Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Been Two Months Already?

(click on pictures to enlarge)

It's really hard to believe it was two whole months ago that we met George and Merima aboard Moonshadow and took her out sailing for our first time.  On the other hand, maybe it's not so hard to believe, considering the fact that we've been here at River Bend boatyard for half of that time.  A Month!  That seems like forever.  With the boat torn apart and workmen onboard everyday, riggers up the mast, floorboards pulled up, headliners pulled down, lockers emptied (their contents expanding like popcorn), at times, our beautiful home seemed neither beautiful nor homey.   

One day, we couldn't sit anywhere below deck because every spot was filled with stacks of loot extracted from lockers.  Also, the wallpaper hanger, who promised to finish the aft staterooms in "a day or a day and an half", left after 3 hours complaining about the heat.  We had moved everything from the two aft staterooms (which included things from other places to make room for other workmen) into our stateroom (thinking we could move it back at the end of the day) stacking everything on our berth, which totally filled the stateroom.  That night, we slept in the salon, Deb on the settee and John on the deck.

We are really, really close to being done.  All the workmen have left and taken all of their tools but despite really really thinking we'd be sailing north this weekend, we'll still be here through Memorial Day. 

Through it all, we've used the time to complete all the boat chores on our list, like sewing a tear in the dodger.  We've put everything back into the lockers, scrubbed the decks, vacuumed, wiped, shined, cleaned, and generally returned Moonshadow to a beautiful home, and things are finally returning to "normal".  

Then, we moved Moonshadow from the middle of the boatyard out to a pier on the river where there's some grass and trees.  That little move has changed everything for us.  It no longer feels  quite like we're in boatyard hell, just on it's front porch, and we're smiling again!

With the wind dead still, we attended to one of the things on the to do list:  Hoist the Storm Trysail.  It was good to do these drills (we hoisted the storm staysail last week) and learn what's required should we ever need to do this for real.

We have friends here.  This little guy (who isn't so little... 2-3 feet  long) was a bit shy but got caught by John's camera as he dove  into the river.  Later we found a really little (about 3") stow away aboard Moonshadow in the engine room.  He just might be related to the big guy from the grass! John tried to catch him but he got away, so we are now three!

Some of our other friends here include  an Englishman, Mark Lillingston, and his beautiful John Alden schooner Jaldevi.  Mark sailed Jaldevi here from St. Lucia in the Caribbean as part of a contract to sell this beautiful yacht.  
photo courtesy Mark Lillingston

Unfortunately, her foremast broke on the way, but luckily, Mark was able to keep the rig standing until reaching the boatyard where we are.  Deb and I and Mark are like kin.  After all,  we're two boat owners, and we all live in boatyard hell.  
Mark found Mike, a yacht carpenter in Canada qualified to do the repairs to her wooden foremast, so soon, Jaldevi will be all back together, delivered to her new owner, and Mark will be released from boatyard hell, and own just one boat.  Lucky bastard!  

We had a great dinner aboard Moonshadow with Mike and Mark our first night out at the pier on the river, which really helped us feel like cruisers again.  It was nice to have interesting conversation with interesting people.  This is one of the things about cruising we've so looked forward to as a part of our new life aboard Moonshadow.

Another boat left today.  Victoria Express, a steel fishing boat from Zanzibar is sailing to Haiti with a cargo of mattresses, bikes, lawn furniture, chain link fence... you name it!   They've been here for a year and a half.  The whole time we've been here with Moonshadow, we've watched a daily parade of trucks driving up with the worst looking used mattresses you can imagine.  I suppose there are people in Haiti who will be thrilled to sleep on them considering the alternative - a sad commentary on the state of Haiti's earthquake recovery.  That is if Victoria Express ever reaches Haiti... As this blog is written, two tugs returned up the New River with Victoria Express in tow.

Memorial Day weekend is for taking time off, so we did, taking a bike ride to Slacker's Bar & Grill, which we thought was right up our alley.  There we had a delicious lunch and drinks while watching the Indy 500 on a huge TV screen, including a wicked crash!

Later, we rode through "Deb's Cemetery".  That's what we call the cemetery where Deb does her morning run.  Being Memorial Day weekend, with American flags and flowers adorning the graves, it was a really pretty and peaceful place.  There is a Banyon tree in the park that rivals the big one in Lahina, Maui.  Here's Deb in front of about 25% of the tree's trunk system.

