A Moment Arm to Remember
14 November 2020
Towboatus captain Tom approached us at Mile Hammock Bay at 0930h. Nice guy with stories of the bay and catastrophies in general. I tied his single hawser onto the bow, and he proceeded to pull while I steered. Anyone who has heard my descriptions of previous trips knows that I am constantly amazed at the low probabilty coincident that occur. As soon as Sereine straightened out behind the tow, I could smell the unmistakable oder of burning electrical circuits. We quickly shut dow the generator, the refrigeration units and anything else not needed. It did not seem to come from the engine compartement, or any single closed space. The mystery would have to wait until Swansboro.
It is over 17 nautical miles to Swansboro. Captain Tom seemed to be towing us at a little over 7 knots. I could not leave the wheel to verify this. He passed through the Onslow swing bridge, then handed us over to Captain John. Tom was really great, awesome beard and sunglasses, looking like he should be playing bass for ZZ Top. John was in a hurry, and judging by the wake we were making I estimate we were doing at least 8 knots. Whitby's don't make wake. I should have been thinking about more than steering the boat, the possibility that wiring was burning below, and what would happen in Swansboro. If I had I wouold have connected our speed to water coming in the rudder post tube. When we got to Sweansboro we had a couple hundred galloons in the bilge, just short of the starter, but submerging the regrigerator raw water pump that we just purchased in Morehead City.
John got us just outside the dock by 1200h, docking took another 45 minutes. Having become a regular on the towboatus towing circuit, I was more hands on and assertive than normal. The first thing that caught my attention was the need to retie hip-to-hip facing opposite directions. That was fine, but the leisurely pace was a little nerve wracking as Sereine was drifting in a 2.5 knot current to a RED channel marker. I mentioned it a couple of times, and we eventually missed it by a few inches and did not hit bottom. I obviously overreacted.
Once tied up, we headed to the inside slip where the current was not abated. I lost track of how many attempts, but was well aware of everyone on the dock and in the restaurants watching this remake of the World Trade Center. It was a simple error that was repeated to perfection, despite my gentle but growing insistence that he should slow down, Every time he went into gear forward or reverse, he went fast. He has 10 ton of sailboat with a 10 foot moment arm (attention all you physics majors), so when you switch direction violently the sailboat swings in kind. This is why the Coast Guard took 45 minutes to dock her in Spring of 2019 (I have sooo much towing experience). It took us 45 minutes until he finally SLOWLY went up current with Sereine's stern facing the slip, feather the throttle as we drifted into the slip. There were people to catch the lines and trade jokes while this unfolded. Very nice people in the Friendly Town by the Sea.
Later when we were in Lovely's clothing store the lady commented about our docking. Word had spread throughout the town.
We took advantage of the afternoon to stretch our legs and give Charlie some land time, first in a week. This is a great Historic District with many restaurants and shops to try. It is their Christmas Festival. We had dinner at an Irish Pub; Black and Tans Hoorah!
13 November 2020
The drama of last night is fresh in my mind as I relate this to Marilyn over coffee. Today will be spent troubleshooting. Sean has graciously made himself available via phone and
text. After extensively going through the most likely, could be this also, and if the stars are aligned correcdtly try this, I finally settle on the high pressure fuel pump has no output
to the injectors. So that afternoon I call a lot of people. Finally connected with a mobile diesel mechanic recommended by Phil at Dudley's marina. He cited the two most likely
causes, i.e. a stuck fuel solenoid or a stuck fuel rail. Comforting to know they are the two things mentioned by Sean. I don't have a socket to fit the fuel solenoid, and short of
disassembling half the port side of the engine, you can't get a wrench on it. If I could be optimistic, I would say I am optimistic these will be the cause, corrected and not likely to reoccur in the next 5 1/2 months.
I once again arranged for Towboatus to get us early Sat morning and bring us to the Church street public dock in Swansboro where we arrange a slip through Teus with the ability to extend if needed. It was $45 a day with electricity and water, as opposed to $95 a day at Caspers marina. Caspers did not want anyone more than two days. Dudleys does not have enough depth to approach.
