Charleston, SC

It’s been a busy week of travel for us!  My apologies for not updating the blog but I’m happy to report that we have covered about 270 miles since my last post!  We are now in Charleston, SC at the Harborage at Ashley Marina for our second night.  We leave in the morning to continue South.

When I last posted we were in Morehead City, NC with plans to wait out some weather that was approaching.  We went to bed in Morehead fully expecting to sleep in and hang around for a few days but woke up the next morning and decided to go for it.  It was Cindy’s idea to press on and I wasn’t particularly impressed with Morehead City so off we went.

We have been very cautious with the weather but in reality, it would take some pretty serious weather to get us into any trouble while on the protected waters of the ICW.  Speaking of serious weather…  The tropical system we were keeping an eye on out in the Atlantic has fizzled out so it looks like hurricane season is behind us! 

So we left Morehead City and motored on to Swansboro, NC where we tied up at Dudley’s Marina — again expecting to stay a few nights until the winds and rain passed.  But again, the next morning we decided to push on and made it to Hampstead, NC where we took a slip at the very cozy and protected Harbour Village Marina for three nights while we actually did wait for some bad weather to move through.  But the highlight of our stay at Harbour Village was making some cool new friends, Penny and Ken.  While out walking Willow we met Penny who was also out walking her dogs.  Penny’s beautiful home is right on the marina and after chatting for a bit she invited us over for cocktails.  It was great to get off the boat and the more we got to know Penny, the more we liked her.  On our last night in Hampstead, we met Ken, Penny’s husband and went out to dinner with them.  Ken was as cool as Penny was and we really enjoyed their company.  We vowed to stay in touch as we left Hampstead and continued on South.  We are meeting such awesome people on this trip!

After another full day of cruising, we pulled in to the friendly seaside town of Holden Beach, NC.  This little beach town reminded me a bit of Fire Island with its long sandy beaches and homes on the dunes.  We took a walk on the beach with Willow and I was surprised when I came to the realization that despite all the time we have spent on the coast on this trip, the last time we were on an actual ocean beach was way back in Cape May, NJ on September 30!  We grabbed a bite at a local restaurant and tied Willow up on the back deck.  She stared through the glass doors at us while we ate.  We spent the night on the Holden Beach town dock with one other vessel.  When I checked in at town hall, I was given a little goody bag that included two pair of “Holden Beach” branded sunglasses, two water bottles, some literature about the town, and a few post cards.  It was nice to be in a town that appreciates having visiting cruisers.

Holden Beach, NC – Note the evidence of Hurricane Florence on the left side.

The next day we motored on, excited to finally cross the border into South Carolina.  As we slid across the border, we did our traditional border-crossing happy dance but this one was extra special because for a while there it didn’t look like we would ever leave Oriental!  But as Mavis’ new engine purred along though Myrtle Beach,  we admired the beautiful homes that line the ICW.  Finally we made it to the Waccamaw River where we tucked into a little creek near Enterprise Landing to anchor for the night.  We had passed a public boat ramp with a dock about a quarter mile before turning up into the creek and my plan was to dinghy Willow over to that ramp to use the bathroom before eating dinner and getting to sleep.   Due to the tidal currents running in and out of the creek, our boat swung about on our anchor rode and set off the anchor alarm a few times overnight.  I had set a tight radius on the alarm because the creek was lined with trees and if we dragged our anchor we would end up in the forest.   So not the most relaxing night but I suppose we need to up our anchoring game.  We are spending way too much money on marinas.

Beautiful homes line the waterway in Myrtle Beach, SC

The next morning I was up before dawn to get Willow into the dinghy and back over to the boat ramp.  With miles and miles of nature preserve surrounding us you would think there would be someplace sandy to land the dinghy on a beach but the jungle-dense forest grows right to the water’s edge.  I also hear the waters where we were anchored are home to some rather large alligators…  I can’t imagine returning to the boat to explain to Cindy that Willow had been eaten.  The boat ramp dock would do just fine.

It only took about 10 minutes each way to ride back and forth to the ramp and 10 minutes for Willow to pick her spot and get down to business.  Shortly after sunrise we were on our way again.

