To see as much of the world as we can,
Using the smallest carbon footprint we can,
Spending the least amount of money we can,
Making as many friends we can.

Team Red Cruising

Week 5: Vacation

This week we're vacationing in Norfolk. Partly to visit friends, but also to fix what we've broken. We're planning to leave Monday, after sobering up from the weekend.

The Commodore Says: "We need to learn a little patience."

The list of things we've broken includes (1) and (2) the way the sails are bent onto the forestays, (3) a failed bilge/washdown pump, (4) the engine's main circulating water pump, (5) the engine anti-siphon loop, (6) the outboard motor for the dinghy and (7) leaks in the dinghy.


From that list, we've got two things already started.

  • The outboard is in the hands of Mr. Moore in Seaford Virginia.

  • A new dinghy is on order from Hamilton Marine. That will take care of the leaks in the old dinghy.

What about the other five? Can we get them done by Monday? With limited access to a vehicle?

The clock is ticking.

15th. Monday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W

We worked through some minor things.

Not On The Broken List. CA stopped using her old MacBook, moved everything to the MacBook Pro that we share. This allows her to use the modern Mac OS X 10.8 and keep the iPad properly synchronized with her photos and music. Shore power and WiFi are essential for this kind of activity.

Engine Water Pump. Placed an order with American Diesel in Kilmarnock.

Bilge/Washdown Pump. I ordered a pile of parts from West Marine to replace the old PAR/ITT/Jabsco bilge/washdown pump with something more modern. Sunday's failed rebuild attempts were frustrating, so it feels better to replace. The subtlety is that this pump is a pressure-limited pump, like a washdown or water circulating pump; not like a bilge pump. A 60 PSI PAR Max Plus seems like just the ticket. (It's only about 300 GPH, so it's a feeble bilge pump; the backup is a 2000 GPH pump.)

That's about it for the day: three calls. It's important to place these orders early in the day so that we can get the parts ASAP and get started on the repair jobs. We're planning to leave on Monday, the 22nd. The clock is ticking.

Dinner on board. Monday Night Football at a local bar (to remain nameless because of the amazingly awful beer selection.)

16th. Tuesday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W

Seems like a good day to run some errands. The truck that we collected from Deltaville is parked in Ghent, a mile or so from the marina. These aren't repair tasks, per se. These are more maintenance and upgrade kind of tasks; they're Not On The Broken List:

  • We drove out to get some Dakota Peat brand sphagnum moss for the composting toilet.

  • We replaced the four-year-old AGM engine battery with a lead acid ("wet cell") battery. This will assure that we have a common battery chemistry and a single charging program for both engine and house bank. I've been worrying about the charge acceptance rate of engine and house being different, leading to under-charging of the house batteries.

Our new water circulation pump arrived from American Diesel in Kilmarnock.

But. Waterside Marina doesn't have a lot of services nearby, so I'm reluctant to start on this job. I'm sure they can call a traveling diesel mechanic, but then I'd be paying for travel as well as skills. I'd like to make this kind of repair at a marina that has a diesel engine service business on site in case I get all screwed up. Also, I'd like to do this near a store selling anti-freeze, in case I need to refill the cooling system.

From Waterside, it's a 20 minute walk to get the truck to drive to NAPA to buy some Prestone. And then a 20 minute walk back here after parking the truck in a free space near the Chrysler Museum of Art. That's a frustrating delay; it takes all afternoon.

Aetna (finally) turned us down for major medical coverage. The health insurance issue is another frustrating delay. We have a kind of hellishly expensive COBRA coverage from The Commodore's former employer available, but we don't want to activate it and pay the insane COBRA rates.

Months ago, Liquid Therapy loaned us their little Tecsun PL-660 short-wave/SSB/AM/FM receiver. A handy thing for getting BBC world service as well as Chris Parker's weather broadcasts. It didn't seem to work at first, and Brooke wasn't sure what the whole story was. It requires four NiMH batteries; no other types will work very well. There's a 12V plug, but that only recharges the batteries, it doesn't really run the radio. Weird.

I'm getting a weak short wave signal at 4700 kHz. But it's unintelligible using the built-in antenna. There's a long external antenna that I need to unroll and try. The list on shows a lot of English language broadcasts. I'll continue to explore.

Dinner on board.

17th. Wednesday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W

We decanted Peat Moss from two big (31 liter) bags into eight small (8 liter) bags. Messy, but necessary for the Nature's Head. The next challenge is finding 62 liters (2.2 cu. ft.) of storage for all that peat moss. (The holding tank, BTW, occupies about 160 liters of volume. The guests' head still uses it, so we can't reclaim all that space.)

