Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nearing the finish line

It's been two weeks since my last update here. While it's been relatively quiet (compared to, say, Mardi Gras), lots of progress has been made on painting, and we've managed to get out and about some, so I will take a moment here to catch up with photos and some narrative.

Vector is still in the paint shed, but we expect them to move her out tomorrow or maybe Tuesday and spot her in the yard. We're still living in the RV, but with any luck we'll be moved back aboard Vector by the end of the week. We've elected to have the yard refresh the bottom paint as well, so we'll need to mind our overboard discharges as that happens.

Hull and topside paint finished, and the rub rails starting to go back on.

When last I posted I mentioned that we had a pickup truck reserved for Tuesday to go out to Jennings and pick up our anchor and chain. That turned into something of a goat rope. Apparently, the phone system at the closest Enterprise office has been on the fritz since the tornado a few weeks ago. I spent over an hour across seven or eight separate phone calls trying to get through to the office to arrange to be picked up here at the yard; eventually it became too late for us to start the project and I gave up. Two hours later they called wondering if we were going to pick up our car. Hell, no.

I re-booked the pickup truck for first thing Thursday morning instead, and called the galvanizer to reschedule. And I filed a complaint with Enterprise HQ that resulted in a call-back from the manager of the local office. At the appointed time Thursday we had a repeat performance with the phones, so we just borrowed the yard truck and drove ourselves over.

The three-hour trip to Jennings was uneventful. We did make a stop at the VF outlet in Gonzales to replenish the strategic khaki reserve. I stopped wearing blue jeans when we traded our motorcycles in on step-through scooters. I find khakis infinitely more comfortable. Of course, they are not nearly as durable, and boat life takes its toll on them; I go through about three pair a year. I'm partial to the ones VF carries and we end up at one of their outlet stores yearly.

We were pleasantly surprised to learn our total for galvanizing the chain, anchor, and fittings was less than quoted. It worked out to just 32.4 cents per pound before tax, less than 37 cents tax included. The anchor looks great, and the chain is well-coated but not stuck together in a lump as can sometimes happen. There are some drip points on the chain that will need to work off in the gypsy. It did take me a half hour to work all the pins back into the three shackles we had done in the batch.

Our classic unobtainium Bruce looks like new, and the chain does as well.

Picking up the truck Thursday morning meant that we still had it Friday morning when Louise needed to go to the airport, and I was up at zero-dark-thirty to drive her out. I still had 1,200 pounds of ground tackle in the truck, much to the annoyance of anyone driving in front of me as I'm certain the headlights were pointed well skyward. On the plus side, the drive through at Dunkin Donuts was empty at 5am so I could get my bagel fix on my way home.

The yard forklifted the chain out at 8am, in time for me to get the truck back to Enterprise and then give them an earful about the twice-repeated pickup disaster as well as how smoky the truck was. I had a car booked for Tuesday afternoon, so I could go get Louise upon her return, and I asked them to pre-schedule my pickup for 3:30pm in case their phones were still out of whack. At just $20 for a day's rental, it was the cheapest option for getting her to and from the airport, plus it would give us a car for a day.

Rental pickup with 1,200 lbs of steel in the back. It was a nice truck, save for the stale smoke smell.

I had grand ambitions for my nearly five days stag here, but virtually none came to pass. For one, I hoped to spend an evening in the quarter, something Louise isn't even luke-warm on. She left for Canada Friday morning, and Friday evening would have been perfect, after napping mid-morning to catch up on my airport-shuttle sleep deprivation. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the upper 70s and I figured the crowd on Bourbon street would be lively and dressed for the weather.

The cat, however, had other plans. She was lethargic and looking green around the gills, and she threw up several times in the afternoon. Reasoning that I would have plenty of time to do the quarter later in the weekend, I opted to have leftovers at home. As luck would have it, temperatures plummeted into the 50s after that and remained that way until Louise returned, with occasional rain to boot.

The weather similarly nixed my plans to change the oil on Louise's scooter, or run errands around town on my scooter. I did make it to the hardware store for a few items while the weather was still nice on Friday. To be fair, we both have full foul-weather riding gear, and I would not hesitate to take the scooter out in rain and low temperatures if need be. But here in New Orleans you get all four seasons in one week, so unless the schedule demands it, it's much more pleasant to just wait for nicer conditions.

