Friday, October 6, 2017

Sean's lodging in St. Thomas

Louise here, with an update from Sean's deployment in St. Thomas. He arrived safely from Atlanta on a Delta commercial flight to Charlotte Amalie with only one minor casualty: the wheel on his suitcase. Fortunately, he had a roll of rescue tape and fixed that right up. In addition to his rather small suitcase (which also has backpack straps in case it can't be rolled through debris) he had a large laser printer in a Pelican case.

Male staff are being housed in the SS Wright, a MARAD ship. That's right, he's on a boat! Female staff are on a different ship nearby in the harbor, so if I had gone with him we would be separated. Neither ship allows any alcohol, so I'm guessing there are no conjugal visits, either.

Here's his berth, the middle of three. The mattress flips up to reveal storage.

The opposite wall has rifle racks. There's really not a lot of call for rifles in the Red Cross, but the ship is also housing FEMA, NJ state police, NJ EMS, and USAF personnel, so maybe he'll get a gun-totin' roomie or two (or 8).

He has linens and pillow provided by the ship, and bathrooms with showers down the hall. There's a laundry with free soap. The ship is air conditioned, a real luxury. But that berth looks a bit smaller than Vector's.

Yeah, that's pretty small. Size 10.5 feet for scale. He says the little blue curtain provides plenty of privacy, and blocks the light. It also blocks all air flow for a stifling sleeping experience.

Here's the view from the fantail, where he was able to get a cell phone signal while standing under giant ventilator fans. "I love you!" "Your glove is blue? What?" He says there is a weird juxtaposition between cruising sailboats floating peacefully at anchor, and destroyed boats tossed up on shore by the storm.

The ship provides three square meals a day on elegant metal trays. Hm, perhaps those would be three rectangular meals. The food is tasty, even if the presentation is not up to fine dining standards. Plenty of calories to get through long days.

Headquarters is in a building related to the alcohol industry, but obviously there is no alcohol allowed at work. It is walking distance from the port. There are very few services open in the port except a small bar doing a land office business selling beer to relief workers.

When he isn't drinking beer, this is one of Sean's favorite beverages. On tap all the time! All in all, he's pretty comfortable. HQ has generator power during business hours. There's a curfew in place but he can get most of what he needs on the ship. He's already connected with some old friends and has hit the ground running at work. We've been able to chat on the phone each evening and can use Whatsapp when he has wifi, to send photos. Pretty amazing, considering that Charlotte Amalie has no power.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Coming off the bench

If you follow my posts on social media, you already know that I am on my way to the US Virgin Islands to help with the relief efforts there. If not, and this is the first you are hearing about it, I apologize. Things have been a little crazy since this all came about.

For anyone who has joined us here in the last five years, a brief history: Louise and I became volunteers for the American Red Cross shortly after moving aboard our RV, Odyssey. We were looking for a way to volunteer, to replace the volunteer work each of us had been doing when we lived full-time in San Jose, California. When we learned of a new partnership between the Red Cross and the Escapees RV Club, allowing Escapees members to volunteer at disaster relief operations in their rigs, it was a perfect fit.

We had just started the enrollment and training process when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. We still had not completed training when Hurricane Rita struck just two weeks later. We finally finished our training, and in early October of 2005 we drove to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for our very first deployment as disaster relief volunteers. That deployment, at four months, remains our longest to date. We had holiday dinners on paper plates at relief headquarters, and saw some of the worst devastation we've ever seen, before or since.

The Battery, the Ravenel Bridge, and Patriots point from James Island, on a drive a week ago.

Fast forward seven years. We'd been on perhaps two dozen relief operations, everything from hurricanes to tornadoes to wildfires. We'd moved up the chain of command to the highest echelons of disaster responders, even developing and administering training in our function. With few exceptions, we'd always deployed together, in our RV, with our three pets. And then we bought a boat.

I don't need to tell you that we're not going to be racing in to any hurricane-stricken areas in a boat that goes 7mph in any kind of timely way. And leaving the boat behind to its own devices, as well as dealing with our last remaining pet, is not feasible enough for us to contemplate deploying together, or frequently. But we always left the option open that if there was a disaster big enough, we could find a way to deal with the boat so that at least one of us could respond.

