Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011.

After doing some varnish work down in Herrington Harbor yesterday we found ourselves with nothing scheduled for the afternoon. So I was catching up on some of the various blogs that I follow when I got to

They just bought their retirement boat, Kintala, and have started on that litany of things that need to be done before they head out for warmer climes. Like us, their ports were a *little* grungy due to the severe conditions that boats endure. They had about a dozen plastic ports that could be replaced to the tune of several hundred dollars. Or they could think outside the box and gamble 25 dollars, an afternoon and some elbow grease.

We have 16 opening ports of which 10 are plastic. They work fine its just that after 26 years the plastic is a bit “fogged”. Theres micro scratches that have built up over the years and the lens had actually yellowed. They still let light in but seeing through the lens was a lot like having cataracts. As luck would have it we also had 25 dollars, an afternoon and some elbow grease.

So after seeing Kintalas results we followed their example and headed out to the auto parts store and bought a Meguiars Headlight Restoration Kit. The kit comes with some polishing compound, a buffing wheel to mount on a hand drill and a micro fiber cloth.

We also had new weather seals and screens for 4 ports so we started in the aft cabin. Some compound, 20 minutes of drill action and the difference was amazing. Installing the new weather seal is a huge pain in the ass so I was glad that we only had 4 of them to do.
When Christy saw how much better the ports looked after polishing she immediately ordered 6 more sets of screens and seals so we can do the rest of the boat the next time we’ve got nothing to do….

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 29, 2011.

One of the biggest benefits (besides being handed money) of working again is that the weekends are once again something precious to look forward to.
With this being a 3 day weekend I found myself overcome with joy.

With 3 days off we did what most folks would do, we worked. Christy is finishing up the varnish on 2 boats down in Herrington Harbor. The sanding and masking is all done, we just had to show up for a few hours each day to lay on another coat of finish.

I was shocked at just how many boats were still on the hard.
We spent a month on the hard here a few years ago and the place only had a couple dozen boats sitting about. This year theres literally hundreds of boats still banished to the storage yards. Of course some of them are works in progress while others will probably never see the water again....
The other day a neighbor asked Christy if I would go up his mast to replace his windex. On Saturday afternoon Bess & Bill from Alibi II stopped in so up the mast it was. Bill did the winching while Christy tailed the main halyard. The halyard was pretty small and old enough to make me a little leery. Fortunately there was a spinnaker halyard available. It was also an antique but with Bess tailing the safety line I was whisked to the top and returned safely to the ground without incident. I did take the time for a few photos….

Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 23, 2011.

Yesterday a boat owner called and said “send me an ace mechanic”. Ace was sick, so they sent me.

I drove out to the owner’s home and his large power yacht was up on a boat lift. It seemed his generator wasn’t spewing water out the exhaust. His theory was that there was a raw water intake shut off valve that he couldn’t find. It’s only a 3 foot piece of hose so I could see flaws in his theory.

With a flashlight and mirror I could see that all the paint was gone from the little door that covered the impeller. I figured that the pump must have gotten hot as hell to have all the paint fall off. So I was suspecting a bad impeller as I finagled my way into a space that I was not built to fit into.

I could only get one arm and half my head into the proximity of the pump. On the plus side, there were only 4 bolts holding the little door in place. Hex heads at that, no jerking around with a screwdriver and slots that I couldn’t see.

I got the little door off, stuck my fingers in and the pump body was ……empty. WTF? Where did the impeller go? With my mirror I could just make out the metal bushing that lives in the center of these little rubber impellers. Not only was every vane gone but the entire rubber hub was completely gone.

I found most of it living in the heat exchanger.
As it turned out, when I asked the owner to lower the boat so we could try out the new impeller, a clue to the cause of the problem became apparent. He lowered the boat until the water gently lapped at the hull…….but not enough to let the water reach the generator’s intake.

