Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Systems failure

With most of our marina friends out of town, it was our first weekend to spend some time with Gimme Shelter and start getting to know her.  We were much in need of a relaxing weekend, after stressing about buying the boat, and then immediately jumping into planning the boat warming party.  Of course every weekend it feels like we're in need of a relaxing weekend ... I mean that's why we keep coming back after all. 

We were stuck in the marina Friday night and Saturday because I had appointments to show the Seahorse to potential new seafaring adventurers all day. I didn't know what to expect because I'd only had her on craiglist since that Monday, and I was hoping some of the alleged interested parties actually showed up. Craigslist being craigslist, you just never know what you're going to get.

I was pleased to have a steady stream of lookers all day, and they were all very nice, but the only "offer" I got was from a family who had "come into some car wreck money" and offered to pay half in cash if I would finance the rest. I politely declined, but he called me back twice Saturday evening just to make sure I hadn't changed my mind.

To jump forward and end the story of the Seahorse before I get back to Gimme Shelter, I ended up with two real offers by Sunday night and another one Monday morning. By Monday night the papers were signed and the deal was done.  I was really cheering for the father and son team, but Fred decided to go for the guy buying his first boat.  It is easy to get excited for him, and I kind of hope he sticks around Marina Del Sol.  I hope the Seahorse and her new captain have many great adventures together. Hopefully we'll see her again out on the bay.

Friday night was quiet and kind of romantic. You know if a guy notices it was romantic it must have been SUPER romantic.  Mary flipped some burgers we had leftover from the boat party the previous weekend. (How great is it having a refrigerator on the boat to store food from weekend to weekend?!!!) Super great!!! :)!!1



We ate dinner in the cockpit before finally opening that bottle of champagne from the broker and toasting to "new beginnings."  We tried to time it with the sunset and had some minor success. 



We pulled out the couch in the salon, flipped on the television and were snuggling up watching Antiques Roadshow when the smell hit us for the first time. It was a completely overwhelming smell of sewage.  Not many people get to know that familiar feeling of asking your loved one, "Do you smell raw sewage?"

Our first hypothesis was that the sewage hoses just smelled much worse than we thought and that sliding out the couch somehow opened access to the bilge areas, letting the smell out. But it seemed to get worse. Then Mary went to the bathroom and found the toilet was filled with disgusting water.  Pee water was kind of the true theme of the weekend.  

I thought maybe it had siphoned in from the marina, so I shut off the raw water valve to the toilet. A few minutes later, the smell was back, the toilet was full again, and this time THERE WAS A FISH SWIMMING IN IT! He was kinda cute for a pee fish.  At this point I realized the holding tank had to be completely full to be backing up into the toilet. I also realized that it must have been full a very long time if there had been a fish that was obviously too large to fit through the inlet holes of the toilet to have grown up and be living in there.  It wasn't THAT large.  

I just assumed that someone selling a boat would have pumped it out before handing it off, but I guess not.  Pretty sure we didn't pump ours out either. I totally did!

The smell was overwhelming, but we couldn't get the pump-out cart from the office until 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. I really thought about retreating to the Seahorse for the night, but I had just washed the sheets and given it a final cleaning. I didn't want to dirty it all up again.

We opened all the windows, and I buried my face in the blankets and attempted to sleep. For some reason Fred's mind always goes to the most difficult solution, especially in the middle of the night.  He suggested going to get the pump out cart, and I suggested shutting the bathroom door and opening all other windows.  I am lazy.  I was very happy to get up and out of the boat when the alarm went off at 7 a.m. So was Tex.



I began to fill the coffee maker with water, but suddenly ... no water. The pressurized pump wasn't quitting, so I switched it off and went to get the hose.

I refilled the water tank and tried it again -- still nothing. I pulled the salon apart looking for the tank. Right beside the pressure pump I saw a T-valve, so I turned it. Voila, water!

It was at that moment I realized we had two water tanks. It was also at that moment I realized I really needed to spend some time getting to know the systems on Gimme Shelter.  Yes, there is so much we don't know about this boat, and at this point it might just end up as a learn as you go thing.  Its just so much more fun sailing it than it is mapping out the toilet tubes.  

As soon as the office opened I got the holding tank pumped out. The smell disappeared. The coffee brewed. Everything was back under control.

