Friday, November 4, 2022

Running Up to Beaufort; the conclusion

Wild Ponies near Beaufort

Here is the conclusion of Running Up To Beaufort where we get Victor and his boat (and his dog) to Beaufort and I go crashing back to Florida on a Greyhound Bus. 

I was born in the backseat of a 

Greyhound bus,

Rolling Down Highway 41! 

The Allman Brothers Band

(actually, it was mostly I-95)

During the day on Sunday, Cheryl and I traveled back down to the boatyard and picked up her car and Victor’s truck. Victor had some things to do on the boat and arranged for another night at the dock. Back at the marina where the boat was, the three of us ran up to Beaufort, our destination, to drop a vehicle there. The plan was to get the boat to Beaufort, then backtrack to collect the other vehicle. Victor had to be to work Tuesday and Cheryl would drop me off at the Greyhound station in Fayetteville; a fair bit out of her way but sort of on her way home. 

The marina where we holed up for the weather was a little rustic but serviceable. There was work being done to recover from some recent hurricane damage. Several boats languished in the yard. As usual in a boatyard like that one, more than a few of those boats will not likely ever get back in the water. The travelift crane was parked over a shrimp boat and I wasn’t sure either of them were operational. Regardless, we had a pleasant stay hanging out at Swan’s Point Marina; Victor, Cheryl, Link the dog, and me. 

During the day Sunday, a powerboat came into the marina and got stuck on a shoal right at the entrance that we had somehow missed the night before in the dark. Actually, the dockmaster was shouting at them as much as he had at us. “STAY TO THE RIGHT AT THE ENTRANCE.” They were simply not as good at listening as Victor was. Then along came a catamaran who might have had a reservation. They tried to sneak in the entrance thinking they could squeeze past the stuck boat. The dockmaster told them in no uncertain terms to stay out until the first boat was free. They got frustrated and left to find another dock – during a small craft advisory. 

We had a wonderful dinner aboard as the weather trailed off. Cheryl’s big cooler was magic for the copious amount and variety of food she offered us. It might have been possible to make some miles toward Beaufort Sunday evening, but we opted to stay; a wise decision I think.  

Monday morning we were raring to go. After another big breakfast, Victor cautiously turned the boat around and headed back out into the ICW. The first obstacle was crossing the New River. There are many rivers that cross the ICW along the Southeast U.S. coast. Their currents interact with the tides and the result is ever shifting sandbars and shoals. The Coast Guard doesn’t use permanent channel markers, they deploy buoys and move them regularly as the sandbars shift. A few years ago, on another boat going the opposite direction, we went hard aground at the New River. But we did fine that day. The channel was clear and the buoys were well laid out.

We cruised toward Beaufort with lots of wilderness; more salt marshes to port and low islands to starboard. At Swansboro, we ran into civilization again. Most of the way into Morehead City there were houses along the shore. Some of the houses were palatial, but others obviously housed working watermen and their families. Morehead City is just west of Beaufort and we were in the home stretch by then. Bogue Sound is wide and open along here. Lots of deep water and lots more houses along the way. We passed some industry as we approached the city. The Morehead/Beaufort area is home to a port and lots of marinas and marine industry infrastructure. 

Approaching Beaufort, the ICW goes to the left of Radio Island and then north up Adams Creek to the Neuse River and on toward Norfolk, VA. We went to the right of Radio Island, curved up and around Horse Island which contains the Rachel Carson Reserve and some wild horses. We spotted a few ponies on the way right into downtown Beaufort. Victor had a slip at the Beaufort Town Docks while he waited for his permanent slip to open up at the marina where he was headed.

As we approached downtown, Victor hailed the marina on the radio. They directed us to a spot on the seawall at the end of a fairway full of high dollar fishing boats. I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to even attempt it, but Victor had no choice. There was a current moving perpendicular to the entrance. Victor went on by and turned around to make the approach heading into the current. He gurgled the boat slowly past millions of dollars of fiberglass and stainless steel and planted us right in our spot. 

Cheryl and I tended the dock lines and tidied up the boat as Victor went and checked in with the marina. Beaufort is a great spot, though it sounds like the slip he got to is even better. I might soon visit on Ruth Ann while I’m waiting to gauge whether hurricane season is done this year. 

The three of us, and Link the dog, piled into Cheryl’s Tesla and we headed back to Swans Point; grabbing a bite along the way. We dropped Victor at his truck and carried on. I got to drive a Tesla for a couple hours. 

With some trepidation, I approached Fayetteville. I was getting on a Greyhound bus to get to a trucking job in Florida. Years ago, I had been stuck at the Fayetteville station for eight or nine hours. We either lost a driver or a replacement driver never showed up, but fifty or sixty people were stuck in an old cinder block building with two vending machines and a couple small restrooms. The station was a relic of the past that could have been a sheriff’s office or a prison at one time. Nothing but cinder block and terrazzo with institutional colors and hard benches. Looking down the street in both directions, there were no lights nearby; not a sign of life. I spent half the night against a wall, on the floor, leaning against my duffle bag. I was not looking forward to my return to that station. 

I didn’t remember where the bus station had been, of course, but we followed Google Maps into town. It was almost midnight but I could tell I was in a new spot. Under the streetlights, there was green space, sidewalks, office towers, a hospital, and a new transportation center. Many municipalities have built nice central bus stations for their local buses and made room for Greyhound. Gone are the days of a stand alone bus station; many that had restaurants and even barbers. Fayetteville had done it up nicely, though there weren’t many lights on.

Cheryl dropped me at the curb. After a hug goodbye, I assured her I was all set and grabbed my bags after waving again. With two large duffels, a bookbag, and a ukulele, I lurched and stumbled toward the dimly lit entrance set in a rampart of glass and aluminum. I dropped a bag and grabbed the door handle – locked. I picked my bag back up and wandered around the corner. It was quarter to midnight and my bus was scheduled to leave at 1:00 AM.

Luckily, on the other side of the building, I saw the old grey dog on a sign over another door. With some relief, I trudged to my salvation and tugged on the door …  but it was locked too. Now, I became a little concerned. Was I even in the right place? Then I noticed the sign on the door “Back at 12:30.”  I wasn’t really dressed for Fayetteville at Midnight in December so I leaned into the alcove of the entry to stay out of the wind. This might be a long night. 

At 12:20 or so, a couple employees (or people who appeared to be employees) showed up. None of them had a key apparently and they all stayed in their cars. A bit later, another rider showed up with a couple bags. Finally, someone approached, walking with purpose and authority – and no baggage – and proceeded straight to the door; unlocking it for us all. 

