Bimini and Dodger, More Varnish and Sanding

Bimini:

Just prior to Hurricane Florence last year, I made an error on leaving my solar panels and bimini in place.  Well, sort of an error.  I knew that the windage would be high and the bimini was mounted under the solar panels, and the posts holding the solar up went THROUGH the bimini.  I also realized how damaged and aged the bimini was.

Leaving it up was a recipe for disaster if things got bad.  Taking it down was a recipe for disaster because of age.

I left it up.  We “lost a solar panel” off the top.  The wind ripped it loose and dropped it, fortunately, on the deck of the boat where it remained until I returned after the hurricane in October last year.  I easily repaired the small amount of damage and observed the bimini wasn’t in great shape, but survive.  It had a couple of small tears in it.

This time, as Dorian approached, I removed EVERYTHING from the deck.  We pulled Adventure into the marina, deep inside up near the containment bulkhead and positioned her inside a shallow slip at high tide, so we settled into the mud when the King Tide fell off.

Dorian hit with a whisper of winds (40 knots perhaps on shore here), the eye wall missing us by a good 30-35 miles.  Adventure came through fine.  The bimini however, as well as the dodger have seen better days.  So, I never reinstalled it.

About a month ago, I ran into a canvas guy, David from “Custom Canvas” out of New Bern.  He gave us a quote for lowering the bimini, creating a new bimini and dodger (no enclosure this time) and adding a few extra pieces.

The steel was lowered at one visit.  Another visit resulted in several more measurements, some grab rails and the bows over the top of the bimini top on which to mount the solar panels.

David was here a few days ago, installed the bimini, and subsequently, I installed the solar panels in a preliminary location – which, might move slightly back soon.  I am not sure I like them exactly where they are, and I want extra room for the boom to swing by the top of the bimini.  I’ll work that out later.

Dodger:

He is returning today, to bring the dodger, which for the uninitiated is the part that covers the front of the cockpit, and “dodges” the spray and waves that can wash over the front of the boat at times.  We had the top of the dodger lowered as well, so that I can now re-learn climbing in and out of the companionway getting whacked in the head.  But, the point was to allow JoAnne to actually see over the TOP of the dodger now.

Before, when driving the boat, she could never get a clear view in front of the boat.  She had to duck down and look through the dodger window, or stand on her tiptoes to see above it, while leaning over to see past a sail.  Not fun for her, I assure you.

We dropped it down about 5-6 inches and had her stand behind the wheel.  When she was happy with the height, we stopped cutting.  I’m concerned I’ll have a few knots on my head, climbing in and out in the next few days once installed, but eventually, like Pavlov’s Dogs, I’ll learn.

Sand and Varnish:

Over the course of the past months, I’ve spent roughly 30 hours sanding wood, washing it, and varnishing.  I have about 90% of the teak done – on the top of the boat.  I haven’t touched the rub rails, or the plaques on the boat topsides yet.  And I haven’t done any varnishing to the aft deck (the whole aft of the boat is a raised, teak platform which covers a large storage compartment, containing our propane tanks and extra “stuff” we don’t want to leave on the deck, like pumps, parts for the emergency tiller, etc)

That deck will likely take a third of a quart of varnish alone for a single coat.  I’ll likely finish that first coat today or tomorrow.  After it hardens, I’ll be hitting the wood all the way around the top of the boat, once over, a complete boat wash, taping and varnishing the second coat.  I plan, if time and weather permits, to get some of the deck paint done and to fix a couple of leaks so the outside of the boat should be ready in less than two weeks.

Given the heat of the day, and humidity, I’ve tried to apply varnish in the right time of day, temps and humidity, but I’m here to tell you, this is an impossible task unless the boat is moved inside a building in a controlled environment.  So… it’s called “going with the flow” (of varnish, which flows off things, down tape, drips everywhere and is constantly being cleaned up).

After all that work, the boat looks amazing though, and in the end, it makes JoAnne smile at how pretty the boat is.  I makes my muscles ache when I see it….. But, I still like the varnished wood.

