Yet another weekend of upgrades and mods…

SealsStella and I had another great weekend in Anacortes this past Friday thru Sunday.  It’s such an awesome little town!  We had breakfast Saturday at Dad’s Diner on the main drag.  It was excellent!  We also did a bit more exploring around a few more of the docks than just our own. It’s always fun to look at all the other boats.  Many are beautiful, some, not so much.  And a few with so much dirt and grime we’re not even sure there was a real boat beneath! We had one very pleasant surprise when we ran across some harbor seals sunning themselves on the kayak platforms near Q dock.  Two pairs – each with a mother and cub. The pair shown in the picture was definitely keeping their eyes on us.  Another pair on the next slip over tried to slip into the water and come up on the dock with these two, but this mother wouldn’t put up with it.  She started barking like crazy whenever they got close.  She definitely did take up some space, but as you can see, there was plenty to spare. Dad was nearby out in the water, clearly keeping his distance and not wanting to get into any argument with the two ladies!

original galleyBack in our slip, we continued getting Southern Star ready for some travelling by replacing the cabinet door on the front of the galley. The original galley looked like what you see to the right.  On top it has a fiberglass sink with a VERY small drain and a one-burner butane stove.  The space below them is accessible through the door on the front right side. As you can see, the left side is much more difficult to access, with no door – just a couple of small inset shelves.  I totally removed this front panel and repurposed the two small shelves by taking that portion of the front, cutting it down to size and then moving it to the left side of the unit.  Then I finished the front with latching doors attached to roll out wire drawer units (each is about 11″ wide).  I mounted them onto a 1/2 that glued and screwed along the front edge and also about 15″ back.  That raised them just enough to clear the lower lip of the opening. The drawers had an accessory kit that attaches to the front of each for easy mounting of the door directly to the drawer. The alternative was to hinge the doors on the side and then have to pull out the drawer. The Admiral preferred this technique.  WP_20140712_19_55_45_ProWhile the left hand drawer does have some constraints to avoid the plumbing underneath, it gives dramatically better access to the space below the sink.I also replaced the sink with a stainless steel one of (approximately) the same size. I Just cut out the original (using the template supplies with the new one), and dropped the new one in its place. I also replaced the faucet with a much nicer one attached to my water pump and 25 gallon tank under the rear berth.   If you’re curious, the red tape on the left faucet handle “locks” it in the off position. This is for connection to a future hot water supply, but currently is not connected to anything. So if you accidentally open it, water can freely pour out the bottom when you turn on the cold water. Not good. I do need to cap that off!

Then came what I think will be a really big improvement.  I replaced the tank under our Dometic Sealand porta-potty with a tank that had built-in MSD hose fittings. This enabled me to attach it to hoses which lead to deck fittings that enable me to use the WP_20140712_19_56_36_Propump-out facilities at any marina. I no longer have to carry the (very heavy when full) tank to some dump facility to empty it.  That had to be one of the worst tasks on the planet. Doing a pump-out isn’t particularly fun, but it’s a lot better than the alternative!  I plan on moving the air line filter much closer to the back so it is more in the back, though neither hose is in the way.  I’ll also be trying to cover over those hoses so they’re not quite so “in your face” and industrial in appearance. A cover with some carpeting like covers the hull walls might be the ticket there.

The last thing on our plate (for now) is to put a latching cover over the large opening I cut below the galley to make that space accessible to us again, since our galley is essentially fixed in place.  I bought the wood, and I’ll be attaching it to the opening with hinges at the bottom and a latch (identical to the ones on the galley doors) at the top.  That will open up several more cubic feet of storage space that is out of reach to us right now. And in a small boat like this, every cubit foot counts!

Till next time!


Categories: Anacortes, Cap Sante Marina, Modifications | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The 2014 MacGregor/Tattoo Owner’s Rendezvous at Anacortes

Southern Star at the 2015 MacGregor RendezvousWhat a fun weekend!  All of the folks who have bought boats from Blue Water Yachts over the years (well, a bunch of them anyway) get together every summer at the MacGregor/Tattoo Rendezvous.  I think this year’s was one of the best yet!  So I want to begin by telling Todd and Cheryl how much we appreciated all they did to arrange the rendezvous.  I know it’s not a trivial thing to get this many people together and keep them entertained and fed for three days!  So THANK YOU!!!

