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Posted on Apr 2, 2015 | 2 comments

The Cost of Upgrading a Classic Sailboat

Over the last year, we’ve been hard at work updating our 1976 Irwin 37. A lot of blood and sweat went into the process, as well as a substantial amount of money. We’ve cataloged all of our boat related expenses for the full process and were amazed at the amount spent on auxiliary items such as clothing, cooking accessories and new tools. I’ve broken the expenses down into groups and categories to be able to show all of you just what goes into updating an older boat. Just a note: when we purchased Horizon, she had recently had all of the rigging, sails, and most of the electronics upgraded. These are major ticket items that would significantly increase total cost if your boat had older systems.

Structural and Major Systems

Anything we felt necessary to upgrading the actual boat and systems.
CategoryTotal Cost
Power System$3335.37

Supplies and Equipment

Any item that we purchased specifically because we needed it for boat living or boat work.
CategoryTotal Cost
Cleaning Supplies$432.45

Services and Fees

Additional services and government fees
CategoryTotal Cost
Government Fees$649.14

Which brings our overall total to $32,796.93. No small thing considering we paid only slightly more for the actual vessel itself. We are fairly confident that the work and money we put in this year will pay big dividends in decreased costs for a couple of years as well as a big increase in overall safety for us and the boat. And with that, we’re off!

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Posted on Mar 19, 2015 | 5 comments

Perkins 4.108 Oil Change from Hell

After hours in this position, I could barely stand up!

After hours in this position, I could barely stand up!

As part of the preparations for our upcoming cruise to the Abacos, I wanted to square away a few things in the engine room. First and foremost was to do the routine maintenance including changing the oil, oil filter, and fuel filters. I also wanted to add an hour meter to aid in keeping up on these critical maintenance tasks. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Once the work began, however, it was anything but. Since the last oil change was my first on my new engine, I had hired a mechanic to show me the ropes. He had an issue with his oil extractor fitting down the dipstick tube and recommended I purchase one with a smaller tube. So, thinking I am prepared, with my narrow tubed oil extractor, I begin to suck the oil out of the pan. Unfortunately, the dipstick is located in a high spot of the oil pan and does not allow for the full extraction of the oil… it actually only allows around 1 quart to be exact. Not to be deterred, I located the actual oil drain plug and began awkwardly loosening the bolt while laying on my stomach with my hand behind my back (ok, not really, but if you’ve ever tried to work UNDER a boat engine, you understand the predicament).

Two rolls of paper towels were sacrificed to the cause...

Two rolls of paper towels were sacrificed to the cause…

The plug came freely the first few turns and then essentially stopped. I fished out Michele’s old makeup mirror and held it under the engine to see what was impeding my progress to find out that the drain plug’s flange was rubbing against a bolt that holds the transmission to the engine block. After much finagling and squirming and consternation, the drain plug was freed and then the flange ground down to a more reasonable circumference that will allow it to freely be removed and replaced in the future. A drain plug gasket also ensures that the pesky oil seepage from the never-before-removed plug is now a thing of the past.

Thinking the worst is behind me, I unscrewed the old Sierra brand oil filter and lovingly tightened on my shiny new top-of-the-line-for-eight-times-the-price Napa Gold filter and refilled the oil reservoir with Delo 15w-40. Side note: there is much discussion online on which weight of oil and which brand to use etc… I went with the recommendation in the official Perkins service manual.

Thinking I am done, I fired up the engine and checked my exhaust first for flow (a habit) and then watched for oil pressure. I hadn’t refilled the rather large oil filter, so I knew it might take a few seconds to fill the filter and then pressurize the oil system so I wasn’t worried when I saw 0PSI to begin with. Around the 30 second mark I became worried, however. I soon realized that no oil was flowing and killed the engine.

The first thing I checked was for proper oil level in the reservoir and found that, indeed, it was full. I then moved on to checking for leaks around the oil filter or any hoses and found that everything looked as normal. Perplexed, I fired up the engine again to the same results after 60 seconds… Even more worried now, I disconnected the oil line feeding the remote oil cooler and had Michele crank the engine. Oil immediately squirted out of the line, to my relief.