So the story is, he and his buddies sit out on the boat enjoying adult beverages with the generator running the A/C. He’s at his own dock with shore power, but he’d rather use the generator??? He told me he doesn’t like to put the boat completely down because then it tries to float off the boat lift. He was actually skeptical when I explained to him that the boat had to be IN the water before he could fire up the generator. When I walked away he was happy that his generator is working and I was completely dumbfounded.

Today’s amusement for me came in the form of a large powercat. The owner was complaining of an intermittent electrical problem. It seemed that when he was watching television, once in a while the 12 volt system would shut down momentarily. Intermittent problems are ALWAYS a pain in the ass to find. <- I think that’s one of the 12 platinum rules of boating. Anyway….

He has 3 battery banks onboard; one starting battery for each engine, and the house bank. I checked both starting batteries and found them in good health. I almost fell off the boat when I opened up the compartment where the house bank lives. The house bank consisted of a single pair of 6 volt batteries. The house *banks* resting voltage was barely 12 volts and when I applied a moderate load the voltage plummeted to 11 volts.

I figured that he was watching TV with a light or two on and maybe a fan or three and when the voltage dropped low enough, the TV kicked off because of a low voltage condition. He’s got to replace the 2 golf cart batteries anyway so I’m pretty sure that’ll solve the problem. I also recommended that since he has the room perhaps he could go with 4 golf carts and end up with a reasonably sized battery bank. OMG

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011.

First off, we weren’t raptured. When we checked the Rapture Flow Chart we realized that we pretty much had no chance of being swept up to heaven with the folks who qualified. Disappointed? No. I figure that the group that would be swept up was a pretty boring group so we consider ourselves lucky to still be here with the cool people. Besides, this clears us for the southbound Great October Exodus which should be better attended and more fun.

Not being raptured did allow us the opportunity to attend a neighborhood block party. It was kinda cool that they bothered to invite us.

Work is going great and I just found out that they’ll do “direct deposit” so now we don’t even have to walk to the bank. Life just gets better every day.

It’s been raining for several days and when I got home from work the other day, Christy had rigged herself a fan to move fresh air though the closed up boat. Who says we don’t have all the conveniences.

This Mallard duck was here with us last year. We recognize him by the way his wing doesn’t fold like it should when he lands. He’s a pretty laid back dude. During dinner the other night we watched as he was dead asleep but drifting here and there at the whim of the breeze.

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 15, 2011.

This past week at work went pretty well with the exception of my feet which are royally f’d up. The picture from the last post was after a single day, by the end of the week let’s just say that I can’t in good conscience subject anyone to a photo. Christy did buy me some flip flops to wear for the weekend to give my heels a chance to heal.

During the week I changed a pair of cutlass bearings, replaced a few impellers, fixed 3 bilge pumps, installed some deck hardware and did several oil changes. It’s been a bunch of small jobs but I have to say that it’s nice to go to the same place every day and have the work lined up for me.

I had to get a large power cruiser ready for the season. I changed the engine oil and various filters, diagnosed some electrical anomalies and changed plugs and wires. So I loaded up my little wagon with tools and supplies and transferred it all to the boat. It was going to be several hours of work and I kinda like the solitude that working alone offers. I was on the boat for only a few minutes when I realized that I was not alone at all.

The boat has been closed up since last fall and was completely infested with stinkbugs. Stinkbugs typically show up at the onset of Fall. They look like a chip of tree bark and are about the size of a finger nail. They’re slow enough that they’re an easy kill but typically there are just SO many of them. Plus, they fly, so they’re either bumping into you or landing on you, they just suck. Escaping Annapolis in the fall without any stink bug stowaways will be a miracle.

Dead stinkbugs were everywhere. I had to move mattresses to gain access to the various nooks and crannies of the boat and there were stinkbug bodies everywhere. They were on every surface in the entire boat. Thousands of them. I consoled myself with the fact that at least they were all dead.

