Which Direction to Go?

Heading south from Portsmouth, we have decisions about which direction to go. There are basically 3 alternatives to head south. 1) Atlantic Ocean 2) Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway, better known as the “Virginia Cut” or 3) the Dismal Swamp. There are pros and cons with each of these routes.

Atlantic Ocean – Pros – no bridges or locks Cons – need to wait for a good weather window and you are more exposed to wind and waves.

Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway – Pros – protected waterway not exposed to wind and waves, no duckweed like the Dismal Swamp Cons – no really great stops along the waterway except Coinjock and Coinjock has limited dockage and some swift current.

Dismal Swamp – Pros – protected waterway not exposed to wind and waves, very scenic and beautiful, lots of great stops along the way. Cons – currently there is a lot of duckweed. Duckweed gets caught in your engine intake and and clog up your intake strainer for your engine. 2 bridges and 2 locks

We have previously taken the Dismal Swamp route and we really enjoyed that. We haven’t taken the Virginia Cut yet so this time we decided to go the route of the Virginia Cut.

We left Portsmouth at around 7:30 am with Ed and Evelyn aboard Dutch Wind, Dave and Ray aboard First Light and us aboard Painkiller. It’s always a little crazy leaving the Norfolk/Portsmouth area with all the commercial traffic and bridges. At one point we had a group of about 20 boats that had to wait for the Norfolk Southern Railroad Bridge to open, however there was a large commercial barge heading in the opposite direction and all 20 boats needed to quickly get out of the way in a limited amount of space. Once the barge passed by we were able to get underway and get through the bridge.

A short time after the bridge we came to the one and only lock that we need to go through on the Virginia Cut. Thankfully its quite a large lock and most of the 20 or so boat were able to fit into the lock at one time. There were 2 boats in the back of the pack that didn’t make it into this lock cycle. They will have to wait for the next lock opening. We stacked in closely on both sides of the lock and the lock masters were on hand to help with lines and get everyone tied up in the lock. This particular lock only drops us about 1 – 2 feet. Here are some photos of the lock.

Shortly after exiting the lock then we came up on the one bridge that needs to open for us to transit through. It was quite a procession with about 20 boats going through.

Once we all got to Coinjock, we knew they were full for the night and we had plans to anchor for the night. We anchored in a nice area behind Buck Island that was large enough to hold several boats and well off the ICW and fairly protected. It ended up being a pretty great anchorage. The cover photo is the moon rising from our anchorage. Tomorrow we are off to Manteo (pronounced Man ee o)

We left Deltaville around 7 am this morning and are headed to Portsmouth, VA at the very base of the Chesapeake. Our engine seems to have settled down without the chunk of goo in the fuel line. However, its a nice sailing day, so we have all 3 sails up and flying and have turned the motor off. Here is the sunrise as we left Deltaville this morning.

We got a few nice shots while we were underway. We are traveling with our friends Ed and Evelyn aboard Dutch Wind. Here is their boat flying their spinnaker.

And they got a photo of us underway as well.

All the boat traffic have been sitting around for the last week as hurricane Ian passed through. This is the first really nice day since Ian has passed so the boat traffic has picked up considerably. Lots of people starting to head south. The mass migration has started.

As we were coming into Portsmouth, Ed was ahead of us and called us on the VHF. He said, hey do you see the submarine up ahead? We didn’t see it until he pointed it out and holy cow was that thing was big and close. So very cool!

Then as we got closer into the Naval port area, there was another smaller submarine that was leaving the dock to head out as well. The Navy is very serious about security and getting too close to these vessels. They have police patrol boats that surround the waters so you don’t get too close. They hailed us on the VHF to make sure we moved out of the channel and out of their way.

We came into the Portsmouth free docks right in town at High Street. It’s a nice little basin in there that can hold several boats. When we arrived, no one was there. We had the place all to ourselves. Ed and Evelyn arrived first with us following behind. Here’s a nice little video that shows you the area.

In the evening after we arrived, we headed to the Commodore Theater in town for a showing of Amsterdam. The Commodore Theater is a uniquely restored 1945 art deco theater in the heart of Portsmouth that also has fine dining. The theater is on the National Register of Historic Places. Here’s a cool shot from inside the theater. The curtains over the screen are the original curtains from 1945. It was an awesome experience!

The next morning we had a nice lazy morning with coffee in the cockpit watching the world go by. Since I have my sewing machine aboard the boat and Ed needed his head sail fixed, we broke out the sewing machine and hauled it up on his foredeck and got busy. He had a couple of webbing straps that hold the ring on the clew of the sail that were coming loose and needed to be sew back on. Took about an hour to get it all fixed up.

After that job was done, we headed to the ferry to take us across the Elizabeth River from Portsmouth to Norfolk. We had lunch at the Tap House overlooking the marina at Norfolk. After lunch Evelyn and I went to get a pedicure while we left the guys to wander around town. After our pedicures were complete, we headed back on the ferry and back to our boats. We have a 3rd boat with Dave and Ray coming to meet up with us tonight and they will travel with us to Oriental, NC.

Since we had a crowd and Dave and Ray would be hunger after traveling all day, I made BBQ Beef Sandwiches for all us for dinner. Dave and Ray arrived around 4:30 pm and now the basin was quite full with boats, so Dave rafted up to Dutch Wind since there was no place left to park.

