November 2011 ~ Boat Yard Life
Day 442 ~ Enroute (day 7)November 30th, 2011
Date/Time: 11/30/2011, 06:29:33 EST
Ken took over at 11pm and about 3am the wind died. We fired up the starboard engine and Dan relieved Ken about 4am. The GRIB files show little to no wind for the next 24 hours, so burning diesel may be our fate for the time being. I arose with the sun, and relieved Dan about 6:30. He had a line wet already and I spent the next hour and a half rigging new leaders, and swapping out lures to try something new.
The sea is nearly flat with long slow rollers. There's a light breeze and we all agree it's time for a swim and a shower. We had been motoring since 3am so when we cut the engine off, the silence was a nice change. We centered the main sail so the boat would feather into the wind and drift slowly.
Dan was anxious to go for a swim so we threw out the life ring and trailed a line. The water was wonderfully refreshing, not really warm, but certainly not cool. We dipped buckets, soaped up and enjoyed the warm sunshine like walrus's on a rock. Dan swam around a bit and reported that the 5,043 meter depth, "looked pretty deep".
Date/Time: 11/30/2011, 12:48:41 EST
Dan Takes a Swim
In 5,400 meters of water Dan stretches the limits of reasonable.
Salty Dogs Get a Washdown
With virtually no wind, we feather the boat and take much needed "showers".
Day 441 ~ Enroute (day 6)November 29th, 2011
Date/Time: 11/29/2011, 04:51:39 EST
The autopilot cut out about 2:30am due to low electrical power. The sails have been shading the solar panels and as well as blocking flow to the wind generator so, day by day, the batteries have been losing ground.
Ken hand-steered for a while. I awoke when Dan was taking over at 4:30am, and decided to fire up the port engine for some charging time. As soon as it was on, the autopilot came back online. I was wired from the best 4 hours of sleep so far, so Dan crashed again while I enjoyed my favorite time at sea, just before and during sunrise. A decent size squall was developing as dawn broke. I altered course to avoid it.
This morning broke with high tropical humidity, everything feels wet. Time to ditch the long pants and get back into shorts for the first time in a few weeks.
When the sun finally broke out behind the squall the temperature rose quickly. After all those freezing nights in Maine, I wondered how it would feel to be warm again. Well, it's hot, and now Maine sounds nice. Humans are so fickle.
Date/Time: 11/29/2011, 11:26:39 EST
The winds settled down into a nice 8-10 knot breeze. From about 3pm until 2am, we had some of the finest sailing imaginable. Puffy tropical trade wind clouds scuttling along, a gently rippling sea unending for mile upon mile. With the genny pulling, we were marching smartly along at 6-7 knots, the motion was gently edged with the boats skating energy. The boys napped and reported best sleep ever, what with the new found quiet and baby cradle-like swaying. We fished all day without a single strike. We're going to have to diversify our lure offerings in hopes of hitting on something that works.
I offer food a couple of times a day, but the audience is jaded. Typical fare would be a banana for breakfast, an energy bar for lunch and a sandwich for dinner. No one seems interested in real meals or the cleanup, so we just each pick our way through the day. Dan's a pretty healthy eater normally, but his caloric intake has got to be less than 50% of normal. I am about the same, eating less than 2 meals a day with a few nuts or an orange thrown in for good measure.
The sunset was a spectacular burst of oranges and reds. We recited the "red sky at night sailor's delight" a few times to be sure we had it right. The moon is waxing now, finally, and last night we had several silver lined hours, the sails glowing in the soft light, the water sparkling to the east and the puff ball clouds aglow with a shimmering light. It was dream like.
Day 440 ~ Enroute (day 5)November 28th, 2011
Date/Time: 11/28/2011, 07:26:30 EST
Date/Time: 11/28/2011, 14:59:39 EST
As the sun was setting we were all out in the cockpit messing around with the sail setup when Ken's new fishing rod bent nearly double and line started screaming off the reel. Dan and I had already discussed our fish strategy so we jumped to roll in the headsail. We turned upwind about 20 degrees and the boat stalled out nicely. Ken wasn't even able to get the rod out of the holder, the pressure was so intense. Line was screaming of the spool continuously. The monster had already taken nearly half the line and the only option, it seemed, was to tighten the drag just a little to try and turn him.
The reel went silent for a bit, then a new surge, the pole bent far over and more line hissed out. Ken tightened the drag one more time, and SNAP, the pole recoiled and Ken reeled in a 70 yards of line, all the gear was gone.
Fish 1 - Boys 0
As the sun set the winds built considerably. As Dan I and I sat hunkered in the salon listening to Into the Thin Air, we experienced a first person connection with the howling winds atop Everest. Finally, about 10pm, the ride was so wild and so fast, 9-10 knots with occasional violent wave collisions we decided to reduce sail and slow down. Even with only half the jib out and most of the reefed main luffing (flapping like a flag) we were still doing 6-7 knots, but now the sounds and impacts were much more temperate.
The wind, actually, became inconsistent. I should have recognized that the change in humidity foretold the beginning of tropical wind patterns, including squalls. I had just put all the sail back out, when a fresh blast hit us.
When Ken came on watch about 11pm, we elected to just keep it slow and easy for the night.
Day 439 ~ Enroute (day 4)November 27th, 2011
Date/Time: 11/27/2011, 09:37:41 EST
Date/Time: 11/27/2011, 14:00:04 EST
Beautiful day. We motored for 14 hours starting last night about 7pm and going until just after 9:00 this morning. Engines ran great; did the port then the starboard. The GRIB files have been right on so far. They showed a dead-calm patch, so we just had to grind through it and out the back side where the winds were, as predicted, coming from 180 different angle.
I thought the motoring would be really tiring, but with only one engine going at 2100 RPM, the sound soon faded into the background. Beautiful star light night, almost dead calm seas, just the faintest motion. Feel funny to be this calm in the middle of the ocean. Ken was on watch from 11pm to about 4am. Dan took 4am to about 7am. Before he went down, we unrolled the genny again, as a few puffs of wind were just starting to be felt.
