Thursday, 30 June 2016

Spring has Sprung... Right Into Summer Pt. 1


        "This heat has got right out of hand..."
                                        -Bananarama



    * I started writing this post on May 30th....how the HELL did it become the end of June????

      Spring has sprung...

      ...  and then  more Summer came along and kicked it's ass.

    Check this- May 13th, we had sun, rain and temps around 15 degrees on the c scale.
                        May 14th, we had 30 knot winds and 6 degree temps.
                        May 15th, we had snow on the Dock.

                       SNOW.

                       Note that I did not opt to do any boatwork on those days.  Nope, not me.  I had a list of things to do but...


                       I opted out.  I called it on account of weather.

       SWMBO and I got a lot done in the weeks prior to splash, including, new carpet, new foam for the cabin cushions, and a new Low-Buck swim platform...







Karma hit the water on the first Friday of May, one of our earliest launches ever....







...and  she promptly decided to start to sink.

I was toiling away at my day job, making local businesses locally famous, so SWMBO was supervising the launch solo.  As I was on my way to the boatyard, toiling completed, I received a cryptic text message:

"Water"

 Hmmm...
Is SWMBO thirsty?
Is  she telling me that the boat is now in the water?
Or...is she telling me that the water is now in the boat?

Then, I received another cryptic text message:

"Hurry"

So, I hurried.

I got to the yard, and spied SWMBO in Karma's cockpit, pumping away.  Turns out, "water" was , in deed, coming into the boat.... at a worrisome rate. "Hurry" was appropriate, as the sole was awash, and SWMBO was usunre where the water was coming from.  I hurried down the companionway ladder, tore open access panels,  checked the stuffing box (fine) and then the raw water strainer (decidedly unfine, water streaming from the top of the reservoir).

     I closed the seacock so the water stopped hurrying into the boat and  removed the strainer and found that the o-ring seal was no longer sealing.

    It's Friday, it's after 5, nothing is open that is going to have the part that will solve this problem.  As I was pondering the paucity of options, Skipper Andy wanders past, headed to Cyclone, docked at the Bridge yachts yard this season.  I yell, enquiring rather loudly whether he may have any sealant materials aboard.

   Turns out he does-  and it is appropriately named:

  a strip of caulk later, and we're back in business, leak free.

  Thanks, Skipper!!

   It turns out that the water strainer seal has likely been quietly leaking, unseen, for several years-   the strainer is located in a corner of the engine bay and the leak was  not visible.  But, that unseen unknown leak meant that we had to be vigilant to pump our smallish bilge ever 3-4 days.   Since  resealing, we now pump our bilge every 7- 10 days, with little to show for the effort.

  So, boat no longer sinking,  we fire up the trusty Yanmar YSM-8 and set off downriver and around the corner to the marina, and we survey what's new on the Dock.

   Turns out, quite a bit.

    More to come  in Pt. 2.



Thanks for stopping by.  Please "Talk the Dock!" and pass the word.


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Splashdance.


     "The plan was set, the plan was done..."
                                                 -Steely Dan






   Every year, the boats come out of the water aroundabout Halloween-ish.  Every fall, I think to myself,

    "This winter, it's going to be different.  this winter, I am going to make a list of all the boatprojects that we want to complete, and I will schedule them over the next six months, so that we're not busting ass at the last minute, racing a ticking clock, as we run up against the immovable barrier of our splash date."

   Yeah, I think that.

  The reality is always entirely, frantically, different...

  Five and a half months go by and suddenly the world looks like this:


and I look like this:
                                                                                                                        - image courtesy of reddit

      With a big ol' procrastination -driven project backlog monkey on my back.


   Inevitably. our spring splash punchlist gets prioritized, with projects falling into three categories:

  1. Shit that absolutely has to get done before the boats get dropped in the water,  or they don't happen.  Or the boat sinks.

