Monday, April 30, 2012

Idleness yields Atrophy

Just like people, boats are not designed to sit around doing nothing. And, usually, if you do nothing, something bad comes of it. The damage may not be obvious but it should be expected.
In our case, almost every thing that we have had to fix on SeaClearly was a direct result of sitting on the hard for almost 2 years. While she waited for us to show up and take her home, things got older, dried out when they were supposed to be moist or got wet when they were supposed to be dry.

As we came across Pamlico Sound, the engine High Temperature alarm went off. I throttled back and the temperature immediately started dropping until the alarm shut off. So, we went below to check the situation before shutting down. We found that the belt that looked pretty OK through inspection and survey was, in fact, dry rotted. It was dissolving into a fine black mist that was coating the engine compartment while it flapped loosely around the water pump and alternator. Quick back up to shut down the engine. Push the big red 'stop the deisel' button and exactly nothing happened. So, of course, just as you push an elevator button harder to make the lift come faster, I pushed the button harder. This only raised my frustration level and did nothing to shut down the engine.
Engine before black powder. How clean!
What happened next was nothing short of funny. We all scrambled in different directions doing what we do best - finding the resource that will give us the answer fastest. Printed copies of Yanmar manuals and Nigel Calder's boat bible appear from nowhere while the new-boat-idiots try to figure out how to stop the engine.

OK, there is a stop solenoid somewhere. It looks nothing like any of these pictures. Go push the button again while I watch. Wait! Something tried to move. Let me help it. Yes! Alright, step one accomplished. 

We were pretty sure we had a spare belt and we did - 2, in fact. (We swear we will be as diligent stocking spares as the prior owners). It's an easy job to replace the belt. Start her back up. Well, not so fast. Those alternators don't charge so well when the belts are just flapping around. We had to jump ourselves off the house batteries to get fired up.

Then, we all sat back, sort of relieved and thought 'Well, that was fun'. Could have been much worse. Two hours earlier we would have gotten tossed around, maybe at a bad spot. If there were no spares, no references, no tools - we would have been screwed. So, we live and learn.
On towards Manteo.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Ocracoke

The peaceful achorage at Ocracoke turned into a windy, choppy night. We were very worried about the anchor holding since we have very limited experience. Other boats that looked far away in the daylight with a breeze from the northwest looked bigger and closer at night with 25 - 30 knot winds from the north. Everybody swing!
Regardless, we all slept soundly (due to previous short nights, long days). We got up and had coffee and reflected again on how nice our new floating home really was - sort of like camping in a condo. Also, inside of SeaClearly is cozy. To the point that you have no idea how bad the weather is outside. When we went out to clear the decks and prep to leave, we found out. Just plain snotty. We already expected the wind change and that we were probably motoring all day headed north. The wind speed was (as usual) a good bit higher than the mechanical voice on Channel 4. We decided to go anyway since our (again, limited) experience had shown us that SeaClearly doesn't mind the weather much.
Weighing anchor was a bit more exciting than dropping. Junie and Jeffrey were on anchor duty. As soon as the hook came off the bottom, we started blowing toward shore. They were diligently trying to wash down the chain and couldn't quite understand why I was yelling 'Get it up! Get it up!' (Sorry, no pictures. There are seldom pictures of the difficult situations because, well, everybody was busy) We got underway safely but the resultant Silver Lake mud that made it into the anchor locker would come back to haunt us.

This is the picture that met us as we turned north out of the channel. Fortunately for us, we were 'sailing on the patio'  motoring along in the comfort of our full enclosure. The Pamlico Sound has a nasty reputation and it was giving us a small taste today. Steep waves, short period, multi-directional 4 - 6 foot seas with constant 25 - 30 + winds. As spray flew over the cabin roof and 6 inch rivers of water streamed down the decks, we were warm and dry and commenting things like 'Wow, it's ugly out there' as though it were somewhere else. SeaClearly is a wonderful, solid platform.

So, we motored along for several hours, mashing waves, checking routes, snacks. The weather and the seas improved a little bit. We started entertaining ourselves chasing down the flies that had joined us. Remember that Silver Lake mud? Apparently it attracts visitors.

Everything was just great until the Engine Temperature light came on. I know. This is starting to read like a serial adventure. Hey, I'm just telling the story.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Ocracoke Silver Lake

April 11, 2012 - We had a cool trip from Oriental to Ocracoke. Easy sailing, enough sights to keep it interesting. Lunch from the galley while underway. Not bad.

The trip planned out at about 36 nm - short by cruising standards but significant for us. Since we got a pretty early start we expected to show up before dinner time and, despite having planned a dinner on the boat, we had all been privately formulating a way to get dinner at some cute restaurant ashore.

