Category Archives: Projects

Why so silent over here?

Things may have been quiet here on the Ariel site, but they’ve been humming – then lulling – then humming again over on my Morgan 30 site. If you haven’t checked it out, you may want to cruise on over to the Morgan 30 refit site. She’s for sale, by the way. Here’s the listing: Morgan 30 listing

Gotta pay if you’re gonna play

Just over a week into our summer cruise from St. Joseph to points north (we were hoping to make Mackinaw City) the transmission packed it in during our departure from Leland. With a dinghy in tow and a forecast for increasing winds and waves, I was motorsailing in the early-morning light winds when my wife and I heard a noise from below the cockpit that sounded a bit like cavitation. As the boat speed suddenly dropped off significantly, I began going through a mental checklist of possibilities. After confirming that the shaft and propeller were still where they should be, that the prop wasn’t fouled, and that the shift cable and lever were moving/engaging, I concluded that we’d “lost” the transmission.


Transmission packed it in just after leaving Leland. Fortunately, it didn’t quit a couple days before as we were entering in moderate seas, or the day of our departure. All in all, a good time for a transmission failure.

Although it clouded up as the day wore on, we had a beautiful sail up and over the Leelanau Peninsula and dropped anchor in Northport, a familiar harbor where we’ve spent some time on the hook. I immediately began making calls to figure out which was the better option: replace or rebuild. With a new transmission running about $1700 and a rebuild close to the same, the decision was obvious.


We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a pleasant sail north.


Preparing to round Cathead Point.

After a little sleuthing online, I came across the TMC60, a better, more reliable gear that should fit. I had several conversations with a very helpful and knowledgeable gentleman from BetaMarine USA and decided to order the trans, which I received two days later. In the meantime, I pulled the old Hurth HBW 10 2 R and made way for the new trans. Unfortunately, these things never go as smoothly as they should; one of the five cap head screws that secure the damper plate to the flywheel stripped. Rather than make things worse while working upside-down and on my head, I reinstalled the other fasteners and planned to continue running the original damper, which appears to be in decent shape.

Incidentally, the fact that it was even possible to pull the old transmission without heroics was due to our stuffing box arrangement. Ariel’s stuffing box screws onto her stern tube, as opposed to other CD’s with a stuffing box that is connected to the stern tube via a short length of hose. Thanks to our shorter, simpler stuffing box, I was able to unbolt the coupler and slide the prop shaft aft until the coupling met the stuffing box. It did take a little maneuvering to get the transmission and adapter plate out, but it wasn’t difficult.


Removing the transmission required unbolting the coupling from the DriveSaver, sliding the shaft aft to the stuffing box, and removing the water lift muffler and bracket.


Cramped quarters, but thank goodness I fit!


Stubborn cap screw in the damper plate. (And a leaky, oily Perkins).


The culprit. Hurth HBW 10 2 R. Pretty decent service for being 37 years old.

Sunday, July 3, with the new transmission – and after driving 5 hours back to Northport – I spent hours jockeying the heavy Perkins 4.108 around, trying to get enough room for the new trans. Cape Dory shoehorned the engine and trans so far aft that there was no way I could get the new trans shift lever – which exits the case on the port side of the box – to clear the hull without raising the rear of the engine 5/8″ and sliding the whole engine forward over an inch. It was clear that I would have to re-engineer the engine foundations in order to accommodate the required position. Summer is just too short for that so, admitting defeat, I pulled the gear out and moved the engine back to its original location (not an easy task, especially in such a confined space).

Back home in St. Joseph, I reluctantly returned the TMC60 and ordered a ZF 12M, which has the same dimensions as the old Hurth and should be a direct fit. Why didn’t I just go with the Hurth in the first place? Two reasons: First, the TMC is a better (less expensive) gear and I was confident it would fit; Second, ZF transmissions have a less-than-stellar reliability record. If you’re interested in researching issues with the ZF, simply Google “Hurth/ZF transmission thrust washer” or “Hurth/ZF transmission slipping” or “Hurth Transmission Problem.” Perhaps the post of most interest is this one on the Cape Dory Board: Hurth Failure

At any rate, the new ZF will be here Friday, and I’ll head back to Northport to install it and get Ariel back to cruising.

