Saturday, September 14, 2013
Licking our wounds
Posted by Sean
We are anchored just inside the mouth of the Yeocomico river, off the Potomac and about fifteen miles from the Chesapeake. Observant readers will notice that this is decidedly not Solomons, Maryland, which had been our intended destination yesterday.
We knew conditions on the bay would be a little rough when we pulled up anchor. The forecast had actually been for rougher conditions in the morning and improving in the afternoon, but by the time we got up that had changed to lousy conditions all day. Nevertheless, we decided to make a try for it, knowing we'd need to shake the boat down in rough conditions sooner or later anyway.
As is often the case with cars, motorcycles, and other conveyances, the vessel can usually take more than its occupants, and Vector came through no worse for the wear and generally with flying colors, with one exception noted below. The occupants and some other contents, on the other hand, fared somewhat less well.
We ended up pushing north into northwest winds of 15-20, with seas 3+ feet. In the ocean, three-foot seas would be almost child's play for Vector, but here in the Chesapeake the period is extremely short, and the waves tend to be quite square. Heading upwind, we ended up porpoising most of the way after rounding Bamboo Island, and once things got really rough, that porpoising had the boat pitching quite a bit and slamming down into the troughs every fourth or fifth set of waves.
I don't suffer from motion sickness, but Louise took a Bonine preventatively. Notwithstanding what I wrote in my last post, she had elected not to give Angel any Dramamine, and that turned out to be a mistake. Angel lost her breakfast shortly after turning north into the bay, and yowled plaintively for a while before giving up and resigning herself to a fate worse than death. George was not particularly happy either, but did not have any real trouble and mostly slept through it all.
Rough seas. Whatever.
Somewhere in all of this, two of our cordial glasses had had enough, and decided to end it all by squirming out of their restraints in the upper reaches of the glassware rack over the wet bar and leaping to their deaths. We do not mourn the cordial glasses, which we procured on a cruise ship by ordering a few too many Limoncello shots after dinner. However, they took out one of our nice red wine glasses on a lower shelf on their way to their untimely demise. The rest of the glassware remained solidly in place, and we lamented squeezing the four cordial glasses into a compartment meant for a lone tumbler.
The 3M Command strips holding up the new full-length mirror in the master stateroom also let go -- apparently, the "command" was "retreat." Fortunately, the mirror is unbreakable acrylic and suffered no ill effects. A few other odds and ends fell over, such as the taller bottles in the larder, but overall we had done a good job of securing everything. I am very pleased to report that the scooters were rock-solid in their new mounts the whole time.
Even though the boat was willing to take this sort of pounding endlessly, we opted not to continue to press on to Solomons, choosing instead to take the first available refuge so we could take fuller stock of the situation and give the less strong-stomached among us a bit of a break. Easier said, however, than done.
Once north of the Great Wicomico there are really no ports of refuge until the Potomac. In hindsight, we might have been better off turning around and heading back to the anchorage, as today finds us merely ten nautical miles closer to our destination than when we left, despite a full six and a half hours under way.
That's because the mouth of the Potomac is wide, and there are no anchorages or marinas for a boat of our draft anywhere near it. That's Smith Point Light at the top of this post, by the way, which marks the turn at the mouth of the river. Louise picked out an anchorage off the Coan river, some dozen or so nautical miles after the left turn into the Potomac, as the closest anchorage. Even the Potomac was rough, with a huge fetch for the northwesterly blow, and things did not quiet down until some five miles or so up river.
When the depth sounder started showing eights and sevens where our chart said 13-14, however, we made an about-face on the Coan and headed back into the deeper waters of the Potomac. I'm sure with some better local knowledge of the channel we could have made it to The Glebe, our chosen anchorage, but we did not want to risk a grounding in rough water hunting around for the channel. It was another three miles here, to the Yeocomico.
Just a few miles upriver are a handful of marinas, but we had plenty of provisions for anchoring out, and we wanted to be poised for a quicker departure when our weather window opens tomorrow morning. We plan to get an early start and make a run for it, since the weather is forecast to thereafter be unfavorable for the next few days. We will try to get as far as Herring Bay, with Solomons as a backup if needed.
The notable exception I mentioned above to the boat's performance concerns, we think, the new bilge pump plumbing. Shortly after turning into the Potomac I noticed the new midships pump was running sporadically. I knew we had a quart or two of water in there from various projects that I have yet to clean up, but that's nowhere near the level of the switch, even with the pitching. When I pulled the hatch I was appalled to see the bilge full of water up to the level of the pump, nearly at the top of the keelson.
It did not smell or appear to be sewage (both the black and gray tanks are in this area), so I did what all mariners do when confronted with clear water in the bilge -- I tasted it. It was salt water, which meant we had a leak in the boat. We both mulled over various scenarios, given that I saw no evidence anywhere in the bilge of a leak.
The operating theory I came up with was that somehow water was backflooding through the old gray water discharge system, now disconnected. But shutting off all the sea valves associated with the complex bilge pumping system to which it was connected did not stem the flow. We finally concluded it must be coming in through the new overboard discharges for the bilge pumps.
Leaning over the rails we could see the discharge ports dunking after each good pitch, and a quick check in the forward bilge revealed water up to the level of that pump as well, lending credence to the theory. The pumps were easily able to keep up with it, but it is disconcerting nonetheless.
Once we were settled in I was able to evacuate most of the water with the big pump system, whose inlets are lower in the bilges than the dedicated pumps. The next step will be to confirm the theory by checking beneath the pumps in our next "big water" episode. If that is, in fact, what is happening, we will need to return to the boatyard later this fall and have them re-plumb the discharges to include some vented loops.
We've been snug here in our protected cove, but the Potomac looked pretty rough this morning. By the afternoon, however, the day had turned quite pleasant and the local pleasure boaters came out in force, several of whom ran circles around us checking out the newcomers. I had been wondering exactly how to pronounce Yeocomico but I decided it must rhyme with "Yo ho, yo ho" after a miniature pirate ship, complete with skeletons lashed to the masts and a scurvy dog at the helm, but powered by a decrepit 2-stroke outboard, did a doughnut around us before motoring off.
We've been struggling with the batteries and charger all day long, which is rapidly moving the installation of the new alternator and inverter/charger up my priority list, but that's a tale for another day. I need to call it a night, so we can get an early start in the morning.