Friday, July 28, 2006

That Sinking Feeling, or Terror On The High Seas

July 28 - Afternoon sail with Tim, Terri, Keenan and special guest, Grandpa. Well, got out to the boat by around 11, and prepped the boat. Terri mentioned that the bilge was full of water again, but I shrugged it off, we've had water in the bilge before, it had been raining since we were last out there, and we sometimes take on water when it rains. Drained the bilge, threw off the mooring lines and were on our way...Got to the big lake by around Noon. Did a little bit of sailing on Lake Muskegon, and it was quite pleasant sailing on Lake Michigan. Got about a mile/mile and a half north of the channel, got out the autopilot and after a little fidgeting around with it, got us settled on a course north by northwest on a comfortable beam reach.

We got out our KFC bucket and started divvying up lunch. I was about halfway through my lunch when I heard a piddling water sound from the back end of the boat, and stood up to check it out. Our automatic bilge pump was operating (it usually only will kick in on automatic when the water is right up to the top of the bilge), Terri went down below, and sure enough, the bilge was full again. The water seemed to be coming in somewhere under the engine (we were guessing the stuffing box - which is the hollow tube which holds the propeller behind the engine). Terri stuck herself down in the sail locker with a flashlight and could see water actually trickling into the boat. A frantic run for home ensued, with Keenan bailing below with a cup into a bucket all the way back to the slip. Thankfully it was a weekday, and we could go right into the repair shop to request someone take a look at it. I don't think it was quite as desperate as it seemed at the time. But Terri had the wild eyed look of an animal caught in a trap, and I wouldn't have been surpised to see her chew her own leg off, if it would've stopped the leak. Dad kept his cool throughout, sitting in his little perch on the back, finishing his lunch. I don't really know what ended up happening to my lunch, I think Terri tossed it overboard.

The 'kill switch' didn't end up costing too much as it turns out, we'll see how much this 'stuffing box' thing ends up costing us. On the plus side, we did get to sail for a bit, got to play with the autopilot for a short while. Got some adrenaline flowing. We handled the crisis fairly well. I think I can kiss that Chicago lake crossing trip goodbye for a good long time now.

July 31 - Just got a call from the marina. Sounds like they finally got around to looking at our boat on Monday. Water up to the cushions down below. We're going to have to go down there and air the boat out, dry and clean whatever got wet. Wonder what its going to do to the woodwork down there. Jeezuz.. what part of 'we're taking on water' didn't they understand when we reported this on Friday? Turns out we were right and it was the stuffing box that was leaking (the tube that the propeller sits in behind the engine), and it had to be 'repacked' whatever that means. Boat had to be taken out of the water to be worked on. I'm dreading this invoice. Crap Crap Crap Crap Crap

Ended up costing us $1100 to clean up the mess, replace the packing in the stuffing box, replaced the fuel hose & cockpit scupper pipes. We took out all the cushions, washed the covers at home and dried out the foam on the back deck, and made a few trips out to clean and de-mildew the boat, also finding standing water here and there behind the water tanks. What a godawful mess. Just felt like crying the first time I went below. But eventually we did get it all sorted out and back to almost normal.

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Tentative Summer Daysails and Breakdowns

June 11 - First sail of the season. Tim & Terri came out while Keenan working at the Civic. Got here around 2:45, very windy and had trouble getting out of our slip. Sailed Lake Muskegon down towards the far end with just our headsail. Tacked all the way back. Had to fix the furler on the way, we had it tied up wrong for some reason. Fixed the bow and stern lines which the marina dudes had tied up in a lackluster fashion when they launched her this spring. Need to look into some new bow lines. Weather was sunny with patchy clouds. Cool, about 60 degrees or so.

July 4 - Tim, Terri, Candy & Keenan got to the boat around 11. Fairly decent sailing on Lake Muskegon with both sails up as we made our way in a roundabout fashion towards the channel. Lake Michigan proved to be too much for us, the waves being way too choppy to find a comfortable heading on, and the wind gusty and unpredictable. Turned around and headed towards the channel anchorage, but that proved to be way too choppy and gusty to maneuver around in as well. Decided to head back to Lake Muskegon and anchor near the northwest shore for lunch. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea, the area was pretty packed full of boats of every conceivable size, but we managed to find a space and successfully put our anchor down, Keenan and Tim both took quick dips in the lake to try out the new swim ladder (servicable but takes a lot of upper body strength to use it to climb back into the boat - I give it a C+) and proceeded to chow down with the provisions that me and Keenan picked out the night before.