The tide here in Portsmouth is normally around 1 – 1.5 feet, however we are still getting some higher tides from Hurricane Ian. The tide here tonight after dinner was high enough that the docks we were tied to were about 1 foot underwater. The boats sat so high in the water that it was very difficult to get off of Ed and Evelyn’s boat at the end of the evening to head to our boat for the night. We actually had to use a spare halyard to lower us down to the dock. Mark and I took our shoes off and waded through the water back to our boat.

Tomorrow morning we will leave Portsmouth and head south.

What is it they say? There’s a first time for everything? This is one thing we could have done without!

We finally left Solomon’s after being there a week due to Hurricane Ian. We were so tired of sitting at the dock that we left in still some unsettled conditions. It was still raining this morning, but the winds were dying down. Winds should be about 20 – 25 knots today on the Chesapeake but they will be mostly behind us, so it should be a great sail down the bay. It was still cold, rainy and miserable when we left the dock and I wasn’t too sure I really wanted to venture out today. Here is a photo shortly after leaving the dock.

After made our way out into the big part of the bay, we found the winds were not too bad and the seas were not as bad as we expected them to be. It was still a grey day, but we had our coffee and we were nice and toasty warm in our cockpit enclosure, life was good.

Not but a few moments after having this thought, the engine rpm’s started to lower and the engine started to not sound so good before it died completely. NOW WHAT! This hasn’t ever happened before, what should we do? At first our thoughts were, did we run over a crab pot and have a line wrapped around our prop? There doesn’t seem to be any additional noise coming from the prop. We tried to start the motor again and it would run for a short period of time before it repeated the process of dropping rpm’s and eventually dying altogether.

Next step, check our racors. A racor is a fuel filter that is inline with the fuel system that will filter the diesel before it makes it way to the engine. Our fuel system has 2 racors inline plus the main fuel filter on the motor. With a quick visual inspection, both our racors look fine. There doesn’t appear to be any water in the diesel or floating particles or debris. Now diesel marine fuel systems are sometimes known to have issues with bacterial growth in the tank and can sometimes have growth gunk break loose in heavier seas and clog your fuel system. In order to combat this from happening boaters tend to do several things. 1) try to get clean diesel from a place your refuel. This is best accomplished by a marina that has a high volume of diesel sales and uses a large volume of diesel on a regular basis so that it is not sitting in their underground tanks for a long period of time. 2) add biocide to your diesel tank everytime you fill your tank. We do this everytime we fill. 3) Have good clean fuel filters that can filter out any contaminants. Typically boats only have 1 racor inline, we have 2 as an additional safeguard. But, when is the last time we changed the fuel filter in the racor?

As we were mentally working out what the problem might be, we were still sailing down the Chesapeake Bay with just our head sail in about 20 knots of wind, making 6 – 7 knots through the water with the waves coming from behind us.

We got closer to crossing the mouth of the Potomac River as it comes into the Chesapeake and as we did so, the Potomac added some additional waves that were now coming on the side of the boat in addition to the waves from behind us. This had the effect of some very unsettled seas and we felt like we were in a washing machine. We surfed down waves going about 9 knots while taking additional waves on the side. The water up ahead had large holes in the surface of the water that we would occasionally disappear into.

It was about this time that Mark determined that he would need to change the fuel filter in the racor to see if we could fix our motor problem. However, he had to wait at least a couple of hours until we finished crossing the opening of the Potomac River before he was able to complete this task. The combination of sea conditions, the smell of diesel and working in a confined space was too much for Mark in the sea sickness department and that task would have to wait until the seas settled down a bit.

Unfortunately, this also gave us time to worry about the unknown and what to do and how we were going to fix the problem and get to a dock safely.

Eventually, the seas settled down enough for Mark to go below and change the fuel filter. He was able to do it fairly quickly and then we had to bleed the fuel system of air to ensure we had diesel running to the engine. Once he did all this, we tried to start the motor again and it would start and run, but not for long. The fuel would empty out of the racor and the engine would sputter and die once again. Clearly at this point, we know it is not getting fuel but we don’t know why. It seems like something is preventing the fuel from getting from the tank to the racor.

As we are troubleshooting all the things that could be going on, we were fortunate to be traveling in the company of our friends Ed and Evelyn aboard Dutch Wind. So, we consulted Ed about what he thought and what we might try. We were also in contact with another Island Packet owner aboard Vagari Mari who was sailing down the bay near us as well. I also contacted another Island Packet friend Ty, who has his boat in Deltaville where we are headed to ask about mechanics in the area in case we need some help when we get to Deltaville. Ty was able to ask a few of his friends in Deltaville and soon we had 3 – 4 additional people added to our group chat that we had never met offering advice and assistance. The community of boaters is amazing! We felt extremely supported and never felt like we were alone in our struggles.

After trying all we could, we determined that the engine would only run for a very short period of time before being fuel starved and dying on us. It was not long enough for us to maneuver under our own power to get to a dock. So, at this point we called Tow Boat US to meet us at the entrance to Deltaville and have them tow us in. At least there was wind and we could sail all the way up to the entrance to Deltaville without our motor.

Luckily the Tow Boat US guy was waiting right there when we arrived, so we were able to drop our sail and have him hook up his boat along side us and tow us in. Now in the boating community, when a boat gets towed into a marina, this is noticed by everyone and anyone who is remotely near by. Yes, we are a spectacle. But, this is also extremely helpful since we had about 8 people on the dock to catch us as we came in with no engine. The tow boat guy brought us into the slip as far as he could and untied his lines from us as we drifted the rest of the way into the slip. That where 8 of our newest friends caught our lines and helped stop our boats forward momentum coming in.

