Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lessons learned from running aground.


The beautiful thing about sailing is that, every day we spend on the water, we learn something new. We learn something about nature and our environment We learn something about our boats. Most importantly, We learn something about ourselves. So it was no surprise, that last sunday, I had one of my most informative days yet. Why? You ask. Well I ran aground.

Now I know that most people, those that don't sail, have certain preconceptions about running aground. What it means. The consequences and benefits of the same.  Before, I tell you my grounding, let me give you the outcome of my grounding(this is the internet. Filled with short attention spans, multiple open tabs, and "too long, didn't read it") I was a-okay. Better actually. I was able to clean half a hull, and I left with the tide. Now on to the story.

I didn't sail fo a couple of weekends before last Sunday. I was feeling the itch (No. Not the bad kind) to get out there, feel the wind on my face and hear the water rumble under my hull. So I head down to Sailor's Soul. Rushing to leave the docks, I packed away the extra bottled water, snacks & 5gallon diesel tank (filled with fresh Diesel) I brought. I warmed up the little universal, cast off my lines & head out seeking some adventure.

Immediately after leaving the narrow, snaking channel the connects my marina to Reynolds Channel, I pointed Sailor"s Soul into the wind, brought the engine just above idle and locked the helm while I went forward to raise the main. The sails went up without incident, and I fell off to port for my first tack. My original plan being to sail East then West on Reynolds Channel. I didn't feel like harrassing the bridges as it was too late in the morning for a loop around Long Leach.

So I began sailing and tacking to find the best angle to head east through the channel. Now one thing to note and remember about Sailors Soul. As a pearson 300, she does not like to head up to close into the wind. Indeed her best points of sail tend to be between 60 - 160 (or 300 - 200) degrees of wind. As the wind was blowing in from the East-South East that day, my options to manuver were rather limited. Still I pressed onward into the wind. Never one to shy away from a challlange or difficult circumstance, I happily spent an hour tacking, adjusing my sails, and making competent progress Eastward. I had a course set between two buoys that identified a deep channel. I was not too worried about the waterdepth, since my charts showed 13 - 15 feet of water along the sides of the channel and buoys. The one thing that did concern me was all the small fishing and row boats seemingly, and literally, anchored in the channel.


I knew I had the right of way (because of my deeper draft and reliance on maintainging a specific angle of wind in order to manuver). Beyond that, That they should not have been there. Nevertheless, I lamented. I weighed the factors I though were present. I could, and should, maintain my course, and they should move. But if I did, and they did not, I would be involved in a poetntially dangerous conflict. I would win, mind you. A row boat would not put up much of a fight or protest against a 12,000lb  loaded sailboat being pushed forward by mother nature. Still I lamented, and resigned (this time) to be the gentleman mariner. I fell off to port to pass below (North) of the fisherman, and then headed up to starboard close hauled to line back up with the center of the two buoys. 

My plan started off well enough. The sails held their shape and i was moving forward at a few knots. Unfortunately, Sailor's Soul began to protest. The sails were too tight and the wind and current were beginning to over power the helm. I began to drift toward the lee shore. I didn't panic, as the charts said i should have had plenty of water under my keel, even with the receding tide. Also, I wanted to see how well Sailor's Soul could claw herself off a lee shore in the event my engine lost power . I held the helm for a minute or two, but once I saw i could not overcome the wind and the current, I started my engine and throttled up to tack through the wind. Mere moments passed and I realized I was not making any headway. The shore was not passing by and the ship stopped rocking in the water.  It was then I realized. Uh oh.. I just ran out of water." Now remember those little fishing and row boat I was being courteous by avoiding?  Well they new full well I just touched bottom and they were the reason for my altering course to do so. Do you think any of them paddled over the 30 or so feet to ask how I was or if they could help pull my off or, in the very least take my anchor out? Nope.... They all pulled out their oars and disappeared. Obviously not a real mariner among them....

I spent a few minutes trying to shake my way free with the engine. but nothing worked. The tide was leaving, and I was quickly losing the ability to rock and heel my way out. after 5 minutes of trying, I stopped. There was no reason to damage my engine or waste any unnecessary energy trying to  rock a 6 ton ship. My only option was to wait.  As I waited, the tide continue to recede and Sailors Soul began to heel over further and further. The tide took a good three hours to fully recede. Once it did, I changed into my swim shorts, grabbed a broom and jumped off the side. "Might as well do some cleaning" I thought to myself. in less than an house, I cleaned and starboard hull, rudder and propeller. Afterward, Ii jumped back on board and went down below to cook a snack and make some tea at 45 degrees.  While my lunch was cooking,  did some more cleaning an organizing inside. Some time passed. A minute or two before my teapot was about to start whistling. I heard a voice outside. I exited out the companionway to find a police boat next to me in the shallows, and multipte police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks on the shore.  Lets not forget the helicopter that flew in and began to hover over me. Apparently, someone on the shore saw my boat and decided to call 911 to report a "crash".  I was monitoring 16 the entire time I was there, and I told the two towing companies that I was fine and waiting for the tide, but apparently that information was not relayed. Well after a bit of embarrassment ans assurances from me, that, yes, I was okay and waiting for the tide to return. Everyone turned and headed away. 

