1 May 2019 Norfolk to Herrington Harbour North, Virginia (Day 2)
Dawn was a cold, grey affair with low clouds and a light mist, but at least the wind picked up enough to sail again. We arrived at the entrance channel into Herrington Harbour North at 08:30. It’s very shallow on the approaches, especially in the very narrow dredged channel into the marina itself – we came in at low tide and saw 2.1 metres at a couple of places.
There was no wind and little tidal current, so it was easy to dock and we were soon tied up. It’s the end of our voyage and we’ll sell Alba here, so it was a poignant moment.
We checked into the marina office and then walked around place – it’s the biggest marina that we’ve ever seen. There are 17 docks with 600 berths, five travel lifts and acres of land storage. They have two customer lounges, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, many contractors and even a West Marine store.
After lunch, Roger from Free State Yacht Brokerage came to look at Alba. We discussed various jobs that ought to be done and he agreed that I should replace all of 12 port-lights which have crazed in the sun. Other than that, he thinks that after we remove all our clutter and clean everything, the boat will be in very good condition and hopefully will sell well. We’re putting her on the market at $285,000 – time will tell if that is too high.
I transferred $5,000US to Roger, so that we can start the process of importing the boat into the USA. It’s illegal to offer to sell a boat in the USA without first importing it - the penalty is a staggering 100% of the boat value. We’ve not been able to start the import process until now because the boat has to be available for inspection and we were moving around too much. We’re hoping that the import process will take less than 2 weeks and then Roger can start to advertise Alba.
Later in the afternoon, our lack of sleep caught up with us and we retired to bed for a two-hour nap. In the evening, we went to the marina’s restaurant – the food was okay, but expensive at $50 for two meals and a beer.
2 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We woke to brilliant blue skies - today the work starts. Our plan is to spend 3-4 weeks in the water, doing maintenance jobs and cleaning everything. We’ll then haul out and spend a week polishing the hull, etc. In the meantime, we’ll be packing up our personal belongings and shipping them off to the UK. We hope to be back in the UK by the middle of June.
My biggest and longest job is to replace the acrylic window panels (called “lenses”) in the 12 port-lights. I contacted a local company called Maritime Plastic, who have a CNC machine and will be able to cut the acrylic to size if I give them the original lenses.
This of course means that we will have 12 huge holes in the coach-roof, which need to be covered up. I walked to Free State Yachts, where one of Roger’s clients was stripping off the protective, vacuum wrapping from his boat, so I scrounged some lengths of the strong plastic to use to cover the hatch holes.
Back at the boat, I removed all of the lenses. It was surprisingly easy – a few of the smaller lenses pushed out with moderate pressure in the corners, while for the others, I just had to run a Stanley blade around the edge and then they pushed out with a light pressure. The most time consuming part was sticking a piece of plastic sheeting over each hatch using Duct Tape.
The rear port-light is non-opening one and the frame appears to be stuck to the fibreglass with a very strong adhesive like 3M 5200. I smacked the frame with a soft-faced mallet a few times and there was no sign of movement, so I’ll have to come up with some way of refitting the lens with the hatch frame in place. I spent an hour cleaning off the old sealant from the frame, so that it’s almost ready to have the new lens fitted.
In the late afternoon, a huge front approached from the west bringing strong winds, lightning and torrential rain. Unlike the other fronts that we’ve experience along the east coast of the USA, this one hung around for 4 hours.
Unfortunately, my method of covering the holes in the coach roof didn’t stand up to the tempestuous rain and we developed leaks. The first one was quite spectacular and soaked Glenys’s side of our bed, so she had a sense of humour failure. Of the 12 portholes, only three didn’t leak, but fortunately the huge aft hatch over our bed was well sealed.
I tried several times to seal the leaks with more duct tape, but the water kept dribbling through and pooling at the bottom corner of the hole before overflowing and dripping down into the boat – we had towels everywhere. I eventually came up with the idea of sticking small lengths of bamboo skewers to form a drain channel in the tape to allow the water drain outside. That seemed to work and marital harmony was re-established.
3 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We hired a car from Enterprise, who came to pick up us from their depot 12 miles away. It was a bit irritating that they were 40 minutes late, but the driver and the staff were so friendly that I didn’t have the heart to moan.
The on-line price for the daily hire was $60, but when we were picking the car up, we found out that the price doesn’t include any insurance at all - apparently, Americans use their normal car insurance for rental hire. There was nothing we could do except buy the expensive daily insurance from Enterprise, which increased our daily rental to $110 – very annoying. Trying not to sulk too much, we drove to Annapolis.
