Friday, November 21, 2014

Back in the water

It pains me to even have to write this, but we are still in Deltaville, Virginia, at the boatyard.  For reasons known only to them, work on our boat slowed to a crawl after my last post, with sometimes days going by with no one working.  I finally had to light a fire under them to get us back in the water by the end of the day Tuesday, knowing that Tuesday night would be a hard freeze.

Finally ready to splash.

Some of the delay was the result of borescope inspection of the shaft tube that I insisted upon after the treatment was "complete."  That inspection revealed a number of voids in the topcoat showing through to the barrier coat, which is not a real problem, but, worse, a number of voids in the barrier coat showing already-rusting bare steel.

Remediating these spots in the tube took another two full days before they could begin to start putting the shaft back in, which happened last week.  Based on my insistence that we be back in the water Tuesday, so our plumbing would not freeze, there was a mad scramble Monday to get the rudder back on and painted.  It all got done just in time and we were back in the water late Tuesday afternoon.

Rudder in its gudgeon.  Still needs paint, fresh zincs, and to be connected to the post above it.  Gray paint on the propeller is zinc.

While they were getting the rudder back on, the rudder packing needed to be replaced, and we solved a mystery that had been bugging me since the rudder started leaking and we had it repacked in July.  Namely, why there was so little packing and why there was no lantern ring adjacent to the Zerk fitting on the side of the stuffing box.

This time I watched as the packing was cleaned out, and measured the depth of the inside of the box, coming up a bit more than a half inch short of the outside.  Sure enough, lying near the bottom of the box was the lantern ring, somewhat worse for wear, and under it the remains of a single, rotted ring of packing.  This time they got it all cleaned out, and got the lantern ring where it was supposed to be by inserting the first three rings of 1/2" packing underneath it.  A course of marine grease and two more rings completed the job.

We're much more comfortable now.  For one thing, we can run the boat's reverse-cycle heat, which is much more effective and powerful than the three little electric heaters we were able to run on the hard.  For another, while the air temperature has been in the 40's during the day and the 30's overnight (and the 20's the last few nights), the water is still 55 or so.  Since the hull is steel and the bilges are uninsulated, the boat loses a lot of heat in that direction, and, of course, lots of plumbing runs through the bilges.

The boat needs to "rest" afloat for a full day before the drivetrain can be aligned, so that got done Wednesday afternoon, and yesterday we went out for a sea trial.  That went mostly well, except that the fancy new PTFE shaft packing I installed after the shaft was back in caused the shaft and stuffing box to overheat quite seriously.  This is the same thing that happened a year ago with the more conventional waxed flax packing, and after we got back to the dock I ended up pulling it all out and replacing it with the same graphite-impregnated synthetic packing that solved the problem a year ago.

I was hoping to move away from the graphite, as it can cause galvanic issues, but it seems that this is the only stuff that will work in our application to keep the whole system within temperature limits.  I need to order some more of it, as this used up the rest of my supply.

New sump box to catch shaft runoff.

Replacing the shaft packing completely with the boat still in the water is not for the faint of heart.  When you pull the last ring out, the sea starts coming in until you fumble around and get a couple of replacement rings in place.  That said, my new sump box system worked beautifully, easily keeping up with the full flow throughout the process.

Non-penetrating mount I made from HDPE. It clamps over the "T-beam" top of the keelson.

This box replaced a hokey arrangement made from a Sterilite sweater box and an old bilge pump, held in place with string.  The chief impediment to replacing it was coming up with a suitable mounting system. In addition to just looking more "finished," the new pump also has a higher capacity.

The contraption it replaced, sort of a proof-of-concept that remained in place for a full year.

That was all done by the end of the day, and we could have shoved off this morning if not for the fact that the forecast was for 3'-4' seas on the Chesapeake, and we decided to wait for tomorrow's 1'-2' forecast.  That gave the yard a few more hours to get in the last paint touch-ups as well.

The good news is that we will be shoving off in the morning for points south. We first need to move over to another dock so we can load the scooters, the first test of our new winch cable.  I had hoped to move this afternoon, but we are experiencing astronomically low tides, and we were sitting on the bottom when the dock became available.  I probably could have backed out, but I don't want to scuff up our brand new bottom job.

As long as we were here another two weeks, I knocked a whole bunch more projects off my own list.  Chief among those was replacing the guest head, which arrived here a couple of weeks ago.  I had figured initially that we'd be sailing away with it still in the box, awaiting installation in Florida someplace.  That was a big project, taking me three full days, but we're very happy with it and we can now have guests aboard without having to worry that their head will be filling the waste tank too quickly.  I've been scrambling trying to give away the two heads we've removed before leaving the yard, but it looks as if I will be carting them all the way to Florida, where there will be more takers at this time of year.

I also serviced the windlass, replacing the oil as well as the oil level sight glass, which was so old it was no longer transparent.  It took a dead-blow and penetrating oil to separate the chainwheel from its inner clutch plate, one of the culprits in the great abandon-anchor escapade.  There was so much corrosion in between them that I had to use the oscillating sander to smooth it all back out. It's all properly greased now and we should be able to drop the anchor by gravity alone in an emergency if need be.

Louise has been complaining of cold showers lately (she likes her water hotter than I do) and, as long as we had a good address, I ordered a new tempering valve.  The one we had, which I installed last year, was supposedly adjustable to 150° but the water we were getting was barely 110°.  When I cut the old one out of the PEX I found a lot of scale buildup, which was perhaps part of the problem.  You can see some of the scale in this tee fitting, which got replaced and moved somewhat to make room for the new, slightly larger valve.  The new valve is working like a champ and I'm now having to add a lot of cold at the tap.

Scale buildup.  This fitting and the PEX is only a year old.  We've been taking on some very hard water.

The scooter is all back together with all the body damage repaired and mostly invisible, and it has a new battery as well as a fancy jump-start plug.  I added a matching plug on Louise's scooter and made a cable to go to between them.  I painted the propeller and all the running gear with zinc, and as mentioned, I packed the stuffing box, twice.  Lots of minor things got tweaked as well, as long as I was in grubbies and had tools out.

Since it was a T&M project, I also ended up helping the yard get the bow thruster back on, wherein we discovered that the bolts that came with it were too short for the job.  That explains why the last yard omitted the required lock washers, which might have been part of the problem that caused the failure.  The original bolts from the one before that were the same length, so the whole assembly had been held together by barely two threads.  I had to order new bolts; the local places didn't have them in 316 stainless.

Somewhere in all of this, Louise started the process of moving us, legally, to Florida.  We had high hopes of staying South Dakota residents for a few years -- it cost us a pretty penny to "move" there in the first place -- but our health insurance company has canceled us effective year-end, and we can't get suitable coverage in that state any longer.  Florida has more options, and probably makes more sense on the boat anyway.  We already registered the boat in Florida earlier this year, a legal requirement to be able to stay there longer than 90 days.  We'll be Floridians by New Years.

