Saturday, November 29, 2014

Rover's Time at the Boatyard

If you remember all the way back in June, I took our boat to a boat yard near Deltaville, VA, to get some work done while I went back to Colorado to help my wife wrap up some of the details of our estate.  Despite my past experiences with "having work done" on the boat, it made sense to try to have the boatyard do some work while I was gone.  When will I learn.

I met with Lee, the guy that runs Stingray Point Boat Works, walked through the boat and went over a reasonably long list of items that needed to be done and asked for an estimate before I flew back to Colorado.  It took a few days and I didn't receive the estimate until after I had left.  I reviewed the estimate and gave the yard the OK to start on a subset of items including replacement of a couple through hull valves, replacement of the black water hoses and a failing diverter valve, inspection of the standing rigging, investigation of the cause of a bit of stiffness in the steering system linkage, and remounting/rebedding a few bits of deck hardware (and gave the sail loft the go-ahead on the new stack pack and sail work).

A few weeks after I leave, I get a bill from the boatyard.  This bill doesn't include any work, only storage for the boat.  Of course, the storage rate was higher than I was quoted.  I also appeared to be charged for a half hour of labor for the generation of the estimate. When I contacted them, they adjusted the bill for the storage price and told me they had a rate increase but I would get this quarter's storage at the quoted rate.  Fair enough.  I decided I would just let the labor charge for an estimate slide even though I've never heard of such a practice.

I inquire about the rigging inspection and received an estimate for the replacement of the standing rigging.  When I ask if the inspection indicated that replacement was needed, the staff at the yard gave me the direct number for the rigger.  I give him a call and he explains the cost of replacement and how some of the parts are expensive.  When I ask if the inspection indicated it was needed, he told me he assumed the rigging was over 10 years old and he didn't actually inspect the rigging as doing that would cost extra.  Funny, the inspection was what I had asked for...not just a quote for replacing the rigging (which, by the way, I could have done elsewhere for about $2000 less). Fine, I'll check what I can when I get back and take it somewhere else to have them check and possibly replace the rigging.

Several more weeks go by and I don't hear anything else from the boatyard but I'm busy with things at the house and don't have much time to check on anything so I assume things are moving along. About 6 weeks after I left, I receive another bill from the boatyard.  It has a list of parts and some labor that hinted that they may have done the waste line replacement, but the bill for the labor was twice the amount of the estimate for the waste lines alone.  I check back with them to inquire what work was done assuming that more had been accomplished. I don't hear back from them for several days. I finally get another bill and they reduced the total by about 25% and confirmed that they replaced the black water lines.  So, now it is only 50% over the estimate and still with no explanation of the overage. I tell them to stop work as I cannot afford to have all the other work go over the estimate by 50 to 100%.

Since it will still be a little while before I can get back to the boat, I write up a letter explaining that I would like to have them do more work, but it can't continue the way it was.  I chose one item on my list, the replacement of the two through hull valves and told them I would authorize that work as long as it didn't go over the original quoted price.  If it looked like it might go over, they were to contact me so we could discuss options before any additional cost was incurred.  I specifically chose this task because I had a feeling that they would run into issues and I wanted to make sure they could communicate those to me before continuing.  In the note I asked them to let me know either way if this was acceptable.

After not hearing back from them for over a couple weeks, my wife and I made plans to return to the boat and complete the work ourselves.  It was shortly after I wrote them to tell them of our intentions to come complete the work, and reiterated that all work on their part was to stop, that I received another bill from the yard.  This time, the bill showed parts for the replacement of one through hull and valve but all the labor was zeroed out.  The parts alone were in excess of the original quoted price because the original quote didn't include the through hull itself.

I just had to laugh. Had they told me they agreed to do the work and had they told me that they would have to replace the through hull as well as the valve (which I expected would be the case), I would have OK'd the task.  But, since they did not, they ended up replacing the one through hull at a loss. They also proved that communication with their customer seems to be their biggest problem.

When we returned to the boat, we found that the waste lines had been replaced, as were some of the raw water lines for the heads (which was not part of the scope of work).  We also found that they had somehow ripped the toilet seat off of one of the heads and broke one of the lines attached to the manual bilge pump, presumably while replacing the waste lines.  And, as we discovered during the trip south, the holding system was leaking (found to be a fitting on the holding tank that was loosened during the install of the hose and not re-tightened).  So, the work they did was rather sloppy and incomplete.

While I can say that Stingray Point Boat Works is an OK place to haul your boat and do your own work, and that their fiberglass guy seems to do a good job, I cannot recommend them if you are looking for people to perform general work on your boat.  To be fair, I didn't need the services of their mechanic so I don't know about his abilities.

