Hand to hand rat combat

Good morning!  I had an extra-early morning when I was awoken at 2:20AM by the pitter patter of little feet on the cockpit floor just above my head – it sounded like a bird was walking around the cockpit.  That happens sometimes, so I looked up at the clear perspex hatch just in time to watch a shape go by overhead followed by a tail trailing along.  That’s not a bird!


I get up, find the flashlight, slide open the companionway hatch, poke my head out and peer down – there’s a mid-size brown rat looking up at me with big huge ears and a fine-looking tail.  I decide it is time for the rat to exit ship.  The rat had other ideas.  Rats are small, wiley, and can squeeze into small spaces.  Chasing them is not for the faint of heart.

Each time I lost sight of the Rat I wondered if it could have hidden in one of the sheet bags. Over the next several hours, in the dark, me armed with my headlamp, all the sheet bags were emptied, lines carefully examined and then slung over the boom, on top of the dodger, tied to upper life lines… everything on deck was elevated in order to provide clear view of rat habitat. Didn’t work. Could not corner the rat in any particular place. The rat never ran, merely moved with relative rapidity to the next spot. Several times I caught glimpses of a tail snaking around a corner…

I spent the next three hours following the rat around the cockpit until it decided to hide in the starboard cockpit drain tube. I could see it’s little nose sticking forth as it peered out from within the drain tube.  This was the first time I had located the rat as it remained still… how to deal with rat in the cockpit drain?  The drain is a large 4″ diameter pipe that runs straight aft and out the transom. There was a handy Pepper bottle within reach and I poked the end in to block the drain, figuring it now couldn’t move forward, buying me a few moments. I grabbed a nearby bucket and filled it with sea water, then sent the bucket of water down the drain – I was hoping ti would wash the rat out and overboard.  No such luck, the rat must have run across the transom as it reappeared from the port side drain tube and shot forward through the cockpit only to pause at the in-place companionway board.  Fortunately I had put the board in and closed the hatch when I first came on deck – no way for the rat to get below.   A rat below-decks is completely evil, whereas one on-deck is a chase!

Finding the way blocked the rat moved off along the port side deck and I lost sight of it.  

I spent another half-hour lifting sheet bags, checking inside drains, closely examining jib sheets and halyards and reefing lines. No rat to be seen. As it was now 6AM I knew that Lowes would be open. I walked up to the parking lot, drove to the store, and returned armed with four rat traps in preparation for this evening’s continuation of battle.  

Now that there was some sun up and I could actually see things, I inspected the deck again, and found no rat in all his hidey places.  This meant the rat had either hid in one of the three sail bags on deck (I had them on deck to make room to work on the holding tank), in the anchor locker where he would be stuck, or had jumped ship.  I pulled the 0.7 spinnaker from the bag and winched it up to the masthead, pulled up the sock, no rat fell out.  I opened up the dinghy bag, unrolled the rubber boat, flipped the bag in the air – no rat found.  The spare mainsail bag was too tightly tied for the rat to get in plus no rat-chew-holes found in the bag, so rat not in there.  I inspected the anchor locker, no scritchy noises or scampering feet noises heard.  Rat’s probably not in there.

I now have a headache, am tired, have four rat traps, and believe the rat is back on the dock.  There was no food anywhere on deck so the rat must have just been exploring and climbed up one of the dock lines or fenders to get on deck.  Tonight two traps are going in the cockpit, and two traps are going on the dock.  We’ll see if the rat is still around, and possibly if there are any others in the vicinity.

Also – Rigworks just telephoned, the NavTec backstay hydraulic ram is rebuilt and good to go.  I’m going to pick it up in the morning!

We will also find out if there are rats on the dock that like peanut butter set in Victor snap-traps. Rats are super-interesting characters, inquisitive, smart… but do not make good boat pals. They seem to insist upon chewing the wiring insulation and hoses. I would prefer that Beetle’s rat return to the breakwater rocks along the shore.

Good morning!

– rob/beetle

And back from the weekend run

Beetle is back in the marina, where I was greeted by a large sea lion that was determined to have a nice long soak in the sun despite my presence..

He’s a juvenile male (note the bump/shape of the forehead), and these guys are so heavy they crack the concrete docks. One learns pretty quickly round these parts to approach the sea lions while waving a hat or something that looks large and shoo them off the dock. Usually the sea lions give you a not-so-happy look, might roar at you, then flop over into the water.

