Re-Launch Preparations

Saturday, November 18

Position: Ocean Marine Yacht Center in Portsmouth, VA

It is Saturday, November 18, and the yard crew is putting on the first full coat of bottom paint now.

Meanwhile, Pride’s crew is prepping the topside planking for a full and final coat of black paint in a day or two.

Engineering work continues on reassembling inside systems to be made ready for re-launching and use while the ship is afloat.

The clock keeps ticking. Time slides by. Forward progress continues, but always there is the loom of deadlines previously and abstractly created. Often forced to be adjusted when rate of anticipated progress is challenged by reality. Or weather interrupts, or threatens to interrupt.

The original plan had Pride back in her home port ahead of Thanksgiving Day. The first knock was the delay of actual lift out of the water. Six days. The yard was congested with other vessel movements into and out of the water. Then, a bit of good fortune occurred when the caulkers took half the speculated time they would be working. A well-built vessel, some 29-years old, turned out not to require as much reinforcement caulking as first imagined considering years of pretty active sailing. This reduction of time needed by the caulkers encouraged some hope that Pride could yet still get back home by Thanksgiving Day.

But now I think not. Seems today’s long-range wind forecast is anticipating pretty strong headwinds in the lower Chesapeake Bay middle to late next week. Even if relaunching can occur this coming Tuesday, the importance to permit time for underwater planks to swell again will mean departure for home port Baltimore won’t be possible till late Wednesday at the earliest. If the wind forecast is even a little bit correct, the lower bay is likely to be a bit rough starting late Wednesday. It is best to avoid such sea conditions so soon after the good and diligent work by crew and caulkers.

So how long might this wind delay be? Somewhat aggravatingly, it could be till next Saturday, meaning a return to Baltimore 24 hours later: the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Such a delay could be quite beneficial to preserving the underwater work that has been accomplished (another example of how plans can evolve for the better of one aspect while not being great for another aspect).

Thanksgiving Day aboard while not in Baltimore? It has happened before. Not a lot different than when in Baltimore, meaning an all-hands day off spent together creating the Thanksgiving meal, scheduled for pretty early in the afternoon so all hands can participate in any other happening ashore that day. A second Thanksgiving meal? Sure! Maybe. Some Portsmouth friends are suggesting an evening bonfire at their home. Sounds inviting, yes?


Captain Jan. C Miles

On The Hard

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Position: Ocean Marine Yacht Center in Portsmouth, VA

The view of a vessel out of the water has a surrealistic quality. What goes into dry-docking a sizable vessel like Pride of Baltimore II? A lot of preparation and some visual magic.

At Ocean Marine Yacht Center, the process of bringing a vessel out of (or into) the water is by elevator. The system is made up of a series of electrically powered wire-cable winches attached to a platform (four per side). The electric powered wire-cable winches need to remain precisely synchronized as they elevate the platform up and down so as to not distort the platform. Hence, the trademarked name of Syncrolift.

A vessel out of the water is no longer supported. Therefore, a mechanical support system needs to be assembled and placed upon the Syncrolift platform for the vessel to settle into as replacement for the stabilizing support of the water. This mechanism is called a cradle.

Making a cradle at Ocean Marine starts with joining sections of rolling carts to fit the length of the vessel’s hull. Upon this rolling cradle platform, wood blocking is set along the centerline to conform to the profile of the vessel’s keel. This profile is found in the design drawings of the vessel. On each side of the rolling cradle platform, additional wood blocking is set to receive steel bilge supports. The bilge supports have pads at the top for resting against the hull. These pads can swivel in order to land freely square to the hull, providing a spread surface of contact. Pride’s bilge supports are custom manufactured for her so that from the wood pads on the side of the cradle, a suitable load-bearing angle is formed leading up to the point of contact on the hull some distance to the side of the center of gravity.

This cradle assembly is rolled on to the elevator platform and lowered into the water to a depth clear of the vessel’s draft. The vessel is operated into a slip over the submerged platform. This maneuver must be timed to occur at slack current because the dry-docking slip is perpendicular to the current. High water slack is best because it allows for the greatest clearance between vessel and elevator platform to protect the cradle from being knocked by the hull during the time it takes to moor the vessel precisely over the rolling cradle assembly.

