Dodger windows: finally done

With some help from Charlene during the critical seal-and-bolt phase of work, the dodger windows are finally done today.  (Okay, still need to tighten some bolts in a few days, but that doesn’t count.)  I am really happy with how everything turned out, although it was a pretty crazy amount of work:

Here is how things look from inside the cockpit now:

You sort of feel like you’re in a tank with all the bolts and bulletproof glass.  But it’s crystal clear and extremely secure.  In the end this project was almost as complicated and probably almost as time consuming as redoing the electrical system.  But it makes a huge cosmetic and seaworthiness difference, so worth the effort.  Here’s hoping it lasts a while.  I’m planning to get some new awnings made sometime soon, which should help minimize UV damage.

Here’s one other picture for the heck of it, of the new horseshoe buoy, with the nice hardware from the old one spliced on:

I like it, but I think I’m also going to pick up a Lifesling sometime soon, as almost everyone seems to think it’s a great safety device, and it’s not too expensive.  Looking forward to doing some MOB drills sometime after the new engine is installed!

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Guest Blogger: the Missus, on living aboard

My fiancée Charlene read my last post and decided she wanted to get in on the action too.  She’s Singaporean and so she can provide some interesting perspective on why living aboard in Singapore is just not that common — and also on what it’s like when your gung ho American fiancé leaps full steam ahead into buying, working on, and living on a boat.

Hello everyone!

This is my perspective on living on a boat, and I have broadly divided it into 3 phases.

Phase 1: Scouting/Shopping for a boat/Dreams

This is a rather cool idea!  I’ve always liked to be unconventional and this really seems to be such a neat idea.  My understanding of what boat living is all about involves mental pictures of me sipping mocktails on the boat, BBQs on the deck, wind in my hair, lazing around in a hammock as the boat rocks gently along. Bear in mind that this image is from someone who in the past has only been on:

  1. Mega-ass cruise ships where you pay money to be treated like royalty;
  2. Speed boat tours in Thailand where the waters are crystal clear and you mostly just sit there and try to look pretty.

Phase 2: The Reality

It started out nicely because when Kris got the boat he was excited like a little puppy (ahem, I mean big strong greyhound), and its always nice to see the people you love enthralled with their latest purchase.  Cough shopaholic cough.

However, reality sank in after a while.  Singapore is hot and humid and whenever there was work to be done (not that I did much) it was just excruciating. The space on the boat was small, two puny cupboards (which to this day still stink of mothballs) and no space for me.  And c’mon, a girl needs space, right?  So it wasn’t the most welcoming home for me.  Compared to the shiny new apartment that Kris moved out of, it was like going from a mansion to a kampong in some ways.

At the same time, the boat was also like a new LEGO expansion pack of some sort, and Kris would spend all day and night talking about it, and boy did that make me annoyed after a while.  However, over time I began to be less of a whiny annoying girlfriend and decided, hey, I need to just suck it up, because if it’s something he loves and enjoys I should try to be positive and supportive.  So I tried hard to make adjustments.

I’m afraid Singaporeans aren’t used to the do-it-yourself culture: almost everyone in my country was brought up in a fashion whereby hard labor is done by somebody else, and if you want anything fixed, you call someone.  Sometimes it seems that according to Americans, it’s like a wimpified culture of people who can’t do crap.  Kris has very strong opinions about this issue, and of course being the patriotic Singaporean that I am, I get ultra defensive about it.  Someday maybe I’ll talk about cross cultural relationships.  Anyway, back to the boat: the point that I am trying to push across is that having a boat was a  difficult transition for me in quite a few ways!

Also, I guess it didn’t help that all the boat repairs took such a toil on Kris and there were many days where he was just grumpy, angsty, and thoroughly frustrated.  (Rightly so I must add, and if you read his other posts you’ll understand.)

Phase 3: Acceptance and Excitement

Now I believe I’m in the third phase in my relationship with Oia.  After finally accepting the fact that she is here to stay, I can say that I do enjoy the boat now (well, most of the time)!   It’s quiet, the waves rock you to sleep and it’s a place where I can just spend quiet time with Kris, even if sometimes that means I nap/read/mark papers on the boat while he works outside like a rugged man!  At the same time, I respect his sheer patience and determination in getting things done despite the difficulties.  I’m also extremely proud of his electrical work, spanking new windows, installation of stuff up the mast and all the new things he has learnt while fixing and meddling with stuff.  (Very handy for our future house! Wahahahahaaha!)