We will be very happy to be out of here.  By this date last year we were already well on our way south.  That experience tells us that we need to seize each weather window to stay on the move.  With a bit of luck, we can perhaps be as far as Wrightsville Beach by Thanksgiving, where we know there is a decent place for the holiday meal (and a great holiday boat parade).

Once we are on the move I will be posting here more regularly, with a goal of posting each time we move.  Internet access being what it is in the low country, that will not always be possible, but at the very least it will be more frequent than it has been here in the yard.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

History repeats itself

We are still at the boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia, notwithstanding my expressed hope, last post, that we'd be out of here by Halloween.  The yard is closed today, and I'm trapped inside the boat due to extremely cold and blustery conditions.  Having again run out of indoor projects, I have a bit of time to blog.

Regular readers may remember that we were also here in the yard last year at this time, pulling in at the beginning of November for a couple of weeks of adjustments to various things on our way south.  I lamented then that we were a bit late in the season, having to run all of our little portable heaters to try to keep the boat livable while on the hard, and we're having to do that again -- outside temps are in the 30's overnight and today's high was 48.

In another moment of déjà vu, I learned today that the Great Bridge Lock will be closed later this month for maintenance.  That's more than two weeks from now, though, and we'll have bigger problems if we are still here by then.

Last weekend we rented another ten-dollar-a-day car and made two trips back to the bus.  I'm happy to report that a week on the charger brought the expensive house batteries back to life, and I ran both the A/C and the electric heat from them, by way of the inverter, to discharge them all the way down to the LBCO on Saturday.  I then set the charger for an "equalize" cycle and we left them to charge again over night.

Sunday we returned and a quick check found they had recovered yet some more of their capacity.  As we did not really have the luxury of doing several full discharge/charge cycles, I charged them back up as best I could and then fully disconnected them, this time including the equalizer and the SOC meter.  That, I hope, will have them in a bit better shape next time we return, which we'll endeavor to do sooner than a full year from now.

When we returned Sunday afternoon we caught up with our friends Pauline and Rod, who are also southbound and opted to stop in Deltaville to see us.  They tied up while we were still on our way back from the bus, and we made good use of the rental car to go out for a nice dinner in town.  More déjà vu, as we saw them here on our November visit last year as well.

In the past two weeks, the yard has managed to get most of the bottom paint on, including moving the jack stands to paint behind them.  They also cleaned out the stern tube and re-coated the inside, by closing off the end and pouring the coatings in from the front.  That started with a wash of phosphoric acid to treat the rust, followed by epoxy barrier coat, and finally bottom paint.  They'll have to sand some of the last coatings out near the tube ends to get the cutless bearings in place.

The yard also removed the props from the thruster, and then it was a pretty simple matter to drift the drive leg out from the inside to get the pinion off.  The new leg is now ready to go back in, and I hope that will happen tomorrow.  They've also started on the anchor locker hatch, remediating the rust, barrier coating the deck, and rebedding the hatch seat.  The anchor and all the chain is on the ground, so I've started to treat the rust on the hammer-lock connector, which I will paint with zinc tomorrow.

On my own project list, I managed to get the rust remediated on the bow pad-eye and four coats of zinc paint (aka "cold galvanizing compound") put on.  The shackle was in good shape, and I re-installed it with some stainless mousing.  I did flip it around, so the mousing wire is now on the starboard side, whereas it has been on the port side for the last year.

It's not been a good few weeks for batteries, and my scooter is the latest casualty. It still has its original battery, now over seven years old, and it just won't start the old girl any longer.  I took it out, popped the "sealed" caps off, and found two cells low on water, so I added some, but it's really too far gone.  As a result, I've been having to kick-start the scooter on the first start of each day.

All well and good, but after several days of this, the kick-starter had had enough and decided to jam randomly rather than start the bike, which is a finicky starter to begin with.  I ended up pulling the case off and basically rebuilding the kick-starter, which is probably the subject of a post in its own right.

After doing that I tried to get the scooter started, to no avail in the cold weather. Again, finicky, plus I know that the "choke," which the Taiwanese call an "auto bystarter" in the manual, is spotty at best.  After two dozen or more unsuccessful attempts, I decided to crack the throttle a bit to see if that would help.

Now, in order to start these scooters, one of the two brakes needs to be applied. Since I really need to stand left of and behind the scooter to give it a real kick, I strapped the rear brake lever down to the handgrip.  Being alone, I used my poor-mans cruise control, basically an O-ring that jams between the throttle and the bar-end weight, to keep the throttle open a bit.

That did the trick, and it started on the first kick.  Unfortunately, I had the throttle cracked just a bit too far, and, despite the brake lever being strapped down, the scoot immediately took off without me, the throttle being open far enough to engage the centrifugal clutch.

It came right off the center stand and took off for points south.  It got only about three feet, though, before crashing spectacularly into the remains of a shore-side pumpout station that was relocated to the docks sometime in the last year.  In the process it broke the fairing, smashed out the right front marker/turn lamp, knocked the mirror out of whack, and damaged my pride as whoever was left in the shop after hours came running out for a look. (I'm sure it didn't help that I started laughing immediately after determining that he wasn't hurt. -Louise)

While I was pretty upset about the damage, I am quite relieved that it did not get far enough to crash into a car, a boat, a passer-by, or myself.  All's well that ends well, but it added another dozen hours to the project list.

I've spent great parts of the last four days mixing up epoxy and repairing the marker lamp and the fairing itself.  To get to them I had to strip half the front fairing off the bike, a chore all by itself.  I've got it all back together now, and it looks no worse for wear, but it's eaten into my boat project time budget a bit.  I did take the opportunity to clean up some wiring behind the fairing and spray some T9 corrosion blocker on everything.

A new battery is already on the way to me, along with the last of the boat project parts coming from far and wide.  I also ordered some Anderson connectors and some #10 wire to add "jump start" plugs to both scooters as well as the dinghy; we've had to jump-start enough times now that the convenience will be well worth the minimal expense.

My big project for the last few days has been replacing the raw water pump.  I decided to use the opportunity to change out the decade-old hoses as well, and getting the new intake hose threaded into place was a challenge.  It's all finished now, but I left the seacock closed so there are no surprises when we splash. We'll spend a few minutes looking at all the hose connections when we first open it, to make sure nothing is leaking.

I've also finished the great LED lighting project, and now every DC light in the boat is LED except the galley and the seven "reading" lamps.  The latter are seldom used -- neither of us reads in bed, and the ones in the pilot house are used for only a few seconds each time on overnight runs -- so there is little benefit in underwriting the expense of changing them.  The galley really needs the much brighter light that the 20-watt halogens provide, although I will consider changing them whenever a bright enough drop-in replacement comes along. Fortunately, those lights are in use less than an hour a day.

As long as we had the bed torn up in the guest stateroom to work on the thruster, I spent a day adding another power outlet in that room.  We really needed one closer to the headboard, for guests to have an alarm clock, cell charger, or whatever up there, and Louise wanted one on the starboard side (the lone existing outlet was to port) for her sewing machine when she is using the room for quilting.  So I put the new outlet on the starboard side of the bed, just aft of the headboard.

