Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Beginning of a New Voyage

Greenport, NY

Yesterday afternoon I said goodbye to Strong's Yacht Center and Mattituck Inlet and we set sail to round Orient Point, enter Gardiners Bay and anchor outside the town of Greenport. With me is Lisa, able-bodied crew who sailed on Intermezzo from Isla Mujeres to New Bern, NC last summer. She arrived a few days ago, braving travel in these days of COVID to help me sail Intermezzo on this new voyage.

I'm going to write this post in two parts. This first part will cover the start of the trip, the second will be a prequel, a more technical post filling in the two-plus weeks time between launching the boat and our departure.

We got up early yesterday to attack a pre-departure checklist which included stowing tools and other boat work items, washing down the decks and settling my account at Strong's. As I walked back through the boatyard from the office after paying my bill, I felt a little sad to be leaving. I had spent over a month on the dock here at the end of last summer and almost a month this time. I made friends with the boatyard  workers, watched ospreys raise their young, got in tune with daily turning of the tides, went for runs along nearby country roads and enjoyed the solitude of having the place to myself evenings and nights.

One of my favorite prompts for contemplative meditation is "the last time". There will be moments in everyone's life when it is the last time for being somewhere, seeing someone, experiencing something. Maybe it isn't the last time, but maybe it is. When I pause to consider this when I am doing something, it often makes my experience much more poignant and meaningful and I often feel more appreciative and grateful. So, as I walked back through Strong's to the boat, I considered that it might be the last time I am ever in this place again. And I felt so grateful for having found such a beautiful, friendly and supportive spot for Intermezzo to spend the past 10 months.

My bittersweet feelings of farewell gave way to excitement of beginning a new trip as we slipped the dock lines and headed out Mattituck Inlet into the Long Island Sound. The wind was blowing gently from the west as we turned east towards Orient Point, putting us on a dead downwind point of sail. I put the main and jib wing-on-wing and we glided along at almost four knots. The weather was cool, mostly sunny, with the line of a cold front off in the distance to the northeast.

About halfway to Orient, the wind suddenly shifted almost 180 degrees to come right at us, right on the nose. The story of my sailing life. And just for fun, we had a 1.5 knot foul current flowing against us. So, I switched on the engines and motored until I could make the turn south to round Orient Point Light and head into Gardiners Bay. Though I half expected the wind would shift to be against me again, it took pity on me and didn't. We enjoyed a nice reach with light easterly winds all the way to the anchorage as the sun set and a thunderstorm was building ahead of us.

I figure it might be helpul to provide a little geographic orientation for those not familiar with the Long Island waters we're in. Long Island sticks out into the Atlantic to about 100 nm east of New York City. About two thirds of the way out, it splits into two forks, like a fish's tail. The end of the north fork is Orient Point, the end of the south fork is Montauk Point.  Between these two forks are Gardiners and the two Peconic Bays, Little and Great. That's where we're going to be sailing for the next week or so. Yesterday, we sailed from the outside of the north fork, around it's tip and then along the inside, the south shore of the north fork. Between us and the north shore of the south fork is Shelter Island. We'll be heading there soon.

Last evening we dropped anchor in Pipes Cove, just west of the historic town and harbor of Greenport. I enjoyed my first rum sundowner followed by a nice dinner of braised cod over sautéed vegetables.  The thunderstorm never got on top of us, but it did drop some heavy rain for a while. The cold fronts passing through right now really chill things down, highs in the low 70's and low's in the 60's. Lisa, a warm weather sailor, is suffering and complaining. I'm enjoying the free air conditioning, knowing how hot and humid it can be here.

It felt so good yesterday to be sailing again. I know this boat as well as I know my own body and I love being reconnected with the wind, water, weather and the marine environment. I sometimes wonder when I might give up this nomadic lifestyle for something more stable and grounded. I'm reminded that it's not time for that, yet. It's time to continue loving my life on the water.

Toasting the beginning of a new voyage with a Montauk Summer Ale

Rounding Orient Point Light, the Orient Point - New London ferry in the background

Pipes Cove anchorage, Greenport to the left, Shelter Island to the right






Sunday, June 28, 2020

Return to Intermezzo

Intermezzo floats again!

I'm back on Intermezzo at Strong's Yacht Center in Mattituck, NY. I arrived a week and a half ago and set to work preparing the boat for launch after being stored on the hard since September. Now we're in the water and once all systems brought up to seaworthy condition, my plan is for a leisurely cruise up to Maine for the summer and then head south in the fall. A new voyage.

I had originally planned on returning to Intermezzoin late April but a pandemic happened. I waited until COVID-19 infections in Suffolk County had significantly declined and there was plenty of hospital capacity. I considered the risks of traveling and decided that it was reasonably safe if I took appropriate precautions. I really wanted to get the boat opened up after sitting all winter under shrinkwrap. So, I booked a flight, packed my bags, said goodbye to land life and boarded a plan last Wednesday morning.

The airport was eerily empty and my flight was uneventful. I had a full row of seats to myself and the other passengers and crew seemed to be taking precautions seriously. Wearing a N95 mask for over six hours straight was pretty uncomfortable and I gained greater appreciation for health care workers who have to wear masks plus more PPE for much longer periods. I landed at JFK around 6 pm and picked up my rental car, wiping down the steering wheel, controls, handles and seat with disinfectant wipes. It felt more like I was undergoing a medical procedure than traveling.

