Early August found Duet at Washburn's Boatyard in the Solomons, Maryland. The Solomons are a very active boating center, site of numerous rendezvous, including the West Marine TrawlerFest in September. Washburn's is a well known trawler yard where Duet's stabilizers were serviced last year. Duet was due for a cosmetic makeover as her teak and fiberglass had deteriorated in the Florida sun. We left last year with 3 coats of a teak protector called Armada but it proved unequal to the task. Actually, it probably wasn't the Armada that failed, it was the fact we hadn't added more coats as they were needed. Once teak coating starts to go, it's difficult to recover, so Duet's teak needed to be taken down to bare wood and refinished. This time we decided to let a professional (namely not Nancy) do the job so we can maintain it. Her fiberglass was waxed before we left but again, due to the the press of cruising and other commitments, we had not applied any elbow grease during our sojourn down south. Obviously, serious cosmetic TLC was called for. Duet also definitely needed bottom paint. As our regular readers know, we gathered every form of flora and fauna during our Florida stay. Frankly, we were a little concerned that the Washburn's team would burst into laughter when she came out of the water.
Washburns was also scheduled to do some work on the generator's water pump, which Ron wanted to learn how to do to avoid yard bills in the future . Finally, Ron had figured out a solution for the master berth, which has to be dismantled to work on the A/C, the watermaker, the bow thruster or the deck wash down pump. During a recent under the berth exercise, Ron fell and injured his forearm. He maintains he just cracked it; Nancy is convinced he broke it, but since he refused to see a doctor that issue will never be settled. Suffice it to say, the time had come to fix the bed.
As an aside on boat yards, we try not to go into them as the cost to get out is usually substantial. The projects we selected for Washburn's were ones we could have done but they would have taken more time than we had available, our learning curve would have been substantial and/or they required tools we didn't have and would never need again. The cosmetic work was the most problematic, as we'd hoped to do much of that work ourselves. This summer, however, we just didn't have the time so we had Washburn's establish a base for us to maintain.
So off we went to the Solomons. First, Duet needed to come out of the water. Washburns has a rather special kind of boat lift, called a synchrolift, which lowers a dock into the water. The advantage is it lifts tremendous weight, so we weren't concerned that Duet's 30 tons would prove too much for it. It is, however, a more complex process than the standard Travelift. For a view of how a standard Travel Lift works, see Duet Takes a Bath Before Leaving. First, Duet was positioned to move over the lifting section. Then, with Ron now off the boat, but still following closely, the Washburns team began the trickily process of making sure that Duet settled neatly onto the props prepared for her. The consequences of this not happening include Duet falling on the ground, Duet falling on people and other versions of Duet falling over that don't bear thinking about. As part of this, someone has to go into the water. In our case, the someone was Chris Washburn. Much careful thought was applied to getting her settled and activities included passing chain under the boat to secure the braces which hold her up, but finally we could see daylight as she rose to the surface. The most important duty, however, was to rescue the crabs trapped in the rising dock, an activity which Chris diligently (and carefully) carried out. Finally, we were all set on land and ready for action. It's clear from the view of Duet's underbelly that this haulout came none too soon. Duet stayed out of the water for a week, while we stayed in Annapolis. It is difficult to find a place which accepts dogs, so we were forced to go further afield than we wanted, but it all worked out fine. Duet meanwhile was polished, painted and generally pampered, rather like a lady at a beauty parlor. Painting the bottom, while it seems simple, is rather an art as there are lots of small protuberances that get in the way. In Duet's case, she has 16 thru-hulls, each of which need to be individually sanded and painted, not counting her two propellers (main and get home)and the bow thruster. As an aside, these thru-hulls represent 16 places where water might come in. We carry wooden bungs which can hopefully be hammered into place in the event of failure, but we've never had to put this into practice. We have often wished Duet had a sea chest, which is a single large thru-hull from which all internal sea water needs are plumbed. Most commercial boats are done this way. In addition to sanding and painting each thru-hull, Washburns also mounted jellyfish repelling screens on the major