Thursday, August 31, 2017

August 2017 | MONTH IN REVIEW

Here's a quick summary of what we were up to this month.

  • It's been 337 days, and we are still here in Trinidad {yikes!}. Other than the 6 day break/visa run in Florida last June and a day off every week or fortnight to do our grocery shopping, we've been working on the boat everyday. Some days more than others, but work nonetheless.
  • It's been hard trying keep our spirits up when you think you have this <----> much to do, but somehow, along the way the list just keeps getting <---------------> longer & longer. And so, what can we do but to suck it up and soldier on..
  • On the bright side, we finally re-bedded all the cleats on deck with backing plates which will make them a lot stronger than the small washers we had before.
  • We removed and cleaned the stanchions on the port side as well as the aluminium rail (2 pcs) that covers the joint where the deck and the hull meet. We managed to re-bed one of the two rails with silicone and rivets. However, when we did the second rail (the longer piece), we ran out of silicone and had to scramble and muck around with a leftover sikaflex tube. By the time we were ready to place the rail on, the silicone had set {oh the heartache & frustration}. What a waste of time and materials -- now we have to clean off the dried silicone from the rail and start again.
  • We finally removed the jib sail track, cut out strips on our deck, dug out the rotted wood and drying it out as much as we can (on sunny days) before we fill it with foam and fiberglass, making it slightly raised from the deck before re-bedding the sail track again. Will look into adding a backing plate as well.
  • Alex repaired the crack in the starboard forward bulkhead and reinforced the floorboard (with fiberglass and PVC foam board on top for a smooth finish); he also replaced the entire floorboard (with fiberglass laminated plywood & PVC foam board on top) on the port side as well (which we discovered was too rotted to reinforce). When you're a catamaran, you have two of everything. Sure, double the space and comfort but also double the cost and repairs!
  • We attended a customers appreciation dinner on 10th August at Le Moderne Restaurant (French/Indian cuisine) in Port of Spain, courtesy of Don/Power Boats. It was a lovely evening meeting and chatting with other yachties hauled out here (there were about 25 of us there that night), a good reason to clean up and dress up. Thank you so much Don & Power Boats for making our stay more pleasant and we don't just mean the dinner. :)
  • Ah, we missed the solar eclipse on 21st August. All of north America had a real treat. A first total solar eclipse of the sun visible from coast to coast across the US in 99 years. We were slightly too far south to see it, but still close enough to feel part of this amazing occurrence.
  • Happy 55th Independence Day Trinidad & Tobago and 60th for Malaysia! What a surprise to find these two share the same Independence Day on 31st August -- my 1st & {umm} 3rd home.
  • I recently joined 'Women Who Sail' group on Facebook -- it's a very inspiring, supportive and encouraging group (of women who sail), where we can openly and safely share our thoughts, feelings, hopes & dreams, achievements, questions as well as frustrations. Lots of support and great advice. It's strictly for women only! {so we can moan freely about the men! just kidding}
  • We made new friends, Tony and Gunilla a lovely couple who sailed from Australia (also from Melbourne) on S/Y Katarina.
  • This month, we watched 'Into The Badlands' Season 1 & 2 which we really enjoyed, then Alex finally got me to watch 'Vikings' Season 1 to 4 {turns out to be quite good, it's set before 'The Last Kingdom' which we also liked}, after that we watched a couple of comic book series 'The Defenders' Season 1 and 'Daredevil' Season 1 & 2. Lastly, the final Season 5 of 'Orphan Black'. Sounds like a lot of TV doesn't it? That's how we forget about our troubles of the day every night.. Till tomorrow!
Re-bed Railing
Re-bedding the first aluminium rail on the port side with silicone and rivets
Jib sail track project - Built a temporary "dam" with wood and plastic sheets to keep the water away. As you can see the balsa wood (deck core) is rotted.
Alex made his own whatchamacallit on the top left to efficiently and evenly remove (about 20mm of) the balsa core - quite clever wouldn't you say?
Top left: Rotted floorboard
Making a new floorboard for the port side forward bulkhead -- plywood layered with fiberglass on both sides and topped with a PVC board. The floorboard was made in 2 pieces, the triangle is the "top" part
The "bottom" part of the floorboard -- reinforcing the plywood with fiberglass on the underside
From top left to bottom right: Before (rotted floorboard removed) & After (new floorboard in place)
Customer Appreciation Dinner at Le Moderne by Don/Power Boats
In the photo from left: S/Y Katarina, S/Y Raptor & Don, S/Y Turning Point, S/Y Yoyo