Tuesday afternoon Enterprise never showed for my pre-scheduled pickup, and I ended up riding over on the scooter, hopping mad. By this time I had the branch manager's cell phone and I left him a message; he turned out to be offsite at a meeting. They tried to give me another smoky car, too, and after I objected they went through perhaps three other cars (Louisiana has a serious smoking problem) and ended up giving me a premium Dodge Charger in jet black. The cops use these, which made for some interesting shenanigans on the road.

Our spiffy Charger, at left, on the Pointe-a-la-Hache ferry.

The car was so nice that we decided to spend Wednesday just driving around in it. The weather had improved considerably, and we ended up driving as far downriver as one can go on the east bank, to Pointe a la Hache, then taking the dollar ferry across to the west bank and continuing downriver all the way to Venice, the end of the road, before turning around and coming all the way back up the west bank to Harvey. We made a quick provisioning stop before I returned the car.

Back on the Mississippi for the first time since December.

The manager was on hand when I brought the car back, and he comped me the rental for all our troubles. Wish he had been around when I brought back the $100 pickup truck rather than the $20 car, but it was nice gesture anyway. I picked up my scooter from their locked storage yard, where I had left it when I picked the car up.

Also in the last couple of weeks, a welder who has been working on a steel sailboat across the yard agree to rebuild the rocker carriage of our anchor roller assembly. He completely remade it out of 1/4" stainless plate, twice the thickness of the original 1/8" plate. It looks great, and I am hopeful that this will be the end of the carriage bending every time we side-load it, an inevitability when anchoring in any kind of wind.

New roller carriage, with one of the two new Delrin rollers in place. Looks great and we are eager to try it.

Meanwhile the paint crew has been progressing steadily. When last I posted they had just finished shooting the boot stripe. In the last two weeks, they've wrapped up the remainder of the spraying, including the Insignia White on both the outside and inside of all the steel parts of the topsides. The house, still in seven-year-old paint, now looks a bit shabby by comparison, and we'll likely have them clean and buff it before we leave.

Friday they sprayed the final layer of Tuff Coat on the decks. They asked us to go shoeless or in booties while on deck this weekend until it fully cures. I'm really happy with the way this feels; it's more texture than we had previously, and you can definitely feel that it is a polyurethane rubber.

New deck coating. Sand color is hard to make out with the stark white of the gunwales still masked.

One of the add-on projects we asked the yard to do while the swim platform is off for painting is to install a "staple rail" right in the middle of the swim platform. This will serve a threefold purpose; it will make it easier and safer to board and disembark the tender, it will make it easier to ascend the swim ladder from the water, especially in dive gear, and it will provide a measure of safety should anyone topple down the steps from the aft deck, by way of providing something to grab on to before going all the way overboard.

The yard sent the swim platform out to a metal fab to have the holes cut and mounts welded for the stanchions; it came back last week and they painted it Friday. Yesterday, while admiring the paint, we noticed that one of the mounts is in completely the wrong place, one full stringer port of where it was specified. Sadly, they will need to cut a new hole, weld in a new stanchion mount, and weld over and sand flush the incorrect hole. They will have to go back to square one on priming and painting. I think they were hoping to reattach the swim platform on Tuesday; this will push that back at least a week.

In addition to reattaching all the hardware that was removed for painting, finishing the swim step, and repainting the bottom, we have two other projects for the yard to finish. One is to replace all the bolts on the rudder stuffing box, which are badly rusted. And the other is to replace the hose barb for the generator exhaust, which is galvanized steel and also rusting. All these items together will have us here into the first week of April, but if they can turn the swim platform around quickly enough, we should be back in the water around the beginning of the month. With any luck, we will be under way not long after that.

About halfway through shooting the white topsides paint. Looking good so far.

Under way to where, I hear you ask. That's been a great question, and until last week even we ourselves did not have an answer. Some of you know that I have been itching to get the boat offshore and this may well have been the year to head off to the Caribbean or maybe even cross to the Med. However, our decision to linger on the western rivers and then spend over three months in New Orleans to get this long overdue painting taken care of means that we've missed the window for both of those.

Instead we've decided to spend one more season on the US east coast. That gives us a very relaxed schedule for exiting the Gulf of Mexico; essentially it comes down only to how anxious we are about remaining in the gulf into hurricane season. That officially starts June 1, but realistically we are comfortable through the end of June. Our insurance policy has no "hurricane box" exclusion, only an increased deductible for named windstorms.

