Monthly Archives: October 2015

What the %$#@ is taking so long?

It’s Thursday morning and I find myself wondering if WILL PANDORA EVER SPLASH AGAIN!!!

For the last few days I have been fussing, no make that “screwing around” with the bow thruster to try and get the frozen parts out.  I have learned more than I want to know about “freeing” up parts which includes a liberal application of heat.  I have been using MAP gas, something new to me, which is way, way hotter than “your father’s propane torch”.  “How hot is it Bob?”  It’s SCARRY hot.    This gas, which comes in a yellow bottle, comes out with an impressive roar and to apply it to the aluminum parts of the thruster, just inches from a “plastic boat” is pretty scary.  As the gas rushes out in a white hot plume, the aluminum and stainless parts crackle and pop along with the smoking lubricant that I have been spraying all over everything.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?

The key to freeing up frozen parts, I am told,  is to get them  plenty hot and then cold, over and over again.  Each time heat is applied, things move around and it gets a little bit better.  It’s quite depressing just how very, very small a “bit better” really is.

With the whole process going ON AND ON, I decided that I had to take over from the “thruster twins” and do some of the grunt work myself.  To that point, I was talking with someone at the Essex Yacht Club bar last night and “spinning my tale of woe” about the thruster and she asked,  “So, who’s doing the work for you”.  I told her the name of the company and then added, in a much lower and barely audible voice,  “And I am doing some the grunt work myself”.  “Oh…”, she said, seeming to say, “you get your hands dirty, for real?”  “I’m at peace with myself, I am at peace with myself”, I chanted silently.

At their daily rates, I would have ended up with a perfectly functioning thruster, compliments of the “paid help” and no “coin” left over to go anywhere.  “I have good news and I have bad news Brenda.  The good news is that Pandora’s ready to go.  The bad news…  We are broke!” So,it’s DO-IT-YOURSELF TIME! Yippee!

“That’s all fine and dandy Bob, but how’s it going, really?”  Well, my mother used to have a phrase “It’s always darkest before the dawn” and let me tell you, I needed a very powerful spotlight to see where this was going for a while there.  I had tried pounding, heating, pounding again and wasn’t making any progress. And to make matters worse, if I broke something, I’d have to have the replacement parts fabricated as the company that made the unit doesn’t make parts for this model any longer.

As I pounded away, knuckles bleeding,  I also took time to soak the parts in penetrating lubricant.  In order to be sure that things got “lubed” adequately, I fashioned a “lube pond” on top of the frozen shaft using a plastic cup and modeling clay.  Very colorful, right? 10-8-15a 028 Then I POUNDED away some more.  Still, nothing moved.  Not after two days of beating.  What’s a grunt to do…?

The “chief thruster guy” had mentioned that, if all else failed, I could cut some parts and take the pieces to his shop where they would press them out with hydraulic ram.  However, that would cost plenty as the a replacement for the “cut” parts would have to be fabricated.   There had to be a better way.

Here’s an idea.  How about a gear puller, a tool that I have used to remove propellers over the years?  So, after consulting with the “chief”, I constructed a modified puller, or in this case a “pusher” that would allow me to put tremendous pressure on the frozen shaft.  Put a wrench on the black threaded shaft and crank away.  And let me tell you… I cranked away plenty and then some, using my feet to apply pressure and turn the screw. “So how did it go Bob?  Get to the point! You sure can go on and on about things.”   Well I was able to move the shaft by 3/4″, and it only took two days!  Yahoo!  And let me tell you, any movement at all is a VERY big deal.  So, I left it last night for another 8-10 hours of soaking with my “cup and clay lube contraption puddle thing”.

So, today the sun is out and I am optimistic.  Now that there is some movement, I should be able to pull it the next 4″ and remove the shaft, once and for all. Fingers crossed.  I still have a few ideas if that doesn’t work, but one way or the other, I am sure I can get it out as the modest movement yesterday seems to suggest that I have finally gotten things headed in the right direction.

Meanwhile, “back at the ranch” I have also been assembling provisions for the winter.  The pantry is filled and this is the stuff that was left without a home.   So, I looked around and made room in one of the lockers. 10-8-15a 015Voila!  It all fit.   Now, isn’t that tidy?10-8-15a 017So now, with days ticking away I am thinking hard about when I’ll run Pandora to Hampton.  The original plan was to take Pandora to the marina in Hampton,  visit the boat show in Annapolis, come home and then head back to VA around the 24th to begin preparing to leave with the rally to the BVI.

However, given the way that things are going, I am reassessing things and am now thinking that perhaps I’ll just delay heading to Hampton till later in the month as it will save me from renting cars twice.   It will certainly make finishing up Pandora’s prep much easier as she’s less than ten minutes away.

Well, if it isn’t contrary winds, it’s something else.  I guess it will be clearer later today if I am successful, OR NOT,  in getting things back on track.  All of this also assumes that the “thruster guys” can get back down to Pandora and finish their repairs and upgrades.   ChaChing, ChaChing…

Skinned knuckles and all, I guess that I need to focus on the goal.  It’s warm down south, it’s warm down south, it’s warm down south…  The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  And when this is all done and the bills are paid, I’ll need one. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spared by Joaquin? Not so the Bahamas.

