Sunday, March 17, 2013

Éirinn go Brách


Happy St. Patty's day, everyone, and especially my good friend Jack, who routinely writes my name "Seán." I'd love to tell you we spent the day drinking Murphy's, or Killian's, or maybe even Yuengling with green dye in it, and watching the parade at the south end of the island, but the reality was even more mundane.  Although we did finally get massages today, and they were wonderfully relaxing, even if the massage place had to warn us about potential traffic snarls due to the aforementioned parade.

We had a good week for training.  Gary had us do more practice in the current, and my bow thruster went out once again, this time courtesy of Gary turning it off at the circuit breaker without telling me.  At one point Gary asked us what else we wanted to practice, and Louise suggested we had never picked up a mooring ball.  So we motored over to a small mooring field just downstream of Palmetto Bay.

This was not a public mooring, but more of an anchorage, with balls dropped by lord-only-knows who.  We found an unused ball, but it had no line attached, and I suggested that we could call it a success if Louise could hook the eye with the boat hook.  We got it on the first shot, approaching from down current, with Louise giving me directions from the bow once the ball left my line of sight.

Gary then decided that had not been enough of a challenge, and said he'd really like to see us get a line onto the ball, something that might come up in the real world once in a blue moon (most public moorings will have something attached to the ball that can be hooked). With no way to pull a heavy ball with a mooring chain up to the bow pulpit nearly ten feet above the water, we had a quick pow-wow and decided I would try to get Louise over to the ball while perched on the swim step, where she could actually reach out and run a line through the eye.

That was, indeed, more of a challenge, as I can't see the swim step from the helm, and it's just at the end of shouting distance.  Somehow, on the third pass, I was able to get her close enough to bring the ball in with the boat hook, and she got a line onto it and then walked the bitter end forward to the bow cleats.  We did not want to chance actually putting any strain on the ball, with unknown ground tackle, and the potential for cinching our own line up tight enough that I'd have to get the swim platform over again to undo it (had this been "for real," once moored we could drop the tender and re-arrange the mooring tackle as needed).  So once Gary pronounced us "moored" we pulled our line back off the ball and backed away.

While we were doing all this a group of folks in a tour boat came by to ask if it was our ball.  Apparently the tour guides have seen that ball there for years with nary a boat on it, and no one knows whose it is.  We had to explain that we were just practicing, and they seemed disappointed.

By the end of Friday's session we had the sense that we were ready to do this on our own, and Gary has agreed.  I am waiting now for the insurance company to tell us exactly what they need Gary to send them, and then I think we will be official and able to move the boat on our own.  Nevertheless, we've asked Gary for one more session, just to get a bit more supervised practice in.  I'm hoping to get all this squared away by mid-week, which will give us another two weeks here at Hilton Head with no commitments, so we can wrap up some projects on the boat and the bus before we get under way.

Speaking of the bus, when we checked in on it last weekend, we started the generator and it died after two minutes, out of fuel.  Between leaving Thunderbolt and arriving in Hilton Head the level in the tank had dropped below the dip tube for the generator.  We ran the main engine for a few minutes to top up the batteries, and then left.  Today, after our massages, we returned to the bus, prepped it for travel, and rolled out to the highway to get fuel.  After re-priming the generator I ran it for ten minutes and we breezed out all the systems.  There is a lot of work to do on the bus, but we are deferring most of it now until we have the boat in the yard; since we'll be living on the bus for that month or so, we'll have some time to take care of bus projects.

Work also proceeds apace on boat projects.  We've now got the new pedestal system for the saloon table in place, raising the table up to a more appropriate dining height as well as allowing it to be slid about a half foot back and out of the main aisle.  I have all the parts for the pilothouse table now except the top, which should be here this week.  And I attached a pair of stainless lifting eyes to my scooter, so we can stop lifting it from its plastic grab bars in the back.

This weekend was the first really warm weather we've had since arriving.  It was nice enough yesterday to sip beer on the aft deck, and we finally turned all the heaters off. That meant we wanted to open all the windows on the boat, which itself turned into a project.  All but one of the operable windows on the main level have been stuck shut since we got the boat, and so yesterday we spent a couple of hours freeing them.  Mostly that involved me hammering at them with a deadblow and some blocking, and then, once they were open, cleaning off the crud and corrosion that had stuck them shut in the first place.  We were very pleased once we had them all open -- we get nice cross-ventilation from the six operable windows.

We also opened all the portlights below for the first time.  They are dogged with T-handle ball nuts that are supposed to swing out of the way once the handle is backed off a few turns, allowing the glass to open.  However, the original builder boxed the windows in so tight with cherry trim that the ball nuts have to be removed completely to open the windows.  I'm still noodling on how to fix that without having to redo a lot of expensive joinery.  Again, once opened, we got a good bit of air moving through the space.

I am starting to work on planning our departure from here early next month.  We are paid up through April 2nd, which, if all goes well, is also the drop-dead date for the last of the shipments we are waiting on.  Right now my plan is to cast off that morning and head to the ICW, about an hour from here.  We will then have a three-day cruise to Charleston, where we have tentatively planned to connect with our friend Stephanie and her mom, who are traveling down from her mom's place in Myrtle Beach for a little R&R.  The resort they booked has its own marina, so that should work out nicely if all goes well.

Among the packages we are awaiting, incidentally, is the new TV.  My last post generated many suggestions, including one to look at Best Buy's house brand, Insignia.  It turned out that Insignia offers a 39" model, with a headphone jack, that is just 2" thick, and a nice fit for the space in the other dimensions as well.  No ratings for these models on Consumer Reports, but the constraints had ruled that out.  I am hoping it will all just work out.  Tomorrow I need to work on selling the 27" Sharp, with integral DVD player, that's in the saloon now.

Once we wrap up in Charleston we will amble north along the ICW all the way to Virginia.  That's a journey of around 500 miles, which can be done by a seasoned skipper in about ten days (50 miles a day means roughly 8-hour days in a boat that does 8mph, allowing for bridge openings and idle-speed zones).  We are hoping to do it in about a month, or averaging just 16 or so miles per day.  With any luck we will be at the boat yard by about the second week in May.

Over the next two weeks we will be provisioning the boat, wrapping up some of the more critical projects, and squaring Odyssey away for a month or so of storage in our absence. Once we are in Virginia I need to find a way to get back here so I can bring the bus to the yard, where it will once again be our home for the duration of the work.


  1. I assume both you and Louise have cellphones. We have found that the cheapo VOX bluetooth cellphone headsets work a charm for docking without shouting. We've also got a set of VHF cruisers headsets but their usability is variable. On some docks they work well but they are very susceptible to interference. If you're in cell coverage the bluetooth headsets are hard to beat.

    1. I've heard about the cell phone trick before. Louise does not have bluetooth on hers, but she's got a regular wired headset, which we could try. I'm concerned, though, about the delay imposed by the cell networks -- do you find that to be a problem at all? Fortunately, I can see or at least hear her from almost every spot on deck, with the exception of the middle of the swim step, and it's hard to imagine we'll need to use that much for docking.

    2. We used the Cruisers Solution headsets for the first couple of years and only switched to the cell phone solution when we got frustrated by hearing radio stations on the other headsets. I can't say we notice any significant lag. Our standard docking routine is for Marilyn to sit at the gate waiting for me to put Gray Hawk up against the fenders. I think I told you already that we have a very firm "no leaping" rule. She just sits at the gate and calls out the distance between the fenders and the dock. We typically have more trouble with overeager dockhands wanting to "help". I actually slapped one overanxious wharfinger's hand after repeated admonitions to keep his paws off the stanchions. But in all that I can't say we have ever noticed any material lag in the communication. Obviously if we're standing next to each other we can tell that there is a lag but its not material to docking. As you have already noticed things don't happen fast (except when they go wrong).

      I may have already told you but it bears repeating - the key to successful docking is to get the boat and the dock moving at the same speed.

  2. Hi Sean --

    It sounds as if you are making progress, getting signed off by a Captain and getting the boat set up the way you want it. I hope you haven't found too many surprises you didn't know you had purchased.

    The trip to Charleston will be fun, and you'll have your first taste of cruising alone without a pesky captain making you do tricks. It's a fun trip and we have found Beaufort a great stop as well as Kiawah.

    I'm going through my own craziness trying to get flight training so I can once again fly IFR, and arranging to update my GPS's to WAAS. I found myself last night in Savannah with a rental car, plane in Orlando, the jeep at the Hinesville airport, and my car at the Birmingham airport. It's all looking better today, however, as I am back in Orlando and flying to Sarasota tomorrow to get the avionics upgrade.

    Perhaps when we're all qualified to do what we're doing, I'll fly in somewhere and meet you for lunch to celebrate with a glass of . . . iced tea. Flying has forced me to give up wine within 8-12 hours of a flight and to only have a glass . . . or two . . .the night before. But it's all good, and part of life's great adventure.


Share your comments on this post! We currently allow anyone to comment without registering. If you choose to use the "anonymous" option, please add your name or nickname to the bottom of your comment, within the main comment box. Getting feedback signed simply "anonymous" is kind of like having strangers shout things at us on the street: a bit disconcerting. Thanks!