I’m also extremely excited about our upcoming adventure: sailing to Canada in 2012! Its like something a Singaporean city girl never dreams of doing when she grows up! I love traveling and exploring new places and it’s such a treat to be able to do it with relatively low expenses, since transport and lodging is covered aboard Oia. And since it’s a sailboat, hopefully nature will blow us along smoothly!

I know very little about sailing though, and I’m kind of “princessy” in some ways.  But I’m sure when push comes to shove, I’ll get my act together and be a valuable crew to Kris. When I make up my mind about something, I will get it done! So don’t worry Kris, I promise not to nap too much and to be useful! Cook, clean, man the helm!  But I won’t climb the mast, because dear God, I hate heights with a vengeance!  It’s morbidly embarrassing, the extent of my fear; someday, I might get rid of it, but not yet.  Anyhow, my goal in this sailing adventure?  I eventually want to be a more rough and tumble kind of girl, a competent crew and a supportive fiancée!  Help Kristopher fulfill his dreams, and take a long holiday from work while at it!

 

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Living aboard a boat in Singapore — Part 1: Why?

These days, thanks mostly to this blog, I get one or two emails a week from people interested in living aboard a boat here in Singapore.  There are tentative “is this possible” type queries; “I’m on my way to Singapore in my boat right now” ones; and everything in between.  Most commonly I hear from people (usually but not always expats) who are seriously considering living aboard for some mixture of reasons that often include financial and lifestyle factors.

I try my best to give my honest advice to everyone who asks.  Just based on the level of interest apparent in the emails I receive, it seems it may be useful to publish some thoughts about living aboard in Singapore for those who are thinking about doing it.  As always I’m happy to have a more personal discussion — just email me at beevek at gmail dot com and, if you’re in Singapore, maybe we can even get together for a chat over coffee.

There is of course one big caveat: everyone’s situation is different, but my advice is specific to my own experience.  So pick and choose from what I have to say but by no means think of it as authoritative!

Reasons to live aboard in Singapore

Around the world, people live aboard boats for a huge variety of reasons.  A sense of adventure or the desire to do something just a little different seems to be an overarching commonality.  You’ll need that sense of adventure to live aboard in Singapore, because despite what seems to be steadily growing interest, there are as best I can tell fewer than 20 people living on boats here.

I think Singapore has a unique set of circumstances that has kept the number of liveaboards fairly low despite its tropical island setting.  The culture here is decidedly un-adventurous.  Singaporeans themselves rarely seem to consider living anywhere but an HDB flat (as the less desirable option) or a condo (as the more desirable one).  To be fair, living aboard is never presented to anyone as a viable alternative.  When I first arrived in Singapore in mid 2008, I was looking for an apartment to rent.  I told my agent I wanted a short term rental because I was planning to buy a boat and move aboard soon.  She just laughed at me.

I also think the proclivities of Singaporeans are not well suited to affordable boat living.  Singapore is a place of the shiny and new, clean and polished.  Recently my fiancée rented space at a flea market to try to clean out her closets.  Most of the customers who showed up were foreigners.  Singaporeans don’t like used stuff.  And if you’re not super-rich, it’s all but impossible to afford a shiny new boat suitable for living aboard.  When I tell someone here I live on a boat, the assumption tends to be that I must, indeed, be super-rich — because the picture that pops into most peoples’ heads is of a shiny, upscale, celebrity-style mega-yacht with all the accouterments thereof.  Oh, how I wish.

Perhaps by extension of the above point, Singapore is not a good place for do-it-yourselfers.  Instead it’s more of a place for hire-someone-else-to-do-it-for-youers.  As someone who’s coming from a land where Home Depots and Lowes and similar hardware shops are nearly as common as grocery stores, the frustrations of maintaining and updating a boat in Singapore can be pretty grueling, and more often than not when I walk into a shop asking about some part or tool or whatever, I get the feeling the shopkeeper is thinking “what on earth is this crazy ang moh up to?”  There are, however, the rare but occasional shopkeepers who are genuinely excited and want to help.  I try to keep track of them.

These preferences of Singaporeans go a long way to explaining why most live aboards in Singapore are expats.  My proclivities, as opposed to those apparent in a lot of Singaporeans I meet, tend toward adventure; a willingness to put up with some mild discomfort and annoyance in order to do something different; a whole lot of patience and willingness to slog through tough, complicated, and downright dirty tasks as long as I’m learning something new along the way; and, frankly, less of a focus on “face.  Do I care that living on a rough and tumble, 40+ year old boat is less prestigious than living on a shiny new 80 ft mega-yacht in the eyes of Singaporean society-at-large?  Not even remotely.  And if you do, you probably shouldn’t think about living aboard in Singapore unless you’re ostentatiously wealthy.

