Friday, October 30, 2009

October 28, 2009.

The anchorage at Hospital Point has the reputation of having so-so holding. We’ve never stayed there before but we usually take those reports with a grain of salt.

I would say that most nights we anchor in about 10 feet of water. The 10 foot water depth added to the 5 feet to the bow roller means that we can drop 75 feet of chain and be sleeping on a scope of 5 to 1. It always works, we always sleep well, it’s simple. The difference here is that the chart shows very little water in close to shore so most people anchor out in deeper water than they’re used to. We were in closer than several boats and we were still in 20 feet of water. That meant our normal 5 to 1 scope would require 125 feet of chain. There just wasn’t room so I dropped 90 feet of chain, set the hook well and then set the anchor alarm.

Of course the wind kicked up a bit, brought some rain and veered as well. I was up several times during the night checking out “voices” in the night. People were dragging and when dawn broke I was shocked at how many people had dragged past us during the night. It’s just piss poor seamanship and I forgot just how common it seems to be sometimes.

The first real bridge we had to contend with was the Gilmerton Lift Bridge. Directly next to the bridge is a railroad bridge that is usually open, ya know, unless we want to get through. When we came around the bend we came upon the railroad bridge stuck in the down position with about 19 boats already waiting to get through. We were the lead boat in a small parade of another 9 boats so now there was a butt load of boats waiting for the bridge.

We were meandering through the crowd of boats saying “hi” to friends and pretty much just checking out who was there that we knew. As we were slowly coasting past a boat that we don’t know I looked over and waved hello. I was met by the sight of a guy waving his arms wildly in the internationally accepted “WTF?” motion. He was actually upset because he thought we were trying to cut the line or something. I couldn’t believe that he was serious so I laughed and waved again. Then when the bridge finally did open after an hour and a half I did make it a point to go through before him. It’s gonna be a long ride south for that guy if he keeps getting stressed over somebody getting through a bridge 19 seconds sooner than he did.

We decided on the Dismal Swamp to avoid the crowd of boats that were now bunched together and headed for the Virginia Cut. We got to the lock 40 minutes early and after holding position for so long at Gilmerton I was in no mood to do it again.

“Dolphins” are several pilings lashed together to form a very stout mega piling. There’s one right in front of the lock at the Dismal Swamp so we nosed right up to it and Christy dropped a line over it from the bow and we hung from it while we waited for the locks scheduled opening. The breeze kept us away from the pile and made things much easier. We heard the captain of the boat next to us discussing the advantages of our technique with his crew. Little did I know that this would come into play later.

Locking through was normal. The trip down the swamp was normal as well. We hit at least 10 submerged logs that shuddered the entire boat and it ended with me swearing never to do the Dismal again. See, just like always. Normal. F#@k the Swamp.

Even though we took our time going through the swamp we got to the other end with an hour to kill. To exit the swamp you have to negotiate a lift bridge and then another lock. Since we got to the bridge so early we pulled up and tied off to the bridges fender system. It’s a huge wood wall, 8 feet tall and 70 feet long, in great shape and it just begs to be tied to.

We were tied to the port side fender when the next boat showed up and the captain decided to tie up to the starboard side fender. Unfortunately, he and his crew weren’t on the same page. There’s a dolphin just before you reach the fender system that protects the fender system from being rammed.

The captain was intending to side tie to the wall but the woman on the bow dropped the already cleated line over the dolphin as they went by. Before the captain could stop the boat it immediately turned hard to starboard and wedged its bow firmly between the dolphin and the end of the fender system. There was a slight current from behind the boat which slowly pivoted the boat out perpendicular to the wall. Now it was really wedged. Try as he might there was no backing out of this wedgy. He ended up throwing a line across to us, which I took out to the end of our fender system to pull his stern back upstream a bit. It ended up being enough as his bow finally pulled free. I was going to say something about shoddy seamanship again but I think this one actually falls under the category of practically paranormal. As a matter of fact there’s probably a secret government center devoted to the study of people doing stupid stuff on the water.

So here we sit in Elizabeth City with the Albemarle and the Alligator in our sights for tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 27, 2009.