It’s Tuesday morning and hurricane Joaquin is only a distant memory.  Well, at least for those of us that were spared the brunt of the storm.  Here on the CT River the worst we were exposed to was higher than normal tides.

Others were not so lucky.  Some in the Bahamas, particularly on Rum Cay, a spot where we spend some time a few years back, really got slammed. I understand that the government pier, the only landing point of any consequence on the island, is gone.  This pier, and it was a fairly substantial one, is just match sticks now.   Here’s what it looked like when we were there.   That pier was the only link that they had to get supplies.  The water leading up to the pier was barely deep enough for the mail boat to power through, leaving huge plumes of swirling sand in their wake. When the mail boat came in during our visit, about everybody on the island showed up to enjoy the spectacle and pick up their supplies.   Check out this link to my post about the mail boat and this important lifeline.

Rum Cay is a beautiful place but I expect that this marina looks very different now, if you can get in at all. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFew hurricanes cause much damage in the Bahamas, partly because the residents don’t build right on the beach like we do here in the States.  However, as the islands are so low, most areas only a few feet above sea level, an occasional direct hit, like they got last week, causes great destruction.  It’s going to take a while for them to recover from this blow.

This video gives you an idea of the speed of the winds that battered the islands. This was taken from the second floor of a home and most of the islanders have only one story homes so the flooding hit them particularly hard.There aren’t many photos around of the aftermath but this shows typical out-island homes and illustrates what many are dealing with.  I have heard that in some areas, all of the homes are damaged or destroyed.  So, all of this does make my trials getting Pandora ready to head south pretty insignificant.

As it stands now, Pandora’s bow thruster issues are getting closer to resolution and I am optimistic that she will be in the water by later this week.  Hopefully, we will be able to head to Hampton VA over the weekend, where I will leave her until I return to prepare for the Salty Dawg Rally that gets underway in early November.

It’s sobering to think of what we might be facing here in CT if Joaquin had not veered off to sea after bowling through the Bahamas.   And, to add insult injury, with the loss of the government dock, getting building supplies to the island will be a huge undertaking and getting back to normal will take a long time.

We should certainly count our blessings.

A “storm” of a different sort.

It’s Sunday morning  and I should be on my way for Hampton VA by now, but I’m not…

In boating it’s always something.  In this case, it’s several somethings.  Of course, right now it would be easy to blame my delays on the weather with the powerful hurricane Joaquin, working his way up the coast.  However, it’s not just about the weather that’s keeping Pandora on the hard.   Unfortunately, it’s about a “storm” of a very different sort.

In my last post, I wrote about a problem with the bow thruster.   Well, it’s as bad as I had feared, perhaps worse.  It seems that those “floods” in the thruster compartment, the ones that happened prior to my owning the boat, have taken their toll on the unit.  And now, the “hinge” that allows the thruster to go up and down into the hull, is plenty corroded.  The plan WAS to pull the “pins” that the unit pivots on and clean them up so that the unit pivots more easily.  Ooops! Easier said than done!   When Ben Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” he must have been thinking of a problem like this one.  I’d say that it’s going to take pounds to fix what ounces would have prevented.   Sucks for me…

So, after fussing with the problem for much of a day the “bow thruster guys”, and they ALWAYS travel in pairs, couldn’t make the pin budge, even a little bit.  So now, the plan is for me to lube them up a few times a day and hope that they free up by Monday when the “team” returns.  Boy, do I hope that it makes a difference.  I was really counting on this not being a huge job.  “Good luck with that Bob, it’s a boat.”

When they came to work on the now infamous hinge pin,  it looked like they were setting up shop for the long haul.  Love the tent.  Like a couple of kids building a fort.  However, these “kids” are getting paid plenty.  10-2-15a 029So, after a few days of my “lubing” very few hours, I am not very confident that the problem will be solved easily.  What am I saying is that “easy” has already left the room.   The next option will be to remove much of the unit and take it back to the shop and press the hinge pin out with a hydraulic press.  Sounds expensive?  You bet…

It gets worse.  The guys stayed late that evening trying to get at least the bilge pumps installed in the thruster compartment.  I guess that they were tired after a long day.  I sure was.    Well, when I arrived the next morning to inspect the work, I was horrified to see that they had installed the bilge pump outlet right in the middle of the side of the hull.   It looks like a Frigging ostomy hole, RIGHT IN THE SIDE OF THE HULL!!!  10-4-15a 001There were a number of other options he could have done and one that would have been INVISIBLE.  Ugh…

Fixing this is going to be complicated.  The designer and builder worked hard tol design things so that there are no thru-hulls on either side of the hull, only at the stern.  The rest go into vertical standpipes that are glassed into the inside of the boat.   I think that it’s got to be removed and the hole patched but matching the paint?  It’s not going to be easy, even though it’s a stock color.  I guess it’s best to wait till the job is further along and then I’ll readdress the “Ostomy Hole” with him. What was he thinking?

So, with Pandora on “hold” and the weather all sorts of nasty, I feel like Pandora’s embroiled in her own personal storm.  Let’s hope that things settle down aboard Pandora as quickly or at least as soon as the ocean swells subside from our buddy Joaquin.