Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mack Snails

The summer we had in Brunswick was total fun and we met some very nice people. We made friends. We saw family. We had a good time. Maybe we had too good a time because there was plenty of work to get done that didn't, but that's OK. We are retired after all. The people we met at Brunswick Landing Marina are the best. There were some who will bust your balls for a good laugh but are there in a flash to help you out when you need it. My kind of peeps. The social hours were some of the best around and the marina made sure you were as happy as can be with the free wine and beer. If we come back to the states again next year I can't imagine there will be any slips available now that word has got out about the place. Good for them. Hopefully the old man gives the staff a good raise as well. They deserve it. 

We did have a list of items that we really needed to happen before we took off for the Bahamas and beyond. Free beer and wine slowed some of the progress on that list but we managed to knock off a few items while we were there.

  1. Bottom Paint
  2. Rigging inspected
  3. New head plumbing
  4. Provision
  5. Re-bed ports

We looked at several places to get the bottom painted including the marina we were at. We got some pricing and decided on Titusville. We figured we would get it done on our way south. We installed two new toilets and re-plumbed the aft head. This was not something I enjoyed but I think it worked out fairly well as we no longer have any odor. I also reinstalled some of our ports with Butyl tape and they are now leak free. So the only thing left to deal with was the rigging. 

We found a guy to inspect the old stays and install the new rigging if needed and he came highly recommended. He was also highly expensive. He had a slight British accent even though when asked he came from Alabama. All Americans love that accent when getting lectured or sold something don't they? American Idol or Dancing with the stars - British accent guy declares you unfit to even sing a bedtime song to your child, or dance at your wedding. It must be true, he’s a smart British guy. Then there’s the Dyson vacuum that must be better than anything else because that British guy says so. So when our rigger came down and said in a Brit accent, “This is the part of my job I don’t like”, I knew we were fucked. It was like the British guy on that talent show on TV telling me my singing sounds like pulling a cat through a chain link fence.  “I condemn your rigging. My report will be emailed. Don’t sail in any wind stronger then a gentle breeze. Pleasant day. Carry on then.” The Jolly Good Rigger then charged me $250 and said he didn’t have time to do the actual rigging. Off he went down the dock. Cheerio old salt!

Well now what? After I stopped imagining myself beating people with a British accent we looked around the web for reliable riggers and settled on Mack Sails. They came highly recommended by several people and despite what happened these people are still our friends. I googled Mack Sails and received mostly positive feedback. After contacting them and getting a price quote over the phone that very minute I got a small but noticeable twitch in my brain that as I look back on now was probably my intuition saying “Run away!!” I mean, you have not even seen my boat or its rigging and you just casually lay a price on me that's not only reasonable but then you schedule a date for removal and tell me it will be done in two weeks! The only way I would have accepted that deal any faster would be someone giving me that price with a British accent. In hindsight the conversation just seemed too fast and casual without very many questions or details. It also seemed like nothing was being written down. It's like I called when everyone was out to a lunch party and I got the janitor who was pretending to take an order.

With Mack doing the rigging in Fort Pierce at Cracker Boy Boat Works we decided to let Cracker Boy do the bottom paint as well. We even got a better price than the others. So here’s how the procedure was going to go.

  1. Leave Vero for haul out at Cracker Boy
  2. Haul, drop mast, paint bottom
  3. Launch and go back to Vero
  4. Two weeks later go back to Cracker Boy and get the mast installed and celebrate. Cheers!

What actually happened.

  1. Leave Vero for Haul out at Cracker Boy
  2. Hauled. Dropped Mast.
  3. “Hey Cap! Look at your rudder!” WTF.
  4. Get quotes on rudder repair.
  5. Order new rudder
  6. Remove old rudder
  7. Deliver old rudder to Foss Foam
  8. Sit in yard
  9. Sit in yard
  10. Curse everyone in the yard
  11. Get new rudder. Drink Beer. Cheers!
  12. Mast arrives and placed next to the boat. Incomplete. WTF.
  13. Curse Mack Sails!
  14. Install new rudder. Drink beer. Cheers!
  15. Sit in yard
  16. Curse Mack Sails.
  17. Bottom Painted. Drink Beer. Cheers!
  18. Launch boat without mast. WTF
  19. Curse Mack Sails.
  20. Sit in Vero without mast. “We’re not a derelict boat!”
  21. Curse Mack Sails.
  22. Mack Sails finishes the mast. Drink Beer. Cheers!
  23. Leave Vero for Cracker Boy
  24. Install Mast. Radar not centered. Pin holes on chainplates too small. Hole for wires too small and the best for last…. NO BACKSTAY! They forgot.
  25. Shoot Mack no better not, Curse Mack Sails!
  26. Leave Cracker Boy for Vero with halyards for backstays.
  27. Curse Mack Sails!
  28. Mack sails installs backstay and two of the spreader boots. All they had.
  29. Drink beer. Curse Mack sails!
  30. Waiting on spreader boots.
  31. Drinking beer. Cursing Mack Sails.