After the electrical problems were worked out I pulled up the salon floor and settled in to do the engine work. That’s when I happened to glance up at the windscreen that dominates the forward end of the salon. Dozens of live bugs were walking across the inside of the windshield luxuriating in the suns warmth. That’s one boat that I’m glad to have behind me.

On Saturday we had a friends van for the day. Christy had to drive because I couldn’t rest my feet on their heels to drive. We haven’t traveled over 12 knots since November and once again it was an adjustment to get used to hurtling along at 60 knots. I resisted putting my head out the window like a Cocker spaniel.

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 11, 2011.

You know the term “working stiff?”. Now I totally understand it. After getting back into the swing of working again my body is stiff as hell. The first night I came home and just laid on the couch until it was time to get up, to go to bed.

Since then I’ve gotten used to being part of the working class once again. So once my body adjusted, of course something else came up, the boss at my new job wasn’t pleased with my choice of footwear. He felt that my toes were too vulnerable in my Keens. Whatever, I need the job so its no big deal…..I’ll go back to boat shoes.

By the time my first day wearing boat shoes was over, all the skin was completely gone from the back of both of my feet. As soon as the day was over, I shed my shoes and walked the 20 minutes home barefoot. It’s been years since I’ve had to wear shoes other than Keens and as a result my feet are a bloody oozing mess. I’m really looking forward to this weekend just to give my heels a chance to heal.

But on the bright side, our landlord Jared has lent us a pair of full sized bicycles. That’ll help my feet quite a bit and make life in general much easier.

As every Yin has its Yang, our bright side has its polar opposite. We have to leave our slip. Crap. Jared is a real nice guy and when he dropped by on Sunday evening his demeanor told me something was amiss.

He owns a beautiful home with 11 slips in the backyard. We’re the only liveaboards of the 11 slips. He doesn’t live on the property and he rents the home out. The tenants that are in the house moved in while we were here last year. And even though we were here when they rented the house all of a sudden this year they feel like we’re "invading their privacy" by being here in “their” backyard. I didn’t bitch when they moved into my front yard. WTF?

Jared was not happy when he told us that we had to vacate our slip. Shit. But he did have a possible solution. The first slip down at the edge of the property had just been vacated and if we’d move down there, everybody should be happy. No problem, consider us moved. After Jared left I launched the dink and we went down and sounded the slip for depths. Every thing looked good so tonight was the night for us to move.

The only downside to this new slip was that the outside pilings are only 11 ½ feet apart. We’re 12 foot 10 inches wide so once again we were going to have to be creative. Cool, that’s how we roll.

Our friend Terri was here so we put her to work and she helped fend us out of our old slip. Having an extra set of hands here was great but once again with the whole Yin & Yang thing, she was also witness to us backing out of the slip while forgetting to unplug the shore power cord. At least she’s the only one who knows of our buffoonery. The cord slipped free on its own so the only damage was to my ego.

Since we couldn’t pass between the outside pilings of the new slip I decided we’d back past the slip and pull into it from the side since it was at the end of the dock. I sensed some skepticism amongst the crew but we pulled the maneuver off without a hitch. If I hadn’t forgotten to unplug that damn cord I’d be hard to live with right now.

So now we’re outta sight, outta mind and digging the new view……

Monday, May 9, 2011

May 8, 2011.

The first few days after arriving in Annapolis were spent scrubbing and cleaning the Veranda. We cleaned the hull as best the confines of the slip would allow. We also did some more Flitzing, washed the boat, waxed the topsides, scrubbed the cockpit, used Aluma Guard on the arch and ran the Ethernet cable for the Bullet.

Running the Ethernet cable from the radar arch to the nav station was going to be a pain in the ass so I was avoiding it as long as possible. Yes, I procrastinate, I’ll explain why in the future. I had the cable temporarily draped through the cockpit and down the companionway (for 3 months). I just wanted to be sure that the Bullet truly was the next best thing in wifi before I permanently ran the wire. It is, we ran the wire and now it’s done. Thank you, Jesus.

