Archive | January, 2012

A tale of Lobsters, Halibut and Kelp Bass. One of the last great trips of 2011. Now closed down to the MPA’s of 2012

16 Jan
With the approaching closing MPA’s of 2012 a few of my buddies and I decided to check out some spots before the new year hit.  As usual I anxiously watched the swell models and when I figured it was a good time we met up and hit it.  It wouldn’t be as easy at it seemed.
It wasn’t the swell that scared me, it wasn’t even the wind because there was none. It was something even more menacing. As I backed my truck down the launch ramp I could barely make out the pavement below. Freaking Great, the fog had rolled in after those long days after all that heat followed by cold.
If you’ve never been in thick fog on a small boat, you are in for a treat brother. It’s absolutely terrifying without having any radar. I’ve got a great little chartplotter and that works out well for identifying landmarks and jettys but it doesn’t help out on bouys, logs, or even boats that are in the harbors.  Nothing is as eery as when you are cruising through fog and then all of a sudden there’s something in front of you.I reminded myself of this as we cruised out to an area that was soon to be closed off. I was extra careful and had my head on a swivel, you would think that I was hunting white seabass . We saw a few boats in the thick mist and never had any close encounters but man was I happy to drop anchor once we reached our spot.   As they anchor spiraled downward I was amazed at how great the visibilty was. You could see that anchor clearly forty feet below. In the cold wet mist we had a hard time getting our spirits up enough to put on those cold wetsuits.  You never heard so much bitching and crying.  It was like suddenly some of us had turned into whiny schoolgirls.I grabbed my 55″ wong hybrid and dropped in. In a few moments I was making my first dives, there were a few fish out but nothing like the spring or summer. Mostly garibaldi were the ones making noise, not a croak was heard although I cruised the kelp beds with my ears on alert. As I worked my way through the outer edge of the kelp I started seeing a few nice calicos bolting from the safety of the kelp. I took a breath, inverted and dropped down and kicked towards a kelp room. On the edge just under a kelp blade was one of the biggest calicos I’ve seen in a while. Luckily there was a smaller two pound fish in front of it and it kind of hid the eye of the big one. I braced the gun for the shot and clicked the trigger.I wish I could have said I stoned it but the truth is the shot was low and I saw the fish spinning around and heading towards the rocks, my floatline in tow. I headed towards the surface, took a breath and went down after it. The fish was still spinning as I grabbed the shaft and then the fish by the gills. Almost by instinct I passed a sharp knife into it and dispatched it and swam to the surface. The calico was so big my buddy peered into my fish bag later and thought I shot a white seabass because the tail was so huge and fat  . It would later weigh a bit over 8lbs and verified on two digital scales, the fish was 25″ long and probably would have been 10 pounds if it had anything in it’s gut, but during the winter it was pretty thin.I dropped my friends off on a reef while I hit a deeper spot in the sand. I was hoping for some halibut but figured conditions were too cold to really have a shot at any. As I creeped along the bottom I clearly saw the tail of a fish in the sand but before I could make out it’s head BOOM it threw sand up in my face and took off. Disgusted I came back to the surface and swore at myself for being a lameo.  Damn that was a legal fish too!

Still I knew that at least one was around so I continued my search. As i dropped around a bend I saw a nice one with it’s head fully exposed. The distance between the eyes told me instantly it was a nice one and again the hybrid twitched and then rang true. I dispatched this fish and threw it on my belt. There couldn’t be another one right? I made a few more drops and saw another pair of eyes. Bang. This one was stoned and merely formed a tight c around my shaft, I dispatched it anyways and headed back towards the boat with two 12 lb bookend halibut in tow.

As soon as I had got there I saw a gray RIB sneaking up towards us. It was still far away but I told my buddies to make sure their lobster cards were filled out because we had a lobster on board. Sure enough I could eventually make out the shapes of two DFG wardens with one of them having binoculars trained on us the entire time. They pulled up next to us and I offered to tie them onto my boat. Knock on wood I’ve never had problems with wardens and they asked to come aboard and check our catch, I’ve got nothing to hide so I said of course and showed them the halibut. When they saw my calico they laughed and said “no need to check that one!”, we chatted a bit,  and then they wished us luck and took off.

That luck must have paid off, we stopped at a few different reefs and I was amazed at the skills of my partners. One of them was absolutely on target, each spot produced a few bugs for him and he was always the first one on the grab. I watched in amazement as he pulled himself into caves where I’d only see his feet hanging out.  At one stop I saw my buddies laughing and hollaring, “he got a 5 lb bug!”.  I saw it and told them, that lobster isn’t 5 pounds it looks more like 3.5 lbs and laughed.  “WTF, why you hating on my lobster bro”, he laughed back.  We threw that bad boy on the scale and when the readout read 3.5 lbs they yelled out in disgust, “Oak called it!” and then cursed at me, I of course laughed my head off.

