Thursday, February 6, 2020

Jan 2020: Projects in Port & in the Abacos

Happy New Year!  We welcomed 2020 still confined to port, as poor weather had intervened and prevented our planned cruise up to Sarasota for Christmas week.  That meteorological mess consisted of a cold front accompanied by gusty winds and rain for several days, and was enough of a deterrent to keep Ghost Rider tethered to the dock.  One of the many nice things about retirement is the flexibility to pick our weather windows….our car got us to Sarasota and the planned family rendezvous just fine.  The remainder of our time since our last blog post has mostly been occupied with out-of-town visitors escaping the cold winter weather to the north.  And Chelle took a side trip back to the Abacos….more on that further below.

That also gave us time to turn our attention to a few more boat projects….some expected, some not.
We Replaced Four of These Poly-planar Speakers
Due to Splits in the Speaker Cones
First up was replacing some of the stereo speakers in the boat.  Ghost Rider has three pairs of these (salon, pilot house and flybridge), and both pairs of interior speakers were in dire need of replacement – the speaker cones had deteriorated with splits and cracks and the distorted sound was getting annoying.  (We don’t know the age of these, but strangely the exterior flybridge units are holding up better.)  At any rate, it was easy enough to find drop-in replacements (Poly-planar 6x9 200W on Amazon), and with only six screws and two wires each were easy to remove and replace.

Having to replace yet another Whale fresh water T-fitting was an unpleasant surprise.  During one routine morning boat-check Rick glanced at the bilge pump counter and saw “36” – where normally we expect to see something from zero to five over the course of a day and that’s only if the A/C has been running.  Uh-oh.  After scrambling to check the bilge level (normal, so the bilge pump was keeping up) the scavenger hunt began….from where was that water coming?  While checking various under-floor panels we heard the fresh water pump kick on and run for an extended period; a quick check of the fresh water tank level showed a significant decrease from the previous day, too.  So now we knew we were looking for a fresh water system leak.  We turned off the breaker for the water pump, and eventually Rick found the culprit, one of the many Whale 15mm T-fittings scattered throughout the boat….this one immediately adjacent to, and on the supply side of, the fresh water pump in the engine room.  We carry spares, so the replacement fix was relatively quick and easy.
The Yellow Arrow Points to the Whale
T-Fitting That Was Leaking

Then it was time to call out an A/C tech to the boat once again.  The air handler in the master state room had (again) started to throw “HI PS” errors and shutting itself down.  Previously Rick had been able to clear that error with strainer cleanouts and running reverse cycle heat; but those techniques were proving fruitless this time.  Using the infrared heat gun we found compressor coil temps reaching 156F (normally around 120F) and the unit would shut itself down after a few minutes of runtime. Craig from VIP Marine (LINK) found a hole in his busy schedule to make a visit and after hooking up his manifold pressure gauges (finding high-side pressure way above the normal range) he quickly diagnosed the problem as clogging in the fresh water cooling loop.  We really had no idea if or when that plumbing had last been scoured out, but in an oft-used A/C system in these warm waters it’s not uncommon for raw water loops to get sclerotic with barnacles and other unwanted nasties.

Our first step was to remove the hose from the thru-hull intake, where we found the equivalent of a small tree growing; we cleared that out using a long screwdriver as a rigid drain snake.  Next up was to remove the four raw water manifold hoses downstream of the pump and run an acid cleaner through those.  A loud “pop” and debris coming from the port side discharge was evidence we were progressing with removing considerable sclerosis from the cooling loop.  After a few hours of effort followed by a leak check of the reassembled plumbing, the A/C system was pronounced healthy again.  The improved water flow, pressure and temperature checks confirmed that.  Rick followed up with a “Barnacle Buster” soak over the following days as additional preventive insurance.
When We Removed the Hose and Elbow Coming Out of This A/C Seacock We Found a Small Tree Growing
Inside the Thru-Hull.  First Step Was to Unclog That Mess.
Another project involved updating the ship’s Nobeltec computer.  That device is a Silverstone DC-powered computer running the TimeZero Professional navigation software; unfortunately that’s a mission critical system running under the Windows 10 (Pro) operating system, which is at best only a consumer-grade platform, and not particularly conducive to high availability needs.  Once huge drawback is Microsoft removed almost all ability to control the frequency and timing of its software updates, which occasionally can be quite disruptive.  To manage that we generally keep that PC’s Internet connection turned off, and on top of that we run a 3rd party utility that effectively interrupts that “phone home” behavior.

