Repairing a cabin dome light with LEDs

I think we can all agree that the easiest way to convert your boat lights to LED is to just stick one of these adapter bulbs in the socket.

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However, not long after a recent “conversion” one of my dome lights quit again. I pulled out the multi-meter to see if I was getting power to the socket, and I found this.

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One of the contacts was missing. After 33 years the spring-loaded plastic bottom of the socket had become too brittle and finally snapped. While my dome lights aren’t particularly pretty, they at least all match. I was faced with either repairing this one or replacing it with a new style light that wouldn’t look like the others and would require me to drill new mounting holes.

Instead of replacing the socket I decided to just wire an array of LEDs to the switch. Since I wanted it done that afternoon, my only option was West Marine.

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The Dr. LED dome light conversion kit came with two sets of pigtails, one with bare wires on the ends and the other with a double bayonet connector. That seemed a bit unnecessary because anyone attempting this who didn’t need the bayonet could have just clipped it off and used the wires, but I guess they have to justify charging $30 for LEDs somehow.

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I turned off the 12-volt power, removed the light fixture from the ceiling, clipped the old wires, and removed the broken socket.

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Yep, it’s still broken.

I then connected the positive leads to the switch and the negative lead to ground. Then I plugged the pigtail into the LED array.

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Time to turn the 12 volt breaker back on and test the setup.

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The LED Conversion kit comes with two pieces of double-sided foam tape to stick the array into the dome. I only used one. I guess the other one is there in case you mess up.

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Then I just had to re-attach the lens and screw the fixture back into the cabin top.

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Theoretically I should never have to mess with this light again. I’ll let you know how it works out.

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Running from the storm aboard a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 41 DS

Last weekend it was supposed to be another scorcher and Mary was suffering from a fever and sore throat. We were planning to skip the marina altogether and spend Saturday on the couch watching Netflix — but then the phone rang.

Texas Coast Yachts was having a demo event and wanted to know if we’d like to go sailing on a brand new Jeanneau 41. Suddenly Mary perked up, downed some ibuprofen, and we were headed for Kemah.

Texas Coast Yachts is the Jeanneau, NEEL Trimarans, and most importantly to Mary, the Fountaine Pajot Catamaran dealership in our area.

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While they didn’t have any new FPs to demo, Captain Michael Clark was kind enough to invite us to try out this gorgeous 2015 Jeanneau Sun Odyssey DS 41.

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The DS stands for Deck Salon, and the big difference between the DS models and the regular Jeanneau Sun Odysseys is this fantastic aft cabin.

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In the 41 you have a nice big bed that you can get in and out of without climbing over your spouse, as well as a sitting area and plenty of storage. There’s a pass-through on each side of the companionway with a master bathroom to port.

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Thanks to the big windows the boat is very bright inside. It’s very nicely laid out.

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All those windows might keep the air-conditioner running full-time in the Houston summer, but if you can afford a brand new Jeanneau, you probably don’t fuss over the electric bill.

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The V-berth has a nice bed and head as well, so the layout is great for two couples — or maybe just one couple that can’t stand being around each other.

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The breakers are located in a panel above the nav station. There’s no key required to start up the Yanmar, you just switch on the circuit, and the diesel starts with a push of a button at the helm.

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The 360 Docking bow thruster made getting in and out of the slip a piece of cake, and the 40hp Yanmar sail drive pushed her up to hull speed with no problem.

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Captain Mike brought us out of the marina and then handed me the wheel while he showed us how to unfurl the main and the jib.

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The main sheet system has no traveler. Instead it’s set up, so that the main can be adjusted from either side of the cockpit to enable you to control it from both helms.

A line of dark clouds was visible on the horizon just as we set the sail, and it was only minutes before Captain Mike was explaining that the blue dots on the sails were suggested reefing points as we furled some sail back in.

Mary, although excited to be sailing on a new boat, still wasn’t feeling well. Add to that the fact that our GPS was reading 7.5 knots SOG as the boat was heeling more and more with every gust, and she was not happy. Yes, we had reefed, but it wasn’t doing much to slow us down when the wind was gusting past 30 knots.

As the lightning flashes started getting closer and water starting spraying over the cockpit, Mary snapped one photo of me (and her finger) before a gust heeled us over far enough to knock everyone’s phones and sunglasses off the cockpit table.

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We’d been out for less than 20 minutes, but it was time to get the sails down and get back to the marina before things got really bad. I kicked the engine back on, we furled the sails and headed in. Motoring downwind we were surfing waves in the channel and still had an apparent wind of 21 knots behind us.

I was sure that sailing a nice big monohull would convince Mary we didn’t need a catamaran, but I think the weather sabotaged me. I never even got her to take the wheel.

Personally, I was impressed with the way the boat handled. The dual rudders made it very responsive and easier to control than our smaller O’day 34. It also did a much better job of pushing through the waves. I’m still not completely sold on the idea of a roller-furling main, but it was easy to use, and we still had plenty of power and control with it reefed.

We made it back to marina and backed into the slip just as the dark clouds swallowed the sky over us.

Special thanks to Texas Coast Yachts and Captain Michael Clark for the chance to sail on such a nice boat.

