Friday, August 29, 2008

August 29, 2008.

It was a bit overcast today with some scattered showers so we pretty much worked inside the boat. I replaced a faulty valve in the forward head while Christy started sewing us some new curtains for the salon.

The valances that they sell for your home are just the right length to be used as curtains on all of our ports. So Christy spent a few hours sewing up a way to hang them from our existing curtain rods. She did a great job although I did hear more swearing than I’ve ever heard in my life. I think she was even making some of those words up but I was afraid to ask her as I was trying to be as small as possible.

After she was done sewing I decided to make a new grill cover to replace the one that had blown away during the hoolie in Solomon’s Island. We were pleased with the result and now I won’t feel like I’m walking around with my fly open having an uncovered grill.

Last night Jeff & Tessa dropped in on their way home from their boat. They’ve been trying to get a repair made on their boat for quite some time now. The marina had been working on their boat for them and had inadvertently drilled a hole through the hull into the recess that houses the center board. The hole is in a tough spot to get too and the marina has tried a series of Mickey Mouse repairs in an effort to fix it.

This has involved making what they consider to be a repair, and then taking the boat over to the water and dunking it in to see if it still leaks. Kinda like a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. It’s been dunked three times now and the water still comes gushing in each time. So understandably Jeff & Tessa are pretty frustrated and they were here to try and reconcile the situation by having the shop agree to make a very involved, but correct repair.

It seems that the people in the shop are more concerned with pointing fingers at each other over whose fault it is, rather than making the repair. Eventually it was agreed that the more involved repair would be the next course of action. So after their meeting they stopped in to decompress and visit a bit before the ride home. We had a great time visiting with yet another interesting couple that we’ve met on our journey. Speaking of interesting, check out their website, and if you ever have a chance to see them perform, jump on it!

Speaking of last night. I’ve shut off the shore power cable the last 2 nights so that we’ve just been running off the ships batteries. So at night with little or no wind turning the wind generator we’ve been able to see how much power we’ve been using with both refrigerators running. It’s been a shockingly low 33 amps per night. That’s pretty darned good; I realize that the temperature has been a little cooler lately and we’re not using an anchor light (since we’re on the hard) but all things considered that’s a real nice number to see.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

August 27, 2008.

The chores are getting quicker and easier to complete so we’ve spent a little time enjoying ourselves.

Over the weekend we hung out with some friends that we had met in the Bahamas. Gail & Matthew of the s/v Alisios picked us up in their car and whisked us away to their marina for the evening. We enjoyed appetizers and cocktails on their boat while we spent an hour catching up with each others adventures. Then we headed up to the marina's common area known as the “poop deck” to grill some dinner and share the rest of the evening with the crews from a half dozen other boats. It was a great time and the evening chill was perfect for our short walk home.

On Monday our newest addition to the livability of the boat arrived. We had ordered an Engel portable refrigerator/freezer. I had first seen one on Freedom last year and it struck me as a great idea. It’s perfect for a boat as it can operate on either 12 volt or 120 volt shore power. We had measured carefully and it looked like the 45 quart model would fit the space available pretty much perfectly. This model would hold about 60 cans of soda so it’s a pretty good size yet it only uses a minimal amount of electricity. Our intention is to use the entire thing as a freezer so this means we’ll have more than triple the capacity of our built in freezer all for less than two and a half amps an hour.

Once we got the thing we realized just how well it was gonna fit the space available. I almost had to grease it to get it into the spot we had chosen. At least there’s no chance of the thing moving about when the ride gets a little rough. I hard wired it into the system and it filled the last available slot in our breaker panel. So now our refrigeration worries just got a little less complicated; it’s a good thing too………

The damn fridge is acting up again. We woke this morning to a freezer that was once again thawing out on its own. Since we’re plugged in on the hard I hadn’t noticed that the fridge had been cycling longer in an effort to stay cold. If we had been running off our own power we would have noticed the increase in power consumption. So after a few hours of farting around with my cobbled set of gauges and recharging the system, it’s now running normally again, but for how long, I dunno.

