Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Toilet Talk: How to Change a Toilet Valve and Thru-Hull Fitting

A mere 48 hours before Spray was to undergo a 6-hour inspection and put into the water, we discovered that the toilet evacuation valve was stuck.  

In English: stuck but good.  In French: stuck from Chez Stuck. 

It was stuck last year, too, so tried the same things that worked the last time: WD-40, a hammer, cleaning with long tube brush, and vinegar.  But this time it didn't work.  Web forums suggested progressively aggressive chemical treatments: vinegar first, then Coca Cola (note: apparently Lite and Zero are no good for this), and if all else fails, hydrochloric acid (10%).  We tried the Coke, I’m embarrassed to say, and decided that the acid was just over the top.  It was time to admit defeat and change the valve.

The first challenge was to remove the old valve without damaging the thru-hull fitting.  Sub-challenge 1: procure appropriate tools.  The local mechanics loaned Patrick a manly man’s wrench, and I loaned him my hairdryer.  Both were essential to unscrew the first locking ring and tug off the hose.  The real test was trying to get the valve assembly off the thru-hull.  After about 15 minutes of grunting and sweating with both the wrench and hairdryer, it gave way.  All of it.  Thru-hull included. 

After an animated debate about how to proceed, we agreed (read: I won) that we shouldn't mess around with something that is a possible safety risk and decided to call a pro.  The mechanic assured us that we hadn't done anything wrong and that it is exceedingly rare to be able to remove the valve without unseating the thru-hull as well.

This morning, he came to our rescue, 24 hours before inspection and splash-down.  To our surprise, he began by cutting into the thru-hull seating from the OUTSIDE of the boat, which now makes perfect sense to us.  If you look at the bottom locking ring on thru-hull fitting from the inside of the boat (that hexagonal ring at the bottom of the thru-hull fitting now corroded to a light green in the photo above), there’s no way to get at it with a wrench because it’s counter-sunk.  The only way to remove the assembly is to cut small sections in the outside ring, then take a hammer and hefty screwdriver and peel away the little sections.  Once that is done, the assembly can be removed from the inside of the boat.

While the mechanic took the assembly back to the shop to pry off and clean the elbow from the old valve with more tools we don’t have, he loaned us a heat gun (having scoffed at my hairdryer) and we were charged with extracting the top joint fitting from the evacuation hose.  After a startlingly short time, I smelled burning rubber and before I could voice my concern, Patrick cried victory.

Still smokin !!
The rest was relatively simple.  The thru-hull was fixed into the hole with a generous amount of Sika 291 and the new assembly was screwed into place.  This manoeuvre required two people, though: one to screw the assembly from the inside of the boat and another to hold and block the thru-hull fitting from the outside to keep it from turning.  The inside of the thru-hull has two ridiculously small bumps that are supposed to help you grip and hold the fitting, but we can report that they are only mildly useful.  The last step is to reattach the to the fitting and tighten down the hose clamps.  I was afraid that Patrick’s antics with the heat gun had deformed the hose beyond repair but apparently it was used to such abuse. 

The procedure lasted 1.5 hours and cost about 160 Euros.  We’re thankful that it could be done in time for our rendez-vous with the water tomorrow and we realize that even if we had known what to do, we didn't have the tools to do it well.  But next time, I assured Patrick, we can try it ourselves.  (Note to self: Christmas present for Pat is a mega-wrench and a heat gun. Well, maybe just the wrench...)

Inspection tomorrow !     
Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2015 | Categories:

Friday, 24 April 2015

The 2-boat Two-Step

Spray News
Old joke: 
Q: “What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?”
A: “Finding half of a worm in your apple.” 

My life lately: 
Q: “What’s more stressful than not selling your old boat before buying a new one?” 
A:  “Selling your boat contingent on the results of a 6-hour inspection.”

Yes, the good news is we have potential buyers for Spray.  The stressful news is that the sale is contingent on a thorough inspection, both in and out of the water.  Of course we know that Spray is in excellent shape and we have verified that everything is in working order (oh okay … there’s ONE sticky seacock in the toilet that we’re treating liberally with vinegar, but that usually does the trick.)  But knowing that everything is ship-shape doesn’t stop me from waking up in the middle of the night wondering what an expert might find that would sink the deal. One more week of waiting and wondering… 

Mareda News

The sail maker finally agreed to agree with the rigging expert about the Code D furling line system earlier this week.  This has taken weeks to resolve.  I’m now hopeful that we’ll have a really nice system set up for light downwind sailing (e.g., bliss). 

Our new battle is over how to best rig the boom for a 3rd reef point on the mainsail.  In 2 years of sailing, we only used the 3rd reef twice on Spray, and both times this situation lasted less than 15 minutes before we went to bare poles.  But still, heading off without a 3rd reef seems a bit foolhardy.  This means …heavy sigh…another round of slogging through animated exchanges between the sail maker and the rigging specialist. 