Most mornings when I first get up I’ll look outside to see if we’ve drifted during night (nope – still right where we started, this is good), then I’ll check the latest marine forecast. To the west the wind is building as the High moves east toward the coast, that’s expected. What was unexpected, upon downloading the latest High Resolution model run and the text NWS-LOX forecast (which is read out over the VHF radio by NWS computer Perfect Paul), to find that NWS-LOX was calling for 15-25 knots out of the south right where out little group of three boats were anchored. This caused ears to prick up! Looking outside it was a perfectly gorgeous morning, good sun, light breeze from the southwest, tiny wrap-around swell; difficult to have a better morning than this.

I opened up the HRRR model run output for the area and it showed the Catalina eddy happening, that’s a counter-clockwise air rotation created by the strong NW wind whipping down the coast. With the strong breeze offshore a back eddy can be created in the Southern California bightm the eddy providing no-wind to light southerly and easterly breezes. The model depicted the eddy and nothing in there looked like 15-25 knots from south-ish, the only strong wind was from the north on the coast. This lead to interesting discussion over breakfast on Pole Dancer, where everyone convened for eggs and bacon and pancakes and other goodies that Mac & Co. cooked up. We decided it must be a typo or similar in the NWS forecast. The model run did call for perhaps 6-10 knots south wind later in the day depending on which direction the Catalina eddy drifted.

We decided to sail back over the south side of Anacapa in hopes the model was correct, and if we were on the south side we wouldn’t get stuck in Anacapa’s wind shadow. Turns out it almost worked – there were some light winds for the first few hours, enough to get sailing, and then the eddy must have drifted north a bit and our wind shut down. Still made for a super day on the water, good sun, warm, and flat. Grace and Beetle spent several hours getting the four miles across to Anacapa from Smugglers, then elected to turn on the engine as otherwise we weren’t going to get to the marina before dark.

Grace, as seen from Beetle, as we ghost along looking for boat speed. There’s a current that flows between Santa Cruz and Anacapa Islands and it was not easy to keep to the south of Anacapa as we got swept right to left. Top boat speeds where 3.2 knots in 2-6 knots of wind!

When I got back to the marina I looked up the telephone number for the US Navy (if you look up US Navy you’ll find there is basically one phone number and someone answers) and called them to ask after, “Who organizes your live fire exercises in Southern California?” I eventually ended up at the Port Hueneme Public Affairs Office and explained that I wanted to ask if they would shift their exercises slightly south and west to avoid including all of Anacapa Island and those of us anchored on the east end of Santa Cruz. The fellow I talked with wasn’t aware of the exercise, but said he would track it down and see what he could find out. I did send over an email to him with a screenshot of Beetle’s laptop with the exercise areas displayed. Who knows, if nothing else they might be interested in how a recreational boater might look at the information Fleet Control provided over the radio.

Here are the two live fire exercise areas from Saturday. The big circle on the left is the 55 NM radius exercise which had pilots flying above it moving ships out of the area. The little circle on the right is the 20 NM radius area with a different set of boats (and possibly planes) moving boaters away.

Back here at the dock I’m stripping the port primary winch as it became sticky while sailing along with Grace. The sea lions occasionally jump up to bark and look for a spot of sun, and life is good!

– rob/beetle

Another fun visit to Smugglers Cove, Santa Cruz Island

Following the successful group outing to Santa Barbara two weeks ago, the B-Dock gang decided that a run out to the islands was in order. Dave and Jen on their Catalina Grace were the forward inspectors, as they departed yesterday and verified the anchorage is still here. Beetle was next out early this morning, I’m here sans felines, have Hearts of Space on the stereo in the background, and am quite enjoying being off the dock. The Pirates are following on Pole Dancer – the usual suspects of Mac, Risa, Roger, and Mike on board. Mac and I have a scheme organized to bake different flours this afternoon as the prior King Arthur whole wheat grain flour produced something that doesn’t quite drive nails but was extra super dense bread upon exiting the oven. It took a lot of butter to make it palatable. We’re thinking I didn’t put enough yeast and sugar/honey in while making the dough, therefore the yeastie beasties did not rise to desired proportions. The intention today is to correct that with extra honey, four times the yeast, and perhaps the bread will burst out of the pan – we shall find out.

