Fall '04

As we started writing this page, Suzanne had to stop and change chart books from the “Chesapeake Bay” set to the “Norfolk to Florida and the Intracoastal Waterway” set. So if you wanted a progress report, there you have it! (That sentence was written at 1603 on 24 October as we motored past the USS Wisconsin moored at Norfolk’s waterfront park). By the time you read this, we’ll either be in Beaufort, NC, or Charleston, SC.

It’s been a busy month, not so much with sight-seeing as with maintenance. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to write about, however! The past few weeks have had their memorable moments...

LIFE ON THE HARD

Ty likes to have a clean bottom. He says it’s good to wash your bottom once a year. This is good advice for anyone, but especially for boat owners. :-)

We last painted Liberty’s bottom in April of 2003, but because Ty scrubbed it with a sponge several times while in the Bahamas, the paint lasted a good 18 months. For you landlubbers, bottom paint contains chemicals that repel marine growth such as barnacles, algae and other nasty clinging things that can slow you down and just plain look gross.

We’d discussed hauling the boat when we got to North or South Carolina. Then we arrived in Annapolis, MD a week prior to the boat show.

On the hard

Liberty, looking like a fish out of water... ok, a boat out of water

We had a little time to kill, so we decided to haul out at our old marina, Herrington Harbour North, on Herring Bay. This proved to be a great decision. Our good buddy, Jim, who repeat web site visitors will recognize from previous entries, loaned us his SUV for the whole week. It was invaluable for our multiple visits to West Marine and the local True Value hardware store.

It’s always disconcerting to see your home dangling from a travel-lift, but the guys at HHN are real pros. Soon we were blocked on sturdy stands. Then the fun began. Look closely at the photo above and you’ll see a six-foot step ladder at the stern. This is locked to the boat’s boarding ladder with a cable looped several times around the top rung. Stepping from one ladder to the next required great care. The view from the top also got our attention, especially walking along the side decks. One slip and the landing would have been quite a bit farther and harder than when we’re in the water. They parked us right along one of the marina’s main thoroughfares: a gravel road that kicked dust up onto our deck every time a car went by. Add to that the little presents from the invasion of birds that found our mast a pleasant place to hang out, and we were in constant cleaning mode. Sigh.

Within a day of hauling out, Ty had rented a dustless electric sander from the marina and sanded the entire bottom. We immediately worked together to apply a coat of red Pettit Trinidad SR (“Slime Reducer”). This heavy paint is also known as “liquid gold,” as it costs $164 a gallon. Liberty’s 46-foot hull used 5 quarts.

Sonar

Ty applies anti-fouling paint to the sonar transducer

Now, the SUV wasn’t the only thing Jim gave us... First, you need to understand that Jim is “Mr. Gadget.” His Catalina 470 has every electronic toy known to sailing-man. We’ve met a lot of cruising folks in the past 17 months, and Jim has the only boat we know with a SONAR. Well, when Interphase came out with a color sonar unit, Jim’s black and white one was no longer acceptable! He could have sold it on ebay, but his other nickname being “Mr. Generous,” Jim offered it to us. A sonar offers several neat advantages: a back-up depth sounder, the ability to detect submerged objects and shoaling bottoms, and not the least important: fish-finding! So, we eagerly accepted his gift. The only drawback was having to drill another hole in Liberty’s hull for the transducer.

Obviously, it’s only wise to drill a hole in the hull when the boat is hauled, so this was the perfect time to do the installation. Ty could have used a couple of valium, but he came through the operation unscathed, as did Liberty. Once the transducer was in and sealed up tight with 3M 5200 sealant, he was able to smile again. He was especially happy to see that the plug removed from the hull was an inch and a half of solid fiberglass. They built boats tough in the ‘80s!

We didn’t get around to wiring the sonar before we went back in the water. Instead, we spent the rest of our time at a gathering of Seven Seas Cruising Association members in Annapolis and at the boat show. There we invested in two new winches - a purchase equivalent in value to buying a used car, but one which will pay off in much greater ease winching in our jib sheets on windy days. Other time-eaters during that yard period included cleaning and lubing all the through-hull seacocks (valves that allow water to flow in or out for various purposes, such as sink drains, engine cooling water inlet, etc.) and chipping and painting the dinghy davits. Ty did most of this nasty work while Suzanne did lots of “pink” jobs and some varnishing. It was with great relief and happiness that the travel-lift lowered us back into the water after 8 days of parking lot living. We checked for leaks, cleaned off the grime and bird poop on deck, then continued south, once again enjoying Liberty’s much-missed gentle rocking motion. 

