Saturday, October 24, 2009


Chris here... Day two was another *almost* no brainer with a fairly quick run down to Haverstraw from Kingston.  So what made it an almost no brainer?  Well, our engine was up to its old tricks where it just didn't want to turn over due to a partial hydraulic lock.  It eventually did start, though, and we left at around 7:30am and made it to Haverstraw by 2:30pm or so.  The highlight of the day was Kristen's chicken soup and matzoh balls.  Yes, my wonderful Catholic wife made matzoh balls, and I so love her for that.  It was quite chilly out, and she made the soup in the pressure cooker, so it warmed us up from the inside out in a most wonderful fashion. 

We pulled into Haverstraw and were assigned our slip.  While Kristen and Casey cleaned up the boat and hooked up the shore power, I took care of signing us in and checking in with Samalot Marine - the shop that was recommended to us by a friend to look at our Yanmar (for those who asked - it's a 4JH3E).  I called my mother and two uncles, all of whom live within an hour of Haverstraw and wanted to visit us while we were here.

On Thursday, Walter (the mechanic from Samalot) showed up at around 10am.  We walked through all of the issues we've been having.  Every time we've had a mechanic on Pelican since our problems started cropping up, our engine has started right up.  We were absolutely sure the same thing would happen this time.  So.... switch in, turn, press the start button - and - it didn't start!  I don't think I've ever been so happy to NOT have our engine start!  Walter agreed with us - it sounded like a partial hydraulic lock. 

(I'm not going to go into a ton of detail in this section, so "getting from point A to point B in our diagnosis might not always make complete sense.  I am including it because a lot of people have been following our engine troubles and want to know.  Skip these paragraphs if you just want to read about what else we've been up to)

We brainstormed together on the best way to get the water our of the engine and to determine how it was getting there in the first place.  We ended up taking the hoses off of the mixing elbow, and out poured water.  We had already replaced the anti-siphon, but regardless of this we started disconnecting various pieces of the engine to trace the water issue.  Anyway, long story short, we seemed to be getting immense back pressure from the antisiphon and beyond, and since the tube is not that far above the waterline, we decided that we would move the valve portion higher on the boat.

On to one of our other issues - unburned fuel coming out of the exhaust.  The combination of the water and the unburned fuel, plus some oil loss and blue smoke, was making me think that we had a broken piston ring or worse.  This would require the entire engine to be pulled out of the boat to be overhauled.  Well, first, the mechanic pulled out all of the injectors and found that there was significant carbon buildup.  This could cause fuel to be sprayed in a poor pattern, restricting combustion.  He then did a compression check on all of the cylinders and found that they all showed decent compression.  The compression level of the first cylinder was somewhat lower than the rest, but it was still OK.  He reinstalled the injectors and bled the air out of the system and had us try to turn the engine over again.  After listening to the starter, he felt that it wasn't turning fast enough so he had us switch to the house batteries.  We did so, and he thought the starter sounded better.

Regarding the carbon buildup, we have been concerned about that all along.  Diesel engines are made to run fast and hot, and with the propeller we use (Gori) and its overdrive mode (which allows us to dial down the RPMs and still maintain speed), we don't run it fast and hot.  As a result, carbon doesn't burn off and builds up in the cylinders and injectors.

We also thought we were burning oil, but it may be due to the fact that the engine was overfilled.  Kristen did an oil change in Norfolk, and it's possible we didn't completely fill it there (although she's fairly confident, as am I, that it was filled).  If it wasn't, that could explain the oil we had to add en route from  Norfolk to NYC, and the oil we had to add in NYC.  Then, we next checked the oil while the engine was turned on in Albany, and you can't do that since it's circulating.  We added oil at that point in time.  When we left Albany, the oil was a 1/4" over full on the dipstick, but the boat had been sitting for two weeks since the engine was last run, so every last bit of oil had filled the pan.  Then we checked it again in Kingston, 12 hours after we had run it, and it showed a 1/4" UNDER full, so we thought we may have burning oil.  We then checked it again in Haverstraw, and the level hadn't changed.  So... we're not sure if we are burning oil or not, and if the engine WAS overfilled, it would naturally burn the oil.