  2.  Shit that was scheduled to get done before we splashed, but who the hell am I kidding?

  3. Shit that gone done on, or ahead of, schedule, purely by accident, or because, rarely, it is easier and simpler than we thought it was going to be.

   Well, all the 3. stuff has been done, now it's just 1. and 2. fighting to finish.

    We splash Karma May 6.  Ereni will splash at a later date, which buys us some time.
But, the next few nights after work are going to be jam-packed with fun stuff like (in no particular order):

   1. Installing a new/used swim platform (including modifying mounting brackets, reshaping platform, finishing trim to finish platform, cutting backing plates, and actual installation.)

   2. Installing a topping lift.

   3. Installing a 100 w semi-flexible solar panel.
   
   4. Installing a new charge controller, and a new starting battery, wiring both existing batteries into a house bank, and installing a new Xantrex Echo Charger to simplify our charging system.


   

     5.  Raising and stiffening bimini, installing longer frame stringers on rigid solar panel frame to solve top sag problem, install a couple of additional struts to stiffen the frame.

     6.  Cleaning and rebuilding the cabin cushions.
         
 
     7.  Finishing the construction of the first SUMO dinghy.

   

     8.  And, of course, sanding and painting the bottom, and finishing washing and waxing the topsides.


     And, dammit, I love every minute of it.  The next best thing to being on the water is getting the boats ready for the water, stress and all.  The best part of the next best thing is that SWMBO is right alongside, busting hump with me.

     It beats the hell out of winter.

     Six days left.

     We'll be (mostly) ready.

     I think.





     Thanks for stopping by!  Please take the time to "Talk the Dock," and pass the word.












 


Thursday, 31 March 2016

Small Boat Rules, Vol. 1


"told his wife, 'you can tell all your friends, it's been real but it ain't been fun, gonna get us one of them
boats'..." 
                                                                                                  -Kenny Chesney




 


     While Karma is a bigger than Whiskeyjack, and while she is a bigger "big small boat", at just shy of 26 feet LOA, she is still a small boat.

    We are perfectly fine with that.

    Someone once said, "Buy as little boat as you can stand, not as much boat as you can find, for what you can afford."

    Like all good advice, that one stuck with me.  It's a great life- have we thought about getting a bigger boat?


    Constantly.

    But going bigger would mean  leaving the Dock, and giving up the best sunsets in the marina:



   
       So, we make it work.

…. As seasonal small-boat liveaboards who still have full-time dirt jobs, here is a dozen things we have learned.

1. You wake up earlier. When the shower is a dinghy ride away, rather than just off the bedroom, you're not slapping the snoozebar as often.

2. The order of the morning ritual changes. Instead of stumbling out of the shower and surveying the closet, you have to figure out what you are going to wear, take it with you into the shower and hang it off the back of the door to steam out the inevitable wrinkles.

3. You don't need 8 pairs of shoes.

4. No one notices that you only have two sport coats.

5. If your clothes are black, khaki and beige, you don't need to have as many clothes because everything goes together.

6. As a salesperson, I find you can get away with guayaberas and flowered shirts when you tell people you live on your boat. It's also a great warm-up. In fact, if you don't wear flowered shirts and guayaberas, prospects look at you suspiciously. Dress too well and they think you are living on a 60 ft motoryacht, which means you are making waaaayyy too much.

7. Tight on storage? Underwear,socks, t-shirts and shorts go in pillow cases, your good clothes go in the drawers/bins. Voila- extra pillows, and less-wrinkled workwear.

8. When doing laundry, let everything spend extra time in the dryer. You want your clothes DRY. Mildew is not your friend.

9. Keep a package or two of silica gel and a sachet of pot pourri, or at least a dryer sheet, in your clothes storage bins, and/or drawers, and/or lockers. Your clothes will stay mildew free and smell good.


10. Keep your bilge and engine bay/ room CLEAN. I like the nautical funk of diesel, icebox runoff and stuffing box drippings as much as the next sailor, but your clothes will pick up the smell, and it ain't as provocative in a client's office.