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

TOP 11 Favourite Phone Apps

It's raining outside and while waiting for the rain to subside.. I'm going through the apps on my phone. I have a ton of them! I don't know why I keep so many, most of which I don't use often. Perhaps I fear that one day I might need them but won't have the internet connection to download them again!? I can't believe it.. but I'm hoarding my apps! {I hope Alex doesn't read this, he'll have lots to say}. 

Being on a boat, weight is a constant concern and issue. Thankfully, apps unlike clothes, books or other little things; it doesn't matter how many I have on my phone, it doesn't change the weight of it! Hah ;)

Having said that, I can't keep everything. So here's a list of apps we think are worth keeping:

Maps.Me - offline map

We absolutely love this app! It's free, it's offline, it's detailed maps of the world! You just need to download the maps in advance before your trip and you don't need any internet connection to use it later. 

The maps are divided by country, state or city, so you don't have to download a large file if you're only interested in one area. It even has routing capabilities, but if you intend to use that function, make sure you also download the required files in advance. 

We first used this app in New York City and loved how detailed it was (shops, restaurants, places of interest, subway stations), add a place to the map, drop pins, best of all -- did we mention it's free and no internet required once its downloaded?

Flickr - online photo storage

If you know me, you'll know I like to take photos of everything! Photos of food, flowers, bottle caps, scenery, boat stuff, boat projects, family, friends, the sky, the ground, my feet, my shoes! 

The storage on my phone gets used up very quickly. If I haven't had the time/chance to backup my photos to the computer (which we don't always travel with) to make space, I'd have to start deleting my photos that I haven't backed up! {egad!} This happened on our road trip in the US last year. So right after that, I started searching for online photo storage services.

There's plenty to choose from e.g. iCloud, Google Photos, Photobucket, Dropbox, Amazon Prime Photos, etc. But what's great about Flickr is that it gives you 1 TB of free online storage (none of the others came close), the app has an auto upload feature that uploads the photos from your phone (via Wi-Fi or cellular data) and more importantly it stores the images at original size (or up to 200 MB)!

Airbnb - affordable accommodation

If you're budget travellers like us who don't quite like to couch surf, a little old for backpacker/hostel style accommodation and can't afford to spend too much on hotels, then check out airbnb. 

We first used it on our overland trip in New York City two years ago and have continued using it on pretty much all of our overland travels. You can book an entire place, a private room or a shared space in the heart of the city or out in the suburbs, stay and live like a local. Check out some of our posts labelled 'airbnb'.

Skyscanner - scans for cheapest flights

This is one of our go to apps to check on the cheapest flights available. It searches the internet for the best deals. They don't actually sell you any tickets, it just does the search, gives you the options and directs you to the airline or travel agency that sells the tickets. 

It started off with just flight tickets but have now expanded their services to search for hotels and car rentals as well.

Xe - currency converter

It's always handy to have a currency converter. We're always checking the rates between USD to AUD to SGD to MYR and of course, the currency of the country we're in.

Spending | Track My Spend - expenses tracker

As long-term travellers, we live on a budget and always have to keep our expenses in check. We usually keep track of what we spend daily on an excel spreadsheet. But when we're out & about, that's hard to do when we don't have the computer with us. We found a couple of spending tracker apps that we like. 

Well, Alex likes to use 'Track My Spend' while I prefer 'Spending' app. They are both easy to use. You can set a budget/spending limits, add recurring expenses, create your own expense categories, export the data to a .csv file and so much more. Try both, it's free! Let us know which one you prefer {I hope you'll vote for the one I use}.

