Riding out Tropical Storm Alberto! Whoo hoo!!

If you’re just tuning in, CLICK HERE to start at the beginning. 🙂

TROPICAL STORM ALBERTO UPDATE

We’ve been watching (Sub)Tropical Storm Alberto for a couple of days now with a wary eye. After Hurricane Irma last year, we knew this one would be a minor blow.

We could either ride her out on No Tan Lines, or head to the satellite office downtown. But, sitting in a stationary building during all the excitement sounded really boring so we opted to remain on board. And, it’s a good thing we did. The shifting winds and high tides required adding new lines, and making frequent adjustments.

Yesterday, the sailboat next to ours started taking on water in the heavy rains. It’s not plugged in to power and I imagine the batteries died long ago. We’ve been here for a year now and we’ve never met the owner, nor seen anyone other than marina staff on board. They put a pump in the boat to save it.

Alberto’s eye is passing directly west of us as I’m typing this. We’re getting our strongest winds yet and “No Tan Lines” is bouncing all over the place. We’re having a great adventure! Just adjusted the bow line because were were hugging the dock. Mason (age 11) ran in to tell us. The dock is directly outside his bedroom port so he was the first one to notice. He’s always on “crashing against the dock duty.” Found some damage on the toe rail on the starboard side (by the dock). Not sure when that happened but it was during low tide. We’re in a very high tide right now (storm surge) and we have swells IN the marina. It’s a FUN day!!!! Coco the dog is loving it! Rambo the cat….not so much.

Luckily, we haven’t lost power or Internet. I’m glad he’s only giving us a glancing blow. It’s good practice for the next one!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll alert you to new posts and we’ll be having book give-aways! 🙂

* * *

Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

How Do You Give Your Dock Neighbors Colon Control Issues? Crash Your Boat RIGHT NEXT TO THEIRS!

If you’re just tuning in, CLICK HERE to start at the beginning. 🙂

PART II

Last week, I shared the story of our first sailing adventure on No Tan Lines (“Tanny”). Halfway through our day trip, we started taking on water. You can read Part I of this story RIGHT HERE but, in a nutshell:

We started off the day listening to the Coast Guard repeatedly asking mariners to look for a boat that was sinking…but the single person onboard didn’t know exactly where he was in the gulf. We were too far away to help in the search and rescue.

We had to play chicken with a tanker under the Skyway Bridge.

Our bilge pumps starting running repeatedly, which alerted us that we were taking on water. A LOT of water. Capt. Brian P. Whiddon (who is also the Managing Editor of WritersWeekly) fixed the problem but we didn’t know how long the patch would last.

When pulling down the main sail, it got stuck and a line got jammed as well. With three sails flapping violently, and rigging clanging, Brian had to climb part way up the mast in high winds, with Tanny pitching to and fro. It was very dangerous, but necessary.

With our hearts literally pounding after our back-to-back adventures, and constantly worrying about the previous leak breaking loose again, we just wanted to GET HOME to the safety of our slip at the marina…but the wind was not cooperating. We tacked, and jibed, and tacked, and jibed. We weren’t going to make it home until around 10 p.m., if we were lucky. If we got home AT ALL. As the sky grew dark, I tried to relax, silently talking to myself. ‘Come on, Angie. Chill OUT! I mean, seriously, what else could POSSIBLY go wrong?!’

I was tempted to text details of our current situation to Richard, who was on warm, safe, dry land, training a new employee. But, I refrained because I didn’t want him to panic. So, I simply sent him a couple more pictures of the boys, and told him about what time we expected to dock. He said no problem and sent a smiley emoticon, completely obvious to our situation…which was a good thing. (Later, he told me he was very glad he was unaware of what was going on because he would have spent hours worrying about us.)

After tacking yet again, and not getting any closer to our destination, my stress level was through the bimini so I asked Brian if we could just motor the rest of the way in. The engine had been getting hot earlier and we risked it overheating. But, I reasoned, if it got hot again, we’d simply turn it off, and put a sail back up while it cooled off. Brian agreed. I fired up the engine and Brian took down the staysail and mizzen. It was already dark so Max was on the bow, holding a spotlight, on the lookout for crab traps. I kept nervously checking the temperature gauge on the engine but it was holding steady.