11.  There's no place for packaging aboard.  Unbox it, unwrap it, unpack it, recycle the box, wrapping and packaging before you hit the dock or the dinghy, label what's left and stow it.

12.  If something new comes aboard, something old has to leave- don't become an accidental hoarder. It takes a hell of a lot less time, and stuff, to fill up 200 sq ft. of space on the water than it does 2500 sq ft on the dirt.

and a bonus:

13.  if you take it out, move it, or use it, put it back.

Fellow liveaboards and cruisers, I'd love to add to this list, so feel free to sing out and comment with what works for you.





As always, thanks for stopping by.  Please, "Talk the Dock!"- spread the word.


Monday, 22 February 2016

A Half Decade Later... And A Love Letter



    "...It's been five long years and I love you just the same..."
                                                             -Colin James


    Five years.

    318 posts.

    250 000 reads... and growing.



    Thank you.


    When I started scribbling the Dock Six Chronicles back in  '11,  I didn't expect the D6C to find a worldwide audience.

    But, we did.

    A big part of the "why?" is our location, and my affection for it.


    I love this place, this sprawling county, this shore, this coast, this garden that is Norfolk County.

   I am also, occasionally, one of it’s harshest critics.

   For 5 years, I have been quietly blogging about my little part of this little place.

   The ‘folk has been going through a rough patch of late. Unemployment is up and opportunity is down. The number of vacant core storefronts in our towns and villages is growing, while our outskirts big box stores don’t have vacant parking spaces.


     We seem to have lost our self-confidence, seeking affirmation from beyond our borders.  (Seriously, the County Economic Development Department hands out an award for the best blogger from OUTSIDE Norfolk.  There is no award recognizing homegrown bloggers.  *Ahem*)



Maybe it’s time we start thinking about what makes us great and start patting ourselves on the back.


Today is the last birthday I will ever celebrate.

(Oh, ferpetesake, NO, this is not a suicide note- this is my 49th birthday, and I am NOT going to celebrate my 50th- that’s too much like growing up.)

With that in mind, here’s a list of 49 things I LOVE about this place.  Feel free to add your own.

1.        No 400 series highways.

2.       No traffic jams.

3.       Guacamole at Amiga's.

4.       Club sandwiches at Kaley's.

5.       A nice home is yours for the down payment on a house in the 416.

6.       The beaches.
                                          -image courtesy of norfolktourism.ca

7.       The Port Dover Harbour Marina.

8.       The sunsets at aforementioned marina.



9.       Our museums, big and small.

10.   Our strawberries.

11.   Our entrepreneurs .

12.   Our Home Hardware stores.

13.   Our wineries .

14.   Our microbreweries .

15.   Our apple cider donuts.
                                                       -image courtesy of norfolktourism.ca

17.   Our  trail system .

18.   Long Point.

19.   Our history- rum runners, wreckers, tobacco growers, transplanted Arkansas guitar pickers, wars and wastrels.

20.   Annaliese Carr .

21.   The Lighthouse Festival Theatre .

22.   Norfolk Has Talent.  This should be a mandatory attendance event for everyone in the county.

23.   Perch at Knechtel's .

24.   Golden Glow at the Arbor

25.   Pottahawk .

26.   Friday the 13th .

27.   Port Rowan

28.   Gyros at The Bunkhouse in Delhi.

29.   Chipnuts, er, Crispy Potato Chip Covered Peanuts, from Picards .

30.   Our sweet corn.

31.   Our generations of Stanley Cup winning hockey players, especially Red Kelly- he won 8 Stanley cups, playing for 2 different teams, including winning one Cup in 1964, while serving as a Member of Parliament.

