Saturday, September 16, 2017

Mid September 2017: Back to Boat Business


Ghost Rider in the Foreground Approaching the PGA Bridge as We
Move from Loggerhead Marina Back to OPC Marina
What follows is the blog post we were originally composing when all hell broke loose with Hurricane Irma’s stroll up the Florida peninsula.  With that melee concluded and with Ghost Rider tucked back into her Yacht Tech slip at Old Port Cove Marina, we can return to our focus on the punch list of remediation / repair / upgrade tasks.

Looking back at what has been accomplished, we’re feeling pretty good about overall progress. We did get the main engine starter replaced (new, not rebuilt) shortly after it died a couple weeks ago. But then the following week the thruster control panel on the fly bridge developed a short that we had to manually bypass for a sea trial just before Irma rudely interrupted our refit task list.  And that had to wait until this weekend until all the post-storm movements and restorations had been completed.

As is typical of any punch list on a brokerage boat – particularly one that’s 15 years old – the items on that list are a mixed basket consisting of remediating survey items, repair needs that are discovered later, and then certain upgrades and personal preferences in how our boat is outfitted.  Here’s a sampling of what’s been accomplished thus far:
  • We had 6 main engine survey items to address; all are complete, including a couple of re-welds and a transmission oil change.
  • We had 2 generator survey items to address; now complete, including oil & filter changes.
  • We had 7 wing engine survey items to address; all those are done, including some hose replacements, solving a troublesome salt water weep at the shaft support mounts, and repairing the wiring harness going into the hydraulic clutch.
  • We had 18 general boat survey items to address; with the exception of a few cosmetic cleanup items, all of those are complete including a new bilge pump, freeing up some stiff thru-hulls, and replacing some bad GFCI outlets.
  • Tamed the main engine shaft’s stuffing box temperature for now – turns out that book-recommended 7/16” packing size is too big, but with a step down to 3/8” we got the temp down to 113F in 90 degree water at WOT; still requires monitoring for extended runs.
  • Plugged a rain water leak through the spotlight wiring hole (that also corroded the ST60 wind instrument, which we also cleaned up.)
  • Tracked down a fresh water leak below living quarters floors (turned out to be a loose fill line going into the forward water tank).
  • Replaced the leaking sump pump in the forward head.
  • Replaced a leaky feedback unit on the starboard stabilizer actuator.
  • Relocated the wing engine instrument panel to the eyebrow panel in the pilot house (where we could actually see it).
That Hole is Where the Wing Engine Instruments Were -- Perfect Location if
You are Two Feet Tall.

Wing Engine Panel Moved to the Eyebrow Panel - Given Its Role in Powering
Our Hydraulics, It's Important These Be Within Easy View
  • Replaced a leaking main engine muffler hose and double clamped it.
  • Replaced the fresh water accumulator tank (would not pressurize).
  • Mounted a permanent GPS tracking device with geofencing capabilities (insurance requirement).
  • Removed and shimmed the salon entry door so it wouldn’t drag / stick.
  • Removed and cleaned the Racor 500 fuel filter for the wing engine to clean up old algae buildup in the bottom of the bowl.
  • Installed a Linkpro battery monitor for the six house batteries.
  • Replaced the hydraulic cooling pump and flushed out its discharge line.
  • Replaced two defective coils on the bow and stern thrusters.
  • Removed all inline hydraulic pressure gauges (each a potential failure point) with capped test ports.
  • Cleaned up the bow thruster compartment – treated some surface corrosion, cleaned up traces of old hydraulic leaks.
  • Replaced the LPG manifold and refilled the two tanks.
  • Cleaned out several sump / bilge pump strainers (yuck) and cleaned the bilge cavity (an equally yucky job).
  • Dumped the anchor chain on the dock and marked it at 25 and 50 foot intervals; also replaced the anchor with a Manson Supreme SS 100
  • Laying Out ALL the Anchor Chain on the Dock and Marking
    Increments with Colored Zip Ties
  • Repaired or replaced 4 deck courtesy lights, along with installing some new sink faucets, rugs, and assorted personalization tasks.
  • Cleaned up some surface corrosion of the aft fuel tank lines.
  • Replaced a faulty Aigean AN-7000 WiFi booster unit (a warranty item, yay!)
  • Replaced a cracked strainer housing on the low water bilge pump that was leaking into the lazarette.
  • Replaced the thruster control panel on the fly bridge….it was thoroughly corroded.
  • Procured a new E-Bike for Chelle for our anniversary.
Chelle's New Folding E-Bike -- It's a Battery Powered Magnum.  Chelle
Made the Boat-Bike Storage Rack Out of PVC Pipe.
While not a comprehensive list, hopefully this gives you an idea of what’s been going on with Ghost Rider II for the past six weeks – in parallel with the provisioning of the galley, and stocking spare parts, all sorts of tools and general supplies.  Well, all that and dealing with the crazy weather.