The mast was quoted as taking about two weeks. It's been five. Four of those weeks were spent in a dusty noisy boat yard where we had to climb a ladder to get home. They charged us an additional $10 as a liveaboard fee for use of the amenities. The amenities consisted of a one hole bathroom and shower. The shower had no curtain but if you opened the stall door all the way it would block anyone from seeing your bright white ass.

Sitting and cursing with our incomplete mast

We are not vagabonds! We  have sails!
Our finished rudder at Foss Foam

Barrier coat on the rudder

We thoroughly enjoyed this posh resort we were dropped into. The best moment was having the shower nozzle pop off and shoot out into the room sending a stream of water all over the chair holding my once dry clothes. Imagine walking in on a soapy naked fifty something gray hair bent over in the middle of the bathroom. “Oh holy Geezus! Man I’m sorry! I'll come back later.”  No worries. Just grabbing my nozzle!

Dog in the stall comes in second best. I was doing some waste management when a guy walks in with his dog on a leash. He’s at the urinal and the dog decided I was pretty interesting so he crawls under the stall and wants me to pet him. Talk about ruining the moment. “Nice dog pal, but could you reel him in please!” No apologies either. Asshole. I should have strung some toilet paper under the dog’s collar.
So there you have it for amenities. We did use the water and some of the power so I guess the ten dollars is warranted. No, it’s not. We hardly used any of it. Bastards.

Four weeks in a busy boatyard is not fun but we endured. The crew at Cracker Boy was good. They knew what they were doing but they are not cheap. Neither was the rudder but it could have been worse. Al at Foss Foam really came through for us. Good people there.

I look like I'm leaning with the mast

Hands on hips does not mean I'm
about to do the river dance. It means...
 somethings fucked up

Yep. Somethings definitely fucked up.
There was a moment in the yard when they were pulling the old rudder. I mentioned that a sling might be a good idea when dropping the rudder into the hole you just dug. "Nah, we’ll just hold it. This isn't our first day on the job you know." As they finally got the gudgeon plate removed the rudder slipped through their hands and fell into the hole. All three just looked over at me and I just shook my head. Good thing that's the old rudder boys.

Some of the new chainplates
The mast sat beside our boat for a week with nobody doing anything to it. I had to call Mack about every other day to get things moving. A crew finally showed up to re-wire the mast. They mentioned us getting a new tri color masthead light. No. I didn't ask for that. I asked for a deck light, a new sheave, radar mounted and all wiring replaced. I checked on them later and they said they didn't have a deck light and the sheave was OK. No its not! "Yes it is. We put some oil on it and it is fine." Um, no. Come with me junior. We looked at it and I asked them to remove it. I showed them how to remove the pin and then showed them the bushing pushed out of the sheave. "Oh! That's not good." No shit. You really have to watch the people working on your boat. If we weren't there I would have a non functioning oily sheave.

So here we sit in Vero waiting on Spreader booties. You believe this shit? I’m not going to lie and say this was all just a bit of fun and adventure. The truly positive people out there would turn this post into a delightful romp through the trials and tribulations of the cruising life. No, it sucked. It truly did. We were pissed off and angry and depressed at times but I have to say we mostly handled it well and with some laughter. A tear or two has been shed over our accounts but what can you do? It’s all part of this life we are chasing in a twenty five year old boat. Shits just gonna happen. 

We have had some fun moments while sitting on the dirt.
  • Walking to the bar too far. It was just across the creek!
  • Having the train blow the whistle for us as we walked the 10 miles to the pub.
  • Getting to the bar only to find zero craft brews and only grilled cheese for veg heads.
  • Visiting with Deb's Mom and Chuck. Miss you Mom!
  • Seeing old friends from Western NY. You guys have not changed! Good times.
  • Laughing as the train rocked the boat on the jack stands.
  • Playing tunes and enjoying some brews in the boatyard.

While we were sulking in Vero some friends showed up on SV Odin. Bonnie and not Clyde (Craig) pulled in for some laughs. Thanks guys! You really eased the pain. I should probably stop saying “not Clyde” but it amuses me.

