Saturday, November 29, 2014

November 29, 2014.

I've been discreetly keeping tabs on my friends as they make their annual migration southward towards warmer climes. Fortunately, the house has kept us too busy to get too melancholy over our new land based lifestyle.  I might be exaggerating a bit as I do really enjoy being here but you get the idea.

The laundry room used to be in a nook off the garage. So I put up a wall and now it lives in its own room that's part of the house. While we were at it we opted to significantly increase the size of the master closet.

The obligatory raised garden was built in time to take advantage of this years planting season.
Not quite Babylon but close enough for us

The galley is old but in very good shape so it'll be a few years before we update everything but it had this ridiculous little leg holding up a section of the countertop.
Christy has a shit ton of cookbooks so I ripped out the leg and fabricated a bookshelf for all those guides to culinary delight.
The haven for the cookbooks

Of course, as everybody knows, land livin' costs money so I had to get a job. The majority of the boats I've seen around here are fishing boats powered by huge outboards. Unfortunately, I don't know shit about bigger outboards. I had to find myself a sailboat/ trawler oriented place.

Then I got to thinking “What else would be important to me?” So I took a little trip down my very own nautical repair memory lane. About a year and a half before Christy and I jumped aboard the Veranda and left, I got a job at Silver Cloud Harbor Marina on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey.
Yes Dave, I still have one of the shirts.

I wanted to pick up as much nautical boat repair knowledge as I could before departing on our own adventure. I worked in the yard crew hauling and splashing about 350 boats twice per year. In the rare slow times I often was utilized as a spare set of hands by the staff mechanics so I was able to pick up quite a bit. The biggest thing about the job was that in spite of the hard work, I loved going there. The place was a family business and the work force was treated like they mattered. They knew that if the employees succeeded the business would flourish and the family would reap the rewards.

After a few years aimlessly floating about we started working during the summer months. Due to the combination of numerous boats and people with loads of money, Annapolis was the logical choice.

I took a job with Viking Marine Services. I worked for Bjorn and Dullard and the big draw was since the company was a mobile repair business that the gig came with a company truck. Having the truck on the weekends made laundry and grocery shopping sooo much easier. Bjorn was one of the most knowledgeable repairmen I’ve ever met.
Always loved that longboat....
Working alongside Bjorn was an education. Working with Dullard was something quite different. He seemed to be completely inept at everything he did. (One of my favorite Dullard in the spotlight moments) His contribution to the company seemed to be that he knew everyone in Annapolis. He was a bullshitters bullshitter. At first he was the foot in the door for Bjorn but he became more of a millstone around Bjorns neck than anything. After 2 seasons of working for them, we came back to Annapolis from a winter down south to find that they had parted ways and the company had folded. Working with Bjorn was great, while Dullard caused a lot of friction. Not quite the family business like Silver Cloud had been.

So that season I started at Annapolis Harbor Boat Yard. That was a pretty big place with about 16 employees. The crew and management were close, with one unfortunate exception. The owner. We had several frank discussions where he bitched about feeling uncomfortable coming to work at his own business because he felt like an outsider. Yet he ran the place like it was a mega corporation rather than a family business.
No, its not me
A company that size has to have a good repoire between the owner and his employees and at best it was awkward. Why anyone would go out of their way to create distance between them and their underlings is beyond me. If any place had the opportunity to be run like a family business this was it since rumor had it that his Mommy had bought him the place. Treating people like children does not make it a family business.

After a few seasons at Annapolis Horror Boatyard working for Pete and Michelle at Lunbar Marine was a dream come true. Lunbar was also a mobile marine repair business. Pete was an airframe and powerplant technician in the aviation industry in his previous life and he brings that “quality first” mindset to the job with him every day.
If you need work done in Naptown call them....
He's another one of those people that employees would do anything for because they know he'd do anything he could to help them. His employees really are treated like family.

So after my reflections I realized I wanted to find a family business. So after some word of mouth I got a referral to a place only a few miles down the road from us. It's at the end of a long stretch of road and when I came around the last bend I was excited to see a field of mastheads sticking up towards the sky.

The place has been run by the same family for more than 60 years. Twenty employees, 2 big travel lifts running all day and a lot almost the size of Jabins up in Annapolis. I've been at the job for 8 days now and things are feeling pretty good. I think I might get adopted....

