October 14, 2008.
We left Mill Creek at around 0900. We waited a bit this morning as there are 5 bridges to negotiate in Norfolk. They all stay closed from 0630 til 0830 on weekdays so we planned to arrive at the first bridge at 0930. I know everyone is probably sick of it; just one more picture of the value of AIS. Its crowded as hell here with huge ships. We even saw a submarine underway.
We decided while underway to once again transit the Dismal Swamp. I know that the last time we went through the swamp I swore I’d never do it again. We just ran into so much crap in the water it really made for a nerve racking trip. But we’re doin’ the dismal….
The Dismal Swamp locks are only opening twice a day; once at 0900 and once again at 1500 hours. I figured we’d get in at the 1500 opening and let ourselves be trapped inside the swamp for the night. It’s not as dramatic as it sounds though; there’s a really nice rest stop two thirds of the way through so we could tie up there for the night.
We arrived at the first lock at 1300 and dropped the hook and shut the boat down. While we were waiting I was checking things out and discovered that the starter solenoid that I had repaired and installed in DC had severely cracked. The plastic cap was actually disintegrating so there would be no repairing it again. So since I had the time I installed the new solenoid that we had gotten at NAPA while we were in Annapolis.
Once the lock keeper opened up the lock to let us in I was suicidal when I found out that the boat wouldn’t start. I couldn’t even jump start the engine by arcing the starter. Shit. The new solenoid from NAPA looked the same and bolted into place as it should but the internal depth was different by close to three eights of an inch so it was not engaging the starter. Shit. I've actually got a bruise on my chest from laying on top of the generator so often while working on the starter.
I worked like a madman trying different mishmash of parts from our 2 starters and 2 solenoids but couldn’t come up with a winning combination. The lock closed and we had to abandon hope of making it into the lock tonight. Shit. Finally well after dark I remembered that we had a used solenoid cap on board. I got it out and found that while it physically fit in place of the broken cap none of the hardware would fit upon it. So it was close but basically useless…….unless. I got out my drill, my micrometer and every drill bit on the boat. I was able to turn real slow revolutions with my drill and open up all the holes in the hard plastic cap to enable all the through bolts to be pressed firmly into place.
I was so emotionally exhausted that I didn’t even install it until morning. I got up in time to give it a try and eureka, crank crank….vrooom. Okay, the boat was running and the lock was about to open, but we decided not to chance it. Instead we turned around and headed towards the other route south, the Virginia Cut.
We chose the Virginia Cut route after a quick phone call to our friend Jay. He’s more familiar with the area and services available. He recommended the Atlantic Yacht Basin which is located on the Virginia Cut. While on the way to the Virginia Cut we had a pleasant surprise when we found ourselves in the company of our friends Jim & Nancy on Solitaire. It was a chance meeting and we actually locked through at the Great Bridge lock right behind them.
We pulled into the marina just before noon and went up to see the service manager about our situation. I wanted the solenoids on both of our starters replaced but I wanted the 2 old ones back. The one I “created” I’ll keep as a spare and the new one from NAPA will be returned. The service manager, James said to bring em’ up to the marinas store and they’d take care of us.
When we were in DC we ran into a group of eco-nuts that were handing out nature friendly bags for you to bring to the food store with you instead of using the stores bags, thereby saving a few trees. They'd probably be disappointed to find that I ended up using them for our pair of starters.
I handed both starters over to Rich at the ships store with fairly involved instructions. He walked them out to the van to take them to the rebuild shop and then loaded us in as well so he could drop us in town. After we hit the grocery store, Radio Shack and pizza parlor, then we walked back to the marina. When we got back to the boat we had an email waiting for us that informed us we had some faxing to do. We printed and filled out the necessary paperwork and walked up to the marina office to see about using their fax machine. They couldn’t have been nicer and seemed actually thrilled to be able to help us with what otherwise would have been a daunting task.
While we were up at the office we ran into Rich who informed us that our starters were back. 2 starters sent out and repaired, vegetables bought and a fax sent all in less than 3 hours. Talk about full service. Atlantic Yacht Basin, full service at its finest.
I got back to the boat with our treasured starters and had one installed and the boat running in 30 minutes. The happy dance lasted much longer. We’ll be off again in the morning.