My job that I’ve had here in Annapolis for the last 2 seasons has evaporated. Bob and Dullard were partners and they’ve broken up. Bob is a very talented diesel guy and he’s opted to stay in Florida where he typically spends the winters. Dullard’s main talent was being a millstone around Bob’s neck and now that that opportunity is gone I’m not sure what he’s going to be doing. You want fries with that comes to mind.

So I emailed my resume to a friend of a friend who has his finger on the pulse of Annapolis. Within 2 hours he had forwarded my resume to a guy that was looking for some help. Perfect, I am some help. I called the guy up and scheduled an interview for the next morning.

The place is within walking distance so on Friday morning I headed over for the interview. The interview went well and I was asked when I could start. When I replied “immediately” he took me at my word and said “great, go get your tools”.

I walked the 20 minutes back to the boat to get my tools. I have 2 large canvas bags of tools, and another small but extremely heavy bag, and a rather large bag of electrical tools and a boxed ratchet set. I grabbed 1 bag of the most commonly used tools and my ratchet box and headed back. I figured that I’d just bring something else with me every day.

My first day at work went well with a bunch of small things filling my day. This could work out pretty well….

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

May 3, 2011.

After the 2 nights anchored at the entrance of Broad Creek hiding from adverse weather we headed up to the free wall at the Great Bridge lock. As each boat comes in onto the wall anybody around grabs their lines and each boat is pulled up tight to the boat before or behind it. Minimizing the gaps we were able to get 8 good sized sailboats on the wall. Free dockage is both rare and fun.

The next day the wind was honking out of the north. We debated staying on the free wall or moving on. We decided to make the 20 mile trek north through Norfolk to the anchorage at Mill Creek in Hampton Roads, Va. We’re still in the ICW so the adverse wind isn’t a big deal for a short day. After a night there the winds were supposed to swing around from the south and build steadily over the course of 3 days. Friends of ours had a little more ambitious schedule and decided to get as far up the Chesapeake as they could. 20 knots and 3 to 4 footers dead on the nose, all day. I’m glad our schedule was a little more lax….

So on Sunday morning we pulled the hook at 0700 and sailed out into the Chesapeake Bay. It was a trip of about 125 miles to Annapolis. In the past we’ve done it in 3 easy days, 2 long days and we’ve also done it as an overnighter. Favorable building breeze from a good direction…..overnighter it is.

We had less than 5 knots of breeze and dead flat seas. With the tide against us we were making 1.8 knots…..for hours. We were passed by boats of every style and description. The only vessel we passed all day was a life ring with 2 seagulls aboard. It was 1500 hours before we topped 3 knots but the wind did as it was supposed to and slowly built.

By dinner we were pleasantly skimming along at better than 5 knots with a 1 foot chop directly behind us. After dark the wind built and because it was so close to the stern we were forced to drop the mainsail as it was blanketing the genoa. It really was a very nice sail, averaging 6 knots as we jibed our way up the bay under full genoa.

The bay was alive with big ship traffic all night. There were a couple of other small boats out there with us although not close enough for us to see other than on radar. At times I was embarrassed by some of the other boaters as they did their best to make fools of themselves in dealing with the larger ships.

We ended up giving routing advice to 2 different sailors that were doing their best to become tragic boating accident headlines. It’s awkward when you are trying to decide whether or not to jump in when you can hear someone who is obviously confused.

I always feel like somebody’s gonna get pissy with me for butting in but on both occasions these guys were both a little overwhelmed and very thankful to get the help. The one guy was hailing the freighter on his stern that was overtaking him at 18 knots but was answered by the tug and barge 7 miles off his bow who was heading at him. They were both confused as they tried to arrange their safe passing. I could see both large vessels on the AIS and realized the mistake the sailor was making. I explained to the sailboat that he was talking to the wrong ship and gave him the name of the vessel that was bearing down on him from behind.

