Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Destiny sails away

Destiny sails away

I can't believe a full year and many change has gone by since I last brought you up to date.  After the hull was re-caulked, primed, and painted, 2014 was quite a year  on the waters of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast for Destiny.  We participated in a few MYC (Mobile Yacht Club, 2nd oldest Yacht Club in the United States) Thursday night "fun races", then we took a first place trophy in the Pirates Cove Yacht Club wooded boat show, took first in class in the 56th annual Dauphin Island Regatta, and was invited to take part in the 150 anniversary reenactment of the Battle Of Mobile Bay, famous for Admiral Farragut's pronouncement "Damn the Torpedo's, full speed ahead", as he and his fleet of Union ships ran the gauntlet between Confederacy held Ft. Morgan on the East side, and Ft. Gaines (Dauphin Island) on the west side of the entrance to Mobile Bay. The event turned out to be a grueling three days of cannon fire and black powder on the decks.  However it too was fun and Destiny received many accolades and was seen on TV with the other 25 boats, including two historic Biloxi Schooners...though I believe Destiny was the oldest boat participating  in the event.

150th annivary of the Battle of Mobile Bay
(Ft. Gaines, Dauphin Island in back ground)

56th Annual Dauphin Island Race -2014

The local TV news, WKRG-TV, channel 5, a CBS affiliate,  anchor Bill Riles , heard of Destiny, and being a sailor himself called and asked if he could do an "on the water" interview.  We had the pleasure of sailing with Mr. Riles on the Bay for several hours, and later got our 5 minutes of fame on local television.

In October we sailed over to Lake Pontchartrain again for the 35th annual Madisonville, LA "Wooden Boat Festival", I put this in quotes because there were only a few wooden hulled sailboats, and when it came time to pass out trophies we were beaten by a plastic hulled Hans Christian for first place.  I guess it is no longer a "Wooden Boat Festival"...sad!  There were many very nice wood hulled power boats though, and the local maritime museum does a great job of putting on a wonderful festival.

After the show Destiny was invited to dock, and be put on display at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans, (the 3rd oldest active Yacht Club in the country), and I was ask to give a presentation to their members about Destiny's history.

For those of you that have been following this blog, you know that I've been actively seeking someone to take over the reigns of responsibility for caring for Destiny into the future.  In November, I received an inquiry to my ad to sell Destiny from a gentleman in Texas, Mr. Sean Johnston, who was living in Kemah TX.   After a short initial discussion my immediate thought was that an old historic wooden boat was not what he should be looking for.  However he was not to be deterred and I soon learned he'd done his homework, delving into Destiny's history, actually learning some facts about its origins that I was unaware. For example, as you may have read in earlier blogs, it was reported to me by Pat Atkin (Daughter-in-law to William Atkin) that her Father-in-law had first published his plans for what he called the "Meridian Yawl" in the April issue of MotorBoating Magazine, 1934.  Mr. Johnston learned that that article actually was publish later in 1938 the same year Destiny was launched.  He also determined that Mr. Atkin named his designs after the name of the boat he designed for a client.   Given, that we know the plans for Destiny were drawn in 1937, and now knowing the article was written a year later, there is a possibility that Destiny (named in early 2000s by the sailing school Life Sail, in California) may well have been the original Meridian for which this model was named. Needless to say we are just speculating since we have found no records of registration or USCG documentation from its initial launch in 1938.  As reported before, all I know is that the plans were drawn for a John String.

In any event,  Mr. Johnston came to see Destiny, had it surveyed, went on a sea trial, and fell in love as I had five years before. This all took place in January and February of this year (2015) and when the weather looked as thought it would cooperate Sean, and two friends came to Mobile to sail Destiny back to Texas.  I had promised to sail with them on the first leg of the trip to Gulf Port, MS, 70 nautical miles, a long way to accomplish in those short March daylight hours. We left Mobile in the early morning and sailed into a cold rain that lasted most of the day. By the time time the sun was inching its way to the horizon, we were in sight of the entrance to Gulf Port Small Boat Harbor, and my last sail on Destiny came to a close.