If we are under way by mid April, that should be plenty of time to explore the gulf coast of Louisiana and Texas. It is 600 nautical miles from here to Brownsville by way of the Intracoastal Waterway, about twenty cruising days. Depending on how long we stop in places like Acadiana, Beaumont, Galveston, and Port Aransas, we might make the whole distance in the 70 or so days available. From there it is a five-day gulf crossing to the west coast of Florida.

Block party in the Irish Channel.

Friday was St. Patrick's Day, which is a big deal in New Orleans. We rode the scooters down to the Irish Channel neighborhood of the Garden District to the big block party down there -- any excuse here to dress up and throw beads. I enjoyed a new (to me) local beer, Irish Channel Stout. Afterward we had a nice dinner at a funky Mexican place in the neighborhood, Rosa Mexcal -- never try to get into a pub on St. Pats (or a Mexican joint on May 5).

Parade on Bienville. You can see my scooter parked on Charters at far right.

With it being such a nice day, and having to basically cross the French Quarter on our way home, Louise and I parted company at Canal Street and I headed to the quarter.  I made the mistake of thinking I could cross the quarter on Chartres at such an early hour, but I got stuck at Bienville for a parade (the first of three I came across that evening), so I just parked there and spent a couple of hours on Bourbon Street. Other than all the beads being green, it was not unlike a Mardi Gras season evening -- Erin Go Braless.

Last night the weather was so nice we went hunting for balcony dining, and ended up at Dat Dog on Frenchmans, an upscale hotdog place with a full bar. We scored a prime table at the corner of the wrought-iron balcony and had great people-watching for the evening over high-end hotdogs and draft Abita Ambers.

It's another beautiful evening, but we have food that needs to be eaten, so we'll be dining al fresco right here at the rig tonight. Tomorrow morning I will sync up with the yard on the schedule impact of the swim platform gaffe, and by my next post I should have more to say about our upcoming plans and schedule.

Sunday, March 5, 2017


We are coming up on the end of our third week here in our cozy Tioga RV (thanks, Pat!). Based on where they are at with the painting, it looks like we have at least another full week or more in the RV, and so tomorrow we will pull up stakes and head next door to the RV park to empty the waste tank.

Happy and still sober in our finery at the Orpheuscapade Monday evening.

It's been an eventful couple of weeks since my last post, both on the painting front and on the Carnival front, so please bear with me as I try to catch up. Mixed in are the inevitable projects, including keeping the RV in live-aboard condition.

Shortly after my last post, we went to Enterprise rental, courtesy of their free pickup, and picked up our pickup. Or something like that. I was a little disturbed to find that the pickup truck they had available lacked a bedliner, the first time I've ever encountered this at Enterprise. I made them note it on the contract since I was sure we'd scratch up the bed some.

The yard loaded our anchor and chain into the truck with a forklift, and we made the three hour drive out to Jennings. The folks at the galvanizing plant were friendly and helpful, removing our pallet with a forklift and filing our job under my name. No other paperwork was required.

I'm sorry I did not get any photographs while we were there. I was a little nervous that we had a little flake rust on the chain, as well as the remains of our every-50-feet painted chain marks,  and we had been advised by others that everything needed to be rust- and paint-free. Ha. Waiting in line at the plant were truckloads of catwalks and staircases from offshore oil rigs, more or less completely covered in rust. When I mentioned the paint to the guy unloading us, he just laughed and said the paint would be no match for the temperature in the galvanizing kettle.

They told us it would be ready in a week, Mardi Gras notwithstanding, and I had another truck booked for Wednesday. But when I called Wednesday morning they said, no, it would be Friday, and so we waved off the rental truck and rebooked for this coming Tuesday. Picking up Friday afternoon was not an option because there'd be no one at the yard to unload it so that we could return the truck Saturday.

White primer is on!

In the meantime, the yard finished prep, sanding, and masking on most of the hull, and last Friday they shot the primer coat. Because of our light finish, the primer itself is white, and seeing Vector in fresh white paint for the first time was something of a milestone.

This water bottle left by one of the crew got primered as well. Yellow hue is from the fiberglass "windows" of the shed.

The weekend brought with it the height of Carnival season, with a more or less unending stream of parades the entire weekend and right up to mid-day on Mardi Gras. It's easy to go over the top here, and I know some folks try to make every parade, or even one a day. That's a lot of standing for us, and we decided to pick and choose. Last weekend we chose to do one major parade, the Krewe of Endymion, which is not only one of the largest parades of the season, but also had a route that came much closer to us than many other parades.

Dancers at Krewe of Endymion.

We opted to take in an hour or so of the parade and then have dinner, and I made reservations at upscale Vessel NOLA just two blocks from the parade route. We made our way into the thick of things on the scooters, parking just a block from the restaurant, and then found our way to the parade route just as the first float was approaching.

KC and the Sunshine Band, slated to perform later at the Endymion Ball at the Superdome. KISS was also performing and had a float in the parade.

We found a spot in an intersection between two strips of neutral ground. The neutral ground itself gets divvied up and staked out hours before the parades start, and locals who've been laying claim to a particular patch of neutral ground for decades can be mighty territorial about it; in theory, they are not supposed to cordon off any part of the street or sidewalk, but they do. So we were close enough to see most of it, and well-positioned to snag a few throws, but it was rather tight.

The king of Endymion 51. Written LI in many places, just like the Superbowl.

By the time we walked to dinner, we were adorned with quite a few beads and even some of those chemical glow strip necklaces. We were a bit surprised to find the restaurant pleasantly uncrowded, and were seated immediately even though we were a bit early, on account of desperately needing a restroom after a beer on the parade route. The parade was still in full swing.

Maids of Endymion. Like the king, and the headliners, some of the very few riders permitted to be maskless on a float.

After dinner we walked to a different spot on the route, a bit closer to the start. We were surprised to find that we were only just past mid-parade or so in the float lineup. Sure, Endymion is a big parade, but it seemed like we should be further along. Only later, when we got home and checked back in online, did we learn that a pickup truck with an extremely drunk driver had careened into the parade route just two blocks away, sending over two dozen people to the hospital. Our second near-miss of our New Orleans visit.

One of the numerous marching bands at Krewe of Endymion. These guys were good.

While Krewe of Endymion was the last parade we took in al fresco, we concluded our own Carnival revelry with one last parade on Lundi Gras, as we attended the black tie Orpheuscapade Ball at the New Orleans Convention Center. I've attended more conventions, sporting suit and tie, at this venue than I care to recount, and we've even been to a boat show here, but this was a first for us.

The reason did not become clear to us until the parade came through, but, for openers, the tables are set on the bare concrete floor of the halls, without carpet. Also, contrary to what one might expect of a formal ball, neither food nor drink is provided. And so entering the convention center one is struck by the oddity of revelers dressed in black tie, yet pulling wheeled coolers as if they are going to an NFL tailgate. We brought two bottles of wine, one red, and one white.

With the doors opening at 7pm and the parade not expected to arrive until well past 8pm, we reckoned that we could do better than tin-foil chafing-dish food that was available on pre-order from the convention center caterer. So instead we made dinner reservations at trendy Cochon in the Warehouse District, just two blocks from the convention center. We figured we had plenty of time to arrive by scooter before the parade made traffic untenable.

Thus the evening started with us dancing around one another in the tiny coach getting into our formalwear. Donning black tie is one of the very few occasions when I lament the passing of an era when a gentleman had a gentleman's gentleman to help him dress. Somehow we got the gowns zipped, the cuffs linked, the plackets studded, and the bows tied, and boy am I glad that I still fit into the same tuxedo I wore to our wedding some decade and a half ago. Sadly, my patent shoes are showing their age, but they served the purpose.

And then we put our motorcycle helmets on and rode to dinner through the French Quarter and the Warehouse District. We got more than a few looks en route, and the couple seated next to us at dinner inquired about our dress. They turned out to be from Sacramento, and were staying on the Celebrity cruise ship in port (which is adjacent to the convention center). The ship was docked for three nights on a special Mardi Gras cruise.

We walked to the convention center, picked up our will-call tickets, and found our way to our table, where we were seated with a family from Canada, a woman from Oregon, and two women I never managed to catch up with. After a short walk around the floor we ended up near the stage, dancing to the tight cover band that played all the way until parade time.

Dancing to the cover band, complete with impressive light show.

The parade route is fenced off and makes a big loop around the convention center; our table was right next to the route and so we had front-row seats. The parade was headed by the New Orleans Police motor unit, lights flashing and sirens blaring. The sight of this inside the convention center is poorly captured in words, so instead I have a short video.

NOPD Motor Unit leading the Krew of Orpheus parade into Morial Convention Center

The remainder of the parade was an absolute cacophony, with several marching bands, a number of dance troupes, and every float with music either live or recorded. The parade, at this point, has been under way for something more than four hours, and you can see how tired the participants are as they make their way around the final few hundred feet of route. The drummers, in particular, seemed well past done.

The view from our table as we awaited the parade. A long way from the stage, but we could see the band action on the jumbo screens. LA State Police are stationed at the fence, which was closed just before the parade arrived.

We had not really given it much thought ahead of time, but one consequence of being at the very end of a Carnival parade route is that the throws come fast and furious -- the Krewes are trying to get everything off the floats before they get off themselves. We were pelted with quite a number of entire unopened bags of Mardi Gras beads. One of the throws knocked our wine bottles over, causing me to cork them forthwith, but a later throw took the red bottle off the table entirely and smashed it on the floor, no doubt why there are no carpets deployed for this event.

A float approaches. Watch out for flying beads.

We came away with quite the array of loot, from giant beads to blinky whistles and headbands. Louise snagged a colorful stuffed centipede. As is true all over the city, about half what was thrown landed directly on the floor. New Orleans is the only place I've ever been where "Mardi Gras Beads" have their own bin at the recycling center. (Undamaged strings in good condition can be donated to a local charity, who cleans them up and sells them to next year's Krewes.)

One of the many excellent marching bands from all over the country. They looked tired.

After the parade was over, with many of the floats parked around the edges of the hall, the riders took their seats at the tables to continue the party. We stayed until a half past midnight, by which time I was encountering women in ball gowns in the men's room (the line for the women's extended well into the hall), again reminiscent of the aforementioned NFL games. The headline entertainment was just starting, but we were past done, and we made our way back out to the street.

One of the spectacular floats "parked" near our table. The Krewe is already off and at their tables.

If we were a sight in formalwear and helmets on our way into town, we were more of a sight in formalwear, helmets, beads, and blinky lights on our way back out. By this time the party in the quarter was in full swing, and we passed quite the cadre of scantily clad revelers as we rode down Canal Street. Many were already staggering.

The aftermath... throws all over the floor. It looks just like this outdoors along parade routes, too.

That was really as much drunken mayhem as we needed to see in the quarter, and so we opted not to go back on Mardi Gras itself. Unlike the parades and even the balls, which are attended predominantly by locals, the quarter is wall-to-wall tourists, sprinkled with the types who would prey upon them. I'll make my requisite pilgrimage to Bourbon Street a bit later on, when the mayhem has died down to a dull roar.

The yard was off both Monday and Tuesday. Mardi Gras is actually a legal holiday in Louisiana, and many businesses are closed. Traffic is miserable for anyone else; we stayed home the whole day. Wednesday morning the crew came back to work, and things returned to normal throughout most of the city.

Moondust on the hull. The picture does not do it justice, but we think it looks awesome.

Despite it being a short week, the crew quickly finished prep of the primer coat, and Thursday they sprayed color on the hull. It looks great, and we think we made the right choice by going with the Moondust. Friday morning they taped and in the afternoon they shot the boot stripe. This week they will finish the prep above decks and start spraying the Insignia White topsides and maybe they will even get to the decks, which we are having done in Tuff Coat elastomer in a color to match the hull.

Black bootstripe is on.

Friday I came down with a cold and decided to go to bed early. On my way to bed I stepped in a wet spot on the floor, and my first thought was that the cat had peed on our friend's carpet. Fortunately, it smelled like nothing other than fresh water, and it seemed like there was too much of it to be cat pee.

This spot is right next to the shower, and opening the access panel below the shower floor revealed a small puddle. The drains seemed fine, so we opened the access panel behind the shower valves to find a drip at one of the fittings. The RV industry had just moved away from failure-prone polybutyrate piping (amid numerous lawsuits) when this rig was built, but apparently not all the fittings had been updated, because these look like polybutyrate to me. I turned the water off to the entire rig (there are no individual shutoff valves) and went to bed.

Broken fitting. If you click to enlarge you can see a piece of the butyrene is actually missing.

Saurday we borrowed the yard truck and Louise drove my drugged-up self out to Lowes, where I found a replacement fitting. My PEX crimpers are back on the boat since having wrapped up the toilet repair, so I opted for the push-on plastic style that can be installed without tools. I am happy to report there are no leaks in the shower now.