I plan to get about five coats on if I can, with fine sanding in between, and then do “touch up” coats after a few months to keep it looking nice.  It’s less work to do that, than to let it get down to bare wood.

Someone asked me the other day about sanding the boat and then varnishing it, then sanding again.  They have an all-Clorox-Boat, so I explained that it is supposed to take down the bubbles or ‘nibs’, and raised rough spots, and give the next coat something on which to cling.  They were impressed I knew so much about varnish (HAHAHA, little do they know, I just had to look it up to explain it to them!)

Side Note: Our friend Jason has also been sanding and sanding and vanishing and washing and sanding and varnishing as well.  I believe he completed his last coat last night.  The boat rails look amazing.

Storage Locker and Provisions: 

We have a storage locker.  I pay for it a year in advance.  It’s due in November I think, so I’ll be going over to write them a check for another yet, and going through my locker to pull out a few things and bring to the boat, as well as remove a few more things from the boat we won’t need.  I want ‘parts’ that I can use to repair things, even if makeshift if necessary, and I want heavy things off the boat I can’t use while under way (certain electrical tools).  We have little A/C power available except for the generator during cruising, and I’ll reserve that for the water maker most of the time, but will bring my battery drill, a saw and my small electronic tools, and the engine tools.

Also I have a sail in storage I need to bring back, and we need our water, diesel and gas cans back on the boat.  Need a way to carry extra water if we can’t make it or catch rainwater, diesel because I HATE docking at fuel docks and gas for the genny.

In a few days we will need to being picking up food to provision the boat.  We’re going to get a month’s worth of things, mostly long term storage items like canned foods, along with perhaps a week (whatever JoAnne decides can work for us) of fresh items and we will refill things as we go down the coast this time, instead of having six months worth of stuff on the boat this time.  Before we hope to Bahamas we’ll do a big food, beer and soda run (yes, we drink soda!) and stock up on things that are expensive in the Islands.  (Toilet paper, paper towels, etc)

We don’t use many paper towels (instead we buy cheap white cloths from the hardware store and reuse them) and tend to use the marina heads when we stop in them instead of the boat, but offshore… well, anyway….

JoAnne had her medical check up on the 9th of September.  We’ll have to work something out for one in December, and I think we’ll be calling back to her doctors here in NC to get advice on that subject when we get closer to the time.

My last obstacle is the Borg-Warner Velvet Drive Transmission.  Over the past couple of years, it’s given me fits.  Seemingly it stops “working” and then “works”.  We have determined that its simply a lack of transmission fluid, but where it is going, we’re unsure.  It’s not in the bilge, and I don’t think it is mixed in with the few drops of oil in the catch pan under the engine.

Someone suggested it is going out under pressure in the heat exchanger perhaps, once the engine reaches temperature.  I tend to agree since I’m not finding leaks anywhere else.  If so, then the solution will be to remove and replace the heat exchanger that is connected to the transmission.  I’ve identified the unit, and the hoses, but am not sure it there is a way to “test” for leaks at this point.  Meantime, I need to keep extra transmission fluid on the boat.

I’m sure I’ve missed something. I usually do.  But, that’s ok, I’ll figure it out when I come to it.

In the mean time, I rarely if ever do this, but I want to remind folks that I’ve written some books and I’d love it if some of you would take the time to read and review the books on Amazon.  I’ll drop the links at the bottom of this page.  One book is a couple of years old, and is about “Survival and Communications” and is a primer for people who don’t know much about radios and radio communications.  Call it a “Prepper Book” if you like.  It’s in Digital Format ONLY and I won’t be doing it in hard copy because it’s simply too expensive.  And if you’re a Prepper, then you know you’re NOT going to grab 200 of your favorite books and stuff them in your bug out bag.  You need to KNOW the information, knowledge is power. Don’t carry a book, carry your brain around with the information inside.

The other book is a SF Adventure/Thriller, “Aftermath’s Children” set in the not-too-distant future, and you can read the description online at Amazon.  That book is in both digital and hard copy formats.  You can find all three versions of the books at the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Rick-Donaldson/e/B00Q514LD0

I invite you to buy it, read it, review it and if you get the hard copy, and we pass by, I’ll sign it for you.  The second book in the series is being completed soon.   Please, drop me a line at Adventure.Rick.JoAnne@gmail.com or r.daledonaldson@gmail.com if you buy a copy!  Thanks!!!