This latest episode of “Will the Meat Go Bad” has been the impetus for us to buckle down and do a lot of research on a new refrigeration system. We’re planning to shit can the old system and put in one that will utilize the entire built in box as a refrigerator and we’ll keep the separate Engle as the freezer. This will make the fridge bigger than it is now so things should be better. So then, without having to freeze the box but only refrigerate it, we should save some power that the new Engle will be consuming. That, and the fact that the newer technologies that are now available are more efficient we should have a lot more capacity with about the same reasonable draw we have now. If we can make it until the boat show so we can fondle the new systems and maybe even get some boat show pricing, then we should be in good shape.

During the fridge debacle our friend Phil dropped in and invited us over for dinner. He’s been living aboard a Morgan 41 here in Herrington Harbor for about 2 years and had just purchased a new house. We were happy to accept the offer of a meal at his new digs.

It’s about 8 miles from the marina so he came by and picked us up and brought us back to his estate, er, home. He was fortunate to get one of the nicest houses in a small established waterfront community. He’s still in the process of acquiring furnishings. The place is pretty big and after living on a boat for a couple of years the new place is actually taking some time to fill up. He’s got a ton of cool nautical antiques that have been locked away and he’s now got some place to display them.

Dinner was great. Who knew Phil could cook? He even had dessert. We spent the evening reminiscing and talking about mistakes made, bullets dodged and how things always seem to work out for the better. Afterwards he drove us home to our boat; you know the one with the giant refrigerator box in the salon. Seemed kinda tight after the time spent at Phil’s.

Since then we’ve gotten back on the mission of completing the list. I installed another fan in the salon, installed a light over the stove and a couple of non-skid treads on the companion way steps.

When we were in the Bahamas we found that we were lacking Jerry Jugs that we ultimately should have had. For the entire 4 months we were there we never went to a fuel dock. I had to borrow diesel jugs from people so I could keep the boat topped up. We also didn’t have enough capacity for carrying gasoline for the dinghy. We carried 11 gallons when full but it was the limiting factor in how long we could stay in the more remote areas. So we’ve decided to add a rail along the starboard bow that will enable us to lash 4 five gallon jugs in place, two for diesel and two for gasoline. Now along with the watermaker we should be completely self reliant for more than a month at a time.

This morning when I went to take the dogs for their morning stroll we were confronted by this. That’s right, fallen leaves. That means it’s already getting colder. We gotta get out of this place……so we’re going back into the water on Tuesday after the holiday weekend.

That means, weather permitting, we’ll head out on Wednesday for Solomon’s Island for a day or two so we can grocery shop and pick up propane if we need it. Then it’s off for a two day trip up the Potomac to Washington, DC. We had such a good time up there last year (except for the holding cell part) that we can’t wait to get underway and get back up there.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August 22, 2008.

We crossed a couple more chores off the “to do” list.

I couldn’t dodge it any longer so I finally got around to re-packing the stuffing boxes. The stuffing box on the prop shaft is a giant pain in the ass to get to on our boat. I can only put one hand on it at a time with my arm at full extension. In direct contrast with past stuffing box encounters, this time everything fell right into place. I was able to get the thing apart with no loss of knuckle skin or blood and only some minimal cursing. I added the new stuffing and had it back together in record time.

Then came the rudder post stuffing box. It lives directly under the bunk in the aft cabin. Once we took the mattress and all the bedding out of the cabin the rudder post stuffing box was nicely exposed. Adjusting this box is always easy as the box is readily accessible once the bedding is gone. But there’s a catch, there’s always a catch isn’t there?

While adjustments are easily made I had forgotten that disassembly was impossible with out completely removing the steering quadrant and let’s not forget about the auto pilot. There I was, still basking in the glory of the first box going so well for me and now this.

So after gathering several more tools I set about taking everything under the bed apart. The ease of access to this area of the boat really makes this an easy job. I was just a bit bummed as I thought that the more difficult stuffing box was already done and then that one just got a lot more complicated. In the end it all went well and was back together in short order.

Next up on the list was the new bilge pump hose. Our bilge pump has always spewed water into one of the cockpit scupper drain hoses. It was an “okay” arrangement until we encountered some really big waves, hour after hour on our way back from the Bahamas. Of course, this shit always happens as soon as you get into 4000 feet of water.

