Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Blow It Out Your ...

We've suspected for a few years now that we had a leak or two and then some in our exhaust system.  Since it is all original, it was to be expected.  Spending more time riding the bikes and less time driving Annie however confirmed for Nicole's nose that it was time to find them.  

Driving Annie only a few times a month has made the smell of exhaust on our clothing more obvious than it was when we were in her every day.  Exhaust on our clothing means our exhaust system is not just leaking it is finding its way into the van as well.  And, that is not good.

We went high tech for this job.

Shop-vac on reverse, a rag to fill the gaps, packing tape to hold it all together and soapy water.

Nicole has been watching this hole for a while now.  It is near the rear of the van so she hadn't been too worried about.  It was a good place to start however when it came to seeing how easy it would be to feel the air blowing out of any cracks or holes.  In the case of this one... very easy!

Working forward with a spray bottle full of soapy water in hand, this split in the seam of the muffler announced itself with a nice big bubble.

                      As did one in the weld just after the catalytic converter.

                                 And one on the topside just before the cat.

We had expected that if we had leaks along the pipe run that they would be at the weld points as that is a common point of weakness.

    Our pre-cat (also known as a mini-ox converter) has a leak at one of the welds too.

Now to the engine bay and the things we already knew about...

When we bought Annie we knew that one of the air injection crossover tube attachment bolts had broken off inside the manifold.  So, we've been patching that for a while now with RTV.  With the RTV pulled away the gap is more obvious and without a gasket and a bolt to tighten it down there is a significant leak at this point.

We were surprised however to find on the driver's side of the engine that despite having a solid bolt down connection the same area was leaking, as well. 

Not sure if we will finally bite the bullet and work on getting that broken off bolt on the other side out so that we can remove the crossover and put new gaskets on both sides or just patch this again.  Either way, these two points definitely need to be sealed up.

Unfortunately, not being able to find a replacement bearing, our smog pump re-build did not hold up as long as we would have liked.  So, we have been driving with the hose system disconnected from the check valves and have gone through many ideas of covering them to keep exhaust from leaking out. 

They hold pretty well for the most part but we have to keep replacing them when they spring leaks.  A more permanent solution for these two points is in the works until such time that the air pump can be re-installed.

Our power heat riser valve assembly has a leak at the point in the center of the photo.

Lastly, although our manifolds themselves are solid and sans leaks, the center gaskets on both sides are leaking on the underside.

And, that is what we found.  It sounds like a lot but it wasn't more than expected.  Welds are common leak points as are gaskets.  The holes we found are small so we are currently exploring options for patching these leaks.  While doing things like removing the manifolds and putting new gaskets on might would make more sense to some, the fact that ours have been in place for almost 29 years means that removing them has the potential to do more harm than good.  We aren't in the position right now for something like that to go wrong.  So, we'll patch to keep things running smoothly and exhaust leak free for now.

That's the latest from down south... on Annie.

Monday, August 21, 2017

On The Eclipse Bandwagon

We were in the path of only 80% coverage and at the time of our peak we had a wonderful sun-shower. 

Nonetheless, we popped out now and then with a pinhole in a piece of paper and the sun to our backs and had some fun with the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

                                                                 It has begun.

                                    Darlene experiments with hand puppets.

                                       Coverage gets a bit more obvious.

                                              No special glasses needed here.

                                                  Hand puppet with eclipse eyes.

                                                     Ha Ha.  This is too much fun.

                                                         The simple set-up.

                                Darlene continues to experiment.  Seeing triple.

                                                         Continuing coverage...

                                  Multiplied through the holes in Nicole's hat.

                                                                    Nearly there.



                                                               Double Trouble



                                                      Unintentional extras



      Our final shot.  We hope you enjoyed this unique event in your own way too.

                      And now... some photo editing of the sequence of things.

                Solar Sequence

Friday, August 18, 2017

Partaking in Projects

We've got a list of little things that we'd like to get done while stationary.  

Darlene wanted to learn how to make bread. 

She's been "taking care of the mama", "feeding the baby", "pouring off" and "stirring in the hooch."  She's done the slap and fold and the no-knead, proofed, punched, stretched and rolled. 

We've had a lot of delicious bread.  One day we decided to finish up on of the standard store bought loaves we had in the fridge. 

After being spoiled, neither of us could even finish one slice.  Ah... the good life.

Other things we've been working on include a way to transport our bikes. 

We bought a cargo tray, hitch extender and some bicycle carrying attachments.