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Eagle has Landed

November 10, 2014.

The circle is officially closed. The Veranda has been gone for 5 months and we closed on our “new to us” house this past week. Once the closing was complete we loaded up the car, left Annapolis and headed up to my Mom's house in Jersey to pick up the rest of our stuff that's been sitting there for 9 years.

I wanted to rent a large truck and pick up all our shit and drive it to Florida ourselves. But finding our way through the realities of shore-side life have left me a little confused. We could actually have a mover pick up all our shit, drive it to Florida and drop it off, cheaper than we could rent a truck and do it ourselves. Alrighty then, man of leisure it is. Although it does bother me.

So we met the movers and watched as 3 dudes we didn't know from Adam took everything we owned and drove away. We drove back down to Naptown on Saturday morning and picked up the last of our belongings and set off southward at 70 knots. The car was so full that Bob the Boat Plant had to be left behind. He's been with us through thick and thin for our entire life afloat so we lopped off a few sprigs to replant later. It's not the same but it'll have to do. Tucker's bed was on top of everything in the back seat so when I looked in the rearview mirror we were eye to eye. He looked relieved that it was Bob that we opted to leave behind.

He settled in for a series of long naps as we barreled south. We decided to stop for the night at at a Days Inn in Manning, South Carolina. It was a little seedy but bargained priced so we made due and did our best to settle in. Early on in our stay it became apparent that several of the other nearby units were rented out to permanent residents. Not the Trumps either. I'm pretty sure I could have scored either crack or a hooker with no trouble at all had I been so inclined. I'm almost positive I’ve seen this place on multiple episodes of COPS.

I'm not digging the scene at all and I start having this weird premonition about someone breaking into the car at 0300. Crap. I need some rest but its Saturday night and the locals are fidgety. I convince Christy to turn in and we're asleep by 8 PM. At around 0100 I’m awakened by a noise outside and I get up to check the car.

There are 2 guys just getting home from the bar. I know because they were still carrying their bottles. The first guy stopped directly in front of our car and said something over his shoulder to his buddy. The second guy stopped and looked for a while and then moved on towards their room. WTF could be so interesting about our car? Crap. Now I'm up at every hint of a noise whether real or imagined.

So I'm bug eyed and awake and by 0200 I have Christy up as well. I go out to pack our crap into the car and there on the ground is a pair of 6 inch heeled hooker shoes. They must have been the object of the boozers conversation. I can't believe that I slept thru the hooker losing her shoes but whatever, I'm awake now. I'm sure that room was last rented by the hour so I know the clerk was impressed with my stamina when we checked out after having the room for 6 hours. Its 0230 and hey look, the Verandas are once again up and underway southward. It was the same morning that our friends on First Edition were planning to pull their hook in North Carolina at 0300 so once again we're not the last one out of an anchorage. The whole 70 knot thing is getting to be awesome and we pulled into our new neighborhood at 1000 hours on Sunday morning.

I spent Monday morning painting a pantry that was evidently the wrong color. And on Monday afternoon I ripped out 7 hibiscus bushes so I could install a raised garden for the Admiral. I'm a little bit jealous as we read about our friends heading for tropical locations but keeping busy at the new hacienda is helping.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 08, 2014.

One of the biggest downsides to selling the boat was something we never considered. We'd be leaving Annapolis for good.

It was boatshow time and some of our friends called to say that they were in town. Shane and Maryvonne on s/v Gem 1 were in town and wanted to get together. We planned to meet them at Pussers during the sail boat shows break down party. During the party the sailboats all leave the show and the docks are reconfigured and the powerboats arrive for their stint of boat showiness.

It's a pretty popular scene and one that we had never attended before while staying here in Annapolis. So we parked the car in Eastport and walked over the Spa Creek bridge into town. And then we started running into people that we've met during our years of summering here in Annapolis.

We had to encounter 30 or so people that went out of their way to say hello. Some folks I see on a weekly basis while others I haven't seen in more than a year. And yet they were all so happy to run into us this night. Some were customers who I couldn't believe remembered our names yet on that night they treated us like long lost friends.

