Saturday, May 16, 2020

Repairing the Raymarine ST1000+ Tiller Pilot

Dismantled tiller pilot.

I have been using the ST1000 since June 2013 (around 7 years) and have logged around 3,700 nautical miles in that time, most of it on autopilot. I have tried to be easy on it by not expecting it to deal with heavy helm or crazy running conditions. The Tiki is also a very light boat, contributing to my expectation that the tiller pilot has had a relatively easy life.

Broken ram seal housing (Xyzzy: Sailing Anarchy).

Recently it became clear that there was a water ingress issue as the LED screen was cloudy, or cutting out, and was not clearing up after a drying period between sails.

I disassembled the tiller pilot (top picture) and found two issues: the ram seal housing was broken, and the rubber ring and gasket that cushion the ram at maximum and minimum travel had disintegrated. I repaired the housing before taking pics, so the pic above is from another on Sailing Anarchy. My housing was broken on both sides, not just one side as shown here.

Arrows show G/flex glued fillets.

To repair the housing, I assembled it on its steel carrier and glued it with thickened West Gflex epoxy. I don't consider this a permanent repair and expect that it will fail sooner or later. I think that the broken housing allowed water to get past the seal, explaining the fogging of the LED screen.

Reassembling with the repaired seal housing in place.

I brushed down the electrical control board with alcohol and a toothbrush and removed some obvious spots of corrosion. I then let it dry for several days under a lamp, and also to let the Gflex set good and hard.

Electrical board refitted.

The rest of the tiller pilot did not show any obvious signs of wear and tear. The gearbox cogs and belts seemed to be operating OK. I reassembled the pilot taking extra care to replace the case seal without pinching it. The case seal had aged and was too long (stretched?) to fit neatly in the grooves, so I put it into the freezer for an hour to shrink it, and that did the trick. See videos below for testing after reassembly. The pilot is fully functional again

Testing the switch functions.

Testing the fluxgate compass in "auto" mode.

Close up of drive belts in operation.

So here is the thing: the reason the seal housing was broken and that the rubber gasket stops were mincemeat is that Raymarine does not install ram travel cut-out switches in the ST1000 and 2000. So when the ram reaches the extent of it's travel it just mashes into each end of the tiller pilot assembly. The motor and gearing are stronger than the construction of the seal carrier housing and it bends the mounting plate and breaks the housing. To me this is incredible, but is common knowledge to longterm users of these products, and clearly Raymarine. I share the amazement of many folk online who have shared their experiences about the demise of their tiller pilots! It is even more surprising in that the engineering standard of the pilots seems high overall - I guess that the cost of adding ram travel limits to the design was just too much for them to remain profitable. Anyway, if you have an ST 1000 or 2000, DON'T LET IT RUN OUT TO MAXIMUM TRAVEL in either direction if you want it to last. However, it has worked flawlessly for 7 years and nearly 4 thousand miles, so maybe that is a return on the original investment?

Voila! Ready to go again.

I don't know how long my repair will last, but fingers crossed for 12 months or so to build up the boat budget for a new pilot. I have done lots of online research and found that the Simrad 22 and 32 pilots have a ram position sensor that stops the motor at full travel. This is probably where I'm headed for a replacement, but it is too pricey at the moment.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Great Spots: Bonita Cove

In the time of the Corona virus, I have been lucky to be able to sneak away and get some fresh air and sunshine - to "shelter in place" in a nice place, as it were.

Little Cat Too in the Golden Gate Channel (essential for gentle exploration and pictures of the Mothership).

Bonita Cove is the last rest stop before you head out into the Gulf of the Farallones, a place of refuge when it is inclement "outside", or a beautiful destination in of itself.

Bonita Cove, Golden Gate.

The prevailing winds on the coast here are NE, so Bonita Cove is usually a place of refuge. In winter, there are periodic blows from the South, but by and large you will find an anchorage in most conditions.

Marin Headlands behind.
On this day, the temperatures were Winterish but warm in the direct sun.

Pt Bonita (Lighthouse), Bonita Cove.

A great spot to take a row ashore at the old Life Boat Station, take some pics of a cute boat at anchor, or read a book.

Bonita Cove, zoom out.

Making way out to Pt Bonita, Golden Gate.

Friday, March 13, 2020

New Rig #2 Synthetic Chainplates

Wharrams don't have conventional chain plates of course, but you know what I mean. The chain plates on a regular sail boat anchor the shrouds to the hull. On Tiki Wharrams, the shrouds terminate in a heart eye, and are then lashed around an anchor pad glued and screwed to the hull. The lashings are also used to tension the rig, in conjunction with the forestay lashing (or bottle screw in the case of Little Cat). I found in practice that the lashings were difficult to tension and caused maintenance problems in that they were hard to keep clean, and were messy and unsightly.

Shroud base

My solution was to use a 3/16 synthetic dyneema loop with a large sailmaker's eye to take care of the anchor pad to shroud anchor, and then to have a simpler lashing between the two eyes (see picture below). This works really well, and is neater, and simpler to tension. I have put 500 nautical miles on these so far with no issues, and will update.

Shroud lashing

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Coastal Cruise to Santa Cruz

During the Big Refit I developed all sorts of elaborate plans to take a month off and run with the wind all of the way down the California coast to the Channel Islands (off Santa Barbara). In reality, I got one week and got as far as Santa Cruz (184 nautical miles return over seven days).

Red is heading South to Santa Cruz, and blue is the return trip.

On a Saturday in November I started my trip by heading offshore with the idea that I might get a big run, to who knows where, down the coast. Once clear of the coast, the NW winds filled in and we got some nice sailing in the Southern Shipping Channel. By late afternoon, the wind had decreased and I ended up going all the way back to the coast for an overnight at Pillar Pt Harbor in Half Moon Bay (45 nautical miles that day).

A bit close to Franklin Pt.

Got away a bit late on Sunday for the next leg to Santa Cruz. The NW winds did not fill in until after lunchtime at which point we were leaving the south end of Half Moon Bay astern. We hoisted the small spinnaker and made some good progress gybing downwind. It was very foggy so only saw the coast once gybing about 0.5 miles off the coast north of Pigeon Pt. The wind started to get sporty so dropped the spinnaker and then put a reef into the main and jib. Got distracted so doing and ran across the kelp on the North approach to Pt Ano Neuvo. This was a bit silly and I should have been checking my navigation as I could not see anything in the fog even though the shore was less than 1/2 a mile away at the closest (see above). We headed sharply out to sea and around Ano Nuevo which was completely hidden in the fog.

Then followed a long run with just a reefed jib to Santa Cruz. The wind had built stronger than forecast to around 20 knots from astern. I could have carried more sail but was tired and didn't want to get wet. Still, we were making 5 knots with the reefed jib and I was hunkered down in the cabin under my canvas cover. In the last couple of hours into SC the wind reversed direction into a 15-20 knot head wind with a nasty short chop and rain. This was a bit much after a long day and I huddled peering out of the little windows in my canvas cabin cover in the dark trying to see if we were going to get run down by a fishing boat. I had the comfort of the new super bright LED masthead tricolor and the wireless AIS that I had installed during the Big Refit.

Finally got around the point into SC and anchored for the night next to the Pier. Not a great nights sleep because of the tremendous racket made by the seals (52 nautical miles that day).

The new three-sided deck tent.

The next day (Monday), we checked into the SC Small Boat Harbor. What a beautiful spot for visiting cruisers! We got an end tie for the night, one down from the huge Team O'Neill catamaran that operates out of SC. We made an asymmetric sight on adjacent jetties - big cat, very little cat. I also got to take some pics of my new deck tent set up. I finished Stage One a while back comprising a simple boom tent using an extending boat hook as "the boom". This was great in hot weather, but much to be desired in a breeze or rain. So, Stage Two was enclosing one end of the tent with zippered doors and windows (so that I can see anything coming when anchored).

Because the boat is usually swinging on the anchor, the closed side is always to windward and three sides is all you need. It is really snug and gives a relatively huge area to live in when anchored. It provides complete shelter from the wind and rain as long as it is swinging in the wind.

Once settled in, I took a long walk around Santa Cruz, including the beaches and Pier. Found a nice bar to have pizza and beer and it tasted amazing, as it always does after a couple of days camp cruising.

Then it was a snug night under the awning. It was early winter and not exactly tropical, so I leave the gas stove running on low for hours at night. With three sides on the tent, there is no danger of asphyxiation, but have to use extreme caution in not burning the boat and oneself to death (two new fire extinguishers were included in the refit).

The three sided tent is awesome!