Ok, really, we shouldn't complain about boatyard hell.  After all, if we had left as originally planned or any of the many amended plans we've thought would be possible, we would have been smack dab in the middle of some pretty grim weather up the coast.  First there was Tropical Storm Alberto that stirred up the Carolinas, and now there's Tropical Storm Beryl that is threatening to become Hurricane Beryl, and will make landfall in Jacksonville tonight.  

Good thing we're right here on the New River at River Bend Marine Center where all we have to deal with is some fierce thunderstorms!  

Just a little slice of heaven.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Return of the Golden Screw

Moonshadow's propeller is an engineering marvel with three blades that feather into the seawater slipstream reducing drag when sailing. Then the blades rotate into the most efficient position for forward or reverse propulsion under power.  The gears that make all this magic happen were quite worn from the years that Moonshadow sailed her last circumnavigation of the world, so we removed the prop and shipped it to its makers in Seattle to be reconditioned.  The expense for shipping and the repairs, and the general ordeal of Moonshadow being imprisoned at the boatyard for three weeks waiting for the prop to be returned inspired Deb's sisters to begin referring to it as the "Golden Screw".  

Finally we received word that the Golden Screw was being shipped back to Florida so we scheduled Moonshadow's third trip, since we've come into her life, from her watery domain onto "the hard". This time, we finally scheduled some needed work to be done:
Moonshadow's keel  is another amazing engineering accomplishment, made of welded stainless steel which contains the lead ballast in the bottom section, and the fuel and water tanks, keeping all the weight as low in the boat as possible.  To protect this priceless component from the harsh seawater environment, we ordered a complete sanding, faring and four coats of an epoxy barrier coat.  We also specified complete sanding of the bottom, then had her painted with three coats of antifouling bottom paint; coated the propeller and prop shaft with some "snake oil" called Prop Seal; and added a line cutter to the propeller shaft just in front of the Golden Screw to cut any lines that attempt to wrap around it.  

Something we've done with all of our other boats while on the hard, is mark the anchor chain.  It's a bit of a chore as the 121 pound anchor and three hundred feet of heavy chain must be lowered onto the asphalt boatyard, flaked out, measured and finally painted according to John's secret color code scheme.

John likes vivid markings every fifty feet on the chain that can be seen from the helm (now 62 feet away) as the chain is being lowered or hauled aboard.   On Moonshadow this is a bit redundant though because she has an electronic chain counting device that provides a digital readout at the helm of how much chain you have out.

While laying out the chain for painting, John was stopped cold by yet another penny sighting.  As with all the other sightings, this shiny penny was dead center in John's tracks in a most unlikely location. Always nice to be reminded you're with us Dusty!

Well, after three days on the hard, we're ready to return Moonshadow to her element.  We're quite sure Moonshadow is ready too.  It seemed appropriate for Moonshadow to have a nice portrait with her new black "bum", as George & Merima would say. Backing up to frame Moonshadow in the picture, John heard another visitor, and turned to see a bright green iguana, obviously mesmerized by Moonshadow stoically awaiting her launching.  

We took a break from the boatyard routine and accepted an invitation from Mike Toppa of North Sails, who is building our new genoa, to attend a presentation at the Lauderdale Yacht Club by Ken Read of the Puma Ocean Racing team on the Volvo Ocean Race.  The Volvo Ocean Race is a race around the world with stops at various points including Miami, where the teams finished last week.  Interesting factoids: Puma has sailed nearly 40000 sea miles and top speed was nearly 40 knots (37 point something)!  Puma lost their rig on the first leg and has fought their way back into contention for the race with just one ocean leg to go.  It was very entertaining and also fun to meet some of the LYC juniors who reminded us of junior sailing program kids everywhere: enthusiastic, confident, positive, polite, and quite comfortable among adults.

Next we'll leave our hotel, move back aboard Moonshadow and in just a few more days of cleaning up the aftermath of boatyard work and a few more check writing sessions, we'll finally cast off and let Moonshadow take us down the New River, out into the Atlantic.  From there it's north to Georgia, the Carolinas, the Chesapeake, and lots of other non boatyard experiences.  We're itching to go!

