November 15, 2008
The two problems that we wanted to get resolved on the boat while we were in Oriental were an inefficiency in the refrigerator that caused it to cycle on and off repeatedly when the battery voltage was low (but not as low as it should be able to tolerate) and a leak at the top of the rudder-post, which had been putting a steady trickle of water into the bilges whenever the boat was underway. The former problem was quickly resolved by Acer who replaced the power cable with a bigger wire. He pointed out various other things about the wiring that could be improved but we hope to address these more completely during our December sojourn in Fernandina Beach.
The rudder leak had been a problem since we had owned the boat and although Randall knew what needed to be done, he was reluctant to attempt to fix it himself because of the potentially severe consequences of making an error and having the rudder drop out, leaving a significant hole below the water level. Instead, he watched Jorge, the mechanic from Deaton Yacht Services, expertly make the appropriate replacements and adjustments. Jorge turned out to be an interesting person who is a fifth-generation resident of Oriental and whose great-, great-, great-grandparents had arrived in the area in the 1870s. They had been involved in the naming of the town as a result of his great-, great-, great-grandmother finding the name-plate of a sunken Union troop-transport ship (from the Civil War) on the beach in the nearby outer banks. The ship had been "The Oriental". Jorge could remember that in the late 1960s his father owned the only boat kept in Whittaker Creek (where Deaton’s was located). Now the town of Oriental with a permanent population of fewer than 1,000 is supposedly home to more than 2,700 sailboats, many of them in marinas and boatyards along Whittaker Creek.
Thus, Acer and Jorge were finished with our repairs by the end of Tuesday (Nov 11th), the day before we had expected them to even start the work! Having arrived in Oriental on the Veterans’ Day Holiday, we could not get our mail from the Post Office or our order from West Marine until the next day so we stayed for the night anyway. An evening stroll proved to us that it is a small town that, as reputed, is indeed very oriented (!) towards boating needs, which, of course, suited us just fine. On Wednesday morning, we decided to remove the broken shroud so that we could ship it back to the manufacturer to be replaced. This sounded easy but after I had been hoisted up the mast and then hoisted Randall up, it became obvious that we did not know exactly how to remove the end of the shroud that was attached half-way up the mast without risk of dropping parts down inside the mast (which would require the expensive lifting of the mast off its base on the keel for recovery). Luckily, Wag, the rigging expert from Deaton’s was able to describe to us how the attachments were made and on my second trip up the mast I was able to remove the shroud. Needless to say, by the end of this exercise our arms were tired from winching each other up the mast. Everyone was shocked to see how badly the shroud had failed (only 2 of the 19 twisted strands of wire were unbroken)and it was like nothing Wag had seen before. We were all curious to hear from the manufacturer how this could have occurred…and for us, most importantly, how we could be reassured that all the other shrouds and stays that were replaced at the same time were safe.
Having shipped the shroud off, and collected our mail and equipment order, we motored out of Oriental and across the Neuse River to a protected anchorage on the South River. Having picked a suitable bay surrounded by pine forests, we anchored just at the sun was setting and settled down to ride out the passage of a couple of rainy fronts (a warm one followed by a cold one). As predicted, Thursday was wet and windy for most of the day so we kept ourselves occupied indoors. Friday was more of the same. So was Saturday… Although we could have moved on down the ICW, we decided to wait-out the stormy weather at our South River anchorage. At least with only distant neighbors in the River, we did not have to worry about the proximity of other anchored boats swinging around in the strong winds as we would have had to at the next intended anchorages in Swansboro or Wrightsville Beach. Also, we had two tornado watches on Saturday (in fact, as I write the second one does not end for another 3 hours) indicating the potential severity of the weather, so staying in at anchor rather than having to move around with other ICW traffic seemed less stressful.
I must confess that, unlike Randall, I still get rather tense when I hear the anchor line creaking at the bow and gusts of 25 knots or more whistling in the rigging but I suppose that I am getting used to it…or at least the wind-speeds that make me nervous are gradually increasing. And looking on the bright side, the wind generator had been very effective so we have been able to use the laptop all day and even watch some college football on TV (but sadly did not get the channel with the Gator game). (The internet access is too slow to post photos on the blog but I will catch up with those soon…) The forecast is for the rest of the week to be sunny, breezy, and very cold with NW winds so we hope to head further south tomorrow…but we will likely stay in the ICW until the seas calm down later in the week.