25 August, 2007

What's in a name?

Date: August 25, 2007
Location: Zimmerman Marine - Cardinal, VA
Position: 37 24.446 N 076 21.203 W

Cruisers will many times refer to other cruisers by boat name rather than by person name. For example, we are sometimes called "the Rachels". Likewise, we often refer to other couples as 'the Liberty's', 'the Hobnobs', 'the Gambles', etc. It's not that we don't all know each other's names (well not always); it's just that it's sometimes easier to think of one name (the boat's) than it is to think of each person's name. Or maybe it's because in a group some people may not know the names of a boat's owners, and if you say 'the Rachel's', everyone knows who you're discussing.

At Zimmerman's they assign a "service coordinator" to oversee each job. While it sounds like just another layer of overhead, we've actually found it to be (like so many other things here) well thought out and quite useful. The 'service coordinator' is a salaried position, so none of their time is charged to your job. They interface with the technical staff who do bill hourly, management, the scheduler, and the owner to keep things running smoothly and to make sure everyone is on the same page. We've found the level of communication here to be excellent - we all know what's going to happen when, and who's going to do what next - it's really been a great experience on that level.

The day Rachel was hauled, a gal walked by and said "Nice boat name." We thanked her, whereupon she said "That's my name, too." We told her we're usually pretty bad with names, but figured we wouldn't have too much trouble remembering hers.

Once our problems were diagnosed and everyone realized we were going to be here a while, Rachel was assigned to be our service coordinator. That was kind of cute - Rachel being Rachel's service coordinator.

A few days later, she was sitting in the cockpit with us discussing the work that will be done. We had a question to which she didn't have a quick answer, so she made a call. Here's how it went: "Hi, Steve. This is Rachel. I'm on Rachel with..." (a sudden, slightly pained expression appears as she realizes what she's about to say ) "... the Rachels."

The Rachels
s/v Rachel

15 August, 2007

Sometimes dreams really do come true!

Location: Zimmerman Marine - Cardinal, VA
Position: 37 24.446 N 076 21.203 W

The morning of the scheduled engine alignment:
"I had a dream last night." she says
"You never remember your dreams." he says.
"Well, I remembered this one." she says.
"What was it about?" he asks
"I dreamed we had to get a new engine." she says
"You're not allowed to dream any more." he says.

She tells The Crew about the dream at breakfast:
"You're not allowed to dream any more." says The Crew.
"See? Told you!" he says.

Later in the day she tells The Mechanic about the dream:
"You're not allowed to dream any more." says The Mechanic.
"See? Told you!" says The Crew.
"She never remembers her dreams." he says.
"Anyway, it was just a dream." she says.

Waiting for 'The Part' to arrive so that the Mechanic can determine if 'The Problem' really is in the transmission, they fill their days with busy work. The Crew goes home on Thursday. 'The Part' arrives the following Monday. The Mechanic dives into the basement and works his magic. The diagnosis is not good. The transmission's output shaft bearings are definitely shot and the output shaft itself is also worn and may be bent!?!

We rejoin our protagonists as The Mechanic tells them the news:
"$3,000 to rebuild the transmission?" he asks.
"And that's only IF they can find the parts?" she asks.
"You're not allowed to dream any more." he says.
"See? Told you!" says The Mechanic.

Assuming we can find an output shaft, we could do the rebuild. Unfortunately we'd still be stuck with an engine and transmission that are almost 30 years old and are pretty darned hard to find parts for. Not a good scenario if something were to break, especially somewhere "off the beaten path".

We think paying about 1/4 the cost of a repower to rebuild the transmission and get the drive train set up correctly is probably throwing good money after bad. So we've deciding that we should bite the bullet and get a new engine and transmission. Ouch.

Who said dreams never come true?? They are big fat liars and deserve a good WHACKing!! On the other hand, some dreams don't come true. This is the second year in a row that we've dreamed of going to Maine and the second year in a row that we aren't going. What a bummer. Very disappointing.

