Thursday, June 8, 2017

Back at the Boatyard

We are again docked at Seabrook Marine in New Orleans, Louisiana (map). After a quick stop at the fuel dock to pump out, the yard had us proceed directly to the work dock. Everything here is so familiar, and we've already been back to three of our favorite local joints.

Vector at the work dock at Seabrook Marine. The handrails are already off.

Not long after my last post here, we arrived at the small waterside community of Jean Lafitte, LA (yes, that Jean Lafitte). Here the ICW intersects with the Barataria Waterway, which leads to a minor gulf outlet through Barataria Bay, and Bayou Villars, connecting Lake Salvador. This is all very close to New Orleans, and is the epicenter of popular "swamp tours." We passed no fewer than four giant airboats with perhaps a dozen tourists apiece, as well as a large pontoon boat. Judging from the cameras aimed at us, we were just part of the tour.

One of numerous airboat tours. The boats are very loud.

Shortly thereafter we passed through the floodwall (and yes, our compass went crazy again) and approached the Boomtown Casino. We were disappointed to find our primo spot from last visit occupied by a small cruising sailboat, and the other two possible spots along the wall taken up by towboats. We might well have rafted to a towboat if we could speak with them, but no one was manning the radio watch.

Instead we proceeded past the casino to a small basin marked as a good anchorage on our chart.  It would have been great, except that a large offshore equipment company recently took over the property and is using the basin to load and store deck barges, so we had to squeeze in with three barges and a towboat. The towboat was unoccupied.

Our tight anchorage. Vector and the tugboat are shown to scale, but the tug's orientation is wrong -- it's actually pointed to the bank to the right, butted up against a barge that does not show on this plot.

It made for tight quarters but we had few other options. We put out just 30' of rode and swung in a tight circle that had the skeg swinging through the mud on the shoreward side, and brought us close to the towboat in the other direction. Still, it was quite secure, and we splashed the tender to go to the casino for dinner.

We landed the tender right next to the aforementioned sailboat, and enjoyed meeting Jana and Tom aboard Adagio Gul. They, too, are eastbound on the ICW, having started in Texas just next door to where we stayed in Kemah. We chatted briefly about the logistics of the Mississippi, and the fact that they were stuck at Boomtown for a bit due to a problem with the Lapalco bridge, which we can fit under without an opening.

Numerous shipyards along the canal, beyond the Lapalco bridge in the foreground.

We walked into the casino for dinner and were disappointed to discover that the nicer restaurant was closed on Sundays. That left either the buffet or an Asian-themed casual restaurant, and we chose the latter. The place was incredibly popular, including doing a brisk take-out business, making us wonder if it was not, perhaps, the best Asian food in Harvey.

Two big river towboats in drydock for repairs.

We decked the tender when we returned to the boat, and had a comfortable night. Monday morning we woke of natural causes, but still got a fairly early start for the short trip north to the Harvey Lock. The canal here is lined with all manner of shipyards, many doing work on the enormous Mississippi River towboats. I was amused to pass a small paddlewheeler and a larger faux-riverboat barge that I recognized as having been part of a tour operation in Memphis when we were there. Apparently they were brought downriver for repairs.

We saw these "riverboats" in Memphis. The faux one is drydocked.

We arrived at the Harvey Lock behind two lightboat towboats just as they were starting to downlock traffic coming from the river. The two towboats had grabbed the last good spots on the wall and I had to stationkeep for 45 minutes or so; just as we were all ready to enter the chamber a Hatteras sportfish also pulled up.

Waiting behind the Dorothy Ann for a boat to exit the lock through the open bascule bridges.

By the time we and the two towboats got settled in on the downstream wall, where the lockmasters could pass us lines, all the good spots were taken, and the Hatteras had to settle for pins on the upriver wall. That proved a challenge for them as the lock began to fill, and they ended up smashing their pulpit against the lock wall twice, pretty hard. I radioed for them to proceed out of the lock ahead of us, just before I called Vessel Traffic to clear us onto the river.

The Hatt getting sideways during lockage. Guy on the foredeck is desperately trying to work the line.

The Mississippi is running at a good flood right now, at +14' gage. That's how far the lock had to lift us, but it also means the river is very swift. I powered out of the lock forebay at full speed, angling a bit upriver into the current. After turning downriver we averaged about four knots behind us, although we actually had a countercurrent eddy against us at Algiers Point, where I had to move to the inside of the bend to make way for an upbound freighter.

Water pours in from the river-side gates. We're going up 14'.

The turn into the industrial canal forebay was a matter of turning the boat sideways upriver of the entrance, waiting until we were nearly abreast, then powering forward. We made it without having to push back upriver at all. Once in the forebay we cleared out of Vessel Traffic and called the lock, and they asked us to tie to the small waiting dock. That dock, however, was full, occupied by an oyster boat and our old friend the Hatteras. They told us we'd need to raft. The Hatt was a bit too short and dainty for comfort, so we ended up rafting to the oyster boat.