During the 17 mile crossing to the anchorage there was a fair bit of chatter on VHF-16 from Fleet Control and Navy Aircraft. There were two live fire exercises happening all day yesterday and they must have been using some large guns – the nearby keep clear area was a 20 mile radius circle that actually overlapped all of Anacapa Island. That made no sense to me, makes me want to ask Fleet Control if they are concerned they might hit the island? There were at least two USCG boats hovering in the pass between Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands – I have a suspicion they were there to shoo away any boats headed south towards where the exercise was located. So it appears that I spent yesterday afternoon anchored inside the local exercise. No large shells flew by that I noticed.

The other exercise was an even bigger area set offshore from Point Conception at 55 nautical mile radius. The problem with selecting that particular area to announce that no boats shall enter is the shipping channel to/from Long Beach exits right at Point Conception, at which time boats will head west (right into the exercise), or north (also directly into the exercise area). The Navy pilots were flying the perimeter and turning the shipping off in different directions to keep them out of the way. The pilots have an interesting way to describe VHF-16, “Maritime guard channel 16.” One ship was told to turn 30 degrees south and go 23 miles, then they could resume course. That’s a long detour, even for a big ship. Makes me think the Navy should move their exercises further south and out to sea – unless they were doing something with Vandenberg AFB, which is located on the coast at Pt. Arguello just inshore from the exercise area.

With Mac and Pole Dancer arriving that made three boats here from the dock, and I had a fun opportunity to hear about Dave’s adventures in Yosemite. He’d mentioned he had dome some rock climbing, what I learned is that he worked in Yosemite guiding big wall climbs up El Cap and some others. He’d spend several days on the wall and described setting up his sleeping platform hung on the wall and going to sleep. After he got married he decided perhaps something less risky might be a good career change. And now he’s out here on his boat with Jen and their son. Mac & Roger made up an excellent salmon dinner which we all enjoyed on Pole Dancer until it got dark, at which point the dinghies went back to their respective boats.

This morning it’s clear skies and sun, wind is calm, there a low southerly swell rolling through the anchorage and crunching on the rocky beach inshore. Plan is to be under way by noon, and I’ll need an hour or so to put away the outboard motor and dinghy. Hopefully there will be sufficient wind to make it a pleasant sail back to Channel Islands Harbor.

Enjoy the day!

– rob

A calm Labor Day at Santa Barbara anchorage

It’s been a most pleasant two days here on the hook outside the Santa Barbara Municipal Harbor, anchored out with the gang of B-dock boats outside Stearns Wharf. Pole Dancer supplied most of the merriment what with eveninng tunes, foods, gatherings, and sundowners. Gai on his Cal 2-46 Magi-Cal also made it up, it’s his first big trip with the new-to-him boat. Jeremy sailed up on his Newport 41, and when the wind died off that made his the last boat to arrive.

On the way to Santa Barbara we caught up with Pole Dancer and were close enough to call over to each other. It was a little closer than Roger wanted us to be.

The holding ground has been good, with extra-foggy mornings that eventually cleared to bright sunny afternoons with good breeze at 12-15 knots – more than sufficient for Beetle’s wind generator to kick in and help keep the batteries charged. Strangely enough a 35′ ketch rig boat managed to sail poorly through the anchorage and fetch up directly on the beach in front of a large hotel. Gai said it was like watching a slow motion disaster. The little boat had half a jib up, no mainsail, and part of the mizzen sail hoisted – one wonders why they didn’t try to anchor when they couldn’t turn the boat for whatever reason. The boat was pulled off the beach by evening and I saw it tied up in the harbor – so at least it didn’t break apart of sink. And the headsail was still half-way up – most odd.

Pole Dancer has a new large 3.5 KW generator lashed to the cabin top with cargo straps, to which Mac and Roger applied a propane conversion kit such that it will run on propane fuel instead of gasoline. This weekend was the first big test of the unit – and it worked well, running most of the day to keep up with their freezer’s need to maintain ice cream at the proper temperature. I was impressed at how quiet the generator is – perhaps propane-fired internal combusion engines are not as noisy as the same engine running on gasoline. Things to go learn about.

I spent most of Saturday playing taxi-driver around the anchorage and to-from shore as Beetle’s dinghy was the first one up and working. There was more than a little spray to get everyone in the dinghy wet when tooling in to shore with three people being delivered to shore from, including Gai’s friend’s dog from New York; the dog was more than a little soaked upon arrival at the launch ramp for her afternoon walk.

