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Greetings to all:
What is worse than a hurricane, freezing weather, and a lightening storm? For myself it's a broken computer! When I was a young guy in the 1950's, I believed I could fix just about anything. If my car engine stopped running, I could look under the hood and check for gas at the carburetor, spark from the ignition, proper power from the starter motor and a host of other possible problems. I could see what was going on; fuel lines, wires, valves and coils were understandable in their function. Usually I could make some sense out of the misbehavin' engine, and thereby fix it.
Now, I know this is the '90s and things are different to say the least. My trusty Mac G3 laptop computer broke down. I was in the harbormaster's office at The Wharf at Handy's Point. Alice, a truly generous person who manages the marina and was so nice to us when we powered in with "Silver Heels" a month ago, offered the use of their phone line. Now I could upload my latest webpage. The only 110 v power was behind the soft drink cooler. I had a phone line extension cord stretched to the Mac G3 which was placed on the floor. The Mac G3 was plugged in behind the Coke machine. I was on my knees, elbows on the floor ready to upload my latest to the website. I pressed the computer's start button.......AND the thing wouldn't start! Nothing happened. No lights. No noise. No whirrrr. Just the same old black screen. I'd like to try to fix this thing, but how can you figure out what's wrong? I couldn't trace the flow of incoming electrons. The Mac G3 just sat there, lights out. Maybe it had an electronic equivalent of a coronary artery occlusion. Maybe it would not recover. I couldn't resuscitate this one. It needed a specialist's help for sure.
The nearest Mac doctor was in Annapolis and that was an hour from Handy's Point, where we were. Ellen and I drove the computer to Annapolis and were told "three days to a week" for repairs. It took the Mac G3 specialist a month to effect repairs. He described it as "the repair job from hell." He tried replacing everything from the logic board to the power management card and every other card for that matter. It was a defective keyboard as it turned out. Now I have the computer back, and I feel better. So, that's where I've been for the last month.
To recap the last month:
October 7, 1999, Chesapeake City, MD on the C&D Canal
We're at Schafer's Marina with a side tie against some pilings for $51.25 a nite! Plus $5.00 if you want electrical power for the night! Add the noises from passing container ships to the nearby highway noises, and it's about the same deal as a Motel 6 next to Highway 5. We're about 80 feet from the piers of the Chesapeake City Fixed Bridge that crosses over the C&D Canal. The bridge was made very high (135 feet deck to water) in order to clear freighters passing through the canal. That road height means diesel trucks on the highway have to accelerate to get over the bridge's rise, hence the loud highway noise. The freighters or container ships pass about 200 feet from us steaming in mid channel. Our bunk on "Silver Heels" is about at the water line level. We can efficiently hear nearby ship engine sounds as the rumbling noise passes through the water, hull to hull ... or freighter to schooner. When you hear the container ships, they seem about to pass over your bunk; the engine sound is so clear. While we're there four container ships pass the marina with three doing so at night. A passing ship woke me up at 3:00 AM. So I got up and happened to check the cabin temperature after taking a peek out of the portlight at the passing behemoth. Due to a cold front passing, it is in the low 40's, so a clear cold day is forecast for tomorrow. I did not get back to bed and back to sleep. "Silver Heels" has a small soapstone fireplace. I cut off a 4 inch piece of a "Three Hour Firelog" and burn it in the fireplace. It works perfectly and quickly chases the chill out of the cabin. I guess I'm not relaxed enough on this trip to be able to sleep late or even 'till 7 or 8 AM
We cast off the lines at Schafer's "Motel 6" Marina, and Ellen steers "Silver Heels" down the C&D Canal with a favorable current. The knot meter indicates 7.8 knots, but the GPS shows our actual speed over the ground as 10.2 knots. There's bright sunshine with a cold north wind. Ellen and I have on long underwear, jeans, sweat shirts and our foul weather coats zipped around our necks. We're comfortable as we motor on, staying to the side of the channel. Pleasure craft stay outside the buoyed center canal leaving the deep canal channel proper to commercial vessels. The canal has its own beauty with low tree lined shores and calm waters. There are well cared for homes lining the shorelines, and it looks like a nice place to live. We exit the canal with several other boats "going south," and we change course for our next harbor, Worton Creek.
