Expedition ends

Day 38

Here in The Palomino in Milwaukee sipping on a Blackout Stout. The ALM 2010 expedition is over, for now. In a couple of hours I’ll board the Lake Express ferry bound for Muskegon, Mi and catch a ride back to Bear Lake with Patrick and maybe Jonathan and Luke too. So here’s the scoop.

Coming out of Chicago, I noticed a strange distortion in the port hull. As reported on the day 35 post, we sailed 30 miles to Illinois Beach State Park, landing in the restricted south unit Preserve at about 9:00 pm.

In the light of the morning on day 36 I looked more closely at the port hull and took some pictures. It looked bad, but I was ready to push off and do another 40 miles to Milwaukee when I noticed my iPhone was smashed! Still functional with a shattered screen – but for how long?

Now I had two significant variables and that’s when chaos theory really kicks in. I made the call to stay put until my spare iPhone could be shipped from the house. I could use the extra day or two to access the hull.

I found power and tent space in the park campground and moved Hello World north a couple of miles, out of the forbidden zone.

Later I discovered that my campsite had a deserted beach perfect for parking Hello World and a bike path that gave me easy access to town. Day 37 found me catching up on the blog and exploring locations for fixing Hello World’s hurt paw. I hadn’t yet checked the replies on the Hobie forums, but I felt confident that something had broken loose inside the hull. Ernie of Ernie’s Automotive Service offered space and power behind his shop. Ernie’s was only 1.5 miles from the deserted beach via bikepath. I could strap the port hull to the z bike and walk it there! We were entering the doable zone.

I wanted to ponder a bit before committing to an extensive repair in the field. Whether or not I decided to keep going or shut the project down, Hello World needed to be moved a few more miles north to the deserted beach near my camp. At about 2:00 pm of day 37 I left camp to do just that.

Around dusk the previous evening an ominous storm had swept through the park. At the time I had been eating pizza and posting to the Hobie forums at the resort’s bar. Leaving camp to move Hello World on day 37 the skies were sunny and clear. I made a mistake – I didn’t throw the rain fly over the tent. I figured moving Hello World a mile or two would take an hour tops. What could happen in an hour?

To make a long story short, a huge storm swept in right after I launched. I was on the last tack into my landing when the wind changed and the rain came sweeping in.

Having anticipated a short jaunt, I hadn’t put my wetsuit on or raised the jib. A quick note on the water at the park – it’s killing cold. Due to some idiosyncracies of lake physics, water temperature Is as cold there as Point Betsie in April – 40 degrees F? A bare skinned human would not last 30 minutes in it. I yanked my wetsuit on as the shore vanished in fog and squall.

Having no jib meant that manueverabilty and responsiveness was minimal. I hadn’t expected to have to do anything fancy during the 30 minutes or so out there. Now I struggled with shifting winds and sluggish helm, a half an hour stretched into an hour and beyond. Rain was bucketing down, thumder cracked the sky wide and the main sail had nothing reliable to bite on. Then the tiller, (that’s what steers the boat), broke.

I know I’m not normal. Death was close and all I could think about was this blog post. What a story, so me! I laughed out loud when the tiller failed. Wow, how could this get any worse?

Easy pal, it can get way worse.

I tried a couple of quick fixes on the tiller but a zip tie did the trick. I had helm back when the wind figured out where it wanted to blow. The shore reappeared and we made several attempts to head in, but the storm wasn’t ready to release it’s toy. After all this trouble, I’d be damned if we were going to land short of our goal.

We kissed beach 100 feet short and I walked Hello World the rest of the way. A creepy thick fog rolled in and slithered over the sand. Whatever! I hauled Hello World up and unstrapped the z bike. AOK here, but what’s the situation back at camp?

I found the Macbook Pro sitting in a puddle in the low end of the tent. Opening the case and pulling out the laptop, I experienced a profound detachment as water poured out the IO ports. One laptop, toast.

Ok, that’s it. Trip over. How many things have to go crazy wrong before we get the message? I emptied the tent and did my best to remediate the flood, then packed up and rode to the nearby coffee shop for some comfort. I checked the forum replies and found this from Matt Miller of Hobie Cat USA, no less.

“This indicates a failed pylon shoe. You need to access the area inside the hull (inspection port). Force the pylon back upwards somehow, then glass / bond the shoe back to the hull or the pylon to the shoe.”

The implication here is that if the shoe is not glued down, the pylon could eventually rip through the hull. That would be a catastrophic failure. If this could happen to one pylon, what about the other three? What if I fixed the port front and the starboard front went lame 100 miles later? Obviously the best course of action is to do them all at once. More than I want to manage at Ernie’s while living out of a tent. Then there’s that new laptop I need.

So I’m on my way home. I’ll be back for the boat in a couple of days with van and trailer. 288 miles and another 20 hours of raw movie to post and then edit. What then?

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One Response to Expedition ends

  1. atsf101 says:

    So sorry for the abrupt end to the trip. I admire your tenacity and determination to do this project. If I can help in 2011 (or any more this year), let me know.

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