We had about an hour wait for the lock. One of the towboats with us at Harvey also showed up, and when the lock cleared us in we were first in line with the towboat behind us. The lock asked the oyster boat to tie off to the towboat, and asked the Hatt to tie off to us. After watching him smash into the lock walls at Harvey, we implored the lock personnel who were handing us lines to leave us and tie the Hatt up elsewhere on the wall -- no way could we tend lines on both sides of the boat. After Louise told them the pulpit-smashing story they agreed, much to our relief.

Passing Carnival Triumph at her home dock near Riverwalk. Her lifeboats are lowered for a drill.

Somewhere in all of this the thruster switch on the flybridge quit, and we spent ten minutes drifting in the turning basin at the ICW junction while I quickly replaced it with a generic SPDT switch I had lying around. I did not want to have to dock without thrusters or from the pilothouse. We then proceeded through the Almonaster bridge, which opened this time on first call, and on to the fuel dock at Seabrook for a pumpout.

I know some of you are here for the schadenfreude, and I don't want to disappoint, so let me say right here the pumpout was both necessary and dreaded. That's because after our last offshore passage we were smelling a faint sewage smell near the bilge, and upon inspection we discovered the forward tank was full, even though the aft tank was mostly empty, having just pumped out in Corpus Christi.

Downtown from the river. Hilton at left, Jax at far right, abandoned World Trade Center in the middle.

This really should not be able to happen, as the two tanks are connected together at the bottom with a pipe. The idea is that they act as a single tank of larger capacity. When we pump out, we draw from the slightly lower aft tank and the forward tank drains into it by gravity. For the two tanks to have different levels, there has to be a blockage, either in the connecting pipe, or, less likely, the vent.

Our heads are the macerating type. So no large solids can enter the tanks, leaving me scratching my head about blockage. Once we arrived at the pumpout, I removed the inspection plug on the forward tank before starting the pump, just to be sure it was not a vent problem. When the aft tank was empty with no change in level forward, we tried to remove the blockage by covering the vent line. All that succeeding in doing was to suck all the water out of the master head.

Approaching the Almonaster Bridge. Disappointed to see "Folgers" now painted on what was the Luzianne coffee plant.

I'm sure you can guess what happens next here. The blockage needs to be removed mechanically by rodding it out, and the only way to do that is to stick my arm through the 3" access port on the top of the (now empty) lower tank and run a snake through the connection, which actually comprises three barbs, two 90 elbows, and two sections of 1.5" sanitation hose. This really needed to be done before we started putting any more effluent in the tank, and so I tackled it first thing Tuesday morning.

That did the trick and the tanks have now equalized. This particular maintenance task was performed au naturel, of course, in order to make a straight egress directly to the shower upon completion. We concluded that the blockage was actually a buildup of uratic salts, a common problem in systems that use very little fresh water for flushing. We'll have to use acid to try to dissolve the salts after the next pumpout; we're going to start by trying several gallons of white vinegar before resorting to hydrochloric acid, a known solution that will be hard on the metal ball valve leading to the macerator.

Bedding failure at new latch installation.

Also first thing Tuesday morning, the crew from the yard got started on our issues. We're back here principally because we already have rust all over the boat, in spite of not even two months since a full paint job. A good deal of that rust is emanating from hardware mounted to the steel, indicating improper prep and bedding, and by the end of Tuesday the crew had already removed most of the stainless handrails around the boat.

Paint/primer void that led to cracking.

Various latches and other hardware also need to be removed and rebedded, and some areas where there are simply voids in the paint need to be treated and repainted. Some overspray and other items also need to be addressed, and as long as we're here, we'll have the yard touch up the various dings we've already put in the new paint job ourselves, such as the chain rash we got in the Calcasieu.

Another prep failure. Overmaskng led to lack of primer.

Tuesday evening our new friends aboard Adagio Gul arrived here at the marina; they were planning on just a couple of nights but they decided to get hauled out for bottom paint so they'll be with us a few more days. We all just squeaked through the Harvey Canal; yesterday a crane barge hit an overhead power line, closing the canal for a full day and disrupting power to 10,000 customers.

The yard is estimating completion by the middle of next week. We figure that really means Friday. Our good friend and former master of this vessel, John, once told me that everything in a boatyard gets finished Friday afternoon, and if it doesn't, then it will be finished by the following Friday.

Once we are done here we will be making a beeline for Tampa Bay. It's two full days down the Mississippi to reach the last anchorage before the gulf, and from there its about 365 nautical miles to the first anchorage at Pass-a-Grille, or a crossing of two and one half days. We'll cross our fingers for a window that long, but, if need be, we can break it up into two or more hops and some additional mileage.

1 comment:

  1. You wouldn't have those problems with a Nature's Head. But then you know that. Lol.


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