Monday, March 21, 2016

Making Friends with US Customs & Border Protection

Tara gets fingerprinted
As you would expect, anyone coming into the United States aboard a private boat is under the same immigration and customs laws as coming through an airport, or driving across in a car.  Just like there are fast-track programs in these modes of transit there's one for little boats called the Small Vessel Reporting System, or SVRS, to make things easier.

Any US flagged vessel 30 feet or more in length entering the US is required to either hold a Customs Decal or pay a one-time fee for re-entry.  If you hold a Customs Decal you can also register your boat and crew with the SVRS potentially making re-entry to the US as simple as a phone call without physically seeing anyone or even entering a port.  I understand they may require you to land for inspection but it's very rare, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Our experience getting registered:
  • Online, head on over to the creatively named DTOPS, or Decal/Transponder Online Procurement System, and shell out $27.50 get a decal for your boat
  • After a few weeks receive your decal and decal number which you can use to submit an application for the captain and vessel with the SVRS, again online
  • Submit additional applications for each crew, this can be done before the vessel is registered but the captain should wait until the decal is available to apply
  • An email will be sent to each crew with a link to schedule an interview with a Customs Officer, setup a series of appointments using the online system - one for each crew
  • Arrive at the specified address and time with your vessel documentation and passports for each crew
  • Answer a few questions such as what credentials we hold and what experience we have at sea and abroad
  • Have your fingerprints & photo taken and listen to an explanation around the limitations of SVRS, in particular that it doesn't necessarily exempt you from reporting to an office on entry
I found the process a bit tedious but relatively easy.  They basically made sure we weren't complete idiots, and took our fingerprints & pictures.  He confirmed that the infant we brought is Maya but they didn't take her fingerprints or picture.  It all took less than 15 minutes for Tara and I.  By the time we got home there were emails sent with our BR numbers that can be rattled off when re-entering the US by phone.  We have to go through an expedited form of the process again when each of our passports expire but otherwise the registration lasts forever.

It was cool meeting the guys that go out to check in the crew on huge commercial ships.  The building is at Terminal 6 and on one of the desks was a pile of inflatable PFD's.

No sign outside so we used one of their cars

US Customs office at Portland Terminal 6
Customs Decal

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fresh Water Pump Failure

With Maya's arrival along with all our existing obligations we've been busy and I haven't made much progress on projects recently, in particular is our new refrigeration which is moving forward but not quite complete yet.  Some unexpected projects do come up that jump to the top of the priority list and, in some cases, basically need to be done immediately.  One such project this month was the replacement of our fresh water pump.

The water that feeds our sinks and shower comes from a 130 gallon tank with what's known as an automatic fresh water pump.  Some boats also have a shore water port that connects to a hose pressurized by the city or marina feed which replaces the need for a pump when at the dock but Junovia doesn't (although may at some point in the future).  We use our fresh water pump a lot, especially because we shower aboard and now have an infant that requires lots of bottle/diaper liner/etc. washing.  So, when our pump started acting up early in September it was certainly a concern.  I should have just replaced it at the first sign weeks ago but instead waited until it stopped providing any water pressure during a weekend race to St. Helens and back.

We managed to get through the day using water from a cooler and filling a kettle whenever the pump would provide a little stream but it pretty quickly became a major issue that couldn't wait.  So, Sunday morning before departing St. Helens I pulled the failed pump and installed a smaller non-automatic pump we had in the spares inventory to get us by.  This actually worked surprisingly well and we even limped by on it for a few more days including for showers.  The only real downside was that you had to turn it off at the breaker panel between uses.  A device called an "accumulator" stores some pressure and allowed the sinks to work for short bursts without the pump so we really only had to run it every few uses at the sink.  A big pain, however, was when taking a shower someone else would have to turn off the switch or you'd have to jump out before getting dry to flip it yourself.  So, this needed a permanent fix asap.

Long story short I purchased a Shurflo Aqua King II 4.0 GPM for about $150 which came with hose barbs and the same plastic strainer we already had.  Installation was easy using the existing barbs and strainer, it provided an opportunity to replace the poor electrical crimp connectors with better replacements that include heat-shrink crimped on with a proper tool.

The new pump isn't much quieter and basically works identical to the 4048 before it started failing.  If I have to mess with it again I'll likely install a larger accumulator and look at mounting the pump to a different surface to further reduce noise.

Original Installation
Original Pump - Shurflo 4048-153-E75
New Pump - Shurflo Aqua King II 4GPM
Proper Crimp Connectors

New Installation

Proper Crimp Tool on Left

Monday, August 10, 2015

Baby on Board

Our new crew member, Maya Jo Powning, was born via Cesarean Section 15:03 August 3rd, 2015 at Legacy Emanual Medical Center in Portland, OR.  With how quickly she was growing and the risk of loosing her if the Vasa Previa vessels broke Tara's doctors recommended we pull her out at 35 weeks.

