Slowly Slowing Down

A week of warm and dry at Ortega Landing in Jacksonville makes me happy; ergo, Steve is happy. We take long walks. Enjoy visiting with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Take advantage of their generous offer to let us use their car for a few days. Watch our dockmates get in the Christmas spirit.

Decorated Boat
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I do a little shopping at the nearby Roosevelt Mall. We even decide to tackle a boat project that’s been on my list for quite some time.

FNR has three batteries – two house batteries and one cranking battery. When we anchor out, it’s up to the house batteries to illuminate the cabin, make FNR visible to other boats, keep our food cold, charge our electronics, run a fan or two because sometimes I get really hot (think: hot flash).  Sometimes, we even watch our 12-volt television if we can pick up a local channel on our over-the-air antenna or find an XFINITY hotspot to stream from. (Thanks, Young Son, for sharing your log in.)

Those house batteries need to keep all of those things running for 8 to 10 hours but they don’t. Our new refrigerator needs 11 volts to cycle on and after 8 to 10 hours, it doesn’t get 11 volts of DC power. The refrigerator part of the box stays cold enough but there is some thawing in the freezer compartment. I don’t like that.

Get on any Cruiser’s forum and you’ll find various strong, and often conflicting, opinions about how to power a boat when not on shore power. Wind, solar, inverters, generators. All of those options have pluses and minuses but for reasons you don’t care about, none of them are right for us at this time. We decide to add a third battery to the house bank.

We go to West Marine to see what our options are even though we know that they are going to be way too proud of their batteries for our pocketbook. We end up purchasing a 12 volt 27 series deep cycle marine battery from Advance Auto. There’s not enough room under the settee where the other two batteries are to put a third battery so we mount it on the corner of the starboard settee. When we reupholstered the salon cushions, we re-worked the layout of the starboard cushions, leaving a corner exposed. We had planned to use that space for some sort of shelving / storage unit. Turns out, a 12 volt 27 series deep cycle marine battery fits in that space perfectly!!

The new battery is quickly and easily installed. In fact, it is installed so quickly and so easily that I can’t believe Steve listened to me complain about my freezer stuff thawing as long as he did.

Still, the question remains. Will that additional battery keep things running the way they should? We are about to find out. It is 63 miles to St. Augustine. That’s too far to travel in a day. Anchored out in Pine Island, we run the generator for a couple of hours before going to bed to get as much charge on the batteries as possible.

Pine Island Anchorage
Pine Island anchorage. Peaceful, even with our generator running.

I get up the next morning and hear the refrigerator running. Ahhh….such a sweet sound!!

We are staying in St. Augustine’s mooring field for a week. This is our first time on a mooring ball. It takes me three tries to pick it up. I need one pass just to study on that ball. The second pass, I realize there is no way I can actually grab the pennant. It’s too far under the water. The third pass, I grab the buoy attached to the pennant, twist the boat hook around the line a couple of times and pull it up on deck. Exhilarated, exhausted and somewhat embarrassed since there are a lot of boats in this mooring field with nothing better to do than watch other boaters try to pick up their mooring ball, I let Steve secure FNR to the ball. Side note: Gotta give the Captain a shout out. Steve positioned FNR perfectly on all three passes. It wasn’t him. It was all me.

FNR on mooring ball
FNR – second boat from the left – hanging out in the mooring field.

We’re in the north field and it’s a little rough. The dinghy ride into town is bumpy and wet. But St. Augustine is gorgeous. It is warm. It is dry. And with persistent, elevated onshore winds in the foreseeable forecast, we remind ourselves that it is okay to go slow and decide to take a break from traveling in not so nice weather until after the first of the year.

We spend two nights over Thanksgiving with my aunt, uncle and cousin in Jacksonville.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

JSYK…freezer stuff is still frozen when we return. What a difference an extra battery makes!

Being on a ball is not awful and I’ll do it again, but being on a ball for 5 nights is enough, at least for me to start with. We get a slip at River’s Edge Marina.

St. Augustine is very cruiser friendly. There are lots of things to do and see and we are going to take the time to do and see them.  Yes, it really is okay to go slow because time flies, and this adventure will be over before we know it. Gandhi is right. There is no sense in increasing its speed.


Doing Nothing

We get three days of mediocre weather – cloudy, foggy, and misty – after leaving Osprey Marina in Myrtle Beach. We want to spend a day or so in Beaufort, SC. That’s at Mile Marker 536, 163 miles from Myrtle Beach. Going against the tides, we cover 40 miles in a day. Going with the tides, we make 60.

I’m the trip planner. I pick out two anchorages, one 40 miles away and one 60 miles away. I place the waypoints in the chartplotter and highlight them on the chart. We spend a quiet night in Five Fathom Creek at Mile Marker 430, south of McClellanville, SC. 57 miles.

I pick out a 40 mile anchorage and a 60 mile one for day two. Waypoints are placed and highlighted. Steve gets us to Church Creek at Mile Marker 487, south of Charleston. Another 57 miles.

This was the extent of our sightseeing in Charleston.
This was the extent of our sightseeing in Charleston.

