27 September, 2015, At Sea off Savannah, Georgia
Picture this. You're lying in bed listening to wind hitting the boat in wave after wave of rain squalls when something changes outside. The boat just 'feels' different. It's 5 a.m. on Friday and pitch dark outside except for the lightning. I race up to the bridge where horizontal rain is drenching the carpet through the open aft door while Maynard checks our position. He discovers that the wind has changed to a westerly and we are now in 3 meters of water on high tide being blown onto a bank. Just because we've had 7 days of consistent north-easterly winds, doesn't mean the Gods can't mix it up a bit. We should have anchored another 100 meters away and are now paying the price. No matter how long you've been cruising, these things can and do happen. Mike, vigilant as ever, had been awake for hours and came up immediately to help raise the anchor in the dark to move Vanish back out to the middle of the more exposed anchorage. It was safer out there but we endured another 24 hours in 30 knots of once again north-easterly wind.
By now, after 7 days of terrible weather sitting under this east coast low, we're getting worn down. Yesterday's near beaching was scary. We could have spent our time at the marina in Beaufort, NC but we'd pictured kayaking, swimming, and beach walks while waiting for this event to dissipate. It didn't happen. So now it's 24 hours later on Saturday morning at 5 a.m. We've had very little sleep again listening to the maelstrom outside. With 40 knot gusts, Maynard's anchor alarm app on his tablet goes off. The app is called Anchor Watch Pro by Pro Medial for Android. It sounds like 100 New York cop cars racing to an emergency with all sirens blaring. This is the sound we woke to. What now! Oh great. The anchor is dragging and we are heading for the opposite beach.....rather quickly. The adrenaline is pumping. Raising the anchor in high wind is hard. So much can go wrong.
When the anchor was finally raised, we knew immediately why it had let go. The ground tackle closest to the anchor had fouled and become kinked holding the anchor at an angle to the proper direction of pull. This rarely happens and we were unfortunate that it happened here. We'd set it correctly and backed down on it with both engines to the equivalent of 40 knots of wind. However, we'd had two windshifts in the past 24 hours and this had caused the anchor to roll over and for the chain to become kinked.
Finally, Maynard and Mike had the anchor on deck. It was still dark and blowing like stink. Maynard decided to motor out of the anchorage slowly and take stock of our situation. He looked at the weather reports which called for 30 - 35 kn winds with higher gusts and thunderstorms. We looked at the weather South of our position which showed 2 - 3 meter seas with wind of 30 knots but abating once south of Cape Fear to 20 - 25 knots. Every mile south was better. With the wind and swell behind us, even though it was sizeable, Vanish rides with extreme stability and smoothness in those conditions. In fact, it seldom rolled more than 2 - 3 degrees. Maximum roll was 5 degrees on one occasion. It was remarkably more comfortable than at the Cape Lookout anchorage and we all felt much safer. We knew we'd get more rest and sleep at sea than where we were.
As you can see above, we experienced waves breaking down both sides of Vanish as we rode the swells south. There were no other pleasure vessels on Marine Traffic at sea from Sandy Hook, New York all the way to Florida. It looks like most cruisers are either stuck in New York or the Chesapeake Bay or are waiting in marinas for this low to abate. As it turned out, it was a brilliant move to leave when we did. The boat was comfortable, we were able to watch the College football games on TV, and eat and do our watches with no trouble while constantly observing less wind and smaller seas. Oh, what a feeling.
(See Photo Gallery)
25 September, 2015, North Carolina, USA
The last time we were able to leave Vanish was 5 days ago. We'd returned from a shopping/restaurant outing on Monday to find the wind in the anchorage had increased to 25 - 30 knots and was building with the development of an offshore low. As it was nearing sunset, we decided to move Vanish a few hundred meters closer to an area called Shackleford Banks in the Cape Lookout anchorage providing us with flatter, more protected conditions. Maynard put out 65 meters of chain but in hindsight we should have, and could have put out 95 meters of chain. Better in the water than in the locker!
