Monday, May 20, 2013

Kind of a drag

We are on the hard at Deltaville Boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia.  It's been a while since I last posted and I have much to update here.  Sorry for keeping everyone in suspense -- yes, I did arrive back safely, tender in tow, Wednesday evening, before sundown as I had hoped.  I ended up stopping at Davis Travel Center to dump the tanks, a familiar stop for us.  The rest of my trip was blissfully uneventful, if a bit long and tedious, and Louise had dinner and a cold beer waiting for me when I arrived home.

We did have a bit of a scramble after I arrived, as the power outlet next to the spot where we were told to park turned out to be in use by the sailboat on the hard in the next spot over.  With no one aboard we simply  left Odyssey unplugged for the night, and Thursday morning they found us a different spot on the other side of the yard, with several power outlets from which to choose.  This spot is much closer to the boat, which is a great advantage, but a bit less shady and further from the pool, which I think will be a welcome amenity in a week or so.

This spot also has 50-amp power, albeit with the marine style receptacle.  I had initially figured I would need to make myself an adapter, until I remembered that one of the goodies that John gave me on my stop in Richmond Hill was a long 50-amp shore cord, which had the correct connectors on each end to simply plug the bus straight in.  After we got the bus squared away I plugged it in, even though we are not yet aboard, because I am having enough trouble with the batteries that I can't even let it go overnight now.  With power available full time, that problem has dropped down the priority list, behind the air system leak and yet another leaking commode seal.

Other than an engine alignment and subsequent sea trial, we were not really on the yard schedule until this week, so we've remained on Vector while we still had the luxury of climate control and a nice view from our aft deck.  That's given me some time to tie up several loose ends on various projects, get materials ordered, and deal with the tenders.  We've been enjoying sitting on the aft deck each evening with a beer before dinner, and while we've mostly been eating in, we did run over to Cocomo's one evening for dinner.

After getting the bus squared away Thursday I spent most of the day recovering from my whirlwind trip.  I had a ton of unanswered emails and a lot of other catching up to do.  We had plans to go out to dinner, but mother nature changed that while we were out on deck sipping our beers.  A severe thunderstorm warning popped up on both the weather radio and my phone, and in a blink of an eye a squall blew in that had us scrambling to add more lines and fenders.

After we secured everything we went back out on deck to watch the show.  Just behind us is a popular anchorage, and several skippers were out on deck keeping watchful eyes on their ground tackle.  At one point we estimated the winds at 25kt steady, gusting to 40 or so.  One unfortunate sailboat, however, was unmanned, and we watched in amazement as their anchor let go in one of those gusts.  The boat moved a hundred feet or so before the anchor grabbed again, but once broken free it never got enough bite to hold the boat.  Every few minutes the boat dragged another few dozen feet, and within the span of a half hour or so the boat had dragged a quarter mile and was threatening to come smashing into the marina.

I ran to tell some of the boaters who might be in jeopardy, then we went back to Vector to grab some lines and fenders.  By the time we made it back to the marina area, the wind had pushed the errant boat into the fuel dock, and one of the aforementioned boaters managed to grab one of its lines.  We helped him finish tying it off, then put some fenders around it.  We left a note for the owner on his tender, tied to the dinghy dock right next to us.

He did not return until this morning, while we were being hauled out.  He was very grateful that we were able to get him tied off.  He was very, very lucky -- this could have ended any of a dozen ways that would have been far worse.  As it was, he ended up owing the marina four nights' dockage, and was glad to pay it.  As for us, it was very instructive to watch what happens when an anchor drags in a squall.

Another consequence of the storm was that someone crashed into a phone pole in the middle of town, taking out every phone line and all Internet service at this end of the peninsula.  So we were without reliable Internet all weekend, making do with very sporadic low-speed connectivity from my cell phone, which itself has a marginal signal here.  Cocomo's had to take our credit card Friday night hand written on one of those old-fashioned carbon-copy charge slips.

Friday and Saturday were project days, and while blogging was on my list, the lack of connectivity pushed it out.  What little online time I had was given over to researching and ordering component parts for the new electrical system, the replacement bilge pumping system, the new tender, and various other projects on our agenda while we are in the yard.  We did make time Saturday evening, though, to get together with fellow cruisers Rod and Pauline, whom we met in Hilton Head, and who are on their way back to Australia for a while after having their boat hauled across the street at Zimmerman Marine.

Yesterday we were finally able to get the new tender in the water.  I needed to put a new battery in it to get it started; fortunately there is a Napa Auto Parts right at the end of the street here.  Given this is the boating capital of the Chesapeake, unsurprisingly they stock a number of marine batteries, and had a drop-in replacement available.  I had to pay cash, owing to the aforementioned phone service disruption, which was not repaired until late yesterday afternoon.

New tender in the water, with the console cover on.