Thus periodically we need to manually check for OS security updates and functional upgrades/fixes, but only when we have the time to manage possibly adverse consequences.  And that did not go well – after twice applying updates, and then rolling back to recover, the computer turned into a brick. It took Rick three days to recover it – performing a BIOS reset and fresh install of the latest build for Windows 10, followed by reinstallation and configuration of our Nobeltec TimeZero Pro navigation software.  At least we were able to recover routes and other data files from our backups.  On the other hand the newer version of Windows 10 would not recognize the computer’s PCI serial I/O card (which feeds backup NMEA 0183 navdata to the TimeZero software) even after reinstalling new drivers.  A newer I/O card and driver set finally resolved that.
The Ship's Navigation Computer is a 12 Volt Small Form Factor Silverstone Model.  It's Tucked in the Pilot House
Console Locker, a Challenge to Access.  This Pic is with Its Cover Removed to Provide Access to Its Innards So
the PCI Serial I/O Card Can Be Replaced.
Additionally, in the category of “better late than never” we made an interesting discovery regarding the boat’s LPG system.  Ghost Rider carries two aluminum 15.8 pound (empty weight) gas bottles to feed the galley’s gas stove and oven, a common arrangement in long range cruisers – alternative electric units are energy (battery) hogs. The LPG bottles have been securely mounted (vertically, side-by-side) in an isolated and ventilated cockpit locker mostly in accordance with ABYC standards.  Suspecting one of the bottles was approaching empty and requiring a refill, we removed it to weigh it on a digital scale – and for the first time took notice a label on the bottle that read “horizontal cylinder.”  After researching exactly what that meant we realized the heretofore vertical installation violated a rather significant safety measure (and probably interfered somewhat with consistently reliable operation.)  Rick bought some stainless hardware and drilled new studs in the floor of the locker to allow for a secure horizontal mount – although only one bottle would fit in there with that orientation. 
The Revised Horizontal Mount for LPG.  The Yellow Arrows Point to the Two New Stainless Steel Studs and
Wingnuts that Were Required.  The Red Arrows Indicate the Previous Studs Used for Vertical Mounting.
The second (spare) LPG bottle got strapped down in the lazarette storage area.  The better longer term solution would be two new bottles designed for vertical installation – but those aluminum things are pricey and that can wait.

As for Chelle’s side trip…to the Abacos:  Not being one to take the traditional approach to retirement, she has yet to master the skill of being laid back.  After accommodating holiday visits by her mum, then her sister and entire family, then our daughter, followed shortly thereafter by four of her gal pals, she headed off to Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas for two weeks of disaster relief volunteer work.  Via the All Hands and Hearts organization (aka AHAH, LINK), their gritty manual labor efforts are targeting the reconstruction of schools, a clinic and library, and teachers’ homes.  

For more details on that experience, check out the separate blog entry at this LINK.

What’s next:  We’re not planning any significant sorties until the March timeframe, at which time we are hoping to cruise around to the east coast for a (brief?) visit to Yacht Tech’s yard in palm Beach, and then heading off to the Bahamas again. February will be preparation month – provisioning all sorts of supplies and food, along with pre-departure oil changes and other system preparations.  We're also looking into using Ghost Rider as a "mule" to haul needed supplies to The Abacos relief efforts.  More on all that in the next blog post.  

Once again, we wish all a Happy New Year and best wishes for a safe, healthy and enjoyable 2020.

Jan 2020: A Side Trip to the Abacos

As mentioned at the end of another blog entry, Chelle has trouble sitting still.  After the hectic holiday visits she headed off to Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas for two weeks of disaster relief volunteer work.  She hooked up with the All Hands and Hearts organization there (aka AHAH, LINK) joining their volunteers already on the ground working on the reconstruction of schools, a clinic and library, and teachers’ homes.   

When Hurricane Dorian parked over The Abacos and Grand Bahama for a couple of days while spinning viciously at Cat-5 strength, it pretty much flattened those islands.  And afterwards, Marsh Harbor was basically a pile of waterlogged toothpicks, and those soon turned into moldy ones.  
Chelle headed over there in mid-January, and upon return she was exhausted.  AHAH doesn't mess around -- they're not just a gaggle of volunteers, but rather they bring experienced program managers, project managers and team leads to organize and direct the teams of volunteers, and utilize disciplined direction to get defined and palpable results.  Work days start at sunrise and go nearly to sunset.  Clearing debris, scrubbing mold, vacuuming, disinfecting and rebuilding is really hard and cyclically repetitive work.  If you're on a "muck and gut" team (like Chelle) you don't sleep each night, you pass out.
But it's very, very rewarding.  In addition to the videos above, below you'll find a sampling of the collection of photos Chelle managed to snap off while there.  They will give you an idea of the destruction and despair, but also the hope, optimism and good work going on over there.

AHAH specializes in mold remediation which consists of the following process also known as “Sani”:

** Scrub - Each piece of wood is scrubbed three times with a wire brush on each side of the exposed piece of wood: 1) scrub with the grain – usually vertical, 2) scrub horizontal, 3) scrub in a circular motion.  One of the pictures below depicts an AHAH volunteer scrubbing up in the rafters.  One thing learned after two days of scrubbing was to pick a large room with lots of long runs of studs and rafters; cubbies and nooks are a bear to scrub.  In another pic you’ll see Chelle equipped with respirator mask and scrub brushes getting ready to work an 80 year old man’s home.