So... the partial hydraulic lock MAY have been due to the fact that our antisiphon valve is too close to the waterline (only a few inches above).  The unburned fuel MAY be due to the fact that the carbon buildup is preventing a proper spray pattern within the cylinders.  The oil burning problem may not actually be having.  The starter MAY not be getting the proper cranking amps from the starting battery.  We really liked the mechanic because he didn't try to be a miracle worker and give us a false diagnosis, but rather pulled things apart and told us what he would recommend to try, and what to do if those things failed.

We now have a project list: 1) Raise the vented loop/antisiphon to a higher level, 2) Add treatment to the fuel to clean the injectors, 3) Run the engine at higher RPMs, and 4) Soundproof the engine compartment so running at higher RPMs doesn't keep us from being below.

One last note regarding the engine - we never checked the impeller to see if the water was possibly entering the system from the intake side.  Kristen's Dad pulled it today and we found that several of the vanes were curved in the opposite direction from the rest.  This could definitely cause problems.

So that leads me into fate.  As I've mentioned before (maybe?), my 97 year old grandpa was diagnosed several months back with Leukemia.  He was receiving blood transfusions, but a week ago he decided to stop doing them.  He came to terms with his mortality, and said it was time to move on.  This past weekend, he attended my cousin's wedding, and he had a huge smile on his face during the whole event.  Not only that, but he stayed until the end as opposed to leaving early on.  We were all very impressed, and very glad to have the time with him.  My assumption was that it would be the last time I would see him.  Kristen and I drove him back to his home that night, and saying goodbye to him took on a whole new meaning. 

My mother and uncles were supposed to visit us on Pelican on Thursday.  At around 12:30pm I received a call from my mother that my grandpa had taken a turn for the worse.  His blood pressure was rapidly dropping and he was in a lot of pain.  She suggested I come right over.  I called up my uncle who lives about 15 minues from Haverstraw and spoke with his wife, and she drove us to my grandpa's home.  All of my cousins, aunts, uncles, sister, mother, nieces, nephews, second cousins and other family showed up through the rest of the evening.  My grandpa was on morphine at this point, but he was still waking up every so often and we could communicate with him.  All of the grandkids and great-grandkids took turns going up to him and giving him hugs and kisses.  Each time he would put a smile on his face and react positively.

Throughout the night, we all stood watch over him, taking turns holding his hands (if you let go, he would become agitated and seek them out), rubbing his back, and talking to him.  My mother was constantly repeating, as she stood vigil over him, "It's OK.  Everything is OK.  You can go now."  The morphine caused continuous nightmares.  He kept sitting up and screaming "Help me! I'm paralyzed!", and we'd gently lower him down, hold his hands, stroke his back, and tell him that everything is OK.  That we're all there, and we're making sure that everything is fine.  At times, when he appeared to be in pain, we'd give him a dose of morphine.  At around 3am, he calmed down.  His legs stopped trembling and his nightmares appeared to have gone away.  This was the last time we heard him speak.

Kristen and I left the home at around 6am to get some sleep at my uncles.  We left my uncles at around 10am to head to the boat.  We had never told Poppi that we were staying over, as we hadn't expected to, and we needed to pick up some clothes.  We were on our way back from the boat at around 2pm when I got the call from my mother - my grandpa had passed away.  She said that he was peaceful and that it was gentle.  He took a last few labored breaths, and then just stopped.  The nurse had opened the window to my grandpa's room a couple of hours earlier.  She said that this would allow the angels to come in to take my grandpa to heaven.  I'm not a religious person, but I'd like to think that's true, and that he is now dancing away with my grandma in a much better place.

My grandpa was Jewish, and "Bashert" is the Yiddish word for fate. When people don't have an answer to why something happened, they say it's bashert. We've been travelling up and down the coast of the US and the Bahamas for almost a year now.  We've been in many ports and been both in touch and out of touch.  The day before my grandpa passed, we happened to be sitting 30 minutes away from him.  We happened to have left Albany on a certain day, and to have engine troubles leading us to stay in Haverstraw for an extra day.  We happened to of had to attend to business in Albany which led us up here in the first place.  None of these things were good on their own, but they came together to allow me to spend one extra day with my grandpa, and that is something that I will never regret.  It's bashert.