After lunch we napped on deck (where the sunburns probably came from), as the wind continued to grow in intensity on the small lake and the lake filled up with boats, so by the time we got our anchor up, and tried sailing again, we had a few mixed signals, a couple changes of direction, an anchor slipped out of its cradle and fell overboard meanwhile boats circling all around us and the wind gusting in my ears, we decided to call it quits and head for the marina around 2:30. Fourth of July is probably about the worst time to try and go out on the water, as everyone else has exactly the same idea.

Overall, a little disappointing at how much we seemed to have forgotten about sailing, a couple frazzled nerves and miscommunications, and the weather once again was a bit much on the exuberant side for my liking, ... but on the plus side, we did get to sail with both sails for the first time this season, Keenan actually came along this time... got to test our anchoring skills, and successfully pulled into our slip without mishap (exiting was once again a sloppy affair this time, gusty winds are no help).

We drove out to the beach and took a short swim in the anchorage beach (just Tim & Keenan again), then the four of us walked out on the pier and got soaked by some big waves by the lighthouse.

July 19 - Got out to the boat around 5ish by the time I finished up the Newsday job and sent it on its merry way. The bilge was nearly overflowing (probably due to the heavy rains of two days ago, but more on that later), so we ran the pumps for a while, and in the meantime, we did a thorough deck washing and de-spider-fication (some big ugly mothers on there this time, yikes!), and after stowing everything below and getting everything ready, we exited the slip a little after 6. Beautiful exit this time, light winds make that so much easier, we headed out to do some sailing. A regatta was setting up in the middle of the lake from the yacht club, so we thought we'd head out to Lake Michigan where we'd have a bit more elbow room. It occurred to us to check the diesel gauge (thankfully), and discovered we were almost empty, so headed for Harbortown to fill up. At this point, I'm starting to wonder what time Harbortown closes down for the night on a weeknight, and also worrying that we run out of diesel on the way there (and have to sail back into our slip, something we've never attempted (but I suppose we may have to someday)). Got there about twenty minutes before they closed (they close at 7 for future reference). Filled up, and in shutting down the engine, the 'kill switch' came right out in my hand. Uh Oh. Wasn't thinking straight at this juncture, what I should have done was turn on the engine, then turn it back off, then turn it on again, just to make sure it was operational, but when the engine started up again without a problem, I forgot all about it.... doh....

Got out on Lake Michigan (a bit more of a breeze out here than on the little lake, but totally manageable, with about 1 ft waves which kept it from being totally dull. Terri took the helm and I raised the sail, heading southwest. Um... oh yeah... the kill switch... which now doesn't kill the engine as it should. How to shut down the engine? I seem to remember from our class that it was a big 'no-no' to just switch off the key with the engine running. We both tried looking around below and around the engine to see what we could do while the other sailed us in idle with just the mainsail. Terri had an idea of pushing this one dohickey on the engine that she 'believed' might be a way to kill the engine. But I was worried about killing it out there, and having no way to restart it (dumb in retrospect I know - and it turns out later we discovered that she was right all along) - so we just took down the sail and headed back for home, and enlisted the help of our former teacher when we pulled back into our slip.

Another learning experience, I suppose, and it is probably just as well we turned back when we did, because we ended up getting home just about in time to get the boy, so we wouldn't have had much time for actually sailing anyway. Now we need to give the marina a call and have that repaired. Plus another odd development.. Terri had completely drained the bilge and the pan under the engine of water before we left, and when we got back in and looked at the engine, the engine pan was again full to the brim with water, so now we are wondering if we don't have yet another leak somewhere... Really dreading the bill we're sure to get for these little repairs...

B.O.A.T. = Break Out Another Thousand

On the plus side: We did exit the slip in a professional manner without yelling at each other...pulled into Harbortown in a smooth experienced manner with little fuss and filled up the tank for next to motor around for a couple hours... got to raise the mainsail and lower the mainsail and practice flaking the sail... pulled into the slip in a fairly dignified manner (aside from asking for help with the engine) . . . On the Minus side: Control Freak Capt Tim scolded Terri for being a road hog in the channel and took over steering when he could have just shut his big stupid mouth and let her make her own mistakes and learn from them on her own... Ug.. sorry Terri, really am... This summer has me really stressed out.