Friday, May 30, 2014

New frig/freezer looks like a winner

Our new Engel Fridge/Freezer and all my fancy blocking to get it securely hung by the corners.
Son-in-law Tony got a long list of wiring projects completed over the Memorial Day weekend and a couple of good starts on others. In between playing electrician's assistant, I checked off a couple projects of my own, the most exciting was installing our new Engel MB40V Fridge/Freezer.

Engel has been popular for years with truckers, RVers and boaters for their excellent line of 12-volt portable frig/freezers. Many blue-water cruisers count them as one of their top-10 favorite pieces of kit. The Totem crew among them. Finding a spot for a portable frig/freezer on a sailboat is a problem, but most crews figure something out.

A few months ago, while perusing Engel's web site, I noticed a new offering in their line: the MB40V, a 40-quart capacity, top loading model made to be permanently installed in cabinetry. This would fit perfectly in an otherwise underutilized space in Oceanus's galley. The inside measurements are 15-inches deep by 17 by 10.5, or about a 40-quart capacity.

West Marine carries several portable Engel frig/freezers in their catalog, but not the MB40v. I could have just ordered it from the Engel site, but where's the fun in that? So a couple of weeks ago, when we were in the Portland West Marine, store I ask a helpful associate if he could special order one for me. He checked the computer and said he could, so we told him to go for it.

I got a call from the Portland West Marine store about 10 days later saying it was in. Virginia picked it up on Friday while Tony and I worked on the boat.

I've got to hand it to West Marine, they made the whole transaction easy. I also paid no shipping, used a $15-off coupon I had and will get cash back for my purchase because I'm a Gold Card member.

I wish the installation was as easy. The tricky part was that the MB40V is designed to hang from four little tabs at the outside corners of the top. So I had to devise a system of corner braces and a partial bulkhead to suspend the unit under the countertop, which I, of course, had to remove. It also had to be mounted below the underside of the countertop by exactly the thickness of the insulated top. All this was complicated by having to hold the 45-pound unit in place with one hand, while measuring with the other.

I devised several complex methods of installing the unit in my head, but in the end I started at one corner, got it right, then fitted the next corner and finally made up the partial bulkhead with one corner block already attached, glued and screwed it in place. Finally, I glued and screwed the last corner block in with the unit in place. There is a hole in each corner for screws to hold it in place, but they are largely redundant in my installation: that baby ain't going nowhere.

Now I just need to cut out the section of countertop over the lid of the frige/freezer, install some hinges and a pull ring. That's one of this weekend's projects.

Before installing the frig/freezer, Tony temporarily hooked it up. It got cold almost instantly and was nearly silent. He was also impressed with how little amps it drew. It has three temperature settings: +5 degrees C, -10 degrees C and -15 degrees C. Pretty impressive. It will be the perfect complement to our Isotherm 4.6 cubic foot refrigerator.

Our trusty Isotherm refrigerator has been working like a champ for about a year.

Tony finalized some wiring in the head and installed three 12-volt sockets: one in the forepeak, one in the master stateroom and one in the saloon. They will be useful for 12-volt fans as well as charging electronics so as to bypass the inverter. A recent article I read said you lose about 40 percent of the juice from your battery converting it from 12-volt DC to 120-volt AC and then back to 12-volts, which is what most cell phones, laptops and tablets chargers use anyway.

Tony ran wires directly from the battery to the Air Head fan. Since it should run continuously, there's no need to run it to the panel and have it switched. We protected the little fan with an in-line fuse, which I can easily disconnect if I need to swap out the fan.

The new ship's bell finds a place on a repurposed BBQ bracket.

While Tony wired up the VHF, I installed the antenna in a temporary location on the bimini. At Englund Marine, I spotted an aluminum BBQ mounting bracket for one-inch tubing. The VHF antenna will eventually get mounted at the top of the mast. The bracket will stay put, however, because it is the perfect place to mount the ship's bell.

I looked long and hard for the ship's bell. I rang dozens of bells in Portland and Newport to find one that sounded good to me. I finally found one in a little brass shop in Depoe Bay. It was the last one of its kind in the shop, so the old guy who helped me unscrewed it from the wall. Besides the tone, I really like the wonderful shape and that it's chromed. I'm hoping the chrome will make it easier to keep shiny. The U.S. Coast Guard requires a bell on a vessel the size of Oceanus.

