Monday, August 3, 2015

Fireworks, Sailing, and Appeasing the Gods

Howdy again folks,

As I mentioned in the last post, we've had a busy couple weeks.  While it's great to catch-up on boat projects, we kept hearing rumors about folks that actually....(gasp)...left the docks with their boats and did fun things on them.  So instead of just talking about all the cool things we wanted to do, Kara and I decided to dedicate this last weekend to actually enjoying some time on the boat.

Kara was in Houston for work and had a hotel right next to our office Thursday night as a result,  As it turned out, all my meetings where all virtual on Friday, so after work Thursday night I loaded up the truck with boat stuff and drove down to join her in her hotel room.  We both had pretty busy afternoons but where able to leave the office around 4 and head down to Kemah (it's about an hour drive).  So Kara headed to the boat and kicked on the AC and fridge so they'd have time to cool down.  We hit the liquor store, grocery store, and Home depot for a new deck wash hose...way cheaper than West Marine for that kinda stuff.

Then we got down to the boat, got everything stowed, grabbed a bag of ice which the marina sells pretty cheap, reviewed the charts to figure out where we wanted to anchor for the fireworks, fired up the Yanmar, untied the boat and headed out.  We where pleasantly surprised at how much cooler it was once we got out of our protected marina.  The wind was a good 15+ knots and not as humid as we've come to expect from Houston, which was great.  We headed out through the Clearlake channel, under the the 146 bridge and into Galveston bay.  The wind had been blowing long enough that there was a pretty decent wind chop, so we opted to just head over about 1/2 mile off the kemah boardwalk and set the hook.  Once we got the anchor set and the boat settled into the wind and waves, it was pretty darn comfortable.  So we made a couple rum and diets, fired up the grill and cooked a few beef kabobs, which despite my hatred for our current magma gas grill, turned out pretty well.  I know I shouldn't hate something as simple as a grill and it's nothing against magma but I really miss charcoal and am so spoiled with my big green egg, that I find the lake of temperature control on this grill to be frustrating.  But by flipping the kabobs every 5 min or so, they turned out pretty well and we just had time to finish our dinner and make another drink before the fireworks started.  We've been talking about going out to watch the fireworks for so long, that it was really nice to finally be out, sitting up on deck with a cold drink just enjoying the cool(ish) breeze and a full (blue) moon.  It was also nice of the Kemah boardwalk to sponsor these fireworks which they seem to do every Friday night in June/July.  We can usually see them just by walking across the little street at our marina, but it's way nicer to enjoy them from the boat on the hook away from the dock...for a change.

After the fireworks we just sat and talked for a while and watched as all the boats went in.  Once the herd had thinned out a bit we pulled up the anchor and the deckwash and did our best to get all the chain back in without bringing up half of Galveston bay with it.  The bottom is a really fine black mud and it's almost impossible to get it all off in the dark.  We where thankful for our newly installed LED deck light which definitely made the job easier.   Once the anchor was stowed, we motored back to the marina and safely tied up back at the dock to conclude our first night time docking process with just Kara and I as crew.  Obviously this was a pretty simple little trip, but we really needed it and it felt great.  So did the AC and showers once we where back at the dock.

The next day we got up early, cleaned the remaining mud off the ground tackle and deck.  We then went out to pick up a few things for the day.  Jason and Autumn (Kara's brother and sister-in-law) had called and wanted to come join us for a sail and the renaming ceremony later that night.  So we picked up some champagne, snacks and got the boat ready to leave the dock for a second time in less than 24 hours...crazy stuff.

Once Jason and Autumn got there, we fired up the boat cast off the lines and motored out to the bay again.  This time though, we raised the sails and noticed how much easier it all was with our nice clean winches.  Yep, should have done that one a long time ago!  At first we only had 5-8 knots of breeze but it was enough that we where at least moving, so we where finally able to shut off the motor and enjoy the piece and quiet.  As the afternoon went on the wind picked up a bit and we where able to maintain a good 5-6 knots which was nice.  That in combination with good weather, great company, and some excellent beers that Jason brought along, made for an excellent afternoon of sailing.  We where out for about 4 hours and as the wind was dieing down, decided to head in and get ready for the renaming ceremony.

Once back at the dock, we got the AC cranking and got out of the heat for a while(100F / 37-38C).  While we where picking up food for the evening we heard from our friends Heather and Michelle and they wanted to join us for the festivities, which was great.  We all met back at the marina and as the sun was setting had our renaming ceremony.  Where we thanked the gods for taking care of our boat (previously known as Baboo) and requested they strike the old name from their roster and that she hereby be known as Vela...and may your watchful eye always bless her in her new life with us.  The full ceremony we used is here, it was the perfect combo of fun/silly/respectful that we where looking for.  In the process we got to meet a few new marina neighbors, who stopped by to share in the fun, food and cold beverages.

Welcome Vela - We're looking forward to many adventures together in the future.

All in all it was a great time and instead of being known generically as the boat, she will from now on be referred to by her new simple and beautiful name Vela.  Which we chose because we wanted a short simple and pretty sounding name.  It also means has several meanings.  One being Latin for the sails of a ship, which is where the name of the constellation comes from.  The other being "she who watches over" (which is the one I really love).  So for us it works on many levels, plus we just like the how it sounds and spelling it phonetically on the radio couldn't be much easier.

