Good Morning, Georgia?

I was nearly rocked out of bed, again, by the wake of a passing ship! We’d certainly anchored near the shipping channel, just as far outside as we possibly could without running aground. But we hadn’t expected the Savannah River to be quite this bustling! We were all so tired that I’m sure we slept soundly between the wakes, but I did count at least six ships that passed during the night (midnight – 9:00) and each wake jostled me awake. This time the sun was shining and it was time to get motivated! I peeked my head out of the hatch…good morning, Georgia!? Not the scenery I’d hoped to see upon completing our passage to the Bahamas. But here we were and we had an engine to repair in a city about which we knew nothing.IMG_6876

Fortunately, we still had an AT&T data plan on the iPad which enabled us to search for information via the World Wide Web even though we were anchored in the middle of nowhere. Thank goodness for cellular towers! The data plan also enabled us to make phone calls via Skype since we had stellar service. Brian started searching for anchoring options near Savannah. He quickly determined that there were no anchoring options near Savannah, only an expensive city dock. Savannah seemed to have a very industrial waterfront. “Well, shouldn’t we just look for a marina then?” I suggested. I did not want a repeat of last year’s two-month engine dilemma. We agreed it would be best to be at a marina with a broken down engine, rather than anchored. We also agreed that a mechanic could quickly diagnose the problem and get it resolved. Brian started another search for nearby, full-service marinas. In the meantime, I’d referred to the OCC website for a listing of Port Officers. We were in luck! Tony Perry is the Port Officer at Savannah, GA and I thought we’d better pick his brain for suggestions.

Thanks to Tony’s recommendation, we made arrangements with the Hinckley Boatyard which was located in Thunderbolt, GA just seven miles up river from our position. A check of the oil showed it was not terribly diluted with fuel. And so we hauled anchor and motored toward the boatyard. Tony checked in with us via phone call along the way to ensure we were alright.

It was a slow but scenic ride. Brian and BMac spotted an otter as it swam past, and we spotted several herons, egrets, and pelicans. We received our first, “Welcome to Georgia!” from the bridge tender of the bascule bridge on the Wilmington River. I hailed him on the VHF to inquire about the opening schedule and he pleasantly replied, “Well, how long do you want to wait?” The bridge opened on command. I did tell him that we were enjoying the scenery, to which he directed us to continue forward and he’d open once we’d reached buoy #27. BMac was thrilled to stop traffic! He lives near a swing bridge in Annapolis, MD and has had his fair share of commuter waiting time for passing boats. Now it was BMac’s turn! We watched quite the line-up of cars pass over the four-lane bridge once it closed behind us.IMG_6882Just around the bend was the Hinckley Boatyard.IMG_6883Amy met us at the dock and helped us to secure Rode Trip. BMac and I joined Amy in the boatyard’s office to get our paperwork situated and explain our engine problem while Brian opened and tidied the engine room. Within the hour the boatyard’s mechanic, Bob, was listening intently to his newest patient’s symptoms and taking a look inside to confirm his diagnosis. The culprit was a bad seal on the fuel injector pump. Brian and I had a quick pow-wow to decide how best to solve the problem. Bob had assured Brian that he could successfully uninstall the pump himself, but that it would have to be sent out for repair. With flashbacks from last year’s exhaust rebuild and a schedule to which we had to adhere (*side story) Brian made the call that he’d better have Bob uninstall the pump. After all, we’d come to a mechanic! Bob had the fuel injector pump uninstalled in approximately two hours. The pump was sent to the shop on the same afternoon that we’d arrived and was scheduled to be rebuilt as quickly as possible.

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Our OCC Port Officer, Tony, stopped by the boatyard. We were quickly acquainted and Tony assisted us with a few errands. We can’t thank him enough for being so helpful! During our stay at the boatyard, Tony was only a phone call away and he even stopped by several times to visit. But, let’s not forget that BMac was on vacation…we must make the best of Thunderbolt!

*As if we haven’t learned our lesson that it’s not wise to cruise with a schedule, the universe has reminded us with a broken fuel injector pump. BMac had a flight scheduled out of the Abacos that needed rearranging. We also had flights scheduled out of the Abacos as we’d planned to join our family for Thanksgiving. Now our plans are dependent on a speedy repair and, as always, the weather.

