Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Groco HVAC Sea Strainer Adventures

Happy New Year!!!

What a way start the new year.  Talking about something as mundane as the monthly cleaning of the HVAC sea strainer.

The story I'm going to share is almost funny until you get into the details which involve the incompetence of the strainer manufacturer, Groco, and the inventory practices of West Marine, the nation's largest marine supply store chain.

Cleaning the HVAC sea strainer is a monthly task that usually takes 30 to 40 minutes. Today it took six and a half hours.

Groco SA 1500 Sea Strainer - note the basket inside and the center post
Explanatory Note: The 63's chilled water HVAC system either raises or lowers the temperature of sea water, currently 70 degrees at the marina, to either air condition or heat the boat. The sea water is pumped into the system through a sea strainer basket (see photo below) which filters out marine life. This system runs almost constantly.

Sea Strainer Basket. Note the hole in the base
The process is really simple. Shut down the HVAC system, close the through hull valve to stop the sea water flow, remove the top of the strainer housing, remove the basket, clean out the captured marine life, insert the cleaned basket in the strainer housing, open the valve to fill the strainer with water, tighten the wing nut on the strainer housing, check for leaks and your done.

Cleaning the basket is also simple. Dump the marine life and blast the screen with water to remove the stuff that is stuck to the sides.

So at 11:30 AM I started the process. As I removed the basket I discovered that the plastic base had separated from the stainless steel mesh. This is actually not a big problem since it can be reinserted and secured by bending the mesh into four slots on the plastic base. But it is an annoyance as it is a poor design.

As I was blasting the screen with water it flew out of my hand, sailed 30 feet through the air, landed in the water and promptly sank.  Oops, a simple task just got complicated.

Now I needed to source a new basket and that's where the frustration began. A call to the West Marine Store in Sarasota proved frustrating. The clerk barely knew what I was talking about even thought I had the model number of the sea strainer. After much confusion I realized I needed the model number of the basket.

So I called Groco, the manufacturer, to get the model number of the basket. The person I talked with said it was a BS-6 but they had none in stock. Let me say that again. The manufacturer (i.e., the entity the makes the basket), had none in stock. Unbelievable.

I called West Marine with the basket model number only to learn they had none in stock. The clerk said we can get it for you tomorrow, which is their standard response. Has anybody noticed that West Marine barely has anything in stock anymore (except clothing and shoes)?

Then I called Groco again, spoke with a different person and learned that they had changed the part number from BS-6 to SS-85-G. Yes, we have those in stock. We can send one FedEx overnight.

Did I mention that my AC is shut off and that the temperature in Sarasota is 80 plus degrees. The boat is getting warmer and warmer as I sit there wasting time trying to source a basket.

While talking with Groco, I had the presence of mind to get the basket's dimension (3" diameter, 10" height) so that I could ABSOLUTELY verify with West Marine that they had the correct part.

So I called West Marine again and gave them the new part number. "Oh yes, we have four of them in the Fort Myers store." That store is 85 miles south of Sarasota. Before hopping in the car I decided to call Fort Myers and verify that they actually had the correct basket. You guessed it, they did not. However, the clerk said that had one in Punta Gorda, which is only 60 miles south of Sarasota. Punta Gorda actually had a SS-86-G basket and I verified the dimensions.

The drive to Punta Gorda took an hour each way. Now I had the basket in my hot little hands.

Arriving back at the boat, now 80 degrees inside, I proceeded to install my brand new basket, which simply involves sliding it down the center post. Oop, It only went down one inch.

Basket and center post

Old base next to the new base
You can see the difference in the photo above. The old base has a hole that enables the basket to slide down the center post. The new one is capped.

Time to improvise. I removed the mesh basket from the incorrect base and installed the old base (that I had retained to make sure I got the correct part).

Total time 6.5 hours. The only good news is that once the system was activated, the boat immediately cooled down. Thank you Outer Reef for installing a system with adequate cooling capacity.

Written by Les.
Post Script: I called Groco to complain and had the "pleasure" of speaking to Dan Phelan, who introduced himself a Vice President. I'm not sure he enjoyed talking to me as a I proceeded to describe his company's lousy engineering and incompetent handling of my calls to get a new basket.

To his credit, he sent me part numbers for the range of baskets (yes there is more than one) for all of my Groco sea strainers and also as a gesture of good will gave me a credit for the strainer basket I ordered.