THE SONAR SAGA

After spending two nights in Solomons, MD, in company with Cygnus and Sapphire, two former neighbors from HHN’s I-dock, we continued on to Antipoison Creek, just north of the Rappahanock River. This creek got its name when the early colonist, John Smith, was allegedly stung by a stingray off what is now Stingray Point. Antipoison Creek is where the locals fixed him right up!

We dropped the anchor in a pretty spot and settled in for the evening. Ty had just poured us each a glass of Chardonnay when he decided this was a good time to wire the sonar. Suzanne cheered this decision, as she was very excited to practice anti-submarine warfare on the bay.

Now, what happened next, Ty wishes he could blame on the wine, but he only had two sips before he made the first big blooper since buying the boat. Considering he has single-handedly fixed every mechanical and electrical problem we’ve had aboard without calling in reinforcements, Suzanne still considers him her hero. Ty, however, has a bruised forehead from repeatedly beating himself up for his unfortunate blunder. Here’s what happened...

In the photo at the right, you will see the curved stainless steel bar upon which all our instruments are mounted at the helm. Across the top, inside that white box, are three instruments, providing us information on wind speed and direction, water depth, boat speed, rudder angle, etc. These instruments also include our auto-pilot. Kind of important stuff, you know? Beneath that is our radar. Beneath that is the new sonar display. Well, to mount the sonar display, Ty had to drill a hole for the mounting screws through both stainless steel bars. Suzanne stood by watching him drill. Looked good to her! Look closely again at the photo and you will see the hole Ty drilled. You will understand why Ty is hitting himself in the forehead when you learn that in drilling this little hole, Ty nicked the wires for ALL of the instruments on the top tier.

This is what is known as an “oh shit” moment.

Now, who would have guessed those wires went through the bracket? “I SHOULD HAVE,” Ty insisted as he inflicted more bruises. You can surely imagine the sickening feeling when he ran below and turned on the breaker to power up our instruments and Suzanne reported that alas, they were dead. All of them except the radar.

Ty error 30

The first and (hopefully) the LAST boo-boo

Ok, you say, so you just run the wires again, right?

Not... so... fast, Podna. The cable was a special 4-wire data cable and we didn’t have a spare. Worse yet, that white case in which the instruments are mounted is called a NAVPOD. It’s a nice water-tight case to protect those delicate electronic instruments. Trouble is, the NAVPOD folks didn’t want anybody tampering with what’s inside, so they sealed it shut with special screws. We’d never seen the special tool required to remove them onboard the boat.

In short, the NAVPOD was screwed, and so were we.

High tech

Fully operational!

Ok, looking on the positive side of the things, at least we had the depth sounder on the sonar, which was now working just fine. We could get to Norfolk without the other instruments, we’d just have to hand-steer the whole way, use the GPS to tell us our speed, and use age-old sailing techniques to determine wind angle.

We made it to the Norfolk naval base with no problem. In fact, we had a great sail. Winds gusted to 27 knots (we know that because we hailed some other boats to ask how hard it was blowing) and at one point the GPS speed indicator touched 9 knots! Most of the time we were screaming along at 8.5. Not bad for a big, comfortable boat!

KWC Electronics in Hampton was our savior, having both the wire we needed as well as the special tool to open the NAVPOD. With that obstacle out of the way, Ty quickly re-ran and re-wired the instruments. High-fives were the order of the day when he flipped the breaker and all instruments sprang to life. How do you spell relief?

We spent a full week at the naval station marina, enjoying

the cut-rate price of only 50 cents per foot (vs. $1.30 per foot at the nearby civilian marina).

We also enjoyed the convenience of having a commissary and a great Navy gym nearby. While working out, Suzanne noticed the base recreation department was offering a “fitness challenge” that week to anyone eligible to use the facility. The competition was one minute each of push-ups, sit-ups and triceps dips with no rest in between. Anxious to prove that the cruising life hasn’t slowed her down, she eagerly accepted the challenge. Well folks, the girl’s still got it! Suzanne blew away the competition (and the gym staff), taking top honors with 65 push-ups, 60 sit-ups, and 45 dips!

Ooh-rah!

After reuniting with old Navy friends as well as not so old cruising friends, we continued

Sporty Suzanne 30

Suzanne shows off her prize, a “Navy sports” water bottle

south on the Intracoastal Waterway, which is where you join us now. (Just crossed the NC state line).

ICW parade 30

The annual migration of snowbirds is in full swing, as you can see in the photo at the left. This is a pile-up of southbound cruisers waiting for one of the many drawbridges across the Virginia section of the ICW to open.

If you were with us now, you’d be looking out across a beautiful mid-Atlantic coast marsh, watching the real snowbirds fly by overhead and the occasional pelican dive-bomb for his supper. You’d smell the scent of fresh bread baking in the oven and hear the sound of the waves lapping against the hull.

Life is good.