The Search For Bright Waters

Friday, August 20, 2010

2 Year Anniversary Cruise

August 8th was our 2 year wedding anniversary! We saved money by not going to Sandals this year but instead used our week long vacation to have a shake down cruise. We still dont have Solar or Wind power but we did finish the windlass and the battery monitor so we felt it was close enough to ready and headed out on Friday night.

We both got home after a half day of work on Friday. Christine prepped the boat while I installed the battery monitor. It wasn't too hard, I had to drill a 2 inch hole near our control panel and connect some wires, all of which I've done before. It took about 3 hours and we were ready to go by 5pm.

We started the engine up as we made our final checks and after a few minutes of running, the engine conked out. Great start. I went down below and after about an hour was able to locate a point of air leakage in the fuel system. The little screw on the secondary fuel filter encasing wasn't tight enough so I tightened that up and bled the engine and got her running again. Finally on our way! Friday night we just had a nice sail out into the bay and once it got dark we pulled over into Plum Point to anchor for the night. We meant to buy a good spot light for night situations but of course forgot so we had to rely on our charts, Garmin and trusty eyes to avoid any obstructions. We checked the battery monitors and the batteries looked good. It showed the main battery at 90% full and the secondary battery (the starter battery) at 12.5 volts. We brought meat and fruit along for the voyage so the fridge was staying on and battery monitoring was important.

We finally learned to run Wing on Wing

We awoke Saturday morning to some fresh fruit and yogurt and were ready to continue the trip. Well can anyone guess what happened next? The engine wouldn't come on! This time though it wasn't even trying to turn over so that meant the battery was dead. Impossible! I checked the battery monitor and it said 85%. Well thats only the house battery bank, the starter battery just shows 11.5 volts which I guess isnt enough to start the engine. Well luckily we have two spare batteries that I had charged last fall, we just hoped they were still charged enough to start the engine. I got into the battery compartment and made the simple switch and thankfully they were still charged and the engine came alive again! We continued on our way sailing down the Chesapeake in decent winds with some confidence built that we were able to solve 2 engine problems already! That feeling would be short lived.

As we got closer to Solomons the wind died down and we wanted to get there before dark so we turned on the engine to motor the rest of the way. While we had the engine on we decided to configure our autopilot that we have installed but never used. During the part of the configuration where the boat has to go in slow circles to test the compass the engines idle got really low and then died. Not again. Christine kept us sailing towards Solomons while I went below to find the problem. I spent the next two hours down there taking things apart and trying to find something wrong, tightnen this, clean that, try to start the engine, fail. At one point I got the engine to start and run for a few minutes and we were so happy we almost jumped in the water but there were too many jelly fish. That celebration ended a few min later when we went to put it in gear and it died again.

As we neared the mouth of the Patuxent River all wind had died and the engine still wouldn't start so we were just floating about. We had no choice but to call Tow Boat. Now the decision was do we get towed home and mark our shakedown cruise as a failure, which might mean we arn't meant to go cruising ever? Or do we get towed into Solomons and continue the trip. Never ones to fear adventure, we choose the later and got towed into Zanhisers. My mom called to see how we were doing and after I told her our situation she said we must be "gluttons of misery", good one.

Our weekend at Zanhisers had its ups and downs. In one sense we now had full electric to recharge our batteries and keep our fridge running and we had full use of showers and the pool. Plus we had intended to anchor in Solomons any way so we still went into town and went out for dinner on Sunday our anniversary day. We went to the Solomons Pier Restaurant which wasnt very good but we enjoyed the walking and scenery and some ice cream. On the negative side we were paying $80 a night to stay there and then after spending half of our anniversary day working on the engine I finally gave up and had to pay a mechanic $100 an hour to fix it. I really tried my best not to hire anyone and fix it myself. All my diagnosis's and the advice I got lead to a fuel starvation problem. But where was the leak? First I thought that secondary fuel filter encasing was still leaking at the small screw so I bought a new encasing, didn't solve it. Then I thought it was the fuel pump so I bought a new one of those, didn't fix it. I bought new nuts and bolts and crusher washers and a fuel hose, still didn't fix it. So instead of wasting our whole anniversary day I gave up and told Zanhisers to bring in the professional. The manager there is named Sharkey and after he took all my money that weekend, I know why.

The mechanic came on Monday and after about 2 hours he had found a loose primary fuel filter drain, a low idle (which I knew), an incorrect barb/hose fitting, and fuel had accumulated in the fuel tank vent line causing a vacuum effect. He fixed all those problems and the engine finally came on and stayed on. The rpms would drop and rise occasionally which made the mechanic want to continue looking for problems but we were done spending money here and just wanted to leave. At this point we didn't care if the engine died 10 feet from our slip we would call Tow Boat to tow us back to Herrington.

So Monday afternoon we headed out and the engine did just fine with the occasional drop in rpms. As we left the Patuxent River we had another decision to make. Go home or continue the voyage. We would have been too disappointed with ourselves if we didnt even get out of Calvert County and were determined not to let our sailing career end where it started, Solomons. So we hooked a right and continued south towards Point Look Out, St. Marys County.

This is actually Point No Point, lame name right

Christine had wanted to come here because it was supposed to be haunted and maybe we could camp on the beach. When we got there we found there were no other boats in the anchorage and the beach was empty. We were able to anchor about 200 yards from the beach and we immediatly dinghied onto shore. We had finally found our paradise! It was so cool having the beach to ourselves and the sun set on our peaceful beach as we looked for pretty rocks. We explored a lil bit over some rocks and found it opened up into a huge lake on the other side. There was a channel but the charts showed that the depth was too shallow for Bright Eyes. That evening we realized we didn't really like the sailing aspect so much as we liked the destination aspect of cruising. We just wanted to be somewhere peaceful, and our cruising spark came alive again.

Nothing is perfect though and neither of us got much sleep that night as the winds and waves bounced our boat repeatedly through the night. We only had our chain rode out so that added to the clankering. The next morning we immediately moved our anchor spot to a lil deeper and let out enough rode that the rope was now against the rail instead of chain. We spent Tuesday using the dinghy to explore Point Look Out. We went back around the point and looked at the historic buildings. Then we dinghied into the huge lake and walked around the campsites where we found land cruisers in their Winnabegos. We found the camp main office and got a map and bought some smores. Apparently Point Lookout used to be a Union run POW camp during the civil war.  Many Confederate POWs would attempt to swim across the Potomac River to Virginia, most failed and returned to haunt the Camp!  Also the light house is as old as dirt so there's light house keepers haunting that. We didn't see any ghosts though and spent the rest of the evening reading and relaxing. Ah the cruising life! That night was much calmer and we slept like babies.

The next day we finished off our bacon for breakfast and found that the rest of our meat had gone bad. We had to turn off the fridge Tuesday morning because the battery was low and two steaks, two pork chops, and two chicken breasts wasted no time goin foul. Darn it, we wish we had installed those Solar Panels. It was pretty hot Wednesday but we couldn't get in the water because there were still jelly fish literally everywhere, it was upsetting. Are there jelly fish in the Caribbean? We decided to cool off on our private beach but when we got there we found it overcrowded, with flies! Biting flies, we couldn't even stand with out getting swarmed and bit by beach flies. We got in the water and enjoyed it temporarily until we saw the packs of jelly fish closing in on us. We were surrounded!

We made a break for the dinghy and quickly got back to the boat swatting flies the whole time. Are there flies in the Caribbean? I hope not, because what was our perfect paradise the night before was now fly country. Our food was bad and the water and beach were now taken over so we decided to leave this spot. We had enough adventure for one vacation and needed to get some more relaxation time so we decided to finally head back home. We left Wednesday at 1pm and after a brief stop in Solomons for gas, we made it home in the dark around 9:30pm. We weren't in the mood for games so we just motored the whole way back as fast as we could.

With all our meat gone bad, Nala was starting to look pretty tasty!

The rest of our vacation can be summed up in two words, Pool Reading. We spent Thursday and Friday at the pool till sundown just readin and relaxing, now thats vacation! On the weekend the Marina gets crowded so we just stayed on the boat reading all day, no cleaning allowed. Saturday night our marina held a Polynesian Luau, complete with a whole roasted pig and a fire spinner! On sunday we felt our muscles melting so we got out of the boat and went for some ice cream. A good end to an otherwise crazy week.

So we learned alot during the shake down cruise which is the main purpose. We learned our engines an asshole. We learned we NEED solar panels. And we learned about ourselves, we don't care about where we go or how we get there or how long we will be there, we just want to be there. So we are going! Due to some job circumstances and our new house we will be leaving asap! We literally have no money right now but don't care. We will build up a little savings to get us on our feet (not two years worth) and then just go.

Our only goal right now is to touchdown in the Bahamas :)

To see more pics from the weekend CLICK HERE



s/v Skylark said...

It's all an adventure in the end so now worries about the shakedown. Sounds like you know what needs to be done, and thats all that matters. I am very jealous. :) Hopefully I will see you down there in the next couple of years.

Captain V said...

I'm glad to hear that even after your crazy week you are still committed to the cruising dream! Don't let that cranky old engine get you down. We can't wait to read about your Bahamas adventures!

Mid-Life Cruising! said...

We're just starting as well and haven't yet had our shakedown cruise, but I think it will be soon. Glad to hear you didn't turn back and kept moving forward. It wasn't a failure, just another adventure. Happy Belated Anniversary!