Does your boat have eyebrows?

I’ve never really understood having eyebrow rails on boats. Does it make them more expressive? Ours just seemed to catch dirt then get broken when people slid off the cabin top and caught their feet on them.

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Within weeks of buying Gimme Shelter, a section of our starboard eyebrow rail had snapped off. Then another and another. By the time we rang in 2017, we were missing several sections of the trim on both sides of the boat.

Since O’day has been out of business for decades, there were no readily available replacement eyebrow rails. I had a discolored strip of gel coat with exposed screws sticking out that needed to be addressed.

From the beginning I knew I didn’t want to use screws to install the replacement. I looked into buying teak boards and cutting my own, but it was expensive, and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I looked into PlasDeck and NuTeak to see if they could replicate the originals for me, but they said they would have to make the rails wider and the plastic would require screws because an adhesive wouldn’t stick to it. I even thought about skipping the teak altogether and just putting a blue pinstripe on the cabin to cover up the stain.

It was by pure coincidence that the local boaters resale shop happened to have a set of never-installed eyebrow rails for a Catalina 34 for $99. (They’re $203 from CatalinaDirect.com.) The O’day rails were 14’4″ while the Catalina rails are only 14′, but they were pretty similar.

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I removed all the screws, filled the holes with epoxy, and stuck the new eyebrow rails on with 3M emblem adhesive — the same stuff I used to replace the fixed ports.

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The entire project was painless, which was such a relief after the nightmare of our heat exchanger replacement.

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The only downside was that the new eyebrow rails made our hand rails and toe rails look terrible. We spent the entire next day sanding them down and oiling them to make them match.

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Gimme Shelter is looking great.

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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.

 

 

Group Projects aka the Weekend of Hell

Last weekend many of our boat neighbors were able to make it down to the marina. We had exciting dreams of anchoring out at Redfish Island or chilling at the pool all day. Unfortunately nobody’s boat was really in sailing condition. Our boat needed to have the new dodger fitted and installed, and the new sunbrella on the jib needed to be unstitched, flattened, and then restitched. Folie a Deux was still sans rudder after an unfortunate trip back from Offats Bayou and needed their bimini altered and restitched.Meanwhile Celtic Cross aka “Big Nasty” was in the middle of a windlass replacement and needed to remove and replace several hundred pounds of chain. We gave up our dreams of having fun and decided to tackle these projects as a team.

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First we set my sewing machine up on the dock and proceeded to fit the dodger onto the boat. It has some handles that go into both bars of the frame that are a bit difficult to get on, but with one person pulling on each bow I was able to poke a couple holes in the canvas and stick the handles on. Maybe there is one extra hole in the side of the brand new dodger from a miscommunication, but it’s barely noticeable …

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The biggest setback came when we tried to cinch the dodger into place with the decades old straps, which immediately snapped in half. Fred went and bought new strap material, and I re-used the buckles to make new ones —  not too bad.

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So then the guys took the jib down for me and Jen to work on while they headed over to Folie a Deux to assess the rudder situation. The screws holding the lower gudgeon had sheared off during TJ’s last voyage, which left him with no steering in the middle of Galveston Bay.

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The replacement gudgeon had to be special ordered from DRMarine. Fred distinctly said, “Do you want to tie a string to that?” as they started the project. Another neighbor, the captain of Ketchup, confidently said, “Nah, I’m not going to drop it.”

Three minutes later everyone was changing into their swimsuits. Thankfully Fred is trained, and well practiced in rescuing things from disgusting marina mud. He tried to explain to everyone how to perform a “lost bathers drill.”

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Then he dove in and found it first try.

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Unfortunately that was just the first of a chain of destructive events. Once the screws and holes were properly sized for the gudgeon, TJ climbed down into the lazarette to secure the nuts from inside the boat. However, he somehow managed to stand on exposed battery connection terminals for quite a lengthy time without noticing until smoke was coming up out of the boat. The cables ended up welded to each other, and the battery terminal completely melted off the battery!

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With the project nearing completion, the guys only needed to set the rudder pintles back into the gudgeons. Unfortunately, as TJ was leaning over the back of the boat while holding the rudder, he put his knee on the gas tank. Suddenly there was a loud crack, and the smell of gasoline filled the air.

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The cracks were in the top of the extremely full tank, so it wasn’t leaking unless anyone tried to move it. However, the rudder was in place and with that project more or less stable, the guys decided to call it a day.  We cooled off in the pool, then decided to head across the lake via dinghy for dinner.

