Monday, October 9, 2017

Shaken down and stirred

[Dual log - we kept saying "oh, don't forget to add..."]

I (Hilde) promised myself I wouldn’t write one more post until we had actually left the dock and gone somewhere. Yesterday we returned from our first short shakedown cruise, to Offatt’s Bayou, behind Moody Gardens in Galveston. The weather forecast promised high 80s and 10-15 winds, which we got the first day out. After that it was 90-95 degrees in the afternoon and not a wisp of wind. We enjoyed the mornings and the evenings and gasped miserably in the heat in the afternoon.

Shakedown cruises are basically time away from the dock to see what works, what doesn’t work, what breaks, and what needs to be tossed overboard at the first opportunity. We discovered that we didn’t remember all the myriad steps it takes to secure the boat, all the steps it takes to get her ready to sail, and all the steps it takes to keep a happy ship. We remembered most of them, but the devil is in the details.

What a mess! All this stuff had to be stowed - it's a safety hazard of the first order.
Amazingly, it got stowed. This is more like it.
We did manage to clear the decks. I did manage to make some food in advance. We did find the fiddle rails and secure them before we left. We did find all the bits and pieces we needed to leave, such as the polypropylene line to secure the dinghy. We figured out how to use our new life vests. We took on fuel the day before we left so there was no hurry as we left. I secured most of the stuff below. We remembered to put the lanyards on our glasses.

The chaos of the grocery store trip when you are stocking up for a few days.

Sweet potato salad, the one thing that did get made ahead of time.
I didn’t think to secure the gallon water bottles that live under the companionway steps – on the first tack they slid out from under the steps and on the second they rolled to a stop right in front of the steps, making it quite difficult to negotiate my way off the ladder.

I forgot how stuff shifts in a cabinet, and got clonked on the head by flying canned goods when I opened the door in search of snacks (the tack we were on heeled us 10 degrees or so, pushing all the cans against the cabinet door).

We found that the dangling mesh bags are a no-go: they wave wildly back and forth, slamming the onions into the table and wall.

I forgot to put all the loose objects in the head into the sink while we were underway, and my favorite water glass flew to the floor and broke, even though it was made of heavy plastic.

I thought flat-bottomed things on the sole of the cabin would be fine, but they slid everywhere, turned over where possible, and scattered this and that all over the place.

I forgot the hot water heater only works when we are plugged in, and it was so hot I couldn’t bear to heat water on the stove for washing up. Eew.

I forgot how long it takes to prepare food for a trip when you don’t want to cook and ran short because I ran out of time before we left and couldn’t bear to cook in 95 degrees.

Did I mention we trusted the weather forecast and left before our new cabin fans arrived? Never trust the forecast for more than a couple of days. It was supposed to be cool.

I decided to dump my heavy plastic “wine” glasses that I have bumped my head on for a decade and never used. Decision made when I bumped my head for the 439th time in 95 degrees and 80% humidity. I have no sense of humor when I feel like a boiled turnip.

We had some exci tement trying to furl the jib with its halyard very loose. My bad...I am supposed to check these things before we push off, but, again, I forgot.

David wrestled with the windlass, which acted up because one of the electrical wires running to it was loose (here we have our first genuine shakedown fix!) and the resulting short blacked out our instruments. Fortunately, we were pulling up the anchor in an empty, and completely flat, anchorage with no other boats and no breeze.

The second shakedown fix became obvious when we noticed that the bilge pump ran about every fifteen minutes instead of once a day. This was bad because it added unnecessarily to battery load - and water was coming in where it shouldn't. The run down the Houston Ship Channel in lumpy seas had loosened the stuffing around the rudder post. It is designed to be adjusted, so it was an easy fix, once David loosened the bronze nuts. Once again, he enjoyed the new locking access panel in the cockpit floor. There was room enough for him to sit down under the cockpit floor with the rudder post to fix it, instead of crawling into dark spaces through too-small lazarettes.