Felt hungrier this morning than usual, so made a batch of pancakes. By the time I was done the sails were doing 80% of the work, so finally shut the engine off. The silence is really nice.
Lazy day overall. Upper 70s inside. Outside the breeze requires a long sleeve shirt, but is pleasant. Humidity is low, so very comfortable.
I think this is where the boring part starts. It feel like I should be doing something productive, but the boat mostly takes care of itself. Once and a while we tweak a sail but otherwise sit around and talk, read or listen to audio books. We are about two-thirds the way through Into Thin Air. I remember really liking it the first time, but the second time through it's a bit wordy. Dan seems to be enjoying it.
Dan is pretty much back to normal. Fished this morning, made a big batch of salsa this afternoon and a plate of nachos. I was feeling fine, I thought, but the smell and thought of the salsa just turn my insides upside down, so opted for an apple for lunch instead. I think it was a wise move.
As the darkness fell we dropped the genny and unrolled the smaller jib. We lost about 3/4 of a knot of speed but felt that having to get the genny down in the dark wasn't worth the additional speed or distance.
About 7pm the wind piped up a notch and Dan and I looked at each other. Sure glad the genny was packed away.
The wind came up to 12-15 knots for most of the night. We were flying. 8-9 knots most of the time, touching 10 on occasion. I kept watch until Ken relieved me at 11pm. Dan had a hard time sleeping below so came and crashed in the cockpit.
Ken and I have the sense that this kind of sailing, pitch dark, no moon, crashing through waves with the wind singing in the rigging is just a little beyond his comfort zone, so we tacitly agreed to cover the dark hours and let Dan relieve us during daylight, at least until the conditions soften a bit.
Sleeping below was tough, the noise is incredible. Just like other crossings, it sounds like you are standing under a waterfall with an umbrella over your head while it feels riding an olympic bobsled down a mountain, blind folded.
I snatched and hour here and hour there, amidst weird dreams from childhood. My tummy still doesn't feel right. Not really quesy, but not happy either. I popped a couple of tums at 3am, check on Ken and went down again.
Finally slept a little, waking up with the first fingers of dawn. I relieved Ken about 6am and enjoyed my favorite time of day, sunrise at sea. Got the fishing lines out and pulling. The first thing I noticed looking forward was that the front strap securing Sea Pearl was missing. She was now only held with the ratchet strap across her middle. I could see her rise slightly with each blast of wind, or crash off a wave. I hurriedly donned foul weather pants, but neglected to put on the jacket. I clipped in a harness and made my way up front. The ratchet strap was still there, it had just slipped forward.
Everything was soaked, of course, and it took a minute or two to get it loosened up and back in place. I was just leaning over to start clicking it shut when a huge wave slapped the bow funneling a torrent of water right into my face. Up my nose, the whole bit. Nice. And now my fleece arms were soaked. It also blew up the rain pants soaking me to the knees. Oh well, nothing to do but finish.
Dan reported a pretty lean sleep night as well as he crawled out of his nest about 7am. He whipped up some of his world famous hand-ground oatmeal which went down nicely.
The wind lightened a bit after sunrise. We are making good time still, but 6.5 - 7.5 knots instead of 8-9. Seas have evened out some as well, with only occasional slaps. Mostly sunny this morning, but now with building clouds ahead of us and light rain squalls to the north. I suspect we'll get a fresh water dousing at some point today, which wouldn't be all bad.
Day 438 ~ Enroute (day 3)November 26th, 2011
Date/Time: 11/26/2011, 08:58:08 EST
Ken relieved me at about 11:30pm and woke Dan about 5am. Dan was feeling pretty good this morning then I relieved him at 7am. Sun broke as it does at sea, with the most incredible palette of pastels. I watch it rise from the escape hatch of our cabin where the blue sea is so amazingly bright even at dawn.
I think we are out of the Gulf Stream now; it's a bit cooler, but still very nice. At 8am now it's 69 degrees. The sea has been very calm for the last 18 hours or so, we have a few hatches open for airflow. It smells so perfectly clean.
Still have the genny up, it pulled all night. Fishing with two lines off the back. Going to have to get a little more serious about food as the last couple of days have been pretty lean. The wind is supposed to completely die tomorrow. I hope that's not true as motoring out here would be torture after the silence and the gurgling sounds.
Dolphins! We had a small pod of common dolphins tool around the bows for about 20 minutes. It was the best display Dan had seen. Now he's trying to rig his underwater camera to a boat hook so the next time they visit he can get under water shots.
Nice warm day. We are debating showers or not versus saltwater wash down etc. Being very stingy with water until we know what the plan is (BVI versus Bermuda).
Date/Time: 11/26/2011, 20:58:41 EST
Very peaceful day. Wind slowly died throughout the day leaving a sea with barely a wrinkle. Feels like we're anchored, except it's 4,500 meters deep here. Despite the GRIB predictions, we actually had a decent sailing day hours on end.
Winds finally died around sunset. Fired up the port engine and wrap up the new genny. Leave the main up to take advantage of any puffs. Been motoring along now for about 4 hours, making 5.5 - 6 knots. The GRIB files show we'll have to punch through a windless band, perhaps motoring all night. Then we should have some wind for the next week or so, although it will vary in direction and strength. Top winds shouldn't be more than 20 knots, so the ride should be fairly decent most of the time.
Dan seemed over the hump. When he spent an hour rigging elaborte fishing tackles I knew he was on the upswing. Talked about making tacos, etc, but when it came down to it he ate only a carrot. I think once the dark set in and you couldn't see the horizon anymore things may have taken a turn.
We went nearly 48 hours without seeing another boat. Then tonight, just after dark, the AIS picked up two at about the same time. One is far off running parallel to us, the other was head on. We would have passed them by less than 1/2 a mile, but I took the precaution of altering course a few degrees. We called them on the radio to confirm they knew about us, which they did.