I do want to express my gratitude for the attention and efforts that the local agencies coast guard made in coming to evaluate my condition. I do wish the towing companies would have relayed my message of being okay and not needing assistance. But everyone who did come acted in an exceptional and professional manner.  My thanks and gratitude to them.

After everyone left, I went back to my lunch and cleaning.  Two more hours passed and the tide began to return. I waited as Sailor's Soul began to right herself. One she was upright, I began to move from one side to another to see if there was enough under her keel to rock her free. I waited another 30 minutes  before determining to break free of the shore. I started my engine, lashed the helm to starboard toward deep water and put her in forward gear. The I tied my 5 gallon diesel tank to the boom and began to swing it from side to side. After a few swings I began to get a good amount of heel. Suddenly, Sailor's Soul surged forward and we were free. 

As I was returning to the marina, I began to reflect on all the important lessons i learned today. I concluded that:

1. Right of way is right of way. The COLREGS are there for a reason. and one should follow them first and be a gentleman second.
2. If you do run aground, but are okay and decide to wait to free yourself. Issue a SECURITE over the radio, just to give notice that you are okay and the situation is under control. When you free yourself, end the SECURITE. 
3. While careening ones boat is a perfectly acceptable practice, remember that it is so rarely used that people around you may interpret your ship as being in distress.
4. Charts may be WRONG. Do not trust them (GPS included) completely.
5. ALWAYS always stay calm and keep a cool head. As long as you ship is secured and not taking water, there is nothing to worry about. Relax, catch some sun, have tome tea or rum and enjoy the day. The tide will come and you will leave.

I hope you all had fun reading. Every day on the water is new, exciting and informative. Thank for sharing in my most recent adventure. I look forward to experiencing the next one and bringing that experience to all of you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Boat work weekend - Part 3


(There’s orange juice in my fuel tank!)

            So after changing the raw water impeller, partially changing the oil and using my Herculean strength to change the primary fuel filter, I had an idea. Actually, I had a nagging voice in my head screaming at me to check the state of my fuel. “It’s important to make sure it’s fine before you start your engine, and will be cripplingly expensive if you don’t because you’re lazy.”

            “Fine” I thought to myself. “I’ll check it out” I drained the primary filter’s bowl and looked at the diesel. Nice, dark-read diesel fuel, with only a little sediment came out. 

            “Not good enough. Check the tank,” said the voice.

            “How?” I asked myself.

            “Go, get a pump and a small bucket, and pump out the bottom of the tank”

            I dragged myself off the boat, got into my car and headed to my local marine store (free plug for West Marine). A place where they know my first name and phone number because I’m there so often. I picked up a small brass pump and a two-gallon bucket. Came back to the boat and started pumping.

            I anticipated a little growth or a little water. Nothing too serious based upon the fuel that was in the primary filter. I figured I would satisfy my irritating conscience, add some water remover and bio agent and be done with it. What a didn’t expect to see was this-

Yummy! Remember, when pumping out your diesel tank, it's not the size of your pump, but the  shear size of your determination and stubbornness that gets the job done.
  
            Yes, that is a bucket of my diesel fuel. Doesn’t it look tasty? Perhaps due to the fact that I slaved over the engine all day without any food or drink, or maybe because my mind was trying to create a comedic environment to prevent any feelings of anger or resentment from manifesting, but I swear this stuff, which was once and should be diesel fuel, looks a lot like orange juice; Not only in color, but also in texture.

            “Ha!” exclaimed that annoying voice in my mind. “Good thing you checked, now you’ll just need to pump it all out.” I was about to yell shut up, but I realized I would appear to be yelling at myself, which may draw strange looks and gossip from the neighbors, and technically, I was right. Bravo to me for being so smart and full of foresight!

            So I pumped and pumped. Drained my bucket and pumped some more. Two hours and ten trips later and I drained the tank. That’s roughly ten gallons worth of OJ- looking, old diesel fuel. I poured in the fuel additives to shock what little was left inside the tank and packed up for the day.  Next week, I’ll add 5 gallons of fresh diesel. Rock Sailor’s Soul widely at the docks to try to get as much gunk as possible off the inside of the tank, then pump all that out.  I’ll follow up with more fuel and a second additive shocking. At that point, the fuel system will be ready for service.  My new filters will be installed. Fresh oil will be added. Wiring will be finalized. And Sailor’s Soul will breath and rumble into its new life (cross your fingers as I’ll be keeping mine crossed for the next week.).

That wraps-up my boat work weekend. Hope you guys enjoyed reading and thanks for being a part of the journey

Stay Tuned!

Boat work weekend - Part 2


(changing your engine oil with a smile)

            I’ve never really hated anyone. Sure some people are annoying, some people are frustrating and some people just seem to delight at the thought of having a perfect stranger to punch them in the face. But after this weekend, I actually do have a little hate in my heart. This emotion is targeted toward the manufacturers of a certain diesel engine. My diesel engine. That’s right. I’m calling you out Mr. engine designer of the Universal Atomic 4; Model number 5416. I want you to get up and step outside. We have a few thing to discuss, and by discuss I mean, I’m going to knock you into next week. You deserve it after all. Please permit me to express my grievance prior to your pummeling

            Mr. Designer, how do you design an engine that is so utterly impossible to access and service by anyone with a skeleton? Why would you put on oil dipstick so close to a starter motor, which said starter, needs to be virtually removed just to check the oil level?  Why would you mount your oil filter directly behind and slightly underneath you own engine mounts, so that when the filter is removed (if it can be removed from such an extreme placement) there will undoubtedly be oil falling into the bilge? 

Somewhere down there is a dipstick. You can't see it. You may feel it. Taking off the alternator is the only way to pull it!
    
            ........In this instance, I find myself to be at a loss of witty and playful literary banter. Mainly because I don’t have much to say beyond what you could have already surmised were the results of the oil and filter changes, but also in light of the fact that I will have to repeat this process twice a year for a few years to come.  I was able to remove the oil, but not change the oil filter, nor the secondary fuel filter.  Thankfully, I added extra oil absorbent pads that trapped and absorbed any oil before it settled in the bilge.   It was impossible to get the engine filters off with the tools I had due to their placement and my lack of clearance. It will have to wait for the coming weekend.

          Well, that’s two half jobs completed. The oil was removed and the primary fuel filter was changed. I can’t really add any new oil, as the old filter is still on. This part is not really deserving of a congratulations. More like a “good effort.”  Want to know how to change your engine oil with a smile? Don’t change mine :-)

Boat work weekend - Part 1

(How to correctly change your raw water impeller)

            Life is filled with little joys. The joy of waking up to a bright, sunny morning. The joy of receiving that part/gadget/tool/toy you ordered arriving a few days early, and lets not forget, the joy of setting you boat on a specific heading and laying back on the high side with a rum in one have and a fishing line trolling off the stern. Yes, life is filled with may little thing to be happy and wonder about. Unfortunately, for me, I did not have any of those things this past weekend.  My last two days were filled with skin sheering sharp edges, hallucinogenic fumes, and feats of acrobatic contortions that would impress and concern a Cirque du Soleil performer.

            In other words, I was changing Soul’s fluids and filters. Now I don’t consider myself a noob with engines and vehicles. I have done most repairs and fluid changes on my previous cars and motorcycles. I was completely confident in my abilities to tackle a small diesel engine. I read all the material I could find online and watched every related video. On the way to the boat, I told myself, “Piece of cake; I got this.” I did get it (sort of), only, someone should have left the cake in the oven for a little while longer before I was took a bite.

            I had three jobs to complete in order to start the engine. I had to replace the raw water impeller; change the oil; and replace the oil and fuel filters. Furthermore, I wanted to complete those jobs in an efficient and neat manner which would allow me to pat myself on the back and gloat about my superior mechanical aptitude to my friends, family and you, my online reader. Instead, I left Soul on Sunday sore, bewildered and humbled. On the up side, my sailor’s vocabulary has increased dramatically. I’d share an example of the same, were it not for my concern that merely typing some of the words may cause our respective computer screens to explode.

            The first job I tackled was the raw water impeller. The procedure to replace it is relatively simple and benign. You just remove a few screws, pry off the retaining plate, check the impeller for a retaining clip, if one is present, remove it, and then remove the impeller being careful not to remove the shaft.  Afterward, you reinstall it in the reverse order.  As you can see the impeller was due for replacement.



