Wed 2 May 2012
Docked at Ashley Marina, Charleston, SC
After an extremely restful sleep, we puttered around the boat until after 0900 when Vern arrived to tackle the camshaft replacement. I will give enough detail to satisfy the "gearheads", so others can skip over the next few paragraphs. Getting the bolt holding the crankshaft pulley off was the first challenge and it took almost two hours before a trip to Vern's home for an impact wrench solved that problem. Next, the pulley just pulled right off with two fingers (welcome surprise). With that behind us, we could take off all the stuff I had previously removed before the first aborted attempt, including the rocker arm cover and assembly.
We now got the gear case off exposing all the timing gears, and things were looking promising. Next, the push rods came out and kept in proper order, and then the challenge was how to pull the lifters (tappets) up and out. Fabricating a small pair of tongs from heavy wire, I was very disheartened to see that the lifters only came up so far before hitting the cylinder head. The ports were big enough to clear the pushrods, but not the lifters.
Now we had three choices: (1) abort the effort and reassemble; (2) remove the cylinder head (I absolutely refused to go down that path considering how many other things had to be removed and assessing the risk of causing further problems); (3) find a way to hold all 8 lifters in the up position while we slid the old camshaft out and then inserted the new one. I was ready to abort at this stage, but Vern was optimistic and unable to accept defeat.
We tried using fabricated wire tongs, but it was clear that the lifters could easily slip off and if that happened when the camshaft was out, I was in deep trouble. Next, we tried gluing magnets to the end of 6 inch long cut dowel rods. It looked very promising because we could pick up a fairly heavy part on the bench (galley counter), but the lifters were a tight fit with the friction of an oil film in a tight bore, so they would not work in practice.
Despite three excursions in Vern's car (two trips to the hardware store and one to his house), we were stymied. I forced the issue and started reassembling everything. I was far from dejected, just hoping that when we were done reassembling, nothing would be worse. After helping for a while, Vern left to attend to other matters and I finished the reassembly. Diane came back from a nap aboard Vern and Rose's boat, Roam-a-Lot, and helped me add back the coolant. We started the engine and all ran smoothly, so it was now back in its jury-rigged, but functional, state.
I should mention that Vern and I had a great lunch at a little Mexican restaurant during our last excursion, and Diane and Rose were shopping in town for several hours. Diane doesn't spend too much when she shops, so she found some cute outfits, and a much-needed pair of non-skid shoes, for a very low price. They, too, had a nice lunch and enjoyed their time in the city.
It is now 1800 and I have been relaxing (and typing) for 30 minutes. We will be here all day tomorrow so that we can both explore a bit, and then plan a long day for Friday. Yes, in some respects, today was a wasted day, but life is not all bananas jubilee and sunglasses, you know (private joke for Dennis). We certainly appreciate the hospitality and assistance that Vern and rose have shown us during our visit so far.
Clyde is up in the cockpit with Diane enjoying the fading daylight and within an hour we will be asleep and ready for a much more relaxing and fun tomorrow.
Tue 1 May 2012
Docked at Ashley Marina, Charleston, SC
[photo: Charleston waterfront on the Ashley River.]
The evening was very still and quiet, and extremely restful. Readers will note that I comment on that a lot; the reason is that there are times when weather or other circumstances makes the Captain (and crew) very anxious and sleep does not come easily. A restful night is never to be taken for granted and always appreciated.
Leaving at 0630 and motoring slowly though the pond-still water was very inviting. I was grateful we were only 8 miles from a facility with fuel, for the gauge went to empty shortly after we left. I was not overly concerned, however, because I always fill the tank and record the engine hours. I can estimate closely how many hours of running I can get, but I don't truly know how many of the 25 gallons of tank capacity are truly "useable." I know as of now that it is at least 21.3 gallons.
Getting into the fuel dock was not all the bad, but leaving was a near disaster. The current was running about 2 knots at the dock and I had very little space to maneuver. My plan A failed, but a quick Plan B worked like a charm and we were off.
There is a section of the waterway called Elliott Cut and it is narrow in spots. When the current is running at full ebb, it is reported to be as high as 6 knots. Fortunately, I had timed it so that we had a fair (following current) of at least a knot and that brought Charleston's Ashley River into view in short order. We pumped the holding tank at Ashley Marina and then took a space at the dock for 2-3 nights. I called my friend Vern and we met at his boat.