We slept well and found ourselves threading the winding exit from Jackson Creek back out into Chesapeake Bay by 0830. The wind was out of the north northeast so we were under sail as soon as we cleared the confines of the channel. It had rained a good bit during the night but the day broke with no rain; just a bit of fog and a dreary grey.

There were some fairly large rollers piling into Fleets Bay as we headed out into the Chesapeake. We had to go far enough out across the Chesapeake before turning south because the rollers were large enough to spill all the air from the sails as we tried to gradually turn south. So we continued east until we could lay a course for Wolf Trap Light. This left us running wing and wing with the wind and seas directly behind us. This turned out to be a very comfortable point of sail and we averaged 7.5 knots.

Once we reached the Wolf Trap it was time to veer 20 degrees to starboard. Luck was with us as the wind was just starting to come more out of the north northwest. We went to starboard tack and actually picked up some speed. To make matters even better, we had the ebb tide running with us almost all day.

When we reached Norfolk it was time to turn even more to the west. We ended up being close hauled with everything sheeted in as tight as possible. We ran across the shipping lanes and it was debatable as to whether or not we would be able to make the Elizabeth River without tacking or starting the engine. We crossed the channel diagonally and were literally skimming along the shallows outside the southern side of the channel. We finally made the turning mark with no room to spare. The now rising tide made the difference for us as it pushed us into Norfolk. As we turned south down the Elizabeth we eased the sails a bit and sailed along at about 5 knots to our anchorage at Hospital Point.
October 26, 2009.

I’ll admit it. It was my fault, completely and totally. I was brash enough to ask the Chesapeake to grant me enough wind to spend the day under sail. I never really expected my wish to be granted so I never mentioned a specific time for when I’d like the wind to pipe up.

When last I wrote we were anchored in the shallows, along the eastern edge of the Chesapeake. We were well away from the shipping lanes. We even intentionally anchored among a slew of crab pots to lessen the chances that a small boat would come blasting through.

We watched a beautiful sunset, had dinner, read awhile and turned in at 2200. At 0237 the wind started just like somebody flipped the wind switch. It was only 10 knots or so at the beginning and I listened to wavelets lapping against the hull. At 0430 the wind was cranking and the seas were starting to build. By 0440 we were dressed and preparing to get underway.

It wasn’t that we were eager to get underway; it’s just that the conditions in our wide open anchorage were starting to get a bit nasty as the winds crested 20 knots. Another non-bonus of our predawn departure would be that we were unable to use the engine. It was pitch black outside and all those crab pot floats were just waiting to be sucked into our prop shaft.

So Christy took the helm while I raised the mainsail. Then the boat sailed forward as I pulled in the anchor chain. After a few moments we were free of the bottom and headed back out to deeper water. We've practiced sailing off the anchor several times in the past and it was nice that we possessed the skill when we needed it. Once we turned south we unrolled most of the genoa.

We found ourselves making 7 knots on a beam reach hour after hour. We encountered one huge ship after another but only had to call one to negotiate a safe passing in the predawn darkness. Yes, I still love the AIS. The waters built to three foot choppy seas but with enough wind in the sails Veranda loped easily down the bay.

After lunch we were in discussion about whether or not we should continue on to Norfolk or not when the wind started to get fluky. We’re very familiar with the anchorage in Norfolk so it wasn’t the proposed after dark arrival that was the issue. The day had been such a good day of sailing that we decided to stop while we still had some wind. Unlike the day before when the wind dying on us had been so frustrating. Not to mention the fact that we had gotten started pretty early.

So after a long but great day we pulled into the anchorage at Jackson Creek in Deltaville, Va. An hour after we dropped the hook our friends the Makeitso's pulled in and anchored beside us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 25, 2009.

Chesapeake O’ Chesapeake why hast thou forsaken me O’ Great Chesapeake? I mean WTF?

On Saturday the wind was supposed to be between 15 and 30 knots from the south bringing with it bands of torrential rain. It was supposed to be over by midnight and it was. The forecast couldn’t have been more spot on.

Today was supposed to bring 15 to 20 knots out of the northwest with beautiful skies. I went to bed with sailing terms like “rollicking, boisterous and spirited” dancing in anticipation in my head. We left the dock in time for the 0900 bridge opening. As soon as we were clear of the inner harbor the sails were up and the engine was off.

