November 15, 2017 - March 3, 2018



* EW Becomes A Macerator-Free Zone

* Haunting Beauty Of New Zealand's West Coast

* Arriving In The US With A Bang (Several Bangs, Actually...)

* Special Gift From Cruising Friends -- Five Star Dining On EW


Now that we were back in New Zealand, we get to return to our absolutely favorite subject –– fixing the boat...


November 15, 2017 - December 25, 2017

We Change Our First Fuel Filter In Four Years

The trip from New Cal went pretty smoothly. Our biggest problem came after we had cleared in, and started to move down the coast. We actually plugged a fuel filter.

This is news because the last time we changed a fuel filter was in 2013! And because there are two filters in the installation, this particular filter had been mounted since 2011.

What follows is boat stuff -- but very important boat stuff.

It was so old that it had started to rust. And these are 2 micron filters –– about the most demanding fuel filters available. So in theory, they should get plugged all the time. (Yanmar actually recommends using 30 micron filters here, to avoid fuel starvation. We do carry a few 30 micron filters, but we never use them.)


We have a double fuel filter installation, with a vacuum gauge on it –– so it's very easy to identify and fix this kind of problem before it bogs the engine down. We just switch to the other filter and keep right on motoring. We can change the plugged filter at our leisure.


And the 10 micron engine-mounted Yanmar filter –– that thing never gets changed. We're still using the original filter which came with the engine in 2010! Because it sits downstream of the Racor filters, which have a finer mesh, it just never sees any dirt.

Why do this?

Well, we never want to change the engine mounted filter because that's a big mess which involves stopping the engine for at least 15 or 20 minutes, and then bleeding the injectors to get it started again.

With the Racors we can just switch to the other filter without stopping the engine. And, provided that you fill the new Racor canister with fuel, there's no need to bleed the injectors.


So how do we get away with this?

We have three secrets. First, the vacuum gauge on the Racors allows us to see a problem the minute it occurs.


Second, we have a really good fuel polishing system. Dashew boats are built with sumps in the bottom of the fuel tanks. Any water or crud on the bottom of the tank naturally migrates into the sump as the boat moves around.

We took feeds from each of the sumps and ran them to this giant Racor filter, powered by a Walbro fuel pump. So we can pull fuel out of the bottom of either tank, filter it, and return it back into either tank. (The fuel sumps have valves which stay closed except when the polisher is running -- to prevent the danger of draining the tanks into the bilge.)

We use 2 micron filters here, but these filters are so huge that we only change them about every other year. Again, a vacuum gauge tells us when we need a change.

This system avoids the traditional problem with marine fuel tanks, where the crud accumulates in the bottom of the tank, below the level of the fuel pickup. That crud will lie harmlessly until you get into rough conditions –– and then it will get stirred up and plug your filters at the worst possible time. We know many sailboats that have become disabled this way –– losing their engine and their ability to make electricity.


Finally, we have these "H2O No" canisters of desiccant material installed in the fuel tank vent lines. Without these canisters, moist air moves into the fuel tank at night, when the air in the tank gets cold and contracts. And then the moisture condenses out on the walls of the tank.

Diesel-eating bacteria need water to live, so it's critical to keep water out of the tanks. (Most of the crud in the bottom of fuel tanks are the tiny carcasses of dead bacteria -- who have died happily of old age after gorging themselves on your fuel.)

This desiccant turns red as it gets wet. When it starts to look red, we take it out of the canister and pop it in the microwave, which drives off the moisture, turning the desiccant blue again.


Eagle's Wings Becomes A Macerator-Free Zone

The Dashew boats use pumps to drain all of the showers and sinks. We pump gray water out of the main compartment, through watertight bulkheads and into standpipes forward and aft. (With no holes in the main compartment, the boats theoretically can't sink because of a blown hose clamp.)

Sundeer boats used Jabsco macerator pumps for these purposes. At one point Eagle's Wings had SIX of these pumps installed, including the two which drained the two black water holding tanks.

Honestly, these things were a nightmare.


Their rubber impellers would fail very quickly if they ran dry, or even if they sucked a mixture of water and air. Imagine trying to use a pump like that to get all the water out of the shower stall...