Tomorrow is the funeral.  I'd love to get up and speak about what my grandpa meant to me, but I know I'll be far too emotional.  My parents were divorced when I was only four, so my grandparents took care of me a lot of the time while my mother worked full time.  My grandfather has been a huge role model in my life, as some of my earliest memories, and ones I am most fond of, are of being at the textile factory he owned and watching all of the people who worked for him treat him with respect, and him, in turn, talking about their families and how happy he was to be able to employ them.  A lot of my approaches to running my business come from those memories - the people who work for me are like an extended family to me, and I care as much (actually probably much more) about their happiness and well being as I do about how much money they make for my company.  The memories I hold of my grandpa are good ones, full of family, richness of life, enjoying oneself while the opportunity is there and respecting those around you.  He was a man full of vigor almost to the end of his life, and a person who (in my eyes) didn't let adversity get the best of him.  He lived through the Great Depression, two world wars, the invention of the television and the computer, and me living on a sailboat (although he told me I was an idiot and crazy for doing it), and I love him dearly, and will miss him greatly, but I will always have the memories.

Good bye grandpa, and I'll see you again one day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day one and an excellent day it was

Chris here... We're here in Kingston, NY.  We're doing day hops down the Hudson since, while the buoys are lit, the river is narrow in this part and there is a LOT of debris (large trees, logs, lumber and other nasties).  We actually hit one board which went under the boat, but we don't think there was any damage as there were no vibrations that weren't there already.

We left this morning at around 7:30am.  We were originally going to head to Haverstraw in one shot, but it was cold out and we would not have arrived in Haverstraw until 10 or 11 tonight.  We thought that it might be nice to stop and take things a little slower in the cold, so here we are in Kingston at the Maritime Museum (again).  Pelican did great today, though.  It was wonderful being on the move again.  We've had a great time in Albany and wish we could stay longer (we truly do), but when they pull the docks out it makes it kind of difficult to maintain station.

Kristen made incredible sandwiches for lunch today (corned beef, provolone cheese and a hoagie roll, toasted, and then with cole slaw and mustard on top) so I'm hoping for more of the same tomorrow!  The kids pretty much stayed down below all day, watching movies and doing projects.  They had no interest in being in the cold.  Poppi (who is with us again) hung out in the cockpit and on the foredeck looking for logs.  Kristen worked on school planning for the kids since they keep pestering her to start school (perhaps pestering is a slightly too strong word).  Kristen bought a pressure cooker while we were in Albany, so tonight we're having chicken done in the cooker.  She's very excited about the pot.  Me?  I'm trying to stay out of the way of possible explosions, although she assures me that won't happen.  I wonder if it's time to call our insurance company?

Oh yes - a little patting myself on the back here.  When we docked they put us between two boats in a 47' spot (we're 40' long).  I docked like Captain Ron!  I spun Pelican into the current as we approached the dock, and then just placed her right in the spot without even having to put a spring line in place.  When I was done, we just gently bumped into the dock and you could step right off.  The woman who runs the museum/marina said I get the "Docking maneuvers of the year" award for my job bringing her in.  Kristen said her eyes had tears (as in crying for joy tears) when she stepped off of Pelican.  The reality?  I haven't docked Pelican for almost two months and I was completely freaking out as to how I would do!  I had visions of slamming nose first into the face of the dock and then plowing into all of the boats around us!  I figured I would top the whole maneuver off by having to do man overboard recoveries of everyone on board that fell off when I slammed into shore.  I won't tell anyone else my fears if you don't!  By the way, did I mention that one of the boats I had to dock between was a multi-million dollar 70 foot sailboat???

Tomorrow will be a long day - the current turns against us at around 11am-ish, so we'll be going slow for quite some time.  That's OK though - it's nice to be on the water.  When we get to Haverstraw we're going to get our engine checked out AGAIN to see if we can figure out what's going on with it.  It keeps developing different symptoms.

Chris Parker is predicting that by Sunday evening we may have winds from a favorable direction, albeit at 20kts or so.  I checked Sailflow and it shows Monday and Tuesday being pretty light wind days.  We just can't win - it's either 30 knots and on the nose, or no wind and motoring.  Well, Monday is a long ways away, so anything can happen between now and then.  More tomorrow...

Monday, October 19, 2009

We're outta here!

Chris here... I had meant to write a post a few days ago, but it's been a whirlwind of activity around here. This past weekend we had my 20th high school reunion (surprisingly fun!), my cousin's wedding (I'm soooo happy for her) and my Mother's birthday (I won't say how many years). I don't think I need to tell you how insane the weekend was, but it was all good.

Anyway, I just thought I'd update you on our plans. They yank the docks out at the Albany Yacht Club on the 24th, so we need to move along. I reached out to a few places on the Hudson, but everybody is shutting their water off very soon due to freezing temps. On top of that, if we don't go south soon, we won't be able to go period. So - we're heading out tomorrow, Tuesday.

