It had been a hot minute since we’d been anywhere of any substance. Meaning – anywhere we could buy ice and coffee. That’s how we determine society nowadays. Our boat only has an icebox, and we hadn’t had ice since we left Sunbury. Between that and groceries running low we were pretty ready to be back among people even though the wild horses were good company for awhile.
We made the whopping hour trip to Fernandina Beach and picked up a mooring ball at the Fernandina Harbor Marina. This was our first mooring ball and I was nervous, but it was pretty uneventful.
We immediately freshened up and took the dinghy into town. The best part of Fernandina was the food, by far! There are a ton of places to eat. Our favorite was a little Cuban place called Hola. It was really inexpensive and DELICIOUS.
A plate full of fried goodness doesn’t look that pretty, but we all know looks can be deceiving.
They have a free concert series over the summer that was going on Friday night, so we got to see that too.
The best part of all was the fact that there was a farmer’s market (FRUIT…finally!) and ice at the marina.
We left Fernandina and headed down to Jacksonville where we are now. We have lots of fun stories on this place so stay tuned…
After we left Sunbury Crab Company, we headed for an anchorage at Blackbeard Wildlife Refuge. We had heard good things about this stop and it would be a quick, easy day to get there.
When we arrived there were already several boats anchored. The current was really strong and the winds were blowing. We don’t really have anchoring down to an art, so we were anxious. We motored past all the boats to a good spot. I was driving, and Josh was manning the anchor because we don’t have an electric windlass.
We tried three or four times and the anchor wouldn’t bite. We switched roles and Josh motored way closer to shore which made me nervous so naturally we got over our stress and acted in total kindness toward one another. Ha! Actually we called each other names and yelled a bit. I begrudgingly dropped the anchor anyway and of course when he hit reverse it held.
I proceeded to complain about our location quite a bit. We were both a bit stressed and the anchorage wasn’t as cool as our last one.
We decided to check the weather since it was windy, and it didn’t look promising which added to our happy moods.
The next several days looked stormy and windy. The anchorage wasn’t super protected either.
We decided to skip exploring the island the next day and head out in the morning. It sort of bummed me out so now we were super awesome and kind and loving.
We went to bed with the boat swinging all around. Luckily we slept pretty well regardless after much apologizig to each other over our bad moods and cold words.
The next morning the other boats left around nine and we weren’t far behind. We had decided to go to the town of Darien. It’s about 7 miles off the ICW but they have free docks and that sounded good to us.
We made good time and pulled into Darien just after lunch. The docks were easy to use even though the current was nutso. After docking, we cleaned up and got checked in. Darien reminded me a little bit of my hometown of Headland. It definitely had that small town vibe! There were also about a gazillion historical markers so I was in heaven.
Waterfront Park in Darien, Ga
Willy on the docks in Darien
I love historical markers so much!
We walked to a super ghetto laundry mat and got that out of the way. Then we cleaned up and got dinner at a place called Skipper’s Fish Camp that was on the water downtown. It was delicious!!!! The blackened shrimp was pretty much heaven.
We called it a night pretty early after walking around the town and the docks a bit.
Dinner in Darien.
The next morning we grabbed breakfast at a little cafe called The Purple Pickle. The owner was the nicest and introduced us to the dockmaster and his wife who were super awesome. They let us know that the wine bar would give us a complimentary drink! Free anything makes me happy bit free docks AND wine was just too much.
Later, we took the longboards about a mile down the road to Fort King George historic site. The rangers were really mesmerized by the fact that we longboarded there. It made me feel sort of bad ass but if they had seen me going all of a quarter mile an hour while simultaneously freaking out the entire mile my cover would have been blown.
Tabby ruins in downtown Darien
Fort King George
In the museum.
The fort is just a remodel of what it would have looked like back in the day, but I can be nerdy about history so I enjoyed it. We sat through the cheesy film and everything. Did you know that Darien, Ga was settled by Scottish Highlanders? I didn’t until the cheesy film told me so.
Scottish Highlander house
Cemetery at Fort King George.
On the way back to the boat we bought some fresh shrimp for dinner. There was going to be live music at the park we were docked at, so we wanted to eat on the boat.
After cleaning up, we walked to the wine bar for our free drinks. This place was adorable! After the wine, we both got a beer and listened to their live music. There was a gentlemen at the bar with a Bama cap on and I was really trying to refrain from yelling Roll Tide across the bar. I mean, it wasn’t a sports bar it was a fancy wine bar. After the wine though, it was getting harder to control myself so I walked over to finally get it out of my system. We basically became immediate best friends. He was a council member and he gave me his card along with permissible to stay in Darien as long as I wanted.
