Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Sinking, Part 3

Being the third installment of a tale of a watery tale begun here and continued here.

At last, Briongloid was safely on her trailer. On a snowy afternoon, I left The City early to go the boatyard and get a look the problem from the outside. I love the approach to the boatyard: it lies near the navigable limit of a tree-lined river - very scenic. This time, the tide was low, and some very interesting boats were sitting high and dry in the mud. The channels deep enough to carry Briongloid are narrow, sinuous, and unmarked.

Once at the yard, diagnosing the problem didn't take very long at all; on her starboard side, well below the waterline, an ancient mechanical log (its display long since lost) protrudes from her hull. For non-boating folk, a log is a device for measuring a boat's speed through the water; the earliest logs actually were logs, or at least splinters. Since I carry a hand-held GPS, and always (so far!) sail in sight of land (so can take bearings with a hand compass), a log is not really an essential item - especially since, like most skippers, I can usually estimate my boat's speed quite accurately. When I had last seen the log, its protruding arm carried a small propeller which turned as the water flowed past, the rotation being carried into the hull by a wire rotating within an outer protective sheath.

The Leak

Since then, as the photo shows, something had ripped that little propeller clear of its mount, exposing the core, and pulling the base of the instrument loose. Looking at the damage, I was amazed poor Briongloid had survived - the damage looked absolutely frightening, exactly the sort of thing that persuaded me to leave damage control plugs next to all through-hull fittings. Looks like the through-hulls which feed and empty her sea toilet are innocent after all - but what did I hit? A guilty memory of the time I snagged my own mooring bouy sidles into my mind's eye...

After a quick chat with the owner of the boatyard, we had a repair plan: I would get the boat as dry as I could, and put on a tarp (low-skilled work, suitable for a bungling boat owner). A de-humidifier will be left inside to dry her further, sucking every possible drop from her bilges, fittings, even the hull itself. Then, a nice man from the yard who knows what he is doing will drill out all remains of the log, and glass over the resulting gaping hole, fairing the repair with epoxy. Finally (we hope), we'll drop Briongloid back in the river, and see if she still floats...

As the sun went down, I began a long, long list of boat-related jobs, loading my long-suffering car with things to fix and things to dry ( soaking sails, soaking cushions, hatch covers, wash boards, a rudder, etc.) . I also spent quite a lot of time down in the bilges with pumps and a sponge. Ah, the glamorous life of the yachtie!

The afternoon sun had melted what little snow lay on Briongloid's deck; later, as the sun set, and I scrambled about the decks with pointy tools, measuring tape, and tarpaulin, the water turned quickly to ice. I found skating up and down her decks to be a highly disconcerting experience; on her trailer, she is a tall boat, and I didn't fancy the drop. Extra respect to all you high-latitude sailors - how on earth do you manage to stay on board when your boats are not only ice-covered, but moving?

Venus was brilliant between the snow-clouds by the time the last knots on tarp were secure. This far up-river, most yard inhabitants are low-draught motor launches, fat and squat, with a sprinkle of lifting-keel pocket cruisers, and our boat stood out; in the cool light of the half-moon, the silhouette of an enshrouded Briongloid looked tall, sleek, fast, and a little bit mysterious.

Squeezing myself into the driver's seat, tucking my head below a wandering tiller (still attached to a rudder that my boot would barely close on), I left her to the night.

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