                                      -image courtesy of execulink.com

32.   The New Year’s Day Polar Bear Dip .


33.   Summerfest in Turkey Point.

34.   Pumpkinfest in Waterford.

35.   The Waterford ponds.

36.   Backus Mill


37.   The patio (and the tagline) at 211 Main.
                                                       -image courtesy of tripadvisor.ca

38.   Sailboat races on Monday and Wednesday nights.


39.   Ross Bateman.

40.   Normandale and Fisher’s Glen.

41.   Spooky Hollow Road.

42.   Port Ryerse.

43.   The Sand Hills.
                                                    - image courtesy of norfolktourism.ca

44.   Damn near every road is paved.

45.   Sangria and churros at The Combine

46.   Gamble’s Shipyard.


47.   The lift bridge in Port Dover.

48.   Waterford Old Town Hall.

49.  Panorama, in all of it’s anachronistic glory.

Okay, locals, it's your turn:  Why do YOU love Norfolk County?





    To all of you faithful readers over the past 5 years, thanks for sticking around, and passing the word. Please, continue to "Talk the dock!"




Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Benefits of Bottom Feeding



  "But I gotta stay paid, gotta stay above water..."
                                              - Three Six Mafia



*Originally published in Ontario Sailor magazine, now published here.  Enjoy.




    I admit, I am hard pressed to find the value in a new boat.
Before anybody goes grabbin' pitchforks and torches, let me disclaim here for a minute:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a new boat.

  At all.

  Ever.


   Some sailors  like to buy new and trade the uncovered unknowns of an old boat  for the hopefully-warranty-covered unknowns of commissioning, others have scrimped and saved and worked damn hard over the years to trade up and up, with the goal of buying a boat that is not just new-to-them, but brand-spankin' NEW, while other others are just plain filthy rich and wouldn't think of anything BUT buying big, brand new and blinged out.

   Good on 'em, I say!

   If that is what floats your boat and puts a smile on your face, Neptune love ya!

   But I can't do it.

   Or, more correctly, I won't do it, because if I can't justify the value, I definitely can't justify carrying the 25 year note, so "can't" and "won't" are damn near enough interchangeable  in this equation.

    I am a bottom feeder- and I like it down here.

    As my 40th birthday gets ever smaller in the rearview mirror, my gut gets bigger, and 50 looms at damn near the next exit on my life as a highway, a few stone truths have become apparent:

     I was never all that good looking.

     I was never  all that talented.

    Compared to the dreams I had when I was 18, I am a damn failure.

    I never became a rock star, I didn't get a three book deal and a 6 figure advance cheque, and I didn't become a multi-millionaire by 30.  Thus, to 18 year old me, I failed.

     And, I am okay with all of that.

     Because I am a failure, because I am nothing but unrealized potential stuffed into a pair of Dockers, (aka Toughskins for adults) I have learned the life hacks and workarounds necessary to live like I made it.
Which is why sailing is perfect for me.

     There are virtually no seaworthy 40 year old 30 foot powerboats on the market for less than the price of a 2007 Hyundai...



     ... But, there are a crapload of perfectly acceptable sailboats out there for four figures.



 The best part?  I can sail the bejeezus out of a $5000 boat for four or five seasons and likely sell it for....
....$5000.


and if I can't?
    Hell, even if I have to give it away five seasons down the road, my loss is only $1000/year.
   Less than $3 a day.

   A draft beer a day.

   Domestic draft.

     When was the last time a draft beer gave us this much fun, this many grins, this much excitement and life?

     Yes, I hear you, Yeahbutniks:  "Yeah, but, there are repairs and maintenance and upgrades and dockage and ..."

    ...and all of that is cheaper down here on the bottom as well.  When you buy an expensive boat, the idea of buying used gear is, to some, a little unseemly, and rightly so.  Used gear on a newish boat devalues the boat and raises suspicions of the next buyer.
On the bottom, used gear looks LESS out of place and LESS suspicious than NEW gear.

   It is also a lot less nerve-wracking to drill new holes in an old deck than it is to drill new holes in a new deck.


   As Gunny Highway said, "You improvise, you adapt, you overcome."

