Give us a break!   Leave a comment

This is getting ridiculous. You’ll see what I mean.

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Enjoying tea and reading my kindle on a nice sail to Cape May.

On Saturday we dragged ourselves out of Atlantic City. It was somewhat hard to get moving again after what happened on our way there. Plus, the waves were still HUGE (they actually got bigger) and life tied to a dock is so cushy! Saturday ended up being the perfect day to leave. It was sunny. The waves weren’t bad at all once we got away form the inlet. There was wind but not too much. We even sailed wing -n-wing for a while.

By mid-afternoon we were snuggly anchored in our favorite spot next to the Coast Guard station in Cape May, NJ. There were a couple other cruising boats there and more arrived later that night. It felt good to finally get to the place we set out for exactly 2 weeks prior. Too bad we didn’t make it there in the 2 days we’d planned to take.

As nice as Cape May is, Lee and I decided to keep the momentum going. We were heading into a few days of very calm winds so we knew we could make progress down the coast by motoring. After a morning run, we took stealthy showers at the marina where we stayed briefly last time we were here. Then we pulled up the anchor and joined the throngs of weekend fisherman heading out to sea.

The day of motoring was uneventful. It was sunny and actually almost warm! I only wore one or two long sleeve shirts and fleece pants all day! The waves, however, were painfully annoying. They were huge, rolling swells coming from just aft of abeam (a little towards the back of the boat from being parallel to our path). They rolled Pirat like she was a bath toy and there was nothing we could do about it. Raising the main as a stabilizer would just flog the sail back and forth all day, adding a really annoying sound to the already annoying motion we were experiencing. I have bruises all over the place from our past couple passages. I bang my sides, shins, and knees into all kinds of things when the boat is rolling all over the place. Cooking is a riot. Anything I put on the counter slides back and forth with every roll and I can’t put any liquid-containing container without a lid on any surface but the stove, which moves with the rolls. Fortunately I tolerate the motion reasonably well seasickness wise and Lee has never been seasick in his life.

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Ferris wheel! There wasn’t much to take pictures of till we got to Ocean City.

So ends another successful day, bringing us 40-some miles closer to the Caribbean? Oh no, we didn’t get off that easy.

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Waves crashing on the breakwater at the Ocean City inlet.

We pulled in to the Ocean City inlet which was swarming with mini fishing boats (Does everyone in New Jersey and Maryland fish on chilly fall weekends?). Lee drove Pirat towards the purported anchorage area down a channel on our left. We knew the depth would be limited but we figured we’d be OK if we stuck to the channel. It wasn’t low tide. Barely two minutes after we turned the corner the depth dropped from 10 feet to 7 feet, then 6.5…and we were aground. It wasn’t very dramatic. We’ve run aground in Chesapeake bay but never had a problem simply backing out of the soft mud. This time we hit sand. Pirat slowed rapidly like someone had put on the breaks. Lee reversed the engine quickly but our keel was solidly aground. Sigh

At that point a couple in a small fishing boat came by to tell us about the rocks out beyond our bow. I thanked them, but said we were aground so we weren’t going anywhere near the rocks. They offered to help and were getting ready to give us a tow when we finally got unstuck under our own power. The man in the fishing boat said he’d show us the anchoring spot a ways down the channel where we were heading so we followed him warily. Lee could see that we were heading for an area that was way too shallow, according to the chart plotter, so he veered to starboard to avoid it. Suddenly we were aground again.

The couple in the boat turned back and, oblivious to our lack of movement, slight list to one side, and downtrodden expressions, directed us to continue our path towards the anchorage. “We’re aground again.” I told him. “And I don’t think we’re going to be anchoring here after all.”

Lee brought the heavy stern anchor line from down below and we managed to pass one end to the other boat so they could pull us off the sand. They were driving kinda crazy and nearly sideswiped Pirat a few times in their maneuvers. While the woman (I assume the wife) tried to tie off the line, her husband managed to circle the boat around in such a way that the line went under our stern and hooked in front of the rudder. Excellent

After making sure our rescuers weren’t going to drive off while our rudder was hooked, I reached into the water with the boat hook and miraculously hooked the line on the other side of the rudder. Lee came over to assist but suddenly the line was being pulled out of my hand and rapidly twisted around. It only took me a few seconds to realize it was wrapped around the prop. Lee had bumped the throttle on his way over and the engine was now in gear rather than idling in neutral. Lee immediately took it out of gear and shut it down. Then we spent the next 20 minutes untangling the line from our prop. Fortunately, Lee was able to get at it from the dinghy. The process mostly involved untwisting an impossible curlicue of rope.

Our rescuers waited patiently at anchor while we freed the prop. Then Lee brought them one end of the line with the dinghy and we set things up for a tow. They managed to pull us off after a little engine revving and we shot backwards into deeper water. They untied our line and we thanked them profusely for their help as Lee got Pirat moving forward again. I had called up a nearby marina that said they could accommodate our draft. Lee and I were done playing Russian roulette with the bottom and ready to pull into a slip. Lee followed the power boater’s instructions to get to the marina, sticking very, very close to all the buoys.

Finally, we tied up in a slip at Sunset Marina. Oh but our afternoon trial wasn’t over yet! Lee noticed that the engine was vibrating more than usual and the cabin smelled very smokey when we went down below to investigate. Upon opening the engine compartment, Lee identified the alternator as the source of the smoke. The alternator uses the engine to charge the boat’s batteries (used for all our power). A bolt that secures one of the engine mounts was also loose, causing the vibrations we’d felt. Great. In one day we grounded Pirat twice, wrapped a line around the prop and damaged our engine! Why oh why?!

It turns out the alternator problem was probably totally unrelated to our grounding. I worried that we’d strained the engine and blown out the alternator by trying to power off the bottom. Lee pondered this, did some research, and concluded that our actions would not have harmed the alternator. He eventually pulled it out to inspect it and immediately discovered the problem. The part of the alternator that is supposed to spin was totally frozen, stuck, jammed. Lee explained more about it but I’ll leave the technical stuff to him and his future post on the subject (at repairpirat).

The implications of yesterday’s fiasco aren’t too horrible. Lee took the alternator to a nearby diesel shop where they said they could send it out for repairs and have it back in “a couple of days”. It can probably just be rebuilt, which saves us from having to buy a new one. Meanwhile we’re stuck in this very nice and not overly expensive marina (as marina’s go, it’s at least cheaper than Atlantic City). We have to decide what our next step is when can finally leave here. Stopping at the two “sketchy inlets” where we’d planned to break up the distance to Norfolk, is not very appealing now. Negotiating channels with breaking waves on either side and never knowing whether the water is deep enough isn’t much fun. Without those stops, though, we’ll have to sail over night to get to Norfolk, something we swore off of for the time being after our experience off Long Island.

At least that decision can wait a few days. In the meantime, there’s groceries to resupply, laundry to wash, and a boat to take care of.

Posted November 14, 2010 by Rachel in Getting started

0 responses to Give us a break!

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  1. Rachel:
    I have really enjoyed your recent posts. They are better than any fiction around!
    I’m sorry you have been getting banged up but hey, you are having fun doing it!
    Hang in there.

    • Thanks Kate! It’s great that you’re reading the blog and commenting! A lot of people seem to be apprehensive about leaving a comment but that’s what makes blogs great.
      Writing about our exploits here is the best therapy for the somewhat chaotic life as a vagabond sailor. I guess we’ll just have to keep getting into trouble so I have interesting things to write about!

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