Friday, December 26, 2008

December 26, 2008.

If you've been following along then you know that we sent our primary laptop in for service. We got it back in 3 or 4 days and all seemed to be good to go. After a few days I realized that the laptop wasn't charging its battery. Christy called the service department and they walked her through a series of over the phone diagnostics.

The service tech said the results indicated that the battery was fine but the motherboard had a problem as it wasn't permitting the battery to be charged. So back to the service center it went. Again we got a super quick turn around but much to our dismay the diagnosis was that the battery would have to be replaced to the tune of 150 dollars.

I found it pretty hard to believe that the battery had failed at the exact same time we decided to send the computer in for service the first time. It seemed more probable to me that the phone service tech was right when he said it was something other than the battery. But how do you prove it?

Then it dawned on me. Since the battery runs on around eleven and a half volts maybe I could figure a way to recharge the battery while it wasn't attached to laptop. With my multimeter I was able to figure out which slots were the ones I would need to attach a charger to. Then it was a simple matter to cobble up a charger to hook into the boats 12 volt system.

Sure enough after a few hours on the "charger" the battery accepts and holds a full charge. Computer Nerd Bastards. Sounds like another phone call is in order. Unfortunately they are closed until the 29th so we'll have to be patient for a while.

On a more pleasant note, Inamorata with our friends Tessa and Jeff arrived this week so we spent some time showing them the ropes on the town’s bus line. Mostly we were just waiting for Christmas to happen.

Christmas here in Vero was as much fun as we had hoped. The weather is beautiful and the day started with Christy and I exchanging gifts here on the boat.

Then Nancy came by and picked us and the crew from Inamorata up. She had a full blown turkey dinner along with a standing rib roast and all the trimmings. The crews from Far Niente, Solitaire, Inamorata and Veranda all had a great time and probably too much to eat. Oh, and there was pie!

So now that the holiday is over we’ll be spending some time running around returning some of the stuff that I bought for Christy. Then its back to the boat chore list.

Boat Name of the Day......Clairebuoyant

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December 22, 2008.

We’ve been in Vero Beach for a few days now. We’re rafted up with our friends on Far Niente and Solitaire. The crews of both of these boats have recently invested in new Land Based homes here in town. As a result, while they’re getting used to their new digs, we’ve got the mooring essentially to ourselves. Since there are already 3 boats on the mooring, which is the maximum, it’s nice to not have to wonder who’s going to be rafting up to you while you’re riding the free bus around town.

Speaking of which, the bus system; an experience like no other. The people you might run into on the free bus runs the entire gambit of society, except for doctors, lawyers, judges and that sort of thing. There are drunkards, gangsta’s, ho’s, immigrants of every flavor, the mentally challenged, the mentally deranged, the infirmed, some Canadians and I’m sure there’s even a child molester or two. It’s kind of funny to watch cruisers exchange looks as some of the local entertainment board the bus.

The buses are exceptionally clean and really make getting around town a breeze. It’s also a good way to catch up with the other cruisers and it’s an especially nice way to find out who’s got what bargain going on where.

We’ve been trying to accomplish at least one task from our “To-Do” list every day. So far I’ve been able to clean the “ICW Mustache” from the hull and spent the better part of an afternoon waxing the topsides. Christy spent most of Sunday “de-molding” the boat. We had been trapped so far north as the cold weather set in, we started to grow some mold. It’s not that we’re especially disgusting, it happens to everyone like one of cruisings dirty little secrets.

Anytime you have cold enough temperatures outside that you need to run a heater, you’re going to start a mold culture in your boat. Now that we’re far enough south that we can open some ports and live without the heat running it was time to wash away Veranda’s Penicillin. It’s a tedious process that involves pretty much moving everything and wiping down every surface you can with a bleach solution or some commercially available product like Legionnaires Away.

So we’ll be here for a few weeks as we take care of some doctor crap, visit with friends and tackle the rest of the dreaded “To-Do” list. The weather is pleasant and should make for a good place to spend the holidays.

Boat Name of the Day. I think that this is a great boat name. El Magnifico. When this guy called and told the marina that he would be in shortly he said it with such aplomb that you couldn’t help but to laugh. He was into the part and sounded very much like Steve Martin in the movie The Three Amigos. He proudly announced “El Magnifico will be at your fuel dock shortly!” The woman on the other end giggled a little bit during her reply but said that they were eagerly awaiting El Magnifico’s arrival. His reply was “Good, then you will have someone there to catch El Magnifico’s lines, Eh?” 

Thursday, December 18, 2008

December 15, 2008.

After spending a day wandering the bookstores and just relaxing in St Augustine, we again resumed our journey southward.

The Bridge of Lions in Saint Augustine was closed for the rush hour until 0830 so we took our time getting ready to get underway. Once through the bridge we had a rather dull day of traveling down the ICW. We found ourselves in Daytona Beach for the night. The anchorage was a little crowded but we found a good spot to spend a calm night with no wind at all.

The next morning we were up and underway early as we planned a long day with Cocoa Beach as our planned stop for the night. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. After only a half mile or so we found ourselves in the thickest fog we’ve ever encountered. Visibility was measured in yards. Along this section of the ICW the channel is narrow and it runs through the middle of a wide, very shallow body of water. The channel markers are about a mile apart. The chart plotter gives you a general idea of where the channel is supposed to be but until you can confirm this by seeing the next set of marks you’re really just making a blind leap of faith.

Even when using the radar we were really just putting to much faith in our electronics to be comfortable. So when we got to a set of marks with a little deep water charted off behind them we pulled out of the channel into an area of 6 feet of water and dropped the hook. We were only 40 yards from the green mark and could barely make it out through the fog.

We ended up waiting for an hour or so before the fog finally lifted but the delay pretty much doomed our days schedule. We made it to the Titusville bridge shortly before the evening rush hour closing and headed south for the Addison Point Bridge. We knew we wouldn’t make it to Addison Point before their scheduled closing so we took our time and anchored for an hour while we waited for the bridge to resume opening at 1700 hours. After transiting the bridge we were still 12 miles from Cocoa Beach with only 30 minutes of daylight left. We just kept plugging along until the light of day faded and we pulled off to the side of the ICW and anchored behind one of the marks 50 yards outside of the channel. We had a boat that was behind us do the same thing about a mile back up the ICW and we spent another very calm night at anchor.

After departing in the morning we were once again beset by fog, although not thick enough to slow us down. We kept up our voyage south to Vero Beach. Some homes have fancy yard decorations such as flocks of fake pink flamingos while other guys just gotta have that certain something that
nobody else has.

We arrived in Vero at 1500 hours and after hitting the fuel dock for 26 gallons of diesel, a pump out and a hundred gallons of water we headed out into the mooring field. Our friends on Solitaire and Far Niente have just both purchased homes here and their boats are moored together out in the mooring field. Since they allow 3 boats on a mooring buoy it was only natural for us to raft up with their 2 unoccupied boats.

We love Vero Beach and plan to spend at least a few weeks here while completing some projects and doing some follow up work at the doctors.

Boat Name of the Day. A small center console fishing boat named Fishful Thinking.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

December 13, 2008.

We’ve been loosely traveling with a pair of other boats and we had been discussing the weather for our upcoming jump offshore. There was some nastiness off the Georgia coast, a bit of which we experienced last night in the anchorage. There were small craft warnings in effect until 0600 on Friday off Georgia. I figured that if we left at 0800 we could ride the ebb tide down the 13 miles to the inlet at Port Royal Sound and into the ocean. It would be after noon before we were in “Georgia” waters.