The oil sender looked quite corroded so we figured that must be the problem.

The oil sender looked quite corroded so we figured that must be the problem.

It was now appearing as though the oil was, in fact, flowing through the engine properly but I was getting an incorrect reading on my gauge or the oil pressure sender. A gaze at my sender let me know that it had likely given up the goose and a quick run to the boat bits store rectified that and the old oil gauge.

Fully expecting my issue to be resolved, I fired up the engine to 0PSI oil pressure yet again. Truly perplexed, I took a break from hands on work and began researching. Unfortunately there are an enormous amount of Perkins 4.108 variations, so this task is made significantly more difficult. My engine has also been customized with a remote oil filter kit (larger filter capacity) and oil cooler.

I tinkered around, tried different oil filters, different oil filter brands, etc all to no avail. Eventually I put the old filter back on out of curiosity and the pressure immediately went to normal! I couldn’t believe this… why would the old filter work and the Fram and Napa Gold filters not? Thinking it is a filter density issue, I researched the Sierra micron rating and found that it was in the same ballpark as my other two brands…

Totally dumbfounded, I ran the issue by my father and his immediate response was, “is the oil flowing in the correct direction through the filter?” I hadn’t thought about this despite having tried several other fixes. I swapped my oil supply and return lines on the side of the block and put my Fram filter back on. Immediately upon firing up the engine my normal oil pressure returned! The oil had been running through the filter backwards! The older Sierra filter from the previous owner worked with this scenario because it didn’t have an internal check valve to prevent it from draining while the engine is off. Both my Fram and Napa Gold filters had this valve, with a side effect of only allowing the oil to flow in one direction.

So, several hours and a full day after beginning, my pre-trip engine maintenance is completed. Oil is flowing in the correct direction and all is right with the world.

Hopefully the knowledge gained and changes made to the drain plug (and oil flow) will make future oil changes take significantly less time than the significant investment this process took.

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Posted on Dec 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Our First Year Aboard 2014

The year 2014 will go undoubtedly be ranked among the most significant of our lives. This was the year that all of our planning and saving culminated in moving 1,000 miles onto our own Irwin 37. Though at times we experienced incredible stress and frustration, there were far more moments of joy, excitement, and true wonder at our new life. We look back on this year with a great feeling of accomplishment, knowing that so many have never reached such a tangible realization of their dreams.

It is with that knowledge that we head into 2015, having faith that what is to come will be greater still. We hope that you will join us as we continue to Follow the Horizon.

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Posted on Jul 25, 2014 | 0 comments

Traveling the ICW

Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano

Horizon docked for the night at Sands Harbor Marina in Pompano

Sorry for the long delay in blog posts. No we haven’t sunk, but a lot has been happening around here that was taking up our attention. Foremost among our recent changes is that Dan has taken a new job in Sunrise, Florida which he started Wednesday morning. Subsequently, we decided to move our boat from Lantana to Hollywood. While that only takes about an hour in a car traveling the interstate, the ICW is another story all together.

We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.

We finally got into Ft. Lauderdale on the second day.

For anyone who has ever traveled on the ICW by boat, you will remember the number of bridges that cross your path. Unfortunately for us, of the 21 bridges between Lantana and Hollywood exactly 1 of them is tall enough for us to fit under. That meant waiting for 20 drawbridges to open, almost all of them on a set schedule of every half hour. We estimated that in actual travel time at 5 knots (5 nautical miles per hour or approximately 6 miles per hour) it would take us around 6 hours to go the entire distance. In reality, with the bridge openings included our planned total time on the water was closer to around 11 hours.

To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.

To help us stay on track, we made a complete list of opening times and approximate speeds. Times on the right were the estimates, times on the left were actual.

