May 28 2011

Maintenance Updating

Tag: Australia,boat workJonathon Haradon @ 4:29 pm
I’ve just put up 21 blog posts on our companion maintenance site, where we list all the upgrades and maintenance we’ve done to Syzygy. The 21 posts concern all the maintenance that I’ve done over the last five months since Matt and Karen left me to my own devices aboard Syzygy. They are mostly not particularly interesting stories, but for those of you who enjoy all things Syzygy, I thought I’d share.

Apr 18 2011

Temporarily Indefinitely

Tag: Australia,boat work,failures,humorous,JustinJonathon Haradon @ 1:04 am
“How long are you going to be in Bundaberg?” asked Ducan over some beers at a pub in Bundaberg. Justin replied, “temporarily, indefinitely.” The three days prior to arriving in Bundaberg, a city renowned for brewing an exceptional rum, we had been running our engine for five or six hours a day. There was just no wind or we were in a place so narrow that I didn’t want to be sailing. The Great Sandy Straights just south of Bundy, while serenely beautiful, were tough to navigate, so the engine was on the entire time. More posts later about fun we had there. At least we knew the engine fabulously. Until the day after we got to Bundaberg and tried to move away from the obscene $50 a night marina we were staying at. Then our engine decided not to start. Two hours of investigation revealed nothing and at that point Kate, our supremely gracious and generous friend here in Bundy, arrived to take us back to her place for hot showers and beds. Another $50 to the Bundaberg port marina. They would get at least another $150 dollars when all is said and done. The next morning Justin and I arose early and headed back to boat. Since the engine was cranking but wouldn’t fire, I suspected air in the fuel lines, something Matt confirmed in some e-mails I traded with him. Getting air out of the lines is supposed to be relatively straight forward. Follow a few steps and they should be cleared of air and the engine should start. Air may however, leak back in once the engine is turned off. Finding and permanently fixing an air leak is a confounding, vexing, frustrating and all-together potentially miserable experience. But I digress…. simply getting air out of the lines is supposed to be a relatively straight forward process. First: open the bleed screw on the primary filter currently being used (we have two of them) and use the pump on the primary filter to pump fuel though the filter. Air bubbles should come out of the bleed screw and when they stop then there is no air from the tank to the primary filter. First problem: fuel began leaking out of the other primary filter bleed screw. This was not surprising or unexpected as the bleed screw on said filter is a plastic piece of shit bolt that is basically stripped and deserves to melted down and turned into a children’s toy where it can cause joy instead of the frustration and ire it caused me. I had temporarily fixed this six months ago by wrapping it with plumbers tape and I again painstakingly cut some plumbers tape in half and wrapped it around about a dozen times all the while mumbling under my breath curses at it. Two days later I would buy a nice new metal bolt and declare victory on something Matt and I knew we should have done two years ago. Simultaneous first problem: fuel began leaking from above my head. This was surprising and unexpected. Instead of mumbling curses under my breath, this elicited an audible, “where the fuck is that coming from?” I was apparently too eager on the pumping at the primary fuel filter and was forcing fuel out via our vacuum gauge. There is a line running from the fuel system to the back of this gauge so that it can measure fuel pressure. There was no hose clamp on the line for some reason, just a tube pushed onto a nipple in the back of the gauge. I zip-tied it for now, and should hose clamp it later. Second step: open nut on fuel line exit at secondary fuel filter and using lift pump, pump diesel out until any air bubbles go away. Second problem: fuel began streaming out of the secondary fuel filter, which I had just changed. I must now mash and squeeze and contort my body over the engine so that I can better see the secondary fuel filter and put the o-ring and the filter on correctly. My head is now inches away from where two years ago I had jump started the engine via my body when I connected the alternator to the starter motor or solenoid, (I’m still not entirely sure what happened back then). Having the engine start unexpectedly, with me lying on top of it, because current had gone through either me or a tool I was holding, was not an experience I wanted to repeat. Thirty minutes later, the secondary fuel filter is finally on appropriately with a mild stream of obscenities. Third step: open fuel line leading to fuel injection pump and using the lift pump, pump diesel out until any air bubbles go away. Third problem: No fuel will come out. I can hear fuel running through the system and returning to the fuel tank, but no fuel comes out here. I give up and move on, with a pointedly loud set of damnations for the engine. Fourth step: open bleed screw on fuel injection pump and using the lift pump, pump diesel out until any air bubbles go away. Fourth problem: The bleed screw is located in another screw, lets call it the ‘stupid screw’ which goes into the pump. When I try to loosen the bleed screw, it seems to be seized to the stupid screw, and instead the stupid screw loosens. The bleed screw is specifically made so that when loosened, only a small amount of fuel comes out. The stupid screw is not. Lots of diesel now comes out as I fumble around trying to find the wrench that will appropriate tighten the stupid screw and not just tighten the bleed screw further into the stupid screw. I get it to work right with additional wrenches as I ponder what cancer I am bringing upon myself with diesel dousing my hands. I am also cognizant that neighboring boats might have head the stream of invectives I direct at the engine. Fifth step: Crack open each injector nut, there are four, and crank the engine with the throttle open. If bubbles appear, the engine has not been appropriately bled and the process must be repeated. Fifth, six, and seventh problems: The fifth and sixth problems are that two injector nuts leak air, so I have to repeat everything. The seventh problem will vex me for three more days. Instead of the injector nut opening, the injector adapter (some stupid adapter piece between the injector nut and the injector) comes loose and will not retighten. The injector nut will also not break free. Over the next two days this illicit roars of hell-fire, and I begin to scare Justin with a series of imitations of an 8 year old’s temper tantrums. I should be mildly embarrassed but the engine has gotten the better of me. So we are now in Bundy, the rum city of Australia temporarily, but indefinitely. At least I can drown my sorrows in rum. post script: The problem was finally fixed upon pulling off the fuel line, purchasing a new injector nut, reassembling, and bleeding the engine multiple times. The engine has now been running perfectly for the last month. You can read a different take on this and more about the resolution on our maintenance blog here.

