What happens after you change that shredded impeller?  Clean out the heat exchanger!

Sharp Eye on the Temperature Guage

If you read my last guest blog, you’ll remember that I was over the moon about being able to change the oil on our 1989 Catalina (Universal 25 XP).  Well, that was one of the easy jobs!  A few weeks back as we were motoring back into the harbor after a delicious sail off Long Beach, I glanced at the engine temp gauge and noticed it was 240 degrees.  Yep, panic set in and I quickly shut her down!

Impeller before…

Impeller after…where’d those pieces go?

Impeller after…where’d those pieces go?

Most likely culprit? The impeller.  Marc successfully showed me how to replace the impeller (we always keep spare parts on board) and then we knew we were going to have to get to the heat exchanger!  Project for another day!

Cleaning Out the HX

Of course, the “another day” arrived and armed again with my favorite site on maintenance for our Catalina 34’ (www.realitycheck.me) we prepared for a BIG project.  Thanks again to Steve and Rebecca for such great explanations, instructions and photos!  

New zinc installed

Impeller pieces removed

Impeller pieces removed

One of the first steps was getting all of the coolant out of the engine.  Once that was done, it was safe to remove the heat exchanger.  We replaced a couple of hoses at the same time though it probably wasn’t necessary.  I knew I would need new gaskets for the ends of the heat exchanger and they were readily available from Catalina Direct.  I was so curious to see what would be in the heat exchanger!!  Indeed, we found a good chunk of the pencil zinc anode that had broken off and lots of pieces of impeller! 

After cleaning out the HX,  I flew into artistic mode with a burgundy scotch bright pad, scrubbing all the corrosion off the end caps til they were as shiny as a brand new penny!  

HX before…

HX after

She Looks Pretty, Burps, and Runs Cool

I cleaned up the heat exchanger by using a wire brush as per Steve’s advice then, the really fun part, I painted the heat exchanger Old Ford Blue!  It looks beautiful!  Put the gaskets on the end caps, sealed everything up and Marc and I worked together to clamp the heat exchanger and hoses back on.  We filled the coolant and started the engine…. Oh no!! Overheating!  We tried a couple of things, when my brilliant Captain thought there might be an airlock where we previously had the water heater.  That was the ticket!  We released the air (burp!) from that and we were in business!  It’s so important to get that heat exchanger off and cleaned out if you have lost a zinc or have bits of impeller that have broken off.  While it was challenging and an almost all day project for us, being the first time, when we have to do it again, it will be so much easier!

Chrissie - First Mate

Can she change the oil? Yes, she can!

Learning the Basics

I’m a boat owner.  So, I am either going to learn how to do some basic maintenance myself or rob a bank to have a professional do it.  Since I don’t look so good in black masks, I decided to give it a shot with my Captain standing by to help.  It never hurts to have some muscles in the vicinity!

Armed with wonderful step by step instructions on how to change the oil on the Universal M25 XP (thank you Steve and Rebecca of Reality Check I had my list and my supplies ready to go! What made this job easy was having the right tools on hand! We have the oil collector from West Marine, a container to put the old oil to dispose of properly, and probably the most important item was having the adjustable wrench to get the old oil filter off!

Always a tight squeeze…

Success in Maintenance

This was an exciting moment for me because being successful in maintenance on the boat is so fulfilling and I love learning the skills associated with boat ownership.  After successfully changing the oil filter and putting new oil in, it was time to discover where the pencil anode for the heat exchanger was and also how to get the transmission bolt out to check the transmission oil.  Now, for you ole’ salts this may seem like some pretty basic stuff, but for a woman who is fairly new to sailing and boat ownership, this is huge accomplishment.  The Captain is pretty darn happy too!  How nice to be able to have your partner enthusiastically help with simple boat maintenance.  