I lagged behind as I was hunting reef fish for my wife’s family.  There was still a lot of life out if you knew where to look and I’d carefully sneak up on bass and line up the wong and then click off shots.  We kept on going and then as darkness closed we took a hot shower (thank god for instant hot water systems) and started heading back towards home port. The problem was the fog had again set upon us and this time it was even thicker, so thick I had to back down the engine and by the time we got back to the breakwater the visibility had dropped to about 100 feet. It was so bad we had to cover up the stern light because it was reflecting against the fog so bad I couldn’t even see the end of my boat.  I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally made it back to the docks safely.

By the time we pulled all the game out we ended up with a nice assortment of reef fish as well as 17 bugs, the amazing part was all the bugs came from spots we hit during the daytime!

I only included a couple of pix to insure the anonymity of my buddies who may not want to be seen.  The fish look small in the picture because I didn’t pick them up off the ground and they are bent, but when you see the calico next to the lobsters in the close up it makes the bugs look like parasites .  I’ll never forget that day and it would be a great end to a great year but I’ll miss those spots forever…

A nice pile of bugs. Next stop, lobster bisque and stir fry lobster!
At days end, halibut, lobsters and kelp bass
However stay tuned for an upcoming blog because I just came back from an even more epic trip from a better spot :).

Changing the fuel vent hose and fuel tank fill hose on a 1989 Boston Whaler Outrage

6 Jan

Many many thanks to the guys at continuouswave.com and bloodydecks.com for providing the background for the swap.  Changing both hoses took me about 4 hours, mainly because I spent a lot of time cursing and trying to figure out how to fix things that happened unexpectedly. I think if I had a better game plan it would take about two hours.

Background Info:  My boat is a 1989 Boston Whaler Outrage 19 (18.5′) with a Honda BF130 4-stroke engine on it.  I keep the boat at my house and usually fill it up with gas on the way home from trips.  I noticed that ever since I owned it I’d have problems gassing it up.  Sometimes the fuel nozzle would just keep clicking and shut off and I found I’d have to put the nozzle backwards to get it to fill correctly.  Lately though, it wouldn’t take much fuel at all before stopping.  Even if I filled up the gas slowly it would keep clicking the nozzle like it was full and I knew that I still had at least 10 gallons to go.

I talked with the gurus at continuouswave.com and bloodydecks.com, most people suggested that there was a problem with the fuel vent hose or possibly the fuel fill hose.  The easiest problem to fix would be if there was a blockage in the screen on the outer vent (against the port side of the boat).  I disconnected the vent hose and took the screen out and it was clear. I tried blowing air into the vent hose but it only bubbled slightly so I used a compressor to blow more air into it (with the gas tank cap off) and saw the gas rise in the tank towards the fill hole and then recede back very slowly.  My buddy told me that I should be able to blow into the vent very easily with just my mouth, since it was so hard to blow into that hose I figured that there might be a blockage or delamination in the vent hose.  Since my boat is over 20 years old I figured it was time to change those hoses anyway.

Here is a list of what I used/bought:

new 4′ Trident 1.5″ A2 hose
new 9′ Trident 5/8″A1  hose
new stainless steel hose clamps (4 for each hose, 8 total)
wire lube from home depot (you definitely want this or something similar)
1″ ratcheting strap (this was a huge help)
diagonal cutters
soap/water/brush
lots of rags
wire and duct tape
nitrile chemical gloves
rubbing alcohol
shop vac
masking tape
Dap almond silicone caulk and caulk gun
razor blades and utility knife
silicone spray
o-ring grease

The first step was to take off the kick panel and rectangular floor panel on the port side of the boat, right under the gas cap.  The screws are just phillips heads and come out very easily.  The floor panel is held on with caulking, I just cut through it with the utility knife and it came right up.

Here you can see the kick panel to the left, the rectangular hose access plate next to it and one of the circular deck plates to the right

Picture of the removed kick plate showing the old hoses going under the rectangular deck plate

Close up of the spider cracked fill hose

Once I removed the rectangular deck plate I was surprised to see that the fuel fill hose had a 90 degree plastic elbow.  Most of the Outrage’s that I read about had just the 1.5″ hose bent with no elbow.  The bigger surprise was that the vent hose was completely blown on the outside and delaminated.  This was going to be a major pain in the ass because it had swelled up and there were tiny bits of hose swollen up everywhere.  I immediately knew that removing this hose was going to be a problem because it was now about 10% larger than the stock hose, I could not budge it when I tried pulling on it.

Close up of the delaminated vent hose

I’m not sure what would cause that delaminated hose but I have some guesses.  Either fuel leaked out or spilled out in there and rotted the hose or else it could have been a bacterial degradation from all the nasty water that built up over the years.  That entire area was completely gross and smelled like a sewer.  I removed the circular deck plate by the center console and the fuel fill hose access was right under it, you could see the hose clamps on the fuel tank.  The big surprise was that the vent hose connection were no where to be found!  In all of the pictures I had seen both the vent hose and the fill hose were connected to the tank right under the round deck plate.  At first, I thought maybe they had connected the tank somewhere under the deck before it was put on the boat which meant that there would be no access without removing the deck.  I am glad there were no kids around because the words that came out of my mouth would have left them scarred for life.

