Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Holding pattern

We are anchored in Mill Creek, on Solomons Island, Maryland (map).  We are hunkered down -- the weather is nasty today and may be again tomorrow, too, so we'll be here a couple of days before resuming our southerly cruise back to Deltaville.

I must apologize to those of you who have subscribed to this blog by RSS feed for an incomplete rough draft that accidentally got published yesterday morning.  I revoked it right away, but apparently it went out on syndication immediately.  As I have written here before, I am fiddling with ways to get map links such as the one above inserted in the blog, and yesterday morning I tried out an Android app to do just that from our digs in Annapolis, not realizing it was going to publish straight away.  My plan had been to write up a complete post immediately thereafter, but we decided to weigh anchor and get an early start, thus delaying this scribe until this morning.

In any case, what I started to post then was that we were anchored on the Severn River in Annapolis, just outside the mouth of Spa Creek, and less than half a mile from the US Naval Academy (map).  From our anchorage we had a view of Bancroft Hall, the largest dormitory in the world.  I spent a week there some three and a half decades ago on a summer science and engineering program, and it looks just the same today.  The town itself has become much more touristy in the intervening decades, however.  We tendered ashore for dinner Monday night, tying up at the town dock and walking to a friendly local pub on Dock Street.

We wandered around town briefly after dinner before tendering back to Vector for the night.  While close to town, that anchorage is very exposed, especially to westerlies, and we had 15 knots of wind from that direction all night long, with perhaps two foot seas.  Deploying and boarding the tender was a challenge, and we gave up on trying to hoist it back aboard afterwards, instead hoisting it Tuesday morning in much calmer conditions.   Our ground tackle and snubber system performed flawlessly, and we slept soundly with the waves rocking us to sleep.  It was very instructive, though, to see from the dinghy how much the other boats in the anchorage were moving as compared to Vector, one area where sheer mass makes a big impact.

Our spot in Annapolis in the morning calm.  USNA's Bancroft Hall on the right, and the top of the Maryland statehouse in the distance on the left.

I had tentatively titled yesterday's post "New day, new problem," and the problem to which I alluded involves the stabilizers.  We had a very lovely cruise from Rock Creek to Annapolis, with gorgeous weather on Monday, after spending an extra day in Rock Creek while a Small Craft Advisory expired.  Seas were fairly calm most of the day, but picked up somewhat as we passed the Bay Bridge.  Almost immediately after passing the bridge, we head loud thumping noises coming from the starboard side, and my first though was that we had hooked a crab pot.

I throttled back to idle and shifted into neutral while Louise circled the deck looking for debris, but the noise stayed with us.  We saw no obvious signs of having run over anything, and I even tried backing up to see if something would pop up from underneath us.  The noise stopped when we did, but started back up again as soon as we were moving.  Suspecting the stabilizers, we switched them from active to centered and the noise stopped immediately.

Fortunately, conditions were calm enough that we made it the rest of the way to Annapolis comfortably with the stabilizers centered.  After we set the hook, we started researching nearby yards that could haul us out, and I contemplated donning my wet suit and mask and going over the side into the 67° water to have a look at the fin and its new pot deflector -- one possibility was that the deflector had somehow become bent and was interfering with the fin.  With the conditions in the anchorage already rough and getting worse by the minute, we decided it was too risky to be slamming up and down under the boat, and decided to hold off on the swimming until first thing in the morning.

I knew from reading other people's experiences with Naiad stabilizers that it was possible to pin one fin and run on just the other one, but, oddly, the procedure for doing this was not in the manual.  I called Naiad headquarters and asked to speak with an individual in customer support who had been recommended to us by a technician at Deltaville Boatyard back when we were discussing stabilizer maintenance and spares.  He gave me clear instructions for disabling the problematic fin, but he also gave me some troubleshooting suggestions to try to isolate the problem.

Based on his suggestions, we were able to identify the likely cause of the clunking noise as excessive play at the mounting pivot for the hydraulic cylinder, rather than something on the outside of the boat.  While I am hard-pressed to understand why this sort of excessive play could develop so suddenly, I was happy to wave off the cold swim in favor of just pinning the bad fin until we get back to Deltaville, where we have a week's worth of other work to be done anyway, and where we know there is a lift that can haul us out if need be.

I am happy to report that the boat did just fine yesterday running on the port stabilizer alone.  Naiad says that a single fin will deliver 60%-70% of the performance of two fins, and based on yesterday's ~50nm cruise I'd say that's accurate.  In any case, having pinned and disconnected the starboard fin before day's end Monday allowed us to have a nice dinner and a good night's sleep without further fretting about finding a yard or doing any further damage under way.

Yesterday morning was sunny and clear, with the Severn much calmer than the previous evening, and so we opted to hoist the tender first thing and get under way.  We left Annapolis in the company of four academy Yard Patrol boats, 108' wood-hulled vessels that serve as seamanship training craft for the midshipmen.  Our bus aficionado readers will be happy to know these are powered by good old-fashioned two-stroke Detroits.

YP694 off our port side, as seen through the pilothouse window.  Bay bridge in the distance.

The YPs were not the only naval vessels we saw yesterday.  Halfway down the bay I was surprised to see in my binoculars a very large vessel approaching at nearly 30 knots.  Although I never saw it on the radar, AIS identified it as the 88' Stiletto engaged in "military operations".  The rooster tails from this 120,000-lb vessel at such high speed were impressive to say the least.

The best shot I could get of the Stiletto. Click to enlarge, before the NSA deletes it.

Following up on the earlier davit problem, I made good use of our downtime in Rock Creek on Sunday by taking the shroud off the motor to have a look.  The guts of the davit turned out to be a Rule T33S winch, and I was able to download a manual and exploded parts diagram for the winch motor.  Unfortunately, this winch is long discontinued, and parts such as a replacement motor seem difficult to come by.

Using the exploded diagram for guidance we were able to remove the motor and clean up the four carbon brushes and the axial commutator pads, as well as lubricate the shaft end bearing.  I could see no obvious reason for the recent cantankerousness, but all appears to be working well after reassembly.  The brushes were hardly worn at all and should provide many more years of service.  The solenoids appear to be the weak link in the whole system, as confirmed by recent correspondence from the last owner, and if they start acting up again I might replace them with something more robust.

The davit repair came too late to tender over to nearby Mike's for dinner, as we already had dinner cooking, but it was a gating factor for launching the tender in Annapolis.  Ironically, we have a certificate for two free nights at the Maryland Yacht Club, just a stone's throw from our spot in Rock Creek, and we might have used it had we known we'd be there two nights anyway.  I expect we'll end up using it when we return to the Chesapeake next season.

If the weather cooperates, we'll try to get moving again tomorrow morning, with a goal of getting as far as the Potomac.  With any luck, we should be back in Deltaville early next week.  Adding the stabilizers on to our list of minor repairs and corrections means we should be there at least a week, perhaps two, before heading south to Hampton Roads.

1 comment:

  1. Its really quite alarming when you see those large naval vessels relatively close by and they are completely invisible to your radar. Even the lowly Canadian navy has some vessels that don't show up on our radar. You probably know the technology - I assume it is some kind of super duper paint job. We get a lot of fog on the left coast - it bothers me that I might run into a vessel that my tax dollars helped make invisible. Just recently a couple of our navy boats ran into each other on a trip to Hawaii and had to return to Esquimault - the news reports didn't say what caused the collision, I hope it wasn't the paint.


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