Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nearing the finish line

It's been two weeks since my last update here. While it's been relatively quiet (compared to, say, Mardi Gras), lots of progress has been made on painting, and we've managed to get out and about some, so I will take a moment here to catch up with photos and some narrative.

Vector is still in the paint shed, but we expect them to move her out tomorrow or maybe Tuesday and spot her in the yard. We're still living in the RV, but with any luck we'll be moved back aboard Vector by the end of the week. We've elected to have the yard refresh the bottom paint as well, so we'll need to mind our overboard discharges as that happens.

Hull and topside paint finished, and the rub rails starting to go back on.

When last I posted I mentioned that we had a pickup truck reserved for Tuesday to go out to Jennings and pick up our anchor and chain. That turned into something of a goat rope. Apparently, the phone system at the closest Enterprise office has been on the fritz since the tornado a few weeks ago. I spent over an hour across seven or eight separate phone calls trying to get through to the office to arrange to be picked up here at the yard; eventually it became too late for us to start the project and I gave up. Two hours later they called wondering if we were going to pick up our car. Hell, no.

I re-booked the pickup truck for first thing Thursday morning instead, and called the galvanizer to reschedule. And I filed a complaint with Enterprise HQ that resulted in a call-back from the manager of the local office. At the appointed time Thursday we had a repeat performance with the phones, so we just borrowed the yard truck and drove ourselves over.

The three-hour trip to Jennings was uneventful. We did make a stop at the VF outlet in Gonzales to replenish the strategic khaki reserve. I stopped wearing blue jeans when we traded our motorcycles in on step-through scooters. I find khakis infinitely more comfortable. Of course, they are not nearly as durable, and boat life takes its toll on them; I go through about three pair a year. I'm partial to the ones VF carries and we end up at one of their outlet stores yearly.

We were pleasantly surprised to learn our total for galvanizing the chain, anchor, and fittings was less than quoted. It worked out to just 32.4 cents per pound before tax, less than 37 cents tax included. The anchor looks great, and the chain is well-coated but not stuck together in a lump as can sometimes happen. There are some drip points on the chain that will need to work off in the gypsy. It did take me a half hour to work all the pins back into the three shackles we had done in the batch.

Our classic unobtainium Bruce looks like new, and the chain does as well.

Picking up the truck Thursday morning meant that we still had it Friday morning when Louise needed to go to the airport, and I was up at zero-dark-thirty to drive her out. I still had 1,200 pounds of ground tackle in the truck, much to the annoyance of anyone driving in front of me as I'm certain the headlights were pointed well skyward. On the plus side, the drive through at Dunkin Donuts was empty at 5am so I could get my bagel fix on my way home.

The yard forklifted the chain out at 8am, in time for me to get the truck back to Enterprise and then give them an earful about the twice-repeated pickup disaster as well as how smoky the truck was. I had a car booked for Tuesday afternoon, so I could go get Louise upon her return, and I asked them to pre-schedule my pickup for 3:30pm in case their phones were still out of whack. At just $20 for a day's rental, it was the cheapest option for getting her to and from the airport, plus it would give us a car for a day.

Rental pickup with 1,200 lbs of steel in the back. It was a nice truck, save for the stale smoke smell.

I had grand ambitions for my nearly five days stag here, but virtually none came to pass. For one, I hoped to spend an evening in the quarter, something Louise isn't even luke-warm on. She left for Canada Friday morning, and Friday evening would have been perfect, after napping mid-morning to catch up on my airport-shuttle sleep deprivation. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the upper 70s and I figured the crowd on Bourbon street would be lively and dressed for the weather.

The cat, however, had other plans. She was lethargic and looking green around the gills, and she threw up several times in the afternoon. Reasoning that I would have plenty of time to do the quarter later in the weekend, I opted to have leftovers at home. As luck would have it, temperatures plummeted into the 50s after that and remained that way until Louise returned, with occasional rain to boot.

The weather similarly nixed my plans to change the oil on Louise's scooter, or run errands around town on my scooter. I did make it to the hardware store for a few items while the weather was still nice on Friday. To be fair, we both have full foul-weather riding gear, and I would not hesitate to take the scooter out in rain and low temperatures if need be. But here in New Orleans you get all four seasons in one week, so unless the schedule demands it, it's much more pleasant to just wait for nicer conditions.

Tuesday afternoon Enterprise never showed for my pre-scheduled pickup, and I ended up riding over on the scooter, hopping mad. By this time I had the branch manager's cell phone and I left him a message; he turned out to be offsite at a meeting. They tried to give me another smoky car, too, and after I objected they went through perhaps three other cars (Louisiana has a serious smoking problem) and ended up giving me a premium Dodge Charger in jet black. The cops use these, which made for some interesting shenanigans on the road.

Our spiffy Charger, at left, on the Pointe-a-la-Hache ferry.

The car was so nice that we decided to spend Wednesday just driving around in it. The weather had improved considerably, and we ended up driving as far downriver as one can go on the east bank, to Pointe a la Hache, then taking the dollar ferry across to the west bank and continuing downriver all the way to Venice, the end of the road, before turning around and coming all the way back up the west bank to Harvey. We made a quick provisioning stop before I returned the car.

Back on the Mississippi for the first time since December.

The manager was on hand when I brought the car back, and he comped me the rental for all our troubles. Wish he had been around when I brought back the $100 pickup truck rather than the $20 car, but it was nice gesture anyway. I picked up my scooter from their locked storage yard, where I had left it when I picked the car up.

