Sunday, January 12, 2014

I've got gas

Diesel, that is. I mean, we've always had it, we just had no idea how much.

When we purchased Gimme Shelter, the fuel gauge showed 3/4 of a tank. After a trip to Galveston, it still showed 3/4 of a tank. We'd add five gallons of diesel, 3/4 of a tank. 

I finally crawled down in the lazarette and ground the positive cable on the fuel level sender. Hey, guess what? The fuel gauge moved. I immediately put a new fuel level sender unit on my Christmas list.

Thanks to my parents, one showed up in my stocking, and we finally set aside a work weekend.

Swapping a sending unit is a piece of cake. It's five screws and two wires. The hard part is getting to the tank. Luckily our rusted out hot water heater had been removed before we bought the boat creating easy access, which I don't think the previous owner ever had.

The old sender had some serious nastiness on the float, and it was almost too swollen to get it out of the tank.

When we turned the key, the gauge no longer showed 3/4 full. In fact, it showed less than 1/4. We then poured in a few gallons of diesel out of a jerry can just to make sure it would move. We turned the key back on, and sure enough ...

It felt good to tick a repair off our list. 

But then I took apart the refrigerator lid. It was rotting and growing fuzzy mold. I decided there was no salvaging it, so I had to bring it home to measure and build a new one this week.  There was just no way we could put something that was already molding back into the boat.  

We also thought we had found a newer more modern mid-ship hatch at the Boater's Resale shop, but after measuring about six times we decided it was just a little too small for the cutout, so we resolved ourselves to ordering more acrylic and Dow Corning 791 to attempt lens replacement for the third time and finally stop our leaking. After repairing the hatch twice already and still having leaks, I just can't take any chances that this time will not fix it.  

Then we tried to talk ourselves into buying a 16,500 BTU marine air conditioner, but after even more measuring and calculations, we decided that a unit that big pulling 20 amps might trip the breakers in Gimme Shelter if we were running the AC and any other electric device at the same time.  Not to mention that it wouldn't fit anywhere except in the closet. Even though our closet is not usable right now anyway, I had hoped to use it in the future. Especially when we have so much room under the settees.  

THEN I took the alcohol stove apart to survey the galley and decide if we really wanted to install the propane oven or not. There's enough space, but still no decision on whether it's worth it.  I'm so scared to cut up my kitchen! 

The to-do list and opportunities to spend money never end. However, as my dog was standing on my chest insisting on going outside at 4:30 a.m., I stepped outside and was reminded why we mess around with boats.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Our First Race

We were lucky enough to be invited to race in the first icicle series race of 2014 this week. At first Fred planned to go alone, not knowing how much space there would be for crew.  After a little bit of pouting from me though Freddie secured me a spot on deck. I knew going into the race that this was going to be pretty scary for me. Going quickly around other boats while heeling, and being splashed by cold water are not my favorite parts of sailing. I had already thrown a fit to be invited though, so there was no backing out now.  

We arrived at the Antares around 10:30 a.m. after a quick trip to west marine to buy Freddie some new sailing gloves and shoes. In hindsight what we really needed was some waterproof pants. We quickly found the Cal 40 and began to meet the crew as they arrived.

We cast off around 11:30 as our start time was at 12:05. We motored for very little time before putting up the sails. It's amazing how quickly things get done with a full crew. However, I immediately understood why everyone was wearing full foul weather gear. The cold waves immediately came crashing over the boat as we passed Kemah Boardwalk. The water started at the bow but ran like a river down the side of the boat. Of course me and Freddie are sitting on the rail as ballast and had a stream of cold water instantly soaking the butt of our jeans.  

The sail boats circled around under sail near the start line. It felt like we were fish in a bucket. Boats were narrowly missing us on either side. Some people were playing chicken with other boats. I guess these racers have a love for danger that I will never understand.

Finally the first leg of the race kicked off. It was a broad reach, and we were gaining on a lot of boats. I couldn't believe how much the boat was tipping, or how fast we were going. It's amazing to be so close to so many other sailboats. It's interesting to see the different strategies. Some people heel over so far I swear I could almost see their keel.  

After a yelling countdown from the captain we turned the first marker, an abandoned oil platform, and the crew was already putting the spinnaker up. Our giant orange sail was quite the sight to see. They are so light weight, and seeing them put up with such ease makes me want to try it. Although I don't know that it has any practical use for cruising. Maybe a screecher is more of what I want. 