Now is that time. A series of devastating wildfires in the west, followed by some of the most powerful and destructive storms in recorded history, have left the Red Cross starved for trained and qualified volunteers, as well as funds. A month ago we made a sizable donation, but when the situation on the ground in Puerto Rico became clear, we made the decision to spend the extra money to berth the boat so that I could deploy.

And so it is that I am typing in a hotel room in Atlanta, having arrived here this morning on a flight from Charleston. Tomorrow morning I board a flight to Saint Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, the area of greatest need for my particular skills at this moment. Louise is minding the boat and the cat.

Louise insisted on snapping a photo of me "in my school clothes" before I left this morning,

I made the call to DC on Friday. By Saturday the decision had been made, and we told the marina office we needed to extend for another month. Our slip is committed starting October 28th, so that is a hard stop -- I need to be back in Charleston by the 27th to move the boat to another spot.

We spent a full three days preparing. Saturday and Sunday involved squaring the boat away, gathering clothes and materials, completing four hours of update training, and finishing paperwork and downloading procedures and other important files. Monday we rented a car so I could get to the nearest chapter to pick up debit cards. Then to the bank to withdraw tons of cash -- banks and ATMs on the islands are inoperative. And then to Walmart to buy supplies needed in the islands that we did not have on the boat.

Once I am in the air tomorrow I will be more or less disconnected and incommunicado for all but essential communications for the next week or two. There is no power on the islands, no running water, no cell service, and limited Internet. I brought Vector's satellite phone with me so that I can remain in limited contact (text messages) no matter what the conditions. It is likely I will not be able to post here for much of that time, and it's possible my next post will not be until after I return to the mainland.

The long boring post about rebuilding the davit winch, which I had intended to post next, will also have to wait (I know you are heartbroken). While I am gone, Louise will try to keep everyone informed of my status over on her quilt blog. (Edited: I'll actually update here on this blog -Louise)

Tonight I will take my last nice hot shower and sleep in my last real bed for the next three weeks. When I return, I hope to catch at least one happy hour on the Megadock before we shove off (happy hour is seasonal; it starts next week).

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tourism, Pride, and Wipers

I know you will find this hard to believe, after my last gargantuan post, but I actually left a project out of it for, umm, brevity. Instead I started another post (this one), intending to finish it in a week or two. But in an effort to not let things get so far behind again, and having accumulated a dozen or so photos, I decided to make some time and get it out sooner.

Before I bore everyone with project details, though, first an update on the goings-on of Vector's stalwart crew. As I mentioned in my last post, I was stag here for about a week, and while much of that time was occupied by projects like fixing the generator and putting the boat back together post-Irma, I did actually manage to get out and about a little bit.

Vector proudly wearing her new rainbow colors for Charleston Pride.

A search of "best places to dine alone" led me to a couple of new-to-me restaurants, including the rooftop patio at the Carolina Ale House across the street from Marion Square. After dinner there I strolled around the neighborhood, discovering a nice art supply store, a few more eateries, and the Holocaust Memorial in Marion Square Park. It was dark, and I made a note to return in the daylight.

That was easy, because one of the eateries was a Panera Bread, which I seldom have any use for but which I remembered as having a decent bagel from our time in Chattanooga a year ago. A couple of days later I returned for a breakfast bagel, and then wandered around Marion Square.

The Holocaust Memorial was moving, but the inscription on one of the plaques was the only thing I photographed. The words stopped me in my tracks; while the memorial was erected nearly two decades ago, I found them particularly relevant today. Ironically they are just yards from the statue, atop a tall column, of John C. Calhoun, one of the most ardent defenders of slavery.

"We remember the Holocaust to alert ourselves to the dangers of prejudice, to express our outrage at the scourge of racism, and to warn the world that racism can lead to genocide."

Many things in Charleston, including the main street which passes the square, bear his name. Also on the grounds are a remnant of the hornworks dating to the Siege of Charleston, the longest of the Revolutionary War. The majority of the park is a parade ground, nowadays used mostly by College of Charleston students for sunbathing, and the view from the park is dominated by the pink-hued walls of the South Carolina State Arsenal, otherwise known as the Old Citadel.

The Old Citadel, nee South Carolina State Arsenal.

The Citadel is one of three major academic institutions in this college town (the others being the College of Charleston, and the Medical University of South Carolina), and has long since moved to a beautiful campus along the Ashley River, on the northwest side of the peninsula. Citadel cadets, in uniform, can occasionally be spotted downtown. The College of Charleston, incidentally, claims to have the most beautiful campus in the US (Travel & Leisure told them so), while MUSC has all the charm of, well, a hospital complex. We ride through the lovely CofC campus almost daily.

