Sunday, August 26, 2012

Whales

For years--we've been coming to Cape May as a family vacation since I was 9--I've always thought the whale watch boats here practiced a bit of puffing. A few people saw whales, very rarely, but even the pictures in the flyers were clearly taken elsewhere, in the pacific northwest. Mostly, they can watch  bottle nose dolphins, which reliably congregate in large groups on either side of the point, according to the tide and their mood.

The one we saw on our crossing a few days ago certainly grabbed our attention and has changed my tune. Though I've had glimpses over the years of things I presumed to be whales, this was different. Three of us saw it, it was only a few hundred yards away, and breached--not just breathed--several times.

What sort of whale? Big and dark gray, perhaps 35-40 feet, but I'm no expert.

Fun stuff. While I'm not saying Cape May is the place to go to see whales--could be years between sightings--they're there.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Food Fishing

No deep sea fishing or big prize money here. Just meat-and-potatoes food fishing.

That's a fish. 41-inch Rockfish on a stretch plug. The gear consisted of 250 feet of 100-pound mono, a 2-ounce in-line torpedo sinker, and a Cuban Yo-yo.



We trolled a hose eel on a yo-yo at 6-7 knots from Point No Point to Smith Point under sail and were rewarded with a pair of snapper blues. A home-made lure, tied from a bit of surgical hose, mono, an S-hook and a stainless fishhook; the purchased hose eel on the other transom caught nothing. We scaped (yes, that is the correct local spelling) crabs from dock pilings in Tangier for an hour and collected a bucket full.

Seafood feast at Tangier Island

Introducing whole crabs to a newby is always a treat. The fresh taste rewarding persistence and thoughtful exploration of the carcass.

For sand sharks we have great success with grass shrimp, mostly because we can always get them off the pilings with a net and thus fish with them a lot. Sea bass like them too. A bass rod is about right.


 Shark fishing, Cape May. Particularly good with onions and Old Bay. No bones.


Fancy? No. Fresh? Certainly. Full by meals end? Oh my.



Oh, the Humiliation of it All

After a tiresome day I decided to putt-putt off into the marsh relax and think about nothing... and it's such wool gathering that leads to running over a discarded crab line, winding it into the prop, and shearing the prop pin.

Having a sore shoulder (rotator cuff injury) and no where to walk to, being deep in the marsh, my mood sunk lower than ever. However, my daughter responded to a cell phone all and came swiftly to the rescue. She brought the appropriate tools, but since wound it in at full RPMs; there was no possibility of simply changing the pin. It had bent over and welded itself into the shaft hole. A file would be required and she didn't bring that.


 Tow Boat US has nothing on Jessica. At least 1-mile each way in record time. I think she's tired. My explanations offered to folks we passed:
  • It's all part of training for her Olympic paddling bid; resistance builds power.
  • Boat US Towing is probably cheaper after all, once the costs of raising a teenager to useable size included, but I already had one.
  • I'm actually pushing. It's a stiff rope.

Actually, I've never needed to have a sailboat towed. Just the dumb dingy.

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Follow-up note:  Tony's Marine (Cape May harbor) did next-day repairs. The flywheel key sheared, allowing a shift in the timing. Nothing I would have fixed at anchor.

Fishing and Cigars

Honestly, I wouldn't have guessed what these share in common. Though I keep Shoal Survivor in a fishing harbor and visit fishing towns, I was never immersed or really even exposted to the off-shore bill fishing culture. It's just a little bit about showing off.



Cigars. Boats averaging ~ 1-2 million dollars. Cute off-shore fishing clothing and beer guts. Lots of bling on the brainless trophy wife or grl friend. 8-10 crew members to rinse and pollish he boat between the jetty and the dock, so that it will always show best. The crew finds the fish, prepares all of the fishing gear, sets the hook, and only then does the owner winch in the prize and claim all credit. Whoppee.