If I could describe Mack Sails I would say they are skilled at what they do, they just do it slow and disorganized. It really only takes a bit of communication with the customer and your personnel. You assign a customer a job number and a worksheet is entered into your database. The worksheet has the tasks and the materials required. Your people sign off when completed. Each job has a due date. This date may change due to material availability, staffing, etc. But you have the info for your customer and you can track your work. Its not that freaking hard these days. C'Mon Mack get with it!

So we were thinking this little string of bad luck was finally getting behind us and then don’t I lose my wallet overboard on the dinghy ride back to the boat one night! Son of a bitch.
What the hell will I do without my AARP card!


So I got this new keyboard for my 7 inch tablet. I squint to see the screen and my hands are close together while I'm hunched over the whole thing. I pretty much look like vermin.  But hey, blog posts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Coming home?

Way back in May we were sitting at anchor in Green Turtle Cay and reading Chris Parker's emails. We were wondering when we could cross to the States. We had a wedding to attend and we needed to get the boat settled in Brunswick GA. We were looking to make it all the way to Fernandina Beach if the conditions were right. They were, sort of. Our window popped open and we took off. At some point in the night we reflected on a little note Mister Parker had in his email that said, "Even a light north wind will add several feet to the waves". You were very correct sir.

We enjoyed a nice sail over the banks in amazingly blue water. The wind would pick up a bit, then die off a bit, but we were moving along. Ahead of us, before Great Sale Cay there appeared what looked like a bright blue hole. A perfectly circular hole of bright light blue water in the middle of a darker blue. "Is that a shoal?" I asked. Our charts indicated there was nothing but relatively deep water all around us. We  pressed on. As we sailed into the blue hole we did not see the depth change. It was just a color change and it was most awesome. We still can't figure out why the round pool of bright blue water existed. My first thought was an alien ship was surfacing from under the sand. Maybe it was a wormhole into a parallel universe that we would pop into, where we were cool and popular people, sailing a new Hinckley in our tanned Hollywood bodies and spending gobs of cash from our bloated Swiss bank accounts. Nope. Still here. Still flabby. Still poor. It was just a blue circle of water.

We left the bank as night fell. I turned on the radar and got a look around. There were a few big boys out there. I counted at least four freighters. Deb looks behind us and said, "Can you see that guy?". I turn to barely make out a sailboat with no lights except some cheap ass garden solar lights hanging on his lifelines. If it weren't for the moonlight we would never have seen the jerk offs. What the hell! No radar signature either, but then most sailboats can't be seen. They were not very far behind us and were heading north along the bank. I wanted to call them on the radio and ask them if they were running drugs, because that would be the ONLY reason to be running dark! I refrained and let them go along their merrily moronic adventure in peace. I guess you would never ask a possible drug runner if they were running drugs. Might be unhealthy.

We encountered large ships throughout the night. Some cargo. Some cruise. Nothing too close. I was having fun with the radar, playing with settings and alarms when I noticed a large blob behind us. Whoa! What is that? Rain is what it was. A big old rain cloud that just squeaked by and we only got a few drops. Unfortunately there was no wind associated with it and we plodded along. This was very cool seeing rain on the radar while we were out there. That little white dome is becoming quite handy.

As the evening continued and we got further from the banks, the wind shifted to the north slightly and the waves picked up. Eventually the waves were hissing at us and we were surfing. I knew they were good sized and for now we were taking them in the butt, but I prayed that they didn't shift. My prayers never get answered. We started getting hit abeam a bit as the waves continued to grow. Ugh. Hate that rolling motion. We continued like this for the rest of the night. The rolling motion made it slightly uncomfortable and we made a bee line towards Ft Pierce instead of Fernandina. Life is too short to be pukey all night in big waves.

When daylight broke we were shocked at the size of the waves. Big ones! We sailed in this all night? Damn. You do not get a feel for the size of the waves at night. Had we known it was going to be like this we would have waited for better conditions. But hey, we were only about fifty miles out now and everything was cool.

Then the wind died.

C'mon man! Can't we catch a little break here? We fired up the motor and cut a groove through the surf. This seemed to take forever. Something about motoring at sea that just gets to your brain. The constant drone of the engine and the worry that tank sludge is going to choke your engine any minute might be part of my problem. I should think more positive thoughts.

When we got to the Fort pierce inlet we had to drop the sails but shit was it rough. I didn't feel like getting on the rolling and pitching deck and getting tossed into the sea so we kept the main up and entered the channel. We had the wind against the current and the channel was raging. Deb loves the rage. We motor sailed up the channel at about 1.5 knots. Eventually we gained enough ground to get out of the raging portion and were doing at least 3 knots. There were people having lunch on the shore watching us. At this speed they got bored with us and turned to watch birds eat french fries.