The current pseudo-itinerary is to head from here to Kingston, NY, then to Haverstraw, NY. In Haverstraw, we're going to have ANOTHER Yanmar mechanic take a look at our latest problems (eating oil, blue exhaust smoke and some fuel in the exhaust) which could potentially be pretty serious (piston blow by is on the list of possibilities, which would require removal of the engine and reboring of the cylinders). On the other hand, it may be nothing. Before everyone runs to "it's the head gasket", we're not seeing any oil in the coolant, nor are we losing coolant. I know that's not the ultimate test, but problems will generally show up there. Anyway, I'm not going to worry about it until a mechanic reviews it. Supposedly the Yanmar mechanic in Haverstraw is pretty good (I got a referral from someone I know).

From Haverstraw we'll head to NYC for a day or two. Then, because NYC is ridiculously expensive ("Winter Rates" don't kick in until November), we'll probably head to the Atlantic Highlands around Sandy Hook, NJ. There's a weather window that started today and goes through Wednesday, but we'll miss it. It's supposed to be blowing 30+ knots from the south for a while, so we'll hole up in New Jersey until we have a window to head to the Delaware River. Once we're in the river, we'll go to the C&D Canal, and then down the Chesapeake a little ways to Baltimore. We'll probably stay there for a little while.

Why Baltimore? Because I'm about to become a frequent flyer on Southwest Airlines. They have a direct flight to Albany, and I'm not ready to completely leave work yet. Things are going pretty well, but it's still important for me to be involved. Baltimore will be fun though - there's a great Aquarium, science center and lots of other stuff. We'll spend some time there, and then maybe head to Washington DC.

All I know right now, however, is that we untie our lines tomorrow and head south down the Hudson River. At least it's supposed to warm up to 60 degrees or so (balmy!). Follow along on the SPOT by clicking the link to the right...

We'll get a good post up soon with info on the boat show, this past weekend, etc. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Feeling Melancholy, Always Reminders

Chris here... Sorry it's been so long since we last wrote. We'll get a post up shortly about our trip to the Annapolis Boat Show and our time with our cruising friends while there, and about the fact that we head out from Albany on the 20th, but I just want to share another story first.

As everyone who has been following our blog knows, our reasons for getting out cruising weren't all about seeing the world, or to take time off from work, or because we've had grandiose dreams for years about getting away from the grind. As a matter of fact, it was only five or six years ago that I even suggested to Kristen that we do this, and she had only sailed once before in her life before I made the suggestion.

The reason we're out cruising is because of family.

Today I had another not-so-gentle reminder of the importance of family. The nine year old son of one of my friends passed away from cancer two days ago (Click Here). There is a website dedicated to him at Here's an excerpt:

"Earlier today he started to have difficulty breathing and we knew he was getting really tired when he stopped allowing visitors we knew he really enjoyed talking with. Stacey and I stayed in bed with him as much as possible all day today. We took turns holding his head and stroking his brow or rubbing his back. He would open his eyes and stare lovingly at his Mom. We continued to tell him how much he was loved and how much we knew he loved us. We shared the postings and emails of friends. We promised to take care of James and each other and told him not to worry about us. At 6:20 PM he quietly stopped breathing. Dr Pearce waited a little bit and listened for heart beats or breathing sounds. Ben left us. He reached the end of the journey that he was on. At the time of his last breath Stacey and I were holding him. We are so blessed that his passing was gentle."

I don't even know what to say, except that I'm glad - no, far more than glad - that we're taking the time to spend with our kids and each other. Once again, life can throw you curve balls at any point. You never know what tomorrow can bring. You have to seize the moment the second you have the opportunity, and you have to reflect on what is truly important in your life. Yes, it's hard to untie the dock lines and cast off, but when you're surrounded by your family you have everything you will ever need.

