Harbour Cay Club, Marathon FL
Posted by Bill
Except for a recent trip to see family in Bradenton Florida, we have been either dealing with the weather or working on the boat. Cruising boats are like houses in that there is pretty much constant maintenance work that needs to be done. Some of it is just daily minor things, or just plain cleaning, but there are also larger tasks and projects. The major differences seem to fall into these areas:
1. A house does not move (unless you’ve got serious problems). Many times stuff breaks while you are underway and it needs to be fixed to keep moving, or keep from sinking. Sometimes at anchor or even at a dock, the waves can bounce you around to the point that you can hardly work on something.
2. Most things that need working on in a boat are tucked away in a small locker, or are hidden behind a bulkhead or liner. You have to be nimble and sometimes a contortionist to work on something. Many times you cannot see what you are assembling or dis-assembling, and you are blindly feeling around as you work.
3. Most of the parts you will need can’t be purchased at a hardware store or a Home Depot. More times than not, there will not be a store within an hours drive that has what you need.
4. Replacement parts are three times more expensive than a home repair item.
5. As a cruiser, you usually don’t have a car, so you need to walk or ride a bike to get something from a store.
6. All of the tools and spare parts are stored somewhere in a locker, with everything else that you have stowed away. For most projects, just finding and getting all of the tools and parts out of storage takes at least an hour.
7. Weather makes more of an impact on when you can work on some things in a boat.
A great example of a project that requires good weather, wind and waves, is when you have to ascend the mast. Our friends Mark and Jan on Island Bound (great boat name…isn’t it) set out to repair their wind transducer recently. The transducer is at the top of the mast. Most crews that have to hoist someone up will sent the female up the mast (lighter and the guys have more muscle for the winch grinding).
Of course, you can’t have a good project unless you have some bystanders to supervise…lol…freinds Jeff, Bob and Tim:
Marathon is a good place to be when you have to do boat projects. Most marinas or anchorages are within walking distance to the West Marine store and Home Depot. There are also specialty service providers for any boat system (canvas, sail making, engine repair, plumbing, air conditioning, solar, wood working, pipe and metal work, electrical, etc…) within walking distance or a bike ride. We get most of our parts on the internet and have them shipped to our marina, but typical project will involve several trips to West Marine and Home Depot.
This season, the weather has been crazy. It is the dry season here in the Keys, but it rains about every 3 or 4 days this year. Also, the fronts that bring strong north winds have been rolling in about every 5 days, which is much more frequent than normal. They have also been stronger and last longer than normal. It has really impacted our ability to get our projects done in the month of January, and we are way behind schedule. This is normally where we prep the boat for our voyage to the Bahamas, and we have several things that are “must do” to make the trip.
The first project we tackled was putting a stern light on our dinghy davits. The davits hoist the dinghy up and down, and hold it in place when it is not being used. When raised, the dinghy obscures the factory installed stern light, which means boats behind us cannot see us at night…not good! So we ordered a bracket and the wire to put one on the davit cross bar. In the first attempt to install the new light we found that the mounting bracket came with the wrong diameter clamp. We had them send the correct one, waited another week for the weather to cooperate and then tried again.
I ran the wire down the davit arm and through the stern cap rail where the solar panel wire goes through the deck. This was the easy part, and I was glad to not have to make another hole in the deck.
Then I had to wire the light in. This involved emptying the cockpit locker. It holds a lot of stuff and takes 20 to 30 minutes to unload. It can’t be raining when you do this. Then I climb into the cockpit locker, locate the wire to the factory installed stern light, and locate the best spot in the wire to splice in the new light. This took the better part of 90 minutes, along with much contortionist efforts. Then I splice in the new light and re-tie all of the wire ties to make a secure installation….another 90 minutes to 2 hours. Then another 30 minutes to reload the locker.
Next, we tackled replacing one of our air conditioners. The boat has 2, one smaller than the other. The evaporator coil on the larger one started to disintegrate, and based on age and cost considerations, we decided to replace it. The factory that makes our brand is in Fort Myers Florida, so we picked it up on the way to Bradenton. It was virtually identical to the old unit which we hoped made an easy replacement. The old unit was installed behind the port side settee, taking up the better part of 2 storage areas.
The de-install involved draining the hoses, removing the wire ties that hold the wires and hoses down, and removing the electrical box (on the right in the first photo). Then disconnect the AC and thermostat wires from the electrical box. Then remove the screws holding down the air conditioner and pulling it out of the locker. It was heavier than shit and had rusted really bad (not quite sure why). Every stainless steel component in that locker had rusted, including wire tie screws and hose clamps. It made a huge mess:
Here is the new unit:
Tricia did a great job of getting the locker prepped and then we put in the new unit, attached the hoses, attached the electrical wires, and then turned it on. It started up and I realized I didn’t open the through hull valve to let the cooling water in, so we shut it down. After opening the valve and trying again, the unit wouldn’t start. I tried a few things to no avail and since it was happy hour time, and I was exhausted from a full day of working in the lockers, we quit for the day. Yesterday (the next day), I started by tracing the power. I de-installed the electrical box and found a loose AC wire. I got it back on, but the unit would not start. Now I do not like dealing with AC current. I am very comfortable working on DC systems, but not AC. I asked our friend Mark (who is very skilled with electrical stuff) to double check my wire connections and show me how to measure AC current with my meter…we had power to the box. We took the cover off of the box and found that a 30 amp fuse had blown. Mark had a spare (we did not), and after replacing it, the unit fired right up and generated cold air!! Yay! I tied all of the hoses and wires down and checked for water leaks…all good. The second day only took about 2 1/2 hours to get to a completed project.
With most projects, when you get one done, you find two more. When we were in Bradenton, a front with very high winds blew in, slipped one of the fenders on the boat, and slammed the side of the boat into the dock piling, resulting in this mess:
This one is beyond my skill level and we will have to get someone to repair it.