Reality flashed before my eyes
12 November 2020 | Mile Hammock Bay
wil boisvert | briefly windy
Spent the day troubleshooting the fuel system, bleeding lines, changing the Racor filters and discovering that the root cause was the port fuel tank. When I pull from it, the vacuum pressure rises. There is obstruction in the lines, most probably algae clumps. That will be resolved by Jody on Teus morning, but I get ahead of myself.
So, by the end of the day I felt we could use the remaining gallons in the relatively clean starboard tank to make New River Marina (3NM south along the ICW). The generator was working fine, all was well in the world. We will get an early start in the AM. Time to finally break out the Champagne from Chrissy and John to celebrate the beginning of NO MORE DRAMA".
Went to bed at 2100h and woke at 2300h. Why? I have no specific reason, but the wind was howling. I went to the companionway to make sure we were not dragging. What I saw in the dark was a scene out of the wizard of oz, when Dorothy is in the house and up in the tornado. I saw a catamaran flash by a few feet away. I ran down to turn on the main switch and start the engine. When I got back to the cockpit the engine would not start. I now saw a trawler flash by, again close enough to slam any hope of survival. I kept trying to start the !*#$@ engine in the middle of this maelstrom.
Eventually, I saw that we were dragging towards marsh on the edge of the bay. Which edge I had no idea, however I was shore (pun slipped through, sorry) that I had no control. This had to play out without my interference. All of a sudden the wind just died, and the anchor(s) set. Checking the chart plotter, I found that we had dragged all the way from the southeast corner to the northwest edge through a half dozen boats and anchor lines.
Lacking an engine, I needed to lower the dinghy and install the outboard. But first, I needed to get some clothes on, doing this buck naked is not my cup of tea. I was able to do all this, but the outboard would not start (shooting par here), so oars it is. I headed for the nearest anchor and followed the line, pulled up the anchor, aka ball of mud, and reposition into deeper water. Did the same with the other. This bay is all mud, and Fortress anchors are all but useless.
I spent the next couple of hours bleeding the lines and trying to start the engine to no avail.
Between the lack of wind and not having any choice I cleaned up and went back to bed for a couple of hours.
No worries a bout Marilyn, she slept through the whole six hours.
Leaving Morehead City
12 November 2020 | Mile Hammock Bay
wil boisvert | rain
Struggled for 24 hours to reconnect the hydraulic steering, finalize wiring, and all the myriad other tasks necessary to get us off the dock. Said our goodbyes to Tommy "Russ" Russell Jr. and Pete a Shepard Point Boatyard. We were full of expectations and optimism. It was sunny and breezy.
Pete2 thanks for mentioning long-term chartering. That sounded exceptionally good by the end of the day (read on). I should also mention that the people of NC have been the best people. Morehead City has always had my back, found my dog, and softened this piece of Deer Isle granite I call a heart.
Since this is my blog, "along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometimes". We had a few hiccups involving air in the hydraulic steering, anchoring on the side of the ICW for 16 hours, starting the engine and using it for the 2 minutes it would run to better position us on the other side of the ICW, so as to not wake up at midnight sleeping on a porthole.
It was an edgy depressing evening as we contemplated this hideous turn of events. Why were both the generator and engine not able to run more than a few minutes. We rationed electricity, not knowing when we could replenish. I bled... the fuel lines multiple times. I wanted to show my appreciation of the situation by using anagrams of swear words, e.g. THIS, MAND, DYSLEXIA.
Finally, bed at 7, up at 0100h, repairs completed by 4, back to bed until 0630h, and some truly mind altering realizations by 1100h. Turns out the pressure was too great to pull fuel from the port tank. Obstruction? I threw 10 gallons of diesel in the almost empty starboard tank and we were off by 1130h. Oh almost forget to mention that I switched the hydraulic lines for the steering during the night. We motored the previous day turning the wheel left to go right. You talk about a mind exercise! It was great to get that corrected.
We entered Camp LeGuene about 1400h. We glided through the swing bridge about 1515h. Glided because the engine kicked out just before entering. Smile, wave and pretend you know what you are doing. Works every time.
We made Mile Hammock Bay by 1600h. Multiple tries to get the hooks to set, but eventually we were able to sit in the cockpit and convince ourselves the worst was behind us.
Will on Voyageur, we are sorry for the late start, and we will try to catch up for dinner. Whoa, flashbacks to Prairie Home Companion.
