Well, those of you who've been following our progress on the rebuild of our schooner know that its been a long, long process. Here's a long-long story for you about a little "shake down" trip we did yesterday--and all the adventure it turned out to be.
We've been enjoying sunny So. Cal, but are getting itchy to move on. We've also felt really "confined" to San Diego bay since we always have too many projects going on and stacks of parts everywhere (cannot imagine going out into the Pacific with all that stuff free to slide around below deck and even some of it on deck).
We're quite familiar with the path from San Diego Bay around Point Loma to Mission Bay. As a matter of fact, we re-launched the boat at Driscoll Mission Bay in April and came around Point Loma to San Diego Bay after getting the masts stepped in early June. Big swells are the norm as the bottom goes from quite deep to just about 60' to 150' deep for a few miles off the Point. A huge kelp bed keeps boaters going from San Diego Bay to Mission Bay wary and normally in the channel several miles out to the southwest before turning west/north and finally east to get into Mission Bay.
We decided that we'd earned a few days rest from all our work on the boat and we'd decided that we'd go up to Mariners' Cove (Mission Bay) for a few days of peaceful anchoring. We're still motoring around since we don't have yet everything in place to use our sails. In prep for the big swells, I'd spent several hours for several days with oversized cup-hooks, marlin, and netting, reorganizing and making fast all our various boat "parts" that are yet to be installed. In additon to all the duffle bags of tools and parts that are sitting above and tied into the bilge stringer, boxes and boxes of stuff began to tidily line the high open wire shelves which are hanging from the shelf and clamp all along the boat's open interior. New net hammocks now hang from several bulkheads--containing every bit of our supplies, tools, and stores. The few lockers (which we have already built in) I stuffed with plastic bins containing paints, lubricants, solvents and all the stuff that we don't want leaking into the bilge.
I tired of my task and ran out of creative ways to secure things (and yet have them still handy for our projects) and left some large plastic bins of things sitting on the sole--knowing that they'd move around but be unlikely to spill their contents. Other little things--the plastic bottles of laundry detergent, bleach, vinegar, dish soap and the like were also left to their own sea keeping abilities on the floor of the head. Likewise, duffle bags of diving gear, clothing, and sails were left in a pile along the starboard hull in the stateroom and several 1 gallon to 6 gallon water jugs were left on the main saloon sole.
We do our work (computer related) on the boat so have a desktop, a small form factor (SFF) and a notebook along with three monitors on a "temporary" table bolted midships. Right before taking off for our trip to Mission Bay yesterday am, I unplugged everything and jammed most of it between other bins that we keep stored on a former bunk that has become a storage area. I then went around the boat and collected odd-ball items (a few rolls of charts, walking sticks, old chainplates, pipe clamps, rolls of sunbrella all the "long stuff" that doesn't fit anywhere...) and placed them on top the berths figuring they wouldn't go far given our past experiences storing things on bunks and sailing other boats through the big swells that can exist off Point Loma.
We have a wide, shallow, bilge; and being a wood boat there's always about 2" of water in the deepest part of it. About half our boat doesn't have a ceiling--rather we can see the hull and framing along those unfinished areas--thus when rolling, bilge water can make it quite high up the sides of the boat and onto things left in those areas. The only way to get rid of the last bit of water is to install a small, remote non-submerged de-watering pump to use in conjunction with the bilge pumps. We haven't yet done this.
I'm the "stasher" and hubby likes to leave thing all over the place (where he can see them he says...where they're most convenient I say). I tire of this, so as I went about my morning putting away my stuff while he was (in theory) putting away his stuff, I strategically ignored the fact that he wasn't getting enough things properly stowed. While I went behind him and stashed valuable things that we'd be sorry to have damaged, I did NOT put away some things that were his and that I figured would go flying or be damaged by bilge water in transit and would require him to spend a good deal of time picking up and cleaning up after our trip---I figured sometimes the best way to get someone to do something properly is to let them see what happens when they don't take care of things. As we split up tasks to complete before our departure, I'd asked David to secure a couple heavy bins on the foredeck; as I was finishing filling up the freshwater tanks and taking the hose back to the dock, I'd noticed that he hadn't secured them nor the extra anchors nor the spars laying on foredeck. It took all my restraint not to sharply tell him to tie things down or to simply do it myself as I had so many times in the past on other boats and other trips with David. I didn't do either. Rather, I bit my lip, calculated the cost of replacing those items and thanked God for the nice bulwarks that surround the foredeck and would be likely to keep anything from tumbling overboard. So many times, when I'd taken the time to secure everything by myself, we'd end up starting a trip an hour or more late and I would be cross because of the "alone" effort to prepare things and hubby would be cross because he did not see the "need" to secure things as I did and didn't like to wait for me to finish my work and usually didn't think much of the techniques I'd used to achieve my goals. I knew things would move around in the swell and figured hubby would be stuck with the uncomfortable task of securing things on the foredeck while underway. I didn't like the idea, but again thought that the experience might cure David of leaving things unsecured.