Create a Maintenance Log

I am of the thought that staying on top of things like changing pencil anodes, oil, fuel filters, etc., will definitely help avoid unnecessary problems.  I have created a maintenance log for all areas of the boat that need to be checked on a monthly basis as well as things needing attention biannually, from the engine, to the deck, to the rigging, to the cabin. While there will undoubtedly be some issues that will require outside help, I am excited to be able to do general maintenance, give our girl some TLC and to learn more about her working parts! It’s taken some time to study and figure out exactly what parts to order, but every day I am growing in knowledge and that is cool, yet, still so much to learn.

Massage to Follow

Next projects?  Taking off the heat exchanger, changing the fuel filter, buffing and waxing the hull –   And then maybe a full body massage!

Chrissie - First Mate

Sail the Amalfi Coast of Italy? Certo!

Okay, I am going to tell you right off the bat, I lived in Italy for 12 years so I am totally prejudiced. I LOVE ITALY!  I love the food, the people, the scenery and yet, this past July was my very first time sailing there!

On this Sailing Adventure we charted a Jeanneau 519, brand new, with 5 cabins and 2 heads.  (Yes, there were a few of us aboard!)   We were part of a flotilla with NauticEd that was well organized by Grant and Lauren!  We had a fun dinner together and the next morning all 60 sailors (not all on our boat obviously) departed Salerno, free to follow their own itinerary or the flotilla’s suggested stops.



Around lunch time we anchored for a bit at the green grotto, jumped in for a dip and a swim into the cave! Rolly, rolly, rolly! My best friend who had come from Bari, Italy to cook for us succumbed immediately to nausea and dripping sweat.  How my heart broke for her.  

So, we sailed on to Positano.  Lovely Positano!  And it is! From the land!  We’d reserved a mooring ball and you won’t believe it! Rolly, rolly, rolly!!!  In addition, you’ve probably heard of the Italians’ reputation for driving!  Well, they drive their boats the same!  What? A 5 mph no wake zone?  NO WAY!  Doesn’t exist!  So, between the ferries coming in from the islands of Capri, Procida and Ischia and the skiffs zooming along…. Did I mention that it was rolly? I think it was the most miserable time I’ve ever spent at anchor but this is the life of the sailor. Some good nights at anchor and some rough nights.  Ahhh, but then the sun set, the temperature cooled off and the lights of Positano began to glow and wow, what a sight!



Of course, we were none too soon to get underway the next morning along with the rest of the flotilla.

We ventured on to Ischia, a beautiful, beautiful island, lovely marina.  After spending the night in Ischia (at Marina Aragonese in Casamicciola) we sailed on to nearby Procida (Marina Procida) checking out some of the fabulous picturesque towns and medieval castles from the water. From there, on to Capri.  Sailing was lovely.  Good breezes and good company!



If you plan to sail the Phlegraean Islands of Italy there are a couple of things to be aware of.  The marina prices are high.  Reservations for slips or moorings are very important and to be made well in advance!  On average, we paid $130 USD per night for a slip and should one decide to go Marina Grande on the north side of Capri to hang out with the rich and famous, get ready to knock out up to $2,700 per NIGHT! (Okay, monohulls are only charged about $300 USD)  So, not wanting to take up any slip space from Beyonce and Jay Z, we decided to sacrifice and anchor at Marina Piccola on the south side of Capri.  And you’ll never guess!   Rolly!  

Another concern when anchoring out is that you may not be able to take your own dinghy to shore!  There often are no dinghy docks, nor permission to leave your dinghy.  If you are moored, there are shore rides available but we had trouble discerning what we were able to do at Capri.  So, our crew pretty much decided to hit the road (hit the sea?) and head back to Amalfi where we got a slip in the marina.  It was a good choice as it gave us extra time to explore the historic town of Amalfi, eat lots of gelato, drink Rucolino and Limoncello, and of course, eat PIZZA!!!!  Lots of pizza!



I think cruising this area of Italy is much more about getting to your destination, shorter sailing from place to place, exploring on land and eating wonderful dinners ashore!  You can expect rolly anchorages as much of them are very open and offer little protection. Once the skiffs and ferries stop, things do tend to calm down quite a bit.  Sailing the Amalfi Coast is a COMPLETELY different experience than spending a week on the Sea of Cortez where you are surrounded by nature, no restaurants, very few people, cooking aboard, swimming and snorkeling!