Been trying Vulcan Spirit every morning and evening, but without success. They are probably somewhere near by but out of reach.
As far as I can tell Ken lived the entire day on an apple and some Ritz cracker hors d'oeuvres things I made. No dinner, no breakfast. We could market longer passages as a weight-loss tool.
Ken went down about 5pm and will be taking over for me in the next hour or so. Getting pretty sleepy. Glad he is a night owl.
Sailing into the Sunrise
We tack easterly to gain all the Trade Wind advantage we can.
Day 437 ~ Enroute (day 2)November 25th, 2011
The winds tapered off through the night leaving us with just small puffs by morning. We eventually dug out the genny and checked her over. The sun cover is pretty thrashed at the very tip of the clew (the end that flaps the hardest). There is a little damage to the sail itself as well. Ken took a crack at stitching it up, but after bending two needles and breaking a third, we gave it up.
In the light air, the raising of the genny went super easy and the extra canvas definitely helped the boat move faster. We dropped the main for awhile, then put it back up again as the winds kept changing.
Last couple of hours a nice southerly breeze has filled in and we are making decent time. Got about 143 miles the first day, but today is going to be quite a bit less.
Dan has been able to sleep some. He says he feels quite a bit better, and his color and complexion are better, but certainly not normal yet. Ken is doing great; we just don't let him eat any bananas.
Made french toast for brekkie. The guys ate a few slices but left some on their plates. I had some peanut butter and that was a mistake, felt off for about a half hour afterwards.
We have been dragging fishing gear since dawn with no hits. We are definitely in the gulf stream now as the temperature has risen to 77. Very comfortable in the breeze. Sun is getting low now and it's starting to cool off. Going to make a light pasta dish. I won't make too much what with the current appetites being what they are.
Wind in a funny pattern now. Soft breeze for a few minutes followed by a nice gust of 8-10 knots for a few minutes. Our speed goes to the high 8's, then back down to 3. Very weird. Swell has moderated throughout the day. Now barely a rock most of the time. Fished all day with no luck. No flying fish or birds around, so no real surprise. New genny in use most of the day and pulling well now along with a single reef in the main.
Dan was up for a couple of hours and does seem to be feeling better now. No one is eating much yet though. Made a small batch of french toast for brekkie and a hamburger tomato mash goo for dinner. We ended up skipping the pasta and just rolling it in flat bread with cheese. Reminded us of college meals. Yum.
Water the most incredible deep indigo blue. Surreal in the sunlight, steel at night and sparkling now with phosphorescence.
Date/Time: 11/25/2011, 17:00:59 EST
Date/Time: 11/25/2011, 20:42:09 EST
Day 436 ~ Anxious DepartureNovember 24th, 2011
As the crew headed out this morning, they all held their breath wondering what would blow out or conk out next. Surprisingly, all went well.
Emails from Peter:
Sun is just peeking out. Wind is perfect; time to roust out this crew.
The day broke sunny and a nice breeze. Took a while to get the anchor up after it was set so firmly with all the wind the last two days.
As we were putting up our mainsail I noticed an HR 53 that looked just like Lalize also raising their sail. I thought for sure it was Adrian and Leslie, particularly as they altered course to intercept us.
This got the juices flowing and, despite my better judgment, we put the genny up. While were were rigging it, they drew close to our starboard side and I yelled, "We're going to SMOKE you!"
The guy looked at the woman funny. Then I saw the name on the side was Vulcan Spirit, not Lalize. Ooops. They had the exact same paint job, same hard top, even a kayak that was the same color.
I apologized and said Hi. They were headed to Bermuda as well.
It took a few more minutes to get the new genny , but finally she was out and flying. The wind was in the 13-16 knot range, too much really. We were flying saw 10.9 knots but only checked for a few seconds. New sail looked great and was pulling really hard.
We soon caught and passed Vulcan Spirit, much to Dan and Ken's delight. Okay, I didn't mind either. We talked on the radio a bit and exchanged thoughts on routes, wind and currents. Vulcan's last words where, "Don't follow our track on the assumption that we know what we are doing; we don't."
They opted to head more southerly on the assumption the Gulf Stream will bring them our way, while I preferred a northerly tack. We had them in sight for most of the day but lost them after dusk. I will try and call them on the VHF tomorrow in the morning.
The wind was predicted to slacken but, as we cleared the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, it grew more intense. I felt like we were pushing the genny too hard. We fouled up the take down, which was difficult in so much wind, and the sail flogged about pretty hard for a while. I fear I did some damage to the sun cover. We'll see when we get it out tomorrow for the light wind days Fri-Sat-Sun.
Dan isn't feeling well. First he had a migraine, then he felt queasy. He looked terribly pale and yellow. Poor guy. Ken was doing okay until he ate a banana. Now he is hanging out outside despite the cold; the fresh air and horizon help. All appetites are down as you can guess. I haven't been eating much at all since the family left, but was pretty starved this morning after all the genny excitement.
We passed the 12 hour mark a few minutes ago and have made 83 miles. Not bad at all. Winds are pretty light actually and we have a reef in, but we're slipping along nicely.
Sun set at 5pm and temp dropped for a while. We are passing now (9pm) over the continental shelf, from 30 meters of water to 1,400. The deeper water should be warmer and, indeed, Ken reports it's warming up outside and a little phosphorescence is starting to appear.
It feel so good to be out on the deep blue again, away from all that brown and green water, all the navigational "aids" logs and boats. The swells are modest and even, just occasional slaps, but overall a nice ride so far.
Dan poked his head up a few minutes ago to say he was feeling quite a bit better. He feels bad about not taking a watch but so far Ken and I are able to cover, each giving the other a break from time to time.
All for now. Going to try and catch some shuteye in anticipation of getting the late night watch.
11/24/2011 23:00:39 AKST
Short Order Chef at Sea
You put the eggs in the pan but they just won't stay put.