All fixed. The push-on fittings are larger, but still easily fit behind the access panel.

Elsewhere on the project front we determined that the "horned" hawse pipes would not work and ordered the more plebeian replacements, I received the backup AIS which turns out to be inoperative (I bought it as parts), and we negotiated with a welder to rebuild part of the anchor roller.

I expect we will be in the RV another two weeks. This Tuesday we'll make the trek out to Jennings and back to get the ground tackle from the galvanizer, and Thursday I have another car booked so I can take Louise to the airport at oh-dark-early on Friday for her trip to Abbottsford, BC for our nephew's wedding. I'll be here to ride herd on the painters until she returns on Tuesday.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Just like Old Times

We are living in a 30' Fleetwood Tioga in a pole barn on the Seabrook Marine property. Considering that half our view for the week or so we were still on the boat consisted of a dozen or so rigs in the RV park across the canal, we are having something of an RV-fulltiming flashback.

Our view from our slip, complete with campfires in the evening.

I mentioned here already that the yard is in the industrial hinterlands, and when the weather is nice we've been going further and further afield on the scooters to find some interesting dining options. Riding south through Desire (the name of a neighborhood and a street but no longer a streetcar line) we eventually reach Bywater and Marigny, where an eclectic mix of ultra-casual and uber-trendy joints beckons.

Rust remediation and fairing continues in our wet slip. Blue paint is "guide coat" that shows where sanding has not been finished. Anchor locker hatch is gone.

Last weekend we had al fresco weather and I picked a nice place on the trendy side for dinner, on the grounds that they had patio dining. Little did we realize that it was but two or three blocks from the starting point of the evening's Krewe Du Vieux parade, the first of Mardi Gras season, and as we got closer and closer to the restaurant the streets were thick with revelers in all manner of costumes. Had we not been on scooters we would scarcely have made it through, and we certainly could not have parked.

Krewe Du Vieux passing by, as seen from our restaurant.

We missed most of the parade itself because we were inside eating; the restaurant was packed when we arrived and emptied out as the parade started. Krewe Du Vieux is one of the more adult parades, and I suspect things get a bit bawdy as it approaches the Vieux Carre (aka the French Quarter).

We more or less rode our scooters through this throng to get to dinner.

Not wanting to repeat the accidental parade-participant scenario, I promptly downloaded the Mardis Gras Parade Tracker app on my phone, and I am now getting alerts as each parade starts and I have the routes at my fingertips. As with Carnival or Junkanoo in the islands, Mardis Gras is a weeks-long affair here in the Crescent City.

The beige color is "high build" paint that fills in small imperfections and is sanded smooth later.

We spent a good part of last weekend moving gear from the boat to the RV and getting the RV fired up and running. That was not without its hiccups, as shortly after we hooked up the water supply, the toilet started leaking (fresh water, onto the bathroom floor), and not long after we plugged in the water heater, with its very jury-rigged electric add-on element, the relief valve popped and a flood of water started emanating from the slideout. Maybe a little too much like old times.

Water heater with hokey wiring for an electric element. The thermostat, which is supposed to be glued to the tank inside the rig, is instead zip-tied to the relief valve, with the red tag on it. The power cord runs out the door at bottom left.

I turned off the water heater and pulled the defective relief valve out; it's a weird RV size which I had to order. I also ordered a new water valve for the potty, and in the interim I cut the PEX supply line and installed a stop valve so we could have a working water system. We just had to open the stop valve each time we flushed the toilet. That's not often -- with a tiny little black tank and a colossal pain-in-the-butt to drive over to the dump station at the RV park next door, we are using the marina rest rooms for everything but middle-of-the-night pee breaks.

Stop valve and new supply line for toilet. The old compression fitting, crimped directly to the PEX, was also leaking due to a worn washer.

The water heater valve arrived just in time for us to move in on Valentine's Day (we're so romantic) when they hauled Vector out of the water, thus booting us off the boat. After pressure-washing the bottom, they took Vector straight to the paint shed to be blocked.

Vector hauled out and getting a pressure wash. No matter how many times you see 55 tons hanging in the slings, you never get at peace with it when its your own boat.

