Friday, October 28, 2016

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Thursday morning dawned with marvelous colors in the partially cloudy sky over Blackwater Creek.
Dawn Over Blackwater Creek, VA
We were just 4 miles from the VA/NC border, and planned to push all the way to Broad Creek NC, at the edge of the Abermarle Sound, before anchoring for the night, a total of about 30 Nautical Miles.

Coinjock Marina was on our way, but was only 20 NM away, so we elected to only stop there long enough for fuel, water and a pumpout, and then move on.  When we got there, s/v Whisper, one of the boats from our previous day's "convoy",  had decided to stay to wait the passage of a small front, while s/v Satisfaction, from our preious night's anchorage was continuing on.  We breifly considered staying, but in the end wanted to get more miles under the keel before we quit for the day, so we left.

Checking the weather along the way, we realized that the wind would come around to ENE tonight, and Broad Creek would offer little protection in that direction, so we scoped out a better anchorage a little closer than Broad Creek.  But before we even got there, we got a radio call from s/v Satisfaction, saying that they were anchored just ahead, and that there was plenty of depth and lots of room, and why don't we come over?  It would make for a shorter day's travel, but would give me time to do a needed oil change So we did.

As we were backing down on the anchor to set it, I happened to notice our bilge pump (which rarely runs) come on, and then, two minutes later, it came on again!  This definitely warranted investigation!

In the engine compartment, I found water dripping all along one side of the engine,  I quickly tracked this to the raw water pump, which had lost a seal and destroyed its bearing!  The little cage that normally holds the ball bearings was completely empty, and hanging out of the pump.  It's amazing that it was still pumping cooling water!
Destroyed Bearing
Fortunately, we have BoatUS unlimited towing, so we contacted TowBoatUS and requested a tow back to Coinjock Marina, a distance of about 5 NM.  The tow operator said he would be there in about an hour.  I also contacted Moyer Marine, the pump manufacturer, to ship us a replacement pump.

An hour and a half later, the tow operator called back to explain that the tow boat had broken down on the way to us, and had to be towed back itself!  But he wasn't going to leave us out there. He, and a couple of friends, were going to  launch a "family" boat to come get us, and be there in about 2 hours!  This put it well after dark, but he said they run all hours, day and night.

So, a few hours later, these three southern gentlemen show up in a 19 ft Carolina Skiff, which is a flat-bottomed fishing boat!  They rigged a hip-tow on our starboard side because the marina was holding us a 50' space on the bulkhead, and this would allow then to dock us there on our port side.

The trip back in the moonless, cloudy dark was eerie.  I had to help steer our joined craft while looking at the chartplotter to try and keep us in the center of the narrow channel, while the experienced locals relied on their extensive knowledge of every stump and shoal along the way. Sometimes the two boat's captain's had opposing ideas about which way to turn, and a zig-zagging sort of tug-of-war would ensue.  And the approach to the traffic bridge as we re-entered the Carolina Cut canal was a real high anxiety moment!

Back at the marina, they turned us upstream into the canal's significant current, and jockied us around until we were just outboard of our space on the bulkhead and just matching the current, so we "hovered" in place.  Then, with great finesse, they slowly approached the bulkhead, effectively moving the boat sideways and plugging us into our slot neat as can be!  Quite a nice feat of seamanship!

So here we sit, back in Coinjock.  The replacement pump will get shipped tomorrow, overnight, to Elizabeth City, which is the nearest location that can accept a Saturday UPS delivery.  One of the marina employees lives in Elizabeth City, and said he can pick it up on the way in to work.  Hopefully, we can be back on our way on Sunday.

Like I tell people, it's an adventure.  Of course they don't realize that the definition of an adventure is:
   Somebody Else,
   Having Trouble,
   Far Away!

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