Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tucked in for the Winter

Me and Terri drove down to Muskegon to put on the cover on Sunday. Beautiful weather, and we thought we gave ourselves plenty of time to get the job done, but by the end we were racing the sunset. Finally after three seasons we've gotten smart and written on the cover which end is which so it will avoid us lots of messing around next year. See you in the spring Fanny. Hopefully you get more chances to play in waves next summer.

(photos) (top) tying up the cover on the bow of fandango (bottom) the view of the marina looking west towards muskegon as we were about to leave just before sundown

Monday, November 2, 2009

End of the Season

We came down on Sunday the 25th of October and took the sails down. Much quicker operation than in years past, although the headsail was a little stubborn at first. The boat got pulled out of the water on Friday the 30th. Need to get out before the snow flies to get the cover on her.

Not a great year for sailing overall. The weather wasn't always cooperating, and several extracurricular activities got in the way in the early summer. No overnights whatsoever this year, and we didn't sail more than a mile or two from Muskegon lighthouse at any point in the summer.

On the plus side, we did sail down the channel several times, and one time at record speeds. We got a little bit of work on the woodwork done. Thinking of letting it go to unvarnished teak just so we can keep up with it better. Got three of the four curtains hung. Got to mess around with the diesel engine and change the impeller (before breaking a bolt and having to call in the calvary). Got to call on the vhf and get rescued by a tow boat. Almost but not quite got up the nerve to sail into the slip a couple times. Hopefully next season will be more adventurous.

Would like to take an extended sail for a month or so sometime, and try and get as far north as the Manitou islands. Would still like to try anchoring a bit more (need to get a suitable dinghy). Terri is talking of maybe getting a mooring ball next year, or maybe checking out other marina's. Would still like to try sailing across Lake Michigan, either to Chicago or Wisconsin.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pushing the Envelope

Trying to squeeze a little more sailing out of a problematic season. Me and Terri went out today around 2 for a sail around Lake Muskegon. Trying to give Terri a bit more experience at sailing in and out of the slip, which is almost as much of a struggle for her, as it is for me to 'give up control'. Didn't do too bad at getting out, just a minor panic attack when the boat wouldn't turn (as it sometimes won't), and then a slight flub coming back in (at least I didn't have to take over at the last minute). The sailing, while a bit on the chilly side, despite the 50 degree temps on shore (which translates to probably 35 on the water), was remarkably fine, considering I didn't expect there to be enough wind to fill our sails. We did probably our most consistent high speeds on today's excursion, doing over 6 knots quite frequently, and managed to hit most of the points of sail at one time or another, and even did quite a bit of heeling (which Terri stoically put up with). I think our next time out, I'm going to put Terri in charge and let her tell me how to trim the sails, as I kind of hogged the tiller today. We sailed all around the perimeter of the west side of Lake Muskegon today, under sunny partly cloudy skies, before calling it a day around 3:30. (battery 2) (pictures to come, I told Terri she had to take some because I think it was the first time we had blue skies all year)

We may try to get out again this week, as the weatherman is promising a return to slightly warmer temps, and we will be getting hauled out of the water in about two weeks.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sunset (?) Cruise

Drove out to Muskegon on Sunday afternoon with the purpose of trying for a 'sunset cruise', but the beautiful blue skies and sunshine we'd been enjoying the past few weeks gave way to overcast grey skies by the time we got there. The wind was a steady 8 knots from the northeast, so we decided to go out anyways. Despite the overcast skies, the sailing was remarkably fine. The waves were a little choppy in Lake Muskegon, but once we got out on Lake Michigan, the waves had calmed to less than one feet, and we got some nice speed (hitting a top speed of around 6 knots), heading southwest, and made it as far as the 'mystery buoys' south of Muskegon light (a set of markers out away from shore, which we have seen before on our sails, which might be either fishing buoys, or maybe some sort of weather station, since one of them has some equipment attached to it -- one of these days we should get a picture of it). On our return trip, we had just passed a sailboat of comparable size to us, so we thought we try and 'race them back', but they did much better speed than we did, and besides, it ended up being not only a race with that one small sailboat, but also a race with a 1000 foot freighter to see who would reach the channel entrance first. The 'Indiana Harbor' and us reached the entrance at about the same time, so we dropped our headsail and patiently waited outside until they entered and then followed along behind them through the channel.