Speaking of the bottom, it turned out to be in excellent condition, despite some fears of paint failure based on the report of an inexperienced diver in Chattanooga, and the horrible scraping sounds we were hearing in Mandeville as we bounced up and down against the river bottom. The only issue we found was some damage to the leading edge of the port stabilizer fin.

Damage to the outboard leading edge of the port fin.

We both scratched our heads on this one. It looks a lot like grounding damage, but neither of us recalls a grounding incident on our port side since the last haulout. We caught the starboard fin in the mud trying to get into a skinny slack harbor in Helena, Arkansas, but no such episode on the port side. There were a number of times on the rivers when we hit underwater debris, though, so it was either one of those incidents, or else what we heard scraping in Mandeville was the edge of the fin.

Vector about to get "under way" to the paint shed across the yard.

In any case, we can find nothing wrong with the stabilizer mechanism, and the fin damage is superficial fiberglass damage which the yard here can easily repair. It will merely add a day or so, and a boat unit or so, to our yard stay.

The propeller will need some fresh primer and paint.

Shortly after settling in to our new digs, a long-time reader who has followed us since our freewheeling RV days contacted us to say he was at an RV park right here in town while he worked the seasonal See's Candy operation here, which closed its doors on Valentine's. Tom dropped by for a meet-and-greet and to gift us a couple of boxes of See's before he had to leave town.

Vector looks enormous on the hard, but somehow the scale of this gigantic shed is lost here and she looks small, until you notice the workers. She has since been surrounded with scaffolding.

Lots of boxes arrived last week from Amazon and eBay. I ordered new latches for the Portuguese lockers, two new hawse-pipes with integral cleats, a new burgee staff and holder, two additional cleats, new windlass foot switches, two spare bilge pumps, a spare AIS transceiver, a European power plug (masquerading as an IBM power cord), and a new power supply for my laptop. The first several items on the list are the direct result of the paint project, while the remainder were simply because we have a good address for a few weeks.

In NOLA, everyone loves a parade. Here the final float of Krewe of Carrollton passes us Sunday, as the crowd clamors for beads and baubles.

As luck would have it, I had problems with more than half the items. Chief among them, the hawse pipes. Louise has long wanted another pair of hawse holes just abaft the Portuguese bridge. That's a big, messy job, and the right time to do it is when the boat is being painted, as all the hawse pipes will come off for the process.

Because I don't have easy access to the underside of the deck in that location, deck-mounted cleats are not an option, and so we opted for these, which have horns built-in that serve the purpose. The manufacturer, Buck Algonquin, assured us through their dealer that these pipes mated up to optional backing pates, and we ordered two of each. When they arrived, however, it was clear the hawse hole through the backing plate was smaller than the hawse pipe, which would leave us with a sharp edge.

Hawse pipe atop its backing plate. Look past the protective plastic on the pipe to see the edge of the backing plate, proud of the inside of the pipe all the way around.

I've been emailing back and forth with the dealer for a solid week with no resolution. We're running out of time; the backup plan is to order plain hawse pipe/backing plate combinations and a pair of conventional cleats which we will have to mount vertically to the Portugese coaming.

Meanwhile, the spare AIS, which weighs in at 26 pounds and for which I was charged some $42 in shipping, was sent to our mailbox in Florida rather than to the shipping address I specified, right here. I had to open an eBay case and argue with the seller for a full week before he agreed to cover the shipping from there to here, which I can't even start until his refund comes through next week.

You can buy these ladders ready-made, but most make their own. A "child seat" is bolted to the top of a 6' stepladder, and then wheels are added to make hauling it to the parade a snap. Kids sit on top and parents stand on the rungs. Many have cup holders and bead hooks attached. Lots of rolling coolers and folding chairs, too.

One of the bilge pumps and the laptop power supply turned out to be aftermarket items instead of the advertised OEM models; inexcusable for Amazon sales, albeit half expected on eBay items (one of each in this case). The seller of the IBM power cord sent the wrong thing altogether. And the burgee staff holder that was supposed to be brass turned out to be pot metal, while the cleats I purchased, although the correct length, were an unsuitable diameter.

One of the many dance troupes, some serious and some farcical.

With any luck we'll have all the deck hardware on hand before the crew is ready to start installing it. Right now they are still fairing and sanding, and they just finished getting the rub rails off. These turned out to be HDPE rather than the assumed painted teak; HDPE can't be painted, and today we had a quick exercise to tweak the paint scheme to account for white rub rails on a Moondust hull. I was able to make a usable, if amateur, photo mockup at the last minute.