Eventually I’ll open the case on the old Hurth and look into the possibility of rebuilding it to keep as a spare. I did drain the ATF and it has a metallic sheen/glitter to it. Word is it’s probably a failed thrust washer, but perhaps more is going on. I can spin the input shaft with one hand and prevent the output flange from spinning with the other, so clearly something is slipping.

Building the Shellback dinghy

The Waypoints project is underway. Those interested in following my students’ progress should check out the Nautical Arts blog and the student blogs referenced in my second blog post, On being a lifelong learner.

What?! Another project?!

I’m fortunate to teach in a school that supports its teachers and their crazy innovative ideas. In just one short week, I’ll be launching a new class that combines language and applied arts as students work together to build four Shellback dinghies. The course? Nautical Arts.

Here’s a brief description of the course (something school administrators require when you come up with a crazy idea and they want it formalized):

Nautical Arts provides an innovative, exciting, and unique synthesis of language arts and a practical, hands-on approach to learning as students work in groups to build – from the keel up – an attractive and functional sailing dinghy. Emphasizing teamwork, short- and long-term planning, project management, writing and documentation via an online blog, construction skills and techniques, and – of course – developing an appreciation for great nautical texts, the course has at its core a service component: the students’ completed project boats will be auctioned, and the proceeds will be donated to a local charity.

I am thrilled to have the chance to pursue a project like this, but at the same time I’m more than a bit apprehensive because, according to builder Eric Dow, it takes “an experienced builder 100 hours,” and I’m dealing with 16 inexperienced builders and 50-minute class periods. I did a bit of quick English-teacher math that looks like this: four students times 60 hrs = 240 hrs of labor. Figure a 50% rate of efficiency, and we’re coming in at 120 hrs of labor. Close. Hopefully, close enough! We do have some after-school hours and Friday afternoons that we can take advantage of if we need a few extra hours to get the job done.

In the meantime, I’m planning on soliciting some support from local businesses during the week. Really, I think this is a great opportunity not only for our kids but also for the community to get involved and give back through a cool project. I’m hoping I can get some strong support. I spent a bit of Christmas break putting together some informational sheets that I can take around to local businesses to pitch the idea. Fingers crossed.


The plan for the rest of this week is to build at least one ladder frame – the “jig” for the rest of the boat’s construction – and to create patterns for the major components. It’s going to be a busy end to 2015 and a crazy start to 2016! Wish me (us) luck. And if you’re interested in helping sponsor the project, drop me an email or message through this site. Happy New Year!

Upgrading the fuel system and adding a polishing circuit

Like most boat owners during their first season of ownership, we had the odd issue to sort out when we sailed Ariel out of St. Joseph and toward Traverse City that first summer of 2003. Most of the issues were fairly minor, but one issue slowed our progress northward considerably and, at one point, left us without an engine during an approach through a narrow channel in unsettled seas and a good blow: algal bloom and sediment in the fuel tank. After changing filters and doing what we could to clean the diesel tank, we resolved to find a more permanent fix.

I spent some time browsing the trawler forums and decided Ariel needed an updated filtration system with a fuel polishing circuit. I purchased two Racor 500 FG filters off of Ebay and gathered the necessary bits to plumb the two filters in series. I mounted them on a piece of Starboard and routed the valves and lines such that I could switch between a primary filtration circuit, a secondary filtration circuit (the old Racor R24s), and a fuel polishing circuit. The fuel polishing circuit required a pump, so I bought a Walbro 6802 and mounted it in the port cockpit locker, above the fuel tank.

This system has been in service now for over 10 years, and it has worked flawlessly. It’s more than adequate for our fuel flow and capacity, but that’s what I wanted: a system that would end our worries.

The idea behind a fuel polishing circuit is to cycle the entire contents of the diesel tank through the filters, thereby removing any sediment or water that – unchecked – could cause more problems. I generally run the polishing circuit back at dock after a lively sail, when the contents of the diesel tank are likely to be stirred up.

This is the original concept as I drew it:




And the layout before it was mounted in the engine compartment:


The original fuel setup with the R24s and an old Fram, the orange top just visible above the oil fill.


