Learning to Paint: The first attempt

In September 2019, back when the world was normal, and we jumped on airplanes to breath up each other’s exhales without thinking twice, Mary and I made a trip to Salt Lake City.

During that trip Bryce Green and Freddy Carlson taught us how to paint.

When you have pro equipment being set up for you in a climate controlled spray booth with two of the best painters in the world coaching you, it’s hard NOT to paint well. Recreating that magic in my garage has proven to be more of a challenge. I didn’t really have the space or want the noise of an 80 gallon compressor. Additionally, I was going to have to install multiple moisture traps along the walls. I decided to take a chance on an Apollo 5-stage turbine sprayer.

Allegedly it delivers a continuous 9.5 psi of dry air, and it has a nice HVLP gravity fed gun similar to the SATA guns we used during our class. It’s fairly quiet, and I can spray anywhere there’s a wall plug. I’m hoping we can spray varnish and maybe even gel coat on the sailboat as well.

When we learned the Kindig It paint method, it started with bare metal, then epoxy primer, then filler, then polyester primer, then 2k urethane primer, then sealer, then basecoat, and finally clearcoat.

First off, I’m on a budget. Second, I don’t really have the time or energy to take the Cougar all the way down to bare metal. For my test run, I decided to see what would happen if I sanded the parts, used a little rust encapsulator where necessary, then jumped straight to a 2k primer.

By the way, I never thought I’d have a favorite sandpaper, but I ordered several rolls of Indasa paper from Big Kid Blocks, and I have to say, I love Indasa sandpaper. It is so much better than whatever I usually grab at the hardware store. I also highly recommend their Show Gun cleaner and AngelWax products.

All of the engine parts for this test were giveaways from various members of the Southeast Texas Cats Mercury Cougar Club. The valve covers were from a 68 Cougar. The oil pan was from a 65 Mustang. All of the pieces had different color paint and varying amounts of rust. I cleaned them with a wire wheel, but the gold paint on the oil pan was especially stubborn. I gave it all a spray with rust encapsulator, then sanded with 220.

I emptied all 22 ounces of 2k primer onto the parts. At times I felt like I had the gun spraying well, but at times it felt like I was barely getting any paint out at all. I was using a 1.5mm nozzle, but I think I probably needed a 1.8mm. (Unfortunately, I haven’t purchased a 1.8mm.) I kept turning the air pressure up, but in fact, I probably needed to turn it down to increase paint flow.

When the primer dried, it had a very rough texture. It smoothed out easily with 400 grit, but sanding won’t be an option when I get to the color coat.

I finished sanding, wiped it down with paint prep, then re-assessed. The coverage had become a little thin in some places, and there were a few spots showing bare metal.

I decided that instead of moving on to the base coat, it would be better to troubleshoot my issues and try another coat of primer. I’m going to spend more time adjusting the gun and increase the amount of reducer for better flow. Hopefully I’ll have time for attempt number two before the weekend is over.

Upgrading my Universal/Westerbeke Heat Exchanger: The dumbest repair I’ve ever made

This is a tale of folly and failure. My lack of research and trust in manufacturers led me down a long path of woe.

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The Universal 5424 in our 1982 O’day 34 was overheating. The 3-cylinder diesel motor was rated to run at 2800 RPM. However, if we pushed it past 1900 RPM, the temp needle began rising and never stopped.

Decades ago, Universal/Westerbeke admitted that the 2″ diameter heat exchanger was too small for the 5424 and the M-25 and recommended upgrading to a 3″ heat exchanger. Despite our engine allegedly being rebuilt in 2008, that never happened.

At the very beginning of this debacle, a friend said I should just buy a cheap generic 3″ heat exchanger with screw-in bungs, so I could size them to my hoses and just do a quick swap. I decided against that because I wanted to keep the engine as OEM as possible with an “official” upgraded part, and I thought finding the barbed bronze bungs might be a pain. Oh, how foolish I was.

Catalina Direct had factory style replacements heat exchangers starting at $500, but I wasn’t ready to pay that much, so I searched eBay. One seller claimed he had a 3″ Universal heat exchanger. It looked very similar to the one I had. I made an offer at $150 (plus $20 shipping), and he accepted! I probably should have paid more attention to the last line in his auction that said, “measurements are not exact.”

A few days later the eBay exchanger arrived. It did look very much like the one on my boat — because it was the exact same 2″ diameter heat exchanger mounted on the back of my motor.

I contacted the eBay seller, and after a photo with a measuring tape showing that he had definitely listed this part incorrectly, he agreed to refund my money. Unfortunately, I had to spend another $20 to ship it back.

Before the project even started, I was down $40.

I browsed the Universal/Westerbeke options on Catalina Direct, and they all had the same hose inlets/outlets listed. I took that to mean they were standard sizes that would be the same as the heat exchanger I was removing. That was a terrible assumption.

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Approximately $550 later, I had this 3″ x 17″ behemoth that didn’t share a single intake or outlet size with my old unit. In fact, despite being the “factory” upgrade, some of the outlets didn’t even point the correct direction.

I slowly began the process of adapting the hose sizes and directions to make it fit.

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Why have four hoses and eight leak points when you can have 15 adapter pieces, nine hose sections and 63 leak points?

