Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 31

July 31. Alrighty, a little recap. We’re broken down in Westbrook Connecticut at the Pilots Point Marina.

Saturday night Christy wanted to go out for dinner and we’re fairly well out in the sticks. We take the dinghy and head on up the river looking for a place recommended by another boater here at the marina. After a short ride we arrive at Bill’s Seafood Restaurant. We tie up to their floating dock and head on in. The place was borderline diveish but the food was good and served on a riverfront deck. Adjacent to the restaurant is a bridge with a deck made of a metal grid, you know, a singing bridge. It was a little weird eating and having your conversation interrupted continuously by vehicular traffic crossing the bridge.

On Monday morning we meet our mechanic, Dave. I guess he drew the short straw as this job is going to be no party. I had already removed the cabinet so Dave got right to work. He was able to remove the generator and take it up to the shop for service. It was in the way and had to come out anyway.

A quick word about our generator. It’s a Fischer Panda 4.5 KW model that the previous owner had installed... It’s pretty much a piece of shit. I’ve had to do 2 major repairs in the last 9 months. 600 dollars in parts for a 5 year old generator with less than 300 hours on it is a little ridiculous. Trying to get one serviced is a joke. We called all six authorized service centers in the Annapolis area when we were there and not one was interested in doing the job. When we got to the Sound we called 3 different service centers on the north shore of Long Island and were told by all 3 that they could look at it in 2 or 3 weeks. Yeah, let me just hang around here for 3 weeks. So hopefully they will be able to fix it while we’re here anyway. So the bottom line is that if somebody puts a gun to your head, take the bullet, don’t buy a Fischer Panda, if you do you’ll wish you were dead anyway.

But there is good news from the bilge. Once the generator was cleared out of the way the shaft coupling came into view. All 4 bolts that hold the shaft coupling together were sheared off. This means that there’s probably no damage to the transmission. The grumbling noise we all heard was the 2 coupling plates rubbing against each other as the apparently healthy transmission tried to turn the propeller shaft.

This is excellent news as this means internal moving parts of the transmission are probably not damaged. However since Dave is so far into the disassembly we’ve decided to have him continue to remove the transmission so we can replace the 22 year old clutch plates. While we’re at it we’re also going to replace the 22 year old shaft log which is pretty much just a rubber hose that keeps the ocean on the outside of the boat. So the bottom line is that we’re still spending money but with the improvements we’re making we shouldn’t have to get this deep into the boat again for10 years. Half full, half full.

Tonight we had dinner with Pat & Eddie. They were the couple that we had met in Snead’s Ferry, N.C. when we broke our damper plate on our way south. Since then we’ve also run into them in Marathon, Miami and Saint Augustine. The odd part is that they’ve been on the road in their van and have been in our vicinity by chance…….or they could be stalkers, hmmm. Actually, they’re just awesome folks who make the effort to include running into us as part of their road trips. We hope to hook up with them on our way south this fall as they should have vanquished all of their boat gremlins by then and will be headed south themselves.

So tonight we hang suspended above the ground in the travel lift and should have our new shaft log installed in the morning. After that we’ll be back in the water and as soon as the transmission is ready it will be reinstalled as well.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

July 28. Yesterday the towboat came as promised and took us into the Pilot’s Point Marina in Westbrook Connecticut. The marina has over 850 slips and the largest travel lift will handle up to 80 tons. This place is huge with over 70 employees running this way and that.

I had spoken to the service manager, Jeremy, by phone when we broke down to let him know we’d be coming. When we got here we went up to the office and signed in and then went back to the boat to wait.

In the afternoon Jeremy and his head mechanic came by to diagnose and plan our repair. They confirmed our suspicion that it was indeed the transmission. Jeremy said they had a scheduling meeting the next morning and he’d stop by and tell us where we fit into their plans.

I’m a little freaked out because staying here costs over a hundred dollars a night. If they can’t get to us for several days we could be spending money like crazy without getting any work done. Now I’m second guessing myself, should we have stayed out on the hook until they were sure there would be a mechanic available to us? What if it’s a week? Ommm Ommmm, half full, half full.

Good to his word Jeremy showed up after the planning session and told us we’d have a man first thing Monday morning. He was very sensitive to the fact that we are liveaboards and they were doing a little juggling to get us done before some less time sensitive projects that they had going. He also suggested I have the interior disassembled as much as possible to save time and some money. I was already planning to do that but it was nice to hear he was thinking about us saving some money.

So in the big scheme of things, we’re safe and we’re in what seems to be the best place to take care of our needs. It could have been way worse, we might have had to go into an unfamiliar anchorage under sail, search for the spot and then drop the hook with other boats all around. As it was, the transmission held out just long enough to deliver us safely with the least amount of stress. Yep, still half full.

Oh yeah, while I think of it. Since I’ve had the time and an internet connection I’ve worked on our Blog a bit and have added the option for anyone reading our Blog to add a comment there for us to read. So if you’ve got something to say…….lets hear it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

July 26

July 26. Last night was great sleeping weather, a little chill and virtually no wind.

At the head of Cold Springs Harbor is a yacht club that performs the ritual of firing a canon at sunset. When the gun went off it startled all of us and almost gave Molly a stroke. After awhile she was able to calm down and I told Christy that clubs like that usually fire their cannon again at 0800, and then I completely forgot about it.

So the next morning we’re hauling the anchor at 0800 when that damn gun goes off again. I was in the bow pulpit tending the anchor and almost shit myself. Molly spazed and all around the boat a thousand tiny fish jumped from the water in perfect unison at the big guns retort.

So we’re east bound for a fifty mile day to Duck Island which isn’t much of an island at all. There’s a tiny island tucked up against the Connecticut shore with 2 long stone jetties running out from the island to form a 90 degree breakwater. A half mile to the east the land juts out to afford some protection from the east. To the west, almost a mile away is another very long jetty. So we’ve got pretty good protection from every direction.

On the way here the bay was as flat as any water we’ve seen. We had the main up to grab whatever small zephyrs of wind there might be as we motored east. The wind did build for us to about 8 knots so we were able to get all sail up and make decent time. We also had the ebb tide for most of the trip so for a good part of the day we were making over 7 knots SOG.

There’s an unusual phenomena here on Long Island Sound, Mylar balloons. When we were here a few years ago we were constantly coming across Mylar balloons that had lost their oomph but were still inflated enough to float. We saw dozens of them, one here, and 2 there. In the last 3000 miles I don’t remember seeing any at all. Today we saw at least 15, again, one here, one or 2 there. It’s probably housewives on Long Island (pronounced Long Guyland) releasing them to live in the wild. Ditzes.

When we finally arrived we dropped sail just outside the breakwater and motored inside. After a quick tour around the anchorage we picked a nice spot and dropped the hook. When I signaled Christy for reverse we found that we didn’t have any. Damn. We were still moving forward very slowly when I dropped the hook so I was fairly sure the anchor had set. I then paid out 60 feet of chain in the 9 feet of water.

Troubleshooting the problem determined that our transmission had given up the ghost, as they say. I was hoping that it was something simple (read that as cheap) like the Morse cable that controls the linkage but noooo.

We called Towboat US and since we were safely anchored we arranged to be towed in the morning. We got out the guide books for the area and were pleased to find out that we’d broken down less than a mile from the biggest full service marina in Connecticut and arguably on the Sound. So if there’s a bright side……..(remember, my glass is always half full)

Friday, July 27, 2007

July 25

July 25. Yesterday while underway the bilge pump kicked on a few times. I figured it was the new packing that I had put in the propeller shaft stuffing box.

So last night after writing yesterdays trip report I opened up the bilge to adjust the stuffing box and was confronted with the sight of water dripping down off the starter. Damn. It looks as if the starter was touching the heat exchanger on the engine and over time has worn a hole clean through. Christy was already asleep so I closed up the bilge and set the alarm for 0600 so I could tackle the job in the morning.

I slept like crap and woke up at 0500. I let Christy sleep, alright she laid there while I made as little noise as possible and went to work on the leak. I had to remove my old friend the starter (yet again) to get at the heat exchanger. When I did I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it was a hose clamp that I had put on back in Sneads Ferry that had failed. The heat exchanger was still good although it did have a rather deep depression worn into the case. A little JB Weld to fill the depression, a scrap of leather as chaff protection and we were good to go. I even adjusted the stuffing box just for the hell of it while I was waiting for the JB Weld to dry.

So we still made our planned 0930 departure but first there was the pooping of the dogs. Here in Atlantic Highlands this involves a short dinghy ride to a dirty little beach. This morning’s trip was at near low tide so I grounded the dinghy 50 feet from shore and had to carry the dogs to the beach. Both dogs wear life jackets with handles on their backs to make it easy for me to handle them. I was wading through shin deep water with a doggie “suitcase’ in each hand. When I glanced down at Tucker he’s very slowly swimming the dog paddle 12 inches above the water. I guess he just wanted to be ready in case I dropped him too soon.

We were able to sail most of the way to the Verrazano Bridge before motoring through the city on our way to Long Island Sound. A quick rant about New York, Down south I made sport of a lot of the local expressions such as twern’t and thems. Truth be told they were fun but a lot of it was because there was no malice, no lack of civility, just people being generally pleasant. It was funny, but it was nice. Here in New York its F…this F….that. It’s all this mondo negativity; I’ve never heard so many grown ass men complaining about everything under the sun. They’re out on the water on a weekday and their still complaining about every little f…ing thing. I have no idea how they handle Parkway traffic.

We’ve stopped for the night in Cold Springs Harbor. The sunset was incredible tonight and showed a thousand shades of orange and red for hours after the sun went down. Today was a 53 mile day and even with the 0930 start we were able to anchor by 1730 hours. Tomorrow looks to be about a 50 mile day as we head to Duck Island to set ourselves up with a 40 mile run to Block Island the following day. We’ll be underway by 0830 and ride the ebb tide out Long Island Sound.

July 24

July 24. We are finally on our way north. We would like to be in the inlet at 0830 to take advantage of the ebb flow. It’s a nice change of pace to be able to get up at a reasonable hour, walk the dogs and head out across the bay at a relaxed pace.

The tide has just started falling as we negotiate the Oyster Creek Channel and we’re getting sucked along at 8 knots. We just came in the inlet a month ago but the channel has changed so much that we managed to bump bottom twice. Thanks to the extra speed of the falling tide we were able to barrel through the “skinny” spots. Calling it a channel is being way to generous.

By the time we were in the inlet we were doing close to 9 knots. When we turned north we threw up the sails only to discover that there wasn’t enough wind to sail with. The wind was from the northeast and was light and fluky until we approached Sandy Hook.

The wind backed around and built to about 16 knots so we were able to sail for the last couple of hours. We also caught the tidal flow into Sandy Hook so we were sailing along quite nicely at over 9 knots SOG.

On our way north we did see several pods of dolphins. We even saw a flock of pelicans and we realized that neither one of us could remember seeing pelicans this far north before.

I also tried my luck at trolling again. I drag a 100 foot hand line behind the boat which ties to a diving plane. The diving plane presents the lure at a controlled depth a few feet below the surface. Attached to the diving plane is ten feet of heavy monofilament which is clipped to an 8 foot wire leader. The monofilament acts as a shock absorber and the wire keeps the fish from biting your lure off. Or so they tell you………whatever monster of the deep hit our lure bit clean through the wire leader. When I reeled in the line we discovered that the steel leader had been lopped off. At least I know the lure worked.

We dropped sail at the end of the breakwater in Atlantic Highlands. When we came around the end of the wall we found ourselves virtually alone as there were no other boats anchored there. The moorings were full of unoccupied boats but no one was anchored here at all.

After dinner 2 more boats did come in so we had some others to share the sunset with. Tomorrow we’re off for Long Island Sound but we don’t want to reach The Battery in Manhattan before 1300 hours because of the ripping currents in the East River. So we don’t have to leave here before 0930, oh look, another late start. Yes!!!!!

Friday, July 20, 2007

July 16

July 16. We had dinner with Capt Bill H. last night. During conversation he wanted to know if the good times outweighed the bad.

It seems that most of the times that I’ve recounted are when things aren’t going just right. Dragging boats, inconsiderate boaters, unsettled weather, breakdowns, jet skis and the like.

I need to make it clear that the difficult times were pretty much what we had expected while the good times were better and more numerous than we ever could have hoped for. They say that “attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure”. Christy and I try to see life like that; the glass is half full. So even when things aren’t going as smoothly as we’d like; ultimately we’re in charge of our own destiny.

We do our best to limit our exposure to the predictable pitfalls and we actively react to the unexpected. For every unexpected squall there’s dozen’s of breathtaking sunsets. For every “captain” that can’t anchor there’s the satisfaction of being master of your own situation and handling the unexpected.

I can’t say enough about the beauty of our country. The wildlife is incredible and the sunsets are absolutely amazing. The sunrises would be wonderful if they just weren’t so damned early so that’s a toss up. We can’t wait to see more of the world.

Stress is a relative term, admit it, you’ve probably wanted to murder that guy who slows to a crawl in the E Z Pass lane on the highway, I always wanted to. Now the stress of transiting a rough inlet is something we deal with and get to come out of with a feeling of accomplishment. We get plenty of chances to doubt ourselves but we try our best to turn them into opportunities to prove ourselves. It like hey look; the boat can handle it and so can we.

The biggest plus is the people that we’ve met along the way. Most of the people in the towns and marinas along the way have been extraordinary. Even when we meet someone we don’t care for we just keep moving, no biggie, or I introduce Rumboy and they usually leave at first opportunity, lol.

We’ve been given the opportunity to help strangers when they’ve needed it most. I can’t begin to explain the deep feeling of satisfaction it’s given me to help someone when they needed it. I know it sounds corny but a heartfelt “thank you” can be an extremely gratifying thing. Besides, I’m filling my Karma box with bonus coupons.

A lot of the cruiser’s that we’ve met have become friends that we keep in touch with and look forward to crossing wakes with again. The amount of people willing to help you when you need it is staggering. Whenever we walk a strange town we can always spot the other cruising couples. They’re either lugging 50 pounds of laundry or they’re holding hands.

There are negatives. We don’t see family as often as we did but I’ve noticed that its become quality time when we were reunited rather than taking anyone’s presence for granted. So even that can be a good thing, remember, the glass is half full. But saying “good bye” does suck.

July 13

July 13. It’s been a while so lets get started with Something Bill Doesn’t Understand.

When did they do away with that old library standard, “SHhhhhh!” Since we’ve been out and about sometimes we’re at the mercy of the local library for our internet connection. Lately we’ve been going to the Lacey Township branch of the Ocean County Library for a Wifi connection.

Holy Christ this place is noisy. I’m mean holy shit the library was always a bastion of quiet and concentration. Not here though, it’s more like a social center where the thought of quiet never entered anyone’s mind. The loudest people here are the hen circle behind the library counter. It’s ridiculous as they all blabber back and forth like they’re at a basketball game. I feel like Michael Douglas in that movie, “Falling Down”, I just want to start smacking people with the leg of a chair to remind them that they’re in the freaking library. For God’s sake shut up, nobody thirty yards across the room cares what kind of conditioner you use.

Okay; end of rant.

We sent our lifelines out to be duplicated as ours were pretty much at the end of their service life. The company we used advertised 2 day turn around once the samples were received. Not for us though, we called after several days without getting a telephone quote and were told that they didn’t receive our old lines. Christy supplied them with a tracking number and after a while they called and said “oh yeah, they’re here, we had them all along, oops, sorry”.

We should be back underway and headed north by this weekend. The time we’ve spent here has been well spent. We’ve seen family and done plenty of boat chores.

The day we leave will be bitter sweet as we leave family and friends but it will be good to get going again.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

July 4th

July 4th. Happy Birthday America. We woke to a grey day with the constant threat of rain. The wind is blowing pretty good and the forecast is now calling for 15 to 20 tonight with gusts of 30 possible.

The fireworks displays in most of the neighboring communities were canceled because of the high winds. The winds were between 10 and 15 in our area so our show went on as scheduled. It was a spectacular display as usual and 10 minutes after it was over it started to rain. The crappy forecast kept a lot of the pleasure boats home but there were still over a thousand boats present. Shortly after the show ended most of the boats headed for home and we turned in for the night content to sleep through the stormy night.

The next morning Nick & Edie on Cirrus headed home while we opted to wait for the tide to come in after lunch so we could get out of the Toms River. The settings on our Max Prop still are not right so we were not able to motor anywhere near cruising speed so we motor sailed south into steady 20 knot southerlies at about 4 knots.

We’re not under any real schedule pressure so we decided to spend the night at Berkley Island which was on our way home. The night in Berkley was beautiful as usual and was over quickly.

Friday morning we crabbed for a while before getting underway around 1000 hours. The winds were from the west at 5 to 12 knots and made for a very pleasant sail. So pleasant in fact that once we arrived at the mouth of the Forked River we turned around and headed back north. We ended up putting 25 miles on the boat running back and forth from Berkley to Forked River. It was a very special day as Veranda was fast as hell with her clean bottom in the variable winds.

I’ve been waiting to go to a party that we’ve been invited too and Saturday nights finally here. The party was “off the hook” as the expression goes. Combine a huge ocean front home with outstanding decks, wonderful hosts, catered food, endless liquor and a kickass 8 piece band and what do you expect.

The band, Shorty Long and the Jersey Horns were set up on the lower deck. They had a stage that was probably 10 by 30 in front of a dance floor that easily held a hundred people which were surrounded by tables and chairs, so what I’m getting at is the deck is huge. Oh yeah and there’s a large wet bar off to the side. They were serving food on the second deck which looks down on the larger lower “dancing” deck. It was an incredible night. The band was so good that dozens of neighbors brought lawn chairs and sat out near the dunes to enjoy the show.

After the band knocked off at 2200 hours (local noise ordinance) Ashlee, Christy and I went up to the rooftop observation/ sun deck. You are literally on top of the highest building in sight except for the casinos of Atlantic City which you can plainly see more than 15 miles away. Laying back and star watching was awesome. We left for home as the band cleaned up just before the homes impressive stereo system was brought into play for round two of the evening. I have to say though that this was the first party that I was ever at that the police were there before we even got there. Lol. What a good time.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

July 3rd

July 3rd. A little recap of the past week or so. We’ve done a lot of work on the boat during the last week. I disassembled and cleaned a dozen sea cocks and replaced one faulty seacock. We stripped, sanded and put 3 coats of Cetol on our rub rail and toe rail. We also added a swim platform to Veranda’s transom and polished all the stainless.

Then we compounded and waxed the hull. We repaired the scratch below the waterline then painted the bottom, removed, serviced and reassembled the Max Prop. Put on new zincs, repacked both stuffing boxes and installed a new cutlass bearing. We’ve been busy while the boats been on the hard.

Earlier in the week I had a problem with a tooth. So for a couple of days I couldn’t really eat then I had to have the tooth removed. The dentist had to cut the tooth in half after working hard to try to remove it whole. Let’s just say that it was no party.

The day after the surgery it was 90 degrees, I’m still unable to eat anything substantial and I’m on Percocets. So of course delirium was the next reasonable step. I don’t even remember what I was doing when I decided that the 10 foot ladder wasn’t the place to be so I went and laid down for a couple of hours in the shade of the cockpit. The fog of my delirium soon lifted but not before I had a very vivid dream about 37 children all named Landon running around the boat. I must be getting old because small children scare me almost as much as Pelligators. First Rumboy then Delirium Lad, good grief who’s next………

Flash was good enough to come down to the boat on Monday afternoon (his day off) and put the boat into the water. I wanted to get it in on Monday because I had so many potential leaks to check after servicing so much of the underwater gear. It all went well with no leakers so we had the evening to put the interior of the boat back together.

Tuesday morning we pumped out the holding tank and filled the water tank then headed off for Toms River. There’s a very impressive fireworks display there every year and we wanted to get there on the third to insure a great viewing spot.

Our friends, Nick & Edie on Cirrus were waiting for us as we came out the Forked River. The two of us had a very pleasant 14 mile sail even though we had a five minute encounter with the bottom as we approached the Toms River. There’s only about a dozen boats scattered about but tomorrow will bring at least another thousand. The wind is supposed to build to 15 to 20 knots tomorrow evening so it should be interesting. A stiff breeze, alcohol, explosives and tiny anchors……….could it get any better?

June 22

June 22. We’ve been here in Forked River for several days now. It was wonderful to get back to friends and family.

After arriving early on Saturday morning we took quick naps and set out. Our first stop was to the office of the marina where I formerly worked. It was lunch time so we spent a bit of time sitting with all the guys from the marina and catching up on each others recent history.

The next afternoon we were able to have dinner with Charlie and Nell who left later that evening on a 3 month cruise of their own to Nova Scotia. It was good to get back in time to see them before they left. Charlie has been a very positive influence in my sailing career and it was wonderful for me to get to watch them cast off the dock lines for their dream trip. If anyone see’s S/V Nelly Ruth, make sure to say hi.

Since then we’ve spent time with several friends at various dinners, visited with family and attended a yacht club function. We’ve been busy every evening after putting in full days of working on the boat.

The marina published our Blog address in their monthly newsletter and evidently it’s really taken off. We’ve been stopped by dozen’s of people who have been following our adventure’s, I had no idea so many people were reading our Blog. It was a little overwhelming to think that the crap I write is being so widely read.