Trying to leave…. Hotel California

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

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

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

Every time we try to leave, something weird happens.

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

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

I cancelled the trip.

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

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

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

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

Ten minutes in, the engine ran away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bimini and Dodger, More Varnish and Sanding

Bimini:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dodger:

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

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

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

Sand and Varnish:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storage Locker and Provisions: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Canvas, Bimini, Monthly update

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

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

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

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

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

The changes will be as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other items:

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

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

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

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

Where are we going?

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

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

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

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

Let the Winds of Time blow over our heads

SeaPro Reverse Osmosis Watermaker

Well over a year ago I was doing research on water makers – reverse osmosis water makers specifically.

I wanted a modular system, and had found one, but the price was about 5-6 thousand dollars.

I also researched building my own, and found I didn’t really have the time and money to slap-dash something together, only to find parts wouldn’t fit and I couldn’t make it work.

Then, one day I came across SeaWaterPro and decided to contact them.  My first contact was with Mindy at SeaWater Pro.

I asked her a lot of questions in both email and messenger.  Eventually, I was convinced for the cost of the system (1/3 the cost of the RainMan system at the time) I’d go with it for a test.

The system was modular, and I could build it into the boat in a piecemeal fashion, because as everyone knows, boats are limited on storage space, especially cruising vessels like our own.

As luck would have it, I purchased the kit over a year ago, and things began to happen.  Engine issues, hurricane Florence and JoAnne was diagnosed with a return of cancer.  In September last year we prepped the boat for Florence, and headed for Florida, storing the water-maker and most of our important things, expecting that Florence would make landfall as a Category four, here in Cape Fear Region.

She didn’t.  Fortunately. (Read more here: Hurricane Florence)

In the end, we returned to Colorado, then back here to the ship to prep for winter, as we’d spend it there.  Time got away from us.  Six months in Colorado in the winter time, staying with my wonderful son, Nick.  I know we probably stressed him out though we tried very hard to stay out of his hair the whole time.

Eventually, in April we returned.

I started devising ways to install the watermaker in the boat.  Over the course of the next few weeks, I ended up making the decision to remove the 30 gallon stainless steel tank sitting under the settee, and replace it with the watermaker.  The system would JUST fit in there.

Video of device in operation.

In fact, I could with relative ease, plumb the hoses and tubes I needed for input, output, overboard discharge, and electrical wiring under the seat.

Throughout it all, I kept in contact with Mike, the designer of the system, and he responded rapidly with both answers to my questions, and advice on various issues I had.  Being an engineer myself in another life, it wasn’t difficult to understand the system, how it worked, but some things were rather vague for me – because I wasn’t familiar with the system yet.

Installation took me about two weeks, along with another delay of several days due to heat in the boat (the temperatures and humidity got to me).

When I finally plumbed everything I did I pressure test and it leak like a sieve.   This was not the system’s fault, but mine. I had forgotten to use teflon tape on all the junctions and found I’d only applied it on some of the junctions.  Disassembly was easy because I installed it so I could remove various parts, especially the pre-filters, for changing and cleaning.

Mike actually ended up shipping me some new parts due to the length of time from when I had originally ordered the system to present.  He upgraded several items at no cost to me, which I sincerely appreciated.

A 1 hp electric motor and high pressure pump instead of his original design went into the boat.

I had to go buy a few extra feet of plastic hose to route the output, and I had to change a few fittings to get the right hoses in the right places.

In the end, I fit all the parts except the lift pump, and strainer under the settee.  The lift pump and strainer are in the forward compartment under the Vee Berth, right next to the intake through hull.  The saline overboard discharge also runs forward to an existing through hull above the water line.

There were no holes cut into the boat to do the job. I spent about 10 hours doing the install from scratch.

The second test was done under generator power.  I wanted to run the machine off the generator, as I will do on anchor.  I need to do a longer test to determine exactly how much gas it takes to fill my 60 gallon tank, but that is for another day.

I fired up the lift pump, let the system fill with water, checked for discharge water, and then fired up the pressure pump.  Next you turn a pin valve to increase the pressure.  At about 475-500 PSI the RO filter because to produce water.

The first bit (roughly an hour’s worth of run) must be run off to ensure the preservatives are removed from the RO filter.  The device is adjusted to be a steady 21gpm (on my system) and when that part was finished, I began running fresh water to a bucket, and checking the Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) meter.  It showed a consistent 78-88 reading.  Checking with Mike once more, I found that because we are in the ICW and brackish water, we will run that low.

Pure sea water should run around 200 ppm, and FDA standards state that anything under 650 ppm is safe to drink.

When finished, I ran fresh water (from the outside faucet) through the (provided) carbon filter system to 1) remove chlorine, and 2) to flush the RO filter to prevent bacterial growth.

I have run the system twice in the past two weeks with very good results, as well as having plumbed the fresh water directly to another, already existing host to the 60 gallon tank down in the bilge.

I will include pictures later – probably tomorrow, as I’m just too tired to figure out where I put them all right now and upload them!

Over all, I give this system a 4.6 out of 5 stars….

Customer Service: 5.0

Documentation: 4.5

Equipment: 5.0

Functionality: 5.0

Difficulty of Assembly: 3.5

 

Documentation is mostly images, and probably works for most people, but the images do not necessarily show the exact parts in MY kit.

As to difficulty of assembly, the system is NOT hard to put together and make function.  The hard part is really based on your particular needs, space availability and your own technical ability.  While *I* can assemble nearly anything, including radio systems from scratch, and many mechanical items and devices, I also can read schematics and engineering documents.  Not everyone has these abilities, or would have to work harder to accomplish the same thing I did.  It might take longer.

But, Mike and Mindy have provided EXCEPTIONAL Customer service, responding instantly in some cases to emails, and in enough detail to help me figure out my immediate problems.

My final email to Mike was “Ok, it’s all installed and working.  Any further advice to give?”

Mike responded with, “Yes, take your boat to the Bahamas !! “

Now that Dorian has gone through here, and I’m back in my regular slip, it’s time to run the machine again, make some water and do a few more tests, but at this point, I’m extremely happy with the system.

 

April through May 2019

When we came back to the marina, we were happy to see our boat.  We both missed Adventure very much.  Had the bottom cleaned by the local divers, and found out there was a LOT of hard growth on the bottom, where she tends to settle in at low tide.

Adventure from SHVM docks (Image by Nancy)

We cleaned up the boat and emptied all the extra crap because we had to make room for two crew members who had planned to go with us towards the Bahamas for a couple of weeks.  In the end, that didn’t work out, as they had other things happening in their lives which precluded them from going along.  But, the four of us took Adventure out and put up the sails the second we left the marina and put her through a pretty good shake down cruise for the day.

Unfortunately, we hit the mud, which slowed us, and the wind blew me into the neighbors boat.  Small scratch, but’s it’s going to cost a bit to fix.

Adventure performed extremely well, and we wound up doing a bit of a “show boat” past the marina under nearly full sail (minus mizzen), and got a video and pictures.  I’ll try to post those.

Adventure entering ICW from Cape Fear River Near American Fish (Image by Jen)

Adventure, Sails dropped, under engine power (Image by Nancy)

Adventure Flyby (Video by Nancy)

On Monday the 6th of May we’d planned to leave.  We both woke up to zero winds and looking at the various weather apps decided not to go.  Some of our friends argued with us about it, but we’ve had enough of making a decision, being talked out of it and/or second guessing ourselves.  We stood our ground.

On Tuesday though, we knew it was light in the morning and would pick up, so we were going to head out.  About 45 minutes prior to departure, I had all lines off but two to make it easy on the deck crew (our friends) and started smelling something “wrong”.

Going below, the transmission was shooting transmission fluid out the side.  I thought the seal had gone bad.  I spent several days trouble shooting and cleaning the pans out below the engine.

Finally, on Friday, I verified 100% the problem.  The shifter lever was the culprit.  Inside is an O ring that was probably worn.  Yesterday, Saturday 11 May, I tore into the thing.  It was easier than I expected, but it took me quite a few hours of research and downloading the manuals and trying to find any sort of instructions on disassembly.  I was unsuccessful at finding any videos.

The hardest part was keeping hold of a tiny ball bearing and screw that threatened to shoot out of the housing and down into the bilge.  I put a powerful magnet there to catch things, which saved me having to hunt for the ball bearing when it actually shot out and stuck to the magnet!

I pulled the guts out and looked and sure enough, the O ring was worn badly, and cracked.  When I tried to remove it, it broke in two.  I took the stuff to Napa who had the right parts.  $1.47 later, I had a new O ring and one spare.  I expect I should never have to do that again, but at least an O ring doesn’t weight much.

After reassembly, everything seems to be running well, no more leaks.  I’ll check the levels today and probably have to add a little bit to the transmission.  As they say, it’s best to run between the lines and have less than more.

With a bit of luck and weather planning we can still get out of here for a couple of weeks for some kind of adventure.

Sometime in June, JoAnne needs to go in to see a doctor, get a chemo port flush.  So, we’ll also have blood work done as well and pass that data on to her oncologist back in Colorado.

Today is Mother’s Day.  I took JoAnne breakfast and coffee in bed.  Of course, I do that almost every day anyway, but I got to tell her Happy Mother’s Day that way.

Today, there are storms coming through in a few moments.  Look like they will last an hour or so at most, and blow off.  More stuff is coming from behind, but will be hours and hours before it’s arrival.

The waves and winds do not look too good for tomorrow to go outside.  We’ll keep our eyes open for a weather window though.

September/October/November

I have already related to you the mess we had with insurance over medical problems.

We came back to Colorado, and then after getting that straightened out, we saw JoAnne’s oncologist, and dates were scheduled.

As luck, or perhaps fine tuning, would have it, we had a three week hiatus in which to make another trip across country.  We wound up traveling back from Colorado to Southport.  We stopped (as usual) to visit our friends, Mike and Cindy, as Cindy is preparing for her starring role in “A Bad Year for Tomatoes” in November.  (As of this writing, she did opening night and the second night’s play.  This Friday night and Saturday should be their final curtain.)

We stopped around Tennessee and we wound up at Southport late on the evening of our arrival.

The boat was pretty much a mess.  Books and other things not nailed down flew around during the hurricane.  A solar panel pulled loose from the top and fell to the deck, ripping wires from the connectors.  Fortunately, it wasn’t much of a mess, the books were cleaned up, the batteries checked, and we stayed with our friend at her apartment for a couple of night until I could clean the interior of the boat up.

We spend the next week doing minor repairs, and prepping the boat for the winter, dumping our water tanks and removing any remaining food stuffs to the car, to return that with us to Colorado.  Why not use it there?

I repaired and tested the solar charging system.  We had a major water gusher under the sink where our Seagull Water filter system resided, and had worked itself loose, releasing pressure when turning on the pressure water system.  We move a few things to storage, removed a few winter clothes and after about a week on the ground there, set out again for Colorado.

This time, we took a few extra days, as there was no rush.  We stopped again with Mike and Cindy and spent a full day assisting in the set build for the play at the local VFW Hall in Richmond, MO.  I helped Cindy with her lines and we had a good time hanging out with them.  The day we left, we both had colds, and were kind of miserable.

So, we stopped in Kansas for the night instead of making the long, eleven hour run from Richmond back to Colorado Springs.  We spent the night got up late, traveled and arrived back here.

Over the course of the last week, we’ve been to multiple doctor’s appointments, been in and out of two hospitals and visited most of our kids.

A couple of days ago, our fourteenth grand child was born.  His name is Lincoln Alan Dale Donaldson, and he was 5lbs & 15oz.  He’s have a few breathing issues apparently though, and is still in the hospital until they can get him breathing correctly, even perhaps giving him some  red blood cells to help as he seemed slightly anemic.  Otherwise, he seemed healthy.  His mom and dad (Lana and Patrick) are quite proud!

Baby Lincoln

 

Yesterday was the beginning of JoAnne’s chemo.  She has six sessions.  They are 21 days long (scheduling, not that many days in a row!.)

The first day is a lot of chemicals, drugs to prevent nausea. etc.  The second set in the first session, will be 7 days out from the first day, and will be a short session to give her another dose of one of the chemicals.  Then it starts over again on Day 21.  This will go on for six total sessions, or about 18 weeks, interspersed with doctor’s appointments, blood work and other tests as needed.

We are hoping this particular chemotherapy doesn’t make her lose her hair like the first one did, but we’re prepared that it will, just in case.  She has some hats and scarves, like last time.  The chemicals are somewhat different this time as well, and her doctor said that people do not lose their hair “as much” with this type.

JoAnne is a tough cookie.  She fought this last time and managed to beat it back for four full years, she never really even got ill as some do, through chemo, and she worked the whole time last time.  This time, we’re completely retired and have nothing to keep us from fighting this all the way through.  She’s going to get plenty of rest in spite of herself! ha!

JoAnne, the First Mate of the Sailing Ketch, Adventure!

 

We both want to tell you folks, those who are already out there and follow us, and those thinking about it, as well as our friends who are comfortable in their homes, snuggled up by the fireplaces, drinking their hot chocolates, or martinis by the fire:

Stop living life the easy way.  Don’t pass the opportunities that come your way.  Don’t live day-to-day and Check-to-Check.

Do NOT let life pass you by while you’re “waiting for retirement”.  Don’t sit on your butts, thinking about all the things you’re going to do “When I don’t have to work again”.  Do NOT wait for “enough money” (because you will NEVER HAVE ENOUGH MONEY!) to do the “RV Thing”, “buy a boat”, “go horse back riding”, “Mountain Climbing”, “Paragliding or skydiving”.

Just don’t wait.  Do it.  Sit down and make that list of things you want to do, and then check them off, one at a time.  Save some money, go do one, pick a date, do another.

Life isn’t lived while you’re “waiting on it to catch you”.  Life is lived when you grab that bull by the horns and wrestle his big ass down into the mud and hog tie him, then jump up and win that trophy.

The day JoAnne gets her walking papers from chemo, we’re headed back to Southport without meager belongings, and we’re going to empty out the Vee Berth, put everything we don’t need in storage (winter clothing, parts, junk pieces, extra crap that we “might need one day” and all the stuff that weigh us down, collect a couple of friends as crew and we’re setting sail for the Bahamas.  Yes, it will be near the beginning of Hurricane Season.  Yes, it might be the BEST sailing time.  Yes, it will be relatively spur of the moment, pretty much “unplanned” and absolutely not the “right season”, but you know what?  It’s well past time to do it.

We made a decision awhile back that we were going to live our lives, and do the “medical stuff” around life, not live our lives around the “medical stuff”.  I’ll keep JoAnne safe, and healthy, and make sure she sees the doctors when it’t time, but we’re not sitting on our asses waiting for a “day, date, season or proper time” any longer.

To our friends Kevin and Debi – skippers of their own ships, be prepared, we’re coming for you, we need a crew! (Don’t be surprised if you get shanghaied!!!!!!!!!

 

 

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