Friday, June 3, 2022

Cape May diversion

We are under way in the Atlantic Ocean, northbound off the New Jersey coast. We are bound for New York Harbor, and unless we have to divert for some reason, this will be our last ocean passage for the next couple of months.

When last I posted here, I was on watch alone, with Louise asleep below decks. She is my editor here, normally reading along as I am getting the post ready, vetting what I am saying, offering corrections, pointing out typos, and the like, but that does not happen when I post on the night watch. And thus it was that, once we were back in Internet coverage on her watch, she read the post, and in the morning pointed out that I forgot to mention a bit of excitement that, if nothing else, is good for schadenfreude.

Storm coming in toward our anchorage, as seen over the Harrah's casino resort complex.

As I was wrapping up bunkering while Louise was doing the laundry at the Top Rack fuel dock, she yelled out for me to come quickly to the engine room, where water was pouring out of the engine room exhaust duct on the port side, past the 120-volt exhaust fan, and all over  a whole bunch of expensive gear, including the inverter, the voltage converter, a battery charger, alarm relays, the battery disconnect switch, and the high-amperage fuses for the DC system.

After throwing a towel over everything, and, as per usual, not exiting crisis mode long enough to think to take a photo, we both scratched our heads for a few minutes to try to understand the source. We had just been filling the water tanks with a hose on deck, but that was two compartments forward, with no connection. That left the washing machine, all the way on the starboard side of the engine room.

The washer has a discharge pump, which pumps the used wash water and rinse water uphill. In a residence, the discharge hose typically ends in a  hook shape that gets hooked over a slop sink or into an open drain receptacle recessed into the wall. If the drain from the slop sink or wall receptacle gets clogged, it overflows in a very obvious way and you get water all over the laundry room floor, at least until you turn off the washing machine.

Taken after the fact. Water was pouring in from the fan seen at top right. All this equipment, and the equipment below it, got wet. Yellow cube relay had to be taken apart

On Vector, the installers chose to extend that discharge hose all the way to the ceiling (with the extra lift asking a lot of the discharge pump), where it is connected with a hard tee to a drain line that comes from the wet bar sink in the galley above. That drain line crosses to the port side of the engine room and connects via another tee to the 1-1/2" main drain from the galley, which drains the galley sink and dishwasher overboard via a through-hull below the waterline. I've been a bit concerned about this arrangement since we bought the boat, because putting wastewater under pressure has a lot of unpleasant failure modes, but thus far it has worked without incident.

Not this time. Also connected via a tee to that main drain, at a lower level than the drain from the starboard side, are the scuppers that drain the intake and exhaust ducts. These ducts are, of course, open to weather above decks, with angled louvers to keep most of the rainwater out, but there has to be some way to drain any rain or seawater that makes it in. And let me just say here that I never want to be in seas that are splashing into these vents, which are ten feet above the water line, midships.

Evidently the diver whom we hired twice in Treasure Island to clean the hull neglected to clean out the growth from the drain discharge. The growth was not enough to completely occlude it, so draining the galley sinks by gravity or even the small amount of dishwasher discharge, which also flows through the galley sink drain by gravity, was no problem. But the through-hull was blocked enough that when the washing machine pumped nearly 20 gallons into the drain in just a couple of minutes, it backed up all the way to the scupper lines, back into the exhaust duct, and over the lip that directs the rainwater away from the vent.

The drain pipe is in my workshop and supports some items I keep handy like small lines and contact cleaner. If you zoom in you can read the labels I put on years ago. Pipe at top left comes from washer; hose at bottom left from vent scuppers.

By lying face down on the dock, I was able to reach the through-hull with a large screwdriver and clear most of the growth out. The next load of wash made it through the rinse cycle without further incident. After nearly a decade on board, I now need to consider whether I want to drill another hole in the boat for the washer to discharge directly. And we learned a valuable lesson: that when the drain line clogs (or if the through-hull valve gets accidentally left closed), the first place we'll see water is at the ER exhaust, and not backed up into the galley sinks.

In a perfect world I would open up the inverter, charger, converter, and other gear and make sure they're all dried out inside. Instead we relied on the fact that it gets up to 120° in that space under way, with plenty of air flow, to dry everything out. I did get water in one alarm relay that I had to pry open and dry out, and the fan bearings will need to be cleaned and lubricated.

Also in the schadenfreude department, late in my watch as I was on deck scanning the horizon, I became aware of something amiss. A quick scan around the boat revealed that our steaming light, officially called a masthead light, was extinguished. This is an important piece of safety gear that lets other vessels know what kind of vessel you are and which way you are going in the dark, so continuing without it was something of a risk.

