133 Vero Beach, Fl to Solomons, MD

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Our itch to move started us north on our 14th transit of the ICW in mid February. Out of curiosity we started a boat count of both north and southbound cruisers. The record keeping added a new wrinkle as we worked on teasing out new experiences to keep the run from becoming boring. Boat counts of 20 or more a day diminished to single digits well before we reached the Chesapeake and even cooler early spring weather. Another fun pastime is reading to each other—everything from “Bush at War” to a biography of Jesse James. We trade hour sessions of steering and reading.

A chart mark recorded a new anchorage we tried near New Smyrna Beach. The mark points to the anchorage and shows the month and year we anchored. This mark had a chart page to itself. Some of our chart pages are wall papered with marks showing the various anchorages we’ve tried.

Threatening weather convinced us to stop early the next day at Daytona Beach. Exploring a new area of town we discovered biker heaven; a few unique blocks dedicated to motorcycles. Biker shops spanned a range from specialty bikes (three wheelers and side cars with wild paint jobs) to bike accessories like trailers; and of course, biker leathers. It was a ball just poking and staring in show windows. Daytona Beach was setting up to host the annual spring biker invasion and bars were busy converting parking lots to outdoor bars. We escaped just as the early bikers were showing up to spend serious time in the shops and bars.

St. Marys, GA welcomed us with their Mardi Gras festival; one of those wonderfully unexpected events that we stumbled into without any pre planning on our part. Our crue bead collection grew as we snared strings of flying beads tossed by enthusiastic kids riding the Mardi Gras parade floats.

While walking Cumberland Island trails, our only company was the occasional armadillo that took no interest in our presence as we stopped to watch them forage for food. It was a rare treat to walk an Atlantic beach for over an hour without seeing another person. Morning fog rolled in just after we started moving and reduced visibility to the cockpit window. Radar showed the channel ahead and electronic charts our position, but we elected to drop the anchor and enjoy seeing the marsh and channel magically materialize as the sun slowly lifted our fog curtain. An hour later we were on our way again.

Even at Jekyll Island, a spot we stop on each ICW trip, we managed to tease out new experiences. We felt quite proud as we completed our 10-mile walk around the north end of the island. Of course, there was a stop for a nice lunch along the way. A few days later we spent hours exploring the wilderness portion of the south end of the island which we hadn’t previously been aware of.

The lady driving the Post Office mail truck was a bit upset as she gunned the engine digging the truck further into Jekyll’s soft sand along side the road. She was sure she’d have to call the Post Office for help and would be in trouble. We had her shut of the engine and did a bit of digging behind the wheels. Then with her in reverse and us pushing we freed the stuck wheels. Ruth’s always joked that we should get tiny sail and powerboat decals to paste on the dinghy side each time we’ve made a boat save. Now she wondered if we should get a Post Office truck decal and where we should put it.

The anchor had a good hold, but the ride wasn’t going to be comfortable at Beaufort, SC. We opted to up anchor and move into Ladies Landing Channel and calmer water. After a pleasant night the wind shifted again and the weather forecast got even uglier. We elected to head for a marina. Just after midnight our wind speed gauge recorded a 47 mph wind gust as we slept comfortably below tied to a dock.

We pushed hard to be north early to a yard were we had confidence in the staff and their work. Jim Franklin at Zahniser’s Marina in Solomons, MD confirmed our worst fears. Jim is a certified Yanmar mechanic who has worked on our engines before, and we trust his judgment. The port engine with only 2300 hours on it needed to be rebuilt.

Slowly we sorted out what had happened. Oil leaking from a failed turbocharger bearing was sucked into the cylinders and burned onto the cylinder walls. The burned oil coating negated the function of the piston oil seal ring and more oil was burned. Replacing the turbocharger in St Petersburg fixed half the problem. It would take new oil seals and honing the cylinders to remove the oil glaze to correct the problem. The only way that can be done is to remove the engine.

Jim made engine removal a bit easier by starting disassembly while it was still in the boat. Then he and Troy and the crane operator finessed the engine out of the just-big-enough access hole we’d painfully watched Troy cut earlier.

A hospital call the next day to visit our sick engine found Jim getting burned oil off the pistons. Our now bare engine block looked quite small. It was nice to see that the heat exchanger didn’t have much scale build up and didn’t need extensive cleaning after 1,300 hours of operation since its last cleaning. Based on the port exchanger’s lack of scale, we canceled having the starboard exchanger pulled. That and a few other things were nice positives, but considering the cost of the repair, it was an expensive way to find out we could save a few bucks on scheduled maintenance items.

During our ride north I’d been working on an illustrated owner manual for Endeavour Trawlercats. While the engine was being rebuilt I concentrated on putting it together. It turned out to be more work than expected, but fun and educational. I now know a great deal more about the boat and have documented that knowledge for others. If you are interested you can see the sales pitch for the manual at http://www.kalendrl.com/Owner/contents.htm.

Had there been narration we would have felt like we were on a 20-mile scenic tour of the beautiful countryside between Solomons and Prince Frederick. Instead it was an ordinary bus ride and something to do on a morning with the temperature at 35 degrees. The bus took us from the tiny boating community of Solomons to the town of Prince Frederick and the mall at the edge of town. The ride just for the springtime scenery would have been great. We got some odd items we couldn’t find in town and enjoyed the ride back. While the bus lacked a formal narration, we did enjoy eavesdropping on some very entertaining exchanges between many of the regular bus riders plus chatting with a couple friendly folk.

Being early spring we hadn’t expected much in the way of great weather, and we didn’t get much either. We got our great days (comfortable in shorts and T-shirts) up to 4 during our 17-day Solomons stay.

Jim Franklin's hand signal tells the crane operator how to move the boom

Jim's hand signal tells the crane operator how to move the boom

The tide was too low. To get the crane boom with an engine hanging from it low enough to squeeze under Odyssey’s hardtop, the yard crew jacked up the back of the crane thus lowering the boom. With that accomplished Jim’s subtle hand signals guided the crane operator while he and an assistant lowered our rebuilt and fully assembled engine back through the deck opening and onto the engine mounts.

In hours everything was operational. Odyssey was tied securely to the dock, and we ran the engine in gear for an hour to do the initial piston rings set with the engine under a heavy load. Troy installed the new larger hatch we’d obtained from Endeavour and our rebuild was complete. Now if the engine ever has to be removed again, we don’t have to cut the deck.

Sea trials were routine and after detailed break in instructions from Jim for the first 50 hours of operation we were on our way down the Chesapeake heading for the Potomac River and Washington, DC.

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