 

Christmas 2016

Hi everyone.  Thought I’d try to get in one more blog post before the end of the year.

It’s been a long, challenging year for us. In fact, two challenging years.  (I already posted a message for Christmas on Facebook, and will probably restate a few things here so if you think you’ve read it before, you might have).

In 2009 we decided to learn to sail, and eventually to become cruisers.  JoAnne and I have read literally a couple of hundred books over the course of time since that day we made the decision.  While all of them were helpful, some were stories, fiction, true adventure, and books about storms.  All of them helped prepare us for everything we have encountered and a few things we’ve yet to (and don’t want to) encounter.

Last Christmas we were sitting in Colorado with our kids and Grandkids after JoAnne’s back injury.  We thought more than once we wouldn’t get back to the boat and would have to sell her.  But, things didn’t turn out like that.

We’ve traveled back and forth across the country about five times since July 2015, for medical appointments, visiting and due to injuries.

This season we moved the boat to Cole’s Point Marina, where we worked on the boat.  We added solar panels, repaired the refrigeration, I had already added a new stove, refurbished the sails, repaired many little things, added a composting toilet, removed a broken electric toilet and replaced it with a Jabsco pump toilet.  I’ve added strip LED lighting to the main cabin area (and will add some to the forward cabin in time, along with some new wiring I’ll pull in when I have an opportunity).  We’ve eliminated a few things (not enough).  We’ve picked up an inline water filter to remove the bad tastes and to take water aboard.  I’ve made a water catchment device to collect rainwater, picked up a propane heater for the cabin, as well as an electric heater.  We’ve worked out how to make the wood stove work properly.  I’ve rewired the nav station, radio gear (neatened it all up and added a special power strip for DC radio gear.  Eventually all the radio gear will be tied there).  Oh, and I varnished about 80% of the woodwork aboard Adventure.  I have been testing some varnish.

I certainly am missing a few jobs we did.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.

A few weeks ago we ran into some more alternator problems (which I documented) and had that repaired and discovered a LOT of other issues on the engine which we also had taken care of.  During the work, I had the mechanic teach me a few things since I was paying and arm and a leg (I know why pirates have hooks and peg legs now…).

We paid up our bill here through 6th January and decided to stick out Christmas here.  One of the folks sailing down from Canada we’re friends with (Rosemary and Joe, aboard “Winds of Change” were coming down and so JoAnne invited them to dinner.  Turned out other boats were traveling with them.  We thought two, then it was actually four boats total.

So the dinner turned into a pot luck.  Then more cruisers and liveaboards near by joined into the dinner.  All told, on Christmas Eve we had about 15-18 people (I never counted them up), and one boat’s couple left to visit relatives so they missed the dinner.  Others joined in and everyone brought food, drink and stories.

Over all, a grand success.  JoAnne was worried about putting something like that together.  I’m not sure why.  She has always fed an army (usually doing ALL the cooking herself, raising five children, usually having boarders in the house, and random neighbor children who ALWAYS were there for dinner almost every night).  So, whatever trepidation she had vanished as she turned on her “Chef Skills” and made a giant pot of stew which likely would have fed everyone in the marina that day with a side of rice.  Fortunately, there was plenty more food than we could ALL eat.  Everyone brought something, from sloppy joes to stew, to small “sub sandwiches” to enchiladas and bottles of wine and rum.  I was shocked at the amount and quantities.  I tried a little bit of everything and had two full bowls of stew.

“Winds of Change” happens to have been the name of our first boat, our Macgregor Venture.  So when we saw the name on the group, we had friended them on Facebook immediately.  After all, we share a connection.  The boat name, and now the Leaky Teaky boats, ours the Transworld 41 and them the Formosa 41.   It was wonderful to get to meet them in person finally!

I have to say that I still like our center cockpit a bit better, though I think sailing from the aft of a sailboat this big might have a few advantages over the CC.  I can’t tell you though, what those might be.