What remains?  It is now a much shorter list, but as of 17-Sep they include installing a cover plate over the hole where the wing engine instrument panel used to be, and then troubleshooting these remaining annoyances:
  • Intermittent coolant overflow from the main engine; could be just a combo of a bad pressure cap and excessive coolant level.
  • When we were running on generator only during the post-Irma power outage we noticed an occasional surge & dropout of generator power; need to check voltage levels.
  • The new LinkPro battery monitor gauge likely has some wiring issues….it was still showing 100% capacity after running some light loads on battery power during the Irma storm, which can’t possibly be reality.
  • An intermittent and slight leak from a raw water intake cooling hose for the main engine.

We ought to be able to knock those out within the week.  Of course there is also another list of relatively minor stuff that we would attack on our own while voyaging up or down the coast.  (There will always be a “list’.) 
Ghost Rider Approaching the Entry to OPC Marina.  (Pic Taken by Paul
of Yacht Tech from the Deck of N55 Giddy-Up.)

However, we still need to exercise patience with our cruising plans and keep a close eye on the tropics.  Since we have three named storms currently spinning in the Atlantic – with Jose tracking up and near the east coast, and Maria and Lee vectoring in its wake – there really isn’t anywhere we can go right now that is very appealing.

Lastly, a side note....Chelle drove back over to Fort Myers this weekend to check out the condo and car following Irma's spin through that area.  Other than having to remove some wet carpeting from the lanai and one missing fan blade that is in some other county by now, all looked good.  We are thankful.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Early September 2017: Hurricane Irma

We are still sticking close to North Palm Beach marinas, although quite honestly we feel we and the boat are ready to start cruising.  But, as we had hinted with the last post, the bigger issue has been weather – of the tropical kind. 
A Busy Season in Tropical Storms.  All This Was After
Harvey Had FUBAR'd Southeast Texas.

As we began writing this post last week, Hurricane Irma had just spooled up to a category 5 storm and seemed to have intentions of plowing through the northern Antilles, the Bahamas, and then into the U.S. coastline.  It did all of that and took on Cuba as well.  But as we studied its potential paths we simply could not find a direction to sortie that did not put both boat and ourselves in jeopardy – any turn we could take after departing Lake Worth Inlet had a high probability of putting us directly in harm’s way. 
OPC Marina Empties Out Followig the Evac Order.  That's Ghost Rider
Looking Lonely in the Center of the Pic.  The Floating Docks There Are
Certified for a Hurricane - As Long As No Boats Are Tied to Them.
At Loggerhead We Had the Slip Just One Away from the Seawall, and Did Our Best
to Heavily Fender in Addition to Triple-Tying and Adding Chafe Proection Sleeves.
The Bimini Top is Also Collapsed & Rolled, Same for the RIB, and All Antennae
Are Down & Secured with Multiple Ties & Wraps.
So we sat, waited and watched. And we built our hurricane preparation checklist (which ended up taking up two full pages.) Old Port Cove marina issued evacuation orders late in the week, but we knew James had a slip for us up in Loggerhead Marina, a well-regarded hurricane hole just north of here and further up the more protected ICW.  We were one of the last to leave OPC, and the normally crowded marina had an eerie aura about it as we passed dozens of empty slips on the way out on Friday, 09-Sep at 0930.

A Closeup of the Radar Arch.  The Rolled & Taped Bimini is Visible; the Radar
Antenna is Tied & Taped; Those Vents are the Engine Room Exhaust, Covered with
Baking Mats and Taped.
The short trip up the ICW to Loggerhead was uneventful, even with some traffic congestion at the two drawbridges that we had to negotiate.  We had Ghost Rider tucked into her new Loggerhead slip by 1030, with several Yacht Tech folks and Bernie Francis greeting us there to lend a hand with our storm preps.  Bernie was kind enough to hang out with us for several hours to guide us in designing our “spider web” triple-tie-up.  Once that was done (we used 17 lines) and we had her defended with 12 properly inflated fenders, we went to work on everything else on the boat….tying up, taping up, taping down, or taking down stuff -- basically stripping the outside and giving it the lowest windage profile that we could.  After that we emptied the fridge and two freezers, taking all the perishables over to our friend’s nearby home.  Once we were satisfied that we had done all that we could to prep the boat – it took us two days – we cut the power and turned off the inverter and all circuit breakers except for the bilge pumps.

Gorgeous and Safe Place for a Hurricane Party
Late on Sat afternoon, 10-Sep, we piloted our rental car a short 15 minute drive to stay with our good friends, Bernie & Silvia Carballo, who have a beautiful two story home in Admirals Cove, Jupiter.  Their place is built like a fortress and has an enormous whole-house generator that’s plumbed to the city’s natural gas supply….apart from the adjacent canal system, it was the perfect place to ride out a big storm.  And they had successfully weathered Cat-3 Wilma there back in 2005.  We can't think of a better place for a hurricane party.

