Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Ludington Adventure

August 20 - Got to the boat around 3. Successfully installed the water pump. Huzzah, we have running water again. Fixed all by myself. The thrill will be short-lived.

Right off the bat, Matt, the guy from 2 boats down comes down and gives us a play by play of the near-sinking and repairing of our boat, as he was actively involved in the repair (why this is, I'm not entirely sure - why are we paying the boatyard then, how is this guy qualified?) He gives us instructions on how to 'break in the new packing on the stuffing box' - ie: idling in forward for 20 minutes, then idling in reverse for 20 minutes. Good enough, makes sense. I take a look at the engine as it is running, once I've emptied all the water out of the bilge, and notice that the belt looks loose. He helps me adjust the alternator to take up the slack. It still looks 'not right' to me, but he says a change of belt in Ludington will be ok. We try to leave around 5ish, get almost to the channel when the engine warning alarm goes off. we are overheating. We shut down, and sail back to the slip. I take apart the impeller. There is some seaweed clogging the intake, I remove it, and also inspect the impeller to see if there are other issues, it appears ok. Maybe the seaweed was the problem. We let the engine cool down while we go out for dinner. Terri takes off her eyepatch, her eye is still hurting and she's miserable, it doesn't feel any better than the night before when we went to the med center, but she's not sure if its worth checking out. Call the med center, they say to wait another day to see if it is any worse.

Try running the engine for a while, watching the heat gauge. It looks better, so we try heading out again around 8, same thing, almost to the channel, overheats, sail back. Spend the night in the slip, waiting on word of Terri's eye, and to check with the repair people in the morning.

Currently the repair dudes are working on the engine, we drove home to get Terri's eye checked. No new eye patch this time, but she's got drops to put in. Keep an eye on it (excuse the pun). Don't know what's going on...

August 21 - Terri's visit to the doctor seemed to do the trick. Pain pretty much under control, sight improving, still a little sensitive to light, but seems to be on the mend.

The verdict from the boatyard mechanics when we got back to Muskegon: More seaweed stuck in the thru-hull fitting in the intake hose. Thus, engine not getting the cooling water needed for circulation. They recommended putting in an inline strainer in between where the water enters the hose and where it connects to the impeller. Easier said than done. We got the part (right size first time - at least on the strainer -- clamps took an extra trip back to the ship's store), and then we took a break from constant boat maintenance to take a swim out at the beach with the dog. Try to help Lady get over her 'fear of water'. After a lot of coaxing and patience, we got her to gradually .. get her feet wet .. wade out up to her belly .. then out to where she was still touching bottom but most of her body was submerged .. to full blown swimming.. all chasing a piece of driftwood further and further from shore. Quite funny to watch.

Then back to the boat to install the strainer and hopefully head north. The thru-hull for the impeller intake hose ended up being in one of the most hard to reach areas, just behind the engine, right under the batteries in the sail locker next to the cockpit. With me reaching in blindly from one side and Terri contorted like a pretzel on the other side, we managed to turn off the water flow, disconnect the hose, extract it, install the strainer, and then put it all back and reinstall it. Pretty proud of ourselves with this one. Probably saved ourselves a pretty penny doing that one ourselves.

Headed out to Lake Michigan and northward around 4-4:30ish. Tried sailing for the first hour and a half, but the wind was very light and fluky and we could only managed 1-3 knots in almost a west-northwesterly direction. Hour and a half later, and we could still see the entrance to Muskegon channel behind us, so we said screw it and tucked away the sails and turned on the diesel for the ride north. At this point the waves weren't bad, 1-3 ft, but then by 7-8 o'clock they began growing to 2-4 feet and in just the wrong direction so we had to be either wallowing back and forth between the swells or surfing down them directly toward shore, for a brief respite. The weather report promised a decrease in wave height by midnight, so we set our hopes on that, foolishly. Terri began getting nauseous by around sunset, and then once it got dark and the waves seemed to get even bigger and the rolls even more dramatic side to side, she eventually lost her dinner over the side around 10-11 o'clock. At midnight we were nearly to Pentwater, and had a choice to make, either stop in Pentwater for the night, or press on to Ludington (either 2 or 3 hours further, not sure, as we'd never gone that far north before). Terri seemed to think the worst was over, and could handle another couple hours, so we pressed on (hoping for those smaller waves, promised on the NOA radio). The waves never decreased, in fact, I think they got even bigger.

IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED HERE: Never go anywhere in the dark that you are unfamiliar with in the daytime. Just south of Ludington, we came across an Hydroelectric complex or Water Treatment Facility (or something) on the shore. Brightly lit up and visible for miles. Cruising along at 6 knots, almost to Ludington, not a care in the world, other than the fact that we would soon be in the breakwater and out of these damned annoying big swells. I thought I saw something off to the Northwest. Looked like a big piece of flotsam, or a derelict boat, only visible sporatically when the waves were just right. We tried shining our spotlight out there but didn't see anything. That is, until we were right on top of it. A long underwater extension of the hydroelectric plant, marked with a line of floats. Oh Shit! I'm yelling, disconnecting the autopilot and grabbing the tiller and turning us quickly due west out to sea, just as we are about to run over the floats. Keenan jumps up and grabs the spotlight and tries to tell the extent of whatever this thing is. It ends up running a good couple hundred yards out into the lake before ending in a couple of nonlighted (but reflective) buoys. (all the time crashing head on into these big swells and trying to keep control of the helm, while Terri is trying to read the chart and figure out what the heck we just nearly ran over. After we got around the end of it, and thinking we were out of our jam, we ended up in a field of warning buoys (some lit, some only reflective) all with 'DANGER SHALLOW' OR 'DANGER NET' written on them. Eventually got out of harm's way, but not without a huge dose of adrenaline for all of us. Now to try and enter Ludington harbor (never seen it before) with only the map for reference and a confusion of different colored lighted buoys (now which one is which? Terri trying to navigate on the fly, with Tim at the tiller and Keenan on the spotlight searching for unmarked objects. Once inside the breakwater it was much more relaxed -- somewhat, at least we were out of the huge swells and could slow down the engine a bit. It is now about 3 in the morning, and rather than try to mess with anchoring out in unfamiliar territory, we decide to find the municipal marina, and tie up to the fuel dock and be the first customer in the morning for a fill up and pump out, and ask for a slip at that time.

More fun boat repairs now. Our jib sail lost a piece of equipment and became disattached from the furler at the bottom. So we need to find a replacement before we can sail again. On the way, we also noticed we were taking water in the bilge again. This time an unpleasant smelling green water, somewhat reminiscent of antifreeze, although a different color than we noticed most of the winterizing antifreeze used on the boat was. A mystery where that came from until the next day, when Tim discovered that the Head was leaking around the fittings, so they must've used different antifreeze in the Head and Holding Tank than was used in the Bilge and Water Tanks. But now we can't fix the Head yet, because we can't get the thru hull to budge to turn off the outside water supply to work on it. One more item for the good people at Torreson Marine to work on. ADDENDUM: Later that day discovered that it wasn't the leaking head that was the problem, but that the pumpout hose had become disattached from the spigot and was lying prone behind the wall, dumping holding tank material with every roll of our boat in the waves. Eventually got the bilge & the area behind the head cleaned and disinfected and it is much pleasanter down below without that sickly sweet antifreeze smell. Luckilly we haven't been using the head much if at all this season, and it wasn't holding much waste material.

Got situated around 6am , then Tim took a long enjoyable shower and took the dog on a long morning walk, watched the Badger load and head off for Wisconsin. This is really a beautiful town. Nice waterfront sculpture park, wonderful marina & beach & inland lake connected to the big lake. Thinking perhaps of looking into mooring the boat permanently here. An hour longer to drive to get to, but more opportunities for new places to explore northward (Manitou & Beaver Island chains, Sleeping Bear Dunes and beyond). I could stand to live in this town once Keenan graduates, will have to check out the housing costs here. After last night's adventure, and our previous 'taking on water' adventure, I'm beginning to wonder about Terri and how she would fare on the open ocean. She seems quite fearful a lot of the time, and maybe just Lake Michigan sailing would be sufficient for quite a while. Not sure how everyone else felt about last night, but I got a huge rush out of evening sailing (except for the dumbass part with the hydroelectric buoy field), there were far off electrical storms on the horizon that would flare up with dazzling light shows (so far north that they never were a factor in our sail plan), the stars were dazzling, the milky way was clearly visible in the sky above, and I saw 4 falling stars, one of them quite big and amazing and seemed to fall right toward the lake. The fun of figuring out waypoints based on lights and towers on shore. The sunset was beautiful and it stayed quite light out for a long time after it went down. The rest of the crew seemed to need prodding to notice all the beauty around them, and mostly seemed to just want it to be over with.