Inside the Old Citadel, renovated into a hotel.

After snapping a photo of the impressive and well-kept "front" of the Old Citadel along the parade grounds of the park, I discovered quite accidentally that the building was renovated into the Embassy Suites hotel, and I was able to walk around a bit inside. The old open-air courtyard is now enclosed with a translucent roof and serves as the hotel atrium.

This pair of giant iron pintles framing two guest rooms speaks to an earlier time, when heavy doors enclosed a vault of munitions.

In the course of my bachelorhood here I also strolled much of the length of King Street (too much walking for Louise), which is sort of a cross between restaurant row and a suburban shopping mall, packed with a mix of tourists and college students. If it were not for the scooter there would be no way to even park in this neighborhood -- it's constantly busy.

Louise came back Thursday evening, and while I had tentatively booked a car to go get her, there was nothing else we needed one for, and she ended up getting a Lyft home from the airport instead. We arrived back at the boat at the same time, as I needed to stop at the grocery store after dinner to replenish a few items.

Pride Parade.

I mentioned in my last post that this was Pride week here in Charleston, and while I never made it to any of the handful of events earlier in the week, this morning we went out to catch the parade at the very end of its route, and later we went to the festival in Brittlebank Park just north of us along the river.

Parade color.

There is a large and vibrant LGBTQ community here in Charleston, and we were very happy to see both the parade and the festival well attended. Corporate sponsorship was very much in evidence, and we got swag from T-Mobile, Google, Boeing, and TD Bank, among others. Regretting having failed to do so at the festival in Chattanooga a year ago, we bought a 3'x5' rainbow flag for Vector to wear at festival time.

Festival. The music coming from the stage was decent.

We'll probably skip the late-night Prism party tonight as well as the $150-a-plate brunch tomorrow morning, but we'll fly our little rainbow flags from our scooters through the weekend. I might even wear the hot pink sunglasses I got at the T-Mobile booth.

Google had a booth. Turns out they have a large server farm here. Took this one for all our Google friends in Silicon Valley.

Getting back to projects, I managed to sell the empty satellite dome that had been up on the roof in rather short order. It had been up in the flybridge area up until Irma, when we had to stuff it into the master bath shower to get it down out of the wind (the empty dome is very light). I was already bracing myself for having to stash it in the only standing spot in the tiller flat until it sold, so I was glad it went quickly.

I wasn't smart enough to do it when I still had the rental car (the dome sold during the storm), so I ended up riding the scooter over the Ravenel Bridge to Lowe's in Mount Pleasant to buy a giant 20"x20"x22" moving box. Coming back over the bridge with an enormous sail crammed on the floorboards between my calves was something of an adventure. Once I had it all packed up I needed the marina shuttle to take me to FedEx to ship it.

T-Mobile tats.

The other project I made progress on, and finally "finished" yesterday, is what has heretofore been known as The Great Windshield Wiper Project. This is similar to The Great Lowerable Mast project, inasmuch as it is something that has bugged me since soon after buying the boat, but was large and uncritical and so relegated to the "some day" list.

A little background is in order. Vector has three separate windshield panes, and each has its own wiper. They are traditional pantograph style wipers not unlike what might be found on a bus, truck, or older car. Unlike those vehicles, each has its own separate switch. Each wiper has two speeds, with a three-position switch: off-low-high. The switches, oddly, all have a push-to-wash function even though the boat lacks windshield washers.

"Some day" I plan to add windshield washers, and I've even purchased the pump, tubing, and three nozzles for the project. Principally because Vector often takes salt spray over the bow, and when that spray starts drying on the windshields they become a crusty white mess and I can't see. Often one of us has to go outside with a spray bottle of fresh water to clear them off.

More annoying than that, however, is the operation of the wipers themselves. For starters, when you turn a switch from Low to Off, the wiper stops wherever it is on the windscreen. Unless you want wipers right in your line of sight, you end up manually timing the rotation of the switch for when the wiper arm reaches one end or the other of its travel. Hard enough with one switch, but you do this three times for three wipers.

Stylish pink T-Mobile shades. The shirt is actually "coral," not at all close to the glasses.