Everything went surprisingly well considering she was 5 weeks premature.  The procedure was normal without complications and Maya came out screaming and kicking at 5 pounds, 6 ounces and 18 inches tall.  We were prepared for her to have to go into neonatal intensive care for a couple weeks but because she was able to breathe on her own with good oxygen levels in her blood and started eating, pooing and peeing within hours of her birth she stayed with us from day one.  The hospital kept a monitor on her to watch her blood oxygen and heart-rate but after 24 hours everything looked good so that was removed and she's been detached from any machines since.

Four more days were spent in the hospital for Tara's initial recovery and to make sure Maya stopped loosing weight.  Today is number four with her aboard Junovia and everything is great so far.  We're feeding her every three hours which is a bit exhausting but have gotten used to it.

Getting started feeding a baby born by c-section is complicated in itself, on top of that we have the added factor of her being five weeks premature.  A really great thing about this hospital is they gave us the option to use donated breast milk (instead of factory formula) until Tara's milk came in which took a few days.  So every few hours a nurse would bring us a container of human milk.  After an initial "training session" on Tara I would feed her using my pinkie and a syringe while Tara hooked up a breast pump to get her body going.  Initially we fed her 20 milliliters per session and increased to 35 before getting discharged.  On the third day Tara's production jumped up enough that we were able to ween her off the donor milk and use our own.

At this point she weighed 2.235kg, a little under 5 pounds, so had lost some weight but was leveling out and on the up-swing.  I don't recall the exact weight but Sunday we had our first follow-up and she had gained a bit which means things are going good.  We're currently supplementing 50ml using a bottle after she gets some directly from Tara and she's been able to get enough directly from Tara on a couple of feedings.  Sucking all her food directly from Tara at this premature age wears Maya out so we'll be giving her the bottle as well for a while even when Tara is around.

Tara continues to experience a fair amount of pain despite heavy pain killers and is taking it easy.  They cut through a number of layers during the C-section and it's a bit of a shock to her system to have the baby and placenta suddenly removed.  It takes weeks for the uterus to contract back to a normal size.  Hopefully she'll be mostly back to normal towards the end of August.

So, yay!  We are very fortunate and stoked new parents of the cutest baby ever.  Now to find the perfect sailing dinghy for her...  Anyone have a nice El Toro for sale?

Sunday, July 5, 2015

We're Pregnant!

Well, we've been pregnant for a while.

It seems I have yet to share this on our blog but early this year we succeeded at boot-strapping our first child with a due date of September 7th, it's a girl.  Unfortunately, and fortunately because we caught it early, Tara was diagnosed with a condition called vasa previa.  The placenta is made of two parts separated by exposed blood vessels which cross the cervix.  Our baby is healthy and everything is going fine otherwise but there is a risk of loosing her (the baby) if the vessels break which could easily happen if the cervix dilates.  This also means Tara will not be able to experience a natural birth and instead will have a planned Cesarean section.  Also, as a precaution, last week at 30 weeks, she has been admitted to Legacy Emanual hospital for continuous monitoring.  If she starts to have contractions, the cervix dilates, or it looks like anything is happening they can have her ready for an emergency C-section in minutes.  We're hoping nothing changes and we can go into a planned C-section at 36 weeks which would be around August 10th.  Now we're definitely going to have to find a sailing dinghy for our kids to learn on.  Unfortunately Oregon doesn't allow you to drive any motorized boat (sailing or not) until 12 years of age, so I guess our kids might learn to sail a real boat on the open ocean.

Anywho, we're reaching the end of her first week in the hospital and Tara's doing well considering.  They're not letting her do any cardio exercises but she's finding ways to keep from bouncing off the walls.  Her setup is pretty nice with a comfortable room, internet, great nurses and plenty of visitors.

More to come soon...

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

New Fire Extinguishers

The Coast Guard requires at least 3 type B-I or one type B-I and one type B-II portable fire extinguishers aboard recreational boats between 40 and 65 feet.  We did have 3 type B-I's but during the survey these were called out as a safety issue for not being tagged.  They were all within the green and appeared in good shape so I probably would never have messed with them if our insurance company didn't demand we resolve the survey findings (before April).

So, yesterday, Tara brought them to a local fire safety company to have them inspected and tagged.  It turns out that because they're plastic and so old that two of them are no longer legit and the third would have to go through some sort of overnight pressure test because it's plastic.  I was also surprised to have them tell us that because the needles were in the lower end of the green mark on the gauges that they need to be recharged anyway.

