Saturday, September 28, 2019

Safer at sea

Sailboats are safer at sea than they are close to land.  In my experience people find this concept counter-intuitive.  It was true the other night, however, and as a result we spent the night sailing.

We intended to leave Jewell Island, just off Portland, earlier than 8am this morning, but a conversation over coffee about better kitchen storage distracted us.  We thought we still had time to  make it to Portsmouth, but winds were light and this boat does not motor very fast.  As the winds built they were directly against us.  We tried sailing and we could go faster, but not in the right direction.

We eventually admitted to ourselves that it would be dark when we reached Portsmouth and we’d never been there before. At the southern end of Maine safe harbors are further apart. We did have the option of York but at the tidal current can make its narrow opening flow like a river.  There was also a big swell, remnants of a distant storm, that would complicate any landfall today.  We called the York Harbormaster who admitted he had not been “out” to see the swell, but if we made it there in an hour we should be able to make it in against the ebb tide.  If it took us two hours, however, the tide, which was bigger than usual at 11 feet, would be faster than we could motor.  

I remained concerned about  that the tidal current and the swell might affect my ability to maneuver and getting near the rocks would wreck the boat. A couple times I mentioned the option of staying out all night but it seemed Kate was not ready for that idea.  I told myself it would show good compromising skill if I could stick to the plan, maybe it’d be fine and I wouldn’t need to subject everyone to a bight out. I set out fenders, untied the anchor so it was ready to deploy and cleared the cockpit of all nonessentials that had accumulated over the course of our long day motoring.  My apprehension grew as we got closer. The setting sun made it difficult to see the navigational buoys, but the white spray each time a swell hit the rocks was easy to make out.  

What I had not articulated clearly, when I had mentioned to Kate staying out all night, was that I did not feel safe entering but felt perfectly safe staying out all night. The forecast for the next several days was for light winds and it was even supposed to be warm.  With only a few minutes to go Kate says I told her I was “scared shitless.”. Once I got this out Kate agreed we should turn around.

Ruby was concerned and cried. She refused to sleep in the v-berth because she remembers me saying that it gets bouncy up there on offshore passages. Leif was fine about it, but then he inhaled his dinner and threw up. But after we settled down and read some stories they both slept 12 hours. Kate relieved me from 1 to 4am and I slept every minute of it.

By morning we were south of Boston. A long day of sailing for this crew is 8 hrs and we now we had several of those out of the way. The winds died in the morning but the Cape Cod canal, which changes its direction of flow based on the tides, was not going in our direction for another 6 hours so we just drifted towards it and played cards in the cockpit

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Boom repair

I woke the other day at dawn to ruminating, anxious thoughts about what would have happened had the boom broke in the gale during the return from Bermuda.  If you can’t imagine the possibilities, just as well.  The damage that led to failure must have occurred at that time.  It is simply dumb luck that it waited to break fully until I was near shore in benign conditions.  Now I have no welding expertise but, after working with the John Williams yard for three days, I am confident that we built a considerably stronger connection.

Here is a picture of the new gooseneck, the attachment between the boom and the mast.  You are looking at the front of the boom.  Note that there is a solid plate on the forward end of the boom.

We also built a new pin, the piece with the hole at the
top, because the old one was nearly worn through

This second picture shows the old gooseneck (from the other side) after it broke off.  It was only attached to the front end of the boom by four tabs, two of which you can see.  The initial design had openings in the front of the boom so lines could pass through, accommodating the previous reefing system, called single-line reefing, that I have replaced.  The tabs are what broke.  The plate will be considerably stronger than the tabs were.

This next picture shows the end of the boom after it broke off.  You can see where the tabs attached.
This next picture shows the gooseneck as seen from below.  You can jut make out the black sheaves (round pieces) that the lines are fed over.  The metal pieces are dividers between the sheaves so that the ropes do not jump from one to the next.  The axle for the sheaves goes through the plates and into the sides, helping tie the whole structure together.  

Hurricane Dorian

Our location is indicated by the green dot northwest of the storm.  The storm is moving northeast.