I'm hopeful that we will be able to put the guest stateroom back together in another day or two, and I can start moving things back to the engine room by mid-week.  With any luck, the shaft and propeller will be back on the boat by Wednesday and we should be able to go back in the water.  The ability to run the heat will be most welcome.

With any luck, we will be on the move again by a week from today.  That said, we are coming into the time of year where waiting on weather is the norm. Yesterday afternoon there were seven foot seas on Chesapeake Bay; the dinghy dock here at the yard was eight inches under water.  Starting mid-week we will be focusing on weather, to see when we might make a break for it and hustle down the bay to the relative safety of the Elizabeth River at Norfolk.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Odyssey update, and polishing my shaft

We are "on the hard" at the Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia (map), a very familiar stop for us.  We are even in our old spot, closest to the shop buildings.  It's been a long and busy couple of weeks, with nary a moment to blog, but I am at an impasse now on the project front, so I can catch up.

When last I posted here, we had just dropped anchor in the Piankatank River, just outside the Jackson Creek entrance.  With high winds forecast for the coming two days, we decided to make a run for it first thing the next morning, before the winds got too fierce.  As it was, we had a good ten to fifteen knots as we made the channel, which made for some excitement as I made the sharp left turn where I normally use the bow thruster to help turn the boat more aggressively.  Once we made the turn we had the wind on the nose and it was easy going from there to the basin.

We ended up spending three nights at anchor, as the yard was not quite ready to haul us out on Monday.  Too bad, because Monday was flat calm, whereas on Tuesday we had high winds again.  I ended up having to bring her into the lift ways in 20 knots, and even station-keeping in the anchorage while they jockeyed some other boats around was a challenge.  Fortunately, the sheds over the marina's D-dock blocked some of the wind on the last hundred feet or so to the slip, and they had all hands on the ways to take our lines and fend us off, so we made it into the lift without any contact.

We spent most of the time at anchor getting the boat ready for the haulout, organizing our projects, and getting last-minute parts orders placed for delivery while we're here.  However, we did get to meet Bradley and Kathy from the Nordhavn 72 Shear Madness, who dropped by in their tender and invited us to dinner.  I've followed their blog for a while and it was a pleasure to meet them and spend some time with them, and of course we traded boat tours.  We'd been given a heads-up to watch for their arrival by Steph and Martin, who had dinner with them the preceding week in Portsmouth.

Once we were blocked on the hard, the yard got started on cleaning the bottom and prepping it for new paint.  We're doing a full bottom job here, changing from an ablative type of paint, which has not worked well for us, to a hard paint with a higher copper load.  On a metal boat that means making sure there is a good insulating layer of epoxy barrier coating before the paint goes on, and between the scraping, sanding, barrier coating, and painting we are spending a small fortune on it.

The yard has already remediated an extremely small/slow leak in our sewage macerator system, which necessitated me clearing out the engine room vestibule which serves as my workshop.  After the leak was resolved the epoxy hull paint needed to be touched up in that area, and my tools and supplies spent several days stacked in the engine room, keeping me from making any progress on the raw water pump or valve adjustment projects.

On the weekend we took advantage of Enterprise's $10/day weekend special, rented a car, and drove to our super-secret storage location to check on our bus, Odyssey.  It has been almost exactly a year since our last visit, when we laid it up for the winter, and it was in surprisingly good shape.  The biggest problem was that all 11 batteries were almost completely dead.

The house batteries were already suffering from an early end-of-life syndrome when we parked it, but, still, I'm sorry they ran all the way down.  The coach and generator batteries are a bit more forgiving, but even those were dead.  My fault, really -- I opened all the battery switches, but there are still some very minor parasitic drains that are connected ahead of those switches.  Most notably those are the battery equalizers, but the house side also has an SOC meter.  In hindsight, after opening the switches I should also have disconnected the equalizers and then the battery grounds.

The main charger, which is part of the inverter system, will not even power up unless it sees a nominal 24-volt battery connected, and the batteries were so low they did not register to the charger.  We ended up "jumping" the coach batteries from the rental car by connecting the car's 12-volt battery to the upper side of the coach 24-volt system, letting the equalizer pass half over to the lower side.  Then I was able to operate the bridging relay to send 24 volts to the house side.

Once I had power flowing from the car to the 24-volt house system, the inverter/charger could be brought on-line and the charger started up, which then provided us with power throughout the bus.  Fortunately, there is a 50-amp shore receptacle just a few feet from the bus.  It took most of the day, and more jumping from the rental car, to get enough juice into the system to light off the big Detroit, but it did eventually start after some cantankerous cranking.  The genny, by contrast, fired right up.

The batteries were so dead that we opted to leave the coach plugged in to shore power for the week, at a cost of an extra dollar a day.  We'll rent another car and go back this weekend to check on the progress, unplug the shore power, and disconnect the batteries more fully this time.  While in otherwise good shape, it made us sad to see our beloved Odyssey sitting there so forlornly, and I really need to get moving on finding her a new home with someone who will give her the attention she needs.

We took the long way home last weekend when we picked up the rental car in Gloucester ("we'll pick you up"), stopping in Chesapeake to pick up some parts at the Komat'su dealer.  That had us going right past our last digs at Riverwalk in Yorktown, a much shorter trip from here by car.  As long as we were all the way down there, we had a nice dinner at our club in Norfolk on the way home.

This morning the yard removed the shaft from the boat.  Unsurprisingly, it was covered with rust, but it all appears to be adhered to the surface (rather than the shaft itself rusting) from whatever is causing the tube to rust.

Somewhat more concerning is a handful of score lines on the shaft in the area of the forward cutless bearing, which suggests the bearing has some debris embedded in it.  We'll spring for new bearings while we're here, and I will inspect the bearing to see what's causing the scoring.  The yard polished the shaft up with a sander and it looks great except for the scoring.

When last we had the shaft out, we bought a fancy tool for removing and installing the propeller.  When we went to use it, however, we discovered it had the wrong threads for our shaft.  A bit disturbing, since the yard was supposed to have used this tool when they installed the prop on the new shaft.  So once again, the shaft had to come out with the prop still attached.   A local machinist is working on making the correct adapter for our tool, so we'll have something we can use elsewhere if the prop needs to come off.

As for my own projects, I've met my Waterloo with the bow thruster.  I removed the motor inside the boat, but getting the splined pinion off the top of the drive leg has been a challenge.  The Allen-head setscrew rounded out in no time, after turning my Allen key into a corkscrew, and I've had to drill it out.  Nevertheless, the pinion is still firmly stuck to the shaft, as are the propellers to theirs.  I've asked the yard to remove the props, and then I will try to drift the shaft out of the pinion from the inside.  Fortunately, I have a spare mount and a spare drive coupling from the very first bow thruster fiasco.

