Friday, April 3, 2020

March 2020: Continued Maintenance & Madness

Foreword:  We are still hunkered down, observing public health protocols, and like everyone else closely monitoring the continuing Covid-19 conundrum.  Up until 01-April here in Florida some businesses and beaches actually remained open (and crowded), a stunningly stupid idea. Leave it to Florida to finally announce mandatory stay-at-home on April Fool’s Day.  Of course the federal efforts are just as mysteriously nuts.  We hope you are staying safe & sane despite the chaos.

The Loggerhead Marina Office in Palm Beach Gardens
Over the previous weekend we were saddened to say good-bye to Dave and Amy, as they were heading back to their dirt-dwelling home in Tennessee.  They had also recently decided to put their N40 (hull # 36) Intrepid up for sale (with Yacht Tech as broker, the listing is HERE.)  Dave is a pilot and Amy is a flight attendant, and they were missing their own airplane. Chelle had volunteered to finalize a few things on their boat after they departed, such as the disposition of a few remaining food items and defrosting the freezer chests, but that didn’t take long.

Also over the weekend we got a brief update from Brad & Lorraine Carlton aboard N55 Adventure.  They had been working very diligently and generously on hurricane relief efforts in Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas when the Covid-19 crisis intervened.  Here is Lorraine’s email update as of 29-March:
Chelle Finishing Up Work on N40 Intrepid
“We are hunkered down on GTC. 24 hour curfew in effect except for food, water, exercise.  We haven’t left the boat in 4 days. Got word today that we can go subsistence fishing with members of own family only. So, that is our plan today. No dinghies allowed on beaches. Needless to say, our construction has stalled for now. 

One restaurant (McIntosh) remains open for take-out only. The grocery store is still open. The ferry is no longer running to Treasure Cay so the island has been isolated. 14 confirmed cases in Bahamas. 12 in Nassau and 2 in Grand Bahama. Stay safe!”

Brad and Lorraine have done incredible work over there for several months now, and it’s worth reading about when you have a few minutes at this LINK.  We regret not being able to join them.

Maintenance – Part II
On Monday, 30-March we returned our attention to the punch list.  Dan from Yacht Tech came to the boat early to work on the control board for the MSR’s A/C compressor.  But after fiddling with it Dan determined that the entire board wasn’t toast. (This is the board we had salvaged from the old pilot house compressor two years ago.)  Instead, his sleuthing revealed the problem was now the “Triac” switch, which is a small transistorized relay on the control board.  There are two of them on each Cruisair compressor unit – one controls the cooling cycle, the other the heat cycle.  
The Two Yellow Arrows Point to the Triac Switches....the One for Heating
 Was Functional but the Cooling Switch Was Not....Se We Swapped Them.

Dan removed the one for cooling and swapped it with the heating Triac…and voila, the thing started working.  That means we still needed to source a new Triac for the heating side, but that most certainly is not a priority right now in south Florida, and those things are cheap compared to a whole new control board.  Dan is now officially Rick’s favorite marine electrician.

By Tuesday, 31-March one of our last punch list items remaining was servicing the windlass gearbox.  A proper maintenance curriculum calls for draining and refilling its gearbox with 90W gear oil every three years and that was now due.  There is a (mostly accessible) drain plug, but getting it refilled was another story.  The manual for the hydraulic Maxwell 3500 indicated the entire motor assembly had to be dropped for that part of the operation (their assumption being you would also replace seals.)  But Glen & Rob from Yacht Tech have a technique of pumping oil into the sight glass cavity, and while a bit messy it gets the job done.  Rob and Rick fired up the wing engine and hydraulics, ran the anchor through a few up/down cycles, double-checked the oil level in the sight glass and called it a success.
The Hydraulic Windlass Motor....Which is Located in the Chain Locker at the Bow of the Boat.
How Glen Crawled into the Chain Locker is Best Left to the Imagination.
The Same is True for How He Got Out of There.
On Tuesday evening Yacht Tech owner James Knight stopped by for a courtesy visit, and given how hectic his world has been, we were quite appreciative.  James had returned from Washington state (where Yacht Tech was branching out) about a week ago and had gone into a self-imposed quarantine while awaiting his Covid-19 test results.  We celebrated his negative results with Goombay Ghosts and entertaining conversation, and as usual James had some thoughtful advice on the few remaining maintenance items for Ghost Rider.
James and Chelle Aboard Ghost Rider
While the weather had been very pleasant since we left Fort Myers back on 12-March, on Wednesday, 01-April we awoke to even better conditions.  A mild cold front had passed through overnight, and after a brief rain shower in the wee hours left a cooler and drier air mass behind.  Temps stayed in the 70’s all day with humidity hovering around 44%, which by south Florida standards is quite dry.  After Rick hosed down and mopped the boat we shut down the A/C and opened hatches and doors.  The perfect weather was a bit mocking since there was no place to go.  Coincidentally, that same day the governor of Florida finally got his act together and reluctantly, under pressure, issued a state-wide “stay-at-home” order, which effectively shut down all non-essential businesses.  As it turns out, that did not include Yacht Tech.