White rub rail in front is not ideal, but not too out-of-place.

I've been madly taping up everything I can on the boat to keep the sanding dust out, using 2" masking tape. Every outside door is taped save for the starboard pilothouse door, which is kept dogged. All the sliding windows are taped, the hatch is taped, as well as all the locker doors in the staterooms and galley.

Too many beads to wear? Just use a handy fire hydrant to hold them.

While I was taping up the aft deck, before we were hauled, I stepped on what used to be the hatch to the tiller flat, but was now just a piece of plastic sheeting, and I fell right in, banging myself up in the process. The crew helpfully put a piece of plywood over the hole immediately thereafter, which kept Louise from doing the same thing while we were moving the boat to the lift. That was a week ago and I still have the bruises and a hitch in my get-along.

One marching band was escorted by this pair of Jefferson Parish Sheriff units. Neither one was Steven Segal.

Now that we're off the boat and I can't do any projects there, I've busied myself with fixing online orders, looking up marine hardware, and tackling the stuff I was able to bring with me. The new valve for the toilet arrived and I was able to install it, fixing the leak, without having first to remove the toilet altogether. And once I had the right IBM power cord I was able to salvage the connector and build my third and final European power adapter (one each for 16-amp, 32-amp, and 63-amp service).

Lest I get too complacent, the RV insists on keeping me busy, too. Saturday while I was out getting my hair cut, two of the hand grabs for the sliding windows came off right in Louise's hands. I'll need to find a way to glue them back on.

Oops. What kind of glue was that?

This weekend our friends Shonda and Michael were in town, passing through in their RV. We last saw them in Florence, Alabama when we passed through there in October. We had a nice dinner with them Saturday at Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant on Magazine, uptown.

The Gold Wing club's sub-Krewe. About half were trikes. Many bikes had trailers, including a few of these miniature boats (really cargo trailers). Note the bead rack between the handlebars -- all Krewes need beads!

Sunday we met them again on Magazine for the Krewe of King Arthur parade. We arrived right at the nominal starting time of 1:15, parking the scooters less than a block away, but we found ourselves instead at about the midpoint of the Krewe of Carrollton parade, running late. So we got to see most of two parades, which was plenty for one day. We thought we might catch another dinner with them, but they had been on the parade route since the start of the Femme Fatale parade at 11am and they called it a day before King Arthur was finished.

Start of Krewe of King Arthur. This first float is a sort of bead receptacle -- you can see people throwing beads into the float, rather than the other way 'round.

Tomorrow morning we have a pickup truck rented from Enterprise. Friday morning we spooled all the anchor chain off the boat onto a pallet, along with the anchor, the chain hook, and three shackles, and tomorrow we will load the pallet in the pickup truck and drive it to a hot dip galvanizing plant in Jennings, about three hours west of here. Sunday I cut the retaining spring and removed the "hammer lock" connector that has held the anchor to the chain for three years; it is in remarkably good condition for ungalvanized alloy steel that has been dragged along or buried in countless seafloors.

The grade-100 hammer-lock connector that has held our anchor on for three years. Although I can get a replacement spring collar for this one, we'll fit a brand new one when we reinstall the anchor.

This coming weekend will be the thick of Mardis Gras. The yard is closed Monday and Tuesday, as are many businesses in New Orleans (by contrast, almost nothing was closed today for Presidents Day, not even the public schools). We're still toying with the idea of going to one of the black tie balls (we brought our formalwear off the boat just in case), and we'll probably catch another parade or two now that we know we can get as close as we'd like on the scooters.

We saw many marching bands, but where we were positioned, only the drumlines were playing for most. This school was the exception and we got to hear their brass.

With the four-day weekend coming up, the yard is estimating we have another three weeks before completion. In addition to fixing the stabilizer fin and touching up the bottom paint, we've asked them to fabricate and install a "staple" rail for the back of the swim platform, something we've wanted for a long time and which is best done before painting.

One for my Red Cross ECRV friends. The LA State Police Incident Command post was in the parade.

I hope you enjoy some of these pictures of Mardis Gras celebrations. I'm sure I will have a few more for my next post. And I will leave you with this video of two New Orleans Police officers, who were stationed near us on the parade route, spontaneously dancing with one of the dance troupes in the King Arthur parade.