Inside, the ticket counter was a tiny room with a single door that went into what looked like the municipal side of the station. There were no signs about lining up or where the busses might arrive. So I sat down with my heavy payload. The one passenger I had seen sounded like they were headed some other direction than I. There were more employees than passengers milling around. Soon the little room was empty and I waited for an announcement of some kind. Employees wandered in and out of a back office; appearing behind the counter, fiddled around, and disappeared again.  

It was getting really close to 1:00 AM and I wondered about my bus. Just then, one of the Greyhound people walked in and caught me with a startled look from behind the counter.

“Aren’t you here for the bus to Orlando?” 


“They are loading up out back right now. You’d better get over there.”  

What!?! There’d been no announcement, no instructions of any kind. The man disappeared into the back office without further comment. I didn’t actually know where the bus was. After loading up with my bags again, I stepped through the door toward the rest of the station. It was a big lobby with lots of open space, lots of glass and benches, and no signs. Around to the right there seemed to be more space, so I walked that way. Trudging through the empty building I could now see the stands out back where various city buses would arrive and depart – and a single Greyhound bus idling at the curb with 8 or 10 people milling around. Where did all those passengers come from?! Likely at least a few of them were on the bus when it arrived but I had been insulated from all their activity. The bus driver looked up from beside the luggage compartment of the bus and frowned. He asked for my ticket which was on my phone and shrugged toward the bus as if to say “there you go, load your own damn bags.”  So I did, and I boarded the bus with my book bag and my uke. 

I really don’t remember but looking at Greyhound’s schedule today, I think that I rode down to Orlando, got an Uber to Groveland, and stepped into orientation for the driving job by 7:00 or 8:00 that morning. I was going back to drive for a company that I had driven for before. It’s a good little company, they are good to us drivers, and the schedule is fairly slack. After eight months, I returned to Ruth Ann. During those eight months, I had two regular weekends. The rest of the time, I was driving 6 days a week, averaging more than 500 miles per day. Most every week, I took a 34 hour break, which reset my DOT clocks and then went right back out on the road. My time driving was lucrative and I came back raring to go. In the last eight weeks, I’ve worked my ass off, lost about twelve pounds, and I’ve got Ruth Ann almost ready to launch.  

Stay tuned. I hope to give my patrons some kind of live access to my first few miles down the river and perhaps a Q&A at my first anchorage. Become a patron at the link near the top of this page. Thanks for your support.  

Friday, October 28, 2022

Escaping Death, Not Once, but Thrice

This is a fresh tale to interupt the "Running Up to Beaufort" saga and it is pretty long -- I’m sorry -- but I’m still buzzing a bit from all that just happened. I wanted to write it down while it was fresh. It’s a good story nonetheless. 

Last Friday, I faced death and destruction no less than three times. I’m a sailor, so what follows might be a slight exaggeration, but it felt pretty real to me. It just happened in the last twenty four hours.  

The day had arrived. After a restless night (more on that later), I had made breakfast and started working on my Task List. Earlier I had wandered up toward the office, but no one was in yet. A typical lazy-ish Friday around the yard. The guys were working in the various buildings on various boats, but the office was not yet occupied. I had started pulling tools together to go back over to Anago, the boat from which I was taking the engine. 

Just then I heard the mahogany baritone of Sam, the boatyard owner. I peaked out my companionway and could see his truck, so I dropped my tools and went after him. I had been chasing  him a few days to get the mast down and pull the engine from Anago. It was going to be the day before, but Sam had to make an appearance at the funeral of an old friend’s sister. I was determined to coax him into doing it that day. 

“You want to do something today, don’t you,” Sam said when he saw me coming after him.  

He was stringing an extension cord to a fishing boat that had been sitting here a while. He plugged the cord into another and craned his neck to look up at the fishing boat’s wheelhouse. He cussed and started walking back toward the pylon where the power was. 

“See if that light comes on.” 

Um, which light exactly. Oh, nevermind.

We worked at the lights for a time. Presumably, Sam was switching outlets on the pylon and I was watching the dome light in the boat. It’s tough to keep power working all around the yard. Each pedestal has 30 amp and 50 amp connections like most marina docks and also standard 110 volt outlets. 

“Well, I’ll call him and tell him we tried,” Sam said in his sing-songy Carolina accent. “I’ll go up to the office and tell them what I’m working on, then I’ll meet you at Anago with the forklift.”  

That was music to my ears.  

I hustled to get my extension cords, my angle grinder, and my ladder then trudged over to Anago which was 30 yards or so from Ruth Ann and my “camp.”  Once I got there, I strung the extension cords from a pylon that I knew worked and leaned my ladder against the boat. 

Right behind Anago, literally only four feet or so, was the good ship Rare Breed. Rare Breed is a fishing boat, about 40 feet in length. She was built by her captain, Brent, about 25 years ago and he is working on her now. Rare Breed is a beauty; purpose built with the loving hand and attention to detail of the man who knew he was going to captain her. Brent had spent the last several years as the captain of a large luxury yacht. It had been an excellent gig but he had been kept away from Rare Breed. Then the couple he had been working for were getting old enough that they decided to sell the big yacht and he was out of a job. This was really a stroke of luck as Rare Breed had been just sitting on the hard. An ignored boat starts to succumb to nature and little things start to become bigger problems.  

Brent was working on some small areas of rot in the floor timbers of Rare Breed; getting her ready to do fishing charters again. Anago got placed right on his bow in the rush of pulling boats ahead of a storm a few years ago. Brent has never liked how close the boat was to his. His worry was only amplified as the boat just sat there and no work got done on her. He was glad when I showed up with a plan to extract the engine and get Anago to the landfill. However, he wasn’t so sure of my plan to drop the mast. 

I explained how we were going to take the mast down. I should have consulted with Brent anyway as Rare Breed is literally a million dollar boat. I know from our conversations that his deductible is $10,000. Anago was set with her bow higher than her stern. This meant that the mast was leaning back; toward Rare Breed. If anything let go, the mast would fall on Brent’s boat and likely cause significant damage. The first two times I explained my plan, he just said “I don’t know. I need to talk to Sam.”   

Then the third time through, Brent seemed to understand that I had some experience rigging heavy stuff and that my plan was solid. With all that in mind, on the day it was actually going to happen, I had to bang on his hull and shout for him to hear me over his grinder. I told him that we were about to drop the mast and pull the engine, but that his truck probably ought to move. He finished what he was working on, crawled out of Rare Breed’s bilges to move his truck, and stuck around to supervise.  

Sam came around with the big forklift and we briefly talked about the plan again. I climbed up on to Anago with my grinder and a nylon strap from the forklift. Standing next to the mast, I was ten or twelve feet off the ground. Sam pulled forward putting a fork on each side of the forestay. I waved and he stopped. I wrapped the strap around the mast twice and then over the fork and attached it to itself with the shackle. As the strap lifted slowly, I made sure that it didn’t get caught on the winches or anything else. The strap gradually tightened up as it went higher toward the spreaders. When it stopped, both Sam and Brent shouted “OK.”  

A couple things that landlubbers need to know to understand the next couple paragraphs: a mast is held up in all four directions, usually by stainless steel cable. The forestay holds it from the bow; shrouds hold it from the sides; and the backstay holds it from the back.  Also, when a boat is out of the water it is “on the hard.” A sailboat on the hard rests with all its weight on its keel. Jackstands are placed around the sides to balance the boat. Jackstands are not designed to hold weight. In fact, trouble begins when the jackstands start to take too much weight.   

I stepped back to the cockpit and grabbed the grinder. The important part of my plan was that Sam was pulling the mast forward as I cut the backstay. The mast was on a tabernacle (a hinge), so that as Sam pulled the mast, it was still attached to the boat at the base. Also, the shrouds along the sides and the forestay at the bow were still attached and would prevent the mast from going backward (toward Rare Breed).  

When  I cut the backstay, the boat jerked as the mast jumped forward, pulled by the forklift. Little did I know, but Brent had told Sam that if things started to go bad – just floor it in reverse. I think Sam thought that the tabernacle was loose enough that he might be able to yank it off. Either way, while I was still about ten feet in the air, Sam gave the mast a good yank with the forklift. The boat and I jerked back and forth a couple times as the jackstands were deciding whether to fold underneath me or not. I held up a hand like “OK, fella, settle down” and I jumped to the ladder and climbed down. 

Later I noticed that the wood block under Anago’s keel had moved almost two inches when the mast was yanked. A couple more inches and the metal tubing of the jackstands would have likely buckled and Anago and I would have tumbled to the ground. That would have been exciting, but it wasn’t the most exciting thing that day.  

On the ground again, I untied the strap from the forklift and from the mast. Brent picked it up and put it on the back of the forklift. Sam wiggled the big machine around and lined up to lift the engine out of the cockpit. I grabbed the straps and shackle and climbed the ladder again. 

“Oh, sorry,” Brent said, “I just put those up.” 

“No worries,” I said, “If you put it away, you can find it when you need it.” 

“That’s how I was taught,” Brent drawled with a slight hint of appreciation.  

Next Sam and I pulled the engine up out of the hole I had cut in the cockpit floor. It was fairly anti-climactic, but the engine was what all this work had been about. As Sam left with my engine, wiggling between a couple boats, Brent approached and thanked me. 

“That was a well planned and executed safe method. I appreciate you,” he said.  I took that as high praise from a salty old fishing captain.  

“Thank you, sir.”  And I ran after Sam who was delivering the engine to Ruth Ann. We set the engine down on a couple of large wood blocks. I removed the straps from my chains, folded them, and placed them on the back of the big forklift. 

“Thank you, sir,” I said with a slight bow of my head. 

Sam winked and drove off.  

My next job was to get the mast the rest of the way to the ground. The tabernacle had been twisted in the lowering process, so I was going to need to cut the mast. More than three quarters of the mast was hanging off the bow, so I needed to be careful. Most sailboats have a row of teak grabrails on top of the cabin; Anago was no different. I carefully laced a line back and forth across the mast and under the rails. I figured with three points on each side holding the mast down it would be secure until I slowly lowered it. I cut through the mast about a foot from the hinge, but when the mast let go, so did everything else. I had purposely positioned myself on the high side of the prone mast, but when it jumped up all hell broke loose. The mast lurched, which made the boat lurch again and the grabrails gave way immediately. When the tip of the mast hit the ground, it stopped going that direction but then lurched the other way as it slid down the starboard side of the boat, stopped only by the wires that were strung through the inside. All the while I was showered by teak debris from the exploding rails. But just as soon as it had started, it stopped. The mast was still askew, but everything had settled. That was pretty exciting too, but it was not actually the closest I came to death and destruction last Friday.  

Sam, the boatyard owner, is a charmer. I like him a lot and I know he has a lot on his plate as the yard is not his only business. Further, nearly everyone else active at the boatyard is worth more monetarily to Sam than I am. He has a way, though, of making you feel like you are next and his highest priority at the moment. Sam had to leave during the afternoon on Thursday to go to a funeral, but he had kind of made it sound like he would be back late and we would do the mast then. Now there is Eastern Standard Time, Island Time, and there’s Sam Time. He did come back. In fact, I saw him, still in a suit, behind a boat instructing his guys on what to do with that boat’s outdrive. But soon it was after five o’clock and everyone was gone. I knew then we weren’t going to do the mast that day and I began to putz around and do some other little jobs around Anago. I got wild, grabbed my grinder, and decided to take out the compression post which was stainless steel. I am scrapping a bunch of stainless, aluminum, and the lead keel taken off of Anago. Another few pounds of stainless was money for the good. With that done, I was tired and packed up.  

Now, for you landlubbers again: a compression post is a post inside the cabin of a boat that supports the mast. My boat has what is called a keel-stepped mast; the mast goes through the cabin roof and is seated right on the keel in the bottom of the boat. Many modern production boats, however, have a deck-stepped mast; which is a bit of a misnomer because the mast is usually stepped on the cabin roof, not what I call the deck. 

I made supper, diddled around, and went to bed. It was just after midnight, when I awoke in a cold sweat. My heart was literally beating like it was going to ram its way out of my chest. I had a single thought; a thought so powerful it had woken me. In a B movie, the camera would have cut to the whole solar system, pause for effect with all the planets and the stars behind them, then zoom past Pluto (yes, I know), Uranus, Neptune, Saturn, buzz Jupiter and Mars, focus on the Earth, then oceans and clouds, continents and countries, fields and cities, to a house in a neighborhood, right through the roof, to the guy on the couch, through his forehead, the brain, the synapses, a couple spasmodic cells and then a gigantic explosion. I was wide awake! 

I had taken the compression post out from under the mast on a boat that had been sitting in the yard rotting for four or five years. The post that was meant to support the mast was gone. Now, the mast was supported only by the fiberglass shell of the cabin. If the roof failed, the mast would begin to fall down which would slacken all of the stays holding it vertical. It would inevitably fall – onto Rare Breed. Or if the Universe was in a particularly finicky mood, it could hit that boat and the boat next to it which was worth nearly as much. If such a calamity occurred, those two skippers would roam the earth to find me and shred me into pieces small enough to burn and stomp on the ashes. They would kill me. And worse yet it was something that I had decided to do for no good reason other than I was near the boat with a bunch of tools. There would be nothing I could say or do to compensate for the losses – financial and emotional – that I would have caused.  