I thought maybe there was some access by the twin battery cut outs under the console so I disconnected both batteries and pulled them out.  No sign of the hose.  Then I thought maybe the hose was connected somewhere under the forward cooler right in front of the console. Sure enough, I pulled the cooler out and under it was a second round deck plate.  I opened it up and there was the vent hose connection.

Fuel vent hose located under the forward deck plate.  Note the delamination and gross slimy stuff on the hoses.

I thought about it a long time, there was no way that the fuel fill hose was going to move until I got rid of the vent hose first.  I  removed all of the hose clamps and of course could not get the hose to move off the elbow.  I ended up cutting a slit on the side of the hose to widen it and then pulled it off the elbow.  I could not budge any of the hoses no matter how hard I pulled.  I drilled a small hole through the old vent hose and also the new vent hose.  I attached the hoses together with bailing wire and then taped a lot of duct tape over both ends to try to make it as uniform as possible.  I cut the vent hose in half (it’s not really in half, more like 1/3)  right where it went under the first round deck plate.

This is when I started to doubt my abilities and started thinking I was going to have to tow that boat to a shop and pay to have those hoses redone.  I needed a break to think so I went to home depot to pick up some wire lube, it’s the stuff you use to pull wires through conduit.  I know I could use soap, etc but I’ve seen soap break down plastics over time when it isn’t washed off immediately.  The wire lube is supposed to be safe on all wire coverings, and since wire coverings are plastic I figured it would work out okay.

I kept thinking that what I needed was some sort of winch.  I kept imagining having a gigantic shop winch to yank that hose out and then thought about buying a hand puller (come along) winch.  But that would be too big and I’d have to have some sort of shop crane to use it.  Then I remembered that I had a ratcheting strap in the garage.

Hero of the day, my old rusty ratcheting strap

The ratchet was rusted shut but I used some wd-40 and was able to break it free and make it work.  I attached one part of the strap to the hose and used the other end on my boat cleat.  I lubed the heck out of the old hose the best I could and also squirted the lube under the deck by the hoses and started using the ratchet.  Very slowly the hose began to back out.  I had to loosen the strap and keep putting it back on in different spots but slowly was able to back out the hose.  I did the same with the forward part of the vent hose and saw it start pulling the new connected hose through the hull.  Success!  I’d stop and re lube the new hose every few feet and it slid right through.

Ratchet in action, this part was tied onto the grab rail to pull out the hose. I used lots of lube and took my time so I wouldn’t tear the hose.

Once the vent hose was out I now had enough room to work with the fill hose.  The fill hose was quite a bit larger (1.5″) and also would not budge.  I took off the hose clamps and then used a pair of diagonal cutters and a sharp razor blade.  The razor blade would cut down the hose and stop at the inner metal coils so I’d have to cut it with the diagonal cutters and then start the razor again.  It would have been faster to use a jig saw or dremel but since the hose has that wire inside it, if it sparked it could ignite the gas and blow me and the boat up!  It took a while but I was able to make slits and then spray some silicon spray into the ends and wiggle it free.

You can see the fill hose being cut away, you can also see the duct taped and wired together piece of new vent hose above it

Once the ends were free I used the ratchet again, lubed up the hose and slowly pulled the fill hose through the channel.  It took some time and I had to restart the ratchet every once in a while but it worked out well, I was careful to watch the deck and the hose.  I didn’t want the deck to start splitting or the hose to tear away.

Once all of the hoses were removed I used the shop vac to vacuum all of the broken hose pieces out and then scrubbed every part I could reach with dish soap/water and wiped everything dry.  I pulled the rest of the vent hose through and slid it under the deck and up the wall.  I added the springs on top of it so it wouldn’t collapse and zip tied a anti siphon loop.  I also lubed up the main fill hose and slid it under the deck and attached it to the elbow with two hose clamps.  The easiest way to slide the hoses on the fittings was to put some rubbing alcohol on the inside of the hose and the outside of the fitting, with a little push the hose would slide right on.   The O.D. of the new hoses must be a slightly smaller than the originals, they both slid right under the deck.  Since a lot of whalers don’t use the elbow to connect the fill hose I didn’t use the old one either (that would make another place where a leak could occur).  I had left the hoses out in the sun before I put them under the deck and that helped out tremendously, they were fairly easy to work with and also enabled me to bend the fill hose in the 90 degree bend where it would go under the deck.

Quite a difference, this is with the new hoses and after I cleaned out the tunnel with soap/water/rags

I tested the new vent hose by opening up the gas cap and slowly blowing into the vent hose.  It was an amazing difference.  It was very easy to blow through and I heard the gas bubbling in the fill hose.  I made sure all of the hoses had double hose clamps on them and I carefully removed the gaskets under the circular deck hatches and cleaned and lubed them with o-ring grease.  Once I put the rectangular hose access plate back (I scraped off all the old silicone and cleaned off the edges with acetone) on the deck I masked the area off and put a bead of tan silicone and smoothed it out and removed the tape.  I put the kick plate back in and was all finished!

Ready for caulking

A close up of the delaminated vent hose, it is easy to see how swollen the outside has become.  The outer part of the hose was also flaking off big pieces of rubber.

Close up of the vent hose, you can see how the walls have failed and have restricted air flow