The approach to Silver Lake is not difficult but it is a little unnerving. There is ferry traffic, obvious sandbars, things sticking up, narrow sections and markers that switch from green-on-the-right to red-right-returning in the middle of a hard port turn. But we felt pretty special clearing the channel and drifting into the harbor with the lighthouse watching us come in.

Now, we had a couple more first-time challenges. Number 1 - anchoring. The only time we have used the anchor / windlass was to drop it to the bottom in 7 feet of water to test it. Suddenly, we have to make all of those choices and take all of those actions we have read about, studied, planned for.
  • Pick the spot where you want to end up.
  • Motor up into the wind to where you need to drop anchor.
  • Come to a stop and let the backward drift begin - help the drift if necessary.
  • Start letting out chain. Keep pointing so the captain knows where the anchor is.
  • Thank the previous owners for marking the chain lengths with colored paint and recording the colors / lengths inside the foredeck locker.
  • Get your scope where you want it - 7:1 - and check that you are clear of other boats in case of wind shifts.
  • Make sure she sets properly (and add a little reverse just to be sure - even though a lot of people say you shouldn't need to).
  • Dig out the 'snubber' - a bridle that you attach to the anchor chain to keep the tension off the windlass.
  • Shut down and congratulate the crew!

We make a couple of quick phone calls to notify the family that we made a safe passage and, almost before we hang up, they are checking us out on the Sliver Lake webcam (what a world we live in) and watching us (Challenge number 2) take the dinghy off the davits, get the motor off the brackets and on the the dinghy, hook up and go.

Of course, by this time, everybody's secret plans to get ashore have become obvious and the justifications made. We pile into the dinghy and head across the harbor and find that cute little restaurant. Nice ending to a nice day. Tomorrow will be different.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Leaving Oriental

It takes a good deal of logistical planning to leave the dock - even for a short trip and, especially, when you are still learning your boat. First, the crew. Our middle son, Jeffrey, from Denver enthusiastically volunteered to fly out and help us bring SeaClearly home. We were grateful for the offer and set that up before he changed his mind.
The calendar is always a challenge at our house. Between business trips and daily life, it can be tough to get things to align. Short story - April 10, June was home (a somewhat rare occasion for the business traveler), I was driving back from a trip and Jeffrey was flying into Norfolk and picking up a Hertz car to ferry us to Oriental. It is always a surprise when these things come together. By 5:00 pm, we are packed into the rental and headed down the (familiar) road to Oriental.
We have been watching weather windows for 2 weeks and we are looking pretty good. After our grounding on arrival to Oriental a few weeks back, we are still nervous about the water level. And, with good reason. On a good water day, SeaClearly's deck is at, or slightly above, the bulkhead at Deaton's. We arrive to find her deck 2 feet below the bulkhead and only reading 0.4 feet of water. Not good.
But, we start down our checklist and hope for the best. There were a few minor repairs (not the stuff that makes interesting blogs), packing, unpacking, returning the rental car (thanks to Karen Deaton for the use of her car) and a couple of cans of diesel for comfort.  We took a few minutes for a glass of wine and a planning session then quick sleep.

April 11- I woke up first and one glance out the port tells me all I need to know. It is sunny and clear and I am looking over the bulkhead! The water came in during the night. We are out of here!

Our next stop is Ocracoke. Junie has our course plotted in both the Raymarine and the iPad nav tools. We run through our list again and take care of the last, important item before departure - Christening. We are firm believers in satisfying the powers-that-be but probably not as superstitious as some. I did buy a pretty good bottle of Champagne from Chip's Wine Market. Since Chip and Tammy were such an influence on our decision to make this leap, I figure it has to be good karma. Thanks guys.
With our crew and a few of our boatyard friends in attendance, we did a slightly abridged modified new English version of renaming, poured champagne onto SeaClearly (not on the teak!) and into the waters to appease the gods of the sea. Then, it seemed like rather quickly, we were shoving off.

All of our worries about depth were ungrounded (sorry) and we cleared the channel without incident. Soon, we were under full sail and headed East. Unbelieveable!

Bringing the baby home...

Fast Forward time.
We spent 5 weeks in the boatyard. We traveled back and forth every weekend until we knew the roads and turns far too well (turn left just after the antique fire truck). We met some great people, had some memorable experiences, enjoyed Oriental. And, we got some work done

  • Teak - All exterior teak was refinished and got 8 coats of varnish. Peter (the teak guy) did a wonderful job. We may never be able to afford it again but she looks amazing.
  • Canvas - More yards of canvas than you can imagine. Dodger, Bimini, Connector, Full enclosure, covers, screens. We created an entire patio - and learned to love it already. The Inner Banks folks are artists.
  • Rigging - a couple of minor adjustments
  • Rubrail - Our own project. We removed, cleaned, rebedded and reinstalled the entire thing. I got obsessive and wore out my thumbnails scrapping rust stains. There are a lot of screws in a rubrail.
  • Mechanical - We traded in a wimpy, corroded SS mixing elbow for a very manly bronze - $$. Alignment and repack. Not too bad.
  • New name - We got the official name and hailing port on - SeaClearly  Kill Devil Hills, NC

And now, we are ready to bring her home.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Moving Day - Part Deux

March 9, 2012. So, we are off to Oriental, NC. The first stretch of our trip is through the Adam's Creek section of the ICW. Peaceful - especially in the pouring rain. Junie was recovering from our departure from the harbor. In her estimation, I had become 'super captain' just because we had managed to escape without hitting anything. Lowered expectations.

