After two false starts, the first caused by a delayed Amazon package, and the second caused by the remnants of hurricane Ian circling for what seemed like a year, perhaps a year and a half, while we watched coverage of the wasteland it left in its wake, Stinkpot has finally left the dock and begun her voyage south for the winter.
With a tinge of regret, on a beautiful, sunny morning, Thursday, October 6th, we dropped lines and pointed Stinkpot away from Havre de Grace, Maryland after five weeks in the City Yacht Basin.
We made some very good friends there, not the least of whom is Steve, the dockmaster at the marina, as well as the developers of the Argo Navigation app, Jeff, John, and Bill. I'm sure all of these folks will figure prominently into some future adventures, but for now we are off to new places. Our first day, we ran down to Annapolis to pump out our black water tank and grab some fuel—not a lot of fuel, but just enough since we see a very nice fuel price at Top Rack Marina.
We were thinking we might anchor nearby and take in the sights and sounds of Annapolis, but that will have to wait for another time. The Annapolis Boat Show was in full swing, and our desire for a peaceful anchorage proved more powerful than the desire to see the town. It remains on our list of future stops—the boat show is as well—just not now. We continued south and anchored up the Rhode River near Sheephead Cove.
No sooner did we have the anchor down and the engines off, I looked at our battery voltage and realized that the batteries were not doing well. I should back up…. While we were doing boat maintenance in Havre de Grace—mostly engine maintenance including new fuel injectors and fuel lines—I also checked the electrolyte levels in our house batteries, which are six, lead-acid, 6-volt golf-cart batteries. I was chagrined to find them near dry. I re-watered them, but the damage was done. I had never seen them require watering more often than every six months, but this time they needed it sooner, and I neglected to check them. I inspected the plates and they really looked bad. They seemed to take a charge, though, so I figured they'd be "good enough" until they weren't anymore. Well, that day turned out to be Thursday. With only our usual house loads on the batteries, and following a full day of charging from the solar and the alternator, the voltage was a very dim 12.0 volts—it should have been no less than 12.8 volts, if not more at that point with the sun still out and dancing across the solar panels. I thought for a minute and then started the generator—our new-to-us generator! We ran it until bedtime to keep what little juice the batteries could hold available for once the anchor light had to go on and stay on all night. At bedtime, we shut off EVERYTHING except the anchor light. I mean everything. The fridge and freezer included. I even risked death by not using my CPAP machine for the first time in probably 6 years.
As it turned out, I wouldn't have died. I could barely sleep all night. Every time I so much as snorted, I woke myself up. Kids, if you have a snoring problem, get a sleep study. The doctors refused to believe a guy of my weight and build could have sleep apnea, but I showed them. I stopped breathing 50 times in one hour during the sleep study. They made me sleep on my back, I'm usually a side sleeper, so it was far worse on my back. Anyhow, I didn't die, and with morning light Friday, we weighed anchor and began making way to Solomons, Maryland, where we would put a cunning plan into action.
When we were headed up the bay in July, we spent about six weeks in Solomons, and we left our Toyota Highlander parked in dear friends, Cristin's and Aaron's yard, while they are spending three years in Germany (It's unlikely our car will remain there the entire three years). We call the Highlander our "northern car." Next summer, it will follow us wherever we end up going. So, as we were in need of transportation to buy new batteries, and we just happened to be going by Solomons, we contacted friends at the Southern Maryland Sailing Association and asked if we could dock there while we dealt with our battery situation. That is exactly what we did.
Friday afternoon we docked at SMSA, walked the 1/2 mile or so to our car, parked it near the boat, removed six 66-pound batteries from the boat, loaded six batteries in a dock cart, loaded six batteries in the car, drove 50 miles to Sam's Club, bought six batteries ($108 apiece), recycled six batteries, and returned to the boat exhausted.
Our intention at that point was to park the car and deal with the batteries in the morning. We stepped aboard Stinkpot and I realized that we needed to at least get the batteries aboard and "in position." The batteries belong along the port side of the engine room. With their 400 pounds missing, Stinkpot had a very prominent starboard list. I could just imagine another sleepless night trying not to fall out of the bed. The plan was amended. I backed the car down to the pier, loaded the batteries into the dock cart, wheeled them out to the boat, moved them aboard, and placed them where they more or less belong. With Stinkpot sitting level again, we went up to the yacht club and enjoyed a couple beverages with friends and asked to spend a second night because of forecasted winds.
Saturday morning, I finished installing the new batteries. It was a blustery October day and reminded me of autumn in Maine. The new normal is people telling us that whatever weather we are enjoying, wherever we are, is unseasonably [insert correct adjective]. Over the summer, it was unseasonably hot. Now in October it is unseasonably chilly. The extremes seem to be getting more extreme with each passing year. Last year at this time, we were also on Chesapeake Bay. It was gorgeous. This year it is chilly.
Saturday came and went. We made a quick trip to the nearby market for a few food items and parked the car back at its "winter home." Sunday—today—we continued south and had a very nice cruise to Deltaville, Virginia, where we returned to the Fishing Bay Yacht Club, which I wrote on this very blog about mere months ago. No sooner were we docked, a sailboat docked behind us. It was an older couple with a comparably spry Jack Russell Terrier. We caught their lines, exchanged pleasantries, and then returned to have our dinner aboard, a walk ashore, and chill out until bedtime.
As we were sitting here at twilight, we heard…well, I'll let Stacey tell this story. She just posted about it on Facebook. I'll paste it in right after I say that tomorrow we hope to get an early start to head to Portsmouth, Virginia. Here's Stacey's retelling of what just happened with our new neighbors:
A tiny, meek, almost unheard voice roused us from not doing much of anything in Stinkpot's salon after dark following a long constitutional walk on land. Dave turned and peered into the inky night where we floated. It was the older woman from the sailboat behind us in this photo at the next slip from the other side of the dock. We had caught the couple's lines when they arrived just after we did this afternoon.
"Oh, hello." Dave responded while he invitingly threw wide Stinkpot's heavy mahogany door.
"Terry fell in."
Dave was off like a flash. Me in my stocking feet flew after him. 100 yards away her husband Terry was just a small shape shivering in the darkness. He clung to the dock. We had noticed earlier that he wasn't the most steady on his feet for a sailor dancing along the rail, but hey, at least they are out here.
"Give me your hand," Dave gently but authoritatively commanded.
My Captain started to pull with all of his might while the wife stood back and lit the struggle with her cellphone flashlight. With his free hand Terry tried to push himself up but was already exhausted. The headlamp that had been on Terry's head illuminated the scene dully from below; on the murky bottom of Jackson Creek.
I reached out over the water to my limit. With one mighty heave I grabbed the back of his belt holding waterlogged blue jeans. Whatever strength I mustered was enough for the three of us to hoist him back onto the dock while their little boat-terrier yipped encouragement.
We tried to make as small of a fuss as we possibly could as the man sat nursing his dignity more than anything else.
We were game, but Terry decided against us trying to rescue his headlamp.