The eastern side of the channel up the Chesapeake is the deep water side. All the big ships do 18 to 20 knots and prefer to stay to the eastern side of the bay. The western side of the channel is called “Tugboat Alley”. The tugs all average between 5 and 8 knots so it’s a lot safer to stick to the western side of the channel. Especially at night when those big fast movers can be on you in a shockingly short amount of time.

We sailed right up to the mouth of Back Creek. We motored slowly into the creek and after rigging lines we wedged our way into our tiny slip. We had to really take our time and fend heavily as we forced our way into the slip. With the breeze blowing us sideways it made things more than a little difficult. The first time was a complete clusterf@#k with Christy moving with ninja like quickness as she fended here and there. It ended up with Christy standing on the side deck of the boat in the slip next to us while I backed away to try it again. I had to approach with more speed than I wanted too but I had no choice as the wind was being a pain in my ass. With Christy on the other boat it was big help and we were soon safely tied up in our home for the next 6 months.

I know I’m like a broken record as far as the whole AIS thing goes but….. I installed our AIS for about 300 dollars and I can’t begin to explain the amount of comfort that it gives us when dealing with the big dangerous guys. The AIS unit and an antenna splitter are all the equipment that we needed. The antenna splitter allows you to utilize your masthead antenna for the AIS as well as the VHF. It makes no difference what so ever in the performance of your VHF and the height of the antenna allows you to “see” vessels from a greater distance. I see everything within 20 miles and when out at sea it’s not unusual to see the big guys 60 miles away. Even in the bay most vessels show up 40 miles away. It’s not a substitute for radar but compliments it very well and helps to make life aboard the Veranda a breeze.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

April 30, 2011.

The vast majority of the fixed bridges on the ICW have a height of 65 feet. Our mast height is only 52 feet so it’s a non-issue for us. But we have friends whose mastheads depend on the tide boards found near the approach to most bridges. I’m thinkin’ someone’s butt is gonna clench when they come across this one.

Lets talk about the Coast Guard for a minute. We are lucky to live in a country that can afford to field a professional force as dedicated as the US Coast Guard. If your life is in danger they’ll risks theirs to save yours. Its that simple. But no matter how professional any organization is theres always some room for improvement.

If a boater makes a report about something unsafe that they’ve seen the Coast Guard broadcasts a Notice to Mariners. The Notice to Mariners contains all the info you need to transit the area safely. Terrific. The problem is when somebody reports a floating log or deadhead and the Coast Guard starts broadcasting the Notice to Mariners.

We just spent 4 days transiting North Carolina and every couple of hours for 4 days straight they warned any and all of us about a deadhead in the Pungo Canal. It’s a LOG, they float, they move with the tide, a beaver ate it, its not there anymore. Stop talking about it.

Its not just one broadcast; there have been several running for days now. Theres a sunken barge in the channel just north of the Gilmerton Bridge in Virginia. The US Navy has determined that its highest point is 24 feet under the water and its marked with a special wreck buoy. They’ve been telling me about this thing for days.

We draw 5 ½ feet, coupled with the 24 feet of water available we should be able to squeak by with 18 feet of water to spare. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that every pleasure boat on the water will easily slip by this sunken barge. The only boats in these waters that might come close to having an issue with the barge are large commercial ships. Those ships all travel with a Pilot aboard when inshore so why not make a call down to the Norfolk Pilots and make sure they know about the wreck. Seems to me like it would save a lot of unnecessary radio chatter. When we arrived at the sunken barge not only was it marked with a wreck buoy it had another barge anchored over it.

Its like they hand a stack of paper to the radio guy or girl and tell em” “read this every 2 or 3 hours”. Its not unusual to have a special adverse weather report broadcast. One I enjoyed this week was a tornado watch “in effect until 1600 hours”. Its great to get the info but its already 1730, is the watch still in effect, do you know, do you care, do you even comprehend what you read?