At Maritime Plastics, we met Jameson, who was very helpful. There was a slight technical problem in that the existing lenses were 7mm thick and Jameson only had imperial sizes – 1/4” or 3/8”. After a few minutes of debate, we decided to use 1/4”, which is 6mm, so it’s only 1mm thinner. The strength of the slightly thinner acrylic is not a problem and bed of sealant holding the lens in place will be 1mm thicker and less likely to leak. Jameson recommended that I use a silicone sealant called SCS2000, so I bought 5 tubes.
Initially, Jameson said that the lead time was two weeks, but after I’d told him about our 12 leaking holes in the coach-roof, he said that it was a quick and uncomplicated job, so he would try to fit it in quickly. I told them that I only had the hire car for today, so Jameson said that he would try to do the job today – he would ring me at 15:00 and tell me if it would be today or next week.
After lunch at McDonalds, we drove into the centre of Annapolis and strolled around the streets for a while. It’s a pretty place with many old colonial clapboard houses and the high street looks like Lymington in the UK. At 14:40, Jameson rang me and told me to call by at 16:00. We picked up the new lenses and Jameson explained the best procedure for using the sealant and installing the lenses. Although the 12 lenses and sealant cost me $600, I’m really pleased to have them made on the same day – I’m now 2 weeks ahead of my schedule.
On the way back to the marina, we called at a couple of supermarkets. Bizarrely, the supermarkets here in Maryland are not allowed to sell any alcohol and so we had to go to a liquor store to top up our beer and wine stocks.
4 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
No peace for the wicked, we were up at 06:00, so that we could set up a stall for the local boat jumble. Roger at Free State Yachts had kindly lent us a table, so we loaded up the car and set up our stand. The main item to sell was our Sailrite sewing machine, but we had lots of cruising guides and other stuff that we didn’t need any more.
Sales were a little slow with people wanting to pay only a few dollars for things, but we managed to get $600 for our sewing machine and $100 for other bits and bats, so it was well worth the effort. At 10:30, we packed up; dropped the unsold stuff back at the boat; and took the car back to Enterprise, who then gave us a lift back to the Marina.
The boat looked like a bomb had hit it, so we spent the afternoon tidying up and getting the dinghy off the front deck. Some of the unsold items went into the garbage skip; others into a free-cycle skip; and the rest went back into the lockers.
Later in the afternoon, Tom and Dorinda from “Corsair” came around to pick up the sewing machine. Glenys showed them how to use it and then we had a few beers.
5 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It started to rain heavily in the middle of the night, so I had to get up to check if the hatch holes were leaking – thankfully all was well. It was still raining in the morning, so we focused on inside jobs.
In November 2017, while we were in South Africa, I tried to do some maintenance work on the bearing hub for our steering wheel and ran into trouble. I damaged the wheel-locking assembly, but the steering wheel worked fine. We still had many miles to sail, so I was very reticent to damage the hub further and risk being trapped in South Africa for months. So for the last 18 months, we’ve been using a piece of rope to lash the wheel.
We pulled the aft cabin apart, so that I could get access to the rudder quadrant. I lashed the rudder quadrant to stop it moving as the tides changes and then removed the steering hub. I thought that I’d bent a pin inside the steering hub and would have to pay a few hundred dollars to get it machined out. It turned out that the pin wasn’t bent and came out very easily. I’ve lost sleep worrying about the problem for 18 months and I could have sorted out the problem in South Africa – duuhhh.
I stripped down the hub and removed the bearings. It looks like the brake assembly wasn’t working because one of the bearings had leaked grease and the brake pad had become detached from its disk. I bought all the spare parts when we were in the UK last year, so I have everything to sort the job out, but my main priority was the hatches, so I left the assembly until tomorrow.
I spent an hour cleaning the old silicone sealant from one of the hatches that I’d removed. Meanwhile Glenys spent a couple of hours cleaning the bilges in the aft cabin. A thankless task, but we want the bilges clean before a prospective buyer has a survey of the boat. We also took the opportunity to throw away some of the electrical wire, hoses and other spare parts that I store in the aft cabin – we’re trying to de-clutter the boat.
With the hatch all cleaned up, I planned out how I was going to fix the new lens into the frame. I’m like a three year old when I get my hands on a sealant gun and normally make a terrible mess, so I was very methodical and had everything to hand. I have to do 12 of these hatches so I wanted to have a “fool-proof” method.
I masked everything off nicely and wore latex gloves and it all seemed to go okay at first. My plan was to strip off the masking tape while the sealant was still wet. I applied the black silicone sealant to the frame, inserted the new lens and applied more sealant to fill the gap. I then used a washing up liquid solution to wet my finger while I smoothed down the surface.
I thought I had it right, but when I stripped off the masking tape, the sealant was too uneven, so I ended up trying to smooth the sealant without the masking tape in place and it’s now smudged across the frame and lens. I’ll just have to wait 24 hours until its set and try to remove the smudged sealant.