Whilst lying in bed listening to the wind howl at 2:30 am for the third night in a row at a very lonely Cape Lookout anchorage, one tends to try to keep their mind busy thinking about almost anything but where you are actually at. Inevitably, you begin to wonder how that anchor could possibly hold this big yacht as you feel a particularly large gust pound into the starboard side of the yacht forcing it to heel over and charge off in the opposite direction. The loads must be tremendous!
Maynard has a mathematical mind and being completely trapped on Vanish during the current East Coast low sitting off Cape Hatteras, decided to do a bit of research to quantify the forces involved in holding a boat the size of Vanish in 30 to 40 knots of gusting wind day after day. It turns out that there a number of real world empirical formulas which at least gives one an idea as to what the holding power of an anchor is and the forces acting on a yacht associated with wind. The following are his thoughts on the matter.
"Vanish is a Marlow Explorer 76LR, an 82 foot vessel whose primary anchor is a Lewmar CQR 185lb steel anchor. We have been very happy with it as it sets well and has held us in all sorts of conditions. I realize that there are more modern anchors which have received a lot of acclaim but at this stage we are sticking with the CQR.
The following formula has been derived to describe the maximum holding power of modern steel anchors:
F=K*M to the power of 1.4 where F= maximum holding force (assumes infinite scope)
K= holding coefficient
M= Anchor Mass or weight in pounds
K, the holding co-efficient is dependent on anchor type and the holding strength of the sea bed material. For hard bottoms such as a thin veneer of sand on coral, our CQR has K between 3 and 6. If we use a K of 5 then on hard bottoms with no or very little anchor penetration, our anchor would have an F of 5,400 pounds For soft low density muds, K is generally between 12 and 15. These are the sorts of bottoms that, when you back down on a set anchor, the anchor slides a little bit or feels spongy. Using a K of 12, our anchor would have an F of 13,000 pounds. Most recognized anchorages have good holding denser muds or sand combinations and have a K in the 20 - 30 range. For a K of 22, our anchor would have a maximum holding force of 23,000 pounds. It is interesting to note that the next size up CQR is 225 pounds. For this small 40 pound increase in weight, the maximum holding power increases by 30%. So size really does matter.
These values of K tend to work out pretty accurately based on our experience with our CQR anchor. Modern manufacturers of anchors such as Rocna argue that the holding coefficient for a given bottom type is 30 - 50% higher with their new improved designs. This may well be true but testing and confirmation is continuing.
Scope is another important consideration. For our CQR with a scope of 3 to 1 you need to multiply the maximum holding power F by 40%. At 6 to 1 multiply F by 70%. At a scope of 10 to 1 the maximum holding power should be multiplied by 95%.
As the wind was whistling overhead in the middle of the night I began to wonder why I had not put out more chain. We put out 65 meters of chain in 6 meters of water at low tide. The tides are about 2 meters and the bow height is also about 2 meters. So at 10 meters maximum effective depth with 65 meters of chain out we have a scope of 6.5 to 1 which gives us a holding strength of 16,000 pounds. I wonder how much force is being exerted on Vanish by the 40+ knot gusts?
Fortunately the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) have worked up a simple nomogram that can be used to estimate the forces acting on your yacht type for a given wind speed. For Vanish, the ABYC nomogram yields a windage force of 1,000 pounds at 15 knots, 3,600 pounds at 30 knots, at 45 knots the force acting on Vanish is 8,500 pounds. In a hurricane with 70 knots of wind it would exert 20,000 pounds of force on Vanish. Definitely time to start the motors. These force values are pretty conservative and have been found to be remarkably accurate in real world situations. One word of caution. Vanish does tend to wander around a bit and sometimes the wind attack angle exceeds 25 degrees so that the wind is hitting the vessel more side on. At a 45 degree wind angle you can increase the wind force by up to 50% from the above numbers.
