April 2/3: The Giant Bird

I didn't actually take a picture of the big giant bird, but it was one of these. As it turns out, a great blue heron.

I got up in the middle of the night to let Lily out, and I saw the largest bird that I've ever seen in Louisiana. It was a long, skinny bird, and I would estimate that it was about six feet tall. It was standing on one of the kayaks, which was tied behind the sailboat. He was tall enough that from my perspective (which was several feet above the scene), his head was as high as the boom.

In retrospect, I was way up a hill from the boat, and he was a bit behind the boom. So even though his head appeared to be at the level of the boom, I was looking down at them, so it was proabaly lower. The Audobon guide I used to find out what kind of bird it was said that they get to four feet tall. I assure you that this bird was every bit of that height.

As you might guess, friends and family members have a hard time believing you when you claim to have seen a six foot bird in the middle of the night. My mom was the only one to believe me right away, but it never occurs to her that I would be pulling her leg.

I remember once when I was talking to Mom on the phone, someone in her house was running a blender or mixer or something like that. I told her to shut it off because it was causing noise on my TV picture. We were hundreds of miles away, but she believed me.

At any rate, I wasn't pulling anyone's leg in this case. But I don't think I convinced anyone until I was motivated enough to go buy that Audubon guide.

April 3: Velvet Elvis is Sinking

The morning of April 3, I planned to do a little bit of cleanup from the previous day and then go home. But when I went down to the boat, there was an inch or two of water above the carpet. This was far, far more water than I had ever seen before.

I went to West Marine to buy a little bilge pump. It took me an hour to connect the pump to the attachment that allowed me to plug it into the cigarette lighter attachment, and it was the most frustrating hour of electrical work that I've ever attempted. It happened to be that you almost had to have three hands in order to hold all of the pieces together while you tightened the cover. It was torture to know what needed to be done, but just not have the dexterity to be able to do it. I'm sure the fact that I was sitting with my feet in water didn't help.

The little pump worked like a champ, but it had to pump and pump and pump to get the water out. I have to think it pumped a hundred gallons or so.

Meanwhile, I was racking my brain to figure out where the water could have come from. There had been no rain. I had bailed out the bilge the evening before. It hadn't flooded the entire week. Clearly, I had a leak, but where? After I pumped, Sam wanted to go for a quick paddle in the canals. I agreed, and opened the lazarette to find something or other. Lo and behold, it was absolutely full of water. Crapola.

One member of the crew needs to take her sinking vessel more seriously. (You're at the end of the story. I promise that this is the last dog photo you have to see in this particular narritive.)

I put the pump back to work. (Props to General Boats for giving me a cigarette lighter outlet right there in back of the boat.) After a good long while, it had the lazerette mostly dry.

I started wiping out the remaining water with a large sponge, and after about ten minutes of wipe, sqeeze, wipe, squeeze, wipe, squeeze, I realized that the water was coming in as fast as I could get it out. This is not a good feeling.

By now it was mid day. I hadn't counted on another day of work. It was sunny and hot, and I was tired in more ways than one. There is a drain going from the cockpit, down a hose through the front of the lazarette. Most of this assembly lies below the water line, and if the hose isn't clamped well, water leaks in. I decided that when I cleaned the laz, I must have pulled off some critical silicon and opened up a leak.

I set off trying to seal the hose, which was quite challenging, since I couldn't keep the water out. I worked on this for a long time, but the water kept trickling higher and higher. Every 30 minutes, I would stick the pump in and let it suck it dry for me.

Finally, the back part of the lazarette had dried out, which allowed me to notice that the trickle was coming from back there. I parted some junk aside, and saw three trickles of water, coming from the screw holes from where the old depth sounder had been removed (see, you should have paid attention to all those bullet lists). When I finally found the definitive cause of the leak, I actually heared a chorus of angels do that "aaaaaahhhhhhhh" noise that you hear during a revelation on a bad television show.

I took a little while to get the holes patched, and to wipe up all of the water, but an hour after I was done, the lazarette was still dry. I finished wiping water out of the bilge, and it seemed okay also.

It was a long drive home. It was Sunday evening, and I was listening to an LSU Alabama baseball game. It went to extra innings, and the Tigers lost in 14 after blowing a couple of chances to win. When I got home, I watched the women's basketball team get eliminated from the final four.

It was a crappy Sunday.

April 11: Post Mortem

I went by the house last Friday afternoon and checked over the boat. There was about an eighth of a inch of water in the bilge. And there had been a pretty good rain during the week. Feeling pretty good. There was also a very small puddle of water in the lazarette. That isn't normal for Velvet Elvis, but I'm guessing it's just drippings from the wet things that were stored in there. I'm sure there's a good mold colony growing on all of my nice clean stuff, but hell, it is a boat after all.

Velvet Elvis, at 04:00, the day before Hurricane Ivan last fall.

It's good to know that if I get a little hole in my boat, I can make it to shore, find the problem, and get it fixed (although I'll feel better when it stays fixed after a sail or two). It feels even better to know that the Rhodes 22 is a good enough boat that no matter how badly I screw up, she won't sink.

The work on a boat is never done. I still need to replace the pump on the head, replace the broken hatch, fix the microphone on the VHF, replace the cleat that stripped during the sail, mount the whisker pole to the mast (on my original list, but deferred so that I could go sailing), and correct a couple of the misaligned components on my reefing system.

I guaranty that as soon as I do all of those, something else will go wrong.

I should emphasize that we've had this boat for years and years, and except for one new coat of bottom paint, she has been in the water the whole time. This is the first time that I've taken the time for a three and a half day overhaul, and even though it wasn't quite enough, it was long, long overdure. And don't forget, I still went sailing in the middle of it all.

April 19:

Just a quick note to let you know that we mounted the whisker pole, fixed the reefing, and replaced the broken cleat this weekend. All of these chores went on without a hitch, for once.