September 23 - November 14, 2005

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HIGHLIGHTS

Let's see, when we left you at our last update we were enjoying the warm summer breezes, great hiking and wonderful kayaking in Maine. We also told you that, for one shining moment every system on the boat was working. Well, it's been all downhill from there.

On the bright side, our maintenance follies make for great website material. And in the course of trying to fix some of these problems Ken managed to do "the stupidest thing I've ever done." Beth is very impressed by this claim, since it covers some really epic ground. Ken has been muttering ever since that "the only way to idiot-proof a boat is not to let any indiots on the boat."

Details inside.

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September 23 - September 29

When we arrived at Southwest Harbor, Maine in late August, we only planned to stay a week or two, before heading off to explore the rest of Maine, and possibly Nova Scotia. Of course we never actually move from an anchorage until we're forced. So we stayed in SW harbor until September 30. We finally moved because it got COLD.

Also, our Webasto diesel heater failed -- just refused to light. This thing has the worst maintenance record of any system on the boat, by probably a factor of ten. It's been back to the shop twice in the last two years (most recently this July), it's had the ($400) burner replaced, and Ken has spent hours taking it apart and putting it back together. It's also in the most inaccessible spot in the boat -- Ken calls it the "black hole of Calcutta."

Ken in black hole working on heater Ken in "black hole".

Ken tested the ignition element -- it glowed cherry red when the switch was turned on -- and the fuel pump, which puts LOTS of diesel into the burner. But somehow this boiler just can't get the two things together. So we freeze our butts off.

Finally we talked to a dealer for Webasto, who said that this model had never worked right, and that Webasto had kind of given up on it. He recommended getting a new, much bigger unit, which would weigh about 50 pounds instead of 10 and which would require some major surgery to fit it onto the boat.

We decided to go someplace warmer (Rhode Island) instead.

Also, our friends John and Susan were planning to launch their boat, "Tuppence", in a few weeks, so we REALLY had to get moving soon, since we were on their mooring! John and Susan aboard Tuppence

 

Ken starting to break down kayak for ocean passage We had to pack up the kayak for the passage down to Rhode Island. Frankly it was too cold to enjoy it anyway.

Then our preparations came to an abrupt halt as a big storm blew by overhead. We anticipated very high winds in the harbor, so we had to lash everything down. A sobering reminder that the season was getting late.

Sail cover lashed to the boom in preparation for storm We took off the bimini cover and spent several hours lashing everything in sight on the deck. Bimini canvas removed prior to expected storm

Just in case the mooring line chafed through, Ken installed a backup line (below left) attached to the mooring line with a rolling hitch. The backup line was led all the way back to the mast (below center), just in case the cleats blew out. We also tied up our furling drums so the sails couldn't unroll and get shredded (below right).

Rolling hitch on mooring line Backup rolling hitch secured around mast Furling unit lashed

 

With everything tied down, we retreated below and were snug as bugs. Ken used the time to do some writing, using his ergonomic keyboard. The keys can be adjusted to any strange position you want -- he swears it helps his carpal tunnel problem -- but Beth thinks he's practicing to play the accordian. Ken with ergonomic keyboard

As it turned out, the wind never got higher than 35 knots (which is about 40 mph) and the boat rode it out just fine.

Cabin Fever

After spending days on end together in a small boat, you really feel like you know what's in the other person's head. Here's a typical example... Beth was up in the cockpit and Ken was below. Beth noticed some watermaker filters sitting up in the cockpit and was going to question why they weren't stowed (at least, the question was starting to formulate in her head):

Beth: "Is there a reason...."

Ken: "Yes, this is the last chance we'll have to air out the filters before we leave."

Beth: "Wow! How did you know what I was going to ask? You must think you're pretty smart."

Ken: "Well, I understand YOU -- that's not necessarily the same thing."

The other thing that happens when you spend so much time with someone, is you learn to interpret the multitude of nuanced inflections in voice, cadence, and tone (kind of like Chinese). Beth has learned that "Sweeeeeetie!" uttered with a certain singsong quality was probably a sign of trouble. It reminded Beth of her parents' many variations on the simple phrase "Ohhhhhh, Beth!". That was also usually a sign of trouble (for example when she dumped a can of green paint on her head).

