Saturday, July 31, 2021

Family time.

We are underway northbound in the Atlantic, just passing Cape Neddick, Maine. We had a lovely visit with my cousins while we were in Portsmouth, and got a lot done while we were not visiting. Today we are both a little worn out, so it's a good day for an open-water passage in calm conditions. I am very far behind on answering blog comments, so I am hoping to have a little time left over for that after I get this post out.

After finding a spot to drop the hook near Kittery Point on Tuesday, our good fortune continued, as the dockmaster at Prescott Park called to say they had a cancellation, and we could have all three nights from Wednesday through this morning, on the dock with power. After getting the news, we dropped the tender and headed ashore.

Portsmouth is nothing if not eclectic. This rig was parked not far from the dock. No idea what they did with the engine.

There's nothing ashore at Pepperell Cove other than the harbormaster, a small post office, and a complex of three waterfront restaurants all under the same ownership. We learned that only the casual patio joint is open on Tuesdays, and when we arrived they were fully booked. But our serendipity continued as we almost immediately scored a high-top in the first-come, first-served bar area.

After dinner we strolled for a few minutes, but then the rain that was not forecast for another hour started, and we scrambled home just before the downpour started in earnest. The storm arrived with 35kt winds, and the 137' schooner Roseway just a couple hundred feet from us started dragging. They had arrived after us and anchored too close for our comfort; when I hailed them on the radio to discuss it, they assured us they would be maintaining an anchor watch. True to their word they had all hands on deck during the worst of the storm to re-set the anchor.

Stopping at The Works for bagels. Not quite New York, but better than most.

Wednesday morning after the worst of the ebb had passed, we weighed anchor for the 20-minute run upriver to Prescott Park in downtown Portsmouth, now a familiar stop for us. We tied up to the concrete T-head (map) just before lunchtime. As soon as we were secured, I immediately started work on "dockside" projects that have been piling up waiting for a dock.

The first of those was the leaking dinghy tube, which had to wait for a minimum of a two-day window where we would not need the dinghy and also had the right conditions of temperature and humidity. The leak is a small hole where an improperly-stowed anchor wore through the fabric from vibration, and this is the third attempt to patch it.

The first patch I used the one-part glue that was in the repair kit that came with the boat. When that failed I called for professional help; they were too booked to get us in, but gave the advice that the glue was probably too old and I should try again with a fresh tub of one-part glue, so that's what I did. That patch, too, started leaking shortly after installation. When we were in Port Washington I went into West Marine and dropped the 70 bucks on the two-part adhesive for the next attempt.

Third try, which I hope is the charm. The decorative blue swoosh probably doomed my second attempt; this time I cut the patch around it.

So Wednesday afternoon was spent carefully removing the failed patch with a plastic scraper, removing the old adhesive with chemicals and abrasives, and sanding down a new patch and the damaged area. I put the new patch on with the two-part contact adhesive and then deflated the tube entirely to allow it to cure. This morning I put air back in the tube; the jury is still out on whether or not I succeeded.

I had just wrapped up with the patching when we were whisked away to my cousin's place in Chester. We had a relaxing afternoon catching up and went out to dinner in nearby Derry. They loaned us a car for our stay, and we drove ourselves back to Portsmouth and put the car in the free 72-hour lot a third of a mile from the dock.

Thursday I started in on urgent dockside project #2, which is to reverse the anchor chain. In Gloucester I had picked up 15' of fresh nylon line and a new shackle, and I started by refreshing my skills making an anchor splice (or chain splice) of the new line to the shackle. I was prepared for battle, because that's what it was the last time I did this, using decade-old line that was incredibly stiff.

Chain spice, before docking the tails. I'm sitting in a deck chair on the foredeck. Pardon the stained work pants -- it's grubby in the chain locker.

The fresh line made a huge difference, and making a decent splice was relatively painless and not too time-consuming. I dug out the other parts needed for the project, including the "hammer lock" style chain coupling to connect the anchor, before setting it all aside and heading to Nashua for a Costco run and some other errands. Among other things, we bought steaks for the grill for dinner at my cousins' house.

Yesterday morning I dove back into the anchor project with a vengeance. We had managed to haul the heavy anchor over to the dock the day before, and I started in on the old chain connector with the Dremel tool. These connectors are supposedly reusable, and you are supposed to be able to drive the pin out with a drift. But after four years of saltwater use, the retaining collar is basically fused to the pin, and the collar needs to be cut away before driving the pin out. It took me well over an hour and seven cutoff wheels.

New bitter end, threaded through the spurling pipe. It will end up going the other direction, but first we need to get all the chain out of the locker and off the boat.

The good news here, having now removed two of these after four-plus years each, is that I no longer have the slightest concern about them coming apart under heavy use in salt water. The rings and pin are alloy steel that is not even galvanized, and the retaining collar is galvanized mild spring steel. I was initially concerned the pin might corrode, or the retaining collar would corrode away and let the pin slide out. Now I know it just won't happen.