Testing the Boat’s Bonding System
In the previous blog entry we had briefly mentioned at its conclusion that Rick wanted to determine just how well the boat’s bonding system was performing.  A vessel’s bonding system is what keeps its various metal components that are immersed in sea water (a very good electrolyte) from acting like battery terminals and corroding to a quickly dissolving death.  Technically speaking, that’s called galvanic corrosion.  The concept is simple – connect all those metal parts (bronze thru-hulls, stainless steel shafts and rudders) to a much less noble metal (one or more zinc anodes) and make that less expensive chunk of metal the sacrificial device.  A small slab of zinc (or aluminum) is a lot cheaper and easier to swap out than a thru-hull, shaft, rudder or engine block.
The Always Handy Multimeter and Reference Electrode Assembly. The
Latter Needs Enough Cable Length to Go Over the Side & Into the Water.

Ghost Rider’s bonding system consists of #8 green AWG wires and copper plate straps that run fore and aft on either side of the hull.  These are connected at several locations to embedded through-the-hull terminals fitted with 4” x 8” sacrificial zinc anode plates.  (Prop shafts have their own “donut” zinc collars.)  Then, inside the hull, all metallic parts and thru hull fittings touching water are connected together with more #8 AWG (tinned & stranded copper) that are branched off the fore and aft wire and copper runs. 

While we’ve never observed galvanic corrosion damage or uneven wearing of zinc anodes, Rick was curious.  A bonding system check is properly conducted using a “reference electrode” (usually with a silver-chloride element); it gets immersed in the water around the boat and its long cable plugs into the negative port of a multimeter; the positive probe of the meter is then connected to the (hopefully) protected metal component, and the meter then displays the voltage delta.  On a fiberglass boat protected with zinc anodes the meter should register from -550 to -1100 mV per ABYC standards, though Steve D’Antonio prefers a more conservative range of -750 to -1100 mV.  (And it’s worth noting that the adequacy of any boat’s bonding system can only be tested with the boat in the water.)
Testing in Progress on the A/C Raw Water Through-Hull.

The readings Rick took (initially just on three thru-hulls) on Ghost Rider were in the sweet spot, all at -940 mV.  Theoretically at least, all such readings should be identical if all the connections to the boat’s bonding system are solid and consistent. Likewise, the readings should remain the same when taken first with the shore power cord disconnected, and then again when shore power is re-connected to the boat’s electrical system – that’s a comparative that tests whether the vessel’s galvanic isolator device is doing its job.  And those also looked good on our meter readings for Ghost Rider.  If you are a boat nerd, want to know more about marine corrosion, and have time on your hands (who doesn’t during the current lockdown?) the ABYC webinar video at this LINK is edifying.

We still have a few punch list items to address, but both scheduling and obtaining parts are getting to be a challenge.  We hope to have a better idea of what will be possible early next week.  Stay tuned and stay safe.


  1. Glad you both are well and continuing to knock down the "punch list." Ironic that the vessel is near Bristol and your sheltered in place. "All dressed up and no place to go" comes to mind.

    Good luck to your Tenn friends on the sale of their Nordy. I'm curious as to how a sale like that will play out given current economic circumstances.

  2. Hi Bill,

    Eventually we’ll get out of here and sortie back around to Fort Myers…although we’re not likely to stop at any marina – not just because none are taking transients, but docks at Lauderdale or Miami or Marco are most unappealing right now.

    Good question on Nordy selling, and I rather doubt much will happen on that front for the smaller models; we’ve got a long way to go before the final economic toll bottoms out, and it will be even longer before any kind of recovery becomes significant. Another ‘new normal’ is upon us.

    Take care of you & Terri.