Monday, July 24, 2017

Day 16: part two

This is a continuation of an earlier blog post that I wrote today. I left off where we were attached to a mooring ball, and everything was finally okay.

Well, that was what we thought.

So, around 6pm, the dockmaster comes whizzing by on her small boat and gesticulating wildly. I run up to see what's going on, and she yells through the pouring rain that one of our lines to the mooring ball has chaffed and torn completely off, and the other is about to go. By some miracle, she had decided to patrol and come by and see how we were doing. We had been keeping a close eye on the swinging boats around us, but had not looked at the lines on the mooring ball, and we were minutes away from completely breaking loose, without knowing it and without our engines running. A real near disaster. We would have charged right into the moored boats behind us, and according to the dockmaster, taken out all the boats in the marina. Probably a slight exaggeration, but it would have been seriously ugly. My god.

The wind and the rain were pretty fierce, and the current was very strong. Even in this cove the waves were high. I immediately started the engines, and we began quickly thinking about what to do. We had some back and forth yelling with the dockmaster about whether to set our anchor, to go back to Boston and what other options did we have? We asked about tying up to the private yacht club dock, and she insisted that we could not go there because it was private. Ann yelled back that this is a serious potentially life or death situation, and the dockmaster said that we just couldn't do it.

Ann and I talked and decided that at this point, with our boat about to break free, and under these conditions, we were just going to head to that dock and tie up and fight with the yacht club people if we had to. Would they really kick us off the dock and send us into the rough seas? I'd rather deal with the problem of an upset yacht club manager than this storm.

I started up the engines, but immediately something did not feel right. The joystick control gave a warning that I only had partial power and control. What the hell does that mean, and why now of all times? The current brought us really fast towards the dock, which seemed small as we approached it. I did not have the power to fight it with the joystick, so I grabbed the main thrusters and the bow thruster and tried to slow our approach. As the bow would not come around, Ann suggested that I switch our orientation and go port side in. That was a great suggestion, as I would not have made it to the starboard side in time. Benny had to move the fenders to the other side with lightning speed, which he actually accomplished. He was amazing.

I actually don't know how I did it, but I managed to get the boat lined up nicely with the dock and to stop it just right. I don't think I could do it if I tried ten more times. The port side engine was reading zero load, and the starboard was working hard. Later, in my thinking about this, I decided that I probably had just not started the port side engine, which is why the joystick wasn't working. It was a very hectic time when I was starting them, and I must have just not turned the key hard enough.

Anyway, Benny jumped off with a stern line, and I managed to keep the boat close while we got a spring line and a bow line tied up. Sure enough the marina manager came rushing over and in a very forceful voice told us we could not tie up on his dock, and that this was private. I came off the boat and in as calm a voice as I could muster I said, "Look sir, I understand your position. I am just trying to keep my family safe right now. We can't go back out because of the storm, and we can't attach to the mooring because we came off of it. I am tied up here to catch my breath and figure out what to do."

He insisted that the dock could not hold our boat which was too heavy and had too much windage. He said that the tide was out, and when it came back in, the winds would be fierce, and that our boat would tear their whole dock out and all the boats with it. And that no matter what, we were not sleeping there. He became a bit more cooperative when he realized that we were trying to solve a problem together, and that I was not insisting on staying on his dock. I believed him that the dock would not hold us. The cleats looked very small, and the dock was floating, but connected to the shore with chains, and it was clearly designed for small boats to tie up. They did not even have 50 amp power connectors.

The marina manager called over to the next town over that had an inlet, to see if they could take us. They are 6 miles away, and I figured it would take us at least an hour to get there, and by then, there were probably 90 minutes of "daylight" left. It was pretty dark anyway due to the storm. Luckily, I guess, the other town said that they could not accommodate us. I don't know if it was because we are too big, because they are full, or because they didn't want to deal with us the way this place had to.

So, we had to find a solution. The dockmaster and another woman who joined her to help suggested that they could bring some new, thicker lines to tie us to the mooring ball. The plan was for us to drive about 80 feet past the mooring ball, drop our anchor, and drift back past the ball. Then, while anchored, we would tie the lines as safety lines to the mooring ball, and set them up in such a way that they would not chafe like the other ones did. All this during a storm.

