She Floats -
September 26, 2002
Eileen and Little Gidding just before the launch - both are dry
Last week, Little Gidding and her long suffering crew escaped the boatyard. Now, don't get us wrong. As boatyards go, the Coan River marina is one of the best. But boats don't belong in yards. They belong on the water. And so do sailors.
We'd like to say that we finished all our boat projects and launched with a great sense of satisfaction. The truth of the matter is that we finished the essential jobs and launched with a sense of desperation. The Coan River is located in Virginia's Northern Neck, where the leaves are just beginning to change colour. Squirrels are hustling about collecting acorns. Overhead, geese in V formations are flying south. Last week, we looked at each other and said, "Nature is trying to tell us something. The new non-skid on the deck can wait 'til next haulout."
All went well with the launch. John and Linda, the boatyard owners, were as conscientious as ever in gently moving us from land to water. As we sat in the travel lift slip, David commented, "We're floating really nicely." John commented drily, "We haven't released the slings yet." Linda lowered the slings the rest of the way and our boot top immediately sank another couple of inches. "Maybe we should have raised our waterline while we had the chance," Eileen said.
We motored from the travel lift slip to a nearby berth at the dock. David got a dock cart and began moving a bunch of our stuff back on board: sails, bicycles, tools, repair materials, outboard engine, dinghy, and more. Eileen filled the water tanks. The boat sank another couple of inches. "Maybe next year we'll just eliminate our boot top altogether," David said.
Our inaugural sail was north up Chesapeake Bay to Solomon's Island, about 35 miles away. Despite our increased draft, we made our way out of the Coan River without running aground. As we crossed the mouth of the Potomac River, David decided he should check the stuffing box. He had replaced the packing material while we were on the hard and wanted to ensure the stuffing box was properly tightened. He disappeared into the engine hold and promptly shot back out. "Holy cats, we've got Niagara Falls happening down there!"
The locking nut on the stuffing box had worked itself loose and water was gushing through the stern tube. David grabbed two big pump wrenches and dove below. He stemmed the flood. "Now we only have to pump out the bilge," he declared.
Unfortunately, the bilge in Little Gidding extends half the way to China. Our automatic electric bilge pump is mounted a couple of feet from the bottom. A lot of water can fill the space below its intake. David began pumping energetically on the manual bilge pump mounted in the cockpit. The pump handle came out of its socket. David inspected the socket. It was cracked and a big chunk of it had fallen out onto the cockpit sole. "It's a good thing we have the emergency manual pump," he announced.
David dragged our monster Edson pump out of the cockpit locker and set it up below in the main salon where there was convenient access to the bilge under the floor boards. He pumped and Eileen directed the discharge. The good news is that the pump worked great at moving the water out of the bilge. The bad news is that not all of the water ended up where it was intended. The discharge hose had several pinhole leaks. By time the bilge was dry, the cabin sole was wet. Eileen had just washed and oiled that sole. She was not amused.
We arrived and anchored at Solomon's with no more mishaps. The weather report on the radio predicted rain and contrary winds for the next day. "Just as well," David mused. "We need a day to do pump maintenance and clean up this mess. But isn't it great to be floating again?"
"Barely floating," Eileen corrected.
Cheers, David & Eileen