And lift…..then lower

There’s a bunch of protagonists. The cast’s ages range from about 50 ish to 70 ish. Although essentially they are all still 12 to 14 year old boys in their general demeanour and outlook. There’s a project afoot and they’re all definitely up for it.

There’s the main protagonist, “Na, na, you wanna do it like this”. He’s usually right but not always. The quiet considered counterpart, constantly troubleshooting sees occasional critical flaws and glitches in the plan. Valuable essential stuff. But unbridled confidence certainly helps with the momentum of the job.

There’s the “I’ll survive anything” chap who insists on standing directly under a suspended heavy object, with a cheek to cheek grin on his face. No matter how many times moving is suggested, cajoled, demanded, seconds later he’s back in exactly the same place. There’s dungarees boy, with his years of experience working around machinery. If there’s a joke to me made, he’s your man.

All in all there are about 10 characters to help lift the rotting wooden mast out of a sail boat using an outrigger on a moored fishing boat as the fixed high point.

Dave shimmies up the outrigger and fixes a strong point with pullies and lines. The wooden mast is hauled up eventually using the anchor windlass but because it’s swollen due to the rot in the mast foot, it’s not straightforward and severe jiggling, forcing and leverage is required. The pivot point is not quite right so the mast hangs severely to the stern narrowly avoiding a dip in the drink.

But out the mast comes, to be laid across a skiff and driven to the public jetty where it is transferred onto a couple of trolleys and walked the quarter mile up the main road to its ‘fixing’ place.

A few days later, a new section of fresh wood has been scarfed into the mast foot, the Bluffton Christmas Parade has happened, two birthdays have passed and the crew reassemble to put the mast back in to its natural environment.

Lessons were learnt from round one so restepping was much more straightforward with less hairy moments. All done by 10.15 in the morning.

Which explains why we’ve been in Bluffton South Carolina for around two weeks. I’ve fallen in love with the south. The oaks trees, the Spanish moss, the porches with rocking chairs and late night outdoor fires where 12 year olds can reminisce, its a lovely spot.

Ancient Mariner

When Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner goes a bit loopy, one of the lines of his poem, if I recall correctly  is something like…’Water water everywhere yet not a drop to drink”. Well Mr Coleridge, this is no longer the case on the good ship Grace. Some factual revision is needed in your epic poem.

Correctly assembling a low and high-pressure pump, a selection of valves and pipes, some standard filters and a membrane means through a reverse osmosis process, we can make drinking water from sea water. Friends who already have such trickery suggest being able to make water is a game changer in terms of the independence it provides. We were both pretty excited to taste salt free water for the first time as the dave and helen assembled machine (mostly dave) chugged into action with only a modicum of initial leaks.

It’s taken more than a couple of weeks to work out where all the individual components would live, installing these elements, followed by some tidy cabinetry to hide all the inner workings of this poetry challenging assembly. I don’t recall exactly how many trips we had going back and forward to the hardware store. How was it that after spending a whole day pulling together a through and definitive list of different joints and valves and pipes, on double checking the list the following day, we discover day one’s list is inaccurate and needs amending. How? Why?

Jobs such as this make me feel like I might end up living in boatyard forever as time stretches out with no immediate end in sight. Sadly a single guy did die on his boat when we were in the yard. A whole array of emergency services with flashing lights turned up but nothing could be done.

It’s not really a time to divert attention from what’s going on. We happened to be installing a new life raft. Dave was balanced on two planks which themselves were balanced between the boat and the dock. He was slowly manoeuvring the heavy load up the planks into its cradle.

A boat went past, swell rode up and one of the planks dislodged. How Dave managed to cling onto the delicately remaining dancing plank with the raft,  I’ll never know but cling on he did. No resounding splash ensued. No attention was drawn. embarrassment avoided. No story to tell…just.

We are currently 7 miles from the inlet into Beaufort South Carolina. It’s 4.51am. Dave is asleep. We’re motoring as the wind has disappeared. Unlike last night on the passage down where we had sustained wind between 25 and 35 knots and a rather damp cockpit at times. Very much water water everywhere.

Road trip

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to various bits of the world, some of which are renowned for their bugs. However, the North Carolina mosquito takes the biscuit in bug prizes. Dave and I were bitten, bleeding and flapping like mad fruit loops after a seriously mis-judged detour into a marshy area at Cape Lookout. Never again.

Mentally and physically scarred, we headed to the hills in Brevard, still in North Carolina but almost an 8 hour drive away. We were both looking really forward to the spending time with the family from Piper, a boat we met in the Bahamas this winter. The trip healed the wounds and we have had a fabulous time.

We had a full on stay including waterfall walks in the rain, experiencing Halloween on Maple Street, a day’s climbing with everyone, then Dave and Tripp did a 460’ multi pitch route plus a mass bike ride to a couple of breweries, which seem pretty common here, for someone’s birthday.