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Kelly and Jen were smart enough to do all the projects on Celtic Cross without any help from the rest of us — they went off without a hitch.

Sunday morning we reinstalled the jib on Gimme Shelter, which is now flat with no bunching in the sunbrella stitching. However, the wind was so strong I thought it was going to flap me to death as we raised it.

Then Fred helped TJ put the adjusted bimini back up on Folie a Deaux, replace the battery, and move all the gasoline into a new tank without creating an environmental disaster — although Fred did destroy a handheld pump during the process.

By Sunday night, everyone was exhausted and completely fed up with boat projects. However, they were completed, and we’re all ready to set sail!

A Sacrifice to the Sun god – replacing the Sunbrella on our jib

Since I have been exiled to life indoors while my face heals up, I’ve decided to put the time to good use and work on finishing our Sunbrella transformation.  So far we’ve replaced the sail cover, the bimini, and all of the small canvas items on the boat with new marine blue Sunbrella.   Only the jib Sunbrella and the dodger remain a moldy pacific blue.

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Sailrite has an excellent video describing the step-by-step process of adding sunbrella to your jib, but I wanted to add some little tricks I found along the way as well.

The first thing we did was spend several DAYS, not hours, removing the old sunbrella.   After breaking my seam ripper I got frustrated and googled “best seam ripper ever.”  This is when I learned that for ripping seams on heavy canvas an X-Acto knife works wonders.  This really sped up the process for us.

Once I had removed all the old Sunbrella, I started to cut the new panels of Sunbrella with a hot knife to prevent fraying.  I didn’t want to spend the extra money on the Sailrite hot knife, but I found this one at Hobby Lobby that worked very well. It also doubles as a wood and leather burner, and it has all kinds of stamp type attachments.  Pretty cool.  After using my coupon, it was only $13.

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If you’re installing panels onto a new sail, see the Sailrite video for exact measurements of panels, but if you’re re-covering a sail, it’s easier to use the old panels as a pattern.

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We set my sewing machine on the floor to keep the sail flat. This is really important when it comes to connecting the panels together.  There were a couple areas along the foot, where towards the end of the project I got tired and sloppy.  Just a small mistake can make for some very obvious bunching when the sail is up.  Next weekend I will be taking it all back down, seem ripping those seems and flattening it out.

If I was to do it again I would have done a lot more pinning.

All in all the finished product is not too bad.  It needs a bit of adjusting, like all of my projects so far, but at least it matches the rest of the canvas.

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Just for reference, the estimated cost for this project from one of our local sail lofts was $650. Although we did have to spend every evening for a week ripping stitches, our total out-of-pocket cost for the project was under $200.

Installing new acrylic fixed ports

I finally tackled the leaking fixed ports this weekend. Removing the old leaking windows took much more effort than I had anticipated, but other than that, the entire project went well, and I managed not to stain the deck with too much black Dow Corning sealant.

Step 1: Remove old fixed ports.

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The screws came out easy, but the sealant did not want to let go. As you can see, I didn’t manage to get either window off in one piece. Note that the factory method for mounting these windows required painting the edges and the center black, so that you couldn’t see the sealant through the window. However, that means you’re now bonding to the paint instead of the acrylic, so we decided not to do the painting. We also decided not to use screws.

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The center sections were completely coated in sealant. While this made the old windows ridiculously hard to get off, it did nothing to actually keep them from leaking.

Step 2: Scrape and clean the mounting surface.

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Step 3: Apply 3M mounting tape

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Step 4: Level the new plexiglass window and pop it on the mounting tape.

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Step 5: Mask around the freshly mounted fixed port.

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Step 6: Goop it up with Dow Corning 795.

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Step 7: Smooth the sealant into all the cracks, wipe up the excess, and then pull the tape and peel the paper off the plexiglass.

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Step 8: Admire your new fixed ports that no longer leak when it rains.

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When did you last inspect your rigging?

We had several blocks and lines meet the end of their useful lives during this year’s Icicle Series, but it wasn’t until we finished race four that someone on my crew said, “Hey your forestay pin is really bent.

Sure enough, the furler and the forestay had loaded up the pin that held it all together and put a nice curve in it. There was no pulling it out.

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Since I know very little about rigging, I consulted our friend Alex over at Bahama Rigging as to why the pin bent and the best course of action to take, so that it doesn’t happen again.

He suggested adding a toggle and re-tensioning the forestay. Then if there was still a little bit of slack, he could adjust the backstay. It might rake the mast back an inch or so, but it was the most inexpensive option.