So let's recap Vanish's situation over the last few days. If we assume a maximum gust of 45 knots and a maximum angle of attack of 35 degrees, then Vanish would have had approximately 10,000 pounds of maximum force acting on it. At a scope of 6 to 1 Vanish's anchor had a holding power of at least 16,000 pounds assuming a K of 22. I expect that the holding in the firm Cape Lookout sand would have a K closer to 30 making my estimate of 16,000 pounds of holding power pretty conservative. Hence, one would expect not to have moved. In fact when you look at Vanish's anchor pattern throughout this gale, Vanish indeed did not move at all. Next time however, I will put out a scope of 10 to 1 so as to maximize my safety factor and hopefully improve my sleep!"
(See Photo Gallery)
18 September, 2015, North Carolina, USA
Maynard's night watch at sea is 7.30pm to 11pm. Mike does the 11pm to 2.30am watch and I do the 2.30am to 6am watch. We all prefer our individual watch hours and don't like switching them around as they work so well. Last night though, Mike and I ended up overlapping from 3am to 4am as we rounded Cape Hatteras as it was busy with marine traffic and heavy rain cells on either side of us. Cape Hatteras is always busy as it is the most eastern point of the US coastline and vessels converge here as they travel north and south. The guys tell me they spend their watches snacking the entire time (eg. popcorn, Diet Coke, Reese's Buttercups, crackers - all healthy foods they tell me) while I am boring and eat apples and drink club soda. We don't listen to music or watch tv as we are pretty serious about our night watches. This allows the off watch crew to sleep soundly in their beds.
Once all the targets on the monitors at Cape Hatteras had been identified and vectors established at the beginning of my watch, Mike headed off to bed and I continued until it was Maynard's turn to come up. I like knowing way in advance which way vessels are going so I can have time to decide whether to and how to avoid everyone. During a pre-sunrise watch on the first day 40 miles out to sea off Delaware Bay, one of my targets was coming at us at 26 knots and the CPA was 200 meters in 4 minutes but I couldn't see him in the binoculars as he blended into a distant ship. It turned out to be a sportsfish boat who swerved across our bow on his way to a favourite fishing hole. He could have passed behind us but he didn't. Perhaps he wanted to avoid our wake. Whatever he was thinking, it sure had my heart pounding.
The seas were now beam onto Vanish at around 1.5 meters and the wind was at times up to 20 knots. Conditions were changing as ex tropical depression Grace had crossed the Atlantic a few days ago. It moved across southern Florida from east to west then back again to the east and is currently forming a low in the southern Carolina/Georgia area, just out to sea and south of our current position. The clouds are heavy with rain and remind me of the giant thunderheads we often see off Cape Byron in Australia. The above GRIB file shows expected winds up to 30 knots but the forecasts are different every 4 hours. So far, the forecasters say there is a 40% chance of a tropical depression forming from the remnants of Grace but it is moving to the NE. We'll keep an eye on it, trust me.
(CPA - Closest Point of Approach)
17 September, 2015, Currently At Sea
Motoring SW along the northern coast of Long Island, New York, we discovered another great anchorage in Manhasset Harbour which is relatively close to the tidal gate called Hells Gate. As we are now at the end of the season, there was ample room to anchor with protection from all directions except perhaps a strong NW although I doubt this direction would be a problem. The towns of Kings Point, Great Neck, Port Washington, Manhasset and Manorhaven surround the bay. After another brilliant sunset, we departed the following day ready to negotiate the East River. We waited for the tide at Hell Gate to slacken a little then continued on through New York City. The sights, smells and sounds of New York with helicopters overhead, sirens wailing along the shore-side freeways, Staten Island ferries, sightseeing tours, barges being pushed and towed by tugs and a myriad of other distractions is always a sensory overload. However, it is such a vibrant fantastic city, we always feels honoured to be allowed to pass through it whenever we're there. It's certainly much easier to go to New York by boat instead of by car.
On the East River we passed a blue and white ship with no windows anchored near the Rikers Island jail complex and thought this looked really strange but it turns out that this 625 foot long ship is the world's largest floating prison. It was brought to New York in 1992 to reduce overcrowding on Rikers Island and holds 800 prisoners. The inmates have a full-sized gym with a basketball court on the top deck and we could easily see the prisoners exercising as we passed by. It is known by inmates and guards as "The Boat" but its true name is the Vernon C. Bain Center. Funny as it may seem, for 10 years three maritime crew were maintained on The Ship under Coast Guard regulations but after years of monitoring the prison barge, it was finally accepted that it was in fact a jail, not a boat and no longer needed coast guard supervision.