Beyond that, the low speed is still too fast for anything less than the sort of steady rain that would make a rational person use an umbrella outdoors. Light mist, sporadic rain, or the every-ten-seconds bouts of salt spray in certain sea conditions have me turning each wiper on for one or two swipes, then off again, but only when it reaches the edge of the windshield. Multiply by three and there have been some days when I've spent six hours or so driving with my hand poised above the three wiper switches the entire time.

Most modern cars and trucks have solved this problem with "interval" wipers, which swipe, stop for a while, then swipe again. Aftermarket interval timers exist which can be retrofitted to most cars and trucks to provide this intermittent or delayed action if it was not so equipped from the factory. All of these systems, though, require that the wipers have a "park" system.

A wiper park system is simply a system whereby the wipers return to the edge of the windshield when the switch is turned to the "off" position, regardless of where the wiper happens to be wiping when the switch is turned. Alas, you may recall I said that our wipers don't do that.

While I was in the pilothouse overhead, removing the spotlight controller a couple of weeks ago, I spent a few minutes looking at the windshield wiper motors. These are pretty much the first thing you see when you open up those panels. They are well-known and respected Exalto brand units, and clearly there were more wires coming out of them than would be needed for just Low and High speeds.

Two of the three wiper motors. Yes, those are fuzzy dice hanging where a rearview mirror would be in a car; a "throw" from the Naked Bike Ride in New Orleans.

I wrote down the part numbers, and when I was done with my other projects in there, I looked them up. Sure enough, these wipers do incorporate a "park" system, which is basically a switch that remains closed until the motor revolves to the park position. Great, I thought, someone just forgot to hook it up and all I need to do is connect a few wires and I'm in business.

Of course not. I found the parking wires from the motors had been removed from the switches and taped up, and I removed the tape and connected them to the proper terminals on one of the wipers. Then I turned the wiper breaker on, and the wiper promptly "parked" itself in the middle of the windshield.

Back to the manuals I went, learning that there is about a ten minute procedure the installer is supposed to go through to set the parking position as well as the angle through which the blades wipe. This particular installation is consistent with the half-baked way that may "finishing touches" were completed on this boat originally, as the first owner desperately tried to get out from under the constant nickle-and-dime project drain. Many things were rushed to completion without thoroughness.

In this case I can only guess that the installer just slapped the motors up there, wired them up, and then put the wiper arms on. The first time he ran them, they all "parked" mid-windshield, and rather than take an hour to remove the motors and correctly set the park positions, he simply disconnected the parking wires at the switches.

One set of wiper arms below the eyebrow.

Getting the arms off the motors and the motors out of the bulkhead would have been a slam-dunk at installation time, but after they'd been up there for fifteen years, it was a challenge. The arm was firmly seized to the motor shaft, and the "eyebrow" over the pilothouse windows prevented me from getting my three-jaw puller or my bearing puller up there to pry it off.

I ended up jury-rigging a puller by inserting an M12 bolt of the correct length "backwards" into the bottom half of my impeller puller. That just barely fit between the eyebrow and the motor shaft, and by "unscrewing" the bolt I was able to pop each of the wipers off its shaft.

Boaters will recognize this as half of an impeller puller.

Once the motors were out of the bulkhead I could get to the adjusting plates that connect the motors to the wiper shafts. Not only was I able to set the park position correctly, but I was also able to increase the wipe angle from 45° to 55°, and now the wipers cover nearly the entirety of each windscreen, rather than leaving about 3" unwiped at the edges.

One of the wipers (the center and thus most critical one) would not park at all, even after I hooked up the parking wires. After perhaps and hour or so of frustration checking out every possible external cause, I finally opened up the back plate of the motor itself to find that one of the two contact "wipers" that rides against the notched plate was simply not making contact. Bending it back into shape and closing up the motor fixed the problem after a couple of trials-and-errors.

I was a little surprised to find one wiper had a completely different adjusting mechanism than the other two, even though all three were the same vintage, based on their dates of manufacture. It looks like one unit may have been replaced somewhere along the line, and whoever ordered the replacement ordered a slightly different model.

All three wipers are again functional, wiping the entirety of the glass, and parking properly when turned off. And I have a timer in hand which I can use to make an interval delay system. Now I just need to find some switches with a fourth position.

NHC track projection of Maria.

