Wednesday, November 4, 2020

October 2020: Back on the Boat

Coping with Covid can often feel like déjà vu….as in, what day is it?  It’s today.  Still.  It’s like a really bad version of the movie Groundhog Day, but with annoying masks, no hugs, and a pathetic plot.  Rick gave up on remembering days of the week and now calls each day “Blursday.”

View of the Portion of the Condo Where Kitchen & Wall &
Floor Tile Were All Ripped Out

Chelle got so bored she decided to demolish about half of our condo as a distraction. Presumably that was in preparation for a remodeling effort, and Rick evacuated to the boat just before the jack hammering started.  That turned out to be good timing as we had a lot going on in terms of Ghost Rider activity.


Rick had invited Craig of VIP Marine out to the boat to evaluate a cooling problem with the A/C unit for the pilot house.  That’s a relatively new compressor/evaporator combination (barely two years old) but its cooling output was trending 10F warmer than all the other units.  That’s enough deficit to greatly impact the pilot house with all its greenhouse-like glass.  Craig showed up on day one of the condo exodus and slapped the gauges on the suspect compressor.  That revealed a lack of refrigerant pressure and volume, so he pumped it up with the R410A stuff, providing an immediate improvement.  We did not find any leaks in the obvious plumbing places, so we’ll run it for a while in the south Florida swelter and see how it holds up over time.

Jerry & Ross Trying to Figure Out How to Fit the New HPU
Assembly into the Too-Small Space in the Base

At about the same time Ross and Jerry of Class Yacht Services showed up with the heavily altered HPU for the davit/crane.  The machine shop mods to the fastener holes, fluid ports and hydraulic adaptors still allowed installation room in the base of the davit, but it was a very tight fit.  Sleuthing the electrical connections took a while as we did not have the benefit of a good schematic, but Ross was able to cobble together a reverse engineering of the wiring.  New hydraulic hoses were then fashioned and connected.  All that took a few days.

Then it was time to add hydraulic fluid (about two gallons of ISO 68), apply power through the circuit breaker, connect the control pendant and test it all out.  We got good movement of the hook up and down, and of the boom to port, starboard, and down – but it would not raise.  Suspecting that particular control valve had a blockage in the “up” direction, they again removed the valve manifold and took it to the shop for individual valve testing.  Some debris was found and removed but upon reassembly back at the boat we still faced the same problem.

So, we all stood there and stared at the crane for a while, waiting for some inspiration.  It came to Jerry:  while the motor would run with the “boom up” command the valve might not be opening via the magnetic coil actuation, or in other words, it was an electrical issue. We had previously requested an updated wiring schematic for this later version HPU from the manufacturer (Aritex) in Taiwan, but had received no response.  Revisiting the control box wiring with a Fluke volt meter eventually led to the discovery of a well-hidden orphan ground wire.  Once it was connected, we were back in business.  The final touch was for Rick to clean and polish the base, and to drill an additional drain hole at the rear of the davit’s base.

This is How the New HPU Assembly Looked Before We Turned it Over to the Machine Shop
for Some Significant Modifications

The Machine Shop Removed the Valve Manifold Assembly and Crafted a New Mounting Base
So That it Could be Installed Off to the Side of the HPU

In Place of Where the Valve Manifold Used to be, the Machine Shop Created a New and
Smaller Interface Block to Mate with the Relocated "Remote" Valve Manifold

Regular Maintenance

It was also time for Ghost Rider to get her periodic spa treatment.  Based just on visual evidence she was actually overdue – while the light gray vertical hull surfaces below the gunwales still looked pretty good, after 11 months the white FRP surfaces above that were getting that dull weathered look.   And keeping it clean was becoming a real chore.

The Bow of Ghost Rider Getting Detailed

We engaged Frank of Ultimate Marine (LINK) once again to tackle the enormous job of washing and waxing the entirety of the boat’s exterior.  Over a period of six days he and a few helpers got Ghost Rider looking spiffy once again, with the aid of electric buffers and copious amounts of Collonite Fleetwax on the FRP and Flitz on the brightwork.