Day 435 ~ Waiting for the right windNovember 23rd, 2011
The day was overcast and howling with a wind unsure of it's destination, but committed to keeping the anchorage rolly and cold. We sat around, read, slept and just frittered away a chilly day. By nightfall the wind had clocked around and we slept better than last night's hobby horse world allowed.
Day 434 ~ Waiting for the right windNovember 22nd, 2011
Peter will add this in once he gets wifi again. For now, since I am in Alaska with modern connectivity, I will try to keep up as I hear from the crew. The weather was a bit warmer than in Deltaville - 50s instead of 30s. Tuesday was spent in Hampton, VA, relaxing, reading and waiting for the right wind; northerlies are supposed to blow around 30 knots for a day or two so attempting to cross the Gulf Stream in those conditions can be miserable, if not ugly (wind from North meeting water currents from South).
Day 433 ~ Good NewsNovember 21st, 2011
Ken and Jeff went ashore so Steven could catch a flight home. However, they had to paddle all the way back to the boat against a nice little headwind; the dinghy motor wouldn't start.
I was on the phone at 8am sharp with a short list of sail lofts in hand. All closed. With no way to get to shore anyway, the motor became the priority of the hour. Off came the cover, the fuel filter and the carburator. It my surprise, everything looked really good, really clean. After a year in a harsh salt water environment, it really looked great. Jeff had been sure the problem was in the fuel bowl, but when it came out clean he jumped back into the dink and started extracting the fuel hose fittings.
Sure enough. A whoop from the dink brought us all running. "Check this out" Jeff exclaimed with a smile. The fuel line fittings were completely jammed with black rubbery flakes and goo. Ethanol in a fuel system designed for pure gas just makes a mess.
It took another half hour to purge the line as best we could and put it back together. We were again up and running. North Sails, with a convenient dinghy dock just up the river, was willing to fix the sail today so that was our first stop. Glenn recommended re-stitching every seam which seemed like a good idea.
Dan volunteered to drive Jeff to D.C. to catch a flight back to Alaska. Ken and I caught up on computer work back at the boat. On his way back, Daniel picked up a new fuel hose and we hope it's the right size.
Now that so much time has passed and we've lost half the crew, Plan B is being kicked around. "B" meaning Bermuda. It's about 1,200 miles direct to the BVIs. However, weather and current patterns make it smart to head East first, then turn and head South. My original course had us just 150 miles from Bermuda anyway.
So, the current thinking is that finding a four day weather window is going to be a lot easier than finding a 8+ day window and that it might make sense to take the next opening to Bermuda, then hang there for Lisa's and girls' arrival. Once there, we can wait for a window to head south, still a 6 day passage, but we should be far enough south and east by then to make it a much simpler undertaking (i.e. no gulfstream).
Day 432 ~ CrushedNovember 20th, 2011
Well, the day finally came. The sun broke clear and crisp, a light breeze was fluttering the flags nearby and we were ready. The boat was spotless and tightly packed, the crew was buzzing with excitement. We cast off promptly at 8am and proceeded to wind our way out of Jackson Creek's narrow entrance. I cut a corner I had remembered cutting on the way in only to promptly slide to a stop in the sand.
We were aground, the first time in a year. Thankfully, there was no swell so 30 seconds of mid-range reverse slid us back off again. We were out. We raised the main sail, forlorn having rested so long in its bag, and fell off the wind and shut off the engines. Ahhh, at long, long last. What a great feeling.
The wind was fluky, shifting and falling then rising. We were reaching, then pointing. I sheeted in the main sail a touch and was just starting to put some shape into it when I saw the boom rise unexpectedly.
Then came a buzzing sound, like the world's largest zipper being undone. The mainsail slowly, but surely, split in two right across the middle, it's stitching parting ways right at the seam.
I was aghast. Dumbfounded. Numb. Bewildered. The beautiful mainsail that had been like a rock, mile after mile, day after day, month after month was now effectively in two pieces. Oh, it was still attached, but you could throw a buffalo through the split. There was a sickening groan from the crew. We weren't going anywhere, at least anytime soon.
We dropped the our wounded wing and strapped her down, like a patient on a gurney. On came the engines and we slowly but surely ground our way southward. A few hours later we set the hook just outside the mouth of the Hampton River in Hampton, Virginia. It was Sunday afternoon so no sail shops were open.
Dejected, we got the sail off her tracks and folded into a canvas bag, ready for a trip to the hospital.
An atmosphere of let down permeated the boat. No one cried, but I sure wanted to. Our weather window, already stretched to the breaking point faded away like the setting sun.
Day 431 ~ Coming TogetherNovember 19th, 2011
I hate to admit it, but the last couple of days' delay has probably been a good thing. The boat was still a mess, tools everywhere, dirty, disorganized. Mayhem.
Today, with Dan's plumbing projects done, a spirit of organization and cleanliness swept over the crew. Jeff took to vacuuming dusty corners. Dan, long fed up with the tool disorganziation, dumped all the hand tools out on the cockpit floor and tables and proceeded to clean and organize them all. Steven went up the mast, twice, to rethread a lost spare halyard. I got some much needed computer details wrapped up and finally have some time to think about the blog.
When I returned, Ken was in packing mode and the salon, normally just piles of stuff, was now looking neat and tidy. Ken focused on safety, re-arming life jackets and organizing lifelines and harnesses. By evening the boat was looking pretty sharp and ready. Jeff has squirrelled away food in every nook and cranny. Something tells me we'll still be finding blocks of cheese tucked behind dive gear 6 months from now, but we all agree that we have enough food.
Stanley, the gelcoat man here at the boat yard, put the finishing touches on the repairs. I must say they look as close to perfect as a guy has a right to expect. Still wish it never happened in the first place, but Stan did his best work and it shows, or doesn't, as this case may be.
Having studied the latest weather for hours, I believe we have a reasonable good forecast and are ready, finally, to cast off the dock lines and sail into the sunrise.