It was fun just to hang out with the family, kicking a football in the garden, playing cards and checking out town.

It’s Sunday night here and we are undecided as to whether to head back to boat world tomorrow or have another day here. There’s loads to do and see here. It’s been really relaxed and we’ve experienced some great hospitality. Thanks Piper.

 

DIY Dave

 

It’s always an unknown setting out on a journey when your 37 year old boat has not moved for a wee while. Hoards of mischievous blighters are known to take up camp in out of the way places, hiding in crevices and corners, waiting to leap out and bite you on the bum on your first trip.

We had just the four on our journey from Fishing Bay, Deltaville to Cape Lookout, near Beaufort. Round Hatteras.  A first for us. But actually a great sail.

Cap’n and chief Spannerman Dave was equal to them all. Take that you cheeky blighters. A quick précis of the list. Dodgy alternator putting out too many volts…solved by replacing the alternator with a spare. Tick. Burst pipe and associated flood from the pressurised water tank to the sink…solved by replacing the pipe and two big sponges. Tick. Snapped lazy jack line which keeps the sail in a bag along the boom…solved by a fancy bit of splicing and a quick trip up the mast. Tick.

And the fourth, I was on watch in the middle of the night when I became aware of an unwanted creaking noise in the steering quadrant / autopilot area. Hmmmm. That’s not usual or healthy. Time to wake Dave up. Turns out the bracket which holds the autopilot mechanism has a crack down a welded seam causing the unit to twist in a Chubby Checker fashion.

This was of course, only discovered when the whole contents of the back bedroom had had to be hauled out from its neatly packed home and distributed on the floor to allow access. This one was not so straightforward to fix so we hand steered for the next 30 hours. Tell you what, that autopilot does bloody good work and hand steering down wind in the dark with no points of reference is knackering.

All the aforementioned didn’t really dampen spirits. I was really happy to be moving again. We had a fast trip down with good wind. A large swanky powerboat called Andrea’s Revenge overtook us and made us laugh. Who was on the wrong side of Andrea? 😀

I saw a large ray somersaulting out of the water and landing on its back, it’s white belly vivid in the sea. I didn’t know if it was being chased, or just happy, or maybe trying to get rid of mites on its back? Whatever the reason it was quite spectacular.

And dropping the anchor at 3.15am meant Dave stayed up and followed the England New Zealand Rugby World Cup semi final. Bad luck Kiwi friends. I however was asleep in seconds.

 

On the move again…

No story to tell here, just a very quick update.

Haul anchor and move south. It’s happening tomorrow. I have itchy feet.
Plan is to head straight to Beaufort North Carolina, round Hatteras. Should take around 2 days offshore.

We’re lining up a few days in the hills of Brevard in North Carolina with a family we met in the Bahamas. Dave hopes to get his climbing gear out. We’re excited to see these folks again and have fun in their backyard.

Pennies to Pounds

The first thing I ever saved up for was a drop handle bar racing bike. It cost £112. I was in my young teens and £112 was a fair whack. Summer’s working washing dishes and autumn’s picking potatoes let me accrue my pile of dosh. It took a while.

My previous bike was a 1930’s women’s racing bike which I was given. It was heavy, sturdy and went like stink when you got it upto speed. Brakes seemed optional but the leather in my school shoes did the business too, much to my mam’s chagrin.

Having to save up for something that cost more than three figures gave the bike more value than the pure financial cost. Dirt and rubber gloves were involved.

Saving up, just generally to have some cash behind you, is a different thing. It’s an insurance policy, a ‘what if’ fund, but the question is, when do you spend that money? Surely the whole point in saving up and putting a bit of cash by, is to spend it one day and not just grace the bank’s particularly greedy piggy bank. 

Where’s this leading? We splashed some cash on a new prop shaft and a new life raft. Buying a life raft is an bizarre thing. Spend good money on something you never want to use. There’s probably a adjective to describe this but I don’t know what it is.

We went to the Annapolis boat show to suss out different brands and prices. Some looked like kiddies paddling pools that wouldn’t  stand up to a boisterous 5 year old, We opted for something that was the ‘top end of the mid range’ priced rafts. It felt like the best compromise after we’d pondered for a few days.

Good news is we are back floating. All good. Well that’s not strictly true. The generator is not working. It won’t start so we are liaising with the UK, Germany and the USA about getting a new starter motor as it’s still under warranty. It’s a three way email dance.

We’re not big dance fans.

Boat yard life

It’s all been a bit deja vu in the boatyard here in Deltaville. Plans, lists, delays, repetitions and so forth, but our time on the hard is very nearly up. We splash Friday after a mid week trip to the Annapolis boat show to look at, then dream about owning a water maker. Followed swiftly by a consoling beer with some Peeps we last saw in the Bahamas. That bit will be fun.

There has been quite a European contingent here, a few Brits, plus a fair smattering of Dutch and German folk too. And there is surprising uniformity in everyone’s day….early starts, trips to the hardware store (if you’re American) or shop (if you’re british) in either the yard sofa which comes with wheels and an engine or one of the red push bikes which are free to use here. Then routinely it’s days end for showers around 6 or 7 before dinner and bed. This is pretty much everyone’s Groundhog Day schedule here.

There isn’t really anywhere to go. I’ve cycled around a bit in the evening. It’s very flat here which is helpful as the bikes have no gears, or traditional cable brakes for that matter. Pedal backwards to stop. They do have very large saddles which offer unbounded comfort levels in the cheek department.

Chat centres around rotting rudders, caulking and prop shafts. I look forward to moving on again, as the dynamic will change and we can get on with the main business of the day, sailing to new places.

 

 

No ID

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Dave loves potatoes. They are perhaps his favourite food. Roast, mash, lyonnaise, chips, jacket. Doesn’t really matter. In his opinion a meal is not a meal unless it includes potatoes. My take. They are okay but I like a bit of rice or pasta or couscous for variety.

In the boatyard, potatoes are an easy option on the bbq for dinner. Bit of tinfoil, spud on, 35 to 45 minutes later, jacket good to go. I decided that I was spudded out tonight so opted for a cheese and onion omelette. However prior to my eggy dinner I set off on a short bike ride to the shop. I fancied a bit of air as I’d been driving a sewing machine all day. A blast of air and a bit of exercise would be well received.

I needed a purpose for my ride so decided to head to the shop for some cold beers. It’s Friday night. I hadn’t had a drink all week so a cold lager seemed appealing in the last dregs of dwindling sunshine.  I approached the checkout with a 4 pack of pissy Budweiser lagers and a bag of crisps. High quality carbohydrates for a Friday night.

”Can I see your photo ID?”. “I haven’t got any” I said. “I’m 53” I said laughing (well actually guffawing uncontrollably)  and ruffling my hair to show my greying temples”.  I then realised this was in fact a lie as I forgot I am now 54. “I can’t sell you anything without any photo ID. You could try the 7/11”.

I left shaking my head in a ball of laughter with my solitary bag of crisps. Refused alcohol at 54. I thought those days were long gone.

And she was right. The 7/11 didn’t care. They sold me lager with gay abandon.

Relaxing Sunday

Our day stared at 4.33am. My UK phone rang. Shit. It’s an emergency at home. I leapt (well shuffled quickly) out of bed but inevitably the phone had rung off by the time I got to it. It was a buddy of ours from the uk. Ah, I thought. It’s a trouser pocket phone call. Unknown, unintended, uninitiated. I sent a message saying I think you called me by accident. No, I tried to call, came back the message, but I’m sorted now. Good I retorted in good humour. It’s 4.33am in the morning here so I’m going back to sleep. Oops, 😀 was his response. He’s a sweetheart.

After that we had a slow boatyard day. But we do have a working fridge now so no more luke warm drinks and we pumped the paddle boards up for a choppy excursion across the bay here in Fishing Bay, Deltaville, Virginia.

Dave is being sociable this evening with the other boatyard dwellers here. I’ve bailed out. There’s some lovely folk. However often the chat turns to boats and boating life which after a short while, bores the pants off me. I know I’m part of this crowd but it’s not my whole life. I am interested in other things. I’m more comfortable in smaller groups where you can actually get to know people and the conversation moves around a lot more. Sounds a bit ironic I know. We’ve been boat based for over 3 years now. But just cos I live in a boat, doesn’t mean I want to chat about it all the time.

We imagine being out the water for about another two weeks. Then it’s up to Annapolis as there’s a big boat-show there. And we hope to meet up with some folk that we haven’t seen for a while. In the meantime, we will be watching the http://www.nch.noaa.gov website for any big time hurricane activity.

And as a footnote. Please don’t call me at 4.33am. It’s too stressful.

Last weekend in Blighty

 

Time is almost up. Pack tomorrow, fly Monday, start varnishing on Tuesday.

It’s been great here in Blighty. Seen a shed load of people. Whizzed around the country a bit. Done a modicum of work. Been out playing some too. So all in all a full on successful time.

It’s reassuring to know Britain is still full of kindly folk and mad characters. They provide a welcome distraction from the political fug that currently permeates and consumes daily life.

I met a old boy at the local cricket game who informed me he’d sung Frank Sinatra’s My Way in pretty much every boozer in the East Midlands. His rendition, (there was no way he wasn’t sharing his self professed talent) was truely awful and was delivered in true pub singer style. I asked him why My Way, to be told it was the only tune he could remember the words to. Small mercies.

Don’t know when we’ll be back next. We’re on our way to New Zealand.