We dropped the sail in the turning basin and went for our anchorage behind a condo complex. Unfortunately we were at about low tide and it took two attempts to find deep enough water to get to the anchorage. Deb gets a tad frustrated when the water gets thin. It's amazing how relaxed you are when not at the wheel in these moments. I was like a cowboy out on the range, "Well, maybe we ought a mosey on over that way a bit and try her again." We backed out of the trouble spot and tried another approach. It worked and we were in deep water and the hook was down. Couple quick beers, some tidying up and boom, down we go. Sleepville.

We hung out for a bit and relaxed. We had a week of motoring up the ICW that we were not looking forward to but hey, it's Florida. The ICW is pretty much a non issue in this state. We took off for Georgia and a fantastic wedding with friends and family. More on that later.

Approaching the US coast should have brought on feelings of coming home to the land of plenty. The home of the brave. The land of the free. When we got to Fort Pierce I didn't get that feeling of coming home. When we got to Fernandina, a very familiar place, I did not get it either. Brunswick was totally new so no feeling of a homecoming there as well. Strange. We were sitting in the cockpit at Brunswick landing Marina waiting for our daughter Nicole and family to arrive. We heard the car door and ran up the ramp to greet them. When we saw Nicole, Jon and Aiden all standing there with smiles and waiting for hugs, the feeling of coming home washed over us. Now we were home. When we got to the wedding and saw Kelly, Eric and Mason we got that feeling again. Home. All of our friends being greeted in front of the hotel in Providence - home.

It's true. Home is where your heart is.


I'm playing catch up with this blog. I'm never really in sync with our travels and every post is kind of independent I guess. Debra is the time and logbook keeper. She has a blog at Boathippies.tumblr.com. It is a fairly detailed account with dates and mileage and stupid things I did. All that stuff I really don't care about. I pretty much just drift through life with occasional bouts of high anxiety that I write about. 

Microsoft can suck it!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Morning Tea, on the hard. Fort Pierce FL

Morning Tea, on the hard.

The morning tea posts are just my ramblings about what's on my mind at the time. When I do not have a blog post of any interest to myself I just dump my brain all over this page and see what happens. 

We're a long way from the islands.

We are cars, trucks. buses, trains and assholes away from the islands.

Enjoy your stay. Here's a ladder.

Grandma and Grandpa have to pass basic training to get home. This limits the amount of alcohol you would want in your system.

No one ever said, "this is the life" in regards to cruising. Wait. Yes they did.

When you are approaching a bridge did you ever think this is a bad time to run out of fuel? We did.

Having an engine die before a bridge will either make you panic, or freeze. We did neither. How did that happen?

Cool as a cucumber is a good way to be. Actually I'm more like a pickle. Short, seasoned, and briny.

This is "the life", at times. This is not the time.

On the hard is my least favorite position. Bet inmates feel the same way.

"Sure. Yep. OK. We can do that. Won't take long at all. We'll get right on it. You'll be in and out in no time at all." These are sweet nothings whispered in your ear while you are on the hard.

A boat yard is similar to an elderly care facility. They keep you here with just enough attention to think you are being cared for and then when the money's gone they kick you out.

"I'm Elmer J Fudd. I own a mansion and a yacht."
Something about sailboats that make people think whoever owns one is filthy rich. Except Florida, where they think you are just filthy.

Walking along the railroad tracks and taking a shortcut through a construction site to get to a bar probably enhanced our dirty boat hippie image.

When did walking get associated with being poor and destitute?

You don't have a car? OMG!!

Where are all the people driving to?

Florida. The strip mall state.

We visited The Villages in Florida. Captive Consumers.

Beans Beans the magical fruit...
There is a lack of protein in our diet and we are not supplement people. Deb is not fond of pressure cookers so I might get the dehydrated beans for our journey. No, we are not going to start eating cow parts.

Maybe I don't blog enough because I lack protein.

I'm terrible at meal planning.

Deb is an Irish girl who could eat potatoes for the rest of her life and not complain.

I think the chef can dictate what the galley provides. I could always cook a potato as a side.

Microsoft can suck it. This will be repeated every time I have to use this laptop.

No one told me there would be trains following us all along the ICW.

No one told me that most ICW marinas are near bridges. Noisy, heavily traveled bridges.

No one told me about a lot of things.

Dogs in bathrooms. No! Stop with that! I love dogs but I do not want to be petting one while on the throne.

Annual physicals. Mine was completed in 15 minutes. Nothing like a quickie.

ACA. Without it we'd be screwed.

I realize I'm not a marine mechanic, but then I see what they do all week and I start thinking, hell I can do that!

Cold at 70. I used to wear shorts when it reached sixty degrees in the spring. Now I put long pants on when it drops to seventy.