Water was actually being forced up the cockpit drain line. Not far enough to make it into the cockpit but far enough that it was running down into the bilge through the bilge pump line. Then, when enough water accumulated the bilge pump would come on and pump it all back out. This meant that the bilge pump was running every 15 minutes and when you’re not sure how the water is getting into the bilge it makes for a pretty tense situation. Once I realized what was happening, we decided that we needed to re-route the bilge pump hose when we hauled the boat.

So I spent some time and installed a new 22 foot run of hose to the transom of the boat. Now when the bilge pump comes on it sends the water out the back of the boat as it did when the boat was designed.

By the time I had the boat put back together and the bed remade the day was shot so we headed over to the pool. After swimming and lying about for 2 hours we had dinner on the boat before heading over to the Captains Lounge to watch some Olympics.

The list is getting shorter so today I decided on a chore that I’ve been looking forward too. Thank God Christy keeps a list because I had forgotten that I wanted to add a chartplotter to the aft cabin.

We have our old chartplotter on board as a spare in case we need it. I realized that if I installed it at the bedside it would make a handy anchor drag indicator. I mean as long as we’re taking it for a boat ride it might as well pay its own way.

As it is now when we are in a situation where dragging is a concern I leave the chartplotter on in the cockpit with the alarm set. When the boat moves a predetermined distance an alarm sounds until you get up and shut it off. We’ve never dragged *knocking wood* but we have found the alarm very handy when swinging with other boats in a tidal flow situation or when a front comes through and swings the boat. So the boat swings, the alarm goes off and I get up to see who’s where and make sure that we’re still happy campers. The downside is that the alarm isn’t very loud and I have to go topsides to silence and reset it.

So since we have the spare and the antenna is still mounted we can put it to good use. All I have to do is re-route the antenna lead, run a power cable to the bedside and mount the unit. Then I realized that I had to take the entire bed apart yet again. Shit. If I had done it yesterday it would have taken half the time but whatever. It all went well, fits nicely and seems as if it will work just as I had envisioned.

The next chore was one that Christy snuck in on me. I’ve been fist fighting with the new laptop for the last few evenings. The new system runs Vista software and I pretty much hate it. Vista doesn’t recognize our Engenius Wifi amplifier. Without the amplifier we can’t reach out and borrow peoples unprotected wifi signals from the boat. After taking the laptop up to the Captains Lounge and downloading this and that then deleting everything and then starting over several times, I was ready to kill someone. Finally, mercifully after reading a tutorial that explains how all the other tutorials are wrong I was able to get the laptop to recognize the amplifier. It was definitely the toughest thing I’ve done this week.

Today the marina parked a power boat next to us for a few hours. It was being readied for delivery to the new owner. It had a German engineered propulsion system that I thought was noteworthy. The props were mounted at the front of skegs that somewhat resembled backward saildrives. The skeg could rotate 90 degrees so the boat could pretty much be parallel parked. There were no rudders either; you steered at speed by changing the angle of the skeg.
It seemed kinda stupid to me to have the propellers as the first thing to hit any obstruction. No prop shafts or skegs out in front to fend off underwater debris. I guess they don’t have crab pots in Germany. Nice boat, interesting design, that guy is screwed.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August 20, 2008.

Thankfully we’re back to the grind of working on the boat. The week in Jersey and then the quick romp out to Penn State were exhausting.

I’ve got the watermaker installation almost complete. I’ve got all the components installed and have all the plumbing lines done. The sea strainer, the low pressure pump, 2 pre filters and various valves are all below the sink in the forward head. The hefty high pressure pump is behind a false drawer that hides the guts of the bow thruster. The membranes that actually produce the fresh water are bolted to a bulkhead in a forward hanging locker.
So the components are pretty much scattered about, but the end result is a pretty slick installation.

I decided to plumb the product water line straight to a dedicated faucet at the galley sink. When you start to make water the first few minutes of production are pretty much wasted. We intend to collect this water for washing clothes and other chores. As the water comes from this new dedicated tap we have a meter to check the quality until its drinkable. Then we just have to flip a single lever under the sink and the product water will flow straight into our water tank. The new tap gives Christy the option of filling any water bottles and jugs directly from the watermaker before it reaches the tank. She’s happy, I’m happy.

I was finally able to locate the type of grease required by the Max Prop. So the prop is greased and the new zincs have been installed. I also got the third coat of Cetol on the rub and toe rails. After that I sanded the rest of the topside wood and got 2 coats of Cetol on all of it as well.