Tuesday saw us heading out of SC on the start of our return trip. Although there was an option to extend my trip down the coast for a few days, the weather forecast had changed and was predicting 10 - 12 foot swells and a 25 knot northerly by Friday. This gave me three days to get back to the Bay in more benign conditions.

Back into the fog.

Santa Cruz was fog free the two days we were there, but the fog reappeared heading up the coast and we were soon in low visibility conditions again. There was not much wind, and what there was was on the nose, so we motored for hours (with a little bit of unsuccessful trolling fishing thrown in), before pulling into the delightful anchorage at Pt Ano Nuevo (21 nautical miles for the day).

Down anchor at Ano Nuevo.

Ano Nuevo is the only anchorage sheltered from the prevailing Northerly flow on the coast between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. The bight inside the point itself provides lots of shelter, but also the dense kelp forests dampen any wave action that makes its way around the point.

If you look closely you can see Little Cat and the approaching fog bank.

We managed to get right inside the kelp beds off the beach, and let out a generous scope on the anchor for a secure night's rest. I had carted the little kayak all of this way with the intention of getting ashore somewhere, and now was my chance to use it. The only problem was a two-foot swell breaking on the beach. No problem I though to myself as a confident ex-surfer, sure that I could wait for a lull between sets to get ashore.

Returning to Little Cat.

It was not to be. I was laughably dumped over in the shore break fully clothed with all my wet weather gear and boots. I stood on the beach with my boots full of water and pondered my foolishness, but also managed to take a couple of photos. Cold, I decided that my adventure was over and that I should get back out to the boat to get my wet gear sorted out. I waited impatiently for a break in the surf, but not long enough, and immediately got tumbled again. I tried five or six further times to get through the surf and was spat off every time. I looked to the sea and noticed that thick fog was rolling in again with a vengeance and that it was getting late in the afternoon. If the fog came in before I got out, I might not be able to find the boat. The forecast was also for the swell to increase to five feet during the night, so the shore break was getting bigger, not smaller. Just as I was starting to contemplate a night on the beach, I lull allowed me to finally get past the shore break and out to the boat. I immediately rigged the tent, hung up layers of wet clothing, and started the stove to warm me and my gear up.

Passing the ruins on Pt Ano Nuevo.

The fog arrived half an hour after I returned to the boat and cut visibility to a few yards (whew). To cap it all off, I found during the night that my batteries were flat AND that my new LED tricolor and anchor light had failed. I found later that one of the wiring connections between the outboard alternator and the batteries had come apart unnoticed. I still haven't fixed the tricolor and will update later.

Tuesday morning saw us heading out around the striking ruins on Pt Ano Nuevo for the 30 nautical mile run to Pillar Point Harbor. There was a five foot ocean swell but the winds were still light so we motored most of the way. The wind did fill in coming into Half Moon Bay and so got a couple of hours sailing slow tacks to windward. We anchored close to the shore in shallow water in Pillar Point harbor, and had a cook-up with fresh vegetables (above). We were so close to shore that I had a conversation with a dog walker as it was becoming dark. I hung up all of the now-damp gear to dry with stove going late into the night again.

The best sailing of the return trip was the final run from Pillar Point Harbor back to the Golden Gate on Wednesday. The wind was blowing from the south at 10-15 knots and we sailed most of the way back, only firing up the engine as we ran into the outgoing tide at Mile Rock. By the time we reached Angel Island, I could see that the tide was going to be too low to get into Muddy Bay, so I decided to spend the last night anchored at Quarry Beach, Angel Island.

The next morning (Thursday), I was packing up and taking down the tent, when we were boarded by the Coast Guard. They seemed bemused by the Wharram with the tent up, but found that I had the correct flares, extinguishers etc. and then went on their way. It was a short 6 NM back to Big Muddy Bay for a total trip of 184 nautical miles.

Other Pics:

Little Cat, big cat.

Leaving Santa Cruz in the sunshine.

Ano Nuevo beach looking South with wet boots.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Not the Bahamas

You don't have to be in the Bahamas to get pretty extreme weather. Right here in San Francisco Bay we frequently get big winds. OK, I know its not hurricane weather, but we are used to very changeable weather in addition to the potent tides.

The Winter is often very calm (see above), but then punctuated by strong winds. Here in the Big Muddy Bay where Little Cat is anchored, we will see 50 knot gusts a couple of times a year, but we get 30 knots quite frequently.