Normally I do all the boat work, but we had a huge crew of people coming to sail with us the next weekend, so I let Bahama Rigging have at it.

Apparently cutting out the forestay pin and adding the toggle wasn’t too bad. However, the backstay adjuster was completely frozen. It also had to be cut out. Then the backstay had to be re-swaged with all new hardware.

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Lesson learned: Always check and lubricate your standing rigging!

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But we now have a beefier pin in the bow as well as the correct toggle below the furler.

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And the backstay is once again adjustable.

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I made sure to clean and adjust all the shrouds before we went home. I prefer to keep the mast in an upright position.

Folie a Deux: Another boat saved!

Here’s a little story about the madness of two people. When we moved Gimme Shelter to Watergate Marina three years ago, we ended up sharing a slip beside a rundown O’day 25 in need of some serious elbow grease and TLC.

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After almost a year on the market, the owner finally donated her to Boat Angels, and we thought that would be the last we ever heard of that vessel.

Then came along these two crazies, TJ and Kayla, who decided it was a great idea to buy a sailboat on eBay for $900 — much like my brother and myself who decided it was a great idea to buy a derelict flooded sailboat for $1000. I liked them right away.

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They quickly discovered that there is no such thing as a cheap boat as they tackled a rotten floor, quirky electrical system, and an outboard that just wouldn’t run. However, they persevered.

Eight months later we were honored to be invited, along with our friends Kelly and Jennifer of MV Celtic Cross, upon the maiden voyage of the now running and aptly named SV Folie à Deux.

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The outboard purred like a kitten as we motored out of the marina.

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Various projects and high winds had kept us all at the dock Saturday morning, so there were smiles all around once we were out on the water.

Once we made it across the lake, Mary and Kayla dropped anchor, and TJ broke out some champagne to celebrate the event.

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I think we’re even starting to convince the motor boaters that it’s time to trade up to a sailboat.

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As Folie à Deux doesn’t have working running lights yet, we had to hurry back in before dark, but a great time was had by all.

Congratulations TJ and Kayla, your sailing adventures are about to begin!

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What does it cost to replace the mainsail?

Gimme Shelter is a 1982 O’day, and she still has her original mainsail. Yes, our main is 33 years old and so baggy that you could probably cut a storm jib out of it, re-stitch, and never even notice the material was gone.

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Unfortunately there is no cheap way to replace a sail. Sure, you can scour eBay and resale shops for used sails approximately the same size that might be in slightly better condition, but you’re still going to spend several hundred dollars and wind up in the same boat as you were before (both literally and metaphorically).

Therefore, I’ve begun the quest for Mary’s Christmas present by contacting several sail lofts in the area and overseas. Locally I contacted North Sails, Quest Sails, and Banks Sails. We know at least one person who has had sails made by each of those shops. Nobody gave any of them absolutely glowing reviews, but nobody gave them poor reviews. It was generally something like, “Well, I wanted local support and service, so I went with X, but they measured the Y wrong the first time, but they fixed it, and it turned out really nice in the end. I’d use them again.”

Yes, we heard tales of both a strong track being mis-measured by one company and a sail cover being mis-measured by another company. Both companies fixed the issues, but on the sail cover you can definitely see where it originally ended, then they stitched on another 18″ of fabric to make it reach the end of the boom.

To give you perspective of the sail size versus cost, our current sail has a 37’4″ luff, 11’6″ foot and a 39′ leech. A quote request was made to six different sail lofts with the following specs:

  • A new cruising mainsail for an O’day 34
  • P (height of mast from boom) = 38′
  • E (length of boom) = 11.75′
  • 2 reef points
  • Bolt rope foot
  • Logo
  • Sail numbers

Here are the results we got from the local lofts:

Quantum Sails (10% seasonal discount) $2,037.09

Construction: Designed using Quantum’s, iQ suite of computational tools, constructed from Charter 7.0 CC woven polyester. Cross Cut panels are laser cut, and assembled with oversized, tear drop shaped corner and reef patches, wide seams with triple throw stitching, extra layering and extensive reinforcement of high load areas throughout, with multiple webbing straps, stainless steel rings or Rutgerson press rings at head, tack, clew and reefs.

