Flashback: Installing a Flagship Marine Air-Conditioning Unit

As summer approaches and more people consider installing air-conditioning in their vessels, I thought it might be time to re-post this write-up from our old blog that didn’t get migrated to the new site. The unit has indeed been a great investment and worked flawlessly for the past year.
It took four weekends, but Gimme Shelter now has marine heat and air-conditioning.
We went with a Flagship Marine 12000 BTU unit as we liked both the fact that the units are made in the USA and they use a modular off-the-shelf construction, so should anything go wrong, it’s easy to find parts. We ordered both the unit and the deluxe installation kit, so it came with the appropriate through-hulls, ducting, hoses, vents, pump and strainer.
We weren’t completely thrilled to be giving up the closet, but getting rid of the space heater and the roll-around air-conditioner that were taking up space in the cabin made it a worthwhile tradeoff. It was also the easiest place to duct. We simply had to run one duct through the bulkhead into the main cabin and one out through the bottom of the closet and back up into the bukhead of the v-berth.
We installed the programmable thermostat in the nav station.
Of course, to run the air-conditioner we had to install a new 20 amp breaker. Unfortunately the O’day panel only had three breakers: outlets, charger, and water heater.
We took a trip to West Marine only to find out breaker panels are REALLY expensive. We decided go browse through the Kemah Boaters Resale Shop. Jackpot!

Yes, we had to install it sideways. And yes, we still had to spend $65 to replace two of the breakers, which ended up different colors. However, the panel was only $8.99, and we didn’t have to cut up the bulkhead.

It turned out to be a good thing we pulled the old panel out. The cable going to the outlets was in really bad shape.
The plastic casing of the 30 amp breaker on the panel also shattered when I attempted to unscrew the shore power leads. I guess it’s good to inspect your electric lines every 32 years.
After three weekends of drilling holes, running cables, and re-wiring breakers, we came to the one thing we couldn’t do ourselves — drilling the through-hull.
We fired up Gimme Shelter and puttered around the corner to South Texas Yacht Services to have them drill a hole in the bottom of our boat.
I had one friend who swore to me that we could drill a hole in the water as long as we had a bunch of rags to shove in the hole while we fished the through-hull through the bottom with a string. I decided it was worth it to pay for a haul out.
Quick hauls generally last one hour, but when they install a through hull they want to give it a little time for the sealant to cure, so you basically get charged for two quick hauls. All in all, our “extended quick haul,” pressure wash, zinc change and through-hull installation cost us $650. It added a lot to the cost of our air-conditioner installation, but not sinking at the dock was worth it.
We were back in our slip with the professionally installed through-hull and a clean bottom by 10:30 a.m., so I went to work installing the strainer and pump.
The heavy duty blue silicone hose was a nightmare to get onto the flanges. I finally boiled a pot of water and stuck the ends of the hoses in the water for about 15 minutes to get them flexible enough to install. They are so tight, I’m pretty sure the clamps aren’t even necessary.
The pump had plastic flanges and was much easier to install.
I opened the through-hull, kicked the thermostat over to “Cool”, and checked our water flow.

Voila! We have air-conditioning.

No more lifting window units on and off the deck and leaving them on the dock. No more crappy roll-around units dumping condensation all over the floor and having to be lashed up against the wall when we go sailing, No more space heaters in the walkway causing us to worry about starting a fire.
Will it be worth the investment? I sure hope so, but I guess we’ll find out this summer. YES, It was totally worth the investment!
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At the boat show

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It was that time of year again. A time filled with magic and mysterious polishes that will supposedly make old aluminum look like new stainless. A time when “For Sale” signs appear on vessels in local marinas like buds on the trees. A time to re-stock your supply of free key floaters and drink coozies.

It’s time for the Southwest International Boat Show!

South Shore Harbor hosts the annual Southwest Boat Show in Kemah, Texas. I have to admit, having now been on many different types of vessels, the show isn’t as exciting as it was a few years ago. However, there were two big reasons to stop by this year.

The first reason was the Lagoon 450.

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Our upcoming summer charter will be on a Lagoon, but we’d never actually been on a large cat, so we were very excited to get a tour and see what they were really like.

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The 450 would definitely be a comfortable live-aboard with plenty of amenities and space for guests.