The new fuel filtration setup in place.


New setup plumbed and ready for service.


On/Off switch for the fuel polishing circuit.


Walbro fuel polishing pump and mounting location in port cockpit locker.

walbro walbromountedbig


And here’s some of the original write up providing background and info about the installation from the old website, should you care to know a few more details:

When we finally tackled the fuel issue a day later, we discovered that Ariel was suffering from a major buildup of crud in her diesel tank. After removing the Racor spin-on element, catching it and the spilled fuel in a ziploc baggy, I gave the bag a good shake and held it up against the sunlight coming in through the companionway. It was virtually opaque; I could just make out thousands of tiny black specks held in suspension.

During Ariel’s winter layup, I will be draining the tank and doing another thorough cleaning to ensure a fresh start for next season. The most important part of our approach, however, is the addition of two Racor 500FG turbine filters in series, with our old Racor R24S plumbed on a manifold as backup so that we can switch to a fresh filter if the 500s begin to show signs of restricted flow. This setup will drastically improve the engine’s reliability factor, and it is something called fuel polishing that will make our crud woes a thing of the past.

Unlike tractor-trailers, trawlers, and other vessels that have a high fuel turnover rate, sailboats – especially here on Lake Michigan where tides and remote, inland slips are non-existent – often have fuel that is months (if not years) old. Invariably, condensation forms inside the tank, dripping into the fuel, creating a wonderful environment for growth. It is this growth – unchecked for 24 years – that caused all of our woes. Without a higher turnover rate, there is little that can be done to prevent this problem. Even biocide will not solve the problem once it presents itself; once the creatures are dead, their carcasses will still clog filters. But how to get a higher turnover rate? Fuel polishing.

By plumbing an electric fuel pump into the fuel system that circulates fuel through the filters and back into the tank, it is possible to keep old fuel clean and free from devastating blooms of crud. Completely turning over the fuel at least three times a week is the recommended practice. This is what we hope to accomplish this winter with our dual Racor 500 fuel filter installation, and a basic fuel polishing system.

After last summer’s nonsense and the pain of spending over $100.00 on Racor spin-on elements, I spent some time searching Ebay for a cheaper (in the long run) alternative to our current R24S filter. I was able to find two new 500FG turbine filters for 75.00 a piece with a much cheaper element–8.00 each vs. R24S at 25.00 each. Now that I’ve got the filters, I need to determine the best way to set up the filtration system so that it’s possible to change filters while underway, and maintain a fuel polishing circuit. After a bit of musing, I came up with the sketch above. This system would utilize all but one of our current filters, so we wouldn’t be wasting any pieces, plus it allows for an easy way to prime the fuel lines and filters–not to mention ensuring the likelihood of having an engine when we need it most.

The Walbro pump, located where it is, and the priming pump on the R24 allow for easy priming on both sides of the manifold (valve). After changing the filters in the 500FGs, all that is necessary to bleed the system up to the lift pump is to close the valve located just after the two 500FGs, flip on the Walbro and let it run for a minute or so. Once fuel has been drawn through the 500FGs, it’s a simple process of opening the valve to direct fuel to the engine, then operating the lift pump until there’s fresh fuel at the tertiary filter’s bleed points–although I doubt that would even be necessary since there shouldn’t be any air between the second valve and the tertiary filter. Similarly, switching the first valve to the R24, I can easily use it’s built-in pump to prime it. Here’s a picture of the pump I’m after, it’s a Walbro 6802, 7 psi shut-off, max. capacity of 60 gph, continuous-duty pump. The pump is often available new through Ebay or through for about 100.00.

See what’s going on at the Alberg 30 Project site

Not much happening on the Ariel blog because the action is over here: Alberg 30 Project. Check it out!

What’s been happening?

Once Ariel was in the water, I had a few other tasks to complete. I rewired a secondary bilge pump that had packed it in over the winter due to faulty connections, and I wired quick connectors for the masthead instrument. Additionally, the cabin needed to be cleaned and organized.

