Chartistry and rhythms

Yesterday afternoon, we left Eureka, CA, bound–in theory at least–for Newport, OR. After motoring into 15-25kt winds and waves, which we’ve done a lot of this trip, having next to no wind north of Eureka meant a smooth ride at about 6-7kts, which is a great way to make up for lost time. Speaking of time, it’s very easy to lose track of it out here, because your life aboard is pretty much divided up into six-hour blocks around the clock: three hours of being someone else’s backup for their watch, and then waking the next person at the start of your watch, who does the same for you. In handing off “the scene” to the next person, with five of us guys it’s easy to forget to send out position emails (particularly when there’s no cell coverage anyway). AIS ground stations are also a little spotty along this section of the coast, which makes VesselFinder show old data. We’ve gotten a little remiss in this duty, for which we apologize; and thanks for your concern and love when you haven’t seen communications from us for awhile.

I ended up with the “blues dancer friendly” watch from midnight to 3, where I got the fun of getting through a well-used fishing area adjacent to the reefs off Crescent City. This is one of the nice things about having a chartplotter, radar, and AIS available for overnight cruising: you see a light on the horizon, and you’re just a few clicks on the radar away from acquiring it as a ‘MARPA Target’, which will tell you all sort of useful information–e.g. how far away it is from you, whether it’s moving (and how fast), and how long it’s going to be before you encounter it (and how far away it will be). Over on your iPad running iNavX, AIS will tell you all that, plus information about the ship or the buoy, if the object in question is close enough to you and is also AIS-equipped. This is really nice if you realize that there’s someone crossing a point just ahead of you who’s on a reciprocal course. Since AIS will give you their MMSI and boat name, you can hail them on VHF and figure out their navigational intent and decide mutually how you’re going to pass each other. Nice.

For the last few nights I’ve been on watch, things have been very quiet, so it was actually nice to see other boats out for once. Because what good is having charting toys if you don’t get to use them in anger when navigating in the dark?

By morning, we’d crossed the invisible line that separates the ‘State of Proposition 65 Warnings’ from the ‘State of No Sales Tax and Full-Serve Only Gas’. (Next up: the Apple Maggot Quarantine State!) The wind, largely absent from those of us on the helm at night, came back up with a vengeance. Where? From the north, at 20-30kts, naturally! Was it in the forecasts? You already know the answer to that, I bet.

After a morning and early afternoon of pressing into this and square waves, we discovered, not surprisingly, that the temporary duct-tape fix that was keeping the forward hatch dry had gotten waterlogged and was dripping; most of the other hatches were at least dripping a bit, and due to a missing piece of weatherstrip in the aft laz, a solid trickle of water was continuing to dribble onto the floor continuously in the aft cabin. Since we were all tired enough and needed a break anyhow, we made a run into Port Orford, anchoring in 15kt winds, to let things dry out, make a few fixes, rest, and then continue on for Coos Bay. The weather charts claimed that the wind would die down later, which strangely enough it has! Now that the seas are much flatter, we’re back under way again and should arrive in Coos Bay sometime in the wee hours tomorrow morning.

We’ve pretty much confirmed that the hatch leakage is being caused by poor bedding, which is not at all unexpected given the age of the boat and the fact that marine bedding compound dries out and cracks in hot California sun, which this boat’s gotten lots of in the last few years. Rebedding hatches is a day-plus-long task best left for when she’s in the Seattle area, but for the curious boat owners reading this, we’ve found on Sagres that one of the best bedding compounds for hatches, portlights, and chainplates isn’t the venerable “5200”. It’s butyl tape–of the sort you’d use for sealing house windows. You wrap the screws, bolts, or whatever fastener you’re sending through the deck in butyl, and then compress them from the backside so that the butyl squeezes out. When that happens, you strip it away with a knife, you have a good seal, and it’s going to stay that way. It’s so good and so easy that I had to write a parody of MC Hammer’s Addams Family Groove in honour of it a few years back:

it goes where it wants to go, seals what it wants to seal
drips where it wants to drip, sticks where it wants to stick
rolls where it wants to roll, heat and then let it stick
The butyl oversqueeze!

Now I was cold coolin’, you know (maxin’ and relaxin’)
Just kickin’ it around the boat (island kicking’ it)
When a drip, a drop, a sploosh, and a splosh yo
Where the hell did that come from?
Now I don’t mind being real wet
And wearin’ a bit of foulies
But below decks: those winches, stanchions, and portlights
Man, they’ve all been leaking!
I remember the day I wanted to seal
Without some 5200 (it’s drippin’)
The next thing you know, rollin’ twards me
Was a roll of butyl tape sealant (it’s kickin’!)
Now I tried to pull it along (you know)
And roll the leftover into a ball (ha ha)
So I got it all soft (yo) with a gun of heat (cousin it)
And watertight, yes it’s all! (I’m outta here)

it goes where it wants to go, seals what it wants to seal
drips where it wants to drip, sticks where it wants to stick
rolls where it wants to roll, heat and then let it sit
The butyl oversqueeze!

Squeezin’ and rollin’ a strip of butyl

You know the skipper is with it (I’m with it)
Use good tools, no caulk, goop, drippy and sticky
You know we stick it
Now is the time to get on the boat
It’s OK to be commissioning
Take acetone and put it aside

Use the butyl, yo! it’s good (that’s a sealant!)

it goes where it wants to go, seals what it wants to seal
drips where it wants to drip, sticks where it wants to stick
rolls where it wants to roll, heat and then let it sit
The butyl oversqueeze!

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