Ah, the cruising life

┬áIn the two months since my last post, we’ve completed our upgrades to sails, covering canvas, standing rig, running rigging, fresh water system, sanitary system, propane system, and new bottom paint. It eventually did stop raining so much. We finally put Madge back into the water last Thursday morning, at high tide on a beautiful morning – “only” two months later than originally intended. Our plan was to splash on Wednesday, but Mother Nature decided we needed yet another reminder of who was really in charge, so we had a weather delay day.

We immediately began our first short shakedown cruise, motoring north about 40 nm on the ICW to Saint Simons Island, where we were to have some new equipment installed. We passed lots of boats heading south for the winter, and encountered three pods of dolphins behind Cumberland Island. At one point, riding with the outgoing tide, Madge hit 9 knots. She rarely tops 5 knots. However, not much later, we turned against the tide, and our speed dropped to just over 2 knots. It took us a long time to pass behind Jekyll Island, where we touched bottom a couple of times in the narrow channel near low tide. After a long 8 hours of motoring, we reached our destination just before 5 o’clock.

Our water-cooled refrigerator – which had been working fine when we pulled Madge out of the water – didn’t start working again when we put her back in. Fortunately, we had few perishables requiring refrigeration. Anticipating a busy Friday, we bought a block of ice from the marina, dropped it in the fridge and turned in early.

It’s been a while since I’ve slept on the boat, and I’d forgotten how small the berths seem. Suzy didn’t have any problems, but I couldn’t get comfortable, and had a restless night.

We started early Friday morning on our to-do list. Our new equipment includes a new VHF radio (standard marine two-way radio) with the added feature of having an AIS receiver. The AIS receiver connects to our chartplotter (electronic GPS chart screen) to show any large commercial vessels within a certain range of us. This will help us avoid getting run over by freighters and such. In addition to the VHF/AIS, we added a masthead wind speed/direction instrument, which ties into the chartplotter and autopilot. I had scheduled two days for the work, but since we couldn’t travel on Wednesday, we had to get it done in one. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem, but Madge doesn’t have a lot of room and is already stuffed with equipment. There were several items that would have to be reconfigured in order to make room for the new stuff. Our installer was Steve from Dunbar Sales, who has done a lot of work on our boats in the past. He’s always done great work. Steve worked steadily beginning at 8 am, and finished just after 6 pm. That could not have been done had Suzy and I not pitched in and routed the cables through the boat while Steve worked in the cockpit and at the nav station. In the end, it all looks great and works great.

I had hoped to work on the refrigerator while Steve worked on the electronics, but I didn’t get the chance. Since our block of ice was still hanging on, and we knew we were headed back home the next day, we let it go. Suzy and I sneaked off to the dockside bar for a brief respite before having dinner on the boat. We cleaned up the mess from the day’s work and collapsed into our berths late. We had an early tide to catch in the morning.

The trip south back to Saint Marys was almost the same as the trip north, except we kept the current with us practically the whole way. We entered Saint Andrews Sound at the head of a line of about six southbound boats. Within about 5 nm, they had all passed us, even though we were making over 6 knots. As we entered the Cumberland River, I noticed our speed log was reading 0.0 knots. The speed log is a little paddle wheel on the bottom of the hull that tells us how fast Madge is going relative to the water. The chartplotter tells us how fast Madge is moving across the Earth’s surface. The difference between the two tells us what the current is doing. I’m hoping it’s just a case of the paddle wheel being clogged – but that’s now something else I have to fix.

We got back to our mooring in the river in the late afternoon. Madge hadn’t been on the ball for three months, and the pennant was heavily encrusted with barnacles and seaweed. More to clean. I can only imagine how bad it will be after we’ve been gone for 8 months.

Once on the ball, we lowered our new outboard motor from its travel bracket on the aft rail to the transom of the dinghy for its maiden voyage ashore. I cranked it up and zipped around the mooring field to test it out, then returned to the boat to load up for going ashore. I should not have shut off the outboard, because once I did, it wouldn’t start again. After about 20 minutes of pulling and cursing, I gave up and rowed the dink, Suzy and a few essentials to the dock. Fortunately, the tide and wind were going the same direction we were, or I’d have never made it. Another thing to fix.

So, now Madge is back in her spot in the river and Suzy and I are home. I’m exhausted, and I have to fix the refrigerator, the speed log and the outboard before we can venture out again.

When does the fun start?