So, welcome Vela!  Long may we sail safely with her and may her new life with us take her to far away lands and be filled with love, laughter, happiness and of course adventure.

Of course first, we need new sails...and a few other things but more on time!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Maintenance in the heat that is Houston

Howdy Folks,

Thought I'd check in after what's been a very busy June for us.  For various reasons we weren't able to get down to the boat for about a month, so for the last 3 weekends we've made the 8 hour round trip drive from the house to Kemah and have been whittling away on the projects.

The first two weekends, we pretty much didn't do anything fun and just worked on the boat.  We've cleaned and lubed all 8 winches (4 self tailing and 4 standard).  This was a fairly nasty job that we'd been putting off but we knew it needed to be done.  Essentially we just dissembled the winches 1 at a time and tossed the parts in a bucket to let them soak in either gasoline or mineral spirits to degrease it a bit and took everything up the one of the deck area our marina provides.  The decks are elevated so they get a decent breeze, the view is good and most importantly they provide a bit of share.  Then we scrubbed them clean with green scrub pads and a toothbrush.  Then after a quick rinse in some warm (as if there's another choice for anything outdoors during the Houston summer) soapy water.  We re-greased the gears (lightly with a brush) and oiled the pawls and springs and reassembled everything.  This really isn't a challenging job, but it's fairly time consuming and was super nasty.  Our goal is to do them more regularly form now one and to just tackle them 1 at a time so it's not such a downer.  But hey, the winches truly sing now and are much easier to use.

Winch disassembly

Dirty pawls, these should not have been greased, just lightly oiled.

Kara, finishing this one off the right way

We also got both settees in the main saloon re-upholstered and are super happy with them.  We used a very light colored Ultra leather, we went with their Brissa Distressed and really like the feel of it.  It feels like really buttery soft leather but has all the benefits of Ultraleather, so should last for a long time.  We also had the cushions redone, so it's much more comfortable now.

Kara went up the mast to the spreaders (We've been taking turns on this one) the mast climber really makes this nice as mentioned previously, but this was her first time up the mast.  So she climbed while I spotted with a safety line on the winch (not required but well worth the effort for the piece of mind).  She replaced the steaming light and deck lights, so for the first time since we've owned the boat, we have a functional deck light...nice.  We've now replaced almost every bulb on the boat with a new LED and have several spares squirreled away, so our power consumption and heat generation from the lights has come WAY down.

Kara on her way up to replace some light bulbs.

We also re-sealed the fridge doors with some new rubber (weather) stripping.  Kara cut and shaped a new gel infused memory foam mattress topper for the forward bunk that we sleep on.  This thing is great, much more comfortable and the gel means it sleeps cooler, which is a welcome improvement for me ;)

Then we finally took the time to position permanent dock lines to make it easier when bringing the boat back in.  We'd been using extra long dock lines and using them for double duty, so our bow line would come to the dock cleat and then back to the boat as a rear spring, with a similar process on the stern.  This meant we needed fewer lines, but was a huge PITA if you need to adjust either line.  To say we should have made this change,  much MUCH sooner is a massive understatement.  We've gone out several times since and putting the boat away is now about a 5-10 minute process compared to...well longer before. 

We've also been working to narrow down our list of "Must do" boat projects before we can leave.  I'll share more detail on this later but one of the things that's been on the list for a while now is to have our chainplates inspected and potentially replaced, since the boat is 15 years old, we where assuming this would need to be done before leaving.  We've been dreading this, since Island Packet used internal chainplates that are fiberglassed in place.  This is great from a protection perspective as long as they are well sealed and bedded but makes them very expensive (~$10K) if you need to replace them.  Anyway, we had a rigger come out that's experienced with IP chainplate replacement and he inspected ours and showed us what great shape they where in.  We couldn't see the entire chainplate (fiber glassed over) but we could tell that the exposed areas below the deck where in great shape.  He said based on how they looked and that they're made out of 316 stainless, that he didn't see any reason to replace them.  Prior to 1998/1999 they where made out of 308, which doesn't hold up nearly as well.  We just need to keep them well bedded and should be in good shape moving forward.  Thank you Mr Bob Johnson, we love the quality and attention to detail that went into our boat!  Not to mention, saving $10k on not having to replace the chainplates, means more for the cruising kitty!

Inspecting the chainplates.  We also checked them out from the inside.

Here's a bad chainplate from an IP he did earlier this month.  They used to make them out of 308 stainless, ours are 316 and fortunately in almost perfect condition.

The other big job we finally got done was a getting our new name on the boat.  We originally where just going to order some generic vinyl lettering of the web, but didn't like how they turned out and realized that for a little bit more we could work with a local artist who worked with us nailing a design we really liked and then custom cut everything in his shop and applied it all, and we both love it.

Putting on our new hailing port

So that was two full weekends of boat chores and maintenance, without ever even having the time to leave the marina...which kinda sucked to do, but the progress has been great.  We decided that this weekend we'd focus on actually getting out and enjoying the boat.  So stay tuned, the next post will have anchoring, fireworks, sailing and the renaming ceremony.  But more on time.

I also made my first trip to the top of the mast, to check our halyards and a few connections up there.