South Carolina ICW
The first part of the day was up a wide section of the bay. I developed the routine of popping down for a few seconds to check on the engine(s) every 30 minutes to mop up trickles and ensure everything was in order. I hate using engines to cover long distances. Sails seem simpler and more trustworthy to me. Engines are loud and smelly and there is so much that can go wrong with them. I worry that I will then not have them when I need them. Mostly, this is a pilot’s skittishness. Diesels are actually pretty simple and will run reliably forever if well maintained.
My routine kept the engine nice and clean. The fuel leak turned out to only be a few drops per half-hour, but I was still having difficulty tracing the source in my 20-second flash visits. I had initially suspected a connection at the fuel filter that the previous owner had told me was problematic, but it remained clean. At one particularly wide, empty part of the river, I decided I had the luxury of a couple of full minutes to try to solve the mystery. Huddled over the hot, running engine, I traced along the fuel system with a big wad of dry toilet paper until discovering the biggest source to be at the fuel pump. I decided to save tightening everything up until a later visit. I turned to head back up to the cockpit when there was a substantial bang.
I immediately knew the boat had hit something. The river was clear when I left and I hadn’t been gone for more than a minute, maybe a minute and a half. Perhaps there was a submerged tree. I scrambled up the stairs and was horrified to see the entire front window filled with green. I had slammed head-on into a navigation buoy. I turned for the cockpit and immediately slammed into the glass cockpit door, leaving a big idiot shaped grease spot. I had closed it to keep the bugs out. I’d worry about that later.
I jumped into the cockpit and took the engine out of gear. Begonia slowly drifted back away from the buoy. I went forward to survey the damage. I was lucky, if you could call it that. The crossbeam between the bows had a big dent that had actually torn through the forward wall of the spar, destroying it. The bows themselves were completely undamaged. Both bows have foam-filled flotation/crash compartments so it’s unlikely that caving one of them in would put me in any serious danger. Replacing the crossbeam will undoubtedly be a very expensive fix (and unplanned, of course. For comparison, imagine being told your car needs a new engine AND transmission), but bow damage would have been super expensive. The crossbeam turned out to be the best thing I could have hit.
I checked the bilges for water coming in from some unseen damage. They were dry. The backing plates inside the crossbeam attachment points also looked fine. I was in shock for a bit, but once I accepted that the damage was done and that the boat was in no immediate danger, I decided to continue on my way. I still had a long way to go that day. The crossbeam damage meant that there would be no sailing until it was repaired, as the rig was now too weak to take the loads of the sails. Begonia had become a motorboat.
Once I came to terms with this, I went about trying to enjoy the trip. The marshland morphed into pretty cypress swamp, which I had all to myself, until the last few miles. Then I passed through Myrtle Beach, which seems to be home to 90% of America’s jet-skis, 90% of which are apparently ridden by drunken idiots. It was here I learned the South Carolina wave. Instead of a normal, full-hand wave, they all seemed to use a one-finger point and shoot wave combined with a cool-dude head bob. I imagined that in their heads they must be thinking, “Yo, Bro!” when they do it. Ugh.
Unlike the day before, I seemed to have the current with me almost all day. I arrived a couple of hours before the sun went down at my anchorage within spitting distance of the South Carolina/North Carolina border. The fast speed and early finish buoyed my spirits considerably from the morning. The anchor mercifully bit the first time, so I settled in to relax for the last couple of hours of my day.
As sunset approached, a veritable parade of big sport-fishing boats came in from their day, all commanded by beer-bellied men in with flat top haircuts wearing wrap-around sunglasses. They all seemed to make a point in practically running me down as they approached. I checked to see that I was out of the channel. I was, but perhaps I was too close for their liking. I thought about making a stand by staying put, but realized I would only be hurting myself by making myself worry all night about being run down by some drunken idiot. I upped anchor and moved as far into shallow water as I dared, ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Elephant at play
[Maryanne]Kyle's day was so overwhelmed by his accident, and he felt such a clutz with no-one to blame but himself, not to mention the promise of a hefty but necessary repair bill to look forward to that he forgot to tell you a real highlight of the day - The picture isn't great, but I can tell you he passed an elephant in the river taking a bath - now that doesn't happen every day!