We took delivery of our new Walker Bay dinghy. And its broken seat. (Sigh.) Hamilton Marine is expediting a replacement seat with an RMA so we can send the broken seat back. Once we have the seat, this fixes the dinghy leaks by replacing the whole damn dinghy.

While waiting for pump and engine parts to arrive, I planned out a tentative itinerary for our trip down the ICW. Our first leg is a series of short hops to get to Charleston. Once there, we think we'll sail outside in several short hops to get to St. Mary's. From there, it's a long series of steps the length of Florida.

  • We were warned that between Beaufort, NC, and Masonville, NC, there are no good anchorages on the ICW. Other folks told us that Swansboro is good, but between Swansboro and Mason Inlet it gets dicey—because of Camp Lejune. We were told to jump outside from Moorehead City (or Bogue Inlet) to the Mason inlet. It's a simple overnight run of 80 or so miles.

  • We've also been warned that the dredging in Georgia is relatively bad. Other folks have said that Georgia's not so bad if you play the tides properly. We think we might just jump outside at Port Royal and sail down to St. Mary's.

We walked the mile to the truck to ran some errands.

We picked up the parts we ordered from West Marine.  I tried to make extra, double sure that I had **all** the parts I needed.  Since it's a half-day trip back to West Marine, I'd like to avoid frustrating delays.  We leave on Monday.  Ticking.  Clock.

We dropped off the old Achilles Dinghy (and pump) at **Salty Dog Discount Marine**.  We learned more about the ICW route and places to visit in the Bahamas.  Salty Dog had the proper rebuild kit for this pump.  Tempting.

On the list of things to do, this was pleasant:

  • Humana offered us a simple major medical policy with only a few moments of phone time. Much simpler and more efficient than Aetna.

Dinner at Cure in Freemason. Drinks on Oceanaire with Marty and Hernan.

18th. Thursday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W

Finally tackling the Engine room issues: the anti-siphon valve and the bilge/washdown pump.

Here's the first issue. The injector elbow to the muffler and exhaust is 1¹⁄₈″. The output from the engine cooling system is 1″. The old work of art had the 1¹⁄₈″ hose crammed on with hose clamps super tight to reduce leakage: so tight they crushed the copper tubing.

I tried to cram the 1¹⁄₈″ hose onto the 1″ Groco anti-siphon fitting. It didn't fit well enough. It sprayed a fine stream of water all over the engine. I couldn't mash the hose clamps down tightly enough, probably because the Groco casting can't be crushed into conformance with the hose.

Okay. That's a fail. I need to get some kind of 1″ to 1¹⁄₈″ hose-to-hose adapter. And it's Thursday. I'm running out of time.

Setting that failure aside, I tried to address the bilge pump/washdown pump. The stupid Jabsco box had a nice 5 GPM 60 PSI pump. It also had a bunch of fittings that were utterly inappropriate for the pump. The fittings were not compatible with the pump ports.


Okay. That's another fail.

Not a good day so far.

That means we spend much of the afternoon going back to West Marine for yet more parts.

Walk about a mile to the car, drive to WM, Home Depot, Pet Smart, and F. H. Gaskins Co. After parking the truck, walk a mile back to Waterside.

For me, the clock is ticking.

The Commodore reminds me that because of our lifestyle choices this kind of repair will only get more complex and difficult. I should actually enjoy this week at Waterside because we're going to wind up doing this kind of exasperating near-miss repairs in third-world countries where we have to call a taxi to take us to a guy who may or may not have anything related to our problem.

She also suggests that I stop looking at the calendar.

A visit to F. H. Gaskins to talk to a plumbing expert reveals that a commodity fitting is a 1″ hose barb to ¾″ NPT male. The ¾″ NPT male threads have an outside diameter of just a hair shy of 1¹⁄₈″. That means that this fitting will join some 1″ hose to the Groco vented loop with the 1¹⁄₈″ hose to the exhaust injector. (Joy.)

Ran the engine for 15 minutes to be sure it doesn't leak. Good things are happening. We may get out of here on Monday.

  • Anti-Siphon replaced.

Time to move on to the bilge/washdown pump. At the store, they cheerfully replaced the fittings that were in the box with a collection of fittings properly sized for the pump. This isn't really ideal, however.


The West Marine catalog says "½″ fittings". Sadly, this does not refer to the size of the hose that goes over the hose barbs. It refers to the size of the product-specific, unique "Quick Connect" fittings. It turns out that ¾″ hose is required.

There's no way to anticipate that ½″ fittings really means ¾″ hose is required. Did I buy any ¾″ hose? No.

Epic Fail.

Okay. Breathe.

We can simply go back to West Marine again to get more appropriate parts.


I can root around in our rather large box of spare plumbing parts.

It turns out that (a) we have several feet of ¾″ hose on board. Some new and some used. Since this is bilge/washdown, not potable water, used hose is great.

