The voyage that never was: Kemah to Fort Myers

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Well, it turns out that the Tina Marie Too is not moving to Florida next week, and I won’t be making my first delivery. That’s ok, though. It means more guitar jams at Watergate Marina.

Several people still wanted to see the animated GIF, so I’m leaving it posted. Eventually at some point the Tina Marie Too will make the trip, just not next week as was previously planned.

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Converting an icebox into a refrigerator

The previous owner of Gimme Shelter converted the icebox to a refrigerator in 1985. I still have the receipt for the Adler-Barbour cold machine. However, after 30 years of service, it had seen better days.

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When it finally gave up the ghost we decided to start fresh, so we set about dismantling the system and cleaning out the icebox.

With the modern refrigerator kits from Isotherm and Adler-Barbour, converting an icebox is one of the easiest projects we’ve done.

The very first step when attempting a conversion is to measure your icebox and calculate the volume. Ours was 16″ x 20″ x 21″. With a quick conversion that’s 1.33′ x 1.66′ x 1.75’= 3.88 cubic feet.

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Knowing the size of icebox we needed to cool, we started browsing our available options. Based on price and reviews, we decided to try the $899 Isotherm Compact 2301 Icebox Refrigeration Kit. However, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between one brand and another anymore. They all use danfoss compressors, and the evaporators look mysteriously similar.

When the refrigeration kit arrived, the box was surprisingly small.

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In the box was the compressor, condenser and evaporator, pre-charged with r134a coolant.

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The unit also came with a bracket for mounting the compressor on either a horizontal or vertical surface.

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And the kit came with the thermostat, a fuse holder, and a short power cable, but we had to supply our own positive and negative leads to the battery as well as a breaker.

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The Isotherm unit turned out to be so compact that it could be easily mounted under the galley cabinets or a settee. However, since we already had a hole drilled and a location available in the lazarette, we decided to keep the new unit there.

That brings me to step two. Figure out where you want to mount the compressor and lay everything out BEFORE you drill any holes in the icebox.

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As you can see, we already had a hole drilled, but making sure you drill the hole in the right place is the most complicated part of this entire project. If you’ve got everything laid out and drill your hole in the right spot, you’re over the hump.

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For best results, you need to run power wires directly from the battery to a breaker to the mounting location. The instructions for you refrigerator will tell you the appropriate wire and breaker sizes.

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Wiring the new Isotherm unit was incredibly easy. Everything is very clearly labeled and uses push-on connectors.

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Once we had our wiring and coolant lines run, we screwed down the Isotherm mounting bracket where we wanted the compressor to sit. Then it’s vibration absorbing feet just slide onto the bracket and clip in.

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The coolant lines have self-sealing valves. In other words, they don’t open until you screw them together. And if you ever need to take them apart, they should seal themselves as you unscrew them. This not only makes install easy, it’s also much better for the environment not to have coolant leaking into the air.

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The lines are threaded with one male and one female on each half of the system, so that there’s only one way to hook them together. Just line them up straight and use two wrenches to tighten them.

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Meanwhile back in the icebox we need to mount the evaporator as high as possible while leaving space for an insulated lid. Trying to stick your arm down in the box while screwing at an odd angle can be tricky, so making a paper template of the evaporator and pre-drilling the mounting holes makes it easier. I was really surprised the unit didn’t come with a paper mounting template.

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The bare metal end of the thermostat lead needs to be screwed up against the bottom of the evaporator. (I forgot to get a photo of this, but I found out the hard way that it’s much easier to accomplish this before you screw the evaporator onto the wall.)

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Our unit also came with a lid that is held in place with a bungee cord. I’m not sure it really does much to make the icebox any icier, but it does give the refrigerator a more finished look.

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Our final step was to attach the positive and negative 12-volt leads to the control panel on the compressor. We flipped the breaker and were delighted when the unit hummed to life. However, it was an extremely quiet, barely audible hum. Our old unit had sort of a high-pitched bearing squeal that was audible anywhere in the boat. With the new unit we can’t hear it at all unless we open the lazarette and listen for it.

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As you can see, the footprint of the new until is less than half that of our old unit.

Once everything is connected and running, you can squirt a little spray foam into the icebox hole to seal it up. If your icebox lid isn’t insulated, it will also boost the efficiency of your new refrigerator to insulate that as well. Catalina Direct actually sells icebox lid insulation containers that just screw on to the bottom of your existing lid in a couple of sizes, but it’s easy enough just to make your own.

My ASA Certified Sailing Instructor

Many of our fellow rum race crew mates are currently or have been American Sailing Association instructors. However, I was surprised when Mary announced to me that she had decided to sign up for the instructor course to begin teaching ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing. Thus began a very intense four weeks of studying and sailing.

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While Mary had passed the ASA 101 class three years ago, it’s not like we sit around discussing the parts of the boat or the center of effort. I mean, half the time when we’re about to tack I yell something like “tally-ho” because I can’t remember what you’re actually supposed to say.

Her books arrived and she spent every waking hour for at least two weeks memorizing names of lines, parts of the boat, rules of the road, and the meanings of all those strange flags with different amounts of dots.

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Many, many years ago at Scout Camp I taught Small Boat Sailing merit badge, but it was nothing close to the intensity of the ASA test. In fact, we had several friends who said, “You’ll probably think you failed it, but it’s made to crush your ego, so make sure you come back the next day.”

Then came the practical. She had to sail solo (which she’d never done before) on small boats with tillers (which she’d never used before) and start and run an outboard (which she’d never tried before). There was a lot to learn, so we spent two days laying down tracks that looked like this.