I lay there trying to decide what I could do. There was no one in the yard but my pal Mike asleep on his boat and me totally not asleep on mine. I couldn’t see the boat in the dark, but if something was going wrong the only choice would be to try and wake Sam up at home and get him to the yard. Mike might be able to drive the forklift but neither he nor I would be willing to weave our way through a bunch of other expensive boats with a hulking machine to try and save another. If something was going wrong, there was nearly nothing I could do about it that night.  

And what if it had already fallen, but I hadn’t heard it. 

If I go look, will it be worse or better for my sweaty brain. 

I wasn’t about to get any more sleep that night. 

Finally, I decided to get dressed and go look; figuring that if it wasn’t bad I might actually sleep. I climbed down out of Ruth Ann with a flashlight and made my way over to Rare Breed and Anago in the dark. Brent has scaffolding on three sides of his boat with ladders in each corner. I climbed one of his ladders and poked my flashlight at Anago’s mast step. It was hard to see. I couldn’t really tell without climbing up into Anago anyway, but the curve of her roof looked like a continuous arc. I thought I could see the very bottom of the tabernacle. I decided that the worst wasn’t happening yet. So, I went back to Ruth Ann and back to bed. I actually slept some after that. 

First thing in the morning, I looked out the port in my galley. I could see the hulk of Rare Breed in the emerging dawn – and I could just make out the thin line of the mast beyond her, still standing. All was well in the universe. [do I have to say again: I’d rather be lucky than good.] I was determined to tell Sam my mistake if I had to, just to get him to take the mast down that day. 

And that was as close to death and destruction as I got last Friday. It wasn’t the exploding teak or the dancing boat, it was doing something stupid that could have affected two boat captains that I know and respect. If it’s all the same to Davy Jones, I’d like to never get that close again.  

Chronologically, this last bit happened before everything else, of course. After I made some coffee, I went looking for Sam. When I first didn’t find him, I set an alarm for one hour to look for him again. Before that timer went off, I heard Sam talking to someone nearby and that is where this post started. I dropped my tools and chased Sam down. 

A bit more than a day later and the mast is stripped of anything other than aluminum and is chopped up into manageable chunks. My pal, Anthony, chopped up a boat last year and got it to the landfill on a flatbed wrecker, so I enlisted him for my project. We have only to call for the wrecker and haul the metal to the recycler. We're splitting the scrap money after the cost of the wrecker and the landfill. 

I’d rather be lucky than good. 

Monday, October 17, 2022

Running Up To Beaufort, Part 2

We had an easy start Saturday morning. Victor’s mom, Cheryl, fed us like kings. I think it was sausage and egg biscuits that morning as we were soon to be underway. Cheryl was nursing a broken finger but helped a lot with docklines and other boat stuff; while also handling all the galley responsibilities. The Navassa Railroad Bridge is only about a mile downstream. That bridge had to open, so we waited for slack tide to head down the river. As soon as we started moving, we radioed to request an opening. When we got close, the bridge started creaking open. An easier time than I had had with that bridge on the way up to the boatyard with Ruth Ann. Victor’s Willard 36 is a unique traditional looking, strongly built trawler. She was repowered with a big John Deere diesel a few years ago which rumbled confidently at the push of a button. The trip down the river was uneventful and the boat performed without a hiccup. From the boatyard to downtown Wilmington, the river winds its way through salt marshes and acres of seagrass. We could have been traveling the river in any century except for the hum of the John Deere. Bare trunks of trees, some surely cedars, poked up through the seagrass while all kinds of herons, ducks, and other waterfowl went about their day; mildly bemused by the noisy humans floating by.. The only view of civilization to ruin the ancient river atmosphere was the Thermo Fisher Scientific building that towers across the marsh from the city. It wasn’t until we rounded the last long curve toward the junction with the Northeast Cape Fear River that downtown Wilmington loomed into view. We were thrust back into the 21st Century, but without much other traffic on the water. Soon after we past downtown there was a scattering of industry on each side, then oil storage tanks to the east. After a short stretch of wilderness, we came to the Port of Wilmington. The huge cranes had been in sight, but now we were right next to the huge docks and stacks of shipping containers. I don’t remember there being a ship docked in port that morning. Beyond the port we were back on a wild river. This stretch, however, was dominated by pine forests and random spoil islands. It was peaceful without too much traffic until we got to our turn. There seemed to be a collection of boats around the intersection of river and the ICW. Most were fishing but a few were on the move like us. We followed a sparse trail of daymarkers to cross a broad section of flat water from the Cape Fear River over to Snow’s Cut; the man made channel that connects the river to the ICW headed north. The Cut was the original reason that Victor and I started talking. Back when we thought that both our boats would launch about the same time, the first plan was for Victor to follow me since I had been through the Cut a few times. The boat and crew settled in and we made pretty good time through the cut, into the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), and on toward Wrightsville Beach. There were nine bridges on our route, but only three which we had to request to open. Now that we were on the ICW proper, the Wrightsville Beach Bridge was the next bridge we had to call. The bridge opens on the hour and the half hour, so after checking in with the bridgetender, we cruised out Masonboro Inlet and into the Wrightsville Beach Anchorage just for fun. Back out into the ICW, and back on a northward track, we made the bridge just in time and cruised under it's gaping jaws. The evidence of Wilmington thinned out pretty fast and soon we were rolling along with salt marshes and spoil islands to starboard and boathouses and docks to port. We enjoyed the quiet scenery of the ICW offseason. Nearing Surf City, we were looking for a place to put in for the night. Sears Landing, a restaurant with docks, caught our eye on the chart. However when we got there, it was a long skinny channel up to the docks with a pretty stiff cross breeze just then. Since all three of us were new to the boat, we decided to keep looking. Daylight was soon to fade and Victor was calling around, but all the nearby marinas were full. We motored a little further up the ICW and found an anchorage just past the Topsail Island Bridge. The sun briefly splashed some color but faded quickly behind the blue grey of the overcast horizon. With the anchor down, we caught up with our weather apps and suddenly found that a strong wind was on the way. Indeed, a small craft advisory for morning. And then a marina called Victor back. So just as the sunlight began to disappear, we hauled the anchor. I went to the bow with a borrowed pair of gloves. The windlass was not working, so I began hauling on the rope. Victor had opened a hatch and I shouted to give a little forward. The anchor rode came aboard without too much effort, anchor rope turned to chain, but we began to overrun the anchor. I wrapped some chain on a cleat and paused but the big boat had some momentum and we drifted further forward. Lacking some old salt patience, I asked Victor for a little reverse to bring us off the anchor. Soon, that John Deere kicked in and I was struggling. It was a scramble to keep the anchor chain from running back out, and just as hard to keep from getting pulled over the bow myself. But we won and the anchor finally came aboard. We motored toward Swans Point Marina, anticipating a safe harbor for the night; and the morning’s blow. It was dark when we arrived. The dockmaster was a bit coarse and direct to a fault, but exceedingly helpful in his own curmudgeonly way. He directed Victor into the dock while
Cheryl and I stood by to heave dock lines, and then he helped us tie up. . Victor did great despite the shouting and grunting from the dock. Then the dockmaster informed us about a nearby seafood restaurant that would come pick us up for supper if we called. Victor had to call twice to convince them to come get us, but they did. Amazingly, it seemed like more than a 10 minute ride each way. We had a great supper and a couple beers, and then got a ride back to the marina.

