Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lake Michigan Stratocumulus Clouds?

I don't claim to be a meterorologist, hence the (?) in this post. I enjoy observing the weather and sharing what I see.

I was drawn to tonights clouds. There was a lot of texture with subtle shades of gray and blue which I enjoyed watching. These seem to be typical spring clouds over the 40-something degree Lake Michigan waters.

This view is looking east from the Chicago Yacht Club's Monroe Street Station docks. On the horizon to the left is the Columbia Yacht Club. About a third of the way from the left is the Chicago Harbor lighthouse. About a third of the way from the right on the horizon is the Odyssey dinner cruise ship. Click on the picture to zoom in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Foggy Day at Belmont Harbor

South side Belmont from the Fuel Dock.
The Chicago Yacht Club Belmont station and Sailing School
is on the left.

Docks waiting to splash.
I couldn't resist stopping by Belmont Harbor on my way home from work.  I wanted to check out the new docks and the fog was the perfect excuse to stop.

There isn't much open water left in the harbor with regular slips where the star docks were.  It'll be interesting to see how much more congested the harbor feels.

Chicago Match Racing boats.

I saw two boats from the Chicago Match Racing Center coming in under sail.  It was cool (47 degrees) but even with the light wind it didn't feel that bad.

Geese at Belmont

The fuel pumps on the gas dock still listed gasoline at $3.49!  I can't imagine how expensive fuel will be on the water this summer.  I'm sure the lake will be less crowded.

I'm glad I own a sailboat!

Green Sailing, or Sailing is Environmental Awareness

One of my favorite, long-lost, t-shirts is one I bought from a Mission Beach, California surf shop which said "Surfing is Environmental Awareness."  I liked the art as it depicted surfing as part of the ocean ecosystem.  It was a message I didn't mind spreading by wearing it on my back.  I bought it nearly 15 years ago and probably got rid of it during one of our recent decluttering exercises since it no longer fit, but I wished I still had it.

I've often thought that "sailing is environmental awareness."  It's true at so many levels.  You tune the boat to be one with your environment to get what you need out of her, comfort or speed.  Your wake is often the only sign you leave behind, and on a good day you use the wind as your fuel.

On the water you're constantly monitoring your environment.  Not only in general (temperature, wind, waves, cloud cover) but subtle details such as changing cloud patterns, minor wind shifts, and how the wind fills in from a dead calm.

You notice man's negative impact on Lake Michigan as you would in any natural space.  You're eye is drawn toward a single plastic trash bag or balloon floating in the water just as you are a pop bottle on a forest trail.  A little trash can make a big difference!  Have you ever spilled a few drops of diesel at the fuel dock?  A shot glass worth can make a surprisingly large sheen next to your boat.

You quickly become aware of how much trash a boat can generate if you spend more than a few nights away from dock and the trash dumpster.  On a race such as the Mac you can end up with 3 or 4 large bags of trash if you aren't careful.  Much of that is single use packaging to move material from one place to another.

Three important lessons I've learned that reduce trash on the boat are:

  • Limit use of plastic bottles.  I'd rather carry a 3 gallon plastic water jug and refill glasses or reusable bottles than carry a case and half of bottled water.
  • Don't use disposable plates and utensils.  I use plastic marine dinnerware (the stuff with rubber on the bottom) and wash after each meal.  This is one place where "marine" makes a difference as it really keeps your plates or bowls from sliding as the boat moves.  
  • Buy in bulk.  Use resealable containers to store your food in.  Clean them when done and use them again later.      

I've also learned some misconceptions about trash and the lake from the Pocket Guide to Marine Debris published by the Ocean Conservancy.  For example:

  • It takes 2 months for an apple core to decompose.
  • An orange or banana peel won't degrade for up to 5 weeks.
  • A paper towel can last up to 4 weeks in the water.
The lesson?  Don't throw even seemingly biodegradable materials such as chicken bones into the lake.  Besides being a violation of the law, the stuff will stay around much longer than you anticipate.

I've been participating on the Chicago Yacht Club's Verve Committee trying to broaden the Verve Distance Race's appeal to cruising and casual sailors.  One of the values that the race supports is "green sailing."

There's a group called Sailors for the Sea who's mission is to "educate and empower the boating community to protect oceans and local waters."  They have a clean regatta program which allows regattas, such as the Verve Cup, to become certified as a clean regatta.

