Friday, August 24, 2018

Motionless blues

It seems likely Kintala will ride out the rest of the hurricane season in Beaufort, SC. It isn’t really a plan, just the way life seems to be unfolding at the moment. There are days when I get restless to the point of distraction, but there is much to be said for being here. Blowin' In The Wind remains on the next ball over. Good friends Paul and Deb stopped by for a visit on the way to time with their own grandkids. Having just of few of the people you love most in the world nearby is far better than having none, though you are constantly reminded of those still far away. We are slowly getting around to boat projects that really need done, and there are writing projects in the works. Writing, for Deb and I, is a craft; something we do for the shear joy of word-smithing. Occasionally, we manage a project that other people appreciate, which still amazes me. On the rare occasion where the appreciation is expressed with a few shekels coming our way, well, that's okay too. Sitting leaves some time for writing.

When one is motionless like this, there is much good to be said about being tied to a dock. For the most part, the boat is as safe as it can be while still sitting in the water. Shore power is available so air conditioning is an option. Not only does it make for better sleeping at night, dry air in the boat helps in keeping an upper hand on the war of the mold. Keeping the water tanks full is easy and quick. There is often a long, hot shower just steps away, greatly easing the burden on the water tanks. And, most convenient, getting on and off the boat is almost as easy as walking through the front door of a dirt dwelling. But docks are expensive. Unlike our stays in the Tampa area, the money flow here is all one direction, out.

So we are in the mooring field. It is often just on the far side of being comfortable with the sun, heat, and humidity. Battle with the mold is, at best, a stalemate. Filling the water tanks will consume much of a day’s effort. And getting on and off the boat requires the Ding.

I don’t know much about horses and have certainly never relied on one as the primary mode of transportation. But it seems the Ding and a horse have a lot in common. The Ding needs constant care. To get going in the morning the fuel needs checked, the night’s rainfall needs pumped out, and some air will likely need pumped in. It has to be tied up whenever left to its own devices, otherwise it will wander off. Sadly, unlike a horse, it will never find its way back to the barn all by itself.

The Ding’s little motor is, at best, temperamental. I swear the thing has the equivalent of moods; best described as manic / depressive. Sometimes it starts on the first or second pull. Sometimes it doesn’t start until the last pull before you give up and start taking it apart. Sometimes it idles too fast to shift, requiring momentary use of the cut-off / safety switch to get into gear without a damage inducing “thud”. (Some really old airplanes used ignition interruption instead of a throttle, which is where the idea came from.) Sometimes it will not idle at all. And sometimes it will putter away as if it was the most well behaved engine human kind ever invented. (Okay, that doesn’t happen very often.) And when the Ding and motor need cleaned it is a smelly, dirty job.

The worst it's ever been - Stuart, FL  in 2015

In barely a month, the menagerie of critters, creatures, and botany that lurks in these waters will accumulate to where the little motor struggles, the Ding wallowing through the water like a small horse carrying a Sumo wrestler up a steep  hill. Worse, the critters are literally disassembling the Ding from below. They worm their way past the cement seams of repair and reinforcement patches, peeling them back so water leaks in and air leaks out.

I have serious concerns about the dingy davits on a lot of boats. But having them just to keep the little boat out of the water when one is on an extended stay is now on my list of “good things to have.” Kintala’s stern is far to narrow and crowded for such things. Once upon a time we tried to come up with a way to lift the Ding on a halyard every night, more out of deference to thieves than to critters. But we couldn’t come up with a system that worked very well, relying on a stout cable and hefty lock instead. We are going to give it another try lest the Ding be utterly destroyed before it is time to leave this place.

That doesn’t happen when one is on the move. The Ding stays in the water for a week or less at a time. Each time it comes up on deck in preparation for the next departure, what few critters and little slime has accumulated get wiped away, often in less than an hour. There is no damage done and we are on our way. Sometimes when we stop for a day or three, anchored in some remote place or waiting out some weather, the Ding never gets wet. Instead it is hoisted up like a breeze catcher, high enough to open the v-berth hatch while keeping the foredeck in the shade.

The Ding on its better days

Occasionally, when on the move, stops coincide with docks. For a night or two the boat will be plugged in. The water tanks will get filled regardless, the holding tank usually emptied as well. Getting off the boat is an easy step. A long, hot shower may be just steps away.

And the Ding stays safe on the deck.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Plans, and the lack thereof...

Kintala is well into her second month of riding to the same mooring ball in Beaufort, SC. This wasn’t really part of the plan when we left Tampa Bay. Then again, the only real plan we had when we left Tampa Bay was to rendezvous with Blowin’ In The Wind and keep going north. It took longer than anticipated to meet up and we didn’t really manage that until we got here, already a good bit north of where we started. And, from here, we had a plan to visit St. Louis for a couple of weeks. It was a great trip full of fun and laughter, including a day spent in a climbing gym belaying grand kids up and down a 50 foot climbing wall. How cool is that? Deb and I even made a couple of our own climbs, belaying each other. The people who run the gym went out of their way to make it a good day.

When we left Tampa Bay I had thoughts of aiming for the Chesapeake Bay.  It has been a while since we cruised those waters and I like the place. And though not perfectly safe from hurricanes, it is still far less likely to get blasted than places further south. I used to think, compared to places south, that it was cooler up there as well, And it is, for part of the year anyway. Right now spot checks of the weather suggest this summer in Baltimore has not been appreciably more bearable in the heat department than Beaufort. In fact the rumors are that the Chesapeake is a bit of a rough go at the moment. Constant rainfall, a flood of debris, and a bumper crop of biting insects have taken some of the fun out of living on the water there.

It is impossible to say what the hurricane season will turn out to be like. So far the Atlantic has been quiet. The Pacific, on the other hand, appears to running a hurricane production line at full speed. I can’t decide if that is a good omen for this coast, or a bad one. But Beaufort, SC might not be a bad place to be either way. We are miles up the river from the sound and more than 10 miles inland from the coast. We asked the people at the marina where the locals take their boats when a hurricane comes. We were told they bring them here, to this marina. Apparently they have never lost a boat off of one of the mooring balls or at the dock. Our hurricane plan might consist of nothing more than stripping the boats, adding multiple lines to secure them to the balls come what may, and getting inland another 50 miles or so. Better, perhaps, than we could do if caught flat-footed at the mouth of the Chesapeake.

Blowin' in the Wind on the ball to our stern

So maybe this is a far north as we are going to get this year. The weather is bearable and, on some days, down right pleasant. The thunderstorms have been far less threatening than those in Biscayne Bay and often come late in the afternoon. Giant air conditioning systems that cool the boats and the air, hide the sun for the worst part of the afternoon, and offer up a good night’s sleep. Surprisingly, though there are marshes all around, insects have been a non issue on the boat. Expect to get nibbled on a bit if in the park as the sun goes down, but that is about it.

One downside to this place is just how fast stuff grows on anything that sits in the water. The Ding really needs cleaned about every two weeks. I cringe at the thought of laying to an anchor and 100 feet of chain. What a mess that would be to get on board when it comes time to move on. The cost of the mooring ball is (almost) worth not having to deal with that. The good news is that the dive service that works the marina and mooring field is a first rate operation. They charge by the hour which sounds a bit scary at first. But they are honest about the time it takes to do the job right. The charge is less for those on the dock. (There is a long waiting list for a full time dock.)

Another downside is the current that flows though here, first one way, then the other, for most of the day. New and Full moon tidal ranges are impressive. If yours is a rowing dink, expect a good workout. Blowin’ In The Wind has a sailing dink. The other day Grandson Eldest and I took it out in light winds and full current. At first we made couple of hundred feet of headway against the flow. The winds eased just a bit and the best we could do was hold station. The winds eased a bit more and we needed to call the Mother Ship to tow us away from the marina docks. The Merc had its little, 3.5 horsepower hands full, pulling both boats home.\

For now we are less cruisers and more live-a-boards…again. That will likely change…again. We just don’t have a plan for when.