Holding Tank Monitor And Major Service On Our Ford Lehman

We posted our holding tank installation several months back and one of the unfinished parts of that project was to install a tank monitor. We did a lot of research on the different types and manufacturers and finally decided on the Solo Tank Monitor made by New Providence Marine/Ferriello Sales LLC. The decision was based on lots of positive feedback from current owners and a recommendation from Miss Peggy Hall, known throughout the boat industry as the "Head Mistress." Peggy has a couple of excellent books on marine sanitation. The installation could not have been more straightforward or easier.

Trawler Flybridge Makeover

A major project that had been on my to-do list for a very long time was the renovation of the flybridge. I knew this was going to be a lot of work, and other more pressing projects had kept this on the back burner. But at some point, it really needed to be done and recently, it reached that point. The "You Have to Do It Now" list was blank for the time being, and I had found the extra time away from the work stuff to get it done. But it was not one of my more pleasant projects.

Mustang Survival IPFD Recall

We have been users of the Mustang Inflatable Vests for many years and have been very satisfied with them. But we have recently been made aware of a recall due to a problem that might keep them from fully inflating. Here is the official recall notice...

Moeller Marine Products Review

Update, April 2015. See bottom of post....Over the years we have often used Moeller Marine products, also sold under Tempo, and found them to be of fairly decent quality. But our most recent purchases have changed our opinion considerably. Here on the Beach House site we often post the specific product we are working with and links to where it can be found. When we use a product we like, it gets a good mention and we will often recommend it to others. But when we find a product we consider of poor quality we feel just as obligated to let others know of our experience. Three recent products made by Moeller have made our "Never Again" list. 

Our Navigational Notices and Other Work Related Stuff

We haven't been totally neglecting Beach House, but W-O-R-K has been interfering with our boat work a little. Our new projects for Marinalife are coming along nicely. We have quite a few Navigational Notices and Alerts posted that cover the eastern U.S. coast from Maine to Florida and the Gulf Coast, Great Lakes and inland Waterways that include the Great Loop Route. We have even posted a few from the west coast, but not as extensive as the rest. We are also putting together cruising itineraries based on some of our previous cruises that include marina stops and anchorages for a leisure cruise south on the ICW, with stops at about every 50 miles. We will have another cruise template for the ICW from the Georgia border to the Florida Keys, but that will probably not be up for another week. If anyone wants to receive my Navigational Notices, you can go to the Marinalife website and register, and then sign up for whatever areas you want on your dashboard page. It is all free and I send out the Notices as soon as I receive and verify them. They can be read on the website or sent right to your email box. The notices are also linked to our Nautical Chartviewer so you can see the exact area where the notice is posted.

Plotting Your Course

In September of 1987, I sailed my 30-foot Hughes Columbia sailboat south to Little River, South Carolina. After a few days of waiting weather, I exited the Little River Inlet and pointed the bow towards Bermuda, some 1,000 miles away. To find that small speck in the middle of the Atlantic, I had the most up-to-date navigational instruments of the time. They consisted of a compass, VHF radio, a sextant with complete tables, paper charts and a radio direction finder. Seven and a half days later, I tuned the RDF to the radio signal for St. Georges Harbor and my feelings of accomplishment were beyond explanation.

Adjusting Our Ford Lehman Tachometers In Four Easy Steps

The tachometers for our Ford Lehman 120 have been a question mark since we bought the boat. We have had no way to know how accurate they are, and our cruising RPMs help to determine how much fuel we burn per hour. With the price of fuel today, this is an important piece of information and we would like to be as accurate as possible. Of course, calculating the number of hours run and the fuel added to the tank will give us an average, but we want to be more precise. Running the engine at our average cruising RPMs of about 1750 will mean a fuel burn of about 2.2 gallons per hour (GPH). Running at 1950, the fuel burn jumps up to 3.1 GPH and at 2000 RPMs, it is 3.4 GPH. Having the correct readings on the tachs can save us some considerable cash considering our cruises are usually thousands of miles.