We made some plans for how to tackle the camshaft replacement and agreed to meet for happy hour on their boat at 1700. It was fun reminiscing about our Bahamas time together in 2008, and then we went to a popular restaurant in Mt. Pleasant where I enjoyed a nice gumbo. Diane's salmon was good and Vern had the piece de resistance with the best bread pudding we ever ate. We all declined but he insisted on sharing and we are happy he did.
Clyde enjoyed the post-sundown time on deck. We had quite a parade of people moving back and forth on the dock past our boat and most were friendly enough to say hi. Diane is watching cable TV and we are soon to bed with a big day awaiting tomorrow.
Mon 30 Apr 2012
Anchored in Church Creek, SC
It was unusual to sleep late (0630 for Duane) and still have a few hours before departure, but to leave at 0700 was to subject ourselves to the worst of the adverse current most of the way. Leaving at 0900, we had very little beneficial current, but not quite as much against us, plus we had more of the SE wind in or favor, since the wind typically builds throughout the day and lessens at sunset.
We ran a little over 8 hours today and had a very uneventful day except for a few notable items. When we went through the swing bridge at Beaufort, there were two other sailboats of comparable size that were running under motor alone (as were we) at the same speed as us. They, however, were staying right on the "recommended track" and we were cutting the corners where it seemed appropriate. As mentioned earlier, when you have an adverse current, it is best to stay in the shallower water. Before long, we were quite a ways ahead. We also deployed the headsail more frequently (it does take more effort to make all the adjustments) and that helped, too. Before long they were out of sight behind us.
Despite all those great efforts, the current was against us so much that we averaged 30% fewer miles per hour than normal, and that meant that the Captain's fuel management estimate was not very good. We were blessed to get good wind to help us near the latter third of the run, so we reached our anchorage with the fuel gauge still on the positive of empty. Our plan is to re-fuel at the marine service facility just 10 statute miles farther from our anchorage, since waiting for the 22 miles to Charleston might be cutting it too close.
The anchorage is quite large and empty, except for us; the anchor is holding well in the mild current and winds, and life is good. Dinner was salmon fillet in a homemade lemon/caper/wine/butter sauce with rice pilaf and mushrooms, plus steamed broccoli. It was fantastic and devoured 'con mucho gusto.'
The evening in the cockpit was very relaxing; we are noticing that the amount of time between sunset and dark is increasing, as expected as we get father from the equator. Clyde the cat is definitely enjoying his time on deck in the evening, as are we, although Diane is in her flannel nightie.
Tomorrow will see us in Charleston with our good friends Vern and Rose (and their dog Salty). We met them in the Abacos, Bahamas in 2008 and have gotten together once a year or so since then. Vern has so kindly offered to drag out his tools so that we can tackle that camshaft replacement together. We are thinking that we may be 3 days or more in Charleston, but who really knows. We are still ahead of schedule for time so far, and this would be an important repair to get done.
Speaking of repairs, several things have started giving me concern: there seems to be excessive vibration from the propeller, so I suspect the cutless bearing needs to be replaced. Also, the dripless shaft seal is leaking and the manufacturer recommends replacing the bellows every 6 years; ours is overdue. Both those jobs require hauling the boat out of the water. I will have to give some serious thought to where and when, because I really don't want to go the rest of the cruise with that prop vibrating like that.
Diane has mastered the routine of reprogramming the TV for each new location we visit and is now watching Dancing with the Stars. I am preparing to go topside and watch God's stars for a while before bed.
Sun 29 Apr 2012
Docked at Downtown Marina, Beaufort, SC
[photo: one of the many historic homes in this town.]
The evening was comfortably cool and quiet as far as wind and waves, but some place ashore was playing loud music until 0200. Once the hatches were closed, you barely heard it, so no problem. Duane was so relaxed that he slept until 0700, a rarity. It is forecast to reach 85F today, similar to yesterday.
At 0900 we borrowed the courtesy car to go to the local grocery store and K-Mart. It had a few rattles that were disconcerting, but it got us there and back OK. We now have more fresh veggies and protein for the next 5 days or so. Needing to get to a store every 5 days or so it is not even close to the old days when refrigeration was almost unheard of and people had to shop every day for that day's meals, but a lot closer than the modern American's food shopping habits.
After a very light lunch, we got on the bikes and rode a number of miles through the working man's part of Beaufort, stopping at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store for some coveted mint. It was uncertain if the mint would pass muster for the 4 guests we would have later for mint juleps, so a sample was required. It was good.
At 1700, our cruising guests arrived and we had delightful conversations for almost 90 minutes. Everyone left to their own plans, while we prepared dinner. It was a simple meal of shrimp wrapped in bacon over a bed of rice pilaf with fresh sautéed portabella mushrooms and fresh steamed broccoli. I tease, but we really do eat well on the boat.
The after-dinner glow in the cockpit with a fresh breeze was very invigorating. A little music and some recapping of the glorious day, and it was time for bed. I should note that at noon today, it was 4 weeks since our departure. It took a while to get used to the fact that this was not a several week vacation, but now we are definitely in cruise mode.
Supplemental - meeting the ActiveCaptain founders
When we arrived at the Beaufort marina, who should be there getting ready to depart but Jeff and Karen Siegel, the founders of ActiveCaptain. They have a gorgeous 53 foot DeFever and are traveling back to Maine for the season with their two dogs. We had a short chat and they offered for us to visit them up in Maine, which we fully intend to do.
For those not familiar, ActiveCaptain is what Jeff likes to call "social navigation." The site has NOAA charts that you can scale and pan easily, and then you can view the satellite imagery to see how it looks in real life, not to mention shoal areas, mooring fields, etc. Best of all, there is up-to-date descriptive info about important items such as bridges, locks, tricky spots, marinas, and cruiser-recommended anchorages. It is active in the sense that cruisers are continually adding their reviews and comments about everything, so the information is not stale.
We use ActiveCaptain and Claiborne Young's Cruiser's Net a lot to help make our passages easier and safer.
Sat 28 Apr 2012
Docked at Downtown Marina, Beaufort, SC
[photo: one of many historic homes here, plus a passing carriage tour.
It was a really great night for sleeping; the temperature and humidity were ideal and the weather was settled such that the captain had no concerns. Due to the strong currents we would face being so near to Port Royal Sound, I cajoled Diane into an early departure to time it for the least foul current. Surprisingly, we had more wind than forecast so early and had a little benefit for the last third of the passage.
When we got the downtown Beaufort waterfront, we saw the seawall at low tide and I decided for the marina. The wall had many nasty, sharp oysters and with a tidal range of 7 feet, there was no good way for us to get on/off the boat anywhere but high tide. We are on the most outside dock, which will be good to catch the breezes, for it is a very warm day today (over 87F for the high). Nevertheless, we got ourselves and bikes ready for a ride around town.
Even though we had seen the town about 8 years ago by car, it was great ride slowly around all the quiet, shaded streets of the historic district and take it all in again. After that we extended out to other parts of town to explore. We wound up near the marina having a cold glass of draft beer that tasted really good. Between leaving and returning to the dock, Duane ran into at least a half dozen chatty sailors and enjoyed some conversation. Diane let Duane take both bikes back the short distance to the boat while she window-shopped (true; she did not buy a thing) in the many stores downtown.
We both thought a little nap time sounded good, and then we showered for the evening. At 1700, Tom and Kaye from Shearwater came over to share a beverage and some snacks and good conversation. We now have another place we can visit off the Potomac River if we choose.
Dinner was at Panini's, right off the riverside park, and it was great. We did as we often do and just ordered a soup and some "small plates." We ordered 4 drinks, an incredible calamari dish, shrimp wrapped in bacon, yummy crab bisque, and a personal pizza and it was all wonderful. We took "home" about a third of it and the bill was under $50.
White there, a very large and boisterous group was giving the wait staff fits trying to sort things out. One of the ladies left the table and Diane commented something about wearing a sundress with Uggs boots. I had no idea what she was talking about (what man notices a woman's shoes?), but the lady at the table behind us must have made a similar observation, so Diane sidled over her to share the moment.
I must mention that many years ago I treated Diane to a terrific experience staying in a beautiful cottage at the Beaufort Inn, and a scrumptious dinner, plus some romantic mint juleps on the porch. I offered to have us stay at the Inn again, but Diane declined. I then offered to dine there tonight, but when we checked, they were closed for a private party. Regardless, we have waterside accommodations and our "porch" has a terrific view.
Diane is watching her first cable TV aboard the boat as I type this. I haven't checked the news since we left. Is the world still getting on as usual?
I was reflecting today that it has been a while since thoughts of the Punta Gorda home and my workplace have entered into my mind. I still miss the people we have temporarily left behind, but it is now a whole new world we live in right now.