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Old 15-07-2008, 17:54   #1
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skipgundlach's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Currently on the boat, somewhere on the ocean, living the dream
Boat: Morgan 461 S/Y Flying Pig
Posts: 1,143
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Ham and Wry...

Ham and Wry...

We're in Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island, having returned from
15 weeks ashore. We've pretty much sworn off shore life, after
all that, despite having had the most wonderful hosts and

Our good friends replied to our asking if we might bunk with them
for part of the time we were ashore with great enthusiasm, saying
we were the answer to their prayers. They're big time travelers,
and have a home in Atlanta, as well. The day after we arrived,
they headed off for 3 weeks. Before we left (the biggie in their
plans), they headed off for a full-country trip to China, and not
long after, made a trip north to see a new grandchild. In
between, they made many brief trips away...

Ours was a symbiotic relationship, as it gave Lydia her animal
jollies, and walks in their lovely garden, hikes to an art
retreat over the hill (on their walking trails), and we served as
loving house and pet-sitters. Their two dogs, and their 5 cats
(soon to be plus 4 kittens), and Portia, gave Lydia lots of face
time, grooming, stroking, and otherwise just getting refilled on
her animal-love supply.

However, those who read Lydia's log know that Portia had so
enjoyed her runs in the woods, the catching of butterflies, and
all the other things that such a strange and open environment
provided, that she decided she didn't want to come along with us,
after all. I finally got her to come to me and carted her inside
to keep her confined in the small bedroom we'd move into the next
night, on the anticipation of house guests who would need our
bed. Lydia put her in her harness, and brought her to bed with
us. However, the leash slipped from her hand in her sleep, and
Portia went out the window, leash and all, to be discovered
missing in the morning.

Panic ensued, of course, as it would be very easy to catch her
leash on something, get wound up trying to figure out how to
escape, howl, and attract unwanted attention. Many hours of
walking the property and calling later, however she was found
across the creek, with the leash still trailing behind her. Once
again she was confined to quarters.

Except that she escaped, somehow, again. No amount of three
people going around the entire property, calling and hoping to
hear a return meowl, ditto the house, produced any evidence that
Portia was nearby. She decided to hide...

So, tearfully, we left without her. Days went by and no word
from our hosts. Meanwhile, Lydia's in mourning; she cleans the
boat of evidence of Portia, and cries at each new discovery or
each vacuumed hair.

Finally, the word comes down just as we are going in the water.
Portia was hiding in the crawl space near the HVAC ducts. She's
caught by our hosts, and picked up by Lydia's daughter.
Instantly, Lydia makes plans to drive 8 hours to pick up Portia,
we find a rental car at a bargain, and off she goes.

Meanwhile, and before, we've been working on the boat. Well,
"we" did the first week, but as I write, I'm still working on a
host of things which I do that Lydia can't, and hope to finish in
less than a week, so we can get in some sea trials.

So, what adventures has Flying Pig had in these last couple of

First order of business while we were out of the water was to
take care of some minor areas where either bottom paint had not
adhered following our 800-blister repair areas, or perhaps had
been rubbed off in our bottom sampling efforts in the last many
months. That was pretty easy, too.

A host of other projects inside were being addressed as well.
We'll spare you the gory details, but it involves electricity and
water :{)) We got through - happily, sigh of relief - everything
we needed to do which required us to be out of the water. The
last thing we did, literally hours and minutes before we were due
to go in the water, was to make an exhaust modification.

Flying Pig pegged the scales at 40,000 pounds, and we've not put
anything aboard when we came back. However, there are some
things which we've brought aboard in the past. All those
indulgences and necessities and spares and tools and food - well,
you get the idea. As a result, her exhaust came out under water.
That led to soot stains on the transom and starboard quarter.
That's no way for a Lady to live! The exhaust now comes out at
the end of the platform. That not only keeps the exhaust off the
boat, it makes our usual dash to look at the filter to make sure
it's sucking water unneeded as the water is louder than the
exhaust at that point. If it's spitting water, it's getting it.
So, while it ain't pretty, but also not ugly, we're very pleased
to make that happen.

