Sunday, February 22, 2009

So, how about getting that boat ready...

We've all heard the stories about the folks who buy a boat to go cruising and spend year after year at the dock trying to get the beast ready for the journey. Today I met a couple who made enough in the software business in the San Francisco Bay Area to take leave of work in their thirties. They'd never sailed, but they decided to buy a nine-year old Pacific Seacraft 40 in Rhode Island about six months ago (now Tarvana out of Santa Cruz, CA) and they've finally made it down to Oriental, N.C. They seem to have no fear and freely admit docking is terrifying. But they are certainly not sitting around trying to overcome their fears a year at a time at the docks.

Now I don't quite fit in either category. Because of my several years with the Islander Bahama 28 Dog Days and a few more with the Cal 39-2 Spindrift, both in the Bay Area, I'm feeling ready to just jump offshore - like the young couple I just met - but my comfort zone sometimes leads me to be the proverbial lets-get-everything-ready-before-we-leave-the-slip sort of cruiser.  So, I've tried to be thorough in getting everything ready, but I'm leaving in a week or so, whether everything is ready or not.  Doing this has made my stay in Oriental this past month interesting and busy, and it's also made me a major contributor to the Oriental local economy.

At last, all the big purchases are done.  Life raft is to be delivered this week (that took two weeks of decision-making), and I've whittled the list of remaining purchases down to five or six very small items, all of which I've got on order with my favorite boutique, West Marine.  I've got most of the non-perishable provisions aboard.  It is truly amazing how many things you can stick into hidden lockers.  The provisioning inventory is growing in size and I really cannot believe I can get this much on a little 36 foot cutter.  Hats off to Bill Crealock, the designer of Alizee.

I bought Alizee almost nine months ago in Annapolis, and since she'd already cruised the Bahamas for several years when she came to me, she was pretty well set up: watermaker, air conditioning, diesel space heater, autopilot, Kiss wind generator, SSB radio.  The only system I didn't really like was the Sitex radar working through computer based Nobeltec navigation.  So, in Annapolis, I replaced this system with Raymarine C-80 chart plotter/radar system.  I also installed davits, bought a new Walker Bay dinghy and 9.6 outboard, replaced the interior upholstry, and did some other minor things.  Then I had a wonderful trip down the Chesapeake to Norfolk and then on  down the ICW to Oriental, N.C., where I had a berth awaiting me at Oriental Yacht Harbor.

All seemed fine with the Alizee at that point, and I thought myself ready to head for the Bahamas as soon as I could get back from California in 2009.  The only problem that lurked was to determine a whistling sound that engine made the last 15 hours or so down the ICW, which I thought was probably the cutlass bearing.

But, then, since sailors always are finding new things to play with, I decided it might be prudent to add AIS (a ship identification receiver) to my electronic array along with Sirius Marine Weather (you know the satellite radio system).  So, I had that done a couple of weeks ago, and I finally got Deaton's Yacht Service to come and check out the engine noise. 

Ah ha!!  Here's where knowing local sailing conditions starts to pay off.  I had tried to arrange for a diver to clean the bottom and keep an eye on the zincs before I left for the Bay Area last September, but no one seemed prepared to take on such a task.  As fall and then winter approached, I assumed cold waters disuaded divers, particularly since my friend and past-Encinal Yacht Club member Karl Lichty, also in Oriental, tried without success to find us divers.  Therefore, I just accepted that not much would happen in five months, so no one dove the boat, and the result is where the present fun began.

I first noticed that Alizee had sluggish power forward when going to get fuel (and going aground...see the previous post), but I assumed the water was just really thin and I was simply skimming the bottom here and there.  But when the Deaton's folks came over and their mechanic Gary (who also was captain of the Tow Boat US that pulled me off the mud a couple of days before) joined Penelope and me for a ride on the Neuse River, she wouldn't go over 3000 rpm in forward, though in reverse she'd hit 3500 rpm easily.  A slipping transmission?  What might it be.  Could be a shaft problem.  Or ... maybe ... just maybe ... barnacles on the prop!  Fingers crossed, we took Alizee over to haul her and discover the problem.

Is nothing easy???  Maneuvering into position to back into the travel lift, with the Tow Boat US captain aboard my vessel, I went aground again.  I'll tell you, it was not pretty, and I can say, dredging is something sorely needed on the Pamilco Sound and Neuse River area of North Carolina if they want to keep their moniker "the sailing capitol of North Carolina."  Nonetheless, I got her backed into position and an able yard crew pulled her on to the lift straps and up she went.
The moment she came out of the water we saw the thrust problem: barnacles ... more barnacles than I've ever seen.  It's amazing the prop turned at all.  And, once we got the barnacles off and the prop pulled off (to be treated to slow future barnacle growth), it was clear the cutlass bearing was bad.  Just as I had thought.  So, I authorized cleaning and treating the prop, replacing the cutlass bearing, replacing the zincs, and also asked  Gary, the mechanic, to service my Yanmar engine and walk me through the process.  I can tell you, it's no Perkins 4-108, and I discovered a couple of things in the lessons that would have stumped me no end, such as replacing the impeller and exactly what tools I ought to have.
Penelope and I spent two nights on the hard, living aboard of course, and we took advantage of the time to clean and polish the hull and much of the stainless.  I marked the anchor with bright yellow ties every twenty feet, and generally we enjoyed the time out of water. 
Karl and Lucy Lichty came down from New Bern, and we had dinner at the Neuse River Yacht Club and I played keyboards for the folks there ... Lucy set this up ... she told the owner, Wayne, that I was pretty good on the piano, and she got me in to play Valentines Day night.  Wayne and the club members liked it so much, I've been asked back twice now. My little 66-key Yamaha keyboard is not as nice as the old Encinal Yacht Club piano, but it's surely nice to have with me.
Obviously, we all had a great time.  Good music, good food, good wine!  And when morning arrived, we had Alizee, with a brightly polished prop, a new cutlass bearing, and a well serviced engine (see Alizee's maintenance log for specifics) ...
... ready to go back in the water, where she had to spend a couple of days settling in so that the shaft alignment could be checked and adjusted.  Along the way, I had the yard replace the Raymarine anemometer, on which the set screw had backed out, causing the cups to fall to the deck.  Better they go to the top of the mast than me, don't you think?
Penelope had to drive back to Florida on Sunday (she's flying over to the Bahamas after I get there), so I spent the day putting away provisions and updating my inventories in preparation for the crossing and next two months.  This morning Gary came aboard to repack the stuffing box and check the shaft alignment and finish up a couple of small things.  The alignment is okay, but the shaft has a slight bend in it and it looks as though it may need replacing in a year or two.  Certainly the engine mounts need some attention, but that can be deferred for now (thank you lord, for the money is running out).  Soon I'll be back at Oriental Yacht Harbor and can finish up the final provisioning of perishable goods.

I'm feeling like my crew, Rob Woltring and Keith Rarick, who arrive from California on Saturday: "We can't wait to get to sea!"

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