In general, my opinion is that the lax attitude of leadership at the yard leads to a less than professional work atmosphere and may be the underlying cause of the poor communications and workmanship.  If you need to haul your boat, intend to do the work yourself, and will be staying at the yard or visiting daily (and don't mind the very limited access to internet and lack of potable water), then it may work for you.  But I cannot recommend them based on my experiences there.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Deltaville to Brunswick, By the Numbers

I thought it would be interesting to see a few numbers related to the last trip.  And I thought I would throw in a couple other pictures as well. Most of the numbers are calculated from the tracks recorded by OpenCPN.  Engine hours are the total number of hours run per engine (so if I ran both engines for an hour, the number would indicate 2 engine hours).  In most cases the time and speed numbers include time spent deploying and hauling the anchor, waiting on bridges, etc.

The first leg of the trip was from Stingray Point (near Deltaville) to Mobjack bay.

  • Distance: 24.1 NM
  • Average Speed: 5.5 Kts. (approximate)
  • Time: 04:20 (approximate)
  • Engine Hours: 10.7 (including system testing time at start)
(I forgot to turn on tracking for part of this leg, so numbers are approximate)

The second leg was Mobjack Bay to Great Bridge Lock

  • Distance: 43.5 NM
  • Average Speed: 4.47 Kts.
  • Time: 9:43
  • Engine Hours:  16.3

The third leg was Great Bridge Lock to the Broad Creek anchorage.

  • Distance: 44.55 NM
  • Average Speed: 5.8 Kts,
  • Time: 7:55
  • Engine Hours: 11.2

Fourth Leg from Broad Creek to the Pungo River anchorage.

  • Distance: 60.87 NM
  • Average Speed: 4.25 Kts.
  • Time: 14:19
  • Engine Hours: 17.9

Fifth Leg from Pungo River to the Whittaker Point Marina.

  • Distance: 53.43 NM
  • Average Speed: 5.23 Kts.
  • Time: 9:11
  • Engine Hours: 16.5

Sixth Leg from Whittaker Point to Ft Macon anchorage.

  • Distance: 23.4 NM
  • Average Speed: 4.82 Kts
  • Time: 4:10
  • Engine Hours: 8.4

Seventh Leg from Ft Macon to Brunswick.

  • Distance: 408.67
  • Average Speed: 5.3 Kts.
  • Time: 3 days 09:03 
  • Engine Hours: 39.0

More time running the engines than I would like, but it can't be helped when traveling the ICW. I don't have good fuel numbers since I was unable to fill up before the trip started, but my best calculations show we were burning less than one gallon per engine hour. Hopefully next year I will be farther south before the cold arrives.

Here's a nice picture of where we anchored on Pungo Creek. Just after we dropped anchor another boat decided it looked like a good place to spend the night too.

And here is a picture of Neal sporting the appropriate wardrobe for much of the trip. A far cry from the t-shirt and shorts trip I made getting the boat up to Virginia.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

4 Days on the Outside

After hanging out behind Fort Macon for the evening, better weather greeted us in the morning.  We topped off our fuel at the Moorhead Yacht Harbor marina (which had fuel almost 75 cents a gallon less than the Pungo Creek stop), and headed out.

In the Atlantic we were greeted with winds from the north to northwest at 20 to 25 knots just as forecast.  The seas were about 2 ft on an 8 second period, which would make for a reasonably nice ride. Perfect conditions for our trip south. With a reefed main and genoa, we were making 7.5 knots directly toward our destination without burning any diesel. If the forecast holds, we will make good time all the way to our destination.

During this first day I found another surprise from the boatyard. Sparing you the details again, I found that the black water or holding tank system on the other side of the boat was also leaking.  Much slower than the first, but still leaking. Fortunately this side still has the direct discharge option active and now that we were well outside the limit, I switched it over to direct discharge and dumped the tank. After more bleach and water, it was cleaned up and we were good to go again.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the winds picked up to 25 with gusts to 30. The seas also steepened, with 4 foot waves on a 5 second period. It made for a bit of a rough ride. Just before midnight we made it around Frying Pan Shoals, which we both stayed up for since that area has a bit of a reputation. We gave it a wide berth and were fine, but I wonder if it was a partial cause for the steep seas. To slow the boat down a bit we ended up dropping the main (it was fully reefed at that time) and sailed at around 4 knots on reefed genoa alone for the remainder of the night watches.

Over the course of the next morning, the winds dropped down to about 7 knots and the seas calmed down to under 1 foot.  As the day rolled on, the winds continued to calm and we eventually ended up firing up a motor to try and make a little time.  After we started the engine, we were visited by a couple pods of dolphins...I wonder if the engine noise attracts them to come play in the bow wave.  We hadn't seen many dolphins until this point, but were visited by a dozen or more while motoring along.

By the afternoon, the winds had not just calmed, but shifted to much for the forecasts. The winds picked up a little later in the afternoon and we put the sails back to work. We are now beating to windward but still mostly on course. As the sun again disappeared into the water, we reefed for night watches and sailed past Charleston around 10pm in just under 20 knots of wind but only 1 to 2 foot seas on a relatively long period. Good to be sailing again and not burning diesel.

Those conditions lasted most of the night with winds slowly increasing through the morning of the 3rd day. The winds also continued to shift around so we were slowly veering east of the course to keep with the wind. I don't know why, but being 40 or more miles off shore (that's over 6 hours of travel at 6 knots) and being out of sight of land is actually a peaceful feeling.

Most of the day we enjoyed relatively calm seas and good wind. As night fell, the winds again picked up along with the seas. Neither seemed to be cooperating with our desired direction of travel as we passed Savannah so I decided to try and find a bit calmer seas and a shift in the wind direction by heading toward shore. We motored directly toward Savannah for a bit and were rewarded with both slightly calmer seas and, more importantly, more favorable winds. We were able to sail for the remainder of the night.

Naturally, as morning arrived, the winds fell off and we transitioned from sailing to motor sailing. We could have continued sailing, but the winds were light and we needed to make Brunswick before the marina closed for the evening. 6 knots would do it, but the 3 knots from the sails alone would not. I would have been happy to have sailed the last bit and hove to near Brunswick for the night, but Neal needed to get back home before Thanksgiving so we pushed on.

We arrived at the marina around 4pm, after waiting for a car carrier ship to pass through the Sidney Lanier bridge (I'm not playing chicken with a ship that can easily crush my boat). We get the boat tied up and the trip from Virginia is complete.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Last of the ICW

For a change, we don't get an overly early start.  The weather broadcasts indicate there may be some more unsettled weather and since we could probably use a little re-provisioning, I decided we would splurge for a marina this upcoming evening.  We pull up the anchor and head out just before 8am.

I still don't have 100% confidence in the various gauges on the boat and even though the fuel gauge claims we are mostly full, we stop at the Pungo Creek marina for fuel.  The Skipper Bob's Marinas book claims they have better than average prices for the area, but I this was the most expensive diesel we purchased on the trip.  Fortunately, the fuel gauge seems reasonably accurate and we only needed about 15 gallons (the boat holds 75).  The Marina book also claimed they had a store, but they do not. The marina is pretty run down and with the fuel prices, I don't think I'll return there unless it is an emergency.

After departing the marina we make our way down the Pungo river and into the Pamlico.  The winds were a little under 10 knots from behind us as we made the turn so I decided it was time to break out the spinnaker and we make like a sailboat for a short time.  The spinnaker doesn't last too long as we again quickly enter a narrow section of the river...and, of course, the wind is blocked by the trees.

We make it to Whittaker Pointe marina, just outside Oriental, well before dark.We get tied up and sign up for the courtesy car and make a run into town.  We come back, have dinner, check the weather, and call it a night.

The weather the next day is proving to be difficult.  The original plan was to head down to Beaufort/Moorhead City and out the inlet to open ocean.  But, the winds were predicted to be rather high and the seas even higher, so we decided we would find an anchorage near Beaufort to wait out the weather.

Entering and leaving Whittaker point there is a rather narrow channel with some shoaling.  They say there are boaters who have run aground and those that will.  With the winds as we were coming out, I did end up pushing into the mud as we tried to leave.  Fortunately I was going slowly and was able to simply back out and work my way around the pile of mud that narrowed the channel.

We set sail with winds again on our nose.  Just as we make it out of the Neuse river and into Adams creek a thunderstorm alert comes across the radio for the Neuse river.  We are relatively protected in Adams creek and we watch the thunderstorm roll by behind us.  We hear tornado watches for adjacent areas and the weather is a bit unsettled for the whole trip to Moorhead City.

I had originally thought we would use an anchorage behind Shackleford island.  Getting to this anchorage requires going part of the way out of the inlet and then turning behind the barrier island.  As we made our approach to the inlet, I realized that was not a good option.  The rough seas were pushing their way into the inlet and we would have had a very rough ride over to a relatively shallow cut into the anchorage.

Fortunately, boats travel slower than airplanes and we had plenty of time to figure out another plan. I knew of an anchorage just behind Fort Macon and we decided it was a decent location with protection from the easterly winds with a long fetch to the lee shore so we found a location and dropped the hook.  Just as all our previous anchoring, the Mantus set immediately and stayed put in the 30 knot winds.  This is where we would stay the night in hopes that the forecasts were correct and the weather would improve tomorrow.

On an unrelated note.  I think I understand why everyone has a romantic idea of of cruising.  When everything is nice, we have time to take pictures...and they are usually nice with beaches and sunsets and dolphins playing and all of that.  When it isn't nice weather, we are usually too busy with the boat to take this part of the trip.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Arctic Blast Arrived

We again made an early departure from Great Bridge after stopping for fuel at Atlantic Yacht Basin (which has really good prices for the ICW...or any Marina).  This day it was a bit cooler than the last couple with overcast skies, but still a mostly pleasant trip.  A couple more bridges to play with and we were motoring along "the ditch" once again...along with a few other boats.

Parade of boats down the ICW

During this leg I discovered one of the surprises that the boat yard left me.  They had replaced all the waste lines in the boat, but apparently broke a seal on one of the holding tanks in the process and it started seeping.  Not a good thing to discover during a trip.  I'll spare you the details, but it was a good thing I have bleach and an abundance of water on board.  I cleaned up the mess and declared that head off limits for the rest of the trip.  Thanks to the Skipper Bob's anchorage book, we found that nice little anchorage just before the Albermarle sound where I made my quick post last week (yes, my cell actually worked in the middle of nowhere for that I was out of Virginia).  We worked our way up the creek and dropped our anchor, followed by two other boats that did the same.  I'm glad we got there first since our shallow draft made it easy to sneak pretty far up the river to a very well protected area.

That night the arctic blast arrived and it was considerably colder when we got up in the morning.  With the cold came high winds.  Our next leg of the trip had us crossing the Albemarle sound and it is known for being ugly in high winds.  In fact, the Alligator River swing bridge won't even open if winds are over 35 mph, to protect the unwary traveler.  We decided since we are in a nice anchorage, we would just stay put and wait out the winds.  Apparently so did the other two boats that were sharing the anchorage.  I made a couple phone calls and did the quick blog post with my rare cell phone coverage.

Broad Creek Anchorage

One of my calls was to my friend and boat broker Pete.  I had mentioned to him my troubles with my air conditioning system (which also provides heat) and he had the answer.  Apparently the raw water pumps are not self-priming and you have to "burp" the air out of the strainer.  Pete again saves the day for me...and we had the much needed heat for what was a chilly and rainy night.

The following day the winds did die down and we continued our trip, along with our anchor mates (one of whom we discovered were some people we met at the Great Bridge Lock free dock).  After exchanging comments complaints on the cold, we worked our way out of the creek and on to the Albermarle sound.

As is my usual luck with wind, it was dead on our nose so we motored across the Albermarle sound and down the Alligator river.  As we approached the Alligator River bridge I noticed that the starboard engine didn't seem to be putting out as much cooling water as I wanted, so we shut it down and I looked into the issue after making it through the bridge.  After much fun of trying to inspect the impeller and remaining system while underway, I didn't find any issue.  When we started the engine back up, it seemed fine, so I guess it was just a false alarm.  Lots of fun to work hovering over a warm engine in a small compartment while underway.

We arrive at the canal that connects the Alligator River to the Pungo river and decide we do have enough time to make it through the canal and to an anchorage at the far side before dark, so we press on.  The canal is a very straight, fairly narrow part of the ICW and there isn't a dock or place to anchor in the middle.  We do just make it through the canal and drop the hook in the anchorage on the Pungo river for the night.  Thus far, I've not spent a day in a marina...a far cry from the trip up the past summer.  Now if we could only sail more, it would be an inexpensive means of travel.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Trip South....The Posts I Couldn't Make During the Trip.

Sorry for the lack of posts again, but I've made good progress outrunning (or running with) the cold weather and am now in Brunswick Georgia where the current temperature is about 25 degrees higher than Deltaville.  But backing up a bit and providing a more detail on the trip....

I was able to find a hand with this trip at the boatyard. A was talking with a nice gentleman that is in the process of restoring a Bristol 32 and he offered to make the trip with me.  Neal didn't have any plans until the week of Thanksgiving and thought it would be fun to get out on the water again, so it was a perfect match.

We made the trip from the boatyard in Deltaville, VA to Brunswick GA over the course of about 10 days.  With the shorter days upon us, it was slow going through the ICW (I only travel it during daylight hours).  I also worked to make the trip a bit less expensive than the trip up by anchoring out instead of visiting marinas each evening...and T-Mobile doesn't have the greatest coverage so I didn't have much of a chance to make any posts except the previous brief entry. Once we got to open ocean, it was much easier to make good time...but no chance at internet access at all.

The boat was launched Tuesday morning, and after a number of system checks, we departed around noon.  The winds weren't particularly favorable, so we spent much of our time motor-sailing. For the unfamiliar, motor-sailing is where you are running engines and have one or more sails up.  The theory is the light winds and the extra wind created by the fact you are under power can drive the sails and give you a bit more gain in speed than the engine alone.  I think the conditions have to be just right to see any real gain, but it is nice to at least look like a sailboat.

Even motor sailing we just barely made it to Mobjack bay as the sun was going down and found a place to anchor along the shore that would shield us from the overnight winds, had a decent bottom composition, and depth appropriate for anchoring. I motored around just a bit to verify depth in the area we could swing and then we dropped the hook for the night.  This is the first night I've tried our new Mantus anchor, and she set solidly.  Actually, I didn't realize that I had let the anchor rode go a bit slack, and when I backed down on the anchor to set it, the bow of the boat dipped a bit as the anchor instantly grabbed hold of the muddy Chesapeake bottom.

The next morning we set off early under overcast skies and a bit of chill in the air.  It is getting colder in these parts, so it is really nice to be finally moving south.  The sun broke out as we made our way through Norfolk and Portsmouth.  This begins the portion of our trip where we get to play "Mother may I" with a number of draw bridges that are too short for a 60' tall sailboat to pass under without being opened.  Fortunately rush hour had just passed, so the bridges would open mostly on demand. Now normally most train bridges are left open unless a train is using them, but we arrived at one in Norfolk that was down and had no train.  We waited for over half an hour, watched several people in reflective yellow vests walk around and look at various pieces of the bridge, then finally it opened and we continued on our way.  The next bridge we encounter is the Steel bridge, and it only opens on a schedule of every half hour so naturally (thanks to the train bridge delay) we just missed the opening and had to wait about 20 minutes for the next opening.  We make our way through that bridge and on to the Great Bridge Lock.

This is my second time at the lock and so I knew the basic procedure.  Before arrival, you rig long bow and stern dock lines and fenders on the starboard side.  When the lock opens, you proceed in and throw the dock lines to an employee at the edge of the dock who wraps the line around a cleat or bollard and throws it back.  You then use the line to keep your boat near the wall and boat poles to keep it from rubbing along the wall of the lock.  At the time we arrived it was apparently high tide so the lock didn't even lift us a full foot.  The doors at the far end of the lock open and you un-loop your lines from the cleat and head out of the dock.

Normally, you go through the Great Bridge draw bridge (technically, a standard draw bridge is called a bascule bridge) that is timed to coincide with the lock operation (or maybe the lock is timed with the bridge...I forget which is which), but there is a free dock located between the lock and the bridge and, since it was getting late, we decided we would stop there for the night.  We tied up the boat and walked into town (Great Bridge is in Chesapeake VA.) to see if we could find dinner to reward ourselves for the first two days of travel.  We found an OK Mexican restaurant, had a nice dinner, and then called it a night.

Friday, November 14, 2014

On My Way South

I am on the move at last. I left the Deltaville boat yard around noon on Tuesday with my volunteer help, trying to head south before this strange arctic weather arrives. After a combination of motoring and sailing we anchored in Mobjack bay just as the sun set that evening. The next day we made it through Norfolk and on to the free dock at the Great bridge lock (Chesapeake VA) for the second night. Yesterday we continued motoring down the ICW past Coin jock and anchored in Broad Creek (NC I believe) just north of the Albemarle sound.

The Arctic blast has caught up with us and it is cold and windy...too windy to attempt crossing the Albemarle sound, so we are staying put today, trying to stay warm, and hoping for better weather tomorrow. Wind is around 25 knots and the temperature is maybe 40 if we are lucky. This really shows how poorly insulated boats are.

The two uses of the anchor indicate that she sets and holds very well in the softer bottoms of the Chesapeake area.

Cell phone and Internet access are spotty, so no pictures or long stories today. Hopefully this will post.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lessons Learned - A Day of Living in a Boatyard

I haven't done a lessons learned post in a while and, after seeing a post from my friends over at ZeroToCruising doing a play-by-play post from a recent passage, I figured I'd give you a typical day in my life at the boatyard so you can draw your own lessons from here goes.

Woke up at 6:00am to a cabin that is about 60 degrees.  It would have been 45 if I hadn't had the small electric space heater running in the cabin.  With the boat on the hard, there is no good way to run systems that require raw water...such as the reverse cycle AC (heater).  After about 30 minutes hiding in the warmth of the bed, I decide I need to make the trek to the bathhouse.  I get dressed, move the space heater from the cabin to the salon, and head off for the morning ritual.  At least they seem to have turned on the heat in the bathhouse now, the past weekend it was pretty cold in there.

Returning to the boat, I decide I need my morning coffee.  I turn off the heater so I can use the electric kettle to boil some water.  The boatyard only has 15 amp service (normal wall socket) so I can't run multiple high-load electric items at the same time (I bought an adapter so I could plug my 30 amp cord into a standard 15 amp extension cord).  After the water boils, turn off the kettle and turn the space heater back on.  A check of the weather and it says the high today may make 60 degrees F...much better than the rainy 50's the past couple days.

I turn on the propane and make a ham, egg, and cheese bagel sandwich on the stove.  Using the stove top helps impart a little heat in the boat, at least temporarily.  While eating breakfast, I check my email and do the drawing for the book giveaway.  I write a quick post for the blog announcing the winner using the boatyard WiFi.  I then open up my list of tasks so see what I have in store today.  I check off installing the new fresh water pump head that I completed yesterday (after verifying there are still no leaks this morning) and figure out what I can do today.  I'm almost half way through the list.

Since it is still cold outside, and a little damp from the rain during the night, I spend some time cleaning up and organizing the boat (a task that seems to always be desperately needed). It finally starts warming up some, so I go outside and check on the dinghy to see if the sealant helped (more on this in another post).  I decide to clean it as well as take care of some rust streaks on the boat hull.  I go get the long hose attached to the spigot across the yard, attach my sprayer, and drag it back over to the boat.  I also dig through the boat looking for my rubber gloves and the cleaners for the dinghy and hull.  About this time the clouds start moving back in and the temperature drops, so I go back inside.

I look at options for my destination heading south, trying to find a big enough city I can find parts and supplies, but small enough that the marina dockage fees aren't too expensive.  While I'd love to be on the hook more, when I'm doing lots of work on the boat it makes sense to be at a dock (as well as to have an address where  I can ship stuff). I also need to figure out options to get me and my help back to Deltaville (my victim volunteer deckhand has a boat here in Deltaville and while I'm doing work on the boat I keep dragging my car along).