** Vacuum – Each piece of wood is vacuumed in two passes (vertical then horizontal) with wet vacs using whatever attachments are needed (or available).  Unfortunately AHAH needs to do a full inventory of the wet vac attachments and re-order.  We were really hurting for the right attachments to fit into nooks & crannies and some of the attachments had to be duct-taped onto the vac. 

** Chemical Treatment – This is done with a solution called Shockwave (ammonium chloride) which is sprayed over all the exposed wood.  It requires wearing a Tyvek suit in addition to the respirator mask used for scrub & vac.

** Muck & Gut – In one of the pictures you see a child’s toys and toddler shoes on the floor of what was their home.  This particular 2bed/1 bath home, the right side of a duplex, had 50% of its roof blown off.  For AHAH, it was a complete muck & gut meaning removal of all drywall, door & window trim, countertops, cabinets, bathroom tub & sink.  In the left side of the duplex they had roof damage but nothing torn off and we mostly needed to only muck and gut the lower half of everything in the home due to water damage.  The owner of both duplexes had allowed extended family to move into the left side duplex so we were trying to work around all their belongings.  However, we ultimately gutted the entire kitchen so we’re not sure they continued to stay there or not.  One of the pictures shows Chelle with crow bar in hand tearing off door trim.

Part of the AHAH Base camp is the Every Child Counts School, which is the only school for special needs children in all of the Abaco Islands.  The school suffered a lot of damage which AHAH is working to repair while using the school as a base of operations for now.  Chelle stayed in Seydel Hall along with 31 other bunk mates.  Luckily she scored a lower bunk but was surrounded by two especially heavy snorers and with earplugs that would not stay in her ears (a week in a half into her stay a fellow volunteer shared some silly-putty-like ear plugs that could be molded and stayed in place – at last some sleep).  You can see from the pictures that the bunk beds have mosquito nets that the volunteers bring with them – all bedding is supplied by each volunteer and many will leave things behind; that was fortunate for Chelle since her checked bag with air mattress, sleeping bag, sheet, pillow and mosquito tent did not arrive when she did and had to be picked up the next day.

Soon AHAH will be opening a new barracks facility at the base camp, an interesting structure donated by Sprung (and locally nick named the Taj Mahal) – the video below will give you an idea what that looks like.  All of the communal bunk beds will be moved there and house up to 90 people.  One can only imagine the cacophony of snoring that will bounce of those walls.
At Base the day starts about 5:45 AM for most; get dressed in your bunk bed in the dark and hope you put everything on the right way.  Grab your headlamp or flashlight and wander to the “mess hall” which was set up as a kitchen plus two long plywood tables for making breakfast and lunch sandwiches.  Chelle lived on PB&J sandwiches for breakfast and tunafish or canned chicken sandwiches for lunch for 11 days.  Thankfully, they had coffee so you quickly got your business done and everyone met up in the outdoor dining area at 6:45 AM sharp – PPE in hand (Personal Protection Equipment – hard hat, safety glasses, respirator mask, work boots & gloves), ready to grab job site supplies, load up the trucks and be rolling to the job site by 7:00 AM. 

At the job site the Team Lead conducted a stretch circle each morning – each volunteer selected a favorite stretch and introduced themselves to the team for that day.  Your teams changed daily so it was a great way to meet your fellow volunteers (there were 90 some volunteers the day Chelle arrived and around 60 something upon departure – constant turnover of people on base).  Then, off to work whether that be Sani (scrubbing or vacuum or spray) or Muck & Gut, or roofing, or some lucky people got assigned to work at World Central Kitchen or the rebuild of St. Francis School getting it ready to reopen in the next month.  You were at the job site until about 3:45 with an hour break for lunch (at the site; there was no transportation once dropped off and typically no ‘facilities’).  A truck arrived around 3:45 to 4:00 PM to bring you back to base which allowed about 45 minutes to clean up and shower before the mandatory daily 5:00 PM meeting in the outdoor dining area.  It was important to Chelle to get showered before that meeting since the showers were outdoor and cold-water only, and by the end of the 5:00 PM meeting it’s really dark in the showers.  Those cold fronts that blew through Florida in January blew through the Abaco Islands as well, and that shower could be really cold. 

The 5pm meeting was to greet & meet new arrivals, walk through the day’s work results and discuss the next day’s assignments – all documented on the work board; there were about 9 to 12 job sites in progress most of the time.  After the meeting everyone lined up in the mess hall to grab a hot plate of food (same dinner rotation every week – spaghetti, chicken curry, burgers & fries, chicken souse, tuna pasta, BBQ chicken); each volunteer is on their own for dinner on Sunday, the one day off each week.  After dinner, everyone just socialized a bit and got prepared for the next day.  AH&H provided a clean volunteer t-shirt each day; there was one washing machine on base strictly for washing the t-shirts which were then hung to dry.  Any personal clothing to be washed was your responsibility in a bucket with a stick to use as agitator.  Volunteers hung their personal wash wherever they could outside the buildings.  Chelle was usually in her bunk by 8:00 PM to read and wind down before the 9:00 PM lights out and quiet hours.