I thought this little venture over to Mission Bay (about 20 nautical miles) to be a nice little "shake down" jaunt that would alert us to problems in how we're storing things aboard the boat. Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, I checked the weather forecasts--in the morning I kept the VHF tuned to the weather--nothing unusual expected--winds 10-15 knots and crossing swells 1ft and 2-4 ft. Pretty normal for the Pacific near San Diego. Albeit, when the whole area has 2-4 ft swells that means the shallows off Point Loma will have anything from 6 to 12 ft swells--but still, no notice to mariners, nothing about unusual weather in the area. Winds were coming off the land, no big fetch...a nice day it should be.
As soon as we got close to Ballast Point, we could see larger than normal breaking waves along Point Loma. A surfer's delight. We could also see what I call "the ruffles" which are "almost" breaking waves further out to sea. When on a day sail, I'm usually thrilled to see this--it means a more fun and wet ride, when motoring into it...not so much fun. I asked David if he wouldn't prefer to wait a day or two for our R&R--he said, no, he didn't think it looked too bad. Of course, he wasn't even thinking what I was: "oh, no, all that stuff on the foredeck! it needs to be secured!"
I had work to do on the computer, so as I asked David to keep an eye on the stuff on deck while I sent an email and finished up my stuff on the notebook before we'd have no cel signal. As I went below, I was kicking myself for not just doing all the deck securement myself. Five minutes later, as we exited the sheltering lee of Point Loma, I knew I'd made a really big mistake in not securing things on deck AND all the sundries that I'd left on the cabin sole to wander as they pleased. David was following the channel to avoid the kelp, lobster pots, and fishing float detritus that is mixed in with the kelp and the swells were almost beam-on and we were rolling alarmingly. I hit the "hibernate" button on the notebook computer, jammed it into a bin and then watched every little thing David had left on the table slide off onto the cabin sole with a crash, I didn't have time to worry about it because I was frantically stashing and jamming bins and bags. The bilge water was sloshing its way alarmingly high up the open hull and I watched with some fascination as the water hit the bilge stringer (halfway up the wall) and splashed back down into the bilge and onto everything on the sole in front of that area of bilge. After a few minutes of making sure no real disasters would come of this...and patting myself on the back for the fine job that all blocking, bracing, and netting were doing in keeping huge stacks of thing neatly secured to the cabin walls and bulkheads, I went up to the cockpit to see how things were outside.
Oh, my! Roll, roll, roll. As I clawed my way out the companionway feeling like I was lucky to exit the boat without injury, David was grinning ear-to-ear, standing on top the steering gearbox, holding onto the boom (as it sat in the gallows) and nudging the wheel to trim...with his foot. He said "Isn't this great having a worm gear steering?" and "how was it below with all the rolling?" Rather than answer, I asked him how the gear on deck was doing. He looked forward and stopped grinning. He immediately turned towards the kelp and the onslaught of waves (which reduced the roll) and said "take the helm!" and made his way forward to rescue a bin sliding all over mid-deck and to secure all those things which were dangerously close to tumbling overboard in the rolling seas. Well, now they were bucking seas, not rolling as we were headed straight into them. As David worked frantically to secure things, I called out "big wave" as we were about to go into or crest a swell that would impact his work. As I saw the 120# and 95# anchors lift off the deck and resettle nearer to where David worked, I promised myself that I'd never again leave something undone to avoid a disagreement or to let the unsafe condition "prove" that I was right.