Early mornings are still a bit chilly in the Carolinas.

We motored all day and arrived in McLellanville, SC where we took a slip at the Leyland Oil Company dock.  This was a no-frills marina pretty much in the middle of nowhere but I was in no mood to deal with anchoring the boat being rather tired from the anchor alarm disturbing my sleep and a long day of driving the boat down the ICW.

Before dawn on the next morning we were motoring in light patchy fog and mist.  Visibility in some places got down to about a half a mile or so which wasn’t a problem but my concern was that if it got worse we might have to drop the anchor and wait it out.  Fortunately after few hours the fog lifted.  We motored through the South Carolina lowlands and saw only a handful of boats the whole day.  Most of the boats were local fishing skiffs.

We saw a few dolphin as we passed various inlets.  One came right up to our stern quarter and popped his head out and checked me out.  I keep trying to get photos of these guys but they are gone in a flash.  I’m waiting for a few of them to stay with us playing in our bow wake as they are known to do.

Bald Eagle in the South Carolina Low Country

When she’s not down below working, Cindy spends lots of time on the bow running around taking pictures of the various birds we are passing.  We are seeing lots of cormorants, herons and pelicans end even a few hawks and eagles!  She tells me she’s always dreamed of being a wildlife photographer.  We need to invest in a really good telephoto lens so that she can really do her Mutual of Omaha thing properly!

Cindy in Mutual of Omaha mode!

We arrived in Charleston on Sunday afternoon and after getting settled in here at the marina we took a long walk around town to do some exploring.  Charleston is a really interesting city with a cosmopolitan downtown area with great restaurants and shopping.  After a few hours of exploration, I was getting hungry.  We wanted to enjoy an early dinner out but with Willow with us our options were limited.  We had read about an amazing place called the Low Country Bistro and when we passed it, Cindy went in to inquire about any outdoor seating.  They told us that we could sit with the dog outside on the veranda but in order to get up there we would have to carry Willow through the restaurant and up the stairs because according to local health department law, her feet couldn’t touch the floor.  

So I scooped up Willow like a little lamb and Cindy opened the door for me.  As I entered the restaurant holding the dog, a few of the diners looked up from their meals to see what must have looked rather strange to them…  “You ordered some meat?” I asked the hostess as we made our way up the stairs and out onto the veranda where we enjoyed some great cocktails and a delicious meal under the palmettos and the stars.

At the Low Country Bistro in Charleston, SC

Today I Ubered around getting propane refilled and a trip to the supermarket.  Cindy took advantage of the marina’s laundry room and we have clean bedding and clothing again!  It’s amazing the things you appreciate when cruising.   The things you take for granted at home feel like luxuries out here.  Even though we have all the basic things we need, it still feels a bit like camping sometimes.  We have a small fridge, a small oven and two burner stove, a small double kitchen sink, and small countertops…  The operative word here, in case you missed it… Is small.  But we are making do just fine aboard our cozy boat.

Mavis and crew at the Harborage at Ashley Marina in Charleston

This evening we took another long walk around town with the dog.  We did about 6 or 7 miles taking in all of the interesting local architecture and stately southern homes. 

Tomorrow we don’t have to leave at the crack of dawn for a change!  There’s a bridge that has to open for us just two miles from here and the first opening is at 9:30.  So I’ll get up, top off our water tanks, warm up the engine and prepare for the day and leave here around 8:45 to be sure we are at the Wapoo Creek Bascule Bridge with plenty of time to spare.  From there we will motor as far as we can comfortably get and anchor somewhere on the North or South Edisto River for the evening.  I’ll be sure to find a spot with plenty of room to swing around on our anchor rode and I’ll set a wide radius on the anchor alarm! 

We hope to arrive in Beaufort, SC on Thanksgiving.  Today I did a little provisioning run and got a whole turkey breast that I think we will be able to cram into our “Holly Hobby oven.”  We miss our friends and family but are enjoying this trip and are thankful that we have been able to pull this off!

That’s all for now.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Capt. Frank

On the Road Again!