After making a chicken salad sandwich for lunch, I notice the sun is once again out and go back and continue my work outside.  I clean the oxidation and bottom paint dust stains (the dust is insidious in how it can stain things) off of the dinghy.  I apply the On and Off gel to the rust stains on the boat, wait a few minutes, then wash off...making sure not to get any on my new bottom paint (it will apparently remove that as well).  It does an OK job, the streaks are no longer rust color, but just a dull black ghost of the previous stains.

I check my email and get some good news.  The sheave kits for my genoa car rollers have made it off the slow boat from England and are in.  The anchor roller I had a local machine shop make is also ready. Yay.  I drive to the store and machine shop and gladly drop about $250 (U.S.) so I can get the last parts I've been waiting on.  I get back to the boat and look at the parts (basically plastic rollers).  The anchor roller should be perfect, but the sheave kits are different than the original so I go try and install one to see if it will fit.  The instructions are useless as they don't depict the exact model I have, but I figure out how to make them work using a subset of the parts they supplied (the kit apparently fits several different genoa car models now).  Of course, while I'm putting the sheave in, a gust of wind comes out of nowhere, grabs the plastic bag of parts and flings them off the boat.  At least I'm in the yard and not on the I can climb down and retrieve them.

Now that it is "standard time" it is starting to get dark at 4:30pm and the wind is increasing and getting colder so the other sheave and the roller will wait until tomorrow.  I take a walk around the yard and chat with the other guy crazy enough to be living on a boat in a boat yard.  He tells me it might go below freezing tonight.  Yuck.  I go back to the boat and turn the space heater back on to try and increase the heat before the space heater can't keep up with the temperatures.

With it getting colder, I decide I had better take my shower early and so grab my towel and shaving kit (soap, shampoo, etc.) and head to the bath house.  The bath house seems to have plenty of hot water, which is really nice when it is cold outside.  The water in the yard isn't the best as it seems a bit salty, but works fine for a shower.  Guess I should mention that I do NOT fill my boat tanks with the water from the yard as I don't want questionable quality water in my tanks.  It is now dark outside, the moon is not yet up, and the lighting in the boatyard is not very good.  The result is that I step in a deep puddle of water on my walk back to the boat.  On the boat I clean up my shoe, and debate what the gray substance is that has stained my now wet sock...probably mud combined with all the colors of bottom paint and other chemicals that have been used in the yard over the years.

I make a shopping list and head to the store (one of the advantages of still having the car, this isn't a whole-day ordeal).  I come back with several bags of groceries and carefully place them on the transom, climb the swim ladder to get on the boat, and then shuffle the bags inside.  After a brief fight with the top loading refrigerator (one of these days I'll learn the secret to organizing it) and hiding other items in various storage locations about the boat, everything is stowed.

I then get the spaghetti casserole (basically lasagna made with spaghetti noodles) that I made a few nights prior (when it was really cold and I figured using the oven would be a good source of heat as well as food) out of the fridge, temporarily turn off the space heater so I can microwave a slice along with some canned corn for dinner.

I have my usual evening call with my wife and she tells me of some weather phenomenon that may bring very cold temperatures and snow to the east coast in the next week.  I guess it is the result of an unusual typhoon that is now heading toward Canada or Alaska and will shift the jet stream south.  The scientist they were interviewing suggested that the unusual weather activity may be the result of global warming...resulting in local cooling.  In any case, it sounds miserable and just gives me more motivation to head south.  The Caribbean is looking pretty good right now.

I spend a little more time looking around on the internet, researching my next stop, and figuring out if there is anything special I need to pay attention to when we splash the boat, and then take a break and watch a movie.  I move the space heater down to my cabin and note the thermostat says it is a balmy 56 degrees in there.  I come back up and type up most of this from my notes while my cabin warms least a little.  While working on the post, the salon temperature drops (boat hulls are just not well insulated) so I decide I'll finish the post the next day.  I make one more trek to the bath house in the cold evening air and then climb into bed around 10:30pm.

Lest you think it is all pina colladas and sunsets, there is a price to pay for this lifestyle.  Actually, this is one of the better days as I was able to get the parts I needed and may be able to launch the boat soon.  The day before I spent a fair amount of time chasing a phantom problem with my fresh water system after replacing the head of one of the fresh water pumps.  And today, the boatyard water pump has failed and so there is no water, hot or cold, in the bathhouse.

So, there you have it.  A brief look at a random day in my life at the boatyard.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Shiny Props or Battleship Gray

Another task that is easier (no I didn't say easy) to do out of the water than it is in the water is cleaning the props.  But I'm waiting on parts and can't find an excuse to procrastinate any longer, so it is time to tackle that task.  The propellers didn't look as bad as the one on the other leopard I surveyed, but they could still stand a cleaning.