Monday, May 14, 2012

A study in contrasts

I know I've said it before, but damn, the weather here is just so different from San Diego.  You can never leave the boat without closing all the hatches and in every way possible rigging for rain because it just might rain!  The other day, Deb had a long awaited "beauty day" with an appointment to get her hair done, a pedicure, the whole works, followed by some leisurely mall shopping.  When she returned to Moonshadow, the trip from the rented car, parked 30 feet away proved to be just too much for the new hairdo!  Deb appeared below looking like the fire department just had a day of practice on her head.  No problem, Deb laughed it off and the next day blew her hair out to show what  it should have looked like (and it looked great!).  Then she ran some errands, but when she returned... you guessed it!   Another drowned rat!!  Welcome to Florida.  It rains here.

Remember the beautifully adorned aft stateroom from a previous post?  That was then, this is now. With the agonizing task of selecting all the new electronics behind us, we're in the midst of "installation hell".  All the spaces along the starboard side of Moonshadow from the navigation station to the stern have been exploded to expose the network of wires that run fore and aft to the radar mast (not a mast we carry sails on, this is just an aluminum pole for getting a bunch of  antennas up in the air) at the stern.  Oh, and all the overhead panels are down again for access to electrical wires up to the middle cockpit.  Tomorrow, we'll pull all the floorboards up to locate a new autopilot compass.  What a mess, but eventually worth it, right?

As a part of providing access to the spaces the installers needed for installation of all the new electronics, we had to empty out the lazarette (boat name for a locker in the stern).  We found the storm sails there and decided to see how they look.  Here's what the storm jib looks like.  I think this sail's name speaks for itself, but it's tiny and very sturdily built.  We also have a storm trysail, which is just about as small as the storm jib and takes the place of the mainsail.  We hope this is the first and last time we see these sails, but if someday we do use them in their intended element, I'm sure they'll look a lot bigger than it does now. 

Another discovery from the lazarette was a pair of bicycles.  We put them together, aired up the tires and ventured off for a test drive to the grocery store for some cocktail hour supplies (and mother's day flowers).

Note to self: Bring a backpack to carry your purchases home, especially when you buy lots of heavy liquids!

Meanwhile... we are keeping busy with chores like replacing the outboard motor water pump impeller.    Can you guess which one in the picture is new?  I guess they put all six vanes on there for a good reason, because when we traded the impeller with just two for the new one (with all those "extra" vanes) and started the outboard, voila!  Water flowing and a cool running engine.

That called for a cocktail dinghy cruise down the New River to Las Olas (a swank downtown riverfront area for restaurants and bars).  Some of the homes along this route are just amazing, and every home has a dock with a yacht tied there.  Some of these yachts are beautiful, and some were beautiful once.  Evidently, some homeowners without yachts rent their docks to anyone who'll pay, so you can get some drastic contrasts between beautiful yachts and tacky homes and visa versa.  Along the way, we had a good look at the Deerfoot 2-62 "Diva", a sister-ship to Moonshadow; and two awesome Sundeer 64s, also designed by Moonshadow's architect.  

Mother's day was an excellent excuse for a break from boatyard hell, so we took a trip to the Everglades for an airboat ride.  An airboat is an aluminum sled with a huge V-8 car engine driving a 4 blade airplane propeller in a cage and no mufflers.  We saw some birds and plants.  Deb memorized the names and history for all of this, while John took pictures.  We also saw alligators... lots of alligators.

Deb's other job was to look really cute for our group picture.  She did  great, don't you think?  We got lucky as we were the only two passengers in the group.  Also, we were glad we stayed dry because just when we got back into the rental car, it began to absolutely pour! (We're in Florida, where it rains)

Dan-the-Man was our boat driver. The name of his business as an airboat driver is "DTM" which stands for Dan-the-Man. Dan's an ex Navy weatherman having been a plank owner aboard the carrier Nimitz.  

The harmful UV exposure and his fair complexion are a bad combination requiring Dan to wear long sleeves and trousers as well as a hat scarf and gloves, all in 80-90 degree heat. But Dan really loves his job, and Dan-the-Man knows his stuff about the flora and fauna.  Just ask Deb sometime and she'll recite all names, the history, the whole thing.  Better yet, look up Dan-the-Man at Loxahatchee Everglades Tours.  You'll have a blast.  Oh, and bring an umbrella!!

Some of the inmates at the River Bend Jail, er ah, River Bend Marine Center made a successful escape today.  They are sailing their CSY sloop "Quarterdeck" to Norway.  Good luck!  