Debra can sew! Our dinghy chaps look excellent.

We have a leak in the dinghy.

I would not have high blood pressure if i worked in a boat yard.

Why do they take a break from work under our boat.

Sitting and watching money bleed form your accounts is not healthy.

In this age of climate change do insurance boundaries really matter anymore?

Liveaboard fees. Really? I'm solar powered and the only thing I take from you is your water. But now that you are charging me ten dollars a day I'm using the power as well.

When provided electricity at a dock you would think we would go crazy and play tunes, watch TV, make smoothies in our blender and run the vacuum cleaner. We actually forget to turn the power on.

In this whole yard there is only one bathroom with one toilet for each gender. Enough said.

When dropping the rudder I suggested a sling to lower it. "Nah, We dig a hole and lower it by hand."

It's amazing how fast 130 pounds can fall in such little space.

It's amazing how big eyeballs can get when surprised.

Its amazing how red your face gets when the boat owner is glaring at your empty hands above a hole with his rudder sticking out of it.

Our new rigging is so shiny and smooth.

Our new rigging will look even better when it's on the boat.

Two weeks ago: Here's a list of things I want done to the mast besides the rigging. Yesterday: "Mr Bryan did you want anything else done to the mast?"

For some reason I never get tired of talking to myself.

Boatyards are dusty.

"Did you put protein powder in this sauce? It's kind of gritty."

We made some new and fun friends in GA.

Some marinas are nicer than others.

I think a marina has an impact on the attitude and friendliness of it's occupants.

Sometimes nothing can help a miserable person. They just enjoy being miserable.

By far, the best marina we have stayed at is Brunswick Landing.

No see um's. Hate those biting little aliens from hell.

Not a fan of eight foot tides.



Our new toilet system works well. Knock knock on wood.

We also have a fully manual head.

New rudder. New rigging. Anxiety relief.

The engine still gives me bad vibes.

Our prop was incredibly coated with biology. Still is.

I paid extra for the diver to clean our hull.

Unless you are a diver yourself, how do you know what they are doing under there?

Spending so much time in a marina really dulled our seamanship. Now we're in the yard.

It's like riding a bike. Right. You heard how good I have become at that.

Bikes and alcohol. No. Don't do it.

Wish we had bikes right now.

There's a really nice bar across the creek.

Across the creek is a long way to walk.

A train that raced by honked the horn for us. It's still fun no matter what your age.

When transiting a cut in the Bahamas, Deb liked nothing better than a good rage as we entered. Kind of a yahoo moment for her.

When transiting the nations highways Deb is not a fan of the rage.

A middle finger can get you killed in the good ole US of A.

I have such a varied taste in music that I keep it to myself. Lets just say I'm not a top forty hits kind of guy.

Some people like to share their taste in music with everyone in earshot of their thumping speakers.
I like it, so you must to. Kind of like some people with religion.

Religion and politics never get discussed much with cruisers. This is good.

We DO NOT miss TV. At all.

While seated in the doc's waiting room I caught an hour of CNN. See previous line.

We will miss most of the election. Happy dance.

Tablets are way better than laptops unless you lose a file. Where did it go? Where was it saved? I had no wifi connection so it vaporized.

From now on I write out all my blog posts on actual paper.

I always wondered why logbooks and such were written out in pencil and not pen. Ballpoint pens apparently get rusty balls.

I had an awesome post on the Bahamas. It was vaporized. This put me in a severe slump when it came to writing. Hopefully I'm over it now. My seven followers will now have something to do at work.

That's all folks. I promise I will write some more. I had to drag out the old laptop to do this (Microsoft can suck it!) as my bluetooth keyboards keep failing. (ZAGG can suck it!) This also puts a damper on my blog posts. I'm ordering three bluetooth keyboards from amazon. This should get me through to the islands.


Please do not get the impression that this life is not what we imagined. It is. Not all the time, but it is. Going back to land life would be really depressing at this point so let us count our lucky stars.
I tend to write how I feel and right now we are feeling a wee bit depressed because of the money bleed and the delays in getting things done. This does not mean we are not smiling! We know better than to think the alternative to this life would be much better. We are very happy to be out of the rat race and we find humor in most of our daily lives, even if we're sitting in a dusty boat yard.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Avoiding the Blob

Avoiding the blob
Daytona Beach Floriduh

One of the worst things to have while cruising are appointments A date you have to meet while travelling by boat can bring trouble. Instead of casually saling along you tend to push it a bit. Say the weather is looking a tad horrible where you are going and your first thought is to sit tight and wait it out a day. Well, you have an appointment! Press on or you'll miss your date! Suppose you wait a day and the weather gets worse? It's just rain! You are on a boat for Gods sake. Get moving!