During my last post I mentioned we were keeping an eye on Hurricane Maria.  We are not in the cone of probability for a landfall, and we are only in a 10% probability for getting Tropical Storm-force winds. It should be a non-issue for us here, with perhaps some rain and wind and a minimal amount of storm surge. The Outer Banks of North Carolina are in some jeopardy, and of course our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico as well as the other Caribbean islands that were hard-hit by this Category-5 storm.

NHC wind speed probability. We are in the 10% zone for TS winds.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Between Storms

I know I'm behind on the blog, and, really, I haven't caught up with everything else far enough yet to be posting. But we are getting so many emails and other communications asking if we are OK after the storm that it's best I get this out post haste. The short version is, yes, we're fine, and so is Vector.

Children playing in the fountain at Vendue Range a couple of days ago, as the city returns to normal.

Now is a good time to remind everyone that during these sorts of events, we update the Twitter feed more frequently, and we did post an all-clear there after the storm passed. Some readers have mentioned that they do not have Twitter, but Vector's feed is public, so anyone at all can see it. All you need to is follow the link to read the updates, no Twitter account required.

We tied off this loose tender in the parking lot the day before the storm, afraid it would float away in the surge.

After my last post here the winds increased steadily throughout the day and overnight. We ate aboard, although we noted a number of other crews headed ashore for dinner. That would include the large yacht that arrived after the marina staff had gone, tying up to the outside of the Megadock (the only yacht on the outside) in moderate winds. The crew struggled to get it to the dock, then did virtually nothing to tie up for the storm.

Parking lot, along with a half dozen vehicles, flooded at the height of the surge.

The brunt of the storm arrived Monday morning. Power went off at the docks just before 9am. We could see that it was still on ashore, in the parking lot, the Rice Mill, and the Yacht Club, so we assumed that a marina staff member had turned it off while they still could, in anticipation of the transformers and switch gear being inundated later in the day.

Another view of the lot, from the apartment tower across the street. Vector is at top center.

Winds steadily increased throughout the morning, peaking in the afternoon at about 40 knots steady with gusts registering to 60 on our anemometer. We spent the day looking out the windows at what was going on around us; during the heaviest winds, several sailboats dragged out of the anchorage near the Coast Guard Station, across the channel, and towards the lee shore. A couple of boats in the main anchorage across from the Megadock also cut loose.

Salty Mikes, the bike racks, and an unfortunate car with his brake lights on, all under water.

Damage to boats in the marina was minimal. A couple of skippers failed to remove dinghy covers which got shredded. The aforementioned yacht that barely tied up did nothing about their bimini, which steadily self-destructed throughout the storm. We saw a couple of cushions blow off boats, and we rescued three errant fenders that came loose and floated toward us.

Large yacht at the Megadock with its bimini shreding. They detached those Tide Rider steps at the last minute, too, before they rolled right off the dock edge and did more damage.

The storm surge unfortunately coincided with a high astronomical tide. The parking lot flooded, as we had anticipated, inundating several cars. A rack full of a dozen or so bicycles disappeared completely under the water. The marina office flooded to nearly three feet, and one of the ice machines came afloat and tried to escape.

Marina office under water. That's the top of a picnic table just in front of it. Ice machine at right is afloat.

That same surge, nearly four feet over normal high tide levels, allowed the boats dragging across the anchorage to make it all the way onto what would later become dry land. And those were the lucky ones; one boat sank just off the channel; it was still awash the day after the storm, well into the morning, but no one came to rescue her and down she went, with only her mast protruding to mark the hazard to navigation.

Ketch at right dragged across the anchorage and was left high and dry when the surge went out. The owner has been out trying to get it afloat. Boat at left was in the marsh already from Matthew last year; Irma floated it and then put it even further aground.

During the worst of the flooding, I wanted to go out and walk the docks, so we could see just how bad things were ashore. The wind was so strong, though, that despite our nine lines, Vector was being held a good four feet off the dock, and we had no way to safely get off the boat. We had to settle for looking around with binoculars, which I did from the flybridge, doing my best Marcel Marceau imitation.

Dock is a long way away. Black fenders attached to the boat are our usual; we attached the two red ones to the dock for the storm.

By Monday evening the storm had all but passed. The flood waters receded with the tide, Vector came back alongside the dock, and even most of the rain stopped. We walked around the marina and the parking lot surveying the damage. In addition to the shredded canvas and the boats at anchor, there were a number of tree limbs down and random items strewn about. The Sea Store had been flooded, along with Salty Mike's bar. The Rice Mill seems to have been spared.

