Trying to leave…. Hotel California

JoAnne and I have been here in Southport going on Three years.

Don’t get me wrong, we really LOVE this town. We love the people, we’ve made a million friends. We know almost everyone.

But, we also spend last winter in Colorado. And the winter before here on the docks. And this winter is upon us now….and… we’re still here.

Every time we try to leave, something weird happens.

Engine issues. Cancer. Engine issues. Fuel issues. Fire extinguishers. Engine issues. Did I mention ENGINE ISSUES?

Last Tuesday we were supposed to leave. JoAnne woke up coughing, sneezing and feeling like crap. Ok, she has a weakened immune system from the two separate chemos (each lasting 6 months) she’s had to go through.

I cancelled the trip.

The week before we found out the cleaning on the boat bottom wasn’t really as well done as it could have been. And the prop was severely fouled. I dived the boat myself and the prop was clumped. It had been cleaned a couple months before. Should NOT have had LARGE barnacles, but it did. Ok, I didn’t clean it, but someone else did. They came out, checked it and said it was “VERY FOULED”.

Company said “Oh, in two weeks it can get that way….”

I don’t believe that. I have sat in these waters for over two years and WATCHED the accumulation, so I know the amounts. Beside the point though.

This time, after cancelling the trip, I started the engine in the afternoon to run the prop (to keep it clean). The boat moves fine under power, still tied to dock, I could move her forward and back.

Ten minutes in, the engine ran away.

I ran below, tried to kill with the kill cable, no luck. I removed the side panel to engine, grabbed a tupperware lid, ripped the air filter off, was immediately splattered with black, hot oil, and slapped the lid over the mouth of the air intake, shutting the engine down.

After cleaning up the oil and checking the oil levels I found the oil was WAY over the amount it was supposed to be.

Now… let’s go back exactly one year, in September 2018. One of the reasons we didn’t leave then was… you guessed it, an “Engine runaway”, then a hurricane which gave us pause, and finally, JoAnne having to go back to Colorado for her Chemo after her recurrence of cancer.

I’d called in a mechanic that I knew. Charged me quite a bit of money, told me the “lift pump” was shoving diesel into the crank case. Removed it, and “rebuilt it” supposedly. ALSO, removed and pressure tested the injectors (supposedly).

Back to a year later, in the here and now. The oil levels were at TWO GALLONS. And it was full of diesel. Not good.

I immediately suspected the lift pump. You know, the “rebuilt one”. In checking I found it is difficult to get the parts to rebuild one (and why, because they cost 25 US dollars!!!!)

Ok…..two gallons of oil, mixed with diesel means I literally have about 3.5 quarts of diesel in the crankcase. I pumped it all out, and disposed of it (properly, at an Autozone near by). I ordered a new lift pump, which came yesterday.

I installed it today. I’ve since changed oil. Run the engine up to temperature. Put it into forward, reverse and left it under stress for 1/2 hour while engine came up to temperature of 160 degrees.

I check the oil levels and they are normal. Before heating, after heating, and I’m about to check them again after cool down to ensure its not collecting diesel.

There are a few places the diesel can come in. 1) Lift Pump, 2) Injection/Governor pump, 3) clogged fuel return line, 4) injectors themselves, 5) a ‘ball valve’ in the heater unit.

I have replaced the lift pump, because the more I look at the old one, the more I do NOT believe it was touched, repaired, replaced (it’s the original one) or refurbished.

The injectors were removed, cleaned and pressure tested (supposedly, did I mention that?) a year ago. Shouldn’t be leaking.

During my study of this engine – remember, I am NOT a mechanic by any stretch of the imagination – I found the stuff above. I also think I have found I do NOT have a pre-heating unit, not anywhere I can see it. AND while I do NOT think I have a clogged return fuel line, I’m remembering a certain mechanic asking me where my “return lines go, and where’s the valve” at one point. I do NOT believe I’ve checked that….

Since the TIME BEFORE LAST when he visited. So, to morrow I will be checking all of that.

It occurred to me, if the return line valve was closed before, it would explain why the engine ran away, not once, but TWICE now.

So, I learned a lot. Never trust anyone else on your engine. Always know everything about it yourself, even if you pay someone else to do the work. Always CHECK everything yourself (which I KNEW, but was too lazy to do). ALWAYS know your own stuff better than anyone else.

Also learned a lot about diesel engines. Actually, pretty simple creatures. They need air, and fuel to work, along with compression. Not much else. Ok, oil in the sump and coolant in the tanks, working, moving parts and all that stuff, but it all works together so neatly!

Two books I’ll recommend though, “Troubleshooting Marine Diesels” and “Marine Diesel Engines” by Nigel Calder and Peter Compton, respectively, if you want to know how diesel engines work.

There’s no book to tell you to do things a certain way in life. How to deal with mechanics or riggers. There’s no book out there to tell you how to know in what order to do everything you need to know how to do on a boat.

Oh, there’s LOTS OF BOOKS on various subjects, but there is only ONE thing that is going to teach you the right way to do something. To prevent screwing up, you need experience. You get experience by screwing up a few times.

s/v Adventure: 7 Oct 2019

Found and replaced some missing nuts and washers this morning on the engine. One set on one of the engine mounts had “rattled” off apparently, down inside the pan. Had to hunt with a flashlight and reach into the deep, dark recesses beneath the engine to retrieve them.

Had purchased a couple of sets of spares yesterday, and wound up using one of the new nuts. Found the other, can’t reach it at the moment, my arms don’t fit down there.

Tested the transmission levels today, started engine, brought her up to operating temperature, put the engine in gear and stressed it forward and backward… pushing water very well.

Shut down engine, and tested levels, and they are right.