FREE wine at the wine bar.
After he gave us a history lesson. On Darien, we decided to go make dinner and listen to the band downton.
It was such a picteuresque night. The past two weeks have involved less and less engine work and more seafood and wine. I am a fan. Although I don’t mind knowing my way around an engine, I’d rather learn it later. Like when I am not dependent on the engine daily and when its not located I’m the middle of my living space.
I really didn’t want to leave Darien. It was too easy and too free. But we did move on. We want to do more offshore but the weather isn’t cooperating.
We headed down the ICW to the Ferederica River. It wasn’t super far, but we had to time it all right with currents and tides which is a huge pain in the ass. There was a narrow and shallow cut we had to get through. I read horror stories about how bad it was. Deemed “the single worst stretch of the icw” Little Mud River was giving me a headache already. It’s these twisty, scary, shallow stretches that make people go offshore and swear that Georgia is a place to be avoided. To add to my nerves the weather was predicted to be stormy and there was a patch of storms headed our way.
Honestly, Little Mud River was no big deal. Like…not at all. Once you get the hang of how rivers shoal in the currents it makes it easier to find deep water if things get shallow and don’t match up with the charts. Also, I read somewhere to think.of yourself like a barge and don’t take close turns. That helped too.
Right as we were coming out of Little Mud River, the sky got really dark and we could see the rain coming. There wasn’t a good place to anchor so we decided to press on.
We shut all the hatches and put on our rain gear. I stayed inside making sure things stayed dry and that we were on course since we use our laptop.
The lightning popped close enough to make Josh nervous but we crossed paths with a fee other boats who were pushing through so we knew we weren’t crazy.
Braving the storm
Luckily, it was a short lived storm and we came out on the other side fairly quickly and pretty close to the Frederica River. It was also nice because it cooled everything off!
We motored on down the river to Fort Frederica. Honestly, its a little underwhelming from the water. Tomorrow we might go to shore if we ha e time and do some exploring…we’ll have to see!
The past few days have been pretty frustrating and exhausting. I guess I can’t complain too much though. I mean we ARE living on a sailboat, sleeping whenever we feel like it, and don’t have to deal with the pressures of having a job. It’s only fair that we have to deal with working on engines sometimes.
After we replaced the voltage regulator on the alternator we cranked the engine and it started right up. The next morning we were planning on leaving and the engine would rev up like it was about to start and then die as soon as I would let go of the key. My first thought was that it was probably electrical. We had been having other problems with the ignition switch anyways and I thought that maybe it had just finally kicked it. Allison and I decided to take the bus to West Marine to get the stuff to replace the ignition switch and wiring. We took the bus and didn’t get back for six hours. I guess one or more of them had broken down. By 10pm we had finished installing the new ignition switch and realized that it fixed the problem that we were having with it before, but it still wouldn’t start.
The next day I hotwired it thinking that bypassing some of the other connections might help. It didn’t. In fact, somewhere in the process of trying to get it started I burned up the condenser. So I decided to take the bus to the auto parts store to get a new condenser.
I waited at the bus stop for an hour and a half. It never came. So, I walked/ jogged (in flip flops) the 9 mile round trip to Napa. When I got there the guy looked through tons of parts for about 15 minutes and finally told me that he didn’t have one. The door was in the process of closing behind me when I hear the guy yell “Hold on bud”. He walks to the back again and comes out with the 8 dollar part that I needed.
After replacing that I still had the issue of the boat starting and dying as soon as I take my hand off the key. Turns out that it was not an electrical issue at all. The next day I took the carburetor apart and cleaned it really well. It was a little gummed up. After I did that it started up right away. We really should install that fuel filter….
We plan on taking off tomorrow and going offshore outside the inner coastal waterway for a bit. It sounds a lot more pleasant than trying to go through Hell’s Gate.
Also it is a “Supermoon” right now so the tides are crazy.
Well.. Yesterday was interesting (if your confused read the previous post). People keep asking me if I was able to find anything out about the dead guy. Here is what I know…
This is his boat.
It looks like a boat you would find a dead body on.
Apparently he was taking it down the coast much like us… Yes on THAT boat…
He stopped here several weeks ago to do some repairs on his boat. (From the looks of it it would have taken him the rest of his life to fix it up even if he lived another 20 years).
