Thursday, February 9, 2017

Near Miss

We're at at the work dock at Seabrook Marine, on the industrial canal in New Orleans, Louisiana (map). Today marks our second week here, although we spent most of the first week at a marina slip along the canal, waiting for the crew to wrap up work on a 65' sport fish, and for the historic PT boat to be towed away from the dock we are on now.

Sunset at the boatyard. Vector in the background, sporting fresh patches of fairing compound.

The rest of our cruise here two weeks ago was relatively uneventful, although the Almonaster Bridge was once again experiencing problems, and we again ended up anchoring near the bridge while they worked to get it open, just as we did when we passed through on our way from the Mississippi River.

After clearing the bridge and arriving at Seabrook, we went straight to the fuel dock, hoping to pump out, as well as to unload the scooters. The pumpout was inoperative, however, so we offloaded the scooters and headed to our slip. With nearly ten knots of wind on the beam, it took me several passes to get lined up and backed in, but we made it with little trouble and got settled in.

Shiny new bearings from Komatsu. If only I had known the NSK part number...

One of my first tasks was to head across town to Kenner to pick up pump parts from the Komatsu dealer and drop them off with our friend Jeff-the-pump-guy. I was not looking forward to the long scooter ride, but we were pleasantly surprised to learn the yard has a courtesy car, and that made it relatively painless.

Jeff's shop rebuilt the pump for me (thanks, Jeff!) and they even painted it. Photo Jeff L.

With no work in progress on the boat, we spent part of that first week exploring the neighborhood, which turns out to be mostly devoid of decent eating establishments, but at least close to two grocery stores, a Walmart, and a couple of other services. Three casual restaurants are fairly close, including one right next door at the Pontchartrain Landing RV Park and Marina.

We had fairly good Internet access in the marina slip, and I spent a good deal of time updating everything and surfing chandleries looking for hardware that we need to replace during the painting project. Sadly, once we moved to the yard dock our access disappeared and we're back to using cell phones to get online.

Last Wednesday they moved us over to the yard dock, and we stopped again at the now-operational pumpout dock on the way. There was a shrimper sharing the dock with us when we arrived and it was a tight squeeze. The yard wasted no time getting started, with guys piling aboard Thursday morning. By the end of the week our rails had been removed entirely and they were starting to grind away at the rust.

Some of the rails off, sitting on a very rusty part of the deck.

The boat is now sheer chaos; the contents of the Portuguese lockers are mostly stashed in the warehouse, but almost everything else that was on deck is still aboard, taking up space in the salon or up on the flybridge. On top of that, my various orders are arriving and there are bits of projects all over the boat.

Typical of some of our worst rust spots.

The decks are a mess of grinding dust and Australian garnet blasting media, half the boarding gates are missing, and there's primer and fairing compound everywhere. We're doing our best to keep all the dust out of the boat. And in the meantime, we're eating our way through all the food in the fridge and freezer in preparation for being thrown off our own boat, including the vegetarian burgers we bought for our meatless friend Karen when we had her aboard a full year ago.

Another bad area. Rust often starts adjacent to the rail mounts.

It is against this backdrop that yesterday we were very nearly hit by an EF3 tornado. The weather alert had been going off all morning and we were tracking storms all over the area; we dogged down what we could on the boat and took our usual lightning precautions. The tornado in fact touched down less than two miles southeast of us, traveling down Chef Menteur Highway and ripping through Nasa's Michoud facility (whose photo I included in my last post), destroying a number of homes and business along the way before cutting across the ICW and out into Lake Borgne.

Fortunately, no one was killed, although there were a number of injuries. The tornado ripped through Little Saigon, sending shockwaves through the mostly Vietnamese workforce here at the yard. We learned this morning that one of the lead workers on our project lost his home. Casualties aboard Vector included two heavy steel patio chairs, temporarily relocated to the boat deck for the project, which were picked up and tossed overboard by a 50kt gust of wind. I had to fish them out of the drink later with a boat hook, as they posed a hazard down there to Vector or any other deep-draft boats maneuvering in the basin.

