Work, work, and more work...

So it’s been an interesting couple weeks. Hot and humid here in the southern sauna that is Florida, with a slight chance of hurricanes. Hermine blew through last week, but stayed well north of us so all we got was a little wind, a smattering of rain, and a much welcomed break from the heat for a few days. Another benefit was that the pool dropped from steaming bath to downright pleasant for the last week (it’s nearly back to steaming bath again…).

Head and heat exchanger back together, and new wiring harness complete.

Head and heat exchanger back together, and new wiring harness complete.

We’ve been lighting the proverbial fires here on Prelude, and have been kicking out some really solid work. I took the break in temperature to finish putting the engine back together after the blown head gasket/jacked heat exchanger fiasco. Since I had the engine torn down to nothing, I took the opportunity to address my engine gauges (like the dashboard in your car). Half of them weren’t working and the RPM gauge took a bit of spiritual guidance to interpret, so something had to be done.

On that note (for you unfortunate owners of 30yo boats out there), I researched replacing the gauges and the costs were unsettling. A well known diesel company made a really nice replacement for our Perkins 4.108 gauges, but for the all low price of $650 - crazy as I was - I had to pass. The marine world is fraught with questionable quality vs. value vs. seriously?!? scenarios that defy even the keenest of minds to be fully understood. Some things are worth the “boat price”, but I’m finding those things to be increasingly more difficult to define. I digress…

Noland Engineering RS-11 installed. The crappy hole was existing...

Marine instrument networking (how the GPS “talks” to all the various instruments on the boat in realtime) has really come a long way in the last decade. Provided you aren’t using some weird proprietary equipment (Raymarine, I’m looking at you), the current communications standard (language all these little gadgets and gizmos speak), NMEA2000, is pretty impressive. It’s an easy to work with system that once properly installed, is robust and simple to both service (not really necessary) and expand. 

I decided to save about half the cost of the aforementioned gauge cluster and found Noland Engineering’s RS-11 universal analog data converter. This little guy is American made (and local to us), simple to install, and lets all the sensors on the engine “talk” to our NMEA200 chartplotter (GPS), which can then be viewed on our iPads and iPhones underway. Installing this also greatly expanded the volume of engine related systems to be monitored at once, and the device is expandable should the need arise. Having installed it, I can’t recommend it enough.

So, the game started with oil in the coolant (but no coolant in the oil?!?), and turned into… You know, with just about anything - and especially boats - you never really end up fixing the one broken thing. The “might as wells” for any given project, if not carefully controlled, can get… well, out of control. This was one such case. In the end, in the last month we’ve:

Racor cleaned and moved to a place that makes sense, not under Finn's bed in a hole. Also, a little of my new wiring harness running along side it.

  • rebuilt the engine head
  • rebuilt the heat exchanger (thing that uses outside water to cool engine)
  • replaced all top-end gaskets and seals
  • replaced all coolant hoses and accoutrement
  • replaced fuel pump
  • replaced all engine senders
  • replaced/rewired complete engine
  • replaced/rewired starter circuit
  • installed/wired RS-11
  • cleaned/serviced/relocated fuel-water separator
  • replaced all fuel lines and filters
  • blah, blah, blah… (I just realized how boring this list is. So I’ll stop.)

Basically, we’ve done a ton of work. It’s awesome to go through a project like that and then look at the end result. Our engine compartment is clean, organized, and there isn’t 30yrs of boat hacking strewn about with the care and attention reserved typically for toddlers handling food. I’m pretty happy with it.

New injection elbow mockup. 

This month has been a big “friends and family” month. When you live like this, you meet a lot of people. Some cool, some not, but mostly interesting people. A coworker of Emmy’s has become a friend and we had her and her boyfriend over for dinner. Turns out, her boyfriend is something of a Georgian mountain man with more skills than the million dollar man. Part of this engine makeover project involved replacing a crucial exhaust component that thus far has been outrageously expensive to source given what it is. He and I mocked up a design over Emmy’s now famous tuna poke and he went back to Georgia to fab it up. Living in the city, I wasn’t often exposed to “the kindness of strangers”. Live on a boat for a week, and it really comes out of the woodwork. I am continually amazed at the things people will do for others with nothing to gain. Had we not lived like this, I might not have known that the cliche - if given the opportunity - is well rooted in reality.

Emmy’s dad came through with an enormous and unfathomable gift. For some time, we’ve been researching inflatables. I hit on this in earlier posts, but we’ve finally decided on an inflatable - The AB 10AL. This is a serious inflatable that should last us quite some time and has a lot of the features we need in our floating “pick-up truck”. The downside of finding this perfect solution was the price tag. Despite my hunting, the price is high. I could have paid for it with a nickel for every… “…well, you know… It’s a premium product, so that’s really the best we can due” I got when trying to find a deal. This thing is way out of our price range considering… well, how much money we have, and Emmy’s dad donated the boat. We were ecstatic and it’s a HUGE load off of our minds. It was one more of the many incredibly generous things her parents have done for us, and we are lucky to have them as family.

Recently, a later model Beaneteau very similar to Prelude was purchased a couple slips out from ours. It was purchased by an industrious younger couple from Texas with limited sailing experience. To quote the new owner, “We bought it kind of on a whim.” They got the idea to see the world from the ocean, and dove in (ah... the puns...). They left last Saturday from Cape Canaveral, FL to Houston, TX (as Hermine crossed Florida to the north), and today landed in Mississippi. Aside from being super cool and interesting people, they're determination is inspiring. I haven’t heard of many people who buy essentially their first real boat, and then get right to crossing the Gulf mid-hurricane season. Now, I know many people would think that crazy - and it kind of is. But they didn't do it blindly, and got in touch with the right people, with the right experience, to route them along, and they’ve been killing it. 

It’s inspiring because as a lifelong sailor, I feel that often sailors error excessively on the side of caution. I know there are ample reasons for this general approach, but I often reflect on decisions I made in the name of “safety” that in the end limited my knowledge of offshore seamanship, and contributed to a pattern of decision making that has been limiting. We aim to address that sharply at our departure. There’s a time to be conservative for sure, but in the immortal words of Captain Ron, “If anything’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen out there.”

I feel like a broken record that never quite gets to the chorus, but I’ve also been working on our social media and videos. We hopefully will have our first real video on youtube in a couple weeks. The work on the boat really drove me offline, and we didn’t have a lot of time to focus on that. With the big engine overhaul complete, it is my singular focus… until something more important pops up… which it shouldn’t… but it sometimes does… I’m doi - 

Oh! and I almost forgot. I finally designed a "boat card", and they just came in. We feel SUPER legit now! It's taken WAY too long to finally get this sorted out... We think it came out pretty well!

So it goes on the good ship Prelude. Everyone’s trotting along gittin’ er done! the leave date is fast approaching, and there’s tons to do. We CAN’T WAIT to get f@ckin’ underway! Until next time…

Justin E. BrownComment