            Now did you pay notice to the last part of the disassembly procedure? The part about being careful not to remove the shaft?  A few website make reference this same warning, but do not go on to explain, why there should be a need for caution. Worry not, for I will tell you my you should avoid removing the shaft based upon my first hand experience of unintentionally removing the same.

            You may have observed that the impeller had a keyed section where it fits on to the shaft. The new impeller can be difficult to replace as the fit is extremely tight and, in my case, impossible to view from any helpful angle. Some people will cover the new impeller in petroleum jelly (Vaseline) to make if fit easier. I chose not to since the petroleum jelly is not water-soluble and will slowly eat away at the silicon.  Well, if you do not take care to properly align the keyed portion of the impeller with the shaft, the impeller may become stuck upon said shaft. You will then be required to remove and re-align the impeller. At that point, the impeller will pull the shaft out with it, and engine oil will begin pouring down into your bilge.

            At this point you’re probably wondering, “What ever shall I do? My bilge is filling with oil and I’m staring at the shaft I inadvertently pulled out realizing that I should not have done so.” Here’s what you do. These required steps in managing this particular situation. You are allowed 2 seconds of confusion and blind panic as you come to the evident conclusion that you have just made a mess of things.

            Step 1.  You must locate the harshest, most colorful expletive floating in your mind (I prefer ones that begin with son-of-a-) and utter it toward the nearest available target. (This is important, as it shifts the blame away from you and toward the shaft, engine designer, the duck floating by outside).

            Step 2. Stick the shaft back in to stop the oil leak.

            Step 3. Wrestle a small bucket, bowl or large cup to keep any remaining oil from falling into your bilge.

            Intermission - Now with the oil leaking stopped take a moment to review what just transpired and to wash any cuts you received in steps 2 & 3. It’s now very important to look down into your bilge and assess how much oil fell you of the engine. Feel free to further flex your sailing vocabulary to compliment the twisting and flexing you body will have to do to see into your bilge.

            Step 4. Run out to your marine supply store and buy a few oil absorbent pads. Realize as they’re being rung up that they only costs about .75 cents, and that you still need to change you oil and filters. Ask the cashier to wait while you run to the back of the store to pick up double.

            Step 5. Back on your boat, throw half a bucket of water into your bilge, to get the oil to float on top and start put in enough pads to line your entire bilge.

            Step 6. Slowly, carefully, align the impeller onto the shaft. Bend down the spines and push the impeller into its housing.  Attach a new gasket to the cover plate and re-attach it using the screws you should not have lost.

            Finally, Stand back and congratulate yourself on a job done competently and professionally. Be certain to unequivocally deny and reject the existence of steps 1 through 5, and tell everyone the replacement went off without a hitch.

Congratulations!!!  The first of three tasks have been completed. Now, lets change the oil.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


The Pearson 300

      Life is full of twists and turns, opportunity and pitfalls. Ever since I began sailing I decided to throw most of my learned cautions and cynicism to the wind. It is the wind that carries a sailor forward, after all. About two months ago I came across an internet listing for a free boat in need of a little TLC. Now I already have a boat, which was also free, and was getting plenty TLC whenever the weather and travel time permitted for the 100 mile round trip. Dishearteningly, complications and delays stemming from the weather and distance turned that one-year refit into a three-year project. Resulting with my Bristol was sitting solid, sealed and safe on dry land. I doubted I would finish her repairs and refit for another year of two. So, I thought to myself “what the hell?” a phone call and a look can’t hurt....  It did. 

      Well, here it is!  Without any further ado, fanfare or literary exposition, I give you my Pearson 300.

      Yes I got another boat. I now what you’re thinking “How the (insert bewilderment/harsh expletive) did this guy find another free boat?”  Well, I’ll tell you. It’s one part luck, one part keeping an open mind while wearing rose colored glasses and two parts willing to take on a major project, while setting all other things aside, in the hopes of realizing the potential of an immensely positive probable outcome... In short, I’m a little crazy, BUT, I am they guy you want to bring on a road trip or if you're bored without any plans. I will spice things up, make you cough-out your lungs laughing, or make you crazy. In the end you’ll have undertaken the greatest adventure of your life. I guaranty it!!!

      Back to the boat, The Pearson 300 was built in very small numbers between 1969 and 1970. The rough estimate is between 100 - 150 hulls.  The 300 shares a hull with the Pearson Wanderer, as the same molds were used for both boats. Beyond the hulls, there are a few major design departures, as it seems Pearson was trying to appeal to a certain market.  The 300 has a large coach roof which creates a cavernous amount of interior space for a 30 foot sailboat, including a separate dinette to port and a long galley to starboard, forward of a full size day bed on the same side. Forward the dinette and opposite the galley is the ships head and shower separated by a large sliding door. Ultimately, v-berth, in a separate forward cabin, complete with drawers and a hanging locker are located in the forward part of the ship.  I was quite surprised by the space and headroom. I did find the following quote in SAIL magazine's Sailboat Directory (1969):

            “Pearson Yacht's latest entry in the auxiliary market, the Pearson 300 features power to spare, a commodious accommodation plan, private forward cabin, large toilet room and an elevated dinette for picture window visibility.”