Having a nice relaxing day today, just hanging out in Ludington, exploring the town, lazing around on the boat, might go swimming at the beach later. Will spend the night here, and head down to Pentwater tomorrow during the day (and give wide berth to the hydroelectric plant on the way home)

August 23 - Left Ludington this morning around 11. Motored until we got past the hydroelectric plant, plus gave it a wide berth, just to be safe. Didn't look nearly so menacing in the daylight, but, boy were we a lot closer to shore than I thought at the time. Another interesting discovery while we were packing to leave. I realized we had forgotten to install the sail battens (strips of plastic approx 2 ft in length that fit into sleeves on the mainsail, in order to help keep a better 'sail shape'), so our first chore of the day when raising the sails would be to install those pesky things. Once we got past the plant, we set about raising the sails. Still pretty uncomfortable waves, around 3 ft, and the wind was very light and flukey, so after trying for a short while, put them back away and turned on the diesel for the rest of the way.

Only a 3 hour ride today, started raining about 2 hours into the trip, not hard, just kind of a wet drizzle, and when we came into Pentwater, the tiny marinas here were already pretty full, so we are double parked in here tonight, stern to stern with a motorsailer from Maine who is making the circle tour, heading for Chicago, and then down the Mississippi. Keenan mentioned that he could smell that same 'antifreeze' smell behind his bunk the night before, so we checked out back there and found a hidden reservoir of water on a shelf (which apparently was spilling down into the bilge whenever we would wallow back and forth), so I traced the source of where it was coming from and sure enough, in the wall behind the head, the pump out hose had become disattached from the access point on deck and was laying down spilling the little bit of contents of the holding tank (at this point, just a little bit of anti freeze, since we haven't used it this year - could have been quite nasty had we been using it more and it was full of all sorts of foul material), so I got back in there and reattached the hose, cleaned out ALL the fluid from everywhere, cleaned thoroughly with Lysol, and the situation below is much improved. So, apparently, yesterday morning when the guy at the fuel dock was giving us a 'pump out', he was in fact pumping nothing out but air, and then squirting water into our bilges as a form of 'cleaning out the holding tank'... another lesson learned the hard way.

Did a lot of hanging out below, playing cribbage today, walked around town when the rain stopped. Dinty Moore Beef stew for dinner. Heading to Whitehall tomorrow, should be a 5-6 hour ride, with possibly small waves! Hearing thunder in the background.

August 24 - Terri mentioned today that it seems like we have a RV on the water instead of a sailboat, as we seem to have to motor everywhere. But today finally offered some nice sailing conditions, at least for half the day. Left early from Pentwater, around 9, overcast skies, that threatened rain (and delivered a few times), but for once a steady breeze from the east/southeast and waves that didn't make sailing an ordeal. We raised the foresail as a sort of experiment, and found that we could easily get 4 and a half knots with just that raised, so raised the main as well, and sailed for 3 hours or so getting up to speeds of 6 and a half knots at one point (nearly our hull speed). Had to travel through a few cloudbursts, but Terri and Keenan and the dog just scurried below until it was over and returned topside when it was over.

In the afternoon, however, the waves started developing into growing swells that started out being tolerable, and grew to be quite nausea inspiring by the end of the trip (even I was getting green in the face at one point). These were some very odd looking swells for Lake Michigan, they almost looked like ocean waves, large and rolling and far enough apart to keep you from slamming into the troughs. Got to White Lake around 4 and tied up at the Whitehall Marina around 4:30. Dinner at Dog n Suds and more Cribbage during the rain. Home to Muskegon tomorrow. Another job for the Hong Kong dude, due over the weekend, plus another new client called today, plus the Business Week spots due over the weekend. No rest for the wicked.

