Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Time out

We are back at the boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia.  I had hoped to blog one more time from the road before we returned, but circumstances conspired against that (more on that in a moment).  Now that we are back, I am up to my eyeballs in projects and interacting with the yard -- we barely have time to eat, and I am exhausted at the end of each day.  Finding time to post has been an impossibility, and so this afternoon I've called "time out."  I'm going to do my best to get a post in while relaxing with a beer before dinner.

We had a lovely time at dinner Friday evening and the wedding ceremony and reception afterward on Saturday were equally nice.  It was great to catch up with a plethora of family whom we rarely see; at least one person remarked they had last seen us at our own wedding, ten years ago.  The reception was over and breaking up by six, so we actually headed out and ended up spending Saturday night at the Walmart in Kannapolis, North Carolina, to get a head start on our lengthy return trip Sunday.

The reason that was important goes back to those conspiratory circumstances.  We had obtained permission in advance to park Odyssey at the church where both Friday's rehearsal dinner and Saturday's reception were to be held.  The only two driveways were uphill ramps off a heavily crowned road, and even though we chose the less inflected of the two and pumped the air suspension up as high as it could go, we still ended up low-centering on the entry.

Long ago we learned to just power through these rather than pussy-foot, because the latter can literally get us stuck, with each end of the bus on high ground and the drive wheels spinning uselessly in the gutter.  But that opens the possibility that as we power through, the drive axle will drop so rapidly that one of the suspension airbags will come off its seat.  When this happens, there is perhaps a 60% chance that it will immediately re-seat on its own, but if it doesn't, it's a bear to get back on.

Of course, that's what happened as we pulled in to the lot.  We just dumped all the air out of the suspension and went to our dinner gathering, leaving the dirty work to Saturday morning, when we called our roadside assistance plan (for the second time in a month) and had them send help.  It turns out they came from Kannapolis, a good 30 miles from Charlotte, which took them an hour in traffic.

They actually sent two guys, but not all the right equipment (no air jacks, for example), and it took the three of us over two hours, using a combination of their manual jacks and mine, to get the air bag off the bus, re-seated, back on, and inflated.  It's been a very long time since this last happened, but the process was the same, and the two mechanics were very happy I had been through it before and could give them step-by-step instructions, as they had never seen an airbag setup like ours (and one of the guys was in his late 70s and had been doing this for nearly a half century).

Between the travel delay, the lengthy repair, and paying the bill, it was all I could do to get showered and into wedding-appropriate clothes in time for the ceremony, a mile away at a different church.  We had pulled the scooters out while we were waiting for the mechanics to show up.  And there went all of the time in which we were going to do our big-box shopping and perhaps some more family socializing.  At one point I was even concerned that Louise would have to go to the ceremony without me.

All's well that ends well, and we were able to get back under way after the reception without incident.  The deacon of the church, who had been very accommodating in allowing us to spend Friday night (and Saturday had we needed it), showed us an alternate route out of the lot that involved cutting across a field to access a gravel drive which did not have the inflection issue, and we were able to make our exit with nary a scrape.

Since we were able to get a head start Saturday evening, we managed to stop at Home Depot Sunday.  We spent two full hours in the store, and I still did not fill the whole shopping list.  On top of all the stuff we picked up there and at Walmart on Thursday evening, we received over a dozen boxes of mail-order items over the last two days, including a giant inverter, 10' long blinds, a step-up transformer, and two huge rolls of PEX tubing.  The boat is complete chaos, and we are having to step over things to go from stem to stern.

Engine room floor removed.

Lots of these items are destined for the engine room, but that's inaccessible at the moment.  All the sole plates (floorboards) are removed and all the walls and other equipment are covered in polyurethane sheeting as they prepare to paint the bilges.  They'll be spraying tomorrow, so we'll probably spend most of the day back on the bus.

Looking down into the freshly painted lazarette.

We did find a nice surprise when we checked in on the boat Sunday night when we got back.  Both the anchor locker and the lazarette had already been painted, and they were sparkling clean and fresh.  Since then the anchor locker has suffered somewhat, as they have started drilling into the front of the boat to install a massive steel bow-eye near the water line.  This will be the attachment point for our anchor snubber, and can also serve as a towing eye should that ever be necessary.

Anchor locker empty and freshly painted.

Starting to work on the bow eye.

It is all I can do to keep pace with the yard.  To save money, I'm doing whatever part of the work I can, and some of it must happen on a precise schedule to synchronize with the yard.  In the anchor locker I removed most of the wiring for the windlass, to relocate it to the other, dryer side of the collision bulkhead.  The yard is sealing up the old holes, down near the waterline, and drilling new ones at the upper level of the compartment.  I will have to run new wires when they are finished.  As long as we are in there, we're adding more holes for a raw-water anchor washdown system, and I'll be installing, wiring, and plumbing the new 6-gph, 70-psi washdown pump, which arrived today.

