Second Shakedown Cruise

Working On The Boat

A large schooner at anchor in the West River, as seen from Pilgrim at anchor in South Creek.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

We plan to stay at anchor today to work on several accumulated chores. We might even hang around tomorrow, since a cold front is forecast to blow through, along with thunderstorms and strong winds. That's the main reason we anchored here in South Creek, to get good protection from the forecast strong winds. As for today, it's clear, breezy, and quite warm.

After we arrived yesterday, Jerome got quite a surprise when he checked the bilge: 20 to 30 gallons of water were sloshing around. That's way more than anyone would want to find in the bilge after a day sail, so it became an important mission to find the source of the water. Compounding the problem was the fact that the automatic bilge pump was clogged and couldn't automatically pump the water overboard. Instead, Jerome had to pull up a floorboard to inspect the bilge, then operate a switch to run a backup bilge pump.

One clue was that the water didn't taste salty, so we assumed that somehow fresh water had leaked out of the boat's storage tanks. Before we left the marina yesterday, we had topped off both freshwater storage tanks. Then while sailing into the West River, the boat was heeled over quite far since that particular point of sail provided plenty of power in the breezy winds. We pulled up the floorboards and looked for loose hose clamps or deteriorated hoses, but we didn't find any likely culprits.

We had some trouble diagnosing the problem because we couldn't reach an important hose connection, in fact we couldn't even see it, due to the way the boat was constructed. The main fill hose for the starboard tank is connected to the water tank, but this connection is underneath a permanently-installed floorboard. We tried to get at this connection every which way, but we never did see it, so we don't know if this was the leaky hose. (You might even bet that it was the culprit, since I doubt anybody ever tightened the clamp since the boat was built.) The way to solve this access problem would be to cut a nice rectangular hole in the offending floorboard (which forms the bottom of the locker under the galley sink), install some wooden cleats to support the cutout, then treat the cutout as a removable access panel. All that work is for the future.

Pilgrim has a third bilge pump, this one a manual pump operable from the cockpit, and we spent some time tracing out all the hoses to figure out how to use it. It's a little complicated because it's a multipurpose pump that can also be used to pump out the holding tank, so it has a few valves that can be thrown this way or that way. When we first tried the pump, we had a valve set the wrong way and it didn't pump, but after we traced out the plumbing, we figured out the problem and got the pump to work.

After that, we spent some time inspecting the propane system that supplies gas to the galley stove. Lately, Jerome has been able to smell propane gas in the large equipment room under the cockpit. This is really, really, bad! Propane gas is heavier than air (unlike natural gas), so leaking propane tends to sink and accumulate in low places in the boat (unlike natural gas that would float away and dissipate). Then all it takes is one spark, from turning on an electrical switch or even lighting the stove, and BOOM!!—the accumulated gas burns explosively and the boat blows up. Needless to say, leaking gas is a serious safety issue.

While Pilgrim was being refitted, Jerome had the propane locker rebuilt to accommodate two 20-lb propane tanks (a huge capacity, good for months of cooking). As we inspected the locker, we found a few problems. First, there was a finger-size hole in the back corner of the locker that would allow leaking gas to get into the equipment room. Also, the vent hose for the locker didn't run continuously downward to the through-hull fitting. Instead, the hose went upwards for a while, which would allow water to accumulate, which in turn would impede the venting of leaking gas. Finally, we did a pressure test on the gas line (and associated connections) and discovered that the gas line wouldn't hold pressure, so there really was a gas leak somewhere. Even though these were serious problems, right now, we're just finding problems. Very soon, Jerome will take Pilgrim into a boatyard where these types of problems will be fixed by professionals with all the right tools and repair supplies.

We did a few more minor chores, and that was a day's work. For the evening meal, Jerome made couscous with chicken and herb flavoring and garbanzo beans, chicken salad (from Whole Foods), plus steamed asparagus. It was very tasty.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

We spent another day securely anchored in South Creek off Shady Side, working on boat chores.

In the morning, we re-ran the jib furler control line to put a few more wraps on the furler drum. When we finished sailing the other day, we furled the jib in a stiff breeze and got a very tight furl. This has a side effect of requiring the furler to rotate more than usual, so we used up all the rope on the furler drum but still had a tiny bit of sail out. We might have to add even more wraps to the drum, but we'll have to sail again to see how much tail remains at the other end of the control line.

We decided to take a dinghy ride into Galesville to take care of a few things, so Jerome drove us over to Pirate's Cove Marina, which is the closest marina to where we were anchored. We searched for a dinghy dock, but not finding one, tied up to a bulkhead where there was a handy ladder. Then we found out we weren't at Pirate's Cove after all, but at the marina next door (which I think is Galesville Yacht Yard).

One thing we wanted to do was to get some exercise, which we "forgot" to do yesterday. We walked down the road to check out a cove that might make a good anchorage, and found a narrow park that provided water access as well as a trash barrel (so we pitched our trash). Then we walked to the other side of town to visit Hartge's, since Jerome wanted to ask the manager if he could get some boat work done. We found the manager and Jerome asked pretty please, but the answer was "no, not even a five-minute job; not until after Memorial Day." The reason is that the boatyard staff is booked solid getting slipholders' boats ready for the boating season, which starts more-or-less officially on Memorial Day.

On our way back to the dinghy, we stopped at the country store that sells pies, which had been closed when we visited on our first shakedown cruise. I guess I had visions of an old-time Norman Rockwell-type country store, so I was a little disappointed to find it sparsely stocked with overpriced goods and more than a little shabby inside. Its real claim to fame (besides the pies) is that it's a good and popular takeout deli; those prices were reasonable and the food looked good. We asked about the famous pies, and they had only two left, both blueberry. Needless to say, we bought one ($14 a pop, but they were big and heavy and homemade).

On the dinghy ride back to Pilgrim, it was blowing hard, 20+ knots, so it was a bouncy and wet ride. I managed to knock the pie off the dinghy seat and it did a half-somersault, landing upside down. But it was well-boxed and suffered little damage and besides, what were we going to do, not eat it? Also on the way back, two big Chinook helicopters buzzed us, flying low (and loud) over the West River.

After a coffee break, Jerome decided to tackle the bilge pump project, and he did a very good job all by himself. He had to fish the clogged pump up from the bilge, disconnect the hose, take apart the pump (and not lose any of the little screws), clean it thoroughly (especially the clogged strainer), then put everything back the way it was. Afterwards, the bilge pump worked properly (and automatically).

We had a few more chores on the list, but it started to cloud up and we got distracted by a vigorous thunderstorm that blew through. Pilgrim held her position just fine. Although the winds died down, it kept raining for a while, and I thought it was funny later when I looked out and saw the Wednesday night sailboat races taking place in the pouring rain and light winds.

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