Day 430 ~ Delayed, againNovember 18th, 2011
Stanley, the gelcoat repair man here at the yard, spent all day on our big scrape. He built it up with more glass, epoxy and, at the end of the day, got the gelcoat on, which promptly sheeted and tried to slide off the cold hull. The lower temperatures were playing havoc with the chemistry.
I worked on the computer most of the day while Jeff began the food inventory and stowage process. He found things I had long since forgotten we had. Ken and Steve put the headsail on, after several attempts. Jeff returned the rental car and made a few more grocery selections.
Dan was on day two of the re-plumbing project and making good progress. By evening he had it wrapped up and pressure tested. After one spraying leak was cleaned up and the fitting properly snapped down she held water like a drum. The new plumbing looks great, is much smaller and easier to work around, always a plus on a boat with lots of tiny spaces.
Stan informed me by 4:30, having been at it nearly 10 hours, that there was no way he could get things done today. I was visibly crestfallen, I am sure. He apologized, but the cold kept the coatings from curing as fast as they normally do.
Oh well. I thought about trying to go anyway, but the weather window appears pretty generous, so waiting another day makes sense.
Grinding it Down
When a boat has to be healed, it must first be wounded more deeply. All the damage must be removed. Sound familiar?
Day 429 ~ Launching DayNovember 17th, 2011
We've had a great stretch of warm pleasant weather, but today is different. The night was cold and damp. Our 120 shore power has been out now for several days so the electric space heater is pretty useless. Morning was colder still, and blustery. It rained much of the morning, stopped, then started again with a vengeance. I kicked around the idea of waiting to go in the water for another day, hoping for better conditions, but in the end decided to take the hand in the bush.
Keith, the boatyard owner, brought the lift over just before lunch and moved us closer in. Then he and the guys disappeared for lunch while Dan and I set the rudder. I was dressed in tropical shorts and flip-flops. The rain and wind intensified. Looking up at my home suspended above my head, all I could really see was rain sheeting down each side, meeting in the middle and showering me with cold, wet spray.
I prayed the rudder bearing would slid in properly. It did. A smooth tight fit and huge relief.
With Dan in the engine room, Ken, Steven and I heaved the rudder up first a foot at a time then inch by inch as Dan directed. At last it was secure. Dan cleaned up the steering block connections, then bolted them in place bit by bit while I gripped the wet, clammy steel parts. Dan's coat was just about soaked through.
Why I didn't think to dig out the foul weather gear escaped me. Just too much to think about on launching day.
Steven finally loaned me a pair of dry pants. They felt great and gave me the few more precious minutes I needed to get the rudder installation completed. I was shivering uncontrollably as the lift moved the boat to the water. Realizing I needed calories, and fast, I bought a Snickers bar from Ed at the marina store. The first candy bar in a decade or more but it did the trick.
I got back outside to find the boat in the water. I nervously cranked the key on each engine, which dutifully fired immediately. Another relief. Two minutes later, though, I heard the bilge pump go off in the port engine room and saw a nice stream of sea water come jetting out the through hull. We had previously changed an exhaust hose so that had to be the cause. I lifted the engine room cover and saw seawater shooting out the new hose where it attached to the lifting box. I cut the engine immediately. Dan had questioned the connection when we made it; it just seemed too loose. We should have looked a little closer.
Aboard she was floating, but clearly jammed in the travel lift, her shoulders touching each side of the metal frame. Since the same lift picked us out a month ago, it was hard to figure out what had changed. The yard hands heaved and hoed and eventually we were free.
As the blankets came off, Keith saw a huge gash in the side, his eyes grew big. "I damaged your boat" he said, looking me straight in the eye. "I apologize and will fix it or pay to have it fixed, whichever you decide."
I was more focused on negotiating out of the shoot and into safe water on a single engine. Despite our handicaps, we opted to float out and, working our way around the anchorage on one engine, finally setting the hook. Even with one engine and two raking scars on each side it felt great to be on the water again, to feel the living movement of the boat under foot. In a half an hour, Dan had the leaking exhaust repaired so we were now free to maneuver.
As badly as I want to go tomorrow, when the weather window is right, the damage to the hulls was pretty bad (cosmetically). Getting it fixed in the tropics and paid for by third party, just seemed like more of a huge headache. So, after kicking it around for a while, we upped the anchor, stopped at the fuel dock and then tied up on the dinghy dock so Stan, the yard gelcoat guy, could do his repair magic tomorrow.
More delays, more repairs. I just wanted to cry. But, considering all the things that could have gone wrong with the rudder and engines, there was a silver lining to the cloud.
A Wet Lift
It rained on our parade, and our faces, and our feet. A cold, wet, miserable, windy shivering day to put a rudder back on and a boat back in.
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Day 428 ~ Goodbye, LalizeNovember 16th, 2011
Adrian and Leslie of Lalize are getting launched today. I remember when we first arrived and met them they said they would be staying nearly three weeks. I felt bad for them at the time. Now they are headed out and we are still stuck, high and dry. It's a miserable feeling I assure you. As Adrian maneuvered out of the shoot he promptly ran aground on a mud bank. He throttled up and twisted the boat right, left, right again trying to free her. Finally, with a slow slide, she was off and free.
I was just headed down into the boat when I heard a familiar voice call up, "Hey Mate! How's it going?"
To my shock and surprise there was the Remi De gang. They had motored down from Annapolis earlier in the day and were anchored nearby. They had heard we were still on the hard, so came by to say hi. "You're going to need a rake, Mate," said Bruce with a typical wiry grin, looking at the leaf covered deck. We caught up on plans and progress and then they were off to return their courtesy car.
Back at the boat I did some staining and numbly ran, once again, through a never-ending checklist of to-do projects in my mind. The boat is probably the messiest it has been during our time aboard. The deck is thick with fallen leaves, tools and parts and trash clog the cockpit. Bags and gear and condiments from meals past are crammed into every corner of the salon.
