Saturday, January 30, 2010

Trial by Fire

After a week away from Olympia and sweet Dervish while they fixed the crane truck, I returned last Thursday night and made a plan with Jim Benson to try to get the mast stepped Friday when the tide was right. The tides have been in the 17' range which is too high to get an adequate angle for the mast. We decided that around 1:30 pm Friday, the tide would be just right.  I woke up early after my first night aboard alone. Took my pup out for his morning poo and returned to make myself a stout cup of coffee. I'm still learning how to use the Hillerange kerosene stove without undue smoking. The key seems to be to get the burner well heated prior to turning on the kerosene. If it is hot enough the kerosene becomes gaseous and burns cleanly and without smoking. If not, it burns as a liquid and smokes terribly. That morning I got it just right and managed to make my coffee without smoking myself out. I reached down under the starboard quarter berth, turned off the kerosene and sat down to savor my morning java.  

But something smelled... weird. Hot. Toxic. Holy crap! I spotted some black smoke wafting up from the starboard bulkhead near the stove. I lifted the cushion and sparks flew. The battery charger wires were melting. Quickly, I unplugged the charger from the AC outlet. The wires ran from the charger down under the companion way steps to the batteries. Flames were flicking up through the finger hole in the step. I opened the hatch and huge cloud of smoke puffed out. I reached for the nearby extinguisher, but decided to try blowing it out first. And by golly, I blew the flame out. I disconnected the clamps on the battery terminals which sparked and flared up a little. I threw the whole mess out into the cockpit and opened every port and hatch. My heart was pounding. I nearly lost my boat to a fire. WTF?!  

Steve had kluged the charger together until we could get a permanent one installed. There was a place where the wires were twisted and taped together and evidently when I lifted the cushions to get to kerosene tank, I caught the wires in it and then managed to smoosh it enough to cause a short. I inspected the batteries and all the other wiring. Nothing seemed to be damaged. I tested the battery. Phew! All was well. I drank my coffee out in the cockpit in the rain where I could at least breath. I wondered if it was a good day to try the mast stepping. Did I totally screw up by not doing the de-naming ceremony? Events like this turn me superstitious in a heartbeat. 

After coffee and a meditation, I talked to Jim and everything was set for 1:30 pm. The truck had started fine that morning and the weather was dry and calm. I motored over at the assigned time and met my crew: Jim Benson, Jib Harlan, and Jack the crane guy. Everything looked good.

We hooked up the mast and slowly they hoisted her up while I scuttled about clearing lines and such.

The only problem we had was when the bow pulpit got caught over a chunk of wood on the piling (visible in bottom center in the picture below). As the tide ran out the boat lowered several inches and got hung up on it. We had to stop while everybody moved to the stern to raise the bow enough to get it off the wood.

Once the mast was up and steady, Jim had to work fast. All the wiring for my boat exit the bottom of the mast (rather than through a hole in it) which meant that it had to be balanced and kept within about 8" of the deck. Jib steadied the mast, and Jack adjusted the crane as needed until the wiring was done.

They lowered her onto the tabernacle and attached the baby stays. I motored back to my slip without incident. Then Jim worked on the rest of the standing rigging.

It took me several days to sort out the running rigging and furler assembly. I have an old Hood Seafurl 810 which is a continuous line furler. It must be one of the earliest models, and it wasn't easy to figure out how to assemble it. There were three little parts that didn't seem to fit anywhere. I had every guy on the dock advising me. I was buying beers in Tugboat Annie's (the Tavern/restaurant at West Bay Marina) and trying to get somebody to just come and rig it for me. Nobody did. But Jim Nemeth printed out an exploded view of the furler from the manufacturer's website which confirmed that two of the three spare parts did, in fact, belong to it. (The third mystery part still awaits its destiny.)

Eventually, I got Tony and Cathy to walk the docks with me until we located a Gulf 30 that had a similar furler which we could study and compare with mine. Aha! We figured it out and got all the parts in the right place!

It took another full day to rig my 10 kilo bruce anchor, and run the furling lines aft along the port stanchions. I'm not so fast at all this, but I did it, and now I understand how it all works. And that is very valuable.

January 27th I finally got her out of the marina and into Budd Inlet. Cathy, Jib, and Zubenelgenubi crewed with me. Here I am instructing Zuben to stay out from underfoot.

And here is Cathy at the helm as we motored out. (Cathy did all the photography for both the mast raising and the test sail! Thanks Cathy. My Canon is currently out of commission.)

