Sunday, January 29, 2012

Summer Trip Planning - Be Prepared!

While the MV Independence has cruised many uneventful miles, there are on occasion when things do happen.  Here's a recent log entry that describes a troublesome day.

August 8, 2006
It rained during the night and early morning.  Skies are completely overcast and gray with a threat of rain.  Weather radio reports a small front passing through the lower mainlaind.  Ugh, that's us.

We pulled up anchor and left Squirrel Cove at 0604.  Cruising through Desolation was fine, there was a 10 knot east wind blowing.  We're making good time to Thulin Passage and past the Copelands, making over 6.5 knots.  After passing Hurtaldo Point and really getting in to Malaspina Strait the wind picked up making for a very bumpy ride.  The view down Malaspina Strait is filled with white caps from this east wind.  So we decided to go down the west side of Texada Island thinking the east wind will not bother us as bad.  Algerine Pass had some of the roughest water, three foot seas or more and a fresh east breeze of over 15 knots.  Sure enough we got in the lee of Texada and the wind lessened until we came around Favada Point when we got slammed with the wind again.  At 0900 I noticed the bilge light come on.  I lifted up the engine lid and sure enough there was water in the bilge but it was going down.  Soon it came on again at 1140.  This I knew was not good.  We were opposite of the Texada mines wharf going headlong right into a 2-3' chop.  This time I went down into the engine room to investigate.  To my horror I saw the main exhaust hose filling up the bilge with water - a lot of water.  I shut down the engine to investigate and immediately we were beam to in the rough waters.  I checked the exhaust hose and there was about a one inch hole!  I came out of the engine room, sweaty, bloody (I cut my thumb badly), and scared.  When I demanded a can of beer all I got was shocked looks, a beer at this time?!  I drained the beer into a container and proceeded to cut the can to act as a brace and patch.  I then wrapped the can with all the duct tape I had to seal the hole.  The kids downed some sodas so I had those cans too.  I had to be careful because the whole exhaust hose was brittle, but I got it patched.  But that's not all.  While we were beam to in the seas, our tow line to our 19' Zodiac had come undone.  Only a thin line was keeping the Zodiac tied to the MV Independence.  So, I quickly found a new tow hitch snap and got it re-tied.  Dealing with a bouncing Zodiac and boat in rough seas was enough for me.

I made for Davie Bay along the west shore of Texada Island under slow bell and dropped the hook in 60' of water in the lee of the island.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.  I drank the beer from earlier, took a quick nap, and thought about our predicament.  After about 90 minutes, we continued on our way down Sabine Channel to our planned anchorage at Boho Bay off of Lasqueti Island.  The wind and seas had abated quite a bit.  We anchored at 1725 in 48' of water at high tide.

Every 30 minutes I checked my patch and found that it was indeed holding; only 3 drips every 10 seconds.  I could live with that.  It's a nasty day filled with wind, rain, and worry. Average speed 5.3 knots, 10:30 cruising, ending engine hours 5549.6.
We made it back to our home port in Olympia without any further incident.  The patch held the entire distance and never dripped more than 2-3 drips every 10 seconds.  When I grabbed the patch while safely tied up to the dock, the whole section of exhaust hose crumbled around me, except the patched area.  I looked in horror what remained in my hands wondering how we made it home.  You could not tell there was an exhaust hose.  The consequences could have been deadly.  We could have sunk, or the exhaust fumes could have over come us.

In hindsight I and the MV Independence were lucky.  Investigation taught me that exhaust hose lasts about 10 years, and metal exhaust elbows about 4-6 years.  The exhaust system is a highly corrosive system that contains hot seawater and exhaust and it deserves annual inspection.  Now as part of my spring routine I take a ball-peen hammer and pound hard on the exhaust system every 2-3" from the engine manifold all the way to the stern.  The hammer should "bounce" off the hose and make a high pitched sound on any fiberglass items (exhaust elbow, water muffler, etc.) and metal items.  Any "thud" or reduced bounce gets extra attention.  Besides hammering the hose and fittings, I look for any sort of "salt weep," rust, or discoloration.  I make sure I have some stiff aluminum sleeves available, plenty of duct tape, Marine Tex epoxy, a big mat of fiberglass, and epoxy resin so I can make emergency repairs.  Oh, and I always make sure I have a few cans of beer. 

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