Sunday, September 18, 2011

Up the mast

We found out a couple weekends ago that our Anchor light on the masthead wasn't working.  Figuring that it was a bad bulb, I decided to go up the mast for a look.  Given that we normally have to do things shorthanded, I got an ATN Mastclimber to make the accent.

The climber worked very well.  I got my Mom to go along with me and then my daughter decided to tag along as well.  I used the spinnaker halyard as the climbing line and the boom lift as a safety line.  My mom tailed the slack on the boom lift as I went up.

It actually worked well, although I did have one problem.  I had fastened the Spinnaker halyard to the base of the mast before climbing.  However, once my 215 pounds put tension on the halyard it stretched, leaving too much slack in the line below me to easily slide the ascenders up the line.  My Mom (age 77 btw) put a winch on the halyard and was able to raise me up about 6 inches to remove the slack.  That made it a lot easier.

I got to the top and found that the bulb looked good but I wasn't getting any power to it.  While I was up there, I took a few photos, then came down again.

The ATN Mastclimber worked great.  If an old, fat, out of shape guy like me with a bum knee can do it, most anyone can.  I will admit to a few sore muscles over the next couple days however.

This is the view from the top.
Legacy's stern from the Masthead
Legacy's bow from the Masthead

View of my Marina from the top.
Murphy's Landing

Panorama's of Gig Harbor.  There is some wide angle distortion of course, the Harbor really isn't shaped that way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Replacing aft Wilcox-Crittendon Head

I have been very unhappy with the WC Headmate toilets that came with the 2005 C400. Frankly, they are a piece of junk. I wanted to replace them with a better designed unit, but didn't want to have to do a lot of changes to the existing plumbing. Two reasons for this, I'm lazy and my wife doesn't like extra holes in the boat.

After doing a lot of research and making a general pest of myself asking questions on the C400 International Association website and the C400 Yahoo group list, I settled on the Raritan PHC. The PHC uses the same pump as the Raritan PHII, but with a compact "marine" bowl. When Defender had them on sale for $199, I jumped at it and bought one.

First, I'd like to offer a lot of thanks to Tom Sokoloski of Juniper. He replaced his WC Headmates with Raritan PHII's and provided a lot of suggestions and advice.

Parts Needed:
  • Raritan PHC Head
  • 1 - 5/16 x 1.5" Stainless Steel Lag screw
  • 1 SS washer
  • 1 SS locking washer
  • epoxy and thickener
  • Life-Calk
  • Super Lube
  • 2 SS hose clamps for 3/4" ID hose
  • 1 90 degree elbow for 3/4" ID hose

The first step is to remove the existing head. This is just a matter of making sure the sea cock is closed then disconnecting the hoses to the toilet. Try to be careful of the hoses as you disconnect them because you will reuse the hoses and you don't want to distort the hoses. Applying a bit of heat with a hair dryer can help get the hoses off the ribbed fittings. Then, unscrew the three stainless steal lag screws that attach the head to the raised pedestal. Hang on to these screws and their washers as you will reuse them. Having a container to catch the raw water from the hoses can help reduce the mess.

Here is what it looks like when you get the head removed.

You can see the three holes from the Headmate mounts. The PHC has four mounting points. I reused the farthest forward mounting hole from the Headmate for the PHC. That means that I only had to drill three additional holes instead of four, and only had to fill two of the old holes.

I brought the PHC in and test fitted in place.

Note the lag screw that I placed for test fitting. That is the hole that will be kept. With the PHC in place, I connected the waste hose temporarily.

The arrow is pointing to the elbow that leaves the head. From Raritan, this elbow is pointing down. The two bolts have to be loosened and the elbow rotated to point to the waste hose that comes out of the wall. With that hose in place and the mounting slot placed against the one bolt forward, I marked the position of the other three slots. Then I took off the waste hose and removed the head.

Here you can see the marks for the new holes. I've already filled the two unused holes with thickened epoxy. The arrow is pointing to one of the hole positions that is very close to an existing hole. This is one of the reasons I used the epoxy and simply didn't fill them with Life-Calk. I wanted that new hole to have a sturdy support around it. By the way, you will need another SS lag screw. A smart person would have taken one of the existing screws to the hardware store and simply matched it. I, on the other hand, forgot to do that and had to select a lag screw from memory. I picked a 5/16 x 2" screw. I was close, it should have been 1 1/2". You also need a washer and lock washer.

Drill the holes in the marked locations using a brad point drill, and counter sink them. I made a really stupid error at this point. If you notice, the mounting points are slots, not holes in the base of the PHC. I drilled the holes at the inside edge of the slots. This meant that when I mounted the toilet I didn't have enough room for the washer at one of the screws. It also meant that I wasn't able to get a socket around the head of both the forward and aft screw at the pump housing and so had to screw them in using an open end wrench. I was muttering to myself the entire time. See below. Use Life-Calk or equivalent in the holes to seal them.