Divers are sent down with real-time communication devices so they can discuss with the dry-dock foreman the positioning of the vessel’s keel over the keel blocks, not only in terms of the centerline but also fore and aft positioning due to curve of the keel profile.

When the keel is aligned to the cradle, the elevator is lifted to a point where it is carrying about 20 tons of weight. Yes, the Syncrolift has weight sensors. When the divers confirm the alignment of the keel with the keel blocking, the elevator takes on more weight by raising to a point where maybe one third of the vessel’s weight is carried. At this point, the bilge supports are slid in from the side and make contact with the hull. The divers then work the bilge support pads against the hull using very large threaded screws. This is done to be sure that the total of eight bilge supports, four per side, are equally making contact with the hull.

Then more weight of the ship is taken by the elevator. An additional round of diver checking occurs. Meanwhile, a gangway from shore to ship is rigged to offload crew. When all personnel are off the vessel, the elevator platform is raised to ground level. The yard crew rig cross-chains between pairs of bilge supports to insure that no spreading will occur from the vibration of the rolling process.

The whole ship and cradle assembly is then rolled off of the elevator platform onto ground via a railway track ashore. Cleaning of the hull occurs right away. Meanwhile, crew can re-board and deal with details for the stay “on the hard” — shore power is rigged, preparations for cooling water for refrigeration begin, and ship’s cook, Phil, goes to cooking supper. When the cleaning of the hull is complete, the ship is shifted to the side via the rail grid so that the elevator platform can continue to be used for other vessel dry-docking evolutions. Some vessels are going back into the water after work is completed, some are being lifted for their own work. Each night the crew head to shore-accommodations after supper aboard. All meals are provided aboard.

A seemingly complex system that is actually fairly straightforward. The transition days from afloat to dry and from dry to afloat can be pretty busy, not just with the transitions of the vessel, but also with the transitions of living aboard, then living ashore, then returning to living aboard.


Captain Jan C. Miles

Sultana’s Downrigging Weekend 2017 – Chestertown, Maryland

Date: Monday, October 30, 2017

Position: Chestertown, Maryland

The last “public access sails” for this weekend’s Sultana Downrigging Weekend maritime event were Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderfully serendipitous weekend between two major rain events associated with Tropical Storm Phillipe rushing northward not far offshore past the mid-Atlantic coast in the north western Atlantic Ocean.

Sunday afternoon’s sail wind strength was lighter than it had been Friday or Saturday and the direction was not as “fair” for sailing river reaches between turn-arounds. So, mostly the strategy was motor away against the soft prevailing breeze and then sail slowly back.

During the sail back, another serendipitous development occurred: the five larger vessel attendees, Kalmar Nyckel, Pride of Baltimore II, Lynx, Lady Maryland, and Sultana ended up grouped together, nearly abreast (meaning as many as three abreast with one close ahead and one close behind). This is a rare event due to the navigational restrictions of the Chester River, but in this instance, our slow and steady sailing pace and the somewhat higher than usual water level, along with a fair and light strength but sailable breeze, enabled a degree of comfort for the vessel masters to sail in very close proximity and not feel navigationally or maneuverable-y crowded. In other words, the five vessels were sailing at nearly the same speed while somewhat abreast within proximity of less than half a boat length. At times for-reaching from a half a boat length behind and passing to about a half a boat length forward as the fair quartering breeze would at first be free and clear and then be shadowed by the vessel to windward being passed to leeward.

For those aboard, it was a rare opportunity to have normal volume conversation across all five vessels which were so close together and moving slow enough so that they made hardly any water noise and were more or less gliding along. The light wind also meant little ambient noise.

This small armada-in-formation eventually and naturally (due to different speeds and sail combinations) spread lengthwise by about one to two boat lengths between each and at just the right moment to permit the masters to organize sail taking-in and docking maneuvers without any radio chatter to clarify other vessels’ masters’ intentions. Each master was keenly observant of where they could best go to get what their needs/desires were and yet not give any cause for another master to misread or feel blocked or crowded. Nearly in coordination, sails were taken-in and reverse direction dockside maneuvers were made. This seemingly choreographed routine became pretty logically feasible considering the fleet had already made at least three sails together during this weekend event and the wind conditions were somewhat more moderate this time around. But still, a demonstration of know-how.

My compliments to all.


Captain Jan C. Miles