    Oh yeah, back to that nerve-wracking thing- with less invested, there is less risk in attempting new skills and new (at least to you) ideas to refit or upgrade your ride.

    A generation ago, a 30 foot cruising boat was what you traded up TO, and you kept her for 20 years, because you'd made it- you had space and luxury, and comfort to cruise or weekend comfortably- it was the boat you never felt you would outgrow...and most didn't.

    Today, a 30 foot boat is marketed as an "entry level" cruising boat, a boat to start with, and trade out of as quickly as possible.

   Thankfully.

       Because the more often a boat is traded, the faster it depreciates, and the sooner it hits the bottom of it's depreciation curve, which means there is a whole new batch of boats at the bottom of their depreciation curve sooner,  hopefully for new generations of adventuresome failures to discover.

   And the price of admission is only a draft beer a day.


 

    If you're a bottom feeder, keep on keeping on. And take a newbie for a sail every once in a while.  We need more greenhorns sailing.

After all, we need someone to sell our boats to.

Thanks for stopping by.  Please, feel free to "Talk the Dock!" Pass the word!


Saturday, 23 January 2016

Good Enough.




"There must be something else..."
                                  -Lifehouse






   

     A fleet of beveraged sailors congregating to celebrate sundown (and we had some great ones last season:
),

inevitably leads to discussion deep into the dark hours.  One such confab  meandered through the usual "Cruising versus Racing", "Tiller versus Wheel", "Power versus Sail", "Rum versus Rye", "Dock 6 versus Dock 5" debates to a topic which we discovered is a lot more nuanced:

"Correct versus Incorrect Gear and Installation."

or, "When is Good Enough, Good Enough?"

  One thing all in attendance agreed on:

  The answer, as it so often is, is...

..."It depends."

  Except when it doesn't.

   Electrical/electronical stuff is kinda fussy about how it is connected, for example.  Get yer positives and yer negatives backversed and all the smoke comes out of the wires and you're left pondering how to lie on the warranty claim for your new, but now dead, chartsounderhaildar thingy.

  Same thing with wrapping jibsheets around the winch- it only works one way, clockwise, dumbass!

   On BOTH sides of the boat!

  (At least 8 of you out there just air-wrapped an invisible winch to see if I was right... after you first pointed your finger in front of you like a pistol and then rotated it in the air, lefty-loosey and then righty-tighty, to remind yourself what "clockwise" meant.)


  (( You KNOW you did.  Don't even try.))

   Restringing  6:1 mainsheet tackle takes at least two tries because nobody ever gets the sheave order right the first time and nobody bothers to take "before"  pictures before unstringing the old sheet from the blocks... and, of course, it only works one way.


   Adjusting  the valve clearance on your engine,  and flushing the head are other examples of "one way only" systems, gear and procedures.

  Most of the other stuff on your boat?

  Not so much.

  Which is kinda reassuring.

  When I am not sailing, and boatbuilding and boatpart building and wordsmithing, I am a gearhead.

   But not as gearheady as I used to be.

    Back in the day, BB (the era Before Boats),  I was a die-hard 24/7 VW freak.  Since I was 16, I owned 'em, fixed 'em, bought 'em, built 'em, sold 'em, lived 'em, and, sometimes, in 'em.  At last count I had owned 47.3 of them.

 The .3 is still in the backyard of Stately Jones Manor.



  (NOT the backyard of SJM, but at times, it was close.)

 I've laid hands on some of the rarest of the rare,









    ...and rubbed elbows with some of the coolest of the cool.

    At the top of my "I Shit You Not" Stories list, I helped a bunch of local Canadian high school kids build a race car that ran in the 2005 Baja 1000:





 As the old NASCAR joke goes, I wasn't involved, I was committed.  (Look it up.)


Occasionally my wheeled obsession met my keeled obsession.  Little known fact: my first dinghy , Chirp , built back in 2009, was sized to fit inside my VW Vanagon Syncro.