It only took about 30 minutes to reach the basin outside of the marina. The engine hadn’t overheated and we hadn’t hit any crab traps so we were home free! Or, so we thought…

Brian asked me if I felt comfortable docking Tanny in the dark. Holding the wheel with my left hand, I waived my right one with bravado. “Of course!”

I’ve only docked her twice before and the last time would have been picture perfect if I hadn’t forgotten that I’d briefly put her in reverse…and LEFT her in reverse.

After we passed through the basin, I very, very slowly rounded the end of dock five, and turned into the fairway between docks four and five. I stayed close to dock five so I would have a wide area for my turn into our slip. Despite the late hour, our faithful friend Miles was standing on the dock with his boat hook in hand, ready to assist.

Brian told me when to start turning and I eased Tanny closer to the slip. I was heading straight in! It was going to be perfect! I was already patting myself on the back. Docking a 52-foot boat in a narrow slip is no easy feat and I’d done it after dark! At least, I thought I had…

As she was coasting in ever so slowly, the wind started to push her to port. The piling on her port side was VERY QUICKLY coming closer and closer.

Brian yelled, “Abort! Start over!”

No big deal. Aborting is pretty simple so I wasn’t nervous. I’d done it before. Reverse. Bow thruster. Turn wheel. Forward. Turn around. Easy peasy!

So, I straightened the wheel, and gently put her in reverse. As soon as the bow cleared the outermost piling, I clicked the bow thruster to turn her bow to the left. Then, I turned the wheel, and put her in forward. It was really dark away from the dock lights and I couldn’t see much in front of me. Max was on the bow so he was kind of in my way. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.) Then, I heard shouting from all around me. All the voices melded into one cacophony of male hysteria. What? WHAT?! I couldn’t see much but it looked like I was turning just fine. And, that’s when one loud, booming voice roared above the rest.

“REVERSE! REVERSE!!!”

Ignoring Brian’s previous training, I didn’t gently click her into reverse. I THREW her into reverse. But, it was too late. I rammed a large piling head-on. Dead on. I couldn’t have hit it any more precisely if I’d tried. Miles later said that, after the impact, it groaned, and leaned way over but it didn’t fall. I’d missed that slip’s boat by mere inches. As I was backing up, I squinted my eyes ahead. I still couldn’t see that bleeping piling! Where was it?!

Once I thought I was far enough away, I clicked the bow thruster joy stick to the left again, put her in forward, and proceeded toward the end of the fairway. I squinted ahead again. Nothing but shadows in the dark but the lights from the park were in the distance so I was heading in the right direction.

And, that’s when Brian yelled from the stern, “ANGIE!! Are you going to hit ANOTHER ONE?!”

“Um, what?!”

“There’s a large piling RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!!!”

I quickly hit the bow thruster again, moving the bow farther away from the dock four boats and their pilings. Only when we were passing the last, very large piling could I see it.

Max was still standing on the bow, shaking his head, likely wondering why he hadn’t chosen to spend the day at his sister’s house. Mason (age 11) was sitting right next to me in the cockpit, wrapped up in his bulky, neon yellow life jacket, completely silent. Such a sweet boy. He’s the only person who didn’t yell at me that day!

Dangerous docking on a moonless night!

As I headed back into the basin to turn around, I was wondering how Brian had seen that piling all the way from the stern of the boat. He was a good six feet behind me. It didn’t make any sense. Something was tickling the back of my brain but I didn’t have time to fully process the thought. I had to get Tanny docked so this day would FINALLY END!

After making a wide turn in the basin, I prepared for my second approach. Brian said, “Are you SURE you can dock the boat after dark, Angie? Do you want me to take over?”

I rolled my eyes. Men!!

“I’m fine, Brian. The wind pushed me to port last time. I’ll compensate better for that this time.”

I heard him grunt.

I know I need to learn how to do these things. And, there’s some sort of male sexist thing going on here at the dock about women not being able to dock boats. Pushaw!!! I was going to show ’em!

I once again turned into our fairway, hugged the dock five side, and turned towards our slip. I waited about three more seconds this time, knowing the wind would be pushing me to the south, into the pilings. I planned to bump her forward when that started happening again, overcompensating for the wind. Then, she’d just glide right down the middle of the slip! Buuuuut, that’s not what happened. The wind caught Tanny again and the middle of her port side again started moving quickly toward a piling.