Many of their measures are common sense, such as reducing water bottle use and zero tolerance for littering.  Others are more progressive, such as requiring non-toxic bottom paints and preventing bottom cleaning in the harbors.

There are plenty of groups who want to educate and even legislate green boating.  In addition to the groups already mentioned, the EPA is busy looking at "green" boating.  Part of the 2008 Clean Boating Act requires a review of green practices, including "normal operational discharges."  Read what Boat US says about this here.  There's a link to email your comments.  Don't let the federal government over-regulate what should be common sense.  The are already laws against discharge.

And finally, if you own a boat 40 feet or greater, the US Coast Guard requires you to have a written waste management plan.  It's required for each manned oceangoing ship (other than a fixed or floating platform) of 40 feet or more in length that is documented under the laws of the United States or numbered by a state and that either is engaged in commerce or is equipped with a galley and berthing.  

The plan must provide for the discharge of garbage by means that meet Annex V of MARPOL 73/78, the Act, and 151.51 through 151.77; (2) Describe procedures for collecting, processing, storing, and discharging garbage; and (3) Designate the person who is in charge of carrying out the plan. Source:  cEFR Section 33, part 151.

I found this template for creating a waste management plan on the Cruising Life web site.

I think the average sailor is more environmentally aware than the average person.  As with everything else, there's room for improvement.  Education, understanding, and being a positive role model to those around you will contribute to the enjoyment we have for our pastime.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Boat Work, Lift Bridges, and the Beach

Last weekend boat yards all across Lake Michigan were busy with people getting ready their boats ready for spring.  Only one more month and Donnybrook will be back at Belmont Harbor!

This weekend was busy.  I repaired an exhaust leak, removed the rear water tank, did some train watching, and went to the beach!

Boat Work
Saturday afternoon was spent on Donnybrook repairing a minor exhaust leak.  There was some wobble where the exhaust riser goes into the exhaust flange on Donnybrook's Universal M25XP diesel.  I removed the exhaust riser (similar to a header on a car) and flange and rebedded the threads.  This time I put the flange in a vice and tightened the riser an extra full turn.  That removed the wobble.  The procedure with pictures is here, on the C34ia site.

Aft space with rear water tank removed.
Am I done?  Probably not.  The exhaust riser has a finite life span.  The hot exhaust gas and water create a caustic mixture that eats the welds.  Based on what is written on the C34ia message board and email correspondence with Catalina, it's a matter of when, not if, it'll fail.  The worrier in me envisions a weld breaking at the worst conceivable time spraying hot water and exhaust gases inside the engine room.  Time to replace.  I'll remove and ship to Catalina so they can fabricate a new one next time I visit the boat.

The next project was to remove the rear water tank and figure out if it can be repaired.  I found the necessary slack in the wiring to move the tank.  I only had to disconnect the shift cable to free it.  I'll explore options to repair and report back here.

Lift Bridge
Canal Street Lift Bridge, looking south from
19th street.  Canal Street Boat Yard is
to the right.  An Amtrak train is on the bridge.
What did we do Sunday?  We visited the Canal Street Lift bridge!  My boys love trains.  I liked them when little, but didn't have the exposure growing up in Southern Indiana that my boys do living in Chicago.  Now I get nearly as excited seeing trains up close as they do.

It relates to Donnybrook and cruising because this is a bridge she passed under many times to and from the old Crowley's (near Archer and Halsted) and is similar to lift bridges around the great lakes.  It is next to the Canal Street Marina and Boat Yard where many sailboats are stored.

The Canal Street railroad bridge is at the south end of the Amtrak/Metra Chicago Union Station Yard.  It is now a historic Chicago Landmark, officially known as the Pennsylvania Railroad Bridge, near 19th street East of Lumber street.  From Wikipedia, it was built in 1914 and provides 130 feet of clearance from the river below.  At its peak in 1916, it was raised and lowered 75 times for ship traffic and carried 300 trains, daily!  

The Beach
What do you do in Chicago when it's 88 degrees?  If you can't go out on the cool Lake Michigan waters in a boat, you go to the beach!  Sunday after visiting the lift bridge I took Conor and Emmet to Montrose Beach.  It was WINDY out of the west, gusts at the Harrison-Dever crib were 30+ knots.  Surprisingly, there were several people in the water!  Conor ended up up to his knees.  I went in to my knees and it didn't seem too bad.  Even a couple of adults were swimming.  If I was wearing a swim suit I probably would have gone all the way in, just to say I went swimming in Lake Michigan in April.