Then the rain started, and the temperature plummeted. How nice.
Day 427 ~ Another Day another HatchNovember 15th, 2011
Rain is the the forecast for the next several days. With thick cloud cover and a feeling of impending moisture I lay in bed looking up at our top hatch, the one that leaks quarts per day. I hadn't tackled it the first go-round when I did the front hatches for fear of biting off more than I could chew. The prospect of rain on my bed however, proved to be powerful motivation.
I ripped into it. Before breakfast, the frame was off and in my hand. It helps to know, finally, what one is doing. I was driven on by the conviction that the rain, it was a-coming. Many furtive glances to the sky as I Frog taped the opening and carefully laid down the polysulfide caulking.
Thankfully, everything stayed dry. The threatening clouds proved to be all bark and no bite, at least for today. The boys kept at the teak removal while Dan wrapped up some wood projects. Steve, ever the networker, came back to say that Adrian and Leslie had invited us for dinner. A real, warm, sit-down meal. Imagine that. And they even have heat on their boat.
After a day of intensive projects, many involving sticky messes and back-breaking scraping, Leslie's homemade spaghetti and salad hit the spot.
Day 426 ~ Wood WorkingNovember 14th, 2011
The days are in a familiar pattern now. We each do our own thing until about 10:30, then hit some projects. Dan is working on backrest extensions for the cockpit seats while Steve and Ken alternate on step teak removal efforts.
Jim, the glass master, was over first thing. They started epoxying on layers of new glass and, by 9am, had the vacuum bag going strong.
I made a run for more lumber about noon. Jim Rice, the engine and electrical guru came by to finish putting on the folding props. They're all back together now so, in theory, the engines are back on-line.
Hit some computer work in the evening, long overdue. It's much warmer today, 67 degrees well after sundown. Feels downright tropical. Well, close. And nice to not be freezing one's toes all day.
Day 425 ~ Plodding OnwardNovember 13th, 2011
The days grind by. It's fun to have the guys around; a healthy pattern has emerged. Slow mornings, some piddling project, reading, a quick breakfast and then, crack-down time.
We crank away well into the afternoon, have a quick lunch break, then carry on until well after dark. Many projects I never thought would see completed on my watch are now taking shape. Some are nasty jobs that require nothing but hours of tedium. Others are more creative and restorative in nature.
Dan and I make a few stops with the courtesy car, snagging a few groceries and minor items like paint brushes and poster board.
The boat is still torn up, but over boisterous dinners we hear about each others' pasts and debate the historical significance of key naval battles, or what the ownership of piranhas reveals about the owner's psychological makeup.
You'll never guess.
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Day 424 ~ Tackling the Sticky StuffNovember 12th, 2011
All boat owners know that wood is beautiful, and hard. Hard because it requires constant attention and maintenance. Beautiful because it harkens back to the golden age of sail, when all craft were once noble oaks towering over the rolling forests or misty glades. These craft were built with skill and diligence by armies of craftsman. They were navigated by bold mariners with nothing but a sextant, a ball of string and vials of sand.
Our little plastic boat lacks much of this traditional allure. She is mostly white and slick. But there are a few pieces of teak here and there. Like small stamps in an empty collector's binder that has been used to stash old gas bills in the meantime.
And this teak, small as it is, perhaps as much square area as half a dozen yardsticks, has slowly succumbed to all the forces of sun and sea. It is gray and weathered. Its last application of varnish is mostly gone, a few pieces are clinging precariously here and there. It's bothered me for months, from the beginning of our trip, of course. But finding the time and dryness to give them the love they need just has never happened. Until today.
At first I was just testing the scraper. Then I finished one piece. Ken attacked another. Out came the sandpaper. On went the Frog Tape. Then I dug out an old rusty can of finish that the last owner had left behind. Amazingly, it was still in liquid form. After a vigorous shaking, it was back in business. One piece got coated and it looked great.
Three hours later, I was putting the finishing touches on the last of four pieces. Ahhh, what a good feeling.
The marina here has a picnic/grilling area. A southwest wind has been blowing, bringing with it warm air. It's a pleasent evening. Dan whips up some burgers on the grill while the boys and I hauled over all the side dishes and condiments. We enjoyed a fine dinner in the marina lounge at a real table.
The mushrooms were the crowning touch.
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Day 423 ~ Bottom Painting DayNovember 11th, 2011
In the life of every boater comes the inevitable day, bottom paint day. We should be going in the water in the next couple of days so there's no better time than now to put on more coats of the nasty nasty. Bottom paint is designed to kill living things, and it does a reasonably good job of it.
The problem is, living things have to paint it on. After an intensive game of paper, scissors and rock, Steven won the right to wear the respirator. At least that's his story. The real story is that as a certified, died-in-the-wool Democrat, he's the only one who can afford to lose a few brain cells for the cause.
It threatened rain all day, but the drops never came. With Ken touching up spots and Steven and I rolling, it took a full three hours to apply a single coat to both almas. That would have been a really long day by myself.
Day 422 ~ Going for a walkNovember 10th, 2011
Boat yard life doesn't change much. It's cold at night, wet much of the time. The walk back from the evening shower is particularly dark and dank, my flip-flops crunching on the gravel. I avoid puddles by feel.
After so much time in the yard, sometimes a guy just needs to get out and walk a little. I meandered down a beautiful autumn lined dirt road and ended up at a Shell station; one that sold bloodworms, and was proud of that fact. I must be missing something here.
On the way back I found a bottle in the ditch. Save the planet.
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Day 421 ~ It seemed like a good ideaNovember 9th, 2011
Hit an all-time culinary low this morning. Was busy on a project, got hungry, headed down to the kitchen and there, pretty as a picture, was a nice piece of cold, two day old squash. Yum.
The boat is supported on the hard by stands. Jack stands, whatever you call them. Well, it's tough to bottom paint under them, so today we moved them all a little this way and that, being very careful. I grabbed a piece of sandpaper and went for it. It was 6 square feet, max.