I figured I needed a flexible scraper, a wire brush, some sandpaper, and maybe a Scotch-brite pad or two.  I started with the scraper.  I chipped the remnants of the barnacles and other stuff off...slowly.  This stuff is like cement.  It took quite a while with the scraper before I got down to the bronze.  For the tight spots where I just couldn't work the scraper, I ended up using the wire brush and sandpaper.  After I got the prop clean, I went over it with the sandpaper to get the last bits off the prop.  I think it took about 3 hours per prop to get them reasonably shiny and clean. The truth is, I never used the Scotch-brite, I quickly realized that a Scotch-brite didn't have a chance.

1/3 of a clean prop

Originally, I wasn't intending to coat the propellers with anything, but after all the work, I was re-evaluating that decision.  I couldn't use bottom paint since the ablative paint wouldn't stay on the props for long.  Fortunately, there are a few prop coatings available. In doing my research on propeller coatings, I found out that Rust-oleum Cold Galvanizing Compound is virtually the same stuff as one of the propeller coating products...and at $7, it was an economical alternative to the $22 can of official propeller coating.  So, I got a can of it to give a try.

Shiny prop with sad looking zinc

Painting the propeller was pretty easy.  Simply mask off the area from overspray and apply a couple light coats of paint and let it dry.  The props aren't shiny anymore, but hopefully they'll resist some growth or, at least, may be a bit easier to clean.  Guess I'll know next time we haul the boat how effective it is.

One last task and the props will be ready to go.  That broken piece of metal at the end of the props in the above pictures were the remains of the sacrificial zincs and they obviously needed to be replaced.  Simply remove the alan head bolt holding it on and replace with a new zinc.  Yeah, right.  One zinc came off just fine, the other bolt would not budge.  I broke a hex wrench trying to get it off.  Fortunately, the prior owner had a supply of zincs AND prop nuts, so I ended up having to remove and replace the prop nut as well as the zinc.  I replaced the prop nut, bent up the tab on the keyed washer to lock the nut in place, then installed the zinc with a little Lock-tite on the hex bolt.

Painted prop with unpainted nut and new zinc

So, other than the touch up bottom paint where the stands are covering the bottom, the underwater surfaces should now be ready to go back in the water.

And The Winner Is...

First, I want to thank everyone who entered the first book giveaway.  My wife and I both enjoyed your stories and I'm sure they are inspirational for others contemplating this crazy idea of throwing off the dock lines and sailing away.

I wrote the names from each entry on slips of paper and literally threw them in a hat. After shaking them up, I drew the winner.

Drum roll please....

And the winner of the first giveaway is....

Andy A.

Andy, if you could send me an email (feel free to use the form on the right side of the blog) we can get those books on their way to you.

Don't forget, this is just the first of the giveaways.  There will be one or two more (depending on how fast I can read the remaining books), so watch for future posts when they become available. The next giveaway will include titles like "The Capable Cruiser" from Lin and Larry Pardey.

Thanks again for all that entered and good luck to all who are pursuing their dreams on the water!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


Note: If you are interested, don't forget to enter the book giveaway.

The boat is getting closer to launch, I'm just waiting for a few parts and hopefully I'll be heading south soon.  In the meantime, I've been trying to get other work done on the boat while I wait.  One of those tasks was our trampoline.  The stitching on the fabric that covers the edges had disintegrated in the sun, leaving only the stitch holes behind and the fabric was starting to curl.  Now that we have the Sailrite sewing machine, I figured why not give stitching it a go.

Removal was the easy part...although you can't really call it easy.  You can't just untie and unlace the trampoline.  It is attached such that if a line breaks it won't all unravel and dump you into the water.  Add to that the sun baked nature of the existing laces, and I had to pretty much cut each loop off to remove the trampoline.  And once everything is cut off, the tedious task of removing all the knots on the slides and pegs consumed a fair amount of time.

Once the trampoline was free of the boat, it was time to get sewing.  I setup the sewing machine in the cockpit since we have a nice large table there and I figured all the seat backs would help support the trampoline.  Well, it was a good theory.  The plastic coated lines or whatever that material is that makes up the core of the trampoline is a real bear to work with.  Trying to roll it up to make it more manageable was only semi-successful.  I was able to sew most of the edge, only missing a small inside corner that was too stiff to be able to work through the machine.  Of course, between the thickness of the material and uneven nature of the stuff, I ended up breaking 3 needles.  Oh well, at least one of the things is now mostly stitched.

Re-installing the trampoline was an interesting mental exercise.  Fortunately I left one of the trampolines attached so I could use it as a blueprint for reassembly.  Having to lace the metal loops meant feeding the line through each loop, then tying a knot at each loop.  Sounds easy, right.  Well, when you are dealing with a few hundred feet of line, it can be difficult.  Once I got to the pegs, it took a little thinking to figure out an easier approach than feeding the line through each eye and then around the pegs.  If you push a loop of line through the eye and loop it around the peg you don't need to "thread" it through each eye and it goes much faster.  To make installation a bit easier, I also used four segments of line instead of one long line.