September 30 - October 3

Finally the weather improved and we set out south in search of warmth.

Beth bundled up as we left Maine A month earlier we sailed to Maine to escape the stiffling heat of the Chesapeake and we certainly managed to find cooler weather. The trip from Maine to Rhode Island was a bit brisk, but we were comfortable in our foul weather gear.

The trip started well -- we actually sailed for 45 minutes! Then the wind dropped from 15 knots out of NW to 4 knots right on the nose and stayed there for the rest of the three day trip. We never turned the engine off again until we made the final reach into Newport.

But we got what we were looking for -- the water temperature rose from 54 degrees in Maine to 68 degrees in Rhode Island.

With light winds and mild conditions, we had a pleasant run. The sunset our first night out was spectacular.

Breathtaking sunset on first night out

We put the fishing lines out but didn't even get a nibble. We saw many pods of dolphins -- our favorite animal at sea. We also saw shearwaters performing amazing acrobatics in the sky. (Mostly they were trying to capture our fishing lures. But they always seemed to figure it out just in time. Hopefully the fish aren't as smart.)

A Warning

Early in the morning of our second day, Ken was startled to see a Right whale surface in front of the boat, close enough that he throttled back to avoid hitting it. Then, when it was no more than 50 feet off the boat, the whale "breached" -- meaning it jumped completely out of the water and then crashed back with a tremendous splash right in front of our bow. Nobody knows exactly why whales do this, but one theory is that they are warning boats to stay away. Ken didn't need any more hints.

No pictures, unfortunately, Ken was too busy ducking. And Beth was asleep below and missed the whole thing.

We were aided by a 3 knot favorable current and flew through the Cape Cod Canal early in the afternoon of the second day. Later in the day we found a nice spot at Hadley Harbor (near Woods Hole, MA) and anchored for the night. Anchored in Hadley Bay, near Wood's Hole, MA

Revenge Of The Maintenance Gods

Meanwhile, the maintenance gods continued to punish us for our rash claim about "everything working". Ken spent the evening at the anchorage fixing the latest damage.

Blown out blower motor

First casualty: burned up blower motor (right). Fortunately we had a spare (left), and Ken was able to swap it out in a few minutes. This blower had a three year warranty, but only lasted six months.

This blower plays a critical role in keeping the alternator cool, so now we carry three spares.

 

Second casualty: Our old nemesis, the dynamo assembly on the kubota. The bracket for the dynamo snapped (see crack in lower arm at right) and the bolt holding the bottom of the dynamo sheared off. Fortunately Beth noticed this before the dynamo tore itself apart, and Ken swapped in the spare bracket. When we got to Rhode Island we ordered six more spare brackets. . Broken Kubota dynamo bracket

Third casaulty: During the trip, we noticed again that the engine temperature was slightly high and the oil pressure was slightly low, despite cold water and plenty of oil in the pan. Ken decided he would have to disassemble the engine and clean out all of the heat exchangers to see if we had an obstruction somewhere in the cooling system. (High temp can make the oil less viscous and reduce oil pressure.) This soon would become the project from hell.

The fourth casaulties were our pilothouse windows. Lexan is hugely strong stuff -- capable of stopping most handgun bullets -- but it can crack around fastners as temperature changes cause it to expand and contract. Over the past few months, we began to notice small cracks in our pilothouse lexan, and by the time we reached Cape Cod some of the cracks had turned into large fractures. We decided to have the windows looked at when we got to Rhode Island. We sure didn't want the windows popping out during a storm at sea.

As it turns out, the yard that originally commissioned Eagle's Wings in 1996 (Brewers Cove Haven Marina), was located up the bay in Barrington, RI. We figured the yard would have the most knowledgeable people to help us with our window problems. During the trip to Rhode Island, we decided to bypass Newport and head right up to Barrington.

We motored up Narragansett Bay on a beautiful sunny Sunday. Fleets of racing boats were heading out for a regatta. It was nice to be in familiar waters again.

Making use of prime real estate near Newport, RI Real estate is expensive out east. So they don't waste any.

 

Narragansett Bay is a very active pleasure boat and commercial thoroughfare and we saw lots of activity on our trip up the bay. Tug with heavy duty fenders

We finally made it to Brewers Cove Haven Marina and tied up to a dock. We love being out at anchor, but it sure is convenient to be tied to shore. We quickly succumbed to civilization and rented a car.

Boats grounded and tipped at low tide We had plenty of water at the dock, but some of the boats anchored in the bay were grounded in the mud at low tide. You sure want to stay in the channel when navigating around these tidal bays.

 

The weather was cool and damp and the fog reached up into the bay. Seemed like a losing battle to get dry, as this cormorant was trying to do. Cormorant drying wings on foggy day

 

Junk boat at dock

We were parked next ot a Chinese junk, which had been built in China and sailed across the Pacific and through Panama.

The current owner had purchased it only about two months earlier. He had spent about seven weeks of that time varnishing his new boat. He was half done.

Another view of our neighbor's junk

October 4 - November 14

The folks at Brewers Cove Haven were indeed a wealth of information and support. Many of the people have worked there for 10 or more years and they REMEMBERED our boat when it was commissioned in 1996. In fact, the first guy we met, Frank, took one look at our boat and said "Hey, I built that pilothouse!".

Pilothouse Window Replacement Project

The Cove Haven guys agreed that we needed to replace the windows, but said it would be a big job (wow, were they right about that). They also suggested that the replacement windows be glued only (no fasteners). We sure hope that will be strong enough, but we take comfort in the fact that the boat doesn't need the pilothouse in order to keep the water out, since we have a regular companionway hatch.

The windows came off fine, but the aluminum pilothouse underneath had suffered some corrosion over the years and had to be sanded down to bare metal, repaired, and rebuilt back up with epoxy fairing material.

Bill, of Brewers Cove Haven, ready to do battle with our pilothouse These guys don't mess around when they got into a sanding project. Here's Bill, the guy who spent weeks repairing our pilothouse, suited up for a hard day on the job. Bill working away at our pilothouse

 

Ken securing bimini frame to backstay

The weather turned nasty and the yard decided to build a tent over the back end of the boat so they could work no matter what mother nature was doing. Ken (left), engaging in gymnastics to secure our bimini frame in preparation for tenting.

Ken thinks the tent looks like the boat has a fatal disease. Beth likes the tent so much that she's trying to figure out a way to take it with us.

Our greenhouse -- the latest addition to our boat

 

New windows glued onto pilothouse. Pilothouse with new windows glued on

Annapolis Boat Show

October in the East spells one thing to sailors -- Annapolis Boat Show! We had visited the show many years ago and decided to drive to Maryland for the show in early October.

We arrived for the start of the show and the weather quickly deteriorated over the course of the next few days. We heard vendors say this was about the rainiest show they'd ever been at. The tents were leaking in places and we were wondering when some of the high power lights would explode from water dripping on the bulbs.

Although the weather was thoroughly miserable, we learned a great deal and picked up some handy gear (an emergency rudder, a spare regulator, numerous books, and a fancy new furling drum). We talked to lots of different vendors and tried to get answers to many systems questions. Of course, the vendors all contradicted each other, but that's the marine industry. At some point, we plan to rethink our power plant setup. Our Kubota will need replacement in the not too distant future and we will revisit what makes sense at that time (an AC generator may be in our future). We're coming to realize that it's much easier to make AC than DC power.

Beth with friends at the Fleet Reserve Club in Annapolis We met these guys, Ron and Don, serving lunch at the Fleet Reserve Club during the show. Don is a self-described "male stripper" (which we later learned referred to his job in the printing industry). These former Navy guys were great company and we enjoyed talking with them during a couple of our lunch breaks.

