It’s always darkest before the dawn…

When I was young and feeling totally overwhelmed my mother would often say “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, her way of telling us that things were going to be better soon.  And those words are as prophetic now as they were then and never ring more true than when I am trying to get Pandora ready for a new season aboard.

The boat yard where Pandora was hauled a few weeks ago has been buzzing with activity with boats being hauled constantly and everyone frantically fitting winter covers, winterizing engines and water systems in anticipation of the freezing weather that is just around the corner.    Yes, winter will soon be upon us as the green of summer gives way to the fiery colors of autumn along the CT River.

Unlike most others, fall marks the beginning of a new season afloat.  While Pandora is “commissioned” year round, we don’t spend much time aboard during the summer.  This summer our time afloat was limited to a few nights for me and Brenda and a quick two week trip to Maine for me with some friends and a club cruise with a few day-sails rounding out the season.   For us, the commissioned season really begins as the leaves drop and I head south in preparation for the winter aboard.

This season we again head south, this time to the eastern Caribbean, beginning in the BVI.  For now, I’ll be heading to Hampton VA, next Tuesday, to hang out with the participants in the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.   After that, off to Beaufort NC where Pandora will sit in a slip until mid-January when I will rejoin her for a run to the BVI and the Bitter End Yacht Club.

The last few months have been a blur with a frantic rush to finish the bathroom that I began working on early this summer, clear in the knowledge that all that stood between me and “the gallows” was a finished bathroom that Brenda could use , hopefully sooner than later.  I think it looks terrific.  More importantly, Brenda feels the same way.

That project took a few months longer than anticipated was a our master bathroom but it’s done now.   There were delays along the way, but we won’t talk about my two weeks in Maine that brought progress to a standstill.  No, I prefer to say that it was a much more complex job than I had anticipated and I needed a few weeks in Maine to “reflect” on next steps.  Brenda, however, might not see things exactly the same way.  I kept telling her that, as the highway department always says, “thank you for your patience, the inconvenience is temporary but the repairs are permanent”.   Not sure she was totally convinced.

Never the less, I did end up paying quite a price for the delays as once the bath was done I only had a few weeks to get Pandora ready for the water.   And, along the way, we had to fit in two trips to Brenda’s publisher in PA,  trips to the subject of her book, Archie near Albany.  As I write this we are heading from Albany to Baltimore for our second trip to Baltimore to visit our son Rob and his pregnant wife Kandice in just a few weeks, for a baby shower too. Did I mention that we will soon be grandparents?   Yes, so exciting.  Crazy busy too…

Yesterday’s trip to Albany was to photograph some of Archie’s work for the book, a total of 165 pieces that he has in his personal collection.   Some of the larger pieces had to be held up to shoot.  “Just hold that position for a few moments.   Wait…one more shot.  Can you raise the right side ¼”?”10-21-16a-023What a marathon day…

Today, off to Brenda’s publisher to return the photo equipment.   Here is Archie and Brenda celebrating the end of a long day and job well done. 10-21-16a-024Aren’t they cute together?

So, along with everything I somehow found time to get Pandora ready and this coming Monday, first thing, she goes back in the water.  Weather permitting I’ll head out with my friend Jim for Hampton late Monday or Tuesday.  Fingers crossed that everything falls into place as planned.

The GRIBS suggest a “brisk” run south.  Lots of “flags” forecasting strong NW winds.10-21-16-gribThe biggest project of this season was to take the higher capacity water maker from our old boat and combine it with the smaller unit that came with “new” Pandora.

Both units are Spectra but the one from “old” Pandora is manual and the one on “new” Pandora is highly automated.    This is a shot of the two membranes next to each other in my shop.  The “new” one is a lot larger.10-14-16a-012Spectra has an automated system they call “MPC”, basically a computer that controls it’s functions including startup as well as deciding when to divert “product water” to the tanks.  It even flushes the salt water out of the system and shuts it down when the tanks are full.  It’s a terrific system.  Expensive, but terrific.

Years ago I did some research on which system to put on “old” Pandora and settled quickly on Spectra as it uses a unique pump that is far more efficient than any other on the market with electricity consumption about a half to a third of what other systems use.  This means that a good solar array, such as is aboard Pandora, can power the system along with nearly everything else aboard.  This is important to us as we don’t have a house generator and still need a good supply of water.    Remember, a clean Brenda is a happy Brenda.

I described why I decided on Spectra in this post a few years ago.

The switch over from “old to new” units was more of a process of creating a “hybrid” system utilizing the automation of the Ventura system that came with “new” Pandora and the extra output and larger membrane of the Cape Horn Extreme system from “old” Pandora.

The basic difference the two units was first, capacity, with the Ventura system putting out 6 gallons per hour, on it’s best day, and the Cape Horn Extreme 7-14 GPH depending on the use of one or two pressure pumps.  The problem is that Spectra doesn’t want to get involved with someone trying to configure what is in essence a hybrid semi-automatic unit.   So, after thinking about the problem for about a year, I think I came up with a pretty elegant solution.

My solution was to use a single pump, which the MPC computer was designed for, as the primary driver for the unit. Along with a second pump, when I needed higher output, on it’s own power supply and switch, so I could switch it on manually when I need more output.   This is a shot of the old pump layout.10-14-16a-013The new system, with two pumps is set up with the one on the right serving as a ‘booster” when more capacity is needed.   10-21-16a-004I ran this idea by the manufacturer as well as their rep here in New England and both thought my idea was sound.

I have had problems with sound from the pumps resonating through the bulkhead and decided to add some vibration dampers.  Note that the black square dampers in the corners isolate the pump unit from the bulkhead along with the damper “feet” that isolate the booster pump from the board itself.  I purchased the mounts from McMaster Carr.  They have just about everything you can imagine. 10-21-16a-006I hope that this cuts down the noise.

I wouldn’t have been able to identify a workable solution, or had the guts to put it in place, if it weren’t for the support of Bryan Cooney from Headsync, the rep for Spectra.  Brian was very patient with me and even visited Pandora to review the system.  He endured many phone calls over the last year to listen to my ideas on how to configure things.   This is particularly noteworthy as I was doing the work myself which mean that there wasn’t much in it for him beyond my purchase of a few parts.   Thanks Bryan.

At the risk of sounding like a “Spectra groupie” I really feel that their units are the only way to go.   I have asked Brian to speak at the SSCA event that I am organizing in Essex next June.  I hope he can make it.

Anyway, the syste is in place and all set now and Pandora is ready for action, or at least showers for Brenda.  The new system!10-21-16a-005She’s also all shined up.   You can see your reflection in her hull.10-21-16a-011With the sometimes overwhelming list of “to-do’s” and finding myself potentially facing grave “marital strife” if I didn’t get that bathroom done, it felt pretty dark there for a while.  Mom, your words rang true once again as the sun did finally did come up.

Things got pretty nasty aboard in the middle of it all. 10-21-16a-003Crap just about everywhere.  10-21-16a-001Some spilled out into the cockpit. 10-21-16a-002However, sun the sun came up after all and everything is back in place.4-26-15a-012 So now, let’s hope that the weather window is there for a departure for warmer climes as planned next week.

Stay tuned for updates, as always.

One response to “It’s always darkest before the dawn…

  1. George. Hallenbeck

    Great story. Keep it up.
    How does Maine fit into the picture this time?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *