Monday, August 29, 2011

August 27, 2011.

Friday evening after we work we took care of our last minute hurricane preparations. We ran a couple of long lines out to distant pilings to help spread the load our boat would be putting on the pilings surrounding our slip. Then there was the obligatory happy hour which became a pre-hurricane gathering.

Since our slip is so tight we decided to drop the dinghy in the water. We're backed into the slip and by getting the dinghy off the davits we freed up about 4 feet of space behind the boat.

That should give us a little more “wiggle room” when we're forced to start adjusting lines. We tied the dink to a line between our dock and the shoreline. It can't reach the dock at either end of its tether so chaffing shouldn't be an issue.

Since we're the only live-aboards here in the marina I always try to help the marina owner out by adjusting this and that while the water rises and ebbs. So I made a quick trip down the docks and was flabbergasted at what some people consider appropriate when it comes to tying up their boats. These were two of my favorites. The one guy slipped the loop ends of his docklines over the little wooden hooks designed to hold coiled lines. Why would you ever want to go to the trouble of tying your boat to that big staunch post when you can just drop the loopy part over that little spindly part.
Like that was gonna hold the weight of his boat in any type of blow. And then there was this guy who figured that as long as the line reached the cleat it was good enough.

I worked on Saturday morning getting the last of the stragglers out of the water. The wind and the rain started during the morning and by noon the wind was blowing about 30 knots. Heading home after work I was pleased to find that there was no wind at all in our tiny little haven just on the other side of town.

It was pouring here, the wind out at Thomas Point light was blowing close to 40 knots, but we were only seeing a third of that. So far so good.

Right after I finished writing the above post, the power went out and the internet disappeared so I was unable to post it. It's now the next day and Irene has left the building. The sun is out, the wind is dying away and if not for the amount of detritus from the trees you'd never know there had been a weather event.

During the night I went topside and walked the docks every 2 hours checking on things here in the marina. My biggest impression of the storm was the NOISE. Between the wind whistling through the masts and roaring through the trees the noise was very much like being in close proximity to a freight train. It was very impressive.

Every once in a while the Veranda would get hit by an especially violent gust of wind and heel ever so slightly in her slip. But for the most part the wind down at deck level was 15 knots or less. The instruments at the masthead recorded a high of 42 knots so it must have been blowing stink out in lesser protected anchorages.

Our biggest concern was the expected surge. There was a chance of the tide rising 4 to 6 feet as the storm approached our latitude. Then as it passed, the wind would be blowing the water out of the bay with some forecasters calling for as much as a 10 foot drop. We ended up with a rise of only about a foot and when the wind turned and started blowing the water away it was raining so hard that the water only dropped about 2 feet.

The dodger and bimini did their thing and the cockpit stayed dry. Tucker rode out the storm in his cockpit bunk and seemed no worse for wear. The extra lines have been retrieved and stowed, the leaves have been cleared from the deck and the sunshades are back on the dodger. There’s no power in town so our Honda generator has been lent to a neighbor and life goes on.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

August 25, 2011.

Working here in Annapolis while a Hurricane bears down is a little bizarre. All day the marina was a flurry of activity as preparations were going on. The phones were ringing non-stop all day with people who wanted to be pulled out or were looking for an inside track on getting them hauled at another marina.

I've been working on one boat for several days. First I had to install separate refrigeration and freezer systems in the boat. That all went very well and both boxes are nice and frosty. While the boat was on the hard so I could install keel coolers, the owners stopped in and removed the old name from the boat and applied the new name.

There’s a superstition that says it's bad luck to change the name of a boat. There is an alcohol based ceremony that if performed properly will keep the bad luck at bay. They changed the name on Monday, we had an earthquake on Tuesday and now there’s a hurricane scheduled for the weekend. Coincidence.....?

Today I installed a 400 watt solar array on their boat. I built and prewired as much of it as I could yesterday and had it installed and ready to go by noon today. The moment I was ready to hit the “go” button the skies went dark and opened up. I was looking forward to seeing how much power the new array was going to put out and the rain kinda put the kibosh on that. I think they screwed up the ceremony. Just sayin'.

Afterwards I got to be a yard dog again and pitched in to help pull and store boats. It's fun, I enjoy it and it looks like I’ll have another 2 days of the same as we wait for Irene to drop in.