When David returned to the cockpit, we continued on through the kelp bed avoiding debris and heading towards Mission Bay. We listened on the handheld VHF for weather warnings--nothing. We were seeing a steady 20+ knots with gusts over 30 knots. We were less than 5 miles out and while standing on the steering housing with eye level 12 ft above waterline, we were seeing swells of 10 ft minimum (20 ft trough to peak) and the VHF weather was still stating sea state 1 ft crossing 2-4 ft and 10 to 15 knots wind.
As we continued motoring on our "shake down" we learned that our prop wash--at full power--has quite a shudder effect on the rudder (especially when turning the rudder blade to the left--turning to the right). We'd not really pushed the engine before this...with only a little over 20 hours on it we didn't want to run full throttle but felt we should to get out of the worsening conditions quickly.)
The engine has a two foot section of dry exhaust which is wrapped with a dry high temperature material (Lava-something...) and we'd been told that it would smoke upon use at first. It hadn't smoked in the first 20 hours, but on this trip, with more load on the engine, we could detect something burning and smoke in the cabin (open to the engine compartment on one side). David shifted into neutral and ran below to see if he could ascertain if there was something "really" burning or if it was simply the Lava wrap finally doing its thing. Without power, without sails, we had about 30 seconds before the boat was turning broadside to the waves. As I tapped my foot and called down to him "is it ok?" we drifted towards a bundle of fish line/floats and kelp and I couldn't take the suspense any longer--I put it back in gear and turned away from the line of debris just as he was coming up the companionway saying things were fine but smoky.
After I passed the helm to David, I decided to go below and check on the cat. A big Maine Coon that doesn't like bumpy rides. When I was below earlier, he'd retreated to his litter box which is his common behavior when seas are rough. I went below and found him hugging the galley sole but otherwise looking fairly content.
I noted the bilge water was splashing up the hull midships higher than before and checking the bilge noted that there was definitely more water than before. I went forward to check on the stateroom, scuttle room and anchor locker since beating into these seas would be a good test of the newly planked seams. I expected to find weeping somewhere. But, rather, I quickly discovered where "extra" water might be coming from--one of our portlights, though dogged down tight with its very effective cam-action ring was leaking profusely each time it was splashed or went underwater. It was during this "shake down" that we learned that the three most forward portlights can be expected to spend most of their time underwater when sailing or in rough seas. This portlight is adjacent our bed so with each dip into a wave, pillows, the mattress and bedding as well as anything stored under the compartment at the head of the bed were getting drenched. Luckily, there is no ceiling in the area 1ft below the portlight so much of the water was actually spilling into that slot and going behind the lower ceiling and directly to the bilge rather than into the bed. I keep a rubber mallet for pounding the cam lever open and closed on these portlights and as I went to retrieve it from the charthouse, I wondered how it could be that this port was locked in a partially open position without our knowledge of it. As I made it through the galley, I saw bins on the floor had re-arranged themselves and the cat had relocated to a folding chair adjacent the main saloon and looked pretty happy to be out of the way of marauding bins. I pounded and pounded on the portlight handle but could not get it to budge open or closed. While pounding, I noted that the portlight at the foot of the bed was underwater most of the time and leaking a small bit but nothing like the gush coming thru the one at the head of the bed.
Giving up on the portlight--and figuring I'd get David to try to pound it closed--I pulled everything stored on the bed into a pile in the middle of the bed and on top of a pile of duffel bags that lay on the stateroom floor. I pulled back the bedding but had to leave the (latex foam) full size mattress in place as it is all one piece and I would not be able to store it anywhere more dry anyway. Did I mention the water coming down the foremast from the foredeck? I'd recently installed the new mastboot on the main mast but the foremast boot was cut out and sitting below in my project bin--a nice little project for while we sat at anchor in Mariners' Cove.
I made my way back, again, to the charthouse and the cockpit. As I came outside, I notice that my shiny clean varnishwork on caprails, combings, etc, was salt crystal encrusted and the charthouse windows were caked solid white as if we'd been voyaging for days--not the measly two hours we'd been at it--and everything glistened prettily in the sunshine, all salty. I told David about the portlight and he made his way below to pound on it. As I stood at the helm and watched the beautiful ocean, I wished that we were sailing--this is the weather our boat was made for! A single, gaff-rigged ketch sailed not-to-far away. They were double reefed and heeled over and I could tell that they were having great fun.
