Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Way Down in Virginny Town

Well, here I am aboard a 65' Outer Reef on a delivery to Florida. My friends Cory and Kevin are involved in this thing (Cory's the Captain, Kevin and I are the crew). This is an expedition trawler. Quite a lovely boat, actually.

We're tied up at a really nice marina, the Atlantic Yacht Basin, just south of the lock in the ICW south of Norfolk, Va.

We left a couple of days ago and a series of lows came across the mid-Atlantic states making the outside really, really uncomfortable with spray over the pilothouse and 8-10 foot waves. Sure, the boat has stabilizers, but there's a limit. Also, since we're running someone else's boat, we came inside at Cape May and up the Delaware to the C & D Canal, and down the Chesapeake. We're running 24 hours a day when outside on 3 hours on watch, 6 off.

Although this is a paid position it's still fun. Let's face it, you can crew on an old, beat to crap sailboat or a modern motor yacht and I'm telling you that unless you're a glutton for punishment, you'll go for the motor yacht. Heat, A/C, long showers (because of a water maker), full galley, stabilizers so the boat doesn't roll (it still pitches and yaws), and some very nice living arrangements makes the trip quite nice even if it's not my very own boat.

On the ICW we only run dawn to dusk. You can run at night but it's not really recommended. It's very nervous making and with a 2.5 million dollar yacht at your command and you'd better think twice before taking the risk.

There are a bunch of lows marching across the US as is normal for this time of year so every day we have to decide daily whether to go outside or not. For the next couple of days we'll be inside bypassing Cape Hatteras and if possible we'll leave from Beaufort, NC to go outside. More on that later in another blog.

So after a rough night outside the coast of New Jersey and a moderately tense night down the Chesapeake, we're here.

Getting from Mile Marker 1 in Norfolk to Old Bridge which should take 45 minutes took almost 4 hours today. Jeez, what a pain. We had 30 boats or so trying to get through bridges that only open on the hour or a lock that fills and empties at the speed of the boaters involved. It was nice to see some professionalism in the boaters (and some not). Only one boat ran aground and only one person ended up in the water - trying to get his inflatable out from under his self steering gear.

Tomorrow we'll be heading to Beaufort, NC, as I mentioned. The ICW can be very beautiful so I'm looking forward to the trip.

Will write more when I can - I hope to see you on the water!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Can't Believe Summer's Gone Again

Wow! The summer slipped by so quickly! Driving through the woods in the Hudson Highlands the sun was setting behind me and the leaves were swirling down from the trees, sparkling, beautiful and nostalgic, blowing like moments past. (I give credit to my friend Tracy for the last phrase - much better than my own.)

Ursa Minor - Laura and Cory's boatNormally I'd've written a great deal about my vacation but this year it was on my friends' Laura and Cory Kadey-Krogen 54 they purchased in Ft. Lauderdale. We took Ursa Minor from there to Cat Cay in the Bahamas, across to Great Harbor and into the Gulf Stream to Savanah, Ga. Up the ICW to Great Bridge, Va racing Hannah - a storm that was hyped and then wasn't. Across the Gulf Stream we powered through feeder bands for Gustav - some of the squalls were 50kts and blinding downpours.

On the ICW it was basically a delivery. Long days - mostly because we were outrunning Hannah, as I mentioned.

Pier at Cat CayHigh points of the trip: Cat Cay, diving around Great Harbor for lobster and conch, and free wine in Beaufort. Also: Taking a shower in the runoff from the pilot house roof in a squall. Really, really nice. I learned how to clean lobster, couldn't follow cleaning conch (and actually, for the $3.00, it's much better getting it done by locals). It seems that there's an inverse relationship between ease of capture and ease of cleaning of creatures in the Caribbean...

Dolphin in the bow waveThat's not to say there aren't beautiful places on the Intracoastal. There are - there are cypress swamps and freshwater creeks and large marshes piled high with oysters and mussels (which as you may remember, I love). There are also dolphins in the ICW - they love to play in the bow wave. I tried to take pictures, but it's not easy. Mostly what I got is underwater blurs.

When I was in Ft. Lauderdale (a place I have an extremely low opinion of, incidentally, Travis McGee not withstanding) I purchased an inexpensive underwater camera and case - good to 139 feet, which I probably won't ever free dive to. I got some excellent pictures of sea turtles at Great Harbor. I'm told it's really odd as most of them have been eaten.

Cory and me with lobstersCory caught a load of lobster and taught me how to clean them for eating - basically, for the Caribbean lobsters that have no big claws, you only eat the tail. So, although kind of gross, you rip the tail off with a twist, break off a piece of the antenna, insert it into the now detached tails' rectum a little bit, twist it to get the intestine caught, and pull it out. Then you save the tail and toss the rest away. Later on, when you eat them, though, it's worth it. They're good - more flavorful than Maine lobsters.

Laura and Cory relaxing after a day of divingThere was a great deal of activity for the two or three days in the Bahamas. We wanted to stay longer but there were four storms either forming or coming across - Gustav, Hannah, Ike and an unnamed one forming near Africa. So we had to leave. Too bad - but I'm definitely going back. It's hot there, but nothing as oppressive as Florida. The people are great, too!

I just finished a project I wanted to take care of since I purchased Pelican - namely, getting the bilge pumps working and wired properly - they were wired to a breaker not fed directly from the battery and there was no way to run them manually. There are two, a Rule 1500 gph with a low in the bilge switch, and a Rule 2000 gph with a switch about a foot above the bottom.

The upper float switch didn't work although the lower did the job quite nicely. While rebuilding a workboat for my employer I saw some very nice bilge pump switches - Auto, Off, and Manual with a light that indicates the pump should be running. I decided to mount them at the nav station where they were out of the way but accessible. The West Marine switches have their own 20amp breaker. You can also get them with a fuse holder - everything else is the same.

After measuring and cutting the holes, I pulled and disconnected the wiring from the bilge pumps - this is an excellent time to test everything. I tested that each pump ran by providing power directly to them and that both switches worked with a multimeter. It turned out that the upper float switch connectors had corroded but the switch was ok. I ran new marine 14 gauge wire, one three conductor wire for each pump and switch so they could be run independently.

After rewiring the pumps and their float switches, I wired the the panel switches and while everything was out I tested they worked as planned - the diagram that came with the panel switches wasn't too clear and moreover, the top and the bottom of the switch was reversed in the diagram. When you make connections that are going to be exposed to water, make sure you use the heat shrink ones - and shrink them. I used them for all the pump and switch connections and then wrapped the whole mess with that rubber tape that only sticks to itself.

Switches wiredSwitches mountedFinally, after checking the panel switches were all wired correctly and worked as expected and so forth, I mounted them and hey! presto! properly wired bilge pumps. Incidentally, the power comes from the buss bar connected directly to battery bank 1, the big three 4D AGM battery bank. That's why the panel switches have their own breakers.

Well, that's it for now. I'm leaving for a boat delivery to Florida and when I return I suppose I'll have to put the cover on again. Darn! The season was just too short!

Upcoming projects for the winter will be refurbishing and installing a watermaker and finishing the plumbing for the holding tank - wiring the macerator pump and testing all that. There are others I hope to get to, including learning celestial navigation. Also, my opinion of the XM weather thing for the Raymarine C80 display. I installed that this summer and am not terribly impressed. But I'm prattling on.