August or Fogest?

The tropical feel of my playlist, filled with sounds from Cuba, Brazil and Portugal, was in sharp contrast to the loud, foreboding tone of the fog horn every two minutes. I like that playlist, I call it Tapas. I don’t like the fog.

Rather than basking in the August sun of a Pacific Northwest Summer, I strained to see the two other boats in our group about 25 yards away. We had already lost one day of our individual trips, partially due to fog and partially due to too much pirate party the evening before.

17th Annual Pacific Northwest Cruisers Party

17th Annual Pacific Northwest Cruisers Party

This time everyone had turned in early and agreed to be leaving Port Townsend at 8 a.m. to take advantage of the last couple of hours of the ebb tide and a bit of slack before the flood poured in again. Between the three of us, we had one boat with broadcasting AIS, radar, an automatic foghorn that could rival boats 5 times the size, and a bubble maker, one with radar she doesn’t totally know how to use, and one with the largest cooler of Rainier I have ever seen.

Fogust

Fogust

The Strait of Juan de Fuca is 102 miles long from the east entrance to where it connects with the Pacific Ocean on the west. It’s about 18-20 miles from Port Townsend to the beginning of the San Juan Islands which is where we were headed. Usually the water is relatively flat in the fog, and it’s nice to not have to battle visibility and large waves simultaneously. Reports from vessel traffic said that the fog was lifting about halfway across, so we were hopeful we would have good visibility in a few hours. I queried if this was normal for August and was asked if I had heard the term Fogust. I hadn’t. I will never forget it.

The fog did indeed lift enough so that the fog horn was silenced, but at the same time the waves started to build. That 102 mile fetch can create some angry waves when the wind is from the west and that is what we were now running into, and what I like to call the Strait of Juan de Puka. We bounced and rolled and were somewhat forced to head more northwest than we wanted to lessen the effect of the waves on the boats. RollyPolly

We had been staying in a relatively close formation when I noticed that Boo’s boat had stopped and he was on deck in the rough waves. I hailed Captain Bubbles about it as I turned back to see what was happening. Their diesel engine was no longer working and he was raising the sails to continue on. Once he was sailing, he was almost as fast as I was motoring, so I pulled out my jib (I was solo and had no desire to go on deck to raise the main in those waves, but I would have been better off with the main up from the start) and Capt. Bubbles came back to us and raised his sails as well. About a mile and a half from Cattle Pass the wind died and Boo could no longer make much progress. I was closer, but Bubbles had the much larger boat (and towing experience) so he dropped sails and came back to set up a tow while I became the escort. That was a rough ride.

Uncomfortable Tow Through Cattle Pass

Uncomfortable Tow Through Cattle Pass

Our untintended timing had landed us in Cattle Pass at max flood, which is not many sailors’ favorite time to cross. The waves are steep and confused, powerful eddies everywhere. Even with a slow tow in progress, the boats were doing 8-9 knots over ground through the pass. Once through, Bubbles found the closest place to anchor and troubleshoot Boo’s engine.

The theory was that it was a clogged fuel filter due to debris getting tossed around from the waves we were in. A new filter was put on and the engine started. Since that was the back-up, Boo made a VERY long dinghy run to Friday Harbor but was unable to find the type that he needed. We had a variety of other friends meeting us in the San Juans, so possible filters would be flowing in the next day.

We settled in for the night at anchor, grilled pork chops, asparagus and apples with cinnamon for dessert, and started looking at the charts and going over our plans for the next few days. I was making a break for Canada in 2 days time to pick up crew while the others were going to stay in the San Juan Islands a bit longer.

The next morning our bay was crystal clear with flat, reflective water, but I could see the fog in the pass and beyond, with some of it creeping into San Juan Channel. I only recall this much fog one other August in the 9 years that I’ve been here, so perhaps I’ve been lucky with Fogust. The good news was that Boo’s engine purred to life the next morning as if nothing had happened, and I got a mini-lesson on some of the features of my radar from Capt. Bubbles. I got lucky again and rafted with Boo on the transient dock in Friday Harbor. They saw me coming and hailed me on the VHF to say there was no other space. We all got showers and ran errands, and we all ended up in Reid Harbor that evening in different spots, but to me, we were all together. Paddle board and dinghy visits…we are a rag tag family.

Life and sailing are always adventures, and I’m glad to have been with a group of boats and friends this time around rather than on my own. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we’ve paid our fog dues this year and are done with it!

ARGGH

ARGGH

Hole In The Boat, V. 2.0. Port Light Rebedding

“I’m so happy to have found a leak on my boat!” she says with a big smile. The expressions on others’ faces are astounded, confused, or horrified.

