Thursday, August 22, 2019

Aug 2019: Miscellaneous Boat Business

Looking Down Into the Bilge Cavity Which is
Just Aft of the Main Engine, with a Water Hose
Pumping Water In at a Pretty Good Clip.
The summer weather in southwest Florida is rarely an attraction, but this year it truly sucks.  A persistent westerly flow has been bringing copious amounts of moisture, so not only has it been raining every day, it has been raining all day.  And some nights.  Based on the decline of El Nino and NOAA's latest tropical storm forecast, we've calculated the rain might stop some time in November.  Ghost Rider may be our ark.

Still, even as we were enjoying the distraction and satisfaction of recently completing two special projects – for the boat’s remote monitoring and CCTV systems, see two previous blogs – we of course continued to pay attention to the periodic duties that Ghost Rider requires to stay (and keep us) happy. 

It is not normal to wake up one morning and think “let’s see if we can flood the boat today”, but that’s essentially the approach required when it’s time (annually) to test out the boat’s bilge pumps.  Ghost Rider has four of those as part of its de-watering systems.  Two are DC powered with automatic float switches: a Whale Gulper 320 for nuisance water and a Rule 3100 for high water, with 300 and 3,000 GPH ratings respectively.  A third is manually operated via a hand pump; that’s an Edson 638 with a gallon-per-stroke rating.  And the fourth is a Pacer crash pump which can evacuate up to 10,000 GPH – that’s about the volume of an average domestic in-ground pool here in south Florida – and is hydraulically powered via the PTO coming off the wing engine. 

The Hydraulic Pacer Crash Pump Located in the
Lazarette.  You Can Tell It's a Serious Pump by the
Size of the Input & Output Hoses.
After dumping a prodigious amount of fresh water into the bilge via a garden hose – about 40 gallons based on what was drawn down from our forward water tank – all  pumps were working, although Rick wasn’t particularly happy with what appeared to be intermittent suction from the big Rule 3100. He later disassembled that to check for debris clogs, but to be completely safe we ordered a new Rule 4000 GPH pump to replace it.  The big Pacer hydraulic unit required some manual priming which is normal for anything other than a full down-flooding event, but once primed it sucked out the entire bilge in a matter of seconds; that thing generates an amazing fire-hose stream of water out the back of the boat. 

And the recently installed remote sensor dutifully reported its detection of high water, but also revealed a weakness – it wouldn't dry out and kept triggering alarms.  After huddling with the vendor (Monnit) it was determined that we had a faulty unit and they shipped a replacement.  Rick fashioned a new mounting method for this one  (vertical vs. horizontal orientation, and a few inches lower) and thus far it is behaving.  To illustrate we have added a couple of updated photos of the bilge area towards the bottom of this post.

As mentioned in a previous blog we also needed to figure out what was wrong with the master stateroom's air conditioning unit, which had started throwing “HI PS” (high pressure) warnings and shutting itself down.  After a week of trying his home remedies with no resolution, Rick called an A/C tech out to the boat; when he showed up as scheduled one morning, we cranked up the air conditioning unit in the master stateroom….and it performed flawlessly.

The Sea Strainer for the A/C with a New "Hat".  Rick Ordered a Whole New Lid
with Rubber Gasket for it After Experiencing Issues with the Old Cork Gasket.
No "HI PS" errors, just a constant flow of nicely chilled air.  We had the tech (Craig, from VIP Marine, LINK) check the system for pressure, component temps and overall system health – all of which he pronounced to be sound.  Puzzlement.  Theoretically the issue could be a control board about to go bad, or an intermittently sticking pressure switch, or just a piece of flotsam that unstuck itself from the cooling loop…with the latter being the most likely and preferable.  But at any rate the problem seems to be gone.  Perhaps occasionally you just get lucky.
The "Before" and "After" Pics of an Overhead Light Bezel (Trim Ring).  It is
Not a Difficult Task to Buff Out, but There Are 40 of Them.
Moving on from that, we turned our attention to another minor item on “The List” of things to do.  This one was to replace or repair the overhead lighting trim rings that dotted the ceiling panels in the pilot house, galley, salon, and both staterooms (and heads).  The faux chrome plastic bezel rings were thoroughly pitted and turning green after 17 years of salty exposure.  

As it turns out, rubbing them down with a 3M Scotch Pad soaked with white vinegar restores them quite nicely and is a lot cheaper than buying new ones.  But there are 40 of the damned things and that took a while given the difficulty of prying them off and snapping them back on.  (After the first dozen or so we learned a useful trick: lightly coat the inside of the snap-on trim ring with Superlube synthetic grease… after which they became much easier to reinstall.)