Kristen at the winery, tables outside and nicely shaded. She is now a proper member of the winery, and oddly enough so is Roger who unexpectedly was listed as being married to her. We all thought that was quite funny. I don’t know if Roger’s girlfriend will feel quite the same way about it.

Sunday was more fishing and attempted crabbing off Pole Dancer, though no fish or crabs were obtained. Roger and Kristen went ashore to check out the local wineries, Kristen returned with four fine bottles of wine – one which was consumed that evening to accompany the giant T-bones that Roger found at the local market.

It’s now Monday, the big holiday ’round these parts, and Beetle elected to remain here today while everyone else heads back to Oxnard. We’ll make the trip back tomorrow and use today for relaxing in the sun, reading a fun book, and Kristen is keen to visit some of the other wineries in town. Forecast is for calm and more calm therefore I’m not expecting the wind generator to do much for the batteries. So this morning I’m running the little Honda generator which produces sufficient 110v power to run the 40 amp DC battery charger – that will bring the batteries up nicely if somewhat noisely.

Enjoy the day!

– rob

Visiting Santa Barbara for the weekend

Good morning – it’s Saturday and Beetle is riding at anchor set in the sandy bottom outside the shore breakes to the east of Stearns Wharf. It’s foggy, the wharf looms out of the fog a bit then recedes.

The big news for the weekend is Mac’s sailboat Pole Dancer is also here at anchor just inshore of Beetle. Mac and Roger and Risa and Mike have been beavering away getting the boat ready to go, and here they are – much fun!

The intrepid crew of Pole Dancer caught mid-final-organize at their slip next to Beetle. That’s Roger, Chriscraft Mike, Risa, and Mac.

We got off to a late start, clearing the Channel Islands Harbor breakwater at noon and three hours after Pole Dancer had departed. The weather forecast called for 17-19 knots breeze coming down the Santa Barbara Channel in the afternoon, and if that much breeze appeared from directly in front it would make the 27 mile run west not so much fun. Conveniently we were far enough to the north side of the channel that the motor along under clear skies, warm sun, and fairly flat water was most pleasant.

Pole Dancer took advantage of the morning calm to get a good jump up the coast. They elected to take the scenic route along the coast while Beetle ran straight line, and I was surprised when we caught up with them on the approach to Stearns Wharf – fun to get a picture of them moving along! The Stearns Wharf dates from 1872, appears to have been originally constructed to create a commercial landing beyond the surf line, as otherwise goods and people were brought ashore through the kelp and surf. It’s a substantial structure, particularly when you’re anchored close to it.

We caught up with Pole Dancer around Carpinteria. Roger is looking particularly dapper with his white sailor’s cap and blue T-shirt, as if he had appeared directly from a Cracker Jack box.

I have been to the Santa Barbara Harbor before, it’s a municipal harbor and a “harbor of safe refuge” – my understanding is this means the US Army Corps of Engineers maintains the breakwater and keeps the entry channel dredged to keep the harbor always available. I have not, however, been to the anchorage set up outside the marina’s breakwater and to the east of Stearns Wharf. I was curious to see what we’d find. Turns out there are a lot of boats on the hook, some even have moorings, at least in the summer months. Some boats are in good shape, a few look as though they’ve received little maintenance, and oddly to me many boats are using anchor balls – I suspect this is to keep other boats a bit further away. This is not supposed to be a safe place to hang out during the winter months, as the anchorage is completely exposed to the south.

It’s a lengthy dinghy ride in to the harbor, there’s a low rolly swell plus the reflection off the beach, so definitely not the calmest of places but after a month in Taiohae Bay most things come off as fairly flat. Kristen was a little seasick, the cats did ok though they are off their feed a bit, otherwise all is good on board. Mac pulled up slightly astern and set his hook, Kristen and I launched our dinghy and went over for a visit and sundowners. Also learned about the internet meme The Honey Badger – very strange the things one learns.

Plan for the day is to relaxe, Kristen wants to go ashore and explore Santa Barbara, and later on today invite the residents of Dancer over to Beetle for sundowners. I expect the sun will burn through the morning overcast and provide nice sun for later.

Enjoy the day!

– rob/beetle

A second most pleasant day on the hook

Good evening, the sun is currently doing its departure behind the hills of Santa Cruz Island, the wind is calm which makes the sea surface glassy; however, the swell rolling in from the south does not make it smooth. There’s a fairly good 3 foot swell still running in to the beach not far behind Beetle. There are 8 boats in the anchorage tonight and we’re all aligned with the current that sweeps around the island, currently we’re mostly pointing south.