We motored for about 30 minutes, pushing the little single cylinder Farymann diesel engine to its limit. She smoked a little until I backed off to about 75%. I forgot to turn on instruments, so I am not sure what our speed was, but judging from the wake and apparent wind, I'd say at least 5 knots under power. Maybe even six!

There was only a trace of wind, but I had to put up the sails. The main was a bit sticky going up, but the furler worked perfectly. Even in light wind little Dervish picked up some speed. I think Jib wanted the boat to heel a bit more, but alas we just didn't get going fast enough.

Zuby did his job splendidly: looked cute, stayed out of the way, and kept his vest on. I just love the heck out of this little boat dog. In fact, Zuby is largely the reason I got this boat. But that is another story!

After sailing about for an hour or so, we dropped the main, furled in the headsail and motored down to the public dock at Anthony's restaurant where I practiced docking.

I'm now back on Camano Island planning for the delivery to Oak Harbor Marina where a slip awaits. Before that trip, I'll be installing a new Shur-flo water pump and hooking up the sea water intake to the head. Then I'll get that old name off her stern, perform the necessary rituals, and make the appropriate sacrifices to Neptune. Stay tuned...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dervish at Last!

Finally, after months of twiddling my thumbs, real estate shopping, and contemplating the possibility that it could be years before we are able to move aboard Nomadness, a miracle, it seems, has transpired. As of last Thursday, I am now the proud owner of Dervish, a 1974 Cal 2-29 sailboat!

A couple of months ago, as I sat withering deep in the woods of Camano Island, lonely, unsure of my future, and dreading the long wet Northwest winter, Steve sauntered in from the lab one evening with a sly smile and claimed he had an idea that "is a little crazy, but just might be a rather elegant solution to our problems."

"Go on," I urged as he nervously fiddled with his pockets and rehashed all challenges we had been facing in our relationship. Then, almost reluctantly, he proposed we get a second boat. A smaller boat for me and Zuby dog to live on while he turns our blessed Amazon 44' into the Star Trek Enterprise. It took all of about a nanosecond for me blurt out, "Okay, that sounds great. Let's do it!" You see, I have been dreaming for years of a little boat to sail and live aboard. I pictured myself cruising the Salish Sea on a salty vessel of moderate size equipped with all the comforts of home. We talked it over rationally while my inner child was jumping up and down and squealing like a Christmas morning toygasm.

It seemed the only way I would get my thrills sailing, he would garner enough peace to focus and finish his highly complex boat systems, and we could stop the rapid outpouring of money trying to keep both a boat afloat and household in the woods, was to buy another boat. So the search began. I spent weeks diligently (obsessively perhaps) reading Craigslist and Yachtworld, studying different types of boats, and driving all over the Western Washington looking at various vessels. I found a couple that I liked, but alas they were either too small for my big guy to fit his 6'4" frame on, or too expensive. Long story short: a friend of a friend had a friend in Olympia who had a boat on a trailer that he had been talking about someday maybe selling. A few phone calls were made, and I drove to a Steamboat Island yard to take a look the following day. I fell in love. And the price was right.

I returned to Camano to tell Steve that I thought maybe I had found "the one." We began our usual internet research of Cal 29's and after googling the boat name, Chailena, Steve found out that she had once been owned by Tim Clauson. Tim had made many posts to Cruiser's Forum about the renovation of his Cal 2-29. He and Steve had even made several exchanges in the forums there. I emailed Tim, and sure enough it was his boat. He had traded her to the current owner in Olympia as partial payment on a larger vessel. Now we had a first-hand account complete with pictures of all the wonderful work he had done on the little vessel. (You can see pictures on Tim's blog, Seven C's Sailing Web log beneath the most recent post on his current boat, an Ingrid 38' cutter which is up for sale.)

Armed with so much information and history of the little boat, Steve and I drove down to Olympia two days later and decided to buy her on the spot without a survey. It took us a couple of days to get our all ducks in a row, and we went back to pick her up last Thursday. This is where it gets a little... uh... exciting.

It was pouring rain, and due to industriousness of the moles in the yard where she was lying, the trailer had begun to sink a bit into the mud. Now Steve's truck is a big Ram truck, but it isn't four wheel drive, and though it was spinning and straining the trailer didn't move. The owners, Jon and Vickie, got down and pushed and dug and grunted to get that trailer moving. Vickie even got a matching bathroom rug and toilet seat cover set (picked up earlier that day from Goodwill and currently being used as a bed for her dog) out of their car, and with great heroism threw them under the truck's tires for traction... but even that didn't work.
I did give their dog, Scuppers, a pack of Zuby Snax for the sacrificing his cozy rugbed.

