Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Sail What You Got

Broken engine or engine removed, it didn't matter. Narrow Escape was a functioning sailboat from the day I bought it. And I took it sailing a lot. This picture, taken by John Dickerson from his Catalina 34, Pelican, was on one of those early days in the fall of 2005.

The picture tells a story for anyone interested in sailing and doing so on a budget. The story is that once I bought the boat and finished with the survey haul-out and initial repairs I was ready for daysailing and Catalina Island cruising in Southern California. Most of the hours and dollars spent thereafter, and there have been a lot of both, were unnecessary.

But I'm a tinkerer. I like to putter around my boat. I like to fix things. I like to make it better. I take pride in my work. I like to look at the results and tell myself that it was worth the cost and the effort. And I believe it.

However, I'm realistic enough to know that this photo shows that other people could logically reach a different conclusion.

If you stick with me on the blog, I'll explain a lot of the things I've done to Narrow Escape since I first got it back in the water. And I'll provide some cost figures, though not accurate to the cent. I didn't keep a lot of the receipts. Besides, I don't really need to know. Its not like I would have wisely invested the money if I hadn't spent it on the boat.

The Nissan 9.8 hp electric start outboard was a fine engine. But a little awkward to use. I did a couple of things to improve that.

I found it hard to reach all the way to the stern to control the throttle when I was motoring with the Nissan. So I bought a HelmsMate outboard extension handle, the $60 model with a universal joint. Problem solved

Trying to shift the engine from neutral to forward and back again, or to reverse was even more awkward. Just when I most needed to be looking forward, docking the boat, I had to turn around and lean backwards through the pushpit to reach the shifter

I couldn't find any off-the-shelf solution, so I made a shifter extension out of plastic plumbing parts from the hardware store.
By trial and error I selected a plastic pipe nipple that would slip over the shifter on the Nissan. To achieve the needed horizontal motion and allow necessary flexibility, I added a 45-degree fitting and a closed cap fitting. The horizontal pipe was given cap fittings at each end.

I joined the two cap fittings between the 45-degree piece and the horizontal pipe with a stainless machine screw and oversize washers inside each cap plus a lock nut. I drilled the holes in the end caps larger, to allow the machine screw to wobble, but not too much. That work was done in increments and tested on the boat until it worked well. Then all of the plastic parts were cemented with plastic plumbing cement.

I made one omission that was discovered in a most awkward fashion. In April, 2006, as my crew and I motored out of my slip in a hurry to reach the starting line for the Newport-to-Ensenada race, the shift extender fell overboard. Air trapped in the long handle (despite the oversize screw hole) kept it afloat long enough for it to be retrieved. Later I added a lanyard to tie the extension to the pushpit when in use.

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