October 9. Today started well enough as the engine fired right up just like it was supposed to. There was one problem though. Every morning before we get underway I do a check of the fluid levels and I also check the general condition of the engine room. Today I discovered that the belt to the water pump was a little loose.
It wasn’t that the belt needed tightening it was the fact that there was some side play in the water pump shaft. We have spare impellers on board but not a new bearing or another complete water pump. We got underway and Christy phoned West Marine and ordered us another pump. It will be in Oriental on Thursday which will work for us as we won’t arrive before Friday.
Now the dilemma. If I let this water pump continue on as it is it might very well get us to Oriental where we can install the new one and have this one rebuilt. Although if it gets too bad it may become unrebuildable or worse yet it could fail completely, probably at the worst possible moment. On the other hand if I take it up to the local machine shop for a new bearing they could screw it up leaving us with nothing to get us to Oriental.
I’m gonna remove it and head up to NAPA in the morning to see if I can get a replacement bearing. If I walk into the machine shop with the bearing in hand I feel like things might go smoother for us, we’ll see.
So anyway we were anchored right in front of the lock to the Dismal Swamp. We locked through at 0900 and had 6 hours to cover the 22 miles to the next lock. It’s only a 3 and a half or 4 hour trip.
The water levels here are 2 feet below normal and if they drop another 6 inches the Dismal Swamp route will be closed until they get some substantial rain.
What this means for us is that the water level was ridiculously low. The depth sounder never showed less than 7 feet which is plenty for us except that the sounder doesn’t “see” trees lying on the bottom. The bottom of the swamp is littered with large portions of trees lurking beneath the surface. On several occasions we hit large branches that were 4 or 5 feet below the surface. You can’t see them at all and its just dumb luck as to who hits something big enough to damage their boat.
After hitting hard several times we elected to stop at the Welcome Center on the North Carolina / Virginia border. It’s the only Welcome Center in the country that can be reached by either car or boat. They have a nice dock and great facilities. We ran the dogs a bit, ate a leisurely lunch and set , timing it so we could reach the next lock just before it opened.
Locking went well and we were out and on our way to Elizabeth City, NC. There are several free slips maintained by the town for transient cruisers. We picked a spot and tied up for the night. We’ll probably stay here tomorrow to take care of the water pump and then we’ll hit the laundry mat as well.