The boats that are here are the folks that don’t have to be back on the mainland (or within internet/cell coverage!) tonight – it’s quiet, anchor lights are sprouting, barbecues are going and folks are making up dinner. I’m working on more of last night’s chicken as that’s how you get it at the super market, five chicken half-breasts wrapped up on a styrofoam plate. Good thing chicken is tasty.

Last night there was an interesting series of BOOMS around 4AM – I’m wondering if the Navy was out shelling something rather distant in a live-fire exercise. It’s also possible the local rocky beach was barking with the swell striking the rocks, as the booms were very low frequency and somewhat rhythmic (spelling? I don’t have a dictionary on board), maybe it was the swell landing on the rocks that was making the booms. Either way it was something I hadn’t heard here before.

The VHF radio has been remarkably quiet today, though I do set it on Local (rather than DX) mode and turn the squelch well up when at anchor. I’d like to hear things that are happening right here as I might be able to do something to help out, I’m not that interested in stuff happening 20 miles away if I can avoid it as there’s no way I could get there in time to be useful.

Looking forward to another quiet night at anchor, then am planning to go out 4 miles to the south to deeper water and see if I can make miniature compressed cups. A friend that ran submarines for Woods Hole had made some amazing miniature cups that came out close to the size of shot glasses – what he did was place a packet of styrofoam coffee cups in the outside collection basket and leave them in place for the dive. His cups said, “Greetings from 2000 feet”, which was the dive depth he was on. The styrofoam compresses and effectively shrinks linearly and the foam is strong enough to retain the compressed shape upon surfacing while turning rather hard and brittle. I’m going to try lowering my cups down to 1500′ as that’s about the limit of my fishing line on the big Penn 9/0 reel. I suspect the difficult part will be pulling the cups back to the surface – we’ll find out.

Enjoy the evening.

– rob/beetle

Saturday evening at Santa Cuz Island

Beetle is happily at anchor adjacent the USCG mooring ball at Smugglers Cove at Santa Cruz Island. There are a dozen or so other boats at anchor in the cove, it’s calm, warm, not much breeze, and a bit rolly but not too bad from the three foot southerly swell coming in from Hurricane Linda way to the south. I had expected there to be many more boats here, particularly as Corinthian YC and Anacapa YC both seem to have cruise-outs happening this weekend, but they must be somewhere else. This evening there are more boats here and there’s plenty of room for more.

I departed Channel Islands Harbor this morning to spend a couple of days out this way, the weather forecast called for fairly light air for the next several days and it looked like a great time to get off the dock and hang out on the hook for a change. In theory Jeremy and Diane on his Newport 41 Main Squeeze would be here as they had run up to Smugglers on Friday. I met them heading out this morning as I arrived – turns out their battery bank had failed, lasting only two hours. I bet it was a dark evening last night on his boat. Diane told me that to get the engine started they wired together the various power tool batteries they had and that was enough to get the starter motor to turn, so they were heading back to the marina to sort out batteries.

There was very little wind this morning for my three hour (relatively slow) motor to Smugglers, several groups of dolphins stopped by briefly to play at the bow, visibility was 10 miles. Singlehanded Transpac friend Steve on Westerly happened by, he was rolling in from Yellow Bank and it was fun to say Hi to him on the radio. He likes to do a circle cruise from Channel Islands to Paradise Cove to Santa Barbara Island to Santa Cruz Island to Channel Islands again, he said there’s usually enough wind to sail at least two of those legs and sometimes more; I may have to try that. He also mentioned it does not look like a good year to head for Mexico come November, he skipped going last year due to Covid and is likely to skip again this year. I have to agree with him, not the time to be heading south.

On the boat project front I had thought I was all done with fiberglass work following the instrument pod modification, only to discover a drip on the underside of a bolt holding the starboard inboard jib track to the deck. Examination established that the T-track was badly corroded on the underside, the resulting aluminum oxide had compressed some of the deck coring, this bent the bolt holding the plastic T-track end stop in place and water was now moving down the end stop bolt. Rats! I’ve pulled the T-track, sanded the deck back to good glass, applied six layers of 10oz cloth, ground that down, applied fairing, ground that down – and am now awaiting the arrival of a new four foot section of black anodized aluminum T-track, which arrives Wednesday. Seems like a perfect excuse to stop working on Beetle and instead go hang out on the water and enjoy the scenery. August is particularly nice time to be out on the water in Southern California, it’s warm, most of the fog is gone, a great place to read a book.

