Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 22/2014.

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

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

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

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

The China Syndrome, fan style.

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

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

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October 18, 2014.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

October 11, 2014.

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