I had a miserable time reading the charts on our new B&G chart plotter. The color scheme, etc. is different and the controls are different as well.

I discovered that I absolutely have to have some project to work on when we are at anchor because after one day of reading nonstop I had nothing else to do but clean the boat and sweat and swear under my breath.

Shakedowns are not all bad news. The new high-pressure pump that feeds the washdown hose on the foredeck easily cleaned the gooey black ooze that passes for "mud" here in Texas from the anchor chain and anchor. Clean chain in the anchor locker lasts longer and doesn't stink up the vee berth.

Also, the new solar panels kept our house batteries topped up without our having to run the engine while at anchor. What blissful silence that was! More practically, it saves wear on the engine and saves fuel - as well as minimizing pollution.

In other words, it was a highly successful trip!

We did have many lovely things to enjoy:

We were able to sail a bit on the way down, and enjoyed the motoring trip back up from Galveston because we finally had a (motor-generated) breeze. The wind to and from Galveston is always on the nose; there is no explanation for this phenomenon, but you can count on it. We had lots of fun motoring back up the channel admiring all the working boats – barges, tankers, container ships, ferries, a science boat from Texas A&M, pilot boats, a tug boat, etc., as well as a few other pleasure craft. It was a busy day on the channel. We used AIS several times to identify and call barges by name, just so we all knew who was going where. The wind was such that we had a lovely breeze the whole way, which makes all the difference. Also a bag of chips, which helps morale a whole lot. Cold leftovers, chips, yogurt, and cold seltzer water kept the wolf at bay.

For the videos below, left click on the text and then on the link location that appears below it. When the box with the video appears, click the arrow in the upper right hand corner to play the entire thing. None is longer than 90 seconds.

Trail ride along Pelican Cut behind a couple of barges. On the left, "The Colonel" is coming toward us. It's a faux paddle wheeler that is usually docked at Offatt's Bayou.

Barge "race"; they aren't really racing, just trying to pass one another safely, as they are going different speeds.

Our first night on the hook, when the moon loomed over the horizon. David's photo, at the beginning of the blog, does it better justice. It looks really small in this video, but it was enormous.

The mornings were glorious! It was cool and the anchorage is so big we felt spacious and free.

We saw three flamingos fly by! Either that or three great egrets that had been washed with a red shirt. I have no idea where they came from or where they were going.

The harvest moon was full and glorious our first night at anchor and shone brightly the whole time we were gone.

I managed to get most of the green tape goo off the deck using acetone (Wear neoprene gloves! That stuff is nasty.) although a few stains remain. It looks so much better!

We had a lovely breeze come down the forward hatch, which made sleeping possible and even comfortable, despite the high humidity which left the sheets pretty soggy.

When we came back in, we got set up with A/C in record time, now that I know how to clean the filter. It’s a good thing, too, because below decks after six hours of motoring it was 98 degrees and 80% humidity and I thought I would die before we plugged in. Autumn, my foot.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Blue sky

[Hilde's log]

The sky is blue, the wind is honking, the water level is almost back to normal. We've had a hot shower and a quick drive around. League City and Kemah are okay, all water drained away. We have been unbelievably lucky: no property loss. Even the RV is okay. The consignment lot is an island and all the RVs are okay. Our stuff in storage is okay. We are working to finish clearing out the big one today. The air is wonderfully fresh, swept free of the everlasting pollution I am usually forced to breathe. I will not be posting or texting for awhile. I have post traumatic stress stupidity and can't seem to focus on much. Also my phone croaked, and it will be a few days before the new one arrives. Since it is "new and improved" I probably won't be able to work it. Please call if you like; we'd love to hear from you. But use David's cell.

Blue sky!! Sun!! Can't beat it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Day 5

4:12 p.m.