The Northerlies are always the worst, and in Big Muddy they are onshore.

These pictures show Little Cat in the same spot in a Northerly blow. The wind is a steady 25 knots, gusting to 30 knots.

The anchor system is a bridle going to a heavy chain set between two anchors, and has always been reliable.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Ten Year Refit

Well! Finally got to go for a sail in November, nearly a year after I dropped the mast last December to put the boat up on the hard for painting.
Little Cat at Ano Nuevo in November 2019
The long time offline was because the boat was getting what turned out to be a pretty comprehensive refit after 10 years on the go since her launch. In the intervening 11 months, she has had:

- the repaint at Berkerley Marine Center that I have already posted on
- entirely new standing rigging
- a new mast and mast base
- refurbished gaff spar
- new windows (see previous post)
- a brand new mainsail from Rolly Tasker
- refurbished side decks(see previous posts)
- a redesigned anchor mount under the front beam
- a new rear net
- a new deck tent enclosure for cruising trips
- installation of new Lewmar deck hatches and refurbishing of the existing hatches and refitting with gas struts
- installation of fitted seats in both cockpit/cabins
- installation of Whale hand pumps in both hulls
- installation of grab handles inside and outside the cabins
- a new Fortress anchor to replace the one I broke at Muir Beach

In addition to that lot, I also did a great deal of wiring work, including fitting:

- wireless AIS
- a VHF/AIS antennae splitter for above
- a masthead LED tricolor
- internal switchable lights in the cockpits and cabins (including running power from the port to starboard hulls)
- water tight bulkhead fittings for the above
- internal 12v and USB outlets in both hulls
- a deck light
- two Blue Sea distribution panels
- a custom switch box

... and other stuff that I can't remember already, for sure.

Anyway, I will get around to making posts about some of these projects at some point in the future.

The Wireless AIS unit that I stalled and read using OpenCPN on my smart phone.

LED Tricolor from MarineBeam worked great for 2 weeks and then stopped working - more on that later.

Fitted a Whale Urchin bilge pump to each hull.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

New Side Decks

One of the jobs that was just too big to complete during the Winter re-paint was the side decks - that is, the center side decks.

Red arrows show where the center side decks are

The side decks are a part of the boat that take a real beating. They are the most stood on part of the boat. When you get in or out of the cabins or move around the center deck area, you are mainly on the side decks. These side decks are 10 years old (as is the boat now), and were epoxied but unglassed 1/4" inch marine ply. The plans call for a second narrower strip of ply down the center of each side deck to reinforce them, but the original builder had built two stringers underneath instead of the extra layer on top, which I like because it leaves them flat and the same height as the rest of the center decks.

Nice new coat of 6oz fiberglass

Over 10 years of use the side decks were pretty well banged up and had some surface cracking and checking, and it was time to replace or renovate. Of course I chose renovate as I always seem to do; the decks were still basically sound and just needed a bit of extra help. I started by stripping all of the old paint off down to the original epoxy layer. The next step was a 6 oz layer of glass on BOTH sides, with two further epoxy fill coats.

Underside of topcoated deck

With glass on both sides the decks are now super stiff, and it makes me wonder why glass coating on both sides, effectively turning the plywood into a core material, is not used as  a construction method more often. They are heavier, although not unduly so.

Topside masking up for anti-skid

The paint was next, and what a grind it is to do it properly. Two undercoats with Interlux Primekote, and three top coats with Interlux Brightsides. The five coats were all sanded between layers - lots of time. But wait, there is still the anti-skid to do. I used two coats of Interlux Interdeck after careful masking, and found it really easy to roll on in one go compared to my old method of sprinkling sand onto wet paint.

I also made substantial mods to the decks to make them more usable for my purposes (see above pic). I put new dyneema loops in (see previous posts) through the stringers - I use these for close windward sheeting of the jib, and also as anchor points to clip in my harness when it is rough. I added mahogany foot braces screwed through into the stringers. I have found that when it is very rough, you need somewhere to brace your feet. I also added new raised cleats that I can reach handily while sitting in the cabin/cockpits. I added a line of holes (back filled with solid epoxy) along the center edges that I will screw to the deck center section. The center section is now bolted to the front and rear beams. This final mod will make the hole deck area relatively rigid.

OK, lots of work, but the center side decks are now pretty much indestructible and will not need work for a long time.