A Rocky Start to the Summer
18 June 2023 | Ganges, Saltspring Island, B.C., Canada
Barbara Johnston | Intermittent showers and sunshine
It has now been 22 years since a spanking new Sequoia was delivered to us in Seattle. We've been pretty good about keeping the boat up. But some things slipped under the radar (so to speak) and are now rearing their ugly heads. Batteries, dripless shaft seal, head, and did I mention radar? And last but not least, some very ugly self-inflicted damage to our port water tank.
But I'll start at the beginning. We've been planning a summer on the boat for the past several months. We updated and/or repaired everything we could think of and loaded her up with food and supplies. On Thursday, June 8, Craig departed the dock in St. Helens at 5 am (first light in Oregon, so near the solstice). His crew were Mark Downing, a longtime friend, and Lucas Larimore. Both are members of our yacht club, the Sauvie Island Yacht Club. They sailed down the Columbia River on a favorable current, then out across the Columbia River Bar, and then turned right. Sequoia arrived at Neah Bay at the northwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula the following evening. They anchored for the night and Craig phoned me to warn me that a number of problems were brewing.
The next day, Saturday, I drove up to Port Angeles to meet the boat as they arrived from Neah Bay. The plan was that Mark and Lucas would take our car and drive back to Portland. That evening we all went out for a pre-planned dinner at one of the world's best Thai restaurants, and then I got the lowdown on what the problems were:
1. Batteries: dead. Three monster batteries at $900 per battery. Not including shipping. Not including the labor to get them in and out. They weigh 150 lbs apiece. The batteries were 10 years old, so it's no surprise they were at end-of-life, but Craig thinks we may have hastened their demise by leaving the wind generator on a few months ago after which there was a 3-day windstorm. The earliest new ones could arrive in Port Angeles: Tuesday.
2. Dripless shaft seal. It was dripping and not really sealing. In case you don't know what this is, it is the fitting that keeps the ocean from coming in where the shaft exits the boat and goes to turn the propeller. It was now constantly leaking a small stream of water, which goes in the bilge, where the automatic bilge pump is activated. It leaked more when the engine was running; even more at higher rpms. It was not obvious how to fix this, although Craig had some ideas. If you goof the boat sinks. This might require the boat to be hauled and be in the yard for days.
3. Radar. Dead. Had to be removed and sent to the manufacturer for diagnosis and fixing.
Lucas and Mark offered to stay for a couple of hours Sunday morning to help Craig with trying to fix the shaft seal. I was really in much more of a panic about all these problems than Craig was.
Sunday: The guys came up with a creative way to work on the "dripless" shaft seal without the risk of letting in the whole ocean. That indeed took most of the morning, but they were successful. Craig feels good that the fix will last at least a few months before we need to look at doing a full replacement.
Monday was the day to get in touch with experts, craftsmen, manufacturers, read owner manuals and online manuals and get things ordered. We went over to the harbormaster's office in Port Angeles and arranged to pay vast amounts of money for the batteries. Erik, the harbormaster was really most helpful and gave us good advice about the easiest way to get things done. The batteries were ordered and would arrive Tuesday morning. Our bikes were put to good use in getting laundry done.
Tuesday: the batteries arrived - three of them, 150 pounds apiece. Erik arranged for two burly guys to haul the batteries to our boat, haul out the old ones, haul in the new ones, and then cart away the old batteries for recycling. Whew! I took my bike over to the grocery store, which proved to be fairly strenuous. Getting there was easy; wind at my back, carrying no load. The return trip not so much. It was a full load in the bike's basket plus a full backpack of lighter-weight stuff. Biking into a 15 knot headwind is not for the faint of heart nor the weak in the knees.
When I returned, Craig was working on wiring up the new batteries. The radar was gone; the harbormaster's office was packing it up for shipment to New Hampshire-which is the only way to get it repaired.
Wednesday June 14:
We took on fuel before we headed out of the Port Angeles Marina. Both Craig and I failed to notice we were putting the fuel in the water tank. Bad, bad, bad, 11 gallons in before we caught on. We instantly changed our plans of heading across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and instead headed to Sequim Bay, where there was a fuel polishing guy who could remove nearly all of the diesel from the water tank.
Thursday June 15
We finished breakfast and the dishes at 8:30 in anticipation of "Mike" the fuel polishing guy showing up at 8:45. Craig was still removing the lid to the offensive water tank when he showed up. It's 10 nuts around a circular plate -maybe 10 inches in diameter- that have to be saved and stored carefully because the plate will be coming off and reinstalled many times over the next several days. Inside the tank it's bright pink -- 11 gallons of diesel with maybe 2 inches of water underneath. (Craig had elected to pump water overboard during our trip from Port Angeles to here. He carefully watched and tested to see when the first hint of diesel appeared. I watched astern for any sheen. When he got the first whiff of diesel we stopped the pumpout and that's what was left for Thursday morning's operations.)
Craig doesn't think "Mike" knows much about contaminated fuel tank remediation, but he does have the machine that will pump out everything possible. Which he proceeded to do, while banishing us from the vicinity. He took away the 11 plus gallons of mostly diesel, some water, sold us some engine diapers at $1 a pop, and he was done. (Ka-Ching, $576).
We discovered that the starboard water tank had a sheen of diesel on the top as well. Apparently a small amount had migrated over from the port tank through a vent line. For a few days we have been able to drink from that tank, despite the sheen, because the intake line draws from the bottom of the tank (and diesel floats on water). But in a strenuous bout of sailing, the contents of the starboard tank were well mixed, and now everything drawn from that tank smells of diesel. From here on out, it's bottled water for us!
After a great deal of swearing at the internet, the sad status of the wifi at the Sequim marina and the tiny amount of cell phone signal, we did finally manage to order a delivery of 12 one-gallon jugs of water and some miscellaneous groceries. The website said that we could add to our order until they actually assigned it to someone to pick it out. Craig wanted to add two largest-size bottles of Dawn dish detergent (famous for its use in cleaning up oiled seabirds after oil spills.) But we were unable to persuade the website on Friday morning to do ANYTHING, so I decided to ride my bike into town (3 miles, many ups and downs) to get the jugs of Dawn. I was successful, completely worn out, saw lots of beautiful countryside. I managed to hit a bee with my cheek, and the bee retaliated. It hurt a lot, and my cheek started to go numb, which had me worried, but by the time I got back to the boat it had all gone away, not even any residual swelling.
There is a second access plate to the offending water tank, but it's very inaccessible. By the time I got back, Craig had successfully removed that plate and pumped out several more gallons of mixed diesel and water that had been caught behind a baffle in the tank. (Baffles are to stop the water from slamming around in the tank when we are sailing. 100 gallons slamming around would adversely affect the balance of the boat in unpredictable ways.) Never mind the utility of the baffles, it makes the tank a lot harder to clean out.
So after all the liquid in the tank was pumped out, Craig dropped some engine diapers in there. (Engine diapers -- I'm sure they're officially called something else, but that's what we call them -- are sheets of fabric - diaper type stuff that absorbs oil but not water.) It turns out though that the tank is deep enough there that Craig couldn't get his hand down to retrieve the engine diapers, and even using kitchen tongs wasn't enough. He finally used a fishing gaff, and then a part of a wooden yardstick and was successful. (Subsequent engine diapers went in with a string attached).
When the engine diapers stopped coming out pink, Craig decided to move to the next step, which is putting some Dawn and some water in there and letting it slosh around, pumping it out, then repeat in a few days. Craig felt we needed an electric pump, so that evening he was off to Harbor Freight in Port Angeles via public transportation, and I stayed aboard to do more clean-up, or get started writing this missive. As it turns out, Craig acquired not only the pump but also an electric pressure washer as a next step in the cleaning process. This is starting to sound like an awful lot of new stuff we have to carry around. Hopefully we'll find a way to offload it before too long.
I forgot to mention the luscious dinner we had at the Dockside Grill just five minutes up from our boat. It is, according to some people, the best restaurant in Sequim, and it certainly was yummy, and definitely not low-calorie. This was a dinner in celebration of our 55th anniversary. We shared an hors d'oeuvre: baked chevre with apricots and onions, accompanied by baguette slices broiled with lots of garlic and parmesan. That was followed by two entrees we shared: a six-cheese seafood ravioli dish, beautifully presented, and a salmon salad with all sorts of exotic ingredients. I'm certain I exceeded any possibly prudent calorie amount, but there was all that biking, after all.
Friday: We did more cleaning until about noon, then sailed (yes, sailed, sails up) to the south end of the San Juans (Mackaye Harbor on Lopez Island) where we anchored for the night before heading on Saturday to Bedwell Harbour and finally Ganges on Saltspring Island in the Canadian Gulf Islands. All the while we jostled the soapy water in the offending water tank. The idea is to periodically pump out and refill the tank until all the soap and all the diesel is gone. It may take all summer, and we'll have to keep buying gallon jugs of water.
It turns out, though, that there are severe water restrictions in the Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island, and it may not be feasible for us to be using the amount of water we contemplated. and pumping it out, then refilling with more water and more detergent. Maybe we'll carry that soapy water around all summer, and keep buying jugs of drinking water whenever we can. I hope it doesn't come to that!
No worries, we are enjoying ourselves. It's been so long since we sailed in B.C. It has been decades since we were last in Ganges. There are now many more marinas, all full of boats. It's good to see the facilities looking prosperous, and not too full of tourists (it's early yet...) The scenery is as beautiful as we remember it, and the people are oh-so-friendly.
I hope that the next blog entry I write will have more good news than this one!