Tuesday, May 3, 2011

3 April 2011 - Ready To Go Again

After months of good time ashore with family and friends, and a lot of preparation, it's time to go "adventuring" again. Arcadia I is sitting at Marina Coral in Ensenada with full fuel tanks, an extra 180 gallons of deck fuel and her Former Owner, Dean Phillpott, aboard as crew. All systems are in a "go" state, spare parts and provisions are loaded and "Weather Bob" has given us a pretty good forecast for departure tomorrow. Next Port of Call is Honolulu!

Since bringing her home Arcadia I has had a bit of an overhaul. We:
  • finally found someone that could solve the "freeze up" problem with the Nobeltec chartplotter.
  • replaced the old secondary autopilot with a new one, demoting the old primary to secondary,
  • replaced the no longer supported NorthStar chartplotter with a new Furuno.
  • reconfigured the navigation system such that either chartplotter can drive either autopilot
  • recommissioned the single side band radio,
  • installed a new dedicated monitor for the FLIR,
  • replaced all the standing rigging for the paravane stabilizers,
  • replaced all the seawater hoses throughout the whole boat,
  • installed a complete set of new AGM batteries,
  • replaced all the navigation lights with new LED versions,
  • replaced the venerable refrigerator,
  • replaced the washing machine, (original one operated once the day we bought her, but never again),
  • stripped the lousy varnish that we put on the teak in La Paz and oiled it instead,
  • repaired a lot of minor gel coat chips,
  • rigged up a carefully thought out sea anchor system that we hope to only use for crew training,
  • replaced the old cone-type drogue with a more stable one from Para-Tech,
  • hauled her and had her surveyed so we could get insurance for our upcoming travels. (We got a remarkably "clean" survey report),
  • went through the whole DC electrical system, finding explanations to several mysteries and eliminating several "gremlins",
The most visible, and esential creature-comfort item was to install a real helm chair in the wheelhouse. When I got home, I was practically crippled by leg cramps. The cause of which, at least partially was sitting at that accursed board seat that serves as the helm chair on Nordhavn 46s.  The new chair does dominate the wheelhouse, but the changes we made to the "peanut gallery" table makes it a liveable. I'm sitting in it as I write this and loving it.

While Nordhavn represented the fuel tank capacity for the 46 as a nominal 1000 gallons, the reality of the ones with 4 black iron tanks is different than that. Frankly, I don't think you could put 1,000 gallons into the tanks if they were completely dry. Then, because of the shape of the tanks and the location of the fittings, there's a considerable amount of fuel that is simply unrecoverable by normal means. I the case of Arcadia I, our total useful fuel is about 860 gallons from the main tanks. We could probably get to Hawaii with that much, but we'd have to go very slowly and might not have much fuel reserve to dodge a storm. Several Nordhavn 46 owners have addressed this problem in various ways. The one we chose takes advantage of the fact that this boat has a port list of ~2 degrees when it the installed fuel tanks are full, and it has an outside passageway along the starboard side that is pretty low on the boat. I considered having a custom bladder made to fill up that space, but finally decided on two readily available and relatively inexpensive, baffled aluminum tanks that fit in the back of standard pickup trucks and hold about 90 gallons each. With a little imagination and a lot of improvisation, we came up with ways to secure them solidly in all three dimensions. This brings our useful fuel capacity to slightly more than the advertised value and the full load list is now ~2 1/2 degrees to starboard.  

As you can see, we've been getting ready for this trip for several months. In addition to the work on the boat I worked on myself by enrolling in a 5 week course that led to my passing the USCG Captain's examination. I've still got to document my sea time and pee in a bottle before I get my license, but the examination is done. I've got a year to do the rest, if I want to hang the certificate on the wall. Frankly, I don't think I'd ever want to do this for hire, so I really don't need the license. I was just getting prepared for my own satisfaction and the safety of the friends and family that accompany me on my adventures.

I needed to wait until an important operating contract for Sterling Energy was completely executed, (operating contract for the cogeneration plant at John Wayne Airport).  That happened today. The good news is that we got the contract. The bad news is my highly valued shipmate and fellow adventurer, Mike O'leary is going to be the Plant Manager and probably won't have much time to go on seagoing adventures with me.

On the way down here, I was re-commissiong the water maker in the clean ocean. (We don't use it in Alaska because we don't really need it and because the filters plug quickly with plankton and krill.) When I tried to start it, it wouldn't rinse down to spec. water. My good friend Mike O'leary jumped on the problem and secured the necessary parts to fix the probable cause of the problem. While he was doing that, I was working on it in the now much cooler, and more comfortable, engine room. I got it working today, making good water at rated capacity. Nonetheless, we don't quite trust the existing membranes, so Phyllis is going to bring them down, along with some other stuff that arrived after we left for Ensenada.

So, Dean and I are sitting here with Arcadia I ready for sea. All the restraints against the next adventure are cleared up. All that remains between us and departure for Hawaii is to get our "Zarpe" releasing us from Mexico and a quick round trip to the border to share a kiss with the love of my life and to exchange some materials. We expect to shove off tomorrow evening, (May 4), after the thermal winds die down a bit.

Transit time to Hawaii should be between 14 and 18 days. Dean has ot go home from there to be at his daughter's high school graduation. Scott Johnston, a classmate in the USCG Captain's course, will join me for the trip to the Marshall Islands, and possibly beyond. My good friend Scott Patulski plans to join us for the trip from Majuro to Palau. We plan to stay there for a while, (I fell in love with it last year when we delivered Shallum and Mandy Etpison's boat there last year). Plans after that are a bit less concrete. We're leaning toward going on to the South Pacific Islands and on to New Zealand for their summer. Alternatively, we've considered heading over to Singapore for the winter, then making our way up the Asian coast and back to Alaska next summer. We may decide to do either or neither of those. Sometimes, it is well to remember that indecision is the key to flexibility.