As an aside, don’t take all of the above as an indictment of Singaporeans.  By and large, they simply have different priorities in life than I.  That’s true of most Americans too.  Most anybody, really.

Ironically, the apartment I rented three years ago from the agent who laughed at me cost more per month in rent than I have spent monthly, on average, on berthing, maintenance, new equipment, repairs, fuel, and anything else boat related since I moved aboard.  And I haven’t exactly been sitting idle.  One of the biggest reasons to live aboard in Singapore is cost.  Rental and purchase prices of flats in Singapore are astronomical already, and are rising meteorically.  From Q4 1998 to Q1 2011, private property prices in the core central region of Singapore have risen about 105%; outside central Singapore, they’ve risen 84% (per the Singapore Department of Statistics).  Residential HDB prices over the same period have risen 99%.  Over a slightly shorter but still illustrative period in the US (Q1 2000 to Q2 2010), property prices have instead risen just 42% (according to FHFA).  The going purchase rate for small 1-2 bedroom private condos (expats can’t buy HDB flats) looks these days to be north of S$800k (~US$660k); it is perfectly normal for me to hear a 28 year old say he just bought an S$1M flat (with a 50 year mortgage, of course).

In the past, I have done some cursory cost comparisons between living aboard in Singapore and renting flats.  I found living aboard my boat to be slightly lower in cost than renting a tiny studio flat in a new-ish condo.  Not super cheap, but not expensive either, relatively speaking.  And I find it vastly more palatable to spend my money fixing up my boat, tinkering and learning along the way, instead of pouring it into the black hole of a landlord’s wallet.

I grew up in a small, quiet place.  Only in recent years do I find myself in cities: first Boston, then New York, and now Singapore.  Singapore’s density is on a whole other level from anything I’ve encountered before.  In fact, Singapore is the third densest country in the world after Macau and Monaco.  And oh, how nice it is to go home to a quiet dock, a cool sea breeze, rocking to sleep away from the traffic and shouting and dragon dances and even cock-a-doodle-doo-ing roosters that would interrupt my sleep every night when I lived in the city.  Peace and quiet and a little separation are a great reason to live aboard in Singapore.

Everyone will have their own reasons for living aboard.  Maybe the most important reason I have for doing so has nothing to do with Singapore at all.  Sometime, long ago, maybe when I was six or seven or at least less than ten years old, the crazy idea popped into my head that it’d be fun someday to live on a boat.  Where the idea came from I don’t know.  That idea never went away, it stuck with me, nagged at me, and came back in full force when I realized I was coming to Singapore, which on a map at least looks like a perfect place to live on a boat.  I have a troublesome habit of sticking to my guns when it comes to childhood aspirations: that’s pretty much the same reason I trudged through grad school long enough to get a PhD.  And now here I am, living on a boat.  Who knows what other latent childhood fantasies will come to light later in life.

Be it childhood fantasy, or more adult considerations like money or solitude or life meaning or learning, or better yet a healthy mix of them all, I think it’s important to have a good reason to live aboard if you’re thinking of doing so in Singapore.  It won’t be easy, but it can be rewarding if you’ve got the right attitude and enough motivation.

I’m planning to follow up on this post with a few more about topics like buying and bringing a boat to Singapore; technicalities of living aboard here; some rough cost of living analysis; and anything else that comes to mind.  If there’s a topic you’re interested in on which I may be able to provide some insight, let me know.

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A day of material/part hunting; windows; life aboard

I started the weekend out with a Friday spent zooming all over Singapore in taxis, buses, and trains to pick up various materials.  Singapore may look small on the map but it’s a pretty big place if you don’t have a car and are headed out to the hinterlands where a lot of the warehouses and stockists are.  I generally can’t expect to go out and back from the boat or anywhere else without spending at least 2-3 hours for the errand, even to someplace fairly downtown-ish like Jalan Besar: first there’s a bus from the marina; then a train ride; and then either a bit of a walk or a bus or two to get to whatever shop I’m headed to.

So that’s why the fact that I made it to four disparate destinations Friday is kind of a big deal.