I hadn't really considered the roots we had put down while here. There were a lot more ramifications to selling the boat than either one of us had ever considered. We were only here because of the boat. The Veranda enabled us to create so many friendships and to become part of this wonderful community. We'll so miss the locals who have accepted us into their lives and have become such good friends.   After a few cocktails and saying our goodnights we walked back across the bridge towards home.

We were arm in arm when Christy said it best. “I'm really going to miss Annapolis”. Thats just something we had never considered. Crossing the bridge in the dark of night the lights in the harbor were never so beautiful. Although the tear in our eyes might have lent something to the beauty.

We really are going to miss this place....

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 22/2014.

I'm thinking of writing a television script. The working title is “It Couldn't be my Fault”. It would follow the travels of some broken boat crap repair guys as they go from boat to boat. It would center on that customer meeting where they invariably say “ I dunno how that could have happened or I had a guy on the boat who....”.

Broken crap is always a mystery, its the boat letting THEM down, never the other way around. It never fails due to neglect or misuse. Maybe the previous owner did beat the shit out of it, it could be because the part was destined to fail due to poor design. Sometimes things are jammed in where proper maintenance is impossible. But every once in a while you run into a boat where you just wonder “what the hell was he thinking?”.

Case in point. The owner of a high end sailing yacht decided that since his boat would be on the hard for four summer months in the balmy Chesapeake that he would fight off the mold in his own special way. There’s gotta be at least a hundred commercially available products for combating mold. They run the gambit from dehumidifiers to packets of magic absorbent crystals. This guy knew better and since he had solar panels he decided to leave one of his Camfrano fans running full tilt for the four months.

Nobody can pinpoint when the fan actually failed but when it did fail, it was spectacular. A complete meltdown. Fortunately there was no fire but there is mold. Go figure.
You won't see this picture in their advertising.....

The China Syndrome, fan style.

Then there was this guy. Oh wait, its the same guy. The whole theory of winch maintenance must be lost on him. After the winch was chiseled out of its base this is what remains. Several tablespoons of salt, sand and nautical grime.
Service the winches....EVER?

The owner supplied replacements for both cockpit winches. A pair of bright, shiny new Lewmars. Tiny Lewmars. The old winches were 58's and I’ve been given a pair of dinky 46's. I exaggerate when I call them dinky but they are substantially smaller. Why would anyone opt to intentionally go with a smaller than stock winch? The loads on cockpit winches are huge. The old jib sheets will probably be too big for the new stripers and have to be replaced with smaller ones as well. And who doesn't love trying to hand haul tiny jibs sheets under high loads. Sure, hes saving some money on the winches by going smaller but then hes got to buy new jib sheets. Why would anyone do that? And then it became clear.....hes selling the boat.

He will be that guy everyone is always badmouthing, The Previous Owner. Its kinda like meeting the Devil. A shadowy figure that everyone always speaks of but nobody could pick out of a lineup. Hes under the bed, hes in the back corner of the dark closet, hes that bump in the night. The mention of his name makes your skin crawl and your hair stand on end. Unless you're bald, then the thought of him just gives you gas. Hes always central to most boaters nautical horror stories. His stench fills the bilges, his touch is still felt in the creative wiring choices in every electrical nook and cranny. Improper hoses, wires to nowhere, JB Weld repairs, the hidden switches and fuses, all of those WTF was he thinking moments. Maybe every boats naming ceremony should include an exorcism. Add some Holy Water to that rum and it might make the difference. Every naming ceremony should include the phrase “Cast out the Devil from this new to us boat”.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 18, 2014.

The news is full of dire warnings about the menace that is Ebola. Don't fly, beware of traveling on cruise ships and definitely don't go to Dallas. But no matter how I scan the pages I haven't seen any warnings about Eholda.

I guess its because this terrible malady only affects a specialized few. Thats right, Broken Boat Crap repairmen. Eholda is the overwhelming feeling of “stenchiness” that results from dealing with holding tank replacements. It can be physical, mental, as well as malodorous.

