Tuesday, 20 March 2012


We interrupt this Outboard remote rebuild for an important announcemeent.

A few days ago I spotted a 9.9hp, 4-stroke outboard on Craigslist about an hour from home. The guy selling it and I went back and forth a few times talking about what it was worth and what I would pay.

Tonight I drove to Mississauga and picked up the new (old) outboard.

Here it is added to the motor stand that already has 2 other outboards on it...

Monday, 19 March 2012

March Madness

For some folks March Madness is nonstop hard court action - for me its non-stop boat repairs.

I have a number of things in-process, and seem to be tripping from one task to the next. Its fun. Really.

Tonight's task was to remove and repair the engine telegraph. OK, remote throttle and shifter for you plebeians who are still figuring out naval speak. When I try to shift on board it is hard to guess just what will happen, sometimes I get the gear I want, sometimes I don't. There has always been a certain amount of play in the shifter and the linkages have always been troublesome. At the end of summer last year this was fixed for me when one of the shift cables disintegrated and I could no longer shift at all. Since it was the end of the summer I figured this was a good off season project and left it as it sat. In the off season I very busily forgot all about this.

Late last week I remembered the issue.

Tonight I went out and took a look at what I had to work with. The system was simple enough. A shift lever in the cockpit, and a shift mechanism in the quarter-berth. When you push or pull on the shift lever, it engages one of the two cables that go to the engine to either shift gears or adjust throttle. Nothing at all complex there...

Just a shifter...

And a mechanism in the quarter-berth. Somewhere. Oh - there it is, the grey box up top on the right side with the cables coming out of it...

Removing the handle went fairly well. There were 3 Philips screws around the handle that attached to the boat. there were 3 more screws that went through the wall of the boat and into the body of the shifter. There was also a pivot bolt in the centre of the shifter. So far, so good. The only surprise with the screws was that one had locktite on its threads while the rest had caulk on their threads. I am not sure if that was on purpose or not, but it did make it difficult to get the screws out.

Apparently there is no core in the cockpit footwell walls:

Once the screws were out, the shifter body fell away inside the quarter-berth. Good thing there was nothing breakable in there.

With removal complete, I can now start looking at what went wrong with the shifter. Tune in tomorrow...

Let There Be Light!

Back in 1984 when Frank Butler and the good folks at Catalina Yachts built Iris, they were wise to use the best fittings mass produced at the time. For lighting of boats and RVs, nothing was mass produced more than the square, translucent plastic dome light. My father had an RV back around that time, and it was equipped with these same lights. They evoke a feeling of nostalgia. they are a "period fitting". They are ugly, inefficient, and generally make me sad.

In an effort to go uptown with a downtown fitting, I had tried to retrofit the lights with LEDs last year. The LEDs put out a harsh blue-white light that hurt my eyes if I tried to read under it. Certainly these lights were more efficient - I couldn't stand to be in the boat when they were turned on. I left them off as much as possible.

When I ordered the replacement power panel from Binnacle, I saw that 12V Xenon (or something) dome lights were on sale. I got tingly. I ordered 2. Sure xenon (or whatever) will draw more juice than LEDs do, but I can stand to have them turned on. And these lights were glass with brass covers; they looked like they belonged aboard a fine craft. As soon as the power panel was in I turned my attention to installing my new lighting.

What made these lights so groovey was that they had 2 bulbs in each light. One is a jillion watt white bulb, and the other is a dim red bulb. the white bulb is for reading or playing cards or pouring drinks. The red light is in case light is needed below while we are under way. The red light will protect your night vision, allowing you to see well despite the cabin being lit. Being dim, it limits how much you can actually do, and it may make red print (like warnings on charts) difficult to read, but gives you an option other than blazing white light.

The first step to installing the lights was site selection. The new lights were about an inch too large in diameter to fit the same holes that the old lights had been in, but I was never super happy with the location of the old lights anyway. Being where they were mean that any window leaks were routed through the light fixtures leading to corrosion and rust. They were also mounted low so that anyone sitting on te bench blocked the light from everyone else aboard. Looking up, I located a spot for the lights on the salon ceiling. This location is forward of, and above the benches so that if you are seated, you can still see. I think it is far enough over that no one will be cracking their head on the lights.

The first step in installing the new lights was removal of the old ones. Here is how the old light looked with its cover off and the screws no longer holding it in place. I had installed the LED with double-sided tape, and it held well, but the LED was generating some heat - a surprise to me. te original socket is badly rusted, and I have no idea what the yellow gunk around the fixture is from.

The hardest part of this job was probably cutting through the crimps that wired in the light. Whoever crimped those wires meant business. In any case after a couple snips, the crimps let go, and new connectors were put in place. It was at this time that I realized I only had a limited supply of wire left, and it was all white. Alas. Both the positive and negative leads will need to be the same colour. I also only had enough wire to install a single light. I did my most yachty work possible, with green plastic tape holding things in place until better supplies arrive. I will be needing some teak trim to complete this job.