“OK, how about I finally LOCATED a leak on my boat!” The response is definitely more congratulatory, occasionally tinged with a little sadness or jealousy.  Rubigale’s starboard side has been plagued with leaks since I bought her in the summer of 2014.

Once the torrential downpours of the Seattle fall appeared, drips ran down the overhang in the salon and puddled on the shelf. One of the three screws that holds in my barometer would cry every time it rained. I started finding things in the starboard aft berth wet, requiring everything to live in a plastic bin.

I thought I had it solved when I replaced one of the larger windows in the salon after I spotted dampness at the corner, and although the leaking seemed to have lessened, it was definitely still there. I tried caulking the toe rail and honestly most anything that looked caulk-able. I had the rigging tuned, and the shroud plates were rebedded in the process.

Still, the insides of cabinets mildewed and were regularly vinegared and bleached. Every time it rained, a pile of boat rags came out to soak the puddles, and on a particularly hard pour, a few pots came out as well. The bilge pump would come on. The dehumidifier got a workout. The headliner remained mysteriously dry.

There was old water staining around the aft-most starboard port light, but all six of them were brand new when I purchased the boat and I assumed that the new ones were the fix for that problem. I began to blame the jib track and the bow hardware, and started to wrap my mind around how to do all of these things, or what it would cost to hire someone to do it.

Everyone knows it rains a lot in Seattle, but it is typically a persistent mist rather than the torrential downpours I remember in Mississippi. Recently, Seattle experienced one of those deluges and I caught the leak from the port light red-handed! I had already rebedded one window, and this was so much smaller and seemed easier. You can probably see where this is going.

Preparing to Wrestle This Port Light Out

Preparing to Wrestle

This Came off Much Too Easily

This Came off Much Too Easily

Since it was a different type of window, I watched a YouTube video on the process and felt I was ready to go. I unscrewed the inner portion of the port light with it’s spigot and removed it easily. I had expected it to be much more difficult because some veneer is torn away from a couple of the ones in the V-berth, suggesting it was going to be a bear. With the larger window, there had been screws attaching the inside frame to the outside frame to create compression for the sealant. None of that was here. The inside was screwed to the wood and the spigot extended to the outside of the fiberglass where a trim piece was simply adhered with some sort of sealant which was pressed into the gap. The trim piece was also easily (too easily) removed and staining on the underside and on the fiberglass showed where the leak was happening.

Staining Where Water Intrusion Was Occurring

Staining Where Water Intrusion Was Occurring

Area Where the Leak Was Damaging the Wood

Area Where the Leak Was Damaging the Wood

I’m fortunate to have solid fiberglass, so there was no soggy core. There is a small gap between the fiberglass and the wood walls which was where most of the water had been going. The side of the wood facing the fiberglass was soggy and spongy in the area of the leak. The uncharacteristic 90 degree weather helped it dry out over a day with the assistance of a fan. Meanwhile, I started looking for answers. Why didn’t the screws connect the inside to the outside? How could you achieve a seal without the compression?

It was time to phone a friend. John, who had helped me replace the larger window, came over and looked at it, and agreed that it just didn’t seem correct. We made a field trip to the marine store and described the problem and brought the port light. After tossing around some ideas, a solution was proffered to cut a larger hole in the wood so that the inside section of the window would be directly against the fiberglass! To say I was skeptical, and a little bit horrified was an understatement. I said I’d think about it and picked up the type of sealant that was recommended for plastic.

Through-bolting the Port Light

Through-bolting the Port Light

Sealant Used

Sealant Used

It was time for a glass of wine and more research. It’s amazing what you can discover when you read the instructions. There were very clear directions (with pictures) on how to through bolt the window for a solid wall as well as a multi-layered wall like mine. There is 1/4” of fiberglass, 1/4” of space, then 1/4” of veneered plywood on the inside.

The solution was to fill the gap as much as possible with closed cell spray foam to provide some structure for the gap under compression. I dreaded this part because I have had a few experiences with this stuff in old houses that were pretty messy. I made a part list of screws, barrel nuts, mineral spirits and the foam and went shopping.

Closed Cell Foam

Closed Cell Foam

Closed Cell Foam in the Gap

Closed Cell Foam in the Gap

The following day the wood seemed dry and I filled the gap with the spray foam. Every time I revisited the opening, more foam had expanded out and had to be cut away, but by the next morning it seemed pretty solid and ready to go. The wood felt dry. Now it was time to drill holes in my boat which scares the living daylights out of me, so I again phoned a friend.