Over the years, Ken has serviced macerator pumps over 30 times. And it's not like he enjoys the experience –– gray water pumps are bad enough, but just imagine what the black water pumps are like!

At one point we carried 20 spare impellers, 72 spare paper gaskets, and about a dozen lip seals for the macerator pumps. Plus at least three brand-new spare pumps.


Over the last five or six years, we have been gradually replacing our macerator pumps (and also many of our bilge pumps) with Whale Gulper pumps. (This is the bilge pump model.)


These things don't have quite the flow rate of the macerators, but they use great big diaphragms, with great big one-way valves, and they are just really robust. Whale has an online video which shows their black water pump passing whole sponges -- and even an orange -- through the pump mechanism without clogging. And they can pump air without blowing up.

We now have six of these Whale pumps installed, some for as long as seven years, and –– knock on wood –– we haven't needed to service one yet!

(And they are quiet, whereas those macerators make lots of noise.)


When we sailed into New Zealand this year we had one macerator pump left in service –– draining the galley sink, where it acted like a mini garbage disposal.

And here's what the impeller (or what's left of it) looked like when we opened it up.

Ken just threw up his hands, pulled it out, and put in another Whale pump. So now we are a MACERATOR-FREE ZONE!


If you don't want to spend your whole life doing maintenance on a cruising sailboat, you need to look for solutions to the underlying problems –- not just Band-Aids.


Of course there are the yearly maintenance projects that we can't avoid -- like servicing the winches.

Here Beth paints Tefgel -- a wonderful product for preventing corrosion –– onto the aluminum base of our Lewmar winch.


Beautiful New Zealand

This year we swore to do something in New Zealand besides just work on the boat. So we took a trip to the West Coast of the North Island for some landscape photography.

We figured the West Coast would give us some beautiful sunset pictures. (Of course we could have tried to get sunrise pictures here in Whangarei –– since we are close to the East Coast –– but Ken is a little challenged about getting up that early in the morning.)

So we took a trip to the Hokianga Bay on the West Coast. And wouldn't you know it? We got solid clouds the whole time. Absolutely no sun…

But we still got some interesting images. We'll just put them out here without comment...

















Well, maybe we will make two comments. Ken ended up thinking that the landscape pictures looked better in black and white. And the flower pictures were all taken without a tripod, outside, in full daylight. Inserting a portable black background sheet behind the flower really helps.


Oh, and while we were wandering around on the beaches, we found a piece of rigging from an old wrecked sailing ship. It looked just like the chain plate and block in this picture from a museum in Dargaville. These old pieces of wreckage can lie under the beach for a century, and then get exposed by the shifting sands of time.

And can you believe that we didn't recognize what it was? And didn't even take any pictures! Man, that would've been a great foreground object for a landscape picture on the coast. Oh well…


December 26, 2017 - January 21, 2018

Coming Home With A Bang. And A Crash. And A Rending Screech. (Or: Beth Plays Bumper Cars...)

We went back to the US earlier than normal this season, to attend the wedding of a dear family member –- our sister-in-law, Cindy, who was married to Beth's brother, Mark, before he passed away in 2004. Cindy and her fiancee, John, had planned an end of the year wedding.

We got a direct flight from Auckland to Houston –– about 15 hours in the air. Then we spent the night in Houston to get over our jet lag, caught a morning flight to Chicago, rented a car and started to drive up to Wisconsin for the first visit in our trip.

As we began to approach the Wisconsin border, Ken got sleepy. Beth felt fine so she took over the driving.

And then we both woke up about 30 minutes later at exactly the same moment –– as a car plowed through a sign and bushes in front of a little wine and cheese shop/casino/restaurant.

Here's the crime scene the summer before (from an internet photo). The small sign on the right had our names on it...


Here's what was left of the smaller sign and bushes. At least we picked on the little sign –– that other one looks pretty solid. You can see our path from the tire tracks in the snow.


Looking back the way we came. The road took a bend. We didn't…


Beth then experimented (involuntarily) with how many cars she could hit at one time. First we hit that tan car on the right side of the photo.


That car (a Camry) had been parked parallel to all the other cars with an empty space between it and the next car. We hit it on the tail and spun it around into the front of the truck parked next to it.