Sunday was our day off and 8 of us decided to drive an hour south to Sandy Point which had sustained only relatively light storm damage.  A staff member was kind enough to drive us down there Saturday night and we got four rooms at Oiesha’s “Resort”, which was much more like a Motel 6 but we LOVED it: electricity, a real bed, a real bathroom with toilet and hot shower AND she let us use her washer/dryer for our clothes. (Chelle knew there was a washer & dryer and recommended to everyone to bring their stuff – we all threw it together into two loads – heaven!) Oiesha’s was across the street from a beautiful beach and we spent the day at “Nancy’s” restaurant and bar on the beach.  Lots of folks from base arrived on Sunday for the day.  Our group had planned to take a taxi back to base but managed to grab a ride with some of the others from base that had come for the day.  Then on Monday it was back to work!

Chelle was so very ready to return to Florida the following Sunday – exhausted from the work, the Spartan living conditions, and lack of restful sleep.  But, she hopes to return again; although next time will be a shorter stay as 2 weeks was a bit much.  She’s currently reaching out to AH&H to determine what supplies they might need when Ghost Rider journeys back to the Bahamas in April.  We are also working with Stokes Marine in Fort Myers to haul some of their collected supplies to the Hope Town area on Elbow Cay.

AHAH is committed to recovery in Marsh Harbour for two years (until Oct 2021).  There was a big difference in activity levels from Chelle’s first week and her second week; people are coming back, there’s far more traffic and school buses are beginning to run.  The Bahamian Government is finally (after five months) starting to take action and is targeting to have electricity working by sometime in March of this year.  They also finally allowed AHAH to begin rebuilding the public schools there (to date, AHAH has been restricted to rebuilding private schools); they were just awarded the rebuild of CAPS – Central Abaco Primary School – the largest school in the Abaco Islands serving 800 students.

Of course All Hands and Hearts is not just working on disaster relief in the Bahamas….they have active teams on the ground around the globe, in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Australia, the Phillipines, Peru, Mozambique and Nepal.  They do good things.
Some of the Devastation in Marsh Harbour on Great Abaco Island
More of the Damage & Devastation
Interior Structures Are Embedded with Mold
More Devastation
Not Uncommon....Nobody Knows for Sure Where the Boat Originated
There Are Tragic Stories in Every Pile of Rubble
This Served as Our Barracks Building
These 16 Bunks Served 32 Volunteers
Close Up of the Bunks....the Mosquito Netting is Important
Outdoor Showers....and COLD Water Only
Gearing Up for Battle -- Sani Duty (Mold Remediation)
Work Board - with Team Assignments
The Only Special-Needs School ("Every Child Counts") in All of the Abacos...Now Being Renovated
Sani Work (Mold Remediation) in the Rafters
"Muck & Gut" -- Crowbarring Off Trim & Drywall
Another Worksite....Muck & Gut in Progress, New Roof Coming Next
But We Did Have One Day of Rest...Beach & Break Time (Sandy Point, About an Hour's Drive
 South of Marsh Harbour)
Some Day It Will All Look Like This Again (From Our Last Visit in 2018)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Nov-Dec 2019: Back to FLA & a Short Cruise

We Sustained Two Deep Gelcoat Gouges on This Area of Starboard Bow During 
Our Throttle Failure Experience.  But After Mike Worked His Magic 
on the Light Grey Gelcoat It Was Hard to Discern.
By the time we returned from our visit to the Midwest to our southwest Florida home the fall season was finally making a debut in Fort Myers.  Within a few days we were seeing highs in the low 70’s instead of lows near 80F, but having just departed single digit temps it still felt blissfully warm.

We spent about a week getting the boat ready for some overdue cruising.  That included getting Ghost Rider detailed once again by Frank at Ultimate Marine (LINK), and Mike Peters of Brightworks completing the gelcoat repairs on the starboard bow, and of course keeping up with the usual routine maintenance items that Wheelhouse would point out to us.  The most significant of those was replacing the raw water pump’s impeller on the wing engine, a once-a-year proactive task. Rick decided to try out one of the Globe “run-dry” soft rubber impellers this time which theoretically will last longer, although to be fair the hard rubber Jabsco that we replaced still looked very good.
Frank from Ultimate Marine Giving Ghost Rider the Spa Treatment

Of course we (meaning Chelle) had lots of provisioning to do since we had mostly emptied the boat of food, drink and personal items over the past year.  But since we were waiting on the detailing and bottom cleaning work anyway, we had time to get that done without getting too rushed.

