Monday, October 22, 2012

Twisted Sheets Haulout

This won't be one of our tropical scenery posts. I suppose that any scenery photos we post  would be tropical scenery by definition, but what I mean is that this post is not about beach combing, fishing, or conch diving.   This one is about moving the  big sailboat to a safe spot for the rest of storm season.   It's a part of  keeping a sailboat in the middle of a hurricane zone. We have to have the boat hauled out if there's a named storm warning, or if  we're leaving town for more than a few days during the storm season.  That was the case, here.     I'll  start this post with one of La Gringa's sunrise photos.  I used hers instead of one of my own, because ... well.... hers is better.   Again.

This is the one I had been planning to use before she showed me hers.  It's not nearly so pretty.  I was concentrating on trying to catch the image of the early morning conch boat heading out, the wake across the still smooth water, .....while she concentrated on the sunrise.   I think there's a lesson in this here for me somewhere.

We wanted to make another trip on Twisted Sheets before pulling her out of the water.  We ran out of time.    We had a long-planned trip up to the U.S.A.  We were committed, all scheduled with flights, cars, and hotels all booked. We couldn't leave the boat in the water here and just fly away during the peak of hurricane season.  We moved Twisted Sheets from her comfy slip(s) at South Side Marina.  I motored her about six miles over to the hard dry limestone lot at Caicos Marina and Shipyard. This is the first time we've done this.  I admit to being a little apprehensive since I'd be running the boat alone again. You know what a nervous nellie I am.  La Gringa tells me I worry too much. 

We picked a good day with calm weather for the trip.   La Gringa helped push me off  the dock at South Side and  she  waved bye-bye  as I set off into the big, lonely, dangerous ocean all alone on an elderly boat with issues.  Both the boat and I.  Elderly, and with issues, I mean.

She drove ahead to the Shipyard to be there when I arrived.  Takes her about 15 minutes to drive about ten miles.  Will take me about an hour to go six miles.  If everything goes smoothly.   This was only the second time I had moved this boat by myself.  The first time was from Jacksonville Naval Air Station to Jacksonville Landing in the St. Johns River. My first solo, as it were.  This time was a whole lot better.   This time I was in very familiar water, and I have a whole lot more stick time on this catamaran.  No scary shallows.  At least, none I don't already know.  And no trains and railroad bridges, and no current to hold position in waiting for them to open.  No strange concrete docks, and maneuvering in water the color of.... well I won't dwell on the color of the river.  Let's just say it would never be mistaken for sea water in the TCI.    This tiny tropical trip should be a tray of twinkies, by comparison, true? ( I meant piece of cake but had that alliterdiction thing going on)

It was a typical summer day, with the Caicos Bank looking like a big, warm, clear swimming pool.   If you can imagine a 2300 square mile swimming pool. With a population of critters. Most with teeth. It's a magic place when it looks like this. I'm still amazed some times at how clear the ocean water can get here. I made the whole trip under power, by the way.  Well, that might be a bit misleading.  Maybe I should say I got the boat there under interrupted or intermittent power.  This is one of those nagging little problems I keep whining about. Catamarans just handle so much better when both engines are running.  I got spoiled when they both ran all day and night..... that one time.  It hasn't happened before or since, but we now know it's possible.  We have hope.

There was hardly a breath of wind so sailing  was pretty much out of the question if I expected to get there before dark.   And I most certainly  did want to get there long before dark.  This water is clear and easy to read when the sun is high.  It turns dark and mysterious when the light goes out.

This was only a short trip, but still  enough for me to settle into the chair,  and imagind the feeling of being on a 40 ft. sailboat alone on a long trip.   Even though this trip was within swimming distance of land and only took  an hour, it was enough to let me imagine what it would be like to go from shorthanded to singlehanded.   I admire those people who spend months on a boat alone, but I have no desire to become one of them.    I think it's potentially even more isolated than being a hermit in a mountain cabin.  You can walk away from a cabin.  And the distance to the nearest help stays constant.

La Gringa was driving  along the shoreline during the first part of the trip.  She had her camera with her, and managed to get some long distance photos of Twisted Sheets.   


We could hardly have picked a smoother day for the move.   We timed it specifically for  a sunny day on a rising tide, when the sun was high overhead.  The sun makes it so much easier to keep an eye on the hundreds of coral heads between me and my destination.    I am heading around the edge of that hill and then turning to the left. There was a time when I would have said turning to port, but I am trying to break myself of the habit.

 I know my keels will clear these things, but there is still a tendency to steer for clear spots.   One of the fun things with a catamaran is that in many cases I can steer directly at a coral head and have the hulls pass to either side of it.

I remember what I was thinking at that point.  I was judging how long it would take me to swim ashore from here, and then that led into thoughts about what would happen after falling overboard while single handed.  Power boats small enough to fall out of typically have a  safety or 'deadman' switch. It's often a little cord or lanyard that you can attach to your clothing. If you fall overboard, it disconnects the ignition.  The motor stops, and you have a chance of being able to swim to the boat.  Even that's not a sure thing.  If there's enough wind, it's entirely possible for a boat to drift faster than you can swim for as long as it would take for you to catch it.  But the thing is the boat stops motoring, and you do have a good chance if you weren't injured.

If you're on a sailboat alone, and fall overboard, I think things are about to take a serious turn for the worse.  There's no deadman switch to stop it.  If you're not tied to the boat, it's going to sail on without you.  Might even pick up a little speed without your weight.  If you are tied to the boat, it's going to drag you though the water at something like 3 to 6 knots.  To get back on the boat, one would have to be able to haul themselves up the tether hand over hand, into a current stronger than most rivers.  Then if one manages to breathe and haul themselves up to the boat, there is still the significant problem of getting back aboard.   It's hard to climb onto a boat from water level. That's probably a good argument for us getting a better swim platform, come to think of it.   These are the kinds of things I think about when left alone for too long.  You can see I'm not cut out for singlehanded, long distance sailing.

Every time I pass a coral head I think of how many lobster might be hanging out around the base of it. They like to hide in jumbles of rock and coral if the conditions are right.   And there's typically an entire established neighborhood of fishies hanging out around these things.  I don't know how many coral heads there are on the Caicos Bank.  It's almost totally uncharted.  I would guess several thousand.

Maybe we should do a post just primarily with underwater photos of coral heads. That would be a fun one to put together.  Nurse sharks sometimes curl up around them and fall asleep.  We haven't taken any shark photos in a while.

As you've probably already guessed, one of the engines stopped as I was about half way through the trip.  It was the same engine we keep having issues with.  I think the vibration of the diesel loosens some of the fuel fittings after a certain number of hours.  This eventually lets some air bubbles get into the fuel system. One thing I've learned this year is that diesel engines are hugely intolerant of air bubbles. I'm nervous about overtightening the fittings, too. I worry about damaging threads in  the soft alloy metal that Yanmar made these filters and pumps out of.  It doesn't rust, but it's easy to damage. 

I continued the trip on one engine.   The boat runs quite happily on one engine, as long as no fancy slow speed maneuvering is required.   The boat turns left or right just fine on one engine as long as it's moving through the water fast enough for the rudders to have some authority.  Slow it to a knot or two and everything changes.  It becomes difficult to turn it toward the functional engine, and the rudders only seem to be useful for holding a position in reverse.  And then you have to turn them completely opposite what's intuitive.   We got quite a bit of experience docking with one engine on the trip down.   We'd been on the boat two weeks before we realized that it's not normal for witnesses to come running to the dock and shake your hand in congratulations on the landing.

What La Gringa saw from where she was waiting for me at the Shipyard, was the boat get almost to the entrance, and then turn and face in the other direction and stop.   Then she saw me drop the anchor.   She pretty much knew what was going on at that point.     Still, it would have been a good time for someone to have remembered to bring his cell phone, eh?     Well, I didn't have anyone in that category with me, at the time.  I can honestly say the whole crew forgot.

If the rest of Twisted Sheets' crew had been aboard, she would have just taken the wheel and ran the boat while I crawled down into the engine room with a flashlight in my teeth and  my sweaty little fistful of wrenches to bleed the fuel lines.  Since I was alone I turned wimpy and elected to drop the anchor.   I didn't want to have to worry about the boat drifting into something hard while I was preoccupied with getting the engine going.   I assumed I knew what the problem was and that it would only take a minute or two. I could have let the boat drift. But if I got hung up somehow, and it took longer, well, it was safer to just drop the anchor.  I wanted to check out the newly re-repaired anchor windlass, anyhow.

