Monday, December 12, 2016

Care and Maintenance

It's winter time, so guess what time it is for kayakers?

What time is it, Cowgirl?

While I'd normally say time for winter paddling, which I have done and will continue to do, it's also time for repairs. Inspecting your boat and taking care of any little things going on with it.

Today I pulled the Gemini SP off the rack to take a closer look at some things that have been bothering me for a few months.

I had three goals: clean the skeg, protect the hatch covers, and inspect the remaining mechanicals and lines on the boat.

First, the skeg.

Tools at the ready.

I've taken apart the Argonaut's skeg before, and while the control box is different on the Gemini, the overall approach is the same. Since then, I've bought tools that are useful for these kinds of repairs, including both metric and imperial folding Allen wrenches, and a small set of vice grips, which I keep in a little tin I got from and international flight on Turkish Airlines.

The problem I've been having is that I couldn't deploy the skeg, yet on land I could pull it free by hand easily, and work it up and down. After some earlier checking, I determined that is was likely sand in the tube. That was my theory, anyway.

Note paper placed below to prevent screws from dropping through cracks.

Here you can see the controller. Basically, the steel cable that controls the skeg itself feeds up through plastic conduit inside the boat until it gets to the controller. The slidy-box thing with the five screws is just a housing - a thing for the control rod to to move through.

That rod extends to the right of the housing, and is in fact a hollow tube that the cable feeds through. The handle at the far left in this photo has a small screw inside that tightens down on the end of the cable, through a hole in that rod. Basically, the handle pinches the end of the cable, and everything else just keeps the cable straight as it comes into and out of the conduit.

All the skeg controller screws are Allen head.

Blurry - basically the housing detached, rod still in place.

Rod with the handle removed. See the hole for a screw to pinch the cable? 

Once I had the handle off, I noticed corrosion on the end of the cable. Not a whole lot, but definitely rusty red. I also found, and cleaned out, sand between the hull and the housing.

Satisfied with my dismantling of the slider hosing, I checked the cable on the skeg itself. To my surprise, there was nearly no corrosion here. While you can't see it in the photo below, it looked at first like there was no kink, but I found a slight bend further up when I hyper-extended the skeg.

I spent a lot of time working the cable up and down. I also splashed some water on it, hoping it would work its way down the tube. However, I was becoming convinced that there wasn't so much sand in the conduit itself.

The skeg end of the cable.

My original plan was to pull the cable completely out, and then to flush water through, and wipe down the cable. But, as I worked things along, the cable seemed fine to a point, and I was a little worried I'd have trouble threading the cable through if I got it all the way out. It's not hard, but it requires more time and finesse than I had at hand.

I also noticed a slight kink in the cable near the skeg end. It's not noticeable in the photo above, but when I hyper-extended the skeg, I could make it out. I've seen worse. As I continued working the cable back and forth, I found that it was pretty smooth, except for pulling the skeg up an additional quarter-inch to be flush with the keel of the boat.

That much, I can live with. I'll replace the cable eventually, but for now, I've got it working better than it was. I can pull it flush for storage, and when I go to see, just give it a little pull to get it in position to be deployable when needed.

I removed the controller housing completely and ran water through it, then a twisted-up paper towel, to get any grime and sand out. I did the same with the control rod as well, even though nothing is supposed to be moving internally in it.

I put the entire assembly back together and tested it out, then moved on to some other things.

For one, I rinsed my hatch covers and then dried them off, then applied 303 protectant to them. I'd removed the hatched from the lines I used to tether them as well, so that I could wipe 303 into the rims. The 303 spray shields hatch covers from the sun's ultraviolet rays, which can degrade the material. Even though I store my boat in a boathouse, well-shielded from the sun, it's a wise protective move given how frequently I paddle.

I inspected all my deck lines and bungies. They're all in good shape, though I can see the start of some thread fraying on one stretch of bungie. Surprise, it's the area I use the most, to secure my water bottle, or pump, or camera.

The last thing I checked (other than the seat, which was fine, just fine) was the pair of foot pegs. The right peg was fine. The left, not so much.

I couldn't open the cleat that keeps it secure. I use my vice grips to finally get them open, but even after that, the peg would not slide along the track. I got out a hammer and tapped it forward, but even that didn't budge it much.

Finally, I resorted to removing it from my boat, but removing the two screws that pierce the hull and attached to the rails. Once out, I was able to rinse and remove the peg. I made sure to get all the sand and grime off, and got the foot peg to slide again.

Problem parts, taken apart !

One note about re-assembling the foot peg and track: you need to put the peg on before re-attaching the rail to the boat. Once the screws are in, they block the peg from sliding on (or off) the rail. Minor thing that I had to figure out.

I wiped out some sand left in my boat, and rinsed along the bulkhead seams. The last thing I want is for some sand and water to freeze in a crack and expand later.

I'm sure I'll paddle my boat some more in the winter, but I was happy with this little inspection and repair. I've got one last thing to follow up on later (the skeg cable) but other wise the Gemini SP is in good shape!

Now I'll just have to make time for its bigger and older sibling, the Argonaut. . .

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