Also in the last couple of weeks, a welder who has been working on a steel sailboat across the yard agree to rebuild the rocker carriage of our anchor roller assembly. He completely remade it out of 1/4" stainless plate, twice the thickness of the original 1/8" plate. It looks great, and I am hopeful that this will be the end of the carriage bending every time we side-load it, an inevitability when anchoring in any kind of wind.

New roller carriage, with one of the two new Delrin rollers in place. Looks great and we are eager to try it.

Meanwhile the paint crew has been progressing steadily. When last I posted they had just finished shooting the boot stripe. In the last two weeks, they've wrapped up the remainder of the spraying, including the Insignia White on both the outside and inside of all the steel parts of the topsides. The house, still in seven-year-old paint, now looks a bit shabby by comparison, and we'll likely have them clean and buff it before we leave.

Friday they sprayed the final layer of Tuff Coat on the decks. They asked us to go shoeless or in booties while on deck this weekend until it fully cures. I'm really happy with the way this feels; it's more texture than we had previously, and you can definitely feel that it is a polyurethane rubber.

New deck coating. Sand color is hard to make out with the stark white of the gunwales still masked.

One of the add-on projects we asked the yard to do while the swim platform is off for painting is to install a "staple rail" right in the middle of the swim platform. This will serve a threefold purpose; it will make it easier and safer to board and disembark the tender, it will make it easier to ascend the swim ladder from the water, especially in dive gear, and it will provide a measure of safety should anyone topple down the steps from the aft deck, by way of providing something to grab on to before going all the way overboard.

The yard sent the swim platform out to a metal fab to have the holes cut and mounts welded for the stanchions; it came back last week and they painted it Friday. Yesterday, while admiring the paint, we noticed that one of the mounts is in completely the wrong place, one full stringer port of where it was specified. Sadly, they will need to cut a new hole, weld in a new stanchion mount, and weld over and sand flush the incorrect hole. They will have to go back to square one on priming and painting. I think they were hoping to reattach the swim platform on Tuesday; this will push that back at least a week.

In addition to reattaching all the hardware that was removed for painting, finishing the swim step, and repainting the bottom, we have two other projects for the yard to finish. One is to replace all the bolts on the rudder stuffing box, which are badly rusted. And the other is to replace the hose barb for the generator exhaust, which is galvanized steel and also rusting. All these items together will have us here into the first week of April, but if they can turn the swim platform around quickly enough, we should be back in the water around the beginning of the month. With any luck, we will be under way not long after that.

About halfway through shooting the white topsides paint. Looking good so far.

Under way to where, I hear you ask. That's been a great question, and until last week even we ourselves did not have an answer. Some of you know that I have been itching to get the boat offshore and this may well have been the year to head off to the Caribbean or maybe even cross to the Med. However, our decision to linger on the western rivers and then spend over three months in New Orleans to get this long overdue painting taken care of means that we've missed the window for both of those.

Instead we've decided to spend one more season on the US east coast. That gives us a very relaxed schedule for exiting the Gulf of Mexico; essentially it comes down only to how anxious we are about remaining in the gulf into hurricane season. That officially starts June 1, but realistically we are comfortable through the end of June. Our insurance policy has no "hurricane box" exclusion, only an increased deductible for named windstorms.

If we are under way by mid April, that should be plenty of time to explore the gulf coast of Louisiana and Texas. It is 600 nautical miles from here to Brownsville by way of the Intracoastal Waterway, about twenty cruising days. Depending on how long we stop in places like Acadiana, Beaumont, Galveston, and Port Aransas, we might make the whole distance in the 70 or so days available. From there it is a five-day gulf crossing to the west coast of Florida.

Block party in the Irish Channel.

Friday was St. Patrick's Day, which is a big deal in New Orleans. We rode the scooters down to the Irish Channel neighborhood of the Garden District to the big block party down there -- any excuse here to dress up and throw beads. I enjoyed a new (to me) local beer, Irish Channel Stout. Afterward we had a nice dinner at a funky Mexican place in the neighborhood, Rosa Mexcal -- never try to get into a pub on St. Pats (or a Mexican joint on May 5).

Parade on Bienville. You can see my scooter parked on Charters at far right.

With it being such a nice day, and having to basically cross the French Quarter on our way home, Louise and I parted company at Canal Street and I headed to the quarter.  I made the mistake of thinking I could cross the quarter on Chartres at such an early hour, but I got stuck at Bienville for a parade (the first of three I came across that evening), so I just parked there and spent a couple of hours on Bourbon Street. Other than all the beads being green, it was not unlike a Mardi Gras season evening -- Erin Go Braless.

Last night the weather was so nice we went hunting for balcony dining, and ended up at Dat Dog on Frenchmans, an upscale hotdog place with a full bar. We scored a prime table at the corner of the wrought-iron balcony and had great people-watching for the evening over high-end hotdogs and draft Abita Ambers.

It's another beautiful evening, but we have food that needs to be eaten, so we'll be dining al fresco right here at the rig tonight. Tomorrow morning I will sync up with the yard on the schedule impact of the swim platform gaffe, and by my next post I should have more to say about our upcoming plans and schedule.


  1. Sean when you say you would like to cruise the Med...would you sail over or use one of the ships that transport boats around the world.
    We are enjoying your adventures.

    1. When we were shopping for a boat we very deliberately eliminated any that did not have at least transatlantic capability. We're fortunate to actually have transpacific capability with Vector as well. So when we are ready for the Med we will most certainly be taking her across "on her own bottom" as they say.

  2. Fun life! Lucky you! See the world from the comfort of your own floating home!

    1. Thanks for your note. Yes, we are very fortunate indeed.


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