On the last leg of the race we were close hauling with the boat tipped as far over as she would go when we hear a thud, and the captain yells "I've lost steering!  Let the sails loose!" Everyone started to panic in what can best be described as a Chinese fire drill. First the crew manning the sails lets them completely out so as to slow the boat down. Then another crew member jumps down into the cabin to inspect to see what the problem with the steering is. Meanwhile someone else is emptying out the lazarette looking for the emergency tiller. Lawn chairs and cushions are being passed around the boat frantically. Meanwhile someone produces the emergency tiller from the cabin and we all wonder why we emptied the lazarette in the first place and begin putting everything back. Before they even get the tiller in place they are already trimming the sails back up and bringing the boat back up to speed.  

After drifting around, the only way for us to go was directly through the lines of boats that had been behind us. We had right of way and just sailed right through the column at full speed. The skipper was yelling "starboard" as we went through, and no doubt the other boats cursed as they had to let out sails and slow down trying to avoid hitting us. We had one more tack and we were on our way to the finish line.

Obviously we didn't have very active roles this time out. We mostly added ballast and shot photos -- although we did help take down and stow the kite and occasionally unsnagged a snagged line. Thankfully the "icicle series" did not live up to its name since it was about 60 degrees Saturday. That really helped the wet jeans be less miserable. However, Mary is correct that next time we're wearing different pants.

It was interesting to see the difference in fore deck crew versus cockpit crew. The fore deck guys basically stand up front getting soaked and beat up the entire race. Meanwhile the cockpit crew are sitting back, staying dry, and sipping beers when they're not trimming lines. Hmmm.

Despite losing the steering cable, the Antares still took third in class. Once docked and cleaned up, the end of the race was celebrated with a shot of rum. It's been a long time since I've had straight rum. Mary took one small sip and passed hers on to me. I get the feeling this is a taste we'll have to acquire if we keep racing.

Will we go again next week? The juries still out. It was storming Sunday morning, so I got zero work done on Gimme Shelter this week and the list of repairs is growing. If we want to be making overnight cruises by March when it's warm enough to sleep without a heater, I may have to spend some Saturdays at the dock. We'll just have to see.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome 2014

I woke up January 1, 2014 in the same clothes I had been wearing in 2013. My head was pounding, and I decided that meant our New Year's Eve celebration was a success.

I did my best to quietly tiptoe past the others sleeping in Gimme Shelter -- at least as quietly as one can be in a small boat with two dogs that are extremely excited about taking their first walk of 2014.

Our celebration hadn't been anything fancy. We just hung out on Pier 7 of Watergate Yachting Center with our neighbors on the Tina Marie and our new next-door neighbor with a Beneteau 39. We rang in the new year with two guitars, bongos, a tambourine and some magical vocal harmonies followed by a champagne toast.

Oh yeah, and the fireworks ...

Although they went off at 10 p.m. (I guess Tillman Fertitta celebrates on Greenland time?) we watched the Kemah Boardwalk fireworks exploding over Clear Lake Shores. It wasn't quite as magical as when we anchor out to watch them, but we did have an excellent view from our pier, and since we weren't bobbing around I could actually set up a tripod and catch some long exposures.

I was reflecting on 2013 as I walked the dogs around the marina. It was an exciting year. Our voyage to Offats Bayou aboard the Seahorse in March was the first trip we'd taken past Redfish Island and by the end of April we'd sold the Seahorse and bought Gimme Shelter. We also made our first trips to Double Bayou and Haborwalk. We re-plumbed toilets, we faced storms, we ran into submerged objects. It was exciting stuff.

Christmas brought Mary a new inflatable PFD with a built in harness, so that she can't pull a Natalie Woods on me. Santa also brought me a new electric screwdriver to replace the one I lost overboard, and a fuel level sender, so we'll actually know how much diesel we have in the tank. That will be the first project of 2014 -- quickly followed by the replacement of the  refrigerator lid, which seems to have rotted out and fallen off after it iced up and frozen shut back in November.

Of course, the boat repair list for 2014 will be just as long as it was in 2013 as we're going to need a bottom job this spring, and we're definitely installing air conditioning this year. At some point I also have to suck it up and climb the mast to fix the anchor light. 

Although 2013 was exciting, there were still a few resolutions that I never accomplished. My resolution for both 2012 and 2013 was to learn to use a spinnaker. I just never had enough crew and the right weather conditions to make it happen on the Seahorse, and Gimme Shelter doesn't have a spinnaker. However, we're kicking off 2014 in a big way by reporting for duty on Saturday as crew for the Antares for the first race of the Icicle Series. It will be our first time racing, so we hope to learn some new tips and tricks that will make sailing Gimme Shelter easier. Maybe we'll even get to fly a spinnaker.