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The oven!!

17 Sep

Ever since we bought Tango we’ve talked about installing an oven. We have dreamed and thought about it since 2011. We have a 1994 Tobago, and the 1995 version has a top shelf and an oven, so it never seemed that crazy. In Maryland, we had a cabinet maker mock up a design for the top shelf in cardboard, but after hounding him for a quote, he gave us a price so high we knew he didn’t want the job.

This world can be such an odd world when it comes to contractors…many times we have wanted to hire someone who didn’t care about the work. Guess it’s a good thing, as we’ve learned to do things ourselves, making us more self-sufficient.

Once we sorted the design, building it wasn’t as difficult as we thought. It’s taken all summer, but we finally have everything installed. The worst part was cutting through all the fiberglass to make an opening big enough. We also had a bit of a tricky time with the propane lines. We ended up running all new lines, which is a good thing anyway, as our existing lines were probably original to Tango.

We have baked a few things, and are quite happy to have an oven. Looking forward to more baked goods on these crisp, late summer evenings! Peyton has promised us cream puffs and dark chocolate croissants…

After…we even have a large opening left for all the pots and pans!

The galley before

New Battery…New Gadget

8 Apr

So, we’ve had our two starter batteries for going on six years now. They are pretty much knackered. However, since we haven’t really been cruising (or even leaving our slip) lately, we’ve just kind been rather Zen about the “knackeredness” of the batteries. Last week we decided to start the process of upgrading them. Since they are kind of spendy, we are just going slow and buying one at a time. Since the starboard engine compartment is a bit less cluttered, we decided on replacing that one first. All went well with the installation, with the notable exception that I broke my rib on the installation. Yes, you read that right. I broke a freaking rib installing a battery. The battery compartment is located below Madi’s berth and the only way I’ve found to remove and replace the starter battery is to lay down on my side and carefully lift the battery out of the compartment. Part of the problem is that there is really no way to stand up in the constrained space. Another problem is that it is hard to get any leverage to lift and lower the heavy batteries.

That last bit is what did me in. I was laying down on Madi’s wooden bed support and I used my upper body strength to manhandle the battery into place. As I lowered the battery, I guess I put too much weight on my rib cage and I heard a very audible “snap” and a shooting pain radiated in my chest area. Dang! I guess I need more calcium in my diet. Regardless, I muddled through and buttoned up the new battery install. It was nice to press the ignition button and have the engine starter consistently turn over and to have the engine fire up without issue.

While I was laying on my side contemplating whether I should go to the hospital and get hundreds of dollars in x-rays and have them tell me that there is really nothing they can do for a broken rib, (yes, this isn’t my first experience with this) I thought how neat it would be to have some sort of permanent voltage monitor for the starter batteries. We have a monitor for our house batteries, but we’ve always had to use a multimeter to check the voltage on our starter bank. The downside of that procedure is that, since it’s kind of a pain to rip everything apart and check the voltage, we never really ever do it. For the past few years all I could tell you about our batteries is that they still kind of work but I couldn’t tell you what the state of charge is.

Wanting an inexpensive solution I hopped online and looked around for voltage monitors. Marine battery monitors are more expensive than I really wanted to pay so I looked for other options. I finally settled on a small LED volt and amp meter that also has a little USB port. Cool! The price was around 14 dollars. In the world of marine parts, 14 dollars is peanuts. Seriously, I’m down with 14 dollars. Add onto that a little switch for about eight dollars and about 10 feet of AWG 14 wire and bingo, a pretty nifty little voltage monitor. It works great and, as an added benefit, we can also see if our alternator is pumping proper voltage into the system. It’s nice to be able to see a real time readout of the state of charge. I’ll definitely repeat this for our port engine

I’ll include links to the parts that I used below.

Here is the voltage meter.

Here is the push button switch.

Starter? I Hardly Knew Her.