ones to reduce the chances of outside flora and/or fauna being ingested by our water cooled systems. They also painted the rest of the hull with anti fouling paint. All in all a difficult job well done. Duet also had all her teak sanded and painted with Cetol (an Armada like product), her fiberglass waxed and, as previously mentioned, her master berth elevated. Captain Ron was very pleased with this latter improvement, as was Nancy, because Ron's injury meant she might have to find another live-aboad mechanic. Finally, we returned to the boat and everyone got a good night's sleep. We returned to Herrington Harbor after two weeks at Washburns, well satisfied with the work done. The only drawback was Nancy didn't get to keep the Washburn's ladies golf cart, which is a fine example of their skill at applying Awlgrip (a popular brand of cosmetic marine paint). Upon our return to Herrington Harbor we journeyed north to see Ron's Mom. Tristan and Maggie went to camp, namely to stay at Sunchaser Kennels, where they have been going since they were little pups. They always have a marvelous time, although Maggie has been cited for tipping over her water bucket and bathing in the resulting puddle. Meanwhile, Duet snoozed at dock, looking a thousand percent better than when she first arrived in the Bay. We then managed to sneak in some Bay cruising, returning to some of our favorite anchorages. Our first time out Duet was threatened by a large snag of driftwood, which her crew managed to fend off and prevent from scratching her now pristine hull. During this journey we noticed that the prop made a high pitched whining sound at certain RPM. Once we anchored, Ron dove overboard and examined all the running gear but nothing seemed to be amiss. The only symptom we could identify was that the stuffing box no longer was dripping.
For those of you not familiar with a stuffing box, it provides a mostly watertight seal where the propeller shaft exits from the engine room to the outside water. As its name suggests, said box is stuffed with a water impervious material that envelopes the shaft and prevents water entry. These boxes are designed to allow a little water to leak through, thereby cooling the shaft as it spins within the stuffing material. The key is not too much, nor too little water. A few drips per minute, while underway, is good (a friend once quipped that all boats are sinking, its just a question of how fast). Although our box wasn't dripping, it was not overheating either, so Ron wasn't too worried. Hot stuffing boxes are not a good thing, as they mean the shaft is being damaged. The cost of a new shaft is not something a boater can contemplate with equanimity.
Once we returned to dock, Ron tried to open the stuffing box for further adjustment, but found that it was seized shut. Judicious application of a medium size hammer, heat and WD40 didn't loosen it up. At this point Ron wisely decided that moving to a larger hammer while nowhere near a facility to haul (aka rescue) us if the box collapsed wasn't the right move. Thus, having been unable to determine the cause of the "singing" prop and worried about the stuffing box, we called Chris Washburn. He suggested we return to the yard and since we were coming down for Trawlerfest anyway we came a few days early.
An aside on Trawlerfest for readers not in the know. Started some years ago, Trawlerfest has now become one of the largest gatherings of trawler types anywhere, complete with seminars, dinners, new boats, old boats, new boaters, old boaters, medium aged boaters like us, etc. It's held in several locations each year with the Solomons gathering being the largest. Further information can be found at trawlerworld.com. We've attended several fests over the years but this year we skipped the seminars, squatted at Washburn's and used the gathering as a way to catch up with old friends.
We arrived early in the week and watched the parade of trawlers coming into the Solomons. Over 100 boats arrived, ranging in size from 20 feet to over 60. We also managed to claim a spot at Washburn's dock from which we only had to move several times, rather than once per day, which happened to later arrivals. Boatyard docks are notorious for constantly shifting boats around and we got some great close in docking practice (sometimes closer than we'd prefer) with boats much larger and more expensive than ours. This is one of the better (although not the least stressful) ways to learn close in docking. For example, one of the boats docked with us was Spirit of Zopilote, a Northern Marine 62 owned by Bruce and Joan Kessler. Bruce and Joan are experienced circumnavigators, having girdled the globe in their famous trawler the 70 foot Delta Zopilote. They are also extremely nice people and we greatly enjoyed meeting them and learned a lot. We even got to go for a ride on Spirit of Zopilote (while she was being moved around the dock) and so experienced a beautifully thought out trawler first hand.
