Category Archives: frustration

Murphy was a Meteorologist

I’d like to apologize to everyone for the unusual shifts in weather patterns that have been occurring over recent years, both here in the north east and beyond. Unfortunately, I predict that through the coming weeks we’re all in for yet more abnormal fluctuations in temperatures and precipitation. I cannot say precisely what weather is headed our way during that period, only that whatever awaits will be either excessively hot or unusually cold, likely with periods of extreme rain/snow/hail and humidity as well. I know there are numerous theories, debates and scientific explanations as to why the weather’s been so wonky, but I can sum it up quite simply and indisputably: it all ties directly to my proximity to my boat.

I know what you’re thinking. There’s no way one little person and one little boat can upset entire weather systems. For years I tried to tell myself that as well, to convince myself it was just my imagination, but the moment I attempt to work with any substance that requires specific setting conditions, my boat immediately transforms into the center-point of a bizarre weather vortex. You want snow in April? Ninety degrees in the same month? Torrential floods? Forty degrees at the end of May? I’ve made it all happen – I was going to work on the boat. Last October’s paralyzing blizzard/ice storm? Same deal. I had the car packed with tools and clean Mix-n-measure containers waiting in the salon. The instant I so much as screwed the metering pumps into the West epoxy I was screwed as well, and the weather immediately reset itself to a temperature that fell outside the recommended working ranges. Varnish and high-gloss paints, I’ve discovered, would cause an even more unique meteorological effect. The weather would remain optimal through the first coats, just a little too optimal, in fact, ideal to stimulate the hatching cycles for swarms of gnats, right on schedule to launch themselves kamikaze-style into the flawless finish just as I’ve laid down that perfect final top coat. And don’t even get me started on trying to USE the boat. Remember a few summers back, when New Jersey was deluged with rain nearly every day from spring to fall?

I’ve begun to believe the only way the weather will ever settle back to some level of normalcy is to throw in the towel on boats altogether. In fact, in over twenty-five years, I can recall only one vacation where the weather was ideal. We’d spent several days in Denali National Park, in Alaska. Mount McKinley, or Denali, as it is known locally, is the highest mountain peak in North America – so high, in fact, that it creates its own localized weather. And that weather, we were told, usually included a thick shroud of clouds that obscure the mountain for much of the summer. But from the moment of our arrival to the day of departure, the clouds parted and the mountain remained in full view the entire time. From there we continue to Juneau, Alaska, reportedly North America’s best guarantee of near-perpetual rain. Not one drop fell during our stay. Our vacation wrapped up with three days in Seattle… bright, sunny, Seattle, where not even a single cloud dared enter the sky for the duration of our visit. But it makes perfect sense – in no part of this trip was our boat a factor. I’m quite certain if that had been the case, the Pacific northwest may have experienced their first plague of locusts in recorded history.

Ponderings of the day…

Traffic has set me so far behind schedule that I’m taking a brief air-conditioning break before heading back into the shop (garage) to resume my fiberglass preps. But hours spent staring at brake lights around me left me to ponder these thoughts and more.

Why is it that people chose to drive very pricey high end automobiles, yet ignore that those vehicles are driving on bald tires?

Why is it that various drivers neglect to look under their hoods until after they’re stopped on the shoulder of the highway with the family and a week’s worth of luggage packed into their car, temperatures have hit triple digits, and a mushroom cloud is rising from what remains of their engine? (At which point they still have zero idea what they are staring at or why, only that it is not good.)

Why is it that people fail to realize the moment their vehicle, which is not accustomed to idling with the air conditioner cranking in triple digit temperatures in a parking lot of traffic backed up behind aforementioned breakdown will now join the Over-heated Car Club.

Why is it that Audi drivers with uni-directional tires often have a single rear tire mounted in reverse of the direction it is meant to rotate. They call them ‘uni-directional’ for a reason. Your mechanic/tire place should know better, and so should you. It bugs me whenever I see that.

Why is it that people driving cars worth four times that of my Jetta can’t seem to Blue-tooth their cell phones? If my car can talk to my phone, I’m sure yours can, too. Read the manual. It’s that little book in the glove box.

Okay. That’s my five minute rant. I’ve cooled off, and I’ve much work to do. Deeper ponderings to come on Monday. Everyone, have a safe, fun, pre-4th weekend. But please, look under your hood before you hit the highway, and check your tires, damnit!


