Busy weekend: electrical; dinghy; autopilot; etc

It was a terrifically busy long weekend, starting in earnest Friday and ending today.  Thursday evening and all day Friday Doug and I were both at the boat, and lots got done.

We spent some time poking around and then cleaning out the nav electronics and communications zone behind the nav table.  Doug later did a thorough investigation and figured out what all the various wires passing through are, and we have a basic plan in place for sorting it all out, doing some sanding and painting, and then getting all the electronics put together much more neatly.

Doug then moved on to the main electrical cabinet and started tracing and labeling wires there so it’ll be easier to replace the panels and some of the core wiring.  That has turned out to be a huge job, and he continued on with it for much of the weekend.  I joined him today to work on the “auxiliary” cabinet (the space behind the second DC panel on the port side).  There are an astounding number of wires, many of them not well supported, many of them improperly colored, and almost none of them labeled.  We’ve found a significant percentage of them lead to nowhere — when whatever load they were attached to was removed, they were just clipped at one end or the other.  It’s a real mess but we’re slowly making some sense of it.  Hopefully that’ll save a lot of time when the electrician gets started.  Today we started disconnecting a few things so we can clean up the cabinets enough to do some sanding and painting before the new stuff is installed.

On that front, I’m awaiting a quote from a new contractor who seems potentially quite a bit more reliable than the current one.  I was hoping this whole job would have been done a month ago but it’s dragged on.  Work was supposed to start today but I heard nothing (and had no final quote) as of yesterday, so I decided to get one more quote and put things off a few more days.  The new contractor showed up on time today for a look, with no reminders from me, which is a good start.

I worked on a bunch of other stuff Friday as well.  After some high-grit wet sanding of the second coat, I put the third and final coat of paint on the exterior of the dinghy.  It looks really nice, but time will tell how it’ll fare.  The paint on the runners is already gone after one or two drags down the dock, which was expected.  Later in the weekend I flipped the dinghy over and did some serious scrubbing of the interior with thinner and some acetone.  I’m planning to sand down and repaint that, too, when I get some time, but it’s obviously not all that urgent.  Here’s the dinghy after the final coat of paint:

The sheer quantity of all the random projects going on is kind of evident in the mess we’ve made of the cockpit, which is a catchall for all kinds of stuff that needs to get moved out of the way:

On the right in that photo but not very visible is the old Trace 2012 MSW inverter that I pulled out of the electrical cabinet a couple weeks ago.  It’s a real mess but I’d still like to play with it at some point.  It outputs 110VAC but there’s a step-up transformer just above the electrical cabinet that converts it to 220VAC, which is nice to have.

Also on Friday I finally fixed the autopilot.  The motor housing had somehow slipped along its adjustment bracket, causing the drive chain to come loose and fall off.  After all the humming and hawing and wondering what the problem was, in the end it took a wrench and 2-3 minutes to loose the bolts, re-seat the chain, push the motor back into place, and tighten the bolts.  After some testing it appears to be working just fine now.  Here’s the end result; the housing that was out of place is the big black box, and the chain in question is the obvious one (the chain below is the one that actuates the rudder):

Here’s another photo of most of the autopilot wiring, which focuses around a controller box and a few solenoids.  The autopilot is one of the things on the boat that is reasonably well wired:

The autopilot controller supports NMEA 0183 Rx/Tx but none of the data lines are hooked up.  We identified them all but saved the wiring for another day.

One last ongoing project has been cleaning up the fenders, which have been looking pretty disgusting — streaky brownish-black, in some cases encrusted with barnacles on the bottoms.  I was pondering just buying new ones since they’re not horribly expensive, but Doug had the bright idea of soaking them in bleach for a while.  Bleach is still a lot cheaper than new fenders, and the idea has turned out to work pretty well.  The approach we’ve settled on, which has worked well for a few fenders so far, is putting the fenders in heavy duty garbage bags, dousing the insides of the bags with generous helpings of bleach, and then drawing the bag tightly around the fender, occasionally sloshing things around or turning the bag over to improve coverage:

The results aren’t spectacular but they’re pretty darn good.  Nonetheless I’m still pondering picking up some fender covers if I can find them; they’re good to reduce noise and wear and tear.

Last but not least, I heard today that the application for my Malaysian MMSI has finally been submitted, which is good news.  I can’t believe it’s such a momentous occasion to get an application submitted, but that’s Malaysia for you.  I’m hoping it’ll take fewer than six weeks to get an actual MMSI, but I’m not holding my breath.

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