Monthly Archives: July 2011


…are always a busy time for me, especially in the summer.  So busy, in fact, that from Friday through until Monday I’m all but non-existent within the online world. I may peek in on email and such, but it’s not until Monday morning that I start to catch up on all comments and correspondence. And I think I’m just about done for the moment.

Fire Away!

In less than a year over 16,000 people have purchased Last Exit In New Jersey. It was slow in the beginning — most of these readers have come along within the last few months. Occasionally, people who love my book are kind enough to take the time to write me personally. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it is as I sit here alone working away on the next book, to hear just how much someone enjoyed the last one and how they can’t wait to read the sequel. Fan letters like those are even better than caffeine for keeping me up and working late into the night! Overall I’ve been thrilled by how well my quirky tale has been received, though it doesn’t surprise me that on occasion a reader has left a less than glowing review on Amazon.

There’s no such thing as a book every reader will enjoy. Unfavorable reviews go with the territory and as authors we should expect and accept all feedback, not just the positive. Every review has its validity; it is that reader’s honest opinion and among them have been some constructive points. I’ll admit good reviews make my day, but fair, critical reviews help me to see what I can work on for the next book. The only reviews that truly bother me are ones that reveal spoilers.

So, for those who have already posted reviews, I would like to say thank you. For everyone who has told a friend how much you enjoyed my story, you have my sincere gratitude. And to those of you who have read my book but haven’t posted a review on Amazon, why not let other readers know what you think. Did you find my book absolutely awful, meh, or enjoyable? What did you like or hate, and why? And please, feel free to speak up: what one reader can’t stand might be what others prefer. Many readers chose books based upon the opinions of others, and as an author I value hearing your impressions of my writing. So fire away! I’m from Jersey… I can take it!

A tale of two bearings…

Technically, three bearings, and it begins with that original cutlass bearing. Looking back, that should have been the first sign that some unusual headaches would await us down the road. Back when we were buying Annabel Lee, the initial attempt at a sea-trial revealed a severely worn cutlass bearing, and the seller needed to replace that as one of the conditions of the sale. Simple enough? Apparently not, as days stretched into weeks and we were told the mechanic he’d hired to do the work was having difficulty locating a proper sized replacement. In truth, being that it was October and haul-out season was in full swing, we believed the delays were more a case of this job falling on the low end of the mechanic’s priorities, and being that it wasn’t our boat yet, things were out of our hands. Eventually a bearing turned up, I’m told, when the seller discovered he had a spare he’d completely forgotten about aboard. But the job was completed, the sea-trial and survey wrapped up, (including an inspection of the work by the surveyor, who completely overlooked the fact that the mechanic had installed the rudder tiller upside down, which led to another string of headaches, but that’s not today’s topic.) We’ve learned several lessons from that experience, including the realization that if no one could locate a bearing for a boat with a 1.75″ shaft, that might be a cause for consideration.

Move ahead a bit and we find ourselves working out various other mechanical kinks, including a stuffing box with a worn inner cutlass bearing (yes, they do exist) and numerous steering issues, including a rudder with (among other things) a bit too much play from a worn lower bearing. As with everything else on this boat it took some doing, (and thoughts of dynamite for more than one reason,) but ultimately we removed both the stuffing box and the rudder bearing with the innocent and simple intention of replacing both bearings… and that’s where things got interesting.

Let’s start with the rudder.

Yes, this is the rudder on a 32′ powerboat. But as with everything else on this miniature ship, it is overbuilt. The rudder blade itself measures 20″ wide by 34″ high, and if you take the shaft into consideration that brings the total length to 59″.  There’s even a removable deck plate in the cockpit that allows you to insert a manual ’emergency’ tiller onto the squared end, should the hydraulics fail. Details like this are among the reasons this boat, despite the work she needs, impressed me to begin with.

Tiller and upper assembly (with soda bottle to catch hydraulic fluid as we replaced the ram with blown seals.)

Rudder tube leading to lower bearing.

Above: Upper assembly removed.

Lower bearing housing coming out.

Above: Lower bearing housing removed.

Above: You might think there would be a set screw or two to keep the bearing from spinning, but there were none to be seen. Still, the bearing didn’t wouldn’t separate from the housing until we resorted to a hydraulic press.