I started this last night, but now it is 0600h, and the rain has arrived. There is 100% chance of thunderstorms today, and a fair chance of rain Friday. We may stay here today and I get to play in the engine room. Room? Harry Potter had more room. I do want/need to make the 60 gallons of diesel in the port tank available for use. We have used about 3 of the 10 gallons in the starboard tank.
Where we go to escape
31 October 2020 | Shephard Point Boatyard, Morehead City NC
wil boisvert | brisk
10/31/20 Morehead City
So Morehead City, Charlies favorite place to escape. We are at Morehead City Yacht Basin Marina(MCYB) until November 10. We will use the time to get Sereine back into fighting shape, deal with our PTSD, survive the election, and prepare for what lays ahead.
It took a few day for the floors to stop tilting. I can't count the number of times we tripped because the ground wasn't where we thought it should be. Compared to the passage, we greatly appreciate the contrast, and "it's getting better every day".
And now for the boat. Did some hunting for a good boatyard to address the cracked bell housing. One person texted me back that I was too depressing after I asked to discuss a plan of attack BEFORE he got started. I had a few more failures, but eventually I called Shephard Point Boatyard(SPB). Russel is a real down-to-earth guy who was very positive and did not find me depressing. It took another week and a half before his mechanic would be back from NY, but Russel did point me to Transatlantic Deisel in VA. I called, and for a mere $950 had a used bell housing shipped. I couldn't be happier.
In the meantime, we started working our way through the myriad other smaller projects. Th main is a lost cause. We said a few words and wrapped it in the sail cover. We will shop for a replacement. I found the cause for the Roller furler binding, and a handful of bolts later all is well. The mizzen is also under a sail cover, and we will see about remedying the tear at a later point. We will be motoring along the ICW from here to mid-coast Florida, which alloo0s us to forego the main and mizzen for awhile We did 7 knots in a 15 knot wind with just the genoa, so we have some options even if we go coastal.
A few days ago we did move the boat to SPB using TowBoatUS yet again. Not impressed wih the tow captain who, while another captain was nearby, came into the slip way too fast with Sereine's bow very close to the end of the dock just so he could kick it into reverse and jerk Sereine's bow into alignment. I was move by his performance to utter a loud, "WTF!". We parted without any other words, and the focus quickly shifted to the gang on the dock, i.e Russel, Sean and Peter, with Sean being the mechanic.
Once secured, the introductions quickly zeroed in on Sean coming from Shrewsbury, MA. OMG, Marilyn and he went through everything and everyone they knew. It became readily apparent that Sean was extremely knowledgeable, conscientious and practical. I felt like I knew him, except he did not have a rowing shell. We mapped out a plan of attack (I love it when a plan comes together).
Withn a couple of days, the engine and transmission was hoisted out and carted to the workshop. Between the discovery of additional items to address root cause of the bell housing failure and the weather, our stay extended a few more days.The bell housing arrived, and Sean proceeded to systematically disassemble and evaluate.
While we enjoyed our fly-free slip, we secured Sereine with no less than 13 lines in preparation for the passing of Zeta well to our west. The winds were 20 to 35 knots for about 24 hours. As they were coming from the SW, they were fetching across a lot a water which brought a lot of chop to us. Rock and Roll is here to stay! When the winds abated somewhat we chose to dine at the local Italian restaurant, Casa San Carlo. I left Charles tied in the cockpit. When we got back he was gone, the collar on the end of the lead. DEJA VUE! We searched the immediate 10 blocks to no avail. Marilyn was picked up by a local who knew we were at this boatyard. He had the slip at the end of our dock at MCYB marina. His wife spotted Charlie standing on the finger dock of our slip there. The third member of our crew had crossed town to where he thought we went. He has a map of town in his head. We brought him back to the boat, and are getting a harness as soon as we can.
Here is a synopsis of the repairs:
1.The new bell housing would do fine, but instead of mounting the rear engine mounts to the bell housing. he would fabricate a bracket to allow mounting to the transmission thereby reducing a significant source of stress on the bell housing.
2. The shift of the transmission aft when using reverse wore the splines in the damper, so a replacement damper was located.
