Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Little Late

(This post was meant to precede the last one, but timing got messed up) 

Saturday, June 4
Time to head up north. 

We have our new inverter/charger that arrived by post from some company in the US. Did very well on the price, even with the US dollar exchange and the shipping costs. The new catalytic converter for the truck (which as noted in the previous post had the vicious spite to explode right in the middle of everything) also arrived and now it is installed in the truck with the effect of great new sound and new performance quality.

So we packed up the truck with various and sundry items, loaded the cats and, packed to the roof, drove early in the morning up to Britt.

We arrived in good time, made things livable, boated the cats and took on the task of installing the I/C. As the wiring was already in place, it wasn’t too difficult a job. We tested the ends of the AC 110 V feed with shore power plugged in and were happy to find that there was power to the unit available. (One of my fears was that we were going to find that the old unit wasn’t actually the source of the problem. A bit backwards in my process I suppose but it was hard to arrange things properly after we were told that it would be weeks before they could even test the old unit.)

The Freedom 458 is quite heavy, 20 kg, and awkward to maneuver but we got it in place eventually, beneath the bunks in the v-berth, and attached the wiring. With fingers crossed we turned on the unit. Success! Power throughout the boat. Now I could use my new electric backscratcher and Brooke could continue her high-voltage experiments in bringing dead fish back to life. 

We celebrated.

Sunday, June 5
It has become apparent that the weather is going to be ridiculously windy and cold this week. Daily highs of 14 or 15 and winds steady at 25 – 30 kph. Not a fun thing as it means we won’t be able to leave the marina.

We drove into Pointe Au Baril instead and purchased a new bilge pump. No amount of mucking about with the old one was producing results. We found a new pump at the Beacon Marine store in town and installed it quickly when we got home. Unfortunately, it is not the same robust gallons per hour that the old pump had (1500 GPH vs 800 GPH) but it will do for the time being. A larger unit will need to go in someday soon though.

The Rest of the week…
Was blowy and cold and drove us a little mental. In the meantime, we continued fixing up the Mary Mary and spent some time with friends at the marina. 

On Friday, the winds calmed down enough that we decided to go out. We headed over to Black Bay and anchored near The Keyhole. The breeze remained steadily calm and we had a picnic lunch/supper of barbecued burgers on the grill and took the kayak out for a paddle around the area. 

Later that day while enjoying a fire up at the house owned by Kim and Cathy (who were away but kindly allowed use of their fire-pit) Brooke took a tumble and sprained her ankle. It turned out to be a relatively mild sprain but still awkward and painful for the next couple of days.

On the Saturday I made our first clam chowder of the season and later on I went for my first swim. Very cold water so it was a challenge to stay in but I was glad I did it and felt mightily refreshed afterwards.

The next day I was up early and returned to Toronto to do work for the week. Won’t be back up until next Friday. L

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Harrowing Sea Tale

What do you do with a drunken sailor? Wake her up at 6 in the morning and tell her you’ve run aground.

Well, to be sure, we weren’t drunk. But it had been a frivolous evening and I, for one, didn’t need this rude an interruption this early in the morning. It was just short of 6 a.m. when I was awoken by a jolt and a sharp bang. I lay there for a minute wondering whether this had happened or not or was part of the boisterous dreams I am wont to have. Another jolt. I leapt from the bed (leapt being an example of ‘literary license’) and went to see what was going on.

The day before we had arrived at one of our favourite anchorages, Sunset Bay, off of Black Bay, by way of Georgian Bay and anchored as we had done before, with out bow facing out into the open bay. We had then sterned into the narrows that occurs between a rocky outcrop on the large island and the smaller island. Once in position, lines were spidered out to hold us steady in that place. To do this, we used climber’s pitons lodged in crevices in the rock and sturdy lines laid to the stern of the boat. Brooke would run these lines out in Merganser (the trusty inflatable kayak). There we would ride in relative calm. (See figure 1, below.)

Fig. 1
We knew that next day there would be high winds, bordering on 30 knots and even higher gusts but we felt secure there in our little cove. Back to the next morning…

Peering out into the dim daylight I realized that we had lost our starboard line and had drifted back onto the aforementioned smaller island. There the port-side hull was banging up against the protruding rocks.