All in all, this year traveling from the Potomac in late October to here has been relatively uneventful compared to last year.  Although, we have gone aground a few times, we’ve bumped some pilings, and I have some small damage on the port side where I caught a pole in the water, the engine conking out…. we haven’t really had major issues.

Yes, it was stressful coming down the ICW.  I was at ease going outside and motorsailing at night, but I always worry about all the things that can “go wrong” out there.  I worry for JoAnne’s safety much more than mine (because, quite honestly, I’d done some really dangerous things in my life and while the majority of them I wouldn’t want to repeat, I understood what I was doing, and knew I could die).  Sailing in the ocean is one of those things.

You understand it.  You know you can die.  But you also, always, concentrate on the moment in time, staying alive, staying safe, staying on course, going there you’re going and knowing you have options to handle almost anything.  Even, right down to closing down the hatches and doors after taking down sails and putting out a sea anchor, then hoping the boat will ride out whatever you hit.  In almost all cases, a boat will do fine.  It’s generally the crew who can’t handle it.

We have one issue on our boat.  JoAnne isn’t really able to run the boat alone.  I’m worried she will injure her back again and she has been prone to falling in the past so I won’t put her in danger.  That means I tend to do everything on deck, though I have been letting her toss lines out, and put out fenders to get used to doing it again.  So running a “shift” isn’t too easy, unless I set things up and let her stand watch, let the autopilot take care of things until the wind changes or we have to tack.  Then she can wake me if I’m sleeping and I can do the work.

This basically means for us, sailing straight to Florida isn’t going to be easy.  From here at five knots it would take us about 65 hours (give or take where we pull in).  And just two of us doing it.  Then we have to count on the engine from time to time to charge batteries if the sun isn’t out (solar, remember?)

Therefore we’ve come up with muliple plans to get south now.  From here we are planning to sail straight down to Jacksonville area.  And as we go we’ll make changes to our thinking based on the conditions we encounter and how tired we get.  We’re going to try it in pieces as well.  So, we’ve picked a half dozen distant spots to pull into if need be to anchor and rest.  We’ve also planned part of the route inside as well.

We have many options from here, but the main goal, to “get south and to warm” is the priority.  That and using the engine the least amount necessary, anchoring when we need to, and staying warm.

So as the year closes on us, we are shooting to be in Florida not later than about 3 weeks from now, whether we can move more quickly, or slowly will depend on a lot of factors including the weather and my ability to take us long distances on the boat.

To this day, I am not ready to lie down and sleep with the boat moving.  So, I’m probably going to have to learn that skill next 🙂

I want to wish everyone a “belated Merry Christmas” as I’m posting this the day after.

And I want to give everyone something to consider for the New Year.

Many people make “resolutions” to accomplish or do something important in the New Year.

I made a resolution never to make resolutions a long time ago, so I don’t do that.  But I do make plans, I do set goals, even if they are in my head and not written down.

For the cruisers, the dreamers and the wanna-be cruisers who’ve not quite gotten here yet, I’m going to give you a secret.

The secret to success is “perseverance”.

That is the secret ingredient to “success”.

If you have a dream to move aboard a boat and go cruising, you will have to work at it.  You will have to plan.  You will have to make decisions, some easy, some difficult.  You will have to write your notes down.  You have to learn to sail if you don’t know how.  You have to work your ass off.  You have to practice.  You have to learn new skills.  You have to travel a bit, you have to stay home a lot, you have to spend some money, and you have to save money.

With out laying out a map for you, I’ll tell you this:

  1. Make a plan (Do you want to cruise full time, or part time? Do you want to just travel the Chesapeake?)
  2. Get your skill set together as you go, every day work on it (Can you sail? Learn! Wood work? Plumbing?)
  3. Study hard, study sailing
  4. Save your money.  Spend it wisely on learning, important books you need (Use the LIBRARY, it’s FREE!)
  5. Pay your bills.  ALL Of them.  Eliminate them.  If you use a credit card, PAY it off EVERY MONTH.
  6. Have your goals written down and check them off as you go.  Once you get one, check it off. (Then go back and pat yourself on the back!)
  7. PERSEVERE!  Do NOT give up.  Do it.

