Monday, May 3, 2021

Mar-Apr 2021: Sorting Out the Grady

Due in no small part to the pandemic, finding both quality boats and places to store them is challenging these days.  And the same is true for scheduling qualified technicians for service.  Eventually, though, we found one to help us figure out the battery charger issue…it was indeed a faulty main board throwing faults, so we replaced the unit with a new ProNautic 1250P.  That finally allowed us to begin using the boat without worrying about dragging down the expensive AGM battery banks.

The Battery Charger, Although Elevated, Lives in the Bilge
Area, Not Conducive to Long Life for Electronics
 Pursuing the Punch List

So, between Thursday, 25-March and Monday, 26-April, we sortied the boat six times, sometimes to a nearby marina, and occasionally to one of our favorite protected anchorages.  We mixed relaxation with work on the Ghost Rider’s punch list.  Stopovers included Salty Sam’s Marina for a weekend, Pink Shell Marina (both in the vicinity of Fort Myers Beach), Boca Grande Marina on Gasparilla, and several times at anchor off of Shell Point near the infamous “Miserable Mile”.  Typical of southwest Florida this time of year, our weather was spectacular – clear, sunny and pleasantly warm, but with refreshing breezes.

Unsecured Vertical Water
Pipes Eventually Will Work
Loose & Leak
Our to-do list items ranged from the very mundane – applying missing trash and oil placards required by the USCG, entering our new MMSI number into the VHF radio – to remediating some of the survey deficiency findings and bolting on new fishing gear.  Chelle also kept quite busy trying to figure out storage options on a boat that was decidedly less cavernous than our previous Nordhavns.

After the battery charger resolution, the first maintenance project was trying to figure out why the boat’s fresh water pump would run intermittently; that typically is either due to a bad pressure switch in the pump or an actual water leak somewhere.  It turned out to be the latter….a rather significant leak at the cockpit shower near the transom, where the hot water PEX pipe joins to a terminating “push-fit” connector.  It was a relatively easy fix.

Rick also got a few more minor survey issues remediated – removing and re-bedding a stainless base plate for the port side boarding gate, repairing its hinge pin, and replacing a slew of plated steel screws on some maintenance panels with stainless ones to avoid future rust issues.  We also mounted four more rod holders – two in the bow section and two more on the transom – to beef up our rod storage capabilities, which were sorely lacking.  And we spent an inordinate amount of time applying the required USCG boat name and hailing port decals to the transom – that’s usually a job we leave to detailing experts but our DIY efforts turned out well enough.  

The Survey Had Found Elevated Moisture Beneath the Boarding Gate's Base Plate.  While There is No Wood in this Boat, We Still Removed and Re-bedded the Plate & Securing Screws

The Boat's New Name Decal and Two Extra Rod Holders

On multiple occasions over this time period Rick spent considerable time trying to get the boat’s Garmin devices configured to work with the companion “Active Captain” phone app.  That’s now Garmin’s preferred method for uploading updates for system software, charts, user routes and waypoints, along with the Active Captain POI databases.  But it’s buggy, lacks anything resembling adequate error-handling, and at best only works intermittently and unpredictably.  It’s likely that we will revert to the old method of shuffling microSD cards for the foreseeable future.

Concurrently we also began the installation of a pair of telescoping outriggers.  After researching we decided on a pair of Rupp’s “Top Gun” rigger bases with 18 foot polished aluminum poles, which will provide a nice spread of trolling lines when we go hunting for mahi and tuna.  Ghost Rider’s hardtop was preconfigured to accept such equipment, but it still required drilling all the holes in the hardtop (took most of one afternoon), mounting and bedding the rotating bases (another afternoon), then installing the telescoping poles and rigging kits (a third day.)

Drilling the Thru-Holes in the Hard Top for the Outrigger Mounts is No Fun.  It's Very Thick.

The Starboard Side Outrigger Following an Arduous Installation Process.

Lastly we had to address a couple of HVAC issues from the survey.  One of those was a port-side A/C condensate hose that for some reason had been cut short and left dangling well short of the bilge.  We managed to extend and route that properly with the help of a technician from Felix Marine.  In the same area we also encountered an odd water leak seeping from the insulation of a duct hose; even the A/C tech was scratching his head on that one.  For now we decided to drain and dry the soaked insulation, secure the hose run in a higher and more horizontal fashion, and install an underlying drain pan.  It may later require additional surgery.

This is Inside the Port Side Service Panel Where We Extended a Condensate Hose, Taped Up
an A/C Duct to Run More Horizontally (Yellow Arrow) and Added a Drain Pan
(the Green Arrow)....More of a Diagnostic Move Than a Permanent Fix.

 Amidst all the punch list efforts we mixed in some relaxation outings as well.  On one we headed north about 40 miles to Charlotte Harbor to rendezvous with our good friends, Dan & Cher Clark, for a brief two hour “raft up”.  We had not seen them in over a year, so we bobbed at anchor together, ate lunch and caught up on all the small things we had been missing.  Afterwards while heading back south, we stopped off at the private docks on Three Sisters Island so Chelle could get some stick time with docking practice in the new boat; she’ll be an ace in no time. 