So, $150 later and we have three new type ABC filled with monoammonium phosphate complete with 2015 tags.  Many boaters use B or BC extinguishers which are easier to cleanup after an incident but I'm trying to follow ABYC standards as much as possible and they recommend ABC.

Anywho, hopefully we'll never have to use them - and now I can tell our insurance company that we've complied with all of their requirements.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

46 CFR 67.123 - Name and hailing port marking requirements

When we bought Junovia she still had a previous name, "Jenny-V" on the stern which Tara managed to get off using a 3M Stripe Off wheel in the electric drill.  Since then some time has gone into considering different designs, fonts, colors, etc. for new markings but in the end we decided to keep it simple.  We had basic vinyl lettering printed out by NW Sign Solutions where a friend works (thanks Sara) and they turned out to be pretty easy to put on.

We got a tip from friends on the dock (thanks Jay and Carolee) to spray windex under the vinyl to keep it from immediately sticking allowing us to make slight adjustments to the position and completely wipe out any bubbles.  This turned out to be a good idea and I'd definitely do it again next time.  Two things we did wrong were:

  • Not enough windex on one set resulting in immediate sticking and a couple minor wrinkles that took some effort to iron out.  The windex did make us a bit lazy about getting it right initially.
  • Got some windex on the port name before exposing the sticky side.  This prevented it from properly sticking to the backing paper that keeps everything lined up.  We had to wait much of the day for that windex to evaporate so the letters would again stick to the paper before we could put the port on.  It looked like we were going to be ordering a replacement but in the end it turned out fine.
After putting the vinyl into place and wiping the bubbles out we left the backing paper on for a few hours for the windex to evaporate before exposing the final names.  The process was initially a bit stressful for me but we're both very happy with how it turned out.

Electronic Projects

Helm Instruments
Warning: this post gets pretty nerdy as my primary boat project for February involved getting all the instruments and radio/navigation components integrated along with a bunch of wiring cleanup.  Much of the core of the electrical system was cleanly rebuilt before we bought Junovia but there were a number of rats-nests and issues remaining that were both unsafe and unwieldy to work with.

Radio Panel
Main Power Panel
An issue that was bothering me in particular was how all the low-voltage splices in the engine room were just sort of dangling exposed and all tangled up making it really difficult to troubleshoot or trace anything.  For this I mounted a sealed PVC box with a couple terminal strips epoxied inside.  It's become the nerve center for our data networks where information from the mast, helm and radio panel all come together and gets distributed back out accordingly.  We have NMEA0183, NMEA2000, Ethernet and SeaTalk networks along with a number of proprietary links between components such as remote mic's, depth sensors, radar, etc.  I added a Brookhouse eMux that integrates the NMEA, SeaTalk and Ethernet networks together such that all the data is translated between each protocol.  Our Ethernet includes WiFi which means I can get all this wirelessly on our computers, iPad, etc.  We can pull up OpenCPN on my Macbook and see all the nearby ships/tugs, how deep the water is under our sounder and even where the rudder is pointed along with just about everything else the boat knows.  Pretty overkill but I'm having fun with it and building some skills that will be useful for developing marine software or working on big yachts down the road.

We also replaced the windvane at the masthead and added ST60 Wind & Multi-Graphic instruments at the helm.  Feeding a new wire inside the mast for the windvane was the most challenging task of the month.  It took a couple attempts of attaching the new wire to the end of the old before we got a splice skinny and flexible enough to pull all the way through from the mast's top to the base, which is around 56 feet.  Our clearance from waterline to masthead is only 52 but the mast continues through the cabin sole and sits on the keel a few feet below that.  Tara was upside down in the bilge while I was hanging in a harness at the top of the mast, we communicated via radio working together to coax the new wire into place.  Need to remember to bring the camera and snap a picture of our busy masthead the next time I climb up there.

The less interesting electrical tasks included replacing the DC sub-panel that was based on fuses and a bit clunky with a new BlueSea unit using the same type of breakers as the existing main panel.  All the solid copper wires have been replaced with ABYC compliant stranded copper and I've disassembled and re-connected almost all of the AC outlets, most of which appear to be the originals from when the boat was built which are safe and compliant.

Next up is a quick post about getting Junovia's name and port on the hull.  Then it's on to the refrigeration project which I'm expecting to consume many hours, but should be interesting and will also involve a lot of learning.

Engine Room Data Junction
Engine Room Data Junction
Brookhouse eMux

DC Power Sub-panel Back

DC Main Power Panel Back

DC Main Power Panel Terminals