Overnight the winds piped up and we were happy to be tucked into a little marina rather than at anchor in a fairly open spot. Cheryl made us a hearty breakfast and we strategized. It was decided that we’d stay until Monday morning to avoid traveling in some pretty stiff winds and possibly having to find another marina anyway. I began to quietly fret just a bit for my plans. I had to catch a bus in the wee hours Tuesday to make it to Florida for orientation and a new job on Wednesday. 

Thursday, September 15, 2022

Running Up To Beaufort, Part One

To properly start this new season of the Bubba the Pirate Blog, we must start from the end of last season. Here is a story from mid-December, 2021. It was a hell of a send-off for me on my way back to a stint of truckdriving. 

As early as October, Victor and I had thought that our boats would be launched about the same time. We had talked about heading down the river together, and over to Wrightsville Beach. The main obstacle along the way is Snow’s Cut; a man-made canal that connects the IntraCoastal Waterway (ICW) coming down from Beaufort to the Cape Fear River. The tidal currents can rip through the cut and since I had done it a few times, and because Victor had just bought his first big boat -- he was keen to follow someone who had done it.

Victor is a youngish guy, an engineer and recently out of college; recently compared to me anyway. The boat he had bought was going to be his home up toward Beaufort, NC, near his job. We had gotten along from our first meeting and he can geek out about diesel engines, electric motors, and general boat stuff, but had lots of questions too. I don't yet qualify as an 'old salt' but I was nearby, and I have a lot of opinions. And I was a hero one day because I was the last person to hit the start button when his engine started.

His boat, a Willard 36 trawler was near my boat in the yard and he came over one day with a question about his diesel. I demurred that I probably wasn't the right guy to ask. We had talked enough previously that he knew I had been a truck driver for a while.

"But you've started a bunch of diesels," he stated with confidence I hardly deserved. "Can you just come have a look?"

So, I wandered over and climbed up into to the shippy-looking old boat and admired its efficient layout. The floor boards in the main salon were all up exposing the engine. Victor hung onto the water intake hose slung into a tub of water and had me gingerly cross the open space to get to the helm station. I pushed the start button a couple times, but didn't get it started. However, he might have been right about my experience because I sensed that it really wanted to start. We agreed on giving it one more try, so I pressed the button with new found confidence and the big John Deere engine roared to life. We all danced around and I got the credit; though all I did was push the button one more time.

Back at the yard last December, I had just figured out that my engine had seized and Ruth Ann wasn’t going to make the trip. Also, the yard had discovered that Victor’s boat had several cracks in its stern tube. We had talked about me crewing for him in lieu of taking Ruth Ann, but I had started to look for a job to pay for a new engine. The stern tube had to be custom made with an uncertain leadtime, and I was preparing to leave town.

I had pushed my luck and stayed nearly longer than was feasible. Hoping against hope that the yard's boom truck would get fixed and my mast raised. Nevertheless, the mast never moved before I headed back to Florida nearly out of money.

The stern tube had suddenly arrived the first Monday of December and the yard was going to install it yet that week. I had 4 or 5 applications out and was waiting for word on a driving job. Helping Victor sounded like great fun, but timing was everything. I was ready, and it was basically necessary for me to jump whenever one of the trucking companies called.

My batteries had to be at 50% state of charge for storage. So, Wednesday that week I disconnected the solar panels and started using up amps that wouldn’t be replaced. Thursday morning Victor’s boat was ready to go and I had the job offer that I wanted. I was headed back to Florida to drive for a good little company that I had worked for before. I knew the people, the system, the equipment, and the schedule. And I knew that I could work for several months and not have to buy a car. And ... I was going to be able to make the trip with Victor!

Truck driver job ads are a bit like used car ads and I have trouble believing anything I read. Going with the devil I knew was an easy decision once my application had been approved down in Groveland, Florida.

As luck would have it, the company sent me to get a drug test at a clinic that was right across the road from a laundromat that I’d been using all along. The nights had been chilly that week so after it warmed up a little, I loaded my laundry into my bike’s saddlebags and rode into town.

After my clothes were in the dryer, I walked over to the clinic, but they were pretty busy. The lady at the desk suggested that I come back in an hour or so. So, I wandered back to the laundry. Once everything was folded and packed back up, I left the saddlebags on an out-of-the-way table and walked back to the clinic.

Victor texted that the yard was ready to launch his boat. I replied that I was stuck in line at the clinic and he should not to wait for me. It crossed my mind that my reply might have sounded a bit churlish but I didn’t think he was prepared to leave without me anyhow.

When I pedaled back into the boatyard, Victor’s Willard was in the slipway, in the water. He beckoned me aboard, so I ditched my stuff and climbed in. The yard guys had helped with a couple final details and we were ready to make a trip -- momentous but only about 20 yards over to the dock. The boatyard is not a marina, it is, in fact, a boatyard. The dock is a fairly large platform but is only used as a place for skippers to stage their boats either on the way in or out of the yard. In fact, we met a couple that evening, who were preparing to bring their boat up the river and had stopped by to check out the facilities.

Friday evening we prepped both boats. I tidied up Ruth Ann and the space around her and gathered my stuff for the trip. I was likely going straight to the bus station from the boat. Two stuffed duffel bags, my book bag with my laptop, and a ukulele were all I had packed to occupy me for the next six months or so. It was just spitting rain when I pitched my duffels to the ground. After climbing down, I hung them on Ruth Ann’s jack stands to stay dry. Back up the ladder, I did a final check and turned off the batteries. When I climbed back down and was thinking it would be best to make two trips over to the dock … I was confronted by an empty jack stand - a missing duffel!

There’s a few of us hanging around the boatyard, so I immediately suspected that someone was messing with me. However, there had also been a guy, occasionally acting a little crazy, who had recently brought his boat to the yard. Sometimes he was more than a little drunk, and other times random things had come up missing around the yard. I had not met the guy yet, so all that was mostly hearsay, but just in case, I decided to pass by where his boat was.

I grabbed my book bag, my ukulele, and the one duffel I still had, and crunched through the gravel across the yard. Around the building, with a flash from my light, there was no car and no activity around the allegedly crazy guy’s boat. Just then, a pebble skittered across the pavement near me.