So that’s the plan for the evening, barbecue up a little chicken, watch the sun set behind the island, and enjoy my books!

– rob/beetle

Instrument pod modifications

Between jaunts out on the water sometimes there are things to do to Beetle; for instance, the run to Catalina turned up a list of 11 things that needed attention. Most are simply to get a part, such as a replacement 2-1/2 gallon white plastic bucket because a bucket split – that’s an easy one, a trip to Ace Hardware, a couple of holes drilled for the rope handle, and you’re done.

The big project following the visit to Catalina is modifying the on-deck instrument pod for purposes of installing a new/second Zeus3 7″ chart plotter/display in the pod. I bought the first Zeus3 early last year and it worked so well that I figured a second unit in the pod would bring a bunch of good information to the cockpit (AIS, cartography, radar, easier-to-read GPS performance data) that currently mostly requires going down to the nav station to look at. The addition took two weeks. Here’s how it went, mostly in pictures:

The instrument pod spans the companionway and has six B&G Network instrument displays. I had built the pod on a male mold using a fiberglass layup and epoxy to create a place for the instruments prior to Beetle’s first Singlehanded TransPac race. I spend a lot of time sitting in the companionway and having the instruments right there in front of me is handy. At that time I had not yet constructed the hard dodger therefore the pod needed to be strong enough to stand on as it was used rather as a lot as a foot brace and step to work on the mainsail – so the pod was made extra-strong. In this picture, years later, I’ve added the hard dodger which protects the pod and I’m experimenting with where the new B&G Zeus3 7″ chart plotter might fit. The first plotter came on board early 2020 when I found the Furuno chart plotter could no longer read the current Navionics cartography SD cards. Unfortunately the Zeus3 is taller than the pod and won’t fit, and sticking it on top of the pod looked silly and helped to block the view. Instead I moved the Zeus3 belowdecks to the nav station table to protect the unit from water and sun. But the new Zeus3 is going into the instrument pod – time to make some changes to the pod.
I used a Fein oscillating cutter to carefully trepan the top right section of the instrument pod, the goal being to preserve the rounded corners on the right and rear of the pod. Constructing radiused edges in fiberglass is not as easy as making flat plates, therefore I wanted to retain as much of the radiused housing areas as I could. The instrument does fit, there’s sufficient depth in the pod for cabling, and I cut short the front panel which is still wide enough to house four instrument displays. So far so good.

With clamps and some blocks of particularly straight & square wood I lifted the original top pod section 1-1/2 inches and clamped it in place. The goal is to line everything up, span gaps on the right and top/rear with new glasswork. I couldn’t just lift the pod’s top surface vertically as it would run into the hard dodger – so the top/rear takes on the angle of the dodger. At this point I was still thinking I could do all the work with the dodger in place – which turned out to be futile – the dodger had to be unbolted and removed, and to remove the dodger I had to pull the clutch banks. That added a bunch of work I was hoping to avoid.

