Monday, August 24, 2009

So, we are parked at Lookout Point off the coast of North Carolina.  Our good fortune has continued as the weather is spectacular.  Fair skies and calm seas has been our story thus far.

This particular anchorage is the deepest water we have ever 'dropped the hook'.  The distance from the keel down to the sea bed was 26 feet and the water was so clear, you could see all the way to the bottom. 

This whole boating experience has been somewhat like a marriage.  We have gone through the courtship phase where we took Maya out a few times before making any commitments.  We met her parents, the previous owners.  We got to know her 'family' by looking at other Defevers and talking to their owners.  We made a proposal and got accepted.  The 'wedding' ceremony itself was a bit of a blur.  It, like our own wedding, was over in a blink of an eye and before we knew it, we were a couple.

While we were 'dating' Maya, we were just awestruck with her beauty.  From stem to stern and from top to bottom, she was a ten.  We weren't interested in seeing any other boats after we met Maya.  She was 'the one'.  Oh, there were a few brokers who tried to get us to go out on their boats, but in our hearts we knew no other could compare.

Now we are on to the honeymoon phase.  Honeymoons are an interesting phenomena.  For the most part, they can be a lot of fun.  Some people think of a honeymoon as a chance to take an exotic vacation with their newly acquired partner.  Others make their honeymoons a period of rest and relaxation after the whirlwind of excitement of the preceding months has finally come to an end.  If you haven't done that 'living together' thing prior to your nuptials, honeymoons can be a time of discovery too.

Up until now, all we saw in Maya was her beauty.  Our rose colored glasses were fixed solidly upon our heads.  Don't get me wrong, Maya is still a ten, however our honeymoon cruises exposed some flaws that we hadn't noticed before.  Lets just say there were some idiosyncrasies.  For instance, Maya looks great when she is all made up. That is, when she is clean and spotless.  After she sits in a marina for a few weeks though, she needs a lot of work to look good again.  Maya is also expensive.  I am not saying she is 'high maintenance' but there are some costs associated with having a boat that we did not anticipate.  Finally, in a few years, we are going to have to take Maya out of the water and send her to a plastic surgeon.  There are some cracks in her paint and of course she will need a bottom job.  The engines will need to be overhauled and most likely we will update her interior. 

But, we are on our honeymoon and those thoughts are miles away.  For now, we are happy as clams, enjoying getting to know each other.  We are in love.

So back to our deep water anchorage.  

Maya had been having a few problems below the water line.  Some were our fault.  Running over the top of crab traps and getting lines tangled around her running gear don't make for a smooth running boat.  Other issues were caused by little things living in the ocean.  Barnacles.

Maya has a special paint on her hull and keel that make it difficult for things to live and grow on her.  This paint is designed to wear away slowly and anything that wants to stick to it will tend to be cast off rather easily.  Barnacles love to make their homes on the bottoms of boats and Maya is no exception.  Many boat owners hire divers to swim under their boats and scrape off whatever is growing there.  It doesn't take too long but if you don't clean it regularly, the accumulation of those critters will adversely affect your performance, and could damage your craft.

This particular anchorage gave me the perfect opportunity to dive under Maya and check out the barnacle situation.  The water was clear and warm and I had nothing better to do at that particular moment.  So, I grabbed a scraper from our toolbox and jumped over the side.  All in all, Maya was in pretty good shape.  That special paint was doing a great job keeping those critters off the bottom.  What I did find was that the paint didn't work so well in keeping them off the propellers and rudders.  There were tons of them pasted all over the place.  Luckily it was easy to scrape them off but it did take a long time.

One thing about barnacles though.  They are very sharp.  They will cut you like a knife.  I found this out when I came up for a short break.  My hands were covered in blood, which unfortunately, was my own.  My hands were also covered in the blue ablative paint we have on the bottom.  I found that it also comes off when you rub against it.  Upon further inspection, my clothes, hair and skin were all covered with the paint.  I was a mess.  I looked a little like those guys from the Blue Man group, except I have more hair (for once).  

Well, Kim hauled me out of the water and fixed up my wounds.  We were able to get most of the paint off and after awhile, I was feeling good as new again.  

The honeymoon we are on is far from over, however in the short time we have been together, we have garnered a newfound respect for Maya and the sea upon which she travels.  We have found that if we take care of each other, things will be just fine.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

So far, most of our cruising time has been spent in the Atlantic Intercoastal Waterway (ICW).  A little like the interstate highways that we are used to driving our cars on, the ICW allows boaters to travel up and down the eastern seaboard and gulf coast without ever having to venture out into the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico.  Because the ICW is inland and protected, boaters don't have to worry so much about the large waves and stormy weather you might have out on the ocean.

