Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The road to Mazatlan

I just got back from Mazatlan... Earl, an old friend, offered to drive me down to retrieve the white bus with his big Dodge diesel pickup. The bus was languishing on the street outside Nancy & Paul's beautiful old towne home.

The Belmar shows its age and charm
We were looking for a room and Paul recommended the Belmar Hotel on the malecon... it was a wonderful old six story hotel with swimming pool, wifi, cable tv and really good, firm beds and indoor parking. Earl and I got a room with two doubles for $260 pesos... just under $20 US.

The Belmar Hotel... the archway is the real entrance

I've come to learn that the Belmar is the oldest, large tourist hotel in Mazatlan and it looks it... But that's its charm. That night we strolled four blocks down to Plaza Machado, and listened to jazz while Earl tried a plate of the local fish. I had a limonada. The square was filled with excited people and it was all lit up and pretty.

We had a great night of sleep and in the morning we found dozens of people running around in the lobby, putting together a bunch of portable lights, etc. They were shooting a movie in the hotel. The parking lot was filled with shiny aluminum trucks, as well as the side streets. We slipped out and tried to head down the malecon to pick up the street that Nancy and Paul live on, but the police had it blocked off. We drove for an hour, trying to pick our way through this warren of tiny little one way streets and kept ending up in at the same place.

Eventually, we caught a road that bypassed most of the chaos, found a really good coffee shop and the street we wanted. After hooking up the white bus on the towbar, we drove out of old town and eventually picked up the main highway, where it turns out, they were double charging me for the white bus and Earl's truck at all the toll booths.

It was a great 1,000 mile round trip in two days. Earl has some great stories, and with Earl driving, I finally got to see what was on the road to Mazatlan.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Honey Do stuff...

If you're a guy, and you're married, I don't need to explain the title.
We have a 1971 VW van that the 1st Mate bought many years ago. It's lived in some pretty rough places... one of them was Gualala, CA near Mendocino, where the air was so damp and salty, it would form stalactites of that mineral along the bottom edges of the car body and on the undercarriage... and nothing electrical would work.

It was auto hell.

Now, 1st Mate insists that I return to the reconstruction of the van (known for the last five years as the GRAY VAN) because it is one of the most reliable cars we've ever owned. I drove that van from Gualala to Barra de Navidad and back twice with only two problems... a sticky starter solenoid, and a timing adjustment (quick and easy fix) at a rest stop near Blythe, AZ.

And a cracked windshield... I caught a pebble within the first 30 miles of replacing the windshield right after the van turned from forest green to gray.

Yesterday, chasing some rust around the edge of the windshield got ugly and I ended up taking the broken glass out to find gaping holes where the gasket held the windshield in... so I did what I always do first. Consult the internet and see how others have made the repair.

Recommendations as the appear:
1) Take it to a body shop. (Sorry, can't do that. I'm a DIY kinda guy)
2) Find a donor vehicle and cut that part out and weld it to the rusted out part. (Uh. Donor vehicles would probably have the same problem since it's a common ailment, and I don't weld (yet)) and finding a donor vehicle in Mexico is different than the US.
3) Fill the holes with bondo. (Then, when the rest of the metal rusts out, the bondo will float magically in the holes without touching anything... against the laws of physics.)

So my solution was:
knock all the loose rusted pieces out... which was mostly all of it. Buy a can of insulating foam and spray the foam into the piece. Trim off the foam when it hardens and lay fiberglass and epoxy resin on the foam. Repeat until the piece is restored. Sand and paint. I was able to find a nice piece of laminated fiberglass about 1/8 inch thick to act as the "bead" for the windshield gasket. I epoxied it in and it's very strong. It was easy, too. I've got a couple of "finish" coats of epoxy on it now, and the 1st Mate says, "it looks like it belongs there."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Big changes afoot... GREEN FLASH 2.0

Above is the first design developed a year ago... GF1
Below is the current design. GF2.0
There's a few good things about this new design... By increasing the sheer (the sides of the hull), I can
1) Increase volume and reduce the amount of work, time and material that would be involved in a standard cabin, like FLASH 1.0
2) Clamp some formica to the existing hull and start building up with laminates and composites. The existing hull defines the shape, so no molds or complicated forms are required to accomplish this (thanks to a tip from M43 owner Al Watson. See his "Sugar Scoop" modification to his boat KINDRED SPIRIT HERE).
3) The added non-opening portlights are designed to be installed just above the existing sheerline of the FLASH, which will be easier because the existing hull/deck joint is wide and strong and easy to get to at this stage of the modification.
4) This design provides more deck space (it's almost a flush deck) and installing it, and the opening hatches (we have seven of those) is simpler. The 1st Mate says she might even be able to do her yoga on deck.

Above is version 1 deck layout
Below is GF2.0 layout. Cleaner is better.

5) I'm 6' tall and this makes enough headroom below for me without building a cabintop.
6) I think it looks sexy, don't you?

My horoscope today:
It might be a good time for you to start thinking about trying to make some fresh starts and new beginnings in a few different areas of your life. Just be careful that you don’t come on too strong or you could end up making a little trouble for yourself right now.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Yard comes to life...

These days I've been going out to the FLASH and doing some infrastructure work... but I've also been doing some creative thinking about the materials I want to buy.

This week we were due to pay our ISP, and after consulting with the 1st Mate, we boosted our Internet speed up to 4 mb/sec. Now I'm surfing through the many sites that are hosting Chinese manufacturers and suppliers, looking for the exotic materials I can't afford at US prices. 

There's rigid, high density polyurethane foams for building strong, lightweight composite sandwiches for bulkheads, decks, hull extensions, etc.  It is easily shaped, is waterproof, flame resistant, rot proof, insect proof, bonds easily to resins and to itself... so it makes a good core material.
Also on my list is epoxy. It's stronger than polyester and easier to work with.

And finally, the sources for carbon fiber cloth, carbon and kevlar woven hybrids, and kevlar. These materials are amazingly lightweight and strong. A friend showed me a dorade cowling made from carbon fiber... the material was thin- the thickness of the cardboard they use to package inside a new dress shirt. It was extremely strong and so light that you felt like your senses had gone awry. They make the Stealth fighters and bombers with this stuff.

I'm thinking that maybe, the Chinese might have better pricing on this stuff, because in the US, it's horribly expensive. (The paper thin stuff is about $30 a yard.)

The generators have been getting my attention.
There's no electricity on my lot, so I am my own power company... we have four generators: the diesel Westerbeke that will go into the Flash is rated at 15 kw, the 2 cylinder Onan 4 kw gas  driven genset that came off our rv, the portable Honda 2 kw set (still on SV BLISS in Barra) and a Generac 750 watt portable.

I've been setting up the Onan to do the work in the yard, since it's large enough to run the air compressor. The Westerbeke requires a huge amount of water to cool it, because it's a marine model, so that one will wait until the FLASH gets wet. The Generac was recently rebuilt, but it sat for a year with gas in it and needs some carb work before it will run... but I like that one for running the electric power tools.

I've been cleaning up the area, repositioning the shade cloths, mending the fence and gates, and organizing tools. I have enough materials to start plugging through-hulls that I won't use and that will be the place where I start on this thing. The epoxy will cure pretty fast now the temps are up.