Where do we stand on August 12th?
The engine (or transmission or something) is throbbing. A lot.
As the crow flies we're 94 nm from home. If we go back the way we came, it's 223 nm and four more days of travel. We have three days of vacation.
If we go out into the ocean it's 150 nm; about 30 hrs at our typical pace of 5 knots. There's no stopping points along the way. It could be 30 hours of continuous sailing (or motoring). That's about 30 gallons of fuel.
A member of our Deltaville tribe had painted a rosy picture of the Atlantic coast passage. It's easy; you watch the land and stick to depths around 30 feet: you can't get lost. You have two duck-in points—Ocean City and Chincoteague—so you can do it in three shorter legs. There's plenty of Boat US towing support along the coast. You often get a nice shore breeze allowing beam reach in the afternoon and early evening.
Go for it. That's our plan. Kind of thin on details—but what the heck?—we need to get back to Norfolk. What else can we do?
The weather forecast is benign: wind from the north at 10-15, 2-3 foot seas. Perfect conditions.
There's no more planning we can do. It's just a matter of pull up the hook and go. It sounds so simple, doesn't it? It isn't.
Obstacle #1. The throbbing. It's real. We do have some kind of problem. 30 hours of wear on the transmission won't be good.
Obstacle #2. The holding tank is full. When did that happen? 30 hours at sea and no place to take a dump won't be good. (We can pee in a bucket. But tomorrow's morning dump won't work out well.)
The holding tank is easy. We'll go three miles off shore and use our macerator pump.
Obstacle #3. The macerator pump doesn't work. CA doubts that it has been used in the last decade. It's frozen solid.
Okay that didn't work. What's plan B? Pull into Ocean City and pump out. It's on the way. It won't cost us too much time.
The throbbing is more serious. I can see the drive shaft vibrating. The whole boat has a shimmy. 30 hours? Something's going to break.
The good news is that it's Friday. Folks are at work. We have cell phone coverage. I call Deltaville Boatyard and talk to the experts. There are two realistic possibilities for the throbbing. I'm finally past my "partially into forward" idea.
Loose shaft coupling. It's easy to check the set screws. It's easy to see if there's any play in the shaft. Since the whole thing was totally rebuilt in the spring ("Shafted") this is really unlikely.
Crab pot in the propellor. The propellor is too well protected for this to be likely. But it's all we have left.
Okay. I can dive the prop in Ocean City. Seems sensible.
Looking around, however, there's a better plan than waiting for Ocean City. The ocean is flat calm; mirror-like. The ocean is clean. Bays and inlets (like Ocean City) will be turbid.
Let's not wait.
We're three miles off Bethany Beach. The current is set south, parallel to shore. There's no wind to speak of.
We used a safety harness and some line as a tether to keep me close to the boat. We happened to have a set of masks and snorkels on board. Not my good dive gear, but a lot better than nothing.
The first dive was a joyous discovery: the propellor was completely fouled by crab pot line. A fouled prop means that it's not a more serious shaft or transmission issue. It's just a plain old crab pot. (Something we could have cleared if I had dove the prop in Nantuxent Cove six days ago.)
The next hour was spent hacking away at crab pot line (and my finger) with my dive knife. I rigged a line down through the rudder to make it easy to pull myself down to the prop. Thank God my lethal saw-style dive knife was on the boat. It made short work of the line. (And my finger; it will leave a great scar.)
Once the pot was clear, the throbbing was done. Engine was velvety smooth again. The rudder paint is bashed apart and the propellor is probably not perfectly true any more. But, the drive train is spinning beautifully.
Ocean City, BTW, is rental boat insanity. There are boats everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. And the channel can be hard to find. The most accessible pump-out was at Sunset Marina. The entrance is hidden inside the Commercial Fish Harbor, and not easy to see from the inlet. We misjudged the entrance, ran aground, and got towed off. We were graced and blessed by the kindness of strangers. Again.
Once we were pumped out, we got out of there as quickly as we possibly could.
We had flat seas. A full moon. A few contacts (three boats total). Some buoys. Shore lights. Porpoises.
Passage duration: 0810 12 Aug to 1136 13 Aug 27:26.
Passage distance: Lewes to Noon position on 12 Aug 19 nm; Noon to 0500 13 Aug 96 nm; 0500 to Dock is 40 nm = 155 nm.
Cost: One raggedy-assed scar on my left index finger.