A Marathon of Modifications

September 14 – December 17, 2015: In the Philippines, cruising season is typically December to May and rainy season lasts from about June through September. October and November can be a little iffy, and go either way. Chris had five weeks off starting in September and another four weeks off from the middle of November. It was time for us to tackle a whole suite of maintenance issues, upgrades and new projects to get MOKEN ready for our 2016 cruising season. The list seemed daunting. Here’s what we did.

Chris took on the vast majority of the work himself. Occasionally we hired contractors for specialty work like stainless fabrication, fiberglassing, painting and upholstery work. We asked the guys from the dock for help when we needed extra muscle or a spare pair of hands. And I took on tasks such as coordinating help, ordering parts, running errands, fetching tools, sewing, taking photos, exchanging money to pay the bills and generally trying to stay out of everyone’s way.

In the Engine Room
Chris spent a lot of time working in the engine room during the rainy days of September. Much of this involved the generator. Earlier this year, he took the water lift muffler and gas/water separator out, painted them and made new stainless mounts. Now it was time to put it all back together, make a few improvements and service it for future use. He removed the generator bypass filter, cleaned the heat exchanger, changed the raw water pump impeller, substituted a new stainless exhaust elbow for a cracked cast one, relocated exhaust lines and replaced them all with Trident silicone hoses, swapped out numerous clamps and replaced the coolant.

Other projects in the engine room included replacing the two main engine and one generator starter batteries with blue Optima batteries we had shipped from Canada, mounting a Reverso oil change pump and repairing a leak in the main engine muffler drain.

Up next in the engine room, Chris plans to finish the installation of the Reverso oil change pump to make oil changes easier.

Water Systems
About a year ago, we swapped out the aft grey water sump and pump with a new Whale Gulper. The old pump was located inside the sump box and had a manual float switch that tended to gum up over time and refuse to activate the pump. The result was an occasional overflow of shower water into the rear bilge and a messy clean up. The new Whale Gulper has been working great so we purchased a second one in Canada and Chris replaced the forward sump and pump too, after having a custom mounting bracket made. Now, we don’t expect to have any more problems with condensation from the air conditioners overflowing into the forward bilge. Fingers crossed. The forward bilge pump float switch was also replaced as it had been damaged during one of the bilge’s many cleanings.

In other water system repairs, I replaced a faulty forward head faucet, Rolly (our regular maintenance helper when Chris is away) replaced a broken dock water connection, and Chris replaced a faulty fresh water pump.

Our next water projects will likely be the installation of a deck shower on the aft marina deck and fixing our salt water anchor chain washdown system so it doesn’t leak. But those are not high up the priority list at this time.

When we purchased MOKEN, it came with some LED, some fluorescent and some halogen lights. We’ve been slowly swapping over all the halogen lights for LED to reduce our energy consumption. This will make a big difference once we are off the grid.

We had previously switched the engine room lights to LED, but one had since malfunctioned. We obtained a warranty replacement on our trip to Canada over the summer and this was replaced. Chris also added fluorescent lighting over the work bench in the engine room. An LED light in the forward cabin also needed to be replaced.

On our last trip home, we purchased new LED lights for use as task lighting under the cabinets in the galley (4), to replace a halogen light in the electronics cabinet (1), to replace the rear deck spreader lights (2), and to replace the lights in the pilothouse (3). The latter lights can now switch from white light to red light, depending on whether or not we need to maintain our night vision. The spreader lights are amazingly bright.

On our trip to the boatyard in China in September, we picked up new LED lights for the salon (6) and heads (4) and these took the place of the older halogen style.

Our next lighting projects will involve replacing existing halogen lights in several of the interior cabinets with LED strip lighting and installing a new LED light on the underside of the new cockpit bimini. At some point in time, we’d also light to swap out the halogen reading lights for LED models.

Solar Project & Wiring
While LED lighting will help reduce our energy consumption, solar power will help increase our available power without having to run the generator every day when we are away from shore power. It could also help reduce our power bills when we are at the dock. The price of electricity recently took a big jump at the Subic Bay Yacht Club.