What was funny to Stella and I was that this year’s Rendezvous was held at the Cap Sante Marina, where we now keep Southern Star.  So, while many folks had to trailer or motor, or gasp! even sail their boats to Anacortes, we basically moved from one slip to another.  So when people asked us where we came from, we just pointed over towards the K dock and said “oh, about 200 yards that-a-way.”

Crew of the TootSeaOf course, the best thing about an event like this is just catching up on friendships that were established in previous years. It’s unfortunate that we see so few of you in between these annual get-togethers, but a few of you we’re starting to see more often around the Sound. So here is to our growing list of friends on such awesomely named boats like TootSea and Dawn Treader. We sure hope to see you out-and-about! It was also great to make completely new acquaintances with owners of brand new boats – which reminds me – welcome to the family, Tattoo!  Roger MacGregor retired and his kids picked up the business, renaming the boats “Tattoo”.  They’re basically identical to the most recent MacGregor 26Ms, but have a fresher interior design aesthetic.  Sgt SchultzWe even got to participate in the naming ceremony for one of the Tattoos that joined our group this year – Knorke (kan-or’-ka), which means “cool” or “awesome” in a Berlin specific German slang, from what I understand.  Of course, the bulk of my understanding of German comes from Sgt. Schultz, so don’t take my word for it!

Another highlight every year are the seminars where we learn more about our boats and boating from Todd and Cheryl and other guests.  The two standouts this year (in my mind) were, first of all, the session that began with someone standing up and saying “My name is ‘Jim’, and I’m a MacGregor owner”, like he was joining a 12-step addiction recovery program.  Of course, few of us disagreed with his assessment that he didn’t know how to drink until we got a Mac!  The second was the Crabbing/Shrimping seminar by one of the managers of the local West Marine store. If I remember correctly, his name was Mike. Mike’s tale of suspense and intrigue where he caught the crab poacher with 328 stolen crabs, including those from Mike’s traps that were still onboard the poacher’s boat, was hilarious! He knocked the poacher out with (he claimed) one punch, called up 911 and told the operator that the culprit was ‘resting comfortably.’ He likely wasn’t so comfortable during his three year incarceration and very hefty fines!  Of course, what Mike did was unbelievably reckless as the poacher could have been armed.  But we’re all young and stupid once, and Mike at least came out of his young-and-stupid phase with a great story to tell!

Entrance to the Farmer's MarketStella and I also enjoy going over to the Farmer’s Market whenever we’re in Anacortes on the right days. It’s a nice one, with a bit more crafts and prepared foods than real farm produce for sale, but it’s always an enjoyable visit. It was also our first chance to try out the automatic parallel parking feature on our new Ford Fusion.  It’s amazing – you just pull along side the car in front of the spot you want, and push a button.  Then the car basically parks itself!  You control the speed, basically by putting it in reverse and controlling the brake, but the car does all the rest.  It did a perfect job!  Absolutely amazing!

We had some great meals!  One evening we had a good pot-luck dinner.  Apparently, there was a run on Safeway’s salad section that afternoon!  We also had an excellent barbeque the final evening with burgers and dogs.

For me, of course, if you’ve read my blog at all, the real highlight was visiting all the other boats to find out what kinds of ideas I could get for improving Southern Star and making her a real home-away-from-home.  A bunch of folks stopped by Southern Star to see my modifications, and it was very gratifying to hear so many comments on how great they thought the pulleys were that I added to the dagger board and to the rudder lift lines – cutting the effort in half. Especially from the wives!  Of course, the guys thought my berth mounted HD TV and entertainment system was pretty cool.  As to new ideas, I got a few this time around, but not so many as in past years.  Maybe I’m getting to the point where I’ve done so much, there’s not much left to do…  nah, what am I saying?!?   This year I walked away with the following plans:

  • Add a PVC pipe to bow attached to the pulpit stanchion to hold the anchor. That will get it off the too-small anchor roller and stop the scratching of the bow when the anchor shifts around.
  • Add hatches to storage areas below the seats, especially where the seats are replaced by other things that are not easily moved – like the sink/stove, refrigerator, etc.  That will really open up access to more useful storage space.
  • A motor mount in the back for our dinghy motor so we don’t have to store it below.
  • Replacing the current porta-potty that has to be dumped with one that supports a pump-out fitting on the deck.  Hopefully, I’ve dumped my very last porta-potty tank!  That has got to be the most disgusting job ever.
  • A small portable ice-maker.  Granted, it will only work when we’re on shore power, but we want to use the dual-voltage cooler as primarily a refrigerator, and not a freezer.  And of course, we must have ice!

