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!!!

 

SeaWater Pro – Makin’ Water

Making fresh water from sea or brackish water is turning out to be kind of fun.

Our water tank is getting low, so I fired up the water maker. This is only the third time we’ve run it for a good length of time, and figured it was time to make sure things work well.

We’re on Shore Power at the moment because we’re in the marina. Tide has hit high tide at about 8:15 this morning, and flowing out now. I was trying to get this done at high tide to prevent pulling in mud or silt from the floor of the ICW. The water is brackish.

So about 9:25 we fired up the rig, I adjusted things so it is creating water and running at 21 gpm. The contaminate level is at 110 most of the time so far.

We’re running it for slightly less than three hours today to fill the tank and to ensure no problems are found.

No leaks. No problems thus far. It’s been going for just under two hours. Should take three to fill the tank to capacity.

The ICW is flowing out right now at around 2.5 knots of current and I really wanted flowing water going past us. Helps eliminate standing muddy water and stuff floating near by the intake. Keeping a constant flow of water is a good thing.

Checking the strainer shows the incoming water is clear, nothing of note in it, no critters I can see and no debris or dirt.

The main filters are clear, with a small amount of “dirt” showing in the first filter (20 micro filter).

My only issue is that I don’t know the quantity of water in the tank. We normally fill with a hose or using water cans, and when we reach ‘full’ the tank will make a popping sound. I don’t think that is going to happen this time.

I suspect I might have to install a gauge of some sort or a see-through tube to the tank to let me know my levels. I’ll ponder that another time. I know though, when we hit “full” the vent will begin to vent the extra water into the bilge so that will be my indicator for the time being.

My friend Kevin, when I told him about the installation walked over to the garden hose by his boat and picked it up saying, “I have a water maker too”. Kevin has been sailing his whole life, and I know he probably understands the difficulties of getting fresh water in some places. Others know that throwing money at a problem offers a temporary solution, like just purchasing the water.

I prefer self-sufficiency over total dependence on others. Sure, I still have to have electricity, and to get it I have to run a generator. But a gallon of gas will run the generator for ten hours or so, producing 210 gallons of water if I ran it the whole time.

Gas (here) is about 2.89 a gallon. Water is free.

In the islands, gas is more, and the water isn’t free. Unless you catch it from the rain. Which we can also do. Right now, gas is about 1.20 dollars a liter in the Bahamas (roughly). Water is running from 6-7 dollars a day to as much as $20 to fill your tank. Since the hurricane went through, I don’t know what they are charging at the moment.

Options….. we all want options.

A gallon of gas in Bahamas is about $4.80 so, still slightly cheaper to produce the water using the generator than to purchase it and haul it back back forth in the dink to me. Less work too. I HATE pulling into marinas and running the engine constantly. So… to me, it’s a convenience thing.

As I’m typing this, we’re right at two solid hours of running the system. The noise isn’t too bad and the unit is under the settee. I open it up for air (motor can get warm) so it’s a little louder that I like, but tolerable.

We should have produced 42 gallons of water at this point, and my vents aren’t yet venting water, so that’s good. The bilge doesn’t have any water in it at the moment either. So that’s good too. Contaminants are at 117 ppm. Still good.

Just as a refresher here, pure sea water should produce fresh water, at about 200 ppm. Less than pure salt water will produce water at lesser numbers. (We have seen it from 65 – 120). I think the difference is whether the tide is rising or falling.

If rising, then mostly we will see fresh river water coming back into the ICW from the Cape Fear. As it rolls out again, it will be more saline from having mixed with the incoming sea water from the tide.

If we ran clean water through (that might be high contaminates) it should run much less than the 85 number above. The FDA says about 600 ppm is ok for human consumption. A chart is provided below.

What is the acceptable TDS level of drinking water?

By the way, our drinking water goes through a Seagull Carbon Filtration system at our galley sink. Most of the time the water coming out of the regular faucet is fine, has no smells and tastes ok. We use the filter system for the fresh water, just in case.

Our tanks (now singular) are treated about about every three months with enough bleach to sterilize the tank internally and the hoses. In general, I’ll open the tank faucet to allow water flow, run the hose into the input (on the deck) and run it for awhile to ensure flushing the tank. Then add the chlorine, and flush again in a couple of days. I usually flush most of that water through the bilge to keep it clean as well after a couple of days. Most of the chlorine is dissipated by then.

The water maker needs to have the system flushed every few days as well with fresh water, which is also run through a carbon filter to remove chlorine (and typically, I just connect a garden hose straight from the shore power pedestal to clean the filters and the Reverse Osmosis (RO) filter.

At exactly 3 hours in (I knew the tank was almost empty) the system started blowing water into the bilge, indicating the tanks are full. I brought the system pressure down and turned off the main pump motor, allow the lift pump to continue for a few months, then powered it down. Now, I have the garden hose attached to the carbon input filter, and am flushing the RO out.

So, there you have it. Our first solid, real production of water from the ICW with our new water maker, filling the tanks, tasting, drinking it and using it. I’ll let you know if it kills me. HA!

The water, by the way, coming through the system is clear, sweet and has no smells or odd tastes. I consider this a success.

Hurricane Florence

Back in September, we had to deal with two life threatening conditions.

The first was a possible Category 4 hurricane (Florence) headed straight for us.

The second was JoAnne’s CA-125 numbers rising.  The CA-125 is a particular cancer antigen they use to determine if there are ovarian tumors growing in her body.  The previous June we noted the numbers had begun to increase.  I think it was late August or early September we had another test performed (it’s a blood test).  The numbers were trending upward.

When we start prepping for the hurricane I doubled-checked our insurance, then removed sails, stowed things, removed important-to-us items, stored things in a storage locker on shore, packed the car and prepared to run.  The night before or the morning of our departure JoAnne received a message from the doctors telling her she needed to come back to Colorado and begin chemo within a few weeks.  Sooner if possible.

We had a PET scan done here in the North Carolina area, and it was determined she indeed had two areas of concern.  One, the one that frightened us the most was a nodule on her left lung on the upper lobe.  The second was a small area that lit up the PET scan, between liver and kidneys.  The lump on her lung was about 1 cm in size.  Significant in that it seemed to be growing rapidly.

We departed on Wednesday morning, with no particular destination.  She called her brother, Paul, down in Tampa Bay area and asked if we could visit for a time during the hurricane and he was more than happy to see us.  So, we headed east and south along the pre-staged hurricane evacuation routes;  there was no turning back once we got out of town.  We had to leave.

We basically had said good bye to our home, Adventure, unsure if we would ever see her intact again.  We figured insurance would help us replace her, or something similar if it came down to that.  But, we have no allusions about such things.  Insurance companies are notorious for NOT paying out on such claim, even with full replacement insurance like we have.  (Note that after being hit in Cobbs Marina by a power boater, while we were docked, we no longer carry just liability insurance.)

The trip south was uneventful.  We arrived. visited with Paul and Cathy, and waited with bated breath as we watched the weather applications on our computers and tablets.  The forecast Cat 4 never happened.  Florence did, however hit at a category 1 and destroyed several marinas to the north of our marina.  We lost a few pieces of the marina (and there is still some damage to this day).  Our own boat suffered minor damage (I could not easily remove the bimini as it has solar panels over the top of it, and I didn’t have enough time.

I had double and triple lined the boat to the pilings and dock, extra fenders and strapped the dock box down to the dock.  It didn’t move and was fine.  Adventure exploded a fender or two, stretched some lines and we got a couple tears in the old bimini.  Minor damage considering some people lost their boats north of us.

We tried to come back… but, roads were out, blocked, bridges were washed out, floods were everywhere and getting back to the marina would have proved problematic with a lack of fuel in the area.

So, onward to Colorado it was.  We saw her doctors, and set up appointments and a chemo schedule.  Finally, we heard people were getting back to Southport, and we had a three week down time before chemo began.  We hightailed it back to Adventure to clean up, repair the damage we could and prep the boat for the long winter of being away from her.

We simply left the boat in “hurricane prep” mode, and I dumped water tanks, and ensure nothing would freeze inside (the weather here rarely gets to freezing and when it does, doesn’t stay low enough for long enough to freeze the water).  With the boat cleaned and ready for winter, we secured her once more and drove the 2000 miles back to Colorado for the fifth trip since June (For anyone keeping track, that’s 10,000 miles in three months, not counting the side trips, and the hop down to Florida, which was roughly another 1600 added in there.)

JoAnne began the chemo in November.  Her chemo would be different this time.  On “Day One” she’d have all the medicines to prevent nausea, plus two chemicals to fight cancer, one was carboplatium and the other gemzar (and I don’t know if I am spelling the two correctly, I’ll fix that later).  Then on “Day Eight”, a dose of gemzar only.

Unfortunately, things began to go wrong.  She had a tooth infection, and wound up having an extraction, and going on antibiotics, thus preventing the Day 8 chemo session.  Instead three weeks later, the session and count down began again.

Day one of the second chemo session went well.  Her blood counts however, did not do well.  Again the day eight session was cancelled.

Each “session” was three weeks apart.  By this time it had been several weeks.  Session three was supposed to go as a Day One chemo infusion, then Day eight would be gemzar followed by Neulasta.  (Neulasta is a chemical they give to kick your bone marrow into high gear to produce white blood cells, and because they were so low, she really needed to get that shot).

Unfortunately, her numbers were so bad, her platelet count was extremely low, red and white cells very low, that it was dangerous for her to be out in public even.  So, they gave her the Neulasta shot, which is actually administered by a tiny robot module stuck to her arm.  It is loaded, armed and placed, then sticks a person with a small needle, to inject the drug 27 hours after the chemo is completed.  So, we have to monitor the device for beeps, lights and infusion.  When it is completed it was my job to remove the robot.

Her blood cell numbers began to look better, but her platelet count continued to spiral downward and would not recover.  We were very concerned.

Platelets, for those who are not well versed in medicine are required for clotting your blood.  So a small cut can bleed profusely, and a larger would could become fatal in moments.  You need to get the platelets back up to a normal number.

We watched the numbers, as she had tests weekly now, so another drive to the hospital, 45 miles round trip sometimes twice per week, we were at the hospital.

On Session Number Four, things start to appear normal.  We went in and her infusion went well.  She did not receive her Neulasta shot yet, as they wished to do the Day Eight Gemzar infusion.  She did get red blood cells.  We did that eight days later, on a Wednesday.  On Thursday we went in for blood work and she wound up receiving platelets as those numbers were still extremely low.  They gave her two units and then checked.  Then gave her two more.

Earlier that morning she had noticed a small blemish on her face.  It had gotten larger.  Then we noticed numerous small, red dots, resembling measles on her arms and legs.  We showed the nurses who then became very concerned.

At five PM, when we should have been out the door on the way home, her doctor ordered her admitted to the hospital.  She was “Neutropenic“.  This is a condition that results in low blood cell counts.  Her platelets were practically missing, and a hematologist was called in.

She was put on bed confinement because if she fell or was bruised in any way, should could hemorrhage.  The lack of white cells may have resulted in sepsis and could have killed her.  She was in danger.

Four days in the hospital later, they had given her some drug to prevent her body from killing off the blood cells they were giving her.  Apparently, her “Super Power” is killing foreign matter inside her own body.  Except cancer.  Her immune system was killing off the platelets they were giving her.  They had to give her red cells and platelets once they stopped the body from killing it off.

In a couple of days she was feeling better, color had returned, the spots were gone and she was ready to go home.

The Gemzar was the culprit.  They stopped giving that to her altogether, and stuck with the carboplatium.

Session Five and Session Six went without a hitch, other than lowered blood cell counts, and receiving the Neulasta shot on time 27 hours after each chemo session.

Three weeks to the day after the last chemo, like our regular clock-work schedule, we visited the hospital for a blood draw.  Fourty minutes later, we were in the PET scan area.  The numbers were back in 20 minutes.  All great.  Everything back to normal.  Except her red blood cells.  We think she is a bit anemic from all of the chemicals and she’s working to fix this with diet, supplements, and so on.  Tomorrow, on Friday, we’d get the PET scan results.

On Friday… we saw the doctor himself.  He was stern.  He didn’t smile.

Then he said, “Well, the PET scan results came back.  We see absolutely no sign of the cancer.  The nodule on your lung is just gone.  The other area isn’t light up.  We DID see some cells around your lung, but, they are not lighting up as if they are cancer.  It looks very good.”

JoAnne and I high-fived.

Wednesday the following week we were packed and were headed out.  First stop was going to be Omaha area, to visit our son Jeremy, who had moved up there and was working.  The car was completely packed and we sneaked out to avoid waking Nick, who had graciously allowed us to stay there for the whole medical adventure.

We left the key inside, went out the garage, secured the door with the electronic system and got in the car.

I put the key in and …. absolutely nothing happened. The car was dead.

We went ahead and got some assistance from the guys, and jumped the car.  Left jumpers on for 20 minutes, and the car started right up.

We drove to Nebraska without killing the car once.  That night we stayed with friends, and the car was fine.  Started up a couple of different times.  Next day we left for Missouri, pass through all the flooded areas, but no car problems.  Checking the car that night when we arrived in Richmond, MO, I found the battery voltages were not at a normal 13.8 after running all day.

I assumed the battery had a bad cell.  I went to Walmart because, as it turns out, some engineer is sitting there getting kickbacks on battery changes in the Dodge Journey.  The battery is NOT under the hood.  It’s not in the trunk.  It’s NOT in the back seat.  It’s under the left, front fender, kind of inside the engine compartment, but to get it, you must remove the wheel, the shroud covering the inside of the fender and then reach WAY up inside to unbolt the battery holder and cables!

Ok… 4.5 hours later at Walmart, the next issue happened.  All of the mechanics except one young kid, had walked off the job leaving my car sitting on the lift, tire off, and battery not looked at.  I, needless to say, complained.

At the end of it all, I personally reinstalled the wheel, taught the kid how to drop his lift, and made sure to Quality Control check his battery installation (because, he didn’t tighten the cables, and didn’t install the bracket to hold the battery down… which might have turn the car into a dangerous missile…..)

I went in to pay for the battery, and the lady at the counter apologized and said “No charge today, Sir, have a good day”.  Just like that.  Free battery?

Cool.

Unfortunately, nothing in life is free.

On Wednesday two days ago, we left Asheville, NC en route for Southport North Carolina, about a six hour drive, give or take.

Everything went very well, except the construction, the crazy drivers and accidents scattered across the region.  JoAnne routed us down and off some of the freeways to avoid accidents.  Somewhere around 501 near Myrtle Beach and a couple of miles before the turn to highway 17, the car began making horrible noises.

Then a “battery light” came on.

Uh oh….

I pulled into a random parking lot.  I grabbed my multimeter which I am going to start carrying around on my belt like a TRUE Nerd from now on, and measured the out put of the alternator.

11.5 volts DC.  Hmm… that’s not normal.  Should be 14.6vdc or so.  Yeah, alternator is NOT charging.  Also some ‘grindy’ noise was coming from the engine.  I listened carefully, and decided it was either an idler wheel, or the tensioner, along with probably the alternator failing.

With the battery at under optium voltage, and after discovering that it would cost 200 bucks just to tow the car around the corner, and have it “diagnosed” (not fixed, just tested), I thanked the lady I’d spoken too and said, “We’re going to try to make it to the marina.  It’s only 52 miles….”

We killed all the power inside, anything charging inside was removed, radio killed, and I illegally ignored my turn signals and avoided stepping on the brakes.

This battery was brand new, and free.  I was going to drive it into the dirt.

And we did.

We arrived a few moments after 5 PM, an hour later than we thought.  At the corner of Fish Factory road and Long Beach Road, I again broke the law.  The light was red.  But, the car was freaking out.  Weird lights on the dash were coming on.  Beeps and buzzes from the dashboard I’d never heard before met our ears.  I made an illegal left turn against a red traffic light.  Of course, there were no cars, and no traffic as the bridge is still closed…. I then, for the third time that day, broke the law.

I went 10 miles an hour over the speed limit.

The car died as I backed into an open space in the lot.

The last bit of momentum took us to the curb.  The car died.  We were home.

That evening I came down, checked the boat, batteries and put the bed together.

Next morning I called the place that had worked on the car last June on the alternator (see, wasn’t the FIRST time we’d had issues). They have the car now, it was towed there yesterday afternoon at 2pm.

He called me three times this morning.

Diagnosis:

  1. Alternator shot, but under a lifetime warranty.
  2. Tensioner wheel is failing, bearings coming out

A new alternator is on order and will be installed Monday morning, along with a new tension wheel and mechanism (probably the spring).

Should have the car back by sometime Monday afternoon.  The cost will likely be 300 bucks, give or take a bit.

(That’s all labor, and perhaps a bit for the parts).

I will NOT be surprised if the brand new battery isn’t shot too.  We’ll find out soon enough.

 


Today is Friday, 5 April 2019.

Nothing in life is set in stone.  Not even those “Death and Taxes” people talk about.  You might avoid both if you’re smart, careful and even, at times, courageous.

One thing in life is certain though… if you don’t try, you can not do.  JoAnne is a tough chick.  She’s a lucky lady and she’s extremely courageous. She is my super hero.  Used to be my Dad was my “hero”.  But, after 40+ years with her, I’ve seen her face death with a smile and overcome it.  I’ve seen her pick up a margarita a few hours after chemo and say “Why not have a little fun? I deserve a margarita!”

I’ve watched her cry quietly over this awful disease. Not for herself but for, the perhaps “missed chances” at things.

I watched her face light up when she holds our newest grandchild, Lincoln, and hug the other grands, and the great-grand daughter.

I have spend sleepless nights myself worrying about her, caring for her, getting her things, bringing her coffee in bed in the mornings and just being there to hold her when she wants me to.

Life changes, but you can either accept things as they are, or you can make your own plans and make your wishes come true.

Cruising life isn’t always about pretty anchorages, great sailing days, and seeing dolphins.  Yes, those things happen.  But, so many other bloggers and video bloggers show you all the “good stuff”.  No one shows you, or tells you how much work it is to get ready for a hurricane, hoping it misses you by a long distance, and how much worry it causes you when you can’t be there to “protect your ship”.

We live our lives now around this boat and each other.  It’s not always positive.  Broken cars, engines, plumbing, leaks, hard rains, strong winds and sometimes broken facilities where you’re visiting, poor service at places (See Walmart above, there’s way more to that story than I actually told you) and even things like “uncontrolled dogs” that some cruisers bring ashore all work to dissuade a person from continuing.

We’ve been LUCKY on a lot of issues.  We’ve also probably paid out a LOT more money than we had to at times.

But, I don’t think either of us would trade this life for a sedate house on a hill in Colorado again.

The best thing?  Coming “Home” to “Welcome Home” messages from our dock friends.  Our extended family.

And to that end, this little thing goes out to Kevin, Debi, Jay, Tina, Pam and Charles – a few of that extended B Dock family.  Thank you for all of your thoughts, prayers, and looking after our boat, worry for us, staying in touch, checking my batteries in the boat (Jay), and watching over Adventure during the hurricane (Debi and Kevin).  We can’t thank you guys enough.  (By the way, I’m probably gonna need a ride to the place to pick up my car Monday… anyone? LOL)

This weekend and week coming up, I will be getting the boat ready for an extended trip.  At this point, we have Abacos and Marsh Harbor in our sights.  JoAnne, more than anyone in the world right now, deserves a break, an island, an island drink, a beach and a vacation.

I’m going to give it to her.

 

 

December 7th, 2018

Today is also Pearl Harbor Day.  I suppose it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything.  At least here.

I’ve posted on other blogs, facebook, and our FB groups, but not here.

So, here’s December’s post.

Tonight, we go see our Granddaughter, Cassie, in a play, Death of a Salesman (I think).  High School rendition, so should be interesting.

JoAnne has been through two chemotherapy sessions.  A portion of each of those two were cancelled due, mainly, to low blood cell counts.  The first session was about six hours long. The second part of that session was supposed to last an hour, and was a week after the first infusion.  Unfortunately, she was suffering suddenly from a tooth ache, which turned also into an infection… likely due to lowered white blood cell numbers.

The second session last week on a Thursday went well.  But her blood work on this Wednesday (5 December) showed her white, red blood cells and the building blocks for those things (along with other chemicals I’m not as familiar with) were at a very low level.  Thus, they cancelled the second infusion (which should have been yesterday).

They want to give her a drug, called Newlasta, which will help to regenerate white blood cells, but it takes 14 days to function, and they need to give it after the second infusion.  So, that’s become a problem.  Now, she gets one more blood draw in a week or so (next Thursday), and then a doctor’s visit on the following Monday at which time we will be asking some questions, and hopefully there will be a “new plan” to get this accomplished correctly.

The next infusion will be after the doctor’s visit.  The GOOD news in all this, is the CA-125 blood test (Cancer Antigen test) is showing a drastic reduction in count.  It went from just over 70 to 50.  Her last tests over the course of time have been, June 2017 the CA-125 was 21, and a year later, this past June was 50.  This caused concern with us and the doctors.  In August it shot up to the mid-60s, and therefore the PET scan was ordered.

The PET scan showed not one, but TWO areas of concern.  An area somewhere between her liver and kidneys and a node on her left lung.

The next CA-125 tests were 68 and then 71 in September and October respectively.  (I might be off on the dates, exactly, but you get the gist of it).

In between all of this (September to Present), we’ve made three trips across country, back and forth, ran from a hurricane, visited Florida and came back to Colorado, where the chemo has commenced.

Two sessions are through, with some complications, but still plugging along.  We’re still very much alive, and still “Adventuring” when we can.

20 December should be our “half way point” on Chemo.  Meaning she is starting the third session.  Whether or not we get some stuff tacked on at the end, we’re not sure yet, but we’re going to be checking on that when the doctor’s visit comes to pass.  That will, if things go well, give us 3 more sessions or nine more weeks with chemo in those nine weeks, healing and doctor’s visits, blood work and dozens of miles on the car back and forth to the hospitals.

In the mean time, we miss our ship, Adventure, very much and find ourselves wishing for the house to rock us to sleep at night.  Instead, we have cold, snow on occasion, next door neighbors who can be loud (in the middle of the night for some reason….) hundreds of people everywhere, and us trying to avoid germs. HA!

Tonight, as I mentioned, we’re going to a HS play, where we will likely be exposed to a lot of germs again, because people always cough, sneeze and aren’t the cleanest of creatures.  JoAnne will bring a mask just in case, but hopefully won’t have to use it.  Not, that we honest believe that a mask is going to actually STOP germs from getting into your system anyway.  Doesn’t seem to help at hospitals where there are super bugs…

In the mean time, she’s been crocheting, reading and helping run the various Sailing and Cruising forums she is Admin on, and I’ve been re-learning Morse Code (I’m very rusty at it), and have built two radios to work on Ham Radio frequencies (20 and 40 meters) but haven’t an antenna to connect, and I’ve also been writing a complete role play game campaign for “Stars Without Number” ( a role playing game, set in the milled of the year 3200, in space for some friends in the Southport area).  All of this to “keep busy”.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really have room, nor the time, to grab my charts and sit down and work out courses for the Bahamas and beyond, but I figure it’s likely better to do that just before we go.  At this point, we’ve decided that if we can get back in late March, we will plan a trip down to Bahamas for the Spring, and head back before Hurricane Season hits… and we have a couple of friends who want to go along, who are both sailors.  It will help immensely to get us all there safely, and through that big hurdle of “several days of sailing”, so we can head home on our own when the time comes.

Last thing, I’m personally working on is my Celestial Navigation again.  I really want to grasp that stuff.  I think I’ve mostly got it, but now, I really need to practice it.

That is all for now, friends.  Until next time, Fair Winds!

 

 

Cruising, without going anywhere

I suppose the idea of cruising in a sailboat (or any boat for that matter) entails travel, seeing new places, meeting new people, having new experiences and generally involves the movement of your boat.

As JoAnne and I have discovered though, cruising the world at a SLOWER pace than most, we find that we make friends easily and tend to keep them, and we don’t have to move too much to do so.

Over the past three years we’ve traveled a lot, both by car and boat.  We’ve been to places we’d never been together, made a lot of new friends, and found places we really enjoyed being… including Southport, NC.  When we landed here, we thought we’d be moving further south as soon as possible, and that never happened due to a variety of problems.  Everything from medical issues in our family, including my youngest brother, to engine issues, car problems and general circumstances conspired to keep us tied to, and in South Harbour Village Marina.

We’ve become so accustomed to being here, that when we were requested to leave the really nice slip we were in (due to the private owner selling it out to someone else) we felt like we were being evicted.  We moved only a few slips down and remained on B-Dock where many of our friends live on their own boats.  We even have a B-Dock group on Facebook for all of us to post things and to help one another if necessary.

Over the past year and a half here, I’ve worked for the marina.  There were three reasons I took the job.  The first reason was because I needed to take up some of my time, the second for the fun of it, and the third was for a little beer money or to offset the cost of the slip.   The last doesn’t really do both, but, it’s sufficient I suppose.  I left a job that paid me over 5 times what I make a dock hand here at the marina (including tips), so if I wanted a job that made a lot of money, I might have found something different.  Mostly, this was for fun (and I even explained to the Dockmaster, “When this is no longer fun, I quit!) and it has been a lot of fun.  But it’s really not my life, nor my lifestyle, nor is it something I will continue to do.

I don’t feel like I want to “die at work”.  The truth is, I think we’ve heard Mother Ocean calling to us again.

We do have a deadline too.  JoAnne has been cancer-free since August of 2014.  We bought Adventure in January 2015, one year after her diagnosis.  She spent months going in every three weeks to chemo, then the following Sunday morning to get a shot to help her white blood cells regenerate.  She worked through all of it, albeit, with a few less hours than was normal.

She found this boat in November of 2014 after she was declared cancer-free.  We did the survey, and eventually I wound up having my own medical issues after buying the boat.  We still managed to beat mortality for a bit longer, and got to the boat, moved aboard and starting moving the boat south.

We spend long periods of time in places that we like, moving around only when necessary or when we truly HAVE to sail.  We like it here, but again, we both need more, and to move on.  And we’re not getting younger.  In fact, JoAnne is seeing a rise in her blood work numbers about cancer.

Over the past few months, since June, her CA-125 blood test has been coming back elevated.  It spiked, and in fact, doubled since last year’s test.  The oncologist ordered a CT scan, and found nothing.  Other tests have been performed, all showing “no problems”.

Right now we are working with local doctors, and they with Colorado doctors to set up a PET scan to determine if there is a recurrence of cancer.  We will have three choices then….

  1. We go back to Colorado if there IS a recurrence and go through whatever necessary treatment is available, designed to combat this hateful disease.
  2. We take crap off the boat we don’t need, put food and water aboard that we do, and we set sail for the Bahamas.
  3. If the “recurrence” isn’t great and it’s not time for chemo or other treatment, we still go (and this is what’s really up in the air at this time).

What we don’t know is how long we get to go for, how long treatments take (we can guess of course), or the outcome of such treatments.  We don’t know the outcome of the PET scan, since it hasn’t been accomplished as of yet.

So, we’re hanging in Limbo right now, waiting for doctors and hospitals to arrange things and get going on this, get it done and let us know the situation.

Right now, I’m ready to quit my job to be here until she gets her medical tests done, so I’m always available for her.  But, I don’t think I’ll do that yet.  We also know she’s in good health, and good spirits, and has no issues at all, so we’re at the point of thinking this may be the place here blood work is going to “settle down” and stable for now.  At least that’s my hope.

No matter what happens in the next few weeks, we will be making our trip to the Bahamas somehow.  We prefer it to be IN our boat, under our own power, without the help of airplanes, or cars, but we don’t know yet.  We also want to go back to the British Virgin Islands, again, in this boat rather than by plane.  It’s going to happen, it’s only a matter of when.

I have a few things to do with the boat, nothing at all critical.  She’s ready to go now, with the exception that I have a slight exhaust leak in the manifold, which probably is a relatively easy fix I think (gaskets most likely) and I want to work on a water maker system I have purchased, but haven’t even unboxed it yet.  We can likely get away without using it, but, I’d like it on the boat for “just in case” at this point.

Other than that, a simple clean sweep of the boat, stowing things, and getting the deck mostly cleared is all we really have left to do to get out on a long voyage.  We can leave here in minutes if necessary, though somewhat unprepared for a long trip, but short hops maybe.  We’ve hesitated on starting provisioning again, due to the above medical issues keeping us waiting.

I guess, in a way, long term cruising or “extended cruisers” have to make a lot of compromises about everything from readiness to weather, to their abilities to medical problems.  We are, I suppose not what some would call “cruisers” because we’re not constantly moving with the boat, but we are in so many other ways.

This town has captured our hearts.  We love it here, so even if we run down the coast, or down Island we will be returning here, no matter what.

I hope all our friends, family, fans and followers will keep JoAnne in their prayers and thoughts for good a good medical report.  Thank you all for reading.

Fair Winds and Following Seas,

Rick

Sad News from a friend

Bear with me a moment, because I have to introduce why I am posting.

I’ve been searching for information about the boat we own, called “Adventure”.

She has had three names I’ve been able to find through USCG Documentation, and owned by three people according to the USCG.  Or course, this presupposes the boat has been Documented all along, and I suspect that this might not be true.

The first owner I can determine is James A. Mallon, and the boat appears to have been named “BESHERT”.    I guess technically, it means “Preordained” or “Inevitable” really, and there are explanations having to do with “Soulmates” associated with the word “Beshert”. Since I don’t speak Yiddish, this might be all wrong, but, to me, it’s close enough and probably meant that to that owner.  I can find little information on Mr. Mallon (except that he may have been a CEO for a large banking institution).

The next owner purchased the boat with the name “DUNA”… which, honestly none of us have an idea what it means exactly.  Mr. Richard Stapleton was the previous owner before us, and is the real reason I am writing today.  Mr. Stapleton retired from the US Government, as I did, a few years back, and had to sell the boat, he said, due to knee replacement surgery.  He felt unsteady doing things on the boat after said surgery.

Dick Stapleton sold us the boat knowing we were planning to eventually be “World Cruisers” and we’ve honestly worked toward that goal, but have thus far been only “Coastal Cruisers”.  Over the course of the next two years and a couple thousand miles we’ve moved the boat up and down the East Coast of the United States, exploring the Chesapeake, and Delaware Bays, Potomac River and managed to make it to Cape Fear North Carolina.  A little short of the original goal.  That goal remains, and we have decided it will happen, starting with Bahamas this season.

Two years ago, our friend and the previous owner of Adventure (Formerly Duna) began a battle with cancer, not unlike my wife’s own fight.  A few days ago he posted that he had made the decision to give up the treatments.  Here is his letter in full.  (Note:  I’ve asked for permission to reprint it, but there has been no response yet, but, that’s understandable, and since it is posted on FB mostly in public,  I’m going to put it into the blog anyway as it is important to us all.)

 

Dear friends,

A little over 2 ½ years ago, I wrote to update you on the progress in my fight against cancer, and a few of the many ways in which Andrea and I have taken advantage of the weeks and months of life – well enjoyed. I must write to you today to say that that battle is nearing its end.

We made the decision to stop treatment last week. My body is telling me it’s tired, it’s time to rest. I began in-home hospice care this week and for the first time in years, I won’t have to go to a doctor appt. or hospital visit every day. It’s time to relax.

When I initially wrote, one year into that journey, I expressed my appreciation for knowing there was an end date as it let us reset priorities; less about getting the car washed and getting to Costco and more about shared experiences like travel, time with friends and family and visits to smell the roses at the New York Botanical Garden.

With Andrea’s unflagging support (itself a full-time job) and Hackensack’s wonderful care and experience, I reach the end of this journey with my bucket lists overflowing. Whether through work or shared interests, you have all touched me in some way and enriched my life.

Thank you, my dear friends, for being a part of this wonderful life.

I welcome emails or FB messages, and Andrea will make sure I see them all. I may not respond personally but please know I appreciate the love and support I’ve already received.

-Dick

With a heavy heart, I post this… While I did not know Mr. Stapleton well, I knew him well enough. He was, like me, a person who dedicated a good portion of his life to this Great Country, and was a sailor, like myself and my wife, JoAnne.  Our paths never crossed in our respective jobs, but, I certainly know of his dedication in his position with the Department in which he worked.

Through Adventure, the ship he sold us, I continue to learn more about the heart of others.

For JoAnne and I, the future is blurry, no one knows what is coming tomorrow or the next day, usually.  But, we intend to do our best with what we’re given.

Jimmy Buffett said it best;

“Let those winds of time blow over my head,
I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.”

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Richard Stapleton.  I salute you, Sir.

The Next Adventure

Life to us, is an Adventure.  From deciding to go to islands for a week or two, to climbing around in the Grand Canyon, to exploration of Yellowstone.  We’ve traveled back and forth across this great land of ours, and around the world a few times to get to distant locations.

Thus, choosing a life of “cruising aboard a sailboat” wasn’t too difficult of a decision, except that we didn’t really KNOW people did such things until we were trying to figure out what we wanted to do when we “retired”.

Becoming “retired” became an adventure, just getting there.  Getting enough money put away for a few years of cruising (which has rapidly been eaten up by everything from boat issues to medical issues, and just getting health insurance – which took well over a quarter of what we had put away initially) was an adventure.

Since we started this part of our lives, we’ve been back and forth across the US from Colorado to the East Coast, Northern States, almost ALL the Southern States and all up and down the East Coast to as far north as MD and DE.  Haven’t made it to Maine (again for me) yet, but it’s on the list.

Today we completed one of the logistic nightmares that every cruiser goes through from time to time.  Provisioning for a long distance journey, to help us be free of having to do a lot of grocery shopping.  JoAnne and I argued a bit about “how much”.  We decided finally upon a “three month supply” of dry goods and canned foods to give us the chance to travel and not worry so much about finding anchorages where we could find stores.  She’s planning to bake bread, make soups, and I’m planning to catch fish.

One of the things I need to do is finish putting things BACK together in the forward compartment.  We had it all set up and arranged, but we had to move stuff around again, and I have tools out again, etc.  So, once that is done tomorrow we can depart any time.  I want to make sure we’re watered, oil and fluid levels checked and motor out of the marina, raise the sails and head out to the Atlantic.

I had to deal with insurance issues the last few days as well; trying to get information is sometimes difficult. Our insurance expires in December, and I wanted to make sure it’s going to get renewed on time and had to send multiple emails to get anyone to finally respond with the answers I sought.  I am not sure why I have “boat insurance” on this old boat, but, it is our home and that’s the only reason I can think of offhand.  A lot of people believe you should have it, as many believe it’s ridiculous.  I’m in the “ridiculous” camp.

Medical is the same way.  Expensive, unhelpful, and it sucks your bank accounts dry.  But, we have it because she wants it (she had cancer, so far, she doesn’t and it hasn’t reoccurred).

But – the real “Adventure” starts in a day or so when we can pull out of the marina again, with a clean bottom oil changes, new charts in the plotter, and my paper charts and plotting equipment with me in the cockpit.  Yeah, I use paper.  Yeah, I use the plotter to give me a good idea of where I was, and where I am going, but not so much to guide me through life, or the sea.

I do have my sextant, and will get a few chances to practice again.  It’s been a long while since I pulled it out and I’m going to have to refresh my memory on how to take a noon sight again.

And the best part is… I am NOT going to starve.

JoAnne has plenty of food aboard.  Including my precious peanut butter.  Who needs bread when you have a spoon?

Weather is supposed to be nice the next few days, albeit, chilly in the evenings.  Winds are light and variable the next few days.  I’m looking for 12-15 knots to use to get me south.

And we’re sailing.  I’ll power the engine up to get us out of here and maybe through the Cape Fear river inlet, but the sails are going up as soon as possible and the engine is going off for as long as I can keep it off.  We’ll take turns on shifts and we’ll try to get a few good hours of sleep each day, on opposite shifts.

This will be our first multiday passage, so we’re going to go for 24 hours testing ourselves and if that works out, another 24, then another, until we arrive at a nice destination.

For our friends who’ve given up on us going back out, I will say…y’all ain’t seen nothing yet.

 

Fair Winds!

 

Time to Go! Last Minute Things

Last minute things….

Check on Boat Insurance (Check).  Get provisions (Working). Do oil change (Scheduled). Check on SeaTow membership (until 11 November good).  Add Water.  Add fuel if needed. Wonder what we forgot.

That’s just a small list there.  A lot of other things have happened in the past two weeks since returning to the ship.  Those things included putting sails back up, and unstrapping the in-mast sails from the mast (hurricane preps before we left of course).  Cleaning out items we really don’t need on the boat.

Speaking of that, I was at the storage locker yesterday. Holy cow.  Where did ALL that crap come from?  Why do we have all that crap?  This isn’t a house, it’s a boat.  I don’t have a garage.  I did pay for a storage locker for a full year.  That will give us time to get rid of everything in that locker we decided we truly didn’t need, or at least the big, bulky, heavy items and things that won’t fix or repair the boat.

We ordered a few things too and await their arrival (today or tomorrow I believe).  New bathing suit for JoAnne, some scrabble pieces (as we’re missing a few in our ancient set) and some other items for the boat.  I decided to have someone else do this oil change for me, so I can be sure it’s right this time.  Turns out we were given bad advice about certain oils to use, by a certain mechanic.  The weight of the oil is apparently too high for this engine and causes significant blow by.

I found that the proper oil will NOT make it smoke as much.  We will find that out later today.  I’m not a mechanic, but I do understand the physics of engines like this, and I gather that we’ve had the wrong oil in here since we had the first oil change accomplished.  The other reason for letting someone else do it, is that I do not have the container/pump assembly I need to pull it out, and no real storage space for one if I did.  So, we’ve filled most of our areas with important things like spare parts, some tools, the clothing we need and food.  We should be self-sufficient for roughly three months once we depart, needing only occasional watering.

We will try to do rain catchment and see how that goes.  I’ve tested it at the docks and in theory, and practice it works well.  However, doing so under sail might be a bit problematic.  We will see.

Today I saw on Facebook that it has been exactly Two Years ago since we found ourselves somewhat “stuck” in Norfolk, VA, in a place that we didn’t want to be, and nothing but bad things happened there.  We made friends, and somehow managed to upset some of them over one of my postings on the blog.  I’m not going to reopen wounds, other than to say, two years later, I stand by my original posts on the blog here.  Friends or no friends, one person’s experience may be different from another’s, and my purpose here is not to blow rainbows and BS up people’s butts, but to tell what we personally go through.

Everyone’s mileage WILL vary.  That said, onward.

We’ve set a tentative date of 1 November to pull out, but of course, that will be based on the weather.

We’ve also NOT set our exact course, or chosen the path to take us to the Bahamas.  I did originally plan to sail out of Cape Fear, cross the Gulf Stream and head south to Marsh Harbor, but there is some trepidation on both our parts for doing this.  We’ve not done a multiday crossing yet, and perhaps this is too much until we get in the swing of things.

So, instead, we will probably take a tack southward and stay well off shore for a few days, but close enough to run back in if we get too tired, or have issues.  Boat issues are the one thing that constantly have plagued us, and while we can abandon ship in an emergency and have an EPIRB, radios, emergency ditch bag, and things to keep us alive while rescued, this is NOT how anyone wants to spend their evening, morning, or night.  Instead, we want a lazy sail to the Bahamas, and therefore we’re going to endeavor to do so.  This means we WILL still do a multi-day crossing, but not too far away from being able to get to land if required.  I trust the boat and most of the systems, but I don’t trust the sea and the magic it works on everything.  Like breaking things when you least expect it.

Things break even if you inspect them.  Even if they are brand new.  Sometimes things you expect to break never break.  I’ve come to the conclusion that you can engineer the perfect vessel, at whatever the cost, and eventually, something is going to fail when it ought to have lived a full, healthy life of sixty more years.  Therefore, I trust the boat to float, and me to keep checking on things.  And to be prudent.

Once we get our minds wrapped around multi-day travel off shore, we’ll change the way we do things, but small, baby steps I guess are best.

The best part?  I do NOT have to RUSH myself in a straight line, against the wind on the nose to attempt to beat darkness to drop an anchor to be safe.  I can be safe right on my own vessel, moving however slowly in the general direction I wish to go, without running a motor, creating smelly fumes, heating up everything, and spending money on fuel.

I’m rather looking forward to a successful, stress-less, sailing excursion.

We have wracked our brains on how to keep dry good, well, dry.  Salt, sugar, flour, corn meal.  Plastic baggies work mostly, but salt is still killing us.  Our friend Mike, in Missouri showed us a handheld device from Walmart that sucks the air out of bags (special bags) and I just got a brilliant idea to try it with containers.  We need something to hold the amount of sugar, flour and such we use on a daily basis so we’re not constantly unpacking everything, taking what we need, resealing everything away under seats and in compartments.

So, we might try that. I’m sure others have come up with methods for combating humidity, but we’re still figuring things out.  Remember, we lived at elevation and in very dry, desert climates for the past quarter century.  Colorado rarely has issues with salt chunking up in the shaker.  Not so, on the coast.

JoAnne will be starting her “provisioning run” in the next day or so.  Everything else is pretty much done (except of course, the Vee Berth is full of loose items again, as I have been working on the boat here and there, have tools out again, and cushions, etc)

Last week, Friday, I removed all of the enclosure from the cockpit, except the dodger, and the upper Isenglas. I want to be able to climb in and out more easily, and of course, there’s that vision thing – being able to see all the way around me at night is helpful, if not critical.  The old Isenglas is in dire need of replacement but I can’t really justify the cost of it.    There are a lot of things that should be “replaced” but none are critical to the operation of the boat.  Except one.  The furling line on the mains’l.  That, I will replace when it needs repair.  I have the line to do it, but I’m not going to pull the sail out, drop the main, unroll everything, reroll everything, and put it all back the way it was before I started. It’s about a ten hour job.

At some point, the furling line will need replacing, and that’s when I will finally drop the main (like a regular main sail, instead of furling) and replace the halyard, the furler and do a few other minor jobs all at once.  Even at sea.  Shouldn’t be much of an issue.  Except storms.  I have no plans to have battles with Mother Nature.  She will win.  I have two other sails I can have up anyway.  So, I’ll leave it at that.

We have gone over things verbally, and on our various lists and I believe now we’re ready.  After the oil change, I’m considering taking the boat out. There’s a race this weekend.  I’m not much a racer, but it’s the Stede Bonnet Race.  I don’t believe we will win anything, and I seriously doubt we will be able to move the boat in the light winds being predicted, but what the heck?  It’s a ketch named Adventure, so why not?

Not sure we want to mess with it though.  We will see.

Today is the 24th of October.  The first is 7 days hence.  Winds are predicted to be (at this time) light, variable, out of the North and Northwest (1-8 knots) and swell from the SW at less than 3′.  A very CALM day for moving, but probably too light to move US.  If we choose that day to depart, we might make more headway in the ICW and head for Little River.

Final decision will be made much closer to the day of departure and when weather predictions are more accurate.

 

Until next entry, Fair Winds to All!

 

Bahamas Bound

We’re watching the weather now, looking for a window.  However, the boat isn’t quite ready.  We’re decluttering our cabins, removing extra things that won’t be required for a trip.  We want to lighten our load of junk (How in the HELL do you collect junk on a boat??? I think most of the stuff I’ve taken off isn’t really necessary for the boat, just conveniences we use day to day.)

A trip to Colorado last month was to visit my doctor and renew my Blood Pressure prescriptions.  After the heart attack and open heart surgery a couple of years ago, no more chances.  We also got to visit our new, baby Great Grand Daughter!  She is beautiful and her parents are good kids. I hope they do well in life and raise that baby well.

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Two proud Great Grandmothers meeting Chloe

Back at the boat we started the work to reverse all we did for the hurricane watches, putting sails back up, untying all the things we tied down, strapping down things that we don’t want moving about, and removing a few other things from the boat like some of our winter clothing we won’t be needing much in the south.

I hope to have all the little chores done by Wednesday or Thursday this week, and JoAnne will be doing some grocery shopping while I finish up engine work (cleaning, tightening, checking fluid levels etc) and make sure all the rigging is good.  So far, so good.

The primary plan is to head for Marsh Harbor, Abacos and range in and out of that area to see things.  We may take some time to go down the coast too though, and we’re planning at least one “shake down” cruise before we set out into the ocean again.

That’s all for now.  More to follow later.

Travel Planning

We’re planning our first major trip right now.

I’m a world traveler, and always have had to do trip planning, logistics, coordination with others, set up hotels, rental cars, quantities of equipment and many other things for entire teams of personnel traveling to other cities, states and countries.

Somehow it seems that the devil is in the details though when it comes to boats.

Safety is the very first, most important, and critical priority so most things have to be considered there first.  But there are so many other things to take into account for a trip involving multiple days at sea – something we’ve not yet done – that I’m getting lost in the planning. (Not really, but it is certainly different when you’re doing all the planning and a lot of the physical labor involved too.)

We are still working on the interior of the boat, to include removing all the extraneous things we THOUGHT we needed, but haven’t used in a year (or two, in some cases).  I never wanted to have to be able to store anything in a storage locker and yet, we rented one for a full year a few days ago.

I’m starting to move things over to it (a car load of larger items that have absolutely no use on the boat under way were moved yesterday).  Today, I’ll be removing everything from the V-berth and beginning a paint job inside.  I want to clean and paint the forward cabin for visitors who may come to stay with us along the trip in the Bahamas.  It will also afford me the opportunity to put my hands on each and every item in the forward cabin and call out “Yep, nope, throw it out”.  lol – to myself anyway.

I do need to go through the through-hulls again, look each one over, and ensure they are good to go, no danger of anything breaking, sticking or being no use when you need it most.  I’ll start in the front.  The paint is to make things “cleaner” and easy to wipe down inside.  Some areas have never had a coat of paint, and some have only a simple primer coat.  Some have nothing (down inside the bow for instance).  Not sure how well I can paint in there, but we shall see.

I have one more fan to install in the forward cabin if I can.  It only takes a few moments, but, it’s a pain with all the stuff in there right now, so it’s not been done.

Once the area is painted and dried, I can move the cushions back, and we can store a few things in there like our extra beer and soda we’re going to provision, paper products (paper towels, toilet paper) and a few small items (a tool bag).

JoAnne hopes to pare down our clothing to necessities and a few nice things, a couple of items for cold weather (*we hope to be leaving before it gets horribly cold in January!) and she’s going to be collecting and going through our clothing, removing unserviceable items and we’re replace as required.  There are two lockers in the middle cabin that bug me.  I have some electronic parts in them which I probably don’t need on the boat for the trip but do not wish to throw out or give away.  I’ll be collecting things together and storing them ashore.  That SHOULD give me a couple of places to store more food for this trip. (Canned food for veggies and things that spoil easily).

I have already looked at our trip and planned a course or two for Abacos.  We have a couple of contingency plans, so that if something goes wrong, we can turn and head back to the States and get into a bay someplace to do repairs or whatever.  But, basically, this should be a pretty straight shot right to the Bahamas from Cape Fear.  About 415 nm from here, straight line distance of course, without tacking much.  If the weather window is right, we ought to be on a pretty good tack anyway all the way down.  I’m still trying to work out the weather patterns for October though.

We are starting to make sure all our required paperwork is in order, I have to renew my insurance about October time frame, I need to make sure we have no outstanding bills, our slip is taken care of for us, and our car is ok to be left alone for a few months.

This is, if all works out, a six month trip to the Bahamas and perhaps the Florida Keys and then back here.  This will be our first major multiday trip.  Neither of us have done it before, but we think we’re mostly ready.  Time will tell.

 

 

Cabin Top Painting and other projects

Since we’ve owned Adventure she has needed a paint job.  We had the bottom done in NY when we got her, and she’s probably in need of a true bottom job soon, but we’ll wait until next year to do it.

But the top… the deck, the sides of the cabin walls, bow sprit and a few other areas have been in desperate need of help.  I cleaned the boat about once every two weeks, and she was dull, the white ‘wiping off’ on my hands, feet, legs or knees as I’d touch or crawl around her.

Last year, the bow sprit was in evil shape, messy with a mildew that ran the length of the sprit, some areas of wood showing through.  After testing the sprit for integrity (and after hearing one of the sister ships had a rotten sprit) I decided to clean and paint the bow sprit.  I did a bunch of research on paint and found everyone recommending this or that, at the cost of hundreds of dollars a gallon.  I lived in a house I owned for 25 years and successfully used all sorts of paints on the outside of the house, and interior as well.

Certainly, something in these magical marine paints must be made of gold I thought.

Turns out many are a type of oil based paint, and some are epoxy based.  The two part paints usually go on the bottom.  Thus, I will reserve judgement on those for now.

After a year the paint I used on the bow sprit still looks great.  It was simply an oil based exterior house paint and it has held up well to smashing waves, a few dozen rain storms and the sun beating down on it day in and day out, cold and heat as well as ice a few times have assaulted it.  Yet, it still looks great.

Now, the top side of this boat is wooden, with a very thin coating of fiberglass and gelcoat.  Which, as I pointed out, was well gone from a wax job.  I thought to wax the boat, but there are some extremely thin areas along one side where something has rubbed it down to wood.  I decided to try the same oil based exterior house paint on the cabintop.  Instead of going with a messy mixing job, I opted for a simple, oil based, gloss white.

After thoroughly washing the boat’s top, and cleaning off some mildew that was laying in wait on the dark side of the boat (North side as we sit in our slip) and making sure it was very clean, I found no spots that needed sanding, because, frankly the boat is weather worn on top.

Next I taped off my grab rails, rigging parts mounted to the deck top, hatches, portlights and the edges of the non-skid (which is a light tan color).

I thinned the paint slightly and rolled it on in all the large surface areas, and went back over with a brush in the difficult-to-reach places, around hardware, wooden grab rails and mast steps.

The boat… looks amazing now, compared to what she did look like.  I’m considering a second coat, but a single cover should be sufficient.  I will now wait and see how well this wears.

I need to do a couple of repairs along the port side in the non-skid deck surface and one large chunk of “missing” fiberglass on the starboard side.  There’s a divot about an inch by inch-and-a-half that was dug out of the deck by something (not sure what, when or how it happened) and I need to fill that again.  Been hesitant to do so with the rain, heat and humidity though.  Once I get that figured out, I’ll likely do the deck surface in some new, non-skid.  Not sure when I will do it though.

Other Projects:

After looking at a lot of options, I’ve done some power calculations and decided we can get by for this cruising season to the Bahamas with two solar panels.  But, I want four to give us the right amount of power.  Unfortunately, there is no place to mount them.

I contacted a local “tower builder” here in town.  He has a good reputation and has been recommend by more than one person.  Unfortunately, we’re running out of time to get it accomplished this year.  It won’t be cheap work either, I don’t think.  But, perhaps I can put something together.

The idea is to move my two solar panels to a rig on the davits and add two more, for a total of 640 watts of solar power, as well as put a mounting post for a wind generator off the back of the rig, out of the way of the mizzen boom.  After speaking to him, he said he could accomplish anything.  But, he’s going through some medical issues.  This week, he had a stroke.  So, I am not sure he will be able to do any work this year now.   If he can, great.  If not, I will hunt for someone else, or I will work out some kind of temporary rig to move the panels off the bimini.

Bimini:

It is really, really old and needs replacement.  Plus, I’ve punctured it with holes for the brackets for the solar panels.  Which means I either repair or replace it if I move the panels.  I’d really like a new one up there to be honest.  Maybe a white one to keep the sun off our heads.

Wind Generator:

It’s on the list.  A 550 Watt generator will, along with 640 watts of solar be plenty to keep the batteries topped off, and we could even add a few things after that, like a….

Water Maker:  

We’re looking at the Rainman Water Maker, the DC version.  They sell three versions, all portable, don’t have to be mounted anywhere, and perfect for what we want to do.  They produce enough water to keep our tanks topped off in most areas, as long as we have the energy available to run it.

Butterfly Hatch:

The big, butterfly hatch in the center of the main cabin is a beautiful thing.  We can set up an air scoop to bring air down below, open it up for air, uncover it for light.  But, it’s ugly in another way.  It is now, except for some grab rails, the only piece I have not worked on and varnished.  I need to take it apart to do the work though, removing the metal, the hinges, doors and sanding it down first.  It is dire need of a makeover.  That might happen in the next week if I can find a few nice days to get the sanding accomplished.

Last words:

I have to go through the engine, and I need to order some spare parts (for a toilet for instance) and a few minor things, but otherwise we’re ready to “go” soon.

We have too much stuff though on the boat.  We’ve been slowing removing extra junk from the boat, but I sincerely do not want to get rid of it. There are spare nuts, bolts, screws, washers and a lot of other things I want to keep, but really don’t require them on the boat right now.  So, we’re considering a cheap storage locker where we can remove some weight, store those items in a safe, dry location and have access to them when we return in the spring.

It will clear out our Vee Berth, giving us room for some traveling companions if necessary, and a place to sleep for visitors.   In roughly six to nine weeks, depending on the weather, we’re planning to head for Bahamas.  The trip out will take a few days and we will sail outside away from shore and down to Marsh Harbor area.  We’ll tell you more on that as the plan coalesces.

Storms

Over the past three or four days we have had some large, wicked storm cells move through the area.  I had just emptied the dinghy of rain water yesterday morning and helped our friend Jay of Knot Working off the dock for his trip south.  (Jay ended up coming back a few hours later due to some rigging issues, a lazy jack that got lazy and a stack pack that, well… wouldn’t stack.)

Mean time, the water was pumped out using a small bilge pump I keep around, attached to a solar panel.  Doesn’t a quick job for me, at 800 gallons per hour, it will empty the dinghy quickly.

The rain hit hard yesterday between 4 and 5 pm and it was… to say the least a HEAVY downpour.

Fortunately, I’ve repaired a lot of the little leaks and have now placed new paint on the deck and topsides of the cabin.  It needed it badly.  There was no wax left, and if you touched the surface the white would rub off onto your hands.  I think the pain helped to bead the water up and roll it off the sides now.

So this morning I wake up to this little image:

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Not nice, but perhaps not bad, yet.

Harvey, the red X on the lower left is already a “remnant” of a hurricane.  Disturbance 2 (Invest 92) is on the center and aiming at Bahamas.  Disturbance 3 is headed towards Bermuda.

Harvey has a chance to restrengthen in the new few hours and regain it’s notoriety as a tropical cyclone once again.

The other two each have a roughly 10% chance of cyclone formation in the next 24 hours.

I watch “Mike’s Weather Page” and NOAA, as well as the various “spaghetti models” tending to rely more heavily on the EURO model.  I also look at the US weather patterns and the fronts and highs/lows coming across along with their timing with the arrival of a storm system.  It’s not an exact science for me – since my training is mesoscale and not things like hurricanes, but I’m learning.

Below is an image of the various models and how they are coming together:

 

And this is a satellite image of the same region over the past few hours.  Obviously, it isn’t quite to the point of rotation, and if it makes landfall before that starts, it will weaken significantly and dump a lot of rain, some straight line winds and make a mess of things in the Bahamas.

So for my friends currently in the Bahamas, keep your eyes and ears open.

 

Medical Check Up time

A few days ago JoAnne and I left behind our boat, and headed for Colorado, on our way for blood work and Oncology checkups.

Across the country, we stopped in Kentucky to visit some of my relatives on my Mom’s side of the Family.  The Martins.  We ran into a lot of cousin, uncles and aunts, saw my Granny’s old house, which is still standing in the midst of chaos in the countryside.  I don’t expect the house to be there much longer as there’s a big fight over it between the family and some local doctor buying up all the land to develop it.

Long ago, that was a few acres of land that belonged to my Granny and Grandpa but it’s almost all gone now, as is the “quaintness” of the Appalachian upbringing I experienced as a child for a few years.  I used to wander in the woods down there, and cross the “New Road” (which is an OLD road now) to get the creek to fish or swim, and regularly get my butt whipped for going there. (We weren’t supposed to, but it never stopped us from going.)

Today, a Walmart stands near by, schools are bigger (and no longer a two-story brick building that I went to in 2nd and 3rd grade), town is a bit bigger, and there are housing developments around.  A lot of the old houses that were there when I was a child are gone.  The “woods” is much smaller than it used to be now, and of course, the hills are mountains to me any more after living for 25 years in Colorado – where mountains are massive, but still not as large as the Himalayas are (where I’ve visited and climbed).

In fact, the whole world has become smaller, more compact and familiar whereas Kentucky has become a less-than-familiar place for me.  But it was wonderful seeing relatives I’ve not seen in years.  I even managed to see my Uncle Rudy and Aunt Jenny (Rudy is my father’s older brother, and is at least 83 years old now).  He reminds me of my Dad in many ways.  Dad is gone now, for a few years, as is mom, so it was nice to reconnect to the rest of the family.

After the Reunion, we made our way to Colorado, stopping one night in Missouri at a dumpy hotel off the beaten path.  Then, next day into Fountain, Colorado and my son’s place.  We’ve managed to see all our children but one who is in Denver, most of the grandkids and visit with old neighbors.  The day after we arrived we went in for JoAnne’s blood work to be accomplished, and of course had issues with the doctor’s office.

They (CSHP) have decided that if you don’t see a doctor there in one year, you’re no longer a patient.  I guess that poses a problem for everyone who is healthy and sees a physician once a year for a checkup and physical.  After a bit of argument, and a request to talk to our regular doctor, they conceded the issue was theirs and wrote the paperwork out for the blood work (which had already, previously been arranged, but they didn’t appear to want to do it).  Dr. R. did the orders, and blood was drawn.  Then we had to wait a week for the oncologist to get it.

Yesterday the week was up, we appeared at the appointed time to see her Oncologist.  We saw the PA, and not the surgeon, but that was fine.

JoAnne’s numbers for her blood work were fine.  Maybe 2 points higher than last time.  Nothing significant.  No physical issues.  JoAnne got a clean bill of health from the doctor’s office, and we set up an appointment for next year.  Another milestone is past us!!

We head back shortly for our ship, after laundry, some more visiting and some celebration.

October-November time frame is our planned Bahamas departure time.  We hope to go there for 4-6 months, and then back to our slip in Cape Fear.  Lots of planning and lots of work to do before then!

Adventure awaits!

S/V Adventure Video Tour

I think I posted this before, but because it’s one of Kurt’s most watched videos, I’m going to post it again… with comments.


This video was shot by Kurt A. Seastead of s/v Lo-Kee.  He is currently doing a refit of his boat.

Adventure was purchased in January of 2015 by Rick and JoAnne Donaldson (that’s us) for a long term cruise and travel.  The boat had a few things wrong with it, but over all, she floated.  The equipment was old (and mostly still is), but it all worked.

Some of the comments on the Youtube video included comments about how “sloppy” I am. 🙂  Another comment was about how dangerous in mast furling is (or perhaps could be?) and that the person writing the comment would NEVER use it.

I’ll make a few of my own comments.

I’m currently working part time in a marina.  I’m handling boats coming through from the Caribbean and Bahamas headed north.  I count the number of in-mast furling rigs I see daily.  I see no less than 5-6 out of 7-10 sail boats.  I find it interesting that there are so many who’ve traveled oceans with these rigs so far.  I have traveled IN the ocean but not crossed it yet.  But so far, the only issues I’ve had with the rigging was having to replace all the halyards and make sure the proper maintenance was performed on the rig.

The boat came with the rigging installed.  I’m not going to undo everything just to make a couple of people happy so they can assume they are right.  The truth is, if the rig gets jammed, the sail can be lowered and treated like any other main sail.

I wonder how many people who make claims about how “bad” something is, have actually used those pieces of equipment.  I venture to say “Almost ZERO”.

As to my “sloppiness”… We had not cruised before we bought the boat, except on bare boat charters and a smaller boat in lakes using our trailer to get there.  Out of necessity we packed lightly, moved the boat and sailed, but generally for 2-3 days at a time.  We couldn’t get enough stuff on the boat to support us.  That included food and water (rather important items).

We also LIVE on this boat, full time.  We don’t have a house, don’t want to waste money on “storage units” we will never visit.  Have no place close by to store things with friends and honestly, don’t want to do so.  There is certainly only so much room on a boat.  We have spare parts for a lot of things.  We have tools to do repairs (and tools take up a lot of space, but without them, we’d be lost).  Tools also can keep me working when necessary to earn some money, because, I know how to do a LOT of jobs.

So one person’s sloppy, is another person’s “organized chaos”.

Also note that we had been on the boat LESS than three months when that video was shot.  We’d owned the boat less than a year and moved aboard in August 2015.  We were still learning how and where to store things.  It was somewhat haphazard at the beginning.

Truth is, we have gotten rid of a lot of things, BUT, we still have clutter and things we can’t yet part with, and until we can find smaller, like items to replace things we use we won’t be doing that just yet.  We have significantly reduced the weight of several items though and we now have a car at our “new marina home port” so we use it to store extra tools I won’t need when cruising.

There are things on this boat a lot of people wouldn’t want.  I’ll give you a little idea.  Composting toilet (a lot of people HATE them, but have never used one.  A lot of people swear by them. I’m still in the middle on this).  OLD electronics.  I have very old radio, doesn’t do AIS.  Broken radar, I’m not paying 2 grand for a new one.  Old, but functional chart plotter (old…. is 1990s, updated firmware for 2009 and no more support).  But it has brand new charts (days old now).   We have no microwave.  We have no freezer.  We DO have a working refrigeration unit (I repaired the ancient one and it works fine).  We have a gas generator (Honda 2000eu version) which people hate because it uses gasoline.  (A lot of people have a gas motor for their dink…../shrug).  We have a propane engine for the dinghy (hard to get propane I hear…. so far, so good, no problem with that).  We have a NEW stove and oven (ok a year or so old now) but my wife loves it.

And so on.  I’m absolutely CERTAIN that if you’ve ever been on and sailed a sailboat something in that list will make you cringe.  And some of you will think “Cool, I use one of those!”

Here’s my point, and the point of re-posting the video once more.

Everyone has their way of doing things.  We each have an idea of what we like, don’t like, and how we would do it, and how we would NOT do it.  You, me, him, her, doesn’t matter.  There are people who wouldn’t GO in a sailboat, because they are power boaters.  We have some who pick at us calling us “Blow Boaters”.  I take it as a compliment, and point out the price of fuel, and the wind is free….

We’re on this journey because my wife wanted to travel.  We think it is a neat way to see things.  We love meeting people.

We’re not on this journey to please ANYONE other than ourselves.  Perhaps that’s selfish, but after 60 years on this planet, doing everything for everyone else, I’m a little peeved at armchair sailors and snobs who nit pick everything anyone else does “because it’s not how *I* would do it”.

A few years ago, I stopped visiting Cruisers Forums, and Sail Net (and I HELPED form sail net!) because of the armchair sailors who would denigrate others for what they considered “dumb questions”.  There is a large group of people out there that are at work every day, getting up, going to work, going home, and logging into the computer – and on weekends they go out to their marina where they store their boat, they climb aboard and drink “sundowners” and wake up with hangovers.  On Monday they go back to work.  During the week they call some company to go polish their boat or wash it, and pay through the nose for the privilege of sitting on the dock on weekends drinking their Bud Lites – but during the week, they bitch and complain about all of us who actually live on the boat, go places, and make due with significantly less space than they have, no or low income, squeeze Lincoln until he screams and buy our cheap beer at the grocery store, and our liquor from the local markets.

They do this because they feel as if they are better than the rest of the cruisers out there.

I’ve yet to meet a long distance cruiser who has a perfectly clean, perfectly cared for boat, that isn’t somewhat cluttered, full of extra “stuff” they “need” (hoses, extra lines, pieces of “small stuff” – that’s bits of twine and line for those of you who might not know that), tools, the odd “silver tea service” or plastic wine goblets.

You know why?  Because they are out there doing their thing, being happy and not complaining about how the other half lives.

Kurt and I are discussing a remake at some point.  A follow up video to this one.  It will address some of the questions you all have, assuming we find the time and can connect somewhere to do it.  But, it will also be real, personal and it shows the truth.

The fact is, I write this blog on the same basis.  I tell it like it is.  Not how you want it to be.  There’s no such thing as a perfect boat, day, trip, travel, or location.  There’s rarely a perfect day of sailing (it happens, but it’s not often).  Extended cruisers sometimes pick up jobs.  They sometimes have to stop and work for a living.  Sometimes they travel and are out of contact for weeks at a time.  Sometimes they even catch fish.  Sometimes they get hurt.  Sometimes, unfortunately, they can die.

I write about everything.  Good. Bad. Ugly. Fun.  Doesn’t matter.  I enjoy writing about our Adventure(s) and what we go through.  I was beat up by a once-friend on Facebook because she disagreed about how I presented my store about a marina.  We had a ROUGH time there.  We had a lot of things go wrong.  Most of them happened when we were not even at the boat.  And yet somehow having these bad things happen and writing about them upset this lady to the point she de-friended me.  I was, in her eyes “putting down her marina”. /Shrug

As I said, I’m not here to please anyone else.

Kurt wanted to do the interview above.  It was impromptu, we had not really cleaned up the boat after having been traveling for a few weeks. The wife was off doing laundry.  I was going Kurt the tour.

So, sometimes, sloppiness is a perceived thing (mostly to OCD people who have a penchant for correcting where someone sits their coffee cup) and equipment issues are almost ALWAYS, ALWAYS based on 3rd hand, biased reporting by people who have zero personal experience with them.  I’m sure that a lack of spit and polish on the bronze pisses people off to no end. 🙂

When it all comes out in the end…. If we have a good time doing what we’re doing, why would anyone be upset?  Except for the people in Florida that don’t want over night anchoring because, well, they are armchair sailors and boaters and honestly don’t know anything about how the other half lives.  They just don’t want to see us in the waterways.

If we all had to please everyone around us, all the time the task would be to ensure everyone is happy.  And you’re not.

That is not the way to live your life, friends.

Go out and be happy.  If you’re going to sail a boat, do it.  Don’t complain about how others do it, how they live, that their equipment isn’t like yours…. be happy we’re different.

 

 

 

Working for a Living

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago about life being a Journey, not a Destination.

Hope you read it.  Because it certainly is true.

I started a job here at the marina a few days ago.  Had about 8-9 work days so far, part time.  I clean the docks, check boats, power towers, take out trash, open the “store”, close the store and a few other things, like handy-man things.  I’ve repaired the golf cart ramp a couple of times, moved oyster shells, rocks, bricks, old wood, dirt, cleaned bathrooms and collected cans for some local charity.

It’s actually… FUN!

The best part?  Cleaning bird poop off the docks.

Yep, no kidding.  I get to be outside, walk around, walk past all the boats, check lines, discover problems, fix things… but the bird poop is the BEST!

It rots wood, and looks like… ummm…. crap. LOL  It’s a crappy job, but someone has to do it!

Seriously, it’s nice being outside, and not staying inside the boat all the time.  I get to meet new people all the time as well.

We are going to stay here for a few months, head down to the Bahamas and then come back after a few months.

So, I’ll invite our cruiser friends to South Harbour Village Marina to stop in and say “Howdy” over this season.  We’re looking forward to the transients like us, passing through, headed north.  A few are still headed south at this point, but some are already passing through on the way north.

I’ll see you on the docks!!!!

Fair Winds!

Life is a Journey, Not a Destination

Extended Cruisers… that’s what we tell people now when they ask us where we live.  We get questions on where our house is (the boat).  Where do we live?  How do you cook? Where do you go to the bathroom?  Where do you shower? What do you do when you get tired of being on the boat?  One person asked us “Do you use sleeping bags every night?” Another asked us about doing laundry.  Everyone asks “Where are you going?”  Even other cruisers ask that question, including me.  We’re all curious about how everyone else deals with life I suppose.

I think all of us in the cruising world have these questions asked at one time or another and very likely as we were entering into the world of cruising, we all might have asked the same questions of others, or of ourselves.  At first, it’s fun explaining it all to people.  Eventually though, it can be tiring.  Not in a bad way, but in a way that shows you’ve answered the question a thousand times and you get the point you try to reword it more efficiently, using less words, or just simply shrugging your shoulders when you haven’t the energy to respond again.

It isn’t that the questions are stupid, inane or silly.  They want to know, and you have to tell them. So you do.

One day perhaps, I’ll write a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Cruisers to pass out to anyone asking them questions.  Or maybe not.  Because everyone is different.

Speaking of “different”.  JoAnne and I started this “journey” almost 10 years ago – actually, I don’t remember the exact date or year any more.  A lot of water has gone under the keel since we started.  For the past two years we’ve cruised “Differently” than others.

Most people pick a destination and go.  They get there as fast as possible, barring difficulties, and they stay long enough to enjoy the scenery, a pub, a beach bar, a beach, fishing, or simply meeting new people.

For two years we’ve “cruised” down the coast, running into trouble – we might call it “Adventure” but most call it trouble.

From broken engine parts, to broken engine, broken halyards, dead and dying batteries, leaks, busted hoses, pipes and lines, getting hit more than once by other boats (one time being rigging and bow being severely damaged), to getting beat by the Chesapeake Bay and Cape Fear River Inlet we’ve persevered.  We’ve gotten up each time and kept going, albeit, slowly.

Plodding along at a snails pace from New York to Norfolk, Norfolk back to the Potomac River and then Potomac River as far as North Carolina.

We’ve been here in Southport for about eight weeks now.  On 6 February 2017, it will be just over eight weeks.  Throughout the time on the boat, we’ve also been off the boat traveling around the country.  We’ve made trips (several) back to Colorado.  We traveled from Colorado to Missouri, Tennessee, Florida down one coast and back up the other.  We’ve traveled around the DC area, throughout Virginia, back and forth and up and down.  I am guessing because I haven’t figured out the distances yet, but, we’ve put on 25,000-30,000 statute miles traveling by car and boat so far.

We loved the Northern Neck of Virginia – but it was remote.  We made good friends there.

Southport has been different though.  Not just the people.  Not just the place.  A combination of everything.

We have fallen in love with the place.  That doesn’t mean we want to live her forever.  But in the two months we’ve been here, we’ve made a lot of friends, met a lot of cruisers passing through, including some friends we’ve met elsewhere.

For the past few days we’ve been debating moving on.  We are here late enough in the season that if we depart now, we can still get to the Bahamas for the Spring.  Do we stay or do we go?

Yesterday, I went through Active Captain, sent emails, made phone calls and wrote up a budget based on our cruising kitty’s contents.

We can move on and still have enough money, assuming nothing goes wrong from now until we locate a place to go.  But every marina we contacted gave us “No room at the inn” or were willing to ask us for more than normal to hold a slip for us to use.  One of my fall back plans was mooring balls.  I found some, very inexpensive places. No living aboard allowed though.

The cost of staying at a slip here versus Florida is a shock.  Double in almost all cases.  Except certain places on the West Coast of Florida. But, there are a lot of places we won’t “fit”.  Can’t get in.  Canals too shallow, fixed docks to climb out of the boat at low tide (JoAnne simply can’t do that now).

Last night we talked about staying for awhile, enjoying Southport, and perhaps even working a bit to regain some missing cash from the Kitty.

I had three job offers yesterday in the space of an hour, without even asking.

Yesterday afternoon, the dock master told me he “found me a slip if I wanted it”, and told me if I was interested, he was looking for another dock hand.

This morning we made the decision.

We are going to hang out here a while longer.  Enjoy the beer over at Check Six Brewing Company, our friend’s company and probably try to throw a few bucks back into the bank.  The health insurance is (pardon the pun) bleeding us dry at this point and working to offset it even a little will keep us floating (another pun?) for awhile.

This is not truly what I wanted to do, but it seems to make sense.

For everyone wondering about it… no we’re not staying forever.  I told the Dock Master that October we would leave, or November.  But we might come BACK as well the following season.  He thought that was a good plan.

So, not technically “swallowing the hook” yet.  Just going to test the air and see how it smells for awhile.

Anyway, my son, Nick reminded me this morning – Life is not a destination, it’s a journey.  He’s right.

We’re Free People.  We do not have anyone to tell us what to do, when to do it, where to go, or how to accomplish what we do.  We CAN come and go as we please, when we please and where we want.  Complications are something that life throws at you constantly (case in point, running north to get my car from Virginia, going all the way to Detroit to see my brother in the hospital, even if he couldn’t see me).  That along with our own personal medical histories, we have to be sure we’ve got insurance for a bit longer.  Boat and car insurance.  Money to eat…. yeah, life’s complications.

To all our followers (I think there are three of you now) no worries.  I’ll still write here, I’ll still keep you all up to date.  And let me say something about why I actually do this blog.  Please follow along a few more minutes.

Why do I write this blog?

For all the years prior to actually doing this I read everyone’s blog.  I sat sometimes awaiting a new entry on a few of them.  I read EVERY book I could get my hands on, either buying, borrowing or shopping them online on Kindle.  I read grand tales of Blue Waters, great fishing stories, scary weather stories, and I read every thing in Cruisers Forums, Sail net (I helped start Sailnet, did you all know that?  Then got kicked off of it because some people didn’t like my political views, haha).

Through out it all, I found very, very few stories of what REALLY happens to people or the gory details of daily life on a boat, hanging upside down in the bilge with a finger blocking a hole while trying to reach back up to get a mallet to pound in a wooden plug.

What I DID encounter on the forums was a smattering of good, quality information interspersed inside of a lot of hollow knowitallness from many armchair sailors.  Oh, I am sure they weren’t all arm chairing it.  Many did live on boats in marinas and I found most RARELY ventured from the docks.  They polished their boats daily, cleaned the stainless steel, painted the bilges, and plumed the depths of their Sundowners in the evenings.

I look around at my ship – and ship she is, big, beautiful and ungainly in a marina, but wonderfully agile and quick upon the sea under sail – and look at the dents, dings, weird, dirty spots I can’t seem to clean off, a few gel coat spots that probably need redoing and see the Dock Queens in this place (most of the boats haven’t left in months or years) and wonder what I am doing wrong.

I’m on the boat working on this or that ALL the time.  JoAnne broke her back on a dock, slipped and fell on another and lost a pair of glasses.  I’ve cracked my head on things and drawn so much blood, my long bones and marrow are having troubles keeping up the replacement blood cells.  No one else writes about these things.

No one tells it “like it is”.

I find that both appalling and fascinating.  Over these last few years of doing all the reading, I rarely came across a story or blog, book or tale of all the terrible things that happen to people.  When I chose at one point to tell about the things that happened in one certain marina, I lost friends over it.  They misread into my words that I was complaining and believed I was denigrating the marina and not telling the story.

I’ve had a difficult time putting some things into words since then because, frankly, I don’t like upsetting people and especially not real, true cruisers.  But, telling this story is my way of leaving something for my kids to read and think about long after we’re all gone and dust (or fish food).

I write because I have a passion for writing.  I don’t do it for money (ok, I have one published book.  Makes me about 3.75 a month….) and I have other books waiting in the wings for publication, but it’s not about money.  Never has been.

I don’t advertise on the blog like so many do.  I don’t think it’s fair.  Advertising permeates everything. Our phones, our Facebook accounts, email, television, radio, in-your-face in the stores, malls, on the sides of the roads and for cruisers to plaster their pages with “ads” to “Buy our book!” irritate me I guess.

I write because I like to, I like to tell the story.  I want people to know, beyond any doubt that anyone can cruise.  Anyone can become a sailor, and a good one.  But you have to work at it, and it is NOT easy.  It’s NOT going to come to you like magic.  And no destination is as pristine as made out by many books and articles.  There are problems ANY where you go.

Human beings are simply put, pigs sometimes.  They throw crap everywhere.  The water is full of plastic and junk and I daily pull things out around the marina.  But, humans can be kind, considerate, helpful and just all-around, wonderful.  They don’t have to throw junk in the water and pollute, but they do.

Because cruising today is NOT what it was twenty years ago, we are not on the “cutting edge” of visiting places.  Boats aren’t any longer seen as “strange, new visitors from a far away place”.  Boats are, unfortunately, considered a “Cash Cow” and the inhabitants are considered “wealthy”.  Except those on derelicts.  Who are considered by everyone to be “scum of the earth”.  This is a wrong assumption, but sometimes it’s true.

The truth about cruising is there are good and light things, and deep, dark secrets.  Some places we’ve seen have people doing drugs, drunks everywhere (I suspect those are the cruisers actually haha) and dirty, sinking boats. Other places have beautiful, spotless Dock Queens who never move.  Wonder why they look so nice?

Then there is us, and Adventure.  And almost EVERY OTHER extended cruiser we’ve met.  All of our boats aren’t the best, well kept.  They are sometimes messy inside.  They are sometime dirty outside.  We have too much crap.  Too much in the lockers, too much in the forward cabin.  Too much on the deck.  Lines everywhere.  Old lines. Not new, pretty braided stuff.  Junky “look what I found in the trash” lines sometimes.

This is the stuff I write about.  I do it because… honestly, I want people to see what it is like.

I don’t always tell the whole story either.  There are no words for some things that would not offend a lot of people (try talking about composting heads in mixed company and you will grasp what I mean!)

I hope that folks enjoy what I write, and I’ve had a few tell me they love it.  I’ve had a small number that hate on me.  That’s ok.  Everyone has an opinion.  Some are just wrong, that’s all 🙂

I will let you all know in a few days how it’s going and whether or not we can “hang” at this for awhile in Southport.  If you get here, let me know.  We’ll meet you on the dock and greet you!

Fair Winds

Rick

 

Cape Fear: Fresh Water issues

Just a really quick update here.

I started the water pump and found the water was flowing from the front of the boat. It had to be coming from hoses going to the front head.

Our front head is… a closet.  While it functions perfectly, it has a brand new Jabsco pump toilet and everything except MOST of the electricity works up there, the important stuff like water, toilet and bilge pump wiring functions.

This means I have removed a LOT of bulky items from the “closet”.  Coats, my wet suit, canes (JoAnne and both have used them for walking in the past, and I keep them around “just in case”, lol.  Three times breaking my right ankle taught me the hard way), there is a big bag of “dirt” used for the composting toilet sitting in there, some tools, and stacks of TP in the bags as well as paper towels, tarp and we store the unused heaters in there as well.

After I removed everything I crawled into the bathroom upside down and looked into the “undersink” area and immediately found the problem.

This is a Chinese built production vessel.  The Chinese are pretty good at building things, stealing designs and making knock offs, and pretty good at plumbing.  This boat is built with copper pipes, fore to aft plumbing the sinks and fresh water.  Fortunately, it doesn’t get exposed to sea water.  The water tanks are plumbed with plastic hoses, plastic connectors and various adapters connecting everything together.  Some of it is haphazardly thrown together appearing as afterthoughts”.

The copper pipes going to the sink are held in place by a pressure fitting, with a rubber washer that presses the pipe into place as you tighten the nut.  The apparent constant pounding on the front of the boat in the waves yesterday forced the pipe from it’s connection, which in turn released the pressure at the front of the boat, telling the pump to engage and it complied by forcing all the fresh water in the main tank out, into the under-sink area, down into the bilge, and the bilge pump simply did it’s job keeping sloshing water out of the bilge and outside the boat where it actually belongs.

The repair was simple.  Remove the washer and nut and the metal washer, inspect everything, clean the connection and put it all back together, retorque the nut into place with the washer (I’d have put in a new one, but this was was not worn and appears to have been recently replaced since just before we bought the boat).  The other side, I re-tightened.  Turned on the pump and viola! Water pressure again. I really need to look at a foot pump though. haha  Took about two hours of work removing things and repairs, and another week putting it all back together (all that stuff has to go somewhere!)

So, other than losing 60 gallons of fresh water through a failed plumbing connection and about 8 pounds of water from our bodies through other means best left undescribed, I’ll say we’re “none the worse for wear”.  JoAnne is a bit dehydrated today which isn’t good for her.  I’m “over” that for now, but am still constantly hungry dispite a half price burger and full priced pint of beer yesterday evening…. I’ll get some more food in me and look at the wiring up front.

We’re going to stay here at least once more week.  Need to wait on our new credit card, I want to do some digging through things we have and see if we can’t eliminate a few things.  Lighten the load so to speak.

We haven’t made a decision to stick with it, but we have been receiving a lot of encouragement from friends who’ve been through (and are actually going through now) similar issues.

I have learned that we’re both more “fair weather sailors” than we are old salts or hardcore-round-the-Horn people.  I have ALWAYS known that the ocean demands respect, and I do. But, when it comes to rotten weather predictions by using the collected data I feel like I should have known better than to go out yesterday.  JoAnne did.  And I went back to bed for two hours, dozed off and awakened thinking I was going to “call it a day” before we went out.

But, I didn’t do that.  I’ve ALWAYS trusted by instincts and the few times I didn’t turned out badly for me.

That kind of mistake, taken in small doses is usually just dumb.  Downright dangerous though, when combined with the Sea, Weather and second guessing oneself.

Unlike the giant ships that disappear at sea, we came home.

No matter what we do from here on out, I’ll not venture down a coast in the wrong conditions again.

 

Fair Winds, Friends!

 

Rick

Setting Sail

This weekend coming up appears to have SNOW in the forecast.

For all you snow people, that’s good. For sailors, that’s not so good.

JoAnne and I and the good ship Adventure set sail tomorrow in the best 48 hour weather window we’ve seen in some time to head as far south as the winds will take us.

We’re aiming for Charleston, SC (with emergency stopping in Winyah Bay if required) and if weather continues to permit, and the waves/wind and boat cooperate, Savannah, GA perhaps.  Fifty hours roughly from setting sail is Savannah, which Charleston is about 24.

JoAnne is still not “sure” if she can handle a shift, let alone several, but I’m confident we can do it.  We will test it over the next 24 hours and see how we do.

We should have good winds (starting off all wrong at first tomorrow morning) and then turning to give us some Northerlies which ought to take us pretty far south.  The speed and movement of the boat will depend on my skills as a sailor and of course the wind and waves.  But at this point I’m confident I can do it.

Traveling near by us, on their own ship, Bentana, are Judy and Stephen.  We met them about two years ago in New York.  They are long time cruisers (about 7 years now) and they are going to Florida as well.  They came into the docks here yesterday morning to meet up with us.  I don’t really think they intended to travel with us, but it appears since we’re all going the same way, we’re all going at the same time.  That’s cool because we can chat on the radio and keep in contact.

I think we will probably decide once we hit the area of Charleston to go on or stop based on how our boat is doing rather than the other boat.  We really WANT to go on, and try to get more than a single day of sailing in, but by nature no one is really a “sailor”.  You have to learn the skills, you have to learn to live on the water, you have to learn to live on a small vessel going some place perhaps unpredictible and in conditions unknown to you for more than a few hours… and yet, it’s done.

People have sailed for months and months to go around the world, to get to the “New World” and did it with nothing more than a compass and an innate sense of well being (because, you can’t stay on a boat more than a few days at seas, without some kind of “well being” now, can you?) lol

JoAnne doesn’t think she is ready and I know she is, but I also know I AM, but am not ready to do it alone.  So, therein lies the problem.  If she can’t handle a shift for 2-4 hours, I might as well be alone.  But, I can’t do a 24 hour shift without stopping at some point, and I can’t sleep for 15 minutes at a time either. So, it’s complicated.

For all you folks that see your dreams on a boat, and think you can do it – think again.  For all of you that have your dreams on a boat, and think you CAN’T do it — think again.

You CAN do it it.  All you need is careful planning, careful and critical thinking, knowing your weather, knowing how long you can actually sleep for and knowing your boat.

In all honesty, I’m JUST to the point I’ve gotten to know the boat well enough to do the right things with the sails.  I know the weather well, and know what it’s going to be like for 5 hours in the future.  I also know my body’s limitations.  But, I also have a crew, my sweetheart, whom I worry obsessively over, and care for, and don’t want her injured again, so anything I do (as Captain) makes me rethink five or six times what is right and that is a good thing.

Until it isn’t.  In the military, we said “Make a decision or die”. In real life that doesn’t happen to many, but it does happen to those who go to sea.  But decisions MUST be tempered with common sense, good judgement and training.

I hope I have all three of those.  The next 48 hours will determine the truth.

All my best to everyone for a fantastic New Year.  May all your Dreams come True – but, remember, you must plan for them to come true 🙂

Fair Winds all!

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.

Coinjock to Belhaven

Here are some notes I wrote the other day to put into the blog.  I’m just too lazy today to rewrite everything into a different set of notes.  But, it gives you an idea of my thinking a couple of days ago versus today.

Traveling

We departed early yesterday (Election Day, 8 November 2016) morning from Coinjock, at Midway Marina.

We dropped anchor at Tuckahoe Point, directly in front of the Alligator River-Pungo Canal entrance about 1525. JoAnne wrote “Anchor Down” at that time. We found 7-9 feet of water moving out of the channel to that particular spot. We spent the night on a quite anchor, occasionally hearing engines coming through the canal (I believe for the most part they were barges being push by tugs.

This morning (9 November 2016) we up anchored at about 0700. We went back down to the spot I’d entered the anchorage and we turned into the channel right after a barge went through past us in the channel.

Through out the trip we saw birds and occasional fish jumping. Did not run aground (that’s a good thing!) and managed to remain mostly in the center of the channel.

We were passed by mostly power boats, the majority of whom did not call us and ask, just usually blew past us leaving a large wake shaking us up pretty hard and usually before I get get the bow into the wake. A few called us. Every sailboat that passed (three I think) called us and requested permission, and asked which side to pass. A couple of power boats did the same thing, but generally the power vessels ignored us like we weren’t there.

One guy, who passed me as we entered into the very large area just out of the canal had been calling sailboat behind us all day, requesting permission to pass, and was polite all the way through. His boat name was “Trixie”. When he passed us, we had a very wide area and he didn’t need to call me, but I called him and told him to pass, and I’d slow for him. He thanked me and went on around with no wake. He was the largest boat we’d seen in the canal moving.

At Coinjock Marina the morning we pulled out, there was a very HUGE cruise ship sitting there I think called Independence. It was taking up 50% of the docks and honestly, I have no idea how they got in there or where they came from!

I have been checking the engine carefully either the night of the stop or morning before we pull out, and adding a tint bit of oil to keep it at the right level, and checking the belt, the bolt on the alternator, coolant levels and the fuel.

Tonight, we’re at about a 1/2 tank of fuel on one tank. Full on the other. We have good coolant. I’ll probably have to add a tad bit of oil in the morning.

I put up the enclosure tonight, cleaned the deck (mud from anchor), added gas to the generator and fired it up a bit ago so I can run the shortwave, and do this blog. We have no internet or phone service at all here, therefore I’m writing this “ahead” of being posted. I’ll post it as soon as I have service again.

Tomorrow, we will be doing a very short day and stopping in a small creek or river across the Neuse River (away from the “magenta line” and away from the crowd for the most part. A lot of people are heading south and the marinas and anchorages are getting filled quickly (the standard and well known anchorages). We’ve been looking for things slightly off the beaten path because then we don’t deal with dragging anchors and loud noises haha.

Tomorrow, we’re looking at two places. Either a very short run of about 25 statute miles or a 40-something run. I did not find a good anchorage at shorter distances.

I’ll write more later.

Now, is later…. so.

With plans to be out of here this morning I woke up early, and made coffee, JoAnne was putting things away and I went outside to take the trash and visit the head.  And then got to thinking.

Tonight it is supposed to rain.  And tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain all day where we will be on anchor.  And it’s pretty chilly and JoAnne is getting cold and can’t stay warm.  So, debating about getting 25 miles south of here to an anchorage where we sit all night and all day tomorrow in the rain with no internet connection, versus sitting on the dock an extra two days with electricity, wifi, access to showers, head, town (and I need to replace a propane tank) caused a quick discussion, and a go-over of the weather reports.

The final decision?  We didn’t leave.  We will wait out the chill and rain here on a dock until Tuesday.

Tuesday through Friday should be 60s (warmer than the frost last night for sure), no rain, plenty of sun, light winds (for crossing the next two large bodies of water) and we will have North West Winds on Tuesday for the Neuse River which should be pretty ok, since we will be motoring anyway.  The winds will be too light for us to sail starting today for the next week anyway.

So – comfort has been a major determining factor for us.  If it’s kicking up and good sailing weather, we’re ok with that, as long as it’s kicking up in the right directions.  Why go out and get our asses kicked trying to hold a course under sail when there are channels to worry about?

A friend asked me the other day, “In a do-over, would you chose a different boat?”

I believe at this point the answer is a resounding “YES”.

To travel the ICW in a full keel, deep draft sailboat isn’t fun or easy, and nothing about it has been simple.  I’ve had more white knuckle moments than sitting in a Jungle in Central America getting shot at caused me.  I could at least shoot back.  I can only adjust the sails in changing winds – which is great if you’re not constrained by the channel….

I’m certain that, somewhere down the line we will wind up sitting on an anchorage, in the wind, rain and hail or something and waiting out another weather condition.  So, why bother putting yourself in that situation?  When it comes right down to it, we’re honestly not in a huge hurry to go anywhere in particular.  We just want to eventually get someplace warm.

What is funny is, when I ask “Where are you headed?” to the other cruisers, all have the exact same response, “Someplace warm… south….”

We have met some very nice people so far along this part of the trip.  All of them save one or two are like us, first timers.  Many have only been at cruising for two or three months.  One person has been sailing forty years, but this is his first trip down the ICW.  Another retired a few weeks ago and started down.

In general, ALL of them have had almost the exact same thinking processes as we have.  Make a plan, get the plan in motion, move the boat south – and every one of them have had the same thoughts of “quitting”, going back home, the boat was wrong for the journey, and a host of other tid bits about this trip.

In other words, all of the people who’ve gone before us who had no issues probably had the same issues and they didn’t consider them to be “issues”, or just problems to be solved.  I think that is perhaps the best attitude.  Everything is a problem to be solved, and solving it is what comes to the forefront when dealing with moving the boat.

Whether it is plumbing, engine issues, alternator issues (as in our case), fuel problems, electronics malfunctions or simple failures, we all have the same problems with which to deal.  In my case, it seems like there are more problems to solve at once probably because I let them get to me and worry about them too much.

One problem we had was the charts we have.  For some reason, I don’t even recall why now, I picked up ALL the charts for the east coast.  And yet, did NOT pick up all the charts for the east coast.  I was missing a rather important set.  Florida and the Keys.  How I did that, I’m not sure.  Perhaps because I took one of the chart titles at it’s word and didn’t actually open it up and look inside until much later.

That chart (Maptech) says “Norfolk to Florida”.  I made a dumb assumption I suppose and thought it contained Florida charts.  Nope.  It should really have said “Norfolk to Florida: Not inclusive of Florida” haha.  Anway, I mentioned this and Judy Long and Stephen who were in Washinton offered to come and bring the chart.  When I said I didn’t want them to make a special trip, they said they were coming anyway.

Turns out, and I had not quite put the puzzle pieces together yet, Bentana, their boat is sitting nearby!  So they were coming to deal with some problems too, on their ship.  So we had a get together on our boat, with some wine and nibbles.  And they brought the missing chart for me.

I still need the one for the West Coast of Florida, but apparently Maptech is phasing them out now.  Everything is going digital.  Mark my words, that’s a BAD idea…. but that’s another discussion for another time.

Alright, time to get going to get some propane.  The hardware store opens at 1300 today.  I’ll take a golf cart into town (it’s four blocks, long ones, but I don’t want to carry that tank back all the way)!

Lastly, I’ve uploaded some images of things along the way.  Hope you enjoy the image dump!

Here’s some pictures of places along the way:

Sunset over Cole’s Point Marina before departure

ICW Canal

Norfolk Naval Station

Two very large ships… Aircraft Carriers (Don’t know which ones)

The same A/C carriers in the above picture, from Willoboughy Bay.  Adventure in the foreground.  We were aboard the s/v Acadia visiting and going over charts with Marcia and Jon

Behind us somewhere a couple of days ago

The Sailing Ketch Adventure in the back, Sailing Schooner Adventure in the front

Sailing Schooner Adventure

(Our neighbors one night)

The Great Bridge Lock

Great Bridge Lock, looking back

Taylor, from Atlantic Yacht Basin, Great Bridge

(Thanks for everything, Taylor!)

Me, JoAnne and the USS Sequoia – Presidential Yacht, Fishing Bay Marina

Some Right Piraty Looking Rigging

A visit to the Reedville area, and we discovered this ketch waiting for Kurt to come and get her in the water 🙂

Lo-Kee

Lo-Kee

ICW – Willoboughy Bay, VA to Coinjock, NC

When last you tuned in, our intrepid band of Adventurers found themselves in Willoboughy Bay.

We hoisted anchor and headed out intent on making it to the Great Bridge.

We were all nervous about the bridges and lock. Both the boat crews, Adventure and Acadia are pretty new to this stuff and we were buddy boating together for moral support I suppose. And I wanted some assurance of the depth so I let them go first to call out depths if it got to shallow. We saw no stuck boats along the way, so obviously it wasn’t too bad. I’m SURE there were boats with deeper drafts than ours passing through before us.

We motored the entire distance from Willoboughy Bay to the various bridges. The first one was easy. The next one was fixed. Norfolk and Western was open. Gillmerton was one we had to wait for, no problems, except we had to wait for 30 minutes because we arrived too soon I guess.

Then we got to the lock. We had to wait at the lock. A long time. Anyway, the lock turned out to be NO problems at all. We got to the Great Bridge, everyone waited, they opened it, and we pulled over at the Atlantic Yacht Basin for the night. Acadia got fuel, we docked. The next morning I pulled the boat around and fueled up and then we left after both boats were ready to pull out.

Again, Acadia led. When we arrived at the Centerville Turnpike Swing Bridge I remained behind Acadia a few dozen yards. Our boat takes awhile to get up to speed, and it takes awhile to stop. If the wind isn’t on the nose (and even if it is) inertia on her is tremendous. Takes sometimes 5 or 6 boat lengths to come to a stop. There was no wind. And it takes a few minutes even at full throttle from a dead stop to get up any speed.

We all started through (after being admonished to “GET CLOSER” by the bridge master) – a large power boat, Acadia, then us. Then as I’m coming up on the bridge the guy on the radio starts yelling at me for being “slow” and tells me, while yelling into his radio, “I should CLOSE this bridge on YOU NOW”.

He didn’t… and to my own credit I didn’t tell him what I thought of him. I “thanked him” politely and went on and let it roll off my back.

I know these guys are government workers. And I know that some can be assholes. This guy was an asshole, and a jerk to boot. I hope someone reads this and says something to him, but probably not. (And I’m sure someone else will say I was in the wrong, even though they weren’t there, lol). To prove I was not wrong, here’s the regulation: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/33/499

I understand there are cars, I understand it “holds people up”. But, I ALSO know the history of bridges, and boats DO have right of way. We were within 100 yards of the bridge (It was a swing bridge and swings to the north). We were behind another sailboat, neither known for their maneuverability in close quarters with full keels – us, and them with a full keel and a board that was up). We moved as SOON as the bridge opened, and it took time to get up to speed, and NOT make a wake because we’d been admonished NOT to do that either….. Finally, the bridge was opened for less than 4 minutes from the time the first boat shot through, to the time I plodded through. And it was well within the normal opening time (about 10:30, and in fact, 3-4 minutes late).

Here’s the rub though. Federal law (33 U.S. Code – Regulations for drawbridges) mandates boats have right of way at bridge crossings. Yeah, several states have adopted rules on busy bridges and won’t open at all during certain times, and only open maybe on the hour or half hour during daylight hours. Or they open on signals from the boats passing them. So, why is a bridge tender screaming at a slow moving sailboat whose top speed is rarely more than 6 knots under engine power (with the wind behind it mind you)? Good question.

But, oh well. That was the beginning of my day yesterday. The first day out of Willoboughy Bay went fine. Even passing giant ships, cargo vessels, aircraft carriers, and two ships coming out about the same time as we were passing, we negotiated things fine.

When we got to the first sound, it was hairy. Wind was blowing pretty hard and apparently causing a current, which I didn’t realize would happen. I expected long fetch to generate waves… but not necessarily current. I manage to get pushed out of the channel 2 or 3 times towards the end of the run, to the point I was seeing 7 foot depths and at 6 feet, I was going to hit the ground, probably hard. The wind was either on the nose sometimes or just off the starboard bow and helping kind of push us sideways as well.

It was nerve racking knowing that hitting the ground there was going to stop us cold and we’d likely have to get towed out of it.

When I arrived last night I was short tempered with everyone and upset at myself because it wasn’t going smoothly, I’d been yelled at for no real reason by some “authority” who really shouldn’t be doing that anyway. I was hungry, tired and literally exhausted. I made the decision to stop here at Midway in Coinjock (JoAnne had called and gotten a reservation for us) and the Acadia – who thought they had a reservation at Coinjock across the way, didn’t have one and moved on to an anchorage.

So, Jon and Marcia went on ahead and we said good bye over telephone (because we had 4G and 5 bars, how cool is that for the first time to be able to actually communicate using a phone in damned near a year?) and hope we cross paths again.
They are pulling out someplace near Raleigh-Durham to visit grand kids I think. We’re headed as south as we can get in the next couple of weeks.

Last night I decided we’d remain on the docks here for a couple of days. There’s a good blow coming tomorrow, 16-20 knots I saw on one report, maybe rain later tonight and perhaps tomorrow. Saturday MIGHT be a good day. I’ll look over my GRIB files in the morning and decide if we will leave Saturday or Sunday morning. Since we’re motoring, NO wind would be the best thing I can hope for.

But, I took the time to pull the aft compartment apart, open up the batteries, check everything, and run an equalization on them, which seems to have helped them a bit. I’m hoping to get the batteries to go back to float again on the meter, but not sure if they are damaged or not. My hydrometer is hokey and I’ll have to get a decent one (I have two, one is really old and it doesn’t seem to work either.)

At this point I think I have the batteries, and the charging system “synced” finally. I still don’t think the main system batteries are holding a charge right though. I’ll check things once more in the morning.

The other issue that boat Acadia and Adventure had seems a little odd for fiberglass boats. Rust spots. Millions of them. They appeared out of nowhere and we discovered them a day or so after we were in Fishing Bay. At this point we suspect the lift (we were both lifted, we were cleaned and they were worked on for battery replacement, and a serious leak at the rudder post). We considered the cleaning might have done it, but they weren’t cleaned I don’t believe. Just hoisted up and worked on. So I think that the steel cables (which were rusty) or the engine (diesel, with a large flapping exhaust pipe) might be the culprit.

It is most likely the engine was blowing exhaust out, along with water, and rusty from the old lift engine and splattered both our boats.

I knew that if I could get some oxalyic acid I could likely get the stuff off. JoAnne found a solution, she handed me a can of stuff that looks like “Ajax” in a can, but is called “Bartender’s Friend” which is used in bars and restaurants to clean stainless steel, apparently. She had purchased some so I could use it on the old stainless grill we have. Which I did and it worked, and I’d forgotten all about it. It also worked on the stains too. I didn’t get them all off but I did get the worst of it gone.

The boat top is in dire need of paint. One day, I’ll paint it. Mean time I have to keep washing her down.

Now to the not so good part. Pulling up to the dock I lost all steerage. I knew that I needed to come in slow, as there was a boat in front of me, and one behind. I slowed too much. I managed to not get the boat turned in time and though we were moving at fractions of a knot, I caught the bow pulpit against a dock post. The post remained undamaged, but the pulpit steel bent a bit. I tried today to engineer a fix, and succeeded in pulling it back a small amount. But the starboard side is push back an inch or two. I’ll fix it.

So, batteries seem to be doing ok. Got the little rusty spots off the plastic (haha). Got through the first stretch of the ICW. Got some sleep last night, and planning to sleep well tonight.

Oh… best part of today. We are the sailing Ketch Adventure. I was told by the owner here that it was funny, another boat named adventure was coming in. Sure enough, today, right in front of us, the sailing schooner Adventure shows up. A large, steel ketch, complete with ratlines up the rigging, shorter masts than we have, but a wider behind. The cockpit is huge and she’s over all a beautiful boat. But, of all the lookie-loos today, most of them stopped here to look at us, and not at the other boat.

I was proud 🙂

(then again, they could have been staring at the horrible paint, my bent steel, the dirt on my hands and feet and knees from cleaning, and sniffing the smell of sulfur as the batteries cooked below… who knows?)

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

Matthew in Charleston – DAY 13

The front I’d hoped would be pushing Matthew along has become a part of the storm system now.

Matthew’s eye has buckled for the most part from what I can see of the satellite photos but still has over 100 mph winds along the coast.  It is still moving northward along the coast.

I was all but certain it would have turned by now, and apparently so were weather forecasters at the NHC because I heard a bit ago “the Easterly hard right turn didn’t happen”.  Ack.

I put our dodger and most of the enclosure back up yesterday to help keep rain out of the cockpit, off the instrumentation and off my head.  IF I have to take it all down again, it won’t be as difficult this time.  I’ve become practiced in the past few days.  I did leave the head sail off though because it’s a pain to take up and down if there’s even a tiny breeze.  It’s a light, but big sail (about a 130% sail) and it moves us along pretty quickly when it’s up, the wind is to our back or quarter and I let it all out.

Currently there are two hurricanes, Matthew which has been downgraded to a category 1 hurricane, and Nicole.  Nicole has been meandering around with no clear path or direction yet. But at this moment in time it may follow Matthew into the Bahamas in the north.  However, it is almost certain this won’t happen and Bermuda will get the brunt of that hurricane about next Wednesday or Thursday.

Charleston is suffering from heavy rain, major flooding in streets.

Strong winds from Matthew’s eyewall also slammed into downtown Savannah early Saturday, downing trees and sending street signs flying. As the sun began to rise  over the 283-year-old city, floodwaters inched steadily higher. Police reported numerous downed trees and washed out roads. (USA Today)

Here’s the latest National Hurricane Center path prediction:

I still don’t see it doing a complete circle.  Another front is moving through, look at the first map I posted and you can see it.  It will push off tomorrow sometime, from the coast and the hurricane should beat feet to the right.  As to curving south again, it’s already high enough into westerlies that I don’t think that is going to happen.  Of course, that’s just me.

Finally, this is what Monday should look like:

Back!

First, I want to apologize to every one who has asked about blog entries.  We have NOT been on the boat for almost a month.

We left last month on the 12th to travel across county.  I’m sure some of you get the “security” idea.  JoAnne and I have always been “security conscious” but more so now that we live on a boat.  Having both worked in the government, and me in particular in the military, and with security for the Missile Defense Agency for many years, we tend to look over our shoulders a lot.  So, we try hard not to advertise EXACTLY where we are, where we’re headed, where we’re anchored, but we still do it to some extent.

Half the fun of doing this is changing locations and seeing new things and sharing that information with others.  Both the good and bad of it….whether it’s a bad or good experience in a marina, getting our boat damaged by someone else or rain (constant rain sometimes), we’ll share.  We won’t share the dates and times we’re leaving exactly, or exactly where we are located except with family members so they know to look for us if we “vanish”.

With that said, again, sorry for no entries lately.  I’ll make up for that though now.

We left for Colorado on the 12th headed back for doctors’ checkups.  I had a physical.  JoAnne had a “two years after chemo” checkup.

We arrived and stayed with my daughter, Kristy…. but on the way we stopped to rescue a grandson who had been abandoned by his mother, our ex-daughter-in-law and return him back to the family in Colorado.  He is safe with his Uncle Nick and his Dad is working to get a job and support the young man now.  Gage was doing well when we left him.  Hopefully someone remembers to feed and water him occasionally (he’s 16, I think he can help himself a lot now :))

On the 20th I went in and had a blood draw, and a physical.  Apparently, I’m not going to die any time soon.  My heart is doing fine, though I now have an anomaly due to the heart surgery called a Left Bundle Branch… what ever that is.  It looks weird on the ekg.

JoAnne went in for a blood draw as well, the CA-125, which is an indicator of tumor growth.  Her numbers have been low since the surgery, in the 10-16 range.  We never got a pre-surgery baseline, so no idea what it might have been before the tumor was removed.  The numbers peaked at 18.  The PA said we could do another test in a month to see if it were a glitch or a CT scan.  We instantly asked for the CT scan.  Her examination was fine.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  It was just that darned blood test that scared us.

A couple of days later she had the CT scan, and then we had to go back on Thursday to see the doctor.  We ended up sitting for over 2 HOURS waiting for him, because he was running behind.  They placed us in the conference room for an hour and a half and we were nervous by the time he walked in.  He was flanked by a nurse and the “social worker” or psychologist or whatever she was.  We BOTH almost lost it right there.  We KNEW it was going to be bad news.

But he asked JoAnne how she was.  She said she was fine.  He said “Your exam was fine, and the CT scan came back clear.  There is no sign of cancer”.  I wanted to throttle him for making us wait for 2.5 hours for that.  He could have kicked us out of the office in 2 minutes and simply said “You’re fine, no sign of cancer, go sailing”…. ack.

We had already packed so we headed home, collected our bags and packed the car.  We’d mostly said good bye to everyone but got a few more in and got on the road.

Stopped in Hays, Ks.  Then we traveled on Friday to Mike and Cindy’s home in Richmond, MO and visited over the weekend.  On Monday we went to Branson.

In Branson we saw the “Legends” show on Tuesday, and on Wednesday we went on the Branson Belle Showboat and saw a cool show on the river cruise.  The ship was HUGE…. and probably could have held Adventure inside the auditorium!  They probably had almost 1000 people in attendance and not all the seats were filled.  Both shows were very good.

We made it back here on Saturday afternoon.  Adventure was fine, our new solar charging system is working wonderfully and there was nothing out of place.  Unfortunately, JoAnne’s lavender plant didn’t do too well in the care of the marina office.  I’m trying to nurse it back to health now.  Not sure I can do it though.

So in the middle of retirement, we took a month vacation.

I did laundry yesterday, today we go grocery shopping so we can actually use our refrigeration unit haha, and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to put away.

We added one item to the inventory, a manual water maker, which is a reverse osmosis filtration system.  It is a hand pumped device.  I have yet to read all the instructions, but it will go with our ditch bag.  Hopefully we will never have a need to use it.

On the 12th I go in to see an eye surgeon.  My left eye is getting bad with cataracts.  I’m going to have to have surgery soon.  I hope it very soon so we can plan our trip to the Bahamas next.

All my best to everyone.
Fair Winds!

Yesterday, today and tomorrow

Why that title?  Because I did things yesterday, today and will do some tomorrow.

Yesterday we had some issues with wifi.  The antenna attached to the Bullit broke.  Snapped right off inside the connector, necessitating me to dig out the soldering equipment to do repairs.  When it went down, I was well in the middle of running cables over from the radio to the external antenna on the boat.

Basically, we have a “random length” wire, that comes from the tuner over to the insulated backstay (one of the wires holding the main mast up).  I had to dig through a lot of junk to find some wire to run through the bulkhead to get the antenna connected.  In the mean time, the wifi stopped working and the wife was asking about it, or complaining really, because she was trying to play a game and kept getting disconnected.

So, stopped working the HF radio stuff, repaired the wifi antenna and got that back up and running.

In the middle of all of this, I got a message on my phone.  We can’t get calls, no coverage, so we’re connected to the wifi…. which wasn’t working.  Therefore, the second the wifi came back, the message came through.  They stated I had a large box awaiting me at the office.  Turned out to be the new C-Head composting toilet.  Collected that.  More on that later.

Once I got the HF rigged up, I realized I’d lost my control cable somewhere.  The control cable goes between the tuner and the HF rig to switch bands and is an absolute necessity on a random antenna like we’re using.  I remembered that when I was in Colorado Springs in the winter, I’d looked for the missing cable inside the trailer and storage we still have (my kids are keeping that stuff).  When I didn’t find the cable, I had purchased the DIN connectors and placed them into my electronic gear I carried back and forth all the time.

Fortunately, along with some wiring I needed to complete the HF installation, I happened to locate some 5 conductor spare wire that I was able to use to build the control cable.  So, today, the HF radio is working, and Wifi is back online.

This morning I opened up the new box of stuff, the C-Head Toilet.

It appears that this installation is going to be easy.  The toilet will not only fit, it will sit perfectly in the aft head.  I went through all the instructions, directions, parts, parts list and read everything.  The hardest part will be the removal of the old toilet, the plumbing, etc.

So, yesterday I did the HF.  Today, I examined all the parts of the toilet, tomorrow, I’ll probably start the installation in the head.

 

Stuck in the Mud

This was written approximately six months ago.  Today I am publishing it, because on the day I wrote this I was pretty pissed about things.  Read the first part, then read my notes and “afterthoughts” – because we all know hind sight is 20-20.

Begin Old Post:

 

Not literally, but figuratively.

We’ve been stuck in Cobb’s Marina now for over 6 weeks.  Though a combination of mishaps, an accident and just plain old “mañana, mon” attitude.

While I can appreciate such an attitude in the hot, humid Caribbean, not so much in Norfolk Virginia.  At a highly recommended marina where people are coming and going rather rapidly, we’ve been put off, stuck here, ignored and plainly, clearly been the subject of “non-caring”.

For instance just last week, the Marina closed down for four days for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  Very nice for them and their families, I’m sure.  But, what about my wife and I?  I asked about getting our mast put back on the day after repairs were completed on the mast, so Tuesday afternoon the last of the work was accomplished.

The mast was supposed to go on Wednesday before the long weekend.

Nope, it did not, in fact, they stated they “didn’t have time”.  Really?  They had time to move the crane out of position and pull up docks.  They had time to haul out 4-5 boats that had just come in.  They had time to re-splash another boat that had been repaired, but no time to reinstall my mast.

I suspect they were concerned we might “skip out” on the bill or something.  This is not something I would have done and would gladly have taken care of it just to get out in the good weather to head south.

That’s ONE of many delays we’ve experienced here.  Other things have included “We’ll send you the bill” and they did, mailing it to the Florida address, meaning I had to then await it coming back to me here in the marina when they could have just as easily handed it to me.  What’s up with that?

So, today is the 2nd of December.  We’ve been since the 18th of October.  On the 23rd of October a guy in an out of control power boat hit us severely damaging the bow of our boat.  We’ve been arguing with the man’s insurance company since then.  They have basically refused to help, pay or otherwise alleviate the problem caused by their client.

A few days ago I hired a lawyer.  I’ll leave it at that for now.  But, suffice it to say I didn’t want to do that, but now I plan to get my money one way or another.

I will say that the marina is just an “ok” place to be.  But, there are hidden costs as well.  Electricity apparently used to be included in the docking fees. In fact, they were very careful not to even mention electricity to us as part of the bill and we only discovered accidentally in conversation with a marina employee and another sailor here (who was also caught by surprise) about the extra fees if you’re on the docks.

The new docks (we’re actually in the “Pit” on a newer floating dock) are nice.  The old docks are dilapidated so are coming out this winter for new docks to be installed.  The workers are almost all family members, Cobbs, Duvals, etc.  And the marina has been here a long time, surrounded by 3 others who are apparently owned by the competition, and have caused a lot of issues for this marina.

All in all, we’ve not had a horrible stay here, except to say, we had to STAY here.  We wanted to be in Florida by Thanksgiving, not sitting confined to a dock here in Norfolk, Virginia.  We’ve been up against every brick wall you can imagine until today.

Today I finally convinced them that the mast needed to go on, TODAY.  Yesterday they wouldn’t do it due to rain  (Ok, that could be a safety issue, but they were still hauling out boats yesterday….).

In speaking to contractors around here, apparently the speed with which things gets accomplished depends on who is paying, how they are paying, and how well the marina knows them.  Several boats have come and gone under “emergency conditions” (Not that us getting here wasn’t an emergency condition, it started out alright, but rapidly turned INTO an emergency).  And they were in and out in hours or a day, as opposed to weeks.

After our boat was struck, things slowed like molasses in January, I suspect because they believe the insurance company is paying up.  Well, since they insurance company has told me to pound sand, it’s all on my now.  Thousands of dollars in damages, paid for by me, and thousands more for other fees….. I’m not very happy about any of this.

Nor am I happy about the way the Insurance Company has treated us, and definitely NOT how the marina has approached customer relations with us.  I am writing this as a draft to be published once my mast is in place, the bill is paid and we can leave when ever we want.  So…. I’ll leave it at that.

Just know that there will an entry in Active Captain about this marina and unless you have a damned good reason for coming here, I wouldn’t do it.  Go somewhere else.

End Old Post and start my new notes from today:

That evening, after the mast went up, JoAnne fell off the fixed, dilapidated dock onto another boat we had been invited to visit, and where they had chosen to place the boat to load tons of lead into the bilge.

Were it not for the fact we were stuck in that marina for so long, from 18 October 2015 through 20 May 2016, a full seven months and two days, through NO fault of ours, JoAnne would not have fallen.  Had they taken care of the issues we came in for in the first place on the day they promised (that following Monday after the dockmaster called us and said “If you get here today, we’ll look at your boat tomorrow”) we would not have been hit the following Friday.

Had the marina moved us to a safer spot out of the pit where they were constantly dopping and retrieving boats, we’d not have been hit.  Had they dock folks placed the boat properly, without a boat behind us, allowing our pulpit and bowsprit to be back from overhanging the dock, we’d not have been hit.

Had we not been hit, we’d not have had to hire a lawyer.  The boat owner whom we ended up taking to court eventually settled out of court and did pay the full amount of damages and for our stay from the day of the accident to the date of final repairs.  So, that all turned out good.  We even met the owners later, shook hands and said “no hard feelings”, at least on my part, not so sure about their parts.  But still, he came through like a champ, paid for the repairs.

What we never received was a break on the price of the stay (except the standard “If you’re here longer than a couple of weeks, we’ll do a monthly rate”).   What we also never received from anyone on the site was an apology for the crap we went through there.

I will say that the dock master even allowed my batteries to boil out over the winter, instead of checking them every couple of weeks.  They didn’t retie a line to the power cable and it fell into the water while we were away from the boat (after they changed things without telling me).  A fender exploded.. and was changed out for one of my other fenders by the dockmaster, so they did catch some things.

We did meet several wonderful people there, Rhonda and Mike, Rob and Holly, Marc and Nicola, Vince Debbi, and Jeanie and Bart to name a few.  The marina people were helpful most of the time, said hello, but at times went out of their way to avoid contact with us.

The marina is a working marina, thus, dirty, noisy and loud.  We knew that.  We expect that.  But we also expect marina personnel to take care with our babies, our homes, the thing we supply a significant amount of passion towards – our boats.  We don’t expect a lackadaisical attitude, we don’t expect to be pushed to a corner and ignored when we have specifically stated we have a schedule to keep, a weather window to catch and require assistance in accomplishing our tasks, especially when paying a lot of money, per day, for the “privilege” of staying there as a “transient” instead of a normal “slip holder” (which was never once offered to us).

I’m sure some will frown on this post, and I’m certain that most folks wouldn’t post something like this, figuring that “some day, I might have to use them again”.  This is true of me as well.  Some DAY, I might have to stop at Cobb’s Marina.  But then again, if I do, and they have improved their work processes, I might do so.

I don’t hold anyone at fault for what happened to us.  It was general circumstances and perhaps a bit of bad luck, something I sincerely DO NOT believe in.  Luck is what you make of it (except games of chance, cards, dice, roulette and Lotto).  You do NOT leave to chance things on a boat.  You do your due diligence and you attempt to mitigate anything imaginable and sometimes you miss your shot.  That isn’t luck, that’s simple statistics.

Cobb’s Marina is a decent place other than what we went through and in other circumstances, I’d never have written any of the original post or this.  But I do what I do to inform people.  Always have.

If you’re going to Cobb’s Marina… be aware of your contract.  Be aware of your ability to say yes or no.  And be aware that if you’re on those docks, multiple accidents have occurred there over the past two years, including one that happened just before we left (having nothing to do with the marina exactly, but with a sailboat driver who didn’t take care going out, hooked his rigging on someone sport fisher outriggers, that boat was a mess when I looked at it).

Nothing here is meant to discourage anyone from going there rather to inform you that it matters not WHICH marina in which you enter, you need to take care of those around you as well as yourself.  Obviously no one can remain with their boat 100% of the time, and as cruisers we have to leave to get groceries, parts, get work done, see things and in general try to not stay on the boat when we are someplace trying to SEE things.

That’s why we trust the marinas to help us.

Honestly though, our ship has remained safer on an anchor and mooring ball than sitting in a slip anywhere we’ve been.

 

New Home for Summer

On Wednesday 25 May 2016 we departed from Sandy Point, Virginia on the Wicomico River pretty early in the day, about 0800.  We were trying to get out earlier, but just couldn’t do it.

On the bright side, we actually motor sailed out of the anchorage and out to the bay. Eventually I was able to stop the engine and sail for a couple of hours on a nice beam reach.  Was a beautiful day though.

We were headed for an anchorage and figured to try to come in early on Thursday morning on high tide.  Then we got within about 3 hours of the marina and made the decision to come on in.  Called them to ensure someone would be there to assist with the docking and we made it in with plenty of time to spare before they closed shop for the day.

The entrance to the marina is narrow and the outside is absolutely covered in crab pots.  Why there isn’t a clear path in, I’m not sure.  But I managed to successfully avoid them all.  At the last few dozen yards we bottomed out.  In fact, I literally could hear barnacles being popped off the bottom.

Then there were two quick, ninety degree turns.  Straight in, a left and another left into the slip.  I overshot, backed up and used the bow thrusters… to which one of the dock hands said “That’s cheating”. lol  Second time in a couple of weeks I’ve heard that remark about sailboats with bow thrusters.

JoAnne was able to step forward, and hand off the dock lines though, with out having to toss anything.  It worked out well.

We pulled in rather than backing because I wanted our aft cabin to be more “private” and not be exposed at the docks constantly. It’s quieter that way, because people here are yelling a lot to one another, at one another, and just yelling, I suspect, to yell. haha

We have visited the newly opened Tim’s over by the office.  Restaurant and bar.  The crab cake sandwich is great.  JoAnne has tried a couple different things.  Beer is about 3.80 a bottle though, and the pints from draft are a bit cheaper.

Tonight they have music, and in fact this whole Memorial Day weekend they will have several different bands.  Fortunately, we’re far enough away we won’t hear it. haha

This is definitely a power boater place though, or was.  Marty, the owner is trying to get more sailboats to come in.  He is a sailboater and wants more of us here I guess.

I started cleaning some today.  I did some work on the dock lines, putting anti-chaff on them (basically some rubber hose I sewed to three of the lines) because I’m tired of the lines being abused by dock hands for one.  Darn things aren’t cheap, either.

While the boat was in Norfolk and we were gone (just before we headed back) there were 70  mph straight line winds… which exploded one of our fenders.  I had bought one from East Beach Marine over in Norfolk to replace the broken one, and found they had a lifetime warranty.  Contacted the company, called Taylor Made and asked about the warranty.  They asked for pictures of the broken fender and I sent them along.  They are mailing me a new fender!  Woot!

I’ve not gotten ANYTHING for free, and have had to pay through the nose for everything.  So, that’s a tiny win for us.

We managed to get laundry done, and I’ll work on the boat this weekend, because it’s getting very crowded here and I don’t want to lose our parking space to go shopping for groceries.  But we have plenty of food aboard, it’s just there’s very little fresh stuff right now.  Probably Tuesday we will go to the store.  It’s about 22 miles from here.

We do have wifi working again at least. No telephones to speak of.

Oh, that reminds me. Phones work, but I have to hike almost to the beach to get a signal, and it’s NOT T-Mobile so I’m sure I’m paying for that too. (So whatever I might have saved on a freebie fender will be taken up in roam charges or something).

Anyway, phones, T-mobile sent me a rather random message about not being able to charge my card automagically for the phone bill.  Funny… it should work.  SO I call them and find out the card is being declined.  Shouldn’t be.

Call the bank.

Bank says, “Oh, right here, says your card was a subject of counterfeiting and has been cancelled.  You should have gotten a notification.”

Right. In snail mail.  Two days after I stopped in to get my mail at Green Cove Springs Florida, in person.  No phone calls.  No emails. No nothing.

They sent me a new card.

That card too has been cancelled now, as well as my previous card.  They are shipping me a new one, I’ll get it Tuesday.  My mail will be here Tuesday.  And my card has weird charges on it, which I need to call the bank back about and tell them to remove them.  (small amounts, like 74 cents, and 83 cents).

One thing after another….

Anyway, we’re safe here for now.

 

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!