Acme Marine Repair Supplies?

The stuffing box is still within Annabel Lee. No efforts, banged knuckles or colorful language could persuade it otherwise.

It took some fine-tuning to make Really Big Wrench #2 fit properly but once it did Frank was able to turn the stuffing box, breaking it free from the bulkhead. So far, so good. Our next question — was it threaded on the stern tube or just pressed and bedded in — was answered when we found a gasket within the orange PhillyBond. I think it’s safe to say a gasket like that wouldn’t be present if it were threaded on. Unfortunately, without any means of apply pressure from behind our only option is to pull it from the bulkhead. That will require creating a bracket to mount on the stuffing box, a bracket we’ll mount to the motor mounts, and some turnbuckles to gradually increase the pull between while rotating the stuffing box back and forth within the bulkhead. More fabricating.

Sometimes we feel like Wile E. Coyote, constantly inventing our next solution. At least he had Acme. There are no tools built for this, or at least none we know of, (then again, dynamite might be an option!) no instruction manuals we can find, and the worst part is knowing we’ll have to put it all back together again when we’re done.

But at least it moves, and it it moves, that means it can come off. It’s just a matter of figuring how.

And now, in the sh*t you never think to check but should department… I give you the stern tube water intake.

(Missing picture, I’ll be updating these.)

We wanted to replace this plastic fitting on moral grounds. I strongly believe plastic like this has no place separating the inside of a boat from the water surrounding it. There is a reason bronze was created. Many reasons, in fact, and keeping the ocean out is high on that list. Anyhow, we removed it to facilitate stuffing box access and found it nearly plugged solid with some white substance… but what, and why? Closer inspection of the fitting itself revealed the problem. When this fitting was first installed someone applied a liberal amount of what I can imagine was Boatlife or a similar substance, with the intent of avoiding leaks. When the fitting was tightened down the sealant was displaced and formed a significant obstruction to water flow. It’s something to bear in mind when there’s an overheating problem, though fortunately in this case that hadn’t become an issue, and it’s definitely something to consider when installing fitting of this sort.

It most certainly didn’t leak, though.

It’s that time of year again…

The leaves are just starting to turn. The nights have begun to grow cooler, the days shorter, and my thoughts turn to…. yet more work aboard Annabel Lee. And strange as it seems, I’m looking forward to the prospect. Not the expense or the inevitable exhaustion, but actually doing things Frank and I spent the summer discussing, considering and planning. Things we couldn’t do last year, cocooned beneath the winter cover, and not afloat this summer, exposed to almost endless rain and occasional baking sun. No, this winter we’re biting the bullet and going with INDOOR shed storage. That way we’ll be sheltered enough to overhaul the decks, re-bed the salon windows, and several other random repairs Annabel Lee’s 32 years are necessitating. When temps get to low for resin-related work, we’ll shift our attention to the diesel, replacing motor mounts, the damper plate, heat exchangers, hoses, and whatever else calls for attention. There’ll be some carpentry work; we’ve decided to extend the bridge to cover a portion of the cockpit as well as provide a spot for cradling the dinghy. That, of course, will in turn require we also add the mast and steadying sail, providing means to lift said dinghy to the cradle via the boom. And while it’s out, I wouldn’t mind seeing if that forward center salon window could be changed to one that opens, allowing breezes to flow through the cabin. Oh, yeah, and while the windows are out, that would be the time to replace the water-damaged wood inside the salon. Am I forgetting anything? Most likely.

The forecast for the coming winter… busy, with extended stretches of sleep-deprivation through the weekends. There will be a chance of passing frustration before clearing to hopeful satisfaction.

Steering issues and marine surveyors…

It must be July, as once again we rebuild the steering. In truth, more like replace. This goes back to last summer when the helm pumps and ram were failing, which goes back to the previous fall when, prior to our ownership, a mechanic, while replacing the cutlass bearing, reinstalled the rudder with the tiller arm upside down. This was done after the initial survey and days before we picked up the boat to move her from Salem to East Dennis in horrendous November seas. This was reportedly inspected by Rob Scanlan, CMS/MMS Master Marine Surveyor, both before and after the initial survey, but was clearly overlooked.