It continued to rain all evening, so we hunkered down below and watched the final episodes of Season 5 of Game of Thrones - Season 8 is being aired at the moment, so only three more seasons to go on our binge viewing.
6 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It’s very strange to wake up in the morning without having to think about our next passage or the next anchorage. We’ve been constantly on the move since October and have done nearly 3,000 miles since we left Trinidad. We don’t even have to look at the weather forecast apart from finding out if it’s going to rain and possibly spoil our maintenance work.
We’ve been looking at flights back to the UK and have started to think about the logistics of finding a car and a house when we arrive back in England. Our current thoughts are to live the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire area mostly because we should be able to find a house in the countryside at a reasonable price.
Glenys borrowed one of the marina’s bikes and ran a few errands, sending off our autopilot display unit to have a small modification done to the LCD display that I fitted in Trinidad. There was no sign of rain, so I removed six of the port-lights and started to scrape the old silicone sealant from them. It’s a tedious job with each hatch taking 90 minutes to get clean. After lunch, Glenys helped me with the hatches.
By three o’clock, we had five hatches cleaned and I set to the messy task of bedding the lenses into the frames. My first attempt was a disaster because I left the backing paper on one side of the lens – I had to remove the lens, clean up and start again.
On my second attempt, I masked off the lens and the frame and peeled off the masking tape before the sealant had skinned. Unfortunately, the lens moved about when I was removing the tape, so I had to apply more sealant and will have to clean it up when dry.
For the remaining four port-lights, I didn’t bother masking anything off and will clean off the cured sealant in 2 days’ time. Jameson at Maritime Plastics had suggested this method, but I thought that I’d try masking tape – I should have taken his advice from the beginning. By the end of the day, we had 5 port-lights with lenses in – only 7 to go.
7 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We’ve made good progress with the port-lights and I’m expecting that we’ll have them all back in place by the 12th, so I arranged to haul out on the 22nd, which will give us 10 days to finish off the remaining jobs - mostly cleaning and varnishing. We’re planning on having 7 days to do any jobs that arise after haul-out, so Glenys has booked our flights to the UK on the 29th May. It’s good to have a deadline and a plan.
I spent a few hours pulling out the remaining four port-lights and Glenys started the mind-numbing job of cleaning the old sealant from the frames. I then tackled the aft port-light. It’s a fixed window with a curved frame and lens. The frame has been stuck in with some very strong adhesive and I’m unable to remove it from the hull, so I had to figure out some way of clamping the lens in place while holding the curve.
I decided to use the existing bolt holes in the frame and made a couple of flat “clamping” bars out of an old sail batten. Using the bars, I was able to push the lens near the middle and hold the curve. Unfortunately, with the bars in place, I’m unable to smooth off the surface of the sealant to make a nice finish, so I opted for a two- step approach - first stick the lens in place and then after three days when it is fully cured, I’ll apply a second bead of sealant to finish off the job. I discussed this with Maritime Plastics and they say this will work fine and the sealant will bond well to cured sealant.
It was going to be a messy job, so I covered our bed with an old sheet and newspaper and then ran through four dry runs to make sure that I had a smooth method and all the tools to hand. Everything went well and I didn’t make too much mess even when I scraped out the surface sealant to leave a 4mm deep groove to give a good bonding depth for the second application.
With the aft window in place, I spent the rest of the afternoon helping Glenys with the last four port-lights. These are the biggest on the boat at 27” long and it took us 2½ hours per frame. We gave up at 17:30 and will have to finish the last two tomorrow.
8 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Glenys had a brief respite from scraping hatches and spent an hour cleaning the front of the hull. After spending 5 weeks in the ICW and the Chesapeake, we’ve picked up a horrible brown stain on the water line caused by the brown sediment in the water - commonly called the “Chesapeake Moustache”. She washed it down with detergent and then applied some “On and Off”, which is basically Oxalic and Hydrochloric acid, which cleaned the gel coat up nicely.
Meanwhile, the rest of our day was spent on the port-lights. We cleaned the old sealant from the last two port-lights and I cleaned off the residue of the new sealant from the five port-lights that now have the lenses installed. It wasn’t too difficult a job, but it was time consuming, taking about an hour a hatch. I used plastic razor blades to carefully cut off the hardened sealant and any smears came off very easily.
In the afternoon, I fixed the lenses onto the remaining 6 port-lights. We now have the lenses stuck into all of the port-lights, but we’re only half way through the job. I’m going to leave the sealant to harden tomorrow and then over the following three days, I’ll finish off the aft port-light and fit the 11 opening port-lights into the hull.