The end result wasn't perfect, but good enough. Wrestling the trampoline through the machine didn't leave the straightest of stitching.  And the tensioning of the trampoline left a small wrinkle, but overall I'm pleased...and I didn't have to pay someone a few hundred dollars to do it.  Hopefully the next projects for the Sailrite will go a bit better.  The machine is a real workhorse...the only problems I had with it I think can be safely identified as operator error.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Better Hook

The anchor that came with our boat when we bought her was a 45 lb. CQR which I believe was the standard anchor they outfitted the boat with when they were new.  While the anchor was still in OK shape, I wanted to beef up our main ground tackle since we intend to spend a fair amount of time at anchor.  I definitely don't want to be up at night when the wind blows worrying if our anchor would drag.  That would know...a drag!  (sorry, couldn't resist)

In my research on anchor recommendations, many of the older style anchors such as the CQR or Delta (plow), Bruce (claw), Spade, or Danforth are good for one or two particular bottom types (sand, mud, rocks, grass, etc.), but not others. I'd like my primary to work in a wide variety of conditions as I don't want to carry an abundance of anchors or have to switch them out depending on what I'm floating over at the time. This led me to some newer design anchors that seem to be getting favorable reviews in tests and in real life with varying bottom conditions.  These newer style anchors are more of a scooping spade design with a roll bar to aid in orientation so it digs in. I decided this style of anchor is what we should be looking for.

So, after a bunch of online research, one of our missions at the boat show was to check out these newer style anchors from Rocna, Mantus, and Manson and see if we could find one that we liked and would fit our boat (the anchor locker sits behind the trampolines and I had some concern about the anchor fitting in the available space). Most cruisers also say to figure out the recommended anchor for your boat and then go one size larger, which added complication to the already difficult fit issue. We found displays at the show that included each of the anchors and compared the various designs, sizes, and (of course) price.

We had narrowed the decision down to either a Rocna or Mantus.  In the end, we chose a 65 lb. galvanized Mantus for our primary hook.  The reason for choosing the Mantus over the others boiled down to a few key considerations.  First, I knew of several other boats that have recently taken the plunge with Mantus and have been happy with their decision.  Watching the test videos from Mantus as well as independent comparisons of anchors from other sources indicated the anchor set, and reset, well in a variety of conditions.  The people at Mantus were very helpful and friendly when we were asking questions and did their best to help determine fit and assured us they would work with us if there were any fit issues.  And finally, the price of the Mantus anchor is just a bit more friendly on the cruiser's pocketbook.

Mantus at the Annapolis Boat Show

As my wife and I were leaving the boat show, I realized I had once again forgotten to take some pictures for the blog and so I ran back in to take pictures. I stopped back by the Mantus booth to get a picture and we started talking again.  The result is that I now have my first official "sponsor".* If you have noticed, thus far I have avoided advertisements or sponsors on the blog. I didn't want to get into a situation where I felt obligated to write anything other than how I felt about a product.  But I also realized that I often use the recommendations and sponsor lists from other blogs when making decisions, so it did make sense that I should provide that same help to others.  And if it is a product I want anyway, getting a little compensation for all the time spent blog writing and providing thoughts on various products is something I needed to consider.  But don't worry dear reader, I fully intend to continue to tell you how I really feel about the various products we use,

Anchor Packaging...only 73 lbs.

Now back to the anchor.  Our anchor was shipped to the boatyard where I am currently busy working on the boat.  When it arrived, it didn't take me long to decide to assemble and install our new hook (can you say kid at Christmas).  The anchor arrived disassembled and attached via webbing to an open wooden box inside a cardboard box.  I assume it must have been a bit of a struggle for the delivery man to wrestle a 73 lb. anchor plus wooden box, based on the condition the box arrived in, but the anchor itself was in fine shape (I'll assume any anchor should be able to handle whatever a delivery man can throw at it).

New anchor assembled and sitting next to our old CQR

Assembly consists of bolting the shank and the roll bar to the fluke.  Mantus provides and instructs that you use a liberal amount of grease on the bolts and holes so assembly is a bit sticky.  While we plan to keep ours installed, the anchor does come apart so it could be a good spare for those with limited storage space...but you may need to bring some extra grease along for reassembly (I assume it is recommended for each assembly).  I then shackled the anchor to our chain rode (after buying a new anchor shakle) and manually cranked the anchor up into its new home on my bow.  The anchor fit like a glove with the roll bar just clearing the strut between the two trampolines.

Our new Mantus in its new home.

So, we now have a larger, newer style anchor on Rover...and I think my wife and I will be able to sleep better on the hook knowing it is there.  Can't wait to give it a try and let you know how it holds. Now the question is....what to do with the old CQR.  Do we replace our backup Bruce anchor?  Do we keep both?  Do we sell it?  Hmmm.

*Sponsor Disclosure: In the interest of full disclosure, the company mentioned in this article has graciously provided free or discounted products or services to help support our effort to sail away from the rat race. The opinions expressed in this blog are still our own and not indicative of the opinions or positions of the company. We do encourage you to check out the products or services provided by this, or any, company that supports the cruising community.