The VHF seems to be working fine, but the West Marine stereo wouldn't turn on, even though it was getting power. Virginia gave me this for Christmas, but I'm sure West Marine will replace it. Still, I was hoping to crank some tunes this weekend.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Cleaning our boat never felt so good

Order returns to Oceanus: Our boat is finally clean and orderly after completion of major projects.
Yesterday was a fun day for my wife and I. We gave the boat a through cleaning, installed some equipment and moved a few more things aboard. It feels much more like a home now.

Most the major construction and painting projects inside Oceanus, our Columbia 43, are finished... I think. When I made a statement to that effect, my wife said, "That's what I said about painting two gallons ago."

Maybe I'm kidding myself, but it sure feels like we've turned the corner. I'm so convinced that I brought our big shop vac home.

Virginia cleaned and put away, erasing the bad effects of several weeks of major projects.

Virginia glued a piece of hull blanket to cover the exposed fiberglass under the workbench in the forepeak.
She also installed a piece of hull blanket in the forepeak. She glued the hull blanket on some exposed fiberglass under the work bench opposite the forepeak bunk. It was nicely painted, but still the heavy weave of the fiberglass was not attractive. It also lacked insulation and was cold to the touch. Now it looks and feels great.

Moving aft, she made up our bunk for the first time in several weeks. With all the sawdust and paint fumes, we haven't been able to sleep aboard the boat for some time, something we have both missed.

The new rug was on a clearance sale. We cut it to fit around the mast. 
Virginia found a rug at Lowe's we both liked. It is a runner almost eight feet long. Virginia carefully patterned around the mast and I cut the rug to fit. We are very pleased with the results.

Nothing says home like a stack of towels. The brown ones are a new type of quick-dry towels we really like and that dry quick.
We brought a couple of boxes of towels and other household items to the boat. We need to get them out of the house to reduce clutter when we put it on the market this month. It felt good to see towels stacked in the locker where they will live.

Tub for two: Daughter-in-law Margene demonstrates the roomy soaking tub on Oceanus with newest grandchild Peter.
I worked some more on plumbing, installing the tub faucet. The faucet has a diverter valve for a shower.

In the main saloon I installed the stereo speakers and stereo. I also cut a hole in the bulkhead for our new VHF radio. Next week when our son-in-law, the electrician, visits we'll hook them up.

The marine stereo, speakers and Standard Horizon VHF radio are in place ready to be wired up next week. 
We came home tired but happy. Then we spent two hours cleaning out house. That was not nearly as fun as working on the boat.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Columbia 43 with Sole

The teak plywood got three coats of polyurethane varnish on both sides and the edges.
The plywood sole on Oceanus was utilitarian and ugly. Jason, the previous owner, was planning to cover it with cork flooring, a good choice for him. But for me -- who, at 6' 4" just barely has standing headroom -- that was not an option. The quarter-inch thick cork flooring would leave me only slouching headroom.

The paint in the rest of the boat has a nice sheen and very small glass beads mixed in it for a secure footing.

So, in the saloon's raised section, we replaced the old fir plywood with teak plywood. This is the nicest plywood I've ever worked with.  It's beautiful, strong and has no voids. And it is priced accordingly. Luckily. we needed only one sheet.

Because it was so expensive, I nearly drove myself crazy double checking my measurements before each cut. It took a long time, but when I was finished, the fit was nearly perfect.

In the rest of the boat we use good old porch paint with some grit in it. We carefully picked the color at the paint store. But when we opened the can back at the boat it looked like we opened a can of pumpkin pie filling. We both got a nearly uncontrollable urge for pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting.

Pumpkin bars or chocolate milk?

Virginia went ahead and laid down the first coat, but the next day we took the paint back and had them tone it down a little. It's more like chocolate milk now.

Virginia stirred in small glass beads -- about half the size of table salt -- to the last coat of semi-gloss paint. In addition to providing better footing it also adds a nice texture. It feels good on bare feet too.

We are happy with the result. The floor has a nice sheen and will be easy to maintain.