Then we clipped the tail of the same truck, although that big Nissan was so solidly built that you can hardly see the damage.


But we hit it hard enough to extend the springs on the truck sideways and bounce it into the little Chevy next to it.


And fortunately, that's where the chain reaction stopped. The next car in line avoided damage by about 6 inches.


Can't say the same about our rental car.


Amazingly enough, we didn't even deploy the airbags –– it turns out that if you bounce off of enough cars, you can come to a very gradual stop, even from highway speed.

We were both fine.

Beth stayed in the car calling all of the appropriate authorities –– the police and at least three different insurance companies.

And, of course, the car rental company. "We're having a little problem with your car" :-)

Meanwhile, Ken got out and did crowd control, as people started coming out of the little restaurant/store to discover that their cars were all smashed up. He managed to diffuse things pretty well –– people really respond if you say "yeah we did this, but we're going to pay you back".

And that "the important thing was that we didn't hurt anybody" –– that idea brings people back to earth.

Everybody was pretty nice. One lady got a bit irate at first and wanted to know why Beth was driving if she was asleep. Ken said "Well, I don't think it was part of the plan..." And the lady calmed down.

And we were really fortunate not to hurt anybody. The only traumatized party was a small dog who had been in the Chevy. Our insurance had to pay for cleaning up the mess after the dog peed in the car.

Enterprise would have given us a replacement car out of Milwaukee -- and a ride in the tow truck to get there. But that would have taken so long that we would have missed seeing our godson, Greg, in Madison, who was only there for one more night. So Greg and his father Tim, drove all the way from Madison to rescue us. This isn't the first time that our very good friend Tim has saved our bacon.


The rental car in car repair purgatory.


The Insurance Companies Really Came Through

We can't say enough about the insurance companies. We had a "non-owned" auto policy with State Farm Insurance, which covers damage to other vehicles, people, and property. State Farm stepped right up and paid for all the damage to all the cars and signs that we hit.

Also, State Farm just HANDLED this for us –– contacting all of the injured parties, and making arrangements for all the repairs. That's a critical service in a case like this. The person we dealt with was helpful, professional and nice about it.

The State Farm policy did not cover our rental car, as the policy only covers liability. And we had purposely not taken the rental car insurance, since that would almost double the cost of the rental...

Instead, we had relied on our Chase Visa card which (at least in the case of the card that we have) provides rental car collision coverage automatically when we use the card to pay for the rental –– as long as we decline the rental car company's insurance. And Chase came through for us.

So, all told, we came out of this thing okay. Could've been a lot worse.

We've been saying that we need to return to the United States to live while we still have enough energy left to make some impact. This wasn't quite what we had in mind…


And we still got to the wedding on time! We are so happy for Cindy and John!


We will pass over the rest of our very pleasant, but short visit back to the US. We returned to New Zealand toward the end of January.


January 22, 2018 - March 3, 2018

Back To New Zealand

And now we were running as fast as we could to get all of our boat work done.

Ken shows off a little manifold that he made up to help bleed the autopilot hydraulic system.


While Beth dismantles some old hard drives –– so that the Russians can't get hold of them. You can't be too careful these days…


But we got out to play a little bit. Here's the scene in our favorite Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day.


A Five-Star Dining Experience On Eagle's Wings

And we had one really special event back at the boat. Earlier in the season we had given our friends Matt and Elizabeth on "Rubicon" an especially good deal when they bought our standup paddleboards.

So they insisted on cooking a fancy dinner on Eagle's Wings.

Keep in mind that Elizabeth is a professional chef with thousands of hours of training and many years of experience. Matt is also a professional chef -- but this was Elizabeth's show.


Here's the evening's menu –– printed up on fancy paper.


Elizabeth asked us if we wanted to invite another couple, so we invited our friends Art and Nancie from "Second Wind" to share in this windfall.


Here's the starter –– those are quail eggs.


The soup course.


The main event –– a duet of New Zealand lamb and venison.


And for dessert a poached pear with caramel and toasted almonds. And those are chocolate leaves, which Elizabeth molded from real mint leaves.


And not only did Elizabeth cook this amazing meal, but Matt cleaned up all the dishes.

We had one of those special life-time events. Thank you Matt and Elizabeth.