Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Northbound at sea

We are in the Atlantic Ocean a few miles east of Isle of Palms, South Carolina.  We had a perfect weather window for the overnight run to Cape Fear, and so we decided last night that we would weigh anchor this afternoon and "get, while the getting is good."  I would have loved to spend a few evenings in Charleston, but we've done that before, and we really did not want to spring for a marina stay.  The city marina would let us land the dinghy for $5, but then we'd need to take a taxi to get anyplace useful.  It would be worth it to have dinner at the Harbour Club across town, but they don't serve dinner until Wednesday evening, and we did not want to miss our window by staying an extra two nights.

We had a mostly relaxing day yesterday, just what we needed between the long run from Hilton Head and tonight's overnight run.  That said, I did get a couple of projects done, including cleaning out and improving my redneck sump box under the shaft stuffing box.  This sump is intended to catch all the dripping from the shaft (if it does not drip seawater all the time, the shaft will overheat) and pump it back overboard, but crud that has accumulated in the box has been interfering with the float switch, a fact we learned after the engine room bilge filled with enough water to set off the alarm.  We've had to vacuum the water out of that bilge several times over the last few days after the switch started acting up.  We did it again today, hopefully for the last time in a while.

Today's project was a bit more critical, literally needing to be done before we could weigh the anchor.  To wit: repair the anchor roller.  Louise posted a photo of our repairs under way in Port Royal Sound, but those were temporary; from the foredeck I can't really reach the bolts on the roller to tighten them properly.  We had hoped simply to get it working enough to drop the anchor in Charleston, where I could hang over the bow and make a proper fix.  As it turned out, even just swinging at anchor, the bolt on the other side of the roller also worked its way loose, and I noticed it at 3am when I did my final snubber check on the way to bed.  I was able to unweight the chain enough to get the bolt back in a couple of threads' worth at that late hour, and called it a night.

The line taking the weight of the chain off the roller, that I rigged last night.  You can see my fingers working on the other side.

This morning I went over the side in my "sit harness," just as I did in Biscayne Bay, to effect a proper repair.  In this case, that involved removing both bolts and taking the inner roller off entirely, sanding the axle smooth (and filing off a particularly bad "tulip" at one end), and slathering the whole thing with marine grease before putting it back through the roller.  I think the friction between the roller and axle was causing the chain movement to literally unscrew the axle right off the bolts.  One bolt would loosen on retrieval, and the other on deployment.

Hanging over the bow in a harness.  I'm wearing my swim trunks, just in case, and keeping the chain between my legs to hold position.

Once I had the axle, the roller ends, and the two washers that stand it off from the carriage all greased, we very carefully put the roller back and I got a thread or two of each bolt engaged.  Then I applied thread locking compound to each bolt before tightening it all back up.  With any luck, this repair should have us good to go for some time to come.

While I was hanging down there, I could tell that the lower roller was also not turning freely.  It did not have the same bolt issue, because it uses a different axle arrangement, but nevertheless I thought we should free it up a bit.  So Louise held the grease container where I could get a finger in it, and I was able to cram a bunch of grease up between the roller ends and the carriage with the help of a thin piece of cardboard.  It all turns much more smoothly now.

Black line to the left has second chain hook to unweight the chain.  The white line with an eye in it is what I step into to haul myself back up to where I can step on the roller assembly and climb back aboard.

In order to work on the lower roller, we had to take the weight off the chain further down, which we did with an extra chain hook and another line.  (This section of chain is hanging loose at anchor -- the force of the boat at the end of the anchor rode is being taken by the snubber, attached to a bow eye at the waterline.)  The whole time I was working, Louise was snapping photos, and she got a shot of the resulting macrame on deck, with the two ends of the line holding the chain off the aft roller, the end of the line with the hook holding the chain off the forward roller, and, of course, the end of the line holding the dope-on-a-rope, yours truly.

All's well that ends well, and we seem to have a working anchor system again, and the anchor and chain came back aboard smoothly when it was time to depart, around 3pm.  The late departure is so that we will arrive at tomorrow's marina destination more or less at high slack tide, the best time to come in the skinny channel and get the boat docked.  I even allotted an extra hour or so, which means we are basically lugging along here in the ocean.  We had a nice 2-knot push out the inlet today, and we'll have a push in at the other end, too.  The 3pm departure also let us rest a bit more, and take advantage of Charleston's free WiFi.

Yesterday after posting here I noticed the tugs that had been out where we detoured near Folly Beach, towing in the barge and several hundred feet of pipeline, the very stuff around which we detoured.  Today on our way out the channel we passed the same tugs, this time bringing in the pump or whatever it was that reminded me of an AT-AT.  It looked far less impressive with its spuds up -- most of its mass was awash as it was being towed.  When we passed it in the ocean, the spuds were all the way down and the belly of the beast was well above the sea surface.  It appears that if we had just come in a day later, we would not have needed to detour.

Our 3pm departure had us out the channel just ahead of a giant Ro-Ro, as well as the Carnival Fantasy, which makes its home port in Charleston.  In a few minutes we will be out of Internet coverage, and likely cell service as well, for most of the remainder of tonight's trip.  This will be the furthest offshore we have been.  By 1pm tomorrow we should be approaching Bald Head Island, and we'll have service perhaps a couple of miles sooner.

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