That Time the Boat Flooded

That Time the Boat Flooded

“Skye should be up from her nap soon, and I’ll grab…GEOFF!!” I’d turned to climb down below only to discover several inches of water on the floor. It hadn’t been there a few minutes previously when I’d gotten us drinks.

We were 10 miles from Charleston, SC and the brand new, never-tested engine had been running flawlessly. We’d just passed a raft of powerboats and their wake had given us a serious shake-up.

“Something hit a thru-hull. Take the wheel.” There aren’t a lot of ways that much water could get into the boat that quickly and none of them are good. I take over steering while Geoff opens the lockers and starts pulling things out, trying to see which thru-hull is flooding. Skye chooses this moment to wake up and look down from her bed onto the water sloshing back and forth on the floor.

“Momeeeeee! It’s WET!” She’s decidedly dubious about the water on the floor and elects to stay in bed. Geoff goes below, grabs her, and puts her on deck with me where I snap her into her harness.

“The bilge pump was turned off again,” Geoff confirms before opening the engine hatch, still trying to locate the problem. I hear the bilge churn to life and the water starts flowing out of the boat. We’re not going to sink, at least.

We’d left late the night before and anchored out at the mouth of the river, ready to leave with the morning tide. Skye was sound asleep and Geoff and I sat on deck having a drink and congratulating ourselves on all our hard work and finally getting moving.

This past winter, we made a lot of improvements to the boat, from re-painting the bottom to significant glass work, replacing all the standing rigging (the cables that hold the mast up), putting in a new engine and retrofitting it to work in our boat, rebuilding the steering system, and completely re-writing the electrical. It was nice to finally be rewarded for all the hard work and begin traveling again. And as hard as it was to say goodbye to the friends we’d made in Beaufort, we were ready to go.

We’d greeted the sun heading down the river to cut over behind Edisto, keeping to the intercoastal waterway. Driving was a struggle. Last summer, when we’d rigged up our steering system, we’d incorrectly connected the cables, causing the steering to be connected backwards. I’d driven the boat from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort and around and my brain is still wired to turn the wheel the opposite direction of the way I want to go. Needless to say, we drove in lots of circles as we slowly forced our muscle memory to change.

The day was beautiful, only slightly overcast. Dolphins swam off our stern, putting on a show. Temperature in the mid-80s. As we approached Charleston, the boat traffic increased significantly. Power boaters mainly, out for the sun, never thinking to look behind them at how their wake caused a little sailboat to dip and roll.

Geoff crawled out of one of the cockpit lockers with grease on him, but looking calmer.

“There’s water coming up the rudder shaft when we go a certain speed,” he said. “We’ll have to shift some weight forward. We also probably need to call ComPac and see if they’ve seen this problem before.” A solution. Our boat wasn’t sinking.

We motor towards Charleston, keeping an eye on the bilge pump which appears to be on the fritz. Geoff has me drive the Wapoo Cut, a narrow channel between to rivers with docks on either side and a howling current. Powerboats raced on either side, causing significant rocking and drift. I was holding the wheel tightly, trying not to make a mistake in how I turned the boat while Geoff was down below being thrown around and trying to find the radio channel to call the draw bridge ahead. Skye, meanwhile, was totally unperturbed by this, but had pulled out her doctor’s kit to give the radio a “checkup.”

We pulled into the marina late afternoon, tied on dock lines. Elli ran off the boat towards some grass while I closed everything down and followed with Skye. I was ready for some supper and a good glass of wine.

We leave Charleston tomorrow. After a discussion with ComPac, we’re going to shift weight forward away from the rudder and keep an eye on the prop shaft. We may need to replace some of the fittings and once we get away from boat traffic, I’ll swim the rudder to make sure it’s clear of debris. Geoff has wired a back-up bilge system off the second battery so that it will take a double-failure for our bilge system to stop working.

One day of adventure down, a whole summer to go!

Cleaning the Bottom

Cleaning the Bottom

My clock says 5:36am and a book just fell on my head.

I am groggy since we moved the boat out to the sandbar at high tide last night and dropped anchor a little after 2am. I can hear Geoff on deck. Can’t I just sleep a little longer? The boat lists sharply to the side and I know I can’t. The books come down from the shelf into the bed and I walk down the middle of the boat, now at about 20-degrees, making sure everything else on the high side is secure. I grab breakfast and climb on deck.

Geoff is now below making sure everything in our cockpit lockers is secure. I hand him a granola bar and we settle in to wait.

5:50am, the port side of the boat settles onto the sand bar and the waves are no longer lifting it. We’re at a 40-degree angle and Elli, the dog, is perturbed by the whole arrangement.

6:10am, the water is low enough for me to slide off the port side into just-above-the-knees water. It is surprisingly warm, even though the day has barely began. I grab the painters tape and wade around the boat to start marking off where we’re going to be painting. The water goes down several inches while I work my way down the boat and the fiddler crabs crawl out of our thru hulls in droves. They seem to have no fear of me.

Once the boat is taped, we grab scrubbers and cleaner and begin to work. Two and a half hours later, our bottom is clean of growth (we’d had a diver pre-scrub it before we headed out, but we still had to get the rest of it off). We finished washing and acetone-prepping just as the water turned and started to flow back in.

Starting at the keel, we painted our way up. By the time we finished the keel and were on the hull, the water was back around my ankles. It took both of us to finish painting the hull, pull the painters tape, and put on the new blue stripe (which I didn’t do a great job of since the boat was about to re-float and I’ll have to fix).

By 10:30am, we were out of the water and waiting for the boat to level. I was down below on my computer, already working for the day. High tide came and we were able to motor back to the marina with half a painted boat.

Other half to be painted at the next dawn tide…

SV Brave Dragon

SV Brave Dragon

“Skye, it’s time for your nap.”

“I’m not Skye.” Ok, what toddler nap-avoidance tactic are we going to try today?

“Ok, who are you?”

“I’m a brave dragon. RWARRRRR!” Her roars are somewhat adorable. She roars complete with an open mouth and two hands in the air.

For a long time, she’s been watching Doc McStuffins with my Aunt Peggy and I’ve downloaded a few episodes for her Kindle (something for her to watch when I have an unexpected work call). One of the characters is a stuffed blue dragon, Stuffy, who repeatedly tells everyone that he is a brave dragon. Skye has apparently taken this to heart.

On a seemingly unrelated note, we’ve been putting new stripes and sticker on the boat, slowly turning it from a red and cream boat to cream and light blue. I personally like the light blue color better, although the cushion fabric shows every dropped crumb, dog hair, and spilled drink (not a great combination with a toddler). We should have a matching dodger and bimini soon!

We’ve been debating boat name on and off and had settled on one based on our previous boat, mainly because we could agree on nothing else. Skye was in her dragon phase (well, she still is in her dragon phase, and her ballerina phase, and her tractor-driving phase….) while we were driving to a machine shop to pick up yet another part for the mast, when Geoff had an idea.

“What if we call the boat Brave Dragon?” Geoff suggests. We debate the idea back and forth for a while, but we both really like it. So, after much debate, the stickers are ordered and SV Brave Dragon it is. The only item up for debate is whether we’re going to put stickers of Stuffy next to the name or whether we’ll just get a boat flag made with a stuffy to be flown in an effort to attract other boats with toddlers aboard…