It is always an exciting event seeing the Statue of Liberty and the city but after an hour and a half, we were through it all and ready for some quiet time at sea. We headed down the New Jersey coast in flat seas with 7 knots of easterly breezes and a 400 mile trip ahead of us. This was the best window we'd seen for quite a while. Many others were also taking advantage of the conditions. The strong NW winds we experienced a few days earlier had completely flattened the seas and took us all the way to Cape Hatteras in these same conditions. But the upcoming forecast will take some thought and careful planning.
(See Photo Gallery for more photos.)
15 September, 2015, Eatons Neck , Long Island, New York, USA
On Sunday we moved a further 70 miles SW down Long Island to one of our favourite anchorages, Eatons Neck near the town of Huntington. As I've mentioned previously, Eatons Neck recorded one of the highest gusts of wind in Hurricane Sandy in 2012 at 94 knots. Another front was approaching us so we needed to find protection from the WNW. We hid behind the sandspit with another motor vessel called Phoenix in wind with gusts to well over 40 knots. As we've had virtually no wind to speak of in over two months, this was a good test for our ground tackle and anchoring techniques. The anchor alarm was set for the night so we slept comfortably knowing it would let us know if we dragged at all. The only problem we encountered was that Mike's cabin window was open during the night and a large wave from a passing vessel dumped a bucket full of saltwater onto him and his bed. Nice one. He has a great sense of humour and thought it was hilarious....luckily.
12 September, 2015, Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, USA
The trip down from Boston to the east end of the Cape Cod Canal was uneventful with calm seas. The Canal runs in a SW to NE direction. The wind was calm until we approached the entrance. We soon found that the wind was funnelling down the Canal at 25 kn from the SW. We noticed a flock of around 7,000 or more white-throated swifts swooping en masse as they caught insects in the air in the lee of the trees near the beach. In May this year a North Atlantic Right Whale was spotted by a pedestrian early in the morning happily swimming the 7 mile length of the canal at its own pace. The Canal was closed for 45 minutes until it exited to join a pod of 40 other whales waiting out to sea. It will be interesting to see if it now chooses this route every year on its annual migration.
We anchored at Mattapoisett Harbor off Buzzards Bay, just south of the Canal. In the morning we awoke to dense fog and as we picked our way past fishing vessels, stray lobster buoys and channel markers, we heard loud rumbling in the distance; our first ever thunderfog! Of course, we couldn't see anything with our eyes, but the radar showed line after line of approaching storms. My SkyScan lightning detector was busy showing a rainbow of colours telling us the distance to each strike from 40 to less than 3 miles away. As the rain began to hit us, the fog lifted slightly so that we had around 500 meters of visibility. As the rain increased, the fog continued to lift but we were still experiencing the same low visibility due to the amount of rain. This was some of the heaviest rain we've seen while at sea on Vanish.
We arrived at Orient, New York on the NE end of Long Island where we stayed for a few days. We knew Sag Harbour in the Hamptons had a marina for megayachts and superyachts so we took the dinghy 10 miles to town to check it all out. Other than seeing a BMW mini on the top deck of a megayacht instead of the usual dinghy, we found it wasn't our kind of town so we then went over to Greenport in the dinghy to the Mitchell Marina. We loved Greenport and would happily spend more time there. In fact, we felt we could easily have spent a few weeks in the Great Peconic Bay, Noyack Bay and Shelter Island Sound area on Long Island. Summer In New York and Maine on a boat, any boat, is a privilege and something we appreciate beyond words.
(See Photo Gallery for more Photos.)