Apr 01 2011

Agh, that’s disgusting

Tag: Australia,boat work,fun activity,humorous,Justin,route,videosJonathon Haradon @ 2:25 pm

Justin and I managed some last minute work on the boat.  I worked.  Justin filmed.  O.K., he did some work.  Off camera of course.  Here we battle a small issue in the galley.





Note: Of Matt, I only make fun.  It is only because of the thousands and thousands of hours that Matt labored on Syzygy that I am able to sail her here in Australia. I jest because it is so obviously hilarious to think Matt somehow did not maintain Syzygy to the highest of standards.


Aug 29 2010

New floors

Tag: boat workJonathon Haradon @ 9:05 pm

(refers to events that happened August 2nd – 6th)

After spending eight days just outside of Papeete, we were ready to move on.  The anchorage we were in had warm showers, but this was about the only up side.  The water was dark, cloudy and stank with sewage from runoff from Papeete.  You could almost see the rate at which stuff grew on the underside of our boat.

Matt and I sailed the boat over to Moorea, a short 25 mile sail.  He then went off to meet his and Karen’s moms who were visiting for a week.  Matt and Karen would stay that night at the hotel and the subsequent three or four nights.  I had the boat to myself!! Let the party start!

Before the party could start though, Matt had given me a list of jobs to accomplish.  The list had one item on it.  Redo the wooden floors inside the boat.

O.K., that’s melodramatic.  Matt and I discussed and we both wanted a nice newly polyurethaned floor.  Matt felt any more wear in certain spots would cause permanent damage.  It would look great and be a huge bang for our buck in terms of enjoyment and resell value.

Step one: Scrape.  Using a scraper take off most of the old polyurethane over the entire floor.  Time required: 6 hours.  Sweat level: high.  Battery power requirements: none.

Step two:  Use Orbital Sander on 80 grit over half of the floor.  Time required: 12 hours.  Sweat level: moderate to high.  Battery power requirements: moderate.

