Tag Archives: Diesel

So What Does Cruising Cost?

At the marina picnic last week, a bit of the discussion was about money (which pairs with boats like lemon juice with a paper cut). Most of it was about new stuff, broken stuff, too much stuff and other stuff. But there were a few newbies, and their questions and comments were mostly about cruising was more expensive than they expected. Whatever they expected.

Cruising costs what one lets it cost. Some keep costs down by good decision making and good discipline. Others keep costs down by sneaking into marinas/mooring fields and tying up for the night and leaving before the staff arrives in the morning. Fortunately, there are very few of these folks, but not few enough. Zero would be good.

But having listened to the discussion, I wondered what is it costing us? Not in dollars and cents – our Quicken has 29 sub accounts; we know where the money is going. But in terms of trade-offs, we hadn’t given that much thought.

After deductions for taxes and short-term savings, this is the picture:

RemovedPutting the house in rental and making it completely self supporting allowed us to reduce our budget by 15+ percent. So far renting has been a little better than break-even. If we had been able to sell it, it would have been net zero to budget since we have to buy another house eventually.

ReducedWe were able to reduce our expenses when it came to driving a car (ours or rented), and free WiFi and a masthead antenna saves us a bundle on bundled digital services. Special insurance is an artifact storing the car reducing the premiums.

UnchangedBut medical and insurance costs accounting for almost a fifth of our budget remained unchanged.

IncreasedOur fuel use (diesel, gas and propane) went way up, as did the unit prices for those things. Slip fees were a different matter. Our cost for an annual slip on the Chesapeake was high enough to reduce the budget impact of transient slip fees. But slip fee is not slip fee is not slip fee — it can be better to buy a month and leave early than go day-to-day or week-to-week — more in a coming post. [BoatUS membership helps significantly on marina fees.] Government fees, US and Bahamian, were in the round off. Cost of ownership went up because of our internal budget for wear and tear and because we found things that needed to be changed (the anchor for instance). Groceries went up because we bought pre-prepared items we wouldn’t have on land, and because we couldn’t shop sales and coupons like we used to. Dining out (of which we do less) went up because it’s more expensive the closer to water one gets whether the food is better or not.

added2If we had forgone storing household items, excess boat items such as the cushions for the aft cabin “garage,” a travel/emergency wardrobe and keeping a (paid for) car, we could have saved about 15+%. The trade on storage was what would it cost to replace particular items. In many cases the new cost less old salvage value made storage of quality items preferable since we knew from the outset this was a 3-4 year cruise. The trade between auto rentals and keeping the car was a wash. The other stuff was going to have to be stored in any case.

So after paying our taxes and increasing our short term savings, we allocated 12% less to cruising than we had to living ashore and owning a boat. So far we are ahead of budget. We spent less in the Bahamas. Because we won’t be going up to the Bay and back, we will save there as well.

But in the end, cruising costs what we let it cost.

$6 a Gallon

KlaxonThat’s now the price of diesel in Marsh Harbour; gasoline is more. An experienced marina operator here believes $7 a gallon is likely before the end of the season (and $6 in the SE-U.S. by year end). Our last U.S. purchase was $434 for 103 gallons ($4.19 per) in Georgia. Yesterday, it was $300 for 50 gallons. Fortunately, we added solar power and can almost always wait until the sails can do what they do…and we burn a gallon an hour underway and 0.4 gal/hr when running the genset. But still, to fill both tanks from empty in the Bahamas would be $1200.

We have noticed powerboat traffic here is significantly less than last year. Once here, the boats are staying put (making slip reservations, when wanted, harder to find*). Our sail down from Treasure Cay yesterday offered a horizon full of sails. The only powerboats were island Ro-Ro freighters and public and private island ferries and mega yachts. The mom & pop cruisers were all harbour-nating. The one good thing is one can still buy unadulterated (ethanol-free) gasoline here. The Bahamas doesn’t have a corn lobby.

This will affect all here as these island’s power plants are all oil-fired and every commodity is moved from A to B by petro-fueled conveyance.  Right now an excellent plate of grouper and peas and rice is $15. How long, we wonder?

For more of what engages Bahamians in dialog take a look at Bahama Pundit.

*Another impact on slips has been 10-14 foot swell offshore in the Gulf Stream and Rages in most of the passes keeping the homeward bound bottled up.

Eastward Ho!

OBB2GTCmorphA quick update since we just hooked up to a marina’s inclusive service (it ain’t free folks). We’ll be checking email tomorrow.