First I headed up to Sungei Kadut to meet Bob from Teak.net.  He’s a really friendly American guy who happens to import Burmese teak.  Charlene and I met him for coffee downtown last weekend; Friday I finally found time to make the trek up to his warehouse.  To make a long story short, Bob made me very, very happy by handing me a couple stacks of 1/2″ teak planks without accepting a cent from me.  It may be scrap to him but it’s valuable, hard to find, and beautiful lumber to me:

I am planning to use it first to make an enclosure for my chartplotter; and later maybe to make a flush mounting panel for the nav station.  I later added the teak to my stack of marine ply (for some shelves behind the nav station) and now have kind of a lot of wood aboard:

After that I headed over to Best Marine Electrical to pick up a couple more BEP TS1 tank senders and a programming kit.  Mr Neo was nice enough to give me the programming kit for free in exchange for some help getting his own kit up and running on his computer.  Feels nice to finally find some good, friendly, really dependable vendors.

I picked up a few other things this weekend.  Here are a couple military size HDPE jerry cans for outboard gas (my old tank was starting to disintegrate):

The military size jerry cans have a much nicer size envelope than the more common fat jerry cans you find around here.  I want to pick up some yellow diesel ones and maybe some blue water ones, but that’ll have to wait until I can find someone selling them for a semi-reasonable price.

I also replaced all my pyrotechnics (which were about 15 years old):

Left to right: 6x red handheld flares; 2x orange smoke signals; and 4x parachute rockets.  Also found out that One 15 will take care of disposal of outdated pyrotechnics and EPIRBs, which is nice.

I built a new snubber line for the anchor chain — ~50 ft 5/8″ nylon:

My existing snubber is 1/2″ nylon at 15 ft, which is normally fine but not enough for heavier conditions.  This one should be good for pretty much all conceivable cases.

Charlene helped me a bit with spraypainting the UV strip around the edge of the dodger windows.  I’ve been waiting on this step since I did LASIK but finally felt like it just needed to get done this weekend.  After a bit of sanding we got all the painting done, so now the windows are ready to drill and mount this week:

Charlene cooked some tasty stuff aboard this weekend — couscous, hot dogs, salad:

— and we had a yummy Sunday evening dinner:

Next week some friends are coming over for a BBQ, so the pressure is on to finish up the dodger windows and clean up the detritus of a thousand projects.

Here, by the way, is a photo of the boat I snapped this weekend.  On the whole, I’d say Oia‘s doing okay these days, but is suffering from an overabundance of materials, parts, and other bits and pieces that are just awaiting installation, sorting, or otherwise sitting around until I can put them in their proper place:

Lastly, I have been challenged by a good friend to spend a little less time writing about fixing things, and a little more time writing about the fact that I live on a boat in Singapore, which all things considered is pretty cool, and communicating (especially to my friends and family back in the US) what that’s like.  I don’t think I succeeded today, but I’ll try to do some more of that in the days and weeks to come.

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Various tinkering, measuring, identifying, and testing

Yesterday was National Day here in Singapore (happy birthday Singapore) so instead of working, Charlene and I headed over to the boat to accomplish some stuff.  I’m still on light duty so mostly I spent the day measuring, identifying, and tinkering instead of doing what I really want to do, which is finish installing the stupid dodger windows.

I verified a couple DC switching 5V regulators I had a friend bring back from the US.  They work fine.  I’ll be using them to power a computer and microcontroller for boatlogger, which will interact with some NMEA stuff to start with; and also to provide power for a couple USB outlets for charging phones and such.  The boatlogger boards have been sitting on my desk at work, running with no issues, for almost a year; it’s about time to get them in the boat:

Here are the 5V regulators, and also a little board with a compass/accelerometer IC that I’m hoping to get hooked up to play with at some point (accelerometer data would be pretty fun to have on a boat):

I have been trying to find a replacement for my big old Halon 1211 extinguisher, the main galley and engine extinguisher on the boat (all the others are small dry chemical extinguishers):

I’ve been looking for a similar-sized alternative using a Halon replacement, since I really don’t want to have to use a dry chemical or water or something like that around the engine, and Halon is now banned.  Looks like I’ll probably end up with an FM-200 extinguisher.  I found one company in Singapore that purports to recycle old Halon; maybe with a little luck they’ll actually be able to provide a Halon extinguisher.  But I doubt it.