We had managed to sail the channel on the way out, on a run with the wind directly behind us, at about 3 knots, but sailing back in proved problematic, with the wind directly on our nose, so we flaked the main and motored the rest of the way in. Gave the engine a good long session on the way back to the marina, and it was nearing dusk when we pulled into the slip. Terri volunteered to pull us into the slip this time, since she rarely ever does it, but lack of practice proved her undoing and overshot the entrance, at which time she called me back to complete the maneuver. I think we are going to put her to work on driving in and out of the channel the next few times, just so she can get used to it.

We noticed there was another Chris Craft sailboat parked across the way from us, so we took a stroll afterwards to have a peek at it. It was a fellow Cherokee, and boy was it in nicer shape than ours. We were peeking at several boats' 'swim ladder' solutions on the way in tonight, concentrating on many that had a similar stern configuration as ours, and this Cherokee had a unique set-up, with the swim ladder attached to the fairlead track. Looks like an elegant solution, but I wonder if they have problems with the jib sheet getting fouled on the swim ladder?

Ever since we got the visit from the Vetters, Terri has been suddenly reading a lot of sailboat ads and blogs online, and talking more about reviving our original '5 year plan', and today mentioned something about taking another 'sailing lesson' - this time down in Fort Lauderdale to learn some offshore cruising. Also seems to looking at a lot of other boats, and pointing out all of Fanny's flaws at frequent intervals. Anyhow, not sure how to take it. We've still got a ways to go in cutting our 'land lines'.

(battery 1)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

At long last sail

Been a hard summer for Fanny, she's only been able to get out about once a month, and it seems to always be a cloudy overcast day with either too much or too little wind. Each time we visit her, she looks very sad, covered in cobwebs and decks stained with bird and spider droppings. Me and Terri drove out this afternoon, after a long hiaitus due to conflicting schedules, a full illustration workload, and uncooperative weather.
I was a bit leery to take her out, to tell the truth. After her diesel repairs by the marina came back with a surprisingly low pricetag*, I was sure that perhaps the mechanics missed a crucial problem with the engine, and we'd go out and get stuck without the power to return to our slip again. We got there around 12:30 or so and started off by giving her decks a good scrubbing, and then straightening up a bit down below and tending to a few minor repairs. The wind was a light 5-10 knots, so we figured we'd give it a try, despite my fears, and, if the engine failed, we could at least have better wind this time for attempting our first 'sail into the slip' experiment.

The engine did fine, however, never heating up much past 130 on the meter, and once we got out past the mooring balls, we raised the sails and didn't turn the engine back on until we came back. For once, the weather was beautiful, the skies were blue, the wind was a comfortable but boisterous 5-15, and we tooled around at a steady 5 knot speed, with only a heel once in a while to make Terri whimper.

The winds were from the Northwest today, which made sailing down and back the channel possible, and we did one for the record books, both sails up, moderate heel and averaged 5-6 knots both out and back. Once on the big lake, the waves were a bit more choppy, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-3 foot waves, a few whitecaps on the bigger waves, but not completely uncomfortable. We were running short of time, however, so after about 300 yards past the lighthouse, we decided to come about and head back for the marina, and for smoother sailing on the little lake.

We came *this* close to trying a sail into the slip on the way back in, but the wind was picking up closer to 20 knots by this time, and I just plain chickened out once we got in the mooring field, and popped the engine back on for the rest of the maneuver. A beautiful, but short sail today, and hopefully we can get out for one overnight before the season is over.
(battery 2)

*the diesel repair came back with a 90 cents for parts and 120 dollars for labor, with an enigmatic explanation that 'the coolant was checked and the engine was run 'up to temperature' and everything checks out fine' -- I'm still not sure why the coolant went dry before, or if the thermostat was even checked... but it seems to be working now..