We have the option of being pulled, but after watching several different weather sources we've decided to ride this one out. We're in a very protected corner of a tiny, tight tributary off Back Creek. The wind forecast has the highest winds coming out of the direction of our best protection. Our biggest concern is the storm surge.

The forecasters all seem to have it in the ballpark of 4-6 feet. That means the tide could be several feet higher than normal. The biggest fluctuation is after the surge. The water is supposed to be blown out of the bay with the water possibly dropping 10 feet more than normal. That might suck since we usually only have 2 feet of water under us in the slip. But it may end as a great photo op (or an insurance claim). We'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

August 23, 2011.

Like everybody else on the eastern seaboard we've been watching the swirling mayhem known as Irene. Its kind of amusing to me that whenever someones area is in Mother Natures crosshairs they start to pray that it doesn't happen “here”. But then when their prayers are answered and the storms predicted path moves away from them and focuses on somebody less fortunate they begin to pray for those folks. Wait a minute, didn't you pretty much just wish this weather on somebody else? Your prayers were answered, its gonna be hell for somebody else and now they're trying to pray it onto a third party? Where does it end?

Irene looks as if she might spare Florida. Then for a while it looked like the South Carolina/ North Carolina border was going to be ground zero here in the states. Now it seems that the Outer Banks are gonna get hammered. If it skims the Outer Banks it could come slamming right up the Chesapeake Bay. We'll have to wait and see, its the weather, we'll be ready but anything could happen. Me, I'm praying it stays offshore until it slams into Long Guyland. And today while I was deep in prayer we had a freaking EARTHQUAKE!!

I was down inside a boat that was floating in the lifting well. I heard the travel lift start making this horrendous noise. I poked my head out the companionway and was startled to see the travel lift jumping around doing the shimmy shimmy shake shake. I turned around and every piling in the marina was violently wagging back and forth.

It was bizarre to see. I was in the floating boat so I felt nothing but everywhere I looked things that usually don't move were doing the Watusi. The several dozen people in the 3 story office building adjacent to the boat yard came flying down the stairs and out into the parking lot.

I could actually feel the nervous energy in the air as I moved through the people checking the stands of the boats on the hard. It was funny to see all the individual and sometimes competing brokers gather together and become one herd for safety. I'm now praying that when I experience my second earthquake I'll have my camera ready.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August 20, 2011.

Friday was one of those days we've all experienced but would love to forget. I was tasked with a few small repairs on an elderly gentleman’s sailboat. I took the skiff with my tools and parts and headed up the river. That's about as far as I got before the day turned to shit.

I rebuilt the boats cockpit mounted manual bilge pump. The pump now works but can't be mounted back in place because we're having trouble locating a weather seal. This pump is mounted in the lazarette with the pump handle extending through the top, without the weather seal, every time it rains the water is free to cascade into the boat. So the pump is fixed but remains unmounted with the mounting hole covered with tape while we search for a seal for this 40 year old application. Okay I'm O for 1.

The owner reported that his electric bilge pump wasn't working either. It lives at the bottom of a 3 ½ foot well directly beneath the batteries. Great, so the batteries have to come out as well. When I opened up the floor to access the batteries I almost shit. The water was right up to the top of the batteries. The water was literally lapping at the bottom of the floorboards. And of course, none of the bilge pumps were working. Crap.

I grabbed the hand pump out of the skiff and went to work pumping like a madman. I only had enough hose to reach the sink in the galley. I would pump like mad for 2 minutes and then I would have to wait for 30 seconds as the water very slowly spiraled down the sink drain. Christ, what does work on this boat?

After 20 minutes I had the batteries sitting dry with only another 3 ½ feet of water to go. I was sweating like a pig and needed a break. Yes, those two ovals are the puddles of sweat from my knees.
I opted to jump in the skiff and head back to the shop to retrieve an electric pump. Once back at the boat it still took another 30 minutes to drain the bilge enough for me to work. As the water receded it left a slime from the top of the oily water on every surface in the bilge. What a mess.

The old pump worked intermittently when run straight off the battery. The old float switch didn't work at all and the control panel was a rotted mess. I ordered everything new and started from scratch. The bilge system was actually hooked to the battery by a piece of corroded wire wrapped around the battery post. No terminal end, nothing, just a twist of wire.

I mounted the new pump and float switch on a platform so that I could lower them into the bilge and secure them from above.
After some new wiring and the control were in place everything worked as it was supposed to.
Okay, it was a LOT more work than I figured on but I’m now 1 for 2.

