FAQ, part 1

We were at a scientific meeting a few weeks ago with several hundred toxicologic pathologists.  We were asked the same questions about the boat by lots of people.  Since everyone seemed to be curious about the same aspects of the Gyrfalcon project, we thought you all might be interested in the questions and answers.  So here’s a blog of Frequently Asked Questions, Summer 2013, written by Nancy and Peter.

How’s it going?  Well, slower than we hoped, but things are actually starting to go back together more than they are coming apart. We can see the shape of the Gyr to come, and it’s great.

Peter and Ben (Owner of LUBR). Ben is smiling and Peter is grimacing because Peter just found one last dollar in his pocket, which Ben quickly took.

Peter and Ben (Owner of LUBR). Ben is smiling and Peter is grimacing because Peter just found one last dollar in his pocket, which Ben quickly took.

I have been checking the blog every few days, but I haven’t seen anything new for a while. What’s up?

We could give any number of excuses.

  1.  The dog ate our computer
  2.  Peter had to go to China for a month
  3.  Nancy had six project deadlines in June
  4.  The weather was too nice/too bad to write
  5.  We have lost interest in the whole project.

But none of these are true. We have no excuse. In the middle of May after we had sold the house and moved onto the Cille, we told the boys at LUBR (Lake Union Boat Repair) to ramp up the effort so that we could move onto the Gyr by the end of the summer.

Our goals for moving on (Phase 1) are:

  • Finish the deck work
  • Complete the painting of the coach roof, decks and outside cabin walls
  • Complete the galley
  • Complete our stateroom/head
  • Complete one of the guest staterooms and heads
  • Finish the laundry area
  • Have potable water (sandblast and line the water tank)

It is an ambitious list, but we think most of it will be done by the end of August. It does mean that there are 7-10 guys working on the boat on any given day, so the burn rate has gone way up. It also means that things are rapidly being completed – sometimes faster than we are able to blog about.  Details of those projects are below.

Are you going to charter?  At some point yes, but right now we’re concentrating on getting the boat livable and seaworthy.

Can the two of you handle the boat?  Our insurance company is uncomfortable with that, so we have a captain of record, Cap’n Ralph.  His job is to teach us how to be competent with the Gyrfalcon and certify that we can handle the boat on our own.

What are your plans down the road?  Once we retire, we’ll spend our summers up north in Prince William Sound or thereabouts, and our winters some place south of where the butter melts.

When are you going to be able to live on board?  We think that we’ll be on board by the end of August.  Requirements for being on board include potable water, a functional galley, working AC electrical system, painted master stateroom with a bed and head, and painted deck and coachhouse/pilothouse roofs.

When are you going to be able to cruise to Alaska?  Well, the boat won’t be seaworthy until we go over to Port Townsend in the Fall or Spring.  We need to haul her out, have some hullwork done and replace 3 cutlass bearings.  Our plans are for shorter trips while we’re still working (e.g. up to BC and around the Sound), and then to Alaska in the future.

What are cutlass bearings?

The cutlass bearings are the main bearings that support the propeller shafts after they have left the aft of the boat. There are a total of 4, two on each shaft. Three of the four are shot and need to be replaced before the boat can go very far.

What are the main projects going on right now?  It’s pretty amazing how many different things are happening.  Here is a rundown of the main projects

What’s happening in the engine room?  Both of the main engines have all of their hoses and other soft parts replaced. The alternators (originally 32 volt) have been replaced with 24 volts to work with the new house voltage.

One of the engines after maintenance. The radio is because the engines like to listen to Sports Talk Radio

One of the engines after replacemetn of hoses and alternators. The radio is because the engines like to listen to Sports Talk Radio

Fiberglass shrouds were designed and executed that fit over the belts on the front of each engine, to prevent digit amputations in the event of pitching seas.

One of the new fiberglass shrouds (port engine)

One of the new fiberglass shrouds (port engine)

The Perkins (backup) generator got a new water pump and coat of black paint.

Perkins Generator after new water pump and paint job

Perkins Generator after new water pump and paint job


The old 32 volt house batteries were winched out (they weighed about 300 pounds each) and replaced with 24 volt batteries. The new batteries only occupy a third of the space of the old ones, so there is lots of space in the battery box between the two engines.