Adversity has a way of weighing people down, depressing them, making them believe they can never get up again and sometimes adversity will literally break your back, bones, make you sick and leave you in pain.

Pain is the one thing that tells us we’re still alive and we should be doing something else.  Find a different route.

If you want to sail, do it.  Start small if you have too (I didn’t, I am glad I didn’t.  I started on a 30′ boat and went SMALLER to a 25′ boat for practice, and the 25;’ boat was like a part of my arm when I stepped aboard).  Getting on to a bigger boat like this ketch at first will be daunting and probably stop one from sailing without a very good instructor.

I’ve been teaching myself how to sail this boat.  She handles differently that a fin keel, from a sloop and from a dinghy.  She handles much differently that my little Venture did.  She has a mind of her own and I’ve had to learn to tame her, and make he go where I want her to go.  It’s difficult to do with no books on the subject and only the meager knowledge I gained from an instructor and sailing my own sloop.

The point, though, is don’t give up.  Continue.  Persevere.

That, folks, is the secret to success.  You just take that and apply it to your set of circumstances.  YOU are the one to make it happen.

All our best for a Happy New Year – and I mean the whole of 2017.

We’ll see you in the Warm.

Rick and JoAnne

(PS I will add images into this a bit later, so check back when you have time)

 

 

Willoboughy Bay – Elizabeth River, Virginia

We spent the night of 30 October 2016 in a little river called the Poquoson River. Last year on the 17th of October, we were up that same area, but in a different creek. The next morning we had prepared to wait out some chilly weather and some stonger winds when the marina I’d planned to go to for some assistance on the rigging finally called back with the words, “IF you can get here TONIGHT (it was a Sunday), then we can look at your boat tomorrow.”

Against my better judgement, we pulled anchor and made for that marina. We didn’t really have a choice (we did, but we were led to believe if we didn’t hurry we were going to be delayed) and we did it anyway.

Yesterday, we looked at the weather and headed down the bay. It was nice, cool, but nice. Crossed into the Elizabeth River and made it a short hop to Willoboughy Bay, just past the bridge Tunnel on the Elizbeth River. We anchored out last night, and today was supposed to bring winds. And about 2-3 AM this morning, the weather reports came to fruition.

A Nor’easter like last year, slammed the Bay. Listening to weather reports there were 4-5 foot waves, and gusts at 30 knots from the NE all today. The warnings are in place until this evening. Several sailboats, including one traveling with us, wisely remained on anchor this morning. In checking my GPS settings, it appears we’ve not moved at all, no dragging last night or today.

Thankfully, the winds have somewhat simmered down and the waves have stopped slapping us. We’re still rocking and rolling a bit, but I have the mizzen sail out a bit to help point us into the wind. Works pretty well. Winds are currently out of the NNE at about 15. Gusts are about 19 now, instead of the almost 30 knots they were earlier this morning.

Our companion boat, “Acadia” with Marcia and Jon were ready to head for a staging at Hospital Point this afternoon. I pointed out that though I haven’t been there, it appears unprotected from the north and in the river, so besides currents there are wakes from passing vessels. Everyone opted to stay put here. Since this is the first time for all of us to traverse this area, we all felt it prudent to wait a little longer. We’re all “novices” at something. I’m not a sailor novice any more, but I’m a “cruiser novice” and I’m still pretty timid about driving this monster. She’s got a full keel, doesn’t turn rapidly unless we’re moving quickly. The rudder and keel combination just doesn’t bite quickly at slower speeds.

Our next destination is somewhere around the Gillerton Bridge and/or the locks. Or something. I’m unclear at this point on what our decision was yesterday because mostly it was the ladies looking over the charts and telling us where to go… which is typical I suppose. 🙂 Honestly, that’s not the case, it’s a joke; we all know where we’re headed, we’re just not SURE where our destination will be due to the large number of cruisers passing through.

We tried the Atlantic Yacht Basin south in the channel near (past) the locks and they “couldn’t guarantee” anything for us, except they MIGHT have docks with no water or power… of course they cost the same as those with water and power…. ok. I guess we will play it by ear at this point.