Then, as soon as Ghost Rider’s monthly bottom cleaning was completed we were ready take advantage of a good weather window to point the bow south.  Instead the cold and flu bug hit us (meaning Rick) and a lengthy recovery pause followed.  By the time we felt healthy enough to get back underway we were into early December and waiting on another weather window.  The delay had another advantage -- Red Tide has returned to the southwest Florida with a vengeance, but by the time we did  get underway it had largely dissipated, at least in the direction we would be going.  (North of us it was still bad.)  We also took some solace in the fact that we had passed the official end of hurricane season with nothing more than a strong breeze affecting us locally.
Ghost Rider is a Dolphin Magnet

We finally departed Legacy Harbor and Fort Myers on the morning of Wednesday, 04-December at around 0915 in fabulous conditions: a very slight northerly breeze, clear skies, temp around 60F and low humidity.  It was jacket weather up on the fly bridge but it was nonetheless quite comfortable, and the outgoing tide gave us a following current heading down-river.

Our destination was Marco Island, about 50 miles to the south.  Even with the pushing current it took nearly two hours to get all the way down the Caloosahatchee River, and while there was only sparse boat traffic we enjoyed multiple dolphin formations on both sides of the boat and in the bow wave.  By the time we entered the Gulf of Mexico our bottle-nosed friends had split off on a lunch-hunting vector and temps had reached the mid 70's.  Winds also picked up a bit, clocking around to the WNW, and after passing south of the Sanibel lighthouse so did the seas.  Forecast was for 2-3 footers but we saw 4 to 5 foot swells most of the way, mostly quartering on the starboard stern and occasionally right on the beam.  Intervals were mostly comfortable but the stabilizers still got a workout.  It was pleasant enough to steer from the fly bridge all day.
Ghost Rider ran perfectly the entire way, loping along just under 1500 RPM and averaging about 8 knots SOG.  Rick made some  minor adjustments to the shaft's stuffing box, tightening its adjusting nuts just a bit to reduce the drip rate, and was very happy with the resulting 95F gland temperature in the 75 degree gulf waters.  Our Wheelhouse maintenance program had been nagging us to "performance test" the water maker's membrane, so we also took the opportunity to run that for a couple of hours in the clean waters of the Gulf; it produced about 27 gallons of good quality (<200 ppm) fresh water in a two hour span, which is pretty much spot on its specs.
Our Track from Fort Myers to Marco Island

We reached the entrance to Big Marco Pass just after 1500, and as expected it was a little adventurous with the 4 to 5 foot rollers on the stern; such wave action in the inlets tends to push around a full displacement Nordhavn like a bathtub without a rudder.  The autopilot isn't particularly useful in such conditions but we've learned the art of manual steering and throttle adjustments, and thankfully the tide and current were going with us.  After we reached the calm of the inner bay Chelle took the helm from the fly bridge station and steered Ghost Rider around the corner to the Marina at Factory Bay (LINK) for a smooth docking maneuver on their t-head floating dock.  We got tied up and cleaned up in short order, with the usual attentive help from Craig the dockmaster.  Temps cooled rapidly again after sunset, making it a good night for Chelle's crock pot chili.
Ghost Rider on Her T-head Tie-up at Factory Bay
We spent the next two days (Thursday, 05-December and Friday, 06-December) just hanging out and relaxing at Marco Island as the idyllic fall weather continued. Chelle got a loaner bike from the marina office and spent time cycling around and checking out the beaches.  Rick got a lot of small projects done on Ghost Rider -- rolling back a bad Windows 10 update on the ship's PC; tightening the hinges on two overhead hatches; exercising & leak-checking the hydraulic davit; and a few other minor tasks.  Thursday night we walked the short distance to our favorite restaurant here, Old Marco Pub (LINK), to enjoy lobster tails and a tender filet.  Late Friday afternoon we hiked a bit farther down to the Snook Inn (LINK) for some early cocktails (the Passion Fruit Mojito is good) and an appetizer (tasty conch fritters which also have shrimp chunks and the mango habanero sauce packs a punch.)
The Old Marco Pub Doesn't Look Like Much from the Street but Inside
It's Comfy with a Good Bar and Excellent Food

The perfect weather continued on our departure date, Saturday, 07-December.  We started engines just after 0900, departing the dock shortly thereafter, wound our way out of Big Marco Pass, and pointed Ghost Rider north back towards Fort Myers.  Temps started in the low 60's but quickly warmed to the mid 70's, under a clear cobalt blue sky, with a light northerly breeze that yielded smooth seas.  Waves barely measured a foot with wide periods and only a light wind chop on top.  It was a bit cool on the fly bridge cruising upwind, but a light jacket and Chelle's hot chili for lunch made it comfy enough.  As with the trip down Ghost Rider purred along happily and without issues on the return sortie.
The Snook Inn Located on the Northern Tip of Marco Island

We bucked a light current most of the way but still averaged just over 7.5 knots and made Legacy Harbour in Fort Myers right at 1600.  The light winds allowed for a smooth stern-in docking with minimum fuss, followed by quick post-flight checks and an equally quick hose down of the hull.  Then it was pizza and college football time back at the condo.