I pick out a 40 mile anchorage and an anchorage in the Beaufort River for day three. Waypoints are placed and highlighted. Steve gets us to Factory Creek in Beaufort, SC. 49 miles.

The tides were good to us. We made good time but we travelled hard and long.

The next morning, we pull into Ladys Island Marina. Since marinas don’t have check-in and check-out times like hotels, we’ve learned to get the most bang for our buck by arriving early and leaving late. The little we see of Beaufort is cute and quaint.

Enjoying a bike ride in Beaufort, SC
Enjoying a bike ride in Beaufort, SC

The rest of the time is spent cleaning up the boat, doing laundry and provisioning. We plan to sleep in and leave around noon the next day…until we look at the weather forecast.

Whaaaaat? More wind and rain?? Where did that front come from??? The Dockmaster asks if we are staying or going. He has folks wanting to get out of the weather and needs our slip. We decide to stay. If folks are trying to get off the water, no sense in us getting on it. We spend the next two days watching the rain. I’m glad we’re at a marina but we’re still stuck on the boat doing nothing. Steve does nothing very well. I do not.

The rain stops and we set our course for Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. It is uninhabited and only accessible by water. There are deserted beaches, maritime forests, wild ponies and tons of other wildlife. We are going to anchor out in Cumberland Sound, dinghy ashore and spend the day exploring.

Beaufort is at Mile Marker 536. Cumberland Island is 175 miles away at Mile Marker 711. We travel hard and long for 4 days. Traveling is harder on me than it is on Steve. He’s at the helm all day. Yes, that can be stressful at times but he’s in his element, and he is doing something. Me? I do a lot of nothing. It’s hard to read. There’s no internet. No TV. I can’t really exercise. I just sit there doing nothing. And since, I don’t do nothing very well I am really, really, really ready to get off this boat and explore Cumberland Island.

Anchor down 5:15. Herb River in Georgia. MM 585.
Anchor down 5:15. Herb River in Georgia. MM 585.



Georgia Waterway1
Georgia’s shoreline
Georgia Waterway2
More of Georgia’s shoreline
This is what happens when you anchor at high tide in Georgia. And no, it wasn't us.
This is what happens when you anchor at high tide in Georgia. And no, it wasn’t us.

I’d had good luck picking anchorages. Good holding, calm water, light winds and no traffic make for a good night’s sleep. My luck runs out in the Cumberland Sound. A screeching northwest wind makes for a LONG night. Halyards bang and clang. The mainsail moans and groans. The anchor rode stretches and squeaks. Waves crash against FNR’s hull. Steve sleeps. I don’t.

Steve’s up early. I have a headache and desperately need to sleep. No such luck. Steve shakes me and tells me to get up. The anchor is dragging. The wind and the tide are pushing us across this narrow, crowded anchorage toward the shore. Steve cranks the engine and once he has control of the boat, I take the helm so he can reset the anchor. But, instead of resetting the anchor, he pulls it up on deck. I am so busy trying to figure out what he is doing that I don’t keep an eye on the depth gauge and bump! We’re aground. Disgusted with myself, I throw my hands up in the air. Steve takes the helm, gets us back in the water and heads toward the waterway.

He tells me we are not going to Cumberland Island today. The water is too rough and we’ll get soaked trying to get there in the dinghy. I nod. My head is still killing me so I sit there doing nothing. Luckily, our next stop, the Fernandina Beach mooring field, is not far away. I should be able to get off this boat soon.

M: How much further to Fernandina Beach?

S: We’ve passed it already.

M: Why didn’t we stop?

S: Water’s too rough in the field.

M: So where are we going?

S: You tell me.

I sit there but I’m not doing nothing. I’m thinking.

I’m thinking that I’m not the only one who really, really, really needs to get me off this boat. I’m thinking we’ll go to Jacksonville for a visit with my Aunt Glo and Uncle Doug. I’m thinking that will be a nice place to get off this boat.

I take two ibuprofen, open the Waterway Guide, log on to Active Captain.

M: I’m thinking we should go to The Marina at Ortega Landing. The first night is free.

S: Tell me how to get there.

The trip up the St. John’s River is interesting. It’s industrial. It’s commercial. It’s residential. There’s a red bridge, a green bridge, a blue bridge, a couple of railroad bridges and even a football stadium.

Little boats. Big boats. There's room for both on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville
Little boats. Big boats. Sailboats.  Room for all on the St. Johns River in Jacksonville
Jacksonville Landing
Jacksonville Landing
View from the Ortega Bridge
View from the Ortega Bridge

We’re on the T-dock at 4 PM. I’m thinking about a walk, a shower, electricity, Wi-Fi, and a good night’s sleep. I’m thinking it’s amazing that Steve hasn’t put me on a train back to North Carolina. I thinking life is good once again.

Thankfully, Steve thinks life is good once again, too. We talk – yes, we’re still talking – about what we’ve learned since leaving Oriental 6 weeks ago.

We’ve learned that we don’t have to travel long and hard every day. It’s okay to go slow.

We’ve learned that we should look for anchorages where we can dinghy ashore so I can get off this boat.

We’ve learned that warm and happy is good but warm, happy and dry is better.

We’ve learned that we really don’t know how to live on a boat but we’re doing it anyway.

Most importantly, we’ve learned that we are incredibly committed to our adventure. These waters are charted but our journey is not. We are grateful. We are humbled. And that, dear friends, is Zen on this Boat.

Biding Time

Arrive Oriental: Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Depart Oriental:  Thursday, October 29, 2015

That was one LONG month.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  The time we spent with friends and family just flew by.  I enjoyed every moment.  But the rest of the time?

It rained.  I was plagued with a cold that would not go away.  It rained.  We tracked down a fresh water leak.  It rained.  We flawlessly installed a hot water heater.  (No kidding.  It really was a flawless installation!)  It rained.  We got stranded out in the harbor when our dinghy engine went kaput and we had to row back to the boat.  It rained.  We spent $600 to repair our dinghy engine.  And, it rained!!

How much time am I going to have to spend doing and enduring things I’d rather not be doing or enduring until I get to do things I want to do?  Biding time is terribly exhausting.


Luckily, good things do come to those who wait and we hop out of bed Thursday morning before the alarm goes off, anxious to get on the water.  Us and a gazillion other snowbirds who had holed up somewhere waiting for the latest batch of rain to clear.  The Neuse is full of boats.

Oh, looky, looky!! It’s a Snowbird Flotilla on the Neuse!
Oh, looky, looky!! It’s a Snowbird Flotilla on the Neuse!

Day 1:  We set our course for Swansboro, a 57 mile trip.  At 6 knots per hour, it’s anchor down by 4:30 or 5:00…unless you lose the battle with the tides.  At 3 PM, we’ve gone 37 miles.  No way we can cover another 20 before the sun sets.  I open the Waterway Guide and log on to Active Captain.  Not many anchorages south of Atlantic Beach.  We head up Peletier Creek but come right back out after running aground in the channel.  The only other option is Spooners Creek Marina.  Staying in a marina on Day 1 is an unbudgeted expense but, oh well.  It’s a nice marina with good Wi-Fi and clean bathrooms so one of us isn’t disappointed at all.

Day 2:  We anchor out in Mile Hammock Bay with about 25 other cruisers.  Nice and peaceful.

Mile Hammock Bay - THE place to be on a Friday night
Mile Hammock Bay – THE place to be on a Friday night

Day 3:  We’re east of the ICW in Motts Channel at Wrightsville Beach.  It’s a busy area and on Halloween night, there are lots of folks on the water.  We rock and roll late into the evening.

Motts Channel at Wrightsville Beach...beautiful but way too busy!
Motts Channel at Wrightsville Beach…beautiful but way too busy!

Day 4:  It’s a busy day on the Cape Fear River.  Ferries, tugs, and all kinds of boats to keep an eye out for.  Racing Steve gets a little miffed as he passes a tug on port only to have another sailboat pass him on starboard.

Passing a tug on port...
Passing a tug on port…
...only to be passed by a sailboat on starboard.
…and then getting passed by a sailboat on starboard.

We pull into St. James Marina in Southport for the night.  Right off the ICW, it’s a pretty, protected marina in an upscale, gated community but they don’t really cater to transients.  Weak Wi-Fi signal.  Bathrooms are clean but no privacy.  Folks are friendly enough, just not very welcoming.

Days 5 and 6:  There is more rain, lots more rain in the forecast.  I’m not real keen on traveling in the rain but how else am I going to get comfortable with being uncomfortable if I’m never uncomfortable so off we go.  We plan to anchor out in Calabash Creek today but we’re winning the battle with the tides so we keep going.  Osprey Marina is next on the itinerary and since staying there is a budgeted expense, getting there a day early to get out of the rain makes perfect sense to me.  Steve is happy once he sees the complimentary Krispy Kreme donuts.  They don’t have a courtesy car but the marina manager takes us to Wal-Mart so we can provision.  Someone feels bad about forgetting our anniversary and he tells me I don’t have to cook.  Pizza Hut is delivered promptly at 7 PM.

Day 7:  We wait for a band of thunderstorms to pass and are on South Carolina’s Waccamaw River by 9 AM.  We talk about stopping in Georgetown and then in Charleston, but we’ll pass them by.  Besides, we’re 250 miles closer to warm and happy.  We don’t know where warm and happy is yet and I’m not sure we’re ready to admit it, but I suspect we may be biding time until we get there.

Has It Been Six Months Already?

I’m a reflector. Six months in and I’ve had some time to reflect on this liveaboard thing. We’ve figured a few things out. We’ve screwed a few things up. We’ve gotten a few things done.  We’ve missed a few things…other than family and friends, of course. Lots of other liveaboards have shared their lists about how living on a boat is different. Here’s mine…

  • We have not dropped anything of significant value overboard.  We do not consider the two orbital sander dust bags that I dropped and the jellyfish-filled strainer that Steve dropped to have significant value.
  • I have not gotten sunburned or seasick.
  • I have not been hungover…at least not real hungover.
  • We have only had to row the dinghy once.
  • We have only had to have the dinghy towed once.  Steve says the tow was not necessary.  He could have gotten the engine running but since Young Son was right there, it was just easier to get towed.
  • FNR has not been rowed or towed.
  • Steve does a mean grilled chicken.  He grills a quarter chicken breast (bone in and skin on) for about an hour while slathering it with George’s BBQ sauce.  George’s BBQ sauce is made in Nashville, NC and is not distributed nationally.  I miss George’s BBQ sauce.
  • Just because you see a cockroach or two (or three) on your boat doesn’t mean your boat is dirty.
  • Boric acid kills a cockroach or two (or three).
  • We need to add a line item to the budget for K.O. Kills Odors and C.P. Cleans Potties.
  • I need to take more pictures.
  • If you have a port and starboard something that you need to label so you can tell them apart and you put a “P” on one, you really don’t have to put an “S” on the other.
  • No one notices or cares if you wear the same clothes three days in a row.
  • I brought too many clothes onboard.
  • I can’t tell you what day it is if I don’t have my watch on.
  • Being able to make your own ice is a luxury.  Being able to make 3 trays at a time means you can have a party!
  • If duct tape can’t fix it, then a zip tie can.
  • Boat projects are what keep you from getting other boat projects completed.
  • I can cook a casserole in my galley oven.
  • My most popular Google search?  One pot meals.
  • If you’re dirty enough, you’ll shower anywhere.
  • The only time you set an alarm is when you want to make the early bridge opening.
  • I haven’t met a cruiser I didn’t like.  What’s even more amazing is neither has Steve.
  • It’s hard to learn to sail when you motor 95% of the time.
  • It’s even harder to learn to sail when you’re a Dock Queen.
  • You never, ever, ever, ever get tired of having a drink in the cockpit and watching the sun set.

Living on FNR is not glamourous, but it certainly isn’t dull. It is not always fun and games, but it’s usually fulfilling.  It is definitely not what I thought it would be but it’s everything I hoped for.  Yes, we’re six months in and it’s Zen on a Boat.

Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

We thought we’d be in Oriental today. We’re not, but more on that later.

Day 1…We could not have picked a better day to leave Solomons. Light winds, calm water, partly sunny skies…a beautiful day on the water. No sailing but that’s to be expected 95% of the time.

Lazy, hazy day on the Chesapeake
Lazy, hazy day on the Chesapeake

Anchor is down in Little Bay by 6:15, a little later than Steve’s goal of 5:00 but that, too, is to be expected 95% of the time. We could not have picked a better anchorage. A cool breeze, calm water, starry sky….a beautiful night on the anchor. Days like this are why cruisers cruise.

Days like this are why cruisers cruise

Day 2…Motoring to Norfolk today. Another perfect day until we hit the Elizabeth River. Winds and traffic pick up. We pass a container ship in a narrow part of the river. We’re a good 3 to 4 hundred yards away but that ship is throwing off a giant wake. Steve warns me as he points FNR’s bow hoping to take the wake head on. We come off the first wave, smack into the bottom of the next one and scoop half the Elizabeth River onto our bow. Water is gushing off the stern but neither of us are wet. Steve and FNR handled that little exercise quite well. I am sitting in the companionway and look down below. The hatch in the salon is open but, thankfully, the salon is dry. There is a little water in the passageway outside the head so I go down to clean it up.

Uh oh. The hatch in the head is open and it takes a couple of towels to wipe up all that water. I am so glad I closed the v-berth hatch earlier when the water started getting choppy. There’s a little water on the floor in the v-berth so I get on my hands and knees to wipe that up.

Huh? What’s that dripping on my head? I look up and water is dripping off our quilt. OMG…our v-berth is soaked. Saturated. Could not be any wetter. Yeah, I closed the v-berth hatch but I didn’t dog it down. Guess you can’t take waves like we took and expect a hatch to stay closed.

I pull the bedding off and take it out to the cockpit. We anchor in the harbor between the Naval Medical Center and Tidewater Yacht Marina. We hang sheets everywhere hoping they will dry some. It’s windy. It’s humid. There’s a lot of traffic on the river. We sleep on yoga mats under towels. Days like this make this cruiser wonder why she’s cruising.

Sheets, sheets everywhere!!
Norfolk is one busy place.

Day 3…It’s a quick motor to Top Rack Marina in Chesapeake.  We wash the sheets. We take advantage of their spend $75 at the restaurant and get free dockage deal. Clean, dry sheets, good meal and free dockage. Cruising at its finest.

Day 4…We want to take the Virginia Cut south to the Alligator River but since the winds are picking up, we opt for the Dismal Swamp route. It’s a peaceful night on the Welcome Center docks.

We’re doing the Dismal!
Do you think they have a problem with duckweed
Duckweed, duckweed everywhere!!
Shit happens…

Day 5…We’re the only boat in the South Mills Lock. We make our way through the narrow, twisty and tree-lined headwaters of the Pasquotank. Steve hails a northbound sailboat on the VHF radio to tell him about the deadhead log we just hit but gets no response. Just as we’re about to pass one another, the other boat’s stern swings out into the river. Instinct kicks in, Steve veers to the right creating a downpour of pine cones and acorns. Masts and trees do not play well together. A quick glance up the mast reveals no apparent damage. The other sailboat didn’t fare so well. Her mast is stuck in the treetops. Our offer to help is declined. The First Mate shrugs her shoulders and yells “Shit happens” as the Captain gets in the dinghy to presumably push the boat out of the trees.

The water gets choppier once the river opens up. As we approach the Elizabeth City Highway Bridge, it’s obvious that it’s going to be a rough night on the city’s docks so we turn around and pull into Lamb’s Marina.

Days 6, 7, and 8…With an area of low pressure sitting off the Carolina coast giving us unsettled weather and windy conditions into early next week, we are holed up in Lamb’s. Steve says crossing the shallow Albemarle Sound and navigating the doglegged entrance into the Alligator River will be “uncomfortable”. Staying at Lamb’s when we really want to be in Oriental is challenging. We don’t HAVE to be in Oriental. We just WANT to be there. We look at the weather forecast several times a day and remind ourselves of our promise to not intentionally travel in uncomfortable conditions. We wonder how many times we have to say “It’s the journey, not the destination” before we start to believe it.

But we are staying put. Why? It’s not because we’re not antsy. It’s because in this little harbor, when the wind blows from the northeast, the water is blown out into the river and the water level drops. And when the water drops 2 feet, we end up in the mud. Yep, FNR has dug her keel in and we are staying put…literally.

Ruh-roh. Is that FNR’s bow I see?

Day 9…Steve gets up early. He is finally able to winch FNR out of the mud but with winds at 15 – 20 and gusts to 25, we are staying put. I ask Steve if he’d make the crossing if I wasn’t onboard. He said he would, that crossing in these conditions is not unsafe, it’s just uncomfortable. I think about that for a bit. Steve wants me to be comfortable. He’s ready to go, but he’s giving me time to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This staying put is a lot harder for Steve than it is for me. With the weather forecast calling for unsettled weather through the weekend, we are staying put a couple more days. But after that, I’m all in. I am ready to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I Got Nothing for My Birthday

My side of the family makes a bigger deal of birthdays than Steve’s. On my side, if it’s your birthday, you get a birthday dinner at the restaurant of your choice with Grammie’s Brownie Trifle and Aunt Lila’s Tiger Butter for dessert. And, of course, you get a present…or two!! On Steve’s side, if it’s your birthday, you get a phone call or a text message or maybe a Facebook post.

Now that my kids are adults with very busy adult lives, it’s hard for all of us to get together and celebrate so we’re transitioning to the “you get a phone call” way of celebrating.

Still, Steve knows that birthdays are kind of a big deal to me and with my birthday approaching, he broaches the subject.

S: You have a birthday coming up.

M: Uh huh.

S: I know you like presents and I know you like me to surprise you, but, you know, I can’t do that this year. I can’t go shopping and I can’t spend money without you knowing it.

M: True. True.

S: So, what would you like for your birthday? You’ve mentioned wanting a Fitbit. You haven’t had a massage in a while. Do you want to go out for dinner?

M: Aww….that’s sweet of you to offer, but I don’t know what I want. Can I think about it?

S: Certainly!

A few days later, the subject comes up again.

M: What would you say if I told you I wanted one of those fiberglass propane tanks? You know, the ones that don’t rust.

S: I’d say it’s your birthday.

M: Well, I’m still thinking.

More time passes. I mention taking a day trip to D.C. Steve jumps all over that.

S: We can do that for your birthday!

M: I don’t want a trip to D.C. for my birthday.  It’s something we’d both enjoy.

JSYK…Labor Day is a great day to go to D.C. Traffic isn’t bad and it’s not crazy crowded. We walk from one end of the Mall to the other visiting monuments, museums and gardens. Politics aside, a trip to D.C. is a walk down our country’s memory lane. A humbling way to spend the day.

Steve wakes up the next day not feeling well. He spends most of the morning in bed. Once up, he complains about it being hot.

I just figure the A/C is having trouble keeping up in this 90° heat but a quick glance at the thermostat shows that it’s 80° inside. Uh oh. Something’s not right.

The compressor is cycling on and off but it’s not reaching the set point. We do a factory reset. We clean the air filter. We clean the raw water intake strainer. We turn the unit off for a bit in case it’s iced up.

I’ve said it before…Steve’s the handiest man I know, but HVAC is not his strong suit. Still, he wants to look at the compressor. Oh, God. It’s under the V-berth. The mattress has to come off. Can it get any worse?

Of course, it can.

The compressor is installed behind the holding tank.

M: Whaaattt? We have to take the holding tank out????

S: Either that or we have to cut out a piece of fiberglass. We should have done that when the A/C was originally installed but we had so many other projects to do that I just never got around to it.

Steve knows what I am about to say because I’ve said it before…cutting fiberglass is messy. Fiberglass dust gets everywhere and you clean it up forever.

S: How about you vacuum while I cut? That will help with the mess.

Great idea.

Hole cut.  No obvious problem with the compressor.

Just another hole in our boat....
Just another hole in FNR….

We call Cruisair. They say it’s probably a thermal overload switch and we gotta call our nearest Cruisair dealer. Luckily, this is the “slow” time of year and they’ll send someone over first thing in the morning.

Guess that means I have to make the bed. I’ve said it before….putting the sheets back on our v-shaped mattress in a space with only about 25” of head clearance and zero wall clearance is NOT my favorite thing to do. Can it get any worse?

Of course, it can.

It’s now 90° inside the boat and I have to put the sheets back on our v-shaped mattress in a space with only about 25” of head clearance and zero wall clearance.

Once the sun sets, it cools down nicely. That means Steve doesn’t have to pay for a night’s stay in the Holiday Inn which BTW he says he will do without getting a case of the tight-ass since it is my birthday.

We’re up at 6:30, taking the mattress back off and opening up the access to the compressor so the service tech can get right to work when he gets here.  Steve tells the guy what Cruisair said and the problem is promptly diagnosed.  The tech has to go get the part, but he’s back in a couple of hours.  Switch is replaced, compressor stays on, and the boat quickly starts to cool down.  Before leaving, the tech suggests that we back flush the water lines since there’s a lot of silt in the water here and flushing them prevents sediment from building up in the lines and coils.

Makes sense. It’s a little tricky getting the water lines off and getting the drain hoses on but we manage it without spraying water everywhere. We flush quite a bit of gook out so it was a good suggestion. So, can it get any worse?

Of course, it can.

Once flushed, I notice Steve holding a water line in his hand looking quite perplexed.

M: What’s wrong?

S: This hose came off the inlet valve but it’s actually the water discharge hose.

M: Huh?

S:  The lines were hooked up backwards.  The water coming into the boat was hooked up here.  (Pointing to a sticker on the compressor clearly labeled WATER OUTLET.)  And, the water going overboard is hooked up here.  (Pointing to a sticker on the compressor clearly labeled WATER INLET.)

Clearly labeled….starboard in, port out.

M:  That’s not good.

S:  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal but Cruisair labeled these lines this way for a reason.

We call Cruisair again.  Steve understands what they say.  Something about the hottest gas mixing with the coldest water and that it really only matters in extreme conditions.

M:  Why do you think it wasn’t hooked up right to start with?

S:  Probably because the water line that is supposed to be hooked up to the discharge through hull fitting isn’t long enough to reach the water outlet.  It’s not that big of a deal to hook the lines up correctly.  Just a little annoying to get in there and do it.

M:  Well, we might as well do it right while we’re in this deep.

We might as well do it right while we’re in this deep...
It’s a little annoying to get in there and do it but we might as well do it right while we’re in this deep…

Later that evening, Steve looks at me and apologizes.

M:  What are you sorry for?

S:  The last two days couldn’t have been any worse and you got nothing for your birthday.

M:  So our A/C broke.  Life isn’t perfect but it’s pretty darn good.  We are retired, doing what we want to do when we want to do it.  We are happy, healthy and loved.  As far as I’m concerned, I got everything for my birthday.

Flawless Refrigeration Installations

So how’d the refrigeration install go?

I’m so glad you asked and I am thrilled to report that Installation #1 went surprisingly well.  It took us all day and there was a lot of getting in and out of tight spaces, but the only snafu we ran into was having to drill mounting holes in the bottom of the evaporator bin so that, once mounted, the lid opened down instead of up.

That's awkward.
That’s awkward.
We can fix this.
We can fix this.
Much better!!
Much better!!

Initially, I’m thinking I am not going to have anything to blog about.  But you’re reading a blog called Flawless Refrigeration Installations so, clearly, I am mistaken.

After the almost flawless Installation #1, we have to get used to NOT getting ice every day. We go from filling a 2 ½ gallon Ziploc bag on a daily basis to filling a gallon Ziploc bag every other day or so. We didn’t realize it but the old refrigerator needed that big bag of ice to keep things cold. With the new refrigerator, our drinks are the only things that need ice. Since the evaporator bin doubles as a freezer, we can make our own ice but we haven’t gotten around to that yet. It’s just easier to walk up to the Holiday Inn and fill up our gallon Ziploc bag. Side note…you know you’re retired when you haven’t gotten around to filling up ice trays and putting them in your new evaporator bin freezer.

Another side note…since the Ziploc ice bag goes in the evaporator bin freezer and the bin is mounted toward the top of the box, there is MORE room in the actual refrigerator part of the box. I’m not buying more food though. I plan a weeks’ worth of menus and buy a weeks’ worth of food at a time. The extra room makes it easier to organize all of that food. I now have a fridge bin for condiments, one for fruits and veggies and one for meats and cheeses. Yep, in our new refrigerator, there’s a place for everything and room for everything to be in its place!

A few days after Installation #1, I am making coffee and notice that the countertop is wet.

M: Hmmmm, the Keurig must be leaking.

S: Why do you say that?

M: The countertop is wet. Will you please hand me a towel?

M (wiping the countertop): Hmmmm, this countertop is really cold.

M (pushing down on the refrigerator doors):  Hmmmm, the doors are closed. Why do you think the countertop is so cold?

S: I think it’s because the evaporator bin is too close to the underside of the counter. It’s cooling the counter all the way through and since it’s warmer out here, condensation is forming on the countertop.

M: Why did you mount the evaporator bin so close to the underside of the counter?

S: I wondered if this would be an issue but I mounted it the way the manufacturer recommended. The manufacturer probably assumes that your box is adequately insulated. Obviously, our box is not. I also mounted it that way to give you as much room in the box as possible.

M: So, we’re just going to have to wipe the countertop when it gets wet?

S: Yeah, we’ll have to keep it dry. Otherwise, the counter could rot and we might have problems with mildew.  I guess we could try adding some insulation to the box.

MILDEW???  We can’t get to Lowe’s fast enough. Steve un-mounts the evaporator bin, attaches some foam board insulation to the top of the box and remounts the evaporator bin.  Flawless Installation #2.

No more wet countertop, but the box is not cooling the way it should be.  We’re back to needing to put ice in the box to keep things cold.  Steve thinks it’s because the insulation is pushing the capillary sensing tubing up against the evaporator bin resulting in an erratic cooling cycle.

So…Steve un-mounts the evaporator bin AGAIN, relocates the capillary sensing tubing and remounts the evaporator bin AGAIN.  While he’s in there, he repositions the fan that circulates the air so that the air flows directly across the top of the evaporator bin.  Flawless Installation #3.

That thermometer is reading 39 ℉. Wikipedia says the optimum temperature range for perishable food storage is 37 to 41 °F.  Third time’s a charm!!

Oh, refrigeration installs.  As easy as one, two, three…

My Name is FNR and I Might Be a Dock Queen

I’ve been reading some about the derelict boat problem.  Boats are being abandoned.  Some are left at the dock.  Some are set free to sink.  Some are sunk intentionally.  Unsightly for sure, they pose environmental and navigational hazards.  It’s a problem all across the country but it’s getting a lot of attention in Florida.  They have an At-Risk Vessel Program there.  Owners are being notified that they have “pre-derelict” boat and are being asked to address the issues.  It sounds like it’s been pretty successful.

I sure hope so because it makes me sad to see an unloved boat.  Steve and I like to walk docks and we see lots of boats that just sit in their slips waiting for someone to come aboard.  Often, the canvas is torn, the interior is exposed to weather, the decks are covered in bird poop, and the hull is barnacle-encrusted.  There may even be plants growing in the anchor well.  Not knowing the circumstances, I try not to judge the owner.  I just feel sorry for the boat.

At the other extreme, there are some boats that are well cared for, yet they, too, hardly ever leave their slip.  Those boats and their owners are known as Dock Queens.  It’s somewhat of a derogatory term and it may very well apply to us.

We move aboard FNR on March 27 planning to stay at Oriental’s Pecan Grove Marina until our lease ends in June.  Yes, it’s cold a lot of that time and yes, we have quite a few boat projects to complete, but, in those 3 months, FNR leaves the slip twice and that is only because we have guests who want to go sailing.

Come June 29, we are excited to throw the bow lines off.  Meandering up the ICW to Solomons, MD was quite enjoyable.  But since arriving on July 8, FNR has only been out of her slip three times.  Once to move from Beacon Marina to Solomons Harbor Marina.  Once to turn her around in the slip and lastly to see if the Milwaukee 28 volt right angle drill that Young Son bought Steve for his birthday really would raise the mainsail.  Ha!  Who needs electric winches?

Our plan to putter around in the Chesapeake for a couple of months has not come to fruition, but we are good with that.  We are retired.  We are good with not waking up to an alarm clock and with not going to work.  We are good with spending our days the way we want to spend them.  Life is good and we are good with being Dock Queens…at least for the next few weeks.

Yesterday, we opened our Waterway Guides, logged into Active Captain, spread out the charts and starting planning our trip south.  The more we planned, the more excited we got.  There are tons of great anchorages out there that we really want to see.  We may even jump offshore for a day because that’s what cruisers do.  Most legs of our itinerary have an anchor out option and a marina option since September can still be pretty hot.  We.  Do.  Not.  Like.  Being.  Hot.  Period.

Our plan has us in Little River, SC mid-to-late October.  We’d like to be cruising into Florida the first week or so of December.  We’re not sure how we’re going to get there – we haven’t charted that part of the trip yet.  We have looked at the weather though, and in December, Florida’s daily highs range from 71°F to 75°F.  Our Dock Queen days may very well be behind us.  If not, we are good with that.  Hopefully, FNR will be, too.

Sorta Chilling in Solomons

You may notice my blog looks a little different. That’s because WordPress’s Blogging 101 course is teaching me how to snazz up it up. Feel free to critique. I’d love to hear from you.

There are three things that most full-time cruisers say will make or break a cruising experience.

ANCHOR: No one wants to deal with a dragging anchor in the middle of the night.

DINGHY: It’s got to be big enough to be comfortable but not so big that it can’t be manhandled when needed and your engine must, must, must be reliable. No one wants to motor ashore and then have to row back to the boat with a dinghy full of supplies.

REFRIGERATION:  Who wants hot beer and sour milk?

Anchor?  Check.  Check.  Since the kind of anchor you have depends on the bottom in which you are anchoring, we have two.  Our Bruce anchor is good for anchoring in grassy and rocky bottoms and our primary anchor is a 33 lb. galvanized Rocna.  It’s more of a “general-purpose” anchor.  There’s about 400’ of rode between the two of them, and while we haven’t anchored out a lot, we’ve yet to drag.

Dinghy?  Almost check.  We have a 2003 Caribe C-9 dinghy with an 8 horsepower Yamaha engine.  There’s plenty of room for the two of us and since FNR has davits getting the dinghy in and out of the water is no big deal.  We don’t have a motor lift but use a halyard to lift the motor on and off the dinghy.  Right now, the only thing between us and a reliable dinghy engine is operator error.

We (and by “we” I mean Steve) have only had to row once, but that debacle taught us (and by “us” I mean Steve) that it’s a good idea to made sure there is plenty of gas in the tank before taking me for a dinghy ride particularly when I need to be back at the marina by 3:00 to get ready for my week at camp.

And did you know that no matter how many times we (and by “we” I mean Steve) pull the rope, that engine absolutely will not start if there is oil in the carburetor? So how do we (and by “we” I mean Steve) keep oil out of the carburetor? We (and by “we”…okay you get the picture) do not lay the engine on its side when transporting it from Point A to Point B.

Furthermore, we all know that oil and water don’t mix. Well, neither do gas and water. “We” figured that out when “we” didn’t close the vent on the gas tank and it rained. Dinghy engines do not run well when there is water in the fuel line.

Luckily, the operator is definitely learning and even though we’re troubleshooting another fuel line problem, we’re close, very close to having a reliable engine on our dinghy.

Refrigeration? Ours is dying. It’s probably not original but it uses R-12 refrigerant and since that was banned back in 1996 due to its ozone depletion potential, it can’t be recharged. We install a small fan inside the box hoping improved air circulation results in better cooling.

No, a tornado did not rip our boat apart. All we're doing is installing a fan in our refrigerator, I promise.
No, a tornado did not rip our boat apart.  We’re just installing a fan in our refrigerator.
No luck. We replumb the drain so the melting water can drain directly into the bilge and not freeze around the evaporator plate.

Replumbing the fridge drain
Replumbing the fridge drain…

Replumbing the fridge drain leads to cleaning the bilge. Go figure...
…leads to cleaning the bilge. Go figure.
No luck.  It needs to be replaced. Oh, goody!  I get to go refrigerator shopping!!  How fun is that?

Oh. My. God. Refrigerator shopping is not fun.  It is hard, unbelievably hard.

What kind of condenser do we get? Do we go with an air-cooled, water-cooled or an air/water-cooled system?

Do we want a flat evaporator that can be bent to fit around the sides of the box or a bin-type evaporator?

What about power?  12-volt?  120-volt?  Or one that that switches between DC and AC voltages automatically?

We get quotes from a couple of the boatyards in Solomons, and we (and this time by “we” I mean us) do not want to spend what they are charging to install a new system so guess what?  We’re going to install it ourselves because you know what Steve says. The only difference between us and the people who do refrigeration for a living is experience and we’re fixing to get that experience.  I hate it when he says that.

Currently, we have an air-cooled Norcold condenser with a flat evaporator that switches between voltages automatically.

See that frosty thing down there? That's a flat evaporator plate. It's too small for our box and it's dying.
See that frosty thing down there? That’s a flat evaporator plate. It’s too small for our box and it’s dying.
The only thing I really care about is the evaporator. I want a flat evaporator because even though it has to be bent, it takes up less room in the box.  Armed with that knowledge, Steve gets to work. He scours the internet, makes many a phone call, and polls our neighbors on the docks before sitting me down to give me the good news / bad news spiel.

Steve thinks we should get Adler Barbour’s SuperColdMachine CU-200 Condensing Unit. Good news? It’s an air-cooled condenser that can be converted to an air/water-cooled system. Water-cooled systems are more efficient in warmer climates and since we are heading to Florida, that’s a nice feature. Bad news? It’s not compatible with a flat evaporator. Of course. The only thing I care about.

M: So what are my choices?

S: I really think you’ll like the horizontal bin evaporator. The bin is a little freezer so if you want to keep something frozen you can.

M: How big is it? (Going online to look at it.) That’s huge!!

Huge…7-1/2″H x 15-1/2″W x 12″D
M:  Hey, what about this one?? It can go right where the old evaporator plate is. It won’t take up much room AND it has a built-in fan to help circulate the cold air.

Not huge…10-7/8″H x 8-5/8″W x 2-5/8″D
We poke around the internet looking for reviews. Apparently, this isn’t a very popular evaporator. Two reviews. One person loved it. One person hated it…said it froze up.

S: I really think you’ll like the horizontal bin evaporator. We can mount it above the inclined wall. That’s space we aren’t using anyway, and if we put it as close to the top of the box as possible, you’ll still be able to put stuff underneath it. How about I model one out of cardboard and install it so you can see what it will look like?

Hmmmm…this might very well work.
Steve starts measuring, drawing, cutting and taping and the next thing I know there’s a cardboard evaporator prototype in our box.

Evaporator, Cardboard
See that Cheerio box? That’s where the evaporator bin is going to be installed.

Say hello to my new freezer!!
I do like I!  Say hello to my new freezer!!
Our Adler Barbour SuperColdMachine CU-200 Condenser and ColdMachine VD-153 Large Horizontal Evaporator will be delivered Tuesday.  Installation experience to follow…