Saturday, May 14, 2016

Crash pad

Today finds us temporary landlubbers, staying at the (also temporary) home of good friends Karen and Ben, who have been living here in Seminole, Florida as they await the completion of their spiffy Flxible Starliner bus conversion. Long-time readers know we intersected with them in many places when they were traveling in their last bus, a Liberty Prevost conversion.

We have our own quarters here with a foldout bed and en-suite bathroom facilities, and we've even brought Angel along until we figure out what we're doing with the bus. We were hoping she'd hang out with all of us in the main living space, but there is a full-width, full-height mirrored wall in the dining area, and after tentatively coming up the stairs from our quarters to visit, she got all testy when she spotted the "other cat" in the room. I would have loved to have gotten a video but we were all rolling on the floor laughing at the poor creature. She slunk back downstairs and has not ventured back up since.

Sunset over Snead Island from our anchorage in the Manatee River.

We spent our last night on the boat Wednesday, after arriving in the Manatee River from a pleasant cruise down Tampa Bay. We dropped the hook right outside of the boatyard (map), in an area shown on our chart as a designated "special anchorage" (one of the very few places where boats can anchor without displaying lights or day shapes). Nevertheless, we were the only boat anchored here. I called the yard after we arrived to let them know we were ready and to schedule a time for the haulout in the morning; only then did we learn that the 75-ton lift was scheduled for maintenance and they needed us in the slings at 07:30 so they could have the lift back. Ugh.

Vector out of the water. No matter how many times you see this, you never stop worrying.

We weighed anchor at 07:20 and were in the slings at the appointed time, in the narrowest liftway we've seen to date. It was flat calm in the basin and we had no trouble gliding in. By 07:45 Vector was out of the water and headed toward the wash rack. We noticed two things immediately; first, we had an abnormally large amount of marine growth for just two months since our last bottom cleaning. And second, but far more serious, our propeller had a pink tinge to it.

Wow, that's a lot of growth.

After just a few minutes of scraping at the wash rack, it became apparent the bottom paint was just plain done, and would need to be replaced here. Paint was coming off along with the barnacles, and the sheer amount of growth meant there was not enough copper left in the paint to do the job. The yard had initially told us they would not be able to do a full bottom job on this same haulout, but circumstances had changed and we asked them to quote a full sand/spot prime/bottom paint job; the number was a bit higher than the competition, but with the haulout already covered it made sense to just tell them to go ahead.

The propeller issue is more sinister. The propeller is manganese bronze, which is a form of brass and thus has a significant zinc component. Brass turning pink is a sign of dezincification, a form of galvanic corrosion in which the zinc is actually eaten away at the molecular level, leaving the remainder of the alloy with microscopic voids, much like a sponge. The resulting metal is weak and brittle, and we can now be at serious risk of destroying the propeller in any kind of a strike.

Pink coloration to the prop. Not good.

Only metallurgical testing can tell what the damage is at this point. The yard offered to remove the prop and send it to a prop shop for evaluation, but with a replacement prop weeks if not months away, we opted to forego this and continue running the prop until we can source a replacement, which I am figuring to cost in the neighborhood of $5,000. At some point we will replace the propeller and place this one on a mount on the foredeck as an emergency spare. In the meantime, I need to step up our galvanic protection measures.

It's just as well that the yard opted to haul us out early, a full half hour before their normal opening time, because the techs from Stabilized Marine arrived from Fort Lauderdale before Vector was even on the blocks. They got right to work, using a hydraulic pump to pop the fins off their shafts. The fins are a tight interference fit on the shafts -- there is no keyway or other mechanical interconnection. When they finally pop off, the bang resonates through the whole boat, alarming all on board.

The stabilizer guys worked all day; finally wrapping up around 5:30 or so. Fortunately, our bearings were fine, as were the eight Belleville washers that pre-load the fins onto their shafts, so all we needed was removal and replacement of the contaminated grease, cleanup, new outer seals, and new fasteners on the retainer plates. We also had the port fin adjusted to be a bit more proud of the hull, something that should have been done at the yard where we first had the interference addressed after tipping over on that fin in Toogoodoo Creek.

Stabilizer seals done. The fin is turned only by friction with this very smooth shaft.

Mid-afternoon Louise picked up a rental car in Bradenton, and we made it up here to Seminole by 7ish to enjoy some hors d'oeuvres and cocktails, graciously provided by our hosts, before heading off to a nice dinner. We left the cat aboard Vector for the night, until we had a better idea of next steps.

Yesterday we headed back to the yard after a relatively leisurely morning, in separate cars, to include one that Ben and Karen lent us. I had to unpin the fins and clean up a bit after the stabilizer guys (we didn't want to keep them, or ourselves, at the yard any later than needed Thursday), and we had to secure the boat for our absence, including taking the cat. We also needed to pack bags for a potential week-long trip, and we offloaded three tool boxes, a shop vac, and the pressure washer, all for a potential visit to the bus.

Mid-day the eBay auction for the bus ended. The good news is that it fetched 10% more than our rock-bottom price, however, disturbingly, I have not since heard from the buyer, and more than half of the allotted time in which to pay the deposit has now passed. At least the second-place bidder has already offered to complete the sale if it falls through.

Since the boat will be on the hard for nearly a week anyway while they sand and paint the bottom, I was really hoping for a fast close. If we had left for Virginia today, for example, I think we could have been back just in time to pick the boat up at the end of its yard visit, and we'd save a few hundred dollars of dockage while we made the trip. To that end I even reserved yet another rental car (since cancelled), and, as noted, we offloaded our gear in the hope we'd be departing before the yard re-opens Monday morning.

As it stands now, we are in limbo, heading for the least desirable of all outcomes, one in which we end up leaving for Virginia while the boat is on the hard, but not returning until well after it is splashed. That would mean yard personnel having to move the boat into a slip, and us covering storage fees for the duration. Plus we'd have to worry about making sure they plug it back in before the batteries run down and the fridge goes off.

Speaking of which, the yard would not take any responsibility for ensuring that the power remains on and the fridge stays running. So we made sure to get the boat on-line to the Internet so we can monitor it remotely with our whizzy new camera system. I left the fluorescent lights on in the engine room, and I'm checking on it daily. If I see those lights go out I will know the shore power is out, and I can make some calls to have someone look into it. Not ideal, but the best we could do.

For now, we are settled in comfortably with our friends, and trying not to be too much in the way. Until I hear from the buyer on his plans for picking up the bus, we really can't make any further plans ourselves. When I know something further I will try to update our plans here.

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