The owner of the marina said that he was an older man who he thought was an alcoholic. Apparently the owner thought that the guy was just trying to avoid paying his slip fee. So yesterday he went to try and get the guy to pay up (as he had been doing everyday for a week). When the guy didn’t answer he started yelling to the guy that he knows he is in there and if he doesn’t come out he is coming in. When he opened the hatch it was obvious what was going on.
Today the smell is completely gone. Apparently the owner took 12 boxes of moth balls and 5 gallons kitty litter and put them all over the inside of the boat. Then he duck taped all the hatches, windows, and vents shut so none of the death fumes could escape.
Also in case you were wondering… No we are not going to steal that awesome anchor on the back of the boat… Maybe if we had a better place to keep it.
We’re still in Turner Creek just south of Savannah. We anchored here for three days. There’s a Publix nearby and public transportation into Savannah, so we thought it’d be a good place to do some shopping and site seeing. The second night here, some friends from Nashville were in town so Willy had it’s first guests! They brought some steaks to throw on the grill and we had a good time trying to convice Luke he should also buy a boat 🙂
The next day we were all ready to head out, but our battery was low. It had been draining a little faster than usual which was odd. It took us awhile to get the boat cranked up, but we finally did. We didn’t get too far though. The engine quit on us and wouldn’t restart because of the battery problem. We probably could have gotten jumped and kept going, but we were in a good spot for fixing a boat and the marina nearby had a spot open so we got a tow there.
The marina is run by really nice people. It’s a little worn down and not in the best shape, but it’s not expensive and there are lots of places within walking distance. There is a little shack on the water that seems like it is from The Rescuers. Remember that movie? With the mice and the dragonfly named Evinrude? Old blues music drifts down the docks from this shack and it only adds to it’s sort of class-less charm. We docked up here and called our dads…like you do. My dad thought there was a bad connection somewhere so we started checking them. Luckily, my parents needed to come up here anyway to get the jeep from my cousin’s house in Beaufort (who we stayed with while we were there). So, my parents offerend to help us out while they came to get the jeep.
In the meantime we thought we’d take the alternator in to be tested, but we wanted it to go to a real alternator shop. So I looked one up and we found the bus route to Mr.Alternator and Starter. Josh threw the alternator in a backpack and away we went. Once we got there I thought we’d struck gold. The best shops are the sketchiest looking, right? Two dogs there to greet you, random old men hanging out and chatting, in the rougher part of town.
Josh hauled out the alternator and said he wanted to have it checked out. The guy grabbed it, and immediately got on the phone. I was chatting up the older man who was clearly just hanging out. The main guy got off the phone and croaked out, “Five hundred bucks.” We were thouroughly confused. “This has a lot of hours on it. It needs rebuilding – and what are these wires anyway.” Stuttering from confusion we admitted we weren’t sure what those wires went to. I mean, we just disconnected the thing and there are about 5 million random wires on our boat. He then proceeded to chastise us for not knowing our boat well enough. At one point, his friend who I had been chatting with said, “Why don’t you hook it up and test those wires. See what’s happening.” “I don’t need to,” was his reply. “It’s shot. I know that much. But you’ll definitely want me to rebuild it.”
We should have walked out, but we really just wanted him to get in there and SEE if anything was wrong so we paid him a fee to open it up and see what was wrong. Not before some more chastising, however, and a lecture on how he could, “rebuild an alternator 50 miles offshore if he had to.”
The more we thought about it, the more we wished we had not left the alternator with him. We wanted to explore Savannah some though, so we took the bus back to downtown and tried to brush it off. Unfortunately, Mr.Alternator wasn’t going to let us. He ended up calling us each at least five times. Once, he informed Josh we should get rid of our boat because we don’t know what we’re doing. Keep in mind this is the alternator mechanic who can’t identify the wires on our alternator.
We make a plan to just go there the next morning and retrieve the part. So, we load up again on the bus and head over. Luckily, Mr.Alternator wasn’t there but a much kinder man was behind the counter. He told us that the voltage regulator had been bypassed and that it would cost about $300 to rebuild the alternator. We kindly told him we just wanted it back.
So now we have the questionable alternator in tow and we meet up with my parents in Savannah who had just arrived. We ended up riding with them to Beaufort to pick up the jeep and see my cousin. We got some dinner and my parents got a little mini tour of the town. If you’ve never been and you are going to be in the Lowcountry, you have to visit Beaufort. It’s such a pleasant place! There is a lot of history, it’s very walkable, and there are a ton of cool shops and restaurants (including my cousin’s store The Beaufort Clothing Co.)
But, as usual, I digress.
