First Sail 2011
25 April 2011 | Whortonsville, NC
Since the last blog entry we got some great news. Our friends Becky and Charles are proud grandparents, again. Becky and Charles have one daughter and one son. Their children and grandchildren have given them 4 grandsons and 1 great grandson but now they have been blessed with a beautiful little granddaughter. Becky can now buy pink little girl stuff. I called Charles and told him that he didn't have a chance. His first little girl since his own daughter will have him wrapped around her little finger so tightly; he won't be able to breathe! It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Congratulations Becky and Charles.
Ah springtime. Sailors begin to think about the places they will go and the adventures they will have in the coming season. Unfortunately most of us who are not independently wealthy have to think about the grimy spring maintenance chores that come before the fun starts. For me the first decent weekend in the spring is usually devoted to these chores. The weather forecast was good so we made it a long weekend hoping to include some work and some fun.
Friday April 22, 2011
I had a doctor's appointment at 11 am and was not supposed to drive for the rest of the day. Judy volunteered to drive all the way, so I just sat back and listened to the radio. After I got bored with that I used the computer to work on my story collection. As with everyone else there are dozens of little things that happened during my life that my children would never know about unless I tell them. I have chosen to write them down as I think of them. With the loss of my dad over 2 years ago and my mother barely a month ago and my beginning my sixty-first year on this earth, I am realizing that there are questions I should have asked that I didn't. Now there is nobody to ask. I think my stories will not only relate funny or sad things that actually happened but also relate a sense of what our lives were like when I was a boy.
Back to the current adventure. We arrived at about 7:30pm after making several stops. We had not been in a hurry. We relaxed on deck with a cool drink for a short time. I called my Aunt Rachel who had been concerned that we had not been to the boat recently and wanted us to have time to relax after all the stress we had gone through while Mom was so sick. She seemed glad to hear from us and wished us a pleasant weekend. The weather was very cool and damp. We turned in early.
Saturday April 23, 2011
Coffee and cereal on deck as usual was very enjoyable. I wanted to get the spring maintenance out of the way but I also wanted to enjoy at least a short civilized period before the always-frustrating activities started. When Judy knows I am going to work on the boat, she makes herself scarce. This time she left me to my chores and spent the day in Oriental. The first thing I do before starting the maintenance is to clear the cabin of anything that can get stained by black engine oil or diesel fuel which means I pretty much have to clear everything out of the cabin and move it to the V berth or cockpit.
As I write these lines I realize that it probably sounds sissy to refer to changing fuel and oil filters as "grimy" so let me explain. I have changed many oil filters in my day, as well as many other tasks that make engine oil changes seem like a Sunday afternoon picnic. Changing oil and servicing engines is not a difficult task when performed in the normal context of a garage or workshop. The thing that makes it grimy is the fact that you are doing it in what amounts to the living room of your home away from home.
I started by changing the engine oil. This year I bought one of those all-in-one kits that consists of an overpriced 12-volt pump mounted to the top of an equally overpriced white plastic bucket. The stiff plastic tubing is to be placed in the dipstick tube to suck the oil out of the oil pan. I first cranked the engine because warm oil pumps easier than cold oil. The little machine worked just fine as it should for what it cost. All the oil was contained in the bucket and very little ended up on the cabin sole. The engine takes 4 quarts of oil but I have never been able to get more than a little over 3 quarts out of the dipstick. I guess, since I change the oil every year, it can't make much difference. Along with the oil change comes a filter change. My engine has really good access and getting the old oil filter off is always a pain. I use one of those plastic wrenches with a thick rubber band that I put around the filter. It always works fine but I can't seem to remember from one year to the next how I did it. Putting the new filter back on is fairly easy. I just make sure my hands are clean and screw the new filter in as tight as I can get it by hand. Keeping oil out of the bilge is the real challenge. I use plastic lined absorbent liners that I get at the grocery store. One or two of these laid in the bilge will usually catch most drips. I think it would be impossible to change an oil and or fuel filter and not spill at least a small amount of petroleum waste.