9 September, 2015, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
In glassy seas off Kennebunkport, Massachusetts we saw what looked like a fish in distress on the surface slowly waving its fins back and forth. From a distance, it looked like a lobster buoy but as we closed, it turned out to be an ocean sunfish, something we've heard horror stories of in rum soaked yacht clubs around the world but never seen. The above photo doesn't do it justice when it comes to scale as it was at least 6 ft in length and around 5 ft across. A quick google search shows they can be anywhere from 545 lb up to 2,000 lb (247 - 1000 kg) and mostly live on jellyfish. They are slow moving and can be extremely hazardous to boats if you run into one or if they become caught in propellers. They can easily hole a yacht, become pierced on the keel or they can crack a rudder as has happened in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Worse yet, they can leap 10 ft into the air, or onto a vessel if you can imagine that, and can dive to 600 ft. Tall tales but true. We saw 3 on our trip yesterday in a 100 mile section. We idled up to them, put the engines in neutral and watched as they slowly became aware we were there before diving to the depths again after their pleasant sunbake. I can assure you, I was ready for the photo of the decade if they leapt into the air! We also saw a pod of around 150 dolphins busily slapping the water with their tails and leaping about while herding fish. The calm conditions made it a great day for viewing the sea-life.
This past weekend we celebrated the Captain's birthday in style by taking the dinghy 9.5 miles south of Vanish's anchorage in Quahog Bay, Maine to one of our favourite restaurants, the Dolphin Restaurant. It took an hour each way as we passed the ever present lobster buoys, ledges, islands and under bridges and around rocky points to arrive at Basin Point, South Harpswell. Chris Saxton, the Manager, found us a table immediately even though they were extremely busy with it being the Labor Day Weekend. It turns out that Chris follows expedition type sailing blogs around the world and was very interested in the fact we are Australians exploring the Atlantic side of the world. The big drawcard at the restaurant, apart from their shoestring onion rings and blueberry pie are the free blueberry muffins with all main meals! Such a great idea, and so Maine-ish. Why not!
The Great State of Maine Airshow at Brunswick was underway all weekend as well featuring the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets. We had a great view of their practice runs and the actual show for quite a few days. I was lucky enough to capture a photo of a bald eagle flying towards Vanish with the Blue Angels in the background (see Photo Gallery). Her nest was located on Snow Island with a 360 degree view up and down Quahog Bay.
We are currently moving in a southerly direction with the Canada geese but keeping a wary eye out for any hurricane activity. Vanish is on the move again. She is working like a charm. Stay tuned.
31 August, 2015, Ebenecook Harbour near Boothbay, Maine, USA
How time flies when one is idling about Maine taste-testing wild blueberry pies and dodging lobster buoys in the fog. Almost a month has passed since my last post yet we have visited many towns and harbours we missed back in 2012. Over the last few weeks we've anchored at North Haven on Vinalhaven, Stonington on Deer Island, Holbrook Island near Castine, Eggemoggin Reach, Rockland and Ebencook Harbour near Boothbay. All of these anchorages are perfect with great views, great restaurants nearby and solitude which suits us to a tee. The great thing about Maine is how the sea is such an integral part of everyone's lives for young and old. Every type of craft is on the water in summer with opportunities to entertain friends and relatives on everything from chartered schooners to classic beautifully made wooden sailboats, and everything else in between.
A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of joining David and Barbara Marlow, the Owners of Marlow Yachts for dinner in an excellent restaurant near their summer cottage in Maine. It was a wonderful lively evening with much laughter and boating stories from both sides of the table. They have been extremely supportive of all our adventures and everything we've done on Vanish.