"I had a discussion with customer service and after a brief review the cross reference sheet they have is misleading.  Not in identifying the new basket part #'s which are correct, but in how it shows the old parts #'s.  In your case the 'SS-85-G'.  They were not wrong in how they went about providing you the size but the information they had to give was wrong
That being said your trip to West Marine was 100% unnecessary and was a result of our mistake.  We'll be issuing a credit for the part we shipped so your card will not be charged.  I am not doing this in a way to attempt to keep you from expressing your negative experiences on your blog.  As discussed on the phone arguably the best thing about this country is freedom of speech.  The credit will be issued because we made a mistake and it's the correct thing to do.  Please let me know directly if you have any further questions.
Best Regards,
Dan Phelan"
Gross Mechanical Laboratories, Inc.
450 Marion Quimby Drive
Stevensville, MD 21666
P: 410.604.3800
F: 443.249.4030

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dakota's Carnegie Hall Debut

Diana and I spent our Thanksgiving weekend in New York City so that we could see our "unofficial" granddaughter perform at Carnagie Hall. It was exciting weekend and a very special treat.

Carnegie Hall
Steve, Dakota and Becky
I'll let Dakota's American Protege participant's bio fill you in on Dakota's musical background.

"Dakota Betts, a 13 year old (who just turned 14) from Glenview, IL has been captivated by the piano ever since learning the distinctive staccato rhythm of "Mexican Jumping Beans" at age 5. She is a student of Dr. Akiko Konishi and has won top prizes in several competitions and festivals. In 2013, Dakota won second place in the Robert Savler Music Competition sponsored by the Chicago Music Teacher's Association, and in 2014 she was a prize winner again in a higher division, winning third place. In addition, Dakota was the youngest prize winner of the 2014 Triton College Concerto Competition. She also competes on her school's Science Olympiad team and earned the privilege to represent her district at the Illinois state competition in 2015. When she is not playing the piano or in the science lab, Dakota can be found on the tennis court, soccer field, or writing poetry that reflects her free spirit and vivid imagination."

Becky, Dakota (14), Nathaniel (12) and Steve after the performance
Dakota is an amazing young women and we have had the privilege of watching her grow up.

Now to the competition. American Protégé Piano and Strings Competitions are open to independent solo musicians of all ages, nationalities and countries. Participants submit their performance on video. The first round of the audition process includes screening of the submissions by the American Protégé Organizational Committee. Then a panel of judges consisting of high-profile musicians and teachers review the finalists and make the final decisions.
Needless to say, when the process is completed the judges have selected young people who have considerable talent.

The performers
Now the venue. "The Winner's Recital" took place on Saturday afternoon at the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. The three hour-long program of classical music included the performances of 34 young people ages 8 to 16. They were absolutely amazing.
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
And now to Dakota's performance. She played a segment from Gershwin's Prelude No. 1.

And finally we come to "Dakota's Carnegie Debut Dinner," which was held at Ai Fiori, an Italian restaurant at the Langham Place Hotel on 5th Avenue.  Dinner was spectacular but this was no surprise given the restaurant's credentials as described below.
Dakota on the staircase to the restaurant
Ai Fiori received three stars from The New York Times as well as Michelin Star recognition the past several years. The restaurant was also included in Esquire Magazine’s 2011 List of Best New Restaurants in America. Additionally, New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo labeled the signature dish Astice the “greatest dish in the world.” Ai Fiori also ranks among Zagat’s Best Italian in NYC, and the Forbes Travel Guide awarded it four stars.  
What a party. It started at 5:30 PM and lasted until after ten. In attendance were family and friends from all over the US and the UK.

Becky, Paula, Martha (Dakota's grandmother) and Gail

Diana and Gail (Becky's sister)
Dakota's grandfather John Betts with his friend Doreen
Dakota with her cousin, Audrey
Now to the rest of the weekend.

Diana and I arrived on Thursday evening after a problem free flight from Tampa and promptly adjourned to the Bianca Restaurant at the Wyndham New Yorker Hotel for Thanksgiving Dinner. This was followed by a walk north on 5th Avenue, where we looked at Christmas decorations and back south through Times Square.

Saks Fifth Avenue constantly changing lighted facade accompanied by Nutcracker Suite music
Friday morning we took the subway and visited the 9/11 memorial. Very moving. The names of every person who perished in the terror attacks of February 26, 1993 & September 11, 2001 are honored in bronze around the twin Memorial pools.

One World Trade Center in the background

911 Memorial Pool
Then a quick subway ride north to the theater district where we took in a hysterical broadway show, Front  Page with Nathan Lane, John Slattery and John Goodman.

John Goodman
Nathan Lane and John Slattery
Friday's dinner was with Becky, Steve, Dakota, Nathaniel, John and Doreen at Joe Allen in the theater district.