I did not buy this tender sight-unseen, but we had only ever seen it on the trailer.  This was our first opportunity to get it running, and it does have some issues.  We already knew the inflation valves are leaky, and I already have replacements for those.  But there is also a minor leak between one of the tubes and the hull, which is easily handled by the bilge pump, but I'd rather have a completely dry boat.  I need to track it down and get it glued.

The much bigger issue is, well, the much bigger engine.  We knew when we bought it that it was over-powered, which is itself something of a problem.  But the monster 40-horse outboard also makes the boat quite tail-heavy.  I had to cinch up the aft part of the lifting bridle to get it to come up on deck somewhat level, and it sits very bow-high at rest in the water.  Merely adding ballast to the front locker is not a good answer, because the whole combination is already approaching the limit of our 800-lb davit..

It all works fine, and can be trimmed to level once under way, but I'd like to have something lighter on the back.  Now that we've tried it, I'm actively trying to find a 25-hp engine that I can trade for the 40.  I'm sure there is someone out there with a smaller engine who'd love to have the extra 15 horses for free, and if I get lucky I might even find one here in Deltaville.  40hp is too much power for this boat, anyway -- the manufacturer suggests no more than 30.

New tender in old chocks

Cleaning up the old tender for sale and setting up the new one, as well as testing the fit in the chocks, took most of the day.  The new tender is a bit smaller and does not fill the chocks, and has a different bottom shape as well, so we are looking into some kind of high-density foam cushions to make for a snug fit.  I've listed the old tender and motor on the local Craigslist, priced for a quick sale, and we'll be putting some flyers around town as well.  While we are at it, we'll post flyers for the cockpit freezer and the electric range, too.

Our old tender, right at home at the free dinghy dock

With the Internet spotty, it took me most of the weekend, but I finally found a 24-volt alternator to replace the 12-volt model we have now.  It's a 110-amp unit, which is somewhat lower than the 140-amp model I was hoping for, but the larger unit would be a very tight squeeze in the space.  This one is military surplus and I got a good price; once that was ordered I also dropped in orders for a Magnum MS4024 inverter-charger and a Vanner battery equalizer to complete the conversion of our house system from 12 to 24 volts.  I also ordered crimpers, lugs, terminals, and all the myriad bits to finish the job -- we are a long way from anything here, so running out to Home Depot or the local electrical supply house is not an option.

This morning we were hauled out, pressure washed, and blocked on the hard.  This was our first chance to see some of the damage we've done over the last two months.  Surprisingly, the few groundings, including the big one where we had to be towed off, did not take off very much bottom paint.  In fact, the worst damage was really not from grounding, but rather from our anchor chain and snubber arrangement running under the boat as we swing around.  There is a clear arc on each side where the chain rubbed against the bottom.  We think the pad-eye we are having installed at the bow for the snubber will eliminate most of this problem.

I found, as I suspected, a big divot in the paint inside the thruster tube, confirming my suspicions that the loose bolts caused the propellers to interfere with the tube.  That sheared the flexible coupling, and may also have been partly responsible for melting the battery terminal earlier.  Now that I've tightened the bolts the alignment looks good, and I can easily turn the props by hand.  The props look no worse for the wear.

Our biggest surprise was finding a line wrapped around the propeller shaft.  I've been noticing a harsh sound in reverse lately, maybe since leaving Norfolk, and this is probably the cause.  The yard suggests we look at the cutless bearing now, since the wrapped line has probably been interfering with the cooling/lubricating water flow.

Vector is a tough little boat, and seeing how good she looks after a couple of months of abuse is very confidence-inspiring.  We have a lot of work ahead of us, but when we are done, we'll have a great long-range cruiser.  We're going to miss living aboard over the next few weeks, but we can see her right out the windows from Odyssey.


  1. Are you getting a bigger black water tank installed ?

    It really surprised me how often you have to pump out.

    Bill Kelleher

    1. The black tanks are coming out as part of the bilge work. We have asked for a quote to replace them with something larger. That may be a custom-built tank (very expensive), or converting the existing integral gray water tanks to black by epoxy-coating them, and then replacing the gray water system with a sump that discharges overboard, as is more common. We'll also be replacing the old galvanized waste lines with proper sanitation hose, which should cut down on some usage. If none of that works, we'll need to change out the heads for models that do not use nearly two gallons per flush.

    2. I am not sure how much my heads use, but I don't think they are anywhere close to 2 gal. a flush.

      Good luck

      Bill Kelleher

  2. Didn't you just replace the batteries on Odyssey like, eight to twelve months ago?

    1. I know it seems like just yesterday, but it was actually nearly two years ago, in July of 2011 ( That said, two years is unacceptably short for these batteries, so there is something wrong here. That may be a single bad battery taking down the whole bank, or some sort of phantom load such as a problematic battery equalizer or monitor. I did open up the compartment to look for loose terminals, but I have not had a chance to go in with a meter and check everything. Most likely I will need to check each battery individually, which will require taking half of them out -- ugh.

    2. I am very eager to hear what you figure out about what has killed the batteries on Odyssey. That is WAY too short of a lifespan.

      So far so good with our lithiums.....


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