Cindy and Willow beneath the nipples of Poseidon!

After a few weeks of drama in Oriental, we pulled away from the dock this morning to continue our adventure.  Because the run I had planned for today to Morehead City was only about 25 miles, I set my alarm for 7am.  Usually on travel days we are up before the sun but I wanted to get some extra sleep and there really was no rush.  I planned to wake up at 7, jump into some clothes and walk up to the Piggly Wiggly to grab a few last minute provisions before pulling off the dock around 9am.  Although my alarm was set for 7, at 6:30 our phones all started BLARING that horrifying alarm tone that says a tornado is coming, a nuclear event has happened, or Donald Trump wanted to test the presidential alert system.  That alarm tone gets my blood pressure up every time and I guess the resulting adrenaline rush is to be expected but when I opened my phone to see an amber alert for a missing or abducted child named Destiny, I couldn’t help but be a little grumpy.  I’m not heartless.  I truly hope that Destiny is okay and I wish her and her family the very best…  But I don’t want to be awakened that way ever again unless our personal safety is on the line.  (I’m kidding of course.  If there was anything I could do to help I would.)

Anyway, after waking up I found myself full of energy and had coffee, was dressed and out the door to go the the market by 7.  We were expecting a very cold overnight with lows close to freezing.  In reality I don’t think we got anywhere near that cold but the lower 40s was cold enough.  We have a single, small space heater on board and it kept us comfortable but as I opened the cabin door the cold, fresh air reminded me once again that we need to keep moving south.  North Carolina’s winters are mild but not mild enough.

I ran to the market and back and upon my return to the boat found our friend Henry on the dock near the boat.  His home is very close to the marina and I suppose he wanted to see us off.  Again, we are meeting such nice people on this trip.

We didn’t want to leave without saying goodbye to Steve and Claudia from S/V Brynlee who were our neighbors while we were at Sailcraft and as I walked toward their boat Claudia came running over with a huge smile and hugs.  She seemed as excited for us as we were!  Steve popped out of his boat and Claudia, Steve and Henry all helped us with our lines as I STARTED OUR ENGINE 🙂 🙂 :).  

The winds were a bit tricky this morning with periods of calm and puffs and gusts of 18 knots.  The canal we were on off Whittaker Creek is a bit narrow and I had to concentrate on getting out without smashing anything.  Cindy went to the bow of the boat to help fend us off and make sure we got clear of Brynlee and as we slowly motored away from the dock I found myself singing to myself  “On the Road Again…”   I also found myself missing Oriental already.  Surely, I thought, we would return again soon.  

And then, I heard Steve’s friendly voice say “Frank.  I think you forgot something.”  And I looked back to see Willow sitting comfortably by his side.  Ah, Crap!  I guess with all the moving around of the lines she hopped off at some point before blast-off and nobody noticed.

As I put the boat into reverse to rescue our pup who was now looking a bit concerned to be left behind, a strong puff of wind moved our bow out into the middle of the canal.  ARGH!  It was going to be such a graceful exit…  After some more maneuvering and lots of help from our friends, Willow was back on board and we were on our way again. 

As we exited Whittaker Creek into the Neuse River I moved the throttle forward and enjoyed the feeling of Mavis’ new engine purring away in her compartment.  The winds were perfect for sailing at about 20 knots right on the beam but it would only be a few miles to cross the Neuse and I had an engine to break in.  I needed to take careful note of Mavis’ performance at various engine RPM settings and having a sail up would throw those numbers off.  I was instructed by Stanley at Beta Marine to vary our RPMs every so often during the first 10 hours or so and I ran the boat at varying speeds all the way to Morehead City.  It was a bit cold and mostly cloudy.  The winds were about 15 to 20 but I was comfortable in the cockpit.  Mavis’ cockpit can be fully enclosed by Isinglass which makes a little greenhouse out back.  It’s our Florida room.   So I put on some tunes and motored down the intracoastal while Cindy danced on the bow and took pictures of everything passing by.