So all in all, it was a GREAT rendezvous! Thanks again to Todd and Cheryl for putting it on.  We really hope to see many of our fellow MacGregor and Tattoo owners out on the water this summer!

Categories: Anacortes, Cap Sante Marina, Modifications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

…and the major construction for this season is now done.

The Raymarine autopilot is now complete.  I had to build a little shelf and mount it near the rudder post for the rudder transducer, and that is now done.  The transducer measures the angle of the rudder and ensures that the course computer doesn’t try to drive the rudder past its limits in either direction.

Rudder Lift Pulley SystemThe next project I took on was to replace the lines that lift and lower the rudders.  The existing rope was a single continuous loop that attached to the top of the rudder, went up over the aft gunwale thru a cleat, and down thru a hole to come out again on the underside of the rudder.  When you pull the rope in one direction, it pulls the rudder down tight and ensures that it is deep in the water for good steering control.  When you pull in the opposite direction, it raises the rudder clear of the water. When you motor a Mac26M faster than about 7 knots though, you have to lift the dagger board and rudders and steer with just the outboard motor.  I described in my last post how I added a pulley to the dagger board lift line to make it 50% easier to raise the board.  I wanted to do the same with the rudders, and this was the result.

I started by removing the old lines. Before yanking them out though, I taped the new line to the end so that when I pulled it out it also threaded the new line properly.   I used new 5/16″ line for this. Then I attached a new lift line to the top of the rudder that was only a couple of feet long.  At the end of the line I tied on a pulley.  Then I took the line from the bottom of the rudder that comes up through the boat and cleat and ran it down through the new pulley and back up to a support rod for the seat. I intend to make a more permanent attachment point to the underside of the seat, similar to how the original turning block that handles the line running down from the cleat.  But the support rod should be plenty strong enough to hold the weight of the rudder.  When I trailer I put in the rudder lift bolts anyway.  The picture to the upper-right shows the final result.

The final project was an unexpected one.  I discovered that sometime during the first construction weekend I must’ve dropped something sharp on the water tank under the rear berth and punctured it.  It must’ve been heavy, because it went the whole way through and punctured the bottom side as well. I used a Plastimo flexible tank, which worked great here, but it is obviously vulnerable to sharp objects.  Instead of patching with adhesives that might contact our potable water supply, I decided to just replace it.  I took advantage of the opportunity to get a larger tank than I originally had.  New tank installed, and no leaks now.  Woohoo!

So it’s been an extremely busy, but very fulfilling three weekends. I upgraded the electric system, doubling the 12v circuit capacity, then immediately took advantage of it by installing a dual-voltage refrigerator, and autopilot, and revamping the power wiring to the TV and media player.  The Raymarine Evolution autopilot system with the SportDrive should make the cruising along the Pacific Northwest coast and the Salish Sea much more enjoyable. Finally, the Admiral should have a  much easier time pulling on any of the lines when she needs to because of the addition of all the new pulley systems.

This coming Friday we take Southern Star up to Anacortes and put her into her new home slip and spend the weekend commissioning and testing the new autopilot.  We’ll be staying on board and enjoying food preserved without having to buy a new block of ice every day.  Let Boating Season Begin!!!

Categories: Modifications | Tags: , | 5 Comments

Getting ready for Boating Season 2014

Well, boating season is almost here and we have to get Southern Star ready.  She’s going to have a new home at Cap Sante Marina in Anacortes this year, where the facilities look awesome and the monthly costs are much less than what we were paying in Lake Washington.  The fact that we can drive to Anacortes and be 5 minutes from the San Juan Islands in just an hour and a half is another huge plus – it took over 2 hours to get from our Lake Washington slip all the way out to Puget Sound, and that’s if there wasn’t much of a line at the Hiram Chittenden Locks.  And then there was the several hour motoring through the Sound to get to the San Juans.   So this should save a ton of time and gas!