With the bimini frame installed just before Chris left for work in October (see previous post), it was time to get started on the bimini top and run the wiring for the solar system.

We hired Tony, a local contractor, to construct a fiberglass top using a honeycomb polymer instead of a plywood core. It is lightweight and flexible to work with and becomes very strong once it has been fiberglassed. On the day Chris returned from work in November, Tony and his crew arrived to do a try fit. Three panels roughly four feet by eight feet had been joined together and shaped into a camber to match the curve of the pilothouse roof. Now it had to be marked to cut it to the final shape and identify the mounting points for reinforcement. Tony’s crew then took it back to his shop for final fiberglass work, prep and painting.

While we waited for the final delivery of the finished top, Chris began running wires from our newly-mounted Outback solar charger to the batteries and on to the pilothouse roof where they will eventually connect to the solar panels. It may sound simple, but running wires on a boat is anything but.

The charger unit was mounted in a closest at the far aft end of the boat in the master cabin. From here, the wires were fed through conduits under the bed to the batteries. That’s where things got interesting. From there, they ran through the bilge, up through the pantry, in behind the fridge, into the engine room, up into the pilothouse and finally through a new hole drilled through the pilothouse roof and up and out through a stainless wire feed. Finally, after about five days of work, with the assistance of Rolly and JB who helped get the wire in through the tightest of spaces, the wiring was complete and the boat was put back together again.

Running the wires gave me a chance to take all the food out of the pantry and sort through it, and to clean behind the fridge. It’s amazing how much cat hair found its way back there.

Work on the bimini top was taking longer than we anticipated. Chris had hoped to have it in place at least one week before heading back to work so he would have time to install the solar panels and connect the wiring. However, painting started late and curing was taking a little longer than expected. Final delivery was pushed to Monday.

In the end, the top arrived early Tuesday morning and Tony’s guys helped with the installation, finishing just as Typhoon Melor (local name Nona) arrived and dumped rain on us for the next three days. With time and the weather conspiring against us, it was not possible to mount and connect the solar panels before we left on Friday.

So that will be priority number one when Chris is back on MOKEN at the end of January. In the meantime, our four new 200-watt solar panels are sitting in the salon.

Outside Projects
The bimini top wasn’t our only outside project.

If you’ve been following along, you already know about our new Bullfrog dinghy that arrived in October in our shipment from Canada (see previous post). Chris worked with the stainless fabricators and with a little advice from Nick, a fellow Canadian cruiser off our neighbouring boat Star Gazer, we perfected the davit mounting system and added webbing to the mix. The triple blocks make the dinghy super easy to lift, even without using the winches. The webbing and a couple of spring lines secure it fast. Now it won’t be a chore to lift the dinghy each night, a precaution if we want to avoid theft of opportunity.

With the dinghy lifting technique perfected, the next biggest hurdle was dealing with the outboard engine. Our 15hp Yamaha needs the occasional tweaking. After it sits for any length of time, the mix of oil and gasoline gums up the carburetor and needs cleaning. It’s also cumbersome to lift between the rail mount and the dinghy each time we want to use it. We had a lifting strap on the outboard, but I’m not one for putting a lot of faith into a few pieces of webbing that have been sitting in the tropical sun for an extended period of time.

We opted for two concurrent solutions. We bought a second smaller outboard (a lighter Mercury 5HP two stroke with a long shaft) that will be perfect for short trips in the dinghy and Chris had some outboard lifting mounts fabricated and installed on our heavier Yamaha 15HP outboard to make lifting more secure. We are also getting some new rail mounting brackets made for each outboard. My contribution to the whole process was making a Sunbrella cover for the new Mercury.

With our cockpit area coming together, it was time to recover our cockpit cushions. This was an upholstery project beyond my sewing skills so we hired a local contractor to make new beige Sunbrella covers for us. At the same time we had him add an extra layer of foam to the seat cushions to make them more comfortable to sit on. Or sleep on. The cockpit turns into a full size bed with the addition of a centre board and two more cushions. In the meantime, I made a few colourful coordinating throw cushions out of some outdoor fabric I selected in Canada last year.