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There was no shortage of cabinets, closets, drawers, and other storage throughout the vessel.

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Call me selfish, but I much prefer the “owner’s” version over the “charter” version of these boats with a big cabin and head on one side — not that we’ll ever be able to afford ownership of either version. But maybe someday we’ll at least have a vessel with a stand-alone shower.

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Unlike some of the older, smaller cats we’ve toured like the Prouts and the PDQs, Mary had no trouble seeing over the helm of the Lagoon 450.

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Once we were finished there, we headed over to the next pier to check out the pre-owned Fountaine Pajot Lipari 41.

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The FP was also a cool boat with a very similar layout. Though smaller, it still had plenty of storage and space to entertain.

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Mary’s only complaint was that she did not like the design of the shower stall in the owner’s head. She prefers clear glass walls. I don’t know if that’s a deal breaker.

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However, she had no problem with the kitchen.

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The FP also had an elevated “flybridge” helm.

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Although on both boats, once the sails are set, it’s easy to keep watch and adjust the autopilot from inside at the nav station.

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However, the very visible escape hatches in the FP remind you of the one underlying danger of cat sailing — ending up upside down.

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Once we’d had our fill of touring boats we can’t afford, we walked through the vendor area and spent almost $40 on two burgers, fries and drinks while taking in some live music.

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And while nobody escapes the boat show for free, at least we didn’t end up with a radio-controlled boat.

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Or one of these three-wheeled slingshot cars.

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Or $99 for 20 minutes of being tethered to a jetski on a hydro-rocket.

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But there’s always next year …

Stop and smell the roses

Some nights you plan to make an instructional video on how to disassemble and service vintage Lewmar Spring Jaw Self-Tailing Winches, but some nights you just have to stop and smell the roses.

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And stare at the sky, watching the planes go by.

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And then eat cookies while you watch a bunch of episodes of Mad Men Season 7 on Netflix.

But tonight it’s back to work … probably.

Rainy Days

It rained every day last week, but it especially rained all day Saturday. And when I say all day, I mean ALL day. We did nothing but sit inside the boat and watch the flash flood warnings on TV.

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We had planned to christen the new grill, but we resorted to picking up fried chicken at lunch and then cooking burgers on the Origo for dinner.

Of course, the rain didn’t bother everybody. This guy thought it was quacktastic.

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Every time we had to walk the dogs, he was just puttering around letting raindrops fall on his head.

However, the fire ants definitely did not enjoy the rain. In fact, as water started pooling up in different places it created floating fire ant swarms. I tried to stay far away from them, but I think the dogs must have picked up a swimmer as they bounded around. Somehow I ended up with the first fire ant bite of the year.

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If you’re not familiar with fire ants, their bite is a bit like a bee sting, but it creates a little blister white head in the middle. Then you pop it, and the bite oozes for days. They’re especially fun when you accidentally stand in a mound and get 30 or 40 bites on your feet at once. I’m sure this was just the first bite of many in 2015.

Eventually the rain did stop. By Sunday evening the sky had cleared, and we were treated to a spectacular view of a new moon with the planet Venus shining nearby. (Well, sort of nearby, I mean it all comes down to perspective, right?)

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Winch replacement progress and roadblocks

Well, after sitting in the rain all weekend waiting for a chance to work on the boat, I finally made some progress on the winch replacement this morning. A star-headed screwdriver and vice grips finally gave me enough torque to break the set screw.

I wish I meant break it loose. Unfortunately I mean I broke the head off of it.

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Once the head of the bolt snapped, the Barlow 25 came apart quite easily. Mary worked the deck side of the screws while I went below with a ratchet, and we had it removed pretty quickly.

Instead of fighting the set screw in the port winch I decided to try removing the nuts from the bottom first. Magically, I was able to get all five off, so the port winch is still intact, but not serviceable. I think I’m going to have to spend a couple hours this week drilling out the set screws and re-threading the center of both winches, so we can sell them.

Meanwhile, I began filling the old winch holes in the deck and patching some of the cracks with thickened epoxy.

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I thought I’d actually finish this project today, but then I ran into the next big hurdle. Our replacement winches are vintage Lewmar 44st spring jaw winches with six allen bolts on top. I just assumed that when I removed the six allen bolts, the winch would come apart. Wrong.

