The pleasure of sailing. “Not this day!” True story with David Alexander

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Sunday… today… We were scheduled to deliver our sailboat to a ship-yard about four or five hours up the Florida intercoastal. The diesel was running just under the hot zone. Delivery time was not that important because they were not going to haul it until Monday after lunch. We were told to tie it off to their sea wall and they would move it to the lift with long ropes. We both had to work.

I went over to the Marina Friday after work and thought I would get things ready for an early departure Saturday morning. I got the key from the Nav Station and thought I would let the diesel run while I carried a few things to the truck that I didn’t want in the ship-yard.

RRrrrnnn RRrrrrnnnn TTTtthhhh! You know that sound! The battery’s dead.

I’m on shore power with a $400 charger that monitors both battery banks at all times. I pulled the floor panel, and the bilge was holding water. The central air is still working, so, all the 110V is still good but the 12V DC is out. I grabbed a voltage meter from the back cabin and checked the batteries at the terminals. Both banks barely registered, 12V from the charger is dead, 110V to the charger was hot. Okay, the charger is fried. I removed the charger and tested it on the galley table, dead, and the transformer coil is melted. Zero continuity. Must have had a voltage spike in the marina. Not the first time.

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I went home, got a battery charger, and left it on each bank for about 2 hours each. The diesel started, bilge kicked in, lights came on, instruments still work. Okay, we’ll still deliver the boat, tomorrow. I stopped by Auto Zone and bought a big deep cycle battery for insurance, and put jumper cables in storage for this run. It was 99deg in the hold, where the batteries are. I had a heat/stress headache, sweaty clothes, and a Band-Aid on my bald spot. Time to go home and hit the shower. Cold!

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Sunday morning. Gonna do it! I still have that shaky acid stomach feeling that I have learned to listen to over the years. The diesel fired right up. I removed all of the dock lines but two. I use four dock lines and two spring lines, with the four dock lines doubled with black 5/8” braided, for the big storms at this time of year. There was no wind, the water was calm, and my stomach was settling down. Looking good.

Last line on deck, backed it out, shifted into forward. No rudder?

NO FRICK’IN RUDDER!  No matter where I turned, it kept moving to the right. We have HUGE manatees around our boat all the time.

“We NEVER pet them or give them fresh water.” BUT, they are big enough to snap a rudder if they wanted to. My rudder is about 15” x 5’. They call it a Barn Door rudder because of its size. It gives me instant handling and I can run closer to the wind. BUT, it’s size is a weakness, so I figured it was on the bottom, below where I just left.

THEN, something (my father) taught me kicked in. “PROP WALK” I used the prop forward and reverse back and forth, to eventually slide the boat into another un-occupied dock space.

My nerves were shot and I tied her off…What to do? No choice “I have to dive.”

No, we had just been watching a small shark cruising the marina. Still have to do it. I pulled the gear from below deck and hit the water.

“Where’s that shark? Tell me if you see the fin again.” I went under the boat and the rudder was still there. Happy day! So! Why do I have no steering? I had my wife turn the wheel back and forth, while I held onto the rudder under water. Full left , full right, and STRONG? Dove again and checked the prop. FULL of barnacles! Bingo!  With no movement, there is no steering. Okay.

I went home and got dive gloves, various scrapers, a bigger dive knife for that shark, and jumped back in with weapon in hand.

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The shark kept getting closer with each pass. Finally, his dorsal fin touched my stomach as he went below me. I was only in 10’ of water. This time I came out of the water and reconsidered. I described the fish to another sailor next to me. He said it was a huge Tarpon that hangs around the docks. I felt better and jumped back in. I finished scraping the prop after about 9 or 10 dives, and had to switch my tool to a big wood chisel instead of the drywall knife. I left the boat tied to the dock with spring lines and started the diesel. Forward, good… reverse, good… okay, untie it. Time to do or die. It came right out of the slip, turned and maneuvered perfectly. We took it out into the bay tested and tested, and then put it back on its original dock.

There’s always next week. The one thing I didn’t mention is that as of today, I don’t have a lease on my dock, and it goes to transient fees. Tomorrow I’ll get them to pro-rate me a week.

The water was really warm! No wonder the barnacles are so bad. Felt good to be back in the saltwater again. Seems like since I moved here all I do is work and rest.  Right now, I’m glad I’m still working. I was supposed to be off this next week, and they decided that they want me to come in anyway. I worked it out with the finish dept to not finish any yacht cabinets until Monday. That will keep me working at least until Wed.

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If I do get laid off, for any long stretch I have a 40# CQR anchor out in the garage. I’ll bury it in the sand, run out about 20’ of chain, bolt it to a couple engine blocks, and attach a mooring ball. We can still get away with that here for another year or so. Anchoring out will save me about $350 a month. I have been thinking of lots of “Survival “ ideas lately.

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Gotta go…wife says 3-minute warning for supper. Shut it down.

Stay in the shade. David

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