“We’re on the rocks!” I shouted down below through the cabin door. Brooke was up in a flash (more literary license) and joined me on deck to assess the situation. Fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of push to the starboard side as we were still in the lee of the greater land mass and the waves were nothing to speak of as they rounded the point. It seemed that we would be able to pull her off by using the anchor rode (3/4” nylon rope at the time with 55’ in the water) against the anchor. I went forward and started to pull us forward, hand over hand. The boat responded and a few seconds later we were off the rocks and floating out in the bay, anchored at the bow and still tied off at the port stern to the small island.

Brooke looked down into the engine room to check for damage to the hull and possible leakage. There was nothing to be seen there. That was a relief. Now we had to decide what to do as the wind was beginning to pick up even now.

My first notion was to return the boat to its previous position and re-tie. Brooke agreed. It was then that I made my first mistake. I reasoned that if I used the port tie as a sort of spring line, I might be able to bring the stern back to its original position without the need for Brooke to get back into the kayak and remove the island tie. With the engines running, Brooke manned the anchor rode to let it out at we retreated back to the cove. At one point when the boat was reversed, the boatswain had drawn the rode all the way back to the stern, not wanting to let go control of the anchor line, but needing to draw in the stern line.  I set the wheel to put us sharply to starboard, but unfortunately, the stern line got caught under the swim platform, sagged and fouled onto the port propeller shaft. Adding to this, the kayak painter, which was secured to a stanchion at the rear became caught in the now fouling line and together they twisted together to form one large, knotted ball of rope, pushed up tight against the swim platform and the port propeller now firmly fouled. This posed two problems; the port engine was no longer available to me and, more importantly, we were now starting to drift onto the rocks that formed an underwater shelf running off the near end of the island.

“We have to cut the rope,” Brooke called out, so I ran to the galley to fetch a knife. Seizing a large, serrated carving knife from the kitchen drawer, I ran out onto the deck and cut through the rope to the island. Thankfully, it parted quickly and we were able to pull the boat further off.

Shivering in the cold morning air, we stood together and caught our breath as we peered over the side. Since the imminent danger of the rocks was over for the time being, the reality sank in that I would now have to go over the side, down into the still chilly waters to cut the rope free from the prop.

A couple of years earlier, on Rice lake, we had had a badly fouled prop and it had taken ages to get it off. It’s exhausting work. You have to don a swim mask and, holding onto your knife, use your free hand to get down under the water beneath the hull and find a place to grab onto while you hack away at the rope until it comes free. This, of course, can only be done for a few seconds at a time as your breath runs out, exacerbated by the exertion of doing the cutting. In that case, it had taken an hour of constantly catching my breath and re-submerging to continue the work. I remember we tried to fashion a breathing tube out of a piece of garden hose. This, in case you’ve never tried it, doesn’t work as the pressure is too great for your lungs to overcome underwater. Thought I was gonna die, that time. So now, faced with the potential prospect of an even greater fouling in even colder water, I was, to say the least, daunted.

But it had to be done so over the side I went to begin the hacking. I was pleased to see, upon my first dive, that the fouling wasn’t nearly as bad as that previous time. I hyper-ventilated a little to give myself more oxygen and dove under. I grabbed onto the propeller blade and began to saw at the rope with the big carving knife. The first strands gave way. Soon, I realized that Brooke was in the water too, wearing another mask and one swim fin. (She could only wear the one because of her badly sprained ankle mentioned in the previous blog.) After I made another couple of dives, Brooke said she thought she could get the rest and, diving down, pulled on the sawed and knotted remains until they came away. We were free.

Now came the chore of re-positioning the boat to meet the high winds that we were expecting from the SE. We decided to find another anchor location further into the bay. We motored in a bit and set the anchor, this time with a heavy chain rode, and I held the boat in position as Brooke, fighting the already mounting winds, kayaked ashore, attached a rope to a wedge piton punched into a crack in the rocks and fed the bitter end back to the boat where she secured it to a cleat. We now had the anchor out and the boat tied to shore. She then ran another line out and we were in the clear for the time being. Back on board, Brooke made us French toast which was as welcome as anything you can imagine, food-wise. 

Sunset Bay in calmer times
Later we took another swim to assess the damage done to the hull by the rocks the night before. We were relieved that it only amounted to some minor chipping of the gel-coat and paint scrapes.

Then the wind came.