WhatsApp - instant messenger

Was almost not going to include this (because it's pretty well known, it would be like adding Facebook to this list) but we met several new friends recently that haven't installed this! {what?! yes, you know who you are} This may be slightly selfish on our part, but we're spreading the word as the more people use it, the easier it'll be for us to communicate with them ;)

WhatsApp is by far one of our most used app. We get to communicate with our family and friends from anywhere in the world for free via the internet! You can create chat groups, share photos and videos, send audio notes, make voice and video calls. There are lots of other similar apps like WeChat, HangOut, Skype, Facebook Messenger, Viber, etc. But for us, WhatsApp tops the list!

CamScanner - document scanner, .pdf creator

It's a free scanner app on your phone. We use it to scan documents, receipts, business cards, passports, anything we want really and save it as a .pdf or .jpg file. 

You could argue that you could do without this (true), but I find that I can't quite get that perfect top-down shot when I use the normal camera. The app is great because it straightens and crops the image to make it look like a scanned document. Very useful when we have to send official forms/documents via email.

Photo Grid - photo editor, video and photo collage maker

If you've read our blog, you'd have noticed we post a lot of grid photo collages. Photo Grid is free, easy to use and packed with lots of other features like video collage, sticker, border, scrapbook, instasize, retouch, filter, text, etc.

We like using this not only to combine photos to tell a story, but it's useful when we have crappy internet connection and instead of having to upload multiple photos, we only need to upload one! :)

iPlum - second line, real phone number

This is another great app if you'd like to have a US phone number without being locked-in a contract at high monthly rates or just want a second line when you travel to avoid roaming charges. iPlum service gives you a real dedicated US phone number at $1/month (or Canadian at $2/month if you prefer). 

You get to keep that same number for as long as want (cancel anytime, there's no contract). You can send/receive text & SMS, make/receive calls to/from anyone (mobile or landline), anywhere in the world at very low per minute rates and free unlimited calls to US toll-free numbers. No SIM card required, just the app and internet connection (via Wi-Fi or cellular data). You can even use this on your tablet!

We've used this to make many calls to US toll-free numbers. As you know, a lot of the products/equipment onboard are purchased from US companies, and we've had to make our fair share of warranty/support calls. We also use this for banking, SMS verification, etc. I've had my bank call me at this number so that I did not have to incur roaming charges on my Singapore mobile line. It works great! We hope there'll be options for AU or SG phone numbers in the future.

Candy Crush - chill & unwind

Lastly, who here doesn't already know or love Candy Crush!? We play this when we're on passage, while we're waiting for the bus, train or plane {okay, by "we" it's really me}. It's a simple match 3 or more candies in a row game, suitable for all ages, has over a thousand levels and most importantly you can play it offline! How can one resist those colourful candies!?

So this is our TOP 11 favourite list (for now). Would be interesting to see if this list changes much in 5-10 years? Please note that we're not promoting any of the apps above for any kickbacks. Although, if you do sign up with airbnb through the link on our site, we'll both get some free credit on our next travel. Other than that, this is just a list of apps we use and think is worth having/keeping.

What do you think? What are some of your favorite apps?

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Strip, Service & Repaint Our Yanmar Diesel Engine

Fair Warning: This post contains a lot of photos! As you may already know {from our past moans and groans}, we hauled out our engine to be stripped, serviced and repainted last year which took us months to complete. Here's what we did and some photos of our hard work! Scroll all the way down if you're interested to know what materials we used and some lessons learned as well.


This is what our 20 year old 50 Hp Yanmar engine looked like before we started working on it. After leaving Raptor at the boatyard in Power Boats, Trinidad for 16 months {unplanned, of course}. Alex turned on the engine for the first time in November 2016; lo and behold we had a runaway engine! (turned out to be a frozen governor in the fuel pump) It was an unforgettable, scary experience, with the engine revving loudly, uncontrollably and smoking -- black smoke/soot and all! I don't know how long it was running for, but those minutes felt like forever; thankfully Alex managed to kill it by shutting off the fuel, and so our journey to "rebuild" the engine began..

