We launched “Our Jenny”, our 1966 Columbia
26, from the public ramp
at Canton Park, MD late in November of 2010. We had towed her there from our home in central Pennsylvania, on our homemade trailer. A few weeks before we had driven to the ramp
without the boat and used a lead line to check depths at the ramp. We needed five and a half feet of water
to float her off the trailer. It would be close, but with help from a rising tide, I figured we would slide off the trailer with ease.
Our Jenny started her life with us as a $305.00 ebay purchase
. A two year refit
in our driveway, brought her from derelict to fully equipped pocket cruiser. Our plan was to sail south until the money
ran low and then back north, and the Abacos seemed to fit the budget
. Being the 21st of November, we were in a hurry to find warmer weather
. Like most new to cruising, we were overloaded with provisions and spare parts
. While Debs father backed the boat down the ramp I watched as the waterline disappeared under water
. We pushed, pulled and prodded until she reluctantly came off the trailer. Hugs, kisses, photos dockside and we were off. The atomic 4 fired right up and we motored towards the Inner Harbor as the sun set. Free at last, a dream come true, an adventure begun.
We had not been keelboat sailors. We knew the wind
, having sailed windsurfers and dinghies for some time. We had sailed Our Jenny for forty hours on Lake Raystown near our home. Raystown Lake is a narrow winding reservoir twenty miles long and no more than a half mile wide. We learned to tack, gybe and worked out what bugs we could, on the lake with its swirling winds. Now we were in the brackish waters of the Chesapeake, on our way south.
It was dark by the time we dropped the anchor
. Deb began cooking
our first dinner of our grand adventure. I was up on deck
, checking that all was well, taking in the view of the city lights from the water, when the question came from below. “Why is the rug wet?. Hmmm, Our Jenny always had a dry bilge
on the lake. Down in the cabin
, sure enough the small throw rug was soaked. A leak in the fresh water system? No, it tasted salty. A small but steady stream of water came from the weep holes between the cabin sole
and the port midship storage
locker. We cleaned out the locker and found the source. The old plastic paddle wheel
log was leaking at the base of the though hull
The flow was easy for the bilge pump
to handle, cycling one and off every few minutes. We debated our options. Debs father was already half way back to Pennsylvania and the tide would not be right to get her back on the trailer for quite a while. I mixed up some two part epoxy
putty and tried to stop the flow but just succeeded in rerouting it. Eventually I wedged a hammer between the top of the locker and the through hull
and reduced the flow.
Our fear was the unknown. Had we damaged the through hull fitting when we wiggled her off the trailer? How bad was the damage? Would the fitting fail catastrophically in the middle of the night, quickly ending our adventure? We arranged our wooden plugs to quickly fight a full failure, then finished dinner. With the bilge pump
cycling every few minutes we crawled into the V berth for some fitful sleep.
The subconscious is a powerful thing. I came awake around 3am. I lay there listening, no bilge
. Had the leak stopped? I slipped out of the berth and flipped the bilge pump override switch, no noise
. The bilge on Our Jenny drops into a deep sump under the engine
. The pump and its float switch are mounted on a long stainless steel
bracket that holds it in the sump. Unfortunately, to pull the pump the front plywood
panel of the engine
support must be removed. Fifteen minutes later I had the pump out. The motor
had failed. Twenty minutes later the spare was in and back to its cyclic pumping. I crawled back into our berth and reassured Deb that the adventure would be less stressful in the future.
The dawn came, and over breakfast we developed a plan. West Marine
has a store less than a mile from the ramp at Canton park. We decided to motor
back to the ramp. The ramp was concrete and sloped in such a way that we could tie up with only a few inches of water under the keel
. We decided to replace the fitting in the water.
Deb stayed on the boat in Canton park, and I was waiting at West Marine
when they opened the doors. I left there with a new bronze thru hull
fitting, another bilge pump, more two part epoxy
putty, and an orange foam rubber plug
that looked like a miniature highway cone. The plug
is goes by the name TruPlug™, and is the best $20.00 you will spend on your boat.
Our plan was to remove the damaged fitting, and quickly plug the raw hole with the foam plug. Next we would install the new bronze thru hull
and cap it. We decided to plug the new thru hull with some two part hard rubber, I had packed for emergencies. I taped off the bottom of the new thru hull and filled it with the two part mixture. Within an hour it had cured, forming a hard rubber plug.
The next obstacle was the cap on the paddle wheel
log thru hull. It needed to be removed and plugged with a plug small enough to pass though the hole in the hull when removed. One of our wooden plugs would do the job. We talked though the job arranged the tools and rehearsed. The cap came off, water gushed in, and the wood plug was tapped in place in less than a second and not even a quart of water in the boat. Next was the plastic paddle wheel thru hull. We unscrewed the locking ring, readied the foam plug, and pushed on the thru hull. It didn.t budge. A whack with the hammer and it popped free. Again water gushed in for just a second as we pushed in the foam plug, and it sealed. It sealed amazingly well. The plug felt like a wet sponge, but it held firmly with no leakage.
Next the new thru hull fitting had to go in. We discussed putting 5200 around the rim of the new plug but decided the odds of it being washed away by the flow of water around the plug as I put it in was to great. We decided to mix the two part epoxy putty and put a bead of it around the flange. I donned my full wet suit and slipped over the side. Our plan was for me to swim under the boat and knock on the hull when I had the new fitting in place. That would be the signal for Deb to pull out the foam plug as I pushed in the new fitting. From inside Deb would then put on and tighten the locking ring. Without a weight belt, I had to work to stay under the boat. Once in position, I knocked and the orange tip of the foam plug disappeared. I pressed the bronze fitting into the hole and held it there until my lungs began to burn. By the time I got back in the boat, Deb had tightened down the locking ring and the leak was sealed. We added a bronze cap to the rubber plugged through hull and then sat on the cabin sole
smiling at each other.
Within minutes we were southbound, free at last from impending doom, all smiles and joy. As we passed under the Frances Scott Key bridge the next question came, “Um, Tom, where is the dinghy
.” It was definitely not tied to the back of the boat. Back we went to Canton Park, all the while scanning the water for our wayward dinghy
. As we approached the ramp we spied her being towed to the city docks nearby. We hailed the man towing her and he brought her by. In our haste to get on our way we had left her tied to the dock
We made for Bodkin Creek and set the anchor
at sunset. Since then Our Jenny has taken us over three thousand miles, and every day has been an adventure. We will never forget the first twenty four hours, and getting our feet wet.