Does that make me a Headmaster?

NON-TECHNICAL FOLLOWERS: IGNORE THIS POST! Since R&R became ours, we have kept a running list of “boat projects” to improve or restore R&R’s safety and livability…sometimes because we learned a better approach, other times because a part failed. So far, we have a long list of completed boat projects.

Chartplotter. Replacing R&R’s vintage electronic chartplotter/screen/multifunction device with a new, faster, larger Garmin 8612 chartplotter. This screen is an electronic replacement for the ancient mariner’s use of paper charts, parallel rulers to determine position and course, and dividers to determine distance. As part of USCG captain training I am now learning the paper-and tools approach, but so far have relied entirely on electronic navigation.

Old Way
New Way

AIS. Added a Garmin AIS 800 automatic identification system (AIS) to allow other boats to “see” us on their chartplotters, and allow us to “see” other boats on our chartplotter, even when we are miles away from each other. We realized the benefit of this device when we were #2 or #3 in a flotilla of boats going down the rivers and a tow captain, out of sight around the bend, called R&R on the radio because he could “see” us on AIS, but could not “see” the boats ahead of us that were not equippped with AIS.

AIS unit
AIS symbols that appear on our screen.

Radar. Added a Garmin HD radar antenna on our radar arch, mounted on a hinged bracket that allows us to drop the radar antenna to fit under low bridges. We can split the screen of the chartplotter to show the nav chart or one side and radar on the other side, or we can superimpose radar over the nav chart. We also have used a full-screen zoom-in radar screen to “see” nearby piers and boats by radar when we can’t see them visibly. It takes some (but by no means all) of the fear out of navigating in fog and darkness.

Internet Access. Added a WaveWifi router that pulls in either marina WiFi or cellular data as the internet source, and then creates a boat WiFi network for use by our computers, phones, tablets, and Apple TV. In theory, it should be just like home WiFi. That has ben true in marinas with strong and steady WiFi signal, but some marinas have poor or no WiFi. And it took a few months of testing and interaction with Verizon and Wave Wfi tech support to get the celluar side of the router working reliably when we are traveling. It is working well now.

Grey Water System. R&R’s “grey water” – from sink and shower drains – flows into a six gallon plastic sump tank that has a float switch and pump to send the grey water overboard when the sump is full. In Iuka, MS I noticed cloudy water in the bilges and traced it back to a failed grey water sump pump. Aqua Yacht Harbor replaced the grey water pump and float switch, I cleaned and wet-vacuumed the bilges, and all was well.

Sump/bilge pump

Fresh Water System. R&R’s fresh water system includes two 75 gallon water tanks filled through a screw-out fitting on the starboard deck, a variable speed fresh water pump, and plastic tubing from the pump to plumbing fixtures. In Green Turtle Bay, KY I noticed clear water in the bilges and traced it back to the starboard shower fixture. With help from fellow looper Joe from “Sea Lord”, I replaced the leaking part and wet-vacuumed the bilges. Then in Orange Beach, AL the fresh water pump failed. Saunders Yacht Services replaced the pump and since then the system has worked well. And in Tarpon Springs Freundship Marine Services replaced a faulty water level sending unit so we now know when the water tanks need to be filled.

Jabsco fresh water pump
Water tank level sending unit

Electrical System. R&R has five 12 volt battery systems:

– one 8D battery to start the port engine
– one 8D battery to start the starboard engine
– one 8D battery to provide “house power” for lighting, pumps and the like
– four batteries connected in series to produce 24 volts for bow and stern thrusters
– one battery to start the generator.

When the engines are running, the engine alternators charge the batteries. When we are connected to shore power, the shore power system charges the batteries. Any other time, we can start the generator to charge the batteries. And if are “on the hook” and don’t want to run the generator, her inverter will convert 12 volt DC power to 110 volt AC power, but only to run “essential” appliances: refrigerator (OK), icemaker (OK), and stereo system (why?).

Twice when we anchored along the rivers, in the morning the house battery was low or dead. Becuase the the 8D batteries were at least three years old, when we reached Orange Beach, AL two strong young men from Saunders Yacht Services replaced them. But the new house battery continued to run low. Finally, here in Marathon, Cody from Paradise Boat Wiring found a faulty house battery on/off switch. Replacing that switch restored charging to the house battery and solved the problem. So we are ready for more anchoring out.

8D battery (130 lb. each)
Battery switch

LED Lighting. When R&R was built, halogen lighting was the standard. Now LED replacement fixtures and bulbs have become economical and easy to find. Over the past two months I have installed 38 (yes, 38) LED replacement fixtures for our house lights, and have installed about 10 more LED bulbs in fixtures I could not replace. Thanks, Amazon, for shipping them to us in Tarpon Springs and then again in Marco Island. Two benefits – LED requires only 10% of the power of halogen lights, and “halogen color match” LED fixtures provide better lighting.

Icemaker. We are blessed to have an onboard icemaker. One of my daily chores is to empty the full ice bucket into our large Yeti-knockoff cooler in the cockpit, where we keep cold beverages. In Fort Myers the icemaker quit cycling to make new ice. With advice from a contractor down to the dock I replaced a relay. No joy. Then in Marco Island, Eric from Cool Boats replaced the ice tray module, and we are now back in the ice business!

Marine Sanitation System. Not a pleasant topic, but I am learning about it. We have two “heads”, two Vacuflush vacuum systems, and two 40 gallon waste storage tanks that are pumped out through screw-out fittings on the starboard deck. The vacuum generator flushes waste from the head into the waste tank. When there is a vacuum leak, the head does not work well, if at all.

Vacuum generator

Marine technicians with the skill and experience to do other work will not service marine sanitation systems. I understand, having abandoned debt-collection legal services decades ago.

In Tarpon Springs Freundship Marine Services replaced faulty waste tank level sending units so we now know when each tank needs to be pumped out.

I am now troubleshooting a likely vacuum leak in the starobard head system. So far I have replaced the duckbills (don’t ask) in the vacuum generator, but am still working on the issue. If I am successful, does that make me a headmaster?

I am thankful for my high-school-era automobile mechanics training and experience, and I continue to learn through a variety of boat projects, many of which have improved the safety or livability of our moving tiny house.

4 thoughts on “Does that make me a Headmaster?

  1. My Goodness after you two are through with this trip, you can go into a retirement plumber job, sounds like you are getting in down pat. It is way more than I could even imagine, I am so proud of both of you. Eric your Dad and Mom would be so very proud of you. I know we are. Really enjoying this trip with you and Rhonda. Keep safe and have fun. We love you! Dave and Shari

    1. Thank you, Dave and Shari! We are truly enjoying the voyage and learning a lot along the way. Thanks for being part of our “virtual crew”!
      Love to you, Rick and Rhonda

  2. Rick, I am impressed that you are learning the old way of navigation on water. Keep after that Captain’s license.
    By the way, Marti and I really like the little white sailor hat.

  3. I appreciate hearing about this dimension of the journey too. Invaluable learning experience. Seems like notes for a book chapter to me. . .there definitely has to be a book and/or lectures about this journey on the horizon.

Leave a Reply to Alan Galbretth Cancel reply