Monday, August 24, 2020

Improvements for Division Belle

I have tried to avoid discussing boat maintenance, as it is both endless and boring. I will mention a little of it at the end of this post. But improvements to the boat are exciting and fun, at least to me. So here is what has been going on over the last few weeks.

The electronics on this 14-year-old boat were dated when I bought her, but for budgetary reasons I decided to live with what I had for as long as possible. Much as I would love to take out most everything and put in two giant multi-function displays to give me a "glass cockpit", the old Raymarine radar works fine for my purposes. On the other hand, the two Furuno chart plotters (pilothouse and flying bridge) have given me trouble from the start. They often turn off for no reason and take several minutes to reboot. This has happened more than once while navigating a tricky passage. I have had backup apps on my iPad, but I'm now having both units replaced with Garmin plotters. While the new ones fit roughly into the same openings, the screens are much larger, mostly because they are touch screens and no room is taken up by buttons.

Electronics upgrade in progress
New plotter at right.

I realize it doesn't look like it from the photo above, but the work is almost done. The boat was hauled out of the water today to install the new depth transducer that should give me some pretty cool imagery of the ocean bottom beneath me and ahead. 

The new plotters involved installing a new network that allows all of the instruments to talk to one another, new depth and wind transducers, and various network translators that allow a few old instruments to talk to the new network. I'm also installing two new vhf radios that are an inexpensive but vital part of the electronics. Not only do I love gadgetry, but these additions will add both safety and convenience to routine travel.

I've also installed new LED light fixtures on the exterior decks. There are a total of 14 of these lights. I had been gradually replacing halogen bulbs with LED bulbs, but they didn't last as long as advertised, and many of the fixtures were corroded or broken from 14 years in the elements. The new lights are slightly brighter, but still a soft light, and not as bright as they look in this photo. We can now see to get around the decks at night, and I think our curb appeal has been enhanced.
New deck lights

Finally, and not at all thrilling, I've had a new bow roller system installed to handle our anchor and chain. When I first bought the boat, it was agreed that the broker would order and properly install a new 154 lb. Rocna anchor. These anchors are known for good holding power and are easy to set because a large round semi-circle on top causes the anchor to roll over if it lands upside down on the bottom. The anchor was ordered but installed on the old rigging and just didn't fit right on the boat. This is my second try at correcting the situation, and involved installing a large roller assembly that hangs the anchor out over the water rather than letting it drop through an opening in the bow pulpit. You can likely see from the photo below that this gets the gigantic anchor out of the way where it can be likely work well, not scrape up the fiberglass, and be out of the way of the other anchor. We'll see how it goes, but we have had trouble with anchoring and stowing the anchor for two years, so I hope we got it right this time.
New anchor roller

As far as maintenance, a number of items simply broke while the boat was stuck in Bimini for four months. The water maker was clogged and had an air lock in the input line, the master stateroom air conditioner didn't work at all, the pilothouse air handler sounded like a bearing was going (which has now happened), and the bottom of the boat grew layers of grass that was pretty shocking to see when hauled out today.
A dirty bottom and growing grass

The sealer around the new transducer tube will cure overnight, and we will have the remainder of the bottom cleaned and some new zincs added before putting her back in the water tomorrow. Most of the remaining work should be completed this week if the new air handler arrives. So we are near the end and getting ready to play again on the boat.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Bumpers and Ropes

About three boats ago my good friend James Abele, with the late Hamlin Beatty, agreed to crew on a trip from the Tides Inn on the Chesapeake Bay to somewhere back in the south. James and I had been childhood friends but had not spent much time together since. On that trip, he became known as the "Perfect Deckhand", and we have spent many a good time together ever since, on boats and elsewhere.

On the first day of the trip south, I was at the helm as we left the dock and James was helping with the lines. After we got away, he asked me "Where do you store your bumpers and ropes?" I told him where to put them and politely said that the the proper terminology was "fenders and lines". Since that moment, he has consistently referred to fenders and lines as "bumpers and ropes", but only when he is talking to me. I should have known better than to correct him. He only says this to annoy me, but it has become a standing joke and no longer works.

On the current boat Division Belle, there was an abundance of fenders and lines on board when I got the boat. I noticed that every storage area was packed, but until yesterday I never pulled everything out to see what I had. We typically use only two fenders in normal docking but it turns out we had 10 fenders on board. For lines, I haven't even counted. We have them in all shapes, colors and sizes, with few of them matching.

I have purchased six matching black 3/4-inch lines for everyday uses, and I will keep a good supply of the older spares on board. As for fenders, I'm using a set of four white ones that appeared to be almost new when I bought the boat. I have dark blue washable covers for them. Another set of four badly worn black fenders have been moved to storage, and the remaining two oversized fenders will be deflated and stored on board for locks or difficult cement dock situations. I now have much more storage space for my bumpers and ropes.

Most importantly, the black dock lines and the white fenders with navy blue covers all match up nicely. There are many boaters who couldn't care less, but for me it is like wearing socks that don't match. And I think even Perfect Deckhand would be pleased that the bumpers and ropes are in such good order now.

I'm getting the engine annual servicing done this weekend and replacing a faulty fuel cooler that is leaking fuel into the exhaust water. Then I will take the boat back to the Hinckley yard next week to get the air conditioner fixed and the new anchor roller installed. Next will come an electronics chart-plotter upgrade and then we will be finally ready to use the boat again. day it will all be right.

Monday, August 3, 2020


The storm (at 11 am) is currently about 100 nautical miles to the southeast of us passing the Georgia-Florida border. It is moving to the north at about 11 knots (call it 13 mph). It is expected to pass due east of us this afternoon at least 75 nautical miles from our location. So far there has been cloudiness here and a few drops of rain. I expect we will get some showers and gusty wind in the next few hours.  We have just passed high tide here in the Ford Plantation marina. It was not above the normal high tide line but it will likely stay up and perhaps go slightly higher as winds push water up the river. We seem to have been very fortunate once again.

I did bring Division Belle back to Ford Saturday in preparation for the storm, but also because the boatyard is awaiting parts and not much was happening there with the boat. She still needs a thorough bath from her four-month quarantine in the Bahamas, and I have that scheduled for tomorrow. Single-handed, I had to await slack tide at about 1:30 pm to get away easily from the Hinckley Yard, and then idle all day to time my entrance into our marina close to high tide at about 8:30 in the evening. So I turned a four-hour trip into a seven-hour trip, but it was a beautiful day and an enjoyable ride.

I'm glad to get this storm past us. Here's hoping our good luck with the weather holds.