So, back at the boat my Dad comes up with a rewiring scheme and figures out what’s wrong in about five minutes. We make a plan to take the alternator to a new shop in the morning for a new volage regulator. We also realize we need a new battery switch because there’s a short in the one we have.
The next day, today, is when the real story begins.
When my parents first got to the marina, I apologized for the smell. Every now and then you got a waft of what smelled like rotten-ness. I assumed people were cleaning fish or catching crabs and the leftovers were smelling rather putrid. It wasn’t overwhelming, but certainly unpleasant every now and then.
This morning, while sitting around patting ourselves on the back for a new and improved battery system on the boat, we see an ambulance pull up. I had just walked by some people at the previously described shack and they seemed to be in okay moods so I didn’t think much about the ambulance. My back was to the situation as well. My parents and Josh were keeping a close eye on the situation. A few minutes later, police cars arrive and the marina owner starts leading the EMT’s down the docks to a derelict boat on the other docks directly in front of us. They proceed to open up the companionway and the putrid smell I had assumed to be rotting sea creatures became overpowering. “Do you think someone died in there?” Josh asked.
Our noses said, “Definitely.”
We proceed to watch one EMT lower himself into the boat and come up rather pale. “Do you want to go see,” he asks his coworker. That answer was, is, and should forever be NO.
At this point, I am realizing that I have been smelling a dead body for THREE days. Three. Adventure of a lifetime, folks. And here you thought living on a sailboat was the glamorous life. Truth is, I am currently docked directly downwind from a rotting corpse.
Yes, it is very sad that this man died and no one even missed him or realized it for four days (he passed away before we arrived at this marina). I felt especially bad for the marina owner who made the discovery and was clearly shaken by the situation.
I also, could not stop wishing I had brought my Netti-pot to thoroughly disinfect my nostrils. The desire to shower in some strong anti-bacterial soap is also quite overwhelming. Everyone got a bit of a chuckle over the fact that I apologized for the smell which was unknowingly a dead man.
Josh and I are currently sitting at a library writing this blog. The man’s body has been removed, but the stench is lingering. Knowing what it is now, we couldn’t keep marinating in the fumes. We felt very determined not to spend money eating out, but tonight might be the exception. Grilled sausages were on the menu, but I just don’t think I can cook and eat with the smell of death all around us.
We haven’t gotten the full story on this man, or what happened. We aren’t sure if that was his boat, if the marina staff knew him, or exactly how he died. I don’t know if we will, because hopefully we are high tailing it out of here tomorrow. The plan is to head to another marina near a stretch of the ICW called Hell’s Gate. We’ll rest up a bit and prepare to conquer, yes conquer, Hell’s Gate on a rising tide. After that, we’ll keep making our way south toward St.Augustine. Hopefully, there are no more dead bodies along the way.
Yesterday was crazy. It was awesome, it was intimidating, it was my childhood Treasure Island fantasies come true (that sounds dirty), but most of all it was worth it.
We shoved off from Marsh Harbor boatyard at 9:00 am. Said goodbye to the friends we had made over the past several weeks and were off. About two miles from the boatyard is a drawbridge. Just as the bridge was opening for us our engine died. We hailed the bridge on the vhf and told them not to hold it open for us. We got the engine started quickly and went to anchor nearby to steady our nerves a bit. We
decided to try again, but guess what? Engine died again. Once again it started back up quickly. At this point Josh figured out it was dying when we pushed the engine too hard. The mechanic had adjusted things a bit and we were giving it too much gas for the new tweaks. So we tooled around in am open area for a solid 45 minutes to make sure that was it. Another boat was coming through northbound so we radioed in to let them know we’d be trying one more time. Josh thought it was funny to say, “Is it third time’s the charm or three strikes your out.” Allison did not think that was funny, but it turns out third time is indeed the charm. We made it through!
Before we knew it we were in a beautiful open sound! We both kept saying it was all worth it. We got the the north side of Hilton Head island and were following the buoys well, until Josh decided not to listen to Allison’s awesome navigational skills. We ran aground…like barely…but couldn’t get off and didn’t feel like waiting. Luckily we had just purchased our Boat US membership with unlimited towing and Allison sort of wanted to get our money’s worth anyway so we went ahead and called them. A really nice guy came from Boat US, hauled us off in 5 minutes, and then showed us the best place to anchor for the night.
Anchoring went well although you wouldn’t know that from the way Allison acted. She was so nervous, she barely slept (and kept josh awake all night as well) and checked our coordinates constantly.
Guess what, we didn’t move!