I've been mentoring a young protege for the last few weeks as our time here in Annapolis draws to a close. Today we were tasked with replacing the holding tank in a small Island Packet. The tank has been leaking so it had to go and as long as we were at it the owner opted to replace everything. The tank, the head itself and every hose, oh joy. When I say every hose I mean EVERY hose, even the vent line and the hose from the deck pumpout fitting. Everything. It turned out that 1 of the hoses was 14 feet long and its replacement required the removal of the ships batteries and the stereo and the VHF. Nothing is ever easy.

So Tonto and I gloved up and I pointed out which hoses had to be disconnected. While I crouched in the head to remove the throne Tonto got started taking off hoses under the settee. I immediately knew when the first hose popped off. First there was an “Oh God” and then the small sailboat was filled with the stench of Deaths own cologne. After that first assault on your senses you just kinda get used to it and the job wasn't really too bad, or so I thought.

We were on our way to lunch when I mused how funny it was that the first hose stunk so much and after only a moment we really couldn't smell it anymore. Robin quickly responded with “YOU couldn't smell THAT anymore?” Lol. The sensitivities of youth.

After lunch it was time to pull out the tank itself. Like most IP's the holding tank is located under the settee. There are no limber holes so if you dump any liquid while removing the tank you have to bail it out rather than flushing with fresh water and letting the bilge pump do the dirty work. This tank fit its space like a glove. I had to chisel away the bonding goo and remove the 3 hose barbs to pull the tank from its home of more than 20 years.
I'm thinkin' that this leakin' thing has been going on for a while.

Even though the tank had been pumped out there was still an inch of fecal fun slopping around inside the tank. And because the universe has this twisted sense of cosmic humor the only way to pull the tank out was by tilting it up and out with the openings down. Crap. Literally.

Being the good soul that I am I had mercy on Tonto and while he took the tank up onto the dock I bailed and cleaned the settees base. I'm sure soaking up 2 gallons of shit with a handful of paper towels might have made him reexamine his current career path.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

October 11, 2014.