Tonight after showering I found that the sump pump wasn’t working. That meant I had an inch of standing water in the shower stall. Crap. So I got out my meter and checked the breaker, yup, power was fine. Then I checked it at the switch, power there too. Crap. Next was to check it at the pump and yup, power there too. Shit. That meant the pump itself was dead.

I figured that hopefully the pump was clogged with enough hair to make it seize up. Be careful what you wish for. I’m practically standing on my head in the engine room dissembling the pump when I discover that it was jammed with hair. In fact there was so much hair I might be able to pass it off as another Bigfoot body. It certainly smelled like a mythical five hundred pound swamp dweller. So I was freshly showered, yet sweating profusely, while standing on my head and fondling the remains of a five hundred pound swamp dweller. Yet another day in paradise. On the bright side though, the pump went back together like it was supposed to and it even works. I don’t mind repairs that are cheap.

A quick side bar about living on the boat while it’s on the hard. Tucker has mastered the fine art of relieving himself on the bow of the boat. He only does it once in a while but at least if he has to go, he does. Now that we’re not in the water anymore it’s not all that great but it’s not like I can ask him to unlearn this new behavior.

In the water, when he goes, it’s a simple matter to go forward and flip his tiny Schnauzer turd over the side. Then a quick shot with the anchor wash down pump and all is clean again. I’d have a pile of turds next to the boat if I did that now so I have to use a bag and collect his gifts. Then I have to run the garden hose from the spigot on the ground. I suppose it could be worse, he could be a pony.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

August 17, 2008.

We’ve been to Jersey and survived to tell about it.

We packed up the rent-a-car and headed up to Jersey on Thursday. We were to spend several days visiting with family and friends. Since we were traveling with the dogs we were having a hard time finding someplace local that would allow our canine companions.

After a very generous offer it was decided that we’d spend the week on Cirrus, a Pearson 36 which belongs to our good friends Nick & Edy. It ended up being the best possible solution as it put us right in the heart of the area we wanted to visit. An unexpected bonus to staying on the river is that I’m pretty sure I saw Michael Phelps swim past as he tried to stay loose between Olympic events.

The dentist squeezed us in even though we had called at least a month ahead of time. We both had exams and cleanings and then Christy needed a minor tooth repair. It ended up being 4 separate trips back to the dentist over a few days time. Our entire trip to Jersey was like that, constant running to this appointment or that.

Throw in a couple of doctor appointments each, dinners with family and trying to catch up with all of our friends and it was dizzying. Also since we had the car we did some major shopping. There was a new laptop, pillows, a printer, lumber, galleywear, tools etc. We put 400 miles on the car and never got more than 25 miles away from Cirrus. To say that the car was packed was an understatement.

After a week of running around we headed out to Happy Valley to watch Ashlee, the youngest girl child graduate from Penn State. It was the end of summer sessions so mercifully there were only 1600 students graduating. The graduation actually went very smoothly and was over in about 2 hours.

Once again it was pack up and get in the car. We left Happy Valley and were back at Veranda, in Maryland in less than 4 hours.

Christy and I have decided to try and avoid renting a car ever again, unless it’s absolutely necessary. Christy has just gotten too used to traveling along at 6 knots to be able to relax at highway speeds. We had arguments like we’ve never had before just because of the damned car. Both of us were never so relieved as we were when we pulled into the marina and got out of the car……and Oh look, its Margarita Night at the marina.

We unpacked about a thousand things from the car and put away what we could before heading over to Margarita Night. We spent an hour with several friends discussing ongoing boat repairs and various visits home.

A couple of observations I made during our trip north. Highway driving speeds are way down from the way they were before we left on the boat. I’m not sure if its gas prices forcing drivers to try to economize or if law enforcement has actually made an impact. In the past at 70 MPH I was the slow guy in the right lane but this week it seemed that the majority of the drivers were content to do the speed limit.

Also, one morning we spent about 10 minutes parked in front of a Perkins Pancake House. Ninety five percent of the patrons coming and going were fat. I’m not talking chubby either, I’m talking obese. You can forget your Atkins diet, forget your South Beach diet and just don’t have breakfast at Perkins. Chances are you’ll drop pounds like the French Army drops rifles.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August 10, 2008.