I believe I’m losing transmission fluid through the oil cooler assembly at higher operating temperatures under pressure. It’s not a LOT at a shot, but it’s enough that after many hours, I need to add fluid.

I think I will end up having to replace the cooler (a double cooler set up).

Hopefully, we’re going to get our provisions together in a couple of days, take care of some things in the area like our storage locker, and a tire giving me fits, and then do a test run of the engine.

Might just come back, drop our temporary crew member off at the docks and kick off and keep going if we have everything ready for the trip by the time the weather is good enough to do an engine test run.

Watermaker:

Just ran the water maker. Last time was a nearly empty tank (a couple gallons left in it) on 28 September 2019. Filled the tank in about 5 minutes under three hours.

Today, we started the maker at 1350 hours local. The machine ran for 1 hour and 40 minutes and the tank “popped”, letting us know water was full. The tank makes a noise when it is full, I assume one of the sides bulging out slightly. JoAnne also observed noise at the air pressure relief behind her seat, and the over flow began flowing into the bilge.

So… 21gal/hr * 1.66666 hours = 34.99986 gallons of water

It took us 9 days to use 35 gallons of water from our tanks. That’s pretty average for us, when not taking showers on board (which is extremely rare for us to do). The calculation is for the amount of water produced per hour (nominal 21gph) and the time is the number of hours in decimal format for how long it actually took to fill the tank. So, 1 hour, 40 minutes is roughly 1.66666 hours. Multiplying those numbers gives me the quantity of water produced over the time period.

(At some point, I’ll calculate the exact amounts of water, gasoline, wattage used and probably soup up the solar panels a bit along with the generator! Actually, the solar isn’t used for the process, but, I like being able to keep the batteries charged using them, and I know the DC side uses almost 10 amps. So, that was almost 20 Amp hours!)

High pressure side ran at just under 700 psi

Low pressure side at 8 psi, and went up to 20 psi as the process continued.

A check of the filters shows they need to be pulled out and cleaned. I’ll use those a couple more times (after I clean them tomorrow and do a system flush with fresh water) and then when we arrive in clear water, I’ll swap the filters out for new ones. Not sure how long they can be used for before you are supposed to change them.

We did keep popping a breaker for the lift pump for some reason. But after I started up the high pressure pump it stopped. I assume the lift motor was working a bit too hard.

Electrical:

Today I ran the engine, mentioned above, and used the bow thrusters to check them, pushed bow out a bit. Noticed that the battery charger has kicked in, I assume due to the use of the thrusters. Also, as a result of the low pressure pump doing it’s thing. It draws about 10 amps while running.

The fridge draws five pretty constantly.

We also run several DC fans on warm days like today, so the power draw adds up. The system is currently charging at about 80% and it’s not “ready” yet, like normal.

I did check the batteries a couple of days ago, added water to them, and checked a few random cells for charge (they were good).

I also have replaced a double pole, double throw toggle on the battery meter, which I thought was broken, showing low readings on the meter. When I tested the output on my digital meter, it read normal (at 13.5vdc) so I assumed the wires or switch bad. Replaced several connectors, cleaned some connections and replaced the switch and things were fine.

Last night, I noted the meter was reading low again, and yet with a digitial meter, it was reading fine.

Checking things a few minutes ago, I noted the power system is charging, and the meter reading is normal, showing a charge on-going. The secondary (old) Xantrex meter still in the circuit is also showing 13.70 vdc, which means the system is charging.

Not sure yet if we have a flaky connection back in the battery bay or what yet. I’ll find it eventually though.

I’ll double check the voltages on the batteries, and probably test all the cells before we decide to do a shake down next week. Shake down will likely be next weekend or just before or after the weekend (to avoid the fishing vessels and the guys who don’t know how to drive their boats).

Bimini and Dodger, More Varnish and Sanding

Bimini:

Just prior to Hurricane Florence last year, I made an error on leaving my solar panels and bimini in place.  Well, sort of an error.  I knew that the windage would be high and the bimini was mounted under the solar panels, and the posts holding the solar up went THROUGH the bimini.  I also realized how damaged and aged the bimini was.

Leaving it up was a recipe for disaster if things got bad.  Taking it down was a recipe for disaster because of age.

I left it up.  We “lost a solar panel” off the top.  The wind ripped it loose and dropped it, fortunately, on the deck of the boat where it remained until I returned after the hurricane in October last year.  I easily repaired the small amount of damage and observed the bimini wasn’t in great shape, but survive.  It had a couple of small tears in it.

This time, as Dorian approached, I removed EVERYTHING from the deck.  We pulled Adventure into the marina, deep inside up near the containment bulkhead and positioned her inside a shallow slip at high tide, so we settled into the mud when the King Tide fell off.

Dorian hit with a whisper of winds (40 knots perhaps on shore here), the eye wall missing us by a good 30-35 miles.  Adventure came through fine.  The bimini however, as well as the dodger have seen better days.  So, I never reinstalled it.

About a month ago, I ran into a canvas guy, David from “Custom Canvas” out of New Bern.  He gave us a quote for lowering the bimini, creating a new bimini and dodger (no enclosure this time) and adding a few extra pieces.

The steel was lowered at one visit.  Another visit resulted in several more measurements, some grab rails and the bows over the top of the bimini top on which to mount the solar panels.

David was here a few days ago, installed the bimini, and subsequently, I installed the solar panels in a preliminary location – which, might move slightly back soon.  I am not sure I like them exactly where they are, and I want extra room for the boom to swing by the top of the bimini.  I’ll work that out later.