24 Oct


From Andy,

Since the day we bought Tango we have always had a nagging problem with our ignition system. The two Yanmar diesel engines have both displayed the same crazy frustrating behavior. Turning the key an pushing the starter button always yielded varying degrees of success. Generally one would have to push the starter button around 15-20 times to finally hear the reassuring sound of the solenoid engaging the starter followed by the even more reassuring sound of the engines roaring to life. That nagging problem ended today. Well, on the starboard engine anyway.

Before we left Maryland we had a diesel mechanic come aboard and check out the engines. We told him about the issue and he kind of hmm’d and hawed, but couldn’t figure out what the problem was. We should have been persistent, but, I think at the time we just thought we could live with it. For the years that we have cruised on Tango, we have done just that. Lived with it. However, living with it has always kept me up at night. What if we are drifting towards a bridge or trying to get out of the way of an oncoming cruise ship? Pressing the starter button in the hopes that it would kick over is, ultimately, not a satisfactory answer when lives are at stake.

So, scouring the internet for many days, I finally came across a possible solution. Apparently there are two wires that run from the key switch and the starter button that tend to degrade quite badly over time. This degradation increases the resistance and when that happens, there are not enough amps to kick over the starter motor. Solution? Replace the two wires with some shiny new wires and a new 30 amp fuse.

Since running wires on Tango is a major pain in the arse, I started the experimental fix on the starboard engine first. (Why do they make some boats so hard to work on?) The run between the key switch and the starter is only a few feet on the starboard side and, within a few minutes I had the wires running from the source to destination.

Long story short, I just ran the wires along the pathway for the existing wires, cable tying as I went along. A few splices and connections later, the time came to test the system out. First press of the starter was a success. Could be a fluke, though. Second time? Success! Third, fourth and fifth time? Great success! The fix was remarkably easy and I feel stupid that I let self doubt of my abilities get in the way of fixing something important.

Bad Andy.


If you happen to have the same issue, here is a link to the original article that I used for this fix.


Now, on to the port engine. This one will be much trickier as there is quite a long and convoluted run from the ignition switch to the starter. Onward and upward, as they say.

Score – dodger zero, Robin one

21 Nov

The dodger almost beat me. In between ducking raindrops, I commandeered the whole galley to lay out pieces and set up the sailrite machine. I roped everyone onboard into helping hold pattern pieces and cut vinyl windshield sections. I fretted over the wet weather and the earlier sunsets. But, we prevailed and showed that dodger who is boss!

Poor Andy got the fun of taking out the old posts from the deck and installing the new keder rail. Butyl tape and 5200 are so much fun to play with, right?! As an aside, who puts 3/4 inch posts into a deck – especially where there will be mainsail folding action? We’ve lost count of how many foot injury and broken post accidents have happened over the years. One of our big changes in the new dodger was installing a keder rail track.

After the keder rail fun, the hardest part was keeping the pattern on the windscreen for protection while I was sewing. That stuff scratches quite easily! The port side went up quite nicely, and I got a bit cocky. Ms. Starboard wasn’t going to play as nicely. She decided to warble and not follow the pattern that Peyton and I so carefully created. So, I seam ripped and tightened, waited a few days for the rain to subside, and then seam ripped some more. The final tightening seems to have done the trick and finally the starboard side looks pretty good. Good enough for Tango anyway. If you get up close, you can see some less than professional bobbles, but I’m happy!


Next up – the full enclosure. I feel much more prepared to tackle this bit, as the sections are more or less flat rectangles that will just zip together.

Updating router firmware – boaty style

16 Aug

We installed a Wirie four years ago on our spreaders. A Wirie is a marine grade wireless booster and access point. It has performed admirably up until this past week.

This is what it takes to work on Tango’s internet.


Three haul-ups, a hard reset, and a firmware upgrade later we have concluded that the hardware has died and it’s time to upgrade. Maybe Christmas will come early for us this year?

Nice bilge pump

18 Jun

Curiously, our bilge pump started cycling too frequently, even without the ac draining into the hold. After some investigation we discovered the raw water filter filter basket (a thick hard plastic part) just disinigrated.

Must be original to the installation of our mermaid ac system!

Nice bilge pump (as we pet it lovingly)!


