Monday, October 8, 2007

October 8. We left the Annapolis Boat Show still in full swing and turned south early Sunday morning.

We ended putting in our longest day, distance wise. A twelve hour day that covered 87 miles. We had an excellent push for the first three hours of the day and finished with several hours of a beneficial tidal flow. We pulled into Indian Creek, Virginia for the night. The last time we had been here it was fairly crowded with other cruising boats and then we were forced to head very far upstream to anchor.

Since we left the boat show a day or 2 early we are ahead of most of the other cruisers and we practically had the place to ourselves, not to mention the fact that who else would be silly enough to try for an 87 mile day. So I figure that we’re a day or 3 ahead of the crowd. We had a prime spot adjacent to the YMCA camp for kids. They have an excellent dock which makes for easy dog walking on their huge grass fields.

We had such a long day that sleeping was easy for everyone in the crew in this absolutely calm anchorage. It was quite different than the rolly, exposed anchorage we had become used to in Annapolis.

This morning we arose and were underway at 0730 for our proposed 60ish mile day. We have an important party to attend in Charleston near the end of the month. Its about 550 miles to cover, in less than 17 days. I figure 11 50 mile days will do it for us and still give us 6 days to layover because of weather, or exhaustion. It would also be nice to get there with enough time to shower before dinner. We’re running as hard as we can while we have such nice weather so we won’t have to venture out when it all goes to hell.

About halfway through our day Christy screams out “look!” From past experience this can pretty much mean anything, submarine, floating debris, container ship bearing down, wildlife, who knows. Today it was a good “look!” Dolphins, a huge pod, probably fifty or sixty of them. This is as far north as we’ve ever seen them so it was pretty exciting. The boat was literally completely surrounded with them.

I had planned to anchor near Tidewater’s Marina which is about 7 miles short of the first lock in the Great Dismal Swamp. Christy had the great idea to keep going and anchor right in front of the lock. Nobody can transit the waterway because the lock doesn’t open until 0900 tomorrow, so why not. It was a stroke of genius.

I wanted to stop and top off both fuel tanks so we won’t have to stop again before we get to Charleston, so we turn off the ICW and into the Ocean Marine Yacht Basin. We tie up to the fuel dock, top off and more importantly, top off the water tank. After paying for our fuel I turn the key to restart the engine for the last 7 miles and 2 lift bridges of our day. Nothing. Shit. Crap. F**k. Arghh…..

A little recap. When we left Annapolis the engine turned over a little slowly so I figured that the batteries were a little undercharged as it was fairly cloudy every morning, so not enough solar power. It was only windy enough to make sleeping uncomfortable but not enough to produce any real wind power.

Then, this morning the engine again turned over very slowly. I was still thinking it must be a battery problem until we tried to leave the fuel dock this afternoon.

When nothing happened I went down and uncovered my old friend the “starter”. I grabbed a hold of the wires to the red hot starter and guess what? That’s right class, they were dead loose. So my starter has been trying to grab enough juice to start the engine through a shitty electrical connection.

How could this possibly happen you ask? That’s right, those of you who have been paying attention know that I had some electrical work done by a company that specializes in marine electrical system repair. That’s right, when they ran the new wires to the starter they didn’t tighten them properly and allowed Mr. Corrosion to creep in and make the semi shitty connection even worse. So now as a result of their ineptitude Mr. Starter is dead, it’s always the innocents. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. I'm definately getting a Voo Doo doll.

Now we have the dilemma of having to make it through the 2 bridges before they stay closed for 2 hours for the morning rush hour. That means a 0500 departure. Oh crap no. Unless, of course, I can change out the starter and have us underway with enough time to cover the 7 miles and 2 bridges before dusk at the Dismal Swamp. Because of water restrictions the locks are only opening twice a day, once at 0900 and again at 1500 hours. So we have to make the 0900 opening so we can leave the other end of canal at the 1500 opening. If not, we lose a day.

Christy and I are like a fine tuned pit crew when it comes to these intense gotta-get it done repairs. Since I can get a little, a very little testy, she pretty much gets as far away as she can. Since we were tied to the dock it made this much easier.

I can’t begin to explain how hot it was inside the engine compartment. The water was just running off my face as I bent over to start removing wires. The biggest problem was that the starter was red freaking hot. Luckily before we had left New Jersey Christy had remarked to a friend how neat his “Ove Glove” was. It’s a glove that is made of nomex and kevlar, it’s so heat resistant that you can put it on and lay your hand right on a hot grill. It’s crazy to see, as it looks like a soft woolly glove your grandmother might have knitted for you. Anyway, thanks to Nick’s generosity and the fact that I’ve had to remove the starter at least ten times I had the old one out and the engine running with the new one in less than forty minutes. I’ll clean up later.

Once back underway it went very well as we made the 2 bridges on time and are now comfortably anchored in front of the lock. Just after anchoring a small skiff came by with a husband and wife aboard along with their Miniature Schnauzer. I asked them if there was any public land nearby that I could land my dinghy at to walk the dogs, a boat ramp, anything. They both say “sorry, nothing like that around here” but there is a park just over there that you might be able to use. A park we might be able to use, hummm. No public land but there is a park. What did they think I was looking for? Anyway, it was beautiful, only fifty yards away, obscured by the lushness of the surrounding vegetation. Tomorrow the Dismal Swamp, if the engine starts.

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