3. The adapter plate between the engine and the bell housing was found to have some warping where the starter mounts. A replacement could not be sourced. so Sean will attempt to reduce using the shop press, being careful because it is thin cast iron. It is a concern that bolting the bell housing to the slightly warped adapter would impart tension to the bell housing.
4. The old engine mounts are to be replaced with some real real nice adjustable ones that are more heavy duty. You can't put a price on dependability.
5. Both shaft and transmission flanges will be replaced.
6. We discussed the overall engine and multiple battery wiring. The two master switches will be replaced with a single switch, albeit capable of handling both house and starting banks. The diode isolator will be replaced with an Automatic Charging Relay (ACR) by Blue Sea. This will reduce the spaghetti situation that complicated troubleshooting, and really the only reason I sail is to have the opportunity to troubleshoot critical system in life and death situations. Marilyn is now sporting a "Mutiny is what America is having for dinner tonight" T-shirt. Sooo subtle...
We expect to be heading back to our slip at MCYB by Tuesday (11/3/20) morning. Motoring and happy. This will complete the transition from the "we are all going to die" passage to "this is why we came" cruising. We are renting a car to allow us to more conveniently re-provision, get materials for projects in a more timely manner, and see some of the local sites. If everything comes together, we may leave earlier than 11/10. Today is expected in the low 60's while tonight will drop to 47. The crew is demanding warmer weather.
The Daze That Defines
11 October 2020
10/04/2020 Gulf Stream - The day that defines
The night was slow with little wind, but enough to make some headway, but not much. This was quite the day. Since 2030h the previous day to 1951h today, we traveled 85 NM on a course of 213M. This is one of our best days yet!
An so the universe balances itself. In the next 9 hours we traveled 5.7NM at 192M. Can't take long to go 300 miles at this pace... But hey, a calm day can be a break. Ney, Ney, Ney! A northerly came up, what luck! We were now about to be educated on where we were, and why we should not be there.
I had been at the wheel for 8 hours because of the low winds, which the auto pilot couldn't handle well. Which became a non-issue, since the auto pilot chose that 8 hour period to not function at all. I welcomed the first breezes as an opportunity to make some way. But optimizzen is a footpath on which despair trods. As the wind increased, the following seas also increased. By the time the 10 knot winds became 15, then 20, the seas were 10-15 feet and steep. Sereine was behaving like a drunk Glen on a surfboard. Every wave was a hard over to avoid a breach as we sluggishly surfed the day away. Besides a continuous burying of the portholes, there was one time when a couple hundred gallons rushed into the cockpit from port. I had my feet wide apart as a sat and stood behind the wheel, continuously wiping salt water out of my eyes. This went on for 5 hours. There was a slight weakening of the wind and we used it to head more west, and more parallel to the waves. This went through the night and the next day until we covered 31 NM at 292M. We were hoping to get out of the gulf stream. We fell short, and the wind all but died. There were times when to set of the main and genoa would hold a course of less than a knot. We had no choice but to settle for this.
We did this for a couple of daze before we concluded that the Gulf Stream was overpowering our efforts and driving us north. We decided to bite the bullet and head due west, which in reality was NNW. It was a half day, and late in the night before we had evidence the GS was having little effect and the winds were picking up out of the west. We pointed the best we could and fought to head south, but not get off the shelf and into the GS. It was 0230h when we pushed past Cape Hatteras. By this time the wind had shift to our stern and we could either go wing-on-wing, or sail off by 60 degrees or more in the lighter winds. The following seas made for a rocky ride.
It took us another day to make Lookout Point. As we slowly closed the distance to our destination, the winds kept decreasing. We did come in and out of cell phone range, which allowed for some email checks and assuring folk that we, "were not dead yet". As we made the turn at the buoy outside of Lookout point, we were in less than 3 knots of wind, and it was again at our stern (after making a 90 degree turn).
The winds continued to under perform well into the night. By 2300h of my last day of BoatUS towing, I made the call. And a boat was sent out the 11 miles to take us in to Morehead City Yacht Basin. We arrived by 0200h, snapped a quick blurry picture on the dock, showered and I had a dram of McClellans. What a passage! Behind us in many ways, A different challoenge awaited us during our month in Morehead City, NC.