Next up was the bi-annual service for Ghost Rider’s two Vacuflush toilets.  We had been experiencing minor and periodic issues with a temperamental water valve on one of them, along with a slow vacuum leak on the other, so Rick lobbed a call to the local Dometic shop. Travis and Gary from Fleet Repair (LINK) tore down and replaced the key serviceable parts for both heads, and also serviced the two vacuum pumps with motor mount adjustments and new duckbill valves.  It’s always good to have a smoothly operating waste water system.

Ghost Rider Looked a Lot Better After Frank & His Crew Finished Up

Project Work

Rick focused on a short list of “little stuff” this month….touching up paint scars in the engine room, refreshing Denso tape wraps on some hydraulic fittings, polishing corrosion from the pilot house Stidd chair base, and drilling a new drain hole for a fly bridge storage box.  The gas tank and spare gas cans for the dinghy also got reinforcing shots of Sta-Bil fuel conditioner – that stuff loses its potency after about a year. The overall punch list actually – finally – got a tad shorter this month.

Rick Got Some Cleaning & Detailing Work Done in the Engine Room, Too

The Steering Box & Stern Thruster Hydraulic Manifold in the Lazarette....Along with the Bow
Thruster Compartment, It Also Got Cleaned Up and New Denso Tape Wraps

Tropical Weather Check!

Hurricane Epsilon spun up into a major storm but fortunately stayed out in the open Atlantic, even missing Bermuda (barely) as it curved away from the U.S. and far to the northeast.  Then, as expected, yet another tropical system spooled up in the Caribbean this month and eventually made its way into the Gulf of Mexico.  Now deep into the Greek alphabet names, Hurricane Zeta got steered away from us by a high pressure system to our east and took initial aim at the Yucatan.  And then, following a disturbing pattern this season, once again the Louisiana coastline was bore sighted.  It would be their fifth of 2020.

After Five of These We're Guessing Land in Louisiana & Mississippi is Getting Pretty Cheap

As October came to a close yet another system was just spinning up, and didn’t take TD29 very long to morph into Tropical Storm Eta.  It was forecast to ping pong around the Caribbean before potentially turning north towards us….but as you can tell from the scattered model plots in the graphic below, they really have no clue where this one would end up going.  We’ll be monitoring closely.

The Early Track Forecasts for the Next Storm are Literally All Over the Place

And finally, to bring October to a proper close, we enjoyed a marina-style celebration of Halloween.  By 31-October our temps had moderated to a pleasant 80F, with a pleasant breeze and mostly clear skies. That allowed B-dock adults to gather for happy hour docktails, and then at sunset the youngsters in our little liveaboard community enjoyed a fun, albeit masked and socially distanced “Trick-or-Treat” experience.

Trick-or-Treating on the Docks at Legacy Harbour Marina

Afterword: As we went to press with this blog entry the latest tally of the US election results was still underway.  One candidate was lobbying to stop counting votes and declare himself the winner.  We suppose there's something to be said for being a consistent cheat.  Meanwhile the virus seemed to be exploding (again) nearly everywhere.  Be very careful out there.


  1. Thumbs-up from the Ancient Rocker on knocking down the Punch List to a manageable level! I read and re-read the installation of the davit hydraulic assembly and would still flunk any exam related to it, but glad it's behind you and operational.

    As you are certainly aware, Eta has us in her sights. (Is Eta a she?) I gather you'll ride it out at has to almost start from scratch once it reaches open water besides climbing over Cuba, which should knock some of the stuffings out of it. It's hard to imagine any scenario that would let it morph into a Major, but this is 2020...

    Terri and I are continuing to be careful and so far, it's working. Glad your doing the same.

  2. Hiya Bill !

    I’m not much ahead of you on the davit hydraulics, which is why I hired Ross. As far as I know, Eta doesn’t have a gender, it’s just the next (seventh) letter in the Greek alphabet. And we do plan to stay put at Legacy….RFYC said they’re only hauling boats until Friday & then shutting it down, which torqued me a bit. At any rate we’ll prep the boat accordingly, hope they’re right about the strength prediction, and wrong about the current track.