Next came changing fuel filters. I dreaded it worse than the oil filter mainly because there are two filters and a lot more likelihood of a spill. The DAHL filer is not part of the engine. It is a separator filter used to remove water and gross impurities usually found in marine diesel tanks. The glass globe must be completely removed and removed from the bilge. It needs to be cleaned so I usually place it inside the ship's bucket for a quick bath before I replace the filter and wrestle it back into place. I made a bigger mess than usual this time for no particular reason. I then proceeded to replace the engine's fuel filter, which I had inadvertently pressurized with a pump bulb that I had installed a few years ago. Diesel fuel squirted everywhere. Fortunately it was not of "oil spill disaster" quantity and most of it landed on my clothes, which is fine. The goal is to keep it out of the water at all costs.
I decided to go for broke and replace the impeller in the raw water pump before I tried bleeding the fuel lines and cranking the engine. I bought a new type impeller that is supposed to be better, and guaranteed to run dry for at least a short period of time. I did not however buy the paper gasket that I sometimes buy thinking first that I probably would not need a new gasket and second that if I did, there was one on the boat. Well, Murphy's Law states that if it can go wrong it will go wrong. My search for a gasket in my parts bin was fruitless. I proceeded to remove the impeller cover plate and of course the old gasket fell into cardboard colored slime. I found a piece of snappy looking heavy paper in the nav-station and crafted a gasket with scissors and a pocketknife.
With everything in place I opened the engine's seacock. So far so good, the fabricated paper gasket did not leak. Of course I didn't expect it to leak until the pump created some pressure but I took the good news and proceed to another grimy job of bleeding the fuel system. This has always worked pretty well although sometimes it has to be repeated later if the engine won't start. The Universal M-25 has one bleeder valve at the fuel filter and one at the injectors. I usually bleed both. You can tell a lot about how much air is in the fuel system by listening to the electric fuel pump. If it clicks a lot, there is air in the lines. When it clicks just a little, you can probably crank the engine.
I held the glow-plug switch for about 30 seconds and when I pressed the starter button, the little diesel purred to life almost instantly. I checked for leaks at both fuel filters, the oil filter and the water pump gasket. I found none but I left the engine running for 30 minutes or so while I cleaned up my mess. I stopped the engine and finished cleaning up by swabbing the cabin sole to get rid of the drops of fuel. After 30 minutes or so I checked the oil level and cranked again and found no leaks. I always check for any kind of leak any time we need to use the diesel so if any turn up I will correct them before we head out on the water.
Judy has some sort of sixth sense about when boat maintenance activities are complete because she called while I was cleaning the cabin sole to say she was on her way home from shopping. She helped me finish by reinstalling cushions that I put in the V-berth. After climbing the 4 step companionway ladder at least 3 dozen times during the day, I was completely exhausted. I went for a shower while she started dinner. We had a new house (boat) specialty Judy called "Wine Bottle Chicken", so named because she needed to thin the chicken breasts before they were cooked and the only heavy object she could find was a full bottle of wine. She finished it off with some "Old Bay" brand seasoning because we left the lemon pepper seasoning at home. She bought some small new crop sweet potatoes at the grocery store in Oriental and Nick and Jeanette provided some extremely fresh lettuce from their garden. Along with our "not so exciting" salad makings our dinner salad as well as the grilled chicken and baked sweet potatoes was excellent.
We have a rule that it is not necessary to wait until dark to go to bed when we are at the boat. I took advantage of that rule and turned in at about 8 pm. We slept with the forward hatch open and it was very pleasant.
Sunday April 24, 2011 Easter Sunday
With an extra day in our weekend, we wanted to sail as well as work. Several boats left our dock on Saturday but returned after a short time, reporting that conditions were not bad but not really comfortable either. The winds on Saturday had been at least 15-20 knots. We had sweet potato pancakes for breakfast. Judy cooks on our alcohol stove and she has become an expert at operating it. They say you either love an alcohol stove or you hate it. We opted to love it rather than foot the $1000 plus it would take to replace it with propane. Using the alcohol stove just takes a little know-how and a little patience. The pancakes were delicious and we enjoyed them in a leisurely fashion on deck in the early morning.
