Saturday, November 10, 2018

Patch it up and keep it moving

Kintala is pressing on toward Titusville. Well, trying to anyway. The timing from Dolbow Island, where we spent the night after making a 10+22 / 45.2 nm run from Bulkhead Creek, meant having the anchor on board just as the sun broke the horizon. That was the only way to clear Jekyll Creek before the outgoing tide drained most of the water out of it. I am not a big fan of early mornings, but the anchor was up on time and we headed off down the Mackay River.

Jekyll Creek lies on the other side of St. Simons Sound from where the Mackay River enters. Just as we approached the mouth of the river Deb came up from below with the news that there was oil in the bilge. About that same time the radio came alive with reports that visibilities in the sound and at the approach to Jekyll Creek were less than 1/4 mile in dense fog. There were also reports of boats hitting the ground while trying to bluff their way through. While we debated what we should do next Kintala ran bow-long into that same fog. St. Simon Island and an anchorage we have used before lay just ahead, making the decision to abort an easy one. For the first time since we left to go cruising, the horn was brought into play, one long blast every two minutes, as we gently poked along. Within easy ear shot, a barge was tooting long and two short, underway not making way. Not bumping into someone was high on the list of things needing done at that moment. The anchorage lay just outside of the worst of the fog, making it much easier to park the boat and drop the hook.

Once settled in, we discovered that oil wasn’t the real problem. We have been hunting down and eliminating a few oil leaks for a while now, and there was no evidence of a new one. What was new was water leaking out of the pressure relief valve on our water heater; water than ran through the engine pan, collecting up some oil as it flowed its way past our engine blankets and into the bilge. We cleaned up the mess and, until we can get a new relief valve, used a union and a couple of clamps to bypass the water heater. That joint still leaked, so for now we keep the water pressure pump “off” unless we are actually using water. While doing all that, Deb said  she smelled a touch of diesel as well, but all I smelled was normal hot engine stink. We cleaned up, closed up the engine covers, and took it easy for the rest of the evening.

The next day we pressed on, making it to Cumberland Island. This time the post flight engine check left no doubt, the engine blanket was soaked with diesel and the stink could make eyes water. I was not in a particularly good mood as we dove in to see just how badly hurt we might be. After some frustrating troubleshooting we found a pin hole in the fuel line from the lift pump to the fuel filter. I was sure that the Navy Submarine Base nearby would have the facilities necessary to make us up a new one in about 20 minutes. But even if I could afford the kind of prices the military pays for things, the gun boats prowling the base entrance suggested not trying to bang on the front door to ask. (As it turned out a missile sub pulled in an hour or so after we dropped the hook. That explained the gun boats.)

With no replacement parts within sight, we went into full backyard engineering / repair mode. JB weld, some carefully sculpted rubber pads, and a couple of worm clamps later and the hole was no more. The next day’s run to Sisters Creek in Jacksonville proved the repair water-worthy. And while poking around snugging up this and that while looking for the fuel leak, we also manage to noticeably slow the flow of oil.

Now we are riding to a mooring ball in St. Augustine. The original plan was to spend a few days here, enjoying the visit with the crew of Blowin’ In The Wind. It is a bit depressing to be here without them, so the plan is to head to Daytona in the morning. One day after that should see us in Titusville.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Heart shots...

Yesterday Kintala and Blowin' In The Wind dropped their Beaufort, SC mooring lines just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. Laughter danced across the water as the grand kids helped get their boat underway. Months after catching up with each other in Beaufort we were finally setting off to cruise together. It would not be as long a trip as we had hoped. In Titusville Blowin' In The Wind would head off for a couple of seasons of work in the Tampa area. Kintala would not be going that way. I knew that would be a hard day. We have been just shy of a single family for more than a year now. The boys? Ah, the boys and Grampy T, carving, playing Ukes, taking "wizard walks" and visiting those places only Grand Dads and Grand Sons being together get to visit. The new baby? Already walking and smiling at me. And Mia...Mia has completely stolen my heart. But that goodbye was still weeks away and I simply ignored its approach.

It was cool, almost cold, clear, with just enough wind to keep the main sails full as the ebb tide carried our tiny flotilla down the river at better than 6 knots. Our two boats where actually in the middle of the long line as we joined the parade of southbound cruisers. There may be things more fun than sailing with grandkids sailing along side on the next boat over, but I have no idea what that may be.

The last time Blowin' In The Wind crossed the Port Royal Sound they took a pretty good thrashing, so nerves were strung a little tight as we rounded red marker "246" to look East toward Africa. Four of the boats ahead of us turned, clearly taking to the outside to head south. We continued across the Sound into Skull Creek with nearly perfect timing. The tide had shifted and we were now riding a flood tide and its rising water. That same tide slowed us a bit as we crossed the Calibogue sound, then carried us on toward Fields Cut. Fields Cut is one of the thin spots along this part of the ICW. Passing through on a rising tide is always a good idea. We ghosted over a thin spot without problems, snuck through some narrow spots, and were quite pleased with just how well the day was going.

That was a thought we should never have allowed.

Just before we exited Fields Cut into the busy shipping Channel that leads to Savannah, Blowin' In The Wind called with news that their little engine was spewing oil. The nearest place to anchor was just on the other side of that shipping channel near Green 35 and, of course, a container ship was headed in the channel. There was just enough time to get both boats across. Deb tucked us as close to shore as seemed safe while I scrambled to get the anchor wet for the first time in months. A quick splash and set and we were ready to catch Blowin' In The Wind into a two ship raft up. As the lines were made fast I called the container ship by name on channel 13 to explain why we were where we were. The Captain of Ever Lucky was as professional as could be, slowing and moving as far from us as possible as soon as he heard that we were rendering aid to a boat in trouble. He then laughed a bit as he explained that he would have been far less accommodating had we been a couple of goober weekenders dropping a hook for lunch in such an inopportune place. His giant ship passed giving us only a gentle rocking. Of course, just a few minutes later, a power yacht blew past at full honk, setting our two boats to banging into each other and nearly tossing one of the grand kids over the side. (In my perfect world there would only be full displacement hulls. Its a freaking boat, just what is your hurry? If you want to go fast, put some skin in the game and buy a motorcycle.)

Blowin' In The Wind's engine was a mess. Most of the oil that had been inside was now dripping off this and pooling in that. There was so much oil that is was hard to see just where it had escaped, and nothing showed on the dip stick. A second container ship passed by, also going as slow as he could but still way too close for comfort. I sopped up all the oil I could, filled the engine with fresh oil, and watched as my grand son fired up the engine. The leak still wasn't obvious so I insisted we get the boats out of there and anchor someplace safer. They dropped away while I went forward to haul the anchor and chain out of 25 feet of water.

The offending pump, cleaned up
A few minutes later Daughter Eldest called to say that they were spewing oil once again, and she had spotted the breach. Clearly their little engine was running on borrowed time. The nearest safe anchorage was up a place called St. Augustine Creek, just a mile or so away. We pulled in, rafted up again, and started digging. It appears that the water pump seals have failed, engine oil and raw water spraying out of a weep hole. I am a moderately talented mechanic, but we were miles away from anyplace where parts were available, and I am not that talented.

We made arrangements to get Blowin' In The Wind safely moved to a boatyard were repairs could be made. Sadly, Kintala can't hang around and wait. We need to be in Titusville ASAP for a different commitment. The goodbye I have been dreading came unannounced. Brave hugs were exchanged as Sea Tow set the lines to pull my family away. Then the lines that have been holding Blowin' In The Wind and Kintala together for well over a year were finally, painfully tossed. As they were making fast to the dock we passed by heading south to an anchorage a few miles further along, exchanging final goodbye's and "I love you"s.

I hope to be able to breathe normally again by morning.