August 25 - The day we dreaded, thanks to the weather forecasts, ended up being the most beautiful and enjoyable. The NOA weather people were predicting possible thunderstorms all week for Fri-Sat-Sun, and as the day got closer, they were predicting 10-20 mph winds, possible thunderstorms, and when we got up Friday morning, the sky didn't look promising. Overcast, threatening skies, but we decided to press on towards home (usually only a 3 hour boat ride). Left the dock at 11, raised the sail and sailed across White Lake on a run, making good speed with just our headsail, and in fact sailed all the way out the channel (a first for us, usually winds get flukey in most channels due to the wind being blocked by dunes/trees/structures etc), and then kept our sails up most of the rest of the way home. We weren't making the very best speed, or the most direct route, but the day continued to improve, turning to sunny skies and a freshening breeze, with rolling swells not quite up to Thursday's height. Only when the wind changed direction just north of Muskegon did we finally break down and put the engine back on, after tacking back and forth a couple times and making almost no headway towards our destination (and it was now approaching 4 o'clock, so we were eager to get back home). A great two weeks (we spent the previous week on an extended 'disc golf' tour of Northern Michigan), but now back to work. Heard from the Hong Kong dude, and he apparently likes the rough sketch I did on Keenan's laptop, so need to go to finish on that for tomorrow, plus I have 5 spots for Business Week to finish up, plus a few misc emails to answer. Mom's coming back over this weekend. The lagoon will be dredged real soon, not sure what we have to do to prepare for that. Terri's got to get tickets for the ferry to Milwaukee to get the car. Mail. Bills. Fix the push lawnmower. Back to real life now. It was a nice dream while it lasted.

(I've got a lot of photos from this trip, but I have to track them down and will post them later)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Oh What Next

Planning on an extended trip to Ludington in Late August. Our only real opportunity for a family sailing trip this summer.

August 19 - Went out to the boat today to deliver the cleaned and dried out cushions and to do a final once over before the trip, just to make sure everything's mostly in working order. Needed some water for cleaning some of the mildew that had accumulated on the ceiling, and -- ta-da! now the water pump isn't working. Not crucial for sailing, but a pain for an extended trip, as we would have to bring bottled water along for washing up, dishes, etc. And just feels like one more thing to go wrong this year with this boat - just felt like throwing in the towel... cursing at the gods, whatever... dang dang dang

Got tired of always having to go scurrying over to the repair department for every little thing that breaks down on this boat, so I took a chance that the water pump got ruined in the flood (it was well within the 'water table'), and so I wrestled the water pump out of there, and we went in search of a replacement. We'll be going over there a little earlier than we planned tomorrow, so that I can wrestle this back in place and hook up the connections to see if that solves the problem. If not.. well, we'll just go the bottled water route and rough it. Thinking of leaving the dingy at home this trip and saving that experiment for next year. Not sure if I'm up to wrestling it aboard and trying to figure out how to launch it and get the dog into it, and the added stress of leaving the boat at anchor while we are away from it. I think we'll just stick to marina's for this trip like we've done before. (good thing too, as we later discovered that the used 'dinghy' we purchased was a total piece of crap, and leaked like a sieve on our one experimental usage on Riverside park retreiving a lost golf disc - would've been a disaster to have brought it along and relied on it.)

Picked up provisions this afternoon, and are hoping for a launch time of sometime tomorrow afternoon, and then an all night sail, with a hoped for destination of Ludington. From there... well, we'll see.

Somewhere in cleaning the boat out, and while I was wrestling with the water pump, Terri got something in her eye, and it was still bothering her around 8ish, so we ended up going to the med center to have it looked at. The doc there said that he couldn't see anything in there, but that she had some abrasions on her eye, so he gave her some medication and an eye patch that she has to wear for 24 hours. (plus he drew a funky bloodshot eye on the patch for good measure - she's quite freaky looking.) Hopefully she's ok by tomorrow afternoon, otherwise could be an additional complication in our plans.