We left Old Bahama Bay with more wind from the east than we wanted but… We were immediately in a washing machine (a Harriet term). The wind was pushing enough water off Little Bahama Bank we had a southbound current running between the Bank and the Gulf Stream — 1- 1.5 knots’ worth, and the Stream was dishing up 3, 5 and 6 foot swells from astern. We tried pairing the engine with the genoa jib; stable it wasn’t. So, we set the staysail and got our speed deficit back and some help with the rolling.

When we turned onto the Bank south of Memory Rock, the wind shift we hoped for failed to materialize until we had about an hour’s travel left in the ten hour day. But about then we were distracted by a return on the radar that appeared to be the beginings of a waterspout about two miles to our NE. But nothing we could see was going on out there. Then the 500-700 foot wide return took off at about eight knots and started splitting and leap-frogging and reforming. Then we realized we were most likely looking (by radar) at a very large pod of Banks Dolphins. We thought the horizon looked a bit splashy and white in that direction, but imagination… Anyway it got our attention and was compensation for the lack of fish muds this trip.

We anchored in Great Sale Cay’s NW Harbour with the wind from the unfavorable SW. We waited for the predicted NW wind shift. All we got was 13 knots from WNW during a surprise shower that lasted long enough and was hard enough to take the salt off the deck and rigging — yea!

When morning came we motored away on lake-calm water. Twenty miles north of us the wind was NW. Twenty miles south it was SE. Can anyone say, “trapped in the center of a slowly moving High Pressure area going our way at our speed?” We made Powell Cay in good time thanks to both a helping tide and all the Banks water shoved west flowing back east.

Powell was the calm, clean, clear place we remembered. Tropic Birds squeaked and chittered in the morning. Sea stars, rays, and urchins, and sea bisquits and conch were all through the turtle grass. We decided to stay an extra day and met the Ankers Away and Minx folks  (from Northern Neck and Chesapeake City–we knew some people in common) As sunset approached, we found ourselves in the grip of a SE’ly swell that rollied our pollie just a bit too much on night two.

Friday came up gray and stayed that way. We had a hatful of wind and were in serious sailing deprivation. Janet suggest we beat our way down to Green Turtle. And we did just that, sorta. We sailed under the new staysail and main. This makes the boat self tacking. In 20 knot winds, we never heeled more than 10 degrees. But even sailing 5.6-5.8 knots through the water, wind direction and current combined to make Green Turtle’s White Sound an anchorage too far. So, when we hit the closest point of approach for Nunjack Cay we furled (both sails in less than a minute) and motored into the more occupied but much steadier  embayment there.

Compared to Powell on night two it was calm. The predicted cold front with 20-25 knots NW’ly will now fade and head back north as a warm front we are told, [Wrong] so, where next is open to conjecture. (Will the E’lies allow us past the Whale Passage?) We have to stop somewhere and get a replacement galley faucet shipped to us. We need to restock potables, buy diesel ($5.68/gallon, ouch), and we were feeling the need for fritters, grouper, conch and peas and rice.

Saturday we decided to move on to Green Turtle to enter the White Sound at mid-tide rising. We left Nunjack under sail and in two legs (one tack) we arrived right on time. Anchoring here now seems as familiar as some spots on the Chesapeake. Later in the evening, the Mischief folks, Linda and Kip, rowed over for a chat. Talked almost an hour into the sunset. They were from the Northern Neck of Virginia, and we had common friends.

The night was breezy up and down, but we hovered quietly over the turtle grass. This morning we slipped at the Green Turtle Club. Getting the faucet shipped here requires us to stay too long because of flight times, truck times, ferry times…It’s the Bahamas. So tomorrow, we provision at a little place we know then have grouper at Pineapples and then we figure out what to do about the approaching front that wasn’t supposed to get here. Right now the Whale is passable. Once the NW’ly start shoving swell in here and adding themselves a day later we may be trapped in paradise.

More pictures in the next posting.

We are blessed to live and travel this way. Ours to you.

Heat(ed) Exchang(er)

Earlier in this blog I sang the praises of our Entec 4200 generator. I’m not singing now. While it does a good job of providing AC power, its maintenance challenges are ugly.

Whoever designed this must have imagined it would only be installed where the user could walk 360 degrees around it at table height. Whoever designed the acoustic enclosure apparently gave no attention to what would be blocked from routine access. It is ridiculous to have to uninstall a piece of machinery like a diesel genset, just to perform routine maintenance. The oil and coolant and the air filter can be changed and the valves adjusted with ease. From there, it goes over a cliff.

When the water pump self-destructed from bad design (my engineering opinion), it took hours to get the damaged parts off the engine. I had to grind a wrench down to where it would fit on the necessary bolts and work blind. (Actually, I used my webcam on a long cable  and worked reversed.) [Then of course there was the additional $300+ I had to spend to retrofit the genset with the kind of pump it should have had in the first place.]