This was a planter box at the corner of the Battery. Water pouring over the seawall to the right undermined it and carried off all the plants.

I saw video during the storm of water pouring over the seawall at The Battery, and when I rode around town this week I could see plenty of evidence of flooding in the French Quarter. East Bay Street, one of the main drags, was closed at the Custom House with a giant cleanup machine in the middle of it that's been scooping the mud off the streets.

East Bay closed. Custom House to the right; the cleanup machine is in the road.

Monday afternoon, after the bulk of the storm had passed and while the batteries were still at 75% charge, I started up the generator so we could top the batteries back up to 80% or so and run a little AC to dry things out. In very short order, our smoke alarms started blaring, and I could smell exhaust gas in the engine room. We quickly shut down the generator, followed by any non-essential electrical loads to preserve the batteries.

Limbs down in the parking lot. That standing water behind them is right where we've been parking the scooters.

Inspection revealed what I already suspected: the cast iron exhaust elbow, where seawater mixes with hot exhaust gasses to cool them down, had corroded through and was leaking raw exhaust into the engine room. We had been forewarned this would happen when we bought the boat, and shame on me for not having the spare to replace it on hand. Supply issues with the preferred cast stainless replacement had derailed a previous order and I put it on the "someday before going offshore" list.

Cast iron elbow literally broke in two in my hand as I removed it.

With no way to know when dock power would be restored, we resorted to our backup method of battery charging just before bed time, which is to run the main engine at 1200 RPM. That puts a full 100 amps or so into the batteries, the same amount that the charger does when the generator is running, albeit at a fuel penalty of a bit more than double. (As it happened, power was back on mid-afternoon Tuesday and we ran the main engine less than an hour total.)

Exhaust elbow removed. That's the heat exhanger at top right, and the exhaust outlet below it. Old hose is at lower left. Soot and rust stains tell a tale.

Tuesday was an absolutely beautiful day. By 8am the marina was a hive of activity, with the entire marina staff on board to get everything cleaned up and back in working order, as well as owners or crew of well over half the boats in the marina checking on their boats, cleaning up as needed, and removing storm lines and other measures.

I got a lift back to the Marion Park garage, adjacent to the Francis Marion Hotel and across the street from the eponymous park, and retrieved the rental car, safely ensconced on the third floor. The pay gates had been removed for the storm, making the garage free, so I paid nothing for the four nights of parking. We ended up paying for a week on a rental car that spent more than half that time in a garage, but at less that $150 it was cheap insurance if we needed to bug out.

Our first steps ashore as the storm passed. Some cars are still under water.

We used the rental car to go to dinner in West Ashley, and I was able to drop Louise off at the airport Wednesday morning for her flight to California for a week. I got the car back to Enterprise, also in West Ashley, with a half hour to spare on the contract. This side of the river is out of their pickup territory (the closer downtown branch wanted another C-note for the same rental), so I had them drop me at the Holiday Inn across the river.

It was an interesting walk back from there, about a mile and a quarter, over the drawbridge and along a concrete walkway over the marsh. As long as I was at the Holiday Inn I took the elevator up to the top-floor bar and restaurant for a view. They were closed for cleanup -- apparently 60mph winds drove the rain right through all the window gaskets.

A lovely sunset on the Ashley a few days post-storm.

Since Louise left I've been mostly putting the boat back together from all the storm preps. It took the two of us nearly three full days to get everything ready, and it took me alone a bit longer than that to put it all back in order. Putting the flybridge back together gave me a good chance to carefully assess any wind issues on Vector, but I did not find a single problem. Even the questionable flybridge canvas came through unscathed.

Flybridge back together, with cushions, pillows, and table in place, extra tie-downs removed from the boat deck, bicycles back on board, and dinghy console cover in place.

The storm brought together the handful of people who rode it out here at the docks, and I made the acquaintance of the husband-and-wife professional crew on a 92-footer on the Megadock, mostly by running into them every time they walk their cute little dog. When they learned I was stag, the stew took it upon herself to send some home-cooked food over and I enjoyed a nice meatball sub as well as some spring rolls. Otherwise I've been eating in town; I've already plowed through all the leftovers.