     Confession: I haven't wrenched on a VW in 5 years.

   What happened?

    I  discovered the "good enough" freedom of boats, and realized the math worked.

     See here's the deal:

     Old VWs  are not just collectible, they are appreciating.  Like crazy.  Like, a -$5000 -price -tag -on- a- rusty- dented -non-running- project- bus- that- needs -everything -is -a -steal kind of crazy.

   The shit got serious.    And when the shit gets serious, you gotta get serious about the shit- an incorrect part, an ill-fitting aftermarket panel, a wheel with the wrong date stamp, is a step backward.  A perfectly serviceable, but incorrect, $100 aftermarket muffler might cut the value of your pride and joy by $150.  

   And there are plenty of enthusiasts who will happily let you know, at every show and swap meet you attend with your incorrect ride.

   As the value of the vehicles rose, the price of original and good aftermarket parts rose accordingly,  stretching my always tight fun budget.

   Meanwhile, in Old Boat World, or at least the part of it I discovered and happily reside in, nobody gives a shit about whether there are period correct bolts holding the stanchions to decks that are covered with unscuffed original non-skid.  Having peeling decals on the air filter will not hurt the value of my boat at all.

    Owning a floating summer home that will likely not appreciate in value, but will just as likely not depreciate much either, is kinda liberating.

    I was spending more time messing around with boats, and less time in the garage.  Finally, I had to face the fiscal reality:

  My fun budget can support messing around with boats, or messing around with cars. Not both.

   For now.

So, back to the original question. What was the consensus that our confab reached that night?

  When is good enough, good enough?

   We came up with the  "Good Enough" rule of thumb:  Every part, part replacement and modification on-board must answer  "Yes" to three questions-
1. Does it work?
2. Is it safe?
3. Is it durable?

   That's a standard I can meet.



Thanks for stopping by.  Feel free to "Talk the Dock" and pass the word.



 






Thursday, 24 December 2015

New Gear Installation: Keeping Our Cool




     "You want paradise..."
                    -Foreigner



    First, a little personal history:

    A decade ago, in the era PB (Pre-Boat), SWMBO and I (okay, mostly SWMBO) decided that we needed to replace the shed in the backyard of Stately Jones Manor.  The shed was...

... less than stately.

    Hell, it was less than intact and decidedly unsafe.  Although uitilized as shelter for our underused and oft-neglected lawn and garden equipment, that equipment was now doing double duty holding up the shedding shed.

   Clearly, we had to do something.

   We knew we didn't want an aluminum panel -and-channel nuts-and-bolts utilitarian box.  We wanted a stately wood shed that would be an attractive addition to our backyard, not just a holds-our-crap blight.  We also knew we didn't have the ambition or the skill set to build a shed from scratch, and didn't have the ready cash to buy a pre-fabricated shed, or hire a crew to build one for us.

   So, we procrastinated and pondered, as the existing shed grew ever less square and vertical and closer to the ground.


    Perusing the sale flyers in our local free throw-away newspaper, we discovered a local lumberyard had attractive affordable, stick-built shed kits available.

     A  shed KIT!  Perfect!

   I built model kits as a kid, I had assembled damn near a houseful of IKEA furniture, I could definitely build a shed from a kit!

   We went to the yard, picked a design we liked from their catalogue, and were assured that our shed kit would be delivered in time for the weekend.

   Perfect!  We can have this thing assembled before Monday!

    Friday, as promised, a truck from the lumberyard pulls up, and deposits our shed kit in the driveway of SJM.

 


  The "kit" consisted of a big pile of lumber, three bundles of shingles,a bag of nails and screws and hardware, a door, and 2 pages of poorly photocopied plans.


     "Kit", my ass.

     We got it done, and it still does it's job ten years on, but it took a lot longer than a weekend, and it took more manpower than SWMBO and I.