9 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We had a lazier, hatch-less day - I have to wait for 24 hours for the sealant to cure before I can continue. Glenys removed all of our 15 curtains and soaked them in a bleach solution. She then removed all of the hundreds of curtain hooks and slides and soaked then in a bleach solution as well. Meanwhile, I kept out of the way catching up on a little admin.
Glenys also packed up a box which we’re going to ship back to the UK using a courier service called MyBaggage.com. We were initially thinking of taking our belongings home in six cargo bags on the aircraft, but Icelandic Air charges as much as $150 per bag for excess baggage. MyBaggage provides a door to door service and ship things to the UK for around $80-$100, so we’re giving that a try with one box of miscellaneous stuff.
In the afternoon, I emptied the anchor locker which was filthy after anchoring in muddy places along the east coast of the USA. The chain is starting to show surface rust and I’m going to de-rust it when we’re on the hard, but for the time being, I placed it on the deck wrapped in a piece of plastic. I’m hoping that this will prevent it getting too wet and keep the deck from staining.
I hosed down the anchor locker, but it still needs a good cleaning and some of the paint is flaking off, so it needs wire-brushing and painting with bilge paint - a job for another day.
10 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We were back on the port-lights with a vengeance. Our morning was spent carefully scraping the surplus new sealant from the last six port-lights. I then inspected all of the rubber seals and decided that I would replace two of them. One seal looked to be cracked and another one had old silicone sealant applied to seal a leak.
I hadn’t noticed the silicone sealant when the hatches were still in place - it must have been done by the previous owner about ten years ago. I pulled off the old seal, which was very easy because the seal is only held in place by a tiny 3mm wide L-section groove. Unfortunately, this groove had sealant in it, so Glenys spent a boring 2 hours scraping it out with a razor blade, a small screwdriver and a bit of wire. It took me 30 minutes to push the new seal in place.
The afternoon was sunny, so I took the opportunity to fit three of the opening port-lights back into the hull - only 8 to go. At 18:00, it started to rain, so we tidied up and cracked open a cold beer. After dark, the heavens opened with torrential rain and a couple of the holes in the coach-roof started to leak - one in the front heads, which wasn’t a problem and one over my armchair, which was dripping on my head. We’re hoping to get the rest of the hatches installed tomorrow, because there’s much more rain forecast over the next three days.
11 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
After breakfast, I started to stick the port-lights back into the coach roof. Meanwhile Glenys was cleaning up the screws that hold them in place and giving the frames a final clean before installation. It all went well and, by 16:00, we’d installed all but one, but then it started to rain. Fortunately, it was only a passing shower and 20 minutes later, I was able to stick in the last port-hole.
I’m really pleased with the job that we’ve done - all the opening port-lights look fabulous now and I know that they’re installed correctly. I just have to finish off the fixed window in the back cabin, which needs a final seam of sealant and cleaning up.
The weather is forecast to be persistent rain for the next two days and the wind will be coming from the north east, which is on our port aft quarter. Rather than having the wind howling through the cockpit and down into our saloon, we put up the “tent”, which completely encloses the cockpit. It’s the first time that we’ve used it for over five years.
12 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was a miserable rainy day, so being a Sunday, we declared a holiday and pottered about on board. I caught up on administration and gathered together the information that we’ll need to present to the banks to obtain a mortgage when we get back to the UK. I also started investigating drawing down my pension, which will be giving us income, which we need to qualify for a mortgage.
Glenys cooked a traditional Sunday Lunch and we spent the afternoon drinking a bottle of wine and watching a movie - a nice relaxing day.
13 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was another grey start to the day and had been cold overnight, so I turned on the heater to remove the chill. The rain hammered down last night and was a good test of the port-lights - I’m pleased to report that we have no leaks. It rained on and off all day, so we did jobs down below.
I cleaned up the components for the steering wheel hub and decided to paint the hub body because it was looking shabby. That simple process took a couple of hours because I had to set up a cardboard box as a little spray booth in the cockpit and then go to buy some white paint. Meanwhile Glenys packed her shell collection in a cardboard box to ship home and then cleaned the bilges in the front cabin.
After lunch, I cleaned up the aft window and then applied the final bead of silicone sealant - nearly finished. I then spent the rest of the afternoon inspecting the seacocks, cleaning them up and making sure that they turn. I also removed 12 of the handles to clean them up and re-paint them.
We’ve received a quotation from one of the “detailing” companies for some polishing work. The cost for polishing the hull up to the deck level is $900 and to polish the coach roof is $995 - it’s far too expensive here in the USA with people charging $120/hr even though they use cheap Mexican labour. The cost of cleaning our 150 sq. ft. of carpet is an outrageous $285 - I can buy a carpet cleaning machine for $100…
In the evening, Mike and Karen from “Marie Louise” came for a few beers - they own a HR43 which is in the berth next to us.