The less-pleasant surprise upon our return was no fresh-water pressure in the boat.  After the gang finished for the day Monday, I tracked down the problem to a blown fuse, and I had to slice through some of the polyurethane sheeting to access and replace it.  When I got the pressure pump going, though, it still would not build pressure, and a quick look at the gauge revealed our tank was empty.

We started filling the tank and after ten minutes or so, I turned the pump back on.  Again it would not build to full pressure and shut off.  Then I realized that the sound of water filling the fresh tank was louder than normal.  I peeked in the bilge to discover that a hose fitting had come off, and the pump was pumping all the fresh water right into the bilge.  Probably that's how the fuse blew in the first place (though I had originally guessed it was a result of men working near the pump in the ER), when the hose let go while we were away and the pump merrily emptied the entire contents of our fresh water tank into the bilge before running dry.

Lest I sound like an incessant whiner, it helps to put our "problems" in perspective.  These are all "first-world problems" to begin with, but even in that realm, ours are minor.  I promised you on Friday that I had a story to share when I could find the time, and as long as I am in "time out" here, now is as good a time as any.

This story actually dates back a full week, to the Friday before Memorial Day.  The weather was rather unfavorable for boating, with overcast skies and winds blowing 15-20 knots with gusts to 30 or so.  We monitor the VHF aboard Vector full-time, even here on the hard, and we heard the usual number of minor boating mishaps around the area, including a handful of boats running aground.  This happens nearly every weekend here, as the marinas on both sides of the peninsula are accessible only by navigating narrow and twisty channels with rather nasty shoals on either side.

We are mostly rather bemused by all this -- the incidents are seldom safety issues, and most boats manage to get themselves unstuck after a while, possibly with some help from another boat.  A week or two ago we heard a boat that ran aground who then bent a prop shaft or some such and had to be hauled out, but that's usually the extent of it.  Even these incidents have put our own series of minor groundings into perspective.

Radio distress pro-words are exceedingly rare, and so even with the usual bad-weather melee out on the bay, we both immediately came to full attention when we heard the Mayday.  We grabbed pen and paper and copied the position coordinates as they were read off -- just three miles from us, in the Piankatank River.  A sailboat had gone aground on the shoal north of Gwynn Island, which in itself was not out of the ordinary and generally would not result in a Mayday call -- perhaps a Pan-Pan at the most.  And yet the sailors were on the radio with a genuine emergency -- the TowBoatUS boat that had come to help them had flipped over and capsized, and the operator was in the water.

I was ready to jump in the tender and head the three miles across the river, but calmer heads prevailed and Louise rightly persuaded me that conditions were too much for a little 10' RIB to be effecting a rescue that far out.  Soon after the initial call, calls came in from other boaters who had eyes on the situation, and the Coast Guard was already en route.  Within minutes, the sailboat originally in distress was off the air, and one of the other boats reported that it was because their mast was fully in the water.  The whole mess was so far on the shoal at this point that neither of the other boats could get close enough to help, but that also meant the persons involved could simply stand up and be out of the water.

All involved were uninjured and the Coasties picked them up in a fast-boat, but the capsized sailboat and towboat remained on the shoal for the whole weekend.  Lots of other boaters, who failed to listen to the numerous Sécurité calls the USCG issued for the wreckage, called in on the VHF to report the capsize all weekend long.  On Monday TowBoatUS finally sent two more boats out there to right their overturned vessel and float the capsized sailboat, which was then towed in to the very yard we are at, with the yard owner having to come down on the holiday to pull it out with the lift.

Capsized sailboat in the slings.  Those are foam cushions sticking out the side amidships, crammed in there by a diver to help refloat the wreck for towing.

The keel was missing entirely and the starboard side of the boat was split in two vertically.  A longitudinal gash ran a third the length of the boat, and the hull-to-deck joint had separated along most of the starboard side.  The boat was a total loss, and the owners were lucky to walk away.  Seeing the wreck in the slings made us thankful for our sturdy steel ship made from quarter-inch plate, and put our own grounding troubles, including our panic-stricken one in Tom Point Creek, in perspective.

There was foam in this gash, too, since removed.

I snapped this shot of the interior through the gash shown in the photo above.

The pace of work here is blistering, and I expect my ability to post will continue to be limited.  In addition to the occasional photo that I've been snapping, the yard has also taken numerous photos, and we will try to sort through and pick out some before-and-after shots as things progress.  And now, if you will excuse me, time-out is over, my beer is finished, and I need to get back to work.


  1. Thanks for the post sean, It sure looks like much is going on and we are in your gallery cheering you on. Steve

  2. I concur with Stephen. Making good progress and thanks for taking the time to post another entry!

  3. Right up there with "abandoned animals", I think seeing wrecked boats is probably just about the most heart wrenching thing to see...
    Sad sight, but thanks for sharing.
    A couple years ago, "Yachting Monthly" did some videos of capsizing a boat. It's nasty business.

  4. I, for one, always enjoy your posts.

  5. Are you two ok, haven't seen a post since 4 Jun


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