Our Boat

Caloosa Spirit

Catalina 42 mkII

Cruising Defined

Someone once said that the definition of cruising is “fixing your boat in exotic places.” I don’t know about the “exotic places” part. In my experience, it seems that cruising is “fixing your boat”, period. Anyplace.

We’ve been in St. Petersburg for the last two weeks fixing things. First it was the dinghy. Over the last several months, increasing amounts of water were finding their way into our RIB dinghy. Every time we used it—which, since we’re almost always at anchor, is daily—Jim would have to pump out the water that had accumulated in the bottom since the last trip. He got very tired of getting his feet wet, especially during the winter. And we always had to be careful that our bags of stuff stayed off the floor, lest they become soggy during the trip. All this hassle was putting a serious crimp in our enjoyment of our AB Rigid Inflatable Boat. So when we had the opportunity to stay at a friend’s dock (Carl and Cathy of s/v Persuasion) without an exorbitant marina fee, we decided the time was right to fix the dinghy leak—or leaks.

Of course, the first order of business was to find the leak—or leaks, as it turned out. After hauling the dinghy out of the water with Carl’s hoist and filling it with water, several cracks in the fiberglass hull were evident. Culprit number one. It also became apparent that some of the hypalon areas near the fiberglass needed patching. Culprit number two. Culprit number three was a separation along the seam where the floor meets the sub-floor inside the dinghy. We had become aware of that leak when we saw water streaming from that spot onto the dinghy floor whenever we were riding in it.

So a plan of attack was in order. First, remove all the bottom paint from the fiberglass and all the barnacles from the hypalon tubes. Bottom paint is supposed to wear off eventually, right? I think the stuff on the dinghy bottom would have still been there in the next millenium. The barnacles, too. It took two quarts of paint remover (one that worked and one that didn’t) and about three days of scraping and sanding to fully expose the dinghy’s bare bottom. Then came the fiberglass repair with the attendant faring and sanding—another couple of days. The hypalon patches, once we made three trips to the local AB dealer for materials, took another full day. Finally, the bottom was ready for paint—two kinds of paint. We were determined to cover the hypalon tubes with bottom paint to avoid a future battle with barnacles. However, the fiberglass bottom paint wasn’t appropriate for the hypalon, and the hypalon bottom paint wasn’t good enough for the fiberglass. Hence, two different paints on the two bottoms. Three days after starting to paint, the dinghy finally went back into the water. After this experience I don’t think I can even conceptualize doing a bottom job on Caloosa Spirit, our 42-ft. sailboat. Incidentally, culprit number three is still at large. The seam separation showed itself to be a project with a life of its own—one that we decided we wanted no part of at this time. So far the dinghy hasn’t leaked, so we think we made the right choice.

Dockage without a fee being a rare thing, we also took the opportunity to do some other maintenance jobs while being tied up. We got a referral from Carl on having the bottom cleaned. After scraping for over an hour, the diver reported that our bottom, especially the propeller, looked like Barnacle Central. No wonder our cruising speed had dropped to less than 5 knots! He also observed that our bottom paint should last another year. After the dinghy bottom job, that news was almost as good as hearing from the Prize Patrol.

On to some engine maintenance. The 50-horsepower Yanmar had some serious (read “expensive”) service a couple of months ago involving new engine mounts and packing the stuffing box. That job had us sitting for several days then. At this time, though, we just needed to do the routine things—change the oil, replace the fuel filters, and inspect the water pump impeller and refrigeration condenser zinc. Oil and fuel filters we’ve done a few times, so we kind of have a handle on those. We’ve figured out how to do those tasks with a minimal mess and without seizing the engine. The impeller and refrigeration zinc were new challenges, however. After struggling to remove the impeller for an hour or more, Jim discovered that it was oversized (put in by the charter company that hosted Caloosa Spirit for five years), and that several of the tabs had broken off or were about to do so. This was definitely a case of preventive maintenance. In went the new one—the correct size—and the engine purred nicely.

Now, Jim had completely forgotten about the need to replace the refrigeration zinc until Carl suggested it. So it was all Carl’s fault. (To be fair, it was also Carl’s suggestion that Jim replace the impeller, thereby averting a potential engine overheat. Thanks, Carl!) With the help of the various manuals and how-to books on board, Jim located the zinc attached to the refrigeration condenser, and proceeded to remove it. The replacement went smoothly, and, just to be sure it wouldn’t leak, he gave it an extra twist. Oops! Where did that cracking noise come from? You mean that brass fitting went into a plastic thread? In the refrigeration condenser?? This was looking like a $2 job with a $500 finish. Not to mention the $200 spent the day before on provisions—perishable provisions, that is. And not to mention the weeks of sitting still, without any refrigeration, stretching out before us—weeks when we should have been cruising.

The 3M company has a marine gold mine in 5200. It’s been said that many boats are actually glued together with the stuff. Well, it’s got my vote as a never-be-without. Two different sources—a SeaFrost rep and the refrigeration repair guy that was working on Carl’s boat—both suggested gluing the plastic housing back together, rather than trying to replace it. With much trepidation and little hope, Jim first used PVC glue on the plastic, then smeared 5200 around the whole connection. The zinc may never come out again, but that’s a project for another day that’s at least two years away. Today, the connection doesn’t leak, the condenser is protected, and the perishables are staying cold.

For the time being we’re done with “routine” maintenance. In a couple of days we’ll start cruising again. So what exactly is cruising? Well, my definition goes like this: any day that the boat floats, the engine runs, and the head flushes is another day in paradise. Sailing to exotic destinations, sunny skies and fair winds, breath-taking sunsets, functional refrigeration—they’re all just the discovery of buried treasure.

Posted Sunday April 25, 2004

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