Despite the heat and lack of wind, we took Dolce Vento out for her first ‘sleep over’ in the Rhode River (green star), a small river on the north side of the West River on the western side of the Bay, south of the South River. If this sounds confusing, you are not alone. The West River (and hence, the Rhode River) is south of the South River. There are no North or East Rivers. That’s why charts (maps) are so important. There is nothing intuitive to finding the Bay’s rivers and creeks. At least the Eastern Bay is on the east side of Chesapeake Bay which is called the Eastern Shore, but is actually the western side of the Delmarva peninsula.
Now, back to the story. Just as we were leaving our harbour channel, I was staring at a black GPS/Chart plotter display in the cockpit. There was no power, not even a spit of possible operation. Below decks, all was well with the master plotter. Refusing to return to the dock, we motored on using paper charts, the autopilot and all the other instruments that worked. We’ll get it fixed after we return. Being an ol’ salt not dependent on electronics comes in handy sometimes.
As we traveled, the sun-baked our aging Bimini, the air so still and the water so glassy that terns napped, floating gently on the water. If not clear-eyed, you could mistake them for crab pot floats.
We spent three hours motoring, dodging the normal amount of subversive, covert crab pots strung across water at a depth of 10-20 feet as we traveled from our marina home at Herrington Harbour North (red star). We didn’t want to wrap the crab pot line, which connects the cage to the small visible floats, around the propeller and drive shaft by going over them instead of around them. When that happens, finding ourselves suddenly pulling pot and float behind us, we immediately stop the engine (if not sailing), drop the anchor, put up the bright orange distress flag, call Boat US rescue and wait. A young, well bronzed tanned dude will dive to free the line for only a $50 fee, not $1000 or more. Boat US also towed us back to dock one time and pulled us off a sandbar on another occasion in recent years. There’s a saying that there are only two types of sailors on the Chesapeake Bay, those who admit to having gone aground and those that lie. We are definitely the former type.
Once were were anchored, we set out to test the dinghy and our electric motor, a Torqeedo. Many people have gas outboard motors for their dinghies, anywhere from 2.5 to 9.0 horse power. Those babies are just too heavy for us, so we invested in a Torqeedo several years ago. Light weight and capable of seven knots for up to one hour, it’s perfect for puttering about. No mess and no fuss, no gassy smell, or sore arms from pulling the starter line or futzing with a sometimes working ignition. We even have a solar battery to recharge it. It’s so quiet we can hear birds and bees conversing.
The dinghy challenge was to develop a process to easily prepare the dinghy for launch, launch it and then get us and it safely back on the davits again as this dinghy is larger and heavier than our last one. To launch, John first had to insert the drain plug (it had been pulled to allow rain water to drain out of it). Because it is at the very back of dinghy, just below the water line with the pontoon bulging out making preventing an easy reach, contortions were required. John laid on his back reaching under the swinging dinghy on its davits. After those contortions (we will find an easier way to do this), we lowered it, pushed it out to miss the slightly protruding exhaust pipe and then deployed Dolce Vento’s small aft swim platform. John got close to the dinghy from the platform and pumped air while I sat in the dinghy, holding the pump hose to the various chambered openings (it was inflated, but not as much as recommended). Once properly filled, we mounted the Torqeedo and were finally able to take a turn on the water, taking our first pictures of Dolce Vento at anchor. Now that we’ve systematized our launch and recovery, it will only take a matter of minutes next time to launch and recover rather than the two hours we spent this first time. TTDV, Tender to Dolce Vento, is ready for adventure.
Our biggest test, and the one that failed, was the test of our new Coast Guard approved Type I Raritan Electroscan waste disposal system which I dubbed the “poop zapper” because it electrocutes waste into “gray” water that can be discharged back into the water in approved waters. The test failed because we never got the critical “green” light after priming it, so we reverted to our holding tank system until we can get help back at the marina. If could have been “user error”, as these complex systems sometimes require some learning to work effectively. At $4000 to purchase and install, John and I are cautious, refusing to call our lack of experience incompetence. However, having to ask for professional help to use a toilet is embarrassing!
All of this sweaty work was well worth the evening spent eating on deck in the cockpit, watching the approaching night, sleeping blissfully only needing a small fan to supplement the Bay breeze cooling us, and waking to the most gorgeous sunrise. That’s why I want to take this adventure and live aboard, and that is why John tolerates this fantasy.