Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Here's a test, with a twist.

This is a new one for us.  I have been deeply engrossed in trying to figure out brand new technology that many sailors have been using as 'run of the mill' basics for years and years.  This week I have been taking my basic radio, computer and procedural illiteracy into the mysterious realm of Single Sideband and emails and faxes and magical weather forecasts called "GRIBS". 
To say that it's a bit overwhelming is an understatement at best.  There is so much to grasp and get sorted out and I am proud to say that I have accomplished connectivity at a base level.  So, included in all that experimentation is this new piece of being able to post an entry to our blog directly from out email capability.  If this post actually does show up on our blog, its because smarter people than me have put together the technology to make it relatively easy for me to get access to my blog from any email source.

This particular post is from an internet connected laptop, but if it is good, I will attempt to follow it up with one via SSB radio and PACTOR II modem; kind of the old fashioned way but it is a huge capability considering that in most cases we can communicate via email from nearly any spot on the globe is the SSB is working and the propagation is good. 

Holding my breath as I press 'send'.  We shall see :) 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Breaking things; boats and people.


Two months since the DelMarVa and we are still laid up with parts holdups and a medical ‘issue’.  The parts are just a matter of figuring out exactly what is needed to restore the functionality and integrity of the forestay and furler part of the rig (the forward most sail that wraps itself into a nice little package around a seemingly simple mechanical winder-upper.  On our DelMarVa rally, the winder-upper failed and it wound up ropes and metal pieces it was not supposed to have wrapped up.  The damage was not terrible, but as we dug into the cause of the failure we found a couple of worn out bearings which were, along with inexperience, the root cause of the problem.
The parts in question are the forestay itself; a super strong, hefty stainless steel cable that strings between the top of the main mast and the very front (forepeak) of the boat’s deck.  Together with all the other cables (stays and shrouds) the entire standing rigging supports the sails and is is robust enough to safely hold together in almost any conceivable situation. As a matter of fact, it held together quite handily while the furling motor wound up and eventually snapped a couple of 9,500 lb breaking strength ropes and two smaller ones, while winding 2 3/8” stainless rods into nice arcs. That is a good testimonial to the way this boat is put together. 
Ultimately, although we could find no discernable damage, we decided to err on the side of caution and replace the forestay cable with a new one.  Once something has been stressed like that, you never know if it is weakened and I would hate to find out the hard way if it broke when we crashed into a big wave one day. The cable, fittings (which have to be ‘swaged’ together) and all the new halyards and other lines, and labor will run into a few thousand dollars by the time it is all said and done. We were happy with the determination to renew everything as best we could.
So, the day came when the riggers came by , climbed up the mast and basically spent the day tearing the front part of the boat apart. Once the forestay and furler were down we got to do a deeper inspection and found some more damage to the long tube (that surrounds the cable) that the sail actually winds up on.  There were deep gashes and sharp cuts into the metal which we looked pretty bad.  We spent a few days with the Dremel tools trying to smooth things out, but after consulting with the rigger we decided that, as much as we wanted to, we probably should give up trying to save it and order a new one.  Cha-ching J … this part is extruded aluminum ally. A single tube extrusion nearly 60 feet long. 2 inches in diameter with thick walls and full length grooves cut for the sails to slide up and down. We would have to find out if the factory even had one and if we could get it.

Turns out they do have them, in stock! The price, of course, is enough to cause a short gasp but it has to be done.  The real problem is going to be shipping a 60+ foot long piece of extruded aluminum from France and getting it to the marina. I just have no idea how it can happen or what it’s going to cost; and neither does the factory (Amel).  Well, we are still waiting for a final price and delivery estimate.  France, in toto, apparently goes on vacation in August L  We will see what happens in a couple of weeks.
All the down time is well and good, notwithstanding the idea that we wanted to be sailing all over the place, because we’ve had a good chance to ‘settle in’ to the boat, living aboard, and being at a marina.  I’ve been learning a lot about the boat and its systems including electrics, plumbing, air conditioning and engine maintenance. All good stuff.  What we didn’t expect, aside from the expenses of repairs, were the expenses of marina life. We never dreamed we’d be stuck at a dock in Annapolis, the sailing capitol of the USA, and paying for dock space costing as much as the rent on a 4 bedroom house.  We didn’t really grasp the idea that it would be so expensive, as our previous experience is with a much smaller boat at a much smaller marina some 25 miles south of Annapolis proper … kind of out in the sticks, actually. Our first boat still sits at Shipwright Harbor Marina in Deale, MD and it has been a wonderful place to keep her and to sail from.  We can’t really put the new boat in there because it is a bit too shallow for our draft and we don’t want to be on the bottom half the time and slaved to the high tides.
The real problem, however, is that with the rig torn partially down, “Adagio” is not seaworthy and we are truly stuck where we are.  Not a happy situation, but not in any way the worst thing that could happen.  I guess I wrote all this to say “here’s how to kill a cruising kitty” (the money we had set aside for expenses while cruising around)   We will recover, we will get this rig fixed right so we have no misgivings about Adagio’s seaworthiness and we’ll be sailing soon.
Now, breaking the boat isn’t the only part of the equation. I debated whether to make an entry about this issue, but it’s integral to our sailing plans at this point so here goes.
Back in February (yes, that’s 6 months ago) Robin and I were given permission to take an ‘early occupancy’ of sorts aboard Adagio. She really wasn’t ours yet, as the closing hadn’t happened, but all was well and good in the paperwork department so we were granted permission to start claiming our new space.  We drove up to Newport, RI with a truckload of stuff and began to clear out the old and put n the new (ours). It was exciting and challenging at the same time. 

