Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chainplate Repair and Ham Radio License Test.

Sorry we haven't posted in a while. We are bad bloggers. (Christine just told me that I should stop apologizing. She said, "They're lucky we post anything at all".) Anyway, we had fun surfing out at Punta Mita for a few days. We even filmed a few short clips of us surfing. I'm going to try to edit together some of the video clips (sailing, working on stuff, wandering around, etc) we've filmed so far into a little movie I can post on here. Unfortunately, video editing on a laptop takes a long time so we'll have to see when I can fit that stuff in. We've been back in La Cruz for a while but we've been too busy to get around to posting.

We just finished one repair that's been nagging at us for a while. We had a problem with our bobstay chainplate. (The bobstay is the bit of rigging (wire cable) that attaches to the bottom of the bowsprit (pointy wooden thing on the bow) and the chainplate is the bronze piece that attaches that cable to the hull). If this chainplate were to break while we were sailing, it would probably cause both masts to break off boat and fall in the water. That would be unfortunate. The chainplate wasn't in immediate danger of breaking but it was bent and that's not the kind of thing I like to see going on up there before crossing the Pacific.

We decided that the best way to fix the problem was to add another bolt to the chainplate to hold it to the hull. This would require drilling a hole through bronze and fiberglass at an angle that would put the drill underwater. Electric drills don't work so good underwater and, at first, I didn't think my hand operated "egg beater" drill would be powerful enough to do the job. We resigned ourselves to having to go to the boatyard in Puerto Vallarta and pay around $700 to haul out and make the repair out of the water. Then I had to drill a hole in a piece of bronze for another minor project so I decided to give it a try with the egg beater drill. It worked fine so I decided to rethink the haul-out requirement for the repair.

There was a bit of bus travel required to round up all the necessary parts and tools but once that was all taken care of, we were able to do the repair in the marina in a single day! As you can see from the photos, it was a bit awkward to drill a hole in the boat from under the water but it worked out fine and was way better than forking over that much cash. We also had to move all 200 feet of anchor chain (and the anchor) to the stern to get our bow high enough but, again, that's way easier that spending $700.

Once that project was all wrapped up, we had to jump into cramming for the ham radio license test. The yacht club down in Nuevo Vallarta hosted the test. We had wanted to get our licenses before we left the US but ended up running out of time. The stuff we want to do requires the general license and, in order to get that license, you have to get the technician license first so we had to study for both tests. We got up early, spent about an hour on the bus getting down there and took the tests. I took the technician test and failed it by two questions. Damn. However, they give you the option to pay the $16 fee again and retake it (with a different set of questions). I was feeling lucky so I decided to give it a try. Besides, I'd spent more time studying for the general license and felt like I'd have a better chance with that test if I could just make it past the technician test. Meanwhile, Christine finished her technician test and failed it by just one question. She didn't feel at all prepared for the general license test so she decided not to retake the first level.

It turned out that the second version of the technician test they gave me was quite a bit easier than the first and I passed by two questions. Having passed that one, it was free to take a crack at the general license. I took it and found myself guessing at far more of the answers than I would have liked. Apparently, I guessed well though because I passed. ...just barely - if I missed one more question, I would have failed - but I passed. It was quite a relief to finally get that taken care of. Now I will be able to use all the capabilities of our fancy HF radio. Well, I'll be able too once we finish installing it anyway. I think we have all the parts we need. It should be just a matter of bolting everything in place and wiring it all up. We intend to have that all taken care of by the end of the month. It might be sooner except that we just bought a used wind vane self steering system. We got a great deal on it and it will mean that we won't have to run our electronic autopilot across the whole Pacific. That, in turn, means that our solar panels should be able to easily take care of all our electricity needs and we won't have to run the engine to keep our batteries charged. On the down side, this thing isn't going to install itself. More on that process later.


Aneel said...

What would happen if you used your fancy radio without a license? Are there radio cops?

Anonymous said...

clean that waterline while you arrr swimmin around mates!! haha - love - pops

jkibele said...

Aneel - There are actually volunteer radio people that will rat you out to the FCC if you use the special prohibited frequencies without a license. We already had a separate FCC license to use the marine SSB frequencies so we could have used the same radio for that if I failed the test. ...even though I think you're technically not supposed to use this radio that way. I don't think anyone would be able to tell.

Pops - I just re-scrubbed the boat yesterday. That was the one downside to not hauling out. We were going to slap some bottom paint on the bottom half of the boot stripe while we were out. Oh well, we'll just keep scrubbing.