     This project taught us some skills, and taught us that we could do it

      Ever since, however, I have been dubious of the ease of assembly of any  DIY "kit."

      Flash forward to the summer of 2015:

      Karma, like Whiskeyjack before her, has an icebox.   For 8 seasons, we schlepped bins and blocks of ice down the Dock, and dealt with the daily ritual of emptying catchbottles of  meltwater.  Iceboxes are simple systems, and do a more than adequate job of keeping food and beverages cold. It was a good system on Whiskeyjack that gave us no reason to complain.

   On Karma?

    Not so much.




    First, Karma's icebox is oddly, trapezoidally, shaped.

 This meant that the bins that we used to hold iceblocks and contain meltwater on Whiskeyjack didn't fit.  Not an insurmountable issue, it simply means that ice blocks have to be loaded into the icebox naked, and rather than meltwater being caught in a bin, is allowed to drain from the icebox...

....  into the (shallow) bilge.  Not ideal.

    At the beginning of this season, i redirected the drain into a catchbottle, which required emptying daily.  Again, not an insurmountable issue, but one more daily chore, albeit not onerous... unless you're away from the boat for more than a day in which case the catchbottle no longer catches and overflows onto the carpeted sole.

     Again, not ideal.

    Lastly, the shape of the icebox limited iceblock placement, which in turn limited food and beverage capacity.

     Yet again, not ideal.


     So, refrigeration became a topic of discussion.  Said discussion boiled down to:

     Will it fit?

     Will it work?

      Can we afford it?


     Will it fit?  Good question.  An S2 8.0C is a roomy boat with lots of storage, but just as the icebox is weirdly shaped , so are many of the lockers and bins.  Lots of research and measuring told me that installing a typical refrigeration system's compressor and condensor and stuff wasn't going to be simple or easy.  Measuring inside the icebox, and comparing cold plate sizes online,  our options were limited.

     Will it work?  Good question. Regular Readers know that we are off the grid on the Dock- no water, no shorepower.  Our electrical needs are supplied by our solar panels- so, anything electrical that we add to our boathome has to work within the restrictions of the available battery and charging capacity.

    Can we afford it?  Good question. Tallying the costs, we were looking at an expenditure of anywhere from $1200 to $2200.  Ouch.  This would be our first four-figure boat project in, like, ever.

    So, after pondering, we realized that we didn't think it would fit, weren't sure if it would work, and didn't figure we could afford it.

   Then I discovered the Dometic/Waeco/Adler-Barbour Coolmatic Cooling Conversion Kit.

   Note that last word.

  It's dreaded kit status notwithstanding, it seemed to tick all of our boxes-

   Dimensionally, it fit- instead of being a internal evaporator/external compressor/condenser set up, the Coolmatic is an all-in-one unit measuring about 10"  x 12".  Cut a hole in the side of the icebox, screw the unit in place, run some wires, done.

   That "about" becomes important later.

   It wasn't too taxing for our electrical system either- the advertised draw was 4 amps, with a 20-30% duty cycle.  In theory, that means it draws less than 1.5 amps per hour, and this would be the largest constant draw on the boat- our lighting is all LED, and the only other energy use is charging electronics. so our 120 watts of solar delivering an average of 60 amps/day should keep us ahead of the charging curve.

   It's not a cheap system, but at $799 (on sale), even with tax it didn't break the psychological 4 figure barrier.

   So, we pulled the trigger, and ordered one up from our friends at Binnacle.com .

    4 days later,  a day earlier than promised, a box showed up.




   Once unwrapped, our kit is revealed;






 Okay, looks pretty much plug-and-play.


 Here's the plan:  

 1.  Measure and mark the cutout in the side of the icebox.
 2.  Drill pilot hole.
 3. Cut out panel with jigsaw
 4.  fit cooling unit into hole.
 5.  Screw into place.
 6.  Wire into distribution panel.
 7.  Enjoy cold beverage.

  I figured it would be an hour's work, tops.