There is also the question of physical risk.  When the boat is moving the propeller shafts are also moving.  The Yanmar diesel manual says to put the transmission in neutral when sailing.  So the propeller moving through the water spins the propeller shaft and fittings quite briskly. They are spinning just a couple of inches from me when I am contorted down in the engine rooms bleeding the fuel lines.  I won't even mention which parts of me that all this spinning metal is closest to. Parts that I don't want to part with.     And every time I've ever seen meat against machinery, the machinery won.  When La Gringa is on board and I'm working on something near the engine, I tell her to slam the dead engine into gear  if she hears any horrible screaming noises coming from the engine room.  The screams don't even have to be all that horrible.   She should do it even if she hears pitiful whimpering sounds coming from the engine room.  Putting the transmission in gear stops the propeller from turning the shaft, for the most part.  In most cases.  Of course by the time she'd get it in gear and stopped I imagine any part of me that got caught up in the propeller shaft fittings would have gone around it several times already whether it was still connected to me or not.  Cheery thought.

Finally I got the fuel line bled, both engines started, the anchor back on board, and proceeded into the Shipyard.   You can see why I was keen to have use of my port side engine to get around this turn.  I meant my left engine.  Of course.

Well, I made it.   Another few miles for the log book. Another trip with engine problems.  So far, I think we're batting a thousand on that scenario.

I didn't have a lot of trouble getting the boat into the travel lift slip.   It's pretty easy with no wind and no current and both engines running.

I had to wait about a half an hour or so for the guys at the Shipyard to drive the travel lift over to to the slip.  It's that blue steel frame looking thing on the left in that photo above.  Those things don't move very fast.    That was okay with me.  I could use a short break between anxiety attacks.        One major crisis at a time, that's the way to manage this stress stuff.

Waiting for the lift gave me time to straighten up a few things on the boat.  Coil some lines, secure some fenders.   And watch the activities going on around me at the Shipyard.   It was pretty quiet, but that's usually the case on week days.   I watched one of the guys with the local jet-ski operation towing a jet boat over to the boat ramp.

After a while, JP of the Caicos Marina got the travel lift moved over to the slip where I was waiting.   We had to turn the boat around to fit it into the lift.   With it in bow first, the fore stay and jib were rubbing on the travel lift cross bar.     With it in stern first, we were able to get the two lifting slings down and under the hulls.

Bernard came over from the fuel dock to watch.   This was a pretty nervous moment for me, too.  I'll show you why in a moment.

Once the boat was lifted clear of the water, we walked around making sure that she was ready to move over land.   Both of our back stays were touching the lift cross bar, but they weren't pressing on it hard and we figured it was okay to move it.

This front sling is the reason I mentioned earlier that I was a bit nervous.    I know the angles are such that it's not likely to slip off.   I realize this.   I figured it out for myself.  I also asked JP and Bernard what they thought of it.  JP said it looked to him like it should hold.    Bernard said it was making him nervous and he didn't want to watch.   So it was down to me.   I said "Okay, lets move it."

What the heck.  It's only 18,000 lbs.

The lift is geared way low, and moves along at a crawl.   Two of the wheels are steerable like a shopping cart, so they can put a boat just about anywhere they want it.     I just wanted this one to be in a safe place.   I asked if they had a place next to another multi hull.   You know, something that won't fall over in a hurricane.     JP told me that he had just the spot.

So we were pretty happy when he maneuvered Twisted Sheets right into position alongside Sharon and Jim Shafer's brand new 50 ft. catamaran Pirateboat.    Looks like a Before and After comparison of how far the catamaran industry has come in 26 years.

We spent a few hours getting the boat ready for storage while we are out of the country.  All loose items that might get out of hand in a strong wind got stowed.   The big fenders, the loose lines, anything a hurricane could pick up and hurl into another boat.   We strapped the dinghy down fairly well with extra lines.   We even removed the sails from the main and jib furlers.

Of course I took this opportunity to take a good look at the hulls.  I was curious as to what kind of condition they were in after our thousand mile shakedown cruise.  Even though the boat had been freshly bottom painted by the previous owner just two months earlier, there were signs of barnacle and other marine growth already starting.   This dismayed me a little bit, as we didn't get a choice as to what type of bottom paint was applied.   We normally get at least two years out of the stuff we use.

But what bothers me more than the bottom paint at this point is the condition of the sacrificial zinc anodes bolted to the propeller shafts.    These zincs are used to keep electrolytic corrosion from attacking the steel of the boat.   When an electrical current is present, either due to natural galvanic action between dissimilar metals or an external current being passed through the boats electrical system, the zinc gets eaten away first.     What concerns me here is that this zinc is also only two months old, and is about a quarter gone already.  This tells me we have some grounding issues going on in the boat.   Oh, I already knew that.    But I was surprised at how rapidly the zincs are going.   It's probably a good thing we hauled the boat when we did.   The electrical system just hasn't been the same since the lightning hit us.    Not that it was anything to be proud of before then, either.

