Sunday, July 31, 2011

It's one thing after another, it's a boat.

A friend of mine recently bought a late model outboard motor that was attached to a free older center console boat. On the whole it was a very good buy, but the previous owner was somewhat cack handed at repairs, if they were made at all. The boat hull was buffed back into shape, and out it goes for an inaugural trip which results in a near sinking in some rowdy water. As the vessels stern compartment was filling with water it was observed that the bilge pump was not functional, but with some luck they made it back to the boat ramp. After waiting for half an hour for the water to drain out, home they went. I came over to look, and to listen to the story. Everything was fine in the beginning, but it was getting rough by the time they noticed the lowered back end and returned

Johnson bilge pump wiring, "Splained to Lucy."

Lets start with the fact that Johnson bilge pumps are excellent pumps. Good, now that's out of the way. My issue is only with some less than crystalline wiring documentation. Let me take that back, it's not that the wiring diagram is incorrect, it's just poorly labeled. When you have two wires, and one is labeled brown #1, and the second is labeled brown #2, some inherent confusion will result. In reality there are not two brown wires, there is a brown wire, and then there is a brown/red wire. Why the wonky nomenclature? Just call one brown, and the other brown/red?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hole of the week, and "Name that bad boat, the new prime time game show"

It's sweltering. The fan is roaring next to me, and I'm soaked to the bone in my own sweat. My arms are black and blue from the continual impacts against the sharp edges of a tiny access hole as I pull a cable. I think to myself, I shouldn't have enrolled in that marine installer's training school I saw advertised on that pack of matches. They promised me a glamorous and exciting career in marine technology. I should have drawn the picture of Blinky the clown, and gone to the "Famous Artist" school instead.

I'm just not happy. It's bad enough the working conditions are at times most odious, but the quality of the vessels I work on runs the gamut from fairly good, (never perfect) to lousy examples of design engineering, and implementation with the later predominating. Hearkening back to my very first posting, I made some rules, and set some journalistic standards, which I have maintained so far. 

The point of this blog is to relate my every day frustrations with trying to install a wide variety of marine electronics on boats of all sizes and types. It is hoped that boat builders will read these postings, have an epiphany, and make the small changes needed to make my life easier, and hence save some of my clients hard earned dollars. I am going to abide by the rule, that I will leave the offending boat builders names out of the blog, but you know who you are, and straighten up.

The rules were simple. Do no harm. Use only close up photographs if you were pointing out someone's less than perfect design work or implementation, and don't publish the offenders names. Using the close up photos would allow the builders to recognize their own work, but it would be very difficult for the average reader to know whose bad work it was. I may change my mind about all of this.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The inquisition

"SILENCE! Bow down in awe whilst his most eminent, and fearsome "Installer" enters the chamber. His justice shall be swift and righteous. Bring forth the prisoner with his confession, and lock him in the stocks. The inquisition will now begin. You may now sit. The heinous crimes perpetrated by this guilty boat owner shall now be read aloud for all to hear."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The boat is a zinc'er

The boat is eating itself alive. It's almost like it has a case of aluminum flesh eating bacteria. Purchased about a year ago, the owner had this 1999 cuddy cabin single outboard sent in for a new bottom job, and it was then was moved to the owners slip. A few months later, the owner's diver noted that the engine zincs needed to be replaced, and they were. A few months later, again the engine zincs need replacement, and they were again. About six months into ownership, a motor tilt hydraulic cylinder failed, and the boat went into a local marina for repair, and it was discovered that the motor mount was severely corroded, including chewing a hole through the lift cylinder housing, causing the failure. The owner was understandingly concerned, and he should have been. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Boating the NASA way

"What's the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us" asks Kate. My first reaction was that god awful storm we sailed through on Georgian bay. Kate says "No, I think the shuttle launch", and she was right. We left the house at 1:00 am, and drove to Titusville. We arrived a bit after 5:00 am at a large hotel's lobby jammed full of reporters, camera crews, and NASA contractors. We find our host, grab some bagels, are given our passes, and hop into his car. Every square inch of the causeway's shoulders going out the space center is jammed with vehicles. We get checked through the main KSC guard gate, and then through another check point, and drive up to the observation area set aside for employees and contractors. We are now about three miles from the shuttle, with a clear view, and as close as NASA will let unprotected personnel get. It is now about T minus 30 minutes, and counting. A long row of metal bleachers are set up with a PA system that's providing the communication feeds between the NASA centers, and the shuttle. We have our host from Morton Thiokol on one side of us, and a group from Rockwell on the other side who are translating what is happening. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Oops, short lessons

Lower bridge?

Lowered antenna.

Going green?

Buy new transducer.

Illustrated lessons for a less expensive boating life. The morals, check your antenna, before the low bridge does it for you, and it will. The green stuff on the chart is where birds stand, and it's never a good idea to take your boat there.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Oh the horror, filthy bilges , dirty jobs

I open the hatch, look down into the engine room, and reel back in dismay. Several inches of black oily water, intermingled with amorphous brown lumps sloshing at the keel. Every place you could put your on feet is covered with black slime. The once white engines are now grayish, and look like Jackson Pollock had painted them with a pallet that consisted of only used black engine oil. Old egg crate insulation foam crumbles into dust at the slightest touch. "You gotta be kidding. Is this a joke, you want me to work down there? Do I look like I own a Hazmat suit? I have one word for you, "Soap" and lots of it. Have you heard about this stuff? After seeing this, I know I don't want to see what the head looks like. Not a chance, hire someone to clean up this pigsty if you can't, and don't call me until it's looking better. Believe it or not even marine installers have some marginal  standards."

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Stiffening up a small Garmin GPS

I have thrown, metaphorically speaking, a zillion of these small Garmin 4x and 5x chart plotters into boats. They are compact, full featured, and a good choice for smaller boats. In most cases they are good to go as installed, but on occasion it would be nice if the mount was a wee bit stiffer. Don't despair, there is an easy way to make the mount a little stiffer, for under a dollar or less, even if you're paying full retail.