Our dinghy has proven to be a little trooper when it comes to covering large distances away from Vanish. Boothbay is in an adjacent harbour to where we were anchored yesterday, and taking the dinghy 6 miles to town through the Townsend Gut is easy and a very pleasant trip. A 140 ft superyacht decided to take a shortcut through the swing bridge on Townsend Gut, a narrow waterway which joins Boothbay to Ebencook Harbour. It's not something we would have done as the clearance on either side of their vessel was only around 10 ft and the current was 3 knots with lobster buoys in the middle of the channel however, they made it through with some bow and stern thrusting along the way. The tides over the last couple of days have been huge with the full moon, this one being called a super moon with super high tides as the moon is so close to the earth. Near our anchorage at Ebencook Harbour is another interesting waterway joining the Sheepscot and Kennebec Rivers called the Sasanoa River. Maynard and I took the dinghy through two sections called Lower Hell Gate and Upper Hell Gate where we saw currents of 8 knots with overfalls, whirlpools and rapids on our way to the town of Bath for the Saturday morning Farmers Market. On the way, we were searching for a red channel marker but it was completely submerged and an obvious danger to navigation for any boat passing over it at high speed.
On Sunday we returned to Lower Hells Gate for more whirlpool dinghy excitement and while taking photos, we noticed a cabin cruiser being swept rapidly down river in the massive current with smoke billowing from his engine. He was busy looking in the engine compartment while heading towards the rocky shoreline and other vessels were passing him at full speed without noticing his predicament. He seemed very distressed so we sped over to him and ended up towing him 1-1/2 miles downstream to the Robinhood Marina where he could assess his next move. His little family looked very grim as the engine looked well and truly fried.
A few nights ago we heard Canada Geese honking nearby. Is this a sign that winter is coming? Already, boats are being hauled out of the water and stowed under plastic in the shipyards. Their summer is now over so soon it will be time for us to follow those geese and start our journey ourselves. Until then, we'll make the most of every day in our favourite State of the USA.
6 August, 2015, Penobscot Bay, Maine, USA
Maine may not have the clarity of Bahamian waters, but you have to say that our new underwater lights look awfully flash. Last night, the sky was clear and dark with not a breath of wind. A 117ft sailing yacht anchored near us so of course we turned on our new lights which cycled through every colour of the rainbow. It's wonderful to be cruising again. We've visited Camden, the island of Vinalhaven and still have much to see. We are now in the middle of wild blueberry season and lobster season with lobster festivals onshore and mega pot buoys offshore. Last week a deckhand on a lobster boat near Friendship, Maine hauled in a 3 ft long 20lb lobster estimated to be 75 years old which they then released.
The season has had a slow start which is believed to be caused by the cold water left over from the brutal winter. Just south of the island of Vinalhaven, the sea temperature is still only 12.6 c/53 f.
Another lucky catch was finding this bubble in a high pressure watermaker hose.
This would have made quite a mess if it had gone undetected and burst under 800 lbs of pressure. The boys at Front Street Shipyard noticed that the end fitting was incorrect and probably led to the herniation. It was fixed within an hour with the correct fitting and new hose.
Unlike our last visit to Maine in 2012, there have been no hurricanes this year on the East Coast of the USA....so far. Fingers crossed it stays this way.
Please visit our Photo Gallery for our week in photos.
31 July, 2015, Belfast, Maine
As you may have guessed, we've been rather busy over the last few weeks with little time to put pen to paper or fingertips to blogs as in this case. The annoying drip I'd written about in the 28 June, 2015 blog on the shaft seal which we were monitoring, continued to drip. It changed from a few drips underway to a few drips at anchor. Then the other shaft seal started to do exactly the same thing at the same time within 5 days of the first sign of drips. Now that's strange don't you think? Yes it is. When we experienced a similar problem in the Dominican Republic in 2013, it turned out to be a metallurgical issue according to the manufacturer of the seals, PSS. Surely this couldn't be happening to us again could it?
We'd had a plan, not a hard plan, but it was a plan nevertheless. We would cruise as far north as possible this season and see where we'd end up but you can't head off into remote areas if you have these sorts of issues so we felt it was best to get to the bottom of it. We spent a couple of days at anchor on Roque Island in the shifting fog on the phone to PSS going through various methods of diagnosing the problem, from sanding off the space between the bellows and the rotor to increasing the bellows pressure but nothing changed. Finally after exhausting all tried and true solutions, they suggested going to the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, Maine, a highly reputable shipyard with fantastic facilities including two lifts of 440 tons and 150 tons and over 100 professionals capable of dealing with a multitude of servicing requirements. To tell you the truth, we haven't hauled Vanish for 2 years and 3 months, the longest we've ever kept a vessel in the water without doing maintenance. Antifouling was done in 2013in the Dominican Republic but we could have gone another 12 months. However, we've been developing a wish list of items to buy, fix and maintain so the prop shaft leak sealed the deal.