Dodger:

He is returning today, to bring the dodger, which for the uninitiated is the part that covers the front of the cockpit, and “dodges” the spray and waves that can wash over the front of the boat at times.  We had the top of the dodger lowered as well, so that I can now re-learn climbing in and out of the companionway getting whacked in the head.  But, the point was to allow JoAnne to actually see over the TOP of the dodger now.

Before, when driving the boat, she could never get a clear view in front of the boat.  She had to duck down and look through the dodger window, or stand on her tiptoes to see above it, while leaning over to see past a sail.  Not fun for her, I assure you.

We dropped it down about 5-6 inches and had her stand behind the wheel.  When she was happy with the height, we stopped cutting.  I’m concerned I’ll have a few knots on my head, climbing in and out in the next few days once installed, but eventually, like Pavlov’s Dogs, I’ll learn.

Sand and Varnish:

Over the course of the past months, I’ve spent roughly 30 hours sanding wood, washing it, and varnishing.  I have about 90% of the teak done – on the top of the boat.  I haven’t touched the rub rails, or the plaques on the boat topsides yet.  And I haven’t done any varnishing to the aft deck (the whole aft of the boat is a raised, teak platform which covers a large storage compartment, containing our propane tanks and extra “stuff” we don’t want to leave on the deck, like pumps, parts for the emergency tiller, etc)

That deck will likely take a third of a quart of varnish alone for a single coat.  I’ll likely finish that first coat today or tomorrow.  After it hardens, I’ll be hitting the wood all the way around the top of the boat, once over, a complete boat wash, taping and varnishing the second coat.  I plan, if time and weather permits, to get some of the deck paint done and to fix a couple of leaks so the outside of the boat should be ready in less than two weeks.

Given the heat of the day, and humidity, I’ve tried to apply varnish in the right time of day, temps and humidity, but I’m here to tell you, this is an impossible task unless the boat is moved inside a building in a controlled environment.  So… it’s called “going with the flow” (of varnish, which flows off things, down tape, drips everywhere and is constantly being cleaned up).

After all that work, the boat looks amazing though, and in the end, it makes JoAnne smile at how pretty the boat is.  I makes my muscles ache when I see it….. But, I still like the varnished wood.

I plan to get about five coats on if I can, with fine sanding in between, and then do “touch up” coats after a few months to keep it looking nice.  It’s less work to do that, than to let it get down to bare wood.

Someone asked me the other day about sanding the boat and then varnishing it, then sanding again.  They have an all-Clorox-Boat, so I explained that it is supposed to take down the bubbles or ‘nibs’, and raised rough spots, and give the next coat something on which to cling.  They were impressed I knew so much about varnish (HAHAHA, little do they know, I just had to look it up to explain it to them!)

Side Note: Our friend Jason has also been sanding and sanding and vanishing and washing and sanding and varnishing as well.  I believe he completed his last coat last night.  The boat rails look amazing.

Storage Locker and Provisions: 

We have a storage locker.  I pay for it a year in advance.  It’s due in November I think, so I’ll be going over to write them a check for another yet, and going through my locker to pull out a few things and bring to the boat, as well as remove a few more things from the boat we won’t need.  I want ‘parts’ that I can use to repair things, even if makeshift if necessary, and I want heavy things off the boat I can’t use while under way (certain electrical tools).  We have little A/C power available except for the generator during cruising, and I’ll reserve that for the water maker most of the time, but will bring my battery drill, a saw and my small electronic tools, and the engine tools.

Also I have a sail in storage I need to bring back, and we need our water, diesel and gas cans back on the boat.  Need a way to carry extra water if we can’t make it or catch rainwater, diesel because I HATE docking at fuel docks and gas for the genny.

In a few days we will need to being picking up food to provision the boat.  We’re going to get a month’s worth of things, mostly long term storage items like canned foods, along with perhaps a week (whatever JoAnne decides can work for us) of fresh items and we will refill things as we go down the coast this time, instead of having six months worth of stuff on the boat this time.  Before we hope to Bahamas we’ll do a big food, beer and soda run (yes, we drink soda!) and stock up on things that are expensive in the Islands.  (Toilet paper, paper towels, etc)

We don’t use many paper towels (instead we buy cheap white cloths from the hardware store and reuse them) and tend to use the marina heads when we stop in them instead of the boat, but offshore… well, anyway….

JoAnne had her medical check up on the 9th of September.  We’ll have to work something out for one in December, and I think we’ll be calling back to her doctors here in NC to get advice on that subject when we get closer to the time.

My last obstacle is the Borg-Warner Velvet Drive Transmission.  Over the past couple of years, it’s given me fits.  Seemingly it stops “working” and then “works”.  We have determined that its simply a lack of transmission fluid, but where it is going, we’re unsure.  It’s not in the bilge, and I don’t think it is mixed in with the few drops of oil in the catch pan under the engine.

Someone suggested it is going out under pressure in the heat exchanger perhaps, once the engine reaches temperature.  I tend to agree since I’m not finding leaks anywhere else.  If so, then the solution will be to remove and replace the heat exchanger that is connected to the transmission.  I’ve identified the unit, and the hoses, but am not sure it there is a way to “test” for leaks at this point.  Meantime, I need to keep extra transmission fluid on the boat.

I’m sure I’ve missed something. I usually do.  But, that’s ok, I’ll figure it out when I come to it.

In the mean time, I rarely if ever do this, but I want to remind folks that I’ve written some books and I’d love it if some of you would take the time to read and review the books on Amazon.  I’ll drop the links at the bottom of this page.  One book is a couple of years old, and is about “Survival and Communications” and is a primer for people who don’t know much about radios and radio communications.  Call it a “Prepper Book” if you like.  It’s in Digital Format ONLY and I won’t be doing it in hard copy because it’s simply too expensive.  And if you’re a Prepper, then you know you’re NOT going to grab 200 of your favorite books and stuff them in your bug out bag.  You need to KNOW the information, knowledge is power. Don’t carry a book, carry your brain around with the information inside.