Not thinking about how many of our neighbors were already asleep, I hollered at Max, who was still standing on the bow with his boat hook. “MAX! PILING!! PORT!!!” Max dropped his boat hook, ran over, and pushed against it with all his might but the distinct whining sound of piling vs. toe rail began. SCRAAAAAAAPE! All the way down the side of Tanny.

That caused Tanny’s bow to move right, toward the finger dock. I muttered a profanity because she was now cockeyed in the slip. Brian yelled, “Bow thruster to port!” I clicked it a few times and she straightened out. Max had pushed on the piling just enough so the scraping had stopped.

Using his own boat hook, Brian grabbed the stern lines, and secured them while Max threw the bow lines to Miles. It was late so, once we were tied off, Miles walked back to his boat, with our grateful words of thanks following him down the dock. It was sweet of him not to tease me about the entertainment I’d provided that evening. He saved that for later.

I quickly texted Richard: “We’re back! Just tied the lines and about to clean up. Something happened while we were out but I didn’t want to worry you. We were taking on water. And, then I crashed the boat. Minor damage only. I’ll tell you all about it when you get here.”

He texted back one word: “WHAT?!?!?!?!?!”

We all went to work putting the bumpers back on, hooking up the power and Internet, cleaning up the deck, and stowing things below. Aside from a few gray hairs, several new bruises, and elevated blood pressure, we were none the worse for wear after our harrowing day.

The boys went down to take their showers and Brian grabbed a cold beer. I sat down in the cockpit, and took a deep breath. My brain had settled down, and was working logically again. And, that’s when it hit me.

I turned my head, and said, “Hey, Brian. There’s something I probably should have told you before tonight.”

He took a swig of his cold beer, and let fly a loud captain’s burp. “Yeah? What’s that?”

“I’m night blind.”

POST SCRIPT

The next day, my phone rang. My caller ID said it was Miles so I answered. After some polite small-talk, he started laughing out of the blue…and got louder and louder. I said, “What’s so funny?!”

After he caught his breath, he finally said, “I almost (bleeped) my pants when you hit that piling! If my wife ever wants to dock our boat, I’m NOT going to be there!”

I’ll undoubtedly get some good ribbing from our male neighbors at this week’s Friday Night Dock Party. And, I’ll just smile, and gently remind them to thank me for not hitting one of THEIR BOATS.

The opening in the propane locker.
The mysterious semi-transparent hose that tried to sink Tanny.

OH! I ALMOST FORGOT!! 

What caused our big leak? Capt. Brian traced the hose. It starts in the propane locker, which is under the deck on the starboard side. It’s not the main drain. There’s a hole in the bottom of the locker for that. This particular opening is about half-way up the side. The semi-transparent hose runs from the locker, down underneath the aft shower, past the seacocks under the galley floor, and to a thru-hull. Each time the boat heeled to starboard, water was rushing into the hose. The pressure caused it to break and, thus, start filling the bilge. We have found a LOT of weird things on this boat and it wouldn’t surprise us if the previous owner turned one fully functional thing into something that makes no sense at all.

Our next order of business is to contact other Irwin owners (there’s a great group of them on Facebook) to ask them what the purpose of that hose is. I suspect it’s backup drainage but I’m probably wrong. I admit I’m enjoying trying to solve the mystery!

NEXT:  RIDING OUT TROPICAL STORM ALBERTO! WHOO HOO!!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll alert you to new posts and we’ll be having book give-aways! 🙂

* * *

Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.

WE’RE TAKING ON WATER!!!

If you’re just tuning in, CLICK HERE to start at the beginning. 🙂

PART I

It’s been a long time coming but, after almost a year, tons of repairs, and a few motoring runs, we finally got to raise the sails on No Tan Lines (“Tanny”)! We’d been waiting for just the right weather window before the rainy season starts and this was the day when it finally arrived. Richard was scheduled to train a new employee on this particular day and he later told me how SO VERY HAPPY he was to be spared from the stress and mayhem we endured!

It was a beautiful morning. Just a few clouds, a cool breeze, and hardly any boats on the bay at all. Just before backing Tanny out of the slip, we bumped the box on the dock housing our utility connections. My fault. Oops. Just a slight ding. If only I’d known that was a sign of things to come…

We backed her out of the slip, rounded the basin, and entered Tampa Bay. We then turned south, towards the Skyway Bridge. After the main, mizzen, and jib were raised, we cut the engine. There was a nice morning breeze for a few minutes but then it petered out and we were only moving at about 1 knot. It was starting to warm up and we were passing around the bottled water and sunscreen. Capt. Brian Whiddon rolled up the jib, and set the staysail, which has a boom attached so we could more easily tack and jibe. It was very relaxing and we saw large schools of fish and even two dolphins!

