Spring Cleaning 2017
15 May 2017 | Whortonsville
With a very hectic tax season finally over Judy and I were ready for some peace and quiet. Our plan was to come down and spend several days getting the boat ready for a new season and possibly having some fun on the water. Now that we are retired and not tied to a Monday through Friday schedule we have the luxury of being on the docks when the weather allows. We are looking at a very busy schedule for the summer and fall. We want to do as much sailing as possible and we also have separate camping trips planned for the three grandchildren. Judy has her archaeological dig in South Carolina in late May. The good news is that my annual trip to the biggest hamfest in the world in Dayton Ohio is during that same time. With the addition of several fairly involved home improvement projects and our normal activities it looks like we will be full speed ahead all summer. We have reservations at the Grizzly Campground in West Yellowstone Montana in early September. This is part of another camping adventure that will take at least six weeks to complete. So, my advice to anyone who is looking at retirement… If you want to get anything done, do it while you are still working because you will be too busy after you retire.
Friday May 5, 2017
After our post tax season camping trip to Savanna we had been watching a very volatile weather forecast for days. We needed a few days to decompress anyway so it worked out about right. The weather for Friday was simply abysmal for the entire old North state. However, the weather for several days after that looked very nice. When we left on Friday morning in the Nissan pathfinder loaded with sails and canvas covers. It was not raining at home but radar said it was pretty lousy down east. We knew the storm was moving east and the plan was to arrive just after it passed. We have learned that there is no future in being in a hurry going to the boat. 5 hours is the best we can do so we just take our time and enjoy the ride. We had breakfast in Richfield about 7 miles from home and drove pretty much all the way to New Bern with only a potty stop or two. We had a late lunch at a little diner on Highway 17 in New Bern because they have great burgers cheap. When we walked in the door our friends Richard and Frances were at a table in the back and they invited us to join them. We had a great visit and a pretty fair burger.
We arrived at Ensign Harbor at about 4pm. The weather was unsettled but that is what we had expected. Our little ship looked very sad. She had no sails, no bimini top and her coat of winter grime was worse than usual. She had some sort of green mildew or algae all over her starboard side which happened to be the North side when she is tied to the dock. We were loaded with cleaning supplies and I would do battle with the boat’s exterior on Saturday while Judy battled the interior winter grime.
Saturday May 6, 2017
Rising early when you sleep on a sailboat somehow seems all wrong to me. After all we are supposed to be relaxing. We rose on Saturday morning to spectacular weather. We ran the ship’s heater overnight and it was very welcome. We got started cleaning after a civilized breakfast and worked until mid day. We had lunch and relaxed before we started again. The interior of the boat was in better shape than in years past so Judy didn’t have to work quite so hard. The same could not be said for the deck and topsides. We continued our cleaning after lunch and when the cleaning was done we decided that the sails could sleep in the car until Sunday.
Sunday May 7, 2017
This was Stella Grace’s Birthday. Our baby granddaughter is 5 years old and is certainly not a baby. We called her in the morning and caught her opening presents with her parents and Carson. We sang her happy birthday but she really had not had time to play with her new toys. The conversation was short.
When the sails of a 30 foot sailboat are furled on their respective spars and stays, they really don’t appear to be that big. When they are bundled for transport they seem much bigger. I can lift and carry our 135% Genoa (headsail) but that is about all I want to carry. Not only is it heavy, it is bulky. Getting it from the dock cart to the coach roof is not an easy task. We always put up the headsail first. We need all the elbow room we can get. We start by having me at the sail to guide it up the track and Judy on the wench raising the sail. The roles have to be reversed fairly quickly because Judy simply is not strong enough to actually raise the sail after it is more than 10 feet off the deck. About this time we heard voices on the dock. We turned and saw our friends Richard and Frances along with Frances’ sister and her friend. What a stroke of luck. Richard offered to take Judy’s place at the wench and the sail almost zoomed up the stay. This had to be some kind of record. Our luck was short lived. The wind was fairly stiff and the fully deployed sail was not behaving. As soon as I fastened the shackle to the tack of the sail, I headed for the cockpit to haul the line that wraps the sail on the stay. Richard was still near his position near the winch. He stood and was trying to tame the clew of the sail where the sheets were tied. Then it happened, the big grommet where the sheets were tied hit Richard on the side of his face. It was not enough to do any damage at all, but it was enough to make him lose his balance. By that time I was in the cockpit and I saw him fall off the boat, backwards as if in slow motion. He did not go all the way down. He managed to grab the lifeline that fences the boat. He was suspended face up between two boats, with his knees over the lifelines hanging on for dear life. I jumped across to Don and Trish’s boat (Ragtop) so see if I could be of any assistance. Judy had the presence of mind to pull Ragtop as close as she could. Somehow Richard managed to get his head and shoulders on the Ragtop’s deck underneath her lifelines. This was an extremely dangerous predicament because had he fallen into the water the lower lifeline would have met his throat. About the only thing I could do from the deck of Ragtop was to grab Richard’s waist belt and try to assist him. Pushing against our boat he managed to get enough of his torso onboard Ragtop that he could roll over and get his legs aboard. This little adventure could have ended very badly but lady luck was with us. I called texted Richard later and he said he was fine. I cannot imagine he will be sore for the next few days. The wind was still a little stronger than we like for our 30 footer and the episode with Richard pretty much took the wind out of our sails. We decided to find out what was going on in Oriental so we toured the waterfront and had coffee and a brownie at the Bean. Dinner was salmon patties, brown rice and vegetables.
Monday May 8, 2017
Monday was to be the first of two days sailing. We decided go for the civilized option and rent a slip at the Oriental Marina instead of dropping a hook at South River. We were in no hurry, it is not that far to Oriental and there was a brisk breeze. I reserved a slip and we prepared to leave at about 1pm. The little ship was made ready to sail and the engine was cranked. One of the last things we do is to unplug the electrical cord from first the post on the dock, then from the boat. Judy tried to unplug the boat but she could not. I gave it a try and managed to pull one of the three prongs from the plug on the boat. “Crap” the plug was broken and there was nothing to do but fix it right away. Judy called the marina and cancelled the reservation while I figured out how to fix the problem. I took the plug fitting loose from the deck but was not able to pull it out very far. When the boat was built there was no slack in the main electrical cable. In order to gain access, I would have to add to the cable. With no real choice we headed to Oriental to buy parts. The Provision Company is a locally owned business. They are not known for discount prices but they are local folks and I support them as much as I can. They had everything I needed to make the repairs. I decide to bite the bullet and get a new power cord since ours was a little worse for wear. We left the Provision Company with a lighter wallet to the tune of $225. The repairs went very well. I had been concerned about splicing 10 gauge stranded wire but had bought barrel connectors with heat shrink tubing coated with adhesive sealant inside. This made a nice watertight connection that I won’t need to worry about. Even though the repairs went well if was late afternoon before it was done and a little too late to proceed to Oriental. Since we had planned to eat out that night anyway we headed there by land. We had dinner at the M&M Grill. It has been there for years but under several owners. We have eaten there many times but except for a few visits I find the food is OK but a little pricy for what it is. Judy had crab cakes which were fine. I went for the special broiled sea bass. I am very much a fish lover but I had never eaten sea bass. By all accounts it is the best there is. Maybe it’s just me and maybe it was the way it was prepared but I was not all that excited about it. The texture was more like flounder than anything else. I like fish with a nice firm texture and this to my taste was mushy. I will withhold judgment and take another crack at it by a different chef.
Tuesday May 9, 2017
Finally, we actually untied the dock lines and got out on the water. The wind was light but it was good to make sure everything was working as advertized. The little diesel cranked and ran without complaining which surprised me because I usually have to bleed the fuel lines the first time after a filter change. It was a beautiful day and we were out on the Neuse for about 4 hours. Rain was called for late in the day and when the dark clouds rolled in we were ready to head for the dock. I made sure the main sail was secured and covered so that if we did get wet, we would not have to hoist the sail at the dock the next morning before we could leave. The cook rebelled and we went to Oriental again for pizza. We ate at the “Silos” which is owned by our former sailing instructor Chris Daniels. We saw and greeted Capt. Chris on our way out but I am sure he did not recognize us. We turned in fairly early.
Wednesday May 10, 2017
Our plan was to leave early on Wednesday so we could get home and relax a bit before we headed out to dinner with friends. But the adventure was not over. We had everything packed in the car. Judy was taking a shower and I was running my final pre-departure checklist. I do this every time we leave the boat so that I won’t have to turn around and come back when I remember something 100 miles out. One of the many things called for on the checklist is to make sure the bilge pump is operational. It was not. A bilge pump is not optional equipment. No captain in his right mind would leave a vessel (in the water) for an undetermined period of time knowing that the bilge pump does not work. I texted Judy and told that we weren’t going anywhere until the pump was working. I suspected the float switch and after just a few minutes of analysis I found I was right. I have replaced this switch several times so I guess they have a short life expectancy. Yet another trip to Oriental and the Provision Company lightened our wallet again by close to $70. I bought exactly the same switch mainly because I didn’t have a drill and needed the same mounting hole pattern. I also spent big bucks on marine grade heat shrink tubing. This would not be too bad except I consider this fix temporary and the tubing will be removed as soon as I return with a soldering iron do make a proper electrical connection. Again the repairs went well, except the new switch which looked just like the old one had a slightly different hole pattern. Why would a company do that? It makes no sense to me. I made it work on a temporary basis and made a note to bring my drill as well as the iron next time.
I do most of the work on my boat myself unless it is something I can’t handle like diesel repairs. We spent nearly $300 on incidental parts for boat repair this trip. Nothing I did would be considered optional, it had to be done. I would venture to say that having these same repairs done professionally would have conservatively cost triple that amount.
This was a very eventful trip. They say that bad luck comes in threes. Unfortunately I have never heard if it is 3 per year, day or hour. None of this is simple. Boats leak and boats break and that is doubly true of old boats. Even at that there are few things I enjoy more than sailing or simply being close to the water. The following is not my dad’s exact quote. I will let you guess the words that need to be changed for accuracy. He said “You have to take the chicken crap with the chicken salad”. To me it’s worth the crap. After experiences like this my friend Bill would say… “Oh well you could be at home on the couch watching a ball game”. No thanks, I’ll take my chances with an old boat.
My mate and I have an extremely busy summer planned ending with at least a month long camping trip to Yellowstone National Park. We already have reservations for early September. We also have 3 separate camping trips planned with the 3 grandchildren. We also plan to be at the coast as much as possible.