I came to an impasse today because I can do nothing further with the thruster until the yard gets the props off, and the engine room is off limits while they remediate some rust on the hull stringers and re-paint them with epoxy paint. My around-the-house list, at least the part slated for Deltaville, is already knocked off.

That list included replacing the davit winch cable with a fancy synthetic one, replacing some interior light bulbs with LED items, and adding some additional LED deck lights to increase our visibility at anchor.  I also bought a "crane scale" so we can finally weigh our tender, along with anything else we want to lift with the davit.  I'm working on a way to insert it into the anchor tackle temporarily, without getting it wet, so we can get an inkling of our "normal" anchoring loads as well as the setting force when backing on the anchor.

Louise is also at a project standstill, since her sewing set-up in the forward stateroom has been usurped by the bow thruster repairs. She's finished all the hand sewing she had saved up for this occasion, and now is being sorely tempted to buy fabric on-line while we have a good shipping address.

If you're interested in photos of her quilting, BTW, she's posting them on Instagram, where her user name is (not too surprisingly) @LouiseHornor.

When I booked the work here at the yard I had asked them to plan to complete it by tomorrow.  We're a long way from done, though, and I had already figured to be here next week as well.  I am hoping it will not be longer than that.  I think it's doable -- they have a little prep and barrier coat left before painting the bottom, and getting the thruster leg changed.  There is also some exterior paint and bedding needed around the anchor locker hatch.  We had asked them to quote a staple rail on the swim step and some exterior paint touchup, but we are prepared to leave without those if need be.

With any luck, my hiatus will be over tomorrow and I will again be busy from morning to night, so this may be my one and only blog post from the yard. Whenever we are done here, we will proceed with all possible urgency to Norfolk, on the first leg of a southbound trip to Florida for the holidays.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Breaking my silence

We've been docked in Yorktown, Virginia, at the county's Riverwalk Landing Marina (map) for nearly two weeks, since Monday September 28th.  That's a long time to go without updating the blog (aside from George's memorial), but we've been busy visiting friends and family daily.  I'm also behind on answering comments.  Of course, dealing with a dying cat did not help my time management.

We said our last goodbyes this morning, to Martin and Steph as they shoved off for Norfolk.  There they will pick up their delivery skipper, who will take them and Blossom all the way to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, where it will be part of the Nordhavn exhibit.  Now that it's back to just the two of us, I finally have some time to catch up on the blog.  As luck would have it, I'm again typing under way in the Chesapeake.

This morning's sunrise over the York River.  That's Blossom at the pumpout dock on the right, with the barque Alliance behind it.

Our plan today had been to shove off at high slack around 1pm, head over to the pumpout dock, and then go just a mile downriver to the same anchorage where we spent the Sunday night of our arrival, adjacent to the marina's mooring field. That would give us all weekend to make our way to Deltaville for a Monday morning start on the project list.  It would also have given me a quiet afternoon at anchor to update the blog.  The forecast has been deteriorating, though, and we decided, after pumping out, to get as far as we could today, perhaps all the way to the Piankatank, so we would not have to plow through rough seas later on.

Shortly after finishing my post here two weeks ago, we arrived at our destination in Yorktown.  We were two full days early for our Tuesday reservation, but we headed over to the marina anyway, just to check it out.  It looked like a pretty easy dock, and the dockmaster met us to see if we wanted to try coming in, but it was a good hour past slack, and I would have to dock with the current behind me to be able to offload the scooters, tricky without a working bow thruster.  With full batteries, we also did not want to pay for an extra night of dockage we did not need.  So after assessing the situation, we headed back downriver to the anchorage.

We were happy to find these signs on the docks, which were locked after hours.  I called the sheriff's office three times during the course of our stay to deal with uninvited "guests" on the docks after hours, mostly guys fishing.

After we dropped the hook and got settled in, I contacted my cousins, who were already in town and just settling in to their accommodations.  They were happy to meet us for dinner at one of the dockside restaurants right there at Riverwalk Landing, and so we splashed the tender and did just that.  It was a great reunion -- we had not seen my cousin Lawrence, his wife Lori, and their son Joe (who calls us uncle and aunt) since January, 2013, when we were in the thick of buying a boat and they were in the thick of buying a house.  Long-time readers may remember we had Christmas dinner with them after delivering their dog, Simon, and their car, having driven both across country from our pre-purchase sea trial.

They rented a suite for a week in Williamsburg, a 20-minute drive from Yorktown.  Joining them were my other cousin, Chris, whom we saw recently in Troy, New York, and my Aunt Graciela, whom we also saw recently in Haverstraw, New York.  My uncle couldn't make it, and so the five of them fit comfortably in Chris's car for the ride to the docks.

Over an al fresco dinner at the Water Street Cafe, we hatched a plan for my cousins to join us aboard Vector Monday for a short cruise.  That involved the four of them piling into the dinghy with me at the marina for a slow putt to the anchorage, then watching as we stowed the tender and weighed anchor.  We had just enough time before slack tide to cruise underneath the massive George Coleman double swing bridge and up to the naval weapons depot before coming back through the bridge to the marina and docking.  The cruise was very short, but they got to spend a couple of hours on the boat, and Joe got to drive for a while after we turned around at the weapons depot and headed back for the bridge.

Joe drives Vector towards the Coleman Bridge.

The marina was happy to have us come in a day early, and I trundled into the office and paid for nine nights, a fairly long stay for us.  Blossom arrived Monday afternoon and did exactly what we had done -- anchored downriver to make a slack-current arrival on Tuesday.  The marina crammed the two of us right next to each other, yet we had the entire marina to ourselves for most of the nine days.

Vector and Blossom all alone at Riverwalk.

After we were well tied up at the dock, we put my scooter down so that we could go over to the cousins' suite in Williamsburg for dinner, bearing in mind we could not all fit in the car.  We had a lovely ride along the National Park Service's Colonial Parkway.  My cousins ended up feeding us at their place Tuesday and Thursday nights as well, and even invited Martin and Steph along. We returned the favor at a local Italian place near their digs on Friday, their final evening in town.

We had a fantastic visit with all five of them, mostly involving overeating in the evenings.  They did some of the Williamsburg tourist stuff in the daytime, while I got some projects done, Louise had a hair appointment, and we both got massages at a local massage school.  Wednesday was, of course, focused on the cat, and we were too emotional to have dinner with a crowd, so we had a quiet dinner with Martin and Steph at the Riverwalk Cafe dockside.  Martin and Steph were also quite close to George, having cat-sit for us on more than one occasion, including while we were sea-trialing the boat.

When the four of us made unequivocal plans to spend a week in Yorktown, Steph and Louise both decided to have their mothers fly out to meet us.  Louise's mom was the last among our parents to see the boat, since making flight reservations from California to connect with us is a bit like hitting a moving target.  This is one of the few places we've stopped long enough to do so close to a major airport.

To facilitate the logistics of all the family visits, we rented a car, as did the Blossom crew.  We got a great weekly rate, and picked it up on Thursday, making it due back yesterday right after all the mothers-in-law departed. As long as we had a car, we ran lots of errands involving trips to big-box stores in Newport News.