“Now I know you’re out there,” I said out loud to my unknown nemesis.

I started walking toward the dock as if giving up. Another pebble skipped over the gravel. After a few more steps feigning nonchalance, I spun around, clicked on my flashlight, and spotted Mike -- laughing and lugging my biggest, heaviest bag.

I hadn’t seen Mike in a couple days and I was leaving. After helping Victor get his boat to Beaufort, I was going to catch the bus to Florida to start truckdriving again. It was good to have a chance to shake hands and say ‘see you later’ to Mike, one of my boatyard pals. My bags were packed heavy, hence the two trips idea. After we laughed and shook hands, Mike said with a smile, “well, I’ll walk down to the dock with you but I’m not carrying your stuff.”

Departure Morning Sunrise
So there I was with everything in one trip, but I didn’t mind. We stumbled down to the dock. I shook
Mike's hand again and tossed my stuff down to the boat. Victor’s mom, Cheryl, was aboard with Link, Victor’s big, ol’ sweet dog -- and lots of food. There were several grocery bags, a large cooler, and takeout supper that was filling the boat with delicious smells. She had brought provisions for a battalion.
“Do you think we’ll have enough?” she asked.

Victor arrived and the three of us, and Link, prepared to tuck into the fried chicken, BBQ pork, coleslaw, and hushpuppies Cheryl had brought from Smithfields. We stowed some of the groceries, moved the big cooler, and each found a place to sit down to eat.

“I’ve been on 3 day voyages with less food than what you’ve brought for supper,” I told her with a smile. “I think we’ll be just fine.”

Thursday, August 18, 2022

If It Was Easy ... [ Part 37 ]

We are back to “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.” The Universe has been testing me, but I am unassailable. 

It’s been a frustrating week, but it all started fine. “Started” is a funny word, because for the last eight months or so, my week has been six days on, one day off with my “weekend” usually falling on Tuesday. Anyway, on Monday, which is kind of my Friday, I turned in my two week notice. I will soon be done with truckdriving and will be back at the boat by the first week of September. 

I normally would have rolled back into the terminal during the day Monday, had Tuesday off to reset my DOT clocks and run some errands. There is a lot on my mind as I crash toward the end of this round of truckdriving. Apparently, I had failed to email my dispatcher with my requested hometime. This formality has been a little bit more formal with my current dispatcher. Also, I had a slim week because I had spent most of the day Saturday in a truckstop shop getting my trailer fixed. This meant I hadn’t used up all my hours for the week. 

So I got another load rather than being dismissed for the week. Trucking is an unpredictable occupation and I have learned to just roll with it. I had my doubts from the start about this new plan and as expected it got sideways. I picked up a load of cardboard bales and headed toward Georgia again. The unloading at the papermill went faster than expected, and I headed on to Savannah to grab the Walmart load that was going to get me back to Florida.  

Along the way back, I was watching my clock and how many miles I had yet to go. By the time I got near Gainesville, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the delivery and then ‘home.’ I called in, but my dispatcher was at lunch. The load could have dropped at the terminal for someone else to deliver the next day, but the guy I talked to said it was set up for me to take it all the way and offered no options. I didn’t argue. 

What I did do was pull off at Hawthorne, FL - a little early - where I knew I could take a short hike and get some Chinese food. If I was going to take the load all the way, it didn’t matter how far I drove that day. I’d get there at the same time tomorrow one way or the other after taking the required ten hour break. What that meant, however, was that I was going to roll in on Wednesday and have Thursday off; shifting my schedule by two days. 

When I woke on Thursday, I had a lot on my mind. I already have one foot in Navassa, NC next to sv Ruth Ann, my boat. I took off, dropped the load in Brooksville, and headed to the yard in Groveland (“home”). What I should have done somewhere along the way was get some damn fuel!  When I turned the corner in downtown Groveland, the fuel all sloshed to one side of my nearly empty tanks and I got a short buzz to tell me that I was low on fuel. Dang.  

At the yard, I dropped my empty trailer and called my dispatcher. Pete has been very good to me but I was causing us both a problem. He did not have any advice about fueling up as there are no truckstops nearby, but he had me check with the shop. The mechanics could appreciate the silliness I had got myself into, but could not help.  

I’ve been living out of my truck since late December. My whole living space is about two thirds the size of a full size van. I have standing headroom, and the cab is about as wide as a big van, but behind the driver’s seat is a small cabinet and then the bunk. With all the fancy new auxiliary air conditioning for when the truck is stopped, there is nearly no storage under the bunk. I throw my duffel bag on the seat to make room to sleep in the bunk and throw it back on the bunk when I wake in order to drive. And … there’s a ukulele, a laptop, dirty clothes bag, and other supplies that make those hops back and forth too. Under the mattress, are three boxes I bought from the UPS Store so that I could ship some of my cold weather clothes back to North Carolina. I needed longer sleeves until about March, but haven’t worn them since. Hauling less through the Greyhound station in a couple weeks will be nice, but that stuff is not getting shipped this weekend. 

I couldn’t rely on what little fuel I had to run the auxiliary a/c for 34 hours on my weekend. I also needed that puddle of fuel to make it to a truckstop to get more. The shop thought that I had about enough fuel to get to the nearest truckstop. The other pressing issue was that I had about 55 minutes left of the 70 hours I’m allowed to drive in a week. The truck can’t move without the computer knowing it and there is no wiggle room for goofy personal problems. After evaluating my options, I made a snap decision. Back in the empty lot, the only trailer available was the one I had just dropped. Empty trailers are often worth their carrying capacity in gold. I always need one to move about, empty or not. 

The guard at the gate eyed me curiously as I dragged the same trailer out that I had just brought in. “It’s a long story,” I said as she checked my lights and my permits. Pausing in the driveway, I quickly typed a message to Pete. I was headed to the Pilot Truckstop in Wildwood to get some fuel and spend my 34 hour weekend. It was a slightly dumpy, older Pilot, but it was home … until late Thursday. However, there was no laundry and not a grocery store in sight. I’ll make up for missing my weekend errands on the road after I get moving again. 

svRuth Ann Awaits
All this goofy drama trying to get to my weekend is not unlike my life trying to get to sea.I have been frustrated. I’ve been blocked and bamboozled, but I’ve kept going. I’ve rolled with it for fifteen years and four boats. Things have not gone the way I thought they would; the way I had hoped. It’s been harder, more expensive, and sillier than I could have ever imagined. But I’m still here – still doing it. I will not be turned away! I am already detached from the expectations and the faux authority of normal life on land. For fifteen years, I have been living on my own terms. It has not always been what I wanted it to be, but it has always been headed toward my goal: living aboard and wandering around the Caribbean Basin by sail.