Furling Failure

For many months, Ken had been intrigued by a new device that can furl an asymmetric spinnaker. It's a brand new idea, but we were able to find some authoritative people at the show who had used them and thought they were great. So we found the dealer and bought one. However, when we received the unit, we were stunned to find stress cracks in a plate that holds the unit together. We decided that the unit hadn't been field tested enough so we sent it back for a refund.

Its one thing to be on the cutting edge when you're coastal or day sailing -- but cruisers like us probably shouldn't be field testing a brand new product -- especially when a failure could lead to serious problems far from help. That's a big spinnaker for two little people, and we need a rock solid system to control it. Ken plans to look again at this technology in a year or so when they've got the bugs worked out.

Ken proudly displaying emergency rudder After we got back to the boat, Ken was keen to test out the new emergency rudder. But a key bracket (right) didn't quite fit and we had to have it cut down and re-welded. Mounting piece for emergency rudder didn't quite fit

 

Beth is testing out emergency rudder setup. Hopefully we'll never have to use it, but its good be prepared for such a contingency. The bracket for the spare rudder snaps right on top of the Monitor windvane and can be used in pinch to steer the boat if we lose our main rudder. Beth testing emergency rudder

Visiting Family

On our trip back to Rhode Island from the boat show, we visited the inlaw's of Beth's sister, Kay. At right is Linda, Kay's sister-in-law, and Jillian, Linda's 4 year old granddaughter. Jillian has a wonderful imagination and hosted a make believe breakfast for us. We also had a great time seeing Mike, Linda's husband, and Sharon and Andy, Jillian's parents. We hadn't seen these folks for many years. Andy is starting a new business where he develops custom crossroad puzzles for companies and individuals. Jillian and Linda having special breakfast

During our stay in Rhode Island, we also visited Beth's cousins, Joan and Roger, in Connecticut. They have traveled to many countries and we enjoyed hearing about some of their escapades. We learned that a backpacking in trip New Zealand can be more like a survival expedition. They've done some stuff that was pretty hair-raising (like fording raging rivers with all of their gear).

Beth with Roger and Joan in Connecticut We arrived in the afternoon and we quickly set off on a beautiful hike into the hills near their home. At left is Beth with Roger and Joan. The sunset over the reservoir along the trail showed us an array of colors (at right) Soft, glowing sunset over reservoir

 

Joan and Roger are VERY FAST hikers and we covered about 6 miles in record time. We hadn't hiked in a month and Ken developed monster blisters on both feet. Of course he refused to admit this during the hike.

They healed up fine in a few days.

Ken's enormous blisters raised after fast hike

Beth took advantage of our layover in Rhode Island to fly back to Wisconsin for a quick visit with her parents, sister-in-law, and other relatives. Definitely the hardest part of the trip for her is being away from family.

You're In My Space!

One stormy day, while Beth was off in Wisconsin, it was blowing a sustained 35-40 knots in the harbor, pushing Eagles Wings directly against the dock. Ken had just disassembled the engine when he heard somebody knocking on the hull. It was a neighbor telling him that the owner of his slip had returned to claim it, and that Ken would have to leave! And hovering nearby Ken saw a 44 foot catamaran named "Barefeet" that had just sailed up from Annapolis in gale force conditions, with two very tired sailors on board. There weren't any other slips big enough to hold this cat. And it was Sunday, so none of the marina employees (who had a miscommunication with the cat owner about scheduling) were around to help. This wasn't good.

After Ken explained that his engine was in pieces, the cat sailor asked Ken to check whether the travel lift well was open for "Barefeet" to dock there. Ken checked -- it was -- but it looked awfully narrow. So Ken and the neighbor used a tape measure and figured it at 22 feet wide. Ken went back and told the captain on "Barefeet" about the measurement, and the captain said "great, that will work, I'm 21 feet, eight inches wide!"

Ken replied that -- considering it was blowing 40, the walls of the travel lift well were steel pilings, and the lift well was down in a "coffin corner" where there was zero manuevering room -- trying to get this beautiful new cat in there didn't seem like a good idea.

