Saturday, July 17, 2010

Welcome American Promise - the first days

I have never met a sailor without a lot of stories. I think it is because it is hard to go sailing and have everything go just right and, "we sailed and it was sunny and perfect" just does not hold a crowd. And though I was not after developing a crowd pleaser during our maiden voyage of American Promise, I cannot just say, "we sailed and it was sunny and perfect".

American Promise is a beautiful boat with a very cool history. You can read some about her on our web site and a Google search will reveal everything from a record breaking circumnavigation by Dodge Morgan (who along with Ted Hood and a team of boatbuilders at Little Harbor in Marblehead, MA built her to his specs and needs for the record) to a sinking and resurrection and many, many hours spent at sea training the US Naval Academy's midshipmen. We have acquired her to use as the
mothership for the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean. She will spend this next phase of her life as the platform for marine debris pick-up, research and programs starting on the East Coast. for more info.

Our adventure with her began July 7th with a closing in New Hampshire (yeah for the SBA and Optima Bank in Portsmouth) and a drive down to Annapolis (which was 102F). Mostly I just
remember making a lot of lists on that drive.

Above is how she looked sitting in her berth at the USNA's small craft basin (though there is really nothing small about American Promise). So pretty and capable looking. Despite the heat and thanks to the help of a team of fabricators, sailmakers and her 'boat keeper' we worked through a lot of the systems and got her ready to go. Sort of. Or at least until it started raining with 2 days to go. The fact that is was raining was fine, a welcome break from the heat even, the problems began when we started tracking the various leaks. One from a hatch (fine, fixable), another from a deck prism (also fixable) but then there was a brown liquid leak above the watertight companionway door (yuck and ??). We were not sure about that one and wrapped up the day's work with it still a mystery.

James (my husband and partner in all of this adventure) had a revelation overnight. When we got back to the boat at 7am the next day with 24
hours until intended departure, we followed up on his hunch. He is often right (grrrr) and this was no exception... we tested the middle bolts that hold the traveler bar to the boat and they just spun, no catching at all. We ground on the mainsheet and, as expected, the traveller track bowed up toward the pull. That is more than just not good, but potentially dangerous. Next, he pulled off a metal backing plate to reveal a huge area of rot in the deck beam under the traveller (photo below). Now the day before departure that was supposed to include some cleaning, fixing little items like light bulbs and packing the boat/provisioning turned into a scramble to make the traveller stable, strong and safe enough for us to sail. The best way we saw for that to happen was to drill holes into the metal backing plate and find longer bolts to through-bolt the traveller on. My job became driving around Annapolis like a crazy person looking for nearly impossibly long, small diameter bolts with just the right thread length... dropping them off and then driving around other parts of Annapolis looking for an impossibly long screw driver.

In the midst of all of this, we decided that this problem is significant enough to need a full fix, not just a temporary one. We called John Scarano at Scarano Boat in Albany, NY. We have known the Scaranos for a long time, refit another boat there, worked for them and James
had a shop there, we knew they were the right place to go to get this fix done correctly (and we can stay with my parents while it happens).

By the time most of our crew arrived from Vermont and Saratoga, NY we had finished the temp fix and had plans to head for the Hudson (bummer our Hudson River charts were all sitting in a tube in Vermont). They were a breath of fresh air and much needed energy. We finished the day with good food and their good company at the Boat Yard restaurant near Severn Sailing Association at around 10:30pm.

Stay tuned for the story of our voyage to pick up with the day of departure...

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