The other book is a SF Adventure/Thriller, “Aftermath’s Children” set in the not-too-distant future, and you can read the description online at Amazon.  That book is in both digital and hard copy formats.  You can find all three versions of the books at the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Rick-Donaldson/e/B00Q514LD0

I invite you to buy it, read it, review it and if you get the hard copy, and we pass by, I’ll sign it for you.  The second book in the series is being completed soon.   Please, drop me a line at Adventure.Rick.JoAnne@gmail.com or r.daledonaldson@gmail.com if you buy a copy!  Thanks!!!

 

Canvas, Bimini, Monthly update

A few days ago, I ran into a man who does canvas work.  He also bends and cuts the steel. Had a chat with him about things, and decided to make some changes.

We’ve not been terribly happy with my “makeshift” solar panel mounts because they were made partially of aluminum, on stainless steel (not a good combo in a salt air atmosphere, but it was what I had at the time).  Also, the ancient bimini wasn’t in the best spot, and I ended up putting holes in it first with a soldering iron (to melt the threads together) and washers and screws through it, to hold the solar panels above the bimini.

Another thing that has bugged me since day one on the boat was the fact the main boom was so high up.  In looking at other vessels of my type, with similar in-mast furling, I noted most are lower than mine (significantly) and I can’t find a reason for the boom to be so high other than missing the bimini.

As it turns out, the height on the steel was close to 7.5 above the sole of the cockpit.  About 2.5 feet above my head.  Also, mounting the panels there put them in danger of the boom sweeping them off, so sailing on  run was something I was extremely cautious of doing, ever.  An unexpected Jibe would have ripped the panels off, perhaps the bimini and bent the steel.

After consulting with JoAnne, and Dave (the man who runs Custom Canvas, out of New Bern) we decided to go ahead and hire him to assist.

The changes will be as follows:

  1. Lower the boom (in a good way! ha ha) several inches, actually almost 18″ to be exact.
  2. Lower the bimini top to a few inches over MY head (I’m 5’9″).
  3. Rebuild the dodger and bimini
  4. Add stiffeners to the dodger, bimini
  5. Add grab rails to the bimini which will double as a holder for two new bows over the top
  6. The bows will give me a mounting point 2-3″ above the bimini (no more holes in bimini)
  7. The dodger will cover the hatch correctly
  8. Bimini will have a window (had one before but was unusable due to age)
  9. Stiffener will be at Mizzen mast
  10. Dodger will cover the lower part of the cockpit, with an Esenglas panel to cover the upper part to bimini

Lowering the boom will give me a bit better sail shape than I was able to get.  However, I will have to definitely add a preventer and consider using the topping lift to prevent a sideways SMACK across the bimini.

Solar panels can be moved around now more forward or back as needed.  My alternate/backup small panel will remain movable from side to side of the ship hanging from the mizzen rig to keep it on the sun-side most of the time.

We’ll finally have some new canvas on the boat.

Over the past few months, I’ve done little things here and there. JoAnne and I have gone through most of the “Junk” we have and pulled some off the boat and placed in storage, and pulled things from storage and put on the boat.  We still have “too much stuff”.  We get to do a very good going-through of the boat in the next couple of weeks to empty anything we simply don’t need or can’t use, place in storage and ensure we absolutely have parts we CAN use on the boat for repairs and emergencies.  I am down to one tool bag (and a small one for small tools for electronics stuff).

JoAnne has pared down the other things like cooking utensils and so on.

But we have shade and a water-maker.  I want to have the forward cabin usable for a guest or two – though we don’t foresee that any time soon.

Other items:

Someone went by and it appears they have punctured the dingy (one of the tubes).  Why?  Not sure, but it’s kind of impolite to do such things.  And expensive.  So, one of the things I had to do was locate the repair kit for this dink (I have a couple of repair kits, one for rubber dinks and one for the hypalon dink we currently own) and I’ll need to hoist the boat, soapy-water-the-hell out of it to find the hole and clean and repair it.

Transmission is an on-going pain in the rump.  Borg-Warner, Velvet Drive.  Moving the boat before Hurricane Dorian, I discovered (too late) that the transmission wasn’t quite right and I think the fluid has gone where ever it goes, again.  Had a devil of a time trying to get the boat into the slip, ended up pulling in forward, and not backing like I wanted to do.  Going to dig into that tomorrow morning and see if it’s simply a fluid issue.  Friend Kevin says his does exactly the same thing; leave it sit without running for a few weeks and you have to re-add fluid.

This one didn’t USED to do this.  But it does now.  /sigh

Today is Friday the 13th of September 2019.  I get my first “Social Security Check” next month on the 9th of October.  (I thought it would start this month, but they apparently don’t think they should, so whatever).  When that check starts, we will have our “income” doubled. haha  JoAnne gets to apply for February.

Where are we going?

We don’t know honestly.  Marsh Harbor was on our “sail to” list, but due to a Cat 5 Dorian – not now.  We aren’t setting plans, destinations or schedules.

We’re going to provision for a month and a week or so of perishables.

Our plans are to go somewhere, cruise like we were before, head south(ish) and head for some islands somewhere.  We do have places like BVI, USVI, Turks and Caicos in our sights.  Whether we get there or not, remains to be seen.

The challenge has been thrown to us to go.  So, we meet the challenge!

Let the Winds of Time blow over our heads

Failure, Disappointment and Frustration…. or was it?

We were set to pull out of the marina as the tide was falling.  I had 15 minutes to play with before the water would be too thin for us.  We waited for one of the crew’s family to come and say good bye and to meet us.  We had cut it pretty close, but we were getting out.