Large catamaran rafted up to our boat After considering the options, Ken suggested the owner raft off our boat. It was blowing like stink onto the dock and Ken was a little afraid that our boat would get squished like a bug. But it did just fine. Fenders wedged between cat and our boat

 

High winds and windage from rafted cat plastering our boat against dock   The fenders were plenty scrunched, with the winds blowing directly beam on onto the dock. "Barefeet's" owner was very grateful that Ken offered to raft up. Ken was amazed that "Barefeet" was thanking HIM! For goodness sakes, we were in their slip! The cat owner was incredibly gracious and nice about the whole thing.

Life On The Dock

While Beth was off having a great time visiting family, Ken was stuck by himself on the boat in some pretty miserable weather. In fact, for October, the normal rainfall for this area is about 4 inches. By late October they had already had over 15 inches! It rained for about 10 days straight. By the time Beth got back, Ken had serious cabin fever.

Ugly, cold, rainy weather in Barrington, RI The weather was cold, wet, windy -- your basic miserable conditions. Our heater wasn't working (though we did have a small space heater) so it was a bit nippy onboard.

 

Condensation inside a hatch. The water patterns were gorgeous, but we kept getting drops falling on our heads from all the moisture. Beautiful water patterns on inside of hatch

Do You Know The Difference Between Ignorance And Stupidity?

Ok, now for this engine story. A Yanmar turbo diesel has three heat exchangers, where sea water cools the engine. If something clogs any of these tubes, the engine will start to run hot -- so periodically you have to clean them. Two of the three are easy to get at, and Ken had cleaned them about two years ago. But the third -- the lube oil heat exchanger -- is really buried. Takes five minutes to clean it, but about a day to take the engine apart so you can get at it. Never been cleaned.

Parts pile up as the engine comes apart. Pieces from disassembled engine

Things went normally until the turbo came off. When Ken took one of the nuts off, the stud from the housing came with it. Which wouldn't have been so bad, except that the threads from the housing also came out, looking like a little spring. Meaning there's no metal left to screw the stud into. There exist some "fixes" for this problem, but you need to drill the hole out wider, and there isn't enough metal on this housing. So we had to buy a new housing, which costs $800.

$800 piece of housing metal The $800 "spring" (from housing), left. The old housing, right. Damaged engine manifold that had to be replaced

We haven't gotten to the stupid part yet.

The turbo had some pretty good carbon buildup, and since we had to wait for the housing to come, and the turbo was out anyway, Ken sent it out for a rebuild. A few days later all the parts were back and Ken started to reassemble the engine.

The turbo came back with a plug in the oil exit hole to keep dirt out. Ken mounted the turbo back on the engine, and then attached the oil drain pipe. The attachment point was "up and under" -- impossible to see. So Ken had to attach the pipe by feel. And he was wearing gloves. Which explains why he didn't see, or feel, the plastic cap in the drain hole before he screwed the pipe on top of it. (Naturally he'd seen the plug before he mounted the turbo.)

Cap to hold oil inside turbo The fatal oil cap.

Anyway, the cap worked perfectly. Nothing got past it. So when Ken finally started the engine, not one drop of oil ever left the turbo by the normal channel. Of course it had to go somewhere, so it blew out the oil seals on both sides of the turbo.

The effect was pretty spectacular. In a few minutes of testing, the engine dumped three quarts of oil. Talk about blue smoke!

Anyway, the turbo went back for another rebuild, Ken got the engine back up and running again, and we are almost ready to take off.

Ken has drawn several lessons from all of this.

(1) The only way to idiot-proof a boat is to not let any idiots on the boat.

(2) The debate between evolution and intelligent design has been settled definitively. Ken is definitely descended from a monkey.

(3) On the other hand, "suvival of the fittest" isn't looking too hot either. Maybe random selection -- like a lottery?

(4) Oh, and there IS a difference between ignorance and stupidity. Ignorance can be cured.

And Ken can't say much if Beth makes a mistake anymore.

Incidentally, there wasn't any obstruction in any of the heat exchangers.