Les, Nathaniel and Diana discussing Minecraft at Breakfast at the Tick Tock Restaurant
Saturday was devoted to Dakota's performance at Carnegie Hall. However, a funny (well not that funny) thing happened on the way to Carnegie. I lost my cell phone, which I discovered when I used it to get the time right after exiting the taxi cab (approximately 12:30 PM). &*#%%#@@ (expletives deleted). Diana to the rescue. She suggested I use her phone to call mine. Bingo. I got a hold of the passenger in the cab we had just vacated and he arranged for the driver to return to Carnegie with the phone. Believe it or not I still was on time for the start of the 1:00 PM performance.

Betts family as we arrive at Pennsylvania Station for the train ride to Newark Airport
Sunday was a travel day. All of us departed the hotel at 12:30 PM and headed for Pennsylvania Station for the train ride to Newark Airport ($18.00 for Diana & I - best deal in NYC). No hassle at the airport, a smooth flight and we were home.

A spectacular weekend in the Big Apple with spectacular people.

Written by Les.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wylie's Vision - A Caillon for Sarasota

Reader Note: Two articles in succession starting with the word "vision." Perhaps you're thinking that I've run out of original titles. Just a coincidence but in this case the use of the word "vision" is highly appropriate. Read on to see why.


Wylie Crawford is a friend from Chicago who also winters in Sarasota. He crewed with Tom Frakie on last year's May 1 run from Sarasota to Hingham. Just before we left Sarasota, Wylie and I attended the ballet and during the ride he shared with me his vision to build a carillon in Sarasota. Turns out he was having difficulty finding a venue to host the travelling carillon. Wylie felt that he could create excitement for the idea by exposing the local population to carillon music.

Background (compliments of Wikipedia): A carillon is a musical instrument that is typically housed in the bell tower of a church. The instrument consists of at least 23 cast bronze, cup-shaped bells, which are played serially to produce a melody, or sounded together to play a chord. The carillon is played by striking a keyboard with the fists, and by pressing the keys of a pedal keyboard with the feet. The keys mechanically activate levers and wires that connect to metal clappers that strike the inside of the bells, allowing the carillonneur to vary the intensity of the note according to the force applied to the key.

Naperville Illinois Carillon
Wylie served as the senior carilloneur at the University of Chicago's Rockerfeller Chapel in Chicago.  The chapel contains the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Carillon and tower, a gift from John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1932 in honor of his mother. This 72-bell carillon is the second-largest carillon in the world by mass, after the carillon at Riverside Church on the Upper West Side of New York City, which Rockefeller Jr. also donated in honor of his mother. 

Wylie at the keyboard of the University of Chicago carillon
Wylie retired from Rockerfeller Chapel on October 1, 2015. He was named Senior University Carillonneur in honor of his service of 42 years in the Rockefeller tower. He remains resident carillonneur for the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. He was also the first city carillonneur for the Millennium Carillon in Naperville, IL. Since 2006, Crawford has served as president of the World Carillon Federation, a federation of international associations that organizes conferences in countries with a carillon culture.

Set up for Wylie's retirement party at Rockerfeller Chapel
Diana and I were invited to the retirement gala that the University of Chicago hosted at Rockerfeller Chapel in his honor.

Rockerfeller Chapel - Carillon bell tower to the right
Gift to Wylie from the University of Chicago. Photos of one of the bells being off loaded in 1932
Photo of the bell being installed in the tower.
Now to the traveling carillon. In the mid 1960's, 35 bronze bells were placed on a mobile carillon frame by a Dutch bell foundry and sent to America. For the first time in history, the rarely-seen European art of carillon playing could be brought to audiences. In 1991 this carillon was purchased by John Hall who ultimately placed it in the hands of Frank DellaPenna, a Master-Carillonneur and graduate of the French Carillon School. Frank DellaPenna brings carillon music to audiences all over the United States.

4 ton Cast in Bronze traveling carillon at the Sarasota Medieval Fair
DellaPenna also did something unique by combining the carillon with an orchestra. This had never been done as most carillons sit high in bell towers. Even the 4 ton "Cast in Bronze" traveling carillon is not portable enough to be brought into a concert hall. So DellaPenna brought the orchestra to the carillon and recorded the sound track both with and without the carillon. Audiences can listen to the carillon as part of an orchestra (hence the speakers in the photo above). Below are two links to DellaPenna's carillon performances.



View of the keyboard

Frank DellaPenna as "Spirit of the Bells" with Wylie Crawford
Note: Wylie supports Frank and plays this carillon when Frank has other commitments. He even has a "Spirit of the Bells" costume.