14 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It rained for most of the morning, so Glenys lurked down below going through some of the lockers to decide what we throw away; what we take to the UK and what we leave on the boat. Meanwhile, I assembled the steering wheel hub and fitted it back in position. It wasn’t too bad a job and I was done by lunch time.
By the afternoon, we had sunny intervals, so I borrowed one of the marina’s bikes and went to Free State Yachts to use Roger’s workshop, where I used his bench grinder to wire brush the sea cock handles. Roger didn’t want me to spray paint the handles in his workshop, so I’ll have to wait for a calm day to paint them outside.
While I was there, Roger told me that he has a prospective buyer coming to view the boat on Monday 20th, so that changes the order that we do our jobs - we need to get the boat tidied up in six days’ time.
The courier from MyBaggage (DHL) was supposed to pick up our box of personal effects in the morning, but there was some confusion and he didn’t turn up until 1730, which was a nuisance for Glenys, who had to keep ringing them up all day. It’s not an auspicious start to the process.
15 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was a blisteringly hot sunny day. We took down the stay sail and the genoa. While folding the genoa, Glenys noticed a small 4 inch length of stitching on a seam which was perished. Unfortunately, we’ve sold our sewing machine, so she had to sit in the beating sun while she hand stitched. We pottered about in the morning doing deck jobs - soaking ropes; greasing the furling gear; and generally tidying up.
In afternoon, Glenys started to wash the hull, but gave up after a couple of hours because it was so hot. We’ve decided that it will be too much work to polish the hull ourselves, so Glenys will continue to wash the hull for the viewing and we’ll then pay $900 to have the hull polished professionally. We can do the coach roof ourselves, so we’ll save $995.
I lurked in the shade ticking off a good number of small jobs from our list. I scraped off the last of the sealant from the aft fixed window and we’ve finally finished the long job of replacing the lenses in the port-lights. I reckon that we’ve spent 80 man-hours on the job. I chatted to Mike on “Marie Louis” and he said that they paid $6,000 to have theirs replaced, so I feel good about having only spent $600 for materials.
16 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
There was a slight drizzle in the morning, so we emptied some more lockers getting ready to pack into boxes. When it stopped raining, Glenys finished off washing the hull and I wandered over to Roger’s workshop and painted the seacock handles.
In the afternoon, I gathered together the boat’s documentation and took it along to Free State Yachts. There’s quite a bit of paperwork - Bills of Sale for all owners; Lloyds certification; European CE certification; VAT documents for when the boat left the UK; USA customs documents, etc.
Americans have to register all boats with an engine larger than 3hp, which includes our dinghy. Under our cruising permit, we’re exempt from this regulation, but in order to sell the dinghy, we have to produce the original invoices for the dinghy and the outboard. Fortunately, I was able to find both pieces of paper.
Back at the boat, I lowered myself into the 6foot deep, cramped anchor locker and spent a couple of hours washing and then wire brushing the loose old paint off. I’m not looking forward to painting it.
17 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Glenys spent most of the day packing our personal effects into four boxes and a cargo bag. The plan is for us to only carry one cargo bag and my guitar case onto the plane back to the UK, so we sorted through our belongings and left ourselves with only enough clothes to last the two remaining weeks. When Glenys had finished, we loaded the boxes and bag onto trolleys and trundled them ½ mile to store them in Roger’s workshop for a few days.
I spent five hours sweating in the engine room. I changed the coolant in the engine and the generator, which took ages - not helped by the one hour delay while I cycled to the hardware store to get some more antifreeze and oil. I then changed the oil in the engine and the generator, so both now have clean oil and strong enough antifreeze to survive a cold American winter.
18 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We had a long but productive day. Glenys washed down the teak on the deck, coach roof and cockpit, which took most of the day. She used a mixture of 2/3 cup of bleach, 4 table spoons of Tri-Sodium Phosphate and a dash of washing up liquid in a bucket of water. There was a terrific amount of dirt that came off the deck and it looks very clean now with a slight teak colour rather than grey-silver.
I fitted the painted seacock handles and replaced a few teak plugs in the aft coach-roof and toe rail. I then cleared the lazarette and gave it a good clean. It’s amazing how much stuff came out of the locker, so I was ruthless and threw a load of stuff into the skip.
After lunch, I cleaned the main sump bilge, which was looking pretty grim and while I was at it, I cleaned a couple more in the aft cabin.
I then tackled the odious job of painting the anchor locker. By squatting uncomfortably in the bottom of the locker for an hour, I managed to paint the top half. I then tried lying on the deck, hanging upside down to paint the bottom half, but it was like doing sit-ups for ½ hour and I couldn’t reach more than 2/3 of the way down, so I’ll finish off tomorrow with a paint brush on the end of a pole.