I also measured a potential location for a new black water tank.  There is none currently on the boat, so everything from the head drains right over the side, which is totally illegal in many places.  Seems like the best (maybe only) place for a tank is in the bottom of one of the v-berth lockers, on the opposite side of a bulkhead from the head.  It’s a difficult location since it doesn’t admit a rectilinear tank; I’d probably have to get one custom made.  I’m not sure it’s actually feasible anyway, since it may not be possible to gravity-drain the tank.  May need to actually take up real, otherwise useful locker space for a black water tank, which would be too bad.  I did find a very interesting document about plumbing heads and holding tanks with lots of good advice about avoiding stench.

I have been spending a lot of time lately trying to identify various unknown or semi-known equipment to gather manuals and plan maintenances.  I took a look at the anchor windlass, which is quite a beast:

There are no visible markings left on the windlass that I can find.  However, per the pre-sale datasheet it’s a Plath windlass; and after looking over Plath’s catalog it seems most likely to be a Plath 9a.  I contacted Plath to see if they can send me a manual.

I also finally took a look at the genoa furler:

It appears to be a Schaefer System 2100 based on markings and measurements.  Found a manual online; looks like maintenance is pretty much limited to cleaning.  Sometime soon I’ll have to take down the sail and work on that.

After that I noticed one of the stanchions on the port side foredeck had pulled loose and needs to be rebedded.  Something else for the todo list:

While I was out checking all that stuff out I saw Owen and Jessica heading out on Malaika and snapped a phone cam photo.  They looked like pros backing out of their berth and heading off into the strong current just outside the marina:

To close out the day I wrestled the new dinghy down to the dock in its huge duffel bag, unpacked it, and got it all set up.  For a (relatively) cheap inflatable, the boat itself feels really sturdy and in terms of stability and comfort is leaps ahead of the old hard dinghy.  The air deck is certainly plenty rigid to stand on, although it doesn’t pack quite as small as I was expecting.  The only problems I had were with the auxiliary equipment that shipped with the boat: the hand pump fell apart pretty much immediately (just needs some glue and maybe a hose clamp), and the pressure gauge can’t be attached while pumping, which is pretty annoying.

Anyway, by the time everything was pumped up and ready to go it was after dark, but I put on a headlamp and went for a row around the marina.  Much easier to row than the hard dinghy, which is better than what I was expecting:

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Lots of shopping; watermakers

With my ongoing downtime thanks to LASIK that is prohibiting me from fun activities like sanding or spraypainting that involve particulate matter or aerosols, I have been busying myself with trying to source all kinds of bits and pieces for various projects.  I spent almost the entire day today walking around my core stuff-hunting-zone of Jalan Besar, with an excursion over to Beach Road, seeking various stuff.

I was looking for someone to make a few nets, particularly ones to put over my exposed bookshelf type areas behind the settees, to keep everything in them from going flying in rough seas.  I’ve also been thinking about having a few nets made to hang on some of the stanchions or on the solar panel targa just to stow stuff in.  Based on my Google calculations there was one shop in Singapore where I might have some hope of having these made, so today I went there.  And, I just typed all that so I could say: it was a waste of time and they shooed me out of their shop faster than you can say “only big nets can make lah”.  I think I may just end up ordering nets from the US.

A positive side effect of that mishap was that I ran across a new dive shop, popped in, and found that they had a 30 cuft dive tank, which I have unsuccessfully been looking for for about a month.  I bought it, to pick up next week after they get it filled.  Ironically another shop finally found a similar tank and emailed me 20 mins after I bought it.  Sorry.

I also picked up a whole bunch of 3/8″ marine ply and some 3×0.5″ planks to build some small shelves for the nav station, where I’ll be reorganizing all the wiring and mounting of the electronics and communications gear.  I also found a shop selling the Icom M-422 VHF with a remote mic and a flush mount kit for really cheap (less than US price).  I’m mulling that over; my current (very old) Icom VHF works fine but has no DSC, no remote mic (which I’d like in the cockpit), etc.

By random chance I finally found something else I’ve been hunting for for months: a pony-sized horseshoe buoy to replace my ancient sun-damanged one.  It’s a common story for me lately: decide I want to buy something; Google a lot; send about 10 emails; hear back from 2-3 suppliers, with wildly varying quotes and abnormally long delivery times; give up for a while; try again and find a few new suppliers; and then eventually either find someone by this route with a reasonable price, or (as happened today) run into what I’m looking for totally by chance while wandering around town.  So here’s my new horseshoe buoy, which I bought for a mere S$60 today, after months of quotes ranging from S$100 to S$250 for similar items:

I do like the hardware on the old one a bit better so I’ll probably just transfer it over.