The ICW is essentially a mish mash of rivers, lakes and man made canals that connect to form a dedicated path from Texas to Maine.  It was started back in the 18th Century and is continually being updated and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.  Sometimes it is referred to as "The Ditch" as many parts were literally dug out of the landscape with bulldozers and backhoes.

We really like traveling the ICW.  There is so much to see.  Sometimes you might find yourself alone, quietly traversing a nature preserve.  A few miles later you might be among the hundreds and hundreds of multi-million dollar mansions that have been built right along the shore.  At ten miles per hour, we have plenty of time to rubber neck all the sights.  Nothing is passing us by too quickly.

However sometimes ten miles an hour can be a problem.  Like the drivers around here, no one likes a following a slow poke and we are definitely slow pokes.  Most of the other boats that we see on the ICW are powered ski boats and runabouts.  There are a ton of jet skiers and a fair amount of commercial barges and tows.  They like to travel at nearly twice our speed. Sometimes the ICW is fairly narrow and like a two lane road, you just have to slow down and wait until there is an opportunity for you to pass.  That's the theory anyway.

In our real life experience, that is not always the practice.

When boats are underway, they leave a wake behind them that can often be quite large. Depending on the size and speed of the boat making it, a wake can cause quite a thrill as it knocks you and your boat around.  Boaters are supposed to slow down to a 'no wake' speed as they pass one another as their wake can be quite dangerous.  In my limited experience, most boaters try to slow a little but frankly, many don't slow at all.

The other day we are making our way merrily down the Ditch just outside of Topsail Beach, North Carolina.  It was beautiful sunny day that had brought just about every boater in the county out for a day on the water.  Normally, we try to keep to the right as much as practical so we can stay out of the way of those who want to pass us.  This morning however, we found ourselves in a narrow section and had no choice but to run down the middle.  Moving over towards the side would have put us dangerously close to hitting the bottom.

Out of nowhere came this fairly large power boat... about a 24 footer I would say.  He passed us off our starboard side by about 5 feet doing easily 25 miles per hour.  Before I could even react, Maya was thrown into a 30 degree bank and heaved heavily to port.  I was able to right the ship quickly however if someone was standing near the rails or on the aft deck, they could have easily been swept overboard.  My first reaction was to catch up with that guy and give him a piece of my mind.   You know, like road rage.  That thought quickly passed as he would be back in his marina and on his way home before we could ever catch him.  I got my binoculars out and noted the name of his ship.  Ironically his boat was called the "Ding Dong".  I tried to hail him on the radio, but it was to no avail.  He was gone.

My second reaction, (which thinking back should have been my first) was, 'where was Kim?'  I thought she had gone down to the Salon as she had left the flybridge (where I was) fifteen minutes ago.  However, she could have been anywhere at the time when we were thrown by the wake.  
I couldn't leave the bridge to look for her so the first thing I did was yell.  I knew that probably wasn't going to work as the engines are noisy and you can't hear much while underway.  Even if she did hear me, I doubt if she would come running as, well.... we have been married almost 25 years and that kind of thing just doesn't happen anymore. 

The next thing I tried was blowing our horn.  The horn on MAYA is pretty loud and I thought that if Kim heard it, she might wander up to see what all the fuss was about.  If that didn't work, I was going to have to turn around and go look for her.

You know, the greatest fear I have as the pilot of the boat is that someone might fall overboard and I wouldn't know it.  I would keep on truckin' along oblivious to the event.  With only the two of us onboard, there is no one to be a lookout.  If someone went into the drink and you didn't see it, it would be dicey finding them again.  Now we have all this fancy safety equipment and unfortunately we keep it nice and safe on the couch right next to the flybridge helm where it can do absolutely no good.  If Kim had fallen in, I knew she wouldn't be wearing a floatation device as we had never put them on.  It was just plain dumb on our part.

Now this all happened in the space of about one minute, so I don't want you to think that I was speeding on down the ICW while contemplating Kim's fate.  I slowed the boat down to a stop and looked back to see if I could spot her bobbing around in the water behind us.  At ten miles per hour, if she fell in she would only be about 200 yards or so away.  Just then I heard the salon door slam and the sound of her footsteps coming up to the flybridge.  "What the h***  was that?!?" she exclaimed.  Apparently the wake had caused everything to fall out of the refrigerator and spill out onto the galley floor.  Kim had been downstairs cleaning up the mess and didn't hear my calls.
I told her about the guy in the speedboat and how his wake had made us roll like that. I think she was mad about it too, but as always she was the cooler head about these things and just let it go.  I also reached over and gave her a life jacket and said that as the captain, from now on, I am requiring all crew members to wear life jackets while underway.  That part about being the captain didn't carry much weight, however when I explained the part about her falling overboard I think she agreed with me.

In the future, I have to remember to replace the word 'captain' with the words "your loving husband".  If I ever fall over the side, I want her to turn around and come pick me up.