One by one, the boats back in with the one or two fish they think might be worthy (smaller fish are tossed over the side, if reports indicate they are out of the money). Pictures are taken, fish wieghed and measured. Then a biologists inspect the fish and checks for hidden weights and liquid injections. Trust but verify. In reality, as much cheating as NASCAR.

The Mid-Atlantic $500,000, fished primarily out of Ocean City and Cape May. Total prize money runs about $1,500,000 to $1,700,000, depending on the year. A late summer tradition, loud and crazy and marina-filling. My daughter, her friend and I dingied over to what the final day's weight-in to watch the specticle. The closing party continued into the wee hours.

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Next year, I simply need to scrape up the entrance fee (ranges from $1,000 to $7,000, depending on the catagories). Or perhaps I'll just troll for the ocational blue or rockfish and leave it at that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Old Neptune's Books

Sure, you might find more selection at Amazon, but you can't pick up the book, read the jacket or a bit of a random chapter, and decide if the writing is worth the reading, to you.

This shop is a real gem. How they collect so many quality nautical titles, I've no idea, but it was a pleasant experience and I bought more than a few.

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Yes, we're still in Chincoteague. It's nice here, and the Water Side Park has become our new home. The farmer's market this morning was nice and they're showing "Singing in the Rain" tomorrow night.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Woody's Beach BBQ

I'm not given to write about eateries, but after a day at the beach this place hit the spot.



Just relaxing. Sit-down places don't let you munch your lunch in a hamock.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lacking a Photoeditor, I'm Forced to Actually Write About Cruising

Later, after I've returned home I'll post something about the value of cruising as active mental therapy, rather like physical therapy, but that sort of writing requires reflection. Mostly, I'm glad to have transitioned from dreading the concept of vacation, to being well accustomed to notion of a 32 x 16 foot home.

But I'm writing from Chincoteague, I'm on vacation and not feeling chatty, so this will be the brief version.

Day One. Deale to Solomons. Numb. Not much wind, some spinnaker work and mostly motoring. Boring destination. But we did stop at Calvert Cliffs, kayaked and beach combed, and got a nice swim. Some relaxation.

Day Two. Solomons to Tangier. Speed sailing, wing and wing. since the course was mostly dead down wind. Some cat sailors are adamant that jibing down is faster, but not when the wind is good and the crew is asleep. And the ride is better. Rig a good main preventer, pull the genoa sheet down, set the autohelm, and enjoy a book. My wife got me "Life", an autobiography of Keith Richards. I was never much of a Stones fan, but the book was strangely engauging.

Our adventures were considerably less drug-fueled. We caught some blue fish trolling, the girls caught some crabs from the docks, and we had a MAJOR seafood feast for dinner. So fresh.

Day Three. Tangier. Hanging out. Visited perhaps the nicest swimming beach on the Bay. Starting to forget work. Bad cell phone and no Internet (even with air card) helped.

Day Four. Tangier to Cape Charles. Good reaching wind. Excellent dinner at Kelly's Pub. They have done a major revamp of the city marina, trying to breath life into the city. It's helping. But the waterfront eatery didn't do too much for me. It's OK, though.

Day Five. Cape Charles to Chincoteague. Time for an ass kicking, with predictions of 15 knots right on the nose, and 85 miles to cover. Fortunately, it turned out to be a very close reach for much of it, though some rough riding and some mal-de-mare was in order for some of the crew. We nearly turned back--I was in favor of it, out of concern--but all determined to soldier on. As the waves became more regular and winds lightened one tick, it worked out. We arrived just in time for dinner.


Day Six--?? . Chincoteague. No, we haven't decided when we are leaving, but we think about 3-4 days. Reading, relaxing, a quick check in with the office, but only with one person that helps rather than complicates. I've learned to relax again. A nice paddle in the marsh, timed so that the tide took me both out and brought me back. Nice. Some time in the town and walking with my wife. Nice.

Chincoteague town dock

 Damage to date? We shattered some more old mainsail slides with the downwind work. Really, I should have replaced them all years ago, but I had stronger replacements in the sewing kit. No problem. The new engines--I had not had a chance to test drive them prior to leaving the dock--have been perfect. I had to do the 20-hour oil change in Chincoteague, but I brought my suction kit, so that was cake. It made me feel like a real cruiser. I've been playing with new spinnaker rigging; that was fun and Ill post something when done. Batteries have been the big problem. Though I check the water quarterly, generally adding only a few ounces, at some point something must have gone wrong. The first night they were clearly not holding up and I realized that ~ 65% of the water was gone! It took about 3 liters of distilled water per group 27 to fill, and they are still not right (voltage drops off to about 12.3V almost immediately. I must have a bad regulator somewhere but have not yet run the problem down. I will be getting new batteries in Cape May. For now, I'll just watch the water.

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The rest of the trip? We'll move on to Cape May when we're bored here. We need to be home by Labor day. That's the plan.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Finally... A Cruise!

My summer, thus far since the second week of April, has consisted of living on the road. Motels at night, refineries by day often for 2 and 3 shifts, meals at the same restaurant day-after -day. The clerk a the Holiday Inn Express should ask for ID; when they greet you by name and hand you your key, it's been too long. But finally, yesterday the project achieved a critical milestone and I've written enough procedures and done enough training that the kids should be able to run her on their own. I hope.

Today we're doing some final packing before heading off for 3 weeks in the sun. No, we've not sold everything, put the house and the market and prepared to start a new life, but for a few weeks I can at least pretend to have cut some ties and live as a vagabond. To emulate a few cruisers I follow.

If past trips are any measure, by the time we return our home will seem strange and huge, the world will seem unfocused, and we'll have to fight the urge, just a bit, to keep going just a little further. But there will also be things we'll welcome. Fall will be approaching, with the promise of snow and ice and skiing and climbing. Fall cruising too, of course, though it is more of a 2-5 day thing.

Where are we off to? the Delmarva and Cape May again. My daughter has a friend she wants to share it with and and it's the last year before college and work fatally intervene. Hopefully we'll stop some new places, as the sector of tropical storms seem very faint this time, one up-side of El Nino conditions.

And yes, phone calls will come, and I'll answer them sometime, maybe. Email will come and I may read it. Or not. And the beer may start before 5.

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I'm so burned-out right now I'm scarcely looking forward to it. It just sounds like work. Feeling that way is rather disturbing.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Engines!

rev. 8-22-2012

Could I fight the good fight, rebuild the old ones, save money for the college fund and retirement? Yes. I also have periodic severe back trouble and work too many hours. And I've read that no one lives forever.

Most recently one of my engines suffered an ignition failure that tipped that balance. Since getting to the trouble would require pulling the engine... again...I decide to replace both and get it over with. At 12 and 16 years old respectively, they been around salt too long.

I ordered the engines from Andy Jr. at Shipyard Island Marina (800-213-3323). He's supplied quite a few to PDQ owners with engines, knows the particulars and understands why many do not want the power tilt version (power tilt drags in the water and there have been reliability issues on the power tilt mechanism), and his prices are also very competitive. Given the time required to swap parts and ship, I thought 3 weeks was very good. After installing them I had a few questions, and he answered them easily. Are they true drop-in replacements? Yes and no:

