Category Archives: Boat Repair

More of the Cruising Life

One nice thing about being retired is that there’s no big rush to get things accomplished ASAP. I’m under no deadlines as far as working on my boat, especially since no one’s paying me to do it.

I’ve needed to scrape the bottom of my dinghy for a while. When was the last time you went out and scraped junk off of the bottom of your car or pickup truck? All last week I watched a piece of seaweed that can best be described as looking like a leaf of very ripe lettuce grow larger and larger. Really nothing I could do about it then. There’s a tiny, postage-stamp bit of beach on the south side of the boat launch ramp, but it’s only usable at low tide, and the tides weren’t synced right last week. But today it was dead low at 0830 so I went in around 10 on a rising tide. There was enough of the “beach” left to put the things I keep in the dinghy, shopping cart, life jacket and throwable flotation required by the USCG, spare paddle, etc. on shore.Flipped it upside down and went to work with the scraper. For most people reading this it wouldn’t have taken you more than about 15 or 20 minutes to get the wildlife (barnacles) and vegetables off the bottom, but I’m working with about 40% lung capacity so several breaks to catch my breath extended the job to about an hour. It’s amazing how much easier it paddles with all that stuff gone.

As I wrote, recently, I need to replace the original outboard motor bracket that came with the boat. The last year with the old Honda 9.9 at more than 100 lbs rocking and rolling in the passing wakes bent the arms of the bracket so I couldn’t raise or lower it. I’d always had a problem with it and had resorted to a block and tackle arrangement to use it. Even then it was extremely difficult.

I described how I got the jackplate (as the brackets are sometimes called) off the transom, elsewhere. Of course the bolt holes of the new bracket aren’t the same as the old one. So last week I bought some epoxy stick. Break a bit off the stick and knead it until the color from the two parts blend into a solid color and then stuffed it into the old holes.

This afternoon I climbed into the dinghy with the bracket to which I’d attached some rope to tie to the stern railing to keep it from taking a swim.

The first hole was easy. I moved the bracket around until it looked good. . .i.e. there was enough room to operated the lift arm properly. . . and made sure it was about an inch away from one of the original holes and went at it with the 11/32 drill bitt. Of course it needs to be a bit bigger than the 5/16″ bolt so it can slide through the hole in the transom easily.

With that hole drilled I slipped one of the 5/16 bolts through to help hold the bracket in place so I could determine where the next three holes needed to be drilled. Using a smaller bitt I drilled into the center of the holes and then removed the bracket completely off the transom. Back to the 11/32 bitt I used the smaller holes as guides and drilled completely through the transom.

t was the middle of the afternoon when I finished this up and I didn’t feel like moving all the detritus necessary to climb into that 16-1/2″ entrance to where I’ll be accessing the bolts to tighten things up. I’ll get that done sometime in the next few days. No hurry.

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Filed under adventure, Boat Repair, boats, Bradenton Beach, FL, cruising, Living off the grid, Living on the hook, Minimalist Cruising, Outboard Motors, Uncategorized

The Cruising Life

Some wag once said, “The cruising life is repairing your boat with inadequate tools in exotic locations.” The fact that I have only “cruised” about a third of a mile in the last six months does NOT negate that statement.

I’ve been struggling to remove the original outboard motor bracket on the port side of the transom. The boat had a 25hp Yamaha when I bought it. Much too big and heavy for such a small, light boat as a Venture 22.  It as a lousy engine, too boot. Broke down THREE TIMES between Ft. Lauderdale and Stuart. First time was in Boca Raton, about 20 miles from the start of my venture. It broke down again another 20 miles or so up in West Palm and finally in Stuart. If you searched for the term “hunk of junk” in the dictionary there’d be a picture of that outboard.

I replaced it with an old model 9.9 Mercury outboard. It took me from Stuart, across the state via the Okeechobee Waterway up to Carabelle in the eastern panhandle, and back down to Bradenton Beach where I live at anchor. Last year it took me from here to Cayo Costa and back, a journey of nearly 200 miles. The engine has worked like a charm for close to 2,000 miles. Its single shortcoming is that it’s a “short shaft” outboard and the prop cavitates when I’m rocked with the wakes of other boats and I really can’t use it when the seas are over 2 feet.

To work properly as auxiliary power for these small sailboats the outboards really need to be “long shaft.” Twenty inches, minimum, from where the engine attaches to the motor bracket to the cavitation plate rather than the 15 inches on the “short shaft” outboards. Five inches doesn’t seem like a lot. In fact, most women would scoff at that, but it makes a huge difference with an outboard motor. 