        The Wandered has a somewhat sleeker exterior and interior arrangement.



      The Pearson 300 has slightly less sail area, with a modified boom and sail controls.  The previous excerpt SAIL magazine's quote continues:

            “Her rig has been brought completely inboard to enable two people to handle her comfortably. The 300 is ideal for offshore cruising or for those leaving power boating in favor of sail.”

      I will definitely revisit these claims as soon as I get the sails back. I sent them to my local sail loft to have them cleaned and reconditioned.  The other major design change between the 300 and the Wandered is the 300's lack of centerboard.  The 300 has a full keel drawing just over 3 ½ feet of water, whereas the Wandered can extend her draft down to 7 feet whereby lowering her ballast and center of gravity further down than the 300. Some say that this will make the 300 slightly tenderer than the Wanderer under sail.  That’s possible, but my experience of her motion in less that favorable weather has been very positive. Two weeks ago I was working on various small wiring and cleaning projects while the wind was blowing at around 20 knots with quite a bit of chop in the water. I was tied to pilings, but while my neighbors were bouncing and bobbing about, I only noticed the occasional roll. More over, one of my family members, who likes anonymity, and suffers from motion sickness, did not get ill and even commented on being surprised they barely felt the boat move. I can’t wait to get my ship sailing. Another two weeks of refit and repairs and she will be ready to sail.  

      This weekend, I am installing a new starter; create the new bed mattresses and seat cushions, replace the running rigging, install safety netting and begin my gear review. The following week, I’ll be installing a new alternator; shocks cleaning my water tanks, picking up my cleaned and refurbished sails and begin commissioning her for my command. Can’t wait!!!

      In case you’re wondering how come I have been calling my ship 300 and not by name, it’s because, for the time being, she doesn’t have one.  I performed a de-naming ceremony last week, and I want to be certain her prior name has been forgotten and stricken from the record of the sea. By the time all the repairs and refit are complete, another two weeks will have past. Plenty of time for my application to trickle down past the relevant authorities of the deep and customary red tape on it’s way to landing on Poseidon’s desk for approval.  Immediately thereafter, my Pearson 300 will be named Sailor’s Soul. The real adventure will then begin. 

      Along  writing about all my experiences, I will be posting pictures and videos. I hope you find the preceding to be informative, helpful and entertaining. I look forward to reading your comments and impressions.

Happy sailing and see you on the water!!!


Sunday, August 7, 2011

I'm Back!!!

     It has been some time since my last post.  I find that writing, along with most other forms of art and expression, requires a certain amount of inspiration.  It's unfortunate, but I seem to have felt uninspired this last year.  


     I can happily say, I'm back and ready to write!!!


     Let get re-acquainted and back up to speed.  I'm SailingwithSoul.  This is my blog. and I'm glad you're here taking the time to read my thoughts and ideas.   Shortly after my first post, I took possession of a 1977 Bristol 24 (name being changed to "Isis"). Since saving my little Bristol from the jaws of an industrial shredder, I have been making steady repairs and upgrades to her structure and interior.  I was disappointed when I concluded that I would not be able to put her in the water this summer because of a lack of lack of time and finances available for her repairs.  I came to realize a few months ago that my expectations of repairing the deck joint damage and refitting her for the coming sailing season were...... let be kind and say, unrealistic. Regardless, I still feel that all the time, effort and investment I am investing in her will pay off the moment the wind fills her sails. 


     Now, while not consistently working on my Bristol I haven't been sitting around idle.  Over the past few months, I have been preparing to take my USCG Six-Pack Captain's License.  I may not need the license to operate my boat, I have more that enough confidence and experience to single-hand ship's twice her size, I am playing a long game with my sailing life.  For now, that's all I'm going to say, but keep yourselves tuned to this blog.  I'll begin updating my  it more frequently with my thoughts, and reviews.


    Cheers & Happy Sailing!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Journey Begins with Simplicity!

I'll keep this, my first post, short, sweet and purposed. I'm going to simplify my life. Discard the unnecessary excesses we all accumulate. I'm going to find my sailboat and cruise around the world. As I discover, learn and experience, I will share it here with all of you.