Moonshadow and her crew are planning their escape for next Saturday!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Boatyard Blues

I'm working up the lyrics to a new song called "Boatyard Blues" to the tune of Jim Croce's "Working at the carwash blues".  But till that's on the charts with a bullet, we'll continue with our boatyard chores.  Here, you can see our chief seamstress, addressing some boat-beautification projects for the guest staterooms.  I don't know if we mentioned in earlier posts, but Moonshadow came equipped with a sewing machine.  

Deb's handiwork can be seen in this picture of one of the two guest staterooms you might call home for a bit whenever you drop in on Moonshadow.   

When you come, you will also know our roots are in San Diego as we've finally adorned Moonshadow's transom with our hailing port and the San Diego Yacht Club's burgee.

But that was the easy stuff.  Now we're on to industrial strength refitting.  For the last two days  Moonshadow has looked like hand grenades have exploded below decks.  We've had Peter Fine aboard hanging new wall paper in the salon and galley, soon to be followed by work in the staterooms.  

This requires everything be removed from the bulkheads (aka "walls") and removal of the headliners (aka ceiling)  which makes the interior dark and hard to navigate with drop clothes, buckets and tools all around.  But Peter is doing a marvelous job and the boat will look like new when we're done.

Next week we'll have a different crew aboard with a different set of grenades, outfitting Moonshadow with the latest in radar, chartplotters, autopilot, sailing instruments, and something called an AIS transceiver, which is like an aircraft transponder.  AIS will cause Moonshadow to appear on comercial ship's chartplotters, whether or not their radar picks us up.  AIS links to our radiotelephones, so it will also allow Moonshadow to call a ship's bridge directly and they'll be required to answer (something not all ships do when hailed on standard frequencies).  Finally, AIS will display a distress call by Moonshadow on all nearby ship's bridges and their assistance thereby becomes a requirement. Seems like a great investment.

While all of that is going on, we've made friends from the North Sails loft here in Ft. Lauderdale who will be aboard Monday to measure Moonshadow for a new genoa.  They came over last week to take all of our sails to the loft for minor repairs and inspections.  It was determined that it is time for a modern, Spectra genoa.  Spectra is a near zero-stretch sailcloth that will make one sail perform the function of two dacron sails.  We hope to have a sail that can handle 30-35 knots (with reefing), and still be big enough to reach off in lighter wind and keep our performance up.  Can't wait to see this.

Meanwhile, Moonshadow's Max-Prop is still up in Seattle being rebuilt to recover from the 25 years of spinning around the world.  When that's done (about May 14th), and it's shipped back to us, we'll move ashore to a motel while Moonshadow is hauled out, put "on the hard" and gets her bottom painted (black of course). Then we'll launch Moonshadow and head north!

Getting a little cabin fever, Deb chose to go for a run in the nearby graveyard (actually a very pretty setting).  She came back with a shiny penny she found right in her path at the start of her run.  We always treasure the pennies we find (and we're always finding pennies, and they're always right in our path) because the way we see it, Dusty has arranged for us to find them.  It was one of his favorite ways to mess with us when he lived at home, and of course when accused, he always denied it, then turned and giggled as he walked into another room.

Tonight, we launched the dinghy, thinking a cocktail cruise would be a great break from the boatyard blues.  We saw Diva, a sistership to Moonshadow that we'd seen before buying Moonshadow, and another of Steve Dashew's designs Gaia, a Sundeer 64.  All was fine  until the outboard motor stopped pumping cooling water.  We were a good 3/4 mile away and drifting down-river away from Moonshadow, when some friendly faces asked if we'd like a tow.  This offer was gladly accepted as was our offer to provide drinks aboard Moonshadow upon our return.  Thus, we finally had our first official guests aboard Moonshadow, and our first test of the new icemaker, which came through with flying colors. Legacy never ran out of ice and by God, neither will Moonshadow!

Our saviors were David, Jonathan and Zara, part of the crew of Lady J, a 170' yacht.  Jonathan and Zara are a couple and crewed aboard different yachts so they were only able to see each other after stretches of weeks or months apart, until finally landing a job together aboard Lady J.  It was fun to learn about the lifestyle of these young people who've chosen a life cruising the world, serving wealthy owners and or charter guests on occasion, but mostly playing with beautiful yachts in unbelievable exotic ports when nobody's aboard.  Kinda makes you wonder why we chose to do all the work for nothing and pay all the bills!