|Peaceful sunset on the Sacramento River, the windmills of Rio Vista are calm for the moment|
Monday, January 11, 2021
Monday, December 21, 2020
|Don't know which of the 3 of us is the most excited about the Arizona taco truck. |
Oh wait, it's me. Definitely me.
An excellent Thanksgiving was enjoyed by the Oriental A Dock peeps, spread out in family groupings on the patio. Then bright and early Friday morning we hit the road in Loretta headed for the Florida Keys to meet up with RV friends at one of our favorite places on Earth for the month of December: Tavernier FL. The plan was to do it in a few days; easy 200 mile jumps and meetups with friends along the way.
|Breakfast pie - a day after Thanksgiving tradition|
The first morning found us at the Elks Lodge in Sumter SC, and Lance was frowning. "My foot hurts". Uh-oh.
Here we go again.
|Lance and Chloe keeping an eye on the roadrunners of Willcox AZ|
|Wrecker train on Hwy 20 just East of El Paso. |
You see the strangest things on the roads of Texas.
The original plan was to spend December in the Keys, then travel back to California in January to fetch boat and scuba gear and get a check up on the foot anyways. After a discussion over coffee, we decided the smart course of action was to skip Florida altogether and head directly to California and get a jump on whatever's going on with his foot. So we made a hard right turn and our 800-mile journey became 3188 miles instead.
Sailor friends Janet and Joe have adopted a "no plan plan" philosophy. Considering how everything else in 2020 has gone sideways, it seems like the best approach and we are trying hard to embrace it, too.
|Traveling across New Mexico and Arizona does feel like being in a cartoon. |
The landscape is just unreal.
Traveling in times of plague comes with some extra challenges to be sure. Every night's stop was in a different location and every place has a different attitude about Covid and how it should be handled - from business as usual to complete lockdown. Fortunately Loretta is self-contained, so with some strategic grocery shopping and by tag-teaming the driving we made quick work of the long journey. The passenger du jour pushed tunes or podcasts over the Bluetooth stereo. After every fuel stop there was a cleaning process to maintain the safe bubble around our home.
|The Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln CA is all lit up for the holidays|
Friday, November 13, 2020
Mystery solved. That transmission was dead. Really, really dead.
With new and old transmissions set side-by-side the problem was clearly visible. A missing circlip had allowed the retaining nut to loosen, driving the shaft through the cover. No wonder the transmission was running dry. And fraying its cable. And working intermittently.
Which means all summer long, all the transmission-related things we fixed, they were all symptoms of this problem, and there was no way we could have known until it was separated from the engine. All of this drama was likely caused by the last service technician's lack of attention to a small but important 50 cent clip. Wish I knew who that guy was. I'd like to leave him a gift. From Chloe. It's already in a bag.
Well, deep breath. Onwards. The shiny new transmission hums along happily and the dead one is off to the knackers.
The two primary winches were also discovered to be dead. This was a bit of a surprise as we had them down as a Tier 3 project. We anticipated them to be like the first two we serviced, solved by simply breaking them down, scrubbing them well, and applying new grease. Alas they are frozen solid from years of neglect. So... new winches for us.
|Winch #1 of 2 - we swapped our Lewmars for Andersens|
Covid part delays strike again: one winch showed up promptly and the other one is still on backorder.
|Dead winch guts are beautiful in a steam punk sort of way|
Not to be deterred from our test-run mission, we temporarily shifted the jib sheets to the spinnaker winches for the transmission shakedown cruise. For the first time in 6 attempts, we left for a shakedown cruise and returned successfully. We motored. We anchored. We motored. We sailed. We motored again. We landed in the slip under our own power. What a glorious day! So long overdue!
What a relief!
This week the air conditioner finally gets installed (those parts were ordered in June... Covid delays again), and then the fuel system is being revised to give us greater control over the fuel/engine relationship. These two projects are beyond our scope and frankly we're ready to let someone else work on the boat for a while. We found a great mechanic to handle these two projects and the process will require total boat destructo. Better if we aren't underfoot.
|Parking Loretta at the marina made moving back aboard easier|
So we moved back onto Loretta. This was the November plan all along, although we thought by now we'd have pictures and sailing stories to share from our grand NorthEast sailing tour. November's plan is to camp with friends in nearby New Bern, followed by Thanksgiving with dock neighbors, and then cruising Loretta to the Keys for December. The rough January sketch is to continue the road trip back to California to fetch our scuba and boat gear, check in with family and friends, doctors and dentists, other mandatory adulting. If the weather cooperates we'll take the bikes out for a mountaintop romp or two.
Oh. And tacos. We will definitely be stopping for New Mexico tacos along the way.
Look out America... two returning full-timers headed your way for another lap.
Sunday, November 1, 2020
The forecasts threatened strong winds from the South. The transient boater had just tied up on the outside of the A dock on the South side.