My last Sunset sail on Destiny

Dauphin Island Bridge in Destiny's wake
(Author, left and Mr. Johnston's crew to the right)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Bottom and rudder resteration

The last blog ended with the grounding on Dauphin Island after the Wooden Boat Festival in Madisonville, LA, and waiting for word from the insurance company.  They send an adjuster and agreed to pay for whatever it takes to make the hull water tight again, and rebuilding the rudder, which became my 2013/2014 winter project.   Tom from Diversified Marine Services in Mobile, one of the few "wood boat guys"  left, along with Turner Marine took on the project.  All the bottom paint, just applied six months before, was again ground off the hull. The bilge was filled with water so we could see the areas it was leaking out, assuming that if water will come out it it would probably come in the same place. The rudder was taken off  and the broken hinge removed.  This may sound routine, but in fact the rack and pinion steer mechanism had to be taken apart, and the prop shaft removed from the engine to allow the rudder post to slide out of the boat. I learned that the entire rudder was made of solid teak, and looked to have never been removed from the boat since it was launched.

I had the new hinge fabricated from stainless rather than bronze, because it was not just the hinge but the complete rudder post and topmost hinge was one piece.  Stainless was stronger and less expensive, and since it was to be painted and under the water, I felt secure in sacrificing this small amount of authenticity for the integrity of the boat.

     While the hinge was being fabricated Tom removed all the old cotton caulking from between the planks, from the keel to the waterline.  Except for a few places where the cotton had rotted from water exposure, he was amazed how preserved it was, and estimated that it had been at least 30 years since it had been replaced.   After letting the groves dry out he started the process of replacing the cotton batting.  He first painted the inside of the groves with thinned bottom paint, then using the special tools that look like wide chisels without an edge he would lay in a bead of cotton batting and tap it deep into the space between the planks.  I didn't count the number of planks or the total length of batting pressed into the seams, but I know the planks were only 4-5" wide and started at the top if the keel board to the waterline in a nice wineglass shape for a total of about five vertical feet and thirty-one foot waterline.

Minor grounding impetus for Bottom Over-haul

Last fall while returning home from the Madisonville, Louisianan Wooden Boat Festival, where we  awarded First Place for Sailboats, I had made arrangements to put Destiny on display at the water front on Dauphin Island.  While following the channel from the ICW to Aloe Bay, on the North side of the Island just west of the bridge,  we had a soft grounding.  I was watching the depth meter closely, thought the channel was supposed dredged to 6 feet, and Destiny draws five feet.  The transducer is located a couple feet below the water line on the starboard side of the hull, and was reading a consistent 6'-6'-7'-5.5'- 6' - 0'.  We were just left of center of the channel, but we were stuck.  I tried in vane to back off with the engine in reverse, so we flagged down a passing power boat who was gracious enough to let us throw him a line.  He first tried to back us off but his 90hp outboard Just churned up the water as the lines tightened to laser beams.  Then they came around to our bow and tried to pivot us off.  After several attempts this method was starting to make progress and soon we were floating again in the deeper part of the channel, and motored on down to the bulk head and secured the boat for the night.
     The following morning, I came to the boat and saw the water was up to the bottoms of the floor boards.  The switch to the electric bilge pump took this opportunity to have a mind of its own and decided to go on strike.  After some official language and playing with wires it came to live and shortly dispensed with the invading water.  Since Destiny had before always had a dry bilge, except after a rain, I figured we must have jarred something loose the day before.  We sailed her back up to Turner Marine on Mobile Bay with no issues but kept an eye on the bilge.  I called my insurance carrier to alert them that there may be a problem and watched the bilge.  The problem seemed to get worse rather than better and the experts at the boat yard said we'd better pull her out of the water and take a look.
    I did get a surprise.  Out of the water I saw that the brass rudder hinge was broker and the top of the rudder was cracked and bend over to one side.  Actually the hull itself looked pretty good, no sprung planks, no gaping holes, but I could see water seeping out of several of the lower seams right above the keel.

   I called the insurance company back and they agreed to sen'd an adjuster.