The Liebster Award is a way to promote other cruising blogs that you've enjoyed reading. We had The Liebster bestowed upon us and at first it was a little awkward for me. Since we've sold the boat and are in the process of gravitating back to land I didn't really feel as if I had the right to be involved but then I figured, what could it hurt. So here goes....
  1.  When did you first catch the sailing/cruising bug? I can lay the blame squarely at the feet of the movie Captain Ron. A charter trip to the BVI's cinched it for us. We were surrounded by dozens of drunken charterers acting like frat boys at their first kegger and I watched a few cruisers arrive and anchor off to the side to avoid the masses. The cruisers just seemed more in sync with the moment to me.  We spent the flight home seriously plotting our escape.
  2. Describe your worst repair or maintenance job on the boat besides the head. Everyone already knows that’s a shitty job. During our 8 years aboard the Veranda I'm pretty sure I've repaired just about everything on the boat at least once. Replacing the electrode in the LectraSan was definitely the most distasteful. I had to replace the dampner plate between the engine and the transmission only 3 months into our first year. It involved moving the engine with basic hand tools, a lever and a length of rope. At first it was overwhelming but I had to just settle in and get it done. That episode helped me to develop the attitude that “yup, its broken, just settle in and fix it”
  3. If you could turn back time just 3 years what would your cruising life be like today? If I could turn back time just 5 minutes I would have asked a different question because now I have that stupid Cher song in my head. Changing anything might have cost us the opportunity to have met someone that we enjoy. Cruising has been good enough to us that I wouldn't want to risk that. We're happy with where we are so we wouldn't change anything.
  4. Music soothes the soul. Do you listen to music onboard? What type of music and on what media? If it’s 70’s disco please decline the award and I’ll remove you from my feed. Just kidding. Feel free to add a mirror ball to the salon and dance all night long. I don’t judge. Much. Christy and I have very eclectic musical tastes. One of my favorite things about cruising was the live music we would run into just anywhere. The amount of truly talented musicians out there was eye opening. We had an Ipod wired to the ships stereo. I left with a taste for Blues and Classic Rock and along the way I added Bluegrass to my list of likes and Country no longer makes me vomit. Although I've decided that I've heard enough Jimmy Buffet to last a lifetime.
  5. Was there ever a time on the water when you thought "Oh shit!" and all the fun was over for that day? I think every cruiser has had that moment. Probably more than once. We left Beaufort, NC headed for Charleston. We were racing a front and the front won. The wind and waves were so big that when we diverted to Winyah Bay it took us almost 8 hours to sail the last 15 miles. So we spent a few days moving down the ICW and settled in Beaufort, SC to wait for the next weather window. A few days later we sailed out of Port Royal Sound headed for Saint Augustine. We left with 4 other boats and sailed straight into a nightlong gale. 45 knots with 15 footers made for a long night. It was the only time Christy ever complained and all she said was “I'm NOT having a good time”. It was brutal. We arrived in St. A at dawn and still have no idea where the other boats ended up.
  6. Wine, beer, booze or tea? Doesn't matter to me. I get high on life.  Christy's a wino while I’m a rummy. She went from bottles to boxed while I went from beer to rum in an effort to save space on the boat.
  7. Has there ever been a destination you couldn't wait to arrive at only to be disappointed when you got there? For me it would be Rum Cay in the Bahamas. How can a place called Rum not be fun? For me the town was kinda sad and was bordered by miles of dead reef.
  8. What part of cruising do you dislike the most besides no flushing toilets or bloggers asking stupid questions? Leaving family and friends behind is the biggest issue. The rest is only minor inconveniences like doing laundry, powerboaters on the ICW, folks who need to talk politics at happy hour, the rare bad bridge tender or the boater who arrives, drops the hook, jumps in the dink and now his boat becomes your problem when the wind picks up.
  9. Describe the best time you ever had on a boat unless it was illegal, then just email me. Check your inbox. But seriously, there’s just so much joy, so many good times that its impossible to pick a favorite. We've probably shared cockpit cocktails a thousand times and spent most of that time laughing. The people we've met, the friends we've made. The evening garbage burns, the beach side “bring a dish to shares”, turning the corner into an anchorage and running into someone you haven't seen in ages. Its all so good. Helping someone cobble together a repair in the middle of nowhere when they feared the worst is one of the most satisfying things you can do. The excitement of your first gulf stream crossing. Sailing across the banks at night and having the sun rise allowing you to see the beauty thats been slipping under your keel all night. The sharks, the lobster the Hogfish oh my. Having a cay to yourselves for days at a time. The joy in recognizing a friends sail crest the horizon. And the matching joy as you watch them pull the hook once again leaving you to yourselves.
        10.  I was asked to answer 9 questions but one of my delightful idiosyncrasies is that I don't do                 odd numbers.  So I wrote a tenth question to round out the list.  So you spent 8 years living aboard the boat; did you learn anything? Thank you for asking. Actually we did. I discovered that my wife is a terrific partner in every instance. We've dealt with horrible weather, breakdowns, horrible weather, equipment failures, a refit, horrible weather, multi-night passages and Christy has never wanted off the boat. You can't expect to succeed if you are dragging your partner through an experience like this. She was as eager to start the trip as I was and she remained fully invested until we decided to call it a wrap. I'm truly humbled by her capabilities and no, shes not reading over my shoulder.
I also learned that a lot of people are really stupid. Common sense isn't so common. We've seen people do more stupid and downright dangerous things on the water than we ever could have imagined. Its almost as bad as stupid people driving except it happens slower so you have more time to watch. We've met the friendliest people while traveling by boat. We've also made new and cemented old friendships while underway. We can't imagine the people that wouldn't be in our lives and the memories we wouldn't have if we hadn't cut the docklines. The biggest fear when contemplating an adventure like ours was “Are we doing the right thing?, Can we do this?” So in conclusion, the biggest thing we learned was that yeah, for us, it was the right thing to do and yeah, we could do it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September 7, 2014.

A local boat brokerage is run by a crew I like to call the Dudes. There’s the Head Dude, a couple of lower echelon dudes and then then guys at the bottom of the barrel, the dude scrapeins'. Needless to say, dude, is a big part of their lingo. There’s “this dude, that dude, duu de, oh dude” and on and on. We do a lot of work for the Dudes as they receive boats with issues and we repair them to make them both sale and sailable.

The Head Dude is a great guy and a big part of his boat selling schtick is selling the cruising lifestyle as well as selling the boat itself. He sells the romance of sailing.

