Saturday, May 1, 2010

MOUTHING OFF: Heading South Day Three

Solomons  38°19.680N | 76°27.477W

"The mouth of the Potomac can be rife with cross-currents, tidal rips and fish traps... Several world cruisers have said that this was the roughest place they've encountered in bad weather." --Waterway Guide Chesapeake Bay
As we moved into the Chesapeake headed south, we set our waypoint heading and watched the shoreline. Something just didn't look right. But what? I ran below to check our heading, and we were on it.

I then pulled out the chart to check the first waypoint, which I had mistakenly entered as E instead of W. That's E for EEK!

But now, heading straight toward the mouth of the Potomac, we were leading a life of quiet trepidation.

According to the guidebook, the most favorable time to pass the mouth is at low tide, and we timed it almost to the minute. We entered the mouth exactly at slack tide.

I'm happy to report, that the mouth did not chew us up nor spit us out. It did not foam or bare its teeth. We made a mute, 90-minute passage in near perfect conditions.

A long, five hours later, on our approach to Deltaville we heard a loud clanging crash near the stairs that sounded like dishes falling. I looked around but found nothing out of order.

"We'll find it later," Chip said presciently. The only thing more clairvoyant would have been if he said "momentarily" instead of "later."

I relieved him at the helm, and within minutes the engine alarm blared. The temperature gauge was pinging above the high temperature mark of 240°. Lights were flashing. (I'm not really sure this is true, but when I play it back in my head, there are definitely red lights flashing.) Chip dove for the throttle, shoved it into low and bolted downstairs.

"TURN IT OFF!" he yelled. I turned it off.

Sitting at the helm alone in the sudden quiet, I assessed our situation. The depth meter read 45 feet. Good. The wind meter read 0 knots. Bad. We were adrift.

I looked to starboard and could see land about 300 yards away. Good (help nearby) and bad (shallow water).

I kept watch for, um, something, while Chip clanged around below.

"YAY!" he called out. "It's a broken belt."

Yay? He had been reviewing all the potential -- and potentially expensive -- disasters that could have caused the engine to overheat. A belt was not such a big deal, IF the previous owner stashed a spare belt.

New problem: where might that stash be.

So as Chip dug through hatches below, I took matters and furling lines into my own hands. I unfurled the staysail and the jib, both of which began to flop around in fluky 1-knot winds. By the time Chip had found not one but two replacement belts, I had both sails partially full and the boat moving very slowly in exactly the wrong direction. Just as I was preparing to tack, Chip called up, "Try the engine now!"

"Wait a minute, I'm tacking!"


After an extremely unsuccessful tack, which ended up at about 250° instead of 180°, I turned the key and the engine came back to life, sans alarm.

From start to finish, Chip had the engine running in less than 20 minutes.

Me? I had sailed us about 60 yards off course, dashing all hopes of winning the day's Most Valuable Crewmember award.

We put the engine in gear and pointed toward Deltaville. I rolled in the stupid sails.

After a 10-hour day on the water, we tied up, exhausted, hungry and triumphant from tackling both the mouth of the Potomac and an unexpected engine repair. We threw on semi-clean clothes and headed out for dinner.

Halfway down the dock I stopped in my tracks.

"What's happened to us?!?" I lamented. "This is only our third day of cruising."

Chip hadn't shaved or showered. I hadn't showered, washed my hair OR put on makeup.

And we were dressed alike.

Deltaville  37°33.480N | 76°18.799W


Anonymous said...

How far out have you planned? Destination or other goals or day by day? Have your read some Tristan Jones? Best wishes, John Nelson

tammy kennon said...

Alas (or should I start saying 'avast'?) we are only bringing the boat home to the Outer Banks for now. We'll dock at Manteo Waterfront on Roanoke Island until we have accomplished that very last item on our TO DO LIST: Sell the wine shop.

Debbie Miller said...

hi tammy - just saw your comment on my blog! - of course - blog away :) cheers - debbie