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…..