It was so quiet and tranquil…until the VHF crackled to life.

The Coast Guard started making frequent announcements about a vessel in distress. Some poor guy in a 22-foot blue and white boat was taking on water “10 to 15 miles” from one of the islands. They were asking anyone in the area to be on the lookout, and to offer assistance if possible. As the alerts continued, it was clear nobody had found him yet. We weren’t anywhere near that area so we couldn’t assist. But, the frequent requests for help were unnerving as we worried about him.

When we got closer to the Skyway, after passing the land mass, our quiet ride ended. The wind picked up with impressive speed and we were suddenly flying across the water with the boat heeled over and spray splashing our warm cheeks. We were having a blast! At one point, we heard a large crash below. A drawer in the hallway had flown out, spilling hardware everywhere. I quickly cleaned it up.

We had to tack to avoid a slow-moving tanker that was crossing directly in front of us. Once it was out of the way, we proceeded under the bridge.

Another tanker was heading our way and I was at the helm. I had no intention of playing chicken with that big guy. However, I had to head more into the wind to avoid him and our speed slowed a bit. I guess the tanker captain grew a little concerned so he hailed us on the VHF, asking how we planned to pass him. He was very nice, and probably just wanted to make sure we could see him. (How could we NOT see him?!)

Brian told him we planned to pass well off to his port side. After we safely passed him, I let Max and Mason take a turn at the wheel so they could sail in the Gulf of Mexico, too. They loved it! It was such a beautiful day!!

We sailed about a mile into the gulf but it was already mid-afternoon so we turned around to head back. The wind was still kickin’ us along quite nicely and, once we were back under the Skyway, it continued. After we got into the dead zone again (which was no longer dead as the wind had picked up everywhere), Capt. Brian adjusted the sails so we wouldn’t heel as much. Heeling is more fun and I LOVE to go fast but it’s not good to put stress on the rigging if you don’t need to. Still, I’d very much enjoyed the exciting ride! I admit I pouted a bit about the excitement ending but Brian reminded me, “You want this boat to last another 20 to 30 years, right?” I nodded and, while were still moving along at about 5 knots, I stared longingly at the Lev-o-gage, which showed we were only heeling at 1 degree.

Things would not be boring for long, however. Brian took the helm and I sat back, watching the cormorants diving for their dinner, and the occasional pelican flying nearby. I pulled out my phone and sent Richard an update, telling him our location and estimated time of arrival, and I also sent him several pictures I’d taken of the boys and the boat.

I had just clicked send…and that’s when I heard the bilge pump dumping water. No big deal. I hear it a few times a day, every day. When we’re at the dock, it turns on about once every two or three hours to dump the water the air conditioners produce, or when the sump pump overflows.

I knew the air conditioners weren’t running and nobody had turned on a sink or shower to fill the sump. Then, the bilge pumps kicked on again. Then they stopped. About five seconds later, they started again. And, it wasn’t a lazy dump of just a little water from the air conditioners, which I was used to hearing. It was a big dump. They turned back off. And, about five seconds later, turned back on.

And, that’s when it hit me. WE WERE TAKING ON WATER!

I didn’t want to alarm the boys. I tried to remain outwardly calm but my words came out in a high-pitched squeak as I mentioned the bilge pumps to Brian. I took the helm and he casually walked below. I heard him pulling up the floor board in the galley.

I plastered on a fake smile for the boys while my mind raced. ‘Okay, breathe, Angie. Taking on water. Have dinghy. Have outboard. Have Epirb. In Tampa Bay. Easy to find…not like that poor guy they were looking for this morning. We’ll be fine, right? Keep breathing, Angie. Wait…bilge pumps are working. But, how long will the batteries last when they’re running non-stop? We have an emergency pump but what if the generator stops working?

A million words were flying through my head. I knew we weren’t going to die but I didn’t want to lose the boat and ALL of our belongings. ‘Can we get her close enough to land to run her aground? Is that even a good idea? Aarrrgghhh!!! Why haven’t I read more sailing books?! Angie, you have GOT to start budgeting your time better! Can Sea Tow get to us before the batteries give out???