By the way, nothing gets you strange looks in Singapore like stepping onto the MRT with a small stack of plywood under one arm, a big horseshoe buoy under the other arm, and a bunch of random pine planks sticking out of your backpack.

I have been looking at my watermaker (a Powersurvivor 80E) again recently.  It’s currently totally out of commission but should be pretty easy to get up and running again.  My concern is the last owner probably didn’t take very good care of it.  He said he pickled the membrane, but who knows how many years ago that was.  Today I dug out the spares kit for the watermaker to see what was in it:

Turns out, well over $500 worth of stuff: some spare prefilters, a seal repair/replacement kit, and a whole bunch of biocide and acid/alkaline cleaning solutions.  I think I may hook the pump back up (took it apart to remove the watermaker during the electrical overhaul last year), replace the prefilter, and just try running water through the old membrane for a while to see what happens.  I think it’s probably likely I’ll need to replace the membrane, however — not cheap, as I need two of these.  The ridiculous Singapore price quote of the day was ~US$700 per piece for those membrane replacements that run $340 in the US; and US$1800 for this preventative maintenance kit that costs 1/3 the price in the US.

I also dug out the Survivor 06 handheld watermaker from my grab bag to take a look at it.  Turns out some silicone grease must have leaked out of it somewhere as it’s covered in goop.  Not sure if I can do much maintenance on it myself though.

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LASIK; repower contractor at last

I did the LASIK surgery last week.  Recap in a nutshell: it was totally worth it, and it’s very exciting to be able to see pretty much all the time.  Only downside is there’s some recovery time involved.  Currently I’m still seeing things through a mild smoky sheen (almost gone after a few days though), and having the typical night-time halos around anything bright.  That’ll all go away eventually.  A little more grating for me is that I can’t do much of anything for a couple weeks at least — certainly no sanding, grinding, and I guess spray painting (although I was about to go ahead and try some of that tonight before Charlene convinced me otherwise).  Better safe than sorry when it comes to your eyes.  So it’ll be another couple weeks before I can wrap up the last bit of work to install the side dodger windows, or do anything much else of consequence.

Here’s pretty much the most intensive thing I’ve been able to do on the boat since the surgery:

I glued a little chunk of veneer that’d broken off the head door.  Thrilling.

Other than that, I have done some cleanup and organizing; and brought the new dinghy to the boat, although I haven’t inflated it yet.  May do that this coming weekend.

I finally have some good news on the repower front: after a little further prodding, it looks like I’ve got a contractor (Australian guy named Pete) squared away in Langkawi to do the job.  I’m pretty happy with it too, as everyone I ask about the best mechanics in Langkawi puts him at the top of their list.  Now to get down to business with all the other logistics, and see if I can line someone decent up to do some fiberglassing and painting too.

On Pete’s advice, I’m going to stop worrying about the prop until the boat is out of the water.  There are a couple good prop shops in Langkawi that can probably machine a new prop within my time constraints; or if I need to I can fly one in from overseas.

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Repower whining; window painting; dinghy; LASIK

I am finding planning the repower job to be a terrible mess.  I have a spreadsheet with 94 rows (and counting) to keep track of all the different contractors I’ve been in touch with for stuff like the actual installation; supplying a new prop; shipyards to do the haulout; etc.  Finalizing anything (other than buying the actual engine) has proven impossible so far.  I still have no contractor hired to do the work; nobody who can sell me a suitable propeller; no yard that will let me do the job, at least not without jumping through lots of hoops; and not even a way to receive the engine when it arrives.  The engine will ship to a port in Langkawi; local delivery is my responsibility, and it sounds like the likely yard where I’ll do the work (Rebak) requires me to be present for delivery, and in fact arrange for a dedicated cargo boat to bring the engine from the port to the yard.

On the bright side I’ve found a couple new potential contractors in Langkawi to do the job, both Australians.  But the pace of things there is slow so it’s going to be a while longer before I can strike a deal.

The propeller is turning into a bit of a nightmare.  It seems stupid to order a new prop without knowing it will fit perfectly; and anyway, it is proving difficult to find anyone who can make a smallish prop (15″ diam) for a large-ish prop shaft (1.25″).  I’m pursuing a whole bunch of avenues now: trying to figure out if a 16″ prop with a higher pitch will be okay, looking for divers with prop pullers to come remove my prop for measurement (and later replace it), even getting estimates for a new shaft with a standard taper to see if that makes sense (probably not, 316 SS is not cheap).  I should also probably consider having my current shaft re-machined to a standard taper, which would maybe be possible.  I haven’t found anyone who can supply a prop, even with standard tapers, in less than 4-6 weeks.