Trawlerfest proved to be a great gathering, with many old friends attending. We knew it was going to be fun on the first day, when Gary and Jean, from the Krogen 42 Daisy, whom we'd met in Marathon Florida, greeted us as we were docking. We weren't absolutely sure who they were at first, but they looked like nice people we'd like to get to know, so we held up our end of the vigorous waving and calling as we arrived. We later joined up for a memorable dinner of steak on the grill.
There were an unusual number of Nordhavns at this particular rendezvous, 14 in fact. This is more Nordhavns than we, or anyone else apparently, had ever seen in one place. A cocktail party seemed the only solution, so we and several other owners pulled one together. Over 30 people attended, including crews from a 62, 2 57's, 2 46's other than us, 2 40's and 2 35's. 6 owners of the new 47 foot model also attended, although only one has actually gotten their boat yet. It was in California but they brought pictures. We'd already gotten to know one 47 couple, Richard and Cathy, via this web site and email, so it was great to meet them in person. We enjoyed extensive conversation and adjourned to the evening crab feast all feeling we'd made many new friends. We also got a chance to see Nordhavn, the 40 that recently went around the world in 26 weeks. Several members of the Nordhavn team who made that trip shared some interesting stories. For more on this journey see the Nordhavn site. We got to see N46 hull # 6, Chicory, which has a full ketch sailing rig, as well as one of the most recent 46's built, Egret, which has all the newest improvements. We also boarded Gusto, a new N35 based in St. Petersburg. All were beautiful boats with very accommodating owners (Ron, in particular, tends to practically dismantle a boat when he visits). Hopefully we were able to provide some value with tours of Duet and information on various problems we'd solved. We were not the only members of Duet's crew who met up with old friends. Tristan and Maggie were reunited with Lobo and Dandy, two yellow Labradors from Beaufort, NC who live with our friends Donna and Ray. Donna took several of the best pictures on our web site, including a great one of the Duet family when we first met in NC. Donna and Ray recently moved aboard Shared Visions, an early model Hatteras 43 and were on their first cruise as full timers. They were traveling with the crew of Lyon's Den, which included yet another yellow Labrador. We managed to get all 5 dogs together for a Frisbee game one evening. It was hard to tell who had more fun, the owners taking pictures or the labs playing chase. We wish Donna and Ray (and Lyon's Den who are also new liveaboards) fair winds and flat waters (which are very important early on in the cruising life) and will hook up with them again on the trip south.
While we were out socializing, Washburn's managed to fix both the stuffing box and the singing prop. The prop required a brief haulout (much simpler than the first time since Washburn's now knows exactly how to set up the lift for Duet's underside) and a little filing. Once that was done all noise disappeared and we ran like a dream. The stuffing box, surprisingly enough, required restuffing. PJ, one of Washburn's mechanics, came aboard while we were out and about. He managed to evade the Labrador team on guard duty (apparently by saying "good dogs") and restuffed the box. When we left it ran a little hot until Ron got it adjusted; now it behaves beautifully.
After attending a memorable party at the Washburn's home overlooking St. Leonard's Creek (a great Bay anchorage) we traveled slowly back to our berth at Herrington Harbor South determined to focus on some boat projects rather than partying our time away. Nancy dug out last year's provisioning list to begin loading the supplies which make life aboard Duet comfortable, namely dog food, peanut butter, toilet paper, etc. She also calculated what we'd used in the last year, discovering that we had enough Q-tips to last several life times but we'd run out of zip lock bags even though we'd loaded over 300. After some tuning of projected usage these discrepancies were righted and trips to Sam's, Giant, CVS, etc. began, accompanied by the usual dock cart trips and time spent crawling around in the storage areas to get everything set.
Ron, meanwhile, started on the yearly maintenance which needed to be done before we could depart in mid October. This included changing the oil and filters on the main and puzzling over more obscure maintenance issues. The Lugger manual suggests prophylactically adjusting valve clearances, which Ron decided to do after a lot of time spent figuring out exactly what part of the engine the accompanying diagram referred to. This is actually more complex than it sounds as engine manuals are designed for people already in the know, not physicians who didn't take shop in high school. He also spent time trying to interpret the rather obscure instructions relating to the high pressure fuel pump. The Lugger documentation is unclear as to the proper service interval, but counsels the experienced technician (Ron ?!) against disassembly unless there is evidence of a problem. So Ron decided to follow the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" approach..