After mounting, it is just a matter of making the hose connections. Using some Super Lube on on the hose connections makes it a lot easier to get the hoses on. When the PHC came from Raritan, it had a hose connected from the back of the pump to the back of the bowl. This is fine for above the waterline installations, but for below the waterline installations, Raritan wants an a vented loop. Fortunately, Catalina had already provided one for the head I just removed. I removed the Raritan hose from the pump to the bowl and simply connected the hoses that I had disconnected from the Headmate.

The raw water intake hose doesn't reach the pump comfortably. The Headmade had the raw water intake located in the back of the pump and the PHC has it in the front. I copied what Tom Sokoloski had done, and using a 90 elbow and 2" of hose I cut from the piece of Raritan hose I had removed from the toilet, I fashioned this.

Then it was just a matter of opening the raw water sea cock and testing for leaks. It was at this point that I found I had a large leak at the back of the pump where the flushing water goes out to the vented loop. The end of the hose had been distorted somewhat as I removed it from the Headmate and it wasn't sealing well. I simply cut off 3/4" of the end of the hose and reconnected it and it solved the problem. Before I do something like this again however, I'm going to buy a hose cutter. The OEM hoses are really tough to cut with a knife.

This is what it looks like installed. You can see the one old hole that is visible. I may get some gelcoat from Catalina to clean that up a bit.

Another option to consider is that Raritan sells just the PHC Lower Base Assembly as a separate item. The Headmate bowl will bolt directly on this. The PHC LBA can be purchased for about $220 which makes it much less expensive than the normal PHC unit. I chose to buy the whole unit since Defender had such a good price, but otherwise would have gotten just the LBA. You can put either a "household" size bowl or a compact “marine” bowl such as the WC Headmate’s. Also, the PHII can be used instead. The reason I didn't is that the PHII base molding would have overhung the toilet pedestal

I couldn't be happier. The pump of the PHC (The same as the PHII) works so much better than the Headmate and seems a much more sensible design.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Family Visit

At the end of July, we were fortunate to have my wife's sister and her family come up for a visit from Southern California. My brother-in-law likes to sail but hasn't had much chance and hasn't seen Legacy before. We took the opportunity to take their family out for a little sail. We decided to just run down to Wollochet Bay (yeah, it is a favorite) and give the kids a chance to play at the TYC Outstation. We didn't have a lot of wind, but we did have some opportunity to sail.

Here is my brother-in-law at the wheel as we are leaving Gig Harbor. I think he is enjoying himself.

My sister-in-law, while not as excited seems to be having a good time.

My nephew liked it. It took quite a while for him to get over the trauma of having to put on a life-jacket. He complained as only a 2 year-old can, but he dealt with it eventually.

Legacy at the dock in Wollochet. The TYC dock was almost full but there was a spot at the end of the dock for us. Of course, there is was only a few inches of water under her keel, but fortunately the tide was coming in.

The kids had a great time on the dry playing in the shade. The one with the freckles is my daughter.

Once the tide was slack, we headed back to Gig Harbor on the ebb. We all had a great time and the family promised to come back next year to maybe spend a night or two on Legacy with us. My niece got adventuresome on the way home, even if we didn't have any wind.

July 4th

Kids Summer work schedules being what they are, it was tough getting folks together for the 4th. We decided to just take Legacy down to the TYC outstation at Wollochet Bay. Wollochet is a small bay in South Puget Sound that is nice and protected. Unfortunately, on nice days it is also filled with idiots that either don't know, or don't care about the no-wake zone law in Pierce County.

It is a nice place to hang out for the 4th as the small bay is surrounded with homes owned by folks with more money than sense. They spend huge sums of money each year on their own personal fireworks displays. Great for those of us who just like to watch.

I had to go to work the next day, so I went home that night leaving the family on Legacy. The next day after work, I came out and my wife and I took Legacy back to Gig Harbor. It was nice to finally have some decent Summer weather (at least by PNW standards).

Friday, June 3, 2011

AutoProp Install (Finally)

Back when I first had Legacy hauled for the survey, I was struck by how much that big three-blade prop would affect sailing performance. It was then that I decided on some type of feathering prop. I agonized over the decision and wrote two blog posts, Decisions, decisions verse 1- Propeller, and Autoprop it is back in August of last year. Well, I did get the Autoprop but received it too late to have it installed while the boat was out of the water. I finally got around to getting it done this weekend.

My Mom and I took the boat over to Gig Harbor Marina to be hauled and have them install the prop. Gig Harbor Marina has the only Travelift and haul-out facility in Gig Harbor. It is a lot more convenient than taking the boat into Tacoma to have it hauled and my experience with them there at Gig Harbor Marina was excellent. The staff is friendly and helpful and seem very knowledgeable. Installing the Autoprop isn't a hard job, but I decided that since I don't have a prop puller, I'd let them do it. While the boat was out of the water, I had them wash down the hull and replace all the zincs. I have a diver that takes care of that for me, but since it was out it was easy.