It’s nice to be seeing more and more palm trees.  We’ve even spotted some Spanish Moss.  I guess we are finally really getting into “the south.”  As we passed some of the homes I found myself wondering about the people who lived in them.  What does this person do for a living?  What do they look like?  Does Destiny live in that house?

Approaching the marina in Morehead City we saw a pod of dolphins swimming along.  This was pretty cool to see and I understand that from here on south there are stretches of the ICW where we may see more dolphin than people!

Dolphin in Morehead City, NC

I don’t mean to make light of a serious situation with Destiny.  I’m pleased to report that after her abduction, she has been found and is safe with her mother.  Her abductor has been arrested.  But now I feel kind of guilty for not getting out of bed this morning to look for her.  I just pictured myself wandering around the marina calling “DEEESTINNNNY….”  No.  Being on board Mavis for 6 weeks has not changed me.  I’m still an asshole.

3 year-old Destiny has been found!

But, this asshole is going to the Bahamas!  Very slowly.  Presently, we are at the Morehead City Yacht Basin where we will stay two and possibly (but hopefully not) three nights waiting for some crappy weather to move through.  We are being overly cautious because we aren’t in a hurry and would rather not be uncomfortable.

Speaking of crappy weather that can make you uncomfortable…  Every day I check with the National Hurricane Center to see if there’s anything brewing out in the Atlantic.  Although peak hurricane season just ended, it’s still fairly common to get hurricanes into November.  There’s a tropical depression out there that has about a 70% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone in the next 5 days and I don’t like the predicted path.  We’ll keep an eye on it.

I’m keeping an eye on this.

We are in good spirits and anxious to continue south.  Being able to overcome our challenges and continue on has made us stronger and even more determined to manifest our dreams.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.  

Capt Frank

It’s Alive!

This morning, Darrell took care of final connections of our fuel system, raw water cooling, calorifier lines to our hot water heater and cabin heater, and exhaust system.  We filled her up with transmission fluid, engine oil, and coolant and then, with very little fanfare and the turn of a key, Mavis’ new engine roared to life!

I was immediately impressed with how quiet the new engine was.  Even with the engine compartment open she was a bit quieter than the old Westerbeke was all buttoned up!  And once I closed the compartment and let the soundproofing do it’s thing I was really happy!

Willow approves of the new engine.

We did some testing while tied up to the dock and Darrell gave our installation a final once-over and certified her good to go.  Working with Darrell Foster has been a real pleasure.  From our first handshake to completion of the job he has done everything he has said he would, when he said he would.  I find it incredible that he also completed the job well below his estimate even though I had added a new fuel filtration system which cost several hundred dollars and required additional time to install.  I can’t say enough good things about this guy.  He’s a rare gem in the marine service industry.

The wind was blowing around 20 knots and suddenly we had a working boat again.  I kind of wanted to head out and hoist the sails but it was getting late in the afternoon and we had a motor to try out so instead of sailing we motored out of the Whittaker Creek into the Neuse River and ran the engine at various RPM settings taking notes about the boat’s speed in the light chop.  Our old transmission had a slightly different gear ratio and our new engine revs considerably higher.  As a result the propeller currently installed on Mavis is not perfectly matched to the rest of the system but it works just fine.  Once we get to Florida I may investigate installing a more efficient propeller but so far, I’m pleased with the performance we are getting.

Happy Captain taking the new engine for a test run on the Neuse

All of the local marinas were flooded during Hurricane Florence and as a result just about none of them have working laundry facilities.  It was a minor inconvenience when we were only going to be here for a few days but we are going on three weeks now and running out of clean clothes.

Yesterday Cindy made another new friend while walking Willow.  Cindy got to talking with Karen who has lived here for 18 years with her husband Henry.  She’s an artist so they had lots to chat about but after talking for a bit, Karen invited us to dinner at their house and even offered the use of their washer and dryer!  What planet are we on?  Everyone here is just so happy to help each other out.  People go out of their way to stop and chat.  Cruisers walking down the street are routinely picked up by locals and dropped off at their boats.  After a few weeks here we already feel like locals.  This is such a great little town.  If they could just do something about those hurricanes…

Tonight we went to dinner at the Toucan restaurant at the Oriental Marina and Inn.  We were joined by Karen and Henry (the couple who graciously volunteered their washer and dryer) and their neighbor and friend, Steve.  Karen and Henry keep their sailboat on the creek where we are presently docked.  We enjoyed talking about Oriental and (of course) boats.  And after talking to Steve for a bit, I wasn’t too surprised that he too was a sailor with a boat on Whittaker Creek.  I like this town!