Before being hauled out, a very extensive galvanic test was performed on every electrical system on the boat. After an entire day of testing, every system checked properly except for the bow thruster which was putting a rather large amount of current into the water every time it was being used. Once we were washed down, the prop shafts were removed the same afternoon and to our amazement, we saw that both shaft seal rotors were pitted and very corroded. It was determined that the rotor corrosion was galvanic corrosion, most likely the result of the faulty bow thruster. No amount of tightening of the bellows or sanding was going to stop water leaking through this mess. They were rusty and terribly deteriorated in just over two years. Strange! We decided to have new rotors made from a highly corrosion resistant N50 stainless steel. Now we needed to figure out why the thruster was leaking so much voltage.
Initially it was thought that the grommets and seals that electrically insulate the bow thruster motor from the water might be faulty. This is actually a fairly common problem so the bow thruster was removed and new seals and nylon washers were put into place.
We'd spent a week living in the shipyard before it was decided to move us into a giant shed to do the bottom paint while we waited for the new rotors to be manufactured. After a very substantial amount of bottom preparation, new antifouling was applied and this time we used American approved Seahorse Biocop TF over a primer. All stainless steel fittings under the waterline and props were spraycoated with Petit Prop Coat Barnacle paint. We also changed the gear box oil in both bow and stern thrusters, and serviced the stabilisers as this hadn't been done for 5 years.
On one of our recent trips, we were sorely outdone in the underwater lighting display put on by practically every power boat in every anchorage in Panama. This was a bit of an indulgence but high on our priority list so it was a good time to install four very powerful OceanLED underwater lights. In perfect water conditions such as the Bahamas, the lights will shine for up to 150 ft. There are around 300 different programs which will make the lights strobe, pulse, and rotate, even to music if we desire it in every colour of the rainbow.
Although we could have stayed in a motel in town we thought we'd be more comfortable on the boat so I will gloss over the unpleasant parts of living in a shed. After a week, we were dropped back into the water and a new galvanic test showed that now the bow thruster was spiking off the chart to the right-hand side but not the left-hand side. This was apparently a key indicator of something but what? More phone calls and much head scratching before the manufacturer asked us if there was any carbon build-up on the bow thruster? We looked and yes there was black powder on the outside of the thruster. The bow thruster 25 hp motor weighing about 150 lb was removed and Mike drove 4 hours to Massachusetts to take it to Imtra Marine, who does all servicing of Sidepower thrusters in the United States. This was becoming more like a detective story than anything else we've encountered so far.
After several hours with the bow thruster motor being completely dismantled, the source of all our problems was revealed. Last year, when we were in Charleston, North Carolina, a severe thunderstorm struck a yacht in our marina. The stray electricity went through the water and destroyed equipment on several nearby yachts including us. We replaced two stern thruster batteries, the bow thruster controller and several fuses but didn't realise that our bow thruster had been compromised as it had been working normally although we only used it once or twice last year. This year, however, we had used the bow thruster a lot while retrieving the anchor and docking. The tech at Imtra said this was a very unusual occurrence as it had destroyed a lot of insulation in several field coils yet had not done enough damage to stop it from working at the full 25 hp. He said this was a very rare event as normally a good lightning strike like this makes it inoperable.
This completely explains the stray current and the high amount of corrosion seen on our shaft seals. We had no choice but to buy a completely new bow thruster motor. After installation of this motor, a galvanic test was re-performed on all of the systems on the boat and no stray current was found from any system. Stray current is an insidious problem as the symptoms from that stray current can show up almost anywhere on the boat and are seldom related to the faulty piece of equipment. Because of this, we purchased a galvanic meter and will now perform a galvanic test over all systems every couple of months on Vanish. Who knew?