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2014-02-14

Breaking the ice

That cockpit scupper icicle may date from 2013.
Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York...oh, if only the "sun of York" (the original name of Toronto) was up to the job of thawing, there might be less wintry discontent on the boat maintenance front.

While it's become common knowledge that this winter in North America has been severe, it's even more common to make jokes about the shortness of human memory concerning weather. It's been only moderately snowy, if my own memory serves, but a feature of our "now with added climate change" weather of the last quarter-century has been prolonged periods of thaws or at least a day or two of 10C weather every two weeks, enough to cut well into the accumulated snowpack (a term usually reserved for ski country).

The snow is a good 30-40 cm. deep all over the boat. The wind has eroded the snowbank over the coaming only a bit. On the port side, it's well over the tops of the primaries. At least the "boom brake" seems to have stayed put.
Not so this year. We are 45 days into 2014 without, I believe, a single moment of thaw. Even the Great Lakes are showing the effects in near-record-breaking levels of ice cover. The results in terms of getting up ladders and into boats are extra layers of clothing and difficulty. The day before yesterday (not pictured), I spent time shovelling off Alchemy and admiring the layer-cake effect of ice, packed snow, loose snow, powdery snow, and some sort of very sticky snow from the decks and the pilothouse roof.  I couldn't find the wooden brace I use to secure the foot of the ladder as it was beneath a drift. The interior in full daylight had a dim blue, igloo-like glow from the thick layers of snow above every hatch. I cleaned out all the portlights as I don't want the inevitable, if tardy, thawing process to seep meltwater into the interior.

My impression that we've had a lot of easterly weather this winter seems to be correct.
Yesterday's labours involved hauling the Honda 2000 genset on a bike trailer to Valiente's winter yard, some 4 NM (yes, I am starved of boaty thoughts) east of our house. For reasons obscure to me as a taxpayer, there seems to be slightly more road work being done over the winter than in the summer, when it is presumably more fuel-efficient to melt tar. So the roads are dirty, broken-up and car-stuffed. The irate drivers and I, so rarely in common cause, can agree that the roads in Toronto are getting worse, not better. I look forward to not travelling them for a few years.


That was not either loose snow or a conveniently dislodged big chunk of ice. It was a frosty amalgam of nasty.
So after a few miles of lightly salted mist and pothole massage, plus pushing the bike between unshovelled inter-boat pathways, I got the power cord out, the Honda purring (it is a most reliable and eager beast if maintained) and a blazing 10 amps of current charging my neglected house bank. It was time for a look around. The decks were deep with snow over ice and were unpleasant to navigate; nonetheless, I went forward to retrieve a ridiculously long strip of Someone Else's Failed Tarp from the lashings of my Portabote. There was evidence of damage like that as far as I could see, but my calculated risk of leaving the mast up and not tarping this year seems to have worked out. We've had several episodes of 40 to 50 knot gales this winter, and sometimes it's best just to not tarp rather than to risk getting a hole or rip from chafing, at which point the whole frame and tarp can tear up pretty quickly.

That's been my experience, anyway.

Not pink lemonade, but a chunk of water from the mast atop a substrate of antifreeze. Very Canadian.
The bilges were, despite the sloshing of much full-strength antifreeze, somewhat crusty with ice. But there was no sign of water aside from the usual one expects with a keel-stepped mast. I cleared away the 30 cm of snow from the Nicrovent fan in the head, which immediately began to flutter and spin under the cloud-occluded afternoon sun of York. With some luck, when this ice does begin to melt, some of the moisture will be sucked out of the boat.

It only looks like the boat of a clumsy cocaine smuggler.
Snowy ingress was more evident at the companionway. There's a teak vent in the upper dropboard, and the whole setup is not exactly weather-tight. Clearly. Had I not been in a rush to haul out in order to meet both work obligations and my preparations for my Brittany sailing school trip, I perhaps would have rigged up some sort of tarp for this area. I've done it before, and it's reduced the drifting.

Well, the charger's still working.
I was able to get about 2.5 hours of charging on the batteries, and they are still well short of fully charged, but it was better than the previous regime of "Nothing". It's a bit late now to take them off the boat even if I can do so in a friend's car, so I'll return again in the next spell of less-atrocious weather to lay on a few more hours of charge. Frankly, it was -7C aboard and I was getting seriously chilly reading about boat electrical systems in the dim recesses of Valiente's rimed saloon.

I realize now that we've had a historically typical winter, and that most of the winters during which I've got a lot of work done have been unusually warm (or rather, warm enough in which to do outside work or unheated inside work) and sufficiently dry in that the snow that happened went away for days at a time. Not this year. A dropboard makes a lousy shovel. May your fair winds be frost-free.