It’s hard to believe we will be leaving Oriental after all!  Things were looking pretty crappy there for a while and the future of our adventure was seriously in doubt… But now we can continue with our reliable new engine.  There is some weather coming in for Monday night into Tuesday or Wednesday with some more gale force winds possible.  The plan for now is to leave here tomorrow morning and do a short 5 hour run to Morehead City where we will pull into another marina for a night or two before continuing.

We’ve come to love Oriental in our longer than expected layover here so leaving will ironically be bittersweet.  I’ve said it before but I can’t say it enough.  The people here are amazing.  It seems like almost all of the 900 residents of this little town are sailors.  Many of them, like us, came here by boat.  Some never left.  Others came back and bought homes.  We will definitely return to Oriental…  But we hope not until the spring on our way back north!

0.9 hours on the new engine.  Fuel and water tanks are full.  Just a quick provisioning run to the Piggly Wiggly in the AM and we are OFF!  Stay tuned.

Capt Frank

The Operation Begins

Today was a big day.  Darrell Foster, our amazing mechanic arrived early to begin taking out our old engine and control panel.  To be clear, Darrell is not the original mechanic we started working with here in Oriental.  He’s a retired Coast Guard mechanic and this guy is not playing around!  About 2 hours after he arrived the old engine was hanging from a crane and set on the ground.  Then he took off to get the new control panel and wiring harness.   A few hours later, the new panel was installed and everything is set for the new engine to be installed on Friday.

About two hours into the project the Westerbeke is out!

Although, I thought his estimate on the number of hours this job would take was unrealistic, according to Darrell, we are way ahead of schedule so far!  This makes me pretty happy because barring any major issues with the installation, I expect that we will come in on time and under budget which in the marine world is absolutely unheard of.  The new engine is slated to be installed Friday morning and I’m really looking forward to feeling Mavis’ new engine come to life.  After the engine was removed, Darrell said “NOW you’ve got yourself a sailboat.”  I took a moment to contemplate that.  I love sailing and have been known to resist the temptation to just turn on the engine.  But when you’re traveling over 1,500 miles, you kind of need to keep moving.   Generally, I try to maintain a boat speed of better than 5 knots and if I’m not getting that from the wind I’ll switch on the motor.  Many people don’t know this but the vast majority of the Intracoastal Waterway is just not sailable.  You really need to motor day after day for 8-plus hours a day to get anywhere on the inland waterway.  It is narrow and quite tricky in spots.  There’s just no room to sail and travelling by night is asking for trouble unless you are intimately familiar with the local waters.  There’s way too much to hit out here.  Once I have developed a level of confidence in the new powerplant, I plan to jump out into the ocean and hoist the sails.  Cindy and I both miss the magical feeling of sailing along with no engine making noise and burning fuel.  Whenever I sail any distance at all I feel like I’m getting away with something.

Speaking of burning fuel.  Our new engine is expected to burn just 1/3 of a gallon an hour at cruise speeds.  I was pretty amazed that the old Westerbeke could go on about a gallon an hour.  If these numbers are anywhere near correct, the new engine will effectively triple Mavis’ range on engine power!  With 36 gallons of fuel on board, we could travel on the engine alone for 600 to 700 nautical miles without refueling!  Even if we end up consuming a whopping 1/2 a gallon an hour we could go  400 to 500 nautical miles.   I’d be happy with that.  This would mean that here, on the Intracoastal we could motor for days without having to fuel up.