When we get down and out like this Mark likes to bring out his fake Scottish accent. "Och, aye, lass!" It always works - the 2 of us end up laughing and feeling 'no so bad!'. Last Saturday we went up to Deltaville to have dinner with friends at the "yacht club". After dinner we all went out for a cocktail cruise around the creek. Mark stood on the aft deck sipping Scotch ("Well, maybe 'sipping' is an understatement..." she says) reciting Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabberwocky ) in his bad fake Scots accent with his hair blowing wildly. We all laughed heartily - thank goodness we still both have a healthy sense of humor!!

Even though Zimmerman's is out in the middle of nowhere (from their web site: "Inconveniently located on the beautiful Mobjack Bay in Mathews, Virginia. We're not close to anything... except our customers.") and hot as blazes right now, we really like the people here and we are making new friends, despite Mark's bad fake accent.

It is SO hot and humid here. We borrowed the yard's loaner car and picked our van up last Monday after we realised we were going to be here for a while. A lovely but quick two-day trip to Blacksburg to visit our daughter Charlotte and her family and pick up the window air conditioning unit followed. Now we are at least a bit cool aboard Rachel.

The dinghy rebuild is progressing well. We've taken her out for a bit of "gunkholing" the past two days and she seems to be fine again. we're hoping to finish up the sail rig in the next day or so - at least then we'll be able to get out and do some sailing this summer!

Dreaming of being cooler ("No! Nononono! Remember? You're not allowed to dream any more!!" he exclaims)

03 August, 2007


Location: Zimmerman Marine, Inc. - near Matthews, VA
Position: 37 24.446 N 076 21.203

When you live on your boat, you have to become a bit philosophical about things. Patience is a virtue. All things come in time. Even sailing trips to Maine. Hopefully.

We stopped in here on Tuesday July 25th to have some drive train vibration we've had for a while diagnosed. The mechanic, Chris, came out to the boat on Wednesday morning and took a look. He couldn't be sure at anchor, so we took a spin up the East River during which time he diagnosed a fairly severe alignment problem and possibly a bad cutlass bearing. He decided we needed to haul so he could thoroughly inspect the drive train.

The yard is really busy and we couldn't get on the haulout schedule until Monday July 30th. Luckily, the anchorage is beautiful and there's usually a nice breeze. We made use of the downtime to begin repairs on the dinghy. It's coming along nicely with one more coat of paint required before we put the two halves back together and take her out for a sea trial.

Zimmerman's is not a "do-it-yourself" yard, but as they are really busy at the moment they've been letting Mark do as much of the work as he can. Mark's been relearning his old mechanic skills down in the "basement" in 90 degree humid heat. Chris will decide what needs doing, Mark does it and then Chris will return to test, diagnose, offer Mark advice and loan us the tools we don't have. It has turned out to be a win-win situation and Mark is learning a lot about our 30 year old engine and it's associated bits.

During the week we've eliminated several theories and now have the problem narrowed down to either a bent or worn coupling or a bent transmission output shaft or a bit of both. The coupling is the cheaper of the two options so, even though it will take a few days, we've decided to go ahead and order the parts and see how much that improves the problem.

That's where we are now. The coupling halves are due in next Monday, so we'll be here at least until then. If it's good news, we should be back in the water on Monday or Tuesday. If it's bad news, we'll then need to make a decision whether to buy a used transmission or have ours rebuilt.

Shep, our extra crew member for the trip, came aboard last Sunday. The poor guy got to spend one night on the water then left Thursday afternoon after spending most of his time here living in the heat on the hard and doing miscellaneous boat jobs. He was a real trooper, maintained a good attitude even during our frustration and disappointment, and will be welcomed aboard again.

Our experience here at Zimmerman's has been great. Everyone we've met has been courteous, helpful, and friendly. The yard is clean and the staff is very professional and willing to help. The workmanship we've seen has been top notch, too. Communication seems to be the watchword here - a valuable but, unfortunately in our experience, not all that common commodity.

Our awnings have been a Godsend. It's been really hot and humid and, being a working boatyard not a marina, there's no pool here. The haulout guys were nice enough to put us at the end of the yard near some trees, so we receive some good shade during the most brutal part of the afternoon. If we're going to be here much longer, though, we're going to have to go get an air conditioner. We should know whether that's going to be necessary on Monday.

We're in pretty good spirits given the circumstances, and are using our time here to take care of
some other boat jobs that hadn't made it up to the "A" list yet.