminum and Alzheimer's is tenuous at best. And do not think that by encapsulating your water tank that you'll avoid consumption of aluminum... Aluminum is the most abundant (8,13%) metallic element in the earth's crust and after oxygen and silicon, the third most abundant of all elements in the crust. You're breathing it and eating it all the time, as dust if nothing else.

As for corrosion, aluminum won't corrode in water. Unless. Unless there are dissimilar metals in contact with both it and the water, and the water is conductive. Make sure that the only fittings attached to your water tank are plastic, and you should be able to ignore the corrosion bugaboo. Eolian's aluminum water tanks are 34 years old and in excellent condition.

s/v Eolian
30 years in the aluminum industry

Unknown said...


I do feel for you. From you list we got four out of six. Plastic tanks and no cockroaches.

I find the lights from alpenglowlights very good. The are going to service our lights with LED, this means I can keep the wooden fittings for our internal light. Will get the upgraded to LED and red night light.


Yacht: Maud, UK

Unknown said...

If you are at all worried about aluminum in the water, (although there is no direct evidence, there is some suspicion in the medical community) why not have a lab test your water to see what the levels are and if they are acceptable to known standards. If they pass in Florida, I'd probably test them again in the caribbean, as the heat does increase dissolved metals. That may just alleviate any worries you have.
Also, I'm sure there are companies that can custom make a bladder, or a nalgene liner to your tanks dimensions. That has to be a lot easier than epoxy.

Jeff Donnelly - a landbound sailor...

Anonymous said...

Easy solution to the water issue. Drink lots of Vincent Arroyo wine.

Joe said...

Bring Out Another Thousand. :) I've heard people say that a hundred times and it never really effects me the way it does most because I know no matter where you live there are always going to be maintenance expenses. Our home we are renting has tree roots growing in the pipes underneath the house. That is going to be a $12,000 repair. So always remember to take pleasure in the things you do to maintain and improve your boat.
LED Lights. We replaced all of the lights on our last boat with LEDs. We liked the energy requirement reductions, but hated the LED illumination. We were on a 49' Transpac last week that had the same fixtures as yours that were all dual purpose. Switch it one way and have white light, switch it the other way and have red illumination. This was great at night. We've decided that we want these dual purpose lights on our next boat. Perhaps there are some LED bulbs with a warmer glow that could serve as a compromise. :) This is way more expensive to change out the whole fixture but might give you some ideas. http://www.westmarine.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?productId=106379&catalogId=10001&langId=-1&storeId=11151&storeNum=50523&subdeptNum=50573&classNum=50578#.UJmCzsWHIrU

Steve said...

If still skittish about the aluminum consumption just plumb in a T off the output on the watermaker into a small(er) plastic tank and use this for drinking/cooking.

Jeff said...

You could try slspares.co.uk for the windlass parts. I found them when I was estimating the cost of fixing the first boat I had surveyed.

Anonymous said...

I had the same Barient winch problem with our boat and was able to easily service all of our winches with a Barient winch service kit I bought at West Marine. Best of luck!

Windtraveler said...

