Old Black Water, or Loopers, loopers everywhere

The Doobie Brothers gave black water a certain charm and romantic quality.  Keep on rolling, funky Dixieland, pretty mama, Mississippi moon, and all that.  Well on a liveaboard, black water is just gross.  So basically the rule on Misty Pearl is to use the marina restroom for anything solid.  Visitors are welcome but beware.  We don’t like pumping out.

At The Yards, this simple rule unfortunately isn’t so simple.  There’s a restroom, of course, with a code on the door.  But the lock doesn’t work so the door always is open.  Plus the code is 1234*.  (Shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone.)   The door is about 5 feet from a dockside bar.  Bar patrons don’t really care about cleanliness.  The entire A dock, however, is rising in revolt so maybe things will improve.

None of this matters to Oscar, of course, who thinks the best place to poop is on the dock right in front of all the people lining the rails to look at the pretty boats.  We pretend we don’t know him but the leash probably gives us away.

As for the boat, things are coming along although we still have work to do.  We changed the engine oil (the old oil was the consistency of hummus, which can’t be good), replaced some equipment, and have other projects rolling.  And hey, the showers work great.

img_3319In the midst of this came the Spring Rendezvous.  Twice a year, America’s Great Loop Cruisers Association holds a conference for those on the Loop as well as those planning to do it.  The Spring Rendezvous includes numerous seminars relevant to the northern half of the trip as well as general topics of interest.  We drove down to Norfolk for this year’s spring event.

Apart from picking up some of the the tip of the iceberg of information that we sorely need, we met some great people and saw some really cool looping boats.  About 50 vessels of many types and sizes docked outside the hotel.   Most of them opened up for visiting.

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img_3300We already knew Barry Newland, who with his wife Robin owns Crossroads, one of the other three Selene 43s on the Loop this year.   Crossroads is hull 9, launched in 2001.  Barry helped us get to Colonial Beach and we’re counting on him for tips as we travel.  We also met Jeff and Terri Culy, owners of Change of Pace.  Change of Pace is hull 19, made in 2003.   (Misty Pearl is hull 15.)  Both Crossroads and Change of Pace are beautiful and were admired appropriately by the masses.  Misty Pearl of course remained in Washington with the same electrical problems, no TV, and the other things we still need to sort out.  However, we look forward to crossing paths with our sister boats as we all move north in the next few weeks.

We have fleet shirts arriving tomorrow before we head home, which still sounds weird when home is a boat.  We stopped by West Marine today and snagged updated charts for the chartplotters as well as the rest of the small things that one is obligated to buy on each West Marine visit.  Like a dog-catching net in case one of the boys falls overboard.

The best news is that Mike and Max from ZMI have resolved the battery charger issue—caused by poor wiring from earlier non-ZMI work—which is a huge relief.  We still often wonder what our surveyor was doing for his money, but that in general is of secondary concern.  The DirecTV guy is coming on Monday.  Maybe this time for real.

The Final Countdown (we hope)

Knock on wood, we’ve reached the point of two steps forward for each step in reverse, rather than the other way around.  DirecTV is up and running.   Art masterpieces created by the girls when they were little are on the wall.   We’ve installed and figured out the grill.  There’s equilibrium between the boat and the storage unit, meaning we no longer need to increase the net volume of stuff we’re taking with us.  The showers and the beds are glorious.  We said goodbye to fleece sheets, which almost by themselves are reason to live someplace cold.  We installed a new stereo system.  Heck, the marina even scrambled up the gate code a bit.  Life is good.

Good, but still with some imperfections.  Like the AC system not working.   Remember the earlier post about the seacock valve for the main engine?  Stopped us cold for two weeks.  There’s also a seacock and strainer for the AC pump.  No water, no AC.  And it’s getting hot and humid, seemingly in just the last five minutes.

The good news is that we easily diagnosed the problem.  The seacock was plugged.  Not the strainer.  Not the through-hull.  The actual valve was mushy, meaning something was blocking it.  It’s below the waterline so you don’t just take it apart in the engine room.  That left two choices.  First, one of us could jump into the cold, dark, scary, and potentially toxic Anacostia River to try to fish out whatever had lodged up in there.  When Dana refused, however, it eliminated that option.  So we called out a pro.   Dude had a wet suit, a dry suit, a huge light, the correct tools, and most importantly a willingness to get in the cold, dark, scary, and potentially toxic  Anacostia.  We would have paid him double.

We guess we’re just lucky, because he’d never seen a situation like ours.  Neither had the folks at Zimmerman Marine.  Neither had the folks at Peake Marine.  Somehow or another a ridiculous stick found its way directly into a small hole and jammed up the valve.  (Dana photographed the shoe for scale.  It obviously wouldn’t fit in the valve).  We don’t really feel the love on that one.  However, today it was about 90° with humidity about 110%, so we’re just happy to have the AC back on line.

img_3264The dogs also are hitting their groove.  Oscar still thinks it’s more efficient to poop on the dock rather than wait until reaching the grass.  He must be feeling at home, since he used to poop on the pool deck rather than the grass at our Scottsdale home.  Benny finds the front porch very comfy as long as there’s a handy pillow.

And yes, we’ve added netting so they don’t fall off.   We doubt we could get the diver back out fast enough if that happened.