I listened to the handheld VHF as I checked the engine temperature in the charthouse console that I could see through the glass at the back of the cabin--at full throttle we weren't making good time at all but at least the engine was cool. Then, the USCG was reporting a missing sailboat north about 5 miles and a capsized boat about 10 miles north. The weather, of course, was still reporting mild conditions that didn't look anything like what we were seeing. David came back to the cockpit without success on the portlight either. It was jammed but good. He'd evaluated the same conditions that I had--most the water was going straight to the bilge and I'd moved everything out of harms way so didn't feel the need to stuff putty or cotton caulking around it.
I went back into the chart house to get out of the wind and salt. My jacket and pants glistened with dried on salt much as the rest of the boat did. I thought--too bad we don't have the autopilot hooked up yet, because we could have steered from within the warm chart house. David continued steering with his feet, unconsciously grinning and I watched the lovely ocean from inside--and noted that though we were certainly moving, we were only making about 2 knots real speed over land.
At the rate we were moving, we'd be another 4 hours before getting into Mission Bay. Even though we were motoring, we'd have to "tack" our way in a quartering fashion to keep from being broadside to the waves and rolling uncomfortably far. In about an hour, David stuck his head into the chart house and asked if I'd like to turn around--I immediately said "YES!" and went outside to watch the beginning of the run we would make with the wind and sea. Oh, how lovely! Suddenly rather than a hard pressed 2 knots we were surfing along at (according the the hand-held GPS) 12 knots with much reduced throttle. Considering that we only have a 10 knot theoretical hull speed, that was really quite something.
In all the big swells, we weren't really plunging into the waves--however David's criteria for turning around had been if the bowsprit completely buried into a wave; he figured the next thing would have been green water on the foredeck and we weren't prepared for that at all. First, there was too much "stuff" on the foredeck, and second, we only had the foredeck scuppers--we have not cut out the large freeing ports thru the bulwarks needed to really drain water quickly.
We came back to the San Diego channel and into the harbor, "tacking" to keep a quartering position and not be forced to be broadside to the waves. We didn't have an anchoring permit (and they can't be gotten the same day as needed) and really didn't want to call for a slip, so we went to our favorite sheltered "unofficial" place to anchor in the bay (where the harbor police won't bother with you) and dropped the hook.
Then, we dragged the latex foam mattress out into the sunshine and wind (thank goodness for latex! foam rather than regular foam which would have likely been ruined!), tied it up between a boat hook and the running backstays and the sheet winch to have the wet half of it cleaned with freshwater and dried in the wind. We washed down the hull where saltwater had splashed up from the bilge and we picked up and cleaned up...and picked up and cleaned up...for a couple hours. With the little Honda generator on this morning, I did 5 loads of laundry and hung lines all through the boat with sheets and towels and clothing now drying and a fan on the latex foam pillows and mattress that we haven't put back on the bed. We slept in another bed last night, clean and dry, a bed that we've not slept in...under the charthouse seating area.
Yesterday afternoon as we were pulling the mattress out on deck, the USCG finally announced a notice to mariners--small craft advisory until 11 pm last evening. Duh...two sailboats missing or capsized in late morning, one power boat on the rocks at the entrance to Mission Bay yesterday afternoon...
We learned quite a few things about the boat in our little "shake down" cruise. We have a laundry list of things to fix before leaving the bay and things to do differently on our next shake down. I was happy--actually thrilled--by the performance of my nets and bins considering the sheer volume of things I have secured with them alone. I was happy that of the six forward portlights which were underwater only two leaked--the faulty one which David has now opened and lubed as well as the one at the foot of the bed which leaked just a tiny bit. We were happy with the engine performance but not the prop-wash and rudder interaction at high load. In addition to the foremast leaking with no boot, the mainmast boot leaked a bit. I need to fix that. David needs to cut those freeing ports, too. We were thrilled with the overall performance of the boat--and I was very happy to have what turned out to be a "benign" dumping of David's stuff on the sole and only a few of his things got wet by the bilge water. David was apologetic about his past refusals to help stow and secure things properly and we agreed that we would secure things to my standard (not his) in the future. Finally, even though we can't raise every sail, there was no reason, other than we haven't used the sails yet, that we couldn't have put the staysail up or a stormsail on the mainmast--either of which would have helped us underway.
We're not getting our R&R yet--David is making pinrails and I'm re-sealing the charthouse glazings.