Tuesday, June 22, 2010


There are 17 days left until the big trip up the Hudson. 17. Less than 20. Just more than 2 weeks. We are starting to freak out a bit because there is still so much to be done to make sure Sabine’s ready. We spend entire weekends preparing her, we spend entire evenings as well. The temperature is rising outside and in our heads as well. We’re tired. We’re getting burnt out. The promise of an awesome trip with new and functioning systems is what keeps us going.

When we bought Sabine she had a manual anchor windlass. This is the machine that sits on the bow of the boat that pulls the anchor and the chain out of the water and up into the boat. The manual windlass had long since seized. But hauling up an anchor and chain by cranking the handle on the winch back and forth never appealed to either of us. An electric windlass has long been on our list.

Not only has it long been on our list, it’s long been in our basement. We bought one five years ago or so. We also bought an obnoxious length of chain that I swear weighs a metric ton. The chain has been sitting in a barrel in the backroom at New England Yacht Rigging. Maggie and Charlie were nice enough not to hassle us about keeping it there all these years. If anything it became a running joke. The weekend before last Charlie nearly fell over when we went there and finally took it out of the shop.

Last Sunday we started the great anchor windlass installation project. Since then the project has involved a custom stainless steel plate fabrication by a local machine shop. (I wish I lived closer to home. I grew up in a shop just like that one and Dad would’ve had it done lickety split for me.) We bolted the machine onto the plate and onto the bow. Over last weekend we started running wires, and last night we installed the control box and finished all the wires.

We stood on the deck, with the remote control in hand, and pressed the button. The sun had just set and the summer temps dropped, thankfully. We’d been crawling in and out of the boat, slick with sweat, sticky and crabby. The no see ‘ums were swarming; I swatted frantically at my arms, legs and neck. We looked at each other expectantly and Todd pressed the button, but nothing happened.

The rotors on the machine did not spin. The chain did not retract below deck into the anchor locker. Nothing. Happened. I winced. Todd let out a frustrated sigh. He picked up the manual, originally written in Italian but badly translated, and tried to diagnose the problem. Over the course of the installation he’d already found 2 errors in the wiring diagram.

Out came the jumper cables and the voltage meter. We tested different configurations of the wiring, assuming another translation error caused the problem. We managed to get the machine to pay out the chain, but not return it to the anchor locker. Todd uninstalled the control box and puzzled over it.

“I think we got a faulty control box,” he said as he swabbed the sweat on his forehead with the sleeve of his t-shirt. We were crouched in the forward-most section of the boat. The air was stiflingly hot in there.

“Well, do you think we can order another?”

“Beej, it took weeks to get this from Italy the last time. We don’t have weeks.”

“That was 5 years ago. Surely they’ve managed to establish a distributor in the US in the last 5 years, no?”

“I don’t know. But look, there are screws in the top. They wouldn’t have put screws in this thing if they didn’t want me to open it, right?” he reasoned.

He unscrewed the top and meticulously laid out the parts. He pointed out the two electromagnets in the box, “See, the electricity causes the spring to activate the lever. Then the metal touches the contact which sends power to the motor. When the up button is pressed, the left lever is engaged. When the down button is pressed the right one is engaged.”

He connected the electromagnets to the jumper cables, and tested each electromagnet. They both worked. But the lever on one of them was turned the wrong way, so it never would have established the connection with the contact.

He reassembled the box, and then we pressed the buttons on the remote control. The chain went up, and the chain went down.

And then we cheered, high-fived and hugged.

And it never would have happened if Todd hadn’t had the perseverance to carefully trouble shoot the problem, disassemble the components and never give up.

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Blogger Taoist Biker said...

I was just thinking about you two (and Sabine) this morning. I was thinking you'd been very quiet and wondering if you were on the water already.

I bow to Todd's supreme guy skillz!

June 22, 2010 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger BJ Knapp said...

TB, We've just haven't been home. We work at the boat until late, then go home and go to bed. Sometimes we just stay on the boat and go to work from there. I have a feed list filled with your recent posts among other blogs I read. I just haven't had the time. And when I do have the time I am just too exhausted.

The NYC leg of the trip starts on July 2, which is just 10 days away. We're both getting edgy over being ready. I am trying to be positive "It'll all get done, we just need to to it..." but some days it's harder to be positive than others. LOL.

June 22, 2010 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Taoist Biker said...

Oh no, it wasn't a request for more posts or comments, it was wistful jealousy!

I remembered your recent post about staying on the boat, and I thought that was a lot of it. To me it all sounds wonderful (if exhausting) and I hope you enjoy the hell out of the whole process!

June 23, 2010 at 3:09 PM  

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