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It was a rough start. For the first hour, things did not look good, and my coaching and commentary was not too appreciated. Then, suddenly, it clicked! After that it was just tack after tack, jibe after jibe, setting and naming every point of sail. Then came figure eights for the man overboard drills. She was on fire!

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When the weekend of her course arrived, she scored a 96% on the written test and passed her practical and her teaching exam with flying colors. She walked out with a written recommendation from the instructor for every sailing school in the area.

To say that I’m proud would be an understatement. In the past year she’s gone from having anxiety attacks when the boat heels to crewing in rum races, making offshore passages, and now instructing classes.

Way to go, Mary! I love you.

Messing about in Boats

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Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING—absolutely nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats…In or out of ’em, it doesn’t matter.Nothing seems really to matter, that’s the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don’t; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you’re always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you’d much better not. Look here! If you’ve really nothing else on hand this morning, supposing we drop down the river together, and have a long day of it? ~ from “The Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame, illustration by E.H. Shepard.

The 2015 Lakewood Yacht Club Harvest Moon Regatta

When you buy a boat in Kemah, Texas you can’t help but hear stories of certain things like Redfish Island, Double Bayou, and the Harvest Moon Regatta.

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It seemed like every sailor with even a little bit of salt had done the Harvest Moon at some time or another. It also seemed like a whole lot of them had suspiciously “won it” more than once.

The regatta is a three-day, two-night race from Galveston to Port Aransas. It’s been an event that I’ve wanted to participate in for years now, but it always seemed I was traveling for work or had some other major conflict.

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This year I thought I was going to miss it again because Mary was out of vacation, and I was already taking two weeks off for a boat delivery in November. However, we had friends in need of one more crew person at the last minute, and they didn’t need me to help sail the boat back. That meant I would only miss one day of work, and Mary agreed to drive down to Port Aransas to treat herself to a spa day before meeting us at the marina for the party.

The weather is looking a little bit scary. It’s probably going to be raining sideways the entire time. This will also be my first attempt at sleeping on a boat under sail. We’ll see how that goes.

When we start Thursday you’ll be able to follow our track at http://trackleaders.com/harvest15i.php?name=HIPPOKAMPOS

One thing is certain, we’ll have plenty of wind.

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UPDATE: Looks like I won’t be sailing in the Harvest Moon Regatta this year. We got this message from Lakewood Yacht Club a few minutes ago.

THE 2015 HARVEST MOON REGATTA® RACE SCHEDULED TO BEGIN OCTOBER 22, 2015 HAS BEEN CANCELLED.

Due to serious concerns about the safety of participants and their vessels due to hazardous weather conditions predicted by several weather authorities, Lakewood Yacht Club, as Host, and Bay Access, as Organizer, have decided to cancel the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta® race.

Information regarding the other events scheduled to occur in Port Aransas as part of the regatta, including the Bacardi Rum Party, BBQ, and raffle events will be forthcoming.

The history and goal of the Harvest Moon Regatta® race is to promote offshore sailing in safe conditions such that the participants, whether seasoned sailing veterans or first time offshore sailors, can enjoy the race and trip down the coast with confidence and safety for all concerned. Race safety is paramount. Though it’s possible the weather could moderate during the time the race would have been held, the forecasts indicate the conditions will most likely remain such that race conditions, especially docking and vessel return conditions, will not meet the goals of the race as organized. Therefore, the 2015 Harvest Moon Regatta® race has been cancelled.

Fall Garden-Homemade Salsa

With the end summer comes an odd time for my garden.  The summer garden is finishing up, and the fall garden is already in full swing.

My tomatoes are just about done, but in a last burst of energy gave us more than we could handle this week.

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The peppers are still in full swing, and are producing more than we can eat right now. The Bell Peppers are really just starting, and I’m hoping for many more.

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We have some large okra producing right now, and after looking up when to pick it today I realized we’ve been making some mistakes.  Apparently they should be picked at 2 inches, anything bigger will ruin the taste.  They should also be picked continuously to keep them producing.

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After a great suggestion from Fred we decided to make some homemade salsa to use up some of the veggies.  We combined the tomatoes and peppers, then put in a little onion powder, cumin and salt.  It was just about the best thing ever.

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Sunset Cruising aboard SV Hippokampos

Mary spent last Saturday evening in a classroom taking the ASA 201 written test, so our friends Andy and Jayne were kind enough to invite me along on a sunset cruise.

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All the usual suspects were aboard.

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And I got to a chance to bring along my friends Chris and RJ, who have never done much sailing.

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We were making our way down the channel when we noticed several dolphins cruising along with a sailboat not too far from us.

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And soon they were on their way over to say hello to Hippokampos as well.

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As we made our way towards the ship channel they dropped back. This time of year they seem to spend more time in the upper bay.

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Soon the sun was dropping towards the horizon. It never ceases to amaze me how fast it moves once it starts setting.

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And just as the sun disappeared somewhere over there behind the Kemah Boardwalk, the wind picked up, so we turned the boat around and made another lap around the bay in the dark.

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Autumn is in the Air!

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A mixture of the cool Autumn air and a few weeks of going to bed very early had us up at sunrise this week.  Or at least it had me up, and I got everyone else up. :).

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Fred and the dogs were happy to join me in the cockpit for some early morning coffee and dog sweater fun.

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Can’t wait to break out those fancy yacht sweaters, and drink and eat on deck once again. Excited for apple cider, carving pumpkins, and lighting bonfires.

Happy Fall everyone!

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