Mavis’ fuel gauges have always been incredibly unreliable.  As a pilot, I’ve been trained to largely ignore fuel quantity indicators and know what my fuel consumption is.  When I realized that the new panel wouldn’t fit in the hole for the old panel without some modifications, I elected to remove the fuel gauges.  At some point in the future, I’ll install some modern fuel quantity sensors and tie it all in with our chart plotter.  Until then, I need to keep track of how many hours I’ve run on each of our two tanks between fill ups.

Our new Beta Marine panel installed at Mavis’ helm.

As I do every day, I spent some time reviewing the nautical charts for the voyage ahead.  We are 140 nautical miles from the South Carolina border.  Here on the ICW where 50 miles takes us from sunrise to just about sunset it will be three full days of breaking in the new motor before we can do our next “New State Dance.”  It’s about 460 nautical miles (on the ICW) to the Florida-Georgia border.  Sailing on the ocean shaves of some miles.  The other very significant advantage of sailing “outside” vs. “inside” is that when coastal cruising on the ocean the boat is moving forward 24/7.  On the ICW we run from sunrise to sunset and then find a place to anchor or dock.  So by sailing offshore and taking shifts at the helm we can easily cover 100 to 150 miles in each 24 hour day vs. 40 to 55!  Why spend time sitting on the anchor when the boat can (and in my opinion SHOULD) keep on sailing?  And if the wind is cooperating, there’s no need to run the engine, racking up hours, making noise, burning fuel and putting out fumes.  Mavis, like most sailing catamarans is capable of sailing considerably faster than she can motor!

We’re not sailing on a schedule but I would like to make up some miles.  I’ll be able to relax once we are safely set up at our Florida headquarters in Stuart, at which time I plan to fly home and get one of our cars.  Once established in Florida, I also need to start getting some workouts in.  I’ve lost an insane amount of not easily gained muscle mass in the past month of inactivity!  I have also lost a lot of what little cardiovascular capacity I had!  I ran about 3/4 of a mile yesterday at a casual pace and was shocked to find myself winded.  I hope it all comes back as quickly as it went away but I don’t think it works that way!

Sunset at Lou Mac park in Oriental, NC

It’s been balmy here in Oriental!  Today was 82 but most days have been in the mid to high 70s and only getting down to the high 50s at night but this will change Sunday…  We are expecting highs in the 50s and lows around FREEZING for a day or two.   We need to get SOUTH!

Capt Frank


Mavis is On the Move… (Kind of)

No captain ever wants to find his vessel in tow behind an assistance towing boat.  But here we are getting dragged from the Oriental Inn and Marina to Sailcraft to begin the process of putting in Mavis’ new powerplant.

It was blowing about 25 knots right on the nose and it was a short but rather unpleasant trip.  Still I found myself happy to be “out on the boat.”  Captain Aaron of SeaTow Crystal Coast was a pro and helped get us docked up better than I could have with our engine running.  We are now tied up at our new home marina for the next few days.  We are right next to the crane which will be used to hoist Mavis’ old engine out on Wednesday.  Then I’ll immediately get to cleaning out the bilge and possibly painting in preparation for the new engine being installed on Friday.

Mavis next to the crane that will be used for our engine swap.

Today we did a major provisioning at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket who offer free dockside pickup and drop off in the pig mobile.  How we can spend over $250 on groceries for two people is beyond me.  Sometimes it’s not easy or convenient to get provisions so when it is, I think we go a little overboard.  It’s good to have a boatload of fresh fruits and veggies and plenty of meats.

The Piggly Wiggly offers free dockside drop off and pickup in the Piglet Shuttle!

We have been doing lots and lots of walking here in Oriental.   The town is really beautiful but everywhere you look there’s evidence of hurricane damage.  Other than walking, I haven’t been doing much physical activity at all.  I feel myself getting weaker.  I need to get to a gym.  I could do bodyweight exercises but I just don’t and I’m not sure why.  Maybe tomorrow.

Walking down hurricane damaged streets in Oriental

That’s it for now but I’m trying to update the blog frequently as I promised I would.  Cindy and I are happy and looking forward to continuing the voyage as soon as I’m satisfied that the ship is ready to depart.  Stay tuned for more… And boaters,  do not forget to renew your Sea Tow memberships!  It’s one of the greatest values in boating and after years of paying the annual fee, I’ve finally been able to take advantage of their fine services for today’s dock to dock tow.