It was about this time NOAA / NHC began depicting a storm track that was shifting to the west following its hard turn to the north – better for us and the boat, not so much for our left coast friends, nor our Fort Myers condo and car.  The cone of uncertainty still pretty much covered the entire state of Florida, and with the size of this beast it was a given everyone in the state would encounter hurricane force winds.
What the RIB Tender Looked Like After Deflating & Tying Down.
By the time Irma slammed into the lower Florida Keys early Sunday, 10-Sep, it was a Cat-3, having been weakened a bit by its run along the northern Cuban coastline.  But its 120 MPH winds and surge nevertheless devastated the island chain.  It was still a Cat-3 storm when it barreled through Marco and Naples, but luckily for FMY Irma coasted inland a bit from there and weakened some more.  That’s about the time when we got the worst of it on the east coast as well – around 75 MPH sustained winds for several hours.  While the entire state got a wicked strafing, fortunately it wasn’t nearly as bad as the original forecast had predicted.
That's James Knight Prepping His Sailboat -- Moored Directly
Behind Ghost Rider at Loggerhead Marina.

Early on Monday morning, 11-Sep, we received a text message (around 0630) from James reporting that the boat looked fine; a short while later we picked our way through debris (in Bernie’s Navigator, since our rental car was still hidden away in a locked up parking garage) and made our way back to the boat at Loggerhead Marina around 0800.  Ghost Rider was looking very well indeed.  All the mooring lines, chafe protection and fenders were completely intact, as were all antennas and most other taped or secured areas.  The only (minor) issue we found was that the two engine room intake covers we had taped on had departed and are likely in another county by now.  (The lesson there is don’t use non-skid, non-stick baking mats for that – they truly are non-stick.  On the other hand, we now are even bigger fans of the 3M line of vinyl tapes.)  That resulted in some pooled water in the lazarette on top of the two aft fuel tanks, but was an easy shop-vac cleanup.

Rick Getting Dizzy Working on the Stuff Up Top.
It took us most of another day to de-rig all the storm preps, but that’s a lot easier and certainly more satisfying than making all those preparations.  To top it all off we also heard from good friends of ours who had stayed in our Fort Myers condo to escape the predicted surge levels there – they were safe, the condo was fine, and so was our car.  The same was true for their home, and those of all our good friends on the west coast of Florida.

In the end we just got really lucky.  Certainly there was luck with the storm path and decreased intensity as it headed north; but we are also lucky to have the friendship and counsel of people like James Knight, Bernie Francis and Silvia & Bernie Carballo.

That said, we are mindful that scores of others were not so fortunate with this bruiser of a storm, and they have a long, painful road to recovery ahead.  Our thoughts are with them.  And the randomness of this messy experience is very sobering.
Here is Ghost Rider AFTER the Storm.  Everything is Still in Prep Mode
But We Thought She Looked Pretty Damned Good.

This Hangs Over the Entry to Ghost Rider II's Stateroom Door.  When Cher Painted This for
Us She Was Either Prescient or Really Good at Asking for Intervention.  Either Way, It Sure
Seems an Appropriate Way to Conclude This Post, and We Thank Her.
Finally, here are some additional before, during and after pictures that hopefully will give you a sense of what is required when you are dumb enough to try and ride out one of these storms:

The Weather Channel Confirming We're About to Get Hammered.
Another View of Ghost Rider in a Nearly Empty OPC Marina.

Bernie & Chelle Begin Tying Off at Our Loggerhead Slip.
More of Bernie & Chelle at Work on the Lines.
And More of That.
The Bimini and Antennae on the Fly Bridge Get Lowered & Tied / Taped Down.
Wider View of Boat Deck Preps.
Another Shot of the Tender / Boat Deck / Radar Arch / Davit Preps.
Fly Bridge Helm Preps.
You Can Never Have Too Many Fenders.
Or Too Many Lines.
Another View of the Radar & Bimini Tie Downs.
The Dorade Vents on the Bow Have to Be Plugged -- Lacking a Plate, a Forespar
Truplug Will Fit Perfectly.
We Installed the Storm Panels on the Salon Windows.  And, No, Those
Fishing Rods Did Not Stay There, They Went Into the Laz.
James Had to Prep His Own Boat as Well as a Bunch of Nordhavns.
Post Storm:  Downed Tree at Loggerhead Marina.
Post Storm:  Ghost Rider Looking Very Good.
Post Storm:  Ghost Rider & Chelle Both Looking Happy
Post Storm:  Ghost Rider Cleaned Up & Put Back Together
Post Storm:  Another View of Ghost Rider Back in Pre-Storm Form.
And of course we once again want to thank our good friends and gracious hosts, Bernie and Silvia, for the safe refuge and fun hurricane parties.

Hurricane Party Preps in the Carballo Kitchen.

And the Resulting Yummy Hurricane Party Dinner.