We were extremely grateful for eveyone’s help and now I need a glass of wine to calm my nerves.

Mark and Ed got to work right away to look at the fuel system to see if they could figure out the problem. They pulled the pick up tube from the fuel tank to get a look at the condition of the fuel inside the tank. It appears the fuel in the tank looks good and there doesn’t appear to be growth in the tank that is clogging our lines. They shined a flashlight through the pick up tube and that seems clear as well. So, they started looking at the fuel line connections starting at the tank and working their way to the engine. In the fuel line, there is a fitting at a 90 degree turn shortly after leaving the tank. They took apart this line and fitting and found a chunk of goo the size of a dime. It can only be described as a chunk of silly puddy in consistency. That should not be there! Not sure where that came from?

Once they removed this chunk of goo from the line, they put everything back together and bled the lines. Let’s start the motor and see how it does. It came to life right away and stayed running for longer than it had out on the open water. We let it run for several minutes. We increased the rpm and put some load on the engine to see how it did. With every test, it stayed running and appeared to sound normal and was doing what it should be doing. We think we fixed it!!! Still not sure where or why to chunk of goo was in there, but the engine seems to be much better without it.

We didn’t need to call a mechanic, we didn’t need to spend any additional days stuck in Deltaville waiting for a repair and we had the huge satisfaction of knowing that we fixed it ourselves.

Let’s not do that again! Tomorrow on to Norfolk!

We did top off our evening with a beautiful sunset that lit up the trees!

We left Rock Hall on the morning of Wednesday September 28th around 8 am. The winds were 15 – 17 out in the Bay and we were sailing along quite nicely as we skirted under the Bay Bridge. I never tire of being in awe of the bridge as we head under it. Once we were through the wind died down and we were forced to motor sail and then just motor the rest of the way to our destination. Initially, we though we would head to South Creek to anchor, however we were concerned with the timing of Ian making it’s way up the coast and getting stuck at anchor for several days with high winds. We opted instead to head all the way to Solomon’s Island, about 50 miles. We were pushing to make it to Solomon’s before dark. We pulled into Solomon’s about 4:30 or so and we are staying at Solomon’s Island Yacht Club. Butch was waiting for us at the dock to help us in. Butch told us they were having a wing dinner tonight at the yacht club and we were free to join them. The wings were delicious!

Solomon’s Island Yacht Club is one of the oldest yacht clubs in the Chesapeake Bay and was founded in 1937. They welcome transients and members of other yacht clubs. SIYC also boasts the largest collection of yacht club burgees (flags) in the world. They are working on being recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records. Since Mark and I are members of Lake City Yacht Club and we happen to have a LCYC burgee on our boat, we exchanged our LCYC burgee for their SIYC burgee so that we could contribute to their collection. They didn’t have a Lake City Yacht Club burgee yet. It is a yachting tradition to exchange burgees when visiting other yacht clubs.

We enjoyed the dinner, the company and the sunset before we headed to the boat for the evening.

The next day we awoke to the anticipation of Hurricane Ian making landfall in Florida. We occupied ourselves by changing the engine oil and checking the transmission oil and some general boat clean up. Toward evening, we headed over to Ed and Evelyn’s boat parked right next to us for a dinner of salmon and potatoes and to watch the news reports of Hurricane Ian as it made landfall and we were getting our first reports from the storm damage.

We have some good friends Lawrie and Sue Yearsley who are friends from Pepin Marina. Lawrie and Sue sold their Pepin boat and house in Minnesota and moved to Florida to live aboard their boat they purchased down there. They were living aboard their boat at Burnt Store Marina in Punta Gorda, FL. They had their boat hauled out of the water in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. Normally a boat yard would tie down a boat in preparation for a hurricane, however Sue told me they ran out of Hurricane straps to tie down their boat. We learned that their boat was on her side from the hurricane and likely damaged beyond repair. Lawrie and Sue had evacuated to Fort Lauderdale, FL with her 96 year old mother who had an apartment in Fort Myers, FL. They are currently all homeless living in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lawrie and Sue.

I also ran across a photo on Facebook that someone had posted of the storm damage in the Fort Myers area. I was surprised to see a boat that we knew among the damage. I can’t remember the people’s names but we remembered the boat as one that we met at Dunkirk Yacht Club on Lake Erie last summer. We remembered the boat because of it’s unique name and the story that the owners told us about the name of the boat. The boat’s name is Burnt Out, from California. They owners told us how their home in California was burned to the ground in the California wildfires and they took the insurance money from their home and decided to buy a boat and do the Great Loop. The irony that now their boat home is destroyed as well seems like a cruel joke.

We are hearing the reports that Hurricane Ian is coming across Florida and will likely regain strength off the east side of Florida and make a second landfall somewhere along the east coast. The winds and rain from Ian will make their way up to the Chesapeake Bay area and impact our weather over the next several days.

Friday is my birthday! We celebrated by first going to breakfast at the Lotus Cafe just a short walk from the boat. Then our mutual friend Tom from O”Tug who lives in the Solomon area is taking us on a personal tour of the Naval Air Museum located at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Tom was a Navy commander for 35+ years and was stationed at the Patuxent River Navel Air Station before he retired. This air station is also home to the Navy Test Pilot School as well. Tom was a wealth of information about the planes, the air station and stories from his time in the Navy. We enjoyed getting a first hand tour of the planes they had there. Here is a sampling:

Here is a Sikorsky UH-3A Sea King. This is the same type of helicopter as Marine One.