Getting Ready for a Winter Garden

For those of us down here in the south August is a time to pull up your dead spring plants, and till up the ground as best you can for a winter garden.  Right now I still have Blueberries and Grapes in the garden of course, they’re perennials. fallgarden03

I have sunflowers I planted from seed, which should finish up any day now. fallgarden04

I also have Tomatoes which should be done end of Sept mid October, and Peppers which could go till December.

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The tomatoes were starting to look dead, but it started to cool off and rain and they have grown all anew.  Complete with tons of little tomatoes. fallgarden05  fallgarden01

Somehow I also still have some Collard Greens, and Kale which managed to survive all summer.

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In the garden pictured above these are the seeds I will be planting for winter. I’m going to make the upper garden all salad greens, and plant the larger plants down on the bottom level.  Mesclun is just a mix of different greens you can buy premixed from Burpee.

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On the top row are the seeds I will sew this week.  The greens on the bottom row I will wait until early September, when I am sure it is cool enough.  I mixed in a lot more soil into my boxes this year as my 100% composted manure mix was too strong for a lot of my plants, and dried out quickly.

I’ve never had any luck germinating sweet peas.  This year I’m going to try my mothers method of soaking them overnight, and then planting them in the morning.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

Review: Big Kahuna 12-volt Portable Shower

Thanks to a generous co-worker of mine we had the chance this weekend to test a Big Kahuna Portable Shower Shower.

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The system consists of the water tank (ours is 8 gallon, but they’re available in various sizes), the 12 volt plug, the hose with the shower head at the end, and a small water pump inside.  I was happy to see that both the plug, and the shower head came with very long cords because we had intended to put it down in the lazarette for after-swim shower and dog washing in the cockpit.

The pump inside is German made.

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The whole thing was very simple to put together, and even full of water was light enough for me to lift town into the lazarette. The top lid is supposed to absorb sunlight to give you warm showers, but I’m a bit skeptical of that claim.

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The pressure on it was similar to a standard shower head and about the same as what we get from the faucets on the boat. It wouldn’t do much good trying to spray mud off the anchor, but it has enough pressure to rinse soap out of your hair.

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It was also perfect for washing a certain smelly dog.

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It would definitely be more cost efficient to just connect a wash-down hose to our current water system. However, the Big Kahuna does have some advantages.

Not all boats have pressurized water systems, so it is definitely the easiest way to add a cockpit wash-down hose.

With the Big Kahuna you’re also adding additional freshwater capacity. It’s nice to know those cockpit showers aren’t cutting into the drinking water supply.

Portability is another perk. Take the Big Kahuna to the beach, and you no longer have to get back in the car with sandy feet or gear.

We’ll be testing the Big Kahuna further, but I’m definitely looking forward to rinsing the salt off next time I go swimming. Plus, no more dog hair in the boat drains.

GBCA Cruzan Rum Race #5

Saturday we reported to Kemah Boardwalk for Rum Race #5 of the current series. Hippokampus was out of action for the weekend, so their crew joined our crew on Antares. Mary took her post working the main sheet, but with plenty of able bodies aboard, I skipped winch duty and spent the afternoon sitting on the rail and taking photos. Here’s a few of my favorites from the day.

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I decided to shoot this entire race with my vintage 90mm Elmarit. While it provides a great crop for landscape shots of the race and gives me enough reach to capture the crew of passing boats, it’s not so good for capturing any pictures of the crew on your own boat.

While I was goofing off taking photos, Mary was doing a great job on the main sheet. I would say she has definitely conquered her anxiety in regard to heeling since we came across the finish looking like this.

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We had a great run, but a bittersweet ending to the day. The diesel wouldn’t start, so we had cruise up and down the channel a few times waiting for a tow boat to come get us.

But hey, at least we got another photo op when we sailed back past the committee boat.

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Thanks to Scott Lacy for the photos of Antares. Click here to see the rest of his shots from the race.

Want to see my G-string?

Any luthiers or guitar experts out there?

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I always keep a cheap guitar on the boat. I want it to sound decent, but if worse comes to worst, I don’t want to feel bad if I have to use it as a paddle.

My first boat guitar was an Epiphone Dove with a cracked neck that I procured for $30.

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A little wood glue, and it was a nice player for about a year. Then the same spot on the neck broke again, so I stripped it for hardware and junked the body.

My current guitar is an Epiphone AJ. It was a B stock guitar with a few blemishes that I picked up new for $89.

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For the past two years or so, it played and sounded great. Unfortunately it has suddenly started popping G-strings. The last two times I’ve played it the G string has broken at the saddle with less than two hours of use. Then tonight I swapped the strings again, and the G broke while I was just tuning it.

I use Elixir strings, so they don’t rust out in a week on the boat, but they’re about $15 a set. When the guitar is worth less than $100, even $15 is a large investment, especially if the strings are now only lasting for an hour or two of play time. They were previously lasting for up to six months of weekend jams.

My Gibson has a bone saddle, and I see lots of them available on eBay for anywhere from 99 cents to $20. But how do I know they’ll fit, and is a 99 cent bone saddle really any good? Should I search for a replacement nylon/plastic saddle? Should I gift this guitar to a starving artist and find another sub-$100 boat instrument?

