Goodbye D.C.

Our last weekend in Washington D.C and—shocker—it mostly rained.  This was not 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 are a dog and your name is Oscar.  It soaks fresh laundry between the car and the boat.  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 have 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 have 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.


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.

The Final Countdown (we hope)

Knock on wood, we have 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 have installed and figured out the grill.  There is equilibrium between the boat and the DC storage unit, meaning we no longer need to increase the net volume of stuff we are 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 also is a seacock and sea strainer for the AC pump, which is water-cooled.  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, and scary Anacostia River to try to fish out whatever had lodged up in there.  Dana refused, so actually that wasn’t really a choice at all.  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, and scary Anacostia River.  We would have paid him double.

I guess we are just lucky, because he had never seen a situation like ours.  Neither had the folks at Zimmerman Marine.  Neither had the folks at Peake Marine.


Somehow or another this 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 are just happy to have the AC back on line.

The 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 is a handy pillow.


And yes, we have added netting so they don’t fall off.   I 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 will join us again down the line.  We also are hoping for many more visitors over the course of our journey.

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.  That still adds about 20 degrees to the real feel temperature.


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. Na.)

We are 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, exactly nothing so far has gone as planned.

Old Black Water/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 is 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, 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 have 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.

In 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 cruisers of many types and sizes docked outside the hotel.   Most of them opened up for visiting.


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 are 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.

Finally at the beginning

We start The Great Loop from Washington DC next month and had planned to arrive three weeks ago, so just getting here feels like a big accomplishment.  We slipped the lines at Colonial Beach in a slight breeze last Friday and cruised pretty easily, although the tide and winds kept us at about 6 knots.  For perspective, that’s about half the speed of a school zone.  Pretty dang slow, but we are all about smelling the roses, right?

The Potomac River shoreline has some cool stuff to see.  Not only is there a naval installation at Dalghren, but Quantico has a Marine base with planes and helicopters at the water’s edge.  Mount Vernon tour boats loomed on the horizon as we zoomed—at six knots—past George Washington’s plantation.  Next up was National Harbor, which is about where the water traffic started increasing.  Nothing like the land traffic, of course, although it will get worse when the warm weather finally arrives in 2020.


At the confluence of the Potomac and the Anacostia, we took a right, passed under the Frederick Douglass Bridge and found our slip at The Yards.  Of course, a day without a problem is, well, pretty dang unlikely.  When we plugged into shore power,  we tripped the marina GFI.  After some quick elimination we discovered that our battery charger is leaking AC current in an amount greater than the trip threshold of newer marinas.  That’s a concern.  Unfortunately the guys who know our boat the best are not waiting around next door.  They are hours away and busy.  Nobody can recommend any local marine electricians.  At least we can survive with the generator until help arrives.

img_3220We squared things away our first night just before the Nationals baseball game started, and listened to the Anthem from our back porch.  The Washington Navy Yard is about  200 yards away so we also get the Anthem every morning at 8 a.m.  (And yes, we did give up on using military time.)

On Sunday, Jim Blomo arrived after visiting his daughter at William & Mary.  He not only was the last to see us off in Arizona but also our first guest.  Because we are great hosts, Blomo enjoyed a not-yet-set-up boat, no shore power, and a trip to a sketchy Home Depot.   On his img_3233last morning we had a fantastic breakfast next to a liquor store that featured Wyoming Whiskey, which is distilled in Kirby, Wyoming by our old friends Brad and Kate Mead.

We brought with us from Arizona what at the time seemed like an aggressively small amount of stuff.  Now that we are living in a tiny house, however, it’s clear that we still will be leaving the DC storage unit pretty full.  There just isn’t room for everything that we thought would be essential.

Mallory spent the night with us and found her bed comfortable but not quite big enough to accommodate a person and a dog.  We can’t wait for her and Shannon stay for a while.

The electrician is supposed to resolve the charger issue on Saturday, and the electronics guy is supposed to set up the KVH dome so we can access DirectTV next week.  Maybe by then we will have jammed everything into place and will start to feel settled.

One small step

After we learned about the aftercooler delay, we decided to blow Deltaville and rent a cabin along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We envisioned long hikes with the dogs since those may be hard to come by in the Nation’s Capital.  Assuming we ever get there.  We now have good reason, however, to believe that the weather in Virginia almost always sucks:


That’s right, we were hit with what forever will be known to history as The Great Blizzard of 18.  Ok maybe it was only three inches, but in April at most we are supposed to get May flower-bringing showers, not snow.

If only to keep us from constant complaining, Mother Nature finally supplied a georgous day that coincided with a break from mechanical bad news.  Today we cast aside the shackles that had held us at the service yard.  Mac Davis was wrong; Happiness actually is Deltaville, Virginia in our rear view mirror.  We left the dock at 0740 heading for Colonial Beach.  (Because the Belknaps now are a seafaring family we morally if not legally are obligated to use military time nomenclature.)

Oscar and Benny proved they really can go 10 hours without a potty break.  We couldn’t be more proud of them.  Oscar also served as co-pilot for a stretch of the trip.


The wind whipped up just as we arrived at our stop for the night but we managed to tie up, wash the salt off Misty Pearl, and get surprisingly good shrimp tacos.

We have to get out by 0630 if we want to get to DC tomorrow.  That’s because we are 10 NM from a naval installation at Dahlgren and they actually close off the Potomac River at 0800 for some sort of military exercise.  It would be just our luck to get hit by a Tomahawk missile or some such thing.  If the wind is too much we may stay here.


Deltaville is nice, but enough is enough

Right outside Deltaville, Virginia, is a historical-site sign that reminds us–every time we pass it–that so far our plans seem foolish:


Although the weather has cleared for us, Poseidon has decided to jack with our little boat just a bit more. We might as well have changed her name.

As a last minute item, we asked ZMI to check the engine aftercooler just to be sure it was okay. Thinking it would be easy and quick, we headed up to DC to watch some softball and enjoy Easter with the girls and the dogs. Back Sunday night for an early start Monday morning. To quote Lee Corso, however, “Not so fast my friend.”

The aftercooler uses seawater for cooling. The seawater enters the engine room via a thru-hull. A sea-cock valve is supposed to close off that opening so that the aftercooler can be serviced. The sea-cock is pretty important because if a hose or fitting fails, one would hope to stop water from being places it shouldn’t be. We are green but we still know that water outside the hull is good and water inside the hull is bad.

Unfortunately, the aftercooler sea-cock won’t close. So (1) nobody can service the aftercooler and (2) if we need to close off the hole in the hull to stop water from rushing in, we can’t. And since we also can’t decide what to grab in the minutes before sinking, we have to fix the sea-cock. Now ZMI has to haul the boat again. That means more delays of God knows how long. Grrrrr.