C’est la vie, eventually it will all work out, maybe on a more extended schedule than I’m hoping for.

Last night I got to work painting the last two dodger windows (UV-protective black stripe on inside edge) and window frames (epoxy undercoat), but somehow I had much less paint left than I was expecting.  Ran out after 1.5 coats on the windows and 1 coat on the frames.  I won’t be able to get new epoxy undercoat until Thursday, which makes me sad.  Anyway, here’s how things look now — windows:

And frames:

Also, the new dinghy arrived at my office today.  Probably should’ve had it sent straight to the marina, because it’s big and heavy and now I have to bring it to the boat myself.  It came in a huge box full of all kinds of accessories (pump, paddles, covers, seat and seat bag, and other random stuff I haven’t looked at yet).  May try getting it all inflated and going for a spin sometime next week:

Lastly, tomorrow I’m getting LASIK’d.  I’m going all out and doing a wavefront-guided procedure, which I hope should reduce night vision related issues and improve contrast, detail, etc.  If it’s good enough for Air Force pilots, then it’s probably good enough for a cruising sailor.  The main downside is that I’ll have to lay low for a week at least, and be pretty conservative in my activities (e.g., no diving, avoiding grinding and sanding — oh no!) for a month or two.  The main upside is I’ll no longer be blind as a bat without contacts or glasses, so when Oia pulls its anchor at 3AM in 40 kts I won’t need to spend 5 minutes frantically trying to stick lenses into my eyes while being tossed around like a rag doll before addressing the situation.

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Filed under deck, general, mechanical, photos, planning

Pedestal guard; propeller

For a long time I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make an enclosure for my chartplotter.  I can’t buy one because my pedestal guard (a 1″ o.d. bent SS pipe that is bolted to the deck and attached to the steering column to provide support and a hand rail) is non-standard.  Even making a custom enclosure with the current pedestal guard is kind of hard, because the guard is quite short and the only spot anything can be mounted is the bend at the top.  Plus, the current guard is straight up and down, so if I want the plotter at an angle for easier viewing, the angle would have to be part of the enclosure.

I recently realized I could probably just get a new pedestal guard made that would provide a better mount for an enclosure.  I contacted a few pipe bending shops and was surprised how cheap it was for them to bend a new pedestal guard according to my specs: ~US$80 at current exchange rates.  Compared to ~US$250 for a similar over-the-counter product, US$80 seemed pretty reasonable.  I sent this drawing to Hup Seng Metal:

And a couple days later I went and picked up this:

I wasn’t able to come up with something that would let me just buy one of the commercial enclosures — I’d have had to replace parts of the steering pedestal to get the guard exactly 12″ on center instead of the current (weird) 12.5″.  But that’s okay because the commercial enclosures seem ridiculously expensive.  I’m going to pick up some 5/16″ or 3/8″ teak (finally have a couple sources) and build a box to mount on the bend of the new pedestal guard.

Aside from dodger window work which is still plodding along, I went for another swim today to take a few more prop measurements.  I am decently sure my prop shaft has a 16:1 taper.  Unfortunately I am having a very tough time finding any shop that will fabricate a 15×9 prop for a 1.25″ shaft.  The hunt continues.  The same is true for a shop to do the repower job: still not solidified, although I have some new leads.

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Filed under deck, mechanical, photos

Windows; LEDs; prop shaft; boarding ladder; sinking neighbor

It was a pseudo-busy boat weekend, although I don’t think there’s much substantial to show for it.  On Thursday I wrapped up a couple dangling projects and continued working on the dodger windows.  Those are coming along mostly nicely and after just a little bit more dusty sanding and a few tiny patches of epoxy, the frames should be ready for painting and then installation of the plexiglass.  Here’s how they look right now:

I was stymied a bit on Sunday when one of the dockhands came over while I was grinding and said “You’re not allowed to work on your boat in the marina,” which seems like an overstatement.  I do sort of understand the rationale against grinding, since there’s a lot of noise and dust involved.  But, oh well, I’m essentially done anyway.  I probably don’t have any more grinding to do while my boat is here, but hopefully nobody complains about a little light sanding here and there.