Now to the Story:

The traveling carillon has been in Sarasota at the Medieval Faire for the last three weekends. I attended last Saturday and got to enjoy two concerts along with hundreds of others. 

Large crowd at DellaPenna's performance
What it looked like from the middle of the crowd.
Frank was willing to leave Cast in Bronze (i.e., the carillon) in Sarasota so Wylie could get the exposure needed to create excitement for the project. However, this requires a secure place to store the carillon when it is not being played (Note: Bronze is valued at $1.28 per pound and there is easily 3000 pound of bronze in the bells - too tempting). 

It turns out that there are two venues in Sarasota, Ringling and Selby Gardens, that could provide both the exposure and the security. Wylie was having difficulty reaching the right people at each. Enter Jim Lampl, the owner of WSRQ Talk Radio (98.3 FM, 106.9 FM and 1220 AM) . I placed a call to Jim last May and suggested he and Wylie get together. The results has been positive. Jim connected Wylie with the right people and things are starting to happen including a full page article in the Sarasota Observer. Below is a link to the aricle "Sarsota Resident seeks Home for the Carillon."


The carillon would be a great addition to Sarasota and would enhance the already rich culture. Sarsota is already home to Ringling Museum, Selby Gardens, Sailor Circus, The Sarasota Opera, The Sarasota Ballet The Sarasota Orchestra, Florida Studio Theatre and two movie theaters just to name a few. 

Once the idea takes hold then the next question is where to put the tower and bells.I think the perfect location is Bayfront Park located at the foot of Main Street. This location, which was created when Marina Jack was built, has green space, access to parking and is far enough from habitation not to disturb anyone. People could come to weekend concerts with the chairs and a picnic and listen to the wonderful sound of the carillon. Payne park would also work well but I think Bayfront is magical.

Bayfront Park
The cost of the bells and a small tower to house them is around $2,000,000, which would be raised from private donations. Stay tuned for updates as this project moves forward.

Written by Les.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Bob's "Vision" - Bracewell Semi-custom 54

READER NOTE: This is clearly deja vu. Last May just days after arriving in Hingham I got to watch a 44 foot sailboat being extracted from the shed where it was constructed (see "Popping the Cork on a 17 Year Old NEW Boat"). Now, three days after arriving in Sarasota I'm driving across the state of Florida to see another brand new boat.

Diana and I met Bob and Jan Kossman in August of 2012 on the second phase of our Great Loop adventure. We had just completed the Trent Severn Waterway, a 240 mile inland waterway journey from Trenton Ontario to Port Severn, a port on the southeast end of the Georgian Bay.

Diana with Jan & Bob Kossman on Mackinac Island in September 2012
Actually, Kodi introduced us to the Kossman's who were cruising on their 45 foot Tollycraft, Jan's Tern, with their dogs Kaylee and Daphne. This took place in Penetangiushene Canada. We then proceeded to cruise north with them through the Georgian Bay and the North Channel. We checked back into the United States at Drummond Island and then cruised together to Mackinac Island, where we finally parted company.

Jan's Tern - Bob's 1996 45 Tollycraft Cockpit Motor Yacht
Currently for sale. See www.boattrader.com or tollyclassified.com
Needless to say we've been friends every since. Bob and I spoke frequently as we were building the Outer Reef 63 (November 2012 to February 2014). Bob and Jan joined us for the Christening Party that Outer Reef threw at the 2014 Miami Boat Show.

Shortly after we took delivery and moved Guided Discovery north to Massachusetts, Bob began the process of building a custom yacht with Lance Bracewell, owner of Bracewell Marine Group. That process ultimately took 26 months, was done in China and culminated with the arrival of a semi-custom built Bracewell 54 in late September 2016.

From late September to last weekend (November 12), when I visited the Kossman's and their new yacht in Fort Lauderdale, the boat had been at Cable Marine undergoing six weeks commissioning. Bob and I have been in close communication and I have had the opportunity to vicariously participate in the process of commissioning another new yacht (with all of its frustration - oh well). Now I traveled 200 miles across Florida to view the almost finished product.

Bob, like Burger King, wants to do it his way. So after much searching he found a builder, Lance Bracewell, who was willing to modify an existing hull to meet Bob's specifications.

Explanatory Note: Three ways to build a boat. Custom: You hire a naval architect and start from scratch with drawings. Everything on the boat is custom designed. You choose all equipment along with interior fabrics and colors. Semi-custom (like Outer Reef and Bracewell): You start with an existing hull and make modifications. You get to choose equipment along with interior fabrics and colors. Stock (the 48 Sundancer): You get to pick equipment from a limited options list. Interior fabrics are selected from a set of fixed choices.