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I’m stumped. I searched the internet for a diagram or service manual with no luck. I also posted on cruiserforum.com looking for help, and nobody has responded yet. Until I can figure out how to take these winches apart to drill new holes and bolt them to the deck, I’m stuck.

Anybody have an idea?

Update: Lewmar sent me the answer, and it involves a rubber mallet. I will post the instructions soon.

A glimpse into my garden

So, Fred has convinced me that I need to share a little gardening blog with y’all.  Even though it is not sailing related, I realize the world of self-sustainability can bring the two together.

At our house I try to only plant useful plants. Three years ago I started with a small garden plot and two trellises which we placed on our fences. I’ll start by explaining that we just have a small suburban lot that is mostly covered in house, so we try to use as much of the available space as possible, while still leaving space for the dogs to play.

The first year of gardening we planted a miniature dwarf lime tree and grape vines on either fence. The lime tree survived almost three years but then was finally killed off by a year of several hard frosts. If I had that to do again I would have planted a more hearty Myer Lemon tree. On the fence trellises we planted concord grapes on one side, and niagra grapes on the other. The niagra died after being mowed off by the lawn crew, not once but twice. Our concord grapes have grown in nicely every year, but we’ve only had one bunch of grapes. This year I trimmed them way back and fertilized well. We’ll see how they do. The first leaves appeared this week.

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For our vegetable garden I like to start some seeds inside while some things I plant outdoors when it’s time. Here in Houston the season starts early, and it will be different everywhere so just go by temperatures. About two or three weeks before the last freeze I like to plant my tomato and pepper plants in little seed pods. You can get about 40 pods for $3. I just put them in little food tubs with no drain holes. I water them every other day or so and always drain the excess water into my house plants.

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I like to reuse any of these seed pods that don’t end up growing plants by planting random seeds from my food in them.  The most recent attempt was several mandarin orange seeds. Some are actually growing! When they get too big for their little seed things, if the weather is still not warm enough for them, I will move them to some small pots like you see above.  The black plastic pots you get when you buy plants are the perfect size for this. To move peppers outside it needs to be consistently warmer than 60 degrees, even at night. Tomatoes need temperatures higher than 50 degrees. However, while you are growing your seeds inside it’s a good time to start growing your greens outside.

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You can grow these when temperatures are above 25 degrees, and they grow fast, so don’t be afraid to start early. Some cold weather plants that I currently have growing are spinach, kale, collard greens, cauliflower, carrots, chives and onions.

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With the greens I stagger planting. I like to do about two rows at a time and plant maybe every week or two weeks depending on how much salad we can eat at a time. There are only two of us. This way you can have fresh salad all spring. The larger greens can also just be picked and left in the ground. Pick from the outside in, and for sure pick leaves that are blocking sun for other smaller plants first.

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When you have a lot of small plants in a clump like above, just randomly pick around trying to thin them out. I chop off the roots and throw all of my greens into a big strainer. That way I can rinse them all off at once when I get into the house.

My recycling routine also ties into my gardening routine. I like to keep all of my vegetable scraps and grow them into new plants.  I cut off the base of onions, set them out to dry, and then plant them in the garden wherever I have an empty spot.  Later on you cut the green shoots off that grow up, and divide the base. Each old onion cutting will give you two new onion plants. Also with celery you can take the base, trim off the outside layers, and put it in a bit of water. New celery shoots will begin to grow, and then you can just plant it in the garden with everything else. Sure, it’s a slow process, but who doesn’t want never-ending celery?

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The last section of my garden is where I keep my squash and cucumbers.  I like to grow these on a sort of table shaped trellis.  I pull the vines up through, and let the fruits grow hanging.  This keeps them from growing all over my garden.  It also helps with keeping the fruit from bruising, and keeping the bugs off of them, which is a huge problem for these vines.

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Well there you guys go — a small window into my gardening routine!

Spontaneous raft-up

While we spent Friday and Saturday focused on wedding activities, we couldn’t let the first sunny skies we’d seen in weeks pass without getting out on the water for at least a few hours. Sunday we headed for the marina and puttered out into the bay.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough wind to even pretend to be sailing. Everyone was just kind of bobbing around with their sails sagging. Then we heard a familiar laugh echoing across the bay. Sure enough, our friend Rene was out on Sea Angel, so we puttered over to drink his rum instead of ours.

