An Embarrassment of Mishaps
Location: ICW Mile Marker 81.9. Anchored in the mouth of the Little Alligator River, just past the Ablemarle Sound, in northern North Carolina
Weather: 70s and sunny today
** DarSea (made us think of our favorite grandniece, Darby)
** Ho Hum
** Latest Compromise
** Indiscretion (it was a WHOPPER!)
In 2008, before we left on our first sailing cruise, I read an ‘Embarrassment of Mangoes’, a delightful book about a Canadian couple who sailed from Canada to the Caribbean. They had tough times, of course, but it was the abundance of wonderful mangoes that they encountered in many of the islands that gave her the title of the book. It was enough to wet my appetite and I often reflected on their experiences – and the recipes she shared- as we sailed.
Our abundance on this trip so far has not been in mangoes. It’s been in mishaps (misfortunes?). Everything that could go wrong, it seems, has gone wrong! Here is a sampling of just a few:
1. After a week of wet miserable weather, we finally departed on Sunday October 13. We entered the Chesapeake Bay only to find the waves and wind so high that we were beaten back. So night #1 is spent in Reedville, one hour from our original point of departure – licking our wounds – and replacing the slightly wind-torn jib (front sail) with our spare.
2. We made it to the southern end of the Chesapeake and were beginning the journey through Norfolk to the start of the ICW when suddenly we heard a shrill sound and lights on the instrument panel for the engine. “Quick, turn off the engine!” shouts Warwick. So, there we are in one of the busiest commercial and naval channels on the eastern seacoast, surrounded by barges, tugs, cargo and navy ships, not to mention an assortment of recreational boats…. and no engine. We had the jib up, so I was instructed to sail quietly on the edge of the channel, while Warwick got to work down below fixing the engine…. Turns out it had overheated because a couple of veins from the water impeller had severed and were blocking the cooling water outlet. This all occurred before MILE MARKER 1 of the ICW – not an auspicious sign.
3. Same day, later:
a. Replacement jib needs to be taken off and re-installed as it doesn’t’ refurl when we try to bring in the sail (this is an ongoing problem and Warwick is still working on it, daily)
b. Icebox is filling with water from melted ice at the bottom; need to remove everything from icebox only to find that the “plug” Warwick had temporarily put in - to ensure extraneous items failing down hole - when he installed new insulating material had not been removed!
c. Propane gas runs out and Warwick needs to install 2nd tank (this is a routine job, but added to the rest of the day’s events….)
d. Day is ending and no place to anchor!!! We followed the ICW Anchoring Guide to a spot just at the side of the ICW at mile marker 28.5…. but it turns out their depths were way off; it was extremely shallow for our 6’ draft. But what could we do? With no options, we had to anchor right by the green 43 marker and to get our stern out of the channel (because tugs and large un-maneuverable barges continue to travel the channel at night) Warwick put on a 2nd anchor to hold our rear out of danger. Needless to say, there wasn’t much sleep that night (especially when the fog rolled in!)
4.We survive the night; the sun is up. Hours later, we’re crossing the Ablemarle Sound (a notoriously difficult passage if the conditions aren’t right) in good weather. Everything is “sweet”. I lie down for a nap, Warwick is on deck. An hour later I get up --- only to find a couple of inches of water covering the floor of the cabin!!!!! The floorboards are floating! The previous 2 times this occurred were when Warwick had switched on the bilge pump to drain the bilge (where waste water goes in a boat), while underway and when he switched it off, the water siphoned back in: this is a quirk of this boat. This time, however, we had NOT turned on the bilge pump. We jump into action: Warwick in the cabin – checks engine first to see if there is a hole there – no. Then starts passing me buckets of water to toss over the side of the boat. Is there a hole somewhere? We had not hit anything so that is unlikely. After the water is slightly below where the floorboards should be (because now we have them all on deck), Warwick can tell that the problem is –once again- a siphoning back of the water into the bilge. So, at least we’re not sinking from an unknown cause. And the work begins of drying everything out.
5. The final straw: exhausted as we are, Warwick fails to tell me when he’s starting to drop the anchor so I continue to drive forward, albeit slowly. Unable to control the anchor, Warwick drops all 100’ of anchor chain – in a location that has 8’ of depth! So on the same day that he had to lift up 2 anchors (remember, we dropped 2 the previous night to keep us out of the channel), he had to pull back in all 100’ of chain and drop the anchor again.
But would anyone read my book??