Now we are sitting here plotting our next course of action. Hopefully we’ll make it most of the way to Savannah.
We have been in Beaufort three weeks now. Last Thursday the boat finally got put back in the water, but we couldn’t head out right away for two reasons. One being a tropical storm that decided to show up. Another being that water was coming in the boat.
Yes. Water. Inside the boat.
Turns out when the rudder was removed it cracked the area around the rudder post just a little so that a very small, but steady stream of water was coming inside. Just enough for concern.
After the tropical storm passed, Josh filled the crack with epoxy and covered it with resin which solved the problem.
BUT, Sunday I came down with a fever and a few aches. Nothing terrible, but enough to make me want to sleep all day and be pretty useless helping on the boat.
So, I rested today and drank a ton of water. We are hoping and praying really hard to head put at high tide tomorrow. Say a prayer that all goes smoothly and that Willy finally decides to cooperate along with the weather and my body.
Last weekend a friend and I went down to the boat to hang out, work on a few things and go sailing. That morning we were heading out of the channel and I handed my friend the wheel. Well I didn’t exactly tell him that we needed to stay inside the last set of buoys. Next thing you know we are in about 4 feet of water and not moving.
This was (I’m proud to say) my first time running aground, however, I would have much rather known what to do in this situation so I could have saved 3 hours and my pride. We tried reversing our way out. We tried rowing the anchor out in the dinghy, wrapping it around the winch and cranking it free. We tried everything we could think of. So in hopes that someday this post will find its way to someone who is stuck on a sand bar trying to google his way out of a bad situation, this is how we ended up getting free.
First get line to attach to the anchor. 200 Ft would be a good amount if you have it.
Attach the anchor to a topping rope. In the dinghy take the anchor as far as the line will allow and make sure it sets well before cranking it in.
Last weekend we were not actually able to make it heel enough with the anchor so we actually had to get a friend to tie our mast to his boat and heel us over. The idea is the same either way.
Be prepared for quite an adrenaline rush (that is why you got into sailing right). In the words of Shawn (the guy who helped us) “If your not at least a little scared then your not doing it right!” Have fun!
So, I already explained how we installed a new bulkhead. After we finished that project, we re-bedded the chainplates. Chances are that at some point moisture had found its way to the deck of your boat around the chainplates. Its not easy to prevent that. This is a pretty good trick for preventing moisture from finding its way through.
Step 1: After you take the chain plates out feel in the hole and see if you feel moisture/ rot. If there is moisture take a heat gun and (without catching the boat on fire) dry out the rot/moisture.
Step 2: If you have just replaced the bulkhead go ahead and install the chainplates where you want them. This will ensure that they are in the right place for rebedding.
Step 3: Once you have the holes for the chainplates drilled where you want them take them back out and put a thin coat of wax (we used a wax toilet bowl ring) on the part of the chaniplates that will stick through the deck. Go ahead and put them back through the deck.
Step 4: Take some epoxy that has been thickened to a peanut butter consistency and fill the space around the chainplate with it. This will create an exact mold of the chainplate and at the same time help stop any existing rot in the deck.
Step 5: Use a polysulfide based caulk such as Lifecaulk, or 3m 301 to ensure that it is completely sealed between the plates and deck. Having an exact mold of the chainplates will make it much more difficult for water to find its way through.
One of the first projects we had to tackle after getting our boat was replacing one of the bulkheads that had rotted through. Knowing more about boats might have prevented us from attempting this, but we didn’t know more and, we did replace it ourselves. A year and many sailing trips later, the mast is still standing so I guess we did an alright job. This is a step by step breakdown of how to replace a bulkhead.
Step 1: Rip out the old bulkhead. Ours was located in an extremely difficult spot to reach squeezed in between the ice box and gas tank.
Step 2: Make a template out of cardboard.
Step 3: Thoroughly clean the area where you plan on fiberglassing the new bulkhead with acetone. Make sure there is no leftover grime from removing the old bulkhead.
Step 4: Cut a new bulkhead out of marine grade plywood using your template as a guide.
Step 5: After making sure the bulkhead fits, cut tabbing slits three inches from the edge of the bulkhead. The tabbing slits should be a couple inches in length and six to ten inches apart.
Step 6: Cut strips of fiberglass cloth run them through the tabbing slits and glass them to the hull.
Step 7: Fiberglass additional layers to the top and bottom of the new bulkhead. We did six additional layers of glass after tabbing it to the hull it might be overkill, but the mast is still standing so I don’t see a problem.
Be sure to glass it to both the hull and deck of the boat.