With the floorboards up you can see the tops of the water tanks, two storage lockers and the V-drive. One of the old floorboards covers the bilge. The yellow pyramids, called painter points, are what I used to hold up the floorboards while the bottom is wet. 
I am not a big fan of polyurethane varnish, but I think it's the right choice for the teak section of the sole. It is very tough. If the varnished flooring in the saloon proves to be to slick when it gets wet, I will, mix some of the glass powder into a fourth coat of varnish.

I cut more access hatches in the sole so I can have access to every part of the hull.
News Update! Oceanus is featured in Three Sheets Northwest, an on-line boating magazine. Here's the article.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Oceanus Named an Honorary Columbia 50

Columbia 50, Hermie, homeport Rowayton, Connecticut, shows her racing style in 2010. In that year she won the NYYC Cygnet Cup with three firsts and two seconds as well as the "Lobster Run" from Stonington, Connecticut to Boothbay Harbor, Maine with a family crew.
I'm going to cast aside any false modesty and just tell you that Oceanus is an honorary Columbia 50. I was surprised, pleased and proud when Kevin Reilly made Oceanus part of the Columbia 50 Owners Group. I've written before about Kevin and his wonderful web site celebrating Columbia 50s.

There's a lot to like about Columbia 50s and Kevin should know -- he's owned two of them. Cruising World recently named the Columbia 50 one of the best production sailboats of all time. The boat certainly inspires a dedicated group of owners who lavish attention (and boat bucks) on the old girls. The boats Kevin features on his site are sailed often, well maintained and upgraded.

Little sister, Columbia 43.

Big sister, Columbia 50.
Columbia 43s and 50s are more alike than most sailors think. Besides the obvious -- same designer, flush deck and small gun-turret deck house -- they share many other features. Tripp designed several cabin layouts for the 50, the most popular of which is nearly identical to the 43 cabin arrangement. They both have balanced spade rudders and large fin keel. The beam and draft is about the same and there is only about a foot difference in the waterline length.

Columbia 50
Columbia 43 Mark 1
50 feet
43.25 feet
33.25 feet
32 feet
12.03 feet
12.33 feet
6.52 feet
6.92 feet
32,000 pounds
18,900 pounds
14,600 pounds
9,500 pounds
Ballast to Displacement Ratio
Sail Area
979 square feet
806 square feet
Sail Area to Displacement Ratio
Number Built
153 (all three Marks)
PHRF Handicap
 William Tripp, Jr.
William Tripp, Jr. 

The biggest difference is not the length, but in how much these two sisters weigh. A 50 is half again as heavy as a 43. The 43, at the time it was built, was considered an ultra-light racer. Now she would be a heavyweight compared to today's ultra lights. In her day, however, she was a game changer and a very competitive boat.

Both boats have an impressive racing record.
Simoon shows her racing style in 1967.
The Columbia 50 hit the race scene about 1967. That year Simoon, won her class of 24 in the Transpac and come in second overall. She was also first in class in the Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race, which was the largest ocean sailboat race in the world.

In 1973, a Columbia 43, Encore, won the Transpac Class B. A few years earlier, another 43, Blue Norther, was first overall in the ocean racing class in the Newport-Ensenada race.

Both 50s and 43s are actively raced today. On his website, Kevin documents several great examples of Columbia 50s that are still actively raced as the fleet enters its 50th year.

Stumppy J, a Columbia 43 Mark III, heads for the finish line in the 2013 Transpac.
Columbia 43s are still competitive on the race course as well, exemplified by Stumppy J, a Columbia 43 Mark III, making a good showing in the 2013 Transpac. In the same race, the 83-year-old yacht Dorade, was the overall winner on corrected time. Older yachts being seriously campaigned in big-time ocean races is an exciting trend for classic sailboat lovers. The new Columbia Yacht Corporation is helping the trend by offering a completely refurbished Columbia 50 with a new boat warranty. Let's hope their next project will be a Columbia 43!

The pictures on Kevin's web site are serious eye candy, as the two I borrowed for this article attest. I spend a lot of time just looking at them. It's an honor for Oceanus to be among them. My ideal cruising buddy boat would be a friendly couple or family in a Columbia 50. Sitting in Oceanus's cockpit and gazing across a beautiful anchorage at a sleek Columbia 50... views don't get much better than that.