Exploring the Amalfi Coast is a great way to see many towns, gorgeous and dramatic cliffs and mountains and yet, at the end of the evening, be able to retreat from the tourists and constant thumping from the local discotheques (Yes, they still believe in disco in Italy!)


On my wish list is to visit the islands around Sicily!  Perhaps in 2019.  Would you like to hone your sailing skills, see the fantastic Aeolian islands, and eat wonderful Italian food?  Get in touch with Captain Marc and let him know you’re interested.  And finally, do you need to speak Italian?  No… most folks speak enough English in the tourist areas, but it always helps to speak a little, and especially to joke.  Italians have a great sense of humor and if you’re willing to go with the flow and understand that things don’t always function the way we are used to here in the USA, you’ll have a blast!!! 

Chrissie - First Mate

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A Real MOB Rescue in Newport Harbor

My First Real MOB Recovery – “This is NOT a drill!”    By Chrissie Oppedisano

Planning for a leisurely late afternoon sail in a Harbor 20, Marc and I had just left the OCC docks in Newport Harbor.  I was at the helm on a broad reach, Marc at the jib.  Not far from the dock, in the middle of the channel, we saw a capsized RS dinghy and a man having a rather difficult time trying to get the boat upright.  The wind was blowing from the west at about 12 kts.  The boat was on its side with full main and jib, and the spinnaker was wrapped around the forestay.  We decided to see if we could give him a hand and started upwind to reach him. 

Marc called out to him, but he didn’t answer.  At that moment, as the late afternoon sun’s rays were hitting the water, I saw an arm flailing in the bright reflection on the water about 100-150 feet upwind. Uh-oh!  Looks like someone got dumped when the RS capsized.  And because of the wind, the dinghy had drifted quite far away from the person in the water (PIW).  Wow, all those practice drills sent my brain into automatic response as I called out “man overboard” and started spotting.  Marc took over the helm (thank God!) and as our PIW was right smack into the wind, Marc fell off and came back up to approach her.  She was starting to panic and was crying out that she couldn’t hold out much longer.  Maybe she wasn’t a swimmer, I don’t know, but the shore was only 150 yards in either direction. 

We approached and got the flotation PFD to her.   Now we had to get her out of the water.  I grabbed her by the seat of her foulies, Marc pulled her up and over into the boat, and I helped her out of her wet foulies. Phew!  Good thing she was a petite little thing!    Happy Ending!

Lessons learned

What I noticed immediately is that the woman had not been wearing a PFD so she was left to try and tread water in about 65 degrees, probably colder.   ALWAYS wear that PFD, even if you are “just” in the harbor.  While she may have been cold, at least with flotation she would not have felt like she was going under and probably would have felt more visible.

Second, she was panicking!  Her brain apparently could not comprehend that she was quite close to shore and probably could have gotten there by swimming.  When fear takes over, logic goes out the window.  She may have been afraid of getting hit by one of the big luxury yachts that are frequently navigating the Lido Channel, or she may have been afraid of drowning, being weighed down by her clothes, who knows?  I realized though, it doesn’t matter – when you get dumped in the water, you may go into panic mode.

In a way it felt like a “mini” man overboard rescue – but it was for real and for MY first MOB recovery, honestly, I was thankful it was just in the harbor.   It was a gentle training ground and a rescue that I felt calm and in control of carrying out, thanks to the great training I have received (and having Marc right there!!).  It gave me a chance to reflect on the reality of the situation – what I needed to do, what I would have done had I been by myself, and seeing first-hand what happens to a person who is in the water!

So, how did the story end?  As we were getting this woman out of the water, the RS skipper had gotten the boat upright and our boats met up.  The woman jumped right back into the RS and off they went sailing downwind!  Guess it’s kind of like falling off a horse and getting right back on it!  Wow!