Once I had the anchor disconnected I brought the chain up on deck and spliced the nylon piece, complete with shackle, onto the end. For those who missed it, this ten-foot (after splicing) section of 3/4" nylon line at the "bitter end" of the chain connects the chain to the "bitts" (which, on our boat, is really a steel ring welded to the frame). It's strong enough to hold the boat to the anchor and chain if all the chain accidentally pays out of the locker, for example if the windlass clutch fails. But it can also be cut with a serrated knife in the event of an emergency where the anchor and chain need to be cut away from the boat, something we've already had to do once and hope never to do again. Splicing the rope directly to the chain is the only way for the connection to pass over the gypsy on the windlass.

New bitter end, freshly attached. The grate material at top of the photo keeps the chain up off the floor of the locker to allow it to drain. It's pulled up to allow me to get the shackle pin installed.

My plan had been to tie the new bitter end, which was formerly the anchor end, off on deck, and then pay all the chain out of the locker, letting it fall to the riverbed. Then I would put the bitter end into the gypsy and winch it all back into the locker. As I was getting ready to do this, Louise pointed out a possible flaw in my reasoning: What if the windlass was unable to pull the front end of the chain out from under the other half ton of chain? Or worse, what if some of it hockled and came off the bottom in a knot?

While I considered this unlikely, I had to acknowledge the possibility. The windlass is rated to lift 2,300 pounds, more than twice the dry weight of the chain, but periodically the chain jams in the locker, stopping it cold. We did not know what was on the river bottom or what it was like here, and the possibility that so much weight could jam some chain into a crevice or something similar gave us pause. We needed a different plan.

110-lb anchor and ~600 lbs of chain on the dock. You can see the chain running back to the boat at right. Anchor is tied to the dock with the black line, "just in case."

The last two times we did this, the boat was on the hard and we were able to lay all the chain out on the ground. This also allowed for inspection and to paint length markings on it. And had we planned for this ahead of time, we could have been docked in a different spot where we could get the anchor roller more or less over a dock. But here, I would have to haul the chain over to the dock by hand as it came off the roller, a lateral distance of perhaps a dozen feet.  Allowing for catenary, that meant hauling 30-pound handfuls of chain hand-over-hand. With the old coupler already cut from the anchor, we were committed.

We tried to move the boat back a short distance along the dock to make this easier, but all that did was cause the current to push the boat another four feet off the dock. I piled 250' of chain on the dock before we decided that the remaining 150' could be done according to the original plan, letting it drop to the bottom. We left a couple of chain links in the gypsy while I descended into the anchor locker to unshackle the bitter end of the rope. The very messy anchor splices I had made four years ago were intact and strong, so much so that I had trouble cutting them away from the chain and shackle.

I tried to saw through the old chain splice with our emergency line-cutting serrated knife, center, and electric hot knife, top, before giving up and using snips to cut it strand by strand.

I had to be down in the anchor locker as the chain came back in to ensure it distributed properly, which meant Louise had to be on the dock to marshal the piles of chain back into the water. After most of the chain was back aboard, I fastened the anchor with a shiny new coupling, pushed the heavy beast off the dock back into the water, and we winched it aboard. Tonight will be the first test, wherein we will see if changing to the less-worn end of the chain has it feed through the gypsy more smoothly. The other end was so worn the link spacing was off -- our motorcycle friends would know this phenomenon as "chain stretch," which is not stretch at all but wear -- and the resulting poor fit in the gypsy pockets was causing it to jump.

We were both pretty beat by the time we finished, but we still found some energy to make a quick run to UPS, Walmart, and Home Depot while we still had a car. In the evening my cousins arrived in their other car and we had a nice dinner at downtown Portsmouth eatery The District, where we celebrated the youngest one's birthday a few days early. It was a great three-day visit, and we're very grateful for the two extra trips to lend us a car.

New coupler freshly installed. With the hammer used to drive the pin home.

In stark contrast to last year, when all was closed down, this season Prescott Park has a full slate of events on its summer stage. We were away during the performances, but we saw lots of sound checks and even dress rehearsals; over the course of our stay there were two music concerts and a children's stage performance based on Frozen. Downtown Portsmouth was also very busy, with lots of summer visitors walking about and enjoying the many shops and restaurants.

As much as we like downtown Portsmouth, and would love to have spent another couple of days, the dock has a three-day limit, and there is really no place to anchor anywhere within a mile or two of town. Thus we dropped lines at checkout time this morning and headed out to sea. Our plan was to anchor in Biddeford Pool, as we did last time, and maybe get ashore. But our reciprocal yacht club there wants forty bucks to land a dinghy, and the only dining in town is a lobster shack. Instead we pressed on to Seal Cove, at Cape Elizabeth, where we've dropped the hook (map) just as I wrap up the post.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post, Sean. Glad you had enjoyable family time recently. I was so impressed with your anchor splice (I have never seen one before) that I had to look up a you-tube to see how that was made. Thanks for an interesting post & Happy Sailing!


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