Not long after our friend Adam on Storyteller appeared as well.

It was a spontaneous raft up!

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We still haven’t mastered the raft up. We ended up tying a bow line from Gimme Shelter to the stern of Sea Angel and letting her dangle out there. However, with no wind Gimme Shelter had a tendency to start floating up beside us instead of staying behind us. Storyteller tied up to the side of Sea Angel, which was fine except when the passing motorboat wakes set the two boats banging against each other. I’m sure there’s some kind of trick to it that we’ll eventually figure out.

I think this impromptu party qualified for the hashtag #SundayFunDay

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This week the rain and fog have returned, but at least we got a sneak peek of spring.

Congratulations to John and Megan

It takes a lot to get Mary and myself off the water, but we had some very important duties this weekend. Mary was serving as the matron of honor in her best friend’s wedding, and I was lending my photography skills to the event. This is a sailing and adventure blog, not a wedding blog, so I’ll keep it short, but I will say, “Congratulations John and Megan. I hope you guys have many happy years together!”

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Improving the ONA Bowery camera bag

I’m always looking for the perfect camera bag. While big padded Lowepro bags and backpacks are great, they kind of scream, “HEY, I’M A TOURIST AND THIS IS MY CAMERA THAT YOU SHOULD STEAL!” For a very long time I was looking for something small and light that could still handle a camera body and one or two lenses when I’m traveling or hiking.

Then last Christmas my lovely wife bought me this beautiful ONA Bowery leather camera bag.

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In the past two years this bag has transversed the United States and crossed the Atlantic twice. However, the more I’ve carried it, the more I’ve noticed it has a few problems.

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On the inside, it has only one padded divider. That means you get one camera with a mounted lens on one side, and one lens or flash crammed into the other with a charger.

Those two small front pockets and two small side pockets can each hold one, and only one, of the following: a spare battery, a passport, a lens filter, or a USB cable.

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ONA touted this rear pocket as being for an iPad Mini or other small tablet. Well, I happened to have an iPad Mini, so I stuck it in there. However, it slid out twice in my car and once at Charles de Gaulle airport, so I decided sticking anything in the open back pocket was just asking for it to be lost or stolen.

ONA sells large padded dividers for the briefcase size bags and small padded dividers like what came with the Bowery, but for some reason they don’t sell a divider the width of the Bowery to create an internal iPad sleeve. However, my very lovely and talented wife, who was thoughtful enough to buy me the bag in the first place, can sew.

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For $15 I ordered two large padded dividers, and after about 30 minutes of work, Mary had downsized one of them to the interior size of the Bowery. (Thank you, honey!)

I now have a secure interior slot for the iPad, a notepad, or a battery charger.

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I really don’t know why ONA doesn’t sell the bags like this in the first place. The padded dividers are just cardboard wrapped in packing foam. (And they are a serious pain to cut through with old scissors!) If they can sell two for $15 at a profit, they could definitely add one to each bag without increasing production costs enough to raise the cost of the bag.

And now with the interior padded pocket for tablets, why not add a zipper to the rear outside pocket, so it’s actually usable?

Are you listening ONA?!!!

Shortly after I received this bag, ONA released the Berlin, which if I could do it all again, I’d probably choose that slightly larger model. However, being a gift from Mary, I’ll stick with the Bowery. It is a very tough bag, and it keeps me packing light when we’re doing lots of walking.

Lonely islands, black rats, and giant bugs

NPR had a very interesting story this morning about the tree lobster, a 12 cm long flightless insect from Australia. Thought to be extinct since the 1920s due to the accidental introduction of black rats to Lord Howe Island, biologist found one small group of them living on one plant way up a mountain on a tiny island off the coast. It’s a very interesting story about invasive species and conservation.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/24/147367644/six-legged-giant-finds-secret-hideaway-hides-for-80-years?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20150310

Australia definitely isn’t the only place with huge insects. Check out this beetle we ran into in Hopkins, Belize last summer.

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Giant bugs are part of the adventure, right?

What’s the craziest insect or animal you’ve ever run into?