20 November 2011

Goodbye Frostbite, Hello Malaria

Joy sliding under a bridge
We awoke this morning to a comforting, if somewhat cryptic response.  Steve assured us that at 64 feet, we’d be fine, that it was not a fractional rig, giving us an extra four feet.  But an extra four feet from what, from the underside of a 64 foot bridge or from the original height of the mast?  We decided that was an issue for another day.  Assured that we’d “sail” right under the bridge, we forecasted another incident-free day.

It seemed so innocent
Unbeknownst to us when we anchored in what our ICW guidebook referred to as a peaceful and well-protected spot, we were actually in a swamp.  This morning just after dawn, Jane blithely commenced her now-usual ritual of turning on the Raymarine and checking the readings on our assorted instruments prior to weighing the anchor.  She leaves the door open when she does this, just enough for the cats to wander in and out.  It’s been the compromise between giving the cats what freedom they can have on a boat and keeping in as much of our preciously accumulated warmth as possible.  As ineffective a strategy as it’s been at keeping out the cold, it was far less so in preventing a swarm of mosquitos from invading our cabin.  It was an unfair fight.  We were taken completely by surprise.  

Who would have imagined two days after waking up to ice on our boat we’d be faced with a plague of mosquitos?  They’d already drained off a sizeable amount of Jane’s blood by the time either of us realized what we were up against.  So much for the liberty of our cats.  She slammed that door shut so fast it nearly bounced open in its track.  Enduring cold for their benefit is one thing.  There’s such poor insulation on the boat that it doesn’t make much difference if the door is open or closed; it’s basically a walk-in windbreaker as far as r-value is concerned.  Skeeters is a whole other matter.  We were pretty sure that the next stretch of this trip was going to provide us with a whole new form of misery until Jane remembered that she did, in fact, bring a can of Off when she packed up the house.  Ah, relief…  She whiled away the first part of day avenging her blood loss on the ones who thought to hitch a ride with us decimating their number by 27.  (She didn’t keep track of her “batting” average.

We’ve been keeping track of how many hours we cruise and how many nautical miles to the good we make.  This has inspired us to get up and underway earlier each morning and this morning was our personal best.  Anchor up at 6:37 a.m.  And that was after making coffee, breakfast, and the bed.  Part of this efficiency has been motivated by Jane’s competitive nature as she readily admits.  She hates for us to be the last boat out of an anchorage; a feat we had not yet managed to avoid.  Her sense of victory today was short-lived, sadly.  The only boat we beat out this morning was a power catamaran that we later spotted about a half-hour behind; nowhere near enough of a head start to not be overtaken eventually by a power vessel.  And so we were which made us last in line again.  On the brighter side, we were making good time, over 6 knots. 

We are both anxious to get this part over with.  Certainly because of the cold, but also because this doesn’t really feel like the beginning, it just feels like we’re delivering our own boat to The Bahamas.  We feel incompetent about every aspect of this: sail handling; electrical and mechanical maintenance and repair; knot tying (although Jane is pretty good at those and under duress, freakishly brilliant). You name it we know almost nothing about it.  The next couple of years, in Treasure Cay is when we plan to learn.  For now, we are left to hope Joy will hold together long enough to get us there.  She apparently has a different agenda, one, I am increasingly convinced I am not paranoid in asserting, is directed primarily at me.  I will say again: this boat dislikes me.  

Since my grounding incident of a few days ago, I’ve stayed off the helm as much as possible.  This unfortunately means that in a day of cruising, Jane gets barely more than a bathroom break.  I’ve taken the helm only when we have lots of water in all directions.  Late this morning, crossing the Pungo River, was one of those times.  Jane had been on since we started out, about five hours when I took over.  We calculated that if we maintained our rate of speed, we could make 70 statute miles—by far our best day yet.  This would mean a short day tomorrow, and early dockage in Beaufort and more time in town.  But 70 miles would also mean a ten hour cruising day, a long day for Jane, who is suffering from a very sore neck lately.  I had to give her a break and the wide and relatively deep water of the Pungo was a good time to do it.  Even I couldn’t see how it could go wrong.

(Oh, yeah, here it comes.)

I’d been on the helm not more than five minutes when the starboard engine cut out (Jane: 5 hours; Ean: 5 minutes).  A problem with the cooling water temperature, so the alarm light informed us.   if I knew anything at all about diesel engines (hell, any engines), I might know whether its failure was related to the high-pitched whistling sound it’d been making the last couple of days.  But it whistled only at 2400 r.p.m.  Above or below that it was silent, if not actually fine.  And Jane did read in one of our engine textbooks, from one of the experts (who shall remain nameless), that there is a particular speed at which engines do not like to go.  So, even though the port engine wasn’t complaining about the same (or any) speed, we decided that it was just being fussy and kept it above or below its discomfort zone.
We thought better than to try to start it up again, so while it was cooling down, I put my bread dough into loaf pans for its second rise (yes, I tried again--new yeast), this time with “highly active” yeast),  got out the engine books and the manual for our engine and researched what might be the trouble.  Overheating, it said (I have no proof that it was actually overheating, but a cooling water temperature alarm sounds like it’s related to overheating), can be caused by a lack of oil or cooling water (among other things).  Checked the oil, it was good.  And, besides, as we’ve already found out, there’s a different alarm panel light for that.  So on to water, or coolant.  Wouldn’t coolant be good?  That’s what you put in a car if it’s overheating.  We happened to have inherited some.  I put that it and told Jane to start it up.  If it worked and we could get going, we still might make our 70 miles.  She started it up.  No problem.  She throttled up to 1000 r.p.m.  This time a screeching sound followed by shut down.  Still the water cooling temperature alarm.  Screeching sound?  What could be causing that?  Well, so much for 70  miles, in any event.  With one engine we weren’t going to get more than 5 knots out of her and that wouldn’t get us to the anchorage until well after dark, which we have solemnly vowed to never do again.  So, we motored the last 14 miles to a closer anchorage at 4.5 knots (not wanting to piss off the other engine and really be screwed).  This will make the 50 miles to Beaufort tomorrow a 10 hour day.  There, we’ll find a mechanic to fix whatever is wrong.  And this time, we’ll have him look over both engines and replace every filter, hose, fluid, belt and anything else that might leak or fail. 

We may be stymied once again, but at least we’re warm(er)..and we have fresh bread. 

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