With blue tape in place to protect the front panel mounting surfaces, I laminated on the extension to the right side and top/rear of the pod. Fiberglass does not laminate well suspended in air, so there’s a board on the right (with packing tape over it) that forms the mold on the right, and a second board covered in more packing tape that spans the gap at the rear to top of the pod. The old fiberglass has been beveled inside and outside to give the new glass a nice surface area for bonding – the bumps at the overlapping joint will be ground down later. By this pointI had moved the dodger out of the way to make room for working on the rear of the pod. Let the layup dry overnight and the image is what you get.
With the supports and moldwork removed the top of the pod stays in place and is quite strong. Next step is to create the ‘S’ curve inside-outside radius section to connect the raised pod surface back to the old top. Lots of tape is applied anywhere I do not want to change the surface by dripping epoxy on it – the time spent applying tape saves lots of time spent sanding later. Tape early, Tape often.
The mold/form for the ‘S’ curve is simple and inelegant – just some foam core trimmed with an X-acto knife to create the profile, with flat tooth picks hot-glued across the profile to support the wet layup. I tried to build something really nice using PVC pipes but that didn’t work – so the ‘S’ curve is going to have more fairing work than I’d wanted.
Here’s the form from inside the pod – at least the laminate went on mostly-square with good compression up against the underside of the pod’s old glasswork. I got strong, if not necessarily pretty, results on this pass. Wait overnight for epoxy to cure.
With the clamps removed the result looks pretty ugly. The rear corners of the raised portion are going to need a bunch of sanding/sculpting and additional glass, but at least I’ve got the basic structure in place – at this point I could stand on the instrument pod and while it flexes a touch it’s solid.
A round of sanding and it’s starting to look like an instrument pod again. I still need to add wood inserts to complete the flange the front panel attaches to – that’s why there’s lots of blue tape to protect the flange front surface from dripping resin.
Side view of the pod, makes it easy to see the angle the pod takes on as it rises to match the angle of the dodger.
After a couple of rounds of fairing the shape was looking ok so time to add a couple of layers glass to the outside and look at making the replacement front panel.
Outside glass on. The blue tape is protecting the original gel-coated top of the pod – I know I don’t want to sand those areas so tape them off and let the new layup continue onto the tape. The tape becomes a good guide to let you know when you’ve sanded down to the original surface – when the blue disappears you’re there.
New front panel being marked up. The instrument pod is hand-built (by me) so it’s not perfectly straight or square, close but not perfect. This makes it interesting to decide where centerline should be, the goal being to make the instruments *look* parallel to the pod even if they aren’t. Holes were cut out with a sabre saw and a plywood scrolling blade.
The first test fit was a lot of fun, I finally get to see what it will look like. The wiring required most of a day to carefully remove old wires, feed in new wires, crimping, installing a sealed water-tight ethernet router (connects the new display to the nav station display and the Halo24 radar), plus get the NMEA 0183 instrument network back in place alongside the new NMEA 2000 network. I really wanted to verify everything fit, turned on, and worked across the connections before getting into final finish.
The pod front panel is 1/4″ Joubert Okoume plywood, a very light nice marine plywood to work with. The plywood gets a layer of 6oz glass cloth front and back to stiffen the wood, protect it from water, and provide a good surface for the gelcoat. The cabin table with thick plastic sheeting taped in place made a convenient place to work.
Small wood blocks were spooged into place to span the gaps in the flange the front panel screws to. Learned quickly to make a cardboard profile template, trace that onto the wood, then cut out the wood with the sabre saw. They fit without a lot of effort.
Time to gelcoat and make it all look pretty. Gelcoat is too thick to brush on, so I use a small Paasche airbrush for the application. Gelcoat is nothing more than a slightly thickened polyester resin with a ton of tint added (white in my case) and I had part of a quart can left over from the bow re-coat project done earlier this year. The Paasche VL airbrush has a no. 5 tip that will pass a lot of material and works great when I thin the polyester with 50% styrene, add 3% MEKP catalyst, stir and run the brush at 50 PSI. I can get about 20ml of gelcoat through the brush before I have to dismantle the brush and soak it in acetone. Wait 45 minutes, repeat – many coats can be applied in one day. To have clearance to work I moved the dodger off the cabin top, tarped off the area with plastic sheeting, and just kept at it.
Polyester resins will not cure in the presence of air; to get the final coat to cure I spray on a film of PVA (polyvinyl alcohol), that’s the green tint in the picture. PVA dries by having the alcohol flash off and you get a thin vinyl film. That film dissolves in water (makes it easy to remove later, just use a sponge and a bucket of water), but you don’t want the evening’s dew to settle as that will dissolve the film as well. For overnight curing I wrapped the plastic sheeting loosely over the pod.
The finished pod.
Instruments installed, tested – everything works!
Dodger re-installed on the dock (another two days of cleaning, removing old sealant, prepping for new sealant, then running in a lot of bolts), and the pod set up for night sailing. The Zeus3 replaced two of the Network instruments – the Compass unit and the NAV unit. A nice feature of the Zeus3 is it can display four numbers simultaneously, and the numbers are large enough to easily read from the wheel at the back of the cockpit.

Time to go sailing!

– rob/beetle

Rolling up to Channel Islands Harbor this morning

Good morning – Beetle is out and about on the big pond, trundling along San Pedro Channel, Palo Verdes (not sure about the spelling) 15 miles off the starboard beam, wind is light at 4-6 knots and seas are 2-3 feet from the west. Cats are harnessed up and doing their usual behavior – one on deck under the dodger and the other hiding under the aft bunk bedding.

