Monday, September 27, 2010

Summer Returns, But Just For the Weekend

We're having some company next weekend for an overnight cruise to Mystic , weather permitting.  Frances is looking forward to seeing her brother Fred and sister-in-law Kathy.  Since they are avid boaters in Florida, it's always fun to have them aboard.

But that means that there was a "to-do" list and we got right on that on Saturday. First, we installed two new tachs that we had around since the old Chris Craft days.  The tachs on Act Three were original and didn't work that well unless they were tapped once in a while.  So, under the upper helm we  installed them, cutting away some useless old wiring while we were at it.

Then there was the accordion door that closes off the V-berth.  One of the supports that fits into the overhead track had come loose from a section of the door, making the whole thing fairly useless. We experimented with some fixes and finally came up with one that worked. All it took was two tiny bolts, two matching nuts, four washers and some duct tape. Sounds weird but it worked fine and no one will ever notice the repair.

On Sunday, Frances started our day with a delicious cheese omelet, but before that she enjoyed her usual cup of milk and eight pills. Don't laugh.  The pills gives that woman power!

Our dockmate Bob's boat was suffering from a weak house battery and by afternoon it was time to get out the instruction book for the charger and then drop down into the engine space and have a closer look.  As always, Bob had all the help he needed  - or perhaps didn't need.

There is always a "peanut gallery" when a project is in progress...

On Sunday, we wanted to gas up the boat for next weekend, so we went through the disconnect everything routine and found that the starboard engine wouldn't start. This was something new. Both engines always started up after a few tries.  So, now it was my turn to get down into the engine space and see what was wrong.

The ubiquitous "peanut gallery" strikes again.  Trouble attracts them like iron to a magnet...

We had no ignition on that engine and we quickly traced the problem to the ignition fuse on the lower helm dash. Earlier that morning, as the cheese omelet was cooking, Bill had carefully removed all 12 fuses from the lower helm, polished off any corrosion and applied some electrical grease.  Seems that's all the starboard ignition fuse needed to fail.  We gave it a wiggle and the engine started right up. It stalled a little later and the First Mate suggested that we put in a new fuse.  We were good to go.  (Note to self: install two new ignition fuse holders next Saturday morning.)

We pulled out of our slip quite smartly and went over to take on 139 gallons of gas. That's about $420 worth of go-juice. Hey, to us, every gallon is a gallon of fun although it does put a crimp in our checkbook.


As we arrived, our dockmates Frank and Barbara returned from fishing on their boat with Daryl and Deidre .  We'll let Carol Ann's video tell the story.  Our only comment is, "We ain't kissing no women who kiss dead bluefish no matter how good looking they are! the women, that is"

Monday, September 20, 2010

Something different this weekend

There's no doubt that summer is gone, although it doesn't officially leave us until September 22. Most of the folks at A-dock showed up for the weekend but there was a need for a jacket or sweatshirt when the sun was behind the clouds. No matter.  The conversation was still good and many of us ending up going out to dinner together.

On Sunday, we had only one project and that was to add some new 4-inch cleats to hold our inflatable in place. Wrapping the line around a railing was getting old, so we mounted the new cleats.

There was an antique and classic car show in Norwich on Sunday and our dock mate, John T, was attending with his beautiful 1964 Chevy Impala SS, so we decided to check it out and it was well worthwhile.  Lots of nice cars, many of which brought back memories.

We found John and Joanne at their headquarters behind their car.

John's car is really nice and he had a spot next to some other owners from Monson.

Frances loved what she called the "triple air cleaners" on this GTO.

We admired many of the cars and could see how old car restoration and maintenance is every bit as difficult as it is with an old boat.

We eventually walked back to our 1990 Mercury for the ride back to American Wharf. Hey, it's only 20 years old. Give us a few more years and maybe we'll enter it in the show.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Boats we didn't buy

We were searching through our files for an old business-related photo and came up with some CDs that had pictures of the boats we looked at during the spring and summer of 2009 prior to buying Act Three (then known as "Popeye").

We drove all over New England and even down to south Jersey to look at boats and we'll describe two of them here, just for fun.

We found the first one in early spring on Craig's List. (Note to anyone who reads this: Never, ever buy a boat listed on Craig's List.) Anyway, it had two things going for it: first, it was a Viking and second, it was at Pine Island Marina in Groton. I made a solo trip to see it. Research revealed that it was among the first all fiberglass small flybridge convertible that Viking ever made. This was a 1972 model and I loved the lines and look of the boat. In fact, I have never seen an older Viking - wood or fiberglass - that I didn't like. The guy who owned the boat ran the bait and tackle shop at Pine Island and after borrowing a ladder from him, I eagerly climbed aboard.  You have to admit, while a little dated, this was a nice looking boat.

I could immediately see myself sitting up on the bridge under that $10,000 hard top, crashing through 4-6 footers.

Of course I looked at the important stuff first: the engines. It had a pair of nice new Mercruiser 454s with less than 100 hours on them. Running gear? Nice big 4-blade props on 1-1/2" Nibral shafts.

The cabin? Looked all good to me! It even had a full sized shower with a glass door. Oh, it needed a little cleanup but nothing that I couldn't handle. Before I had to change my shorts, I went home to describe my find to Frances.

Now, just for those who don't know her, Frances is nothing if not an excellent shopper. She can bring a checkout clerk to his or her knees over the difference between the price that was scanned and the sale price. After listening to my glowing description, she agreed to take a look at the boat the following weekend.

We arrived at Pine Island on a sunny June morning and after borrowing the same ladder, we climbed aboard. Frances had her camera, something that I would come to appreciate over the next few months. She walked through the boat, sniffed, probed and opened every door and drawer. I was not getting back enthusiastic vibes. "The stove looks OK," was about the best thing I heard. Then, "pull back those curtains," she said as she snapped another picture.

"That's nothing I can't fix," I offered.  The Viking was beginning to look not-so good.

Then I led her up the ladder to the bridge, my favorite spot.  Frances began taking more pictures. I'll only show a couple here but that morning, she took 127 pictures of that boat. A marine surveyor couldn't have documented the problems more thoroughly.

There were cracks. Lots of them.

I guess I'd also overlooked the damage to the starboard rub rail.  Frances didn't.

How could I have not seen the missing window? The Viking was not to be our new boat.

I did do some research (there is a Viking forum on Internet) and it seems that back then, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Viking had figured out how to mold a solid fiberglass hull.  What they didn't know was how to build molds for the cabin and interior. So, they did what they knew how to do; they built those parts out of plywood and covered the plywood with fiberglass. Not so good after all these years.

So, it was off to check out some other boats. Among them was 1978 Chris Craft Corinthian that I found on Ebay. Note to readers: Don't ever buy a boat listed on Ebay. I think we can demonstrate why.

Chris Craft Corinthians were aft cabin boats and they came in several sizes.  This one was a 38 ft. version and it wasn't the first one I had been through. The listing on Ebay showed a pristine boat, obviously very well cared for. I followed the auction until the boat was sold. Unfortunately for the buyer, who lives in Oklahoma, a transport by truck to said location was not to be, due to the size.  A few says later, it was re-listed and since it was in New Jersey, I convinced Frances to take ride and just take a look at it to see what we could learn.

The ride to New Jersey - on Barnagat Bay to be precise - on a Friday in August was very long and after four hours of driving, we finally found the tiny marina where the boat was located. My goodness. I guess I'd sort of forgotten how big a 38 ft. Chris Craft Corinthian really was.

We brought our own ladder and went around back to climb aboard. Hmmm. Seems this boat had some storm damage. Oh well, there was enough of the swim platform left to be able to get aboard.

The inside of the boat held a few more surprises. It looked as though the person who last owned the boat had simply walked away, or something more mysterious happened. Clothes were still in the closets and the remainder of a card game was on the dinette table. Fairly creepy.  Frances suggested that the former owner had probably been murdered. We laughed as we continued our tour and Frances took pictures - 131 in all.

These boats had a large aft cabin with two single beds, an aft head with enclosed shower, a large v-berth forward with another head and shower.  In this boat, a previous owner had hacked out the shower partitions and turned the aft head into a storage closet.

The engines were mounted under the salon floor. These were among the very first 454 cubic inch engines that Chris Craft marinized and yes, those are the original Chris Craft exhaust manifolds, now more than 30 years old.

Many boats of this size and type end up being floating summer cottages and this one was no exception. Apparently, good TV reception was more important to the owner than bottom maintenance.

The fly bridge on these boats was also a very spacious lounge and this appeared to be the original upholstery. Looked like some elbow grease would be required to bring it back.

The bridge also had a large stainless steel gas cooker mounted right behind the pilot seat. Must have been something when someone threw a dozen burgers on the grill! Bet it got smoky up there.

Aside from the accumulated junk and the poor maintenance, this boat had numerous other problems including about 12 feet of rotted deck structure on the starboard side.  The deck-to-hull joint was also open right at the stem.  Looks like someone bumped something pretty hard to open that joint.

This boat had been a top of  line Chris Craft once and had obviously been taken care of by someone for the first 20 years or so of its life.  After that, it had gone down hill and was now not worth saving.  If the boat had been given to us at no cost, we'd estimate that to roughly restore it would have cost about $40,000, $15,000 of which would spent just on engines. Even getting it back from New Jersey would have been difficult since we'd need insurance and no surveyor in his right mind would ever recommend it for underwriting.

But, we learned a lot from looking at this old boat.  Frances hated it: too big and too much to fix. Like the Viking, I loved the boat's hull design, however antiquated it was by today's standards. Having owned Chris Crafts before, I'm always interested in seeing how well they designed things and what good use they made of the available space.

As luck would have it, our next boat inspection trip was to Long Island and that's where we found the Silverton.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tramp Stamps and Cool Nights

After Labor Day, we have only two-day weekends at A-dock and the time seems to move more quickly when the sun rises later and sets earlier. Saturday was a beautiful day and in the afternoon, some dockmates gathered to examine some stick-on tattoos that Daryl & Deidre came up with.  Bob examined them and suggested that Diane try one.

That got Joanne started with some tattoo stories of her own.

Could cocktail hour be far behind?