Among many other projects, I thus finally was able to replace the failed start battery.  A handful of pulleys and some rope from Lowe's let me rig a system to lift the old one, weighing 175 pounds, out of the engine room.  I replaced it with a much smaller battery from Advance Auto Parts, leaving room in the battery tray for a second, identical battery in parallel if this one proves insufficient.  The jury is out at the moment.

We had a bit of downtime between my family's departure and the arrival of Louise's mom.  Part of that was occupied with projects, but Saturday turned out to be the annual Virginia Wine Festival at Riverwalk Landing, and we all bought tickets and sampled the local wines.  I found none worthy of actually buying a bottle, but it was fun tasting them all and enjoying the outdoor festival in perfect weather.

Super moon rising over the York.  We did not catch the eclipse at zero-dark-thirty the next morning.

This was the event that necessitated the tight quarters at the marina.  By Saturday afternoon the marina was full, with a boat at every inside spot.  As luck would have it, though, Saturday night ended up being the worst weather of our whole stay, with 30-knot winds whipping down the river and sending waves crashing over the docks.  Vector and Blossom did not move uncomfortably, being the heavy boats they are.  But the other dozen boats in the marina did not fare as well, and we saw many crews standing watch in the wee hours, tending to their dock lines.  Some of the smaller boats looked like they were having worse motion at the dock than Vector has seen at sea.

Waves coming over the docks, shot from our aft deck.

We never made it to Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown Settlement, or any of the other tourist attractions in the area.  But I did ride my bicycle around all of Yorktown, which is historic in its own right.  It is, of course, where Cornwallis surrendered to Washington, thus ending the Revolutionary War.  Many of the earthworks and fortifications for both sides still exist, as do some structures of the era, though the fortifications were altered by both sides during the Civil War.

The very first monument authorized by Congress, in 1781.  Even then, they were inefficient -- it was not erected until a century later, for the centennial of the surrender.

This week we've been entertained by numerous Coast Guard boats practicing docking and line-tying at our dock and the ones around us.  There is a large USCG training facility in Yorktown, and these were recruits, still wet behind the ears, being instructed by petty officers.  Many, it would seem, had never set foot on a boat before they enlisted.

Perhaps hard to tell, but there are five USCG small boats in this photo.  We saw as many as a dozen practicing at the docks.

Today's entertainment, just as we were finishing our pumpout, was watching the USS Farragut transit the swing bridge, which seldom opens, on its way to the weapons dock.  We only saw the bridge open one other time during our stay, for a Coast Guard cutter going to the same place.

USS Farragut, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer, heads for the opening of the Coleman Bridge.

This morning we were awakened by a DSC distress message on the radio at 7:15, which turned out to be a false alarm from a vessel some 150 miles away, in North Carolina.  At least I got a nice sunrise photo, which appears earlier in this post, and we were well awake for our 8:30 farewell breakfast date with Martin and Steph after they moved Blossom to the pumpout dock on the 7am slack.

The visitor we found under our bow line.  He's tiny -- that cleat is perhaps 10" long.

We cast off lines and headed for the pumpout ourselves at the 1pm slack.  As she was singling lines, Louise found a tiny visitor to our humble abode: a little green snake no bigger than a pencil in diameter. I have no idea how he got here.  By the time we were ready to leave, we had 5-10 knots of wind pinning us to the dock, and it was a real challenge to get the boat away with no thruster and no room for backing astern.  We made it without incident, other than some black marks from the dock's rubber bumper on our hull, which the dockmaster called a "Yorktown racing stripe," easily removed.

It's taken me most of the cruise to get this all typed, and then some, and we are now safely anchored in nearly the exact same spot we left two weeks ago, in the Piankatank River outside of Deltaville. We decided to press on the whole way, knowing we'd arrive just after dark, but that we'd be dropping the hook in a familiar spot.  Of course the five minute downpour of rain had to happen just as Louise was on deck deploying the anchor.  We'll move into Jackson Creek tomorrow or Sunday as weather permits.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best. Cat. Ever.


Our sweetest girl, George, passed away today peacefully in our arms.  While we did opt to assist her passing, ultimately kidney disease is what took her from us.  The disease first manifested itself back in 2008, when she passed a painful kidney stone as we were deploying to the Hurricane Dolly relief operation with the Red Cross.  This disease inevitably worsens, notwithstanding tightly controlled diet, subcutaneous hydration, and careful monitoring and veterinary care.  Honestly, we are so thankful for all the years we've had with her, well in excess of what we were told to expect.

George and Angel on their first full day at home.  They'll grow into those enormous ears.

George came into our lives as a kitten, on the same day as her "sister" Angel, who is really from a different litter.  They both came from the shelter in the spring of 2001.  After a full day of hissing at each other, they became good friends, at least at the start, and we have many photos of them sleeping together.  In their later years, George would bully Angel, and probably the best way to describe their adult relationship is détente.


Shelters learned long ago that pets, even kittens and puppies, are more adoptable if they have names, and when we got them, we liked "Angel" enough to just keep it.  (We later discovered that it was somewhat misleading, as "angelic" is not how we would describe her.)  George's shelter name was "Patch," and neither of us cared for that name at all.  We brought her home and ruminated about names for several days.

Come to the light.

We discovered in short order that she liked nothing better than to be held and loved and even squeezed tightly, and I could not help being inspired by a childhood memory of this scene from the Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon, The Abominable Snow Rabbit:

The first time I said "I'm going to hold her, and love her, and squeeze her, and call her 'George'" the name stuck, and thus we had a female cat with a male name.  To the very end she still loved to be held closely, although she was so frail that we dared not squeeze.

Sometimes I squeeze you back, daddy.

George loved confined spaces, and we'd often find her peeking out of boxes or bags.  When she was still a tiny kitten with big ears she crawled into Louise's motorcycle helmet through the visor area, and then was perfectly content when we closed the visor.

Can we go for a ride?

Take me shopping.

We still lived in a condo when we got her, moving to a different condo just a few weeks later. Shortly after her third birthday, she began her peripatetic life, starting with the car as we shuttled back and forth between San Jose, California and Sumner, Washington for monthly checks on the progress of the bus.


Unlike her sister, who suffered from a bit of motion sickness at the start, George settled in comfortably to the traveling life.  Moving onto the bus was a big adventure for her, with many new spaces to explore, and transitioning to the boat was better still.  They have been indoor cats their whole lives, but on the boat she was allowed to roam the decks at anchor, which she loved.

Each of us has had many pets over the years, and for the last 13 years we've always said that George was the best cat ever.  She loved people, would purr just from proximity, and climbed into the bed between us for warmth and cuddles.  We will miss her terribly.

She spent her final day doing what she loved -- climbing onto our laps for morning love on the aft deck, and lying on the deck in the sun.  We gave her a final dose of subcutaneous ringers last night so she would be as comfortable as possible today.  I am very thankful we were able to find a vet to come to the boat, so she could spend her final moments in comfortable and familiar surroundings.