As I walked by with Chloe, I paused beside his boat and started up a conversation.
"Hello, there are strong winds predicted from the South later today. Here that means the water drops away at the same time the waves roll in, and you will get blown up against the dock. You'll probably want to kedge your boat off the dock to avoid being blown up onto it, or anchoring out, or going... well, pretty much anywhere else". He wrinkled his nose at me, pursed his lips and didn't otherwise respond. He glanced up at the sky, which was calm and beautiful for the moment. I translated that as a dismissal. Huh.
Shortly later I saw another boater from A dock approach him, probably to have the same conversation. The helpful neighbor later returned with some spare fenders. Lance and I focused our attention on Minerva; double-checked all of our lines, adjusted chafe guards, and set a new spring line.
Less than an hour later the winds picked up. Minerva free-fell in her slip from +2 feet of water under the boat to 0 and then beyond. We teeter-tottered in the mud with 6 inches or more of water line exposed.
It was then that I heard some shouting. The transient boat was getting battered against the dock, exactly as predicted. One wave would pick her up and try to deposit her on the dock, then the water would disappear and she would try to wedge herself under the dock until the next wave tried to deposit her on top of it again. On one such occasion her sidestay and chain plate took some damage when she got hung up under the dock but the next wave insisted on lifting her anyway. Several boaters from A dock were trying to keep her off the dock with their feet and spare fenders, it was exactly the sort of situation that causes someone to lose fingers or a foot. The winds were getting stronger. Lance suggested I call the dock manager.
Within minutes the dockmaster and his agile crew arrived on a fast dinghy and took control of the situation. With everyone's help, the sailboat was soon safely kedged from the dock and riding the waves gracefully. The boaters of A dock breathed a collective sign of relief, reclaimed our donated lines and fenders, counted fingers and our limbs, and retreated to our own boats while rubbing sore backs.
As we were departing his boat he mentioned he had owned it for a grand total of only ten days.
Kedging from a dock is a handy thing to know. Here's how it's done (photos from the next morning when conditions were significantly calmer):
|Step 1: Set the anchor out away from the dock. In this case, since the boat was already tied to the dock a dinghy was used to accomplish this.|
|Step 2: Using a second line, tie a rolling hitch onto the anchor line, run it through a stern winch and take out the slack. The two lines on one anchor create a triangle-shaped bridle that shares the effort along the length of the boat|
|Step 3: Tighten the two bridle lines while loosening the dock lines, thus pulling the boat out away from the dock.|
Boaters are a helpful bunch. Later discussion revealed I wasn't the only one to warn him about the coming conditions, in addition to the brief conversation I had witnessed at least four other people had told him the same thing and he failed to take action until his boat was receiving damage.
I hope that the boating community elsewhere is as tight-knit and helpful as it is in Oriental. As we begin to move around one thing is for sure: we'll be respecting the local knowledge as it is offered wherever we land. What a cool community, what a great resource.
And I'll be practicing that rolling hitch. That's a cool knot.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Chloe was wearing her pirate costume. Minerva was flying her NC Sail pirate flag. Lance's new stuffed shoulder parrot and our pirate costumes waited in a salon locker for the evening's festivities. Two fresh bundles of firewood sat wrapped in plastic on the deck. The rum pantry and groceries were stocked. We crossed our fingers and put Minerva in reverse. She smoothly backed away from her slip, and we were off to the fuel dock. So far so good.
We pulled into the fuel dock and topped off the diesel. Minerva leaned a little to her starboard side with the newly full tank. So far so good.
We slipped the lines and backed out of the fuel dock. Lance took her out of reverse and put her in forward and we were off to a fun destination. Finally.
Then forward motion slowed. Lance revved the throttle - we should have been doing 6 knots forward but were just drifting along with the wind and inertia from the initial thrust. Fortunately the wind was at our backs so we drifted slowly past the anchored boats and sailed her back into her slip. Upon further investigation it was discovered that the shaft was not turning with any real intent, even with the engine revs up Lance could stop the propeller shaft from spinning by gently touching it with his shoe, or (as later discovered) his hand and a gentle grip.
Our friends had gone ahead of us for the pirate festivities, and were either making way there or were already settled in Beaufort for a night of pirate partying. Without extra hands to catch us it's good we have had so much practice at landing her in the slip without power. Of the last five times out, we were towed in twice and sailed her in ourselves the other three.