Next up was the installation of a new alternator. I took the old one out the other day and the alternator shop wanted $290 to rebuild it. The owner opted to spend $350 on a new one instead. Cool, new is clean and after that bilge I'm due for some clean.

Its faster to wire it and then mount it and that was my plan until I actually looked at the alternator and noted that all the mounting hardware was missing. That's right, no nuts. Oh look and they're little bastard metric nuts. Shit.

A trip back to the shop brought me no joy as there wasn't a metric nut to be found. While the parts kid ran out to purchase the appropriate nuts I went back to the boat to clean up. The owner also wanted me to see if I could determine where the water was getting into his boat. Everything below the floor was wet so it was pretty much anybodies guess, that is until it started to rain. It turned out the water is coming in EVERYWHERE. Besides the manual pumps leaking seal every stanchion base was leaking like a window in a submarine.

To be continued......

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17, 2011

Things at work have been pretty much run of the mill. I installed a new refrigeration system for one guy and new air conditioning for another. I also built a few masts for new boats that we're commissioning. I also got to dismantle the interior of a large sportfisher to gain engine access.
Both engines needed warranty work and with each head weighing in around 500 pounds I was glad not to be involved with that part. Cool crane truck though.

The youngest girlchild dropped in for a visit on her way back from vacation in Mexico with her boyfriend whats his face.

It was good to see Ashlee again. Time flies when shes here.

I got a flat tire on my bicycle on the way home from work yesterday so Christy hit Walmart and picked up two new tires and tubes. The old tires were pretty dry rotted and the change over went pretty quickly.

Recently our friends Jay & Di put their beloved cruising boat, Far Niente up for sale. They're at that stage in life where a lot of cruisers choose between a trawler or a motorhome. A few months ago they found and purchased the perfect 40 foot motor coach.

Fate stepped in and sent them a buyer so today the Far Niente changed hands to a new owner. We're really glad for them that they were able to sell the boat so quickly and to be able to pursue new adventures. Although my inner selfish prick is a little disappointed that we won't be sharing anchorages this winter. The chocolate they lavish upon me has nothing to do with it, I'm bummed.

Monday, August 8, 2011

August 5, 2011.

We had visitors here on the Veranda this past weekend. The middle boychild, Colin showed up with his lovely girlfriend Jamie in tow. We ate and drank, had a river tour and pretty much hung around.

I told them about a pretty cool banana trick I read about on the internet. On the morning after they left it was cool to see that they had been paying attention…..

Thursday, August 4, 2011

August 2, 2011.

We’ve got a brand new and very interesting catamaran that needs to be commissioned down at the marina. It’s here after arriving in Baltimore on a freighter from South Africa.

The thing is 44 feet long and will be the Belle of the Ball when it comes to hosting cocktail hours. But as with any “new” design there are a few things that at first glance make me say “what the hell were they thinking?”.

The first thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that the helmsman is seated in a semi tuna tower up above the main bimini. Any type of running seas and the ride up there should be pretty active. I can’t wait to see what they come up for an enclosure. Once the mast is up it will be interesting to see just how high the boom is off the water.

A boat this big has an incredible amount of windage so good ground tackle is important. I was picturing a 60 or 70 pound anchor hanging from an all chain rode. That was until I saw the micro tiny anchor roller and realized that their vision must include tying up at a lot of marinas.
How can a manufacturer let a boat that big get out the door with such a skimpy roller. Well color me embarrassed. After I wrote this bit about the anchor roller I had the opportunity to explore the boat a bit and was relieved to find a normal sized anchor and roller in a locker aft of the trampoline. What the hell that tiny roller is for still eludes me.

For me the most astonishing design was the forward end of the salon. It’s a flat, vertical wall of glass and plastic with a door in it and a roof extending forward. The door leads to the forward cockpit. The what, you say? That’s right, the forward cockpit. You know the forward cockpit where you’d sit to do…..Well, I have no idea what you might do up forward in there.
It might make a good spot to stow your bicycles, I dunno.

All it would take was one boarding wave and the flaw in that design would be readily evident. A few years ago some friends we were traveling with on a Lagoon 41 buried both bows when just the right combination of current and wind hit us in the Cape Fear River, so it can happen.

This big ole’ cat will definitely be the Belle, but it will be interesting to see if it can make it to the ball.