The Starry Night, 161

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An Unexpected Adventure

1/15/2016. Uh-oh. We took the RV out for its annual safety inspection (passed, $5 to repair an extra turn-signal, thanks Bolick's Discount Tire), to top off the propane (Bumgarner's RV), and fill the tank with cheap gas ($1.75 @ Ingles; note that the gauge was screaming EMPTY but there were 16 gallons left). So what's this, "Uh oh?"

This: when I began the rainy loop by moving it to the end of the driveway to adjust tire pressures, I heard water sloshing somewhere over my head. Then ice water cascaded down my neck. A similar waterfall drenched the passenger seat. I scrambled and caught most of it in cups and basins. Uh-Oh! and WTF?.

When we got home (parked again nose down about 3 degrees, listing very slightly left), we pulled the foam mattress out of the cabover sleeper / instrument bay. It weighed a ton having absorbed a lot of water. (Remember this, I thought, in case you ever have to dispose of a dead body.) With the mattress gone, we could see that the driver's side corner was awash. Water pooled an inch or two deep in the left, downhill corner, and flooded back halfway across the compartment. This is the sort of thing that doomed the Titanic.

Amy found cheap paper towels at Ingles (3 rolls for $2) and we used up a bunch of them sopping water out of the overhead. Late in the evening, working by flashlight while the sky darkened and rain continued to fall, I realized the water was going down only so far. There appeared to be a reservoir under the wooden floor of the overhead. So there was.


1/16/2016. In the morning, after thinking about the whys and why nots overnight, I drilled a 1/4-inch "weep hole" in the bottom of the fiberglass nose to allow the water I surmised must be there to escape. Was there much? About 5 liters, caught and measured, of a color between strong iced tea and Coca Cola.

The front wall of the cabover was obviously compromised. I took down most of the window treatments and interior window covers in order to rip out the vinyl wall covering. Some came away cleanly along with a ply or two of soaked wood. Some other fragments came out almost as easily. Fiberglass insulation came out drenched; sheets of styrofoam appeared to be intact. I removed what was damaged and left what was not, but I likely erred by leaving too much. Hope, y'know? As for the vinyl wallcovering, we've never cared for it. And in the absence of the window coverings, I like all the extra light. Likewise, the expansive sense of space gained by removing the mattresss to open up the cabover floor. So there's some upside, but all is not well. There's more to do and much to dry before we know where the bottom is.



Click for a clearer view, if you dare.


As Amy put it, quoting the upstart crow, "Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia."

Whence cometh this tide? Well, late in the day, while covering the camper with a painter's drop cloth to protect it and our sorry progress against forecast drizzle and flurries, I inspected this and that without spying a problem, but I finally discovered that the front of the roof has a bit of a depression behind it. The result is a lip. Water from the entire roof must collect here in an inch- or two-inch deep pond. And sure enough, there was a tiny tear in the "rubber" roof near the bottom of that hypothetical lake, over on the left where the water damage seemed worst. Touching, pushing the area easily tore the covering. A top-tier tarp will be delivered tomorrow; that will buy time to do this fix right. The real solution (short of an all new roof) may be something called "Eternabond" tape. But there'll be some nimble carpentry to take on inside as well. More when I know more.

I would have never believed such a tiny opening would cause all this had I not watched over a gallon of tea-colored water drain from a 1/4-inch hole in about an hour. This mess has taken weeks, months, maybe years to create. The ages have been at work on it and I damn well better be able to improve it.

I'm shook. Amy enjoys traveling in Ophelia, but it is my western hacienda, my Datil Mountains refuge, my observatory -- I am 60 years old and only sometimes resigned to the idea that I will not live 40 years with red rock below the horizon and stars above it from wall to wall. This is my best hope to ever spend time under dark, western skies. A leak in the coach is high water on the ranch. This cannot be tolerated.

Take a deep breath. The overhead needed to be reworked to hold optics and mounts and electronics in any event. I just didn't expect this particular bit of ass kickery to get me started on the conversion.


1/17/2016. The morning after. A better day. The temporary tarp stayed in place. Predicted snow flurries arrived as rain (as we knew they would). Now the sun is out, there's a slow breeze, the air is cool and dry. Windows open, door open, screens in place. The wood up front is drying better than I expected, and what's left feels increasingly solid(ish). I'll carve some more out by and by before putting new materials in. The rest of the window treatments came out today. The new tarp is ready to use (except for some rope), but as long as the weather remains more or less felicitous, there's no hurry to cover things better than they already are. When this emergency resolves, and it will, I'll fold the tarp double and cover the roof to protect it from meteoric pine detritus.

The floor of the loft is almost certainly OK, but I'll remove much of it anyway and put down actual wood. Opening it up is not just to replace what's there, but to insure proper drying and to provide a means of keeping an eye on future calamities down below. Think of it as an inspection hatch as well as a floor. This is also the time to start thinking about how to modularize the area over the cab for storing astronomical toys without giving up the newfound light and space (but don't get carried away with anything specific; there's enough repair work to do without getting involved in fresh design).

The roof. I plan to filll the known and suspected holes with Dicor lap sealant, then tape over the damaged area with Eternabond. The Dicor is said to be tough to work in the cold, and this week's lows are in the teens. Eventually, I'll clean it all up and apply a new "rubber" roof. We'll see what's next as things progress --or as they deterioriate, not to be presumptuous or anything.


1/20/2016. Where are my damn driving glasses? The two duplicate soft tool boxes arrived, so the strategic question is this: is red for electronics and yellow for counterweights, or is red for A-P and yellow for Losmandy? I think the latter, 'cause any fool can tell when he tries to pick up a bag whether it contains a couple of pounds of electronics or thirty-plus pounds of counterweights.


1/21/2016. Ophelia is covered in a heavy-duty tarp because, supposedly, there's a monster snow storm coming.

A Dremel cutting kit is set up to remove the upstairs faux-wood floor. I can run my Dremel tool from a small inverter and the house battery, but first I need to put down some guides to make a neat job of this.

Yellow is for Losmandy, red is for Astro-Physics. Both mounts are now set up to travel in their Pelican cases, though I don't expect the A-P to do so often. Neither is entirely self-contained in that a few accessories must travel outside the case (tripod and legs for the A-P, counterweights for the Losmandy), but I'm sure everything is ready for a night in the dark using either mount.




Except where noted, deep-sky photos are made with an SBIG ST2000XM CCD behind a 10-inch Astro-Tech Ritchey-Chretien carried on an Astro-Physics Mach1GTO. The CCD is equipped with Baader wide- and narrow-band filters. The internal guide chip of the CCD most often keeps the OTA pointed in the right direction (I'll let you know when an OAG or guidescope takes its place). Camera control and guiding are handled by Maxim DL 5.12. The stock focuser on the AT10RC has been augmented with Robofocus 3.0.9 using adapters turned on the lathe downstairs. A Canon 6D and a modded 50D find themselves mounted on an Orion 10" F4 Newtonian or carrying widefield glass on an iOptron Skytracker. Beginning in May 2013, PixInsight has taken over more and more of the heavy lifting -- alignment, stacking, gradient removal, noise-reduction, transfer function modification, color calibration, and deconvolution. Photoshop CS4 et seq and the Focus Magic plugin get their licks in, too.


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                   © 2016, David Cortner