Reader Note: The photos that follow are of a boat in the later stages of commissioning and thus things are a little messy.

Here's a photo of the finished product.

"Vision," Bob's 54 Bracewell Semi-custom Motoryacht
And here's a photo of the standard Bracewell Pacesetter 54.

Bob moved the flybridge forward a good 6 feet creating an 18 foot flybridge with amazing space including a day head. The bridge is fully enclosed with EZ2CY strata glass and has a fully enclosed hinged door to the boat deck.

Aft view showing engine room access door, aft deck, boat deck and aft door on flybridge
Another major modification occurs on the main deck. The standard 54 Pacesetter is a two station boat. Bob's 54 has a single control station on the flybridge. The elimination of the lower station frees up the that space to become banquette seating for five. The result as you walk forward is a wide open space.

Standard Pacesetter with pilothouse helm station and surrounding settee.
Bob's banquette across from the galley creates seating with an open feeling
Now as you sit at the banquette and look aft you have a open space of almost 40 feet.

Banquette looking aft to the salon. Notice the open stairwell to the flybridge, TV and cabinetry to port.
Explanatory Note: Bob built and equipped a boat that matches his cruising style. Unlike myself, Bob does not run long distances or offshore or in substantial seas or operate at night. Hence this boat does not have stabilizers, AIS, night vision or satellite radio. Bob picks favorable weather and runs at hull speed most of the time. The boat is capable of 21 MPH when needed.

Here's the basic specifications:
  • Length overall (LOA) 54’ - 0”
  • Length on deck (LOD) 51’ - 0”(including integrated swim platform)
  • Beam 16’ - 0’
  • Draft 3’ - 6”
  • Displacement 56,000 lbs.
  • Fuel capacity 600 gals
  • Water capacity 300 gallons
  • Holding tank 150 gallons
  • Bridge clearance 19’ 6”
Now for a tour of the main deck.

Bob standing on the aft deck. Storage locker to port.
There is plenty of room for a table with chairs

Salon starboard settee and fixed table just forward of the salon door

Salon door and port settee with fixed table

Lovely fixed table

TV and entertainment center - currently awaiting equipment and cabinet doors

Galley banquette. Stairwell to the accommodations is to starboard

Galley with full size refrigerator and top freezer, 2 burner electric stove, dishwasher and toaster oven
Bracewell will build the Pacesetter 54 as either a two or three stateroom boat. Both arrangements have two heads. Bob choose the two stateroom arrangement to maximize the size and storage for each room. We'll start with the starboard side of the master stateroom, continue around that room and then look at the VIP stateroom.

Master Stateroom Vanity with storage
Door to the head and shower is to your left
Master queen sized bed

Side table with granite top and storage below
Starboard storage includes 12 drawers flanked by two hanging lockers. Notice the granite top. 

Aft hanging locker
TV, drawers and double door hanging locker
Looking forward to the VIP stateroom
VIP standard size bed

Storage drawers under the bed

VIP head
Now well look at the flybridge. Bob's decision to build a single station boat maximized space on the main deck and eliminated considerable cost by not having to duplicate electronics. The flybridge is enclosed with EZ2CY strata glass, which can be opened for ventilation. The area has a powerful HVAC unit that makes in usable year round in any weather.

Looking forward to the control station
Notice the starboard settee and fixed table

Control station with two Garmin 7612s and a Garmin Autopillot
The 54 is equipped with single lever engine controls, a bow thruster and a joy stick

Super comfortable ultra leather covered helm seating 

Starboard settee and table looking aft
Flybridge sink and storage. Day head to the right.

The day head. Inside is a commode

Left to right. Day head, door to boat deck.and flybridge refrigerator

Boat deck. Open space for sun bathing
Bob does not carry a tender. Hence no davit.
Now we'll visit the lazarette and the engine room (or holy place as it was called by Bill Parlator, the co-founder of Passagemaker Magazine). The 54 is equipped with two Cummins 550 HP tier 3 (very clean, state of the art) diesel engines. The engine room has over 68 inches of headroom and as you will notice has tremendous space. Literally everything is accessible. To get to the engine room you pass through the lazarette.

Lazarette starboard side

Lazarette storage shelf

Washer and dryer and work space

More storage space

Lazarette looking aft

Forward bulkhead and storage lockers

Port engine. Notice the space for easy access

The builder, Lance Bracewell, with Bob Kossman
sitting comfortably on the port storage locker
Jan and Bob pose for a parting photo.

Suggestion to Lance: Name this version "540 Vision."

And to Jan and Bob. She's a work of art. Good luck and smooth sailing.

Written by Les.