When we woke on Friday after a sleep deprived night, the forecast had changed a bit. We went online and checked every source for weather that we could. There were small craft and gale warnings in effect until 1000 hours, now the wind was supposed to come from the west before veering and coming from the north. I figured that the 20 to 25 knots forecast would knock down the sea state after several days of gales from the south. Our intended route would be taking us along the western side of the gale warning area.

We still weren’t sure about leaving so we decided to stay until Saturday, and then the other boats decided to leave. That’s about when I hatched a rather ill advised plan. There’s an anchorage about 8 miles closer to the ocean than where we were in Beaufort. I reasoned that if we hauled anchor an hour after the other boats, we could head down to that anchorage to spend the night before leaving for St Augustine on Saturday.

That way, by the time we were just about to the new anchorage the boats that had left earlier would be out the inlet. We could call them on the VHF and get a first hand report on the conditions they were encountering. If things looked good we would keep right on going and if it looked to rough we would stop and wait until the morrow.

Like clockwork we called and got a report of surprisingly lovely conditions so we kept going. I had already put a double reef in the mainsail, making it as small as possible. We rolled out half the genoa and sailed down the river and out the several mile long inlet.

Conditions were a little choppy near the inlet but once out to sea, things smoothed right out. We were soon skimming along at 7 knots under the full genoa and a double reefed main.

We were making really good time with 15 knots of wind in fairly benign conditions. At sunset we debated reducing the size of the genoa while it was still daylight. When it comes to reefing, the old adage is that “If you think of doing it, then you better do it”. So we reefed the genoa down to half size.

The winds had been from the west and shortly after sunset started to build. We found ourselves blasting along at 8 knots with only the small mainsail and about half the genoa out. We pulled in some more of the headsail and were still banging along with a double reefed main and just a slice of genoa out.

This is where the rollicking good sail became something a little less than “good”. The wind was now about 20 knots but the sea state was starting to build. We had small rollers passing harmlessly under the boat from the side. So with our two small sails up the motion was not uncomfortable. It’s funny how something as small as an additional few knots of wind can change a situation. When the wind built to 25 knots, Veranda with her tiny sails was once again blasting along at 8 knots but the comfort level was starting to drop considerably. In retrospect, its all kind of a blur, but during the night the wind built to 33+ knots and the rollers were now accompanied by the occasional breaker.

The worst part about the random rogue breaker was that we were traveling parallel to the waves. When a big roller passed under the boat from the side we felt like we would topple 15 feet down into the trough of the wave but the wave simply passed under us. When a breaker comes through you don’t know what’s going to happen. It can break before it reaches you, it can break over you, it can break just after passing you or it can grab you in its curl and break with you. Our saving grace was the fact that we had enough wind to keep the boat driving through the curl of most of the breaking waves.

We had several waves break over the boat leaving us a salt encrusted mess. We had a couple that scared us and one that almost made me start to pray. The one I like to call “The Big Nasty” caught us just right and drove us sideways down into the back of the preceding wave. We had over a foot of water up on the port side deck and water, a lot of water, made it into the cockpit. Unfortunately, Christy was below when it broke and the sound and motion of that wave was terrifying. Everything in the boat went flying and it sounded like we had hit something very big and very solid. That was definitely a holy shit moment, with only another 92 miles to go!

We’re a center cockpit boat so we sit pretty high above the water. That was the first time we’ve ever had water get into the cockpit. I’m not talking about some splashing, I’m talking about solid water running in. It was also one of the very rare times we’ve ever worn our life jackets while underway and it’s the first time we’ve ever tethered ourselves to the boat while we were in the cockpit. Edy, are you proud?!!!!

After a few hours the sea started to be influenced by the wind veering from the north. We were taking huge waves on the starboard quarter. When talking about wave height it’s easy for people to exaggerate the size of the seas. The formula for determining wave height is something like “terror x anxiety divided by number of hours of sleep x the square root of the number of miles from safe shelter” I’m too tired to do the math so I’ll just relate an observation. The top of our radar arch is about 11 feet above the water. I can say for certain that the seas were 4 or 5 feet higher than that. But again, because of the big wind we were able to outrun most of the trouble, but that speed was also scary.

We would be surfing down the face of a wave and the boat wanted to broach and turn sideways to the face, the result of that would be catastrophic. But as the bow of the boat started to round up, this presented more of the headsail to the wind which pushed the boat back to our original course. The result was even more speed, often catching one then a second and even a third wave in quick succession. We were often seeing speeds in the 10, 11 knot range.

Through all of this the autopilot was a stud. The wind and seas were big and the forces involved were incredible but the autopilot steered through everything. Between the auto pilot and the balanced sail plan, Veranda did a very nice job of taking care of us.

We did have one casualty though. We lost a crew member over the side, the egg timer. While we are under way at night we set the egg timer for every 20 minutes, we get up look around the horizon, check the radar, chartplotter and AIS so that if we doze or lose track of time, we will still be aware of what is going on. He’s gone and while he could be replaced I doubt that we’ll need too, I think it’s gonna be quite some time before Christy is talking to me again and agrees to do another offshore overnighter.

Once again AIS proved its value as we crossed crowded major shipping lanes off Savannah and Jacksonville.

So we arrived in Saint Augustine a little worse for wear and exhausted. No egg timer equals no sleep. We anchored right in front of the downtown area and cleaned up the boat and stowed what had taken flight during the trip, which was an unbelievable amount of stuff.

Town is beautifully decorated for the holidays and by luck we arrived just in time for the “Parade of Lights” boat parade.
December 12, 2008.

It’s funny how things can change in just a day. When I posted last we were waiting out a weather “event” and then heading down to and out Port Royal Sound.

We’re anchored in the Beaufort River with an intense tidal flow. The wind was from the south all day at about 15 knots. When evening came it built (as predicted) to 20 to 25 knots and began to veer out of the west. So then the boat was facing east into the ebbing tide and the wind was pretty much blowing up our skirt. It’s not really a problem for us but we were starting to sail around a bit on the anchor.

We were down below reading when we were hit with a couple of bigger gusts. I turned on the anemometer and went above to have a look around. We were absorbing sustained gusts of 35, 36 and 37 knots. We had dropped the hook all the way at the end of the anchorage in case a situation like this arose.

The bridge here is now back to its standard schedule and late in the day we got a new neighbor, a beautiful Island Packet named Wind Whisperer. They were they only boat in our proximity and of course, they became an issue.

Ten minutes after the wind started gusting into the thirties they started to drag. Their anchor recaught the bottom about 30 feet off our starboard beam. They were close enough that I could see the glow of their television as they sat below bathed in the warmth of “Idiots Bliss” completely unaware of the situation.

I repeatedly hailed them on the VHF but got no response. I can only assume that they must consider it appropriate to shut the thing off once they drop the anchor. I couldn’t believe that they didn’t have their radio on, especially in the deteriorating conditions. They hadn’t even glanced topside or they would have been doing something about the situation.

We were below and I was looking for something like a can of corn to throw at them while Christy was being more responsible and getting out our air horn when she looked out the port and said “Oh my God, they are going to hit us”. I rushed topside and exploded out of the enclosure just as the Island Packet’s bowsprit ripped through our lifelines. His second anchor hanging from the bow had bent one of our stanchions, destroyed the upper lifeline and gashed into our cockpit coaming. Thank God, I was able to grab his bowrail and keep the anchor from sweeping along our deck.

I had both feet against our cockpit while putting everything I had into wrestling with the bucking bowsprit. I could control it but couldn’t really do anything with it. If the bow had swept forward he would have gotten our shrouds and possibly dismasted us and if it had been able to swing along down the stern it would have probably destroy our radar arch. The radar arch holds our solar panels, wind generator, radar, dinghy, and several antennas.