Right now I have a B string replacing the G string, so that there’s less tension, but it makes the tone a little funny. Using two B strings is definitely not a long-term solution.

Come on guitar experts, I know you’re out there. What in the world is going on with my guitar and how do I fix it (cheaply)?

Old Ships and New Friendships

Sunday morning we woke up to a slow start thanks to some excessive after-race partying.  We had planned to take some new friends out on our boat around 10, and woke up around 9:30 to a very messy, and totally unprepared boat.  After making Fred and the dogs get out of bed, rushing around throwing things into drawers/closets/the V-berth, and a quick trip to the store for supplies we were ready not a second too early.

We met Kayla and TJ when they courageously decided to buy the 25ft Oday that had been for sale next to ours. We were excited to meet some new friends with whom we could share our sailing knowledge. While it’s a real pleasure to sail with experienced sailors, its also nice once in awhile to be the expert. Plus, we were greeted by a pod of dolphins as soon as we passed the Kemah Boardwalk, so we knew it would be a great day.

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Kayla and TJ also invited their friends Ashley and Chase along for the sail. They had been staying with them on their boat all weekend, and were excited to get a chance to get out on the water.  Tex was also there…grumpy and hot.

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The day started out slow with 0-2 knots of wind.  We kind of bobbed around with both sails flapping. We were joined by this lovely home built catamaran loaded up with bikini clad girls. They did not seem to be minding the lack of wind either.

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We all decided to jump in the water for a quick swim as it was over 100 degrees out with no breeze. Right as we started to get comfortable the wind suddenly jumped to 7 knots and we were all being towed behind the boat.  As fun as that was, thinking we might look like shark bait, we all climbed aboard and decided to do some real sailing.

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We tried to give TJ and Kayla a chance to helm and to work the winches. They did an amazing job!

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Everyone on the crew did a great job helping out.  Even in this Texas heat, we managed to have an amazing day on the water.

The Adler/Barbour Historical Preservation Society

One of the things to take into consideration when buying an older boat is that while the hull itself may be in great shape, you’re going to have to spend some money updating other things.

O’day 34s were constructed with two large iceboxes in the galley.

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Sometime in Gimme Shelter’s past a previous owner converted the aft icebox into a refrigerator with an Adler/Barbour Cold Machine.

It wasn’t a terrible installation. They mounted to compressor in the lazarette and used the correct size wires run directly to the house batteries with its own breaker switch.

However, they mounted the evaporator very high in the icebox, so that there was no space to add any insulation to the icebox lid. This creates moisture and sweat on the counter, which in turn rots out the plywood icebox lids.

Last year I constructed a new lid, which I sealed with epoxy to hopefully stop the rotting. I also added a layer of neoprene on the bottom of it in hopes of improving the efficiency of the refrigerator.

It was only a matter of months before the cold and moisture destroyed the glue holding the neoprene onto the bottom. In the winter we still had ice forming on the counter. In the summer we still had a damp counter.

To make matters worse, during the heat of the summer, the battery charger couldn’t keep up with the refrigerator’s draw on the house batteries. We started having to turn off the refrigerator when we left the boat because without the air-conditioner running to keep the ambient temperature lower in the cabin, the refrigerator would run non-stop and run the batteries flat.

We knew we had to do something, but when you’re a frugal boater (aka cheap), it’s hard to spend money re-working something that already functions enough to get you by.

Well, last week we arrived to the boat and flipped on the refrigerator breaker only to get no response. It was dead as a doorknob.

Our friend Andy also happened to have an Adler/Barbour system that had just died, which he was troubleshooting, so he offered to stop by and troubleshoot ours this week. His first comment was, “Wow, your system is MUCH older than mine.”

In fact, I went scrounging through the folder of old receipts and manuals presented to us by the previous owner, and it turns out our refrigerator dates back to around 1985 — at least, that’s the copyright on the installation instructions.

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Adler/Barbour is also now owned by Waeco, part of the Dometic Group, instead of IMI.

While Andy’s troubleshooting showed that it’s probably the control unit that has gone bad, the four-pin control unit is no longer made. However, you can allegedly use a Frigoboat controller unit as a replacement. That’s a $285 non-refundable gamble I’m not will to make on a 30-year-old system that already had some fundamental problems.

Since the thermostat and evaporator seemed fine, our next option was to just replace the compressor/condendor unit. Unfortunately, our system is still running R12 freon, so I’m not sure how the evaporator would react if we hooked a new R134a compressor up to it. Not to mention the fact that Adler/Barbour has changed the connections on their lines sometime in the past three decades, and we’d have to pay an additional $199 for the adapter kit.

Seriously, how are those two short copper tubes worth $199?!!!

It looks like we’re going to have to negate our membership in the Adler/Barbour Historical Preservation Society and rip the old refrigerator out next weekend.

Right now we’re leaning towards this Isotherm Refrigeration Kit, which uses the same Danfoss compressor but is a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the Adler/Barbour system.

And most importantly, I’m going to install the evaporator in a spot that allows for a very well-insulated lid.