Big mistake. The black nasty grime got everywhere and even after an intensive scrubbing in the shower, there were still dark creases here and there. Will I never learn?
Day 420 ~ ProjectitisNovember 8th, 2011
Everywhere I look there are projects. With more hands around, this fact isn't quite as depressing as it was a few days ago. Ken took off on installing snaps into the new window shades while Steven tackled the traveler ball-bearing fix. Both were a bit tricky. Ken ended up with some blue Sharpie where it didn't belong.
That's okay, Ken, the sun will do what it does to all things, fade it away.
Day 419 ~ Truck ReturnNovember 7th, 2011
Have to return the rental truck today. The reality is that I should do more provisioning in the process but, as usual, the time got away from me. I stopped in at Wal-mart with only minutes to spare. I snagged some essentials in bulk, and whipped through the self checkout as fast as possible.
I wheeled into the Enterprise office at 3pm, on the dot. As I walked up the door, Paul, the manager, was coming out.
"I thought you weren't coming until 3pm?" he said with a quizzical smile.
"It is 3pm," I countered.
He chuckled. "Daylight savings time. You can wait around here if you want, but most people find someplace more comfortable."
Sure glad I burned rubber to get here just in time.
So, back to Wallyville it was. This time, with more time, I found many other missing items...and took a minute to snag a bite to eat. Imagine that.
Day 418 ~ Anchors AwayNovember 6th, 2011
One of many tasks on the list is to flip the Bruce anchor chain around. This means transferring the chain attached to the anchor, the end that is normally used, to the boat and moving the rarely used boat end to the anchor. In theory, you get twice as much life out of the chain.
I am not sure that's really accurate, but with our new-found man power, we did it anyway. Ken and Steven worked the chain for hours, while I did the touchy part, the part that only I can do and sleep well at night -- attaching the anchor to the chain. I cut back several links to get a nice fresh one, fresh being relative. Locktite and an Allen wrench did the rest. It only took a few minutes, but in the future, when the wind howls through the rigging, I'll know exactly what's down there.
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Day 417 ~ The MarathonNovember 5th, 2011
The boys are coming today. Got up and going with the conviction that if the boat didn't get clean in the next few hours things were not going to be very pretty when we all arrived at 2am. Not being a natural organizer, this requires some mental effort. But once I get started, it's not too bad. Tools were organized and stowed neatly, the salon table was unburied bit by bit.
Several hours later and the boat looked pretty respectable. I thought.
With 8 hours of driving ahead, I tried to take a snooze after lunch, with little success. I was laying there, thinking, when it occurred to me that Urbanna, a nearby town, was having a big festival this weekend. Something like 80,000 people were expected. I was musing that over when a thought hit me, all those people need to get back home. Driving to D.C. is one thing. Driving there in stop and go traffic is another.
I was out of bed in a flash, the time was 3:15pm. The Oyster Festival ended at 5pm but Urbanna was 30 minutes up the road from me. Virginia in the fall is beautiful. The colors now are out in force, and the tree-lined road tunnels, at times, really are spectacular. It was a joy to be out of the boatyard and see a broader horizon again.
After several wrong turns, complete with construction zone delays, I found Steve and Ken at the Hyatt hotel where they had been sleeping in the empty bar all afternoon, jet lag having caught up with them. They were eventually and politely kicked out.
We headed to Costco for a bite to eat; the place was a complete zoo on a Saturday evening. We decided to eat first and it was fun to catch up on their adventures. Coming in, I had distinctly seen the Costco's hours on the door, 8am to 9pm. By now, the crowds were thinning so we grabbed a cart and headed for the meat department.
No dice. An employee was in the process of herding out the last stragglers; I was dumbfounded. It was 8pm, on the dot. "Sorry man, it's Saturday," the employee countered with a tone of "Do you really think I want to spend my Saturday night here, you idiot?"
Well, that burst my bubble a bit. So much for stocking up on fairer prices. We got back to the truck, emptied the passenger seat of kiteboards and survival suits. There was a Target nearby which did have a few food items. Steven grabbed a cheap sleeping bag. We had another hour to wait for Dan, so kicked the seats back in the truck and tried to catch some shut-eye. What with the car alarms and jets overhead it was mostly a futile attempt.
Dan soon texted us that he was on the ground. In three minutes we were at the airport loading up his gear, packed in the traditional Rubbermaid tub. Driving back through the dark, deer-infested forests was a little more unnerving, but the banter was friendly and humorous. We stopped for some snacks at a dingy 7-11, preferring Häagen-Dazs to the "Fresh Hot Pizza" advertised on the door.
We arrived at the boat yard about 3:15am, only to find that it was really 2:15, thanks to Daylight Savings time. If a guy ever needed an extra hour, it was today.
Day 416 ~ Get 'er DoneNovember 4th, 2011
The boys are coming. In the last 24 hours the plane tickets, the car arrangements and the hotels have been confirmed. In just a few days I'll have to make room for 3 more bodies. Not sure how that's really going to work as every square inch of the boat is covered in loose tools, parts and trash in various stages of collection. Not to mention that the beds are all torn asunder.
But first, Sara's hatch. I learned a few lessons the hard way last time and got right down to business. The hours still wound by with lightning speed. Even though I cracked the caulk before 9am, it was nigh unto noon before I could finally put it to rest. C'mon and rain now, I dare ya!
The other nasty job that I have been putting off is sanding the starboard side's bottom paint. About two hours of toxic exposure is all I can take in one sitting, not to mention the shoulder and back joys of squatting down and grinding over my head with an orbital sander that really does want to leap out of my hands and take an ear off.
The Tyvek suit, respirator, glasses and ear muffs don't exactly foster a sense of cool refreshment either. Hey, that's what they need, peppermint scented respirator filters. No wait, for the guys around here, nicotine laced filters would really be the ticket. They could stay mellow and work, all at the same time. But I digress.
