After 77 days on land, we are finally back on the water. We spent a frantic couple of days putting everything (hopefully) back on the boat that we had taken off, loading all the new provisions, and getting the final coat of paint on the bottom – but we managed to get off right on schedule this morning at the 0800 high tide. We carried our diesel mechanic, Jack, with us for a sea trial of the engine repairs, which Madge passed with flying colors. We dropped Jack off at the Saint Marys dock shortly before 0900, and made a quick sprint to the anchorage at Cumberland Island, where we’ll settle in for a few days before continuing our journey north. When I say “sprint,” I mean it. Madge is a fast boat now. Our new heat exchanger keeps the engine cool even when we’re running at 2900 rpm, and with a fresh, clean bottom and prop, she was making over 7 kts at slack tide (no current). When we later turned against the tide to head over to Cumberland, she maintained over 5 kts against a 2-2.5 kt current. Before the engine work, we could only run at about 2000 rpm, even though we made pretty good speed sometimes under those conditions; but, anything over 2000 rpm and the engine would overheat. So, we’re pretty happy to be able to run comfortably at 2500 rpm, and pick up an extra knot of speed. I wish we’d had that extra speed when we were racing against the bridges in south Florida.
We dropped the hook in hot, breezy conditions at Cumberland at around 1000. The first task was to clear the deck of all the leaves and pine straw that had accumulated after two months in the boatyard. That accomplished, we put up some awnings (tarps) to try to help keep the boat cooler. It was 88 degrees in the salon! That didn’t do much good, but with the breezes, we were able to work below, and stowed all the final items that we had thrown into the boat at the last minute. In the early afternoon, a line of thunderstorms moved through the area, with winds up to about 20 kts and some rain, but there was less lightning than we feared, so it was mainly a period of heavy rain. Fortunately, the rain helped drop the temperature a few degrees, but after the showers moved through, the wind dropped for awhile. During the calm period, we managed to inflate the dinghy and move it from the foredeck into the water, and tied it astern of the boat where it will stay floating behind Madge most of the time for the next four months.
We napped in the cockpit for a bit, and the breezes finally returned. Even so, the temperatures stayed way above the tolerable zone until well after sunset. I’m pretty sure the heat will be our biggest challenge this summer. The fridge isn’t big enough to keep filled with cold drinks, and even if it were, we could run through cases of water, sodas and beer with no way of replenishing our supplies. It’s not like we can jump in the car and zip over to the Winn Dixie whenever we feel like it. We won’t be in range of a grocery store for at least another three or four days. Fortunately, the filtration system on Madge is pretty good, and our freshwater tank is a good size, so we have plenty of lukewarm fresh water to keep us hydrated. It makes those two or three cold drinks we can have each day that much more special.
Right now, we’re trying to figure out what’s up with the fridge. It’s been running for much longer periods of time than it was before we put the boat back in the water, and I’m worried that it will drain the batteries overnight if it won’t shut off. I don’t think it’s just the heat, because it’s been hot for days now, and the fridge was running or the last week in the boatyard, and was only running about 20 minutes out of each hour. Now, it seems to be running continuously. During the day, the wind turbine (which seems to be working fine now, thank goodness) and the solar panels generate enough power to keep everything fully operational. But with the winds dying down at night, and no sun, we have nothing but the batteries to run the fridge. If I can’t get the system properly balanced, it’s going to be a long, HOT summer.