Friday, August 24, 2007

What’s that noise?

Something very unusual disturbed the peace and solitude that has existed in slip 1334 in Waterford Harbor Marina. A rumbling growl shook wind and water this morning sending fish to the deep and ducks flying in panic. My heart beat began to race and I realized that it was quickening in perfect unison with the throttle lever I was gently easing forward in my right palm. After five long months of languishing under the Texas sun, roasting in the juices of the Houston humidity, the heart of Romance, and my own, roared to life after too long a silence.

I’ve had a difficult time wiping the smile that runs from ear to ear off of my face. For the first time I realize why some moments with boats deserve nothing less than a bottle of champagne. Unfortunately, my refrigerator has only a few cans of Coors Light, so despite the early hour, I’ve cracked a can and am reveling in the moment. My boat is no longer a floating condo, but once again the sailing vessel that can carry my dreams and I across the oceans.

There is much to do this weekend to undo the five months of slumber. Romance has months of dust and grime built up on her hull that will be washed away with soap and water. The drive arm of the autopilot still needs the rudder indicator arm, control head, compass, and computer installed. The wooden panels that make up the cockpit lockers have been removed to make room for both men and hardware and will need to be fiber glassed back into the hold. Some how in the past five month the kill cable for the engine has come undone and must be reattached otherwise killing the diesel will require a trip below decks while on the water. With luck, with projects partially finished or in full, Romance will go sailing this weekend.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I've got a GEAR!

It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I've been gone for seven days for work, but good things are happening. Before I left I got the linear drive arm installed for the autopilot and primary anchor and chain replaced on the boat. Today the guys from Y.E.S. are here reinstalling my transmission. If all goes well I might even be able to take this boat out for a spin this weekend. I am still not getting my hopes up until I am pulling out of the slip.

On another note, I went sailing in San Diego this past weekend. What was supposed to be a relaxing trip to Isla Contadora in Mexico really put me to the test more than I was expecting. We pulled out of SD harbor Saturday morning for an overnight sail to Isla Contador about 18 miles from the dock. The sail down was excellent, but once we dropped anchor we realized there was no oven, no fuel for the range, no grate for the BBQ grill, and no matches to light it anyway. So dinner suddenly turned into a difficult proposition. After much debate I pulled out a trusty emergency signal flare, lit it, and used the flare to light the little bbq grill. I pulled the grate off the range top in the kitchen and delicately began grilling our pork tenderloin. We had no plates, no silverware, no pots, and no pans so wine from our three plastic cups and eating uncut pork tenderloin off a plastic fork was as good as it got.

About the time we started thinking about hitting the sack I went to turn the battery selector to 1 so that we had number 2 in reserve to start the batter in the morning. Unfortunately, batter number two was completely dead and had no longer been taking a charge while at the dock. This meant running off one batter. About this same time we realized we were only ten feet from another boat in the anchorage which meant we were dragging anchor. So we fired up the Yanmar to charge batteries and relocate to a better holding spot. Thinking the hard part was passed us we hit the sack only to wake up every hour on the hour to check our holding.

At the 5:00 a.m. anchor check I realized that our anchor light was no longer on. I immediately went to start the engine and sure enough, that one little light completely killed batter number 1. We were at anchor in Mexico with no engine. This scared me a little. After working out our plan we sailed out the anchor and had a great beat back into San Diego Harbor. We were going to sail the boat right into the slip, but after dropping the main I realized the jib didn't have enough power to allow us to tack if needed. We called off the attempt and just before we reset the mainsail and struck the jib seatow drove by us. I kind of believe in signs sometimes and this isn't one I could pass on. No batter meant no VHF to hail Seatow so I just waived my arm and he came right over and towed us into our slip.

Overall it was a huge pain in the ass of a sailing trip, but for all the problems we encountered there wasn't a single one we couldn't handle. I'll never take out another charter boat without gong through it with a fine tooth comb. Lesson learned. Hopefully I'll be sailing Romance again by the end of the week and won't have to rely on charters and other peoples boats.

P.S. if you are having boat work done in the Kemah area don't trust any shop except YES. Click the blog title "I've got a GEAR" above to go to thier web page.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

I've got a shiney anchor! a.k.a. Hot Dip Galvanizing

Bernard Moitessier, a famous French singlehanded sailor, recently reminded me that crusiers need to look for a few things when the refit a boat. Those are, in order of priority, effectiveness, reliability, and inexpensive. Cheap, that's what it's all about and cheap is a relative term in the boating world.

I had a half dozen people tell me that people don't hot dip galvanize anchors. I asked on every sailing forum I could find and no one had a reason why not. So I bucked the trend and took my 300 feet of 3/8 BBB anchor chain and three anchors to KT Galvanizing in Katy, TX and the results are outstanding. The big anchor alone would have cost over $800 to replace and all three combines would have pushed $1800. The chain new runs around $1000 + shipping on top of that. I was able to Hot Dip the whole lot for $200. That may be the best deal I've found yet on boat hardware.

Today is the first weekend I've had on the boat in a long time. I am digging into the autopilot installation today and tomorrow. With luck it will go smoothly and I can try and track down the signal error on the Radar unit. If all else fails, I just clean out the anchor locker and call it a weekend.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

A cruise of a different kind.

So I did something I've wanted to do since I was a kid this past weekend. When I left Albuquerque I knew I'd be coming back every other weekend for almost three months and I'd need transportation. So I left my old motorcycle there. Well, now that school is out I decided to ride the old girl from Albuquerque to Houston. That was one hell of a trip.

I left on Friday afternoon thinking I'd take three days, but as soon as I dropped down in elevation about 1000 feet the bike started running really bad. Angrily, I turned the bike around and headed back for Albuquerque. The whole time I am running through possible solutions and wondering what could be wrong. What really surprised me was that the bike started purring again as soon as I got back into the mountains. That was the last clue I needed.

I've torn into the carbs on this old bike enough to know them inside out. There are four carbs and four pilot screws that controlled the fuel flow in the cylinders for combustion. It was set way to lean so once I opened the screws allowing more fuel in she ran great. In fact she outlasted me by a long shot.

I forgot sunscreen the first day and have some pretty good blisters on my right arm, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. Riding through the high desert of eastern New Mexico and the Texas plains was a great way to spend the weekend. I also learned that there is a big difference between hitting hard shell and soft shell bugs at 80 mph. One feels like rain and the other hurts like hell.

Anyways, the bike and I made it back and boat projects await. I got the anchors and chain back from being hot dip galvanized and they look great. That saved me over $2000 in replacement cost and only cost $200. I am going to try and get my autopilot installed this weekend. My trans is en route to Kemah and I have tentatively scheduled the install on the 20th. My radar isn't working for some reason so I may need to fix/replace it. My goal is to take a couple of days off over Labor Day and go sailing in my own boat. Won't that be nice for a change?