Deb is a really good planner. I am a really poor planner. Deb decides when we will leave to make an appointment because I am habitually late for everything. Deb is also very conservative with her schedules. This gives us a buffer of time to sit and wait out any bad weather that may occur. Today we are using one of those days. There is a blob of rain and lightning south of us and moving up the coast. After a poor nights sleep, which we can't figure out why as it was totally peaceful, we both felt a day of rest was in order. No one really felt like driving through the blob. I can see Deb looking at the radar now and thinking we could have made it. She hates to modify a schedule.

The problem I see now is that Deb has used one of her "free day" cards and tomorrow will be a travelling come hell or high water type of day. This is when bad shit happens. This is where you are going through the mosquito lagoon in driving rain and thirty knot gusts and your glasses are too wet to notice the green mark they recently moved beacuse of shoaling.

This is where the powerboat coming up behind you doesn't see you because of the rain on his windshield and the fact that his wipers do not work. He's on autopilot, following the magenta line while playing solitare on his iPad and driving way too fast for the conditions. He has an appointment to get his wipers fixed. He sees you at the last second and stops just in time but not enough to keep his undersized and very shiny fortress anchor from snagging the tube of your dinghy hanging from the davits. Like walrus tusks the anchor punctures the tube and shreds your new chaps as he slams it into reverse. He then gestures an apology while yelling in a eastern European language and drives off. You miss the boat name because your glasses are wet and your binoculars are fogged.

This is where you are about to pick up that mooring in the driving thunderstorm. On the third try you snag the pendant and as you smile about your success, lightning strikes the fully extended and jammed boat hook you are struggling with on deck. You are a vegetarian remembered as fried bacon.
What is it with these friggin boat hook poles? Twist lock. My ass. It always fully extends and then jams when I pick up a mooring. Then I have this 20ft pole I have to do something with while cleating a line. A royal pain.
Sometimes you even venture out when there are storms brewing with the potential to become tropical storms or even hurricanes. Let's hope Joaquin goes out to sea. Sorry Bermuda.

This is why we sit today and let the blob on the radar bother someone else. We keep our fingers crossed that another blob doesn't come our way anytime soon.

Avoid appointments.

"Please. I haz appologize your dingy. Fix, yes? Do svidaniya. Go Yankees!"
(This was posted via email as a test. It usually  screws up the formatting so don't think I'm a boob who can't edit)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Potty Training

Probably one of the most disappointing systems we have on the boat are the heads. The toilets and everything connected to them just aren't the way we would like them. We would like them to not stink. We would also like them to function as designed. I am going to attempt to upgrade the aft head so that we can sleep in a relatively stink free atmosphere. Is it possible or am I just kidding myself into spending more money? 

I'm sure I will get a few comments from folks that have perfectly functioning and sweet smelling heads. You have somehow engineered the world's first zero smelling waste handling system. I am so happy for you. You will undoubtedly expound on your engineering genius, or just recommend a book by the Head Mistress to handle my olfactory problems. I appreciate the info, but boats come in different sizes and shapes making it difficult to implement these ideas and copy the perfectly functioning and sweet smelling systems of the intellectuals. 

"You need cross ventilation for your holding tank. Drill 3/4 inch holes on either side of your hull and plumb your vent lines there." I suppose this will help, but it will never happen. I can't run a vent line from starboard to port without snaking it 35 feet all over the place. 

"The best method is to have your holding tank directly under the toilet". 
If I did that our shoulders would be against the headliner and I would need a step stool to climb on. That's just an embarrassing moment waiting to happen. We have little free board. We're a lean, close to the water sailing machine. There is not much headroom, or head room. 

"Keep your holding tank small." Uh, you ever been cruising in waters where it's illegal to discharge and the closest pump out is 20 miles away and broken? We like the environment we sail in and we have been so lucky to have a 30 gal holding tank at times. Some folks just dump it despite the laws. This probably adds fuel to the anchoring restriction fires. If I'm Richie Rich enjoying a martini on my waterfront veranda overlooking several boats anchored for over a month, I might start wondering where the hell their poop is going. I might eventually find this out when bits of toilet paper are stuck to my Hinckley runabout.

"Vacuum systems are the best." They probably are, but we have no room for the expensive vacuum generator. Seriously there is little space left in this boat. I could probably squeeze it in somewhere but then how the hell would I work on it when it eventually fails? If we ever fall into a pile of cash and buy a new boat it will have a vacuum flush system on it. Perhaps the French have the answer with their vacuum system, the Lavac. Hard to find in the US so I'm thinking the spare parts will be too.