         We're pretty excited about this new addition to our traveling arsenal.

The hitch stabilizers arrived the other day as did the second locking hitch pin (not pictured).

A few more ideas to workout with regard to tie downs and such and we'll have suitable bike transport.

Having bikes now means one more thing to maintain.

So, Nicole got to work creating a lightweight yet sturdy support that lets us get the rear wheel in the air.

            The key is that it breaks down and packs away when not in use.

A few months back we had a tomato that had sat on the counter too long. 

When we cut it open it was obvious it had 'gone to seed'. 

So, Nicole stuck 'em in a pot. 

A few months later and they are growing like weeds.

Three of the stragglers in their own private pot.

The only basil that we have managed to grow from seed.
It sounds mean but it seems to have survived because we don't pay it much mind.

          Somewhere in the mix we managed to finish our third puzzle.

When you buy a puzzle for a dollar at the thrift store you expect pieces to be missing. 
What you don't expect is to have an extra piece that doesn't belong.

Next on the list... our Land Yacht gets a port hole and her windows get some new runs and scrapers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Volunteering for Seagrass Restoration

Working part-time can sure put a damper on a girls' volunteering time.  The stars aligned today though and Nicole was able to get over to the Oceanographic Center to contribute to the FOSTER (Florida Oceanographic Seagrass Training Education and Restoration) Program.

Today's task was Seagrass Matting. 

From the Oceanographic Website...  "F.O.S.T.E.R.’s goal is to restore seagrass populations into our estuary impacted by fresh-water discharges and algal blooms. Seagrasses are vital to the health of Florida’s waterways as it provides habitat, nurseries, and food for a variety of estuarine species. In Florida, we have the highest seagrass biodiversity of the continental USA with seven species!

The F.O.S.T.E.R. program relies on community-based restoration efforts to restore seagrass habitat. With a growing volunteer base, F.O.S.T.E.R. restores seagrass by collecting and growing seagrass fragments in nurseries, constructing seagrass planting units, and transplanting living seagrass into the estuary."

The photos on this sign show you just how much the seagrass in the lagoon have been affected over the years.


a close up....


Matting - or constructing a seagrass planting unit involved two different substrates today. 

The one they typically use is burlap.

            The circles are where we would attach about 20 segments of grass.

The burlap is reported to deteriorate in approximately four months time.

The second substrate that we used today is called BESE-elements (Biodegradeable EcoSystem Engineering Elements).

BESE-elements look and feel like plastic however they are non-toxic and made of starch from potato waste.

Florida is the first state in the U.S. to test BESE-elements in estuary restoration efforts.  They are used for oyster reefs and our purposes today were to help a Doctoral student with his PhD project using this material.

Grasses were counted and for the purposes of the research and restoration efforts limited to a certain number per circle.

The grass out of the water only briefly for a visual demonstration of how to apply them to the burlap.  We worked with our arms underwater the whole time to prevent the grasses from drying out at all.

The blue tubs in the background of our work space are farms of various grasses and snails that are used to keep algae at bay.

A section of seagrass laying in the pool shows the leafs (dark sections on top), the shoots (vertical sections just below the leaves), the rhizomes (horizonal section) and a very faint view of the roots.  The rhizomes are the portions that we attached to the substrate using thin flower wire.

                 A section of matting completed and ready for transplanting.

Nicole started out working with the BESE-elements and completed two circles before her arm couldn't take anymore scratching from the hard plastic-like material.

            She then moved on to the burlap section for a little forearm relief.

After our matting was completed we got a tour of a section of the centers saltwater lagoon where volunteers had planted a twelve by twelve section with random strands of grass 2.5 years ago.

Rays, nurse sharks and others swam by as we talked about the rapid expansion of the planted grasses.

Clouds reflected in the clear waters of the lagoon in this shot of the seagrass that has grown so well.

Although she was excited about volunteering to help the seagrass restoration efforts, her love of critters and crawlies meant that

         Nicole was even more excited to get her first sighting of a Bristle Worm.

Bristle worms are Polychaetes and with at least 10,000 species they rule the sea.  They are extremely diverse and have adapted to every type of marine habitat.  These "abrasive" creatures have evolved over 500 million years and survived FIVE mass extinctions (one of which killed off 96% of all marine species). 

Even if you never see a Bristle Worm you can often witness evidence of them by simply picking up a seashell. 

Grooved marks on shells are made by the Bristle Worms excreting acid and rasping with its bristles. 

The coolest pattern we've ever found was this....


                                                     Until next time...