Thursday, December 19, 2019

Dauphin dolphins

We are under way eastbound across Mobile Bay, glad to finally be back on the water after too many weeks in the yard. The bay has a 2' chop after two days of heavy north winds that kept us at the dock, but we deemed it acceptable, and decided to put up with it rather than be stuck another day.

Even though I expressed hopes in my last post to be done in a week, it has once again been two full weeks since I posted. All told, we were in Bayou La Batre well over a month. Most of the extra delay can be attributed to weather, but it is also true that things always take longer than they should in boatyards.

This pair of dolphins joined us on our way to the Dauphin Island Bridge this morning.

We spent our final night on the hard hanging in the slings, and as expected, we splashed the next morning. The lift blew another hydraulic hose just as they were lowering the belts to the bottom of the slip, but they were far enough down to let us line the boat out of the slings and tie it alongside in a clear section of the lift slip. We ran through our post-splash checklist, looking for leaks and testing all the seawater-dependent systems.

In the afternoon we pulled around to the face docks along the bayou ship channel and tied up (map). That was close enough to where we had been on the hard that I was able to just pull the power cord across to the new spot. Good thing, because the yard charged us $300 each time they moved the cord. Had we fully understood that on arrival, we would have run the generator that first weekend instead of asking for power.

Back in the slings with shiny new paint, about to be lowered.

Back in the water we were finally able to run the sinks, shower, dishwasher, and washing machine with impunity. Louise did two weeks worth of accumulated laundry, and we tried to clean as much yard dust off things as we could. We also fired up all the reverse-cycle heaters just as soon as we felt the paint in the seachest was cured.

Yard work over the past two weeks principally consisted of prepping and painting two coats of epoxy in the tiller flat bilge where we had removed the rust and gauged the hull, and prepping and painting a few corroded areas on the topsides. Chief among these was the house-to-deck joint, which showed significant corrosion on both pieces, pretty much all the way around. We now have a "stripe" of a different white around the base of the house, in a flat workboat paint. But the rust is gone. They also fixed two damaged spots on the hull near the deck ports, and finished with some color touch-up we had aboard from the last paint job.

Out of the lift, which is broken down ahead of us..

On my end, I got the satellite compass installed, at least in a "trial" location on the old spotlight mount; we'll see if it maintains accuracy so close to a big metal panel. I also splashed the tender to breeze it out once we were back in the water. This later project, which should have been all of fifteen minutes, ended up being two full days.

That's because the Honda outboard gave me an overheat alarm while I was warming it up. I ended up with a crash course on the cooling system, tearing down the water pump twice, which involves removing the lower end (gearcase) from the engine. Backflushing the system a couple of times seems to have cured it, but I will likely never know why it overheated in the first place.

Once we got the dinghy running we took a little trip up the bayou, past the drawbridge. There are another couple of shipyards up that way, more shrimpers, and, amusingly, a pair of vintage-looking wooden sailing ships, which we believe to actually be false cladding over steel hulls. The Black Pearl from Pirates of the Caribbean was actually built here in Bayou La Batre, more or less in secret, and one of these might have been her, or perhaps another movie vessel.

Heading back down the bayou toward the lift bridge, with a pair of "wooden" ships to starboard.

I replaced our venerable iPad Mini, original model, with a much newer Android tablet. The Mini came to us as part of an unlimited mobile Internet deal eons ago. The unlimited deal ultimately ended, and we would have parted with the iPad then and there, except by then it had become somewhat useful to run marine chart software. When we started up the inland rivers three years ago, availability of better charts on an iPad-only app proved to be a real boon, and we've been relying on it ever since.

A few months ago, after a routine update, several features of that program stopped working, and after several emails back and forth with the developer, it seems the app now needs a version of Apple's iOS that is not available for our ancient tablet. In the meantime, they released an Android version, ans so we ditched the iPad for a more modern (but not the latest) Lenovo tablet. All our nav apps are again working, and I am glad to be rid of iOS. The iPad went in the mail this morning to its new owner.

When it became clear we'd be done with all the painting over this past weekend, I called the compass adjuster Friday to see if he could come out Monday to rectify our lightning-induced compass error. He asked if we had a working sat compass, which gave me the impetus to wrap that project up; without it he would need a clear, sunny day. He arrived Monday morning at 9am and we went out into the turning basin for an hour, wherein I spun the boat through every point of the compass perhaps seven or eight times.

These two 120' towboats have progressed quite a bit in a month. A third keel was laid during our stay.

We had five magnets arranged around our compass; he removed one and moved another, and brought our deviation down from 20° to just 6° in the worst direction (due East). I joked about the $450 bill, saying $50 was for driving to Bayou La Batre and moving a magnet, and $400 was for knowing which magnet to move and where to move it. With several hours of easting now behind us today, I can say the compass is working much better, and thus the autopilot is as well.

After the compass adjuster left I had to ride over to the bank and take out a wad of cash. We paid the yard by wire transfer, but the painter, billing us directly, wanted cash. They gave it to me banded, the way you see criminals handing it off in the movies. His rates were quite reasonable, although they made a mess of our deck coating.

At that point we were ready to drop lines and head out, but we had missed our window to get to Gulf Shores, the next protected stop, before dark. Weather moved in overnight on Monday, pinning us down unless we were willing to bash our way through short-period three-foot beam seas to cross the bay. At least we still had power to get us through two nights in the 30s, with daytime highs of just 50°.

Angel loves project boxes. This one, apparently, is "just right."

We spent both days confined to the boat, and used the opportunity to clean up some of the huge mess that goes along with a yard visit, and generally prep the boat to get under way. The rest of the time I spent scrambling to find new boat insurance; the carrier underwriting our current policy, which expires in just a month, is withdrawing from the marine market. I still don't have it nailed down.

We were disappointed this morning to find today's forecast had deteriorated, but we really wanted to get under way. A pair of dolphins joined us in Mississippi Sound after we made our turn, riding our bow wave for a while, and we consider that our official welcome back to the water; dolphins are generally considered good omens among mariners.

We desperately need to pump out, having stretched our tank to over a month, and so while we normally prefer to anchor, tonight we plan to tie up at the Homeport Marina, adjacent to Lucy Buffett's restaurant, Lulu's. Normally we'd never make this stop, and we zipped on by last time, but as long as we're here, we'll see if Jimmy's little sister can cook.


  1. Here's to hoping the dolphins will bring you that good luck!

  2. My head is spinning regarding that fee to move the power cord. Glad you guys are wet, again!


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