Long-time readers know this is not our first close encounter with a tornado; we narrowly avoided one in the bus and then ended up working on the subsequent relief operation the next day. We also had to take shelter in a nearby hotel for a tornado as Vector was secured for a tropical storm. Our marine radio, fortunately, does not let us miss any weather alerts, with an escalating tone that is truly deafening at its ultimate volume.

Things are mostly back to normal now. Today the welding crew showed up to cover up four large holes that we no longer need (two abandoned power inlets and the old fresh water fill fitting in the Portuguese coaming, and the hole where the old washdown spigot, served by the main bilge pump, broke off). And we've been informed that we'll likely be coming out of the water by Tuesday or so and will have to be off the boat shortly thereafter.

To that end, our good friend Pat and her son Rusty came down from Baton Rouge today with a 30' Tioga RV that will be our home while we are off the boat. They took us to lunch at Deanie's, a New Orleans seafood institution that is walking distance from where we first docked, over at Orleans Marina. We made the mistake of ordering one entree per person, and I think we now have two days of leftovers.

This evening after the yard closed up we maneuvered the RV into its assigned position in a covered parking spot next to the dry stack barn. Tomorrow we'll get it plugged in and set up, and we'll move some of our gear in over the weekend so we are ready for the inevitable move next week.

As we get closer to painting, we've been giving some thought to changing color. There is an old saying in the marine industry that there are two colors for a boat -- white, and stupid. Nevertheless, we're thinking about going with a sand color called "Moondust" from the rub rails down, and the yard took our blog header photo and modified it as a sort of mockup. It's a little more yellow than it appears from this photo; our decks are currently Moondust so we have a good feel for the color.

What Vector's new paint scheme might look like.

Partly this is because we're spending the proverbial boatload of money on a paint job, and we'd like to sail away with something to show for it other than "no rust." In larger part it is to create a deliberate contrast, to overshadow the unintentional contrast between nice, shiny, new white paint on the hull and the old, duller white paint on the superstructure, which we are not painting at this time. To be sure, there will still be both new and old white paint, as all the steel above the rub rails will still be white. But our gut feel is that the new/old difference will register less with some contrast on the hull.

I'll try to post an update or two as things progress, along with some more photos. Expect my posting will be sporadic while we are in the yard.


  1. Well, damn. I didn't realize how close that tornado came to you. Ugh.

    ~ Shonda

  2. Any guess as to why corrosion is in the general vicinity of the rail mounts? Fender line abrasion, dissimilar metals, or ????
    If it's abrasion, you may want to consider some type of abrasion resistant pad.
    Glad to hear you survived the storm. Wel've been wondering how you were doing.
    Capt Kirk

    1. Behind on comments here...
      It's not abrasion.
      Any place hardware is mounted is an opportunity for corrosion to start. Bedding failure (or improper bedding) is the usual culprit, but dissimilar metals (galvanic corrosion) is also a factor. Most hardware is mounted with stainless fasteners which are more noble than the mild steel of the hull itself.

  3. Tom here – I have been following your blog since shortly before you acquired the the boat and have enjoyed and anticipated each and every post. I apologize for my being forward, but I felt it was time to introduce myself as have been “neighbors” in NOLA since your arrival. Now full time in our RV for almost 10 years, it seems we reversed our adventures as we started floating on Michigan's Great Lake for many years prior and traded our props for tires. Our NOLA visit ends late next week and while I have the opportunity I would be grateful for the opportunity to shake your hands and express my gratitude for sharing your adventures in person. If needed, I am fully ready & able to bribe you with See's Candies (I have connections) and a vehicle...both of which I know you may be in need. :)

    Regarding the recent weather – we experienced this past Tuesday's weather a little to up close and personal as the tornado touched down at the back of our park on Chef Hwy... We did not receive any damage other than to our nerves – but a block farther East the RV park took a direct hit and the damage is as unbelievable as the residential areas.

    Thanks again & look forward to hopefully hearing from you!
    PS: LOVE the proposed color of the new paint – Go for it if you want my 2 cents!

  4. I think the contrast in paint will look awesome go for it!


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