Ron also installed our GPIRBs. The GPIRB is an Emergency Position indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) which has an internal GPS to tell rescue services precisely where it (and hopefully we) is (are). When activated, the GPIRB also sends out a unique code identifying who we are. Rescue services then call our emergency contact (Nancy's sister Sally) to confirm that we truly are offshore. Sally hopefully will tell them to fetch us pronto. Older units (EPRIB, rather than GPIRB) lack GPS functionality and require several satellite fixes to determine position, which wastes precious time. Duet now has 2 GPIRBS, one mounted inside the pilothouse, and the other on the pilothouse roof. The one in the pilothouse is to be taken with us into the liferaft if we have to abandon ship, so the rescuers can find us later. The one on the roof is designed to open and release the unit when it reaches 12 feet underwater. As most of you will realize, this is not a condition we want to see but it would provide useful information for the executor of our wills if Duet goes under before we get off. It also provides backup to the one in the raft, which is the scenario we'd prefer. Another safety feature which Ron finalized is our bilge monitoring system. This consists of several independent parts which Ron assembled into a system to monitor power to the pump, high water in the bilge (with loud alarm siren), number of times the pump cycles and shows a red light when the pump is actually cycling. Prior to this we only knew the pump was cycling when we heard it, but this proved difficult if the engine was running. The new system provides key information on the status of the bilge pump, which is the first line of defense when unwanted water enters the boat. Duet is quite a dry boat and in normal conditions the bilge cycles once per day with the A/C on (the A/C drains condensation into the bilge) or once to twice per day while we are underway. If the monitor shows more than that we can assume that water is coming in somewhere hitherto unsuspected. On a boat that can only be bad; the big question is can you identify where it's coming in and block it prior to it overwhelming your pumps. Our first test, assuming we haven't obviously struck something, is to taste it; fresh water is much better as it means the leak is from one of our tanks, not from outside the boat. If it's not fresh water, our next step is to examine each thru-hull using our thru-hull diagram, as a broken thru-hull is one of the most likely sources. As noted previously we carry wooden plugs for all the thru-hulls. We haven't yet fitted and attached one to each thru-hull, which would really speed up the plugging process. That is next on our never ending list of anticipating and preparing for events we hope will never happen. In spite of all this activity we also managed to fit in a little Bay cruising and several more parties. Nancy sneaked into town for a girls night out with old friends to catch up on the gossip and Ron got together with his partners to hear how anesthesia had advanced during his absence. We met Allan and Linda, old sailing friends, for a raft up in Shaw Bay, which was much enjoyed by all. Allan took some great pictures of Duet underway, one of which is now on our home page and framed on our salon wall. Allan got some great candids of life at anchor, including one of Ron on washdown duty for the labs. This latter photo is apparently on display in the operating room where Allan works, as an example of what happens to physicians who take sabbaticals to go cruising.
We also caught up with Bill and Julin Lynn (previous owners of Duet) at the Annapolis Sailboat show. We attend the Sail show rather than the Power show because the gear exhibits are more extensive. Nancy spent the day trying to control the outflow of cash, with no help from Bill, who is a well known gear hound. We then adjourned to dinner, followed by ice cream, cigars and a stroll around Annapolis. Everyone had a great time and we hope to met up again in a quiet anchorage before we all head south.
Speaking of heading south, we plan to leave by mid to end of October for a slow cruise down the coast, staying just ahead of the weather. We know it's time to leave as Nancy has been forced to don pants (as opposed to shorts) to ward off the morning chill, which is is a clear sign to go. We expect to end up somewhere in Florida either in Ft. Pierce or Ft. Myers, and hope to get to the Bahamas after the turn of the year. This is a meaningful departure for us, as we've now just passed our first anniversary of living aboard. It's been a great year and we'll always look back with fondness on "our first year" of what we hope will be many voyages.