Wow, it’s already the tenth of the month. Since the last time I’ve written we’ve been plenty busy.

Once the boat was on the hard, we set about knocking off as many of the chores on our “to do” list as we could. I compounded and waxed the hull and brought Veranda back to her gleaming self.

Christy took this opportunity to clean the bottom of the dinghy. It had been looking fairly scuzzy and with quite a bit of effort the bottom was scum free. It was a brutally hot day so she did her cleaning in her bathing suit and hosed herself off as she worked away at the dinghys bottom. Once the bottom was cleaned I repaired a couple of deep scratches in the dinks fiberglass. The constant beaching of the dink was beginning to take its toll and I remedied it by building up the worn away areas and then adding a layer of fiberglass cloth.

We had a couple of very clear, albeit very hot days. Since there was no chance of rain in the forecast I sanded the toe rail and rub rails and got 2 coats of Cetol on them. Two years ago we had completely stripped all the wood and used a good varnish on all the surfaces. It started to look like shit in only a few months so we decided to go back to the heartier Cetol. Last year we stripped everything and applied Cetol. We were rewarded with about a full year of good looking wood trim. Best of all is that the wood didn’t need to be completely stripped, just rough sanded before this years coats were applied. We’ll get 2 more coats on the wood when we get back from Jersey.

Christy also found time to re mark our anchor chain. We have it marked in 30 foot increments so we know how much chain we're paying out when we anchor.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

July 31, 2008.

It was time to bid Baltimore adieu. Visiting Baltimore was a lot more fun than I had imagined it would be. The town fathers really have done a good job of revitalizing the city. If they could just clean up the water, it would be perfect.

The forecast was for 10 to 15 knots out of the south but we decided to leave anyway. We were headed south but with that much breeze we figured we’d be able to sail even though we’d have to tack back and forth as we made our way down the bay. The tide was also supposed to be in our favor for much of the trip so that would help too.

It took 10 minutes to haul and clean the ridiculously dirty anchor. As the chain came up it was wrapped around one plastic bag after another. Finally we were on our way back towards the bay. Technically, Baltimore was the northern most destination we had planned for the Chesapeake so now we’re officially on our way back to the Bahamas. Of course we still have several stops to make but I like the way “last cruiser headed north, first one headed south” sounds. It’s definitely a half full kind of thing.

On our way out the Patapsco River we came to a buoy that was painted a very patriotic red, white and blue. Fort McHenry was the fort that was being bombed by the British when Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner.
He was on an English prison ship behind the British lines and watched the bombardment from there. Thus the relief illustrated in his words as dawn broke revealing that the American flag still flew over Fort McHenry. Anyway, there’s a special buoy in the river that marks the alleged spot of his prison ship, front row seat to the battle.

As we make our way down the river we realized that once again the weatherman was wrong. There was absolutely no wind whatsoever. The only thing that was right about this mornings predicted conditions is that indeed the tide was ebbing. We usually motor at 6.3 knots but with the tidal flow working for us we ran the entire 42 miles to Herrington Harbour in just under 6 hours.

On our approach we were directed to tie up on M dock near the travel lift well. It was a straight forward and easy approach. We’d been told that they’d lift us in the morning so we set about washing down the topsides, filling the water tank and removing the dinghy motor. It was brutally hot with not a hint of breeze so it was nice to be on a dock so we could run the A/C for the evening. Phil stopped in on his way home from work and it was nice to catch up with him.

This morning we got up early so we would be ready when the Yard Dogs showed up. They have a real nice set-up here at Herrington Harbour. They have 4 different size travel lifts and we’re due to be taken out in the 70 ton lift. We’ve been hauled by 50 ton lifts in the past but our radar arch along with the wind generator on top makes it a bit of a tight squeeze. It’s not the weight, we only weigh about 14 tons, it the physical size of the boat and its appendages. We usually have to back into the lifting well but the 70 ton lift is so big that they can lift us out, bow in. It made things much easier for everyone concerned.

After a thorough power washing of her bottom Veranda was carted out to the yard and blocked up. We spent the afternoon cleaning the hull, scrubbing the waterline and cleaning the propeller and its shaft. She’ll stay here for about a month while we complete our list of boat projects. We’ll also use this time to rent a car and head up to Jersey to see our people and keep some doctors appointments.