As you may know, winter in Rhode Island can be pretty rough. This winter was especially brutal with storm after storm after storm rolling through with only a day or two of decent weather between blizzards.  Temperatures in the teens, winds gusting all over the place, snow and freezing rain all kept coming at us while we were trying to make the numerous trips back and forth to the boat from the parking lot.  The dock got up to a foot of snow on it and we were just super careful to stay safe. We never went anywhere alone in the rough conditions.
The boat was toasty and warm inside, but the dock was frozen which meant no water was available. We purchased 2 of the fold-em-up 5 gallon camping water jugs and I proceeded to make sure I brought 10 gallons of water to the boat ever time we ventured off the dock. We needed the water for cleaning stuff and it goes fast when you’re busy about scrubbing and steam cleaning.  Nevertheless we had a system that worked and all went very well for a few days.

On Feb 18th, I had planned to leave Robin behind while I caught an airplane back to D.C.  My plan was to go to work for a couple of days, then fly back to Providence just in time to meet a very special guest who was also flying in for a visit.  The day had been sunny and above freezing and the boat and the docks were mostly clear of ice and snow.   Shortly after darkness fell, we needed to make a trip up to the dumpster and load a couple of things into the truck for my trip back to D.C. 

With laptop, satchel and garbage bag in hand I stepped from the lower step of the boat about two feet across the water to the dock. ... and the dock had frozen with black ice. I went down hard as I had taken a large, confident step out. As my right foot slipped out from under me forward, my left leg went straight down toward the water with my full weight on my shin hitting the sharp edge of the dock's wood boards.  I have tried to explain it exactly, but the best I can come up with is that I started just above the ankle, and ended just at and on the inside of my knee. The pain was immobilizing.  I have never, ever had a fall or accident where I could not move but this one was it. I have been injured worse, but I have never had anything that hurt that badly. I could not even speak to warn Robin to NOT come and help, and when she stepped on the dock she slipped and fell too.  So there we were, stuff strewn everywhere, both lying on the dock injured and trying to get our wits about us.  Robin recovered first, but I was several more minutes before I could begin to move.

After a bit, we made our way to the truck. It was slick, deadly slick on that dock and it took several minutes for us to get onto a safer surface and into the restroom where I could assess the injury. 
So, at first glance, the damage looked relatively minor. we were both scraped up and I had a two inch-ish log gash on the shin about midway between the ankle and knee.  OK, so it hurt like hell but nothing's broken. Let's figure out what to do next.  Obviously ...  we need dinner and a glass of wine :)

Stopped by the drug store picked up some ibuprofen, antibiotics cream and bandaids.  I was hurting and thankfully, Robin had not taken as serious a fall (whew!).  We had dinner and went back to the dock, ut not until after we'd found several pounds of ice-melt to lead the way back.  Scattering the salt along the dock out in front of us, we made our way back to the boat.

I needed to make a flight the next morning, so I drove to Providence and grabbed a hotel room close to the airport. I took a soak and cleaned the wounds as best I cold.  I did not sleep much, the airplane ride was miserable and I spent a horribly uncomfortable day at work.  The next day I flew back to Providence where I met up with Robin and our VIP guest. For the next few days we played tourist in Newport, RI (mansions and meals and scenery), Plymouth and Boston, MA.  All the while things were hurting on that left leg but I really tried to bull through.

Now, I'm just going to sum this up by saying that the injury was actually pretty severe.  Just because it didn't immediately look all that bad,  I should've sought medical help sooner than I did.  By the time we finally got to Urgent care, they sent me straight to E.R. and called in staff from home to verify that I did not have life-threatening clots and thrombosis.  The bruising was a sight to behold; I could've had a role on "The Walking Dead"  and not needed any makeup. 

So, the injury developed into a deep tissue infection called simply 'cellulitis'  and it has been a challenging, uncomfortable recovery regimen. As I write this I have been equipped with a PICC line (a semi-permanent I.V. that drops the antibiotics just above the heart) and have had some of the most powerful antibiotics available to try to win against this thing.  All I can say is that if I had to do it over again, I would seek help sooner and not pretend that I was superman and could push through the pain and have it just go away on its own. 

I think that pictures might not be in the best of tastes, so please trust that it was an impressive injury and has for the last several weeks dictated much of activities (or lack thereof).

This is something that can happen while sailing. Fortunately for us (me) we had some of the best medical care in the world right here in Virginia and Maryland. I don't know how it might play out in a remote location.

Be careful out there.  Please!