Repair Work & Bottom Paint (July 2000)
We needed to do some maintenance work, and we needed a new coat of bottom paint.

Monday, July 10, 2000: Trip to the Boatyard

Sometime in the last month, I had contacted a boatyard on the other side of St. Petersburg and arranged with them to do some work on our boat. Ever since our traumatic crossing of the Neusse River in North Carolina, the skylights had been leaking some whenever it rained, and Theresa was eager to get them fixed. I had also noticed barnacles growing at an alarming rate on the bottom of the boat, indicating that she needed a fresh coat of bottom paint. Furthermore, I had been intending to have the bottom inspected since we bumped bottom in the Pass-A-Grille channel back in May, and I wanted to have the engine checked out.

The trip over was actually fairly uneventful, though Theresa and I went east for a change, under the Tierra Verde bridge, and on toward the Sunshine Skyway. We had hoped to be able to get under the closer, fixed portion of the bridge (since our chart showed it as a bascule bridge, but it had clearly been upgraded), but as we neared the span, we saw that it was only built to the 55-foot standard, so we couldn't fit. (Our mast is over 58 feet high.) We were obliged to proceed southward down the narrow channel beside the causeway until we reached the main Tampa Bay shipping channel, where we could pass easily beneath the 130'+ main span of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. On the plus side, we were able to put up some sail for a bit.

Because of our lengthy detour and contrary tidal currents, the trip took quite a bit longer than either Theresa or I had anticipated, and we didn't arrive at the boatyard until after 5:00pm. Salt Creek Boatworks is located on a little creek in downtown St. Petersburg, and the waterway is very narrow. They only have one slip (directly under the lift), and we found another boat occupying it. The boatyard guys were preparing that boat for departure, so we were obliged to back out of the creek and wait for the other boat to clear the area before we could come in. That was a bit tricky, but we eventually managed to get docked and snugged in for the night.

Tuesday, July 11, 2000: Hauled Out

The boatyard hauled our boat out the next day and began work rebedding the skylights and some of the deck hardware at the base of the mast. Theresa and I stopped by to check on her, and saw her out of the water for the first time ever. We inspected the hull ourselves, and discovered that a fist-sized piece of fiberglass at the top, trailing corner of the rudder had been broken off, and that there were superficial cracks in the hull's gelcoat where the rudder shaft passes through the hull. The broken spot on the rudder looked new, so we're fairly certain that this damage was caused when we hit bottom in the Pass-A-Grille channel back in May. The superficial cracks radiating from the rudder shaft may have existed for sometime prior.

Wednesday, August 2, 2000: Return from the Boatyard

The boatyard took over three weeks to finish the work on our boat, but they seem to have done a decent job. They repaired the damage to our rudder, and they repainted the bottom. They also supposedly fixed the skylights, reseated the hardware at the base of the mast, and serviced the engine. Hard to say yet if any of that was successful. The boat's a mess, though, so it's going to require a good cleaning.

Christy and Fred were in town, so we took advantage of the extra help and arranged to pick our boat up from the yard. The weather had been stuck in its "Florida summer" pattern of nice mornings with afternoon thunderstorms, so we endeavored to get started as early as possible, within the constraints imposed by the yard. Once the boatyard got our boat onto the lift, they still needed to paint the spots where the supports had been pressed against the hull before they could lower her into the water.

By the time we arrived, the yardworkers had already put the boat into the water, and they were re-attaching the backstays. Unfortunately, one of the guys dropped a cotter pin into the water, and we soon determined that it was irretrievable. To make matters worse, the yard didn't have a spare in the right size, so they tried to file a larger one down. This just didn't work, and we were discussing other options when another guy nosed in and asked why we didn't just go next door and buy a new one. I was dumbfounded. "You mean there's a parts supplier right next door??!" Annoyed with this senseless waste of everybody's time, I walked over and bought a new pin for a grand total of five dollars. We installed it, and finally got underway.

By this time, though, it was already 11:00am, and the clouds were starting to build up. No sooner were we out into the main shipping channel than we saw lightning over northern St. Petersburg. We high-tailed it south, hoping to outrun that storm as it grew stronger. As we neared the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, though, another storm began to form over Bradenton, just to the south of us. We were boxed in between the two thunderstorms, but we had no real alternatives except to continue onward. The two storms closed in on us, and we started to get a little rain as we made our way up the little channel beside the Sunshine causeway. The northern storm swept southeast toward the other storm just as we reached the ICW and turned west, and we miraculously managed to dodge them both.

Theresa and I were on edge this whole time, aware that getting caught in a bad squall in such confined waters could be very dangerous, whether or not we risked being struck by lightning as well. Christy and Fred, on the other hand, seemed completely oblivious to the danger, their light-hearted mood striking a bizarre contrast to the anxiety that Theresa and I felt. I guess if you don't have any experience with bad weather and nasty groundings, it's hard to comprehend how dangerous such a situation can become.

In any case, we made it safely under the Tierra Verde bridge and managed a decent docking, back home snug and sound in our slip.


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