I have no fear of life or death. I have done my best and I am satisfied. If all goes according to plan, I will be sailing before Halloween. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

And Then It Went Bad, just as fast

My last post was called "It All Happened So Fast ... ," as in a good thing. As of last week, it all kinda went bad, unexpectedly and just as quickly.

I had a running joke with Hung Su, one of the senior clergy at the Grand Rapids Buddhist Temple. During one of our Thursday morning discussion group sessions, I confessed that I didn’t think that I was a very good Buddhist. With a wry smile, Hung Su reminded me that the Buddha taught that there was no such thing as good or bad, but that thinking made it so. I shot back with my own wry smile that he was proving my point. In much the same way, I’m probably a little better mechanic than I ever claim to be, but I am now confronted with a catastrophic, plan-altering problem with Ruth Ann’s Yanmar diesel. And it may not have anything to do with my skill level as a diesel mechanic. The short version of the curious problem is that I should be able to turn the crankshaft of the engine, but I can’t. And(!) the propeller shouldn’t turn easily when the transmission is in gear  …  but it does. Somewhere between the engine and the gearbox something has gone terribly wrong. And none of the diesel experts around here can explain how such a thing could happen. 

So, if I contributed to this tragedy it was that I’ve been ignoring the engine. I’ve had lots and lots of other things to do during Ruth Ann’s refit. But obviously, I should have paid it a little more attention. Nevertheless, when I brought the boat here from Little River, a trip of about 65 miles, the engine never coughed, never hiccuped, never smoked or made any unusual sounds. It ran like a champ; and I pushed it real hard the first day. That story is here.

I actually moved the boat in July 2019, but I went right back to Michigan to finish helping my Dad. It was March of 2020 when I finally returned to Navassa, NC where Ruth Ann was waiting for me. I started work on getting her into ‘Bristol’ shape and making her mine. It was a lot. There was so much wire in the boat, much of it no longer even in use, that I spent a couple weeks tearing out wire before I had the space to run new wire through the nooks, crannies, and wireways. I took out the tank and toilet of the old system and installed a composting head. Six thruhulls were removed, some by brute force, and new ones installed. One thruhull was no longer necessary and after some grinding and glassing that hole was shut. By far, however, the most hours (many, many) were spent grinding out and repairing blisters on Ruth Ann’s hull. I probably fixed more than I needed to, but I had become obsessed. I was insulted by the mere presence of the blisters. I never had the heart to actually count them, but there were hundreds of blisters. I must have spent two months on the whole process. Nevertheless, I am super proud of how the hull looks today. Most people, even fellow salty sailors, would have no idea how the hull looked before I completed those repairs. Her hull is smooth as a peach and the hull story starts here.

And then COVID hit. For a good while, I never left except to run into town to grab a few provisions or boat parts and supplies. A lot of boatwork got done. After a while though, money was getting a little tight but also the world had changed and my original plan wasn’t such a good fit. 

My plan had been to invest whatever it took to get Ruth Ann rigged for cruising off-the-grid for long stretches of time. I was going to cut it close with my personal capital but after getting the boat in the water, I planned to find some work to refill my cruising budget. With millions of people suddenly out of work, I could no longer be certain that I could find a fill-in job when I needed one. It was time to reevaluate the plan, so I decided to go back on the road for a while, make a little money, and hide out from the pandemic. I was back behind the wheel in late June. 

After a time, things seemed to settle down in the world and I was itching to get back to my boat. So last April after about 10 months, I quit the trucker life again and came back to North Carolina. Reunited with Ruth Ann, I got right back to work. Solar panels and lithium batteries were installed; the mast was pulled and rewired; new navigation lights were installed, and the Dyneema rig I had made was prepped for when the mast went back up.

I could have given the engine a little love along the way. I could have turned the crankshaft a few times. However, I did not have a starting battery or the cooling water connections hooked up, so running the engine was not an option. When I finally got around to servicing the engine, it all began fine. I replaced the fuel filter and bled the fuel line; then replaced the oil filter, the impeller, and the belts. When I tried to start the engine, however, all I got was one loud clunk from the solenoid …. and nothing else. I started troubleshooting; checked the wiring, and tested the starter and the solenoid. The battery was brand new and checked out fine, but when I tried to turn the crankshaft I realized that I had problems. The crankshaft should turn easily. It didn’t. 

A boatyard neighbor had resurrected an engine that had seized from sitting and so I followed his advice. I pulled the injectors from the top of the engine and poured “Metal Rescue” into the cylinders. They soaked for two days, but nothing changed. I tried adding PB Blaster. I got a breaker bar to assist the socket wrench … and nothing. Big trouble. Trouble that was killing my schedule. In a cruel irony, I was counting on moving south and then finding some work -- again. Getting Ruth Ann back in the water was going to use up most of the money I had made this last summer. 

My inventory project was done and I was out of work. I thought I was going to be in the water by the first or second week of November … and then this. All I’ve had to do was work on the engine and haven’t had to buy much in supplies, but my money wasn’t going to last. I have no debt, so I can bet on my plans and push my limits, but when the plans start to not work out, it gets a little sticky. Luckily, I recently got a little help from a friend.

“Another man might have been angry. Another man might have been hurt.”

     -Harry Chapin

One would think that maybe I would get the hint and stop chasing this dream; sell the boat or light it on fire. Y’all have heard me say, more than once, that I’d rather be lucky than good. Frustration was setting in, of course, and I was flabbergasted that the one thing that could hold me back was, in fact, holding me back. But after a few deep breaths and a cuss word or two, the magic started to happen. 

The land pirate who bought my campervan had an engine for sale from a sailboat he had owned. His engine was a different brand from mine but it was just the right size; mine was 15 horsepower, his is sixteen. Repowering with a different brand engine is certainly possible, but it would have to include some engineering and modifications to the motor mounts and likely the propeller shaft as well. Along the way, I had kept Sam, the boatyard owner, up to date on my troubles. He kept trying to sell me a motor out of an orphaned sailboat in the yard; a thirty horsepower motor he said. All I could think was that his engine would burn more fuel and probably wouldn’t fit into my boat anyway. Sam is a card and he kept bugging me about the deal I could get on his motor. 

Finally, one night last week, I dragged my ladder across the boatyard and leaned it against the orphaned boat which is right next to a friend’s boat. I explained to the friend that I had to crawl into that boat so that I could tell Sam that his engine wouldn’t fit. After chatting for a while, it was getting dark, so I excused myself and climbed aboard. I slid back the hatch, removed the washboards, and climbed down the rickety steps into the dank cabin. I slipped the barrel latch and pulled open the door to peer into the engine compartment. I twisted my little Maglite to light the space, blinked, rubbed my eyes, and stared in amazement at the model tag on the motor. I retreated back into the cockpit, closed the hatches, and stumbled back to my boat; ladder in hand, shaking my head. 