Friday I spent most of the day wandering around buying parts for a planned overhaul of the nav electronics setup.  I’m going to gut the cubbyhole everything’s currently in, build a couple shelves and put a nice hardwood face on the front, flush mount a few things, and mount the rest behind the scenes, with (I hope) a reasonably organized strategy for routing all the wiring.  Turns out the most difficult part is finding wood in Singapore.  I finally got a lead from Brian today that will hopefully result in some nice 1/2″ teak, mahogony, oak, or similar.

When I got back to the boat late in the afternoon Friday it was pouring rain, which eliminated window work, so I ended up building a new light fitting for the nav table.  The old one was flickery, had a partly melted plastic diffuser, and used bright white LEDs.  I found a new fitting (exactly the same except not melted) at Marintech.  As sold it was a 24V incandescent tube light, but I gutted it because I only wanted the housing.  I bought some of the 3M PVC-coated 12V LED strip stuff — one strip of warm white, another red.  I also picked up a 3-way switch; I replaced the 2-way switch in the housing with that (after filing away some plastic to fit it in), and then wired the warm white LEDs to one end and the red LEDs to the other.  Soldering the LED strips wasn’t very easy but I eventually got it working.  Here’s the LEDs wired up to the switch:

The LED strips are adhesive-backed, so I just stuck them to the back of the housing for now.  If the adhesive later comes loose (I doubt it but who knows) I can always just hot-glue the strips back in place:

After mounting the fitting, putting the diffuser in place, and waiting for dark, here is what the warm white light looks like (or well, as close as my camera can capture it):

In person it’s quite a bit brighter.  A lot more palatable than the old stark white LEDs.  When you flip the 3-way switch the other way you get some cool red night lighting, which will be great for looking at paper charts if needed, or reading any other material without un-dilating our pupils:

Again, it’s a lot brighter in person.  Probably not the most urgent project but a fun way to spend an hour on a rainy afternoon.  The LED strips aren’t super-cheap, but I think they’re pretty reasonable for projects like this.

Yesterday I made an effort to take some measurements of the prop shaft.  I need a new prop along with the new engine, and every prop shop seems to have a lead time of at least 2-3 weeks, with some much longer.  You need some reasonably precise measurements of the taper and keyhole at the prop end of the shaft, which as I found out are not easy to get with the prop underwater, fouled with barnacles, while holding your breath and trying to use plastic calipers.  After examining my measurements out of the water, I think I’ll probably need to go for another swim and measure again before ordering the propeller.

In the course of swimming to get the shaft measurements I gained a renewed appreciation for the importance of an easy boarding ladder.  The boat is heeled 5ish deg to starboard right now (one water tank is full, the other empty; and there is a bunch of diesel still sitting on the starboard deck), so the boarding ladder was up a few inches higher than usual.  It was pretty difficult to get out of the water.  I think it’ll be necessary to add a couple auxiliary rungs; I’ll try rope first, but I may just end up buying a new ladder as there are other issues with mine.  I’ve also started thinking about some kind of ladder quick release reachable from the water, in case of a man overboard situation.  Always something else.

Today I finished the wire transfer to order the Beta engine.  Once Beta Marine gets that I expect it should be about 6-7 weeks before the engine arrives in SE Asia.  Need to get about a million things in place before then.

Tonight I was taking some measurements of the boarding ladder when I noticed a bunch of commotion aboard Golden Ocean, a 46 ft powerboat next door.  After a few minutes I realized the owner and a bunch of the marina staff were frantically trying to figure out how to keep the boat from sinking.  Turns out he ran into a buoy at 15 kts; somehow made it back to the marina; and then realized there was a huge gash below the waterline near the port bow.  The boat was noticeably low in the water.  I grabbed a few of my biggest buckets; a big PVC hand pump; and my snorkeling/scuba gear.  The marina staff arrived pretty quickly with an AC gas-powered pump that saved the day.  I was a bit disappointed in the preparedness of the staff to deal with a sinking boat though (aside from the pump).  They stuffed a couple garbage bags in the gash, which didn’t really do much.  As I type this they’re still pumping away and planning to do that until morning, when they can get a tow to a yard.  The whole thing did make me realize I’m actually decently well prepared for a similar situation — plenty of buckets, pumps, epoxy putty, old sail or vinyl material to temporarily cover a hole, 5200 to seal it on, etc.

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Filed under deck, electronics, liveaboard, mechanical, photos, shopping