Unfortunately for us, the wind had now shifted to the SW as it began to build, which meant that it would be hitting us directly on the beam (sideways). It didn’t take long before it had reached most of its momentum. It had been forecast as 30 knots with gusts up to 56 knots. In case you’re not familiar with the scale of things, a 30 knot wind is gale force. We watched the lines to shore strain with the force of the sideways push on the boat. I began to wonder if this wasn’t actually a squall that was hitting us. There had been an earlier ‘squall warning’ for Georgian Bay on Environment Canadas site. (Squall - a sudden violent gust of wind or a localized storm.)

The Beaufort Scale of wind strengths

We went inside to escape the brutal wind and every now and then I would venture out to have a look at how the lines were behaving. I was just about to come in from one of these inspections when the piton-mounted line came flying out of its crevice. We were now being held to the land by only the thinner of the two lines which was stretched as taut as a bow string. If it snapped, the boat would be driven around quickly in the direction of the prevailing wind and we would face the chance of the anchor pulling free or of finding ourselves helplessly pinned against rocks protruding further up the bay. Not to mention the danger of having that line burst, whip-like, while one of us was close by on deck and taking it in the face.

Brave Brooke jumped into the kayak and, with amazon-like ferocity, paddled in to secure the wayward line. She did so and then we even took another line ashore for additional security. Once all those were in place, I walked around to the bow. I was doubly glad now that we’d had the good sense to deploy our heavy chain rode with as much scope played out as we could under the circumstance. But as I stood there, with some difficulty against the blistering wind, I could only stare down at the waves crashing around the rode and pray that the anchor held. If it didn’t, now that we were tied up three ways on the shore, the boat would pivot around those lines and we’d end up hard against the rocky shore parallel with the land mass.

Bed time.

Inside the boat, the wind could be heard howling through the mast lines (as Brooke said, “spoiled devil-child phantoms in tantrum”) and smattering against the windows. We could only sit there and hope for the best. The anchor chain, straining against its runner creaked and groaned through the hull. The wind was relentless, gusting from time to time to its full 55 knot force.

Once in bed, I fought the urge to throw up and, in fitful bursts, ‘slept’ until the morning which came eventually along with diminishing 20 knot winds.

20 knots! Luxury!

Another view of our cove with the port-side stern line attached

Friday, May 27, 2016

Power Issues

Fascinating. The number of issues that can befall you in the blink of an eye. 

Having braved the 0° of the mid-May weekend and sleeping on the hard, we were congratulating ourselves on the fact that, while still on the hard, both engines had fired up nicely and all seemed good for launch that Monday. Which, in fact, we did. 
A chilly morning 'on the hard'
We had been plugged into 15-amp power without issue before hitting the water, but were perplexed to find that a red fault light came on the inverter/charger remote panel after we had plugged into the 30-amp shore-power. I switched off the i/c at the panel, let it sit for a bit and then turned it back on. No fault light, but now the unit wasn’t recognizing any AC input from the dock. 
The RV version of our Freedom 2000 Inverter-Charger
We tried many things: disconnecting all the power and batteries then setting them back up, tightening the connections, etc. But to no avail. 

Not good.

To top it off, the bilge pump seemed to be jammed on. Which meant, without the ability to charge the batteries from shore-power or generator, the pump would sooner or later drain the house batteries. So we had to switch the pump off. Fortunately, there were no leaks or issues with sea-cocks or anything, so we were okay in theory. But leaving the boat for any length of time without a bilge pump backup was dicey and would make for anxious nights.
The guilty bilge pump
We came back to the city and a couple of days later I returned to the boat hoping to try a couple of things that might bring the i/c back on line. No luck. So I had to remove the i/c to bring it back to Toronto to the only accredited Xantrex service people in the province. Disconnecting the i/c was comparatively easy, but the unit weighs 45 lbs. and was very awkward to maneuver out. But eventually it made its way into the truck. 

I took the bilge pump apart and cleaned it out and such but the problem was still there when I put it back in. 

Upon taking the i/c in to the service people I was told that they wouldn’t be able to get to it for 2 or 3 weeks and then even when they did, there was no guarantee that they would be able to get new parts for it, as the Freedom Inverter line had been discontinued in favour of a newer model with more bells and whistles. If they could fix it, it would end up costing somewhere in the region of $600. 
Getting there
So we went online and found a place that would sell us a brand new unit for around twice that. We decided to go that route as the old unit was a 2001 and we couldn’t be sure that it would last much longer anyway. 

Now we are waiting for the unit to arrive from the States so we can go up north and get this season underway.

Oh, and the catalytic converter on my truck fell off. Sigh.