Tied up with string (not a favorite thing)

31 Jan

We decided to move Tango to a different marina with better docks. Ha! Sounds funny to say that…since until recently we never stayed anywhere for more than a few months at best. Now the we are settled in Portland, dock quality matters more. Our old marina has wooden docks with nails popping up everywhere and in the summer the docks tilt sideways (in serious need of dredging). We put up with that all last year, even losing shoe soles to popping nails. In December we decided to move off the end tie to a more protected slip. The end tie was great in a lot of ways, except for the debris that would occasionally slam into our hulls. Debris like logs, big logs, often with a diameter over two feet. Once we even saw a dock glide by just feet away. These things are concerning when your hulls are fiberglass. Andy’s makeshift boom helped, but things did sometimes come down partly submerged…and then BAM!

The more protected slip was okay, but overall the infrastructure issues started adding up. One of the final issues was the string that the harbormaster used to tie our 30 amp shore power lines to the outlets on the dock. He did this because they don’t lock in (if you don’t know much about marine power – the power cords twist and lock to protect them from pulling out and causing all kinds of issues). They don’t lock in because they are very old…and the marina isn’t required to upgrade. Something about being grandfathered into a code exception? That and the plugs were only a few inches above the water line… To be fair, we did have a better power situation at our other slip, it just came with logging trees.


River barge

Anyway, we made the move. A lovely day in January, and even a few other sailboats out practicing maneuvers. Only issue of the day was discovering one of our 50-foot 30 amp plugs decided to up and die. Good thing we unplugged to check! We had unplugged it (as our second system it’s not necessary) to use as an extension cord. Went to the boat bucks store to buy a replacement. Thought about getting a short one, but the 12-foot was only $10 cheaper than the 50-foot. Weird!


Bad, bad plug! Kind of looks like a smiling face…mocking us…


Stewsday cheaters

18 Nov

One week in, and we cheated and didn’t have stew on Stewsday. Why? We went out on a family date to see Big Hero 6 at our local brew pub. They had a very yummy blackberry hard cider on tap too! Next week we will pick up our stew sampling…

Meanwhile, all is cozy on Tango as we settle in for our first chilly fall in a few years. We even had a few snowflakes fall, but nothing stuck around.

Unfortunately, the starboard engine is puffing out blue smoke. After some TLC and an oil change, we still are seeing signs of oil leaking into the combustion system, so we have decided to bow out of the Christmas Ships this year. Kindly, one of the other boats has offered to let us tag along a few nights. So, while we will still get to do some Christmas shipping, it won’t be Tango style.

Guess this means some greasy hours in our future…but with thousands of hours on the engines we knew this was coming soon.

The price you pay

4 Oct

Sail off into the sunset with dolphins and adventure off our bow?

Do stuff like this?


Sailing on the Atlantic by moonlight

and this?

Mooring ball in Warderick Wells

and this?

White Cay anchorage

Who wouldn’t say yes! Well, what the brochures don’t say is that there is a price to pay that sometimes looks like this…

We had a feeling that something was bound to break soon. Too much had worked well for months now (including Steve the auto pilot). Friday morning our premonition became reality with the toilet deciding to back up.

After hours of trouble shooting and replacing easy parts we realized the backup was in a six-foot run of hose under the floor, up the wall, and behind the house batteries.


Snaking didn’t work either. Turns out that calcium carbonate deposits had rendered that length of hose pretty much inoperable.


Warning: grossness

After many hours of hose wrangling and detoxifying the boat we are happy to be functional again…but now we are scared to use it. Guess that’s one way to keep the system clean!

Using our noodle

25 Sep

Monday a large log with attached roots banged into us and sort of snagged between our two hulls. A nice powerboater happened by just when everyone piled out to peer at it, and he pulled it out for us. Thank you, mister mariner!

This logging prompted Andy to invent a new device to encourage debris to move along downstream and leave us alone. Although he’s looking for a few more noodles, it seems to be working well. We’ll see when the next big log comes down if this will be enough.


Patent pending of course…