Summer in the Chesapeake- or “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season”


We’ve spent the last month and a half or so in two places. We decided to find a nice marina with a GOOD RATE, so that we could do some minor repairs, and have some items shipped to us.

York River Yacht Haven Marina, was a great find. Located across the bridge from Yorktown which is steeped in Civil War and the American Revolutionary War history, the marina is only a mile or so from some convenience stores, West Marine, a good sandwich shop. A nice Food Lion, grocery store is about 2 miles away. But the marina has a free loaner car, so we can reserve the car and do grocery shopping as we need.

YRYH (York River Yacht Haven) is mostly a local’s marina. We are one of only 3-4 other transient boats here. They have a great rate for a month, essentially pay the daily rate and in 5 days the monthly rate is cheaper. It is modern, well maintained, has a great pool which helped out during some of the really sweltering days. They have a full service yard with a 60 ton travel lift, so they can haul us if a hurricane is imminent.

They also have a nice marine store, better than the West Marine and a bar/restaurant on site. We had a lovely surprise one day returning from the pool to see that N57 Istaboa had berthed behind us. They had been next to us at Old Port Cove in West Palm Beach, when we first moved aboard Southern Star so it was great to reconnect with Bob and Mel again.

We stayed here for most all of August. In September, we headed further north toward Maryland for our haul out at Solomons Island, Washburns Boat Yard. We did one stop on the way (the overall trip about 100 miles) at Ingram Bay to break up the trip.

We arrived at Solomons on the 4th of September (Labour Day week end) to be hauled out the next day.

Washburns is a boat yard, with a couple of docks for the boats in and out of the yard. It is very non posh, crude by all standards. But it came highly recommended by prominent Nordhavn owners, and when we docked, on Monday the 4th, there was a Nordhavn 50, a Nordhavn 55 (Chinatsu- Richard and Olive), and another N50 in the shed at Washburns, and there are also a number of other trawlers in the yard, Selenes, Outer Reefs. The attraction for trawlers seems to be substantial. And Istaboa was berthed opposite at Zahniser, so a convenient stop for an evening cocktail on the way back to the hotel.

So we have been doing stuff to the boat for the past month and a half, rather than going places. This means spending more money. But it is important for us to benchmark the maintenance of several of the major systems on the boat, so that we know they are in good condition, and know when we may to think about preventative maintenance rather than reactionary maintenance.

In water repairs in York River included, new steering ram and new AC cooling pump, as well as thorough cleaning of the cooling system of the Air conditioning system. Cleaning of the hull and water line.

Haul out at Solomons Island was a major one. We wanted to feel comfortable with the hydraulic stabilizers, and the bow and stern thrusters, wanted to replace the get home (wing engine) stuffing box with a dripless one (big improvement as the engine is a V drive and the stuffing box is almost inaccessible for maintenance. The old box (traditional packing material) had caused the transmission seal to fail due to the water from the stuffing box. We discovered this during the survey last year.

When we hauled SS out of the water, we were pleasantly surprised with the overall good condition of the bottom paint. Robbie and Jo had hauled and painted her last June.

The running gear, props, shafts, thrusters were pretty foul with barnacles, etc. The prop speed treatment not performing as well as the bottom paint had.

I needed to replace the transmission cooler o-rings, which had allowed oil into the cooling system and into the keel cooler.

And so the list began, and we had very good results. We were surprised by the high cost of the work, but we did justify it as a 5 year maintenance program all done in one year.

The list of completed items:

  • Clean, and sand bottom for new paint
  • Clean and prep props and shafts for new prop speed
  • Remove wing engine prop shaft, prop and install PSS dripless stuffing box (stuffing box is the item that allows the shaft to come into the boat, and controls the amount of water that also comes in).
    • We decided to replace the shaft with a new one and a new coupler.
    • We learned that the shaft had been modified on the wing, and it was almost disconnected from the transmission coupler (it had turned ¼ turn). The gori folding propeller was installed incorrectly and was on a half a thread from coming off the end of the shaft. – So we are thrilled to have learned this before we needed it.
  • Disassemble, clean and lubricate Gori folding prop
  • Drop both stabilizer fins and remove and replace the seals. We had to have the starboard fin realigned as it was 4-5 inches off from parallel to the keel.
  • Remove the bow and stern thruster propellers, and remove and replace the seals
  • Remove and clean, and flush out the keel cooler- new seals and re-bed it to the hull. (this is the cooling system on SS- We do not have any salt water cooling inside the boat- no heat exchanger like on most boats- the coolant is cooled by the sea water outside the hull and the exhaust gases from the engine go up the dry stack, rather than being mixed with sea water and sent out the hull near the water line)
  • Replace cooler o-rings and flush and flush and flush the cooling system
  • Cut and polish the hull- a big job, and one of the most impressive results. She glistened afterwards.
  • Had some gel coat scratches repaired in the hull. This took many hours to match to the existing gel coat.
  • We also purchased and installed some new speakers in the salon to round out our on board entertainment system.
  • Checked the batteries and ordered new ones…OUCH 7 8D AGM batteries at over $800 each for this maneuver.

And so the list seems pretty comprehensive. But as I mentioned many of these items are done only every 5-6 years, and in a couple of instances it appeared they had never been done.

The haul out required that we vacate the boat, so a motel room was needed. And of course a car, as the Extended Stay hotel was in Lexington Park about 10 miles away.

We took the old shaft to Baltimore on a Friday, as the next pick up for the shaft would have been Monday and a return on Wed- setting us back 3 days. A half day’s drive but it was worth it in that respect.

We splashed on Thursday, and had a hard 4 hours to clean the topsides. And now we are back in the water, waiting for the batteries to arrive.

And Southern Star looks amazing and she sounds great too. Big thanks to Eric, Rick, Kevin and the team at Washburns. We shouted them beers and pizza on Friday night.

We have of course been watching the weather channel, especially while in the motel room at night, as hurricane Irma bore down on the Caribbean, passing over Barbuda, Virgin Islands, and a direct hit on my friends in Turks and Caicos, sparring the Bahamas, but making landfall north of Key West and travelling up the state of Florida and hitting both coasts, with the west coast bearing the most of the brunt of this Cat 5 storm. Many friends have had substantial damage, but as far as I know made it through safely.

And today we watch Hurricane Jose, as it looks to pass within 100 miles of Nantucket, with 2 more storms now brewing in the Atlantic.

We are, we think, well protected here, and geographically (statistically) well placed to stay out of the hurricanes’ paths.

And so we stay attentive, and as Jimmy B said- “Trying to reason with Hurricane Season.”

This reminds me that we are truly at the mercy of the weather; we can never actually control our environment. Although I do believe that we are really guilty of warming our environment over the past few decades and contributing to the intensity of these storms.




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