Thursday, October 8, 2009

Underway At Last

The following is the smooth log of last weekend's voyage aboard the S/V Heart of Gold. The object of the trip was to get the newly installed standing rigging properly tuned and to verify that the masts wouldn't fall over once the sails were full.


Sunday, October 4th:

The day started out well enough. It was dead calm, there was no wind, and the marina was a bit crowded with folks competing in the Wine Country Rowing Classic, an annual regatta held on the Petaluma River. This year the event was smaller than it's been in previous years, but there was still a decent crowd and a vendor was in the parking lot selling some phenomenal paella.

The paella included chicken and shrimp and some amazing red peppers. It's important, the paella, as it will appear again later in this narrative.

Since the river was jammed with rowing traffic, it was a great excuse to take it easy. I spent a few minutes teaching Ana how to make eye splices, and we took our time checking over everything to make sure it was all secure for sea. It also gave Ray and my father plenty of time to get aboard in the early evening so we could motor downriver without running over crew teams. Ray showed up at around 1730 with dinner all bundled up and dad got there around 1800, so it was time to get underway.

1811: Main Engine Light-Off. The engine fired the first time with no significant problems. It was a good thing.

1825: Last line. Underway. Shift colors.

1848: Observed sunset. Very nice.

2105: Departing Petaluma River. Full moon.

2210: Anchored at China Camp in twelve feet of water. Two thirds shot of chain at the spillpipe. Dead calm.

Once we were sure the anchor was set and holding, I set the brake, shut down the engine, and set about getting dinner together. Ray had brought along some gourmet sausages and pasta salad, so we were pretty well set on provisions. The problem was that with my generator down and no shore power there was no stovetop to cook them on.

When I bought the boat I discovered a small propane grill in one of the storage lockers in the forward cabin. After a few minutes of tinkering with it, I was able to get it to light off. The only problem was that the grill didn't have the steel grating inside that it was supposed to have. What it did have was a circular aluminum vent screen that fit well enough to look like it belonged there. Everything seemed to be going well until I set it on top of the burner and it started to melt a hole through the middle of the screen. Clearly there was something wrong.

Fortunately the water was glass calm, because with some careful balancing I was able to get the sausages to straddle the melted portion of the aluminum grill and cook all the way through.

The only person to bite into a chunk of metal during dinner was Ray. Oops.

Monday, October 5th:

0720: Reveille, dead calm, cool.

I woke up to the shuffling of dad and Ray up forward. Dad mentioned wanting a cup of coffee, but with no 110V power we couldn't run the coffee pot. As luck would have it, some good friends bought me a small French press a couple of years ago, so all we had to do was grill up a pot of water. Once I had the pot balanced on top of the burner in the grill (which was clamped to the stern railing) I went below to make a head call.

0750: Vacuum pump failure.

The Heart of Gold had two heads on board. The aft head was built as a direct discharge system (meaning it flushes straight into the water), which means it can't be used at all in inland waters, so it is entirely blanked off. The forward head has a vacuum flush system. This means that there's a pump which builds up suction so that when you step on the flush pedal all of the black water gets sucked through a tiny hole, which breaks it up enough to prevent the pipes and pump from clogging.

The problem was that this time when I stepped on the flush pedal nothing happened. I could hear the pump chugging away, but it was clearly not building up suction like it was supposed to. I spent a few minutes trying to make progress with a toilet plunger and a prayer, but neither seemed to do much good. It was time to rebuild the pump.

Fortunately I had a pack of latex gloves on board (don't ask) which made it a tiny bit easier to deal with. Once I'd opened up the hose clamps, things started to get stinky. When I pulled the hoses off the pump, things got wet and stinky. When I was piling paper towels up, I couldn't help but notice the clear remnants of yesterday's paella. Ick!

The main problem with the system was a series of rubber duckbill-shaped check valves that allow shit to flow in one side and out the other side of the pump. The valves in my system had become stiff with age and "sediment" and had to be replaced. It would've been a pretty quick and simple job if it weren't for the second coming of the paella.

0835: Vacuum pump rebuild complete. Once I'd finished replacing the duckbill valves in the pump, all that was left to do was to clean up. I used up half of a roll of paper towels and much of a bottle of 409 before I was satisfied that I'd removed all fo the drips and dribbles from the sewage system. Then I triple-bagged it all and warned everyone not to open the stinky trashbag.

0915: Slight breeze comes up. Coffee in. Hoisting mizzen.

0942: Heaving in anchor.

0948: Heave around, heave on in.

0953: Anchor's aweigh. Underway under sail. Thorsson has the deck, Thorsson has the conn, Thorsson has the helm, Moss has the Gilligan.

Dad and Me

1040: Dead calm, current pushing towards shoal water. Main engine light-off. Underway under power/sail.

I'm not sure exactly when it was, but somewhere along the way we spotted this very large fish jumping up out of the water. It was doing it enough times that I was able to dig out my camera, and count the timing well enough to catch it in mid-air with one shot. I am not exaggerating when I say that this fish was almost five feet long:

1109: passing under San Rafael-Richmond Bridge.

1122: R-14 abeam to starboard:
Seal Jump

1235: Secure Main Engine. Underway under sail. Ray at the helm:
Ray Moss Steering

1320: Making 3.2kts over ground. Since we were on a good beam reach with a steady breeze, it was a perfect time to tune the rigging. I alternated between looking up along the length of the mast and cranking down on the turnbuckles. Then when they were set Ana would go ahead and put in the cotter pins to keep the turnbuckles from backing out.

Ana Helping

1400: Rigging tuned. Turning North.

1410: SMG 4.2 kts.

1419: Passing back under SR-Rich Bridge.

RICH-SR Bridge

1415: Ana takes a nap.

1550: Ana wakes up, takes the helm.

Thorsson Helm

We were bucking the tide and somewhere along the way the wind started to peter out. We were passing between a dredge and one of its anchor buoys when we stopped making headway and started making sideway straight into the buoy. When it became clear that we wouldn't pass ahead of it, it suddenly seemed like a good idea to just turn on the iron wind and undo the effects of the current. We almost waited too long.

1632''': Main engine light-off.

1633: Just as we were about to collide with the anchor buoy I was asked to take the wheel. I pulled off a very exciting, movie-quality moment, and came within fifteen inches of raking the Heart of Gold across a rusty steel ball, but unfortunately nobody took any pics.

After that little bit of excitement, the transit back across San Pablo Bay was pretty uneventful. We were on a close reach until the channel turned into the wind and we had to douse the sails. Before too long the only thing left flying was the flags:
HOFG flags

Shortly after entering the Petaluma River the sun went down.

2038 Moored. Shift colors.

2045: Main Engine Shut Down.

Mom came down to pick up dad and she was waiting on the dock with Old Chicago Pizza. So in the end everything abou the trip was a success.

1 comment:

  1. hahaha I look so not amused in the one picture...I really WAS having a wonderful time! :D