When, oh, when, will I sail again?

In an earlier post (I Got Dem Old DB Blues), written ‘way back in August, I wrote about Dream SeQueL’s expected “three to four months” on the hard, having the blisters on her bottom ground out where necessary, then her hull dried out, followed by gelcoat, a new barrier coat, and a fresh bottom job. Well, four months have come and gone, and she’s still not back on the water.

I spoke with the boatyard yesterday (in fact, lately, I’ve been speaking to them at least once a week). As of early this past week, there were still parts of the hull showing 20% moisture. As the entire hull has to be below 10% before the new gelcoat and barrier coat can be applied (otherwise, the blisters will quickly reappear), it looks like she’ll be on the hard for a few more weeks. When I asked the yard what the likelihood was that I could have her back at the end of December, the answer was “We’ll see, but don’t count on it.”

This extended process has me concerned for several reasons, which is why I’m writing this particular post.

First, the whole blister thing, along with months on the hard, caught me by surprise. Consequently, when I left Dream SeQueL, I had not removed her mainsail and jib to store below (at least the mainsail cover is on, protecting the sail, but allowing the cover to deteriorate in the sun and weather). In addition, I had not removed the bimini, so it, too, is deteriorating in the sun and weather. Furthermore, her solar panels are keeping the batteries charged, but I doubt that anybody’s been checking the water level in the batteries, so I worry about the batteries drying out and/or sulfating. And, of course, my regular maintenance guy isn’t willing to drive an hour each way to go spend 45 minutes on the boat once a month checking on things (not, at least, without my paying him considerably more). Oh, and I’m worried about the exterior brightwork (the caprail, the teak around the companionway, and the like). Last December, I paid a guy a lot of money to strip all of that down to bare wood, then apply a couple of coats of cetol. It needed a refresher coat in June, but I’d planned to do it in August after the bottom job and survey. But that didn’t happen. So, now, it’s been a full year since it’s been maintained, and I fear that I’ll once again have to strip it all back to bare wood and recoat it from scratch (or pay somebody to do it).

Second, Barbara and I are pretty much committed to taking a couple of friends with us to the Bahamas in April, 2012. “Committed”, because this might be the last opportunity one of these friends will have to go on such an adventure (for reasons not relevant to this blog). “April” because that is the only month before the height of hurricane season in which Barbara and/or I do not have absolutely firm, unbreakable commitments related to my day job or to Sheltie Rescue. Why does this cause concern? Well, because my best estimates suggest that we have roughly 200 hours of work that must be completed before we’re willing to take off on a trip of that scale (gone for about a month, crossing the Gulf Stream twice, sailing in unfamiliar waters, etc.), and the number of days in which we can do that work is rapidly diminishing.

Right now, I’m getting very anxious about the adequacy of the time for getting that work done, and I’m spending considerable effort to re-prioritize it. I’m seriously considering flying down to Florida in latish December (assuming that they give me any confidence that they’ll be finished by very early January), living in a hotel close to the boatyard, and spending days working on some of the projects. Of course, the boatyard prohibits owners from working on their boats while they’re on the hard (“We’re a full-service boatyard,” meaning that they have employees to pay and don’t want me to do work that their employees can do; “Our insurance prohibits it,” which is probably true, at least in part, but is also another way of saying that they have employees to pay…). But they’re also very reasonable people; when I called last week and mentioned that I was considering doing this, their response was “Oh, you mean straightening up inside the cabin?” — which was a clear signal that, if I responded “Yes”, then there would be no problem. Naturally, I said “Yes” :)

Presuming they do give me some confidence that we can splash Dream SeQuel by very early January, I’ll probably go down by December 20 or so and plan to stay through to the end of January. That means that I’ll have to find some way to do my day job, including spending sufficient time online, as well as chairing weekly teleconferences. But I think I can manage all of that, even though it’ll be a challenge. Barbara would then fly down to spend a couple of weeks in January to work with me, giving us jointly about six to eight person-weeks of time. At perhaps 30 hours a week of actual work (in additional day job responsibilities, sailing, etc.), that just might give us the time we need to prepare for the Bahamas.

One lingering concern: We’ll undoubtedly sail around the southern tip of Florida on the way to the Bahamas (down the west coast from Clearwater, around the keys, and then up to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale), or on the way back. In order to save three or four days of sailing, however, we’re strongly considering whether we can “cut across” Florida on the Okeechobee Waterway. There are two factors that would make that infeasible (or impossible). First, there is a single bridge with only 49′ clearance above the water, and several bridges with 55′ clearance. We believe that our mast height (including things mounted at the masthead) is about 54′, but we’re not sure (so I’ll measure that as soon as I get her back in the water). There’s a service available at the 49′ bridge to use barrels of water to heel boats over sufficiently to allow them to get under the bridge, but nothing similar for the 55′ bridges.

The other factor is the depth. We draw at least 5’9″, and we prefer to say that we draw 6′, in part because we want to leave a margin for error, and in part because the contents of the boat might be pushing her down a little bit lower than designed. The Okeechobee Waterway crosses Lake Okeechobee (duh!), which is a shallow lake. In fact, whether a boat with out draft can or cannot cross it safely depends greatly on how much rain there has been recently. And you may have read that South Florida’s been having a drought. Consequently, we might not be able to make the decision about whether to go around or cut across until the week of our departure. Complicates the logistics, as you will realize.

Oh, well, it will be what it will be, and we’ll make the best of it. More when I know more…

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