Week five on the ICW – almost there!

 

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Sunrise on the ICW

December 26, 2018

The day after Christmas we continued south to New Smyrna Beach. We managed to time the tides and currents perfectly so that it propelled us onward from inlet to inlet the entire day, and we managed to cover 68 miles of the ICW! A new record.

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A fish head through a roof?

We missed a bridge opening, waited impatiently, and watched the sun set as we finally arrived at the marina dock for the night with our  friends waiting for us. We tied up the boat and grabbed a delicious dinner, took a late night walk along the beach, and went to bed.

Megan and Henry
Happy to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in over 11 years!

 

December 27, 2018

We are finally hot. And sweaty.

And we had a bad boat day.

Now when I say it was a bad day, I must preface that we are both okay, and our boat is still floating, so in the grand scheme of things we’re still doing just fine. However, today painted our previous rough days in a different light.

During those frosty days in North Carolina were moments when that damp cold made me question whether I could ever be warm again. Those shallow and narrow channels were nerve wracking and not even the playful dolphins could stop me from biting my lip every close call. But today left us wondering if we’d be able to get the boat to Fort Pierce under our own power, and me considering whether I was cut out for this adventure after all.

We learned an important lesson about marinas, and realized too late that we should have never tied to this particular dock. It had been recently rebuilt (I think?), or at least, it wasn’t finished yet. I hadn’t noticed, but there was a piece of lumber sticking out beyond the pier, and rubbed against the side of our boat. Eric managed to tie a fender to buffer our vessel for the night, but we needed to remove it before leaving in the morning. We were itching to continue south, however the wind blew pushing us against the dock, and no one was at the marina to help us. Fool hardily, we decided to leave anyway.

Eric attempted to maneuver us between neighboring boats while I tried to keep the boat off the dock with spring lines. We made it a few feet before a large gust shoved us back, and that piece of lumber pierced our hull. Thankfully the hole was above the water line, but chaos ensued as we struggled to free our vessel skewered to the dock. For a moment the wind abated and our two diesel engines powered us away. I made the mistake of reaching for the wrong end of the spring line as we rushed away from the dock, leaving large blisters on both my palms and several fingers.

We motored away from New Smyrna in shock, pain, and frustration. Ten minutes later, Eric heard a strange noise and realized that the port engine was overheating. We limped along the ICW with one engine, fighting the wind for most of the day. My hands continued to burn hours after the rope incident, although I tried not to let it stop me from the tasks in front of us.

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A dreary day fighting against the wind and navigating tight channels with strong current.

Finally, we anchored near Titusville, Florida. We spent hours online searching for a place nearby that could haul our boat, but the only place even possibly capable of such a task was unresponsive to our desperate phone calls. We’d come so far, and got so close to Fort Pierce, our interim destination where we intended to haul the boat out for known maintenance, and yet now it seemed an insurmountable hundred miles away.

At the Titusville dock we ran into the Mojo family – Jeff had built his catamaran using plans from the same designer of our boat. We ended up tagging along with them to a tasty brewery and chatted over a couple of drinks. Abby gave me the suggestion of stopping at the nearby CVS and picking up Manuka honey wound gel.  A little nostalgia from New Zealand (where this particular kind of honey is found) certainly lifted my mood.

The local marina let us dock our dinghy and use the showers for just a few dollars – cheapest part of our trip! Once I get a proper solar shower, boat life will be even less expensive! I’m only kind of joking – boats are super expensive and nobody is lying to you when they say you’ll need always need another “BOAT” buck, otherwise known as “bring out another thousand”. The trip south was a lot more expensive than we anticipated since we stayed at marinas to access shore power for our heater, and it was frigid most nights for the first few weeks.

Eric has been a champ rowing us to shore every day – a solid twenty-minute endeavor. We own a motor for the dinghy, but it’s a hassle to mount and take off the dinghy when we continue cruising. There’s certainly a magical moment of quietly rowing in the dark, observing the stars above, listening to fish jump out of the water (perhaps chased by a certain pod of dolphins we’ve watched hunt through the mooring field), shiver in the cooling air as we slip between the shadowy figures of other anchored boats, and slowly but surely make our way home.

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Our dinghy, lovingly named Ellen, on a tranquil foggy morning.

After licking our wounds for a couple of days in Titusville (both figuratively and literally), Eric and I dove into the port engine to try to solve the overheating mystery. Eric hesitated to mess around with the seawater cooling system, as our only through holes on this vessel were for this part of the engine – if anything went wrong, that hose would immediately become a hole below the waterline that could sink our boat.

We confirmed that water was not flowing through the engine and out the exhaust, which is what would cause the engine to overheat. Eric researched potential issues, complications, and solutions. He dug around the various storage areas for parts and bits to find we owned a spare impeller (the pump that moves sea water through the engine’s cooling system) which, he read, was the most likely reason for the engine to overheat.

Once we successfully took apart the impeller (I dutifully held the hose above waterline), to our surprise we found the pump completely intact. So much for a simple fix, we thought.

Baffled, Eric removed another tube upstream and checked the next segment in the cooling system. “What’s that?” I asked as we noticed a pale grey object sticking out of the metal frame. “Is that… is that a fish?” Sure enough, Eric pulled a tail fin out of the cooling system and we realized there wasn’t an intake water strainer protecting the engine. That poor little bugger got sucked into the engine, and then cooked as the engine overheated. After Eric finished pulling flakes of fish out of the engine cooling block, water began to flush back out, and the engine block coughed up a piece of impeller. Now, we’d already checked the impeller and it wasn’t missing any pieces. So some hack had replaced a broken impeller and hadn’t bothered to hunt for the broken piece, leaving it to clog the cooling system.

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Fishy remains from the engine cooling system

A couple of our new boat friends motored their dinghy over to check up on us, and we proudly explained that our engine had eaten a fish, and choked on a formerly broken impeller piece. They too were astounded that we found a broken piece of a part that had already been replaced.

Eric and I spent one more evening in town, picking the brains of our new friends and gleaning everything we could from their fifteen years of experience building and living on their own catamaran. After a tour of the Space Walk and neighborhood streets of Titusville our feet wandered back to the microbrewery and we enjoyed another tasty pint along with a good meal. We swung through the grocery store for provisions in preparation for cruising the next day and rowed home.

 

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