Tuesday, April 7, 2009

George in Oak Harbor

George made it and is docked in Oak Harbor, although the depth meter tells him the boat is on the ground. He's spending the evening testing water depth in the old fashioned way, dropping a line over the side. (Our depth sounder has been a little recalcitrant. But if they're going to read incorrect, it's best to have them read too shallow.) I'm staying in town tonight, to meet with clients.

Day 8

Top of the Mast

Yesterday (Monday) was our rig inspection day. No, we didn't go aloft ... we just cranked the winch! George had met Wendy in a sailmaking class. She and her partner, Daniel, rig and inspect. They are a great couple of people, and we thoroughly enjoyed working with them and visiting over lunch at SeaJay's.

They gave us some tips on improving our rig's stability - primarily mousing the shackles and guarding against chafe. ("Mousing" means putting a wire through to secure the shackle in case the pin drops out.) Since Nereid's rigging is only two years old we're in pretty good shape. There was one fairly serious problem: the radar reflector we'd had installed had shaken loose and was at risk of falling. Any object falling 60+ feet to a deck is sure to do some damage. We decided to stay another day in Port Townsend so Daniel could customize a new brace and reinstall the radar reflector. It was well worth it.

George diagnosed and repaired our water leak on Sunday. There's an unfinished piece of fiberglass (rough edge) where the cold water line leads to the hot water tank. We're not sure if that was the cause or if the original hose had a manufacturing defect, or if something caused the hose to heat and stretch. There was a 1/4" area that had gone thin and a pin size hole was there. Apparently, trouble can come in through a hole that small!

The only repair left to be made is to the Webasto forced-air heating system. George ran some further tests and determined the problem is not at the exhaust but is in the tubing system: either a gap or a blockage. Now that he's done with his sailmaking, he'll have weekdays to work on that.

His class now is in Oak Harbor, at the Skagit Valley College's Marine Technology center. It's an ABYC Electrical Certification course, and he is enjoying it. The instructor's dynamic and the curriculum practical: ideal for George.

George is single-handing it up to Oak Harbor aboard Nereid today, and we'll dock there until mid-May. (I'm transporting the car.) It's a calm, clear day, and I did everything I could think to make it comfortable for a one-at-the-wheel day. Of course I'll worry anyway, but he was happy with the prospect of a beautiful day on the water.

Oak Harbor's a military town. We wouldn't have thought twice about this if the Skagit College administrator hadn't recommended we have breakfast at Frank's Place.

Frank's Place is a shrine to war and warriors. We failed to notice the statuary in the parking lot, as we were in a hurry to eat. The interior walls are plastered with newspapers, photographs, uniforms, posters, etc., only two of them with positive messages about the peaceful conclusion of a war. We got a pretty friendly greeting, but--and maybe this is just in my head--the man who took our order looked like he'd as soon kill us as serve us. SPAM is on the menu, and the poached egg order came back fried, but I think my appetite was cut more by the photos. I recently edited a Vietnam veteran's memoirs, so I've got some pretty grisly images in my head, and the photos of bombing runs on the wall next to the table really brought those up for me. It's sort of "pancakes with a side of PTSD." We got the message that some people around here feel very positive and proud about their participation in a war, and I thought it showed good taste and some wisdom to not spit in their eye, so I removed our "Biodisel: No War Required" sticker from the car. Call me a weenie, but we're not getting biodiesel up here anyway.

The sun came out on Palm Sunday, and an eagle perched by our boat all morning. The otters are not shy, and the mountains are visible. As we said goodbye to Port Townsend this morning, we commented on how much we love the sounds of this place: the steeple clock and the mill whistle. George said in Gloucester the mill whistle always rang at 5 minutes before start/finish and break times and then again at start/finish and break times. It was so regular everyone assumed it was automated, but it turned out that all through the 1950s there was a man whose job it was to blow that whistle - and he always did so, on time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Day 5

Thursday, 7 pm, George talking.

24 hours and not a single major catastrophy.

I'll give my side, and rants, about the week's events. First the toggle switch on the anchor winch broke. We use an oversized 55 lb storm anchor with 3/8 inch all chain rode. For the landlubbers, this is heavy. It could be hauled up using the manual halyard winch, although it would be a long, difficult job, and in an emergency situation where we had to weigh anchor in a hurry this could be a disaster. The toggle switch stood out from a bench in the walkway. We have to assume something heavy hit it, which could easily happen in that location. We figured out how to work the mechanism without the physical switch present, but it took some time to do so. The switch was a poor type for its location. It was a problem waiting to happen, one of many details the boat manufacturers and their subcontractors have to take the blame for.

Next, the engine would not start. I have recently taken two courses in marine electronics so I got out my multimeter and started looking for the cause. Finally I was exhausted and went to bed without solving the problem.