"Donations may be made to the Ben Fund at HSBC Bank(494 Troy Schenectady Rd, Latham , NY 12110). Originally set up to help the family with medical bills, it will be renamed the Green Drakkoman Foundation and the funds will be used to help other families."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Working, working and working more, but it's all good

(Kristen has a new entry below this one) Chris here... just thought I'd throw in my two cents on how things have been going. We're VERY excited to be moving to Washington DC, but we'll still be working our butts off. I think that things have been going well at the office, and I'm glad it doesn't have a lot to do with Kristen and I being there. Lots of activity was going on in the month of September, and that was all happening before we even arrived. October is similar - the level of activity is high. Sooooo.. I don't want to jinx things, but I'm feeling like things are heading in the right direction. We're starting to work on Federal business so Washington DC seems like an appropriate next stop. DC will also allow us to commute back to Albany via train, plane and automobile. We're getting back to cruising, but we're not getting fully back to cruising. We're enjoying the time back with customers and D&D staff and we plan to continue working hard for the foreseeable feature with trips back and forth.

And yes - as Kristen said - we're going to be very busy over the next couple of weeks. I slacked off on boat projects, and that will make it so some things, like getting new lifelines before we leave, difficult. Also, our engine seems to be acting up even more these days. While it seems to be starting fine these days, I fear we may have a blown head gasket. We get blue smoke out of the exhaust plus some unburned fuel, and we're eating oil at high rates. We're probably going to stop off at Haverstraw on our way down the Hudson and get it checked out - again.

So tomorrow is Kristen's birthday (October 5th) and I'm looking forward to making it a good day for her. I'll let y'all know how it turns out.

Getting back out there!

Kristen here - Today is Sunday 10/04/09. Tomorrow is my birthday!!! Ok, so now we have and end in sight! It looks like we're going to head out of here on October 20th. This weekend we went to my parents house for a birthday party. While there, we grabbed a bunch of our cold weather stuff. Hats, mitts and warmer clothes will be needed for the trip down. It's not too cold here right now, but when you get out on the ocean at night, it gets quite chilly! I'm envisioning the last time we headed down, and had to bundle up and use a heater in the cockpit at night! Of course that was in December and we'll be a little earlier than that this year.

The current plan is to head down to Washington DC and stay there for a while. Chris and I will work a bit from there, and we'll also bring the kids to the sights. I am super psyched to bring the kids around. They have never been to DC before and every time we pass by there, they want to stop and see stuff! Now we'll have 2 weeks or so to see everything! Why do I see boat school going out the window for that time?!

Oh, and that's the other thing. I ordered the kids school books for this year. I decided to use the same books that their school at home uses. I ordered used books from about 9 different suppliers, and they have been slowly trickling in through the mail. It looks like we'll end up doing about 30 weeks of school this year, which is much less than last year. It also looks like the public school books are MUCH simpler than the Calvert books they used last year. That was quite eye opening. So, I'm going to hang on to the Calvert books they didn't finish and use them if we finish the public school books early. They kids say they are excited to start school again, but when I gave them a project the other day I got a little bit of resistance. We were going the the Hudson 400 celebration, so I had each of them do a bit of research on Henry Hudson. They grumbled a bit, but still did the project.

On Friday, Kaitlin reminded me that I promised we would have her birthday party before we left. Next weekend we will be at the boat show, and the following weekend we will be at Chris's cousins wedding, and after that we are leaving. So the only free day was today! So on Friday we called her friends and invited everyone. It worked out well, and everyone was able to come. I'm so glad that Kaitlin got the chance to have a party at home with all her friends!

On Wednesday we leave for the boat show! The boat show is going to ROCK this year! A bunch of our cruising friends (sadly not all) are going to be there. And we're all staying on the same dock. We're going to be driving down, but we'll be staying on an empty boat. They kids are mega excited to see all of their cruising friends. It'll be like the Bahamas again! I really miss everyone and can't wait to see them again! Then we'll have to convince everyone to travel together again as well. Oh! and I'm going to buy the MEGA tub of Prisim Polish! That stuff is awesome!

We'll be at the boat show until Monday and then it's back to work. The following weekend is Chris's cousin's wedding, his 20 year high school reunion AND his Mother's birthday. That is going to be quite the weekend!

Now we're just going through the list in our heads of everything we need to do before we pull away from the dock. We have to get supplies that are easy to get with a car, stock up on food, and get project supplies. Oh yea, we never did get all those projects finished. We did however get our cap rail sanded and painted. Thanks to my dad for doing the sanding!!!!! I got 2 coats on the back half of the boat and 4 coats on the front. We need to have 6 coats total on both the front and back sections. Last week was rainy, so no painting got done. Hopefully this week will be sunnier!

So I think things are going to start getting a little crazy, but in a good way, from here on. I'll try to post more often as our cruising life gets back in order!