Did I mention I just found a great new recipe for Ginger Mint Juleps?  With everything else going on, I almost forgot about the Derby!

Staying on top of these things takes a LOT of time.  The dealer mentioned that a new Sun Odyssey 379 was coming to the boatyard this week to be outfitted.  The owner lives in Paris.  Patrick and I were astounded that anyone could manage a boat from a distance like that.  The dealer said, “Most people just order the standard version and we don’t have any modifications to deal with.”    

I hadn’t thought about it, but we do seem to have a lot of special orders.  Here are our non-standard modifications:

1.    Code D Gennaker + rigging hardware (including spinnaker pole)
2.    3rd Reef in Mainsail + rigging hardware
3.    Rocna anchor and Kong-type articulated mooring shackle
4.    40 meters of chain (standard = 28m)
5.    Cockpit arch with 2 solar-panels and dinghy davits
6.    Wireless Internet antenna mounted on arch
7.    Television and antenna
8.    Electronic barometer / weather station
9.    Duplexer to use VHF antenna for FM radio reception    
10.  Tri-color navigation lights on top of mast
11.  Rigging hardware for boom brake (boom modifications and cleats)

I have episodes of guilt-mixed-with-panic about how much this is all costing, but then Patrick reminds me that we spend 6-7 months living full-time on the boat.  It’s not a vacation home, it’s our PRIMARY home.  And maybe next year we’ll even rent out the land-based home while we’re away to replenish the sailing kitty.  But that’s a headache for another day.  

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Code D Conundrum

On Facebook, I've been whining lately about our Code D problems.  The Code D is a small (65 m2) furling spinnaker that we’re having custom made for Mareda, which will allow us to have sail power in light winds from about 60° off the bow to full downwind sailing with a spinnaker pole.  The problem is not with the sail itself, but in choosing an appropriate tack point.

The Sun Odyssey 379 comes with a reinforced tack point designed for an asymmetrical spinnaker.  Perfect for the Code D, right?  

Right”, says the rigging specialist.  

Wrong”, says the sail maker. 

The furling line, the line that goes around the furler drum of the Code D and allows you to roll up the sail, is the problem.  It’s called a “continuous line” because it’s a single closed loop.  It is typically very long to allow you to reach back to the cockpit, but can quickly become a gnarly mess.  According to the sail maker, the line must be 1) perfectly straight with no angles between the drum and the cockpit, and 2) under permanent light tension to avoid kinks in the line.  This all makes good sense.  The problem is that the tack point on the SO 379, like most boats, is directly in front of the genoa furler, and there is no way to lead the Code D furling line from the drum to the cockpit without going slightly around the genoa furler, creating an angle. 

A furler drum and continuous line.

Herein lies the rub.  Literally.  The sail maker says the friction associated with such an angle will cause the furling process to become too difficult.  He says we must have a new stainless steel tack point soldered onto the secondary bow davit, which will place the Code D to the side of the genoa, rather than in front of it, and give us a straight angle-free line between the furler and the cockpit. 

The rigging specialist says that this is baloney. (Oh, alright, he’s French and he didn't say “baloney” but that’s what he meant.)   According to him, there are simple ways to reduce the angle and pieces of rigging to reduce friction, such as the fancy little thing called a double fairlead, made specifically to keep furler lines from tangling and kinking.  When placed on one or more well-chosen stanchions, the angle is minimized and the lines stay separated.  In addition, a couple of cam cleats can be used to block the line in place and to keep it under tension.

Double fairleads on the stanchions to avoid tangling.

Cam cleats to block the line and keep it under tension.  Photo from Doane's Sail Magazine article, 2012.

We mentioned this to the sail maker.  He said “I’ve seen it a hundred times and it never works.”

I've searched the sailing forums in both French and English to find threads that discuss problems with gennaker furlers and haven’t been able to find anything that suggests people are having difficulties with the continuous furling line.  I've looked at videos showing furling spinnakers, gennakers, and code sails, and they all seem to use the system described by the rigging specialist.  The principle rigging companies, Selden and Facnor, both suggest using double fairleads and jammers. 

We sent a video to the sail maker.  He said “I don’t trust videos.”

And no one seems to be able to show us an example of this set-up that either does or does not work. 

Anyone out there have experience with this ???  Charles Doane has a nice article in Sail Magazine from 2012 that addresses many of these issues, but I’m sure our sail maker would simply say “I don’t trust magazine articles.”

Posted on Thursday, April 16, 2015 | Categories:

Thursday, 2 April 2015

From the ground up

Now that Mareda has arrived (!!), the outfitting has begun in earnest, and we have to make some firm decisions about equipment.  This is in stark contrast to the decisions we've made up to this point, which mostly involved flipping through the catalog and saying “Cool !  Let’s add one of these !” 

 **note: I'm taking lots of photos of the commissioning process.  See our Facebook page for all the latest photos and updates ! 

Starting from the ground up, we've been thinking about anchors and chains this week.