We enjoyed our second guests, Lewis and Terri of the Tennessee Belknaps.  Hopefully they’ll join us again down the line.  We’re also hoping for many more visitors over the course of our journey.

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Mini Pearl has taken us around DC, but we don’t quite have the whole crane launch thing down yet.  Fortunately there generally are only about a hundred people watching us bumble around.  However, the pressure still adds about 20° to the heat index.

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It’s always good to remember that no matter what happens, someone someplace has it worse.  Like the owner of the boat that appeared on the shore across the river from our slip.  We took Mini Pearl over to have a closer look and to see if there was anything left we might be able to use, but there wasn’t.

We’re quite excited that the entire family will be on the boat in just a couple of days.  If all goes as planned, the six of us will leave The Yards on May 23, with a couple of stops before spending the holiday weekend in St. Michaels, Maryland.

Of course, so far exactly nothing has gone as planned.

Goodbye D.C.

Our last weekend in Washington D.C. and—shocker—it mostly rained.  This wasn’t just the warm drizzle that one might enjoy on a veranda with a newspaper and coffee.  It was the torrential kind that makes it miserable to poop on the dock if you’re a dog and your name is Oscar.  It soaks fresh laundry between the car and the boat if your name is Dana   It also causes massive flooding in the area, which if you live on a boat should not be a big deal.  When those floods deposit flotsam and miles of shoreline detritus, however, it makes things hazardous (and gross.)  At one point we could’ve stepped off the deck and done a polka on the stuff that collected in our slip, except we don’t know how to polka.

img_3357The huge silver lining—which outweighed the storms—was that Shannon arrived, putting the family together again.  She brought along her boyfriend Ryan, who handled us quite nicely.  The sun even came out one day while he was with us.

Mallory got out of her on-campus apartment and into her off-campus apartment just in time to come home for the first bit of the Loop.  It literally took 1 1/2 hours to drive the six miles from the marina to Georgetown to pick her up the last time.  We could’ve gone faster by boat.  Did we mention that Washington traffic is absurd?  In large part that’s because the Metropolitan Police Department’s main job involves parking squad cars with full lights in the middle of crowded roads for no reason other than to mess with already-irate drivers.  It’s amazing there aren’t road-rage incidents every minute.

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On our last night at The Yards we enjoyed the view from our front porch one last time.  Overall it probably wasn’t as bad as our posts might suggest, but we’re happy to be on our way.

It’s finally happening

We awoke early this morning to an absolutely perfect day.  No wind.  Helpful tide.  Our new friend Isaiah (aka Big Daddy) saw us off at 6:33 as we headed south to Colonial Beach.  There’s a good argument for the notion that our Loop actually started weeks ago in Deltaville.  After all, we’ll pass Deltaville next spring well before we get back to Washington.  We sort of used this theory to claim “In Progress” status at the Rendevous.  In Looper parlance one completes America’s Great Loop by “crossing the wake” left behind at the start.  We’ll cross our wake when we return to D.C. next spring.  (This is subject to modification, of course.  If we drown in Deltaville next year, our estate  technically can claim that we finished.)

The girls got up just long enough to see us pull away and the boys got up just long enough for a shore visit, then they all slept half the way to Colonial Beach.  They missed the best cruising we’ve done, although the sample size is quite small  The debris slowly dispersed as we moved south.  The water almost was ski-able.  With the early ebb tide we made nearly 10 knots for the first couple of hours.  The fog rolled in and out on little cat feet but caused no concern even though our grasp of the COLREGS sections on lights, sounds, and day shapes for fog was even foggier.

Since we passed these shores going the other direction, there wasn’t much excitement.  We did get solid help from the two Dahlgren Range Boats that essentially blocked for us as we passed through the active target range.  Shout out to them.

We docked at Colonial Beach at 2:44.  62.5 nm at 7.6 knots average.  We’ll take that the entire time.

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Is the Potomac safe for swimming?

img_3473We were up and gone by 6:45 this morning.  The boys had their morning walk and then promptly assumed their positions in the pilothouse and returned to sleep.  The girls didn’t bother getting up until 10:30.  After they baked in the sun for a bit they jumped in the river.   Our video should be inserted here but apparently it wasn’t shot in the proper format.  Shannon calls it a rookie mistake.  Either way they actually did jump into the river.

It was another beautiful day for cruising.  Until we reached the mouth of the Potomac.   Not only did we hit three-foot breaking rollers, but the crabbers had been busy setting pots like it was a mine field.

img_3479Here’s a crab pot float.  We hate crab pots.   Crab pots suck.   Screw the dude who planted this one.

The Chesapeake roiled for about two hours but finally smoothed out, and at the Patuxent River the Navy installation trumped the crabbers.

The best thing about the Chesapeake Bay is ship-spotting.

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We were all into the container ships until the Evergreen Legend under a Singapore flag and with containers stacked to the heavens yelled at us via VHF because he wanted to pass us in the deep channel.  Turned out it was another white trawler traveling north at 8 knots who was the problem, however, and we were three miles to the big guy’s port.  So all was well, at least for us.  Maybe he ran over the trawler blocking his path.

We steamed into Spring Cove Marina at Solomons Island, Maryland, 58 nm and 8 1/2 hours later.  That’s roughly like leaving your house in Phoenix and spending the entire day crawling to Casa Grande.  Except on water.