We moved Southern Star from "tied up at the dock mode" to "sailing mode" which is not a small task. Coach roof covers and handrail spats are removed. The throwable device is put in place. The steering pedestal receives the GPS and the removable tray that holds binoculars and camera, the handheld VHF radio is turned on and placed in position as well as unlocking the roller furling and uncovering the mainsail and placing the lazy jacks. It takes at least an hour to prepare the boat to leave the dock. The exception to this is when we are traveling by boat. Then she stays pretty much in sailing mode all the time so there is less to do.
We have made a conscious effort recently to get more exercise and to eat right. As you can see, as long as we eat exclusively what Judy cooks that part is easy. We try to walk as much as we can and since I spent Saturday working muscles I didn't know I had, I was sore and in need of a walk to loosen them up. We walked for about an hour then took a shower. After that we were ready for a sail. The little diesel cranked immediately and we left the dock after a little trouble getting out of the slip due to winds right on our beam. We motored out to the mouth of Broad Creek where it became evident that the marine weather forecast of 10 to 15 knots was a gross under estimate. The wind was at least 18 knots when we got to marker #1 and got steadily stronger as we entered the lower Neuse River. It was not at all bad. I was determined to sail at least for a while. We set the mainsail and shut down the diesel. We were close hauled and making 4.5 knots and we had not deployed the very powerful headsail. We were sailing flat and steady and I saw no reason to work too hard so we left the headsail furled and sailed for an hour or so. The lower Neuse River is not a friendly place when the wind is strong. The shallow water produces a short steep chop that is very rough, In a 30 foot sailboat, it is much like sailing in a washing machine on the agitate cycle. We sailed out for about and hour and turned to head for home. I told a dockmate later that if we had been traveling from one point to another, the conditions would have been bearable, but for a Sunday afternoon sail, it was not worth the effort. The little diesel cranked instantly and we furled the main just before we entered Broad Creek. We landed with a little difficulty but with no major issues. Again, there was a considerable crosswind.
We tied the boat securely and immediately left for town in search of ice, the sailor's most precious commodity. After that we enjoyed a lazy afternoon of reading and writing (this blog). Dinner will be left over "Wine Bottle Chicken" with new Irish potatoes and a salad from Nick's garden. We discussed watching a DVD that we brought on the ship's theatre but we figured that if either of us sat still for more that 10 minutes we would be asleep. The bugs at Whortonsville are already getting friendly. We had to swat them away while we were walking and several decided they wanted to spend the night inside the cabin. The first mate quickly vetoed this and there is at least one bug carcass splattered on the ship's bulkhead to prove her point. Spending time on boats and around water make us tired, but it is a good restful tired, not a stressful "I gotta get this done" tired. We were right. I don't think either of us lasted more than 10 minutes after we went to bed. The night was pleasant, but we were glad we had brought the fan.
Monday April 25, 2011
We always spend the last day of each trip traveling. We like to get home before it gets late so we can have time to get squared away for the coming workday. After we got things together as far as packing I had one other planned event to do. The windows on our Catalina 30 leak. In fact any Catalina yacht with the old style extruded aluminum frame windows tend to leak. This was before Catalina started using the dark Plexiglas windows. I could replace our windows with the newer style Plexiglas windows but I like the look of the old style, so I will try yet again to cure the leaks. With Judy's help I removed the rear most port side window and covered the hole with aluminum flashing held in place with duct tape. I have a come up with a method of sealing the windows. If it works it will be excellent and I will share it with the world. If it does not, I will keep my mouth shut and struggle along with leaky windows.
We packed and left for home. We stopped in Raleigh to get a little Jonas time on the way. We always enjoy seeing our children and they seemed to enjoy a visit. The rest of our trip was uneventful. It was a very nice weekend with a good balance of work, fun and rest for the crew.