Sunday, July 30, 2006

Not The Best Start...

You know how sometimes things seem to be going your way and then without warning it all turns to poo? Well, this is exactly how this vacation has started.

I picked up my friend Laura Saturday morning so she could help me get the boat as far east as possible in two days - her husband was coming down from a boat delivery to Maine so he'd pick her up on the north end of the sound.

We got to the boat on time, got all loaded up and watered up and ready to go and off we went - motoring until we got past Execution Rock Light in the western Long Island Sound. The wind filled in from the west southwest and I was so excited because I could use the new spinnaker. Woohoo!

Set the spinnaker and main (you can do that off the wind if you don't have lazyjacks or other sail handling gear). Anyway, we were moving along at 5 knots or so in light wind so we shut down the iron jenny.

But it was hotter than the hammers of hell. Downwind is not the coolest point of sail - the breeze is dimished by boat speed, and the sun was killing us! Luckily I had the foresight to pick up a couple of golf umbrellas... And hey! Presto! Sunshade. It worked out spectacularly! There's always something to tie, clip, or otherwise fasten them to.

In the hottest part of the afternoon, the wind was lightening so we decided to douse the sails and go for a swim. The water was 77 degrees, but it felt cold compared to the air. Still it was spectacularly refreshing!

While we were swimming, the wind changed direction so we'd be dead downwind to get where we wanted to go, so we decided to motor the last hour or two to our goal, Milford, CT. Well, about ten minutes into the trip a really funny noise came from the engine and the water temperature started climbing. So I shut the engine down quickly - and Laura got the jib unfurled so we had some way.

When I removed the engine cover there was foul smelling smoke and I thought I'd seized the engine! The first thing I checked was that there was no fire. Then I checked that the things that should be cool were cool (raw water pump, heat exchanger, exhaust mixing valve) and the things that were supposed to be hot were hot (exhaust manifold, engine, hot water heater hoses) and the things in between were, well, in between (fan belt, alternator).

The fanbelt was warm -the water pump pulley was very hot (shouldn't be) and the raw water circuit was cool. So I got a wrench and used it to wobble the alternator pulley nut to see if everything still rotated - within the motion allowed by the crankshaft, it seemed to.

I went on deck to get the main up and we started sailing towards Norwalk with the idea we could get a mooring and hang until Monday. More on that later.

Next I asked Laura to turn the engine over while I watched. Everything turned except the freshwater pump. Well, that was that. With much discussion, we decided to sail back to City Island - this is around 4 pm, so having traveled all day one way we had to go back.

You might ask why. The reasoning was this: I have Towboat US account for unlimited towing. Still, as long as there's wind and we can make way, we can get somewhere (it is a sailboat after all). But I don't want to be towed somewhere where I can't sail out of, number 1, and number two, I'm not interested in paying usury rates for slips. Here in the Sound, slip fees have increased from $1.50/ft. per night including electricity to $3.00 plus! And electricity isn't included! So, since the pump failed on a Saturday evening, I couldn't get a pump until Tuesday - that ends up being up to $500 for slip fees if I leave on Wednesday morning!

The winds on the Sound are typically light and variable. So anchoring somewhere where there isn't a way to get to a marine store is pretty much out of the question, too. So we decided to night sail back to City Island. Hey, it's an adventure!

Anyway, we got to Execution Rock Lighthouse by about 11:30pm, and called Towboat US for the last bit to the mooring. I can sail to my mooring but at night in no wind and current against you it's not a good idea especially if the boats around you are expensive!

So, we got to the mooring and had a toast and collapsed for the night around 2:00am. If you think you're ever going to be towed, which means you have a boat, get the Boat US towing insurance. Get the full thing -it's $99.00 per year. My 6 mile tow last night probably would have been $1000. You do the math.

Monday (tomorrow) I will continue with the saga including the replacement of the pump....

See you on the water, but I'll still be at the mooring...

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Preparing for a Cruise

It's now nearly the end of July and the time I normally get my act together to go for a two week cruise. The cruising grounds of Long Island Sound, Block Island Sound, Naragansett Bay, and Vineyard Sound are rich and varied.

You could really spend a lifetime in this area and never tire of all the great places to go. I've explored Naragansett pretty well, but I hope this year to make it to Woods Hole (yup, the place where the oceanographic institute is), then maybe to Cuttyhunk and Tarpaulin Cove, both in the Elizabethan Islands that border the Vineyard Sound to the west.

Funny story there. Ok, funny for me, less so for the Cunard line. I had bought Wind Hawk in 1991 and the summer of 1992 I cruised her along with Laura on her Albin 28, Penn Central to Nantucket. Laura's uncle owned a place there where we visited. Anyway, I had to return the next day because of work schedules so left.