Securing the light to the boat was more difficult than it ought to have been. Pre-drilling the holes for screws was easy, but for whatever reason, the screws wanted to break off in the holes. After a couple tries I got everything to stay in place, and the light was lit.

Yay!! A warm and inviting natural feeling light, far removed from the clinical blue light of the LED, and a red light for navigation at night. Now I just need to remove those zip-ties from that pop-top strut...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Success in Stereo

Last spring I installed a faceplate with a Stereo and new power distribution panel. I feel pretty good about it and it all works great. OK, now it works great. A year later, and after a redo.

The trouble was that the cheap $25 stereo I had installed had no volume control, ate CDs, and didn't play nice. This spring I saw another stereo on sale at West Marine, so I snagged one, and put it in place of the older cheapo. I figured it would be a quick swap and I would rock out on the lake. Alas, nothing on the boat is that simple.The first challenge with the install was that he connectors on the new stereo weren't the same snap-together link that was on the old one. I had to cut wires and put on new crimps. That meant removing the cupboards. New crimps and new wires were put in place, and I switched on the stereo and listened to the sound of silence. Not the Simon and Garfunkel tune, the real deal.

A little head scratching and some switch throwing later and I was no further ahead. I let things rest for a while.

Days later I climbed back onto the boat, ready to return the 'faulty' radio. When I went to pull the wires, though, the radio came to life. Weird. I tried a few things and found that by holding all three power leads together, and applying them to the red lead from the panel I got the juice I needed. Aha. I had a bad crimp before, and the radio wasn't faulty at all. When I let go of the wires though, one hit the radio bracket, arced, and I lost a fuse. Dammit.

In pulling the fuse from the original distribution panel, the plastic fuse holder fell apart in my hand. Double Dammit. It was time to replace the panel.

I made a call to The Binnacle out in Halifax, and had them send me a new power distribution panel. While I was at it I got a few other supplies for our spring tune-up. When I got home on Thursday, everything was here waiting for me.

Yesterday Chuck and I went out to tackle the install.

The first step was to remove the old wiring in order to put in new stuff. Since the cabinets were already pulled, getting the radio out and prepped was easy. Step one. Pull out radio:

With the Radio removed, it was time to tackle the whole power distribution panel thing. Back in 1984, the panel was fine, but in the interim, a number of fuse holders have disappeared, the plastic retaining nuts on the switches have become failure-prone, the master power light on it has disappeared, and I generally lack confidence in it. Today it looks like this:

The first step to doing this was to descend into "the dumpster" to remove the accessory circuits from the back of the panel. Those who have been aboard Iris know the dumpster as the storage locker at the bottom of the boat where much ugliness resides. It looks like this from above:

If you look carefully at that picture, you can see a black box with a yellow stripe of text across it behind all the other stuff in there. Well, the distribution panel is just above that black box. Chuck and I removed a lot of stuff from the dumpster before we got started on the electronics. I left the fenders down there though. They were kind of comfy to sit on. When you are working in the dumpster it is hard to smile. You get a look like this:

Once I had space to get in there I could get a the back of the old panel and start pulling circuits. I had Chuck turn the battery switch to the off position, then it was quick work to pop off the wires. All I really needed to remember were the position of the negative bus cable - which was an easy trace since the buss was right next to the panel, and the positive feed from the battery - also easy to identify since it was the fattest red wire of the bunch. The old panel looked like this before I took all the wires off. Remember, 3 of those switches are actually dead, and the master light at the bottom is busted:

An interesting aside for my fellow Catalina sailors, the back of the power panel was marked "C-22, C-25, C-27" Apparently the same panel was used for Catalina 22, Catalina 25, and Catalina 27 models. I find this interesting as I would have expected a 27ft boat to need way more circuits than a 22, but it is likely that the economy of scale in buying the same part for multiple boats made good business sense.

With the panel unwired, the next step was to fasten the new panel in place. As you can see in the photo below, the new panel is smaller than the old one. That is OK though. I need to put a lighted master power switch in front of it, so I will be making a mounting plate for the new power panel similar to the one I made for the stereo, and putting the master switch in it. That can wait for a while though. My primary goal in this project is to get the panel wired in and running. Here is the new panel in place, but unwired.


As you can see, the new panel has big positive and negative signs on it so it is super easy to wire. Only problem is that this exactly opposite to how the previous panel was wired. I need to either swap out the position of the positive and negative stickers on the panel, or reverse wire everything. I tried the wires both ways and they don't seem to mind. Once I get more accessories wired in, I'll have to see if they mind the reversed polarity. If they do, I'll swap out the position of all the wires, but for now, it is what it is. I am counting on some electronics friends to chime in with why this is a bad idea. Go ahead guys...

If I swap everything then what is currently my negative buss will become a positive buss. You can see what I mean in the pic below. Here I have wired up the panel and its existing 4 circuits (Stbd gauges, Port gauges, Stereo, Autopilot):

In the weeks (months ??) to come, some of the gauges will be reassigned and some new electronics will come online. As that happens, circuits will fill up on the back of the panel with the addition of a permanent home for the GPS and fish finder, and removal of the wind speed & direction gauges. But in the interim, everything is running fine. We even listened to some of Chuck's tunes to make sure. Did you know they swear and say "booty" in the music our youth are listening to!!