Only one more day until the viewing, but I think that we’ve done most of the work - we’ve removed a lot of our clutter from the boat, the deck looks great and the hull looks good. All we have to do tomorrow is clean and polish the inside woodwork and tidy up.
19 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Only ten more sleeps until we fly back to the UK. Glenys talked to the shipping company about sending our belongings back to the UK and discovered that DHL sometimes refuse to take cargo bags and we have a cargo bag in our consignment. Somehow we needed to repack into a box, so Glenys walked to West Marine and scrounged a large cardboard box, which we cut to the same dimensions as the cargo bag and put the whole bag inside - job sorted.
Unfortunately, sorting out the shipping took ages, so we didn’t get started on cleaning the boat until 11:30. The rest of the day was a frenzy of finishing off small jobs, cleaning and polishing the interior woodwork. By 17:00, we’d done as much as we could and the boat looked great.
In the evening, we invited Vince and Lara from a HR40.
20 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We were up early again and rushed around tidying away our bedding and the various covers that we use to cover the upholstery. At 10:20, we were still polishing woodwork, when Roger rang to say that the prospective buyers had arrived early and could they come around in 10 minutes? The boat was in chaos, but we said yes and quickly pushed all our cleaning materials into shopping bags and into lockers. Five minutes later, we had a pristine looking show boat.
I must say that after all our hard work, Alba looks terrific, I’m amazed at how well the interior woodwork has survived 8 years and 40,000 miles at sea. The upholstery is spotless and even the 19 year old carpet looks great. The teaks decks and the hull look fabulous even though we’ve only done a first pass at cleaning everything.
Roger spent an hour showing the punters around while we kept out of the way in the air-conditioned resident’s lounge. The showing went well and they were impressed by the super condition of the boat and how well it had been maintained. Roger later said that there were no negative points raised on the boat, so we don’t have to do any extra work in the remaining 9 days - we just need to finish off my job list.
DHL arrived at 13:20 to pick up our five boxes, but the T-Mobile signal has been dropping out all day and we missed his call. The marina office even rang us, but they didn’t get through either. At 13:30, I checked our messages, but by the time that we got to the marina office, the driver had already gone. Glenys rang DHL, but has had to reschedule the pickup for tomorrow - it’s so frustrating.
It was a boiling hot day, so we declared a work-free afternoon and spent time planning what to do when we finally get to the UK.
21 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was a cooler start to the day, so I painted the rest of the anchor locker using a paint brush taped to the end of a long pole. I then ran fresh water through the outboard by placing a large bucket around the lower end and filling it with fresh water. The idea was to flush out the corrosive sea water and it worked well. I then poured in a load of antifreeze so that the pump and system are now winterised.
Meanwhile Glenys plodded on with the administrative nightmare of sending our belongings to the UK. She received a notification from DHL that we’d been charged £30 import duty and taxes for our previous consignment, so it took nearly an hour to find out why. It seems that if any items in a consignment are listed as originating outside the EU then VAT is due and the UK customs simply slap the charge on the whole consignment. Our consignment was listed as being worth $100US, so they hit us for 20% and DHL charged us a £12 admin fee.
This meant that Glenys had to redo the paperwork for today’s consignment, stating that all goods originated in the UK. Unfortunately, the custom’s value has been set at $500 and we can’t change it without cancelling the pickup, so at worst we’ll get hit for 20% of $500. Fingers crossed, it will all go through without any charge.
The DHL guy rang Glenys twice and she confirmed that she wanted him to come to the marina office. The pickup went okay and by 14:00, Glenys was a mellow person again.
After lunch, I paddled the dinghy around to the dinghy dock and we pulled it up to the dinghy racks. I removed the wheels from the transom because they are too easy to steal. Glenys went back later and gave the dinghy a good cleaning.
I did a few more jobs in the afternoon and fitted a new bilge pump switch. I’ve been carrying the switch around with me for two years and had a bracket made in Trinidad, which was 8 months ago. I’ve been putting the job off, but in the end it only took an hour. Amusing to think that we haven’t had a working automatic bilge pump for over two years and I finally fit it the day before we permanently haul out.
22 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was haul-out day. We pottered about in the morning until 10:30 when Enterprise Car Rental collected us from the marina in a monster pickup truck and took us to their office about 20 miles away. We went through the normal registration process and then they told us that we’d been upgraded to a better car.
My hopes for a BMW M3 were dashed when he told us that we were to have the Monster Pickup Truck. I was not happy and expressed my dismay. The guy seemed really surprised that I was not pleased to have a gas-guzzling, huge vehicle and said that they didn’t have anything else left. Eventually, after a few words, they gave us a smaller pickup truck, which had not been valeted and they promised to deliver a proper car tomorrow.
