24 hours with Nymeria

Its official, we are boat owners. Shannon and I took delivery of Nymeria on Friday and got to spend the day really getting to know her. It wasn’t an easy road to get here. It started back in July when we arrived here in Texas. After a few weeks the boat search really got going. Finally in October, after many boats toured, we found the right one. After making an offer, and taking her out for a survey and sea trial, the real test began.

It seems the hardest part of all this was actually moving the money from one account to another. Seems like such a simple task, but it we actually had to travel back in time before the internet in order to make it happen. Several phone calls, 8 hours of driving between post offices and banks, one  lost transfer check direct from the bank, and an overnight mail of “temporary” checks, I was finally able to get everything deposited in one place.  Only to have Wells Fargo question the final wire transfer, then finally agree after some persuading only because I have been an account holder since 1985. “That would be one hell of a long con” they said.

After the most stressful week I think I’ve ever had, we finally hopped aboard and moved her to our new slip at Waterford Harbor Marina. It had been over a year since our sailing courses in Thailand, and I had never actually docked anything larger than our friend Jeffs’ 22ft day sailor, so, trial by fire I guess. One lesson I remember clearly was “if your bowman isn’t bored, you are docking too fast” I took that to heart and several slow minuted later we tied up to slip 9-21.

Even before we pulled in completely, the friendliness of the sailing community started to show. The livaboard couple in the slip next to us came out to greet us and help with dock-lines. They happily listen to our story of getting there and offer congratulations and whatever advice we are in need of.

We needed to replace one of the old stern lines of the boat as it was rather old and frayed (even tied and held together by some tape) so we took off to our first official trip to West Marine (or my new toy store). They say its nearly impossible to get out of there without spending $200 on stuff. I can totally see why. “Yea, we need one of those”, “oh sure, that would be nice”, “that one light really needs replacing, so lets buy 7 and replace them all.” With an unbelievable amount of personal restraint, we walked out with a new line, one new light, and a fan. $197.95, we had done it!

Now the fun begins. The next several hours were spent folding ourselves in strange ways cleaning and testing everything we could. What pipes go where?How does this light turn on? WTF is this thing, and what does it do? Where are we going to put all our stuff? By the time the sun went down we were nasty and exhausted.

As we were finally getting ready to clean up and order a seemingly traditional first night in a new home pizza, that wonderful sailing community showed its worth again. As we walked down the dock, a couple came out and invited us to the Friday Marina Happy Hour. They meet every Friday at the pavilion and share stories and snacks. We had intended to just have our celebratory champagne and eat pizza on the boat alone, but why not be social? We ended up having way too much fun and had a few too many drinks and no real food while meeting the other owners. We finally ordered that pizza far too late and after stuffing our faces we took to our first night sleeping on the boat.

After a better night of sleep than I expected, we got up and prepared to take the boat to the shipyard for a haul-out and full bottom job. As we were getting ready, Shannon remarked “this should feel weirder.” I think I agree. For some reason things just felt OK, like we were supposed to be there.  Even our last few months in the RV never seemed too normal, just part of a vacation or something. Ill take it as a good sign.

One more week of RV living while we have the Nymeria worked on, then the adventure really begins!

We almost sank it!

“The vessel was found mechanically and structurally sound, …maintained and equipped in above average condition for a boat this age.”

That was the overall conclusion of the survey and sea trial. Other than a few minor, very fixable issues the boat is in excellent condition.

The day started with yet another 6am ferry ride. We needed to get to Kemah to meet the surveyor by 8am, and the ferry only runs once an hour that early. We also didn’t really know what the traffic between Galveston and Houston would be near morning rush hour so we made sure we had extra time.

We met Nick, our surveyor, right on time at the boat and got right to work. It’s enlightening to watch him work as he meticulously tapped every square inch of the deck with his little hammer. He was looking and listening for any signs of delamination or water intrusion. He then checked every fitting, attachment, screw, and line from the bow to the stern. Our confidence continually grows as he frequently mentions how nice and maintained everything is, and is surprised at how few hull issues he is finding. “I can usually find at least one spot of delamination or water intrusion, but I’m not finding any” he said.

