Friday, July 10, 2015

Landlocked Again

Three days, it seems both a very long and very short time frame right now...we left Salt Ponds Marina in Hampton, VA for Severn Yachting Center, the boatyard we selected to do our through-hull work and hopefully build my new hard top bimini.  We originally wanted to leave on Monday, but the yard couldn't haul us until Tuesday so we spent the extra day at Salt Ponds and then departed on Tuesday.

When we set up the Tuesday arrival, the girl at the desk really wanted to pin us down to an arrival time.  I told her that I would need to check the weather and, as a sailboat, probably couldn't give her a reasonably firm time until the evening before or morning we were to leave.  She insisted she needed some time to put in the book, so my wife said 1 PM and I reiterated this was just a wild guess at the time. Well, as you might expect, when I checked the weather (specifically the winds) and the expected time of departure I determined that 1 PM was optimistic and 3 PM was more likely.  I called the yard in the morning as we departed (they were already closed for the evening when I determined this) and was told they wouldn't be able to haul me until the following day but, after the receptionist checked with someone else at the yard, called us back and said they would put me on a T-head for the night.  Seems reasonable so we continued on.

Without time pressures (we now only had to get there before they closed at 5 PM or so), we were able to sail most of the way.  A warm day for sure, but reasonable winds most of the day kept us moving along. It wasn't until our speed dropped below 3 knots and we were going to need to make a turn directly into the wind that we pressed the engines into service once again.  We dropped the sails and motored our way up the Severn river, arriving at the marina about 4 PM.

During our approach, we tried calling them on the radio several times (they indicated they always monitor it during business hours) and finally had to call the on a cell phone to get a hold of them. They confirmed that we would be on the first face dock as we approached, and they would send someone down to help with lines and guide us. Here was where we were given another surprise.  The T-head was a fixed dock and had large pilings in the water about 28 ft off the face of the dock and spaced about 25 foot apart (remember, my boat is 38 foot long and over 21 foot wide).  There were crab pot buoys scattered about and some white PVC pipes stuck in random locations around the dock too. To complicate matters further, that headwind we had coming in had picked up and was blowing straight across the face of the T-head.

T-head left, piling right, pipe and crab pots behind.

Best we could tell, the employees on the dock were trying to tell us to pull into the dock directly over one of the crab pot buoys and one of the PVC pipes. Not wanting to wrap a propeller around the line holding the crab pot to the buoy and not knowing if I could run over the plastic pipe or if it marked something to be avoided, I tried contacting the marina on the radio to discuss the situation. But the marina employees didn't have a handheld radio (or a cell phone) with them.  They tried shouting from the dock, but sitting at the helm all I can really hear is...wait for it...the rumble of the engines.  I decided my best approach was to go past the dock, across the mouth of one of their fairways, and back in between the dock and the pilings. After my wife got a couple extra fenders and lines out and ready, I was able to maneuver the boat sideways into the fairway channel and back into the dock. With a little help from the dock we got the boat tied up and safe for the night.

While walking the boat sideways into the fairway I noticed that a motor boat on the T-head across from us was a boat we saw at Salt Ponds.  They were on their boat and gave us a thumbs up while I was maneuvering onto the dock, and since we had recognized the boat, we decided we should go over and say hi. Tim and Debbie were a nice couple and, like us, have two dogs on board as well.  We chatted for a bit before heading back to the boat.

Did I mention that when I checked my email just before we departed Salt Ponds I was contacted by someone we met at our going away party in Colorado?  They were in town for just a day or so and wanted to see if we could connect before they hopped on a plane back to Colorado. While we were introducing ourselves to Tim and Debbie, they stopped by and were greeted by our dogs. Unfortunately, they left before we could get back to our boat.  Sorry Jim and Judy, hopefully we can get together when our paths cross next.

Driving through the forest

The next day we hauled the boat.  The marina didn't want to haul it until high tide, so it was scheduled at 1 PM. I didn't understand why, since my boat only draws 3' 7", they wanted to wait until high tide. They said it had something to do with the width of the boat and the lifts straps and it was easier at high tide.  So, a little before 1 PM we made our way over to the haul-out slip and Rover once again took flight.

While they were pulling the boat, I reiterated that the boat has sacrificial keels and it cannot just be blocked on its keels.  This seemed like a surprise to them and they questioned how they were going to block it.  The yard manager told me how the ABYC "standard way of blocking" was to set a boat on its keels and then use stands to keep it from tipping over.  That may be great for the average monohull where most of the weight and structure are related to the keel, but a number of catamarans, including mine, have sacrificial keels and are not designed to take the full weight of the boat. He ended up calling someone at Leopard and was told that some weight could be placed on the keels, but it definitely should not take the whole weight.  We eventually devised a blocking option using both the keels and blocks at the adjacent bulkheads to support the boat.  This should meet the needs of the boat according to the guy at Leopard...hope he was right.

Blocked, with tarps up for shade.

By the time we got the boat blocked, it was already after 4 PM, so it didn't look like we would get any work done that day.  It was also very hot.  You don't know how nice a breeze on a boat feels until you are sitting on your boat, over a bunch of crushed granite, with trees around you blocking the breeze. In order to survive the next few days, we ended up buying a new centerpiece for our salon table...a 12000 BTU portable air conditioner. If you are living on a boat on the hard during the summer, I think one of these is pretty much a necessity to prevent your boat from becoming an experiment as a large scale solar oven.

Yesterday we were finally able to start working...almost.  After finding where we had stored all the brass through hulls and valves and other bits we had purchased last year, we went through and verified that we had all the parts we needed.  Unfortunately we found that the 1" Marelon fittings would not thread into the valves.  The 3/4" and 1 1/2" ones worked fine, but that left us with 5 elbow fittings that would not work.  With the boatyard's help we called around and ended up talking with the manufacturer.  Unfortunately, the manufacturer could only really give us excuses.  "The fitting is NPS threaded and not NPT, and the valve we have is NPT" was one of the excuses.  When we told him that it didn't thread onto two different NPS threaded fittings we had here either, his only suggestion was that we buy one of their valves and it would work.  I already have a very expensive bronze valve, so I'm not going to replace it with their expensive plastic one.  Thanks Forespar...with your customer service I don't think I'll be buying any more of your products if I can at all avoid it.

Two Through-hulls out.

We never did find a replacement part and will have to see if the current ones will work.  After all the running around, we only ended up removing two of the through hulls so far.  So today we will continue to remove more through hulls as well as see if we can get some replacement parts ordered from the marina.


  1. The good thing about standards, there are so many to choose from :)

    1. LOL, I guess they had too many choices, so Forespar chose neither. ;-)