Saturday, October 5, 2013

Catching our breath

We are still at the Harborview Marina in Baltimore, Maryland.  The MTOA rendezvous here wrapped up late Thursday night, and I thought I might finally get a chance to update the blog yesterday, but I was so beat I just could not manage it.  I ended up spending most of the day just relaxing, the first time in almost five months where I did not have a schedule to keep.  Although I did manage to clean up the house a little.  Last night, the most we could manage for dinner was to stumble down to the Rusty Scupper a few blocks north for a salad.

Traffic jam on the flybridge ladder.

We realized yesterday that we've already been here over two weeks -- halfway through our reserved month.  Even so, we haven't yet spent any time seeing Baltimore or even just the inner harbor, as it has been a whirlwind couple of weeks.  After spending our first few days squaring the boat away, our friends Martin and Stephanie arrived shortly after I last posted here, just in time for Trawler Fest University the next morning.  We had a single evening to catch up with them away from the bustle of the event, and we ended up walking over to Little Havana again for dinner.

Our two day "university" course was focused on engine and systems maintenance, complete with some hands-on work on a massive Scania diesel that the John W. Brown crew had hoisted into the classroom using one of the ship's massive steam-powered cranes.  Our class was held in the #3 Tween Deck, and they simply left the #3 cargo hold hatch off for the duration, so we had an open-air classroom of sorts.  Our chairs (and the heavy Scania) were all on the tween-deck covers, and I could see the bottom of the #3 hold some thirty feet below through the gaps in the covers.

Our class culminated with a tour of the Brown's engine room and its triple-expansion reciprocating steam engine.  The steam plant was cold, so they had been operating the deck winches and other gear with compressed air, but impressive nonetheless and more so because they do fire it up several times a year and take the ship out under her own power. The all-volunteer crew is very knowledgeable, each carrying the necessary merchant mariner credentials for one or more crew ratings.

The ship and its tween deck areas hosted not only our university class, but also all the seminars over the next three days of Trawler Fest, as well as two cocktail parties and a seated dinner.  We had the run of the ship and could also do the self-guided tour, which takes in the pilot house, monkey bridge, officers' quarters, gun tubs, machinery spaces, and all the tween deck areas.

We did take some time out from the first day of Trawler Fest to watch the annual turning-around of the sloop-of-war USS Constellation in Baltimore Harbor, which we could see right from Vector's flybridge.  While this was interesting to watch, the concomitant whistle salute from the nearby John W. Brown sent the cats scrambling for cover, and several minutes later, Constellation fired her canon, which sent George trembling between the master berth and the starboard stabilizer, where she remained for over an hour.  The rest of the day she kept looking over her shoulder in the direction of the harbor, expecting the other shoe to drop.

Much more relaxed, days later.

Trawler Fest itself was nice, although it seemed a bit light on actual trawlers this year. I will say that I have never before seen so many Krogen Whalebacks in one place, with four of them in the show.  As always, it was great catching up with many friends in the trawler community, and we gleaned a few things from the seminars and workshops as well. Touring all the boats on the dock served to reinforce that we made a good choice.

Having guests aboard for the whole show worked out quite well, with most systems working out just fine.  The one hiccup was when the forward shower overflowed its pan, despite the fact that we had both tested it thoroughly beforehand.  It was a simple problem -- the drain fitting the yard had installed in place of the old integral sump had a strainer on it that was too fine for the application, and it plugged up with soap residue.  After pulling up the teak grate and the old sump strainer I simply removed and discarded the problem strainer, but not before shower water had overtopped the pan sides and rained into the bilge.  Today or tomorrow we will try to rinse out and dewater the bilges, a project for which we did not have the time during the show.

Our guests also confirmed that some small nightstands would be a welcome addition in the forward stateroom, but otherwise said all was comfortable.  Speaking of which, they brought with them some housewarming/hostess gifts which are welcome additions to the boat.  Steph is a quilter and made us a lovely lap quilt with a maritime theme, including our new dolphin logo and silhouettes of Vector herself.  Martin is a sculptor who works in several media, including glass, and he made us a great serving tray with the silhouette and name embedded in glass, as well as a nice set of coasters with the logo.

Serving tray.  I had to put a white sheet of paper behind it to photograph the design, which is itself glass.

One of the eight coasters.

We had a great time with them while they were here, and it was hard to say goodbye Sunday morning.  Shortly after the final day of the show opened, however, our good friends Ben and Karen arrived by car from Philly to spend the day.  We toured through about a dozen boats, and spent part of the evening catching up over dinner at Little Havana before they had to head back to Philly for a morning flight.  They will be heading south soon in their bus conversion and we resolved to connect with them again when we head south ourselves later this year. (Karen took a nice photo of us with Ben, seen in this post. -Louise)

We had just a single day before the start of the MTOA rendezvous, and we spent most of it getting the boat cleaned up and squared away again after the whirlwind of Trawler Fest.  That included taking the boat around to the pumpout station, which had been closed throughout the show as there was an exhibitor boat docked there.  We had also taken the boat over to pump out just before our guests arrived, and we were relieved to find that the tankage was adequate to handle the four of us living aboard for a full week.  We probably could have gone another couple of days, just the two of us, as well, but we wanted to get the dirty job out of the way before the rendezvous started.