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Diesel Repairs

Went down to the boat on Wednesday to see if I couldn't track down our 'overheating' problem with the diesel engine. Started with the obvious places, the water intake filter, and then opened up the impeller to take a look at it. The impeller showed a little bit of wear, but wasn't completely toast, so I don't think that was the problem. To be on the safe side, I took it down to the ship's store to get a new one (as long as I had it opened, I figured I might as well replace it and keep the old one as a spare). I seem to remember buying a replacement once before, but couldn't seem to find it anywhere.

The next step was the manifold and cooling system. I located the manifold and cooling tank thanks to the engine manual, and opened up the cap and stuck my finger inside to check the coolant level. It was bone dry. This could very well be the culprit. The overflow tank was full, but the manifold itself didn't seem to have any coolant in it. I checked with a few people at the ship's store, and they confirmed that, yes, it should have coolant in it. So, when I bought the impeller, I also picked up a bottle of engine coolant and a funnel ($65 bucks so far -- the impeller alone was $40).

I went back to the boat and put the impeller back together and then put some coolant in the manifold. At this time I noticed that the impeller cover was leaking (wonder if I should have bought some gasket seal while I was there), and took it apart once again to double check that I had put it together correctly. The second time I managed to tighten the bolts a little more snug and the leaking was much less, but still there. I decided to try running the engine for a bit to see if the overheating problem was still there.

I ran it for just a few minutes, and got spooked when the temperature gauge wasn't registering anything at all. It was possible that I didn't run it long enough, but I was worried that there was something wrong with the thermostat and I wouldn't know if the engine was overheating or not, if it stopped working. I figured I better wait and bring Terri out here to monitor the temperature gauge while I watched the coolant levels. In the meantime I thought maybe I'd try tightening those impeller cover bolts one more time to see if I couldn't stop that slow drop. Bad idea. The first bolt I tried tightening twisted off and broke off inside the impeller cover. At this point I threw in the towel and decided to schedule a maintenance visit from the boys at the marina.

If it was the coolant in the manifold being dry, though... why did it not get checked at our launch? Is this part of what we pay for winterizing the engine every year? I wonder how many of our 'problems' we've had since buying this boat have been caused by oversights by the marina crew at haul out and launch? Off the top of my head, I'm remembering the backwards furling gear on our first launch, the dip stick not in place on that first launch (which caused us a major oil spill cleanup that first summer), the bilge pumps not being wired to the batteries for the first few years (which led to our boat sinking in the slip when the propeller packing failed), cosmetic damage caused at one of the haulouts when one of the blocks got caught either between the wall and the boat, or one of the haulout straps and the boat, and this year, when they once again forgot to hook up our bilge pumps to the battery and then tried to charge us for the service call when we asked for it to be done.

Of course, we've been the cause of a few of the problems, ourselves. I'm remembering the 'dead battery' mystery of a few years back that ended up being our fault for not hooking them up properly (the one year we winterized our own batteries and reinstalled them ourselves). This boat ownership has certainly been a steep and expensive learning curve. I wish I was more confident at doing my own repairs. But I'm trying. At least this time I managed to become a little more familiar with the engine, and managed to locate the manifold and the thermostat housing (the thermostat was going to be my next item on the list, if the manifold wasn't the problem)

Steeling myself now for the engine repair bill.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Securite, Securite, Securite

Spent most of the day on Saturday out at the boat, doing some cosmetic maintenance. Sanding the brightwork, cleaning the floors and ceiling with bleach to combat the encroaching mildew, and washing her decks of the summer's accumulated birdshit. The weather on Saturday looked perfectly beautiful, but couldn't interest the rest of the crew to join me. As it turns out, I should have spent more time working on the engine, but I didn't know that at the time.

Sunday morning Terri suggested we go out, and invite Candy along (and I also suggested Fred, who has been wanting to go for 2 years now since the last time I asked him out). We left GR around 1, and arrived at the boat around 2. I was a bit doubtful of the weather, as the winds had been growing in intensity all morning, and the skies were looking a bit hazy and overcast.

(photo, left) Tim, Fred and Candy as we sail Lake Muskegon, before things went awry

There were other boats out on the water though, and most seemed to have only one sail out, so we thought we'd give it a try. The waves were a bit choppy on Lake Muskegon, and we sailed on a run towards the channel with only the headsail. The wind was pretty gusty, and we got up over 5 knots with headsail alone, although it was uncomfortable sailing with the wind constantly shifting directions and intensity.

