Sunday, March 28, 2010


Yesterday my on-going spring maintenance mission was to dive the MV Independence to replace the zincs. In the process of replacing the zincs - end prop nut, rudder, and hull zinc - I destroyed the lives and homes of hundreds or thousands of mussels, barnacles, and other marine creatures. No more free ride for these freeloaders.

Colonies of black, 1-2" mussels had litterally taken over the rudder skeg; not only growing all over the rudder skeg, but hanging down about 2-3 feet too. They had a fairly good community growing on the rudder and suburb communities on any depth sounder or intake or outlet port they could find. The colony on the engine intake was the size of a basketball. "Sorry boys, gotta find a new home" I said as I removed their base connection. They sank slowly out of sight to the bottom. Ha ha ha. The barnacles left their tell-tale 'asshole' ring all over the rudder skeg after my paint scraper served them an eviction notice. The mussels and the barnacles competed for every available space on the rudder skeg. The prop had some filamentous, feathery brown algae stuff growing all over it. You'd think it would be easy to remove, but only with vigorous work of the paint scraper on the prop blades did it come off. Funny, but as I was working my destructive efforts, the Doors' "This is the end, my friends, this the end..." song played in my head. Ooooh, I was pure evil to these little bastards, er... denizens of the deep.

Once I had completed my job as home-wrecker and destroyer I proceded on the real task of replacing the zincs. The hull zinc was about 80-85% gone. The rudder zinc was about 80% gone, and the prop nut zinc was completely gone. Hmmm? Must be that I had some live-a-boards next to me in an ancient 1930's ex-Coast Guard cutter and a old Chris that is slowly dying next to me. Their stray currents did an effective job on my zincs. The zincs lasted only 10 months; typically I can get a full year. Despite the condition of the zincs, close inspection of the prop, rudder and skeg showed no pitting or deterioration. Well at least none that I could see through my dive mask. I might think about dangling a external zinc overboard next winter. Fortunately the live-a-boards next door are gone. The old Chris is still slowly dying - he will continue to put stray currents into the water and zap my zincs. Ugh. Generally older boats were not wired to deal with lots of electricity like newer boats. There's no ground and the current has got to go somewhere - into the water; which then causes electrolosis. This is another topic altogether.

I was fortunate in this dive maintenance trip that all I lost was a single allen wrench. I figured out a new trick after all these years - putting an aluminum colander below the prop nut zinc and hull zinc to catch the nuts case I don't catch them as I remove them. It also serves as a tool holder. The rudder zinc replacement is a little trickier since it requires using two hands one on each side of the rudder and no way to hold or place the colander.

Of course getting in to the water is easy, just jump off the dock. Getting out takes A LOT more effort. Thankfully my wife was part of my dive team and put up with my gripes and complaints. A BC (bouyancy compensator) with tank and weights is not easy to lift out of the water, nor is a fully loaded 35 lb. weight belt. Fortunately nothing was lost. Even me getting out of the water is a bit of a chore, I should have included one more rung on the dive ladder. Not sure how I will do it as I age.

I celebrated the death and destruction, and new zincs with a couple of fingers of whiskey afterwards. I was happy this chore was over. Unfortunately considering the life cycle of mussels and barnacles, I'll probably have to dive it one more time before our big summer trip. April & May are the months were the little larval youngsters floating about are looking for new property. I just opened up more space for the little bastards. Oh well until then, beware the destroyer will return.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring - Maintenance Time

Spring means maintenance time - time to change the oil, go through the engine to ensure a successful cruising season, and clean up the winter's mold & mildew.
First, I tackled the oil change. A friend gave me one of them new-fangled oil changers connected to a bucket. I couldn't get the fittings right so I went back to my old method of using a small pump motor. I had problems trying to get the dip stick hose to suck up the oil and then once I got a good suction I had to hold the outlet hose. (I hate the taste of oil.) Failing to hold the outlet hose resulted in oil being sprayed all over me and the engine room. (Lots of curses) That was the only incident. It still took more time than I had planned - 3 gallons is a lot of oil.

My inspections revealed that I need a new oil cooler and a new transmission cooler. There were signs of "salt weeps" on them. I also noticed that my coolant expansion tank was dry. Hmmm? Where did the coolant go? I don't see any spots in the bilge. I guess that's another future research project. The secondary fuel filters continue to leak diesel, luckily I had a container to catch the drips and an "oil zorb" pillow. Again, another future project.

I checked the battery fluid levels - all ok. I wondered about the alternator. Should I get that re-wired? Its been 15 years. I need a new starting battery too. More future projects.

Outside the boat and decks were showing serious signs of winter and neglect. Mold and mildew particularly up by the bow and on the focsle. And, some hideous stains from water dripping off the cap rail, down the inside of fiberglass on the bow, and then down the deck. Ugh. How tough will those stains be to clean up? They're embarrassing. Turns out bleach, Soft Scrub with bleach, a green scrubby pad, and some 'elbow grease' took care of those stains fairly easily. Whew, gotta remember that one. However, I discovered that paint is peeling and cracking on the house. Another future project.

After many hours of work the MV Independence is starting to look somewhat presentable. As with any boat project, as you work you discover more projects. It's a typical 'two steps forward, one step backward' thing. Except for me it seemed to be a 'two steps forward, five or six steps backward kind of realization. Oh, the joys of boat ownership. I reminded myself what BOAT stands for, "Bring On Another Thousand." Additionally, I also am discovering that the older I get the more tougher it gets to contort into those tight engine spaces. My muscles seem to remember with greater vividity the day's efforts - I guess that's what whiskey and Advil are for.

I finished the day in my usual position - up by the helm, viewing the marina view out of my forward windows, sipping a few fingers of whiskey and enjoying the remains of the day. Am I ready for distant waters? No, I've got some future projects to accomplish.