The Big Boat Cover-up

One of my pet peeves with businesses in the marine industry is not showing up for appointments when we need an estimate. I can't count how many times we have called someone locally and said we were ready to spend some money, but needed to have them come out and give us an estimate. The response is always, "no problem, we will be there on XYZ day." That day comes and you wait...and wait...and wait. Finally, you give up when they are a no-show. We absolutely will not call someone back and beg them to take our money. Besides, if they won't show up for the estimate, what would happen if we gave them a job to do? The biggest offenders, in our opinion, are the canvas shops. I mean, if your not coming, call and say so, and if your too busy to take another job, tell me your too busy! But I am amazed how so many cry about how terrible business is and blame it on the economy, cheap boaters and all kinds of other influences.

Our New Outboard Lift and Back Saver

During our cruise along the south coast of Cuba several years ago, I did a really dumb thing. We were Med-moored to the dock at Santiago, next to our friend's Vagabond 47 and there was a bit of swell running in the harbor. We both decided to set out an anchor from our bow to keep us from banging together and used our dinghy to do just that. I sat in the dinghy with our CQR 45 and about 50 feet of 3/8 BBB chain in my lap ready to deploy the anchor, and that is when it happened.

Is It Hard To Install A Single Side Band Radio?

First, a complete disclosure. I have installed a dozen or more SSB radios as a service technician over the years. But my first two installations were on our own boat and I started with no previous knowledge and only the manufacturers manual. To make matters worse, we had no internet to do any research on and most installers would have us believe that there was some kind of magic and mystery to installing an HF radio. We quickly found out that was not the case, and installing one of these radios was no more difficult than installing any other piece of equipment. Eighteen years later, we are installing the most current Icom offering, the 802, on Beach House in preparation for future cruising. And once again, it was not all that difficult.

Ongoing Boat Projects

If we seem to have fallen down on our projects, it only appears that way. Since we arrived in Fort Myers Beach, the work on the boat has been constant. That doesn't mean we have not had time to walk on the beach, go for a swim in the Gulf, or sample the local cuisine. We have done all of that between working on the boat. Getting her cruise ready for the next big trip is always our priority. But every once in a while, we need to have a little fun, too. Some of the projects began while we were in Maryland, and some have been waiting for us to find a good deal on the right equipment. I suppose the day will actually come when we can say, "We are ready."

Ford Lehman Diesel Oil And Filter Change

After a 1,200-mile-plus cruise, engine maintenance is not a to do, it is rather a must do. We did take the opportunity to change oil and filters at the halfway mark, but a thorough change of all filters, as well as an oil change, was high on our list. So I thought I would share the experience with you and give you some insight on how we approach this sometimes messy chore.

Life's A Beach

We have been here for a few weeks now and are getting settled in as well as learning the lay of the land. I don't know how we manage it, but we often seem to settle in at a popular tourist location with all of the issues and interesting experiences that apply. Fort Myers Beach, Florida is no exception. But there is a lot to be said for this location and things are moving in the right direction for us.

NOAA Encourages Boaters to Get Up-to-Date Nautical Charts

NOAA charts available free online and through “print-on-demand” service

Nearly 13 million registered boaters in the U.S. are priming to hit the water. As part of their preparations, boaters need to make sure that they have the latest NOAA nautical charts on hand to avoid groundings or accidents while navigating along the coast. With modern technological advancements, obtaining the latest chart is easier — and more important — than ever.

“Sailing the oceans and Great Lakes doesn’t have to be a voyage into the vast unknown of ages past,” explained Capt. John Lowell, director of NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey. “Obtaining the latest charts that provide increasingly precise depths and up-to-date navigational features can be as easy as clicking a link on a website.”

Cruising the South Coast of Cuba – East to West

This was originally posted on our Sea Trek site. This was originally published in Soundings Magazine, and many of our readers ask that we republish it. So here it is and we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making the trip. Revisiting Cuba is high on our cruising plans.

We weighed anchor and got underway from Punta Manzanillo in the Dominican Republic at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning. It was Easter Sunday and we knew that the entire island of Hispaniola would be celebrating today. We would sort of be celebrating ourselves, but in a different way and for a different reason. Today was the beginning of a cruising adventure that began as an idea five years prior and was just now before us.