The worst part of it all was the 7/8″ raw water intake port. My oberdorfer pump had a 1/2″ barb and hose coming off of it. I found a 3/4″ barb, but a 3/4″ hose will not fit on the 7/8″ intake — even if you boil the hose first. There are no 7/8″ fittings available ANYWHERE.

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I ended up running the 1/2″ hose to a 3/4″ adapter and then triple clamping the 7/8″ hose onto that to keep it from leaking. However, since the soft 7/8″ inlet got slightly out of round as the heat exchanger was being moved around for three weekends, the 7/8″ hose doesn’t make a perfect seal on it, and I’ve now got an ever-so-slight drip of sea water leaking into my bilge for the rest of my life.

Another $500 in adapters and hoses later, I finally had the entire coolant system put back together.

Since I had to drain all the coolant anyway, I decided to replace my thermostat.

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That was an easy process, but you have to special order the molded hose that connects the thermostat housing to the water pump. Be aware of this fact ahead of time because if you’re not, you have to put the project on hold for another week while you wait on that hose to show up.

Once I finally got it all back together, I fired up the engine, and it promptly overheated.

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Yes, I had an airlock. I did not know that after filling the coolant system, you must remove the bolt in the top of the thermostat housing and then pour more coolant in there to remove the air pocket.

After overheating the engine twice dealing with the airlock, I finally got it running. We ran it in the slip long enough to verify the thermostat was opening correctly, and that she wouldn’t overheat anymore.

It took three weekends and about $1200 after the expense of the heat exchanger, hoses, adapters, clamps, thermostat, and impeller, but we can finally push into the wind at 2200 RPM without overheating.

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Our last time out in that type of wind we were running at 2 – 2.5 knots. Making trips down to Galveston in a strong headwind were completely out of the question. Now we should be able to plan trips at an average speed of at least 4 knots no matter what the weather is like.

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We still don’t have one of those speed demon sailboats that can motor at 6.5 knots, but four is twice as nice as two. However, if I could do this project again, I definitely wouldn’t be so freaking dumb.

Don’t be like me. Get the generic heat exchanger and screw in the barbs that fit your existing hoses. You can even get 90-degree nozzles and twist them to the exact direction required.

I’m going to apologize now to any future captain of Gimme Shelter. Projects like this are the reason people hate previous owners.

 

 

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.

Playing with light

If you haven’t figured it out from the blog, I’ll just go ahead and admit it now … I’m not normal.

Over the weekend our boat neighbors gifted Mary a string of LED lights that she thought might be neat to install under the counters in Gimme Shelter. The lights made it home with us, and they were just sitting there in the living room, so I HAD to play with them.

Mary didn’t even seem surprised when she called me to dinner and found me in the living room wrapped in the lights dancing around in front of my camera. However, I was surprised when she volunteered to be wrapped in the lights, so I could continue experimentation with long exposure light painting.

After about a dozen tries with 8-second exposures and an off-camera flash, we were able to create a dress (or at least an artistic facsimile of a dress) from light.

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To create this effect, Mary had the string of lights wrapped around her torso and waist with about four feet of light dangling from her waist to the floor. She would strike a pose and hold it, and I would start the exposure. After hitting the button on the camera, I would pop an off-camera flash, which would expose her face and arms. As soon as the flash had gone off, she would bend over and wave the 4′ of dangling LED rope in front of her to create the “skirt”. We found that if she didn’t bend over, her face and arms would continue to expose in the upper part of the frame causing blurs and ghosting.

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It’s always satisfying to learn a new technique and create something unique. Of course, I was still in long exposure mode this morning when I rolled into the office, so I snapped this 24 second exposure of the sunrise out of the window before grabbing some coffee and jumping on my conference call. Yes, it looks pretty much exactly like the last long exposure I did out of my office window, but hey, it’s still cool.

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A slow day racing is better than no day racing

We’re not really hardcore sailboat racers.

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In fact, I entered the boating world by restoring a sunken sailboat that didn’t move for almost three years. That probably makes me more of a sailboat mechanic than an actual sailor. I only took the ASA basic keel boat course because I needed to know how to run the lines when I put the boat back together.

Laid back cruising has always been the plan.

However, after being invited to crew on Antares last year, I’m really starting to enjoy racing. It’s definitely been great practice for sailing on our own boat, and we’ve made lots of new friends.

Last weekend Mary surprised me with a new set of Henry Lloyd foulies as an early birthday present, so I’d have them for the last two icicle series races.

They’re very nice. I put them on Saturday morning, and even the snowy egret hopped up on the breakwater to check them out.

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However, the foulies proved completely unnecessary. By race time the weather was so nice, and the wind was so light that we actually got Mary to come along for the ride as crew photographer.

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There was enough crew to run both Antares, Doug’s Cal 40, and Hippokampus, Andy’s Pearson 422.

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First leg started with the spinnaker flying, but even with the kites up, this photo pretty much captures the speed and intensity of the entire race.

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Yes, he’s napping on the transom. They also had a guy napping on foredeck.

Hippokampus was flying her spinnaker for the first time. The red, white and blue definitely looked good.

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I got some good practice working the spin sheets and the jib sheets, and Mary got some good photos.

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