A little over a year ago I bought a second-hand Honda 9.9 long shaft 4 stroke outboard. I had another bracket, sometimes called a “jack stand” that I attached to the starboard side of the transom, and moved the Mercury to it, and put the Honda on the original bracket. 

I just never got the Honda working right. Problem with the idle speed. Since the Merc worked fine I never did what needed to be done to get the Honda working properly. So it sat on the stand for over a year. The bracket was never very good, either. I had to rig it with a block and tackle so I could raise and lower it when the Merc was on it. Over the year as the sailboat rocked and rolled in the wakes of passing boats and waves from storms the engine swayed back and forth on the stand. Sometimes worryingly so. Nothing I did with ropes got it to stay stationary.

I’ve been thinking about getting a BRAND NEW four stroke, long shaft motor for a long time. Actually since from about the time I bought the boat in the first place. But I needed to get rid of the Honda so I’d have a place to put a new motor. I DON’T want a used one. I want something BRAND NEW! I want something that if it poops I can take it in, after using the Merc to get me to the repair shop, and say, “Fix it! It’s on warranty!!!” 

Well, I sold the Honda a couple of weeks ago for almost as much as I paid for it. Damned thing was HEAVY. When it came off the bracket the rear end of the boat rose  a bit over two inches! I know, because the barnacles grow just at the waterline and there were over two inches of the buggers above the waterline with the engine gone.

Then I found that the bracket was frozen. The arms are slightly bent from the side to side action of the motor riding the waves. It’s impossible to raise or lower it. I bought a big breaker bar to try and get the bolts loosened up but no go. So the thing to do was to remove the bracket from the boat and see if I can straighten it out on shore. Easier said than done…

Heaven only knows how old the bracket is. Could be as old as the boat which was built in 1980! It’s attached to the transom by four bolts. Now, since I’m doing this unassisted, I have to slither through a small opening into the space beneath the cockpit seat to get to where the nuts are.

Once through that the space opens up a bit, but not a whole lot. Not enough to be able to sit up, so everything is done lying on my stomach. Here you can see where three of the bolts have been removed.

I got plenty of practice doing this sort of thing working as a rigger at a boatyard in New Orleans. But I’m 36 years older now, have arthritic hands, and less than 40% of normal lung capacity.

If everything goes well, HA! You work your way aft with your wrenches and take the bolt off. Easy Peasy, no? NO! These are lock-tight nuts. They have a plastic insert in the hole so they can’t vibrate loose.

I get the two lower bolts off easy enough. The top, inside nut is on an extra long bolt and the ratchet socket won’t fit over it. Of course I’m not prepared for this. I don’t have a box wrench or pliers with me . The top outside nut turns the bolt so it’s not coming loose.

Here’s why this is happening. Take a look at this more modern bracket.

See how the holes are square? They take bolts like these…

The square shoulders fit down into the squares on the bracket holes. This makes it easy to then go on the nut side of the bolt and fasten the nut without having someone on the outside holding it with a wrench to keep it from turning like happens with THESE…

 

 

Now I have to slither BACKWARDS out into the cabin to work out my next plan of attack. And don’t forget, I have serious COPD problems. I’m operating on about 40% of normal lung capacity so after doing something like getting out of the hole I have to sit for five minutes until my breathing gets back to what passes for normal.

I delve into my tool locker and dig out a pair of Vice Grips and my channel lock pliers. I don’t have a box wrench the proper size.  Over the side, into the dinghy and around to the bracket. I need to attach the Vice Grips to the bolt head. As the bolt is going to turn when I work on the nut, inside, the plier’s handle will also rotate until it comes to rest against one of the arms  keeping the bolt from turning further. OOOOPS. I know from experience that there’s a good chance the pliers might come loose. If that happens they’d fall into the water and be lost. So it’s back around to the side of the boat, up into the cockpit. Rest and catch my breath. Now, where the hell is that ball of twine? I’m not a super organized guy so it takes a while to find it. Back over the side into the dinghy. Around to the bracket. Hold on for a few minutes till my breathing is relaxed again.

After tying the twine to the pliers and securing it to a cleat,  I tighten the pliers onto the bolt head using both hands to lock them on. Back around to the side and up into the cockpit. Sit to catch my breath. Slither into the 16 inch hole and up to the transom. Rest to catch my breath. Use the channel locks to unfasten the nut. When it’s off I take the small hammer and whack away until the bolt end is flush with the transom. That sucker’s really in there. Rest for a few minutes to catch my breath. Agonizingly back out of the pit. Rest. Over the side into the dinghy and back to the bracket. pull the bolt the rest of the way out of the hole and reattach it to the remaining bolt head. Around to the side of the boat. Climb into the cockpit. Rest to catch my breath. Into the hole and work my way to the transom in a motion resembling an inch worm. Rest to catch my breath. Using the channel locks the nut starts working itself off the bolt. CLUNK! The Vice Grips have fallen off the bolt head. SHIT! F WORD! F WORD! F WORD!!!