Leaving the Florida Keys, making a quick trip through the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and now the DR, we were as ready as we were going to be. We had provisioned and prepared the boat while spending a wonderful time in Luperon. A day sail to Manzanillo and a good night’s sleep found us both excited and anxious. We had heard mixed reports about visiting Cuba. Everything from how terrible it was to reports that it is one of the most wonderful cruising grounds left in the Atlantic. Soon we would know.

Coast Guard Urges EPIRB Owners To Upgrade

May 20, 2011 Advisory 02-11
Take the Search out of Search and Rescue

Upgrade to GPS enhanced EPIRBs

When Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB) are activated in emergency situations the system transmits vessel identification information to rescuers. Traditional EPIRBs rely on satellite Doppler Shift to identify the distress location. There are a wide variety of Coast Guard approved EPIRBs on the market but many do not have the most up-to-date feature: the ability to transmit the EPIRB’s GPS location.

A Photo Tour Of The Okeechobee Waterway

Several of our followers have ask for more photos of our trip across the Okeechobee Waterway from Stuart, Florida to Fort Myers Beach, Florida. Rather than try and post the individual photos, we took lots, we hope this slide show will give you a sense of the spectacular scenery along this seldom traveled jewel. We do warn you, there are lots of photos so give yourself enough time to enjoy them. Then drop us a comment here and let us know what you think. Come along and enjoy the ride.

It Always Ends All Too Soon

The waterway from Moore Haven to Fort Myers is wide and deep with little in the way of obstacles or challenges. One recent comment on this trip was whether or not we felt bored or lacked any excitement traveling along the many canals that interconnect the rivers, lakes and sounds that we have traveled to get to our final destination. My response is, absolutely not. Every canal and waterway has its own personality and each is to be enjoyed on its own merits. If I had one word to describe our transit of the Okeechobee Waterway, it would be, spectacular.

Titusville To The Big Lake Okeechobee

DSC06729a It was really great to spend a day with our good friend and rest up a bit. Even with the requirement to hose off the decks 3 times a day to clear the love bugs. In all of our years of traveling the ICW and driving back and forth to Florida, we have never encountered anything like this. Even the locals said the same thing. We caught up on the time that had passed with our friend, ran some errands, played with the dog and cat and restocked some supplies. But we needed to move on in hopes that the great weather we were experiencing would hold until we made the crossing on the Lake Okeechobee.

Shallow Waters and Strong River Currents, Plus Missed Anchorages

At our appointed time, we left the docks and headed south into the state of Florida. It was really good to be back and the weather was improving, albeit still windy from the south. We had considered running outside from Fernandina to St. Augustine, but the winds had not lightened yet and the ride offshore would be uncomfortable. In addition, there are some shoaling problems at St. Augustine Inlet and two boats have been lost and one skipper killed. Not the conditions we wanted to subject Beach House to. We knew there were a few problem spots with shoaling south of Fernandina, but it is not like we have not been dealing with this along the way. So off we went, straight into the wind and an adverse current, since the tides were running out at St. Mary's.

Heading South At Warp Speed

When we last left off, we were at the docks in Southport, North Carolina.  After leaving the marina, we saw some interesting and unusual sites, transited a whole bunch of Sounds, met old friends, visited our former home and covered a lot of water in a short period of time. We also found several of the waterway's most severe problem areas and transited them at the worst possible time. But I am getting ahead of myself so let me get you caught up to date.

A Roller Coaster Ride

Feeling a bit relieved that we were missed by the storms and tired from lack of a good night's rest, we slept in another hour and were finally underway at around 7 AM. The trip on the ICW was a fast one since we were on a falling tide. That falling tide and our one hour difference in getting started would be the difference between a comfortable trip and a roller coaster ride. But it would not be the first time for us on the Cape Fear River. They don’t call it Cape Fear for nothing.