Town docks trashed by hurricane Florence

Goodnight from Oriental.

Capt Frank

And Now… We Wait.

Long before Mavis developed her recent engine trouble I had looked into the costs of repowering her.  I had checked out various diesel options as well as the less desirable (to me) option of repowering with a gas outboard.  Some people do it and are very happy but we plan on long range cruising and I think diesel is a must.  I had decided that when it was time to repower Mavis, we would go with a Beta Marine 30 which is a Kubota Diesel engine marinized by Beta Marine.  These engines have an incredible reputation for being smooth, efficient, and dependable powerplants.

Cindy and I at Beta Marine, US Headquarters

I had no idea we would be putting an engine into Mavis while traveling down the ICW but imagine my surprise to learn that we broke down about 10 miles away from Beta’s USA headquarters…  So today, Stan Feigenbaum,  one of Beta Marine US’ founders came to our marina and scooped us up for a visit to their Minnesott Beach, NC headquarters for a look at our new engine and (of course) to finalize the exchange of funds.

Stanley took lots of time showing us around his warehouse of new engines and we discussed our particular engine, the installation ahead, breaking her in, our first oil changes, etc.  He confirmed for us that the mechanic we had selected to do our installation was respected, reputable, and capable of getting the job done.

We’ve been in Oriental over a week now and it’s starting to feel like it.  This is a great place to be stuck but we are itchy to get going.  The people here are amazing.   We go out for several walks a day to keep Willow occupied and to stretch our legs.  The local supermarket, Piggly Wiggly #1 even has Boar’s Head cold cuts!  This may not seem important but from the Chesapeake down to here the cold cuts have been what Cindy and I lovingly refer to as ASS MEAT.  It’s nice to have access to good meats.

The Inland Provisioning Company is a few steps away from our boat and the people there are super nice and they go out of their way to accommodate the parade of boats making their way south on the Intracoastal.  They’ve got some meats, fresh greens, even unwashed fresh eggs.  Cruisers on many boats prefer their eggs unwashed because they don’t require refrigeration.  So even though it feels weird, we have a dozen eggs sitting on a shelf here on board even though we have a perfectly good fridge about 10 feet away from it.  I suppose chickens don’t pop out refrigerated eggs.  I also remember being in a Super Walmart in Mexico and seeing cases of cases of unrefrigerated eggs stacked high in the middle of the store.  Turns out, it’s kind of a a USA thing putting eggs in the fridge.

We’ve noticed that the dogs here in Oriental are largely FREE RANGE animals.  They all have homes.  They’re all wearing collars.  But many of them are allowed to roam around.   I think it’s kind of cool but Cindy worries about them getting run over.  So what happens is we walk down a block and a dog will run off the porch or the yard of a home and say hi to Willow.  Sometimes they walk with us for a while before going home.  Other times they stick around for a quick sniff and that’s it.  But Oriental seems like a great place to be a dog…  Or a human… Except.

The shrimp are delicious here.  The shrimping fleet is right off our bow!

Except for the hurricanes.  The Carolinas have a giant bullseye painted on them for any tropical stuff forming in the Atlantic.  And Oriental, being coastal and situated on the Neuse River, gets it hard when it comes.

Everywhere we look there’s evidence of what happened here about 50 days ago.  There are piles and piles of debris on the front lawns of many homes.  The street itself in some places has been completely destroyed with huge 7′ chunks of asphalt having been moved by the intense power of the floodwaters.  In our marina, the laundry room was submerged so the washer and dryer don’t work.

Some of the local businesses have reopened.  Some haven’t.  I think some never will.   And we are still about 70 miles or so from Wrightsville Beach which took the direct hit.