Step three:  Use Belt Sander with vacuum attached over entire floor.  Time required: 5 hours.  Sweat level: low.  Battery power requirements: enormous.

Step three should have been step one and would have saved the time required to do step one and step two.  But Matt had initially suggested the scraper and orbital sander route.  After a couple of days of this, I met up with Matt, described the progress, and realized the belt sander was the way to go.  That it took three days of work before I made the switch is a testament to some stubbornness and my oft detailed lack of handiness experience.

Step four: Redo entire floor with Orbital Sander on 80 grit.  Time required: 6 hours.  Sweat level: moderate. Battery power requirements: moderate.

Step five: Use Fein tool with triangular sander tool to get into the corners and edges.  Time required: 3 hours.  Sweat level: moderate.  Battery power requirements: low.  Frustration level:  Enormous.

The Fein tool is a beautiful instrument, but this was not its calling.  The sandpaper we had for the Fein tool gummed up quickly, in about 5 minutes, and would then need to be changed.  Extraordinarily frustrating.

Step six:  Entire floor with Orbital Sander on 200 grit.  Time required: 4 hours.  Sweat level: moderate. Battery power requirements: moderate.

The floor was now bare wood, light and baby bottom smooth.  It was impressive to run my hand across after I had used the belt sander and think ‘oh that’s pretty smooth.’   Then after the 80 grit orbital sander was used, I’d think, ‘wow, THAT’s smooth.’ Finally, after the 200 grit sand paper, I was thinking, ‘This is better than the sexiest pair of smooth woman’s legs I’ve ever felt.’  That’s not true, but you get the point.

Step seven: clean.  Time required: 2 hours.  Sweat level: low. Battery power requirements: none.  Frustration level: high.

There was now sawdust everywhere.  I had failed to use the vacuum attachment in steps two and four.  This was a colossal mistake.  Sawdust was everywhere.  I had taped off Matt and Karen’s bedroom, but everywhere else had a thin to thick layer of sawdust.  Before laying down layers of polyurethane, which if the the sawdust got airborne and settled onto, would hold it fast like fly-stick paper, the boat needed to be cleaned.  I got to probably 90% of it.  Karen, bless her heart, spent an additional few hours cleaning up my mess a week later, getting to all the more smaller nooks and crannies of the boat.  A month later there is still sawdust visible in a myriad of places.

Step eight: wipe down floor with rubbing alcohol to clean.  Time required: 3 hours.

Step nine: repeat.  I went through six rags coating them in sawdust that had settled on the floor.

Step ten:  Finally the first layer of polyurethane was ready to be applied.   Time required: 2 hours. Brain cells killed:  some.  Satisfaction level: high.  I wore a respirator while applying because the polyurethane has a terrible headache inducing odor that forced me to sleep outside that night.  This step, by the way, was finished after a 16 hour work day ending at 4 am.

Step eleven:  Wake up in the morning and bask in the glory of a beautiful floor.  Take pictures of your exquisite work.  Drink multiple beers in the morning toasting your success.  Then prepare for another coat of polyurethane.  The directions say to apply two coats.  Matt, in his infinite wisdom, and constant striving for anal perfection, wants four.  (In his defense, in hind sight, each layer was necessary and improved the floor markedly)

Step twelve: Lightly sand with the orbital attached to vacuum.  Wipe down with rubbing alcohol to clean.  Time required: 2 hours.  Battery power requirements: colossal.  It will be necessary to run the engine in order to charge the batteries.  This is the first time EVER this has been necessary.

Step thirteen:  Next layer of polyurethane.  Time required: 2 hours.  This time making sure, once an area is covered in poly, to ever so gently run the brush across the area.  Like tickling someone with a feather…

Step fourteen through nineteen: Repeat steps eleven through thirteen twice more.

A week worth of work later, and now we have a beautiful floor.


Aug 29 2010

Misadventures with the dinghy: Part 4

Tag: boat work,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 8:55 pm

(refers to events that happened July 12th -July 20th)

We have never been happy with our outboard engine for our dinghy.  It sat on the rail of Syzygy for over a year before anyone bothered to start to tinker with it.  And what they found was not particularly encouraging.  It didn’t run particularly well.  We rarely used it.