I killed the engines and restarted them, and I was thrilled to see that this time everything looked good, and the load was even on both. So whatever problem I had before was gone, and I was much more confident in my ability to pull off our plan with full joystick and throttle control. We set out, and I could tell the marina manager was relieved to have us off his hands. Getting the anchor set was quite an adventure itself. Our anchor winch was loose, and the anchor did not hold well on the boat, but it set nicely in the mud. The two dockmaster women were yelling for me to go this way and that, and I started to worry about the depth. I got the anchor dropped and drifted back, but not towards the mooring ball. So, it took all the skill I had to get us over there, and by some miracle, Ann was able to get the mooring lines attached to our cleats. Benny was up there helping as well. I seriously do not understand how they pulled this off. We kept both lines on the starboard side to avoid the chaffing problem.

Finally, we were connected with a belt and suspenders. The anchor as the primary hold, and the two lines to the mooring ball as pretty good backup. For some reason, we found it a lot harder to relax, given our earlier experience, and we decided that we would keep watches throughout the night.

I called our boat mechanic who explained to me where to find a tool to tighten the anchor winch, and how to test it, and that worked like a charm. I also took some fender lines that I had and created an anchor safety that should provide some backup. When we get home, one of the things at the top of my list will be to get a better anchor safety system in place.

So, just as it seemed like things were under control, except for, of course, our water shortage, suddenly the heat turned off, and the generator died. I tried restarting it, and it would not stay on for more than 5 seconds. I called my mechanic, and he suggested I check the water strainer. It was full of debris, but I could not get it open. Ann and I brainstormed ideas for getting some leverage, but nothing worked. We alternated trying to open it. Finally, we gave up, and just as we were going up, out of the engine room, I decided to give it one more try with all my strength, and I got it! It was so filthy that I was sure this was the problem. We emptied it out, and I put the strainer back in and started up the generator - and it died 5 seconds later. Ugh.

I called the mechanic back, and he said to close the seacock, fill the strainer with water, start the engine, and quickly open the valve, and that this has worked in the past and might do the trick. I poured in some of our precious water, and tried what he said, but it did not work. The mechanic concluded that either we have a bad impeller, or that debris got into the water pump that feeds the strainer (seems like a bad design to have the pump in front of the strainer, but I guess it's above the water level so there may be no choice), and so the generator engine could not cool.

The consequence of having no generator is that we have to conserve a bit on our power usage, and we are without heating or cooling. We will charge all the batteries again in the morning when we run the main engines, so it's not really a problem, just an inconvenience. I also have a spare impeller on board, so if we find a mechanic at our next marina, hopefully he can fix this and the generator will work again. It's really the least of our problems.

So, now it's 11:15, and Ann and Benny are trying to sleep upstairs in the saloon where I am sitting nearby and recounting the last few hours. It was exhausting, but we don't want to all sleep at the same time. We are keeping an eye on the anchor and the mooring lines and the boats around us. Need to make sure we aren't dragging or moving. The storm picks up periodically, and that is a little scary. We're pretty concerned about the mooring ball hitting our starboard hull because we are close to it, but the wind and current are pushing us away from that direction, and at the moment, having that safety backing up the anchor is the most important thing for us.

Tomorrow, we will probably be pretty tired from lack of sleep, but we will have to use all our judgement and resourcefulness to get to a marina somewhere. We're no longer very concerned with timing, just with safety and getting some water. If the seas are too rough for travel, we will stay put, but I will call the dockmaster and figure out how to get some drinking water on the boat. Maybe use our dingy to get to shore if it's calm in here. Also, if our tanks run dry, we won't be able to flush the toilets, so we need to get to a marina in short order.

So, here we are. It's 58 degrees out. I believe we are secure with our anchor and the mooring backup. The weather tomorrow should be better. But, we will be smart and nimble and flexible, and we will figure out how to get through this. I'm sure of that.

It would be nice to enjoy all of the pleasures of boating and that's it, but that is not reality. We have to learn to be problem solvers, to be handy, and to keep our wits about us. Boating is fun and exciting, but it's also challenging, complicated and hard. As my friend Michael Rosman likes to say, "from bad decisions come good stories". If we had stayed in Boston today, it would have been so much simpler, but I would have had nothing to blog about. We went to some museum, and we had lunch and blah blah blah. Isn't this more fun???