Monthly Archives: May 2014

Offshore trip to the Flower Gardens

After a great weekend with TMCA at Moody Gardens, we set off for the Galveston Jetties. The plan was to complete the trip we had tried two years before, namely to sail out to Stetson Bank in the Flower Gardens. Once there, the plan was to practice tying off to a mooring buoy (which will be a necessary skill in the Caribbean!) and maybe do a little fishing. Then, we would head to Port Arthur and from there back home.

Before leaving, we made use of the Moody Gardens business center to get the NOAA weather forecast for the 20-60 mile range and farther out, which was for 2-4ft seas, with winds 10kt to 15kt for the whole time we were planning to be out. So armed with the GPS co-ordinates for the Stetson Bank mooring buoys, off we went.

As promised, the weather was great in the 20-60 mile range, despite the radio reports of the flash-flooding happening back on shore. Once we left the jetties, we were sailing along comfortably at 5.5kts. The only downside was that the skies were very cloudy, so our solar panels weren’t recharging the batteries. We kept an eye on the voltage so we could turn the motor back on when necessary to help the batteries recharge.

On a couple of recent day trips, we had noticed that, when on port tack, a little water was appearing on the floor in the forward cabin and the salon. We hadn’t been able to discover where this was coming from and it didn’t seem to be much. However, we were on port tack for a prolonged length of time on this trip and a considerable amount of water was appearing. Annoying, but not enough to worry about at this point.

We enjoyed a great day and night of sailing, with 3 hr shifts each. The clouds even cleared enough to see the stars that we miss out on when close to the shore. It was beautiful. We had 12kt-15kt winds, so we had our full 120% genoa and the full main out.

At around 10am, we heard a coastguard alert that there was a line of thunderstorms headed in our direction. They were right! At about 10:01am, before we had a chance to react to the alert, we were hit by a 40kt wind, rain, thunder and lightning! Thank goodness for tethers! We had the top guardrail in the water as Sol Purpose broached.

Sol Purpose

Squall!

Moray immediately started instructing me on exactly what needed to be done, as this was the first time I have experienced this. We got the genoa and main furled in about 3 minutes and got the boat under control, much to the relief of captain and crew, and probably the tanker that was about 1 mile away when this started. Go figure – the only boat we saw on the whole way out and it was then! We tried putting a little amount of stormsail and the tiniest bit of main so that we could turn around, but Sol Purpose and the weather had other ideas. So we rode with the storm for a couple of hours, until the winds died enough for us to turn around.

Once again, we were so close to Stetson Bank we could cry, but with the genoa having most of the sunbrella flapping, and the amount of water that was now inside the boat, we decided the best thing was to head for home and inspect to see what damage, if any, we had incurred, and to figure out the water ingress problem.

Of course, the jouney home was under clear, sunny skies with no wind at all, so we had to motor all the way. We put out a trolling line, but only managed to catch several pounds of seaweed. I must find a recipe for lava bread! Seems a shame to waste such a healthy resource!

At 4:30am on Wednesday, we turned into the Boardwalk, tired, but dry and ready to be home. The heavens, it seems, had once last laugh. They opened and the thunder and lightning started. By the time we docked at 5am, we were once again wet through!

By the time we woke up on Wednesday afternoon, the sun was out and things didn’t look so bad. Moray had a bright idea about the leak, tested it and appears to be right. The sink in the forward head has a bowl underneath that was held on, originally by a metal bolt. The bolt has over its 20 year life, rusted away, so it wasn’t holding any water, instead letting it leak into the boat. A quick replacement and we think that problem has been fixed. The next sailing trip should confirm that.

After 5 loads of laundry to clean all the water-soaked clothes and towels, and a clean-up of the damp floor, Sol Purpose is once again shipshape and ready to go.

So we may not have achieved our original goal, but we have had a great experience. We fixed some issues with the boat, we learned what she can do and most important, we learned that we can handle unexpected, even dangerous, situations. The Flower Gardens are still there, so we can try again another time!

Sol Purpose

Haul out for bottom job and thru hulls

It has been three years since the boat had its last bottom job and I had a problem with the height of the bottom job anyway.  With full water, diesel and holding tanks the waterline was above the bottom job and so there was a heavy later of algae/barnacles forming.  I decided to have the bottom job raised by 8 inches to give myself some breathing room as we would have considerably more “stuff” on the boat when we set off due to provisioning and moving all essentials from storage.  This meant that I had to sacrifice the boot stripe but that was a small trade off and didn’t bother me enough that I felt the need to have the boot stripe redone.

Whilst the boat was out of the water I also wanted to get a project done that has been nagging me for a couple of years… replace all the below the waterline thru hulls.  There was nothing obviously wrong with them apart from the fact that, like 95% of all boats today, they did not meet ABYC standards.  Almost all thru hulls consist of a parallel threaded thru hull with a tapered ball valve attached directly to it.  This means that only one or two threads are ever used to hold the ball valve in place.  ABYC H-27 standard states that “A seacock shall be securely mounted so that the assembly will withstand a 500 pound (227 Kg) static force applied for 30 seconds to the inboard end of the assembly, without the assembly failing to stop the ingress of water”.  For more details on this specification and a test showing that a brand new parallel thru hull to taper ball valve installation fails this test see this site http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/seacock_failure_testing

As our boat is 20 years old I felt pretty confident that our current condition was far worse.  The thought of something heavy shifting in a bad sea and shearing off a thru hull made the decision to replace them all with proper backing flanges bolted to the hull an easy one, just not a cheap one 🙂

I could wax lyrical about the whole project but it would essentially be pure plagiarism.  I followed the excellent instructions available at the Compass Marine how to website, specifically this link…

http://www.pbase.com/mainecruising/backing_blocks

I cannot praise this website enough for the extensive project list and excellent instructions given.  Suffice to say that with their guidance I was able to replace 4 x 1.5″ and 2 x 0.75″ thru hulls in two days of work.  This included removal of the old thru hulls and backing plates (they were thin and held on with sealant) as well as all surface preparation, dry fitting, epoxying, sealing and clean up.

The new backing plates were made of 0.5″ G-10 which is an absolute bear to work with.  The link above does not exaggerate at all.  I was unable to use a hole saw for cutting out the plates from the sheet as the work required of the drill for a 6″ disk was just to much, and this was with a drill press.  I ended up using a jig saw and several blades and only used the drill press for the inner hole to take the thru hull.  It took me one and a half days just to cut out the backing plates, drill their central hole and tap and thread the holes necessary for the mounting bolts.  Naturally I did all that work before the boat was hauled.

Below are a couple of pictures of some of the stages of the project.