Goodbye, George.  You will always be the best cat ever.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Comfort in the familiar

We are once again under way in the Chesapeake, on the final leg to the York River.  The bay is like glass today.  This morning found us in a very familiar place, anchored just outside of the Jackson Creek entrance on the Piankatank River (map).  We could see the docks at Deltaville Boatyard and Marina from there, although we were too far to get their WiFi signal.  We were treated to a spectacular sunset over Stove Point after dinner.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has written, either in the comments or directly, to express their feelings regarding George's condition.  It means a great deal to us that so many of you care.  Many who have met her know what a friendly and loving cat she is (well, except to other cats) and how much we will miss her.  As much as we love our other cat, Angel, she can never replace what George gave us.

Yesterday after I posted we were treated to a large pod of dolphins feeding; about a half dozen or so came over to play in our bow wave.  We learned long ago that Vector does not go fast enough for that to be fun for long, and we enjoyed them porpoising alongside us for only a couple of minutes before they got bored and swam off.  Still it is a wonderful sight, such strong, graceful animals swimming just a few feet below our eyes.

Today we had to thread our way among the participants in a sailboat regatta on our way out of the river, which is exactly what we had to do the last time we left Deltaville.  We spotted at least one boat we recognize from the yard, and we also recognized a friend who works at the yard.  Fortunately, the race had not yet started and we did not have to divert our course.

Our friends Martin and Steph aboard Blossom are also under way today, having left Baltimore early this morning.  Their latest blog post updated us on what we missed the last two days of the show.  Blossom is faster than Vector, being ten feet longer, and they will arrive in Yorktown just a day behind us.

Tonight we should be anchored in the York River.  We will time our arrival at the dock tomorrow for a favorable tide - I have some tricky maneuvering ahead without the thruster.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

PAX River

This morning found us anchored in the Patuxent River, just off the runway at the Naval Air Station (map).  Across the river is Solomons, Maryland, where we stayed a few nights last year.  This time, we needed neither the protection nor the services (although we did pick up their WiFi), and this spot was closer to the bay. We did have to put out over 200' of chain in 30' of water.

PAX River NAS, tower and hangars.

We dropped the hook a little after 6pm, a long day for us.  The weather was pleasant, though, and the traffic from the airfield light, so we had a nice dinner on the aft deck.  In the evening I drained the tap water out of the engine cooling system and filled it back up with coolant.

Apparently I misjudged the overall capacity of the system, because I had to add an extra gallon and a half to it.  I used filtered tap water for this extra bit because I only had three gallons of distilled.  I left the domestic water heater loop valved off, so there is still a little room in there to add straight coolant later, which will get me back close to 50/50.  As it stands, we're at 40% glycol and 60% water, which is fine for most purposes, but it leaves the additive package short.

This morning we had a bit of coolant leak out from the pump when the engine was still cold, but after it warmed up the leak stopped entirely.  With the old extended-life coolant, we were seeing leakage throughout the day.  It's possible that this is the best it's going to get until we replace the pump, but if we leak only a tablespoon or so every startup we can go a long time before that will be necessary.

It's quite calm out here on the Chesapeake today, and we're having a pleasant cruise, albeit marred by an unpleasant task.  I've been calling vets in the Yorktown area to see if one will come to the boat for George's final appointment. She's still eating and drinking, but she's getting too weak to move around the boat, the episodes of dementia are nearly constant, and she mostly lies around with a vacant stare.  She does not seem to be in any pain, but neither does anything please her any longer.

These decisions are always hard.  We've been taking turns crying uncontrollably. But we know now unequivocally that it is time; leaving Baltimore we became concerned that she'd go into crisis before we make our next stop.  If that happens, there is little we can do for her for many hours until we can make port someplace, and then we'd likely have to get her into a taxi for her final ride. We'd rather her last hour on Earth not be filled with the fear that comes with any trip in the carrier, followed by the unmistakable smell of a vet's office.

For now she is resting comfortably in the salon, and we're continuing to give her subcutaneous fluids every day and a half.  When she is awake and lucid we try to give her whatever comfort we can.  And we have our fingers crossed that she will make it to Yorktown without incident.

Tonight we should be somewhere in the Piankatank River, which is incidentally where Deltaville Boatyard is located.  We'll be right back there after we wrap up in Yorktown.  On this pass, we will only go as far up the river as is necessary to get a comfortable spot to drop the hook.  Tomorrow we will go most of the rest of the way to Yorktown, with a planned arrival on Tuesday just ahead of high slack, to simplify docking.  My cousins are in route now and should be arriving late tonight.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Been busy in Baltimore

We are under way southbound on the Chesapeake, bound for Yorktown. We just wrapped up a very busy week in Baltimore, Maryland, where we were docked at the Inner Harbor Marina (map), right in the thick of things. Our friends aboard Blossom are still there, enjoying the last couple of days of Trawler Fest, but we needed to get moving to catch up with family in a few days.

Vector at the Inner Harbor.

Before I continue with today's update, we received an anonymous comment on my last post here that is quite timely and appropriate to answer here in the main blog, rather than in the comments.  That reader asks:
You've had to do a number of very in-depth repairs and I'm curious if this is a function of a used boat (ie, you're just lucky to own it when these parts hit the could-be-trouble point in their duty cycle) or if this is just boating generally. ...
Is there a point where you will be able to run for a period of time and not expect a major maintenance issue (ie, tearing apart the cooling system)?

Those of you who are already cruisers know the answer to this, of course,  but for anyone who has never owned a boat larger than a center-console, the answers are "yes," "yes," and "not really."  That is to say that, yes, a used boat will have a different set of issues than a new one, but, sadly, even a new boat will have problems.  Note I said "will," not "may."  Our friends took delivery of their new boat just a month ago, and they are still shaking out problems with the generators, heads, engine room cooling, the propeller -- the list goes on.

The reality is that a boat with living quarters comprises many complex systems, with equally complex interconnections among them.  On a new boat, those systems are universally delivered without an adequate amount of testing, because the manufacturers do not want to deliver a product with systems that have been "used."  No one wants to take delivery of a brand new boat, for example, where the toilets have already been used (for their intended purpose) say, two dozen times, or where the generator has already been "broken in" and run up through its first 100-hour oil change.  Yet that is often what it takes to "dial in" the systems and shake out any "infant mortality" failures.

Of course, on a new boat, those sorts of problems are covered under warranty. Fat lot of good that does you, though, if you are a hundred miles offshore when your generator, or air conditioning, or waste system quits.  Used boats, like ours, usually come from the previous owner with the systems already dialed in and any sub-par factory parts already replaced.  Here, instead, we have problems more related to aging components, incorrect maintenance, and the like.  Many of these problems will be evident during the pre-purchase survey, and, in our case, we made allowance for many expected problems in the final settled price of the boat.