A few minutes into the trip, we passed under our first bridge. It is frightening how tall a 55 ft mast appears to be when passing under a 65 ft bridge. Glad we are not taller.

Still raining and starting to blow as we leave the creek and head into the Neuse River. Fortunately, Junie had attached the dodger and bimini the night before even though the windows are all missing. That is part of the work to be done while in Oriental. At least it provides a little protection from the 25 knot wind and the rain and the 48 degrees temperature. But we are grinning from ear to ear.

Our destination is Deaton's Yacht Service boatyard. They are, among other things, the BoatUS towing representative in the area. We have called them multiple times over the last week to advise them that novice sailors with a big boat are headed their way. They informed us that they have some shoal areas coming into Whitaker Creek. So, I did the only prudent thing and joined BoatUS.

Within sight of the entrance, between the last set of markers, we once again proved that our depth gauge was perfectly calibrated. When it said 'zero ft', we stopped. Backed up and tried moving to starboard as recommended. Bump. Port. Bump. Finally finished the job, got firmly grounded and called our new best friends to come and get us. Leave your pride at the dock. (Side note: BoatUS sends a summary of what they pay the towing rep. Let's just say that it was worth joining - about 6 times over).

Optimistically thinking we must be past the challenges for the day, we arrive at Deaton's - and the only slip they have open for us is up the channel, 2 ft wider than our boat with boats parked behind us leaving a 50 ft wide space for us to turn our LOA of 45' 4". With limited drama, we get docked, high-fives, and we have arrived.

Our plan is to get some teak refinishing, new canvas, bottom paint and some check-out. Anyone with a boat knows what happens to a plan once you get into a boatyard.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Moving Day - Part 1

March 9. We arrived in Beaufort (Core Creek Marina) last night to get ready for our maiden voyage as the proud new owners of 'Solas'. We spent the night on her (in a parking lot, up on jackstands) in order to be there for an early launch next door at Jarrett Bay boatyard. We were feeling pretty special.

Right on schedule, the Travel-Lift came rolling (ooohh sooo sloowllyyy) across the yard to pick us up. We jumped in the truck to get to the launch slip around the corner.

Now, if you remember the survey day picture, you will notice an empty, peaceful dock and bulkhead area with a beautiful 'Solas' standing all alone. Not today! The launch area was packed! Boats lined up along the entire length of the bulkhead, a rusty 75 ft shrimp trawler taking up half of the passage - and they have to launch us stern first into the only remaining 50 ft slot (see below) just out of the travel-lift bay. Meaning that, at best, we are going to have to back out of the 600 ft long channel. Backing is not one of my talents. Believe me when I say that the picture does not tell the story in this case.

So, we figure, we will at least wait until a few of these boats shuffle around and make some space. No chance. The boatyard has another launch ready to go and we need to move!

'You want to get her started and check her for leaks, Captain?' Oh wait, that's me!

The rest of the departure story really needs to be told in person so you can see the facial expressions and desperation. Short story, after a few semi-graceful pirouettes and lucky breaks, we cleared the harbor. All of the boaters smiled and waved - or laughed and waved - whatever. We were off on our 15 mile trip to Oriental.

Survey Day Recap

We have been a little slow with updates because a lot has happened. The next few entries should help us catch-up and, also, remember how much has gone on.

We had our offer accepted. And then, the logistical fun begins!

Arranging survey, travel schedules, writing checks (the first of many), phone calls, phone calls. And then the 'Holy s#@%!" What are we doing?! The recurring thought is ' We are just too stupid to buy this boat'. This boat has already been more places than I ever dreamed of going. She may reject us.

Regardless, we are off and running.

Survey Day dawned bright and clear. Michele (our broker), Mike (the soon-to-be-previous owner), Bert (the Surveyor), John (the other broker) all showed up on-time with appropriate amounts of coffee. Everything went very well. We learned a lot, saw a lot. Mike was great and gave us insights into systems and operation that were not obvious. All in all, a good time was had by everyone. I can't believe that all surveys and sea trials go like this but we had an excellent time. And we started setting precedents. We ran aground. More on this later.