We high-tailed it back to the marina and, after a quick lunch, the haul-out team arrived. Herrington Harbour has a haul-out procedure that is very different to anything that we’ve seen. They are obviously used to hauling out and launching boats without the rich owners being present. The team has a small tender with a 25hp engine, which they tie onto the back of the boat to be moved. This provides the propulsion and someone steers the boat using the normal steering wheel.
It’s a very good method because they don’t need the erratic owner to be present or the boat engine to work. I’ve been watching the team for the last two weeks and they are incredibly proficient at manoeuvring boats. The team leader asked if I wanted to drive the boat around to the haul-out dock - I politely declined, mostly because we were on a falling tide and I was terrified of going aground. As I watched them push Alba away from our berth, I sadly realised that I will never sail on her again.
I watched the team lift Alba out of the water using a large 85 tonne lift, which was controlled by a guy using a remote control box. I thought at first that it was a bit of a gimmick, but the guy was able to move around the travel lift and make sure that the slings were in the correct place. After pressure washing, Alba was trundled to her final resting place next to Free State Yacht Brokerage.
Meanwhile, Glenys was washing the dinghy and I went to help her lift it onto the storage rack. We covered the dinghy with a tarpaulin (Americans call it a “tarp”) and the dinghy will stay there until the new owner collects it.
We headed back to Alba; cleared stuff out of lockers and the fridges; loaded it into our pickup truck and shot off to our AirBnB. We just made it for the appointed time and settled into living ashore. The house that we’ve rented is not that special and we feel a little sad to have moved off Alba - our home for 8 years.
23 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We were up early-ish and arrived at the boat at 08:20. Yesterday, Roger had arranged for a couple of people to view the boat at 13:00 today, so Glenys set to cleaning the fridges, which we’d emptied yesterday, and generally tidying up ready for a viewing.
We contacted the car rental company, who said that to change the pick-up truck for a smaller car, we had to drive back to their depot, which would take an hour out of our day. It was a bit irritating, but we decided to keep the pick-up - it makes me feel more American to have to climb down from a huge car.
I pottered about, cleaning up the propeller; the stripper and the cutlass bearing. It all seems to be in good condition apart from a couple of small gouges in the propeller where we’ve obviously hit something. I’m really glad that we’ve sailed around the world with a fixed three-bladed propeller instead of a fancy folding or feathering prop. It has probably cost us ½ knot in boat speed, but it’s very strong and simple - I don’t know how a fancier propeller would have fared when hitting stuff in the water.
We have a 45lb CQR on board, which has sat in the anchor locker for the last eight years and never been used - it still has the price label stuck on from Budget Marine in Grenada where the previous owner bought it. Unfortunately, time (and lack of care) has not treated it well and it had quite a bit of corrosion, so I used a hammer and wire brush to clean it up. I then painted on some Rust Eater to stabilise the rust and shoved it back into the anchor locker. It’s not on the inventory of the boat, so the new owner can throw it away if they want to, but at least it won’t stain my beautifully painter anchor locker.
We went for a long lunch, leaving Roger alone to show the prospects around Alba. Later, he said that it went well and they were impressed by how well-maintained the boat was. Fingers crossed…
In the afternoon, Glenys went back to lash the “tarp” onto the dinghy and then pottered about doing a few odd jobs. Meanwhile, I started replacing a small piece of mahogany trim in the front heads, which has been showing a bit of rot. I chopped out a 3 inch section and found dry rot penetrating inside, so I chiselled most of it out and injected some Git-Rot which is an (expensive) penetrating epoxy, which is supposed to bind the loose fibres together and stabilise the structure. I’ll finish the repair tomorrow.
By 15:30, the heat was oppressive, so we gave up and drove to Dunkirk to a big supermarket. The thunderstorm hit just as we were checking out, so we got soaked running back to the pickup. On the way back to the house, we stopped at “La Bella” pizzeria in Friendship and bought dinner.
24 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Only 5 sleeps before we fly back to the UK, so we were up at 07:00 and working on the boat at 08:00. Glenys spent all day on the horrible task of stripping the varnish from the two opening leaves of the cockpit table. The varnish appears to be Interlux Perfection, which is a two part polyurethane finish - it’s very shiny, but a bugger to remove. It either comes of in sheets or sticks like s**t to a blanket. Wisely, she found a pleasant place to do the work - on a picnic table under the trees next to a cool pond.
I worked on replacing the small piece of mahogany that I removed yesterday. The piece is only 4 inches long, but I was working on it for most of the day. The first job was to fill the cavity where I’d cut away the rotton wood. I used a two part wood filler, which was supposed to have a working time of 15 minutes, but the first batch set solid in five minutes, before I had a chance to use any. I applied multiple thin layers of the filler into the largest hole so it took most of the morning, doing little jobs in between each layer.