When the starter motor failed (at only ~850 hours), the genset had to be unbolted from its mounts and pulled out of the acoustic enclosure just to be able to fish the old starter out and the new one in as if they were complexly carved puzzle pieces. Seating the starter shaft had to be done blind.

Now as part of routine maintenance, the heat exchanger zinc must be checked/replaced (I’ve done it once before — I can’t remember how.) This time it took a day to get the job half done. I had to cut a 19mm socket down to 1/8 inch of grip to be able to turn the zinc holder bolt. Why? Because the heat exchanger zinc port had been positioned with a fraction of an inch of clearance from an immoveable hose, and the bolt faces were too thin to accept an awkwardly angled (because of acoustic enclosure interference) box wrench without slipping and rounding the faces. There was room for the heat exchanger to have been positioned inches away.

Unfortunately, the zinc holder bolt sheared off and half is left in the heat exchanger zinc port. It’s going to be interesting to get it out. At least a day, I’m thinking. [The only good news is there was zinc left.]

Then there is the guidance to check the heat exchanger tubes and rod them out if necessary. One can barely remove the end caps on the heat exchanger with it in place in the back of the acoustic enclosure With one inch clearance at the ends, there is no way a rod is being fed into any tube. The heat exchanger can’t be removed without completely uninstalling the genset. It may end up that I have to install a new heat exchanger outside the acoustic enclosure — bypassing the one that lurks under the actual generator unit.

I will say this, when the water pump debacle ensued, I got good phone guidance on how to get the d**med thing off the engine. And when the genset wouldn’t start last winter, I got good (if counter-intuitive) explanations of why valve adjustment was necessary to make that happen. But… in the midst of all this, the Entec owner has sold the company and access to useful phone help has evaporated.

When trying to hand start the genset on one of the 100 degree days after the starter failed (it was 135° under the cockpit floor where I was attempting this), I was instructed “not to be afraid” of it and “put my weight” into it. When I pointed out I was sitting under the cockpit floor without head room at a 45 degree angle to the genset in a drenching sweat. I got ~ “well then you probably aren’t going to be able to get it started.”

And the jury is out on the new owners. When the new starter motor arrived it came in a box that said ~”Return for Core Credit.” So I called. The response was, “No credit on those starters, it was just the first box we grabbed.”

The Entec genset has turned from reliable benevolent genie to a dyspeptic troll. The good thing is the solar panels are so effective we only need the monster for air conditioning, and we are trying hard not to be in places where that is necessary.

I really can’t recommend these units to anyone who won’t be able to access them from 360 degrees, while standing up. They also must be installed with enough hose and cable slack the 175# genset can be pulled substantially from the acoustic enclosure for routine maintenance — not just the inch I can manage without disconnecting several hoses — by feel.

Part of this is we now live on the boat and usage of all equipment has increased, but most of it is what I consider bad design for maintainability*.

Caveat Emptor**

*This is unwelcome deja vu. In the late ’70s, I was the chief engineer for the program to bring design for maintainability and operational reliability to the diesel flightline handling and storage area equipment used with air ordnance. This assignment came about because I had been a Munitions Maintenance Officer and had seen first hand how bad it can be. This genset, from a maintainability perceptive, is every bit as bad. Nothing which requires routine maintenance should ever require more than removing an access plate to reach and normal tools to service.

**Shame on me for not paying more attention to these issues when the boat was being built.

Houston we have Genset!

Replacing a starter

on a car. (1 hr)

on an installed Diesel genset located under steering pedestal. (3 hrs)

  1. Purchase starter at nearby auto supply (or Amazon), pay no shipping.
  2. Place car on rack.
  3. Disconnect starter from battery.
  4. Roll tool kit to car.
  5. Select two sockets and a screw driver.
  6. Remove starter.
  7. Replace Starter.
  8. Connect battery.
  9. Lower rack.
  10. Drive off.
  1. Discover genset company was just sold and supply chain is being transferred to buyer
  2. Order genset rebuilt starter (1/3 cost)
  3. Have it delivered by mule to avoid high shipping costs
  4. Wait for weather to cool so working in seat locker will be non-lethal.
  5. Empty seat locker.
  6. Turn off genset start battery switch.
  7. Remove acoustic enclosure removable sections.
  8. Discover exhaust hose and air filter prevent access to bolts holding starter to engine
  9. Disassemble acoustic enclosure service access — 8 tiny hex screws and nylocs.
  10. Unbolt genset from boat stringers — four lag bolts, each requiring a different wrench-extension combination.
  11. Drag genset 5/4 inch to be able to disconnect exhaust hose (water hose prevents farther drag) and to be able to remove starter from behind and above generator.
  12. Discover the 15mm nuts and bolts reference in the parts manual are actually 16mm and 17mm
  13. Go to local hardware store to discover they have 14mm and 18mm but a sister store 15 miles way has 15m-17mm
  14. Drive there, buy them (treat one’s self to a chocolate croissant from the grocer)
  15. Remove the starter.
  16. Replace the starter.
  17. Do 11,10,9,8,7, and 6 in reverse.
  18. Open supply and exhaust seacocks.
  19. Flip start switch.
  20. Exult.
  21. Close seacocks and return seat locker contents.
  22. Stand still in shade until hips and back quit revolting.
  23. Drink three glasses of water to replace fluids lost.

