Monday, 9 July 2012

Bricolage Update

In honor of the upcoming 14th of July French National Holiday, I would like to take this opportunity to pay homage to the French language for giving us the word “bricolage”.  In English, this is translated as “Do it Yourself” but I have to say I find this phrase rather inadequate to describe what actually happens when you repair, install, or build things. And bricolage can be turned into the verb “bricoler” (breek-o-lay) to describe the act of doing the work, while telling someone that you are “DIY-ing” just doesn’t have the same elegance. 

So here is a bricolage update with our recent successes, mixed-successes, and set-backs.

Our non-standard flexible faucet tubes.
Repaired galley sink leaks.  We thought all we would have to do is to block off the hot water intake line.  There’s no hot water, but the faucet mixer opens the hot water intake line and allows cold water to flow out … all over the floor.  But the flexible tubes for the hot and cold water are not standard sizes for Europe.  After 3 visits to various plumbing stores, one very nice man led us to a back room and ripped the tubes off an old sink they had sitting around.  He just gave them to us... said he couldn't sell them because they weren't standard.  Perfect fit.  Another fitting that was in bad shape was nowhere to be found in the hardware stores.  We finally found something that did the trick in our local garden center. 

Passed electrical cables for windlass.  We found out that we didn’t need to buy a new battery for the windlass after all (see post “The Learning Curve Blues”) but can instead use the service batteries (2 x 100 Ah batteries in parallel) which are even closer and easier to reach for the cabling. Passed electrical cables from the chain locker to the battery and from the chain locker to the cockpit locker for a control button near the throttle.

New cables installed (looking down).
Installed new electrical cables between the service park batteries.  Found out that the cables connecting the two service park batteries are not sufficient for a big electrical draw (such as needed for a windlass) to pass between the two.  Bought new cable, ripped out the old, passed the new under the floorboards.  

GPS antenna installed.

Installed new GPS antenna.  More cables passed, from the chart table controls to the locker behind the head where we installed the antenna to keep it out of harm’s way.  Gets kick-ass reception there, too.

Repaired two hatches that had minor leaks.  We noticed some small leaks around two hatch covers, and when we unscrewed the covers, we noticed that there were wads of paper towels strategically placed to catch any drips. We decided to replace the paper towels with spray foam insulation. The insulation expands and forms a lovely effect like snow sliding off a roof, which then hardens, allowing you to cut it to the form you need.  

Foam insulation around hatch cover.
New super-hold hair mousse discovery.
Unfortunately, one of the globs became so heavy that it started falling towards the floor.  I raced to catch it with a paper towel.  Turning around proudly to show Patrick my catch, he says “Ohhhh noooo… your HAIR !”  What about my hair?   

A quick look in the mirror showed a big blob of insulation across my forehead.  My attempts to remove this “cotton candy super glue” with towels and acetone only met with limited success and the residue turned rapidly to hard plastic. 

Collateral damage, hatch job.
Back at home, after repeated failures with various oils and solvents, I was reduced to pulling hair out of the plastic globs strand-by-strand.  Most just broke off, and I had to use a razor blade to separate the worst of the lot.  It took a ½ bottle of white wine to deaden the pain after all the hair pulling.

It'll fade, right?
Repaired dings in gel coat.  We learned that with an electrical sander, you get a nice smooth finish after patching dings in the gel coat.  The problem is that I didn’t have the right color of blue gel coat, so I used white, with the idea of painting it afterwards.  But I didn’t have the right color of paint either, so I mixed two blues to get something close.  After reading the forums on this, I’m told that all of this will peel and crack in a very short time anyway, so I’ve decided not to stress over the bad color match.  Sigh.

Eye splice + needle-and-palm whipping on devil's claw.
Made eye splice for devil’s claw.  Bought a sort of devil’s claw, which is used to reduce the strain on the windlass by hooking into one of the links and transfering the strain to a cleat on deck.  But you have to attach the metal claw to a polyamide / nylon line by making an eye-splice and wrapping any loose ends with needle-and-palm whippings.  After a few false starts, my Seamanship 101 and 102 classes from Texas A&M came flooding back to me and it turned out okay.  (Don’t look too close, though).   

Set up / programmed the new portable VHF radio.

Replaced the lock on the companionway door.  It’s a good fit, but we still need to “bricoler” something to eliminate a gap.

Set up new computer.  The problem is that the graphics card for this operating system has been known to have big problems with the navigation software we wanted to use.  We’ll test this using a friend’s software before buying it ourselves.  But we have to wait for that friend to get back from sailing in the Caribbean.

Twiddled thumbs over propeller shaft work.  The work on the propeller shaft is a major setback.  The friend-of-a-friend who has agreed to help us can only help us on the weekends when it doesn’t rain. It was just announced that this June was the rainiest June since 1959, and July doesn’t look much better.  We wondered if maybe the boatyard would be able to work faster, since they would be able to work any day it didn’t rain.  We asked what their workload was like at the moment, and they announced that the guy who was scheduled to work in July and August has just run off to Mexico with his girlfriend and did not say anything about coming back.  This will also push back the work on the chain locker needed before we can install the windlass. Sigh.  Back to square one.