Once in the channel, we switched to the motor, and along the way, witnessed the coast guard scramble for a rescue along the breakwater. The waves out on Lake Michigan were even higher than in the little lake, probably 2-4 feet which made for a bumpy ride out past the lighthouse. Terri was not interested in raising sails out here, so we turned back around and headed towards the channel (probably a prudent move, as we would discover later). Motored all the way back down the channel, and once back in the little lake, we raised the headsail again and tooled back and forth on a beam reach.

After a while, though, the wind started growing in intensity again, and it became harder to handle the sail, so we decided to call it a day, rolled up the sail, and started up the engine. Very shortly thereafter, though, the engine temperature alarm started going off. (this happened to us once before, earlier this year, so my first thought, was that we sucked up some gunk into our water intake again). We raised the headsail again, and contemplated either a) sailing as close as we could to the marina, and then, once the engine had cooled down, riding into the slip on a quick burst from the engine, or b) (less appealing) making our first ever attempt at sailing into our slip on sail power alone (how to stop we'd worry about once we got there).

The winds remained strong and gusty, and then started raining as we tacked back and forth as close as we dared to the wind direction (due south, and right where we wanted to go, of course), and at this point Terri is starting to near panic mode, probably from both the engine problem, and the amount of heel we were occasionally experiencing due to the wind gusts and our close hauled tack (the other passengers were faring better, although Terri claims she saw occasional looks of concern cross Fred's eyes). We eventually reached the mooring grounds at Torreson, so we rolled in our sail to cut our speed, but at this time the weather decided to cut out as well, and we found ourselves nearly becalmed about 50 feet from the marina entrance. Tried putting on the motor, but it overheated almost immediately, and at this time, another squall raced in over the trees and started pushing us around in circles, and here and there, dangerously close to the other boats in the mooring field. I managed to maneuver us out again into open water, away from the other boats, and by this time, the wind is really howling, and whitecaps are forming on the crests of the waves, and more telling than that - all the other boats on the lake had had the good sense to head for home.

We tried drifting for a while, and having Terri try to clear the water intake filter to see if that would help the engine overheating problem. We cleared it three times, and it seemed to help initially, but as soon as you tried to put the engine into gear, it would immediately overheat once again. With the weather conditions, and the condition of our engine, we felt it necessary to call out for help in getting back home. Terri called Securite on the VHF, and an outfit called TowUSA returned our call and advised us to drop anchor outside the mooring field and await them, as they were on another call, and wouldn't get to us for at least a half an hour. During this time it started raining in earnest, so we dropped anchor and went below. Tried once more to clear the filter and check the motor, but with no luck during our wait. And the tow boat came and got us after a while. At the same time, the coast guard came along side and asked us if we had called a 'Mayday' earlier, and we said no, just 'Securite' (apparently someone had called 'Mayday' at around 4:30, and they couldn't find them - we also noticed the helicopter circling the lake looking for them).

(photo, above) the good people from TowUSA take us toward the marina

We tied up to the tow boat, and were hauled the approximately 600 yards into our slip. A fairly painless operation, aside from the $87 fee. The rescue guy suggested we look at our impeller in the diesel, which might be the culprit. Luckily, I have a spare on hand, and will return to the boat sometime this week to give it a look see. (battery 2)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Flurkers Afloat

Took a few members of the Woody Guthrie cast out for an afternoon sail today. The weather wasn't looking too promising, but once we got out there, the sun started peeking gingerly through the clouds, and the breeze picked up to a steady 12 mph from the southwest, and we had a quite nice sail. Annie and Bud, with Keenan and I mostly running the sails and tiller. Never quite got up to a rapid speed at any time, but probably averaged about 3-4 knots, with maybe 5 knots at our best. Waves were a little bouncy on the big lake and Keenan ended up complaining of being a little seasick at one point (I think it was everyone sharing their 'seasickness' stories that did it). No camera today so no snaps of today's ride. Late lunch afterwards at G&L at Keenan's instigation. (battery 2)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kelly signs on for an afternoon cruise