As I was travelling down the Vineyard Sound I noticed (the way on might notice an elephant in the livingroom) a huge ship coming up the sound. Now, I was near the middle of the channel and my depth indicated 28 feet. That's not too much. Soon enough, off Cuttyhunk, the big ship stopped. It had run aground. "Well, well," I thought, "That boat is way to big to be here!"

From, "In August 1992, her hull was damaged when she ran aground off Cuttyhunk Island near Cape Cod, while returning from a five day cruise to Halifax along the east coast of the United States and Canada. A combination of outdated charts and faster than normal speed (proportional to the distance from the coast, only 20-30 miles) led to the ship's hull scraping a rock on the ocean floor. The accident resulted in the ship being taken out of service while repairs were made in drydock. Several years later, divers found red paint on rocks in the vicinity of where the ship was said to have hit bottom."

Turns out, I was right.

But what does that have to do with preparing for a cruise? Well, outdated charts for one thing. True, my 6' draft is hardly ever a problem, but it's good to know when it will be. So I have recent charts. But more than that, you need to make sure the boat is good, too.

So, I've changed the oil, the transmission fluid, will fill the water and fuel tanks Saturday, make sure I have food, snacks, and all the other stuff you'd need on vacation (water toys and so forth).

Also, I'll bring my inflatible because I went to the trouble to fix it, and probably the engine which I haven't gone to the trouble to fix, and some gas for it.

But the big deal before cruising is to check things like the steering gear (done that), the rig is tuned (did that). I also will be rigging the jack lines and making sure all the loose gear is stowed. Day sailing is one thing, cruising puts much more strain on the boat for longer times so it makes sense to do all that sort of maintenance before hand. Better than fixing after.

Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be any disasters, but it does mean there should be less of them....

Anyway, I expect to have data services for my laptop so expect some posts, and hopefully some cool pics.

See you on the water!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Once Again, It's Been A While

Unfortunately, I've been busy with work and, well, partying on weekends with ma peeps in various harbors on the west end of the Long Island Sound. Other than normal maintenance I haven't done anything really spectacular with the boat.

This time of the summer is horrible -it's hot, humid, mostly windless. Typically, if you're going somewhere, you're motoring. There is nothing remotely pleasant about this except in the afternoon sometimes there pops up an afternoon wind my aunt used to call 'The Mooring Breeze'.

Bedouin VII Launch at Nevins in City Island 1929 photo suppied by Bill CAnnell, Cannell Classic YachtsMy aunt and uncle owned a converted 8 metre yawl that was out of Port Washington. The name of the boat was Bedouin VIII and she was built in 1929, designed by Charles D. Mower and built on City Island, NY by Henry B. Nevins. Her sail number is KC-12. Apparently before that she was named 'Lazy Eight' and 'Arroway'.

It's actually cool how she got the name Bedouin VIII. My mother's family had boats all their lives. My grandfather's last boat was Bedouin V, and my aunt's previous boat was Bedouin VI. When they purchased Lazy Eight, the skipped VII because it was an 8 Meter, after all. There was some pressure for me to name my first boat, Mudlark, to Bedouin VII. I never did, though.

Anyway, she was or is a magnificent boat built of mahogany and oak with bronze knees. She drew 7 feet and carried 7 - 1/2 tons ballast in her keel. She's 46 feet long and has a beam of around 8 feet. She carries an unimaginable amount of sail - I think something near 2000 ft. sq. Her mast is 60' tall.

She was fast and I remember some truly amazing times aboard her.

One of the fun things she carried (other than a tupperware container full of Oreo cookies) was a Dyer sailing dinghy that my aunt and uncle would allow me to zip all over Port Washington. Hmmm, some of the fondest memories of my youth...

Anyway, my aunt absolutely abhorred the engine. She'd sail up to the mooring and the boat would stop right at the pickup bouy. My uncle would pick it up and calmly throw a loop over a cleat then walk back to the mast to drop the mainsail. This performance always went without a hitch. I think I saw them make a second try only once in the years they had me aboard. There was no shouting, no frantic running about and waving arms and other things. It was simple and graceful and I've wanted to be able to do that all my life. Imagine it.

Now this is easy to do in light winds. Less easy in stronger ones. And they'd always come up around 5 pm. Hence the mooring winds.

Well, that was a sort of round about way of getting to the point.

Now I'm nearing my two week cruise - I expect it to start on the weekend of the finish of the Around Long Island Race. Depending on who comes with me or no one I'll go somewhere interesting or somewhere comfortable. Or both.

As usual, I'll keep you posted. I'm thinking of getting a digital access card from Verizon so I can keep up with this blog and I guess my clients, too.

There is a better than even chance I'll see you on the water!