Holy awesome responses!! THANK YOU ALL!!
@Cynthia - thank you, that is good to know.
@Tim - that sounds like a HUUUUUGGGGH undertaking. I think we're going to have to risk it with the aluminum. But you make a very good point.
@Carolyn - that is awesome. We will be going with a ROCNA, but I hope that other blog followers see your comment and might want to take advantage of that!! www.theboatgalley.com people!! And yes, being a parts sourcer is INTENSE and HARD WORK!!!
@Anoynmous - Sailor's Exchange is AWESOME. Thanks for the reminder...we might try to make a trip up there before we leave but it's not looking good right now :(
@Dave and Elena - great!! Thank you!! And yes, SAILORMAN is awesome...was just there yesterday looking at their windlasses...
@Jennifer - the hard part is getting to the tank to open it up, once we do that - we might as well paint it. But we'll not be doing this we decided. Not before we leave anyway...maybe a hurricane season project.
@Bob - THANK YOU!! Good to know. I will trust your 30 years in the industry. I have heard, tho, that sometimes calcium or chlorine in water pits the aluminum?? Is this true??
@Terje - sorry that you are in similar predicaments - but at least we have boats and dreams, so we're better off than most!! I will check that company out, thank you!
@Jeffrey - thanks again. Yes, I'm sure we could find a company to do that - but it would be a small fortune and involve ripping apart the boat. But down the line, we might do just this when we have a little more $$ and time.
@ Anonymous- drinking wine instead of water? BRILLIANT. I'm sold.
@Joe - BOAT for SURE!! I love those types of lights - I think we are going to TRY to be more economical and find individual bulbs to replace ours for now, but perhaps a couple of these would be useful in the main cabin. Anyway, thanks for the link - those are AWESOME and SOOOOOO tempting. Then I don't have to research for hours and hours what sort of bulbs I need for the five different fixtures on our boat!
@Steve - THAT is an awesome idea....hmmmm....
@Jeff - thank you!!! I have contacted them and they have, in fact, identified our windlass and gotten me in touch with a company that makes new re-branded windlasses with the exact same specs!!! YOU ARE AWESOME!!!
@SVMoondance - thanks. I didn't find that kit!?!? I did however (with the help of awesome blog followers) find a company that has spare parts/rebuild kits for our winches and have ordered them :)

YOU GUYS ROCK THE CASBAH!! Thank you so much for your great insight, input and ideas!! xoxo

Jeff said...

We recently tore out the 30-year-old aluminum tanks in our boat after one of them developed a pinhole leak. Upon cutting the tanks open, we discovered dozens of growths that looked kind of like calcium deposits. If you scraped them off, the metal underneath looked corroded. Best we can figure, the metal content in the water was enough to let the tank start corroding in this way.

We heard the same thing about aluminum and alzheimers (didn't look it up though) and thought of doing the epoxy liner thing, but we discovered that not only are you supposed to use "food-grade" epoxy (I was unable to find such a thing anywhere in Portland OR), but epoxy doesn't adhere to aluminum unless you scuff it up really well and apply a special acid etching primer (which is most certainly not drinking safe).

I'm sure there's a way around all these complications, but we decided to heck with it and bought Plastimo flexible tanks instead. Our water tastes much better.

All that said, we drank out of the old tanks for four years and we ain't dead yet. You're probably fine. Maybe a Brita filter on your faucet?

S/V Serenity

Deb said...

The best source for drop -in LED lights that we found so far is superbriteleds.com. We replaced every bulb in the boat without changing fixtures. They have reasonable.prices too.

S/V Kintala

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

1) Parts for old Barients ARE still available:


2) Don't bother replacing lights with LED lights if a particular fixture is seldom used (guest bunks, heads). 5 minutes if a head light is on isn't going to matter to your energy budget.

3) Stick with 5/16" chain then. Chain is much stronger than the loads usually experienced by your anchoring system. We sat out an 80 knot blow on our 40' cruising catamaran near La Cruz, Mexico (see Sept 2012 Cruising World for the story Diane wrote).

Somehow we didn't break the 5/16" anchor chain. I suspect that the wind loads on a catamaran are probably well over what your size boat would be. We did bend a bow roller into a pretzel and bend the shank of our aluminum A140 Spade anchor. Yes it was big loads but nobody in the fleet of 60 or so boats reported broken chain.

Robert Salnick said...

I don't believe that either calcium or chlorine in the water will pit aluminum - by themselves. But they do make the water more conductive (as do sodium, and a host of other ions). Conductive water is more hospitable to galvanic corrosion. But... if you don't have any brass, bronze, iron, or stainless fittings attached to your water tank, then the corrosion won't happen. With aluminum, plastic fittings are your friend. (Note: aluminum is so corrosion-prone that even aluminum fittings of a different alloy can be a problem. Stick with plastic).

s/v Eolian

Adam Nash said...

I just replaced my bulbs with warm white LED through Ebay. Bar none, the cheapest source is straight from China where most stateside companies buy their actual bulbs from anyways. I can get a ten pack from Ebay cheaper than one from West Marine or the like.

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