We now need to ready the boat and the condo to receive holiday visitors, but also plan to take another short cruise soon.  That should be about two weeks out when we hope to sortie north to Sarasota for a Christmas rendezvous with family.  More on that later.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Oct 2019: A Couple More Boat Projects

Updated Port Side Fly Bridge Seating
Chelle didn’t want to be left out of all the recent “boat business” fun so in parallel with the whole throttle replacement spend fest she embarked on a couple of new projects…as if we weren’t already spending enough B.O.A.T. units.  There is probably a cure for us out there somewhere, but for now at least we are slow learners in that particular area of fiscal responsibility.  The "Sea Notes" continue to flow.

The first of these projects involved updating the vinyl cushions for Ghost Rider's fly bridge seating areas.  We had the helm seat rebuilt and recovered two years ago, but now all the other seat cushions were looking pretty ratty, too. And lately they had been absorbing and retaining more rain water than their covers were repelling.  We bought the new foam filling and marine vinyl from our own sources – with the material and color matching what was used for the helm seat do-over (Sea Oyster vinyl) – and then engaged Cape Canvas & Cushion (LINK) in nearby Cape Coral for the handiwork.
The Updated Fly Bridge Cushions Now Match the Helm Chair

They aren’t particularly fancy, but they are functional, much more water resistant than the old ones, and no longer pockmarked by mildew stains.  We treated with 303 Aerospace Protectant which should help with long term survivability.

Four Sliding Shelves Make The Pantry
Area Much More Accessible
The next project was aimed at upgrading the galley pantry.  Ghost Rider has two tall, narrow and very deep cabinets just to the right of the fridge/freezer.  Each has multiple shelf levels and they can hold a lot of stuff, but they require you employ a ladder and a flashlight and have telescoping arms to reach all of the spaces.  It was a fine place to store food related things that you didn't care a great deal about ever seeing again.

The solution was to install some slide-out shelves.  Having seen Rick’s carpentry skills before – essentially he has none – Chelle hired Dave Purcell for the job, who is something of a maritime handyman with good credentials in this area (as well as a USCG 500 GT licensed delivery captain.) She ordered the shelving units from Slide-a-Shelf (LINK) who custom built them to our measurements.  (Note that discounts are sometimes available by ordering through Costco or Amazon.)  And then Dave went to work on fitment, finishing and installation.  He is a bit of a perfectionist so he even crafted a fascia for each sliding shelf and stained them to match the boat’s interior teak woodwork.  They look good and definitely improve accessibility.

With the Stainless Steel Button Latches
Added to Prevent Movement When Underway
To prevent them from sliding forward and banging against the cabinet doors during lumpy seas we used the same stainless steel "button latches" that we had employed on the fridge and freezer doors.  We just need to remember to engage the latches....which is not a given.

On the lowest shelf in the bottom cabinet we chose to forgo the sliding shelf option and instead went with a false bottom on furniture sliders; that preserved the deeper storage area at the base for larger items.

Amidst these boat projects we also had to tend to some routine maintenance activities.  The first of those was refreshing a few Racor fuel filters.  While we had not reached an engine hour trigger, there is always some concern about filter effectiveness with the passage of time.  Does a filter element not being used much but still soaking in diesel fuel eventually undergo a change in filtering properties?  At some point the answer is likely yes, but exactly when can really only be determined when the vacuum gauge rises above seven inches HG.  Rick would rather not deal with that while underway, so we change ours after a year if we haven’t yet hit the magic 500 hour mark. That’s overly conservative, but at $10 apiece it’s cheap insurance and peace of mind.  So both main engine Racor 900 filters got changed as did the Racor 500 for the genset.
The Dual Racor 900 Units for the Main Engine.  After Installing the New Filter Elements We Label Them with Both Date
and Engine Hours.  Same Goes for the Smaller Racor 500's on the Generator and Wing Engine.
Next up was the six month windlass service.  Our hydraulically powered Maxwell 3500 will probably outlive us, but the above-deck components still require periodic attention – basically dismantling down to the lower clutch cone and crank collar, liberally lubing all accessible parts with a good lithium grease, and then shooting a grease gun into the main bearing’s zerk fitting.  Upon disassembly we found the unit clean and still well lubricated, not too surprising given its limited use and exposure this year.  But we know its ready to go and hoping for some use in the next couple of months.  After reassembly and checking for leftover parts (none, yay!) we exercised the unit to confirm smooth operation.
Disassembling the Windlass Deck Components....Not a Difficult Task But It's a Messy, Greasy One When Rick Does It
Another rather mundane item that our Wheelhouse software reminds us of on an annual basis is checking the integrity of the DC and AC electrical panel connections.  While inspecting for chafing is a part of that, it's mainly verifying that all attachment points are still tight -- and there are a LOT of them.  But with a couple of different screw drivers and plenty of patience it only takes about an hour.  Before checking the AC power side it's highly recommended that you turn off the shore power 240V/50A circuit breaker first.  It doesn't take much of a slip to turn the rear of that panel into a rogue defibrillator; don't ask Rick how he knows this.