Storms On The Horizon

The day was pretty much perfect for cruising the ICW. It was warm but not too warm and the winds were light to moderate. This section is protected waters so we were not concerned that the weather would turn. Besides, the Weather Service forecast a nice day, so we just relaxed and enjoyed the trip. Even crossing the harbor at Beaufort/Morehead City was uneventful and the many, many small boats usually darting back and forth were missing. The sun came out and warmed things up nicely. But that would change somewhat once we settled into our anchorage for the night and checked the weather.

Fog In The Morning And A Surprise At The Next Anchorage

We did have a very peaceful night and the rain finally went away by sunset. A sailboat came in late and shared the anchorage with us. The next morning was clear at sunrise, but we noticed heavy fog in the canal that we needed to transit to head south. It looked as if a large cloud had settled into the canal and was spilling out the entrance. We decided to wait a bit for the fog bank to lift because we had transited narrow canals in dense fog before and it is not a fun experience. We were catching up on some weather information on the Weather Channel when we noticed the fog was getting closer to us. Before we knew it, our entire anchorage was completely socked in. Did I mention that there was not a word about fog from the National Weather Service on the VHF reports? At this point, we had no choice but to wait until the sun was a little higher and burned the fog off. This can happen quickly or take hours.

Hallelujah We Are Down The Bay

DSC05937a We spent 5 days in Reedville, Virginia waiting for the southerly winds to die down so we could get to Norfolk. My friend John Denver once wrote, “I spent a week there one day.” Of course he was writing about Toledo, Ohio. Now don’t get me wrong, Reedville is a very beautiful area with great old houses once owned by Sea Captains alongside new McMansions being built as retirement homes. But a major metropolitan area it is not. We needed to get on our way and make some time. The day did finally come.

What Cruisers Want To Know About The Bahamas

This is not usually the time of year most cruisers think about going to the Bahamas. But this is the time of year that a few adventurous cruisers know the anchorages will be a whole lot less crowded and the marinas will be offering deals. What got me thinking about the Bahamas was a presentation that Susan and I recently gave to the MTOA (Marine Trawler Owners Association) in Stuart Florida for their Southern Rendezvous. This year the Rendezvous was held at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina. MTOA functions are well-attended and this one was no exception. The presentation covered some of the important questions that cruisers heading over for the first time ask.

Trying To Get Down The Chesapeake Bay

Our first attempt to get off the dock and get underway was aborted, once again due to a lousy weather forecast courtesy of the NWS. I don't mean the forecast was for lousy weather, instead it was another forecast that did not come close to actual conditions. There were hints that we should probably postpone our departure, but since we have been tied to the dock for so long, we ignored the subtle hints. The forecast winds were to be 10 to 15 out of the northwest and indeed they were. But much more 15 then 10 and the gust were 20 and increasing as the morning progressed. Eventually the gusts reached 25. The hint we ignored was the fact that the tide on the Chesapeake would be incoming most of the day. This put a north flowing current against a wind blowing from the northwest to the southeast. Any time there is wind against tide or current, the seas are considerably larger. That was the case as we headed out of the Magothy and into the Bay. We had pretty big swells rolling right onto our beam, making for a very uncomfortable ride. Beam seas in a trawler are worst case conditions. A quick decision was made to head back to the slip and try again tomorrow. As we turned to head back, we had seas breaking over the bow and splashing up on the windshield. We were only 30 minutes out, so after we turned around, we were back in the slip in another 30 minutes. But even that was no fun at all and we always say, if it ain't fun, why do it. The wind continued all day and began to ease up late in the afternoon. Forecast for the next day was light southerlies at 5 to 10. We'll see.

Extended Use Tank For A Honda Generator In 4 Easy Steps

One of the pieces of equipment on our to do list is a generator. We much prefer to anchor out when cruising and at times we can get weathered in for days. During those extended stays we still like coffee in the morning, still have the need to recharge the batteries and like to watch TV. All of this uses power and we have been using our handy Honda 2000 portable generator until we can have a more permanent installation. The Honda will handle most of our power needs, with the exception of the air conditioning system. But that suits us just fine for now. One of the things I don't like to do is to fill the built in tank every day when the generator is in constant use and for long term when charging that batteries it might mean shutting the generator down, filling the fuel tank, and starting it again. It is also hard to fill the tank without spilling gas on the deck, especially if the boats gets waked. So, the need for a remote extended fuel tank. To build one of these only takes a few inexpensive fittings, a fuel tank and about an hour of your time, at the most.

