Monday, December 20, 2021

Back in the saddle

We are underway southbound in the ICW, somewhere in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as I begin typing. We've already been under way for over two hours, but the stretch through Little River and North Myrtle Beach is challenging and requires a lot of hand steering. We'd be avoiding all this on the outside, except the seas are not cooperative.

We arrived at the Little River inlet a little over two weeks ago in plenty of daylight to make the marina, and with the tide behind us, we opted to do just that, tying up in our slip at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club just before 4pm (map). The inlet was easy, but I was glad I had the advice of one of the skippers of the Big M casino boats, who run the inlet every day at all tide levels and sea conditions with an 8' draft.

With a late afternoon arrival, we opted to just walk over to Clark's Seafood and Chophouse, right next door to the marina, for dinner, where we shared a nice prime rib. This theme that would repeat itself twice more during our stay, when the weather was not conducive to riding the scooters. We put the scooters on the dock the following morning at high tide, when getting them up the ramp from the floating dock was relatively easy.

Vector at the dock at the Myrtle Beach Yacht Club, which is really in Little River. Best shot I could get.

We had several days of gorgeous weather, with outside temperatures in the 70s, and I immediately jumped in to my big outdoor project, which was to rebuild the windlass. This critical piece of deck gear has given us yeoman's service, lowering and raising the anchor over a thousand times since we bought the boat, and probably a couple hundred in the decade before then. Other than changing the oil once, in order to replace a clouded sight glass, and occasionally greasing the exterior parts, the windlass has never been serviced.

Notwithstanding that the service manual calls for a rebuild every 2-3 years and the windlass is old enough to vote, it might have made it all the way to drinking age if not for the fact that oil was very slowly weeping from the starboard lip seal and making a mess on the deck. I bought the rebuild kit back when we were in New York, to be ready whenever the opportunity arose.

The evidence of seal leakage that prompted the rebuild. Easier to see here with the gypsy removed.

The innards were actually in great shape, and I probably could have gotten away with just replacing the one lip seal from the outside. That said, it was overdue for a complete tear-down and inspection, and as long as I had the full kit I pulled every last piece out, even wiping down the inside of the case with a diesel-soaked rag to get the last of the old oil out.

I did have to do some prying and hammering, and at one point a heat gun was involved. I also spent a considerable amount of time trying to decipher and source the correct oil to refill the gearbox. I wrote up my tribulations and findings in this thread on a cruising forum, for anyone who wants more detail. I spent three days on the project, perhaps five hours a day. Our windlass should be set for another decade now.

All of the parts highlighted in yellow are the ones I replaced.

Somewhere in those three days I also found time to repair my old Google Pixel phone with parts that were waiting for me when we arrived at the marina. None too soon, because Louise's ancient S5 was on its very last legs. While we were here we made it to the Verizon store to get a properly sized SIM and move the account over. After resetting her old phone and flashing it back to stock I cashed it in at the EcoATM at the Kroger. Not that we needed the seven bucks, but at least the phone will get re-purposed or recycled.

With the windlass and phone projects behind me, I was eager to move on to the next project that was best done while at the dock: servicing the generator. In addition to the routine oil and filter change, it's overdue for a valve adjustment, it's leaking oil around the valve cover, and the coolant circulating pump, for which I bought a spare months ago, needs to be replaced. No better time than two weeks connected to shore power.

Arranged this way, the parts kit does not look intimidating (not shown: 3 lip seals).

Alas, it was not to be. By the end of the windlass project, I was experiencing some inspiratory chest pain, not unlike what sent me to the hospital in September, and again prompted testing a month later at Johns Hopkins. We gave it a couple of days to see if it was just from exerting myself hammering on the windlass, but when it got worse rather than better, I called my cardiologist and then we rode over to the hospital, just five minutes from the dock, which is the only place with the diagnostic equipment available on short notice.

After an X-ray, an echocardiogram, a CT scan, and some blood work, the unsurprising finding was inflammation due to the pericarditis, and a small amount of effusion. I'm pretty sure this is exactly what started happening in October that had my cardiologist ordering the tests that sent me to Johns Hopkins. But before I even got there, she put me back on the anti-inflammary drug Colchicine, and by the time I had the tests there was nothing to see. I tapered off the Colchicine three weeks ago, which was clearly too soon. I came home this time with scripts for more Colchicine as well as Naproxen.

The explosion of parts all over the deck is more telling. And this is before I even removed the motor and worm gear.

That regimen has me back at nearly 100% today, but there were several days where I was down for the count. I mostly sat in my easy chair and read, watched videos, or surfed the Internet, although on doctor's orders we went for a walk twice each day. We also managed to get out for dinner each night. By the end of last week I was feeling good enough to go out during the day and finish the errands on my agenda for this stop, making a whirlwind tour of Ross, Marshalls, the dollar store, Walmart, and the Wrangler Outlet. I also stopped into Lowes for more drawer slides.

Yesterday it rained all day and the temperature plummeted, so we decked the scooters first thing in the morning before the weather set in. On a rain day I felt good enough to tackle installing the fancy soft-close drawer slides, but of course one of the two broke as soon as I started. With no way to get back to Lowes, I satisfied myself with installing just one slide, and I'll have to exchange the broken one in Charleston.

Waiting on tests. We wore our N95s in the hospital.

In addition to loading up on things the scooters make easy, like a case of beer and nine gallons of motor oil, we also made a run to Goodwill, and dropped off some wrapped toys at the post office as part of Operation Santa. In addition to Clark's, we also enjoyed Cooper's Tavern, Casa Villa Mexican Restaurant, Mulligan's Sports Bar (good prime rib), and Chianti South, all in Little River, and Tuscana's, Hickory Tavern,  and Thai Season over in North Myrtle Beach. Somewhat disappointing were Pizelli's Italian Oven, Swing Bridge Pizza, and the Officer's Club, the on-premise joint at the marina that's a "club" for liquor license purposes.

During our stay we also had lunch at Barefoot Landing with one of Louise's quilting friends, Kathleen, and her husband Barry, and enjoyed meeting them along with Kathleen's sister Betty. Considering I was out of commission for a few days, it was actually a productive two weeks, with only the generator and couple of smaller projects left undone.

We were very lucky with the weather for our stay, mostly warm and pleasant during the day, although we did bundle up to ride to dinner. Some other parts of the country, of course, were not so lucky, with a tornado swarm devastating Kentucky and an enormous derecho, the likes of which have seldom been seen across the heartland. Many of our Red Cross friends are deployed to help, and we've made a donation to help out.

One of the Operation Santa toys was this set of five whimsical unicorns that came in a rainbow case.

We paid for a full month in Little River, even though we stayed just a little over two weeks. It's often the case that the monthly rate pays for itself in a little over a week. On the monthly rate, electricity is metered, and even though the marina had estimated we'd use about $50, it's been cold enough overnight and in the mornings that we ran through $85 running the heaters. We were happy to have the unlimited heat. We also dropped a pretty penny on a pair of dry-suit equipped divers -- the hull was very, very dirty.

Our friends arrive in Charleston for the holiday on Thursday, and our marina reservation there starts Wednesday. It's a minimum of two nights to Charleston on the inside, and so we dropped lines this morning just as the thermometer kissed 40. We've had the current with us for all but a half hour in the middle of the day, and right now we are whizzing down the Waccamaw at nearly eight knots. I expect to be tied up in Charleston at the afternoon slack, around 5:30 on Wednesday. I don't expect to get back here before then, and so it will be after the holiday when next I post here. We wish all our readers a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.

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