When a boat is in the water things like to stick to it. We are constantly at war with algae slime, barnacles, mussels, oysters and all sorts of other crustaceans. This is a battle no boat owner has ever won. The best us boat owners can hope for is a mild growth. When we kept Cream Puff in a marina full time, we paid a dive service to scrub the underside once per month. Keeping on top of the growth is the key. The diver kept us on the schedule and Cream Puff was a happy boat with a clean bottom.
Since we have been moving about, finding a diver is quite a bit harder. I am a PADI certified diver and have the air tanks to prove it. We have a dive compressor aboard the Puffster so filling the air tanks is pretty easy. I last cleaned the bottom of the hull when we were in Key West about 3 months ago. However, since we have been in the Chesapeake Bay area, the water is murky and full of jellyfish. I don’t like to dive in murky jellyfish infested water. While we’re at it, let’s add jellyfish to the list of annoying critters attracted to boats.
Our three air conditioning units are cooled by pumping saltwater through a closed pipe system to cool the compressors. The saltwater comes into the boat via a valve on the bottom and upon entry passes through a strainer to eliminate seaweed. The saltwater is then pumped around the cooling system piping and ultimately back out into the sea. Those darn jellyfish wreak havoc with the strainer. They jam up the strainer by clogging the sieve. This restricts the water flow and causes the AC units to run hot. At this point, the AC units are programmed to shut down thus preventing any extensive damage. When they shut down, we have a lot of things going beep beep beep. We have learned that jellyfish don’t sleep. So, all of this happens at 4 am on hot humid nights.
Since I am not willing to swim with the jellyfish, Cream Puff’s bottom is in need of some attention. Besides removing the crustacean critters who have attached themselves for a free ride, we also need to perform some bi-annual maintenance on a couple of areas under the waterline. The propeller needs to be removed and lubricated, the propeller shaft seals need to be replace to ensure water stays on the outside, we drain and replace the oil in our Amel sea drive (a fancy marine term for axle) and our bow thruster needs to have new seals. The bow thruster is a small retractable propeller on the front used to control and turn the boat in tight areas such as marinas. We actually found a plastic shopping bag like the ones you get from the grocery store wrapped tightly about the bow thruster propeller shaft. The plastic bag had also penetrated the oil seal and was inside the unit. This was perilously close to the gear mechanism. We hauled Cream Puff not a moment too soon and closely avoided a very costly repair. We had worked scheduled for late September prior to us heading south to the Caribbean Sea for the winter. But, as mentioned in our previous post, an opportunity presented itself to have the work done while in Solomons. We caught Murphy taking a nap.
The yard was not familiar with the maintenance required on Amel boats and we really didn’t want them learning on our boat so we did part of the work ourselves. We were happy to do this. It saved us some money and with our boat out of the water we didn’t have much else to do. The yard crew did the hard grunt work. They polished the hull, scraped off the barnacles, sanded the old paint from the hull bottom and applied the new paint. This took four guys four days to complete. Our part didn’t take quite as long so we had a day of downtime. We rented a car to go pick up a water pump and went to Georgetown in Washington DC for lunch at Clyde’s.
Cream Puff is our home. When our home is on the hard (out of the water), we are looking for a place to sleep. Some yards allow people to stay on their boat while the work is being performed. This is not for us. Climbing down a ladder to go pee at night in the yard’s bathroom is not what we had in mind when we set out on this sailing adventure. Besides, we knew someone who fell off the boat while on the hard and broke her hip. Their sailing escapade went on hiatus for over a year while she recovered. We chose to make our home for 4 nights at a local hotel and enjoyed: real toilets, real showers, unlimited hot and cold water, a king size bed, cable TV, free breakfast, newspapers and best of all; not a single darn jellyfish.