In terms of getting Southern Star ready, we had her in front of the house all weekend working on her.  So far, we added:

  • A second 12V switch panel to handle power distribution to the new equipment below and for future additions.
  • A dual-voltage refrigerator that auto switches between 110v shore power and 12v battery power.  This should eliminate all trips to get a block of ice!  Now all we’ll need ice for is our evening libations!  I’m still not quite convinced that an ice maker would take up too much space to be worth it!  They only come in 110v form (that I can find) but we’re usually in marinas with shore power.
  • I ran a dedicated power line from the switch panel back to where the TV and video player were mounted.  Up until now, I had a loose cord running from a 12V outlet across the bed and up to the TV.  No more ugly!
  • I rigged a pulley on the center board haul-up line that makes it much easier to raise the board. I’m still waiting for the line splicer devices to finish off the lines in place of the big ugly knots that I have there now.  Should make it much easier for the Admiral to haul it up when we’re getting ready to motor.
  • I installed a spring loaded hatch arm to the bow hatch to make it easier to keep it open for airflow on a hot summer day.  Last year we propped it up with water bottles.  Very attractive!  Now to figure out a fan to help out.
  • The BIG thing was installing the Raymarine Evolution autopilot system.  Still not done, but I’ve mounted the main course computer and the EV-1 sensor unit and ran  the power line.  I still have to mount the control panel and drive motor on the steering pedestal and run all the cables from there back to the computer.  That’s not going to be fun, because it’s almost impossible to get inside the pedestal.  I think that I’m going to have to fish the lines from the cabin below the pedestal, up through the opening in the deck at it’s base.  I have to run three wires through there, one for the drive motor, one for the control panel, and one to connect the GPS to the autopilot. Lots of fun still ahead of me. I did hook all the components up though, and when I turned it on nothing blew up, I let out a big sigh of relief.  And it rated a big cheer when I turned the knob on the control panel and the motor started to turn.  Woohoo!  It works!

Once all this work is done, I’m really looking forward to the summer life of cruising through the islands in our little Home Away From Home!  We want to get her in the water the first weekend in May – that’s the beginning of boating season, and we want to be there for it!

I wanted to give a big shout-out to the guys at West Marine in Bellevue.  Especially Troy the BoatCanDo Guy – he came by for an hour last week and helped me plan out a good bit of this work, letting me bounce ideas off him and providing me with options that I hadn’t thought of.  His advice was invaluable and his fees were very reasonable.  If you’re looking for great advice on making upgrades to your boat – Troy is your man!

Categories: Modifications | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Getting ready for the first trip of 2013

Well, a new boating season is upon us!  Stella and I are heading out tomorrow for a 4 day long weekend to Whidbey Island. We’ll be staying in Everett, Oak Harbor, and Edmonds over the three nights.

We’ve put a lot of work into the boat over the winter. I rewired the main electric panel – there wasn’t one, which was a problem.  All wires went directly to the batteries.  Now I have two power bus bars installed behind a door I installed on the battery compartment. All the wires from the boat’s electronics and lights go to the bus bars, and then big cables connect them to the two battery terminals.  As part of that I also added a battery meter and power cables to power the 12v TV and WDTV media player powered by a 500GB USB hard drive that we’ll bring on board. I also finished up the pressurized water system with a Plastimo flexible tank and a Shurflo 12v on-demand pump. We now have reliable running water (20+ gallons worth) that doesn’t have to be pumped! Bit by bit we’re turning Southern Start into a real home away from home.

This first trip of the season will be our chance to get sea legs back under us and help us to remember how to maneuver the boat around docks. As one of my favorite quotes puts it “there is nothing quite like the demented will of a sailboat in reverse.”  Every spring, we’re all rookies again, getting the feel of how the boat handles.  Add wind and current, and you’ve got quite the challenge.

It’s all worth it though – for evenings like this.

DSC_1317 for 24 x 16

Categories: Itinerary, Modifications, San Juan Islands | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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