We have taken shelter from Hurricane Dorian at Buck’s Harbor, known to be a good hurricane hole.  We are surrounded by hills on all sides.  We are tied to a mooring rather than using our anchor.  In here we did not see much wind or waves.  Out in the ocean NOAA weather has been reporting 25-30 knot winds with gusts to 45.  They have been reporting dangerous surf as the waves generated by the storm roll in.  We had a spot here reserved but did not arrive at the harbor and start getting things tied down until sunset, cutting it a bit close.

Over the last two days there was a bit of commotion at the boat yard (we were still waiting on the boom repair) as many nervous customers were asking for their boats to be hauled out of the water.  It was hard not to be caught up in a little of that anxiety.  The forecasts called for it to miss us, but the movement of this storm was hard to predict.  It ended up going over Halifax where my son Ben said he was out running errands.

Buck’s Harbor the night before the storm.  Red sky at night, sailors delight

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Living His Dream

Living His Dream-By Kate

I am from a small town, Mora, 60 miles north of the Twin Cities.  My parents still live in the house I grew up in.  When I refer to my childhood house as home, Walter reminds me my home is on James Ave in Minneapolis.  It is the old farm house on top of the hill above Fish Lake.  In the fifties, lake side properties were sold off to build houses creating a quarter mile dirt road around my parent’s home.  This loop was a path which us kids and the neighborhood dogs ran freely when kids and dogs ran freely.  The grandchildren did not get this privilege until they were much older and even now have a very short leash.  As adults we walk the loop after a Kramschuster dinner of meat and potatoes. 

One day Walter and I escaped to the loop alone after a big dinner, leaving the kids to play with cousins.  As we were walking the loop I told Walter little stories about each house: the Hill’s gave us Cracker Jacks, Gloria and Arlin left out agates to find, Grunke’s dog bit Ann while on her bike, Mrs. Anderson grew up the old farm house, Beckler’s was my first babysitting job where I mostly played, Blaisdale’s springer spaniel, Dutch, roamed the paths with our puppy dog, Ruby.  As we turned one of the corners to make the loop, Walter wanted to take the fork in the road to a second row of houses.  This road was less traveled by us because it was a dead end and a loop was always more satisfying than tracking back in the same direction.  Although less familiar, I had plenty of stories that I thought of as very entertaining.  When we reached the dead end, I thought we would turn around, but Walter wanted to take yet another road even less traveled, but this time it wasn’t even a road.  He wanted to go through the trees and brush and of course I agreed because trying to find a loop instead of back tracking is much more satisfying.  So we trampled through the woods, shrubs, wet grass and broken sticks.  In an area where I lived for 18 years and then visited for another 20 years I never adventured through this particular plot of land.  We ended out on the edge of a field, turned right and ended on Fish Lake Road with soggy feet that led us back to home (my parents home, not James Ave home).  

This sums up what it is like to live with Walter’s sense of adventure.  We can be on the most familiar and routine activity and Walter will find away to tweak it into an adventure.  I have always known about Walter’s dream of living on a boat.  When we first talked about getting married I asked him what if I didn’t want to live on a boat.  He said, “Well, maybe I will end up not wanting to live on a boat and you will want to.  We would just have to talk about.”  For the next 10 years Walter talked about living on a boat every day of marriage.    

So the question isn’t just do I want to live on a boat with Walter and the kids, but is this the adventure I choose to have.  Living with Walter, adventure will be had.  If it is not a boat adventure, it will be something else.  So here I am choosing to have this adventure.  In all relationships we give in, make compromises or maybe find “win-win” solutions.  Sometimes you have to take a step back, look at what you have and carve out something meaningful for yourself.  My dream wasn’t specifically to live on a sailboat, but in a round about way it is an avenue to get at what I am looking for.  Admittedly, a month and a half into the trip what I am looking for feels muddled.  My reasons for living on a boat were something about living simply, being in nature, becoming closer to my family.  However, life feels more complicated, nature is exhausting me and I fight with my family all the time.  Adventures are about the “good feeling” experiences.  These moments are what dreams hope for.  However, adventures also have struggles, problem solving and hard work.  Perhaps it is in the hard moments that adventures give real meaning and the pleasurable times are there so we can take a breathe.         

Monday, September 2, 2019

First post by Leif

When my Dad was doing a race the thing that  was securing a pulley ripped off the deck of the boat.  The people who repaired the boat after the hurricane had not put long enough bolts for it to be secure in high winds.  You have to get into the aft locker to get to the bottom of the bolts to see how long of bolts are needed an to try and put nuts on the bottom.  None of the workers or my Dad could fit into the locker.  It was hard for me to get in.  My sister could fit in,  but she couldn’t reach the bolts.  We took out the rope hanger to make more room and I could fit in.  I still did not want to go back in but then my mom and Dad said I could get the biggest ice cream in the store which turned out to be a brownie sundae.

Where plate ripped off deck

Deck fitting

It wasn’t easy to see.  I got a flashlight so I could see.  It wasn’t scary. The first bolt I could reach it but I could not get a nut on it because it was right up against the wall.   I could not reach the second bolt.  We tried using pliers but I could not angle the nut correctly to get it to grab onto the bolt the workman was turning from outside.  There was no room to get on a washer.
Leif’s view from inside locker

I was able to help because I was able to see the amount of bolt that was sticking out from the fiberglass.  This allowed us to figure out that the original bolts were too short.  The adults were able to determine that longer bolts would have more grip and they would not rip out.  
Leif reaching for tools

An old boat and rookie mistakes

I have been messing around with boats since I was a kid and with this one for the past three.  Granted living aboard presents new challenges but I thought by now I might have fixed the things that were ready to break or exhausted the list of rookie mistakes.  That doesn’t seem to be the case.  We’ve had a week full of them.  At tough moments I have asked myself if I am just bad at this, but I get over that thought and honestly don’t think so.  Instead I believe that inherent to, and even the appeal of, adventure activities is that you cannot learn everything before you go.

The week started out with a toilet clog.  Now they warn you about this when you first start chartering which most people do before they buy a big boat.  They tell you not to put too much down and how you will need to find someone with a really skinny arm to reach way in there and how much they will charge you if they have to come out.  So we have tried to do the right things by buying quickly disintegrating “boat” toilet paper and teaching the kids how to flush.  In the Caribbean I even put vinegar down it like thy told me to do, although I didn’t really know why.  

When the toilet pump handle wouldn’t move, we first tried waiting for morning while we filled the tubing with vinegar, hot water and some of the boat-safe holding tank treatment.  I keep a piece of coated wire that had been one of the lifelines before the hurricane which often comes in handy and, once resigned to more aggressive intervention I disconnected the flexible plastic tubing which comprises our pipes and tried to ram it through.  When it didn’t pass I frayed one end and turned it while pushing it into the tubing by coiling the end that was still in my hand.  It was a makeshift plumbing snake.  I could measure how far I twisted it through the clog and that clog was over two feet long.  Poopy fluid was oozing into my hands along with calcified pieces of build-up shaped like the inside of the tube suggesting this was the culmination of a gradual process.  

I was determined and was five hours into it before I gave up.  I rationalized giving up on the basis that this tube was going to have to be replaced anyway and we were due in the boat yard the next day to get our new stove.  I had been hoping to avoid the expense of having them do it, but I called and asked them to expect the extra job.  I was probably lucky it happened now, near a yard that knows me and who were able to do it immediately.  It took two of their guys over a day, but they installed all new hoses.  Kate was more than a little grossed out by the project and it was good to be at a dock to clean up.  All fluids in our boat flow down into our 4’ deep bilge, so you can imagine what was down there. I brought their hose right into the boat to flush the bilge by filling it and draining it with my bilge pump.  I was still seeing brown floaties, on my third cycle of this so I repeated it several more times with bleach and assorted boat cleaners.         



But the toilet clog wasn’t the only thing that had happened that day.  As we were deciding that I would launch into the project we thought it best for Kate and kids go to the beach.  It was a beautiful day and we were at a popular anchorage with only one other boat.  That’s when we realized our rowing dinghy was missing.  Now if you have been reading you will remember that this already happened to us once this trip so its a rookie mistake we have made twice.  Kate was desperate to go to shore to dig a hole and do her business (because remember the toilet is clogged) so after dropping her off with the inflatable the kids and I started searching.  I felt sick to my stomach for having lost it. I stopped by the other boat to ask what direction the wind had been blowing and he suggested we call the Stonington Harbormaster.  To my incredible relief the harbor master immediately responded that Mulligan, a lobster boat, had found our “skiff” as they call them here and had it aboard.  He wasn’t going to be back til early afternoon but I had a toilet to unclog anyway.  When he came by my oars were even strapped down inside it. Mulligan’s captain told me he had found it two miles away drifting. He noticed the end of the painter seemed chafed and we noticed that indeed the painter was shorter, but we did not however see the rest of it still tied to the boat

After we had a couple of days at the yard we figured we were good to go Downeast.  They call the coast northeast of Bar Harbor “Downeast” because it is more east than north and the prevailing winds make it downwind    The book says not to expect much in the way of services for pleasure boats and that we’re on our own, but having found and addressed the plumbing situation we’re thinking our odds are pretty good.  Well…we were about halfway to our destination, having a good sail, spinnaker up, wind beginning to pick up, moving along at 6 kts when I notice that the boom is no longer attached to the mast.  I had not done anything different except sheet in the main as the wind shifted to be more foreword. There had been no loud sound of metal ripping. The hinge at this joint simply failed.  The boom was just hanging there from the sail.  I sent the kids downstairs and took down the spinnaker with Kate as that huge sail can make unpredictable things happen.  We then brought Leif back up to slowly ease the main halyard, dropping the sail slowly so Kate and I could flake it. We took care to control the boom which would be allowed to move unpredictably once the sail dropped.  The boom ended up resting on the canvas dodger in the back and being held up precariously by the rigid boom vang in the front.  My first thought was to disconnect the vang but as I was wrestling with that I realized doing so would allow the boom to move more, potentially creating a battering ram.  Leif suggested we hook up the topping the lift and I think his idea was better.  The topping lift is a line from the top of the mast to the back of the boom.  With it lifting the end of the boom up and a second rope from the boom to a cleat on deck, things were stable. We motored to Eastern Harbor where we picked up a mooring that said “Guest” and for which no one came out to charge us.  

Before dark we tucked away the undammaged sail (whew!) and laid the boom on the deck. In the morning we took advantage of the flood tide going our direction to continue on.  We were now a slow motor boat.  I do not like depending on the engine and am always thinking how I can sail out of a situation if the motor dies, so now I have all sorts of new worries, but I am excited about being Downeast and we have picked out a place to go for Leif’s birthday.  I vowed to be attentive so as to avoid further mistakes. I did figure out that there was a 39’ bridge in our path and did not run into it with our 53’ mast, though that required a 3 hour detour.  And while we wanted to make ourselves feel more comfortable by topping off our fuel tanks, we read that the fuel dock in Jonesport only has a depth of 3’ at low and we had dutifully bought the book which told us it was now low.  So we did a few things right.  But I set the autopilot to cross Chandler Bay and I snagged my first lobster pot.

The water here is peppered with colorful foam buoys attached by a long rope to lobster traps, or pots, on the ocean floor.  My kids are avid collectors of these buoys after they are detached in a storm and wash ashore.  They hang from our tree fort in Minneapolis.  Warnings abound about getting them wrapped around the boat’s propeller.  Our first summer up here we were vigilant about looking out for them, but now that I have felt hundreds of them bang their way along my hull as I motored along I have become complacent.  

Of course my first snag has to occur while my primary source of propulsion is compromised.  
The engine suddenly developed a rumbling tenor, though it did not stop dead like it did when I snagged the line my dinghy in the prop on one of my first charter trips.  Kate confirmed that we did have a buoy following us and then could see, by leaning way over the rail, a line heading to the propeller.  My attempts to go in reverse (unwind it?) did not make things better and pulling at it with a boat hook just caused the extendable pole to separate.  

I resigned myself that no one else was going to solve this situation for me.  As I reluctantly began to don the wet suit I carry for just such an occasion it my acceptance of what I had to do developed some momentum.  I lowered my self into the water gradually.  The lobsterman’s 5/16” 3-strand nylon rope created a rat’s nest around my propeller shaft and the propeller itself.  It initially uncoiled easily, but then I had to cut.  The wet suit was making me float up against the boat and the lightweight sailing knife that I carry in my pocket wasn’t going through it.  The next dive I went down with an old rusty knife that came with the boat, one which I had just the day before offered to a guy at the yard but which he did not accept because he told me it was too good of a knife, and it plowed right through.  I must have dived 20 times and my head was getting cold, like an ice cream headache from the outside.  It might be good to have some type of wet suit hood.  In between dives it helped to hang from a rope off the boat.  I never looked down. 

Back on deck I felt off balance. I later learned from a NOAA radio report that water temp in Jonesport was 58 F that day.  It took a hot shower (yes, we have those on this boat), all my warmest clothes and a bowl of soup before I was feeling warm again.

We are going to stay up here for a week or so despite our challenges.  There is a sense of remoteness that reminds us of northern Minnesota.  There are fewer boats and many more uninhabited islands.  Some of the little flat islands have just one shack built in the center.  A few of the smallest are host to crowds of seals.  We do not want to rush out of here due to a few difficulties.  So far we are getting through them.  I can think of plenty of bad scenarios. Running out of diesel would be bad and there are a few other possibilities I will also try to avoid. Hopefully nothing else will break.

Ruby’s interview

[Parent note: For Ruby’s first post we did an interview.  Walter and Kate came up with the questions, but the answers are all Ruby’s.]

We have been on board for a month and a half.  We have had some good times and hard times. Tell me about three places we have visited that you liked and why you liked it.  Your choice might be because the place was cool, what we did there, who you met, or any other reason.

The place where we met my friend, oh yeah at Somes Sound.  Jewell Island is my second favorite because it is where I had my birthday and because it had towers.  I like this island (we are at Great Beach on Roque Island) because it has a long beach with soft sand.  

What is the hardest thing about living on a boat? 
Watching Leif barf.  
I do not like sleeping next to the cat man.
It is usually messy around here.  When we put the art stuff from my shelf and put them under the seat it helped a ton because that gave me space on my shelf.  

Is that getting any easier?
Some days are good but when we bring groceries home it takes two weeks to put them away.  Things were really organized then we got groceries and toilet problems and things got messy again

Tell me about some things you have learned. Can be skills or facts?

There are these little things on rocks that I thought were decorations but they actually are alive and they reach out and catch food.  And they bring it back. They are called barnacles.  I learned how to drive the dinghy with the outboard motor.  I learned how to row.  I learned to paddle the paddle board with my friend.  

What do you like about Maine?
The thing about Maine is the cold water.  I like the cold water and finding lobster buoys.  It has a ton of good islands.  

Tell me about your room on the boat.
It is in the front of the boat.  I call it my room but I do have to share it.  It is shaped like a V.  I have one shelf and my brother has the other.  We have two drawers, one on my side and one on his side and we have a centerpiece (an insert into the top of the V) that can be taken out and go back in.  We have a closet.  We have 4 windows and we have a seat.  The favorite part of my room is the seat.  On my shelf I store toys.  I brought nothing that fragile because it would break.  I brought some stuffed animals, my favorite stuffed animals.  

What do you like to play with?
I play with my stuffed animals.  I play with my doll.  I brought Kaya (an American Girl doll).  I play with my keyboard which I got from my birthday.  

What is the best food we eat on the boat?
Spaghetti.  Still. What do you mean by still? Because that is the best food we eat at home.  

What boat job are you best at?

spray the hose when my dad pulls the anchor up. I am good at cleaning up and he is not (pointing at Leif)

Tell me about fairy houses you have seen or built.
Monhegan was the place I first built them.  You build it somewhere that looks cool and has soft

stuff, natural stuff. You spend an hour or a half hour.  I use crab shells for beds and make stick houses.  I use a rock or a broken tree or a tree that has a hole on the inside.

What do you look forward to?
I am looking forward to going to Ann’s (Kate’s sister in Maryland).  My dog (which has been promised after the boat trip).