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