To help us with our planning, we utilized Dozier’s Waterway Guides for the Southern ICW. It was the most highly rated guide by Practical Sailor reviewers and also had good reviews online. The guide proved to be very helpful with bridge schedules and phone numbers (though we were able to contact all of them by VHF radio channel 09), along with additional navigational suggestions and good listings for dockage and anchoring down the entire path. Our original plan was to head out by 6 am on Monday morning and hopefully make it to our new marina between 3:30 and 4:30 in the afternoon. However, when we woke up on Sunday morning and looked at the forecast for Monday, we were concerned about the potential for serious storms on Monday afternoon so we decided to head out Sunday and split the trip into two days instead.

We were able to keep mostly to schedule with one minor exception, we missed our first bridge entirely in the planning, putting us behind a full hour! While the road directly to the South of our marina in Lantana was called Ocean Ave, the actual bridge was called the Lantana Bridge… unfortunately, the very next bridge (an hour drive to the South) was actually called Ocean Ave. While this certainly was disappointing to us, at least it didn’t negatively affect our trip since we were no longer fighting the clock to get in on time the first day. Even our cruising guide was confused, calling both bridges Ocean Ave.


It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!

It was a little nerve-wracking sharing the water with huge cargo and cruise ships in Port Everglades!

At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.

At least the scenery was beautiful. The houses on the ICW are extravagant displays of wealth and status.

Our next boat...

Our next boat…

Overall, our progress was blessedly uneventful…no storms, no engine failure, and no problems docking. A good trip in our book.

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Posted on May 11, 2014 | 2 comments

Our First Week Aboard

Our two cars and trailer in the driveway

Ready to head out on Saturday morning.

Dan, Carter, and I have now officially survived our first week as liveaboards. After 20 grueling hours in the car (plus a nice day-long pit stop in LaGrange, Georgia with Dan’s brother Kyle), we were ready to get onto the boat and start making it our home. Easier said than done we soon realized. In Peoria, we loaded a 5×8 cargo trailer plus our two vehicles with all of our stuff and once we started unpacking quickly figured out that not everything was going to fit on the boat. (This is the point where Dan can say I told you so!) About 60% of what we brought is currently on the boat with us, 20% is still in our cars and trailer, and 20% is now in the Indiantown dump.

Carter standing in front of Horizon

In the heat, we are in a constant struggle with Carter to keep his clothes on!

Indiantown Marina is a great place to store a boat over hurricane season and we met quite a few people preparing their boats for summer storage. It is not, however, a place where we would want to live on any extended basis, as there are almost no amenities in town and the nearest area of interest is a significant drive. Not to mention the friendly neighborhood alligator that liked to hang around our boat waiting for our dogs, cat, or toddler to fall in the water. As you might imagine, we were ready to move on as soon as possible since Dan’s job officially starts on Monday.

Loggerhead Marina

This is where we will be staying once we get our boat moved

To help break up the monotony of unpacking, each day we made sure to get off the boat and enjoy ourselves. Carter had been asking to go to the beach since he first found out we were moving to Florida, so we spent one evening touring our future marina home and heading over to the beach and dinner. The marina is part of the Loggerhead family of marinas that are up and down the east coast of Florida and we have been very impressed with their friendliness and beautiful facilities. Because the same group owns multiple marinas we will be able to stay at the Stuart marina for free on our way to our home base. Here are our top impressions of living aboard after our first week:

  • Organization will be very important for our sanity. We have a lot of storage on this boat compared to others we’ve seen, but it’s still a major adjustment for us.
  • Even after only a few days, going on land makes us all sway a little. After the first night on-board, as we got off the boat Carter stopped and started turning his head in a circle saying “Whoa! Everything is moving Mommy!”
  • Little boys skin their knees a lot more when they don’t have the protection of long pants.
  • Systems on a boat are more different than house systems than we had anticipated. Dan is very handy, but we’re feeling at this point that the learning curve is steeper than we’d hoped. We’re seriously considering hiring an instructor to help us learn our boat better.

We’ve been running pretty much in high stress mode over the last few days but we know that everything will normalize soon once we get settled into our new marina and Dan starts working. Thanks to everyone for your help and encouragement through this stressful process. Let us know what questions you have or share your first week stories in the comments below.

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