The Pilot House Overhead Panel (Removed) Where Water Was Leaking; the Red
Arrow Points to the Sirius/XM Antenna Wire Feed That Was the Source.
Next, with the deluge of monsoon events here, we discovered a rain water leak in the pilot house.  It didn’t take long to narrow it down to the Sirius/XM satellite antenna wire where it fed through the pilot house roof.  Coincidentally the Furuno (BBWX3) weather receiver started complaining about intermittent antenna signaling, so Rick decided to just rip out the whole thing and start fresh by installing a new one, a Shakespeare SRA-50 unit.  That turned out to be a good idea as we found frayed wiring inside the old unit.  Once the new one was operational the Furuno weather receiver was back to its ops-normal happy state, and the new gasket / caulking had solved the rain water leak.
Looking at the Underside of the Old Sirius/XM Antenna, with the Red Arrow
Pointing to the Frayed (and Eventually Broken) Wire.  It Was Pretty Obvious that
a Previous Owner Had Tried to Re-caulk & Tighten with Poor Technique.
The New (and Properly Caulked) Sirius/XM Antenna on the Roof of the Pilot House.  With No Leaks.
Another annual fun job that came due was to remove and clean the tank level probes for the black water holding tank.  This isn't a difficult task by any means, but it isn't a particularly pleasant one, either.  The most important tools involved are a pair of nitrile gloves for your hands and a clothespin for your nose. 
The Top of the Black Water (Waste) Tank with the Yellow Arrow Pointing to
the Tank-Level-Probe Assembly that Needs to be Removed & Cleaned Annually

The device itself is dead nuts simple, with three adjustable level floats attached to a threaded top cap, and easy to remove (after labeling and disconnecting the four lead wires.)  We then placed it into a large bag-lined bucket to (quickly) carry outside for a thorough hose down.  We had replaced the original probe assembly with a new one when we first bought the boat, so it was in pretty good shape, easy to clean, and simple to reinstall.  Rick followed up with a healthy shot of air sanitizer, also replacing the vent line charcoal filter, and those should not require attention for another year.

A Schematic of What the Float Probes Look Like Inside the Black Water Tank.  It Doesn't Take Much Imagination
to Figure Out Why They Need to be Removed and Cleaned at Periodic Intervals...Unpleasant as that May Be.
Lastly, it was obvious that Ghost Rider was in need of some TLC on its fiberglass exterior.  While the light grey hull still looked good, above the gunwales was another story.  Months of Florida sun and rain -- absent the daily chamois mopping since we were no longer living aboard -- left a lot of white fiberglass looking less than white; dirt stains were digging in.  In between rain showers we spent several days of washing with Z-Tuff, removing tougher stains with Collonite fiberglass cleaner, followed up by applications of Collonite boat wax.  In the exhausting and soupy heat of a south Florida summer it reminded us why we normally try to be elsewhere at this time of year.
Ghost Rider Looking a Bit Cleaner While Comfortably Nestled in Her Slip at Legacy Harbour in Fort Myers
Another Shot of the Bilge Cavity. All of this Gear is Located on the High Water Shelf which Sits About 13 Inches Above the Normal Bilge Level. The Black Arrow Points to the Rule High Water Pump. The White Arrow Points to the Float Switch that Activates the Pump.  The Yellow Arrow Points Out the High Water Alarm Switch (which Triggers an Ear Piercing Scream in the Pilot House.)  The Blue Arrow Points to the New (Monnit) Remote Water Sensor, which is Now Mounted Vertically on a Black Starboard Base, Extending 3 to 4 Inches Lower Than the Shelf.

Closeup. of the New (Monnit) Remote Water Sensor (White Arrow) Mounted Vertically on a Black Starboard Base (Yellow Arrow), Extending 3 to 4 Inches Lower Than the High Water Bilge Shelf, but Still 8 or 9 Inches Above Normal Water Level.
Last but Not Least....Ghost Rider Got a pair of New Stainless Arctic Tumblers Courtesy of Daughter Suzanne.
 Perfect for Goombay Ghosts!


  1. Looks like you both are having a great time with your new retirement journey. A lot of great information, from what I can only comprehend a small amount. Looking fwd. to seeing you both again at another Boat Club event. Love Cilla & Ben

  2. Ben / Cilla -- hope to see you at the Cayo Costa raft up.