I consider the hull to be the most important part of this survey as it is the real soul of the boat. It’s a huge relief at this point to see that it is solid and in near perfect condition. That being said, there’s still a lot more to look at, including the below water parts of the hull when we haul it out later in the day. As we start getting into the details of all the electronics and other accessories on the boat, the issues start to arise.

We fired up the auxiliary generator, a huge bonus to have in my mind, but find that the cooling water is not flowing and the intake hoses are rotten. Not too big of a deal, but that means no generator until it is fixed. We move onto the inverter, which I’m also excited to have on-board because we have a lot of toys that need to be charged, but no go. It doesn’t turn on. Strike two.

There were several other little electrical quirks, the running light didn’t work, some of the interior lighting was bad, but all of that is fairly easy to replace, and probably something I want to upgrade anyway.

A few hours had passed and it was now time for the main event. The haul out and sea trial. Let’s see how this old girl performs, and look at her not so visible parts.

It’s a bit concerning watching a boat get pulled out of the water. It is clearly not its natural state. Even though this boat was not ours, we were both quite tense as we watched the lift pull her up. Once she was on the hard, Nick got right to the tapping again. Every inch of the hull below water needs to be checked for any issues. Once again, she came out with a surprisingly clean bill of health for a 32 year old boat. The bottom paint needs to be redone, and some standard maintenance items, but all of that is to be expected as bottom paint should be redone every few years anyway.

The quick haul out complete, it was now time to put her back in the water and go for a sail. The weather was not all that great though. It was sunny and warm, but the wind was blowing a lot harder than we wanted. Steady wind at 10-15 miles an hour, with regular gusts above 25. For any real sailor, these are not really issues, but for us, on a boat we don’t know, it was quite scary. Even with the wind, the boat performed amazingly well. “shes a tank” says Nick calmly as we get hit by yet another gust with full sails up. My knuckles are white as I’m steering the boat and have to make some small, but easily made adjustments to keep course, but the boat just heels over and takes the gust in stride. I keep watching Nick for some sort of reaction, but this is nothing to him. He is running up and down the deck checking out the rigging and sails as I nervously sail along.

Once back at the dock and coming down off the excitement of the sail, we start digging into the inner bowels of the ship. We have to check every cable, every hose, and every inch of the interior. If you’ve read this far, this is the part where the title of this post comes in.

Nick had been checking out all the plumbing of the head (nautical speak for bathroom) and noticed that there were some shortcuts taken. In particular, the raw water line to the toilet was not running through an “anti-siphon” loop. He explained to me that in the right conditions, without this loop, water can just start flowing into the boat, and we should always make sure this valve is closed any time we are sailing until it gets properly fixed.

Sure enough, about fifteen minutes later we are looking at some pipes down in the bilge and start seeing water flowing in. We check all the obvious things before turning back to the head. Turns out that exactly what he was explaining could have gone wrong, had, and the toilet was full and overflowing with sea water and it was freely running into the boat. We quickly shut off the valve and stop it before much happens, but if we had not been aboard, this could have easily sunk the boat in a few hours. Usually the bilge pump would just pump the water back out, but due to another issue we found, the the bilge pump was wired through and unprotected switch and we had turned it off earlier to test it.

Another hour or two of meticulously checking and testing everything on the boat, the survey was complete. We learned a ton about this boat and what it means to take ownership and maintain her. We have picked a good one it seems. Other than some minor and totally fixable issues, this boat is in fantastic condition and is very well equipped for what we want to do with it. A little bit of negotiating with the current owner over the final price with these issues and we may be buying a boat!

It is so very exciting at this stage, no matter how much planning Shannon and I did to get here. I’m continually blown away at where we are.

Let see where this goes!