An edit - I have been asked what I did about the latent power usage of the remote and stereo when they are turned off. The milliamps sucked up by the memory features and remote on can add up to an already starved battery on a longish cruise or what have you. My solution was no solution. Being aware of the problem before installing the unit, I figured I could either leave the remote and memory wire unhooked and just ignore the problem, or I could wire everything to the switched lead, which is what I did. I doubt I'll be listening to radio stations much on this unit - my bigger goal was to have the ability to listen to CDs and MP3s while aboard.

Everything up & running:

Friday, 16 March 2012

Truly a False Spring

We are having a very early Spring. the hockey playoff haven't even started and already folks are out in their shorts and shirt sleeves. We have Daffodils and Tulips pushing up in the yard. It feels like late April, and I have to keep reminding myself that this is only March.

But I've delved ahead anyway. I went and took the tarp off the boat, and strung a little 8' cover on the cockpit in its place. I've been out tinkering a few times already. I ordered parts.

Nothing says spring like ordering a box of boat parts and then waiting for their arrival. Its like you were saving up boxtops all winter and now the secret decoder ring will finally arrive. Soon. Canada Post does a good job of playing the suspense card and stringing things along until you think you just can't handle it anymore.

My parcel arrived today. In it there should be a new power panel to replace the one in the galley, and a life jacket for the dog, and some other odds and sods.

SWMBO says she picked it up already. She says the box is pretty small. I gotta head home and see whats in there!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

New & Commodore Approved!

A few weeks back I mentioned that Iris was relocating Lake Ontario, and that we were going to be playing at a new yacht Club.

We are one step closer. A cold wind was blowing off Lake Ontario, and waves crashing on the beach on Monday night when I parked at Whitby YC and let myself in the clubhouse. There was a meeting in the bar, and it looked like the Power squadron was discussing protocols, so I stood in the lobby, not sure where I was supposed to be going.

A handful of other sailors were in the lobby as well, and it quickly became clear that we were all waiting for an invitation to proceed upstairs to the executive meeting for our official welcome to the club. Most of the other sailors there had boats ranging from 30 to 35 feet, and most were retired couples. This made Iris and our crew a bit of an anomoly.

Eventually we were invited upstairs to the ballroom where the meeting was being held. Sail Georgina didn't have a ballroom. We had a tent in the fenced yard and that was where most of our social events took place. We also had a garden shed where our gear was stowed. Its a little different in a club with a Bar, and a ballroom (with another bar), and offices, and bathrooms with showers and changerooms. Maybe this will be nice.

The Commodore welcomed all the new members to the club and went round the table to give the executive a chance to introduce themselves. Then it was our turn. I introduced myself and mentioned that aboard Iris would be SWMBO, Chuck, Buddy, and Cuppa, and maybe Bernie the dog. The exec were shocked that that many people fit aboard a 25' boat.

We may be small on square feet, but we're big on love, we make it happen.

The exec made everyone feel welcome, reminded us of the value of service hours, explained how dues and slip assignment work and then we all headed home.

Looks like its official. Whitby will never be the same.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Strut Your Stuff

Some time ago, I invested in a kit from Catalina Direct which included 2 gas-charged struts to assist with raising and lowering the pop-top. On installation the plastic clips that attached the struts to the pop-top failed, but the kit sort of worked OK, and did make lifting the starboard side of the pop-top easier. The port side however, the one where the plastic clips were no longer holding the ball joint was only lighter if the boat was listing such that the gas charged strut stayed on its ball.

You kinda had to be there to understand.

It was like lifting a slab with someone helping on one side, but you were alone on the other, and things were always off balance. Catalina Direct wasn't able to replace the broken clip for me, so I thought I was on my own on this. That was until I noticed a number of uncannily familiar gas charged struts and ball joints at my local Princess Auto

Could it be that the part I needed was here at an auto parts store?? A discount auto parts store at that? A few days later I returned with the broken part, and realized that although the struts here served the same purpose, and were the same length, they weren't exactly the same. For starters, the clips on them were steel instead of plastic. Also, the part code on them was different, likely because they weren't a "marine application." I bought 2 that were the same length as the ones that came from Catalina Direct, and did what happens with most parts I buy - I put them on a shelf in the basement.

Today it was a glorious day of sunshine outside, so I took the tarp off the boat, raised the top, and replaced both struts. Apart from dropping the top on my head a time or two, and the concussion-like symptoms I am now suffering, the process was pretty simple and things are all together again.

The top now lifts and closes well. The new struts aren't as powerful as the ones from Catalina Direct, but that's not a bad thing. I still get enough support to make it easy to open the top, but now I have the advantage of not having to overcome the lift system when its time bring the top down - which was sometimes an issue before, especially for SWMBO.

I will have to keep an eye on the new struts for wear, and rust, and to be sure they stay lubed and no oil escapes them, but they seem to be working well after 1 hour of use. Oh and their cost was about one tenth the cost of Catalina's kit.