Our 20 year old 50Hp diesel Yanmar (3JH2-TCE) & SD 31 saildrive



Hauling out the engine was not difficult for us. We're fortunate the engine is easily accessible. Throughout the years, we've had to haul it out several times to replace the rusted & failed engine mounts, disintegrated damper plate, to replace the upper gearbox, and mostly to deal with our ongoing rotating saildrive issues. All up, this was the 6th time we have lifted out the engine. With a long piece of solid wood, some blocks of wood, shackles, ropes, the boom, winches and some experience; it was relatively easy. This time around we had a block & tackle from our mechanic which helped tremendously.
Pull, Push, Swing, Slide
Resting on blocks of wood


We initially sent the engine away to our local mechanic to get the old paint & rust removed - thought that might go better in a garage than on our cockpit floor. However, things didn't quite turn out as planned and we ended up doing most of the work ourselves (this excludes servicing the fuel pump & injectors - which the mechanic sent away to a specialist). Read 'Hauling Out Our Engine' post. Below are some photos of the dismantled engine parts.


Cleaning the engine parts to be re-painted was a very tedious and time consuming process {it took us weeks and weeks}. In case you haven't read it, check out our 'Hauling Out Our Engine' post which includes steps on how we cleaned and prepped the engine parts for painting. If you're interested, you can also check out 'How To Clean A Heat Exchanger' post.

Before painting


Once the engine parts were clean and ready. The actual painting process was easy. We hired a local contractor to do the spray painting; we set-up a place for the parts to be painted; applied 3 coats of primer and 2 coats of top coat. It took us about 10 days (includes delays due to bad weather) to complete. Read our 'Spray Painting Our Yanmar Engine' post for more details.

After painting


Here are some photos of the painted engine parts. All pretty in a pale yellow. To be honest, it wasn't our colour of choice. We requested the shop to add a little tint to the top coat paint so that we could distinguish it from the primer. They added yellow, what can we say.. it was free! Doesn't look too bad, does it?

Cooling Fresh Water System
Main Engine Block


Next, we upgraded our old rusty engine mounts to Polyflex ones from Australia {we were sick of constantly replacing Yanmar engine mounts that are pretty much rusty almost from new & tend to last only 6-12 months before the corrosion forces the rubber mount off its mild steel plate}. These mounts are moulded from heat cured polymer alloys which are long lasting and oil/fuel resistant {hopefully this means rust free too}. They were a little taller than our old mounts (despite being a supposed identical replacement for the OEM mounts), so we had to make some modifications to the base. More photos on our 'Installing New Engine Mounts' post.

Cut, Sand, Level (repeat).. Epoxy, Fiberglass, Sand, Level (repeat)


Replacing the sound insulation in the engine bay and engine cover was not part of our initial plan, but our 20 year old insulation was well.. pretty old and already disintegrating; what better time to replace it than now, with the engine out. We bought 2 sheets of reinforced insulation from Budget Marine, cut out all the panels we needed using cardboard templates we made and glued them on using contact adhesive.

Engine bay
Engine cover


Once the engine parts and main engine block were painted and ready for re-assembly, we engaged the help of Power Boats to lift the main engine block back on board with a forklift. We also set up an A-frame in the cockpit so that we could hang the engine over the engine bay while we re-assemble the engine.

Our engine bay with new mounts (photo before we glued on the new insulation)
Our main engine block hanging over the engine bay
Slim 'gin


It was quite satisfying putting the engine back together. A tiny {but great} sense of accomplishment each time a part is installed back on the main block. We replaced all the gaskets, seals and o-rings. We also replaced some hoses, screws, nuts, bolts and washers where necessary. The Yanmar Parts Catalog was essential to identifying parts we needed to replace as well as a guide to re-assemble the engine. 