The install went well. We did need to grind away some of the prop strut to give adequate clearance for the prop. Fortunately, a Catalina 400 owner who also has an Autoprop on the Catalina400 Yahoo group had mentioned the potential problem with clearing the strut. If he hadn't mentioned it, I'm not sure if either me or the installer would have noticed it. If you look at the photos you can see that the prop could have hit strut as it was changing from forward to reverse. A few minutes with a grinder and that problem was taken care of.

Here is a close up of where the prop would hit the strut.

After a couple minutes with a grinder, this is what it looked like.

Another, closer shot.

After waiting four hours for the tide to come in to give us enough water under the Travelift (it was a -2 tide today) we dropped Legacy back in the water.

With the standard 3-blade prop, 2500rpm would give us 6.1 knots on flat water with no wind. After the Autoprop was installed, we went out sailing on a beautiful day. Temperatures were in the 70's, we had 15 knots of wind, and it was bright and clear. (Those of you not from the PNW have no idea how unusual this is. We almost never get the combination of wind, sun, and warm temperatures. We are lucky if we get two out of the three.) Anyway with a 15 knot headwind and a light chop, 2500rpm now gave us 6.9 knots. More importantly, 2000-2200 rpm, which is a very comfortable power level for the Yanmar, gave a respectable 6.4 knots.

Reverse performance was better but it didn't eliminate the prop walk in reverse. This still means that getting in and out of our slip is going to continue to be a challenge depending on wind and tide.

Anyway, after just a short time I'm happy with it. Time will tell of course. Given the typical light winds we have here, I'm looking forward to seeing how it improves motor sailing performance.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Companionway Doors

One of the features that we really liked on my folks Catalina 36, were the teak companionway doors that they had made. While at the Seattle boat show this winter, we ran into the same gentleman who made those doors and asked him to make some for Legacy.

He has a website at Cruising Concepts and does nice work in teak for all kinds of projects. He isn't cheap, and he isn't fast, but I like everything that I've seen him do.

The Catalina 400 comes with the typical teak companionway boards. While these are a great for using when out in heavy seas, they aren't the most convenient for coastal cruising. Catalina provides a handy shelf in the cabin for the boards, but that is space that we would like to use for other things. So the answer was to install some hinged companionway doors that could be left in place, or removed if you like.

My woodworking skills are not that good. Well, most of my skills aren't that good. So while the installation is not that difficult, it did take me a few hours, which was a couple hours longer than it should have. During the installation, you do have to use a sanding block to adjust the fit of the doors for your own boat. If I can do it, anyone can.

I was pleased with the way they turned out. We opted for teak doors with screens and removable plexiglass windows. Rather than varnish, I elected to just oil the doors.

From outside, doors closed. Notice how you can't see into the cabin, but just see reflections on the windows.

Outside, doors open.

Inside cabin, doors closed. Notice how well you can see through the dark plexiglass.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Yesterday I converted Legacy's shore power plug to a SmartPlug. I have been wanting to do this since I bought the boat and it was one of the things that I was going to do to my 36 before I decided to move to the 400. Fisheries Supply in Seattle had some good Seattle Boat Show pricing so I decided to pull the trigger on it. It is not a cheap conversion since it is a relatively small start-up company with lots of R&D expenses. Getting ETL approval of their system has been a challenge but they received it in October. They are still working on approval for the dockside plugs.

Anyway, I purchased a conversion kit as well as a molded, 50ft shore power chord. My rational for doing this was that I always like having two shore power chords. I'm essentially a lazy person and want as little to do as I'm heading our for an overnight or weekend as possible. It isn't hard to coil up a shore power chord and bring it on board, but I prefer to keep one on the boat and leave one permanently on the dock. Part of the reason is that I'm particular about how my dock chord is attached to the dock. So, I'll convert the end of the chord that I keep on the boat, and use a new molded chord for the one that is left on the dock. This increased the cost a lot, but for me it is worth it.

Changing out the plug on the on the boat isn't that difficult. However, it would have been a lot easier and quicker with another pair of hands. I have long arms, and I'm not sure someone shorter, with shorter arms, would have been able to do it solo. The hole that was drilled in my stern to accept the existing plug (receptacle or boatside connector is more accurate I suppose) is just slightly too small to accept the SmartPlug connector. My Dremel would have made short work of making it a tad larger, but since I had no 120 power on the boat (since it was shut off and disconnected obviously) and I didn't have a long enough extension chord, I had to use a hand file. It took a bit longer but was not difficult. Dropping tools, nuts, and washers down into the aft lazarette and retrieving them took a bit longer as well.

One thing that I didn't have with me and I wish I did was some electrical grease. After wiring the connector, I would have liked to cover the connections with grease to keep moisture out of the connections. That is something that will be pretty easy to do when I go out to boat since the connector is readily accessible to the aft lazarette. Here are some photos:

Interior of existing connector:

Interior of SmartPlug connector:

Exterior, connector installed:

Exterior with power chord attached: