Monday, June 22, 2020

Ready to Roam

Lockdown has been good for Minerva. Without a lot of the usual distractions, we've been focused tightly on getting her ready to sail away. Here's what we've been up to all May and June:

Lance installing the antennas for the wifi booster and AIS VHF

 The VHF radio was replaced with one that also sends and receives AIS signals. It communicates with the chartplotter, so we can see other boats, know what they are up to, reach out to them directly by name on the radio, and they can do the same. In the case of emergency there is a big red button to push which will send our information and GPS coordinates to the rescue folks.

We also installed a WeBoost cell signal/wifi booster similar to the one on the RV - it's a good company and the customer service has been very good to us over the years, so when it was time to select one for the boat we called them first. The difference it made in signal strength was immediately noticeable. Now I can work at full bars with Calyx (which runs on a Sprint signal and is truly unlimited).

Cleaning and ultimately sealing the crack in the blackwater tank

The surveyor was unhappy with the forward head tank, indicating concern about surface rust. This bothered us too so we sanded and scraped the rust stains off, and discovered damaged welds that had been poorly epoxied, and they leaked when we filled the tank with the brown brackish water from the Neuse. Ick. We repaired the broken welds, and are so glad we hunted down these drips when it was just river water, not accompanied by smelly black tank leaks in the wall somewhere later on.

Fixing the saltwater pump, the project before the project, tracing down the "why doesn't the aft head work right" solution

The aft head received an Electroscan by Raritan system. Lance installed it in April as a condition of the sale closing but we didn't get a chance to connect the saltwater intake properly then, as it was installed while the boat was high and dry. Essentially we took a very simple (albeit gross, not to mention illegal by USCG standards) direct overboard system and switched it out for a mini treatment plant, legal for discharge in most areas. Now when the contents leave the boat they are completely sanitized.

Repairing the first of two stuck winches

 This winch was stuck solid, and it took some effort to get it spinning again. We found another one in a similar situation and got them both working in fresh grease. In the coming months each and every one will get disassembled and serviced. Now that we've taken the first two apart the project is less intimidating.

Test run in the dinghy. Right after this shot was taken the motor mysteriously died. Now that I look at this picture more carefully I see that he is standing on the fuel line, which may have been the problem.
Troubleshooting the dinghy motor
This is standard dink motor drama: working now, not working next time, no visible reason. In our experience, the only constant with a dinghy motor is that they will be trouble. We decided just to install a permanent mount for it on the rail for easy troubleshooting on days like this. It weighs 60 lbs and ultimately lives in the storage locker just to the right of the camera's view here, having winches and halyards handy make easy work of the lifting. Having a real mount for it to live on while being worked on will likely be helpful in the future.

Replacing the main power switch with a modern Perko switch and fresh cables.
This was a major project that we conducted mostly in the pouring rains of May and required total boat disassembly.

 Of course you already know about the installation of the chartplotter and the accompanying complete electrical refit, we did that in the pouring rains of May.

Sorting all the engine spares
There are so many nooks and crannies on this boat, getting familiar with all of the spares stowed away there took weeks. I chipped away on that while Lance did the electrical refit, pausing here and there for his input or to hand him tools or labels. In the end I ended up organizing the storage lockers by project type, keeping the same-project types of tools and materials together with the hopes of limiting future boat destructo. I expect over time this will evolve.

As part of this process I took out twelve black leaf-bags of trash;  partially used tubes of stuff long since solidified, old yellow page books, bus schedules for Australia, tide charts, bicycle maps and museum flyers, that sort of thing which has all been superceded by the smart phone in my pocket or the electronic chartplotter we installed. I found space for the old paper charts for now, as redundancy is always good, if time goes by without actually using any of them they may become gifts later. Our music tastes are also significantly different from the previous owner's - the Kenny G CD was evicted with extreme prejudice immediately upon discovery.

Lance adding a USB power plug in the dash box

Our friend Joe crafted a beautiful little teak box easily accessible from the captain's chair, handy for small things the Captain du Jour will want closeby: phones, gloves, sunglasses, Chapstick and sunblock. Lance installed a power plug in the back of it, because if the phone will be tossed in there... it might as well be charging too. This was a lovely handcrafted gift from our thoughtful friend and we will think of Joe and his wife Janet fondly as we travel with it.

Testing all the lights. We only had to replace the stern light, all others were good to go. She's lit up like a Christmas tree and we should be easily visible on even the darkest and foggiest of nights.

Also on the agenda: getting-to-know-you day sails with Minerva.

Chloe has found the best seat in the house for days in the slip

What started out to be a project day became a quick sailing jaunt when the wind came up and we'd hit our limit of toiling away in the heat

Putting up the 3rd sail turned out to be easy and natural, not all worthy of the worry I had previously assigned to it

Chloe found her favorite under-way spot right under the Captain's chair

Finding a weather window for a nice weekend getaway proved impossible, so our planned 3-day buddy cruise with Joe and Janet got trimmed down to an afternoon afloat with them aboard our boat instead of their own. Having friends with local knowledge has been invaluable, and we will be forever grateful for their guidance and friendship.

Lance getting to know the windlass. We feel so very fancy and spoiled with this electronic motor. Pulling up this anchor and heavy chain would be tough otherwise, definitely not possible with the easy hand-over-hand method we used on all our previous boats.

On the day of our planned outing there wasn't enough wind to sail so we just motored over to the South River and anchored for a while. The river bottom is a dark gray sticky mud and Joe taught us the locals' trick of leaving the anchor dangling in the water and motoring away slowly with it to rinse it off, much easier than dragging it onto the deck and scrubbing it down like I had planned. Janet had been tracking the weather on her phone, and when the expected black wall of ugly weather approached we high-tailed it back to the slip and got her all tied down just in time for the first blast from the ugly storm. While it rained off and on we spent the afternoon on the covered marina patio chatting with a friend of Janet and Joe's about Bahamas cruising - he had lots of tips and tricks for deep-draft boats such as ours, while they chatted away I took copious notes.

A note about landing a boat in a slip: it's intimidating. With all the fluids topped off our boat weighs 18 tons and is just under 50' long from pointy end to pointy end. That's a lot of inertia to manage. I've been trying to muster up the courage to give it a whirl for quite some time, but always chicken out and Lance ends up doing it. On this venture the three of them insisted and I ultimately agreed that I would do it if Joe, who has the most experience with heavy boats, would walk me through each step. So he stood by my side and spoke calmly in my ear and with his guidance I landed her safely in the slip and it looked so smoooooth. Everyone wants to be helpful at a moment like this, and what ends up happening is that a half dozen people show up on the dock to grab lines and shout instructions, which are often contradictory and almost never helpful to the Captain who can't hear them behind the dodger window anyways. Lance and Janet were ready with the fenders and the lines and Janet's comment later was "I didn't even need the roaming fender" which was the best thing I heard that day. Now that the first docking is behind me sans disaster I feel more confident to try it again.

Minerva's table is so huge, "pass the salt" takes on a new, more literal, meaning

The day wrapped up with our first dinner hosted aboard. This was the BBQ grill's inaugural launch and Lance is still getting to know it but he persevered; the middle of the potatoes were fine, despite being quite crispy on the outside. By the time the steaks were up he had it figured out and they were cooked to perfection.

Days like this make all the work, tears, frustration, and wallet hemorrhaging worth it. This week we'll be moving aboard and cleaning up Loretta and Mr. Toad for their date with the covered parking facility in New Bern on July 1st.

Many of the marinas along our route North are opening again to visitors as each state lifts their lockdown orders. Our stay here in Oriental is coming to a close soon, but much like our full-timing RV lifestyle, we expect to meet the friends we've made here on the water elsewhere, and knowing that makes the coming goodbyes a little easier to face.