While Lydia's eating up the love and attention from Portia, her
hosts' 3 dogs, and her grandson, I'm continuing to work. New or
replacement instruments have been mounted, new faceplate designed
for the pod, and all the fun wiring needed to make all that work.

More design work was making switch plates for the electronics
panel, getting them, finally, from the shop, and making *very*
careful drill holes, in order that the remainder of the plastic
not break... And making fiddly cuts in the electronics panel,
making very sure not to cut any of the wires close behind!

Unfortunately, that took much longer than anticipated, as the
plastics shop which cut the blanks somehow couldn't figure out
(two total) a 7x1.25" and 9.25x4" piece! - so they called me
after a few days, to come in and give them specific instructions.
Despite that, they made three pieces instead of two like those.
The pod plate turned out all right, though, and the delay turned
out to be of no particular event, because ...

... Well, the best laid plans of mice and men...

Lydia did indeed go home and fetch Portia, but stayed an
additional couple of weeks to continue loving on her grandson and
enjoying time away, alone. As a result, we didn't get the
additional work done together, and our departure was slightly
delayed. Hurrican Bertha would have had our full attention had
we gone when we expected, so it's just as well.

In the meantime, I've been busy. I've basically redone all the
electrical setups in the navigation table area ("nav"), so that
we have individually converted all of the various devices in any
way related to the computer system to 12V instead of the
("household") AC circuit, and all can run individually or

The switch panels involve my major project, that of converting
everything possible in our computer and SSB mail system from
"household power" to 12 volts. I'll keep it short and sweet -
several hard drives, modems and routers, and power supplies for
all of them, kept me busy before this went out. In the end,
nothing other than the printer will be prominent (or, even
visible, in the locations where they're going), but we'll have it
all controlled by the switches in the panel. That some of the
devices also took 5 volts meant that I had to have switches which
could do both functions. As many of the devices are hard drives
which would rarely be used together, I took advantage of a switch
which could be used for two devices (one at a time) to conserve
space. That was important because the number of switches on the
panel would not fit the number we'd otherwise need. So, they'll
go one way or the other...

The computer and extra hard drives, the router which allows Lydia
to connect over our Ship's own WiFi system (boats nearby will see
"Flying Pig" available and open), and even our international WiFi
telephone, Vonage, all are controlled via our panel.

However, along the way, I also addressed some electrical
gremlins, I'm pleased to say, but I initially failed in my
attempts to make my Sailmail (Single Side Band email) units work.
The chief culprit seems to be in the tuner in the stern of the
boat. As I chased the problem, it was most vexing when I didn't
find it; as this system will be critical to our passage, we can't
go without it working properly.

An experienced Ham, and double-E (electronics engineer), a fellow
cruiser we've met on the internet, and now, another of our
angels, came to help me sort out some of the electrical gremlins
(see above short :{)) story), the SSB being one of them. We
deduced that since I could hear folks just fine, the antenna must
be ok, but the tuner (the thing which electronically adjusts the
length of the antenna to match the frequency being used) must not
be working. So, I set about troubleshooting the tuner...

I went to the tuner - which was only inspectable by removing most
of the stuff from the cavernous lazarette (the storage space in
the stern of the boat, accessed by raising a hatch on the deck),
and literally diving, headfirst, into it, as it wasn't deep
enough to contort myself inside by going in feet first - to look
for obvious power problems, but also to remind myself of what the
power feed looked like. Coming out, levering myself with first
my feet, then my legs, and finally my arms, reminded me that I've
been receiving Social Security for more than a year - I'm getting
too old for this! The power feed is a 1/4" or so black cable, so
that's what I started looking for.

While I was trying to find the tuner power feed, despite many
excursions and wire-fingerings in the breaker panel, since I
didn't see anything which looked at all like what I see going
into the tuner, I took down the books on the starboard side of
the aft cabin to get access to the wire bundle coming from the

No joy there - the wire bundle didn't have anything resembling
the cable on the autopilot. So, I pulled the floor plate in the
bedroom. Still no, but I'm happy to report :{)) that the water
coming from the rudder isn't even a trickle (we have Teflon
packing in the rudder gland, but the shaft is pitted and usually
leaks more than I'd like).

Ditto the floor plate at the conduits in the walkthrough. I may
have to surrender and get a tech in here, because I can't find
the supply, even, to check it. The plot thickens, however, as I
did a test to make the "swr" signal come up on the panel -
showing that I have a transmission problem - and despite tuning
through every megahertz, on both upper and lower sidebands, I
could not make it appear. It's possible that all my fiddling
with the wires has made the connection good again. That's a
nuisance, but it gives me another project - improving those
connections! - to do, if it's actually what happened. I'll have
to wait for the net tonight to see with any definition, I

Thinking about it some more, I remember there being some
small-wire connections there in the lazarette on the bedroom
bulkhead, so, headfirst, into the lazarette I go again. Hm.
There are two small cables which go down, rather than up, in the
bilges, and connect to the black cable I've been looking for.
That changes matters.

So, I trace them back to the sole in the walkthrough. Nothing
like them in the breaker cabinet. Hm. So, I open the cubby
under the cabinet. Aha! There are two cables which look like
those in the lazarette. One's connected to two terminal strips
on the bulkhead. I meter them, to no effect. The other's been
cut off and taped, just loose in the bottom - a spare?

Then I remember that I saw, in the electronics breaker cabinet
during my search, a heavy wire - half of a cable, the other half
loose - which was labeled "VHF radio and electronics," in faded
sharpie. There used to be a VHF in the walkthrough - I think a
PO used the workbench for a chart table, perhaps? - so that could
have been the VHF connection. Suspicious, I turned on the
electronics breaker, and suddenly there's power at that terminal
strip. Hmmm.

So, I take the connections off the terminal strip, and tone
(attach an electronic transmitter which allows tracing wires)
them. Back in the lazarette I go; sure enough, a great strong
tweedle at the tuner. Dammit. It was just that it needed the
electronics breaker tripped? We'll find out in a bit on the
maritime net...

Sure enough - lousy conditions all over, and many requests for
relays, I make contact with 6Y5RP in the Caribbean, who sez my
signal is loud and clear. Next test is for the sailmail...

Without all the technical details, approximately as convoluted
as the power to the tuner, I solved the SSB email system, and am
happily collecting and sending email out of the sky, receiving
weather information, whether we're close or in the mid-Atlantic
and generally enjoying our enhanced communication. Immediate
family will get the address for that unit, only, as it's
extremely slow (old-timers will remember when a 1200 baud modem
was state of the art - this rarely achieves that breakneck
speed), and anything larger than a brief text-only message won't
pass muster.

We therefore now have SSB (radio) email and weather available,
so immediate family will know how we're doing, and advise us of
any travel-related areas which will need closer attention. We'll
also talk with other cruisers, some we're traveling in widely
spaced packs with, and some across the world, courtesy of the
signal bounce in the ionosphere actually making it possible to
talk with Australia from New York, all on our Ham Band (amateur
radio) and SSB unit.

So, with a wry grin at all the frustrations solved to this point,
I'll say that having the Ham radio, SSB, and all the links to the
outside world it provides, gives Ham and Wry a new meaning :{))

I'll close for now, and update you on the rest of our work and
travel realities as we leave.

Stay tuned :{))



PS any of you in the Fernandina Beach area who would like a
daysail when we do our minor seatrials before leaving, please
drop me a line off list skipgundlach at gmail dot com. We
anticipate those will happen late this week or early next week...

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
See our galleries at Web-Folio -- Your Portfolio on the Web !
Follow us at TheFlyingPigLog : Morgan 461 Hull #2, Flying Pig
and/or Flying Pig Log | Google Groups

"You are never given a wish without also being given the power
to make it come true. You may have to work for it however."
"There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in
its hands. You seek problems because you need their gifts."
(Richard Bach, in The Reluctant Messiah)
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