Well, at least we have a plentiful supply of rum. Day drinking anyone? This boat is going to turn me into an alcoholic. Seriously.
|Movie night: Fight Club always makes me feel better when I'm angry. And popcorn. And rum.|
The mechanic confirmed our suspicion. The transmission really is toast. We thought we had saved it; it can't be saved. When Lance's eyes widened at the quoted price for the replacement transmission the mechanic said "yeah, they're pretty proud of that", which has become our new mantra for all boat repair parts. The new transmission (thankfully one does actually exist) is on its way, we have an installation date on the calendar for end of October, and there's not much we can do but wait for it. Seems like a good opportunity to pull forward little projects from the Tier 3 list while we wait.
|Evicting a big pile of untrustworthy line left us with plenty of space for the emergency Danforth, which we rigged with flaked and ready-to-go anchor and rode. This topside port locker had already been outfitted with rubber mats to protect the boat from the anchor.|
|Lining the starboard topside anchor locker with snap-together rubber tiles ensures less banging around for the old original and now spare anchor, and space to dry underneath. We setup this anchor as an emergency third anchor with chain and rode, and hope never to use it. We also evicted a giant pile of untrustworthy line and old cleaning stuff, replaced it with a new brush, EZ Mooring system and two new 30' long snubber lines. The experience we gained from battling Tropical Storm Isais helped guide us greatly on what should be handy in this locker and I was able to cannibalize some old never-before-used rope into spliceable line with the help of a big bucket of fabric softener, a strong marlinspike, and several days of determination and sore fingers. There is also room for the folding bicycles in this locker once they've been retrieved from California.|
|The leftover snap-together tiles fit nicely in the aft head over the teak grate, they're easier on the feet while showering|
Oriental and nearby New Bern are significantly socially active towns ordinarily. It took everyone a beat to figure out how to translate the usual frequent community events into socially distant and safe events, but we're getting there. Oriental's annual Pirate Jam ultimately was staged on Teaches Point which is surrounded on 3 sides by water. The music still went on, the difference was the fans listened from boats, kayaks, and dinghies. The fans let the musicians know their appreciation with boat bells and fog horns. Turning in $100 of receipts from local stores and restaurants earned us a Pirate Jam flag, a creative way of supporting the event sponsors since charging ticket prices wasn't feasible on the open water.
|Winch, Disassembled, Still Life|
There are 13 of them, Lance is servicing them one at a time. Each one is cranky in its own unique way and they are all long overdue for some TLC.
|Mural at the seafood shack in New Bern|
Sunday, October 4, 2020
"I ain't never seen nothin' like it" said the weekend boater, standing on the deck of the fishing boat he had chartered, his hat on backwards. "She started shrieking at him, and the next thing I knew she'd tackled him to the ground and I had to join with 3 of my buddies to pull her off before she shoved his hat down all the way down his throat. What's the world comin' to when a guy can't offer up advice to a local woman without her freaking out? Sailor bitch be cray-cray!"
|The Dragon Moat behind The Bean coffee shop|
Another witness, who looks significantly like Sam Elliot, crushed his cigarette in the ashtray outside The Bean coffee shop and tsked. "Damn weekend boat renters ought to know better than to come off with a comment like that. He's lucky every boat owner here didn't toss his lifeless body in the dragon moat." The Sam Elliot look-alike went on to say that when he came to Oriental North Carolina and saw his dream boat in someone's backyard, it was a siren call that wouldn't be denied. That was 16 years go. "She'll be ready to sail soon, I think, maybe next year" and took another sip of his coffee.
Reportedly the woman sailor and her husband have been working on the sailboat they purchased 6 months ago non-stop; it has caused them great strife and little joy. She was commiserating with other boat owners at the local coffee shop when the outsider barged into the conversation, uninvited, and delivered his line.
The phrase that caused the otherwise calm sailor woman to come completely unhinged? That is a source of disagreement among witnesses. It could have been any of the standard issue comments "you know what boat means: Break Out Another Thousand", "that's boats for ya", "need some help with that little Missy", or "that's boat ownership, fixin' 'er up in exotic locations". While the local boat owners couldn't agree on the actual phrase that set her off, they did agree on one thing.
"It was the overly familiar tone with which he made his unoriginal and unwelcome announcement, followed by the knowing wink that did it."
When last seen the sailor woman was stomping off towards the marina muttering to herself and clutching her dragon coffee cup.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
I see them at the marina. At the bar. At the local restaurants.
All around the country, they're always there.
Those boaters who never leave the dock.
I always wondered to myself...
in a rather judgey way...
What's the point of having a boat if you never leave the dock with it?
|Hiding out from another rainy day with the Tour de France|
Now I get it.
If the boat doesn't move, you don't know what's wrong with it.
Nothing is broken.
For the moment.
Until you put her in gear.
Take her out of the slip.
Try to do actual boat stuff.
That's when you discover what is broken.
She's not really dead until you crack the seal and see for yourself.
Until then she's both alive and dead at the same time.
|The marina shoreline on a warm foggy morning|
So for now, Minerva is running perfectly.
We're afraid to leave the dock.
|Another squally week makes for spectacular sunrises|
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
|Wild ponies of Shackleford Banks|
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
|Sailing into our sunset slip|