Boat Journal

Chronicling a love affair with sailing

Category: Company

And for this year’s parade…..

My favorite saying, that I made up, is that you can always have a good time, or a good story. Every Lighted Boat Parade that we have been in has been both. One year, I thought the lights could run off the batteries. Well, a few of them can. Not many. So we had few lights that year. There’s been the endless problems with generators. One year, I rented one and it worked out great. I could never find that size to rent again – they were always too big to use. There was the year I finally bought a generator, and it worked that year. But it had to be replaced the following year because it failed to work. That’s what I get for buying a cheap Harbor Freight generator, I guess. There were lights that wouldn’t light. Fog. Leaving late. If it could happen, it has.

This year, I put the lights up a week ahead of time so there would be no last minute rush. We got to the parade on time. We couldn’t go down Sara’s Creek, because I wasn’t sure where the channel was and I was seeing the depth keep getting lower. But we made it through the rest of the parade ok. At the end, the battery monitor still showed 57%, so I figured we had plenty to make it home.

Not so. We started home, and the boat kept slowing down. I pushed the throttle forward, and nothing. I finally plugged our destination into the GPS and it showed that it would take an hour to get not that far down the river.

So I called SeaTow. Doug, the marina owner, came on the radio and said he could help us out. SeaTow said they’d stand by. SeaTow, I guess, was furious. They called the boat captain that came to our rescue and chewed him out. He figured that he’d lost out on a tow. I found out that it was TowBoat I was supposed to call, not SeaTow. Those were the folks I had the insurance with through BoatUS. If SeaTow had come, I’d have been out several hundred dollars.

When we got to the marina, Jessica, the marina owner’s neice who sails with us, came by to invite us up to the ‘big house’ for food and drinks. I figured we’d eat what we had on the boat, then go socialize. So I poured the alcohol into the stove and lit it.

Well, I couldn’t see the alcohol going in and I apparently spilled more on the sides than I got into the receptacle. It caused quite a blaze. Not dangerous. But enough to melt parts on the stove. So I put it out with the fire extinguisher, which put powder all over the boat. Needless to say, we headed up for the other party, rather than stick around.

The party was great! Good people. Good food. Good conversation. Good drinks. Good music. We had a wonderful time.

So, a good time and a good story!

Line Back

After last time’s unsuccessful attempt by a Sea Scout to get the jib halyard back on the mast, their Scoutmaster, Mike, offered to do it for me. So, the following weekend, we met and he donned the climbing harness that Liza had used the week before.

I had been concerned about being able to get Mike, or any full-grown adult up the mast, since I don’t have alot of upper body strength and I figured that alot of the physical part of overcoming gravity would need to be done by me and the winch trying to raise Mike on the main halyard. Mike assured me, however, that he could shimmy up the mast to help in the effort.

Well, it didn’t quite work that way. Apparently, my mast was too slick for him to climb. So, like with Liza, he climbed onto the boom so I could get enough slack to get the line through the catch block we had set up and onto the winch to turn it to lift him up.

Mike atop the mast

Mike atop the mast

The job turned out to be much simpler than I thought it would be. Gotta love Newtonian physics in action! There was enough mechanical help from our setup that I had no trouble turning the winch and lifting him up. Mind you, it took alot of turns to get him up – it was a slow job. But it was fairly painless from my perspective.

Not so Mike. He got as far as the shrouds and asked me to stop. I assumed he was tired and needed a break. Luckily, the line was through a clutch, and on my self-tailing winch, so I didn’t have to hold it while he rested. It also made it easier on the climb up because I didn’t have to worry about losing ground.

Once Mike reached the top, it was a quick job to get the line in place. He had pulled the core out of the line and woven the ends back to make a loop that was narrower than the line itself. He then attached a string, and attached the straightened coat hanger to the string. The whole thing went in and he was ready to be lowered in no time.

Lowering Mike down, with that setup, was no problem either. I wrapped the line around a nearby cleat, to give me some leverage, lifted the clutch, pulled the line out of the self-tailer, and started lowering him. Again, it proved to be much easier than I expected.

When Mike got down, he said he’d gotten dizzy when he was up there, which surprised him. That had never happened before. He did take some time to lower his head and get back his equilibrium before pronouncing that this was the last mast he was likely to climb; he was going to leave it to the Sea Scouts from now on.

Mike, after his rest

Mike, after his rest


Lighted Boat Parade

Lighted boat parades are an adventure. I keep reminding my friend of this. They will be guaranteed to have a story. The first year we did it, I had a terrible time judging the distance between me and the other boats. In fact, at one point, I got call on the VHF radio from the guy in charge asking if we were still part of the parade. The second year, I went to rent a generator for running the lights and they only had large (I thought) ones. I went to the boat, discussed it with a few folks, and we decided we could run the lights with an inverter connected to the house batteries (no, not going to run them on the engine batteries!). We tested it and it seemed to do ok. But the parade came, and we had no lights. There wasn’t enough power so we were sailing dark. We did have glow sticks, and the lights at the very front worked. In addition, I decided to head up Sarah’s Creek. I didn’t see the marker and ran right into it. Stopped the boat cold. One of my passengers somehow fell against a heater I had in the vberth and hurt his back.

