Dealing With A Temperamental Lady
If, by the title of this article, you’re thinking I’m writing about my beautiful, kind, always-smiling and loving wife Lisa then you’d better guess again. Lisa’s anything but a “Temperamental Lady” and therefore I’m a lucky guy. Besides, even if she was, I wouldn’t be dumb enough to admit it in print. I’m not referring to our boat Kismet either. Our boat is way too young to have become temperamental. The testy Lady I’m referring to is Mother Nature and her ever-changing weather conditions and their affects on our plans to head south on the ICW this fall.
Lisa and I bid our farewells and departed Solomons one last time as we headed south down the Chesapeake Bay. Our first day’s objective was made easier with absolute calm water and an outgoing tide. From Solomons, past the mouths of the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, we had an easy 71-mile run to our planned anchorage in Jackson Creek, on the south side of Deltaville, Virginia. Mother Nature was very kind and considerate to us this day. As we comfortably cruised down the Bay we couldn’t help but notice the increased boat traffic all around us, presumably boaters like we are, making their way to warmer destinations for the winter.
|This is our last sighting of Miss Happ but with good planning we’ll be doing a lot more cruising with Wade and Susie on their new boat.|
I dinghied over to pay Wade a visit and meet his friend John; Susie will pick them up later in the week. Lisa opted for a leisurely hot shower and time alone, much needed after being one of the guys at the boat show in Annapolis earlier in the week. She said she’d heard enough about engine parts and mechanics to last a few months at least. The three of us guys had a good time talking about boats and reminiscing about our experiences with Miss Happ. Wade bought this 1986 Albin in 1993 and traveled the Great Loop twice on her while also cruising up and down the East Coast ICW so many times over the years that the boat almost knows its own way. Wade has had this boat for 16 years, longer than a lot of marriages last, so I was a little surprised when he said he would not miss her. Well, I enjoyed sitting in Miss Happ’s cabin one last time while sharing a rum and coke with the guys.
We waved goodbye the next morning as we watched Miss Happ round the bend one last time in the morning sunrise, Wade and John traveling north to New Jersey while we continued our migration south. The Lady graced us with another nice travel day as we made our way to Norfolk, Virginia, out of the Chesapeake Bay, and into the protected ICW.
|Although we could not get within five miles of the live-fire battleships, we cruised right by a fleet of them in Norfolk.|
Once we navigated past Norfolk, where mile zero of the ICW starts, the waterway narrows and the migration of the multitude of boats becomes more evident. Up until then, the boats migrating south were scattered all across the Chesapeake Bay as they worked their way south down the large expanse of water and into the narrow, insulated confines of the ICW. This had the same feeling as driving into a large city during rush hour, especially when we were all stacked up at the drawbridges. On this day, as we entered the ICW to make our way to a free dock in Great Bridge, Virginia, there were about 25 boats traveling south within an hour or so stretch, north and south of us. Because of hurricane-weather-related insurance restrictions most boats cannot, or do not, start their migration south until late October, making the Atlantic ICW a very busy place during the month of November.
|We first heard about the Coinjock Marina Restaurant four years ago and have only just now visited for the first time. It will not take four more years before we go again.|
Next stop was Coinjock. Now that’s a funny name. The word is derived from the American Indian language and means mulberry! Coinjock is at mile-marker 50 of the ICW and is home to Coinjock Marina and Restaurant where they serve a legendary 32-ounce prime-rib dinner every night they’re open. The two marinas here were packed with boats transiting south so we felt lucky to get reservations just at the dock, let alone for dinner. Lisa and I each had the 16-ounce prime-rib dinner, a fabulous piece of meat with enough left over for lunch the next day. When we got back to the boat I checked the weather for our next travel day. The forecast had deteriorated from the last time I checked, indicating Mother Nature was returning to being her fickle self.
|Here you see a photo of the ideal water conditions we prefer to travel in, the key word being ideal!|
From Coinjock, when traveling south, a boater has to travel through Albemarle Sound. With projected 25-knot winds from the south it meant the water would create 5- to 6-foot head-on waves and therefore, knowing all too well the Lady’s ability to stir things up, it made our decision to remain at dock a quick and easy one. I used the time to change engine zincs and fuel filters with time left over to clean the sea strainers and engine room. Lisa worked on her new book project – Woman On-Board. We’ve learned that when weather conditions are not in our favor it’s really a safer bet to remain where you are, for us it’s just not that important to risk ourselves or our boat to uncertainty and maybe even disaster.
|When we have a down travel day I try to perform routine maintenance. In this photo I seem to be perplexed by the pencil zincs deterioration.|
A few weeks before this Lisa and I found ourselves out in weather, in the upper Chesapeake, that was completely different then forecasted. We had left Solomons to cross the Chesapeake Bay for Oxford with calm enough seas when things turned nasty, the Lady turned on us! The calm sea had turned to 5-foot beam seas (Lisa says more like 7-8), creating a very uncomfortable 20-mile ride. So even when you plan properly the Lady can catch you off guard and show you her ugly side fairly quickly.
Morehead City was our first big stop on our trip south and we were excited to meet up with our friends Louis and Diane on Bella Luna. We’ve been planning to travel south together, from Morehead City, since last spring with the St. Johns River, near Jacksonville, Florida as our big trip destination. We planned a month-long, 150-mile cruise south and back again before we would all continue south on the ICW to southern Florida and then on our separate ways, Bella Luna to the Keys and Kismet to the West Coast of Florida. Mother Nature’s temperamental side was heavily sedated today, as the seas were as calm as Jell-O for the last leg to Morehead City.
|This is a classic beauty Bella Luna, a 40-foot Cape Dory Trawler that we've had the pleasure of traveling with in the past year and now we are all headed for the St. John's River in Florida.|
The first thing we did was charge the house batteries back up. We thought with charged-up batteries that the charger would then start working, but it didn’t. We checked fuses, cleaned cables, and even broke down and actually read the manuals. Now there’s a novel idea. We learned a great deal about the inverter/charger but we were still left without a solution. Finally, with the phone assistance of a service technician from Magnum Electronics (the maker), I had expert help walking me through a few tests on the charger. The results of a volt reading told the tech that the unit was taking in AC but not putting out any and therefore one of the electronic boards needed to be replaced.
|Here’s our inoperable inverter/charger after it was dismantled and being prepared for its journey to the diagnostic center for repair.|
One of the more challenging aspects of cruising is being able to solve situations that crop up suddenly, such as our malfunctioning charger. We have found locals, marina staff, and fellow boaters to be very helpful with their time and expertise, the lending of a car, borrowing a battery charger, or running you to the parts store when complications arise. In this case we borrowed Robert and Kay’s truck, C-Life from Southport, North Carolina, we had made the stop in Southport because we wanted to visit them in their hometown after meeting them last year on the river system, to take our charger to the diagnostic center in Burlington, North Carolina, a 2.5 hour drive. The charger will be set onto a cold stainless table, plugged into an analysis device, probed and evaluated. They’ve promised a 2-hour turn around time so we were hopeful to be back on the water the next day.
So just to set things straight, Lisa’s still not high-strung and this is great news for me. Our Kismet has taken a turn towards the direction of being a little temperamental and we hope it’s only temporary. However, Mother Nature’s ability to make boat travel either horrific or quite pleasant earns her the dubious distinction of being the ultimate Temperamental Lady.