Now that the boat's back together from the storm I'm back to doing projects, chief among them repairing the generator. I ordered the parts Tuesday morning and I had them by Friday. I spent the weekend replacing the elbow, and as long as the hose was off I ordered a new one, which arrived yesterday, and put that on this morning. The generator is working and buttoned back up now.

Shiny new cast stainless elbow, with new hose. Cleaned up some of the soot stains, too.

Louise returns Thursday evening. Between now and then I am going to try to take some time off and do a little sightseeing. It's Pride Week here in Charleston, and I put a couple of the events on my calendar. Louise will be back in time for the parade and festival this weekend, so we can enjoy that together.

This was my "go bag," packed with a few essentials and a single change of clothes (other clothes were already in the car) plus room for my computer, to be grabbed at the last minute if we had to abandon Vector to her fate. I made the mistake of leaving it on the settee as I was unpacking it.

Between the storm and its preparations and the California trip, we've already overstayed our two months by a fair margin, and now it makes sense just to stay a third (the monthly rate is significantly better than the daily or weekly rate), which will take us to the first week in October. By then many of the storm-induced hazards will be marked or removed. The Corps of Engineers survey boat Swart stopped here at the marina for a couple of nights, busy surveying the channels.

This evening's track model run for Maria from State of Florida.

There is another storm on the horizon, Maria. While the NHC has not projected it out this far, the models consensus is that the storm will turn back out to sea rather than endanger the Carolinas. As it stands we are staying put. It's been a miserable storm season thus far, and we'll be watching each new system carefully as it develops.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Port Condition Yankee

At 1300 today the Captain of the Port set Port Condition Yankee. No vessels are allowed in, and any commercial vessels already here are ordered to leave by 8pm. We've been duly warned that drawbridges may lock down at winds of 25kt and that rescue aircraft will be grounded.

Vector, as ready as she gets.

We expect Port Condition Zulu to be set sometime tomorrow morning. At that point the port will be locked down and everyone will have to live with whatever position they're already in. The marina is closed today, but just ten minutes ago an 85' yacht came in and tied up to the outside of the Megadock. They are the only vessel tied to the outside of the dock.

Megayacht Macramé.

I spent the morning taping up locker doors, window seams, and the aft door. We brought the outside chairs into the salon, which involves taking the screen door out of its track. We're now as ready as we can be. After lunch it was high tide, and we walked ashore to have a look around.

Aft doors with all the leakage points taped. I'll tape around the right-side jamb tonight.

Windows get the same treatment.

We're just a day past full moon and so we have spring tides. Even today, without the effect of the storm, the lower parts of the parking lot are flooded. I'm able to touch the top of the pilings while standing on the dock, so we have perhaps six feet and change of headroom for surge. The surge forecast, thankfully, has dropped to 1-3 feet. Still, the parking lot will be fully flooded, and water may come in to the Rice Mill Building and the Sea Store. Rice Mill has about 8" of sandbags.

Parking lot flooded at high tide.

Not a lot of headroom on the dock pilings.

So far we've seen gusts to about 20kt, and it's probably blowing a steady 15kt. We're being pushed away from the dock, so getting off and on the boat is a challenge. Overnight winds will build into the 30s, and we expect a full dozen hours of storm-force winds tomorrow.

These lumps are the high ground in the parking lot. Not high enough.

Our biggest concern at this point is other boats who may be less well-prepared. Just downriver of us is a collection of rag-tag sailboats anchored in front of the Coast Guard station. We heard tell of one cutting loose last year and ping-ponging it's way down the marina fairway, gouging a half dozen expensive yachts in the process. We have two large fenders staged on deck in case we need to fend off.

Anchorage just downriver of us.

Right now we are digesting coverage of the situation in south Florida. The Keys have been without power since last night and all the local web cams are off-line, along with most of the cellular network. It may be a full day before we know what the damage looks like. And while the surge forecast has actually been dropping, most of SW Florida seems destined for catastrophic flooding.

Salon is packed. Here are the deck chairs, the outside rugs, and Angel's escape pod.

We've received many well-wishes in the comments and on social media and I am hard-pressed to answer each one. Thank you for your thoughts. We will be fine here, and our thoughts are now very much with our many friends in Florida. While many of them have already evacuated, their property, boats, and belongings are still in harm's way.

No beer until Tuesday. Maybe longer, since they did not sandbag the doors.