Well, now it was time for the neighbor and owner of the yard to get involved. A tall, thin drink of water in cowboy hat, he was quick to introduce himself. Darryl Duer is his name, and this fella was bound and determined to help us get that boat out of his yard. Moles or no moles, she was going. After rhapsodizing sparkly-eyed with me about his first sailboat, which he also bought in the middle of a blustery January decades ago and sailed all winter long, Darryl decided what we needed was his
1952 Case tractor. Within minutes he returned on the tractor and hooked up a tow chain to the truck which was hitched to the trailer which held my new boat. Round the yard they went, and we were on our way.

The ten-mile trip to Swantown Boatworks went smoothly. Though the trailer looked rough and rusty, it is actually quite strong, with good brakes and new tires. We parked it on the X in front of the lift and left her there, ready to go Friday morning. The lift and splash went on time and without incident. Thankfully, my rigger and diesel guy, Jim Benson, had the sense to remove the tape from the speed sensor at the top of the keel. Here she is, going into the water:

My good friend Jim (Jib) Harlan and fellow marina employee, Dan, arrived on time with a work boat to tow us over to a slip at West Bay. I was nervous, and it was raining like the devil, but actually it was quite fun. I asked Jib to ride with me while Dan towed us.

The winds were kicking up so we docked her on the outside.

Steve and I spent the night dining with Jib and his girl, Robin, and later drinking liqueurs aboard s/v Ethereal where we slept. Cathy and Jim Nemeth were wonderful hosts and even cooked us breakfast the next morning. Then we got to work trying to get the little Farymann diesel engine running. After a few tries and some priming, she turned over. Yay. Wait... oh shit... no water out the exhaust! The black button wouldn't shut the engine down. Steve suddenly became very nimble flitting around trying to turn the engine off. After a long 90 seconds or so we discovered the throttle could be pulled way back to shut off the fuel supply. The engine stopped and we sighed a big collective sigh. No damage done.

Benson arrived minutes later and gave me a bit of a scolding for not waiting for him. Steve poked around and figured out that the raw water intake was plugged... in fact, all the thru-hulls were plugged. Once again Jib came and towed us to our new slip next to Benson's boat on the southside, where we hoped to deal with the problem with more tools available.

We discussed hiring a diver to try to open them, but Jim Nemeth had a better idea. He brought us his air compressor, and lo and behold, we blew
out the crap and cleared all four thru-hulls. Next Benson installed a gorgeous new Racor fuel filter complete with pressure gauge and shut off valve. We changed her oil and fired her up. How sweet it was to hear that little motor putt putt putt! I really like my little Farymann, which even has manual starting crank in case the batteries fail. They sure made them to last back in the day. Here she is before the new Racor (which replaced the aging filter at the bottom right of the photo). We also pulled out the big white vent that was left over from a previous gasoline engine.

That night, Steve and I slept aboard little Dervish. It was sweet and cozy until a Southerly gale blew in and started us rocking and rolling at the dock. We were now on the front line of a 30-knot blow, with gusts in the 50's. We added a fender and adjusted the mooring lines. I heard voices at 2 am and got up to see what the commotion was. By the time I was dressed and on the dock, everybody was gone. I added another mooring line (feeling rather salty as I secured it to the bucking bow) and went back to my bunk. Next morning I learned that one boat had broken its lines and a neighbor down the dock had fallen in and was, thankfully, rescued by the Bensons!

But it was a gorgeous day. Sunny and calm. So right on schedule we fired her up and I piloted her over to a slip where the crane awaited. I had a squad of pals on the dock to watch the mast raising. Everybody was cheerful and excited. We waited for the crane operator. And waited. He finally arrived only to discover that the damn old thing wouldn't start. They tried jumping it from Steve's truck and charging the battery, both to no avail. The tide was running out fast, and we were in danger of hitting bottom. Disappointed, I putt-putted back to my slip.

We couldn't wait around while they repaired the truck, so Steve and I returned to Camano to take care of critters and business. In a way it was fortunate as the interim days allowed me to wash the sails, soak my lines, and test my dinghy.

I'm heading back to Oly today with the intention of stepping the mast tomorrow. If need be, I'll bite the bullet and pay the extra $100 to have it done back at Swantown.

I'll spend the weekend testing systems, provisioning and maybe even getting my head working. Soon Steve will join me, and we will begin the three or four day delivery to Oak Harbor. I can't wait. I am about
as happy as a gal could be with my Dervish of the Salish Sea. Perhaps my blog can return to the purpose for which it was created: to chronicle the journey from a land based life to a life on the water.

And be sure to read Steve's version of the story. I guarantee you'll get a kick out of it!