The rendezvous was an interesting experience, starting with the docking committee reminiscent of the parking volunteers at Escapees rallies.  We enjoyed meeting many MTOA members and putting faces to some names we've seen before.  That said, we probably will not go out of our way to do this again, as the cost was rather high for a casual get-together with limited food and beverage options.  It did not help that Louise came down with some kind of crud a few days ago and had to miss the last two dinners -- I had to argue with the caterer on the last night to get them to let me take something home to her. To be fair, we did win four door prizes, including a free night of dockage at three different marinas, so that was worthwhile.

I am happy to report that our electric power problems seem to be behind us, with my connection-tightening routine inside the inverter-charger appearing to have been the solution.  Not only does this mean we've had glitch-free DC power available since the repair, but it also will allow me to sell that unit with a clear conscience once I replace it with the MS4024 I have waiting in the wings.  In good working condition, this 3000-watt Heart Freedom 458 is worth nearly a grand on the used market, which will offset the two bills I laid out for the 4024.

Now that the charger is working properly, we need to re-test the battery plant.  It's possible the bank is not nearly in as bad a condition as I had thought.  Between the bad crimp I discovered earlier, the one rogue battery, and the temperamental charger, there's a good chance they simply have not had a proper discharge/charge cycle in many months.  I will be doing some testing and recharging of the whole system while we are still here at the dock, where the cost to charge is lower than at anchor (we are paying for electricity on consumption, at $0.20/kWh).

Our monthly rate here takes us to October 18, just shy of two weeks from now.  When I first booked this stay, I had guessed that we would not use the whole month, leaving after perhaps three weeks.  Given that we haven't been further afield than a few blocks' walk from the dock and have done nothing save attend shows and fix things since we arrived, I am now thinking we'll be here for the duration.  For one thing, I need a break, and we'd like to see some more of Baltimore before moving on.  I still have a "critical" project list as well, and I will try to make some progress on it while we are here.  Who knows, I might even get the new inverter and alternator installed.

Whether we stay two more weeks or only one, where we go from here is something of a mystery at this point.  Early in the summer I had hopes of making it as far north as Haverstraw, on the Hudson River, with a stop at Manasquan along the way.  I have family near both those places and it would have been nice to have a visit in the boat.  (Even earlier, in the spring, you may recall we had hopes of making it all the way to Long Island Sound to visit friends there as well.)  That plan would have involved getting there last month sometime and being back in Baltimore in time for Trawler Fest.

Our very late departure from the boatyard waylaid those plans, however, and I think we've missed the window to make it any further north than Delaware.  Even if we shoved off in the next few days, it would be mid-October by the time we rounded Cape May, and the chances for favorable weather in the Atlantic east of New Jersey for the passage both ways would be dicey.  We are, of course, too big to take the protected inland route along the New Jersey coast, whether or not all has been cleared in the wake of Sandy last year.

I'd still like to get in some kind of family visit, so perhaps I will take the train up north, about a two hour ride from here.  Another option might be to cruise north as far as Delaware Bay and see if they are interested in driving the two hours to see us somewhere in that area.  Unfortunately, there is a paucity of marinas in that part of the waterway that can accommodate us.  Wilmington seems to have none, and pushing upriver to Philadelphia is a stretch.  I need to spend some more time with the charts and guidebooks to sort it out, and we'll be keeping a sharp eye on the weather forecasts as well.

Whatever else we do next, we'll probably spend a little more time here on the Chesapeake before stopping back in Deltaville, Virginia for some repair work to follow up our yard work there.  We'll be adding some loops to the overboard bilge discharges to prevent water from backflooding when under way in heavy seas, and touching up some paint holidays in the bilges, along with other minor fixes.  Also we have discovered that the eye on the snubber is rubbing into the paint adjacent the bow padeye, so we'll need to come up with some remedy for that as well.

I expect we will retrace our steps south from Deltaville to Hampton Roads in early November along with the annual snowbird migration, although from there we will mostly take the outside route versus the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW).  The ICW is too shallow for our tastes in many places, and, having done it once, we have no need to repeat it unless it makes things easier rather than harder.


  1. I've read most of your posts about your service with the Red Cross. Because of your commitment, I've signed up to learn more. You are wonderful people and you have a great blog.

    1. @Pat: Thanks for your kind words! I hope you find something that interests you with the Red Cross. We've certainly enjoyed our work with them.

  2. It was great to see the Constellation! Just a did you know: the Constellation's first Captain; Thomas Truxton, later went on to be the first Commodore of the US. Navy. Also she is of the same class as the USS Constitution, and her keel was laid earlier than the Constitution (though later modified, adding several feet to her length, so the Constitution claims the Oldest Ship in the fleet title) Technically the Constellation was the first US Frigate back in the day.


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