There's really nothing to do but just tackle the job. I looked around everywhere vaguely expecting to find cheering fans in the bleachers, but no. The wind whistled through the pine trees, the leaves from the poplars swirled around, and not a soul was watching, or cared. I guess the only remedy for work like this is the reward I get when she slips free of the launch and heads out to sea. I can't wait.
Day 415 ~ Hatch AttackNovember 3rd, 2011
How hard can it be to caulk in a new hatch, I asked myself in the morning while planning all the other things to check off the list. Well, once on deck, I thought to myself, "I know what I am doing now and it will be more efficient to caulk two hatches at the same time, so why not rip off Anna's while I am here, then put them both back on today.
Silly boy. Anna's was a different matter. The old bolts were much more stubborn, the access was much more restricted. Prying off the rim did take one hour, instead of two, what with my new-found confidence and all. However, it was well into the afternoon before I had the entire shebang off and started the laborious cleaning process. Then, of course, I didn't have enough fasteners...again. Argh. Back to True Value.
By now it was 3pm and I hadn't had a bite since a banana for breakkie. I slapped together an egg sandwich and took the time to eat it standing in one place, a novel concept these days. Sit down to eat? Are you kidding? Then it was finding the caulk, taking the rim, getting the dish soap and the paper towels handy. This is polysulfide caulk, not the stuff you find at Home Depot. It was used elsewhere on the boat and, while 20 years of constant sun and intermittent salt water immersion wore the teak completely away, the caulk remains. I really don't want this stuff in my hair; if Anna were here I would have to restrict her to shore duty.
As the sun fell behind the trees, the temperature dropped and the hours raced by. I wanted to be careful, thorough and finish the job off with a professional flare, as opposed to say a gooey, blobby rim of bubbling rubber.
By the time I put on the crowning touch and removed the tape it was 6pm and the sun was just about gone. That meant Sara's hatch would have to wait one more night exposed to the elements. Well, protected by squashes of course.
Day 414 ~ Hatching TroubleNovember 2nd, 2011
Make no mistake. I am very happy with out boat. She is solid as glass cats go and served us well for a year. What with the tiny feet, sand, traffic, bouncing and 4,500 sea miles, she's really none the worse for the wear. Well mostly.
Our front hatches have been dribbling during every rain since sometime well back in the tropics. I have no reason to quarrel with these old hatches made in Britain and installed in France the year I graduated from high school. Last summer in Grenada was one of the rainiest on record; torrential downpours nearly every day. When I got to her forlorn, moldy and forgotten mass sitting in the stifling tropics her insides were as dry as a bone. Many, many other boats, most of them from more recent vintage were damp, wet or, in the case of our next door neighbor, Wiki, actually flooded with water, the floor boards floating around.
So, I love our boat and her hatches, such as they are. But it is time for a change; time to rip them off their foundations and put them all back together again with new glue and new fasteners. This is, indeed, a touchy process. I read a few internet posts on how to do it, but the first time one sticks a big chisel between himself, the boat and a fragile and intricate piece of aluminum and starts whacking, the sheer explosion of sound, the terrible cracking and scraping sounds make one sick. Well, they make me, the owner of the boat, sick. I guess this is why doctors don't operate on their own family members.
The sound and sight of the surgery was alarming at first. I was really careful and went really slow. Bit by bit, I worked my way around the rim. Once I was sure all the caulk had been cut, I started to pry, gently and slowly, from multiple points so as to not damage the ever vital rim.
What I found didn't really surprise me. Old grisly caulk, damaged gelcoat, fasteners nearly corroded all the way through. But up she came. To my shock and surprise, I found so many of the fasteners compromised that I probably could have just wrenched the lens and its outer frame right off with my hands. The hatch is aluminum and the French, bless their hearts, used aluminum fasteners to hold it down to prevent electrical hanky-panky between dissimilar metals. All but one of the five through-bolts were completely dissolved. Well now, that may explain the leaks.
Since rain always comes when you don't want it, my intention was to get the hatch back down right then and there. But, I didn't have the right size bolts or nuts, so it was first one, then two, bike rides to True Value. Then an hour of scraping off all the 20 year old caulk from both the deck rim and the metal hatch with its awkward but effective profile.
By the time I thought that I might be ready to re-caulk, it was nearly dark and the deck was glistening with dew. Not the ideal conditions for a new water tight seal. So, I rested the hatch back in the hold, covered it all over with a trash bag and pinned it down with butternut squash, of all things.
But, being prepared, sort of, not a drop did it rain.
Day 413 ~ Dirty LaundryNovember 1st, 2011
Well, so far, I have subsisted for 10 days on 10 gallons of water. That includes dishes and all. The laundry situation is even worse. It wasn't in great stead when the girls left, but now I am digging through the drawer for that one last pair of skivvies. The simple fact is that Lisa has been doing the laundry for so long I kind of forgot how.
But, how hard can it be, really?
One of her final instructions was, "just do everything in cold." Really? The words were ringing in my head when I got to the machine. "Cold, cold, cold," I was chanting to myself; don't screw this up. However, when I looked at the buttons on the machine, they weren't labeled with temperatures as I expected, but with styles of clothing. I was putting everything in one load, how could I possibly chose?
Studying the pile, I figured that the majority were white, so that would probably be the best choice. Then I wasn't sure how much soap to add. The cap didn't seem to have any fill lines and, turning the jug around to read the label, it was all, 100%, in French. No English at the bottom in small print. Oh, yeah, we bought this stuff in Guadeloupe. So, I just dumped a few glugs in. Then, because the machine looked so full, I poured in one more shot. Certainly couldn't hurt.
I pushed the Whites button and heard it start to fill. Our of the corner of my eye, I noticed a little word had popped up on the screen with the timer: HOT. Whoa, Betsy! I frantically stabbed other buttons while watching the screen. Sure enough, Colors indicated warm and Brights meant Cold. Aha! Having cracked the secret laundry code, I was now master of the linen universe.