I drove out to Mattituck, stopping for a take-out dinner along the way and arriving at the boat around 8:30 pm. The boat was dirty on the outside, but amazingly clean inside. Strong's staff was kind enough to hang a half dozen DampRid bags around the boat and they seemed to have really helped keep the boat fresh and free from any mold. Quite a big improvement compared to opening up the boat after storage over a tropical summer in Costa Rica and having to deal with a major mold remediation project.

I spent my first day back exchanging my airport rental car for a cheaper local agency one, going grocery shopping and washing the exterior of the boat. The next day I flushed out the non-toxic antifreeze in the domestic water system, which took longer than it should have. I had to track down a blockage in the hot water piping on the port hull which turned out to be caused by sediment from the water heater lodging in a sink fixture.

To get the boat ready for launch I had to fix the propellers, repair damage to both bows, paint the sail drives, paint the bottom, and swap the anchor chain end-for-end.

One of the Gori propellers was not folding and unfolding properly. It turned out to be a slighly bent blade. I took it to Bossler & Swezey, a propeller shop in Bellport. At first they refused to work on it, telling me that they didn't do folding propellers. I looked at them with surprise and disbelief, like a patient who goes to the emergency room and is denied treatment. I protested, saying something about the law of the sea and offering assistance to a mariner in distress. They relented and took in my injured propeller but with the agreement that I wouldn't hold them responsible if they damaged it further. They ended up dong great work for a very reasonable price and returned the prop as good as new, polished to a beautiful golden shine.

When I took the prop off for the repair, I discovered that the flexible hub bushing had disintegrated into little pieces of rubber. This bushing is like a cushion between the prop and shaft, protecting both from damage due to impact. I figure I must have hit something or wrapped a line so badly that the bushing broke and then ground itself apart over many, many miles of motoring. Fortunately the propeller still works without this bushing and the granulated rubber packed itself tightly inside the hub, effectively reforming itself and providing some protection.

Not so with the other prop. The hub bushing broke into four large pieces and the propeller was wiggling around on the shaft, functional but not good for the prop or the sail drive. These bushings are easy to replace but, boy, are they expensive. They are a just a bit of molded rubber, about the size of mini-donut, but cost $160 each! Replacing these plus the three tiny rubber flexible stops that cushion the blade when it opens set me back almost $400 for the two propellers. Ouch.

Both bows of the boat had been damaged by the anchor chain dragging against them a few times while being raised in challenging conditions. The gelcoat was chipped and cracked, deep enough in some places to expose the fiberglass laminate. I ground down the ships, routed out the cracks and filled them with epoxy. I faired the repairs, applied a coat of resin to smooth them out and then finished with three coats of Interlux Interprotect epoxy barrier rather than gelcoat. Better than new.

The one mistake I made when repairing the bow had nothing to do with the work, but rather, my food. I was very clever and extended the pot life of the very expensive epoxy barrier coat by putting my paint container in the freezer between coats. Well, it turns out the fumes from this paint are heavier than air and sunk from the freezer into the refrigerator where they enveloped all my food. It also turns out that cheese and chocolate absorb these fumes, maybe something to do with fat content. As do plastic surfaces and containers. I had to throw out all my cheese and my beloved chocolate cookies as they tasted truly terrible and were probably not very healthy to ingest.  Even after wiping out the whole fridge and washing all the containers, it still smelled faintly of paint for a couple of days.

Painting the sail drives was pretty easy, though this time I applied three coats of Interlux Primocon epoxy primer prior to the aluminum-compatible anti-fouling Trilux 33 finish coat. My experience has been that the Trilux goes away pretty quickly and I want something to continue protecting the aluminum sail drives from corrosion after the finish coat was worn away.

Painting the bottom was really easy for me because I had the yard do it. Two coats of black Petit Hydrocoat with an extra coat at the bows, leading edges of the keels and the rudders where the ablative paint wears away more quickly. My last bottom job was in March 2017, applied in Puerto Chiapas, Mexico and it held up really well. The paint came from Comex and I don't want to know what was in it that made it last so long. I hope the Hydrocoat does as well.

I dropped the anchor chain onto the pavement and laid it out to inspect it and remark it for length. That 300 feet of 3/8 inch chain is heavy to move around, especially in the blazing sun! It was a more strenuous and tiring job than I thought it would be. About half the galvanizing along about half the chain's length has worn off over the past six years of use. By swapping the chain ends, the half with nearly new galvanizing is now the working portion of the chain.

Just before launching I looked over the engines carefully, checked the oil and coolant levels, and bolted down the covers of the raw water pumps that I had left cracked open during storage, a lesson learned from past pump failures. Then I stuck the raw water intake hose into a bucket of water and ran each engine for a few minutes to make sure all was good. Both engines started right away and ran smoothly.

Saturday morning, Intermezzo was hoisted up on the Travelift and lowered gently into Mattituck Inlet waters. I'm back on the same dock that I was last summer, enjoying watching geese, swans, ducks and other waterfowl and my favorites, the ospreys. When I left here last September, the ospreys had taught their young to fish and fly and were departing for their winter homes. Now I'm watching them tending to their nests, not sure if they have eggs or chicks in them, nature's cycle continuing on.

I have about another week and a half of work to do to finish up projects that are best done at the dock. Then I'm going to head into the waters between the two forks  at the end of Long Island, Gardiners, Little Peconic and Great Peconic Bays. Before that, I might venture across the sound to Old Saybrook to visit my sister and family in Connecticut for a couple of days.  We'll see how things go.

It feels good to be back on board my floating home.

Returning to Intermezzo waiting on the hard


Two old, one new flexible hub bushings for propellers


Bow damage









Intermezzo back in the water on Mattituck Inlet