We have to keep on top of the paint on MOKEN and always be on the lookout for any rust spots that may develop. Our painting contractor, Oliver, did a few external touch-ups and reapplied anti-skid on the foredeck that had been discoloured by some previous paint work. We also had Oliver paint our external PA horn and porthole screen rings, paint our replacement starboard outer deck step and paint the four marina deck steps with four different green shades in order to decide which of the greens we want to use for MOKEN’s hull in future. Anti-skid was also applied to each of the steps for traction before Chris installed them.

Way back in 2012, we shipped a large fiberglass deck box from Canada which we intended to mount on the aft deck. It’s designed to hold propane tanks and we thought it would make a great BBQ station for our new Dickinson stainless marine BBQ. Before we could get to this point, we had to wait until we had the deck repainted last year. Recently, we made some modification to the box and got it painted. With that work complete, Chris designed and had some stainless mounts fabricated. The day before he flew back to work in December, he installed the box on the deck. The plan is to safely and securely store the BBQ inside the locked box, out of the weather.

Last but not least, Chris relocated our man-overboard pole to make room for our new wind generator (a future project), we had the last of our exterior hatch handles polished and after three years we made the MOKEN name truly official by finally placing it on the stern.

What’s next? We’re waiting on our new rail mounts for the outboards and final modifications to the inside of the deck box. I’ll be working on our Sunbrella side canvas to modify the existing pieces to fit better. There’s also a new Viking life raft waiting for us in Hong Kong. Once we retrieve that, we’ll figure out where we want to mount it. Further down the line we’ll be installing our wind generator and designing some shade cloth for the fore deck and around the cockpit area. The list of projects seems endless.

Electronics & Navigation
At the same time as Chris was running wires for the solar system, he also ran other wires for a new AIS antenna, a second VHF antenna, video cameras and a new light for the cockpit area.

He mounted the new AIS receiver and removed the old fiberglass AIS antenna and installed a new one. In order to do so, he changed locations (to make room for the wind generator) and installed two antenna mounts on the dinghy davits. The second mount will be for our new VHF antenna, which should be on its way from Australia.

Re-installing and testing the autopilot components was also on the list. We had disassembled and taken the GPS compass to ComNav in Canada this summer for testing and they couldn’t find anything wrong with it. As it turns out, a corroded connection was the problem. I’m happy to report that it is now working great.

Our Suunto wet compass was not working so Chris decided to move it higher and modify the teak mount in the pilothouse where it sits. On our next cruise, we’ll find out if the mods were a success.

Chris has a lot more projects on his wish list in this area but most of them will have to wait until our next project marathon next fall.

The Other Projects that Don’t Quite Fit Anywhere Else
I’ve already reported that we replaced the helm chair with a new STIDD chair (see previous post). Since then, I made a Sunbrella chair cover to protect it from Nukaat’s claws.

We had a local company come in and service our three air conditioning units. When Chris was doing the wiring for the solar system, he came across the air conditioner pump manifold and decided it needed replacement. It would have been a big mess if that had failed.

We also shipped off all six of our scuba tanks to Manila for hydrostatic testing.

Sadly, we’ve found that some marine parts just don’t seem to be built to last. Chris changed our relatively new port salon and aft stateroom fans that had ceased to work with replacement fans we purchased this summer in Canada. He was also able to repair our new salon clock that had stopped working with parts obtained from the manufacturer.

Next up, I’ll finish replacing the screen material for our porthole screens and we’ll install our new Edson wheel, which we just ordered.

Whew, that was a busy time and we accomplished a lot. We had hoped to get out on MOKEN for a few days before Chris had to go back to work, but the marathon of projects took longer than we anticipated. But that doesn’t mean it was all work and no play. We managed to get out of town on a couple of road trips, once going north to Pangasinan province and Bolo Beach and once heading south to Mariveles. Maybe I’ll tell you about that next time.


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