Getting Ready to Drop the Anchor for Our Raft-Up in Charlotte Harbor.  Thanks to Dan & Cher
for Taking the Pic as We Approached Their Boat.

In early April we were treated to a visit from good friends Tim & Sigrid Gehrig, who were vacationing in south Florida to escape Atlanta for a week.  Still blessed with excellent weather, we decided that a boat outing would be a good venue for entertaining and catching up.  We cruised south to Fort Myers Beach and Pink Shell Marina for a long lunch, then north to a quiet cove to drop the anchor and let their son, Sven, try his hand at casting and fishing.  No fish were caught but neither was anyone snagged by a hook during the casting lessons, so it was a good day.

Rick & Sven Rigging the Fishing Pole

A week after that we took a run up to Boca Grande Marina on Gasparilla Island.  Chelle had invited three of her golfing gal pals for a boat outing, lunch and some shopping.  The weather was again nearly perfect, and it gave Rick more time to curse at the Active Captain software.

Brief Boat Break & Fly Time

From 30-March to 01-April we took a break from the boat with a road trip to Kissimme and St. Pete.  There we hooked up with good friends Mike and Mari Zimet (Nordhavn 57, Mari Mi), and Martin and Stephanie Morris (Nordhavn 60, Blossom.)  Mike and Rick took the opportunity to check off a bucket list item that every pilot yearns for – some Warbird stick time in a T-6 Texan (LINK).  The Kissimmee Gateway Airport is home to Warbird Adventures (LINK) where they maintain two vintage T-6’s and one P-40 Warhawk, legendary aircraft from the WWII era.  Rick’s father had learned to fly in the T-6 back in 1942 before deploying to the Pacific Theater, and he was absolutely jazzed about strapping into one them for some yank-and-bank time.

Taxi operations in a tail dragger – which Rick had not previously flown – is interesting since you cannot see the centerline over the engine cowling.  Thus you must zig and zag and look out each side of the cockpit while en route to the hold line….in other words, you need to taxi the aircraft like a drunk driver.  But the tailwheel steering in the T-6 is very precise and responsive. 

Rick Flying the T-6 in the Left Wing Slot.  Nice Pic Taken by Mike from the Lead Aircraft.

Mike, a former Navy pilot himself, had talked the Warbird instructors into letting the boys fly two-ship formation before splitting off into separate areas for aerobatic maneuvers.   Just after the two-ship wing takeoff Rick took the controls, got a quick feel for the stick and rudder controls and tucked the Texan into the wing position.  (You know you’re flying close enough when the lead pilot’s eyeballs look really big.)  After a while the lead/wing positions were swapped, with Rick taking the lead and Mike taking the wing slot.  Shortly thereafter the two aircraft split off into separate practice areas for some solo rolls, loops, wingovers, barrel rolls, Cuban-8 and reverse Cuban-8’s. 

When pushing over to gain maneuvering airspeed (known as building up “smash” in pilot slang, generally 170 to 180 knots in the Texan), one had to be careful to avoid less than positive G-forces else the engine would sputter, and on one occasion when pulling out at the bottom of a loop we encountered slight wing buffeting on the edge of an aerodynamic stall.  Recovery was easy by just briefly unloading the stick – the aircraft is very well-mannered and eminently predictable.  After over an hour of aggressive maneuvering we were close to bingo fuel so it was time to RTB. 

Overall it was an absolute blast, and it was easy to see why the T-6 Texan was also nicknamed the “pilot maker.”  Here are a couple of YouTube video links from the flight; best to skip through them, we were up there for a while:

Flying the T-6 Warbird....(YouTube) Part 1

Flying the T-6 Warbird....(YouTube) Part 2

And here's a short video clip of Mike "Maverick" Zimet after his sortie:

Rick & Mike After They Once Again Had Defied Gravity & Death

Back to Boat Stuff

The next couple of weeks will be all about final preparations for our upcoming fishing trip to the Florida Keys in mid-May.  Having adequate fishing gear won't be a problem, as good friends Doug & Cat Cox and Jim & Susan Hill will accompany us, and between them have enough fishing tackle supplies to equip every angler in Florida.  But there are a few more minor punch list items requiring attention, one of which is to remediate the boat's Fusion stereo system which has suddenly stopped producing any sound whatsoever.  We need music while we're hunting mahi-mahi.  More later. 

Mari & Chelle at Happy Hour in Kissimmee

Grilling Brats on the Boat at Salty Sam's Marina

Afterword:  Both of us are now fully vaccinated (via Moderna.)  As good as that feels, it doesn’t mean much until / unless the rest of the planet’s population follows up, else we’ll be playing whack-a-mole with mutant variants and repeating vicious cycles. If you haven’t already, go get poked.  There are lots of excuses not to, and none of them are good ones.

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