Thursday, June 4, 2015

Back To Civilization!

Jen and I have been back in civilization for about a month now--it's amazing how fast time goes by!  Blain and Mo Anderson brought Sailboat Bob over to the bay to take Jen and Feral home.  Thanks Blain and Mo for all the loading and unloading and carrying stuff up the big driveway!

Jen has been and will be flying her day job with Alaska Airlines when not puttering in the yard and wondering what other expensive house projects she can start while I'm out of town or distracted.

Caretaker Rick on his way to the barbershop.

Captain Rick, ready to fit into town life!

I stayed in the bay to wait for Mike and Sally Trotter and the lodge crew to bring their boats around and to assist in the transition to working mode at the lodge.  The last ten days at the lodge were very different for us as the hydro generator shorted out.  Things were just humming along normally when we got a low voltage alarm in the office.  I ran downstairs to find all the lights out and all the meters dead.  It took me about sixty seconds to run up to the hydro shed where I found smoke pouring out, the generator overspinning, and no power output at all.  I shut the water to the pelton wheel off and for the rest of our stay we had to run a gas generator to keep freezers cold and everything topped up.
It took a couple weeks, but Mike now has a new generator installed and power back to normal at the lodge.

I came back to Sitka with our neighbor Jacki to help her run 32-foot trawler back to Sitka.  (Jacki's husband Keith passed away unexpectly in late March.)  I had familiarized myself with the boat before we left and knew it had an electrical issue as well as a serious leak that I couldn't find.  But, the show must go on, so at 5 AM one beautiful, sunny, calm day, I showed up at the boat ready for the 90-nautical mile run to Sitka.  We stowed the last few items, took the canvas off the flying bridge, and singled up the dock lines.  I turned the key and and pressed the starter......we got a few rumbles out of the starter and then nothing.  We then started up the generator and turned on the battery charger and then hit the start button.......again the engine turned over slowly a few times and then nothing.  So, we let the charger run a few minutes, then hit the starter and the engine fired right up!

Off we went into a mirror calm Chatham Strait.  The sun was just coming up as we left the bay and we could see spouts from humpback whales scattered around the strait.  The engine hummed along and four hours later we entered Peril Strait.  Within a few minutes, the engine rpm's kicked up and we got an audible voltage alarm.  I wasn't too concerned because once a diesel engine is running, it doesn't need electricity to keep running.  All seemed to be pretty stable, so we just kept going, watching the engine instruments like a hawk.  For the next nine hours, we had to hit the "mute alarm" button every two minutes..   While watching the instruments, I noticed that the engine coolant temperature, which had been rock solid at 178 degrees, started cooling off.  Before long, it was down to 90 degrees.  That's much better than running hot and it was probably just a sticky thermostat, but still something to watch and worry about on a boat you don't know well.

Sergius Narrows is at the outer end of Peril Strait.  A shallow, narrow channel with roaring currents as huge volumes of water run into and out of Peril Strait and Hoonah Sound, we hit it just at maximum ebb and had 5 or 6 kts of current pulling us in the direction we wanted to go.  In the whirlpools just past the narrows, suddenly we weren't going the direction we wanted to go.  I thought the autopilot had been overpowered, so shut it off to steer manually.  That's when I discovered that we had no steering.  As the boat twirled with the whirlpools, Jacki and I ran to the stern of the boat.  The access to the rudder was covered with barrels of fuel and water which we quickly untied and moved out of the way.  Once we could see into the compartment, I could see that the hydraulic steering ram had pulled out of a rotten, waterlogged bulkhead.  The bulkhead was so soft, there was no way to screw the ram back in.  As a bonus, I could now see the source of the water leak--probably 50 gallons an hour was coming in from the rudder bearing!  I eyed some 1 X 4's that had been covering the top of the steering compartment and asked Jacki if she had a saw.  She ran to get it and brought it back with two 1 X 1's.  As it turned out, the pieces she brought held the steering ram in place perfectly across the width of the compartment.  We steered gently by hand the remaining 4 hours and tied up in Sitka in daylight!

Polar Mist's new hard dodger.

 Polar Mist, the 54-foot sailboat I have been working on the last couple of summers is in Seattle's Delta boatyard.  The winter project list included a new hydronic heating system, removing the engine and auxillary, painting the engine room, rebuilding the auxillary and replacing the main engine, adding a hard dodger, painting the decks, and seemingly thousands of smaller items.  Like most boat projects turn out, we're over budget and behind schedule.  The boat should be back in the water in early July and we'll be finishing up projects in the slip in Seattle and doing some shake-down cruises in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.

Polar Mist's new 4-blade feathering max prop.