  SWMBO and I emptied the icebox of contents, transferring said contents to a cooler brought aboard expressly for this purpose, and I embarked on step 1.

  Jones's 4th Law of Boatwork- no plan ever survives past step 1 unchanged.

  My initial plan, based on the measurements I had taken before buying this kit, and the measurements quoted in all of the manufacturer's literature,  was to install the unit on the aft side of the icebox.  Now, with my new Coolmatic in hand, I discover that the aft wall of the icebox was 1/4"  too narrow.

  Well, shit. 

  Okay, so I need to mount it on the forward side of the icebox, and hopefully it will clear the sink and still have decent ventilation around the fan and cooling fins.  

  So, I careful trace the cut-out, according to the template included in the installation instructions, drill my pilot hole, and discover that the forward wall of the icebox is 4" thick...and my drill bit is 3 1/2" long.

  Well, double shit.

   Did I mention that I decided to jump into this endeavour during the hottest week of the summer?
At this point I am 2 hours in and soaked in sweat. Time to call it a day.

   Day 2, I cut out the inner wall of the icebox, gouge out all of the insulation ( this icebox has about 3" of insulation), then get out the sawzall  and carve out a hole in the panel between the icebox and the sink cabinet.  



 I gently slide the Coolmatic into the icebox...

  ... and it doesn't fit through the icebox opening.

   SHIIIITTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!

   Okay, new Step 4(a)- out comes the jigsaw, the ice box opening is enlarged (which means the icebox lid will no longer fit. Son of a ....)


  Now the Coolmatic will slide into the icebox...

....  but not slide into the freshly cut hole.  


   I am beyond profanity at this point.

   So, Step 4(b)- test fit, retrim, test fit, re-trim, test fit, retrim, testfit, retrim, testfit retrim, testfitretrimtestfitretrimtestfitretrimtestfit...  it FINALLY fits.

   I am now 6 hours total into this job, in 90 degree heat.  Look up "masochist" in the dictionary- See that picture?  That's not me, that's some other poor sap, because I was still installing a FUCKING REFRIGERATION "KIT"!!!

  Once the "kit" was installed, the rest was relatively straightforward- screw the reefer unit into place, seal it up with some caulking, trim the icebox shelf to fit and reinstall, clean everything up (again), wire it up, and put everything that came out of the icebox back into the icebox...



   ...Then build a new icebox lid.  I repurposed a cutting board, added some styrofoam insulation to the underside and some foam weatherstripping, and called it done.

    


    From start to finish, I had 9 hours into the job, over 3 days. 

     (To be fair, Dockneighbour Frank bought the same unit after seeing ours, and he DID get his installed on his O'day in under an hour. Having a uniform sized icebox with a big lid and easy access makes a ton of timesaving difference.)

   But, the end result is worth it.

  This unit is quiet.  It is quieter than the fridge in our kitchen at SJM.  Power consumption seems to be in line with specs.  In the spring I will rework the lid/opening flange to get a better seal, and add some more foam board to the lid for better insulation. The contents of our reefer (can't call it an icebox any more)  are kept acceptably cool, with the dial set to 4, but adding a little insulation and improving the seal can't hurt.

I'd do it again.  we now have more room in our chillybox, no more lugging ice, and no catchbottles to drain daily.

The economics are subjective, and a bit of a toss-up.  In the short term, it doesn't make sense, from a cost-savings standpoint.  A block of ice would last three days in our icebox on average, and if there were serious perishables onboard, we would load in two blocks at a time. At $3/block, call it $150/season.  Over 10 years, however, assuming the cost of ice doesn't rise or drop, that's $1500 that we don't have to spend on ice, by spending $800 (plus tax) on a refrigeration "kit"  So, long-term, it makes sense.

 It also means that, while our current electrical system is keeping up,  I am now considering adding a second house battery and another solar panel, just in case. 

  But, that's another project, for another day.

Merry Christmas, everyone.