To wrap it all up we sortied Ghost Rider a short distance upriver to the Fort Myers Yacht Basin to take on 400 gallons of diesel fuel.  That brings our current tankage up to around 1100 gallons in total, which will get us through the foreseeable future and avoid the (much) higher rates down in the Keys.

Next up:  We'll be heading inland up to Missouri and Illinois for a much anticipated visit with family and friends, plus our favorite annual charity event.  Packing will be interesting as it much cooler there - it's still damned hot here in southern Florida.  But it will still be great fun in the Midwest.  When we return we hope to get Ghost Rider underway again and head down to the Keys for a spell.  More on that later.
Looking Behind the DC Electrical Panel....Lots of Wire Attachments
That Require Integrity Checks Once a Year.
Looking Inside the AC Electrical Panel....More Attachment Points to Check,
and Most of Them Pack Quite a Punch.  It's No Fun to Become a Human Fuse,
So Disconnecting Power is Highly Recommended.
When We Returned from Our Short Sortie to Take on Fuel, We Parked Ghost Rider Nose In at the Request of Our
Fiberglass Repair Tech.  That Gives Him Easier Access to Patch the Scratches on the Starboard Bow Section.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Oct 2019: Sea Trial to Captiva Island

TS Nestor Moved Quickly from the Southwest Caribbean & Into the Gulf
Towards Florida.  But Its Winds Stayed At or Below 50 MPH.
We took a break from boat business from 10-October to 15-October to enjoy a visit from daughter Suzanne…a friend’s wedding and copious amounts of wine were involved. It was a great family break.  During that time Rick was trying to decide between selling the boat and taking it out for a sea trial, with the latter winning out for now.  Besides, our local Grady-White boat club has scheduled a long weekend get-together at nearby South Seas Resort on Captiva Island, and that looked to be a good excuse and opportunity to wring out the systems.

So by Thursday, 17-October, we were back on the boat to prepare for the sea trial.  We packed and provisioned for a short three day jaunt and performed our usual pre-departure checks on Ghost Rider.  The weather forecast wasn’t particularly good for the coming weekend – actually it rather sucked.  A tropical depression was spooling up in the southwest Caribbean and would eventually become a named storm (Nestor), and head in the general direction of the Florida panhandle….just close enough to cause some nearby meteorological chaos, but nothing dangerous in our estimation.  At a minimum we thought our departure and return windows looked reasonably good, even if in between that wasn’t the case.
Our Track from Fort Myers to Captiva Island and Back
So on the morning of Friday, 18-October we steered Ghost Rider out of her mooring at Legacy Harbor – ever so slowly and carefully, paying very close attention to throttle behavior and response – and then chugged down river, across to Pine Island Sound and then north up the ICW to the tip of Captiva Island.  It was a short sortie, just over three hours to cover 25 NM to the South Seas Resort Marina.  We had overcast skies but warm and dry (albeit humid) conditions with a light southerly breeze from the south.  The bottlenose dolphins were plentiful and playful. During our wide open throttle (WOT) run towards the end of the short cruise, five of them flew formation on our starboard side for nearly ten minutes, with one adult in particular enjoying repeated leaps and side flops in the slipstream.  You’ll find one video link HERE (taken from the upper boat deck).  And another taken from closer to the fish and the water HERE.
The Dolphins Put On a Show for Us in Pine Island Sound
And the boat (and its new electronic throttle system) performed perfectly:  docking at the South Seas marina was mercifully boring.

Upon arrival we were met by good friends Bill and Terri from our Grady-White boat club, who had arrived the previous day in their gorgeous Marlin 300.  The remainder of the GW boat club contingent had cancelled out due to the deteriorating forecast, understandably so.  But the four of us enjoyed an excellent dinner at the marina’s Harbourside Bar & Grill, and then gathered on Ghost Rider for Goombay Ghost citrus rum drinks to conclude a good day.  As expected we got plenty of rain overnight and into Saturday morning, along with gusty winds from Nestor.  But by midday the storm’s rain bands had cleared out and allowed for some pool and beach time.  The ocean was all commotion (video link HERE). Unfortunately the strong southerly winds also brought a red tide algae bloom into the area, so we spent much of our remaining time in Ghost Rider’s air conditioned salon to avoid the respiratory impacts.  
Bill & Terri

A frontal passage dragged some more rain across the area early Sunday, 20-October, but that too cleared out rather quickly, and by 1130 we were back underway and heading back to our home port in Fort Myers. Winds continued to die down as the day progressed, with some sun peeking through a broken cloud layer, although the red tide aerosol lingered enough to tickle the throat.  The egress channel between the marina and the ICW was a little sporting at low tide, with barely a foot of water below the keel at one point, but we stayed off the bottom.  As expected, boat traffic was very light on the waterway and Ghost Rider continued to run well and without any issues throughout the warm and humid day.  Less than four hours after departure - punching into a current the whole way - we were back home at Legacy Harbour in Fort Myers, and the stern-in docking maneuver proceeded smoothly.