 

 

 

The Trip that Went South: Final Hours Offshore

Our final overnight at sea was crisp and clear; a starry canopy unfolded overhead with a brilliant, orange moonset in the background. The wind had not yet built and we were bobbing along, caught in the Gulf Stream and not making any headway. At about 2330 I spotted a light on the horizon. Radar informed me that this ship was approximately 8 miles away, but it was moving quickly and the red starboard light indicated to me that it would likely pass in front of us. Within minutes the ship was 5 miles away and I woke Brian to confirm my prediction that the ship would pass in front of us.  Brian agreed we were not on a collision course; but just to be safe we changed course because this was going to be a close pass!  Now on a port tack, we got absolutely zero forward momentum from the wind and were actually travelling backwards in the Gulf Stream.  EEK!  Within ten minutes we’d lost all of the ground covered during the previous hour and forty-five minutes!  That ship continued to get closer but all we could do was wait.  The ship was within two miles of us when it finally passed.  The conditions were calm enough for the wake of the ship to reach us, even two miles away, and it was a BIG wake!  Rode Trip’s entire bow was dunked into the water; ocean water streamed down the sides of the deck and poured out the scuppers.  SPLASH!  The bow was dunked a second time!  Rode Trip hobby-horsed for a few minutes, sails flogging all over the place.  And all the while BMac soundly slept in his cozy bunk.  Later that evening, we chatted on the VHF with a nearby passing catamaran bound for Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  It had been quite a night!

The wind did not disappoint during our final day on the water.  With dawn came 25-28 knots and building seas.  We’d been speeding along, boat shuttering as it surfed down each wave, when I was awoken for my morning shift.  During my first two hours on watch, Rode Trip was screamin’ at 6.8-7 knots with the jib, staysail, and full main.  I was really enjoying this pace!  However, it was becoming increasingly difficulty to maintain our course and the boat was heeling tremendously plus getting knocked farther onto her side with each gust.  We had TOO MUCH SAIL, but really didn’t want to slow down.  I woke Brian, “We need to reef this main.”  With a double reefed main we had greatly improved our ability to control the boat and were still maintaining 6 knots.  With all this commotion, there would be no napping this day!

Soon we were all in the cockpit to enjoy the ride.  “It was like we were on a torpedo!” BMac exclaimed as he described sleeping in his bunk earlier that morning.  Waves crashing, boat shuttering, wind howling…I think torpedo was as accurate description as any!  We had a private dolphin show that afternoon; mother and calf were surfing waves and swimming along in Rode Trip’s bow.  The calf showed us its best triple-sow-cow, complete with a flip of the tail a the end.  That afternoon, waves crashing over the side of the boat chased me inside.  I have a slight aversion to water.  The guys, however, suited up in full foul-weather gear and stayed topside.  Ah, the thrill of the ocean!

The initial thrills of the day lost their appeal after hours of sailing through turbulent conditions.  A monstrous wave dampened our spirits as it slammed into the starboard side, “CRACK!” just as BMac was coming down the ladder.  Water cascaded through the already closed hatch.  It left a puddle in the galley.  BMac peered back outside to confirm, thankfully, that Brian hadn’t been washed away and was still seated in the cockpit.  As night approached once again, we wanted nothing more than to drop the hook for a few moments of stillness and a chance to dry.  It wasn’t until approximately 2100 that we reached the mouth of the Savannah River.  In the dark, under sail, we navigated what seemed like the longest inlet ever!  The Savannah River also happens to be a very busy shipping channel.  Upon dodging our second ship of the evening, in a very narrow space, Brian had to turn on the engine to motor out of a wake and avoid a nearby dock.  A sudden drop in oil pressure determined our anchoring location; we dropped the hook just outside of the marked channel.  Stillness. We all piled inside the cabin for a change into dry clothes, a warm heater, a tasty meal (breakfast for dinner, it was midnight after all).

The Trip that Went South: New Genoa on the Horizon

The night went smoothly and we managed to get some sleep between watches after taking down the ever-flogging main sail. Rode Trip was making minimal headway by mid-morning; the wind remained shifty at 0-5 knots although with the main down we were somehow moving 1-2.3 knots. It was time to bring out the big guns! We let down the jib and secured it on deck while still hanked onto the stay. Out came our new, lightweight genoa which we hanked onto the stay above the jib. This way if we needed to swap sails in a pinch (which nobody predicted) we’d have our jib ready to go. We fastened the starboard genoa sheet to the spinnaker pole and set the pole. Then, hoisted the genoa. This big, beautiful sail caught any loose wind and powered us forward. It was glorious!

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We took down the staysail; providing BMac with a good lesson at flaking.

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Within the hour after hoisting the new genoa, the wind increased to 10-15 knots and we had a fantastic downwind sail. Rode Trip cruised at 5.5 knots for approximately two hours. Alas, this was not the direction of our course. We’d been eyeing ports along the Georgia coastline and this downwind track would take us much farther into southern Florida. Down came the spinnaker pole. BMac sheeted in the genoa. We hoisted the staysail and full main and reset our course.

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The wind dwindled a bit once again but we were able to maintain 2.8 knots through the afternoon. While we sailed along, Brian and BMac developed a storyline for a cloud crab that BMac had spotted. The crab’s name was Jermaine and “Oh!” was he a most adventurous cloud crab! I enjoyed the tale while filing my nails; can’t neglect grooming even though I’m in the middle of the ocean!

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As night fell, so did the wind. We had plenty of time to admire the brilliantly shining stars in the cloudless sky. BMac counted 10 shooting stars; I hope all his wishes come true!