It had been maybe 90 seconds since Brian went below. I heard the bilge pumps dumping again. Then, I saw Brian race past the companionway opening, from the galley to the nav station. My stomach tightened. He then silently darted by again, back toward the galley. The bilge pumps made another dump. Bile started rising in my throat.

I heard the bilge pumps dump yet again. I was counting in my head, waiting for the next dump. Three-one-thousand… Four-one-thousand… Five-one-thousand… I turned my head and strained my eardrums. No spurting. No splashing. Nothing. Whatever was wrong, Brian had fixed it!

The bile settled back down in my gut and I sat down behind the wheel, remembering that I was supposed to stay on course while in a full-blown yet silent panic. That’s not easy.

Brian casually climbed back into the cockpit. I didn’t mention the sweat on his brow. Still not wanting to alarm the boys, I smiled, and said, “Seacock problem, eh?”

Looking out at the horizon, he shook his head no, and said, “We’re fine.”

I asked, “What was it?”

He turned, looked at me, and sternly whispered, “We’re FINE.”

I knew he didn’t want to scare the boys with the truth. It must have been something bad. Very bad.

A few minutes later, the boys went downstairs for a snack and Brian leaned over to tell me a hose had come loose, and was filling the bilge. He had no idea how long the bilge pumps had been running because we couldn’t hear them when we were in high winds and rough seas. He’d managed to plug it with a cylindrical cork he pulled from the emergency bag but he didn’t know if the hose was going to the engine, or the generator, or somewhere else. No generator means dying batteries. No engine means we’re stuck out there, hoping we can sail to more shallow water, and anchor while we wait for help…all the while hoping we don’t start taking on water again.

Now that the boys were down below, blissfully unaware of our predicament, Brian wanted to see if we had outflow from the engine and generator. I fired up the engine but we were heeling and the exhaust opening was under the waterline, so Brian couldn’t see if water was coming out. We had to turn around so the boat would heel to the other side. Gurgle gurgle spurt. Thank GOD! It wasn’t a hose going to the engine. Brian then tested the generator. It wasn’t that, either. We’d have to wait until we got back to the marina to see what caused the problem. For now, we tried to relax, hoping the plug in the hose would hold.

I was tempted to send Richard another update but I didn’t want to give him a hear attack so I decided that probably wasn’t a good idea.

Taking down the main sail later was another adventure involving a lot of sail flapping, deafening clanging from the rigging, and hollering back and forth. The main didn’t want to come all the way down and one of the lines got stuck. We may have suffered some mild hearing loss from those few moments. The evening wind had picked up and Brian had to climb part way up the mast to fix the problem while Tanny pitched to and fro. He managed to get it down and things once again got quiet.

It was getting dark and we were still pretty far from the marina. Worse, the wind was blowing directly out of the northwest (the direction we needed to go) so we’d have to tack back and forth in order to get home. And, each time we thought we’d gone far enough north to avoid heading directly into the wind to get home, the wind would shift again. All the while, that hose was on our minds. We wanted to get home. And fast.

So, we sat in the cockpit, watching the sun set and the city lights coming on in the distant buildings.

We tacked to port, sailed awhile, then tacked to starboard, then back to port, then back to starboard. We weren’t going to make it home until around 10 p.m., if we were lucky. If we got home AT ALL. As the sky grew dark, I tried to relax while listening to my heart pound in my eardrums, and silently talking to myself once again. ‘Come on, Angie. Chill OUT!! I mean, seriously, what else could POSSIBLY go wrong?!

READ PART II RIGHT HERE!

Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter. We’ll alert you to new posts and we’ll be having book give-aways! 🙂

* * *

Angela Hoy is a publisher, a blogger, and the author of 19 books. She lived on dirt her entire life before her family gave away almost everything they owned, and moved onto a 52-foot Irwin Center Cockpit Ketch. They all live, work, and play on board full-time.

Angela is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, a free source of paying markets for freelance writers and photographers. If you want to write for magazines, websites, businesses, or others, check it out. It’s free! Her publishing services company, BookLocker.com, has published more than 9,000 books over the past 18 years. If you want to publish a book, she’d love to hear from you! Abuzz Press is BookLocker’s hybrid publishing company. And, PubPreppers.com offers services to authors who are having their books published elsewhere.