The Head Dude has this longtime buddy, Pinhead, thats a bit of a fuck up. Pinhead envisions himself as being a competent mariner, a delivery captain, a boat repair god as well as a damn capable glass and paint guy. A more accurate description of Pinhead would be an alcoholic crackhead with reliability issues. Yes, hes a drug addled fuck up with limited skills.

Pinheads got no real income stream and the Dude being a good guy tries to send a little work his way every now and again. But as they say, no good deed goes unpunished. I first met Pinhead a few years ago when he was refinishing several nicks and scrapes in the paint on a damaged hullside. He had finished the repairs and primed the areas. I asked when he was going to shoot the paint and he informed me that it was already done. There’s like 28 shades of white and paint matching by eye can be extremely difficult. Its a skill. There was no skill on this hullside. The boat looked like a Dalmatian. I thought it was only primed and he was telling me that it was done. Eeessh.

Fast forward a few years and due to issues Pinhead isn't allowed near brokerage boats anymore. But The Dude decided that he'd entrust his own boat to Pinhead for its maintenance needs. The Dude owns a catamaran that needed a little work done on both engines raw water pumps. The starboard side just needed the impeller changed while the port side needed the pump removed and the seal replaced.

After Pinhead completed these 2 repairs the Dude and some friends went out to enjoy the bay. The starboard engine shut down followed shortly by the port side engine which also just stopped. After sailing back to the dock The Dude gave us a call.

The starboard engine room was completely black. The soot from the engines exhaust covered every square inch of the beneath the quarterberth engine room.
This is after one of the dude scrapins started cleaning the engine room.
By the time I got to the root of the problem I looked like a filthy chimney sweep from Mary Poppins.

It seems that when Pinhead changed the impeller he didn't bother to go looking for the missing vanes from the previous impeller. I found them all jammed into the heat exchanger. There were so many pieces that it had to be the remnants of more than one impeller.
You can't leave those old impeller bits hanging around.
This beaver dam of impeller bits led to a brutal overheating. Opposite sides of the heat exchanger blew out where the heat exchanger bolts to the mixing elbow allowing hot exhaust gasses to spew into the engine room until the engine finally died. The heat exchanger is fairly rotted with corrosion and this excessive heat probably just accelerated its demise. While the starboard engines failure is sad enough the port sides failure will go down in boat lore as a Pinhead Classic.

The bolts that hold the raw water pump are difficult to access. Pinhead told The Dude that while trying to remove them he rounded one of them off. So he had to cut the last nut off to remove the pump. It really was his only choice but its his tool of choice that makes it fun. I might have used a Dremel with a cutoff wheel or maybe a Fein Saw with a metal blade. Pinhead decided to go with the old standard, the Sawzall. You know, that big reciprocating saw that you might use while building a deck. Combine a tight space, an awkward position with limited access and a wildly stroking, 6 inch blade....what could possibly go wrong.

After completing his “repair” Pinhead fessed up and told the Dude that while cutting off the nut he had nicked the corner of the engine and put a “pinhole” in it. But not to worry, it was a tiny hole so after scrupulously cleaning the area he had mixed up a little JB Weld and patched it up.

Evidently it wasn't quite clean enough so while the dude was out with his friends the patch leaked and the engine pumped all of its oil out into the bilge. While I dealt with the starboard engine my boss went after the port side. He saw that the JB Weld repair was leaking so he poked at it with the tip of his knife and the whole “repair” popped off revealing the pinhole. I heard “Oh my God, you gotta come see this”.
Thats quite the "pinhole"

A Sawzall, really?
It turns out I could stick the tip of my pinky into the “pinhole”.

The engine needs to be welded. Before committing to that we did a temporary repair, refilled the oil and fired the engine up. We did get her running again but she has the worst knock I've ever heard. So now at a minimum The Dude needs a multi-thousand dollar heat exchanger/ exhaust manifold on the starboard side and at this point we haven't even looked inside to see whats knocking so badly in the port engine. There is going to be some major disassembly to create access for a welder to repair the block, unless of course the engine needs to be pulled to address the knocking.

So there’s some expensive sadness in The Dudes immediate future. I really feel bad for him. He might have been killing 2 birds with one stone. Trying to save some coin by having Pinhead maintain his boat while sending a little cash his friends way. Either way, sometimes a dude just can't catch a break.