This is a Curtis A-1 Triad. It’s the Navy’s first airplane, purchased July 2, 1911.

And here is Mark about to take off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier. (hahahaha)

We got a call from the marina while we were touring the Naval museum that the storm surge from Hurricane Ian is coming around 6 pm. The storm surge in this area is expected to be 2 – 3 feet but will also happen at the time of high tide. They raised the walkways on the dock that go to the floating dock on either side of the main dock. The main dock we are on is a fixed dock, not floating so we were a bit concerned that the water would be over the docks and we may need to adjust our lines for the higher tide. All was well with the boats when we checked, so we topped off my great birthday day with a nice dinner at The Pier.

The next day was windy, cold, rainy and blustery. Today is the Harvest of the Solomon’s celebration in town. It’s their fall version of Taste of Solomon’s. All the restaurants in the area are participating in a tasting menu. So we put on our foul weather gear and walked from restaurant to restaurant sampling the tasting menu’s that each was offering.

The next day Hurricane Ian is dissapating, however it has formed a new low pressure system off the coast of Maryland/Delaware and it’s now a Nor’easter. What is a nor’easter you ask? Simply put, it’s a gale storm off the New England or Mid-Atlantic coast with winds blowing from the northeast. Looks like we will be here for several more days. Today we entertained ourselves with a brunch for Mark and I and Ed and Evelyn aboard Painkiller, followed by making Chocolate Chip cookies and then heading up to the yacht club to watch football and play Mexican Train.

Still pretty nasty outside and I tried my best Jim Cantore photo to demonstrate the heavy winds. It works….right??!?

The next day we never left the boat. Too cold and blustery. We lounged, watched some Netflix and cooked some dinner. We had Ed and Evelyn over for Tortilla soup, Steak and Baked Potatoes! Nice warm comfort food! They guys even did the dishes.

One day soon we will leave the Solomon’s…

We finally got the correct part shipped for our watermaker and Mike, our repair guy was finally able to get the watermaker put back together and working properly. We can now make fresh drinking water from salty sea water. How cool! As Mike was busy finalizing the watermaker, Ed, Evelyn and I had a dinghy ride down back creek to Bert Jabin Yacht Yard. Bert Jabin is a staging area for all the boats coming in that will be on display at the Annapolis Sailboat show in a couple of weeks. We were able to board and tour a couple of the new Lagoon catamarans. These boats were shipped over from France for the show.

We also saw a boat on the dock here at Bert Jabin that was from Minneapolis, MN. So, of course, I had to knock and chat with the people aboard who are indeed from Minnesota. They live in Golden Valley and are heading south with their boat, just like everyone else around here. It was really fun to meet another boat from Minnesota.

After we were done with our boat yard tours, we headed back to Painkiller and picked up Mark who was supervising Mike finishing the watermaker. They were just finished up, so we hopped in the dinghy and headed to Davis Pub for an afternoon appetizer and a cold drink.

Then we walked to downtown Annapolis for our last night in town, as we are planning to leave tomorrow morning for Rock Hall. We hopped aboard a free shuttle bus in town that takes us to another area of Annapolis that has some cool shops and restaurants. Evelyn knew about this great little Italian restaurant up here so we ate dinner at this great place that had great food! And then we walked back to the dinghy and got dropped off by the Chart House across the creek and Mark and I walked the 3 – 4 blocks back to the boat for the night.

The next morning we were ready to leave the dock. We were a bit nervous about getting out of this dock area. It was very close quarters with a boat parked on a dock about a boat length behind us and two large boats on either side of us. We had barely enough room to get out of the slip and turn the boat without hitting the boat behind us. We had some extra hands on the dock to help us get out and Ed came over in his dinghy to help push our boat with his dinghy. Once we backed our a bit from the slip, we had Ed push our stern over with his dinghy so that we could avoid hitting the boat behind us. It worked out well and we were able to get out of this tight space we were in. On to Rock Hall.

We saw several boats leaving Annapolis area and heading to Rock Hall as well.

We even saw another Island Packet just like ours on our travels today.

Of course, we never tire of going under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. We met a guy, Bill, that was in the slip next to us in Annapolis that was an engineer before he retired. He was in fact the Chief Engineer on the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Never know who you are going to meet.

Both Painkiller and Dutch Wind arrived in Rock Hall at Spring Cove Marina. Spring Cove marina is a bit out of the way and they don’t take transient boaters in the marina, however, Ed and Evelyn used to keep their boat here many years ago so we were both able to stay for a few days here. We also have friends here in this marina, Hayden and Radeen who also own an Island Packet, we also met their friend Ray on our last visit to Rock Hall. Ed and Evelyn have a friend here named Dave. Dave is heading down the coast with us. Dave will be joined by Ray on his boat, so we will have 3 boats in our little floatilla. Once we got settled in Rock Hall, Hayden and Radeen invited us to Happy Hour at 5 pm. There were about 6 couples for happy hour – Mark and Rose (Painkiller), Hayden and Radeen (Island Spirit), Ed and Evelyn (Dutch Wind), Tom and Tracy (Sailing Shoes), Jeff and Sharon (Lucille) and another couple that were friends of Hayden and Radeen. We all had a great time and all but one couple are heading south in the next few weeks, so it’s likely we will run into most everyone at some point. Also it seems like we will all be in Stuart, FL for Thanksgiving, so there was already talk of having Thanksgiving together.

The next day, we did a bit of grocery shopping in town and then we all piled into Dave’s car and he drove us to Chestertown and we had a bit of a tour of Chestertown. Chestertown was established in 1706 and was an important port on the Chesapeake Bay in Colonial times. At one point Chestertown was the second largest city on the Chesapeake Bay right behind Annapolis. Chestertown boasts some of the most pre-Revolutionary War buildings in the area. And George Washington spent a great deal of time in Chestertown.

We spent a couple more days in Rock Hall, lounging, eating shared dinners on friends boats, having happy hour, doing some minor boat repairs and just hanging out and having fun. Here is the sunset on our last night in Rock Hall.


We have been sucked into the vortex of boat projects, repairs and stuck in marinas. We are primarily in Annapolis because of the need to get our watermaker over hauled and refurbished in order to use it while we are in the Bahamas. We started out well enough with getting the Clark pump rebuild and replacing the membrane for the watermaker. However, when we tried a test run of the watermaker, there were several leaks, another pump causing a breaker to trip and diverter valves not functioning as they should. This required the marina here to order some parts to get us up and running and we have been sitting here for about a week waiting for parts. The saga of the watermaker continues….

In the meantime, Mark installed a new tank monitor for our holding tank.

We also decided to do a bit of shopping for some items that we couldn’t find at the normal grocery store and a few items we needed from Target. We found this great area called Town Center that has lots of shops, a Home Depot, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Whole Foods, Target, and lots of great restaurants. It was an awesome location to spend an afternoon. Yes, cruisers think stores are way cool! The interesting thing about the few items we still needed and were not able to find, one of those items was eggs! Yes, we have been to 3 stores here looking for eggs and there are none to be found! The shelves have been completely empty in the egg department. I don’t know what the deal is, one grocery store said it was taken off their order by mistake. I don’t know, chicken strike?, supply chain? Who doesn’t have eggs? We finally got some eggs at Whole Foods here.

While we are waiting for parts, we fill our time with cleaning, boat projects, washing, waxing, etc. The boat has never been so clean. And we are exploring Annapolis and finding all the great places to eat. One new favorite to add to the list, is the Federal House. It has been a tavern here in Annapolis since 1830.

To break up our routine of waiting and projects, our friends Ed and Evelyn have arrived in Annapolis on their boat from North Carolina! We plan to head down the coast with them in a week or so when we can get out of this marina and repairs. It is so awesome to see Ed and Evelyn again! We met Ed and Evelyn last summer while we were both on the Erie Canal. We traveled portions of the Erie Canal with them. Then when Mark had his health issues and we needed a place to keep the boat, Ed came to the rescue and stored our boat behind their house in New Bern, NC for 4 months for us. What great friends!

We met up for dinner and a walk around town. Lots of fun times ahead. Here are some cool photos of the great buildings around Annapolis.

And of course, a great sunset to top off the evening.

Since we are here in Back Creek in the Annapolis area waiting for parts for our watermaker, we thought it would be a good idea to tackle some projects that have been on our list that we haven’t gotten to.

First up was the job that you add to the list and then continually de-prioritize it because, let’s face it, no one wants to work on the head (that’s what ya call a marine toilet). Ours has had a slow fresh water leak that we think is coming from the base of the toilet. The base is a large plastic piece that the toilet and the pump mounts to. This plastic piece is likely about 20 years old and looks like it hasn’t been replaced in quite sometime, at least the 10 years that we have owned the boat. Over time plastic can crack or warp due to age and this is likely why it is now leaking. In order to replace this part, we have to basically dissemble the entire toilet. While we are at it, it’s a good time to also rebuild the head which involves replacing all the rubber parts and O rings and such that wear over time.

It took most of the day to dissemble and put back together again. Once we got it back together, we tried it out and no leaks!!! Of course, I had to clean and sanitize the entire bathroom after that job was done.

The next day we decided we would tackle installing our new head tank monitor. This is a monitor that goes onto the outside of our black water tank so we know when it is full and needs to be emptied. Today, it’s just guess work. As Mark was getting started on this project, he went to the hold in the floor of the galley where we store the paper towels to get some more. When he opening this hold, I could hear him say, “Why is there water in here?” That is never a good thing to hear on a boat. So we pull everything out of the hold area that is stored there, start to mop up the water and work to determine where the water is coming from. In this area, we have 3 thru hulls (thru hulls are basically holes in the boat that allow sea water to come in through a fitting and hoses that feeds sea water to various systems that requires sea water for cooling or running). One thru hull is the drain for the kitchen sink, another thru hull is the inlet for the air conditioning pump, and another thru hull is the inlet for the generator. We quickly determined that it appears the inlet for the generator seems to be leaking. It appears to be leaking where the hose connects to the sea strainer. A sea strainer is a device that is inline with the hose that strains the water coming in so that it captures things like seaweed, debris in the water, etc. so those things don’t end up in your generator. It appears that the fitting where the hose attaches to the sea strainer is plastic. Plastic fittings are never a great idea as they are more likely to crack and break than a bronze fitting. We also noticed that the sea strainer itself has duct tape on the bottom of the sea strainer. We haven’t used our generator that often so we haven’t really paid attention to this system very much. But as you can imagine it’s not really a good idea to have duct tape on something that lets in sea water into the boat. So, with the leak and finding duct tape here we have decided that we need to address this and forgo our project of installing the head tank monitor.

First we have to hunt through the spare parts we have aboard the boat to see if we have a spare sea strainer to replace the one that has duct tape on it and also need to locate a new hose fitting to see if we have a bronze one that is of the same size to replace the plastic fitting that is there now. After a bit of searching, Mark was able to find the parts we needed aboard the boat. We thank the previous owner of our boat everyday for all the spare parts that were left with the boat when we bought her. Then Mark proceeded to start taking things apart.

Here’s the sea strainer with duct tape on it!

Once we got everything taken apart, it was time to put it all back together with the new parts. In examining the hose that connects to the sea strainer it looks like the hose is cracked and stretched wide at the end of it, so Mark cuts off about an inch or so of the hose to have a fresh end of the hose to deal with.

Now comes the fun part! How long do you think it take to put a hose on a hose fitting? What’s your guess? An hour you say? Two hours tops? How about 3 hours to put that silly hose on the hose fitting. We tried heating the end of the hose in boiling water to soften it. We put dish soap on the hose fitting in the hope it would help it slide on. We also put dish soap on the inside part of the hose to help. Finally all these things, plus brute force with a crescent wrench to twist it on the hose finally gave us some results!! Whew…that was a lot of work! I think threatening to hire it out was what did it in the end. Then the sea strainer was put back together and we opened up the valve on the thru hull. No more leaks!!! This is awesome!!

This was a cause for celebration so we decided to head into downtown Annapolis for dinner and made our way to our favorite place – Pusser’s of course, home of the Painkiller! Annapolis is such a lovely town and I never tire of walking the main street of downtown.

Our walk back to the boat included some pretty houses and a great sunset!

We are on the move!

Even though the weather was still overcast and still not sunny and bright, the wind is down and it appears that it is not going to rain today so we are heading off the dock today! We are leaving Herrington Harbor North in Deale, MD where we have been for the last 2+ months and are heading to Annapolis. This is only about 20 miles or so today. It was still rather dreary as we left the dock and it was still rather wet on the boat, so I spent about 30 mins wiping down areas so we could be dry.

Once we got out a ways, we wanted to go through the steps to commission our new autopilot drive that needed to be done while on the water. This involves pushing a few buttons on the chart plotter and then turning the boat slowly in circles. We have to do this several times to calibrate everything. To others that might be observing us on the water, they are probably wondering, “Why is that boat going in circles?” It probably looks rather odd. But we were able to get it all calibrated and it seems to be working just fine and we are very happy.

We are testing out our newly rebuilt prop on this trip as well. When the prop guy removed our prop to have it shipped to Washington state to be rebuilt, he told us later that the prop was really bad and he didn’t think they were going to actually rebuild it. A new one would have doubled the cost, so we were happy they were able to rebuild the old one. Out on the water, the new prop seems to be performing quite well. There is no more vibration in the helm that there used to be and as we go into the bottom of a wave and the stern of the boat squats down, we used to hear a groaning sound and this is gone as well. We are extremely happy with the results of the newly re-built prop!

Mark and I enjoyed our morning coffee on the water and just took in the stillness and joy that we get from being on the water. We have missed being on the water the last couple of months.

We are also excited to be in Annapolis and among civilization rather than out in the country with nothing nearby. We will have access to grocery stores, ubers, restaurants, etc, all at our fingertips! We are heading to Annapolis to complete one more boat project. We need to have our watermaker rebuilt before we head to the Bahamas this winter. A watermaker is a device that we have aboard that takes salt water from the ocean and turns it into fresh drinking water through reverse osmosis. The watermaker has been aboard the boat since we bought the boat, however we haven’t used it at all in the fresh water of the midwest and the watermaker is about 20 years old, just like everything else on the boat. A watermaker is a popular piece of equipment to have for those who travel to the Bahamas. Fresh drinking water in the Bahamas to fill our 180 gallon tank is scarce and cruisers need to pay to fill tanks with drinking water. The going rate for drinking water in the Bahamas is $1.00 per gallon, so it’s not cheap. It’s much better to have our watermaker functioning so we don’t have to worry about water and can enjoy unlimited showers, dish washing, etc.

Once we arrived at J.Gordon in the back creek area of Annapolis. They guys got right to work the next morning on the watermaker. Once they finished up their work after several hours, they tried to run the watermaker and we soon discovered a few leaks and a non-functioning pump. We needed a new diverter vavle, this was the source of the leak and a new pump to replace the non-functioning one that was causing a fuse to blow every time it kicked in. So, they will need to order these parts and we will need to wait here for the parts to arrive before we can complete this project.

With that all sorted, we decided to head to the grocery store and do some stocking up of groceries and supplies that will hopefully last us for the next month or so. We do have a freezer aboard the boat and I am able to freeze lots of meats and other items which cuts down on the need to frequently go to a grocery store. We can sometimes go several weeks without a trip to the grocery store and then only need some fresh produce to replenish our supply.

Everything on a boat takes twice as long as doing the same job at home and grocery shopping is no exception. On a boat, it involves 1) inventorying what I have and compiling a list before I go. 2) Google to see where to nearest grocery store is to us. 3) Find an uber/lyft to take us to the store. 4) Shop 5) Unload all our groceries from the uber into a dock cart to wheel it down the dock to the boat. 6) Unload the dock cart into the cockpit of the boat 7) Move the groceries from the cockpit to down below in the boat 8) Sort the groceries based on where they go, fridge stuff, freezer stuff, pantry stuff 9) Get the fridge stuff in there before it gets too warm 10) Repackage all the freezer stuff and vacuum seal all the meat and freezer items so they stay fresh longer and don’t get freezer burn 11) Put away all the pantry items 12) Check freezer every couple hours and rotate items to ensure everything freezes. This process literally takes all day!

After all that we were too tired to cook so we headed to one of our favorite sailing pubs here in Annapolis. We headed over to Davis Pub in Eastport on Back Creek. This is a great little place that has it’s own dinghy dock nearby and when we have come here before, we came by dinghy. Today, however, the boat is docked within walking distance so we walked the 4 – 5 blocks to get here.

I was feeling a bit adventuresome from a food perspective, so I tried their hot dog covered with crab dip and cheese. It was pretty good!

Since we are here waiting for parts for the watermaker, I guess now is a good time to complete some projects on our list.

We are in the water!

So, since we were delayed a day getting the boat in the water, we slept on the boat in the boatyard last night. Since we are “on the hard” we did not have the benefit of air conditioning, however the weather has cooperated and last night it dropped down into the low 60’s so the weather was great for sleeping with the hatches open. We were up fairly early this morning since we knew they would be launching our boat today. I think we were up around 7 – 7:30 am. The guys started showing up and getting moving about 8 am. We had just made coffee when we heard the, “beep, beep, beep” of the travel lift coming over to our boat to pick us up to put us in the water. We quickly put some lines on both the bow and stern on both sides so that when the boat was put in the water they would have lines available to move and control the boat. Then we scampered down the ladder and out of the way for them to move the boat to the water.

I got one final pic of the boat in the yard with the bottom all painted and the boat looking all nice, washed and waxed.

Then it was show time! It was nice to stand by and watch them work while I enjoyed my coffee this morning.

And just like that, Painkiller was in the water! That feels much better!

Once we were in the water, the guys moved us forward on the dock a few boat lengths and tied us off on the dock. Every marina does things just a little differently and this marina brings you to and from your slip when you launch or come out of the water. They hip tie a smaller boat to our boat and motor us over to the slip. However, before they are ready to move us we have to wait for about an hour or so at this dock. There is another boat they are hauling out and it appears the guy has something wrong with his bow thruster. He works on that for a little bit and then they put the boat back in the water. While we waiting, we check over the boat and look for leaks since we are in the water, we started the engine and let it run a bit to ensure everything is working fine and just sat around and enjoyed our coffee and some morning tunes.

Finally the guys are ready to bring our boat over to the slip. We are back in slip D13 which is exactly where we were over 2 months ago before we took the boat out of the water.

Now the real work begins…the topsides of the boat are filthy dirty. This boat needs a bath. Because the bottom of the boat was soda blasted there is this grey film of fine dust all over the boat and for some reason is worse in the bow of the boat. It appears that it has been there so long that it doesn’t come off with just soap and water, it barely came off with rubbing compound, so I had to resort to using the On and Off cleaner which is a mild acid cleaner to get the grey film off. The only downside to On and Off is that it strips all the wax off so I will need to re-wax everything too.

We also put the sails back on the boat as well.

There are a ton of jellyfish in the water. Here they call them sea nettles. Here is a pic of one of them. I don’t think I want to go swimming.

We worked all day to clean and get the boat live able once again. The next day it rained literally all day, so we literally did nothing and rested. However, we did enjoy a great meal of Leone spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.

The next day it rained a bit less, however it was still very cloudy, rain on and off for most of the day. So today was my day to inventory my food pantry. I needed to know what was in there and make sure everything still looked ok after 2 months and not had exploded or gone bad. I also had to compile our grocery list for a major grocery shop to get some food back on the boat. I still have lots of canned goods and non-perishable items but anything perishable was gotten rid of while we were gone for 2 months.

Later in the evening we walked to the other end of the marina and had dinner at the Dockside cafe. We were watching the radar trying to figure out if we would be able to make it back without getting wet. The answer was no. Looking at the forecast, it is looking like the weather tomorrow is going to clear enough for us to leave Herrington Harbor and make our way to Annapolis!

Life in the Boatyard

We arrived back to the Chesapeake area on Sunday September 3rd. We flew into Baltimore and arrived around 1:30 pm. From Baltimore we have to take an Lyft to get to the boat in Deale, MD which is about 20 – 30 miles from Baltimore. Deale, MD is fairly remote and there really aren’t Ubers or Lyfts to get around the town once we are there and there is not a grocery store within walking distance, so we had the Lyft driver take us to a grocery store so I could grab a few things to tide us over until we could do a more major grocery shop and restock our supplies.

We arrived to the boat around 3 pm after our stops. The Lyft driver dropped us right at the boat so we could unload all our bags.

Our first look at Painkiller after 2 months of being away. We were quite disappointed to see that the boat had no bottom paint, no prop and still some work to be done to finalize the autopilot. The boat is scheduled to go in the water on Thursday morning. That’s 4 days from now, but with the labor day weekend, that only allows the workmen 2 working days to get all this done. Paint needs time to dry. By our calculations this is not looking good to stay on our timeline. First order of business, hunt around the yard for a ladder or some stairs to get aboard the boat. Mark found the stairs to wheel over so we could get aboard. Then we hauled our bags aboard and repacked the minimal amount of things we would need at the hotel into a smaller bag. Checked things out on the boat, batteries ok, etc.

Then we decided since we would be staying in the hotel for the next 4 nights it might be easier to get there by dinghy rather than walking everyday. It’s a 1.5 mile walk one way. So, we took the dinghy off the deck of the boat and lowered it down with our spare halyard. We positioned a dock cart on the front of the dinghy so that we could wheel it to the water. We realized that we were at low tide and the distance from the fixed docks to the water was at least 3 – 4 feet. We weren’t sure how we were going to get the dinghy down to the water. It weighs about 100 lbs. So, we looked at the marina map and noticed that there is a dinghy launch area…at the other end of the marina. Now this marina is HUGE! It’s at least a 1/2 mile to get to the dinghy launch area. So, we put our dinghy wheels on the back of the dinghy with the cart on the front and now we have a makeshift 3 wheeled vehicle of sorts to wheel the dinghy over to the launch area. We finally get the dinghy in the water. But we have to go back to the boat and get the outboard and the gas. We lower the outboard into a dock cart using our dinghy hoist and lower the gas tank from the deck. We brought this all over to the dinghy launch area and connected everything and tried to get the dinghy motor started. It would start but it was leaking gas at the connection and would not stay running. Tired and frustrated after 3 hours of work to get to this point, we decided to leave the dinghy and walk to the hotel as the sun was starting to set. We get to the hotel and thought we would brag a bite to eat at the boathouse next to the hotel but it was closed. The Boat House is pretty cool. It’s a bar/restaurant that is built around an old boat with all kinds of boat related items that are repurposed in the bar/restaurant.

At this point we are tired and hungry, so our only option was to have pizza delivered to the hotel room. We ate the whole thing and fell asleep.

The next day, we got up and walked to the great little breakfast place that is near the hotel called the South Country Cafe. They have great breakfast and coffee. Yes, we need coffee.

Our mission today is waxing the hull of the boat. We called the local hardware/rental center store in town before we left Minneapolis. The hardware store rents scaffolding so we can easily get up where we need to be to wax the boat. The best part is they also deliver! Since we have no car here, this is a bonus. The scaffolding was dropped off on Saturday and was waiting for us by the boat for our use today. So, first order of business, put together the scaffolding. Then we had to locate all the supplies that we needed to wax. Where is the wax? Where is the buffer? Everything on the boat takes twice as long. Once we got going, we were able to finish one side in a couple of hours. The boat was very dirty in the boat yard, so I had to wash the hull ahead of Mark coming along with the wax.

We took a break from the heat in the air conditioned boater’s lounge and had some lunch before we tackled the other side of the boat. That was about all we got done today and then we walked to the Happy Harbor Restaurant which is about halfway to the hotel. I, of course, got a crab cake. I know some of you heard me say that I was actually a bit tired of seafood at the end of our time in the Chesapeake before we headed ome. Well, after 2 months at home, I missed the seafood. That crab cake tasted delicious!

Tuesday morning was the day all the workers would be back at work. We made several phone calls and checked in with the vendors that we hired to do the work. They seemed to need a reminder that we planned to have the boat in the water on Thursday morning!! They still have a lot of work to be done. Now keep in mind that we are sort of acting as the general contractor in this scenario. All the vendors here are independent contractors from the marina and not controlled through the marina. So, we need to contact each person we want to hire for work to be done and work with each vendor directly, so we are doing a lot of coordination to juggle the 4 – 5 vendors we have hired to do work.

Tuesday was bag emptying day. We had 4 duffle bags full of clothes and stuff to empty and put away somewhere on the boat. As I said, everything takes twice as long on a boat. This is what we had to start with.

This is the mess that was our master cabin. In order to have people doing work on the boat, we needed to empty the 2 large lockers that we have in the cockpit of the boat so that they had access to install the new autopilot. So, imagine that we take the contents of your garage and put it in your bedroom. Yes, that what we have here. There is simply no other space to put anything so it has to go there. So in order to unpack and put clothes away, we first had to re-home all this stuff. So, yes unpacking 4 duffle bags took all day.

Wednesday September 7th – This was my view for most of the day today.

I did 3 loads of laundry. All the sheets, towels, etc on the boat. While I did all the laundry, Mark was busy putting all the mess of stuff that was in our master cabin back where it all belongs in the 2 lockers in our cockpit area. We also had a lot of workers on the boat today. They finished installing the autopilot. We have the 3 coats of barrier paint (grey) on the boat. The first coat of paint (red) and hopefully by the end of the day, we will have 1 of 2 coats of final paint (black). We also had the prop guy here today, reinstalling the prop. Busy day! At the end of the day we were exhausted!

Thursday September 8th – We were supposed to be in the water this morning, however that is not happening. We still have 2 more coats of paint to go before we can be in the water. We slept in a bit this morning since we have been working so hard. So, we didn’t get to the boat until almost 11 o’clock after stopping for breakfast. My job today – Putting white duct tape on the foam insulating boards we have in our fridge. We made some custom sized and cut foam boards to fit in the fridge and freezer to help provide more insulation and help reduce the amount of run time that the fridge and freezer needs to work. Originally, I painted the foam boards with a special primer that would not eat away the foam and then coated them with an appliance epoxy paint. This kinda worked, however I still had bits of foam crumbling off in the fridge and they were not wipeable or as durable as I hoped they would be. So, my solution now is to cover them in white duct tape to make them more durable and wipeable and cleaner. Meanwhile, Mark was down at the dinghy landing working on cleaning the carburetor of the outboard motor to try to get the dinghy up and running. And we also made the beds. We moved out of the hotel today and our plan is to sleep on the boat in the boat yard tonight and we will be put in the water tomorrow morning!!