It’s a boat.

Three Days Running

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River Dunes continues to be an excellent place to rest a bit. The shelter there is 360 degree. The folks are friendly. The courtesy car is essential because services are distant.

We ate at M&Ms again and it seemed even better than the first time. They really know how to properly cook shrimp. We decided to give their conch fritters a try. On a platter, mixed with their Bahamian cousins, they would have been unidentifiable.

The sun had been particularly hard on our ensign; it was now red, white and corn flour blue. We stopped in at the Inland Waterway Provisioning Company and bought two replacements. Their price was 2/3 of what West Marine (less than a mile distant) wanted. The service at IWPC was excellent.

After picking up groceries at Town and Country, the small but well stocked grocery just before the turn back to River Dunes, we headed back for an afternoon of intensive rest and rebooting.

From here on, (actually Morehead City yesterday) we leave the sea behind in favor of browner and browner, fresher and fresher water — water sufficiently acidic, the longer we are in it the more it dissolves any barnacles we might have.

Broad Creek, even with a day of rest was a long run up from Mile Hammock, so we chose to go short for a couple of days.

We made our way up in near glassy conditions to Pungo Creek (near Belhaven, NC). The smoke from another fire smudged the horizon, but this one was upwind, small by comparison and extinguished before sundown.

We normally anchor on the south side, but there was so little breeze we decided to anchor in the middle and were glad of it. The breeze stayed below 5 knots the entire time and we were far enough out, we escaped the bugs and hitch-hikers ate the ones we didn’t.

We thought.

The next morning, we motored out, teased by a breeze that seemed sailable. It was gone before we had been in the Pungo River for as much as a mile.

So, onward we droned.

At River Dunes we had taken on 90 gallons of diesel. We had 85 hours of engine time (idle, normal, accelerated, etc) and the average consumption calculated out to 1.047 gallons per hour. We have been using a planning factor of 1.05. We were glad to see the lack of change.

We have 1053 hours on the engine. This translates to ~1100 gallons of propulsion fuel in 6.08 years. In my car alone, before consigning commuting to the personable history file, I used 1300+ gallons of fuel a year.

These are the kinds of things one thinks about when droning along…

After nearly 25 miles of Alligator-Pungo Canal, we pulled out of the waterway around 1430 and anchored behind large lighted daymarker off Bear Point (We anchored here in 1996 with our Freedom, Bright Star.). Our next leg was sixty miles with only one place to stop, and we don’t like that place.

As we pulled out, a boat following called up to say his navigation equipment had sounded an alarm that we had left the channel. Interesting.

Shortly thereafter, we got a call from the sloop Nightingale (we had talked farther south). It turned into a chat and discovery of common ground. They pulled out about a mile farther on. We look forward to meeting Beth and Stephen at some common stop someday.

The bugs we had missed in Pungo we found at Bear Point, except we didn’t find them. They found us.

The cockpit had accumulated barely visible biters. As we motored and motorsailed down the Alligator and into the Albemarle they feasted upon us. True to their source, the bites were unfelt for several hours until the started to itch like fire, swell like plague bubos, and generally drive us crazy.

Both the Alligator River and Elizabeth City Bridges were virtually throttle adjustment-free passages. The troublesome wiggle where siltation encroaches the channel north of the Alligator River Bridge has been remarked and may have been dredged. After bumping here (twice) since 2008, it was nice to see no less than 11.2 feet the whole way.

The Albemarle seemed more encumbered with crab flaots, but they were large, visible and avoidable. The wave action was so little we could see them a few hundred yards ahead. We expected another, denser mass of them in the Pasquotank like 2009, but not this year. We may have seen six. [This appears to be because of a drop in market price for NC crabs in the Chesapeake Region as that crab fishery recovers. Here, shrimp and fish trump crabs.]

What we did see, was the Coast Guard either training or putting on a demo of helicopter rescue operations as we passed their base. It was something we would like to see from much closer than the half mile we allowed ourselves—but but not as mariners in need of the service!

We arrived at our friends Paul and Joyce’s dock around 1545 and headed indoors for air conditioning.

SUMMER HAS ARRIVED!