The next morning I caught Sam in the office. 

“Well, I’ve got good news and bad news,” I said, smiling.

“You’re finally leaving,” Sam teased. 

“Bad news is I’m fairly certain that your engine is not thirty horsepower,” I continued, ignoring his poking at me. “The good news is it is identical to mine. I want to work out a deal on that engine and maybe those winches in the cockpit too.” 

We made a handshake agreement, right then and there. 

But …

I like to play with my cards out on the table. No bluffs. No hidden agendas. Sam probably already knew, but I told him that I could not buy that engine just then. Regardless, our deal is good for both of us even if I have to go back to work for a while in order to afford it. I will help strip the orphaned boat and prep it to be crushed and sent to the landfill. For that I will get a good price on an engine that will drop into my boat onto the existing motor mounts. I have already turned that engine’s crankshaft and it turns so smoothly, without effort that I can hardly stand it. Along with the engine, I’m going to get a couple nice self-tailing winches, a couple sails, and a matching clock and barometer. 

My mast is still on sawhorses but I want to get it back on the boat before I start working again. With the mast out of the way it won’t get bumped or knocked over, but it will also be easier for the boatyard to move Ruth Ann while I’m gone if they need my spot. 

And about that back-to-work part, I’m going to go back out on the road for six months so that I can afford to buy that engine. The slightly tarnished silver lining is that I should also be able to buy a watermaker when I return. A watermaker was the one missing component in my off-the-grid plan. Once I have one, teamed up with my solar panels and lithium batteries, I will be able to make my own freshwater from seawater. Without having to find a marina or other source of water, I will be able to stay out sailing for very long periods. 

This new situation sucks, but it also doesn’t. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I’ve basically been living on the boat since I sold The Moose, my campervan, and I know that this is the life for me; living aboard is where I belong. 

Please note: this blog will be inactive and my Patreon page will be suspended until I get back to Ruth Ann next June. I will be working on my book and might post a preview here. 

See y’all soon. Thanks for your support. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

It Happened So Fast ...

The Moose and me on the road

It’s such a dime novel cliche but it all happened so fast. I knew it was all coming, but then it buzzed on by, and I was sitting on my boat wondering where I was going to put everything. To back up, I’ve been working for three months at a construction equipment rental company. Last Saturday (10/23) was the big inventory and my work was done. It was a success. Not only did my bosses predict multiple rounds of variance checking - and there were only two - but the outside crew’s count was so close to mine that the managers decided to accept the count and be done with it.

And then suddenly the guy who had put a deposit on the campervan was back in town and we consummated the deal. The Moose and I had been together a long time. It was the end of an era and a little daunting, but I had spent the previous couple days moving out of the van and cleaning it up. The morning my buyer was coming, I finally caught up with the owner of the boatyard and cleared that I could stay on the boat for a couple weeks before the launch.

Ironically, I’ve joked that my little ship was going to feel luxurious because compared to the cramped living in a campervan for so long. However, the first few days I was “living aboard” it was damn crowded. It took a while to find a place to stow everything. The stowing was often complicated by all the stuff that had to be moved to get to the lockers where other stuff could be stowed. 
Getting Near Livable

It has now been about five days. Life is good and the boat is much more liveable. In fact, tonight I’ll finally get back to the double bunk to sleep. For now, Ruth Ann could sleep three. In the future maybe four, but I’ve got some more organizing to do.

Yesterday, I ran some of the last wire needed inside the cabin. When the mast goes up, I’ll have a little more wire to run from the mast to the panel that controls the navigation lights. By then, most all my electrical stuff will be done. I also need to pull my outboard out of the trailer to check it over and test start it. I didn’t get any gasoline while I had wheels, so I’ll have to bum a ride into town.

The best story -- just my luck -- was about the impeller for Ruth Ann’s diesel engine. I ordered a service kit for the Yanmar; a 2GM20F. It came last week with oil and fuel filters, a couple belts, and an impeller. While I was moving aboard, I found a few parts in a drawer that I was going to use for flatware and kitchen gadgets. Curiously, there was an impeller in the drawer that was exactly the same size as the one that came with the service kit. The only difference was the way they connected to the shaft. The Yanmar impeller had a slot for a key, while the one marked “Johnson Pumps” had a pin across the inside diameter. I googled “johnson pumps” and saw shower sumps and wash down pumps; used to clean your deck or anchor chain. I figured there must have been some other pump on the boat previously that wasn’t there now.

So … I threw it out.

Now, I am a pack rat, but ratpacking is my main problem right now as I try to fit all my crap on the boat. In trying to be brave and reform myself, as soon as I understood that I didn’t need that other impeller, I got rid of it. It felt like a little victory … for a while.

I had procrastinated servicing the engine because I don’t have mechanical confidence. Nevertheless, I find that  once I get started, I realize that I know more than I think I do. I can do OK when I need to. So, I changed the fuel filter, bled the line, then changed the oil filter and finally got around to the water pump. Yanmar makes tractors and all kinds of other equipment, so things are not always convenient on a boat. The water pump faces the engine and must be removed to get at the impeller.

I gently coaxed a couple bolts that hadn’t moved in a long time and got the water pump removed. When I turned the damn thing over it said “Johnson Pumps” on the coverplate! I removed the cover and confirmed my fresh fear that the Yanmar water pump had been replaced with a Johnson one. The impeller I had thrown away a few days before was the one I actually needed. The supply company couldn’t have known if I didn’t know, but I don’t have a Yanmar water pump.  Oy!

Today (Monday, 11/1) was laundry day. In my new human- and wind-powered life, that meant loading up the pannier bags (saddle bags for the bike) with as much laundry as I thought I could carry and riding into town. The trip is about nine miles there and back, but it was a pleasant trip actually. I hit the hardware store and the grocery while I was in town for a few things that would fit with my clean clothes. I grabbed some lunch while the dryers were going, folded, packed and headed back to the boatyard. Tomorrow, I’ll do it all over again for a more serious grocery run. Then I’ll be done for a while. The last grocery run lasted me more than a week.

If you’d like to be one of the first to know, one of the first to celebrate with me, when Ruth Ann and I are back in the water, consider becoming a Patron at the link above to Patreon. Even a buck or two a month makes a huge difference. Patrons get early access to the blog, along with other perks like BtP swag, occasional live chats, and sneak peaks at the book I’m writing. There will be a Live Patron Event online during and after the launch, as technology and bandwidth allow. Thanks to everyone for their support. 

Running Up to Beaufort; the conclusion

Wild Ponies near Beaufort Here is the conclusion of Running Up To Beaufort where we get Victor and his boat (and his dog) to Beaufort and I ...