This morning I woke up late to yet more rain and a lot of stiff wind. The sky outside has remained an opaque white. The rain slacks off, coming in light to moderate bursts, stops awhile. I get all excited that it has stopped. Then it returns with renewed vigor. It’s raining hard as I write this. The wind has remained constant all day, rattling masts, howling in the rigging, and rocking the boat.

We ventured out before a late lunch to take a look and to chat with one of the dockmasters. Before I go on, a tip of the hat to both of them. We are at Portofino Marina and dockmasters Katie and Dean have been here the whole time on their boat. They take their dinghy around and check on us liveaboards every day. Every day they are in the office. They are really keeping up with things and are on the ball. Not something I could say about other places we have lived. Thanks, guys.

Anyway, we chatted with Dean about grocery stores and roads. The Kroger and HEB and Walmart are all open! I am flabbergasted. And evidently there is no problem getting to them. We are fine for food, although tomorrow is the last day of fresh and then we are into beans and rice and canned fish. So I’m guessing as soon as the wind dies down we’ll be on our way to shore, a hot shower, and the store.

We sat glued to the news on our computer last night, mouths agape. I have never seen anything like it. The entire city seems to be underwater. We watched as people were driven to safety on a huge front loader, sitting in the bed of the truck, clinging to the sides, sitting in front in the shovel. Volunteers are all over the place, driving their boats down drowned streets and plucking people off cars, out of doorways, off roofs. People were wading in chest deep water, walking out of submerged residential areas. We feel so blessed and grateful to be warm and safe and dry, and were so cheered by the volunteers. A large furniture store had opened the store to refugees, housing about 300. My only question was – where are the governmental troops with boats, etc.? There are definitely some Coast Guard and National Guard, but there don’t seem to be many. Thank God for all the fishermen in this area with their flat bottomed boats.

We got word that our church has, amazingly, not flooded. It is a stone’s throw from Dickinson Bayou. I have no idea how it has escaped.

We keep watching the water levels. The rain continues, they have opened some levees, and we worry about a sudden cascade of water. So far, nothing has reached us, and the brown tide continues to sweep past us toward the Bay. I am so thankful there is nothing to block its exit.

One funny thing: David saw two pelicans floating on the surface of the channel, as they often do, whizzing past at about 10 knots, enjoying the ride.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Later Monday, about 3:45 p.m.

[Hilde's log]

The rain started up a couple of hours ago and has been lashing us non-stop. Dickinson is under mandatory evacuation (we are east of there). Not looking good on the radar.

I feel like a prisoner in a small cell, kept in by this storm and the constant rain. Who ever thought rain could be oppressive?

The grass has disappeared again, although the wooden boardwalk is still above water. We still have many feet left on our high water pilings. But I'm tense, and really, really tired of this.

I keep thinking of the story of Noah's ark, which is usually cutsified by chubby elephants and doves and a round bottom boat that is light years too small to hold the toys that come with the set. The real thing must have been just horrid, with the rain lashing down day after day, and the land disappearing, and desperate people banging on the Ark's door. Just horrid.

The radar shows more of the same. I would make a rotten POW.

BTW, we are fine, so don't worry about us. Just stir crazy and sick of rain.

Text me! Jokes welcome.


[Hilde’s log]

Blessedly, the rain has let up. It is still gray, still raining in bursts and spatters, but nothing like the sustained downpours of the last several days. The news is that they will open the reservoirs north of Houston today. God knows what that will do. Make the Houston swimming pool deeper, I guess.

The water level on the channel is down significantly. This morning I could see the grass on the berm in front of the boat for the first time in two days. The water is still rushing by, but it’s lower, for the moment. We are no longer in danger of having to resort to Plan B. At least we have Plan B. Those on land just have to wait and hope.

I have been texting friends in Dickinson this morning, and it’s heartbreaking. So many have lost everything: houses, contents, cars, businesses. Our former church is underwater. So are my doctors and dentist offices. Thankfully, I have heard of no injuries or fatalities, but the loss of property, especially your home or the private business you have spent years building up, is almost as devastating. I’d say this is easily as bad as Ike nine years ago.

