It’s been a few weeks and I apologize for not being more prolific with my writing. Thing is, when one travels the ICW the way we have lately, one has very little energy at the end of the day to form a cohesive sentence, let alone place them into a paragraph that makes sense. I have difficulty doing that when well rested. See, we weren’t supposed to be doing the ICW again. We had a plan… and that’s where we went wrong. We were going to leave Ft. Lauderdale on Saturday June 8, for the three day sail to Charleston, where we would see the sites for a couple of days before putting out for the two day sail to Beaufort, NC. Then… one short day up the ICW to Oriental, NC. and Bam! Hello!!! We’re here! Let’s begin the summer and the “chill-out” time! Let’s celebrate an uneventful passage and time sailing together… screeeeeeeeeech, HOLD-UP! Cue the tire screeching, record skipping sound effects please!
Lets just back up… We left Lauderdale on Saturday June 8. A squall line followed us all the way off-shore and turned north with us. Then… all the nice southeast wind at 10-15 that every, single weather reporting station predicted, went NORTH at 10-15 knots. Going north in the Gulf Stream with any northerly component to the wind is NO fun… We were slamming and bashing. I started the engine to help us push through the swells and not lose so much momentum. That’s when I heard a “grinding” sound coming from below my cockpit. That’s not a fun sound in the middle of the ocean. I immediately shut the engine down. As the sun came up, we investigated the bilges, transmission and stuffing box and found no visible signs of malfunctioning parts. And, in true fashion, when you are 100 miles off-shore, the wind went from north to NOTHING. We fired up the engine and took a chance that the grinding wouldn’t appear again. It didn’t. It didn’t really have a chance because shortly after starting the engine, I smelled that all-too-familiar diesel smell that I smelled when we lost an injector line last October. Annnnd guess what – we lost an injector line. It was time to change the “plan” and divert into St. Augustine… about 93 miles west of our current location. UGH, here we go again.
When I had the failure last time it was line No. 4. This time. Line No. 1. The ONLY line I didn’t have as a spare. So… now we killed the engine again and floated at 2 knots for forty-eight hours straight! I got no sleep. I worried that I put my lovely in peril as we sat, just the two of us, until we got about 30 miles off the coast of St. Augustine. I couldn’t take the boredom any more. We launched the dinghy and I decided to hip-tow us as far as our little Mercury 5 HP engine would take us! By God… she took us about 25 miles and then we put our SEA-TOW Unlimited Membership to work yet again. They towed us to Hidden Harbor Marina where the search for the grinding sound and the elusive, never failing injector line began.
Now, I’ll skip all the back and forth here and cut to the chase. Universal (my engine) people told me it would be four weeks to get the part. It would have to come from England. All the used part guys couldn’t find one either. Me and Mel took to the web to find anything we could and we did. A Kubota Tractor parts supply house in Pompano Beach had not one, but ALL FOUR LINES and for half the price! See, if you don’t know it, the Universal Diesel engine in these old boats are really Kubota Tractor engines. If you need parts, call Kubota. They’ll be the same and cheaper. So, we got the line, put it on and found out the “grinding” from the stuffing box was because our dripless stuffing box needed to be burped. We have an older PSS model that doesn’t have the vent. If you get into heavy surf or wave action, air can be forced into the stuffing box, causing it to run dry. If you push back the rubber bellows and allow a big “burp” of water to shoot out… the problem will be solved! Done… and done. Time to sail out of St. Augustine and head back off-shore! Woo-Hoo! Only no… See Melody took the entire week off to make the trip and now the week was over. We now had to do the ICW so she could remain connected via our HotSpot.
I’ve said before I would, “never do the ICW again”. I was wrong. And now I’m going to say it again. I will never do the ICW again. No offense to my Georgia or South Carolina peeps but the ICW in your states SUCKS! Absolutely sucks. Jekyll Creek, Little Mud River, Hell Gate, 9 foot tide swings, strong currents and the marsh areas of South Carolina are absolute soul crushers. If I never see them again, it will be too soon. My advice to anyone doing the ICW… take it from Norfolk to Southport, NC. Then go outside at the Cape Fear River or continue south through the Waccamaw River (The most beautiful part of the ICW) and then jump out at Charleston. Skip every other part. Just my .02.
We made it to Oriental, our “final” destination, for what was to be a month long stay and some small-town, local relax time. Didn’t happen. We went into Oriental Harbor Marina with six and a half feet of water and woke up at 3 AM with three and a half. The wind and chop built during the night and now we were being lifted and dropped onto the lovely bottom. Livid is not the word. I actually made up some curse words that night… and the next night. See, we couldn’t move for two days while this lovely weather system picked us up and deposited us firmly and repeatedly for about 48 hrs. We got our money back from the dockmaster, who I think saw the murderous look in my eye, and drug the boat out of the slip in four feet of water. It took over an hour and a half to move about one hundred yards. We were going to move to another marina and resume our relaxation but once out, I couldn’t stop. I didn’t even check the oil and I check the oil every, single day!
Now here we sit in Norfolk. We planned on being here sometime in mid-July but we’re here now. So is that shitty weather system. Turns out it’s dumped more rain on the Eastern United States than any other time in history. Some states have three times their June average rainfall totals. Ya know what Mel told me? “Honey, see… at least it’s not personal. God and the Universe don’t hate you… They hate the whole East Coast!” In full disclosure… I added that last part. Anyway, as I sit at Melody’s brother’s house writing this blog, a torrent of rain cascades off the deck and I’m watching from a dry perch on the couch. My ass hasn’t been on a couch in I don’t know how long. The boat sits on a dock over by Great Bridge Lock. I am not even going to check on her today. I’m not going to say I don’t love her anymore… I’m simply going to say we’re taking a break. I have my heart set on laying here and watching ESPN. I want to catch up on all the crappy TV I’ve missed for the year. Alas, Matthew and Tamara are out of town for a couple months and yes, they suspended their cable. I guess I’ll just sit here and… um… watch the rain?