Changes In Attitude

Susan and I have both given our two weeks notice to Waterway Guide. Our time working there was always to be limited since we knew we wanted to get back on the water and do some cruising again. And that is just what we intend to do. We have always said our plans are written in the sand at low tide. Beach House is not completely ready, but what boat ever is? We have finished a number of projects and feel we can comfortably get back on the water and finish what needs to be done while enjoying the cruising life once again. And what is cruising if not repairing your boat in exotic places? We have a few posts planned for the next couple of weeks. We just finished a presentation at the Marine Trawlers Owners Association Southern Rendezvous in Stuart, Florida. The presentation was on cruising the Bahamas and maybe that is what gave us the itch again. I plan to do a complete post on the presentation; I am working on it now. And, we are making a remote extended fuel tank for our Honda Generator to hold us over until the permanent genset is installed. I will post the how-to on that as soon as it is finished.

Then, look for our cruising posts once again. I can't put into words how excited we are to be back out there and underway instead of tied to a dock and a desk. We look forward to some new cruising experiences and revisiting some of our favorite areas. We are going to start posting some different information other than what we have in the past, although that will be included. We will be adding some new stuff and maybe more in the way of videos. I think it is really going to be interesting, so do come back and check in from time to time. And Susan and I are working on a very special project that we feel will be a real plus for our fellow boaters. So lots of good things are happening, and if you see our yellow bimini out on the waters near you, give us a big wave or even better yet, a shout on the VHF. We look forward to seeing you all out there soon.

Splash Time But Not Spring Time

Soooooo much is going on right now that we sometimes wonder when we will ever get anything done. But the biggest project right now is over, and that is getting the boat splashed and settling back aboard. The new bottom paint and boot stripe look great and we have received some positive comments around the yard on the changes and how great the paint turned out. Getting splashed is just the beginning for us this next week or so.

Red and Blue and Teal

I can't put into words how good it feels to know that Spring is just around the corner. The trees are beginning to sprout new buds and the grass is showing just a hint of green. That means it's close to getting the bottom of the boat wet, too, and that requires bottom paint, finishing the paint on the boot stripe and the few other projects that are below the waterline. And as you can see, Susan is not having fun right now. I will explain a little later where the red and blue and teal come in.

What Do You Do With The Swim Platform?

We have been considering what to do with the swim platform since we bought the boat. It is all teak and the previous owner had treated it with a hardware brand of deck stain, the type you would use around the house. They had coated all of the teak on the boat with it and we have removed and re-done everything but the swim platform. The Cetol we have used on all of the other teak would not be a good choice for this area. It probably would hold up okay, but this area gets wet when we are underway, and with the new dinghy mounted on it, something more durable would be required.

Adding And Re-installing Switches

With the main electrical panel now replaced, there were a few small things that were unfinished and now is as good a time as any to get those done. The bilge pump switch for the secondary mid-ship bilge pump has been out for some time now. It was temporarily mounted in the forward hanging locker after the smaller secondary electrical panel was installed, but it was not convenient to get to. We did the installation for the anchor windlass some time back, but the helm switches to raise and lower the anchor from the steering location has not been done.

Replacing The Boats Main Electrical Panel

One of the major projects on my to-do list is finally finished. The original 30-year-old main electrical panel is now a thing of the past, and several of the upgrades I have been wanting to do are finally finished. Before I even begin, let me add a strong word of caution here. If you are, in any way, unfamiliar with the electrical systems on a boat or unsure of your capabilities, don't try and tackle this yourself. I have been doing this for a living for many years, so I have already made all of the mistakes, and a misstep in working with either the DC side or the AC side of a boats electrical systems can have devastating affects for not only yourself, but every other boat nearby.