Life In The Boatyard

Boat that fell off its stands after truck hit it As bad as our problems were, other people had it worse. The boat on the left was toppled from its stands when a fuel truck hit it. During powerwashing the boat at the right had its centerboard come crashing down. Wayward centerboard dangling in the wind

 

No Dumping of Porta Potties in Showers And the marina had problems of its own. People in Rhode Island evidently have some odd habits.

 

In an effort to raise our spirits we broke out a special treat -- dark chocolate M&M's -- and doled out double rations. We'd scoured stores from the Caribbean to Maine looking for these elusive dark chocolate treats (developed as a promotion for a Star Wars movie). We finally found them here in Rhode Island.

Truthfully, we were both disappointed. The super sweet coating didn't quite taste right on top of the dark chocolate centers. Oh well, we'll have to get them out of the way quickly.

Dark side M&M's

On top of our boat challenges, the outside world around us seemed to be imploding from scandals, death, and destruction (natural and man-made). After having a long discussion at a restaurant dinner one night, Beth grew very pensive. Ken wondered which bad news event she was contemplating. Beth replied that with everything going to hell, she'd was thinking about how she'd better hurry up and order dessert. After all, you never know when some disaster is going to fall on your head.

Beth cleaning with a toothbrush Usually when Beth feels powerless or overwhelmed, she embarks on a cleaning frenzy. You know things are particularly bleak if she's got the toothbrush going (left). She claims cleaning is the one activity where she feels totally competent. Fortunately (or unfortunately), these powerless feeling don't happen often enough to keep the boat looking really decent. Butt pack vacuum cleaner comes in handy on a boat

Fellow Cruisers

We met quite a few different cruisers while at the Brewers Cove Haven dock.

Sharon and Bobbie with Beth on their boat Some cruisers, like Sharon and Bobbie on "Shazza" at the left, were able to get away sooner than us. They plan to make their way at a leisurely pace down to the Bahamas.

Many of the cruisers we met were much more experienced than us and we enjoyed hearing about some of their adventures at sea. Michael, who's owned his boat "Zafu" since the early 90's, told us about one particularly disasterous 10 day passage. He was sailing "Zafu" with one other person and his autopilot failed. Both their spare autopilot and Monitor wind vane also failed, so they had to hand steer for the whole trip. The weather was atrocious and about midway through the trip, the boat was knocked down by a big wave. Michael was steering at the time and when the boat rolled, he slid under the lifelines. Fortunately he was teathered to the boat and was able to get back onboard (amazingly, his harness almost tore completely out of his survival suit). He broke two of his fingers and didn't even know it! He and his crew still had to continue on. Wow -- hope we never have a story like that to tell!

Zafu ready to get underway "Zafu", now a cruising boat was once a BOC (single-handed round-the-world race) boat. She even had an observation bubble (right) for her crew in that race. Observation bubble on Zafu

 

Kenny and Tana getting ready to begin their voyages We also met Kenny and Tana on "Jasmine". They've spent the last 21 months -- fulltime -- rebuilding their boat. They've done a great job and have her outfitted with the latest systems. Getting last minute provisions loaded onto Jasmine

Getting Our Heads Out Of The Boat

We tend to get very focused on boat projects, and sometimes forget that we are here to get out, explore, and smell the roses. The weather turned glorious for a few days and we took advantage of the sunshine and warm temperatures to take a long hike near the marina.

Classic fall day in Rhode Island The bike trail near the marina was a wonderful spot from which to enjoy the fall colors and warm air. Swans foraging for food in pond next to bike path

 

Praying mantis trying to look inconspicuous We saw lots of birds and insects on our hike, as well as picturesque lighthouses on the bay side of the path. Lighthouse on rock in the Bay

 

Beth with gigantic lobster On one of our visits to Newport, we saw this enormous lobster in a tank -- ready for sale. Ken wanted Beth to stick her head closer to get a better closeup, but those claws looked pretty nasty. The lobster later tried climbing out the tank.

Upcoming Plans

We plan to leave Rhode Island soon and head for the Caribbean. We're not sure if we'll head straight to the Virgin Islands or St. Martin, or go via Bermuda. The weather will dictate our route. We're certainly keen to get underway, but we're still watching the tropical storms brew up in the Caribbean.