Fast forward three years and once Matt and Karen left San Francisco, the dinghy actually started getting used.  And yet again, the outboard was not particularly reliable.

It puttered at higher RPM’s.  It was difficult to start.  It cut out randomly.  It seemed to be overheating.  Old supposedly adjustable plastic parts would break upon adjustment.  It looked old and ugly.

Then, once I arrived, shortly thereafter we did not tie up the dinghy well enough.  It came loose, and on its drift away, flipped over, submerging the engine in salt water.  When I say ‘we’ did not tie up the dinghy well enough, I mean ‘I’, but choose to use the royal ‘we’ in an attempt to lesson my embarrassment.  Submerging an outboard engine in salt water is not good for it.  In fact, it effectively dooms it.  Salt gets onto the piston walls, immediately begins to corrode them, which causes all sorts of bad things.

But really, my action only hastened what Matt has wanted to do for the last six months.  He even joked about purposely wanting to lose the dinghy not two days before it drifted away.  So after tinkering around and cleaning some of the salt off, I came around to Matt and Karen’s point of view.  It was time to spend serious money on our outboard, either a large overhaul on ours, buying a used one, or buying a new one.

A few days later, we arrived into Papette, Tahiti from Rangiroa after one long overnight sail.  First thing the next morning, I was up and motivated.  If we wanted to do something about our outboard, we needed to get started right away because it would take a few days and none of us wanted to be in Papette very long.  Matt supported, but did not share, my enthusiasm and so I struck off alone early Saturday morning around 8 am.  That it was Saturday was unlucky, as I knew many places would close at noon and some would not be open at all.  This is how they do business in paradise, ‘island time’.

Since I had wandered around Papette for a week before flying to meet Matt and Karen, I knew of at least one outboard engine store and so started there.  At each place I went, I had three questions.  Do you fix outboards?  Do you sell used outboards? What are your prices for new outboards?

The first place, Evinrude/Suzuki Outboards, said: “No.  No.  $1800.”

This was not particularly promising.

The salesman was extremely courteous however, and did direct me to the authorized Evinrude repair shop and other outboard engine retailers.  I spent the rest of Saturday wandering around, asking questions, saying “I am sorry I don’t speak French, do you speak English?” and trying to determine what to do about our engine situation.

Repeatedly I heard, ‘there are no used outboards for sale anywhere.  Tahitians run them until they disintegrate.’

On Monday, Matt and I went to the repair shop and on Tuesday returned with our engine.  I visited them again on Wednesday to hear their prognosis.

The owner gave me the gist:  “Pas possible,” he said.  Not Possible.  He then began telling me what might be wrong, but they weren’t exactly sure.  And to fix what might be wrong would take over a month to get the part and cost $500 just for that part.  With no insurance that would fix all our problems.  He was right.  Pas Possible.

Resigned to the fact that we would have to by a new engine, I asked him if he was interested in buying ours for the parts.  He crossed his arms, rubbed his chin and appeared in thought.  The head mechanic walked over and the owner asked him if he thought they should buy it for the parts.  The head mechanic was not so diplomatic and simply scoffed! Laughing out loud.  This was embarrassing.  I left saying we would be back to pick up the engine in a couple of days.  We never did return.

One of the shops I had contacted, Mercury, had quoted me a price of 130,000 Pacific Francs, about $1,300.  Matt had talked to them separately at a different location and they offered him a price of $1200.  I called back to confirm Matt’s price, he gave me a slightly higher price, I sort of paused on the phone, hedging, and then he gave me a final price of $1125.  Done.

We now have a brand new, shiny, 5 hp, 2-stroke Mercury outboard  It purrs.  It starts with one pull.  It easily goes up to its maximum RPM.  It planes over the water with ease.  Did I mention it purrs?

We are very happy.  We had to spend some money, but we are very happy.  Who says money can’t buy happiness? Misadventures part 4: success!