Positives
  • Shipyard swaps the wiring harness to match what you currently have. Perfect.
  • The battery cables are a match, though I had to drill the positive ring larger. Easy.
  • New fuel connections included. A knife and a few clamps. They seem more secure than the old design.
  • They are just a bit narrower, so the fit is fine.
  • A little lighter, about 15 pounds less I believe (~ 105 pounds). Easier to tilt. I did not attempt to connect the factory 2-rope mechanism; never did like it or trust it. Chopped too many ropes and spun too many props.
  • The transom clamp is the same size.
  • The shift conection is external. Easier to connect and will give a manual back-up.
  • The shift and throttle conection pins are easier to deal with than the old slide-lock, IMHO.
  • They tilt a little higher.
  • Nice freshwater flush arraignment. I'm in brackish water and calcium is a non-issue, but this is an improvement for salt water sailors. I can even imagine bringing both to a single point (check valves would be required on each engine) and connecting it to the on-board pressure water system for the ultimate in convenience.
  • Manual choke. Some would take this as a negative. I sail in the winter and I think I'm going to like it better. You have to pop the cover, but I'm convinced that this is the smart thing to do, to pump the primer, and to confirm lock-down and water flow. In the summer you can simply leave the choke in, if you like.
  • Prop is the same. Most parts are different.
  • Shipyard included the full shop manual.
  • Emergency starting cable. They come with a standard pull-start rope installed; no removing the flywheel cover and wrapping a line around. So long as you pull as far forward as possible, I had no trouble pull starting them, just as a test. They require a harder pull than my old ones, but most probably because they have better compression. It's a nice, capability, when you kill the batteries one day. It will happen.

Negatives
  • The lock-down mechanism is different and probably no more reliable in the long term. At the first sign of stiffness I will remove the lock pin. I left the hold down strap anchors in place and stored the strap! Note that it can get jammed up because of fit issues (see below).
  • Charging is 6 amps rather than 10 amps. Not much, either way, so we rely on solar. There is no red charging wire; it runs through the battery cables and charges the battery it's connected to.
  • The throttle control must be switched from pull to push. This is done a the control head. Not a big deal, but down-load the control manual.
  • Steering lock is not as positive. Perhaps I will add a bolt, if needed. But it should be OK.
  • No oil filter. Probably a minor point if you change the oil within 100 hours, before it's dark.
How to switch from pull to push? Simple, really... if you can get the cables to pull enough for access. The Teleflex site had the installation manual for the MT-3 controls I have.

 How to open? Remove the 4 screws that hold the control to the binnacle, pull up, then remove 2 screws (one fore, one aft) about 1-inch below the flange (visible in the photo above right); it will separate cleanly in 2 parts. The handles come off with an allen wrench. If you're lucky, the installer left enough slack in the cables that you can just pull it up ~ 8 inches as needed. If not, you will need to release the motor ends and feed a little cable back; just don't lose track of it! One caution. The instructions say to be careful when swapping the parts not to disturb the underlying shift mechanism. They mean it. When working on the starboard side the housing slipped and a spring and pin shifted, causing it to jam. That led to complete dis-assembly in order to reposition parts and time wasted, but no real harm.

How to avoid engines that are stuck in the up position? It turns out that on both the PDQ 36 and the PDQ 32 it is posible for the engine to latch in the top (there is a lower and upper raised possition) raised position and be such a tight fit that it is nearly impossible to lower. The cure is simply to trim away a portion of the battery shelf. Regarding the PDQ 32, if you have group 27or group 24 batteries (group 24 was stock but many upgrade) nothing is lost. For those that have gone to 6v batteries, this may pose a challenge.  At this time the lock is working fine, but I'm sure I will deisable it and replace it with a line-system when it gets glitchy.
Remember to adjust the transom angle. Swap the bracket and pulley for the pull-up rope from the old engines. Remember to set the choke before starting. There is no red charging wire, so don't look for it.

As for detailed procedures and pictures, well it was too damn hot and I've written about this before. I've gotten older, but my daughter is a high school senior now and was a big help. Carts and ramps and winches do most of the heavy work, but there was still plenty of sweat to go around. About 4 hours all told. The result is quiet....

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So our August cruise around the Delmarva and to Cape May is on! I promise pictures.

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Notes:

8-22-2012: So far, so good. About 30 hours and no issues.While they are quieter at idle and low revs, wide-open there is very little difference. I'm guessing much of the vibration is from the prop slashing water and nothing can be done. The manual choke is no big deal; in warm weather, pull full on to start, and push in within 1 minute. No need to advance the throtle.

5-8-2014: Still happy, no issues.