Identifying all the gaskets, o-rings and seals we needed to replace
Installing the Flywheel Housing
Note: It's important to plan ahead the order of installing the parts -- we made a couple of mistakes in putting on one part only to realise we had to remove it to put on another part first
Installing the Lubricating Oil Cooler, Turbo Charger & Mixing Elbow
Installing the Cooling Sea & Fresh Water System and Starting Motor
Before installing the Suction Manifold at the top
Installing the Fuel Injection Pump with the help of our mechanic
Connecting the Fuel Injection Lines to the Cylinder Head
Inspecting the gears
Installing the Gear Housing, Alternator Pulleys & Alternator {aligning it was a beeech!}
Connecting the plumbing -- we're almost there
Attaching the Sail Drive -- our custom made Vesconite bushing (on the bottom left) that now sits between the engine & the flange of the upper gearbox - hopefully no more vibration & abrasion & constant destruction of our damper plate?


Finally! The engine is assembled, connected and resting comfortably on its new engine mounts. The good news is that it runs! Having said that, we have yet to replace the mixing elbow (too old & rusty, and developed a crack when we ran the engine) and the Balmar MC-614 alternator regulator (which had a spontaneous meltdown when we connected it to power - its the 3rd one that has died in about 6 years, so we will probably go with a different make when we replace it). In the interim we have re-routed the wiring to the alternator's own internal (backup) regulator. Other than that, it's looking good! {if we do say so ourselves}



Please note the list below is mainly for our own record purposes and for a 50 Hp diesel Yanmar (3JH2-TCE) engine. But you are welcome to use it as a gauge?

  • Above Thermostat: 129470-49550
  • Below Thermostat: 129150-49811 ($16.70 TTD)
  • Fresh Water Pump: 129150-49550
  • Gear Housing: 129470-01510 ($150 TTD)
  • Oil Filter System: 129470-35121 ($20.50 TTD)
  • Rocker Cover Bonnet: 129171-11330 (we used silicone gasket instead)
  • Sea Water Cooling Pump: 129150-01881 ($26.10 TTD)
  • Solenoid on Starter Motor: 171008-77571 ($171.90 TTD)
  • Sump: [129150-01750 + 129470-35040] or 129198-01750 ($199.60 TTD + $16.70 TTD)
  • Top of Heat Exchanger: 120445-44640 ($14.90 TTD)
  • Turbo: [129472-18090 + 129472-13520] ($64.80 TTD)

  • Rocker Cover Bonnet: 129150-11310 ($61.10 TTD)
  • Heat Exchanger: 24321-000750
  • Breather Cover: 24341-000500
  • Sea Water Pump: 24341-00600
  • Cooling Fresh Water System: 129150-42320
  • Gear Housing: 24341-000260 
  • Upper Gear Box Selection Lever: 24341-000550

  • Front Crankshaft Seal ($81.70 TTD)
  • Rear Crankshaft Seal ($97.70 TTD)

  • Plan ahead (if possible) i.e. make sure you have access to spare parts, materials, good weather, not in a rush to be somewhere. We were able to get our mechanic to order in the gaskets, seals and o-rings into Trinidad for us, and that took at least 2 weeks.
  • You need to allocate a lot of time to do this (always more than expected). Once the engine is out, you're a sitting duck (so to speak).
  • Take photos of your engine before you take it apart, lots of them from every angle. It will be very useful when you re-assemble the engine. 
  • Not all parts of the engine should be painted; especially where there are nuts & bolts because when you tightened them, the paint around it bubbles up.
  • It was extremely useful to have the Yanmar Parts Catalog. Not only did we use it to identify the gaskets and o-rings to be ordered and replaced. We also used it as a guide (as well as photos) to reassemble the engine. 
  • It's important to plan ahead the order of installing the parts -- we made a couple of mistakes in putting on one part only to realise we had to remove it to put on another part first.
    Hope we won't have to do this again in our lifetime, but having done this {with lots of sweat & some tears}, it's not an impossible task. It is very time consuming and we had a lot of trial & error. We hope this post helps anyone considering to do the same.  

    Feel free to drop us a note if you have any questions or suggestions on what we could've done differently. We'd love to hear from you!
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