We have met some really cool and interesting people here in Oriental but my faves, by far, are fellow cruisers Kit and Dace on their absolutely gorgeous 50′ trawler, Sea Traveler.   Stuck together in Oriental while we figured our stuff out and they upgraded electronics, we shared a few great meals and some much needed drinks with this couple before they left us behind today and continued south without us.  They’re a bit older than us and I got a glimpse of what Cindy and I will probably be like a few years down the road.  I also got some inspiration and sage advice from Kit about my career.  I tend to reinvent myself every 10 years or so and I’m way overdue for the next chapter of my professional career.  I learned more from Kit than he probably knows.  We really enjoyed their company.

Kit and Dace aboard Sea Traveler

The past few days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  We have gone from living the dream and getting closer and closer to the tropics to thinking about how to haul the boat and get home to thinking we might be able to fix the engine after all to deciding to buy an engine and forge forward.  There were moments — ok days where I lost my positive outlook but I had Cindy there to remind me that we are not the kind of people to give up on our dreams.  I don’t know what I would do without this amazing crazy person by my side.  Somehow, I’ve got her convinced that I know what I’m doing and can Captain this boat to Florida and maybe the Bahamas…  I better figure out how that’s happening.  🙂

Even though we aren’t going anywhere soon,  every day I pore over the charts planning the next legs of our adventure.  It’s amazing how close everything looks on the chart.  Today I considered that for every hour we travel on I-95 when driving, its about a day of boating — and we have not been cruising every day due to weather, exploring, or… engine troubles.  But now that we are south of Cape Hatteras and will (hopefully) soon be underway, I plan to make some significant progress south.  We aren’t in a rush.  But when I look at the charts and see the sheer number of miles ahead, I feel motivated to start knocking them down.  I don’t think I fully appreciated what a 1,500 mile boat trip was but I guess I’ll be more prepared for the trip home in the spring.

Aside from our friends and family, I’m not missing much.  I expected to.  It’s just not happening.  Our bed on board is very comfortable but a bit firmer than our super-thick pillow-top mattress at home.  We have our technology, a few laptops, phones, iPads.  Some clothes…  I find myself wondering what the heck we have this large home full of crap we don’t need back at home for.  I think it takes a trip like this to realize what you really need — and what you don’t.  I recommend that if at all possible, everyone try to cut themselves off for a few months.  And just as I say that, I realize how incredibly fortunate we are to be able to pull this off.

Our cozy bed on board.

For now, we are sort of just waiting to be towed over to the marina where we will be doing the engine swap.  Once the old engine is out, I’ll have some work to do cleaning out the bilge from 15 years of oily mess and I’ll probably paint the bilge but then I just sort of have to try and stay out of the way until its time to begin sea trials on the new engine.

Thanks for being interested enough in our journey to keep tuning in for updates.  I’ve heard from lots of people who are getting into the blog and that keeps me wanting to write.  

Capt Frank
S/V Mavis #816

Heart Transplant for Mavis

As we speak, Mavis is being scheduled for a ‘heart transplant’.  The consensus is that our “trusty” Westerbeke needs rebuilding and it’s just not worth rebuilding.  It seems that although they have a good name for being long running engines, the Mitsubishi-based Westerbekes have a tendency to suffer from cracked rings which score the cylinders and require a rebuild.  For just a few thousand dollars more than doing a rebuild we have opted to have a new Beta Marine 30 installed.  The advantages here are numerous.  We get a brand new engine with a 5 year warranty.  We get a new starter, alternator, heat exchanger, transmission…  Everything.  And modern diesel engines have come a long way in the 15 years since Mavis was new.  

We are looking forward to more power, better fuel economy, quieter operation and — most importantly, the reliability I need to take us to the Bahamas and beyond.

So while we certainly did not budget for a new engine while on this trip, the good news is the voyage WILL CONTINUE after a brief pause here in Oriental.  

We had planned to move the boat to the yard and unload her and come home for a few weeks but our mechanic has advised us that we should sit tight.  He only needs about a week to get us from where we are now to sea trialing our new engine.  

I never thought we could be this elated to be spending a large chunk of money on something like this but we had almost resolved to scrapping the trip and coming down in the spring to sail Mavis NORTH.  That would have sucked.

Stay tuned for the continuing voyages of S/V Mavis!