Aug 29 2010

Misadventures with Slurpy Part 3

Tag: boat work,failures,humorous,victoriesJonathon Haradon @ 8:51 pm

Part 3

(refers to events on July 11th)

“Syzygy, Syzygy, this the Gendarmarie.”  cracked the VHF in a heavy and thick French accent.  So thick, it was almost impossible to tell they were calling us.  My heart quickened as I glanced at Karen while answering.

“Gendarmarie.  this is Syzygy.  Want to go up one?”  I said, asking if they wanted to go to another channel.  They didn’t understand.

There was only one reason I thought they could be calling however.  They must have our dinghy!

“Syzygy.  We haz yur zodiac.”  Sweet!!!!!

The gendarmarie wanted us to report to them immediately.  Apparently, we were supposed to check in with them four days ago when we arrived in Rangiroa.  Technically we were outlaws.  Outlaws in the land of Rangiroa.  But they were pretty laid back about it.  They were, however, now effectively holding our dinghy hostage until we officially checked in.

We went ashore at 1 pm, the gendarmarie meeting us at the docks.  We were 30 minutes earlier than our scheduled arrival time.  They were a little too in a hurry for me.  We piled into the back of the car, and I couldn’t help but think we must look like fugitives to those whom we passed on the drive.  But they were pleasant enough and once we had officially checked in, the police chief himself took us to the restaurant/pension where our dinghy was.

And there it was!  Looking perfectly fine.  The engine was still there, though the fuel tank had mysteriously gone missing.  The oars were still there, as was snorkeling gear.  But no fuel tank.  Odd we thought, but if that’s the price, we easily acquiesce to that finder’s cost.

After a round of drinks, we began to contemplate our return.   There was the matter, however, of how to get the dingy back to our boat.  With no fuel, we couldn’t run the engine, and well, our outboard is a piece of shit anyway and probably couldn’t handle that.  Matt however, thought we could easily row back on our own.  Karen came down on the side of deflating the dinghy and getting a taxi.  I sided with Matt encouraged by appeal that it would be a fun team building exercise.  He seemed jazzed about the idea and so I was for it simply because he was jazzed about something.  So we pushed the dinghy into the water and began to row.

We rowed and rowed and rowed.  It quickly became apparent this was not going to be an exercise in team-building, but an exercise in futility.  We were taking on more water than we used to; there must be a leak somewhere.  There was no seat through the middle so the rower couldn’t sit properly.  We have miserable oarlocks and soft bottomed dinghy, both of which reduce the ability to row effectively.  We were fighting the current.  We were going against the prevailing wind.  This was a terrible idea.

After thirty minutes, we had made maybe 100 yards of progress.  I think that is generous. Karen was the first to get out of the dinghy and try to swim along and push the dinghy.  This didn’t work so well.  I took a turn at rowing.  It was miserable.  So then I hopped out, tied the painter line around me and began swimming in front of the boat pulling it along.  With Matt rowing and Karen bailing, this was our best method and we managed to increase our speed to about 300 yards per 30 minutes.  At this rate, it would take us over eight hours to get back to our boat.  Clearly, we were bumfuzzling idiots.  Well, maybe just Matt and me who originally thought this would be fun.  Karen, smartly, had never thought this was a good idea.

Luckily for us, another couple was motoring nearby in their dinghy looking for someplace to eat.  They took pity on us, and told us they would tow us back to our boat.  THANK YOU!

It still took us nearly an hour to get back.  Matt insisted we row to help us along.  I’m not sure how much it helped, though it made me feel more in control and helpful.  It also made me feel ridiculous.

Back at our boat, we begged them to let us thank them with some gift and ended up promising to deliver some movies and books to them in thanks sometime in the next couple of days.  We plopped down in various places on our boat, exhausted both mentally and physically from the ordeal.  The dinghy had yet again gotten the better of us.  So despite that we got the dinghy back to our boat, and could be happy at not having to buy a new dinghy, (the P.O.S. engine might be another thing) it still didn’t feel much like a victory.

Misadventures part 3: monetary success.  emotional failure.


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