Even when all is working perfectly, ongoing failures are a routine part of boating life, the inevitable result of statistical probabilities.  I once tried to count the number of pumps we have aboard, and found that we have close to twenty of them.  Many are in use nearly 1,000 hours each year.  If the MTBF of a properly maintained pump is, say, 5,000 hours, then we can expect to replace a pump every three months or so.  That's an oversimplification, of course, but you get the idea.

So the answer to the final question, about running for "a period of time" without having to fix something, depends on what you mean by "period."  Yes, we can run for days, weeks, or even months with nothing breaking.  But I can't imagine any boat similar to ours, new or used, going for a full year, or even half that, of full-time, live-aboard use without something breaking.  We cope with this situation by carrying a full-time mechanic (yours truly), a full set of tools, and spares for all the critical parts we can imagine.  Many boaters, including our friends, choose instead to add redundancy -- they have two engines, two generators, two water makers, two steering pumps, etc..

I mention all this now so that I do not sound like a broken record, or like I am whining, when I tell you, so soon on the heels of the coolant pump issue, that our bow thruster quit on our way out of the Maryland Yacht Club a week ago.  We knew this was going to happen: as I reported here back in August, the thruster started making pre-failure noises, and inspection revealed drive leg oil seepage that indicated it was not long for this world and would need to be replaced.  We were hoping it would hang in there until our scheduled haul-out in Deltaville two weeks hence, but it was not to be.  Fortunately, we only have two more dockings before then, so I can't complain.

As long-time readers will know, this is not the first, second, or even the third time our thruster has gone out.  I think, however, that all the failures are related. The drive leg failed early on in our ownership, and I am guessing that was the original and thus ten years old.  We had it replaced, and a couple of months later it melted one of its battery terminals.  Later still it sheared a coupling, and we discovered the bolts were not properly tightened during the replacement.  This likely caused the terminal meltdown as well as the sheared coupling. My guess is that the latest failure is the inevitable result of internal gear damage that was done during that episode.  Live and learn:  we will watch and make certain the leg is installed properly this time around.

After pulling out of the slip at the yacht club, we went around to the pumpout dock while conditions were calm.  It's a face dock, so I had no trouble approaching without the thruster.  After pumping out, we had an enjoyable cruise to Baltimore.  Things got a bit rocky when we arrived at the marina, in the middle of a weekend procession of a half dozen or so boats.

Fort McHenry, flying a replica of the Star Spangled Banner (15 stars and 15 stripes).

The marina had assigned us to a slip at the end of a very long fairway.  It would have been a perfect back-in, with a great view and very close to the ramp leading ashore.  But we had ten knots or so of crosswind, and I thought it would be too risky to try.  After some back-and-forth on the radio they gave us a bow-in slip closer to the entrance, but as soon as I started my turn to line up, the boat got caddy-wumpus and there was no way I was going to get it into the slip without hitting anything.

It took everything I had to back all the way out of the fairway into open water, much to the annoyance of the other boats waiting to enter.  We pleaded with the marina to give us a spot on the face dock, which would have been a slam-dunk, but they had reservations for larger boats covering the whole dock.  We finally convinced them to give us a slip much closer to the fairway entrance, with no boat in the adjacent slip (the slips are in pairs, with no pier or pilings separating the two spots).  That was the ticket, and I got it in on the first shot with no further problems.

It's a nice marina, adjacent to the Rusty Scupper restaurant where Martin and Steph joined us for dinner that evening.  The marina has passes for the very nice indoor pool and fitness center in the Royal Sonesta hotel across the street.  It is a short walk to all the inner harbor attractions, and a pleasant walk along the quay in the other direction leads to the Harborview Marina where Trawler Fest was held and our friends were staying.  We got a discounted rate, arranged for the show.

Over the weekend we put one scooter down and I spent a good part of Monday and Tuesday running errands, including picking up the new coolant pump at the Komat'su dealer, and loading up on distilled water at Walmart and Fleet Charge coolant at the auto parts store.  Louise also made a provisioning run to the nearby grocery store before we hoisted the scooter back on deck Tuesday evening, mostly because it was too much of a hassle to park it.

Komat'su water pump.  Hard to tell here, but it's big.  And heavy.

Monday afternoon our new bicycles arrived from Amazon.  The scooters are absolutely wonderful, and usually the right solution when we are tied up at a dock.  But we prefer to anchor out, and there is typically no way to get scooters ashore when we are anchored.  We've been hunting around for some inexpensive folding bicycles that we can carry ashore in the tender, effectively extending our shopping and exploring range by several miles.

One of our new bikes.  We've ordered a folding stand so we don't need to use the pedestal like this on a dock.

Louise found these 18-speed mountain bikes on-line, with a single hinge in the middle and 26" wheels.  They don't get particularly small, and they are anything but light, but they work great and they (just barely) fit in the tender.  We happily used the bikes to get around, and over to Harborview and back.  We need to make some carry bags for them, mostly to protect the boat and the tender from pointy bits on the bikes.

When we were not running around on errands or assembling bicycles, we enjoyed seeing some of the sights around the Inner Harbor and enjoying several restaurants with Martin and Steph, who also fed us a couple of meals aboard.
We enjoyed meeting our neighbors JD and Whitney, their trawler displaced from Harborview for the show.  We also caught up with many long-time friends at Trawler Fest yesterday, and we were sorry to have to leave this morning after just a single day.

The "big boy" dock at Trawler Fest.

We shoved off at 8:15 for a long day's cruise.  It was calm and the adjacent slip was still empty, so it was straightforward backing out and getting turned around without the thruster. On our way out of the harbor I captured a shot of the Trawler Fest docks behind us, as well as one of the city skyline and the nuclear-powered cargo/passenger ship NS Savannah.

Goodbye, Baltimore!

Nuclear Ship Savannah.

With so much going on in Baltimore, I did not have a chance to post to the blog. When I realized we'd have an autopilot-intensive ten hour cruise today I decided to just wait until we were under way and post a bigger update.  As nice as it would be to make a few stops along the way, such as Annapolis or Solomons, my cousins are arriving in Williamsburg on the 28th, and we'd like to be there shortly thereafter; I booked the marina for the 30th.  It's at least a three-day trip, and we left some room for weather, with today being our longest run.

At this writing, we've been under way nearly seven hours, and the coolant leak has essentially stopped completely.  It was greatly reduced on our way to Baltimore, and we had a bit come out when I revved it up several times while maneuvering this morning.  We'll see how it does when I do my "full RPM" five-minute run at the end of the day, but at this point I am willing to try putting the correct coolant in the system and calling it good for the time being.  We've got the spare pump on board now for the day when it starts back up at a more prodigious rate.

Tonight we should be somewhere in the Patuxent River, a run of about 65 nautical miles.  Tomorrow will also be a long day, unless weather intervenes. We have some flexibility in our arrival date, and I want to come in to the face dock at Yorktown with a minimal amount of current, on the nose.  That should make the lack of thrusters moot.  Blossom will join us there a day or two later.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Catch-up day

We are docked at the Maryland Yacht Club, off Rock Creek near Pasadena, Maryland (map).  It was a very short trip here from our last stop -- anchored just a few hundred yards away at a familiar stop in Rock Creek along with our friends aboard Blossom.  They weighed anchor shortly ahead of us, did some docking drills, and headed off to Baltimore, where we will join them tomorrow.

