Working on this boat is taking on a life of its own. Anyone who has taken on a project like this, whether it be remodeling a house or refitting a large boat, knows that feeling of being pulled into the completely organic nature of this thing. Like anything of this magnitude, all parts work together to create a whole, and sometimes it’s hard to know where one project starts and the other ends. Or maybe I’m thinking too hard about this. Maybe the problem here is that we’re just trying to do too much too fast. Whatever, because life has begun to have it’s own kind of rhythm. Work week, then arrange dog sitter, then drive to Astoria for a day and a half of work on the boat, punctuated by trips to the marine store, rooting around in the boat for supplies, and longing glances in the general direction of the water. Then afterwards, there’s that long drive home that feels twice as long because we’re both dog tired and just want the comfort of our bed.
So with the engine in and the boat in the water, we turn our attention to sails and electronics. Mike, anxious to get this boat out on the water in the river, was making noises about taking her out this weekend. I was sorely tempted except for one small thing: no depth sounder. (There is a transducer, but nothing for it to send information to.) If we were in our home territory where we know the local waters this would not be an issue. And yes, we do have charts of the Columbia. We have enough charts to know that the sands shift and that there is plenty of water that looks deep enough but isn’t. Call me chicken little but while I could see my way clear to going without a chart plotter, I didn’t really want to leave the dock not knowing how deep the water is, Captain Cook and historical sailors not withstanding. There is a reason I was born in this century. Between my misgivings and the weather (read: Fog and rain with high winds) we stayed at the dock, disappointed but not aground on a mud bank somewhere.
So Mike has been shopping for electronics and has finally made his choices. He tried to get me involved in the shopping process for the chart plotter but soon realized his mistake. Not content to stick with the Garmin we know and love, I had to begin looking at other brands because I like to get ALL the information before I make a choice. We both quickly realized that if I participated at this level, we would never purchase one. So I told him what was important to me: easy to use, not reliant on touchscreen controls, large enough for me to see, reliable – not necessarily in that order. I opined that since we’d always had Garmin and were happy with them, we should probably stick with that because we’d already know how to use the thing. Mike wanted something he could integrate with radar and, knowing my history with electronic devices, he agreed that relying on touchscreen controls in the cockpit would be tantamount to asking for trouble. So he chose his Garmin 820 XS chart plotter and all is well as we await delivery of that item.
Meanwhile, why get only the chart plotter when you also want and need a new radio? You see how this project grows like the chickweed in my garden? Look away for a moment and it’s in full bloom everywhere. So we are now the proud owners of a new Standard Marine AIS system that I understand is pretty cool. Even as I type this post he sits by my side, joyously thumbing through the owners manual, breaking into my thoughts on occasion with a tidbit or two about how wonderful this is going to be. You know, sadly, my eyes tend to begin to glaze over when he talks about it but I understand it has remote microphones and a big loud speaker so we can signal to other boats in the fog. How much fun is this going to be? I’ll let him tell you all about it so I don’t steal his thunder too much. Please ask ALL the technical questions you want in the comments section and he can wax poetic about his new friends. And mine. Yes, of course, they are also mine. After all, it’s a community property state.
We’ve got a practically new autopilot the previous owner installed shortly before selling the boat (I know! Ow! We totally know how that feels.) So all that’s left is the radar. We already have radar on the boat and it actually works, although it looks like it was probably built the same year the boat was built: 1975. I’m pretty sure we’ll be getting new radar as well, so these systems will be integrated at the helm and below. Woot! We will be in electronics heaven, at least we hope so.
Less exciting but worth it in the end, is the new transmission shifting system he has ordered. When he was putting the steering system together he and the mechanic noticed how tight everything was in the steering pedestal. They were not amused or satisfied. The gear shifters are original, as is the system attached to them. He was going to replace this system eventually, but I convinced him that ‘eventually’ was now. Since he wants to mess with that steering area as little as possible, once seemed better than twice, so a new system is coming.
While Mike perseverated over his choice of electronics, I was itching to get a look at the sails. That’s right, we’d never seen them. Just like we’d never sailed the boat, or even had it on the water when we bought it. We saw that they existed and knew that unless they were new, we’d be replacing them before going on a long voyage anyway. So if they were serviceable until then, cool. These sails are so large I need a dolly to move them in their bags. They take up a ton of room so I really want them out of my garage and back on the boat where they belong. Laid out on the gravel at home I was glad to see they were in good condition. The foresail has been repaired once but the repair is well done and is holding nicely. The main is in good condition also, and the mizzen sail looks practically new. When we are ready to go offshore for a long period of time, we’ll have them checked over and will buy new if we need to. Until then, these are going to work just fine.
We got the head sail put back on the boat and saved the other two sails for next weekend.
While we were on the boat this weekend we got a pleasant surprise visit from Kurt Yoder, Steve Yoder’s cousin. He popped in to say hi, talk house batteries with Mike and get a look at Mike’s engine room. I was so glad he did because he was the voice of reason on replacing the house batteries. Mike had a plan to replace them so his charging system would be more streamlined. But when he tested one of the Lifeline AGM batteries to see how much charge it was holding, it was holding at 98%. These things are really pricey and also weigh about 100 pounds each, so replacing them falls under the adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
Seriously, these things are about 9 years old, a fact that you must call the manufacturer to discover because it is hidden in the esoteric lettering system etched on the side of the battery. Is there some reason why you need to be a member of a club with a secret handshake just to figure out the date of manufacture on your marine batteries? Why can’t they just use the actual date like regular people? So they are well past their replace date. But they haven’t been used heavily as there is no refrigeration on the boat. We ran the house on battery power only while aboard this weekend and the batteries held fine. Maybe they will poop out when we get a refrigerator in there, but until they poop out, we don’t need to replace them. We figure we’ll have to replace them anyway when we go on the long voyage, so why replace them now? This is called ‘knowing when to stop’ and our bank account really appreciates it.
You may recall that our boat came with a liferaft. Good thing we didn’t consider that a selling point because it was supposed to be serviced by 2003. Which it wasn’t. But the real hilarity was revealed when Mike went to remove it from the boat and found that it weighs 120 pounds. I am not making that up. He actually put it on the scale at home. I think he used the halyard from the mizzen sail to get the thing off the boat. What makes me laugh is the directions for using this thing:
That’s right, it couldn’t be easier. Just lightly toss it over the back rail and you are good to go. Maybe they are counting on the strength of adrenaline to hurk this thing in an emergency. Am I missing something here? That’s 120 pounds we don’t need to be carrying. The jury is still out on whether that will be replaced. I don’t know if the newer ones weigh this much, but if they do I can’t imagine how anyone would get the thing off the boat in a big sea.
In yet other news Mike got started on replumbing the aft head. We haven’t had a holding tank to use so we’ve had to go up to the marina bathroom when the need arose. Remember we took about 30 feet of old hose off the boat when stripping things out of that engine room. We were glad to see it go. Now we have to put some of it back, but he’s got a redesign in mind that should suffice until we decide about remodeling that area of the boat.
And the name of the boat? Still undecided and we’re having fun coming up with ideas. I have a list of words going and we add to it whenever something strikes our fancy. Occasionally Mike throws one out that I just have to decline, however. His latest attempt was ‘Ford Fairlane’. Here’s why:
I’ll tell you the story about that car sometime.