With St. Augustine disappearing off our stern at 2:00 PM, we motor sailed north-east under light and variable breezes, clear skies with a warm sun on our backs, pointed at the Gulf Stream. Evening descended, the moon rose with us making way as planned until, at 9:00 PM, our Yanmar diesel engine stopped running. Dead. Nothing. Without engine power and a broken generator to boot, maintaining battery power for two more days, even with the wind generator, would difficult, creating more risk then we should take on.
Cindy and I , resting below deck, jumped at the sudden silence. She dove into the situation, only to discover that the hose from the fuel tank to the lift pump was clogged. Using our dinghy foot pump she blew the line clear enabling the engine to start-up and run smoothly. Problem solved. We hoped.
At 4:00 AM the engine sputtered to death once again. The same problem. The solution worked, the engine sprang to life as it drank fuel, but within 20 minutes it died again and then again within an hour. Bits of something was definitely loose in the fuel tank, sloshing and clogging the fuel line and it wasn’t going to stop. We were 70 miles off shore with only the sails to power us, which was fine (it’s why we bought a sail boat in the first place), but if the wind died, we’d be adrift unable to make way. Even with the wind we had, instead of 7 knots/hour, we were making way at only 3 to 4 knots. Clearly, the weather window would close bringing stormy weather, long before we could reach our target, Southport at Cape Fear.
We made a decision. Before dawn with the moon set, we turned west into a predawn inky blackness, unable to distinguish the sky from the sea at the horizon. But the sky above us sparkled with billions of brilliant milky way stars as we slit the water. It took my breath away. This detour was to St. Simon’s Sound and a marina in Brunswick, GA. Without a clean fuel tank, we could not continue our trip back to the Chesapeake. Based on our calculations, it was possible to reach a safe harbor before dark if the wind, now varying between 6-10 knots/hour, held.
The wind held giving us a quiet, smooth beam reach for the next 12 hours. This blessing allowed us to rest and recover from the shock of the unexpected event. Fifty miles off shore, John called on the satellite phone to contact his oldest daughter who arranged a slip at the marina. Five miles from shore with cell service restored, Captain John called BoatUS (towing service) to set a meet point at the sound entrance. They towed us up the channel, into the Sound and into Brunswick where Dolce Vento was parallel parked at the marina dock as darkness descended. We were safe, tired, and grateful.
So, here we are in low country, heat scorching and sweat producing Brunswick, GA, with its one street, Newcastle Street, of restaurants and shops, surrounded by blocks of “seen better days” fading homes and closed store fronts. It’s the county seat though, in a true old south kind of way. In the middle of town sits a handsome granite courthouse next to a deeply shaded park with its irresistible antebellum live oaks dripping in Spanish Moss. We wait for the fuel cleaners who promised Wednesday. If cleaning succeeds, we can leave on Friday.
The marina hugs the west side of Brunswick for almost a mile, separated by a rusted but operational railroad track. Dolce Vento is docked at the far north end in the last slip of Pier 15. The office is at the far south end on Pier 1. Bicycles, a bit rusty and shaky, are free to boat owners to navigate among piers and the office. The good news is that we have shore power and good internet connectivity. That means air conditioning, computing power and TV. Yes, almost civilized.
The first storm of the season, Alberto, is scheduled to cross the Gulf of Mexico and then, as it dissipates, bring stormy weather to the Atlantic East Coast. But, it should clear by Friday, June 1 giving us a good weather window to continue with a smooth trip north.
So all in all, life is good even with this unexpected detour. Home is in our sights, if just a week or so late.