Unrelated to Ariel, I wrapped up a mainsail project for an Ericson 29 and bent on Ariel’s new staysail. The new staysail needs a longer pendant at the head to get the tack closer to the drum, but otherwise it looks great. Perhaps I’ll make a main Ariel over winter so she’ll have a new suit of sails for 2016.

Pictures of the Ericson mainsail construction:

The press is of my own design, but it works perfectly – and for a lot less money than one sold specifically for the purpose. I installed six Rutgerson Super Rings without issue.


This mainsail has three rows of reef points, so there are eight hefty patch assemblies, including the tack and clew.

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Ariel’s new staysail. I actually constructed this staysail last season, but for one reason or another never got it bent on. It is constructed of 8oz Dacron since it is our heavy-weather sail once Ariel is double reefed on the main. As you can see in the picture, the tack is too far away from the drum – not that it really matters, it’s purely aesthetic. (If Ariel were going to sea, I’d actually prefer the tack to be as high as it is so that the sail wouldn’t be as likely to catch water.) If I have the energy, I’ll bring the sail home and sew a longer pendant.



Rigging Complete

Updating the rig was uneventful. I took measurements of the existing wires and created the new shrouds/stays using Sta-Lok fittings and Hayn bronze turnbuckles. Assembly was easy and the project took about two days to complete. As anticipated, the most challenging part of the process was running the new wire through the two furling foils and then attaching the fittings in a rather confined space. Dealing with the foil wires probably took as much time as assembling the other nine. In the end, everything went together just fine.

I’d include my own directions/recommendations for rigging Sta-Loks, but Rich Abato, another CD36’er, details the process on his website in clear, easy-to-follow directions: SV Mahalo Rigging Page. I will emphasize Rich’s suggestion of using a high-tension hacksaw and a good blade – as opposed to the Ace or hardware store variety. I bought a Lenox high-tension hacksaw, equipped with a 24tpi blade. It worked marvelously, cutting quickly and smoothly each time. In all, the blade made at least 24 separate cuts and was still cutting quickly and cleanly at the end.

Earlier I had posted about wire sizes and beefing up the rig. I decided to keep the original wire size. I’ve heard that a lot of people like to go up a size when re-rigging, but I didn’t see the point. The CD36 spar section is stout, it’s a well-stayed low-aspect rig with good geometry, and the original wire sizes worked for 35 years. I saved money by sticking with the original wire size, as well as weight aloft.


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Box of goodies

Got a box of bronze and stainless goodies yesterday – 74 lbs and $2000! Time to get the re-rigging underway.


Time to replace standing rigging

Ariel rolled off the Cape Dory production line in 1979. As far as we know, her standing rigging is original. Even though she’s a freshwater boat and spends half of her life on the hard each year, her rigging – which is in great shape for its age – is now 36 years old. Most riggers out there will probably tell you that 10-15 years in a saltwater environment means it’s time to replace. Take into consideration life as a freshwater boat, and 20-25  might be pushing it. Since we’re not eager to push our luck anymore than we have, Ariel’s getting all new standing rigging, including bronze Hayn turnbuckles.

I know a lot of boat owners decide to go up one wire size when re-rigging because 316 wire is a tad weaker than 304, but I decided to keep the wire sizes the same – 9/32″ and 1/4″ – primarily because I already had on-hand enough Sta-Lok mechanical fittings to handle the cap shrouds, backstay, and headstay. (Sadly, I have a stack of 5/16″ fittings, but the pin sizes are 5/8″ instead of the necessary 1/2″).

Based upon recommendations within the CD community, I ordered wire and fittings through Rigging Only out of Fairhaven, MA. Rather than spend a lot of extra money for Sta-Loks all around, I ordered swaged toggle fittings for the upper ends of the intermediates and lower shrouds. The lower ends will be Sta-Lok threaded studs attached to new bronze turnbuckles. Ordering enough Sta-Loks for all the wire would have increased the cost more than a couple hundred dollars, too much of a stretch for an already-stretched budget.

For anyone considering re-rigging, here’s a list of parts and cost:

ArielRiggingIntermediates ArielRiggingLowerShrouds ArielRiggingLowerStaysail ArielRiggingMasthead

Since no post is complete without a picture, here’s one of the mast ready to be pulled last fall.


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