Out of the hole. Rest. Into the dinghy and back to the bracket. See, I needed that twine. An eighth of a turn on the knob at the base of the pliers and a mighty squeeze with both hands gets them back on the bolt head. Around to the side of the boat, back in the cockpit. Rest. Back into the hole and inch worm my way to the transom. Rest. This time all’s good and the nut’s off. Back out of the hole. Rest. Over the side. Into the dinghy. Back to the bracket. Pull the bolt from the hole. Back to the side of the boat and into the cockpit. Rest. That part of the job is done.

Now I have to pry the bracket off of the transom. It’s stuck on, now, with silicone. Thank heaven it’s not done with 5200 which is the most tenacious adhesive sealant ever created. Silicone has the least adhesive properties of all the sealants, but there’s no telling how much was used when the bracket was attached. In any case, it won’t be easy getting it off. Since the holes on the old bracket are simply round, and not square like the new ones I’m not going to reuse it. I’ll buy a new bracket.

I’ve found a nearby marina down in Longboat Key has four stroke, 6 hp long shafts for sale for $1,650. That’s $200 less than the equivalent Mercury or Suzuki which will cover the cost of a new bracket. And, they’ll bring it up to me. They have to order it first, so it will take a while. Meanwhile I’ll work on removing the old bracket, order and install a new one.

WHEW!

 

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Dinghy Repairs

When I bought my boat nearly two years ago and took off on my ill-fated journey that ended up at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital I had no dinghy.A dinghy didn’t become essential until I got to Bradenton Beach, FL, anchorage. Then I bought a cockleshell piece of junk for $150. It’s ugly as sin, needs to have gunwales installed and a bunch of other things, but all in all it has served me well.

One of the problems the dinghy had was what serves as a seat in the bow was separating from the hull on the port side. It has bugged me for ages but I just let it go. A month or so ago when I went out to buy some new shoes I found myself not too far from West Marine so I went there and bought some Six10 thickened epoxy adhesive.

I’m a big fan of thickened epoxy. When my friend Stephen and I had a marine repair business in Fort Lauderdale decades ago we used a LOT of the stuff in rebuilding things like sport fishing boat cockpit decks. Stef had the West System Epoxy pump system that automatically mixed the proper 5:1 blend with the push of a lever. Add colloidal silica or micro fibers and go to town with the stuff. But buying the individual chemicals and glop to do a small job was not worth spending the money…epoxy, hardener, thickener. I’d seen the Six10 in the West online catalog and it was an all-in-one tube you use with a caulking gun. I sprung for the $26 and bought some and an extra couple of nozzles because the job of repairing the dinghy wasn’t going to use all of it.

Those nozzles are pretty ingenious. As you look at one it has lots of little chambers along the way. The tube is divided into two parts: epoxy and hardener. They get mixed as the goo is squeezed out of the tube. The chambers (19 of them) shift the resin and the hardener from one side to the other to combine the two.

As you can see it’s a pretty big gap that needs to be filled. A quarter of an inch, at least. Because of the location how do I get the seat and the side of the boat to hold together close enough while the epoxy is hardening…Five hours according to the instructions on the tube? Obviously I don’t have clamps big enough to do the job.

The solution was pretty easy. I had a bunch of #8 machine screws, nuts, and flat washers. I drilled through the seat flange and the hull and then stuck the bolt through.Squirted the epoxy down into the gap and tightened the nut and bolt until the epoxy started to be squeezed out. Tightened JUST ENOUGH for the stuff to be compressed and stopped. There’s still a good-size gap, but the integrity of the hull will be strengthened when the epoxy “kicks off.”

One of the biggest errors amateurs make when using caulking or, in this case gap-filling, is that people put a nice, thick layer of caulking around something and then they tighten the screws, or bolts, down till they’re completely tightened thus squeezing 99.8% of the caulk out and leaving a paper thin layer of goop. Then they wonder why it still leaks. You need to put that caulk down and tighten it up JUST ENOUGH to have the caulking ooze out around the lip of whatever’s being bedded and then STOP!!! Let is sit for a couple or three days until it’s cured THEN go back and tighten the screws or bolts as tight as they’ll go. You’ve created a gasket now and it WON’T leak.

gap

bolts

epoxy

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