Our plan was for us to sail the entire bay; today and through the night. It’s a distance of about 125 miles to Norfolk. It can be 3 reasonable days, 2 grueling days or just 1 overnighter. It’s getting a little chilly so we’d like to knock the trip down the bay out of the way in a single day. There are so many crabpot floats in the bay that we won't consider running the engine at night. So its sail or nothing.

We started the day with about 12 knots of breeze coming over the stern from about 9 different directions. We were on port tack, starboard tack and then wing and wing at least a dozen times in the first 2 hours. It was exhausting but we were moving along nicely. But by the time noon came the wind was dying and we were down to 4 knots SOG. Where the hell’s my breeze?

In the spirit of “stick to it ness” we sailed all day. Even as our speed dropped to 2 knots. Finally around 1600 hours the wind absolutely, completely died. We found ourselves still doing about a half a knot as we were swept south by the ebbing tide. The problem with that was that we were actually sideways to the current while being swept south. Not very dignified at all.

The tide started to change and there was a very real danger of us being swept north so we had to bite the bullet, crank up the engine and decide on a spot to drop the hook. Instead of heading a few miles off the Chesapeake to drop the hook in a sheltered spot we just pulled off to the side of the bay and picked a spot. It’s calm as hell as we sit here anchored among a few crab pots.

As they say “Tomorrow is another day”. O’ Great Chesapeake permit us the breeze to sail upon your bountiful waters on the morrow. Please.
October 24, 2009.

This season’s work has ended for Christy and me. Her job ended with the end of the power boat show while mine ran for another week.

It was during this last week that I had the opportunity to work on one of my favorite boats yet. The boat is a Nordhaven trawler in the 60 foot range. I’ve been on a lot bigger boats but this one was really cool. The boat was having an issue with excessive galvanic corrosion.

The unique (to me) thing about this boat was that even though it was a single screw boat it had an auxiliary engine with its own dedicated propeller shaft.

The main engine turned a 3 inch shaft with a propeller of about 3 feet in diameter. The auxiliary engine was a 75 horse engine connected to a shaft with a folding prop much like what you’d find on a sailboat. So he’s just tooling around with this extra engine sitting there in case he ever needs it.

The day I was working in his engine room of course I forgot my camera. The engine room was close to thirty feet long. It has this massive main engine sitting in the center that you can walk completely around while standing upright. Then further aft in one corner was the 75 horsepower auxiliary engine and in the other corner was a giant ass generator. Along one wall of the engine room was a stainless steel tool bench that ended in a fixtured wash basin.

While the size of the room and the sink were nice, what set this engine room apart was the fact that it was freaking carpeted! With all the white paint, the stainless steel and the overhead high intensity lighting the engine room resembled an operating theater more than an engine room. Did I mention that it was CARPETED?

The owner and I were down there tracing a wiring problem and I told him that I’d be serving sundowners down there. It was just that freaking nice.

It turned out that his galvanic isolator had shit the bed. The main prop was horribly pitted and we removed it so it can be either repaired or replaced. We also had to remove all 4 metal props from his bow and stern thrusters as they were severely pitted as well. The main shaft showed evidence of galvanic corrosion as well but the owner opted to risk it rather than replacing his 3 inch, 16 foot prop shaft.

But now that work is done it was time to finish up some small projects on our boat and head south. The fluids are all changed, the generators been tuned, the windlass got a new foot switch, the engine belts have been tightened, diesel and gasoline have been jugged, the new registration stickers have been applied, the water tank has been topped, the V berth has been organized once again and some last minute shopping taken care of.

As of Sunday morning……Veranda has left the building.

Friday, October 16, 2009

October 16, 2009.

The sailboat show ended under sunny skies albeit with a bit of chill in the night air. I took Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday off so I could drive to Jersey and see my people. Since Christy had committed to work both of the boat shows she had to remain behind and keep the mad stacks of cash rolling in.

So, I headed north to visit with my Mom, my brother, his family and my eldest boychild. Time went fast and a few good meals were eaten. I did take the time to stray into the new West Marine in town. There used to be 2 West’s in town and they were both closed and replaced by one mega store, Holy crap, what a store. It was my 33rd West Marine and it ranks right behind the store in Fort Lauderdale (which is magnificent and occupies 2 buildings) as the leader in store size and selection.