The standard offer for the SO 379 was a 16kg Delta anchor with 28 meters of 10 mm chain and 40 meters of 18mm line.  (That’s a ~ 33 lb anchor, ~ 85 feet of 3/8” chain and ~120 feet of line).  This all seemed a bit light to us, especially for anchoring in the meteorologically-capricious Mediterranean.  At one point, I tried to convince myself that with a swing-keel we could get closer to shore and wouldn't need so much chain, but for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, I decided that this was dumb.

From technical reviews and personal testimonies of friends, we knew we wanted a Rocna anchorWith Mareda's length of 11.3 meters and weight at just under 7 tonnes, the Rocna sizing charts suggested that an anchor of 15kg would be adequate (where “adequate” is based on tests in 50 knot winds with associated surge and poor holding conditions).  The chart indicated that 8 mm chain would suffice for our boat with such a Rocna anchor.  For the SO 379, 10mm chain and windlass is standard, so we felt good about being over-spec’d (if that is, indeed, the case). 

But no one said anything about the length of chain required.  The basic rule (which of course has many variations) is that you want to put out a length of chain that is 4 times greater than the water depth at high-tide.  (Example: moor in 3 meters of water, put out 12 meters of chain).  This all depends, of course, on the conditions in which you anchor.  An interesting rule-of-thumb I saw recently:  winds of Beaufort 3 = 3 x chain length; winds of Beaufort 4 = 4 x chain length, etc., etc.

After searching through numerous web-sites and talking to friends who know the Med well, we decided that 40 meters of chain was the minimum for the Med.  If 40m is minimum, I thought, why not go for 50, just to be safe?  When I mentioned this to Patrick, he turned on his best sarcastic voice and said, “Yeah, great ! and Hey!  Why not 60?  Why not 75?  What the heck… let’s make it an even 100 !”

Slinking back to my office, I started thinking about it.  Why not more?  That’s when it dawned on me that there must be limits, real limits, based on weight (and not on snitty, financially-motivated comments from one’s husband).  How much does all that chain weigh?  When does your boat start to become nose-heavy?  And what about the windlass?  If you've deployed 100m of 10mm chain, is your windlass strong enough to pull it up?

Easy stuff first.  10 mm chain weighs 2.25 kg / meter, giving us 112.5 kg for 50 meters.

Medium stuff next:  The windlass (Quick Aires 1000 W) has a working load of 120 kg.  Its maximum working load is more than double this, but we don’t like pushing electrical / mechanical devices into the red zone, do we?  So 50 meters of 10mm chain is getting quite close to the working load.  Add a 15 kg anchor and we've gone past it.  Granted, the situation where you would have 50 meters of chain and the anchor hanging through the water column all at once is rare and you could push the beast hard for a short period of time, but you just never know, do you?

Hard stuff now:  When does the boat start to get too nose heavy?  As with most hard questions in life, the difficulty lies in defining the question.  What does too nose-heavy mean?  The only advice I could find on this was “sail the boat with the weight in the nose, then move the weight to the center of the boat and see if she sails better.”  Humph.

I’m still a bit at a loss as to how to approach this one.  The standard equipment for the SO 379 gives 79 kg versus the 112.5kg we want.  The difference is peanuts, right?  Let’s just assume (because I like the answer I get when I do this) that the architects have given us a safety or performance margin of 2 relative to the standard weight they propose, which means that we could go up to 158 kg without getting too nose heavy.  Since we’ll be well under this mark even with 40 meters of 18mm line attached to the chain, all’s well.  With time, I’ll convince myself that I feel comfortable with this.

In the end, we decided to go with 40m of chain and 40m of line.  Patrick triumphantly pointed out that this was the decision we had come to before I did all these calculations. But what else was I supposed to do with a cold rainy afternoon?  (I’ve had other rainy-day inspired fits of calculations, including rudder angles and hull speed.  It rains A LOT in Brittany…)    

So our principal mooring will look like this:  
  • Rocna 15kg anchor
  • Articulated Kong junction between the anchor and the chain
  • 40 meters of 10mm chain
  • 40 meters of 18 mm line, connected to the chain with a splice directly onto the chain (if the 18mm strands fit through the 10mm chain links… to be determined shortly).
  • A double bow roller, which the Jeanneau dealer says has been reinforced after the first models had problems.
  • A snubber
  • Depth marks on the chain and an “aide memoire” of what the marks mean in the anchor locker.  I think I’ll stick with my spray-paint technique.  You have to re-apply the paint every year, but it’s quick and easy to do. 
  • The 2nd anchor:  a 12 kg FOB with 10 meters of 8mm chain + 20 meters of lead line.  I’ll attach another 20 meters of line to that when we go into the Med.  After 2 years of sailing around northern France, the Channel Islands, and northern Spain, we've never needed the 2nd anchor, but then again, we've never had a boat we could beach before, either !

Our high-tech chain depth indicator system.

Our memory aid of what those colors mean !

Posted on Thursday, April 02, 2015 | Categories: