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!


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)



Perkins 4-108 Issues, LED Lighting

A few days ago we discovered a broken bracket holding the alternator.  It was not something I was going to ignore, and certainly wasn’t going offshore with it broken like I found it.

The forward part of the L-bracket was shattered.  One side (aft) was still holding solidly, and the bolt was going through the two pieces.  However, a broken alternator bracket would cause vibration (which it did when it broke) and eventually would have torn the belt to shreds.

Therefore I called for a mechanic because I haven’t any way to do welds, and it’s one of the skills I don’t have (but I certainly am going to look into learning it now).  I am sure that I could have accomplished all the work the mechanic is doing, and if there’s ever a “next time” I’ll do it.  I’m am not the worlds best mechanic, and honestly, I don’t like getting dirty inside engines.  And since we’re on a dock, and I’m already paying for it… might as well have a professional look things over anyway.  I’m glad I did because I’d never have seen the exhaust leak before it killed us.

Technician came out rapidly (he was on-site), removed the bracket, did some testing and we discovered with our faces in the engine that the manifold was blowing a lot of exhaust out into the engine compartment.  Well, that opens into the bilge and cabin.  Long story short, that needed repairs so we didn’t… umm…. DIE.

He did attempt a repair, put new gaskets in and had the welds accomplished.  There was an extra bracket installed which was causing some of the problems with being misaligned!

But other issues ensued as well.  We noted some oil leaks (but had a hard time finding them exactly, finally he found them and one, the least one, is on the timing cover.  The major one is the valve cover area, and the gasket (after looking at it) is pretty old and ate up.  It’s either original, or it’s pretty old.

On Friday last he said “It will probably be Monday before I can come back”.  We said “OK” and then went and rented a car from Enterprise on their weekend special (10 bucks a day for Friday through Monday morning, giving us almost four full days for 38 bucks).  And Jason called and came back on Saturday to repair things because… he got the parts in sooner. Haha.

Ok, now we’d paid through Wednesday and had to extend a few days.  Today is Tuesday.  We used the car, turned it in yesterday.  Made a trip to Wilmington to find a Radio Shack and some parts I needed for electrical project I was doing.  (I found one, and 45 BUCKS later, I had my little project boxes, toggle switches and a fan for our bathroom and the composting toilet, which I’ll do at a later time when I have all those parts…).

So, it’s raining like hell yesterday after dropping the car, so we duck inside the Dead End Saloon up at the top of the hill to wait out the rain and we run into Jason who is running back and forth from the boat to the truck for tools.

Not good news.

  1. The valve cover DOES need a new gasket, badly.
  2. The timing system isn’t as bad.
  3. The mixing elbow from the exhaust is pretty bad, but we don’t know yet how bad.
  4. The injectors are spitting fuel through (which is what causes the white smoke on startup).
  5. The manifold attachments are missing a couple of nuts, but worse, even after new gaskets and sealing, it’s not good.  The thing has overheated and is slightly warped.

Bottom line, has to be retooled to make it flush again.  The valve cover needs removal and gasket replaced.  The timing area (a bunch of gears connected to the crankshaft) leaks oil and SHOULD be replaced but that’s a pretty big job.  The mixing elbow, once removed is trashed inside. Pieces of it are missing.  Causing back pressure.

So, we need a new one.  I told Jason to go ahead with the work.  We’re going to wind up doing a “monthly rate” here at the marina now I guess.  Only way to save a bit of money now. This is likely going to run about 3000 dollars for the amount of work.  /sigh

Anyway, we should have rebuilt injectors, new gasket on the valve cover, and a new mixing elbow, a replaced bracket on the alternator (and it is now PROPERLY aligned, which it wasn’t, which has been causing most of our issues with belts and vibration in the past).  Right now the engine valve-rocker cover is off and everything is covered with cloths.  Elbow is off.  Injectors are gone.  Fuel is all shut off.  We’re stuck on the dock for a few more days.

I spent today working on our lighting.  I don’t like the incandescent lamps (good for reading, bad for the batteries) and the LED lamps I’ve used don’t give us quite enough light for the interior when it is pretty dark outside.

A few months back I bought three rolls of LED strip lights that work on 12VDC (I had bought a tube of them at the hardware store before that, and discovered they were set up for 120VAC and it wasn’t an adaptor, but rather they use resisters and diodes to drop the voltages down to what LEDs can use, a couple of volts each).  Anyway, I can use the tube lights on the dock, when we have AC power only.  I couldn’t modify them safely to work with DC.  Instead I bought the strip lights and put them in my little project box.

I needed toggle switches and a way to mount them. I considered three or four methods including little project boxes, but Radio Shack is the only place to pick those up (unless I order them online from someone like Jameco, Digikey or someone similar).  I haven’t been anywhere that I could really order things, long enough lately to do it, so… RS it was.

So, I collected parts as I could.  A while back I saw someone else’s work with LED lights and liked their stuff.  It was Acadia, Jon and Marcia’s boat.  He had used little boxes like I wanted to do, and had mounted them using sticky tape (all of the parts are very light).

Today I put everything together and installed strips of LED tape on both sides, under the area where the grab rails run along the length of the ship.  So the settee area is now well lit when you turn on both sides.  I doubled up the starboard side for JoAnne because she sits on the “couch” a lot and reads there.  She has extra light for book reading now.  She loved it.

Starboard Side Lit up

Port side lit up

Another shot of the port side, the mess is the tools, looks like we need to dust again. lol

The next few images show the parts, and some of the tools I used to do the job.  The boxes are simply mounted with “doubled-sided-sticky tape” (the 3M stuff) and I tied the wiring to the existing lamps because honestly, I don’t feel like ripping out the wood that is between the overhead/deck above and the lamps.  There’s a hand full of wiring running inside there and if I take it all out, I’ll be rewiring the entire boat in no time – and I don’t have the time to start that project right now. haha Eventually, but not now.  I want to be able to sit there and read, look at charts at the table and even do soldering (like I did today with my makeshift light you see in the background, which doubles as an emergency anchor light).

The wire has sufficient current carrying capability for very short runs.  I wouldn’t use it for something other than LED lights.  It’s really meant for speaker wires, but it’s 16 gauge and can handle about 3 amps of current.  These lights pull about 500 milliamps (1/2 amp) on either side.  So a total of perhaps a bit under 2 Amps.

Close up of the LED tape strip, and the internal part of the switch box.  The wires are soldered internally and there’s a feed that is attached at the existing lamps using crimp connectors.

Used tywraps as strain relief inside to prevent accidentally pulling the wires from the box.  Since it’s inside of a box I used a bit of electrical tape to insulate the soldered connection.  It is inside a box which no one will see (except here in a picture) so I wasn’t looking for elegant or neat, just “good” and besides, I don’t have any shrink tubing or I’d have used that instead (old electrical wiring habits die hard sometimes).

The finished box.  Double sided sticky tape goes on that side, the whole thing gets “stuck” to the overhead (under the grab rails on the bulkhead) and hopefully will hold for a few years.  I cleaned the surface with acetone before sticking things in place. It’s painted with a flat white paint, so cleaned right up and the LED tape is also “3M” tape so it ought to hold a long time.

LED light strip in “action” – and yes, I noted the damage to the wood in the picture.  Apparently there was a leak there once.  It’s been patched somewhat and I probably should pull that all down and put up new wood or repatch it at least (which means I’ll be pulling new wires in as well to the electrical, therefore, that isn’t happening right now either. haha)

Starboard side, double strips front and back.  Port side only has one strip.

Sometime in the next few days if I get a chance, I’ll do the same thing with the galley area, because it’s in the walk-through to the aft cabin and very dark.  There are four lamps, two under the grab rail area, one behind above the engine, and one on the over head.  None of them provide enough light for the galley, or working in the galley, so that’s going to change soon.

Still here….

Well, we’d hoped beyond hope to either have a new part today, or have the old one fixed/welded/repaired.

Nothing of the sort happened.

They have to find a welder. Because the part isn’t available “anywhere”.  I might have been able to find one myself, but don’t have all the resources to hunt for it, and honestly, I’m just not an engine guy.  And getting it right the first time wouldn’t have happened either.

Jason called and said the welder could get the part done tomorrow probably, but the gaskets we need to seal up the manifold will not be here until Monday.  So, we’re going to be here until Wednesday now it seems.  JoAnne suggested we could rent a car and explore, so I arranged for that as well.

I’ve got some chores to do on the boat, deal with batteries, the composting toilet and maybe get some other little things done I’ve put off.  The varnish is already suffering after less than six months.  Actually, three months. Not sure I honestly want to deal with varnish, but it looks so nice.

I’ve been looking over our trip and we’re probably going to do three outside jumps.  Short ones, to take us to Charleston.  None of them will be over about 35 nm in any given day, and working out some anchorages to stop in for the night.  After Charleston, it looks like we will make one large overnight to Florida to skip over most of South Carolina and all of Georgia.  Might be a full 24 hours.  I haven’t calculated that far ahead though.  My brain is already fried from dealing with the engine.

Won’t be going anywhere until at least Tuesday for sure… and then we have to see what the weather is bringing then anyway.  I can get a 10 day out forecast, but they are rarely what is predicted 10 days away.  So, I’ll deal with it a bit closer.

Willoboughy Bay – Elizabeth River, Virginia

We spent the night of 30 October 2016 in a little river called the Poquoson River. Last year on the 17th of October, we were up that same area, but in a different creek. The next morning we had prepared to wait out some chilly weather and some stonger winds when the marina I’d planned to go to for some assistance on the rigging finally called back with the words, “IF you can get here TONIGHT (it was a Sunday), then we can look at your boat tomorrow.”

Against my better judgement, we pulled anchor and made for that marina. We didn’t really have a choice (we did, but we were led to believe if we didn’t hurry we were going to be delayed) and we did it anyway.

Yesterday, we looked at the weather and headed down the bay. It was nice, cool, but nice. Crossed into the Elizabeth River and made it a short hop to Willoboughy Bay, just past the bridge Tunnel on the Elizbeth River. We anchored out last night, and today was supposed to bring winds. And about 2-3 AM this morning, the weather reports came to fruition.

A Nor’easter like last year, slammed the Bay. Listening to weather reports there were 4-5 foot waves, and gusts at 30 knots from the NE all today. The warnings are in place until this evening. Several sailboats, including one traveling with us, wisely remained on anchor this morning. In checking my GPS settings, it appears we’ve not moved at all, no dragging last night or today.

Thankfully, the winds have somewhat simmered down and the waves have stopped slapping us. We’re still rocking and rolling a bit, but I have the mizzen sail out a bit to help point us into the wind. Works pretty well. Winds are currently out of the NNE at about 15. Gusts are about 19 now, instead of the almost 30 knots they were earlier this morning.

Our companion boat, “Acadia” with Marcia and Jon were ready to head for a staging at Hospital Point this afternoon. I pointed out that though I haven’t been there, it appears unprotected from the north and in the river, so besides currents there are wakes from passing vessels. Everyone opted to stay put here. Since this is the first time for all of us to traverse this area, we all felt it prudent to wait a little longer. We’re all “novices” at something. I’m not a sailor novice any more, but I’m a “cruiser novice” and I’m still pretty timid about driving this monster. She’s got a full keel, doesn’t turn rapidly unless we’re moving quickly. The rudder and keel combination just doesn’t bite quickly at slower speeds.

Our next destination is somewhere around the Gillerton Bridge and/or the locks. Or something. I’m unclear at this point on what our decision was yesterday because mostly it was the ladies looking over the charts and telling us where to go… which is typical I suppose. 🙂 Honestly, that’s not the case, it’s a joke; we all know where we’re headed, we’re just not SURE where our destination will be due to the large number of cruisers passing through.

We tried the Atlantic Yacht Basin south in the channel near (past) the locks and they “couldn’t guarantee” anything for us, except they MIGHT have docks with no water or power… of course they cost the same as those with water and power…. ok. I guess we will play it by ear at this point.

While a nicer day might have more boats headed south with us, I think that’s ok. I also think I really need the “practice” in busy areas. I was white knuckling it through the river at the bridge tunnel before I figured out everyone wanted to go fast, faster than me and I mostly let them, except for the barge whom I cleared almost 2 miles in front of him and he was only doing about 4.5 knots anyway. I was going faster.

One sailboater was coming from my starboard side while I was traveling a channel under power (now I’m a power boat, and he’s obviously a sail boat perhaps under power, perhaps not, so I gave him benefit of doubt) on a crossing path. Cool. But he maintained course and speed. According to the rules he was wrong on two counts. Yes, he was a sailboat, I was under power. But a sailboat approaching from a “behind position” which he was doing, gives way to the motorboat – and I was in a channel (shallow I might add, and we were in an area where had I gone out, I could have gone aground with my draft). However, I gave way as a “power boat” because he did not appear to be doing anything and I couldn’t go any faster. Going slower was rather difficult too in the location based on the winds on the nose as it would have slowed me significantly. Which it did.

And being a sailboater, I gave way anyway to avoid a collison. Now, I’m sure there are some out there that might argue that I should have given way as I was motoring, and I’ll point out now, you weren’t there. I was. He was approaching from the rear (off the starboard quarter) at a pretty good clip and COULD have passed easily behind me, but CHOSE to pass me and cut in front of my bow. I honesty would never have tried that with anyone, or any boat unless traveling at a significant speed faster than the boat being approached and even then would have passed him father forward, changed course to parallel the other boat or passed behind.

Am I complaining? Not at all. Pointing out what we saw. The boat behind us thought we should have kept going instead of coming almost to a dead stop. I didn’t want to risk a collision (which was becoming rapidly apparent at that point). I will point out that the other boat was sailing with two sails up on a starboard tack, and we were driving into 24 knot winds at the time. I couldn’t have sailed there to save my life due to the depth challenges in that area. Oh well.

Today it is chilly. In the mid 50s. I ran the generator for a couple of hours to ensure charging of the batteries, and shut it down a bit ago, leaving the solar panels working and the refigeration turned on to chill things back down.

I’m about to go sit at the table and go over the charts carefully, so I know the charts, the course, what I can expect and where the bridges are located. We already know there are two railroad bridges we should be able to traverse easily. We’ll need tides/times tomorrow, and to know the exact bridges/lock, times for those and approximately how quickly we will get there and can traverse the area, and finally where to stop tomorrow night.

We all have our own ideas, and as long as those ideas somewhat jive and don’t put anyone in danger, a handfull of Noobs should be able to accomplish what thousands of others have done routinely. (That’s the best part about books, and knowledge from others, you aren’t doing it FIRST, just the first time for you.)

Engine:  The engine in this boat is a Perkins 4-108.  Nice engine.  Leaks though.  Found it’s dripping oil (finally).  Can’t find the location though.  Had the alternator bolt loosen yet again.  Tightened it up.  Checked new belt, it’s fine.  Added a little over a pint of oil this morning.  Need to watch this thing carefully from here on out.

My friend Jeff Ryan (@K0RM –  Former ARRL section Manager) in Colorado has a mechanic/boater friend down range from here.  Gave me his name, over in Washington, NC I think he said.  Supposed to send me information to contact him.  He’s a master mechanic, and a boater, lives aboard.  Probably understands what we’re going through too.  I’ll give him a call passing through just to say hi if nothing else from Jeff.   Either way, babying the engine will likely turn into a full time job for me.  It’s another reason I chose to remain at anchor today instead of pushing the limits through waves I didn’t want to deal with (and currents, and wind, all of which were in opposition this morning).

Man, I’m learning some of this the hard way (by reading about it, then experiencing it first hand) lol

I will add to this, or edit it later. Right now, I only have a hot spot to access the Internet and have to turn it on and off as necessary to prevent wasting the data. I can’t type this on my telephone, the tablet or hand write it to the Internet.. so that’s the way it is for now. LOL

Overcharging Batteries, Heat and Sleepless Nights in Norfolk

Yesterday I decided I needed to actually rip into the aft cabin and take apart the bed to get to the batteries.  Lead-Acid cells, all of them, need to be checked from time to time for evaporating water from the electrolyte.  I installed one set of batteries in August last year, the second set here in Norfolk and did the wiring job.

I apparently missed a few steps with our system I should have paid more attention to.

How I discovered I missed the steps was a night from hell last night.

Let me start in the aft bedroom.  I pulled the mattresses.  We’ve been here for just over a week and when I put them down they were dry as a bone, unblemished and practically new.  When I pulled them, the bottoms were damp, mildew had begun to form on the bottom.  The wet, rainy days and closed cabins contributed to this problem with condensation all over the cabin for a few nights.

I did as JoAnne asked and sprayed down the tops of the mattresses (after flipping them so the bottoms were now the tops) and wiped them down with a weak vinegar solution to kill the mildew.  I set them off and began work on the battery compartment, located quite inconveniently beneath the bed, just under the boards that are the surface for the mattresses.

I pulled out the old (dare I say “ancient”) hydrometer and opened the first battery to check the specific gravity of the cells.  First the hydrometer began to come apart in my hands.  Second I realized that lo and behold, there’s no visible fluid in the cells.  Ack. Bad news.  I had spoken to the marina who said they “were regularly checking the boat and batteries”.  Today I confirmed they were merely checking the charging status on the panel, and never once went into the compartment to actually “check the batteries”.  Double-ack…. Mistake number one, assuming that people are doing what they actually say they are doing.

So, I open all the batteries and they are all very low.  I used filtered water (no distilled available, verified I could use it first of course).  I put between 4-6 ounces into each cell.  That’s a lot.  That means at least a half inch or perhaps more of each cell was exposed to air and this is not a good thing for batteries.

I went ahead and closed everything up and started checking the charging station.  We have a “smart charging system”, built by Xantrex called a Heart 2000R (monitor).  There is my second mistake…. I’ll get back to this in a minute.

In the mean time, JoAnne and I went out, had a couple beers, ate some food, came back.  I noted a slight odor which seemed familiar but JoAnne said “Smells like the vinegar to me” and I assumed it was.  Mistake number three, not investigating more closely.

After while, I thought the smell was stronger.  And it was.  I then investigated.  Walking into the aft cabin, it was HOT in there.  Probably 85 degrees.  WAY hotter than it should have been.  Then it hit me.  The smell.  Well, the identification of the smell.  Sulfur from batteries.  YIKES!

I shut down the charger, removed all the mattresses, bedding and cover and the heat coming out of the battery compartment was stifling. I switched off the system and starter batteries by using the big switches.  I could still touch the batteries without being burned, but they were literally boiling inside.  I quickly opened all the hatches, head, windows and turned on fans to blow out any fumes and likely hydrogen (I have a scar on my forehead to remind me to do that stuff, where a battery blew up when I was about 15 or 16).

I placed another small DC fan on top of the batteries as soon as I was sure the fumes were mostly cleared out, mostly to dissipate the heat, and cool the batteries.

I checked voltages, which seemed fine.  But man, were those batteries hot!

Mean time, now it’s getting late.

We didn’t get to actually go to bed until around 1AM probably.  The batteries were warm all night but I put the bed bad together.  I kept getting up to check the system to make sure everything was still disconnected, the charger wasn’t kicking on, and nothing was going to catch fire.  We packed up some emergency stuff, including car and boat keys, our computers and wallets and grabbed some clothing to evacate if necessary and I found a knife to cut the boat loose from the docks in an emergency.  I figured if there were a fire, I’d at least try to kick the boat away from the docks to prevent the fire from spreading.  Two fire extinguishers remained close by and loose, along with flash lights.

As far as I could tell, I had everything prepared and well in hand for any emergency.  But fortunately the heat was slowly dissipating.

At 0400 I was awake again, and really only dozed on and off after checking a couple of things.  All seemed fine.

Finally, I figured out that the “smart charger” system isn’t as “smart” as you would think it would be.

In October or November I had bought our second battery bank to add.  One of the things I didn’t know, Mistake number two, was that you have to reprogram the system to know how large the batteries were.  That is the capacity.  We went from 230 amp hours to 460 amp hours.  The Heart monitor needed to changed. Didn’t know that.  I figured like most things with computers, the system would sense the batteries and capacity and adjust. Nope.

Mistake number one, I spoke to David the dock master this morning and he confirmed, “No, we just check the charging status….”.  Oh, wow.  Even knowing that we were gone for several weeks, out of state and couldn’t get back and I’d specifically asked him on the phone to check the batteries?  “Yup”.  Double-wow.

I went to the store to buy a new hydrometer.  Four whole dollars.  Should have bought two, but they only had one.  Came back, removed coverings, bedding etc and started all over.  All of the cells read properly at between 1.275 and 1.32 for specific gravity.  So, obviously the batteries are charged, perhaps slightly over-charged.  They over heated but, not warped.  No damage.

I downloaded the manual for the Xantrek Heart 2000-R and read it.  Not all the way through, but enough to grasp my mistake with the settings.  I corrected those.

I have since turned on the charger and it DOES shut back down.

In the process of doing all this, I discovered one more problem.  Apparently, half of the boat is connected to the starter battery, including a bilge pump and some lighting.  What?????

Holy cow, I’ll never figure this out.  I’m going to wind up rewiring the entire boat I think.  Some of the wires don’t meet AYBC standards and some have “sawed through” in the middle of the boat (when we were in the Chesapeake Bay caught in the rough weather and I have rewired a few things to bring back my chart plotter).  I can’t even imagine what kind of problems I’m going to find behind bulkheads when I try to fix these issues.

As of this minute… the batteries do charge, they still “heat a bit” but nothing like that night.  They probably need equalization, but I’m not going to run that until I’m at a different location.  I’ve had absolutely ENOUGH bad luck here.

This afternoon, after testing all the battery cells and writing all that information down in my little engineering book I started keeping (along with a simple schematic of the battery wiring I can see easily, without having to hang upside down in bilges and under toilets for now) I started on the engine.

I checked all the fluid levels.  They all were good.  I’ll need to add a small amount of oil when we start our drive north, but everything was good.  I opened the seacock for the engine intake, punched the glow plug button for 10 seconds and hit the starter.  The Perkins turned over and fired instantly, just like she was all warmed and ready to go.

I stepped off the boat, walked around to the exhaust and she was blowing out white smoke and a lot of antifreeze.  At least they had followed through with that part (which I had paid for…).  The water is coming through great, plenty of pressure and plenty of water from the exhaust.  All good.

I placed the transmission into gear and gave her a little throttle and the shaft started turning, everything sounded good, and water was being pushed back, all was good.  Took her out of gear and let her run for awhile, while I looked for leaks, drips, spraying water, or anything wrong with the engine.  All good.

I left the engine running for about 30 minutes.  Probably should have let it run longer but I didn’t think that necessary at this point.

As of this time, 1600, I’m done, writing this blog and having a beer.

I pronounce the system “ok”, but I’m not confident in the charging system at this point.  I do have the downloaded manual, and I’ll get one of the inverter, charger and the brain of this thing and study them better.  I am pretty much through trusting the word of anyone in a Marina who says “Yeah, I did that thing you wanted done” until I check it myself.

We had issues in Stony Point Marina.  The guy running the place was a pirate.  I’ve refrained from posting this to this point, but it’s time others know about these places.  I’ll write that up in another post later… but suffice it to say he was trying to have me “pay cash” for some things and didn’t want to give me a “receipt”.  Had that happen with a cop in Michigan once passing through with my Colorado Plates.  I basically forced the cop to give me a receipt and wound up getting ALL my money back for a ticket I shouldn’t have gotten in the first place.  (Another long story).

This marina is very good about saying they will do things.. but they take their time, and right in their paperwork they make sure you know it doesn’t matter if it’s their fault, mine or a contractor, you’re paying for your time on their docks no matter whose fault it is the work isn’t being done.  They’ve started charging a “live aboard fee” to the folks who actually stay here.  Of course, they gotta pay for their new docks too I guess….

We are moving next week.  I cut a better deal at less than half the price of this place.  About time we got a break somewhere besides bones and wallets….

Last night was as scary as the storm on the Chesapeake Bay.  My children will tell you I am absolutely psychoticly paranoid about fires.  Last night was the worst of my nightmares attempting to come to fruition.  A fire.  On a boat.  On the water. Under my bed.  Worst fear.  I hate spiders and I’d face one of those down that is my size, before I’d want to deal with a fire.

I considered for a minute God has been trying to prevent JoAnne and I from doing this thing.  But, you know… if He wanted us dead He had Cancer. He had heart attack. He had a wind storm on the Chesapeake.  He had a truck almost hit us head on (my fault mostly).  He has had multiple opportunities through out the last seven or eight years.  If God wanted us off the planet, he’d have taken us away.

I don’t for a second believe in “Bad Luck”.  Or Good Luck.  I believe luck is what you make of life.  You do things to prevent bad things from happening. That’s what luck is.  Make sure you dot your i’s, cross your t’s, get your insurance, pay your dues, whatever it takes to simplify things ahead of you.   Nothing we’ve done has been deadly. But everything we’ve done has been a learning experience.

Learning is what we humans do.  Then we move on to something new.

Time to move on, to a new marina.  New projects, a new place and new friends further north.


See you soon!