The rest of Saturday was spent talking Seahorse and motoring people back and forth in the lake although Mary and I did take a break for lunch at Chile's (the waitress told me I was pretty, which was awesome) and a walk through the Kemah Boater's Resale Shop, and the shop underneath.  They have a lot of cool boat paintings down there. Then we began the night in search of sushi but ended up at Signature Bistro on Nasa Parkway because after dealing with people from craigslist all day, the giant wine glass on the side of the building was calling to me as we drove by.  I wish this was a food blog, because that meal was worth writing about.  

I have to put in a good word for Signature Bistro. Despite the fact that we looked very, um, marina-ish, they welcomed us in, had great service, had excellent food and had live music. It made for a very romantic evening.

Saturday night some of our marina friends appeared on the dock, so we mixed a few rum and cokes and played guitars over on the Tina Marie.  Since our friends, the owners of the Tina Marie, were out of town we had a great time with their son, who was playing host. We didn't forget to send them teasing messages telling them how wild the party on their boat was.  

The weather Sunday was absolutely beautiful. The morning began with a return visitor to the Seahorse (who indeed turned out to be the future owner), so we took him for a ride across the lake and back. Then, once it looked like we were clear of sailboat shoppers, we fired up Gimme Shelter.

Despite the claim that her Universal Atomic Diesel 3-cylinder was completely rebuilt in 2008, she's incredibly hard to start when cold. It took almost three minutes of heating the glow plugs 30 seconds at a time before she came to life. Then once she did start, there was a noticeable amount of white smoke this weekend, especially when I revved her past 2000 rpm. The engine is yet another system that I need to tear apart and get to know before she fails us. Changing the oil, cleaning the heat exchanger, and replacing the impeller and pencil zincs are on my list of things to do next weekend because if the owner didn't even bother to pump out the holding tank before selling, I'm guessing he didn't bother with engine maintenance either.  I don't know what any of that means.  Except glow plugs...they're like little warmer things for a diesel version of a starter...I think that's kinda right. 

Even with calm water and high tide, I still backed her out of the slip the wrong way. However, this time I managed to keep backing her all the way down the dock and into the channel. I know there was at least one couple in a motor boat staring at us like we were crazy as I slowly reversed through the entire marina. Then I shifted into forward, and we were off!

The white smoke was worrying me, but we weren't overheating, and I was way too excited to turn back.

I stayed at the helm while Mary showed off her ASA 101 skills raising the main and unfurling the jib. Oh my gosh, the lines on this boat are soo much harder to work. I had to put my full body weight into working them and even then it was pretty slow. It was a lot of pulling as hard as I can, then cranking the winch, then pulling, repeat. Then we experienced that perfect moment of excellence you feel when you kill the motor and you're greeted with silence as the boat keeps moving along solely under the power of the wind. It was awesome!!!!



We practiced tacking back and forth across the bay with no destination in mind, soaking up the sun, and listening to a Prairie Home Companion through the fancy waterproof speakers in the cockpit.



I was in awe of the space both in the cockpit and walking along the deck when compared to the Seahorse. I can't imagine wanting a bigger boat, but Mary was still noticing all the sailboats bigger than Gimme Shelter on the way in and out. It's just so frustrating that I just spent my life's savings and people still have bigger boats than me!  At least we don't have the smallest boat, and to be fair it is more than enough space for us.  



The dogs also enjoyed the extra space to sprawl out and nap -- their favorite pastime when on the boat.  I think they were a little overly comfortable.  They were not afraid to walk around on the ledges, and they were making me pretty nervous.  I'll have to remember Tex's life vest next weekend. 




After a couple hours of just enjoying life, I crossed my fingers and started the motor back up. Mary dropped the sails, and we chugged back into Clear Lake puffing white smoke all the way.



The time had come to clean up and return to civilization for the week.

While I missed our friends, it was nice to spend a weekend alone with Mary and to finally get a chance to build our confidence sailing the boat.  I'm so happy we faced our fears. It seems so easy now that we've done it once. Fred forcing me to do all the lines really makes me feel a lot safer on the boat. There is something about not knowing that is so scary. Now that the Seahorse is gone, it's time to get down to work and start making repairs on Gimme Shelter, so we don't end up with any serious system failures while out on the water.