Christy was blasting the air horn and I was screaming all the foul words that I knew and finally I felt the bow pulpit start to vibrate in my hands, they’d started their engine. They backed away into the night to give anchoring another shot.

They went right back to the same spot and dropped the hook and immediately came drifting willy nilly right at us again. They came so close to nailing us a second time that I had to run to our bow pulpit in an effort to fend them away as they went by. Now I’m freaking out because there was a real good chance that they could snag our anchor out of the bottom as they dragged theirs along as they went by our bow. Luckily for us, their anchor did not grab the bottom and it passed directly over our chain without snagging it.

They pulled their hook in and went back to the same spot to try again. Now we had our engine running so that we could dodge them, even though we were still anchored. This time they spun past our stern, clearing it by 10 feet. Through the use of a system of decibel enhanced verbal communication I made sure they were aware of my displeasure. I told them to turn on their God Damn radio and pointed out that due to the huge size of the anchorage available, they better try someplace a little further away. Like f*#king Minnesota.

By this time the winds were clocking 40 knots and 2 other boats had broken free. Fortunately the crews of these 2 boats had been paying attention like responsible mariners and reanchored without incident. After several tries the Island Packet was able to get their anchor to stick and I hailed them on the VHF. I asked if they were insured and the woman said “Why, do you have any damage?” I responded with “Your boat weighs over 12 tons and you just T boned us, of course we have damage, we were planning on leaving in the morning I’ll expect to see you before 0800, over” It was several hours before the anchorage was quiet again. I sat up in the cockpit until 0200 until the winds died off.

The next morning they came by and gave us their insurance info, so we’ll have to see how that goes. They seemed like decent enough people but one thing that struck me was that they never apologized. They said that they were sorry to have met us under these circumstances but nothing about the damages to our boat. It was almost like it was normal behavior. The guy did have the nerve to whine that his navigation light had been broken. If its not one thing……..Oh yeah, sometime during the excitement when I was running around on deck I kicked something and broke my pinky toe.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

December 11, 2008.

We’re comfortably anchored here in Beaufort, SC. The trip here from Charleston had to be a 2 day affair. The bridge just below Charleston didn’t open until 0900 so that left us with only 8 hours of daylight to make the trip south.

We opted to spend the night in a very protected anchorage in the Bull River. The bridge just north of Beaufort is also a problem these days. It only opens twice a day, once at 1000 and again at 1400 hours. We were up and underway from Bull River at 0700 for the 16 mile run to the bridge. It was a good thing that we decided to leave plenty early as there was a very thick fog enveloping the area. Visibility was variable; it was anywhere from 50 yards to a half mile but the trip went well. We arrived at the Ladies Island Swing Bridge with 20 minutes to spare.

We listened with amusement to a couple of boats traveling through the fog about 15 miles behind us. When traveling in fog you’re supposed to blow a long blast on your horn every 2 minutes as you move along. One boat was a big trawler with a built in horn while the other boat was a sailboat with only a hand held air horn. They decided that the trawler would use his horn so the sailors didn’t have to waste their air canister. The problem was that he couldn’t seem to tell time. The sailboat called him every 2 minutes for at least an hour to tell him when to blast his horn. They completed their journey safely and made it through the bridge at its 1400 hour opening.

We’re waiting out a serious front with big winds from the south. So far we seem to be in a gap with horrible weather to our east and to our west. This system is supposed to pass this evening and give us decent wind from the northwest. If that happens we’ll be riding the tide out at 0800 and head out Port Royal Sound and once again into the ocean. Next stop Florida, hopefully.

Monday, December 8, 2008

December 8, 2008.

Our plan was to motor to Beaufort, NC and head out into the ocean for a 40 hour sail to Charleston. What is it that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Oh, that’s right, it might end up in an ass kicking.

We said our farewells in Oriental and motored away from Whitaker Creek at 0930. We had a 3 1/2 half hour trip to get to the inlet in Beaufort, NC. Arriving around 1300 hours would get us there just as the tide was starting to ebb so we could ride the tide out into the Atlantic. We had a north wind behind us so I wanted to avoid that whole wind versus waves thing.

We motored the entire way because I had promised Christy that we would put a few more hours on the drive train before we headed out into the ocean. So of course, the wind blew from the north and we motored along while everyone else we saw sailed southward.

We timed the inlet well and were soon out to sea. The forecast was for 10 to 15 knots from the north on Friday followed by 10 from the north on Saturday and finally 10 to 15 from the north on Sunday. We started out alright and sailed southward at about 6 knots for the first 30 miles. Then the wind started to die just as it was getting dark. We had only enough wind to move along at 3 to 4 knots for the entire night. By the time dawn broke we were doing a steady 2 1/2 knots. Our first 24 hours, that’s right our first 24 hours covered just 101 miles.

The revised forecasts we were receiving said that on Saturday evening the wind would build to 15 and that it would climb to 15 to 20 after midnight (all from the north). So we patiently sailed along at 2 1/2 knots for the majority of the day while anticipating the evenings promised higher winds. That whole “patience is a virtue” thing is all bullshit, in hindsight I should have started the engine and motored all day in the flat, practically windless conditions. The dogs did use the calm conditions to take me up on the offer of a quick walk to the bow for a little business.

After sunset on Saturday the wind did start to build and we were soon bounding along at a little better than 6 knots, for an hour. Then the wind died away to practically nothing. All that little burst of breeze did was stir up the sea state so that we had a difficult time keeping the sail full in the now rolly conditions. But that discomfort only lasted for an hour or so.

Then the wind came back with a vengeance. It was a little west of north so instead of beam reaching along we found ourselves close reaching. We were making good speed even as the winds built to a steady 30 knots. Then the wind did one of those precocious things that it likes to do, and it veered yet again.

It came from the west northwest and we found ourselves close hauled, bashing to windward in 10 foot angry seas. Oh yeah and the moon had set at 0030 hours so it was dark as hell. We weren’t going to be able to run the rhumb line right into Charleston, SC as we were being set to the south so we considered our options.

We were just past Winyah Bay. We had the choice of pounding for 40 miles to Charleston only to arrive probably several miles to the south and having to tack our way back up to the harbor. Or we could divert to the inlet at Winyah Bay and beat our way for about 20 miles to get there. We’ll take Winyah Bay for $200 Alex.

We turned for Winyah Bay at about 0500 and didn’t reach the safety of the inlet until 1300 hours. That’s right 8 hours to go 20 miles. I didn’t think to note the distance spent tacking back and forth as we made our way to the inlet. To say that the conditions were horrific would be putting it mildly. The wind was a steady 28 to 33 knots for hour after hour without dropping to the low 20’s until around noon.

The sea state was like nothing we ever encountered. The waves were so big and close together that we couldn’t even tack the boat. We’d get about halfway through a tack and a huge wave would smack and push the bow back away, the sails would refill and we’d be off again on the original course. After trying to tack several times we opted to jibe 270 degrees as it seemed to be the only option that met with success.

We started the engine in an effort to make some progress towards our goal. It really made no difference as one minute we’d be surfing down the back of a wave that hadn’t broken and the next minute a wave would break across the bow and bring the boat to a near stop. The engine really made no difference in our boat speed and did very little in our ability to point higher, so we killed the engine.

Well, we pretty much endured an ass kicking like no other we’ve ever had. So once inside the safety of Winyah Bay we decided to motor a little south along the ICW to Minum Creek. That’s where we first discovered the free range mosquito plantation but since its December, thankfully, there were none about.

We had the hook down and the boat squared away by 1500. So all in all we had traveled 235 miles in 53 ½ hours for a moving average of 4.39 knots. Had I started the boat and motored when we were sailing at 2 ½ knots we might have beaten the storm into Charleston but I was still in the belief that patience is a virtue. Ya know, until somebody beats it out of you.

After dropping the hook I was about to drop the dinghy to take the dogs ashore when they both came to the bow and did their business. It was magical and brought a tear to my eye. When we went to bed at 2000 hours there were 4 other boats in the anchorage with us. When we woke after 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep at 0700 we were alone. So we got up and headed south down the ICW for Charleston.

We made great time and are now safely anchored here in Chucktown. We’ll probably just spend the night before heading out to Beaufort SC tomorrow where we’ll wait out a forecast weather episode for a day or two.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

December 3, 2008.

As the good doctor in Young Frankenstein said….It is alive! There was good news and bad news though. The good news is that the transmission and new V drive are installed. After the mechanic was done with his part of the job he left the boat so I could start the re assembly of my part of this deal. I worked all afternoon and finished up just in time for dinner.

The next morning the mechanic came to the boat and we started her up to see where we stood. The boat started right up after a month of sitting. The transmission worked as it should and all the temperatures looked good.

We put the transmission in reverse and let the boat run at cruising RPM’s for 2 hours while tied securely in her slip. No problems, no leaks, all temps normal so it was time to take her for a ride. The mechanic came with us for the test drive and all seems to be well.

So once we arrived back at the marina we signed off on the job and I went about the work of reinstalling the generator. I wanted to wait until we were sure that everything was okay before I started messing with the generator again. I started right after lunch and after a few hours everything was once again ship shape.

Now for the bad news. We weren’t able to slip away without paying. Ouch.

I can’t say enough good things about Deaton’s Yacht Service. The only difficult part for us was that the mechanic who was assigned to us was also the Tow Boat US captain for the area. It was very frustrating to have the mechanic making headway on our job only to be called away by some dipshit in a sailboat who’d run aground. Damn boaters.

On one occasion he was called away by a guy who called up on the VHF and said that he had dragged anchor and his keel was banging on the bottom. Then he says that he’s going to shore but he’ll take his handheld with him so please hail him on the VHF when the tow boat arrives. Christy and I were following along on the radio and couldn’t believe that someone would leave their boat while it was aground.

The mechanic left the dock before 1500 hours and didn’t return to the marina until 2100. When we saw him the next day he told us that the guys boat was on a mooring in his own backyard and he felt that it had dragged so he wanted the tow boat to drag his boat and his mooring out to deeper water. These are the kinds of dipshits that were keeping our work from getting completed.

As the plan stands for now we’re planning on leaving Oriental early on Friday and going out the inlet at Beaufort. We’ve got a 212 mile trip to Charleston scheduled. The winds are supposed to cooperate but we’ll have to see how it goes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

November 27, 2008.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. First a little recap of what’s been happening on the Veranda. The new ring gear is installed on the flywheel and the flywheel assembly is back in the boat.

That was the good news. When they went to attach the transmission to the V drive the mechanic found that an adapter plate was loosely installed. This pre assembly had been done at the transmission place in Florida. In order to access the bolts to properly tighten this adapter he had to remove a special magical Nylock nut and take the back half of the transmission apart. Unfortunately Nylock nuts can only be used once. So now the magic nut was junk. This nut is evidently very special, rare and maybe even endangered and there are none to be found in the area. So they called the transmission place in Florida, told him about the loose adapter and had him send us a new magic nut.

The nut was shipped on Friday and was supposed to come overnight but somebody dropped the ball. I’m not sure what happened but the damned nut didn’t show up until noon on Tuesday. By the time a mechanic was freed up we didn’t have someone on the boat until 1500 hours but he was able to get the bell housing and the 2 rear motor mounts back in place. Progress.

On Wednesday things went pretty well and he had the transmission back in place in record time. The V drive unfortunately was a different story. The V drive we had is no longer being made, the one we received was called “a drop in replacement”. It supposed to be exactly the same, you know, except for the differences.

The new V drive is about an inch and a half longer than the old one. The old unit fit into its allotted space like a glove. There was no room to spare. Fortunately the bulkhead directly behind the V drive can be modified. That’s right, get out the Sawsall. After some liberal obstruction removal the new V drive easily slipped into place. We will have to add some aluminum angle stock to reinforce the area where the bulkhead was modified but that shouldn’t present a problem. Oh, but there is a problem.

It turns out that the extra length of the new V drive isn’t at the back of the unit but it seems to be built into the main body. Now the coupling that is supposed to mate up with our propeller shaft coupling is 3/8 of an inch too far forward. The propeller shaft cannot be pulled far enough forward to bolt them together because the front of the propeller hub will be up against the skegs trailing edge.

We formulated a plan to overcome this new problem just as the noon hour arrived. The mechanic went to lunch never to return. He planned to be back immediately after lunch but unfortunately for us he wears two hats here in Oriental. He’s also the local Tow Boat captain. While he was at lunch I heard someone hail Tow Boat US on the radio and my heart sank. He had to drop everything and go out and pull them off a shoal. The really ironic thing was that the stranded sailors were locals and they ran into some shoaling right near their slip. By the time the mechanic got back it was time to clean up his tools and leave for the four day holiday weekend. Shit.

On the bright side Jay & Di whose picture in the snow made our last update have arrived. They were only here for one day so we spent the evening on their boat having dinner and a real good time. They had a great weather window present itself and opted to head south for warmer climes.

Our friends Ken & Carol have a big family reunion scheduled up in Washington, DC this weekend. They let us use their house to have Thanksgiving dinner in. Linda & Rick from the Makeitso joined us and then Joe & Paula stopped in for dessert and a little domino action.

So Thanksgiving dinner was great as always. Oriental really is a great place but I’m really itching to get out of here. We’ll see what Monday brings.

Friday, November 21, 2008

November 20, 2008.

There are two words to basically sum up the past few days. The first word is frigid. To say that it has been unseasonably cold here is an understatement. Last night and the night before the temperature dropped to about 30 degrees. We had snow flurries on Tuesday! As if that’s not bad enough yesterday we had 20 knots of wind from the north for the better part of the day. The wind chill was down into the teens. Frigid.

The second word is WooHooo ! Today the last of our parts arrived so we are ready to start re assembly. The used ring gear that was located has finally arrived and looks to be in great shape. It has already been installed on the flywheel and is ready to go. The V drive got here a few days ago and the transmission is also ready to go. We’ll find out later today where we fit into the service schedule, dare I dream tomorrow? WooHooo !

Last night Christy went to a wine tasting that is held here in Oriental once a month. The event is a “blind” taste testing. Each person brought 2 wine glasses and there were templates for placing your glasses, glass A & B. The camouflaged bottles of wine were poured and they had to identify the type, was it a merlot? a cabernet? or a pinot noir? Then they had to choose the one they preferred and rate the glasses as to price, under or over $10? There were about 100 tastees there and only 2 people scored perfect marks on their taste testing exams. Christy, and our friend Carol. I knew the training schedule they had established would pay dividends.

Our friends Jay & Di "enjoying" the snow in the Dismal Swamp.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November 17, 2008.

Since last we left you we’ve made a bit of progress. A ring gear has been located and is now on the way to us here in Oriental. So the pieces should all be here this week so there’s a decent chance we’ll be doing some assembly soon.

Inamorata with Jeff & Tessa showed up on Friday afternoon. They had stopped for the night about 20 miles away and woke to a blinding fog.
It was a complete whiteout but they got underway and arrived here just after noon.

It was great to see them and we had a great time with them as always. We shared a couple of meals, hit West Marine, the supermarket and they did a little laundry. The wind came hard from the southwest and then veered from the northwest while they were here. It made for a bit of tension as one of the other boats in the anchorage couldn’t seem to get his anchor to stick. All went well enough and they left unscathed, but I’m pretty sure Jeff was looking forward to finding a less crowded anchorage to get some quality sleep when they left here on Sunday morning.

Christy spent yesterday running around with Carol while I did a few boat chores. Since we’re using the forward head I decided to clean the hoses of the aft head out with a diluted solution of muriatic acid. Then I took apart the fittings for the raw water strainer and cleaned them with the acid as well. Finally, I did a little routine maintenance on the auto pilot.

The auto pilot was a little low on hydraulic fluid. You can’t just open the lid to the reservoir and add fluid because the system is pressurized. After we had originally filled and bled the system we had to hook our bicycle pump to the system and pressurize the system. It had been a giant pain in the ass and took both of us working together to get the job done. Since then the bike pump broke and we threw it away. The only pump we have onboard is one of those tiny mini pumps we use to top off the bike tires. I figured I’d try it with that and if it didn’t work I’d find a pump to borrow while here in town. So after letting the air out of the system I topped off the fluid and hooked up the micro pump. It worked fabulously, it was perfect and I was done in 30 seconds. I guess even though the old pump was a full sized pump it must have just been a piece of crap. Good riddance.

As soon as I was done cleaning up my various messes it was time to take the dogs ashore. When I got up to the marina I found over a dozen people milling about. It seemed that the power had gone out all over town. All the people that are living here on their boats were freaking out because most of them are very dependent on shore power for heat.

Since it was so pleasant I didn’t have the heat on, but the night time temps are supposed to plummet to the high 20’s this week. My first thought was “no biggie, I’ll just run the generator” until I remembered that it’s still sitting in the middle of the salon. Fortunately, the power was back on in about an hour so everything was fine.

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 13, 2008.

Yep, we’re still here. This is definitely the most frustrating part of our lives. Waiting for someone else, being dependent on someone else. Waiting for parts is enough to make your head explode. Can you imagine our frustration as we wait to find out if a part even exists? The irony of the situation is overwhelming as I was involved in the manufacture of splines and gears for the military for 20 years.

We’re waiting for a new V-drive to be shipped in and while its not late its still frustrating to be waiting. The biggest issue that we have is that our ring gear is pretty beat up. The ring gear is mounted to the flywheel and when you turn the key the starter engages the ring gear momentarily and lets the starter spin the engine. Once the engine starts the starter disengages and the ring gear spins as part of the flywheel without touching anything. Its job is done until the next time you start the engine.

The ring gear was doing its job just fine but since we’re so far into the disassembly of the engine the marina doesn’t want to assemble everything with the shabby ring gear. Deaton’s Yacht Service does have the reputation of doing things right. The problem is locating a ring gear. They were once made by Westerbeke until that division was sold to another company. Then the manufacture of these gears was sold to company in Mexico and finally sold one last time to a company here in the states. As the business moved from one company to another throughout the years each company has changed the part number. So the part number we have in our 25 year old service manual doesn’t mean anything anymore. So finding the trail to the correct part is about as difficult as finding the second gunman on the grassy knoll. The marina does have a line on another marina that supposedly has a few of these engines lying around. They’re supposed to be checking these used engines to see if any have a flywheel assembly in good enough condition for us to use. We should know something tomorrow. Tomorrow, tomorrow……I’m starting to feel like Annie.

Yesterday we had Bill & Bess from the S/v Alibi stop in Oriental for the night. We had met them in Washington while we were there. Bess worked for a high power law firm in DC and lived on a large power boat at the Capital Yacht Club. If you took the most energetic, frenetic person you know and fed them some amphetamines and washed them down with espresso they’d almost have as much energy as Bess. I was really looking forward to seeing how she adapted to the slower relaxed pace of Bill’s sailboat. I have to say that I was quite surprised at how well she’s adapted. We had lunch with them and like everyone else beside us, they were gone the next day.

We did hear from Jeff & Tessa on Inamorata, some more of our southbound people. Tessa sent us a picture of herself sticking her tongue out at Atlantic Yacht Basin as they went by. That’ll teach them to do a half assed repair on someone’s boat. She did make us laugh so that was good. They should be here in a day or two depending on the weather.

The weather here went to hell today and is supposed remain crappy for 2 more days. Also the wind is now out of the south which should slow Inamorata down a bit.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November 9, 2008

So were just sitting here waiting for parts to arrive. We got the bikes out and we’ve been doing a little cycling in an effort to keep from climbing the walls. Town is small enough to walk everywhere but having the bikes out adds a new dimension to what we can accomplish.

Yesterday we were taking a ride when we realized that it was Saturday and that the fish market was open. We picked up a pound of grouper and a pound of great looking shrimp at a fair price. When we got back to the boat to stow the fish we received a phone call from our friend Bill on Puddlejumper.

We met Bill while we were up in Washington, DC. He was the fellow that had built his 40 foot catamaran from scratch. He never worked with fiberglass before he started building his boat. I think he might be out of his mind but learning as he went the boat came out wonderfully. Anyway, he was calling to say that he was 20 miles away and that he’d be stopping in on Sunday.

On Sunday morning Bill called to say that he was just about here so we launched the dinghy to head over to Oriental Harbor. Once clear of Whittaker Creek we opened the dinghy up and roared down to Oriental Harbor. We got there just as they were dropping the hook outside the harbors breakwater.

Once tied to their side we were welcomed aboard with open arms. It was really great to see Bill again. He just another example of the fine people that we’ve met on our journey. He’s about to make his first crossing to the Bahamas so we went over some of our favorite places to anchor and some of the routes we had taken while there. Bill’s usually solo but for this long trip from DC to the Bahamas he’s got a companion, Darilynn aboard. She and Christy hit it off and sat and gabbed for a bit before we got up to leave.

There’s a weather window that is opening tomorrow so Bill wants to make it to Beaufort tonight. This will enable them to ride the ebbing tide out Beaufort Inlet in the morning and start their sail south. So after spending 2 hours catching up with us we said our goodbyes and then they once again pulled their hook and headed out for Beaufort, 20 miles away. They should have anywhere from 5 to 15 knots of breeze from the north for at least 48 hours. I can’t believe they stopped in just to say “hey”.

We blasted back to the boat, had lunch and decided to go for a bike ride since the weather is so beautiful. After touring as many streets as we could, we stopped off at Ken & Carol’s for a bit before heading back to the boat.

We got back to the boat after our ride and as Christy climbed into the cockpit she announced “I smell smoke”. She quickly opened up the boat and went below to see what was burning. She immediately popped back up and said that there was no smell of smoke below, it was only in the cockpit. We looked around and nothing that might have been burning was apparent. After a while we were starting to think we were going crazy, I even asked the dogs if they’d been playing with matches. And then I saw it, Son of a Bitch.

You know how as you start to get older your eyes start to go. Well sometimes I have trouble seeing some of the detailed information on the charts. Instead of having to deal with reading glasses in the cockpit I keep a magnifying glass at the helm. I had hung the towel that I use to dry the dogs feet on the wheel to dry. As luck, bad luck, would have it everything lined up just perfectly. The sun beating in through the windscreen on the boat was hitting the magnifying glass and the focal distance was exactly the distance to the towel.

That magnifying glass has been there for over a year. I’ve hung that towel there a hundred times and today, finally everything lined up perfectly and the magnifying glass burned a hole right through the towel. Fortunately the towel was damp enough that it didn’t flare up. The magnifier just burned a hole as it walked across the towel.

So that only goes to further cement my theory. Things are definitely looking up. We didn’t set the boat on fire and burn the dogs to death; yup, things are definitely looking up.

Friday, November 7, 2008

November 6, 2008.

Since we’re waiting for parts to come in we’ll be sitting here for several days with no work being performed on the boat. We’ll use the opportunity to replace some wiring in the engine room and give the bilge a good scrubbing.

The engine and transmission were supported by six mounts. As part of the disassembly four of those mounts were removed. That meant that the engine had to be supported by a hoist hung from an old propeller shaft. We would have been able to live with the shaft in the middle of our living space if it was going to be a day or two. Since we’re looking at a week minimum, we decided we had to get the Limbo Bar out of the way. Christy and I cut a few pieces of wood and using wedges and blocks we created enough support for the engine enabling us to get rid of the bar.

We took a walk down to the waterfront in the center of town. We came across the mother of all root systems. Sometimes you’ll see a root that goes under the sidewalk and forces a section of the sidewalk up. This root enveloped the sidewalk and created a foot tall obstruction.
The property owner decided to go with the flow and formed two cement benches in the roots of this big tree. It was actually pretty cool and is now a neighborhood landmark.

Orientals town mascot is the dragon. There are dragons of every type in yards all over the community. The dragon is even a protected species here in town. While walking down the town docks we came across a sailboat that definitely needs a new anchor.
I was glad he was tied to a dock and not anchored up wind of us. In the past we’ve anchored just outside the breakwater as there’s only room for a few boats to anchor inside the jetty.

We’ve been talking to friends on the phone and through E-mail about our tales of woe. We locked through the Great Bridge Lock with Solitaire and they’re already in Vero Beach, FL. Then we heard from Sapphire; we had dinner with them when we arrived in Oriental and they’re already in Florida. I can’t believe how long we’ve been practically sitting still. We have several more boatloads of friends that are behind us and it’ll be great to see them as they come through but it’s gonna suck watching them continue on their way while we stay put.

A couple of blog entries ago I mentioned that a boat had been dismasted by the Alligator River Bridge. The boat, Cat’s Cradle, had claimed that the swing bridge had started to swing closed before they were clear. The bridge operator said that the boat came through with his sails up and had hooked the bridge with his sail and sucked him into the bridge thus dismasting himself.

Cat’s Cradle is here waiting for a new mast to be shipped in. I was talking to the skipper and he said that the cop who responded to the scene was pretty sharp and after listening to both sides he had the bridge operator open and close the bridge for him so he could see how things worked. Then he had the skipper lay his genoa out to examine it to see where it was damaged. With the physical evidence and the fact that the bridge is surrounded by a huge protective fender system it was apparent to him that the bridge had indeed closed to soon. There was no damage to the boats hull so the boat couldn’t have gotten close enough to the bridge while the bridge was open because of the fender system. So the bridge had to be closing.

It was kind of sobering to see the damage the mast took by being wacked by the bridge. The mast was broken into 3 pieces with the uppermost section striking a glancing blow and crushing part of the bimini frame over the cockpit. This is an Island Packet with a pretty beefy mast. One of their spreaders was left impaled in the bridge. They could have been killed. Fortunately the other boat that was transiting the bridge just ahead of them stopped and confirmed the skipper’s version of the events. Now he’s just got to deal with his insurance company.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

November 5, 2008.

We’ve gotten our repair estimate and the figure is a lot more than we were hoping to hear. A lot more. But it is what it is. We really don’t have a choice but it’s gonna sting. It’s also going to take a bit more time than we had hoped but we’ll just have to make the best of it. If you see me selling pencils at a stop light; buy several and don’t hesitate to tip.

Carol & Ken had lent us their Jeep to make it easier for us to get around town. Last night we were invited to the home of some friends for dinner. So we left the boat just after dark on our way to the car. Just before we got off the boat Christy handed me the car keys. I considered not taking them because I didn’t want to be borrowing the car in the first place. I started to stuff them into my pocket and settled for sticking them in the pouch of my sweatshirt as I was going to make Christy drive anyway. As I jumped down onto the finger pier I watched with resignation as the keys very neatly slipped from my pouch and fell into the cold dark water.

It wasn’t just any bunch of keys either. Besides the keys to the car and house there was the fancy electronic car unlocking fob. Great, just great. Christy got our crab net from the stern rail. The handle was only 6 feet long and since the water was 9 feet deep and I’m standing on the dock 3 feet above the water there was no way it’s going to help. So I ended up using some duct tape to tape the net to one of our boat hooks. That’s when we realized just how strong the suns rays are. I dipped the net into the water and we were amazed when I pulled the net from the water. It had almost completely dissolved. The sun had degraded the nets material to the point that it actually disappeared when it got wet. Unbelievable. We called Carol and she arrived with the spare set of keys and we headed off to dinner.

Dinner was fantastic and the company was great and we had a great time in spite of the fact that I had the specter of the lost keys hanging over my head.

This morning I got up and found our big ass magnet and did a little fishing. In the space of ten minutes up came the keys. YES. I figured that the electronic opener was crap but at least we could return the keys. I gave them to Christy to rinse in freshwater. When she was done she opened the battery door on the opener and IT WAS DRY INSIDE. It was waterproof, YES.

Then I came in and promptly spilled an entire glass of soda on the keyboard of my laptop. I dried it off as best I could and Christy went to work on it with a can of compressed air in an effort to dry it out. In the end there was no hope and the patient died. Crap. Christy had one more trick up her sleeve though. She called IBM and found out that the laptop was still under warranty. So it will involve sending the unit back to them, but it should work out for us.

So our last couple of days have been like a ride on a roller coaster. Lost the keys, found the keys. Killed the laptop, found out all is not lost. Broke the boat, found someone who can fix it………no wonder roller coasters make me want to vomit.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

November 4, 2008.

It’s been 2 full years since we cut the dock lines and sailed south. Currently we’re at Deaton’s Marina in Oriental, NC. The repair we had done in Virginia seems to have failed and we’re hoping for a better result here. In a couple of days we’ll have the answer.

We’ve been tied to Ken and Carols dock while waiting for the weekend to pass so we could head over to the repair yard. We passed the weekend enjoying the company of many friends. We had dinner with Fine Lion & Sapphire before they headed south. Then we spent a good bit of time with friends of Ken & Carol, Sandy & Paul who are from the same marina in NJ where we once kept our boat. On Saturday, Carol took Christy and a couple of other girls to New Bern for a day of shopping while I joined Ken’s crew for a day of racing out on the Neuse River. Oriental really would be a kick ass place to live. There's just so much to do……..and eat. Seriously, if we lived here I’d weigh about 300 pounds and be exhausted from the social schedule.

I was looking through our records and found a few interesting facts that we’ve compiled over the course of the two years that we’ve been out and about.

We’ve spent 4960 dollars on fuel for the dinghy and the big boat. So it seems that we’re averaging about 48 dollars a week for fuel. It’s more than I expected but pretty cheap compared to what we had been spending per week for gasoline for the car, truck and motorcycles.

We’ve also traveled about 9000 nautical miles which would translate into 10260 statute miles. That means we move about 87 nautical miles a week. So even though we seem to always be trying to go about 50 miles a day we must spend a lot of time sitting at anchor (or as in this case awaiting repairs).

Time spent at anchor, tied to a dock or on a mooring breaks down to these numbers. Out of 730 nights, we’ve spent 66 nights tied to a dock. Those are nights mainly divided between Vero Beach, Saint Augustine, Ken and Carols house and some time in Charleston. We’ve spent 62 nights on a mooring ball and 44 nights on the hard (boat out of the water, on land). Most of those nights on a mooring were this year in Marathon and Vero Beach with some time in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. The 44 nights on the hard were spent doing yearly maintenance at either Silver Cloud in NJ last year or at Herrington Harbor North in Deale MD this year. That’s 172 nights out of 730 which means that we’ve spent 558 nights lying to our anchor.

Internet is another expense that was interesting to finally dissect. We have a Wifi amplifier and fixed external antenna onboard so we can usually “borrow” a free internet connection from the boat. I’d say that we have an internet signal available to us about 75 percent of the time. The few times that we’ve had to pay for internet total up to about $170 over the 2 years. So with the right equipment we’ve been able to do pretty well with free internet.

While compiling all these fun facts I began to consider a chore that I’ve been doing pretty much every day since we left. That’s right, walking the dogs. I would guesstimate the average dog walking at about a quarter of a mile. Sometimes it’s less, but it’s often longer so a quarter of a mile is a fair estimation. That means that most every morning for the past 720 mornings I’ve walked a total of 180 MILES. Then of course we do it again in the evening so it comes out to about 360 miles of dog walking over the course of the past 2 years. Throw in the distance of the dinghy ride which is usually several hundred feet each way and a conservative guess would be that we spent about 500 miles in the dinghy in search of suitable puppy pooping grounds. See, and you thought we might get bored.

While I’m on the subject of the dogs bowelular behavior. Molly has finally learned to poop on the bow of the boat. Since both dogs have now finally mastered this new behavior there was great joy. When we left AYB our first nights anchorage left us with no suitable place to walk the dogs. Christy and I took the dogs in the dink and ventured up a nearby shallow river for several miles in search of anyplace that we could get the dogs ashore. The shoreline was uninterrupted marsh grass for mile after mile with no solid ground in sight.

We took the dogs back to the boat and they sat with their legs crossed. The next evening we made it to the south end of the Alligator River and pretty much had the same experience. No place to go, literally. That’s where we had that brutal front come through so while we were trapped for 2 days I started walking the dogs on the bow of the boat. I’d clip their leashes on and walk them to the front and finally Molly took care of business like it was no big deal. Phew! After that it was like the floodgates had opened and they started making regular twice a day trips to the bow by themselves. Things are definitely looking up…..

Friday, October 31, 2008

October 30, 2008.

We ended up sitting in the south end of the Alligator River on Tuesday. The wind was still very strong and blowing straight out of the west. We were fine and the anchorage was okay, it’s just that we were apprehensive about taking the boat through the Alligator-Pungo Canal with 20 to 30 knots of wind dead on the nose. Its narrow, full of snags and probably the birthplace of the Bogeyman. Nobody else in our little group left either so I felt a little bit better about sitting.

On Wednesday morning we awoke to the sound of anchors being raised. I poked my head upstairs to find the wind was still from the west but considerably lighter. We decided to go for it. As I was raising the 2nd anchor I signaled to Christy to put the boat into gear, and guess what? We didn’t have “forward”. Crap. I went below to check the transmission fluid level, and guess what? No fluid. Double crap. This is definitely not good news, the professional “repair” that we just had done, had failed. I refilled the transmission and off we went. This meant that we would have to motor for at least 4 hours with a damper plate that is breaking up and a leaking transmission.

Due to the tenderness of our damper plate we opted to turn just enough RPM’s to make 5 knots over the ground. We actually even passed a few boats including a catamaran, Don’t Look Back, which stopped to take another sailboat in tow. The poor guy pulled up a huge snag that he couldn't free from his anchor and then had his propeller fall off just as he was entering the canal. They came by and took his line and towed him the entire 22 mile length of the canal.

We set a schedule and I checked the transmission fluid level every 30 minutes and added as needed until we shut the engine down. The wind did once again build to about 20 knots on the nose for the rest of the day so it was slow going.

About 1300 hours we reached the south end of the canal and had had enough. There’s a nice anchorage there that we’ve used before so we turned in and dropped the hook.

An hour later the Don’t Look Back pulled in still towing the sailboat. They’re just another example of the type of extraordinary people that we’ve come across in our travels. As the afternoon went on another half dozen boats tucked in to share our anchorage.

The winds for Thursday were supposed to be lighter than we’ve had lately, but out of the north, so we were up early to take a shot at sailing the 48 miles to Oriental. We raised the mainsail and sailed off the anchor in the predawn darkness. The wind was light but we made about 4 knots as we headed south.

After a few miles we turned due west and our boat speed picked up to 5 ½ knots. After another 6 miles we once again turned due south and went wing and wing for the length of the Pungo River. When we reached the Pamlico River we were able to turn to a more advantageous point of sail and were soon picking off the few boats that had passed us while they were motor sailing.

Once across the Pamlico we entered Goose Creek. Fortunately, the wind had once again built enabling us to continue sailing even through the confines of the creek. I had a timeline in my head of where I wanted to be at a certain time and we seemed to be about an hour ahead of schedule.

There's an expression that people use when a boat is underway with fenders still hanging over the side. They say "his fly is down". Fly down?; evidently this guy wasn't even wearing pants. Once free of the wind blocking trees of the creek it was off to the races. The winds were between 15 and 20 knots and we flew along between 7 and 8 knots for most of the remaining 20 miles.

We were able to sail right up to the number 1 channel marker at Whitaker Creek where we would have to start the engine for the very first time all day. Which brought us to challenge number 2 for the day, the engine wouldn’t start. I’m pretty sure that the problem is with the preheat switch. So close, yet still so far. We called Towboat US and requested a tow, but fortunately I was able to start the boat and cancel the tow within a couple of minutes. Once the engine was running we were pleased to discover that the creek had a few more inches of water than we usually find when we’re here.

We have never been so happy to arrive anywhere as we were to land in Oriental. We are safely tied to the dock of our good friends, Ken & Carol and boy does it feel good. We were not here for 1 hour when we got a call from our friends on Sapphire & Fine Lion offering to come and pick us up and take us away. We had a great evening with old friends and even made some new friends. We love Oriental!
October 28, 2008.

We got underway on Sunday morning and headed back through the Centerville and North Landing bridges. We were enjoying being underway again and even got to see a deer swimming across the waterway. As we once again passed through Pungo Ferry we heard an unwelcome noise from below. I had been periodically checking the oil level in the transmission and all seemed well with the new seal.

Unfortunately I recognized this new noise. It sounded like the damper plate was coming apart. Maybe it had been a little early to be thanking God for AYB. When the transmission was reinstalled if it wasn’t lined up properly or not supported well enough the weight of the transmission would be entirely on the plate. The plate is a thin piece of sheet steel with some springs that act as a vibration damper when the engine is engaged. Anyway, while it’s robust when driving the transmission it would be pretty fragile when side loaded improperly. Once the tranny was all bolted up the damage would be invisible.

So we were at a crossroads, I thought I had the problem diagnosed but the noise was fairly faint and I could be wrong. We opted to kill the engine and keep going. We had just made it to a section of the Virginia Cut that would enable us to sail the rest of the day. We sailed on doable points of sail all the way to the bottom of the North River. We started the engine just to set the hook and after dinner I removed the starter to see what was going on inside the bell housing. Damn. A small piece of the damper plate was sitting in the starter cup. Shit.

A thing like this is hit or miss. In this condition it could last for 100 hours or it could fail immediately. If it fails we’ll be without our engine. We’re supposed to have good wind from the west in the morning so we’ll leave at first light in an effort to get across the Albemarle Sound and down the Alligator River to the Pungo Canal.

When morning came we were disappointed to see that while the wind was up it was dead out of the south, our intended direction of travel. So we raised the mainsail and sailed off the anchor just before dawn.

We got out into the Albemarle Sound and began to tack our way across the sound. It was frustrating for both of us as we watched group after group of boats as they headed straight down the rhumb line to the mouth of the Alligator River. Once into the river we made it to green marker #3 before we were forced to furl the genoa and start the engine. We motored for about 3 miles until we were through the Alligator Swing Bridge.

Within the last week a sailboat had been dismasted at the bridge while attempting to sail through with a favorable breeze. I was surprised that the bridge tender didn’t raise a fuss about us coming through with the main sail up. Especially with a brisk wind on the nose.

Once through the bridge the river is once again wide enough to sail. We cut the engine and pulled out the genoa. It was a series of long tacks running from shoreline to shoreline as we made our way south.

At the head waters of the river we had a choice to make. There have been severe weather warnings on the radio for the last couple of hours. We’re going to have sustained winds from the northwest in the 30 to 35 knot range with gusts expected to 45 knots. Crap. We can see it coming behind us from the north.

The Alligator River runs north – south and is shaped like a giant funnel. At the tiny south end of the funnel the river narrows and turns due west. This section would offer better protection from the wind but because of the narrowness, putting out enough scope becomes an issue. Because the channel is a main thoroughfare for barge traffic and you sure as hell don’t want to encroach on the channel.

Our other option was a small cove straight ahead, if we skipped the turn to westward. There were already 3 boats there but room for a hundred more. It’s all 7 or 8 feet deep and we’d be able to lay out as much chain as we want. We figured it would probably be a little rougher during the early part of the blow but at least we could drop enough chain to keep from dragging. So that was our choice.

We pulled in under power and dropped and set the hook. The only problem was that there was still 15 knots of wind from the south, so we set the hook facing south. I dropped 120 feet of chain and then my conscience started to nag at me. When the wind hits from the north its going to spin the boat around and force the anchor to reset. Resetting could be an issue if the wind comes on strong enough right from the get go which is entirely possible.

We have 4 big anchors onboard and I’d really feel like a horse’s ass if we dragged and still had 3 anchors on the boat, so I decide to drop a second hook. The bottom is good sand so I opted for a Fortress FX-23, it’s a fairly light weight anchor with a huge surface area which is what you want for superior holding in sand. I walked it to the stern and threw it overboard. Then I went back to the bow and hand set the anchor as best I could. Then I coiled up another 110 feet of line and set it on the bow and cleated the tail off.

Then I went about securing everything on deck that might try to take flight. Christy was cooking dinner while I was getting ready and as we sat to eat, an eerie calmness set in over the anchorage. Before we were done with dinner the wind had started to build from the north. As the boat swung around to face the stiffening breeze the line from the second anchor paid itself out over the bow.

Within 2 minutes we were facing northwest and hanging to the second anchor with a minimum of 30 knots coming over the bow. The anchor rode on the second anchor was as tight as a piano wire. Here’s where dumb luck showed up. Since the Alligator is funnel shaped when the huge north winds started to blow all the water was compressed into the tiny southern end. This left only one escape for the water; through the narrow channel to the west. All the boats that had opted to crowd together in the narrow section for protection were having huge spacing problems. Some were facing the wind while others were turning and facing the 6 knots of current that was ripping through the anchorage. A couple of them dragged and a few others had to go out into the storm to try and adjust the amount of scope they had out to avoid contact with other boats.

It was kind of poetic justice as we had heard 2 boats that came in after us wonder aloud (on the VHF) why anyone would want to anchor where we were, when the narrow section still had some room. They were arrogant as the one woman suggested that we might just be dummies to her buddy boat. Now I had to stop what I was doing to get on the radio just to let her know that we were bright enough to work the radio and that we opted to anchor with room to swing instead of following the rest of the “sheeple” into a tight spot. Instead of apologizing the woman said “I had no idea you’d be listening to the radio”. Stupid bitch. I have to admit it was with smug satisfaction that I listened to them as the winds gusted to 45 knots and the rain was driving down while they were on the bow adjusting rodes in an effort to keep from hitting each other. I went to bed at 2100 and slept like a baby while they were setting up an anchor watch schedule.

So it’s now Tuesday morning and we still have 17 to 25 knots of wind directly out of the west. Since we’ll be unable to sail the canal we’ve opted to spend another day here before moving on.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

October 25, 2008.

Late Thursday afternoon we had another mechanic, Justin, show up to start the reinstallation of the transmission. Once again with Christy and I doing the winching we were able to get the transmission in place. It went in a lot easier than it had come out. Gravity is your friend.

By the time it was bolted into place it was time for Justin to punch out and go home. After he was gone I used the opportunity to bolt the support brackets for the V-drive back where they belong.

On Friday morning Justin was back to do the alignment of the shaft, transmission and engine. It went really well as the alignment was spot on to begin with.

Once he was gone we started in earnest with the re assembly of the boats systems. I replaced several aging hoses and a couple of suspect hose clamps as we worked our way through the muddle of wires and hoses. I also cleaned every electrical connection as I reconnected everything. I cleaned both raw water strainers as well.

I refilled the transmission and Christy started the engine and everything seems to work as it should. Once I was satisfied that things were okay we used the halyard to maneuver the generator back to its spot above the transmission.

During the day we took the time to go up to the office and settle up our bill. It actually wasn’t that painful, especially when compared to the beating absorbed for pretty much the same job up in Connecticut. In Connecticut the marina staff did all the work as per their rules. Here at Atlantic Yacht Basin we were allowed to do as much of the work as we could handle ourselves. We did spend a lot more on parts in Connecticut as there were several parts we had to replace while here there were only a few pieces to be replaced. The big difference was the labor. In Connecticut we paid for 60 hours of labor while here it was only 11 hours. Huge difference; especially when labor rates are upwards of 70 dollars an hour. Thank God for do it yourself yards like AYB.

So we’re sitting here with everything done by 1800 hours on Friday evening. We would be able to leave on Saturday as planned but there’s just one problem. The weather.

Its supposed to blow a hoolie from the south. The weather forecast is for 25 knots straight out of the south with gusts into the 30’s with torrential rains. Christy talked to Nancy from Solitaire and they’re currently in the middle of this weather system down in Georgetown, SC. Nancy said they went food shopping in their foulies and still got soaked to the bone. Of course we’re headed south so traveling into this mess isn’t something we want to do. The forecast calls for it to blow through here during Saturday and the winds are supposed to clock and be from the northwest by Sunday, so it looks like we’ll be outta here on Sunday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

October 21, 2008.

The ceramic heater turned out to be a timely purchase. The outside temps dropped to 43 degrees last night but the interior of the boat hovered just above 60 so it wasn’t too bad.

This morning I spent some time cleaning the newly exposed recesses of the bilge. Shortly thereafter Ken stopped in to say that they had been able to round up a coupling that would fit our application. It should be here just after lunch tomorrow. So there’s an outside chance they’ll be on the boat tomorrow afternoon to reinstall the transmission.

So much for outside chances. Dawn broke today revealing another crisp morning complete with an early fog upon the water. It’s now Wednesday and Kens been given some other duties to perform at the marina this afternoon. So we have another day to sit and wait, but he did tell us that he installed the seal in the pump and the correct coupling did arrive. So we’ll be expecting him first thing in the morning to put the transmission back into place.

After that it’ll be up to Christy and me to put the myriad of hoses, wires and whatchmacallits back where they belong before we even start reinstalling the generator. There’s an outside chance that we’ll be ready by tomorrow evening but after all this time we’re not really willing to chance rushing through just to get done. So a Friday departure may be possible but I think Saturday morning might be more realistic.

So we decided do a little walking around to pick up a few odds and ends that we’ve needed. Another interesting thing we came across when we got to the more rural parts of the country were the motor vehicles. A guy at the local service station drives this customized pick up
truck while one of the marina workers has a hot rodded Yugo out in the lot. I can’t even remember the last Yugo I saw on the road let alone one with a 4 inch exhaust.