It also turns out that (b) the boat's gray poly ³⁄₈″ potable water plumbing (used for the bilge/washdown) has compression fittings and adapters that match the ¾″ fittings on the pump output and strainer input.

Weirdly, I was able to create a proper set of connections to the new pump from stuff laying around on the boat: a few inches of hose, four hose clamps and a hose-barb to female fitting. Technically, two of the parts are not ideal and involve a bit of hose-clamp mashing.

I'll repeat this, because it's so amazing.

The Commodore notes—again—that this is very much our new life. I need to relax about the schedule thing. We really can stay another day or two. The clock is not actually ticking. If the repairs gets really complex, we can move to one of the marinas on the Portsmouth side of the river where parking is simpler.

  • Bilge/Washdown pump replaced. It took three tries to get everything to stop dripping, but that's just a matter of some wrench turning and teflon tape on one drippy fitting. And 60 PSI (vs. 40 for the old pump) seems to work out well.

Also. We bought a brick of coir from PetSmart to compare coir with peat moss in the composting toilet. Some folks swear by coir. But it's more expensive than peat moss.

While I cursed and swore at the vented loop and the washdown pump, CA worked on the galley stowage problem. She notes that it's important to distinguish between bulk/inaccessible and accessible.

A great deal of food can be stowed deep within the old fridge and freezer space. It's 14 cu. ft. (400 liters) of volume. But. It's underneath one of the cutting boards where you will be doing meal prep. Need a handful of crushed walnuts for your chickpea and carrot and raisin salad? Ooops. Move the salad stuff, open the locker, take out bunches of irrelevant stuff to dig down to the walnuts. Pour out a handful. Restow. Go back to making the salad. Until you need something else down deep in the locker under the cutting board.

She's working out ways to "decant" things into an accessible collection of containers with "a few meals worth" of ingredients. The bulk storage can be less accessible. The questions are "How much is a few meals worth?" And, "How accessible can it be?" And, "If everything can't be accessible, what are the priorities?"

Dinner at Jewish Mothers on Granby downtown with Linh, Joey, Melissa and Ray.

19th. Friday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W


Today we finally inflated the new dinghy, Scout. This dinghy came with a pressure gauge so that we could properly inflate the tubes. It turns out that 3.5 PSI is "rock hard"—much harder than I ever inflated the old Achilles dinghy. Also, the replacement seat came from Hamilton Marine. Life is good.

Mr. Moore called: he had finished rebuilding our old 8 HP Nissan/Tohatsu outboard. It's a 2-stroke, so it's relatively light and easier to horse around than a modern 4-stroke of the same power. He rebuild the carburetor, the raw water pump, put new seals on the shifter and oil drain plugs. He replaced the spark plugs, lubed the lower unit, removed and reseated the propellor. Now it seems to run considerably more reliably.

We need to be much, much more assiduous about the outboard motor maintenance. We need to do a periodic freshwater rinse rather than simply hope for rain. We need to actually change the oil annually.

Dinner at Press 626 (one of our favorites) where we saw Neil and Betsy. Then a party at Jen and Ian's.

20th. Saturday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W

Sold the truck. It went to Freedom Ford. Linh let us borrow her car so we could go to DMV afterward and turn in the plates. No more truck. And no more automobile insurance. From now on, it's rentals and public transportation.

Cleaned the boat for guests this weekend. Also, cleaned the boat to be ready to go on Monday. Put all the tools and projects away. Lash everything down.


Broke out the paper charts and guidebooks for the next leg of the journey. It's all new to us. I found a great mnemonic for the ICW dayboard marks: triangles are landward, squares are seaward. As we head south, we will keep triangles to starboard, squares to port.

Had a quick Facetime visit with family. It was my father's 80th birthday party. We weren't sure we could pack boat jobs, Norfolk visits and a family trip into this week, so we decided to forego the family gathering. The Facetime visit was limited by crappy WiFi bandwidth, a chronic problem.

Linh, Greg, Joey and Cat stopped by to pregame. After finishing two bottles of wine on the boat, we went to The Vineyard on Granby St. followed by Mo and O'Malley's.

21st. Sunday

Docked 36°50.63′N 076°17.51′W

Laundry. Top off the starboard water tank. Review the deck and cabin to be sure we're ready to go tomorrow.

Jen and Ian stopped by. As did Linh, Joey and Bob. We bought a few bottles of dry red from Cardinal Point Winery at the 25th Annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival. We hosted drinks and snackies in the afternoon and evening. Stephanie, Brad, Camille and Emily stopped by. And Mike brought over a dozen friends. Really. It was crowded.

Next Stop: Elizabeth City, NC.

This Week

Engine Hours: 0. Diesel Gallons: 0. Nautical Miles: 0 rhumb, 0 run.


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