Had good fortune yesterday with Keith’s engine belt – turns out that one of my spare belts did fit and that is installed now. The clearance around the raw water pump body and the big frame Balmar alternator and the engine manifold is minimal and it kind of takes exactly the correct length belt to get a fit without hitting equipment. The belt I gave him is 5mm longer than the old one that broke, so he’s going to look for exactly the right belt but in the meantime he has a motor and all is good.

I went for a third dive at Indian Rock yesterday afternoon and came across a good size Bat Ray laying on the sand and working his fins to create a suction against the sand that uprooted material and exposed animals underneath – presumably that was lunch for him. A bunch of small fishes were clustered just aft of the Bat Ray and were feeding on anything that the ray unearthed that he didn’t eat. Interesting to watch for a bit, then the ray noticed me and he headed off.

In the early evening Keith swung by with his wife after meeting her up at the ferry landing, and they invited Kristen and I over for sundowners on their boat. Most pleasant, traded good stories, a most pleasant evening. Then back to Beetle to finish stowing the boat for the 54 mile run today up to Channel Islands Harbor. The visit to Emerald Bay was a good success!

Forecast is for light and variable this morning, possibly going to 10 knots from the west this afternoon. The sea is flat enough without much wind wave chop that we might spot some Blue Shark fins, that would be fun. Currently the tuna lure is back in the water, we’re powering along and getting a nice little push from the current.

– rob

Underwater critters at Emerald Bay

I did two dives yesterday, and there were some fun animals to run across. The water has been quite calm here in the lee of Catalina (wind is light from the south-west, the island is therefore a great wind block), and the water is mostly clear; it’s fun to get up in the morning and watch the fishes go about their morning ablutions followed up by breakfast.

Late last night the sailboat Serenity, anchored in Emerald Bay, reported a flare sighting out over the ocean to the USCG. Turns out the Coast Guard was already flying a search on our side of the island and the orange helicopter flew by while the pilot talked with Serenity about the flare, direction, height, color – and then headed off in the direction of the sighting. LA Baywatch also had a boat out, they were asked to run out two miles on that heading to see if anything could be found. Haven’t heard any reports today on the radio about last night’s activity, it was interesting to listen in on how the helicopter pilots communicate with their base, the boat, and the Baywatch counterparts. I looked a bit this morning and found that USCG has two helicopters based at Los Angeles International Airport – makes sense to keep their machines there given all the infrastructure available – such as landing pads.

Keith stopped by yesterday afternoon to discuss engine belts, he had found one at Isthmus but it was too narrow and too long – so no go. I have internet here on R16 mooring that he doesn’t have on the inner row – we must be just far enough out to see the antenna in Isthmus. So he came over and we researched belts, then telephoned a couple of car parts stores in Long Beach – the belt he needs is in Phoenix, not here. Rats! He said I could catch a ride with him to the ferry landing (and general store) when he goes in today. Hopefully we can have sundowners with them this evening.

Below are some pictures of fun critters seen yesterday.

Can you spot the fish?
He’s here. Amazing camoflauge for a small flat fish. It’s most interesting that he’s holding/standing on the bottom with the rays of his fins.
There are Pyrosomes all over the place, and the Garibaldi fish munch away on them – leaving small circular holes in the tunicate’s test.
A Pyrosome is difficult to take a picture of as they are so translucent the camera isn’t able to determine focus. Turns out if you pick one up and set it up backlit in the water column you can get a photo of one. They are rather pretty from this direction.
Came across an extra-colorful spiny fish hiding on a rocky ledge – he tried his best to blend in and refused to budge. When I got too close he raised his dorsal fin to expose the spines. My guess is the spines are hollow and contain a poison that would be uncomfortable to whatever wants to eat it (or step on it).
An interesting tube worm case poking up from the sea floor. Visibility was fairly good during the dives, though not as crystal-clear as it was in November.
A tube worm with all his tubes out – at least that’s what I think this is. Could be a sea anenome but those usually have flexible tubes, this one seemed to be in a fixed case.

This interesting fish likes to hide in the seaweed with his head pointed down, and would twists and move his body and tail to follow the swaying of his surroundings as they moved with the water.
If you wait long enough he will shift from place to place, and then you can easily spot the fish. Might be some kind of kelp wrasse, something to go look up!

Enjoy the day!

– rob