One of our old neighbors from Durand drove over to take her first ride on a sailboat. Terri and Keenan also tagged along this afternoon. The weather was a bit dismal and overcast, but the predicted rain never did show up, and the sun almost came out at a few points in the afternoon. The wind was fairly reliable out of the NW, and we were able to generate some decent speed with only the headsail. We mostly tooled around Lake Muskegon, going just past the island channel marker on the way to downtown and the summer fest, and then tacking our way over to the channel to give Kelly a peek at the big lake. The waves, as predicted, were a bit high on Lake Michigan, so we just poked our nose out there for a few minutes and then did a U-turn and headed back for home. The ride back was easier than the ride out this time, and we managed to generate nearly 5-6 knots on a run, and managed to sail down the channel as well. (battery 1)

photo above: Forgot to bring our camera with us today, so Terri took this snap with her cell phone of Kelly's brief flirtation with handling the tiller

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Midweek Getaway

(photo above) almost out to the shipping lanes (photos below) Tim & Terri at the helm, and the rest of the crew kipping on deck

Me and Terri took advantage of a break in our busy June schedule to sneak out for a Tuesday afternoon sailing excursion. The wind was predicted to be 13 mph from the SSE, but it felt more like 15-20, with very choppy waves on Lake Muskegon when we got there. We quickly readied the boat, letting the engine run just a little to check on that 'overheating problem' that we experienced last time out, and made a flawless exit from the slip, and, once past the mooring balls, we opened up the headsail and headed for the channel on a broad reach doing about 5-6 knots. We did a quick jibe just at the channel entrance and sailed down the channel at possibly a record speed for us (with only a slight slowdown around the submarine where it always seems to get a little flukey).

Once out on the big lake, we found a comfortable beam reach tack and headed straight out away from shore, and reached 7 knots at one point according to our handheld GPS. My goal was to try and sail for a hour straight away from shore to see how far we would get, but we only got about 4 miles out after 35 minutes, and Terri was beginning to get a little nervous (not sure why, the waves weren't bad, the sailing was comfortable, and we weren't the only boats out here - a couple of small fishing craft, and a big tanker that crossed in front of us a few more miles out) - so I compromised and we turned around and headed back towards the now tiny Muskegon lighthouse.

Heading back wasn't quite as effortless as the trip out. The wind and waves conspired against us in making a direct route towards our destination, so we had to do a few tacks once we got close to the channel, and then, once in the channel, the wind was almost directly on our bow, so we had to motor the rest of the way back.

We misjudged the power of the wind in re-entering our slip this time, and I had to abort our first attempt, turn around and try again, to the hoots and yells of some of the yard workers, but on the second attempt I hit it dead on and we were tying up just as one of them was running over to help us, who gave us a nice compliment of 'great recovery' before heading back to work. A beautiful day on the lake, hope it isn't another two weeks before we can get out again. (battery 2)

Sunday, May 31, 2009

First Sail of the Season

Me and Terri drove out to Muskegon on Sunday for our first sail of the '09 season. Keenan wasn't interested in coming along, but Lady was pleased to tag along. We managed to unclog the cockpit scupper with a plumbers snake I had purchased, and we managed to exit the slip with no mishaps, and once out on the water, raised the mainsail and killed the engine. We started out slowly, making a decent couple knots with just the main on a close beam, heading north across Lake Muskegon. We found ourselves at one point in the middle of a regatta (even though I thought I was being careful to avoid it, the route must've changed at some point), hopefully not interfering with any of the boats too badly. We attempted to sail out the channel, but the wind got a bit too fluky, and had to resort to the engine for most of it. Once out on Lake Michigan, the breezes freshened up and we had a beautiful sail out to the southwest for about an hour. Temps were a bit chilly today, and we both were bundled up with extra jackets from the clothing locker.
The trip back through the channel was more productive, we managed to sail completely back, and did it in what felt like record time, with little or no monkeying around with the sail configurations. We only ran into a little glitch on the way back to the marina, when our 'engine overheat' alarm went off just as we were about to the marina entrance. We managed to keep our heads and get the boat back in her slip without too much trouble, but then did a bit or poking about the engine and the intake hoses to try and figure out the problem. We unscrewed the intake filter and when we reattached it ran the engine for a spell to see if the engine overheated again, but it seemed to be fine after that. Perhaps we just sucked up some sort of debris that clogged the water intake temporarily, because we never had a problem with it while leaving the slip or while riding out the channel earlier in the day.