Bill is an early riser and often walks up and down the town's crazy hills, admiring the architecture and the amazingly clever way that residents as far back as the 1700s found ways to build built houses on the steep and rocky terrain. The street names aren't particularly original but once in a while, there's one that makes you smile. Here we are at the corner of Fountain and Happy Streets.

A few blocks down the hill, there is an opening between the trees with a good view of Norwich Harbor.

It's worth the hike to enjoy this for a few minutes.

Then it's back to the marina, but first we have to check on the progress made in the construction of the transportation center.

And just for good measure, let's take one more shot of A-dock on a cloudy Sunday morning.  Pretty nice place to keep your boat, don't you think?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The hurricane that wasn't

The impending hurricane over the Labor Day weekend ruined everyone's plans. We went down and put on extra lines on Friday and the storm swished by on Friday night, causing no more than some much needed rain.

On Saturday, all the A-dock folks were still there. The storm had left the Sound rough so we all stayed where we were. We called our good friend Ellen Creighton and asked if she could visit. She said yes for Sunday morning so we knew that we'd have a good time seeing someone that we don't see enough of.

We brought some dinner stuff with us and just as cocktail hour got started, Frances began preparing dinner. It's amazing what that woman can do in our galley.


Ellen arrived on the 9 AM ferry from Orient Point and we picked her up, had breakfast and gave her a quick tour of Norwich. She mentioned how much she liked New England with all of its hills. Come to think of it, eastern Long Island is pretty flat by comparison.

We also hiked up to Indian Leap, which wasn't as spectacular a waterfall as we remembered. However, Heritage Trail is beautiful, one of Norwich's hidden treasures.

We chatted the beautiful afternoon away in the cockpit. Ellen is really happy in this picture; she was just surprised when I leaned out of the fly bridge and took her picture.

The highlight of the day was the fact that it was Frances' birthday. Our always-prepared and very thoughtful dockmate Janey, gave Frances a birthday crown, which Frances wore all day until the stroke of midnight. Nice glow on the crown, Frances!

On Monday, Labor Day, we thought it would be fun to take Ellen back to the ferry by boat so we unhooked the lines and with Rob and Carol Ann along for good company and conversation. We cruised slowly down river to New London and dropped Ellen off at the city dock, right next to the ferry.


Rob took over for the ride back up to Norwich. It was one of those great afternoons with dark blue skies and bright setting sun. It sure was nice to sit back and let someone else drive once in a while.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is it getting dark earlier now?

Before the summer weather goes away for another year, we had to make one more stop at Greenport.  We've been going there for 20 years, the first 15 to Doug Creighton's mini-marina in Sterling Harbor and for the last five to Mitchell's. We left on Thursday, August 25 and came back on Monday, August 30. We were prepared to start our cruise a lot earlier in the week but the weather wasn't good.  On Thursday, and each day we were there, it was wonderful, with warm days and cool nights.

The trip over on Thursday was somewhat rough as the last of the stormy weather cleared out but nothing that our ocean liner couldn't handle. Did I say how much we love hydraulic steering?

Mitchell's only had a few boats there on Friday morning but one of them was big - really big.

You can see just the top of it on the left side of the photo. It's been there all summer and as we arrived, a helicopter was just leaving the after deck.

Of course we had to go look at it. Pretty impressive. We were told it is 165 feet long.

Actually, we liked the way our boat looked even better.

Before long another big boat arrived. By Saturday morning, there were three of them lined up against the pier.

On Friday, the marina began to fill up and we decided to tie off our inflatable where it wouldn't be in the way.

In a few hours, we had lots of new neighbors and by Saturday afternoon, the marina was turning boats away.  There wasn't a slip to be had.

We shot some video of Mitchell's as it began to fill up. In this very short sequence, we see a really experienced crew arrive to dock in their single I/O boat and they really knew what they were doing. We watched people dock all day but this crew got the prize for slick docking. The dock hands never touched the boat, just took the lines.  Nice.

The end of the video shows a 34 ft. single diesel trawler leaving a very tight slip. While you can't see it, there's a big boat directly in front of him. He used his bow thruster to make that left turn. The couple who own the boat are from Norwichtown and came over to introduce themselves earlier that morning. We hope we see them again somewhere.

We rapidly slipped into vacation mode and once the cockpit was set up, we just sat back and relaxed.

Claudio's was crowded as usual and we spotted a very rare boat tied up alongside the bar.

That's a 28-ft double cockpit Gar Wood from the late 1920s or early 1930s. I know if it were ours, we wouldn't have left it were a Claudio's customer could so easily crash into it. However, it survived.

Cocktail hours come and go but are somehow extra good as "golden hour" approaches.

By Monday morning, the marina was again almost empty. Notice in the picture below, the 1980 Silverton 34C. It was identical to our boat but had many more toys.

We were packed up and ready to go and at about 9:30 AM, started our trip back home.  This time the Sound was as flat and we really enjoyed the ride.  Frances steered the boat from Little Gull Island all the way back into New London harbor.

There was no one around on A-dock when we arrived so we docked the boat ourselves. With Frances giving directions, she slid into the slip like perfectly.  Sorry there was no one around to see it.