While I was perusing the aisles of West Marine, our friend Tessa called and asked if I was still in Jersey. It turned out that they had a new fresh water tank manufactured at a place in New Jersey and the company had called and said that the tank was done and ready for shipping. It was literally 20 minutes away, so I picked up the new tank on my way back to Maryland. It seems that things work out better for sailors if there’s no planning involved.

I dropped the new tank off at their marina and got home just in time for the rain to start falling. That was Wednesday at 1400 hours and its still raining at 2200 hours on Friday. The forecast is for rain right through the weekend. While the rain is miserable enough, it’s the temperature that’s been so disappointing.

The high for Thursday and Friday was CHILLY, and the forecast for Saturday and Sunday is in the low forties with the nighttime temps dropping into the high thirties. Talk about a crappy forecast for the powerboat show. I’ve passed it a few times in the last 2 days and the place looks like a ghost town. The show ends on Sunday and the forecast for next week has the temps climbing back up into the 60’s with nothing but sunshine. If there’s a God he must be a sailor.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

October 11, 2009.

Now that it’s time for the boat show, Christy has started her job. One of the local chandleries hires dozens of temporary staff for the boat show to deal with the crush of customers.

It’s been a while since Christy’s been up early for work and I can empathize with what her Mom must have gone through trying to wake her for school. Bess from Alibi II has pretty much the same schedule so they can “commute” together. A dinghy trip down the river beats the hell outta the beltway at rush hour.

So on Saturday while Christy was working, I attended the boat show alone. She does get a break in the middle of the day so we arranged to meet some internet friends for lunch. After lunch our new friends Dave & Donna went to the show, Christy went back to work and I once again hit the show.

I did attend one seminar.

It was a cruising seminar given by a Canadian who traveled to Cuba last year. He was personable enough but a little unprepared. The room was filled to capacity and beyond with folks hoping to cruise Cuba if the US government decides to rescind the embargo. He did have some good information to share but I was hoping for a little bit more out of the seminar.

After Christy got off work at 1900 we took the water taxi over to the Eastport Yacht Club for their annual charity bash. It was a well attended affair in spite of the chilly temperatures. We met several people that I’ve been exchanging notes with on a sailing message board and renewed acquaintances with a dozen people that we haven’t seen in a while. So it was great night, we had some fun and are looking forward to getting underway again.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

October 7, 2009.

Just for the record, the travel lift at the marina had scales that actually worked. We’ve estimated Veranda’s cruising weight to be about 28,000 pounds. We’re only semi loaded and tipped the scales at 32,000 pounds. The empty weight is supposed to be somewhere around 24,000 pounds, so that means we’re carrying about 4 tons of stuff. Damn, that’s a lot of stuff.

We spent the night tied to the dock near the lifting well. I awoke to the patter of rain upon the topsides. The rain wasn’t in the forecast so I fired up the laptop and checked the weather. Hmmm, new forecast.

The rain was gone by 0800 but the forecast was calling for 20 to 25 knots out of the west with gusts to 45. So at 0800 we slipped the lines and headed slowly out of Back Creek. We took our time heading over to Spa Creek because the bridge was closed until 0900. We dawdled a bit and cruised through the naval anchorage to see who’s here.

2 boats caught my eye but for totally different reasons. At first glance I thought this boat was a catamaran but upon closer inspection
it turned out to be a monohull with an identity crisis. It looked to be well done and probably makes a lot of sense; it’s just that it was a little unusual.

It’s not unusual to see people with boats named after their mother, wife or daughter. Not many people realize that my mom’s first name is actually Veranda. Then there's guys like this. This is his fourth boat named Hooter Patrol? Maybe he's the CEO of Hooters or perhaps his mom worked there or maybe he's just nine. Huge boat, musta cost a bunch but I guess money can't buy class. And aaaa, I was lying about moms name but it was an cute story, right?

After transiting the bridge at 0900 we slalomed through the dozens of boats that have anchored in Spa Creek since we left. We dropped the hook in pretty much the only available spot. As soon as we got the hook set we were hailed by the boat tied to my bosses dock. We had finished his repair yesterday and he was heading out so we would be able to jump right back onto the dock.