Anyhow a beautiful day, and nice to see we still sort of know what we're doing (although I'm not certain I have the reef lines properly configured just yet) -- battery 1

(photo above: spinnakers on the lake - part of the regatta we unsuccessfully tried to avoid today)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day

Drove down Saturday to hank on the sails and give the boat a generalized once over. Easiest the sails have gone on in our 5 years. Not enough wind to sail (but there were lots of boats out on the lake crawling across the water with limp sails), so we decided not to take her out today. Also ran into a problem with the bilge pumps - not working, and they should be hooked directly up to the battery. Not sure if they have both failed (the fuses looked alright), or if they are just not hooked up correctly. We also cleaned up the decks with a good scrubbing, and rearranged some of the dock lines. While scrubbing, we noticed that one of the cockpit scuppers isn't draining, so we need to get a plumbers snake and see if we can't unplug it.

No wind again on Sunday, and too gusty on Monday (plus I had a job to finish up, and we decided to drive up to Burly Park for the flea market)...

Maybe we can get out on the water sometime later this week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More Boat Prep

Me and Terri drove down to Muskegon this afternoon for a few more boat repairs. We finished putting the two new cleats on the bow, installed a few more curtain rods, and fixed the 'keyhole cover'. We tried patching the swim ladder holes with a product we picked up at Wall Mart, but it turned out to not be the proper stuff. Going to try something else on my next visit. Instead of patching the holes, we ended up giving the topsides a good scrubbing. Nearly ready for launch.

ADDENDUM: Got the phone call from Torreson on Thursday, the 21st, the boat is now floating in her slip. Will perhaps go out this weekend (Memorial Day weekend) to put up the sails and take her for a spin. I found a can of the 'boat patch' that I used the last time we got a 'ding in her side', so I'll bring that along and fill those bolt holes in her side also.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

More Pre-Launch Work

Came out this afternoon to do a few repairs. Fixed the sail tie cupboard door which we had secured with a bungee cord for half the season last year. Took off the old swim ladder support, and will need to do some more work plugging those holes and find a replacement ladder for the one we lost two years ago (I really miss being able to dive off the boat and swim around). I picked up some hardware at West Marine and Torreson's to fix the forward cleats and to also fix the ignition cover. Put up a set of curtain rods over one of the windows (would have put up another, but the stupid package I got from wallmart was missing some hardware). Felt like I didn't get much accomplished, but it is very hard to do a lot of the projects single-handed. The brightwork is looking real sad, and I'd like to get out there one of these days and really devote some elbow grease to cleaning that up. The interior could use a good cleaning and painting job. Really looks kind of dumpy now after that nice boat down in the Virgins, but like they say, 'there's no place like home'.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First visit of 2009

Drove over this afternoon to take off the boat cover and do a few small repairs. We ended up only managing to get the port bow cleat removed and half the hardware for the swim ladder support removed, aside from taking off the cover and folding it up for transport back home. The boat looks pretty sad and neglected, like it usually does on our first visit, and we discussed various projects and plans on the drive home. I'd like to take some time this spring to really make some progress on the brightwork, and we'd like to clean up the interior a bit, and perhaps paint with some nice bright white 'bathroom paint' (maybe to help with the mildew problems. The idea of replacing the galley table and bookshelf was discussed again. My idea is to use some of the room in the head as bookshelf space, perhaps cutting a hole in the bulkhead between the two rooms and building a bookcase/storage area that doesn't invade the living area, and so the dinette table, when folded in the upright position is flush with the wall and not quite so clunky looking. We'd also like to try and different solution for the curtains/curtain rods on the portholes. I'm going to also replace the old swim ladder set up with something a bit more asthetically pleasing (which is why we are removing the old support). We are thinking perhaps of a launch date of May 30th or thereabouts to give us time to do some work 'on the hard' this spring.