Includes: Hand sewn luff and foot hardware, spreader patches, pre-stretch or high modulus leech and foot cords with cleats and purchase systems as necessary, telltales, draft stripes, cunningham, sail ties, drawstring sailbag, 1 Full, 3 Mid Batten Pockets, RBS Epoxy 15mm Battens, Reefs (2), 2 insignias, 4 sail numbers

North Sails (unspecified seasonal discount) $2,170

2 standard reefs, 1 full batten, 3 leech battens, cunningham, integral foot skirt, insiginia

Banks Sails $2,230 – $2,685

We’d like to thank you for the opportunity to build a new mainsail for your O’Day 34. Our Cruisemate Plus would be great performing sail for your boat. Your sail would be constructed from Dimension Polyant’s OC, CB or AP cloth. This is a superior woven Dacron material that surpasses the longevity and performance of other cloth manufactures. The biggest difference between them is that the AP has more of a UV inhibitor (like sunscreen) to help it last longer, a slightly tighter weave and the highest quality yarns available on the Market. Dimension’s QA procedures grade their yarns in 3 categories (A, B & C). ‘A’ yarns are used in the warp and fill of the AP cloth. Our prices also include custom measurement and design to provide a guaranteed fit to your boat. Additionally, unlike other lofts, you would be welcome to stop by during construction and see your sails being put together. Also, if you have any specific thoughts about the design of your sails you can talk/visit with Trent, our designer, to have input on the sail design to get the exact performance that you desire. Also removal/disposal of your old sails and installation of your new ones are included as well. We are the only loft in the area doing 100% of the work right here in Kemah!

  • Cruisemate Plus Main Sail: Crosscut Cost
  • Mainsail @ 257 sq/ft, 4 Full Battens, and 2 Reef Points
  • 308 OC Cloth @ 7.0 oz (Standard) $2,230.00
  • 301 CB Cloth @ 7.0 oz (Upgrade) $2,415.00
  • 280 AP Cloth @ 6.5 oz (Superior) $2,685.00

Here are the responses from the overseas sailmakers:

Rolly Tasker  $1,570

Standard Mainsail Coastal Cruising                                                   US$

  • 7 oz US Dacron Crosscut                                           1,168.00
  • Luff 38:  Foot 11.75:  Area 250 sq ft 
  • 2 reefs                                                                            180.00
  • Logo (both sides)                                                             60.00
  • 4 numbers both sides                                                       48.00
  • 1 sail UPS door to door USA                                          114.00

Hyde Sails Direct $1,313 – $2,915

Note: The Hyde website has a huge database of vessels, and you can just choose your boat model and then spend hours selecting fabrics and adding all the bells and whistles to your sail. The breakout below was the the Cruising Mainsail (Challenge Hi Modulus Dacron) option with full battens.
Sail Cloth: Challenge Hi Modulus HA 7.3 Dacron
Design: Crosscut
Wind Range: Usually under 20 knots, occasionally to 25
Reefs: 2
Batten Type: Tapered Fiberglass
Battens: 4 full battens
Trim Stripes: Yes
Free Shipping
$1,628.00

Then there was the Do-It-Yourself option. We also got a quote from SailRite for a mainsail kit.

SailRite (10% custom discount) $1,126.48

Obviously the big catch to this option is that Mary would have to sew it together, which means purchasing a much heavier duty sewing machine. I’m not going to make her assemble her own Christmas present, but it is worth noting that if you wanted to make your own sails, the cost of the mainsail kit and a SailRite sewing machine is about the same as having your sails made by a local loft — but when you’re finished you still have a SailRite machine for the rest of your projects.

O’Day 34 Main Kit, 8.4oz SC Dacron, crosscut, two rows of reef points, 2+2 full battens, RBS tapered E-glass batten set, leechline, boltrope on luff and foot, slugs on luff, outhaul slug at clew, P 38’, E 11.75’
Subtotal $1,225, Custom Discount -$122.50, Shipping (UPS Ground) $23.98

As you can see, the difference in price between our local lofts is negligible, $2037 – $2,230. Yes, Banks came in highest, but they bid 4 full battens while the others bid 1 full, 3 leech battens. All of them offer a 1 year warranty on their sails.

However, the mail-order sails do create significant savings — they’re almost as cheap as a SailRite kit. The scary part with the overseas sail lofts is that if it doesn’t fit correctly, I could be looking at hundreds of dollars spent and weeks of waiting to ship it back to them for alterations. On the other hand, if the mail-order sails do fit, we’d have enough money left over for solar panels or a nice chunk of change to put towards upgrading the autopilot. Is it worth the gamble?

I’m continuing my research. I have to decide by Friday if I want 4 full battens, 2 full battens and 2 leech battens, or 1 full batten and 3 leech battens. Then I have to pick a sail loft and pull the trigger.

What would you do?

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.

OldversusNew

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.

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.

Galley

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.

AdlerBarbour

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.