So the hook came back up and we headed in to side tie to the dock. The wind was starting to build but “Bob” was there to catch our lines and docking went easily.

I was soon on my way to work while Christy did chores on the boat. It seemed that her day was more entertaining than just taking care of some boring old chores. There was dragging going on. She said winds were up into the thirties and MOST of the anchored boats started dragging. She said when one got their hook reset the next boat would start to drag.
Short scope, too many boats, crappy bottom, bullshit technique, whatever, pick your excuse. A lot of people had a pretty harrowing afternoon.

Our friends on Alibi II and Krasna were the only boats within sight that didn’t drag. Even though they were well set they still had to rely on some luck as they were both barely missed by dragging boats. During the height of the blow Christy said that the crews of several boats stood watch on their bows for several hours to monitor the situation.

So we’re back in the water, up the creek and the boat show is upon us.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October 6, 2009.

Hey look, it’s freakin’ October; and while you’re lookin’, Hey look, we’re back in the water.

We were out of the water for 12 days, bridging 2 weekends. It allowed me the opportunity to compound Verandas hull. After completing the compounding I applied a coat of wax.

Christy and I teamed up to sand and apply 3 coats of Cetol to all the topside wood with Christy doing the lion share of the work. She also waterproofed the dodger and bimini. She even found the time to get the Maxprop back to its former gleaming self. Then I took it apart to make sure it was tight on the prop shaft, greased it and reassembled it. There were also new zincs for the prop and shaft.

Christy cleaned the dinghy and all the associated paraphernalia. She removed and washed the dinghy chaps which also needed some sewing repairs which included the appropriate swearing etc. She then decided to apply a coat of paint to the dinghy’s deck with a little nonskid thrown in for good measure.

I serviced the thru hulls and attacked the problematic bow thruster. The bow thruster was blowing its breaker after 30 seconds of use. I just figured that it was overgrown with barnacles and the extra mass was too much for the motor. Several months ago it permanently failed and the breaker wasn’t the culprit. Since we very rarely use the thing it wasn’t a big deal and was soon forgotten.

Since we were out of the water and the thrusters blades were freshly cleaned, I delved into the problem. I checked one thing after another before finally finding that the main switch for arming the thruster was badly corroded. So this corrosion was making a lousy connection, drawing more amps than necessary until the breaker was overwhelmed and blew. Finally, the last time the corrosion had become so bad that switch passed no electricity whatsoever.

With the real problem found, it was easily remedied and another thing crossed off the to-do list.

Then we finally applied 2 coats of bottom paint to Verandas tush to keep the slime at bay. On Tuesday morning we were up at 0700 to put the chaps back on the dinghy. After that, the dink was hoisted back up into its resting place on the radar arch.

Tuesday afternoon the travel lift showed up and in short order we were once again back afloat. YEAH!!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September 29, 2009.

Just a quick couple of pictures of one of the boats I’ve been working on. A couple just bought this 50 foot steel trawler and wanted a few amenities added before they head south.

The view from the pilot house is fairly limited during docking. So the new owners opted to have a close circuit camera system installed. One camera each on the port and starboard sides, a camera on the transom and while we’re at it, why not one in the engine room to keep an eye on the squirrels.

My pictures don’t do the system justice. I can’t capture the clarity of the video. The cameras also have night vision capability.
The engine room has a watertight door and is pitch black inside while underway yet the camera gives you a perfect picture of what’s going on. The best part is that with just a simple video card installed it all shows up on their Furuno chartplotter.

The trawler is a single screw boat so maneuvering might become an issue. So let’s add a stern thruster. Only a few of these boats have been built and none of them have stern thrusters so this one will be the first. The stern rides fairly high in the water so getting the thruster far enough below the water was an issue.

We mocked up a proposed stern thruster out of cardboard and invited the boats designer down to give his blessing. He looked it up, down and over and gave his whole hearted blessing. I think the word “ingenious” was thrown about. Alright, maybe it wasn't actually "ingenious" it might have been more like "I guess that'll do" whatever. So we called in a welder and had him replace our cardboard mock up with a nice steel one. Now that the thruster body is done I can assemble and install the guts of the beautiful new stern thruster.