Ultimately it turned out there was a set-screw concealed under layers of caulking/???, and not only was it hammered into place as not to EVER back out, but the head was also ground down. Two strong men and a whole lot of persuasion later and…

The tube is clear. And here’s the first bearing I’m trying to locate. It seems to be made of some hard composite.

And that brings us to the stuffing box.

The orange dust you see here is called ‘Phillybond’, a flexible stern tube sealant. It turns out that in addition to being bolted into the hull, the stuffing box was also threaded onto the stern tube, and sealed with Phillybond  epoxy as well.

Another view, to show just how deep this is set in.

First round with hydraulics only managed to remove the very much crudded-up collar that (theoretically) directs water around the shaft, but not the cutlass sleeve.

This was going to require a bit more pressure…

And victory at last!

But why was it so hard to remove the sleeve? Perhaps another hidden set screw, also hammered down and ground smooth then covered under years of age?

There it is. And here it is, the reputedly non-existent inner cutlass bearing.

And not surprisingly, this bearing is the same inner and outer dimension as the outer cutlass bearing. The inner diameter of 1.75″ is easy enough. It’s that outer dimension that makes things interesting. It’s 62 mm or 2.44″, a size we’ve discovered is harder to locate than you’d first imagine. And that’s where we are now, trying to track down two cutlass bearings with outer diameters of 62 mm.

We have a plan B and even a plan C, but ultimately the ideal would be plan A – replace these bearings apples to apples. Surely with all the trawlers and sailing craft coming out of Hong Kong during the seventies and eighties, ours can’t be the only boat built with bearings of these dimensions.

Update: presently we may have located a Duramax bearing with an outer diameter of 65 mm and an outer wall thick enough to be machined down to 62 mm. It’s a start but I’m still curious if there’s anything that starts out at a closer fit.

A well-ventilated engine room…

This *was* the salon sole.

There’s a very nice old Ford Lehman diesel beneath this lovely teak parquet. At the bottom of the photo you can see a small access hatch. And while the engine room is, in fact, quite roomy, to work on the engine involves much climbing around on hands and knees. Work would be much easier with greater access. On many other boats there is often a larger engine room hatch, and it seems our boat was built with one as well – only it was covered over when the cabin was fitted out. From below you can see a portion of the actual hatch edge. I’ve marked the dimensions from above with tape.

And with a bit of persuasion and the removal of much of the pretty teak, we now have what I would term excellent access to all areas of the engine room.

And as for all that teak, it will be returned, refinished and re-installed around an ultimately redesigned hatch so when all is said and done we can access the engine without having to dis-assemble half the cabin.

And this is just one of several reasons I rarely go online, answer emails or do much else online over the weekends.  Next post… BEARINGS!!!

Can’t leave well enough alone…

But it’ll look so nice when it’s done! Really!


There seems to be an issue with pins.

Foglights! (pending completed wiring/module issues)

Celebrating INDIE-pendence!

The 4th of July weekend is rapidly approaching, and once again I’m looking forward to my favorite holiday of the year. After all, what other holiday lets you barbeque and watch colorful explosions? (Alright. Anyone who knows me knows I celebrate Christmas the same way, but still, it’s not as warm and there are no fireflies at dusk.) And even though the boat is still ashore, this weekend I’ll be enjoying myself more than usual because I have so much to celebrate.  For me, this year’s 4th is more like Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas all rolled together!

Back when I was considering this whole ‘Independent Publishing’ path, it was a bit unnerving, wondering if I had made the right decision. But I can say now that the last few months have far exceeded anything I could have imagined and I’m thrilled by how quickly my writing has risen in popularity, gaining so many new readers. Even with an inexplicably mis-formated description (Amazon assures me they are working on correcting the issue,) for the last week Last Exit In New Jersey ranked among Amazon’s Top 100 Bestsellers, pushing me past the 10,000 copies sold milestone. Every review, every letter I receive, and even the fan-art (!!!) makes me even happier, further fueling my enthusiasm as I write No Wake Zone. So once again, thank you all!

And for any readers looking to discover some other great Indie books, be sure to check out the Declare Your Independence Indie Author Giveaway Carnival at What Book Is That! Through the month of July, there will be reviews and give-aways aplenty; the focus is on some amazing indie books and authors (including yours truly) and this is your chance to stock up on your summer reading while supporting us Indies.

Have a fun and safe 4th!