Daily Archives: August 11, 2012

You gotta dink

This idyllic view of Lake Wesley, as I approach Escape Velocity in the dinghy, was not to be had today. Oh no dear reader, we had no outings in the dink. Wouldn’t start. It’s always been a bit cranky with a dodgy starter button and emergency stop switch, but once started it tends to keep running. This was different. Just couldn’t keep the thing running. The possibilities are not endless but many, some of them serious.
That’s when I discovered that the two sizes of plug wrench that I have are not enough. No Mr. Honda do we really need an 18 mm plug wrench? Standard wrenches couldn’t get into the tiny space allowed by Mr. Honda for such things. How was I to know? Without seeing the plugs I was flying blind. Come to think of it, I’m always flying blind with these things. Marce kept up a constant patter of “it’s not getting fuel.” I leaned towards the more sophisticated, nuanced school of thought of the fouled plugs verity. Without a dinghy we’re in a certain amount of bother. We can’t get to shore in most anchorages.
After an emergency repair of the dodger window Marce researched on the Internet machine which seemed to point toward air on the suck side. That’s not fuel starvation is it? It started right up!
We’ve had one squall line after another come through here today and this evening is no exception. We barely got the dink hoisted back up before the rains came.

That’s life on the water.

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Bethimbled and screwed

I was polishing the plastic windows on our cockpit enclosure when the window gave way with a rrrrrrrrrip. Damn! The enclosure is essential to safety and crew comfort. It protects us from wind and rain and makes the cockpit an additional living space which we appreciate in a 40-foot boat. But our enclosure is original to the boat, meaning it’s 14 years old and definitely in need of replacing. It’s a big ticket item and we were hoping to wait as long as possible to order a new one because we’re prioritizing the mechanical and electronic repairs.

So ok, my schedule for the day just got rejiggered and I set about sewing the window back on again. Luckily the holes didn’t rip, just the thread, but pushing a needle though about seven layers of heavy vinyl took all my strength and about 3-1/2 hours.


Later Jack decided to make a dinghy run to unload trash, fill up our diesel jerry cans and our water jugs. We lowered the dinghy, loaded it up, Jack started the motor and it immediately died. He tried again. And again. And thus began an hour and a half of raising the dinghy, troubleshooting the motor, lowering the dinghy, trying it again, raising, lowering, raising, lowering. All the while Jack kept muttering “I’m not a mechanic. I’m not a mechanic.”

“You have to become one,” I said, which didn’t go over well, as you can imagine. Eventually he inspected the fuel line end to end and found a loose clamp. With that tightened up the motor started right up but by that time the rain was moving in and we unloaded the dinghy again, pulled it up and stowed the jerry cans.

The trash we left in the dinghy.

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Goodbye, Wall of Silence

NOAA weather radio is our friend and our enemy. We listen to it daily while at anchor, anytime we plan to leave the boat, and especially if we see dark clouds forming on the horizon. We listen to it when we’re planning to move on so we can pick the right day and time of day for the best conditions.

A few years ago NOAA changed from live humans reading the forecasts to computer-generated voices using text-to-speech software. There are several voices, and each has its own character and, dare I say, accent. They even have names, Paul, Tom and Donna.

As we move up the coast we have to learn the new and constantly changing placenames referred to in the forecasts, the rivers, inlets, points, sounds and other delineations they talk about when they announce a thunderstorm warning from, for example, Hornpipe Inlet to Turgid Sound. Is that us? North of us? It gets more complicated by the pronunciation of the NOAA computer forecasters. I find Donna to be particularly difficult to understand for some reason. When we first got to the Hampton Roads area we listened for a long time to familiarize ourselves with the new place names and referenced a chart to orient ourselves.

If you’ve spent any time listening to weather radio you know that after a cycle or two the voices just become white noise until something catches your attention, a warning, a change in pattern. The first day here my ears perked up when I heard “Wall of Silence.” Wow! We were anchored in an area with many military installations. We saw cruisers and aircraft carriers. There were helicopters overhead. Naturally, when they announce a wall of silence you pay attention. I figured it was something like the bus signs “If you see something, say something.” Would we get instructions over the radio? Would we need gas masks?

Days went by and we heard the Wall of Silence every day. I was never paying close attention to hear the beginning and only perked up when I heard it. No instructions. No gas masks.

And then I lucked out and heard the whole sequence from the beginning. It was Donna announcing the weather observations for Richmond, Norfolk, Chesapeake City, Wallops Island. Wallops Island! Wall of Silence!

I mentioned this to our friend Alan in the anchorage and he thought he heard Wall of Silence, too. And the funny thing is, even after we figured it out, whenever the weather radio is on I still think I hear Wall of Silence when Donna gives the weather observations.

We’re about to move north again. After a day or two Wallops Island won’t be in our forecast area, but I’ll miss the Wall of Silence.


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