Exploring with Bears

Exploring with Bears

“You need to go to New Bern,” the marina manager was quite serious. We were comfortably ensconced in a marina in Oriental with a pool, but he seemed to know what he was talking about. I did a little research on things to do with kids in the area and New Bern did seem promising.

So we chose a bumpy afternoon and made our way up the river a few hours to downtown New Bern. If Oriental has a thing with dragons, New Bern has an even bigger thing with bears. Skye has taken to bear-spotting as we bike along the cute downtown streets. Many businesses have bear statues out front where the bears are painted to cleverly show the business withing. The real estate bear is holding a “SOLD” sign, the lawyer bear holds scales of justice, and the seafood restaurant bear is dressed like a captain. Within biking distance are several preschools, amazing playgrounds (check out Kidsville, New Bern), swimming pools, the library, toy stores, book stores, splash pads, more awesome playgrounds, restaurants (check out the Cow Cafe), a doggie bakery, a wonderful farmer’s market, movies in the park, museums, yoga, ballet lessons, and much more. Basically, everything we need except a grocery store. Getting to the grocery store is only an Uber ride away, and I’ve gotten to know several of the town’s Uber drivers well.

Over the last month we’ve been settled in New Bern, we’ve started the process of making friends. Friends at swim lessons, friends on the playground, friends at the pool, and lots of friends at ballet lessons. Skye has been doing ballet on our boat through videos and the help of an online teacher, but enrolling her in ballet summer camp has been a wonderful experience for both of us. She is excited to go and happy when she is done.

We had hoped to make it further north this summer, but it looks like this is it for us. We are getting canvas made and will hopefully have sails before the end of the month. Then we’ll be pulling the boat and re-doing the rudder shaft so hopefully when we splash it in the spring, we won’t have the leak.

Are we leaving cruising a little early this year? Maybe, but I have obligations in the mountains, so Skye and I will be headed into the mountains for early fall and then off on more adventures this winter that I’m very excited about. Then when we get back to the boat in the spring, we’ll be set up and ready to sail north and really enjoy exploring.

That Time the Boat Flooded

That Time the Boat Flooded

“Skye should be up from her nap soon, and I’ll grab…GEOFF!!” I’d turned to climb down below only to discover several inches of water on the floor. It hadn’t been there a few minutes previously when I’d gotten us drinks.

We were 10 miles from Charleston, SC and the brand new, never-tested engine had been running flawlessly. We’d just passed a raft of powerboats and their wake had given us a serious shake-up.

“Something hit a thru-hull. Take the wheel.” There aren’t a lot of ways that much water could get into the boat that quickly and none of them are good. I take over steering while Geoff opens the lockers and starts pulling things out, trying to see which thru-hull is flooding. Skye chooses this moment to wake up and look down from her bed onto the water sloshing back and forth on the floor.

“Momeeeeee! It’s WET!” She’s decidedly dubious about the water on the floor and elects to stay in bed. Geoff goes below, grabs her, and puts her on deck with me where I snap her into her harness.

“The bilge pump was turned off again,” Geoff confirms before opening the engine hatch, still trying to locate the problem. I hear the bilge churn to life and the water starts flowing out of the boat. We’re not going to sink, at least.

We’d left late the night before and anchored out at the mouth of the river, ready to leave with the morning tide. Skye was sound asleep and Geoff and I sat on deck having a drink and congratulating ourselves on all our hard work and finally getting moving.

This past winter, we made a lot of improvements to the boat, from re-painting the bottom to significant glass work, replacing all the standing rigging (the cables that hold the mast up), putting in a new engine and retrofitting it to work in our boat, rebuilding the steering system, and completely re-writing the electrical. It was nice to finally be rewarded for all the hard work and begin traveling again. And as hard as it was to say goodbye to the friends we’d made in Beaufort, we were ready to go.

We’d greeted the sun heading down the river to cut over behind Edisto, keeping to the intercoastal waterway. Driving was a struggle. Last summer, when we’d rigged up our steering system, we’d incorrectly connected the cables, causing the steering to be connected backwards. I’d driven the boat from Myrtle Beach to Beaufort and around and my brain is still wired to turn the wheel the opposite direction of the way I want to go. Needless to say, we drove in lots of circles as we slowly forced our muscle memory to change.

The day was beautiful, only slightly overcast. Dolphins swam off our stern, putting on a show. Temperature in the mid-80s. As we approached Charleston, the boat traffic increased significantly. Power boaters mainly, out for the sun, never thinking to look behind them at how their wake caused a little sailboat to dip and roll.

Geoff crawled out of one of the cockpit lockers with grease on him, but looking calmer.

“There’s water coming up the rudder shaft when we go a certain speed,” he said. “We’ll have to shift some weight forward. We also probably need to call ComPac and see if they’ve seen this problem before.” A solution. Our boat wasn’t sinking.

We motor towards Charleston, keeping an eye on the bilge pump which appears to be on the fritz. Geoff has me drive the Wapoo Cut, a narrow channel between to rivers with docks on either side and a howling current. Powerboats raced on either side, causing significant rocking and drift. I was holding the wheel tightly, trying not to make a mistake in how I turned the boat while Geoff was down below being thrown around and trying to find the radio channel to call the draw bridge ahead. Skye, meanwhile, was totally unperturbed by this, but had pulled out her doctor’s kit to give the radio a “checkup.”

We pulled into the marina late afternoon, tied on dock lines. Elli ran off the boat towards some grass while I closed everything down and followed with Skye. I was ready for some supper and a good glass of wine.

We leave Charleston tomorrow. After a discussion with ComPac, we’re going to shift weight forward away from the rudder and keep an eye on the prop shaft. We may need to replace some of the fittings and once we get away from boat traffic, I’ll swim the rudder to make sure it’s clear of debris. Geoff has wired a back-up bilge system off the second battery so that it will take a double-failure for our bilge system to stop working.

One day of adventure down, a whole summer to go!

Cleaning the Bottom

Cleaning the Bottom

My clock says 5:36am and a book just fell on my head.

I am groggy since we moved the boat out to the sandbar at high tide last night and dropped anchor a little after 2am. I can hear Geoff on deck. Can’t I just sleep a little longer? The boat lists sharply to the side and I know I can’t. The books come down from the shelf into the bed and I walk down the middle of the boat, now at about 20-degrees, making sure everything else on the high side is secure. I grab breakfast and climb on deck.

Geoff is now below making sure everything in our cockpit lockers is secure. I hand him a granola bar and we settle in to wait.

5:50am, the port side of the boat settles onto the sand bar and the waves are no longer lifting it. We’re at a 40-degree angle and Elli, the dog, is perturbed by the whole arrangement.

6:10am, the water is low enough for me to slide off the port side into just-above-the-knees water. It is surprisingly warm, even though the day has barely began. I grab the painters tape and wade around the boat to start marking off where we’re going to be painting. The water goes down several inches while I work my way down the boat and the fiddler crabs crawl out of our thru hulls in droves. They seem to have no fear of me.

Once the boat is taped, we grab scrubbers and cleaner and begin to work. Two and a half hours later, our bottom is clean of growth (we’d had a diver pre-scrub it before we headed out, but we still had to get the rest of it off). We finished washing and acetone-prepping just as the water turned and started to flow back in.

Starting at the keel, we painted our way up. By the time we finished the keel and were on the hull, the water was back around my ankles. It took both of us to finish painting the hull, pull the painters tape, and put on the new blue stripe (which I didn’t do a great job of since the boat was about to re-float and I’ll have to fix).

By 10:30am, we were out of the water and waiting for the boat to level. I was down below on my computer, already working for the day. High tide came and we were able to motor back to the marina with half a painted boat.

Other half to be painted at the next dawn tide…