Old 32 volt house batteries

Old 32 volt house batteries


If we decide we don’t have enough juice before we have to turn on the generators, we could add a second set of house batteries. Or, Nancy has mentioned that if I die while we are at sea, the box will be big enough to hold my body until we get back to port. For her sake, I hope that the icemaker still works. For my sake, I hope we use the space for an extra set of batteries.

The pressure tank for the fresh water system was rotted out and has been replaced. The tank and the pump (a shallow well pump that was replaced last year) were moved under the compressor, so that there is easier access to the generator.

Pressure tank and pump for freshwater system

Pressure tank and pump for freshwater system

What’s happening with the electrical system?

When the boat was built, it was a mix of 110v ac, 110v dc, 32v dc, and 12v dc. Almost all of the lights as well as the appliances were 110v ac. I guess that the government didn’t care if they ran the generators 24 hours a day to provide the ac for all these circuits. Several of the heavy motors were 110 dc (which I am guess were converted from 110 ac) – these have all gone, converted either to hydraulics or to 110 ac. The goal in the electrical system was to simplify the systems and make them safe. The main dc systems are now 24v. The batteries (both the house batteries and the starter batteries for the main engines) are 24v. In addition, we are converting almost all of the lighting to 24v led lamps. LEDs are great – their native voltage is 10-30v dc, they last a long long time. They also consume very little power – you could string 140 LED lamps on a single 15 amp circuit.

In any case we were going to need a number of new circuits for the LED lamps. In addition, much of our ac power was going to run through an inverter – so that if we are somewhere at anchor we can use the batteries to power the inverter to make 110v ac to run essential things like the refrigerator, the freezer and the ice maker. Other non-essential ac items like the dishwasher, hair dryers, the washing machine and the dryer will not be on the inverter, and thus will only work if we are hooked to shore power or running the generators.

Old lighting fixtures in forward cabin

Old lighting fixtures in forward cabin


Old wiring and shrouding in the dumpster

When we started the project, we thought that we would try to reuse a lot of the old wiring. But as we got into the wiring, we realized that it was really old, and had a fair amount of damage from 70 years of salt air and water. On top of that, a lot of the “improvements” made to the electrical system were substandard at best.

So we decided to replace all the wiring in the boat. We will be able to reuse some of the old navy light fixtures which are very cool looking, but all of the wiring will be new. And safe. This way, every time we hear a creak or a snap at night, we won’t have to jump out of bed with a fire extinguisher in our hands. Some expenses are worth the peace of mind they deliver.


AC [panel with beginnings of new wiring

What does the laundry area look like?  The walls in the laundry area have been sanded, sealed, primed, and finish painted with Linen White.

Laundry Room walls after final paint coat

Laundry Room walls after final paint coat

The floor has been sealed.  It looks fantastic.

Laundry Room floor - original fir planks

Laundry Room floor – original fir planks

The washer and dryer hookups are in, and the machines can be moved in as soon as the water tank (the project described next) is done.

Why is potable water such a big project?  The original water tank had unknown life forms living in it.  They apparently thrive on rust.

Hatch to water tank - before the project began

Hatch to water tank – before the project began

Today, there are sandblasters cleaning and smoothing the inside of the tank (the tank is very large and has baffles to keep from major water sloshing, so this is a major deal, as you can see from the photos).  They brought a huge vacuum system to the yard, so that all the blasted sand was collected as soon as was put down.

Vacuum system for sandblasting

Vacuum system for sandblasting

Tank after sandblasting

Tank after sandblasting

In the process of sandblasting, they found a few small holes in the bottom of the tank, but nothing large enough to derail the project. They have added a ;layer of fiberglass mat, and will follow that with an epoxy finish.



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One Response to FAQ, part 1

  1. Mann, Neil D. says:

    Peter and Nancy- great update! Your level of commitment to the project is beyond commendable! We are in Maine and I have been trying to get a 1958 14 ft Chris Craft back in the water. It has spent the last 19 years in my barn and was Kate’s family boat. So i am experiencing boat people and marine mechanics at a much smaller level!


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