Worton Creek is a narrow and shallow slip of water that doglegs out of a wide spot at the head of Chesapeake Bay. I go slow as our clearance, keel to mud, is marginal. Charted channel water depths are between 9 and 7 feet at low. Get too far to the side and you'll go aground on some shoal. When there's a north wind, they say that the wind "pushes" water from the head of the Chesapeake to the southwest. North Chesapeake water depths are then shallower than what the tide tables show. We don't go aground, but visually our approach shows only tree lined shores. I cannot see an opening to the harbor. Ellen finally spots a red buoy with the binoculars, and sure enough, there's a narrow channel that appears to the right, barely. As we close in on the buoy I can see the tops of several masts peeking over the tree tops. There's a perfect little calm water harbor here that opens up as we arc around to the right. Our apostle, Giffy Full, says go to the marina at the head of the slough. We do, and we run aground on some new, uncharted shoaling. After a few minutes of churning the water in forward and reverse and looking for deeper water depth with the lead line, we get free. We reverse course a few hundred yards and call nearby Green Point Marina on the VHF. We get a deep water mooring right in front of the place for $10 per night. In this harbor we're protected on all sides by shoreline. It's a perfect hurricane hole. I have never done this before, but I now look at each harbor and consider its features for hurricane protection. I think hurricanes are the nemesis of the East Coasters. Ellen brings a laugh from some local boaters when she says, "I'd take a good 'ol California earthquake over any East Coast hurricane." They're shocked at this and can't believe that anyone can have peace of mind and live in "earthquake country."
It's fall and the trees are changing color. The bright red, rich orange, deep yellow and green leaves on the trees in this safe harbor makes Ellen and I feel that the East Coast is trying to redeem itself. This harbor is a special place with very nice people, and it renews our spirits. However, last winter the whole harbor froze and the locals went ice skating right where we are moored. We can't stay here for ever. Yesterday was Sunday, and hurricane Irene purged herself of some wind and rain over Worton Point. Today, Monday, a cold front is passing and will bring some more rain and colder temperatures. Fall is on the way.
Just last week the boat engine decided to get sick. The seal on the water pump failed and coolant was dripping into the engine pan. Loss of coolant causes overheating of the engine. Therefore, the engine can't be run to charge the batteries. The mechanic from Worton Marina needed two days to order the part, and maybe a day to put it on the engine. No engine power means no battery charging. No battery charging leads to a dead battery which results in no water pressure, no sink drain, no computer power, no radio, no lights and loss of just about anything that depends on battery power. Ellen and I decided to stay at the Comfort Inn in nearby Chestertown. We do for two nights. Alice and Pepper, who run The Wharf at Handy's Point at Worton Creek, are very gracious people. They invite us to take the boat from the mooring in the channel and moor dockside in their marina. There we can get 110 volt dockside power, and via a battery charger, we get all our 12 volt power back. The boat becomes habitable again with water pressure and lights and computer power. There's an arriving cold front, and it is like a winter cold front. The temps are supposed to get down to the low 30's at night. Our only source of heat is a soapstone fireplace. So we collect down dry wood from the nearby trees and feed the fireplace. The dry wood lights easily. I set my wet boat shoes to dry along side the fireplace. It does keep us warm ... as long as I continue to put fuel into the fireplace. It is interesting how dependent we are on these boat systems. Failure of any one of them, and life becomes primitive. When they work, it's almost like "home." The engine was repaired. We're up and running again.
We've been at Handy's Point for ten days. We're at dockside, and I find that I'm liking this rest. I've been able to do some varnishing and some repairs to "Silver Heels." We barbecue some fresh fish, have some wine at sunset and watch the Canadian geese land on the water. We're not on the move, there's no need to pour over charts at night, no courses to plot and no need to program the GPS. This is getting to fit my model of the livaboard life.
With our best regards, Terry and Ellen
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