Crabbing our way to Cape May. Black line shows our heading -- the way the boat is pointed and the propeller is pushing us. Dashed green line shows the way we are actually going, some 30° to the left; its length represents six minutes of travel, nearly to the half mile mark at the blue circle. Dashed orange line is the course the autopilot is trying to steer, toward the Cape May inlet. I'm making turns for 6kt but you can see our speed made good is just 4.7 due to the beam wind and heavy seas.

With no safe way to climb the mast to check it or replace it with something temporary, I instead turned on the anchor light, and then covered the stern light, which is easier to reach, with opaque tape. Technically, boats of our length are required to have a separate steaming light, which shines forward and to the sides, and stern light, which shines to the rear, but smaller vessels (up to 40' in length) may instead use a single light which shines all the way around. So in this configuration we still looked like a power boat, just smaller, and at least had lights in all directions as required. No more night running now until I fix the steaming light.

Notwithstanding that Atlantic City was our destination when I was finishing that post, we instead diverted to Cape May. We maintained our original course all the way through Louise's watch, and things were still tolerable when I came back up a little before 9am. But winds had picked up well into the 20s on a forecast of less than ten, and within minutes we were in steep three footers. We were stuffing the bow, my "indicator ducks" came flying off the helm, and we were bracing ourselves against hard surfaces. The forecast had deteriorated while we were offline.

I had to reduce throttle to soften the pitching a bit, and faced with spending eight more hours this way to make Atlantic City, we decided to come left 45° and make for Cape May instead. The ride wasn't any more comfortable in that direction, but we only had to endure it for two hours. The wind had us crabbing a full 30° the whole way to the inlet. We had the hook down  off the Coast Guard station (map) just after noon, and we had to squeeze in with several other boats that were taking shelter. We were both too bushed to splash the tender and go ashore, in part owing to Louise having to run the fog horn during part of my sleep period, so we spent the afternoon resting up and we had a nice dinner aboard.

These ducks always ride atop the helm, but leap off in heavy pitching. The one in the little boat with the skipper cap was a gift from a friend and we named him Gilligan. He's acquired friends over the years; the whimsical mallard at left was abandoned and forlorn at the corner of 79th and Amsterdam in NY, and the tiny yellow one was riding along in an unrelated online purchase. Yes, those are fuzzy dice at the top of the photo.

Yesterday's conditions were much better, though not great, and we decided to try again, weighing early in the hopes of making Barnegat Light, with Atlantic City as an earlier option. Halfway to AC we decided, again, that we did not want to endure the pitching all the way to Barnegat, and I slowed down for a more comfortable ride to the closer stop, where we pushed into the inlet against a heavy ebb.

That proved the correct decision, as no sooner did we have the anchor down in our usual spot (map), than we found ourselves under a severe thunderstorm watch, which extended all the way up and down the coast. That seemed to ace us out of going ashore, but the arrival kept getting pushed back and we decided to chance an early dinner, availing ourselves of the bargain-basement happy hour menu at the Chart House in the Golden Nugget, one of our old stand-bys.

The much-ballyhooed storm finally arrived around 9pm, with promised 40mph winds and enough rain to rinse some salt off the boat, but it was all over in an hour. We awoke to flat calm in the anchorage this morning, and weighed anchor at 7am for the full-day run to NY harbor. Things were calm out here early on, but once again conditions are deteriorating and we're not making the way that I had hoped.

Storm headed for the resort and marina where we had dinner. It's a ten minute tender ride.

Today's cruise will end at a familiar anchorage, either at Gravesend Bay near Coney Island, or, if our speed does not improve, just inside Sandy Hook. Tomorrow we will be in Manhattan, where we hope to get ashore at the Parks Department landing north of the George Washington Bridge. Our usual landing, at West 79th Street, is closed for renovations until at least 2025. We'll see how it goes.

We won't have open water again until we are headed east through Long Island Sound toward the North Fork. That's when I will likely make my next post here, in perhaps a week's time. Update: It's 1pm as I prepare to hit "post," and we're still making less than 5.5kt of headway.  The plotter says Gravesend at 10:30, which is well past dark and not a good idea with the lighting issue. There's a small chance we can still make Sandy Hook, but more likely we'll be in the Shark River tonight and finish the passage in the morning.

1 comment:

  1. Funny, like Louise, I also noticed the lack of the water deluge story, though I suggested you add the "What's a lock" tale as well, haha!


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