"Use only the best and most expensive hose known to man. Call NASA if you have to."
We bought what was considered top of the line. It might be. I really don't know yet. What I do know is it's not made for small spaces. This would be good hose to run on a naval vessel. Plenty of room. The cost? Insane. Somewhere there's a rubber hose executive boarding a Gulfstream G6 for dinner in Paris and I picked up the tab.

"You need to install a composting toilet." I like the idea, but then I don't. Composting my banana peels and other veggies is one thing, my Lincoln logs are another. I really do not know anyone that has one but I have seen a few installations on blogs. I'd really like to hear the straight poop on these units as I am turned off by the installation of a chimney or vent, but also of removing a drawer of "soil" to dump overboard or put into your tomato garden. I could see myself carrying that soil through the boat and then tripping, spilling it all over. Imagine that horror happening. I'd have to sell the boat.

I'm thinking this is the best design out there.
We have been on boats at the boat show that stink! Now I realize I made a few boo boo's in plumbing up my head (read below) which probably lead to the stink-a-thon at times but on a new boat? Apparently the boat had to be delivered a good distance and the crew used the head. Well OK but what's it going to smell like after a crew uses it for like, a year?

Before we left we bought the best thick wall holding tank and plumbed it with the most expensive and inflexible hose known to man. This was the black hose that was considered the best by Practical Sailor and was produced in Italy hell. Not only did it mark up and scuff everything it came in contact with but just when you thought you could bend Satan's hose into that cutout, the wire would pop out of the end and cut your wrist. There were moments I thought of just putting the whole damn thing up for sale while I put pressure on my wound. Yes it was that bad a project. I had to put a slight bend in this hose to reach the Y-valve and it took so much pressure that I worried it would rip the Y-valve off it's mounts.

Now the toilet. I wanted simple. Manual pump. Parts available everywhere. Jabsco. I know - poorly rated. Say what you want it has not failed us yet.

I thought maybe we could just convert the old toilet to electric. They sell a kit. Piece of cake. Then I saw the price!
They want almost $500 for a conversion kit. Forget it.

The macerator. The first time we used it I was laughing at it's power. It sucked about thirty gallons of our exports (it's not that gross we're vegetarians) out of that holding tank in a manner of minutes and sent it to the sea floor about five thousand feet down. "Delivery for Davy Jones!" (Not the Monkee). That was fun, but after that one time it would only squeal and trip the breaker for about twenty freeking times before it would do it's job. We were sweating one time wondering how we could unload the holding tank because the macerator just squealed to a stop. I had a work around but it would not be pretty. This was just before Georgetown and then we hear the pump out boat was broken. Luckily they got it fixed before we took desperate measures. The pump out guy Rodney told me his boat filled with shit when the pump seal let go. See, there are worse things. His boat still looked like it could use a power wash when he finally showed up. He offered me some of his popcorn but I told him I was allergic to pathogens corn. 

There's this magic toilet. Electra Magic.
It's a recirculating toilet. Has a cone filter.
Not sure what that means but the fuzzy slippers
and flowers tell me it's just awesome.

By the way our Macerator is made by West Marine, or in this case Waste Marine. It looks just like a Johnson, so I assumed it was and also assumed that Johnson was a good pump. Now I feel like a Johnson for buying it.

There is something you have to do with macerators and that is to flush them out with freshwater else they seize up. No really. Leave that grinder all fudged up for a week and see if it runs. Our toilet pumps the vegetable and tofu waste into the tank and the macerator pulls that stuff out of the tank, purees it into a pesto and sends it out the bottom of the boat. That means I have to pump at least five gallons of fresh water into the holding tank and then pull it through the macerator to keep it functional. If I pumped seawater into the holding tank I would have unlimited flushing potential but then I would be sending salty rust promoting water into the damn thing and the seawater would then stink like dead ocean creatures. We have a watermaker and all, but five gallons seems like a lot to waste on waste.

Here you go. It's a toilet and holding tank in one. Put wheels on it!
I think I'll poop in the salon today!

The other issue I have is that the discharge from the toilet has to go uphill. Straight uphill for about two and a half feet until it takes a left and slopes down to the holding tank. I know, who's the moron that plumbed that up? It was either live with a fifteen gallon bladder tank under the aft bunk and have waste slosh around beneath my head while at anchor or send it the other way. I had a hard time dealing with turds bouncing around in a bladder underneath my head. Imagine my dreams?! 

So I did a few things wrong in this system. Number one was I didn't contract it out to someone who knew what they were doing. 