Once I had the filling finished, I started the task of removing the old varnish from the whole 7 foot long strip of wood. I was hoping that I’d be able to scrape the varnish off and minimise the mess, but I was damaging the wood, so I had to resort to using a small detail sander, which kicked up a lot of dust. To prevent the dust billowing out into the rest of the boat, I locked myself in the (small) heads and sweated for an hour.
After lunch, I did a few other little jobs and then shaped a piece of mahogany, ready to stick in place tomorrow.
We rented a carpet cleaner from the local hardware store for $25 + $15 for the carpet cleaning solution - much cheaper than the outrageous $285 quoted by one of the marine companies. We took our carpets back to the house and cleaned them out on the large garden deck - tick another job off the list, only another 20 to go.
25 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We were up at 07:00 and at work by 08:00 again. Glenys finished off sanding the cockpit table and then moved the mattresses out of the front cabin to turn it into a varnishing workshop. Meanwhile, I finished shaping the piece of mahogany and stuck it in place. After knifing on a bit of wood filler, I sanded it off and it was ready for varnishing.
We dropped the anchor and the chain onto the ground and, after laying it out; we started the mind-numbing job of painting phosphoric acid onto the chain. The chain has a lot of surface rust where the galvanising has rubbed off on the seabed, so the idea of the phosphoric acid is to stabilise the rust and convert it to a protective layer. It’s not a permanent fix, but should help to prevent my beautifully painted anchor locker from getting stained with rust.
Glenys took over the chain work, while I removed the aft heads door, which has had a horrible white patch on the inside caused by water getting into the varnish. Normally when this happens, the “bloom” goes away after a few days, but this one has been white for months. I sanded the door down with 120 grit sandpaper and then varnished it. I also varnished the cockpit table leaves and the mahogany strip in the front heads.
Most of our big jobs are now nearing completion with a just few more coats of varnishing required and we’re about done with the dirty, messy jobs, so I tidied up the saloon while Glenys cleaned out the gas locker which was an eyesore. From tomorrow, we can start putting the boat back together and doing a final cleaning - only 3 days to go.
26 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
We had another early start. I used my Dremel to grind out a small groove above the rudder shoe and then filled it with flexible sealant. I then pulled the anchor chain back into the locker. My next job was to varnish the aft toilet door, the cockpit table and the mahogany strip in the front heads.
Meanwhile Glenys cleaned a couple of bilges and generally started to tidy up. By midday, it was blisteringly hot and we’d ticked off most of our jobs, so we retired back to the air-conditioned house that we’ve rented.
27 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It was Memorial Day, but we had no time to relax. We were back at the boat at 08:00 and rattled off a few jobs. I put the final coat of varnish on the cockpit table and Glenys continued to clean after the chaos of the past few days. I then replaced the aft heads door, which looks great.
I flushed out the bilge sump, which hasn’t been done for a couple of years. I unscrewed the ¾” plug on the bottom of the keel and frantically tried to catch the foul black oily bilge water in a bucket. Including a quick trip to the hardware store to buy more degreaser/bilge cleaner, I spent an hour filling up, scrubbing and emptying the bilge sump. A nasty job, but rather satisfying to have a clean smelling bilge
It was blisteringly hot again and we were making good progress, so we packed up at 14:00.
28 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
It absolutely threw it down first thing in the morning, but the sun broke through at 10:00. I replaced the cockpit table leaves. It’s not the best varnishing job that we’ve ever done, but it looks a lot better than it did before. We continued to tick off small jobs and clean the boat. After a quick sandwich, we were able to refit the carpets and Alba was back to show room condition.
Our last job was to remove the bimini because we had already received several “presents” of guano from overflying birds and after a few more weeks, it would look terrible. The bimini frame doesn’t fold away after a modification that I made 5 years ago, so I came up with a series of lashings that hold the frame in the same position as if the bimini was in place. I reckon that it’s strong enough that you could go sailing without the bimini in place.
At 14:00, we locked up the boat and retired to our air-conditioned house. Only one more sleep to go.
29 May 2019 Herrington Harbour North, Virginia
Our flight wasn’t until 20:30 from Washington Dulles airport, so we had a leisurely start to the day, packing and repacking our two cargo bags. We managed to get most things into our 23 kg allowances. We left the house at 10:00 and drove to the boatyard, where we had a final look in Alba’s cupboards to make sure that we haven’t forgotten anything.
We dropped the boat keys with Roger at Free State Yachts, who tells me that there are another two viewings booked for next week - fingers crossed.
We took one last photo of Alba; climbed into our hire car and drove away - and so our new life starts.
As the great and wise Porky Pig says, “Th-th-th-that’s all folks!”