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.
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