Dec 26 2008

On jankiness

Tag: boat workjonny5waldman @ 8:35 pm

In the course of the last few months, Matt and I have regularly taken pride in removing janky parts from the boat. You could say that’s how we’ve prioritized our refitting projects: by endeavoring to eliminate jankiness. Whenever we discovered a severely corroded wire or a screw that had rusted into a pile of dust, we’d throw the offending part onto the cabin floor, and yell, "Jank removed!" We took immense pride in casting off such crap from our boat. But really, like many people, we were using the term generically, and incorrectly.

Another example: Over the holidays, I heard a friend ask for a janky beer. I asked her to clarify. "You know, like Bud Light, or PBR," she said. What she meant by janky was: thin or weak. This, too, is an incorrect usage of the term janky.

Matt and Jon and I mistakenly used the term janky to describe corroded or rusty parts — but corrosion and rust are just wear and tear, the type of decay that you expect on any boat. Truly janky stuff is a step above (or below, depending how you look at it) — parts or repairs that were improperly concieved and poorly installed — and our boat was (and still is) laden with such things.

Some recent highlights:

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Dec 25 2008

Regarding the excitability of Boat People

Tag: musingsmattholmes @ 8:55 pm

Our windvane is a purely mechanical and exceedingly elegant piece of equipment that can be set up to automatically steer the boat for us. I was eager to put it into action one day this past fall so I stepped off the stern onto a support to get it ready–and a piece of steel tubing promptly broke off, nearly dumping me in the bay. A minor setback, I reasoned, until the very next piece I touched also disintegrated in my hands. Clearly it would need detailed attention (par for the course).

Over thanksgiving Jon and I removed it from the stern of the boat and took the entire thing apart piece by piece on the foredeck, under a tarp in the pouring rain. Every single bolt and washer came out–often unwillingly and sometimes in a few pieces. It was fun and gratifying to bring all of our skills to bear on the stubborn bolts and seized pieces. When victory was ours, we compiled a list of parts that we needed.

Our windvane is a Monitor brand, made by a company called Scanmar, and fortunately for us Scanmar happens to be in Richmond just 10 minutes away. I put the disassembled pieces of our monitor in the back of my car one morning and drove over to Scanmar to pick up the parts we needed. When I brought our 1991 vintage monitor in the front door, I was greeted by the three guys that have been making and repairing Monitors for the past few decades. A russian machinist with little english, another jovial guy also with a thick russian accent, and a british motorcycle aficionado complete with long braided ponytail and leather bicycle garb. They were an eclectic group, but they clearly shared an enthusiasm for their windvanes. It was as if I was Santa delivering an early christmas gift to three young boys. I was bombarded with advice and questions and answers as all three of them dug through the bin of pieces checking out our old windvane. They were unanimously excited and unanimously supportive of our do-it-yourself style. In taking apart our windvane, we had thought that we achieved an intimacy with the workings of the windvane, but these guys were at a whole different level. Between the three of them they could have had that thing back together in perfect condition in less than an hour–but they shared our philosophy and supported our style: we were going to do the work ourselves to save a few hundred dollars, even it took 10 times as long (which it most certainly will). I left the shop after an hour of continual conversation feeling happy and excited. It was like visiting old friends and sharing familiar conversation–with three strangers I had just met.

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Dec 22 2008

Home for Christmas (or: diesel vs gas)

Tag: boat work,energy efficiencymattholmes @ 10:10 pm

I grew up on a farm, and all my life my father has been bashing gasoline engines and lauding diesels. He wouldn’t buy any vehicle that wasn’t a diesel, and we had two 1,500 gallon diesel tanks around by the barns–one for on-road vehicles and one for the tractors. As a result, I grew up plugging the diesel suburban into an extension cord in the winter, and waiting to start the car until the glowplugs–whatever the hell they were–warmed up the engine. Meanwhile, in their gasoline vehicles, my friends could fill up at any gas station and accelerate from 0-60 in something significantly less than the 30 seconds it took in the suburban. I wrote off my father’s opinion as old-fashioned, ultra-conservative, non-progressive, and wrote off our diesel vehicles as too loud, too much work, and too slow.

I’m home now, back around my dad, and back into the diesel debate.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that one day I would know how to sail (?), that I would own a sailboat (!?) and that the sailboat happens to CONTAIN A DIESEL ENGINE (!?!). And never ever ever would I have guessed that one day I would agree with my father about the benefits of diesel engines. Don’t be mistaken: I have done my own research and come to my very own, independent conclusions. They just happen to be the same conclusions as my dad’s.

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Dec 15 2008

A can — no, a barrel — of worms

Tag: boat workjonny5waldman @ 4:12 am

It’s amazing how little time must pass before you can look back in hindsight and reflect on the way things used to be. Why, just 10 days ago Syzygy was in great shape, clean and spiffy, and getting spiffier every time we took on a project. Over Thanksgiving, Matt and Jon had fixed the engine coolant leak (the cause of our overheating problems), started rebuilding the Monitor wind vane, installed a fuel gauge on our electrical panel, and finished painting the wooden rub rails (which had begun to rot in places). Before that, I’d re-bedded old chimney flu, and finished installing a stainless steel dinghy cradle.

And just like that, a small repair job turned evolved into damage control and then evolved into crisis management, and now there’s a giant yellow patch on the port side of the deck, and no tracks with which to fly the jib…

Remember when I admitted that opening up 62 holes in the deck was a can of worms if there ever was one? Wasn’t that the truth. It was a friggin’ barrel of worms.

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Dec 06 2008

How many people does it take to unscrew 62 bolts?

Tag: boat workjonny5waldman @ 8:08 am

How many people does it take to unscrew 62 bolts?

It’s a trick question, of course, requiring a bit of a story…

For the last couple of months I’ve been on a mechanical crusade to make sure everything screwed through the deck of our boat is screwed through the deck properly. By properly, I mean in a very particular way, which I’ll get to. But first: the deck is sandwich-like, in that it’s made of two pieces of fiberglass with a layer of balsa wood in between. It’s like a sandwhich made of matzoh and cream cheese. This design has its ups and downs. One down is that if you apply a lot of force, it’s not too hard to squish the sandwich, which weakens it. Another down is that if you drill through the sandwich and don’t seal the hole just right, water that leaks in ends up rotting the balsa wood (further reducing its strength) before it leaks all the way into the boat. It’s strange, but if you have a leak, you want it to actually leak.

So the proper way to drill a hole through our deck is to drill a much bigger hole than you need, and then to scoop out a bunch of the balsa wood around the hole. Then you put a piece of tape on the bottom of the hole, and pour in a big glob of thickened epoxy, which is about as thick as peanut butter and about as strong as, well, modern plastics. Then, once the epoxy hardens, you drill a hole through the middle of it. This accomplishes two things: it provides some support (like the little plastic thingy that keeps the pizza box from collapsing all over the top of the pizza), and it protects the soft, wooden core of the deck from rotting if it ends up leaking. As you probably guessed, there are lots of things screwed through the deck: a dozen stanchions (aka fence-posts around the edge); a 6" disc covering a 5" hole for a chimney flu; hardware for flying the spinnaker; the liferaft cradle; the dingy cradle; the fairleads (pulleys) that keep our lines in order; our new rope clutches; 9 chainplates that keep the rigging tight; and two 10-foot tracks that the jib cars slide along. Most of the items on the list are held in place by a few screws, presenting minor challenges — and so far we’ve fixed everything but the stanchions and… the jib car tracks.

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Dec 02 2008

The view from the masthead

Tag: tripsmattholmes @ 5:05 am


I love our mast steps!




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