"Shit doesn't flow uphill buddy. You should definitely know this. I can fix this for you for about two grand. I know it's pricey but it's a shitty job if you know what I mean." 
 Would it help if I told you we're vegetarians and that it's all organic in those hoses? 
"Twenty five hundred. I don't like vegetarians. They're kinda preachy"

Number two was not getting a toilet that could pump that height and distance. The manual head can do it if you pump at least thirty times. We do this many times a day. Deb and I both have a very strong right arm and we're thinking of arm wrestling for beers this season.

If you are going to macerate, you do it at the toilet and not the exit.This was my third mistake. It's easier to rinse the macerator at the toilet bowl, not ten feet downstream from the tank. Do you have to macerate? Depends on your fiber intake. You're not reading this before a meal are you? Brownies for dessert? Sorry. I always thought it would be better to chop up all that stuff, including toilet paper, rather than sending it out as little Clark Bars floating around for turtles to eat. What's the worst thing you could see while snorkeling, besides a shark? There you go. No one wants to swim with your turds. That's why we macerate. We were told it sinks faster. Maybe that was a lie to sell macerators. Maybe you are snorkeling with tiny micro turds! Turtles eat jellyfish and shopping bags right? They wouldn't eat, I mean, I never heard of a turtle eating uh...OK maybe the worst thing you could see while snorkeling is not a shark.

So what am I going to do about this stinky mess I've gotten myself into? Let's start with the source. I plan on eating cheese and bread forever, thereby creating bricks we can use as fuel after they dry on deck. I kid you. But thinking about it, I would probably have to eat straw as well or it wouldn't light. I actually plan on buying a new (nobody buys used) macerating toilet with a freshwater rinse that can actually propel our waste to a height of ten feet and a length of one hundred feet. That should get everything where it belongs, plus if I add a Y-valve and a thru hull above the waterline we can also use it as a waste cannon.

"Sir, Kelly Nicole has changed course and is coming amidships. He says you stuck him with the bar tab last night." Tell him he's full of shit! "Sir, he says he's about to remedy that problem."

Daydreams are the best. OK, so after I swap out the toilet I have to figure out a way to send the waste out the bottom of the boat. A manual pump is the simplest and least likely to fail. It will also keep that right arm pumped up for wrestling. Problem is the room. I have none. I think I may go with an electric pump by Whale. No macerating, just a plain old diaphragm and it's rated super duper. We have one for the shower. 

Now what about the hoses? I'm going to leave them as I think they aren't permeated yet. I do know that we have to flush them out else they will start to stink. The hoses need to be re-routed a bit, but I have not figured out an easy way to do this yet without ripping it all out and starting from scratch. I do not want to mess with the hose from hell.

Made in hell. You'll have a heart attack
trying to pull this through a tight space.
One thing that happened that was funny and gross was the vented loop started whistling or farting when I ran the macerator. I assumed that nothing got by the duck valve on the vent but I was wrong. My nose told me I was wrong. I added a vent line to the back of the boat from this vented loop so even though the duck valve still quacks, I can't smell it. Does any of this shit work like it says it does? It's not cheap, in fact it's way over priced. Pisses me off.

All future boat designs should start with the toilet. All shit should flow downhill to a tank and then out the boat. If I was buying a new boat it would be the first thing I look at. Where does all the shit go? Naval architects need to start their boat design with a basic and standard head system layout. Draw your hull around that Head. Don't go designing a beautiful sleek hull and then at the last minute go, "Oh yea, people poop." and find a spot to wedge in a toilet and holding tank. 

The average height of an American is five foot nine. This would require a toilet seat height of about twenty inches. Add approximately another twenty inches for hose connections to a holding tank of at least fifteen gallons directly below the toilet. Add another foot for the tank and we are about fifty two inches in height for the whole system. So at the minimum a three foot square room at a height of at least 52 inches. Design your boat around that! (I was drinking beers and totally made up those numbers)

Oh, and plumb everything with solid PVC pipe. No more of this "flexible yet non permeating" bullshit super duper insanely priced hose made for gullible sailing rubes. 

This problem has been very frustrating to deal with. Debra is getting annoyed and I have a nose for anything that smells bad, except myself apparently, so I am not happy with it either. Does your sense of smell increase with the size of your nose? I wonder.

I hate plumbing as most of you know, but something has to be done about this. I don't want you to think we are living in stink. It's not noticeable most of the time while we are out cruising and using the system with everything working. It's just not working well enough for us. 

I suppose I'll just add a little Vicks VapoRub on my stache, put on some rubber gloves, face shield, surgical mask, wetsuit and get to it. I'll let you know how it all works out.


The toilet and pump arrived today. Let the fun begin!