Then the heater broke. At the dock this would be no big thing because we would have shore power to run our electric heaters but at anchor it meant being cold. The good thing that came out of this was that we found a double sleeping bag hidden in a locker. The bag worked so well we have been using it ever since. I then discoved the heater's exhaust hose had been installed incorrectly but have not had time to fix it yet.

The next morning was still as could be. Then all hell broke loose as the wind picked up. We were dragging anchor and about to slam into another boat. I ran up on deck, started to get out large fenders ready to cushion the blow,and for the fun of it, decided to try the engine again. It started. We now had to weigh anchor without getting the chain in the propeller. Celeste took the wheel and I jury rigged the anchor winch switch and took up the anchor. Celeste did a great job of avoiding both the boat we were almost teaming up with and protecting our prop at the same time.

We traveled 10 miles through the wind to a marina where we were given moorage, although it was a difficult place to get into and they would not give us any assistance with the lines in spite of the fact the wind was blowing us off the dock and they had just suspended haul outs because of the wind.

Safe, electric heaters keeping us toasty, the next day I discovered the bilge was filled with water - as a rule our blige is so dry we have to dust it out. Checking the engine room it seemed as though the water may have been coming in through the sea water cooling system. There is a shut off valve at the through-hull fitting but it is under the engine where I could neither see it nor reach it. Celeste, with her smaller hands was able to reach it but could not close it. Another brilliant piece of engineering by the boat manufacturer. As it turned out this was not the problem. A leak in the hot water tank was the culprit. I had just spent $500 fixing a leak in the hot water tank and now all our fresh water was in the bilge. To make things worse the water maker I had just spent more thousands of dollars than you want to know installing was useless and I had to carry two gallon jugs of water down the dock from Safeway. I tried to pinpoint the problem but with all our personal and business belongings stacked on top of the hot water tank compartment I decided to go to bed. This problem will have to wait at least until my classes are over to be tended to.

Now that all is said and done my sail making class is a joy and I am just amazed at the intricracies of sail making. I will never be a professional sailmaker but I do know how to mend my sails at sea if necessary. And we did find some nice restaurants recommended by the locals, which was good, because all our dishes are dirty.

I am still sore from the marine fire fighting course I took last week and Celeste and I are emotionally and physically exhausted from this week's activities. Now I know how Odysseus felt after matching wits with Poseidon! Saturday I start a class to become certified in marine electronics and-despite it all-in June we plan to head to the west coast of Vancover Island for our ocean shakedown cruise.

As for tonight, we are going to bed. Good night all.

Anyway, we soon got caught dragging anchor in 52 mile an hour winds. I was prepared to use a second anchor, an oversized storm Fortress anchor

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 4

Trial by water. We came home to find our water tank down to 2 gallons. That was odd, because we'd set the watermaker to add 6 gallons before leaving this morning, and we'd started with 20. The first question we asked ourselves was, "Where did the water go?!" The main water tank is under our bed. With visions of gallons undernearth our mattress, we hurriedly stripped the bed, lugged out the bulky mattress and got a flashlight. We pulled up every wooden platform covering the compartments: no water. Next we headed to the quarter berth, where the hot water tank is underneath the bed. (That's where you'll sleep when you come to visit!) Recently, the quarter berth has been serving as our storage unit. We pulled everything out and stacked it in our saloon. (Yes, that's the proper name for the living area aboard a yacht.) There were a couple gallons under the hot water tank; some water, but not a flood. There was also some water in the engine compartment and some in the bilge, but no flooding; not enough to trip the automatic bilge pump.

The engine compartment worried us the most. Was it overflow, or did we have a leak in an intake line? We did some Twister-like moves to get a hand (mine fit better) around, over and under the engine to the safety valve for the intake line. We checked the water filter and found it unusually full. We're in choppy water and we're a little heavy in the stern. (No jokes please.) If the water filter lid was at all loose a steady trickle of water moved into the engine compartment. We made sure it was tight, got out the wet/dry vac and dried out the engine compartment.
About this time, I had a flash of insight. The Magic Flute! The prince and his true love are subject to three trials: trial by air, trial by water and trial by fire. We'd had the trial by air yesterday (52 mph winds). Clearly this is our trial by water. Uh-oh. I told George my theory and that it meant we could expect a trial by fire tomorrow. "Don't worry," he said, "I already had that last week!" "What?!" I said. "My firefighting class," he replied with a grin. Phew! I'd forgotten about it, but having that cover the base suits me just fine! (After some thought, George pointed out that the Earth spirit seems to have gotten in on the game as well--yesterday the toggle switch broke on the anchor windlass and the earth would not release us. He also said the fire gods may have something to do with our heater being on the fritz.)

It's 8:30pm, and we've dried every compartment. We didn't refill the tank, so won't have water tonight, but that allows us to do some control testing when we're awake enough to fill the tank and monitor for changes.

The cats seem to be taking this in stride.