This was just one of many issues, such as our well documented keel problem Rob Scanlan failed to note in his initial survey, as he was supposed to inspect the cutlass replacement and was reportedly present while the skeg was removed. I would like to note Mr. Scanlan NEVER sent me a final, complete survey following the sea-trial, even after numerous polite requests, all made prior to our realizing any of these overlooked issues. This oversight allowed the tiller to overswing the rudder stops, which in turn left the ram cylinder completely misaligned and allowed it to move far beyond the proper 30 degree angle, causing it to alternately bleed hydraulic fluid and draw air into the lines. This lack of hydraulic fluid contributed to the ultimate failure of both helm pumps, as well as the hydraulic fluid ‘burping’ from the upper helm destroying the mastic bedding on the bridge deck, which in turn caused leaking into the cabin and damage to the interior joinery. Needless to say, it was one very costly, and potentially critical oversights.

When I consider the conditions we travelled through with steadily failing steering, I realize we were fortunate things hadn’t turned out worse. Far worse. We hired Mr. Scanlan, a “Certified and Accredited Master Marine Surveyor”, as an agent to inspect the boat thoroughly, a boat many hours from our home, and we paid for a full survey, not just the ‘insurance’ survey, knowing we’d be travelling a good distance in an unfamiliar boat late in the fall as the weather went from bad to worse, only to find oversights such as this.  Mr. Scanlan’s site was filled with glowing praise and testimonials, and it seems oddly surprising that his survey missed a number of critical points. It is unfortunate that Rob Scanlan never returned my calls or sent me a final survey, and it is unfortunate that ultimately I’m left wondering whose interests he was serving; the buyer, who he may likely never meet again, or the yacht broker with whom I’m sure he’s had past dealings with and will likely see again through his career.

So back to the present, as in last weekend. Frank knew last year’s rebuild of the old pumps and ram cylinder weren’t permanent fixes, but they carried us through the summer while we waited for the new parts to arrive. Maybe we’d get another season out of them. Maybe not. The bridge helm was starting to act up, so we decided to be safe and swap it out for the new one. I suggested if we were going to open the lines, we might as well just do it all and leave the old parts packed as spares. Of course, there were the usual issues of one or another random bolts that needed replacement, which ate up hours of running around looking for the right hardware. By Sunday night all was installed and the bleeding had begun, but it’s likely there’s still a bit of air to clear out. A good day or two of chop should do that.

Update: I have since discovered  a discussion on the Wooden Boat forum where another dis-satisfied customer with a boatload of problems states “beware of a surveyor named Rob Scanlan…” and “if I ever do get the survey I paid $1500 for, I will show that to anyone who wants to see it.”

And this little tidbit recently came to my attention and I found it rather interesting. I’ll let the article speak for itself:

Massachusetts resident Rob Scanlan advertised himself as an accredited marine surveyor, using the acronym “AMS” to the chagrin of the Society of Accredited Marine Surveyors (SAMS), which alleged it owned the certification mark “AMS.”Odd, that wasn’t on Rob Scanlan’s resume.

SAMS sued Scanlan in Florida and a U.S. District Court there found Scanlan in default. SAMS then tried to enforce the judgment in Massachusetts before Judge George A. O’Toole Jr.

O’Toole held SAMS failed to provide proof of proper service in the Florida action. On the merits, Scanlan counterclaimed to cancel the “AMS” mark. O’Toole granted SAMS summary judgment on that issue since Scanlan failed to prove “AMS” was generic. Soc’y of Accredited Marine Surveyors, Inc. v. Scanlan, 2005 WL 670541 (D. Mass. 2005).

Still floating…

I haven’t posted much these days not for lack of stuff to post, but for lack of time to post stuff. If that makes sense, you have my sympathy. Needless to say, I’m still feeling meh, overtired, underslept, and finding not enough hours in each day to make a dent in the things I need to do.

Such is life.  Oh, and it keeps raining.  Lots of rain. On the bright side the bridge canvas fits like a glove and all is dry above and in the cabin.


Floating fine…

As of yesterday. Annabel Lee fired right up and the stuffing box required only minor adjustment. All is good, except I have a horrendous cold that went into my ears (painful!) and I’m out of commission, weak, tired, and getting by on antibiotics and Nyquil. It’s not fair!