Harvey, meanwhile, is meandering SE, and hasn’t decided whether to wander into the Gulf and back ashore here or not. So for the moment we are fine (depressed, irritable, and bored, but fine).

Psychically, I am picking up on the swell of upset throughout the region. It’s pretty deafening. I find myself mentally pacing back and forth to escape it. Being confined on the boat is not helping.

This afternoon, assuming it finally does slack off, we will dinghy ashore and see if our storage area is flooded or not. I am so sick of things, I am of two minds… Our RV is on a lot in the middle of Houston off I-59. I have no idea if it survived or not. Again, I am of two minds. The chain of possessions is heavy.

I have a big case of survivor’s guilt as well. We never even lost power. We float, we are high and dry and comfortable, with plenty of food and water and all the comforts of home, and other than yesterday morning, which was pretty tense, we have not been fearful. Others are stranded in motels or at friends’ houses, wondering if and when they will be able to go back to homes that aren’t there.

Just heartbreaking.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

At the dock, but took the dinghy ashore

David's log.

During the last 24 hours, this part of Texas has received over 22" of rain. The Kemah Channel (about 200 yards wide) looks like the Mississippi in flood. It is about six feet higher than usual and flowing at about ten knots from Clear Lake towards Galveston Bay.

There is fast-running water between the floating docks and the land, so this morning we actually rowed ashore in the dinghy. Once there, we moved the cars to higher ground.


Raven is tied to floating docks. Currently, they are about ten feet from the top of the pilings. We should be OK but who knows?

After our excursion in the dinghy, we were soaked to the skin - might as well have been naked. Fortunately, the air is warm (high 70s) and the water we paddled through even warmer (low 80s). Hilde's phone started to act up. In spite of best efforts to keep it dry, water got inside it. So, for now, call my phone.

We're in frequent contact with friends and family. To those not in Texas, we're doing our best to describe what's going on and to calm any fears. To those affected by Hurricane Harvey, we are calling and texting - and praying for relief and safety.
Note to self: never tell the Universe you’re bored.

I slept through the downpour last night, lightening bursts and all. We woke up this morning to the news that 22” of rain had fallen in the Clear Creek area over the last 24 hours, with more coming. The flood has arrived. Our picnic area is completely underwater and the leisurely but powerful flow of the Kemah channel has quickened its pace. Watching a piece of wood swirling by, I’d say the current was about 8 knots, maybe more. The water was swirling and crashing at the end of the now completely submerged wooden dock and was so much higher up the berm David and I decided nothing would do but get to shore to move the cars to higher ground. They are old and creaky, but they’re all we’ve got!

Yesterday David brought the dinghy to the boat; no particular reason except we are trying to get out of that storage unit at the end of this month and the water level made it easier to get it to the boat. Turns out to have been a very fortuitous decision, as dinghy is the only way to reach shore today. We suited up in our foulie tops (Helly Hansen brand is great, proved by the deluge this morning) and Tevas, and David found the oars and oar locks. Then he bailed her out, in we got, and off we went to shore. It was like any of 1,000 other dinghy rides I’ve had, easy-peasy (of course I wasn't rowing!). Until we got to the edge of the marina and discovered that wading through 2 feet of water was the only way to reach shore (the whole marina is ringed with floating docks). So wade we did, then slogged through the most recent downpour, squished into the drivers’ seats, and took ourselves to higher ground. Here’s hoping it’s high enough to preserve our vehicles.

It rained like stink the whole walk back, so by the time we reached Raven we looked like a couple of drowned rats (dry under my foulie top). Stripped off, dried, back in dry clothes, and with a cup of hot coffee nearby, I am feeling better.

So we are okay for the moment. Depends on the vagaries of Harvey. Right now it is just sitting here flooding us. We do have Plan B, but that will happen only if we see the top of our pilings (the water level has risen about 6 feet so far). Meanwhile...waiting.

Kemah channel flood