All in all, it was a fantastic early spring weekend.
Boys at the beach.  Notice the wind-blown sand in the 25+ knot gusts.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

First Boat of the Season at Belmont Harbor

I noticed the first boat Saturday, which was April 2.  It's a charter fishing boat.  I wonder if it's a new addition to T-dock or a temporary boat waiting for her permanent slip to become available.  Due to improvements, many slips won't be available until May 1.  See Chicago Harbors Reconfiguration Notice for more information.

First Boat at Belmont Harbor--T-Dock.  April 3, 2011.

Changing Engine Mounts

Capt. Kyle at work changing engine mounts.
Saturday Mike, Bob, and I changed Donnybrook's engine mounts!  The goal is to decrease noise and vibration and increase overall comfort on the inevitable long motoring that is part of cruising on Lake Michigan.  We'll find out at launch in May if the goal was met.

This was a relatively easy job.  Physical flexibility accessing the rear engine mounts was an asset.  Patience getting to the tougher bolts and aligning the engine was important.

The EXCELLENT article by Ron Hill on the Catalina 34 International's project Wiki, Changing Engine Mounts, and other advice on the C34IA Main Message Board made planning easy.

Back of the engine showing the disconnected
coupler and rear engine mounts.
The red object is my Globe Drivesaver

After reading everything I could find on the C34 International Association site, I decided on Vetus K50 mounts in the front and K75 in the rear as several other Catalina 34 owners have done.  Based on other's experience, K50 mounts all around--although within Vetus' specifications for the Universal M25xp--seem too soft for the engine and may cause excessive engine movement.  Placing K75s in the rear will keep the prop shaft centered in the tube and the K50s in the front will help keep the engine run as quiet as possible.  I ordered the mounts from Jamestown Distributors.  Mounts were $65.41 a piece with free shipping (free discount code fship50).  I ordered at lunch Tuesday and received them Thursday.

A 2x4 across the companion way with
Mike looking on.
The mast is off the boat so using the boom as Stu did wasn't an option.  Instead, I used a 2x4 across the companion way and I used my backstay adjuster for the block and tackle.  We were only lifting half of the M25xp's 300 pounds so weight wasn't a concern and this layout made it possible to raise and lower the engine from inside the boat.  Instead of using a bridal as Stu did, we used the engine lift points.  There are two, one for the front and one for the back.  They're slightly off center but worked fine.
Front of the engine lifted and ready
to remove the front mounts.

The only additional information I can add to the Wiki is:
  1. The mounting studs on the Vetus are about half an inch longer than the original.  This means you have to raise the engine slightly more to insert the new mounts.
  2. Put the top nut and washer on the front, starboard engine mount before you lower then engine.  I didn't have enough clearance to put it on with the engine lowered.
  3. Watch the exhaust riser clearance as you raise the back of the engine.  There is room to take the rear mounts off with the rear raised as high as it'll go, but I had to remove the lag nuts first so I could twist them off.  
  4. The engine moves on the mounts A LOT more with the shaft disconnected.  I tested movement with the shaft disconnected and was concerned about excessive movement until I reconnected the shaft.
  5. Be careful with the silicone used on the lag bolts.  The silicone makes everything it touches very slippery.
Total time for us was about 5 hours on the boat and included laying out all tools and equipment and one trip to the ship's store for shorter lag blots.

I'd replaced engine mounts on my previous boat (S2 9.2A) so I had some experience.  Changing mounts on the Catalina 34 is more difficult because of access to the rear mounts, but still relatively easy.  Patience to work in a cramped space while loosing and tightening bolts one or two ratchet clicks at a time is key.

UPDATED 6/14:  Final engine alignment was a bear!  See Engine Mount Epilogue for details on final alignment.  All is well.  Again, patience is key.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Donnybrook's Lake Michigan: A Map of Her Travels

Because a picture is worth a thousand words, I added a map so you can see where the action occurred.  I added a page at the top to make it easy to find and will add a "place mark" or route for each article I write.  Click on Donnybrook's Lake Michigan for a larger map with index in a separate tab.

I used Google Maps to create a custom map.  It was easy and fun, and kept me out of trouble on a Friday night.