Another Really Busy Maintenance Season.

Harmonie (like the rest of us) is getting older.  As she ages, she takes more maintenance and care to keep in good shape (like the rest of us!)  We have ended up with three major repair projects this season.  We have been sitting “on the hard” for a couple weeks now, and it looks like a few more.  It’s a more than a bit of a pain living on the boat on land. Dust and dirt are everywhere! But it will be over soon!

First Project, is our transmission. If you have been following closely, you might remember that we have been nursing along a small leak from the rear seal. Not surprisingly, it hasn’t gotten any better on its own.

The old transmission. Engine to the right, prop drive to the left.

\We have a standard ZF25M transmission (Not to be confused with a ZF25, which is a very different beast!) We found an excellent marine transmission shop here in Fort Lauderdale.  They confirmed my understanding that on this transmission replacing the rear seal requires virtually the entire unit to be disassembled.  As a matter of course, they replace all seals and bearings (as a minimum) when they have a unit apart.  

It would take about $1600 in mechanics time alone to get the unit apart and reassembled, plus a significant investment in parts. A new ZF25 is $2100.  That seems like an easy choice.  Replacing the transmission is not a technically difficult job, but there is the matter of removing old bolts, and physically moving the engine a few inches to get the coupling apart, and then getting everything aligned again. The coupling between the transmission and prop drive also has a reputation of being EXTREMELY difficult to remove.  That will keep me busy and out of trouble for a few days!  Buried in the bell housing between the flywheel and the transmission is the damping plate. Until the transmission is removed, we will not know exactly which part is there, and what it’s delivery time will be. The good news from this, is if we ever need a new engine, the new transmission can go along for the ride! We just got the news that the transmission is in stock locally, and can be delivered in a matter of days.

The big decision here is should we pull things apart while we are still high and dry?  or do we wait until we are back in the water?  If we run into a delay while things are apart, it would mean delaying our launch since we need the transmission to maneuver the boat to the dock….

Job Two has been the replacement of the ten fixed port lights in the cabin trunk.  Twenty-five years of tropical sun exposure left the acrylic lenses and the wood frames quite a bit worse for wear. 

An example of the sun crazing in the old acrylic portlights.

We are having new acrylic windows made at a local shop, and the wood refinished.  Although the appearance of the plastic in the windows was the initiating symptom for this project, it is being done “just in time” to save the wood from replacement. We we referred to a local refinisher who will be doing the interior varnish.  I don’t usually think of wood as suffering serious damage from sunlight, but it does! 

Sunlight has faded the interior trim has faded to a rainbow of colors…

The new windows, the refinished wood, and repainted trim on the exterior will have Harmonie looking better than the day we bought her  I am really hoping that the removal of the interior wood trim panels was the toughest part of this job!

Our last major project is a significant repair to the deck. Lots of cutting, grinding, and new fiberglass work outside, and a new hatch and interior trim. Our good buddies at P&S Yacht Services have been doing a great job with this, and we’ll have a lot more to write up about it when it is finished.

And all those things are in addition to the routine maintenance of bottom painting, bow thruster, and prop drive maintenance, and other routine stuff that needs doing on a regular basis.  

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We See Some of the Most Amazing Places…

Just to refresh… we have been looking for a part for Harmonie’s generator. This is a 25 year old Onan generator, and the manufacturer’s support for the model has effectively ended. In all of the USA there is ONE piece of the part we need, and at a price of about $2000 it might as well have been cast of solid gold. We have been pursing several other options for how and where to find one.

A local vendor we have used for various electrical motor services recommended that we talk to “Yachts and Diesels”. After several back and forth phone calls, they said they thought they might have one. Today we decided to pay them a visit and see.

The only word for this place is… No. There is no word for it.

We were told to talk to Tommy, he’d know. We tracked down Tommy, and described the part we wanted. Not only did he know exactly the part we wanted, for a generator which hasn’t been made for 20 years, but he knew exactly what it looked like. He said, “Follow me” and lead us off wandering the warehouse aisles looking for the generator that he could pull the part off. He was sure they had more than one. Somewhere.

Words can not describe this place. Racks 40 feet high full of engines, generators, miscellaneous boat parts, and unknown stuff. The only light comes from a few widely scattered skylights. The aisles are so clogged with stuff you have to turn sideways to squeeze through. Engines from tiny single cylinder putt-putts to huge 1000 horsepower 10 cylinder monsters that weigh more than a large SUV.

There are over a dozen rows like this…
It looks like the prop warehouse for a Mad Max movie!
And on… and on…

Finally, there it is! Right there! That’s the one!

Yep, right there.

Tommy disappeared for a while to get some tools, and 20 minutes later we had our part in hand, in almost like new condition. “That will be $75.”

If you are looking for an obsolete part for an engine or generator, these are the guys to call. If you are in Fort Lauderdale and you are any kind of gearhead, they are an entertaining place to see.

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Out of the Water, Clean and Happy

We had a relatively uneventful run up the New River this morning, and arrived just in time for our scheduled lift. Harmonie came out of the water totally clean. It was really impressive. There was not a single bit of hard growth anywhere on the painted surface of the boat, and just very light layer of slime. This is pretty amazing since we haven’t cleaned the hull at all in the water. It just hasn’t needed it.

Harmonie’s bottom BEFORE being power washed!

One reason we come out with such a clean bottom is we tend to do this on a shorter cycle than a lot of boats. We do the bottom every 12 months. Most cruisers try to push this to 24 months, and most of the current generation of paints start to struggle after 14 to 18 months, especially in warm tropical waters.

We use Sea Hawk’s Bio Cop TF paint. It has performed well for us for years, and we see no reason to change. This is an ablative paint, that slowly wears off as the boat moves through the water, eliminating long term build up of old paint layers. We selected this paint because it works in both fresh and salt water. A lot of people use Interlux Micron 66, which performs well, but does not adhere after long term immersion in fresh water. Here in the upper reaches of Florida’s rivers, and especially in parts of the Chesapeake, we spend significant amounts of time in water far more fresh than salt,, so we have never felt this paint suitable for the way we use our boat.

Another thing that keeps our hull clean is that we move the boat to many different environments pretty frequently. Warm water, cold water, fresh water, salt water. It is tough for anything to survive across these different environments.

One of the more difficult parts of a boat’s underwater structure to keep clear of biological growth is the propeller and other metal parts. They are not compatable with normal antifouling paints. We have used a product called PropSpeed. It’s a painted on finish that is so slippery that nothing can stick to it. We have found that our one year underwater maintenance cycle is just about how long PropSpeed lasts. We consistantly find the prop still clean, but we also see the first signs that the finish is starting to fail.

Fresh out of the water, before any cleaning, our propeller is pretty darn clean.

Keeping a boat’s bottom clean is really important for the performance of the boat both under sail and while motoring. Smooth water flow across the keel helps the boat go upwind. The amount of fuel used when motoring goes up dramatically even with small amounts of hard growth on the hull–and especially on the propeller. A boat with a clean bottom makes for a happy sailor!

For work on all the underwater parts of the boat, we hire a local contractor to do the hard work, and it is definetly a case of having the best tools, and a lot of practice makes things go faster. As long as we have owned Harmonie P&S Yacht Services here in Fort Lauderdale has done the bottom work. Silvio and his son John run a great shop, and they have a crew working for them who know their stuff and do a first class job. With any painting project 90% of the outcome is in the initial preperation work on the surface, and they have proven they take this step seriously, and do it right every time.

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The Sunshine State!

We dropped anchor in South Lake, Hollywood, Florida shortly after midnight last night. We had a good day sailing with strong winds on a deep broad reach, consistantly hitting speeds of over 9.5 knots with winds gusting to more than 30 knots.

We were visited by a very playful group of bottlenose dolphin on the way down. These are the animal everybody thinks of when they think of “dolphin” but these are the first ones of this species we have had playing around Harmonie. They tend to be a more coastal species of dolphin, where we typically interact with those types that are more open ocean oriented like the Spotted Dolphin, or the Common Dolphin.

Bottlenose Dolphin cavorting in Harmonie’s bow wave.

Our schedules are full as we come to our big annual maintenace time. Tomorrow we are scheduled to haul out of the water right after lunch time. That begins all kinds of busy times. Normally the painting crew gets busy as soon as the boat is set down. I work around them doing the routine maintenance work on things like the bow thruster and prop shaft seals, all those boat parts that are normally underwater and hard to deal with.

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Finally warm!

After 36 cold and windy hours in Charleston, we headed back out on our southward migration. Our sail so far has been mostly fast with favorable winds. With the northerly winds continuing, we are staying in closer to the coastline to avoid the rougher water in the Gulf Stream.

Highlights of the trip so far have been numerous visits by dolphins, and seeing amazingly bright phosphorescent jellyfish lighting up the water at night. It’s been too rough to get any fishing in.

Right now we are south of Jacksonville, Florida and approaching Cape Canaveral. The weather forecast for the rest of the trip is just about perfect, northwest winds of 15 to 25 knots.

We have always found short passages like this of two or three days more difficult than longer ones. We don’t have time to get into the rhythm of watch standing, so we are really looking forward to dropping anchor and catching up on sleep! We don’t have much time to rest, since we are scheduled to be hauled out of the water right after lunch on Monday morning!

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Once again…

While we were sailing last night we tuned in to the local marine weather forecast. When the computerized voice calmly got to the part about winds to 40 knots and seas to 16 feet, we made a quick right turn and this morning ducked into Charleston Harbor.

One of the reasons we have so much fun sailing is that whenever poissible, we are “weather whimps.” Can we sail in 40 knots of wind and 16 foot waves? Sure. We can do it safely, and without breaking either us or the boat. One thing that we would NOT have in conditions like that is FUN. So we chose to skip it!

Charleston Harbor doesn’t have a lot of great sheltered anchorages, so we called around as we arrived first thing in the morning trying to find dock space. In the middle of the great fall seasonal southward migration that wasn’t easy. We did finally find a decidedly second rate spot, (an exposed dock, and no power) but it will do. After a pretty calm morning when we arrived, the wind has picked up and is now blowing quite hard. We’re happy to be tied down!

We do have some famous, and large, dock neighbors. Right at the end of the dock is the local naval museum, featuring the famous World War II aircraft carrier Yorktown.

Depending on exactly how quickly the weather settles down again, we’ll be off from here either tomorrow afternoon, or Thursday morning.

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Still motoring!

50 miles due east of Charleston, South Carolina

While we expect big winds tomorrow as a strong cold front moves on past, today is not tomorrow. Winds right now continue very light (2 to 4 knots) and our trusty Volvo is keeping us moving. We want to get as far south as possible so the frontal winds are milder.

We are taking a different route this trip, staying on the west side of the Gulf Stream. This has left us in a zone of lighter winds than we might have 100 miles east, but it avoids us having to come back across the Gulf Stream near the end of our trip during a period of strong northern winds. The strong current flowing to the north, running into strong winds coming from the north, leave large, steep and very uncomfortable waves we’d just assume not deal with!

We have been visited by several schools of spotted dolphin, but otherwise our wildlife count is low. As we skirt the continental shelf we’ll likely pause and drop a fishing line to see what we can find.

Now that we are in warmer water (and air!) we have stripped off the thermal underwear and wool socks. We expect to arrive at Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale about noon, Thursday.

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