I was also curious as to how the hulls had fared after we sat aground for several hours during our trip.  We were happy to see that the only sign of touching the bottom was some easily touched up bottom paint just on the bottom of the keels.    This is one tough hull.  Or I guess I should say, two tough hulls.

I confess to a feeling of relief after getting the boat hauled out of the water and secured safely ashore.  This is the culmination of a process that started over four months ago when we flew up to Florida to take a look at this old catamaran.  It now feels like it was  1.) Find a boat and buy it, and 2.) Somehow get it transported to the TCI.  Step 3 is to get the boat the way we want it for some cruising.

We plan to get a few things fixed before we relaunch her later.  The electrical system is the first priority, but not the only one by any means.    This boat was sitting "on the hard" in Jacksonville when we first saw her, and now four months later, she's once again high and dry two countries south of there.  We felt good about leaving her here, safe from any storms, while we took off on our  little vacation to the Rocky Mountains.   We knew she was in good hands, and in good company among the varied population of other boats waiting out hurricane season at the Caicos Marina and Shipyard.

Now That's a water taxi.

And this.... oh yeah this is my idea of a Sport Fishing boat.    We were curious as to how that one even fits in the travel lift.   But obviously, it does.

That's pretty much the end of the story on this little trip.   We have several things we want to get accomplished before we re-launch Twisted Sheets. Some of it will be things we hire the shipyard to do, and some will be things I do myself.  It's a long list.  

We took our little vacation in the USA and are back on the island now.   I guess I could show you some photos of La Gringa  boogieing up a mountain trail  at around 10,000 ft on an All Terrain Vehicle, or biking over a raging river.  But while those are examples of our own version of a "Tropical Vacation" (a vacation from the tropics) they really don't fit in with the Tropical Life aspect of this blog.   Those mountain trips are so far from life here I don't even try to explain them.  So I thought I'd fill in the blank space until our next local excursion with this 'filler' post.

We have a trip planned to Middle Caicos, and I bet we can find some nice tropical scenery for the next one.


Anonymous said...

Great update. That water is so clear.

Do you have a galvanic isolator on Twisted Sheets? Some of the corrosion issue could be your marina, I would suggest doing a hull potential test to check for stray current at your marina.

Great read.

Thank you for your blog.


Anonymous said...

I think you're right. The marine surveyor that we hired when we bought the boat also recommended a galvanic isolator. We've got a long list of things we want to do to the boat, and that will probably be a part of it.

Gary Cottam said...

Great to hear from you.

No mention of Dooley, is the main man OK?

Unknown said...

I see a pattern here. 2 blogs in a row and no Dooley. Hope the demented one is okay. Your boat looks real nice. What year is it?

Anonymous said...

Dooley is fine. He wasn't involved in the boat move, as he usually gets into trouble in the Shipyard. Actually, he CAUSES the trouble, truth be known. I knew my attention would be on the boat, and he was safest in the house. I think he was watching Animal Planet on the Discovery Channel.

The boat is a 1985 model. #25 of 27 made. All but two still in use.

Ashworth said...

Great to hear you and twisted sheets are okay. We are awaiting hurricane Sandy now. Lil Provo has been pulled from the water so I can feel a little relaxed, but today starts the preparation with getting the generator ready and making sure everything is tied down. What a way to end a sailing season. Rush to get things ship shape and secure. I leave for the orient Sunday, so I will miss the hurricane, but the wife is in panic mode knowing I won't be home. Good thing we have good neighbors. Love the blog and please keep us posted.

Lil Provo
New Jersey

Anonymous said...

La Gringa reminded me that people interested in what Dooley's been up to can check his Facebook page, even if you're not on Facebook yourself. Just click the "Dooley the Demented" link on the right side of the main blog page here, up just under the Alexandra advertisement near the top on the right side of the page.
It'll also give you a hint of what the next blog post is going to be about.

Bill said...

Just catching up on your blog after not reading in about a year! Glad you finally got a good cruising boat, I'm excited to see where it will take you.

One thought on your bottom paint: if it was painted and sitting on the hard for a while it could have lost some of it's "mojo", leading to faster growth.

More Joy Everywhere said...

Tray of twinkies - way better than a piece of cake. Not to EAT, mind you.

Anonymous said...

How's the storm surge on that side? I'm seeing pictures of Grace Bay beach under water at the moment.