head-systemsOn Monday, with the help of Cindy, our systems tech, our head (aka toilet) systems now work.  Our Vacuflush (used at docks and fills the holding tank) no longer  continually runs due to a recent pressure leak and the Raritan Electroscan system (used while sailing and at anchor) is properly primed.  We now meet USCG Approved Type 1 waste removal standards.  There was much cheering.  We learned simple steps to fix pressure leaks.  Nothing is more frustrating than having problems with basic systems,  which leads me to the next system failure.

img_0616Tuesday morning. With our electronics tech aboard,  we left the dock at 8:30 AM in perfectly calm air and glassy water, perfect conditions for our mission — calibrating the autopilot and chart plotter to ensure accurate navigating.  As I stood at the helm, steering Dolce Vento toward the channel to leave the marina, the engine unexpectedly started sputtering and then shut down.  I glided Dolce Vento to a gentle docking at the “T” end of “E” dock.  The marina asked us to move as soon as possible because that location is in a narrow passage way.

Yanmar diesel engines almost never die, so we bid goodbye to our electronics tech so he could go onto his next job and then called our contractor for engine medical help. Was it just a ‘broken arm’ or a ‘heart attack’ we had to deal with?

Within an hour, Paul, a burly mechanic engine doc with beard and tattooed arms and legs, rumbled down the dock, tools in his cart, ready to diagnose the illness.  Digging about the engine, probing this and that, he concluded that a constricted and clogged fuel line had starved our engine until it stopped running.  The fix would take some new parts, a bit of replacement surgery–about three hours, but it was no ‘heart attac’.  We settled in, sitting in the cockpit, enjoying the sun and breeze that started to freshen and push Dolce Vento against the dock.  John went below to assist in the surgery.

By the time the engine was once again running, the breeze had become a 20 knot blow against the boat and dock.  Dolce Vento was essentially locked to the dock. I calculated that getting off the dock might require skills not in my immediate possession, so I asked Paul to get Larry, a seasoned sailor, who has advised us in the last several months on a variety of issues.

After a quick analysis, Larry explained his plan.  He directed me to use the bow thruster to turn the bow away from the dock and then push straight out ahead with the engine roaring to avoid crushing our dinghy at the stern against a piling.  I tried, but lost confidence, relinquishing the helm to Larry when he saw me flailing.

After we got back into the slip, I felt miserable for not being able to do the maneuver.  My head hung low.  Larry had to remind me that I got the boat to saftey when the engine failed, asked for help when I thought I needed it, and learned much about maneuvering at dock when the wind is pushing you into the dock.  He also reminded me that it’s quite  normal to stay at the dock until the wind calms down.    Lesson learned — don’t be afraid to use the power!  Don’t wimp out! Trust your instincts!  The engine purrs like a kitten and powers like a horse now that it has a proper input fuel line.

img_0607On Wednesday, with a fully operating engine, a father and daughter team who assisted us in finding Dolce Vento, joined us for an overnight sail to the Wye River,
on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  They are very skilled ocean sailors who were determined to ensure that we knew how to make Dolce Vento perform.    Winds were light on The Chesapeake Bay on Wednesday, but the sailing delightful. On the return on Thursday, we had brisk winds in the Wye and up the Miles River so we practiced reefing the main sail (the sail on the boom, making it smaller). However, on both legs of the trip, we had to use the ‘Iron Jenny’ (engine) in Eastern Bay when the winds vanishedwye-landing-wye-east-river-maryland-10-2 mid-afternoon.

In between dinner was delightful. After grilled steaks, corn-on-the-cob and salad, compliments of Chef John, I took my first panoramic fullsizerenderpictures of the brilliant sunset and then we settled into some serious information sharing.

It’s the little things that make sailing and living on a boat a good experience and it’s the little things as well as big things that experienced sailors bring to our party.  For example, we learned when and how to use back stay,  as well as running and fixed rigging (none of our previous boats had this type of performance rigging).  Both stabilize the mast bending in certain types and directions of wind when sailing.  We’re starting to understand the extent to which Dolce Vento is a performance (aka powerful and fast) cruising boat.

We have learned over the years, a sailing schedule must be flexible because equipment or weather will dictate when and if we leave the dock.  But, we can’t forget that off-the-water life can inject itself into plans as well.  While on our Wye River trip, I got the dreaded, but not unexpected, phone call that so saddened our hearts.  The husband of a very close friend, had passed.  He loved sailing. In his honor, we will delay leaving the first week in October to the second week so we can support Diana through the a celebration his life on October 1.  Lesson to remember — Never let sailing interfere with what you must do to support important relationships.

After the trip, on Friday, our autopilot and chart plotter was successfully calibrated which made Friday a good day so we turned our focus to Dolce Vento interior modifications by img_0626replacing the old, loose and pitted kitchen sink faucet.  It was a job easier said than done.  Getting the old faucetimg_0629 out of the small space under the sink took three hours, requiring John to sprawl on his back and contort his shoulders as he struggled with seized nuts and corroded connections in the narrow walk way between the two sides of the cabinets that makes the kitchen a galley.  He finally resorted to sawing the faucet off at the counter.  The new faucet went in nicely, but he’s just finished his third trip to the hardware store to get fittings that will keep the hot and cold water line connections from leaking.  So close, but so far way from total success.

I’m the plumbing nurse to John, my plumbing surgeon.  I fully accept the role and have spent the weekend learning the technical names of every wrench and set of pliers that might help.  He’s working alone now,  the connections still leak, so as I type, he applies TFE paste to this final set of fittings.  If this doesn’t work, John will call in a professional plumbing surgeon tomorrow, Monday.

No matter what happens, we’ve learned an important lesson — whether above or below decks, we must move the body in ways only a much younger body should move.  Since we can’t get younger, we have declared the antidote to be ibuprofen.  We keep a big bottle of gel caps handy.  One or two plus a good night’s sleep restore the body.