While a nicer day might have more boats headed south with us, I think that’s ok. I also think I really need the “practice” in busy areas. I was white knuckling it through the river at the bridge tunnel before I figured out everyone wanted to go fast, faster than me and I mostly let them, except for the barge whom I cleared almost 2 miles in front of him and he was only doing about 4.5 knots anyway. I was going faster.

One sailboater was coming from my starboard side while I was traveling a channel under power (now I’m a power boat, and he’s obviously a sail boat perhaps under power, perhaps not, so I gave him benefit of doubt) on a crossing path. Cool. But he maintained course and speed. According to the rules he was wrong on two counts. Yes, he was a sailboat, I was under power. But a sailboat approaching from a “behind position” which he was doing, gives way to the motorboat – and I was in a channel (shallow I might add, and we were in an area where had I gone out, I could have gone aground with my draft). However, I gave way as a “power boat” because he did not appear to be doing anything and I couldn’t go any faster. Going slower was rather difficult too in the location based on the winds on the nose as it would have slowed me significantly. Which it did.

And being a sailboater, I gave way anyway to avoid a collison. Now, I’m sure there are some out there that might argue that I should have given way as I was motoring, and I’ll point out now, you weren’t there. I was. He was approaching from the rear (off the starboard quarter) at a pretty good clip and COULD have passed easily behind me, but CHOSE to pass me and cut in front of my bow. I honesty would never have tried that with anyone, or any boat unless traveling at a significant speed faster than the boat being approached and even then would have passed him father forward, changed course to parallel the other boat or passed behind.

Am I complaining? Not at all. Pointing out what we saw. The boat behind us thought we should have kept going instead of coming almost to a dead stop. I didn’t want to risk a collision (which was becoming rapidly apparent at that point). I will point out that the other boat was sailing with two sails up on a starboard tack, and we were driving into 24 knot winds at the time. I couldn’t have sailed there to save my life due to the depth challenges in that area. Oh well.

Today it is chilly. In the mid 50s. I ran the generator for a couple of hours to ensure charging of the batteries, and shut it down a bit ago, leaving the solar panels working and the refigeration turned on to chill things back down.

I’m about to go sit at the table and go over the charts carefully, so I know the charts, the course, what I can expect and where the bridges are located. We already know there are two railroad bridges we should be able to traverse easily. We’ll need tides/times tomorrow, and to know the exact bridges/lock, times for those and approximately how quickly we will get there and can traverse the area, and finally where to stop tomorrow night.

We all have our own ideas, and as long as those ideas somewhat jive and don’t put anyone in danger, a handfull of Noobs should be able to accomplish what thousands of others have done routinely. (That’s the best part about books, and knowledge from others, you aren’t doing it FIRST, just the first time for you.)

Engine:  The engine in this boat is a Perkins 4-108.  Nice engine.  Leaks though.  Found it’s dripping oil (finally).  Can’t find the location though.  Had the alternator bolt loosen yet again.  Tightened it up.  Checked new belt, it’s fine.  Added a little over a pint of oil this morning.  Need to watch this thing carefully from here on out.

My friend Jeff Ryan (@K0RM –  Former ARRL section Manager) in Colorado has a mechanic/boater friend down range from here.  Gave me his name, over in Washington, NC I think he said.  Supposed to send me information to contact him.  He’s a master mechanic, and a boater, lives aboard.  Probably understands what we’re going through too.  I’ll give him a call passing through just to say hi if nothing else from Jeff.   Either way, babying the engine will likely turn into a full time job for me.  It’s another reason I chose to remain at anchor today instead of pushing the limits through waves I didn’t want to deal with (and currents, and wind, all of which were in opposition this morning).

Man, I’m learning some of this the hard way (by reading about it, then experiencing it first hand) lol

I will add to this, or edit it later. Right now, I only have a hot spot to access the Internet and have to turn it on and off as necessary to prevent wasting the data. I can’t type this on my telephone, the tablet or hand write it to the Internet.. so that’s the way it is for now. LOL