The morning was chilly, but nice.  The wind was clocking around though in the afternoon and I wanted the last of the north winds to take us down the coast as rapidly as possible under sail.  I knew if we waited until the afternoon we would be tacking a LOT to go to the Southwest.

At 0905 I put the engine in reverse and some friends tossed the lines to Nick, our new crew member.  He put the lines away and I began backing out and hit a bump.  Mud, and the water was thinning.

“Crap,” I thought.  Then there was a horn behind me where there had not been a boat a few moments before, and a shout from one of the marina guys, Norm, asking me to pull back in the slip.  I yelled back, “Trying to get out before I can’t!”

He said, “Pull in, they are going for a pumpout!”

Katy B, a large power vessel wasn’t stopping, so I pulled back in.  In a parking lot, the guy going behind you has the right of way.  So, I treated it like a parking lot and pulled forward, knowing full well we weren’t getting out now.

They cleared us, and I began backing and slammed into the mud.  Too shallow now.  Cut it too close.  Darn.

A quick check with the crew, JoAnne and Nick, told me we were going to try again.  But as tide was coming back in around 1300.  That didn’t set well with me because, honestly, I knew the winds were going to clock.  They really wanted to get going on our journey.  So, we ate some lunch, and waiting for Nick’s family to return once again this time to see us off the docks, and bring a friend who had come to visit them.

At 1315, we backed out on a rising tide.  I still hit the “bump” behind our slip and after a moment of hesitation, I brought the bow around and we motored smartly out of the marina with people waving to us, yelling “Fair Winds” and “Good Luck!”

The ICW was quiet, the winds were beginning to drop, but I hoisted the main as we got a little ways out of the marina to use what there was, about 7-9 knots to help propel us down the water way, along with the engine chugging along.  Engine was just fine.  No overheating issues now.

A couple of miles later we rounded a bend and headed into the Western Bar Cut.  I’ve done it a few times now in both my boat and Jay’s “Knot Working” so have learned it better.

Before we go on…. let me tell you another short story.

One week before, on a Friday (bad luck they say) we departed and wound up with overheated engine, rainy morning, crappy weather, and made it to the lighthouse when the engine overheated badly.  I called for a tow, from SeaTow who brought us home to our slip.

So, we’re not really unfamiliar with bad luck.

Back to the story.  This is the third or fourth attempt to get out of here and head south.  Each time, something odd has happened.

On this day, things were going great.  We were in the channel headed out, but now, by the time we hit the Western Bar and were under main sail and engine, the winds were turning against us.  We needed to go directly Southwest.

We sailed on, passing our friends Jay and Kevin who went out earlier in the morning when we pulled back into the slip.  They waved, took pictures and wished us luck.  We kept going.  After 30 minutes we were almost to the light house, to the place we’d had to turn around last time.  Winds were now fully in our faces on the bow.

I can’t change the winds, so I did what any sailor would do, I tacked and adjusted the sails and we took off at almost five knots.  I pulled out all sail, and managed almost 6 knots.  Good, faster than I though.  Course looked good, but we would be going right towards the shipping channel entrance, so I worked out a tack in the other direction and tried to gain as much SW direction as I could.  Not going well.

When we got to the buoy out there, we tacked back and headed toward shore. At the end of the tack we’d gained roughly 1/2 nautical mile.  Winds were picking up too.  Tacking back in another 30 minutes gained us another half mile.  On the third tack I realized while we were sailing well, it was not going to get us very far.   I started considering going back in.  Or going down the ICW.

Neither one sounded appealing.  And everyone voted to go on.  I restarted the engine and aimed south, figuring our computer applications told us winds would finish clocking back out of the north soon (by about 1600).  Motor sailing against the wind is not really my favorite thing to do, but I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Except today.

We were making 2 knots most of the time.  So I started “tacking off the wind” and trying to use the sail, doing shorter tacks so we didn’t head into shipping lanes or too close to shore.  We watched a gorgeous sunset and the Southwest wind had a long fetch before us.  After another hour, we were pounding into and out of waves, as they built first to 3, then 4 feet.

JoAnne began to get ill.  I’d sent her down to rest (she’d taken medication that was making her sleepy, so she was laying down).  Nick had gone down to sleep for a couple of hours so he could join me in the cockpit at 2100 or so that night.

I put the boat on autopilot, looked around and seeing nothing went below to double check on the engine.  Oil smoke was burning off the engine and filling the cabin.

At that point I decided it was time to turn around.  So about 2000 hours local time I awakened them and told them my decision.  I suspect they were both disappointed, but neither let on.  I brought the boat back around and Nick joined me in the cockpit to help me watch for traffic.

We slogged against currents coming out, and falling tides (again), into a bright, moon-lit night, looking for markers.  At the last moment I decided against attempting the Western Bar in the dark and headed for the secondary shipping channel, giving me plenty of water, but adding 3-4 miles on our trip in against the currents.

I contacted Jay and he and Kevin would meet us at the transient dock (after they determined there was a slot open).  We arrived about 2340 and tied off on the T-dock for the night, hoping to move in the morning.  Nick decided to go home, called his parents who picked him us, I connected electricity and we still had SW winds.  They never switched to come from the North.

The temperature was beginning to drop, but wasn’t uncomfortable yet.  About 0145 Sunday morning something awakened me.  It was the wind.  It had finally clocked around out of the north and was blowing hard.

It was the wind I was hoping would be there about 1400 the day before to propel us south.  I’d have taken us in at Little River or on to Charleston, SC.  Alas, that didn’t happen.

The next day early on, one of the other boats was coming back in under tow, the marina was a bit mad at me for taking up the only slot, but I couldn’t get in at low tide (and I was NOT going to get up at 0500 to try to bring the boat in after what I’d just been through, exhausted, bringing the boat back in the ICW in the dark).

Fortunately, we came up with a solution and put him on the inside against the bulkhead.  Apparently, they didn’t want to try getting him into his slip.  Though, a week before, SeaTow put me in MY slip….

So… there are some lessons here.  But, I’m not going into them all right now.  Suffice it to say, I’ll make my own decisions from now on about moving the boat, no one tells me.  We go when *I* know it is ready.  Not before, not after.  I’ll wait for a good weather window, not an “OK” weather window.  I won’t start off again without having the right tides in the right places… and so many other seamanship things I already KNOW I should do, and discounted some of them.

Never again.

Today, it’s 18 degrees here.  We’d have been near Charleston, SC, with no heat (very little, propane heater, wood stove are insufficient at sea).  We have electric heating on the boat right now, but requires AC power.  Only have that running generator or shore power.

After all was said and done, I made the correct decision to come back in because had I not, three of us would have been exhausted, tired and freezing, and perhaps a danger to ourselves and others.

Apparently, some delays are simply meant to be.

Cape Fear

In 1962 a movie was made about Cape Fear.  Saw it as a kid.  Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, Telly Savalas were in the movie.  It was a thriller type movie.  Criminal, murder, stuff like that.

Yesterday we could have starred in our own thriller movie.  Or horror movie.  Or just a documentary about puking.

We left the docks at 0900 on the way out the Cape Fear inlet.  We were supposed to leave at 0700 and JoAnne listened to the NOAA weather, and said “Not going out in 9 foot seas” and she was right.  Completely, totally right to trust her instincts on departure.  After discussing it with Judy and Stephen for a few minutes, we all agree a couple more hours sleep might be prudent.

We pulled out on time, at 0900, and headed back to the inlet.  Tide was just starting to come back in and we slogged a bit through it in places.  Bentana had little trouble with a newly repowered boat, brand new engine.  We, on the other hand couldn’t make more than about 4 knots maximum most of the time and that was pushing the engine.  I almost turned back and said “Nope”.  But I didn’t.

We got out to the channel and dodged a ship.  He called me and asked if I’d be polite enough to step out side the markers for him, to which I replied that he could have the entire ocean should he desire it.  We moved outside the channel in 40′ of water and his bow bulb was as big as my whole boat.  After he passed, I called him and “thanked him for the slow pass” and I think I made his day, he laughed and said “Good travels”.

No more incidents for a bit.  Then the shoals came into view.  And the water turned into a rocking wash tub.  I almost turned back…. but I didn’t.

We called Bentana who was now gaining ground and moving at a quick pace out to sea.  Judy said that they were going past marker 6 I think it was and then turning to 180 degrees to catch the wind, get out to sea and then would tack back later.  I followed her lead.

We didn’t make it to the mark she turned out at.  We were taking a pounding by then and the wind was wrong, and so were the waves.  Making a decision to stop taking a pounding, I checked depths, and objects in front of me and turned to 180, raised sail and steadied the boat considerably.  I consulted with JoAnne about turning around.  She said “I want to go to Charleston.  We’re already out here.”  She had a point. I could have turned around… but I didn’t.

We sailing relatively well at that point going up and down the waves, and not getting slammed now, things somewhat smoothed out.  But JoAnne kept getting sick.  At some point I had to go below to check on something.  What it was, I don’t even remember now.  That’s when I started getting sick.  First time ever being “seasick”.  When we took a steep wave and most of the ocean washed over the foredeck and back to the cockpit coaming, it was at that point I thought “We should turn back…”.  But I didn’t.

I called Bentana to check in at 1230 as we’d planned.  They were “doing ok” and we all exchanged encouraging words.

By 1300, JoAnne was doing all she could to keep from throwing up, and I wasn’t.  It was my turn.  I got so sick I threw up for five solid minutes.  I think I nearly passed out from it.  I had heart surgery last year in May.  I still have pain in my ribs and back from where they cracked open my chest.  All my ribs crack like knuckles.  I think they all popped yesterday.  It was right about that moment in time I realized just how stupid this was.  I stopped and considered the situation carefully.  We could go on and we didn’t know the sea state would settle for sure, or we could go back, reverse course back through the washing machine, tides, current and winds all from different directions, we could heave too (we were about 8 miles out perhaps by then) and hope things settled.

At that moment, I made the “prudent” decision to turn around.  Finally.  All DAY I had not listened to my inner voice telling me “Today is not the day!”  Please note I called it a “Purdent Decision”.  It truly wasn’t a prudent decision.  It was a mistake to go out when I had thought it wasn’t a good day.  And to be clear I DO know weather conditions pretty well, and I wasn’t sure I was comfortable, but we were tired of being here, ready to go, ready to roll, get going, go somewhere else.  All the way around “prudence” was jumping up and down trying to be noticed and I was ignoring “her”.

I called Bentana and told JoAnne, Judy and Stephen at the same time we were headed back in.  I can’t bear to see JoAnne sick like that, and if something had happened to me she’d have been helpless at that point to do anything about it other than call for evacuation.  That wasn’t going to happen.

We rode the waves back in, partially under sail, trying to keep the winds right and give us some speed.  We made 4-5 knots back in, until the channel, where the waves were crossing us, and hitting the side of the boat.  Not that we had a LOT of choice in which way to go.  Shoals were coming up and waves were big, ships were headed out, and winds were still only 20 knots maybe.  Not enough to bother the boat.  It was the wave action that was sucking bad.

We passed three more, outgoing ships, I gave them wide berth and even used their wash to get into smoother waters for a bit.  That helped.  I had long since stopped being sick.  Nothing left.  JoAnne was settling down too I think by then.  I occupied her with helping watch for markers and ships.  (Hard to miss a ship, though, you really want to miss them….)

We hit the junction of Cape Fear River out going current, the incoming tide, let a giant cargo ship pass, and a tug pulling a barge, and I made it to the ICW cut headed back in with little difficultly.

The engine was still running so that was a good thing.

After we docked with help from Norm from the Marina, who was kind enough to stay on the dock until we arrived, Jay from Knot Working and the folks from the power yacht Chrysalis, I discovered the water pump running down below.  I killed the breaker assuming the worst.  A bit later, I discovered all the water in our main tank was pumped out (probably to sea) and the pump was running for awhile I guess.  I’m surprised it didn’t burn out.

This morning I heard Judy and Stephen got beat up pretty badly as well, Judy was also, apparently ill as well.  They made it as far as Georgetown.  Far short of Charleston.  I believe they said (JoAnne reported) they are on anchor now and resting, well and safe.

I have work to do on the water tank.  I’m going to extend our visit here at least a week.  I have work to do on the ship, repairs to make and I’m going to have a little chat with a few local business establishments around here…. because I came back to a message about my credit card being compromised (AGAIN) and five transactions for 17-28 bucks occurred yesterday in Raleigh, a good distance from here… but there are three suspects who could have used my number (having all three taken my card out of my sight to take a payment, or getting the number some other way).  The rest of the places I used it, the card was never out of my sight and they swiped it into a machine so they couldn’t have easily gained the information from the card).  I’m NOT happy about that happening either and if I discover for a fact who did it, there’s going to be consequences.  I HATE thieves and I won’t hesitate to take whatever action is required to prevent them from stealing again  (legal or otherwise given the right circumstances).

Today, JoAnne gets to relax her back and rest, I’m tearing things apart, making coffee and preparing for the cold weather coming.  We are discussing giving up and quitting, selling the boat, getting an RV, going back to Colorado defeated, going on down the ICW, or choosing better sailing days on the outside.

Stay tuned.  We will let you know what’s next.

Fair Winds!

Rick

Christmas 2016

Hi everyone.  Thought I’d try to get in one more blog post before the end of the year.

It’s been a long, challenging year for us. In fact, two challenging years.  (I already posted a message for Christmas on Facebook, and will probably restate a few things here so if you think you’ve read it before, you might have).

In 2009 we decided to learn to sail, and eventually to become cruisers.  JoAnne and I have read literally a couple of hundred books over the course of time since that day we made the decision.  While all of them were helpful, some were stories, fiction, true adventure, and books about storms.  All of them helped prepare us for everything we have encountered and a few things we’ve yet to (and don’t want to) encounter.

Last Christmas we were sitting in Colorado with our kids and Grandkids after JoAnne’s back injury.  We thought more than once we wouldn’t get back to the boat and would have to sell her.  But, things didn’t turn out like that.

We’ve traveled back and forth across the country about five times since July 2015, for medical appointments, visiting and due to injuries.

This season we moved the boat to Cole’s Point Marina, where we worked on the boat.  We added solar panels, repaired the refrigeration, I had already added a new stove, refurbished the sails, repaired many little things, added a composting toilet, removed a broken electric toilet and replaced it with a Jabsco pump toilet.  I’ve added strip LED lighting to the main cabin area (and will add some to the forward cabin in time, along with some new wiring I’ll pull in when I have an opportunity).  We’ve eliminated a few things (not enough).  We’ve picked up an inline water filter to remove the bad tastes and to take water aboard.  I’ve made a water catchment device to collect rainwater, picked up a propane heater for the cabin, as well as an electric heater.  We’ve worked out how to make the wood stove work properly.  I’ve rewired the nav station, radio gear (neatened it all up and added a special power strip for DC radio gear.  Eventually all the radio gear will be tied there).  Oh, and I varnished about 80% of the woodwork aboard Adventure.  I have been testing some varnish.

I certainly am missing a few jobs we did.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.

A few weeks ago we ran into some more alternator problems (which I documented) and had that repaired and discovered a LOT of other issues on the engine which we also had taken care of.  During the work, I had the mechanic teach me a few things since I was paying and arm and a leg (I know why pirates have hooks and peg legs now…).

We paid up our bill here through 6th January and decided to stick out Christmas here.  One of the folks sailing down from Canada we’re friends with (Rosemary and Joe, aboard “Winds of Change” were coming down and so JoAnne invited them to dinner.  Turned out other boats were traveling with them.  We thought two, then it was actually four boats total.

So the dinner turned into a pot luck.  Then more cruisers and liveaboards near by joined into the dinner.  All told, on Christmas Eve we had about 15-18 people (I never counted them up), and one boat’s couple left to visit relatives so they missed the dinner.  Others joined in and everyone brought food, drink and stories.

Over all, a grand success.  JoAnne was worried about putting something like that together.  I’m not sure why.  She has always fed an army (usually doing ALL the cooking herself, raising five children, usually having boarders in the house, and random neighbor children who ALWAYS were there for dinner almost every night).  So, whatever trepidation she had vanished as she turned on her “Chef Skills” and made a giant pot of stew which likely would have fed everyone in the marina that day with a side of rice.  Fortunately, there was plenty more food than we could ALL eat.  Everyone brought something, from sloppy joes to stew, to small “sub sandwiches” to enchiladas and bottles of wine and rum.  I was shocked at the amount and quantities.  I tried a little bit of everything and had two full bowls of stew.

“Winds of Change” happens to have been the name of our first boat, our Macgregor Venture.  So when we saw the name on the group, we had friended them on Facebook immediately.  After all, we share a connection.  The boat name, and now the Leaky Teaky boats, ours the Transworld 41 and them the Formosa 41.   It was wonderful to get to meet them in person finally!

I have to say that I still like our center cockpit a bit better, though I think sailing from the aft of a sailboat this big might have a few advantages over the CC.  I can’t tell you though, what those might be.

All in all, this year traveling from the Potomac in late October to here has been relatively uneventful compared to last year.  Although, we have gone aground a few times, we’ve bumped some pilings, and I have some small damage on the port side where I caught a pole in the water, the engine conking out…. we haven’t really had major issues.

Yes, it was stressful coming down the ICW.  I was at ease going outside and motorsailing at night, but I always worry about all the things that can “go wrong” out there.  I worry for JoAnne’s safety much more than mine (because, quite honestly, I’d done some really dangerous things in my life and while the majority of them I wouldn’t want to repeat, I understood what I was doing, and knew I could die).  Sailing in the ocean is one of those things.

You understand it.  You know you can die.  But you also, always, concentrate on the moment in time, staying alive, staying safe, staying on course, going there you’re going and knowing you have options to handle almost anything.  Even, right down to closing down the hatches and doors after taking down sails and putting out a sea anchor, then hoping the boat will ride out whatever you hit.  In almost all cases, a boat will do fine.  It’s generally the crew who can’t handle it.

We have one issue on our boat.  JoAnne isn’t really able to run the boat alone.  I’m worried she will injure her back again and she has been prone to falling in the past so I won’t put her in danger.  That means I tend to do everything on deck, though I have been letting her toss lines out, and put out fenders to get used to doing it again.  So running a “shift” isn’t too easy, unless I set things up and let her stand watch, let the autopilot take care of things until the wind changes or we have to tack.  Then she can wake me if I’m sleeping and I can do the work.

This basically means for us, sailing straight to Florida isn’t going to be easy.  From here at five knots it would take us about 65 hours (give or take where we pull in).  And just two of us doing it.  Then we have to count on the engine from time to time to charge batteries if the sun isn’t out (solar, remember?)

Therefore we’ve come up with muliple plans to get south now.  From here we are planning to sail straight down to Jacksonville area.  And as we go we’ll make changes to our thinking based on the conditions we encounter and how tired we get.  We’re going to try it in pieces as well.  So, we’ve picked a half dozen distant spots to pull into if need be to anchor and rest.  We’ve also planned part of the route inside as well.

We have many options from here, but the main goal, to “get south and to warm” is the priority.  That and using the engine the least amount necessary, anchoring when we need to, and staying warm.

So as the year closes on us, we are shooting to be in Florida not later than about 3 weeks from now, whether we can move more quickly, or slowly will depend on a lot of factors including the weather and my ability to take us long distances on the boat.

To this day, I am not ready to lie down and sleep with the boat moving.  So, I’m probably going to have to learn that skill next 🙂

I want to wish everyone a “belated Merry Christmas” as I’m posting this the day after.

And I want to give everyone something to consider for the New Year.

Many people make “resolutions” to accomplish or do something important in the New Year.

I made a resolution never to make resolutions a long time ago, so I don’t do that.  But I do make plans, I do set goals, even if they are in my head and not written down.

For the cruisers, the dreamers and the wanna-be cruisers who’ve not quite gotten here yet, I’m going to give you a secret.

The secret to success is “perseverance”.

That is the secret ingredient to “success”.

If you have a dream to move aboard a boat and go cruising, you will have to work at it.  You will have to plan.  You will have to make decisions, some easy, some difficult.  You will have to write your notes down.  You have to learn to sail if you don’t know how.  You have to work your ass off.  You have to practice.  You have to learn new skills.  You have to travel a bit, you have to stay home a lot, you have to spend some money, and you have to save money.

With out laying out a map for you, I’ll tell you this:

  1. Make a plan (Do you want to cruise full time, or part time? Do you want to just travel the Chesapeake?)
  2. Get your skill set together as you go, every day work on it (Can you sail? Learn! Wood work? Plumbing?)
  3. Study hard, study sailing
  4. Save your money.  Spend it wisely on learning, important books you need (Use the LIBRARY, it’s FREE!)
  5. Pay your bills.  ALL Of them.  Eliminate them.  If you use a credit card, PAY it off EVERY MONTH.
  6. Have your goals written down and check them off as you go.  Once you get one, check it off. (Then go back and pat yourself on the back!)
  7. PERSEVERE!  Do NOT give up.  Do it.

Adversity has a way of weighing people down, depressing them, making them believe they can never get up again and sometimes adversity will literally break your back, bones, make you sick and leave you in pain.

Pain is the one thing that tells us we’re still alive and we should be doing something else.  Find a different route.

If you want to sail, do it.  Start small if you have too (I didn’t, I am glad I didn’t.  I started on a 30′ boat and went SMALLER to a 25′ boat for practice, and the 25;’ boat was like a part of my arm when I stepped aboard).  Getting on to a bigger boat like this ketch at first will be daunting and probably stop one from sailing without a very good instructor.

I’ve been teaching myself how to sail this boat.  She handles differently that a fin keel, from a sloop and from a dinghy.  She handles much differently that my little Venture did.  She has a mind of her own and I’ve had to learn to tame her, and make he go where I want her to go.  It’s difficult to do with no books on the subject and only the meager knowledge I gained from an instructor and sailing my own sloop.

The point, though, is don’t give up.  Continue.  Persevere.

That, folks, is the secret to success.  You just take that and apply it to your set of circumstances.  YOU are the one to make it happen.

All our best for a Happy New Year – and I mean the whole of 2017.

We’ll see you in the Warm.

Rick and JoAnne

(PS I will add images into this a bit later, so check back when you have time)