So overall the sea trial went well and the short journey was enjoyable.  It was a good reminder that the boating between breakages can be good fun.  Now to see how long that lasts.
Bill & Terri's Grady-White Marlin 300, Starship, Docked at South Seas.
Ghost Rider Docked Up at South Seas
The Gulf of Mexico Was a Boiling Mess Even Though Nestor Was a Good 200 Miles Away

Sep-Oct 2019: Maintenance Wrap-up

Ross & Jerry in Ghost Rider's Engine Room Working on
Installing the New Transmission Cable and the New
 ZF MicroCommander 9110 Brain Box.
We have noted before, and not without some humility and embarrassment, that experience can be a tough teacher.  And within that realm of education, that failure is the absolute best instructor.  Based just on failure frequency alone we're now thinking we should be at genius level by year end.

At 0815 on the morning of Friday, 27-September, Ross and Jerry of Classic Yacht Service showed up at the boat with a new throttle control brain box.  The ZF 9110 – the latest edition of the “MicroCommander Marine Propulsion Control System” – was identical in size and proportion to the old unit, so it dropped right in.  Jerry worked on attaching the small lead wires from each of the three throttle stations while Ross ran the new cable to the transmission.  Calibration of this unit is done with electronic programming vs. the old style dip switches, and that takes time and patience (as well as two people.)  But three hours later we were dock testing successfully.

After another inspection of the fly bridge throttle station we all agreed that it warranted a new replacement unit.  Ross’s normal supplier had a six week lead time (ZF bought Mathers years ago, thus it's mostly an overseas operation now), so Rick went hunting online and found one in Tennessee (through Marine Parts Source, LINK) and placed an order for the last one they had in stock.  The new 400 Series control head, a Mathers 453-3R, arrived via FedEx a few days later.  On Tuesday, 01-October Ross called to say he had found a sudden hole in his schedule, so that afternoon we rendezvoused at the boat, uninstalled the old fly bridge throttle, installed the new unit (with seven new crimp terminals and heat shrink sleeves), and got it all tested out. 
The New MicroCommander 9110 Brain Box.  In Addition to Upgraded Mother Board Electronics It Also Provides
an LED Digital Readout (Yellow Arrow) For Status & Error Codes.
The New Fly Bridge Throttle Control Station (Red Arrow).  It Isn't Easy to Access the Underside but We Found
Removing the Instrument Cluster Panel (Yellow Arrow) At Least Made That Possible.
Shortly thereafter Mike from Brightworks stopped by the boat to take a closer look at the port side rub rail damage.  As expected he was not very optimistic….it’s an extremely thick and heavy duty piece of stainless steel hardware; it will require special cutting tools to remove the damaged segments, and then it’s likely the replacement strips will need to be custom machined to fit.  We decided that was a job for a yard more experienced with the beefy build of the Nordhavn, so that will get deferred until we can get the boat back over to the east coast.  We'll discuss further with Yacht Tech in Palm Beach, but that will be a next year thing.  Rick spent a couple of hours each day during the first week of October sanding and polishing the deep scratches in the rub rail and was at least able to make it less ugly in the interim.
Accessing the Mid Bilge Drain is a Royal Pain,
But the Arrows Point to its General & Well
Hidden Location.

Amidst all the throttle system work we also encountered more standing water in the mid bilge area.  By this time Rick was getting thoroughly irritated.  The previous water leaks we had found and fixed were still fixed….no leaks from the new Whale fitting on the accumulator tank, ditto for the tightened water maker line on the water manifold.  But after once again tearing into that mid bilge area Rick did find an A/C condensate hose (from the pilot house unit) that was steadily dripping into that bilge cavity.  That part of the puzzle is actually normal – the issue had to be with a plugged limber hole or drain, preventing a flow back to the aft bilge (where the pumps are located.) 

It took some taxing boat yoga to locate, but eventually Rick found a plugged drain in that small bilge recess.  Fortunately and eventually we were able to snake a hose from the wet-dry shop vac down there and suck out the clogging debris.  If you look at the picture to the right, you can gain access to that drain via the removed panels noted by the yellow arrows -- from the top if you have five foot long arms, or from the backside if your arms and hands are less than two inches in diameter.
Yes, Seriously, There is a Drain Hidden in There.  How to Access It is Not At All Obvious or Easy.  Eventually We Were Able to Snake the Shop Vac Hose in There & Suck Out a Variety of Clogging Debris.
Next up is a sea test out the new throttle system components and find out if we broke anything else.  We'll cover that in the next blog.