Then there was this past year, our third.

I didn’t want to have the generator problem again. I had bought a generator during the summer as a backup when we headed down for Cock Island. Erik and I checked it and couldn’t start it. I had purchased the protection plan. So we went to Harbor Freight and exchanged it. Generator? Check!

This year’s issue? The cheap bottom paint I bought last year.

As I’ve discussed elsewhere, I had barnacle problems this year. On top of that, I used cheap bottom paint for the first time. That was a big mistake! What I didn’t talk about in the barnacle article was the fact that the boat was so covered with slime that I had to have it power washed, which I wasn’t planning on. Then, in September (4 months later), it was covered with slime again.

Well, I guess I should have pulled it out and power washed the bottom and cleaned the prop again, because the boat barely moved. We couldn’t be in the parade because we couldn’t reach the parade. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the boat going fast enough to catch up to the parade. <sigh!>

So we played on the water, trying to head to Yorktown Beach. But, after singing our carols and enjoying some hot buttered rum, we headed back.

We still enjoyed each other’s company. But next year’s checklist:

  • Generator? Check!
  • Bottom cleaned? Check!
  • Prop cleaned? Check!

Oh, and there was one other issue. I ran lights up the mast, but didn’t do it too smartly. I ended up with the ‘wrong’ ends down below and couldn’t light the lights. Paul, my resident electrician, had to restring some of the lights so we could get them all going.

After all, we had a generator. We should at least have the lights! 🙂

2013 Lighted Boat Parade

2013 Lighted Boat Parade


Too Close for Comfort

My boat is parked across from the Coast Guard Training Station, and down the river from the Naval Weapons Depot. So I don’t have to head all the way into Hampton Roads to find restricted water. One night, heading back after a race, we heard a navy boat hail a fishing boat. It seemed to take awhile for them to reach the boat. They navy personnel informed the fishing boat that it was within restricted waters and needed to turn around. The boat said it was trying to get to the Coleman Bridge. The navy boat told them that they weren’t allowed to sail in that area and that they had to turn around. The fishing boat kept going. Next we hear, the fisherman is screaming about the fact he’s been fired upon. The naval vessel said that it was a warning shot across the bow, but that the next would be ‘with deadly force’, or some other phrase right out of late night television. Apparently, the fishing boat decided to turn around.

Next part of the broadcast we hear the vessel informing someone how many 50mm rounds they had fired.

Now, this was, at most, a mile from where we were. If they’d been shooting something that big, we’d have heard it, I would guess. We never heard anything. So was it just an exercise? Probably so, especially since we were still tuned to ch 72 after the race; we hadn’t switched back to ch 16, the hailing channel. But we were sure holding our breaths while we were listening!


Perfect Teamwork

One of the best ways to quickly improve yourself as a sailor is to race. You commit yourself to a schedule, you learn alot about your boat and how to make it move well. You learn to coordinate the movements of a number of different people to achieve your goal.

Readers of this blog have seen the trials and tribulations my crew and I have gone through when trying to learn those lessons.  But today, they paid off. No, we still came in last (although I am anxious to see our corrected time).  But we worked like clockwork today, which made for a very satisfying run.

We pulled the boat out of the docks and headed to the channel.  Just as soon as we reached it, we had someone come beside us asking if they could pass us.  We said of course, and moved starboard to let them pass.  Well, of course we got stuck.  Leave it to me to get stuck in that channel, close to high tide, with the tide being higher than usual. But we backed up, turned around, and we on our way.

It was cold out there today. Air temperature was in the upper 50’s.  But the wind chill made it seem like it was in the 40’s.  We had all dressed fairly warmly in anticipation.  But we all donned windbreakers with a bit of padding to help.

We motored to the buoy this time.  I didn’t want to have our usual problem of getting to what we thought was close, killing the engine, then not making it to the starting line on time. We then raised the mainsail, unfurled the jib, killed the engine and heading towards the starting line. I think the race was started early – I need to check my emails about that – but we stated within about 5 – 10 minutes of everyone else.  For us, who usually start about 1/2 an hour late, that was fantastic.

The winds were perfect, putting us between a beam reach and a close haul the entire time. And even better, we were on mark by doing so.  Usually, the winds are shifting and we’re having to turn back frequently, or tack frequently, to get to the mark itself.  Today, each time, we headed almost straight between the marks.

We worked perfectly as a team.  I kept on track, Paul and Grant, my crew, worked smoothly to get the sails moved. It was almost poetic.

We crossed the finish line about 20 – 25 minutes behind the last boat in the larger pack which, again, was good for us.  We’ve come an hour behind or, in extreme circumstances, just given up after the first leg and cruised for a bit before going in.

I think today, the only thing I could have asked for was a bit warmer weather.  Other than that, it was perfect!