 

Using the Trim Piece as a Template for the Fiberglass

Trim Piece as Template

That Side Whole was a PAIN

That Side Hole was a PAIN

Following the recommendations on the company website, we drilled holes through the trim piece and the fiberglass to match those in the wood where the spigot was attached. Due to the placement of one of the shrouds, lining up one of the holes was next to impossible which was remedied by making a slightly bigger hole (giving me slightly more anxiety). The edges of the holes and the main opening were chamfered so they could accommodate more sealant. The product recommended to stick to both plastic and fiberglass was Sudbury Elastomeric Marine Sealant.

Installation Complete!

Installation Complete!

Once the fiberglass dust was cleaned up and a dry fit done, it was a fairly simple job with two people to get it sealed and the bolts threaded into the barrel head nuts on the inside. I used plenty of sealant, resigning myself to a big clean up, but erring on the side of too much.

I’m very happy to report that after a couple of pretty hard rains, the window, the barometer and the shelf remain dry! There’s still the leak somewhere behind the oven, and I still have 5 more port lights to rebed, but for now, Rubi is drier than she has been in the last two years.

 

Update August 30, 2016- I am deliriously happy to say that after two crossings of the Strait of Georgia, the starboard side is DRY!

Oh Canada!

 

We’ve been together for a year, and Rubi and I are on our first international trip.

Day 1-2

We left Friday Harbor a bit later than planned due to a pile of errands that….well, piled up. There was no wind, so we motored up San Juan Channel then through Spieden Channel to take advantage of the current. Just outside Friday Harbor there was a debris field that seemed to be everywhere. There were logs, planks, and what looked like someone’s door. Despite a close look out, I had a minor collision or two with something unseen, so I was on high alert. It wasn’t quite the vision I had in mind.

There are a couple of markers between Roche and the west end of Spieden that you would do well to heed. The chart shows kelp, and Holy Moly was there kelp! I’m not a good distance guesser, but I would say at least a football field of kelp extended from the marker toward Spieden. After that it was a pretty easy course to the west end of Stuart Island, round Turn Point Light House, then north to South Pender.

I had prepared myself thoroughly for my first boating customs stop, and was a bit nervous. As I came into Bedwell Harbor I was a bit confused about the customs dock. There was a large sign pointing to the customs dock, but a smaller sign on the end saying not to dock on the inside of that dock. The other dock had red and white paint which said STAY AWAY to me (it was the float plane dock). I was rigged for starboard, and the ‘outside’ of the dock would have required a U-Turn very, very close to shore. Against my better judgement, I went to the inside of the dock and discovered why you shouldn’t dock there. There is nothing to tie to…nothing! Nada! No cleat, no bar, nothing!  I kicked the bow off and jumped back aboard with my lines and did a slow doughnut to reassess, grateful there wasn’t a wind issue.

About that time,  my friends who had taken the ferry to North Pender and hitch hiked down to Bedwell Harbour, showed up at the dock and waved. Wanting to avoid an international incident, they stayed out of the customs area. Yes, I went to the red and white area on the other side behind a power boat and hoped for the best. I went to the phones as directed and it was the easiest customs check in of my life. OK, it was my first boat customs, but I have been to a few places. The phone rang to some distant place and a polite but bored customs agent answered. I was prepared to declare my extra alcohol and she stopped me saying “is it just boat bar stuff?”. Um, yes. Then I had to declare Logan and asked if she needed his rabies tag number. “No, just have it with you, are you ready to write down your clearance number?” Um, yes. Thank you.

My friends hopped aboard and we went to our assigned slip in Poet’s Cove Marina and I prescribed the pub STAT. Backpacks were stowed and Logan was fed and watered. John, Lisa and I were then also fed and watered, then headed back to the boat. The plan was to sail them up to Otter Bay to catch the ferry the next day. That evening the wind arrived in spades.

The radio was predicting gale force winds in the Strait of Juan de Fuca south of us, and in the Strait of Georgia to the east of us. Halyards were clanging in the protected marina. I made the decision not to go, and it appeared I was not alone because very few boats left.  Our plight wasn’t too terrible because we took advantage of the pool and hot tub. My fate was even better, because after my friends took the shuttle to the ferry, I had a massage, some time in the steam cave and another hot tub visit. An early birthday present to myself!

Poet’s Cove resort shuts down for the most part September 30. The marina is still open, and the spa will take advanced appointments, but don’t expect much else. There are two pools and hot tubs for guests, and the steam cave and another hot tub for spa customers. There are laundry and showers as well. The marina has water, electric and fuel. There is no boat washing here in the islands in general because of limited resources, but Rubi and I are used to going awhile between showers.

We’ll be back!