Monday, November 30, 2015

A beary happy Thanksgiving

We are under way in the Neuse River, after a productive week in New Bern at the Galley Store marina (map), right on the Neuse. The fact that I am typing right now means we once again have a working autopilot; today's cruise is the official sea trial for it.

Louise on the docks in New Bern at sunset.

Last Sunday turned out to be a bleak and stormy day. We got an early start from our anchorage to try to beat the weather, and we had a mostly calm hand-steered cruise up the Neuse. As we approached New Bern, though, the winds picked up and the rain started coming down, and we ended up with a very tricky docking in the tight marina in the wind and the rain. I had to break out the clear safety glasses on the flybridge just to keep my eyes wide open during the process, in perhaps 15-20 knots, thankfully on the nose.

The cold, wind, and rain persisted the rest of the day, and we were thankful to be on shore power for the heat. I spent the afternoon crammed under the helm tearing apart the autopilot pump, an excellent rainy-day project, and we walked to Persimmons, right at the marina, for dinner, not wanting to get soaked walking any further.

The repair of the autopilot will be the subject of a separate post, but suffice it to say here that I was able to get it apart far enough to order some parts on Amazon with Prime two-day shipping to have on hand by Tuesday afternoon. That would give us two days to relax a bit and see some of New Bern, or so we thought.

Monday morning, as we were finishing our coffee and catching up on news and social media, there was a knock on the hull. Fellow cruisers Dick and Mary Hein noticed on our blog that we'd be in New Bern and decided to drop by. We'd all been together at the MTOA rendezvous in Baltimore two years ago; though we did not actually meet then, we recognized their names. We spent a nice hour or so chatting in our saloon, and they told us there was a weekly cruisers' get-together at the Doubletree, attached to the marina where they were staying, every Tuesday at the hotel's happy hour, and suggested we drop by.

Somewhere during the conversation, Dick mentioned that one of the other cruisers knew a good diesel shop in town if we needed any work, and I responded that we did have a leaky injection pump that needed rebuilding. Shortly after they left us, I got a phone call from Hans Bjarno, whom we also remembered from the aforementioned MTOA rally, and not only did he pass along the information about the diesel shop, but he also offered to drive me over there. That sealed the deal, and after calling the shop for pricing and to make sure they could turn the pump around before we left New Bern, I arranged with Hans to drive me over Tuesday morning.

And so it was that I spent most of what was to be our two free days working on yet another project. This one was long overdue -- the injection pump on the generator has been leaking raw diesel since somewhere in Maine. The leak is constant whether the genny is running or not, and we've been keeping the day tank as empty as possible to reduce the static head pressure. A sorbent sheet in the enclosure has been catching the drips. We'd been scratching our heads about when to fix it, since we can't really have the generator out of commission unless we are docked, so this was the perfect opportunity.

The leaky injection pump. You can see the diesel (red) if you zoom in. Pentagonal bolts on the piston retainers are the manufacturer's way of saying special skills are needed to service it.

I spent Tuesday morning actually removing the pump, with Louise sitting next to me reading off cheat notes from the manufacturer's rep and handing me tools, dust covers, and twist-ties. The cheat notes said to work with "hospital cleanliness" (it's really, really bad if you get even a single microscopic particle into the high-pressure injection system) and so I had my own "scrub nurse" along with a supply of exam gloves.

The shop turned the pump around in just a day; Hans called me from the shop Wednesday to say he was there for another reason and the pump was ready, offering to pick it up for me. That was perfect, because I was up to my eyeballs in the autopilot project by then and could not get away, having already figured to be picking the pump up Monday morning. Having the pump in hand Wednesday would mean we could leave Sunday if we so chose.

With the pump removed you can see the camshaft. The bar hanging diagonally is the governor linkage.

I spent most of Tuesday afternoon working on the autopilot, having received the parts from Amazon mid-day. Good thing, because it took the afternoon and all of Wednesday getting it working, and I really wanted to have it done before Thanksgiving.

Tuesday evening we wandered over to the Doubletree for the surprisingly large cruiser gathering. The bar had a decent selection of draft beers, and there were enough happy hour munchies to constitute dinner, which we supplemented with a salad at home. Dick and Mary were there, along with Hans and his wife Peggy, plus several other folks, some of whom we've met, or at least passed, along the way.

Weekly cruiser gathering at the Doubletree. It was a very dimly lit room...

Among these were Don and Barb, who we'd met a couple of years ago at the Looper Rendezvous in Norfolk, and whose boat we had noticed in Boston when we were there this year. Barb has been craving some feline company, and graciously agreed to look in on Angel while we were away for Thanksgiving. She dropped by the boat Wednesday morning to get reacquainted and pick up the key, and she came by on Friday to check on Angel and spend some time petting her in the pilothouse. That went a long way to keeping the peace, although Angel was clearly still a bit miffed with us when we got home. Thanks, Barb!

Most of Wednesday went to the autopilot project, which fortunately wrapped up in time for us to take the marina's courtesy car over to the airport at 4pm to pick up our rental car. We dropped the courtesy car back off and then headed to the nice Harris Teeter grocery across town to grab a few things for Thanksgiving, then had a nice dinner at an Italian place in that neighborhood. New Bern is a great town for walking, but groceries are not one of the things you can walk to from the docks.

Thursday morning we had a four and a half hour drive to the Charlotte area, where we booked a Hampton Inn for two nights on my Hilton points. After getting checked in we headed over to Louise's cousins' house for a traditional meal of smoked turkey with all the trimmings, wherein we both ate way too much. That, of course, did not stop us from gorging on the included breakfast buffet Friday morning at the hotel.

Friday was a very laid-back day involving a Christmas tree and having leftover turkey for lunch. We ended the day with Mediterranean food at a restaurant a few miles away; the portions were so huge we took half home with us, on top of some of the Thanksgiving leftovers. We left straight from the hotel Saturday morning after another huge breakfast, arriving back at Vector around 3pm to a somewhat peeved cat. We spent a good hour with her as reassurance before borrowing the courtesy car again to return the rental car to the airport.

Yesterday morning we again "scrubbed in" for the process of re-installing the generator injection pump, which I am happy to report is all working normally now. I did put more sorbent in the enclosure until I am certain all the fuel leaks are gone; tightening the injection lines is something of an art. Yesterday also marked the end of our week (we took a weekly rate), and we debated shoving off after lunch and anchoring. With lots yet left to do, including pumping out, filling the water tank, and taking the courtesy car for a final grocery run, we decided instead to stay an extra night, and shove off first thing this morning.

Even though we only had a little free time, we really enjoyed our stop in New Bern. We enjoyed walking the quaint town with its many Victorian houses, quite a number of which are now bed&breakfasts or offices. We wandered in to the kitschy hardware store downtown, where I needed a few items for the project, and we walked past the birthplace of Pepsi Cola. We got to enjoy the annual tree lighting ceremony right next to the marina, and we had some nice meals in the downtown restaurants.

Today's cruise will take us back to the ICW and all the way to the anchorage off the Fort Macon Coast Guard Station, near Morehead City, which will position us for an outside run. At the moment the plan is for overnight to Charleston, but we'll see what the changes to the forecast come along by this evening before we decide.

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