Sunday, March 24, 2013

And It Wasn't Even a Carnival Cruise...

I snapped this picture last fall when a Carnival Cruise ship passed us at dusk. Little did any of us know what was to come and how much we would have in common.

We had canceled our planned offshore overnight from Jacksonville to Charleston a week ago as the weather predictions fell apart. We decided to stay at the Marina at Ortega Landing and continued to enjoy ourselves until the next weather window came along. We started watching the end of the week as things started to line up very nicely and decided to head to Jacksonville Landing Thursday afternoon and take off early Friday. As most of these things go, it all started off perfectly.

We left the Landing after taking the kids for a nice walk and getting the whole crew breakfast. Our trip down the St Johns River was uneventful. We knew we'd have some bouncing coming out of the St Johns Inlet as there would be wind against the current as we passed through. It was bumpier than expected but we pushed on. We twice considered to bail out, once at Fernandina and then again at Brunswick, but conditions were improving so we decided to put our faith in NOAA and keep going. Little did we know that the weather was about to be the least of our problems.

When we were past the three mile line offshore we decided to dump our holding tank as is legal to do. Our indicator showed we still had plenty of capacity but we decided to take advantage of being offshore. If you are unfamiliar with what a holding tank is on a boat, well, we have no connection to a sewer line so must "hold things" until the tank can be pumped out or dumped overboard.

The first attempt failed to produce an outflow. Not a big deal - sometimes the odor filter on the air vent clogs stopping air from getting in and letting the tank drain. We made a note to replace it when we got in and opened the pump out access on the deck to allow air in. This is something we've done many times before. Jeff went below to start the process. A strong odor made me open the pilothouse door which reveled "stuff" flowing out the access like a beautiful fountain with the wrong colored water landing and flowing down the side of the boat. We used the onboard water to clean it up and because it was getting dark, decided to figure it all out in the morning.

Conditions did continue to improve and the night was uneventful. With daylight at morning and still well offshore, we decided to go to plan B and disconnect the filter from the vent hose completely to remove the clogged filter from the equation. Jeff emptied everything from the stateroom closet which has the access door then decided it would be easiest to remove the false wall to offer even better access. Just in case, he took up the carpet in the stateroom. That turned out to be a very good decision.

I flipped the switch for the pump from the pilothouse and within moments Jeff was yelling, "Shut it off! Shut it off!" You guessed it. Into the closet, the bilge, and the stateroom came our happy fountain again. Towels stopped the spread into the stateroom (thankfully without the carpet now). With the boat in idle we spent the next hour cleaning as best we could.

Upon our arrival in Charleston inlet, the wind whipped up, the current flowed, and it was an all around nasty time. Did I mention the rain? And who dropped the temperatures by 10 degrees into the 50's?

Jeff discovered that we had two equipment failures. First, the holding tank indicator had failed so we didn't realize our holding tank was actually overfull. Second, the macerator pump wasn't working properly. He replaced some parts on the macerator and verified it was working again. We then spent the better part of the afternoon into the evening scrubbing and disinfecting everything. A hot shower, a couple of loads of laundry, a warm dinner, and we could almost forget the past 24 hours.

Sunday we awoke to high wind, driving rain, and thunder and lightening. We didn't mind. We were inside, warm and dry. Then late morning there was a boom and flash of light. I thought, wow, that was close. Then Jeff yells, "Call the office! The power pedestal and dock is on fire!"

Jeff put the fire out and we are safe. We now have a bit more sympathy for the foibles of Carnival. The power will be back on again soon and the rain will eventually stop. We've been through hell and high (brown?) water on this passage. There's surely only blue skies to come.


jws said...

With a strike that close, and as well equipped as your boat is electronically, it's surprising you didn't have anything fried. Have you had a chance to check for damaged electronics, and if no damage, is it because you've done/installed anything specifically to limit such damage?

MV Red Head said...

No, there wasn't a lightening strike. The flash of light and boom was the power pedestal exploding and shooting flames into the sky.

Amazingly, we maintained full AC power during this - it was the other half of the pedestal that blew up. I manually switched all the AC power in the boat off before running out to put out the fire.

Dave said...

Wow! Just think,you will look back on this "event" and laugh........well maybe not.Anyway,you handled it and things can only improve from here.Had the same thing happen in an aft cabin with a broken Y valve.Such is the boating life. Thanks for the chuckles. Calm Seas and Safe Travels!

RDS said...

Jeff, I feel your pain.
I had the same problem with the holding tank level meter and the Vac flush over pressurized the tank till the pressure release valve gave way : >( What a mess in the engine room.
Had to bleached and flushed several times... Such is the boating life.