We had a nice cruise Tuesday from our quiet anchorage on the Corsica.  Blossom headed out just before us, and they ran a good half to three quarters of a knot faster than us as well -- it's a longer boat and so has a higher cruise speed.  We were able to mostly keep up with them by cutting all the corners closer, as we also have a lower draft.  We would have been right behind them coming in here except I had to dodge a Coast Guard cutter and a container ship while I was crossing the ship channel.

While we were anchored here, they lent us their whizzy pedal-powered kayaks to try them out.  I have to say, they are much easier to propel with the big leg muscles than with upper arm strength.  That said, for our purposes, simpler is probably better and I think we will continue shopping for a two-person conventional paddle-powered model with no frills.

We got together Tuesday evening for cocktails on Vector, and Wednesday we had cocktails aboard Blossom before piling in their enormous tender and going ashore to Mike's for dinner.  They were having a special on crab cakes, and four of the five of us ordered them, which left Louise and I with three leftover crab cakes for dinner last night as well.  Good thing -- there's nothing in walking distance here except the yacht club itself (closed Thursday evening), but at least we are here on a free two-night certificate that we won at last year's MTOA rendezvous.

Now that we're apart for a couple of days, today was a good day to tackle some projects.  Chief among them is the leaking engine coolant pump, one of perhaps two dozen pumps on the boat.  A week ago, Louise noticed some red coolant in the bilge during a routine engine room check.  After the engine cooled down I was able to track it back to behind the coolant pump pulley, and after removing the belt guard it was clear that it was coming out of the weep hole on the bottom of the pump.

This can mean only one thing, which is that coolant is coming past the shaft seal. A call to Northern Lights in Seattle confirmed the seal would probably need to be replaced, and to get to the pump I'd have to remove the expansion tank, the thermostat housing, and all the external coolant plumbing.  Then I'd either need an impeller puller and a bearing press to rebuild the pump, or to replace the pump entirely.

A follow-up call to the service manager on the east coast brought some slightly better news.  It turns out that we have the wrong coolant in the engine, a type that is known not only to cause premature seal wear, but also to squeeze past the seal much more easily.  The engine was delivered with the proper coolant, as well as a coolant filter and time-release additive canister.  Somewhere along the line some mechanic removed the filter canister, including all its mounting hardware and plumbing, and refilled the cooling system with this incorrect coolant, nominally to extend the drain interval.

The suggestion from the service manager was to completely drain the extended-life coolant and replace it with plain water, run the engine for a few days, and see if the leak stops or at least slows down.  If so, he thinks I can get away with refilling the system with the proper coolant without having to replace the pump just yet.

So today's project was to drain the coolant, all seven or eight gallons of it, and fill the system with tap water.  We wanted to be at a marina for this project, in case anything went wrong (such as a drain petcock breaking).  A bonus in doing it here is that this marina actually has a collection drum for used antifreeze.

We've now got fresh water in the cooling system, but I had to valve off the loop going to the domestic water heater, as I could not bleed all the air out of it.  The engine is running fine on a static test, but only the trip to Baltimore tomorrow will tell us if the cooling system is working normally.  I don't expect to have a result on whether this will slow the leak until another few days of running, after we leave Baltimore.

Given that this is a critical failure point, and could leave us stranded, I also ordered a replacement coolant pump, which is waiting for us in Baltimore. Northern Lights wanted $1,800 for it, but I was able to order it directly from Komatsu for $1,300 -- apparently, it costs $500 to spray-paint it Lugger White over the stock construction-equipment yellow.  And I used to think Detroit Diesel parts were expensive.

If we end up needing to replace the pump, we'll do that in Deltaville when we are there next month.  They have a Lugger technician on staff, and can get all the O-rings, gaskets, and seals that will be needed to reassemble the cooling system after the replacement.  If it is still serviceable, I might have them rebuild the old pump as a spare.

When it rains, it pours, and the other pump on the main engine is also failing. That would be the raw water pump, and the shaft seal on the wet side of the pump is now leaking.  I have a spare for this pump, but I want to also replace all the hoses that connect to it, a job that will be easier when we are out of the water in Deltaville.  I've already had this pump off the engine once, to replace a leaky oil seal, and it's a big job.

Tonight we'll have dinner right here at the Yacht Club, which is supposed to be quite good, and tomorrow morning we will continue on to Baltimore.  Martin and Steph say goodbye to their training captain, Jim, today, and we will reconnect with them when we get into town.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Eastern shore solitude

We are anchored in the Corsica River, off the Chester, just a few miles from Centreville, Maryland (map).  Blossom is anchored just a few hundred yards from us.  It is dark and very, very quiet here at night; the Corsica is navigable only another mile by large boats, and three miles to Centreville by shallow-draft.

We had a very pleasant cruise here Sunday from Rock Hall, although on such a nice day, there was a lot of traffic on the bay.  I suspect some of the traffic was related to the Star Spangled 200, still ongoing on Sunday, which was the final day for the Blue Angels performance.  A good time to be here on the quiet side.

We led out of the harbor and most of the way here, with Blossom taking the lead coming into the Corsica so they could choose their anchorage.  Blossom draws another eight inches more than Vector, so they are the limiting factor.  Left to our own devices, we would have chosen a spot another mile upriver, thus shortening the tender ride into town.

Vector under way, as seen from Blossom.

We each got some good shots of the other vessel under way.  We both splashed our tenders after we dropped the hooks, and Louise and I zipped over to Blossom for a delicious dinner of Moroccan Stew.

Blossom under way, taking over the lead.  She's at full power here, running the engines up to clear the soot.

Yesterday afternoon we all headed into town.  Martin, Steph, and Jim crammed into their tender with two full-size bicycles, and Louise and I went separately in our own tender, which allowed both boats to get on plane for most of the ride. The bicycles were to allow the ladies to head off to the local quilt shop a couple of miles away, while the boys wandered around town (ten minutes) and landed at the pub (45 minutes).

I picked up a couple of gallons of gas for the tender at the lone station/mini-mart in town on our way back toward the river, and the five of us reconnected at Doc's Riverside Grille for dinner.  The crab cakes were delicious and the place was pretty popular for a Monday.

It's a quaint little town, as you might discern from today's cover photo, typical of the eastern shore.  Not much there, except in this case, as the county seat, it sported a number of lawyers and bail bondsmen, encircled around the historic court house.  Apparently it is the oldest operational courthouse in Maryland.

This morning we loaded the tenders back aboard and in a few minutes we will weigh anchor for a familiar anchorage, near White Rocks off the Patapsco River. We should have better Internet access there, and we'll have a couple of restaurants we can dinghy to when we want to get together.  Martin and Steph only have their training captain aboard for another few days, and they are working on anchoring systems this week.